Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Makes Kosher Pickles “Kosher”? By Yehuda Shurpin and Tish A Bov on Sunday the 22nd

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

If we are not careful, we can easily fall into a constant state of tension.

We are bombarded with news about nuclear weapons, terror cells and cancer cells, food alerts and financial insecurities as well as endless tragedies and traumas.

When we are stressed, the body increases its production of steroids and stress hormones, such as cortisol, which cause stomach distress, headaches and muscle pain, among other unpleasant symptoms.

To minimize tension, take a few minutes throughout the day to relax. Sit in the sun for a quarter hour to get your essential daily dose of vitamin D, exercise or just close your eyes and breathe deeply from your stomach. Smiling exerts pressure on a nerve in the nape of the neck which cools the brain and raises the serotonin level. Remember to focus on what IS in your control, i.e., your own thoughts, speech and actions

Love Yehuda Lave

What Makes Kosher Pickles "Kosher"? By Yehuda Shurpin

Let me start by saying that even if a pickle jar is marked as containing "kosher pickles," it does not necessarily mean that the pickles are actually kosher to eat. And it's not just pickles. "Kosher style" restaurants may serve chicken soup with matzah balls, but that does not mean that the food is kosher.

"Kosher" usually refers to something that is permitted according to Jewish dietary laws. With pickles, however, "kosher" merely denotes a specific pickling style. Pickles, like any other product, need to be certified kosher. The good news is that most major kosher pickle producers in the US are certified kosher.

History of the Kosher Pickle

Pickles have been around for a very long time. In the pre-refrigeration era, one of the best ways to preserve something was through pickling it.

According to one theory, cucumbers originally came from India and were first pickled in the Tigris Valley.1 Cucumbers are mentioned in the Bible as one of the foods the Jews ate when they were slaves in Egypt.2

Fast-forward to the late 1800s and early 1900s, when many Jewish immigrants arrived in the United States and introduced a unique recipe for pickles—which would become known as "kosher pickles" or "kosher dills." Cucumbers were placed in a large wooden barrel of water, together with dill, garlic, spices and kosher salt,3 and were left to ferment. Depending on how long they fermented, the finished product would be called either "half sours" or "full sours."

At first, these pickles were sold on pushcarts, then shops started selling them straight out of the barrel, and eventually a whole industry developed. Pickles prepared in a style that resembles those of the original Jewish pickle-makers have become known as "kosher pickles."

Garlic, Salt and Vinegar

Officially, genuine kosher pickles are naturally fermented in a salt brine (usually from kosher salt) and flavored with garlic. It has been speculated that one reason for the use of salt over vinegar is that vinegar poses various kashrut concerns since, for example, it can come from wine, which has special kosher considerations.

Nowadays, it seems that many companies do add vinegar to their "kosher pickles." In fact, according to the USDA's database of products,4 some companies don't even add garlic (or at least a significant amount of it) to their "kosher pickles." So some of these "kosher pickles," while they may actually be certified as kosher to eat, are not genuine "kosher pickles" . . . go figure!

Footnotes 1. Tori Avey, "History in a Jar: Story of Pickles," PBS Food, (September 3, 2014). 2. Numbers 11:5. I would add that some identify Isaiah 1:8 as referring to cucumbers. However, according to some commentaries, that may be an incorrect translation. 3. Kosher salt is large-grained salt used in the koshering process, whereby blood is removed from kosher meat. 4. USDA Food Composition Databases, by Yehuda Shurpin

Tish A Bov on Sunday the 22nd

What Is Tisha B'Av?

Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av (Jul. 21-22, 2018), is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, on which we fast, deprive ourselves and pray. It is the culmination of the Three Weeks, a period of time during which we mark the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

What Happened on 9 Av

1313 BCE: The spies returned from the Promised Land with frightening reports, and the Israelites balked at the prospect of entering the land. G‑d decreed that they would therefore wander in the desert for 40 years. Read more.

Both Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this date. The First Temple was burned by the Babylonians in 423 BCE (read more) and the Second Temple fell to the Romans in 70 CE (read more), unleashing a period of suffering from which our nation has never fully recovered.

The Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans in 133 CE ended in defeat: The Jews of Betar were butchered on the 9th of Av and the Temple Mount was plowed one year later on the same date. Read more.

Later on in our history, many more tragedies happened on this day, including the 1290 expulsion of England's Jews and the 1492 banishment of all Jews from Spain. Read more.

More: What Happened on Tisha B'Av?

How 9 Av Is Observed

The fast begins at sunset of the 8th of Av and concludes at nightfall the following night. During this time, we do not

  • eat or drink
  • wear leather footwear
  • bathe or wash ourselves (washing only until the knuckle when mandated by halachah)
  • apply ointments or creams
  • engage in marital relations or any form of intimacy
  • sit on a normal-height chair until chatzot (the time when the sun has reached its apex)
  • study Torah (except for the "sad" parts that deal with the destruction of the Temples, etc.)
  • send gifts, or even greet one another (you may respond to greetings)
  • engage in outings, trips or similar pleasurable activities
  • wear fine, festive clothing

Read more: The Laws of Mourning

What We Do

Starting from midday on 8 Av, we limit our Torah study to the few allowed topics that are of a sad nature or pertain to the Temples' destruction.

We eat a square meal in the afternoon, before Minchah services. Then, late in the afternoon, a "separation meal," seudah hamafseket, is eaten. It consists of bread and a hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, accompanied by water. This meal is eaten alone, sitting on a low stool. (See here for how this plays out when Tisha B'Av follows Shabbat.)

The meal must be over by sundown, when all the laws of Tisha B'Av take effect.

Tisha B'Av evening services are held in synagogue, where the ark has been stripped of its decorative curtain and the lights dimmed. Evening prayers are followed by the chanting of Eichah (Lamentations).

Morning prayers are held without tallit and tefillin, since both are considered adornments. Most of the morning is occupied by the reading of Kinot, elegies marking the various tragedies that befell our people.

Work is permitted on Tisha B'Av, but discouraged. On this day, one's focus should be on mourning and repentance. If one must work, it is preferable to begin after midday.

It is customary to give extra charity on Tisha B'Av, as on every fast day.

After midday, it is permissible to sit on chairs, and tallit and tefillin are worn during the afternoon prayer. In the synagogue, the ark's curtain is restored to its place before the afternoon prayers.

Many communities have the custom to clean the house and wash the floors after midday, in anticipation of the Redemption, which we await.

Many important details and laws can be found in Order of the Day and What to Expect at Tisha B'Av Services.

After the Fast

When night falls, before breaking the fast, one should perform netilat yadayim (hand-washing), this time covering the entire hand with water, but without reciting the blessing. It is also customary to perform Kiddush Levanah at this point, celebrating the rebirth of the moon, and our hoped-for national rebirth.

The Temple was set ablaze on the afternoon of the 9th of Av, and it burned through the 10th. Therefore, the restrictions of the Nine Days (such as not eating meat, swimming or laundering clothing) extend until midday of the 10th of Av.

The Joy Within the Sadness

Even as we mourn, there is an element of joy and comfort. Indeed, the reading of Eichah concludes with the verse "Restore us to You, O L‑rd, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old." There is also a custom among many to use flimsy paperback Kinot booklets, hoping that they will not be needed next year.

It is by no accident that Scripture refers to this day as a mo'ed, a holiday, and Tachanun (prayer of repentance) is not said today. May the time soon come when we look back with the clarity of hindsight to see how all our suffering was but a prelude to happiness and goodness, with the coming of Moshiach. Amen!

Supreme Court rules states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax

States will be able to force more shoppers to pay sales tax when they make online purchases under a Supreme Court decision Thursday that will leave shoppers with lighter wallets but is a big financial win for states.

Consumers can expect to see sales tax being charged on more online purchases — likely over the next year and potentially before the Christmas shopping season — as states and retailers react to the court's decision, said one attorney involved in the case.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Thursday overruled two, decades-old Supreme Court decisions that states said cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue annually. The decisions made it more difficult for states to collect sales tax on certain online purchases, and more than 40 states had asked the high court to overrule them.

The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a customer's purchase to a state where the business didn't have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers were generally responsible for paying the sales tax to the state themselves if they weren't charged it, but most didn't realize they owed it and few paid.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.

"Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States," he wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Kennedy wrote that the rule "limited States' ability to seek long-term prosperity and has prevented market participants from competing on an even playing field."

The ruling is also a win for large retailers, who argued the physical presence rule was unfair. Large retailers including Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores, already generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. That's because they typically have a physical store in whatever state the purchase is being shipped to., with its network of warehouses, also collects sales tax in every state that charges it, though third-party sellers who use the site don't have to.

Sellers that have a physical presence in only a single state or a few states have been able to avoid charging sales taxes when they shipped to addresses outside those states. Online sellers that haven't been charging sales tax on goods shipped to every state range from jewelry website Blue Nile to pet products site to clothing retailer L.L. Bean. Sellers who use eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also haven't been collecting sales tax nationwide.

Under the ruling Thursday, states can pass laws requiring out-of-state sellers to collect the state's sales tax from customers and send it to the state. More than a dozen states have already adopted laws like that ahead of the court's decision, according to state tax policy expert Joseph Crosby.

The National Retail Federation trade group, said the court's decision was a "major victory" but the group said federal legislation is necessary to provide details on how sales tax collection will take place, rather than leaving it to each state to interpret the court's decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts and three of his colleagues would have kept the court's previous decisions in place.

"E-commerce has grown into a significant and vibrant part of our national economy against the backdrop of established rules, including the physical-presence rule. Any alteration to those rules with the potential to disrupt the development of such a critical segment of the economy should be undertaken by Congress," Roberts wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The lineup of justices on each side of the case was unusual, with Roberts joining three more liberal justices and Ginsburg joining her more conservative colleagues.

The case the court ruled on involved a 2016 law passed by South Dakota, which said it was losing out on an estimated $50 million a year in sales tax not collected by out-of-state sellers. Lawmakers in the state, which has no income tax, passed a law designed to directly challenge the physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect sales tax and send it to the state.

South Dakota wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued several of them:, electronics retailer Newegg and home goods company Wayfair. After the Supreme Court's decision was announced, shares in Wayfair and Overstock both fell, with Wayfair down more than 3 percent and Overstock down more than 2 percent.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard called Thursday's decision a "Great Day for South Dakota," though the high court stopped short of greenlighting the state's law. While the Supreme Court spoke approvingly of the law it sent it back to South Dakota's highest court to be revisited in light of the court's decision.

The Trump administration had urged the justices to side with South Dakota.

The case is South Dakota v. Wayfair, 17-494.

Copyright © 2018, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Subject: Fwd: Swastika Skies by Evelyn Hayes:

"Swastika Skies "        by Evelyn Hayes                                   (c) June 18, 2018I look south and do not see Jerusalem blue.                                      The sky has a polluted Gaza hue.             Poisoned by exploding swastika kites.      Stupid world. Hamas's wrongs are not rights.                                                    Stupid peoples; stupid world.Remember when the Jews returned, their blessed past was unfurled.Kah Ribon Olam, the Shabbos song, a praise of TorahWritten by Yisrael ben Moshe of Najara, Chief Rabbi of 99% Jewish Gaza about 1600, Jewish during King David's reignIn 1967 the few Bedouins warned it was a just a sandy plain,The Jews made the desert a fertile landAgriculture of a hundred million dollar grand Where Arabs worked for their Jewish neighboursTogether for God's giving earth, saviors.And then there was a peace plan that expelled, boycotted, divested the JewsExpulsion and a No Jews apartheid lit the fuse:Rockets, war ,swastika kites, exploding balloons,Anti-Israel tunes and Gan Eden in ruins.Worse Jerusalem skiesAre polluted by lies.Worse the southern horizon forebodes illness.As the world excuses deadly destruction as mischievousness. These kites and balloons are surely not Innocent toys;They go twenty miles past the border by just wind, or by what the devil employs    Beehives set ablaze with the orange fruit trees.      What disease is spreading by the               Hamas jihadese.Hundreds of turkeys choked to death because of the terrorists' fumesWhat illnesses for  children looms?    How does this perverting   uncondemned catastrophe    affect the food supply?    Why is the world and BDS letting plants, animals and people die?Even after the Arabs who worked for the Jews in Gush Katif -Architects, builders, producers, friends , newsmen suffered murder by jihad, not reliefApologetic Israel excuses evilAnd accepts upheaval.Shame , acquiescence is to blame.Shame!!! Hate-filled evil is not contained.


The magazine of the authentic Jewish Idea

September 1976 – Elul 5736




Two letters arrived for me within a few days of each other.  Together they tell an important tale.  It is a tale of the distortion and the misshaping of the authentic Jewish Idea and it is a tale that every Jew should hear and understand.


This first letter came from a Jew – a religious Jew – a Jew whose home is in the State of Illinois.  The relevant parts of this letter read as follows: 


"Sometimes when we become firmly convinced of something, we tend to state it to others with a certain degree of fanaticism.  Of course, you are right that the Jews of the entire world should make Aliyah to Israel.  But let us consider some practical aspects … are all of us going to be able to support ourselves as well as our families in Israel?  Are we headed for an "Auschwitz" America?  I hope and pray it does not happen and I do not think it will.  But if it does, that will mean that America has turned full tilt against Israel and Jews will be no safer than in America.  Prayfully, one day, my family and I will gather enough faith and courage to make Aliyah. But until we do, if we do, we do not require constant harping on this subject.  What we do need now is your spiritual leadership in becoming better Jews where we are.  Prophesize to our brethren in Israel.  Bring them back to Torah.  Prepare the land and the people for us?"


The other letter comes from an Israeli.  A student who lives in Jerusalem and who studies at Hebrew University.  He is not religious, but a firm nationalist.  The relevant parts of his letter are:


"I do not write this letter in my name alone but in the name of many tens of students who agree with all of your main points… The thing that leads to a parting of the ways is "your fanatical religion" as they call it.  Most of the students are irreligious.  Know that many, many would like to see themselves in your camp, but they totally reject Rabbi Kahane because of their fear of "fanatical religion."  With all due respect, I suggest that you only emphasize the major issue that is common to all including the irreligious."


Two letters.  Each in their own way showing the schizophrenia that has seized the Jewish people and that has misshapen and deformed the authentic Jewish Idea.  Two letters from two-Jews, each of whom has forgotten a different side of Judaism.  One, a "religious" Jew who forgets that without the nation there is nothing.  The other, a "nationalist" Jew who does not know that without religion, the Jew is meaningless.  And how important it is for us to understand the totality and truth of the Jew as a RELIGIO-NATION.  For if we do, we suddenly understand the reality of the Jewish Idea; we begin to grasp the truth that will lead to the final redemption.  And if we do not, we continue our descent to tragedy. 

You see, my secular nationalist friend, unlike you, I see nothing at all very special or logical about nationalism, per se.  I see nothing very rational about setting up boundaries and a barrier, separate governments, armies, parliaments, economics, exchange rates and languages.  If anything, nationalism is a barrier to world brotherhood and one of the major fomenters of conflict and war. If I were a secular nationalist I would be hard put to explain why Jews should remain separate and not assimilate and I would struggle for a rational explanation of Jewish behavior – stubborn and obstinate – over two millennia of exile as they suffered every conceivable manner of persecution and yet, refused to disappear.


There is only one reason why Jews should be different, and that is the very special difference, the uniqueness that makes them separate and different from all other peoples.  ONLY the election of Israel, only the concept of a Chosen people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; only the "Ata b'chartanu, You have chosen us from all the nations": only the "hamavdil beyn kodesh l'chol, He who differentiates between and separates between holy and profane, between Israel and the nations"; only the need to be different, apart and separate NOT BECAUSE OF SOME VAGUE LANGUAGE OR HISTORICAL DIFFERNCE but because of the distinct uniqueness of Torah and the commandments as a DIVINE decree – only this gives any validity to the Jew remaining alive as a distinct entity.


There is nothing special about a Jewish tank or jet plane, nothing special about an independent state of your own with a Parliament, Prime Minister, national airline and social-economic-political problems, all nations have them.  There is nothing special about a scientific institute, universities and lawyers, physicians and sanitation men; all nations have them.  But no nation has Torah except the Jewish people, and that is the difference.  The only one.


And so, when I helped to found the JDL and called to people to love Jews so much that they should be prepared to climb barricades for them, fight physically for them, perhaps sit in jail for them, why in the world did I care about some Jew in Leningrad or Damascus more than some Zulu in South Africa?  Only because Ahavat Yisroel follows directly from the special quality of the Jewish people – the DIVINE nation – each of whose members partakes of that divine quality and is my brother MORE than other peoples.  Without my belief in the Jews as the Chosen People of G-d, there would be not the slightest interest for me in them more than in other people.


And if you wonder why secular Jewish nationalism, that which we call Zionism, has proven to be such a disastrous failure among our youth in Israel; and if it bothers you that the youth questions the basic axioms that, to you are truth incarnate, going so far as to dispute the right of the Jews to Israel and even joining an Arab spy ring; and if you are disturbed at the fact that most Israelis have little ties to world Jewry, and so many would like very much to leave the country and make a great deal of money elsewhere; and if the Jew in Israel looks more and more like any other people and feels nothing special about himself and his state – learn an important lesson.


Secular Jewish nationalism – no more than any other kind – can give no rational reason to a sensitive and intelligent young person to see anything special about his people or his state – especially when that state is faced with constant crisis, hardships and sacrifice.   There are those secular Jewish nationalists who remember either the anti-Semitism of the Exile or the nostalgia of Judaism.  Most Israelis know neither and they ask logical questions and demand answers that the letter writer, a secular nationalist, cannot really give him 


As for me, without religion there are NO Jewish people worth fighting for and worth dying for.  There is no Jewish state worth sacrificing so much for and crying out "not one inch."  Everything that the nationalist writer sees in me as "nationalist" is instead RELIGIO-NATIONALIST, or the authentic Jewish Idea.  Failing to see religion and G-d at the heart of Jewishness; failing to see G-d at the center of Jewish destiny, as the G-d of History; failing to understand that without a return to Torah, nothing will help us – the secular nationalist understands nothing.


And he is joined by the "religious" Jew form Illinois.  A Jew who can say such "practical" things as "are all of us able to support ourselves in Israel?; as "I do not think" an Auschwitz can happen in America; as if America "turns full tilt" against Jews then Israel is also doomed; as advice to stop harping on Aliyah and instead try to make us "better Jews where we are."


The one writer puts religion on the shelf and thinks that he is a complete Jew, while the other ignores nationalism and prides himself on his being able to be a true Jew.  Both are wrong.  Both are cripples, the one limping on the right foot and the other on the left.


The religious Jew asks that I try to make Jews better "where they are."  That is exactly what I do when I "harp" on the fundamental mitzvah of Aliyah.  I am desperately attempting to reach the Jew "where he is" in the Exile and make him a better Jew by telling him to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the land.  I reach out to him and try to make him a better Jew who will stop being so casual about a mitzvah that the rabbis tell us is equal to all the commandments of the Torah; who will realize that the rabbis call him, the dweller in Exile, a man who is as one without a G-d; who is called a worshipper of idol impurity; who is promised that in the Exile he will "find no rest for the sole of his foot."


He wishes me to make Jews better than they are?  Every article I write concerning the immutable place of the nation and the state of Judaism does just that.  Every criticism of religious Jews for failing to understand that there can be no authentic complete Judaism without the Land of Israel is that.   Every time I attempt to teach the lesson of the State of Israel as being the beginning of the redemption and the beginning of the era of Kiddush Hashem is that.


 The religious Jew who does not perceive that the Exile is Hillul Hashem, the desecration of

 G-d's name is one who does not understand Jewish history and the Jewish destiny.  If he does not understand that his remaining in the Exile desecrates G-d's name, guarantees a terrible Holocaust and impedes the swift final redemption – then shout to him the truth over and over again no matter how annoyed he is, or rather precisely because he is annoyed. The Jew who remains in Exile and refuses to live in Israel is NOT a good a Jew as he should be.  The Jew who can fail to understand that the Exile is a curse that is guaranteed to end in Auschwitz, and who can lay aside a mitzvah because "how will we support ourselves" (meaning, in the manner to which we have become accustomed), and who can think that the destiny of Israel lies in the hands of America – is a Jew who badly needs help.  He is as "irreligious" in his way as the secular nationalist in his.


The question of Aliyah is not a peripheral or tangential one.  It is at the heart of the Jewish future and destiny.  And it will be shouted forth so that, in the words of the Book of Ezekiel "whether they listen or cease to listen, but let them know that there was a spokesman among them."


Somewhere in the Exile, the authentic Jewish Idea became misshapen and deformed.  On the one hand there were those who forgot that the Jew is a religion. On the other hand, there were those who forgot that we are a nation.  Both are helping to bring tragedy upon us.  Until we return to the authentic Jewish concept of a RELIGO-NATION I will continue to receive letters from people who do not understand.  Somehow they must be made to understand and that is why I write.



 "They shall take for you a red heifer, perfect" (19:2)
Included in "perfect" is also the requirement that also the color should be perfect without any hairs of a different color. Here we see the possibility of understanding this mystifying procedure of the purification by the Parah Adumah. This heifer, with a beautiful coat of red hair without a blemish even in the perfection of its color, was therefore a rarity, and it was so expensive that its owner became wealthy when he sold it to the public use (Kiddushin 31A).
Yet despite its striking beauty, this enormously costly creature could accomplish nothing of the purification procedure while it was still in a state of its beauty. Only after slaughtering it and then burning it into ashes could it achieve the purpose of purifying the unclean person or object. 
This symbolizes a vastly important parallel: The Israelite is to Hashem the most precious object in the world. Even one Israelite is more valuable to Hashem than the entire Universe ("For my sake the world was created" – Sanhedrin 37A). Yet throughout his life he is susceptible to sin or even to entire self-ruination, no matter how perfect he is. The most beautifully righteous man becomes truly purified only when he dies and is interred and his body turns to ashes, exactly like the Parah Adumah.
"Greater are the righteous after their death, more than in their lifetime" (Hullin 7B) and the procedure of the Parah Adumah comes to emphasize the importance of the Afterlife as the culmination of all men's efforts to gain true excellence in the eyes of Hashem. The righteous, that bask in the splendor of Hashem's favor, perceive that their death and destruction of their bodies constituted the final purification. 
The Israelite individual is the most precious object in the entire Universe while he is alive. Yet his ultimate and most sublime excellence is achieved when he becomes ashes in the earth. Quoted from "Journey Into Greatness" by Rabbi Avigdor Miller ZT'L

This photo by Noam Chen features the Tomb of Absalom in Jerusalem's Kidron Valley on the eastern side of the Old City. Absalom was the rebellious son of King David, and the Bible describes Absalom building the tomb himself for he had no sons to do it.

I walk here from the Kotel at times

Visiting the Sick

I work near a hospital and on my lunch hour I have been volunteering to visit the Jewish patients. Are there any specific Jewish traditions regarding visiting the sick?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:


You are engaging in the mitzvah of "Bikur Cholim" (literally: "Visiting the Sick") which is a Jewish tradition dating back thousands of years.

The Talmud (Sotah 14a) relates that when God came to Abraham in Genesis 18:1, Abraham was recovering from the painful surgery of circumcision at age 99. We find that God does many things in the Torah through angels, but when it came to visiting the sick, no messenger would suffice. The Talmud explains: Just as God visits the sick, so too is it incumbent upon us to imitate God and visit the sick. (Maimonides - Avel 14:4-6; Shulchan Aruch - Y.D. 335)

Many Jewish communities have a Bikur Cholim Society, which insures that sick people are visited regularly, and that all their needs are attended to - e.g. food in the house, rides to the doctor, plus cheering up and companionship. Indeed, a person's psychological state in large part determines their recovery and state of health.

When a person is sick, they want compassion. They want people to be sensitive to their needs, and to help alleviate the discomfort - both physical and emotional. Just by being there, much good will be accomplished. You can spare someone from loneliness, or be there to listen to them take a burden off their chest. Or just chatting with them distracts them from their condition and lifts their spirit. The Talmud (Baba Metzia 30b) says that "He who visits a sick person takes away one-sixtieth of their illness." The idea is that your visit helps reduce/mitigate/lighten the sick person's suffering.

At times, visiting the sick may even be a matter of life and death. By visiting a person who is ill, you might be able to advise him about a doctor he should consult, or obtain medication for him.

Part and parcel of this mitzvah is to pray for the sick person's recovery. When one visits the sick, one should pray that God should heal him (using the person's Hebrew name and mother's name), along with all the sick people (Code of Jewish Law - YD 335:5-6). It may only take the inspiration and heartfelt prayer of a close friend to tip the scales in favor of a speedy recovery. We should never underestimate the power of prayer.

It is also customary to say Psalm 121.

According to the Talmud, visits should not be made very early or late in the day, and one should not stay too long.

Can a person fulfill this mitzvah via telephone? According to most opinions, a phone call only suffices if there is no other option. However, if a person has the chance to pay a live visit, they may not discharge their obligation via telephone, since visiting allows one to help the patient in more practical ways and has inherent concrete value. (Igrot Moshe Y.D. 1:223; Yechaveh Da'at 3:83)

Even if one finds the patient asleep, the visitor is still in fulfillment of the mitzvah, as the patient will be informed about the visit after awakening, which will give them encouragement. (Derech Sichah, p. 66.)

Further, Rabbi Yisrael P. Feinhandler (Avnei Yashpe 1:230) observes that even if the patient is a baby and not aware of anything, the parents are aware, and certainly benefit tremendously from the support; thus the idea of bringing comfort is applicable, even if not directly to patient.

Unfortunately, many people reason that it's better not to visit the sick, because "maybe I will say something that will unintentionally hurt them, or make them feel bad just by the fact that I am healthy," and many other similar evasions. These justifications are poor excuses, perhaps because we prefer to live comfortably without confronting these issues. That may be one reason why God gave us this mitzvah - to help get us out of ourselves and feel the needs of others.

For more on how to fulfill this wonder mitzvah, see:

And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your home and gates (Deuteronomy 6:9).

Some people seem to have two personalities. Some are very gentle, polite, and accommodating during the workday to clients and customers, but when they come home they become demanding and unyielding tyrants. On the other hand, others are loving, considerate, and patient at home, but in business affairs are ruthless, letting nothing stand in the way of gaining profit.

Neither behavior pattern is acceptable. Our lives must be governed by principles that apply everywhere, and we must practice them in all our affairs. For the Jew, these principles are found in the Torah, which includes not only the Scriptures, but also the Talmud and the various works compiled by Torah scholars throughout the ages.

In the portion of the Torah inscribed on the mezuzah, we read that one should converse in Torah while in the home, on the road, when one arises, and when one retires. This message is to be inscribed on the doorposts of our homes. In other words, from awakening until bedtime, both within the home and outside the home, the words of the Torah are to direct us in our actions. There can be no dichotomy.

The mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost so that it should be noticed both when we leave the house to enter the world of commerce and when we return home after the workday. While it is a beautiful custom to kiss the mezuzah as a sign of endearment, this gesture should not be perfunctory. The words of the mezuzah should influence our behavior everywhere.

Today I shall ...
observe the mezuzah as I enter and leave my house, and remember what it is meant to teach me.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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