In his 17th century collection of responsa (#93), the Chacham Tzvi, Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi, discusses whether a golem, perhaps best translated as an artificial human being, may be counted towards a minyan. The Chacham Tzvi rules that it may not be. As is well known, only (male) Jews can be counted towards a minyan and a prerequisite of being Jewish is to be a human being. A golem is not even a human being, so there is nothing to discuss.
“The brothers who were groomsmen, shoshbanim, during the lifetime of their father—when the wedding gifts are reciprocated they revert to the common funds of the estate, for the reciprocation of a wedding gift may be claimed in court” (Bava Batra 144b).
Two of most central pillars of Jewish faith, G-d’s foreknowledge of all that will occur and free choice granted to man, seemingly—and perhaps actually—stand in conflict with one another. If we truly have free choice, then how can G-d know what we will do in the future? And if G-d knows what we will do before we have even decided to do so, how can we be said to have free choice?
There is something very special about being pregnant with one’s first child. One has grandiose dreams (hopefully) of carrying a great Torah scholar, a Nobel Laureate and a great philanthropist wrapped into one. Unaware of the realities of child rearing, one can live in a dream world. Yet along with great dreams come great responsibilities, one of which is providing for one’s children. And it is never too early to start saving for one’s children.
One of the great disparities between the modern Western mode of thought and traditional Jewish thought is the concept of egalitarianism. Modern thinking has blurred any form of distinction between classes of people; even the line separating male from female is too thick for many. Notions such as the priesthood, the rights of the firstborn, hereditary leadership, and restrictions based on gender are anachronistic at best, and more likely, viewed as immoral.
“One who writes his property for others [in his will] and leaves his children [with nothing]—what is done is done, but the spirit of our Sages is not happy with him. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, if his son does not act kshura, properly, we remember him for good” (Bava Batra 133b).
One of the differences one notices in teaching adults, as opposed to children, is that the former are generally less inclined to respond to questions posed by the teacher, afraid to say something that may indicate their ignorance of the subject material. Children, on the other hand, are typically eager to say what they think, oblivious to any perceived ignorance. They are, after all, children and can’t be expected to know the material, with ignorance being par for the course.
One of the primary lessons of sefer Breisheet is that birth order matters little. Yitzchak, Yaakov and Yosef were all younger brothers, in Yosef’s case tenfold. Similarly, in the pre-covenantal period it was Hevel, the younger brother of Cain, whose sacrifice was accepted by G-d; and it is Shem, a younger son of Noach (see Rashi, Breisheet 10:21), who is ancestor to Abraham. And Lavan reflects the ancient norm when he states that we “don’t do that in our place, to place the younger before the older one.”
Here is a great trivia question to try on a friend. Who was Noach’s wife? What was Abraham’s mother’s name? Don’t feel bad if you don’t know. While the Torah tells us whom Eisav married, the Torah is silent regarding the wife of Noach. While we know who the mother of Amalek is, we are left to guess whom the mother of Abraham might be.
In our last post, we discussed the Gemara’s claim that the punishment for false weights is greater than that for sexual immorality. As the Gemara explains, while one can do teshuva for sexual sins, one cannot do teshuva for dishonest weights and measurers.