Category Archives: כללי

Man and Woman in the Mitzvah of Marriage and Birth

The Greatest Mitzvah
 
It is a Biblical obligation to procreate, and in every child that parents give birth to, they fulfill a great mitzvah and merit participating with God in bringing life into, and saving, an entire world (Nida 31a; Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5). This is the initial purpose of Creation, for God desired the world be populated, as our Sages said: “And was not the world created for the sake of reproduction, as it says (Isaiah 45:18) “He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos” (Mishna Gittin 4:2).
The Need for a Binding Definition
 
Although, without a binding definition, this great mitzvah is liable to be extremely general, to the point where in many cases, it would not be implemented properly. After all, marriage is a complex matter which requires responsibility and courage, is dependent on the consent of husband and wife and economic means, and usually, the support of the parents. Concern exists that if the duty of this mitzvah is not an absolute requirement, despite its enormous importance, some people would delay it until it would be too late.
After marriage as well, the general mitzvah leaves many doubts. On the one hand, since the birth of every child is a great mitzvah, some could argue that one child is enough – seeing as he alone is like an entire world – and postpone his birth until the age of forty, when the parents are established and experienced. On the other hand, since the mitzvah is so immense and important, perhaps each individual must make an effort beyond his powers to have as many children as possible, and thus, get married at the youngest possible age, and even curtail the time of breastfeeding so as to have as many children as possible. Consequently, the Torah had to set binding definitions for this mitzvah, and our Sages added other definitions according to the principles explained in the Torah.
The General Mitzvah and the Obligation
 
The general Biblical mitzvah is to be fruitful and multiply, and one fulfills this mitzvahwith every child born. The Torah obligation is to have one son and one daughter, similar to God’s original creation of Adam and Chava, as it is written: “God [thus] created man with His image. In the image of God, He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the land and conquer it…” (Genesis 1:27-28). Since, as clarified in the verse, the Torah desires we be fruitful and multiply and fill the land, our Sages determined as an obligatory mitzvah to have more children, according to one’s ability.
On the one hand, the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply is a more general and important mitzvah, to the point where it supersedes other mitzvoth, and in order to fulfill it, one is permitted to release a Canaanite slave, and sell a Torah scroll. On the other hand, the obligation is defined and more binding, but it is not more important than other mitzvoth (see, Gittin 41a, Megilla 27a; Tosefot Gittin ibid, Chagiga 2b).
Man and Woman’s Obligation and Mitzvah
 
The general mitzvah is relevant to both man and woman alike, and in a certain respect, a woman’s reward is even greater, because, as we have learned, reward is according to the suffering (Avot 5:23). But concerning the obligation, the Tana’imdiffered.
In the opinion of the Sages, man is obligated in the mitzvah, because he sanctifies his wife in marriage, and is the dominant partner in physical relations. This is what the verse “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and conquer it” hinted at – it is the nature of a man to conquer, but it is not the nature of a woman to conquer” (Yevamot 65b). Others explained that since the woman experiences the grief and danger of pregnancy and childbirth, the Torah – whose ways are ways of pleasantness – did not want to impose this mitzvah upon her as being obligatory (Meshech Chochma, Genesis 9:7).
On the other hand, according to Rabbi Yochanan ben Brokaw, women are also obligated in this mitzvah, because it is mentioned to Adam and Chava in the plural form, as it is written: “God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the land and conquer it” (Genesis 1:28).
The Amora’im were also divided on this question, and the halakha was determined that the obligation rests on the man, and not the woman.
The Meaning of the Halakha that Women are Commanded but not Obligated
 
The halakha determining that it is a mitzvah for a woman to have children but not an obligation does not affect a woman’s privilege to have children, for if it turned out that a woman married an infertile man and wanted to get divorced so she could have a son or daughter who could take care of her in her old age, her husband is required to divorce her and pay her ketubah (Yevamot 65b; S.A., E.H. 1:13; 154:6).
Moreover, since the general mitzvah is greater and more important than the personal obligation, halakha determines that a Torah scroll is sold for the purpose of a woman’s marriage just like that of a man (M.A. 153:9; M.B.24), and even precedes a man in such a case.
Accordingly, the halakhic difference is that a woman who did not want to get married, or wished to marry an infertile man – although she cancels herself from the mitzvah, nevertheless, she is not considered to have sinned, since she is not obligated to fulfill the mitzvah. Conversely, it is forbidden for a man to remain single, or to marry an infertile woman, and only after fulfilling the mitzvah of ‘be fruitful and multiply’ with his first wife, is he permitted to marry an infertile woman.
As in Torah study and prayer, we find that in this mitzvah the Torah addresses men in the imperative and command form, while women are addressed in the language ofreshut (optional) and mitzvah, and in this way, the mitzvah is fulfilled completely from both aspects – both as an obligation, and voluntarily.
The Obligation is Deferred until the Age of 18 for Torah and Livelihood
 
Since the mitzvah is binding for men, we must clarify from what age does it apply?
The poskim (Jewish law arbiters) have written that although a man becomes obligated to fulfill all the mitzvoth from the age of thirteen, our Sages postponed the age of marriage for men until eighteen. This is because a man needs to prepare for the big challenge of raising a family in two areas: First – studying Torah, in order to shape his worldview, and know how to act properly (Mishna, Avot 5:21; Kiddushin 29b). Second – parnassah (livelihood). During the years devoted to studying the fundamentals of the Torah, part of the day was dedicated to working, in order to build a house and save money to purchase instruments for earning a livelihood (Sotah 44a; Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 5:11).
Not Later than the Age of Twenty
 
Therefore, our Sages postponed the age of marriage for men until eighteen, but cautioned that in any event, not to postpone it beyond the age of twenty. Our Sages said (Kiddushin 29b): “Until the age of twenty, the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and waits. When will he take a wife? As soon as one attains twenty and has not married, He exclaims, ‘Blasted be his bones!’” –an expression of damnation for not having fulfilled the mitzvah of ‘Be fruitful and multiply’. In addition, our Sages said: “He who is twenty years of age and is not married spends all his days in sinful thoughts,” because as long as getting married is close at hand, a man knows that his passion is reserved for his partner, but when bachelorhood persists beyond the appropriate period of marriage, and his passion fails to find the proper channel, he becomes accustomed to having sinful thoughts, and is not able to escape them for his entire life.
Nowadays, the preparations necessary in respect to Torah and finances  are greater, and consequently, many men need to postpone marriage beyond the age of twenty, but in the opinion of many poskim, they should not postpone marriage beyond the age of twenty-four. With God’s help, I will clarify this matter next week. Now, I will continue dealing with men’s obligation to get married. God willing, I will also dedicate an entire column to the appropriate age for women to get married.
 
The Severity of the Obligation and Coercion of the Mitzvah
 
The law has been determined in the Shulchan Aruch: “It is incumbent on every man that they should marry a woman at the age of eighteen… but in any case he should not go beyond the age of twenty without marrying a woman. If twenty years go by and he does not want to marry, the courts can force him to marry in order to fulfill themitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying” (E.H. 1:3). How is this coercion achieved? According to Rif and Rambam, he is coerced with the use of a whip, and according to Tosephot and Rosh, he is coerced with harsh words and fines – i.e., no one should do business or hire him, but he should not be beaten or excommunicated for not getting married (S.A., E.H. 154:21).
How Can Marriage be Forced?
 
Seemingly, one could ask: How can this mitzvah be forced? After all, marriage must occur out of love and desire!
Indeed, it is clear that in practice, a man was not forced to marry a woman he did not choose. Rather, our Sages made this statement in order to express a fundamental position, that a person is obligated to get married by the age of twenty to fulfill themitzvah of procreation, and in principle, beit din should force him to fulfill thismitzvah. Although in practice, only rarely did beit din exercise its power. For example, in a case where the man had close relations with a certain woman and she wanted to marry him, and the man had even expressed his desire to marry her, but continues postponing the marriage on various pretexts – then the court can compel him to marry her (D’var Moshe Amirlio, Section 1:51).
Another example was presented in a question sent to Rivash, concerning a young man who wanted to marry an elderly, very rich woman. The beit din in that city wanted to prevent him from marrying her because with her, he could not fulfill the mitzvah of ‘Be fruitful and multiply’. However, Rivash answered them, stating that already from the times of the Rishonim, the custom was not to use coercion in matters of marriage, because coercion in such issues is liable to cause many fights.
In practice, the Shulchan Aruch ruled that we do coerce a person to fulfill themitzvah of ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, and it can be induced from his words that in his judgment, the main opinion goes according to those who maintain that coercion was done by lashes. However, as we have explained, it is clear that such actions were taken in rare cases of harsh violations of the mitzvah.
In contrast, in the opinion of Rema, the halakha goes according to Rivash, and even in rare cases, coercion is not used in regards to the mitzvah ‘Be fruitful and multiply’. And even if the beit din did use coercion, it was through harsh words and fines (S.A., E.H. 1:3; 154:21). This is the accepted practice.
Nevertheless, from this we learn just how great and binding is the mitzvah of marriage, that in principle, beit din would have to coerce its fulfillment.
Criticism on a Section of the Proposed Army Enlistment Law
 
In the proposed law concerning the Zionist yeshivas, both Hesder and higher yeshivas, a dangerous section was introduced, according to which the Defense Minister can arbitrarily set “standards” where he decides which yeshiva to confirm. Also, it would be under his authority to close a yeshiva if “other circumstances exist that justify, in the opinion of the Minister, negating the yeshiva’s recognition”.
This is a severe blow to the role of the Roshei yeshivot (heads of the Torah academies), who must be able to express their Torah views freely, without fear from any government body. This section of the proposed law must be changed.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

The Blessings of Hesder Yeshivot

Hesder Yeshivot
 
In recent years, various people have criticized and attacked the Hesder yeshivotbecause of its shortened military track. True, they acknowledge that the Hesderyeshiva students are good soldiers, but they claim that specifically because they are good soldiers, the argument is even stronger: Why shouldn’t they contribute three years like their secular brothers? Let’s go back to square one.
The Value of Torah Study
 
Israel’s existence depends on its connection to the Torah. When we kept the Torah, we flourished; when we abandoned the Torah, we were defeated by our enemies and exiled from our land. Even during the lengthy exile, we survived in the merit of Torah study.
The more straightforward the learning is, the greater positive influence it has. Some of the troubles stemmed from Torah study that was not properly oriented, for example, when studying Torah without first reciting a blessing (Nedarim 81a), in other words, without emunah (faith) in God who gave us the Torah, or without recognizing the specialness of Am Yisrael and its unique role, as we recite in the blessing: “Who chose us from among all the peoples, and gave us His Torah.”
In the Zionist yeshivot, Torah is studied straightforwardly, and as a result this type of learning showers blessings on all areas of national life. The quality of the soldiers is one example of this.
The Percent of Combat Soldiers
 
The percent of combat soldiers from Hesder yeshivot is especially high – approximately 85%. There is no other group with such a high percentage of combat soldiers. This figure is even more amazing when considering the basic data ofyeshiva students. We are not talking about guys with particularly combat qualities. Many young, religious men who are emotionally and physically fit for combat service, nowadays enlist for three years and serve in elite units. The young men who go toHesder yeshivot are regular guys, with a desire to learn Torah. In other circles, many of them would be considered nerds – medium-bodied with eyeglasses, preferring to avoid combat service. But in the framework of Hesder, they enlist for combat units. Despite their apparently inferior beginning figures, the Hesder platoons are usually the outstanding units in the battalions, and in most competitions, they come in first place – both in physical fitness, and in their level of professionalism. Ten percent ofHesder soldiers continue to become commanders and officers.
The Welcome Impact of the Learning
 
The welcome impact of the learning continues later on, as well. Among the graduates emerging from Hesder yeshivot are rabbis, educators, researchers, social activists, workers and businessmen helping to develop the Israeli economy.
Many of them earn above-average salaries, remain in the country, and pay taxes. Several merit establishing sizeable families – larger than their parents – and thanks to them, the Jewish nation continues to recover from the curse of the exile.
When people talk about the ‘brain drain’ of academics leaving Israel to go abroad, everyone knows they are not Hesder yeshivot graduates. They stay in Israel. Prof. Moshe Kaveh, former president of Bar-Ilan University, commented to me that these young men are worth investing in above all, because they will return the full investment.
Many of the yeshiva graduates settle Judea and Samaria, fulfilling the vision of the prophets, trying to save the people of Israel – survivors of the sword – from the terrible threat of withdrawal from our old-new homeland.
The vast majority continue serving for decades in reserve combat units – and this, while out of the total population, only ten percent serve in reserve duty.
Several educators, rabbis in Secondary and Higher yeshivot, rabbis in synagogues, communities and neighborhoods are Hesder yeshiva graduates. On a daily basis, they carry on their backs the mission of educating. Thanks to them, religious education is constantly advancing, developing generations of students loyal to the Torah, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel.
The Welcome Impact on the I.D.F.
 
In the first decades of the State, the religious community was made up of good Jews who clung to the Torah under harsh conditions, but unfortunately, were not b’nai Torah (leading their lives according to Torah)Their positive influence was minimal. They raised youth ashamed of wearing a kippah, and many of their children left religion. They did not stand out in the army, and only a few reached elite units.
The main reason for the improvement of the level of military service among the religious is the Torah study in yeshivot. Out of the learning halls of Mercaz HaRavand Beit El yeshivot emerged Rabbi Eli Sedan and Rabbi Yigal Levenstein, who established the Pre-Military Academy (mechina) in Eli. And as a result, all the other preparatory academies were inspired by the great spirit blowing in the study halls of the yeshivot were Torah was learned straightforwardly – Torat Eretz Yisrael. Even the men who served in the army without studying first in a mechina, received a boost and inspiration from their peers who studied in yeshivot.
Until then, the majority of yeshiva students were Hareidim who learned the Torah ofchutz l’aretz and failed to appreciate the Israeli army; consequently, the religious who did serve, walked bent over. But as the Zionist yeshivot became stronger, the stature of those serving straightened out. They knew that in the sacred Zionist yeshivot they were very much appreciated, and their service was accompanied by love and prayer. The contribution of the religious soldiers intensified, until they became the leaders in all of the combat units.
The Claims of the Ignorant
 
Anybody observing the enormous blessings the Hesder yeshivot have produced realizes that the more students they have, the better off the State of Israel and the I.D.F. are. Still, there are some ignoramuses, who insist on harming the Hesder yeshivot by limiting the number of students, or by reducing the months spent learning Torah.
They fail to understand that the study of Torat Eretz Yisrael in the holy Zionistyeshivot – both in Hesder and higher yeshivot, is the reason for all this wonderful prosperity. Those who think that by shortening Torah study they will gain more months of combat service, are similar to a fool who slaughters the chicken that lays the golden eggs.
Those same ignoramuses also fail to understand that the difficulty of maintaining a religious way of life in the army caused many not to enlist and cross over to the Haredi community. Thanks to the yeshiva students the Jewish character of the army was strengthened – first in the Hesder divisions, and from there its influence spread throughout all of the I.D.F.
Harming the Dignity of Hesder Yeshivot
 
The criticism from the religious public causes the greatest harm, aiding and abetting the attacks of the secular public on the Hesder yeshivot. The person who actually led this assault more than anyone else is MK Elazar Stern. I believe his intention was good, but in practice, no one slandered the Hesder yeshivot and the religious public more than him. He began slandering Hesder when he was the head of Human Resources (Aka) in the I.D.F., and continues today.
The average secular Jew greatly appreciates the Hesder yeshiva students, but after a religious person with senior military status like himself sharply criticizes their shortened army service – it is hard to expect from a secular person to understand more than him, the importance of Torah study. Yet, many of them do understand, as evidenced by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yiftach Ron-Tal.
 
The Claim of Equality
 
And still, there are those who ask: Isn’t this preferential treatment of the Hesder yeshiva students who serve only sixteen months, as opposed to the rest of the soldiers who serve thirty-two months?
The answer is: There is no preferential treatment whatsoever, because any young man who wants to study Torah in a Hesder yeshiva, can. To do so, he must commit to serve five years, of which sixteen months are spent in the army, and the rest of the time in yeshiva. Anyone who is willing to sacrifice another two years of his life for this purpose – welcome!
We recently hosted three soldiers for a Shabbat meal – two regular soldiers and their commander, a Hesder yeshiva student. I asked the two soldiers if they would prefer to continue on a Hesder track, and complete it two years later. Both of them preferred finishing the army in three years and to be freed of any obligation.
Ask soldiers yourself what they would prefer – serving for three years, or for five years with most of the time spent in yeshiva, and you will immediately realize there is no preferential treatment. After all, the teachers in yeshiva high schools try to convince the students to go to Hesder yeshivot, but many of them fail to be convinced, because despite understanding the importance of Torah study, the task is too difficult for them.
If Only Everyone Served in Hesder
 
If only all I.D.F. combat soldiers served in the Hesder framework! As a result, our security situation would be improved. Straightforward Torah study shapes one’s entire value system, and improves the soldiers in all respects – reliability, responsibility, professionalism, and above all else – high motivation.
If the majority of soldiers were to enter their army service after learning in a Hesder yeshiva, loaded with such values, military service could be streamlined, its duration could be shortened, and better results could be achieved. Incidentally, the Hesdermodel of army service is the only one that can cause a genuine recruitment of members of the Hareidi community.
 
The Proper Policy
 
The exaggerated yearning to receive approval and agreement from other authorities is one of the difficult problems of religious public representatives. They should have opposed adding even one month of service, calmly explaining the huge contribution Torah study has for Israeli society at large, and at the same time, work to increase the number of applicants to Hesder yeshivot for next year. Correcting the situation begins with an inner-belief in ideas and values, and the ability to maintain them even in difficult times.
In the face of all the attacks, it must be stated that we also have claims and proposals for change: for example, eliminating compulsory conscription of women, who’s national, economic, and moral damage outweighs its benefit. Likewise, a careful investigation should be made as to why the percentage of army evaders and yordim(emigrants) among the secular is so high. Isn’t it about time they put a little more genuine Jewish and Zionist education in the schools? Isn’t it about time they reinforced family values and modesty? If equality, then why only in the narrow area of the length of regular army service? Why not demand an equal percentage of recruits to all combat units from all groups and sectors? And why not demand an equal percentage of reserve duty soldiers? Why does the religious community have to contribute to the army several hundred percent more than its proportionate share?
The ‘Yesh Atid’ party arose out of the claim that the middle-class, which bears the burden of the State’s existence, could not be squeezed any further. The National-Religious community is therefore the quintessence of bearing the burden! More than anyone else, it enlists in the army en masse for both regular and reserve duty, guards the legacy of Torah study and mitzvoth, establishes large families, pays above-average taxes, frequently volunteers, encourages aliyah and prevents yeridah, settles the land, and sacrifices their lives in defense of the nation and the land beyond all others – as attested to by the kedoshim (holy ones), whose bodies lie in the cemeteries. There is a limit to how much more can be squeezed from it. All these contributions are thanks to the significant education and Torah study in the Hesder yeshivot.

Bringing Life into the World: The Privilege and the Mitzvah

“Be Fruitful and Multiply”
 
It is a great mitzvah from the Torah to be fruitful and multiply; this was the initial objective of Creation – revealing and adding life to the world. Therefore, it is the firstmitzvah mentioned in the Torah, as God said to Adam and Chava at the conclusion of Creation: “God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fertile and become many. Fill the land and conquest it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land” (Genesis 1:28). Also, following the Flood in the Torah portion of Noah, it is written: “God blessed Noah and his children. He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). And after warning not to murder, God added: “Now be fruitful and multiply, swarm all over the earth and become populous on it” (Genesis 9:7).
Through this commandment, man emulates the ways of God: similar to God, who created and sustains the world, man also reproduces and brings life into the world. Thus, he becomes a partner with God, as our Sages said: “There are three partners in man, the Holy One, blessed be He, his father and his mother” (Nida 31a).
The Basic Divine Instruction
 
This was the first and most basic objective of Creation, as our Sages said in the Mishna: “And was not the world created for the sake of reproduction, as it says (Isaiah 45:18) “He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos” (Gittin 4b). This verse indeed teaches that yishuv ha’olam (populating and settling the world) is God’s most basic instruction, as it is written: ” For this is what the Lord says– he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited– he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:18). Our Sages further said in the Mishna: “Anyone who saves a single soul from Israel, he is deemed by Scripture as if he had saved a whole world” (Sanhedrin 4:5). If this is what our Sages said about one who sustains a poor person from dying of starvation (Baba Batra 11a), all the more so parents who produce a child save an entire world – let alone, when they also feed and educate the child.
Forsaking this is Akin to Murder and Diminishing the Divine Image 
 
In the Talmud (Yevamot 63b), Rabbi Eliezer said: “He who does not engage in propagation of the race is as though he sheds blood”, for it is written: ‘He who spills human blood shall have his own blood spilled by man’, and this is immediately followed by the verse, ‘Now be fruitful and multiply, swarm all over the earth and become populous on it’ (Genesis 9:6-7). Man’s duty to have children and add life to the world is so profound and fundamental that whoever fails to fulfill this duty is considered as having killed his unborn children. Rabbi Yaakov said (ibid): “It is as though he has diminished the Divine Image”, since it is said, ‘For God made man with His own image’, and this is immediately followed by the verse: “Now be fruitful and multiply, swarm all over the earth and become populous on it” (Genesis 9:6-7). Every person is unique, and therefore each individual reveals an additional aspect of the Divine Image. Consequently, one who refrains from procreating “diminishes the Divine Image” – i.e., he diminishes the appearance of Divine revelation in the world.
King Hezekiah
 
At the time the mighty army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, besieged Jerusalem seeking to destroy it, King Hezekiah fell ill, as it is written: “About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your affairs in order, for you shall die, and not live’” (Isaiah 38:1). We must realize that Hezekiah was well aware of the impending danger, since, as a result of Israel’s increasing sins, the kingdom of Assyria had already overcome the Kingdom of Israel in Samaria, and exiled the Ten Tribes from the land (Book of Kings II, Chapter 17), and thus, the threat to the kingdom of Judah was close and real. In an attempt to prevent the evil, Hezekiah commanded the entire nation to repent and strengthen their observance of Torah. “He planted a sword by the door of the learning hall and proclaimed, ‘He who will not study the Torah will be pierced with the sword.’ A search was made from Dan unto Beer Sheba, and no ignoramus was found; from Gabbath unto Antipris, and no boy or girl, man or woman was found who was not thoroughly versed in the laws of cleanliness and impurity” (Sanhedrin 94b).
Hezekiah’s Difficult Hour
 
And here, in his difficult hour, when the Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem and Hezekiah himself fell ill, the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and informed him: “Set your affairs in order, for you shall die, and not live” – meaning, ‘for you shall die’ – in this world, ‘and not live’ – in the World to Come.” Hezekiah cried out, asking: Why is the punishment so great?! The prophet answered: “Because you refrained from marrying and having children.” Hezekiah explained that he did so because he had been informed by ruach hakodeh that his children would not be righteous. The prophet rebuked him, saying: “What do you have to do with the secrets of Hashem? You have to do what is commanded of you. And what is fitting in Hashem’s eyes, He will do for Himself.”
Hezekiah’s Reply
 
Hezekiah realized he had sinned, and asked Isaiah to give him his daughter to marry – perhaps his merit and the merit of Isaiah combined would help them have righteous children. The prophet replied: “The doom has already been decreed.” The king said to him: “Son of Amoz, finish your prophecy and go. This tradition I have from the house of my ancestor (King David): Even if a sharp sword rests upon a man’s neck, he should not desist from prayer” (Berachot 10a). “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.’ Then he broke down and wept bitterly.” God heard his voice, and commanded Isaiah to inform Hezekiah that He had heard his prayers, had added fifteen years to his life, and would even save him from the Assyrian forces. During the night, an angel of God went out and smote all of Sennacherib’s forces, and Jerusalem was saved.
Hezekiah married the daughter of the prophet Isaiah, and Manasseh was born to them. He reigned after Hezekiah and did evil in the eyes of God, worshiped many idols, and also shed a great deal of innocent blood, until finally, the decree of the First Temple’s destruction was sealed (Book of Kings II, chapters 19-21). In spite of this, the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply remains unaffected, seeing as it is the foundation for the world’s existence. And even in the case of Hezekiah, through his evil son Manasseh the Davidic dynasty continued, from which will be born the Messiah, the son of David, may he come speedily in our days.
Ben Azai
 
On the other hand, we have learned about one of the greatTana’im (Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishna, from approximately 10-220 CE), Ben Azai, who did not marry and fulfill the mitzvah to have children. And thus it is told in the Talmud (Yevamot 63b), that Ben Azai derived from the verses that anyone who does not engage in procreation, “it is as though he has shed blood and diminished the Divine Image.” “The rabbis said to Ben Azai: Some preach well and act well, others act well but do not preach well; you, however, preach well but do not act well! Ben Azzai replied: But what can I do, seeing that my soul is in love with the Torah? The world can be carried on by others.” And accordingly, the halakha was determined that anyone whose soul desires to learn Torah and studies with tremendous diligence all his life, if he did not marry due to his immense studiousness, he has not sinned – provided he does not succumb to his temptations (Rambam, Laws of Marriage 15:3; S.A., E.H. 1:4). Still, to be precise – he has not sinned, but l’chatchilla (from the outset) one should not adopt such a practice (Taz 6).
Perhaps it is possible to explain as well, that since the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying depends on being married, which necessitates listening and setting aside time to create a deep bond of love, Ben Azai knew deep down that due to his enormous diligence in Torah, all his thoughts surrounded its’ study, to the point where he would not be able to satisfy his wife properly, and therefore, he did not get married. Unlike other commandments that do not require emotional involvement, such as sukkah or lulav which he could fulfill, despite his thoughts being focused on the Torah.
The Value of Torah
 
It follows that there is only one mitzvah which a person performs that can, in a time of distress, cancel the mitzvah of procreation – the mitzvah of Torah study. The possible reason for this is that Torah study adds life to the world. Despite the fact that Ben Azai did not engage in having children, nevertheless, he delved into the great importance of the mitzvah and expounded on its value, and surely, by virtue of his learning, many children were born. But Hezekiah, who wanted to make the mitzvahconditional that his children not be wicked, invalidated its sacred principle expressing the absolute value of life, and he therefore was liable to a horrible punishment in both this world and the next. From this we learn that the foundation of life is the primary value, since even the wicked can repent. Moreover, the righteous can learn lessons even from the actions of the wicked. But when the mitzvah is cancelled, the value of life this world and the commandments of the Creator to add life to it, is denied.
Bringing the Redemption Closer
 
Great is the mitzvah of procreation, for on its account Israel was redeemed from Egypt, as it is written: “The Israelites were fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7). Our Sages said that all of Israel’s generations will consist of no less than sixty myriad, therefore, only after reaching this number did we become a nation, and were able to leave Egypt and receive the Torah (Zohar, Ra’aya Menhemna, Part 3, 216:2). Had the nation not strived to fulfill this mitzvah, and had there been even one person missing, they would not have merited receiving the Torah and leaving Egypt (D’varim Rabbah 7:8). Regarding this, our Sages said: “In the merit of the righteous women who lived in that generation were the Israelites delivered from Egypt” (Sotah 11b).
Each of us can imagine, if there were three million more Jews in Israel today, how vastly improved our situation would be against all the internal and external pressures. Incidentally, if every family since the establishment of the state had one more child, there would be another five million Jews in Israel today.
Regarding this, our Sages said: “Just as Israel was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of proliferating; likewise, they will be redeemed in the future. From where is this learned? Know it well, that Israel will be redeemed only if they proliferate and fill the entire the world, as it is said: “For you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left; and your seed shall possess nations, and make desolate cities to be inhabited” (Eliyahu Zuta 14).
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

The Role of a Rabbi Today

The Status of Rabbis in the Past and their Present Decline
 
In recent generations, the role of rabbis has become complex and ambiguous. In previous generations the community rabbi, or mara d’atra (local rabbinic authority), was responsible for Torah study and its observance. Under his leadership there were Torah classes for adults, and an educational framework for children. He and his beit din (court) instructed halakha in regards to what was permissible or forbidden, and decided the law in interpersonal relations and between husband and wife. The rabbi was also a party in representing the community before the government.
In the last few generations, the traditional Jewish community has disintegrated. Among the reasons for this: a change in the laws of government that made Jews partners in the overall administration, and thus, reduced the autonomy of the community. In addition, the strengthening of the status of Admorim (Rebbe’s) andRoshei Yeshivot (heads of Torah academies) depleted the role and authority of the rabbis to a large extent. Rabbis were left with the relatively technical role of arranging religious affairs, such as the supervision of kashrut and mikva’s, solving problems concerning Shabbat observance and the synagogue, and laws of marriage and divorce.
Moreover, the social and cultural revolutions caused by modernity created great confusion in respect to rabbis. The values of liberty and freedom eroded people’s attitude towards authoritative figures — particularly when they spoke in the name of religion. Academia taught to raise doubt towards all traditions of the past. The accessibility of information also reduced the status of rabbis, since answers to questions could be found in various books, and today, also in computerized databases.
Questions about the Role of Rabbis Today
 
So what is the role of rabbis today? Communities searching for a rabbi ponder this question as well. Some look for a rabbi who can connect with children and the youth, a young rabbi, happy and enthusiastic – and if he knows how to perform, all the better. Others look for a rabbi who can give beautiful and dignified sermons at the celebrations of community members, and knows how to pay tribute to the community leaders and synagogue directors – in short, a rabbi with political skills. In certain communities he will need to wear a frock; others will prefer he wear a jacket and trim his beard. Some congregations look for a rabbi who knows how to unite the community and make peace among its members; preferably, someone who has a degree in psychology, and is a relaxed and accommodating person. And then there are communities whose members are yireh Shamayim (fearers of Heaven), looking for rabbis who can decide halakha, and are experts in the laws of insects and all other matters of caution in the fields of kashrut and tzniyut (modesty) – in brief, a serious and respectable person.
The problem is that many times, even after carefully defining their requirements, they were proved wrong. The happy rabbi who was able to communicate with the kids had a few discussions and activities in his bag that he remembered from his youth, but beyond that, had nothing to say to them.  The dignified rabbi found himself additional pursuits beyond those of the community, whereas the personal problems of the community members and the effort of preparing classes became too burdensome and small time for him. Indeed, the relaxed and accommodating rabbi never quarreled with anyone, but he also failed to uplift the community, and only a few people participated in his classes. Only the yireh Shamayim who searched for a rabbi who could decide halakha were able to find one, because they carefully defined what they were looking for. After a while, however, it usually becomes clear to them that a rabbi needs spiritual inspiration as well, otherwise, he will not know how to deal with the larger problems.
Torah Study 
  
Indeed, it is extremely difficult to serve in the rabbinate these days. The congregation wants the rabbi to be able to elevate the serious youth, and also prevent the other teens from leaving the fold. He should resolve conflicts, but not be authoritarian. He should rule on halakha for the community and the individual, but on the other hand, his rulings should not offend anyone in the community. It is impossible to fulfill all these requirements and expectations.
Seemingly, the one solution to all the problems lies in the precise definition of a rabbi’s main role: learning and teaching! Various rabbis have surely done many other important things in their community, but the basis of it all was built on the Torah and its study. Especially today, when doubts abound, we must return to the source, and grab onto it with all our might.
This is the main test of every rabbi: if, thanks to him, the members of the community learn more Torah – he has succeeded. If not – he has failed. And the test is twofold: quantitative, and qualitative. The number of hours the members of the community learn, and the quality of their learning.
How to Achieve This: Torah Classes
 
For this purpose, the rabbi should establish numerous classes – in halakha andaggadah, in Tanach and mussar – before and after every tefillah. Classes should be held in the synagogue, and also in private homes. And even if in the beginning only a few people attend, he should learn with them and improve his ability to explain, and reveal the deep ideas in halakha and aggadah, until more people join the classes.
At the same time, he should encourage the other talmidei chachamim in the community to also give classes, thereby increasing Torah study.
Thus, the entire community will go from ‘strength to strength’, peace and joy will increase between husbands and wives, their observance of kashrut and tzniyut will be stronger, their prayers will be full of meaning, their children’s education will be enhanced, more charity will be given, they will enhance the mitzvoth of Oneg Shabbatand willingness to volunteer for public affairs.
If he tried to teach in various ways for an extended period of time, but was unable – he probably is not suited for the job, at least not in the same community.
However, there could be a rabbi who fails to increase Torah study, but is very successful in his secondary roles, such as kashrut supervision and performing weddings, adding a dignified presence in the members’ celebrations, and leadership in the prayer services and synagogue. And because he is very beneficial, it would be a shame for him to leave the leadership of the community, despite failing to fulfill his main role. Nevertheless, he should make use of his position to bring other talmidei chachamim to augment Torah classes in the community.
A Torah Community
 
As the community becomes more Torah-based, the rabbi’s role becomes one of a higher quality. He will be required to delve into significant and profound issues, to labor more diligently over his studies and clarify the foundations. He may teach fewer classes, but his lessons will be important and thorough, inspiring the entire community significantly, and all the other classes held there.
Financing the Torah Classes
 
Presently, almost all classes given in synagogues are done voluntarily. This is very admirable on the part of the volunteers, but in practice, since they work on a volunteer basis, they do not provide a complete solution to all the needs of the community.
It would be fitting to move the majority of kollel’s to cities throughout the country, and establish Torah classes in synagogues that would suit every Jew – young and old, men and women. Classes should be given in all fields of halakha and aggadah, in regards to the individual, the family, and the nation, and a respectable payment should be provided to rabbis and yeshiva students who teach the classes.
A Proposed Amendment to the Law of Municipal Rabbis
 
The Justice Minister recently suggested a proposed amendment to the law of municipal rabbis. Until now the authority to decide on the dismissal of a municipal rabbi was in the hands of the rabbinical court, and the new proposal is that at the head of the panel will sit a secular judge, together with a dayan and a rabbi. The Court of Appeals to their decision would be the secular Supreme Court, and the Justice Minister would be in charge of the process.
This proposal is destructive and should be opposed. If rabbis and judges are already being shuffled, a rabbinical court should have been established to examine the judges, as will be the case, God willing, in the not too distant future.  In any event, no secular judge can be appointed to determine the procedures of the Rabbinate.
It is further mentioned in this proposal that prohibitions of “categorized political party activities” will be placed on rabbis. In other words, it will be forbidden for a rabbi to voice politically controversial views, or to make statements considered prohibited according to the norms of the secular courts. This means that it will be forbidden for a rabbi to say that we must settle all parts of the Land of Israel, and that any withdrawal is forbidden and dangerous. He will also be prohibited from saying that it is forbidden to travel on Shabbat, and that homosexual interaction is forbidden by the Torah; and if he does talk about it, the Justice Minister can act to ouster him.
The role of a rabbi is to study and teach Torah. Since the Torah deals with life, in any case he is obligated by Torah law to express himself on topical issues in accordance with the conclusions of his studies. Such a bill is aimed directly against Torah study and its authority.
In such a situation, all other proposals of the Justice Minister concerning matters of religion and law should be denied.
Hidden Unemployment in the I.D.F.
 
In a recent article in the newspaper ‘Yediot Achronot’ (1/24/14), reporter Yossi Yehoshua wrote that the I.D.F. is trying to handle one of the ills familiar to nearly all Israeli’s – the hidden unemployment of thousands of soldiers on home front bases. This involves thousands of soldiers who arrive for two or three hours a day, and for only three or four days a week. They cost the army a great deal of money, and are of no use. According to a senior officer in the Human Resources Branch, “30% of the soldiers serving in administrative positions could be done away with, without anyone noticing”. But in order to sustain the model of a ‘People’s Army’, unnecessary functions were devised for them. This is a very sensitive issue from a national and social perspective, which expresses the collapse of the model of a ‘People’s Army’. In the meantime, one of the solutions raised in the Human Resources Branch is to shorten compulsory service for soldiers to two years. The problem is, there is a lack of combat soldiers, and consequently, they must serve for three years. Therefore, a suggestion was made to pay them a salary for the third year.
Repeal the Mandatory Conscription Law for Women
 
Indeed, this is a serious problem. It’s only a shame that all the various intellects did not suggest a simple solution that would answer a significant part of the problem – repealing the mandatory conscription law for women. Strange as it sounds, Israel is the only country in the world with a law of compulsory conscription for women. This reality costs a great deal of money to the Israeli economy – both in maintaining the female soldiers, many of whom suffer from hidden unemployment, and also because it delays their professional studies and entrance into the work force by two years. It also hinders women from starting families.
Apparently, the only reason for preserving the compulsory law for women’s conscription in Israel is the devout belief in equality between the sexes. Certainly, there are female soldiers who are very useful to the army, but they can serve in exchange for a handsome salary, without obligating all other women to do compulsory service.
Today, roughly 30% of compulsory soldiers in the army are women. If women’s mandatory conscription was repealed, many jobs would be vacated that male soldiers would be able to fill, and thus, the model of a ‘People’s Army’ can be maintained, with all men obligated to do military service.
Additionally, the problem of motivation will also partially be solved, because it stems from the fact that soldiers do not have meaningful roles. There is no reason to come and serve everyday when one sits around and does nothing. Their idleness is contagious, and contaminates other soldiers who could have served in battle corps or combat support units.
The issues of modesty and sexual harassment will also be solved, making it easier for the Haredi and Torani communities to serve in the army with greater dedication.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Merits Transformed into Transgressions

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

Connecting Men of Torah and Men of Action

The Vision of Torah Study
 
Torah study is fundamental to Israel’s existence. It connects the Jewish nation to God and to Divine values. Torah study is the key to Israel’s progress towards geula(Redemption), because in the Torah we learn about the destiny of Israel and the world, and of the mitzvoth – the paths to achieve this.
Over two months ago, I began trying to outline the vision of Torah study in the State of Israel. I will now attempt to continue this important challenge.
Ten Percent of the GDP was Dedicated for Torah Study
 
In order to maintain Torah observance in Israel, we are commanded to set asideterumot and ma’aserot (tithes) and other gifts to the Kohanim and Levi’im, so they could study and teach Torah to the Jewish nation. Since, in the past, agriculture comprised over ninety percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), and the gifts given to the Kohanim and Levi’im were slightly more than ten percent, we find that according to the Torah, ten percent of the GDP should be devoted to maintaining Torah in Israel. It can be estimated that the tribe of Levi and the Kohanim numbered roughly ten percent of the population, and thus lived, more or less, an average standard of living.
Of course, there were Torah scholars from other tribes, but they worked in regular jobs – farming or livestock – and would repeat and deepen their learning as they worked.  For indeed, all Torah learning back then was done orally without books, and also, work in the fields at that time did not require so much attention. Thus, the Torah scholars could diligently engross themselves in Oral Torah study while working and their neighbors would also assist them, so they could be free to teach their students the Torah insights they had attained while working. Only in a case when the community required them to be completely free of work – to serve as judges, interpreters of the law, or teachers – would the community provide for their livelihood. Likewise, there were also situations where rich individuals would financially support Torah scholars, such as the agreement between Zevulun and Issachar.
However, the primary work of teaching Torah to both children and adults was placed predominantly on the Kohanim and Levi’im.
The Role of the Kohanim and Levi’im: Teaching Torah
 
Q: How do we know that the tithes were related to the role of the Kohanim andLevi’im teaching Torah?
A: The halakha is that one must give terumot and ma’asrot to Kohanim and Levi’imengaged in Torah, as explained in the Talmud:
R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Whence do we know that one should not give any dues to a priest an ‘am ha-aretz’ (an uneducated Jew)? From the verse: ‘Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites that they might hold fast to the law of the Lord’ (Divre Hayyamim II, 31:4) – whosoever holds fast to the law of the Lord has a portion, and whoever does not hold fast to the law of the Lord has no portion” (Chulin 130b).
Not only that, if the farmer chose to give terumot and ma’asrot to a Kohen or Levi ‘am ha-aretz’, they could sue him in court, so that Beit Din would require him to give his gifts to Torah scholars. Only in a case where there were no Kohanim or Levi’imwho were Torah scholars, were they obligated to give the gifts to Kohanim or Levi’im ‘amei ha-aretz’ (Tosafot).
Moreover, those priestly gifts that do not possess kedusha, such as the ze’roa,lechaim, and keyva (foreleg, cheeks and maw) that are given to Kohanim, can also be given to a bat Kohen (the daughter of a Kohen) married to a Yisrael. The ‘Aruch HaShulchcan’ wrote that even if a Kohen is present, if the bat Kohen is married to aYisrael who is a Torah scholar, it is preferable to give her the gifts so she can support her Torah-learning husband, than to a Kohen ‘am-ha’aretz’ (Y.D., 61:35).
To Learn and to Teach
 
Let us not think that the Kohanim and Levi’im learned Torah for themselves, because the main objective of studying Torah is in order to teach. In the narrowest capacity, a person learns in order to teach his children. The more Torah he merits learning, the greater is his obligation to teach it to others. As our Sages have said: “He who learns in order to teach will be given the opportunity to learn and teach” (Avot 4:6). But if one learns only for himself, even his own learning will not be successful, because the essence of the Torah is chesed (benevolence), and its aim is to shower good and blessing.
Moreover, the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is written in the Torah as a command toteach Torah, as it is written: “And you shall teach them to your sons” (Deuteronomy 11:19), and our Sages interpreted this to mean that students are also called sons. Thus, the primary objective of the mitzvah to study Torah is learning and teaching alike.
Ma’aser Kesafim is Designed for the Maintenance of Torah and Education
 
In addition to the mitzvah of setting aside of terumot and ma’aserot, there is also amitzvah to set aside ma’aser kesafim (a money tithe) from any profits (Ta’anit 9a; S.A., Y.D. 249:1). Some authorities are of the opinion that it is a mitzvah from the Torah, while others say it is rabbinical in nature.
Since, as a result of the destruction and exile, the essential mitzvah of terumot andma’aserot were cancelled, ma’aser kesafim became the basis for maintaining Torah and education among the Jewish nation. As our Sages said in the Midrash: “Aseir te’aser”, set aside a tithe and you will ‘te’asher’ (become wealthy), set aside a tithe so you will not be lacking. This is a hint to ‘mafrisei yamim’ (merchant traders, a play on the word l’hafreesh, meaning ‘to set aside’) to set aside a tithe for those laboring in Torah study” (Tanchuma, Re’eh 18). This is also explained in the book ‘Ahavat Chesed’ by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen from Radin, the Chofetz Chaim.
Yisrael’im Chose Which Kohen or Levi to Give Their Tithes
 
An important element in the laws of terumot, ma’aserot and other priestly gifts is that a Yisrael had the right to decide to whom he gives his gifts, provided they areKohanim and Levi’im engaged in Torah. As it is written:
The sacred offerings of each individual remain his own property” (Numbers 5:10) – he has the right to give the gifts to any priest he desires (Rambam, Terumot 12:15).
The distribution of the gifts was meant to be done in a dignified manner. Therefore, it is forbidden for a Kohen to ask a Yisrael to give him specifically his gifts. And certainly, it is forbidden for a Kohen to help a Yisrael in his work, so that he chooses to give him his gifts.
It is also forbidden for a Yisrael to give gifts in a way that demeans the Kohanim andLevi’im, such as giving each one a very small portion, because ‘they eat and drink from the table of God, and these gifts are given to Him’ (Rambam, Terumot 12:17-19).
The Results on the Ground
 
The right given each Jew to decide who to give his gifts required the Kohanim andLevi’im to be dedicated in their sacred work within their community, so that the members themselves would want to give them their gifts. The relationship with theKohen and Levi was personal. Those who taught Torah to the children and adults, and provided beneficial advice and wisdom, merited receiving people’s priestly gifts. On the other hand, a person who was estranged from his community, or did not treat them hospitably, or was arrogant, received similar treatment at the time of distribution. And someone who was lazy and did not consent to teach the children Torah had to suffer deprivation.
Nevertheless, there was never a situation where one Kohen received all the terumot, and another did not receive anything. This is because the terumot and gifts were edibles, which although the Kohan and Levi were permitted to exchange for other products, they were not allowed to sell them on a serious basis. Therefore, even if a popular Kohen received several terumot, he could not open a store to sell them. The fruits he received beyond the needs of his family, would have to be distributed to his fellow Kohanim, otherwise the food would spoil. Consequently, after the well-likedKohanim received all they needed, there was no reason to give them additional gifts, and the Yisrael’im would have to search for other Kohanim and Levi’im to give their gifts.
Still, the devoted Kohanim lived without worries, because they were always first to receive their needs, and the Yisrael’im sought them out to give their gifts. However, the less hospitable Kohanim, who did not make an effort to teach the children properly, received the gifts last, and as a result, got less. And in years when the harvest was relatively small and there was not enough terumot to support all theKohanim and Levi’im, only those desired by the community received gifts.
The Significance of the Order of Distribution
 
This order of distribution created a personal connection between the Yisrael’im – the men of actions – and the Kohanim and Levi’im, the students and teachers of Torah, and required Torah teachers to be attentive and dedicated to their community.
When the Jewish nation transferred to maintaining the Torah through ma’aser kesafim, Torah students and teachers became even more dependent on the members of their communities. This is because the obligation of ma’aser kesafim is less severe, and when the b’nei Torah did not fulfill their role properly, the practical people chose not to give them ma’aser kesafim at all, or to give it to other mitzvahneeds.
If the Torah’s purpose was for practical people to maintain Torah students without them being committed to serve their communities, then the Torah should have commanded everyone give ma’aser to a general treasury that would distribute stipends to Torah students.
The Lesson for Our Times
 
Consequently, there is an important foundation to be learned from these halakhot for our times. Students and teachers of Torah and practical people must be connected, with those engaged in learning, teaching Torah to the general public, and giving people’s lives spiritual meaning and value, while the practical people support them financially, and motivate them with their questions and needs. For the Torah is not merely an abstract idea – it is a Divine teaching for life. The greater and deeper understanding those engaged in study have about the practical questions of daily life, the more capable they are of drawing deep and true enlightenment from the Torah, which in consequence, showers blessing and goodness in practical life as well. And thus, the lives of each and every individual, and that of the public in general, are elevated.
Next week, God willing, we will continue learning from these principles, positive advice for our lives in the State of Israel today.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

The Best National Service for Women

Army Service for Women
 
Q: Rabbi, in your opinion, are women permitted to serve in the Israel Defense Forces?
A: The opinion of almost all rabbis is that women should not serve in the I.D.F. for two main reasons. The first reason is maintaining tzniyut (modesty) in the framework of the army, for the Torah specifically commands us to be stricter about guarding the sanctity of the military camp (Deuteronomy 23:10-15).  The second reason is the fear that a young woman’s spiritual and religious level will decline being in a secular framework and under the command of non-religious officers. And although these two reasons relate primarily to service in combat units, in practice, such concerns also exist in other units. Therefore, the rabbis who ruled categorically against women serving in the army were correct, with some of them vigorously encouraging National Service as a substitute for military service.
The Public Course of Events
 
In the first decades of the State of Israel, the majority of national-religious girls served in the army. The prevailing attitude among most of the national-religious community was that the need to safeguard national security and integrating into the general public were supreme values worth endangering an individual’s religious level. In practice, during those years about half of the graduates of the religious educational system abandoned the tradition of Torah observance.
As a result of the bitter consequences of this unmonitored integration, and thanks to the strengthening of Torah education, Torah values and mitzvoth became more predominant, and the percentage of those abandoning religion declined to about twenty percent. At the same time, the number of religious girls serving in the army greatly diminished. In the year 2000, only 1,700 religious girls out of a graduating class of 7,000 enlisted in the army. In 2008, their numbers dropped below 1,300, which was less than twenty percent of the graduates of the religious school system.
Although the percentage of girls who became non-religious is equivalent to the percentage of those enlisting in the army, they do not fully match. Some girls abandoned religion without serving in the army, while others who did serve became religiously stronger. But in general, the trends of enlisting in the army and a weakening of religious observance were compatible.
Changes in Recent Years
 
In recent years, significant changes took place. On the one hand, the number of girls wishing to do National Service continued to rise, whereas the number of challenging positions to serve in has not increased accordingly. Every prestigious position attracts competition, and as a result many girls receive repeated rejections and feel frustrated. In order to address the demand of girls wishing to serve, new paths were opened in which it is difficult to maintain a suitable religious atmosphere. Thus, even in the framework of National Service, girls are faced with difficult trials.
At the same time, the army is making a great effort to recruit high-standard religious girls. To do so, they offer the girls challenging courses, promising to provide a supportive religious environment, and some of the units are actually doing this successfully. Thus, within five years, the number of religious girls enlisting in the army has grown from under 1,300 a year, to over 1,500. Together with this, the religious situation of the girls serving in the army has improved, thanks both to the improving conditions in the army, and to the preparation and guidance the girls receive from themidrashot (seminaries) established for this purpose.
I heard a story about a religious girl serving in the Intelligence Corps in the Tel Aviv area. Most evenings she sleeps at her parent’s house, but occasionally, she has to do night-duty.  One Shabbat, as she stood at the gate of her base, a senior officer drove up. She requested to see his permit to drive on Shabbat. Seeing as he did not have one, she refused to open the gate. The officer got angry, shouted, and intimidated her, but she refused to open the gate, and he was forced to enter by foot. Another example was a religious female soldier who was not given a long, military skirt as required by halakha, and refused to continue serving until she received the promised skirt. Such girls are worthy of admiration. 
The Ruling has not Changed
 
Together with the praise due to all who assist the observant girls maintain their religious level while serving in the army, and the girls themselves, the fundamental reasons for opposing serving in a military framework remain the same, and therefore, the rabbi’s position objecting to girls serving in the army is correct.
And although it is understood that some girls serve in non-combat units and are not weakened religiously due to their military service, the ruling does not come becauseall the girls are weakened, but rather, because significant percentages of them are weakened. This is similar to the closing of a road where the percentage of accidents is exceedingly high, even though the majority of the drivers handle it safely.
Indeed, there is room to propose that military representatives meet with the leading rabbis to examine the possibility of serving in home-front units, such as the Intelligence Corps, while attempting to establish programs similar to the hesder yeshivot that would be suitable for girls to serve in a halakhic framework. In such meetings, everything must be laid on the table, including the question of women carrying weapons, and the gender separation of units. In the meantime, however, when even the service of religious men in the I.D.F. is not properly regulated, especially in the area of tzniyut – such a proposal cannot be raised.
The Circle of People who do Enlist
 
There are rabbis, as well as male and female teachers, who, out of close acquaintance with the girls in their circle, claim that army service does not harm their religiosity. It seems they are also a bit mistaken, and in truth, some of the girls from their circles are weakened religiously in the army, as well. All the same, it turns out that indeed, quite a few girls from their circles manage to maintain their level of religiosity – in the virtue of their advanced religious awareness, and also because even before entering the army, they were not so careful about keeping some of thehalakhot, and thus found it easier to maintain their religious level in a secular environment.
However, the ruling for girls not to enlist is not based on this circle of people, for with all its importance, it is quite small. But out of a broad consideration, the general ruling of the overwhelming majority of rabbis that girls should not serve even in home-front military units is justified.
Also, it is important to add that even for girls who fail to listen to the rulings of the rabbis and enlist in the army, thanks to the rabbis’ position opposing their recruitment, the girls now benefit from improved religious conditions. Precisely because of the rabbis’ opposition and criticism, the military establishment is making great efforts to prove that army service does not harm them. However, had the rabbis’ position changed, the secular mind-set of most of the army officers probably would have prevailed, and the conditions for religious girls would have worsened, as is the case with religious male soldiers.
Therefore, the policy of the State-Religious schools opposing military service for women – in line with the rabbi’s ruling – is correct.  And they are right not to allow military representatives to present to the girls the various avenues of army service.
Do Women Need to Serve?
 
After all this, I will present my fundamental position, according to which it would be appropriate to cancel compulsory military and national service for women.
From a security and economic aspect, this type of service is ineffective. By employing fully-paid civilians instead of girls doing national service, the I.D.F. and the social service systems would achieve much better results, at an immensely lower cost.
There are two main reasons for this. First, each girl doing national service costs the state an average of NIS 4,000 per month – not far from the minimum wage. Many of the women soldiers and girls doing National Service could make a far greater contribution had they first studied a suitable profession. But because they serve immediately after finishing 12th grade, lacking professional training – despite all the good will, their contribution is relatively insignificant.  The second reason is that because the service is compulsory or quasi-compulsory (in the case of National Service), the state is obligated to employ all female recruits and volunteers, even when there is no need. Thus, we find girls complaining about meaningless military and national service (like cutting cartons, and serving coffee).
For the Good of the Country
 
The one significant reason for serving is that it expresses the individual’s commitment to the nation. However, it seems that reason alone does not provide the state the moral justification to require each and every woman to devote two years out of her life. The only justifiable reason for this is security needs crucial to the survival of the state, and currently, there are no such security needs.
In addition, from an economic aspect, compulsory service causes the state huge losses – in hidden unemployment occurring in the army, and in the loss of two years of work and tax payments that young women could have provided in the civilian market. This is not the place to elaborate, but we are talking about the loss of billions of shekels.
Serving in the army is also a factor in delaying the age of marriage by approximately two years, and thus inhibits the demographic growth of the remnants of the Jewish people who have gathered to the State of Israel. This is not the place to make the arithmetic’s, but if the state were to absolve all girls from army service, thus lowering the age of marriage and parenthood by one year alone, within fifty years, over a million Jews would be added to the Israeli nation, even if the number of children each woman gave birth to remained the same. Even from a purely military aspect, this would make a greater contribution to the Jewish people.
Furthermore, religious girls coming from low-income families are harmed more than others by doing National Service. The two year delay increases the risk that such girls will not be able to attain a respectable profession, and find a suitable groom.
Conclusion
 
These are the reasons which have led me to the conclusion that for the best interest of our nation, it is preferable to encourage young religious women to hasten their professional studies, thus making it easier for them to get married at the age of twenty.
True, there are many people shocked at the possibility of casting doubt on the obligation of national service, and for a good reason. An individual’s willingness to devote himself for the sake of the common good is extremely important, to the point where for some people, casting a doubt on it seems like a violation of the holy of holies of our national existence. Yet, nevertheless, we are obligated to consider what’s best for our nation.
In my estimation, there is a reasonable chance that within a decade or two, logic will prevail and compulsory service for women will be cancelled, and consequently, National Service as well. Does the religious community have to wait until the non-religious realize this, or can it promote this change?
A Proposed Solution: A Deferment Program for National Service
 
I will attempt to introduce a proposal which gives a reasonable opportunity for all the considerations mentioned. Programs can be created in which the girls first study for a Bachelors degree in a suitable profession, and afterwards, volunteer to work full-time for a year or two in the field they specialized in. All the money that the State of Israel invests in the girls doing National Service will be given to them while working, following their studies. This amount can add-up to more than NIS 2,500 per month.
Such programs can be created in many areas: education, nursing, law, social work, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and others. A program can also be created for outstanding students who will serve after completing a Master’s degree, or PhD. Maybe we can suggest to the heads of National Service that they lead this move, which will only improve the quality of service.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

The Progress of Woman’s Status in Halakha

The Progress in the Status of Women
 
In recent weeks, I discussed the status of women. We learned that the world was arranged in such a way that initially, man’s influence is more apparent – he is the innovator, establishes the principles and strengthens them – and afterwards, the inner side of the woman is revealed, as she develops and deepens the initial principles, integrating them into a whole. Man sanctifies his wife in marriage, and is charged with the mitzvah of Talmud Torah; however, the implementation of family life and Torah-living in a full and complete way is achieved to a greater degree by the woman. Consequently, as time goes by woman’s value becomes more apparent, and her status rises above her husband’s. This is true in the framework of each individual family, and also in the process of history; in the present world, man’s status is higher; in the future, there will be equality; and in the World to Come, the status of women will be higher. This does not mean that men will lose their role of initiator – courting his wife and sanctifying her, etc, rather it will be clear that the wife’s development of her husband’s initiatives are more important.
The Sin and its Rectification in Reality and in Halakha
 
As a result of the Sin of Adam, there was an enormous decrease in the status of women. The need for hard, physical, and taxing labor to bring forth bread from the ground caused woman to become totally dependent on her husband. Without him, she could not survive. This was necessary for tikkun olam (as I have previously written). Simultaneous to the world’s rectification from its curse, the status of women also gradually rises, and this is reflected in halakha (Jewish law).
How Can the Torah Sanction Inequality?
 
According to the Torah, a man can marry a number of women. Kiddushin(sanctification or dedication, also called erusin (betrothal), the first of the two stages of the Jewish wedding process) requires mutual agreement, however the man can divorce his wife without her consent.
Seemingly, this raises a question: How can the Torah agree to the discrimination of women? Why is man allowed to marry two women?
However, it must be clarified that the Torah does not impose upon a person to go against nature, seeing as nature, with all its faults, is also a Divine creation which gives man a platform on which he can perfect and complete himself. For that reason the Torah does not intervene in the financial market forces, but rather allows it to conduct itself on its own, while setting moral boundaries and giving direction for spiritual elevation.
This is also why the Torah did not prohibit slavery, because in times of scarcity and hunger it is preferable to have a slave than to perish. Without the framework of slavery those people who could not support themselves because they were either lazy or inefficient, or because their land had been usurped, would starve to death. By way of slavery, they survived and had children, who today are free people. Therefore, the Torah was content with simply asserting moral boundaries for slavery.
Today’s Tikkun Must be According to the Morals of the Torah
 
On the other hand, there are worldviews which placed for themselves a certain idea for which they were willing to sacrifice everything. Such was the Communist way of thinking, according to which economic equality was the supreme value, and on its behalf, millions of human beings sacrificed their lives and contentment. Today as well, the viewpoint of liberalism is ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of granting freedom and equal rights. Thus, for example, countries with a liberal point of view fought against the discriminatory rule in South Africa. They were successful, and in South Africa there have been equal rights for all citizens for twenty years. However, twenty years ago, the average life expectancy in South Africa was 64.5 years, and today, it has dropped to 49.5 (as reported in an article in ‘Basheva’ newspaper). According to the Torah, the value of freedom is extremely important, but it should be strove for gradually, without harming other values, and without causing so many people to die from disease, hunger, and crime.
The Torah’s Permission and Reservations of Marrying Two Wives
 
The same applies to marriage. In a situation where not everyone managed to support themselves adequately, if men who were resourceful in obtaining more food and resources were not allowed marrying two or more women, numerous women who failed to find a husband who could provide for them would have died of starvation, without offspring. Moreover, in times when making a living involved hard work, and required man to work all day long, slaving for his wife and children to feed and protect them, it was impossible to bind man to his wife. His ability to divorce his wife or marry another woman gave him the sense of freedom which allowed him to commit to support her as long as they were married, while further obligating him to support their young children.
The Torah, although, commanded that even if a man marries an additional wife, he must take care to make his first wife happy and provide her with all her needs, as it is written: “[Similarly], if [the master] marries another wife, he may not diminish [this one’s] allowance, clothing or conjugal rights” (Exodus 21:10).
The Ordinance of the Ketubah
 
Additionally, our Sages further established an important ordinance that a man could not marry a woman without a ketubah (a Jewish prenuptial agreement), committing himself upon getting married that if he divorces his wife, he will compensate her monetarily with a sum of money sufficient for her to exist for at least one year, so the option of divorcing his wife would not be a light matter (Ketubot 110b; Rambam, Laws of Marital Relations 10:7).
More often than not, the sum of money in the ketubah was higher, as agreed upon in negotiations between the groom and the bride’s family. In a case where the amount was extremely high and it turned out the man had married a bad woman who caused him grief, his life became unbearable because he was obligated to take care of all her needs without being able to divorce her. Pertaining to such men, our Sages applied the verse: “Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape” (Yirmeyahu 11:11), “The Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand” (Eicha 1:14). And in regards to such a woman, it is said: “And I find something more bitter than death: the woman…He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her…” (Kohelet 7:26). Raba said: “A bad wife, the amount of whose ketubah is large, should be given a rival at her side.” In other words, the advice for such a man is to take another wife, and as a result of his first wife’s jealously of the second woman, she will correct her ways. This, obviously, was on the condition the man was able to provide for the needs of both women, giving each one a separate room (Yevamot 63b).
The Talmudic Custom was not to have Two Wives
 
Over the generations the economic situation improved steadily, and parallel to this, cases of men marrying two women diminished significantly, to the point where in the Mishnaic period, approximately 2,000 years ago, not one Tanna or Amora is mentioned as having two wives.
In the Talmudic period, roughly 1,400 years ago, the custom of men not taking a second wife was so clear, that the Amoraim were divided on the question of whether a man could actually marry another woman. According to the opinion of Rabbi Ami, it is forbidden because every woman who agrees to marry her husband does so with the knowledge that her husband will not take a second wife. Therefore, a man is permitted to take a second wife only if his first wife agrees, or if he pays her ketubahand divorces her.  Nevertheless, the halakha was determined according to the opinion of Raba, that the norm is not binding, and therefore in principle, a man is permitted to marry an additional woman without his first wife’s consent (Yevamot 65a).
The Takana of Rabbeinu Gershom
 
Approximately 2,000 years ago, Rabbeinu Gershom Me’Or Hagolah (“Our teacher Gershom the light of the exile”) made a takana (an institutional reform) in Ashkenaz, that forbade a man from marrying more than one wife. He further instituted that a man could not divorce his wife without her consent. Only under a special permit of one hundred rabbis from three countries, would a man be permitted to divorce his wife against her will.
This takana of not marrying two wives was accepted as completely binding in Ashkenaz, while Jews living in Sephardic countries did not accept it as binding, but in practice, it was the general custom, with the majority of ketubot stipulating that the groom commits not to take an additional wife. In 1950, following the establishment of the State of Israel, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate decided that the prohibition of marrying two women would apply to all communities equally.
How Could Marrying Two Women be Prohibited?
 
Seemingly, this poses a problem, for we have a basic rule that our Sages do not have the authority to prohibit something expressly permitted in the Torah (Taz, Yoreh De’ah 117:1), and if so, how could Rabbeinu Gershom forbid the marrying of two women, and why was his takana accepted in the Jewish world?
Our guide and teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Hakohen Kook ztz”l, explained that from the context in which the Torah states that marrying two women is permitted, it can be understood that it is not desirable, as it is written: “[This is the law] when a man has two wives, one whom he loves and one whom he dislikes, and both the loved and unloved wives have sons, but the first-born is that of the unloved one” (Deuteronomy 21:15). The first problem is that one woman is loved and the other unloved; similarly, we find that in the Torah, two women are termed tzarot (trouble, or distress) for one another. Such a situation leads to disputes over inheritance which is liable to tear the family apart, to the point where the Torah needed to warn: “He must not give the son of the beloved wife birthright preference over the first-born, who is the son of the unloved wife. [Even if] the first-born is the son of the hated wife, [the father] must recognize him so as to give him a double portion of all his property. Since [this son] is the first fruit of [his father’s] manhood, the birthright is legally his”. Immediately after this, the Torah presents the case of a rebellious son, and our Sages said this comes to teach us that the son’s poor behavior is a result of the man having two wives (Rashi, Deuteronomy 21:11; Sichot of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Hakohen Kook, D’varim, pg.361). We see then that the heter (a dispensation from the normative prohibition pertaining to a given matter) to marry two women is b’diavad (less than ideal), because it was a necessity that could not be condemned. But when the necessity no longer existed, it was customary among Jews not to marry two women.
When did Woman’s Status Rise?
 
It should be noted that the innovative halakhic provisions were simultaneous to man’s enhanced ability to earn a living, and preceded the rise in women’s status in economic terms by hundreds, and even thousands of years. Only in modern times, with the improvement of machines and the transition from hard physical labor to work requiring more intellectual and emotional skills, did women’s income level rise, and their economic status improved.  In other words, it was not the growing economic power of women that caused our Sages to determine new takanot raising women’s status, but rather the improvement of the economic situation of the population as a whole. Therefore, already from the time in history when it was possible to support all women without having to rely on the heter, it became totally forbidden to marry two women, or extremely rare. The same holds true in regards to the ketubah – from the time it was instituted, it became the accepted rule.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

The Growth in the Status of Women

 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
 
In wake of the results of the international PISA tests (a worldwide study by the OECDof 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading), some radical, semi-Hellenistic leftists leveled serious allegations against the State of Israel’s educational system. The ‘Haaretz’ newspaper even devoted an editorial to the topic. To summarize their remarks: The Zionist vision has failed! The Jewish state was established to fulfill the vision of democracy, whose main objective is to equate the level of the Arabs to that of the Jews, and it has failed. The educational system has failed to raise the level of the Arab students to that of Jewish students, resulting in a huge gap between them.
In reality, however, the educational budget invested in Arab students is more or less equal to that of Jewish students, even though the Arabs pay way less taxes. According to Member of Knesset Fania Kirschenbaum, “The Arabs in Israel pay 400 million shekels in taxes, and receive benefits totaling 11 billion shekel.”
Arab supporters should in fact commend the State of Israel for this. Had they compared the situation of Arab students in Israel to that of students in other Arab countries in the Middle East, they would discover just how much their educational level has risen thanks to the establishment of the Jewish state, and by publicizing this fact, could promote peace. Instead, they make grave accusations and encourage hostility, hatred, and war.
It must be pointed out that Jews all over the world excel academically in comparison to their fellow citizens. This was true in countries where the educational system was uniform for all students, such as the Soviet Union, in many European countries which have equal educational opportunities for all students, and in countries like the U.S. where education varies. But radical left-wingers, such as the majority of writers for the ‘Haaretz’ newspaper, who deny Israel’s specialness, are unable to discern these facts. This is how they attempt to enhance peace – by inciting war and hostility.
Testimony from the Home of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef ztz”l concerning Mixed Singing by Family Members on Shabbat
 
Two weeks ago, I publicized testimony from the home of the former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank ztz”l, that on Shabbat, family members – men and women together – would sing z’mirot Shabbat (Shabbat songs), even when the men were not first-degree relatives of the women, such as son-in-laws.
Rabbi D’vir Azulay from the “Merkaz HaRav” Yeshiva sent me supporting evidence from the custom of the great posek (Jewish law arbiter), Maran, the Rishon LeTzion, HaRav Ovadiah Yosef ztz”l, and may these words be l’iluey nishmato (an ascent for his soul). This is what the present Rishon LeTzion, HaRav Yitzhak Yosef, shlita (Rav Ovadiah’s son) wrote to him two years ago: “In the house Maran, our master, teacher and rabbi, the custom at all times was that the entire family would sing together on the eve of Shabbat, and during Shabbat day, together with the son-in-laws and all the brothers. Maran told them that since a woman does not sing solo, but rather her voice mixes-in with all the other voices, there is no prohibition – even though her voice, as well, is heard – in other words, not in an exceedingly loud voice, but in a normal voice – but not in a high tone”. Afterwards, he also wrote this in his book Yalkut Yosef (Part 1, Vol. 3, pgs. 368-371).
Two weeks ago I wrote that I was not sure if I would change our minhag (custom) and be lenient, but it seems that after this additional testimony, which complements the custom of God-fearing German Jews, as written in S’ridei Aish (1:77), that those who wish to sing Shabbat songs together with their families are permitted to do sol’chatchila (ideally).
The Status of Men and Women
 
Last week, I began to clarify the difference between the status of men and women, the basis of which stems from the creation of the world and man, explaining that the self-awareness of Adam HaRishon remained with man, whereas woman, who was created from man, expresses a secondary type of awareness. Therefore, man is more inclined to lead and initiate, whereas the woman continues his initiative. In a certain respect, nevertheless, woman is on a higher level seeing as man was created from dust while woman was created from man in an advanced stage of development, therefore her ability to perfect what man initiates is greater and more superior. Thus we find many loving and devoted couples where initially, the husband’s leadership was exceedingly clear with his wife following after him, but overtime, the wife’s status gradually increases, to the point where often it seems her influence is greater than her husband’s.
A Tale of a Pious Man and a Pious Woman
 
“It once happened that a pious man was married to a pious woman, and they did not produce children. They said ‘We are of no use to the Holy One, blessed be He,’ whereupon they got divorced. The former went and married a wicked woman, and she made him wicked, while the latter went and married a wicked man, and made him righteous. This proves that all depends on the woman” (Bereishit Rabbah 17:7).
In both these cases, apparently, the woman’s influence was hidden. Had they argued among themselves about the proper way, the man would have rejected the words of his wife, and insisted on going in the opposite direction. But the women’s influence was hidden. Out of humility and love, the pious woman responded positively to every one of her wicked husbands’ good actions, taking joy in it, nurturing, and developing it. The man was influenced by her, because everything she nurtured in effect came from the man himself, until his positive sides became his essence, and his negative traits were overcome and vanished, and he became a tzaddik (pious man). The wicked woman, on the other hand, failed to grasp the good ideas of her pious husband, but when one of his initiatives contained a negative point, she gladly accepted, expanded, and developed it, until gradually, the tzaddik turned into a rasha(wicked).
In general though, there are usually no big gaps between a husband and wife, with both sharing a common goal. Through their mutual enrichment, they increasingly grow, with the man initiating ideas and the woman following-up, deepening, and developing them. Consequently, he once more initiates an idea, and she develops it all over again. At times they alternate, with the development emerging as an initiative, and the initiative as development. Nevertheless, the main roles of male and female – initiator and developer – remains in most couples, while over the years, the value of the woman’s role and her status, increases.
The Historical Process in the Rise of the Status of Women 
 
Just as within every couple the status of the woman increases, the process within history is similar. In the beginning of history, man’s status was significantly higher, but in a gradual process, the status of woman increases.
This process is designed for tikun olam, (rectification of the world), for God created the world incomplete so that people could be partners in its perfection.
The First Stage: in the Present World, Man’s Status is Higher
 
In the beginning stage, it is necessary to define good and evil, and determine the primary direction. In this stage, the male characteristic is more useful, because man is more inclined to separate between the various fields, between the intellect and emotion, while focusing on the challenge ahead of him. The female characteristic, which tends to integrate these fields, is likely to interfere, since emotions and various passions are liable to intervene in intellectual considerations and negatively divert them, as happened in the Sin of Adam.
An additional explanation is that in the stage of decision-making, men are more inclined to the intellect, which is inherently more objective, while women are inclined to make considerations incorporating emotion, which naturally is more subjective.  And therefore in the beginning it is necessary for man to lead, and he does so with the help of Torah study. Nevertheless, the world is in a process of advancement, and as the values of good and evil become clearer and more accepted, we progress to the stage where the values must be understood on a deeper level, with all their nuances, and brought to complete fruition in our daily lives, and then the female characteristic becomes more important.
This is what is hinted at in the Kabala, that in the present world, man’s status is higher, in the future there will be equality, and in the World to Come, the status of women will be higher. The present world is full of evil, conflict, and wars; in order to fight its negative aspects, man must learn Torah, clarify the foundations of truth and goodness, and impose these values in all orders of life. In the period of time called ‘olam ha’zeh’ (the present world) an advancement process regarding the status of women is also occurring, and as the values of good and bad become clearer, the status of women will continue to rise; however, man’s status will remain higher, because there will still be a need for struggle to impose the values of goodness.
The Second Stage: In the Future – Equality
 
The second stage, la’atid la’voh (in the future), is the period of Redemption, in which Israel returns to its land and the Shechina (the holy Presence) is revealed through them, in the land. The Holy Temple is built, the light of the Torah and emuna (faith) illuminates the entire world, and Mashiach ben David rules over Israel – “And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).  At that time, the status of man and woman will be equal. There will still be a need to delineate between good and evil and enforce the good, and as a result, there will be a greater need for the male characteristic. But on the other hand, we will already have reached the stage in which the values of emunah and the positive aspects of everyday life in all their features will be truly evident, and for this, there is a greater need for the female characteristic; thus, the status of women will be equal to that of man.
The Third Stage: In Olam Ha’ba, Woman’s Status will be Higher
 
The third stage of Olam Ha’ba (the World to Come), which is the world after techiyat ha’maytim (resurrection of the dead), there will be no need for struggle between good and evil. At that time, feminine traits will be able to be revealed completely, and the status of women will rise beyond that of man, as is hinted in the verse: “For God has created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall court a man” (Jeremiah 31:21).
Apparently, however, men will always remain in the primary role of the one who defines the principles, courts his wife, sanctifies her, is responsible to take care of her well-being and pleasure, and leads the family. But then, people’s perspective will be deeper, and it will be clear that the female trait is of greater importance – she is capable of absorbing and revealing everything hidden within man’s initiative – far beyond what he himself understands. This capability also allows for the absorption of the Divine sparks of Creation, which are hidden in a deeper, richer, and more complete way.
There is still a need to clarify the halakhic significance of this rise in the status of women throughout history and our present-day situation, which, with God’s help, I will write about next time.
This article appeared in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Man Initiates and Woman Completes

 

Man and Woman
 
As part of my studies in Jewish law and the writing of ‘Peninei Halakha’ [Rabbi Melamed’s highly popular series of books on Jewish law, Ed.], I am presently engaged in the laws of marital relations, and thought to share with my readers some general ideas concerning relationships between man and woman in Jewish law and thought. I am still debating whether to include them in my next book, for perhaps it is inappropriate to expand on philosophical ideas in a book dealing with halakha. Maybe some of my readers can offer advice.
The questions many people ask are: Why does the Torah give preferential status to the man? Why does the man mikadesh (sanctify, or designate) his wife, and is also the one who divorces? And why does halakha place the obligation of fulfilling themitzvah of onah (conjugal relations) and puru u’revuru (procreation) on the man, and not on the woman?
The Foundation of Marital Relationship in the Torah
 
The foundation of the relationship between man and woman was determined at the time of creation, as the Torah states: “God [thus] created man with His image. In the image of God, He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Thus, the complete person created in God’s image was male and female together.
Subsequent to the first, general description of man’s creation, the Torah continues to explain that in the beginning, man was created individually, comprised of  twopartzufim  (literally, “faces”, or Divine personae) – one of a man, and the other of a woman. This is what differentiated man from all other living creatures, who were created male and female from the outset, while man alone was created individually.
This person consisting of two faces was called Adam Ha’Rishon (the first man); it was he who was commanded to perfect and guard the world – “to till it and keep it”, and he was the one who named all the creatures.
God waited until man felt the grief of his loneliness and realize that it was not good for him to be alone, and in response, made him fall into a deep state of unconsciousness – “He took one of his ribs (in Hebrew tzelotav, or ‘his side’) and closed the flesh in its place. God built the rib that he took from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21-22).
The Definition of tzela is ‘Side’
 
In Hebrew, the word tzela means ‘side’, comparable to tzela ha’mishkan, which means ‘one of the sides of the sanctuary’. So when God took one of man’s “ribs”, it means He took one of his two sides. At first, the male and female were in their nearly complete form, but they were connected back-to-back, with the male partzuf more prominent (see, Eruvin 18a).
In the Revealed Order Man Takes Precedence in Mutual Mitzvoth
 
Although all the virtues and mitzvoth of marriage are shared jointly by both husband and wife, man was given the duty to initiate the relationship. The foundation for this stems from what we have learned regarding Adam Ha’Rishon, that when he consisted of two ‘faces’, the male ‘face’ was more visible, while the female ‘face’ was hidden. Consequently, upon being separated the exposed, self-awareness of Adam Ha’Rishon remained in the male, and as a result, he was the one who felt the misery of being alone, he was the one who realized the female was separated from him, and he was the one who said: “Now this is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called woman (ishah) because she was taken from man (ish)” (Genesis 2:23).
The First Stage in Relationships 
 
A similar phenomenon to that of Adam Ha’rishon occurs in all relationships. In their heavenly roots the couple’s souls are connected and in the process of their descent to the world, the female soul is separated from the male, with the male retaining the sense of basic awareness on a larger scale. Consequently, it is usually the male who feels the stronger and more demonstrative desire to connect with his estranged spouse, analogous to “a man searching for a lost article” (Kiddushin 2b).
Therefore, the Torah imposed upon the man the duty and responsibility to court his partner to marriage, and it is his obligation to sanctify her as his wife, take her to the canopy, and initiate conjugal relations with her to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation.
Since the responsibility to initiate the relationship is placed on the man, the virtues of marriage are usually mentioned in the masculine form, so as to make clear to him the importance of marriage and encourage him to take the task upon himself, to pursue his partner, and sanctify her as his wife. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “Any man who has no wife is not a proper man” (Yevamot 63a).  They also said: “Any man who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, without goodness, without Torah, without a [protecting] wall, and without peace” (Yevamot 62b).
Male Characteristics
 
Generally speaking, men possess the ability to separate between various fields, ignore all surrounding matters, and concentrate his energies completely on one goal. This feature is what causes young men to vigorously pursue their partner, overcome difficulties, and persist until the woman agrees to marry him. Such an attribute is also fitting for soldiers, or those who need to devote themselves to work. Consequently, it is the man who sanctifies his wife.
The Second Stage of the Woman
 
Following each stage initiated by the man, the woman, by means of her acceptance of her husband, deepens and perfects their relationship, and raises it to a higher level. If we look deeper, we find that man’s strength lies in initiating matters, breaking through, courting his partner, and sanctifying her in marriage.  Frequently, however, after achieving their goal of marrying, men lose interest in attaining a complete, emotional connection, because focused on marrying, they fail to prepare themselvesproperly for all the challenges marriage entails. At that junction, the women’s strong point – her ability to deepen and broaden their emotional connection – becomes evident.  But in order for her to accomplish this, her husband must be at home. Therefore, a man is commanded to please his wife in their first year of marriage, as the Torah says: “When a man takes a new bride, he shall not enter military service or be assigned to any associated duty. He must remain free for his family for one year, when he can rejoice with his bride” (Deuteronomy 24:5). And while pleasing his wife, the woman, the nucleus of the house, builds and nurtures their marital relationship entirely.
This is also true in regards to the mitzvah of procreation – it is the woman who nurtures the baby in her womb, and during that time, women are inclined to make a greater effort to strengthen and deepen their relationship with their husbands.
The External and Internal Sides
 
From an external aspect, man comes first; he is the leader, and therefore, the initiator the relationship. On the other hand, since man is considered the successor of Adam Ha’Rishon, and woman the successor of Chava, in a certain aspect, women are on a higher level, given that the material from which man was created was dust from the ground, as the Torah says: “God formed man out of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7), while woman was created from man, as it is written: “He took one of his ribs”. In other words, woman’s creation was an additional stage of development. In addition, God formed woman in a special way in order to beautify her, as it is written: “God built the rib he took from the man into a woman”, and thus, woman was created with greater beauty (Eruvin 18a).
Man’s strengths are more revealed and external, whereas woman’s strengths are hidden and internal. The world functions in such a way that at first, the external side is revealed, and afterwards, the internal. Thus, initially man’s status is higher – he courts his partner, sanctifies her, and is awakened to the mitzvoth of conjugal relations and procreation. Over the years, however, thanks to the female virtue allowing her to absorb her husband’s initiatives and turn them into something complete, the position of women within the family emerges , to the point where upon closer investigation, many times we find that her influence is greater than that of man.
Woman’s Cooperation in the First Stage
 
If we delve further, we find that in the same way as the man participates in the second stage in which the woman sets the foundations of the family, in a hidden manner, the woman motivates the first stage. True, the apparent courtship is performed by the man, but the very beauty and goodness of the woman draws him to pursue her. Indeed, the husband sanctifies his wife, but the woman’s deep desire to create a relationship and family leads him to this. There are cases in which the man seeks a woman to be his companion without any long-term commitments, and only because the woman refuses to do so without taking vows, he marries her.
God willing, in my next article, I will continue delving into these concepts, and clarify the given procedure in which, initially, man’s status is higher, but over time, the status of women increases. Such is the historical process – from the low point following the sin of Adam Ha’Rishon until Olam Ha’ba (the World to Come) where woman’s status will be higher than man’s, and this is also the microcosm of the life of every married couple.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.