Parshas Lech Lecha 5779
Candle Lighting Time: 5:57 pm
October 19, 2018
Volume 15 Issue 1
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Dvar Torah

By Association 
By Rabbi Yosef Prupas
            
In this week's parsha we are introduced to the Avos, the Patriarchs. On the surface we understand this as a reference to their role in the founding of our religion. However, because we know that everything related to Judaism has much deeper connotations, we realize that there are many facets to the Avos that impact the roles in our lives. Their actions need to be studied in depth to fully understand what we can learn from them.
 
The Ramban asks why the Torah tells us of G-d's blessing of Avraham without explaining why he deserved preferential treatment and a covenant no less. He answers, that Avraham was already en route to Eretz Yisrael when G-d appeared to him. He was fleeing the abuse and harassment of the people of Ur-Kasdim who were persecuting him for his belief in one G-d. Avraham, for some reason got stuck in Charan, and therefore G-d encouraged him to continue with his plan of moving to Canaan and heaped blessings upon Avraham for all that he had gone through. But the Torah does not want to dwell on that chapter of Avraham's life dealing with idol worshippers and their evil ways. Rather the Torah focuses on what we can learn from Avraham, teaching us the point of the story. We will concentrate on one lesson, among many, that can be learned.
 
Our forefathers are characterized by certain innate character traits, Avraham - Chessed (kindness/benevolence), Yitzchak - Gevura/Yirah (strength of character/fear of heaven), and Yaakov - Emes (truth). We may ask, what makes the Avos so great if these characteristics came naturally to them?
 
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler answers that these qualities served merely as a springboard towards development of self in other areas. A person's first job in life is to recognize traits that come naturally to him. After that he can focus on refining those character traits. For example, Avraham was naturally a man of kindness. One facet of this attribute is giving. But giving without any sense of when to stop can lead to self destruction, a total misuse of a wonderful quality. Avraham, by focusing on refining his midos, came to learn gevura - strength of character, and emes - doing what is right. It was in these areas that G-d tested Avraham and helped him develop and refine himself. By studying the events of the upcoming parshiyos we can learn how Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov accomplished this.
 
We can take this a bit further. Rabbi Yehoshua Heller (Av Beis Din of Telz and student of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter), who had a tremendous understanding of the human psyche, writes in his sefer Divrei Yehoshua the following advice (the sources are omitted): "When an individual is confronted by an overwhelming negative character trait, or cannot attain a certain positive one, he must examine himself and search for an attribute that is associated with the one that is difficult to attain. For example, if one is miserly and cannot overcome his inability to give, but he has a sense of mercy, by refining his attribute of mercy he will come to start giving. Similarly, if one has trouble with anger, by focusing on not being bothered by things he can eventually control his anger. This is a solution to all areas of character development." Rabbi Yehoshua Heller refers to this as "associate traits." By refining what we do have, we can achieve what we don't have. May we merit to truly understand ourselves and refine ourselves in the ways of our forefathers.


 
Dvar Halacha
SHEICHAR AKUM: BEER
Part 1

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

Over the past few months we've been discussing the laws of pas akum, bishul akum, cholov akum and gevinas akum. There is another gezeirah that was instituted by Chazal known as sheichar akum, the prohibition against drinking non-Jewish-made drinks. Which particular kinds of drinks this gezeirah applies to will be discussed in a later issue.
 
Why was this gezeirah instituted? The Gemara in Avodah Zara 31b proposes two reasons. The first is because of the chashash (concern) of intermarriage. Rashi explains that the intention was to prevent a person from becoming accustomed to joining in parties or festive meals, which could eventually lead to intermarriage.
 
The second reason proposed is because of the chashash of gilui (uncovered liquids). Since beer was often left open while it was being produced, there was the concern that a snake came and drank from it and its poison went into the beer. Nowadays, many are lenient with leaving liquids uncovered, since snakes are not so common in populated areas.
 
The Gemara questions the basis of the second reason, gilui. What are we concerned about? If we are concerned that the non-Jews leave their beer barrels open, Jews also leave their beer barrels open. Why don't Jews cover their barrels? Rashi says that the snakes didn't drink from beer barrels (possibly because of the aroma). The Gemara resolves the problem by clarifying that the case is in a place where they leave their water in barrels over a period of time, in order to let the sediment and impurities fall to the bottom. This "purified" water is then used to make beer. It is left uncovered and hence there is a chashash that a snake would've drank from it. Jews, however, were careful to cover their water. The Gemara finds an additional difficulty. If the whole chashash is due to the possible presence of snake venom, then "old" (matured) beer should be permissible, because the presence of any venom would not allow the beer to mature well. Chomitz (vinegar) should also be permissible. The Gemara concedes that this reasoning is indeed correct, but that when Chazal made the gezeirah on the new products they also included the matured products in it for the sake of consistency.
 
When was this gezeirah first instituted? Tosfos say that we don't find it mentioned in any mishnah or baraisa, unlike the gezeiros of pas akum, bishul akum, so it was probably not instituted in the times of the Tannaim, but rather in the times of the Amoraim which followed immediately after.
 
The Rambam seems to differ with Tosfos. In Hilchos Ma'achalos Assuros 17:9 he says "There were other things that Chachamim forbade through a gezeirah, even though these gezeiros had no basis in the Torah, in order to distance us from non-Jews and to prevent intermarriage. These are: It is forbidden to drink with them, even in a place where you wouldn't have to worry about yayin nesech. It is also forbidden to eat their bread and cooked food, even if there is no concern that you could eat treifos." In 17:10 he says "...and we don't drink their beer that they make out of dates, figs, etc..."
 
We see that the Rambam is mentioning the prohibition of sheichar akum in the same context as bishul akum and pas akum. This implies that he holds that sheichar akum was instituted at the same time, during the times of the Tannaim.
 
That concludes our introduction to the gezeirah of sheichar akum. In the coming issues we will look at its parameters, when it applies and to what types of drinks it applies.




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