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Ask the Rabbi - 284

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Ask the Rabbi

August 5, 2000 / 4 Av 5760; Issue #284

TV For Dummies


Dear Rabbi,

If G-d gave us everything to enjoy and use (i.e., cars, wealth, entertainment, etc.), what is the purpose of TV? I know many Jews who do not watch TV, and I do not understand why.


You are asking a very good question! I would say that the technology itself is given to us to utilize and benefit from; what we do with it is a totally different issue. Nuclear Technology, for example. We can clearly see the good in it, but when a fundamentalist Islamic state starts to contemplate why G-d gave them the capability to use it, it makes us shudder.

The same with pharmaceuticals. We cannot thank G-d enough for the advancements made in this area over the last few decades, but again, as time progresses new and improved designer drugs hit the streets and wreak havoc to the population. Do you remember when crack hit the streets? How about XTC?

Judaism for thousands of years remained strong because we didn't let the cultures and values of our enveloping nations influence us. We wouldn't be here if we had decided that the Babylonian street scene was where it's at. Or if we had listened to the Romans who told us that we are antiquated, and that its time we drop this monotheistic stuff and get down to boogie with Zeus and all the ensemble.

Television is the flagship for American culture.

A few years ago, there was a large multinational meeting of government ministers of culture. It was hosted in Canada and attended by representatives from most western nations. Except one.

The United States. Canada's downstairs neighbor had not been invited. This made them a little upset, but not as much as when they found out the reason for this meeting.

How to protect themselves from the onslaught of American culture and values and how to stop the havoc it is wreaking in the prospective countries. Movies and television programs were introducing values (sic) that undermined the very fabric that held these countries together. Teenage birth, drugs, violence, etc. They had to find a way to put a stop to it.

Can't we see the damage done by television? All those public commissions scream about the damage television is having on today's youth; and after many years of counseling, I have seen it myself.

Yiddle Riddle


Last Week We Asked:
Certain health defects make an animal into a "treifa." A treifa is not kosher; it may not be eaten. In what case does an animal's being a treifa cause its offspring to be kosher (or, more exactly, prevent its offspring from automatically being non-kosher.)

If an animal is slaughtered when it has a fully grown calf in its womb and afterwards the calf is born alive, that calf is called a "ben pakua." By Torah law, a ben pakua is not require to be ritually slaughtered in order to be eaten, because it is considered already slaughtered. (By rabbinic decree, even a ben pakua must be slaughtered if it is to be eaten.)

If this ben pakua then fathers a calf, the new calf can never be slaughtered and thus never eaten (assuming the mother is a regular cow, not a b. pakua). This is so because at birth this new calf is regarded as "half-slaughtered." Thus, it cannot be slaughtered to be eaten, because the act of ritual slaughter is regarded as if it has taken too long (i.e., from when it was born -- it is already half-slaughtered -- until it is actually slaughtered). Ritual slaughter must be instantaneous.

If however the original cow (the one that was slaughtered at the start of this episode) was itself a treifa, then its child will not be a ben pakua, thus allowing the new calf to be slaughtered and eaten.

Thus, the "grandmother" cow's being a treifa causes the "grandson" to be kosher (or, more exactly, prevents it from automatically being "half-slaughtered" and non-kosher.)

  • Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 13:4, Shach 12


The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.


Re: JEWS IN JULY (Ask the Rabbi #281):

A short note regarding your excellent reply about Jews observing July 4th: July 4, 1776, the day the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, was the 17th of Tamuz, the day Jews worldwide fast, and which begins the period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. Could this have been a coincidence?

Let me express my admiration of the adroit way you handle the tricky questions thrown at you.

Raphael N. Levi

Such a good answer regarding the 4th of July. I really appreciate your thoughtful answers. Sometimes your emails are my only taste of Judaism during the week.


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