Milk and Meat in World Politics

In accordance with the principle of the prohibition to mix milk with meat, it is also forbidden to mix insignificant matters with important ones, and major and minor considerations * For the communists all ideals ​​were equal; consequently, they rejected important considerations in favor of economic equality alone * In the liberation of South Africa the value of life itself was overridden by the desire to correct discrimination; until today, death and crime run rampant * The I.D.F. Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan, confused the killing of Jews and the killing of Arabs, ignoring the moral disparity between the two people’s attitudes towards murder * The world’s leftists must forgo the relatively easy question of individual rights, in order to save the world from the overall Muslim threat

The Idea Arising from the Prohibition of Mixing Milk and Meat

Last week I began developing the idea arising out of the prohibition of cooking milk and meat, according to which it is forbidden to mix considerations of different magnitudes. I will now attempt to examine the terrible damage this sort of mixing causes the state of affairs of various nations.

In order to understand the matter properly, we must first review some of the uniqueness of this prohibition: meat alone is kosher, milk alone is kosher, but together, they are explicitly and strictly forbidden, for not only is such a mixture forbidden to be eaten, it is also forbidden to cook milk and meat for a non-Jew, and it is forbidden to receive benefit from such a mixture. Our Sages went even further and added a ‘sayag’ (a safeguard, or ‘fence’) to this serious prohibition, and forbade eating milk after having eaten meat. They even went as far as to prohibit a person eating meat to have milk on the table at the same time, or vice versa, lest he forget and eat them together. We see, therefore, that our Sages found it necessary to strongly reinforce the separation of meat and milk.

As I wrote last week, meat is considered a food for adults. Its’ preparation to be eaten is complex and complicated involving ritual slaughter; milk, on the other hand, is basically considered a food for infants, whose preparation and consumption is simple. Meat represents considerable and complex existential considerations, while milk expresses relatively small and simple considerations. Each one of them in its place is good and proper, but a person who mixes them confuses judgment and destroys the moral capacity to examine the world appropriately and work to repair it.

The Left’s Concept of Equality

The major sin of the ideological Left is that it equates and mixes everything together – questions of lesser magnitude about the conditions of individual’s lives, with the big questions about the very existence of life and death. They also equate and mix relatively small questions about salaries and profits, with existential questions about the basic motivation of an individual to initiate and develop.

The first motivation is, of course, positive. There are many problematic injustices in the world – exploiters who earn more than they deserve, and hard-working people who are underpaid. But the attempt to solve all the problems in one formula that equates everyone’s rights and financial status, while doing away with all elements hindering this one-dimensional equality – such as religious faith, personal talents, and free enterprise – is a terribly simplistic solution with disastrous results.

Like in the sin of cooking milk with meat in which everything gets spoiled, also, countries that were ruled by an exceptionally problematic monarchy, received instead a dreadful dictatorship that damaged the lives and basic rights of the individual far beyond what they had previously experienced (similar to the spoilage of meat), and also affected the quality of life of all the residents (spoilage of the milk). This is still occurring in North Korea.

The Experience of Russia and China

For several years in Russia people began realizing that the attempt at communism had led to disastrous harm in their personal lives and rights, yet even upon taking leave of communism , the Russian’s erred by mixing considerations of dissimilar degrees. Instead of first worrying about life itself, preserving governmental and social stability and orderly economic life (in the sense of ‘meat’) and in a gradual and moderate process release more individual rights (in the sense of ‘milk’), they treated everything equally, and created terrible chaos. The result of the early years was appalling: Unemployment soared, all sectors of industrial and agricultural production plummeted, crime ran rampant, millions of children and youth became homeless and began roaming the streets searching for food and alcohol, and the ill failed to receive treatment due to a lack of medicines and medical equipment. Life expectancy dropped by nearly ten years. Although formally the situation of human rights was excellent, life itself was appalling. For more than ten years they have tried to reverse the damage caused by affording full and unchecked rights, and in most areas they have not been able to return to the general standard of living that prevailed in the Soviet Union before its dissolution.

By contrast, in China they also realized that the communist system had failed, but there, they are conducting a gradual process of unchaining the economy and burden of government. Life expectancy is on the rise, the economy is growing, people are not dying of starvation, and law is maintained (in the sense of ‘meat’ being kosher). True, China’s human rights record is awful (in the sense of ‘milk’ being spoiled), but it is in a constant process of moderate improvement, with the objective of developing a leadership that can lead the country to prosperity, freedom and liberty, in accordance with Chinese tradition.

South Africa

An additional example of the terrible consequences of mixing milk with meat can be learned from the experience of South Africa. Undeniably, the discrimination against black people there was awful, and the white regime should have worked vigorously and wisely to improve their situation until they reached complete equality. But it should not have been forgotten that the white government maintained law and order, and provided sustenance and healthcare on a relatively high level for all of the population. Rectifying discrimination is in the sense of ‘milk’, compared with life itself, which is in the sense of ‘meat’.

However leftist groups, with good intentions, provoked fury throughout Western countries to condemn and boycott South Africa. When confronted with the argument that a radical change would hurt the very existence of the organized and responsible regime, in the sense of what our Sages said: “Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people had no fear of it, they would swallow each other alive” (Avodah Zara 4a), they replied: ‘Nothing justifies prejudice and discrimination, and it is the duty of every moral person to fight against them with all their might to change at once and essentially, the legal status of the blacks.’ By doing so, they cooked meat with milk. The abysmal results were summarized by the journalist Adi Garsiel in his column in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, Dec. 12, 2013:

“Every day in South Africa 50 people are murdered. In other words, every three days more people are killed there than in Israel in a year. And even when comparing the statistics by population size (in South Africa there about 53 million inhabitants), the results are gloomy: The murder rate there is 15 times higher than in Israel. In a survey conducted four years ago, 25% of men admitted to having participated in a rape. According to one estimate, there are half a million rapes annually in the country. The AIDS epidemic is rampant there, with approximately 5.5 million residents suffering from the virus, or carriers of it. The unemployment situation is bleak: 28% of the work force in South Africa is unemployed (approximately 50% of young people are out of work). Rampant crime has caused a mass exodus of one million white residents. Many of those who remained, including the country’s Jewish population, live in fortified compounds and secluded neighborhoods.”

“For the past twenty years, life expectancy in South Africa has declined by about 15 years on average. In 1992, the last year of apartheid, life expectancy of the general population stood at 64.5; twenty years later, it stood at 49.5 – the second-to-last place out of more than 220 countries.

Everyone suffered, and still suffer, from the implementation of equality laws in an uncontrolled manner; however, the blacks were hurt more than the whites. First and foremost, life and order should have been maintained in spite all the problems (in the sense of ‘meat’), while at the same time, work to gradually improve the conditions and rights of the blacks (in the sense of ‘milk’).

The Obscene Words of the Deputy Chief of Staff

The remarks of the Deputy Chief of Staff on Holocaust Remembrance Day, according to which he sees developments in Israeli society that are reminiscent of the years before the Holocaust, also violated the mixing of milk with meat. One can criticize various symptoms in Israeli society, but to compare them to Nazi Germany is an appalling crime.

How can one compare, or even find a similarity, between the Nazi beliefs, which called for the need to eradicate an entire people from the face of the earth and subjugate scores of nations, fixed these evil positions in legislation and even mobilized the German people and its cronies to wage war for it –  to the situation of the State of Israel, which has found itself in a battle of survival against the Arab enemy for over a hundred years during which from time-to-time, a minute number of individuals break the law and carry out criminal acts against the Arabs.

Leftists like to equate everything by saying: “Murder, is murder, is murder.” This is not true! There is a difference between murder stemming from a systematic worldview and supported by a broad population, and murder stemming from violent individuals whom all of society condemns.

The Moral Abyss between Israel and the Arabs

The gap between Israeli and Arab society is beyond belief. The accepted leaders amongst the Arabs as being moderate (PA), award payments to families of terrorists and name city squares and streets after them. Key elements in Arab society support parts of the Nazi ideology. The Mufti, who became the role model for them, passionately joined in support of the Nazis and in a meeting with Hitler, may his name be blotted out, requested that when Germany conquered the Land of Israel, the Arabs would be given the right to kill and annihilate all the Jews. By contrast, in Israeli society there is not one group of people that supports the murder of Arabs not within the framework of the army, and a war of defense.

Nevertheless, the Deputy Chief of Staff uttered these slanderous remarks. He is probably used to reading such vile things in the ‘Ha’aretz’ newspaper, to the point where they have become standard for him, without giving thought to their awful meaning, and that’s why he said such despicable things in his speech. Had he understood the severity of what he said, he would have realized the need to apologize and resign, or at the very least, regret and apologize publicly and completely to the Jewish people.

The Left’s Mistake in Relation to Islam

The world is currently facing a severe threat posed by ideological and violent Muslim activism. In order to deal with it properly, we must realize that we are talking about a wide-ranging clash of cultures, which, to a certain extent, necessitates treatment similar to that of rules for times of emergency. In spite of this, leftist intellectuals still equate and mix-up between the overall threat and that of individual crimes, and as a result, attempts to protect the rights of individual Muslims impairs the ability of the West and the moderate forces in Islam to fight and curb extremist Islam, and consequently, the whole lot gets damaged and ruined. Islamic fighters are strengthened by this to continue to sabotage, harm, destroy and demolish, and in the meantime, the living conditions and individual rights in all countries suffer – it begins in Islamic countries, and is spreading with waves of immigration to Western countries, as well.

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

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The Deeper Significance of Milk and Meat

The Torah prohibition of milk and meat is more stringent than other prohibitions * Our Sages added numerous “fences” to the prohibition, seeing as both milk and meat are found in the kitchen, and can be easily mixed * Meat is on a higher spiritual level, heavy, and more complex, whereas milk is simple and uncomplicated * Rabbi Natan of Breslov explains: Different levels should not be mixed – the eminent rabbis should deal with the big questions * Rabbi Kook magnanimously dealt with the issues of our generation; rabbis who opposed him dealt with trivialities and caused damage * Failure to differentiate between considerations of varying magnitudes is expressed in many areas, including Leftist organizations

In recent months, I have been fortunate to study the halakhas of milk and meat and mixtures of the two. This article shares some of the thoughts emerging from this study.

The Severity of the Prohibition of Milk and Meat and its’ Numerous “Fences”

At the outset, it is important to note that the Torah was especially strict about the prohibition of milk and meat, for not only is it forbidden to eat milk and meat that was cooked together, but it is also forbidden to cook milk and meat together for a non-Jew, or to receive benefit from such a mixture.

Our Sages went further and placed numerous ‘sayagim‘ (safeguards, literally fences) for the prohibition of milk and meat.

-The type of meat included in the Biblical prohibition consisted of the flesh of behemot (domestic animals), while our Sages extended the prohibition to also include the meat of chayot (wild animals) and poultry.

-Not only that, they forbade eating milk and meat even without their having been cooked together.

-Furthermore, they also prohibited baking bread with meat or milk products, lest one eat the dairy bread with meat, or vice versa.

-Moreover, they prohibited eating dairy food for six hours after eating meat (according to the majority of poskim).

-What’s more, they determined that when a person eats meat, he should not have dairy food on the table, and when he eats dairy, he should not have meat on the table, lest he forget and eat both of them together.

Reinforcing the Separation of Meat and Milk

Seemingly, one could ask: It is well known that our Sages did not make a gezerah (a decree) on another gezerah. Why, in the case of the prohibition of milk and meat, did they add one gezerah upon another in order to safeguard the Torah prohibition?

When it comes to the prohibition of milk and meat, our Sages were extremely concerned about potential stumbling blocks, because separately, milk and meat are both permitted and are regularly found in the kitchen, and thus, can be easily mixed together. Had our Sages not made one gezerah on top of another, the basic mitzvah would have been breached. Therefore, all the gezerah’s together are considered a single gezerah, designed to reinforce the separation of milk and meat.

The Difference between Milk and Meat

Meat is a heavy type of food with a very significant status, and our attitude towards it is complex and complicated. In order to prepare meat for eating, one must first choose a kosher animal; then one must slaughter it properly according to halakha, check that it is not treif (ritually unfit to be eaten), clean the flesh from blood, milk, and forbidden tendons, and even after the meat is declared kosher, preparing it for eating is arduous, usually involving cooking or grilling it over a fire. Even eating, chewing, and digesting meat is a demanding task.

In contrast, milk is a light and simple food. There is no need for any halakhic process in order to make it kosher for consumption, and drinking it is effortless. Even if cheese or yogurt is made from it, it is still much easier to digest than meat.

Meat is an adult food, whereas milk is for infants. Meat expresses a new stage in life, while milk expresses the growth and development from the previous stage.

Meat originates from a higher spiritual world, and therefore, receives its expression in this world in the form of an actual living animal, and its preparation requires the taking of life by slaughter. In contrast, milk emanates from a lower spiritual world, and its preparation does not involve the taking of life.

The Difference between an Eminent and an Ordinary Rabbi

Rabbi Natan, a disciple of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in Likutei Halachot (Basar v’ Chalav 5) explains that meat is analogous to an eminent rabbi, and milk, to an ordinary rabbi. A person who goes to an ordinary rabbi in order to receive guidance in significant matters, is comparable to one who mixes milk and meat, rendering the entire mixture forbidden for eating or for benefit.

In his words: “For in truth, a person who draws close to an ordinary rabbi, even though he (the ordinary rabbi) is on a much higher level than himself, and in comparison, is considered a tzaddik (a righteous person), nevertheless, not only is the rabbi unable to cure his profound ills, seeing as someone of a lower status cannot heal the enormous ills of the soul – he even causes him great damage. All the more so when the ordinary rabbi is a ‘ba’al machloket (a person of strife), disputing the true tzaddik, who is on an exceedingly higher level… and the ordinary rabbi has no understanding of routes or pathways of drawing Divine knowledge into the world… for he himself has yet to reach even the simplest insights (in these matters), as one sees and understands from his speech and teachings, (when he talks about the big issues, he) says things that even school-children have a better understanding of…” and as a result he stumbles, and leads his followers astray.

Understanding the Difference

In other words, the eminent rabbi is one who understands the entire Torah, sees the big picture of the world, in the sense of ‘Olam Ha’Ba’ (the World to Come), and as a result, is able to tackle the big questions, and also instruct and educate people to find their ‘tikun’ and path in the world. In contrast, an ordinary rabbi knows how to teach Talmud, halakha and ethics, but does not understand the entire picture. His knowledge is in accordance with the limited ‘Olam Ha’zeh’ (the present world), and therefore, is unable to contend with the big questions. After learning the general path from an eminent rabbi, he can be extremely helpful in personal instruction and solving minor problems, but when he tries to solve the big questions with his limited understanding – he causes damage.

This damage is in the sense of a mixture of “milk and meat while cooking, for it is a very significant imperfection, because at that time (while cooking) the meat is intended to reach its final ‘tikun’ (perfection) which is meant to be drawn from a very high spiritual level, but when it is mixed with milk, which is in the sense of ‘life in this world’… which is in the sense of ‘mochin d’katnut d’yenika’ (literally, ‘the mind of a nursing infant’, or figuratively, narrow and immature consciousness), which is when the greatest level of evil is aroused in both of them” (ibid. 5:12).

In other words, providing small answers to big questions causes all the enormous spiritual forces contained within meat to be released in evilness, with the milk as well failing to achieve its ‘tikun’, and instead of arousing humility, gentle growth and development – what emerges is arrogance and zealousness.

Rabbi Kook and His Dissenters

This is exactly what happened to the people of Israel in the last few generations regarding the clarification of major issues that arose in recent times. Rabbis who indeed were exceedingly learned and sharp-witted, but did not attain the great knowledge of God, and the depth of the meaning of existence, attempted to solve the big problems using small ideas and caused enormous harm, in the sense of ‘cooking milk and meat’.

They caused people possessing enormous powers, in the sense of ‘meat’, to distance themselves from the path of Torah in heresy and wickedness, because they failed to find in the Torah any solutions to the major problems, since the rabbis presented them with a “small”, insignificant Torah. On the other hand, they caused those with lesser powers to become arrogant and zealous, and block the way of the true Gedolim from engaging in Torah out of greatness, and bringing perfection and healing to the world.

Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Kook ztz”l, who was the Gadol (most eminent rabbi) in recent generations, engaged in clarifying the big questions while dealing with the essential spiritual issues, and out of this greatness, addressed topics that emerged anew, such as the value of man, society, nationalism, the Land of Israel, science and the economy. Other rabbis dealt with these questions – or some of them – out of an understanding of the magnitude of the task and the need of the generation, but none were like Rabbi Kook, who set forth a complete, profound, and lofty doctrine (the difference between them was somewhat like the difference between the Ari HaKadosh and the rest of the kabbalists in his time).

When ordinary rabbis who had not reached that level attempted to clarify the major issues with ‘mochin d’katnut’ (narrow, or constricted consciousness), while at the same time arousing dissent against Rabbi Kook, they caused immense harm.

This is exactly what happened when ordinary rabbis dealt with questions of human values, nationalism, the Land of Israel, science and parnasa (earning a living) ‘b’katnut’, or in other words, with a narrow understanding. Instead of seeing the magnitude of the Divine light revealed in these issues when dealt with through Torah instruction, they saw in them only problems.

The fundamental attitude towards these values must be determined ‘b’gadlut’ (out of greatness), whereas the practical means of achieving them requires detailed, provisional, and educational considerations.

The Sin of Failing to Differentiate between Matters of Various Proportions

In short, the prohibition of milk and meat comes to teach us that it is forbidden to mix matters of two different orders of magnitude. Every consideration is very import within its own framework, but when mixed – all of them are completely ruined.

For example, the color of one’s furniture and walls of his house are important, and for someone who is sensitive to beauty and form – it is fitting to invest time and thought as to what colors to choose. But if a person who is unemployed is offered a good, challenging, and well-paying job but refuses to accept the job offering because the walls of his intended office are painted bright green instead of light blue – then something is seriously wrong with him.

Similarly, if someone’s shirt-fringe gets torn, it is appropriate to sew it, or buy a new shirt; but if a person’s shirt-fringe gets torn while having to rush someone to the hospital, but nevertheless, he busies himself trying to fix it, or rummages around looking for another shirt – because, how could someone possibly go out with a torn shirt? – it is a sign that he lacks reasonable judgment.

Meat alone is good; milk alone is good; but mixing them together is strictly forbidden.

Leftist Positions – Mixing Matters of Different Magnitudes

In general, it can be said that the positions of the Leftists for generations have been based on comparing matters of different magnitudes, and mixing them together.

Attempting to correct economic injustices between the wealthy and the working class is important and commendable; but when coming to redress problems of minor magnitude by means of damaging substantial, ethical paradigms of a higher degree, involving an individual’s responsibility over his own livelihood and fate – they mix milk with meat, cause serious moral injustices, and cast entire nations into desperate poverty. And the very same manual laborers whom the Leftist activists sought to improve their conditions and integrity, are forced to lose ten years off their lives in shame and wretchedness.

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

*SPECIAL SALE* IN HONOR OF “BOOK WEEK” AT ‘MACHON HAR BRACHA’: UP TO 25% DISCOUNT ON ALL BOOKS ON OUR WEB-SITE, INCLUDING RABBI MELAMED’S “PENINEI HALAKHA” IN HEBREW, ENGLISH, SPANISH, FRENCH, AND RUSSIAN! STARTING FROM JUNE 15th UNTIL JUNE 25th. CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW:
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The Laws of Chag Shavuot

There is a unique mitzvah of joy, both spiritual and physical, on Chag Shavuot* When Shavuot falls on Motzei Shabbat as it does this year, Seudah Shilishit should be eaten earlier, and preparations from Shabbat to Chag are prohibited *
Showering on Shabbat and Chag * When, and how to properly prepare and light the candles for Chag Shavuot * ‘Birkot HaShachar’ for someone who remained awake all night * Eating and drinking during the night of Shavuot and before the morning prayers
* The custom of eating dairy foods as an expression of the sweetness of the Torah, and its ability to turn impure to pure

The Joy of Chag Shavuot – Spiritual and Physical

Chag Shavuot enjoys an exceptional status above and beyond that of other holidays; therefore, even Rabbi Eliezer the eminent Tanna, who is of the opinion that men of virtue should primarily dedicate Yom Tov to Torah study, and eating for them on Yom Tov is only so they are not considered as having afflicted themselves, also agrees that on Shavuot, one must partake in an important festive meal since “it is the day in which the Torah was given” (Pesachim 68b). Nevertheless, the halakha goes according to Rabbi Yehoshua, who holds that on all the holidays there is a mitzvah to divide the day into two – half of the day should be devoted to the Beit HaMidrash (learning hall), and half to festive meals and rest.

The unique virtue of the Torah is that it is designed to instruct the path of undivided emuna (faith), and continue blessing and vitality into all walks of life, both spiritual and physical. Therefore, the joy of Shavuot must be expressed both in Torah study, but also in eating and drinking. This is the complete ‘tikun’ (perfection), which encompasses both the soul and body. At first, the revelation of Divinity through spiritual manifestations from above absorbed by the neshama (soul) which guides the body, and thus, the deep-rooted fabric of the human body and its sensations are revealed. Therefore, complete ‘d’veykute‘ (attachment) to God encompasses both the soul and the body, as will be the case after ‘techiyat ha’meytim’ (the resurrection of the dead), when the soul will return to the body, and Godliness will be revealed completely on all levels.

Therefore, the joy of Shavuot should be greatly enhanced, for through the Torah we are called upon to perfect the material side of life as well in all its diversity, physical sensations, and yearnings — even those which at first glance, appear to be undesirable. This foundation is alluded to in that on Shavuot, the offering of the ‘Shtei Ha’Lechem’ (the ‘Two Loaves’ of bread) that were brought in the Holy Temple, which were made of ‘chametz‘ (leaven) and as we know, ‘chametz‘ alludes to the character traits of pride and the evil inclination. But by means of the Torah, the evil inclination is perfected, and thus, it is offered as a sacrifice on Shavuot.

When to Eat ‘Seudah Shlisheet’

Since this year Chag Shavuot falls out on Motzei Shabbat, ‘l’chatchila‘ (ideally), it is best to eat ‘seudah shlisheet’ (the third Shabbat meal) earlier, before the last three hours of the Shabbat day. Preferably, ‘seudah shleeshit’ should be held a little after ‘chatzot Yom Shabbat‘ (midday), i.e., at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. If one did not do so, he should nevertheless eat ‘seudah shlisheet’, even during the hours close to the beginning of Yom Tov, but should try to limit his eating so as to have an appetite for the evening meal of Yom Tov.

Laws of Preparing from Shabbat to Yom Tov that Falls on Motzei Shabbat

When Yom Tov falls on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) as it does this year, one must be careful not to prepare anything from Shabbat to Yom Tov, since Shabbat is intended for holiness and rest, and not for preparations for another day. Therefore, a person who troubles himself on Shabbat by preparing something for a weekday or a holiday – belittles its dignity (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 22: 15-16).

Consequently, it is forbidden to wash dirty dishes from Shabbat to use on Yom Tov; only after Shabbat has departed can dishes be washed in order use them on Yom Tov. It is also forbidden to clean the table on Shabbat in honor of the holiday, but the table can be cleaned so that it is tidy on Shabbat, even though this will be beneficial for the holiday.

It is forbidden to place food on a ‘platta‘ (hot plate) on Shabbat to be eaten at the evening meal of Yom Tov, but only after Shabbat is over and one says, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh” (“Blessed be He who distinguishes between holy and holy”). Only then is one permitted to start organizing the needs of ‘ochel nefesh’ (food preparation allowed on Yom Tov), and to cook and heat the food.

‘B’sha’at ha’dachak’ (times of distress), on Shabbat one is permitted to perform routine actions that do not involve great effort, for the sake of the Chag. Therefore, when waiting for Shabbat to depart will cause a significant delay in the Yom Tov meal, it is permissible to take frozen food out of the freezer on Shabbat.

Candle Lighting

It is forbidden to light the holiday candles before ‘tzait ha’chochavim’ (nightfall), rather, one should wait until the stars have appeared in the sky and Shabbat has departed, and then say, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh“, and light the candles.

Since it is prohibited to light a new fire on Yom Tov, one must prepare before Shabbat a candle that will burn for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light the Yom Tov candles. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should transfer fire from one of his neighbor’s candles to light the Yom Tov candles.

It is permissible to push the candle forcibly into the candlestick holder, even though this causes the candle to be slightly crushed. Similarly, one may remove by knife the remaining wax in the candlestick which interferes with the placement of the new candle, and one is allowed to remove the metal disc stuck to the bottom of the glass cup in which ‘neronim‘ (candles that turn into oil) were used. It is also permitted to insert a floating wick into a floating cork.

But it is forbidden to heat a wax candle to attach it to a candlestick holder, lest one transgress the rabbinic decree of ‘ma’rey’ach‘(spreading or smearing), which is a ‘toledah‘ of ‘mi’ma’chake‘(scraping/sanding a surface to achieve smoothness). It is also forbidden to cut or file the bottom of the candle to insert it into the candlestick because of the prohibition ‘mi’cha’taych‘(cutting any object to a specific size).

Showering on Shabbat and Yom Tov

Since Shabbat and Yom Tov are adjacent, and many people are used to showering every day, those who feel the need to shower on Shabbat afternoon are permitted to wash themselves in warm water – i.e., water in which they do not suffer from its coldness, but on the other hand, is not hot. One should not wash in hot water because of the rabbinical decree of ‘mirchatz‘. But on Chag, since bathing is ‘shavei l’kol nefesh‘ (equal for all), one is allowed to wash even in hot water, provided the water was heated in a permissible way, such as by a ‘dude shemesh’ (solar heater), or by a Shabbat-timer (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:8; Moadim 5:10).

In addition, after showering one should remember not to brush one’s hair, because brushing sheds hair, which is a Torah prohibition.

The Washing of Hands for Those Who Remained Awake All Night

Even a person who remains awake all night must perform ‘nitilat yadayim‘ (washing of the hands) before morning prayers, however, the poskim were divided on whether to recite a blessing over this washing, or not. According to the Ashkenazi custom, it is best is to relieve oneself before prayer, and to touch one of the covered areas of one’s body which had become a bit sweaty since one’s last bathing, and thus, be obligated to wash one’s hands with a blessing. However, according to Sephardic custom, one does not recite a blessing over this washing of the hands in any case.

‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ for those who Remain Awake all Night

According to the vast majority of poskim, even if one did not sleep at all during the previous day, since he comes to pray Shacharit (the Morning Prayers) of the new day, he must recite ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ (Blessings over the Torah). However, since there are a few poskim who hold that if one did not sleep at all during the day, he should not recite ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’, ‘l’chatchila’, it is good to hear the blessings recited by someone who slept, and have ‘kavana‘ (intention) to fulfill his obligation by hearing them.

‘Birkot HaShachar’

Even those who remain awake all night recite ‘Birkot HaShachar’ (the Morning Blessings), because ‘Birkot HaShachar’ were fixed as prayers of gratitude for the general good in the world, and not just the self-interests of each and every individual. Therefore, even a blind person recites the blessing ‘po’kay’ach ivrim’ (‘Who gives sight to the blind’), and one who did not sleep recites the blessing ‘zokayf ke’fufim’ (‘Who straightens the bent’). However, regarding the blessings of ‘Elokei Neshama’ and ‘Ha’ma’avir Sheyna’, there are some authorities who hold that a person who did not sleep should not recite these blessings, because these blessings are recited in the singular, as individual thanks for the return of one’s soul, and the passing of sleep. Therefore, it is proper to hear them from someone who actually did sleep, and have ‘kavana’ to fulfill one’s obligation.

When there is no one to recite the blessings, according to the majority of poskim, one should recite the blessings himself, because although they are recited in the singular, they also contain thanks for the general good – that in the morning, God returns souls to those who have slept, and wakes them from their slumber. This is the custom of all Sephardim, and some Ashkenazim. There are other Ashkenazim whose custom is to be ‘machmir‘ (stringent), and due to the ‘safek‘ (doubt), recite the blessings without ‘Shem and Malchut’ (“Hashem Elokenu Melech Ha’olam). An Ashkenazi who does not know what his custom is, may act according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, and recite all the blessings himself.

In summary, according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, those who remain awake all night recite all ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’. The ‘mehadrin’ (those who embellish the mitzvoth), when possible, fulfill the obligation of ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ and the blessings “Elokei Neshama” and “Ha’Ma’avir Sheyna” by hearing them from someone who slept at night.

When to Say the Blessings

According to halakha, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ are recited close to the morning prayers. According to kabala, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar‘ are recited after ‘chatzot ha’layla’ (midnight), and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah‘ after ‘amud ha’shachar’ (dawn).

Eating and Drinking at Night and Prior to the Morning Prayers

During the night, one may eat and drink without limitation. However, from half an hour before ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat a ‘seudah’ (a meal), lest one get over-involved in his meal. This includes the prohibition of eating bread or cakes whose size is equal to, or larger, than a ‘beitza‘ (an egg), however, one may eat without ‘keviyut seudah’ (setting a meal) fruits and vegetables and cooked ‘mezanot‘ foods without limitations. From ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat anything or to drink coffee or juice, and even one who had started eating or drinking beforehand – should stop. One is allowed to drink only water after ‘amud ha’shachar’. (This year on Chag Shavuot, ‘amud ha’shachar‘ is at 4:06 A.M. in Israel).

Eating Dairy Foods

Many have the custom to eat foods made out of milk and honey on Shavuot. The source of this custom stems from Ashkenaz and France, and from, there spread to many Jewish communities throughout the world. However, there are Jews who do not have this custom, like many immigrants from Yemen, Libya, Djerba, Bukhara, and Persia.

Some say the reason for the custom is because the Torah is compared to milk and honey, and our Sages said: “As the Jewish nation stood before Mount Sinai and said: ‘All that the Lord spoke, we will do and listen (‘naseh v’nishma’), at that same time, God said to them: ‘Honey and milk under your tongue.” In other words, in the merit of Israel’s agreement to accept the Torah without doubt, the words of Torah would be sweet like milk and honey in their mouths. In order to remind us of the sweetness and pleasantness of the Torah, the custom is to eat tasty and sweet dairy cakes, and dishes made with honey.

Rabbi Kook further explained that milk and honey are two foods both produced from impure entities. Honey is produced from bees which are impure insects, and milk is produced from blood which is forbidden to be eaten. Precisely because they are turned from impurity to purity, they possess a unique taste, alluding to ‘tikun olam’ (perfecting the world). And this is the virtue of the Torah, which perfects the bad sides of the world and “seasons” the evil inclination, turning it into good. This is also the virtue of the Land of Israel, and therefore it is called “the land of milk and honey.”

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

The Torah sections dealing with the Tabernacle, the Priests and the Levites should be applied in all areas of life * Each person in his field of work should be a like Priest, avoiding anything that might interfere with his work * People with senior and important positions, such as in the fields of medicine or in the army, should model themselves after the High Priest who was enlisted for the sake of the public, at the expense of family * All of us, in the synagogue, at work, or in family, are like the three sons of Levi – sometimes assuming matters of holiness ourselves, like the Kehati’s, sometimes climbing to higher levels like the Gershoni’s, and at other times, remaining like the Merari’s – which is also fundamental and indispensable

 

The Work of the Tabernacle – The Prototype of Our Task in Tikun Olam

In numerous sections, the Torah goes on at length describing the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its vessels, the work of the Kohanim (priests) and the Levi’im (Levites), because the Mikdash (Holy Temple, interchangeable with Mishkan) is the quintessence of entirety, from which, as a prototype, we can learn how to engage in yishuv and tikun olam (developing and improving the world). This can be learned from the laws of Shabbat: We were commanded not to do any work – but what type of work is forbidden on Shabbat? We have learned from the Torah that all the thirty-nine types of work that the Jewish nation performed in order to build the Mishkan are considered the significant tasks in the world, and are forbidden on Shabbat, while types of work that were unnecessary for erecting the Mishkan are considered less significant, and therefore, there is no prohibition of performing them on Shabbat. The idea emerging from this teaching is that all of our work during the six week days is intended to continue the idea of the Mishkan into the entire world, until the whole world turns into a Mishkan for the Shechina (Divine Presence) – for Divine values, such as the values of truth and kindness, charity and mercy; so that wherever a person works le’Shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven), with honesty and kindness, to add and blessing in the world, the Shechina will dwell.

Continuing the Sanctity of the Mikdash to All Types of Work

Similarly, being that the mitzvoth of leket, shich’chah, and pe’ah (gifts to the poor from the fields) are mentioned in the middle of the Torah’s detailing of the Mo’adim (appointed holidays), we learned that: “One who gives leket, shich’chah, and pe’ah properly, is considered as if he built the Beit HaMikdash and brought his sacrifices in it” (Torat Kohanim 13:12). Thus, we see that a person who works in his field diligently and with integrity, continues the sanctity of the Mikdash into his field, and when he leaves leket, shich’chah, and pe’ah for the poor, he erects, as it were, a mizbayach (alter) in the middle of his field, and brings sacrifices to God.

Thus, for example, even a person who works in a bank, if he conducts himself honestly and diligently, in order to contribute his share to the economic development and improvement of the world, he thereby continues the sanctity of the Mikdash into the bank. And if he goes the extra mile and troubles himself beyond his obligation in order to benefit others with good advice, he builds there, so to speak, a mizbayach, and brings sacrifices to God on it.

All Work is Similar to the Service of the Kohanim

Just as the Kohanim must consecrate themselves for the service in the Mikdash, and avoid things that may distract them from their work, so too, each person must find moral value in his work, and like the Kohen, purify and sanctify himself for it. If he is a teacher or a doctor, he should take care to sleep well, so he can fulfill his duty properly. If he is an engineer, he should not rest on his laurels, but expand his knowledge and direct his energies in order to add benefit and blessing in his work. This is true for all types of work.

The Mesirut of the Kohanim Gedolim

There are special individuals who are similar to Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests), such as a doctor with a rare life-saving capability, who must sanctify himself like the Kohen Gadol entering the Holy of Holies, and not leave the sanctuary of his work, even for the purpose of his relatives. And even if in the middle of his son’s canopy, he is suddenly called to the hospital, he will quickly excuse himself from his son, wife, and guests, and everyone understands why he must leave; they will escort him with prayers for success in fulfilling his mission, to save the patient presently fluttering between life and death.

The commander of an elite army unit should also be ready at all times for any call, and if while accompanying his wife to give birth he is suddenly called to save Jewish lives from the hands of our enemies, he will calmly part from her. And just as all of Israel would pray for the Kohen Gadol to exit the Holy of Holies peacefully, so too, while giving birth his wife prays for her husband, that he return from the battle in peace, to see their new-born child.

Kehat – Bearers of Sacred Values

Likewise, we can learn from the order of the carrying of the Mishkan by the three Levite families – Gershon, Kehat, and Merari – as a prototype for all types of work in the world.

The B’nei Kehat (sons of Kehat) merited carrying the holy vessels used in the Mishkan, which expressed the entirety of essential ideas: the Ark in the Kodesh Ha’Kodashim (the Holy of Holies) meant the Torah. The Shulchan (the Inner Table), indicated parnasah (livelihood), whose source originates from holiness. The menorah, which alluded to the various chochmot (knowledge), also originating from the holy. The mizbayakh ha’penimi (Inner Altar), symbolizing prayers and longing for God, and the mizbayakh ha’chitzoni (Outer Altar), which expressed Israel’s misirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) for their faith in God.

In all frameworks of work, there are those who warrant being involved with the central function, and then, those who assist them. B’nei Kehat merited engaging in the central function – bearing the holy vessels, which expressed all of the sacred values.

Indeed, from the family of Kehat came Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen – from whom all the Kohanim emanate.

Gershon – Bearers of the Outer Covering, Ohr Makif

B’nei Gershon carried the outer covering of the Mishkan – its tapestries, the over-tent and roof, and the enclosure’s hangings. The outer covering of the Mishkan carried great importance because all of the vessels, each one with its specific significance, received inspiration from its surroundings.

To put it differently, the Mishkan’s vessels allude to ohr ha’penimi (the inner-light), and its tapestries allude to ohr ha-makif (surrounding light). In order to understand this matter, it must first be explained that Divine Light which God shines on us, is divided into two components: ohr penimi, and ohr makif. The perceptible component is the ohr penimi, which we are able to assimilate through our thoughts and emotions, and which, in practice, guides our lives. The component that is beyond our ability to absorb, acts as an ohr makif, which, although unable to encompass, envelops our beings and gives us inspiration, and has a decisive influence on our lives.

One of the tasks of the Levites was to sing and play music while people brought their sacrifices. Songs give expression to a longing for something beyond our perception. Kehat engaged in the comprehensible, whereas B’nei Gershon expressed the longing for what is beyond the surface. Even their name, Gershon, alludes to this: Gershon stems from the Hebrew word ger (stranger), alluding to a person who lives his life as a foreigner in this world, his soul longing for closeness to God and the Divine light. Such longing is expressed in songs filled with yearning for a return to Gan Eden.

Merari – The Arduous Burden

B’nei Merari were left with the hard work – bearing the heaviest burden: to carry the beams, crossbars, pillars, and bases of the Mishkan, through all the difficult and arduous paths of the desert.

Seemingly, the lives of B’nei Merari were bitter; their job was hard, backbreaking, and unrewarding. The important vessels, symbolic of the ohr penimi, were in the hands of B’nei Kehat; the beautiful tapestries, suggesting the ohr makif, were in the hands of B’nei Gershon; B’nei Merari were left to carry the heavy beams which were hardly seen, since the tapestries hid them from the sight of anyone standing outside the Mishkan. Only the few Kohanim who entered the Mishkan to perform their tasks with the vessels carried by B’nei Kehat could see the beams that B’nei Merari bore with the sweat of their brow.

The beams, however, were the foundation of the Mishkan; upon them, everything stood.

B’nei Merari represents all those seemingly unpretentious people who, in truth, are the foundation of the world. They are willing to do the tough, dirty work – to stand against all the detractors. Other’s reap all the glory, but without B’nei Merari, nothing would exist. Concerning such people, it is said: “For evildoers will be cut off, but those hoping in Hashem will inherit the land…But the humble will inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace
” (Psalms 37:9-11).

Three Types of Jews in the Synagogue

The Kehat’im are indicative of people who are able to pray with total concentration, paying attention to every single word they say; they also are the ones who set the pathway in determining halakha. The Gershon’im are those who pray with great emotion – they sing with yearning and devotion, and among them number the deep-thinkers and followers of HassidutB’nei Merari, on the other hand, find it difficult to concentrate on every single word of their prayers; even the melodies don’t stir them that much. Nevertheless, they show-up to synagogue day-in and day-out, reciting all the required prayers. Sometimes they find it extremely difficult; their thoughts wander in all directions, and they fail to concentrate on their prayers. But they fulfill their duty, and say all the words of the prayers devotedly. They are the foundations of the world.

When synagogue dues must be paid – they pay. When the synagogue needs to be cleaned – they offer to do it. When prayer books need to be returned to their place, and chairs need arranging – they come forward. If a volunteer is needed to prepare tea for those learning in the evenings – they will prepare the tea. If someone needs to wake up early to open the synagogue – they will agree. On the surface, they appear simple; but in the Upper Worlds, they are highly esteemed (Pesachim 50a). There, the true level of these people is well-known, for upon them, the world exists. They express the emunah (faith) rooted beyond all the profound comprehensions of B’nei Kehat, and beyond all the emotions of B’nei Gershon.

These three types of people can be found in every society, company, family, and community. The Kehat-type people define the core, the Gershon-types, the aspirations for what is beyond obtainable, and the Merari-type people bear the burden of the entire system on their own shoulders; without them, the system would collapse.

Every Person Has These Three Features

To a certain extent, each person embodies these three features. Every so often, one is able to gain understanding of something significant, resulting in a feeling of contentment – in the sense of Kehat; occasionally, one experiences an emotional awakening, and is flooded with feelings of bliss, in the sense of Gershon. But most of the time, one has to be like Merari – doing the hard and arduous work. While doing so, one does not feel a sense of happiness. However, in the long term, a person receives the greatest satisfaction and joy precisely from the hard and demanding work.

On occasion, a person runs out of strength of being a Merari; his back becomes bent out of shape with age, and he begins to go downhill. If he does not pull himself together – he will collapse, and pass away. Without pillars, even the most important and sacred tabernacle collapses.

Three Sides of Childcare

Every mother taking care of her children definitely has moments of deep understanding with her children, in the sense of Kehat, and then there are also magical, emotional moments, in the sense of Gershon. But most of the time, caring for them is routine and demanding, devoid of understanding, or exceptional emotions, in the sense of Merari. However, without this type of care, the children will grow up wild, and all their parents’ deep understandings and emotions will not be of any help – the children will hate their parents, and themselves. The devoted care of a mother who takes attends to her children’s needs, and raises them to be good people, expresses her unending love for them. This is what the children never forget; this is what they cling to in difficult moments in their lives – even in their old age; and this is where they draw strength and emuna (faith).

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

Concerning Former Minister Ya’alon

Criticism of military and security matters must be voiced because of the life-threatening concerns involved * For years, Ya’alon worked devotedly and courageously for the sake of Israel’s security, and even assisted in Jewish settlement, but failed in three fundamental areas * Complacency and unpreparedness in operation ‘Tzuk Eitan’ and in the period prior to the Second Lebanon War * Alienation of national values reflected in the onslaught against the soldier Elor Azaria, and in Ya’alon’s encouragement of the Deputy Chief of Staff * The harming of Torah values ​​and emuna in the IDF, while left-wing groups are allowed in undisturbed * Since the Oslo Accords the moral level of senior officers has declined, and this should be criticized

A Personal Preface

After the insulting directive was issued by the Defense Minister’s office calling for my banning a number of months ago, I thought to write the following article. However, I refrained from writing it, and even avoided dealing with related matters, lest I be overcritical due to my having been humiliated. At present, I feel I’ve “cooled off”, and yet I would not have published this article, seeing as it is not proper to cast a stone on someone who has fallen. However, in light of the flood of praises that have been showered on the former Defense Minister as a symbol of military success and a paragon of morality, I find myself obligated to publish it. As described below, such criticism is essential because of pikuach nefesh (the saving of lives) – physical and spiritual alike.

The Former Defense Minister

Former Defense Minister, Mr. Moshe Ya’alon, is a professional person with extensive experience, who worked dedicatedly and courageously over many years for the sake of Israel’s security. There are few people who are as intimately acquainted with Israel’s defense establishment as he is. Despite having been educated in leftist movements, he managed awakening to a certain extent from the Left’s delusions of “peace”, and even assisted in the building of Judea and Samaria. Nevertheless, unfortunately, he failed in three fundamental areas: in leading the defense forces in face of imminent threats; in causing damage to national morals, ​​and in undermining the values ​​of emuna (faith) and Torah.

Defense: The Disappointing Results of Operation ‘Tzuk Eitan

Since the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Gush Katif, the IDF was forced to conduct four rounds of fighting in Gaza (the data below was taken from Wikipedia).

The first conflict, ‘Geshmei Kiyetz’ (‘Summer Rain’), began in the summer of 2006 following the Second Lebanon War, and continued in low intensity for five months, during which daily life in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip was disrupted. Prime Minister – Ehud Olmert; Defense Minister – Peretz; Chief of Staff – Halutz; GOC – Galant. We suffered five casualties, and the enemy approximately 394 – 79 times more.

The second, ‘Oferet Yitzuka’ (Operation Cast Lead), began in the month of December 2008. Lasted 23 days, severely damaging daily civilian life in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, and causing slight damage to the economy of the South. The Prime Minister – Olmert; Defense Minister – Barak; Chief of Staff – Ashkenazi; GOC – Galant. We suffered 12 casualties, the enemy approximately 1,100 – 91 times more.

The third, ‘Amud Anan’ (Operation Pillar of Defense), in November 2012, lasted eight days while during that time, most of the communities in the South were completely paralyzed. The Prime Minister – Netanyahu; Defense Minister – Barak; Chief of Staff – Gantz; GOC – Russo. We suffered six casualties, the enemy approximately 223 – 37 times more.

Please note: now we come to the stage where Moshe Ya’alon served as Defense Minister.

The fourth, “Tzuk Eitan” (Operation Protective Edge), in the summer of 2014, lasted 50 days, causing severe and prolonged damage to daily life in all of the South, moderate damage in the Central region, and a severe blow to tourism, including the cessation of flights to Israel for two days, and an extremely heavy cost to Israel’s economy. Prime Minister – Netanyahu; Defense Minister – Ya’alon; Chief of Staff – Gantz; GOC – Turgeman. We suffered 73 casualties, the enemy approximately 2,100 – 28 times more.

Besides the heavy loss of life of our soldiers, and the severe damage caused to daily life and the economy, it became evident that the leadership attempted to ignore the threat of the tunnels, the army was unprepared for the challenges it faced, did not devise offensive plans for operations to eliminate Hamas or destroy their ability and leadership, and suffered heavier losses, over and above those suffered in previous operations and compared with enemy casualties.

The Second Lebanon War

The Second Lebanon War took place in the summer of 2006 and lasted 34 days, completely paralyzing the entire Northern area, with the majority of residents either in shelters, or evacuated to the center of the country. We suffered 165 casualties, the enemy approximately 900 – 5.4 times more. War costs were extremely heavy to Israel’s economy.

After the war it became evident that army leadership had acted with extreme complacency and negligence, and failed to identify the enemy’s capabilities. Thus, the war began without the military command having any operative programs – they even lacked updated maps. The soldiers were sent to the frontlines without proper equipment, and endangered their lives to save what the High Command had neglected. As a result of the severe conclusions of the Winograd Committee, the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff resigned, and along with them, numerous other officers.

Seeing as Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon concluded his tenure as Chief of Staff but a year before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, ultimately, he also was a partner in the failures of preparing the army to face the threat of Hezbollah. The same thing happened in operation ‘Tzuk Eitan‘, when it became clear that those responsible for Israel’s security had not perceived the threat, and as a result, were not adequately prepared for it.

Apparently, when presented with a framework and clear objectives – Ya’alon excels; but as the head of a system, responsible for setting objectives, he is a failure.

National Values

In a series of events, the Defense Minister placed himself in a position hostile to basic, national values. It may be that Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot dead the wounded terrorist in Hevron, made a mistake according to army regulations, and he should bear responsibility for this. But we must not forget that his intentions were good. He was fighting the enemy, and wished to protect his comrades. He is not a murderer. When the Defense Minister dishonors his name in all of the media, denounces him as a murderer, and directs the legal battle against him, he causes damage to the people of Israel. Not only does he betray the soldier Elor Azaria, but all the troops he sent into battle, for they too are liable to make the same mistake on occasion.

After the Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan, compared Israel to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s, Ya’alon should have fired him, or at the very least, demanded that he retract his words and publicly apologize for having said them. Instead, he chose to defend him, and moreover, encouraged other commanders to voice such blasphemy.

Underlying such an appalling attitude there has to be an overflowing degree of ignorance and wickedness. Despite everything, compliance with army law is constantly improving. Compared to the current situation, the behavior of the Palmach fighters and IDF combat units in its nascent days was infinitely wilder and crueler. Now of all times, the Deputy Chief of Staff detects symptoms reminding him of the Nazis?! And the Defense Minister marvels at his honesty and wisdom, and calls for officers to continue voicing such hideous and baseless things?!

Emuna and Torah Values

Under the tenure of Ya’alon, the status of the Military Rabbinate eroded. The ‘Jewish Awareness’ Department was transferred from the Military Rabbinate to the Department of Manpower, impairing its activities. Even the right to grant permission to grow a beard for religious reasons was taken away from the Rabbinate, and given to the Adjutant Corps. Meanwhile, with encouragement of the Defense Minister, and with infuriating audacity, female singers are increasingly participating in military ceremonies, and religious soldiers are required to take part in them, contrary to the ruling of the majority of rabbis.

Parallel to the directive banning me because of my basic position that orders to expel Jews from their homes should be refused, the IDF funds courses given by institutes with distinctly leftist positions, such as the ‘Hartman Institute’ and ‘Machon Bina’, for all army officers. If the lecturers speaking on their behalf were asked what a soldier should do if he receives an order to expel an Arab from his home, the majority of them would say that he should refuse the order. Yet, Ya’alon chose them to educate IDF officers to the values ​​of the extreme left, rather than heightening Jewish national awareness.

The command to take over the yeshiva in Yitzhar for a long period also reflects a severe blow to Israel’s sacred values. Ya’alon did not dare do that to any mosque, where violence, murder, and the destruction of the State of Israel is preached a thousand times more.

This coincides with his disgraceful treatment of his Deputy Minister, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan. Rabbi Eli is known as an affable person, able to cooperate with various parties. Despite signed agreements however, Ya’alon chose to ignore and humiliate him, and by doing so, demean his constituents, the religious Zionists.

The Connection between the Three Areas

These three areas are intertwined. True, there may be individuals who are highly successful in leading the army against the enemy yet neglect national ​​and faith-bound values, whose long-term impact on Israel’s security is crucial. If there are others who complement what they lack in the area of values, their professionalism in the field of defense can cover for their shortcomings. If there is no one else to complement their deficiency, then over a period of time, the lack of values ​​will prevail and lead to severe consequences, such as the Yom Kippur War.

As the functioning of Mr. Ya’alon in the field of defense was not particularly successful, his shortcomings in the field of values ​​makes things all the worse.

Left-wing Viewpoints

Despite understanding the impossibility of implementing Leftist aspirations to establish another Arab country, Mr. Ya’alon still clings to the values ​​of the Left, whereby national and religious factors are marginal or a hindrance. However, seeing as nationalism and religion in truth are the power base of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, it is preferable for a Defense Minister who does not understand this, to vacate his seat.

The Importance of Criticism of the IDF

It is important to examine another aspect. As a result of the Oslo Accords, the moral level of senior officers suffered a tremendous blow, and they were forced to associate with the most heinous murderers. Their loyalty to their own people and country became muddled. Devoid of a moral compass, advancement through the ranks became the most important thing. They began understanding and empathizing with the enemy more, and even took pride in this, because, as they learned from the Leftist lecturers, such understanding indicates a clarity of mind, and a purity of their hearts and weapons. So it happens that they often function like British Mandate officers, standing as an intermediary between the Jews and the Arabs.

On the battlefield, this is manifested in more casualties among our forces, as occurred in Jenin and the Second Lebanon War. Thanks to sharp public criticism of the army after the Second Lebanon War, senior commanders in the early rounds of war in Gaza who saw their comrades dishonorably discharged, began worrying more about the welfare of our soldiers. Instead of sending them on dangerous missions to avoid harming enemy civilians, they ordered to bombard and strike. This is why in the first operations the death toll was greatly to our advantage and deterrence against our enemies increased, as indicated by the data I mentioned above.

Over time, the fear of public criticism declined, and once again, senior officers returned to their sinful ways. This is how we reached the bitter results of operation ‘Tzuk Eitan’.

Therefore, when the defense establishment emerges from a war with poor results, it must be criticized. Failure to do so takes its toll in human life.

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

The Vision of Yovel for Our Generation

The mitzvah of tzeddaka teaches that the responsibility for making a living  lies with the individual, and only if one is unable to take care of himself, the responsibility passes on to others * The mitzvah of Yovel  complements this, determining that natural resources be divided equally among all * Thus, the Torah integrates both socialism and capitalism * Today as well, there is room to explore the equal distribution of resources and allotting a certain percentage of the capital to all citizens, once every Yovel * In mankind’s present situation competition is necessary; however, when the Divine light is revealed in the world – people will realize they are not competing with one another, but rather, improving and complementing each other

Choice and Equality: Yovel

Must society provide for all the needs of each and every individual, or is this the private responsibility of every person? Is it right to divide profits equally among all the people? Which economic system is correct: socialist, or capitalist? It seems the basic answers to these questions and inspiration to solve them can be found in the mitzvoth of Yovel (Jubilee year) and tzeddaka (charity).

The mitzvah of Yovel is for the Jewish nation to count seven years, seven times, and make the fiftieth year the Yovel year. In this year, Jewish slaves are freed to return to their homes, and fields are returned to their original owners and left to lie fallow as in the shmitta year (seventh year).

Ownership of Land and the Mitzvah of Yovel

God commanded Israel to divide the land among the tribes, and the inheritance of each tribe to be divided among the families and households of that tribe. Seeing as each individual has his own special mission in life – and in order to reveal that mission, he must live freely and independently – it is imperative for every Jew to reside on his land, and make a living from his own inheritance.

Nevertheless, God created man with both a good and an evil inclination. The tzaddikim (righteous people) who choose good, overcome their evil tendencies, work diligently in their fields, and prosper from their harvest; those drawn in pursuit of their evil inclinations seeking lust and laziness become addicted to various desires such as alcohol and other pleasures of idleness, and neglect their fields. They waste a great deal, earn little, sink into debt, and forfeit their future for the sake of the fleeting moment. Scarcity increases until they are forced to sell their crops and homes, thus decreeing a life of hardship upon their families, seeing as one’s fields was his main source of income. If they failed to pull themselves together and work diligently as a salaried employee, they would sink further into debt to the brink of starvation, and be forced to sell themselves into slavery.

True, some people became impoverished as a result of a disaster or illness beyond their control, but when our national situation was sound, the mitzvah of tzeddaka helped sustain such people without them having to sell their land, or themselves. However, it was difficult to assist those who became enslaved to greed and laziness, because even after receiving help, they continued to plummet. This is how some Jews ended up selling their fields, and themselves, into slavery.

God had mercy on them – and especially, on their families – and determined the mitzvah of Yovel in the fiftieth year, when we were commanded to free the slaves, and return the fields to their owners or heirs. By this means, the verdict of poverty did not haunt the families of Israel for generations, but every fifty years, each family could start a new life, begin to act responsibly, get out of poverty, and contribute to the improvement of society.

The Circles of Responsibility in Helping the Poor

From the mitzvah of tzedakka we learn that there are circles of responsibility, and only when the inner circle is unable to function does the responsibility of the outer circle come into play.

In the inner circle is poor person himself; he is primarily responsible for his own situation and that of his family. Therefore, if a person who was able to work but chose not to, throwing himself instead on the public, the gabba’ei tzedakka (charity managers) would make sure that he worked. Only on the condition that he worked as hard as possible, but nevertheless, it was still not enough, would they give him tzedakka. As it is written in the Torah: “Ha’kim ta’kim imo” (“You must ‘help him‘ pick up the load”) (Deuteronomy 22:4) – ‘together with him’ there is a mitzvah, but when he shirks his responsibility, there is no mitzvah to help him.

When a poor person is unable to take care of himself, the responsibility shifts over to the next circle which includes his relatives and the rule of “ha’karov, karov kodem” i.e., one’s closest relatives should be given priority in receiving tzedakka (as in redeemer’s of the field).

If family members are unable to help their relative, the responsibility is transferred to the third circle of neighbors and fellow residents of their town, with the responsibility of close neighbors preceding that of the overall residents of the city. And if the townspeople alone are unable to help the poor, responsibility is transferred to the fourth circle, namely, that of society as a whole in the country, as it is written: “When, in a settlement that God your Lord is giving you, any of your brothers is poor…do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7). And it is also written: “To the poor man among you” (Exodus 22:24), those who close to you (‘among you’), precede those who are less close (Baba Metzia 71a).

And if there was a poor person whose family was able to help him, but evaded their duty and did not help, the gabba’ei tzedakka would have to force them to take care of him, and only if they were unable to meet his needs would they give the poor person charity from the public coffers of the city (Sh. A., Y. D., 251:4).

Empowerment of Personal Responsibility

Thus, we find that family, neighbors, and members of the community bore responsibility to help the poor, sick, elderly and frail who were unable to earn a living. But poor people who were able to make a living but due to laziness, negligence and greed had sunk into debt, would be helped to a limited extent, up until the point where if they continued to sink into debt, they would be forced to sell their fields and themselves. Such a position educates people to bear responsibility for their livelihood. In this way, the number of poor declined precipitously.

Choice and Equality

Thus, we find that it is essential for these two ideas to be expressed in parallel. On one hand – responsibility and free enterprise, and on the other, basic equality. From one standpoint, all human beings are created in God’s image, and consequently – one rule for all; from the beginning, lands, which are the means of production, had to have been divided equally. On the other hand, the main expression of God’s image in man is his ability to choose and initiate. If a person works diligently and skillfully, he will profit; if he is lazy, he will lose. How much more so is this true on a spiritual level: If one fulfills the Torah and mitzvot – he will be blessed in the present world, and receive good reward in the Hereafter. But if he chooses to sin – he will not see blessing in this world, and will be punished in the next.

Yovel’s Vision of Equality for Our Times

In the past, ninety percent of people made their living from agriculture. Land was the main means of production, and as a result, dividing it equally formed a basis of equality for everyone. Today, land is no longer the primary means of production, and earning a livelihood is dependent on numerous factors. Nevertheless, it seems we can learn two fundamentals from the mitzvah of Yovel: First, just as the Torah commanded that farmland be divided equally among all, in a similar fashion, we should equally divide other natural resources which God created, including land for construction, water, oil, gas, beaches, radio waves, air, and the sun. Secondly, just as the Torah commanded dividing the means of production equally, likewise, we should attempt to provide education for all young people that will procure for them, as best as possible, an equal opportunity to earn a living from their talents and diligence. With effective planning, these two foundations can be mutually integrated by diverting the money obtained from natural resources towards the best professional education for all.

 

Thus, we will be able to realize the fundamental idea of dividing the land among all of Israel, together with the tikun (correction) made in the return of lands to their original owners in the Yovel. For indeed, granting quality education for everyone also gives the children of poor parents the opportunity to obtain a respectable profession, according to their talents and industriousness.

 

In other words, resources are divided into two groups: the land and all other natural resources; and man, with his talents and knowledge. Thus, we find that Yovel liberates natural resources by way of returning lands to their owners, and human resources in the emancipation of the slaves.

A Proposal to Reduce Gaps between the Wealthy and the Poor in Yovel

Perhaps a further suggestion might be made: Just as in the Yovel the fields returned to their original owners and slaves were released to their homes, there is room to suggest that Torah scholars explore in-depth the structure of modern economy, and consider whether it would be appropriate that in the Yovel year, a certain percentage of accumulated wealth be divided equally, and returned to the public. For in addition to laws designed to prevent monopolies that harm free competition and stifle industry and trade, we should also avoid creating overly large gaps between the extremely wealthy and the remainder of society. This idea also includes a measure of justice, because sound public institutions are what enable the super-rich to become wealthy, and consequently, perhaps it might be fitting that once in fifty years, a portion of their accumulated wealth be distributed once again towards education and public needs. This will not affect the quality of their lives – they will still have hundreds of millions of shekels, but all the same, it will reduce socio-economic gaps among society and provide a more important status to the value of equality, without damaging the personal responsibility of each individual earning a living.

The Light of Yovel

At present, jealousy and competition are needed to a certain extent for the purpose of the world’s existence, so man can learn to bear responsibility for his fate, and conversely, learn not to be manipulative, a liar, and a thief. Rivalry is also needed to create incentives for development and prosperity, as has been explained by capitalist philosophers. Without it, society would sink into moral degeneration, poverty, and scarcity. However, as the light of Yovel is increasingly revealed in Israel, and the higher levels we achieve in Torah and emuna (faith), the need for competition will decrease, until there will be no more necessity for envy and rivalry, and world peace will spread from the Land of Israel to the entire world. This does not mean that an oversimplified equality between the various talents and equal distribution of all wealth and functions will be created, to the point where all living beings will be exactly the same. Rather, each creature will persist in its own character: wolves will remain wolves, sheep will remain sheep; but nevertheless, owing to the abundance of Divine light which will pervade in the world, the Divine light in each and every creature will be revealed, and all will live together in peace. At that time it will become clear that differences between living beings does not cause competition and envy, but on the contrary, creates between them a deep connection of friendship and camaraderie, leading to enrichment, blessing, and reciprocity.

And then, we will fulfill the words of the prophet: “The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard lie down with the kid; calf, young lion and fattened lamb together, with a little child to lead them. Cow and bear will feed together, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  An infant will play on a cobra’s hole, a toddler put his hand in a viper’s nest.  They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain, for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of God as water covering the sea… Efrayim’s jealousy will cease — those who harass Yehudah will be cut off, Efrayim will stop envying Yehudah, and Yehudah will stop provoking Efrayim… On that day you will say, “Give thanks to God! Call on his name! Make his deeds known among the peoples, declare how exalted his name is.  Sing to God, for he has triumphed — this is being made known throughout the earth.  Shout and sing for joy, you who live in Tziyon; for the Holy One of Israel is with you in his greatness!” (Isaiah 11-12).

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

The Blessing over Settling the Land of Israel

According to the vast majority poskim, the blessing ‘matziv gevul almana’ is recited when seeing a new community * Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook taught us not to be doubtful about the blessing, and would himself recite the blessing openly and in a loud voice * In which communities is the settling of the Land evident and awe-inspiring even today * Blessing over seeing a community for the second time after thirty days depends on how moved one is* In Jerusalem, a blessing is recited over all new construction * While on a tour of historical sites in established and large cities a blessing may be recited owing to the excitement provoked by their development

The Blessing on the Settlement of the Land of Israel

In honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut it is appropriate to once again review the halakha’s of the blessing our Sages fixed over the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz‘ – the settling and redemption of the Land of Israel.

Our Sages said: “On seeing the houses of Israel when inhabited, one says: ‘Baruch ata Hashem, Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam, matziv gevul almana‘ (“Blessed be He who sets the boundary of the widow”) (Berachot 58b, S.A. 224:10). The intention of this blessing is to thank God for returning Israel to their land. After transgressing God’s commandments, we were exiled from our land and ridiculed and scorned among the nations – akin to a widow, wandering around broken and lonely, without any prospect of returning to our borders and building our house; Hashem took pity on us, returned us to our land so as to build houses there, inhabiting them with serenity and confidence. We began fulfilling the words of the prophet: “For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.  Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood” (Isaiah 54:3-5).

 

During the difficult years of exile, when Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel faced times of trouble, distress and humiliation, this blessing was not recited, because it was difficult to define Jewish settlement as being stable and reassuring. When Jewish settlement began to expand in the country with the departure of Jews from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, and the aliyah of members of ‘Chibat Tzion’ (Lovers of Zion), this blessing once again began to be recited over the new settlements. It is related that Rabbi Shmuel Salant recited the blessing over Petah Tikva, and Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel-Yaffe over Yehud.

Do Not Hesitate to Recite the Blessing

From the words of Rif (Rabbi Yitzchak Alfsi) it seems that one who sees a Jewish synagogue specifically recites this blessing, therefore, l’chatchila, the blessing should be recited when one sees the synagogue from the outside or the inside. But even if one cannot see the synagogue, he should recite the blessing, since according to the vast majority of Rishonim, this blessing is not at all connected with synagogues, but is a blessing over Jewish houses built in Israel (Rabbeinu Chananel, Rashi, Rambam, and S.A., 244:10).

The Words of Our Teacher and Mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook

In his talks, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah said: “There are some who fear reciting the blessing because of the words of Rif. However… one can rely on these three “pillars of the world” (Rambam, Rashi and Shulchan Aruch), and bless. There are situations where fear of reciting a blessing in vain stems from a lack of complete emuna (faith). [If one has] doubts about blessings – [there are] doubts about faith. “Ha’vadai shemo, ken tehilato” (‘Certainty’ is His name; that is His praise). Several times I had the privilege of being invited to a new community for a gathering, or a celebration. Ideally, I should have blessed immediately because of ‘hidur mitzvah‘ (embellishing the mitzvah by performing it ideally). Nevertheless, I waited a bit because frequently I am asked to speak, and at that moment, I recited the blessing in a loud voice and openly, with ‘Shem u’Malchut’ (mentioning God’s name and kingdom) to publicize the matter, and I announced that anyone who wished to fulfill their obligation to bless, could do so with my bracha” (Sichot of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook” on Chumash ‘Vayikra’, page 289).

A Blessing is Not Recited over Places Inhabited for a Long Time

Seemingly, according to the takana (ordinance) of our Sages, one must recite the blessing “matziv gevul alamna” on all Jewish communities in Israel seen for the first time, and after that, as long as one did not see it for thirty days, recite the blessing once again, in keeping with the accepted rules of ‘berachot ha’re’iah’ (the blessings over seeing certain phenomena) (Shulchan Aruch 242:10; 13).

However, since one of the major stipulations of ‘berachot ha’re’iah’ is that the sight being viewed must be awe-inspiring (Shulchan Aruch 225:9-10), consequently, one should not bless over communities whose observation is not stirring because one has already seen it a number of times, or because the location had long been inhabited by a large Jewish population and forgotten that it was once desolate.

The Blessing is recited over Communities in Which the Redemption of the Land is Evident

Therefore, in areas not yet settled appropriately where efforts must still be made to fulfill the mitzvoth of yishuv ha’aretz so that the Land remains in our hands and not in the possession of any other nation or left desolate – even if one sees an established community there, he should recite the blessing. This includes the following areas: Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, the Negev, and parts of the Galilee and Jezreel Valley.

It seems that even those who are not so moved about seeing the community – the first time one sees it, he should recite the blessing, for anyone who sees houses in places where the redemption of the land is evident, is considered as ‘seeing the houses of Israel when inhabited’, i.e., settling the land, and setting the boundary of the widow.

After Thirty Days

One who sees an established community in which the redemption of the land is evident, such as Alon Shvut, Karnei Shomron and Katzrin, after thirty days have passed since seeing it last – if one marvels anew at their settling of the land – he should recite the blessing; if one is not moved, he should not bless. And if one returns to the community a second time and sees they have built an additional neighborhood, he should recite the blessing.

But in the new communities in those areas, or in established communities facing greater difficulties in settlement, such as the communities of Itamar and Elon Moreh in Gav Ha’Har, and Otniel and Ma’on in the southern Hebron hills, in all probability the excitement of seeing them is greater, and as long as thirty days have passed, one may recite the blessing. However, even in places such as these, if one is not moved, a blessing should not be recited the second time. But if in the meantime more houses were built, one who sees them should bless.

When in Doubt

Someone who has a doubt concerning these laws, should recite what is written in the Talmud: “Our Sages said: On seeing the houses of Israel when inhabited, one says: “Baruch ata Hashem, Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam, matziv gevul almana.” In this way, there will be no worry about saying a ‘bracha l’vatala’ (a blessing said in vain), for indeed there is an opinion that while studying Talmud one is permitted to recite a complete blessing, and alternatively, seeing as the actual wording of the blessing is recited, one fulfills his obligation.

Inauguration of a House in a New Community

Years ago, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, of blessed memory, heard a class I gave on this topic in Har Bracha, and raised an accurate speculation that the blessing ‘matziv gevul almana’ should also be said at the dedication of a new home in community where the redemption of the land is evident, and maybe, even the builders themselves could recite the blessing. At any rate, in order to avoid doubt, it would be appropriate for one of the guests who has not seen the community for thirty days to recite the blessing.

Our Custom on Har Bracha

In an effort to strengthen the status of the blessing over ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ and the redemption of the Land of Israel about which, in spite of its enormous importance, many people tend to be negligent, I requested that the gabbai (sexton) of our synagogue, after every Shabbat evening prayer service, appoint one of the guests to recite the blessing “matziv gevul almana.” At the end of my sermon I pause for a moment, and then the guest stands up and recites the blessing out loud. Everyone answers ‘amen’, and as a result, this strengthens their gratitude to God for allowing us to witness the building of our country, and to participate in its settlement. It would be fitting to suggest this custom for all synagogues in communities engaged in the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ and its redemption.

Should the Blessing be recited over New Homes in Jerusalem?

According to what we have learned, regarding established cities inhabited with a large Jewish population, such as cities located along the Coastal Plain, the blessing ‘matziv gevul almana’ is not recited, because their resemblance to an widow and not having been settled has been forgotten. But in regards to Jerusalem, our glorious and holy city, for whose destruction we mourn, and for whose rebuilding we pray – even though it is established and inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Jews, there is room to recite the blessing ‘matziv gevul almana’ over every single neighborhood built there. And it seems that even over a few new buildings one can bless, for indeed, the rebuilding of Jerusalem expresses more than anything the ‘setting of the boundary of the widow’. One who is in doubt whether the blessing should be recited, should say the wording of the beraita in the Gemara.

Nonetheless, even in Jerusalem, one who scandalously does not take note of this and is not happy – does not bless. Also, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and its surroundings, who are fortunate to see its building on a daily basis, do not bless.

Visitors who come to see the Renewal of the Communities

Q: If one goes on a guided tour in order to study the history of the settlement of the country, such as in Jaffa and Tel Aviv, or in the museum of the chalutzim in Hadera, and marvels at the miracle of Israel returning to their land, can a blessing be recited?

A: It seems that in such a framework one can bless, because the entire reason a blessing is not recited over populated places is because the settlement within such areas is not evident, and therefore, there is no excitement in seeing them; but when the purpose of the tour is the study of this phenomena, it is obvious that the excitement over the miracle of Israel returning to their country is aroused, and it would be proper to thank God for this by reciting the blessing “matziv gevul almana.” Nevertheless, it seems that on other similar trips, one can bless only on the first time.

It also seems that a Jew who comes from chutz l’aretz to Israel and sees the major cities in Coastal Plain for the first time, if he is moved by the miracle of Israel’s return to their land, he should recite the blessing.

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


 

Customs of Mourning during the Omer Period

The Reason for These Customs

The days between Pesach and Shavu’ot are days of sorrow, because 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died then.  Therefore, we keep some of the customs of mourning during this period, postponing marriages, refraining from taking haircuts, and avoiding dancing, unless it is for the sake of a mitzvah.

We observe some customs of mourning and try to improve our interpersonal relationships, especially those between Torah students, during the period of Sefirat HaOmer.  And since this is based on Jewish custom, not an explicit rabbinic enactment, there are different customs among the various communities.

The Duration of the Mourning Period

There are many customs as to when the mourning period begins and ends.  We will mention the two primary ones:

The Sephardi Practice

According to the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 493:1-2), the customs of mourning begin on the first day of the Omer and last until the morning of the thirty-fourth.  This is based on the tradition that reads theGemara: “R. Akiva’s students died until “P’ros HaAtzeret,” meaning fifteen days before Shavu’ot.  This implies that we must continue mourning until the 34th day of the Omer.  However, the halachahdetermines regarding the seven-day mourning period for a close relative that part of a day is considered like a whole day.  Therefore, when a mourner sits on the ground for a short time at the beginning of the seventh day, he effectively completes that day and may terminate his mourning.  The same applies to the mourning of the Omer period, and one need not wait until the end of the 34thday.  Rather, all customs of mourning become null and void a few moments after daybreak on the morning of the thirty-fourth, because part of a day is considered like a whole day.

Actually, one is permitted to sing, play music, and dance on Lag B’Omer, in honor of the anniversary of R. Shimon bar Yochai’s death.  However, the other customs of mourning remain binding.  Thus, according to this practice, one is forbidden to get married or take a haircut on Lag B’Omer, and when the day ends, it is forbidden to play music or dance on the night of the thirty-fourth.  When morning comes, however, all practices of mourning are nullified.  (Those who follow the Ari’s customs act strictly and refrain from taking haircuts until the day before Shavu’ot).

Some Sephardi communities – like those from Turkey and Egypt – end all customs of mourning on Lag B’Omer.  And even though most Sephardim in Israel today do not follow this practice, if there is a great need to act leniently on Lag B’Omer or the night of the thirty-fourth, there is room to present the question before a wise Torah scholar.

The Ashkenazi Practice

The prevalent custom among Ashkenazi Jews today in Eretz Yisrael combines several traditions.  Most expressions of mourning last until Lag B’Omer, while some continue afterwards.  This is based on the tradition that although the plague ended on Lag B’Omer, those students who fell ill beforehand died between the 34th day of the Omer and Shavu’ot.  Therefore, Ashkenazim do not take haircuts, celebrate weddings, play music, or dance until Lag B’Omer.  Afterwards, however, they refrain only from weddings and very joyous affairs. From Rosh Chodesh Sivan, however, the custom is to permit weddings, because the holiday of Shavu’ot, which is already perceivable from the beginning of the month, cancels the mourning.  Some rule leniently and allow weddings from Lag B’Omer and on, avoiding only great celebrations that are optional in nature until Shavu’ot.

On the day of Lag B’Omer itself, one may get married and take a haircut.  There is a dispute, however, regarding the night.  Some say that these actions are permissible at night, as well, because the entire day of Lag B’Omer is joyous.  Others maintain that one is required to observe thirty-three consecutive days of mourning.  Therefore, it is permissible to get married and take a haircut only after morning has arrived and we can apply the rule: “Part of a day is considered like a whole day.”  The custom is to act strictly, le-chatchillah (ideally), but one may follow those who rule leniently, if necessary.  According to all customs, it is permissible to celebrate with music and dancing on the night of Lag B’Omer.

Weddings and Engagements during the Omer Period

According to the custom of most Sephardim, the prohibition against weddings lasts from the beginning of the Omer until the thirty-fourth day of the count.  That is, one may get married from the morning of the 34th and on.  Some Sephardic communities follow a more lenient custom, celebrating weddings already on Lag B’Omer (the thirty-third).  In pressing situations, one may follow this practice, in accordance with the ruling of a wise Torah scholar.

The Ashkenazi custom in Eretz Yisrael is to forbid weddings from the beginning of the Omer until the twenty-ninth of Iyar, allowing them only from Rosh Chodesh Sivan and on.  Some rabbis permit those who have yet to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation to get married from Lag B’Omer and on.  When there is a special need, a wise scholar should be consulted.  All Ashkenazi customs agree that one is allowed to get married on the day of Lag B’Omer, and some are even lenient on the night of Lag B’Omer.  Everyone also agrees that if a couple gets married on the day of Lag B’Omer, they may continue the celebrations into the night of the thirty-fourth.

Haircuts

Only regular haircuts, that entail an aspect of joy, are prohibited, but it is permissible to trim one’s mustache, if it interferes with one’s eating.  Similarly, one who gets headaches when his hair is overgrown, or one who has sores on his head, may cut his hair during this period.

Both men and women are included in this prohibition.  However, a woman may cut her hair for purposes of modesty.  For example, if her hair comes out of her head covering, she may cut it.  It is also permissible to cut or pluck hair in order to avoid embarrassment.  Therefore, women may pluck their eyebrows or remove facial hairs.

One may not cut children’s hair, as well, during this period, but if there is a great need – to prevent them from suffering – it is permissible.

Shaving

A question arises regarding the issue of shaving during the Omer period.  Is one who shaves regularly throughout the year allowed to shave during Sefirah?  Many authorities maintain that shaving is included in the prohibition of taking haircuts and whenever it is forbidden to cut one’s hair, it is also forbidden to shave.  Most yeshiva students follow this practice, to the point that refraining from shaving has become the most prominent and discernable sign of mourning during the Omer period.

Some poskim, however, hold that there is a fundamental difference between taking a haircut and shaving.  Haircuts are celebratory; it is therefore accepted that people get their hair cut before holidays and festive occasions.  Shaving, on the other hand, has become an ordinary task nowadays, done every day, or every few days, in order to remove the stubble that mars the faces of those who are accustomed to shaving frequently.  Therefore, the custom to refrain from cutting hair does not apply to shaving.  According to this opinion, it is especially appropriate to shave on Fridays, to avoid bringing in the Sabbath disgracefully.

Those who want to rely on the lenient opinion may do so, and one should not rebuke them for this.  In practice, however, everyone should follow his father’s custom or his rabbi’s instructions.  For even though, according to the letter of the law, one can rely on the reasoning of those who rule leniently, one cannot ignore the fact that the custom to abstain from shaving during Sefirah is an indelible expression of willingness to sacrifice for the sake of mitzvah observance, and there is room for concern that nullifying this custom will compromise one’s dedication to upholding customs.  Therefore, it is appropriate for everyone to do as his father does, or as his rabbi instructs him to do, because the issues of tradition and how one’s actions influence others are more important here than the specific question of whether or not shaving is included in the customs of mourning.

Dancing and Musical Instruments

Since the custom is not to celebrate too much during the Omer period, the Acharonim write that one is forbidden to engage in optional dancing as opposed to dancing for the sake of a mitzvah.  They also forbid playing or listening to musical instruments.

According to Sephardi custom, the laws of mourning last until the morning of the 34th of the Omer.  Nevertheless, in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s Hillula (festivities marking the day of his passing), music and dancing are permitted on the 33rd (Lag) of the Omer.  Afterwards, however, the prohibition resumes and continues through the night of the thirty-fourth, until the next morning, when all customs of mourning expire.

According to Ashkenazi practice, the prohibitions last until the end of the 32nd day of the Omer, meaning that music, dancing, and rejoicing are permitted from the beginning of the night of Lag B’Omer, in honor of R. Shimon bar Yochai’s Hillula.  Most Jews of Ashkenazi descent refrain from large celebrations – like gala evenings of dance – until the holiday of Shavu’ot, but one may play and hear musical instruments.  It is also permissible to hold aerobic classes, because their main purpose is to provide exercise, not joyous dancing.

Listening to Music on Electronic Devices

Many poskim hold that there is no difference between listening to live music and listening to music on the radio, or by way of any other electronic device; both are forbidden during Sefirah (until Lag B’Omer) and the Three Weeks.  It is permissible, though, to listen to a cappella songs via electronic music players.  Some forbid even this, because the device is considered like a musical instrument.

On the other hand, some authorities hold that the prohibition against listening to musical instruments during these periods of mourning does not apply to listening to music on the radio or any other household, electronic device.  The rationale being that listening to music this way is not as festive as is listening to it live.  Furthermore, nowadays, everyone listens to music on electronic devices regularly, and since it has become so routine, the festiveness and joy associated with listening to music has disappeared.  This is similar to singing without musical accompaniment, which is permitted during the Omer.  In addition, a distinction should be made between joyous songs and regular songs.  Only regarding joyous songs is it logical to prohibit household devices, but one should not prohibit regular music – and certainly not sad tunes – during the mourning period of the Omer.  One who wishes to act leniently may rely on this opinion and listen to regular and sad songs on a household, electronic device.  He should not, however, listen to them loudly, because the force of the sound that fills the room generates a certain atmosphere of jubilation.

Apparently, everyone would agree that a driver who is worried that he might fall asleep at the wheel may listen to music in order to keep himself alert.

SheHechiyanu

During the Omer period, one is permitted to buy a new fruit, garment, or piece of furniture and recite the SheHechiyanu blessing over it.  True, after the Crusades and the horrific massacres that the Christians carried out during the Omer period, some rabbis in the Ashkenazi community began treating the mourning of the Omer period as strictly as that of Three Weeks.  And just as we refrain from saying SheHechiyanu during the Three Weeks – because it is inappropriate to say, “Who has kept us alive… and brought us to this time,” during the period in which the Temple was destroyed – so too, it is inappropriate to say SheHechiyanu during a time in which holy Jews were murdered.

In practice, however, the accepted halachah is that there is no prohibition against sayingSheHechiyanu during the Omer period, for these days are not comparable to the days between the 17th of Tammuz and Tish’a B’Av.  Nonetheless, one who wishes to act stringently and refrain from buying clothing and furniture during this period deserves a blessing.  If there is a special need, however, even such a person may act leniently.  For example, someone who needs an article of clothing or a piece of furniture may buy it.  Similarly, if someone comes upon an opportunity to buy one of these items at a reduced price, he may buy it.  Those who follow the stricter custom should wear the garment for the first time, and recite the SheHechiyanu blessing over it, on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Yom HaAtzma’ut, or at a se’udat mitzvah.  Likewise, if one buys a new piece of furniture, he should try to begin using it on these joyous days.

 

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including all of his highly acclaimed series of books “Peninei Halakha” in Hebrew, and some in English, can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

Koshering the Kitchen for Pesach

The Principles of Koshering Utensils

Though the walls of pots and other vessels appear solid and impervious, they actually absorb the taste of food cooked in them. It is impossible to measure how much taste the walls of a pot absorb and how much they release back into the food; some vessels absorb more than others do, such as earthenware, and some less, such as utensils made of metal. However, according to halakha, we do not take into consideration the degree of taste the utensils absorbed; rather, any utensil in which non-kosher food was cooked, is forbidden to be used to cook kosher food without first koshering it by means of removing the minute taste absorbed in it. The same applies to utensils in which foods made of chametz was cooked; in order to use such utensils during Pesach, one must first remove the taste of the chametz.

In general, however, if one be-di’avad
(a level of performance that ex post facto satisfies an obligation in a less-than-ideal manner) forgot that the pot absorbed the taste of forbidden food and cooked another food in it, the food in question remains kosher, provided it was a mistake. But if one knows that a pot had absorbed a non-kosher taste, but cooks kosher food in it anyway, the food is prohibited.
Therefore, in practice,
anyone who wishes to use a pot in which chametz food was cooked, must first kosher it. Similarly, one must kosher the countertop, sink, oven and stove, before Pesach.

Releasing through the Same Method as Absorption (“Ke-bole’o Kakh Polto“)

 

The most basic principle of koshering cooking utensils is that forbidden taste is released from the vessel in the same manner that it was absorbed: “ke-bole’o kakh polto.” There are two principal media through which utensils absorb taste: 1) through direct heat of fire, without a liquid medium, requiring it be koshered by means of heavy libun, that is, heating the vessel by fire until it gives off sparks or becomes red hot, or 2) absorption through a liquid medium, requiring immersion in boiling water (hagala). This also entails differing degrees: liquids in a kli rishon on a flame, kli rishon not on a flame, irui from a kli rishon, and a kli sheni. ‘Ke-bole’o kakh polto’.

Another basic principle: If a utensil absorbed the taste of a prohibited food on two different levels, for example, a spoon that sometimes absorbed chametz in a kli rishon on a flame, and other times as a kli sheni, it is koshered according to its most intense usage – i.e., in boiling water. However, when it is difficult to do so, or if there is a concern that the utensil will be damaged, it can be koshered in accordance with its primary use. For example, a fork usually used with liquids or in a kli sheni, but sometimes is stuck into food in an oven, in which case it absorbs through fire, since libun is liable to damage the fork, we go according to the letter of the law, i.e., the fork is koshered according to its primary use – in boiling water.

Cleaning the House

There is a significant difference between cleaning the house for Pesach, and cleaning the kitchen. When cleaning the house, the goal is that a crumb of chametz the size of kezayit (an olive) should not remain. But when cleaning the kitchen and its utensils, the goal is that no chametz whatsoever (kol she’hu) remain, lest it gets mixed in food for Pesach. And as is well-known, chametz on Pesach is forbidden even b’kol she’hu. And when it comes to cooking utensils, even the taste of chametz absorbed in them should not remain, lest the taste of chametz, kol she’hu, get mixed in Pesach foods while cooking or baking.

There are some people who do not grasp this fundamental difference and clean their house meticulously, but arrive to Seder night completely exhausted; others compound their mistake – they are meticulous in cleaning their house, but are negligent in cleaning their kitchen.

Koshering a Baking Oven

To kosher an oven, clean it thoroughly and run it at its highest setting for half an hour.

It is difficult to kosher baking trays. Because they absorb through fire, they require heavy libun (heating a vessel by fire to the point that absorbed taste is incinerated), but since heavy libun will cause them serious damage, they may not be koshered. One must therefore buy special baking trays for Pesach, while the chametz trays must be cleaned and put away like all other chametz utensils. If one does not have Pesach trays, he may use disposable trays.

With regard to baking trays, however, we are stringent and require heavy libun. However, if one conducts light libun on a tray, he may place a disposable tray inside of the multi-use tray, and certainly atop the racks. It is best to cover the racks with aluminum foil, so that if something spills onto them it will not connect the Pesach tray to the insufficiently koshered racks.

Ovens that self-clean at a temperature of 500ºC need not be cleaned before koshering because such intense heat is considered heavy libun and is sufficient to kosher the oven for Pesach. The baking trays of such ovens may also be koshered at this heat.

Grates and Burners

Throughout the year, people usually use the same stovetop grates for both meat and milk, because even if some meat or dairy food spills onto them, the flame incinerates and befouls whatever has spilled. However, people customarily perform light libun on such grates for Pesach, because of the seriousness of the chametz prohibition. Alternatively, one may wrap thick aluminum foil around the bars on which pots sit, so that there is a barrier between the Pesach pots and the parts of the grates that came into contact with chametzBe-di’avad, the food remains kosher even if cooked on grates that did not undergo libun.

The areas of the grates that do not come into contact with the pots, the enamel cook top beneath the grates, and the burners must be cleaned well of all residual food. Since none of these parts come into contact with the pots, they need not undergo libun or be covered with foil. Generally, people turn on all the flames for half an hour.

The Law of Food that has Fallen under the Grates

It is also important to know that throughout the year one should be stringent and refrain from eating food that has fallen onto the enamel cook top under the grates, because meat and dairy foods spill there, and the enamel becomes not kosher. If one knows that the enamel has been cleaned thoroughly and that no meat and dairy foods have spilled on it in the past twenty-four hours, one may eat what falls there. But when these two conditions have not been met, one should be stringent and refrain from eating whatever comes into contact with this enamel, because it might have absorbed the taste of meat and milk. If a thick piece of food falls there, one may cut off the side that has come into contact with the enamel and eat the rest.

Stove-tops

Electric ranges: Clean thoroughly and run on the highest setting for half an hour.

Ceramic burners: These look like smooth and unbroken glass surfaces on which pots are placed directly. They are koshered by cleaning and then heating on the highest setting for half an hour. One should wait twenty-four hours between the last chametz cooking and beginning to cook for Pesach (this heating is considered light libun, which is sufficient for it according to the vast majority of poskim).

Sinks and Counter-tops

There are two accepted practices for koshering them: Those who are lenient clean them well and then pour boiling water all over them. Before pouring boiling water on a sink or counter-top, it must be dried well, so that the boiling water touches it directly and is not cooled by any cold water on its surface. For this reason, one must first pour the boiling water on the sink and then on the counter-top, starting with the areas closest to the sink and moving further away. To do so, one can also use a steam machine, whose steam heat reaches one hundred degrees (and has the status of pouring boiling water from a kli rishon, namely the vessel in which food was cooked).

Those who are stringent, in addition to pouring boiling water on the sink, put a plastic insert in it or line it with thick aluminum foil.

If the marble counter-top is fragile, and as a result, one is careful not to place boiling pots directly on it – even those who are stringent can suffice by pouring boiling water on it, without covering it with an oilcloth or aluminum foil (see, Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11: 1-2).

Warming Tray (Shabbat Platta)

It should be thoroughly cleaned, and heated on the highest heat for two hours, and covered with aluminum foil.

Microwave Ovens

The common practice is to kosher a microwave oven in four steps: 1) cleaning it thoroughly of any residual food resulting from spillage or vaporization; 2) waiting twenty-four hours so that the absorbed taste becomes foul; 3) heating a container of water in it for three minutes (since microwave ovens absorb chametz via vapor that rises from food as it is heated); 4) placing something as a barrier between the rotating plate and the food that will be heated in the microwave, because chametz may have spilled onto the rotating plate, and when using it on Pesach, place the food in a plastic container or a thick, perforated carton, separating between the rotating plate and the foods being heated on Pesach.

Dishwashers

The filter, where residual food often gets stuck, must be cleaned thoroughly. Then the dishwasher should be run at its hottest setting, so that any absorbed chametz is released, ke-bole’o kakh polto (taste is released from a vessel in the same manner that it was absorbed). In any event, one must wait twenty-four hours after the last load of chametz utensils before using the machine with Pesach utensils.

Some take a stringent approach to dishwashers and consider them to have the status of a kli rishon on a flame. However, those who follow the lenient approach have authorities on whom to rely.

The Dining Table

In the past, people would kosher their tables by pouring boiling water over them, and some took the stringent approach of pouring boiling water onto a white-hot stone on the table, so that the koshering would be at the level of kli rishon. However, today’s tables are more delicate and fragile, and would be damaged, warped, or defaced by boiling hot water.

Therefore, the mainstream approach is to clean the table well and affix nylon or paper to it, creating a set barrier between the table and Pesach utensils and foods. In addition, a tablecloth should be spread over the nylon or paper, and it is a good idea to avoid placing boiling hot pots directly on the table (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11:8).

The Refrigerator

Because they are used with cold food, the only concern is that some chametz crumbs might remain there. Therefore, cleaning them is what koshers them. In hard to reach places where chametz crumbs may have gotten stuck, one must pour soapy water or some other substance that will befoul the crumbs and render them unfit for animal consumption.

Kitchen Cabinets

When kitchen cupboards were made of natural wood, they often had cracks that were difficult to clean completely from chametz that got stuck there. Therefore in the past, people would cover them with paper. However, there is no concern that chametz remained in smooth shelves like those used today. Therefore, once they have been cleaned properly, they need not be covered with paper or cloth.

Electric water heaters

Electric water heaters and Shabbat water heaters (that are placed on the platta) must undergo hagala, because chametz crumbs may have fallen into them, causing their taste to be absorbed. Hagala in this case means filling the device to the top with water, boiling it, and then pouring it out through the opening generally used to dispense the water. Before hagala, it is good to clean out the stone deposits that accumulated inside. If one places challah loaves on the lid of the urn to warm them before the Shabbat meal, hagala should be performed on the kettle and its lid.

Toaster: This requires heavy libun, and since it is liable to be damaged in the process, it should not be koshered. If it is a small toaster, it can be koshered in the same way as a baking-oven, and used on Pesach with disposable trays.

Various Utensils

Silver goblets: It is proper, le-khatĥila, to perform hagala on silver goblets used for Kiddush wine and other hard drinks, because crumbs sometimes fall into the goblet along with these strong drinks, which, according to some poskim, causes their taste to be absorbed into the goblet after eighteen minutes.

Plastic baby bottles: It is better to replace them, but when necessary, one may clean them and perform hagala.

Thermos

After cleaning it properly, hagala should be performed on it. If this is difficult, pouring boiling water into it and around its opening is sufficient.

False Teeth

False teeth should be cleaned thoroughly before the onset of the chametz prohibition. They need not undergo hagala, because people do not normally put boiling foods or liquids in their mouths; just as they are used for both meat and dairy when cleaned in between, so can they be used on Pesach.

The status of braces is similar to that of one’s teeth; just as one thoroughly brushes his teeth before Pesach, so should he brush around the braces.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including all of his highly acclaimed series of books “Peninei Halakha” in Hebrew, and some in English, can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

Egg Matza and ‘Gebrokts’ on Pesach

‘Matza ashira’ and the sources for Ashkenazi and Sephardi customs * Today, cookies made from ‘matza ashira’ contain substances that might be considered like water, consequently there is disagreement among Sephardic poskim in regards to them * ‘Matza sheruya’ and the Hassidic custom not to eat it * Today, some Hasidim are lenient, because the process of baking matzos has changed and there is less room for concern * Milk produced before Pesach can be consumed, but milk of an animal owned by a Jew that ate chametz on Pesach should not be consumed * A further look at the joy of weddings: Tips on preventing older guests from being excluded from the dancing circles, and maintaining pleasant conversations without background music

Matza Ashira (“Egg Matza”)

Q: On Pesach, is one permitted to eat cookies made with ‘mei peirot‘ (“fruit juice”), or what is usually called ‘matza ashira‘ (“egg matza”)?

A: The chametz that the Torah forbids is comprised of flour and water. If flour was kneaded with fruit juice – even if the dough sits a full day and rises – it is not considered chametz since rising of this kind is different from the type forbidden by the Torah. The category of “fruit juice” (“mei peirot“) includes wine, honey, milk, oil, and egg, in addition to all juices squeezed from a fruit, like apple or berry juice. Since fruit juice does not cause dough to become chametz, one may knead, bake, and eat such dough on Pesach. Nevertheless, one would not fulfill the mitzva of matza on the first night of Pesach with it, because the Torah calls matza “lechem oni” (“poor man’s bread”), and matza made from fruit juice is “matza ashira (“rich matza” – colloquially known in English as “egg matza”), since it possesses more than the taste of just flour and water.

If a drop of water gets mixed in with the fruit juice, it can cause the dough to become chametz. Moreover, according to many poskim (Jewish law arbiters), the combination of water and fruit juice actually expedites the leavening process. Thus, in order to avoid such doubts, the Sages prohibited kneading dough with a mixture of fruit juice and water during Pesach (SA 462:1-3).

Ashkenazic Custom

The Ashkenazic custom is to avoid eating anything made of dough kneaded with fruit juice out of concern that water mixed with the fruit juice causes the dough to become chametz. Furthermore, it takes into account the opinion of Rashi, who disagrees with most Rishonim and maintains that fruit juice alone can cause something to become chametz on the rabbinic level. Although in principle it is possible to follow the lenient ruling of the vast majority of poskim, nevertheless the Ashkenazic custom is to be stringent, and this should not be altered.

Sephardic Custom

According to the Sephardic custom, one is permitted to prepare on Pesach cookies made with flour and ‘mei peirot’, but it is forbidden for water to be mixed-in, since such a mixture is liable to expedite the leavening process. Be-di’avad (a level of performance that ex post facto satisfies an obligation in a less-than-ideal manner), if water is mixed in, one should bake it immediately (SA 462:2).

In practice, cookies that get kosher-for-Pesach certification according to Sephardic custom are made on the basis of ‘mei peirot’ with care taken that water is not mixed-in, with other substances added instead. Those poskim who permit them to be eaten maintain that these substances are not considered like water. This is the psak of the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ztz”l, and the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Amar shlita. In contrast, our guide and mentor the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l ruled very stringently, out of fear that the din of the other substances was like water, and that the din of these leavening agents may be even severer than water, so that even if the cookies are made under special supervision, they would be considered chametz, even be-di’avad. Therefore, in practice, even according to Sephardic custom, it would be proper for all to take on the Ashkenazi custom, and avoid eating these cookies. However, someone who’s Rav muvhak (primary rabbi) rules leniently, is permitted to act likewise.

Matza Sheruya (Soaked Matza; “Gebrokts”)

Q: Is there room to be stringent and not eat ‘matza sheruya’, i.e. matzah, or matzah crumbs, soaked in water?

A: Once matza has been completely baked, the flour in it loses the capacity to become chametz, even if it is soaked in water for a long time. An indication that the matza is fully baked is that a crust has formed on its surface and that it breaks cleanly, with no threads of unbaked dough extending from it. Thus, it is permitted to soak matza in soup, and an elderly or sick person who cannot eat dry matza on the Seder night may soften matza by soaking it in water (SA 461:4). Likewise, if the matza was ground into flour, it is permitted to knead it with water; one need not worry about it becoming chametz because, as mentioned, once it has been thoroughly baked, it cannot (SA 463:3). Therefore, one may bake cakes from the five species of grain during Pesach, or cook various dishes – such as gefilte fish and matza balls – that contain matza meal.

The Stringency of Hasidim

Yet there are some who avoid soaking fully-baked matza in water, lest some of the flour was not kneaded properly and remained unbaked, and soaking the matza will cause the unbaked dough to become chametz. They likewise fear that some flour may have stuck to the matza after the baking process, and if the matza is soaked in water, this flour will become chametz. There is yet another reason to be strict about matza meal: an unlearned person might confuse matza meal with real flour and end up violating the prohibition of chametz on Pesach. Hasidim accept this stringency and refrain from eating matza that has been soaked, or what is termed in Yiddish, “gebrokts”.

Halakha Regarding Matzah Sheruya

Nearly all poskim, however, unanimously agree that one need not be stringent, since it can be assumed that the kneading was thorough, leaving no flour un-kneaded or un-baked. This is the custom of Sephardic and non-Hasidic Ashkenazic Jews. Today, even some Hasidic Jews are lenient because, due to the popular practice of baking thin matzot, there is no longer any concern that some of the flour was not properly baked. Likewise, there is no concern that flour may have gotten stuck to the matza, since matza bakeries are careful to separate the area where flour is handled from the area where the matza comes out of the oven. The Mishna Berura (458:4) states: “Although in principle there is no reason for concern about this, and it is permitted to eat soaked matza, one should not mock conscientious people who choose to be stringent.”

The Law Concerning Hasidic Families

In practice, many people of Hasidic descent no longer observe the stringency of “gebrokts”. This is because modern-day matzot are extremely thin and our ovens are very strong. If one’s father was lenient in this matter, one need not perform hatarat nedarim (the annulment of vows), even if he is from a Hasidic family. However, if one’s father was stringent, and he wants to be lenient, he should perform hatarat nedarim, and also make sure not to insult his father.

However, one who accepted the stringency (without saying “bli neder“) because he wanted to go beyond the letter of the law and now wishes to be lenient, should first perform hatarat nedarim.
One who was stringent because he thought that this is the halakha erred, and may switch to the lenient practice without performing hatarat nedarim (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:2). 

Milk from an Animal That Ate Chametz

Clearly, milk produced by a cow before Pesach does not contain chametz, for the chametz eaten by the cow was digested and completely transformed to the point that it is no longer considered chametz whatsoever. Therefore, on Pesach, one is permitted to consume milk, or meat, from an animal that ate chametz before Pesach.

But if the animal ate chametz on Pesach, some poskim rule stringently, arguing that since on Pesach itself it is forbidden to derive benefit from chametz, as long as chametz is a factor causing the production of the milk, the milk is forbidden. Other poskim are lenient, since no direct benefit is derived from the chametz (according to the rule: “zeh ve-zeh gorem“).

In practice, if an animal owned by a Jew was fed chametz in violation of halakha, one should act stringently and not drink its milk; if the animal is owned by a gentile, one is permitted to drink its milk. The same applies to eggs and meat (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:5-6).

Good Advice for Weddings

Following my column concerning the joy of weddings published three weeks ago, I received a reply with another good piece of advice:

“Rabbi, in the column on weddings you dealt with the careless dancing of young people at weddings, that when they are a bit too boisterous, they do not allow older people to participate in the dancing. Even at my not so-old age of thirty, I’ve seen this problem at weddings in which I was a relative of the bride, wishing to dance and rejoice with her, but was repeatedly flung from the dancing circle.

“As a bride, I was worried that this would happen at my wedding as well; therefore, I assigned the responsibility to seven of my closest friends. I asked them to make sure that anyone who wished to dance, would be able to enter the dance circle. Given that this was their task, they took it very seriously. As a result, throughout the entire wedding (as can be seen in the pictures), there was joyous dancing, with young and older guests alike, able to participate in the dancing. This is good advice for a bride who wants to enable all women participating in the wedding to dance, without having to worry about it during the wedding.”

Quieting the Band during the Meal

In the same column, I wrote an important piece of advice – to silence the band during the meal, because pleasurable conversation between the guests is extremely important. Indeed, our Sages have said: “Agra d’bei hilulei – millei” (Berachot 6 b), namely, the merit of attending a wedding lies in the words – i.e., the cheerful bustle of good and pleasing conversation spoken between the guests. However, when the band plays, it is impossible to carry on a relaxed conversation.

Before our daughter’s wedding, I asked that a pre-condition be made – that the band agree not to play during the meal, which they did. When I got to the wedding-hall, I was approached by the band’s manager, a pleasant, God-fearing and educated man, who said that, of course, they would do as requested, but that he felt it would be preferable to play background music. I refused. Nonetheless, he urged amiably, suggesting they would play soft background music, and that I could appoint someone to listen and if the music interfered, they would stop. I agreed to a compromise: during the first course of the meal, they would not play any music at all; during the main course, they would play background music, with one of our guests making sure they were not interfering. The problem was that during the main course, we were all so busy and elated, and although subconsciously we sensed disturbing noise, we had no idea it was the background music causing everyone shout or lean over and speak into the ear of the person sitting next to them.

In practice, during the first course, all guests at the table were able to talk to each other, while during the main course, guests had to raise their voice in order to be heard. True, not as loudly as at weddings where the band actually plays, or where background music is played at a moderate level, but still, it was not as pleasant as we had hoped. We asked some guests, and they said that it was much more pleasant during the first course, without being able to identify the source of the problem. Apparently, since in any case there was a lot of noise in the hall, in order for the background music to be heard, it had to be played quite loud, and thus, relaxed conversation was made impossible.

The lesson I learned for future weddings is not to concede to affable band managers, but rather, insist that there be no music during the wedding meal.

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

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed