Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – It Bears Repeating


Operation Inspiration

The well-known Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu says, “Kol hashoneh halachos b’chol yom, muvtach she’hu ben Olam Haba,” whoever learns halachos each day can be confident that he’s a “Ben Olam Haba,” as the posuk says, “Halichos olam lo,” and by reading halichos (travels) as halachos (laws), he gets the “world.”

Shoneh can mean to learn, and it can also mean to repeat. In fact, learning halachos but not repeating and reviewing them can lead to much heartache. From personal experience I can tell you that I’ve forgotten much of what I learned for Semicha a quarter-century ago, and only the things that have come up over and over are clear in my mind.

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Not only that, but when something isn’t discussed or applied, it can get confused, with disastrous consequences. The following harrowing tale is true, but though it’s terrifying, I must share it for the greater good. I was visiting someone one summer and, in their bungalow, they had a lovely kitchen with a large blech. We’d brought along some food from home and I prepared some of the food before I went to shul, placing a foil-wrapped packet of schnitzel at the edge of the blech to warm.

Hopefully, most of you have just sucked in your breath in horror, realizing my mistake. At lunch, one of the others at the table took a piece of schnitzel and exclaimed, “It’s so warm!” I smiled and told him it was on the blech. “Since yesterday?” he marveled. “No,” I explained. “I put it there this morning.” He said nothing, but I noted he didn’t eat the schnitzel.

You see, I had not used a blech in many years, having a hotplate for warming our food on Shabbos morning. There is a fundamental difference between the two which I had forgotten. I’m explaining it here because I’ve found that others don’t get the difference very clearly and may chas v’shalom come to make a mistake like I did.

Though we all know the phrase, “Ain bishul achar bishul,” that once something is cooked it can’t be “recooked” when it comes to Shabbos, Mi’D’Rabbanan, there is a prohibition to put even a cooked, dry, item on a stove (and a blech counts like a stove) because it “looks like cooking.” Putting the food on a hotplate or warming tray which is not used for cooking does not necessarily go into the same category and some say one may put a dry, cooked, item on such a utensil to warm even if it was not there from before Shabbos, (while others are stringent and say you must invert an empty pan on it first.) [This is one great reason to invest in a hotplate rather than using a blech; so at least b’dieved you have on what to rely.]

The problem was, I didn’t review the laws of blech because they didn’t apply to me, and I was doomed to forget because of it. Now, I didn’t just think about this story and want to share it. Sadly, something I witnessed recently made me think about the need to repeat.

I was (where else?) in the parking lot of a supermarket. Unlike many Kosher supermarkets these days in Monsey, this one has a few cart return stations. I had just parked in a spot pretty close to the door, and saw a woman, two spaces further from the door than me, loading up her car. I paused, planning to offer to return the cart to the store for her. This is a great way to do chesed for others. Then I realized that she was parked next to the cart return. I figured I’d watch and see what she did. There was no one in the spot next to me so I surreptitiously (that’s another word for “stalkerishly”) watched her through the windows of my car. If she walked around to her passenger side and put the cart in the rack, I’d let it go. But if she started to walk it towards the store, I would offer to take it and save her the trip.

To my shock and amazement, she did neither. She simply closed her car door, pushed the wagon into the empty space between our cars, and got behind the wheel. People! People! People! How many times do I have to tell you to think of others? What if someone else wanted that space? Were you really in such a rush that you couldn’t put the cart on the other side of your car?

I immediately rushed to the empty space to move the wagon, just as I saw another car pulling up, starting to turn into the “empty” spot. I motioned to him to wait as I went to move the other cart from the very front of that space which another thoughtful individual had left, and moved them both out of the way. With a rush of righteous indignation, I realized with a thrill that the woman was now looking in her mirror, waiting to back up, unable to because the fellow waiting for the space was blocking her! Had she put the cart away, she’d have been able to pull out.

And that’s why I say it bears repeating. I’ve mentioned it time and time again. I don’t think people are malicious; just thoughtless. But that’s a problem. You’re SUPPOSED to think about others. And if you don’t, because this whole thing doesn’t apply to you, you may end up like my schnitzel, getting burned.

It doesn’t have to be a shopping cart. It can be any situation where you have the opportunity to see beyond your own windshield or mirror and don’t. I can’t say it enough, think about others and see how you can help them. If you’re ever unsure, just reach out, and I’ll explain it again.


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