Rabbi Mordechai Becher, originally from Australia, is a Senior Lecturer for the Gateways Organization. He was a Senior Lecturer at Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalayim and Darchei Binah in Jerusalem for 15 years, was a chaplain in the Israel Defence Forces and taught in a number of Rabbinic training programs. Rabbi Becher is the co-author of After the Return, and has answered thousands of questions on the Ask-the-Rabbi website. His latest book, Gateway to Judaism, was recently published by Shaar Press. Rabbi Becher received his ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He has lectured for the UJA, Jewish Federations, the Zionist Organization of America, Hillel and is on the speakers bureau of the Israeli Consulate in New York. He has taught in Canada, the United States, England, Israel, South Africa, Australia and Russia. He resides with his wife and 6 children in Passaic, NJ.
One of my co-workers brought a box of chocolate-covered grasshoppers to the office. Many people tried them, but since I keep kosher I begged off, saying that I was grossed out. Did I do the right thing?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
You did the right thing not to eat the grasshoppers, because they most likely weren’t kosher.
Many are surprised to discover that four species of grasshoppers are kosher (Leviticus 11:22). However, all other insects are not kosher.
One might think that this has little practical application to our modern eating habits. But in truth, many leafy vegetables (lettuce, broccoli) often contain insects and must be carefully examined before they can be eaten.
One more point I’d like to add: The commentators say that when we are offered a non-kosher food, rather than decline by saying that we are “grossed out,” it’s actually better to say: “I’d really like that, but since I keep kosher I don’t eat that.” In this way, we communicate the ideals of holiness that the Torah instills, and this can serve as an inspiration to others.
Today in Jewish History
In 423 BCE, King Tzidkiyahu was captured by Babylonian troops in the plains of Jericho, as recorded in Jeremiah ch. 39. The evil Nebuchadnezzar forced Tzidkiyahu to witness the slaughter of his sons, and then Tzidkiyahu's eyes were gouged out. Till today, Tzidkiyahu is remembered as a righteous man, while Nebuchadnezzar -- like a long list of tyrants who sought to oppress the Jewish people -- was degraded and reduced to the dustbin of history. The biblical Book of Daniel (4:30) describes how Nebuchadnezzar "was driven from mankind; he ate grass like oxen, and his body was washed by the dew of heaven, until his hair grew like eagles' feathers and his nails were like birds' claws." (Nebuchadnezzar later regained his sanity and returned to rule.)
Today's Daily Lift
Viewing Misfortune As Good
The brothers Rabbi Shmelke and Rabbi Pinchos asked the Maggid of Mez'ritch, "The Talmud (Brachos 54a) says that a person is obligated to bless the Almighty for misfortune with the same joy as when one blesses for good fortune. How is it possible to fulfill this obligation?"
The Maggid advised them to put the question before Rabbi Zushe who was extremely poor and lacked even basic necessities. Though he had many difficulties in his life, he was always happy. They went to the study hall where they found Rabbi Zushe, and told him the Maggid said he would explain how it is possible to bless the Almighty with joy over misfortune.
"I'm surprised that our Rabbi sent you to me about this," replied Rabbi Zushe. "You should rather ask someone who suffered some misfortune in his life. I have never experienced anything bad in my life. Only good things have happened to me."
Today in Growing Each Day
[Man was created in God's image, and the Israelites are children unto God.] It is an extra measure of love that man was informed that he was created in God's image ... it is an extra measure of love that they [the Israelites] were informed that they were called children unto God (Ethics of the Fathers 3:18).
It is one thing to be gifted, and another thing to know that one is gifted.
A woman who was admitted for treatment for alcoholism insisted on test after test to determine whether she had suffered brain damage because of her use of alcohol. When she could not be reassured, I became suspicious that some- thing was preventing her from accepting this reassurance.
A long psychiatric interview revealed the reason for her reluctance. This young woman wanted the test to prove that she indeed had sustained brain damage.
Why would anyone wish to have such a terrible diagnosis? The answer is that this young woman feared taking on the challenges of life, and brain damage would have provided her with a lifetime of excellent excuses: "Stop trying to help me stay sober. It's too late. Sobriety is difficult enough to achieve for people who have a properly intact brain. I am beyond recovery - I am brain damaged! You expect me to go to school or hold a job? I am too brain damaged for that."
As horrible a diagnosis as brain damage may be, for this young woman it had a redeeming feature: it would absolve her of responsibility. Knowing that one has talents and abilities makes one responsible to use them.
We have been informed that we have God-like attributes and that we are the children of God. It may be more comfortable for us to make believe this is not so, but we should not deny the truth.
Today I shall...
confront myself with the realities of my abilities and avoid taking refuge in a delusion of inadequacy.
With stories and insights,
Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...