The Obligation to Vaccinate

The vaccine against measles is vital and necessary * The scientific claims against the vaccine are based on research proven to be false * The halakhic rule that we follow the majority is also true in the field of medicine: if there is disagreement, we go according to the position of the majority of doctors * A person cannot exempt himself from being vaccinated and rely on the immunity of others, just as it is immoral to evade the army or not pay taxes and rely on the rest of society * Even on winter Sabbaths, ideally, the time of the Mincha prayer should be set sufficiently before Shabbat begins, in order to accept Shabbat before sunset

Question about Vaccinations

Rabbi, Shalom. My name is Shira Blitz from Neriah, a mother who is worried about the health of her children, who reads a great deal about vaccinations, but nevertheless, realizes her lack of knowledge on the subject. I learned a lot from medical professionals as part of counseling, and also from those who devote their time beyond working hours to explain. Accordingly, my children are immunized.

After years of reading on social networks, it is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among the public about vaccines, and a widespread and dangerous perception that everyone is able to understand and reach an “informed” decision on these matters as a result of his ability to use Google, where all the sources are evenly balanced and each side is legitimate. Unfortunately, there are others voicing opinions counter to scientific knowledge that are gaining momentum mainly in the religious public.

My feeling, and the feeling of many others, is that the public needs clear guidance on this matter. This is especially true today, following the outbreak of measles, for which there is a large amount of misinformation on the Internet in ever-increasing dimensions. We are asking you, Rabbi, to deal with this subject, especially from the halachic aspect, in your column ‘Revivim’. I believe that an authoritative halachic ruling on the matter will benefit many of the undecided and contribute to the public’s health – especially to the safety of those whose immune systems are weak due to illness or age, and are currently in increased danger.

Answer: The Vaccine is Essential, the Risk is Negligible

As in every case, I turned to the person most expert in the field who I am familiar with, Dr. Rafi Cayam, a pediatrician in his specialization, who for many years has served as the regional physician for the Leumit HMO in the Jerusalem area, and most of the settlements in Judea and Samaria. Most of the residents of our community also use his services.

He said the measles vaccine was essential as measles are one of the most contagious diseases. As to whether this vaccine had a risk, he replied that there was almost no risk, to the point where it is possible to say there is no risk at all. In other words, everything has a certain risk – including walking on the street—but such negligible risks are not taken into consideration.

The claims against the vaccine, which supposedly causes autism, mental retardation, or brain damage, have no foundation. The main research that the vaccine opponents relied upon turned out to be false, and was written for lawyers to support a lawsuit against drug companies. After the writer of the bogus research admitted to falsifying, his doctor’s license was revoked, and the newspaper that published the study expressed regret for its publication.

While the vaccine has a 97% rate of effectiveness, nevertheless, when such a percentage of the population is immunized, even those three percent are protected. On the other hand, when groups of people are not vaccinated, the public’s general vaccination is no longer beneficial to them, nor to people who have been immunized – including those three percent – and the disease spreads to people whose immune system has been weakened by illness or old age as well.

We Follow the Majority

The basis for relying on the position of the majority of physicians is from the Torah, as it is stated regarding a dispute in the Beit Din (religious court) between the dayanim (judges): “A case must be decided on the basis of the majority” (Exodus 23: 2). From this our Sages learned that all laws follow the majority (see, Chulin 11a-b). And in disputes between doctors, we also follow the majority (S. A., O. C. 618; Peninei Halakha: Yamim Nora’im 8: 5). All the more so here, where apparently there is no medical position based on studies and tested facts that repudiates the vaccines.

Incidentally, anyone who does not trust the rule that the majority is followed will find himself in doubts and problems his entire life. This is because he cannot rely on any kashrut certificate, lest the mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) is corrupt – and even if he is honest – maybe the owner of the business was able to deceive him; he cannot drink milk either, because maybe the cow from which the milk came from had a sircha (adhesion) on its lungs rendering it treif (not kosher); he cannot marry because maybe he was not informed of everything involved; he cannot have children, for who knows how they will turn out; and he cannot travel, because maybe an accident might occur.

The Moral Problem of Non-Immunization

Parents who do not want to vaccinate their children, however, can argue they are not required to follow the majority, for if they alone do not vaccinate their children, nothing will happen (and they too benefit from the vaccination of others…). However, this position is based on an immoral point of view, because if everyone behaves in this manner, the population will not be vaccinated, and serious and contagious diseases will turn into epidemics.

This position is the same as that of a person claiming that if he alone avoids military service, the security of the state will not be harmed, because one less soldier will not change the state of national security (and he too benefits from the protection provided by those who do enlist …). However, if everyone prefers his own personal safety and comfort, our situation will be dreadful.

Similarly in respect to income tax – if a one says that nothing will happen if he does not pay – the state’s defense, education, health, and transportation systems, etc., and society at large, will manage with the taxes of everyone else (and he too will benefit from all this good…). However, if more people prefer their personal welfare, society as a whole will collapse, and all the positive things done with taxes will be lost.

This claim is so strong morally, to the point where if one says to a person, “Kill your friend, if not, we will kill you,” he is obligated to give up his life, and not to transgress and kill his friend. And the rationale: “What reason do you see for thinking that your blood is redder? Perhaps his blood is redder?! (Pesachim 25b).

Do Not Separate Yourself from the Community

In relation to this, Hillel the Elder said: “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Avot 2: 4). Our Sages also said: “When the community is in distress, and one of them separates himself and goes to eat and drink, two ministering angels accompany him, lay coals on his head, and say “So and so separated himself from the community in the time of their troubles, he will not see the consolations of the community.” (Pesikta Zutra, Exodus 2: 11).

As long as we are speaking about expression of a position and public debate, different opinions should also be encouraged. Moreover, thanks to the criticism of vaccinations, the pharmaceutical companies and health authorities will most likely take extreme care, and do their best to minimize the risks. After all, however, one should act according to the vast majority of doctors, who over the last few generations have succeeded in eradicating epidemics that have at times caused the death of millions of people.

In addition, public officials have the responsibility of examining the formation of procedures in the education system and the like, that will protect the immunized public from those who are not.

‘Tosefet Shabbat‘ for Those Who are Late to Pray Mincha

Q: In our synagogue we finish the Mincha prayer of Erev Shabbat after shkiya (sunset), especially during the winter. Is it preferable to pray Mincha b’yachid (alone) in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tosefet Shabbat (accepting the holiness of Shabbat upon ourselves a bit before the start of the seventh day) before shkiya, or to pray with the public and forgo tosefet Shabbat?

The Mitzvah of Tosefet Shabbat

First I will explain that it is a mitzvah from the Torah to extend the sanctity of Shabbat into the mundane week (Yoma 81b; S. A. O. C. 261:2, and Biur Halakha). Kabbalat Shabbat is performed verbally, and women are accustomed to accept Shabbat with the lighting of candles and reciting the blessing over them.

This extension of Shabbat demonstrates that Shabbat is very dear to us. We go out to greet it before its arrival, and we prolong its stay by accompanying it upon departure. It is like an honored guest whom we go out to greet and whom we escort when it is time to take leave. This mitzvah teaches us that there is a connection between the weekdays and Shabbat, which is why we can add from the mundane to the sacred. We can also see, based on this, the inner striving of the mundane to be connected to the sacred.

In practice, the answer is divided into two – one for the individual, and another for the public (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 3: 5, footnote 6).

How an Individual Should Act

If one finished the Silent Prayer before shkiya, he can accept upon himself tosefet Shabbat by saying, “Bo’i kalla, Shabbat ha-malka” (“Enter O bride, O Shabbat queen”), by saying “Ani mekabel al atzmi tosefet Shabbat” (“I hereby accept upon myself tosefet Shabbat“), or any other language expressing the acceptance of Shabbat, for the fact that the chazzan (cantor) has not yet completed the repetition of the Mincha prayer does not prevent him from accepting Shabbat.

And if he is also unable to finish the Silent Prayer before shkiya, l’chatchila (ideally), he should say the Mincha prayer beforehand individually, because some poskim are of the opinion that it is impossible to accept tosefet Shabbat and then recite the weekday Mincha prayer (S. A. 263; M.B. 43:60).

Bedi’avad (after the fact), if one was unable to pray beforehand, or in a situation where he prefers not to pray individually, he can accept tosefet Shabbat and then pray Mincha, relying on the poskim who believe it is permissible to accept Shabbat and then pray the weekday Mincha (Tzitz Eliezer, Minchat Yitzchak, and according to Yabia Omer, one should accept Shabbat in thought).

How the Public Should Act

Regarding the public, l’chatchila, the prayer should be set at the latest twenty minutes before shkiya, so that they can finish Mincha and accept Shabbat. Then, immediately after the end of Mincha, the gabbai should announce: “Bo’i kalla, Shabbat ha-malka“, and by doing so, everyone fulfills the mitzvah of tosefet Shabbat. But if they act like many synagogues do, who do not announce this and rely on the piyut of “Lecha Dodi” in which Shabbat is accepted, they will miss the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah.

Bedi’avad, when it is impossible to pray Mincha earlier, they should choose one or the other: either to recite a short prayer (without the complete repetition of the shaliach tzibbur), so that they will be able to announce the acceptance of Shabbat before shkiya, or before Mincha, the gabbai should announce “Bo’i kalla, Shabbat ha-malka“, and rely on the poskim who believe it is possible to pray the weekday Mincha after accepting Shabbat (Tzitz Eliezer, Minchat Yitzchak). There is also an opinion that the gabbai should announce that everyone should accept Shabbat upon himself in thought, and then recite the weekday Mincha (Yabia Omer).

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

The Dilemma of Heter Ha’Mechira – New Revelations

The new book “U’be’Shana Ha’Shevi’it”, the first volume of a comprehensive study on the historical background of the ‘heter mechira’, reveals the factual data on the state of the moshavot * As an issue based on historical background, research by a Torah scholar can help clarify the dispute * The book, fruit of the long work of Rabbi Dr. Boaz Hutterer, reflects the dilemma of the settlers: to rely on donations because in any case, agricultural work leads to losses, or to build a settlement that stands on its own feet * The real dilemma is based on a fundamental disagreement about what faith is – relying on miracles, or the calculated and planned fulfillment of mitzvoth

A New Book – ‘U’be’Shana Ha’Shevi’it’ (‘And in the Seventh Year’)

Recently, the first volume of the study of Rabbi Dr. Boaz Hutterer, rabbi in the Yeshiva of Har Bracha, was published as part of the Har Bracha Institute. The title of the book is ‘U’be’Shana Ha’Shevi’it’, and deals with Jewish agricultural settlement in the Land of Israel and the attitude towards Shmittah (Sabbatical year), focusing on the great controversies regarding the heter mechirah (the sale of Israeli farmland to a non-Jew to avoid the prohibition of working the land in Israel during the Shmittah year). The first volume is devoted to the period from the time of the Ottoman conquest until late 1888 (the beginning of the period of the First Aliya).

The Question of the Research: How Distressful were the Times?

In the year 2014, while I was writing ‘Peninei Halakha’ on the subject of Shmittah, I learned about the great controversy regarding the heter ha’mechira, which is one of the central halakhic controversies of our time. I felt a great lack of knowledge about the economic-agricultural situation of the settlements, since the crux of the dispute is about the reality of the situation at the time – how distressful was it? This is because according to halakhic rules, Shmittah in our times is of Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance) or minhag (custom), and since there is some doubt as to when the Shmittah year actually is, in times of great distress it is possible to allow all types of agricultural work in the Shmittah year. But if the poskim were of the opinion that the distress was not so great, it is possible to be a little more stringent, and permit work in the Shmittah year by way of selling the land to a non-Jew. And if they thought that the distress was not great, it would be appropriate to be more stringent, and permit work of the land by means of mechira, while work whose foundation stems from the Torah would be done by non-Jews, as they permitted in practice in the heter mechira. If there is no distress, all work must be ceased.

The Comprehensive Study of Rabbi Dr. Boaz Hutterer

I turned to Rabbi Boaz Hutterer, who for many years studied and taught at the Har Bracha Yeshiva and at the same time also completed his doctorate in history, asking him to clarify to the best of his ability the economic situation of the early settlements of Eretz Yisrael – how successful they were economically, and how dependent they were on donations. What was the ratio between the donations received by the urban settlement in Jerusalem, which was called the “Old Yishuv”, and the donations received by the agricultural settlement in the moshavot? How much of the tension around the donations was at the root of the controversy in its early stages? And who was right in assessment of the economic reality in the settlement?

Rabbi Boaz engrossed himself in all the issues. His research reaches the level of detail of the cost of maintaining one family in the moshavot and Jerusalem, the cost of establishing and maintaining an agricultural settlement, the cost of buying the land, and the cost of legal dealings with the Ottoman regime and hostile Arabs. His research presents the economic plans of the founders of the various moshavot and their supporters, their dreams, their numerous failures and their limited successes, as written in those days in letters, personal diaries, and newspaper articles. For almost four years he spent a great amount of time researching this book, and now the first volume of a series of at least three volumes has been published, where in the third volume he will reach the Shmittot where Rav Kook was the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa and the moshavot.

After reading his book, I realized how much the research of a professional historian who is also a Torah scholar can contribute to the understanding of reality in general, and to the understanding of the halakhic questions in particular.

The Controversy about the Goal

My first conclusion from studying the book is that reality as a whole was complex, and since everything was new and unfamiliar, it made reality even more complex. Consequently, it is possible to understand both sides, since each side had in fact found support for its position. The root of the dispute stems from a deeper disagreement in understanding the mitzvoth of yishuv ha’aretz (the commandment to settle the Land), and the question what is the belief in God and His Torah, which influenced the analysis of reality as well.

Everyone agreed that the situation of the settlers was distressful, but in the opinion of the opponents of the heter mechirah, they should be helped with tzedakah, and to prohibit work in the Shmittah year, since the result of their work was a loss in any case. In other words, the cost of the seeds, the seedlings, animals for labor, and work tools was higher than the profit in the meager crop that grew in their fields. So that in any case the settlers needed donations, and since the cost of maintaining them while they ceased working would be cheaper than maintaining them in work that leads to losses, why shouldn’t the donors contribute to the stoppage of work in the Shmittah year? Moreover, we learned in the Torah that because of the violation of the Shmittah we were exiled from our Land, and therefore precisely thanks to the observance of Shmittah we would merit to settle in it.

On the other hand, the supporters of the heter mechira believed that the settlers must find the way to make a living from their own labor, and not to rely on donations. And even if in the meanwhile they fail and need donations, they must learn lessons and continue to work diligently in order to reach a state where they could stand on their own, so that the donations were actually a long-term investment, which with the right work would yield handsome profits. And it should not be claimed that in the merit of the mitzvah to cease working they would receive a blessing, for Shmittah at this time is a rabbinical ordinance, and the blessings of the Torah do not apply. Besides that, it is forbidden to rely upon miracles, and since in reality one can see that the settlers are unable to make a living, the requirement for a heter mechira is necessary – both until the stage where they learn how to make a living, and also until the stage where they are able to earn a living. But if they were to cease work for one year out of seven, they would return to a state of distress, and require charity. In addition, the need for charity is seen by many as a more serious sin.

Who was Right?

There are different levels of ‘times of distress’, and the greatest distress is one that does not allow a person to exist, to the point where he is forced to move to another location, or in the case of yishuv ha’aretz – prevents him from immigrating to Israel because he cannot exist there. And who determines whether it is possible to exist? Those who choose to live there.

The conclusion that emerges from the book is that the position of ‘Chovevei Tzion‘ and all the people who worked to encourage Jews to immigrate to Israel, was that if the masses of the Jewish world heard that they were ceasing to work in the Shmittah year, and relying on help from Heaven, or the collection of tzedakah, many Jews would refrain from immigrating to Israel. And no less serious, the big donators to the purchase of land and yishuv ha’aretz, headed by Baron Rothschild, would not continue to contribute, since their position was that settlement must be based on productive work (see p. 149, p. 235).

On page 106, an editorial is presented by a Jewish newspaper in London, which rejected immigration to Israel on the grounds that the obligations imposed by the commandments do not allow economic existence in Israel. Even Karl Netter, one of the founders of the ‘Mikveh Yisrael’ agricultural school, who was a key activist in the ‘Kol Yisrael Chaverim‘ organization for the benefit of Jewish immigrants, also wrote an influential article in 1882, in which he claimed that it was difficult to settle many Jews in Israel, partly due to the limitations of the mitzvoth of ma’aser (tithes) and Shmittah. Therefore, in practice, on behalf of the strong organization ‘Kol Yisrael Chaverim‘, he helped the emigration of Jewish refugees to the United States (ibid., P. 107).

Similarly, it is told (ibid., Pp. 115-113) that in the wake of the riots in Russia and the waves of emigration from there, Yechiel Brill, the editor of the newspaper ‘Ha’Levanon’, sought to encourage aliyah to Israel and not to America, for fear that they would lose their faith there. But when they turned to Dr. Levison, the representative of the London Committee which helped refugees emigrate to America and Western Europe, Dr. Levison replied that he did not encourage immigration to Israel because of the halachic obligation to observe the commandments there. This position influenced Brill, to the point where he began supporting the settlement of Jews outside the borders of ‘olei Bavel‘ in order to free themselves of the mitzvot dependent on the Land.

Rabbis who realized this difficulty felt that all the types of work should be permitted in the Shmittah year without any mechira. Thus, for example, was the opinion of two of the greatest Torah scholars, Rabbi Lapidot from Reisen and Rabbi Eliashberg from Bausk (ibid., Pg. 117). However, in practice, they permitted heterim that were not as lenient, which many of the members of Chovevei Tzion did not believe were sufficient.

Jewish Immigration

During the period of the First and Second Aliyah, from 1880 to 1914, as a result of the growing difficulties in Eastern Europe where 80% of the world’s Jews lived – most of them in poverty – there was a large migration of two million Jews to Western countries. The United States had 1,700,000 Jews, Argentina – 100,000, France – 80,000, Canada – 60,000, and South Africa – 50,000. To our homeland, the place to which we are commanded to immigrate, only 60,000 made aliyah (ibid., P. 104).

The main reason for this was because the land was desolate, the government controlling it was hostile, corrupt and cruel, and existing in the land was difficult. But the easier it was to earn a living, the more immigration increased; however, the harder it became, the fewer Jews immigrated.

Baron Hirsch and Baron Rothschild

In those years (1882-1888), Baron Rothschild’s contributions stood at £ 1.5 million, and he was prepared to contribute only in order for the settlement to stabilize economically. Due to this position, he was considered a dreamer and a radical believer among his wealthy friends, because they did not believe that the settlements in the Land of Israel could stand on their own feet, and consequently, they directed their tremendous donations to purposes which in their opinion were more useful, such as the absorption of Jews in Western countries. It can be assumed that if they had believed in the chances of settlement in Israel to exist and even grow, the aid to the building of the Land would have been tenfold, since at least ten Jews at the time could have contributed sums similar to, and even greater than, that of Baron Rothschild.

For example, Baron Hirsch, who was the richest man in Europe, sought to save the Jewish refugees from Russia by resettling them in droves as farmers in countries of the New World. To this end, he gave the Jewish Colonization Association, the Jewish settlement company he founded, eight million pounds Sterling. To understand the size of the sum, it should be noted that at less than £ 5 million, England bought its share in the Suez Canal at the time.

What is Emunah

If we delve further, we find that the dispute concerns the nature of emunah (faith). Opponents of the mechira believed that emunah is to rely on the belief that if work was ceased in the Shmittah year, God would help, but in the meantime, it was possible to exist on donations. The proponents of the mechira believed that it was possible to devise a rational plan to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz without relying on miracles or donations.

This is a dispute between the Torah of Chutz l’aretz, revealed only in heaven and resting on a miracle such as the manna and quail that descended to our forefathers in the desert from heaven, and the Torah of the Land of Israel that reveals that Hashem is the God in Heaven and Earth, and that all nature and His wisdom rooted in man are God’s creation, and the mitzvoth are meant to be fulfilled according to the exact rules of halakha which require that we take into consideration reality, according to the facts before us. Only this path is the true way of Torah, and only in this manner are blessings, revelation of the Shekhina, and Redemption merited.

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

The Customs that Survived Thanks to Yemenite Jews

Although there is no room for separate yeshivas along the lines of ethnic groups, nevertheless, the prayers and customs of the different ethnic groups should be continued * The tradition of each ethnic group preserves certain values, and if one tradition is lost, some of the values ​​of the Jewish people are lost * The Yemenite Jews preserved the original custom in many halakha’s: the reading of the Torah by each person called up to the Torah, the consumption of permitted grasshoppers, Birkat Ha’Shachar according to the way one wakes-up in the morning, and others * Most ethnic groups do not cook liquids on Shabbat, but when guests are hosted by a Yemenite family, it is permitted to eat the soup, since the hosts acted properly according to their minhag

The Dedication of the Yemenite Synagogue

By the grace of God, a few hours before this column is printed, we will celebrate the dedication of the Yemenite synagogue in the community and Yeshiva of Har Bracha (the synagogue was built with the participation of the Yeshiva on the floor above the dining room). This joyous mitzvah also carries an educational and principled statement concerning the value of preserving the customs of ethnic groups. Although in the study of Torah, distinctions between ethnic groups should not be made, and there is no need for separate yeshiva’s for the various communities, nevertheless, in regards to the wording of prayer’s and their melodies, it is appropriate to follow one’s family minhag (custom).

Education towards Torah and emunah (faith) is based on two main channels: one is learning and understanding, and the other is tradition and emotion. In the sense of “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction (Torah), and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (tradition).” When one of the channels is impaired, the entire education is harmed. Therefore, in the framework of the yeshiva as well, we encourage students to pray the Shacharit Shabbat prayers according to the nusach avot (their family melodies and texts), where in each minyan, a Rabbi from the yeshiva is present. The Yemenite minyan merited a higher level – it is led by three rabbis from the yeshiva – Rabbi Eyal Moshe, Rabbi Oren Dachbash and Rabbi Barel Shevach (on Shabbat there are also superb minyans according to Sephardic-Yerushalmi, Moroccan and Ashkenazi nusachs, and other minyans that combine nusach Sephardi and Ashkenazi). The regular minyans during the week go according to the chazzan (cantor).

Moreover, every tradition has important values ​​without which all of Israel would be lacking. This value is especially prominent in the tradition of the Yemenite immigrants, who were meticulous in maintaining their customs and traditions. Therefore, thanks to the study of Yemenite customs, it is possible to understand the roots of the halakha, and customs of all of the Jewish communities. It seems that this devotion to tradition is what helped many Yemenites – percentage-wise, above and beyond the norm – to participate in the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel). This was the case in the First Aliya in 1881, and also today in the settlements of Judea and Samaria, where it seems that the percentage of Yemenite immigrants is higher than their proportion in the population of the country.

In honor of this event, I will illustrate this in a number of halakha’s and customs.

Torah Reading

When our Sages enacted that seven people be called up to the Torah on Shabbat, and three on a weekday (Megillah 21a), they intended that each person called to the Torah would read the Torah himself. However, since the days of the Rishonim, in order to prevent embarrassment and unpleasantness of those who do not know how to read well, the custom is to appoint a “baal koreh” who would read the Torah for everyone, and the called-up person would only recite a bracha on his aliyah.

However, the Yemenite immigrants, to this day, still practice the ancient custom in which every person reads the portion when he is called-up to the Torah. The observance of this custom is one of the reasons for the proficiency of many Yemenite immigrants in Torah and grammar (Peninei Halakha 22: 5).

Grasshoppers

Flying insects are forbidden to eat, including all species that have three pairs of legs and wings, including wasps, bees, flies, crickets, mantis and grasshoppers. Only four species of grasshoppers are permitted by the Torah, and they have two signs from the Torah, and two signs from the words of our Sages (Leviticus 11:20-21; Chulin, 59a). However, in all the communities the tradition was lost with regards to grasshoppers, and only in Yemen and Morocco, where grasshoppers were prevalent, was the tradition maintained regarding the kosher grasshopper, which is the locust that multiplies in huge flocks.

In practice, although other members of the other communities were not accustomed to eat locusts, it is kosher for all of Israel, for those with a tradition are trusted in this matter (Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 17: 8).

Birkot HaShachar (Morning Blessings)

The custom accepted by some Rishonim and the Ari, is that each person recites all Birkot HaShachar at once, so as not to forget one of them. And even if one does not receive personal benefit from a certain blessing, he still recites it, and therefore even a blind person recites the blessing ‘po’kay’ach iv’rim‘ (‘Who opens the eyes of the blind’), since the intention of the blessings is to thank God for the general good He granted to mankind.

However, the original enactment of our Sages’ was for Birkot HaShachar to accompany the process of arising in the morning, and for everything to be blessed adjacent to its benefit, and by doing so, the process of getting up in the morning receives a deeper meaning, with the blessings of thanks to God accompanying each stage of arising. Consequently, over something that one does not receive benefit – no blessing is recited. This is how Rambam ruled in practice, and only among the Yemenite immigrants do some still follow this custom till this day (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 9: 2-3).

Turning to the West in “Bo’ee B’Shalom

The Sephardi minhag is to turn to the West when saying “Mizmor le-David” and all of “Lecha Dodi“, and the custom of all Ashkenazic Jews and some Sephardi Jews is to turn to the West only at the end of “Lecha Dodi” in the section that starts with “bo’ee b’shalom“. But the Yemenite custom, and some Sephardim, is not to turn to the West at all, nor to the entrance of the synagogue, because this custom has no source in the Talmud.

The Bracha ‘Lay’shev Ba’Sukkah’

Although according to the strict adherence of halakha, as stated by many Rishonim, anyone who enters the sukkah on Sukkot should recite “lay’shev ba’sukka,” nevertheless, the members of all communities acted according to the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, that the blessing “lay’shev ba’sukkah” is recited only for eating. However, Yemenite immigrants go according to the Rif, Rambam, and the majority of Rishonim, to recite the blessing “lay’shev ba’sukkah” whenever they enter the sukkah in order to spend time there. And since the blessing is over yeshiva (sitting), they have the custom to bless standing up, before sitting down (Peninei Halakha: Sukkot 3: 5).

Waving the Lulav

Our Sages said in the Talmud (Sukkah 37b) that the way of waving the lulav is “to and fro, and up and down.” In the opinion of many poskim, the intention is to wave to the four winds, and up and down (Rosh, Shulchan Arukh 651: 9). Others say that the intention is literal, “to and fro’ towards oneself, and up and down, without having to turn to the four winds (Rambam 7:10), and this is the custom of the Yemenite Baladi Jews (Peninei Halakha: Sukkot 5: 2).

Shofar Blasts

The accepted practice of the teruah shofar blast is like the sound of crying, i.e., short, broken sounds. The Yemenite custom is like wailing, such that the sound is not truncated but trembles and rattles, and all the tremors are considered one sound. Upon examining we find that the teruah in Ashkenaz and Sephard is similar to an outburst of crying, which is truncated uncontrollably, whereas the teruah in Yemen is like a wailing which is done as an expression of crying and mourning in a controlled manner, as is customary among Yemenite immigrants, to have greater control over emotions (Peninei Halakha: Yamim Nora’im 4: 11).

The Yemenite immigrants also are accustomed to raise the tekiah and the teruah at the end, and one who pays attention understands the intention is to express in the tekiah the height of joy, and in the teruah, the height of sorrow.

The Custom of Tashlich

The foundation of the custom of saying Tashlich is based in the period of the Rishonim of Ashkenaz, and throughout the generations, after the Ari praised it, it also became prevalent among Sephardim. However, there is no obligation to observe the custom of Tashlich; in fact, some of the greatest Torah scholars did not observe it (the Vilna Ga’on), and this is the custom of most of the Yemenite Jews (Peninei Halakha, ibid, 3:15).

The Bracha over the Four Cups of Wine and Roasting on Pesach

In the opinion of the Geonim and Rishonim (Rif and Rambam), one must bless “ha’gefen” before drinking each of the four cups on Seder night, since each of them is a mitzvah in its own right. This is the custom of the Yemenite and Ashkenazi Jews. However, in the opinion of the Rosh, one should recite a blessing only on the first and third cups, and this is the custom of Sephardim (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 16:21).

Our Sages said in the Mishnah (Pesahim 53:1), that in places where it is customary to eat roasted meat on Seder night, they are permitted to continue with their custom, and in places that eating roasted meat was not customary – so as not to be seen as if they were eating the meat of the Pesach sacrifice outside of its proper place – it is prohibited to eat roasted meat. In practice, members of all the communities do not eat roasted meat, but Yemenite immigrants are customary to eat roasted meat on Pesach night (Peninei Halakha 16:32).

The Nine Days and Sefirat Ha’Omer

The Rishonim were stringent not to eat meat and not to drink wine during the Nine Days, since our Sages said that we minimize joy during these days. However, the Yemenite immigrants hold by the law of the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b) that only at the seudah mafseket before the fast of Tisha B’Av do we abstain from eating meat and drinking wine (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 8: 13).

The custom of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews from the days of the Rishonim is not to take a haircut during Sefirat Ha’Omer, however, the minhag of ancient Yemen was not to prevent taking a haircut at all during Sefirat Ha’Omer, but later, they began to be stringent in this matter. However, Rabbi Masharki, the author of “Shtilei Zaytim” and the Maharitz (Pe’ulat Tzadik 2:76), instructed to get a haircut on Erev Shabbat (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 3: 9).

Nikkur Cheilev and Gid Ha’Nasheh

The accepted custom in Israel today goes according to nikkur Yerushalmi, i.e., to be very stringent and to perform nikkur on everything that is close and similar to cheilev, and the branches of gid ha’nasheh and its fats, to the point where approximately 13-25 percent of the weight of the hind flesh is lost. Only the immigrants from two communities, Yemen and Morocco, meticulously guarded the tradition of nikkur, according to which only about 5 percent of the weight of the hind flesh is lost.

Since this is a reliable tradition of God-fearing Torah scholars, other members of communities who wish to rely on their tradition are also permitted. However, in hechsher’s intended for the general public, it is customary to take into account the stringencies of all communities, as does the Yerushalmi nikkur.

The Outer Layer of Sirchot

According to Sephardi minhag, when a sircha (adhesion) is found on the lungs of an animal – the animal is treif, and therefore it is obligatory to eat “halak”, namely, animals found not to have sirchot on their lungs. However, the Yemenite tradition was to be lenient and check the sirchot by means of peeling with a knife, and examination by emerging it in water to see if there is an aperture, in accordance with the specification for kosher meat. And the proof of their method is what is known in reality, that these sirchot do not kill animals within twelve months. This was more or less the minhag of Ashkenaz and Morocco, as well.

Heating Up Soup on Shabbat

In the opinion of Rambam and other Rishonim, the rule that “ein bishul achar bishul” (a food item which is cooked has no prohibition of cooking it again) applies also to liquid dishes such as soup, which, if cooked completely, even though it cooled, it may be warmed up on Shabbat to the temperature of ‘yad soledet bo‘ (the temperature at which the hand recoils). This is the minhag of Yemenite immigrants.

On the other hand, numerous Rishonim are of the opinion that since heat is the main element of cooking liquids, and thus “yesh bishul achar bishul” (there is a prohibition to cook even a previously cooked food item), therefore it is a Torah prohibition on Shabbat to heat up soup that has cooled. This is the custom of Jews who immigrated from Sephard and Ashkenaz. However, when one is guest of a Yemenite, he is allowed to eat the soup his host heated-up, since it was done consistent with halakha according to his minhag (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 10:6).

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

The Transformation of the Law of the Hind Flesh

With manyhechshers it is impossible to obtain the hind part of the meat because it isvery difficult to kasher it from the prohibitions of cheilev and gid ha’nasheh* According to the original halakha, making it kosher was not complicated, butremoving the forbidden part from the animal required tradition * Due to thedifficulties of exile and destruction of many communities, the traditionsurrounding the removal of the portion increasingly weakened, and many doubtsarose * For this reason many chumrot have arisen concerning nikkur, and acustom has developed to sell the hind flesh to a non-Jew * However, certaincommunities that have a tradition in this matter do not need to follow thechumrot of other communities

The Meat of the Hind Part of an Animal

Q: Why with many hechshers is it impossible to buy meat from the hind of animals? Is it forbidden?

A: According to halakha, the meat of the hind part is kosher, but nikkur (rendering the hindquarters of an animal fit for kosher consumption) of cheilev (prohibited fats known as tallow or suet) and the gid ha’nasheh (the sciatic nerve) is a complicated task, which also greatly damages the quality of the meat, therefore in many communities it was customary to sell it to non-Jews and not to try to kasher it. In this column I will detail the halachot and customs that brought this about.

What is the Gid Ha’Nasheh

As we learn in this week’s parsha, the Torah commands not to eat the gid ha’nasheh that is on the kaf ha’yerech (hip joint) (Genesis 32:33). This refers to the sinew on the right thigh and the left thigh. The gid ha’nasheh is the large sinew through which most of the nerves of the leg pass. It begins with the spinal cord and ends at the end of the leg, and the Torah forbids eating the part on the kaf ha’yerech, that is, the enlarged flesh surrounding the thigh bone, shaped like the palm of a cauldron- a rounded shape that rises in the middle. This kaf exists in all kinds of beasts and animals, whereas in birds, although there is flesh on the thigh, it is not round as a spoon but flat. Hence the gid ha’nasheh is forbidden in beasts and animals, and not in birds.

The Forbidden Part from the Torah, Rabbinic, and Minhag

In a large bull, the length of the forbidden part from the Torah is no more than eight centimeters long, and in a large sheep about four centimeters (Rama, Yoreh Deah, 1: 16:3). This part of the gid is easy to remove, because after the dismantling of the flesh from the kaf ha’yerech, it protrudes from the flesh.

Our Sages added and prohibited the beginning of this gid from the spine and its continuation to the end of the shin. They also forbade the tendrils of the gid ha’nasheh, i.e. the branches that spread into the flesh on the thigh. There is another gid called chitzon, and even that is forbidden by our Sages. It is rooted in the spinal cord as two vertebrae before the beginning of the gid, and from there it is drawn to the outer side of the flesh of the thigh and penetrates into it (Shulchan Aruch 65: 8).

In addition, God-fearing Jews are accustomed to also prohibit the fat around the gid and tendrils.

The removal of all the forbidden parts is from Divrei Chachamim (rabbinic edict), and because of Jewish custom, it is a complex task that requires learning, how to cut the meat so that in relatively few cuts it is possible to remove the gid with its branches and fat.

The Prohibition of Cheilev

The cheilevim are part of the fats in the flesh of the animal, and when an animal is brought as a sacrifice to Hashem, it is a mitzvah to completely sacrifice the cheilev, and sprinkle its blood on the altar. As a continuation of this, the Torah forbade eating cheilev and blood, since the cheilev is worthy of being sacrificed to Hashem, it is forbidden for a Jew to eat it (Leviticus 3:14-17). The prohibition of cheilev applies to three types of animals: ox, lamb and goat, which are worthy of sacrifice (Leviticus 7:23).

The cheilevim are similar in shape and texture to animal fats, but the cheilevim are solid and relatively large; they are located in three places in the animal, it is relatively easy to remove them as one piece (Shulchan Aruch 64: 4), and when a sacrifice is offered, we are commanded to sacrifice it on the altar. In contrast, fats are absorbed more in the meat, and it is difficult to remove them as a whole, and when a korban shleimim is sacrificed, they are eaten together with the meat of the korban.

The meaning of the word cheilev is choice, fine, and fat. The cheilev of an animal is the fat and best part of the animal, since fat is the softest and richest part in calories, and the cheilevim are the fine pieces of fat, therefore we were commanded to sacrifice them on the altar. There are three kinds of cheilevim: 1) the cheilev on the kerev, i.e., on the digestive stomachs which are called the kravi’im; 2) the cheilev on the kliyot (kidneys); 3) the cheilev on the kesalim, on the sides of the waist, next to the cheilev on the kliyot.

Because of the severity of the prohibition on cheilev, our Sages also forbade fats that are stuck and drawn from these cheilevim, even though they are absorbed into the meat, because they derive from the cheilev. They also prohibited small veins and membranes drawn from the cheilevim that are forbidden from the Torah, because they derive from them. And as our Sages have said, that there are five places that have small veins and membranes that must be removed, three of them from cheilev – in the spleen, loins, and in the kidneys (Chulin 93a). In addition, in other communities, they were stringent to forbid other fats because of their closeness or resemblance to the forbidden cheilevim.

Doubts and Chumrot as a Result of Exile

Since the laws of nikkur are taught in tradition, the constancy of their transmission from one generation to the next was greatly affected by the displacement of the exiles. The longer the exile, the more numerous the communities that were destroyed, and the more the tradition was negatively affected – the more doubts arose in the halakha’s of nikkur. In order to avoid the safek, God-fearing Jews had to be increasingly stringent. Thus we find that already in the beginning period of the Rishonim, because of the doubts, they tended to be more stringent than the halakha, as we find in the words of Rabbi Ya’akov ben HaRosh (who lived some 700 years ago), who copied in his book Arba Turim (Yoreh Deah 65) the order of the laws of nikkur that Rabbi Yitzchak of Marseilles, the author of Itur, wrote (about 850 years ago), because he was the only one who wrote the order of these laws in detail. At the end of his words he remarked: “This chacham was machmir (stringent), and one who is machmir will be blessed.” Rabbi Yosef Karo explained in his commentary on Beit Yosef: “Because of a number of places that need nikkur and removal, and have no foundation or root, as I have explained, each one in its place.”

Still, all Jews would slaughter and knew how to remove the cheilevim, the gid ha’nasheh, and the vessels of blood, but as the exile continued, more communities were destroyed, and until new communities were established and restored, other doubts arose in the tradition of nikkur, and Jews were required to become more stringent; it was already necessary to have great expertise in the work of nikkur. And as Rabbi Shlomo Luria wrote about four hundred and fifty years ago, that although in the early days of the Rishonim they relied on women and any proper man for the work of nikkur, but now they do not rely, because “in the days of the kadmonim (earlier Sages) they were not so stringent in nikkur as today, because from the law of the Talmud, nikkur is not so difficult; later, however, they added on to it (chumrot) … and in the land of Ashkenaz, they became ever more stringent.” He went on to explain that although most of the stringencies are from the words of the Sages, upon which one can also rely on someone who is not a scholar, but since these laws are complex, and the public does not know what is forbidden from the words of the Sages and from the Torah, it is only possible to rely on a minakker who is “known to be a God-fearing person, and an expert in the work of nikkur.”

In addition to the halachic explanation of the cause of the stringency, the Shelah wrote a general and deep explanation for the addition of the chumrot, according to which from generation to generation our coping with the Evil Inclination becomes greater and deeper, and therefore Jews added chumrot and fences (Beit Hochma Talita).

The Custom of Selling the Hind Part

Following the growing doubts and chumrot, the large communities used to sell the hind of the livestock to non-Jews, where almost all the forbidden cheilevim, the gid ha’nasheh, and all the other forbidden parts are found, and whose nikkur takes several hours (for example, one hind leg, especially the gid ha’nasheh and all of its branches, lasts an hour or two according to the chumrot of nikkur Yerushalmi).

The first to mention this custom (about 500 years ago) was the Radbaz, who wrote that this was the custom in Egypt. And the Shelah wrote that this is the correct way to act (in Ashkenaz some 400 years ago). This was the minhag of many of the communities in Europe, because they feared that due to the heavy burden, the men doing the nikkur would not be able to do their job properly.

The concession of the hind part is significant because about half of the animal’s meat is found in it, and it also contains what is considered premium meat. On the other hand, the more stringent the nikkur of the cheilevim and the gid ha’nasheh is, the quality of the meat surrounding them is negatively affected. This is because the meat needs to be cut into more pieces, and large areas are exposed to the air, and require to be soaked in water for the purpose of kashering and salting the meat, and in the eyes of butchers, water is considered poison for meat because it reduces its quality and appearance, to the point where they have to sell it as cheap minced meat. Besides this, rinsing the meat shortens its shelf life.

It is worth noting that today, it has become clear that health benefits from the chumrot of the removal of many fats are increasing, because during the period of abundance in which we live, meat fats are considered unhealthy foods, which increase the risk of vascular disease and cancer.

The Minhag and Halakha

In practice, according to the nikkur Yerushalmi, which is accepted and widespread in all the major communities in the world, nikkur is not done on the hind part. However, in practice, since the minhag forbidding the consumption of the hind parts was not accepted, anyone who wants to take the trouble to do nikkur according to halakha can do so (Igrot Moshe, unlike Zaken Aharon, who claimed that it is considered a vow that cannot be nullified). There are kashrut bodies that sell most of the hind meat to non-Jews, and perform nikkur on the better parts of the meat (fillet and sirloin), which are relatively easy and profitable to perform nikkur.

The Order of Nikkur Yerushalmi

It is worth explaining the order of nikkur Yerushalmi: In the wake of the meeting of Ashkenazi immigrants with Sephardic traditions from the West and Oriental Jewry, the Ashkenazi rabbis in Jerusalem established about 150 years ago, the “Order of Yerushalmi Nikkur“, according to all the chumrot of the Sephardim, the Eastern, and Ashkenazi countries together, where naturally, the majority of the chumrot came from Ashkenazi communities that underwent more destruction and wanderings. Since the customs of all the communities were included in it, from Jerusalem an order was issued that over time the tradition of the Yerushalmi nikkur was accepted throughout all of Israel and the Diaspora. In this nikkur, approximately 13-25 percent of the weight of the meat is lost.

Other Traditions

There are communities that have maintained traditions, such as the immigrants from Yemen and Morocco, who have skilled minakkrim according to their tradition, without taking into consideration the chumrot of the other communities. In these methods approximately 5-10 percent of the weight of the hind meat is lost, and those who wish to rely on their tradition are entitled, but in all hechshers intended for the public at large, the custom is to take into consideration all the traditions, like the Yerushalmi nikkur.

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

Let Grandma Fit into the Dance Circle

A personal letterfrom a bride to her friends before her wedding which enabled the wedding totake place with full joy, but without leaving the older women outside the dancefloor* In Hashem’s central revelation to Yaacov Avinu, he was not told to studyGemara carefully, nor to develop solidarity or pluralism – rather to build andsettle the Land of Israel * Today as well, if we adhere to the Torah’s missionto build the People and the Land, in all spheres and domains, all other matterswill be resolved * If we merit, we can do so without external enemies forcingus to develop the country and the state

The Noble Behavior of Young Women at a Wedding

About a week ago, we merited marrying our daughter. Many of the guests were particularly fond of her young friends, graduates of the ‘Shirat Hayam’ Ulpana in Neveh Tzuf, who, together with their joy, treated the older women with great respect, and during the dance sessions all the guests were able to participate in the dancing and receive a respectable place. This, despite the fact that these are young and lively girls of about eighteen years old, who learned music and dance as part of their studies in Ulpana. On Shabbat ‘Sheva Berachot’ when I praised the happy, noble, beautiful and moral behavior of the girls, the director of the Ulpana, Abigail Goldstein said that the letter written by our daughter to her friends, also played a significant part. Afterwards, I read the letter that was sent as a ‘Whatsapp’ message. I was moved, and thought it was good to publish it – in order to make other brides and their young friends more sensitive to include all the participants in their joy.

“Dear and beloved friends:

My wedding is comingsoon, and this makes me extremely happy and very moved.

I would be glad if youcould take a few minutes to read some points that are important to me to write toyou before the wedding.

I am very happy that you will be coming to rejoice with me on this very special day. I really want to thank everyone for dedicating an evening to me, and going out of your way. This is something I do not take for granted.

I want to share the greatest pressure I have before the wedding: that one of my guests will get hurt on my account, and that I ignore it by accident…

I thought of two things that would help: 1) that from the start, I would try to make sure that it did not happen. 2) that you, my friends, will try to understand the emotional and practical burden I face.

And … if I can ask, help me give a place to all the people I care about. To my mother, to my grandmothers, to my sisters, to the groom’s family.

Friends usually know how to act, but the close family is sometimes pushed aside because of enthusiastic friends who want to dance with the bride once more … (I really hope that where this is coming from is understood…).

A wedding is such a big thing. With God’s help, everyone here will merit this at a time that suits her, easily and pleasingly (Amen!). I do not want to find myself on social media. Besides that, I do not want to be faced with cellphones at my chuppa. I want to be in front of the people I love (and of course, I do not expect everyone to be there…) and I hope that everyone as a bride will agree with me … It is also a matter of a wedding being of a higher level, and a desire not to diminish it, and also a matter of honor. I hired a photographer, I expect only him to photograph this moment.

Last point. I feel that this is far beyond our private wedding. I have studied this at weddings frequently. I see these women, a little older (and also the men) whose movements, speed (more correctly – their slowness), and age transmit to the youth some hidden message of “we are irrelevant …” but they continue to dance in the outer circle (continuing, because it is important for them to make the bride and groom happy, and because they want to take part in the joy). And even if they manage to sneak in a bit, they soon find themselves outside the circle.

True, this is a different age. They also do not want to be at the center all the time, they are not in the closest circle to the bride and groom, and perhaps not even the next one.

But something with this reality always seems a bit sad to me. I wish we could, even a little (and a bit could really do it), give room to these people. A little more adults … one round, so they will not be in the most outer circle all the time…

And ‘amen’ that this become a general rule in other weddings.

And that we be able to rejoice and make others happy, and to connect to this great day of establishing another house among the Jewish people.

Good tidings to all of you, with God’s help!!!

Thank you very much for those who have read to this point.

We’ll meet at the wedding, with such great love.”

What should God have said to Yaakov Avinu

One of the most significant revelations that God revealed to man is the revelation to Yaakov Avinu when he came to Bet-El. “He came to a familiar place and spent the night there because the sun had already set. Taking some stones, he placed them at his head and lay down to sleep there. He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, and its top reached up toward heaven. Suddenly he saw God standing over him. [God] said, ‘I am God, Lord of Abraham your father, and Lord of Isaac.” (Genesis 28:11). And at this point we would expect to hear what this important, essential, and vital thing is that God has to say to Yaakov.

If we stopped for a moment and asked the members of the various circles, what do they think God should say to Yaakov, we would probably get different answers. The Lithuanians would say: “Learn Gemara in detail.” The Hasidim would say, “Strengthen yourself in faith, joy, and abstention.” The people of the Shas party would say, “Learn halakha according to Maharan.” B’nei Akiva students would say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The modern religious people would say, “Derech Eretz Kadma la’Torah.” Intellects from the academia would say: “Be pluralistic, and doubt all given views.”

What God said to Yaacov

But the Holy One, Blessed be He, said: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying.” And as a result “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants”. This is the Divine revelation. And indeed, Yaacov Avinu realized the enormity of the holiness of the Land, and said: ‘God is truly in this place, but I did not know it… How awe-inspiring this place is! It must be God’s temple. It is the gate to heaven!”(Genesis 28: 13-17).

And if the members of the various circles claim: True – this time Hashem spoke about the People and the Land, but there are other revelations and other verses – well, even in the revelation where Hashem revealed Himself to Yaakov after his return to Israel, which was also in Bet El, Hashem said to Yaakov: “Be fruitful and increase. A nation and a community of nations will come into existence from you. Kings will be born from your loins. I will grant you the land that I gave to Avraham and Yitzchak. I will also give the land to your descendants who will follow you.” (Genesis 35:11-12) Thus, in all the revelations to Yaacov, Hashem always spoke about the People and the Land, in Haran as well (Genesis 31: 3), and also when he was about to descend to Egypt (Genesis 46:2-4).

What Would Be Said Today

And what would Haredi newspaper reporters say about it? If it had not been written explicitly in the Torah itself, it would have been reported that Hashem had said to study Gemara in-depth, or halakha. However, the verses are written explicitly, and consequently they say that the main thing is to listen to the “Gedoylim” who say that right is left. For the Hasidim, they have no problem at all, since the Land is an aspect of ratzon (will), and the people of Israel are an aspect of devaykut (devotion), and consequently, there is no longer any need for the Land of Israel. Modern religious people say that it is impossible to stand against the entire world. And pluralistic academics say that it is very doubtful whether today there is a mitzvah to settle the Land, and that there are different opinions, and different versions, and that the Torah has seventy different faces.

But the honest, religious, Haredim, and traditional people know the enormous value of the love of their people and their country, and strive with dedication to strengthen the nation in yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land).

Through Yishuv Ha’Aretz All Matters Will be Resolved

Once again, Hashem revealed himself to Yaakov Avinu in the parasha, the only time He revealed himself to Yaacov in Haran, and this revelation, of course, also deals with the Land of Israel: “Now set out and leave this land. Return to the land where you were born.” (Genesis 31:13). Yaacov presumably must have asked to receive instruction in the matter of his marriage and his business with Lavan, but it was only with regards to his return to the Land of Israel that God appeared to him. A fundamental and profound idea can be learned from this: when the goal is clear, to establish a people and settle the Land, the means to achieve the goal also become clear, and in the end, everything is resolved. Therefore, there is no need for any additional revelation.

The Great Objective – Today as Well

True, we have indeed received the Torah and all its mitzvot, but we still seem to need guidance in precisely how to implement the Torah’s goals. The solution is to remember the great objective that is stated in the Torah, the Prophets, and the words of our Sages, that after the sins and the punishment of exile, we must ascend to the Land from all the exiles, and settle the Land.

To achieve this, we must develop all our talents, spiritual and practical, national and individual, the sciences and industry, economics and organization, literature and music, and as a result the redemption of the nation and the world at large will draw closer.

Ideally, it would be correct to develop all these talents without outside pressures, for the mitzvah of settling the Land is to reveal the spiritual ideas in all talents revealed in the world. But if we fail to do so, we are faced with numerous problems, both internal and external, and forced to develop all the talents as we fight our enemies and struggle for our existence.

Out of the Torah – The Recognition of the Value of the Land

Our Sages said that when Yaakov Avinu had to flee from Esav and leave on his parents’ mission to Haran to find his companion, he first chose to submerge himself in the Beit Midrash of Ever. There he labored diligently on the Torah for fourteen years. At the end of the study period he went to Haran, “He came to a familiar place and spent the night there because the sun had already set… and lay down to sleep there” (Genesis 28:11). Rashi explains: “In that place he laid down, but for the fourteen years he served in the house Ever, he did not lay down at night, for he was engaged in Torah study.”

We see then that all the fourteen years Yaacov engaged in Torah, prepared him for Divine revelation and the promise that “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying… You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south”.

 This is the merit when Torah is learned with integrity – it adds health, naturalness, and blessing to the world. Indeed, as a result, Yaacov continued to work diligently and saw great blessing in the herds he raised.

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

The Prohibition against Reckless Driving

The Laws of BrachaAchrona – Does one recite a bracha when drinking with a straw, drinking coffee,or eating cheese or ice cream * In continuation of the previous column:Following the horrific accident, it is appropriate to engage in tefilatha’derech, but of course not in place of the strengthening of cautious driving* A person who speeds, or is distracted while driving, violates a prohibitionregardless of whether he caused an accident * A person who does not observe therules of driving, even if he does not harm anyone, is partner in creating adangerous negative norm on the roads * It is desirable for every driver to praythat his driving be relaxed, and that he takes into consideration others

The Measurement Requiring a Bracha Achrona

From the Torah, only one who eats a meal and is satiated must recite Birkat Hamazon, and our Sages determined the reciting of a bracha achrona (a final blessing) on a small measurement, provided one’s eating or drinking will leave some sense of satisfaction. And what is the minimum measurement for this? In regards to food – a k’zayit (olive), which the poskim determined to be half the size of an egg.

This, on the condition that he ate it, at most, in the time of achilat pras, that is, the time when people were accustomed to eating the bread of one meal. On average, it is about six minutes. This is the halakha concerning food.

As for drinking, our Sages determined that the measurement for a bracha achrona is a revi’it – 75 ml (the volume of half an egg, a bit less than half a regular cup). According to the majority of poskim, just as in eating, the duration of time is achilat pras – which is about six minutes, so should the halakha be for drinking, i.e., if one drank the measurement in less than six minutes, he recites a blessing (Ravad, many poskim in the opinion of Rambam).On the other hand, there are those who say that the measurement for drinking is different, and one blesses only if one consumes the drink in a period of time that people are used to drinking a revi’it moderately. In other words, as the slowest drinkers, who even when they drink a revi’it – 75 ml – stop several times.

Because of the safek (doubt) – the halakha is that only if one drinks the revi’it during a period of moderate drinking of a revi’it, is a blessing recited. It is still not clear enough what moderate drinking is, but I was happy to see the words of Rabbi Yosef Kapach ztz”l, which he defined in his commentary to Rambam as forty seconds: “If I may estimate, as we have seen the dignitaries of Yemen … forty seconds”.

Bracha Achrona for Drinking with a Straw

Q: Does someone who drinks hot coffee, or a drinks with a straw, recite borei nefashot after drinking?

A: A person who drinks hot coffee that cannot be drunk with large sips, does not bless. And someone who drinks a lukewarm or cold drink with a straw in the measurement of a revi’it, 75 ml, blesses, on condition that he drank continuously. Even if one stops to take short breaks for breathing, it is considered continuous drinking, because as we have learned, drinking a revi’it does not take more than 40 seconds.

And one should not take into consideration more stringent opinions, since the fact that one does not recite a bracha achrona over hot drinks, which takes longer, takes into account the opinion of the minority of poskim, even though the concern of not blessing is only due to safek safek safaka, and beyond this one should not be concerned.

Bracha Achrona for Someone who Eats Cheese or Ice Cream

Q: I heard that some people think that someone who eats cheese, as well as someone who eats ice cream or an ice cream bar, does not recite a bracha achrona. The reason is that they come from liquids, and therefore their halakha is like that of liquids, where only if they drink them for a period of time it takes to drink a revi’it, a bracha achrona is recited, and since eating them takes longer, one does not bless.

A: All foods are judged according to their condition in front of us, and therefore the law of cheese, leben, ice cream, and anything that is eaten or chewed such as porridge – are judged as food, and not as a drink. Therefore, one who has eaten the volume of half the size of an egg (olive), in less than six minutes (the measurement of achilat pras), recites a bracha achrona. Only what is drunk swallowing without the tongue has the halakha of a liquid, that is a bracha achrona is recited only when one drinks a revi’it during a period of moderate drinking – about forty seconds.

Comments on the Title of the Previous Column

The article last week, which dealt with tefillat ha’derech, was dedicated to the memory of the Atar family who were killed in the horrific road accident. The title given by the editor to the article was: “The Answer to the Horrific Accident – Saying Tefillat Ha’Derech with Utmost Intention.” I received many comments on the title, some of which I will quote.

“I always read Revivim, and the spirit I have received from reading over the years, is that when there is a problem it must be dealt with itself, and not run to external and super natural solutions. If there is a problem with shalom bayit (peace in the home), it must be worked on – on love and appreciation, trust and inclusion, and not to look for the chapter of Tehillim that is attributed to remedy it. The title of the last column was: “The Answer to the Horrific Accident – Saying Tefillat Ha’Derech with Utmost Intention”.  Is tefillat ha’derech going to prevent road accidents? Haven’t many righteous people died in accidents who recited the blessing? From what we learned from the rabbi, I assumed that a call would be issued for the strict observance of all the traffic laws, and to act with caution and responsibility. I would be very happy to know what the most important correction is in your opinion.”

An additional letter: “Is the answer to accidents really tefillat ha’derech? I was sorry that you did not take the opportunity following the shocking accident that broke every heart to pronounce a clear and unequivocal halakhic statement: It is forbidden to look at one’s cell phone while driving. It is forbidden for the driver to deal with anything that is not directly connected to holding the steering wheel and looking at the road. This is the statement that the public must hear from you: True, “Unless Hashem watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain”, but a watchman is also needed. I hope that you will find the opportunity to pronounce a sweeping halakhic statement: Anyone who plays around with his cell phone while driving – whether it be reading messages, or writing, or any other thing – transgresses a Torah prohibition! This has to be said over and over until it is internalized – just as we would not think of sneaking a tiny piece of treif meat into our mouths. The same goes for a quick look at one’s cell phone while driving!”

Answer

Readers should know that the general rule in all newspapers is that the title is given by the editor, and his purpose is to arouse interest in the article. Usually the subheadings are also given by the editor, but in my articles I write the subheadings. Although the article was connected to the accident, as I wrote at the end of the first paragraph: “Out of this terrible shock, we will deal with the laws of the tefilat ha’derech and arouse ourselves to say it with kavanah.” But in no way should it have been understood that this is “the” answer to the accident.

I did not write in the wake of the accident about the duty of caution on the roads, since this might have hurt the memory of the Atar family car driver, who was apparently careful with all the safety rules, and the other driver hit him. Indeed, it is possible that a person can strictly observe all the traffic laws, and by the negligence of another driver, be killed in an accident. Therefore there is room to deal with tefillat ha’derech in the wake of such terrible news, but in no way can the prayer replace caution on the road. On the contrary, one who says tefillat ha’derech but disregards the traffic laws, his prayer is not a prayer, but rather a blasphemy, just as a person who recites a blessing over stolen food, his bracha  is not a blessing, but rather a blasphemy (according to Sanhedrin 6b).

A Reckless Driver Transgresses a Torah Prohibition

In practice, a person who drives at a high speed that is considered dangerous and punishable by law, or who does not comply with other safety laws, such as talking on his cell phone illegally, violates a Torah prohibition. This is because the Torah commanded us to guard our lives to the highest degree, and the intention is not only not to commit suicide, but rather the meaning is to distance oneself from danger and to be careful. And of course, traffic laws were not determined arbitrarily in order to annoy the drivers, but were determined by experts who examined and investigated the matter and concluded that at such a speed, or passing in a certain area, etc., is dangerous, and therefore a person who violates these laws transgresses a Torah prohibition. This is what I heard from Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz”l.

The general commandment to guard from dangers we learned from the obligation to install a railing on a roof that people use, lest a person fall from there (Deuteronomy 22: 8). And just as a person who did not install a railing – even though no one has fallen from his roof – has transgressed the Torah prohibition, so too, one who has transgressed the rules of caution and is not careful – even though no one is injured – has transgressed a Torah prohibition.

In addition, it is appropriate for anyone who drives recklessly to know that even if he personally did not commit an accident, he is indirectly responsible for the existence of road accidents. This is because his speeding or his careless cell phone use helps create a negative norm, from which people will surely be hurt.

Prayer before Driving

This is an appropriate opportunity to mention a prayer written by my friend Rabbi David Mishlov, inspired by the commentary of Rabbi Kook for tefillat ha’derech, and fortunate are the drivers who recite this prayer before each trip, and it is good to say it at least one time when reading this article: “May it be your will, Hashem, my God and the God of my father’s, that I realize the greatness of the responsibility placed upon me: To guard my own life, and the lives of those travelling with me, and the lives of everyone on the road. Please help me not to lose my concentration from driving, even for a second. Let me always drive according to the law, out of regard for others, patiently, with self-rule, and not out of a rush to arrive at my destination. Please guard me, and everyone travelling on this road, among all those of Israel travelling on the roads – amen.”

Questions about Tefillat Ha’Derech

Q: A person who has forgotten to tefillat ha’derech at the beginning of his trip, if he still has a parsah (approximately four kilometers) to go, can still recite the blessing. Does this law apply even if he has already entered the city, and until he reaches his destination, still has a parsah to go?

A: Since I wrote that it is good for someone travelling in a city to say tefillat ha’derech without mentioning shem Hashem (God’s name) at the end of the prayer, even in such a situation it is good to say tefillat ha’derech without mentioning shem Hashem.

Q: Does someone who commutes on the train from Netanya to Tel Aviv on a daily basis also have to say tefillat ha’derech?

A: Yes, since it entails a journey of about four kilometers outside of urban areas.

Q: We have learned that one says tefillat ha’derech once a day for all the trips planned for that day – what is included in a day? And what is the halakha if I suddenly decided to make another trip?

A: A day is considered from getting up in the morning until going to sleep at night. If an additional unexpected trip is added, tefillat ha’derech is said once again. 

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

The Answer to the Horrific Accident – Saying the Travelers Prayer with Intention

When we experiencenational disasters such as this week’s serious accident, we must awaken and searchthe meaning of things * We must be diligent in adhering to the laws of tefilatha’derech, and saying it with kavana * Tefilat ha’derech is said in the plural,so that someone traveling will include himself with the public * There is noobligation to  add the words “roadaccidents” to the text of the prayer, but someone who wishes to add it ispermitted * There is doubt whether the prayer should be said for an inter-cityride, and therefore it should be said without the name of Hashem * In our daysit is correct to say tefilat ha’derech when one gets into the car, beforestarting to travel

Mourning and Repentance

In shock and mourning over the passing of the Atar family in a heavenly storm, Yariv and Shoshana and their six children, I dedicate the column for an aliyah to their souls. When such dear people abruptly leave this world, we all have to wake up and examine the meaning of life. The disaster occurred on election day, and the first thought is how small all the personal tensions surrounding the elections are in the face of life itself, and how much we must strive to live in the greatness worthy of the precious life God gave us. Out of this terrible shock, we will deal with the laws of the tefilat ha’derech (the traveler’s prayer) and arouse ourselves to say it with kavanah (intention).

Tefilat Ha’derech and its Meaning

The Sages instituted a prayer for the traveler, it is tefilat ha’derech (Berakhot 29b). The more protected place for people is their natural habitat, i.e., their house or their city. When a person disconnects from the city, his friends and neighbors, and leaves, he is exposed to a certain danger. If attacked, there would be fewer people to come to his aid. If he gets hurt, it will take longer to be taken to the hospital (see Maharal Nativ Gemilut Chasadim 5). Therefore, our Sages instituted tefilat ha’derech.

When we examine the tefillah, we find that the prayer is said in the plural, and this is not by chance. Spiritually, disengagement from the public is the root of the danger for traveling, and therefore anyone who sets out on the road must include himself with the public, thereby making his prayer more acceptable.

Since we are already standing in prayer before the Creator, and asking that our traveling will pass in peace, we continue to ask Hashem to succeed in our path. This is the text of the prayer: “May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, Who hears prayer”. There are certain differences between the wording of the prayer of tefilat ha’derech, and all are worthy.

Is it Necessary to Mention in the Prayer “Road Accidents”

In the past, most of the dangers of the road stemmed from robbers and wild beasts, but today the main danger is from accidents, and the question arises as to whether it is correct to add a request for rescue from road accidents in the wording of tefilat ha’derech.

There are those poskim who say that it is proper to mention in tefilat ha’derech the danger of accidents, and this does not defy the wording of the Sages, for indeed Ha’Ravya wrote that it is permitted to add to tefilat ha’derech unique dangers for a certain road. Some say that one who wishes to add “road accidents” is permitted (Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach). There are also those who believe that since we are asking that God save us from “all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth”, road accidents in general are included, and it is preferable not to change the text set by our Sages. In practice, everyone can do as he chooses.

A Blessing is Recited When One Travels a Parsah – Approximately Four Kilometers

Our Sages determined the reciting of tefilat ha’derech for a trip whose distance was more than a parsah (Berakhot 30a). A parsah is four mil, and each mil is 912 meters long. Consequently, the distance of a parsah is approximately four kilometers (3,648 meters). If the travel is shorter than a parsah, tefilat ha’derech is not said, since being close to the community, presumably it is not dangerous. There is no need to be meticulous in measuring the traveling distance – everyone should speculate according to what he considers to be a parsah.

Figured by Distance and Not Time

Some say that the rate of a parsah is meant to give us a period of time, that if the travel takes more than seventy-two minutes, which is the time it takes for an average person to walk a parsah on an unpaved road – tefilat ha’derech must be said. And if less, because the danger does not last for long – tefilat ha’derech is not said.

However, according to the majority poskim, our Sages’ intention was to determine the distance to which tefilat ha’derech should be recited. Their reasoning was, the longer the travel is, the farther away it is from the community, and the greater its dangers. Time is of no importance in this context, since even in the time of the Sages horse riders passed the rate of a parsah in less than ten minutes, and our Sages did not make a distinction between someone walking and a rider, but determined that in any case tefilat ha’derech should be said when travelling a parsah. Therefore, even in our times when there are fast cars, we measure the length of the road, and if it is more than a parsah, tefilat ha’derech must be said. This is even truer today, when road accidents are one of the main dangers to human life on the road.

A Particularly Dangerous Way, Even if it is Short

When the road is dangerous, even its length is less than a parsah, tefilat ha’derech should be said. Thus, when certain roads are considered dangerous due to the harassment of Arabs who throw stones, and sometimes even throw Molotov cocktails or shoot, tefilat ha’derech should be said even if travelling less than a parsah.

Should a Blessing be Recited on Urban Travel

Today, when many people travel long trips within urban areas, a big question arose: whether to say tefilat ha’derech on trips within the city. On the one hand, our Sages determined tefilat ha’derech to roads outside the city, and if so, a blessing should not be recited on a trip within the city. On the other hand, in our time the urban areas have grown extensively, and people can travel for hours without leaving them, such as traveling from Rehovot to Kfar Saba, and back. Today, there is also a danger in these trips, especially when traveling on highways (in fact, more than half of those killed by road accidents, including pedestrians, are killed in the cities).

Indeed, there are those poskim who believe that it is obligatory to say tefilat ha’derech in the city today, since the danger of accidents in the city is equal to the danger outside the city. It is also possible to say that urban roads are not considered an inhabited area, since they are meant for travel only.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that our Sages determined the prayer only for the way outside the inhabited areas, and we have no authority to continue to say tefilat ha’derech within the city. Apart from that, there are those who believe that it was possible to cancel the obligation of tefilat ha’derech outside the city, since it was based on much more dangerous ways, with robbers and wild beasts.

In Practice, It is Proper to Bless Without Saying God’s Name

Practically, it seems that although this is not obligatory, nevertheless it is good for every traveler in the city, who travels approximately four kilometers (a parsah), to say tefilat ha’derech without mentioning the name of God at the end, i.e., to say at the end of the prayer: “Baruch ata, shomay’ah tefilla”. This is what the Responsa Yaskil Avdi (7, Kuntres Acharon 3) wrote, and also what Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l told me.

It is Correct to Say Tefilat Ha’Derech before Beginning to Travel

The poskim are divided regarding where is the right place to say tefilat ha’derech. There are those who say that it is correct to recite tefilat ha’derch in the city when leaving the house (Ateret Zekanim 16: 7), but according to the majority of poskim, although bediavad one fulfills his obligation even when tefilat ha’derech is said in the city, l’chatchilla it is proper to say it after leaving the city, because it is then that the travelling upon which we pray for begins.

However, it seems that today, after we have reached the conclusion that it is good to bless over an urban journey, the correct place to say tefilat ha’derech is when one settles down in the car before the journey begins, so that tefilat ha’derech will apply to all the city travel as well. According to what we have written above, the traveler should act as follows: If the intention is to take an inter-city journey, before starting the trip, tefilat ha’derech should be said with mentioning God’s name. And if the intention is to travel within the urban areas, it is correct to say it without the name of God.

Until when can Tefilat Ha’Derech Be Said

If one forgot to say it upon his departure, if until his destination there remains a parsah (approximately four kilometers), he should say tefilat ha’derech, but if there remains less – he should say the tefilla without mentioning God’s name at the end.

If one travels a few times a day, it is sufficient to say the prayer for the first time, and have intention in his request for all the trips that he makes that day. But if he planned only one trip, and then decided to go again, then he has to say it again. When the travelling continues for a few days, each morning one should say tefilat ha’derech.

Why Doesn’t Tefilat Ha’Derech Open with ‘Baruch

There are those who questioned the text of tefilat ha’derech – why doesn’t it open with ‘Baruch‘, for we have a general rule: any bracha that is not a bracha ha’smucha l’chaverta (lit. a bracha adjacent to its companion – a bracha directly following another), it should open with a bracha?

There are those who believe that one should say tefilat ha’derech close to another bracha, if possible (Maharam of Rothenburg). However, the halacha is that it is possible to say tefilat ha’derech even without saying it close to a blessing, since it is not considered a blessing but a prayer. Others say that tefilat ha’derech is indeed a bracha – the bracha of “Shomaya tefillah” in the Amidah prayers – and since the main place in the Amidah prayer is close to the blessings before it, then even when it is said separately there is no need to open it with “Baruch“.

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

Yes, We Care about Other Peoples

Response to the arguments about the previous column, about the national movements in Europe: The struggle of the European right is important, because we desire the existence of nations * Rabbi Kook ztz”l taught us: We hate the evil of the nations, and love the image of God * We should also love the leftwing movements, but this is more difficult because they hate us * The love of man of the leftwing movements is directed toward an abstract person, but once he exhibits an identity, hatred towards him develops *HaGomel: Even if in the past women refrained from doing so, there is no reason for them not to recite the blessing in a minyan

A complaint on What I Wrote

Last week I wrote that it is correct to end the boycott imposed by the State of Israel, together with the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, on the right-wing movements in Europe. This was because these movements denounced anti-Semitic positions, expressed open support for the State of Israel and refined their national positions into a just and moral position demanding the preservation of their national, religious and cultural identity. On the correctness of their position, I wrote: “Just as the property of a private person must not be stolen, as the Communists did in the countries they took over, so it is forbidden to deprive people of their national and religious identity…”

There were those who argued: What do we care about the peoples of Europe, let them all be destroyed after what they did to us. There was a Torah scholar who attacked my words: “It is forbidden to rob European nations of their religious identity?! Forbidden?! Is it a Biblical prohibition? Rabbinic? Minhag? True, there is no obligation to chase after the non-Jews to leave their idols, but to say that it is forbidden to do so? On the contrary, he should be blessed! And that at the time of the redemption, God will not remove the exiles from the land, and there will be a serious faith crisis for all the nations that will remain alive? It seems that the word “forbidden” here is the secular equivalent of the word “forbidden” – that is, according to the democratic Western values ​​of live and let live, each one and his truth, one can understand that one must not deprive anyone of his religious identity. But our position is permitted and desirable. Western values have an impact on our society, even in this case where they clash head-on with the values ​​of the Torah. Though it’s not good, I can understand it, and it’s natural. But a well-known rabbi who writes in such a style seems to me out of place…”

To Benefit all Peoples

I did not write what I wrote accidentally or without thought, but from a well-established Torah position. To those who wonder why we care about the different nations, I will mention the words of Rabbi Kook: “Love of humanity must be alive in the heart and in the soul…to benefit all the nations…this character trait prepares Israel for the spirit of Moshiach. In all references where we find hints of hatred (towards the non-Jews), it is clear that the intention is only on the evil, which seizes the alliance of many nations today, and especially in the past, when the immorality of the world was far more repulsive. However, we must know that the aim of life – light and holiness – never moved from the Divine Image endowed to all of mankind, nation, and language…” (Midot HaRaya, Ahava, paragraph 5). And it is noted in the last chapters of the book of Jeremiah, concerning the nations punished for their wickedness, that Yirmiyahu in his prophecy laments them.

As Rav Kook wrote in relation to the various religions: “Our goal is not to uproot or destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destruction of the world and all its nations, but rather their correction and elevation, the removal of their dross, and of themselves they will join the source of Israel, where dewdrops of light will flow over them: ‘And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he, too, shall remain for our God’ (Zechariah 9:7). This applies even to idolatry, and therefore, even more so to religions whose foundations are partly based on the light of Israel’s Torah.” If in regards to absolute idol worshippers the goal is to remove the dross while retaining the general character of their faith and attitude towards good and virtue – all the more so concerning Christianity and Islam. Not their absorption and destruction is the goal of the light of Israel, just as we do not aim for general destruction to the world and all its nations, but to correct them and raise them, (Zechariah 9: 7), and this even applies to idolatry, and certainly to religions that rely on some of their foundations for the light of the Torah of Israel.”(Igrot HaRayeh, I, p. 142). The religions spoken of are religions such as Christianity and Islam, on which he wrote “that they are of great value”. Not only that, but hatred of Israel is a significant part of the evil in Christianity and Islam, and when groups within them change their attitude toward Israel for the better, their better part becomes clearer.

The claims against what I have written are based on a limited and superficial perception that developed abroad, as a defense against the terrible hatred and persecution. But we must return to the entire Torah that deals with the redemption of our people and all peoples, each nation according to its national, moral, spiritual and religious character.

We Love the left, but Receive Hatred

After what I wrote this time, I will probably get questions from the left: Can we also show respect and love for liberal leftist movements?

A: Respect certainly, love a little harder, and yet – yes.

Let me explain further: the basic position of the liberal left, according to which every person has absolute value, and therefore we must have respect for his personal rights to freedom, property and dignity, is a position that deserves great esteem. It is a great improvement to the situation in which tyrants and powerful individuals oppressed all types of people. And it must be supported as long as it does not trample on other important values, as the extreme left movements have done from their outset.

But loving those who completely hate us is hard. For love is mutual, and it is hard to love those who call us Nazis and curse us with baseless blood libels. Even if there is a grain of truth in their principled positions, their appearance in practice is evil, violent, and incites war.

If we delve deeper, leftist movements have no human love. Leftist movements love man as an abstract concept, lonely and naked from any gender, family, national and religious definition. But in practice they tend to hate people – for people are expressed through their identities, and these identities the left movements criticize sharply out of contempt and hatred. This is because they believe that these identities are the root of all evil, which harms equality, which is the goal to which they must aspire, for in it the redemption of man depends.

This creates the internal contradiction known to the left: on the one hand talk about the love of man, and in fact, hostility and hatred towards the vast majority of people, except those who share their fight for absolute equality, and against identities that they believe is false consciousness that leads to discrimination and damage to human dignity and liberty.

The person whom the leftists love the most is the weakened person, but there really is no such person, because every person is expressed through his identities, and the identities they treat with hatred or contempt. It is only because of his weakness that they can ignore his identity and define his identity as “weakened,” that when he has his full rights, the desired correction will come to the world. In practice, ignoring the identity of the weakened is one of the most severe injuries to it.

Nevertheless, as those with a Jewish identity who tend to believe and love the image of God in man, we also have a natural love for leftists, and naturally, when they do not directly harm us, we seek the points of good and truth in them and their opinions.

‘HaGomel’ for a Woman who Gave Birth

A woman who gives birth is considered as one who was dangerously ill and she must recite ‘HaGomel’. Seemingly, one could question: After all, a patient with pneumonia does not recite the Gomel when he recovers because today he has a treatment that eliminates the danger, and if so, a woman who gives birth should not have to recite HaGomel, since through the care she receives in the hospital, there is no danger in her giving birth. However, there is a difference between them that a patient with pneumonia does not desecrate the Sabbath, since there is no need to treat him urgently, but a woman who gives birth must be urgently taken to the hospital, and even on Shabbat. Therefore, she is considered a dangerously ill person who should recite the blessing.

Usually after seven days, the mother is already strengthened from birth and can recite the blessing. Sometimes the weakness of the birth lasts thirty days, and in any case, such a woman should recite HaGomel after thirty days.

The Gomel Blessing for Women

In the past, many women were not meticulous to recite the Gomel blessing. Many poskim were astonished at this, and explained that apparently because the blessing of HaGomel should be said before a minyan, out of modesty, many women felt uncomfortable standing in front of ten men and blessing the Gomel.  Some poskim suggested that the woman should stand in the ezrat nashim, and her husband should recite the blessing for her, and she would answer amen, and thus fulfill her obligation in his blessing. However, some say that a husband should not recite the blessing in his wife’s place, and therefore this advice should not be used, but rather a woman obligated in the blessing of HaGomel should recite the berakha herself in a minyan.

Therefore, a woman who is required to bless HaGomel should come to the synagogue for prayers, and inform the gabbai that she needs to recite HaGomel. Before or after prayers the gabbai should signal to the audience that they should wait in silence, and the woman from the women’s section will bless HaGomel, and the congregation will answer amen. If convenient for her, it is preferable to come to prayers that have the reading of the Torah, and bless after the reading of the Torah. If by chance she has another opportunity to have a minyan in another place, such as a women who gave birth to a baby boy at the brit milah of her son, she can recite the blessing in front of them and need not to come to synagogue.

HaGomel after a Miscarriage

However, after a miscarriage and gerida (scraping), even though the gerida is performed under full anesthesia, many women are customary not to bless HaGomel, so as not to reveal that they had a miscarriage, and they have what to rely on, for we have learned that ‘Great is human dignity, since it overrides a negative precept of the Torah’, i.e. the negative precept of “lo tasor” from the enactments established by the Sages, and the blessing of HaGomel is of rabbinic status. Perhaps this is the reason why many women did not bless HaGomel in the past, because of modesty they were ashamed to bless in front of men. But today it is not customary to be so ashamed, and the claim of shame does not exempt women from the blessing of HaGomel, except in special cases such as abortion or miscarriage.

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

The Right in Europe is no Longer Anti-Semitic

The time has come to re-examine the relations with the extreme right-wing parties in Europe, after they have removed all the haters of the Jews and are working in a practical and proper way to preserve the national identity of the peoples of Europe *It is proper to recite the ‘shecheyanu’ blessing on new shoes, on a promotion, and also on successfully passing a test if one is especially happy * In the wake of the article published in the last issue on wage withholding: The problem must be solved, but without the prohibition of ‘ribbit’ *Furthermore on ‘ribbit’: According to most poskim, ‘heter iska’ does not permit ‘ribbit’ of entering ‘minus’ in the bank

Reciting “Shehehyanu” on Joyful Purchases

Q: Does a person who owns many shirts have to bless “Sheheheyanu” over the purchase of a new shirt? And does one recite “Shehecheyanu” on socks and other minor things that a person buys for himself and is happy over them?

A: Two conditions are required for the “Shehecheyanu” blessing: one that the person reciting the blessing is happy over the garment or the new utensil; the second, that it is a garment or a utensil that many people are accustomed to rejoice over.

Thus, since most people are happy to buy ordinary clothes, such as a shirt, pants, a nice tie, a skirt, a small woolen prayer shawl, a nice hat, and pajamas, anyone who is happy when purchasing them should thank God and recite over them the blessing “Shehecheyanu.” But for buying simple clothes that people usually are not happy over, such as socks, underwear, a simple kerchief and a simple T-shirt, “Shehecheyanu” should not be recited. And even a poor person, who is very happy to buy them, in the opinion of the majority of the poskim, should not bless, for it is improper to recite a berakha over something simple which is not considered a joyful purchase in the eyes of many. But it would be appropriate to thank God in his own words or say the blessing without ‘shem u’malchut’.

It can be said that buying a garment, utensil, or a piece of jewelry in a regular store worth about NIS 50, which is the price of a nice shirt, is already considered important, and if the buyer or recipient is happy, he should recite the blessing “Shehecheyanu” (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 17: 4).

Q: What is the halakha when a person buys something that costs about NIS 50, but because he bought it online or at a special discount, he paid much less?

A: He certainly recites the blessing, because his joy is double – over the happy purchase, and that he managed to buy it at a low price.

Those who are not happy do not bless

It is true that wealthy or indifferent people, who are not happy with the purchase of a regular garment, cannot recite the blessing over them, for how can they bless “Shehecheyanu, v’keeyimanu, ve’higiyanu” when they are not happy? But on an important garment, like a suit or fancy dress that makes them happy – even a little – they recite the blessing. And for someone who even important clothes does not make them happy at all- they have forfeited the blessing.

It is Appropriate to Recite the Blessing on Shoes

In the past, it was not customary to recite the blessing over shoes, and apparently they were not important because they were intended solely to prevent injury to the legs. But it seems that today, when time and money are invested in the design of the shoes, their color and the like, and they are expensive and important, it is fitting that someone who takes joy in their purchase should recite the blessing.

Greeting on Good News

Those who have been informed that their salaries are going to be raised beyond the accepted increase, or have received an unexpected promotion, should recite the blessing “Shehecheyanu“.

Someone who hoped to be appointed to a certain position, and heard that they chose him – blesses “Shehecheyanu“. And if he forgot to bless when he heard about it, he can bless as long as he is very happy with the good news. If a party is held for him to take office, he can postpone the blessing from the time of the good news till the time of the party, when he is most happy.

Anyone who has been informed that he has successfully passed the driving test, or who received a high score on a psychometric test or another important test, if he is very happy about it, he may recite the blessing “Shehecheyanu“.

The Blessing on Shalva (sweet puffed wheat) and Granola – Mezanot

Over shalva, granola, and crispy rice cakes made out of wheat, seemingly, the ‘borei pri adama‘ blessing should be recited, for the general rule is that one who eats types of cooked wheats blesses “mezanot“, and if it is baked as bread – “ha’motzi“, but if grains of wheat are eaten as naturally grown, or roasted or cooked a little,” one recites “ha’adama“. This is because they were not eaten in their finest manner, and they are like other kinds of legumes, upon which the blessing “ha’adama” is recited.  After eating, a blessing is not recited, since there is doubt as to which blessing to recite, “borei nefashot” according to the halakha of any food that is first blessed with “ha’adama” (Ritva), or “al ha’michiya” according to the halakha of “she’vat minei dagan” (Rosh, Rashba). And since there is doubt, a blessing is not recited.

In practice, however, this is the halakha only in regards to the eating of grain in a strange manner, naturally and uncooked. But when prepared as an important dish, such as crispy wheat cakes, shalva, and granola, since they are ready for consumption, and people are used to eating them as an important food that is not inferior to cooked grain, their blessing is “mezanot” and “al ha’michiya“.

Amendment regarding ‘Ribbit‘ (interest)

In an article last week about the great importance of the fight against wage withholding in the economy, there was a proposal to charge interest for those who are behind payment. However, it is necessary to note that charging interest for delaying wages is forbidden by the Torah. The proper way to deal with withholding wages according to Jewish law is to set a fine in advance for those who are late to pay.

Prohibition of interest in overdraft

Since we have already mentioned the prohibition of ‘ribbit‘, I will touch upon an important question: Is it permissible for a person to be overdrawn in his bank account and to pay interest according to a ‘heter iska’?

A: According to most poskim, a person is not permitted to overdraft from a bank other than for business purposes. And despite the fact that the bank has a transaction permit (‘heter iska‘) for all its activities, it is not beneficial for overdraft for daily financing because the basis of the permit is based on the fact that the money is invested in profit transactions. But if the money is intended to buy food and clothing and other needs, this is an ordinary loan, which is not intended for investments, and therefore the percentage added to the principal is interest that is forbidden from the Torah.

However, there are poskim who permit this in times of distress, but since most poskim prohibit it, and it is a safek issur from the Torah, one should be machmir (stringent).

When is it Permitted to be in Overdraft

Although, someone who has a savings plan or an apartment, and for a period of time got caught in financial distress, and in order to finance his current needs, he has two options: one is to break the savings plan or sell the apartment, and the second is to withdraw money from the bank and then pay interest on it – In dire circumstances, he is allowed to enter overdraft and pay interest afterwards. This is because this action can be considered a business need, for if he had to break the savings plan or sell the apartment, it will cause a greater financial loss, so it pays to be in overdraft and pay a certain interest, thereby saving the loss involved in breaking the savings plan or selling the apartment. But this permit can only be used for a limited period of time. The reason is that in the case of a permanent deficit, it is impossible to say that it is better for him not to break a savings plan or not to sell the apartment because the interest he receives for his savings or the profit he receives for saving his apartment, is smaller than the interest he pays for a long period.

The Correct Attitude to the Right-wing Movements in Europe

Recently, we once again heard that the Israeli Foreign Ministry is debating how to treat the right-wing parties in Europe, especially the Austrian right-wing Freedom Party, whose leaders are now members of the government. For years, the traditional position was boycotting, because although most of the leaders and members of these parties repudiated the Nazis and the Holocaust, these movements served as incubators for Nazi supporters and Holocaust deniers.

In recent years, however, radical right movements have undergone a process of change. Leaders have arose who shook off the racist Nazi heritage and openly support the State of Israel. They removed anti-Jewish neo-Nazis from their movements in shame. They refined the national positions of the movements, and now they express a just position that demands the preservation of the national, religious and cultural identity of the peoples of Europe. Just as the property of a private individual must not be usurped, as the communists did in the countries they took over, people should not be deprived of their national and religious identity, as the liberals of the left, the Communist successors such as the British Labor Party, wish to do today.

In light of this, the moral stance, as well as considerations of benefit, oblige us to examine positively the ties with the right-wing movements in Europe, where each case must be examined on its merits. A movement that completely renounces anti-Semitism and racism deserves respect, encouragement and cooperation. The agreed position should be that the just struggle against violent and aggressive Islam, and anyone who threatens their national identity, is defined as a struggle for the rule of law and order and for the establishment of a clear national identity for the state, but in no way for xenophobia.

Strache and the Austrian Freedom Movement

Several years ago, leaders of the right-wing movements in Europe visited Israel. One of them was Heinz Christian Strache, the leader of the Austrian Freedom Movement. During their visit, they also came to Har Bracha, and after hearing from former MK Elyakim Haetzni that according to what he had inspected, they were decent people, and we received them with all due respect. At the meeting, Strache spoke in German, and Elyakim Haetzni translated it into Hebrew. It was an enthusiastic Zionist speech, of a man who appreciates the Jewish people and its tremendous achievements in the building of the Land of Israel, socially, culturally, economically and scientifically, and in the face of bravery against the Arab enemy. In his speech, he pledged to always stand for the right of Israel and the settlers who returned to the land of the Bible and stand bravely as a wall in the face of Arab terror and are considered the front line of defense in Europe’s security.

I later heard from Elyakim Haetzni, that a member of the Jewish community in Vienna had contacted him, claiming that there were other neo-Nazis in the Austrian Freedom Party, and how could we meet with them. Elyakim did not waste time, asked for the names of the anti-Semitic activists and transferred them to the leaders of the Austrian party. They were later removed from the ranks of the party. And even the Jew who complained, once again reported to Elyakim Haetzni that the party was now clean, without neo-Nazi activists.

It seems that in such a situation, it would be correct for the official representatives of the State of Israel to establish good relations with representatives of the Austrian Freedom Party and its leader.

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

When do we Recite “HaGomel” Today?

The criteria of ‘Birkat HaGomel’ were formulated in accordance with the reality in the past, in which every illness could have deteriorated to death, and every journey was life threatening * The rabbinic decree was to recite the Gomel after leaving a dangerous situation, and therefore today one should recite the blessing only in situations of exceptional risk * Even for those who go according to the Shulchan Aruch, the bracha should not be recited over ordinary patients who lie in bed because of their illness * Also on inter-city rides the blessing should not be recited, since the chance of road accidents does not make it a real danger * Regarding airplane travel, the poskim disagree, but for those used to flying – it is correct for them not to recite the blessing

Birkat HaGomel for Sephardi Minhag (custom)

Q: I practice Sephardic minhagim, and according to our custom, every patient – even a patient with a mild flu who has to lie down one day in bed – should recite the ‘HaGomel’ blessing after he has been cured, as codified in the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 219:8), that anyone who is forced to lie down on his bed due to his illness, when he recovers and gets up from his bed, recites the ‘Gomel’. According to the Rema, the ‘Gomel’ is recited only after a certain life-threatening illness, for which Shabbat is profaned.

Similarly, anyone who travels on a road that takes more than seventy-two minutes should recite the ‘Gomel’ blessing, as is explained in the Shulchan Aruch (219:7), but according to the Ashkenazic custom one does not recite the ‘Gomel’ when travelling from city to city, “for only those who travel in deserts where there are wild animals or thieves is obligated to recite the ‘Gomel’. But according to Sephardi minhag it is customary to recite the blessing, because all roads are presumed to be dangerous. However, if the travel is less than a parsah, one does not recite the blessing.”  And since a parsah is approximately 72 minutes, according to the Sephardi minhag, the ‘Gomel’ blessing should be recited over any travel that takes 72 minutes.

However in practice, I have not encountered a situation in which a person who was ill for one day recites the ‘Gomel’, and even a person with the flu, I do not recall him reciting the blessing of “HaGomel”. As for the traveler on urban roads, where Rav Ovadiah Yosef ruled that if during the day a person traveled for seventy-two minutes, he should recite the ‘Gomel’, there is no one who does so in practice, since many people travel in this fashion to their work every day and do not recite the ‘Gomel’ every day. The question is: Does the minhag of the Sephardim who do not recite “HaGomel” have what to rely on?

A: Let us begin with the law concerning an ill person, and from there we will continue with the law of the traveler and the other laws of the “Gomel” blessing.

What Ill Person Should Bless

In practice, all Sephardim and Ashkenazim should recite “HaGomel” only after an illness that is in danger of justifying desecration of the Sabbath in order to heal the patient. And even though the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch states that every patient who is cured should recite “HaGomel”, this is because in the past, every person who fell ill was considered to be in a somewhat dangerous situation, because many times they did not know whether it was the flu, or heart disease, if the patient had angina, or was a diabetic patient who was in a dangerous condition. And as we sometimes find in stories from the past, people who functioned as perfectly healthy fell ill suddenly, and died the following day. Therefore, many of the Rishonim, led by Maimonides, Nachmanides and the Rashba, have instructed that anyone who fell ill – even if they thought that there was no danger in his illness – should recite the ‘Gomel’ when he recovers, for perhaps his illness was dangerous, as is brought down in the Beit Yosef from the words of the Yerushalmi: “All the roads are presumed to be dangerous…every illness is presumed to be dangerous” (Berachot 4:4). As the Ramban wrote, and in his language, quoted in the Shulchan Aruch:” In every sickness one must bless, even if he is not dangerously ill … rather, anyone who had to lie down on his bed and recovered, since he is similar to one who has been sent to the gallows to be judged”(219:8), and a person sent to the gallows naturally enters danger.” It is also explained from what was copied in the Beit Yosef the words of the Rashba in his teshuva (1: 82): “There is no difference between having a permanent ailment coming occasionally or regularly, and on the contrary, the more regular it is, the stronger it is. And even though miracles have been performed for him many times and he has been saved from them, from the heavens they have pitied him, and miracles do not occur at all times (Megillah 7b).” And thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch. We see that according to all opinions ‘Gomel’ was recited only because of the danger of an illness, but according to the Shulchan Aruch every illness to a certain extent is dangerous, whereas the Rosh and the Rama ruled that only a disease whose danger was known and acknowledged should be blessed upon.

It should be added that in recent generations we have become more spoiled, and many people lie on their beds because of diseases that in the past were considered only as ailments that do not require lying down. And perhaps this is why the Ben Ish Chai ruled that only someone who had been lying down for three days should recite “HaGomel”. However, many disagreed with him and wrote that even a patient who lied in bed less than three days should bless according to the customs of the Sephardim.  However, it seems clear that in the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, in any case, a blessing should not be recited over an illness that was clearly not dangerous.

Only an Ill Person who was in Danger Blesses

Therefore, after medical science has developed, and it is now possible to diagnose a patient’s condition and determine whether there is a danger of his illness, the members of all communities, both Sephardim and Ashkenazim, should be instructed to recite the blessing only after an illness that had a certain danger. And the sign is that this is a disease that is permitted to violate the Sabbath in order to save the patient. True, sometimes we desecrate the Sabbath and drive a sick person to the hospital out of doubt, and in the end it turns out that the patient was not in danger, and obviously it is clear that he does not bless “HaGomel”; but after an illness in which the patient was in mortal danger to the point where the Sabbath should be desecrated for him, the ‘Gomel’ blessing should be recited.

Passengers on the Road are not in Danger

The same applies to travelers: All poskim agree that the blessing is for the saving from danger; rather, they disagreed about whether the blessing should be recited on the relatively distant danger of walking from city to city. Nevertheless, in the past there was a far greater danger than the danger of traveling on the roads in our time, for in the past when people walked or rode on animals, someone who damaged his leg or was injured by a fall might find it difficult to complete his trip and die of thirst, or an untreated infection. The danger of the robbers was great, too, and sometimes the robbers murdered the property owners or sold them as slaves. Therefore, it is said in the Yerushalmi: “All roads are presumed to be dangerous” (Brachot 4: 4). This was one of the reasons why people rarely traveled, and most people throughout their lifetimes did not leave their area of ​​residence, and consequently did not have to recite “HaGomel” as a traveler. According to this, the machmirim (stringent poskim) have ruled to bless on every travel on inter-urban roads.

However, today the roads are safe. This is one of the great achievements of the modern era that transportation and the moving of goods have been made easy and safe, and thus reduced the cost of food and clothing and other products, and it becomes more profitable to invest in further technological developments that can also be transported and marketed globally.

The Danger of Accidents is not considered to be a Danger to Life

There are those who wish to argue that today as well, because there are road accidents, the roads are very dangerous. However, although every accident is extremely painful, statistically speaking, this is a very low risk, which has been decreasing over the years. It seems that if we consider the time in minutes people go down stairs compared to the time they spend on the road, we will find that no less people are killed and injured on stairs, and no one would think of reciting the “Gomel” blessing after going down stairs. Similarly, if we consider the people who drown in the sea, or die because of slipping in a bath, we find that the danger of the roads is much smaller. Obviously, my words do not detract from the importance of education for road safety, because by virtue of this education the danger of accidents is indeed significantly reduced.

In conclusion, according to all minhagim, “HaGomel” should not be recited for trips between cities in progressive countries.

The Blessing of “HaGomel” is intended for Special Cases

It should be added that the “HaGomel” blessing is intended for special cases and not as a routine blessing. Proof for this is that some say that anyone who needed to recite “HaGomel” in the times of the Temple would have had to sacrifice a korban todah (thanksgiving offering). This is what the Rosh, Or Zaru’a, and S’mag wrote. And the ‘Chayei Adam’ went as far as writing the order of reciting the korban todah sacrifice for the four required to give thanks, and wrote that those who recite the Gomel should contribute tzedakah to those who study Torah equal to the value of sacrifice, because it is inconceivable that in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, the sinners should be rewarded. Nevertheless, according to many poskim, it was a mitzvah and not an obligation to bring a korban todah for those who needed to recite “HaGomel” (Rashi, Leviticus 7:12). In any case, one can understand that this is not a blessing that a person blesses frequently. (It should be noted that the main halachic rulings on “Ha-Gomel” blessing after a trip were written about 70 years ago by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and Nitivei Am).

Should a Blessing be recited after a Flight

In recent generations a question has arose concerning those who fly in airplanes. Some poskim have ruled that they do not have to recite the blessing because air flight is not more dangerous than traveling in a car (Chelkat Yaacov, Be’ztel HaChochma; in the name of the Ga’on of Trzebinia, and the Rebbe of Belz. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Goren).

On the other hand, many poskim ordered to recite “HaGomel” after a flight. Rabbi Feinstein clarified that the blessing of “HaGomel” was based on the departure of man from the regular order to a dangerous situation, such as the seafarers, for example, that it is not natural for a person not to drown in the sea, and after having crossed the sea safely thanks to having been on a boat – when one arrives at his destination, he should recite “HaGomel”. Despite the fact that there are almost no disasters today with regards to ships, since a person leaves his home to the danger of being at sea, and is saved by virtue of being on a ship, he blesses. All the more so in regards to flying on an airplane, which is naturally more dangerous than sailing on a ship, for it is not natural for a person to remain in the air and not fall, and since there is a rescue from danger, “HaGomel” should be recited after the flight. (Thus is written in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Halichot Shlomo, and was stated in the name of Chazon Ish). However, some of the poskim wrote that only after a flight of at least seventy-two minutes should one recite the blessing (Tzitz Eliezer 11:13, and Yichivei Daat). In practice, it seems that it is correct for anyone who is accustomed to flying not to bless, since the “HaGomel” blessing was based on an exceptional situation. And even for those who are not used to flying – it is preferable not to bless, since today flights have become natural and routine for people, and are not more dangerous than car trips. If someone who is not accustomed to flying wants to recite the blessing, he can rely on those poskim who believe that one should recite a blessing, because for him a flight is a special event involving a certain fear (for the blessing “HaGomel” is not only dependent on danger, but also a traumatic event such as imprisonment, in which there is no danger).

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