Marrying Young Successfully

A letter from a mother concerning children marrying no later than the age of 24 * Can a young man learning in yeshiva and serving in the army start a family at an early age without becoming a financial burden on his parents? * Yeshiva students who are not certain they are fit for teaching or the rabbinate, should immediately begin learning a trade after finishing the army * An reply to a mother’s letter: The obligation of parents, and the responsibility of society as a whole, to help young adults combine marriage and professional studies * The plight of divorced, religious women who suffer from a negative stigma, and find it difficult to get married after undergoing menopause

Marriage Issues

About a month ago I dealt with the precept of marriage, and I elaborated on the halakha that a person is obligated to marry by the age of twenty in order to fulfill the mitzvoth of marriage and procreation, and that the situation today is defined as a sha’at ha’dachak (pressing circumstances) in which, l’chatchilla (from the outset), it is permitted to postpone the mitzvah until the age of 24. Indeed, the intention of the mitzvah is not to obligate a person to marry an incompatible partner, but rather, to require he strives to get married by the age of 24.

In the wake of these articles I received many responses, one of which was a notable letter that came from the heart of a loving, worrying, and responsible mother, which I believe can benefit many.

A Mother’s Reply

“Shalom, Rabbi. I imagine that as a result of your article on the proper age of marriage, emotions ran high in many houses on Shabbat (the day after its publication). As a mother of sons and daughters who are essentially the same age as you spoke of (a few married, others not), I want to focus on the recommended age of marriage.

Rabbi, you cited the words of our Sages and the Rambam, etc., stressing that a young man should be well-prepared for the challenges of marriage, namely, to study Torah and learn a trade, so he can support his family. And yet, you wrote that nowadays one is permitted to postpone marriage until the age of 24, because preparations take longer and the mitzvah of serving in the army also causes a delay.

I cannot figure out how, by the age of 24, a young man can build himself spiritually, serve in the army (even an abbreviated service), and also learn a profession so he can support his family (as he obligated himself in the ketubah [Jewish marriage contract]!).

In practice, young men who are loyal to their rabbis in the various yeshivas, remain there to study and build themselves spiritually while postponing military service, and get married at a young age – at best, after finishing the army, and in many cases before, or while serving (which is also a problem for the woman). Only afterwards do they learn a trade – on the average, for about three years.

If all is well, the women get pregnant without delay – seeing as it’s forbidden to postpone – and have difficulty finishing their studies, or finding a job to support the family. And just who is supposed to provide for the young couple and their children? In many cases we, the parents, must help out with considerable and steady support for many years!

Rabbi, you cannot encourage young adults to marry at an early age and not postpone the mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply”, without addressing in detail the implications thereof. The fact is that from the outset, a very large majority of young couples simply rely on the steady financial support of their parents, because they have no other source of income!

Clearly, this is not a healthy situation in any respect, and surely not all families are able to support all of their married children, and it doesn’t have to be the ideal solution to the situation.

In my humble opinion, the wording of the directive, or halakha, should be a little more moderate. It’s impossible to “toss the young adult into the water” at the maximum age of 24 in the hopes that God-willing things will work out, while in reality, knowing he is incapable of supporting his family.

Rabbis should also address the issues of earning a living, acquiring a profession, and prepare young men for overall family life.”

Reply

I agree with the main point of your argument, but my conclusion is that within this complex reality, we need to pave the way for the fulfillment of our Sages words.

For example, in regards to yeshiva study: A student who is uncertain whether he is fit to be a teacher or a rabbi, should start learning a trade immediately after finishing his army service. Incidentally, in Yeshiva Har Bracha, we do not allow students to continue learning in the yeshiva beyond this time. For that reason we created the ‘Shiluvim‘ (‘combination’, in Hebrew) program, in which students learn full academic studies in one of the universities, while at the same time, combine a few hours of study in the yeshiva every day, and for this, students receive a scholarship which helps them make ends meet during their years of learning.

On the other hand, when no attempt is made to get married by the age our Sages determined, many young adults experience tremendous difficulties in finding a partner, and get delayed for many years – over and above what they had planned – and in the end, get married with much less enthusiasm, joy and love, because the appropriate time of marriage is when people are younger (this week my wife lead a discussion for hundreds of parents and individuals who undertook to help single people get married. The sad stories she heard after the discussion is proof – out of pain and anguish – just how correct our Sages were in determining that a person should marry at a young age).

Indeed, the difficulties raised in your letter are true, and thus I would suggest you read a few paragraphs from my book, “Simchat Habayit u’Birchato“, in which I referred to these issues. Here are some excerpts:

The Obligation of Young Adults, Parents, and Society

Today, the mitzvah of marriage poses a major challenge for young adults, parents, and society. Within the span of a few years, young adults are required to establish their Torah worldview, acquire a profession that suits their capabilities, and start a family; in addition, young men are required to also serve in the army and further their Torah study.

The first duty lies with young adults, who are required to plan their paths well, and not waste time during these precious years. For even after having defined our times as a sha’at dachak, in which marriage can be postponed until the age of 24 – one who wastes his time during these years nullifies the fulfillment of themitzvah. Therefore, it is the duty of every young adult to pave a path in which they can integrate all of these ideals jointly – to get married at an early age, and at the same time, acquire a profession that suits their talents, so they can support their families and contribute to the improvement of society.

The second duty rest on the parents, as our Sages said (Kiddushin 29a; 30b), parents are obligated to marry-off their children, as it is written: “Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters” (Jeremiah 29:6). In other words, the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply does not end with a child’s birth, rather, it continues afterwards until they reach the age of marriage. At that point in time, parents should encourage their children to marry, and help with advice and financial assistance, thereby contributing to the continuation of the generations. Our Sages instructed parents to devote a tenth of their assets to each of their children’s weddings. It seems thattoday, a significant part of the parents’ assistance should be aimed at facilitating their children’s significant challenge of combining marriage together with professional studies.

Society as a whole is also obligated to create most favorable conditions for young adults to fulfill the mitzvah of marriage at the appropriate time. In order to do so professional studies should be streamlined as best as possible, young adults should be given assistance in finding affordable housing and dormitories, and women’s professional studies should start as early as possible so that in the first years of marriage they can offer greater support for their families.

It is important to know that together with the difficulties modern life presents, it also holds solutions. True, studying for a profession takes more time, but on the other hand – investing in it pays off, and as a result, banks are willing to grant students loans whose payment commences only after one begins working.

These are a few the sections I sent to her.

Her Response

“Rabbi, thank you very much for your detailed reply! The greatest novelty in my eyes is the parents’ obligation to help their children.

You spoke about your yeshiva, however in most yeshivas, unfortunately, the situation is different. Many yeshiva students learn in higher, Zionist yeshivas, in which each student enlists in the army at different times.

Additionally, in most yeshivas, even Hesder, the boys may continue studying as they please, even after their five year program of yeshiva studies and army service is over, and many of them do so with the encouragement of the rabbis, instead of learning a profession (I heard an interesting excuse from a yeshiva student who had not yet married: he did not want to go a university with a mixed student body while he was single).

Thank you and, yasher koach (a job well done)!”

A Painful Letter Concerning Divorced Women and Marriage

“Shalom, Rabbi. I gladly follow your enlightening words each week. Recently, you dealt at length with the marriage of young adults, and I wanted to arouse your attention to a painful problem: the marriage of divorced women in their fifties.

There is a stigma about religious, divorced women that they are improper and untrustworthy, and this is a shame. Not all of us betrayed our husbands, or behaved immodestly. Because of the prohibition of loshon ha’ra (defamation), the reasons for divorce are not publicized, and thus, many people are unaware that there are husbands who beat, abuse, and humiliate their wives, and the rabbis are unable to help. The problem becomes even more painful when we, women who are not so young, search for a suitable partner who we can grow older with, in dignity.

I tried to build a glorious marriage, but my husband did not love and respect me as much as he loved and respected himself, and happiness was nowhere to be found. The discourse was violent and disrespectful, and sadness prevailed in our family.

Regrettably, women like me can no longer have children, and this is what prevents us from the road to happiness. Most men prefer women nearly ten years younger than they are.

Our Sages said: “For a man who divorces his first wife, the very altar sheds tears”. I am one of those women for whom tears are shed, and I continue to shed my own tears because of society’s alienation – the same society from which I nurtured all my values and entire faith. And nevertheless, I still have hope they will not judge us negatively, and give us another chance.

I needed great courage to save my soul and that of my children. With the grace of God, I was liberated from my personal prison, and will no longer say “Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer”, but instead, “I will exalt you, God, for you lifted me out of the depths”. Also, I have no sorrow – but joy – for meriting blessing over the bad, as well as the good. But now, I want so badly to reciprocate, to be a compatible helper; to establish a home in which love, brotherhood, peace and friendship dwells. May we merit establishing a binyan shalem (a complete structure) from the ruins of Jerusalem, speedily in our days, amen.

Rabbi, can you give some encouragement or advice, and maybe even help calm the fears of men regarding religious, divorced women, whose only wish is to open a new page, and establish a blessed, binyan shalem?

A: Unfortunately, I have no useful advice. Perhaps the publication of this letter will arouse the hearts, and ascend as a prayer for all of the lonely who crave to build a relationship of love, holiness and joy.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Uproot Terrorism from its Islamic Source

Islamic terrorism has become routine, but the West fails to understand its roots * Western intellectuals ignore the human longing for a life filled with faith, content, and idealism * The centrality of power and respect in Islamic faith, and its social and cultural effects * The decree of Jihad as an expression of the strength of God’s reign* A Muslim may lay down his arms only when he has no chance of winning * Welfare benefits are interpreted as a tax that infidels must pay to Muslims * How the State of Israel encourages the exploitative lifestyle of Muslims * Will Europe be able to repent and free itself from anti-Semitism?

Islamic Terrorism

The murder of the holy Jews in Paris simply because they were Jews, raises the need to speak about the social and religious circumstances which bring about these horrific attacks.

The Growing Tension between the West and Muslims

There was nothing new about the terrorist attacks in France other than  their location, in the heart of Europe – Paris. For years, Muslim terrorists have murdered hundreds and thousands of people every month. They murder members of other religions, and moreover – members of rival factions in Islam. The number of murdered people is steadily increasing, and is spreading to other countries. Nevertheless, the leaders of the powerful countries in the West, despite the shock, continue business as usual. They think these are simply frustrated, emotionally disturbed people who are unemployed, or an oppressed “people” demanding its “rights” from the Jews who conquered their homeland. They ignore the sheer hatred that the Muslims openly express – towards the West in general, and Israel in particular.

Criticism of the West and its “Experts”

The “experts” in Western countries believe that everyone wants to emulate them. And those who do not wish to do so, is only because they are still underdeveloped; the process of advancement will inevitably lead them to the Western approach, according to which all people desire freedom, material prosperity, and the independence to choose a belief, or some other hobby they fancy.

The technological and economic advantage achieved by Western “experts” (in no small part thanks to significant contributions of Jews), make it difficult for them to understand man’s deep longing for a life filled with meaning, idealism, and imbued with faith. The plethora of luxuries creates a type of screen which blinds them from seeing the fiery flames burning in the depths of the human soul and mind, which can explode in a negative direction of fanaticism, destruction and hatred, or in contrast – in a positive direction of faith, productivity and change for the better. As a result, they find it difficult to understand the motives of their enemies and rivals. No less severe, they also fail to analyze the roots of the crises befalling their countries, reflected in the loss of identity, the breakdown of the family, and the serious difficulties in educating children. 

The Religion of Islam

The source of everything stems from the religious Islamic perception which views God as an omnipotent conqueror, to whom everyone must submit and accept his absolute authority. Out of the five major precepts of Islam, four of them deal directly with the honor of God and surrender to him: 1) declaration of faith in him. 2) praying to him five times a day, mostly involving kneeling and reciting seven verses 17 times praising Allah and accepting his lordship. 3) The Ramadan fast. 4) Pilgrimage to Mecca (the other precept is giving charity to the poor, which also expresses the idea that money belongs to Allah, and not man).

Even praise and thanks to Allah are performed out of feelings of submission and respect. 

Islam’s Influence on Inter-Personal Relations

This approach extends to all interpersonal relationships, which are based on honor. A wife must highly respect her husband, and a husband is obligated to take care of, support, and protect his wife – this being his honor. Needless to say, children are also required to honor their parents. Interpersonal relationships as well are based on great respect, emitting a sense of noble generosity, giving room for hospitality and brotherhood.

Seeing as honor is so important, offending a Muslim is intolerable, because it undermines the very foundation of his existence; consequently, he is obligated to respond with extreme severity, leading to the familiar and horrifying expression of “family honor killings.”

Since force and control are vital to Islam, as a result, a ruler who is not perceived as being strong, and even cruel, is incapable of surviving in Muslim culture. Consequently, the democratic system is incapable of providing stability for Islamic countries. For them, the ideal government is an authoritarian rule which protects and grants respect to all its citizens, similar to a compassionate father who cares for the welfare of his children.

Islam – A Religion of War

Islam also has positive aspects, but our focus right now is on the difficult sides. After the five major precepts of Islam, the next most important precept is jihad. Those faithful to Allah must model themselves after him, follow his ways, act courageously as he did, and forcibly subdue those who do not succumb to his authority. “Muhammad lives by the sword!”

Power and the sword play a central role in the Muslim religion. They emphasize the actual strength of the religion, enhancing the greatness and honor of Allah by imposing his beliefs on all mankind. Even the calls to prayer over loudspeakers by themuezzin day and night are an expression of imposing the religion over wide-spread areas, both towards the believers themselves and towards others.

It is no coincidence the Arabs have succeeded in imposing Islam on many nations, to the point where today there are approximately 1,400,000,000 followers. Islam’s genetic code is aimed at a steadfast war to impose Muhammad’s religion on the entire world by means of the sword. To achieve this goal, everything is legitimate. The nations they conquered realized this, and opted to convert to Islam rather than die.

True, all nations attained their achievements through wars and victories, however in Islam, unlike other cultures, the principle of compromise is intolerable – especially a territorial compromise. Compromise is an expression of weakness, whereas a Muslim is obligated to represent the heroism and strength of Allah, and must always clutch the sword to be prepared for the battle of imposing the religion on the entire world.

When a Muslim realizes he lacks the power to defeat his enemy, he is permitted to agree to a cease-fire (‘tahadiya’ in Arabic), while preparing for the continuation of the religious war. Such thinking is based on the behavior of their prophet Muhammad, in particular, towards the tribe of Quraysh.

How to Deal with the Islamic Threat

The only way to relieve a Muslim from his duty of war is to create a situation in which he is totally compelled, so he lacks the ability or prospect of succeeding. Only then, according to Muslim law, is he exempt from the necessity to wage war. At that time he must wait for years, or even generations, confident that when the time comes, he will return to wage war.

Conversely, any attempt to compromise with Islam will inevitably lead to continued terrorism and war, for compromise is perceived as a weakness because according to Islamic culture, if the Western countries had the power to defeat them, they wouldn’t possibly be seeking a compromise. This can only mean that they find it difficult to face the heroic attacks of Allah’s faithful, the glorious martyrs, and hence, their downfall is close at hand. Similarly as far as Israel is concerned – any attempt at compromise or presenting a “political horizon”, instills hope within the Arabs that they can defeat us, and encourages terrorism and war.

Anyone who desires peaceful and quiet relations with Muslims must first defeat them, avoid any talk of peace, and strive for a stable truce while managing a respectable relationship.

The Detrimental Social-Welfare Policy

As a follow up to the issue I dealt with in previous articles, even the conventional social welfare policies of Western countries are perceived by Islamic followers as a weakness that promotes militancy. They believe that Christians who did not accept upon themselves the religion of Islam must pay a high tax to the Muslim rulers – a tax which among other things, is meant to express the superiority of Islam. Consequently, many Muslims have no gratitude for the child benefits and welfare payments they receive in Western countries, for naturally, they are superior to all Christians and entitled to receive taxes from them. This is the religious justification for demanding increases in benefits, and the indignation when they are reduced.

Leftist Policies Creates Ungrateful People

And this is in addition to the basic problem, namely, that the position of the political left, which maintains the state must provide for the welfare of all its citizens, corrupts the morality of welfare recipients, in that it makes them ungrateful.

The punishment imposed upon Adam to work hard for a living corrects his sin, and turns him into a positive person who understands the value of work and creativity, and by means of his responsibility and diligence in earning a living, he becomes a partner with God in tikun olam (improvement of society). In contrast, when child benefits and welfare payments enable many Muslims living in France to maintain a higher standard of living than in their countries of origin without any effort or responsibility, they become exploiters and ingrates. And in order that their conscience doesn’t torment them, they are forced to hate and hurl accusations against those that grant them the benefits for not properly respecting them and their prophet, and for not giving them more benefits.

The Crisis in Islam

Throughout the world Islam is in a state of crisis, frustration, and decline. This is reflected in a huge drop in birthrate. Terrorism represents an attempt to escape the crisis, and efforts by the West for reconciliation and compromise add fuel to the flames. At any rate, in leading countries such as Iran and Turkey, the population has been shrinking because the average woman gives birth to fewer than two children. Western countries are the only places where Muslim population has grown – thanks to the child allowances.

The same thing happened in Israel at the time when child allowances were particularly high, and as happens today to a lesser extent with other benefits. An example of blatant foolishness in Israel is the granting of a benefit of 1,500 shekels for each child of a divorced woman who the courts ruled that the father of her children is unable to pay child support. Thus, it turns out that the State of Israel encourages polygamy in the Arab and Bedouin sectors, because their husbands divorce them fictitiously in order to make a living off the increased allowances for their children and their supposedly divorced wives, who are recognized as single mothers. This money, of course, returns to the honorable husband, who, thanks to the State of Israel’s foolishness, is able to maintain an exploitative Muslim lifestyle l’mehedrin. We are only left to thank him for accepting it, and not taking part in terrorist attacks. 

Europe’s Response

After the horrendous murders the Europeans caused for centuries in the name of nationalism and religion, particularly against the Jews, many proponents of morality in Europe today are prone to the other extremity, the left, which advocates for complete equality of rights for all. And once again, lo and behold, even from this point of view, they accuse the Jews. The old anti-Semitism returns and reveals itself once again. If Europe wishes to repent, it must truly regret hate crimes against Jews, and acknowledge the Jews for their contributions to humanity. Christians must also cloak themselves in humility and gratitude towards Judaism. Only such a tikunwill make them truly moral.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Social Welfare According to Torah

The importance of caring for the poor and weak according to the Torah * The leftist theory: State and society are to blame for the situation of the poor * The Torah view: Responsibility for a person’s financial situation rests first and foremost on himself, and only when one cannot take care of himself are we obligated to assist him * The meaning of the mitzvah of Yovel (Jubilee): Natural resources should be divided equally, but an individual’s personal profits from his own hard work belongs to him * According to the Torah, concern for the weak rests first on a person’s immediate circles, and only afterwards on society * The numerous advantages of such a circular system of support and assistance

The Importance of Societal Mitzvoth

Love and care for others is the basic foundation of the Torah, as Rabbi Akiva said: “Love your neighbor as yourself – this is a great rule in the Torah” (Leviticus 19:18, Sifra, ibid). From this stems the enormous mitzvah of helping those in distress, and consequently, the mitzvah of tzedakka (charity) for the poor is one of the most important commandments in the Torah. Our Sages said: “Charity is equivalent to all the other commandments” (Bava Batra 9a) and, “Whoever turns away his eyes from one who appeals for charity is considered as if he were serving idols” (Bava Batra 10a).

Contrary to the Leftist Position

However, there is a profound difference between the Torah’s position and that of the secular leftist movements. The leftist movement’s concepts are based on the ideological foundations of communism and socialism, namely, that all property and money belongs to everyone equally. And even if they are willing to admit that the idea of communism has gone bankrupt economically, they still believe in its message, and therefore according to their view, every person has the natural right to live in relative comfort, as standard in society. If, for example, the majority of people live in apartments in major cities, every citizen has the right to demand that society makes certain that he also has an apartment there. The same goes for food, clothing, medicine, education and activities for children – it’s his right to demand that society makes sure he also has what most people have. If society fails to take care of the needs of the poor, it is guilty for their situation, and should be ashamed of it. The reason for the poor’s situation doesn’t matter – no excuse will be valid against the accusations leveled at society for having poor people in their midst. The reason for this is because, in principle, wealth belongs to everyone equally, and as long as there are people who live in relative comfort, they will be considered as oppressors of the poor and living at their expense.

The Torah’s Position

In contrast, according to the Torah’s instruction, the individual – as well as a poor person – is the first one responsible for his own financial situation. Only after one tries to take care of himself but is unable to make a living because of illness or old age, etc., only then is there an obligation to help him satisfy his needs. And even this duty is not imposed on society simultaneously; rather, it spreads from one circle to another – from the immediate family circle, to society at large.

This method is more moral, because free choice and individual responsibility are the moral foundations of man’s existence in the world – if one chooses good – he will merit a good life in this world, and in the World to Come; if he chooses evil – he will be punished in this world, and the next. This is also true in regards to money and property. If one is lazy – he will be poor, and if he is diligent – he will reap the fruits of his labor.

This method is also efficient, because it teaches a person to be responsible and hard-working, and it encourages competition promoting economic growth, which in the long run helps the poor. In addition, it is also the finest means of assisting the poor, for the highest level of charity is to help the poor stand on their own two feet, without the need of donations and benefits.

In contrast, the leftist methods never help, because they reinforce poverty and suppress the poor person’s motivation to take responsibility and advance on his own. On the other hand, by constantly raising taxes they punish the rich, the hard-workers and entrepreneurs, and hamper their attempts to continue working for economic development.

Equality in the Torah

Indeed, there is a fundamental commandment in the Torah which expresses the equality of all people – the mitzvah of Yovel (the Jubilee year). According to this commandment all land in the country is divided equally among all the people of Israel, and even a person who was forced due to poverty to sell his field, with the arrival of the Jubilee year, the land returns to him or his heirs without compensation.

It is fitting for us to learn from this commandment that just as the land should be divided equally among all, so too, all natural resources belong to all of Israel equally. This includes the air, water, minerals, gas, oil, etc. The proceeds of these resources should be spent on quality education for all. This is the foundation of equality which gives each individual the opportunity to take care of himself, according to his efforts and talent.

Indeed, natural resources should be divided equally, but the fruit of one’s hard work is his own. Alongside an individual’s privilege to work and get rich, he is commanded to help the poor; and so as not to detract from the principle of responsibility, this commandment is fulfilled by the circular system of responsibility.

The Circular Method of Responsibility in Helping the Poor

In contrast to the socialist concept in which society as a whole is equally responsible for the welfare of the poor, according to the Torah, there are parallel circles of responsibility.

Within the first circle is the poor person himself, who is initially responsible for his own situation and that of his family. Therefore, if a person was able to work but chose not to, casting himself on the public, gabbaei tzedakka (charity treasurers) would make sure he worked. Only in a situation where one worked as hard as he could, but was still unable to get by, would he be given charity, as Torah says, “You must help him pick up the load” (Deuteronomy 22:4) – to pick up the load together with him is a mitzvah, but when he shirks his own responsibility, there is no mitzvah to help him.

When a poor person is unable to take care of himself, the responsibility is shifted to his relatives (as is the rule in redeeming hereditary land that was sold). If they are unable to help their relative – the responsibility is shifted to the third circle, namely, his neighbors. And if they cannot provide all the needs of their poor nearby residents, members of the entire city must take charge, and only afterwards, the entire society, as the Torah says: ‘When, in a settlement in the land that God is giving you, any of your brothers is poor… do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7). It is also written: “When you lend money to My people, to the poor man among you…” (Exodus 22:24) – your poor [sc. your relatives] and the [general] poor of your town — your poor come first (Bava Metzia 71a).

If there was a poor person who had relatives who were able to help but shirked their duty, the gabbaei tzeddaka would force them to do so, and only if they were unable to meet their poor relative’s needs, would they give him municipal public funds (S. A., Y.D. 251:4).

The Circular Method is Just, Moral and Effective

When the responsibility to provide for the poor rests on relatives and neighbors they will try their best to make him a partner in work, so he can make a living by himself and not always be a burden on them, and thus, they place him on his own two feet. But when the poor receive benefits, relatives absolve themselves from responsibility and do make enough of an effort to ensure he works and makes a living. The resulting damage is deep and extended, for in many cases, after a poor person becomes accustomed to accepting allowances and charities, he loses his dignity and ability to stand on his own; he also serves as a bad example for his children, and the odds of them escaping the cycle of poverty decrease.

Local Gabbi’s

According to today’s conventional method, the State is responsible for the overall handling of all poor people, and social workers are not familiar on a long-term basis with the community they handle. According to the Torah, assistance to the poor should be given by local gabbi’s who are familiar with them, because only they can help the poor in the most advantageous way. If possible, they will find him a job so he can make a living with dignity. If he is incapable of this, they will try to find him work in which he can at least make a little money, and thus maintain his dignity in his own eyes, and in the eyes of his family.

The halakha itself states that the most excellent, unparalleled type of charity is to give a person the possibility of working and earning a living by himself (Rambam, S. A., 249:6).

Preventing Impersonation

In addition, when the treasurers are local residents, it’s hard to fool them. This also is very important, for our Sages warned that the punishment for imposters posing as poor people in order to receive charity is that eventually they will truly be poor, and will not leave this world without having to beg for charity from others (Mishna Pe’ah 8:9). This punishment comes justly from Heaven, but in most cases, there’s no need for miraculous intervention to bring it about, because a person who is used to relying on assistance and charities, loses his ability to make a living on his own, and eventually truly becomes poor. This is the way the communist system led to poverty for nations who chose it.

Collective Responsibility

Another significant advantage of the circular method is that it places responsibility on the group to take care of the poor within their midst. In the Socialist system, components of which are practiced in Israel today, the State is responsible for the welfare of all citizens, and thus, entire groups of people are created who discard responsibility for their own livelihoods, and become accustomed to relying on financial benefits. Their representatives in the Knesset constantly demand reductions in payments for education, health, property taxes, supplementary funding for municipal budgets with state funds, etc., without their leaders accepting upon themselves the responsibility of correcting the situation. This is what happens in Arab society, and to differentiate, among our brothers, the Haredim.

In a well-administered situation according to halakha, when family and close neighbors are unable to help the poor, responsibility is shifted to the municipal circle, or the community among which the poor belong. This responsibility is the key to correcting the situation, because it goads the leaders of the society to make an assessment, to examine the causes of poverty, and seek advice on how to get out of it – for example, through the training of young people in professions in which they are able to make a decent living. But when the State is responsible for the situation of all poor people alike, the public and the leaders who are part of the problem remove all responsibility from themselves, and to boot, they argue society does not help enough, and even interferes in solving the crisis.

As a result, instead of the allowances helping the poor escape the cycle of poverty, they help them maintain the lifestyle that led them to poverty, and the problem keeps on growing.

The Attitude towards Charity

The leftist method declares to the poor: “Don’t be afraid to demand what rightly belongs to you, you have it coming!” In contrast, according to the Torah, a poor person is required to thank all those who help him. Indeed, the rich have to try their best not to embarrass the poor who were forced to receive tzedakka, but there is nothing wrong with the poor person, on his own part, to conduct a self-examination, and consider whether he might also be at fault for his situation. In any event, this will motivate him to encourage his children to pursue their studies, so that later on in life, they can learn a trade and live comfortably.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Living Nicely Below the Poverty Line

The poverty report was exploited to help the Left in the election campaign *According to the Bituach Leumi report, in 2013 there was a significant decrease in the number of poor people *The worrisome statistics in the report mainly reflect the situation in the Arab and Haredi sectors *Personal testimony: How my family got along fine on an income 50% below the poverty line * The Torah concept of personal responsibility is different from the concept of the Communist-Socialist charity organizations * Alternative reports on behalf of charity organizations exaggerate the problem of poverty * Left-wing parties’ opposition to construction in Judea and Samaria contributes to the rise in housing prices

Recently, the poverty report in Israel was published, and as usual, the social welfare organizations voiced their protests – but this time, even louder and with more blatant support from the mainstream media, apparently, in hope of helping the leftist parties win the elections.

Since this is a very important issue which various authorities use adversely, it deserves some study, to analyze its’ implications, and afterwards, to learn from Israel’s holy Torah the proper way to deal with poverty.

Data on the Number of People Living below the Poverty Line

According to the data of Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute), in 2013 in the State of Israel there were approximately 1.65 million citizens below the poverty line, which is roughly 18.6% of Israel’s citizens. If only children (up to the age of eighteen) are counted, the number comes to approximately 757 000, or a third of all children in the country.

The Improvement in the Employment Rate and Wages

In practice, the report showed a significant improvement, since the number of poor people this year decreased by about 100,000. The reasons for this were an increase in the employment rate, and an increase in the wages of lower levels employees. This improvement reflects an extremely positive development in Israel’s economy, given that this year child benefits were cut, and in spite of this, the number of poor declined. In other words, the increase in the number of people employed and the increase in their wages was so significant, that despite the reduction in benefits, the number of poor decreased.

When measuring the unemployment rate in Israel, we are in great shape compared to the majority of developed countries who underwent a deep economic crisis in recent years.

In Israel, unemployment stands at 5.6%. In contrast, in European Union countries, the average unemployment rate is about 10%, and in the United States, which has staged a remarkable recovery from the crisis, the unemployment rate has declined to approximately 5.9%.

In any case, in terms of unemployment, our situation is excellent. Incidentally, this fact does not prevent the leftists from continuing to believe that Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria will cause serious damage to the economy.

Two Worrisome Statistics

Nevertheless, there were two disturbing statistics in the report. The first is the increase in the number of families in which both parents work at least part-time, but in spite of this, are still below the poverty line. This is about 5% of all families.

The second worrying statistic is that the gap between the rich and the poor is higher than most of the developed countries. In effect, among the OECD countries, the State of Israel nearly leads in the income gap between rich and poor.

Israel’s Unique Challenges

However, further observation reveals that these figures do not reflect the true economic situation, because, unlike other OECD countries, the State of Israel includes two very large populations, Arab and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) whose attitude towards work is different than in other developed countries, and the majority of the poor belong to these two groups. It must also be noted that their income and tax reports are inadequate, so that the data reported does not reflect the reality precisely.

In both of these populations, the employment rate is considerably low – in the Arab sector because women do not work, and in the Haredi sector because many men do not work. In the unemployment rate, I do not include Torah scholars and those who learn for the sake of teaching children, adolescents and young men, both because ultimately they work as educators, yeshiva teachers and rabbis, and because they themselves are not the cause of poverty – on the contrary, thanks to them, all of the citizens are blessed and enriched.

Another problem with both of these populations is that most of the employees work in very simple jobs whose income is low. This is due to a lack of a high school and academic education.

In practice, these two populations comprise almost one-third of Israel’s citizens. No other country in the world has to grapple with such a given. Judging by this, the State of Israel’s economic situation is almost a miracle.

What is the Poverty Line?

The poverty line is half of the average income per capita. In other words, the income of all the citizens of Israel is divided by the number of people, resulting in per capita income. The poverty line is half of the average income per capita.

That is to say, as the average income level rises, so does the poverty line. Therefore, in order to minimize the number of people below the poverty line, wage gaps must be reduced.

Last year, the average income per capita was 4,783 shekels a month; therefore, the poverty line was 2,392 shekels per month. For example, the poverty line for a family of five – a father, mother and three children is below 11, 960 shekels a month.

Flaws in Defining the Poverty Line

It should be noted that the poverty line is an arbitrary and imprecise concept. True, poverty is relative thing; however, perhaps the top percentile and maybe even the top 10% should be detracted from the average, because such people are few and far between, and their incomes are above and beyond the requirements for an extremely high standard of living. In this manner the poverty line would decrease significantly in percentages.

In addition, the division by number of persons does not accurately reflect the status of the family, because the cost per child in a family with ten children is less than that of a family with two children. Housing costs, heating, food, cooking, washing, cleaning – the larger the family is, the cheaper everything gets.

Incidentally, from my own experience I can attest that for many years my family lived under the official poverty line and we got along quite nicely – even from an economic point of view, seeing as a family of fifteen people needs an income of 35,880 shekels a month (at today’s prices) to be above the poverty line. I think we got by on just about half of the poverty line, and in addition, we managed to save money for our children and thus, are able to help them complete their studies for a master’s degree (up until now, three daughters have already completed a master’s degree, two of them are in the process of obtaining a doctorate, and another is beginning her master’s degree).

A Possible Explanation for the Increase in the Number of Poor among Working Parents

One reason for the increase in the number of poor people from families in which both parents work (at least part-time) may be due to the higher average number of children per family among the religious, traditional and secular sectors. For example, parents with two children and a low-income can easily be above the poverty line, but with three children it is difficult, let alone four.

Similarly, among religious families who have several children, although many of the parents earn relatively high wages, with seven children, they will be below the poverty line. Here I must add that the religious community’s main problem stems from extremely high education costs. These expenses must be cut at least in half, and this can be done without harming Torah education and school-level mathematics and English. However, this is not the place to expand upon this painful problem.

“Charity Organizations”

After discussing the data themselves, it’s time to deal with the highly vocal charity organizations, who, year after year, regardless of the objective data, hurl the same accusations at the state, government, and society. Apparently, some of what they say stems from good intentions; however, in addition, it is important to know that there are two weighty interests underlying their words.

First, they rely on contributions; the more they intensify the problem of poverty, the easier it is for them to convince donors to continue contributing to them. Incidentally, it would be worthwhile to reveal the salaries of all the executives and public relations managers of these charity organizations.

Secondly, most of them tend to the left politically, and are interested in diverting public discussion from issues of Israel’s existential threats in the fields of security, immigration and settlement, to social issues and wage gaps, in order to attack the right-wing governments and settlement policy – as if expelling settlers from Judea and Samaria will solve the problem of the poor.

Moreover, as disciples of the ideological foundations of communism and socialism, they believe that in principle, property and money belong to everyone equally. And although the communist idea went bankrupt financially, they still believe in its moral status, and therefore, in their way of thinking, society must fully provide for the welfare of all citizens, because everyone has the right to live in dignity and well-being, no matter what the reason was that led them into poverty.

How the Torah Instructs

In contrast, according to Torah instruction, the individual, including the poor person, is responsible for his own situation, and only after doing all he can to make a living but is no longer able to, is it a mitzvah to help him, as it is written: “You must make every effort to help him.” And certainly, we are obligated to help those who are unable to work due to illness or old age.

This method is also more effective, because competition is the main driving force that will ultimately help the poor the most. This is also the highest level of the mitzvah of charity – to help the poor stand on his own feet, and not resort to donations and benefits. In contrast, the leftist methods never help, because they reinforce poverty and quell the poor person’s motivation to take responsibility and move forward on his own.

Alternative Poverty Reports

Since the accurate and verified data on poverty in Israel is not harsh enough, left-wing activists feel the need to bolster them in order to bring about the necessary revolution. Thus, we hear from charity organizations and various media personalities about an alternative poverty report according to which the actual data is not important – the main thing is what the poor feel, or more precisely, the answers placed in their mouths. They ask them: “Are you worried that you won’t be able to continue working?”, and of course, a significant percentage answer that they indeed are worried. They ask: “Do you have to give up buying food you would like to buy?” and many respond, “Of course!” (They don’t specify exactly what type of food they’re talking about). They continue questioning: “Do you have to cut-back on heating in the winter?” (Who doesn’t have to?). In this fashion, they continue piling on similar questions. And let us not forget – nearly half of the poor are Arabs. What do expect them to say? “Baruch Hashem, everything’s great?!” Or, that their lives in the State of Israel are a hundred times better than every Arab country in the world?!

And then, in shock, they report that approximately fifty percent of children from poverty-stricken families are forced to work. I was amazed: Only fifty percent of the children work?! In our family, all of our children work during vacations – whether it’s cleaning jobs, babysitting, waitressing, or as camp counselors – this, in addition to working in numerous volunteer jobs. Is this harmful? No, the exact opposite – we see it as being helpful in teaching them the values of independence and responsibility.

The Housing Crisis

I obliged to point out the responsibility of the left and center parties for the harsh rise in housing prices. Israel is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. No matter how hard we try, housing prices will continue to rise because, thank God, the population continues to grow. The only solution is large-scale construction in Judea and Samaria, because even in the Negev and Galilee, development is currently hindered due to the struggles they are conducting against illegal Arab construction, which does not permit thorough and sound planning.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

National Security According to the Torah

Collaboration between Torah scholars and men of action can enable proper security policy management guided by Torah * The mitzvoth of conquering and inheriting the Land of Israel for all generations according to Ramban * As indicated by Rambam, there is no mitzvah in all generations to inherit the Land, nevertheless, it is a mitzvah to dwell there and protect the residents * There is no vast difference between the two positions * If Israel is forced to fight a defensive war, the opportunity will be utilized to fulfill the mitzvah of conquering the Land according to Ramban * Non-Jewish residents in the Land of Israel: The fundamental approach, and its actual implementation in times when the non-Jewish residents threaten our sovereignty

Settlement and Security Policy According to the Torah

From time to time the question arises: Is it possible to learn from the Torah and halakha what the State of Israel’s proper security policy should be, and can Torah scholars, occupants of the study halls, run the security policy of the State?

While the answer is extremely complex, basically, it can be summarized in one sentence: the principles certainly should be learned from the Torah, but their implementation is contingent on the overall, existing situation. Therefore, in order to implement the Torah’s vision, first, Torah scholars must thoroughly clarify the principles of the Torah. Alongside these Torah scholars, there is a need for extremely intelligent people who understand the principles of Torah and believe in them, and at the same time, understand the political and security state of affairs in all its components, in order to examine how to implement the vision. And among these intelligent people must evolve leaders who are capable of actualizing the practical idea into reality.

At the same time the public is busy electing its operative leaders, we must endeavor to fulfill our task of clarifying the principles – without which the vision cannot be realized.

The first principle that needs to be learned from the Torah is – think before you act. Study precedes action. First we must know what we are striving for, because the more unclear the goal is, the more difficult it is to achieve. This is the underlying problem of Israeli policy: on the one hand, they say the only desire is calm, peace and tranquility. On the other hand, beneath the surface and beyond official statements abounds a yearning for redemption, the ingathering of the exiles, and settling the Land – and in times of need, Jews are even willing to sacrifice their lives in order to achieve this vision. If you listen carefully to the words of the key leaders of the State of Israel, this discrepancy can almost always be detected.

Let’s begin clarifying the principles.

The Mitzvah of Settling the Land of Israel

The foundation of Israel’s policy lies in God’s promise of the Land to our forefathers, and the Biblical mitzvah (commandment) to settle it. Without the promise and the mitzvah, the Zionist movement would not have emerged, and the State of Israel would not have been established.

Ramban’s Position – Conquest and Settlement

The chief spokesman for the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land) is Ramban, who merited ‘preaching well and acting well’ by making aliyah and to Israel and founding a community in Jerusalem. To this day, the Ramban synagogues in Jerusalem bear his name.

He wrote: “We were commanded to take possession of the Land which the Almighty, Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and not to abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate, as He said to them (Numbers 33:53-54): ‘You shall inherit the Land and dwell in it, for I have given the Land to you to possess it…’ (Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive commandment #4). The meaning of the word ve’horashtem (‘you shall inherit’) is to conquer – namely, Israeli sovereignty over the Land; and the meaning of the word ve’yeshavtem (‘to dwell in’) is to settle the Land, so it won’t be desolate.

The mitzvah requires Israel to conquer the Land, “and this is what our Sages call a milchemet mitzvah [war by commandment] (Sotah, chapter 8, Mishna 6) …. and in the words of Sifri ‘ve’yarashta, ve’yashavta ba‘ – in the merit of your inheriting (conquering), you will dwell…” And in order for us not to mistakenly think that the mitzvah was given only to the Jews who left Egypt in the times of Yehoshua bin Nun, Ramban emphasizes that the mitzvah requires all generations not to abandon the Land “to other nations at any time…behold, we are commanded with the conquest of the Land in every generation.” By virtue of this positive commandment, every individual Jew is required to dwell in the Land of Israel, “even in the times of exile.”

Notwithstanding, for many generations the Jewish nation was in a state oh’nes (coerced) stemming from the exile of both body and mind and could not fulfill the general mitzvah; consequently, most individual Jews were negligent in making aliyah. But in recent times, by the grace of God, Hashem began to flourish our redemption, our situation changed, and we can now fulfill the mitzvah, both as a nation, and as individuals.

It is important to further add that this mitzvah overrides pikuach nefesh (saving lives) of individuals, for we were commanded to conquer the Land and Torah did not intend for us to rely on miracles, and since in all wars there are casualties, the mitzvah of kibush ha’aretz (conquering the Land) requires us to risk lives for it (Minchat Chinuch 425, 604; Mishpat Kohen, pg. 327).

Rambam’s Position – Settlement and Defense

Albeit, Rambam did not write in his rulings that Israel is commanded to conquer the Land. In other words, it seems that in his opinion the mitzvah to conquer the Land was assigned to the generation olei Mitzrayim (those who left Egypt), and apparently, on the kings of Israel throughout history as well. Indeed, there is a general and basic mitzvah for every Jew to live in Eretz Yisrael, and for Am Yisrael to establish its nation in the land. The reason Rambam did not count this mitzvah in his 613 commandments, is because he set a rule that in his counting, he would not include general mitzvoth on which other mitzvoth are contingent. And indeed, many mitzvoth are contingent on the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, including all the agricultural mitzvoth ha’te’luyot ba’aretz, the mitzvah to establish the Beit HaMikdash, sanctification of the months, ‘lo techanem’, the prohibition of extraditing a slave who escaped to Israel, and the mentioning of the Land in birkat ha’mazone.

Nevertheless, according to the Rambam, if the Gentiles conquered the Land of Israel and exiled the Jews, there is no obligation for Israel to initiate a war to re-conquer the Land. Rather, the mitzvat ha’milchama (war) mentioned in the Torah presently applies only to “ezrat Yisrael me’yad tzar” (helping save Israel her enemy).

In other words according to the Rambam this is the realistic plan for settling the Land – progressively more Jews will immigrate and settle in Eretz Yisrael and in this manner the Jewish community will continually become stronger. And then, one of two things will happen: either, in a process of great teshuva (repentance), they will merit a miraculous redemption leading to full sovereignty, or, in a gradual process, Israel will grow stronger in their land and if nations endanger their existence – the Torah mitzvah of going to war to save Israel will return. In such a situation, the mitzvah of going to war is not only for defensive purposes, but also to attack in order to defend. As our Sages said regarding Shabbat, that if Gentiles come to steal even minor things such as straw or hay from towns situated on the border, it is a mitzvah to profane the Sabbath and go out with weapons to fight them, for if the residents do not react to the theft of straw and hay, in the end, the Gentiles will come to murder (Hilchot Shabbat 2:23). Thus, out of the need to defend, sovereignty is achieved (Milumdei Milchma, sect. 1).

The Precedent of the First and Second Temples

It can be said that in the opinion of the Ramban, the obligatory example of fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz for future generations is the conquest and settlement of the Land by Yehoshua bin Nun and his contemporaries. Therefore, the mitzvah incumbent on Israel when they are in exile or under foreign rule is to strive with all their might to achieve sovereignty, and be willing to initiate a war to conquer the Land and liberate it from foreigners.

Whereas the obligatory example according to Rambam is the manner Israel acted during the Second Temple, where initially the Jews settled in Eretz Yisrael under the auspices of the ruling Gentiles, and eventually the community expanded to the point where the need to protect their existence, both spiritual and physical, forced them to fight the rulers and restore sovereignty and kingdom to Israel. And as the Rambam writes: “In the era of the Second Temple, the Greek kingdom issued decrees against the Jewish people, attempting to nullify their faith and refusing to allow them to observe the Torah and its commandments. They extended their hands against their property and their daughters; they entered the Sanctuary, wrought havoc within, and made the sacraments impure.”

“The Jews suffered great difficulties from them, for they oppressed them greatly until the God of our ancestors had mercy upon them, delivered them from their hand, and saved them. The sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priests, overcame them, slew them, and saved the Jews from their hand.”

“They appointed a king from the priests, and sovereignty returned to Israel for more than 200 years, until the destruction of the Second Temple” (Laws
of Chanukah 3:1).

And for this, we thank and praise God during Chanukah.

The Difference between the Two Approaches

In practice, the actual difference between the Rambam and Ramban is not great. For even the Ramban would agree that the entire country should not be conquered all at once, as the Torah instructed us first to conquer the essential areas of the country and gradually expand, and that war should be conducted according to rational considerations without relying on miracles. On the other hand Rambam, who holds that a milchemet mitzvah is only a defensive war, also recognizes the historical fact that it is almost impossible for a large Jewish community to defend itself without sovereignty, and that there is no defense without deterrence – including capturing the locations from which the attackers come.

Nevertheless, in principle, there is a considerable difference between them: according to Ramban’s approach, first we must strive to conquer the Land and afterwards settle it, whereas the Rambam’s approach is to first strive to settle the Land and then protect its inhabitants, a reality which usually requires war for sovereignty.

In Practice

How wonderful it would have been had we merited to repent completely and fulfill the obligation to live in Israel according to the words of the Ramban – or “even in a city of mostly non-Jews”, in the words of Rambam; had the Jewish people ascended to their land way before the Holocaust, to settle it and re-establish their sovereignty, and thus, millions of Jews would have been saved and the Final Redemption would have been brought closer.

Not having achieved this, the main ingathering of the exiles began only after the Holocaust; very few in number and out of self-preservation, Holocaust survivors and refugees from the Diaspora merited establishing the State of Israel.

Future Policy

It seems that in light of what we’ve learned, the right policy according to the Torah emerges and becomes clear; a policy which includes a combination of all the principles presented by Rambam and Ramban: aliyah, settlement, defense and conquest.

The basic declaration of the State of Israel should be that of the Ramban: as members of the Jewish nation, and according to our holy Torah, we strive to settle all areas of our country – from the Nile River of Egypt to the Euphrates, on both sides of the Jordan. Only non-Jews who are lovers of Israel, who believe in the Torah, and observe the Seven Noahide commandments, are permitted to be citizens in our country (according to the laws of ger toshav [resident alien]).

However, as a peace-loving people who have respect for all human beings, we restrain our aspirations and do not intend to initiate a war of conquest, and we also do not intend to deport foreigners who fail to completely identify with our aspirations.

However, if God forbid, our enemies abroad dare to attack us, we will take advantage of any war to gradually expand the boundaries of our country. And if the non-Jews living with us dare to threaten our sovereignty, in addition to crushing the violence, we will work to gradually remove them from the country.

Incidentally, all normal countries act this way towards their sworn enemies, however, we are not like all other nations; therefore, only when we understand that a sacred value guides us to do so, will we be able to achieve this policy with wisdom, determination, and sensitivity.

By way of this political policy, we can cope with international pressure in a much more successful manner, for a many of them are anchored in moral and historical considerations, without awareness of Am Yisrael’s true vision.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Light the Chanukah Candles Together

Single people who have reached the optimum age for marriage but have yet to find their partner, should encourage others to marry at a young age * Although Ben Azzai himself never married, he expounded on the praises of the mitzvah puru u’revuru * Why it is wrong to marry before the age of twenty without consideration, and trust that God will take care of one’s livelihood * The importance of parental accompaniment and guidance in the marriage of their children * According to the Sephardic minhag where the head of the household lights the Chanukah candles, can children also light with a bracha? * Is it better to light the candles on time, or wait for a delayed spouse?

Reply to the Previous Article on Marriage

Q: I was extremely saddened to read your last article, Rabbi. I am a 29 year old single man. I have made every effort possible, both practical and spiritual, in order to find a partner. I feel that an article like yours discredits and demeans the importance of my fruitless efforts. It’s very easy to tell people “get married by the age of 24″. The underlying assumption behind such a ruling is that finding a partner is child’s play. In reality, it’s more like kriyat Yam Suf (the splitting of the Red Sea). As it is, I already drench my pillow every night with tears. And I do not think I am alone in this feeling.

A: Indeed, there are times when a person does merit finding a partner, but nevertheless, the validity of marrying by age 24 should not be weakened because of such situations.

The proper attitude towards this issue can be learned from Ben Azzai, who himself never married nor had children, and yet explicitly taught that anyone who does not engage in puru u’revuru (procreation) it is as if “he sheds blood and diminishes the Divine Image. They (the Sages) said to Ben ‘Azzai: Some preach well and act well, others act well but do not preach well; you, however, preach well but do not act well! Ben ‘Azzai replied: What can I do, seeing that my soul is in love with the Torah? The world can be carried on by others” (Yevamot 63b). Thus, although Ben Azzai felt he himself was ah’nuce (beyond one’s control) because, being so engrossed in his Torah study, he felt he would not be able to provide the proper attention to a wife – still, under no circumstances did he want people to diminish the importance of the mitzvah puru u’revuru because of him. In a similar fashion, it is proper for single people who have not yet found a partner to encourage others to marry when young, so they do not reach a later stage in life when it is harder to get married. On the contrary – by encouraging others, they will merit establishing their own homes quickly, with love and joy.

Reply to the Heter to Postpone Marriage until the Age of 24

I further wrote that although the instruction of Chazal was to marry by the age of twenty, since we have found that our Sages and later Jewish law arbiters (Maharshal, Chida) have written that b’sha’at ha’dachak (under pressing circumstances) marriage can be postponed, but no later than the age of twenty-four – this should be the instruction l’chatchilla (from the outset) for our times. This is because the very determination of the age of eighteen for marriage was to give young men sufficient time to prepare for a wedding by means of learning Torah and obtaining a profession (Kiddushin 29b; Sotah 44a), and nowadays, when preparations take longer – this period of time should be extended until the age of twenty-four. I added that today, any religious leaders who instruct young men to get married before the age of twenty “decrees a life of poverty on the majority of their followers, and prevents them from participating in yishuv olam (development of the world), using the talents God endowed them. And besides that, many of them tend to deny the great Torah mitzvah of serving in the army to protect the People and the Land.”

 

On this I received a number of replies, one of which summarized all of them in short: “The honorable Rabbi wrote: ‘Those who obligate young men to get married before the age of twenty, decree a life of poverty on the majority of their followers’. Rabbi, all my life my rabbis have taught me that the one who decrees a life of poverty or wealth is HaKodesh Boruchu, because parnasa (livelihood) comes only from Him, yitbarach (blessed be He). One gets the impression that the honorable Rabbi ignores this.”

Response Concerning the Importance of Work and Making a Living

Unfortunately, either you did not understand what you learned, or all of your life you have learned from rabbis who distort the words of the Torah. For indeed we find in the Torah that a person must make an effort to earn a living as common sense requires, and above and beyond this, comes God’s blessing. As it is said about those who fulfill the commandment of tithing: “God your Lord will then bless you in everything that you do” (Deuteronomy 14:29). Our Sages explained: “But lest it be thought that God’s blessing comes to a man who sits in idleness? The verse ends with the injunction ‘in everything that you do” (Tanna D’bei Eliyahu 15). In other words, even a person who works and gives tithes will not merit blessing if he does not continue to work, for only then will God bless him and the work of his hands. We have also found that our forefathers worked diligently – as shepherds and well-diggers, in order to add blessing to the world.

Our forefather Yaakov was praised for his diligent work, as it is written: “Twenty years I worked for you! All that time, your sheep and goats never lost their young…I never brought you an animal that had been attacked…by day I was consumed by the scorching heat and at night by the frost, when sleep was snatched from my eyes (working diligently to guard the sheep)… If the God of my father’s – the God of Abraham and the Dread of Isaac – had not been with me, you would have sent me away empty-handed! But God saw my plight and the work of my hands. Last night, He rendered judgment!” (Genesis 31:38-42). Our Sages said: “Work is cherished even more than zechut Avot (merit of the forefathers), because zechut Avot rescued [Yaakov’s] possessions, while work rescued [his] life” (Genesis Rabbah, ibid). In other words, one’s very existence is dependent on his diligence at work; any blessings above and beyond are dependent on spiritual merits, in the sense of derech eretz kadma l’Torah (proper behavior precedes the Torah).

And thus Rambam (Maimonides) wrote: “The way of sensible men is that first, one should establish an occupation by which he can support himself. Then, he should purchase a house to live in and then, marry a wife…
In contrast, a fool begins by marrying a wife. Then, if he can find the means, he purchases a house. Finally, towards the end of his life, he will search about for a trade or support himself from charity” (Hilchot De’ot 5:11).

The Mistaken Belief

According to what you claim you learned from your rabbis, a person does not need to learn a trade from which he can support himself before getting married, because God will provide. And likewise, one doesn’t need to rush a gravely ill person to the hospital, because health comes from God, and one doesn’t need to enlist in the army, because security comes from God. All of this contradicts the Torah, which commands us to rescue the sick and enlist in the milchemet mitzvah of saving Israel from her enemies.

And so wrote Rabbi Joseph Albo in Sefer Ha’Ikarim: “Behold, it has been explained that the blessing of God comes with hishtadlut (making an effort). As the poet King David said, ‘Unless Hashem protects a city, sentries do no good’, but if Hashem protects a city – the sentries are befitting, for along with guard duty and human efforts, Divine help will come, but not without it. Therefore, it is worthy for a man to make an attempt in all things that can be obtained by his own efforts, after realizing that endeavors are useful in all circumstances and in all actions, as we have explained”(Sefer Ha’Ikarim 4:6).

The Argument Regarding Over-Early Marriages

Q: With all due respect, Rabbi … in what you have said, do you take responsibility for all the over-early marriages, for all the young adults who will get married to young, and then get divorced? Did you ever check the percentage of young people who divorce because they got married too young?

A: First, getting married before the age of twenty-four is not over-early. Second, experience shows that marriage at the appropriate age, namely, before the age of twenty-four, endures longer and provides more pleasure and joy to the couple. The reason for this is that as years go by, habits become increasingly fixed, and it is harder for spouses to be flexible and adapt to each other. Also, the intense love of young adults makes it easier for them to unite in complete harmony.

The Accompaniment of Parents

Nevertheless, the earlier young adults get married, the more parents need to be involved in consultation and guidance for their children. Due to the growing significance of the values of independence and free choice in modern society, some parents feel that it is not their duty to intervene in their children decisions. Indeed, the value of freedom is extremely important, and is the manifestation of God’s image in man; the Exodus from Egypt was intended to reveal this. However, freedom is primarily designed to enable a person to choose their own unique path, and not in order to fall and stumble in the potholes of life. Therefore, it is a mitzvah for parents to help their children marry, both by means of advice, and also through financial assistance (Kiddushin 29a; 30b).

Nonetheless, the decision rests with the bride and groom, and children are not obligated to listen to their parents on this important subject (R’ma, Y.D. 240:25). But from the fact that children are not obligated to obey their parents, this does not mean that parents should not get involved at all. On the contrary, it is a mitzvah for them to instruct their children and advise them. And children are obligated to listen seriously to their parents advice, both from the mitzvah of kibud av v’em (honoring parents), and out of common sense which necessitates listening to people who have experience, know them from the day they were born, and wish to help.

In most cases, after the expected initial unpleasantness, young people are happy to share their deliberations with their parents, and are very grateful for their participation in the consultation and guidance.

According to Sephardic Custom, Can Children Light Candles with a Bracha?

Q: The Sephardic minhag (custom) is that only the head of the household lights the Chanukah candles, but occasionally children are also eager to light a menorah. According to the Sephardic minhag, can they light candles? And are they allowed to recite a bracha (blessing) over the lighting?

A: Children are permitted to light their own candles, provided they light them in another place, so that it is evident how many candles are lit each day. As far as the blessing is concerned, the prevalent custom according to later day Sephardic poskim (Jewish law arbiters), children should not recite a blessing when lighting, because they fulfill the mitzvah through their father’s lighting. However, our teacher and guide, the Rishon L’Tzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l instructed that children up to the age of Bar Mitzvah were permitted to light candles with a blessing, and it is not considered a bracha she’ayna tzericha (an unwarranted blessing) because this is how they are educated in the mitzvah. And in the opinion of Rabbi Shalom Mesas ztz”l, boys over the age of Bar Mitzvah can have the kavana (intention) not to fulfill his obligation in the mitzvah through his father’s lighting, and light with a bracha (Yalkut Shemesh, O.C. 192).

Should One Wait for a Delayed Spouse?

Q: What should one do when either a husband or wife cannot return home from work before tzeit ha’chochavim (nightfall)? Is it better for whoever is at home to light candles at nightfall (17:00), or to wait for the other spouse to come home?

A: Seemingly, according to the strict halakha, it is better for whoever is at home to light candles at nightfall, and thus fulfill the other spouse’s duty. In practice, however, for various reasons, in most cases it is best to wait until the other spouse comes home, provided they light before nine in the evening (21:00), and refrain from achilat keva (eating a meal) beforehand. Only in a case where a spouse has a place to hear the lighting of the candles, and the delay is a one-time occurrence, is it preferable for the spouse at home to light the candles on time (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 13:7).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Marriage Age in Our Times

Various responses to last week’s column on postponing pregnancy * A person who reaches the age of marriage but has not found his partner does not have to settle for a less suitable spouse * Nowadays, Torah studies and acquiring a profession take longer. How does this affect the obligation to get married by a certain age? * The heter of delaying marriage until the age of twenty-four should be halakha in our times * Why men shouldn’t be required to marry by the age of twenty as in past generations * Why is the current view that one is allowed to postpone marriage until a later age wrong * Even under changing circumstances, the principles remain the same

Replies to Last Week’s Column

Last week I commented on the slanderous accusations hurled at the “the rabbis”, who, in an attempt to promote their social agenda, allegedly invented an issur (prohibition) lacking any halachic foundation against postponing marriage and pregnancy.

In order to refute this malicious slander against the rabbis, I quoted many sources showing that indeed our Chachamim (Sages) instructed that the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation) requires a man to marry by the age of twenty, and no later than the age of twenty-four. The mitzvah is so crucial and binding that in principle Beit Din (law courts) is required to coerce one to marry, but in practice, they do not do so in order to avoid quarrels (S. A. and R’ma, E.H. 1:3). If halakha requires one to get married in order to procreate, it goes without saying that it is forbidden for married couples to postpone the fulfillment of the mitzvah puru u’revuru by means of preventing pregnancy. However, when there is a special difficultly, sometimes there is a heter (halachic permission) to postpone the mitzvah and so as to clarify the halakha, rabbis are asked – and not in order to strengthen the control of the “rabbinical establishment” over the lives of men and women, as they falsely accuse.

Last week’s column received numerous responses – some were in favor, others disagreed, and some were antagonistic.

Must One Compromise in Order to Marry on Time?

Some people asked: How can a young man be ordered to marry by a certain age? It depends on if he finds a suitable partner!

Answer: Indeed, a man surely cannot be required to marry a woman he does not like. Moreover, a question arose: What should one do if he’d found a young woman who really wanted to marry him, and in his eyes she was all right, but he thought he could find a more suitable partner. The question was whether despite having already reached the age of twenty, was he permitted to wait longer in order to find a more suitable partner? I answered that although he had reached the required marriage age, he was not obligated to marry someone who he did not feel was suitable for him (see, Yafeh Le’Lev. Section 4, E.H. 1:13).

Thus, determining a required age of marriage is designed to direct a person to the appropriate period in life to fulfill the mitzvah of marriage and procreation, for which the entire world was created.

The Considerable Question of Fulfilling this Halakha Today

Yet, we still have to deal with a major problem concerning this issue. Seemingly, after reaching the age of thirteen a young Jewish man becomes obligated in all the mitzvoth, nevertheless, our Sages said that a young man is obligated to marry at the age of eighteen, and not later than twenty. The reason is that before this time, he must prepare himself for the huge challenge of raising a family, specifically in two areas: first, learning the foundations of the Torah (Mishnah Avot 5:21; Kiddushin 29b; Y. D.246:3), and second – parnasa (earning a living). During the years in which the young men learned the fundamentals of Torah, they spent part of the day helping their father work, and in the process, learned the trade from which they were able to make a living, build a house, and save money to acquire means for a livelihood (Sotah 44a; Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 5:11).

Judging by this we are in an awkward position, because in recent times the world has changed drastically; life has become more complex, and preparations for the responsibility of starting a family takes longer. In the past, a simple understanding of Tanach, mussar (morality), halakha and its reasoning was sufficient to start a Jewish home. It was enough to work with one’s father a few hours a day until the age of eighteen to acquire the professional knowhow to make a living, and even save some money for a wedding and building a house, which usually consisted of just one room. But today, in order to cope with the challenges facing a person, one needs to learn a lot more Torah. To do so, the majority of young men must learn in a yeshiva framework for at least a year after the age of eighteen, and usually longer.

Another sacred duty rests upon young men – the task of protecting the Nation and the Land while serving in the army and the fulfillment of this mitzvah also causes postponing marriage. Similarly, obtaining a profession that suits one’s talents usually requires several years of academic studies, and follows military service. And perhaps gifted students who have the ability to become scientists should postpone getting married until after obtaining a doctorate degree, so they can advance in their profession for the benefit of their family, nation, and the entire world. In addition, even the houses we are accustomed to live in are more expensive, because they are larger and equipped with water and electricity, and in order to purchase one, a person must work several years.

The Dilemma and Conclusion

If we need to delay marriage until a person has finished learning all the foundations of Torah, completed his academic studies, and purchased a home, the majority of young people would have to postpone their marriage until the age of thirty or forty.

On the other hand, such a delay is impossible in practical terms, because even though the environment we live in has become more complex, complicated and challenging, man’s mental and physical nature has not changed, and the fitting time for him to get married is at an early age. As the years go by, a person loses a part of his vibrancy that is so characteristic for the initial stages of marriage. Beyond this, there’s a limit to how long a person can fate himself to live his life as half a person, without true love that gives rise to life.

Therefore, taking into account the overall considerations and a comprehensive view of reality, on the one hand, it is necessary to delay the marriage age for a few years, but on the other hand, it is crucial to limit this postponement. Indeed, we find in the words of Chazal that until the age of twenty-four a young man is still adaptable, and therefore our Sages instructed parents to make sure their children get married by this age (see, Kiddushin 30a, and the commentators). We also find that some of the eminent poskim (Jewish law arbiters) instructed that even those who had to delay marriage, not postpone it beyond the age of twenty-four (Maharshal, Chida, and others).

Consequently, we can conclude that today halakha requires one to marry by the age twenty-four, and in pressing situations, and under certain conditions, one may delay marriage beyond that time.

Arguments against Postponing Marriage Age

Nevertheless, there are those who do not accept this decision. Some of them insist on claiming that we shouldn’t take into consideration the difficulties and challenges that modern life presents us, rather, we should continue demanding all young men get married before the age of twenty, as they did in previous generations.

However, we must reject their opinion, for we have already learned that our Sages instructed postponing marriage due to the needs of derech eretz, namely, so young men would be able to prepare themselves to support their families (Sotah 44a). And indeed, those who obligate young men to get married before the age of twenty, decree a life of poverty on the majority of their followers, and prevent them from participating in yishuv olam (development of the world) using the talents God endowed them. In addition, many of them tend to deny the great Torah mitzvah of serving in the army to protect the People and the Land.

Those who Claim the Law is Void

Others, however, argue that today, there should be no set age for marriage. They claim the age set by our Sages applied to a time when young men could study the fundamentals of the Torah, learn a profession, and build a house by the age of eighteen. Therefore, today as well, a person can postpone marriage until he has completed all of his preparations in Torah study, acquired a respectable profession, and purchased an average-sized apartment. In spite of this, there is apparently no prohibition of marrying before completing this long process, but in contrast, there is also no obligation to get married beforehand. Consequently, the halakha concerning the age of marriage has disappeared from the world.

This position, however, is also unacceptable, because the principle that our Sages determined is that it is impossible to postpone the age of marriage indefinitely. And as Rosh (Rabbenu Asher) wrote in regards to the reason our Sages determined an age for the fulfillment of the Torah mitzvah: “It cannot possibly be that one be negligent in fulfilling the mitzvah of puru u’revuru all his life”(Kiddushin 1:42). Thus, the mitzvah does
have a limit, which is after the necessary preparations have been completed prior to marriage.

Moreover, as the years pass, so does the proper time for binding the marriage, because the appropriate time emotionally for marriage is around the age of twenty, and the more time passes, one’s enthusiasm decreases, and it is harder to connect in the everlasting covenant of marriage. Therefore, young people who postpone getting married have difficulty finding their spouse, and many of them remain single for several, extremely long years. This is one of the main reasons for the disintegration of the family unit in the West. One might say that just as it is hard for twenty-five year old men to undergo basic training in a combat unit suited for eighteen-year-olds, so too is it difficult for twenty-five year olds to find their partners.

Maintaining the Principles and Objectives

Indeed, we are living in a changing world, and some of the guidance that was appropriate for previous generations, is less appropriate today. However, the principles have remained the same, just as man’s basic nature has not changed. Our job, therefore, is to refine the values and principles set by the Torah and clarified by our Sages, in accordance with the circumstances of our generation.

The principles are that the mitzvoth of marriage and procreation are among the most important commandments, as our Sages said: “But was not the world only made to be populated, as it says ‘He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited”(Mishnah Gittin 41b). Another principle is that this mitzvah has a limit, and it cannot be postponed indefinitely. Man’s biological and emotional nature also requires this. Another principle is that a person should prepare responsibly prior to getting married. And another important principle is that a person should be participate in yishuv olam; just as our forefathers dug wells and established marketplaces in the past, so too, one should engage today in the development of industry, science, economy and society.

Therefore, it is possible to determine as halakha that until the age of twenty-four, which was the age one could defer getting married in a pressing situation in the past, is the age until which a person can postpone getting married l’chatchila (from the outset) today. However, if one is able to get married earlier without harming the important principles previously mentioned, may he be blessed.

Indeed, this is not an easy challenge. In order to fulfill this joyful and wonderful mitzvah, young men should hasten to acquire a profession. To do this, they also should not prolong the years of study in yeshiva beyond what is necessary. In many cases a husband can share the burden of making a living with his beloved and loving wife in order to complete his studies for a profession. Also, it is a mitzvah for parents and society to assist in providing optimal conditions for the building of young families.

With God’s help, I will deal with this issue in the future.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Did the Rabbis Invent a Prohibition?

Recently, its’ been argued that the prohibition of preventing birth before fulfilling the mitzvah of having children is an invention of “the rabbis”, and not halakha * It is a mitzvah to marry by the age of twenty and no later than twenty-four * The duty to marry at a young age is mainly because of the mitzvah to procreate, while the prevention of sinful thoughts is only secondary * One who reaches the age marriage and avoids fulfilling the mitzvah of procreation negates a positive commandment * A woman is obligated to assist her husband to fulfill his mitzvah, and with this in mind, she agreed to marry him * Postponing pregnancy is similar to postponing circumcision to the ninth day * The slandering of rabbis

Accusations against Rabbis Concerning the Question of Postponing Pregnancy


In several media outlets there recently appeared accusations against “the rabbis” who, out of a desire to advance their social agenda, invented an issur hilchati (a prohibition of Jewish law), according to which it is forbidden for a young couple to prevent pregnancy before giving birth to their first child, and before they have fulfilled the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation), when in fact, according to halakha, there is no such prohibition. According to the argument, the status of this mitzvah is the same as that of the mitzvah for a father to circumcise his son on the eighth day, namely, that although there is a hidur (embellishment of the mitzvah)
to circumcise one’s son early in the morning, we do not encourage people to have the brit at six in the morning, rather, most people delay it until the afternoon. Similarly in the case of puru u’revuru, the mitzvah indeed is to procreate, but there is no halakhic problem in delaying the fulfillment of the mitzvah for a couple of years. They claim that the rabbis use the halakha in order to promote a social agenda, and thus transgress the severe sin of hiding the truth from those who inquire.

They also claimed that the rabbis, as part of the “rabbinical establishment”, do this in order to extend their control over other issues, particularly in areas related to women’s lives’. Seeing as women are exempt from the mitzvah of procreation, they claim, a woman cannot be obligated to get pregnant in the name of halakha; rather, the rabbis’ are taking advantage of their status and authority without any halakhic justification.

In the wake of these accusations, it is important to clarify three questions: 1) Is there a specific age according to halakha in which one must fulfill the mitzvah of puru u’revuru, and anyone who postpones it past this age negates the mitzvah? 2) Are women exempt from the mitzvah of puru u’revuru? 3) Can a married woman tell her husband she is not interested in assisting him in fulfilling his duty of procreation?
 

Our Sages Determined an Age for Marriage


Seemingly, a young Jewish man should get married at the age of thirteen, for this is the age when he becomes obligated to fulfill the mitzvoth. However, our Sages instructed postponing marriage until the age of eighteen, and no later than the age of twenty, as they said in the Mishnah (Avot 5:21): “Eighteen [is the age] for the [wedding] canopy, Twenty [is the age] for pursuing [a livelihood]”. It is also explained in the Talmud Kiddushin (29b).



Two reasons for Postponement


There are two reasons for postponement:
1) In order to prepare for the enormous task of creating a family by means of Torah study, and this is the meaning of our Sages statement in the Mishnah of Pirkei Avot: “Five years [is the age] for [the study of] Scripture, Ten [is the age] for [the study of] Mishnah, Thirteen [is the age] for [observing] commandments, Fifteen [is the age] for [the study of] Talmud, Eighteen [is the age] for the [wedding] canopy
(Avot 5:21).Our Sage also said that one should study Torah before getting married, for if one marries first, the burden of raising a family may prevent him from learning Torah appropriately (Kiddushin 29b). And this halakha was codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 246:2).

2) Parnasa (livelihood). The custom was that in the years in which the young men learned the fundamentals of Torah, they spent part of the day working to help their father, and in the process, learned the trade from which they could make a living, and were also able to build a house and save money to purchase tools for making a living. Thus, our Sages said in the Talmud: “The Torah has thus taught a rule of conduct: that a man should build a house, plant a vineyard and then marry a wife”(Sotah 44a). This is also what Rambam has written (Hilchot De’ot 5:11), and is also explained in detail in Zohar Chadash (Breishit 8:2).

 

The Prohibition of Postponing Marriage on Account of Procreation


Incidentally, another claim hurled at “the rabbis” is that the main reason they encourage young men to get married at an early age is because of the yetzer ha’ra (evil inclination) which overwhelms them. Instead of educating them to overcome their urges, they educate them to marry in their early twenties, and obviously, to also have children as soon as possible after the wedding, at the expense of women’s personal development.

Let’s examine the foundation of the halakhic obligation to marry by the age of twenty. It is explained in the Talmud: “Raba said, and the School of Rabbi Ishmael taught likewise: Until the age of twenty, the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and waits. When will he take a wife? As soon as one attains twenty and has not married, He exclaims, ‘Blasted be his bones!’ (Kiddushin 29b). The reason is because he negates the mitzvah of puru u’revuru, the importance of which our Sages said: “But was not the world only made to be populated, as it says ‘He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited”(Mishnah Gittin 41b).

It is also explained in the Midrash: “A time to give birth, and a time to die,” our Sages also said: “From the moment a man is born, the Holy One, blessed be He waits for him until the age of twenty to marry a woman. If he reaches the age of twenty but has not married, He says to him: The time for you to give birth to a child has arrived, but you did not want to, it is nothing more for you than the time to die” (Kohelet Rabba 3:3). From here we see the reason why our Sages said “blasted be his bones” in regards to a man who does not marry, is because he was negligent in begetting children.


This was also codified in halakha, as Rambam wrote “The mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying is incumbent on the husband… If he reaches twenty and has not married, he is considered to have transgressed and negated the observance of this positive commandment” (Hilchot Ishut 15:2). And thus wrote Rosh (Rabbenu Asher) (Kiddushin 1:42): “It cannot possibly be that he is negligent of fulfilling the mitzvah of puru u’revuru all his life” – and therefore it is necessary to determine the age at which a young man can complete preparations for his wedding, and then must marry. And thus wrote S’mag (Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Positive Mitzvah 49): “And since twenty years passed and he has not married – behold, he has transgressed and negated a positive commandment” (many other poskim have written similarly, such as Lavush, E.H. 1:3; Maharam Fadawah 45; Maharit Y.D. 47; Shiurei Knesset HaGadola Y.D.236 note 44; Yafeh L’lev sect.4 E.H.1:12. And even according to Rashba this is the halakha, but he is of the opinion that the obligation at the age of twenty is rabbinic, and an oath applies to a rabbinic mitzvah).
 

How Significant is the Fear of Sinful Thoughts?

 

Our Sages added another reason for postponing marriage – so a man’s yetzer (inclination) does not overcome him, as Rav Huna said: “If a man reaches the age of twenty, but has not married – his entire life is in thoughts of sin” (Kiddushin 29b). However, this point is not mentioned as an obligatory halachic reason, rather, it complements the main reason which is fulfilling the mitzvah of procreation. We are obliged to say so, for if not, a young man would have to get married at the age of fifteen, seeing as the yetzer has greater domination at the age of fifteen than at the age of twenty. Moreover, even if we are aware of a teenager who transgresses the sin of masturbation excessively – he is not instructed to marry before he is prepared in terms of Torah learning and responsibility for earning a livelihood.

The Status of the Mitzvah

The obligation to get married at the appropriate age is so severe that it falls under the category of a mitzvah in which Beit Din forces its fulfillment, as ruled in the Shulchan Aruch, “and under no circumstances should a man be older than twenty years without marrying a woman. And one who is older than twenty years and does not want to marry, Beit Din forces him to marry, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation” (E.H. 1:3). In the opinion of Rif (Rabbenu Alfasi) and Rambam ,the coercion is done by flogging of the whip, and according to the Ba’alei Tosefot and Rosh, rebuke and penalties are employed, i.e. not to trade with or hire him, but he should not be beaten or ostracized for it (S.A., E.H. 154:21). And this was agreed upon as halakha by all the Rishonim. Nevertheless, Rivash (paragraph 15), R’ma, and many other poskim wrote that in practice, marriage should not be forced, so as not to increase quarrels.

The Possibility of Postponing Marriage until the Age of Twenty-four

According to the explanation in the Talmud (Kiddushin 30a), several prominent Achronim wrote that when there is a need for a few more years of preparation before marriage, it can be postponed after the age of twenty, but no later than the age of twenty-four (Yam Shel Shlomo, Kiddushin 1, 57, according Rosh; Chida on Birkei Yosef E.H. 1, 9; Pitchei Teshuva, E.H. 1, 5; Rav Pe’alim Y.D., Section 2, 30).

This is the accepted teaching for our times, since our lives are more complex, and the preparations required for married life take longer. Furthermore, nowadays the mitzvah of military service delays the age of marriage for several years. But marriage should not be postponed beyond the age of twenty-four, because this was the final limit set by our Sages for postponing the tremendous mitzvah of marriage and procreation.

Nevertheless, a man who strives to marry by the age of twenty-four but fails to find an appropriate woman, is considered anus (beyond one’s control), and is not accused that he should have married a woman who is not appropriate for him.

The Separation between Man and Woman

Also, the argument that women are exempt from the mitzvah of procreation, and therefore a woman can postpone pregnancy despite it being forbidden for a man, is incorrect. First, a woman is also commanded to be fruitful and multiply – which I will write about, God-willing, at another time. Second, following the acceptance of the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom, which forbids a man to marry two wives, and forbids him from divorcing his wife against her will, man became totally dependent on his wife in the fulfillment of his obligation of the mitzvah, and by the wife agreeing to marry her husband, she agreed to be a partner with him in fulfilling the obligation of the mitzvah (Chatam Sofer, E.H. 20).

Slander

Thus, the blatant accusations against the rabbis are essentially slander. Anyone who studies the words of Chazal, the Rishonim and Achronim, will find that the rabbis faithfully fulfill their duty by teaching and instructing that the mitzvah of procreation requires marrying by the age of twenty, and in pressing situations, until the age of twenty-four. The same is true when they instruct young couples it is forbidden to prevent pregnancy, because it is forbidden to postpone the time of the mitzvah’s fulfillment. Nevertheless, in the case of a particular difficulty, occasionally there is a heter (permission) for postponing the mitzvah, and in order to clarify the halakha, rabbis are asked.

It is also clear that the delaying of a brit milah from the morning until the afternoon cannot be compared to postponing the mitzvah of puru u’revuru. For the mitzvah of brit milah is that it take place on the eighth day, and it is only a hidur to perform it in the morning. If in the afternoon the brit will be happier and more people will be able to attend, l’chatchila (from the outset) it is proper to perform it in the afternoon. However, the postponement of fulfilling the mitzvah of puru u’revuru is more like postponing brit milah to the ninth day, which is forbidden by the Torah. And in a certain aspect, the situation of one who postpones fulfilling the mitzvah of puru u’revuru is even more severe, for the curse of our Sages “blasted be his bones” applies to him.

Ashreinu

Ashreinu (how fortunate we are), that God chose us from all of the nations and gave us His Torah, along with the mitzvah of raising a family, thanks to which it can be clearly seen how observant families merit establishing good and beautiful families, to the point where it is difficult to contain the pain and jealousy of those who do not fulfill the instructions of the Torah.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Inheriting the Land of Israel on the Temple Mount

Three reasons why it is correct to go up to the Temple Mount according to halakha * From the words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, it is implicit that he agreed to the prohibition of entering the Temple Mount only in the situation of unambiguous Israeli sovereignty on the Mount * The opposition of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook to Baron Rothschild’s ascending the Temple Mount did not address the reality of entering it in purity * Those who exaggerate halakhic concerns about entering the Temple Mount neglect the mitzvah of inheriting the Land at the location of the Temple, and repeat the mistake of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulos * Imposition of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, strict enforcement of the law, and the removal of the brazen Muslims inciters is the answer to the recent difficult security problems

The Reasons for the Mitzvah of Going Up to the Temple Mount

As I wrote last week, for three main reasons it is permitted and correct to go up to Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) in purity (after immersion in a mikveh): 1) the numerous testimonies that for over a thousand years after the destruction of the Holy Temple, Gedolei Yisrael (eminent rabbis) used to pray on the Temple Mount. 2) For three hundred years, Jews were not allowed to enter the Temple Mount, which lead to doubts in regards to the exact location of the Temple (whose area is less than ten percent of the Temple Mount compound). However, following the liberation of the Temple Mount, it was possible to return and re-measure the area, and determine with certainty where the site of the Temple was, and as a result, know which areas are permitted to enter in purity. 3) The threat to Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount.

The Opinion of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook

In last week’s column I wrote: “In my humble opinion, it seems that had he known that the over-cautiousness of ascending Har Habayit would result in the loss of sovereignty and turning the Temple Mount into a focal point of hatred against Israel – he would have agreed with Rabbi Goren that it is permitted and a mitzvah to go up. In addition, in my humble opinion, he would have relied on Rabbi Goren’s halakhic inquiries with regards to areas permitted to enter.”

Some readers asked: On what basis can you say this? After all, it is well-known that Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah approved the warning of the Chief Rabbinate not to go up to the Temple Mount out of fear that people would enter the holy place without immersion in a mikveh.

Answer: What I wrote is based on study of his words. Here is what he wrote about the Temple Mount in a pronouncement from the 27th of Shvat 5737 (Feb.15, 1977):

“A clarification regarding Har Habayit – the enormous halakhic prohibition of entering [Har Habayit] because we are still, according to halakha, in a state of impurity, does not pertain, harm, or detract even in the slightest, the importance of our proprietary ownership over that area of the glorious, holy place. Our Chief of Staff, Mr. Mordechai Gur, together and in assistance with our honorable teacher and guide, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, foremost of Israel’s rabbis, merited liberating this holy place from non-Jewish authority, and it also, as all parts of our holy Land, is in our possession and ownership. Under our possession and ownership, they [the Muslims] organize for themselves prayer arrangements on Fridays. Groups of our soldiers stationed there, guard and supervise them by order of our government. Even if we are careful not to enter there, according to the attributes of Jewish law, in spite of this, and for this reason, our ownership over the entire area remains unequivocally permanent and binding, and the existence of non-Jews there is only with our permission, and under no circumstances are they owners of this place.”(Le’Netivot Yisrael, chap.2, Beit El Edition, pg. 282).

From this we see that for him, sovereignty was the most important point, for indeed, the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel) requires that Eretz Yisrael be in our possession and not abandoned to other nations – how much more so is this true concerning the Temple Mount, which is the holiest place in all the Land of Israel. All the comments of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah were said during a time when Israeli sovereignty was clear and regulated, as is evident from the extent he went to specify the symbols of sovereignty and rule.

Had he heard that in the wake of Arab rioting and various pressures – from home and abroad – that the Israeli flag no longer flew over the Temple Mount, and that the regular police station was removed, and there is no longer a permanent military presence on the Mount, and that police and soldiers are not allowed to enter the mosque, and the Arabs are no longer just “organizing for themselves prayer arrangements on Fridays”, but rather from that very place, incitement against Israel spreads to the entire world, that Arab youths have the audacity to mock and curse policemen and soldiers, that the Arabs hold parties and soccer games there and bury their dead in a show of contempt for the State of Israel, and that all the Jews who go up to Har Habayit must enter with the permission of the Waqf and with their close escort, while Arab gangs curse and swear at them. If Rabbi Kook had heard all this, he would have fainted from distress, and supported all legitimate means within the framework of Jewish law to strengthen the sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

It can be further observed from the wording of the pronouncement Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah’s attitude towards Rav Goren and his halakhic authority, and from this I was able to draw the conclusion that he would rely on his inquiries of Jewish law concerning the Temple Mount.

The Words of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook

Some people base their argument against going up to Har Habayit on the words of Maran Rav Kook ztz”l, who, with regards to this issue, wrote: “One nick in the sanctity of our Holy Temple costs us more than all the millions of practical communities”.

To fully understand the story, it must first be said that it relates to a letter (#677) that Rav Kook wrote on the 26th of Adar 5674 (March 24, 1914) to Rabbi Jonathan Benjamin Halevi ish Horowitz, one of the organizers of the rabbis’ journey to the moshavot (colonies) in Eretz Yisrael, and afterwards, edited the booklet ‘Eleh Masa’ay‘ (“These are the Journeys”) to describe the journey of the rabbis. Rabbi Kook wrote the introduction to the booklet, accompanied by a letter requesting that if the author added certain details, that he not let his lament over the religious breaches of the early pioneers obscure the outstanding friendly atmosphere of the meeting with them, “because for sure, only in this way of holiness, in which the light of God’s kindness shines, is the path of truth, a Torah of life and the love of kindness, which God implanted within us.”

Rabbi Kook also expressed support for the proposal to add to the booklet the story of the journey of Baron Rothschild, “the famous philanthropist,” and his great support of the new settlements after his visit to the country in 1914, but expressed regret that the Baron had entered the place of the Temple. It should be noted that the Baron was a traditional Jew.

This is what Maran HaRav Kook wrote: “It is a very good idea to add anecdotes about the journey of the Baron. Although I am greatly disheartened because of the chilul Hashem (desecration of God) of his entering the place of the holy Temple, and moreover, that no one told him that it was forbidden. One nick in the sanctity of our Holy Temple costs us more than all the millions of practical communities.” In view of that, apparently one might have thought that the honor due the Baron would be null and void, and consequently, there was no point in telling the praises of his journey. However, Rabbi Kook wrote further: “And although after all of this, nevertheless, he has not lost his great importance as the founder of the settlements, for perhaps it happened accidently, or he’s someone for whom everything happens inadvertently – the good Lord will atone, and take the good.” According to this, it is understandable why he agreed that “it was very good to add anecdotes about the Baron’s journey.”

A Prohibition Cannot be Learned from his Words

However, the prohibition of going up to Har Habayit after immersion in a mikveh cannot be learned from his words, for the Baron ascended the Temple Mount to the site of the Temple itself, without immersing in a mikveh, while those who go up to Har Habayit in purity are careful to first immerse in a mikveh, and following this, only enter the machaneh leviah, and not the site of the Temple, which is forbidden to enter even after immersion. We find, therefore, that their ascending Har Habayit carries no fear of transgressing a prohibition, and they are not rendering themselves defective at all, rather, the opposite is true.

Moreover, it is important to know that in the Torah we have both positive and negative commandments. There are some people who are fearful (in Hebrew, haredim) to keep the Torah because of the issurim (prohibitions), but are not so fearful about being inactive in fulfilling the positive mitzvoth. Therefore, in their opinion, as long as there is a distant fear that a Jew might ascend Har Habayit in contradiction to halakha, it is forbidden for all religious Jews to go up there. And even though they are told that secular Jews enter the site of the Temple in impurity in any case, and precisely upon seeing religious people who are careful about these matters, some of them join-up and are also cautious – still, their hearts remain full of fears and anxiety. But the main problem is that they have no fear of cancelling the positive mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land), whose primary point is that Eretz Yisrael be in our possession, and not abandoned to other nations. And it all depends on the site of the Temple, from which the holiness and sovereignty spreads to all parts of the Land of Israel. Not unlike our Sages criticism of King David, who conquered Syria before he conquered the Temple Mount, and therefore its occupation is considered an individual occupation, and Syria was not sanctified with the holiness of the mitzvoth ha’teluyot b’aretz (the commandments dependent on the Land).

Concerning this type of position, our Sages said: “Through the scrupulousness of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas, our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt, and we ourselves exiled from our land” (Gittin, 56a). Because he had numerous fears of prohibitions, but failed to fear about the destruction of the Temple.

And today, when we see how avoiding going up to Har Habayit seriously damages Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, anyone to whom the mitzvoth of the Torah are dear, must fight for the right of Jews to ascend Har Habayit.

The Rabbis who are Mistaken in the Issue of Kareth

And concerning the rabbis who condemn Jews that go up to the Temple Mount in purity of transgressing the prohibition of kareth (excision), there is one of two possibilities: either they forgot the halakha concerning Har Habayit and failed to see the difference between machaneh shechina and machaneh leviah, and also forgot that there are poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who permit entering the site of the Temple itself, so that even someone who enters it is a safek kareth (doubtful kareth).

Or, they ignore the mitzvoth of yishuv ha’aretz, which obliges all of Israel to fight for the country, so that it is under our sovereignty. And this mitzvah is obligatory in all generations, let alone our generation, who possesses the power to fulfill the mitzvah. And as the Ramban wrote concerning the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, whose primary point is that it “be in our possession and not abandoned to other nations for all generations…” He further added that it is “a positive commandment for generations that obligates each individual, and even during the exile.” Thus, it is incumbent upon us to work towards realizing our sovereignty over the Temple Mount, not to abandon it to any foreign nation, let alone our enemies and seekers of our doom.

The Solution to the Problem of Security and Sovereignty

This week, in which we accompanied with terrible pain the holy Jews who were murdered as they were praying, we must realize that there is one solution to the problem of security and sovereignty – the return of the rule of law to the Temple Mount. To do this, we must restore the police station on Har Habayit, increase the military presence there, and stand firmly on maintaining all applicable laws.

Each building that was built without a permit should be destroyed. Any activity that deviates from prayer, its’ members should be arrested. Anyone who curses, riots, or incites against the State of Israel, Jews, or members of other religions – should be removed permanently from the Temple Mount. And this includes, of course, the preachers who arouse the hatred of Israel in their sermons.

As in the past, hopes that concessions made to appease our enemies would bring us peace and quiet were proven wrong. On the contrary, every concession invites even more brutal and murderous violence. In contrast, the more resolutely we demonstrate our sovereignty over the Temple Mount by maintaining the law strictly and opening Har Habayit to Jews, thus we will warrant more respect, tranquility and peace.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

The Chief Rabbi’s War on Har Habayit

The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Goren ztz’l, acted firmly and tirelessly to preserve Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount * In his book about the Temple Mount, he explained why it is imperative to move up from the Kotel, and pray on the Temple Mount * Rabbi Goren’s struggle against the decision of the Government and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to relinquish the Temple Mount to the Muslim Waqf * The politicians used the rabbi’s prohibition of entering the Temple Mount as a pretext to hand it over to the enemy * Blessed are those who go up to the Temple Mount according to Jewish law, for they strengthen our sovereignty over the Temple Mount and the entire Land of Israel

 
 

Rabbi Goren’s Decision to Print his Book about the Temple Mount

Next week on the 24th day of the Jewish month Mar Cheshvan (Monday) will be twenty years since the death of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Goren ztz’l. In these days, when Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) is in the headlines, it is worth mentioning segments from his book “Har Habayit”, which he published a year before his death. In his book, he investigates in detail the site of the Mikdash (Holy Temple) and the azarot (Temple courtyards), areas that are forbidden to enter even after immersion in a mikveh (a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism),
and areas that are permitted to enter after immersion.

The time was the days of the second Rabin government, which conducted agreements with the PLO terrorist organization, and handed over parts of the Land of Israel to our enemies. In his introduction to the book he wrote: “Currently, when Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount is in danger, Mount Moriah is liable to become the subject of negotiation between us and the Arabs, and unfortunately, there are politicians who are willing to negotiate our sovereignty over the Temple Mount, relying on the alleged prohibition of the Chief Rabbinate to enter Har Habayit. This prohibition is liable to be used as an excuse to hand over the nation’s Kodesh ha’Kodashim (inner sanctum) to the Muslims. Therefore, I decided to publish the book now, from which it will be proven that there are large areas of the Temple Mount which all Jews are permitted to enter, according to all halakhic opinions, after immersion in a mikveh…”(p.15).

The Reasons for the ‘Heter

The Temple Mount is composed of two areas. The first, which is the smallest area, includes the site of the Holy Temple and the courtyards, and is called machaneh shechina (the inner azara), which nowadays is forbidden to enter because we cannot be cleansed from tumat met (defilement of the dead). The second area, which includes the majority of the Temple Mount, is called machaneh levia, and it is permitted to enter these areas today after immersion. Indeed, in the years preceding the establishment of the State of Israel the rabbis, including Rabbi Kook ztz’l, instructed not to enter the Temple Mount at all, for fear that people might go beyond the permitted areas and enter forbidden places.

Three factors prompted Rabbi Goren to permit going up to the majority of areas on the Temple Mount: 1) the precise mapping of the Temple Mount conducted by the I.D.F. Engineer Corps under his orders after the liberation of the Temple Mount; with these maps, it was possible to accurately determine which areas were permitted to enter according to all halakhic opinions. 2) The many testimonies that for more than a thousand years after the destruction of the Holy Temple, Gedolei Yisrael (eminent rabbis) used to pray on the Temple Mount in the permitted areas. 3) The threat to Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount.

There is room to add that one of the motivations for placing the warning signs not to enter the Temple Mount might have been so as not to provoke the Muslims and leaders who ruled Israel at the time, and in events of riots, did not properly protect the Jews.

Lowering Ourselves to the Kotel – The Result of the Sufferings of Exile

Rabbi Goren wrote about his feelings after the Six Day War: “I could not escape the feeling that from a historic perspective, assigning the Western Wall plaza for Jewish prayer was nothing but the result of the expulsion of the Jews from the Temple Mount by the Crusaders and Muslims together. Thus, an intolerable situation was created in which even after our liberation of the Temple Mount, the Muslims remained on top of Har Habayit, and we were down below; they were inside, and we were outside. The prayers at the Western Wall are a symbol of destruction and exile, and not of liberation and redemption, because Jewish prayers at the Western Wall began only in the sixteenth century – before that, Jews prayed for centuries on the Temple Mount … only about three hundred years ago, the Jews began praying at the Western Wall. And this the proof: in every reference in the Midrash where it is mentioned that the shechina (Divine Presence) has not moved from the Western Wall, and learns this from the verse in Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs): ‘Behold! There he stands behind our wall’ – this refers to the western wall of the azara, or the wall of the heichal, in other words, the wall of the Kodesh HaKodashim, and not the wall of the Har Habayit, which we call the Western Wall”(pg. 26).

The Necessity to Ascend from the Western Wall to Har Habayit

However, the intensity of the minhag (custom) based on over three centuries was considerable, and therefore after the Six Day War, the public at large thronged to the Western Wall to pray. Rabbi Goren himself wrote that one of the things that prevented him from acting quickly to regulate the ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount was his being “bound by the ‘chains of love’ for the remnant of our Holy Temple, the Western Wall, where I used to pray every Shabbat, holiday, and Rosh Chodesh evenings. Since my first visit to the Western Wall (as a child), my love and emotional affinity for the Wailing Wall has not faded… “,”but our shout …Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord”… aroused him to become stronger and clarify the heter to ascend Har Habayit (pg. 14). Consequently, he began organizing prayers on the Temple Mount (ibid, pg. 27).

The Canceled Prayer

Before the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av in 1967, Rabbi Goren publicly announced a mass, gala prayer to be held on the Temple Mount in the areas where entrance was permitted after immersion. However, by the orders of Prime Minister and Defense Minister the prayer was canceled. A few days later, the ministerial committee decided that the Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff order the Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F., Rabbi Goren, not to arrange any more prayers on the Temple Mount (pg. 29-30).

The Shock

The order shocked Rabbi Goren, and he tried everything within his power to cancel it, including writing a long and detailed letter to the ministerial committee, in which he argued: How is it possible that precisely in the holiest place for Jews, it is forbidden for them to pray?! True, there are a limited amount of areas in which entrance is forbidden according to the Torah for Jews and Gentiles alike, but entrance to the majority of the Temple Mount is permitted. Towards the end of his letter, he called out: “Distinguished men! Save the Holy of Holies of the Jewish nation; do not hand over the Temple Mount to those who defile it …” (pp 30-33).

The Defense Minister

Unfortunately, Rabbi Goren’s call went unanswered. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided to transfer the responsibility for managing the Temple Mount arrangements to the Waqf, and ordered the Military Rabbinate to evacuate Har Habayit, and not to interfere in matters concerning the Temple Mount any more. Rabbi Goren responded with “rage and sorrow”, informing the Defense Minister that “this, God forbid, could lead to the destruction of the Third Temple, for the key to our sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Gaza is the Temple Mount” (page 34).

 

Nevertheless, the Defense Minister implemented one of the most shameful acts in the history of Israel, and handed over the affairs of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Waqf. For many years it was known that Moshe Dayan had both a dark and a light side jumbled together. On the one hand, he was a Jewish military hero, but on the other hand, an adulterer and a thief. Apparently, his adultery and thievery tipped the scales against him. That is when he began to lose his public status. His name will be remembered in infamy.

Sovereignty

Still, when the Muslims closed the Mughrabi Gate to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount, at the request of Rabbi Goren, the I.D.F. broke through the gate to ensure free entry for Jews, thereby expressing sovereignty over the Temple Mount. However, this act did not change the order prohibiting Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

Rabbi Goren goes on to relate: “Whenever I warned about handing over of the Holy of Holies of the Jewish nation to the Waqf, the response of consecutive Prime Ministers was: ‘Look, in any case the Chief Rabbinate forbids Jews from ascending the Temple Mount, and we are prohibited from praying there.” As a result, he decided to write the book and explain the ways, places, and conditions under which it is permitted to enter the Temple Mount (pg. 35). Consequently “we must utilize to the fullest all sides of the heter, so we can demonstrate continuous Jewish presence there, and maintain Jewish sovereignty over the Mount, like the apple of our eyes” (pg. 46).

The Chief Rabbinate’s Sign

It has been claimed that during his tenure as Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Goren agreed to the prohibition of entering the Temple Mount, but this is not true. In the introduction to his book, he wrote: “During my tenure as Chief Rabbi of Israel, I brought a proposal to the Council of the Chief Rabbinate to remove the signs banning entrance to the Temple Mount as determined by the previous Chief Rabbis. Because there were a few members on the Council who had signed on the ban at the time, they requested delaying the decision to remove the signs prohibiting going up to Har Habayit until after I published the book …” For various reasons, the books’ publication was delayed, and the signs remained in place, “which, in effect, led to the handing over of Har Habayit to the Muslim Waqf” (ibid pg. 35).

Desecration of the Holy

Moreover, he wrote: “This shameful situation, where under Israeli rule a Jew does not have the right to pray on the mountain of God, cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. The debate over where it is permitted according to Jewish law to go on the Temple Mount, or where it is forbidden, has nothing to do with the government … These sacred places are not the private property of the Muslim Waqf, whose members have always been a source of bitterness and poison for the Jews, with their incitement from within the mosques on the Temple Mount to slaughter the Jews… had they closed the Temple Mount to Jews and non-Jews alike, I would have kept quiet, but to allow the Arabs to do there as they please while Jews are forbidden to even open up a Book of Psalms and pour out their hearts before the Creator of the world – this is a religious, historical, and legal scandal – nothing short of blasphemy! “(pg. 41).

He further added (pg. 42) that by abstaining from going up to the Temple Mount, the Torah prohibition of ‘lo techonem‘ (‘nor be gracious to them’), which may also be rendered ‘do not allow them to settle on the soil’ (Avoda Zara 20a) is transgressed, seeing as the poskim (Jewish law arbiters) have already established that the loss of sovereignty is similar to destruction (B.Y. and M.A., O.C. 561:1). Thus, when the government forbids Jews to go up freely, it destroys the place of our Holy Temple yet again.

The Words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook

Some people believe that our teacher and guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, agreed with the poskim who prohibited going up to Har Habayit. But in my humble opinion, it seems that had he saw that the over- cautiousness of going up to Har Habayit would result in the loss of sovereignty and turning the Temple Mount into a focal point of hatred against Israel – he would have agreed with Rabbi Goren that it is permitted and a mitzvah to go up. In addition, in my humble opinion, he would have trusted Rabbi Goren’s halakhic inquiries in regards to the areas permitted to enter.

Blessed are Those Who Ascend the Temple Mount

The continuation of the disgraceful situation on the Temple Mount brings our enemies hope, and motivates them to kill and riot throughout the country. In order to suppress the wave of terrorism and incitement from its roots, the government and the police must assert Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount in the most decisive manner.

Blessed are those who go up to Har Habayit according to halakha. Thanks to them, our sovereignty over the Temple Mount and all of the Land of Israel becomes clearer, and precisely as a result of this, we will merit security and peace.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed