July 16, 2024
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An Egg-Cellent Torah Tuesday (on Sunday!)

Fair Lawn—Sunday breakfast doesn’t get much better. The unlikely combination of a scrambled eggs cooking competition and a halachic presentation on the permissibility of using pharmaceuticals on Shabbos proved to be a winning formula on the last Sunday in June. Torah Tuesday, a Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn initiative, began as a weekly breakfast and learning program a decade ago. It now takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Although its core attendees are retirees, it’s open to all. For details, email [email protected].

Mendy Aron, who first approached Rabbi Benjamin Yudin about the concept 10 years ago, explained that he “always likes to bring ruchnius (spiritual pleasures) and gashmius (material pleasures) together.” This is especially true for the more recent Sunday Torah Tuesday program, which takes place monthly. Along with Milty Frank, another group regular, he enticed congregants to this event with his egg-cooking prowess.

This particular Sunday morning began with what was billed as a “Throwdown,” a challenge to Aron’s reputation as the scrambled egg king. Frank, along with two other shul members, Jay Tepp and Alex Gitlin, took their places in the ballroom alongside Aron, ingredients and utensils in hand, ready to do battle. Three judges were seated across the room. Not many know this, but the men of Shomrei Torah, well, some of them anyway, are among the best cooks in Bergen County.

While contestants prepared their concoctions, attendees helped themselves to a breakfast of onion bagels, French toast, Belgian waffles with strawberries and ice cream and, of course, eggs. The event was co-sponsored by Dr. Zvi Loewy, the program’s speaker, and Aron, who were observing Yahrzeits for their fathers.

Dr. Loewy is no stranger to pharmaceuticals nor to halacha. As a highly respected pharmaceutical executive, he has been successfully involved in both big pharma and in biotech startups. Currently, he’s a professor and Chair at Touro College of Pharmacy. Most recently, a breakthrough invention of his for glucose testing in diabetes received FDA approval. He also leads a Daf Yomi and Gemara shiur in Fair Lawn, and is a chaver in the Passaic Community Kollel.

Dr. Loewy elicited audience interest by previewing common topics of Shabbos concern he planned to address. Among them were antibiotics, tranquilizers, chronic pain medication, oral care products and glucose monitors.

He delved into the melacha of grinding, which was the initial basis for prohibiting the usage of medication on Shabbos—the fear that one would grind certain herbs for medicinal purposes. “How many here have a mortar and pestle?” he asked. Only one person raised his hand. He then posed the question “If grinding is a lost skill set and the nature of pharmaceuticals today is such that there is no longer the danger of committing that melacha in advance of taking medication, should the ingestion of medications on Shabbos become permissible?” In answer, he related a story about Rav Soloveichik, who angrily denounced such a thought during a drasha, saying, “We don’t have the power to uproot what has always been in place because a skill set has been lost.”

One by one, Dr. Loewy reviewed the issues. Antibiotics or an anti-inflammatory are permissible to take on Shabbos since they cover a multiple day period. According to the Chazon Ish, Shabbos can even be the first day it’s consumed. Taking medication only on Shabbos is more problematic.

Another area of concern as it relates to melachot on Shabbos deals with the prohibition of curing an ailment. Regarding tranquilizers, they don’t cure a condition, but simply mitigate a symptom by relaxing the person. It’s therefore fine to use. The issue of chronic pain medication is similar. Taken regularly, it is not curative but does prevent symptoms from becoming exacerbated.

Concerns for oral care center on whether the act of brushing erodes the tooth enamel, and whether residual material may be left behind on the teeth, both potentially problematic. Rav Soloveichik has ruled that they aren’t concerns, and most poskim agree.

The final situation discussed was the usage of glucose monitors. If a person captures a mouse or a bird on Shabbos and causes a wound in the process, he’s violating a melacha. Does puncturing the skin fall within the same realm in regard to the wound it creates? In a word, no. Since diabetes is a disease that can have a cumulative negative effect if blood is not drawn when needed, it is permissible. However, Dr. Loewy did note the warning from poskim that only the minimum amount of blood necessary should be drawn. This is akin to someone who is ruled sick enough on Shabbos to make it permissible for another to cook for him. The person doing the cooking cannot make anything extra so that others can partake.

At the conclusion of the well-received presentation, attention returned to the contest. Winners were announced. First runner-up was Tepp, who scored 12 out of a possible 15. Top prize went to Aron, retaining his status with a perfect score of 15. Cries of “fixed” were heard from his close friends, but since it was a blind, numbered taste test, how could that be? All in good fun. Aron joyfully donned the egg-champ hat.

By Robert Isler

Robert Isler is a marketing researcher and writer who lives in Fair Lawn. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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