16 May Did You Know That…?
The Gemora in Bava Basra [91a] teaches us that the name of Avraham Avinu’s mother, (a very popular extra credit question), was Amasloi Bas Karnavo, and the name of the wicked Haman’s mother was Amasloi bas Orvasi. The Gemora then asks, Why do we have to know these details? Interestingly, the Gemora answers, To know what to answer to the heretic, for the non-believer wants to catch us on things that we don’t know while, in truth, the Torah contains all wisdom. As the Mishna in Pirkei Avos testifies, Hafoch bah, hafoch bah, d’kulah bah – Turn it around, turn it around, for everything is in It (the Torah).” So, for the enjoyment of my readers, I will share with you a small collection of Torah trivia to demonstrate how the Torah covers all areas.
For starters, one of the reasons why the pig is called chazer, which means to turn around, is because the swine has no neck. Therefore, it cannot turn to see behind it. If it wants to know what’s transpiring in back of it, it must turn its whole body. Rav Yakov Emden, Zt”l, Zy”a, adds that since it has no neck, it cannot look up and this is one of the reasons why the swine is not kosher – since it can never look up Heavenward, a necessary step for a kosher existence.
The sages teach us that there are tears of sorrow and tears of joy. This we are all well aware of. But they also teach us that while tears of grief are hot, tears of joy are not.
We know that the Day of Atonement trumps the Shabbos day festivities. So, next year, when Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbos, we cannot make Kiddush, enjoy gefilte fish, or eat our cholent. The Medrash teaches us a frightening statistic. On years when Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbos, more fires break out than in other years. The Otzar HaPla’os says that the practical ramification of such a statistic is that we should pray with extra concentration in such a year in order to be spared from fire. A good place to pray for this, besides for the brachos of Sim shalom aleinu, Grant us peace, and Hashkivenu Avinu l’Shalomo, Help us sleep peacefully, is in Y’kum Purkon on Shabbos when we fervently pray V’yishteizvun min kol aka u’min kol marin bishin, that we should be saved from any mishap or any bad occurrence. I remember how after the heinous mutilation of Leiby Kletzky, OB”M, I urged my mispalelim and talmidim to up their kavanah, concentraton, when saying this important prayer.
Here’s another fascinating piece of Torah trivia. Nowadays, we can’t eat trumah, even if we are a Kohen, for we are all considered contaminated since we can’t do the procedure of the parah adumah, the red heifer, which is necessary to purify ourselves from corpse contamination. And, when one is tamei, one cannot eat trumah. What do big farms do with all of the trumah that they have? It would seem a shame to burn tons of trumah. The answer will fascinate you. The law is that trumah can be fed to the animals of kohanim. So the large food concerns in Eretz Yisroel give their stockpiles of trumah to the Gan Hachaios, the animals in the zoo, and the zoo rents the animals to the kohanim so that they can eat the trumah. A modern day solution to a biblical conundrum!
This is just to whet your appetite to know the endless secrets that are to be found in the words of our all-knowing and all-encompassing holy Torah. As we prepare for Shavuos, the day that we celebrate the giving of the Torah, I’m happy to stoke your appreciation of Torah and in the merit of learning it, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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