Gid Hanasheh and World Challenges

Gid Hanasheh, which according to the deeper teachings of the Torah is connected to Tisha B’Av, represents the weak point of the Jewish people * Out of all the tendons in the body, the angel representing Eisav succeeded in injuring the tendon that connects the upper part of the body to the legs, in other words ideas and the heart, to reality * When a breach exists between spiritual and practical people, the spirituals lose their grip on reality and their influence wanes, and the people of action are dragged after this world and its desires * At the root of the problems of our generation, upon which we are mourning during these days, is the disconnect between the spiritual and practical people, and we must act to reconnect them

Gid Hanasheh and Tisha B’Av

During these days when we mourn the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to learn a little about the prohibition against eating the gid hanasheh, which, according to the Kabbalists, is related to Tisha B’Av. For the 365 tendons in the body are compared to the 365 days of the year, and the prohibition of the gid hanasheh is related to the day of Tisha B’Av, which is hinted at in the verse: “The Israelites therefore do not eat the displaced nerve (gid hanansheh) on the hip joint to this very day” (Genesis 32:33) – not to eat on Tisha B’Av. (Zohar and Midrash Ha’Ne’Elam). Before we expand upon the reasons of the commandment, we will explain its laws.

Hilchot Gid Hanasheh

Although the beginning of the gid hanasheh is in the spinal cord and ends at the end of the leg, only the part that passes next to the hip on the thigh is forbidden from the Torah, because it is on the “hip socket of the thigh”. In a large bull it is about eight centimeters long, and in a large sheep about four centimeters (Rama, Yoreh Deah 100: 1; Taz, ibid 3). Our Sages also prohibited the beginning of this tendon from the spine and its continuation until the end of the thigh. They also prohibited the tendrils of the gid hanasheh, i.e. the branches that spread into the flesh on the thigh, and also forbade the outer tendon that is secondary to the gid hanasheh. The holy Jewish people are customary to also prohibit the fat around tendon and tendrils. The removal of all the parts that are forbidden from the words of the Sages and due to Jewish custom is a complex task that requires learning.

Although the taste of the gid hanasheh is very faint and almost imperceptible, nevertheless, since the Torah forbids it, those who eat it with the thigh, even though they do not enjoy its taste, transgress the Torah prohibition, which is punishable by lashes. The tendrils and fat around the tendon forbidden by the Sages and custom are tasty, and therefore if cooked in a dish, as long as the taste is noticeable in the dish – the dish is forbidden to be eaten. Gid hanasheh is forbidden to eat, but one is permitted to gain pleasure from it (S.A., Y. D. 65: 9-10).

The Dispute with Esau’s Ministering Angel

It is told in the Torah (Genesis 32) that when our father Yaakov returned to the Land of Israel and passed his family over the Jordan, a man fought him at night. When he saw that he could not defeat Yaakov, he struck his thigh, and from then, Yaakov’s leg was lame and he limped on his thigh. But Yaakov Avinu did not surrender and struggled with the man until dawn, and then it turned out that the man was an angel, and only after he blessed Yaakov did Yaakov agree to send him on his way. Our Sages said the same angel was Eisav’s ministering angel, and their struggle had risen up to the Throne of Glory because it touched the very foundations of faith. Eisav’s minister asks that this world behave in its own, natural way, i.e., according to its physical interests; whereas Yaakov Avinu seeks to correct this world by faith, values, and Torah. When Eisav’s angel saw he could not overcome him, because of the strength of his faith, he struck his weak spot – the gid hanasheh.

Connecting the Upper Part of the Body to the Legs

Through the gid hanasheh, the nervous system moves from the spine to the legs. Spiritually, it connects the upper parts of man, his head and heart, which express man’s thoughts and feelings, to the legs which express action. The injury to the gid hanasheh conveyed Eisav’s claim: While your talk about faith is lofty and beautiful, and the values are ideal, nevertheless, in practice, it is doomed to failure. It is impossible to lead the world according to the values of holiness, because sins triumph over. Not only that, but even the righteous themselves fall into sin, as indicated by the gid hanasheh being located next to one’s intimate area of the body. The word “nasheh” in Hebrew stems from the words ‘chul’shah‘ (weakness), “shichachah” (forgetfulness), and “shinui” (change), in other words, in the transition to the legs and the world of action – the good ideas are weakened and neglected.

The Disconnect between the Practical and the Spiritual

This is what our Sages said in the Zohar, that by way of this injury, the angel of Eisav harmed the connection between practical people and those who are spiritual, and by doing so, the people of deed are weakened, forget their partnership in the observance of the Torah, and do not maintain talmidei hakhamim (Torah scholars). As such, the spiritual people have no feet to stand on, they fall, and the Shekhina (Divine Presence) departs from the world, since they deny the value of the resting of the Shekhina; the Temple is destroyed, and Israel is exiled from their Land.

Our Sages also said in the chapter Gid Hanasheh (Chulin 92a) that they sent from the Land of Israel to Babylon to ask for mercy, and the fruit (i.e. the Torah scholars) should pray for the leaves (i.e., the ‘amei ha’aretz‘ [lit., the people of the land], because if it were not for the leaves, the fruit would not exist. In other words, without the support of the practical people, the spiritual people would not exist (as R. Zadok of Lublin explained in Kometz HaMincha 2: 80).

This is also the foundation of the mitzvot of terumot and maaserot, by which Israel is connected to the Kohanim and Levites, who guard the sanctity of the kodesh, and teach Torah to Israel. As a continuation of this, our Sages also determined that other forms of livelihood would also provide for the maintenance of Torah scholars and its teachers, so that practical people would be connected to the values of holiness, and Torah scholars would teach Torah to Israel.

Tzadikim without Grounding in Reality

Our Sages (Bereishit Rabbah 77: 3) also said that the damage to the gid hanasheh harmed “the righteous men and women, the men and women prophets who were to stem from him.” And in the Zohar it is explained that the ministering angel of Eisav harmed all the prophets except Moses; in the wake of the injury to the gid hanasheh, the prophets are unable to accept their prophecy while standing, but only after having fallen. The inability to stand indicates weakness in the complete, precise and practical expression of prophecy; without practical people who are connected to the righteous and the prophets, the righteous are unable to fulfill their ideas in reality, and the prophets are unable to express the ideas of their prophecy in a stable and precise manner. In other words, the men of action support the men of spirit in all respects – both in that they maintain them with donations and tithes and money, and devote themselves to the realization of spiritual ideas in the world of action, and only by doing so can the righteous men and women, the male and female prophets, direct and refine their words. Otherwise their ideas will also fall.

Faith until ‘Alot HaShachar’

Following the injury to the gid hanasheh which continued the distancing between the men of spirit and the men of action, sins increased, causing the death of the righteous with the rest of the people during the days of destruction and terror, when darkness covered the Land. Nevertheless, our father Yaakov stood bravely against Eisav’s angel until alot ha’shachar (dawn), and when the light began to shine, the angel realized that Yaakov could overcome the obstacles and cross the Yabuk River passage, build the house of Israel in the Land, and reveal the Divine Presence in the world. Consequently, he had to agree, and bless him.

The act of the fathers is a sign for the sons – namely, that Israel will stand with courage and devotion against all those who rise up against them to destroy them, until the light of their redemption shines, and all those who defy them will bless them against their will (Sefer HaChinuch 3). Then the ‘gid she’nasheh’, i.e., the tendon that was displaced, will return to its place, and the connection between the thoughts in the mind and the good desires of the heart will be completed into the actions of the legs.

We find, therefore, that the caution in prohibiting the eating of the gid hanasheh hints at the preservation of the connection between the world of the spirit and the world of action. Anyone who eats this tendon, it is as if he accepts the awesome lacking caused by its being displaced, and causing a certain separation between the spiritual world and the world of action.

The War on the Sinners of Israel

At the Yabuk crossing, where the ideas from the spiritual world pass into the world of action, occasionally change for the worse, as our Sages (Chulin, 91a) have said that Yaakov returned in the dark of night to the other side of the river to bring small jugs forgotten there. These small jugs hint to the weak, and to the sinners of Israel, which Yaakov, as well, did not give up upon, because without them, Knesset Yisrael is incomplete and cannot repair the world. The weakness of these people is not because of their wickedness, but because their role is to reveal holiness within the earthly reality, and sometimes this role is very difficult, because until all material inclinations are corrected, the world’s lusts are liable to overcome and cause people to sin. The place indicating these souls in Jacob’s body, the father of Israel, was the gid hanasheh, near the place of lust. Therefore, this was the place of the weakness of Yaakov, where Eisav’s angel could cause damage.

Though the gid hanasheh has great importance, through which the nerves pass to the legs, it has no taste. This is also the way people who deal with the world of action and lusts feel at times – they do not feel the goodness while performing the commandments. Similar to the aravah (the willow), which has no taste and no smell, but it must be in the four species, and the entire tikkun depends on it (Peninei Halakha Sukkot 4: 2-3). Since at times the practical people do not enjoy the mitzvah, many of them tend to sin. In the end, however, the sun rose for Yaakov, and he overcame the angel, just as the wicked of Israel will eventually be corrected. Perhaps this is why the holy Jewish nation have been so strict in the fulfillment of the prohibition against the gid hanasheh, to the point that after our Sages forbade its tendrils, Jews would also prohibit its fat, which has taste, and perhaps further attracts the sinners of Israel to sin.

The Tikkun for Our Times: Connecting Spirit and Practice

In our times as well, the lacking is mainly in the sin of the gid hanasheh, namely, the connection between the great idea of the State of Israel and yishuv ha’aretz, to a practical life that fails to connect properly to the idea. From this, all of our problems arise: concerning Hok Ha’Leum (the Nationality Law), concerning the settlement of the Land, concerning the encouragement of aliyah as the vision of the Torah and the prophets. Concerning Torah scholars who are not connected to the world of action, and men of action who disparage the people of the Torah. Our Sages said: “Each generation in which it [the Temple] is not built in its days, they are deemed as having destroyed it” (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1). For this we must mourn, so that we will act with all our strength and ability to connect heaven and earth in the building of the Land and the Temple.

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

Invitation

We are proud to invite you to a shiur from
HaRav Eliezer Melamed shlit “a
Rav and Rosh Yeshiva of Har Bracha and author
of the acclaimed Peninei Halakha series.

On the topic: “Study Torah on Shabbat”
followed by a discussion of breaking Shabbat
Yom Kippur and to save a life.
The shiur will be in Hebrew.

Rav Melamed’s shiur will include a special introduction to the English series of Peninei Halakha. There will be volumes for sale in Hebrew and English.

The Shiur will take place in Modi’in.

BeitMidrash

Uproot Terrorism from its Islamic Source

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

Islamic Terrorism

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

The Growing Tension between the West and Muslims

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

Criticism of the West and its “Experts”

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

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

The Religion of Islam

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

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

Islam’s Influence on Inter-Personal Relations

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

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

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

Islam – A Religion of War

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

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

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

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

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

How to Deal with the Islamic Threat

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

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

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

The Detrimental Social-Welfare Policy

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

Leftist Policies Creates Ungrateful People

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

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

The Crisis in Islam

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

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

Europe’s Response

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

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

 Break Free from Materialism

The inhabitants of Sodom worshiped material wealth, and anyone who gave charity to the poor was considered a heretic * The pursuit of materialism is never satisfied * Today as well, some people value a person according to his wealth * The price paid by society for worshipping the rich * For those enslaved to materialism, their salaries will never be enough to cover their expenses * The solution is to break free from enslavement to materialism and live a more spiritual life; but to do so, a supportive environment is also needed  * A story of kindness, hospitality and the joy of Sukkot

The Sin of the People of Sodom – Materialism

The sin of Sodomites was that they believed materialism was man’s goal in life. They worshipped the material, offered sacrifices to it, and all their laws were designed for its sake. The life of the wealthy was considered valuable in their eyes, and therefore, it was only fitting for them to earn more and get richer. On the other hand, the life of the poor was considered valueless, and as a result, they made ​​sure the poor would die, or at the very least, disappear from their country. Consequently, anyone who gave charity to the poor was severely punished, and considered a heretic and a defiant against the gods of their money and gold.

In contrast to Avraham Avinu who would seek out guests, the people of Sodom said: “Who needs these strangers? They come only to take our money.” They decreed not to host any more guests, and if by chance a wealthy passerby was found within their midst, they would find a legal pretext to kill him and take his money, as they sought to do to the angels who came to visit Lot (see, Sanhedrin 109 a-b).

‘And Yet the Soul is not filled’

However, no matter how rich a person is – how much clothing, furniture, houses or cars he buys – his life will not be any better. His inner longing is for a life rich in spirituality and values. On the contrary, the pursuit after the incorrect challenge, which does not lead to true satisfaction, will only make his life hollower. The subsequent destruction of Sodom expressed the true reality of those whose entire lives revolve around materialism – they have no soul and perish; even the ground they leave behind remains desolate.

The Dross of Sodom in Our Days

In this day and age, after the values of the Bible have spread throughout the world, there are virtually no wicked people who would dare make vicious declarations like the people of Sodom, but a lot of residue from the Sodomites still remains. Many people believe that a person’s worth is measured according to his wealth, the house he lives in, the car he drives, and the brand-name clothing he wears. Flocks of sycophants and admirers surround the rich. The media covers their glittering events in detail – as  if that is the real life. Most of our elected officials worship them as well.

In the end, when the affluent damage natural resources and public interests, or oppress their employees – few dare to stand up against them. This is how they are able to purchase state-owned companies for a quarter of the price, create cartels, prevent fair competition, raise prices, and continue to get rich at the expense of the general public. That’s the price that the public pays for their stupidity of worshiping tycoons.

Living in Overdraft

A lot of people say: ‘We don’t revere wealthy people, and don’t judge a person by his income level’,  but nevertheless, they also are enslaved to the culture of materialism: the fact is, that at the end of the month, their bank accounts are overdrawn. They feel they need to constantly buy things, and no matter how much money they earn – they will always find reasons to spend all the money in their possession. When they made seven thousand shekels, they thought that if they could only make eight thousand, they would be satisfied. But lo and behold, when they make ten thousand shekels, they claim they need another two thousand a month; and even when their income rises to 15,000 shekels a month, it turns out they need more.

Life that revolves around materialism creates a sense of emptiness and a incompleteness. 

The Solution: Living a Life of Spirituality

The solution to this problem is understanding that man’s true purpose is spiritual. Money and possessions are important tools to assist a life of spirituality, but they are not the objective. When a person is constantly engaged with his money and possessions, he turns everything upside down. The tools become his goal, and as a result, his life does not have true meaning.

If he’s able to make an honest reckoning, he will realize that most of his money he spent on luxuries – and  neglected the important things. He didn’t invest enough in enlarging his family and providing a proper education for his children, and did not leave himself time to learn and do good deeds.

Society

The problem is that even someone who manages to fill his life with spiritual content, enjoys learning, is happy to help friends, contributes to society and participates in the settlement of the Land of Israel – against his will, he is influenced by the materialistic culture surrounding him that dictates a standard of living in which a person who is unable to attain it, feels poor.

Society imposes too high a level of housing, and even in the field of religious education – society dictates excessively high costs. Only a society which sets for itself value-based ideals can create a solution to this problem. One of the principles that should guide such a society is that someone who earns a minimum wage should be able to live reasonably, without requiring charity and goodwill.

It doesn’t make sense that in a generation such as ours, in which the standard of living has risen remarkably, and even people who earn the minimum wage can live as the rich did fifty years ago, there are so many people who feel they cannot buy a house, raise children, and provide them with a quality education.

In order to completely break free from the bondage of materialism, it is necessary to build a society which places its spiritual values ​​in the forefront; a society which understands the great importance of the material as a tool, but does not turn it into a value that shoves aside and stifles spiritual values. This is the mission that was placed on the Nation of Israel to be an Am Segula(Chosen People), to reveal the Divine Presence in the world, and to be a role model for all nations – ‘until the earth is filled with the knowledge of Hashem as the waters cover the sea.’

A Story

On the Shabbat in which we learn about themitzvah of hachnasat orchim (hospitality), I thought to add a nice story about it.

My wife, Rabbanit Inbal, initiated a nice custom in the community of Har Bracha. On Chol HaMoed Sukkot, the women gather for a holiday party, and anyone who has a nice, enriching story about something that happened during the chag(holiday) or throughout the year, shares it with her friends. Not by chance the holiday of Sukkot was chosen for this party, because Sukkot is the festival of harvesting, where we gather all the good things that happened to us during the year, and therefore, it is a particularly joyous holiday.

The women relate exceptionally beautiful stories, and within a few days, the men in the community also hear about the interesting stories, and pass them on.

This year, a woman in her thirties related the following story: “My father passed away 15 years ago, about a month after the holiday of Sukkot, which he loved dearly. Since then, my siblings and I have tried to fill our mother’s void. My older married sisters always invited my mother to stay with them, but she preferred to stay at home. Being the youngest daughter in the family, I was left with my mother to celebrate the holiday at home. In order to fulfill the mitzvah of eating in the sukkah, we would go to the nearby synagogue sukkah on the holiday and Shabbat. After I got married, just like my sisters, I would continue the customary routine of inviting my mother to stay with us for chag, but as usual, she refused. So it was the case this year, as well.

As the youngest daughter, I did not feel it was my responsibility to try and change her minhag, but after lighting the holiday candles, my heart was flooded with feelings of grief. On the one hand, it is a mitzvah to be happy on the chag, but on the other hand, my thoughts drifted to my mother who was home all alone. Before my husband returned from prayers, I sat down and read the article by Rabbi Melamed in his column ‘Revivim’, which, among other things, dealt with our enormous mitzvah to cheer orphans and widows, and that hosting them in the sukkah is the true fulfillment of the mitzvah of ushpizin (a custom of “inviting” one of seven “exalted guests” into the sukkah).

I discussed this with my husband and we decidedwe would make every effort to invite my mother for Shabbat Chol HaMoed, so she could celebrate with us in our sukkah. We realized that what may have prevented her from coming were the difficulties of traveling, and also the problem of leaving her two best friends. These are two neighbors and good friends whom I’ve known since childhood, and are also widows. One is over the age of 80, and the other is in her 60’s, and was recently widowed. The three of them support each other, and eat most of the Shabbat meals together.

Immediately after Motzei Chag  (the conclusion of the first holiday), I called my mother and invited her and her friends for Shabbat, and I told her that in order to prevent the trouble of travelling for them, I would come pick them up by car, and take them back on Saturday night. My mother tried to dissuade me from my decision because of the difficulty of the trip and the hassle of preparing for Shabbat in one day (the Chag was on Thursday) – in addition to taking care of my young children. However, I remained steadfast in my decision. She admired this very much, and after realizing I was serious about inviting her two neighbors she was pleased, and agreed to pass on the invitation to both of them. Her friends were also very happy, and before long, she announced that they would be coming. My husband and I immediately began organizing the house and the cooking, so that the Shabbat would be full of joy and delicacies, with all the customary salads and dishes of immigrants from Morocco. On Friday morning we continued with the numerous preparations, and in the afternoon, I left my husband and kids, and went to pick them up.

Even as I arrived at my mother’s house, the women’s excitement and great joy was evident. The closer we got to Har Bracha, the joy and happiness grew, as they gazed at the landscape of Samaria and could not stop admiring the mountains and the Jewish settlements appearing along the way, happily looking forward to sharing Shabbat with us.

We got home, and rushed to finish the preparations for Shabbat. Candle lighting arrived, Shabbat entered, and with it, serenity, warmth and love that that enveloped us all together.

Throughout Shabbat, they were amazed by everything – by the scenery, by the fresh mountain air, by our children who were also excited to have them as guests, by the smell of the cooking, and by the amity between neighbors. In the morning I lingered in bed for a while, and all of a sudden, I heard the guests talking to each other in the living room, amazed at the peace and quiet, and that they were able to get a full night’s sleep. One of them said: ‘In my house, I always wake up at four in the morning, and here, in the quiet of the community, I slept till seven.’

To honor them, my husband took them to the Moroccan minyan in the  Yeshiva (instead of his usual Yerushalmi minyan), and they were so overwhelmed by the exact style of the prayers, and by the nice young boy who sang along with Cantor; they said that for decades, they had not heard such beautiful prayers – exactly like they had heard in their childhood – and this, despite the fact that they pray in a Moroccan synagogue every Shabbat.

When Shabbat was over, they could not stop praising the excellent atmosphere. Thus, they drove back with my husband, who they could not stop blessing all the way home, as well. They of course did not forget to tell everyone, their children and family members, about the joyous Shabbat they had.

After Shabbat departed, we were overjoyed by the great privilege we were so fortunate to have had. And without a doubt – more than we benefited from pleasing them – they pleased us.”

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

 

Merits Transformed into Transgressions

Concerning Prime Minister Ariel Sharon z”l
 
Q: Rabbi, how should we relate to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – as a good or bad person? And besides, maybe we shouldn’t deal with such questions at all, because who are we to judge a person? Are we able to examine a person’s inner recesses, and know the secrets of his heart?
A: The question of how Ariel Sharon should be judged does not bother people unconcerned about the moral dimension of life. On the contrary, most probably they would condemn individuals who ask such questions, because they are opposed to moral judgment. But for someone who moral values are central to his life, this question cannot be ignored. In particular when the various media are busy dealing with eulogies and summaries of his life, it is imperative to discuss this question, for it also bears a lesson for future generations.
Indeed, with regards to religious observance, it is difficult for us to pass absolute judgment. This is due to the fact that in recent generations, for various reasons, many of our fellow Jews have regrettably stopped observing mitzvoth bein Adam laMakom (between Man and God). As a result, many eminent rabbis have previously expressed the opinion that their actions, to a certain extent, can be considered ‘onus’ (unwilling), and in order to judge such matters, an examination of a person’s heart and inner recesses is necessary.
However, concerning the national aspect of this issue, which touches on matters between man and his fellow man, and between man and his nation which are clearly visible, we are obligated to judge according to what we see.
We are Measured according to Our Final Actions
 
It is written in the Babylonian Talmud:
“Rabbi Simeon b. Yohai said: Even if he is perfectly righteous all his life but rebels at the end, he destroys his former [good deeds], for it is said: ‘The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression.’ And even if one is completely wicked all his life but repents at the end, he is not reproached with his wickedness, for it is said, ‘and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness’.” (Kiddushin 40b).
 
Concerning this, our Sages asked: Why should a person’s final actions cancel out his previous ones? Seemingly, it would be appropriate to consider all of one’s merits and all of his transgressions, and weigh them against each other! Reish Lakish replied: “It means that he regretted his former deeds”, since he regretted his previous good deeds, he cancels them out.
All this is cited in the Jerusalem Talmud (Pe’ah 1:1) as well, with the addition of Rabbi Yochanan’s words, that if an evil person completely repented, not only are his previous sins erased, but “all the sins he committed are considered for him as merits”, or as Reish Lakish said: “Great is repentance for, because of it, premeditated sins are accounted as errors” (Yoma 86b). This is true, provided the repentance was complete and out of love.
Sanctification and Desecration of God
 
Beyond a person’s attitude towards his own actions determining their value, when a person’s final decision is well-known and publicized – it can be either a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God), or a chilul Hashem (desecration of God). For if an evil person reaches the conclusion that he had erred, indeed, his repentance is akiddush Hashem affecting many people, for here, someone who had encountered a variety of sins, in the end regretted them, and repented with all his heart. It turns out that retroactively, all the sins he committed become merits, because precisely as a result of them, many other people follow in his footsteps and repent.
On the other hand, if a righteous person decided there was no value in the mitzvoth he performed and chose to become sinful, this is a much greater chilul Hashem, for everyone says: Here is a person who genuinely understood the value of the mitzvoth,and nevertheless, decided to change his mind and become sinful – the damage caused by his actions is unending. All of the mitzvoth he performed become stumbling blocks, because precisely on account of them, others decide to abandon the proper path.
Summary
 
Consequently, everything Ariel Sharon did in building Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip was lost when he destroyed the settlements in Gush Katif and northern Samaria, and expelled their residents. However, his huge contributions in building the army, in the battles he waged fiercely and ingeniously, stand for him in good stead, seeing as he did not regret them. Presumably, even at the time of the Disengagement he believed he was concerned for the State of Israel’s security. And although his heart was apparently swayed by various personal considerations as well – in his mind, he thought he was acting for the sake of Israel’s security. Therefore, his merits as a fighter and commander stand for him in good stead, but his merits as a partner in building the country are lost.
“Do Not Believe In Yourself until the Day You Die”
 
Our Sages said: “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die, for lo, Yochanan the High Priest officiated as High Priest for eighty years, and in the end, he became a Sadducee” (Berachot 29a).
Likewise, our Sages also said:
“Typically, someone growing-up with another person in the same village for two or three years becomes his friend, yet this one (the evil inclination), grows-up with a person from his youth until his old age (always lurking to take his life). If he finds a way to topple him within twenty years – he topples him; within sixty years – he topples him; within eighty years – he topples him. Regarding Yochanan the High Priest, the Sages said he officiated as High Priest for eighty years, and in the end, he became a Sadducee. This is what King David said: “With every bone in my body I will praise him: LORD, who can compare with you? Who else rescues the helpless from the strong? Who else protects the helpless and poor from those who rob them?” – this alludes to [the rescuing of] the good inclination from the evil inclination (Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, Beshalach 11).
The Precise Wording of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l
 
At the time when Ariel Sharon served as Minister of Defense, he came to the Jerusalem Day celebration at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav. The master of ceremony introduced him, saying: “It is our honor and pleasure to welcome the ‘Minister of Defense’, Ariel Sharon”. When Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah – who chose his words with extreme precision – stood up to speak, he referred to Sharon as “our ‘military’Minister of Defense”. The listeners could have understood from his wording that only one who is also responsible for matters of emunah (faith) and trust in God, deserves to be called “Minister of Defense”. Bitachon (security), above all, is an attribute of spiritual faith, which cannot be acquired by way of political appointment.
It must also be accurately noted that while Ariel Sharon greatly assisted the building of settlements in Yesha, serving as an emissary of the government of Israel, he was not the “father” of the settlement movement. Quite the opposite, our revered mentor and teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, who encouraged settling the Land, was the father of the settlement movement. Also, the first settlers who clung to the soil with miserut nefesh (unwavering self-sacrifice) and attracted others to follow in their path can be considered the fathers of the settlement movement.
Regarding Women and Men’s Preparations for Shabbat
 
Q: Rabbi, in a class on the laws of Shabbat, we learned from your book ‘Peninei Halakha’ (Shabbat 2:3) the following halakha: “A woman who has two options – or to cook for Shabbat on Friday and be tired on Shabbat eve, or to cook Thursday and refrigerate the food, and thereby enter Shabbat calmly – it is preferable to finish cooking on Thursday, leaving just a few preparations for Friday. This is because the main mitzvah is to honor and take delight in Shabbat and to do so, it is important for her to be alert and relaxed”. My question is, why did you write about women only, without mentioning the possibility that men can take part in the cooking?
A: When I wrote that, I could not picture in my mind’s eye a common situation in which men cooked for Shabbat. Indeed, in recent years there are more men who are happy to cook for Shabbat, and still, I debated whether or not I should change the wording for them. In a women’s class on Shabbat, attended by nearly a hundred women, I asked for their advice whether I should change the wording.  Although most of them did not mind the previous choice of words, nearly half of them thought that if it was possible to change the wording without harming the flow of the passage, it would be preferable. Incidentally, this is my usual custom in cases of uncertainty about accepted norms and human judgment – to present a number of options to the participants, and ask them to vote for the one they prefer. Therefore, the residents of Har Bracha and the Yeshiva students are partners in the books I write.
With God’s help, in the upcoming editions, the wording will be as follows:
“When there are two options – to cook for Shabbat on Friday and be tired on Shabbat eve, or to cook on Thursday and refrigerate the food, and thereby enter Shabbat calmly – it is preferable to finish cooking on Thursday, leaving just a few preparations for Friday. This is because the main mitzvah is to honor and take delight in Shabbat, and to do so it is important to be alert and relaxed on Shabbat eve.”
Shalom Bayit and Kashrut
 
Q: Rabbi, following our wedding, a question arose. My father-in-law is a rabbi, responsible for providing kosher certification for factories, and in their house, they are very careful about mehedrin kashrut (strictly kosher), and don’t buy any products that are not mehedrin and certified by Badatz. On the other hand, in my parent’s house, there was never a great awareness of the differences between the different levels ofkashrut. They eat any product labeled “kosher”, and until now, this is was my custom. Currently, a disagreement has arisen about how we should conduct ourselves in our own home, and what to do when we visit our parents.
A: In general, someone who merited marrying the daughter of a rabbi who deals withkashrut, should respect his expertise and be careful to eat only food with mehedrin kashrut. If possible, you should choose eating products that he himself recommends as being on a higher level of kashrut. However, if he requests that you never eat any food that has amehedrin hechsher from a competing Badatz, or from a local rabbinate that has strictkashrut supervision – do not listen to him, because he is forbidden to disqualify other rabbis, and it is also forbidden for you to accept such invalidation. Similarly, we learned in theShulchan Aruch:
“If a father tells a child to transgress the words of the Torah, whether a positive or negative commandment, or even a rabbinical ordinance, the child should not listen to him. If a father commands his son not to speak with so-and-so, nor to pardon him until a certain time, and the son would like to make up with the person immediately were it not for his father’s command, in such a case he should not be concerned by his father’s command” (Yoreh De’ah 240:15-16), because it is forbidden to hate a Jew. However, if your father-in-law personally knows about a certain product labeled mehudar, but in truth it isn’t, you should listen to him because this does not constitute a sweeping disqualification of a certain Badatz or rabbinate.
When you visit your parents, you should eat whatever they serve you because of kibud horim (honoring one’s parents). This was also the instruction of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, that even someone whose custom is to eat glatt, as should be according to Jewish law, when a son visits his parents and there is a fear they might be insulted – if the parents eat kosher, he should eat whatever they serve. This includes your wife.
If you think you can talk about this with your parents without hurting them, ask them to eat glatt meat, for this is the most important area in kashrut. And explain to them that both you and your wife have decided to be careful about kashrut mehuderet out of respect for your wife’s father, seeing as this is his field of expertise.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.