Differentiating between Good and Bad

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


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


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


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


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


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


He who Shows Disrespect to His Father and Rabbi


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


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


Various Levels


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


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


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


Defining Good and Evil


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


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


‘Whoever Spares the Rod Hates His Son’


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


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


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

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


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


Is This Terrorism?


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


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


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


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


How to Deal with the Wild Youth


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


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


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

Women for Israel’s Redemption

Current Events

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

“Harsh Labor Designated to Break Their Bodies”

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

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

The Men Lost Their Will to Live

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

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

The crucial question was: How would the women react?

Will the Women Assimilate?

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

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

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

In the Merit of Righteous Women

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

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

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

Mirrors of the Multitudes

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

They Are the Most Cherished

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

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

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

Give Praise to the Righteous Women of Our Generation

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

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

Redeeming Captives in Jewish Law

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

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

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

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

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

Redeeming Hostages Whose Lives are at Risk

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

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

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

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

Whether to Surrender to the Demands of Terrorists?

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

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

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

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

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

Is it is Mitzvah to Save a Terrorist in Danger?

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

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

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

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

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

The Responsibility to Benefit Others

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

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

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

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

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

Israel, the West, and Islam

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

Increasing tension between the West and Muslims

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

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

Failures of Western Policy and “Experts”

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

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

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

The Religious Point of View

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

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

Islam’s Influence on Personal Behavior

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

Seeing as honor is so essential, offending a Muslim is intolerable, because it undermines the very foundation of his existence; if offended, a Muslim is consequently obliged to respond with extreme gravity, leading to the familiar and horrifying expression of “family honor killings.”

Since force and control are vital to Islam, as a result, a ruler who is not perceived as strong and even cruel is incapable of lasting in Muslim society. Therefore, the democratic system is unable to provide stability for Islamic countries. The ideal government for them is an authoritarian rule which protects and provides honor for all its citizens, similar to a compassionate father caring for the welfare of his sons.

The Positive Aspects of Islam

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

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

Islam – A Religion of War

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

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

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

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

The Significance of the Sword in Islam

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

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

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

How to Deal with the Islamic Threat

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

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

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

The Mistake in Obama’s Cairo Speech

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

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

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

Hanukkah: The Holiday of Education

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

The Loss of Educational Authority

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

The Roots of the Problem

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

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

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

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

A Greek Problem, and Not Jewish

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

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

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

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

The Status of Values ​​in Western Culture

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

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

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

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

And What about Israel?

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

The Authority to Punish

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

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

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


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

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

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

Candle Lighting for Guests on Shabbat Hanukkah

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

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

Where to Light After Shabbat

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

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

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

Chanukah Lighting Today

One should try to leave work early and light the Chanukah candles close to sunset * Should lighting time be postponed so as not to cancel a regular Torah class? * One who returns home late from work should make an effort to light candles no later than nine o’clock * When a spouse gets home late, should lighting be postponed? * A person who lights the candles late should refrain from eating * According to Sephardic custom, can children light candles with a blessing? * Can Chanukah candles be lit at parties and public gatherings? * One who lives on an upper floor in an apartment building should light the candles by the window facing the street

Lighting Time

Our Sages determined that the Chanukah candles should be lit at an hour which allows for maximum publicity of the Chanukah miracle. In the past when there were no street lamps, people would begin gathering in their homes just before nightfall. At sunset, therefore, the streets were full of people returning home. For that reason, our Sages ruled that the time for lighting Chanukah candles is “from sundown until the marketplace has emptied out” (Shabbat 21b).


Even though today we have electric lighting and most people return home hours after nightfall, the ideal time for lighting Chanukah candles is still the time chosen by our Sages – tzeit hakochavim (when three medium-sized stars emerge). 


How nice it would be if on the days of Chanukah one could return home before five o’clock, and after lighting the candles, engage in Torah study and family gatherings centering on commemorating the miracle and the destiny of the Jewish nation.

What Comes First: Evening Prayers, or Lighting the Candles?

Those who customarily pray the Evening Prayer (Ma’ariv) at tzeit hakochavim (when three medium-sized stars emerge), should pray the evening services before lighting the candles, according to the rule, “tadir v’she’eino tadir, tadir kodem” (that which comes more frequently takes precedence). At the end of the Ma’ariv, they should return home quickly to light candles as close as possible to tzeit hakochavim.

But someone whose custom is to pray Ma’ariv later, it is preferable to light candles at tzeit hakochavim and pray Ma’ariv as usual, so he can light candles at the ideal time, tzeit hakochavim.

However, in such a case, one should take care not to eat dinner beforehand. If there is a concern that as a result of the party following the lighting of the candles one might forget to pray Ma’ariv, it is preferable to pray at tzeit hakochavim, and light the candles after Ma’ariv.

Should a Regular Torah Class be Cancelled in Order to Light on Time?

In a place where a Torah class is regularly held after Ma’ariv, if, as a result of the participants going home to light candles the class will be cancelled, it is preferable to conduct the class and then light candles, because the mitzvah of Torah study is superior to lighting the candles at the ideal time (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 12:13; 13:13).

Should Lighting be Postponed until Coming Home from Work?

If it is difficult for someone to return home at tzeit hakochavim because, for example, he has to work until seven o’clock, he may light candles with a bracha (blessing) upon returning home from work, because even in the past according to most poskim (Jewish law authorities), b’deiavad (after the fact), one could fulfill the mitzvah all night long – all the more so today, when many people are accustomed to return home after tzeit hakochavim.

In any case, latecomers should make an effort to light as early as possible, and to light no later than nine o’clock, because by that time even those people who work late, return home. Only in a sha’at dachak (pressing situation) is one permitted to light the candles all night, but reciting the blessing is permitted only on the condition that there is another person present who sees the candles (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 13:8, footnote 12).

A latecomer must be careful not to eat achilat keva (a meal) before lighting the candles (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 13:6).

Should a Spouse Wait for Their Partner to Return Home?

In many families a question arises: in a case where one of the spouses cannot return home from work at tzeit hakochavim, when should the candles be lit? Should the spouse at home light candles at nightfall (about 5:00 p.m.), or wait for his or her partner to return home? 

Ostensibly, according to the letter of the law, it is preferable for the spouse at home to light candles at nightfall and thus discharge his or her partner of the obligation. However, in practice, it is usually best to wait for the delayed spouse to return.
if the other spouse is not able to hear the blessings over the candles elsewhere, one should wait for him. And if there is chance he will be offended, or his connection to the mitzvah will be weakened, one should wait until he returns.

If the couple wishes, the spouse at home can light candles on time, and when the other spouse returns home, they can light candles once more with a bracha (see, Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 12:4, footnote 2).

Should Lighting be Postponed for Children Who Come Home Late?

According to Sephardic custom in which only one family member lights a candle for the entire family, one should wait for each member of the family for the same reasons mentioned above in regards to waiting for a spouse.

However, if the latecomer will arrive after nine in the evening, it is preferable not to wait for him, and to light earlier. The latecomer should take care to participate in a candle lighting and hear the blessings wherever he happens to be. If he cannot, and it is not a one-time occurrence, it is preferable for him to act according to the Ashkenazi minhag, and have intention not to fulfill his obligation with his families’ lighting, and upon returning home, to light the candles with a bracha on his own.

According to Ashkenazic custom, lighting should not be postponed for children who are late, and when they arrive home – they should light their own candles with a bracha.

Can Children Light Candles with a Bracha According to Sephardi Custom?

According to Sephardi custom, only the head of the household lights Chanukah candles. If children are eager to light a menorah as well, they are permitted to light their own candles, provided they light them in another place, so that it is evident how many candles are lit each day.

As far as the blessing is concerned, the prevalent custom is not to recite a blessing when lighting, because they fulfill the mitzvah through their father’s lighting, and it is appropriate to continue this minhag. However, a person whose children are eager to recite the bracha, or genuinely wants them to recite the bracha as well, can rely on the opinion of the Rishon L’Tzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l  who permitted children up to the age of Bar Mitzvah to light candles with a blessing.

And in the opinion of Rabbi Shalom Mesas ztz”l, boys over the age of Bar Mitzvah can have kavana (intention) not to fulfill their obligation in the mitzvah through their father’s lighting, and light with a bracha (Yalkut Shemesh, O.C. 192). When necessary, one may rely on his opinion.

Candle Lighting at Parties and Public Events

Many people are scrupulous to publicize the miracle and light Chanukah candles wherever people gather, such as weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Chanukah parties, and lectures. The question is: is it permissible to recite a blessing over the lighting at such events?

Many contemporary rabbis hold that one should not recite a blessing, because the blessings are customarily said only in synagogues, and we do not have the authority to invent new customs in other places. According to them, one who recites a blessing in places other than a synagogue is pronouncing a blessing in vein (Rav Orbach, Rav Eliyashiv).

Nevertheless, several poskim maintain that one may light Chanukah candles, with a blessing, wherever there is a public gathering. After all, the reason we light in the synagogue is to publicize the miracle; therefore, one should light, with a blessing, wherever the masses gather (Rav Yisraeli, Rav Ovadiah). It is preferable, though, to pray Ma’ariv – in such a place, thus giving it the status of a synagogue to a certain degree. Then, a blessing may be recited, as the custom dictates (Rav Eliyahu).

In practice, one who wishes to rely on those who hold that it is permissible to light with a blessing may do so. And if there are guests at the event who did not hear the bracha on the candles on that day, it is preferable for one of them to recite the blessings and light the candles (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 12:18).

Where to Light Chanukah Candles in an Apartment Building

Our Sages determined that ideally, one should light candles near the entranceway, in order to publicize the miracle to passers-by in the vicinity of the house. But there is a dispute as to where the entranceway is for someone living in an apartment building. Some authorities say the building’s entrance, because the entranceway of the building is the area that leads to the public domain. Other authorities say one should light the candles outside the apartment’s door which opens to the hallway, and in their opinion, someone who lights at the entrance to the building has not fulfilled the mitzvah, because the mitzvah is to light near his house and not on the street, and a person who lights at the entrance to the building is similar to one who lights on the street.

Since there is safek (doubt) whether a person who lights at the entrance to the apartment building fulfills his obligation in the mitzvah, while according to all opinions someone who lights at the doorway to his apartment does fulfill his obligation, it is preferable to light at the entrance of his doorway.

If the apartment has a window facing the public domain, it is preferable to light there because publicizing the miracle is of greater importance, and in this fashion, the miracle is more publicized. And even those who live on the fourth floor and above should preferably light there. Indeed, our Sages said that one who lights in a place higher than twenty cubits (9.12 meters) has not fulfilled his obligation, however they were talking about a person who lit the candles on a pole in the middle of his yard. But someone who lights the candles in the window inside his home, approximately a meter and a half from the floor, definitely fulfills his obligation. And since people are used to glancing at the windows of buildings, by lighting there, the miracle will be more publicized (Peninei Halakha 13:3).

If they follow the Ashkenazic custom in which children also light candles, it is preferable for the head of the family to light the candles on the window sill, and one of the children to light near the apartment door.

The Candles

All types of oils and wicks are kosher for Chanukah candles, provided it can stay lit for at least a half-an-hour. Someone who lights a candle that cannot remain lit for half-an-hour, there is a safek whether he fulfilled his obligation, and therefore, he should re-light another candle that can last for half-an-hour. However, he should not recite a blessing, because there are a few poskim who are of the opinion that b’dieavad, one fulfills his obligation with a candle that remains lit for less than half-an-hour (Peninei Halakha 12:7).

Ideally, the nicer the candle burns, the more ornamental (mehudar) it is, because the miracle is publicized better this way. Therefore, many people are accustomed to lighting wax or paraffin candles (Darchei Moshe). Other authorities say it is preferable to light with olive oil because its light is radiant, in addition to the fact that it reminds one of the miracle of the oil flask (Meiri, Kolbo; Peninei Halakha 12:6).

Electric Lights

In practice, most poskim hold that one cannot use electric lights, because they do not have wicks and oil like conventional candles do.
It is true that when it comes to Shabbat candles, most authorities hold that – when necessary – one can fulfill the mitzvah, with a blessing, by way of electric lights, because the main purpose of Shabbat candles is to provide light. Chanukah candles, however, are meant to remind us of the miracle. Therefore, they must resemble the candles of the Holy Temple, and since electric lights are different from candles, one cannot discharge his obligation by lighting them.

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

To the Right of Europe

As the sons of Abraham chosen to be a blessing to all humanity, we are obliged to think of ways of helping Europe face the threat of Islam * Western experts fail to understand the root of the problem * In which direction will the conflict between the West and Islam go? Two possible scenarios * Right-wing movements in Europe support Israel, and stand firm on the right of Europe to maintain its identity and culture * Israel is able and should make contacts with Right-wing movements in Europe that attempt to rid themselves of their anti-Semitic past * Muslims can integrate in European countries according to the Torah’s model of ‘ger toshav’ without harming the identity and culture of their host country


Jews are concerned about Europe. Since the days of Abraham, we, the Children of Israel, are accustomed to worrying about all nations and all peoples. Our forefather Abraham even sought to defend Sodom. This is the task God intended for us, from the moment He commanded Abraham, “Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing … all the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3). To paraphrase – leave your narrow, national life to go the Promised Land, so as to establish a global, universal nation that will spread the word of God to the entire world from the Land of Israel. Similarly, God said to our forefather Jacob: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13-14).

Furthermore, seeing as for generations numerous Jews were exiled to European countries, we are concerned about what is happening there. And although on the whole our lives in Europe were not easy, there were some good times. And the Torah teaches us that even the Egyptians who enslaved us with hard labor should be treated in a positive manner because we were strangers in their country (see, Deuteronomy 23:8-9). What’s more, events occurring in a neighboring and powerful Europe are liable to affect us as well.

The Problem of the Western Experts

Western countries invest a fortune funding thousands of researchers on the topics of history, religion, society, and mass-psychology. They employ thousands of ambassadors and foreign relations consultants. Despite all this, they have difficulty understanding the threat currently facing them.

Their problem is a fundamental one. They attempt to view the situation from an objective approach, devoid of religious faith and national identity. But it is precisely this position that prevents them from penetrating a complete understanding of human motivations, and all the more so, those of religious people and entire nations.

A Realistic Prognosis

Anyone not afflicted by the conceptual blindness of the “experts” understands that a confrontation between Islam and the West is currently in progress. The blindness of Western “experts” provides Islam with a huge advantage at the opening of the battle.

It is difficult to assess how it will all end. If the West’s blindness continues, Europe will gradually become Muslim. At first, by means of Muslim immigration to Europe, while exploiting the human right of natural population growth, and the dissemination of Islam – which poses a moral and religious alternative to the gaping secular abyss created in Europe. All this, combined with violence to reinforce the Muslim communities and intimidate their neighbors. In the end, everyone will be driven to convert to Islam by force, because the law of Mohamed is by the sword.

In a more realistic scenario, life will gradually become more difficult. Governments will stand helpless opposite Islamization and rioting. The countries’ economic situation will deteriorate. Violence and street crime will increase up until the hatred for Muslims becomes so strong that nothing will be able to prevent European barbarism from erupting once again. At that point in time the Europeans will begin killing Muslims, as was their custom of fighting and killing for over a thousand years. The police will try to prevent it, but will be unsuccessful. Even Muslim-haters around the world will have pity on them, because they will be slaughtered, raped, burned alive, deported, and drowned in the rivers. From a historical point of view, the Europeans were no less professionals in the field of bloodshed than the Muslims.

In the two scenarios, as well as a combination of both, Europe will sink morally, socially, scientifically and economically.

Specifically, it is the extreme Right movements that have a better understanding of the situation, and perhaps with their inclusion in various governments, a reasonable solution to Europe’s serious problem can be found. However, this poses a difficult dilemma.

The Extreme Right Movements in Europe

I approach the question of proper relations between Israel and Right-wing nationalist movements in Europe with trepidation. On the one hand, the prevailing view among many Jews and moral people maintains that we should loathe these movements, because they are guilty of racial intolerance and anti-Semitism, and history has taught us that such hatred is liable to lead to the most terrible consequence of all – the Holocaust. Even after the Holocaust, there were Right-wing movements in Europe that continued totally supporting the Nazi’s, or at least partially. And although most of their leadership and members repudiated the Nazi’s and the Holocaust, Right-wing movements continued serving as a hotbed for the wicked who justify the murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust, deny its extent, or diminish its severity. One can still find young, violent, neo-Nazi skinheads, haters of foreigners in general, and Jews in particular, who support the idea of ​​the superiority of the White Aryan race that justifies all types of discrimination or harassment of members of other races, regardless of their views or actions.

On the other hand, over the years the extreme Right-wing movements have undergone a process of change. Leaders arose who openly renounce the racist Nazi legacy, and openly support the State of Israel. They unashamedly removed neo-Nazi anti-Semites from their movements. Today, Right-wing movements have a better understanding of the Muslim problem than others. They understand it is a comprehensive, cultural war versus Islam, and not the terrorism of extremists who happen to be Muslims. The Right-wing movements are also justified in their demand to maintain the national and religious-cultural identity of European countries. Just as it is forbidden to steal the property of a private individual as did the Communists in the countries over which they gained control, it is also forbidden to deprive people of their national and religious identity.

Leftist Movements

The Leftist movements deny the significance of national and religious identity. Accordingly, they support the absorption of foreign refugees and their right to publicly express their identity, even when it opposes and undermines the national identity of the locals.

As a rule, Jews who lived in European exile recognized and respected the national and religious identity of the native citizens. True, we must admit that in modern times throughout all of Europe and particularly in France, assimilated Jews and those alienated to the values of Judaism ​​as a people and as a religion, were the leaders of the left-wing liberal and cosmopolitan movements that attempted to blur national identity and emphasize the universal, human values ​​of individual rights and equality.

We, the Jews, are also victims of the positions of Leftist movements. Their representatives blatantly criticize Judaism and the State of Israel. Representatives of leftist movements here in Israel also gnaw away at our national and religious identity, oppose the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, and object to granting special status to the Hebrew language, and Jewish heritage as its cultural and legal foundation. This, despite the fact that for some strange reason, they recognize the fictional identity of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, not unlike the way their friends in Europe are more willing to support Islam than the majority culture.

The Correct Relationship with the National Right-Wing

In light of the reality facing us, it would be fitting to examine networking with the Right-wing movements in Europe, with each case being scrutinized individually. A movement which completely repudiates anti-Semitism and racism is deserving of respect and cooperation. The consensus should be that the just struggle against Islam or anyone who threatens their national identity is defined as a struggle for maintaining law and order and for establishing a clear national identity for the state, and definitely not due to xenophobia.

Marine Le Pen

Unfortunately, the State of Israel has failed to lead an appropriate dialogue with national Right-wing movements in Europe. Instead of supporting the reasonable national and moral positions, and strengthening the policy rejecting racism and hatred, we have chosen to support those who blur identities. Those who are unable to deal properly with any problem, and also harm the State of Israel, standing at the very same frontline in the war for its existence and identity.

For example, the leader of the French right-wing party, Marine Le Pen, sought to make contacts with Jews and the State of Israel, and instead of conducting a respectful dialogue with her, she was ignored. The National right-wing party in France ousted its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, because he refused to retract his anti-Semitic statements denying the Holocaust. Doesn’t that prove the party’s intentions? The bond that Jews and the State of Israel can tie with this party will enable it to strengthen its moral position, for the good of both France and Israel.

The ‘Resident Alien’ Prototype

The contribution that Judaism can offer Right-wing movements in Europe is adopting the model of “ger toshav” (resident alien) as a condition for obtaining the rights of a citizen, without compromising the national identity of the majority.

There are two principles the ‘ger toshav‘ must accept upon himself: 1) recognition of the national and religious identity of the natives, and bearing the burden of national challenges facing the enemy. 2) acceptance of the Seven Noahide laws, comprising of proper moral behavior. These are the seven commandments: a) monotheism and the prohibition of idolatry, b) prohibition of incest, c) the prohibition of murder, d) prohibition of blasphemy of God’s name, e) the prohibition of theft, f) respect for the law and the judicial system, g) prohibition against eating a limb of a live animal, i.e., acceptable behavior of good manners (Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:1).

Inspiration for our Times

A person who accepts upon himself the rules of a ‘ger toshav‘ should be granted full rights, and regarding him the Torah says: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). Nevertheless, when the absorption of an excessive number of resident aliens poses the danger of obscuring the identity of the state, the state is entitled to limit the number of those absorbed, even if they are willing to accept the principles of ‘ger toshav‘.

It is noteworthy that Jews in the Diaspora behaved towards their host countries as ‘gerim
toshavim‘, with the exception of modern leftist Jews who scorned the natives’ religion, and undermined them by establishing revolutionary movements.

But those who are unwilling to accept the rules, to respect the culture of the majority and its moral policies and not to preach against it in the mosques – all the more so, those engaged in theft, the selling of drugs, false reporting to the authorities, and obstructing police activities – are not entitled to the rights of citizens, and deserve to be respectfully returned to their countries of origin.

In the meantime, until the status of immigrants already granted civilian rights is determined, it would be fitting for Europe to abstain from absorbing additional immigrants. The desire to help them is positive, but should be implemented in their countries of origin.

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


Rectifying Europe

The evil attacks in Paris are deplorable, but not surprising * Europeans sinned in the past through colonialism and anti-Semitism, and sin today in their attitude towards Israel * The corrupt European concept of morality, which sanctifies individual rights while neglecting obligations and justice * Granting of rights without obligations leads to corruption * The distorted attitude of the West towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused the rise of worldwide terror * Muslims believe that European culture is morally decadent, therefore, it is permissible and even desirable to attack it * Support for Israel is a prerequisite for Europe’s ability to deal with terrorism



With great sorrow we heard about the vicious attacks perpetrated by Muslim terrorists in Paris. However, we cannot say we were surprised – for years, we knew that this would be the result of misguided policies of France and most European countries (as I will cite from an article I wrote fifteen years ago). Nevertheless, the fulfillment of the first part of the predictions is horrifying.

The truth must be said – the Europeans are not blameless. For generations they ruled many nations by force, including Arabs and Muslims, exploiting their labor and their country’s natural resources to increase their wealth and esteem. Today, immigrants from those very countries are coming and exploiting them and their countries, justifying it by saying they are simply returning to themselves what was stolen from them in the past.

Mention must be made of the terrible suffering we, the Jews, endured in Europe. Undeniably, on many occasions we were treated decently by rulers and ordinary people in the various countries. But it is difficult to count all the pogroms, expulsions, rapes and robberies and we went through in Europe, leading to the worst of all – the Holocaust, in which six million of our brothers and sisters were murdered by German Nazis and their collaborators from other European countries. True, we indeed insisted on keeping our faith, and it’s not always pleasant to live with a people of different faith and culture. However, our contribution to the economic, scientific and cultural development of Europe was undeniably far greater than the unpleasantness caused as a result of our living amongst the peoples of Europe in our exile. Instead of gratitude, we got pogroms, expulsions and the Holocaust.

And even today, instead of understanding the terrible war in which we find ourselves facing the Arabs surrounding us who literally wish to destroy us, they accuse us of violating the Arabs rights, killing them, and other false accusations. Maybe it is important for them to believe the Arab’s accusations in order to justify themselves, thinking they’re not the only ones who kill; when given the chance, the Jews also kill as many non-Jews as possible. And some may even have no need for self-justification – they simply hate Jews and Israel, and that’s reason enough. And maybe now, all of a sudden, they decided to repent and stand up for human rights, and just fell on the wrong people.

Either way, Europe’s actions in the past and their present official position which denies the State of Israel the right to defend its security and ancestral lands of Judea and Samaria, is leading to a situation in which they lack the courage and moral justification to fight the Muslim position threatening their safety and existence.

To whom are These Observations Directed?

These observations are directed first and foremost to us, the Jews, for it is our duty to understand what is going on around us, as it is written: “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations;When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel” (Deuteronomy 32:7-8).

Ideally, the lesson is meant to educate the nations of the world, but when they fail to understand, then the same problems in which they stumbled in, arrive at our doorstep. Secular Israeli leftists stumble in them willingly, in the mistaken belief that it’s the proper and ethical approach, and politicians stumble in them out of a sense of helplessness against global public opinion.

These observations are also are directed at the Europeans, because since the end of World War II the position prevalent among moral European’s is that the time has come to conduct a deep self-examination about the damage caused to people by European colonialism, nationalism, and religion. Therefore, there is room to appeal to the Europeans, that they should direct their thoughts honestly.


European champions of morality superficially thought that the more they reinforced human rights, the more ethical and better the world would become, and discrimination between people on the background of sex, race and religion would vanish. The more they fortified the rights of the individual, whoever and wherever he may be, the wars between nations and religions would decrease. However, by forsaking all other values of morality, and the moral obligations of every individual, they erred and caused severe injustices, and this is reflected in the serious crisis they are now facing.

This is because there are no rights without obligations. And when people are given rights without obligations, you nurture within them the natural evil inclination which has a propensity to exploit, lie, steal, rape and murder. And when weak people are supported no matter who they are, you encourage them to demand rights that they do not deserve, and when they don’t receive them – this encourages them to attack and sabotage in order to achieve by force what was not given to them agreeably.

Consequently, there is a need to earnestly integrate the values ​​of the conservative right-wing movements that are more connected to the values ​​of the Bible, which, in addition to the value of human dignity, emphasizes the value ​​of justice, and demands from an individual to take responsibility for his actions.

Israel’s War is the Yardstick of Global Evil

In this context, I found it appropriate to go back and quote what I wrote in this column on the 10th of Adar 5763 (2003), and the main points were written for an article in the newspaper ‘Makor Rishon’, towards the end of Elul 5761 (2001), a few days before the attack on the Twin Towers in New York.

“The more we erred in the false belief that the Oslo Accords would lead to peace, a reduction in terrorist attacks and the war against Israel, the more evil our Arab enemies became. They wasted and stole from the billions of dollars given them by various countries through awful corruption. And the money they did not steal, they invested primarily in arms and ammunition to kill, injure, demolish and destroy. There is no criminal or terror organization that does not have a connection to them and learns from their involvement. It is no coincidence that the mentor of Bin Laden is a Palestinian (at that time, all the murderous organizations that were created in recent years had not been founded).

“The only thing that the various terrorists understood from the Oslo process is that terrorism pays. And the more of a liar, and the more evil a terrorist is ready to be – the more consideration he is given, in the same manner as the way Western countries relate to the Palestinian Authority.

After the head of the largest terrorist gang in the world at the time, Yasser Arafat, gained international status and was even assured a state, international terrorism raised its head. Even entire countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, Libya and Sudan, permit themselves to support terrorism (today, support for terrorism has expanded and encompasses most of the Muslim population in all countries, as evidenced in every place where they are permitted to hold free elections). Even if in the coming days Saddam Hussein is subdued, calm will never return to the world. As long as the Palestinian Authority is not punished, the world will be exposed to increasing dangers. There won’t be a country in the world which is not forced to invest the best of its manpower and money in the daily struggle against terrorism. If they are not stopped today, all public facilities in every country of the world will have to be constantly guarded so people don’t get blown up there, and to make sure the terrorists don’t poison the water systems, and to prevent them from scattering epidemic-spreading bacteria, and so they won’t lay their hands on advanced technology that could endanger the entire world. States will have to constantly increase their police forces, and nevertheless, terror will continue to strike, both in rich and poor countries. Every third person will have to be a policeman, in order to protect homes and citizens. At every street corner, people’s bags and clothing will have to be checked, lest they be carrying bombs on their bodies or various poisonous materials…

And consequently, instead of fulfilling the prophecy ‘out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem’, out of Palestine will come terror, death and bereavement. All this will happen to them because the Western leaders failed to discern between the righteous and the wicked in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.”

This is essentially what I wrote, as noted, 15 years ago.

The Problem in Europe

Mistakenly, the various experts and analysts think that the problem is terrorism, and therefore, increased security will solve the problem. Others are ready to admit that the problem is broader and concerns the struggle with radical Islam, and that by waging war against their senior leaders, terror will be eliminated.

However in truth, this is about a clash of civilizations. For example, the various experts were astonished to find out that before carrying out their acts of terror, the terrorists managed a bar which sold alcohol and drugs, goods forbidden by Islam. But had they understood that this is a conflict with a religious background, they would have realized that although young Muslims frequently take pleasure in the promiscuity, alcohol and drugs of European nightclubs, they accuse the Europeans for luring them adversely. As a result, they agree with the preacher at the local mosque that the European’s evilness is vast and dreadful, so much so that it is even able to trap the Muslim youth in its net, and cannot be overcome, but must be destroyed because it is diabolical.

This is how the overwhelming majority of Muslims view Europe, as disintegrating morally, and all the talk about human rights are seen in their eyes as capitulation to the evil inclination, permissiveness, promiscuity, and the uprooting of family values. They may benefit from the welfare system and freedom in European countries, but in their hearts they believe that it is a culture of Sodom and Gomorrah, and thus, it is permissible and even desirable to attack it. This gives them justification to open crime centers in their neighborhoods.

If the people of Europe do not realize the full extent of contending with Islam, terrorism and crime will increase until reaching guerrilla warfare in the streets. This could end in the downfall of the European countries, or in a dreadful eruption of bloodshed by the Europeans taking out their anger against the Muslims.

The Tikun

The beginning of the solution is the return to the values ​​of the Bible, including support for the State of Israel which is at the forefront in the war against Islam. Consequently, the Europe nations will be able to put forward a moral, ideological position that speaks in the name of justice. An ideology based on the right of the peoples of Europe over their own countries, on their right to express their identity and their religious values ​​in public, and their right to protect their identity from immigrants wanting to change it. Then it will be possible to start thinking about ways of coping with the growing Muslim threat.

Apparently, only the right-wing movements understand the full scope of the problem. Next week, I will attempt to continue discussing our relationship to the extreme right in Europe.

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

Minimum of Six Hours

Is determining that one should study Torah on Shabbat for a minimum of six hours a new innovation? * The Jerusalem Talmud on Shabbat being given to Am Yisrael for the purpose of Torah study * The Gemara and Rishonim explain that time on Shabbat should be divided – half for physical pleasure, and half for Torah study * The difference between Torah scholars and working people in the division of time * Does the division of time have to be accurate? * In the past there were fewer temptations interfering with Torah study on Shabbat, consequently there was no need to speak about it at length * A letter from a Bat-Mitzvah girl about the Melave Malka meal on Moetzei Shabbat


Q: Rabbi, you have written extensively about the obligation to study Torah on Shabbat. How can it be that such a mitzvah is unknown to the public, and does not appear in any books on halakha? Not only that, rabbi – you have devised a ‘chiddush‘ (a novelty) – that one must learn at least six hours on Shabbat. Shouldn’t such a ‘chiddush‘ require firm sources?

The Obligation of Torah Study on Shabbat

It is not ‘chiddush‘ that one must study Torah on Shabbat, as our Sages said in the Jerusalem Talmud (Shabbat 15:3): “The Sabbaths and Holidays were given to Israel in order that they might study Torah.” Our Sages further said:
“The nature of man being what it is, the Holy One said to Israel: My children! Have I not written for you in My Torah, ‘This book of Torah shall not depart from your mouth (Joshua 1:8)? Although you must labor all six days of the week, the Sabbath is to be given over completely to Torah. Accordingly, it is said that a man should rise early on the Sabbath to recite Mishana, and then go to the synagogue and academy where he is to read in the Five Books and recite a portion in the Prophets. Afterwards, he is to go home and eat and drink, thereby fulfilling the verse ‘Eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart’ (Ecclesiastes 9:7)…” (Tana d’Bei Eliyahu Rabbah

1). There are other numerous sources in the words of Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim, which deserve to be collected into a separate book in order to strengthen this sacred matter.

Dividing the Shabbat: Half for Torah, Half for Meals

According to the Talmud, time on Shabbat should be divided up – half for the sake of God through Torah study in the Beit Midrash (learning hall), and half for oneg Shabbat through eating, drinking and sleeping (Pesachim 68b). In the book Ohr Zaru’ah it is written: “Half of Shabbat or Yom Tov is for eating and drinking, and half for the Beit Midrash. An appropriate custom is that upon leaving the Beit Knesset after Shabbat morning services one goes home to eat, and after eating, takes a pleasurable Shabbat nap, and after sleeping, learns Torah.” Thus it is written in the following books: Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (הלכות יו”ט כז, ע”ג), Rabbeinu Yerucham (נתיב יב, דף סה ע”ג), Sefer Ha’Itim (קצח), Hamanhig (נה), and Maharshal (יש”ש ביצה ב, ד).

And according to Bach (רמב, א), indeed on Yom Tov one should divide the day into two equal halves, but on Shabbat, one should dedicate most of the day to Torah study, as implied by the Gemara and Rambam (שבת ל, י). And this was also agreed upon by the author of Havot Yair in his book Makor Chaim (או”ח סוף סימן רצ).

Distinction between Torah Scholars Working People

Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) believe that beyond the general dividing of Shabbat – half for spiritual delight, and half for physical pleasure – there is an additional directive: that Torah scholars who are accustomed to self-sacrifice during the week as a result of diligent Torah study, should add a little extra physical pleasure on Shabbat, while working people who are not able to study Torah properly during the week, should add a little extra Torah study (ירושלמי שבת טו, ג, פסיקתא רבתי סו”פ כג). Some Rishonim also concluded similarly, among them: Shibolei Haleket, צו Tanya Rabatiיח ; Meiri, שבת קיח, ב; and thus wrote R’ema (שו”ע רצ, ב): “Ba’alei batim (working people), who do not engage in Torah study every day during the week should learn more Torah on Shabbat than Torah scholars who do learn the entire week. Torah scholars should slightly increase their eating and drinking pleasures, for they indeed take delight in their learning throughout the week.” So concluded the Beit Yosef (רפח, א), Maharikash (ערך לחם סימן רצ), Shela, Shulchan HaRav, and many more.

Must the Division of Time Be Precise?

However, a question remains: seeing as the poskim did not set a precise number of hours of Torah study one must learn on Shabbat, perhaps we can learn from this that time devoted to Torah study on Shabbat need not be divided exactly in half, rather, the intention is to devote an significant amount of time for Torah, and for the meals as well. This, indeed, is the opinion of Pri Megadim (או”ח א”א רמב ס”ק א) and Sefat Emet (ביצה טו, ב).

On the other hand, we find that some of the eminent poskim of later generations wrote that the division of time should be accurate, among them: Bach (או”ח ר”ס רמב) P’nai Yehoshuaביצהטו, ב) ), Sha’agat Aryeh (סי’ סט). The same emerges from Maharshalיש”ש חולין) א, נ), who wrote that the time spent by cantor’s singing melodies during prayers should not be considered part of ‘half for God’. And Rabbi Chaim ben Attar determinedly wrote: “One should not over-extend the morning meal, for if so, he steals time from the half belonging to God, blessed be He” (ראשון לציון ביצה טו, ב). He also wrote in his book Kaf HaChaim (תקכט, ב) in regards to the time of the sermon and meals, “Every place should act according to their custom, provided they do not deduct from ‘half the day to the Beit Midrash’… especially trade and craftsmen, who do not have time to learn during the week …”

How a Minimum of Six Hours was Decided

If half the time of Shabbat should be devoted to Torah, one should seemingly learn about twelve and a half hours, given that the duration of Shabbat including ‘tosefet Shabbat’ (additional time added onto the start and end of Shabbat) is approximately twenty-five hours. Apparently however, it is possible to be lenient and not take into account the seven hours of sleep a person needs each day; this leaves eighteen hours, of which about nine hours should be devoted to Torah, and nine hours to eating, drinking and an additional oneg (pleasure) rest.

And although the primary spiritual idea of Shabbat is intended for the study of Torah, it appears that in the opinion of some poskim it is possible to be lenient and include prayer times within the nine hours of Torah as well, provided the prayer services are not over-extended.

As a result, it ends up that in practice, a minimum of six hours on Shabbat should be devoted to Torah, so that together with three hours of prayer time, it will add up to nine hours.

How Come in the Past the Rabbis Did Not Stipulate How Many Hours to Learn?

Apparently, the lure to sit idle and not study Torah on Shabbat in the past was far smaller. First of all, a person today has numerous reading materials, such as newspapers and secular books, which did not exist in the past – particularly before the invention of the printing-press. Secondly, the meals were much shorter because people did not have as much money to purchase so many various dishes. Third, since nowadays people eat a lot, they become more tired, and need to devote more hours to sleeping. Fourth, in recent times a culture has arisen where many people devote their Shabbat to friendly get-togethers and conversations, something which apparently was less popular in the past.

The primary lure rabbis had to deal with was that people preferred to read the words of wisdom in the Holy Writings, such as the’ Book of Proverbs’ and the like, instead of coming to the Beit Midrash to hear the words of halakha, and consequently the rabbis decreed not to read from the Holy Writings during time dedicated to study in the Beit Midrash “because of neglect of the Beit Midrash” (Shabbat 115a), and this was codified by Rambam (Shabbat 23:19). Today, since a prescribed time for the Beit Midrash no longer exists, the prohibition of reading the Holy Writings at the same time has been canceled (ר”ן בשם רז”ה, ב”י שז, יז).

A Parable

Should one ask: ‘Do you really think the rabbis intended for us to be stressed-out all Shabbat, splitting hairs and counting the hours of study?’ I will respond with a parable about a man who wished to buy food at a grocery store owned by his friend. Since they had been good friends from early childhood, the owner said to his friend: ‘Listen. After all is said and done, we’re like brothers, and it’s not fitting for us to settle up on each and every item as I do with my other customers. Let’s act like friends: you take anything you want from the store, and from time-to-time when you want to pay – we’ll reckon the prices of all the items you took, and you’ll pay. The friend thought it was a good idea, but subsequently, he noticed that the store owner always mistakenly over-charged him. He probably did so in good faith, without any bad intentions. Yet, in practice, it turned out that the shopkeeper had always thought that his friend had taken more products than what he actually took, to the point where his monthly food costs doubled, and on account of their great friendship, he suffered losses. Upon seeing this, he turned to his friend the grocer, and requested that henceforth, they register everything he took, and stick to a precise accounting.

The same is true with regards to Torah study on Shabbat. If the general situation was that sometimes one learns more than half of the Shabbat, and other times, when special occasions arise he learns less than half – but overall, half our Shabbat’s are devoted to Torah – there would be no need to be precise in calculating the hours. But when we see that the time devoted for Torah always comes up on the short side – calculating the hours precisely is necessary, until the notion that half of Shabbat should be devoted to Torah becomes the norm.

A Gradual ‘Tikun

Indeed, for many people switching the order of Shabbat is very hard, but we must not be discouraged by this difficulty in view of the extraordinary task of Shabbat. Everyone must try to add Torah study according to his ability, until our Shabbat’s become ‘may’ain olam ha’ba‘, (a resemblance of the next world) – a synthesis of soul and body, spiritual pleasure of Torah and prayer, together with the delight of meals and sleep.

The ‘Melava Malka’ Meal

About a month ago I received a copy of a speech given by a Bat-Mitzvah girl that contained some nice thoughts in regards to the mitzvah of the ‘Melava Malka’ meal:

“… In the past year, I learned with my father “Peninei Halakha: Laws of Shabbat.” True, we weren’t able to finish the two volumes before the bat-mitzvah, but maybe it’s better that way, so we can continue our ‘chevruta‘ (learning pair) afterwards.

I want to mention some of the halachot we learned, which I particularly enjoyed.

One of the halakha’s I really liked was the ‘Melava Malka’ meal. As Rabbi Melamed explains, there is an important idea of accompanying the Shabbat in its departure, because we do not want to depart from the Queen so fast. Therefore, those who are meticulous in mitzvoth prepare a special dish in honor of the meal on Motzei Shabbat.

And here, I would like to relate what happened in our house. After learning the laws of ‘Melava Malka’, I requested we eat the fourth meal every Motzei Shabbat together as a family, and that I would even make a special dish for this purpose. This happened for only a short time, because my parents wanted me to go to bed at a certain hour. Now that I am bat-mitzvah, and Motzei Shabbat is longer, I would like to start preparing food on Motzei Shabbat, in order to continue honoring the Queen, and nourish the Luz bone…”

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


Sanctifying God in Life and Death

Seventy-two years ago my grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Yehudah Weil ztz”l was murdered, ‘Al Kiddush Hashem’, in Auschwitz. He was the scion of the famous Ashkenazi ‘posek’, Mahari Weil, Rabbi of the communities Czerniaków and Dusseldorf in Germany * He was a member of the Torah and ‘Derech Eretz’ movement, a great Torah scholar and God-fearing man respected by secular Jews as well * Five of his children survived the Holocaust, most of his descendants live in Israel, and recently, his youngest daughter, my Aunt Hanna aged 96, merited donating a Torah scroll in his memory in Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, whose members combine a life of Torah, work, and settling the Land

On Chol Ha’Moed Sukkot, my mother’s aunt, Hanna Paltiel from Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, merited donating a Torah scroll in memory of her father, my great grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Aryeh Weil, may God avenge his blood, who was murdered in Auschwitz on the 20th of Mar-Cheshvan, 5704 (1943), at the age of seventy-eight.

The Torah scroll was written by my aunt’s grandson and placed in the synagogue of the kibbutz, which she and other Holocaust survivors helped establish.

In honor of my great-grandfather’s yahrzeit, I will relate what I said at the event.

His Family’s History

The roots of the Weil family stem from the Spanish Expulsion. Many years before the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 5252 (1492), riots and religious persecution against the Jews had increased. Following one of these riots, roughly in the year 5120 (1360), family ancestors fled to the city of Weil in southern Germany, whose leaders sought to attract Jews to their city so they could develop its economy. The family took on the name of the city that accepted them, Weil. The father of the family’s name was Yehudah, and his son or grandson was the famous rabbi, Rabbi Yaacov Weil, who in his religious law books is called Mahari”v, was one of the great disciples of Mahari”l. His son and grandson were also important rabbis in Askenaz, and they are the forefathers of our family.

His Father, Rabbi Meir

His father’s grandfather, Rabbi Meir Weil, studied for years with the famous Gaon, Rabbi Akiva Eiger. He served as a dayan (judge) in his hometown Rogozin, and made a living in commerce.

Thirteen children were born to him, but as usual in those days, only five survived and raised families. The youngest of them was my great- grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Weil.

His Education

Initially, he studied Torah with his father and in a Talmud Torah in his hometown. Nevertheless, as was the custom of German Jews at that time, he also studied secular subjects. Afterwards he studied at a rabbinical seminary in Berlin with Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer ztz”l and Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman ztz”l, and received his ordination. Because he was a diligent and talented student, deep, possessing a phenomenal memory, he knew the Talmud inside and out, and would go over it each year from a very young age.

In addition, he studied secular subjects in university and attended lectures on the study of Semitic languages. He did a major work on legal matters appearing in the books of Josephus, comparing them to halakha, and for this he received a Ph.D. from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

People had already spoken of him being appointed rabbi, but his father lived to be ninety and required assistance; subsequently, proposals for the Rabbinate were deferred, as well as his getting married.

In 5661 (1901), a few years after his father’s death, at the age of thirty-five, he was elected rabbi of the congregation of Czerniaków in the province of Poznan, and married Rosa, the eldest daughter of his friend Asher Horowitz, a descendant the  Shela HaKadosh. She was thirteen years younger than he was.

His First Sermon as Rabbi of Czerniaków

It’s not easy being a rabbi, especially in recent times when a major crisis has occurred in Jewish communities, and a great number of the younger generation have left the path of Torah and mitzvoth. It is possible to discern echoes of this perplexity in his first sermon.

Rabbi Dr. Pozner, who has studied the history of the Czerniaków community, wrote: “The first sermon in the synagogue excelled in its language and content. The motto of the sermon was the words ‘to learn, and to teach, to preserve, and to practice’… Although within the communities’ institutions tradition was maintained adequately, the Rabbi knew that not all the members supported him, seeing as the new spirit of the times had found its way to into the hearts of some members of the community. In order to bring them closer, he stressed that he would be careful not to fight them with words of blasphemy and bad-mouthing, for that’s not the way to draw close those who are distant, but would like to see them as friends and ask for their help, because without it, he would not be able to fulfill his duties. As Moses said, ‘But how can I handle all your troubles, burdens, and disputes by myself’, so too, he would need the assistance of all the congregants who knew all the shortcomings, the gaps, and crevices. And these were his guidelines: ‘to study’ – by means of constantly delving into the Jewish sources to tirelessly prepare for carrying out his functions. ‘To teach’ – everyone: adults, youth and children, and to be a guide for living. ‘To preserve’ – to be a faithful guardian of the Torah that was given to him, to defend it from any external attacks, not allowing foreign concepts to ‘enter the sanctuary’. ‘And to practice’ – to observe the Torah in an exemplary manner himself, and to show everyone the path of truth, which acted as a guiding light for the people of Israel in all the numerous stages they experienced in their land, and in the Diaspora.”

At the end of his speech, the Rabbi had two requests from the audience: 1) – that they view him as a friend and member of the community. 2) – that they not to do things in front of their children which contradict the Torah they are taught in school.” And Rabbi Dr. Pozner concluded: “And for his entire tenure, Rabbi Dr. Weil proved his words were true, and what he had promised on the day of his commencement, he kept all his life.”

His Work in the Community of Czerniaków

His duties included the supervision of community affairs and kashrut. Once, there was a difficult case in which he had to remove the kashrut of a butcher who had betrayed the faith put in him, and he even went as far as publicizing it in the local newspapers. In general, he was considered a lenient posek (Jewish law arbiter), especially in trying times, but for himself, he was machmir (strict).

He was responsible for the charitable and goodwill societies of the living, and also tending to those who had passed away. Over the years, his young wife the Rebbetzin joined in the work of chesed, and was chairperson of the “Women’s Society for Clothing Poor Children and Supporting the Needy.” She also joined with one of the long-standing women in the community for the purpose of chesed shel emet for women.

His Sermons

According to testimony of Czerniaków residents (some of whom made aliyah and lived in Herzliya), Saba (grandfather) was a brilliant speaker. In his sermons he presented the audience with the ideals placed before the people of Israel to be a moral example to the nations, and in this way they would be redeemed.

Just as he stressed the dedication required to fulfill the commandments between man and God, he also strongly emphasized the observance of the mitzvothbetween man and his fellow man.

Regarding charity, he stressed the mitzvah to place the needy on his feet so he could support himself, this being the highest level of the mitzvah. However, he also stressed that when impossible to place a person on his feet, he should be helped with tzedaka (charity), and not be given loans with interest, and anyone who has mercy on his fellow human being, will be shown mercy from heaven.

The sermons of Shabbat Nachamu and Shabbat Chazon were very special for him, in which he expressed the tremendous sorrow over the destruction of the Temple, and the hope of the resurrection of the people and building of the Temple.

Many of the young people did not understand the Hebrew language prayers very well, and consequently Saba introduced somewhat of a novelty, fashioning a prayer in German for a young couple who came to the synagogue on the first Shabbat after their wedding, and for a mother who came synagogue after giving birth. In this manner, even people removed from religion desired to attend prayers.

During the First World War, dozens of members of the community joined the German army – some of them received medals of bravery and excellence from the German army, and five of them were killed. Upon returning home, he welcomed the soldiers with an important and stirring sermon, accompanied with words of motivation for the soldiers to build their lives anew from a higher spiritual level, stemming from a higher sensitivity towards the personal property and honor of others. The sermon was interlaced with numerous verses from the Torah and the prayers which he translated into German, for world peace and the salvation of Israel.

His Regional Activities

He was an easy person to get along with, and cooperated together with his fellow rabbis on matters pertaining to all the communities in the area. He also participated in the ‘Society of Jewish History and Literature’, which aimed to strengthen the connection of the communities’ members faced with the temptations of assimilation, to their Jewish heritage. In the framework of this organization, Saba gave lectures in the areas of Jewish law contrasted to common law.

His Public Standpoint

Generally speaking, Saba leaned towards the Agudat Yisrael movement as it emerged in Germany – a Haredi movement extremely concerned about the influence of secularism, however, supported integration of secular studies, in the sense of “Torah with Derech Eretz.”

Many do not know this, but in the Agudat Israel movement there were many who supported yishuv ha’aretz (settlement of the Land) – provided the settlements were within a religious framework. In 5678 (1917) Saba encouraged his parishioners to contribute large amounts of money through Agudat Yisrael to Israel. His daughter Flora was an activist of the Agudat Yisrael youth organization, with the goal of making aliyah to Israel through this framework.

However, Saba refused to be an actual member of Agudath Yisrael or the Mizrachi movement, because he thought that as a rabbi, he should belong to all members of the community, and not be involved in political controversies.

Leaving Czerniaków

Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, Czerniaków was annexed into to Poland. At that time, the German government was far more tolerant than Polish rule, who were more anti-Semitic and more corrupt. The Poles behaved towards the German Jews annexed to their country with extreme vulgarity. As a result the Jewish community in Czerniaków dwindled greatly, and most of the Jews emigrated to Germany and other Western countries. At that same time, the leaders of the Polish underground who were working to annex additional areas of Germany to their country, demanded a large sum of money from Saba for operational purposes, but he did not want to give it to them, saying that it was forbidden for him to ‘spit into the well from which he had drank’ (the state of Germany). Instead, he contributed twice the amount of money to the Polish Red Cross organization who treated patients. However, the Poles looked upon this severely, and subsequently denied his family the ration of coal they were permitted to purchase based on the number of household individuals. Coal was nearly the only means for heating and cooking at the time. Not wanting to buy coal on the black market, my grandfather decided to leave Czerniaków.

The Transition to Dusseldorf

After various searches, he found a new Rabbinate in the Haredi community of Dusseldorf. On Hanukkah 5680 (1919), at the age of 54, he began serving as rabbi. After a few months, the family also joined with its five children, the oldest being fifteen, and the youngest, our Aunt Hannah, one year old.

As Rabbi

Although Saba was a man of the book, constantly brooding over his studies, he fulfilled all his rabbinic roles diligently. He gave lessons to adults and children, and under his supervision was a restaurant, meat shop and an orphanage in a nearby town.

People would come to his house with various halachic questions; even from surrounding cities, people would often come to ask questions and seek his advice.

His honesty and devotion were evident his ways, so that even people far away from Torah and mitzvoth had great respect for him. No one could claim that Rabbi Dr. Weil was unfamiliar with the sciences or mood of the new times, for he was quite familiar with them, yet he clung to the Torah and the mitzvoth with all his heart, soul, and body. One of his friends testified: ‘He was the truest God-fearing man amongst the many religious leaders of all faiths I’ve ever met.”

Cantor on Yom Kippur

He had a pleasant voice, and occasionally led the prayer service. Every Yom Kippur he was the cantor for the Ne’ilah prayer, and sometimes was also the cantor forKol Nidrei or Mussaf. He once told his daughter Hannah that for him, the most beautiful day of the year was Yom Kippur.

The Death of My Grandmother

At a relatively young age Safta (grandmother) became ill. Saba, who loved her dearly, worried tremendously about her health. He used to say that a woman becomes more beautiful as a result of the love of her husband, and indeed Aunt Hanna testified that he always considered her as being beautiful.

On the sixteenth of Tammuz 5691 (1931), Safta died at the age of 51 years old.

Some of His Customs

Saba had a good sense of humor, and knew how to hold a conversation with anyone – with the most common of people, and with the greatest of thinkers. In his home, he always embellished his meals with words of Midrash or parables.

He did not bless his children on Shabbat eve, but only on erev Yom Kippur, and would cry while doing so.

Aunt Hannah wrote me: ‘He would make-do with the minimum, and ate very little. He would not vacation, did not go to concerts or outings, but only left the house for important purposes, such as going to synagogue, or visiting the sick. He did smoke cigarettes, as was the custom of many people at the time.

He was extremely studious, and would learn all the time. He used to go to bed late at night, sometimes at one or two o’clock in the morning – but never before midnight. He woke up every morning at six. In the afternoon he would sleep for about a half an hour to an hour on the couch, only taking off his shoes.

He would read the daily newspaper every morning for half an hour.

He was meticulous about the education of his children. When his eldest son Meyer wanted to study engineering, he assessed that engineers could not keep Shabbat in the framework of their occupation, and therefore, his son had no choice but to work in his uncle’s business. Thus, amid difficult concessions, the family continued to keep Torah and mitzvoth.

Devotion to Torah Observance

His nephew related that once as a child, when the world was still relatively calm, his uncle Rabbi Weil visited them at their home. To teach them Torah, he told them about their common great-grandfather, who was murdered in the pogroms of Poland ‘al kiddush Hashem’ (as a martyr). He also spoke about the Tanna Rabbi Akiva who was murdered ‘al kiddush Hashem’. All of the story he told in German, but the words “al Kiddush Hashem” he said in the holy tongue, Hebrew, and reverently, and as a child, those words shook him to the bone.

Saba could not know how things would end up.

Safta’s Wedding

At a teacher’s Seminary in Berlin his fourth daughter, Rivka, my grandmother of blessed memory, met my grandfather, Prof. Yosef Volk, who came from the community of Breslau where Torah studies were only on a basic level, and almost no one studied Gemara. Saba, Rabbi Weil, was amazed at the ignorance of his son-in-law in Gemara.

Before their marriage, Rabbi Weil studied Talmud with his future son-in-law for over a month, every day for a few hours. He also asked his son-in-law to promise him that he would learn at least one page of Talmud a day. And indeed, this is what my late grandfather Yosef did until a ripe old age.

There was another “problem”: the groom (Saba) Yosef was from a very Zionist family, a member of the HaPo’el Mizrachi through and through, and it was perfectly clear that immediately after getting married the couple would move to Israel. And Saba, Rabbi Weil, was worried lest they be negatively influenced by the secular pioneers. However, over time his fears were placated seeing that his son-in-law’s beliefs were firm, even though he was not a Torah scholar and as meticulous inmitzvoth as he had hoped.

The Opportunity to Immigrate to Israel

In 5696 (1935) my grandparents married, and immediately thereafter immigrated to Israel. At that time the Nazis were already in power, many German Jews began to flee to other countries, and the Dusseldorf community also dwindled. From Eretz Yisrael his daughter, my grandmother, sent an invitation to immigrate to Israel. However, Saba said that the community still needed him, and that the captain must be the last one to leave the sinking ship.


Shortly afterwards the Nazis carried out the pogrom titled “Kristallnacht.” At five o’clock in the morning five Nazi hooligans broke into Saba’s house. He was nearly seventy-two at the time. They pulled him out of his room and house, and beat him in the street. They broke the furniture, smashed the beautiful glass and porcelain dishes and glasses used on holidays, and threw the holy books out of the window. Initially, they thought to take Saba with them. In the end they had had second thoughts. But the Torah scroll he had inherited from his father, they stole.

He was pained over all of this, but was especially worried about the Torah scroll. His youngest daughter, Aunt Hannah, who was then about nineteen years old, with great self-sacrifice and devotion went to the police several times, until she was finally able to get the Torah scroll back.

Escape to Holland

The community was destroyed, the Jews of Germany realized they had to flee, and thus Saba joined his daughter Flora, who years before had fled with her husband to Holland. They rented him a small apartment above their home.

In Holland, his eyesight weakened greatly till he could hardly see. Nevertheless, he never stopped his routine studies. He would sit all day at an open book, and with the help of his fabulous memory, learned by heart. Occasionally, when he needed to complete a word that he did not remember, he would bring the book close within an inch of his eye, read a few words, and once again continue learning by memory.

He conducted himself humbly and modestly, keeping his independence, so as not to need the aid of his daughter and son-in-law. He learned to get along alone in a foreign country, and using a walking cane of the blind would find his way. Twice every day he would leave his house – first, for the morning prayers, and then later, for the Mincha and Ma’ariv prayers. After the prayers, he would remain to hear a Talmud lesson, and once when the rabbi who was teaching accidentally skipped a line, Saba pointed it out. It then became clear to the worshipers that not just another rabbi had arrived in their community, but an illustrious Torah scholar who knew the Talmud by heart.

Refuses to Hide

When the Nazis, may their name be blotted out, occupied the Holland and began to persecute the Jews, they suggested that Saba hide. But he knew that for this purpose a Dutch family would have to endanger their life, and did not want this to happen.

He also said that he was not more entitled to be rescued than the rest of the masses of Israel, and whatever happens to everyone, should happen to him as well.

He added, that perhaps being a rabbi, he could offer help and assistance to his brothers in the camps.

Kiddush Hashem

In 5702 (1941), at the age of seventy-six, he was taken to a concentration camp. With the help of his cane, he would feel his way around the camp and fend for himself. There were probably good Jews who helped him as well. Every week from that very camp, a train full of Jews were sent to the murderous Auschwitz concentration camp. After about a year, when it was his fate to be sent to the death camp in Auschwitz, he had no illusions. He knew where he was being sent. Testimony remains that he parted his neighbors with an “important and serious speech.”

Out of his strong faith, he courageously accepted the judgement of heaven, and with sacred dignity, went to sacrifice his life ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ on the 20th of Mar-Cheshvan, 5704 (1943).

Beit El

Exactly on the same date, the 20th of Mar-Cheshvan, the day which he was murdered ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ at Auschwitz, the community of Bet El was established in 5378 (1977), with his granddaughter, my mother, Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed, taking part in its founding. In the community of Beit El, many of his ambitions are coming to fruition: Torah-based people who combine work and science, are meticulous in mitzvoth, do a lot of charity and engage in yishuv ha’aretz. Even Aunt Hannah’s daughter, Shoshana Weinstock, raised her extensive family in Beit El.


Saba and all his children managed to survive the Holocaust, and despite all the upheavals and wanderings the family endured, nearly ninety percent of his descendants are Torah observant, and the vast majority of them live in the Land of Israel.

Meyer, his eldest son, managed to escape to England, volunteered for the British army, and fought against the Germans.

His second son, Shalom, managed to escape to Canada, and became a professor of languages. His only son, Rabbi Mordechai, immigrated to Israel, where he established his family.

The third daughter, Flora, passed through the camps, eventually survived, and joined her husband who managed to escape to Canada. Some of their offspring immigrated to Israel.

The fourth daughter, my grandmother, Rivka, as previously mentioned, immigrated to Israel before the Holocaust.

And his young daughter, Aunt Hannah, who is now ninety-six, merited dedicating a Torah scroll in his memory.

The Torah Scroll

Seventy-eight years after Aunt Hannah his youngest daughter, as a courageous young girl, managed to save Saba’s Torah scroll from the Nazis, she merited dedicating a Torah scroll in his memory.

Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv

The Torah scroll is dedicated to the synagogue in Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, the kibbutz she merited founding together with other dear and righteous friends, Survivors who immigrated from the depths of hell-fire in the Diaspora to Eretz Yisrael, to redeem the land and make its deserts bloom.

Back then, when they came to the Beit She’an Valley, did they believe that the place would become green and so beautiful? Did they believe they would merit participating in the establishment of the State of Israel? Did they know that here, they would merit raising generations of native-born Israeli’s, farmers and soldiers, lovers of Torah, the people, and the Land?

This synagogue on the kibbutz serves as a spiritual center for the lives of people of faith. People of Torah and avodah, who for three generations have merited waking up at dawn, praying the morning service, and going to work in the fields of our beloved country. With the sweat of their brows they grow the country’s holy fruits, engaging in the betterment of the world in the cowsheds, chicken coops, and all the other kibbutz enterprises. At this point, I would like to mention the husband of Aunt Hannah, Abraham Upp z”l, who in his great talent and hard work merited making a significant contribution to the development of agriculture in the kibbutz and the region, and to some extent, throughout the country.

“Make us Glad for as Many Days as you have Afflicted Us”

When Saba walked, groping blindly, to the crematoria at Auschwitz, could he have imagined that his little daughter would live a long life, sit at her home in Ein Hanatziv, with tremendous amounts of sheets of paper spread out on her table, sketching the family tree that continues to branch out in constantly growing circles? And as the years pass, the large sheets of paper with the additional pages pasted on to them, are too narrow to contain all the hundreds of names of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren.

In Saba and his family, the words of the prophet Isaiah were fulfilled: “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God”; “Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, declares the Lord, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does. “Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land—surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: ‘The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’ Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?'”; “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

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