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Friday, 25 April 2014

Is taking vacation a waste of time?

Beitzah 26

Today’s Life Yomi is dedicated in honour of the visit of the dayanim of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, Rabbis Yona Reiss and Alan Abramson to Edmonton.  Yishar kochachem!

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch once took a vacation in the Swiss Alps. 
“With all due respect, Rebbe,” exclaimed one of his younger colleagues, “don’t you have important religious and communal matters to attend to?”
“My dear Moishe,” replied Rabbi Hirsch, “after 120, when I reach the Heavenly court and the Almighty asks me, ‘Nu, Shamshonke, what did you think of mein Alps?  Did you appreciate all my awesome creations?’ what will I say?”

In order to eat something on Yom Tov, it must have been designated as food at the onset of the festival.  Our tractate began with the problem of the egg that was laid on Yom Tov and therefore not ready to eat before the holy day.  

What if an animal was born on the festival, may it be slaughtered and eaten?  Since it was permissible to be eaten at the onset of the festival, it remains permissible to be eaten following its birth.  How could it have been eaten when the festival began? 

Had its mother been slaughtered prior to its birth, it would have been permissible to be eaten as part of the mother.  Therefore, it is deemed to be innately designated as food even before it is born.   And thus, it may be consumed if it was born on the festival, since in essence it was edible at the onset of the festival.

The Torah commands us to give our firstborn animals to the cohen.  Ideally, he should take it to the Holy Temple and offer it up as a sacrifice.  However, if the dayanim (rabbinic judges) determine that the animal is blemished, the cohen eats it in the regular manner outside the Temple.

If a firstborn animal is born with a blemish on Yom Tov, may the cohen eat it?   Do we say that this blemished animal was essentially edible from the moment it appeared – the judges just needed to come to confirm its blemished status?  Or do we say that since it was forbidden (sans ruling) to be eaten at the moment it was born, the judges’ decision cannot reinstate it as food that was designated to be eaten?  Although the animal may have been born with a blemish, it was not tarnished with that new status until the judges passed their ruling on it! 

The Beraisa teaches that this firstborn would certainly be fit for consumption if the judges were sitting there when it was born and immediately ruled that it was blemished.  As such, it would never have had the status of ‘just firstborn;’ rather, it immediately assumed the status of ‘blemished firstborn,’ and never became unfit to be eaten. 

What are the rabbis doing at the animal birth?  Don’t they have more important things to do than watch animals being born?

Absolutely not!  While for regular people, this is no more than nature doing its thing, for the rabbis, this is the Creator in action.  But this occasion is not just any old act of creation.  They have no doubt come to witness the appearance of a FIRSTBORN!  A special animal is being born today, one that will be dedicated to the Holy Temple. 

Every act of creation is an investment on the part of the Almighty.  He places Divine sparks in this physical world and our job is to elevate those sparks to holiness.  But today is an extraordinary event, the rabbis have come to see an animal that is born already holy – that’s a precious moment indeed. 

How much do you value the wonders of creation?  Do you see the Divine around you?  The entire world is filled with the sparks of heaven, but are you seeing it?  Are you feeling it?

If we would only appreciate the Divinity around us, we would never stop doing mitzvos!  Every piece of creation, every bit of nature has epic potential!

You just need to open your eyes and see the world through the same lens that our tzadikim, our righteous teachers, view the world.  Once you open your eyes, you will never stop running to witness creation in action and striving to elevate the Divine sparks in every part of nature!

Open up your eyes, it’s time to see the Almighty in action!

PS This is not a picture of the rabbis enjoying Edmonton

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