A Spiritual Vacation in the Temple

While the Temple existed, the mitzva of ‘ma’aser sheni’ and ‘neta revai’ prompted everyone to make the Festival Pilgrimage to the Holy Temple * The quantity of harvested crops is equivalent to the number of days of the festivals, thus affording a prolonged stay in Jerusalem that included fine, festive meals * The families who made the pilgrimage merited dwelling in the shadow of the Divine Presence, and learning Torah * In the future, thousands of hotels will be built near the Temple so that everyone can rejoice and receive relevant, spiritual guidance * Throughout the year, Jerusalem will serve as a spiritual center for all mankind

The Mitzvah of the Temple in Parashat Re’eh

In this week’s Torah portion ‘Re’eh‘, we repeatedly learn about the central role of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), by means of which the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ (universal holiness) is revealed in the world – a holiness that harmoniously unites all ideals, and gives value and meaning to all details of life. For too long we have forgotten to talk about the Temple. True, we were busy building the Land, which is the foundation for the establishment of the Temple, but it seems that neglecting the Temple had an adverse effect on the building of the Land as well. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to study matters regarding the Temple, and attempt to portray the revelation of its holiness in the world, in a vivid and visionary manner.

In a complete system of mitzvoth including ‘aliyah l’regel’ (Festival Pilgrimage), ma’aser sheni, neta revai (agricultural tithes), korban chagigah and nidavot shleimim (animal sacrifices), the Torah guides us how to partake in a spiritual vacation of Torah and prayer, joy and festive meals, all in the environs of the Temple.

I will elaborate a bit on the mitzva of ma’aser sheni explained in our Torah portion.

What is Ma’aser Sheni?

In four of the seven years of the shmitta (Sabbatical years), it is a mitzvah to set aside approximately nine percent of the fruit for ma’aser sheni (the second tithe). The unique aspect of ma’aser sheni is that although it contains kedusha (holiness), it remains in the possession of the owner of the fruit, and it is a mitzvah for him to eat it, with his family, within the walls of Jerusalem, in purity. As the Torah says: “Take a second tithe of all the seed crops that come forth in the field each year. You must eat this before God your Lord in the place that He will choose as dedicated to His name. There you shall eat the second tithe of your grain, wine and oil…you will then learn [by coming in contact with priests and scholars in Jerusalem] to remain in awe of God your Lord for all time” (Deuteronomy 14:22-23).

Those who find it difficult to bring the fruits of the second tithe to Jerusalem because of the distance and the abundance of fruits, are entitled to redeem the produce on a coin of equal value, thus making the fruit ‘chullin’ (de-sanctified), and the sanctity is transferred to the money. The money would be brought to Jerusalem where people would buy food, which they would eat in purity according to the laws of eating ma’aser sheni. As the Torah says: “If the journey is too great for you, and God your Lord has blessed you so that the place that God your Lord has chosen as a site dedicated to His name is too far for you to carry it there, you may redeem the tithe for silver. The silver in your hand must consist of coinage which you can bring to the place that God your Lord will choose. You may then spend the money on anything you desire, whether it be cattle, smaller animals, wine, brandy, or anything else for which you  have an urge” (Deuteronomy 14:24-26). At the time of redeeming the fruit, a fifth of its value must be added; poor people would perform the act of redeeming with the help of a friend, thereby absolving themselves of this additional charge.

A Fund for Spiritual ‘Continuing Education’

By way of the fruits of ma’aser sheni, all of Israel became stronger in the mitzvah of aliyah l’regel (the Festival Pilgrimage) – on Chag Ha’Matzot (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), and Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) for the mitzvah required eating approximately six percent of the total harvest of the fields in Jerusalem, and the most appropriate time for this was during the festive meals. The mitzva was to share meals with the Levites and the poor, and the more blessed a person was, the longer his family would be able to linger in the shadow of the Divine Presence in Jerusalem, and the more Levites and poor people he would be able to treat at his meal. And if he had children who could engage in Torah study, in consequence of the tithes, he would encourage them to stay in Jerusalem to study Torah there, and eat from the money of ma’aser sheni. This is what the Torah says: “You will then learn to remain in awe of God your Lord for all time” (Deuteronomy 14:23) – “This comes to teach that the tithes brings one to the study of Torah” (Sifre, Re’eh 106).

The Harvest was Adequate for the Entire Festival and More

I calculated the percentage of fruit that was allocated for ma’aser sheni from all of the fruit that the average person would eat for seven years, and compared it to the total number of days of the Pilgrimage Festivals. Something wonderful became apparent: the portion of the ma’aser sheni from the total crop corresponded to the number of days of the Pilgrimage Festivals from the seven years of shmitta.

The second tithe was approximately nine percent of the harvest, but it was only set aside in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the six years that terumot and ma’asrot were allotted – altogether, it was approximately six percent. In the seventh year, the fruit was hefker (abandoned), and terumot and ma’aser was not taken. Thus, when the fruits of the second tithe were divided for eating over seven years, they rose to 5.14 percent of the harvest of the six years of work in the seven year cycle. If we calculate the days of the three Festivals in which it is a mitzvah to make the pilgrimage, and half a day before and a half a day after, it comes to 19 days, which is 5.2 percent of the average 365 days a year (in truth, the calculation is more complex because on Shavuot of a shmitta year, and Succot at the end of shmitta, there no longer remained fruits of ma’aser sheni, however, on the other hand, the void could be filled to a certain extent through the sacrifices of ma’aser behema [the animal sacrifices] on these festivals).

The Pilgrims Festive Meals

Thus, the fruits of the second tithe were sufficient for the oleh regel to maintain the level they were accustomed to while at home. Since in addition to this, the law concerning fruits that grew on trees in the fourth year – neta revai – is similar to that of the fruits of ma’aser sheni, consequently, each family had fruits that could be eaten during the fine meals of the holidays.

In addition, each male was commanded to bring a korban chagiga sacrifice, from whose flesh would be eaten at the festive meals, in addition ma’aser behamah, i.e., the tithe that he set aside from his beasts, which were also intended for the mitzva meals eaten in the environs of the Temple. Not only that, but there were people who were exempt from going on the pilgrimage, and consequently, the money of the second tithe and neta revai which were intended to satisfy their sustenance, remained as surpluses that could be eaten at the mitzvah meals in Jerusalem.

Thus, an average person who went to Jerusalem on all three Festivals would eat there far better meals than he ate during the year, and still have enough to share his feast meals with the Levi’im and the poor. Often, these funds from ma’aser would enable those family members who wanted, to remain in Jerusalem for a few months, or a whole year, to dwell in the shadow of the Divine Presence, and to grow in Torah and holiness.

Biur Ma’aserot

Since the pilgrimage to the Holy Temple was fraught with difficulties, and many people had reasons to avoid it, people could have thought of keeping the redeemed money from ma’aser sheni and neta revai indefinitely. Therefore, the mitzvah of biur ma’aserot (the elimination of the tithes) is very important. The ma’aserot cycle consists of two series of three years, and the mitzva of biur ma’aserot determines that until Pesach of the fourth year, and Pesach of the seventh year, the setting aside of terumot and ma’aserot must be completed, including the money redeemed from ma’aser sheni and neta re’vai.

This mitzvah required every Jew to plan his pilgrimages, for if he saw that the time of biur ma’aserot was approaching, he would hasten to observe the mitzvah of pilgrimage, and make an effort to arrange large meals and invite several people, in order to use the intended money. If, nevertheless, he still had surpluses, he would seek out relatives, and pay for their stay in Jerusalem, or at least give the money to Torah scholars to assist them during their stay in the learning halls in Jerusalem. If he was negligent, and not able to use these sacred funds before the time of biur, he had to destroy and eliminate them from the world.

Thus, as a result of the mitzvah of biur ma’aserot and neta re’vai, it was determined that one’s spiritual vacation had to be fulfilled within a maximum of three years (the mitzva of the offering of the ma’aser behema took place on the nearest Festival, or at the latest, within a year).

The Future Vision: A Spiritual Vacation

In accordance with these mitzvot, we can prepare the fulfillment of the vision in our times. Soon, the Temple will be restored, and numerous hotels will be built in the vicinity of the Temple. Masses of Jews will stay in these hotels during the days of the Festivals, going to see the Temple, watch the service of the Kohanim (priests), and hear the singing of the Levites. They will conduct their important festive meals in the hotel’s air-conditioned dining rooms, amidst singing and dancing. All of this will be accompanied, of course, with profound and meaningful Torah study, in all areas of life. For this purpose batei midrash (learning halls) and suitable classrooms will have to be built.

However, in order to make room for all the masses of pilgrims, whose numbers will reach several millions, it will be necessary to build hundreds and thousands of high-rise hotels around the Temple spread over many kilometers, and automated trains will take guests from the hotels to the Temple Mount. Since the trains will travel automatically, they can be used on Shabbat and holidays, similar to Shabbat elevators (there is no ‘shvut’ in the Temple).

Since in the past, agriculture comprised more than 90 percent of a person’s income, the Torah’s percentage of the agricultural produce needed to be allocated for the purpose of lodging in the vicinity of the Mikdash needs to be equated to the percentage that should be set aside from an individual’s current income (similar to ma’aser kesafim and chomesh that were determined in place of terumot and ma’aserot). The amount set aside from salaries for a spiritual vacation in Jerusalem should be sufficient for several days, beyond those of the Festivals. With this amount of money, each Jew will finance days of study, vacation, and joy in the environs of the Temple. To this end, a vast array of seminars and study times will be established in all areas of Torah and life, so that every Jew can choose to study subjects close to his heart.

Study Times for the Entire World

Needless to say, during the Jewish Festivals, the hotels will be filled to capacity; during the rest of the year, in addition to holding seminars for Jews, the hotels will open their gates to all the nations of the world, as the prophet said: ” In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of Jacob’s God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths. Torah will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Blessed be the men, women, and children who ascend in purity to the Temple Mount, and prayers for the revelation of the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ in their hearts.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://en.yhb.org.il

The Levitical Model of Supporting Torah

The Torah set a goal for Kohanim and Levi’im – to teach Torah, and educate the public * The ideal was for the firstborn to be sanctified, so each household would have a spiritual Torah member, but we have not yet reached that level * The Kohanim and the Levi’im established the model of the ‘garin Torani’: scattered throughout the country, but living in groups * The Israelites supported the Kohanim and Levi’im who studied Torah, and they in turn strove to teach the nation in a suitable manner * Israelites could also teach, supplementary to the stable foundation of the tribe of Levi * In our times, ma’aser kesafim for Torah scholars implements the goal of terumot and ma’asrot

The Continuation of Torah in Israel

Q: Why did the Torah grant special status to the Kohanim (priests) and Levi’im (Levites), and command us to give them terumot and ma’aser rishon (tithes)? Isn’t this discrimination towards the rest of the people?

A: These are not free gifts given to the Kohanim and Levi’im, but rather gifts that are meant to enable them to be Torah scholars and educators among the Jewish nation, as the Torah says: “They shall therefore teach your law to Jacob, and your Torah to Israel” (Deuteronomy 33:10). The Torah also says: “If you are unable to reach a decision in a case involving capital punishment, litigation, leprous marks, or any other case where there is a dispute in your territorial courts, then you must set out and go up to the place that God your Lord shall choose. You must approach the Levitical priests and other members of supreme court that exists at the time” (Deuteronomy 17:8-9).

Kohanim and Levi’im Not Engaged in Torah

Since the goal of terumot for the Kohanim and ma’aser to the Levi’im is to assist them in their spiritual role, it is a mitzvah to give these gifts to Kohanim and Levi’im ‘Talmidei Chachamim‘ (Torah scholars) who study and teach Torah. As King Hezekiah commanded: “Moreover, he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites that they might adhere firmly to the Torah of the Lord” (Chronicles II, 8-9).

The poskim (Jewish law arbiters) disagreed as to what should be done in a place where there are no Kohanim or Levi’im engaged in Torah: some say that it is forbidden to give priestly gifts to a Kohen who is an ‘am ha’aretz’, i.e., someone uneducated in Torah; the opinion of most Rishonim is that it is indeed a mitzvah to give the priestly gifts to Kohanim and Levi’im who are Torah scholars, but if there aren’t any Torah scholars present, it is a mitzvah to give them to the uneducated Kohanim and Levi’im, and one is not obligated to go out of his way to give them to Kohanim and Levi’im who are ‘Talmidei Chachamim’ (Tosafot, Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Ritva, and Meiri, Tractate Chulin 130b, as well as being codified in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 61:7).

Nationwide Deployment

In order for the Kohanim and Levi’im to be spread throughout the Land of Israel and available for their spiritual task – studying and teaching Torah – the Torah determined that they would not be given an inheritance in the Land, rather, each tribe would allot them cities within their own inheritance. As the Torah says: “God spoke to Moses… give orders to the Israelites, and have them give the Levites residential cities from their hereditary holdings. Also provide the Levites suburbs around their cities. The cities shall be their residence, while the suburbs shall be for their animals, property, and other amenities… the total number of cities that you shall give the Levites shall be 48 cities…more from a larger holding, and fewer from a smaller one. Each tribe shall therefore give the Levites cities in proportion to the hereditary property that it has been given” (Numbers 35:1-8). In other words, the Kohanim and Levi’im received places to live, and even plots for their belongings, but they did not have enough land to grow their own food, but were nourished by the terumot and ma’asrot they received from B’nei Yisrael. As the Torah says: “The Levitical priests and the entire tribe of Levi shall not have a territorial portion with the rest of Israel, and they shall therefore eat God’s fire offerings and their hereditary gifts. Since God shall be their heritage, as He promised them, they shall not have any territorial heritage among their brethren” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2).

And this is exactly what B’nei Yisrael did in the days of Yehoshua, as it is stated: “And the children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the Lord, these cities and their pasture lands…” (Yehoshua 21:3). Over the generations, the leaders of Israel designated additional cities to the Kohanim and Levi’im as needed, for example, the cities of Nov and Anatot.

The Vision of the Firstborn: A Kohen in Every Family

Initially, all bechorim (first-borns) were meant to be Kohanim, so that each extended family would have a distinguished member – firstborns – whose task was to engage in Torah, teach, and serve in the Temple, and thus, the entire nation would be connected to the worship of God and spiritual matters. But after the firstborns participated in the Sin of the Golden Calf as well, they fell from their exalted level, and in their stead, the tribe of Levi who did not participate in the sin, were chosen and sanctified. One can learn from this that the idea of ​​the birthright of the firstborn is still too lofty for us, and therefore, instead of the firstborn Kohanim influencing the public at large, the secular life of general society would have an influence them, and annul their spiritual uniqueness. In order to create a group of Torah scholars and educators responsible for religious observance among the nation of Israel, they need to belong to a tribe that is entirely engaged in matters of holiness. This became apparent in the Sin of the Golden Calf when the firstborns participated in sin, whereas the Levi’im, members of Moshe Rabbeinu’s tribe, stood in the breach against the sinners.

The Model for ‘Garinim Torani’im’

It is possible to learn from the Levite cities scattered throughout the country, an example and precedence for the ‘garinim Torani’im’ (Torah-based groups of idealistic, religious individuals and families, who settle in underdeveloped communities to help build up and strengthen the community through social and religious programming) which, on the one hand, should be scattered throughout the country, while on the other hand, needs to preserve themselves as a group, in order to strengthen each other in their sacred work, which at times can be difficult and fraught with trials and tribulations.

Parenthetically, an important piece of advice for the heads of the ‘garinim Torani’im’: in addition to educating towards Torah and mitzvot, they should set a goal for themselves to attract first-rate mathematics and English teachers to the schools under their influence, because these subjects are beneficial for acquiring respectable professions, and thus, their contribution and influence will be well-rounded, and will find pleasure in the eyes of both God, and man.

The Privilege to Choose a Kohen and Levi

Every Jew had the privilege to choose which Kohen and Levi he would give his gifts to. This privilege created a personal connection between the Israelites and the Kohanim and the Levi’im, and compelled the Kohanim to devote themselves to their sacred work among their communities, so that the members of the community would want to give them their gifts. Thus, a Kohen or Levy who went out of his way to teach Torah to children and adults, and the members of his community benefited from his good advice and resourcefulness, was given preference in receiving their gifts. On the other hand, a Kohen or Levy who alienated himself from the community – belittling those who worked for a living, claiming everyone should study in kollel, or refused to recite a “mi she’berach” (a public prayer or blessing for an individual or group, most often recited in synagogue when the Torah is being read) for young men enlisting in the army, or were lazy and did not teach Torah – they received similar treatment at the time of distribution of the gifts.

Nevertheless, there was no fear that the Kohanim or Levi’im that the public loved and respected for their wisdom and dedication would become overly wealthy while their friends would starve, because the gifts were food, and after the Kohanim and Levi’im received all their needs in abundance, there was no point in giving them more gifts that their family could not eat. In such a situation, it was preferable for the owner of the fruit to seek out other, more available Kohanim and Levi’im to create a spiritual and educational bond with those to whom they choose to give gifts. Thus, a continuous relationship was established between all Israelites and all the Kohanim and Levi’im, with the devoted Kohanim and Levi’im given preference in receiving all their needs abundantly, while those who were less affable, failing to make an effort to teach the students well, received fewer gifts. And in difficult years when the crops were scarce and there wasn’t enough gifts to sustain all the Kohanim and Levi’im, those who did not serve the members of their communities properly, suffered from scarcity.

Did Israelites also Teach?

In addition to the fact that the tribe of Levi was chosen to be responsible for Torah study and teaching in Israel, any Israelite also wishing to do so was of course entitled to devote his life to Torah – to study, and to teach (Rambam Shemittah and Yovel 13:13). Israelites wishing to do so had to curtail work in their fields and live modestly in order to have time to study Torah. Most probably, those choosing to do so possessed outstanding talent, diligence and virtue, and consequently, merited attaining higher levels of Torah knowledge, above and beyond the average member of the tribe of Levi, and as a result, many of them served as members of the courts and the Sanhedrin. Occasionally, their families would assist them with their livelihood, similar to the agreement between Zevulun and Issachar, and sometimes the public paid them unemployment benefits so they could dedicate their time to teaching or sitting in judgement. Nonetheless, the important role of the tribe of Levi remained, for they were given the overall responsibility for Torah observance in Israel, educating the young and older children, setting times for classes with adults, establishing peace between man and his fellow neighbor, and between husband and wife, providing emotional relief to the needy, and rehabilitating murderers and criminals. Beyond this solid foundation, the Israelites who devoted themselves to the Torah added an important element of magnifying and enhancing the Torah, in case law, in education, and in the enrichment of social life in all fields in which the members of the tribe of Levi were involved.

‘Ma’aser Kesafim’ – The Continuation of Tithes

In the distant past, more than 90% of the GNP was from agriculture and cattle, and as a result, terumot and ma’asrot from vegetation, first born animals, the zeroah, le’chaim, and keyvah (foreleg, cheeks, and maw of all non-sanctified, ritually slaughtered domestic animals), and reshit HaGez (the first shearing of the sheep’s wool) sustained Israel’s Torah scholars and educators. In the course of time, Israel’s livelihood expanded to industry and commerce, and other fields as well, and then, just as the Torah stipulated that Israelites give gifts in the sum of between 10% (ma’aser) to 20% (chomesh) to the Kohanim and Levi’im, our Sages determined the setting aside of ‘ma’aser kesafim’ (giving one-tenth of one’s wealth to tzedakah) as a medium measure, and ‘chomesh’ from one’s wealth as a good measure.

The Purpose of ‘Ma’aser Kesafim’

The main purpose of ‘ma’aser kesafim’ is to support Torah scholars and educators. In other words, the halakha is that in normal circumstances most of one’s ma’aser should be directed to supporting Torah scholars who study in order to teach and guide the people in the ways of Torah and mitzvot, morality, and derech eretz (common decency). However, in times when many poor people are in need of bread and clothing, the majority of one’s ma’aser kesafim should be allocated for the needs of the poor, and in such a situation, it then serves as a substitute for the mitzvot of ‘leket, shikhhah, and pe’ah’ (gleanings, forgotten produce, and the corners of the field), ma’aser ani (the pauper’s tithe), and tzedaka (charity).

It can be said that ideally, ma’aser is given as a preventive medicine. By way of the teachings and guidance of the Torah, the value of work and proper economic planning becomes common practice – young adults learn a viable profession, people work diligently and resourcefully, and as a result, blessing increases, there are less poor people, and thus, funds from tzedaka above and beyond ma’aser kesafim would be adequate for them. But when preventive medicine is ineffective, and Torah scholars fail to educate the public to work diligently and develop the economy properly, the majority of ma’aser must be devoted to the less fortunate themselves – namely, the poor, sick, and the rest of the needy.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

The Ancient ‘Tu B’Av’ Custom

Israel never knew such wonderful holidays as ‘Tu B’Av’ (the 15th of the Jewish month of Av) and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Israel would go out and dance in the vineyards and offer themselves joyfully for the purpose of establishing Jewish families. And despite the fact that people are different – some are rich, others poor; some are beautiful, and others less; some are of noble birth, and some are not – nevertheless, on these days, special effort was made to try and bridge the gap, at least as far as wealth was concerned. Young women would therefore go out wearing white, borrowed outfits in order not to embarrass those who did not own such garments.

Seemingly, the young men were already acquainted to some extent with the families of the girls in the area, and had consulted their parents regarding an appropriate match. The final decision, however, would occur on these days. Perhaps these days were intended for those young men or women who were unsuccessful in finding a mate in the conventional way.

The Attractive and the Noble

The Talmud (Ta’anit 31a) informs us how these daughters of Israel would try to make themselves desirable: “The attractive ones would exclaim: ‘Search out beauty, for this is the purpose of a wife’; the ones of noble birth would say: ‘Search out family, for family is the purpose of a wife’; the unattractive ones would say: ‘Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, so long as you adorn her with gold.'”

The fact that the attractive women would draw attention to their beauty is understandable. Many men choose their wives based upon beauty. Beauty presents itself as somewhat of a guarantee to a good and happy marriage, filled with life. Reality, though, does not confirm this. There is no indication whatsoever that men who married so-called “attractive” women ended up more content than those who married “less attractive” women. When beauty comes in addition to good character, it can indeed add to life. However, often it can be misleading.

Those of noble birth simply say the primary feature is character. A good family is one in which children successfully obtain a proper education, and a good livelihood. One can safely assume that a woman who comes from such a family will possess a pleasant and kind character, and proper manners. In addition, it is highly likely that the children born to such parents will also possess similar character traits. We indeed find that the Sages (Baba Batra 110a) advise examining the brothers of the prospective bride, for often, the children turn out like the brothers of the bride. The Sages also advise marrying the daughter of a Torah scholar (Pesachim 49a). This is the reason that the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b) only quotes the women from good families; in the eyes of the Sages, their words were most accurate.

The Unattractive

The most surprising of the three groups is the unattractive women: “Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, so long as you adorn her with gold.” A simple interpretation of these words tells us that these young women are appealing to the unattractive, untalented men who would run after the beautiful and distinguished girls, only to be turned down. To these men they would say: “If you keep running after the attractive and distinguished girls, you will remain single and frustrated forever. Be realistic, and marry one of us, who are ready to marry you. After all, the Torah commands you to get married – come, marry for the sake of fulfilling God’s will.” Nevertheless, since marriage must possess an element of affection, they added: “So long as you adorn us with gold,” for by doing so, you show your love for us.

All the same, there is a more profound way of understanding the words of the unattractive girls. Sometimes a person who has merited neither beauty nor desirable lineage is successful, through the virtue of exceptional faith in God, to perfect his or her character traits, and attain great personal achievement. The level such a person reaches is even higher than that of the attractive and distinguished. A shared life with such a person is certain to be full of beauty and happiness. This is the meaning of the unattractive women’s words: “Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, and consequently, we will ascend together and surpass the level of all the attractive and distinguished couples – and our children will be distinguished by our virtue.” And they added, “So long as you adorn us with gold.” This last statement can best be understood in light of the words of Rabbi Yishmael (Nedarim 9:10): “The daughters of Israel are all beautiful, only that poverty makes them unbecoming.” If you decorate us with gold, you will uncover our true, unique beauty. Consequently, although in practice the most desired girls are generally those who are attractive, followed by those who are distinguished, in truth, the distinguished are preferable to the attractive, and sometimes, the unattractive are the most desirable of all.

Sound Advice for Singles

This carries a bit of advice for single men: Often, girls who are actually quite pretty, appear to be unattractive. This, however, is simply the result of the man’s level of maturity. God created humans such that they enter the world as infants, and grow and develop until old age. Each stage in life has its own purpose. At the age of twenty, the desire to marry is very strong: “Twenty is the age for chasing” (Avot 5:18). At that stage in life the heart is full of enthusiasm and courage. A young man sees all that is good in his prospective match, and is ready to leap happily into married life. This period is followed by a more restrained stage of life, whose purpose is to build and prepare the next stage. If an older, single man expects to be swept away by youthful enthusiasm while dating, he is usually disappointed. Yet, instead of attributing this to his age, he finds fault in the woman. He might admit that she is pleasant and smart, however – he disappointedly explains to his close friends – she is not pretty enough, or exciting. Such bachelors should know: If you sense a woman is pleasant and smart and you enjoy her company, but the only problem is the element of excitement is missing, “choose your mate for the sake of Heaven.” Don’t worry. If you invest energy in your relationship, and “decorate her with gold,” you can be sure that you will be blessed with true love. The enthusiasm which accompanies falling in love, is actually meant to help a person take the monumental leap of entering into the covenant of marriage. Such emotion, however, does not guarantee a happy marriage. Good character traits and shared goals are much more important. A genuine, mature, and deep loving relationship, reaching the inner layers of the soul, is dependent upon these features.

The Unique Power of ‘Tu B’Av’

The author of the work “B’nei Yissachar” explains that ‘Tu B’Av’ is a day of deep-rooted significance because it falls forty days before the date of the world’s creation. The sixth day of creation was Rosh Hashana. On that day, God formed man. Six days prior to this is the twenty-fifth of Elul, and forty days prior to this is ‘Tu B’Av’. Our Sages said: “Forty days before the formation of the infant, an announcement is made in heaven: “The daughter of so-and-so is matched-up with so-and-so.” Because ‘Tu B’Av’ falls forty days before the formation of the world, it also is a day of significant importance, possessing a unique capacity to initiate life – especially for a bride and groom who wish to establish a family.

This article is an adaptation of an article appearing in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://en.yhb.org.il/

The Temple – Top of the Agenda

The story of Yosef Tzvi Salomon HY”D and his family, his daughter Chaya Esther and his son Elad z”l * As the son of Holocaust survivors, Yosef Tzvi worked diligently to settle the Land of Israel, and cleaved to the Torah until his final day * Our political and defense leaders do not understand the nation of Israel’s mission, and consequently, do not grasp the essence of the struggle against our enemies * Building the Temple should be at the top of the national agenda * The purpose of the Temple is not the service of God by righteous individuals, but the ‘tikkun’ the Jewish nation, and the entire world * Preparing for the building of the Temple: learning Torah, and strengthening our sovereignty over the Temple Mount

The Three Holy Jews

Yosef Tzvi Salomon, who was murdered along with his daughter Chaya Esther and his son Elad, merited being one of the first pioneers to settle the heart of our holy Land. He grew up in Transylvania, Romania, in a community of Holocaust survivors in the town of Dej, near Cluj. As children, he and his brothers were beaten and humiliated by their anti-Semitic neighbors. About a year before reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah (13 years old) in the year 1958, the gates of emigration from Romania opened, and his parents immigrated to Israel and settled in Be’er Sheva. For many years, Yosef Tzvi was the chief sergeant of the medical warehouse of the I.D.F. After early retirement from the army, he worked as a department manager in the Talpiyot College, a post-secondary academic institution dedicated to providing education for Jewish women in an authentic Torah environment. Accordingly, he encouraged his three daughters to study there, and thanks to that, they eventually became teachers in Israel’s educational system.

As the son of Holocaust survivors who endured the camps in Transnistria (his father) and Auschwitz (his mother), the commandment to settle the Land of Israel was extremely important to him. To this end, about thirty-five years ago, he moved with his family from Be’er Sheva to Neve Tzuf (Halamish) in Binyamin. He even tried to enlist his younger brother Ben-Zion who consequently changed his plans to build his home together with his friends in Meitar, and instead, joined the ‘garin‘ (nucleus) that established the settlement of Elkana.

His daughter Racheli married Ron Manzali, a student from our yeshiva, and merited establishing their glorious family in the community of Har Bracha. Yosef Tzvi was glad they were continuing to settle the Land on the front lines of Jewish settlement, and every time he visited Har Bracha on Shabbat, he would diligently participate in Torah classes and the Shabbat sermon with his son-in-law. As a result, we were also fortunate to have Elad HY”D study in our yeshiva in his first year before enlisting in the Armored Corps of the I.D.F.

Yosef Tzvi HY”D meticulously attended all the funerals of settlers who were killed ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ (sanctifying the name of God), in order to pay homage to the holy heroes who, due to their exalted standing of being killed in the sanctification of the Torah, the nation, and the Land, occupy such an exalted position in the next world, that they are unapproachable. After the funerals he would remain silent. Who could have known then that one day, he, his daughter, and his son would reach that exalted level.

After retiring, he made great efforts to travel to the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem every day to attend Torah classes at the ‘Kollel for Pensioners’. In the last year at the age of seventy, after experiencing a fall and losing consciousness, he became very weak, and from that time on, walked slowly and hunched over, due pains in his back. Consequently, he travelled to Jerusalem only three days a week, and the rest of the time, he participated in the pensioner’s kollel he helped establish in Neve Tzuf.

He was a man of action, spoke little, and had a good heart – to the point where his brother testified that it was impossible to argue with him – he personified the verse “surely goodness and unfailing love”. He deeply wanted his family to be happy at all times, and occasionally when they argued about various matters, he would raise his voice and request they change the subject, in order to maintain a pleasant atmosphere.

He would rise early in the morning for the first ‘minyan‘ (prayer quorum) at 5:50 A.M. Even after nights of guard duty, he scrupulously attended his regular, early minyan. For decades, he served as the ‘gabbai’ (sexton) in the Neve Tzuf synagogue, thus following in his father’s footsteps, for he had been the illustrious ‘gabbai’ for thirty years at the ‘Auschwitz Martyrs’ Synagogue’ in Be’er Sheva, many of whose worshipers were Holocaust survivors.

For the last twenty years Yosef Tzvi served as the ‘gabbai‘ in the first ‘minyan‘ on Shabbat in Neve Tzuf, taking care of all needs, including arriving early to the synagogue in order to arrange the tables and prayer books before services. After prayers, he would arrange a ‘kiddush‘ for the members of the congregation at his own expense to bring them joy, and to attract people to the first ‘minyan‘. When there were other congregants who had happy occasions, they would supplement his ‘kiddush‘ with their own food and drinks.

Yosef Tzvi would look forward and count the days before joyous occasions – especially weddings in the family. He would arrive early to each wedding in order to be one of the first guests to greet the hosts. To add joy, he would walk among the guests with a bottle of scotch or whiskey, and pour them all a drink. During the dancing, he was meticulous to dance in front of the groom, and even at an advanced age, would dance like a young person. Recently, just two weeks ago, at the wedding of the Klingel family from Neve Tzuf, he tried to dance as usual, however, his strength was not there, and had to withdraw in sorrow.

On the 28th of Tamuz, 5777, on the evening of the holy Shabbat, after the occasion of ‘kiddush‘ when Israel adorns themselves with three sanctity’s, evoking God the Creator of the entire Universe who took us out of Egypt, thus, drawing holiness and blessing into the world, while the Salomon family was about to celebrate the ‘shalom zachor’ in honor of their newborn grandson – a lowly terrorist set out in the name of Islam to cancel the sanctity and the blessing.

Nevertheless, our faith is deeper and greater than any evil, and the three murdered family members have risen from their private status, to the status of three sacred Jews conveying the holiness of Israel, adorned with three sanctities. And all the holy Jews of the Holocaust who were murdered on foreign soil were there to greet and honor the holy settlers who realize the dangers but nevertheless choose to settle the Land, and are even willing to sacrifice their lives in the sanctification of God, fulfilling the words of the Torah and Prophets regarding the redemption of the Land of Israel.

The Problems in the Top Defense and Political Echelons

For years, we have felt that the moral state ​​of affairs in the top echelons of the army and the Shin Bet security service and most of the political leadership, is appalling. Their policies are empty, they fail to understand the significance of the People of Israel and our vision, and consequently, fail to understand the Arabs and Islam. They accept the positions of the liberal left as ‘Torah from Sinai’, and just as Obama and Kerry led the Middle East to chaos and bloodshed with such beliefs, so too, they walk blindly without understanding the profound processes that drive people, religions, and nations.

They think that it is possible to achieve peace with the Arabs, and as a result, at every important juncture choose the road of humiliating concession, which supposedly advances towards peace. They supported the Oslo Accords, and withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza. If it was up to them, we would have withdrawn long ago from the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, and given into all the Bedouins’ demands in the Negev, failing to understand that any withdrawal or concession besides weakening us, also increases the motivation of our enemies to initiate additional wars.

Today’s ‘Sin of the Spies’

This is today’s ‘Sin of the Spies’ – when leadership weakens the nation, and conversely, the nation weeps and weakens the leadership, thus creating a circle of impotence, submission, and humiliation. Who asked Moshe Dayan to concede the Temple Mount? The leadership weakened the people with false claims, and now declare that the people are unwilling to fight valiantly for their sacred ideals and values, and those who are willing to fight for the sanctity of the nation and the Land, are accused by senior officers of nationalism reminiscent of the Nazis! By the grace of God, thanks to the loyalty of many citizens and the army to their normal feelings towards national honor and sacred values, and the evil and wickedness of our enemies, in spite of our weak and tired leadership, we are able to endure, and even advance in the settlement of the Land.

The Temple: The Focal Point of ‘Tikkun

The immense test facing us is strengthening our sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and placing our aspiration of establishing the Temple, speedily in our days, at the top of the national agenda. For many generations, our forefathers and mothers suffered the terrible agonies of exile in order to preserve the embers of faith in the redemption of Israel and the building of the Temple, so we could fulfill the words of the prophet: “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

The Struggle over the Temple Mount

Our weak political and defense leadership does not understand why the Arabs accuse us of wanting to change the disgraceful situation on the Temple Mount. They forgot our oath to Jerusalem and the Temple, but the Jewish people’s entire existence expresses this oath. Our enemies understand this, and as a result, they fight against any trace of Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount. The Arabs and Muslims from their side, don’t care about the sanctity of the Temple Mount. For hundreds of years, when Jews did not attempt to ascend the Temple Mount, they neglected the mountain. They built their grand and magnificent mosques in other places. Even during the 19 years of Jordanian rule on the Temple Mount, the masses did not come to pray there. Only because they know that the Temple Mount is the site of Israel’s Temple, have they begun in recent years to take control of the Temple Mount, and turn it into a hotbed of hostility towards the people of Israel.

The Sanctity of the ‘Clal‘ and the Holy Temple

The Holy Temple reveals the sanctity of the ‘clal‘ (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future), the vision of connecting Heaven and Earth, and the revelation of Divine values ​​in all spheres of life. Adjacent to the Temple sat the Sanhedrin, which established Torah law in Israel, and sanctified the times and the festivals.

It is forbidden to think of the Temple as a building designed to uplift the lives of private individuals. Consequently, it is forbidden for private individuals to initiate its’ construction with their own money, and even a public ‘korban‘ (sacrifice) is forbidden to be purchased with the money of a private individual. Rather, the Holy Temple is the place of revelation of the Divine Presence, and the holiness of ‘Clal Yisrael’. Without the clear aspiration for the establishment of the Temple, all the virtues of the Torah and mitzvot are annulled, since the Torah and mitzvot were given to ‘Clal Yisrael’ in order to perfect the entire world, and not to righteous individuals. Therefore, all of Israel’s prayers are directed towards the building of the Temple. Even the ‘melakhot’ of Shabbat (productive work of the type prohibited on Shabbat) were learned from the work of the ‘Mishkan‘ (Tabernacle) and the ‘Mikdash’ (Temple), because the source of the revelation of ‘kodesh‘ (holiness) emanates from the Holy Temple.

Therefore, the preparations for the building of the Holy Temple are preparations for the building of the holiness of ‘Clal Yisrael’: spiritually – through the study of Torah, in order to illuminate and perfect the nation and the world in all spheres of life, and to assign a respectable place in Israeli society for the values ​​of the ‘kodesh‘ (holiness) and ‘mussar’ (morality). And in practical terms – the strengthening of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and placing the challenge of building the Temple speedily in our days at the top of the national agenda. This is what one should contemplate during these days, when we mourn and fast for the destruction of the Temple.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

The Laws of Immersion of Utensils

Immersion of an ordinary, mundane utensil intended for temporal purposes alone, elevates and designates towards eating for the sake of ‘tikkun olam’ * Metal and glass vessels require immersion, ceramic and wood vessels are exempt * If the central component of the vessel is made of metal or glass – the entire vessel must be immersed * Only a vessel that comes into contact with food when it is edible requires immersion * Regarding the need for immersion of a can or a jar whose contents of food are finished and one wants to turn it into a vessel, there are differing opinions, and one can be lenient * One can be lenient and not immerse electrical appliances; however, when possible, it is correct to be stringent, and immerse them

Immersion of Vessels that Come from a Non-Jew

It is a mitzvah for a Jew who buys or acquires a food utensil made of metal or glass from a non-Jew to immerse it in a mikveh in order to purify it, comparable to a ger (convert) who is required to immerse in a mikveh upon conversion. Vessels produced in a factory belonging to a non-Jew must also be immersed, as stated in this week’s Torah portion: “This is the rule that God commanded Moses: As far as the gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead are concerned… need only be immersed in a mikveh” (Numbers 31:21-23).

The Meaning of the Mitzvah

The purpose of immersion is to elevate the utensil from the level of a vessel intended for arbitrary eating – accompanied by lust and human weakness – to the level of a utensil designed to provide vitality, faith and joy to those using them, so they can connect the temporal life of this world to values ​​of netzach (eternity), and the vision of ‘tikkun olam’ (perfection of the world). Thus, the impurity in the vessel is actually the impurity of arbitrary eating intended to sustain man during his time in this world, whereas the purification is to refine man’s eating, and to connect it to the values ​​of eternity and the vision of ‘tikkun olam.’

The Requirement – Metal and Glass Utensils

The vessels that are Biblically required to be immersed are utensils made of metal, such as gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead, as detailed in the Torah. Our Sages added and enacted that glass vessels must also be immersed, because of the similarity between glass and metal, for just as metal can be melted and reconstructed, so too, glass vessels can be melted and reconstructed (Avodah Zarah 75b).

But utensils from other materials, such as earthenware, porcelain, ceramics, stone and wood, are exempt from immersion. Enamel and Teflon vessels which are mainly made of metal, require immersion with a bracha (blessing) even though they are coated with materials that may be exempt, since the coating is of secondary importance to the vessel.

Although plastic vessels can also be melted, similar to glass, and consequently, some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) are machmir (stringent) in regards to plastic vessels (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 3:76-78), the opinion of the vast majority of the halakhic authorities is that they are exempt from immersion, for the enactment cannot be applied to glass-like vessels.

A Vessel made of Glass and Pottery

Corelle plates and the like, since their composition is hard and dense like glass, and not airy and rough as earthenware, require immersion with a blessing.

Utensils mainly composed of earthenware coated with glass, even and hard on all sides, require immersion with a blessing. If their glass coating is thin and indistinguishable, it is negligible in relation to the earthenware, and is considered as porcelain vessels that are exempt from immersion. A ceramic pot requires immersion, because its materials are metal and glass.

A Utensil Made of Metal and Plastic

A metal pot with plastic handles, and a knife with a wooden handle, require immersion. The entire utensil should be immersed, including the part made of material that does not require immersion. This is the general rule: as long as the central component of the utensil that comes into contact with food is made of metal or glass – the entire vessel requires immersion.

Which Eating Utensils Require Immersion

The utensils that require immersion are utensils that are used for eating and drinking, such as plates, glasses, cutlery, and serving dishes such as bowls, jars, and trays. Also, utensils used to make food in, such as pots and pans and their covers, frying pans, baking molds, skewers and grills. But burners or an electric plate (platta) do not require immersion, since pots are placed on them, and not food. And although occasionally people roast eggplant on the burner, and sometimes challahs are heated on the platta, since they are mainly intended for the pots, they do not require immersion. A baking pan usually used with baking paper requires immersion, since the baking paper is of secondary importance, and is not considered as a buffer between the pan and the food.

Utensils that come in contact with food but are intended for the food’s preparation in stages previous to the food becoming edible, are exempt from immersion. For example, knives intended only for slaughtering, or skin stripping, as well as vessels used to make dough. This is the general rule: all vessels that come into direct contact with food at the stage when it is edible, require immersion (S.A. 120:4-5).

Grater, Peeler and Nut Cracker

A grater, peeler, garlic and spice mortar, egg slicer, tea strainer, and a nut cracker require immersion since they come in direct contact with the food. But corkscrews and can-openers not intended to come into contact with food, are exempt from immersion. Vessels intended for storing foods in the kitchen, such as a sugar or coffee jar, require immersion, but if wrapped foods such as wrapped candies or tea bags are placed in them, they do not require immersion.

Disposable Utensils

Disposable utensils, such as aluminum baking pans, are not considered vessels, and do not require immersion. And even if one decides to use the baking pan several times, this does not alter its nature, because it is intended for one-time use, and is therefore exempt from immersion.

Food Cans and Jars

Metal cans and glass jars that are sold with foods and drinks in them, such as instant coffee in a metal can, jams in glass jars, and drinks in glass bottles – since people are accustomed to throw them out when empty, they are considered disposable utensils and do not require immersion.

However, a doubt arose as to someone who wants to continue using them. Some say they require immersion, because by deciding to use them on a regular basis, they have become actual vessels, and since they were made by a non-Jew, they require immersion (Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata 9:12; Oz Nidbru 7:71). Others are lenient, and are of the opinion that when the vessels were made they were intended to be disposable, and if a Jew bought them, they were exempt from immersion; since it was the Jew who turned it into a vessel by deciding to use it regularly, they are exempt from immersion (Tzitz Eliezer 8:26; Ohr L’Tzion 1:24; Rav Eliyahu). In practice, one who wants to act leniently and not immerse them is permitted, all the more so when it comes to glass vessels, whose level of obligation is based on ‘divrei Chachamim‘ (rabbinic status).

Electric Utensils that are Liable to Get Damaged

A considerable question arose about electrical appliances intended for preparing food and come into direct contact with it, such as an electric kettle, a bread toaster or a sandwich maker, where there is fear that immersion will damage them. Indeed, with simple electrical appliances there is almost no danger of damage, provided that after immersion they are left for a significant amount of time until they dry completely; however, with delicate electrical appliances, such as appliances with an electronic display, there is reasonable concern they will be damaged due to immersion.

Some poskim say that electric appliances are exempt from immersion because they are used by connecting them to a wall outlet for electricity, and we have a general rule that anything connected to the ground does not receive impurity, and therefore, there is no need for immersion. And even if the appliance is sometimes powered by batteries, we go according to the way it is operated the majority of time, i.e., connected to the ground. Other poskim added additional reasons to be lenient (Chelkat Yaacov, Y.D. 41:43; Beit Avi 1: 114; Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul; Tefilla L’Moshe, 5:25; Siach Nachum 49:5; Rabbi Genzel, Techumin 27).

Others are of the opinion that electrical appliances must be immersed (Minchat Yitzchak 2:72; Shevet HaLevi 2:57; Mishneh Hilchot 9: 162; Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv ‘Kovetz Teshuvot’ 1:3).h

In Practice

In practice, those who wish to rely on the lenient opinion may do so because it seems more logical, for electrical appliances are completely different types of utensils than those we were commanded to immerse, and can be defined as a type of machine. All the more so when they cannot be immersed without being damaged, for it is impossible to make a vessel fit by means of immersion in a way that after immersion, it will be damaged. This, in addition to the fact that the prohibition against using a vessel that has not been immersed is from divrei Chachamim.

Nevertheless, since in the opinion of many poskim immersion is required, and the foundation of the mitzvah is from the Torah, when possible, it is correct to take into account the stringent opinion and immerse the appliances without reciting a blessing, or to find another solution to absolve them from immersion. Therefore, for an appliance that is highly unlikely to be damaged, such as a simple electric kettle, it is correct to immerse it and wait at least a day until it dries completely, so it will not be damaged when operated.

Suggestions for Appliances that are Liable to be Damaged

Regarding an appliance that if immersed, there is reasonable concern it will get damaged, two suggestions were proposed: 1) to give it to a Jewish handyman, to thoroughly dismantle the part that comes in contact with food to the point where it is no longer considered an appliance, and assemble it anew. Thus, the appliance will be considered as a utensil made by a Jew, which is exempt from immersion. However, when it is impossible to dismantle the part that comes in contact with food, dismantling the power cord connected to the appliance is of no benefit. 2) To give the appliance to a non-Jew as a gift, and ask to borrow it from him for an unlimited time. Since the appliance belongs to the non-Jew, and the Jew does not wish to buy it for himself, it can be used indefinitely without immersion.

Utensils Obligated to be Immersed

This is all in regards to parts that are actually connected to the electric appliance, but baking trays inserted inside an electric oven require immersion with a blessing, because they are not considered electric utensils, since they are not connected to the oven, but only placed in it, and occasionally they are also used as a utensil for serving food baked on them. The same holds true for blades of a blender and a food mixer, where the parts that come into contact with food and is made of metal or glass disassembles from the electrical part, and consequently, should be immersed alone with a blessing.

May a Minor Immerse Utensils?

A young boy or girl who has not reached the age Bar or Bat mitzvah are allowed to immerse utensils and recite a blessing before immersing them, but because they have not reached the age of obligation of mitzvot, they are not authorized to testify that the vessels were immersed according to halakha. Therefore, only if an adult attests that the vessels were properly immersed, is it permissible to use the vessels that were immersed. And if a child was sent to immerse utensils and there was no adult there to testify, the utensils he immersed should be re-immersed with a blessing. If the child is known to be reliable, the utensils should be re-immersed without a blessing (S.A. 120:14).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

Six Hours between Meat and Milk – Children Also?

How the different customs of waiting between meat and milk was established – six hours, one hour, and three hours * Today, when clocks are used to tell time, ideally, the six hours waiting period must be accurate * Infants do not have to wait between meat and milk – only their mouth’s should be cleansed * For young children before the age of education, it is preferable to wait an hour * Upon reaching the age of education, it is preferable to wait three hours, and later on in age, six hours for those whom this is their custom * The definitions are not clear cut, because the mitzvah of education depends on the nature of the child, parents, and other factors * According to halakha, after eating yellow cheese there is no need to wait

Q: Should we be strict with children who have reached the age of education, not to eat dairy products within six hours of eating meat, even when this may disrupt the dinner-time schedule – a meal usually based on dairy products?

Eating Milk after Meat

First, I will explain the halakha, and afterwards, discuss how it applies to young children. Our Sages forbade eating dairy foods after eating meat, lest a particle of meat or its taste remained in one’s mouth, and as a result, meat and milk would be eaten together. Regarding this, Mar Ukva, one of the early Amoraim, (the Jewish Torah scholars of the period from about 200 to 500 CE, who “said” or “told over” the teachings of the Oral Torah), said: “I am as vinegar is to wine”; in other words, his father was strict, and would wait twenty-four hours between eating meat and dairy, whereas he would wait only until the following meal (Chulin 105a).
Most of the Rishonim (the leading rabbis and Jewish law arbiters who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries) learned from this that it is necessary to wait six hours between eating meat and milk, since in the past, when it was customary to eat two meals a day, this was the shortest interval of time between two meals. This is the practice of all the Sephardic Jews, and most of Ashkenazic Jews (S. A. and Rama 81:1). Some eminent Ashkenazi poskim (Jewish law arbiters) believe that the main thing is not to eat meat and then milk in the same meal, but rather, first to finish eating meat, to wait an hour, and then it is permissible to eat milk. This is the custom of some Ashkenazim (Tosafot, Rav’ya, Rama). And there are some families in Western Europe who in principle accepted the opinion of most of the Rishonim that one should wait between eating meat and milk the amount of time between one meal and another, but since today the custom is to eat three meals a day, the shortest interval of time between meals is approximately three hours; therefore, they would wait three hours between eating meat and milk (see, Darchei Teshuva 89:6).

There were some eminent Achronim in Ashkenaz who encouraged everyone to wait six hours after eating meat, until about one hundred and fifty years ago this custom became binding in Eastern Europe, as written in the book ‘Arukh HaShulchan’: “It is the common practice in all of the Diaspora to wait six hours and God forbid to change this, and one who does is in the category of ‘ha’poretz geder’ (one who breaks down Rabbinic ‘fences’, and as a result, deserves to be bitten by a snake) (89:7).” Nevertheless, since it is appropriate to highly respect Jewish customs founded by eminent Torah scholars, those whose family minhag is to wait an hour, or three hours, should not be encouraged to change their custom.

Six Complete Hours

In any event, the custom of all Sephardim and most Ashkenazim is to be strict to keep six hours, however some poskim believe that this does not mean six complete hours, since in the times of the Rishonim there were no clocks to calculate six hours exactly; consequently, the meaning is approximately six hours, and anything over five hours (Siach Nachum 46), or five and a half hours (see, Yibiyah Omer I, Y.D. 4), is permissible to eat milk. However, in the opinion of many of the Rishonim, it is obligatory to be meticulous that six complete hours have passed, and this was codified in the Shulchan Arukh (89:1). And perhaps since watches have become commonplace and most people determine their time of day precisely, the separation of meat and milk should also be done accurately, and therefore, the six hours should be six whole hours.
Moreover, when the time of waiting six hours was set, it was determined by the shortest interval between two meals, when in practice, the majority of people waited seven or eight hours.

‘Be’shat ha’tzorech’ (when necessary) one can be lenient after five and a half hours; when the need is even greater, it is possible to be lenient after five hours-plus have passed. Those who are scrupulous (‘mehedrim’) are stringent to always wait six whole hours. In a case of doubt whether or not six hours have passed after eating meat, even those who are ‘mehedrim’ can be lenient and eat dairy.

After a Meat Dish

One who eats food that was cooked with meat, although he did not actually eat the meat, and therefore, according to the letter of the law, does not have to wait six hours, since whatever he did eat had a noticeable taste of meat, the minhag is to be stringent and wait six hours before eating dairy. However, if one ate food that is ‘be-chezkat basari’ but has no meat taste, even though it is forbidden to be eaten together with dairy foods, after having eaten it, one can eat dairy foods immediately.

General Rules in the Laws of Educating Young Children

There are some basic rules in the education of children: 1) it is forbidden to feed, even a newborn baby, prohibited food. 2) It is a mitzvah to educate children to wait between eating meat and milk, and the mitzvah to educate them to do so is when they understand the commandment, and are able to calculate the hours that one must wait between meat and milk. 3) A food that is intrinsically kosher, but is temporarily forbidden to be eaten because not enough time has passed, is not included in the prohibition if children find it difficult to wait, and therefore, we do not educate young children (six and seven-year-old’s) to fast for a number of hours on Yom Kippur. 4) As far as education of young children is concerned, in ​​times of need, it is possible to rely on lenient opinions. In line with these rules, I will clarify the progression of educating towards keeping the interval between eating meat and milk.

Infants

Infants who do not yet understand the difference between meat and milk are allowed to be fed milk after meat, provided their mouths and hands are cleaned from the remains of the meat, so as not to feed them meat and milk together.

When the toddlers begin to understand the difference between meat and milk, but have not yet reached the age when they can calculate the hours – approximately between the ages of three and five – it is correct that, when possible, they should wait about an hour between meat and milk. When necessary to feed them milk so they can fall asleep, or to avoid crying, their mouths and hands can be washed, and then fed milk without waiting for an hour.

Children from the Age of Education

Once the child reaches the age of ‘chinuch‘ (education to mitzvoth), around the age of five or six, one should start to train them to wait between eating meat and milk. And since often the time for their next meal is less than six hours after having eaten meat, it is sufficient to accustom them to wait for approximately three hours, the shortest interval of time customary to wait between two meals.

Once they reach the age of nine or ten, since they already know how to calculate the hours and can wait longer between meals, it is correct to accustom them to wait for approximately six hours. And when necessary, such as when they eat with their younger siblings and it is difficult to feed them afterwards, they may wait only three hours between meals. Similarly, at a birthday party when it is difficult for them to resist eating dairy foods, they can be lenient after waiting three hours. The closer they get to the age of mitzvot, the more they should be trained to keep six hours.

Education: Gradually, and with Flexibility

A person reading this should not be surprised that the halakha pertaining to education is not cut and clear, for in truth, this is the mitzvah of education – to teach a young child to progress gradually over the years until he keeps six hours (the custom of the majority of Jews). And since this is a process that depends on many factors, this halacha has a general intention which must be acted upon with flexibility according to the situation. Therefore, aside from consideration of a child’s age, one must take into consideration the physical and mental state of the child, for a healthy child cannot be compared to one who is weakly, and a brave child cannot be compared to a spoiled child. In addition, the mitzva of education depends on the nature of the parents: every parent is commanded to educate according to their character – some parents tend to be strict, while others are lenient – and we cannot demand from someone who is similar in character to Shamai, to behave like Hillel, and vice-versa. Education also depends upon how a household is organized: if a family has small children, mealtimes are closer, and there is more need to be lenient. Therefore, it is impossible to set clear boundaries, but rather basic guidelines alone, and consequently, the halakha is expressed by words such as “correct” and “proper”. Correspondingly, we find that most of the poskim as well gave general guidelines; among those who tried to give detailed advice, diverse and contrary guidance was presented, mainly due to differences in lifestyles.

Waiting after Eating Yellow Cheese

Q: Is someone who ate yellow cheese permitted to eat meat afterwards?

A: Some of the eminent Rishonim in Ashkenaz were strict to wait between eating hard cheese and meat, similar to waiting between eating meat and milk, because the taste of this type of cheese is strong and lasting – no less than a meat dish, and just as we are strict to wait after a meat dish, one must wait after eating hard cheese. However, these rabbis instructed to do so according to their custom of waiting an hour after eating meat, and consequently, they instructed to wait an hour after eating hard cheese. But since many people in Ashkenaz waited six hours between meat and milk, there were those who were strict to also wait six hours between eating hard cheese and meat.

Indeed, the hard cheese they referred to was a cheese that had been prepared for six months, or had been prepared for less time, but had been hardened by means of worms and molds that produced a ferment greatly strengthening its taste. And there were some poskim who went further, and were strict in regards to all hard cheese, even if it was prepared in only a few days, like yellow cheese, lest pieces of it get stuck in one’s teeth.

However, in practice, the halakha goes according to the majority of poskim, and it is not obligatory to wait after eating hard or yellow cheese more than regular cheese. One who wants to eat meat after eating regular or yellow cheese, has to cleanse and rinse his mouth, by eating a hard food such as bread, and drinking water or some other beverage, or by brushing his teeth to remove any remaining milk from his mouth. And those who wish to enhance the mitzvah, wait an hour between eating hard cheese and meat.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

A Unique Nation Indeed

The Prime Minister of India represents the great number of people in the world who are in awe of Israel * In the West, Israel is repressed; but in the East, Israel is constantly taken notice of * Israeli academics are perplexed when asked what the secret of Israel’s success is, and whether it is related to the study of the Gemara * Jew’s success is not dependent on any specific study, rather, the inner quality of striving for limitlessness * The Left’s outlook that there is no essential difference between nations has Jewish roots, but precisely from the principle of freedom, the uniqueness of each nation is achieved * Our task is to connect inner faith with its realization in ‘tikun olam’, in all spheres of life

The ‘Segula‘ of Israel

Many people find it difficult to accept the fact that the Jewish people are an ‘am segula’ (a unique nation). Anti-Semites throughout the ages rose up against this. In this week’s Torah portion as well, we learn about the wicked Balaam who denied the uniqueness of Israel, until God turned his curses into blessings, and against his will, became one of the central spokesmen regarding Israel’s specialness. In our times, people devoted to an egalitarian, humanistic outlook – which is the prevailing view in academia and the media today – rebel against the uniqueness of Israel.

On the other hand, many people in the world believe that there is something wondrous about the Jewish people. They are amazed at the successes of the State of Israel despite the constant need to deal with numerous violent enemies, which recently, the world has been forced to deal with – Islamic terrorism. An impressive expression of this fondness was given this week by the visit of a friend of Israel, Indian Prime Minister Nerandra Modi. The largest democracy in the world, a country with the second largest in population (about one billion, two hundred and seventy million), which is in the process of accelerated economic growth, to the point where it is estimated that in 20 years, India’s economy will be the largest in the world. In an interview with the ‘Yisrael Hayom’ newspaper, he said: “I share the view of many of my fellow citizens about Israel. In India, Israel is perceived as a technological powerhouse, and a country that has braved many odds. Many tech-based inventions have their roots in Israeli universities and laboratories and have benefited humankind. These include articles ranging from USB flash drives to cherry tomatoes. The way you transformed yourself from being a water-deficient country to a water-surplus country; the manner in which you made your deserts bloom, are all amazing accomplishments. All these images have made a deep imprint on my mind.”

In the West, Israel’s Uniqueness is Repressed

In Western countries, however, it is difficult to speak about Jew’s special talents, because it raises up from the abyss of collective memory, the diabolical myths that Christianity had attached to Jews, and is liable to arouse strong anti-Semitism once more. Consequently, many people prefer not to even mention the term “Jews” but rather to talk about “individuals”, of whom, many of the very successful in various fields happen to be of Jewish origin. This position is greatly strengthened by the dominant leftist ideology in academia and the media, according to which there is no essential difference between nations, and the improvement of society is dependent on individuals believing in absolute equality between people, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Consequently, the talk about the uniqueness of the People of Israel infuriates a leftist, as it constitutes a barrier between humanity and ‘tikun olam’ (repair of the world).

Visitors from the East are Amazed

But people from Eastern countries, who are immune to the complexities of the past, tend to look more objectively at the Jews and the State of Israel, and many of them are amazed and interested in learning the wonderful secret inherent in the success of the Jewish people. They come to visit Israel in order to learn from our scientists what the secret of the Jewish mind is. I will attempt to describe these encounters as I have understood from conversations of Israeli professors who welcome guests from the East.

The Embarrassment of Israeli Academics

First of all, many of our academics have no answer, and are embarrassed. Being deeply rooted in Western culture and leftist perceptions, they are unable to speak about the Jewish people as an “am segula,” and find it difficult to agree that the Jewish nation has a unique essence. On the other hand, happy about the honor that has befallen them, try to find a reasonable answer that will satisfy their distinguished guests.

Thus, they reiterate to the guests the fundamentals of modern education, and explain that the secret lies in the “ability to ask questions” and “cast doubt” – to the point where Judaism is essentially depicted as a “culture of controversy.” To the guests this sounds inadequate since all of the world’s intellectuals say the same thing, and yet, the Jews are more successful. Puzzled, they wonder whether the secret is connected to the study of the Talmud over which Jews are known to split hairs, without realizing that the Jews standing before them are of the type called “chiloni” (secular), and many of them do not even know how to learn a page of ‘Gemara‘. The guests suspect that indeed, the secret of success lies in the Talmud, but that the lecturers prefer to hide it. When the guests are prominent people, such as ministers of education and science, they sometimes ask explicitly to include in the framework of their visit to Israel a trip to a yeshiva and Talmud Torah where they study “Talmud- Gemara“, in order to truly crack the secret of the Jewish mind.

Even for religious Jews it’s hard to understand. On the one hand, the study of the ‘Gemara‘ indeed develops the mind, but on the other hand, in recent generations most of the Jews who were famous as pioneers in the fields of natural and social sciences did not study the Talmud.

The Secret of Israel’s Uniqueness

In truth, the great achievements of the Jewish people are not the result of learning ‘Gemara‘, or the ability to ask and question. These are very effective tools, but the matter has to do with the Jewish trait of endlessly striving for ‘tikun olam’, to perfect the world in all spheres of life. For those who find it difficult to accept essential differences connected to the soul, Judaism can be explained as a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo, and constantly encourages thinking and creativity for improvement. Therefore, even a Jew whose family did not observe the mitzvot and did not study Talmud, as long as this Jewish culture is alive in his family, he is stimulated from childhood to believe that more can be achieved in all areas. This striving is also expressed in internal unrest and in various psychological disorders (obsessions, anxieties, insomnia) in which Jews excel. Occasionally this striving causes Jews to reject and act brazenly towards sacred ideals that most people believe in, and in the extreme, can evidence itself in revolutionism and constant subversion. This is one of the motives for anti-Semitism. Anyone whose worldview permits him to accept essential differences, realizes that all this stems from the unique soul that God gave to Israel – this is the ‘segula of Israel’.

The leftist worldview stems from the concept of ‘achdut‘ (unity), which seeks to abolish the frameworks that divide people, and remove the external barriers that separate between the ideal and reality. Therefore, it possesses an ideal Jewish element, but it conflicts with the principle of freedom, which imparts unique value to the special distinctiveness of each person, nation, and gender.

Endless Striving for Kindness and Truth

When our forefather Avraham invited guests to his home, he did not do it because he was commanded, or because he hoped for a nice reward, but because that is what he wanted most of all. Thus, we find our forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak engaged in the digging of wells, Yaacov rolled the stone over the top of the well, because from the well water would be drawn for all. Our forefather Yaakov also worked diligently and faithfully in grazing the sheep, even when it was not for his own needs and profits – in order to add prosperity to the world through food, and woolen clothing. And Yosef the Tzaddik (righteous), although he could have been bitter for being sold into slavery, did not lose his vitality, and wherever he went, tried to improve the situation of those around him, up until he saved the Egyptian kingdom from terrible hunger. Similarly, today’s scientists and entrepreneurs, in their actions for the welfare of humanity, are idealists following in the path of the forefathers.

When Moshe left Pharaoh’s palace and saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, even though he realized he was endangering his life, he beat the Egyptian, and saved the slave. As a result, he forfeited his status as prince of Egypt, and was forced to flee to Midian. There too, upon seeing the daughters of Jethro being discriminated against, he could not stand idly by, and risking a confrontation with the local shepherds, fought alone for their right to receive their deserved turn in-line to water their flock from the well.

When Ruth the Moabite decided to join her mother-in-law Naomi on her way back to Bethlehem in the Judean Hills, it was because she could not leave her alone in her terrible sorrow. As a result, her heart was opened to faith in God, converted to Judaism, and became the mother of the kingdom of the House of David.

In a similar manner, our Sages said that three attributes characterize the Jewish people: 1) they are merciful, 2) benevolent, and 3) bashful, in the sense of being God-fearing (Yevamot 79a). If someone does not exhibit these attributes, his Judaism is questionable.

The Foundation of Optimism: ‘Emunah

The endless striving for unity, kindness and truth – which are the perfection (‘tikun‘) and advancement of the world – is connected to belief in God, for Israel are ‘ma’aminim b’nei ma’aminim’ (believers, the children of believers) (Shabbat 97a). True, all human beings have the inherent attribute of ‘emunah’ (faith), however, there was never a nation in the world where so many of its offspring devoted their talents and lives to their belief. This faith is expressed in the fact that Jews are never satisfied with limited truth and good, but always strive to advance towards a more complete understanding. Consequently, the People of Israel were suited to accept the Divine Torah rooted in ‘ein sof’ (infinity) and revealed to the world, in which one can always gain further understanding and ideas, endlessly.

This faith is also a belief that one can perfect and elevate reality to a higher level, since everything possesses a Divine spark which, if revealed, can advance the world. To continue advancing, idolatry must also be renounced, including all the conformities that limit and interfere with the continued pursuit to correct and improve the world.

This faith is the basis for the wonderful optimism of Jews – despite there never having been a people who suffered as much in history, Jews never lost their faith in the possibility of ‘tikun‘. By virtue of this faith, the nation of Israel produced so many innovators of social and scientific ideas, revolutionaries, and entrepreneurs.

The Connection between Faith and its Realization

Unfortunately, in our current situation a crisis exists between faith and Torah study – which are the wellsprings of great ideals – and the realization of the vision of ‘tikun olam’ by members of science and society, and consequently, the vision of Judaism is revealed only partially, and in a fragmented manner. The more aware we become of our special role, the easier it will be to mend the schisms; belief in Hashem, the God of Israel, will be revealed in all spheres of life; the light of Torah will illuminate, guide, and enhance all fields of ethics, science, society, and the economy, and miracles and nature will unite for the glory of the People of Israel, the Land of Israel, and all humanity.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://en.yhb.org.il/

Academic Reserve for ‘Sherut Leumi’

Everyone is meant to realize his talents in order to perfect the world in the kingdom of God as well as women, who can contribute to society and science * Torah, mitzvot, and family life are not meant to be an obstacle for women who wish to advance, but rather a source of blessing * The main obstacle to realizing women’s talents is the period of ‘Sherut Leumi’ (National Service) * The solution: academic studies should precede ‘Sherut Leumi’, followed by a period of contribution to the community in exchange for a reduced salary * An academic reserve program for ‘Sherut Leumi’ will streamline the service, and make it more efficient and professional * The road to realizing the idea will begin in the upcoming school year

The Ideal of Realizing Women’s Talents

The ideal is for every person to realize all his talents for the purpose of ‘tikun olam’ (perfecting the world) in the kingdom of God. In this way, one merits revealing the image of God within him, and becomes a partner with God in the world’s continuation and improvement.

In light of this ideal, this article will deal with the challenge faced by women exhibiting academic talents, including: the building of one’s personality through Torah study in the fields of ‘emunah‘ (faith) and halakha (Jewish law), establishing a praiseworthy family, utilization of talents in the fields of research, development, or profession – each woman in the field that best suits her.

This challenge has emerged in recent generations. Thanks to technological advances, the amount of time and effort required to maintain a family household has decreased and become relatively easy. In addition, because most of the household work no longer depends on physical strength, women can excel in many different fields in which intellectual and inner talents plays a central role. The question is how to fulfill both challenges successfully: on the one hand, the building of ‘emunah‘, Torah, and establishing a praiseworthy family, and on the other hand, utilization of one’s talent for the purpose of developing the sciences, society, and economy in light of the Torah.

Today in Western culture, talented and successful women usually neglect the importance of family. Many of them remain single or marry at a later age, without having children. The more outstanding and successful they are, the higher the percentage is of women without children – not to mention the entire question of Torah and mitzvot, of which they absolve themselves completely.

The Blessing of the Torah Way

We believe that Torah study and observance of mitzvot, along with the establishment of a praiseworthy family, will benefit all fields of science and economy, as we say in the second paragraph of the Sh’ma: “If you are careful to pay heed to my commandments, which I am prescribing to you today, and if you love God your Lord with all your heart and soul, [then God has made this promise]: I will grant the fall and spring rains in your land at their proper time, so that you will have an ample harvest of grain, oil and wine…” (Deuteronomy 11:13-14). The meaning of the words “fall and spring rains in their proper time” that produce the crops of the fields, must be interpreted in each generation according to its concerns (similar to what the ‘Shlelah’ writes about the matter of reward and punishment explained in the Torah.) If so, the “rain” falling from heaven in our generation can be interpreted mainly as the inspiration for development of science, economy, and society. The “grain, oil, and wine” that grow by virtue of this are the food for our sustenance (‘grain’); joy, inspiration, and creativity (‘wine’); and a fulfilling life with prosperity and meaning (‘oil’).

‘Kiddush Hashem’

It is worthwhile adding that Israel’s main ‘Kiddush Hashem’ (sanctification of God) in the eyes of the nations is achieved through the development of science in the light of Torah, and as it is stated: “Safeguard and keep [these rules], since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, ‘This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people'” (Deuteronomy 4:6). For in truth, the words of the Torah themselves are intended for Israel, but the abundant blessing flowing from them to all the sciences is evident to the nations of the world, and as a result, Hashem’s name is sanctified in the world, and humanity is inspired to walk in the ways of Hashem. Likewise, we learned in the Talmud about the value of the study of science: “One who knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary courses, but does not, of him Scripture says, ‘But they regard not the work of the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of his hands’ (Shabbat 45a), and this does not refer only to the wisdom of astronomy, but to all secular wisdom (Maimonides, Maharal, the Vilna Gaon, and others).

How to Combine All of This

The big question is: How can religious women who devote time to Torah, mitzvot, and establishing praiseworthy families, be front-runners of global science while having to contend with the most talented people worldwide, as well as secular Jews in Israel? We believe, however, that when science is learned in conjunction with Torah and family values, it receives blessing, and is of higher quality, profounder, and more beneficial to humanity. All this, provided the students are focused on the goal, and do not waste time.

The Critical Years: Ages 17-22

One of the problems impeding the ability of young Torah-based women to fulfill their academic talents is the period of ‘Sherut Leumi’ (National Service). This usually lasts for a year or two, and sometimes an additional year of study in a ‘Midrasha’ (seminary) during the most critical period of a young woman’s life. While academically outstanding women in Western countries finish their doctorate at the age of 24, in Israel, because of ‘Sherut Leumi’, everything is postponed for several years. Not only the time devoted to ‘Sherut Leumi’ delays, but the very fact that a talented young woman is not required to plan her track of progress continuously from her high school years, hinders her ability to plan rapid progress suitable to her talents. She could have completed her bachelor’s degree at the age of nineteen, but this never even crossed her mind. Thus, young women who excel academically begin thinking about the direction of their development in scholarship only from the age of 20 and above, and because marrying is a greater mitzvah, the brilliant career they could have had is wasted. They will become excellent teachers, perhaps they will be able to advance in academia, but only a very few number of them will succeed in realizing their full potential. And the reason is not because they have to invest time in Torah, mitzvot, and establishing a family – this investment, we believe, brings blessing – rather, mainly because the valuable years between the ages of 17 and 22 were not used optimally, in order to place them on the runway necessary for academic development, and the building of a social status enabling a welcome influence.

Academic Reserves for ‘Sherut Leumi’

The value of volunteering in ‘Sherut Leumi’ is important, and therefore, we are fortunate that the young women of the National-Religious sector do not want to shirk their service. However, in order to realize the grand vision of utilizing one’s talents for the glory of the Torah, the nation, and humanity as a whole, there is a need for an “Atuda Sherut Leumi” (an Academic Reserve for National Service).

In this framework, young women will be able to begin their academic studies immediately after high school, and after the period of study – whether it be at the end of a first, second, or third degree – they will contribute to society in the field they studied, and be paid half of the usual salary for their work. The various sums of money that the state invests in the young women serving in ‘Sherut Leumi’ or in the army, will be given to participants in the ‘Atuda Sherut Leumi’ program, in order to help finance their studies. Such a program will be extremely profitable for the state, both economically and socially.

Additional Benefits of the Program

This program can also solve other problems: it will enable girls who have grown-up in low-income families to soar professionally, for the glory of their family, and country. It will allow girls who, after ‘Sherut Leumi’, are torn between two desires – to marry at an early age, or acquire a quality profession demanding exhaustive studies – to combine the two values ​​together, for already at the age of 21 they will be able to marry while finishing their bachelor degree. From this position they will be able, relatively easily, to pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate.

The Economic Benefits for the State of Israel

Economically as well, the program will benefit the State of Israel, because from a purely economic point of view, women’s army service and ‘Sherut Leumi’ does not pay. It would have been preferable to hire workers to do all the required jobs more efficiently, and eliminate the hidden unemployment that is costing a fortune; and this, in addition to delaying the entry of young women into the educational and work force, which also reduces the GDP by approximately 5% – which is the contribution of women to the country’s economy.

The reason for the continuation of mandatory army service – and consequently ‘Sherut Leumi’ as well – for the entire population, even though it is not economically profitable compared to a professional army, is principled: 1) In order to involve the entire public in contributing to the state. 2) To give expression to the value of equality between men and women.

By way of the ‘Atuda for Sherut Leumi’, each young woman will make a significant and far-reaching contribution to the state, both economically and socially, for in truth, her contribution will be considerably larger if she volunteers in the same hospital as a registered nurse, or a doctor. And a certified teacher will contribute more to a school than a volunteer; and an attorney or an accountant can contribute more to the needy than a volunteer who has not studied the profession. Similarly, a researcher at a university can contribute much more to the advancement of students and research, than on a voluntary basis in which she does not express her full talents.

Achieving the Program

In order to implement the program in the best possible manner, it would be fitting to establish a team within the framework of ‘Sherut Leumi‘ to examine the universities in which it is possible to initiate preferred learning tracks within a suitable atmosphere for religious women from the Torah-based public. This team would choose the preferred professions in terms of their contribution to society, pool all the various budgets intended for the young women participating in ‘Sherut Leumi’ or army service, and determine the method of assistance during their studies – this, in exchange for the period of volunteer work for which they will receive half of the average salary customary for such work. This volunteer work will most probably be performed with great dedication, seeing as the volunteers will be aware that the more they contribute, the more likely they will be accepted for a permanent job.

The greater the number of young women from the Torah-based (Chardal) community and young women from low-income families who are able to realize their talents in meaningful academic studies, the more society as a whole will benefit. In addition to this, it will be a great ‘Kiddush Hashem’ when it becomes apparent to all that loyalty to Torah and mitzvot – including family values – does not impair one’s ability to express her talent in the best possible way, rather, the exact opposite: it enhances the blessing in family, work, and in research – for the glory of Torah, the nation, and the Land.

The Program in Har Bracha

In order to help a little in achieving this vision, a program for young women who excel in academic studies that are interested in ‘Atuda for Sherut Leumi’ will be established next year in Har Bracha. The program will include educational assistance and meaningful Torah study. At the moment, we are working on arranging the program within the various frameworks, and also enlisting public figures who expressed their support for the program. At the same time, young women after their ‘Sherut Leumi’ who excel academically will also be able to join the program.

We hope we will be privileged to see our daughters enlighten the world with their wisdom, out of modesty and holiness, until all those who see them will recognize the Torah’s blessing.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://en.yhb.org.il/

Today’s False Gods

Faith is rooted in man, thus he has always sought ways to express it * Idol worshippers created gods that identified with their base desires, preventing them from advancing morally and ethically * The Torah forbade any belief that restricts or limits God: only the One God who created everything is to be believed in, and He is above and beyond all * Today as well, people still put their trust in things that give them power, such as money and honor, or a variety of ideologies * An ideology that emphasizes one value while denying others, in the end, will cause destruction and be obliterated * Christianity and Islam can remain in the world, provided the pagan elements are removed

Man Seeks Expression of His Faith

All human beings possess the attribute of ‘emunah‘ (faith). The soul in its roots is connected to God, and draws its life from Him; consequently, man naturally believes his life is connected to eternity, and that it holds immense value – far beyond the ordinary routine of his earthly life. Therefore, everywhere humans ever existed, we find they had some type of religion.

In other words, on the basis of faith inherent in man, various human societies create a religion for themselves that provides a concrete framework for their faith, and gives meaning to their lives. Typically, the founders of these religions envisioned the gods in a relatively abstract way, but seeing as abstract ideas are difficult to grasp, they created statues and images that would express the higher forces in a tangible manner.

Since these gods were created from the consciousness of people who wished to give faith expression in their lives, they symbolized all the ideas that people valued, such as life, fertility, power, war, money, love, beauty, and others. As a result, a lethal combination of man’s selfish desires to achieve pleasures and honor and his heart’s sense of faith was created. Instead of faith elevating man, thereby changing his character for the better and improving his ways in order to add good and blessing in the world – ‘avodah zara’ (idol worship) came, attempting to give meaning to the world as it existed, thus blocking the way of true faith in the One God, the Source of all Life, whose purpose is the perfection of the world through the word of God. The faith of idol worshippers became a device designed to glorify man’s desires and pleasures in his existing state, and facilitate the fulfilment of his desires. An idol worshipper does not aspire to improve himself morally, rather, he wishes to satisfy his needs. To do so, he is ready to offer sacrifices, whisper incantations, and perform mystical actions that will help him become wealthy, defeat his enemies, or achieve other goals he desires.

Did People Really Believe Idols were Helpful?

Were the idols helpful? After all, they are merely wood and stone? How could people believe in them? Rather, these gods gave an answer to the question of faith. True, it was a false answer, but people did not have an alternative that gave expression to the faith that was so ingrained in their lives. And seeing as man expressed his faith in the gods, this faith gave him confidence and strengthened his powers to do as he wished – for he wasn’t acting only in his own name, but also in the name of larger and stronger forces than himself, who justified his aspirations and path.

The Mystical Power of Idolatry

Apart from that, many people interpret that just as forces of nature exist in the world that man can harness to his needs, likewise, beyond them exists spiritual forces called angels and demons that activate the forces of nature, and man can incline them to his needs by way of magical actions. In truth, all the spiritual forces that activate the forces of nature were created by God, and derive their existence from Him. However, the idol worshippers chose for themselves specific spiritual forces, connected with them, and were able to activate them for themselves, and thereby gain success. But since they related to the spiritual forces as being detached from their roots, they turned into forces of impurity which, in effect, gave them power for a certain period of time – but eventually, brought about their destruction, because they disconnected them from the Source of Life.

Negation of Defined Beliefs

When the sin of idolatry is committed, i.e., the Divine revelation is diminished into a particular statue or definition of a specific image both faith and consciousness remain limited, and consequently, it is impossible to truly rise above and beyond the finite realm of life, and faith cannot receive true expression. Since it is a narrowly defined idol, it arouses increasingly difficult questions, until the point where one is forced to disavow it. However, given that one is seeking faith, he will attempt to find a new idol to believe in. But because it is an idol as well, he will once again be disappointed, and reject it. Thus, humankind oscillates between faith and heresy, without finding rest for the soul.

Therefore, the Torah forbade making statues and pictures to describe faith. Additionally, it is also forbidden to define God with any intellectual or ethical-moral definitions, because each definition empowers one value over the others, and consequently, fails to express God’s limitlessness, which is above and beyond all restrictions and ethical definitions. A defined faith arouses questions about all the values ​​that are not included in it, and consequently, man is placed once again in the grueling turmoil between belief in idols, and heresy.

Only by the total negation of all idolatry can one reach faith in the One God who created everything, but He himself is beyond definition. Such a pure faith does not raise questions leading to heresy, motivates man to constantly progress and ascend in the ways of God, and enables the Jewish nation to accept the Torah and mitzvot, through which they can adhere to God’s ways and add life, until the world is perfected in the kingdom of God.

Idolatry Today

Over time, in a gradual process, the Jewish nation’s struggle against idolatry bore fruit, and many people no longer believe in statues; however, belief in different forces still exists, and this is the idolatry of our times. There are two main types of idolatry:

1) People who believe in money, honor, and physical lust: they believe that if they attain money or honor, or satisfy their various desires, they will have a truly good life. These people worship the gods of money, lust, honor, and the like. Such idolatry possess great power, for in the short term, it provides its followers satisfaction and vitality to strive for the realization of their dream, but ultimately, it disappoints. Even if for years such people deceived themselves, thinking they had succeeded in fulfilling their dream, deep down in their hearts, they know that all the achievements they had attained in this transient world had no real value. None of the ordinary, material objects in this world gives real value to their lives, and therefore, cannot offer them real satisfaction either. ‘Kohelet‘ (the Book of Ecclesiastes), written by King Solomon, describes this.

2) Those who believe in a particular ideology: this a higher belief that can give a person greater meaning to life, for it is a belief in values ​​or ideologies that will make the world better and more perfect, such as a belief in the value of love, truth, equality, nationalism, science, democracy, humanism, or feminism. Similar to idolatry, these beliefs also grant their followers vitality and help them succeed for a limited period of time, because they connect them to true values of importance, and acting on their behalf brings to light new forces in life. In the long term, however, such belief also disillusions.

Thus, for example, the believers of communism were sure that the rule of communism would redeem the world. Towards this end, they caused terrible suffering to countless people, until many of them became disillusioned with the agony their idolatry had brought to the world. Likewise, those who put their faith in democracy are certain that the rule of democracy will redeem the world, and to this end, are willing to offer innumerable human sacrifices, until in the end because of the great deal of agony, they come to understand that democracy on its own is also an idolatry that has failed.

The same hold true for all the various, different values: as long as they are not linked to the complete faith in God that includes all values, they are limited and idolatrous, and obstruct the path to complete faith, because they present an alternative that will take a long time until it turns out it will fail. It is important to note that belief in a particular religious leader or politician, even if he is a ‘tzadik’ (a righteous person), is liable to turn into idolatry in the heart of a believer.

Combining the First Two Commandments

Only through the combination of faith in the One God, and denial of all ‘avodah zara’ of a particular faith, ideology or personality, leads to the complete faith that connects man to the source of his life – a faith that includes all values ​​as one, and accepts the Torah’s guidance on how to reveal and combine them harmoniously, in a manner that will bring ‘tikun‘ (perfection) and blessing to man, and the world.

Christianity and Islam

Following the giving of the Torah and the deeds of Israel in the world, two notable religions arose which were directly influenced by Israel’s faith: Christianity and Islam. In spite of this, they are still in a compromise agreement with idolatry, because the very definition of God as ‘chesed‘ (compassion) in Christianity, or as ‘din‘ (strict judgement) in Islam, is a type of idolatry. In addition, Christianity personified God in the form of man, thereby deviating from pure unity, into a material trinity that restricts the scope of Godly values. For example, it qualifies the value of love, expressing it towards partners to the path, but towards others, it will often turn into terrible cruelty. In Islam, a deep drawback exists, for it reduces Godliness to Divine leadership revealed to a man from above, whose rule must be accepted by its followers with respect and submission, and imposed by force on all mankind. It does not see the great Divine value in human creation in all its components, which is a Divine revelation constantly being revealed by man, who was created in God’s image for this purpose.

Judaism’s Attitude towards the Various Religions

In principle, according to halakha (Jewish law), non-Jews are permitted to establish a religion for themselves that will provide a framework suitable for their unique character – provided it is free of idolatry – by being connected to the pure faith in Hashem that is revealed through the nation of Israel, not to force itself on others, and not to invalidate other values. In other words, the vision of the ‘Geulah‘ (Redemption) does not demand the eradication of the various religions, but rather, the removal of the pagan evil in them, that obstructs the revelation of the complete good, and leads to murderous domination. As it is written: “I will take away their abominable religious practices; then those who survive will become a community of believers in our God” (Zechariah 9: 7).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

Underlying all Arguments: Disdain of the Land

Because the Spies did not love the Land of Israel, they found rational reasons to fear entering it * To this day, all rational considerations are based on a misunderstanding of the value of the Land * Rabbis do not give orders, rather, they engender processes in their students and in this way, build a bond to the country within them * The juxtaposition of settlements versus the needs of citizens is a lie – the settlements of Judea and Samaria are preventing the establishment of a terrorist state * The revelation of holiness in the physical is possible only in the Land of Israel * The settlements are Israel’s genuine ‘victory prize’ against Islam

What was the Actual Sin of the Spies?

Seemingly, the incident of the Sin of the Spies poses a difficulty: what sin did they actually commit? After all, the spies were sent to explore the land, to see whether the people living there were strong or weak, whether the inhabitants of the country were few or many. And behold, according to their best judgment, they concluded that the Canaanites living in the land were aggressive, the land’s cities were large and well-fortified, and if the Israelites were to try and conquer the land, the men would fall by the sword, and the women and children would be sold as slaves. This was their assessment, so what choice did they have – to sit silently and watch while the people of Israel strode to their destruction? They were morally obligated to warn against the danger! And even if the spies and the people erred in judgment, should the punishment have been so severe – to the point where all of them would die in the desert, the Jewish nation’s entry into the land be delayed for forty years, and if their sin was not rectified – on that same day, the two Temples would eventually be destroyed?

No Love, No Effort

The sin of the spies was that they did not understand the value, or love the Land of Israel, and as a result, lacked the desire to enter it, as it is written: “Moreover, they despised the pleasant Land, they did not believe His word” (Psalms 24:24). Consequently, they misjudged and exaggerated the power of the Canaanites facing Israel. For that reason, when Yehoshua and Calev tried to save them, they declared at the outset: “The land is very, very good.” Only afterwards, out of a recognition of the value of the land, did they call upon the people to strengthen their faith in their ability to defeat the Canaanites (Numbers 14: 9).

A person who does not love the land abhors the need to fight for it, and subsequently convinces himself that it is impossible to conquer and settle it, and finds a thousand reasons why. However, the main reason is – he simply does not care about the Land of Israel, and all his reasons are merely excuses. No one is willing to invest time and effort in something he does not value. For example, a person who does not value the importance of university studies will be incapable of finding the inner strength to pursue their completion. Someone who does not appreciate the significance of combat service will not be able to find the inner strength to withstand arduous training, preparing him to be a fighter. One who does not appreciate the value of family life will not be able to find the strength to seal a marriage covenant, and establish a family. Each one will find a thousand realistic reasons why the time is not right to study, to enlist in the army, or to get married, but the real reason is – they simply do not want to.

History Repeats Itself

Today as well, the vast majority of people who want to withdraw from Judea and Samaria do not love the Land of Israel and fail to understand its significance, and thus, do not feel a connection to Judea and Samaria. Even if there were absolutely no security or demographic problems whatsoever in these areas, they would not be willing to make an effort to settle them.

The Influence of Rabbis

We often hear misinformed people who believe that rabbis wield influence by imposing orders upon those who listen to them. However, they are missing the point. True influence does not stem from orders, but from the study of the essential values ​​of life. When parents and rabbis teach the importance of the Land of Israel by way of the weekly Torah portions and the halachot (laws) related to the mitzvah of settling the land, an internal process occurs among the students. They observe every aspect of life from the vantage point of ‘mitzvat yishuv ha’aretz’ (the mitzvah to settle the Land), and as a result, many of them move to the settlements, and numerous others support the settlers. In view of this, it would be advisable for rabbis to conduct a self-analysis: if they see that a large percentage of their students are negligent in the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’, apparently, it is because they have not heard about the significance of the Land of Israel from their rabbis.

The Importance of Praising the Land

In order to inculcate the value of the Land of Israel among the people of Israel, the Torah lavishes her with praises: “The eyes of God your Lord are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12); it is a land with “flowing streams, and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain…a land not lacking anything” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10); and fifteen times the Torah repeats itself, saying it is a land flowing with milk and honey. Our Sages also frequently praised the Land, teaching us that in addition to the mitzvah to settle the Land, one must also understand its’ value, and to love and cherish her. Even the Rambam (Maimonides) in his Code of Jewish law emphasizes the importance of the general sentiment of love towards the Land, writing: “The great Torah scholars would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and embrace her stones, and roll in her dust, as the verse says, “For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:10).

We Have Not Forgotten the People, We are Protecting Them

Occasionally, the ‘yetzer ha’ra’ (the evil inclination) cloaks itself in righteous claims, with arguments such as: “The people of Israel come before the Land of Israel, and you, the settlers, have forgotten the people of Israel.” There are even some “tzadikim” (seemingly righteous people) who condemn the settlers, questioning: “What have you done for the people of Israel?” Are they blind? If not for the settlers, a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would have been established years ago, and all the cities in the Coastal Plain region would have been under attack, and many of them would have been killed and wounded, God forbid. Can the Jewish people be helped more than that? We’re talking about the actual saving of lives! Only due to the fact that we merited loving the land and established settlements throughout Judea and Samaria does Israel still inhabit these holy areas, thus preventing the terrible dangers of the establishment of a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria! Be that as it may, our numbers in Judea and Samaria are only enough to withstand the current pressure, but should it increase, our ability to persevere is uncertain. We are still in need of tens of thousands of families to ensure our existence – for the sake of our nation, and redemption.

Arise, dear brothers and sisters! Come up to the mountains of Judea and Samaria, to settle the wilderness and build the ruined cities. And by virtue of this mitzvah, the Jewish nation will merit bearing sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters – as numerous as the sands of the sea, and the stars of the heavens. There are many houses that remain to be filled, and many houses that can be built; and as more families arrive, additional opportunities will open up for further building.

The Revealing of Faith Depends on the Land of Israel

We will continue explaining the value of the mitzvah to settle the land. Our Sages said: “The mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah” (Sifri, Reah, 53). In halachic terms as well, this is the only mitzvah that in order to fulfill it, lives are endangered, for we were commanded to conquer the Land of Israel, and the Torah does not expect us to rely on miracles (Minchat Chinuch, 425, 604). Not only that, our Sages said: “One who lives outside of the Land is similar to one who worships ‘avodah zara’ (idols)” (Ketubot 110b). Seemingly, this is difficult: why is a person who lives outside of the Land of Israel considered an idolater?

The answer is that the fundamental sin of idolatry is that it divides and separates the world into different spheres, each belonging to separate forces and gods. The greatest separation existing in the world is the separation between spirituality and materialism, the soul and body, which is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a separation between good and evil. Since outside the Land of Israel a Jew can reveal holiness only in spirituality, alongside a certain alienation towards nature, it seems as if the word of God is revealed only in the spiritual realm; there can be no graver violation of Israel’s faith than when it appears as if the material realm in its entirety exists without Divine inspiration, and even in opposition to it. Therefore, a person who lives outside of the Land of Israel where faith is revealed in spiritual life alone, is considered as if he worships idols.

In contrast, the uniqueness of the Land of Israel is that it is ‘Eretz HaKodesh‘ (the Holy Land), where the word of God can be revealed in its’ physical realm as well. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to settle the Land, to build houses, and to plant trees. For that reason, Israel’s unified faith is revealed specifically in the Land of Israel.

The Situation of Jews Outside of the Land of Israel

Q: Is it categorically impossible to reveal holiness in the material realm of life in ‘Chutz L’Aretz’ (outside of the Land of Israel)?

A: It would seem that presumably, holiness can be revealed in the material side of life in ‘Chutz L’Aretz’, but in practice, this is not possible. Ostensibly, it was a positive achievement for Jews to develop the sciences of physics and chemistry for the benefit of mankind, and develop banking systems, and build railway tracks for the benefit of all. This is exactly what the Jews in Germany did, and the Nazis used their money to finance their government and army, and to wage a murderous world war. On the same railroad tracks that Baron Hirsch laid, Jews were transported to be slaughtered with gases developed by the discoveries of Jewish scientists. Similar “achievements” occurred in the Soviet Union, before that in Spain, and in every country where Jews resided. True, things are a bit more complex, but generally speaking, this is the curse of the exile. Only when Israel reveals the word of God in the Land of Israel is unifying faith revealed in the world, and from out of the Land of Israel, goodness and blessings spread to all nations and countries.

To My Brothers, the Settlers

Once again we are hearing potentially harmful proposals regarding Israel, and malicious thoughts about the settlements. The interests of countries to get along with the Arab states blinds their vision, and prejudices their opinions against us. The struggle today is not determined by the strength and quantity of weapons – the fact is we have more weapons than our enemies – but nevertheless, we have failed to defeat them. They demanded the release of a thousand terrorists in exchange for one soldier – and got them, despite Israel’s proclaiming for years that it would not give in to such demands. As far as the Arabs are concerned, whoever shows more patience will win, because they are ready to wait for decades or even centuries, whereas the Western mindset is incapable of such perseverance. Consequently, in all the military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, the fact that they survived is considered by them as a victory, and enables them to initiate further armed conflicts. The only thing they see as a loss is the settlements, and the settlers. Jewish attachment to the land is proof that the Jews are more heroic, more determined, more courageous, and more successful. This is the State of Israel’s only ‘victory prize’ which truly deters them. In consequence, enemies of Islam throughout the entire world admire the settlers, and hence, the State of Israel which stands behind them. They understand that the settlers are the clearest expression of the victory of truth, justice, and goodness over the violence and terror of the Muslims.

This is the appropriate moment to encourage and bless the settlers to grow stronger in settlement of the Land of Israel, and not be deterred by external malicious forces, or weaknesses from within.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed