Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I get it!

An epiphany, as I prepare my shiurim on the closing chapters of Iyov -

Iyov = Shir haShirim!

Not exactly, of course. The roles and dynamics of the relationship at the core of each book are different. But fundamentally, both are books about:
1. a passionate relationship embraced by both parties,
2. then launched into conflict,
3. addressed by outsiders who do not understand, and
4. brought to a resolution of sorts.

Shir haShirim uses the model of two human beings in a loving relationship. One may be a king and the other a peasant, but the two are fundamentally accessible to each other. The conflict arises when the woman/reader falters, and it is resolved when she returns to the relationship.

Iyov uses the model of King and citizen. The King is not accessible, but the citizen/reader persists in the relationship. The conflict arises when the King fails to carry out justice, alienating the citizen, and it is resolved when He returns to the relationship.

Two different religious experiences and outlooks.

It's beautiful.

There is much more here; this is going to be fun to write up for Tuesday's shiur.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A generation that does not know how to ask

A bit of a depressing thought (which is why I didn’t publish it before Pesach). I should develop further, but this is not the time of year for cynicism...

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim 10:4) lists four types of children for whom we are instructed והגדת לבנך, “Tell your children” about the Exodus. One is חכם – wise. One is רשע – wicked. One is טיפש – foolish (in contemporary haggadot, the edition often says תם, simple, but the meaning is the same). And one is שאינו יודע לשאול – the one who does not know how to ask. These are the four children of our Seder.

Maharal, like many others, explains that the one who "does not know how to ask" is of weak intellect. This is difficult, though; is the אינו יודע לשאול like the תם-טיפש, just less bright?

Rav Nachman of Breslov (Likutei Moharan 30:6) explained this child differently – he “does not know how to repent and ask for forgiveness from G-d for sins of which he is unaware.”

Taking Rav Nachman’s idea further: The “one who does not know how to ask” is indeed bright. He can make deductions and declare assertions and debate brilliantly - but he does not know how to ask questions, with a genuine interest in learning that which he does not already know.

We are riding the wave of a communication revolution, in which all of us can publish. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and any number of photo-sharing apps offer platforms for us to proclaim our beliefs. But these media offer very little in the way of two-way communication. (And writing, “Let me know in the comments” when you really mean, “Compliment me, or tell me why you disagree so that I will be able to rebut your arguments,” doesn’t count.)

And we live in a world which interprets humility as uncertainty, and a gentle demeanour as timidity, encouraging us always to express ourselves, and to do so with force. Just look at our presidential candidates.

The result is a style which emphasizes zingers, supporting data, boasting, questions solely for the purpose of rhetorical device, boasting, and QED. There is very little inquiry for the sincere purpose of learning another point of view. We have become a generation that does not know how to ask.

Perhaps we need people to set our teeth on edge…

Thursday, April 14, 2016

We do not rely on miracles (Derashah, pre-Pesach 5776)

21st century science proclaims that human beings are actually hard-wired to believe in Hashem. Or as a headline in the on-line journal Science 2.0 put it, “Scientists Discover that Atheists Might Not Exist”. Of course, people might come to doubt Gd for a variety of reasons and due to a range of experiences, but developmental psychology, neuropsychology and evolutionary biology argue that by default, we are believers. In other words: As described gloriously in Shir haShirim, Man pursues Gd! It is in the nature of man to believe in, to yearn to believe in, a Refereed universe.

It is axiomatic that Judaism encourages us to nurture and nourish this native emunah, practicing it out of choice rather than mere biological compulsion. We dedicate two out of our three regalim to highlighting the heights our emunah can achieve:
• On Succos, we enter the Succah to celebrate לכתך אחרי במדבר, the way in which our ancestors followed HaShem in the wilderness, on faith.
• On Shavuos, we celebrate both the emunah of the farmer who sacrifices the year’s first produce, and the emunah of the Jews at Sinai who declared נעשה ונשמע, “We will do whatever You say!”

But the attraction to emunah can be a Trojan Horse, concealing two subtle risks:
• First: The risk that we will look for Gd in foreign places, as did the generation of Enosh and the creators of the Golden Calf, as well as generations of young Jews who have hiked the Himalayas in search of that Gd. To borrow from Voltaire: if we fail to find Gd, we might resort to inventing Him.
• And then there is a second risk: that human beings who believe in a Divine Overseer will rely fully on this Overseer, failing to value that which humanity can and must achieve on its own behalf.

Pesach comes to neutralize the risks of our natural faith. The narrative of Pesach addresses the first challenge by testifying that Gd, and only Gd, is Creator and Manipulator of our world. And the narrative of Pesach addresses the second challenge, too, by proclaiming that our liberty from Egyptian bondage was achieved not solely through the אני ולא מלאך intervention of Gd, but also through the activism of the human being:
• The dauntless persistence of our formidable ancestors who were slaves in Egypt, and who did not give up but instead retained their identity as descendants of Avraham and Sarah;
• The energy of נשים צדקניות, superlatively righteous women who kept their families going despite Egyptian slavery, and in whose merit, Chazal say, we were rescued from Egypt;
• The obstinacy of Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, who refused to be intimidated by Pharaoh and the Egyptians;
• And the fearlessness of brave ancestors who, in the midst of idolatrous Egypt, slaughtered the representative of the lamb-god for the korban Pesach.
This emphasis on human action is a central lesson of Pesach: We believe in miracles, and we celebrate miracles, but we also celebrate עם ישראל, Jewish peoplehood and Jewish action, on this Yom Tov.

Of course, this emphasis on human action is not explicit in the Haggadah; the Haggadah is overtly and rightly devoted to the Gd of אני ולא מלאך, even downplaying the actions of Moshe Rabbeinu. Nonetheless, the emphasis on human endeavour is embedded in a central mitzvah of Pesach night, ושמרתם את המצות – the practice of using matzah shemurah, guarded matzah.

We use Seder matzah which has been guarded by Jews with the mitzvah in mind (Pesachim 38a-b)  – not only because we are afraid that the dough might become chametz, but because a critical component of the process of making matzah, a crucial third ingredient alongside wheat and water, is the presence of a Jew who is striving to fulfill the mitzvah of his Creator. For this reason, it is insufficient to use closed-circuit monitoring of the grain; it is insufficient to have a Jew watch a non-Jew process the flour. A Jew must personally grind, sift, mix and knead the flour, all the while maintaining his intent to create matzah for the mitzvah. [We will need to discuss "machine shemurah" another time...]

Why do we insist on Jewish involvement and concentration in crafting our Seder matzah? Rabbeinu Asher (Rosh Pesachim 2:26) explained that it’s because the Torah describes matzah as לחם עוני, which the Sages translate as bread of poverty, like the bread our enslaved ancestors ate. As the gemara says, when paupers want bread, they make it personally – and so Rabbeinu Asher wrote, בעלי מעשה וחסידים ותמימים מחמירין על עצמן כגאונים המחמירין ולשין ואופין בעצמן, that people of great deeds and great piety make sure to knead and bake the matzah themselves. And even for those of us who do not bake the seder matzah personally, we still require that a Jew make it, remembering and emulating our impoverished and enslaved ancestors on a night which is simultaneously dedicated to mimicking royalty.

As science has discovered, and as celebrated on Shavuos and Succos, the human being naturally pursues the Divine Overseer. But Pesach plays a balancing role, first by making certain that our religious search is directed toward Gd, and second by reminding us that our liberty came about with the help and merit of human effort. This is the message of matzah shemurah, which we must create by investing labour and intent.

Perhaps we should take that recognition of human effort a step further at our Seder, beyond matzah shemurah.
• Perhaps, without taking anything away from the Haggadah’s central motif of Divine miracles, we could still pause when we read ויתנו עלינו עבודה קשה, about the hard labour, to honour the generations of slaves who persisted in identifying as Jews;
• When we read ואת עמלנו – אלו הבנים, about the struggle of producing children in Egypt, we could pause for הכרת הטוב, gratitude to those נשים צדקניות who birthed, nurtured and raised Jewish children in the face of hopelessness;
• When we read אני ולא מלאך, the declaration that HaShem took us out personally and single-handedly, we could state, as the Tosafos Rid notes, that Moshe courageously and stubbornly brought the Divine message to Pharaoh, despite the Pharaoh’s threats in response;
• And when we read ואמרתם זבח פסח הוא לד', about the mitzvah of korban pesach, we could discuss what it took for a Jew in Egypt to tie up a lamb on the 10th of Nisan and identify it as a sacrifice for HaShem, and whether we would have the strength to buck our society in that way.

And even beyond Pesach, we should recognize the value of that human activism in the Liberty achieved in our own era. Our national return to Israel is surely a Divine miracle, but the Jews who suffered to earn it, the mothers who struggled to raise Jewish children, the leaders who practiced shuttle diplomacy, the visionaries who challenged the international political status quo – to their activism we owe a great הכרת הטוב, and a recognition that this is what Hashem has empowered us to achieve.

The early Greek philosopher Protagoras declared that Man is the measure of all things, but we don’t agree. On the other hand, we also don’t believe solely in the humble half-passage from Tehillim, מה אנוש כי תזכרנו “What is man that Thou art mindful of him.” Rather, we believe in the entire sentence from Tehillim, and its concluding promise of human potential: ותחסרהו מעט מאלקים, “You, Gd, have made us but a little lower than the angels.”

HaShem has crowned humanity with the opportunity to make our own shmurah matzah, to bring our own korban pesach, to effect our own miracles, and so to achieve glory and greatness. This Pesach, may we recognize the ways in which our ancestors did this, and may we answer the Divine call to use our Liberty to do the same.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Class: Stress in Jewish Law

I expect to speak on "Stress in Jewish Law" this Sunday morning, and I think the sources on my class materials might interest people:

Causes of Stress
1.   Monat & Lazarus, Stress and Coping: Anthology (1991), pp. 2-3 (https://books.google.ca/books?id=2RpC7YCbZM8C)
Three basic types of stress are typically delineated: systemic or physiological, psychological, and social. Systemic stress is concerned primarily with the disturbances of tissue systems, psychological stress with cognitive factors leading to the evaluation of threat, and social stress with the disruption of a social unit or system…
[T]he stress arena refers to any event in which environmental demands, internal demands, or both tax or exceed the adaptive resources of an individual, social system, or tissue system.

2.   Talmud, Moed Katan 26b
חולה שמת לו מת אין מודיעין אותו שמת שמא תטרף דעתו עליו...
If a patient’s relative dies, we do not inform him of the death, lest his mind be torn…

3.   Talmud, Ketuvot 6b
"חתן פטור מקרית שמע לילה הראשון עד מוצאי שבת, אם לא עשה מעשה." מאי לאו דטריד דבעי למיבעל? אמר ליה אביי, לא - דטריד דלא בעיל. אמר ליה רבא, ומשום טירדא פטור? אלא מעתה, טבעה ספינתו בים הכי נמי דפטור!
“A groom is exempt from Shema from the first night until Saturday night, if he has not performed the act.” Isn’t this because he is distracted by intent for [the mitzvah of] relations? Abbaye said: No – he is distracted because he has not performed the act. Rava replied: Would one be exempt because of any distraction? Then one whose boat sank at sea would also be exempt!

4.   Talmud, Niddah 9a
אם היתה במחבא והגיע שעת וסתה ולא בדקה טהורה, שחרדה מסלקת את הדמים.
If she was in hiding and her time came, but she did not check, she is presumed to be pure; fear removes bleeding.

5.   Talmud, Bava Batra 147b
מתנת שכיב מרע מדרבנן בעלמא היא שמא תטרף דעתו עליו.
The [verbal] gift of a dying person is rabbinically accepted, lest his mind be torn [in fear that it would not be valid].

6.   Talmud, Shabbat 128b
"אם היתה צריכה לנר, חבירתה מדלקת לה את הנר." פשיטא! לא צריכא בסומא. מהו דתימא כיון דלא חזיא אסור, קא משמע לן איתובי מיתבא דעתה, סברא אי איכא מידי חזיא חבירתה ועבדה לי.
“If [a woman giving birth] needs a lamp, her friend lights it for her.” That’s obvious! No – this is even if she is blind. I might have prohibited it since she does not see, but this teaches that lighting it will settle her mind. She will think that if there is some need, her friend will see it and do it for her.

7.   Talmud, Bava Batra 146a
שנוי וסת תחלת חולי. 
A change in [dietary] routine is the start of illness.

The impact of stress
8.   Some of the medical impact
·         Higher heart rate and blood pressure (norepinephrine neurotransmitter)
·         Metabolization of fat and protein, and elevated blood sugar (cortisol)
·         Suppressed immune responses (cortisol)
·         Flu-like symptoms, allergic reactions, inflammation (cytokines)
·         Narrowing of mental focus and loss of neuroplasticity (neural focus on the threat)
·         Shutdown of neurons (calcium flooding from overstimulation of neurons)
·         Long-term stress builds on these effects

9.   Stress can have positive medical impacts, too
·         Summoning helper hormones
·         Focus on a problem
·         Cell growth in the brain’s learning centres
·         Sense of resiliency

10. What can cause stress to be helpful?
·         Conditions which aid willpower
·         Our perception of stress (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3374921/)
·         Generosity to others (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780662/)

11. Talmud, Eruvin 65a
הבא מן הדרך אל יתפלל שלשה ימים
One who comes from the road should not pray [the amidah] for three days.

12. Mishlei 18:14
רוּחַ־אִישׁ יְכַלְכֵּל מַחֲלֵהוּ וְרוּחַ נְכֵאָה מִי יִשָּׂאֶנָּה:
The spirit of a person will sustain him in illness, but who can bear a broken spirit?

13. Rambam (12th century Egypt), Regimen Sanitatis, cited in Nishmat Avraham Yoreh Deah 337:ו
יש לספר ספורים משמחים לחולה, שירחיבו את נפשו, ודברים שיסיחו דעתו ויצחק מהם.
One should tell stories which gladden the patient, broadening his spirit, and things that will remove his mind [from illness] and cause him to laugh.

14. Rabbeinu Asher (13th century Germany/Spain), Bava Kama 8:1
צריך שיהא לחולה נחת רוח מן הרופא
The patient must have satisfaction from this doctor.

15. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (20th century USA), Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat 2:73:2
דוקא באופן שלא ידע החולה המסוכן שלפי אומדנות הרופאים א"א לרפאותו דאם ע"י זה יודע שא"א לרפאותו הרי יתבעת, שבשביל זה יש לחוש שיקרב מיתתו ויטרף דעתו שאסור בכל אופן
This [substitution] may be done only in a way that the dangerously ill patient will not know that the doctors think they cannot heal him. If this would cause him to know that they cannot heal him, he would be frightened, and this would hasten his death and his mind would be torn, which is always prohibited.

16. Melachim II 6:17
וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל אֱלִישָׁע וַיֹּאמַר ד' פְּקַח־נָא אֶת־עֵינָיו וְיִרְאֶה וַיִּפְקַח ד' אֶת־עֵינֵי הַנַּעַר וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה הָהָר מָלֵא סוּסִים וְרֶכֶב אֵשׁ סְבִיבֹת אֱלִישָׁע:
And Elisha prayed and said, “Gd, please open his eyes and he will see.” And Gd opened the youth’s eyes, and he saw, and the mountain was filled with horses and fiery chariots surrounding Elisha.

17. Talmud Yerushalmi, Shabbat 14:3, with Korban ha’Edah commentary
"והסיר ד' ממך כל חולי" (דברים ז:טו) זו רעיון.
קר' העדה: שכל החלאים תלויים בהרהורים רעים...
Devarim 6:16 says, “And Gd will remove all illness from you” – this is thought.
Korban ha’Edah: For all illnesses depend on bad thoughts.

18. Talmud, Yoma 84b
ראה שננעלה דלת בפני תינוק, שוברה ומוציאו, והזריז הרי זה משובח, ואין צריך ליטול רשות מבית דין...
If he sees that a door is closed before an infant, he should break it and take the infant out. One who is energetic is praiseworthy, and one need not seek permission from a court…
19. Talmud, Shabbat 151b, with explanation of Meiri
אמר רבי חנינא אסור לישן בבית יחידי
מאירי: וכן בכל שהוא מביא עצמו לידי נסיון של פחד אסור והכל לפי טבעו
Rabbi Chanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone.
Meiri: And so one may not do anything that would bring him to the test of fear, all according to his nature.

20. Talmud, Berachot 63b
מנין שאין דברי תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה שנאמר +במדבר י"ט+ זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל
How do we know that Torah endures only in one who kills himself for it? "This is the Torah: When one dies in a tent."

21. Talmud, Menachot 99b
שאל בן דמה בן אחותו של ר' ישמעאל את ר' ישמעאל: כגון אני שלמדתי כל התורה כולה, מהו ללמוד חכמת יונית? קרא עליו המקרא הזה: לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך והגית בו יומם ולילה, צא ובדוק שעה שאינה לא מן היום ולא מן הלילה ולמוד בה חכמת יונית.
Ben Dama, nephew of Rabbi Yishmael, asked Rabbi Yishmael: For one such as me, who has learned the entire Torah, would learning Greek wisdom be permitted? To which Rabbi Yishmael cited the verse, "This book of the Torah shall never leave your mouth, and you shall read it day and night." Go find a time that is neither day nor night, and then you shall learn Greek wisdom.

22. Talmud, Eruvin 21b-22a
שחרות כעורב במי אתה מוצאן במי שמשכים ומעריב עליהן לבית המדרש רבה אמר במי שמשחיר פניו עליהן כעורב
"Black like a raven" – In whom is learning found? In one who rises early and remains late in the study hall. Rabbah said: In one who blackens his face like a raven for it [in hunger].

23. Talmud, Shabbat 153a
"רבי אליעזר אומר שוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך." שאלו תלמידיו את רבי אליעזר: וכי אדם יודע איזהו יום ימות? אמר להן: וכל שכן ישוב היום, שמא ימות למחר, ונמצא כל ימיו בתשובה!
“Rabbi Eliezer said: Repent one day before your death.” Rabbi Eliezer’s students asked him: Does one know the day he will die? He replied: Then he certainly should repent today, lest he die tomorrow; then he will repent his entire life!

24. Talmud, Berachot 60a
ההוא תלמידא דהוה קא אזיל בתריה דרבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי בשוקא דציון, חזייה דקא מפחיד, אמר ליה "חטאה את, דכתיב 'פחדו בציון חטאים (ישעיה לג:יד)'!" אמר ליה, "והכתיב 'אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד (משלי כח:יד)'!" אמר ליה, "ההוא בדברי תורה כתיב."
A student followed Rabbi Yishmael b’Rabbi Yosi in the market of Zion; Rabbi Yishmael b’Rabbi Yosi saw that he was fearful, and he said, “You must be a sinner, for Yeshayah 33:14 says, ‘The sinners feared in Zion’!” The student replied, “But Mishlei 28:14 says, ‘Fortunate is one who is always afraid’!” He replied, “That is [fear] regarding Torah.”

How halachah deals with the negative impact of stress
25. Rabbi Yaakov Kanaievsky (20th century Russia, Israel), Etzot v'Hadrachot pg. 55
והוא מתחבולות היצר להכביד עליו עול העבודה עד שתהיה עליו למשא כבד, ועל ידי זה דוחהו אחר כך לפריקת עול תורה ר"ל.
Such thinking is a strategy of the yetzer [hara], to weigh upon him the yoke of serving [Gd] to the point where it will be a heavy burden for him, and to thereby push him to throw off the yoke of Torah, Gd-forbid.

26. Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Grinwald (20th century USA), Etzot v'Hadrachot pg. 85
האדם הזה שכל פעם בעשייתו רצון הבורא יתברך נפשו וכוחותיו מסובכים ברגשי אי-נעימות, פחדים, מתח וחוסר שמחה מפני עשיית המצוה – ואדרבה זו נעשית אצלו דרך הרגיל, ועשיית מצוה מתוך שמחה הוא דרך בלתי רגיל – זהו הוכחה גלויה שאין זה כוונת הבורא יתברך שמו ש"עוז וחדוה במקומו", ועיקר עשיית המצוה היא בשמחה דוקא, כמו שכתב הרמב"ם...
The person who, whenever performing the will of the Creator, his soul and his energies are ensnared in feelings of unpleasantness, terrors, stress and lack of joy because of performing the mitzvah — and just the opposite, this becomes his usual state, and performing a mitzvah out of joy is the unusual state — this is open proof that this is not G-d’s intention. “Strength and joy are in His place” (Chronicles I 16:27), and the essence of performing a mitzvah is joy, specifically, as Maimonides wrote…
27. Rabbi Yosef Karo (16th century Israel), Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 306:9
חולה דתקיף ליה עלמא ואמר שישלחו בעד קרוביו, ודאי שרי.
If a patient is ‘gripped by the world’ and he says to send [a non-Jew] for his relatives, this is certainly permitted.

28. Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (19th-20th century Lithuania), Aruch haShulchan Orach Chaim 306:20
ומ"מ שהישראל בעצמו יעשה איסור שבות לא הותרה שהרי אין זה רפואה אלא חששא בעלמא
But a Jew may not perform a rabbinic prohibition himself, for this is not healing, but only a concern.

29. Talmud, Bava Batra 156b
קונין קנין משכיב מרע אפי' בשבת... שמא תטרוף דעתו עליו.
We may perform an act of transaction for a dying person on Shabbat… lest his mind be torn.

30. Rambam (12th century Egypt), Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 11:11
מי שנשכו עקרב או נחש מותר ללחוש על מקום הנשיכה ואפילו בשבת כדי ליישב דעתו ולחזק לבו, אף על פי שאין הדבר מועיל כלום הואיל ומסוכן הוא התירו לו כדי שלא תטרף דעתו עליו
One may chant over the bite of a person who has been bitten by a scorpion or snake, even on Shabbat, to settle his mind and strengthen his heart, even though this does not help at all. He is dangerously ill, so they permitted this to keep his mind from being 'torn'.

31. Rabbi Shlomo ibn Aderet (13th century Spain), Responsum 4:245
כותבין כל קמיע, אפי' בשבת, לחולה שיש בו סכנה, או ליולדת, היכא דאינהו תבעי, ליתובי דעתייהו, אף על פי שאין אנו יודעים אם הוא מומחה, אם לאו.
We write any amulet, even on Shabbat, for a dangerously ill patient or a woman giving birth, where they request it, to settle their mind, even though we don’t know whether or not it is an “expert” amulet.

32. Rabbi Dr. Avraham Sofer Abraham (21st century Israel), Nishmat Avraham Orach Chaim 306:ד
וצריך לומר שחז"ל הבחינו בין שני מיני יתובי דעתיה. אחד שעלול להחמיר את מצבו של החולה המסוכן כך שתטרף דעתו כשלא ממלאים את בקשתו ואז יסתכן עוד יותר - ממילא מותר לחלל עליו את השבת גם באיסורי תורה כדי למנוע את זה. השני, שאמנם יגרום לו לנפילת רוחו ועצבות, אך לא יסתכן בכלל אם לא עושים את מה שהוא ביקש - כאן מותר לחלל את השבת רק באיסורי דרבנן.
One must say that the Sages distinguished between two kinds of settling the mind. In one, the dangerously ill patient’s situation would become worse, such that his mind would be torn should they not fulfill his request, and then he would enter still greater danger – so one may violate Shabbat, even biblical prohibitions, to prevent this.
The second is where it would cause his spirits to fall, and he would be upset, but he would not be in any danger if they would not do as he asked – here one may only violate rabbinic prohibitions of Shabbat.

33. Talmud, Taanit 22b
יחיד שנרדף מפני נכרים או מפני לסטין ומפני רוח רעה על כולן יחיד רשאי לסגף את עצמו בתענית
An individual pursued by non-Jews, bandits or a bad spirit [anxiety] – for all of them, one may pain himself with fasting.

34. Talmud, Taanit 12b, with Rashi’s explanation
יפה תענית לחלום כאש לנעורת. ואמר רב חסדא ובו ביום. ואמר רב יוסף ואפילו בשבת. מאי תקנתיה? ליתיב תעניתא לתעניתא:
רש"י: יכול להתענות, כדי שיתבטל צער גופו.
A fast is good for a dream, like fire for flax. Rav Chisda said: That day. Rav Yosef said: Even Shabbat. How can he make this up? Observe a fast to make up for the fast.
Rashi: He may fast, to eliminate his physical pain.

35. Rabbi Shabbtai haKohen (17th century Poland), Shach Yoreh Deah 338:1
דוקא בנטה למות, אבל בלא נטה למות אין אומרים לו התודה, כדי שלא יהא נשבר לבו. ואף על פי שא"ל 'הרבה הולכים בשוק ומתודים,' מ"מ כשאומרים לו לאדם "התודה שכן דרך כל המומתים מתודים" ידע הוא שמסוכן הוא מאד...
Specifically where he is dying. If he is not dying we do not say, “Confess”, so that his heart will not be broken. Even though we say, “Many people walk about the market after confessing,” when we tell someone “Confess, for those who are put to death confess,” he knows he is in very great danger…

36. Rabbi Shabbtai haKohen (17th century Poland), Shach Yoreh Deah 242 Hanhagat Hora’ot 3
ושעת הדחק היינו דוקא במקום הפסד מרובה, או בהפסד מועט לעני בדבר חשוב, או לעשיר לכבוד שבת ויום טוב, או לכבוד אורחים.
A time of strain is specifically a case of great loss, or lesser loss for a pauper regarding a significant item, or a wealthy person for the honour of Shabbat and Yom Tov, or the honour of guests.

37. Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth (20th-21st century Israel, Shemirat Shabbat k'Hilchatah 34: note 52
ושמעתי מהגרש"ז אויערבך שליט"א דכל שיש בו משום כבוד הבריות כגון שהליחה נוזלת לו מן האף יש להקל טפי
I have heard from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman that where dignity is involved, such as the liquid is running from his nose, there is room for greater leniency.

38. Rabbi Yisrael Ganz, cited in Religious Compulsions and Fears pg. 132
In cases that come before you regarding sufferers of religious compulsions, I think it is important to recall that which the gedolei Yisrael, such as the Steipler Rav, ztvk"l, and the gaon, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztvk"l, and others, have opined on this matter, that in every case of doubt in the halachah, one is to decide on the lenient side of the question. Likewise, even if it is unclear whether there is a doubt, one is also to be lenient…


Does Jewish law think stress is surmountable?
39. Rabbi Yosef Karo (16th century Israel), Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 345:3
גדול המאבד עצמו לדעת, והוא אנוס כשאול המלך, אין מונעין ממנו כל דבר.
For an adult who knowingly takes his life, and he was compelled like King Saul, we withhold nothing.

40. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (20th century Israel), cited in Nishmat Avraham Choshen Mishpat 12:ה
שמאחר ואין גוף האש סכנה, כי אם מה שנותן אל לבו ומצטער ואינו מתחזק בבטחון בהשי"ת, דבר זה נחשב כאילו האדם מתאבד בידים.
Since the fire itself is not dangerous, but he only puts it into his heart and is pained, and he does not strengthen himself with faith in Gd, this is considered like a person who actively takes his own life.

A few coping mechanisms
41. Mishlei 12:25, per two views in Yoma 75a
דְּאָגָה בְלֶב־אִישׁ יַשְׁחֶנָּה וְדָבָר טוֹב יְשַׂמְּחֶנָּה:
1: When worry is in a person’s heart, he should remove it. A good word will gladden it.
2: When worry is in a person’s heart, he should speak of it. A good word will gladden it.

42. Tehillim 55:23
הַשְׁלֵךְ עַל־ד' יְהָבְךָ וְהוּא יְכַלְכְּלֶךָ לֹא־יִתֵּן לְעוֹלָם מוֹט לַצַּדִּיק:
Throw your burden upon Gd, and He will support you. He will never let a righteous person collapse.

43. Devarim 16:14
 וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְהַלֵּוִי וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ:

And you shall rejoice on your festival – you, your son and daughter, your male and female servant, and the Levi and the stranger and the orphan and the widow at your gates.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The problem with Gmail's April Fool's "Drop the Mic" feature...

... is that it's for the wrong population.

The people for whom I want to use it won't get it.
The people for whom I will actually use it are the people whose replies I do want to see.

Life isn't fair.

(And if you don't know what I'm talking about, see Gmail's explanation here.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Value of Perpetuity (Tzav 5776)

I know people are thinking about Purim, but I am posting my Toronto Torah article this week, in case anyone is looking for a thought for Shabbos...

As lottery winners demonstrate when they choose lump sum payouts over perpetual annuities, human beings prefer immediate payment of a smaller sum over long-term payment of a larger sum. Economists explain this behaviour via the principle of “time value of money”: since money can earn interest, money is worth more to us when we receive it sooner. The longer we need to wait, the less the money is worth to us.

Applying “time value of money” to mitzvot, one might argue that “Energetic people perform mitzvot at the earliest opportunity.” (Pesachim 4a) If mitzvot lead to additional mitzvot (Avot 4:2), then we should perform mitzvot as soon as possible, the better to trigger our next mitzvah more immediately. However, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (a.k.a. Netziv) noted an opposite example in our parshah. Regarding the burning of the korban olah (burnt offering), taking more time is more highly valued. A korban olah that burns perpetually, throughout the night, is more desirable to G-d than a korban olah burned immediately.

Vayikra 6:2 instructs the kohanim, “This is the law of the korban olah, which ascends on the fire on the altar all night, until morning.” As the Talmud (Megilah 21a) explains, one may burn the day’s korbanot at any time during the night. However, Rabbi Berlin wrote, “The instruction to the kohanim is that they see to it that the flesh of the korban olah should be placed [on the altar] and consumed, little by little, until the morning. It should not be consumed immediately, lest the altar be empty of the offering.” (Ha’amek Davar to Vayikra 6:2) Rabbi Berlin explained that this is why G-d told Moshe that he must not only relate these laws to the kohanim, but he must command them – because this process requires great care and attention. (Ha’amek Davar ibid.) Here we see an inverted sense of “time value”: this mitzvah is of greater value now, because its completion will take longer.

Why do we value this extended time? And why is this emphasis on perpetuity unique to the stage of burning, and not to earlier processes? At this stage, the gift has been given, the vow fulfilled, and any necessary atonement has been achieved. The sponsors of the korban have gone home, the instruments of the Levites are silent, and almost all of the kohanim have removed their splendid uniforms and nodded off to sleep. Even if we are concerned that a fire should remain on the altar, plenty of wood is present; why do we care about how long the korban olah burns?

Perhaps the value of spending time is actually a result of the fact that the essential service has concluded. At this stage, it is only the barefoot kohen in a darkened Temple, standing in lonely worship of his Creator, with a warm bed waiting somewhere else. G-d beckons to this kohen: stay with Me.

A similar concept is found with the mitzvah of linah, in which people who bring certain korbanot remain in Jerusalem overnight, after the ritual is complete. (Chagigah 17a-b) In another example, Shemini Atzeret is seen as one last day on which G-d asks us to remain, after the seven days of Succot are complete. (Rashi to Vayikra 23:36)

This perspective is consistent with Rambam’s relationship-based explanation of korbanot. Rambam was troubled by Yirmiyahu’s prophetic declaration (7:22-23), “For on the day I removed your fathers from Egypt, I did not speak to them and I did not command them regarding burnt offerings and celebration sacrifices. Only this did I instruct them, saying: Hear My voice and I will be your G-d, and you will be My nation.” Yirmiyahu seems to say that Hashem does not desire korbanot - but the Torah itself testifies to the contrary! Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:32) explained that Yirmiyahu was teaching the importance of the relationship that accompanies, and validates, a korban. “The primary object is that you should know Me and serve no other, and I will be your G-d and you will be My nation.” As the kohen remains in the Beit haMikdash, long after the ceremonies are over, that relationship is deepened.

We are currently without korbanot, but the opportunity to experience perpetuity remains. Sitting in a synagogue to recite Tehillim privately after davening is over; singing at a Shabbat table after the meal; holding the hand of a needy person after giving tzedakah; we can be that kohen, lingering in the dark, positioning the korban olah on the altar. To us, too, Moshe commands: Give this great care and attention, all night, until morning.




Friday, March 4, 2016

Healthy Parenting vs. Halachic Parenting: A source sheet

I've been asked to speak on the topic of, "If my child needs his space to develop his own religious identity, what does Torah say about choosing between a healthy relationship and a halachic relationship?"

My first instinct, like those of others with whom I've spoken, has been to ask whether halachah could require unhealthy parenting. But then I though about cases in which halachah does expect a parent to do things which could convey unhealthy messages, depending on how they are done.

Example: Your adult son decides to marry out of Judaism, and then comes to you for help with the rent for their new apartment. Or your younger child decides to stop observing kashrut, while still living at home, and wants to be able to use your kitchen. Of course, saying "no" doesn't automatically create an unhealthy situation - a lot depends on how it's done. But there can be situations in which a No sends a message of exclusion, and damages self-image.

I won't have much time to speak - it's part of a panel discussion - but here is the source sheet I intend to distribute. Comments most welcome.

1.   Masechet Semachot 2:4
ומעשה בבנו של גורגיוס שברח מבית הספר, והראה לו אביו באזנו, ונתיירא מאביו, והלך ואיבד עצמו בבור
Georgios' son fled from school. His father showed him his ear, and he became afraid; he killed himself in a pit.

The importance of exploration
2.   Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Arpilei Tohar pg. 105
אמונה שאין השכל מסכים לה, מעוררת היא קצף ואכזריות, מפני שהצד היותר עליון שבאדם, שהוא השכל, נעשה עלוב מחמתה.
Faith with which the mind does not agree arouses anger and cruelty [within one's self], because the human being's higher aspect, the mind, becomes frustrated with it.

3.   Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak haKohen Kook, Orot haTeshuvah 5:6*
שלמותם של החיים היא דוקא עם המשך התגלותם על פי טבעם העצמי... וביטול עצם טבעיותם של החיים, כדי שיהיה האדם בלתי-חוטא, זהו עצמו החטא היותר גדול
The perfection of life is specifically with its revelation in its basic nature… Nullification of the basic nature of one’s life, in order to be without sin, is itself the greatest sin.

4.   Rabbi Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz, Chazon Ish, Yoreh Deah 2:16
בזמן ההעלם שנכרתה האמונה מן דלת העם אין במעשה הורדה גדר הפרצה אלא הוספה הפרצה שיהי' בעיניהם כמעשה השחתה ואלמות ח״ו וכיון  שכל עצמנו לתקן אין הדין נוהג בשעה שאין בו תיקון ועלינו להחזירם בעבותות אהבה ולהעמידם בקרן אורה כמה שידינו מגעת.
At a time of [Divine] invisibility, when faith has been cut off from the poor of the nation, punishment does not mend the gap, but only increases it, for it appears like a deed of destruction and coercion, Gd-forbid. Since our entire goal is to repair, the law [of punishment] does not apply when it does not repair. We are obligated to bring them back with ropes of love, to bring them to the radiant light to the extent we can.

5.   Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Community, Covenant and Commitment pg. 224
If Jews would like to enter a Reform temple, they should do so to their heart's content. The Orthodox should not mix in. I speak here from a pragmatic point of view: Religious coercion is harmful.

6.   Rabbi Yaakov Kanaievsky, Etzot v'Hadrachot pg. 55
והוא מתחבולות היצר להכביד עליו עול העבודה עד שתהיה עליו למשא כבד, ועל ידי זה דוחהו אחר כך לפריקת עול תורה ר"ל.
Such [anxious] thinking is a strategy of the yetzer [hara], to weigh upon him the yoke of serving [Gd] to the point where it will be a heavy burden for him, and to thereby push him to throw off the yoke of Torah, Gd-forbid.

7.   Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Grinwald, Etzot v'Hadrachot pg. 85
האדם הזה שכל פעם בעשייתו רצון הבורא יתברך נפשו וכוחותיו מסובכים ברגשי אי-נעימות, פחדים, מתח וחוסר שמחה מפני עשיית המצוה – ואדרבה זו נעשית אצלו דרך הרגיל, ועשיית מצוה מתוך שמחה הוא דרך בלתי רגיל – זהו הוכחה גלויה שאין זה כוונת הבורא יתברך שמו ש"עוז וחדוה במקומו", ועיקר עשיית המצוה היא בשמחה דוקא, כמו שכתב הרמב"ם...
The person who, whenever performing the will of the Creator, his soul and his energies are ensnared in feelings of unpleasantness, terrors, stress and lack of joy because of performing the mitzvah — and just the opposite, this becomes his usual state, and performing a mitzvah out of joy is the unusual state — this is open proof that this is not G-d’s intention. “Strength and joy are in His place” (Chronicles I 16:27), and the essence of performing a mitzvah is joy, specifically, as Maimonides wrote…

Keep a strong relationship as a parent
8.   Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 2:3
הכעס מדה רעה היא עד למאד וראוי לאדם שיתרחק ממנה עד הקצה האחר, וילמד עצמו שלא יכעוס ואפילו על דבר שראוי לכעוס עליו, ואם רצה להטיל אימה על בניו ובני ביתו או על הציבור אם היה פרנס ורצה לכעוס עליהן כדי שיחזרו למוטב יראה עצמו בפניהם שהוא כועס כדי לייסרם ותהיה דעתו מיושבת בינו לבין עצמו
Anger is a very bad trait, and it would be appropriate for a person to distance himself from it, to the opposite extreme. One should teach himself not to grow angry even at something which warrants anger. If he wishes to instill reverence in his children, household or community – if he is a leader – in order to restore good conduct, then he should act as though he is angry in order to rebuke them, but his mind should be internally calm.

9.   Avot d’Rabbi Natan 12:3
כשהיה אהרן מהלך בדרך, פגע בו באדם רשע, ונתן לו שלום. למחר ביקש אותו האיש לעבור עבירה. אמר, אוי לי, היאך אשא עיני אחר כך ואראה את אהרן, בושתי הימנו שנתן לי שלום. נמצא אותו האיש מונע עצמו מן העבירה.
When Aharon was walking on the road, he encountered a wicked man and greeted him. The next day that man wanted to transgress, and he said, “Woe is me, how could I raise my eyes afterward and see Aharon? I would be embarrassed before him, for he greeted me.” And so that man would keep himself from transgression.

10. Talmud, Bava Metzia 69a-b
הנהו תרי כותאי דעבוד עסקא בהדי הדדי אזיל חד מנייהו פליג זוזי בלא דעתיה דחבריה אתו לקמיה דרב פפא אמר ליה מאי נפקא מינה הכי אמר רב נחמן זוזי כמאן דפליגי דמו. לשנה זבון חמרא בהדי הדדי קם אידך פליג ליה בלא דעתיה דחבריה, אתו לקמיה דרב פפא אמר ליה מאן פלג לך אמר ליה קא חזינא דבתר דידי קא אתי מר אמר רב פפא כהאי גונא ודאי צריך לאודועיה...
One partner said, "I see that you are on my side!" Rav Pappa said: In such a circumstance, I must explain…

11. Tosafot Bava Metzia 69b
דוקא הכא לפי שהיה לו פתחון פה לחשדו קאמר דצריך לאודועיה משום והייתם נקיים מד' ומישראל (במדבר לב) אבל בעלמא לא
Rav Pappa was required to explain here, specifically, under the principle of 'You shall be innocent from Gd and Israel,' because the litigant had reason to suspect him. Generally, he would not be required to do so.

Don’t make the halachic tension worse
12. Talmud, Gittin 6b
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב כל המטיל אימה יתירה בתוך ביתו סוף הוא בא לידי שלש עבירות גילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים וחילול שבת
Rav Yehudah cited Rav: One who introduces unnecessary fear in his home will come to three sins: Immorality, murder and Shabbat-desecration.

13. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, Collected Writings Vol. 7 pg. 107
Only the better student will respond to praise or criticism, and the nature of his response will depend very much on the training and treatment he has received at home. We would certainly be the last to support corporal punishment [in school]; indeed, we would be very much inclined to believe that a teacher who cannot cope with the everyday problems of school life without resorting to physical chastisement is in the wrong profession. But [regardless of what is done in school,] if thrashings are the order of the day at home, if the child has become accustomed to take criticism seriously only if he feels it upon his body, if he will listen to verbal admonition only if he sees the rod looming in the background, then the home has deadened the child's sense of morality. Such a child will hardly give his teacher's words of criticism at school the attention they deserve.

14. Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, Seridei Eish 3:95
מטעמים פדגוגים יש להניע מאמצעי כפיה בנוגע לבן הסוטה מהדרך הכבושה. כבר הזכיר כת"ר את האיסור להכות בנו גדול, וצדק כת"ר באמרו שלאו דווקא מכה ביד אלא כל אמצעי כפיה בכוח עלול להביא לידי תוצאות הפוכות מהרצוי. וכבר הוכיחו הפדגוגים המודרנים, שהכפיה או ביצוע רצון בכוח מעורר בנער בגיל מבוגר עקשנות יתר ונטיה למרידה
For pedagogic reasons, one should avoid force with a child who strays from the well-trod path. You already mentioned the prohibition against striking an older child, and you were right that is beyond striking, and it applies to all means of force; it can bring results which are the opposite of his desire. Modern pedagogues have already shown that force, or use of strength to implement one's wishes, awakens greater resistance and rebellion in an older child.

15. Talmud, Berachot 32a
מאי ודי זהב אמרי דבי רבי ינאי כך אמר משה לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע בשביל כסף וזהב שהשפעת להם לישראל עד שאמרו די הוא גרם שעשו את העגל
Rabbi Yannai's yeshiva taught it from 'ודי זהב' – Moshe said before Gd, 'Master of the universe! The silver and gold You flowed upon the Jews until they said די is what caused them to create the calf!'

16. Talmud, Moed Katan 17a
אמתא דבי רבי חזיתיה לההוא גברא דהוה מחי לבנו גדול אמרה ליהוי ההוא גברא בשמתא דקעבר משום ולפני עור לא תתן מכשל
Rebbe's maid saw a man striking his mature son. She said, "Let him be banned, for violating 'Do not put a stumbling block before the blind.'"

Judaism is a big place
17. Mishlei 22:6
חנך לנער על פי דרכו גם כי יזקין לא יסור ממנה:
Train a youth according to his way; even when he ages, he will not leave it.

18.      Bereishit 18:7
ואל הבקר רץ אברהם ויקח בן בקר רך וטוב ויתן אל הנער וימהר לעשות אתו:
Avraham ran to the cattle, and he took a tender and good calf and gave it to the youth, and he rushed to prepare it.

19. Midrash, Bereishit Rabbah 48:13
ויתן אל הנער זה ישמעאל בשביל לזרזו במצות.
This is Yishmael; it was to energize him in mitzvot.

20. Chafetz Chaim, Ahavat Chesed, Volume III Perek 2
גם נוכל ללמוד משם דיחנך אדם גם בניו למצוה זו, כמו שכתוב 'ויתן אל הנער' וכפירוש רש"י שזה קאי על ישמעאל לחנכו במצוות.
We can also learn from there that one should train his children in this mitzvah as well, as it is written, ‘And he gave it to the youth,’ and as Rashi explains that this refers to Yishmael, to train him in mitzvot.

21. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin, Ha’amek Davar to Bamidbar 24
כגנות עלי נהר - והנה משונה גידולי גינה לשדה, דשדה אינו נזרע אלא מין א' או שנים משא"כ זרעוני גינה המה רבים. מכ"מ כל גן יש בו מין א' שהוא העיקר אלא שסביביו נזרע עוד הרבה מינים מעט מעט. כך כל איש ישראל מלא מצוות ד'. אבל כל א' יש לו מצוה א' ביחוד להיות נזהר בה ביותר כדאיתא במכילתא פר' בשלח רנ"א כל העושה מצוה אחת באמנה זוכה וכו' ובירושלמי קידושין ספ"א עה"מ כל העושה מצוה אחת מטיבין לו וכו' ומפרש בירושלמי שעושה מצוה אחת בזהירות יתירה.
That which grows in a garden is not like that which grows in a field; a field is planted with only one or two varieties, as opposed to gardens which have many kinds of seeds. Still, each garden has one central variety, and it’s only that small quantities of other varieties are planted around it. So, too, each Jew is filled with the mitzvot of Gd, but each has one special mitzvah in which he is extra careful, as is seen in the Mechilta, “One who performs a single mitzvah, faithfully, is worthy of Divine inspiration.” Regarding the mishnah that states, ”One who performs a single mitzvah receives goodness,” the Talmud Yerushalmi explains, “This refers to performing a mitzvah with exceptional care.”

Never give up hope
22. Talmud, Kiddushin 30a
"חנוך לנער על פי דרכו" - ר' יהודה ורבי נחמיה חד אמר משיתסר ועד עשרים ותרתין וחד אמר מתמני סרי ועד עשרים וארבעה.
“Train a youth according to his way (Mishlei 22:6)” – Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Nechemiah debated: One said from 16 to 22, the other said from 18 to 24.

23. Midrash Tannaim to Deuteronomy 20:12
“Besiege it” – Surround them on all four sides. Rabbi Natan said: Give them one path, through which to flee.

24. Ramban to Sefer haMitzvot, Added Aseh 5
מצוה חמישית שנצטוינו כשנצור על עיר להניח אחת מן הרוחות בלי מצור שאם ירצו לברוח יהיה להם דרך לנוס משם כי בזה נלמוד להתנהג בחמלה אפילו עם אויבינו בעת המלחמה ובו עוד תקון שנפתח להם פתח שיברחו ולא יתחזקו לקראתינו...
We are instructed that when we lay siege to a city, we must leave one of the directions without siege, so that if they wish to flee then they will have a place for flight. This way we will learn to act with mercy even with our enemies in a time of war, and it will also help in that we will give them an avenue to flee and they will not strengthen themselves against us.

25. Midrash, Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 29
שלח ישמעאל ולקח לו אשה מבנות מואב. לאחר שלש שנים הלך אברהם לראות את ישמעאל בנו, ונשבע לשרה שלא ירד מעל הגמל במקום שישמעאל שרוי תמן, והגיע לשם בחצי היום, ומצא שם את אשתו של ישמעאל, אמ' לה היכן הוא ישמעאל, אמרה לו הלך הוא ואמו להביא פירות ותמרים מן המדבר, אמ' לה תני לי מעט לחם ומים כי עייפה נפשי מדרך המדבר, אמרה לו אין לי לחם ולא מים, אמ' לה כשיבא ישמעאל הגידי לו את הדברים הללו וב"ן חכ"ם כחצ"י חכ"ם ואמרי לו זקן אחד מארץ כנען בא לראותך ואמ' חלף מפתן ביתך שאינה טובה לך, וכשבא ישמעאל מן המדבר הגידה לו את הדברים הללו, ובן חכם כחצי חכם, והבין ישמעאל ושלחה אמו ולקחה לו אשה מבית אביה ופטימה שמה, ועוד אחר שלש שנים הלך אברהם לראות את ישמעאל בנו, ונשבע לשרה כפעם ראשונה שאינו יורד מן הגמל במקום שישמעאל שרוי שם, והגיע לשם בחצי היום ומצא שם אשתו של ישמעאל ואמ' לה היכן הוא ישמעאל, אמרה לו הוא ואמו הלכו לרעות את הגמלים במדבר, אמ' לה תני לי מעט לחם ומים כי עייפה נפשי מדרך המדבר, והוציאה לחם ומים ונתנה לו, עמד אברהם והיה מתפלל לפני הב"ה על בנו ונתמלא ביתו של ישמעאל מכל טוב ממין הברכות, וכשבא ישמעאל הגידה לו את הדבר וידע ישמעאל שעד עכשו רחמי אביו עליו כרחם אב על בנים
Three years later, Avraham went to see his son Yishmael. He swore to Sarah that he would not descend from his camel where Yishmael lived. He arrived at midday and found Yishmael's wife there. He asked her, 'Where is Yishmael?' She said, 'He and his mother have gone to bring fruit and dates from the wilderness.' He said, 'Give me a little bread and water, for I am tired from traveling in the wilderness.' She replied, 'I have neither bread nor water.' He said to her, 'When Yishmael returns, tell him… An old man from the land of Canaan came to see you and said "Change the doorstep to your house, for it is not good for you." When Yishmael came home from the wilderness his wife told him these things, and Yishmael understood.

His mother sent for a woman from her father’s house, named Fatima. After another three years, Avraham went to see his son Yishmael… He said, 'Give me a little bread and water, for I am tired from traveling in the wilderness.' She took out some bread and water and gave it to him. Avraham stood there and prayed to Gd for his son, and Yishmael's house became filled with all manner of good blessings. When Yishmael came home, his wife told him what had happened and Yishmael knew that now his father's mercy was upon him as a father’s mercy is upon his son.