KI SEITZEI (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:18) — “The Changing of the Guard?”

Timing is very important.  It is not good enough to do the right thing; you must do the right thing at the right time. 

For example, what is better, to pledge to charity and take your time to make good on your pledge, or not to pledge at all? 

When you will make a vow to G-d, do not be late in paying it.  For G-d will demand it of you, and you will have committed a sin.  If you refrain in vowing, you will not have committed a sin. (Deuteronomy, 23:22-23) 

There you have it.  It is better not to vow than to vow and be late. 

Late, when it comes to the fulfillment of vows, is defined as the passage of three Pilgrimage Festivals – Passover, Shavuos, and Sukkos.  If you won’t be able to fulfill your vow by then, don’t make the vow in the first place. 

Late has other definitions, depending upon the Mitzvah.  Different Mitzvahs have different time requirements. 

The Shema, which, according to the Torah, is recited “… when you lie down and when you get up…” (ibid, 6:6), must be said twice a day:  The morning Shema is said within the first quarter of the daylight hours.  The evening Shema must be recited before dawn.  After those times, you’ve lost your opportunity to fulfill that Mitzvah. 

Tzitzis, the fringes that the Torah requires to be placed upon a four-cornered garment,   (See “Fringe Benefits” and “True Blue”) are not required if you are wearing someone else’s garment.  However, if you borrow it for more than 30 days, you are required to put Tzitzis on the garment because people may begin to assume that it is yours. 

A Mezuzah is not required on the doors of a rented home for the first thirty days, except in Israel, where it is required immediately.  An owner-occupied house is obligated immediately.

A few hours after we closed on my house, my family went to the house, where I recited the blessing and we all spread out, putting up all the Mezuzahs within a few minutes.  I made sure that every appropriate door in the house had a Mezuzah.  The bathrooms, which are not, according to the Shulchan Aruch, an “honorable residence,” are exempt from a Mezuzah.  The storage shed in the back yard, on the other hand, does require a Mezuzah.

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Last week my son surprised me with a new law that I had never heard. 

You may recall from previous Torah Talks that I am a bit of a chicken farmer. (“Yerachmiel’s Ark”) I have a chicken coop in my back yard, and, to avoid being too graphic, it is easy to understand that a chicken coop, like a bathroom, is not an appropriate place to hang a Mezuzah.  Chickens are not known to be particularly fastidious about the cleanliness of their surroundings.  Therefore, I never put up a Mezuzah on the front door of my coop. 

I was wrong.  The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 286:1) rules very clearly that a coop, unlike a bathroom, does require a Mezuzah.

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I began to wonder.  What about protection?  The Mezuzah is more than just a symbol of the fact that G-d protects us.  According to our Sages, the presence of a Mezuzah actually contributes to that Divine protection. (See “Sheepskin or Cheapskin?”)  It has been said that the three-letter Name of G-d (spelled Shin-Dalet-Yud) that is written on the back of the Mezuzah consists of the initials for the phrase, Shomer D’losos Yisrael – “Guardian of Doors of Israel.”  Does this mean, I mused, that for the last two years my chicken coop has been unprotected??? 

Actually, G-d’s protection comes in various ways.  We are required, for example, to take care of our health.  We are supposed to keep ourselves safe.  What about those of us who lack the knowledge, understanding, or maturity to take care of ourselves? 

King David writes in Psalms (116:6) that “… G-d is the Guardian of the Simple.”  For those of us who don’t take proper care of ourselves, G-d takes the extra step of watching out for us as well.  This verse is why we don’t inoculate ourselves against every disease known to man or get complete physical exams every day.  This is why we don’t refrain from driving, walking on sidewalks, or taking airplanes.  Life carries a certain element of risk.  We take “normal” precautions to protect ourselves, and rely upon the fact that “G-d is the Guardian of the Simple” for the rest.  We trust in G-d to provide the protection against those things that we don’t know about. 

(Some authorities have even taken the position that if someone is so careless as to ignore the warnings against smoking, he is not in violation of Jewish Law because “G-d is the Guardian of the Simple” – also translated as “…Guardian of the Fools.” Other authorities maintain that the dangers of smoking are so blatantly obvious that it is 100% forbidden to smoke. [See “Is Smoking Kosher?”]   The bottom line really shouldn’t matter.  Just don’t do it!!!) 

Perhaps, I reasoned, I still had Divine Protection because I was too “simple/foolish” to be sufficiently well-versed in the Laws of Mezuzah to realize that I needed one.  Since I didn’t know that I needed the Mezuzah for protection of my coop, maybe G-d provided the protection anyway! 

In any event, I reasoned, now that I know the Law, I needed to purchase a new Mezuzah for my chicken coop.  I didn’t want to rely upon the “Guardian of the Simple”; I wanted to give the job back to the “Guardian of the Doors of Israel.”  I resolved to go out and buy that Mezuzah “…as soon as I can.” 

Last Thursday, a few days after I learned of this rule, my son asked me a question:  “So did you put up a Mezuzah yet?” 

I was, to tell the truth, a bit embarrassed.  I really had no justification for not having taken care of this immediately.  There is no leeway on how much time you have to put up a Mezuzah.  It should have gone up the day I bought the house, and it certainly should have gone up as soon as I learned that it had to be there! 

Could that, I wonder, explain how it happened to be that late Thursday night a raccoon got into the coop, helping himself to two servings of fresh chicken, injuring two others??? 

The Mezuzah went up Friday afternoon.  (Closing the proverbial barn door?)  Apparently, there are also time limits on how long G-d lets you get away with being a fool!!

TORAH TALK

KI SEITZEI (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:18)

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz  

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

“Hard-Boiled Compassion” (2009)

…The former “minister” who perpetrated this depraved deed told reporters that he expected “a great reward in Heaven.”  Personally, I suspect otherwise.  I suggest they bury him in something fireproof…

Read more

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“Spiritual Tay-Sachs (And How to Prevent It)” (2007)

…  Maybe you’re not orthodox.  Maybe you’re anti-orthodox.  Maybe you’re offended by the notion of orthodox rejection of non-orthodox clergy.  It doesn’t matter.  Save your arguments for less essential issues.  (Like conversion!  That can be “fixed” later.  This can’t…

 Get involved.  Tell your … friends to take care of this…

Read more

———————————————————————————

 “The Changing of the Guard?” (2006)

 …I have a chicken coop in my back yard, and, to avoid being too graphic, it is easy to understand that a chicken coop, like a bathroom, is not an appropriate place to hang a Mezuzah.  Chickens are not known to be particularly fastidious about the cleanliness of their surroundings.  Therefore, I never put up a Mezuzah on the front door of my coop.

 I was wrong…

 I began to wonder.  What about protection?  The Mezuzah is more than just a symbol of the fact that G-d protects us.  According to our Sages, the presence of a Mezuzah actually contributes to that Divine protection. …  Does this mean, I mused, that for the last two years my chicken coop has been unprotected???…

Read more

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“Far-Away Neighbors and Next-Door Strangers” (2005)

…  We should all participate in relief efforts for all hurricane victims.  But keep in mind that neither FEMA nor the Red Cross is going to help Rabbi Schiff replace his six water-logged Torah scrolls. You and I are going to have to take care of those ourselves…

 

Read more

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“Captivating Beauty” (2004)

… The soldier has come into town, having just defeated the enemy.  He is intoxicated by the thrill of victory.  He has showed the enemy how powerful he is; he can do anything!  He sees a beautiful woman among the captives.   

The real problem is not that she is his captive.  The problem is that HE is HER captive! …

Read more

———————————————————————————

“Hard-Boiled Compassion” (2003)

 …The former “minister” who perpetrated this depraved deed told reporters that he expected “a great reward in Heaven.”  Personally, I suspect otherwise.  I suggest they bury him in something fireproof…

Read more

———————————————————————————

“Keep the Fiddler on the Roof!” (2002)

 …Maintaining safety is a very smart thing to do. It is very important to be socially responsible. But why do we say a blessing? Building a fence is not exactly a religious ceremony, is it? …

Read more

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“I Could KILL That Kid!” (2001)

 … Since when do we punish someone for what he MIGHT someday do?  Okay, he’s not a great kid, he won’t win any Boy Scout merit badges, but doesn’t murder as a precautionary measure go a bit too far?! …

Read more

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“Tzedakah — Who Is Doing a Favor for Whom?” (2000)

 … Can you imagine walking into a pawnshop and borrowing $500 against some item of equal or greater value? Each day you come back to the pawn shop and ask for your security back because you need it for the evening. “Don’t worry,” you tell your creditor, “I’ll return it in the morning.”  …

 Read more.

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2013 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on September 1, 2006 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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