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Parshas Mishpatim - First & Foremost               5 Elul 5779

09/05/19 12:55:40


A famous chef once explained to me that when food is partially prepared either by frying, roasting, grilling, or boiling, and the cooking process is finished off with a different kind of cooking, the taste will always follow the initial cooking method. Sometimes a person boils or cooks some meat and then throws it onto the grill for the flavor. The issue is that boiling the meat not only renders out the fat, it also causes the natural juices of the meat to be released. Take, for example, spareribs which require preservation of both the fat and the natural juices of the meat in order to maintain the true flavor of the ribs. Parboiling doesn't remove much of the natural flavor, but there will still be some loss. Simmering for an hour will result in a large loss of flavor, which can be tasted in the water. The meat itself can become quite dry after it loses its natural juices due to boiling or simmering. For best flavor and retention of moisture, whether chicken or beef, boiling is not recommended. Slow cooking with low heat accomplishes the same goals of tenderizing and rendering of fat without the loss of flavor or moisture of the meat.

This notion is supported in a few places in the Talmud: Kerisus 12b, Shabbos 71a in discussions regarding the liability of eating two pieces of forbidden foods if they combine to make a full size of a Kezayis - an olive size amount. The Gemara in Kerisus declares that if the two half-measures of forbidden food come from the ‘Tamchui’, an Aramaic word most often used in connection with a soup kitchen, but in this case it is used regarding two identical foods that are prepared differently do not combine to make the adequate measure (kezayis). Rashi in the Gemara Shabbos clearly explains this Tamchui as one boiled the other grilled and therefore for the purposes of cooking on Shabbos similarly do not combine to make the full measure and therefore are exempt from punishment. From here we see a clear distinction between the first half of something to its second half.

Things that are the first in life take and hold the strength and sway over everything that comes afterwards. This factor is found in the laws of kashrus with a technical term referred as תתאה גבר - “the bottom overtakes the top”. Generally speaking, when something is poured onto something, the mixture of the two is determined by the bottom or initial item or ingredient. This, perhaps, is the reasoning behind the cliché ‘first impressions are lasting’ and the supporting axiom ‘first impressions are so important’. Chaza”l teach that it’s not necessarily upon all of us to finish the task, but starting is something everyone needs to do. There are many references to the beginning or the first of something in life that, in my humble opinion, carries the bulk of that ‘something’ throughout our lifetime. A final and decisive issue complementing this concept I believe is the different friends and friendships we encounter from the cradle to the grave.

I have remarked and others have remarked to me that the friends that we have from our childhood and early adulthood are the dearest, most sincere and dedicated people we will connect with throughout our lives. Surely we make friends as adults and as we progress through life. Truth be told some of those friendships, once made, are so sound and strong that is as though we have known them since we were very young. For me, it was during my high school and summer camp years that I established the strongest of friends. Let me explain. The friends from my high school years, despite our different paths religiously and in terms of observance, have continued to remain close no matter our differences. We may not speak for a couple of years, but when we connect it’s as if we spoke and saw each other yesterday. Old friends, or our first friends are not judgmental; they are always there, ready to help, to laugh, and to hold us when we need them to do so. No one is counting who owes the other the next phone call, as is so often the case in later friendships. A few weeks ago, amongst our many visitors and guests, a man approached me after davening and began to quiz me, asking if I could guess who he is. He is (now Rabbi) Asher Dicker, a friend from the old neighborhood, someone with whom I had davened on Shabbos and had not spoken to or seen in thirty years. It was such an enormous feeling, such a powerful sensation which brought me back to my youth. As he is a noted talmid chacham, as we were saying our goodbyes to each other he departed with a dvar Halacha and a Torah thought. There is a Halachik rule that when two Mitzvos occur simultaneously, we perform the one that is more common than the other. For example, a classic example of this for a man is what does he don first, his talis or his tefillin? Since they are both obligations occurring for davening, which takes precedence over the other? We follow the ‘Tadir V’She’eino Tadair, Tadir Kodem’ that which is common and the other not common, the more common one goes first. Tallis is worn seven days a week while Tefilin (not worn on Shabbos or Yom Tov) is six days a week, so we put on the Tallis and afterwards the wrap the Tefilin.

Rav Dicker posed the following query: This past Sunday was Rosh Chodesh Elul and we add Borchi Nafshi to the end of the Rosh Chodesh davening. At the same time we began reciting L’Dovid Hashem Ori on Rosh Chodesh Elul. Which one do we recite first? In practice we said Borchi Nafshi first and then L’Dovid, but when we look at the rule we say Borchi Nafshi for RoshChodesh - approximately seventeen times throughout the year - while L’Dovid is said from Rosh Chodesh through Shmini Atzeres, clearly over fifty days! Reb Asher provided an insight that satisfies the challenge, and that is how do we view reciting something multiple times. Borchi Nafshi is recited every month, from month to month from one Rosh Chodesh to the next with a break in the middle, demonstrating each time we say it is its own time, thereby seventeen different times. On the other hand, we are told to recite L’Dovid during this ONE time period beginning Rosh Chodesh Elul and ending after Sukkos, but it is only recognized as the one time a year we say it and therefore it is the less common of the two. Hence saying Borchi Nafshi first is the proper order and saying L’Dovid is second.

The concept of tithing and the ‘first’ is a part of Jewish life in terms of the first gifts to God through the Kohanim as indicated in the Torah. In this week’s Parshas Shoftim the Torah states in Devarim 18:3: “וזה יהיה משפט הכהנים מאת העם מאת זבחי הזבח אם שור אם שה ונתן לכהן הזרע והלחיים והקבה" - “This shall be the law of what the priests receive from the people: When any ox, sheep, or goat is slaughtered as food, you must give the priest the foreleg, the jaw and the maw”. The Ramban (Nachmanidies) quotes the Rambam (Maimonidies) from his sefer Moreh Nevuchim III, 39 that the cheeks are given to the priests because they are the first part of the body of the animal, the shoulder is the first of the extremities of the body, and the maw is the first of the inwards, for the first of them all is given to the ministers of the Most High in His honor. This is just another example of how the first things of the world are unique and special.

The ultimate first and special are the first nation and the unique relationship we, the Jewish people, have with Hashem. Unfortunately, we don’t see ourselves as the ‘first’ ones of Hashem; therefore we fall short of acting in the manner that is called for. As a result we have strayed and fallen aside. Elul is the time to remember the ‘first’ of the year, and we, as the first nation, have the responsibility to carry who we are and what we represent and to reestablish the order of the world as it was in the very beginning.


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, July 12 2020 20 Tammuz 5780