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Ask the Rabbi #116

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24 August 1996; Issue #116

  • Bentch Like a Mentch
  • Two Hands are Better Than One
  • Answer to Yiddle Riddle
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  • Bentch Like a Mentch

    Sara Miriam Beck wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    I have a question. I know it is forbidden to stop in the middle of birkat hamazon [grace after meal, a.k.a. bentching] and talk to someone. Would that apply the same if I am 'talking' to someone over the computer? Many times I am eating at my computer, so I 'bentch' there. But I might be in the middle of a computer conversation (IRC) with someone when I remember that I need to 'bentch.' Do I need to stop typing in order to say Birkat Hamazon or not?

    Dear Sara Miriam Beck,

    Asik sdk jflp? Sloop blek kurdfurma!

    OOPS! Sorry I made so many mistakes. I was talking to someone else while I was writing to you!

    I'm kidding, of course. But you get the point: It's rude to write one person while talking to another. So too, it's wrong to thank Hashem for food while typing to your 'key-pal.'

    During blessings and prayers your mind shouldn't wander, even to think about Torah ideas.

    "If you walk with Me casually..." is the Torah's uncomplimentary description of casual, haphazard mitzva observance. Not only Birkat Hamazon, but all mitzvot should be done with full attention.

    One way to help you focus during Birkat Hamazon is to read the words in a siddur, instead of rattling them off by heart.

    In Yiddish, when you 'bentch' someone, you give him a blessing. In Baseball, to 'bench' someone means to take him out of the game. When you 'bentch' Hashem' after a meal, which one do you mean?


    • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 191:3
    • Ibid., Mishna Berurah 5
    • Leviticus 26:21

    Two Hands are Better Than One

    Elisheva Appel from Postville, Iowa wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    Hashem tells Moses to "lay his hand" upon Joshua (27:18), then when Moses does, he puts both hands upon him (27:23). Rashi says he does even more than he had been commanded. Why in this case is he allowed to do more than he was commanded, as opposed to when he struck the rock, rather than just speak to it, and is then punished? Thanks!

    Dear Elisheva Appel,

    Here, Moses did more than he was told, whereas in the episode of the rock he did something completely different.

    With one hand, Moses conveyed to Joshua political and military leadership, and with the other hand, spiritual grandeur. Hashem commanded Moses regarding the political and military leadership only. Moshe, on his own, blessed Joshua with the spiritual grandeur.

    Jacob blessed his sons. Elijah blessed his student, Elisha. They weren't commanded to do so. Here too, Moses blesses Joshua with Torah greatness, though he wasn't commanded to do so. Since Moses was giving of his 'own' holiness and spiritual inspiration, he could give it as generously as he wanted.


    • Baba Kama 92, Tosafot and Maharsha

    Answer to Yiddle Riddle

    Last week we asked: In what non-life-threatening situation is there a positive mitzvah to eat the meat of a neveilah - i.e., something that died without sh'chita (kosher slaughter)?

    Answer: Chatat Ha'of.
    A bird brought as an offering in the Temple wasn't slaughtered with a knife. Rather, the bird was killed by a sharp thumbnail inserted in the back of it's neck. If a non-Kohen ate it, he would be transgressing the prohibition of eating neveilah. Kohanim, however, were commanded to eat from this offering.


    • Rambam, Hilchot Ma'aseh Korbanot 10:1,11:9
    Riddle submitted by Reuven Miller

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