Pizza and Common Sense
At Touro Synagogue February 8, 2020 By Aaron Ginsburg firstname.lastname@example.org edited by Beth Ginsburg Levin With thanks to Rabbi Marc Mandel Also at https://www.facebook.com/groups/jewishnewport/
On Shabbat morning at Touro Synagogue in Newport Rhode Island, Rabbi Marc Mandel discussed the latest news. Rabbi Mandel dealt with skepticism about science and fake news, although he didn’t use those terms. The latest news was not in Washington, D.C. or Iowa, but China. In China, things are theoretically managed from the top down. Often the people who are running things don’t want to cause any static with their superiors, and fail to pass on bad news. This backfired in the case of coronavirus, since it delayed the response. Of course this can happen in any society.
“This week Dr. Li passed away,” began Rabbi Mandel. “He was the whistleblower about the coronavirus. This week's parsha (Beshalach) addressed the issue of pandemics and illness. After the Jews crossed the Red Sea, they were concerned that a plague would wipe them out in the desert. God said to them, ‘If you follow my commandments, any illness that I struck upon the Egyptians, I will not place on you, for I am your doctor.’
“If God is our doctor, does that mean we can't have a human doctor? Would that be an insult to God?
“This contradicts a passage in the upcoming parsha of Mishpatim, which says, if you injure someone you must pay their doctor bills!
“There seems to be some tension in the Torah about this, the same way there is tension today in China. The Chinese doctors want to save people and warn people, but the government says, slow down, don't overdo it. Both these cases can lead to problems. Last year, there was a measles epidemic in the United States because some people, including some orthodox Jews, didn't trust the doctors. In China, had the government listened earlier to the doctors, less people would have died. In leading our lives we must take advantage of medical expertise, while we still have faith in God to help us.”
At the kiddush, we discussed Daf Yomi, Masechet Brachot, page 35. This chapter discusses what brachot (blessings) to make on certain foods.
|Lorenzo's Pizza sign on South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer|
A lively discussion about certain foods indicated that this is not always a simple matter. For example, what bracha does one make on hummus? Although hummus is made from chickpeas which grow from the ground, we make a shehakol, because the texture has changed. This is similar to orange juice, which also gets a shehakol. This soon degenerated into a discussion about recipes, and people offered to share their favorites.
Rabbi Mandel said he usually defers to his wife, Jackie, when there is a food question.
Then came the great pizza question. Is pizza bread? Apparently not since we don’t say hamotzi over it. Rabbi Mandel pointed out that if we have bread with a meal, once we say the hamotzi we don’t need to say a blessing over the other items in the meal. The congregants heaved a sigh of relief, and resumed eating their pizza!
Shabbat Shalom from Jewish Newport!