blog

Tefilin Sel Yad With 7 line Shma Yisrael - תפילין של יד עם שמע ישראל ב7 שורות

Tefillin – Ancient Black Boxes With Milk and Honey Inside

Inside Tefillin – A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey

Tefillin are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. They are worn by Jews during weekday morning prayers; Some wear them all day long while working or studying Torah.

The tefillin are to serve as a reminder of God’s intervention at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. Maimonides details of the sanctity of tefillin and writes that “as long as the tefillin are on the head and on the arm of a man, he is modest and God-fearing and will not be attracted by hilarity or idle talk; he will have no evil thoughts, but will devote all his thoughts to truth and righteousness” The Sefer ha-Chinuch (14th century) adds that the purpose of tefillin is to help subjugate a person’s worldly desires and encourage spiritual development. Joseph Caro (16th century) explains that tefillin are placed on the arm adjacent to the heart and on the head above the brain to demonstrate that these two major organs are willing to perform the service of God.

Tefillin on the head is close to the Frontal Cortex where higher thoughts are processed
Tefillin on the head is close to the Frontal Cortex where higher thoughts are processed

What’s in the Tefillin Boxes?

The Torah mentions the mitzvah of tefillin four separate times. Each of these texts is inscribed on parchment and placed into the tefillin. These passages discuss the unity of G‑d. They describe the miracles G‑d performed for us when He took us out of Egypt, and how G‑d alone has the power and dominion to do whatever He wants in the physical and spiritual worlds. In other words, these verses cover the fundamentals of our faith.

These texts are:

1–2. Kadesh (Exodus 13:1–10) and Vehayah ki yeviacha (Exodus 13:11–16): These describe the duty of the Jewish people to always remember the redemption from Egyptian bondage, and the obligation of every Jew to educate his children about this and about G‑d’s commandments. It includes the promise to bring the Jewish people to a land flowing with milk and honey.
3. Shema (Deut. 6:4–9): Pronounces the unity of the one G‑d, and commands us to love and fear Him.
4. Vehayah (Deut. 11:13–21): Focuses on G‑d’s assurance to us of reward that will follow our observance of the Torah’s mitzvahs.

 

Tefillin worn on the head, One side has a Shin with 4 heads, it usually has three
Tefillin worn on the head, One side has a Shin with 4 heads, it usually has three

In the perashiot inside the Tefillin the statement that Israel is a land flowing with milk and Honey is written.

Tefillin has the verse telling the Jews that the land of Israel flows with milk and honey
Tefillin has the verse telling the Jews that the land of Israel flows with milk and honey

Both words milk and honey instill positive connotations to virtually every human being. Their presence in the land demonstrates a good economy. This goes so far that honey is actually the word used to describe any “sweet” concept. Milk and milk products are universally rich and fatty substances.

Bees Honey Comb
Bees Honey Comb

Riesh Lakish was an Emora during the Talmudic period. He says that he saw a lamb grazing under a fig tree dripping with honey. The lamb itself was dripping its milk onto the honey. He said that this represented the land flowing with milk and honey. (Ketubot 111b)In the Torah honey generally refers to date honey. However, several uses of the word honey refer to bee’s honey as well as others that refer to any honey like substance that easily exudes from fruit.
 

Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have additionally said that the fruit of Israel are fatty like milk and sweet like honey. (Ketubot 112a)

Tefillin Shel Yad worn on the arm with the 7 lines of the Shma Yisrael prayer.
Tefillin Shel Yad worn on the arm with the 7 lines of the Shma Yisrael prayer.

It seems that the term honey is in reality a difficult word to specifically understand. Above we saw that Reish Lakish leaves the term honey open ended by referring to fig “honey” while discussing the phrase, “A land flowing with milk and honey.” However, what the words milk and honey include seems to be a disagreement of Tanaim of the Mishnaic period.

According to Rabi Eliezer milk in “Milk and Honey” means that the milk of the fruits is very rich and that the honey refers only to Date Honey. However, Rabi Akiva disagrees and says that milk refers to real milk and that honey refers to “Yearot Dvash” “Yearot Honey .“ (Mechilta Derashb”i)

 

Sugar Cane Juice Sold in Israel
Sugar Cane Juice Sold in Israel

There is further disagreement between Rashi and his school of thought and Radak as to what “Yearot Dvash” means. According to Rashi it means canes with honey in them that grow in Israel. It seems possible that Rashi refers to cane sugar or perhaps another sweet cane. However, Rada”k questions Rashi’s source material and then says that “Yearot Dvash” refers to ordinary bee’s honey combs. (Shmuel 1 14 25)

Stubborn People need a land with great natural resources

In Parashat Ki Tisa The Holy one Blessed be He stated that he would not himself lead the people of Israel into the Holy land instead an Angel will do this. “A land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go in your midst, since you are a stiff-necked people, lest I destroy you on the way.” (Shemot 33 3)

On this Pasuk Seforno points out that the Jewish people need a land that is naturally rich. They are a stiff-necked people. Do to this they will not be successful living in a place like the desert where they need constant miracles to survive.

Dairy products are central to many Jewish customs. On Shavuot we eat dairy. Many say that this is because the Jewish people did not have time to learn the laws of Shchita (ritual slaughtering) and Kashrut laws. Therefore, they ate dairy.

ID-10058272

Honey has left a great impact on the Jewish people. Although a tiny portion of the worlds population is Jewish we consume 20% of the world’s honey. This was pointed out to me by the people buy honey sellers who thought that  as a Jewish website milknhoney.co.il must want to market their honey. The most famous of these sweet customs is on Rosh Hashana when almost every Jew in the world dips an apple in honey.

 

Rabbi Steve Bar Yakov Gindi writing Tefillin parchments
Rabbi Steve Bar Yakov Gindi writing Tefillin parchments

What does it mean to be genetically Jewish? DNA and NAZI eugenics

This article has interesting points. The whole debate skips over being Sephardic.

according to Yosef Carmel, an Orthodox rabbi and co-head of Eretz Hemdah, a Jerusalem-based institute that trains rabbinical judges for the Rabbinate, this is a misunderstanding of how the DNA testing is being used. He explained that the Rabbinate are not using a generalized Jewish ancestry test, but one that screens for a specific variant on the mitochondrial DNA – DNA that is passed down through the mother – that can be found almost exclusively in Ashkenazi Jews

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/12/what-does-it-mean-to-be-genetically-jewish

Tisha Be’av – How Things Fall Apart


Tisha Be’av

Lately it has been asked how we can mourn on Tisha Be’av when Jerusalem has already been rebuilt. 

Our Rabbis of Blessed memory have told us that the reason behind the destruction of the temple was factional and individual hatred. Below you will find a story which I translated from the Talmud. (Gitin 45b)

Because of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.

 

There was a particular man (who we will call host) who was friendly with Kamtza and was sworn enemy with Bar-Kamtza. The host made a feast. He told his servant to bring Kamtza. The servant brought Bar-Kamtza instead.

When the host got one look at his uninvited guest he went over to him and said, “You are my sworn enemy, What [the heck] are you doing here? Get out!!!”

Bar-Kamtza told him that since he is already present he wants to stay and will pay for whatever he eats. The host still insisted that he should leave. Bar-Kamtza offered to pay for half of the feast. (this was a lot of money as hundreds of people were present) The host still insisted that he should leave.

Bar-Kamtza then offered to pay for the entire feast. The host then physically threw him out. (I am sure that the whole room was quiet and that all present knew exactly what was happening. Thousands of people become quiet when there is fight going on)

Bar-Kamtza said to himself, “Since the rabbis were present and they said nothing I see that they agreed. I will go and inform the authorities. He went to Rome to see the Caesar. Bar-Kamtza said to Caesar, “The Jews are rebelling.” Caesar answered back in non believing tone, “Who says?”

Bar-Kamtza told him to send a sacrifice to the temple and see If the Jews would bring it on the temple alter. Caesar sent with Bar-Kamtza a sacrifice, a third born calf (in the talmud a third born calf of a cow is most delicious) On the way to Jerusalem He sliced the calf’s lip, while others say that he scratched its eye ball. This renders a sacrifice unfit for the alter. When the gentiles bring a sacrifice to there pagan gods they would not have considered such a wound unfit for sacrifice.

When he got to the temple some wanted to bring the calf so as not to stir the anger of the Emperor. Rabbi Zechariah Ben Avkulas said that if we bring this sacrifice people will come to believe that it is permissible to sacrifice unfit animals. Those present said to Rabbi Zechariah, “So let’s just kill him.”

Rabbi Zechariah did permit this. He said that murdering the man would mislead people to believe that if a person damages a sacred animal that he should be put to death.”

Rabbi Yochanan (who lived hundreds of years after the destruction of Jerusalem) said that the humility of Rabbi Zechariah be Avkulos caused the destruction of our temple, the burning of the Holy of Holy’s and we were exiled from our country [for thousands of years.]

Word of the sacrifice got back to Nero Caesar. In order to see if the gods were with him he threw darts at his map and it landed on Jerusalem. He threw them from the North, South, East, West up and down, each time it landed on Jerusalem.

He then went over to a child and asked to tell him a verse. (this was a method to tell the future) The Child answered “I will lay my vengeance on Edom through the hands of the my nation Israel…” (Ez. 25,14) Nero said to himself, “G-d wants to destroy his people and wants to wipe his hands clean on me.” He went and converted to Judaism and one of his prodigy was Rabbi Meir.

Word then made its way to Aspasyonos Caesar who laid siege on Jerusalem for three years.

In Jerusalem there were three very wealthy men. They were Ben Nakdimon Ben Gurion, Ben Kalba Sabuah, Ben Tziztzit Hakeset. Nakdimon was called that because the son spotted for him. Kalbah Sabuah was called that because whoever visited him hungry like a dog would leave satisfied. Ben Tzitzit was called that… because he was so powerful that the strings from his Tziztit were over the faces of the important people of Rome.

One of these said that he will donate enough wheat and barley to sustain the city. Another said that he would donate enough wine, salt and oil to support the city. The third said that he would donate enough firewood to cook all the food. The rabbis praised the man who donated the wood.

Rav Chisda said that the one measure of food need 60 of wood to get cooked.

They had enough food to sit through a 21 year siege.

There were ruffian zealots who went to the rabbis and said that they should make peace with the Romans. The rabbis answered that it is not a good idea. The ruffians then asked, “so lets fight!” The rabbis said that they would not win.

They went and burned all of the food. (hoping to rile the people up to fight) This caused starvation….

When we examine the structure of this story we see that all of the Jewish players in the story were very short cited. For a momentary bit of sweet revenge they collectively led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

  1. The Host just wanted to enjoy his meal. He was sickened by the sight of his sworn enemy whom he hated for no reason.
  2. Bar-Kamtza was only thinking about sweet revenge against the rabbis who did not protect him from humiliation.
  3. Rabbi Zechariah Ben Avkulas faked worrying about the “long term” by saying that people will learn the wrong Halacha. His decision led to the termination of sacrifices, so nobody had the opportunity to make such mistakes.
  4. The only people who had good intentions were the three wealthy people.
  5. The rabble rousers wanted the Jews to fight instead of sitting comfortably through the siege.

This is the reason why we fast on Tisha Be’av. Those who would celebrate will have opportunity when we cease hating each other. It is said in the books of the Prophets “The …[fast days] will be turned from misery to happiness.

LET’S ALL WORK TOGETHER TO CHANGE THE MISERY OF HATRED WHICH FORCES US TO MOURN OUR OWN DESTRUCTION.

Milestones with your Sofer Stam

Life has many Milestones, during these You often need a Sofer Stam to make Holy Articles for you.

  • A new pair of tefillin for a Bar Mitzvah, or because you desire a better pair at your new milestone (from $456 through 1276)
  • Mezuzot, Moving into a new home, or when your loved ones move on ($50 through 78)
  • A Megilat Esther when you have become independent or want to give a very special present (from $1075 through 1376)
  • A Sefer Torah Fulfill the Mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah, you will be able to participate more than just writing the last letters, or in honor or memory of a beloved (approximately $46,000)

Order these now email steve@milknhoney.co.il or call NY 212-729-8094 or 516-595-1713 Israel 0544572366 or order online. http://milknhoney.co.il 

Mezuzot: A Sharp Mind and Sharp Home

Inside Mezuzot and Tefillin – Teaching Your Kids To Be Sharp

I had a thought recently about the Shema Yisrael prayer, that is scribed inside of Mezuzot. It teaches us to believe in the Unity of the on G-d. It also teaches us to teach our children to have sharp minds. The basic concept that their is one G-d is not so complicated, but, man, when you get into cosmological discussion about G-d, the universe and everything, it’s really hard to grasp. Understanding the nature of G-d requires tons of intelligence and you still wont understand. So the mitzvah of believing in G-d requires both an irrational leap of faith as well as great intelligence (Hovot Halevavot)

After the  Tisha Be’av fast, many move into new homes. Your new home, even a rental, needs to have beautiful Mezuza srolls. I am sure that you would love to order Mezuzot from,  a professional Sofer living in Jerusalem,  with 30 years of experience. It’s much better than buying sloppy Mezuzot from a store that has no idea who wrote the mezuza. I would never, ever say that such Mezuzot are  unkosher.

Give me a ring for Mezuzot (or Tefillin, Megilot, Sefer Torah) Orders have been coming in incredibly slowly, so times are difficult. Email steve@milknhoney.co.il or call NY 212-729-8094 or 516-595-1713 Israel 0544572366 . You can view the catalog and order online A house of Mezuzot also makes a great wedding present.

 

Teaching Your Kids To Be Sharp

The Shemah Yisrael prayer we place inside Mezuzot hung on our doorframes and repeat it several times a day. This prayer contains the words “Veshinantam Lebanecha – Teach them to your children”

Watch me Sharpen a Bamboo Kulmus Pen

These two Hebrew words are very powerful. Tons of discussion can be based on them. The literal and accepted translation of the word “Veshinantam” is to teach. However, the word also contains the best method of teaching them. Its root “Shenen” mean to sharpen. The Halachic Midrash Sifrey (34) points this out, it sites the Pasuk (Tehilim 45-6) Your Arrows are sharpened – “Hitzecha Shenunim”.

The Sifrey says that you should know the Torah so that it will be sharp in your mouth. If anyone asks you a question you shouldn’t stammer when answering instead you should answer right away. (See Rashi)

Rashbam builds on this concept by stating “Veshinantam” is a usage of the root “to sharpen”, you should know how to explain them clearly as “They sharpened their tongue like a sword”   אֲשֶׁר שָׁנְנוּ כַחֶרֶב לְשׁוֹנָם (Tehilim 64 – 4) Interestingly enough the sharpened tongue in that chapter of Tehilim does not refer to those who sharpen themselves with Torah but to the evil enemy politicians who were ministers that entrapped and destroyed people with their evil tongues. We can see that one can use the human mind’s sharpness to clearly understand many concepts starting with Torah knowledge through knowing all about sports or politics to memorizing evil methods like torture, murder, theft and rape.

The Tefillin contains four separate perashiot paragraphs all of which discuss the Mitzvah of Tefillin to tie them to your arm and put them on the head. However, we only repeat two of these constantly, Shema Yisrael and Vehaya Im Shamoa. This is because it states “Veshinantam” only here. That is to say that one needs to know these two Perashiot better. (Sifrey)

The Midrash Tanchuma embellishes this concept of learning the Torah through sharpening. It states that one only studies Oral Torah by very hard work. One who is lazy cannot understand the Oral Torah. The written Torah speaks generally while Oral tradition discusses many details; the written Torah is a fairly small book while the Oral Torah is infinite.

The Midrash Tanchuma itself compiles two separate Midrashic Commentaries about how the Jewish people accepted the Torah. One states that Beney Yisrael accepted the Torah by stating “Naaseh Venishma – We will do and listen” That is to say that Beney Yisrael said we will follow the Torah and understand it after we follow the commandments. However, they say that G-d actually lifted up mount Sinai and held it above the Jewish people. He said, “If you accept the Torah, great. If you don’t want it then you will all be buried there.” Midrash Tanchuma says that Jews said, “we will follow then listen” refers only to the Written Torah. The incident about the mountain being held above them refers to Oral Torah as it is said, “They stood at the bottom of the mountain.”(Warsaw Tanchuma Noach 3 – Shu”t)

The Gemara does a play with the words. It is asked what does the phrase “Veshinantam Lebanecha” mean? They answer that the text needs to be read with a slight difference, read it “veshilashtem” study the Torah in thirds. You should divide your Torah study in the following way one third should be studying Written Torah, Mishna and Gemara.

Ramban cites the pasuk “It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever” (Shemot 31-17) He says that this informs us that every generation will need to follow the Torah. It is therefore important to teach the Torah. The coming generations need to follow the Torah. How can they possibly follow Mitzvot if we don’t teach them?

The philosophical work of Sefer Haikarim says that the Shemah Yisrael paragraph says that we need to love G-d. The rest of the paragraph is an elaboration of how one should love G-d whether in thought speech or action. He states that “Veshinantam” refers to speech. Wearing them as Tefillin and putting Mezuzot on a door are an action of love of G-d. (Ikraim 3-35)

The Sifrey further states that “Lebanecha – to your children” really refers to your students. A similar example refers to “The Children of the Prophets” (kings 2 – 2 – 3) which really refers to the students.

I am sure that you would love to order Mezuzot from,  a professional Sofer living in Jerusalem,  with 30 years of experience. It’s much better than buying sloppy Mezuzot from a store that has no idea who wrote the mezuza. I would never, ever say that such Mezuzot are  unkosher.

Give me a ring for Mezuzot (or Tefillin, Megilot, Sefer Torah) Orders have been coming in incredibly slowly, so times are difficult. Email steve@milknhoney.co.il or call NY 212-729-8094 or 516-595-1713 Israel 0544572366 . You can view the catalog and order online A house of Mezuzot also makes a great wedding present.

Shavuot – Torah vs Constitutional Law

Shavuot – Torah and Civil Law

On Shavuot we read the ten commandments which are pivotal to the Torah. What is the connection between the commandments from the Torah and civil laws?

Yosef Albo (16th century CE) in the Sefer Haikarim has a discussion about the deficiencies of civil law which is legislated by governments. He then discusses the superiority of law from G-d which we received in the Torah.

He theorizes that there are three different types of laws in the world. The first is natural laws that everyone agrees are vital. These are laws against theft and harming other people. The purpose of such laws are to preserve the rights of individuals. The second type of laws are designed to improve people’s standard of living, they change with the times. They are instituted by committees of thinkers and politicians. Modern examples of this are parking laws and environmental protection laws.

The final type of laws are ones given by G-d. This type of laws bring about both individual and societal perfection.

Since to the naked eye it is easy to be fooled into thinking that constitutional laws and philosophies can improve the individuals in Society. An example of such philosophies is the study of literature. Very often a great book or play will mention a very sharp insight into human nature. I have seen many people taken away by a truly inspired phrase which they read in a book. A really popular quote that has reached massive acceptance is “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  There is certainly a lot a truth and wisdom in such studies but we need to be very careful not to put such books on as divine level. It is very important to see the difference between wisdom and Torah.

"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely"
“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Taking this into account it is very important to recognize that G-d created us and gave us the Torah. He did not give it to us to give us a hard time. He gave it to us in order to improve our lot. Following the Torah properly can make us all better people