Friday, October 20, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Miracle Story

There was the time that I was reading this book about leopards
in the Torah, and a leopard suddenly appeared!
In the last post, Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the Grasshopper, I discussed the "miracle story" of a grasshopper appearing in front of Rav Chaim right when he was learning the Gemara about grasshoppers. Well, this week, I had my very own similar miracle!

For many weeks, I have been heavily involved in the topic of the kashrus of different breeds of chickens. In part, this was because of the Feast of Exotic Curiosities that we ran at The Biblical Museum of Natural History, and in part, this was due to the controversy over the Braekel, on the topic of which I will soon be e-publishing an extensive monograph.

But actually getting hold of a Braekel, dead or alive, proved to be extremely difficult. All 7000 birds that had been raised near Beit Shemesh were slaughtered. We were desperate to get even a slaughtered Braekel to serve at the Feast of Exotic Curiosities, and we were finally only successful when we sent a staff member to Bnei Brak.

But, of course, the real goal was to get a live Braekel, to display at the museum as part of our developing "Kosher Birds" exhibit. And I hadn't been able to find one anywhere, and nor had my colleagues in the field, Prof. Zohar Amar and Moshe Rosenbaum, who had likewise been searching for one. Between us we have an extensive network of connections with various people raising exotic fowl, and nobody has a Braekel. I even started looking in the US to get fertilized eggs that I can bring back to incubate here, but while you can get hundreds of different kinds of chickens in the US, you can't get a Braekel!

I had finally entirely given up. And then...

My wife happened to go shopping, to a supermarket in Beit Shemesh that she doesn't often go to. And she just happened to bump into someone she knew from the US that she hadn't seen in many years. And she just happened to be leaving the store at the same time as this woman, so she gave her a ride home, to the ultra-charedi neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. And she just happened to continue talking with her for a few minutes, after she arrived at her house. And somehow, the topic of conversation just happened to turn to food, and then to chicken...

...and the woman mentioned that they are raising Braekels at home!

The Braekels of Beit Shemesh
This family hasn't eaten chicken or eggs for ten years, ever since her husband decided that regular chickens are not a kosher type. But they managed to obtain some Braekels, which satisfied their kashrus requirements. Today, I got to meet a real live Braekel! And it also looks like I will be able to obtain one or two for the museum!

Now here's the kicker. I am absolutely convinced that this string of coincidences is Divine Providence. Yes, I know that the Rishonim didn't believe that Divine Providence is so prevalent. Yes, I know all the reasons to be skeptical of seeing this as Divinely ordained. Call me anti-rationalist if you like. But I can't help how I feel!

Stay tuned for my monograph on the Chicken Wars!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the Grasshopper

There's a famous "miracle story" about Rav Chaim Kanievsky and a grasshopper. (It's relevant in light of the continuing comments, to the post "Daas Torah is in the Eye of the Beholder," about miracle stories and Gedolim.) The story goes that Rav Chaim was learning the Gemara in Chullin about identifying kosher grasshoppers (more properly called locusts, but we'll go with grasshopper here). He was struggling to understand certain aspects of the Gemara's discussion. Just then, a grasshopper miraculously jumped through the window (or, according to other versions, jumped off the wall) and landed on the Gemara! By looking at it, he was able to resolve the difficulties in understanding the Gemara's discussion.

I'm not going to go into extensive discussion of this - you can see Rabbi Josh Waxman's excellent discussion here. I just want to share two photos which I came across, as part of a series of photos on the theme of amazing coincidences:

In other locust-related news, I'm happy to report that although we killed all the kosher locusts at The Biblical Museum of Natural History for the Feast of Exotic Curiosities, they did lay eggs before they died, many of which have now hatched. Mazel tov!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Coming to America!

(The Feast of Exotic Curiosities was amazing! A full write-up will be forthcoming, but meanwhile you can see a gallery of photos from the event at this link.)

Next week, I am coming to America. For Shabbat parashat Noach, October 20-21, I will be speaking at Great Neck Synagogue. The following Shabbat, October 27-28, I will be speaking at Baron Hirsch Synagogue in Memphis. In between those engagements, I will be in New York, available for lectures and fundraising meetings. If you'd like to host an event for The Biblical Museum of Natural History, please be in touch! (I might also need a place to stay that week, preferably in the 5 Towns area - if you can help out with that, please let me know.)

My next schedule trip abroad is in December, to the BAYT in Toronto, and possibly also to London.

Meanwhile, the museum is very busy this week, but there are still some open slots, so if you're in Israel, book your tour! We also have a Sukkah available - two, actually, to meet everyone's needs:

Chag sameach!

Chicken Wars: The Shiur

This Monday in Woodmere....(and also on Tuesday, at Beth Aaron in Teaneck):