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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Warning: Internet Ahead


Beitzah 23

Today’s Life Yomi has been dedicated by Ezra & Sara Bavly in memory of his mother, Sara bat Baruch z”l.  May the neshama have an aliya and may she be a melitz yosher (a good advocate) for the family and for klal Yisroel.

We live in a crazy world today.   Our homes, our minds, our children are being bombarded with junk and impurity in an endless stream of troubling information.  How do we protect our lives and the lives of our children from all of the pollution that seeks to infiltrate?

In order for an object to become ritually contaminated, it must have the status of keli, which generally means a manufactured item.  Raw materials cannot become tamei (impure).  The Mishnah states that a pepper grinder consists of three distinct parts that all individually have the ability to become tamei.  

The top section, which grinds the pepper, may become tamei because it is made of metal.  The middle section, which sifts the white pepper from its black shell, may become tamei due to its status as a sieve.   The bottom section, which collects the ground pepper, may become tamei since it is a vessel that is shaped as a receptacle. 

This world contains good and bad.  Kabbalah teaches that the good is often covered by the bad in the form of a kelipah – a shell that must be removed in order to discover the good.   And so our lives are about constantly grinding away the pepper shell to uncover the goodness inside.

Nevertheless, there are three different approaches to dealing with the world around us.  Some people open up their homes and lives as a receptacle to all ideas, perspectives and information.  With such an approach, you must never forget to grind out the kelipah first before it enters your open receptacle.  Ultimately, the Mishnah warns us that with such an open attitude, you run the risk of introducing impurity into your life. 

Others choose to go to the opposite extreme and block out everything around them in an attempt to keep their homes and lives completely clean of the rubbish out there.   The Torah teaches that metal represents warfare, which is why the stones of the Holy Altar (mizbeach) may not be hewn with metal.  And so the Mishnah speaks of the metal or militant approach to dealing with the world.  That too runs the risk of becoming impure, for two reasons:

Firstly, if you block out too much information, you have lost the opportunity to find the good within the bad.  For example, the internet, while being a vehicle for hazardous material is also the greatest teacher of Torah the world has ever seen.  And secondly, if we shield our children from everything that is out there, one day they might wake up and set out to discover it all for themselves with potentially destructive consequences.

Maimonides enjoins us to always seek the golden middle path. The Talmud teaches that in the middle is the sieve.   The ideal way to deal with the world around us is to sift the good from the bad and find the right information and influences to bring into our homes and lives.  But even that method, says the Talmud, runs the risk of becoming impure.  While it may be the safest of all three approaches, nothing is guaranteed and we must constantly be on guard against the dangers of the world around us.

You were placed into this world to discover the good that is hidden under every rock and in every nook and cranny.  Your job is to dig beneath the kelipah to reveal the G-dliness in creation.  It’s not an easy task; it is a task fraught with danger and risk.  But commensurate with the risk is the reward. 

In your quest to reveal the Almighty’s blessing in this world, don’t go to extremes.   Don’t open yourself up to everything but don’t close yourself to the world either.  Find that middle path; help your children learn how to sift through the information and ideas that constantly bombard our lives.  And may you be blessed that you find only purity and that purity only find you all the days of your life.


Life Yomi dedications don’t cost a penny!  To dedicate a day of learning in honour of a birthday, anniversary or yortzeit, all you need to do is commit to sending the Life Yomi of the day (or another Life Yomi teaching of your choice) to 18 (chai) people!  You needn’t provide us with the names of recipients; all we need is the honouree’s name and occasion.  For more details, please email rabbi@familyshul.org