Sunday, April 12, 2009

Of onions and lemons

This was the most enjoyable pair of seiderim so far. I was the Simple Son. And it was truly great. But, as Rebbe Rashab said, “It takes twenty five years of hiskafiya and hiskafka to realize that putting on tefillin once [not during Chol HaMoed obviously] is greater than twenty five years of hiskafiya and hiskafka.”

So, learn Chabad Chassidus — otherwise, you’re just an am ha’aretz. And in order to understand Chabad Chassidus (and, generally speaking, know what to do and do what you have to do), learn already Gemara, Halacha, Tanach, and the rest of Yiddishkeit. But at the end of the day, be Hashem’s simple son. Who is there not because He wants a present from Hashem (even a spiritual present), but simply because He wants Hashem.

At one point, someone asked a question: “What does Dayeinu mean?” My answer: just be grateful to be part of G-d’s Universe, His grand plan. Just be happy you exist. Sure, if there is a chance, we should always strive for greater — but to say that G-d owes something to us?

* * *

What does it mean that we have bechira (free will) and yet G-d creates the world every single second? So, if I move a pen, who caused the pen to appear in a new place — G-d or, lehavdil, I? The answer is: both. I have a ratzon (desire) for the pen to move, and G-d creates the world with a pen in a new place.

So, if I do everything according to G-d’s Will — and this doesn’t mean only obeying all His wishes and never disobeying something He doesn’t want me to do, but also making sure that nothing is for no reason, “just ‘cause” — I am making sure that there is still one G-d in the Universe. His wishes are my wishes, my actions are His actions (which I will to be so), and the fact that He is the Master of the World is affirmed.

But when I do something (G-d forbid) against His Will, or if I don’t carry out His Will, or if I do something which has nothing to do with His Will and is pointless or is simply for my pleasure (like chatting with a friend about soccer), then I make it that it is as if there were two “gods” in the Universe (G-d forbid): G-d and, lehavdil, I. Of course, there is still one G-d only, but this truth is not upheld. And it is akin to doing avoida zara (idol worship) then.

So, which one is it gonna be?

* * *

And finally, you should always say “ha’adamah” on onions according to Alter Rebbe, because their taste is decreased (“ruined”) by cooking. I.e., a boiled onion doesn’t taste as good as a raw onion — so, you should say “shehakol” on it. On the other hand, because a fried onion does, perhaps you should say “ha’adama” — consult your Rav.

According to some Polish posek whose name I don’t remember, you should say “shehakol” because people normally eat onions fried or boiled, not raw (but they are edible before cooking — so they don’t gain the status of a vegetable only when cooked, like potatoes). But — in Russia they do eat raw onions. So, according to the second shitta, which brocha should a Jew from Russia make? (And before you say it doesn’t matter where a Jew is from, Russian Jews or descendants of thereof, or Jews belonging to a Russian Jewish community like Lubavitch are not allowed halachically to remove beard — even with scissors. But German Jews are.)

Now the question becomes: what about lemons? In US, people are barbaric and don’t normally eat lemons only using them to squeeze juice out of or to add to their fish, chicken or tea as a spice. In Russia, people are civilized and do eat lemons. Not necessarily in tea (although they do even sometimes eat lemons that they have squeezed into tea). Not necessarily as a form of medicine (if you ever have soar throat, sucking, chewing and eventually swallowing a lemon — with some sugar on top if you’re a wimp or from California and have to constantly smile). Just by themselves. So, should I now say “ha’eitz” or “shehakol”? I am still waiting for an answer from my rav.


Anonymous said...

After consulting my local ravvi, it seems that those once-applicable "exceptions" for certain communities about various halahic issues and situations no longer apply today as we are in a new generation, aside from the whole shtetl layout being no longer apparent (as far as I know) (not that I know far)

Crawling Axe said...

Meaning what? Is my sephardic friend wrong for eating kitniyot or am I wrong for not eating them?

But OK, I guess it’s true that every man should stop shaving. If not for Halachic, then for Kabbalistic reasons.

Anonymous said...

The onion debate. I went to a Modern-Orthodox school. In the 5th grade, we had a bracha bee. I was asked what bracha to make on a raw onion. I said "ha-adamah". I got out.

Guess being Chabad and all, we gotta take the fall once in a while :).

Good to know that I wasn't completely wrong.

Happy post-Pesach.

Crawling Axe said...

Not only were you not completely wrong, but also you were completely right. :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crawling Axe said...

I have no idea which Anonymous you are talking about, but I am disabling anonymous comments on the blog. I find them annoying. Invent a screen name if you don’t want everyone to know who you are.