How to be Happy on Chag

One should be happier on Chag than on Shabbat * It is a mitzvah to devote half of the Chag to Torah study, and to add something new, such as wine or clothes which will spread joy throughout the Chag * Buying clothes is more important than buying an etrog * It is a mitzvah to rejoice in other activities as well, each one according to what makes them happy * One of the most difficult mitzvot is to be in a good mood * One should rejoice with family, and be careful not to ruin the atmosphere of the Chag at home * Giving gifts to employees before the Chag is somewhat similar to the mitzvah of pleasing one’s servants * One should think about people they know who are in need, and try to please them

Happiness on Chag compared to Shabbat

Chagim (holidays), like Shabbat, are holy days which are called mikrei kodesh (sacred holidays). It is a mitzvah to sanctify them with fine meals and nice clothing, as our Sages said: “And with what do you sanctify the day? With eating, drinking, and nice clothes” (Safra, Emor 12:4). But on Chagim, there is an additional mitzvah – to rejoice, as it is written: “You shall rejoice on your festival” (Deuteronomy 16:14). Accordingly, the meals of the Chagim should be finer than on Shabbat, and one should be meticulous to wear nicer clothes on Chag than on Shabbat. Therefore, if one needs to buy new clothes he should buy them before the Chagim, and rejoice in them on the holiday.

Indeed, our Sages enacted that three meals be held on Shabbat, learning this from hints within the verses (Shabbat 117b) and corresponding to the unique level of Shabbat, whereas on Chag, the mitzvah is to hold only two meals only – one at night, and one during the day (Rosh and Tur); however, one of the explanations for this is that the meals on Chagim are larger, and as a result, there is no reason to hold a third meal, which would only weigh heavily and not increase joy (Lavush).

The Mitzvah of Torah Study on Chag

Torah study is the fundamental mitzvah of Shabbat and Chagim. As our Sages said: “Shabbat and Festivals were given to us for the sole purpose of engaging in Torah study” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 15; 3). The mitzvah is based on three foundations: 1) on the constant mitzvah to learn Torah day and night, which in actuality cannot be fulfilled on weekdays because of the need to work and earn a living, but the Torah commanded us not to work on Shabbat and Chagim so we can fulfill the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. 2) On the kedusha (sanctity) of the holidays which is intended to be drawn in and absorbed through learning Torah that deals with Chag related issues. 3) On the mitzvah of joy, one of whose expressions is Torah study, this being the reason why it is forbidden to study Torah on Tisha B’Av and days of mourning (Taanit 30a; Sha’agat Aryeh 69; Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1:5).

Devote Half the Day to Hashem, and Half to Yourselves

It is a mitzvah to devote half of the day to Torah study (Pesachim 68b; S. A., 529:1). Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) say one should be very careful not to study less than half a day, and thus wrote Rabbi Haim Ben Attar, that someone who learns less than half a day has stolen from Hashem’s portion (Rishon Lezion, Beitza 15b). Others say there is no need to calculate the hours precisely, rather the mitzvah is to learn approximately half a day (Pri Megadim). Seeing as the matter of Torah study on Shabbat and Chag has weakened in recent past, it seems there is room to arrange so that Torah study and prayer time together works out to be about nine hours (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1:6).

The Four Components of the Mitzvah of Joy

In general, the mitzvah of joy on Chag is composed of four components: 1) doing something special that involves an additional aspect of joy, which will impart feelings of happiness throughout the entire holiday. 2) Seeing as there is an additional mitzvah of joy on Chag, the meals should be upgraded so they are superior to Shabbat meals, one should take care to wear his best clothes, and it is a mitzvah to learn Torah which brings joy. 3) To add additional joy by doing pleasurable things such as dancing or going on an outing. 4) To be in a good mood of joy and contentment. I will elaborate on the four components.

Added Joy in Drinking Wine at the Festive Meal

It is a mitzvah to do something special that involves additional joy which will spread happy feelings throughout the entire holiday. To do so, one should drink wine during the holiday meal. And although the time one spends eating the meal is limited, the joy of the meal radiates and spreads throughout the course of the entire holiday. There are some rabbis who are of the opinion that in the matter of drinking wine, both men and women fulfill the mitzvah of adding extra joy; others hold that by way of drinking wine only men fulfill the mitzvah, and this is the way the halakha was determined, as will be explained below. Nevertheless, a woman who enjoys drinking wine also fulfills a mitzvah.

A person who drinks grape juice does not fulfill the mitzvah because it does not contain alcohol, and consequently, does not make one happy. The amount of wine needed to effect happiness is an amount enough to make it a bit difficult for a person to concentrate, or in other words, until the point where it is forbidden for rabbis to instruct halakha. There were eminent Torah scholars who were used to drinking a lot of wine at the holiday feast, and refrained from instructing halakha from the time of the meal until the following day (Beitza 4a). Our Sages determined that in order to fulfill this mitzvah of joy, at the very least, one should drink a little more than a revi’it of wine (75 ml), and the majority of people require a good deal more than a revi’it to fulfill the mitzvah. However, one should not overdo it and get drunk.

Added Joy for Women

For the joy of women, it is a mitzvah to buy a new item of clothing, or a new piece of jewelry. The mitzvah is fulfilled through the purchase of one garment; the intention of the mitzvah is not that the woman has to wear the new outfit for the entire holiday, rather, that as a result of it, the added joy of the Chag receives expression.

There are some men who make the mistake of spending hundreds of shekels on an especially beautiful etrog and skimp on purchasing clothes for their wives, forgetting that buying clothing or jewelry for their wife is an unequivocal mitzvah from the Torah, whereas the purchase of an etrog costing ten times the price of a kosher etrog is a hidur (beautification of a mitzvah) that we are not commanded to fulfill.

Even an unmarried, divorced, or widowed woman must fulfill the mitzvot of joy in all of its components on her own, i.e., she should buy a new garment or piece of jewelry for the Chag, have joyful meals, attend happy events, and be careful to avoid depressing matters.

Joy in Festive Meals and Clothes

Besides the special meal which is the primary mitzvah for men, and buying new clothes or jewelry for women, we have learned that similar to Shabbat, the Chagim are called mikrei kodesh (sacred holidays), in which it is a mitzvah to sanctify them with superior meals and fine clothes. And because on Chag there is an additional mitzvah of joy, consequently, both men and women should beautify these mitzvot on Chag, more than on Shabbat.

Therefore, even though the primary additional joy for men is the festive meal during the day, it is a mitzvah for the evening meal on Chag to be superior to Shabbat evening meals. And although the primary additional joy for women is a new garment or a new piece of jewelry, it is a mitzvah for them to hold special and joyful festive meals on Chag, over and beyond those of Shabbat. It is also a mitzvah for them to drink wine if they enjoy it.

Also, it is not enough for a woman to buy new clothes or jewelry, but she must be more meticulous about her clothes on Chag than on Shabbat. The same holds true for men as well – although their additional joy is expressed in the festive meal during the day, they should also make sure their clothes for Chag are finer than those of Shabbat (S.A., 529:1; Sha’agat Aryeh 65).

Singing, Dancing and Outings

Anything that gladdens the heart is part of the mitzvah to rejoice on Chag, including singing, dancing, and outings. The more one sings and gives praise to God, the more praiseworthy he is, and indeed, Gedolei Yisrael (eminent rabbis) composed liturgical poems and songs to give thanks and praise to Hashem on the Chagim.

Many people are accustomed to dance on Chag, and the source for this stems from the verse: “Celebrate to God your Lord for seven days” (Deuteronomy 16:15), where the Hebrew word for celebrate (ta’chog) can also mean to dance. Consequently, our Sages instituted dancing in the Simchat Beit Hashoeva [a special celebration held during the Intermediate days of Sukkot] (Ha’emek Davar, ibid; Pri TzadikSukkot 17).

Similarly, it is a mitzvah for someone who enjoys going on outings to do so for a short amount of time. Since this is considered a joyous event, the Rabbis permitted carrying a baby who needs to be lifted on Chag (Beitza 12a; R’ma 415:1).

However, in contrast to the festive meals, fine clothes and Torah study which one is obligated to enjoy on Chag, all the other joyful features are reshut (optional), in other words, a person who enjoys doing them, fulfills a mitzvah; someone who does not, is not obligated to do so. Each individual may choose how to enjoy the Chag – some people find greater enjoyment in singing and praising Hashem in the company of family members; others enjoy dancing at the Simchat Beit Hashoeva festivities;  while still others enjoy going on outings, or doing other enjoyable and meaningful things. In any case, one must make sure all these pleasurable events do not interfere with Torah study, because there is a mitzvah to devote half the day to Torah study and prayer. A person who enjoys learning Torah more than anything else – after fulfilling the mitzvah of simcha (joy) by eating fine meals, it is a mitzvah for him to learn Torah for more than half the day.

Festive Mood

It is a mitzvah to be in a good, joyous and content mood for the duration of the entire Chag. Seemingly, this is an easy mitzvah to observe; who doesn’t want to be happy?! In practice, however, this is a difficult mitzvah to fulfill. It is said in the name of the Gaon from Vilna that the mitzvah of simchat Yom Tov (being happy on the holiday) is the hardest
mitzvah to fulfill for in order to do so, one must put aside all types of sorrow, stress and worry, and be in a state of joy and good-heartedness for the entire holiday.

Nevertheless, this is the mitzvah incumbent upon us on Chag – to rise above the worries and troubles, overcome the anger, and rejoice in Hashem. To do so, we must reflect upon the amazing and wonderful fact that Hashem chose us from among all the peoples, and gave us His Torah, sanctified us in His commandments, and brought us into the good Land, so we can merit a full and good life filled with meaning, holiness, and helping to bring tikun olam (betterment of the world). Consequently, we bear in mind the great calling imposed on all of us, we remember all the good things in our lives, are strengthened in emunah (faith) and the realization that all of the sufferings and exiles were intended for the good – to improve and elevate us to our purpose in this world.

Rejoice with Family

One of the mitzvot of the Chag is to rejoice in the circle of one’s family, as it is written: “You shall rejoice on your festival along with your son and daughter” (Deuteronomy 16:14). In order to fulfill the mitzvah properly, each member of the family must maintain a pleasant atmosphere during the Chag, especially at mealtimes. Everyone must try their best to avoid offensive speech and make an effort to cheer those gathered at the table with kind words, and as a result, achieve true happiness. Our Sages said in the Zohar that mealtimes are a time of battle, because before meals begin, the evil inclination intensifies with the aim of stimulating fights and insults, and a person must be prepared for battle and defeat the evil inclination by means of increasing love and affection between family members.

The Mitzvah to Be Happy and Gladden Others

The primary mitzvah on Chag is to be happy and make others happy, because true happiness is achieved only when efforts are made to please others, as it is written: “You shall rejoice on your festival along with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite, proselyte, orphan and widow within your gates” (Deuteronomy 16:14).

From the Torah’s instruction to rejoice with one’s male and female slave, employers have learned that although their workers will be rejoicing with their families on Chag, nevertheless, they present them gifts before the holiday to make them happy.

In addition to that, before Chag, every family should think about which of their relatives and acquaintances are going through difficult times, and should cheer them up by inviting them to the meal on Chag. In particular, attention should be paid to new immigrants and converts, for often, specifically on the holidays, they feel lonelier, and it is a great mitzvah to include them in the joy.

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

Fasting on Yom Kippur

A “regular” sick person, whose whole body is ill but whose life is not in danger, is obligated to fast but may take pills that have no taste * A gravely ill person is obligated to eat * Not all medical worries are considered life-threatening, therefore a religiously observant doctor should be asked * Eating in “measures” – only for the gravely ill * Diabetics – better to eat more than a “measure” and come to synagogue * Pregnant and nursing mothers must fast, and not drink in “measures” * Today, sick people and pregnant women are not considered weak like in the past, but are actually healthier * In the era of milk substitutes, shortage of milk cannot be considered a danger * Advice for nursing women before the fast

The Mitzvah to Fast

The most important aspect of atonement on Yom Kippur is dependent on fasting. By fasting, a person withdraws from all bodily actions, draws within his inner-self, his soul, and reveals his true, inner aspirations – to follow Torah and mitzvot, and thus participate in ‘tikun olam’ (repairing the world). By doing so, his sins become external, and ‘zedonot’ (willful transgressions) are transformed into ‘shegagot‘ (inadvertent errors). And if thanks to Yom Kippur a person merits to repent deeply and completely, to the point where he amends all of his sins, he will also merit having his ‘zedonot’ transformed into ‘zechuyot‘ (spiritual credits).

Therefore, the mitzvah of fasting is the only commandment intended for each and every Jew on Yom Kippur, as it is written: ” “[Each year] on the 10th day of the 7th month you must fast…this is because on this day you shall have all your sins atoned, so that you will be cleansed. Before God you will be cleansed of all your sins” (Leviticus 16:29-30).

A Sick Person Whose Life is Not in Danger is Obligated to Fast

Even one suffering pain from his illness – as long as his life is not in danger, it is forbidden for him to eat or drink anything. If necessary, he should lie in bed all day, rather than eat or drink anything.

This is the difference between Yom Kippur and other fasts – namely, on the fast of Yom Kippur, ill people must also fast because it is a Torah prohibition; on the fast of Tisha B’Av, ill people are exempt from fasting; and on the minor fasts, pregnant and nursing mothers are also exempt.

Swallowing Medication

Nevertheless, a sick person who experiences discomfort from his ailment, or those who take medication every day, are permitted to swallow medicine on Yom Kippur, provided these pills do not taste good, and as such, are not considered food. One should take care to swallow them without water. Those who cannot swallow them without water can mix a drop of soap in water, thereby extremely impairing its taste, and swallow the pill with such water.

Headache Sufferers

If the fast causes a person great pain, he is permitted to take pills to relieve the pain. Similarly, individuals suffering from intense headaches due to not drinking coffee are permitted to take pills containing caffeine, or pills to relieve headaches.

The Gravely Ill

Someone who is gravely ill and the fast is liable to result in his death, is commanded to drink and eat as necessary, because ‘pikuach nefesh’ (saving a life) overrides the mitzvah of fasting, as is the case for all other mitzvoth from the Torah (Yoma 85b). A person in a state of ‘safek sakana’ (questionable risk of death) and is ‘machmir‘ (stringent) with himself not to drink or eat – sins, for He who commanded us to fast, also commanded us to eat and drink on Yom Kippur when the fast is likely to endanger life.

The intention is not merely in a situation where as a result of fasting a significant percentage of sick individuals will die; rather, as long as there is a possibility the fast will cause an ill person’s death, or weaken his ability to cope with his dangerous illness, it is a mitzvah for him to eat as necessary. Similarly, if the fast is liable to hasten the death of a terminally ill person on the verge of dying, it is a mitzvah for him to eat and drink as needed, because in order to save life – even for a short period of time – it is permissible to eat and drink on Yom Kippur.

Not to Be Overly Concerned

On the other hand, however, one should not be overly concerned, for if we worry about ‘sakanat nefashot’ (endangering life) over every common illness, in effect, we cancel the halakha which determines that a sick person is obligated to fast on Yom Kippur.

Not only that, but if we overly exaggerate and worry about extremely remote dangers, we would have to hospitalize every sick person with the flu, and ban unnecessary car travel out of fear of automobile accidents, and so forth.

Rather, the general rule is that any danger that people usually treat urgently, investing time and effort, such as rushing a sick person to a hospital in the middle of a working day, is considered ‘sakanat nefashot’, and in order to prevent it, it is a mitzvah to desecrate Shabbat and drink and eat on Yom Kippur. But dangers in which people do not rush and devote time and resources to take care of, is not considered ‘sakanat nefashot‘.

How to Evaluate ‘Sakanat Nefashot’

A doctor who is in doubt should contemplate what he himself would do if on Yom Kippur he learned about a sick patient who was fasting. If he would get in his car and drive ten minutes in order to instruct the patient to drink and eat thereby saving the patient from ‘safek sakana’, it is a sign that indeed it is a case of ‘safek sakanat nefashot’, and he should instruct an ill person coming to him to eat and drink on Yom Kippur. But if in spite of his responsibility for human life he would not be willing to drive on Yom Kippur for ten minutes, it’s a sign there is no ‘safek sakana’, and he should instruct the patient to fast. This advice is beneficial for a normal doctor who, on the one hand, is not lazy, but on the other hand, does not particularly enjoy scurrying between patients.

Ask an Observant Doctor

This halakha is entrusted to doctors, namely, that in accordance with the medical information at their disposal and their personal experience, they must determine when there is – or is not – a fear of danger. Still, a problem arises:  there are doctors who, due to over-hesitation or disregard of mitzvoth, inevitably instruct every sick person to drink and eat on Yom Kippur.

Therefore, in regards to this issue, people who are ill must take advice from a religiously observant doctor. And religious observance is not dependent on the kippa one wears; rather, the most important thing is that the doctor should be honest and ethical, and determine with exceeding responsibility, towards both the sanctity of the fast, and that of human life.

An ill person who mistakenly asked a doctor who is not observant and naturally, was instructed to eat and drink, should hasten and ask an observant doctor before Yom Kippur. If one erred and did not ask an observant doctor, and has no opportunity to do so, he should drink and eat on Yom Kippur because although there is doubt whether the doctor replied correctly, the realm of doubt still remains, and in any situation of ‘safek nefashot’, one must be ‘machmir‘ (stringent) and eat and drink.

The Greatest Mistake in Eating in Measurements

A common and widespread misconception among doctors and the ill is the belief that the advice to drink in ’shiurim‘ (measured quantities) is sort of a middle-path, suitable for sick individuals for whom the fast is not life-threatening. In truth, however, the status of ill people not in a life-threatening situation is similar to all others, and the severe Torah prohibition applies to them as well, i.e., it is forbidden for them to drink or eat anything.

Rather, the point about drinking in ‘shiurim’ is that even when a dangerously ill person needs to eat and drink on Yom Kippur, some authorities say it is preferable to eat and drink in ‘shiurim’. The ‘shiur’ for drinking is ‘k’mlo peev’ (a cheek-full of liquid), each person according to the size of his mouth. The ‘shiur’ for eating is ‘k’kotevet hagasa‘ (a type of large date). In other words, eating and drinking less than a ‘shiur’ means drinking less than ‘k’mlo peev’, and eating less than ‘k’kotevet’, which is approximately 30 ml (S.A. 612:1-5, 8-10). The interval between drinking and eating is approximately nine minutes. Some authorities say that if the sick person is dangerously ill, he should drink and eat normally. And if there is a danger, even remote, that drinking and eating in ‘shiurim’ will cause even the slightest negligence in the strengthening of the dangerously ill person, he should drink and eat normally. For example, if a ‘yoledet‘ (a women after childbirth) is tired, it is better for her to drink normally so she can sleep uninterrupted, rather than having to stay awake in order to drink in ‘shiurim’.


For a person with diabetes, for whom fasting is life-threatening, it is better to eat more than a ‘shiur’ and pray in synagogue, than to stay at home and eat in ‘shiurim‘. There are two reasons for this: one, eating in ‘shiurim’ is a ‘hidur mitzvah’ (an enhancement of the mitzvah), while praying in a minyan is more important. Second, if we ask people who are sick to stay at home so they can eat in ‘shiurim’, there will be some who nevertheless will go to synagogue, with the intention of eating in ‘shiurim’ in the synagogue discreetly, but in practice for various reasons will forget to eat as much as necessary, and as a result will blackout, become unconscious, or die, God forbid, as occasionally happens on Yom Kippur.

Pregnant Women are Obligated to Fast

Pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast on Yom Kippur (Pesachim 54b; S.A.617:1). Even on Tisha B’Av, pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast, kal v’chomer (all the more so) on Yom Kippur, whose requirement stems from the Torah.

There are some poskim (Jewish law authorities) who sought to permit pregnant women to drink in ‘shiurim’ because in their opinion, women have become weaker nowadays, and fasting may cause them to miscarry. However, from studies conducted in Israel and abroad, it was revealed that fasting does not increase the risk of miscarriage. Only in rare cases is fasting liable to induce labor in the ninth month of pregnancy and, in any event, this does not entail ‘sakanat nefashot’. Also, there is no evidence to the claim that nowadays women are weaker. On the contrary – today people are healthier than in the past, due to both the diversity and abundance of food, better hygiene, and medical advancements. This is also reflected in the rise of life expectancy by tens of years. Consequently, there is no room to be more lenient than in the past, and the halakha remains firm that pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast (Nishmat Avraham 617:1).

Therefore, even a pregnant woman who suffers from vomiting, high blood pressure, low hemoglobin (iron) or various ailments is obligated to fast on Yom Kippur, and it is forbidden for her to drink in ‘shiurim‘. Only in exceptional cases where the pregnancy is at risk, and in accordance with the advice of a religiously observant doctor, should a pregnant woman be instructed to drink, and in such a case, preferably in ‘shiurim’.

Nursing Women are Obligated to Fast

A nursing woman is obligated to fast on Yom Kippur (Pesachim 54b; S.A. 617:1). Although nursing causes fasting to be difficult seeing as it results in a further loss of fluids, there is no danger to the mother or the fetus. Some poskim sought to be lenient regarding nursing women because in their opinion weakness has descended upon the world, and today, without nursing, babies are at risk. However, their opinions are extremely puzzling, for although there are certainly positive benefits to nursing and mother’s milk, nevertheless, there are many women who do not nurse at all, and we have yet to hear doctors wage a war over women continuing to nurse in order to save their children from mortal danger. If in the past when numerous babies died in their first year of life and there were no good substitutes for mother’s milk, the clear-cut halakha was that a pregnant woman was obligated to fast – even on Tisha B’Av – how is it conceivable that nowadays when there are good substitutes, this issue has become one of pikuach nefesh?!

Good Advice for Nursing Women

The doctors we are acquainted with advise nursing women to drink three days before Yom Kippur at least four liters per day, and on the eve of Yom Kippur – from morning, until the fast begins – about five liters, in order to store fluids ahead of Yom Kippur, and as a result, also increase milk. According to experience, if a woman does so, not only will Yom Kippur not affect her nursing, but as a result, her milk supply will increase. Very possibly, she might even be able to extract surplus milk ahead of Yom Kippur.

Another piece of advice from my wife for the fast to be easier for both mother and baby: to alternately skip two feedings – one at noon-time on Yom Kippur, and another towards the end of the fast, and in its place, feed the baby a milk substitute.

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

Shofar, Blessings, and Glad Tidings

How many shofar blasts must one hear on Rosh Hashanah * Sitting and standing for the shofar blasts * Differences customs regarding blowing the shofar during the Silent Prayer * Someone who uses a hearing aid but can hear without it should remove it during the blowing of the shofar * When two prayer quorums are held at the same time and can hear each other, it is advisable not to blow the shofar at the same time * The custom of women to hear the shofar, and the difference of opinion whether to recite the blessing * The prohibition of preparing from the first day of Rosh Hashanah to the second day * When, and how to light the candles on the second night * The order of blessings over the ‘simanim’ * God’s blessing in the past year: growth and strengthening of the communities in Judea and Samaria

The Torah Mitzvah of Shofar

It is a mitzvah from the Torah to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and the intention of the mitzvah is to hear three teru’ot (blasts), and to sound before and after each teru’ah a simple tekiya. Thus, the Torah commandment is to hear nine shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah. Since there are three types of teruahshevarim, alluding to sighing, teruah, connoting crying, and shevarim-teruah, a combination of both – it follows that in order to fulfill the commandment in the most complete way, we need to hear thirty shofar blasts (shevarim-teruah are considered as two blasts) (Peninei Halakha:Yom’im Nora’im 4: 1-2).

Rabbinic Additions and Minhag

The fulfillment of the mitzvah in its finest way is to blow the shofar during the chazan’s repetition of the Mussaf prayer. Our Sages fixed an additional measure to adorn the mitzvah by also sounding the shofar before the Mussaf prayer in “Tekiyot Me’yushav” (the blasts sounded while sitting). On the one hand, the important blasts are the ones in the Mussaf prayer, and therefore, according to the strict law, one may sit during the blasts preceding the prayer, and this is the custom of Sephardim. On the other hand, since one fulfills his obligation by hearing these blasts, seeing as they are the first ones to be heard, the Ashkenazi custom is to stand.

There were some rabbis who went even further, adorning the mitzvah by sounding a hundred blasts, as written in the book “Aruch” according to the Jerusalem Talmud. But during the times of the Rishonim, only a few people were accustomed to do so, but after the Ari HaKadosh arranged kavanot (intentions) for one hundred tekiyot, the minhag (custom) spread to most Jewish communities (Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im 4:3-4).

Should the Shofar be blown during the Silent Prayer?

The minhag of Sephardim and Chassidim is to blow thirty blasts during the Silent Prayer of Mussaf as is done in the repetition of the chazan, because by combining the blasts during the prayers, the blasts and the prayers themselves are more acceptable. For those who follow this minhag, the person blowing the shofar determines the pace of prayer, and the worshipers try to pray at his speed, in order to hear the blasts in their proper place at the end of the blessing. To do so, the shofar blower should pray unhurriedly and in a steady pace, and it would be best for someone who completes the blessing before him to wait until he blows the shofar. Nevertheless, those who want to pray faster or slower may do so, and say, “Hayom Harat Olam” at the end of every blessing and when hearing the blasts, although in the middle of a different blessing, they should stop and hear the blasts and afterwards, continue their prayers. In order to complete a hundred blasts, ten more blasts are blown during the ‘Kaddish titkabal’.

According to the Ashkenazi minhag, blasts are not sounded during the Silent Prayer, so as not to interfere with the intentions of the worshippers, who would have to match the pace of their own prayers to that of the chazan. In order to complete a hundred blasts at the end of the chazan’s repetition, forty blasts are missing. Thirty are blown after “Aleynu l’Sha’bay’ach“, and another ten after “Anim Zemirot” (Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im: 4:4).

A Person with a Hearing Aid

Concerning a person who uses an electric hearing device, if he can hear the shofar without the device, it would be best for him to remove the device from his ear so as to hear the sound of the shofar naturally. This is because there are contemporary poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who are of the opinion that the sound emanating from the electrical device is not considered the sound of the shofar, rather, the device receives the sound as electrical signals and then converts them into a new sound, and thus, it is considered a mechanical sound (Rabbi Uziel, Rabbi Goren, Rabbi Auerbach). Additionally, some say that although for other mitzvoth hearing by means of an electrical device is fit for use, but regarding hearing the shofar one should be ‘machmir’ (strict) (Maran Rabbi Kook, Iggrot Moshe). However, those unable to hear the shofar without the use of a hearing aid should use the device, seeing as some poskim say one may fulfill the mitzvah in this fashion (Rabbi Orenstein, ‘Assiya’ 77-78; Yibeah Omer). In my humble opinion, it appears to me that, God-willing, when we are able to improve hearing aids (or a cochlear implant) to the point where by using it one can hear as naturally as others normally do, the halakha will be that hearing by means of an electrical device will be the same as normal hearing (see, Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im: 4, footnote 4).

Simultaneous Shofar Blasts

When two minyan’s (prayer quorums) pray in close proximity, if one minyan had started blowing the shofar, it would be advisable for the other minyan to wait until the first minyan finishes their series of blasts. This is because there are poskim who say that if one hears other shofar blasts in the middle of hearing blasts with which he fulfills his obligation, even though he has no kavanah (intention) to fulfill his obligation by hearing them, they invalidate the tekiyot. And although the halakha goes according to the opinion of most authorities that such blasts do not invalidate others, l’chatchila (from the outset), it is good to take their opinion into consideration (Peninei Halakha; Yomim Nora’im 4, footnote 4).

Shofar Blowing for Women

Men are obligated in the mitzvah of shofar, while women are exempt seeing as it is a positive commandment dependent on a specific time. Women who wish to hear the shofar fulfill a mitzvah, and receive reward for it. The minhag of most Jewish women is to voluntarily fulfill the mitzvah.

In regards to reciting the blessing, there are different customs. Some poskim say that the blessing was fixed only for men obligated in the mitzvah, but a woman who blows the shofar for herself does not recite the blessing, and if a man blows for women he does not recite the blessing. Others say that although women are exempt from the mitzvah, seeing as they fulfill a mitzvah by hearing the shofar, the woman blowing the shofar should recite the blessing. Also, when a man blows for a group of women, one of the women would recite the blessing for all of them (Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im ibid 4:6).

Women’s Prayer

Women are obligated to pray. Some halachic authorities say the intention is they are required to pray the Amidah (Eighteen Benedictions) once a day – Shacharit (Morning Prayer) or

Mincha (Afternoon Prayer). Others say they are required to pray twice a day – both Shacharit and Mincha; and according to all opinions, they are obligated to recite Birkot HaShachar (the Morning Blessings). And although throughout the year a woman who wishes to be lenient and pray only one Amidah a day may do so, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is proper for every woman to pray the Amidah of Shacharit, Mussaf, and Mincha.

A woman who is scrupulous in the performance of mitzvoth and wishes to pray all of the High Holiday services in the synagogue – ‘tavo aleyha bracha‘(this is pious conduct for which one is blessed for being strict).

However, as long as a woman has young children to care for, it is preferable for her to remain at home, because in any event, the rabbis did not obligate women to pray with a minyan. If taking care of her children makes it difficult for her to concentrate on her Amidah prayers, she should suffice by reciting the Birkot HaShachar. How fortunate is her lot; taking care of her children is her prayers, and there is no better ‘siman tov‘(good sign) for the entire year than to take care of a small child, patiently and happily. And just as God provides life to all living things on Rosh Hashanah, so too, she takes care of her child and provides him life.
Nevertheless if a woman so wishes she can coordinate with a neighbor that each one watch their respective children for a certain amount of time, allowing them both to go to synagogue and pray.

The Transition from the First Day of Rosh Hashana to the Second

One must be careful not to make preparations for the meal, or set the table, from Yom Tov Rishon (the first day of Rosh Hashana) to Yom Tov Sheni (the second day). Therefore, it is forbidden to wash the dirty dishes from the first day in order to use them on the second night or day; rather, only after ‘Tzeit Ha’Kochavim’ (nightfall) arrives, and the first day has ended, may one wash the dishes to use them for the holiday meal, set the table, and heat-up the food.

This is why, in practice, the second night meal is delayed at least an hour after ‘Tzeit Ha’Kochavim’, and it is my custom to prolong the sermon on the second night so that in the meantime food will be able to heat-up.

Food should not be taken out of the freezer on the first day for the meal on the second night. In a “sha’at dachak” (time of distress), when waiting for Yom Tov Rishon to be over will cause anguish and a significant delay of the meal, the food may be taken out of the freezer during the day (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2; 12).

Candle Lighting on the Second Night

Candles for the second night of Yom Tov should be lit after ‘Tzeit Ha’Kochavim’ (nightfall).

One should prepare before the first night of Yom Tov a candle that will burn for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light the candles for the second night of Yom Tov. 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 use of a 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.

However, it is forbidden to heat a wax candle to attach it to a candlestick holder, and it is also forbidden to cut or scrape the bottom of the candle to insert it into the candlestick (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2; 9:5).

When to Eat the ‘Simanim‘ and Their Blessings

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, it is customary to eat foods that symbolize a good ‘siman‘ (sign) for the upcoming year, such as apples, dates, pomegranates, beets, and carti (leek). Some people perform the minhag on the first night alone, but many also do it on the second night.

The correct minhag is to recite the blessing over bread first, due to its importance, and afterwards, to eat the ‘simanim‘.

One should recite the blessing “ha’etz” on one of the fruits of a tree, and thus exempt the rest of the fruits. This is because the blessing of “ha’motzi” over the bread exempts foods intended for satiety, which “come due to the meal”, but fruits of the tree used as ‘simanim‘ are intended to add flavor and are not part of the meal, and as such, require a blessing.

Although dipping an apple in honey is the most famous ‘siman‘, since dates are one of the Seven Species of the Land of Israel, it is proper to recite the blessing “ha’etz” over it, and with this blessing, exempt all other fruits grown on trees. The date comes before the pomegranate, because in the Biblical sequence of the Seven Species, it is closer to the word “eretz” (land). After reciting the blessing over the date, one should eat a little bit of it, and only then say the ‘yihi ratzon’ prayer normally recited, in order not to cause an interruption between the blessing and the eating.

Over the ‘simanim‘ whose blessing is “ha’adama” there is no need to recite a blessing because they are cooked, as are the salads eaten during the meal intended for satiety, and are therefore considered as “coming due to the meal”, and are exempted by the blessing of “ha’motzi“.

The minhag is to recite ‘yihi ratzon’ over each ‘siman’. One of the guests can say it out loud and everyone answer ‘Amen‘, and then eat it.

Cheerful Numbers from Samaria

Towards the new year, may it come to us for good, out of reverence and gratitude to Hashem, we are obliged to be thankful for the abundance of blessings we have merited receiving in the strengthening and intensification of settlement. I do not have data on all of Judea and Samaria, rather, only on the Samaria Regional Council where close associates of mine diligently toil on building its’ communities, and the blessings therein are incredible.

With God’s help, the number of residents grew approximately ten percent, and the number of students in the school system grew about thirteen percent.

The population continues to grow, evident in that the younger the grade levels are, the greater number of students there are in each class.

The statistics are for the Samaria Regional Council, not including Ariel, Kedumim, Karnei Shomron, Elkana, and Alfei Menashe.

This past year the number of students who started school in Grade 6 was nearly 700 students; in Grade 1 there were 1,150 students, and in pre-kindergarten (age 3), 1,327. Thus, during the period of eight scholastic years, with the grace of God, we merited growing almost two-fold!

Naturally, a large amount of the welcome increase occurred in the communities located in western Samaria, adjacent to the Dan region (Greater Tel Aviv), and therefore, we, the residents of the community Har Bracha, are doubly obliged to be thankful, because in spite of all the accusations, and the self-sacrifice required of those living on the frontline of settlement, we also merited growing and expanding in equal measures. As expected, every year in each community there are families who move in, and those who leave; last year, the number of families that left Har Bracha was the lowest in the past few years. And now, we are already approaching the stage where we will number over 2,000 people. Who would have believed this fifteen years ago, when we numbered only a few hundred?!

Our souls are extended in prayer for the new year, may it come upon us for good, that we merit to grow and expand in the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the Land), and alongside that, merit deepening study of Torah and “settling” the divine and sublime ideas here in the physical world.

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

Torah Observant are More Successful

In the merit of Torah and mitzvoth, as explained in this week’s Torah portion, ‘Clal Yisrael’ receives blessings in real life * Mitzvoth and Jewish values ​​have an actual effect * Thanks to Jewish values, religious families are more stable * The Torah educates towards fertility which leads to demographic growth, as reflected even in secular society * Torah observant workers are less tempted to betray the trust of their employers * Torah study develops creative thinking also in industry * A person who receives religious education is more willing to help the weak in society * Moral values ​​can be taught in secular education as well, but in order for them to develop with vitality and passion, especially in an affluent society, faith is required

Blessing in This World

The reward and punishment written in the Torah is designed for ‘Clal Yisrael’ in this world (for all individuals, the main reward and punishment is in ‘Olam Ha’ba’ (the hereafter), as explained in the Talmud Moed Katan 28a; Kiddushin 39b). This reward and punishment does not violate the laws of nature, but rather, occur through them; for if they came miraculously, they would abolish free will, and individuals would not merit the opportunity to be partner in ‘tikun olam’ (repairing the world). In this article, with God’s help, I will try to explain how, by means of Torah observance, blessing comes naturally.

Since we will be dealing with comparisons between the religious and secular, it is important to first emphasize that there is no fundamental difference between observant and secular Jews – all wish to be good, and the level of talent in both groups is equal. However, when looking deeper, we find that when an entire group of people observes Torah and mitzvoth in a balanced manner, the cumulative blessing they receive is beyond belief. This is the destiny of the nation of Israel; in this way, it can be a light unto the world, elevating it to its ‘tikun’.

In analysis of the following indicators, I will attempt to assess the advantages of religious life in percentages. Indeed, the numbers are not exact (to say the least), and it would be fitting to investigate these important issues in greater depth. Nevertheless, since I am certain that the direction in principle is correct, in order to illustrate and help see the overall picture, I tried to approximate the advantages of Torah observance in percentages, according to things I’ve read in the past.

Obviously, the blessings written in the Torah come on the condition that its instructions are followed without diverting to the left or right – namely, prohibitions are not added, such as forbidding academic studies or acquiring a profession, while on the other hand, mitzvoth that are difficult to fulfill are not gotten rid of.

The Blessing of Marriage

When marrying, both secular and observant people alike hope they will remain committed forevermore. Nevertheless, enthusiasm eventually diminishes, and temptations increase. By means of Torah and mitzvoth, especially the mitzvoth between ‘adam le’chaveiro’ (between man and his fellow man) and mitzvoth ‘onah’ (laws of marital purity), observant people have a better chance of getting through crises, and continuing to deepen and elevate their love.

The phenomenon of infidelity is also lower among the observant public than the secular, thanks to education regarding commitment and modesty. Of course, we wish that religious education could prevent all infidelity, but to our great dismay, it exists; nevertheless, we can find comfort that thanks to religious education, the percentages are lower. Even after an act of unfaithfulness, thanks to the importance placed on the value ‘teshuva’ (repentance) ‘shalom bayit’ (reconciliation), the chances of an observant couple successfully rebuilding their lives is higher.

Thus in practice, observant people tend to have better marriages, which has a positive effect on the quality of their lives, their children’s education and on their livelihood, for on the whole, divorce harms all of these areas (it appears the divorce rate among the secular is over 50%, 10% among the observant, and somewhere in the middle among the traditional).

Children’s Education

The mitzvah of honoring parents and the framework of Shabbat and Chagim (holidays) stabilizes the religious family and the relationship between parents and their children to a great extent, and also provides an advantage in children’s education and guidance in the areas of ‘derech eretz’ (desired mode of behavior), such as persistence in studies, acquiring a profession, higher education, contributing to society and the nation, and establishing a family. Thus, if we compare families with equal education and knowledge, and an equal socio-economic status, the success rate of the observant will be slightly higher.

In the area of establishing a family the success rate of the observant is much higher, whereas in the other areas, it is not as high. However, even if this means only an additional ten percent in the success rate in scholastic studies and in acquiring an education and a profession, this is a very significant difference.

Children and Demographics

Secular families on the average have slightly more than two children per family. In contrast, thanks to family values ​​and the mitzvah ‘pru urvu’ (procreation), the average number of children in a religious family is approximately four, and in an ultra-Orthodox or Haredi family, about six or seven.

Since among the observant the proportion of sons and daughters who get married is higher and the age of marriage is earlier, the demographic growth rate is much higher. If we attempt to calculate the overall situation in the religious community, taking into account that about twenty percent leave religious life, it is possible to estimate the demographic growth of the religious community will be twice as high in twenty-five years, four times as high in fifty years, and sixteen times as high in one hundred years.

Incidentally, because the secular public we have discussed is not completely secular, but in many areas is essentially traditional, the percentage of marriages and the number of children among secular Jews in Israel is much higher than Western countries equal to Israel economically and educationally. As a result, the only population among Western affluent societies that has grown substantially, is Israel’s Jewish population.

Work Ethics and Productivity

Almost all people – both religious and secular, would like to work honestly and diligently, however the evil inclination, on the other hand, seduces one to be lazy, careless, and even to cheat and steal. It may be assumed that thanks to religious education, the percentage of those who work diligently and faithfully is higher among the observant by at least about ten percent.

Family stability provides a certain advantage at work as well, seeing as the phenomenon of infidelity, divorce and the fights involved with them, damage one’s ability to concentrate on his work.

Work Creativity

It is a mitzvah to fix specific times for Torah study every day, and thus, the percentage of observant people engrossed in study is higher than that of the secular, many of whom hardly open any type of academic book for even an hour a week. It can be assumed that study provides a person inspiration to develop new ideas, and find solutions to complex problems.

Even if we say that the cumulative effect of this is only five percent, it’s a very significant difference, because in free market competition success is often determined by an additional five percent of creativity. One could say that thanks to Jewish tradition and values of ​​learning, members of the secular public are also more creative than their peers in the West. Thus we find that in practice, the State of Israel is one of the world leaders in the field of high technology, thanks to a certain percentage of extra creativity.

Presumably, the more Jews who invest time in Torah study, without taking away from the importance ​​of science, work, freedom and responsibility, we will merit greater success in the development of science and technology.

Helping Others

It is a great mitzvah to help the poor, sick, crippled, deaf and blind. Presumably, a person who receives a religious education, on the average, is more inclined to enlist. These wonderful mitzvoth open a person’s heart and enriches the mind, and when many are willing to volunteer in order to lighten the suffering and hardships of others, there are those among them who are able to find solutions and impressive advancements for the sake of the suffering and society. Aside from the moral value of this, businesses also grow from these innovations. For example, as a result of this, the government and private corporations are also willing to invest more resources in the development of the various sciences, and in the long term, this is extremely beneficial for business.

Modesty and Frugality

Torah values ​​help a person to defer gratification, be pleased with one’s portion, and spend less on luxuries. Consequently, an average religious family is able to save more money and invest it for the long term – part of it for their children’s education until they acquire a suitable profession, and the other part for their old age, so as not to be a burden on the shoulders of their children or society. Some of this saved money is also directed through various funds to the development of science, technology, and the economy.

The Foundation: Faith

Q: Aren’t secular people correct when they claim that it’s possible to educate towards all of these values even without faith in God and the Torah, seeing as they are human values ​​that any decent person can understand?

A: First of all, ‘emunah’ (faith) is truth, and God is the source of all truth and good. Consequently, when these values are connected to their Divine origin, ‘emunah‘ provides them with vitality and strength, but when these values are not connected to their Divine origin, it is difficult to internalize them. For example, many people agree that observing the laws of family purity is extremely beneficial in preserving a marriage, but without ‘emunah‘, they cannot be fulfilled, and consequently, their blessing cannot be gained.

Apart from that, when a nation is in financial distress or at war, often it finds the power to accelerate the development of its economy and society, and thus, finds itself in an economic, national, and political upswing. But when society becomes satiated, gradually it degenerates. Indulgence and laziness increases, young people waste their parents’ inheritances, and individuals refrain from sacrificing themselves for the common good. This is how society crumbles, and how nations are defeated and vanish.

Regarding this, the Torah warns: “Be careful that you not forget God your Lord… lest you eat and be satisfied, building fine homes and living in them… and you amass much silver and gold… And your heart grows haughty, and you forget God your Lord… and say to yourself, “It was my own strength and personal power that brought me all this prosperity”… If you ever forget… I bear witness to you today that you will be totally annihilated” (Deuteronomy, 8:11-19).

Thus, for everything that occurs by natural means we must pray, give thanks, and ask Hashem to continue helping us, and that in spite of all the blessings, we do not deteriorate.

Development of the Will to Benefit

In order for the vitality, energy, and creativity to continue even in times of abundance, Torah must be learned. Because aside from the fact that Torah study deepens and inspires thought, it also turns a person into an idealist wishing to improve the world and make it better. Subsequently, vitality continues even in times of abundance, in order to improve the world and reveal all the Divine goodness.

The mitzvoth of helping the weak, disabled and sick also deepens the desire to benefit others, adding strength and vitality even in times of abundance, to take action with the aim of adding blessing and good in the world.

Therefore, it is essential for the Jewish nation to have Torah scholars and yeshivas, who will be the beacons of light, establishing the values ​​of the Torah and ‘chesed‘ (kindness), so as to add blessing in the world and improve it.

The Vision of the State of Israel

If the religious community merits ascending in the path of the all-embracing Torah, and serving as an example of moral, social and economic success, traditional Jews will naturally come closer to Torah and mitzvoth.

And if thanks to the diligence and creativity at work, Israel’s annual gross domestic product rises only five per cent on average beyond the rest of Western countries, and demographic growth rises about three percent a year as is usual in religious society, then within a few generations, the Jewish nation residing in its Land will number tens of millions, and will lead the world in terms of values, technology, and economics. Consequently, the Jews living in the Diaspora obviously will be eager make aliyah and take part in the success; the lost and exiled will inquire about their roots, and return to their people and country; a great and immense nation will proclaim faith and justice to the world, paving ways for moral instruction and intellectual development for the benefit of all humanity, and innovate methods and technologies for the longevity and quality of life. Thus, in a natural process, we will see the fulfillment of the prophetic vision: “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall go and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

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

Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv, of Blessed Memory

The greatness and aspirations of Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv’s father, The Rabbi- Nazir * Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv grew up as a nazir from birth, followed in the holy ways of his father, and was endeared by the eminent Rabbis of Jerusalem * At the age of sixteen, he asked to be absolved from being a nazir in order to join the Underground * He elevated the city of Haifa and the Chief Rabbinate * In a letter, he wrote about the first initiative of integrating Torah and army service during the days of the Underground * During the War Israel’s Independence, he opposed dissenters of army service for yeshiva students * He saw the published booklet about the issue that he had initiated, only after his return from captivity * He supported the venture of ‘Peninei Halakha’


Last week, Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv, ztz”l (may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing), the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, President of both the ‘Harry Fischel Institute’, and ‘Ariel Institutions’ for the training of rabbis and rabbinical judges, passed away.

His Father, the Nazir

Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv was the son of the Nazir (Nazarite), Rabbi David Cohen ztz”l, and a prominent disciple of ‘Israel’s Holy Light’, our teacher and guide, HaRav Kook (that was the title Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv was careful to say whenever he mentioned Rav Kook). The Rabbi the Nazir, served as one of the heads of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. In addition to his greatness in all areas of Torah, he was one of the few eminent rabbis of the last generations who also delved deeply into the areas of the humanities, Kabbalah and philosophy. He was the scion of a distinguished rabbinic family. His grandfather, for instance, Rabbi Mendel Zechariah HaKohen Katz, was the Rabbi of Radin where the Chofetz Chaim lived. Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv would relate that at times, when a question arose in the house of the Chofetz Chaim, he would send members of his family to ask his grandfather, the Mara d’Atra (the local rabbinic authority). His grandfather, in turn, would honor the Chofetz Chaim, and reply that in the Mishna Berura, (which the Chofetz Chaim had penned), it is written that the halakha is so and so. This is how these two great and noble rabbis regarded each other. The Nazir’s wife was his cousin, and she herself grew up in Radin, in the shadow of his grandfather and the Chofetz Chaim.

Thus, the Rabbi Nazir, grew in Torah, Talmud scholarship, and ethics in the homes of his relatives, and various yeshivas. When he reached the age of twenty, he continued his studies to the field of philosophy as well, and learned in the Academy for Jewish Studies established by Baron Guenzburg in Petersburg, integrating Torah, languages, and the humanities. Subsequently, he received a scholarship with honors from the Baron to learn in any European university he chose. He began studying in Germany, and at the outbreak of World War I, he moved to Basel, where he began writing his doctoral dissertation in philosophy. Before starting his academic studies, he visited Radin and received a blessing from the Chofetz Chaim and guidance in arranging his daily study of Torah subjects. In order to guard his high level of Torah and fear of Heaven, he took upon himself customs of extreme chassidut (piety) and nizirut (Nazarite vows), and in order not to have thoughts about other woman, he kept a picture of his fiancée, his cousin, on his desk at all times. Following the World War I and the Communist Revolution in Russia, the two parted ways for twelve years, and only after they immigrated to Israel, when Rabbi David Cohen was thirty-six years old, did they reunite, and marry. During the war, when he was a doctoral student of philosophy in Switzerland, he began giving classes in Gemara in the community. Having heard that Rabbi Kook was in the vicinity, he asked to meet him. In preparation for the meeting, he immersed himself in the waters of the Rhine River, clutched the book of Rabbi Chaim Vital ‘Shaarei Teshuva’ in his hands, and travelled to the town where Rav Kook was visiting. The meeting with Rabbi Kook generated a tremendous spiritual revolution within him. He had discovered what he had been searching for, and even more. He found an eminent rabbi with a lofty spiritual doctrine that united the wisdom of the Torah, Kabbalah and philosophy, together with a deep connection to segulat Yisrael (the uniqueness of Israel), the vision of redemption for Am Yisrael, and for all of mankind. With endless devotion, he exerted his energies entirely towards spiritual elevation and holiness, in order to clarify and reveal Torah wisdom leading to the Final Redemption. In order to join Rav Kook, who had immigrated to Israel to serve as Rabbi of Jerusalem, he abandoned his doctoral dissertation a few months before its completion, immigrated to Israel, and continued to advance in Torah.

His customs of piety and holiness expressed his boundless yearning for ruach ha’kodesh and prophecy. To this end, he undertook customs of nizirute, and out of respect and enormous moral sensitivity to animals, he also was strict not to gain pleasure from any animal products. Occasionally he would test his spiritual condition, asking students sitting next to him to see if his feelings were correct, and to look outside the window to see if his colleague, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, was passing by. And indeed, when they did, they saw Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda walking down the street.

Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv’s Childhood

Even as Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv’s mother was pregnant with him, his father, the Rabbi Nazir, requested that his wife refrain from drinking wine. Thus, Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv was raised as a nazir from the womb, and in addition, his parents trained him in customs of chassidut – to avoid gaining pleasure from any animal products. On the shoulders of the young Shaar Yeshuv rested all the hopes and ideals of his holy father – greatness in Torah, ruach ha’kodesh and prophecy, building of the nation and the Land, and redemption of humanity. To a certain extent, the young child Shaar Yeshuv was the hope of the house of Rabbi Kook, seeing as the son of Rav Kook, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, who did not merit having children, was considered as a close uncle, and Rabbi Kook, as his grandfather.

I heard from my friend Rabbi Ze’ev Sultanovitch, that Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv’s mother, Rebbetzin Sarah, told him that at the age of six, his father the Nazir, had already started to teach him Gemara. The Rebbetzin, fearing that her husband was placing too much of a burden on the shoulders of their young son, went to Rav Kook for advice. Rav Kook asked her whether Shaar Yeshuv understood what his father taught him, and when she replied that indeed, he did understand, Rabbi Kook concluded that if so, he could continue learning.

It is told that Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv was an especially handsome boy, tall, with blue eyes, and his golden Nazirite locks of hair flowed over his shoulders. Possessing noble qualities of gentleness and courage, intelligence, and an illustrious family lineage, the eminent rabbis of Jerusalem showed great affection for him. One woman told me that as a child in the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood of Jerusalem, some of her friends came to view from a distance, the ‘Shirat Ha’Yam’ event of Rabbi Charlap, who they considered an angel of the Army of Hashem. To her surprise, from her distant vantage point, she saw Rabbi Charlap dancing enthusiastically and amiably with a tall girl. Afterwards, it turned out that it had been the youthful Shaar Yeshuv, for as a nazir, his hair cascaded over his shoulders.

Schooling and Volunteering as a Youth

At the age of sixteen when along with his yeshiva studies he became involved in the religious, Right-wing youth movement ‘Chashmonaim‘ and to assist in underground activities, the young Shaar Yeshuv asked to be released from his Nazaite vow, so as not to stand out the eyes of the British Police. I am not certain if his father was very upset about this. Perhaps this happened at a time when he became closer to Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, who, unlike his colleague the Nazir, did not adapt customs of asceticism; rather, with his Torah learning and greatness, was more involved with society and their concerns, observing the events of the here and now, and explaining the salvation that grew from them, as opposed to his friend the Nazir, who stressed the anticipation of the future, Divine salvation. In any case, it is clear that Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv remained bound to his father with all his heart, and although he absolved his vow, in practice, he did not drink wine, and for most of his life, he was a vegetarian.

The First to be Nurtured on Torat Eretz Yisrael

As well as studying Torah in its entirety, in all of its components – Talmud, Halacha, Aggadah, Kabbalah, and Divine philosophy – Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv expanded his education in the study of law at the Hebrew University, with the purpose of magnifying and glorifying the Torah. Alert to public affairs, and ready to volunteer for the sake of building the nation and the Land, he even served as a combat officer, Rabbi of the Air Force, and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. Since the majority of his endeavors had always been in the field of Torah, he was seen fit to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, and in 1975 was selected for this office at the age of forty-eight. His noble personality and radiance elevated the dignity of the Torah in the city, and in his pleasant manner, knew how to bond the diverse populations of “red Haifa” of old. Similarly, as a member of the Chief Rabbinical Council, he greatly contributed to increasing peace among Torah scholars, and between Israel and the nations, and was the only Jew who spoke on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate in the Vatican Council about moral values and religion. He was also was an avid supporter and faithful to the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, and to the aggrandizing and glorification of Torat Eretz Yisrael in higher yeshivas, Hesder yeshivas, and Pre-Military leadership academies.

It could be said that Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv was the first child to grow up in the lap of Torat Eretz Yisrael, and thanks to his devotion, Torah learning and talent, paved the way for those who followed him, for example, in his clarification of the mitzvah for yeshiva students to serve in the army, and by paving the way for the integration of army service with yeshiva study.

Paving the Way for Integration of Army and Yeshiva

Thanks to our acquaintance (he recited blessings under the wedding canopy for a number of our children, and even visited Har Bracha several times and gave classes – once, along with his wife Rebbetzin Dr. Naomi, who also gave a class to the women), I was fortunate to receive from him a long and detailed letter concerning how the idea of combining army and yeshiva came about, in which, among other things, he wrote: “For the sake of historical truth, I must add that I was personally involved in the first attempt to establish a yeshiva of Torah scholars in the framework of ‘Ha’Medina ve’Ha’Tzavah Sh’Ba’Derech‘ – an experiment that led to the first halachic ruling obligating yeshiva students to enlist in the army. I did this in the winter of 1947, along with members of the Etzel and Lehi, the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, and other yeshivas in Jerusalem. It was immediately after the 29th of November, and the beginning of the bloody events that preceded the War of Independence, in the framework of the enlistment process of ‘Tzavah Sh’Ba’Derech‘ in Jerusalem, in the months of Shvat, Adar, and Nissan 1948…

“At that time, the halakha had not yet been decided that yeshiva students as well were obligated to go out to a milchmet mitzvah (obligatory war) of ‘kibbush ha’aretz’ (conquering the Land of Israel) and ‘ezrat Yisrael mee’yad tzar ha’ba aleyhem’ (a war fought to assist Israel from an enemy which attacks them). As we know, the concept of integrating Torah and combat is an ancient concept from the times of Yehoshua, of blessed memory. See the words of our Sages on the verse “Atah ba’tee” (“I have now come”) (Yehoshua 5:14): ‘He [this stranger] said to him: ‘Yesterday evening, you omitted the evening Tamid, and today you have neglected the study of the Torah. ‘For which of these [offences] have you come?’ ‘I have now come,’ he replied (because of neglecting Torah). Straightway [we read], ‘And Joshua lodged that night in the midst of the vale.’ Whereon R. Yochanan observed: It teaches that he spent the night in the profundities of the halakha (see Sanhedrin 44b; compare it to Megilah 3a and Tosafot ‘va’yalen, Yerushalmi Chagiga, perek bet, Tosafot Bavli Chagiga 16, b ‘av’, Eruvin Tosafot ‘mee’yad’). This implies that already in the days of Yehoshua and the first conquest of Israel, soldiers combined Torah study with milchemet mitzvah. Apparently, in those days they fought during the day, and studied Torah at night – and this was the source of inspiration for the words of King David: ‘Let high praises to God be heard in their throats, while they wield two-edged swords in their hands’ (Psalms 149:6).”

The Founding of the First Integration from Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva

And thus he continued writing in his letter: “To prepare the IDF, a body named ‘Mercaz Hamifkad L’Sherut Ha’am’ was established by the Zionist leadership. In Jerusalem, the head of this center was none other than a rabbi from Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav, the Gaon Rabbi Mordechai Halevi Fromm ztz”l, the husband of Rebbetzin Tzipora, granddaughter of ‘Israel’s Holy Light’, Maran HaRav Kook ztz”l, and the daughter of our mentor and guide, the Gaon Rabbi Shalom Natan Raanan Kook ztz”l, director of the yeshiva.

To enable all of us, both students of the yeshiva and graduates of the various Underground organizations – the Haganah, Etzel, and Lehi – to fight together, we initiated the establishment of ‘Yeshiva Lochemet’, as part of the defense of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was the only place where the three Underground organizations united as one fighting force, commanded by our friend, member of ‘Brit Ha’Chashmonaim’, Moshe Russnak z”l, a member of the Moriah corps of the Haganah, together with his deputy Isser Nathanson z”l, a member of the Etzel. With our efforts, the establishment of ‘Yeshiva Lochemet‘ was agreed upon to protect the Old City, and we were given the use of a synagogue and a dormitory, and together with the command of the Jewish Quarter, our agenda was also agreed upon: eight hours of army duty, eight hours devoted to prayer and Torah study, and eight hours for eating, resting, sleeping, and all other personal needs.

“For this initiative, I received the blessing and consent of the Rosh Yeshiva, our mentor and guide, HaRav HaGaon Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l, and of course, the blessing of my father and teacher, HaRav HaNazir HaKadosh ztz”l. However, there were heads of the yeshiva who had reservations about the initiative (here he used an understatement, E.M.), perhaps out of fear that it would cause the cancellation of the ‘deferment arrangement’ in practice until today. The Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz Harav, Maran HaGaon Rabbi Moshe Charlop ztz”l kept silent, but there were members of his family and close associates who fought the idea.

“In a class I gave in the past in Yeshiva Har Bracha, I spoke about the attempt made by means of a leaflet distributed in the streets of Jerusalem, depicting ‘the Holy Light of Israel’, Maran Rav Kook ztz”l, as being opposed to the recruitment of yeshiva students, and the vigorous denial of Maran HaGaon Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l

“In those days, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was under siege. We tried to enter the city in a British army convoy which passed the lines once or twice a week, with medical staff and essential supplies. I managed to enter the Jewish Quarter, and participate in its war of defense … my friends, unfortunately, failed entering the city, but fought in the framework of the IDF. Some of them fell as kedoshim (holy martyrs) in the difficult struggle.

“It seems to me that in the framework of the IDF, we (soldiers combining army and yeshiva) were the first. Indeed, the army recruited us into its ranks be’di’a’vad (after the fact), and the date of enlistment on my recruitment card is 2.1.48, in other words, three and a half months before the day the State of Israel’s independence was declared…

“Fondly yours, and with great blessings and appreciation, Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv HaKohen.”

Clarifying the Mitzvah of Military Service

Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv related the following story (printed at the end of Part II of ‘L’Netivot Yisrael’, Beit El Publications):

“In 1948, there was a debate over the participation of yeshiva students from Jerusalem in the battle for the defense of the besieged city. We, the students of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav, followed the instruction of our rabbis, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook ztz”l, and my father and teacher, HaRav HaNazir ztz”l. We were active in all the Underground groups – the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi, and reported to the ‘Mifkad Sherut L’Am’, the body which laid the foundation for the IDF, which was then being formed, but many heads of other yeshivas could not accept this. Even in the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva there was a difference of opinion (however, even in yeshivas that were not associated within the framework of ‘Eretz Yisrael‘ yeshivas, founded by ‘The Holy Light of Israel’, Maran HaRav Kook ztz”l, later, they also joined a special battalion that built fortifications in Jerusalem, which our friend, the late Rabbi Tuvia Bir z”l headed, and was called ‘Tuvia’s Brigade’, but this was already at a later stage, during the very severe phase of the siege).

“As I said, I reported to serve in the special units… I did so with the consent and blessing of my father and teacher, HaRav HaNazir ztz”l. The Old City of Jerusalem was in a siege within a siege, and in order to enter it, one had to wait for a British army convoy to pass. During the waiting period, I continued studying in yeshiva. One day, I noticed next to the yeshiva on Rav Kook Street, a large poster entitled ‘Daat Torah’ of Maran Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook ztz”l against the enlistment of yeshiva students into the army, with sharp words quoted from his letters about the severity of someone who involves Torah scholars in battle, and his resolute opinion was that it was inappropriate to recruit B’nei Torah into the army, and that they should be discharged, and other things that really amazed me.

“I stood in front of this poster, and thought: ‘What am I going to do now?’ Every one of our yeshiva students, heaven forbid, is going against the ruling of the Rav ztz”l? After reading the poster, I went down, lost in thought and deliberation, and turned towards the center of town, down Rav Kook Street. Suddenly, coming towards me was my teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, limping slightly as he normally did, and walking slowly. Being one of his close students, he could recognize (by the look on my face) what type of a mood I was in. He said to me: ‘Shaar Yeshuv, what happened? Why are you so annoyed and pale?’ I told him what I had seen, and when I pointed to the poster, he literally roared (even someone who remembered the roars of our Rabbi when he got excited, never heard such a roar): ‘It’s fake! It’s a blunt forgery!’ Thus he loudly shouted, over and over again.

“After he calmed down, he explained to me: ‘These things are taken from a letter from Rabbi Kook to Dr. Hertz, the Chief Rabbi of London, about recruitment into the British army. The names of yeshiva students who came from Russia or Poland to London, as refugees of World War I, and studied Torah, were omitted from the list of ‘pirchei kehuna’ the Chief Rabbi of England had submitted to the authorities (who were exempted from military service, similar to their priests, l’havdil). That was what Rav Kook had reproached him about, and it is completely unrelated to the battle for Jerusalem.’

“To my request that he clarify for us his opinion in writing, he replied that the city was under siege, and there was no printing-press able to operate without fuel, except for one printing-press which served the State Committee. After taking the matter of printing upon myself, he agreed to write his legendary composition, ‘L’Mitzvot Ha’aretz – On the Duty of Enlistment in Israel’s National Guard’. “The late Dr. Yitzhak Raphael z”l went out of his way to print the pamphlet, but I did not get a chance to see it, as I was called to war to defend the Old City…”

At the same time the pamphlet was printed, the Old City fell into hands of the enemy forces, and HaRav HaNazir and Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah were informed that Officer Shaar Yeshuv had been seriously injured, and no one knew what his fate was. Imagine how they felt. They had instructed that it was a mitzvah to serve in the army, knew the price to be paid could be very painful, and here, in the middle of a debate with other rabbis about the mitzvah of military service, the Rav Nazir might have to sit shiva for his one and only son (he did have a daughter, the wife of Rabbi Goren), and Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah might have to mourn his favorite disciple who, with his encouragement, had gone out to war, and might never return. After a few agonizing months, they were informed that Shaar Yeshuv had been seriously injured, and was now in Jordanian captivity. Let’s return to the story as written by Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv himself:

“When I came back from enemy captivity, wounded, and with my injured foot, about eight months later around Chanukah time in 1948, I was transferred to a rehabilitation center located in the villa of the Aronson family in Zichron Ya’akov, which had been allocated for wounded military units. The next morning, I think it was a Thursday, at the end of the Morning Prayer, outside the window I saw Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda climbing up the path of the center to visit me. I was extremely excited (in those days, travelling from Jerusalem to Zichron Yaacov was long and exhausting). Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda entered my room, hugged and kissed me, and burst into tears. All of a sudden, he took out of his pocket the tiny booklet I previously mentioned (explaining the mitzvah of serving in the army), and on the front page, the dedication: “To my coveted and beloved friend Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef Shaar Yeshuv, son of Rabbi David HaKohen, the advisor and demanding initiator; a booklet prepared and preserved from its creation, to return the ransomed of Hashem to Jerusalem, all the joy of salvation which the whole world is its redemption, in the year of incense (תש”ט), Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook.”

I was fortunate to receive a photograph of the dedication from Rabbi Shaar Yashuv.

And behold, it turned out that the hopes his righteous and holy father had for him, had come to fruition. On his broad shoulders, the practical halakha of the great and holy mitzvah for yeshiva students to serve in the IDF was clarified. This was also the case in a number of other important issues, but this is not the place to elaborate.

His Feelings about “Peninei Halakha

Regularly, I would send to Rabbi Shaar Yashuv the books I merited publishing, and he would send back letters of support and blessings, with Torah observations. His support was very important to me, for as someone who grew up among the great students of Rav Kook, he was empowered to write me: “I have truly enjoyed reading in detail the book written with clarity and scope. All the matters are discussed in the spirit of the house of Maran, ‘Israel’s Holy Light’, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook ztz”l…” (He wrote this in regards to the book on Moadim [holydays]).

In “Peninei Halakha: Laws of Pesach” (8:8), I wrote an entire section with a long footnote in accordance with his extensive investigation of citric acid, indicating that there was absolutely no concern of the prohibition of chametz in citric acid. His words are embedded in other places throughout my books as well.

On the sixteenth of Adar 5771 (2011) he wrote me: “In honor of my cherished friend of mind and soul, the…Rabbi: Peace and blessing be upon you. I was delighted and very glad to see the three-volume, revised and complete edition of your book “Peninei Halakha: Laws of Shabbat” (with the additional book of ‘harchavot‘ [further investigations]) … I studied it a bit, and was moved by the clarity of wording, and the wondrous summary of complex and deep halachic subjects. Suffice it to mention the sections at the beginning of the second volume, ‘Mav’ir and Mekhabeh‘ (kindling and extinguishing a fire) and ‘Electricity and Electrical Appliances’ – illuminating the issue from all sides, from what is written in the Bible, to the summary of the halakha according to opinions of the later, and present-day rabbis. Indeed, such “fragrance” has never reached our generation, where complicated halakha’s are written in such a clear and straightforward way, allowing anyone reading or studying the book to understand. Well done! … (And he added remarks in regards to what I wrote about Torah study on Shabbat, and the integration of material and spiritual pleasure).

In conclusion, he wrote: “Of course there is much to discuss and shed light on the complexities of the laws, but to my deep regret, ‘what the heart desires, time exploits’, and especially in these days, my inconveniences have increased… I would be grateful if your yeshiva would pray for me, so I can go quickly from ‘the narrow straits, to the wide expanses’. My name is: Eliyahu Yosef Shaar Yeshuv son of Sarah. Please give greetings to your father, my friend, the Gaon Rabbi Zalman Baruch, shlita. As a soul who blesses out of love, and prays for the salvation of Hashem for His nation and inheritance. Your staunch friend, the writer and undersigned, in honor of the Torah, its learners and doers, Rabbi Shaar Yeshuv HaKohen.” May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.

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



The Commandment to Establish Courts Based on Torah Law

Last week, I dealt with the Torah commandment to conduct all legal matters before judges who mediate according to the Torah, as it is written (Exodus 21:1): “These are the laws that you must set before [the Israelites].” Regretfully, however, after so many long years of exile and aspiring to return to our holy land, the Jewish identity of many members of our nation was weakened, and the State of Israel established for itself a legal system based on foreign beliefs, alienating itself from Torah tradition. The results were not long in coming: the Supreme Court became the institution which causes the most damage to the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and its Zionistic challenges. In a similar manner, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, of blessed
memory, wrote: “Now, when the Jewish nation dwells in its homeland and regretfully judges according to foreign laws, it is a thousand times worse than an individual or a Jewish community who brings their cases before non-Jewish courts…who knows what the results will be from such a shameful and humiliating situation” (‘HaTorah v’Ha’Medina’ vol.7).

The Prohibition of Turning to a Non-Religious Court

As we have learned, it is forbidden to make a claim against someone in a non-religious court, or as Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, of blessed memory, the successor in the Rabbinate of our teacher, Rabbi Kook, of blessed memory, wrote: “It is simple and clear that these judges [and courts] are “non-Jewish courts” in all respects, and anyone who goes to them raises his hand against the Torah of Moshe, and anyone who strengthens them will have a bitter end” (cited in the Responsa “Tzitz Eliezer” 12:82).

Likewise, regarding divorces, it is a Torah obligation to clarify all the laws before a ‘Beit Din Torani’ (Jewish law court), and one who goes to a non-religious court raises his hand against the Torah of Moshe.

When One Side Refuses

Occasionally, one side would prefer to clarify a disagreement in a religious court, however, the other side is unwilling. Since the law has given the authority to the non-religious courts – the claimant cannot force the respondent to contend in a religious court. In such a circumstance, the question arises: is one permitted to file a claim in a non-religious court in order to recover his money?

Some Torah authorities hold that even when one side refuses to bring the case before a religious court, the prohibition of going to a non-religious court remains in effect until the claimant comes before a religious ‘Beit Din’, or Jewish law court, and receives permission to turn to the non- religious courts to recover his money. Others believe that it is not necessary to make such a request from an established ‘Beit Din’, for since the respondent refuses to come before a Torah court – it is permissible to sue him in a non-religious court. However, one should first ask a competent rabbi if his claim is correct according to Torah law, for if not, a situation is liable to occur in which he exacts money from the person he sued in contradiction to Torah law. One who wishes to act leniently according to this opinion is permitted.

Can a Religious Jew be a Judge in a Secular Court?

This question has not been sufficiently dealt with. Some rabbis hold that it is forbidden for a Jew to be appointed judge in a non- religious court. I heard that Rabbi Shlomo Min HaHar, of blessed memory, the rabbi of the neighborhood Bayit Ve’Gan in Jerusalem, exited the synagogue in protest when a religious judge serving in the secular courts was called to the Torah for the reading of “V’eleh Ha’Mishpatim” (“These are the laws”), for how could one read about the prohibition of going to a non-religious court when he himself is a partner in the crime? In a similar manner, a God-fearing judge once told me that he refrains from signing as a witness on a ‘ketuba‘, taking into consideration the opinion of rabbis who hold that, serving as a judge in a non-religious court, he is invalid to be a witness.

On the other hand, there are rabbis who hold that when the goal is to improve the situation, it is permitted to be appointed a judge, since it is not the judge who is guilty of setting-up the foreign judicial system.

In my humble opinion, everything depends on the judge’s outlook. If he objects to the situation, and does not hide this fact, attempting to correct it wherever possible, then his appointment is valuable. Of course, he cannot breach his promise to rule according to the non-religious law, but in numerous cases the law is given to various interpretations. Just as non-religious judges stretch their interpretations to the extreme, non-religious side, so too, he is allowed, and even obligated, to stretch the interpretation of the law as far as possible to the direction of Torah law. If, however, he tries to fit into the system, attempting to be loyal to its character, even if occasionally he adorns his decisions with verses from the Torah and words of the Sages – he is a partner to ‘chilul Hashem‘ (profaning God’s Name), and in a certain respect, his sin is even greater, for having been aware of the severity of the prohibition, he nevertheless chose to participate in it.

At this juncture it would be proper to praise those judges who sanctify God’s Name, and admonish those who profane it; however, I am not appropriately familiar with the character of the various religious judges’ decisions, and therefore I will abstain from writing my thoughts, which are not fully confirmed.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu’s Opinion

In a similar way, our teacher and rabbi, the Rishon L’Tziyion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, of blessed memory, wrote: “In the given situation, there is importance and benefit for a religious [Jew to be a] judge, similar to [the need for] lawyers and religious media reporters who will raise the voice of the Torah in all sectors of life, in particular, that the media should hear their voice, explaining and clarifying the ways of the Torah and its laws” (T’chumim, pg. 244).

An Argument and an Answer

Q: Regarding a portion of the long list of decisions which you mentioned in last week’s article, in which the Supreme Court decided in contradiction to Jewish and national ideals, even a Torah court would have been forced to decide in contradiction to our security needs, due to the fact that Israel is also dependent on world opinion, and therefore, obligated to maintain its accepted rules.

A: The judges weren’t chosen to worry about our international relations. They are meant to make decisions according to the law and justice only. The members of Knesset and the government were chosen to deal with the security of the State of Israel, and if they think we need to pass ordinances or laws – that’s their job.

In actuality, the majority of the court’s decisions which I mentioned last week were made without legislation. In many cases, it was even clear that there was no chance of passing such laws in the Knesset. Nevertheless, the courts have placed themselves above the legislators and the nation, and have decided these issues according to the non-religious, Western outlook which presently presides.

The responsibility for this situation lies first and foremost with the members of Knesset, and their guilt begins with their not working to return Jewish law to its proper status.

It must be mentioned that there are other countries that are in a state of war, for example America and England. While fighting, they kill many more civilians than we do. Interestingly, we haven’t heard much about their courts troubling their armies.

Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

The Unwarranted Uproar over Shabbat

In general, Shabbat is officially kept in the State of Israel * State law allows the desecration of Shabbat even for special needs that do not involve ‘pikuach nefesh’ * The police estimated that closure of the Ayalon Highway on a weekday would endanger lives * The decision was made in coordination with religious and Haredi party officials, and was not the responsibility of the Minister of Transportation * Non- Jewish employees were enlisted for the job, and correctly so * Broad consensus strengthens the status of Shabbat, much more than protests * The main effort should be directed to safeguard halakha in the IDF where measures are worsening – and not out of negligence, but malice

The Religious Community and Shabbat in the State of Israel

Q: How come last week we heard in the media about representatives of the Haredi community fighting for the honor of Shabbat, which was publicly trampled upon with the construction work done on the Tel Aviv railway, while the representatives of the National Religious community were silent? Is Shabbat not worth fighting for?

A: There is great importance in the State of Israel officially observing Shabbat, and indeed, state-run institutions generally do observe Shabbat. This is something that should not be taken for granted. I have heard from Jews who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, that in their eyes, the State of Israel is considered to be very religious, mainly because all the state-run institutions are closed on Shabbat. They also point out the central role holidays play in public life, and the observance of kashrut in all state-run institutions, the vast majority of stores and restaurants, and almost all hotels.

Nevertheless, the fact that the majority of the Jews do not observe Shabbat according to Jewish law is extremely painful and distressing, and it is a mitzvah for every person to do whatever they can to bring Jews closer to the mitzvoth of Shabbat. To do so, we must clarify the sacred value of Shabbat, and even those people who do keep Shabbat should try harder to observe it in the best and most superb way – through ‘oneg‘ Shabbat, Torah study, prayer, festive meals and rest – and the more successful we are, the more Jews will wish to keep Shabbat.

Apparently, those who touched-off the “war” on Shabbat, believed that by doing so they would strengthen the national status of Shabbat in the country. However, to do so there was no need to initiate personal attacks on the Minister of Transportation and arouse debate between the Haredim and the secular over the national character of Shabbat, because strengthening the status of Shabbat in official government frameworks can also be achieved by means of respectable dialogue.

The Present ‘Shabbat Law’ and its Implementation

In general, Shabbat was determined by law as the national day of rest of the State of Israel, in which employees cease working. However, in addition to that, it was determined by law (in the year 1951), that the Department of Labor would grant work permits on Shabbat in order to prevent damage to the security of the State, economy, or essential public needs, i.e., even needs that are not ‘pikuach nefesh’ (life- threatening) which according to Jewish law are prohibited from being performed on Shabbat. To rid the Minister of Labor from the personal responsibility of granting work permits, and from pressures that political and public officials are liable to exert on him, it was determined in the year 2009 that the Director of Regularization and Enforcement in the Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor would be responsible for granting work permits on Shabbat.

Thus in practice, work permits are not determined according to Jewish law, therefore, in addition to permits for cases of ‘pikuach nefesh’, work permits are granted on the basis of the existing state of affairs (status quo), for example, such as operation of public transportation in Haifa, as it has operated even before the founding of the State. Work permits are also granted as a result of various public pressures, with matters dear to the religious community not given permits, but in matters relatively remote from the religious community, but extremely crucial for the secular public, more permits are granted. For example, the Israel Broadcasting Authority operates on Shabbat as a result of public pressure, expressed in a law decision by the secular courts.

The Story about Work on the Train Line on Shabbat

In practice, as part of the expansion of the train station in Tel Aviv, it was necessary to execute an extensive job that required the stopping of traffic on the Ayalon Highway for a day. The company carrying out the work turned to the police in order for them to make recommendations for its implementation on Shabbat. Police officials indeed wrote that it was proper to authorize this work on Shabbat, because the closing of a main traffic route such as the Ayalon Highway would cause traffic jams and blockages throughout all of Gush Dan (Greater Tel Aviv) “which would constitute an actual threat to life for all citizens.” They wrote that the work should be carried out from 16:00 before the beginning of Shabbat, until 18:00 towards the end of Shabbat “in order to prevent danger to human life, and taking into consideration that the coming weekend, traffic on the road would be relatively light due to fact that many people would be on vacation outside of the Tel Aviv area.”

Based on this, approval was given; but for some religious and Haredi people it seemed as if the permit was too sweeping and in violation of the status quo. Even prior to Shabbat, representatives of the Haredi and religious community met with the Prime Minister, and together, agreed that the Prime Minister would make a decision on the principle that work whose implementation on Shabbat involved ‘pikuach nefesh’ would be carried out, and the remaining work would be done during the week. According to this, the Prime Minister determined that out of the 18 approved projects, 14 would be executed. It is not clear why after this, the representatives of the Haredi community decided to attack the Minister of Transportation and accuse him of desecrating the Shabbat. In practice, the work permit was given by the Ministry of Labor, and not the Ministry of Transportation, and the Prime Minister, in coordination with the Haredi representatives, supported and validated it.

This is also what Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told me – that he was not involved in providing work permits, since this was the authority of the Ministry of Labor. At any rate, based on his inquiries, even after approval was authorized pains were taken not to cause any Jew to work on Shabbat who did not wish to do so. Furthermore, the railway administration had already recruited approximately 160 non-Jewish workers to perform the maintenance and development work which involved Shabbat desecration.

Incidentally, this is the seemingly appropriate solution for rare cases of great necessity, i.e., that non-Jewish employees perform the work. After all, more than 20 percent of Israeli citizens are non-Jewish – why not use them in emergency cases like this? And if it’s essential for Jews to participate in supervision and guidance, they are permitted to do so, provided they do not carry out any work with their own hands (see, Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 9:11-12; 27:16).

An Open Struggle versus Broad and Quiet Agreements

Sometimes, when an affront to Judaism’s sanctified ideals is done out of malice, it calls for an open struggle, and insisting that the guilty party pay a personal price, even if the struggle increases tensions between the religious and secular communities. First of all, because justice requires it; secondly, because this is the most effective way to prevent such affronts from recurring. But when there is no malicious intent, even if it seems a mistake was made negligently, it is preferable to reach agreements that are acceptable to the majority of the public, including those who are not strict Shabbat observers. This is because a broad consensus on the importance of Shabbat and its public observance is extremely beneficial for strengthening the status of Shabbat in the State of Israel. How much more so is this true regarding the present government, whose ministers for the best part are either religious or traditional, including the Minister of Transportation. This is why representatives of the National Religious community do not wage wars about the issue of Shabbat, and prefer to reach an agreement.

Here’s an example: With a broad consensus, Members of Knesset Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Mickey Zohar (Likud) were able to pass a very important law in first and second readings, according to which even those who are not religious may refuse to work on Shabbat, without the risk of being laid off, or not being hired.

An Open Struggle is called for Over the Jewish Character of the IDF

In contrast to the case of work on the Tel Aviv train line, an open struggle for the Jewish character of the IDF is necessary, so that religious soldiers are able to observe halakha while serving in the army as conventionally accepted in civilian life. Even though the majority of IDF officers have respect for Jewish tradition, the top brass of the IDF themselves impose secular values on the army, such as forcing religious soldiers to participate in lectures degrading sacred Jewish values, forcing them to hear female singers, and so on. This, concurrent to the erosion of Israel’s traditional moral position that it has the right to defend its security and country, such as the dreadful and appalling words of the Deputy Chief of Staff comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, which won the backing of the Chief of Staff who himself, often sounds like a representative of the U.N. coming to reconcile between the Jews and the Arabs. This policy also receives expression in relation to IDF soldiers who kill terrorists intending to kill them.

In principle, the individual problems of the religious soldier is relatively easy to solve, seeing as religious freedom is one of the principles accepted by society as a whole. The majority of the secular public can easily understand that there is no justification of forcing a religious soldier who meticulously observes the laws of modesty to listen to female singers, or to participate in mixed-gender activities that conflict with customs of modesty with no essential security reason for doing so, and not to force him to shave his beard.

Concerning all these issues the Chief of Staff, his Deputy, and partners to their position, should be made to pay the price.

Haredi Public Officials and the IDF

Unfortunately, when it comes to the IDF, representatives of the Haredi community fail to make an effort. If they only would direct some of their energy and talents (they are among the most talented members of the Knesset) on behalf of the Jewish character of the IDF! It would be far more beneficial than the storm they generated about work on the train station for one Shabbat, work which did not deviate significantly from the norm. This uproar did not help even one Jew to keep Shabbat. In contrast, the struggle for IDF soldiers will help them actually observe halakha, and in practice, help safeguard the sacred character of Israel’s military camp.

The problems in the IDF are far more fundamental, because they constitute a deterioration of the status quo, whereas the whole issue about the train station, even if it was not handled properly, was a one-time event, without declaration of any fundamental policy change.

I would be elated to hear about a representative of the Haredi community who dealt effectively with the problems of religious soldiers in the army, and would also be happy to thank him publicly in my column. Aside from the personal benefit of such an action, by doing so he will merit increasing peace between the religiously observant and Torah scholars.

Along these lines, Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu shlita, who is the son of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu shlita and the grandson of the Rishon Lezion, our revered teacher Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, should be commended for initiating a complaint hot-line for religious soldiers in matters such as these.

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

Mixtures of Considerations and Beliefs

The laws of ‘issur v’heter’ teach us that even things that are inherently good, may be forbidden if they are mixed * Mixing considerations of disproportionate magnitudes is harmful; for example, when a mother spends too much energy on the clothes she will wear to her daughter’s wedding, at the expense of her main responsibility – helping her daughter, the bride * Mixing various fundamentals of ’emuna’ is harmful, such as evading responsibility and guilt in the name of the belief that everything is controlled by God *As separate ideas, belief in providence does not detract from belief in free will and responsibility for one’s actions * The new leadership in Britain deserves to be praised for its support of Jews and Israel

Forbidden Mixtures

We find in the Torah that there are species which, by themselves, are kosher, but when mixed together, are forbidden. Such is the case with meat and milk – each of them separately are permitted, but it is forbidden to cook and eat them together. This is also true in regards to kilayim (a hybrid) of wool and linen, or vines with grain or vegetables, grafting of trees, and plowing an ox with a donkey. An important basis arises from these commandments – that occasionally there are good ideas and values that when mixed ​​together, can cause great damage.

Types of Mixtures

Occasionally, it involves a mixture of two ideas of disproportionate magnitudes, and as a result, placing the less significant matter on equal terms with the greater consideration, disrupts everything. Other times, it involves two corresponding ideas that when mixed together, distorts a person’s rational thought.

For example, it is becoming of a person to eat foods he finds tasty; but if one is deathly ill and certain foods may endanger his life, but nevertheless, he continues eating them, then he commits the crime of mixing up considerations of two disproportionate magnitudes, and risks his life. All the more so, if one avoids taking life-saving medication because of its bitter taste. An example of mixing of two parallel ideas is, for example, mixing the concepts of ​​Divine Providence and ​​freedom of choice. I will discuss the two types of mixtures below.

An Analogy from Wedding Preparations

Everyone agrees that it’s appropriate for a woman meriting to marry off her daughter, to honor the event, and go out of her way to buy a nice dress for the wedding, and matching shoes. But compared to the very participation in her daughter’s wedding, the dress and shoes of the mother, are not important. Therefore, the mother’s main effort should be directed at assisting the bride to prepare for the wedding, finding nice clothes for her and all the accompanying details, while her own preparations, with all its importance, should be secondary.

If, due to the fact that the mother cannot not find matching shoes she decides not to attend her daughter’s wedding, she is of unsound mind, mixing together considerations of totally different magnitudes. Such a mixture is analogous to cooking meat with milk: the dress and shoes are in the sense of milk, and the very participation in the wedding, is in the sense of meat.

Even if the mother is able to invest as much time and energy in her daughter’s preparations for the wedding as herself, still, just by the very act of equating two considerations of disproportionate magnitudes and merits, she betrays her responsibility and from then on, all the preparations she makes for the wedding will become a stumbling block. Instead of her daughter the bride taking enjoyment in her mother’s beautiful clothes it will arouse jealousy and frustration, because they will reflect her mother’s selfish character – that even in before her daughter’s wedding, she thinks mainly about herself, attempting to grab center stage. As a result, even when she makes an effort to help her daughter find a nice dress for the wedding, her actions will be tainted with egoism, and it will be impossible escaping the thought that it isn’t her daughter she cares about, but rather, her main goal is boasting about her daughter in front of everyone.

The Story of a Reckless and Murderous Driver

A certain person was used to driving his jeep recklessly. His friends warned him about the potential danger, but he enjoyed driving fast and ignored their words. One day, he carelessly crossed into an oncoming lane, collided with a family car, and killed all the occupants – the parents and two children. When he realized the consequences of the accident, he was in shock, horror, and sorrow; despair filled his heart. The police acted towards him harshly, but he understood them – after all, four dead…. At night, he had trouble falling asleep, remembering his friend’s warnings advising him to drive carefully, and grave feelings of remorse and grief terrified his sleep. How could he continue living? Even his wife was unable to console him.

And it came to pass that in the morning his soul was stirred, and he suddenly had an insight. After all, he thought to himself, the Sages had said: “No man bruises his finger here on earth unless it was so decreed against him in heaven.” Consequently, he wasn’t the one who killed those people – God Himself condemned them to die, and he was only the poor guy chosen carry out the decree. In truth, he was not at fault, and his friends who had warned him to drive carefully had treated him erroneously, because in essence, their warnings hinted at a certain contempt for God, as if to say it’s not God who runs the world. The policemen who reprimanded him also acted improperly, because, after all, there was no connection between his driving and what happened. Everything comes from God, King of the World, who decreed that this family should die, and most probably they had sinned gravely, and deserved to die. In any case, even if they weren’t completely wicked, no matter what, it was a decree from Heaven that all of them be killed, and it has nothing to do with him. God’s calculations are beyond his reach; all he must do now, is to strengthen himself with all his might, in faith in God, to remember, and know that everything is Divine providence from God, and there is no connection whatsoever between his reckless driving and the deaths of these four people. Against all of his detractors, he must fight for his innocence and prove in court that it was the father of the family who veered out of lane. And even though in truth, he was the one who veered out of lane, since God directs everything, therefore, despite his having swerved he is innocent, because even his swerving out of lane was directed by God, in order to carry out the verdict of the family. True, he still has to contend with his conscience gnawing at his heart; consequently, to overcome his “weakness of faith”, he will go to receive a blessing from the “tzadikim“. They, upon seeing the purity of his heart (for indeed, he will give a nice contribution to the ‘kollel‘ under their patronage), will bless him that he should be acquitted. He will even ask from the “tzadikim” to curse the representatives of deceased family and the evil lawyers who level harsh words against him.

Mixing Free Will and Divine Providence

The sin of this man is that he mixed two different ideas – free will, and Divine Providence. When a person is careful to separate these two ideas, he understands that faith in Divine Providence in no way diminishes man’s responsibility for his actions. These are two systems that must exist concurrently, but when mixed together, both of them break down; belief in Divine Providence turns into terrible egoism, without a hint of true faith, but rather, complete idol worship, because man uses the power of faith to justify himself, but in actuality he is serving himself, and as a result, his moral responsibility for his actions goes awry.

The murderous driver must first recognize the severity of his terrible crime, have complete regret and remorse for all of his reckless behavior, accept the punishment he deserves, and contemplate how he can correct his ways henceforth. Also, he must do everything in his power to appease and benefit the grieving family, and to set up a memorial in memory of those killed in the accident. After this, he must believe that even from this awful place which he has reached, he can return in complete repentance – until from all his sorrow, regret, and rectifications, all his sins will be forgiven, and at that point, he can also believe that everything came from God, and was for the best.

A Different Story about a Reckless and Murderous Driver

Some people react differently. For example, someone who was used to driving recklessly and ran over and killed four family members, but, unlike the previous man, he understood he was completely guilty, his heart was filled with sorrow and regret, he recalled the warnings of his friends, and realized just how right they were. For entire days, he could not sleep properly. Minutes after dozing-off, in his mind he would picture those killed, and would wake up in horror. He stopped bathing, did not brush his teeth, and could not even eat – the grief and despair completely destroyed his appetite. His friends told him he had to see a doctor to get sedatives, and if that did not help, he should get psychological help. But he refused, because when they mentioned this, pictures of the deceased ran through his mind. And in his heart he thought, how could he worry about himself, about his lack of sleep, about his normal eating and drinking, when right now, the bodies of the people he had run over were rotting in their graves. Thus, gradually, the murderous driver cut himself off from the entire world, stopped worrying about his family, went insane, and died at an early age.

He also committed the crime of mixing of issues. Indeed, he is obligated to regret, repent, and do everything to atone for his sin. However, simultaneously, he must take care of his health so he can fulfill his duties towards his family, in order to repent, and so he can do whatever possible to elevate the souls of the people he ran over.

Theresa May

As terrorists attacks in the name of Islam continue to haunt Europe, and while most of the Western world’s leadership has yet to understand the danger of Muslim violence – and in its moral blindness, is still wont to blame Israel for the conflict in Eretz Yisrael, we can gain a certain amount of comfort and satisfaction from the newly appointed government in Britain, headed by Theresa May.

In her speech to the members of the Bnei Akiva a year ago on Israel’s Independence Day, Theresa May called attention to a deep and meaningful point which few leaders of the nations of the world understand. Several times she mentioned that, unlike all other peoples, Jewish survival is not a given. Over the individual Jew, his country, and over his people, there is a constant existential threat, and the Jewish nation must constantly defend itself against repeated attempts to destroy her.

Hopefully, a leader meriting such wisdom and sensitivity will have the moral courage to stand with Israel. The new Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, is also known to be a friend of Israel, to the point where during his recent visit Israel, the Arabs refused to host him in Ramallah because of his determined stance against any kind of boycott of the State of Israel.

In contrast to the majority of Israel’s media, who suffer from a lack of knowledge and impaired moral judgment, it would be fitting for those media personalities with a strong Jewish identity to take note during these days when we read the Haftarot of consolation, the positive processes occurring in the global arena. And in this manner, we will all pray that Am Yisrael merits fulfilling its great, Heavenly-designated mission, by sanctifying the name God and repairing the world, and merit, along with the entire world, true peace.

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

Blessing on Viewing the Olympics

A person impressed by athletes and their accomplishments should acknowledge the source of their strength * The blessing “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has such [beauty] in his universe” was fixed over seeing a strikingly beautiful, strong and impressive creature, including athletes * One is not required to take interest or admire athletes * A blessing is recited when seeing the athlete in person, and not in a photo * An Olympic record can be used as a criterion to know over whom to recite a blessing * A blessing should be recited over every individual species, and likewise, over champions in each sports category * A blessing should not be recited over an athlete who behaves immorally, or a woman athlete who is not dressed modestly * How much more so should we admire Torah scholars, and settlers of the Land of Israel

Should a Blessing be Recited over a Sports Champion?

Currently, when billions of people around the world are following the Olympic competitions and athletic achievements, it’s worthwhile examining the question: What is the proper way of relating to these athletes, and is it appropriate to admire them and their accomplishments?

Indeed, our Sages fixed the reciting of a bracha (blessing) upon seeing a strikingly beautiful person, animal, bird or tree for the first time: “Baruch Ata Hashem, Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam, she’kacha lo ba’olamo” (‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has such [beauty] in his universe’) (Berachot 58b).

Seeing creatures with special beauty or abilities arouses feelings of astonishment and admiration, excitement and all sorts of thoughts – occasionally adoration, and at times, envy. Idolaters deified particularly beautiful beings, made sculptures in their forms, and worshiped them. By bowing down to these creatures, they felt a certain connection to them, and partners in their greatness. Today as well, many people admire beautiful individuals and accomplished athletes, to the point where such people are called beauty or sports idols.

By means of reciting a bracha, we remember that this wonderful and unique phenomenon also comes from God, in the sense of: ‘What miracles you do, Hashem!’ (Psalms 92:5). In this way we can connect and elevate our feelings of admiration and excitement to the root source of emuna (faith). By doing so, our knowledge of the greatness and wonders of creation broadens, we thank God for having seen with our very eyes these unique creations, and receive inspiration to also reveal the greatness within ourselves – every person in his own specialty.

In a similar way, our Sages fixed a bracha upon seeing a king: “Baruch Ata Hashem, Melech Ha’olam, she’chalak me’kvodo l’basar v’dam” (‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who imparted [some] of His glory to mortals’) to remind us that everything comes from God.

The Blessing over All Wonders of Creation

It is important to note that the blessing “she’kacha lo ba’olamo ” is not a blessing unique to man, for indeed it was fixed over all beautiful creatures – humans, animals, and plants; anyone who sees a unique creature, and is excited over seeing it, recites the blessing.

The bracha unique to man is recited over the wisdom of Torah and science, “She’chalak May’chach’mato lee’ray’av” (‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who imparted [some] of His wisdom to those who fear Him’) upon seeing a Torah scholar with exceptional wisdom, and “She’natan May’chach’mato l’basar ve’dam” (Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who imparted [some] of His wisdom to mortals) upon seeing a wise non-Jewish person.

Yet, among people who have reached unique athletic achievements there is also a combination of natural talent and human efforts, by means of which they were able to express their natural talents.

The Blessing is Optional

Although our Sages fixed a bracha to be recited upon seeing a person with special physical abilities, this does not mean there is a mitzvah to take interest in such sporting activities; rather, seeing as many people are naturally awed by this, for such people it would be proper for them to bless God upon seeing such athletes.

One Must Actually See the Person, and not a Film or Image

This blessing was fixed over actual eye sight, and not seeing the athlete through an image or a video. On the other hand, one does not necessarily have to recite the blessing on seeing the competition itself; rather, even if afterwards someone met the exceptionally capable athlete, and the meeting aroused excitement and admiration, he should recite the blessing over seeing him, in order to direct and elevate his feelings in an appropriate manner.

Over Which Creatures Should a Blessing Be Recited?

In general, it can be said that any creature that ordinary people admire and even go out of their way to see, is a sign that a blessing should be recited over it. For example, if there is a horse celebrated for its beauty and strength in comparison to other horses, and is admired by horse enthusiasts who would even go to see it – anyone who marvels at such a horse should recite the blessing upon seeing it. This is also the case upon seeing especially beautiful or large trees, or dogs and cats known for their unique beauty, to the point where people go to see them.

Similarly, when one sees a person who is especially beautiful or strong, or particularly agile and fast, who people regularly marvel at, and even go out of their way to see, the blessing “she’kacha lo ba’olamo” should be recited.

In a case where the athlete’s exceptionality is evidenced by a world record he set, this is unquestionably a unique phenomenon, and it is proper for anyone impressed at the sight of the record-holder to recite the blessing “she’kacha lo ba’olamo.”

A Blessing Should Be Recited For Each Species Individually

A blessing is recited over every species individually. If one sees an especially attractive cat and is impressed, a blessing should be recited; and if afterwards, one sees an especially attractive dog and is enthralled – another blessing is recited. The same holds true if one then sees an especially attractive horse, a particularly beautiful cedar tree, or an exceptionally fruit-bearing fig tree – seeing as he is impressed by each and every one of them, and although they were all seen on the same day – one should recite a blessing over each and every one of them individually. However, if one saw two species together at the same time, he should recite one blessing and have kavana (intention) for both of them.

Likewise, someone who sees a record-holding short-distance runner should recite a blessing, and if afterwards he sees a champion long-distance runner – he should recite another blessing; the same is the case for all different categories of sports – someone who is impressed should recite a separate blessing over each category. But one who sees all the athletes together, such as at the closing ceremony of the competition – should recite one blessing over all of them.

How often Should a Blessing Be Recited?

In principle, blessings over visual sightings are recited every thirty days. For example, someone who saw Mount Tabor and recited the blessing “oseh ma’aseh vereishit” (‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who forms the work of Creation’), if after not having seen it for thirty days, he sees it once again, and is impressed – he should bless. The same is the case for the Mediterranean Sea or the Sea of ​​Galilee. However, in regards to the blessing “she’kacha lo ba’olamo” a doubt arose whether seeing the same sight after thirty days arouses new excitement, and therefore the halachic ruling is that only one blessing is recited over each creature, or person (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 15:13). Nevertheless, it appears that if the athlete upon whom one had recited the blessing achieved a special feat – such as breaking a record – one who sees him after thirty days and is impressed, should recite another blessing.

Should a Blessing Be Recited Over a National Champion?

In the Olympics where athletes from all over the world gather, a blessing should be recited only over the gold medal winners, each one in their respective fields, for they are the outstanding world athletes. But in every individual country, blessings can be recited over the national champions, because in their own country they are unique in their field, just as one recites a blessing over impressive mountains in every country – even though in a different country, such mountains might not be considered so impressive. It follows, therefore, that after a national competition, someone who is impressed by the achievement of a national champion should recite a blessing upon seeing him.

A Creature Born Through a Halachic Prohibition

A question arose: Can one recite a blessing over an attractive creature produced through a halachic prohibition? For example, should a blessing be recited over a fruit tree grafted in a halachically prohibited way? Or should a blessing be recited over an attractive mule born in a prohibited manner of breeding a donkey and a horse? Or should one bless over an especially attractive person who is a mamzer (bastard), i.e., someone born of incest?

In the opinion of Rabbi Yaacov Hagiz, the author of ‘Hilchot Ketanot’, it is not proper to bless and praise God over a creature born in a prohibited manner. However, in the opinion of Rabbi Yaacov Emden, author of ‘She’elat Yavetz’, since according to the strict law, only the action of harkava (grafting one species onto the stock of another) or har’ba’ah (the prohibition of mating diverse kinds) is prohibited; but after the fact, one is permitted to use the mule, or eat the fruit of a grafted tree, and also, a mamzer can also be a Torah scholar – consequently, if the person is uniquely handsome, the blessing “she’kacha lo ba’olamo” should be recited upon seeing him.

Seemingly, it is possible to learn from this matter in question that if the sports champion is known for his immoral behavior, it is not proper to recite a blessing over seeing him.

A Blessing Over a Particularly Beautiful Person

The blessing “she’kacha lo ba’olamo” was also fixed over seeing a particularly beautiful person. Since the concept of beauty is often elusive, when a certain person is acknowledged in the eyes of the masses as being exceptionally attractive, such as actors known for their beauty, it is a sign that they are indeed among this category, and one who is impressed upon seeing them should recite a blessing. A blessing can be recited over each person only once, and an additional blessing cannot be recited after not having seen them for thirty days. When one sees an additional particularly beautiful person within thirty days of having seen the previous individual, as long as one is not sure that he is clearly more handsome, a blessing should not be recited over him. But if thirty days have passed from the previous sighting, and one is impressed at the beauty of the second person, even if one is in doubt whether he is clearly more beautiful than the previous person, but nevertheless, he is not less handsome – a blessing should be recited (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 15:12-13).

On Seeing a Woman

A woman who sees a particularly beautiful woman and is impressed by her beauty should recite a blessing. The question is – what’s the halakha for men? In the past, there were men who recited blessings over particularly beautiful women, and we as have learned in the Jerusalem Talmud: “One who sees handsome people or beautiful trees says, ‘Blessed [art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe,] who created handsome creatures in his world.’ Once, R. Gamaliel saw a beautiful gentile woman and recited a blessing on her account. They asked: Was it R. Gamaliel’s practice to gaze at women? It must have been that he encountered her along a winding street… and he could not avoid passing close by and looking at her” (Berachot 9:1).” In other words, he saw her without intending to do so. However, it appears that today a man should not recite a blessing upon seeing a beautiful woman for several reasons, most importantly, because it would be deemed as being extremely immodest.

Women Athletes

Similarly, a man should not recite a blessing upon seeing a woman athlete who is not dressed modestly, because the general halachic rule is that it is forbidden to recite a bracha or speak any words of holiness while facing a woman who is dressed immodestly (S.A., O.C. 75:1;4). And it is also forbidden for a man to go see women who are not dressed modestly, or are exercising in a way that could stimulate him.

However, after the competition, if a man meets a female athlete with a successful record who is dressed modestly, and he admires her achievements, he can recite a blessing. In this way, religious and traditional men serving in public roles, such as ministers, Knesset members and mayors, can also express their appreciation for female sport champions.

Admiration for Good and Righteous People

Out of the admiration for physical blessings and sports achievements, it behooves us all to learn a ‘kal v’chomer’ – all the more so, should we be aroused to appreciate, respect and admire people who merit contributing to the whole of humanity through their wisdom and good deeds, and furthermore, to extol the best and finest people who contribute through their actions to the building of the Torah, the nation, and the Land.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by rabbi Melamed can be found at:

When Tisha B’Av Falls on Shabbat

Pregnant and nursing mothers who find it difficult to fast can be lenient when the fast is postponed * It is a mitzvah to wash oneself before Shabbat; Sephardim can do so in hot water * It is forbidden to mourn on Shabbat, therefore we eat and are happy as usual, including the pre-fast meal * The time from sunset on Shabbat until
the end of Shabbat is an intermediate period of time when it is forbidden to eat, but on the other hand, noticeable signs of mourning are also prohibited * After Shabbat is over Havdalah is recited verbally, but not over wine * An ill person who eats on the fast day must make Havdalah, ideally over a drink other than wine * One should not eat before Havdalah after the fast * When the fast is postponed, there is no mourning the following day

Pregnant and Nursing Women

In general, pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast on Tisha B’Av but are exempt from the minor fasts, such as the 17th of Tammuz and the Tenth of Tevet. But when Tisha B’Av is postponed, as it is this year, the obligation of the Tisha B’Av fast is more similar to that of the minor fasts. Indeed, due to the severity of the of the fast’s importance, ideally, when it is not difficult, pregnant and nursing mothers should also fast; but if there is any difficulty whatsoever, they are exempt, even though they are not considered ill. In practice, it turns out that about 90% of pregnant and partially nursing women do not need to fast.

Women who nurse full-time, or nearly full-time, do not need to fast, so as not to diminish their milk supply.

Washing before Shabbat Chazon

It is a mitzvah to wash oneself before Shabbat, including before Shabbat Chazon, and even before Shabbat Chazon that falls on Tisha B’Av, because mourning on Shabbat is prohibited. The minhag (custom) for Ashkenazim is to wash with warm water whose temperature is not pleasurable, but also does not cause any grief. The minhag for Sephardim is to bathe in hot water as usual (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 8:21).

The ‘Seudah Mafseket’ Meal on Shabbat

When the eve of Tisha B’Av falls on a weekday, customs of ‘aveilut‘ (mourning) already begin at the ‘seudah mafseket’ (the pre-fast meal): in this meal we do not eat two cooked dishes together, we sit on the floor and do not sit together, like a mourner whose close relative had just died and sits on his own (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 9:1-3).

But when the eve of Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, it is forbidden to show any sign of mourning, for the general rule is there is no mourning on Shabbat. Therefore, if Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, the fast is postponed to Sunday, and on that Shabbat we eat meat, drink wine, and even serve a meal fit for a king. We also sing Shabbat songs as usual, for there is no mourning on Shabbat.

The Intermediate Period of Time between Shabbat and the Fast

There is an intermediate period of time between Shabbat and the fast, during which Shabbat has not yet ended, but the prohibitions of the fast have already begun. This happens because we are unsure when one day ends and the next day begins – at sunset, or when the stars emerge. Therefore, the period between sunset and the emergence of the stars is ambiguous, being possibly day, and possibly night. It is called “bein hashmashot” (twilight). And since there is a mitzvah to add time onto Shabbat, the holy day continues until a few minutes after the stars emerge. Consequently, the time between sunset and shortly after the emergence of the stars is both Shabbat and the fast. During that time, it is forbidden to do anything that would appear like a custom of mourning, because we do not mourn on Shabbat. On the other hand, after sunset we avoid doing anything that is not necessary for the sake of Shabbat, like eating, drinking, washing, and anointing.

‘Seudah Shlishit’

Therefore, we eat seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) like we do on any other Shabbat, including the singing of Shabbat songs. However, we stop eating and drinking before sunset (in Jerusalem at 19:29, Tel Aviv 19:28, and Haifa 19:30), and this is not considered harming the honor of Shabbat because there is no obligation – from a Shabbat perspective – to continue eating seudah shlishit after sunset. It is also fitting to refrain from singing joyous songs after sunset, and doing so does not constitute an expression of mourning, for people do not generally sing happy songs all the time on Shabbat.

Other Laws of the Intermediate Period of Time

We also refrain from washing and anointing ourselves after sunset, and this is not considered harming the honor of Shabbat because, after all, one does not continuously bathe on Shabbat in any case. However, one who relieves himself during ‘bein hashmashot’ should wash his hands normally, for if he washes as required on the fast, he is, in effect, mourning on Shabbat.

We remain in our Sabbath clothing, keep our shoes on, and continue to sit on chairs and greet each other until a few minutes after three, mid-sized stars appear in the sky (in Jerusalem 20:03, Tel Aviv 20:06). Then, we say ‘Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol’ (‘Blessed is He Who separates between the holy and the mundane’), by which we take leave of Shabbat. Afterwards, we remove our shoes, take off our Shabbat garments, and change into weekday clothes.

Some people have the custom of removing their shoes already at ‘bein hashmashot’, because wearing comfortable shoes is one of the prohibitions of Tisha B’Av, and since in any case, one is not obligated to wear shoes at all times on Shabbat, removing them at sunset does not involve harming the honor of Shabbat. However, it is clear that if a person takes off his shoes and other people in his company realize he is doing it for the sake of mourning, it would be forbidden. Therefore, the accepted practice is to remove shoes after Shabbat is over.

When changing clothes from Shabbat to weekday garments, one should wear clothing that was already worn the previous week because one may not wear freshly laundered clothing on Tish’a B’Av.

Evening Prayer

Many communities have a custom to delay Ma’ariv (the Evening Prayer) until around fifteen minutes after Shabbat ends, in order to give everyone time to take leave of the Shabbat at home, remove their shoes, change their clothes, and come to the synagogue for Ma’ariv and the reading of Eichah in weekday clothes.

Havdalah on Tish’a B’Av When it falls Out on Saturday Night

The fast begins immediately after Shabbat, making it is impossible to say havdalah over a cup of wine. Therefore, we postpone saying this form of havdalah until after the fast. Nevertheless, we say havdalah – “Ata Chonantanu” – in the Ma’ariv prayers or “Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh l’chol“, after which we are permitted to do work.

Blessing over the Havdalah Candle

We recite the blessing over fire on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), because this blessing is not dependent on the cup of wine. Rather, it is an expression of thanks to God for creating fire, which was revealed to Adam on the first Motzei Shabbat. The custom is to recite the blessing after Ma’ariv before the reading of Eichah, because people light candles at that time.

Women also recite the blessing over fire. If they are in the synagogue, they hear the chazan’s blessing and gain pleasure from the light of the candle lit close to them; if they are at home, they light a candle and recite the blessing (see, Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 8:1, footnote 1).

Havdalah Over a Cup of Wine after the Fast

At the end of the fast, before eating or drinking, one must say havdalah over a cup of wine, which includes two blessings: ‘Al ha’gefen’ (‘on the wine’) and Ha’Mavdil (‘He Who separates’). No blessing is made on spices or fire.

Havdalah for an Ill Person Who Ate on Tisha B’Av

A sick person who needs to eat on Tish’a B’Av, must say havdalah over a cup of wine before eating. In such a case, it is proper to use ‘chamar medinah’ [a distinguished beverage other than wine] (preferably something intoxicating, but any ubiquitous drink, like coffee, will do (see, Peninei Halakha, Shabbat, vol. 1, 8:4). If one has no such beverage, he should say havdalah over grape juice, and if even that is unavailable, he should say havdalahbe’di’avad – on wine, and drink a cheek-full (around 40 ml.). If a minor who has reached the age at which we teach him to recite blessings is present, it is best to let him drink the wine instead of the sick person. A minor who eats on Tish’a B’Av need not say havdalah before eating.

‘Kiddush Levana’

The custom is to postpone ‘Birkat HaLevanah’ (the Blessing of the Moon) until after the fast, because the blessing must be recited joyously, and we decrease our joy during the Nine Days. Many people are accustomed to saying it immediately after the Ma’ariv prayer at the conclusion of the fast, but it is improper to do so, le’chatchilah. After all, it is difficult to be happy at that moment, when we have yet to drink, eat, wash our faces and hands, or put on regular shoes. Therefore, each community should set a time – an hour or two after the fast – for the recitation of Birkat HaLevanah, and in the meantime, everyone will have a chance to eat something, and wash up. This way, they will be able to say the blessing joyously. Where there is concern that pushing off Birkat HaLevanah may cause some people to forget to say it, the congregation may say it immediately after the fast.

Mourning Customs on the Day after Tisha B’Av

The Babylonians conquered the Beit HaMikdash on the seventh of Av, setting it ablaze on the ninth of the month, late in the day, and it continued burning throughout the tenth of Av. Since the majority of the Temple actually burned on the tenth of Av, the people of Israel have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine on that date. According to Sephardi custom, the prohibition lasts the entire day, while Ashkenazim observe this custom only until midday. Many have the custom not to take a haircut, bathe in hot water, do laundry, or wear laundered clothes on the tenth of Av.

But this year, when the fast is postponed until the tenth of Av, mourning customs do not continue after the fast has concluded, and one is permitted immediately after the fast to wash in hot water, to do laundry, and wear freshly laundered clothes. Although, in the opinion of many authorities, one should refrain from eating meat and drinking wine after the fast, because, having fasted on that day, it is not proper to immediately enjoy eating meat and wine. There are other authorities, though, who are lenient in regards to eating meat and drinking wine after a postponed fast (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 10:20).


As is true regarding all other mitzvot, we are commanded to educate our children to keep the mitzvot relating to Tish’a B’Av and mourning over the churban (destruction of the Holy Temple). Since children are weak, however, it is impossible to teach them to fast when they are young. Therefore, we train them to fast a few hours, depending on their strength, only starting from age nine. They should not fast the entire day (Rama of Panow 111). When feeding children on Tish’a B’Av, one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to join with the community in mourning. Many people are careful to teach their children who have reached the age of chinuch (education) – from around six years old – not to eat or drink on the night of the fast.

At the age of chinuch, we teach them not to wear leather sandals or shoes, and not to apply ointments or bathe for the sake of pleasure (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 10:21).

May it be God’s will that out of our mourning for the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, we will soon merit its’ building, in joy.

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

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed