Parshas Toldos 5779
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November 9, 2018
Volume 15 Issue 4
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Dvar Torah

Focused Prayer
By Rabbi Davidi Broner
In this week's parsha, Toldos, we encounter the story of Rivka's pregnancy. After a long period of waiting and davening, Rivka finally conceives. The oddity of her pregnancy is described in the following pasuk: Vayisrotzetzu habanim bkirba, vatomer im kein lama zeh anochi, vatelech lidrosh es Hashem. Vayomer Hashem la, shnei goyim bvitnech ushnei leumim mimeayich yipareidu uleom mileom yeamatz vrav yaavod tzair. - The children agitated within her, and she said, "If so, why am I thus?" And she went to inquire of Hashem. And Hashem said to her: "Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger." Rashi points out that the simple understanding needs further explanation, as what could possibly have happened that she would regret her long awaited pregnancy? Therefore, Rashi quotes the medrash describing the unusual circumstances of her pregnancy. The medrash describes that whenever Rivka passed the Torah study centers of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would toss about attempting to go out of his mother's womb. When she would pass by entrances of places of idol worship, Eisav would toss about trying to leave. Thus, due to the confusion, she went to Shem, who had Ruach Hakodesh, to find out what is the reason for this atypical behavior. Shem's response was that she had twins with opposing views, who will have a relationship of asymmetrical reciprocity.
                The Ramban takes issue with Rashi's explanation that "Vatelech Lidrosh Es Hashem" is referring to going to ask Shem, as "drisha" is only found in the context of davening. What's left to be explained, according to the Ramban, is what was the "drisha" and what was Hashem's response.
                Rabbi Baruch Reis of Toronto answered with a profound explanation based on a teaching of the Ksav Sofer. When Rivka felt a baby trying to leave her womb when she passed by a Torah study center, and then again when she passed entrances of places of idol worship, she was unsure of the reason and was debating between two options. One, that she has twins and one of them is interested in the study of Torah, for altruistic purposes, so that he could not pass any chance to study and was itching to go learn at every opportunity, while the other had the same exact reaction to idol worship. Or two, that it was one child who didn't care particularly about the idealism of studying Torah but rather wanted the adulation and respect that came with being a Talmid Chacham. Consequently, he was also interested in the knowledge of Avoda Zara so that he can also gain the notoriety that comes with being an extremely knowledgeable and educated member of the idol worshiping society. And if the latter scenario was the case then, lama zeh anochi - why did I pray for this - as the sages taught that anyone who studies Torah for a negative purpose it is better that he was never born. But if they were two children, one a Tzadik and one a Rasha, she will still have gotten a worthwhile value in her pregnancy. Therefore, distraught not knowing which of the two options were the case, Rivka designed a plan that will inform her of what was really happening. She decided to daven. If her child was only interested in intellectual learning for the renown it would bring him, he would not be responsive at all. However, if he truly was a tzadik, the same exact excitement that would rouse him to leave for Torah study would galvanize him by praying as well. Accordingly, when Yaakov did want to leave when she davened, she realized that she has twins.
                Rabbi Reis concludes, that the true measure of an Oved Hashem is not in his studies, but rather in how he davens. May we all be zoche to daven properly.

Dvar Halacha
Part 4

Based on the Sunday morning Halacha Shiur 
given by Rabbi Y. Biberfeld, Rosh Kollel
Written by: Ovadia Gowar

In the last few issues, we have been focusing on how the gezeirah of sheichar akum applies to the drinking of non-Jewish-made alcoholic drinks. But would it also apply to a non-alcoholic drink such as coffee?
With coffee, there are two issues that need to be addressed: (1) Does coffee fall under the gezeirah of sheichar akum, and (2) Does coffee fall under the gezeirah of bishul akum?
Regarding the applicability of sheichar akum, we already saw that the Shulchan Aruch says that the most common drinks of the day (such as date beer) fell under the gezeirah, while very uncommon drinks, such as apple cider, did not. There is also a grey area in the middle where one could debate about how moderately consumed drinks were treated. Presumably coffee was a very uncommon drink in the times of Chazal and therefore it is difficult to argue that it was included in the gezeirah.
However, this now brings us to the second question of whether or not coffee was included in the gezeirah of bishul akum. There is a lot of debate about this topic and we will have to cover it in two issues.
In addressing this, we need to remind ourselves that there are two criteria that need to be met to make bishul akum applicable:
- The food is not eaten kmo she'hu chai (raw), and
- It is oileh al shulchan melachim (fit to serve at a banquet)
Coffee is not eaten raw and it is served at all types of fancy events, so on face value it should be considered bishul akum.
What about instant coffee, which is seemingly a lower quality type of coffee, would bishul akum apply to it? First of all, in bishul akum, we've seen opinions that say we go after the min (type), so since instant coffee would fall into the general category of "coffee," bishul akum could still apply to it. In addition, you still find that at special events, such as a bris, that they do serve instant coffee, so to say that it is not oileh al shulchan melachim might be difficult to argue.
The Acharonim discuss the applicability of bishul akum to coffee. It is brought in the name of the Arizal that he forbade non-Jewish coffee because of bishul akum. However, the Darchei Teshuvah brings from other sources, that it could be that the Arizal was just being strict on himself and wouldn't protest against others who did drink it. Other Acharonim, such as the Panim Meiros, hold that coffee is forbidden according to the letter of the law, not just as a stringency. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Be'er Eisek, who says that drinking coffee in coffee houses is permissible even for those people who conduct themselves stringently in all matters. He says that no one is concerned for the opinion of the Panim Meiros.
Are there any halachic arguments to show that coffee does not fall under bishul akum? The Pri Chadash brings a Tosfos in Avodah Zara (35b) where they state proofs that beer (which is cooked) does not fall under bishul akum. One proof is that the brocha on beer is "shehakol" and not "borei minei mezonos." This is because the water is the main ingredient in beer, not the grain, so the grain is thus batel (nullified) to the water. Water is consumed raw, therefore bishul akum doesn't apply to beer. So too, argues the Pri Chadash, water is the main ingredient in coffee, which is why we say the brocha of "shehakol" on it and not "borei pri haEitz." Therefore, bishul akum would not apply to coffee either.
Next week we will see how the Panim Meiros argues against this proof from the Pri Chadash. We will also look at other arguments discussing the applicability of bishul akum to coffee.

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