Koshering the Kitchen for Pesach

The Principles of Koshering Utensils

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

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

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

 

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

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

Cleaning the House

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

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

Koshering a Baking Oven

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

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

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

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

Grates and Burners

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

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

The Law of Food that has Fallen under the Grates

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

Stove-tops

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

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

Sinks and Counter-tops

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

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

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

Warming Tray (Shabbat Platta)

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

Microwave Ovens

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

Dishwashers

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

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

The Dining Table

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

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

The Refrigerator

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

Kitchen Cabinets

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

Electric water heaters

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

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

Various Utensils

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

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

Thermos

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

False Teeth

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

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

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

Egg Matza and ‘Gebrokts’ on Pesach

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

Matza Ashira (“Egg Matza”)

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

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

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

Ashkenazic Custom

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

Sephardic Custom

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

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

Matza Sheruya (Soaked Matza; “Gebrokts”)

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

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

The Stringency of Hasidim

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

Halakha Regarding Matzah Sheruya

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

The Law Concerning Hasidic Families

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

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

Milk from an Animal That Ate Chametz

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

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

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

Good Advice for Weddings

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

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

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

Quieting the Band during the Meal

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

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

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

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

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

The Joy of Judaism and Torah

Be as meticulous about being happy in the month of Adar, as you are about grieving in the month of Av * Happiness can be achieved by pondering and appreciating the magnitude of the miracle in the days of Mordechai and Esther * In the times of Achashverosh, Israel had sunk to the lowest of levels; nevertheless, the Jews preferred to die, rather than assimilate * The choice to remain faithful to the Torah confirmed its’ renewed acceptance – this time, out of complete freedom of choice * Purim reveals that every situation and every force has divine destiny * Happiness without giving gifts to the poor is turning a blind eye to, and evading reality; therefore, such joy is incomplete * How to drink properly on Purim

My father and mentor, Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed shlita, is used to saying that the times of year when several people ask rabbis questions are for the most part the days before Passover, and next, the days before the beginning of the month of Av, seeing as our Sages said: “When the month of Av enters, we reduce our joy”; consequently, numerous questions arise concerning how to reduce joy in matters of listening to music, taking pleasure trips, public events, purchasing new items, etc. But what about the month of Adar? Aren’t there any questions when the month of Adar enters? After all, our Sages paralleled the two months, saying: “Just as with the beginning of Av rejoicings are curtailed, so with the beginning of Adar rejoicings are increased” (Ta’anit 29a). In other words, just as we are careful about reducing joy when Av enters, we should be just as careful about adding joy in the month of Adar, asking just as many questions as we do when the month of Av begins. Most likely, everyone believes they know how to be happy. Nevertheless, it could be worthwhile delving further into the significance of happiness from a perspective presenting everyday life and reality in the light of joy.

At any rate, it is obvious that part of the mitzvah of increasing happiness is minimizing one’s involvement in distressing things, and attempting to look at the good and joyful side of life. For that reason, I will not remark on the insulting position the Ministry of Defense has taken towards me, and only attempt to be happy over my fortune of “having been apprehended for busying myself with Torah.”

The Difficult Crisis during the Time of Ahchashverosh

During the times of Ahchashverosh, the Jewish nation found itself in dire straits. Since the heyday of the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, conquering the Land of Israel, and the kingdoms of David and Solomon – for centuries, the nation spiraled downwards. Sins of idolatry, incest, and bloodshed spread throughout Israel. At first, the tribes living on the eastern side of the Jordan River were exiled, then the remaining tribes of the Kingdom of Israel, and finally, the Holy Temple was destroyed and the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi and all those joining them from the other tribes went into exile. Almost no Jews were left in the country. Indeed, the decree of Koresh (Cyrus) had already been declared, allowing the Jews to return to their land, but only a few of them ascended, and as a result of a hateful accusation, they were forbidden to build the Temple. The Persian Empire reigned supreme, and instead of going to Israel, the large Jewish population within the empire endeavored to assimilate amongst the Gentiles and behave like them, to the point where many of the Jews were willing to bow-down to an idol. In the capital of Shushan, Jews participated in a feast given by Ahchashverosh, seeing with their own eyes how the sacred utensils from the Holy Temple, which had been captured by the enemy during the destruction, were now being used profanely; but nevertheless, the Jews enjoyed themselves at the feast of this evil man. It seemed the hope for the return to Zion had vanished, within a few generations the Jewish people would assimilate amongst the Gentiles, and the great vision for which the Jewish nation was chosen would be lost.

The Decree

And then, the wicked Haman, a descendant of Amalek, arose and

instigated the Persian Empire to enact a terrible decree against the Jews, the likes of which had never been seen before: “To destroy, massacre, and exterminate all the Jews, young and old, children and women, on a single day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month – that is, the month of Adar – and to plunder their possessions” (Esther 3:13).

It was the first time that the Jews faced such a terrible dilemma: to remain faithful to their identity and Torah with a willingness to pay a heavy price, or assimilate amongst the nations, and be saved from their Jewish fate.

Jewish Identity

And then, the unthinkable happened: Despite the generation’s weakness, the Jews withstood the trials, remained faithful to their identity, and did not assimilate. And God performed a miracle, ‘ve’nafoch hu’ (and vice versa) – rather than the enemies of Israel carrying out their attack, the Jews killed their enemies, and even hung Haman and his sons on the trees that he had prepared for Mordechai. As a result, determination to immigrate to the Land of Israel was aroused among the Jews, we merited building the Second Temple, and a door was opened for the increase of studying the Oral Torah, which was the main spiritual initiative during the Second Temple period.

Since then, the miracle of Purim has served as the model for the life of the Jewish people throughout its’ long years of exile. Our ancestors had thousands of opportunities to assimilate and shed from themselves the heavy burden of anti-Semitism; other nations failed to withstand even simpler ordeals. However, the Jewish nation, despite all the trials and tribulations, choose to continue bearing the word of God and His Torah, out of faith that we had a great destiny – to return to the Land of Israel, and bring redemption to the world.

Receiving the Torah Anew

The events of Purim were so momentous, the Sages stated that Israel accepted the Torah anew at the time of Ahchashverosh. In a certain sense, their renewed commitment at that time was greater than their original acceptance of the Torah on Mount Sinai. When the Torah was first given, Israel was forced to accept it, as it says: “They took their places at the foot of the mountain” (Shemot 19:17). The Sages comment:

“This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon them like a cask, and said to them, “If you accept the Torah – good; if not – there shall be your burial.” R. Aĥa b. Yaakov said, “This furnishes a strong protest against the Torah” (since they accepted the Torah under duress, they are not obligated to uphold it). Rava said,

“Even so, they re-accepted it at the time of Ahchashverosh, as it says, ‘The Jews upheld and accepted upon themselves” (Esther 9:27) – that is, they confirmed what they had accepted long before” (Shabbat 88a).

Nevertheless, the question still remained: Would the Jews stay connected to God and His Torah even afterwards, when they become detached from those miracles and wonders? Indeed, there were ups and downs, until the events of Purim took place. That is when it became clear that the people of Israel’s connection to their faith and to the Torah were absolute. The terrible decree made it clear that the price of belief might be unbearable, but the Jews still chose to adhere to their faith, repent, and pray to God, without any coercion. Not only did they return to observe the 613 mitzvot, they even instituted additional mitzvot after they were saved – the mitzvot of Purim. This was the receiving of the Torah anew.

The ‘Segulah‘ of Israel was Revealed on Purim

Thus, on Purim, the ‘segulah‘ (singular quality) of Israel was revealed, that even in the worst situations, they remain connected and faithful to God. This is what our Sages have said, that Jews, even when they sin, are called sons of God. It also became clear that God governs the world and alters events in Israel’s favor in order to save and redeem them.

This is what Purim is all about – taking joy in the sanctity of the Torah, and Israel. By reading of the ‘megillah‘ (scroll of Ester), we engage in Torah, and in the mitzvot of ‘mishteh v’simcha, mishloach manot, v’matanot l’evyonim’ (feasting and joy, sending of portions, and gifts to the poor), we engage in the sanctity of Israel.

The Torah in the Megillah

A wonderful ‘torah’, or teaching, was revealed in the Book of Esther – that even in the depths of darkness, God watches over His nation, and in the end, all the difficult and grave situations turn out to be stages leading towards redemption. In Megillat
Esther, God’s name does not appear. This expresses the darkness and concealment that was present at the time, but that nevertheless, incognito, God governs the world and watches over His nation, guiding and saving them.

Compared to the first stage in which the Torah was revealed with signs and wonders, in the days of Mordechai and Esther the Torah was revealed through physical reality, which at first, seems to conceal the Divine light, but the more devoted and dedicated we are to God, the more physical reality itself reveals its’ divine origin, this being the complete ‘tikun’.

All this is alluded to in the name ‘Megillat Esther’: the word ‘esther‘ stems from the Hebrew word ‘hester‘, or hidden, and ‘megillah‘ stems from the word ‘giluy’, or revealed. ‘Megillat Esther’, therefore, represents the revelation within concealment.

Joy in Food and Drink – ‘Ad d’lo Yada’

Consequently, it was revealed that the physical aspects of life which ostensibly conceal the Divine light, when they are performed ‘l’shem Shamayim’ (for the sake of Heaven), they also are holy. Instead of interfering with the service of Hashem, they are transformed for the better, and are very helpful in serving God with joy and vitality. Even in a certain state of ‘ebude ha’daat’ (loss of knowledge), Jews remain faithful to God. Just as Israel’s faith goes beyond accepted limits, with a devotion difficult to comprehend, so too, the joy of Purim expresses itself in drinking alcoholic beverages “ad d’lo yada’ (until one no longer knows the difference between “blessed be Mordechai” and “cursed be Haman”) – to a level of devotion that goes beyond ordinary, rational considerations.

This is complete happiness, which embraces all of man’s powers, both spiritual and material, to the point where it becomes clear that even drinking and drunkenness, which we generally view as being negative, is transformed for the better, and joins in with the happiness.

And of course, there is no real joy without camaraderie, because real joy is the diversification of life, and its’ extension to the love of others. Therefore, we are commanded to send portions to each other (‘matanot ish l’ray’ahu’), and the feast itself should also be held with friends and family.

‘Matanot L’Evyonim’

One should not be satisfied with increasing love between friends only, but must also take care of the poor who are unable to be happy; therefore, we are commanded to give ‘matanot l’evyonim’ (gifts to the poor), so that they too can participate in the joy of Purim. And anyone who ignores the pain of the poor, even if he thinks he’s having a good time with his friends, in truth, this is nothing but self-indulgency, because, in fact, he is disregarding real life. He escapes thoughts about the sorrows in the world, and only in this way is he able to make himself happy for a while. However, the harsh reality does not disappear while drinking wine and getting drunk; therefore, deep down, he knows he doesn’t really deserve to be happy, and remains sad. But someone who takes care to make the poor and unfortunate happy – his life has value, and he can truly and justifiably rejoice. This is why we are commanded to give gifts to the poor on Purim.

Advice on How to Prevent Drunkenness Ending in Sorrow

Fortunately, we are not used to drinking heavily, therefore, it is important to somewhat familiarize ourselves in the ways of drinking; otherwise, instead of being happy, we will be sorry. In general, alcohol reaches its’ maximum effect only after about thirty minutes. Someone who is not aware of this is liable to drink a glass of wine at the beginning of the meal, and when he realizes that after five minutes the wine has barely had an effect, he feels the need to drink another glass. And then, after another five minutes have passed and he still feels just a little tipsy, it crosses his mind that he should drink another full glass; and after another ten minutes, he begins feeling happy: the wine is taking effect, and if so, why not increase the joy with another glass? And thus, within less than half an hour, he has consumed four glasses, and all of a sudden, the alcohol goes to his head. He still tries to control himself, to talk normally, not to knock over bottles and dishes, but very quickly, he falls dead drunk, reeling in his own vomit. Therefore, it is proper to wait at least a half an hour between drinks; also, along with drinking, it is good to eat something, so that the good wine is absorbed in the body properly. In this way, it is possible to prolong the joy of the mitzvah for several hours.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including all his highly proclaimed books on Jewish law and thought in Hebrew, and a few in English, can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

How to Gladden a Chatan and Kallah

In Judaism, the wedding day is the most joyous day of one’s life * The large number of participants in a wedding reveals that it is not a private happy occasion, but part of the general objective of revealing the unity of Hashem * One should embellish the wedding meal and clothes bought for the wedding more than for Yom Tov * The wedding band should play at a level that allows people to converse, since conversing with friends and family is part of the joy * So as to make other’s happy, it is a mitzvah for wedding guests to be joyful themselves, viewing others with an ‘ayin tova’ (favorably) * It is a mitzvah to praise the kallah (bride) in the eyes of the chatan (groom), and vice-a-versa * When dancing, older participants should not be pushed out of the dancing circle, for precisely their participation increases the wedding’s virtue

 

The Significance of a Joyful Wedding

This week, my wife and I will merit leading our precious daughter to the wedding chuppah (canopy), and accordingly, this week I will deal with the joy of a wedding, which is the greatest joy in Jewish life.

Countless lyrics and melodies have been composed relating to weddings. Unlike Christians, who viewed the wedding as a submission to a person’s inferior inclinations, Judaism, out of its positive approach to life, views the wedding day as the happiest day of a person’s life. This is the day when the couple begins to completely fulfil the mitzvah which Rabbi Akiva said is a “clal gadol be’Torah” (an all-encompassing mitzvah) – the mitzvah of “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Vayikra 19:18, Sifra). And the Ari HaKadosh said that by fulfilling the mitzvah in its completeness, the couple fulfills in essence the entire Torah (Sefer HaLikutim, Ekev). It is also the day when the foundations are laid for future generations to be born, with God’s help, for the new couple.

Raising One’s Personal Joy to that of the ‘Clal

Ostensibly, one might ask: Why do people have to dance in front of the chatan and kallah (groom and bride) to make them happy? They’re already happy! Rather, the joy of the wedding is designed to expand and connect the joy of the chatan and kallah to that of ‘Clal Yisrael’ (all of Israel) – to all generations, past and future – so the chatan and kallah may realize the great virtue of their spiritual level, that by ‘kiddushin k’dat Moshe ve’Yisrael‘ (marriage according to the Law of Moses and Israel), God’s unity is revealed in the world, and love, peace and blessings extend to everything.

And this is Israel’s main undertaking in this world – to reveal to the world God’s unity, with love and joy, in the light of the Torah and according to the guidance of its mitzvoth, and thus, add blessing and life in the world, and elevate and improve it, until the coming of the Final Redemption.

This lofty idea is revealed through the union of the chatan and kallah, and consequently, the joy of the wedding is so important. Precisely as a result of elevating the joy and happiness from its private dimension to that of a general one, the personal love between the couple will be uplifted and grow stronger over the years and not fade away, as worldly passions normally do.

Revealing Unity

To better understand the importance of marriage, it must be explained that God desired to grant merit to mankind. Thus, He created the world incomplete so people could repair it and make the world pleasant and full of joy; consequently, they would be partners with God in all the good in the world, and as a result, their delight in it would be complete. Division is the most acute deficiency in creation. Indeed, God is One, but seeing as that He hid his light, His creations became separated from Him, and consequently, separated from one another – each person worrying for himself. This is what gives rise to all the quarrels, disputes, conflicts and wars. Therefore, this world is called “alma d’peruda” – a world of division. For the same reason it is also called “alma d’shikra” – a world of lies, where the root of unity goes unacknowledged, giving rise to all evils in the world. Therefore, the essence of Israel’s faith is the belief in unity – the belief in one God.

A wedding reveals the great unity in the world, for two separate individuals unite twice over: first, in the unity of man and wife, and second, in the unity of soul and body. Often, there exists a conflict between the soul and the body. The soul longs for spiritual pleasure and as a result is attracted to the good, whereas the physical body is attracted to material pleasures and thus, enticed to evil. The soul desires eternity, and the physical body seeks the fleeting here and now. By way of marriage, the soul and the body unify in holiness, and even the ‘yetzer ha’ra‘ (evil inclination) is transformed into the ‘yetzer ha’tov’ (good inclination). The noble idea of ​​loyalty and unity connects with the greatest pleasure, and the moral value of total dedication connects with the greatest joy. Therefore, the joy of a wedding should be especially great, more so than any other happy occasion.

The Mitzvah of Joy at Weddings: The Meal and Clothing

This is the order of levels of joy in Judaism: The mitzvah of joy on Yom Tov is greater than that on Shabbat, therefore the holiday meals should be finer than those on Shabbat, and it is a greater mitzvah to drink wine and eat meat on Yom Tov meals than on Shabbat. A wedding feast should be finer than meals on Yom Tov.

The same holds true regarding clothing: It is a mitzvah to buy new clothes for Yom Tov, in particular for women to have new clothes for the holiday, so they can fulfill the mitzvah of joy on Yom Tov. In advance of weddings of first-degree relatives, Jews are accustomed to embellish the mitzvah and buy nicer clothing than those they purchase for Yom Tov. And the custom is that if a Yom Tov is close to the wedding, there is no need to buy additional clothes for the Yom Tov; rather, pleasure is taken in the clothing bought for the wedding, on Yom Tov. It is also a mitzvah for all the guests at the wedding to dress in clothes they wear for Yom Tov, or at the very least, in clothes they wear for Shabbat.

The Wedding Feast

Since the wedding feast is especially important, in addition to bread, meat and wine should be served for they make people happy. Seemingly, chicken is also considered as gratifying as eating meat, as we find in the Talmud (Ketubot 5a), that chicken was prepared for weddings.

Efforts should be made in advance of the meal, and our Sages determined that one should toil in preparation of the meal at least three days in advance, because of ‘kavod banot Yisrael‘ (respect for women of Israel) (Ketubot 2a). Today, when catering is usually hired, there is no need to prepare the meal for three days, rather, it is sufficient to ensure that the meal is dignified.

Rejoicing and Making Others Happy

True joy is found in friendship with others – where a person is happy, and makes others happy as well (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1:11). For this to occur, all those participating in the wedding should view everything with an ‘ayin tova’ (favorably): the chatan and kallah, all the guests, and to take pleasure in the meal and clothing. As a result of one’s joy, he will be able to compliment everyone, and truly make them happy.

Joy in Conversation and Exchange

In the Tractate of Berachot (6b), our Sages emphasized the importance of the mitzvah to gladden the chatan and kallah, saying: “Whosoever partakes of the wedding meal of a bridegroom and does not gladden him transgresses ‘the five voices’ (for there are five voices mentioned in the verse dealing with the joy of weddings): ‘The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say, Give thanks to the Lord of Hosts’ (Yerimiyahu 33:11). And if he does gladden him what is his reward? — Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: He is privileged to acquire the knowledge of the Torah which was given with five voices. Rabbi Abbahu says: It is as if he had sacrificed a thanksgiving offering. Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak says: It is as if he had restored one of the ruins of Jerusalem.”

Some people are mistaken, thinking that all the joy of a wedding is in the dancing. This is not the case. True, the pinnacle of joy is expressed in the dancing, but the main point is in everyone taking pleasure in the meal, drinking wine, wearing nice clothing, and talking to one another with love and joy, as cited in the Talmud: “Rabbi Ashi said: Agra d’bei hilulei – millei” (Berachot 6 b), namely, the merit of attending a wedding lies in the words – i.e., the cheerful hubbub of good and pleasing conversation between the guests. To be able to fulfill this essential joy, it is proper for the band to refrain from playing music during the meal, so the guests can converse with one another.

The Maharsha added that the joy of such conversation is to gladden the chatan and kallah with words of mitzvah, thanking God for all his kindness. Indeed, this is the Jewish custom, that during the dancing the band plays religious songs with words of thanks and prayer to God.

The climax of the joyous conversation is designed to gladden the chatan and kallah themselves, as Rashi explains, and as our Sages said (Ketubot 17a), that one should dance before the kallah and say: ‘Kallah na’eh ve’chasuda‘ (beautiful and graceful bride). And even if it seems apparent that the kallah is not beautiful and graceful, the halakha goes according to Beit Hillel that one should praise her as being “beautiful and graceful”, for this is the inner truth regarding all brides. All the more so when in most cases, when one looks with an ‘ayin tova’, one can see that this the simple truth.

From this we learn that, within the limits of modesty, the relatives of the chatan and his friends should praise the kallah in front of him, and the more they praise her plausibly, they thus merit to fulfil the mitzvah of gladdening the chatan and kallah to an even greater extent, for when the chatan is happy with his kallah, he makes her happier. It is also a mitzvah for the kallah’s relatives to praise her chatan in front of her, and in this way, she will be happier with him.

Wedding Dancing

“It was told of Rabbi Yehudah bar Ila’i that he used to take a myrtle twig and dance before the bride and say: ‘Beautiful and graceful bride’ (Ketubot 17a). Owing to the very fact that a ‘Gadol be’Torah’ (an eminent Torah scholar) such as Rabbi Yehudah dismissed himself from Torah learning to go and dance before the kallah, the chatan and kallah realized just how illustrious their virtue was – for they were building a home faithful to the traditions of Israel. This wonderful memory from their wedding would remain with them forever, and even if difficult times were to appear, this happy memory would bring joy and encouragement.

In the Talmud it is also told about Rabbi Shmuel bar Rabbi Yitzchak that even in his old age it was his custom to dance in front of the kallah while holding three myrtle branches, tossing and juggling them. He was so skillful that even young men were ashamed of themselves for not being able to dance and cheer the chatan and kallah as he did. When Rabbi Shmuel bar Rabbi Yitzchak died, a pillar of fire fell from heaven, separating between the people and himself. The Sages understood that a pillar of fire falls only for one or two people in a generation. The Sages said that Rabbi Shmuel bar Rabbi Yitzchak attained his high standing in the merit of the myrtle branches he danced with in front of the kallah, for myrtles allude to multiplicity of children. Others explained he attained his high level in the merit of having constantly danced so before all brides, and others explained he attained his high level in the merit of being silly and demeaning himself in order to gladden the kallah.

From all of this we learn just how great and tremendous is the mitzvah of dancing before the chatan and kallah at a wedding, and making them happy.

The Participation of Older People in the Dancing Increases Joy

I must take this opportunity to reproach the young men and women who dance wildly, inadvertently kicking people older than themselves. It has gotten to the point where even thirty-year-old’s are shoved out of the circle – given the feeling that they are too old to participate in the dancing. In addition to the prohibition against harming anyone while dancing, let alone an older person for whom it is a mitzvah to respect, these young people also mar the joy of the wedding, because the more adults and elderly people participating in the dancing, the more significance the wedding possesses. And the young adults who merit respecting their elders, will be worthy to dance until a ripe old age, in the joy of mitzvot.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, and his entire series of highly acclaimed books on halakha and Jewish thought, “Peninei Halakha” (in Hebrew, and a few in English), can be found at:
http://en.yhb.org.il/

The Struggle for a Jewish Army

In recent years I have written numerous articles warning about the erosion of the status of Judaism in the IDF * Had we previously stood firm against the violation of mitzvot and values, the order against growing a beard in the army would have been unthinkable * Many objectors to statements made in this column in the past, are now calling for a harsh response * Threats or calls to topple the government are wrong; instead, we must warn about every problem in the army * One cannot attack certain parties during the elections, and then expect them to act beyond their limited political power * We can learn from Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook over which issues should a government be disbanded

The Storm over Growing a Beard in the Army

Q: Rabbi, why didn’t you harshly criticize the army order stating that no soldier would be allowed to grow a beard without permission from their commanding officer? Shouldn’t soldiers be called to refuse orders, and rebel against this order?! Shouldn’t this be viewed as a serious trend of attempting to abolish religion, along with the transfer of the ‘Jewish Identity Branch’ from the Military Rabbinate to the Manpower Directorate, and the Government’s surrender to the Reform Movement regarding the Kotel?! Shouldn’t Members of Knesset be called to topple the government over these issues?!

A: Indeed, the order against growing beards is outrageous, and indicates an insensitivity and lack of respect on part of the members of the General Staff who issued it. The order causes a certain amount of damage to the Jewish character of the IDF, but more than that, it damages the status of the military rabbis who, up until now, were responsible for granting such approval, and even more so, damages the dignity of a soldier who is permitted to appear in a way consistent with his lifestyle, as long as he looks decent and respectable.

It is obvious that a soldier who receives such an order does not have to obey it, rather, he should act in acceptable methods to change the order. In the vast majority of cases he will succeed; but if he encounters an especially unyielding officer, he should explain to him that he is willing to go to jail over the issue, and as a result, maybe the officer will come to his senses and cancel the order.

Seeing as from the start I anticipated the issue would be solved through understanding, I did not find it necessary to voice my criticism publicly.

My Longstanding Position

However, I am amazed at many of those presently calling to fight and topple the government: How come during all the years when I wrote piercing critiques about the erosion of Jewish-national identity in various government frameworks they were silent, and at times, even came out against my views. True, throughout this period the principled influence of the religious community increased greatly, but at the same time, under the influence of the judicial system and academia, a process of erosion of values occurred ​​in the courts, in the educational system, in national security matters, in the status of the Israeli rabbinate, together with the status of the IDF Rabbinate and the Jewish character of the IDF. I will briefly mention the articles I wrote on the topic of insisting the IDF function as a Jewish army.

In the Summer of 2004, in two different articles, I wrote about the difficulty of cadets at the main IDF training base (Ba’had 1) to pray in a minyan, and demanded that religious and Haredi MK’s take action on their behalf (they did not, but the public criticism helped somewhat). Another article was devoted to soldiers strengthening themselves religiously, for their own sake, and on behalf of the Jewish character of the IDF, in line with the Torah’s command that our camp be holy.

In October 2005, I wrote about the limits of obeying orders that contradict halakha, both in relation to the expulsion of Jews from their homes, and the desecration of Shabbat (I also continued dealing with the subject the following week).

In November 2005, I warned that concessions on matters of halakha would cause erosion of the army’s status, from the aspect of moral soundness of the Jewish army, and because it would distance religious and Haredi soldiers from the importance of recruiting. In the summer of 2005, the expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Samaria occurred; at that time I wrote extensively against the expulsion, and about the mitzvah to serve in the army despite all.

In December 2005, I dealt with the military order preventing soldiers from wearing tzitzit outwardly (a mitzvah no less important than having a beard), and about the erosion of independence of the Military Rabbinate. I wrote that since it lacked the power to stand up to the military command, as was the case in the time of Rabbi Goren, it did not have the status of ‘mara d’atra’ (local rabbinic authority), and consequently, other rabbis also have a responsibility to respond to halachic questions of soldiers in the army. The following month I continued dealing with this subject, and in subsequent articles, warned about it at length.

In August 2006, I wrote that the dismissal of officers who cause damage to the sacred Jewish character of the IDF should be demanded, or in the words of Rabbi Goren, the founder of the IDF Rabbinate: “Any officer for whom the sanctity of Jewish tradition is not uppermost in his mind, is unfit to be a commander in the IDF and send troops to fight for the people of Israel. And therefore, he insisted that a commander who damaged Israel’s sacred traditions, be dismissed and expelled from the army.”

In January 2007, I devoted an entire article to the religious situation in the IDF, stating that on the one hand, it had become much more suitable for religious soldiers, but on the other hand, in key areas such as modesty and values, there had been a serious erosion. I wrote: “This is not an issue for religious soldiers alone; the army must strive to express, as best possible, the heritage and values ​​of the Jewish people. Without it, the IDF will become a U.N. peace-keeping force, with all the implications and serious bearings for the safety of Israel. The feelings of religious soldiers in the army is a reliable litmus test for the level of Jewishness in the IDF.” To reinforce this position, I devoted several articles over the years regarding the character and leadership of Rabbi Goren in the army. I continued devoting numerous articles to the state of Judaism and the observance mitzvoth in the army. In February 2008, I devoted an article about the erosion that had begun as a result of integrating women in all-male units, and I continued to write about this in two following articles.

In the meantime, I devoted numerous articles explaining the importance of the mitzvah to serve in the army, and that in spite of the essential struggle for its’ Jewish character, in no way should one evade this great mitzvah. I even defended my dear friend, the then Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Rabbi Avichai Rontsky, shlita, (may he have a complete recovery from his recent surgery) from attacks by elements in the Haredi world.

It seems to me the picture is clear, and even getting a little boring, so I will skip the review of articles I wrote from 2009 onwards (incidentally, these critiques, which did not find many supporters other than soldiers in the field, were the background for Yeshiva Har Bracha’s removal from the Hesder program in the Winter of 2009).

Past and Present

In all those years, many of those who now claim that orders should be disobeyed and the government toppled, said that tensions should not be provoked in the army. When I warned about the harm being done to the independence of the IDF Rabbinate, and that it should be more aggressive, many of those who are currently calling for the IDF Chief Rabbi to quit, claimed that my position was extremist and lacked respect for the IDF officers and army rabbis, and that demonstrations should be in favor, and not against – strengthening the government, and not weakening it. By doing so, they contributed to the weakening of the IDF Rabbinate, and firming-up the position that religious matters in the army are not so crucial.

Had the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff been made aware on a regular basis about the problems of modesty, kashrut, and prayers facing religious soldiers in the army, the basic tenet that the army maintain its’ Jewish character, and that the IDF Rabbinate must be independent and the leader in all areas of Judaism in the army – they never would have imagined removing the responsibility of approving beards for religious reasons from the IDF Rabbinate, and transferring the ‘Jewish Identity Branch’.

At any rate, precisely now when we have a Deputy Defense Minister who is a Torah scholar, honest, ethical, and knows how to get things done, it is inappropriate to create a stir, for obviously he will do everything within his powers to solve the problem, and will most probably succeed.

In the Future

From now on, instead of threating and demanding dismissals, or toppling the government, we must warn about every problem in the army on a regular basis, by means of the IDF Rabbinate, members of Knesset from the Likud and the Jewish Home party, and of course, via the Deputy Defense Minister. And maybe even the Haredi Knesset members will agree to join-in, and assist the religious soldiers. Parallel to these standard activities, we must also criticize those responsible for religious problems in the army through the media that is open to broadcast such criticism. In this way, in a gradual process, hopefully all these issues will be solved.

Why Have the Accusations become so Harsh All of a Sudden?

The serious accusations currently voiced against the government and the religious situation in the country and the IDF, raises concern that, in fact, it stems from a deep hostility directed specifically towards the religious and right-wing community and its representatives, because these impossible demands are being made precisely from them, while towards the leftist leadership and representatives of the Haredi community are treated with tolerance and exaggerated backing.

Some of those criticizing the representatives of the national religious public in the Knesset and the government, demanding they solve and advance all these issues immediately, are the one’s who discredited them, caused the loss of votes, and weakened their position in the Knesset. In practice, it is forbidden to develop unrealistic expectations beyond the power that the voters gave them. Whoever develops exaggerated expectations causes their failure, and perhaps even does it on purpose to justify themselves for discrediting them before the elections and weakening their power.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook: Over What Issue Should a Government be Toppled?

The most serious debate on issues of religion and state – far more serious than the argument over the Kotel – was over the issue of conversion. After the secular courts legalized Reform conversions, several prominent rabbis demanded everything be done to change the law, and determine that only conversions according to halakha be recognized in the State of Israel. In their opinion, it was forbidden to participate in a government that did not remedy this issue. However, our teacher and guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook was of the opinion that although the issue was important and should be vigorously fought for, it should not prevent the participation of the National Religious Party (Mafdal) in the government. Nevertheless, after the members of the Mafdal decided to resign from the government over this issue, Rabbi Kook maintained that they had to keep their word, and not crawl back into the government in disgrace.

On the other hand, when one of the Prime Ministers declared that he wouldn’t care if he had to visit Gush Etzion with a Jordanian visa, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah was shocked with great pain. For days, he repeated in his discussions, lessons, and even in his sermon for Independence Day (1974): “For himself – he doesn’t care, but we, and all of Israel, do care!” He added: “He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse!” And he repeatedly declared that a Prime Minister who could say such a thing, does not deserve to be the Prime Minister of Israel.

The Prime Minister’s standing at the time seemed firm. A few weeks later the government fell, due to the arrival of airplanes on Shabbat evening. I heard from my uncle, Rabbi Remer ztz”l, that Rabbi Goldwicht ztz”l, Rosh Yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, later said to Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah: “Divine inspiration has appeared in our Beit Midrash (study hall)?” Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah responded by saying that it was not Divine inspiration, just that one needed to distinguish between a shortcoming and decay. Sometimes the shortcomings are immense, but it is still possible to continue to live with them until they are amended; but when there is decay, it is much worse, making it impossible to continue.

Today our situation is much better, and may we merit to complete all of the shortcomings.

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

Reform Judaism is Not a Religious Denomination

A group that does not accept the fundamentals of Israel’s faith is not considered a stream of Judaism * As in academia and medicine, unauthorized titles and procedures should be fought * The Reform community in the United States is strong, but is less encouraging of Aliyah to Israel than the Orthodox, and mainly supports the position of the Israeli left * Alongside opposing the recognition of Reform Judaism as a religious stream, their welcome and important work for the people and the country should be acknowledged * Compliments to the Chief Rabbinate following the imposition of alimony obligations on both parents

Recently, the question concerning the Reform movement and its demand for full religious recognition, e.g., the Western Wall, conversions in all public mikva’s, and in the army, has once again resurfaced.

According to the claims of the Reform movement, they consider themselves as one of the religious denominations among the people of Israel, and consequently, their position should be equal to that of the status of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Just as the state assists the appointment of rabbis to cities and neighborhoods, and provides legal validity to rabbinical courts in matters of marriage, divorce and conversions, so too, they also should have the right to appoint rabbis to cities and neighborhoods, and maintain courts for marriage and conversion. And just as the IDF has its’ Military Rabbinate which invites rabbis to give talks and classes on Torah and Jewish values, the army must also invite representatives of the Reform movement as legitimate representatives of the Torah and Judaism (unfortunately, it seems the IDF high command has complied with this objective).

To strengthen their demands, the Reform movement argues that in the United States they are the largest faction, and discrimination in Israel against them offends all Reform Jews abroad. To this argument they add the threat that if they are not granted equality, the Reform community will stop supporting the State of Israel, a situation which may adversely affect Israel’s status in the United States – seeing as America is the strongest country in the world whose support of the State of Israel is important, if not critical.

Principles of Jewish Faith

Two fundamental principles underlie the Jewish faith: one is the divine source of Torah – ‘Torah min ha’Shamayim’ (Torah from Heaven). The second is the absolute validity of the mitzvot and halakha, a validity which, at times, obligates a Jew to sacrifice his life or wealth in sanctification of God.

This is not the place to expound on the importance and depth of these principles, but we shall touch only on their formal framework. Upon examining the position of the Reform movement, we find that they deny these principles. While there are various streams in Judaism, emphasizing different aspects of worshiping God, such as the Hasidim and Mitnagdim, members of the Mussar movement, the Torah and Derech Eretz movement, and even an ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist stream, nevertheless, the common denominator of all of these groups is their loyalty to these principles, and their functioning solely within its framework. All of the fierce debates between the different factions are conducted precisely on the basis of these principles. But the Reform movement, who do not accept these principles, cannot be considered a religious stream of Judaism, just as the Karaites are not considered a stream of Judaism, or a legitimate Jewish community.

Preventing the Distortion

Since the impression the Reform movement presents as being a Jewish, religious movement is a distortion and misrepresentation of Israel’s sacred Torah, we must oppose any granting of religious authority to their representatives, as has been the custom of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel since its founding until today.

It appears that we can learn from academia how to deal with those who purport to confer academic degrees counter to the orderly and established academic process, as well as the medical establishment’s attitude toward those who profess to be considered as doctors without passing the accepted course of studies. Even when it comes to the broad movement of alternative medicine, which many people believe in, and have been helped by way of its recommendations, the medical establishment is vehemently opposed to granting the official status of doctor to someone who has not gone through the accepted course of studies in academia. And anyone declaring himself to be a doctor, is liable to be sued in a court of law.

The Damage to Jewish Identity

It should be noted that the Reform movement has existed for only about two hundred years, and historically speaking, was one of the causes of the disintegration of the Jewish communities in Europe and later in America, and caused damage to the national identity, both in respect to the Torah and halakha, and in respect to Israel’s uniqueness and the importance of the Land of Israel. In all generations there was never a group (if we don’t take into account the first Christians) that deleted from prayer books the mention of Jerusalem, Eretz Yisrael, and the Jewish nation’s hope of Redemption, aside from the Reform movement. By doing so, this movement undermined the very foundations of Jewish existence national uniqueness.

It’s no wonder that only in the framework of this movement are intermarriages between Jews and Gentiles performed, with a “rabbi” and a priest standing shoulder-to-shoulder under the canopy. Such a reality gives legitimacy to assimilation, which is the most dangerous threat to the existence of the Jewish people.

While today’s leaders of the Reform movement boast of their Zionist viewpoints, if we examine immigration from Western countries since the establishment of the State of Israel, we find that the vast majority of immigrants came from Orthodox communities. This is particularly evident among immigrants from the United States, where despite the claim of the Reform movement of representing the majority of Jews in America, close to 90% of the immigrants come from the ranks of Orthodox communities.

Apparently, the Reform movement leaders’ support of Israel also conforms to the position of the leftist minority in Israel. In this context, they encourage the U.S. administration to pressure Israel to uproot the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and establish an Arab state in the heart of our country. Had they been successful, everything that has happened close to the Gaza Strip in recent years, would have occurred all over the State of Israel.

The Positive Side

However, we are also compelled to remember that in times when Jewish life was unbearable, because it seemed as if the peoples of Western Europe were developing and advancing towards lives of prosperity and culture, science and freedom, while the Jews remained hated and discriminated against, and lacked the ability to acquire a prestigious profession and earn a decent living, the Reform movement chose not to forsake the Jewish people.

When the nations of Europe began to advance socially, scientifically and economically, gifted Jews had to choose between two options. On the one hand, they could be gabbai’s in the shtiebel (sextons in the synagogue), resolving fights between the Hasidim and Mitnagdim, or between the traditionalists and the modernists. On the other hand, they could have converted to Christianity and been accepted in the prospering society, and possibly even serve as Prime Minister (Benjamin Disraeli), or as an influential thinker (Edmund Husserl), a leading author (Heinrich Heine), or in the world of culture and art (Mendelssohn and Mahler), initiate a social revolution that would change the map of the world (Marx), or in general, participate in the scientific and industrial revolutions (countless Jews).

It seemed to many that Judaism’s hope had vanished; the world was advancing and developing, whereas the Jews who adhered to Torah and mitzvot were left behind, without a way to make a decent living, and with no hope of redemption. It was difficult then to see how the Torah and the mitzvot could benefit an individual Jew, or repair the world. Unfortunately, myriads of Jews chose to convert or assimilate, but the Reform movement sought to pave the way in which people could maintain their Jewish identity and Jewish values, in a way they could fit into the accepted values ​​of enlightened, Western society.

It turned out that for many Jews who wished to assimilate, the Reform movement was able to delay the process of assimilation; but on the other hand, among those lured to see in the Reform movement a worthy alternative to traditional Judaism, it accelerated the process of assimilation.

The Correct Attitude towards the Reform Movement

Thus, the Reform movement should be regarded as a movement whose members are Jewish, that engages in matters relating to education, culture, ceremonies and communal activities with a Jewish message, and feels a bond and responsibility towards all Jews, including the residents of the State of Israel. Such movements have existed for a long time in Israel and abroad, for example the World Maccabi movement, B’nai Brith, the Joint, the Kibbutz Movement, Hashomer Hatzair, and the various Jewish youth organizations. And just as we must appreciate all the positive actions these movements engage in, so too, all the Reform movement’s positive deeds in the fields of goodwill, morality, and strengthening of Jewish solidarity, should also be highly regarded.

Moreover, precisely because we are forced to oppose the Reform movement and prevent them from attaining the religious status they desire, we must find ways to express the basic, positive attitude towards them as our Jewish brothers, and towards all the good virtues in each and every one of them. As we have learned in the Torah, that together with the mitzvah of rebuking a Jew for his sins, comes the mitzvah to love, and not hate him, as it is written: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. You must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against your people. You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am God.” (Vayikra 19:17-18). After all, even when forced to admonish a sinner, the mitzvah to love and help him remains in effect. Not only that, but in a case where two people require assistance – one who has not sinned, and another who we were forced to rebuke, it is a mitzvah to first help the person we rebuked, so he realizes that the criticism concerned only that specific issue, but that in general, we are like loving brothers (see, Baba Metzia 32b; Tosephot, Pesachim 113b, Dh”M ‘L’kof yitzro’). The same goes for Reform Jews – after having been forced to quarrel with them, it is a mitzvah to search for ways to express our brotherhood and common destiny.

The Responsibility of Both Parents for Child Support

It is fitting to commend and bless the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, shlita, for the Chief Rabbinate Council’s resolution stating that the economic responsibility for children applies to both parents, and that the income of both parents must be taken into account in determining the obligation of child support.

To date, the prevailing view in the state-run Family Courts was that the economic responsibility for children should be imposed solely on the father, this being his obligation under religious law according to which marriages and divorces in the State of Israel are performed.

While in the past, when women were not accustomed to work and earn a decent living, this was the obvious ruling of all courts. However, when mothers also began to work, some of them earning higher wages than the fathers, the halachic position was that the mother must also take care of the economic needs of the children. Nevertheless, the courts exploited the previous position which was based on a different reality, and almost always obligated the fathers with full responsibility for all child support, ignoring the income of mothers. Unfortunately, there were also some dayanim (religious court judges) who also ruled in this fashion. Hopefully, from now on the courts and those same dayanim will not be able to rest on the halakha in their discrimination against fathers.

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

Meat, Chicken, and Fish with Milk

In wake of the fatal bus accident: The Torah obligation to report a reckless bus driver * A continuation of the laws of meat and milk * The Torah prohibits the mixture of meat and milk only by cooking, however the rabbis also forbade other mixtures * Are the meat and milk of wild animals and chicken prohibited from the Torah * According to halakha, eating the meat of wild animals and chicken with milk are prohibited by rabbinic decree, but we are stringent as if it were a Torah prohibition * One can be lenient in eating fish and milk together, even if he follows Sephardi customs

 

The Duty to Complain about a Reckless Driver

Following the horrific bus accident that occurred this week killing six passengers due to suspected reckless driving, passengers travelling on public transportation must be made aware of their duty to admonish a driver who is not careful, and if he does not listen, to report him to his superiors.

There are two mitzvoth involved. First, the mitzvah of ‘tochacha‘ or rebuke, for if one sees his fellow sin or follow an improper path, he is obligated to return him to the better path, as it is written: “You must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17). At first, one should admonish gently, but if the driver does listen, one must admonish firmly. This mitzvah is connected to the mitzvah which follows it in the Torah: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The rebuke is indeed for the good of the driver, for if several passengers were to admonish him, there is a chance he will improve his ways, and be able to continue working without causing accidents. In any event, even if the driver chooses to be offended, the person who rebuked him does not transgress any sin, because the mitzvah of ‘tochacha’ applies even when it is clear that the person being rebuked will get angry, as codified in halakha that the mitzvah is to admonish the sinner to the point where he almost wants to hit the person rebuking him (Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 6:7).

Additionally, seeing as the topic is cautious driving, the mitzvah of ‘shmirat ha’nefesh‘ (guarding the life) of all passengers traveling on the trip and on future trips, about which we are explicitly commanded: “Do not stand still when your neighbor’s life is in danger” (Vayikra 19:16), also applies. Our Sages also said that anyone who can protest against a sinner but does not, is considered as if he is guilty of the sin (Shabbat 54 b), let alone in such a case of ‘pikuach nefesh‘ (saving lives).

In consequence of the mitzvah of ‘shmirat ha’nefesh’, if the driver did not listen to the person rebuking him, and did not immediately improve his driving, one must complain to his superiors. And if he did not complain, he is responsible for the blood of all the passengers liable to be killed due to the driver’s reckless driving.

A person should not say “what good will one person’s complaint do”, because if everyone who witnesses the reckless driver reports him, it is clear that his superiors will scrutinize him properly, and if necessary, even fire him from his job to protect the lives of the passengers.

The Prohibition of Meat and Milk

Two weeks ago we dealt with the prohibition of meat and milk. The Torah forbade cooking meat with milk, it is written: “Do not cook meat in milk, even that of its mother.” This prohibition is mentioned three times in the Torah, teaching us that there are three distinct prohibitions: a) it is forbidden to cook milk and meat together; b) It is forbidden to eat them together; c) It is forbidden to derive benefit from them (Chulin 115b).

 

The Prohibition of Cooking and Deriving Benefit

This prohibition is unique and different from all other prohibitions of forbidden foods – for concerning all forbidden foods, the prohibition is invariable, whereas meat by itself and milk by itself are kosher, only when mixed do they become prohibited on the most serious of levels; for indeed, although it is forbidden for a Jew to eat meat of beasts and unclean animals, nevertheless, one is permitted to cook them for a non-Jew; meat and milk, however, are even forbidden to be cooked together, and therefore a Jewish cook is forbidden to cook meat and milk for a non-Jew.

Not only is it forbidden to eat and cook meat and milk together, but it is also forbidden to derive benefit from them, therefore, one must burry or destroy in a different way, meat and milk that was cooked together. And it is forbidden to give it as a gift to a non-Jew, since the Jew derives benefit from it. Even if one were to burn the prohibited food, it is forbidden to receive benefit from the heat of burning it, or from its ashes.

A Mixture without Cooking Is Forbidden by Rabbinic Decree

The Torah prohibition is precisely when mixing milk and meat by means of cooking, because the process of cooking blends the two thoroughly. But when the tastes of meat and dairy are not mixed by means of cooking, such as by soaking, they are forbidden to be eaten only by rabbinic decree, however our Sages did not forbid deriving benefit from it, nor did they forbid the mixing of meat and milk by means other than cooking for the needs of a non-Jew, or for other necessities (S. A., Y.D., 87:1; 91:8).

Are Wild Animals and Chicken Also Included in the Prohibition?

The Tana’im differed about which types of meat and milk are included in the prohibition. According to Rabbi Akiva, the meat and milk which are forbidden are the flesh of one of the three species of clean animals with the milk of one of them. The three species of wild animals are ox, sheep, and goat. However, the species of ruminant mammals, such as deer and elk, are not included in the prohibition. This law was also determined from the Torah mentioning three times the prohibition of “do not cook meat in milk, even that of its mother”, coming to teach us that there are three species of wild animals included in the prohibition, while types of clean animals, types of clean poultry, and types of unclean beasts and animals are not included in the prohibition (Mishna Chulin 113a).

The difference between beasts and animals is that animals can be domesticated, whereas beasts cannot. Since beasts are in man’s possession, he can milk them and slaughter their offspring, and the Torah forbade mixing the meat of one of the beasts with the milk of one of them.

The Opinion that the Torah Prohibition also Includes Animals and Birds

In contrast, according to Rabbi Yossi Ha’Galili, the prohibition also includes the seven species of pure animals, seeing as their meat and milk are permitted to be eaten as well. However, poultry is not included in the prohibition since female birds have no milk, nor did our Sages forbid eating it with milk (Mishna Chulin 103a).

Some authorities are of the opinion that the meat of poultry is also included in the prohibition, since poultry also contains meat, and the indication that that the meat of poultry is considered meat is that it must be slaughtered in order to permit it to be eaten. According to this opinion, only species of fish and clean locusts are not included in the prohibition (Mishna Chulin 103b, according to the explanation of Tosephot).

The Practical Halakha

In practice, the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Rishonim is that the halakha follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiva that the Torah prohibition applies only to species of beasts, i.e., species that man breeds and produce milk; however, our Sages also prohibited eating species of animals and poultry cooked with milk. The prohibition applies only to eating, but the rabbis did not prohibit cooking them for a non-Jew, and did not prohibit deriving benefit from them (Sh.A. Y.D. 87:2). However, we have found a few Rishonim who decided the halakha according to the opinion of the Tanna Kama, namely, that poultry and milk are also prohibited from the Torah (Tosephot, Ye’ri’im, Mordechai).

Some eminent Achronim wrote that although it was determined that that the prohibition of poultry in milk is of rabbinic status, in practice, we refer to the prohibition of eating poultry and milk with severity – as being close to a Torah prohibition. We also find that the ‘seyagim‘ (precautionary prohibitions, intended to distance one from this prohibition) our Sages determined regarding the eating of meat and dairy, they also determined for poultry and milk, such as the prohibition to bake dairy bread or meat bread, lest they come to be eaten with foods of the opposite type (S.A., Y.D. 97:1), and also the prohibition to place meat and milk on a table while eating, lest one comes to eat them together (S.A. 88:1).

Consequently, although the halakha was determined according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, namely, that there is no Torah prohibition in the meat of poultry or animals and milk, we take into consideration the opinion of the Tana’im who are of the opinion that it is a Torah prohibition.

Fish and Milk are Not Prohibited

Q: Is it prohibited to cook fish with milk?

A: It is permissible to cook fish with milk, and also fish may be eaten with milk, for our Sages did place a decree on fish to consider it as meat, since fish are very different in appearance and their laws are different, for they do not have to be slaughtered, and it is permitted to eat their blood. It is also explained in the Mishnah (Chulin 103b) that fish may be cooked with milk. It is also explained in the Talmud, that people were used to eating fish dipped in kutah, which is a dairy sauce (Chulin 111 b). And thus wrote the Rishonim.

The Stringency of the ‘Beit Yosef’ and the Sephardi Minhag

Nevertheless, Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote in his book ‘Beit Yosef’ (Y.D. 87:3) that one should not eat fish with milk because of possible danger. There were some authorities who explained that this refers to the danger of leprosy (Rabbeinu Bachya). Some authorities were puzzled by Rabbi Yosef Karo, questioning how he could write that something was prohibited, when it is explicitly written in the Talmud that it is permitted. (Schach 87:5). Others wanted to claim that a scribe made an error in the words of the ‘Beit Yosef’, and in truth, he also permitted fish to be eaten with milk, and his intention was to write not to eat meat with fish, because our Sages said (Pesachim 76b) that this involved a danger (Taz 87:3; Pri Chadash 6).

In practice, the custom of many Jews in the countries of East and North Africa was to be stringent, and this is the instruction of rabbis up until today (Yechave Da’at 6:48). Others said that one only has to be careful not to eat fish with milk, but eating fish with butter was permitted (Zivchei Tzedek). On the other hand, even among the Sephardi poskim (Jewish law arbiters) there were those who permitted eating fish with milk (Pri Chadash, Chida, Shulchan Gevoha). And in recent times, thus wrote Rabbi Shalom Mesas (Shemesh U’Magen 4, Y.D. 12), and Rabbi Haim David Halevi (Mayim Chaim 3:24).

Members of All Ethnic Groups are Permitted to Be Lenient

In practice, all ethnic groups are permitted to eat fish with milk today, since from a halachic aspect, we have learned that there is no prohibition whatsoever, and the custom of Jews for generations – during the periods of the Mishna, Talmud, and Rishonim, was to eat fish with milk.

And even those who were accustomed to be machmir (strict), did so only for medical reasons, and since nowadays doctors agree that there is no danger, the prohibition is nullified.

This is not casting aspersions on the minhag of previous generations who took into consideration the dangers, for perhaps in the past in certain geographical locations there was bacteria present in milk that when it came in contact with fish caused diseases, and from experience, doctors in those places ordered to avoid eating fish with milk. And since it is a mitzvah to be careful of dangers, the rabbis in those places instructed to listen to the doctors. But today when we are accustomed to pasteurize milk, those diseases should be of no concern.

Therefore, even people whose previous custom was to be ‘machmir‘ and not eat fish with milk, today are permitted l’chatchila (from the outset) to eat fish with milk and cheese, because their custom of being stringent was not determined for a situation where milk is pasteurized, and all doctors agree that there is no danger of eating fish with milk.

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

Torah Study on Shabbat and Childcare

Must parents of young children who spend a great deal of time with them on Shabbat also make every effort so the husband can learn six hours? * Those engaged in the mitzvah of raising children may be lenient in Torah study on Shabbat * Torah study on Shabbat receives its importance precisely when it stems from joy and relaxation * The main requirement to study Torah six hours on Shabbat is directed towards those who waste their time on Shabbat * The moment the family situation permits, one should return to learning six hours

When Raising Children is Time-demanding on Shabbat

Q: “Rabbi, you often write about the importance of studying Torah on Shabbat for at least six hours. My husband and I enjoy following your informative articles, and try to lead our lives according to your halachic decisions, however, this issue is difficult for us and I would appreciate it, Rabbi, if you could answer my question.

To date, we have been blessed with four adorable children. They are very young and close in age and therefore, presently, taking care of them requires a great deal of effort. There is also a lot to do around the house, and the children are not yet able to help. During the week my husband, like many men, goes to daven (pray) early every morning, and then to work. Occasionally in the evening he gets to see the children for a few minutes while they are still awake, and sometimes he returns after they are all asleep. He attends the ‘Daf Yomi’ class every evening, and also helps me with the housework. In effect, during the week he is virtually unable to spend time with the kids and I have to take care of them and most of the housework, in addition to my own work, which is more than a half-time job. Shabbat is the only time when my husband can leisurely spend time with our children, and even help take care of them and give me a little break – not to mention spending quality time together, which is also missing during the week.

Our children are still young, and as a result, spending time with them requires energy and patience; we learn with them the Torah portion and recite Tehilim (Psalms), however, I can learn with them for only about a half an hour at the most. I am already alone at home with the kids when my husband goes to pray, and occasionally, those can be very difficult times.

Perhaps other parents’ kids are more well-behaved or calmer, or maybe the parents are more apathetic and don’t keep an eye on their children as carefully as I do; perhaps some of their children are older and can help out, or maybe the wife is more heroic and energetic than myself. In any case, our situation is that I need a lot of help on Shabbat, and if my husband wants to please and help me, he can achieve no more than four or five hours of Torah study on Shabbat. After all, Rabbi, having a large family is also an important and sweet mitzvah, as you have written several times…

On account of the requirement to study six hours on Shabbat, we both come out frustrated. If my husband spends more time with the family – he is frustrated for only learning four hours; and if he can study for six hours – I’m frustrated that he has not helped me enough. We haven’t been able to find any solution to the problem, except to wait a few years until the children are older.”

“Ha’Osek Ba’Mitzvah”

A: Thank you very much for the letter – it is important to remind myself and the readers of the difficulties that you raised. Actually, in fact, regarding such situations our Sages said, “One who is occupied in carrying out one mitzvah is excused from the performance of another mitzvah within the same time span” [in Hebrew, ‘ha’osek ba’mitzvah patur min ha’mitzvah‘] (Sukkah 25a). Therefore, parents engaged in the precious mitzvah of raising the children and as a result are unable to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Torah study on Shabbat, can suffice with fewer hours of study, provided they learn the maximum amount of time possible, given their family situation.

Why not afflict oneself for the Sake of Learning?

Seemingly, one could argue that since such a situation does not fall under the category of ‘onus gamor’ (a situation in which a person has no control over), both the husband and wife should be obligated to afflict themselves so that the husband can study at least six hours, thus fulfilling our Sages statement that half of Shabbat should be devoted to Torah (Pesachim 68b). It could be further argued that even women themselves must make an effort to study Torah on Shabbat despite all the difficulties, seeing as this is the duty of the day, as our Sages said: “Shabbat day and Festivals were given to us for the sole purpose of engaging in Torah study” (Yerushalmi, Shabbat 15:3).

Not only that, but in the book ‘Ben Ish Hai’ it is written: “The Kabbalists, of blessed memory, wrote that one hour of Torah study on Shabbat is equal to a thousand hours of Torah study during the week” (introduction to the Torah portion ‘Shemot’).

Even before answering, I will add another question: If a person had been told that tomorrow the price of a certain share on the stock market was about to go up a thousand times, in other words, if he were to buy a share for a hundred shekels today he could sell it for a hundred thousand shekels tomorrow evening, he would run and sell all of his possessions – his house, car, and all his belongings – his furniture, clothing, shoes, and even the laces on his shoes! With barely a shirt on his back, he would run with all the money he amassed and buy that stock, because the following evening he would be extremely wealthy, and able to buy as many mansions, cars, and furniture as he wished. The whole lot, a thousand times more.

If so, why shouldn’t one make a heroic effort to learn Torah for a full twenty-four hours on Shabbat? Isn’t it a shame to waste time on meals and sleep when every hour of study is worth a thousand times more?

Torah Study Stemming from Pleasure and Relaxation

The answer is that an hour of Torah study on Shabbat is worth a thousand times more specifically because it occurs together with pleasure, relaxation, and family enjoyment. That’s why it is so valuable, and that’s why it is ‘may’ain olam ha’ba’ (a taste of the World to Come); a world in which the soul and body unite in harmony, similar to the ideal world which will exist after ‘Techiyat Ha’Maytim’ (the Resurrection of the Dead). And therefore our Sages instructed: “Divide it (Shabbat): Devote half to God, and half to yourselves” (Pesachim 68b).

But if a person cuts back on his eating and sleeping in order to engage in learning Torah, he will not merit the virtue of study on Shabbat. And thus, the Talmud relates that when Rabbi Zeira saw yeshiva students studying arduously on Shabbat, at the expense of ‘oneg Shabbat’, he would say to them: “I beg of you – do not profane it” – i.e., do not profane the Shabbat by neglecting its delights and good cheer [‘oneg‘] (Shabbat 119a).

Consequently, it is clear that when our Sages said: “The Shabbat is to be given over completely to Torah” (Tanna De’be Eliyahu Rabbah 1), the intention was that time spent in eating and sleeping, given that they add joy and vitality to Torah study, are considered as time related to Torah, and therefore, together with them, the Shabbat is given over completely to Torah.

The Flexibility Required in Observance of the Mitzvah

Thus, the main point of Torah study on Shabbat is that it should stem from ‘oneg‘ and relaxation of the meals and rest, and from joy and peace between husband and wife; study from which the entire family gains pleasure, and from which blessing and light is drawn into the six working- days.

Therefore, during the years when the effort required to raise children is particularly great, to the point where, in effect, a husband cannot maintain proper study without causing sorrow to his wife, there is a need to compromise and consider how many hours he can learn without harming the joy of life.

The requirement of Torah study on Shabbat is directed at people who waste their time in vain on the holy Shabbat with small talk, reading newspapers, and excessive eating. However, parents merited with raising young children who need supervision and care, and cannot manage without the husband curtailing his Torah study, may do so l’chatchila (in the first place) – until the children grow up and are able to care of themselves, and even help take care of younger siblings and house chores.

One Must Be Vigilant

Nevertheless, one must be vigilant and when the time comes that the children have grown up, hasten his fulfilment of the mitzvah to study Torah on Shabbat in its entirety. Our Sages said that in the wake of the twenty-two years that Yaacov spent in Lavan’s house and did not honor his parents, he was punished through the abandonment of his son Yosef for twenty-two years. Seemingly, one could ask: After all, Yaacov went to Haran on the command of his parents to take a wife! Why was he punished for it? However, Yaacov spent only twenty years with Lavan, but on the way back to Eretz Yisrael, he delayed two years more than he should have. Since he did not hasten to return to his parents, it is considered as if during the previous twenty years he did not want to honor his parents.

By the same token, one who is unable to study Torah properly because his family situation does not allow it, must be very careful that when the burden of child-care decreases, he must return to observe the mitzvah of Torah study on Shabbat properly. And if one is careless and does not fulfill the mitzvah, in retrospect, it will become clear that not only because of his desire to please his wife did he reduce his study, but also because he himself preferred to slack-off from Torah study.

(On another occasion, I will explain that there is a mitzvah to study Torah on Shabbat for women as well, however their mitzvah is not as fixed and binding as it is for men).

Don’t Be Upset

I received a follow-up question:

“Rabbi, thank you very much for the detailed answer, but I’m still confused: Maybe I really don’t need my husband’s help on Shabbat? It could be that I’m spoiled, and in truth, I could be stronger and allow him to learn six hours as he would like to?

A: Indeed, there are women who are able to bear a greater burden, and others who are so happy with their husband’s learning that even though it imposes a heavy burden on them, they accept it with joy, so their husbands can increase their learning. Nevertheless, if in practice it causes you grief instead of satisfaction, you and your husband must be flexible, and devote fewer hours to study.

However, it could be that the more you delve into the importance of Torah study, the stronger you will be. And perhaps the matter is dependent on your husband – that he should learn in a more complete and deeper way, so that you will also feel the joy, light, and blessing of his learning. In any event, everybody has their own ordeals, and ‘lefum tzara agra’ (according to the pain, is the reward). As long as we are not talking about excessive indulgence, but rather a situation where the burden of childcare truly is as great as you described, you can ask your husband to help more in order to fulfill the mitzvah of ‘oneg Shabbat’, in Torah and the in the meals, as appropriate to your current situation.

In the meantime, you and your husband should not be saddened by this, but take enjoyment in the enormous mitzvah of raising children. And thanks to this great mitzvah, you will be worthy throughout the years to constantly increase your Torah study with great pleasure and contentment, and merit to complete all the missing hours twice over, until a ripe old age.

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

Between Meat and Milk

Torah prohibitions concerning meat and milk * Our Sages forbade eating meat with milk even when not cooked, and therefore required having to wait between meat and milk * According to the Talmud, one must wait between meals, but the poskim disagreed how to define that * Most poskim, including those from Ashkenazic communities, instructed to wait six hours * Those who keep one or three hours should not be opposed * Some people wait five hours plus, but it is preferable to wait six whole hours * Meat stuck between teeth after more than six hours * Why are we required to wait an extended period of time after eating meat?

Meat and Milk

The Torah prohibited cooking meat with milk, as it is written in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim: “Do not cook meat in milk, even that of its mother” (Exodus 23:19). This prohibition is mentioned three times in the Torah, teaching us that there are three elements of the prohibition: a) it is forbidden to cook milk and meat together. B) It is forbidden to eat them together. C) It is forbidden to derive benefit from them (Chulin 115b).

The Torah prohibition is precisely when mixing milk and meat by means of cooking, because the process of cooking blends the two thoroughly. But when the tastes of meat and dairy are not mixed by means of cooking, such as by soaking, there is no Torah prohibition against eating them, however our Sages forbade eaten such mixtures (S. A., Y.D., 87:1).

Eating Dairy Foods after Eating Meat

Since our Sages prohibited eating meat and milk even without having been cooked together, they forbade eating dairy foods after eating meat, lest a particle of meat or its taste remained in one’s mouth, and as a result, meat and milk would be eaten together.

In regards to this, Mar Ukva, one of the great Amoraim said: “I am as vinegar is to wine”; in other words, his father was strict, and would wait twenty-four hours between eating meat and dairy, whereas he would wait only until the following meal (Chulin 105a).

The Rishonim differed with regards to Mar Ukva’s statement. Some say according to the letter of the law, after eating meat one can cleanse his mouth by eating something else and rinse it by drinking, and would then be permitted to eat dairy food immediately. Mar Ukva would not cleanse and rinse his mouth, and therefore had to wait until the next meal (Bahag, RaZaH, Rabeinu Tam).

In practice, there are no poskim who follow this lenient opinion, rather, all follow the opinion of the vast majority of Rishonim who believed that the custom of Mar Ukva is the required halakha, since it seems that he did not follow his father’s minhag chassidut (custom of extreme piety), but went according to the letter of the law. Therefore, it is forbidden for one who eats a meat meal to eat milk until the following meal. However, the Rishonim differed in the meaning of this, and out of their disagreement branched the differences in Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs.

Ashkenazic Custom

According to the opinion of some of the leading Ashkenazi Rishonim, what we have learned from the words of Mar Ukva is that it is forbidden to eat meat and milk in the same meal, but if one were to recite the Birkat Hamazone (Grace after Meals), clean-off the table, cleanse and rinse his the mouth, it would be permissible for him set a table for a dairy meal, since it would be considered a different meal (Tosephot, Ravyah). But since it is explained in the Zohar that one should not eat meat and dairy in the same hour, one should be meticulous to wait at least an hour between eating meat and milk. This is the custom of some Ashkenazim (Rema 89:1; Schach 7).

The Custom of Sephardim and Most Poskim

According to the majority of Rishonim, seeing as the usual waiting time between meals was approximately six hours, this is the required amount of time to wait between eating meat and milk (Rambam, Itur, Rosh, Rashba, and Ran). This is the custom of all Sephardim, and most Ashkenazim (S. A. and Rema 89:1).

The Ashkenazic Custom in Recent Times

Although in the times of the Rishonim the accepted practice in Ashkenaz was to wait one hour between eating meat and milk, since most Rishonim wrote to wait six hours, the Ashkenazic rabbis at the beginning of the Achronim period tended to lean towards this opinion. In the words of Rema: “The simple custom in these countries is to wait for one hour, after which one may eat cheese…the more scrupulous wait six hours after eating meat to eat dairy, and this is the proper custom.”

There are families in Western Europe who in principle accepted the opinion of the majority of Rishonim that between meat and milk one must wait the amount of time between meals, however, since the shortest waiting time between meals is three hours, their custom is to wait three hours between eating meat and milk (see, Darchei Teshuva 89:6).

There were eminent Achronim in Ashkenaz who encouraged everyone to wait six hours after eating meat, as Rabbi Shlomo Luria wrote, that anyone “who has even a scent of Torah” should act stringently and wait six hours. His words were quoted by Rabbi Shabtai Cohen in his important commentary to the Shulchan Aruch (Schach, 89:8). About a hundred and fifty years ago, this minhag became binding in Eastern Europe, to the point where the Aruch HaShulcan wrote: “It is the common practice in all of the Diaspora to wait six hours and God forbid to change this, and one who does is in the category of “ha’poretz geder” (one who breaks down Rabbinic ‘fences’, and as a result, deserves to be bitten by a snake) (89:7).”

Should Those Who Wait One or Three Hours be Encouraged to be Stringent?

Since it is appropriate to highly respect Jewish customs founded by the eminent Torah scholars, those whose family minhag is to wait an hour or three hours should not be encouraged to change their custom. Especially when it comes to rabbinic Jewish law, since the general rule is that in rabbinic laws, the halakha goes according to the lenient opinion. And it is possible that the rabbis who encouraged everyone to hold six hours did so in communities where many people had already been accustomed to be stringent, but in communities where the custom was to wait for one or three hours, they did not encourage people to change their minhag.

Six Hours after the Conclusion of Eating Meat until the Beginning of Eating Dairy

As we learned, the accepted minhag is to wait six hours between eating meat and milk. The waiting period is from the conclusion of eating meat until the beginning of eating dairy, even if from the time of Birkat Hamazone until nitilat yadayim (ritual washing of the hands) of the following meal, six hours did not pass (Dagul Merevava 89:1).

Six hours, or More than Five?

Some poskim are of the opinion that the intention of the Rishonim was not to wait exactly six whole hours, for indeed they had no watches and most probably did not require being precise about it; rather, as long as more than five hours had passed, seeing as the sixth hour had already started, it was permitted to eat dairy (Se’ach Nahum 46). Some say that after more than five and a half hours, seeing as the majority of the sixth hour had already passed, one is permitted to eat dairy (see, Yebiah Omar, Sect. 1, Y.D. 4).

However, in the opinion of many Achronim, it is obligatory to be precise that six whole hours have passed, and this was codified in the Shulchan Aruch (89:1). And perhaps since watches have become commonplace and many people determine their time of day precisely, the separation of meat and milk should also be done accurately, and therefore, the six hours should be six whole hours.

In practice, l’chatchila (ideally) one should wait six whole hours, and be’shat ha’tzorech (when necessary) one can be lenient after five and a half hours; when the need is greater, it is possible to be lenient after five hours-plus have passed, as is the custom of some yeshiva’s, so as to maintain the learning schedule.

One who wants to be lenient l’chatchila after five hours-plus have passed has sources to rely on. Those who are scrupulous (mehedrim) are stringent to always wait six whole hours (and this is the custom of my father’s family).

In a case of doubt whether or not six hours have passed after eating meat, even the mehedrim can be lenient and eat dairy.

After Eating Food Cooked with Meat

One who eats food that was cooked with meat, although he did not actually eat the meat and therefore according to the letter of the law does not have to wait six hours, since whatever he did eat had a noticeable taste of meat, the minhag is to be stringent and wait six hours before eating dairy. Therefore, those who eat potatoes cooked with meat, or broth-soup cooked with meat, must wait six hours before eating dairy.

After Eating Food ‘Be-Chezkat Basari’

However, if one ate food that is ‘be-chezkat basari’ but has no meat taste, even though it is forbidden to be eaten together with dairy foods, after having eaten it, one can immediately eat dairy foods.

For example, a person who eats salads served at a meat meal, and the same utensils are used to serve both the meat and the salads, the salads are considered ‘be-chezkat basari‘ because they may have a little meat or grease from the meat on them, and therefore cannot be eaten with dairy foods. But since there is no meat flavor in the salads, there is no need to wait six hours after eating them.

Similarly, one who eats in a restaurant where meat and parve foods are served on the same utensils, one should not eat the parve foods with dairy foods, but after eating them, one does not have to wait six hours.

And even if meat was fried in oil, and afterwards, falafel balls were fried in the same oil, as long as they have no meat taste, one does not have to wait six hours. This is the general rule: as long as there is no clear taste of meat in the food, it is considered ‘be-chezkat basari‘ and cannot be eaten with milk, but there is no need to wait afterwards.

And conversely, after eating meat one is allowed to eat food that is ‘be-chezkat chalavi‘ as long as there is no noticeable taste of milk in it.

The Reason for Waiting between Meat and Milk

There are two main explanations given for the severity of waiting between eating meat and milk. A) Meat has a strong aftertaste and its flavor is likely to be noticeable in the mouth for up to six hours; perhaps this is caused by its taking longer to digest. B) Generally, meat is tough and pieces of it can get stuck between one’s teeth, and after six hours they become disengaged or their taste dissipates with the mouth’s saliva.

Meat between Teeth after Six Hours

One who finds a particle of meat between his teeth after six hours is required to remove it and cleanse his mouth, and then he is permitted to eat dairy food immediately (S. A., Rema 89:1). But if bediavad (after the fact) he swallowed a piece of meat that was between his teeth, since its taste had already been weakened during the time it was in his mouth, he should cleanse his mouth, and is then permitted to eat dairy food immediately.

One who finds a piece of meat between his teeth in the course of six hours should remove it from his mouth and is not required to wash his mouth, because until six hours pass, the meat will have already lost its taste completely.

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

Halakha and the Hilltop Youth

Hilltop Youth: Even if their arguments against the establishment are justified, engaging in settling and building rather than attacking and destroying, is called for * Criticism of the establishment – only out of a recognition of the importance of the State of Israel

The Method of Halakha

Q: With all due respect Rabbi, why do you label the hilltop youth and their supporters as “troublemakers”, and further add that some of them even act maliciously? After all, for years they’ve witnessed that new communities have not been built and that construction in the existing communities has been frozen, while on the other hand, the government channels funds to the Palestinian Authority and refrains from destroying houses the Arabs build illegally adjacent to the communities and on the sides of the roads. The youth also recall the expulsion from Gush Katif and the violent terrorist attacks. They hear the murderous Arab incitement against the Jews, while on the other hand, they see the army opening roads for them, and handling them tolerantly. They’re also angry at the settlers who build houses with Arab workers. Against all this, they rebel, break the boundaries, and try to take revenge on the Arabs and deter them as best they can. Why call them “troublemakers”?

A: Most of the arguments are justified. However, this is the reality in which we live; this is our nation, and this is the government they have chosen. Within this reality, we must decide whether to participate in the mitzvah of settling and defending the land, or setting-up tin shanties and tents in vain, and bickering hysterically. This is how the Torah instructs us: questions we are faced with are decided according to the rules of halakha.

For instance, a dangerously ill person whose only hope of survival is to undergo surgery, but the only doctor who can operate on him is a depraved, vulgar surgeon known to be sloppy at times and consequently, some of his patients have died. One could say it would be better if everyone were healthy, and demand the doctor be a decent and professional person. However, the situation requires a decision: if the patient does not undergo surgery, he will likely die; if he is operated on by the problematic surgeon, there is a reasonable chance he will recuperate. A person guided by halakha is obligated to make the decision that in the given situation, the patient must undergo surgery. If his relatives throw stones at the doctor, curse at the nurses and disrupt the treatment, a person guided by halakha is obligated to take action to stop the disturbances, even though there is considerable truth in their claims, and their anger is understandable.

The same goes for the building of the nation and the land. One can choose to see the negative side and complain about the government, the judiciary system, the army and the people, and occupy himself with setting-up tents and tin shanties, demonstrations and altercations. Or, he can choose the good – to build the nation and the land to the extent possible in accordance with Torah guidance, and at the same time, formulate educational and academic frameworks in order to produce worthier leadership for tikun olam, in the word of God.

Criticism of the Establishment

Q: Rabbi, why don’t you write criticism about the establishment? Are the troublemaker youth and their supporters the only problem? Is this not an attempt to curry favor with the leaders in order to please them?

A: In dozens of articles I sharply criticized all government agencies and the establishment: the administration and the army, the police and the courts, the prosecutor’s office and the media, education and culture. Only someone who deliberately wishes to ignore the things I’ve written over the years can make such an accusation. I have even paid a price for it. Moreover, I can now relate that approximately a year ago, a few months after Yeshiva Har Bracha was reinstated in the Hesder program after being expelled, I decided to resign my post as the Rosh Yeshiva, and function solely as the head of Torah studies so I could express myself freely without fear my words would cause damage to the yeshiva students and soldiers. In spite of all this, all my criticism stems from a basic positive attitude, and therefore, is also beneficial.

The Positive Basis

The criticism is beneficial because alongside of it, I stand in amazement in face of the miracle of the State of Israel and all of its’ institutions, a miracle revealed through the devotion of the multitudes of Jews who acted on behalf of the ingathering of the exiles, the establishment of communities, economic development, and risked their lives defending the nation and the land in the IDF and other security forces. And although there have been serious and painful failures, it is impossible not to see the immense goodness. Thus, our teacher and guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l, repeatedly taught for decades: “Kiddush Hashem is greater than chillul Hashem.” In other words, when there is an aspect of ‘kiddush Hashem‘ and ‘chillul Hashem‘ in a certain issue, the side of ‘kiddush HaShem’ is greater and transcends. Nonetheless, the ‘chillul Hashem’ and the need to correct it, should not be overlooked.

All the more so when in truth, any honest observer must admit that the good side is far greater than that of the bad. On the side of good are all the people who bear the burden of the existence of the State of Israel – the soldiers and commanders, the government officials and police officers, the scientists and businessmen, the educators and lawyers, and others. All of these people, when in Israel, are linked to the Torah, the nation, and the land – far more than our brothers in the Diaspora – and all this, thanks to the State of Israel.

In Chutz l’Aretz, only about ten percent of Jews are observant, the majority of young people are assimilating in mixed-marriages, and over fifty percent of them have almost no connection with Judaism or Israel. Whereas in the State of Israel, the situation is immeasurably better. Approximately thirty percent of the Jews living here are religiously observant, about fifty percent are traditional, and the vast majority of the remaining twenty percent identify with the Jewish nation, and are willing to endanger their lives for the sake of the collective, Clal Yisrael.

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


 

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed