All posts by Yonaton Behar

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:

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:

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:


Holiness Endures Forever

The mitzva of eulogizing the dead stems from the dignity of man, created in the image of God * The special duty to eulogize those martyred in the sanctification of God’s name, and while fulfilling the mitzva to settle Eretz Yisrael * Dafna Meir HY”D, lived a holy life of lovingkindness, tenacity, and devotion * Tu B’Shvat: Calculating the years of ‘orlah’ * The mitzvot of ‘orlah’ and ‘neta revai’ teach us restraint, patience, and the proper way to live our lives

The Mitzva of Hesped

It is a mitzvah to eulogize the deceased
(hesped), to reflect on his or her life as a whole, seeing all the good and truth they personified. This mitzva
is a specific application of the mitzva to dignify man, who was created in the image of God. In life, we all tend to neglect seeing the overall good in people and praise them accordingly; pressing concerns force us to deal with details. So when eulogizing an upstanding person, it is a mitzva to return to the basics and recall all the truth and goodness they exemplified.

It is also a mitzva for all the deceased’s acquaintances and friends to reawaken themselves and repent, as Scripture says: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart” (Ecclesiastes, 7:2). And if, God forbid, people are not awakened to repent, it is cause for concern. Thus, the Sages say: “When one of a group dies, the whole group should fear” (Shabbat 106a).

Certainly, then, when a member of our circle, the settlers, is sacrificed in the sanctification of God’s name and recalled to the heavenly academy, we must make a special effort to eulogize them and bind their private live with the sanctity of the Clal (the collective).

On The Sanctification of God’s Name

A martyr, someone murdered while sanctifying God’s name, because he or she was a Jew, occupies such an exalted position in the next world that they are beyond the reach of any created being (see, Pesachim 50a). To the human eye, it seems that the lives of the murdered were diminished and cut short, but in truth, in the eternal world, they are more alive than all others. They are kedoshim, holy, and “kadosh le’olam kayam” (the holy endures forever) (Sanhedrin 92a). All the more so when it comes to a woman who devoted so much of her life settling Eretz Yisrael, and who, in face of the claims of our enemies who oppose our right to make the wastelands of the Judean Hills bloom, built her home in Otniel. In the face of murderers who seek to annihilate us, threatening our lives inside our communities and on the roads stained with Jewish blood, she continued her blessed daily routine, raising a family and travelling to the hospital where she worked, displaying the strength to lovingly care for her household while being kindhearted and compassionate to every individual she encountered in her job. She did all this despite a profound awareness of the security risks involved, and of life’s travails.

Even as we shed tears over her memory, we must stand tall and make ourselves worthy of the great and awesome task we have undertaken: to fulfill the mitzva
of yishuv ha’aretz (settling Eretz Yisrael), a mitzvah equivalent to all other mitzvot; to enlarge and expand our communities to the extent possible; to fulfill, through our lives and actions, the words of the prophets; to enhance the quality of life in our communities, intensifying Torah study on Shabbat and weekdays for men and women, adults and children, and increasing acts of kindness within these communities, and towards all human beings.

As someone worthy of being a korban tzibur (communal offering), Dafna, may God avenge her blood, merited having all of Israel hear about her deeds, and shed tears in her memory. Thousands of pioneering settlers attended her funeral; distinguished rabbis and ministers spoke in her memory; and her body was carried on its final journey to eternal rest by rabbis, ministers, members of Knesset, and friends.

Testimony in Her Memory

My brother, Rabbi Yisrael Melamed, lives next-door to the Meir family. Based on what he told me, I have written some words in her memory.

Dafna was a member of the local board and often inspired the community to deal with safety and security flaws on the roads. Alongside the firm criticism that she asserted fearlessly, she made sure to finish each letter she wrote with a smile, an “emoji” of a large, beating heart, as a sign of friendship and love.

Dafna was an extremely professional nurse, and was happy to assist all who turned to her for help, free of charge. When injured children arrived at the hospital, she would deftly and skillfully stitch their wounds.

Dafna was an expert in the fields of female infertility and the treatment of difficulties in pregnancy. She had a method of contraception when required, and at times even contended with doctors and rabbis without fear or prejudice, personally fulfilling the Torah command “fear no one.” She believed that it was forbidden to spare the truth from enquirers.

Dafna worked as a nurse in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Soroka Medical Center. In order to take better care of immigrants from the Soviet Union she studied Russian. Recently, she had begun studying Arabic in order to take better care of Arab patients. Dr. Ahmed Nasser, who specializes in the department where she worked, mourned her death. He noted that it was a great privilege to have been acquainted with her, and that she even served as a mother figure for him.

Before marrying, she and her husband agreed that no matter how many children they beget, they would make an effort to adopt more. They merited to realize that dream astonishingly well.

In her personal life, Dafna experienced a great deal of suffering. She was raised in institutions and later by an adoptive family, and was able to successfully transform her difficulties and suffering into powers of creativity and chesed, lovingkindness.

‘Tree, Oh Tree, How Can I Bless You’?

Come see the difference between the Jewish nation and our enemies! Their martyrs are despicable murderers, destroyers and demolishers of the world; our martyrs – a compassionate nurse, kindhearted, engaged in the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, and tikun olam (repairing the world)!

As we approach Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of Trees, it is fitting to bless her precious children that they follow in her path and be like her –their fruit should be as sweet, their shade as pleasant. May they remain firmly rooted upon the banks of rivers – the Torah and mitzvot – adding blessing to the world.

Mitzvot of the Land – Orlah and Tu B’Shvat

In continuation, I will now discuss mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz (those that are dependent on the land) and concern Tu B’Shvat – the mitzva of ‘orlah‘ (fruits grown in the first three years of a tree), seeing as the end of three years of ‘orlah‘ fall on Tu B’Shvat (according to the shita of ReZaH, Tosephot, Rashba, and others).

The shita of the machmerim (stringent) is that the years of ‘orlah’ always end on Tu B’Shvat. The calculation is complex, and this is not the place to elaborate in detail, but in general: If a tree has taken root in the ground from the 29th of Av, then until the 1st of Tishrei, thirty days will have passed, and those thirty days are considered as a full year. Afterwards, one must wait another two years until the end of the three years; since the New Year for Trees is Tu B’Shvat, one must wait until then, because the fruits that ripen before Tu B’Shvat, ripened by virtue of rains from the previous year, when the tree was still ‘orlah‘. Therefore, in practice, the din of orlah applies to a tree for two years and five and a half months.

But if the tree has taken root in the soil from the 30th of Av onwards, since it did not accrue thirty days until the 1st of Tishrei, only on the 1st of Tishrei will the counting of the first year begin, and one will have to wait three whole years. Since the New Year for Trees is Tu B’Shvat, one will have to wait a few more months until then. Consequently, if a tree took root in the ground on the 30th of Av, the din of orlah applies for three years and five and a half months.

In chutz l’aretz (outside of Eretz Yisrael), the din of orlah is applies as a ‘halakha le’Moshe mi’Sinai’ (a Law to Moses from Sinai), but in any case of a safek (doubt), the halakha is to be meylkel (lenient), in contrast to Eretz Yisrael, where in a case of a safek, we are machmir.

The country’s borders in regards to mitzvot of orlah are the borders of olei Mitzrayim. And even according to those who are of the opinion that the southern Arava is beyond the border of olei Mitzrayim, since it is under Israeli rule, the Torah mitzva applies to it.

The Mitzvot of ‘Orlah’ and ‘Neta Revai’

It is a mitzva to refrain from enjoying the fruits of orlah, which are fruits grown in the first three years of a tree, and it is a mitzva to bring the fruits grown in the fourth year up to Jerusalem and eat them in holiness and with praise to God, and as a result, blessings will carry on to the fruits that grow from the fifth year onwards (Leviticus 19:23-25). Today, when we are unable to eat the fruit of the fourth year in purity near the altar in Jerusalem, all fruits are redeemed on a pruta, and thus, the fruits become chulin.

The meaning of the word orlah is to be sealed, such as an arel lev, or someone whose heart is impervious (Ezekiel 44:9). In other words, we are commanded that fruits of the first three years be sealed-off to us, and not be eaten or enjoyed.

The ta’am (reason) for the mitzva is to honor God with the first fruits of the tree, to eat them in kedusha (holiness) in Jerusalem, and through them, praise God for all the good he has bestowed upon us. And since in general the fruit grown in the first three years are not plentiful and the choicest, it is not fitting to praise God with them, and therefore, the Torah forbade them so that our first eating be in holiness and praise to God in the fourth year in which the fruit have already begun growing abundantly and finely. And as a result, God’s pleasantness and blessing will extend to the fruit that grows in the future years; their consumption will be coupled with emunah (faith); and will provide vitality and blessing in the world. Similarly, we find that the Torah commanded us to sanctify man’s firstborn, the firstborn of beast, and the first fruits. This is also the reason for mitzvot of terumah, challah, and reishit ha’gez (see, Ramban, ibid; Chinuch 246-247).

The Mitzva of Orlah Teaches Us the Importance of Restraint

The ability to resist temptation and defer satisfying one’s desires until the appropriate time, is a prerequisite for a person’s success in this world and the World to Come. For example, it is well-known that someone who learns diligently in his youth, will be more successful in his personal life and livelihood. Nevertheless, many young people are unable to resist temptations, are dragged after their tendencies, and waste their time with various distractions. Similarly, it is also known that friendships between young men and women for reasons other than marriage damage their ability to get married and establish a faithful and loving home, and yet, many of them are unable to resist and are dragged after their urges into stormy relationships that do not lead to a true marital covenant. And then there are people who incapable of resisting, and waste their money on luxuries, such as buying an expensive apartment for more than they can afford. As a result, they are unable to save money to marry off their children, help them learn a trade, and sustain themselves in their old age.

Adam HaRishon was also dragged after his inclination, and sinned by not being able to resist, ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, and caused death to himself and his descendants. By means of the mitzva of orlah, man learns to see his fruits grow, and to refrain from enjoying them; at the same time, he learns to overcome his desires and resist. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “Who will uncover the dust from your eyes, Adam HaRishon, for you were unable to endure your command for one hour, but behold, your sons wait for orlah three years” (Vayikra Rabba 25:2; see also, Beitza 25b).

Educational Guidance

We should learn from this mitzva educational guidance for our children, that they must learn to resist temptations in order to build-up their strengths in the light of Torah, and not depart from it while they are still undeveloped; only after their capabilities have matured properly should they set out to function in the world.

And from the mitzva of neta revai we can learn that after a person has graduated and has a profession, the beginning of his work should be l’shem shamayim (for the sake of Heaven); thereby, one will be able to continue working at his job, warranting blessing in this world, and the next.

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

Unauthorized Building Harms the Settlement Effort

Generalizing and blaming all hilltop residents for the sins of a few wild ones’ is wrong * Why publicize the criticism now? * The discussion is held to determine the path of the religious public, and not for the purpose of cleansing ourselves from leftist accusations * The need to take a harsh approach towards those whose deeds are bad, but adorn themselves in “garbs of holiness” * Establishing outposts without coordination with authorities delays municipal building permits and harms the development of the communities * Unnecessary confrontations with Arabs and the IDF by the troublemakers causes damage * Overabundant hostilities cause psychological harm to the youth and their future

No to Generalizing

I received many responses following my previous column concerning the “Duma affair.” In particular, people who bear the holy burden of settling the hilltops expressed firm support, proving my objection of including all hilltop residents in sins of the few troublemakers, because the majority of them are righteous people. One of the heads of the hilltop settlers wrote that he agreed with every word I wrote. Another added that in all the hilltop communities it is understood that whenever this group of troublemakers arrives, problems begin, and all development comes to a halt. Consequently, every hilltop community that begins to flourish makes every possible effort to distance themselves from these troublemakers.

On the other hand, some people who read the article were very upset. I received harsh allegations from parents and family members of these wild troublemakers, and many questions from their unsuspecting supporters as well. Since the majority of the arguments and questions stem from a lack of understanding, I will address a few of the questions.

The Timing of Publication

Q: Why was it necessary to publish the scathing criticism of the youth while they were being tortured and reviled? Wouldn’t it have been better to wait a few more months?

A: I did so because at the present time, good-natured and naïve people unfamiliar with their views and exploits are praising their alleged “righteousness”, as if they were hero’s representing the Torah and the struggle to settle the Land of Israel. As a result, there was an urgent need to present the matter truthfully. Nevertheless, I postponed publicizing the article for three weeks, because it was intended to remedy the situation. The aim was for the matter be discussed among the settlers and their supporters, and not by the secular media, which is controlled mostly by people who, unfortunately, are extremely hostile to our efforts. Therefore, after charges were filed and the media establishment no longer focused on the interrogations – it was time to clarify the issue.

This Position is not Intended to Clear us of Guilt

I also received the following question from the opposite direction: “Rabbi, your words of protest against the troublemakers are extremely important, but why weren’t they written at the time when all the media was dealing with the subject? Had you done so, you would have disavowed all the criminals, and removed the guilt from all of the settlers?”

A: First of all, it is not proper to disassociate from guilt, because one who is able to protest but refrains from doing so, is punished (Shabbat 54b).

Most importantly, though, condemning the troublemakers at the same time the media condemns the settlements is pointless, because their hatred of Jews and the settlements does not stem from a specific criminal act, but from deeper motives. Therefore, it was sufficient for settler representatives to express a principled position opposing violence. Anything beyond that is exploited by those who hate us. After all, leftist spokespersons exploited the murder in Duma to blame all of the right-wing, including the Prime Minister, of direct responsibility “for the killings and burning of families.” The ‘radical left’ even accused the ‘moderate left’ of legitimizing the “riots, pogroms, burning of families, and the killings of the settlers and IDF.” The enemies of the State of Israel world-wide accused all Israelis of responsibility for the policies of murder and apartheid against the “Palestinian people.” And the biggest anti-Semites blamed every Jew in the world for the murder “of the Palestinian people” who, needless to say, are the most miserable and oppressed people on the face of the earth! I wished to avoid all of this.

We should not lose hope in explaining Israel’s position, but in order to do so we need to present an ethical, principled position, instead of apologizing for violence whose significance is negligible compared to the horrible Muslim violence.

Moreover, the harsh criticism was not said in relation to other standards, rather, in relation to our own standards – those loyal to the Torah, the Nation, and the Land. People who yearn for the honor of God and Israel, who long for the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’ and the building of the Land together with the redemption stemming from it, people who greatly desire and anticipate the building of Jerusalem and the Temple, are loved in the Heavens, and are pleasant in the eyes of all people (see, Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu, Chapter: 4:14).

Why was the Criticism Written So Scathingly?

Q: Rabbi, why did you denounce the mischievous hilltop youth in such a scathing and sharp manner? Are they the worst type of kids? Shouldn’t you first condemn youth who sink into drugs and immorality?

A: Nobody thinks that youth who fall into drugs and immorality are doing a mitzvah; everyone knows they are sinners, and all discussions and lectures about morality are directed at them. No group claims in the name of Judaism and the Torah that Shabbat should be desecrated and non-kosher food be eaten. The problem created in recent years is that people whose basic aspirations are good, permit themselves to act toward Israel’s sacred ideals with violence and wickedness, and moreover, claim that by reason of “righteousness” and ” exceptional chassidut” they degrade both the Torah and its bearers – the defenders of Am Yisrael and those engaged in settling the Land. The exact opposite of all the fundamentals our teacher and guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah ztz”l, elucidated and explained in his important lectures and essays in the book “Le’Netivot Yisrael.” Therefore, it is essential to define evil as evil, because without doing so, there is no way to fix it, especially when it adorns itself in “garbs of holiness”.

Damage Caused in Three Areas

Q: What damage is there in idealists who are willing to endanger their lives for the sake of settling Judea and Samaria, establishing hilltop communities with great self-sacrifice?

A: The benefit resulting from the group of troublemakers to the settlement of the Land of Israel is highly insignificant, while on the other hand, the damage they cause is immense, particularly in three areas: a) disruption of settling the Land. B) Creating constant conflicts with the Arabs and the IDF. C) The corruption of other youth.

Settling the Land through the Expansion of Existing Settlements

It’s important to know that almost all of the hilltop communities were established under the direction of the leaders of the settlement movement, in collaboration with the most senior government offices, on land originally planned for settlement expansion. This form of settlement originated after the cursed Oslo Accords, which created heavy pressure in opposition to the construction of new settlements. The solution found was to build neighborhoods, sometimes called hilltop communities, near the settlements. Despite the difficulties and harassment, these hilltop communities evolved while receiving government funding, and most of them have already become established neighborhoods numbering thousands of families.

On the other hand, all the hilltop communities which are regularly destroyed by the army and the police are hilltops that were built by the private initiative of activists and youths on unauthorized lands. Over the years there were cases where hilltop communities were started on unauthorized land as a Zionist response to the murder of our comrades who died ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ – for the sake of God, the People, and the Land . Even hilltop communities such as these are usually destroyed, and only in rare cases when they are successfully coordinated with public officials are they allowed to remain standing, with their handling requiring enormous public resources.

Had we been fortunate, and the majority of Knesset members were ardent supporters of settlement expansion, our situation would be very good. However in practice, only about half of the Ministers and thirty MK’s actively support the expansion of settlements. In such a reality, we are working hard to continue building and absorbing families, and thank God, settlement is successfully developing at the rate of five percent per annum.

The Disruption of the Troublemakers

I will not bother you, my readers, with all the complications associated with building the Land of Israel. In general, the providing of final building permits (‘taba‘) to areas already built, or giving approval in principle to areas about to be built, depends on the houses being built according to the original plan of State authorities – even if for political or policy reasons approval of these plans have not yet been completed. This group of troublemakers are meticulous to build on unauthorized areas, thus preventing the continuation of construction planning in the adjacent settlement for many years. Not only that, as long as there is no approval for a ‘taba’, the government cannot build daycare centers, parks, schools, and any public buildings the residents of the community are entitled to it.

We the settlers have decided to dedicate our lives, and sometimes even risk our souls, for the sake of building the Land, and not to play games of “cops and robbers” with fellow soldiers and police. We settled here to fulfill the vision of the prophets and fulfill the mitzvot of settling the Land, which our Sages said is equivalent to all the other mitzvoth combined. The essence of this mitzvah is that the Land be in our hands and not in the hands of another nation, or remain a wasteland.

As well-known, continued settlement is in great danger. We cannot be confident that we will succeed. Representatives of almost all countries are pressuring us to withdraw from the heart of our country. Many of our brothers accept their position, believing that peace will come to Israel if we are uprooted from Judea and Samaria, and the law courts also interfere, placing tough obstacles in our path. Ministers and MK’s who support us are forced to face serious allegations from representatives of friendly countries. They justify themselves in that construction is carried out within the demarcations of existing settlements. To remove the danger from our nation and country – we must grow as fast as possible, especially in ‘Gav Ha’Har (the greater area of Schem in Samaria), in the most threatened places. When the communities burst at the seams because of the massive number of residents, it will be easier for us to continue expanding. These troublemakers hinder the growth and development of the communities.

Constant Conflicts

These rioters create constant conflicts with the Arabs and the I.D.F. Clashes that force the soldiers to come to their defense in order to save their lives, and then, to separate them from the Arabs. Sometimes, until the soldiers come to rescue them, SWAT teams and heads of security from other communities are summoned to save them from the Arabs. And seeing as their reports suffer from an extreme lack of accuracy, some residents in the past were quick to open fire in order to save a boy from being taken hostage and murdered. Thus, the residents got entangled in clashes, investigations, revocation of licenses to carry weapons, and loss of work. These troublemakers also attack Arab construction workers who come to build in the settlements.

Corrupting the Youth

When attempts are made repeatedly to set-up temporary structures in unauthorized places, as a result, soldiers and policemen are dragged in to destroy these buildings. Afterwards, the youth are dragged into risky activities of supposedly guarding these structures, and a constant struggle against soldiers and police. Thus, the youth accrue bitterness, frustration, and hostility towards the entire establishment. Instead of seeing everything that was built, instead of recognizing the important role of the IDF, he learns to see only the bad. There are those who are rescued from this vicious cycle, but there are youth who subsequently are thrown out of educational institutions, often get entangled in crime and even drug and alcohol abuse, and their path to being recruited into the army and acquiring an honorable profession is ruined.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including the entire series of his highly acclaimed books on halakha in Hebrew (and a few in Englis), can be found at the Yeshiva Har Bracha website:

Differentiating between Good and Bad

The sins and mistakes of the youth who oppose their parents and teachers, despise those studying in yeshiva or serving in the army, and believe that the Eretz Yisrael can be redeemed only by settling unauthorized areas of the Land * The behavior of 100 to 200 hilltop youth has reached violent and evil levels * The majority of hilltop youth are basically good people, and some are even exceedingly righteous * Our Sages on the need to rebuke children in order to educate them successfully * Allegations of torture should be checked by reliable individuals * The disobedient youth should be given the best possible integral care, in collaboration with their parents


Various questions arise following the arrest, investigation and indictment of the youth suspected of committing crimes of violence and murder. The most important question is how to prevent adolescents of good families from deteriorating into bad and destructive circles.


To speak about the suspicion of serious crimes is futile, because it could turn out the youth are not guilty, and hopefully, this will be the case. However, it is possible to address what wedo know. What is clear is that among the residents of the hilltop communities there are youth who publicly humiliate the Torah and the nation. They supposedly love the Land of Israel, but hate all those engaged in its’ settlement, and in protecting the residents who live there by virtue of the State of Israel. In abstract terms and in theory, they purportedly love the Jewish nation, but in practice, hate the Jews.


They think that the Land of Israel can be redeemed only by building in unauthorized areas of the country. Thus, they are at odds with all the righteous settlers who are engaged in the construction and expansion of the communities, and who, with their very bodies and souls, fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land), a commandment equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined, and save our nation from the terrible danger of the establishment of a terrorist state allied with hundreds of millions of murderers in Islamic countries.


They despise their peers studying Torah in yeshivas and those serving in the army who protect the people and the land. In their stupidity and arrogance, they think that on account of their wild behavior the Arabs surrounding them avoid attacking them, when in truth, without the deterrence of the I.D.F. and the Shabak, they wouldn’t be able to survive a single day.


They presume to ascend the hilltop, but God is not with them, because the Ark of God’s covenant and Moshe are in the camp with all of Israel (Numbers 14).


He who Shows Disrespect to His Father and Rabbi


Regarding a person who secretly humiliates his father and mother, the Torah says (Deuteronomy 27:16): “Cursed is he who shows disrespect for his father and mother”. How much more so is this the case regarding one who publicly humiliates his parent’s views and beliefs by way of his actions and statements.


Concerning a person who contends with his rabbis, Chazal said: “Whoever contends against the ruling of his teacher is as though he contended against the Shechinahand whoever quarrels with his teacher is as though he quarreled with the Shechinah” (Sanhedrin 110a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 242:2). And here, these individuals question, resent, quarrel and oppose our teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook ztz”l and all of his students who, in effect, are their parents and teachers.


Various Levels


Among the thousands of Jews living in the hilltop communities, there are various levels. The numbers are difficult to estimate, but perhaps one hundred to two hundred of them are can act violently and wickedly. They are liable to reach the point of murdering Arabs, or even a Jewish neighbor, as nearly happened in one of the hilltops in Gav Ha’Har (Samaria) as a result of an argument over the founding of an additional synagogue in a location where they can barely maintain a minyan on a regular basis.


And then there are several hundred who, out of stupidity, wind up scorning and hating Judaism’s holiest values, but in their hearts they also have respect and love for Torah and IDF soldiers. They are liable to curse soldiers, brazenly shout “traitor” at senior rabbis or distinguished government ministers, and throw stones at police at demonstrations or at Arab vehicles. When they enter a synagogue where a class is being given, they prefer to talk noisily and in close proximity about what’s “really important”, for example, about their “holy” quarrels, or about “divrei Torah” proving that the whole world is wrong, and they’re right. If there’s no one to talk to, they are likely to read one of Rebbe Nachman’s books out loud, or complete ‘shtiy’im mikra v’echad Targum’ from the previous week’s Torah portion. The main thing is to disturb the rabbi’s class, make sure everyone knows they have their own agenda, and that everything anyone else has to say besides themselves, is insignificant. When the congregation is praying the ‘Silent Prayer’, they read verses from ‘Psukei D’zimra‘ out loud. But in spite of all this, if told they are disturbing someone, in a calm moment they will usually be considerate, because, after all, they don’t act maliciously.


The majority of those living in the hilltop communities are fundamentally good people. True, many of them have difficulty fitting into a regular framework, but they have good hearts. Some of them are truly righteous people who genuinely love the Torah, the people, and the country, yearn to redeem the holy land with all their hearts, appreciate soldiers, and show respect for all people.


Defining Good and Evil


The basic foundation of education is the ethical distinction between good and bad. Therefore, it must be said that the attitudes and behavior of the violent hilltop youth are immoral.


Sometimes, out of compassion or a lack of knowledge, we tend not to pass judgement about misconduct and harmful views. It’s not pleasant to label a violent adolescent as brazen or evil, especially when he claims that he is a ‘tsaddik‘ and is sanctifying the name of God. However, the educational consequences caused by the lack of characterization are significant. True, in education there is no guaranteed path ensuring one hundred percent results, and even the best parents are liable to face the reality of wayward children. However, the defining of good and bad is the most efficient way of increasing the chances of educational success.


‘Whoever Spares the Rod Hates His Son’


We learn this from ‘Midrash Rabbah’ in the opening of the book of ‘Shemot’. Yaacov Avinu merited a “complete bed”, namely, all his sons continued in his path. Our Sages explained this was because he ‘reprimanded his sons’ i.e., he rebuked them.


“And these are the names of the Sons of Israel that came into Egypt with Yaakov, every man came with his household – There it is written (Proverbs 13:24): “He who spares the rod hates his son; but he who loves him disciplines him in his youth”… this comes to teach that anyone who refrains from disciplining his son, in the end, causes him to fall into evil ways and will hate him. This is what we have found with Yishmael; because his father Avraham had a fondness for him and did not rebuke him, consequently, Yishmael fell into evil ways, Avraham hated him, and sent him out of his house empty-handed… Similarly: ‘And Isaac loved Esau’ (Genesis 25:28), and as a result, Esau went astray because he was not rebuked… Likewise, because David did not rebuke or chastise his son Avshalom, he fell into evil ways, seeking to slay his father… as well as many other endless sorrows… and David also treated Adoniyah in a similar fashion, neither rebuking nor punishing him, and therefore he became corrupt.”


‘But He Who Loves Him Disciplines Him in His Youth’

The Midrash continues and teaches: “‘But he who loves him disciplines him in his youth’,this refers to the Holy One, blessed be He; because of His love for Israel He heaps upon them chastisements. You will find that the three precious gifts which God gave unto Israel were all given after much suffering: the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Life to Come...


“But a father who chastises his son causes the son to have additional love and honor for him…We find that Avraham reproached his son Yitzhak, taught him Torah, and guided his ways … (and as a result of this, Yitzhak followed in his ways), as it is written: ‘And these are the generations of Yitzhak the son of Avraham’ (Genesis 25:19), this comes to teach that he was like his father in all things – in wisdom, in beauty, in wealth, and in good deeds. Know, that Yitzhak was thirty-seven years old when his father bound him on the altar, and it is written: ‘And Avraham was old, well advanced in years’; nevertheless, he bound Yitzhak like a lamb without resistance, and as a result: ‘And Avraham gave all that he had unto Yitzhak’ (Genesis 25:5)… Likewise, Yitzhak reproached Yaacov, teaching him Torah and tormenting him in his studies … therefore, he merited receiving a blessing, and inherited the Land. And Yaacov reprimanded his sons as well, rebuking them and teaching them his ways, and they were all righteous, for indeed it is written: ‘And these are the names of the Sons of Israel that came into Egypt’ etc., equating them all to Yaacov, for all of them were righteous as he was.”


Is This Terrorism?


The ‘Duma affair’ stirred a public debate in Israel about whether Jews who murder Arabs are considered terrorists. The debate is primarily a formality, for indeed “regular” murder suspects are allowed to be interrogated just by means of relatively mild measures, whereas murder suspects who operate within the framework of terrorist organizations are allowed to be investigated using torture.


Leftists, whose faith and religion maintains there is no difference between Jews and Arabs, adamantly claim there is absolutely no difference between Jewish nationalist criminals and Arab terrorists. Truthfully though, comparing the two is like comparing a mosquito to an eagle. Conceivably, one could argue that a mosquito is essentially a tiny eagle, however, the differences between them are so immense that to make such a comparison is infuriating.


However, regarding the damage caused to the State of Israel, according to several high-ranking defense officials accountable for Israel’s security, the damage is substantial, and extremely severe. True, this stems from discriminatory attitudes of various countries towards Israel, but in reality, this is the situation. Consequently, they believe vigorous investigation of such actions is vital, so as to terminate them completely. Based on this, it was determined to consider their actions as acts of terrorism.


Seeing as claims were voiced that excessive torture was used against the detainees, there is room to clarify and assess these claims by way of lawyers and reliable public officials, so as not to allow Shabak investigators to err in over eagerness and seize the opportunity to asume excessive powers with the aim of harming an entire ideological sector of the public, by investigating people who are totally unrelated to these serious crimes. If it turns out that the legal advisers or interrogators violated the law, they must pay the full price.


How to Deal with the Wild Youth


An offender of the law who is caught must be punished, because the law is the law. Punishment is beneficial both for the criminal’s personal atonement, and also for the welfare of the public, for without law and order, people would swallow each other alive. When these violent hilltop youth regret their actions, ask for forgiveness, and seek a way to correct them, it would be appropriate to consider easing their penalties, as is customary in such cases. At that time, it would also be appropriate to include as an argument for lessening their penalty the tense situation these youth faced, while mentioning the names of their relatives and acquaintances who were killed in Arab terrorist attacks.


However, one must not adopt a hostile attitude towards the rest of the unruly youth. Indeed, we must condemn their bad behavior and immoral views, but at the same time, it is necessary to provide them the best possible care of educators and social workers, with their parents participating in the educational and rehabilitation process. Financial resources should be invested, and new building permits should be issued, all with the goal of reducing their frustration, and allowing them to atone for their actions, and find positive avenues to channel their energies in construction of houses, agricultural development, and recruitment into the army.


This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including all his books on halakha in Hebrew (and a few in English) from his highly acclaimed series ‘Peninei Halakha’, can be found at the Yeshiva Har Bracha website

Women for Israel’s Redemption

Current Events

I initially wrote a column about the ‘Duma affair’ from an educational and ethical perspective. But out of fear that it would be manipulated to condemn the dear, beloved, and holy residents of Judea and Samaria, I postponed its’ publication.

“Harsh Labor Designated to Break Their Bodies”

“The Israelites were fertile and prolific, and their population increased” (Exodus 1:7). The Jewish nation accomplished all of this while guarding their unique identity and faith that God would remember and return them to their holy land, to establish a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The Egyptians had a choice: They could encourage Israel’s vision to return to their land, and even assist them – as remuneration for all the good they received in the merit of Yosef and the Israelites. Egotistically, however, the Egyptians chose to view this as a threat. They could not understand why the Israelites did not assimilate into their culture? Thus began the insufferable slavery – whose goal was multiple: to exploit Israel’s manpower for wealth, strip them of their will to live, crush their unique identity, and eradicate them from the world. For this purpose the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites oppressively with back-breaking labor. A person who did not work was killed. Someone who did not work fast enough was beaten brutally. When the Egyptians saw that despite all this, the Israelites continued being fruitful and multiply, they hardened the slavery, and for a number of long months, forced the men to sleep in the fields where they labored – to prevent them from procreating.

The Men Lost Their Will to Live

The hard labor shattered the men’s bodies and humiliated their spirits. How could a husband look into the eyes of his wife? Wasn’t he supposed to take care of her, to protect her from enemies and harassers, to support and honor her, and to be an example for their children? But here he is – a disgraced slave, subjected to the trampling feet of his oppressor and taskmaster.

In such a situation, men lose their will to live. They have no dignity. They are convinced their wives see them as worthless losers and don’t love them anymore. As not to confirm these fears and be additionally humiliated, they prefer to distance themselves from their wives. Also, in such a situation men don’t want to have more children. Why have more kids, so they can become humiliated slaves as well?!

The crucial question was: How would the women react?

Will the Women Assimilate?

In those times, the daughters of a nation defeated in battle made every effort to join the winning side. If their men were not capable of protecting them and their children, or providing them with honor and a livelihood, it would be better for them to try their luck with the victorious men. In those times, it was customary that wealthy and strong conquerors would marry a number of women. Therefore, even if the victors were already married, hope existed that they would take an additional wife from the defeated nation. Therefore, women on the defeated side usually agreed to be more subservient and industrious.

Women should not be criticized for this – they did it in order to survive. Parents most likely even encouraged their daughters to do so, this being the only way to guarantee a better future and the continuation of their family. In this manner, all the defeated nations disappeared off the stage of history. The women joined the conquerors, the men were taken into slavery, and after the last of them died, there was no one left to recall the past history of the nation that once was.

One could have expected that in Egypt as well, most of the Israelite women would make every effort to find favor in the eyes of the prosperous Egyptian men, joining them in order to find a new life for themselves. Apparently, the Egyptians also hoped that the Israelite women would yearn for them – anticipating the disappearance of the Hebrew nation.

In the Merit of Righteous Women

However, the spark of the Israeli soul was not extinguished. It endured in the merit of the women who remained loyal to their husbands. Despite their husbands being humiliated as slaves, the women continued having faith in them, to see the good in them, to honor and love them. This is what the Sages have said (Sotah 11b): “In the merit of righteous women of the generation, our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt.”

Seeing that the Egyptians did not allow their husbands to return home after laboring strenuously, the women would draw water from the wells in order to heat it up for their husbands. God sent small fish into the wells, and the women would place two pots on the fire – one for hot water, and the other to cook the fish. They would bring the pots to their husbands in the fields, wash them, rub them with oil they had found, and feed them.

All of these measures were actually hints: “Maybe the Egyptians see you as a despised slave, but in my eyes, you are dear and important. And just as I would have greeted you happily after coming home from a respectable job, similarly today, I come to you in the field to wash your tired feet and rub your aching body, because you are my husband and my love”.

Mirrors of the Multitudes

Nevertheless, the men were reluctant, remembering all the time how their slave masters beat and humiliated them. They didn’t believe that their wives really loved them. Wanting to raise their spirits, the women would sell a few of the fish, and buy some wine. After they ate and drank, the women would take out little mirrors they had brought with them, and look at themselves and their husbands in the mirror. The wife would laugh at the sight of the two of them and say, “I’m prettier than you”, and stirred, he would say “No, I’m prettier than you.” Thus, they would arouse the happiness of love between husband and wife, and God would immediately make them fruitful and multiply.

They Are the Most Cherished

Generations later, when God asked Moshe to gather contributions for the building of the Tabernacle, all of Israel answered the call and donated. Some of them brought gold, some silver, while others brought copper or precious stones. The women said: “What can we offer as a donation to the Tabernacle? They arose and brought those very mirrors with which they had adorned themselves while visiting their husbands in the fields. And although they dearly cherished the mirrors, given their great love for holiness, the women did not refrain from donating them. Moshe Rabbeinu despised the mirrors because they were created for the evil inclination. Some Torah interpreters say that he even became furious with the women, exaggeratingly saying to those who stood near him: “Grab sticks and break their legs” for having had the chutzpah to offer those mirrors for the holy service.

God said to Moshe: “You ridicule those mirrors? Those mirrors established all the multitudes in Egypt! Accept them, for they are my most cherished gift of all. Take and form them into the copper basin and its pedestal, from which the priests sanctify themselves for the holy service (Tanchuma, Pikudei 9; Rashi, Shmot 38:8).

This teaches us that there isn’t anything purer than love which is not dependent on a specific factor, and brings life to the world.

Give Praise to the Righteous Women of Our Generation

Similar to the past, in the merit of the righteous women of our times, who with endless love and devotion, despite facing tremendous difficulties and pulls from all directions, nevertheless nurture large families – we continue to be redeemed. They strengthen their love for their husbands, and in such an atmosphere, raise their children. They rise early to straighten-up the house and to wake their children up for kindergarten or school. They lose sleep while worrying about their children’s education. Every day, time and again, they get up in the morning to face all the housework and burdens, bringing provisions to their homes, and pleasing their children with all sorts of foods and dishes. And all of this is done out of love, stemming from a great faith that life is good, and there is nothing more precious than adding life to the world. “Her children rise (‘upon rising in the morning and finding everything prepared for them, her children will express their thankfulness to her’ – Ibn Ezra) and make her fortunate; her husband – and he praises her…Give her the fruit of her hand, and let her deeds praise her in the gates.” And when the good angels who accompany their husband’s home from the synagogue on Shabbat evening arrive, they see all the effort that the women toiled getting ready for Shabbat – cleaning the house, preparing the food, laundering everybody’s clothes, and dressing them all, young and old. The angels gaze in tired faces of the righteous women, and then say: “May it be God’s will that it be so next Shabbat”, as is written in the Talmud (Shabbat 119b). They then add: ‘In the merit of these righteous women, Israel will be redeemed.’ And against their will, the evil angels are compelled to answer ‘amen’.

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

Redeeming Captives in Jewish Law

Over the generations, especially in the Diaspora, Jews were often kidnapped or taken captive and large sums of ransom money were demanded for their release. The Sages of Israel were called upon to decide the proper response to this painful situation, and they formulated basic cardinal rules concerning the redeeming of prisoners and the amount of money that could be paid toward their redemption.

Our Sages have taught that the redemption of captives is a great mitzvah for which a person should donate charity, placing it at the top of the list of worthwhile causes because the captive suffers greatly from hunger, medical problems, psychological trauma, and often sub-human conditions whereby his life is often in danger (Baba Batra 8B). Therefore, it is improper to spare means in rescuing captives (Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah

Nonetheless, Chazal postulated the halakha that it is forbidden to pay an over- exorbitant amount for pidyon shivuim (redeeming hostages), as is stated in the Mishna: “They must not ransom captives for more than their value, for the good order of the world” (Gittin 45A). The main reason given for this enactment, in both the Gemara and the Rambam, is to not create an incentive for highwaymen and kidnappers to constantly seize Jewish prisoners, knowing that we are willing to pay any price to set them free. There is another way of explaining this enactment – not to pressure the public to donate funds beyond their capability. However, most of the Rishonim, including the Rif, Rosh, Rambam, and the Tur, say the principle reason is not to encourage our enemies to kidnap more Jews, and this is the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 252:4).

For example, it is told of Rabbi Meir from Rottenberg, one of the great Torah scholars of his time, who was taken hostage in Alsace about eight-hundred years ago. The evil emperor, Rudolph, requested a staggering amount of money for his release. The Rabbi’s many students wanted to raise the funds in order to secure his release, since according to the halakha, in a case where a Gadol HaDor (leader of the generation) is taken captive, there is no limit to the amount that must be paid to set him free. Nevertheless, Rabbi Meir (known as the Maharam M’Rottenberg) instructed his students not to agree to the emperor’s demand, believing that if they handed over an enormous amount for his release, the enemies of the Jews would kidnap more rabbis and demand extravagant sums for their freedom. Thus, the Maharam M’Rottenberg sat in prison for seven years until the day of his death. As a result of his greatness of soul and self-sacrifice for the welfare of Clal Yisrael, he prevented the capture of other leading rabbis and the economic collapse which could have shattered many congregations.

Nevertheless, the rule prohibiting an overly excessive payment of money to redeem hostages applies when it is the public who must supply the funds. In contrast, if a very rich person is captured and wants to redeem himself with his own wealth, he is free to pay whatever price is asked. This is because his case does not represent a danger to the general community but only to the rich person himself, seeing as the kidnappers may think to kidnap him again, now knowing that he is willing to pay handsomely for his freedom. This decision is the personal matter of the rich man (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 252:4). However, in a case where a member of a wealthy person’s family is kidnapped, the rich man is not permitted to pay ransom more than the person’s worth. Regarding the kidnapping of a wealthy man’s wife, the poskim (Jewish law arbiters) are divided in their opinions whether he is permitted to redeem her by paying an excessive ransom.

Redeeming Hostages Whose Lives are at Risk

What is the halakha in a case where kidnappers threaten to kill the hostage if their monetary demands are not met?

There are poskim who say that the prohibition against paying exorbitant sums applies in normal situations when the life of the hostage is not immediately at stake. However, in a case of pikuach nefesh when life is threatened, since all of the commandments in the Torah are broken to save a life, the enactment of the Rabbis not to pay overly excessive sums of money in order to free a hostage is certainly not heeded, and everything must be done to redeem him.

In opposition, many poskim, including the Ramban state that even in a case where the kidnappers threaten to kill the hostage, we do not give in, and it is forbidden to pay an exorbitant amount. Once again, the reason is that conceding to the kidnappers will only increase their incentive to kidnap other Jews and threaten their lives. Thus, out of concern for the overall welfare of the public, and because of the life-threatening danger to future captives, it is forbidden to surrender to the kidnapper’s threats and demands.

In practice, this question was not decided categorically, and the leading halachic authorities amongst the Achronim were also divided on the issue (Pitchei T’shuva, Yoreh Deah

Whether to Surrender to the Demands of Terrorists?

Since the founding of the State of Israel, on several occasions terrorists have kidnapped civilians or soldiers and threatened to kill them if we do not free large numbers of Arab terrorists in Israeli jails. In cases like these, are we to accept the demands of the kidnappers and free the terrorists in order to save Jewish lives, or should we refuse?

We previously saw that in a case where a hostage’s life is in immediate danger, the authorities were divided on whether or not to give in to their demands. Some say it is proper to redeem him, even at a price greater than his worth because his life is threatened, while others say it is forbidden, out of general concern for the welfare of the public.

These opinions are applicable when the kidnappers are normal criminals seeking monetary gain. But in a case of an ongoing war between Israel and terrorist enemies, it is forbidden to give in to any coercion on their part, for it is clear that if we were to concede, our enemies would view this as a sign of weakness, raising their morale and increasing their incentive to strike at us further. As we have learned from the past, every time terrorists succeeded in getting their way, it motivated others to join them in their war against Israel. Additionally, if we give in, terrorists will not be concerned about getting caught, trusting that if they are apprehended and put in Israeli jails, they will be freed quickly in the next prisoner exchange. Also, it is a proven fact that a percentage of the released terrorists will return to carrying out attacks against Jews. Therefore, despite the pain of the matter, we are not to give in to coercion and pay an excessive price for the hostage, above and beyond the customary payment demanded in kidnappings, i.e., a one-for-one exchange.

The rule is that during time of war we do not give in to any demand from the enemy, and if even if one Jew is taken hostage, we set off to war to free him. Thus, it is written in the Torah: “And when the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the Negev, heard that Israel came by the way of Atarim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners” (Bamidbar, 21:1). Rashi cites Chazal who explain that only one handmaid was captured from Israel. The Jews did not enter into negotiations for her rescue – rather they set off to war. This is also what King David did when Amalek invaded Zeklag and took the women captive – he set off to war to rescue the captives without bothering to negotiate first (Shmuel 1, 30.). Even if the enemy came only to steal straw and hay, we set off to wage war against them, because if we give in to them on something less significant, they will continue to fight against us with even greater resolve (Eruvin 45A).

All of this concerns terrorists and enemies who are perpetually at war with us. However, if the war has ended, it is permissible to exchange all the enemy prisoners in our hands for the Jews whom they have taken captive, even if the prisoners we set free substantially outnumber the Jews who are released. This is because exchanges of this sort are customary when cease fires are formulated and all prisoners are set free. This is not considered paying more than the captives are worth on a prisoner-for-prisoner basis, and therefore we are not concerned lest the return of prisoners encourages the enemy to continue to war their against us. If the enemy does return to its former belligerency, it is most likely for other reasons (see Tachumin
Vol.4, pg.108).

Is it is Mitzvah to Save a Terrorist in Danger?

Years ago, a terrorist attempted to kill a Jewish boy in the center of Jerusalem. Thank God, the boy was only slightly wounded. People at the scene chased angrily after the terrorist, seeking revenge. Suddenly a woman, who happened to work for a Haredi newspaper, arrived at the scene and shielded the terrorist with her body, thus saving him from blows and possible death. Did this woman act in accordance with the halakha by saving the terrorist?

A: There are two sides to this question – first, concerning the laws of “rodef,” and second, concerning the commandment “not to stand idly by on the blood of your fellow.” It is clear that as long as the terrorist is armed and dangerous, even if there is the slightest doubt of danger, the din (law) of rodef (pursuer) applies to him or her. In such a case, it is a mitzvah for anyone to rescue the person in danger by striking at and neutralizing the rodef. If it is possible to do this by wounding him, this is the preferable response. But if there is a chance that wounding him will not put an end to the danger, or that in the effort to only wound him time will be wasted and he will have an opportunity to harm others, the rodef should be killed in order to save the people whom he or she is endangering (Shulchan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat 425:1).

If danger from the terrorist no longer exists, then we still must clarify the question if it is necessary to intervene in order to save the terrorist from the angry crowd? The Talmud states that the most evil haters of Israel are to be “lowered and not raised” (Avodah Zara 26B). This means that if it is possible, they should be killed. Regarding less evil-doers (without defining the different levels), the Talmud states, “They are not lowered, but neither are they raised.” In other words, we are not to kill them in any active manner, but we are also not commanded to save them. For example, if a terrorist fell into a pit where he is likely to die, we do not help him to climb out. This is the ruling of the Rambam (Hilchot Rotzaoch 5:10) and the Shulchan Aruch (Hoshen Mishpat 425:5).

In the example mentioned above, there is no doubt that a terrorist who intends to slaughter Jews in the middle of a city is to be considered a wicked person of the highest order, with the Talmud’s classification, “lowered and not raised.” If possible, he should be killed. At the very minimum, he should not be helped or saved. While “dina d’malchuta dina” maintains that according to state law, it is forbidden to kill a terrorist who no longer poses a threat, nevertheless, according to the same state laws a person is not obligated to help a terrorist, or save him. Therefore, according to the halakha, there was no need for the woman to defend the terrorist, since the halakha states “not raised,” i.e., we don’t rescue such an evil-doer.

To summarize, a person in a position of governmental authority, such as a policeman or a soldier, must act according to his or her orders. Even on Shabbat, according to international agreements, we are required attend to our enemy’s wounded so as not to arouse the world’s animosity against us (See the
Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 131; Igrot Moshe 4:79; and
“Milamdei Milchamah”43). However, a citizen who is not serving in any official position where he must save the terrorist is not required to help him, as our Sages have taught: “Whoever is merciful toward the cruel, will in the end be cruel to the merciful” (Midrash Shmuel 18). Therefore in the case of the woman journalist, since it is quite possible that the terrorist was still a threat to the public, it was forbidden for her to place herself and others in danger by shielding him when he was still capable of causing further harm.

The Responsibility to Benefit Others

As the Nation of Israel, we are not responsible only for our own people – we also have responsibility for the well-being of all mankind. While there is an order of preference, whereby fellow Jews are first in line to receive charity and assistance, the ideal vision is to bring benefit to all peoples.

We learn this from Avraham Avinu who loved all of mankind and strove to benefit them both materially and spiritually. As our Sages stated, the angels who visited Avraham when he was recovering from his brit milah (circumcision) appeared to him as idol worshippers who bowed down to the dust on their feet – nevertheless, he ran to greet them, brought them into his home, and served them the finest meal (Bereshit Rabbah 50:4). He endeavored to help all people in any way possible, by feeding them and quenching their thirst, and by teaching the faith in the one and only God. He strove to act justly with everyone, as when he fought against the four kings who sought to imperialistically impose their rule over others.

However, it is forbidden to pardon the transgressions of idol worshippers and other evil-doers. Thus, extending our kindness to the wicked is prohibited. But when it is possible to influence them to adopt a path of repentance, and to bring them closer to true faith, it is a mitzvah to do so, because our fundamental relationship with Gentiles should be one of love. As Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook wrote:

“The love of mankind must be alive in the heart and soul, the love of every individual being, and the love of all the nations, seeking their spiritual and material uplifting. Hatred must be directed only toward the evil and impure in the world. It is impossible to attain the exalted level of ‘Praise the Lord, call out in His Name, proclaim His greatness amongst the nations’ without an inner love, from the depths of the heart and the soul, to bring betterment to all of the peoples, to improve their circumstances, and bring richness to their lives” (Midot HaRiyah, Ahavah 5). Rabbi Kook wrote that this spirit of responsibility and active brotherly love toward all of mankind prepares us for the coming of Mashiach.

This excerpt was taken from Rabbi Melamed’s book on Jewish law, ‘Peninei Halakha: Ha’am v’Ha’aretz’, and was translated from Hebrew. Other works by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

Israel, the West, and Islam

The importance of understanding the culture of Islam as a trigger of worldwide tension • Western liberals do not understand people for whom religious faith is the central force of their personality * In contrast to the Western value of freedom, Islamic culture emphasizes the values of respect and power • A ruler who is not seen as strong and cruel cannot survive in Islamic society • Muslims are commanded to impose their religion through war; when faced with a strong enemy, only a temporary reprieve is permitted • Obama is mistaken when showing weakness towards Muslims, and also insulting in his demand for them to adopt Western values

Increasing tension between the West and Muslims

Focal points of conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims have gradually increased in recent years, to the point where in the opinion of many, they represent the most serious risk for world peace. It is not merely a conflict between Israel and the Arabs, but rather, the attitude of Iran and Al Qaeda, who openly express sheer hatred of Israel and the West. In the words of the Iranians, the United States is the “Great Satan”, while Israel is the “Little Satan.”

Moreover, dangerous conflicts are going on between India and Pakistan, between the Chechnya rebels and Russia, and between the people of Uyghur and China. In the major cities of Europe – from France to Russia – tensions between the local population and Muslim immigrants is on the rise, as well. It appears these conflicts are not coincidental; rather, they reflect a core problem which, if not thoroughly understood by the Western world, will lead to increasing tensions, until the conflict is likely to result in terrible bloodshed throughout all of Europe and the Islamic countries.

Failures of Western Policy and “Experts”

In previous articles, I criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s position, when in his keynote speech in Jerusalem, stated that young Muslims want “the ability to make their own decisions; to get an education and a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married and have a family.” He thereby expressed the prevailing view among those who believe that liberalism is the supreme aspiration of all mankind, while ignoring the extraordinarily powerful religious values that have motivated people and nations throughout history.

“To worship God in their own way”, is the ambition of a person who believes in liberalism and wishes to reserve a certain spot in his life for spirituality, irrelevant of how it is expressed. However, for someone motivated by time-honored religious beliefs, “to worship God in their own way” is highly inadequate. This is the reason why the U.S. and Western countries, whose positions are guided by basic liberalism, fail to understand Muslims, and consequently, do not know how to deal with them – despite the enormous resources at their disposal.

First, one needs to understand Islam’s exceptional strength – together with its virtues and shortcomings. I am far from being an expert on this, and I am also sure that the few books I have read on Islam were not accurate representations seeing as they were written by academics who find it difficult to properly understand what faith and religion are all about. But it seems that precisely as one who fully identifies with his faith, I am able to add a dimension missing from the understanding of Muslim culture and religion. Instinct tells me my inaccuracies are in the details, whereas most Western “experts” err in essence.

The Religious Point of View

The fundamental approach of Islam lies in a religious perception which views God as an all-powerful hero, to which everyone must submit and accept his absolute authority. Out of the five major precepts of Islam, four deal directly with the honor of god and submission to him: 1) accepting faith in him. 2) Praying to him five times a day, mainly involving bowing-down and reciting seven verses praising Allah, seventeen times and accepting his authority. 3) Fasting in the month of Ramadan. 4) Making the pilgrimage to Mecca. (An additional precept is giving charity to the poor, which also expresses submission to Allah – for money belongs to him, and not man).

Even praise and confession to Allah is performed out of a feeling of submission and honor.

Islam’s Influence on Personal Behavior

This approach extends to all interpersonal relationships, all of 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 is his honor. Needless to say, children are also required to honor their parents. Interpersonal relationships as well are based on great respect, producing a sense of noble generosity, which allows room for hospitality and brotherhood.

Seeing as honor is so essential, offending a Muslim is intolerable, because it undermines the very foundation of his existence; if offended, a Muslim is consequently obliged to respond with extreme gravity, 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 strong and even cruel is incapable of lasting in Muslim society. Therefore, the democratic system is unable to provide stability for Islamic countries. The ideal government for them is an authoritarian rule which protects and provides honor for all its citizens, similar to a compassionate father caring for the welfare of his sons.

The Positive Aspects of Islam

Unmistakably, there are very positive aspects of Islam. The foundations of the religion were derived from Judaism, and tailored to the character of the Arab nation. These positive aspects and their contribution to the world deserve study, to clarify how useful the value of honor could be for the modern world, whose problems to a large extent stem from a lack of respect of God and human dignity. The right to freedom is not a substitute for lost honor. The right of dignity in a democratic society is expressed merely by refraining from humiliating someone; it lacks positive respect. This allows for a feeling of apathy, arrogance, and contempt for others and their values.

However, the aim of this article is explore the roots of the conflict with the followers of Islam, and in the nature of things, will present its less attractive sides.

Islam – A Religion of War

Following the five precepts of Islam, the next most important precept is the command of jihad. The followers of Allah must also act as he did, courageously and forcibly subduing those who do not succumb to his authority. Power and the sword play a central role in the Muslim religion, emphasizing the physical strength of the religion, and enhancing the greatness and honor of Allah by imposing his beliefs on all mankind. Even the calls to prayer over loudspeakers by the muezzin day and night, are an expression of imposing the religion over expansive areas, both towards themselves, and all others.

It is no coincidence that the Arabs have succeeded in imposing Islam on numerous nations, to the point where presently, there are approximately 1,400,000,000 followers. The genetic code of Islam is programmed towards a steadfast war of imposing Muhammad’s religion on the entire world by means of the sword. To achieve this goal, everything is legitimate. If they must kill, they will kill; if they must lie, they will lie. It was not the enchanting beauty of Islamic religion which enticed so many nations to accept it upon themselves, but rather, the clear threat of death.

All nations attained their achievements through confrontations and triumphs. Unlike other cultures however, in Islam, the principle of compromise is intolerable, especially a territorial compromise. Compromise is an expression of weakness, whereas a Muslim is required to represent the heroism and strength of Allah, and must always clutch the sword, prepared to continue the war of imposing his religion.

Therefore, even when Muslims lack the power to defeat their enemy, there is no willingness to compromise. If they are compelled to agree to a cease-fire (‘tahadiya‘ in Arabic), as far as Islam is concerned it is only a respite which must be utilized to prepare for the continuation of the war. In the interim, if possible, they will weaken their opponent by means of terrorist attacks and raids. If they are unable to be victorious, at the very least they will attempt to sedate their enemy with lies, and when the opportunity arises attack once again till he is defeated. This method is based on the conduct of their prophet Muhammad towards the tribe of Quraysh.

The Significance of the Sword in Islam

According to Muslim belief, the world is divided into two parts: ‘Dar al-Islam‘ are territories already conquered by Islam. ‘Dar al-Harb‘ are territories of conflict which the Arabs are commanded to conquer, and after doing so, become Muslim holy territory (waqf) which must not be relinquished under any circumstances. Even if this territory is re-conquered by another nation for hundreds of years, according to Muslim law, it is still considered ‘sanctified’ land which must be returned to Muslim control.

Consequently, the State of Israel constitutes a two-fold problem for them: First, it was established on territory conquered by Islam since its inception (except for a period of approximately 100 years when it was ruled by the Crusaders). Secondly, it is also located in the heart of Arab-controlled areas.

Some Muslims are more devout, others less; nevertheless, they all share the desire to return Arab rule over the Land of Israel. The debate between the moderates and the extremists is over the question of whether they are able to conduct an overt, all-out war against us, or first, to emasculate and weaken the State of Israel by means of agreements and political pressure, and only afterwards, conquer it forcibly.

How to Deal with the Islamic Threat

The only way to exempt a Muslim from war is by creating a situation in which he is entirely compelled – lacking the ability or chance to succeed. Only under such circumstances according to Islamic law is he exempt from the necessity to wage war. In such a case, he will wait for years or even generations, confident that when the opportunity is presented, he will return to wage war.

In contrast, any attempt to compromise with Islam will inevitably lead to the continuation and intensification of war and terror, because it is perceived as weakness. For in the view of Islamic culture, if the Western countries had the power to defeat them, they wouldn’t possibly be seeking a compromise. The search for compromise can only be due to their inability to face the heroic attacks of Allah’s faithful, and hence, their downfall is close at hand. The same is true regarding Israel – any attempt at compromise or looking for a “political horizon”, instills hope within the Arabs that they can defeat us, and as a result, encourages terrorism and war.

Anyone wishing for peaceful and calm relations with Muslims must avoid displaying any desires for peace, or any talk of it, because peace with non-Muslims contradicts their beliefs. The objective of Western countries must be to secure a durable ceasefire, and simultaneously conduct respectable relationships. When this occurs, we can eventually reach a loftier and more profound peace. However, such a peace cannot be discussed at this point in time.

The Mistake in Obama’s Cairo Speech

Instead, when Obama spoke in Cairo four years ago he erred twice: First, by calling the Muslims to peace, thereby intensifying their war against America, and hastening the downfall of Arab rulers who supported the United States. Secondly, despite all the praise for Muslims, essentially he was condescending, humiliating their beliefs by preaching to them to behave democratically, to grant equality to women, and to provide equal rights for minorities – when in fact, Muslim values are based on honor, and not on equality. As a Christian, had he firmly demanded equality for the Christian Copts in Egypt, they would have respected his request, stemming from a position of power. But when he asked for this in the name of democracy and freedom of religious, he undermined his position in their eyes and endangered the Copts – whose situation since then has deteriorated.

Let us conclude with the prayer: “The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace”, and as a result, Islam’s positive values will come to the fore, the nations will come closer to faith in God and fulfilling the Noahide commandments – each nation according to its own qualities and character – and true peace will come to the world.

This article appeared in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper in April 2013. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

Hanukkah: The Holiday of Education

The problem of parents and teachers eroding authority in educating children * In the past, parents and elders were the informed; today, knowledge is accessible to both young and old * When morals and values are central ambitions, experience and maturity remain important * The clash of values ​​between Judaism and Greek Hellenism * In post-modernity, educators do not believe in their right or authority to instill values ​​* Faith in the word of God, who commanded the ordering of good and evil, bases the authority of parents and teachers * The educational significance of Hanukkah * Candle lighting for guests on Shabbat Chanukah

The Loss of Educational Authority

One of the main problems in education today is the severe erosion of authority of parents and teachers. It is impossible to talk about raising the flag of education without contending with the problem of discipline and violence in schools.

The Roots of the Problem

During times when very few people could read and write, the status of parents and the elderly was most notable. They were indispensable. They were the knowledgeable, having learned from their parents, teachers, and life experience. As a result, they were respected, listened to, and obeyed. Those who did not learn from elders and their experience did not know how to grow food, what materials to use to build a house or prepare a garment, and how to cope with diseases and natural disasters.

Several hundred years ago a process of change began. Increasing numbers of Gentiles learned to read and write, the printing press was invented, books were made more available, and as a result the percentage of readers increased. In the last century book prices declined and became affordable for all, working hours were shortened, leisure time increased, and the number of readers rose dramatically. The more people learned from books, the less they needed parents and teachers for knowledge, and consequently, their status diminished. Fewer people listened to them, but there was still meaning to their experience in life and the amount of information they already managed to acquire.

With the advent of computer databases, a reverse situation was created: young people are now able to attain wider information than adults, and as a result, the status of teachers and parents has been severely impaired.

Of course, an extremely gifted teacher with in-depth and analytical intellect can still benefit his students and provide them with methods of study and analytical tools – and this is exactly what teachers are being taught today. However, even particularly talented parents and teachers have lost their authority to a large extent. Let alone the majority of ordinarily talented teachers and parents – and the gap between them and the children and students is constantly shrinking. At first, their status worsened in relation to teenagers, and today, even with respect to young children.

A Greek Problem, and Not Jewish

However, this is a Greek problem. In general, Greek thought ascribes importance to wisdom, beauty and strength, but morality and the vision of ‘tikun olam‘ does not play a central role. For the Greeks, the meaning of ‘good’ is – successful, smart, beautiful, strong – but not necessarily moral.

In other words, the desire to do good is not the grand vision of the Greeks.

In contrast, Jewish belief places morality at the center of our ambitions. Namely, the desire to benefit others and make the world a better place is the foundation of Judaism. And this is a domain which requires a lot more depth and experience than learning any other technical matters. Even if all the encyclopedias in the world were open before children and teenagers, they would still need the mature understanding of adults. No matter how smart or knowledgeable a child may be, he still cannot thoroughly understand the trait of humility, and how to distinguish between people who seem humble, but in fact, are haughty. He lacks the experience in life which teaches that sometimes an act of kindness may cause more harm than good.

In other words, when values ​​are placed at the top of the ladder, then parents and teachers have something to teach children, and children learn to appreciate and respect them, and their authority is well-founded. All this, of course, aside from the Torah commandment to honor parents and teachers.

The Status of Values ​​in Western Culture

During the era of the Second Temple a great clash between Judaism and Greek culture occurred. After centuries of gradual development in the fields of scientific research, governmental administration, the arts, and military strategy, Greek civilization reached its peak. Within a number of years Greece conquered all of the known world, and within a few decades Greek culture devoured all ancient civilizations, until they all became Hellenistic. There remained only one small island in this great ocean that did not accept the Hellenistic culture in its entirety. This was Judea, which numbered approximately half a million people at the time. Even within Judea Hellenism spread – there were High Priests with Greek names who preferred to participate in sports competitions rather than serve in the Holy Temple. It seemed as if the decrees of Antiochus would bring to an end the historical episode of the nation of Israel.

However, a miracle occurred – the Jewish nation awoke and stood-up for their lives. In the end, after a long process lasting hundreds of years, Judaism defeated Hellenism. Biblical moral values spread ​​throughout the Hellenistic world, crumbling it. Overt idolatry disappeared, and people began to search for morality and justice. Family members of the Roman Emperor even converted to Judaism.

Unfortunately, we were unable to bring the revised Jewish message to the world, and thus, the majority of Jewish values were spread ​​ incompletely and in a distorted fashion by Christianity. Nevertheless, the desire for morality became the cornerstone prompting Western nations to cultural heights (regarding these matters, a review of the book ‘Bina L’Itim’ by Rabbi Ze’ev Sultunovich, published by Machon Har Bracha, is recommended).

In practice, this morality was incomplete, unbalanced, and as a result, unable to properly improve the Western nations. Today, many people have abandoned hope in the great ideologies, and are disillusioned by dogmatic moral demands. There remains only the basic Jewish values of human dignity, and compassion for the suffering – and even this, only in a distorted and unbalanced way. There is almost no talk about truth and falsehood, good and evil, rather, the most important thing is to “live and let live” and not hurt anyone else. To a certain extent, this is a repetition of Greek pluralistic idolatry, with the addition of some moral foundations. This is the dominant discourse of Western culture and academia today, and is also the root of the loss of authority.

And What about Israel?

We, too, are influenced by this way of thought. In academia today, teachers are taught that they must learn how to provide students with methods of study and analytical tools so they can cope with the knowledge at hand, and choose their own path. But a teacher has no right to determine for a student which values ​​are true, and which are false, because each position has some truth to it, everyone has his own truth, and a teacher must not be judgmental. In extreme positions, this leads to a serious loss of values, with statements such as ‘the Jews have their own faith and truth, the Arabs have their own faith and truth, and our right to the Land of Israel is no greater than theirs’. There are various middle-ground positions vary, but in any event, authority based on absolute values is ​​waning.

The Authority to Punish

Someone who believes that there are no absolute values, finds it extremely difficult to punish his child or student because his heart is fret with doubt – who says his truth is better than the truth of his child or student?

The situation is different when parents and teachers come from a principled position that there is both good and evil, God commands us in his Torah to choose truth and righteousness, and parents and teachers were given the right and duty to educate their children and students to choose the good. For people with such a view, it is a given that it is their duty to punish children and students for their wrongdoings, and praise them for their good deeds. In this way they learn concretely that if they choose evil, they will be punished in this world and the next, and if they choose the good, they will merit all goodness and blessings promised by God to Israel.

As it is written: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). And our Sages said: “Anyone who refrains from disciplining his son in the end causes him to fall into evil ways and will hate him” (Shemot Rabbah 1).


During the days of Hanukkah it became profoundly clear that God stands by Israel when they choose faith, truth and goodness, and in the end, light will defeat the darkness.

Hanukkah, the holiday on which the Temple was inaugurated, is a very educational holiday for both adults and children. We publicize the miracle by lighting the candles, remember the devoted stand of the few against the many, the pure against the defiled, and connect to the great vision of tikun olam (rectifying the world) by means of law and justice, kindness and compassion. Children are given gifts, fed latkes and sufganiyot, so that they know how good it is to be a Jew, how good it is to be part of the sacred heritage of our nation, and how good it is to be a partner in the revelation of the Divine Presence in Israel, and from within it, to the entire world.

As in the past, today’s tikun will come from a cruse of pure oil, from the source of the Torah, uncontaminated of foreign contact. From it, the light guiding the nations in truth will be lit, and through it, all nations and all ideas will find their appropriate and respected place.

Candle Lighting for Guests on Shabbat Hanukkah

A family that goes away for Shabbat, seeing as they also sleep there, their host’s house for that Shabbat is considered their home. According to Sephardic custom where only one hanukkiah is lit in the house, the guests should give their hosts a pruta (a token amount of money) to buy a share in the candles, and thus fulfill their obligation. B’deiavad (after the fact), even if they did not give a pruta, they have fulfilled their obligation since they rely on the hospitality of their hosts, and the head of the household’s lighting is beneficial for all guests. According to the Ashkenazic custom, where each person lights a hannukiah, guests should light their own candles with the blessings.

If the family is staying in a separate apartment, all customs would agree that it is proper for them to light there with the blessings.

Where to Light After Shabbat

What to do after Shabbat, depends how soon they plan to go home. If they are planning to return home quickly, it is best that they wait to light candles at home. If they are planning on getting home late enough that people will no longer be on the streets, it is preferable that they fulfill the mitzvah the same way they did on Friday, either with their hosts or in the guest apartment.

If they are not going home immediately but will get there before it is too late, they may decide where to light. From the perspective of the previous day, their place is in the home of their hosts; but from the perspective of the upcoming day, their place is in their own home. Therefore, they may choose where they wish to light (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 13:10).

This article appears in the “Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles and a number of Rabbi Melamed’s books can be found at: