All posts by Yonaton Behar

Three Days of Holiness

It is a mitzvah to rejoice on Rosh Hashanah and accept the yoke of Heaven with joy, out of fear and remorse * On these days we can atone for what we have failed to do for Am Yisrael, on condition we make our best efforts to fix the situation * Our main objective this year: changing in the legal system * According to halakha, it is permitted to wash in hot water on Rosh Hashanah * Caution not to accidently pull-out hairs and wring-out water while bathing * It is forbidden to prepare from the first day of Rosh Hashanah to the second day * By means of the ‘eruv tavshilin’, we can prepare from the second day of Rosh Hashanah for Shabbat

Rosh Hashanah and Accepting God’s Kingdom with Joy

Rosh Hashanah is one of the Jewish holidays in which it is a mitzvah to rejoice (Shevuot 10a), and therefore the eve of Rosh Hashanah is one of the four days when large numbers of animals were slaughtered, and consequently, those selling the slaughtered animals were required to warn purchasers against the prohibition of “it and its young”, namely, the prohibition against slaughtering an animal and its young on the same day (Chullin 83a). Rosh Hashanah is also “yom teruah,” (day of blasting the shofar), i.e., a day of fear and remorse, because on this day life of the previous year ends, and what we failed to do is lost. On this day God also creates life of the New Year, and consequently, it is a day of judgment. The teruah, which is a broken and disjointed sound, expresses the aspect of fear. However, the Torah commanded us to blow before and after the teruah a tekiah peshuta (a straight, flat sound) expressing joy, because the purpose of judgement and fear is for our correction, and therefore, it includes joy. Consequently, the essence of repentance on Rosh Hashanah is for us to accept upon ourselves God’s kingdom, and thus connect and become a partner in all Godly ideals; such an exalted matter as this, is accompanied by both joy and fear.

Accordingly, halakha determines that on Rosh Hashanah we should partake in choice and fine meals as a good sign for the entire year, but on the other hand, not to over eat, so as to maintain proper fear for the day (S.A, O.C. 597:1).

Reforming the Judicial System

Our Sages said (Tanchuma, Emor 22), that by way of the repentance and fasts of the righteous before Rosh Hashanah, the Holy One, blessed be He, waives a third of our sins, and by way of Yom Kippur of all of Israel, He waives the other two thirds. The Shelah HaKadosh, Rabbi Isaiah ben Avraham Horowitz, explained that God does not waive sins one transgresses himself, for concerning that our Sages said: “Anyone who says that God waives the execution of justice, his life will be waived” (Bava Kama 50a), and atonement for a sin that one transgressed must be done in detail. Rather, the intention is “on the transgressions that all of Israel are guarantors of one another” (Shevuot 39a). For there is room to argue against us that we failed to do everything possible to awaken the public to Torah and mitzvot, but by means of our repentance, it is proven that we really do want the name of the Almighty to be sanctified in the world, and as a result, we are not punished for the sins of our fellow Jews.

It is also important to add that when we are able to act, repentance is accepted provided we accept upon ourselves to do our best to correct the situation. In the coming year, the challenge before us is to reform the judicial system, which today is the governmental establishment most detrimental to the values ​​of the Jewish people, the Torah, and the Land of Israel. Only if we understand the depth of the problem and demand that the public’s representatives act efficiently and diligently to remedy it, will we be free from the mutual responsibility of each and every one of us for the grave damage the legal system causes to the dignity of Israel and the Torah.

Bathing on Yom Tov and Shabbat

This year we are blessed with three consecutive holy days and seeing as many people are accustomed to shower every day and if they refrain from bathing for three days, consequently, they will defile the honor of the holiday and Shabbat, it is worthwhile to review and study the laws of bathing on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

It is permitted to bathe in hot water that was heated on the eve of Yom Tov, or in hot water that was heated on Yom Tov by a dude shemesh (solar water heater) or a Shabbat clock. This is the difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov – on Shabbat, it is permitted to bathe in lukewarm water, but not hot water, whereas on Yom Tov, it is permissible to bathe in hot water (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:8).

There are, however, some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who are stringent, and are of the opinion that the halakha for Yom Tov is the same as Shabbat, and that even on Yom Tov, one is permitted only to bathe in lukewarm water. There are some poskim who are stringent and are of the opinion that on Shabbat and Yom Tov it is forbidden to bathe even in lukewarm water, and this is the custom of some Ashkenazi Jews. In practice, however, the halakha follows the majority of poskim, who are of the lenient opinion that it is permissible to wash in hot water on Yom Tov. And when refraining from bathing causes sorrow, such as on the two days of Rosh Hashanah, or on Yom Tov followed by Shabbat, it is appropriate to act according to the lenient poskim, in order to honor and enjoy the holiday.

Likewise on Shabbat, if a person suffers from not washing he may wash himself with lukewarm water, i.e., water in which one does not receive enjoyment from the warmth, but on the other hand, does not suffer from the cold.

Using a Solar Water Heater (Dude Shemesh)

If one has a solar boiler (dude shemesh), he may bathe in water that was heated up on Yom Tov. One who does not have a solar boiler may turn on his electric boiler before Yom Tov. So as not to waste electricity, he may connect the boiler to a timer so that it remains activated only for the amount of time necessary.

Unlike on Shabbat, on Yom Tov the hot water tap may be turned on, even if the water is boiling hot, and even if the heating element is working. This is because on Yom Tov there is no prohibition on cooking. However, one may not turn on an electric boiler on Yom Tov because doing so is considered lighting a fire. As we have already seen, it is forbidden to light a new fire on Yom Tov (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 5:10).

Soap and Hair Conditioner

It is permissible to use liquid soap on Shabbat and Yom Tov. But as far as bar or a thick liquid soap is concerned, many people are accustomed to be stringent and not use them, but those who wish to be lenient have an opinion to rely on (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:6).

It is permitted to wash one’s hair very gently with shampoo and conditioner (liquid). This is provided that there is no certainty that shampooing will pull out hair. Even if hair is found in the shower afterwards, as long as one washed his hair gently, there is no certainty that the shampooing caused the hair to be pulled out, because these hairs may have been removed from their source beforehand, and subsequently, were washed away with the water. However, if it is clear that shampooing will pull out even one strand of hair – it is forbidden to wash one’s hair.

For a woman with long hair who is used to combing it after washing, it is proper for her not to wash her hair on Shabbat or Yom Tov, so that she will not come to make a mistake afterwards and transgress the Torah prohibition of brushing or combing (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:3). A woman who feels a great need to wash her hair and is certain not to error after shampooing by combing her hair, is permitted to do so on Yom Tov as well.

It is also necessary to be careful while washing one’s hair or beard not to squeeze the hair, for such squeezing is forbidden because of the melacha of ‘dash‘ (threshing), because it removes from the hair water and soap that could be used for further washing. But one can dry his hair with a towel because seeing as he has no interest in the water wrung from the hair and absorbed by the towel, there is no prohibition of sechita (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:8).

The Prohibition of Preparing from the First Day of Rosh Hashanah to the Second Day

One should be careful not to do any preparatory actions from the first day of Yom Tov of Rosh Hashanah to the second day, because the first day of Yom Tov is a Torah ordinance, while the second day is from Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical status). Therefore, it is forbidden to cook or heat food, or to set the table from the first day of Yom Tov to the second day (S.A., O.C. 503:1). Likewise, it is forbidden to wash the dirty dishes used on the first day in order to use them on the second day; rather, only after tzeit ha’chochavim (emergence of the stars, or nightfall) which this year is at 7:00 P.M., it is permitted to prepare food and heat it up, wash the dishes, and set the table for the second Yom Tov evening meal.

This is the reason why, in practice, the second night meal is postponed for at least an hour after tzeit ha’chochavim. Some rabbis are accustomed to extend their second night’s sermon so that in the meantime, the food will be sufficiently warmed up.

Food should not be removed from the freezer on the first day to be eaten at the second night’s meal. In a sha’at dachak (extenuating circumstance), when waiting for the first day of Yom Tov to end will cause grievance and a significant delay of the meal, it is permissible to take the food out during the day (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2, footnote 12).

Candle Lighting on the Second Night

It is proper to light the candles of the second Yom Tov after tzeit ha’chochavim, so as not to prepare from the first day of Yom Tov to the second day. A woman who lights bein ha’shmashot (the time between sunset and tzeit ha’chochavim) has an opinion to rely on, since at that time there is also a certain amount of honor and enjoyment from the candles. Since it is forbidden to kindle a new fire on Yom Tov, a candle should be prepared before the holiday that will remain lit for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light candles on the second night. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should seek assistance from neighbors who have a lit candle.

One may force the candles into the candlesticks even though this may shave off a bit of the candles. It is also permitted to use a knife to remove wax left in the candlestick, if it is getting in the way of putting in the new candles. Similarly, if one uses tea lights or votive candles, he may pry the little metal discs left over from the previous night out of the glass cup. If one uses floating wicks, they may be inserted into the cork disks that hold them. However, one using regular candles may not melt the bottoms to make them stay in the candlestick. Similarly, it is forbidden to cut the bottoms or sand them in order to stick the candles into the candlesticks (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2).

Eruv Tavshilin

This year we are blessed in that Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat are linked, and thereby, we ascend from the sanctity of Yom Tov to that of Shabbat. Our Sages enacted that before Yom Tov we place an eruv tavshilin, and by doing so, we are reminded of the honor of Yom Tov and the honor of Shabbat.

By means of the eruv tavshilin we are permitted to make on Yom Tov any preparation that is required for Shabbat. This includes cooking and heating food for Shabbat, washing dishes used during Yom Tov before Shabbat, and to prepare the candles for the lighting of the Shabbat candles. As for the preparation of food, one must make sure that the dishes prepared for Shabbat are ready before sunset, so that in principle, food prepared on Yom Tov can also be eaten on Yom Tov by guests who may arrive.

Shabbat Candle Lighting

It is permitted to prepare candles for Shabbat as one prepares them for the second day of Yom Tov, and one is permitted to light the Shabbat candles from a lit flame. To do so, one must prepare a candle that will be lit throughout Yom Tov, and if the candle burned out, one should seek assistance from neighbors who have a lit candle.

One must be very careful to light Shabbat candles before sunset according to the times appearing on calendars since unlike on Yom Tov, on Shabbat it is forbidden to light a candle, and even before sunset, one should accept the Shabbat, and begin avoiding all Shabbat prohibitions.

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

Fasting on Yom Kippur

A regular sick person who feels pain in his entire body but whose life is not in danger is obligated to fast, but may swallow tasteless pills * A gravely ill person is obligated to eat * Not all medical concerns are deemed life-threatening, therefore one should ask a religiously observant doctor * Eating in ‘shiurim’ or ‘measures’, is only for the gravely ill * For diabetics, it is preferable to eat more than a ‘shiur’, and pray in synagogue * Pregnant and nursing mothers are obligated to fast and not drink in ‘shiurim’ * Today, sick people and pregnant women are not considered weak as in the past, but are actually healthier * In the era of milk substitutes, shortage of milk cannot be considered a danger * Advice for nursing women before the fast

The Mitzvah to Fast

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

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

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

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

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

Swallowing Medication

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

Headache Sufferers

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

The Gravely Ill

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

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

Not to Be Overly Concerned

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

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

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

How to Evaluate ‘Sakanat Nefashot’

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

Ask an Observant Doctor

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

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

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

The Greatest Mistake in Eating in Measurements

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

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


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

Pregnant Women are Obligated to Fast

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

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

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

Nursing Women are Obligated to Fast

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

Good Advice for Nursing Women

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

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

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

Day of Judgement for the Entire Nation

The reward written in the Torah portion, and fulfilled in this world, is primarily for Clal Yisrael * The individual receives his reward or his punishment after his death; his life in this world is dependent on the nation, as well * Judgment on Rosh Hashanah is recorded primarily in regards to the Clal – first for Israel, and afterwards for the nations * Our existence is eternal and our redemption is guaranteed, but the question of how it will occur depends on our actions * When the Temple exists, reward is fulfilled in this world, and as a result, Israel acts properly, and does not wait for everything to be resolved in the World to Come * If people traveling abroad on Rosh Hashanah neglect Clal Yisrael and the Holy Temple, their journey is considered a sin

Reward and Punishment – Primarily for the ‘Clal’

Many people erroneously think that the reward and punishment written in the Torah pertaining to life in this world are directed primarily to the individuals – that if one follows the path of Torah and mitzvoth, he will enjoy wealth and happiness and a good and healthy life. If so, an alarming question then arises: How are there righteous people suffering from poverty, disease and ridicule, while there are wicked people who enjoy prosperity, health and honor? In truth, however, the reward and punishment written in the Torah were written for ‘Clal Yisrael’ (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future), for indeed, the Torah speaks of reward as rain falling over all the Land, a blessing for the harvest of the entire country, economic welfare for the ‘clal’, a general state of health and fertility, peace in the Land, victories over our enemies, a respectable status in the world, and above all, the dwelling of the Shekhina (Divine Presence). On the other hand, punishment is represented as the cessation of rain and dew, the harvest of the Land is cursed, poverty and hunger, plagues, defeat at the hands of our enemies, concealment of the Divine Presence, enslavement to other nations, and exile. True, the blessings and curses in the Torah portion BeChuko-tai are written in the plural, while those in the portion of Ki Tavo are written in the singular, nevertheless in both forms the intention is for ‘Clal Yisrael’ (as explained by Rashi, Deuteronomy 28:23).

Reward and Freedom of Choice

If the bulk of the reward and punishment in this world were for the individual, we would have no freedom of choice, and no expression of the image of God in which we were created; for who would be a fool to sin if immediately afterwards, he would lose his reputation, money, and become ill? But when judgement is for the ‘clal’, it evolves over a long and complex process, and consequently, the fate of the individual is dependent to a large extent on his over-all destiny, and not on his individual decisions, and in this way, each individual chooses his path according to his beliefs and values.

At any rate, the judgement remains unchanged, for in the ‘Olam HaNeshamot’ (the ‘World of Souls’), ‘Gan Eden’ (Heaven), and ‘Gehinom’ (Hell), every individual will receive entirely what is due to him.

The General Prayer on Rosh Hashana

Since primarily the reward and punishment written in the Torah deal with ‘Clal Yisrael’, judgement on Rosh Hashana is mainly for ‘Clal Yisrael’, and the world at large. Therefore, in the ‘Amidah‘ (silent) prayer of Rosh Hashanah, in the blessing of the day, our primary request is for the dwelling of the Shekhina and the revelation of God’s kingdom in the world, upon which all blessing is dependent. “Our God and God of our ancestors, may your sovereignty be acknowledged throughout the world. May your splendor and majestic glory be reflected in the lives of all who dwell on earth. May all that you have made be aware that you are their Maker, and may all that you have created acknowledge that you are their Creator; and may all that breathe the breath of life proclaim: The Eternal, God of Israel, reigns and His sovereignty embraces everything in the universe.”

Israel’s Judgement

Israel’s judgement affects the entire world, for Israel is to the nations as the heart is to the limbs of man’s body, and the entire existence of the world is dependent on Israel, who are required to reveal in the world the light of the Torah, so as to guide it to its complete ‘tikkun‘ (rectification), as our Sages said: “The Holy One, blessed be He, stipulated with the Works of Creation and said to them: ‘If Israel accepts the Torah, you shall exist; but if not, I will turn you back into chaos and anarchy'” (Shabbat 88a). Thus, since the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, in the merit of Israel’s adherence to Torah and mitzvoth the world exists, and the redemption of the world is dependent on Israel’s repentance. Since the responsibility placed on the Jewish people is immense, Israel’s punishment for sinning is greater than that of the Gentiles for their iniquities. On the other hand, Israel’s reward for choosing good is greater, for by doing so, they bring blessing and redemption to the entire world.

Therefore, the beginning of judgment on Rosh Hashanah is for the nation of Israel, as it is said: “Sound the shofar at Rosh-Chodesh
and at full moon for the pilgrim feast, because this is a law for Israel,
a ruling of the God of Ya’akov”
(Psalms 81:3-5), and after Israel is judged, God judges all the other nations (Rosh Hashana 8: 1-2).

‘Netzach Yisrael’ – The Eternity of Israel

Ostensibly, according to the rules of judgement, if, God forbid, Israel were to chose evil, God would obliterate them and destroy the world. But God chose His people and made a covenant with them, and therefore, even if they sin exceedingly, He will not abandon them, but punish them with terrible suffering, and with poured-out fury reign over Israel so they return to the proper path. As stated at the end of the words of the curses: “Thus, even when they are in their enemies’ land, I will not grow so disgusted with them nor so tired of them that I would destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am God their Lord. I will therefore remember the covenant with their original ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so as to be a God to them. I am God” (Leviticus 26:44-45).

We have also learned in the Torah portions of the blessings and curses in the book of Deuteronomy, that in the end, after all the torment, God will punish the wicked who persecuted Israel twice as much for their sins, redeem His people and reconcile them to His land, as it is written: “For He will avenge His servants’ blood. He will bring vengeance upon His foes, and reconcile His people to His land” (Deuteronomy 32:43), and, “For Hashem will not desert his people, he will not abandon his heritage” (Psalms 94:14).

Thus, we find that the judgement on Rosh Hashana is not about Israel’s existence in this world and the World to Come, but rather, about the how they will live – whether in peace and blessing, or vice versa, God forbid. Israel is also guaranteed of the Redemption’s arrival, however, if they repent, the Redemption will come quickly and calmly; if not, after a long exile painful and horrible agonies will occur, and subsequently the exiled will be gathered and the land built, and we will continue ascending spiritually, until we merit redemption and complete repentance (Sanhedrin 97b, 98a; Zohar 3, 66:2).

Judgment for Individuals on Rosh Hashana

Although the primary judgement and reward and punishment is for the ‘clal’, individuals are also judged on Rosh Hashana, but their judgement is vastly dependent on the judgement of ‘Clal Yisrael’. For example, when the nation finds itself in the course of destruction and exile, the assessment of each individual is whether his standing is at the lowest point, or, despite the harsh reality, he merits some reprieve. If the nation is on a course of aliyah, prosperity and redemption, the assessment is whether one will also be a partner in the blessing. Occasionally in times of grace, the wicked receive only an apparent blessing, which they lose over time; and sometimes in periods of calamity, the righteous are punished with apparent punishments that over time lead to blessings. Thus, on the one hand, the judgement is exact and precise, but on the other hand, strongly influenced by the times – all for the sake of maintaining freedom of choice, and ‘tikkun olam’.

The Need for the Beit HaMikdash

Consequently, we can understand the importance of focusing on the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) and placing it at the top of the public agenda, because it expresses the sanctity of ‘Clal Yisrael’ – the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ (universal holiness) revealed in the world by way of Israel.

And should one ask: What’s so important about a particular place, or a specific building – after all, the most import thing is one’s heart and thoughts? To such a question, we will respond that without the tangible place – thoughts, ideals, and morality dissipate into thin air. For example, instead of actually helping the poor, it would be possible, so to speak, just to ensure them that they will be rewarded in the World to Come after they die. Instead of fighting the wicked, their punishment in hell would be enough. Instead of imposing the values ​​of morality and justice in the world, it’s enough to settle for a ‘victory of the spirit’, as it were.

Indeed, when there was no other option, and we were enslaved to evil kingdoms in the exile, all we had left was to believe that in the end, spirituality would triumph and the Beit HaMikdash would be rebuilt, as we mentioned in all our prayers and blessings – and this belief that we held, stood for us against all those who tried to destroy us.

However, when it is possible to act, believing in the “victory of the spirit” alone expresses a terrible heresy in the ability of holiness to influence and remedy life. And from here the path leading to idolatry is very short, specifically, to a foreign belief that the forces operating in the world are disconnected from the One God, and only a miracle, so to speak, can save the ‘tzaddikim’ (righteous), because nature itself is completely detached from the ‘Shekhina‘ (Divine Presence). This is what our Sages meant when they said that Jews living outside of the Land of Israel are considered idolaters (Ketubot 110b), because they cannot reveal the act of holiness in this world. This is the terrible despair that all our eminent and righteous Torah scholars warned of.

The Struggle for the Temple Mount

Today, if the appearance of the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ (universal sanctity) in the world is truly important to us we are obligated to make further progress, and the next stage required of us is to act with all our might to reveal the glory of the God of Israel on the Temple Mount, and to remove all signs of hatred and contempt for the sanctity of Israel. And as we say in the prayers of the ‘Yamim Nora’im’ (Days of Awe): “And therefore, Lord our God: Grant also, we pray, that your people Israel may live in dignity…grant joy to your land of Israel, and gladness to your holy city, Jerusalem…speed the time when those who love righteousness will behold these days and rejoice…when wickedness shall be silenced and every form of violence vanish like vapor, because you will cause the rule of arrogance to cease from the earth. And you will reign, you alone, over all humanity through Mount Zion, the place of your glorious shrine of old, and through Jerusalem, your holy city”.

Those Traveling Abroad to the Graves of the Righteous

Those traveling on Rosh Hashana to the graves of the righteous must be very cautious not to harm the awe-inspiring foundation of the sanctity of ‘Clal Yisrael’, which is revealed in Eretz Yisrael. Possibly, if they increase their prayers for ‘Clal Yisrael’, the building of the Beit HaMikdash, and Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and courageously rally to act for it when they return to Israel – perhaps it may be of benefit to them that their ‘yeridah‘ (descent) will be for the sake of ‘aliyah‘. But if they forget the Temple Mount and their duty to act for the building of the nation, the land, and the Temple, their descent from the Land of Israel to pray for themselves will be considered a sin.

When Religion is “Private” it Drives People Away

The abandonment of religion in recent generations is also dependent on the fact that souls are thirsty for the revelation of the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ (universal sanctity), and as long as religion is primarily reliant on the minute details – ‘tzav l’tzav, kav l’kav, ze’er po, ze’er sham’ (‘precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little’), it fails to arouse the hearts. But when we advance the idea of ​​the ‘kodesh ha’clali’, whose primary goal is the vision of ‘tikkun olam’ in the word of God, from the fountain of the ‘kodesh ha’clali‘, all springs will be filled with the living water.

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

May Harmful Trees be Uprooted?

A comment concerning Israel’s judicial system: Instead of criticizing the High Court of Justice’s decision on infiltrators, the structure of the legal system should be changed from the ground up * The prohibition of destroying trees: Only a tree that produces a certain quantity of fruit is forbidden to be uprooted * Only the deliberate destroying of trees is prohibited, but uprooting in order to prevent damage is permitted, provided there is no other option * The cost of landscaping is not a reason to uproot a fruit tree * The dispute regarding uprooting trees for the purpose of expanding one’s house or renovating the garden * Some poskim are apprehensive of a Jew uprooting a tree even when halakha permits, therefore it is preferable to be done by a non-Jew

A Comment Regarding the Legal System

Recently, we have once again been informed that the Supreme Court has undermined the government’s policy regarding infiltrators. They have also frozen the ‘Formalization Law’ (‘Hok Ha-hasdara’) for an indefinite period, and all the efforts of Knesset members – representatives of the voting public, has gone down the drain. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, ministers and MKs voiced sharp objections and criticism about the legal system. However, the dismal situation of the judicial system has been apparent for a long time – from the justices of the Supreme Court, to the legal counsel and state attorneys – all of whom are committed to the rights of the individual, at the expense of Jewish national values. The complaints against them are futile – their views are clear, and they will not alter them.

Therefore, all the criticisms of the ministers and Knesset members are ineffectual; instead, they must utilize the power in their possession, and change the legal system from the ground up – this is what they were elected for! This will require a public and media struggle, including unambiguous legislation on national issues, changing the procedure for selecting judges, dividing the powers of the Attorney General, and restoring the role of legal counsel as advisers, and not policy makers. If there are ministers and Knesset members who feel that other MK’s in the government and Knesset are interfering with this change, they should publically condemn them, and not the judicial system, so the entire public will know who is critically violating their rights as a nation, and as an electorate.

Is it Permissible to Uproot Fruit Trees?

Q: “After we finished building our house, we planted 15 fruit trees in the garden. Over the years we have come to realize that in general, they have caused us grief. Most of the trees produce a small amount of fruit, and more often than not, the birds and insects eat them before we do. Two of the trees produce lots of fruits, but since we planted them near the window, the gnats and mosquitoes they attract, enter our house and cause us great sorrow. Our neighbors complain about the insects as well. Three of the trees hardly give any fruit. In addition, we want to expand our house, and in order to do so, we need to uproot at least two fruit trees. On top of all this, our garden looks inferior to those of our neighbors, because decorative trees and bushes look a lot nicer.

The question is, is it permissible to uproot all the fruit trees in order to expand the house, and in their place, plant decorative trees? In the present situation, the value of the fruit that grows on the trees is meager, and it is far more worthwhile for us to plant decorative trees instead – the fact being, that we are prepared to pay thousands of shekels to a gardener to renovate. If the answer is it is forbidden, is it permissible to at least uproot the trees that do not produce a lot of fruit, or those trees in areas where we intend to expand the house? And is it permitted to uproot all the trees by a non-Jew?”

What is a Fruit Tree?

Seeing as the subject is complex, there is room for a detailed explanation.

The prohibition of uprooting a fruit-bearing tree is on the condition that the tree actually yields fruit; but if the tree is old or sick, to the point where it produces less than a ‘kav’ of fruit per year (approximately one kilo and 200 grams, or more to be more precise, 1,200 Cc), its’ ruling of being considered a fruit-bearing tree is nullified, and can be uprooted. For an olive tree, because of its special importance, there is a ‘chumra‘ (a prohibition exceeding the bare requirement of halakha) that as long as it produces a quarter of a ‘kav‘ (approximately 300 grams) a year, it is forbidden to uproot it. In order to know how much fruit a tree produces, it must be surveyed for several years, in order to be certain that it does not yield more than the aforementioned amount.

This is measured according to the normal irrigation and treatment of the owner of the tree: if he waters and takes care of it regularly according to his understanding, and yet, it does not produce such a quantity of fruit, it is permitted to uproot it.

Even a young seedling that is still in the years of ‘orlah‘ (a tree during the first three years after planting) and does not yield fruit, is forbidden to uproot, because it is destined to produce a ‘kav‘ of fruit (Maharsham 7: 178).

A Fruit Tree that Causes Damage

The prohibition of uprooting a fruit tree is stated in the Torah in the language of destruction, as it is stated: “You must not destroy its trees” (Deuteronomy 20:19). It follows that it is permissible to uproot a fruit tree for the purpose of removing damage, since this uprooting is not for the purpose of destruction, but rather to remove damage. It is also told in the Talmud (Bava Kama 92a) that when the Amora Shmuel saw that the palm trees planted between the vines were harmful to the vines, he ordered his sharecropper to uproot the palms.

Therefore, it is permissible to uproot a fruit tree that overshadows a window and prevents light from entering the house, since this is considered significant damage for which people are usually meticulous about. However, if it is possible to prevent the damage by cutting the branches that overshadow the window, one should suffice with cutting them even though he will have to make an effort to cut them every few months, because preventing having to make such an effort does not permit the uprooting of a fruit tree (Chavot Yair 195).

This is also true in a case where one has to pay a gardener to cut the branches every few months. On the face of it, one could argue that just as it is permissible to uproot an orchard whose cost of operation is higher than its profits, so too, it is possible to uproot a fruit tree in a garden when the work of the landscaper minding the garden or cutting the branches is more costly than its value (for example, in a case where the tree produces five kilos a year of fruit worth 50 shekels, when the work of the gardener costs 200 shekels). However, such an argument cannot be made because planting a fruit tree in a private garden is not economically beneficial, since every intelligent person knows that the cost of growing fruit in a private garden (including work time) is far greater than the cost of growing fruit in a commercial orchard. Hence, according to the intent of those planting fruit trees in their garden – each kilo that grows in their garden, to them, is worth ten times the value of the fruit they would buy in a high-priced supermarket. Therefore, only when the prevention of damage involves an extremely great effort, or at a much higher cost than is customary in the treatment of fruit trees, is it permitted to uproot.

Therefore, when a fruit tree attracts gnats and flies that enter the house and cause great sorrow, one should first try to remove the damage by spraying pesticides, even though it involves effort and financial expenses. But if the attempts are not successful, it is permissible to uproot the tree.

Uprooting Trees for the Purpose of Expanding an Apartment or Garden

As we have learned, when uprooting is not for the purpose of destruction, but for an important benefit worth much more than the tree, it is not prohibited (Bava Kama 91b). Therefore, it is permissible to uproot fruit trees in order to build an apartment house in their stead.

However, some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) tend to be stringent, ruling that only for a vital need is uprooting a fruit tree permissible, such as in a case where a family has grown, and their apartment is overcrowded; but for purposes of luxury and extravagance, such as the expansion of a balcony without necessity, or the rearrangement of a garden in a more beautiful manner – fruit trees should not be uprooted (Shailat Yavetz, Zevchei Tzedek, Aruch HaShulchan). Some poskim tend to be lenient regarding uprooting trees for any need that is customary among the rich, or even to expand an empty space in a garden for the purpose of taking a stroll (Mahari Bassan, Chida, Shvut Yaakov).

In practice, those who want to be lenient have poskim to rely on, but l’chatchila (ideally), when possible, it is preferable to be stringent.

The Kabbalistic ‘Segulah’ Danger

Some poskim say that even when according to Jewish law it is permissible to uproot a fruit tree, all the same, one should be wary about doing so, because there is a tradition that anyone who uproots a fruit tree endangers his life, as Rabbi Chanina said: “My son did not pass away except for having cut down a fig tree before its time” (Bava Kama 91b). However, in the opinion of the majority of poskim, only when a tree is uprooted in contradiction to halakha is there a danger, but if it is done according to halakha, it does not pose any danger. On the other hand, there are some poskim who are apprehensive about uprooting a fruit tree even when it is permitted according to halakha; in particular, they learned this from the ethical will of Rabbi Yehuda HeHasid, who was one of the eminent Ashkenazi Rishonim kabbalists who warned not to uproot a fruit tree, and some poskim were very cautious about all of his warnings, saying that anyone who transgresses them, endangers his life (Ya’avetz 1:76; Chaim B’Yad). For this reason, even when according to halakha it was permissible to uproot a fruit tree, there were rabbis who were careful and apprehensive about giving such a ruling because of the danger. Several poskim advised that just to be sure, the uprooting should be carried out by a non-Jew for whom the prohibition does not apply, thereby saving the Jew from danger.

Uprooting by a Non-Jew

According to the majority of poskim, anything forbidden for a Jew to do from the Torah, is forbidden ‘me’divrei sofrim’ (from the words of the Sages), to request a non-Jew to do it for him. This prohibition is called “shvut“. However, in a situation of ‘safek issur’ (a doubtful prohibition), since the request from the non-Jew is forbidden only ‘me’divrei sofrim‘, and in a ‘safek d’rabbanan’ (a rabbinic doubt) one may act leniently, therefore, when there is doubt as to whether one is allowed to uproot a tree, it is permissible to ask a non-Jew to do it (as explained in “Peninei Halakha: Shevi’it” 5:9, footnote 9).

The Practical Halakha

One may uproot trees that cause damage by attracting insects, provided there is no other way to prevent this, and it is also permissible to uproot trees that prevent the expansion of a house. However, there is disagreement concerning the uprooting of fruit trees in order to create an attractive garden. Practically speaking, it seems that one who wishes to be lenient and uproot trees for decorative and luxury purposes has authorities to rely upon, on condition that one weighs his needs thoroughly and delays his decision, so that he will be sure it is a genuine desire, and not just a passing one. And it is proper to have a non-Jew uproot the tree.

An Apology for the Headlines of My Previous Article

As a footnote, I find it necessary to correct the mistaken impression that the editor who wrote the headlines, gave my previous article. Firstly, I made an effort in my article to explain the great weight of the ‘masoret’ (Jewish religious tradition) and ‘anshei emunah’ (people of faith) among all streams of Zionism. Therefore, the subtitle “Secular Zionism Succeeded in Establishing the State” is contrary to what I wrote. The ‘chiddush‘ (novelty) was that in order to lead the process forward, a deeper connection to ‘kodesh‘ (sacred ideals) is needed, and therefore, the main headline “No State without Faith” does not express the complex content of the article.

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

No State without Faith

On the occasion of the passing of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook ztz”l, it is worthwhile recalling his position on the Zionist movement: It is important to take part in it, but it will succeed only out of holiness * Indeed, secular Zionism succeeded in establishing a state, but only after many crises * Had it not been not for the First World War and the lessons of the horrendous Holocaust, secular leadership would not have succeeded to stand-up boldly against the British in order to achieve a state * To this day, at every crossroad the political leadership has stumbled, and only Providence, with the help of people of faith, has advanced the redemption * Also in today’s challenges, and especially the war against radical Islam, we can succeed only from a standpoint of holiness

Rabbi Kook and Secular Zionism

Despite Rabbi Kook’s support for all those engaged in settling of the Land of Israel and the Ingathering of the Exiles, his assessment was that without a connection to the foundation of holiness, ‘emunah‘ (faith), observance of the Torah and mitzvoth, and the vision of redemption for Israel and the world – the secular Zionist movement would lack the ability to achieve its goal of rebuilding the Jewish nation in its land. He wrote about this in numerous letters, and spoke about it in conversations, sermons and speeches. Accordingly, he initiated the establishment of the ‘Degel Yerushalayim’ movement.

Rabbi Kook also realized that a central feature of righteous gentiles’ support of the Zionist movement was based on their faith in the Bible, and he feared that the more aware they were about the remoteness of the secular Zionist’s leaders from faith in God, they would remove their support for the Jewish people’s request to establish a state in their homeland (Igrot Haraya 3, pg.173). He wrote that a secular program for the Jewish nation could never achieve the fulfillment of Israel’s national objectives (Ma’amarei Haraya, 2, pg.298). “Nothing will be born of our labors if we do not attach to the importance of practical actions, the restoring of the vision of the idea embodied and concealed in them…Not only will it not be beneficial, but will further humiliate the idea, and in the end, cause the termination of the practical actions” (Orot Hatechiya 6).

Indeed, it must be noted that although some of the leaders and supporters of Zionism were totally secular, the Zionist movement as a whole did not detach itself from Jewish tradition. Among its constituents were entirely religious figures, such as the members of the Mizrachi movement, traditional Jews such as the members of Betar, segments of the Labor movement; even secular Jews within the Zionist movement accepted Judaism as the basic culture. Thus, faith and Jewish tradition undoubtedly carried great weight in Zionist activities. Nevertheless, Rabbi Kook estimated that without a deeper connection to Judaism, the Zionist movement would not be able to reach its goals.

The Danger of Detaching Zionism from Holiness

Even as the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa in 1908, Rabbi Kook called upon faithful Jews to build the land both spiritually and physically, combining Torah with ‘derech eretz‘ (worldliness), because all future growth of redemption is dependent on building the country out of true piety. “…for otherwise, it will be taken over by forceful people armed with promiscuity and the ways of the goyim, without a trace of Israel’s true holiness… which will ultimately turn into a destructive force and a monster, and in the end, hate of Jews and the Land of Israel as well, as we have experienced in the past. [If] this impure hand prevails, the magnitude of the disaster will be inconceivable. But I have trust in God, who will not allow our feet to slip, and all who fear the word of God, and desire the salvation of His nation and holy land, will rise to our call, and embark on establishing in Zion a precious cornerstone, revitalizing the ‘New Yishuv‘ on the foundation of purity of faith, connected to the joy of life and its justified desires, and God shall be with us, to rebuild the ruins of our nation for generations.”

Was Rabbi Kook Right?

On the face of it, reality has proven the opposite of Rabbi Kook’s words, for the State of Israel was established, and even continues developing and prospering, although its leaders are unfaithful to Judaism’s sacred beliefs.

Some people simply interpreted Rabbi Kook’s words as being similar to those of many other rabbis, who, in order to encourage their followers to engage in Torah and mitzvoth, always tell them their success is dependent upon it. When speaking with businessmen, they tell them that if they keep Torah and mitzvoth, their business will succeed. When they speak to public figures they tell them that if they keep Torah and mitzvoth, they will be successful in all their undertakings. When they speak to scientists, they tell them that if they study Torah and keep mitzvoth, they will succeed in their research. Indeed, their words are correct, however, they lack an in-depth analysis of reality; rather, they reflect a principled position that only through Torah and mitzvoth can one be truly successful – if not in this world, then in the World to Come. And if not in this generation, then in the End of Days.

Holiness is Essential to Zionism

However, the truth is that in his deep foresight, Rabbi Kook perceived the basic shortcomings of the secular Zionist movement, and even before the First World War, Rabbi Kook clearly understood that the secular Zionist movement would lack the moral strength required to deal with the complex difficulties. True, the secular Zionist movement has great merit for beginning the process of operating in the political sphere, and settling the land on a large, practical scale, but without a deep connection to holiness, its objectives cannot be achieved.

And indeed, Rabbi Kook was right. If not for the First World War, and even more so, the Second World War and the terrible Holocaust that transpired, the Zionist movement would not have achieved establishing the State.

Rabbi Kook, of course, did not count on the Holocaust; he spoke about the responsibility placed on the generation to advance the Jewish nation towards the establishment of a state, even devoid of a terrible tragedy. Therefore, he warned all who would listen that the national movement must be connected to the sacred, and work diligently for the revival of Israel. The plea was directed to both the secular Zionists, and also to the Haredi public, who stood-by idly and did not join the immigration and settlement effort.

Had we succeeded in connecting the holy and the secular, the Zionist movement would have been able to encourage millions of Jews to make aliyah, and as a result, would have been capable of making a significant and compelling claim to the nations of the world to support the realization of the Jewish people’s right to its land – without resorting to the lessons of the Holocaust.

The Failures of the Secular Leadership

Having not merited this, terrible catastrophes befell us, without which the State of Israel would not have been established. The First World War, a conflict more difficult than any previous wars, caused a great shock in the world. Tens of millions of casualties left nations bleeding. Great empires crumbled, and new countries were created. As a result, many people began to alter their way of thinking, and this led to the Balfour Declaration (Nov.2, 1917), according to which Britain received power over all the Land of Israel on both sides of the Jordan River in order to establish a national home for the Jewish nation, a declaration that was later approved by an international conference in San Remo (1920).

But the fact is that within a few years, the Zionist movement let almost all the enormous achievements slip through its hands. First, it agreed to abandon the continuation of the Jewish Legion, created during the First World War with the express purpose of initially helping the British effort to conquer the Land of Israel for the Jews, and afterwards, to serve as the nucleus of a Jewish army that would defend the national home. After that, they ceded the eastern side of the Jordan River to the Arabs. Then, they agreed to limit immigration to Israel, abandoning their claim to reach a Jewish majority and create a Jewish state. Given such a situation, there was no chance of establishing the State of Israel. Then, along came the Second World War, which was even more grueling than its predecessor and for the Jewish nation – the most difficult of all. Six million of our people were murdered with atrocious brutality. Only after the extent of the Holocaust became evident did the majority of the world recognize the right of the Jewish people to establish a state in the Land of Israel.

And yet, the official Jewish leadership did not have the courage to fight for it. It was only thanks to the breakaway organizations, the Irgun and Lechi who had a greater connection to the traditions and sacred values of Judaism, that were the British expelled from the country, enabling the establishment the State of Israel.

Even after the State was established, given that the religious connection to the holy areas of the land was not sufficiently rooted, the I.D.F. was halted in mid-action during the War of Independence, leaving Judea, Samaria, and the Temple Mount in Arab hands.

Years later, during the Six Day War, the leadership also did everything possible to avoid conquering the Temple Mount and Judea and Samaria. They begged Hussein not to join the war, and after conquering Judea and Samaria, they tried to give it back to the Jordanians in exchange for “peace”, and handed over management of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Waqf.

If the position of the secular leadership after the Six-Day War would have been realized, the State of Israel would have withdrawn from Judea and Samaria, and all its population centers would have been constantly threatened by terrorist organizations of the type that arose in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon. The rise and development of the economy would have ceased, and the situation of the State of Israel would have been far worse than it is now because, aside from being threatened by terrorist organizations, the spiritual crisis of relinquishing the holy places would have left a moral and spiritual vacuum that would have undermined the motivation to remain in the country and continue to settle and develop it, as we have witnessed in those detached, secular Jews who are the first to leave the country – even to Berlin.

This is exactly what Rabbi Kook spoke about, and unfortunately, this is what we ourselves have witnessed over the last few generations: at almost every critical juncture in which spiritual strength was required, the secular leadership of the Zionist movement failed. Only by God’s providence, which at times directed events with ‘chesed‘ and ‘rachamim‘ (kindness and mercy), and at other times with ‘din‘ (justice), were we able to achieve the Ingathering of the Exiles, and settling the Land.

In the Merit of People of Faith

It is important to note the merit of ‘anshei emunah‘, the people of faith, who took part in the Zionist movement, many inspired by Rabbi Kook, who, at every crucial juncture, had influence. They did not allow the secular position to rend the bond with Israel’s sacred values, and directed the process towards continuing the building of the nation and the Land. This was the case with Rabbi Maimon in regards to the decision to establish the state, with Rabbi Goren in the Six Day War on the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs, and with Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook and his students in settling Judea and Samaria.

Today, as global Islam poses a religious and moral challenge to Western culture in general, and to Judaism in particular, with the focus of the struggle being on the Land of Israel and the Temple Mount, all can understand that only by way of our sacred values can Jewish nationalism be strengthened, the militant Muslim religion be defeated, and faith and peace be brought to the world.

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

A Spiritual Vacation in the Temple

While the Temple existed, the mitzva of ‘ma’aser sheni’ and ‘neta revai’ prompted everyone to make the Festival Pilgrimage to the Holy Temple * The quantity of harvested crops is equivalent to the number of days of the festivals, thus affording a prolonged stay in Jerusalem that included fine, festive meals * The families who made the pilgrimage merited dwelling in the shadow of the Divine Presence, and learning Torah * In the future, thousands of hotels will be built near the Temple so that everyone can rejoice and receive relevant, spiritual guidance * Throughout the year, Jerusalem will serve as a spiritual center for all mankind

The Mitzvah of the Temple in Parashat Re’eh

In this week’s Torah portion ‘Re’eh‘, we repeatedly learn about the central role of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), by means of which the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ (universal holiness) is revealed in the world – a holiness that harmoniously unites all ideals, and gives value and meaning to all details of life. For too long we have forgotten to talk about the Temple. True, we were busy building the Land, which is the foundation for the establishment of the Temple, but it seems that neglecting the Temple had an adverse effect on the building of the Land as well. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to study matters regarding the Temple, and attempt to portray the revelation of its holiness in the world, in a vivid and visionary manner.

In a complete system of mitzvoth including ‘aliyah l’regel’ (Festival Pilgrimage), ma’aser sheni, neta revai (agricultural tithes), korban chagigah and nidavot shleimim (animal sacrifices), the Torah guides us how to partake in a spiritual vacation of Torah and prayer, joy and festive meals, all in the environs of the Temple.

I will elaborate a bit on the mitzva of ma’aser sheni explained in our Torah portion.

What is Ma’aser Sheni?

In four of the seven years of the shmitta (Sabbatical years), it is a mitzvah to set aside approximately nine percent of the fruit for ma’aser sheni (the second tithe). The unique aspect of ma’aser sheni is that although it contains kedusha (holiness), it remains in the possession of the owner of the fruit, and it is a mitzvah for him to eat it, with his family, within the walls of Jerusalem, in purity. As the Torah says: “Take a second tithe of all the seed crops that come forth in the field each year. You must eat this before God your Lord in the place that He will choose as dedicated to His name. There you shall eat the second tithe of your grain, wine and oil…you will then learn [by coming in contact with priests and scholars in Jerusalem] to remain in awe of God your Lord for all time” (Deuteronomy 14:22-23).

Those who find it difficult to bring the fruits of the second tithe to Jerusalem because of the distance and the abundance of fruits, are entitled to redeem the produce on a coin of equal value, thus making the fruit ‘chullin’ (de-sanctified), and the sanctity is transferred to the money. The money would be brought to Jerusalem where people would buy food, which they would eat in purity according to the laws of eating ma’aser sheni. As the Torah says: “If the journey is too great for you, and God your Lord has blessed you so that the place that God your Lord has chosen as a site dedicated to His name is too far for you to carry it there, you may redeem the tithe for silver. The silver in your hand must consist of coinage which you can bring to the place that God your Lord will choose. You may then spend the money on anything you desire, whether it be cattle, smaller animals, wine, brandy, or anything else for which you  have an urge” (Deuteronomy 14:24-26). At the time of redeeming the fruit, a fifth of its value must be added; poor people would perform the act of redeeming with the help of a friend, thereby absolving themselves of this additional charge.

A Fund for Spiritual ‘Continuing Education’

By way of the fruits of ma’aser sheni, all of Israel became stronger in the mitzvah of aliyah l’regel (the Festival Pilgrimage) – on Chag Ha’Matzot (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), and Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) for the mitzvah required eating approximately six percent of the total harvest of the fields in Jerusalem, and the most appropriate time for this was during the festive meals. The mitzva was to share meals with the Levites and the poor, and the more blessed a person was, the longer his family would be able to linger in the shadow of the Divine Presence in Jerusalem, and the more Levites and poor people he would be able to treat at his meal. And if he had children who could engage in Torah study, in consequence of the tithes, he would encourage them to stay in Jerusalem to study Torah there, and eat from the money of ma’aser sheni. This is what the Torah says: “You will then learn to remain in awe of God your Lord for all time” (Deuteronomy 14:23) – “This comes to teach that the tithes brings one to the study of Torah” (Sifre, Re’eh 106).

The Harvest was Adequate for the Entire Festival and More

I calculated the percentage of fruit that was allocated for ma’aser sheni from all of the fruit that the average person would eat for seven years, and compared it to the total number of days of the Pilgrimage Festivals. Something wonderful became apparent: the portion of the ma’aser sheni from the total crop corresponded to the number of days of the Pilgrimage Festivals from the seven years of shmitta.

The second tithe was approximately nine percent of the harvest, but it was only set aside in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the six years that terumot and ma’asrot were allotted – altogether, it was approximately six percent. In the seventh year, the fruit was hefker (abandoned), and terumot and ma’aser was not taken. Thus, when the fruits of the second tithe were divided for eating over seven years, they rose to 5.14 percent of the harvest of the six years of work in the seven year cycle. If we calculate the days of the three Festivals in which it is a mitzvah to make the pilgrimage, and half a day before and a half a day after, it comes to 19 days, which is 5.2 percent of the average 365 days a year (in truth, the calculation is more complex because on Shavuot of a shmitta year, and Succot at the end of shmitta, there no longer remained fruits of ma’aser sheni, however, on the other hand, the void could be filled to a certain extent through the sacrifices of ma’aser behema [the animal sacrifices] on these festivals).

The Pilgrims Festive Meals

Thus, the fruits of the second tithe were sufficient for the oleh regel to maintain the level they were accustomed to while at home. Since in addition to this, the law concerning fruits that grew on trees in the fourth year – neta revai – is similar to that of the fruits of ma’aser sheni, consequently, each family had fruits that could be eaten during the fine meals of the holidays.

In addition, each male was commanded to bring a korban chagiga sacrifice, from whose flesh would be eaten at the festive meals, in addition ma’aser behamah, i.e., the tithe that he set aside from his beasts, which were also intended for the mitzva meals eaten in the environs of the Temple. Not only that, but there were people who were exempt from going on the pilgrimage, and consequently, the money of the second tithe and neta revai which were intended to satisfy their sustenance, remained as surpluses that could be eaten at the mitzvah meals in Jerusalem.

Thus, an average person who went to Jerusalem on all three Festivals would eat there far better meals than he ate during the year, and still have enough to share his feast meals with the Levi’im and the poor. Often, these funds from ma’aser would enable those family members who wanted, to remain in Jerusalem for a few months, or a whole year, to dwell in the shadow of the Divine Presence, and to grow in Torah and holiness.

Biur Ma’aserot

Since the pilgrimage to the Holy Temple was fraught with difficulties, and many people had reasons to avoid it, people could have thought of keeping the redeemed money from ma’aser sheni and neta revai indefinitely. Therefore, the mitzvah of biur ma’aserot (the elimination of the tithes) is very important. The ma’aserot cycle consists of two series of three years, and the mitzva of biur ma’aserot determines that until Pesach of the fourth year, and Pesach of the seventh year, the setting aside of terumot and ma’aserot must be completed, including the money redeemed from ma’aser sheni and neta re’vai.

This mitzvah required every Jew to plan his pilgrimages, for if he saw that the time of biur ma’aserot was approaching, he would hasten to observe the mitzvah of pilgrimage, and make an effort to arrange large meals and invite several people, in order to use the intended money. If, nevertheless, he still had surpluses, he would seek out relatives, and pay for their stay in Jerusalem, or at least give the money to Torah scholars to assist them during their stay in the learning halls in Jerusalem. If he was negligent, and not able to use these sacred funds before the time of biur, he had to destroy and eliminate them from the world.

Thus, as a result of the mitzvah of biur ma’aserot and neta re’vai, it was determined that one’s spiritual vacation had to be fulfilled within a maximum of three years (the mitzva of the offering of the ma’aser behema took place on the nearest Festival, or at the latest, within a year).

The Future Vision: A Spiritual Vacation

In accordance with these mitzvot, we can prepare the fulfillment of the vision in our times. Soon, the Temple will be restored, and numerous hotels will be built in the vicinity of the Temple. Masses of Jews will stay in these hotels during the days of the Festivals, going to see the Temple, watch the service of the Kohanim (priests), and hear the singing of the Levites. They will conduct their important festive meals in the hotel’s air-conditioned dining rooms, amidst singing and dancing. All of this will be accompanied, of course, with profound and meaningful Torah study, in all areas of life. For this purpose batei midrash (learning halls) and suitable classrooms will have to be built.

However, in order to make room for all the masses of pilgrims, whose numbers will reach several millions, it will be necessary to build hundreds and thousands of high-rise hotels around the Temple spread over many kilometers, and automated trains will take guests from the hotels to the Temple Mount. Since the trains will travel automatically, they can be used on Shabbat and holidays, similar to Shabbat elevators (there is no ‘shvut’ in the Temple).

Since in the past, agriculture comprised more than 90 percent of a person’s income, the Torah’s percentage of the agricultural produce needed to be allocated for the purpose of lodging in the vicinity of the Mikdash needs to be equated to the percentage that should be set aside from an individual’s current income (similar to ma’aser kesafim and chomesh that were determined in place of terumot and ma’aserot). The amount set aside from salaries for a spiritual vacation in Jerusalem should be sufficient for several days, beyond those of the Festivals. With this amount of money, each Jew will finance days of study, vacation, and joy in the environs of the Temple. To this end, a vast array of seminars and study times will be established in all areas of Torah and life, so that every Jew can choose to study subjects close to his heart.

Study Times for the Entire World

Needless to say, during the Jewish Festivals, the hotels will be filled to capacity; during the rest of the year, in addition to holding seminars for Jews, the hotels will open their gates to all the nations of the world, as the prophet said: ” In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of Jacob’s God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths. Torah will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Blessed be the men, women, and children who ascend in purity to the Temple Mount, and prayers for the revelation of the ‘kodesh ha’clali’ in their hearts.

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

The Levitical Model of Supporting Torah

The Torah set a goal for Kohanim and Levi’im – to teach Torah, and educate the public * The ideal was for the firstborn to be sanctified, so each household would have a spiritual Torah member, but we have not yet reached that level * The Kohanim and the Levi’im established the model of the ‘garin Torani’: scattered throughout the country, but living in groups * The Israelites supported the Kohanim and Levi’im who studied Torah, and they in turn strove to teach the nation in a suitable manner * Israelites could also teach, supplementary to the stable foundation of the tribe of Levi * In our times, ma’aser kesafim for Torah scholars implements the goal of terumot and ma’asrot

The Continuation of Torah in Israel

Q: Why did the Torah grant special status to the Kohanim (priests) and Levi’im (Levites), and command us to give them terumot and ma’aser rishon (tithes)? Isn’t this discrimination towards the rest of the people?

A: These are not free gifts given to the Kohanim and Levi’im, but rather gifts that are meant to enable them to be Torah scholars and educators among the Jewish nation, as the Torah says: “They shall therefore teach your law to Jacob, and your Torah to Israel” (Deuteronomy 33:10). The Torah also says: “If you are unable to reach a decision in a case involving capital punishment, litigation, leprous marks, or any other case where there is a dispute in your territorial courts, then you must set out and go up to the place that God your Lord shall choose. You must approach the Levitical priests and other members of supreme court that exists at the time” (Deuteronomy 17:8-9).

Kohanim and Levi’im Not Engaged in Torah

Since the goal of terumot for the Kohanim and ma’aser to the Levi’im is to assist them in their spiritual role, it is a mitzvah to give these gifts to Kohanim and Levi’im ‘Talmidei Chachamim‘ (Torah scholars) who study and teach Torah. As King Hezekiah commanded: “Moreover, he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites that they might adhere firmly to the Torah of the Lord” (Chronicles II, 8-9).

The poskim (Jewish law arbiters) disagreed as to what should be done in a place where there are no Kohanim or Levi’im engaged in Torah: some say that it is forbidden to give priestly gifts to a Kohen who is an ‘am ha’aretz’, i.e., someone uneducated in Torah; the opinion of most Rishonim is that it is indeed a mitzvah to give the priestly gifts to Kohanim and Levi’im who are Torah scholars, but if there aren’t any Torah scholars present, it is a mitzvah to give them to the uneducated Kohanim and Levi’im, and one is not obligated to go out of his way to give them to Kohanim and Levi’im who are ‘Talmidei Chachamim’ (Tosafot, Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Ritva, and Meiri, Tractate Chulin 130b, as well as being codified in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 61:7).

Nationwide Deployment

In order for the Kohanim and Levi’im to be spread throughout the Land of Israel and available for their spiritual task – studying and teaching Torah – the Torah determined that they would not be given an inheritance in the Land, rather, each tribe would allot them cities within their own inheritance. As the Torah says: “God spoke to Moses… give orders to the Israelites, and have them give the Levites residential cities from their hereditary holdings. Also provide the Levites suburbs around their cities. The cities shall be their residence, while the suburbs shall be for their animals, property, and other amenities… the total number of cities that you shall give the Levites shall be 48 cities…more from a larger holding, and fewer from a smaller one. Each tribe shall therefore give the Levites cities in proportion to the hereditary property that it has been given” (Numbers 35:1-8). In other words, the Kohanim and Levi’im received places to live, and even plots for their belongings, but they did not have enough land to grow their own food, but were nourished by the terumot and ma’asrot they received from B’nei Yisrael. As the Torah says: “The Levitical priests and the entire tribe of Levi shall not have a territorial portion with the rest of Israel, and they shall therefore eat God’s fire offerings and their hereditary gifts. Since God shall be their heritage, as He promised them, they shall not have any territorial heritage among their brethren” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2).

And this is exactly what B’nei Yisrael did in the days of Yehoshua, as it is stated: “And the children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the Lord, these cities and their pasture lands…” (Yehoshua 21:3). Over the generations, the leaders of Israel designated additional cities to the Kohanim and Levi’im as needed, for example, the cities of Nov and Anatot.

The Vision of the Firstborn: A Kohen in Every Family

Initially, all bechorim (first-borns) were meant to be Kohanim, so that each extended family would have a distinguished member – firstborns – whose task was to engage in Torah, teach, and serve in the Temple, and thus, the entire nation would be connected to the worship of God and spiritual matters. But after the firstborns participated in the Sin of the Golden Calf as well, they fell from their exalted level, and in their stead, the tribe of Levi who did not participate in the sin, were chosen and sanctified. One can learn from this that the idea of ​​the birthright of the firstborn is still too lofty for us, and therefore, instead of the firstborn Kohanim influencing the public at large, the secular life of general society would have an influence them, and annul their spiritual uniqueness. In order to create a group of Torah scholars and educators responsible for religious observance among the nation of Israel, they need to belong to a tribe that is entirely engaged in matters of holiness. This became apparent in the Sin of the Golden Calf when the firstborns participated in sin, whereas the Levi’im, members of Moshe Rabbeinu’s tribe, stood in the breach against the sinners.

The Model for ‘Garinim Torani’im’

It is possible to learn from the Levite cities scattered throughout the country, an example and precedence for the ‘garinim Torani’im’ (Torah-based groups of idealistic, religious individuals and families, who settle in underdeveloped communities to help build up and strengthen the community through social and religious programming) which, on the one hand, should be scattered throughout the country, while on the other hand, needs to preserve themselves as a group, in order to strengthen each other in their sacred work, which at times can be difficult and fraught with trials and tribulations.

Parenthetically, an important piece of advice for the heads of the ‘garinim Torani’im’: in addition to educating towards Torah and mitzvot, they should set a goal for themselves to attract first-rate mathematics and English teachers to the schools under their influence, because these subjects are beneficial for acquiring respectable professions, and thus, their contribution and influence will be well-rounded, and will find pleasure in the eyes of both God, and man.

The Privilege to Choose a Kohen and Levi

Every Jew had the privilege to choose which Kohen and Levi he would give his gifts to. This privilege created a personal connection between the Israelites and the Kohanim and the Levi’im, and compelled the Kohanim to devote themselves to their sacred work among their communities, so that the members of the community would want to give them their gifts. Thus, a Kohen or Levy who went out of his way to teach Torah to children and adults, and the members of his community benefited from his good advice and resourcefulness, was given preference in receiving their gifts. On the other hand, a Kohen or Levy who alienated himself from the community – belittling those who worked for a living, claiming everyone should study in kollel, or refused to recite a “mi she’berach” (a public prayer or blessing for an individual or group, most often recited in synagogue when the Torah is being read) for young men enlisting in the army, or were lazy and did not teach Torah – they received similar treatment at the time of distribution of the gifts.

Nevertheless, there was no fear that the Kohanim or Levi’im that the public loved and respected for their wisdom and dedication would become overly wealthy while their friends would starve, because the gifts were food, and after the Kohanim and Levi’im received all their needs in abundance, there was no point in giving them more gifts that their family could not eat. In such a situation, it was preferable for the owner of the fruit to seek out other, more available Kohanim and Levi’im to create a spiritual and educational bond with those to whom they choose to give gifts. Thus, a continuous relationship was established between all Israelites and all the Kohanim and Levi’im, with the devoted Kohanim and Levi’im given preference in receiving all their needs abundantly, while those who were less affable, failing to make an effort to teach the students well, received fewer gifts. And in difficult years when the crops were scarce and there wasn’t enough gifts to sustain all the Kohanim and Levi’im, those who did not serve the members of their communities properly, suffered from scarcity.

Did Israelites also Teach?

In addition to the fact that the tribe of Levi was chosen to be responsible for Torah study and teaching in Israel, any Israelite also wishing to do so was of course entitled to devote his life to Torah – to study, and to teach (Rambam Shemittah and Yovel 13:13). Israelites wishing to do so had to curtail work in their fields and live modestly in order to have time to study Torah. Most probably, those choosing to do so possessed outstanding talent, diligence and virtue, and consequently, merited attaining higher levels of Torah knowledge, above and beyond the average member of the tribe of Levi, and as a result, many of them served as members of the courts and the Sanhedrin. Occasionally, their families would assist them with their livelihood, similar to the agreement between Zevulun and Issachar, and sometimes the public paid them unemployment benefits so they could dedicate their time to teaching or sitting in judgement. Nonetheless, the important role of the tribe of Levi remained, for they were given the overall responsibility for Torah observance in Israel, educating the young and older children, setting times for classes with adults, establishing peace between man and his fellow neighbor, and between husband and wife, providing emotional relief to the needy, and rehabilitating murderers and criminals. Beyond this solid foundation, the Israelites who devoted themselves to the Torah added an important element of magnifying and enhancing the Torah, in case law, in education, and in the enrichment of social life in all fields in which the members of the tribe of Levi were involved.

‘Ma’aser Kesafim’ – The Continuation of Tithes

In the distant past, more than 90% of the GNP was from agriculture and cattle, and as a result, terumot and ma’asrot from vegetation, first born animals, the zeroah, le’chaim, and keyvah (foreleg, cheeks, and maw of all non-sanctified, ritually slaughtered domestic animals), and reshit HaGez (the first shearing of the sheep’s wool) sustained Israel’s Torah scholars and educators. In the course of time, Israel’s livelihood expanded to industry and commerce, and other fields as well, and then, just as the Torah stipulated that Israelites give gifts in the sum of between 10% (ma’aser) to 20% (chomesh) to the Kohanim and Levi’im, our Sages determined the setting aside of ‘ma’aser kesafim’ (giving one-tenth of one’s wealth to tzedakah) as a medium measure, and ‘chomesh’ from one’s wealth as a good measure.

The Purpose of ‘Ma’aser Kesafim’

The main purpose of ‘ma’aser kesafim’ is to support Torah scholars and educators. In other words, the halakha is that in normal circumstances most of one’s ma’aser should be directed to supporting Torah scholars who study in order to teach and guide the people in the ways of Torah and mitzvot, morality, and derech eretz (common decency). However, in times when many poor people are in need of bread and clothing, the majority of one’s ma’aser kesafim should be allocated for the needs of the poor, and in such a situation, it then serves as a substitute for the mitzvot of ‘leket, shikhhah, and pe’ah’ (gleanings, forgotten produce, and the corners of the field), ma’aser ani (the pauper’s tithe), and tzedaka (charity).

It can be said that ideally, ma’aser is given as a preventive medicine. By way of the teachings and guidance of the Torah, the value of work and proper economic planning becomes common practice – young adults learn a viable profession, people work diligently and resourcefully, and as a result, blessing increases, there are less poor people, and thus, funds from tzedaka above and beyond ma’aser kesafim would be adequate for them. But when preventive medicine is ineffective, and Torah scholars fail to educate the public to work diligently and develop the economy properly, the majority of ma’aser must be devoted to the less fortunate themselves – namely, the poor, sick, and the rest of the needy.

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

The Ancient ‘Tu B’Av’ Custom

Israel never knew such wonderful holidays as ‘Tu B’Av’ (the 15th of the Jewish month of Av) and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Israel would go out and dance in the vineyards and offer themselves joyfully for the purpose of establishing Jewish families. And despite the fact that people are different – some are rich, others poor; some are beautiful, and others less; some are of noble birth, and some are not – nevertheless, on these days, special effort was made to try and bridge the gap, at least as far as wealth was concerned. Young women would therefore go out wearing white, borrowed outfits in order not to embarrass those who did not own such garments.

Seemingly, the young men were already acquainted to some extent with the families of the girls in the area, and had consulted their parents regarding an appropriate match. The final decision, however, would occur on these days. Perhaps these days were intended for those young men or women who were unsuccessful in finding a mate in the conventional way.

The Attractive and the Noble

The Talmud (Ta’anit 31a) informs us how these daughters of Israel would try to make themselves desirable: “The attractive ones would exclaim: ‘Search out beauty, for this is the purpose of a wife’; the ones of noble birth would say: ‘Search out family, for family is the purpose of a wife’; the unattractive ones would say: ‘Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, so long as you adorn her with gold.'”

The fact that the attractive women would draw attention to their beauty is understandable. Many men choose their wives based upon beauty. Beauty presents itself as somewhat of a guarantee to a good and happy marriage, filled with life. Reality, though, does not confirm this. There is no indication whatsoever that men who married so-called “attractive” women ended up more content than those who married “less attractive” women. When beauty comes in addition to good character, it can indeed add to life. However, often it can be misleading.

Those of noble birth simply say the primary feature is character. A good family is one in which children successfully obtain a proper education, and a good livelihood. One can safely assume that a woman who comes from such a family will possess a pleasant and kind character, and proper manners. In addition, it is highly likely that the children born to such parents will also possess similar character traits. We indeed find that the Sages (Baba Batra 110a) advise examining the brothers of the prospective bride, for often, the children turn out like the brothers of the bride. The Sages also advise marrying the daughter of a Torah scholar (Pesachim 49a). This is the reason that the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b) only quotes the women from good families; in the eyes of the Sages, their words were most accurate.

The Unattractive

The most surprising of the three groups is the unattractive women: “Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, so long as you adorn her with gold.” A simple interpretation of these words tells us that these young women are appealing to the unattractive, untalented men who would run after the beautiful and distinguished girls, only to be turned down. To these men they would say: “If you keep running after the attractive and distinguished girls, you will remain single and frustrated forever. Be realistic, and marry one of us, who are ready to marry you. After all, the Torah commands you to get married – come, marry for the sake of fulfilling God’s will.” Nevertheless, since marriage must possess an element of affection, they added: “So long as you adorn us with gold,” for by doing so, you show your love for us.

All the same, there is a more profound way of understanding the words of the unattractive girls. Sometimes a person who has merited neither beauty nor desirable lineage is successful, through the virtue of exceptional faith in God, to perfect his or her character traits, and attain great personal achievement. The level such a person reaches is even higher than that of the attractive and distinguished. A shared life with such a person is certain to be full of beauty and happiness. This is the meaning of the unattractive women’s words: “Choose your mate for the sake of Heaven, and consequently, we will ascend together and surpass the level of all the attractive and distinguished couples – and our children will be distinguished by our virtue.” And they added, “So long as you adorn us with gold.” This last statement can best be understood in light of the words of Rabbi Yishmael (Nedarim 9:10): “The daughters of Israel are all beautiful, only that poverty makes them unbecoming.” If you decorate us with gold, you will uncover our true, unique beauty. Consequently, although in practice the most desired girls are generally those who are attractive, followed by those who are distinguished, in truth, the distinguished are preferable to the attractive, and sometimes, the unattractive are the most desirable of all.

Sound Advice for Singles

This carries a bit of advice for single men: Often, girls who are actually quite pretty, appear to be unattractive. This, however, is simply the result of the man’s level of maturity. God created humans such that they enter the world as infants, and grow and develop until old age. Each stage in life has its own purpose. At the age of twenty, the desire to marry is very strong: “Twenty is the age for chasing” (Avot 5:18). At that stage in life the heart is full of enthusiasm and courage. A young man sees all that is good in his prospective match, and is ready to leap happily into married life. This period is followed by a more restrained stage of life, whose purpose is to build and prepare the next stage. If an older, single man expects to be swept away by youthful enthusiasm while dating, he is usually disappointed. Yet, instead of attributing this to his age, he finds fault in the woman. He might admit that she is pleasant and smart, however – he disappointedly explains to his close friends – she is not pretty enough, or exciting. Such bachelors should know: If you sense a woman is pleasant and smart and you enjoy her company, but the only problem is the element of excitement is missing, “choose your mate for the sake of Heaven.” Don’t worry. If you invest energy in your relationship, and “decorate her with gold,” you can be sure that you will be blessed with true love. The enthusiasm which accompanies falling in love, is actually meant to help a person take the monumental leap of entering into the covenant of marriage. Such emotion, however, does not guarantee a happy marriage. Good character traits and shared goals are much more important. A genuine, mature, and deep loving relationship, reaching the inner layers of the soul, is dependent upon these features.

The Unique Power of ‘Tu B’Av’

The author of the work “B’nei Yissachar” explains that ‘Tu B’Av’ is a day of deep-rooted significance because it falls forty days before the date of the world’s creation. The sixth day of creation was Rosh Hashana. On that day, God formed man. Six days prior to this is the twenty-fifth of Elul, and forty days prior to this is ‘Tu B’Av’. Our Sages said: “Forty days before the formation of the infant, an announcement is made in heaven: “The daughter of so-and-so is matched-up with so-and-so.” Because ‘Tu B’Av’ falls forty days before the formation of the world, it also is a day of significant importance, possessing a unique capacity to initiate life – especially for a bride and groom who wish to establish a family.

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

The Temple – Top of the Agenda

The story of Yosef Tzvi Salomon HY”D and his family, his daughter Chaya Esther and his son Elad z”l * As the son of Holocaust survivors, Yosef Tzvi worked diligently to settle the Land of Israel, and cleaved to the Torah until his final day * Our political and defense leaders do not understand the nation of Israel’s mission, and consequently, do not grasp the essence of the struggle against our enemies * Building the Temple should be at the top of the national agenda * The purpose of the Temple is not the service of God by righteous individuals, but the ‘tikkun’ the Jewish nation, and the entire world * Preparing for the building of the Temple: learning Torah, and strengthening our sovereignty over the Temple Mount

The Three Holy Jews

Yosef Tzvi Salomon, who was murdered along with his daughter Chaya Esther and his son Elad, merited being one of the first pioneers to settle the heart of our holy Land. He grew up in Transylvania, Romania, in a community of Holocaust survivors in the town of Dej, near Cluj. As children, he and his brothers were beaten and humiliated by their anti-Semitic neighbors. About a year before reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah (13 years old) in the year 1958, the gates of emigration from Romania opened, and his parents immigrated to Israel and settled in Be’er Sheva. For many years, Yosef Tzvi was the chief sergeant of the medical warehouse of the I.D.F. After early retirement from the army, he worked as a department manager in the Talpiyot College, a post-secondary academic institution dedicated to providing education for Jewish women in an authentic Torah environment. Accordingly, he encouraged his three daughters to study there, and thanks to that, they eventually became teachers in Israel’s educational system.

As the son of Holocaust survivors who endured the camps in Transnistria (his father) and Auschwitz (his mother), the commandment to settle the Land of Israel was extremely important to him. To this end, about thirty-five years ago, he moved with his family from Be’er Sheva to Neve Tzuf (Halamish) in Binyamin. He even tried to enlist his younger brother Ben-Zion who consequently changed his plans to build his home together with his friends in Meitar, and instead, joined the ‘garin‘ (nucleus) that established the settlement of Elkana.

His daughter Racheli married Ron Manzali, a student from our yeshiva, and merited establishing their glorious family in the community of Har Bracha. Yosef Tzvi was glad they were continuing to settle the Land on the front lines of Jewish settlement, and every time he visited Har Bracha on Shabbat, he would diligently participate in Torah classes and the Shabbat sermon with his son-in-law. As a result, we were also fortunate to have Elad HY”D study in our yeshiva in his first year before enlisting in the Armored Corps of the I.D.F.

Yosef Tzvi HY”D meticulously attended all the funerals of settlers who were killed ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ (sanctifying the name of God), in order to pay homage to the holy heroes who, due to their exalted standing of being killed in the sanctification of the Torah, the nation, and the Land, occupy such an exalted position in the next world, that they are unapproachable. After the funerals he would remain silent. Who could have known then that one day, he, his daughter, and his son would reach that exalted level.

After retiring, he made great efforts to travel to the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem every day to attend Torah classes at the ‘Kollel for Pensioners’. In the last year at the age of seventy, after experiencing a fall and losing consciousness, he became very weak, and from that time on, walked slowly and hunched over, due pains in his back. Consequently, he travelled to Jerusalem only three days a week, and the rest of the time, he participated in the pensioner’s kollel he helped establish in Neve Tzuf.

He was a man of action, spoke little, and had a good heart – to the point where his brother testified that it was impossible to argue with him – he personified the verse “surely goodness and unfailing love”. He deeply wanted his family to be happy at all times, and occasionally when they argued about various matters, he would raise his voice and request they change the subject, in order to maintain a pleasant atmosphere.

He would rise early in the morning for the first ‘minyan‘ (prayer quorum) at 5:50 A.M. Even after nights of guard duty, he scrupulously attended his regular, early minyan. For decades, he served as the ‘gabbai’ (sexton) in the Neve Tzuf synagogue, thus following in his father’s footsteps, for he had been the illustrious ‘gabbai’ for thirty years at the ‘Auschwitz Martyrs’ Synagogue’ in Be’er Sheva, many of whose worshipers were Holocaust survivors.

For the last twenty years Yosef Tzvi served as the ‘gabbai‘ in the first ‘minyan‘ on Shabbat in Neve Tzuf, taking care of all needs, including arriving early to the synagogue in order to arrange the tables and prayer books before services. After prayers, he would arrange a ‘kiddush‘ for the members of the congregation at his own expense to bring them joy, and to attract people to the first ‘minyan‘. When there were other congregants who had happy occasions, they would supplement his ‘kiddush‘ with their own food and drinks.

Yosef Tzvi would look forward and count the days before joyous occasions – especially weddings in the family. He would arrive early to each wedding in order to be one of the first guests to greet the hosts. To add joy, he would walk among the guests with a bottle of scotch or whiskey, and pour them all a drink. During the dancing, he was meticulous to dance in front of the groom, and even at an advanced age, would dance like a young person. Recently, just two weeks ago, at the wedding of the Klingel family from Neve Tzuf, he tried to dance as usual, however, his strength was not there, and had to withdraw in sorrow.

On the 28th of Tamuz, 5777, on the evening of the holy Shabbat, after the occasion of ‘kiddush‘ when Israel adorns themselves with three sanctity’s, evoking God the Creator of the entire Universe who took us out of Egypt, thus, drawing holiness and blessing into the world, while the Salomon family was about to celebrate the ‘shalom zachor’ in honor of their newborn grandson – a lowly terrorist set out in the name of Islam to cancel the sanctity and the blessing.

Nevertheless, our faith is deeper and greater than any evil, and the three murdered family members have risen from their private status, to the status of three sacred Jews conveying the holiness of Israel, adorned with three sanctities. And all the holy Jews of the Holocaust who were murdered on foreign soil were there to greet and honor the holy settlers who realize the dangers but nevertheless choose to settle the Land, and are even willing to sacrifice their lives in the sanctification of God, fulfilling the words of the Torah and Prophets regarding the redemption of the Land of Israel.

The Problems in the Top Defense and Political Echelons

For years, we have felt that the moral state ​​of affairs in the top echelons of the army and the Shin Bet security service and most of the political leadership, is appalling. Their policies are empty, they fail to understand the significance of the People of Israel and our vision, and consequently, fail to understand the Arabs and Islam. They accept the positions of the liberal left as ‘Torah from Sinai’, and just as Obama and Kerry led the Middle East to chaos and bloodshed with such beliefs, so too, they walk blindly without understanding the profound processes that drive people, religions, and nations.

They think that it is possible to achieve peace with the Arabs, and as a result, at every important juncture choose the road of humiliating concession, which supposedly advances towards peace. They supported the Oslo Accords, and withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza. If it was up to them, we would have withdrawn long ago from the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, and given into all the Bedouins’ demands in the Negev, failing to understand that any withdrawal or concession besides weakening us, also increases the motivation of our enemies to initiate additional wars.

Today’s ‘Sin of the Spies’

This is today’s ‘Sin of the Spies’ – when leadership weakens the nation, and conversely, the nation weeps and weakens the leadership, thus creating a circle of impotence, submission, and humiliation. Who asked Moshe Dayan to concede the Temple Mount? The leadership weakened the people with false claims, and now declare that the people are unwilling to fight valiantly for their sacred ideals and values, and those who are willing to fight for the sanctity of the nation and the Land, are accused by senior officers of nationalism reminiscent of the Nazis! By the grace of God, thanks to the loyalty of many citizens and the army to their normal feelings towards national honor and sacred values, and the evil and wickedness of our enemies, in spite of our weak and tired leadership, we are able to endure, and even advance in the settlement of the Land.

The Temple: The Focal Point of ‘Tikkun

The immense test facing us is strengthening our sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and placing our aspiration of establishing the Temple, speedily in our days, at the top of the national agenda. For many generations, our forefathers and mothers suffered the terrible agonies of exile in order to preserve the embers of faith in the redemption of Israel and the building of the Temple, so we could fulfill the words of the prophet: “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

The Struggle over the Temple Mount

Our weak political and defense leadership does not understand why the Arabs accuse us of wanting to change the disgraceful situation on the Temple Mount. They forgot our oath to Jerusalem and the Temple, but the Jewish people’s entire existence expresses this oath. Our enemies understand this, and as a result, they fight against any trace of Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount. The Arabs and Muslims from their side, don’t care about the sanctity of the Temple Mount. For hundreds of years, when Jews did not attempt to ascend the Temple Mount, they neglected the mountain. They built their grand and magnificent mosques in other places. Even during the 19 years of Jordanian rule on the Temple Mount, the masses did not come to pray there. Only because they know that the Temple Mount is the site of Israel’s Temple, have they begun in recent years to take control of the Temple Mount, and turn it into a hotbed of hostility towards the people of Israel.

The Sanctity of the ‘Clal‘ and the Holy Temple

The Holy Temple reveals the sanctity of the ‘clal‘ (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future), the vision of connecting Heaven and Earth, and the revelation of Divine values ​​in all spheres of life. Adjacent to the Temple sat the Sanhedrin, which established Torah law in Israel, and sanctified the times and the festivals.

It is forbidden to think of the Temple as a building designed to uplift the lives of private individuals. Consequently, it is forbidden for private individuals to initiate its’ construction with their own money, and even a public ‘korban‘ (sacrifice) is forbidden to be purchased with the money of a private individual. Rather, the Holy Temple is the place of revelation of the Divine Presence, and the holiness of ‘Clal Yisrael’. Without the clear aspiration for the establishment of the Temple, all the virtues of the Torah and mitzvot are annulled, since the Torah and mitzvot were given to ‘Clal Yisrael’ in order to perfect the entire world, and not to righteous individuals. Therefore, all of Israel’s prayers are directed towards the building of the Temple. Even the ‘melakhot’ of Shabbat (productive work of the type prohibited on Shabbat) were learned from the work of the ‘Mishkan‘ (Tabernacle) and the ‘Mikdash’ (Temple), because the source of the revelation of ‘kodesh‘ (holiness) emanates from the Holy Temple.

Therefore, the preparations for the building of the Holy Temple are preparations for the building of the holiness of ‘Clal Yisrael’: spiritually – through the study of Torah, in order to illuminate and perfect the nation and the world in all spheres of life, and to assign a respectable place in Israeli society for the values ​​of the ‘kodesh‘ (holiness) and ‘mussar’ (morality). And in practical terms – the strengthening of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and placing the challenge of building the Temple speedily in our days at the top of the national agenda. This is what one should contemplate during these days, when we mourn and fast for the destruction of the Temple.

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

The Laws of Immersion of Utensils

Immersion of an ordinary, mundane utensil intended for temporal purposes alone, elevates and designates towards eating for the sake of ‘tikkun olam’ * Metal and glass vessels require immersion, ceramic and wood vessels are exempt * If the central component of the vessel is made of metal or glass – the entire vessel must be immersed * Only a vessel that comes into contact with food when it is edible requires immersion * Regarding the need for immersion of a can or a jar whose contents of food are finished and one wants to turn it into a vessel, there are differing opinions, and one can be lenient * One can be lenient and not immerse electrical appliances; however, when possible, it is correct to be stringent, and immerse them

Immersion of Vessels that Come from a Non-Jew

It is a mitzvah for a Jew who buys or acquires a food utensil made of metal or glass from a non-Jew to immerse it in a mikveh in order to purify it, comparable to a ger (convert) who is required to immerse in a mikveh upon conversion. Vessels produced in a factory belonging to a non-Jew must also be immersed, as stated in this week’s Torah portion: “This is the rule that God commanded Moses: As far as the gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead are concerned… need only be immersed in a mikveh” (Numbers 31:21-23).

The Meaning of the Mitzvah

The purpose of immersion is to elevate the utensil from the level of a vessel intended for arbitrary eating – accompanied by lust and human weakness – to the level of a utensil designed to provide vitality, faith and joy to those using them, so they can connect the temporal life of this world to values ​​of netzach (eternity), and the vision of ‘tikkun olam’ (perfection of the world). Thus, the impurity in the vessel is actually the impurity of arbitrary eating intended to sustain man during his time in this world, whereas the purification is to refine man’s eating, and to connect it to the values ​​of eternity and the vision of ‘tikkun olam.’

The Requirement – Metal and Glass Utensils

The vessels that are Biblically required to be immersed are utensils made of metal, such as gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead, as detailed in the Torah. Our Sages added and enacted that glass vessels must also be immersed, because of the similarity between glass and metal, for just as metal can be melted and reconstructed, so too, glass vessels can be melted and reconstructed (Avodah Zarah 75b).

But utensils from other materials, such as earthenware, porcelain, ceramics, stone and wood, are exempt from immersion. Enamel and Teflon vessels which are mainly made of metal, require immersion with a bracha (blessing) even though they are coated with materials that may be exempt, since the coating is of secondary importance to the vessel.

Although plastic vessels can also be melted, similar to glass, and consequently, some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) are machmir (stringent) in regards to plastic vessels (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 3:76-78), the opinion of the vast majority of the halakhic authorities is that they are exempt from immersion, for the enactment cannot be applied to glass-like vessels.

A Vessel made of Glass and Pottery

Corelle plates and the like, since their composition is hard and dense like glass, and not airy and rough as earthenware, require immersion with a blessing.

Utensils mainly composed of earthenware coated with glass, even and hard on all sides, require immersion with a blessing. If their glass coating is thin and indistinguishable, it is negligible in relation to the earthenware, and is considered as porcelain vessels that are exempt from immersion. A ceramic pot requires immersion, because its materials are metal and glass.

A Utensil Made of Metal and Plastic

A metal pot with plastic handles, and a knife with a wooden handle, require immersion. The entire utensil should be immersed, including the part made of material that does not require immersion. This is the general rule: as long as the central component of the utensil that comes into contact with food is made of metal or glass – the entire vessel requires immersion.

Which Eating Utensils Require Immersion

The utensils that require immersion are utensils that are used for eating and drinking, such as plates, glasses, cutlery, and serving dishes such as bowls, jars, and trays. Also, utensils used to make food in, such as pots and pans and their covers, frying pans, baking molds, skewers and grills. But burners or an electric plate (platta) do not require immersion, since pots are placed on them, and not food. And although occasionally people roast eggplant on the burner, and sometimes challahs are heated on the platta, since they are mainly intended for the pots, they do not require immersion. A baking pan usually used with baking paper requires immersion, since the baking paper is of secondary importance, and is not considered as a buffer between the pan and the food.

Utensils that come in contact with food but are intended for the food’s preparation in stages previous to the food becoming edible, are exempt from immersion. For example, knives intended only for slaughtering, or skin stripping, as well as vessels used to make dough. This is the general rule: all vessels that come into direct contact with food at the stage when it is edible, require immersion (S.A. 120:4-5).

Grater, Peeler and Nut Cracker

A grater, peeler, garlic and spice mortar, egg slicer, tea strainer, and a nut cracker require immersion since they come in direct contact with the food. But corkscrews and can-openers not intended to come into contact with food, are exempt from immersion. Vessels intended for storing foods in the kitchen, such as a sugar or coffee jar, require immersion, but if wrapped foods such as wrapped candies or tea bags are placed in them, they do not require immersion.

Disposable Utensils

Disposable utensils, such as aluminum baking pans, are not considered vessels, and do not require immersion. And even if one decides to use the baking pan several times, this does not alter its nature, because it is intended for one-time use, and is therefore exempt from immersion.

Food Cans and Jars

Metal cans and glass jars that are sold with foods and drinks in them, such as instant coffee in a metal can, jams in glass jars, and drinks in glass bottles – since people are accustomed to throw them out when empty, they are considered disposable utensils and do not require immersion.

However, a doubt arose as to someone who wants to continue using them. Some say they require immersion, because by deciding to use them on a regular basis, they have become actual vessels, and since they were made by a non-Jew, they require immersion (Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata 9:12; Oz Nidbru 7:71). Others are lenient, and are of the opinion that when the vessels were made they were intended to be disposable, and if a Jew bought them, they were exempt from immersion; since it was the Jew who turned it into a vessel by deciding to use it regularly, they are exempt from immersion (Tzitz Eliezer 8:26; Ohr L’Tzion 1:24; Rav Eliyahu). In practice, one who wants to act leniently and not immerse them is permitted, all the more so when it comes to glass vessels, whose level of obligation is based on ‘divrei Chachamim‘ (rabbinic status).

Electric Utensils that are Liable to Get Damaged

A considerable question arose about electrical appliances intended for preparing food and come into direct contact with it, such as an electric kettle, a bread toaster or a sandwich maker, where there is fear that immersion will damage them. Indeed, with simple electrical appliances there is almost no danger of damage, provided that after immersion they are left for a significant amount of time until they dry completely; however, with delicate electrical appliances, such as appliances with an electronic display, there is reasonable concern they will be damaged due to immersion.

Some poskim say that electric appliances are exempt from immersion because they are used by connecting them to a wall outlet for electricity, and we have a general rule that anything connected to the ground does not receive impurity, and therefore, there is no need for immersion. And even if the appliance is sometimes powered by batteries, we go according to the way it is operated the majority of time, i.e., connected to the ground. Other poskim added additional reasons to be lenient (Chelkat Yaacov, Y.D. 41:43; Beit Avi 1: 114; Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul; Tefilla L’Moshe, 5:25; Siach Nachum 49:5; Rabbi Genzel, Techumin 27).

Others are of the opinion that electrical appliances must be immersed (Minchat Yitzchak 2:72; Shevet HaLevi 2:57; Mishneh Hilchot 9: 162; Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv ‘Kovetz Teshuvot’ 1:3).h

In Practice

In practice, those who wish to rely on the lenient opinion may do so because it seems more logical, for electrical appliances are completely different types of utensils than those we were commanded to immerse, and can be defined as a type of machine. All the more so when they cannot be immersed without being damaged, for it is impossible to make a vessel fit by means of immersion in a way that after immersion, it will be damaged. This, in addition to the fact that the prohibition against using a vessel that has not been immersed is from divrei Chachamim.

Nevertheless, since in the opinion of many poskim immersion is required, and the foundation of the mitzvah is from the Torah, when possible, it is correct to take into account the stringent opinion and immerse the appliances without reciting a blessing, or to find another solution to absolve them from immersion. Therefore, for an appliance that is highly unlikely to be damaged, such as a simple electric kettle, it is correct to immerse it and wait at least a day until it dries completely, so it will not be damaged when operated.

Suggestions for Appliances that are Liable to be Damaged

Regarding an appliance that if immersed, there is reasonable concern it will get damaged, two suggestions were proposed: 1) to give it to a Jewish handyman, to thoroughly dismantle the part that comes in contact with food to the point where it is no longer considered an appliance, and assemble it anew. Thus, the appliance will be considered as a utensil made by a Jew, which is exempt from immersion. However, when it is impossible to dismantle the part that comes in contact with food, dismantling the power cord connected to the appliance is of no benefit. 2) To give the appliance to a non-Jew as a gift, and ask to borrow it from him for an unlimited time. Since the appliance belongs to the non-Jew, and the Jew does not wish to buy it for himself, it can be used indefinitely without immersion.

Utensils Obligated to be Immersed

This is all in regards to parts that are actually connected to the electric appliance, but baking trays inserted inside an electric oven require immersion with a blessing, because they are not considered electric utensils, since they are not connected to the oven, but only placed in it, and occasionally they are also used as a utensil for serving food baked on them. The same holds true for blades of a blender and a food mixer, where the parts that come into contact with food and is made of metal or glass disassembles from the electrical part, and consequently, should be immersed alone with a blessing.

May a Minor Immerse Utensils?

A young boy or girl who has not reached the age Bar or Bat mitzvah are allowed to immerse utensils and recite a blessing before immersing them, but because they have not reached the age of obligation of mitzvot, they are not authorized to testify that the vessels were immersed according to halakha. Therefore, only if an adult attests that the vessels were properly immersed, is it permissible to use the vessels that were immersed. And if a child was sent to immerse utensils and there was no adult there to testify, the utensils he immersed should be re-immersed with a blessing. If the child is known to be reliable, the utensils should be re-immersed without a blessing (S.A. 120:14).

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