Friday, April 19, 2019 -
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Behind the mitzvos

Dear Tzviling,

My uncle enjoys your column, and sends them to me after he reads them. I enjoy reading them. You’re so humorous, it’s not even funny.

Here’s my question for you. My son began attending a Jewish day school and enjoys the Hebrew studies, especially the Talmud. He loves learning the meaning lessons behind the mitzvos. Why is it so important to learn all the reasons. Isn’t it enough just to do the mitzvos?

Yoran, Great Neck

Dear Yoran,

The following story should illustrate:

The town of Chelm was buzzing with excitement. It had received word that a master teacher in the neighboring city of Minsk was offering a crash course in the art of wisdom. “How clever,” they remarked to themselves. “Now, we can master the art of wisdom.”

The Chelmites decided to send Mottel to Minsk as their representative to take the course. He would then return and share his newly found wealth of wisdom with the rest of the simple souls of Chelm. And so, Mottel arrived in Minsk.

Teacher: Ah, so you came to learn the art of wisdom, yes?

Mottel: This is correct, teacher. What is the first thing I need to do?

Teacher: Pay me up front. And, then, let’s begin. I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to tell me the answer.

Mottel: I’m ready.

Teacher: How many eggs can you eat on an empty stomach?

Mottel: Five eggs.

Teacher: Wrong!

Mottel: Wrong? What is the correct answer?

Teacher: One egg. You see, once you eat one egg, you no longer have an empty stomach.

Mottel: Wow, how clever.

Teacher: This is the art of wisdom; the rest is commentary. Have a great trip back.

Mottel excitedly made his way back to Chelm and kept replaying the lesson in his mind: How many eggs can you eat on an empty stomach? Five. Wrong! Wrong? What is the right answer? One egg. Once you eat one egg, you no longer have an empty stomach.

Mottel arrived in Chelm and was warmly greeted by throngs of people, indeed the entire city.

The Sage of Chelm stepped forward and asked him, “Nu, you have mastered the art of wisdom. Please share it with us.”

Mottel: Listen carefully. I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to give me the right answer.

Sage: Ready.

Mottel: How many eggs can you eat on an empty stomach?

Sage (stroking his beard): Seven eggs.

Mottel: Ach, had you only said five eggs, I would have such a good answer for you.

The Talmud teaches us the reasons, lessons and meaning behind the mitzvos of the Torah and instills within us a greater appreciation and excitement in doing them. And we become wiser in the process.

Dear Tzviling,

I recently came across a shofar made from a goat’s horn. Is this kosher? I thought it has to be a ram’s horn?

Chad, Colorado Springs

Dear Chad,

A shofar could me made from the horn of a goat as well as a gazelle and an antelope.

As a matter of fact, the long, twisted shofars utilized by Sefardim, come from a kudu — an African antelope.

All these animals are kosher — they chew their cud and have split hooves — and are suitable for a shofar.

The ram’s horn is preferred because of its connection to the akeidah — the willingness of Avraham Avinu (Abraham) to obey G-d’s commandment to bring his son Yitzchak (Isaac) as a sacrifice and ultimately offering a ram.

SEND your questions to to be answered with wit, wisdom and humor by identical twins Rabbis Yisroel Engel (Denver) and Shloime Engel (Montreal) who share their combined 100 years of experience.

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