It is an amazing but all too common phenomenon that two people can witness the same event and yet “see it” very differently. This is the simplest explanation as to why Jewish law requires two witnesses to convict someone in a court of law. No matter how honest and trustworthy a person may be, our inherent human biases—conscious or not—are such that we may only see part of the picture. However, if two people report seeing the same thing, our confidence that they have seen a complete picture greatly increases.
“Where is Moshe [mentioned] in the Torah?” It is hard to imagine a more—let's be gentle here—superfluous question. A better question would be where isn’t Moshe mentioned in the Torah. Who knows if without Moshe there would even be a Torah. Perhaps the only question that can match it in incomprehensibility is asking where Haman, Esther and Mordechai are mentioned in the Torah. Considering they lived some 1,000 years after the conclusion of the Torah that would be some feat.
When I ask ba’alei teshuva what the hardest thing for them to give up is, the most common response I receive is "lobster". This should come as no surprise. Our Sages recognized that having enjoyed the taste of “forbidden fruit”, it is most difficult to give it up, and those who do so are greater than those who never tasted that forbidden fruit: “In the place where penitents stand, the truly righteous cannot reach” (Brachot 34b).
It is an often-cited truism that the Orthodox community, most ironically, tends to place much greater emphasis on kosher food than on kosher money. Of course, it is much easier to keep kosher than to ensure our monetary dealings are kosher.
“Mar Ukva said: I am, with regard to this matter, like vinegar, son of wine, with respect to Father. Father, if he were to eat meat at this time, would not eat cheese until tomorrow at this time. But as for me, only at this meal, do I not eat cheese; at a different meal I will eat cheese” (Chulin 105a).
“Because of this the children of Israel, to this day, do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the socket of the hip, since Jacob’s hip socket was wrenched at the thigh muscle” (Breisheet 32:33).
Rabbinic debates are not for the faint-hearted. They can be most intense, and sadly, can lead to tragic consequences. One of the most famous of Talmudic debates, that regarding the tanur shel achnai, led to the excommunication of Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol and the death of Rabban Gamliel (see here for further analysis).
In our last post, we spoke about geneivat da’at, generating false goodwill, in the context of gid hanasheh. I imagine very few people reading this devar Torah have ever sent a cut-up thigh containing a gid hanasheh to a non-Jew, and fewer still would be able to identify the gid hanasheh even if it was staring them in the face.
One would not normally associate the prohibition to eat the gid hanashe, the sciatic nerve, with issues of business ethics. But related they are.
One of most famous mitzvot of the Torah is that of shiluach haken, the obligation to send away the mother bird before taking her little chicks or even unhatched eggs. So important is this mitzvah that it is one of the very few in which we are promised long life for its observance.
This well-know mitzvah has a “cousin”, one not quite as well-known—that of oto v’et beno, the prohibition to slaughter a mother and its offspring, cow and calf, on the same day.