Monday, August 27, 2007

Say The Word

For good reason, I think, I haven't felt an urge to blog for the last few days. In fact, I've felt like not blogging. I want to apologize to the devoted readers, the occasional visitors and most of all to the angry lurkers.

As I write this an old student has just entered the library. He was a tough student; edgy, angry. I once quoted a point from a certain rabbi in class and this student loudly went on and on about how horrible this rabbi was. Some days later he quietly (and ineffectively) mentioned that - oops -he was thinking of someone else. Now he's older. He's been through a lot in recent years. May G-d treat him with kindness and patience and bless him to have kindness and patience within.

The question came up in conversation - if you drink a tiny bit of grape juice and eat a full portion of cake when you say Al HaMichyah, do you add in Al HaGafen or not? One of the participants in the convesation looked it up in a sefer on after brachot. The sefer seemed to say that you shouldn't add in the words for the wine because it would be a hefsek, citing Rav Shlomo Zalman. I'd have thought, why not add it in, it's true you did have some wine? Anyone want to look into this or say what you know?

The mishna in this past week's perek says that one should be careful with politicians because though they act like they love you when they benefit from your support but they don't stand up for you in your time of emergency. I think this needs to be memorized and popularised. It reminds me one way of evaluating a man's worth is by how he kindly he treats someone from whom he stands to benefit nothing.

Someone asked on the above mishna if it implies that a government is to be taken to task for acting "selfishly" when the act is needed for the survival of the country. I think that's taking the mishna into a filed that it's not addressing. It may be so that countries sometimes need to do what they've got to do. But we are warned on a personal, individual level to always be wary of governments and not to think that a politician really cares about me or you.

I have been thinking alot about Ilan's post on Ellul (
It was well done.

I think that the idea of reconnecting to our relationship with G-d on a love level is key. That's why even though there are many acronyms for Ellul the one that caught on is Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li - because this line - I Am t My Beloved And My Beloved Is To me sums up the theme of the month: love.

Rabeinu Yonah cites the saying that a person should repent the day before he dies. Of course we don't know when we'll die, so the real meaning of this line is to repent daily. Rabeinu Yonah uses an analogy: A woman was happily married, known for her loyalty to her husband. While the husband was away on business the wife would beautify herself and stand waiting on the porch. A neighbor asked her why she was doing this, being that the husband was far away. She explained, "You don't understand. My husband is a sailor. At any second the winds could blow him back. I want to be ready."

Rabeinu Yonah could have used other images to illustrate the idea of needing to be ready for something sudden. He could have told the story of a man walking by a construction site and how he wore a hard hat and how a friend asked him why - because they weren't constructing at the time - and he replied that they tend to start and stop at any second. It seems to me that Rabeinu Yonah purposely chose the scenario of his story because it is part of his point. His point is that Teshuva exists within a framework of love. being that our relationship with G-d is one of love we want things to be right when our soul is reunited with G-d.


Blogger Soccer Dad said...

I believe I asked the Al Hamichyah question of Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff who said to add in the mention of the second food too. That's what I do.
I don't know if other Poskim have other views.

August 27, 2007 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger rr said...

I was once part of a color war in high school where the teams were called "ahava" and "yirah." Some of the competition revolved around teshuvah. In the end "Ahava" won. I remember feeling that that was a better way for the world to operate in. Of course you need both, but "ahava" can be so much more powerful. Your post reminded me of that good feeling so many years ago...thanks!

August 27, 2007 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

thanks soccer dad. this sefer seemed to say differently, but what you heard makes sense.

rr - thank you, that's a great true story and also metaphorical.

not sure if i wrote about it on the blog. one of my favorite dts ever is about how the words ahava and yirah inrterlink (the last two letters of yirah are the first two letters of ahava) and how the idea is that both are needed that one without the other assures imbalance.

this is also the meaing of akavia ben mehalalel's words at the beginning of avot - that we should serve G-d out of love, but need to have fear to balance...

August 28, 2007 at 12:26 AM  
Blogger rr said...

the "ahava" and "yirah" word link dt is strong...i'll probably retell it with your permission, of course.

August 28, 2007 at 12:44 AM  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

For good reason, I think, I haven't felt an urge to blog for the last few days. In fact, I've felt like not blogging. I want to apologize to the devoted readers, the occasional visitors and most of all to the angry lurkers.

I enjoy the free association posts that you do. I suspect that if you forced yourself to blog they wouldn't be as good.

August 28, 2007 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

thanks rr and j.

August 29, 2007 at 10:46 PM  

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