Friday, January 14, 2011

SHABBAT and watering plants and flowers (Zore'a)

Today is the 9th day of Shebat , 5771

There are 39 categories of Melakha (creative tasks) that are forbidden of Shabbat.

One of them is Zore'a, which literally means: sowing.

This prohibition includes all activities which will make or help any plant to grow.
It is forbidden to sow seeds, to plant trees or flowers, etc. Trimming a tree, which will cause the branches to regrow stronger, is also considered a derivative of 'sowing'.

One of the most common activities included in this melakha is watering plants, trees, flowers or grass on the ground or in planters: all these activities are not permitted during Shabbat. (As we have previously explained, it is permitted to program before Shabbat a sprinkle or an irrigation system that will be automatically activated on Shabbat).

Although watering plants is forbidden, according to the Sephardic custom, it is permitted to place on Shabbat plants like mint branches or myrtle branches or a bouquet of flowers on a vase with water. It is also permitted to add water into that vase. This is because these plants are already detached from the ground and we are just delaying their dryness, not causing them to grow (rishba, birke yosef).

On that note, many Rabbis will authorize to place flowers on water on Shabbat only if the flowers have already blossomed, and not when the flowers are still incipient and closed. (Yalkut Yosef)

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC: 4.33 PM
Shabbat ends in NYC: 5.42 PM

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Truth and integrity

Today is the 8th day of Shebat , 5771

The real test of integrity takes place when someone is faced between keeping his word and suffering a financial loss.

Kind David expressed this idea in Tehilim. nishba lehara', velo yamir... The noble man would keep his promise even at the cost of losing money.

For example: Mr. A promised to sell an item to Mr. B for 100 dollars. But later on Mr. C offers Mr. A 110 dollars! If Mr. A follows the Torah's instruction, he will sell the item to Mr. B -despite the potential monetary loss- because he already gave Mr. B his word.

The Talmud brings the ultimate example of business integrity:

"Rab Safra had a donkey for sale. A gentile came to his house and offered him 50 dollars for the donkey. At that precise moment Rab Safra was reciting the Shema Israel, so he could not answer back. However, in his heart he accepted the offer of 50 dollars. The buyer thought that Rab Safra's silence meant that he expected a higher price, so he offered him 60. Rab Safra was still reciting the Shema. The buyer then offered him 70. At that point Rab Safra ended the Shema and he told the buyer that he can have the donkey for... 50 dollars, because that was the price
he originally accepted in his heart".

Rab Safra was considered by the Talmud the epitome of yr-e shamayima man with a highest level of respect and reverence to God (Makot 24a, Rashi)

Click here to see an extraordinary video clip of Dr. Mordechai Kedar.


Dr Mordechai Kedar will be our guest speaker tonight, Thursday January 13th at 8.00PM at YMJC, 130 Steamboat Road.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The middle of the road

Today is the 7th day of Shebat , 5771

Maimonides explains that when we detect in our personalities an inclination toward one extreme, we should aspire to correct it, bringing ourselves to the center. Sometimes we should force ourselves and 'act' for a while on the opposite equidistant side. In this way, with time we will attain the desired balanced 'golden' way.

In De'ot Chapter 1, 4 haRambam brings some examples:

"A man should not be wrathful and easily angered, and from the other side he should not be cold as a corpse, having no feelings and being moved by no thing. A man should adopt a middle-of-the-road-way, displaying anger only for a very serious matter and only in order to prevent that matter from happening again".

In other words, Maimonides prescribes to practice a 'controlled anger' and display it just for practical purposes. Anger should 'never' come as an impulsive blind reaction.

"Similarly" -Maimonides continues- "a man should not desire more than what he needs for his body and for whatever necessary to live. Like the Pasuk says: a righteous man eats to satisfy his soul(=body)".

haRambam is giving us an illustration in the area of overeating or with being obsessed about 'what' one is going to eat next. He is definitely not referring to poor people who have nothing to eat but to those who are wealthy and are permanently thinking 'what' (or in which restaurant) are they going to eat next.

A righteous person does not think too much about food and eats what and when he or she needs.

For previous Halakhot on this matter see here the section 'Kosher Habits'

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 13th Berakha: Protect the righteous

Today is the 6th day of Shebat , 5771

In this beautiful blessing we ask haShem to protect and help the righteous (Tsadikim), those who are committed to pursuing the knowledge of God and following His commandments.
We ask for a special protection for them because we all need to look up to the righteous people as our role models and inspiration.
The berakha mentions two types of good people: righteous and pious (Chasidim).
Righteous are those who strictly follow God's commandments. Chasidim -pious -is a level above righteousness. Chasidim are righteous people who outdo their religious duties in one specific category of Mitzvot: Chesed. 'Chesed' means kindness, and includes the practice of everything we do for other people: visiting the sick, comforting the mourners and of course helping widows, orphans and people in need.

While 'excess' in ritual areas might be counterproductive or a symptom of arrogance, in the area of Chesed is unquestionable and noble.
It is important to notice that anyone can be a righteous or a pious Jew. Depending exclusively on one's actions and motives. And because it depends also on motives, the only One qualified to identify who is a real Tsadik is God Almighty. That is why we ask Him to protect the real Tsadikim and inspire us to follow their footsteps. vesim chelkenu 'imahem.
Maimonides explains that to increase, so to speak, God's awareness of us (hashgacha peratit), we must increase our awareness of God. The first step to become a Tsadik is having God Almighty in your mind (shiviti haShem). And the more you think about God Almighty, the more He will 'care' about you, and vice versa.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Monday, January 10, 2011

Balanced parenting

Today is the 5th day of Shebat , 5771

Honoring parents is one of the most important Mitzvot of the Torah.
Children are commanded to respect, obey and honor their parents.

From the other side, parents are advised to inspire their children to respect and care of them, behaving toward them in an honorable and affectionate way. Parents are expected to build a relationship with their children balancing 'authority' with 'love'. When one of these two elements is not there, the relationship will turn into a dysfunctional one.

The rabbis offered some guidelines and examples on how to maintain this delicate balance.

A parent should not be extremely demanding with his children, imposing on them duties they won't be able to perform. Because in this way his children will be involuntarily forced to transgress the Mitzvah of respecting and obeying one's parents.

A parent is also advised to inspire respect (yir-ah) without imposing fear (pachad) in his home. Unlike respect-balanced-with-love, fear is recognized when a son or a daughter would be terrified to tell his or her parent about a mistake he or she made. If a son does not feel comfortable talking to his parents about a mistake he made, the possibility of a healthy dialogue is compromised. The Rabbis explain that 'respect' based on intimidation is a formula for long-term serious problems within the family. (The same is true for husband and wife).

(From Yalkut Yosef, Kibbud Ab vaEm, Bet, 317-325)


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Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024