An Aspiring Mekubal

The confessions of a Rabbi and would be mystic

Search Results for: “Eating

Eating Admonitions Part 1

Hadassah wrote a good piece about Rabbis dealing with eating disorders.  At about the same time my learning brought me to a section of the Siddur that I hadn’t previously really learned.  Some background.  The Rabbis of Yeshivat Beit El have long enjoyed a reputation of being holy pious men and scholars of some repute, both the Ben Ish Hai and the Chazon Ish were impressed with what they found there.  This comes from being single mindedly focused on doing everything for the sake of heaven, and for the learning of Torah.  What does this have to do with eating disorders?  Well personally I believe that one of the things that leads to certain eating disorders is an improper attitude towards food.  Such attitudes are nothing new.

Recently Rav Shalom Mordekhai Heddayya ZTz”L set about publishing manuscripts that previously were only seen by the inner most circle of the Beit El Kabbalists.  One such thing is an original manuscript of the Siddur HaRaShaSh.  It has numerous notable additions not found in the standard print siddurim.  One of those things is eating advice.  Without further ado I give you my translation(my remarks will be in italics).

Admonitions concerning eating

  1. Be careful to esteem your soul more highly than your body.  And to give the first to your soul, that you should do your utmost in diligence and alertness for the sake of your soul more than your body.  Before you eat learn a little first and in the merit of this you will be successful in your study and in your work.
  2. A person who wishes to be a Hasid needs to uphold all of the matters concerning blessings.  You should learn to bless upon everything its proper blessings, because if Has V’Hallila you only exempt yourself with the blessing SheHaKol such a one is called a boor that is cursed by Hazal
  3. Accustom yourself to whole wheat bread and soft boiled eggs without salt, and also accustom yourself to eating olive oil which is good for the memory.
  4. Every morning eat a plant that is called in Arabic “Lashan El Tor” and “Laninga di boi”, and  they strengthen the memory(this one took some research but it turns out that it is Jerusalem Artichoke also known as sunchoke and Celery root.  They are seasonal so you get one during the winter and one during the summer).
  5. For the person who is not fasting, it is preferrable that he sets his night time meal in the evening while it is still day in order that their will be time to digest his food, and so his sleep will not be troubled and he will be able to arise at midnight.  This is especially so in the summer when the nights are shorter, and so is our minhag.
  6. An important rule for attainment and for holiness, is to separate yourself from worldliness and to concentrate upon the blessings and upon eating because in this manner you will sanctify yourself with the highest spirituality and cause the klipot to be removed from you.  We are very stringent in this.
  7. In the days that you are eating, eat at the proper time, do not wait until you are very hungry and you begin to feel weak as this will bring you into illness HV”Sh as it is written “be noble at the time when you eat”.  And it is good to accustom yourself to eating bread in the morning because our Rabbis praised it very much ther person who is careful with it.
  8. One should eat until he is 2/3 full as Hazal stated “A meal from which you are filled remove your hand.”(The essential point here is that one should not eat more than his legitimate caloric needs, as over eating is  a much a disorder troubling our generation as under-eating).
  9. Make your daytime meal lighter(meaning fewer calories) than your evening meal and make your intention to be for health only(meaning that the food choice should be made for health reason and not other considerations).
  10. The Ravaad writes that a pleasant fragrance and washing in hot water is better for the soul than any food.  And he writes further that that which you eat should be spiced and prepared nicely in order that it will be pleasant to you and your soul will be able to receive it and be restored by it.  You should not eat anything that causes you to have bad breath, and if you do you must try your best to be healed of it.
  11. If you are weakened on account of eating too little, it would be good if you ate twice during the day a little each time, just do not fill your belly on each time.(Many Kabbalists only eat two meals a day, one during the day and one in the evening.  However not everyone is able to do thus, and so those who are not, should eat two small meals during the day, with neither being completely filling).
  12. The person who desires to rise should establish his primary meal in the morning, and his evening meal should consist primarily of fruits and not coarser foods.
  13. The Ravaad writes in his sefer Baalei Nefesh that it will be with a man who is settled in his heart, and who studies Torah most of the night, that his suffering will be very little and his pleasure will be very little.
  14. I myself am careful that if I derive great pleasure from a certain food that I not become accustomed to eating it(there is some ambiguity in the language as to wheter he means ever eating it again or if he means eating it only very rarely), and this is regarding weekdays, however on Shabat it is a mitzvah to eat it, as the Shabbat is called pleasant, and so is the minhag of our Yeshiva.
  15. It is good to say viduy before you eat and this is called slaughtering your evil inclination.  Because on account of this you will not add gluttony to your sins, and you will remember the grace of Hashem that is with you even though you do not deserve such, and we mention this in brief in the seder of tefillah before eating.
  16. It is necessary that you will properly set your table so that when a poor person comes to your door you can give him from your bread, and it is explained at length in the Zohar Parashat Terumah 154 the exaltedness of the person who shares his meal with the poor.  And if you are in a place where there are not found there poor people estimate who has less and consider him to be poor, and give and separate that which is equal to the meal of the poor.  There are also those who are accustomed to give tzedakah at every meal.

Dag Chazir

pig fishAn interesting mix of extreme over fishing combined with a sudden and seemingly inexplicable population explosion amongst the fish, scientifically classified as Cyprinus  carpioscrofa(know colloquially as the hog-carp or the pig-fish) has become a major halakhic quandary for poskim.  Namely what is the Din regarding this most unusual, and until recently extremely rare fish.

Rav Chumramacher was very insistent that there is no way possible that this fish could at all or ever be considered kosher.  “Just look at it,” he said, “it has the face of a P-I-G.  No heiligh yid can eat something that looks like a P-I-G it would be unconscienable.”  His colleage Rav Storricheshtein also wanted to point out that we have no mesora of eating this fish.  “There is simply no mesora for it in all of our history, none at all, we cannot simply start eating new fish without a valid mesora that it is kosher.”

When asked about the fishes obvious kosher simanin(fins and scales).  Rav Storricheshtein said, “The infamous P-I-G aslo has various kosher simanim, but is banned from the Torah.  Who is to say that same is not with this fish.  And all the more, what if it tastes like P-O-R-K Chas V’Shalom Rachmana L’tzlan.

Meanwhile Rav Vorsichtig had more measured comments, “The fish, while odd to look it, definitely has simanim of being kosher>”  However don’t warm up the frying pans just yet.  Rav Vorsichtig went on to say, “We really need to look into this.  It all smells a bit fishy to be honest.  There is a possibility that this was someone’s science experiement, some sort of illicit and illegal genetic engineering project.  At which point the Gedolim will have to decide if it violates the halakhos of K’laim(forbidden mixtures).”

So it appears that only time will tell.  Perhaps by next year we can have pickled pigs(fish) ears to add to our Purim Menus.

Happy Purim!!!

The above is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual people, whether alive or niftar is purely coincidental.

What a Mesorah Makes?

Before I do a post on the chain of tradition for Kabbalah, demonstrating that it is a valid, and unbroken Mesorah, I had a thought.  What makes a valid Mesorah?  My understanding of Mesorah is that it was נמסר nimsar, handed over, from one generation to another, from the mouth of a Rav to his students.  That there had to be Kabbalah, and without it, it was no longer a valid mesorah.

For example if we talk shechita of a quail, that mesora was quite nearly lost, and in fact became so rare(Raf Kafiyah handed it over to two students about 30yrs ago) that many now consider quail to be a bird that cannot be slaughtered in a kosher fashion.  In fact there are several such issues that we find throughout halakha.

So this comes to those who today would like to attack Kabbalah, mostly in the name of the Rambam.  They would like to claim a mesora that, more or less states, any who believe in Kabbalah are heterodox at best and most likely heretics.  My challenge is simply this, show me an unbroken chain of tradition.  To pick up a sefer o the Rambam’s and read into it what you will, is not a valid mesora.  I cannot read an instructional on how to slaughter a quail and suddenly have a “valid” mesora of shechita for a quail.

Before you fall back on the argument that it is your mesora to claim that so many Gedolei Yisrael, including Maran Yosef Karo, were heretics, please demonstrate that you have a valid mesora.  Even the Dor Deah movement in Yemen, probably the last hold outs against Kabbalah, is a modern innovation.  After a universal acceptance of Kabbalah in Yemen, resulting in two liturgies, the Shmai(nusach Ari) and Baladi(a retention of the original Yemenite liturgy with additions of Kabbalistic prayers such as Lekha Dodi and Brikh Shmi) in the 17th century.  The Dor Deah came along in the late 19th century determined to be some sort of revivalist anti-Kabbalah rationalist movement, but once again, it was lacking any sort of authentic mesorah.

Moving along those lines, what determines an authentic mesorah?  Can one claim to be a follower of Shabbtai Tzvi(l’havdil) and thus demand that his mesorah, if he could show an unbroken tradition, be recognized as valid?  If someone could show an unbroken tradition going back to R’ Yosi HaGilili could he demand that we recognize his tradition of eating fowl and milk together?  In both cases I think not.  Those opinions were rejected by the Hakhamim.

Likewise given that the Gedolei Yisrael such as Maran Yosef Karo, the Rema, the Magen Avraham, the Shach, the Taz, the GR”A, the Besht, the Chida, ect.  all accepted that there was a valid mesora of Kabbalah, can someone who can show that even if they had an unbroken tradition going back to say the Rambam rejecting Kabbalah claim that it is a valid mesorah?  I am not sure, it is an opinion that was rejected.  Quite forcefully as Maran Yosef Karo records in his Magid Mesharim:

When you die the Rambam of blessed memory will come out to meet you because you solved the difficulties in his Code of Laws. He belongs among the saints, not, as those sages say, that he was reincarnated as a worm. For let it be known that it was so decreed, because of words of his he spoke improperly, yet his Torah learning protected him and also his good deeds of which he was a master. He was never reincarnated as a worm. He was obliged to suffer reincarnation [in some other form] but when he departed that life he was admitted into the realm of the saints.

No Daat and Less Torah Part I

I love the character assination that takes place around the Agunah issue.  I am accused of being on ORA’s payroll, well I’m not.  Accused being a part of the Epstein family(again wrong).  Accused of trying to make a parnassa off of being a descendant of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzeira(have you seen my apt?).   All of this is rediculous, as some of you who have contacted me for tikkunim and tefilot can attest.

Yes I do have vague memories of Tamar Epstein from when I was a mashgiach at the local kosher grocery, which was a part of the Safeway Food chain.  Honestly I didn’t much care for most of the people in that particular community, mostly because they did their level best to get us mashgichim fired for any perceived slight.  I was actually suspended for two days once for refusing to sell non-kosher chicken livers.  It actually brought the matter to such a head that the kashrut organization pulled the hekhsher until I was permitted to return to my job.  So any memories I have of the folks in Lower Merion, let’s just say that they are not fond ones.

So why do I speak out on this issue?  Because no matter how I personally feel about another Jew(and honestly I do strive to love every Jew, even those I don’t fondly remember) I find it an affront to see one publicly smeared.  It would be one thing if there were actual proof that any of the stuff that is being said about her and her divorce situation were true, then it would be more akin to setting the record straight.  However, instead we are given just out and out distortions and fabrications.  For instance on the “Daat Torah” blog we are given an excerpt from one of Tamar’s private journal’s that reads thus:

Why I love/like Aharon/what I respect:

respect: shmiras halashon

loyalty – I can trust will always be at my side when crises

makpid on kashrus and davening

idealistic – can also be tiresome/absurd

loving/sweet/ affectionate/gentle to me

lets me spend money – equal share

sometimes helpful

open/honest/real to me

doesn’t pressure me to go back to work

appreciates me – taking care of baby etc.

This is then used to “prove” that Tamar was in a perfectly happy marriage from which she simply decided to flee.

Here’s the problems with that.  First we are given no context for this journal entry.  After 10 yrs in the Rabbinate, and more time than that as a counselor, I have seen numerous battered women who, if you were to open up their journals, you would find similar things written, especially from the courtship phase of their relationship.  In fact, I know personally, one woman who was repeatedly severely beaten by her husband, at times requiring hospitalization, who if you asked her to journal why she was staying with her husband, would have written a fairly complimentary list.  He was a great guy, except except when he was beating her with a tire iron.

I would expect someone who has a PhD in Psychology to know this, and thus know if they are going to use a journal entry like this, for it to be anything more than just a smear campaign, context has to be given.  I am baffled as to why a blog that calls itself “Daat Torah” would do otherwise.


One of my military friends say that they don’t retreat, they advance toward the rear.  Well that’s what I’m doing.  I am putting out the white flag, and calling the fight quits.  From weeks now there has been an argument raging on the DaatTorah blog regarding Agunot and a certain corrupt Beit Din.  I’ve decided that this war of attrition is just eating up too much time that could be used for more constructive things.

While I spend hours researching sources, laws, finding court docs in the US while living in Israel, the other side which is a growing number of sockpuppets, simply makes stuff up.  For instance being able to get a secular divorce without ever having to file for one in a secular court.  Post laws and links and every other proof that you want, and suddenly they have an easy answer.  Not one that holds water mind you, but an easy answer.

So my final conclusion…  It is simply bitul zman.  If you are a reader here and there, I’m sorry if this comes as a disappointment.  Express your outrage to the blog owner.  Personally I have had enough of racism, enough of attacks on countless Gedolim ect.  To sound kind of hippy dippy, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.  I don’t have time or energy to write full Teshuvot to answer every crazy objection, and the comment thread of a blog is a horrible medium to have a halakhic discussion, especially when sockpuppetry is allowed.

If you want to discuss Agunot issues, let me know, I would gladly do some posts on the subject here, but I don’t see myself carrying on there in the near future.  I may rethink that in three weeks during Bein HaZmanim, if there is a a Bein Hazmanim, but in the meantime, I’m surrendering in that war of attrition.


Haveil Havalim Edition 366

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week, and jointly coordinated through ourFacebook Group.  The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means”Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English,’vanity.’


Batya from Shilo Musings gives us here beautiful insights on Parashat Korach.

Paul Stern from A Soldier’s Mother(for being which I just want to say thank you) says we can walk among presidents and kings all week long, but it is only as we ground ourselves on Friday and enter the Sabbath do we approach the True King.

I on the other hand was fortunate to have a guest post on the Daat Torah blog in which I dive right into the Agunah Issue(well part of it at least) in talking a rather interesting ruling from Rav Gestetner, which was called A Bitul Seruv, but turned out to be a Nidui(and a good piece of Purim Torah if I don’t say so myself).

Susan Esther Barnes from Religious and Reform treats us to an intriguing Open Letter to Ellie About G-d.

Rivkah from Bat Aliyah tells how she finds spirituality Harder to Access when she is Hutz L’Aretz.

Esser Agaroth tackles the question, Why Y-Love? Why? Asking why the Afro-Hassidic rapper decided to share his orientation with the rest of us.

I discuss whether women really need brains or if it would be better to just chemically lobotomize them all in Axlotl Tanks are Next.

Miriam from Miriam’s Words is still  waiting for an answer from the Prime Minister as to how long he is going to allow rocket terror in the South.

Batya from Shiloh Musings gives insightful analysis about the latest riotous protest in which police were spat upon, and had things thrown at them.  Shocker though, it wasn’t in Meah Shearim, it was in downtown Tel Aviv and it was the Liberal left.  Read about it in her post Royal Temper Tantrums from the Israeli Faux Social Justice Mob.

Marina Shemesh from A Letter from Israel gives us a history lesson and  tour in words and pictures of the Glass Museum at Kibbutz Nachsolim.

Batya also from Me-Ander tells us about an off season Purim like clown appearance in her post Behind the Scenes.

Esser Agaroth gives us his thoughts on the dangers facing all Israeli Jewry from the Bet-El Ulpana expulsion.

Shimon Perez’s Presidential Conference to which I was disinvited for not meeting appropriate blog guidlines:
Batya from Shiloh Musings tells us how some of Perez’s buddies and invited speakers want to use our settlement communities as pawns and furniture(no surprise there).

Yocheved Golani from It’s My Crisis and I’ll cry if I want to asks What Would Hippocrates say today, as she warns about the dangers of overly processed foods.

The competition:

Though I feel pretty strongly that one’s blog post ought to be one’s original work, Leora at won me over with some beautiful pictures of Israel in the latest JPix Blog Carnival, that she hosted.

There is also the latest edition of Jewish good eats and frugality to be seen at the Kosher Cooking Carnival.

Nachalaot Nightmare… Rabbinic Coverup?

I just received this link in my email.  It claims to be a site carrying various letters from various esteemed Rabbis in Nachalaot.  The short of it is this.  While we all agree that having so many children with physical signs of rape is horrible.  What is worse is possible motzei shem ra, hysteria, and supposed vigilante justice(I would agree that vigilante justice is bad).  So we should all forget about all the bad things that happened.  Not mention any new bad thing that might happen.  Put a smile on, and pretend that everything if fine, even though we have Mondrowitz for a neighbor, and know that there are other abusers still walking free amongst us.

Actually this kind of reminds me of an early eighties fantasy movie I watched in my ill spent youth.  It was called Dragon Slayer.  The basic idea was that there was this village who had a dragon that moved into the neigborhood.  So the village elders and spiritual leaders decided to sacrifice a virgin to it every couple of weeks to keep it happy and thus pretend that there was nothing really wrong.  They were quite put out when a few individuals from the town decided to go and hire themselves a professional(of sorts) dragon slayer to come and take care of the problem, and did their very best to foil his efforts.

Essentially it seems, and to me feels like, we are being asked to sacrifice our holy children for the sake of veneer of holiness and loving village atmosphere.  To an outsider I’m betting that it seems just as absurd as feeding a virgin to a dragon every so often.

PS.  I do absolutely deplore the beating of the 70yr old woman.  That is a travesty and I hope those who did it feel the bite of the law.

Taking a Break…

I have a couple of posts set to auto-post next week, but other than that I’m take a one week hiatus(I don’t think it will be more than that but we will see).  I have an upcomming bechina for the Rabbanut Dayyanut program.  I have started teaching a chevra for Semikha and need to prepare out a ways.  I haven an upcoming exam for my Safrut Teuda, starting next week we go back to the Kavvanot of the Rashash.  Oh, did I mention that I have four kids and a wife that I need to devote time to?

I keep finding that internet life is just eating up too much of my time.  I’ve tried remaining positive on posts, and more importantly on comments on the posts of others, however, I find that the negativity is still getting to me and causes a distraction even when I am away from the internet.

In this way I think the Rabbanim who ran the internet asifa actually did have a point.  The internet can easily overwhelm our minds, but CNN already said that, and thus needs strong boundaries.  I am at a point right now where I need to be able to focus my mind like a laser, Dayyanut exams are no joke, and others relying on me to guide them to pass Rabbanut Semikha exams is also not joke.

So it would appear that for my 500th post(wow can you believe it has been that many already) that I am declaring a bit of a hiatus.  In practical terms posts will still go up, but I’m not going to be overly involved in the comments and I am not going to be commenting on the blogs of others.

Females Are Second Class Citizens?…

The question was raised in my followup on the shisha thing, as two whether women are second class citizens, at least in the eyes of Torah.  Cited was that the Gemarra and even a few Gedolim as recent as just 300yrs ago said that we should pray to have sons and not daughters.  I am going to admit that I am not baki in all of the material necessary to give this a full and complete treatment.  So what you are going to have is me kind of groping for an answer and hoping the comment thread takes off on this one.

First let me state that the Rambam(and just about all of the Rishonim) recognized that Chazal were affected in their outlook on many things by the cultures that were around them, as well as the harsh realities of the culture in which they lived.  To whit the primary responsibility of Kibud Av V’Em(honoring one’s parents) fell to the sons.  Let me be frank.  In a subsistence agrarian society, honoring(which practically meant caring for) one’s parents did not mean visiting them in the nursing home and bringing them a glass of water.  It meant breaking your back working in the fields and then, essentially giving a part of your paycheck(which was not much more than what you needed to live on) to your parents for support and sustenance.

Furthermore one could not always rely on one’s sons in law.  While as the Pele Yoetz and others state(though in the Pele Yoetz this had already become a widespread problem) that this Chiyuv does extend to one’s in laws, he also notes that in our many sins for generations already in his time, we find a brazenness toward one’s in laws.  Furthermore I would argue that in a subsistence farming situation, in times of drought and famine, if a man were to take care of his own parent’s through that, and not sacrifice their needs for that of his immediate family that would already be something, but I don’t know that a man would be willing to sacrifice his family, or family security to see to his in laws.  So in that society and under those rigors I could see how sons would be preferred.

Now as to whether women in general are second class citizens… Yes I know that everyone will quote, שלא עשני אישה(the blessing thanking G-d for not making one a woman).  At first glance that looks to be a valid argument… until you back up to pre-enlightenment(even found in the Gemarra) and all of the reactionary stuff that went along with the haskala, and look in the siddurim then.  What do you find, not the typical, “who made me according to His will” for women, but rather שלא עשני איש “That you didn’t make me a man.”  We could also talk about the Cherem D’Rabbeinu Gershom and the various Takkanot that Sephardim Rabbanim instituted that did essentially the same thing when the Rabbis saw that the hearts of men were changing and no longer treating women with the respect and dignity afforded them by Torah.

Does that mean that Torah makes men and women equal?  Well that depends on what you mean by equal.  If you mean in that they have all the same rights ect… no.  Torah(and biology for that matter) definitely sees men and women in different roles.  However it also affords them both equality of dignity.  They are equally cherished as Am Kodesh.

Once my “havruta”(scare quotes because he is a Rav more than a havruta), was on the phone with a young Rosh Yeshiva’s son, who had be redt his daughter.  The young man made the mistake of asking why he should consider his daughter over all the other prospects he had.  My havruta’s response was, “Each and every one is a Bat Yisrael, and thus you should count yourself fortunate if any of them will have you.”  Then he hung up.  His net phone call was to the Shaddchan, wanting to know if there wasn’t a B”T or Ger that his daughter could date(the Shaddchan was apparently horrified).  So they sent their daughter to America where her father isn’t so well known… but I digress.

Why Am I Not Surprised…

Something I will never understand is the apparent need to discriminate, even within a persecuted minority there still seems to be a need to discriminate.  The latest dose of bigotry and lack of seichel was demonstrated by Rav Yehoshua Zuckerman.  He was kind enough to say:

A Moroccan Jew can’t say anything about faith in the Western discourse. They can’t match Ashkenazi knowledge.  So what do they do? They connect to simple nationalism and vote Likud.

Kind of ironic coming from a Religious Zionist Rabbi to be honest.  You can read all of what he has to say, including that Sephardim have no understanding of the Zohar, here in this piece that Haaretz did on it.

Haaretz makes a big deal of Rav Zuckerman being the father in law of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, you know, the guy that had the good sense to bash an unarmed Danish protester in the face with his rifle while being filmed.  Honestly I don’t see the connection, or why it is of importance.  I presume that Haaretz is trying to use the Rav’s statements to show that Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner is also naturally bigoted and thus that was the reason for his actions.

Personally, from watching the tape and having trained military personel in H2H, it seemed to me that Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner perceived the man as an iminent though non-lethal threat, and responded with what he deemed to be appropriate(albeit excessive) force for the situation.  This and the Rodney King beating show Krav Maga at its very best.  I don’t think bigotry played a role in it at all, more it is a matter of forcing military to do a police function for which they are poorly trained.  Simply as a general rule of thumb, military is by nature a life-taking institution where as police by nature is a life-preserving institution.  The two don’t mix well.  Add in an overly agressive H2H system and this is what you are going to get.

It saddens me that Haaretz would try to play these sorts of politics, but hey that’s the system, broken as it may be.

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