1) I regret not getting around to posting this last week, but better late than never: one of my father’s neighbors has a daughter who needs a refu’ah for issues with her eyes, so they started a project called “Ayin Tovah” in which you pledge to speak only positive things during whatever block of time you take on as a zechus for this individual. If you are interested in participating, please e-mail me privately.
2) The gemara (Meg 7) suggests that one can do mishloach manos and matanos l’evyonim in one shot by giving a gift to one person. Question: why is this not a problem of doing mitzvos chavilos chavilos?3) In hil aveilus there are Rishonim who hold that the issue talmud torah applies only on the first day so as to not disrupt the mitzvah of learning for a full week. Ramban disagrees and says that talmud torah is not suspended – you read kri’as shema every morning and are yotzei talmud torah that way. Why do the other views argue? Reviewing mes megillah brought to mind the gemara of “mevatlin talmud torah” for the sake of mikra megillah. Even though you are reading pesukim, it’s still called “bitul torah” and not learning. You still need to explain why this should be true – I’m just doing a superficial job of lining up the ducks in a row since I happen to be in both sugyos.
Why can you not be yotzei talmud torah in aveilus by learning bad things like Iyov or hil aveilus itself? It could be that the heter of learning devarim ra'im applies only to 9 Av, but in aveilus, where the issur of talmud torah stems from the pasuk of "ha'aneik dom" and is related to sitting silently, there is no such heter. Or it could be that the heter to learn devarim ra'im is simply so that you are not sitting and doing nothing, but is not a kiyum of t"t. (This would relate to the machokes in the Geonim whether you need to recite a birchas haTorah on 9 Av.)
4) The Yalkut gives a mashal to explain the mitzvah of remembering Amalek: one day the king’s son snuck into the king’s vineyard to steal some grapes and the vicious dog that the king used to guard the vineyard attacked him. The king wanted his son to remember what he did wrong, but he didn’t want to label him a thief and embarrass him. Therefore, instead of telling his son to remember that he tried to steal the grapes, the king told his son to remember how the dog attacked him.The premise of the Midrash seems to be that the Torah does not want to call out the Jewish people and remind them of their errors, so instead it uses remembering Amalek as a trigger. It’s a nice thought, but we know the premise is not true. The Torah tells us, “Do not test G-d like you tested him in Massah” (Devarim 6:16). The Torah in many other places does not hesitate to remind us of mistakes. So why does the Torah here not address our behavior directly?
The Sefas Emes explains that what the Midrash is teaching us is that the zecher of Amalek remains only because we need it as a reminder. If not for the fact that the king suspects that his son might steal again there would be no need for that vicious dog. We need to eliminate the need for reminders.5) I'm not in the mood to discuss politics, but I can't help but take note of the fact that I'm writing this before what I think will be a historic speech by Netanyahu at a historic moment. Of course we need to make whatever hishtadlus – political or other means – to deter Iran, but let’s be clear about one thing: Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. Israel will continue to exist because that is the ratzon Hashem. Let’s not get carried away and lose sight of bitachon.
For the Chuck Schumer’s and Diane Feinstein’s (yes, I know she doesn’t really count) out there and others like them, come or don’t come to the speech, it’s your choice, but at the end of the day, “Mi yodei im l’eis ka’zos higa’at l’malchus?” Life will go on for us, and “Revach v’hatzalah ya’amod la’yehudim m’makom achier.” We read the megillah ever year and we are reminded that we've been through this before -- and we always come out on top.