Thank you to all our respondents from last week’s poll. With the exception of poor Lee, everybody voted for Pirkei Avos. So, I probably will not be around for the next few weeks, since everybody is on summer ‘vacation’, which means we have a house full of kids at home, with no car, hot weather, work to do, etc… But, we will begin Pirkei Avos, next time we meet.
We just finished up the "semester" in the kollel, where we were learning the laws of cooking on Shabbos. This past week-and-a-half, I dedicated to doing some review and trying to organize everything in my head. At a certain point, when reviewing a certain topic, I started thinking about something my wife and I have seen in many homes back in the States. Before putting hot food on their plates, people usually clear their plates of breadcrumbs or salad first, being that the hot food being placed on the plate, will end up cooking them when they touch.
I understood why they would do this with the salad. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says that one does not need to, but there is certainly a halachic basis for it. However, the breadcrumbs, I couldn’t figure out. No matter which stringent situation I made in my head, according to everything I’ve seen from modern-day poskim (halachic "judges"), I couldn’t see a situation where even the more stringent of them, in the more stringent situations would say there is a halachic basis for clearing breadcrumbs before hot food (the difference being, the salad is raw and the breadcrumbs have already been "cooked").
So, I started asking around and looking into more and more books on the subject. Rav Auerbach was the only one who mentioned this, saying it’s an "extra stringency," which is not needed. While nobody else mentions this situation, I saw that from similar situations, others would say the same, and would say that one does not need to do this.
As I was looking into things, I was overcome by how much one has to learn to properly figure out this question. It was mind-boggling! As I said to somebody, showing him the pages dedicated to this one subject, “This particular issue is only a drop in the sea of ‘the laws of cooking’. Cooking is a drop in the sea of Shabbos. Shabbos is a drop in the sea of day-to-day halacha. Day-to-day halacha is a drop in the sea of total halacha, and look what THEY knew! Rav Auerbach, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Elyashiv, The Chazon Ish, Rav Mordecai Eliyahu…they all lived in the past 100 years, and look how much they knew and wrote on all of these subjects! It’s mind-boggling! And here I am, taking half a year, just to learn about cooking on Shabbos, and here they are bringing in proofs from Trumah (agriculture) and connecting it to cooking on Shabbos!" Yet, on the other hand, I had to admit, I was able to follow along with 80-86.43 percent of the" conversations" that these rabbis were holding in their books on this particular topic, which is pretty impressive for me.
This reminded me of a talk my Rosh Yeshiva once gave before Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av represents the end of the “Yeshiva Year." There’s a small three-week break that starts after Tisha B’Av and then we begin the year anew on the first of Elul. On one hand, we need to recognize all that we have accomplished, spiritually, throughout the year. What we've learned, how we've prayed, how we've done chesed, how much tzeddakah we've given, how we’ve improved in our mitzvos and character flaws, etc. It’s very important that one comes to recognize the good that he’s accomplished. However, on the other hand, on Tisha B’Av, we need to look back and say, “True, but honestly, how much MORE could I have accomplished, had I put in a little more energy?"
Yes, we cannot compare ourselves to great tzaddikim, even those living in our generation. It’s simply not fair to ourselves to do so. They have their missions, we have ours. However, it is fair, and obligatory to say to ourselves, “Listen, they became who they are, because they put in 110 percent of their power to be where they are today. There is no reason that we should not put in our 110 percent and become greater.”
Tisha B’Av occurred and continues to occur, because, when you bottom-line it, we’re not using all of our potential. In whatever area in life it is, learning, davening, faith, character improvement, mitzvos improvement, etc., if we put in our 110 percent, we will accomplish far more as individuals and as a nation.
Have a wonderful Shabbos, a meaningful Tisha B’Av, and we’ll see each other in a few weeks, starting Pirkei Avos.