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).
Thoughts from the Daf
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.
One of the teachings that is ingrained in us from a young age is that every letter, and surely every verse and story, found in the Torah is of great significance. We have elsewhere discussed that this premise is far from unanimous, with some of the greatest rabbis throughout the ages maintaining that “the Torah speaks in the language of men” (see, for example, here) and hence, not every word is necessarily of great significance.
The least observed of biblical holidays is undoubtedly Rosh Chodesh. As a holiday based in the Temple, with no home or synagogue based rituals, there is little to distinguish Rosh Chodesh from any other day.