Category Archives: כללי

The Significance of Eating Meat

There is room for individuals to be vegetarians as an additional measure of piety, without preaching for others to do so as well * Vegetarianism for the masses is liable to damage man’s moral responsibility to his fellow man * According to the Kabbalists, by eating meat, man returns animals to their previous level, prior to the Sin of Adam * Animal growers who treat their livestock cruelly should be boycotted * Many animal rights activists in Israel are left-wing extremists with perverted ethics * What to do when a conflict between cruelty to animals and human needs arises

Following my previous column, in which I dealt with the ethical question of eating meat, I received numerous and diverse replies.

First, a short review of the main points: In the beginning, man was intended to eat vegetation, and was prohibited from eating animals (Sanhedrin 59b). The commentators wrote that even animals survived by eating vegetation, and did not devour one another (Rashi and Ramban, ibid).

As a result of the sins of Adam and the generations before the Flood, the world fell from its’ previously, higher level. People became less moral, animals became more vicious and closed, and began to devour each other; even the earth became corrupted, producing thorns and thistles. Not only that, as a result of the sins nature’s systems collapsed, and man could no longer survive merely on vegetation. In other words, the moral downfall led to the creation of a new ecological situation in which people had to eat meat. And although this is not the ideal situation – at this stage in time, people should not be encouraged to refrain from eating meat. The reason for this is that after the Flood, when it became clear just how low man can descend, the Torah needed to guide man in his major purpose – improving relations between human beings, namely, to perform acts of kindness and justice, to conduct themselves with integrity, grace and mercy, and certainly not to steal and kill, insult and cause sorrow; for man was created in the image of God, and tikkun olam (repairing the world) is dependent on amending relationships with his fellow man. Therefore, only after the basic morality among humans is developed properly, and wars and injustices cease to exist, then the entire world will be elevated, we will return to the situation prior to the Flood, and once again it will be forbidden for man to eat meat.

Accordingly, at the present stage of time, individuals alone can conduct themselves with an additional measure of piety and not eat meat, but they must refrain from preaching vegetarianism, so as not to harm the primary effort of tikkun olam.

Eating Meat at a Festive Meal

Q: How can it be that in the beginning, ideally, it was forbidden to eat meat, but today it is a mitzvah to eat meat at se’udot mitzvah (festive meals)?

A: Since after the Flood there is no ethical problem in eating meat, and people enjoy eating meat, consequently, at meals in which it is a mitzvah to be happy, it is a mitzvah to eat meat (S.A., O.C. 250:2; M.B. 242:1; B.H.L 529:2, s.v., ‘kaytzad’).

The Esoteric Explanation

The Kabbalists expounded on this, explaining that in our present situation, there is significance in eating meat, because as a result of the Sin of Adam, the entire world fell from its previous level. The four levels on which all of life is based – inanimate, vegetative, animate, and human – all fell from their previous level, and were merged with evil. When a Jew eats the flesh of animals in accordance with the laws of kashrut, intending to strengthen his service of God – the evil contained within the animals is separated from the good and the waste is disposed of in the bathroom, and the good within them is elevated and absorbed in the Jew’s body, giving him strength to do good deeds. This is the order of the tikkun: Plants draw their food from the inanimate, thereby elevating the good in it to the level of vegetation. When the animal feeds on the vegetation, it elevates the good within the vegetation to the level of animate. And when humans eat from the animals and behave morally, and adhere to God – the meat of the animals are raised to the level of man. Thus, via this food chain, the entire world is returned to its original level (‘Sha’ar HaMitzvot’ by the Ari HaKadosh, Parshat Ekev).

A tikkun is especially made when eating meat at se’udot Shabbat and Yom Tov, and other se’udot mitzvah, such as weddings and brit milah, because the meat then becomes part of the joy of the mitzvah, and aids in its observance. But the Kabbalists said that in se’udot reshut (meals of a voluntary, non-religious character), a tikkun is not always made, for if afterwards the person does not conduct himself properly, it turns out that the meat he ate did not contribute to any tikkun or spiritual elevation whatsoever. Therefore, there are Chassidim who refrain from eating meat at se’udot reshut, lest they fail to elevate the meat properly.

The Eating of the Wicked

According to this, we can understand the statement of our Sages that ethically, it is forbidden for an evil, Torah-ignorant person to eat meat (Pesachim 49b). Since he lacks Torah and good character traits, and hates Torah scholars and people of virtue, he does not elevate the animals by eating them, so why should he kill them unnecessarily? However, on Shabbat, even Torah-ignorant people who eat meat fulfill a mitzvah, and as a result, elevate and rectify it (Ha’ga’ot and Chiddushim on Sha’ar HaMitzvot, Parshat Ekev; Reb Tzaddok, article ‘Et Ha’ochel’ 7-8).

The Place of Vegetarians

Indeed, there are individuals whose delicate, moral sensitivities touch their hearts deeply and thus refrain from eating meat, and most certainly they avoid offending others who do eat meat. And although it would seem that according to the Kabbala they should eat meat at se’udot mitzvah, nevertheless, there were some Kabbalists who found positive aspects in their deeds, and saw in them the custom of Chassidim (S’dei Chemed, section ‘Achila’, achilat basar). Rabbi Kook refers to them as ‘extreme idealists’.

However, the general instruction for all those desiring to sanctify themselves and serve God is to engage in repairing morality between people, eat meat at se’udot mitzvah, and in this manner, assist in tikkun ha’olam, as the Kabbalists said.

Allegations of Cruelty in the Meat Industry

A number of readers argued that cattle and poultry growers today treat animals with enormous cruelty, and therefore claim that people who eat meat nowadays are sinners because they assist those committing the transgression of cruelty to animals (tzar ba’alei chayim).

Indeed, if it becomes clear that in a certain place, animals are treated with immense cruelty, it is proper to instruct people not to purchase the meat. However, this matter must be clarified by Torah scholars who are knowledgeable and familiar with raising animals and the laws of shechita (ritual slaughtering). But someone who is not familiar with raising animals lacks the criterion required to determine what exactly excessive cruelty is.

And certainly, animal rights activists should not be relied on in this matter, seeing as they are exactly the one’s to whom the argument of morality is addressed, for they have confused and obscured the boundaries of morality, turning an act of divrei chassidut (an additional measure of piety) into an absolute requirement, and in consequence, come to despise the foundations of morality, and offend their friends who do eat meat. And thus, their practice of vegetarianism has no sensitivity to it whatsoever, but rather, arrogance and wickedness.

Here in Israel, quite a lot of vegetarian activists support the terrorist organizations of the P.L.O. and Hamas, while at the same time, claiming that the settlers are the biggest culprits, hindering peace of the world. Incidentally, this type of evil is the most serious and dangerous, because it wraps itself in the guise of righteousness. In the same way that some of the greatest villains in history took pride in their compassion for animals.

The General Rules of Cruelty to Animals

The basic rule is that human needs precede those of animals, and when there is a conflict between the two, man’s degree of urgency must then be weighed against the degree of suffering caused to the animals. For example, eating meat is extremely vital for man, and therefore, even if it is assumed that animals suffer greatly from shechita, one is permitted to raise livestock in order to slaughter and eat their flesh. Similarly, one is permitted to load cargo on his donkey, and plow with his ox. This is the general rule: the greater the animals suffer, the more severe the prohibition is, and only for the most essential need can it be performed.

Starvation of Chickens

An example of this can be learned from the discussion about egg-laying hens. Hens can lay eggs from the age of six to twenty months, and afterwards, poultry breeders sell them for meat. However, there is a method enabling the lengthening of the time of egg-laying. When the hens are fifteen months old, they are starved for ten days, and at that time their feathers fall out; afterwards, their feathers re-grow, their strength returns, and they are able to lay eggs until they are twenty-eight months old. The question is: are the hens allowed to be starved in order to benefit from their longer egg-laying output?

Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) were stringent in this issue, because in their opinion, it involved immense sorrow and cruelty (Shevet HaLevi 6:7). Others were lenient, because the steps were taken for the benefit of the farm, this being the purpose of raising the hens, and in the long-term, the starvation even adds to their health, for they live longer lives (Rabbi Goldberg, in the book ‘Ha’aretz v’Miztvotey’ha’, pg.437).

In practice, whenever there is an extremely great need to support farmers and reduce food prices, we are lenient. But when no great need exists, we are stringent. Incidentally, concerning the issue of chickens, Rabbi Goldberg can be relied on to a greater extent, because he served as the rabbi of Kfar Pines, and was familiar with the livestock and all the considerations, as opposed to Rabbi Wozner, who was not familiar with the issue up close.

Health Reasons

Some people argue vehemently that nowadays, eating meat is extremely dangerous to one’s health, since animals are raised in unnatural conditions, and are injected with various drugs that endanger health. These claims must be examined very seriously by experts in the field, doctors and scientific researchers. And if we find differences of opinion among the experts, we go according to the majority.

Accordingly, if the conventional opinion among doctors and researchers is that there is no problem eating meat in moderation, but according to alternative doctors it is forbidden to eat meat – the halakha goes according to the majority of physicians and researchers. For in addition to them being the majority, they are also considered greater experts, because their conclusions are based on more serious research. However, one who is personally convinced that the alternative method is right – should go according to it, except in cases where in the opinion of other doctors, it is harmful for him (see, S.A., O.C., section 618; R’ma 618:4; Mateh Efraim 3; M.B. 12; A.H.S. 5-6).

Indeed, some people argue that doctors and researchers are corrupted by various interests. However, we know that this is mere slander, seeing as many of us are personally acquainted with doctors and researchers, and know that they are God-fearing people, who seek the truth in their studies.

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

Vegetarianism for Moral Reasons

The census in the Book of Numbers is intended to organize the Israeli army en route to the conquest of the Land * The Chafetz Chaim: Serving in the Russian army as a preparation for serving in Israel’s army * The sacred army of the Levites lends substance and meaning to Israel’s military * The transition from vegetarianism to eating meat was also an expression of man and Creation’s moral decline * The moral justification for eating meat after the Flood * In our current situation, vegetarianism for moral reasons may cause a decline in human relations * The vision of vegetarianism in the future, perfected world*

The Census in ‘BaMidbar‘             

The Torah portion of ‘BaMidbar‘ (Book of Numbers) is replete with numerical accountings of the Tribes of Israel. Seemingly, one could ask: Why does the Torah need to ‘waste’ so many verses calculating the exact numbers of each and every tribe, and afterwards, mention the entire amount of people? And as if that was not enough, the Torah once again mentions their numbers according to the order of encampment in the desert, and then counts them once more according to the four separate camps! Instead of telling us at such great length how many Children of Israel there were, the Torah could have clarified a bit further in depth the practical laws of Shabbat and kashrut?!

However, this is exactly what the Torah wanted to teach us: the importance of every individual Jew, and the significance of the entire number of Israel!

“Fit for Service”: To Conquer the Land of Israel

Every census has its purpose. The census in the desert was meant to organize the army of the Jewish nation before entering the Land of Israel. We are commanded to inherit the Land, namely, to conquer and settle it – and therefore, Moshe was commanded to count all the men from the age of twenty years or older, for they would compose Israel’s army. For the army to be organized properly, each tribe was numbered “according to the records of their paternal families”. First, the number of men in each family was counted, and then, all the families connected to that specific division were included and counted together; afterwards, all the divisions within the tribe were counted, in order to know how many soldiers there were in each tribe. Finally, they calculated the sum total of soldiers in Israel’s army: “The entire tally was 603,550” (Numbers 1:46).

The Torah portion of ‘BaMidbar‘ comes to teach us the importance of serving in the army, and the significance of the mitzvoth to conquer and settle the Land of Israel.

A Story about the Chafetz Chaim

Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook said that he heard from Rabbi Yaakov Shorkin, one of the Chafetz Chaim’s top students, that a yeshiva student was once drafted into the Russian army, and asked the Chafetz Chaim how to escape the decree. The Chafetz Chaim replied: “Surely, very soon the Mashiach is coming, and there will be a Jewish state. We will have a Jewish police force, and a Jewish army, and you will need to know how to carry a weapon – will you then go and learn all this?! Behold, now you have an opportunity!” (L’Nitivot Yisrael 2, article 3).

Apparently, this also alludes to the custom of shooting arrows on Lag B’Omer – in order to prepare for the establishment of a Jewish army.

The Significance of the Army Stems from the Yeshiva

Together with the army, whose purpose is to conquer the Land, we find that the Torah separately numbered the Levites – “Those from 30 to 50 years old, all who enter service (la’tzavah) to work in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 4:3). My revered teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, pointed out that the Torah uses the same word – tzavah (army) – in regards to both the soldiers who conquer the Land, and the Levites whose task is to perform the holy work in the Tabernacle and learn and teach Torah. 

In this way, Rabbi Kook would strengthen the yeshiva students, so they would realize their own importance – that everything starts from the p’nimiyut (inner-side) – from the study of Torah. He said that “out of the Divine army (those engaged in the sacred service, and Torah) which illuminates and emits spiritual light on all our surroundings, it [the light] reaches the soldiers in the army, who are engaged in training exercises to conquer… out of Israel’s sacred, inner, fundamental army…the great enlistment in all of the army receives its value, in its military sense…”. Similarly, we have seen that Yehoshua bin Nun, who began his career as a diligent Torah student, as the Torah testifies: “But his [Moshe’s] aid, the young man, Yehoshua bin Nun, did not leave the tent [of Torah study] (Exodus 33:11), as a result, merited conquering the Land of Israel (Sichot HaRitzya, Naso 2; 5-3).

However, someone who wants to belong to the spiritual army in a yeshiva by detaching himself from Israel’s army, his Torah learning is not Torah at all, for he makes a mockery of the Torah, disgracing all the verses dealing with yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land), the census of the soldiers, the entire Book of Joshua, and all the prophecies about the return of Israel to its Land. And as we know, someone who erases even one letter from the Torah, invalidates the entire Torah.

From the Beginning of Creation Man was Vegetarian

In the beginning, man was meant to eat vegetation, as the Torah says: “God said, ‘Behold. I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit. It shall be to you for food” (Genesis 1:29). But man was forbidden to eat animals (Sanhedrin 59b). The commentators wrote that even the animals at that time made do by eating vegetation, and did not devour each other (Rashi and Ramban, ibid).

The Effect of the Sins of Adam HaRishon and Others

However, sins increased, and the entire world declined. It began with the sin of Adam HaRishon, and continued with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. In the generation of Enosh, the grandson of Adam, people began to commit idolatry, and later, the sins of adultery, murder, and theft increased. Parallel to man’s transgressions, the nature of animals also became more closed and brutal, and they began to devour one another – until extinction was decreed upon all flesh, as it is written: “The world was corrupt before God, and the land was filled with crime. God saw the world, and it was corrupted. All flesh had perverted its way on the earth. God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me. The world is filled with crime. I will therefore destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood” (Genesis 9: 1-6).

After the Flood

Only Noah, his son’s, and all that was with him in the ark were saved from the waters of the Flood. When they exited the ark, the task of building the world from scratch was placed upon them along with meticulously keeping the seven basic commandments which are the basis of human morality, for only after basic morality between human beings is developed properly, can man continue to rise in his moral relations towards animals. To this end, it was necessary to establish a clear boundary between man, who was created in the image of God, and animals – to emphasize man’s role and responsibility, for he alone was given the task of repairing and elevating the world.

The clearest expression of this was that after the Flood, humans were allowed to eat the flesh of animals, together with a stern warning not to murder their fellow man, who was created in the image of God, as the Torah says: “Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables… And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life… Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:1-6) (according to Rabbi Kook’s “The Vision of Vegetarianism” 6-9).

It must be further explained that following the sins of Adam and the generations before the Flood, nature itself has changed. In other words, the moral decline affected all aspects of life, including the nutrition system. Up until the generation of the Flood, people could receive all their nutritional needs from plants. After the sin and the collapse of all systems of nature – plants were no longer sufficient for a person, and therefore, God allowed Noah and his sons to eat the flesh of cattle, birds, animals and fish. In other words, the moral decline of the world created a completely new eco-environment in which the consumption of meat is necessary. And although this is not ideal, it cannot be condemned. There is also a bit of justice in this – since thanks to Noah the animals were saved from destruction in the Flood, his sons are allowed to consume them in order to survive.

In the present situation, if we stop eating meat, it is not clear that it would benefit those species we normally eat, because if we do not continue raising and growing them for consumption, their numbers among other animals will decrease sharply. At present, they breed under human supervision, but if all the animals and chickens were let loose, within a short time, very few would be left (see, Rabbeinu Bechayeh, Radak, Malbim, Genesis 1:29; and Malbim and Rashar Hirsch ibid, 9:3).

Should Righteous Individuals be Encouraged to be Vegetarians?

Our master Rabbi Kook wrote that indeed, consistent with the grand ideal, it would be proper for man not to eat the flesh of animals; but according to our current moral level, people should not be encouraged to avoid eating meat. The reason for this is that after the Flood, when it became clear just how low man can decline, the Torah needed to direct man towards his main function – to improving relations between human beings. For clearly there is an immense difference between the virtues of man over animals, as man was created in the image of God, his intelligence and emotions are developed, and when wronged, his hurt is far greater than that of animals. Furthermore, when people treat each other decently and caringly, productiveness is created between them, which can bring redemption to the world.    

Therefore, to properly emphasize the moral demand of “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) and, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor” (Shabbat 31a), the Torah instructed us to abandon for now the moral ideal of not harming animals (Rabbi Kook, The Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, 6-7). Thus, one is permitted to slaughter animals in order to eat them, or as our Sages said, all creatures were created to serve man, and given the world’s current moral level, this is interpreted as being allowed to eat them (Kiddushin 82a). 

The Damage in Educating Towards Vegetarianism

Moreover, if we are overly concerned about educating towards compassion and love for animals, instead of helping them, we would destroy ethical relations between human beings, because people whose sense of morality is not fully developed could think to themselves: “Since in any event, we aren’t warned about killing animals and eating them, we can also kill people who stand in our way, and maybe even eat their flesh.” And there would be other evil individuals who would focus all their good qualities towards animals – because ultimately, every wicked person possesses a spark of conscience and compassion. But after silencing their conscience, they could steal, exploit, and kill people without any ethical dilemma, because in their hearts, they take pride in the great mercifulness they show towards their pets.

Therefore, as long as murder and cruelty remain in the world, people should not be encouraged to refrain from eating meat. One might say that as long as people have a desire to eat meat, it is a sign that we have not yet reached the ethical stage in which it is morally important to refrain from eating meat (Vision of Vegetarianism 4; 6; 11).

In the future, however, the entire world will be spiritually elevated, and as the Kabbalists said, animals will progress and develop to a point where they will be able to speak, and their moral behavior will also change completely. Consequently, no one will want to eat their flesh. As the Prophet said: “On that day I will make a covenant with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky and the animals that scurry along the ground so they will not harm you. I will remove all weapons of war from the land” (Hosea 2:20) (The Vision of Vegetarianism 12:32).  

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

Mistake or Policy?

Responses to criticism for not having chosen a woman with a large family to light a torch on Yom Ha’atzmaut * A mother of ten children: “The rabbi’s words were like cold water to a weary soul” * Leftist Prof. Ephraim Yaar’s arguments against large families * Is there a principled approach behind the Ministry of Culture’s avoiding honoring mother’s with large families? * Prof. Tzuriel’s research on the educational benefits of children from large families * Blessings over unusual sights: On which mountains and hills should the blessing “Who carries out the work of creation” be recited? * How many times should a blessing be recited when seeing a number of impressive sights on one trip?

Regarding the Affront to Mother’s of Large Families

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the significance of puru u’re’vuru (being fruitful and multiplying), and the immense importance it carries for Israel’s survival and consolidation in its land. At the same time, I criticized the members of the public committee who participated in choosing the torch-bearers for the Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony, that out of all of the fourteen women they chose, not one was a mother with a large family.

There were some women were extremely happy about the honor I bestowed upon those righteous women who dedicate themselves to raising large families. I was told of one woman who pointed out what I had written to her son, a graduate of Yeshiva Har Bracha serving as an officer in the I.D.F., while mentioning how much she enjoys reading the articles.

Another woman wrote me: “Rabbi, thank you so much for what you write about mother’s with large families. Your words are like cold water on a weary soul. As a mother who recently gave birth to her tenth child, ken yirbu, I feel that society often does not appreciate families who are willing to bear upon themselves the enlargement of Am Yisrael, and sometimes, even condemn us. Yasher koach, and thank you” (this reply also answers a young reader who wrote: “With all due respect, Rabbi, why do you constantly badger us with the mitzvoth of puru u’re’vuru and family values?”).

Some readers proposed that as a correction for this, the ‘Basheva‘ newspaper should grant an annual award to a number of mother’s with large families.

Other’s mentioned Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who knew how to be grateful for mother’s blessed with large families, and decided to grant 100 lira (pounds) to each mother giving birth to her tenth child (indeed, it was not an original idea of his, as this was also the practice in the Soviet Union, the homeland of world socialism, who crowned every mother of ten children as a ‘heroic mother’, and gave her privileges and a star of gold).

Those Who Criticized

Some people disapproved, claiming there is no importance whatsoever in having a large family, and on the contrary – by talking about it, men and rabbis adeptly manage to keep women at home, and maintain their rule.

Others argued that the Commission’s entire goal was to encourage equality between men and women, and to show that women can also be as successful as men, and consequently, it was obvious they did not choose a mother blessed with a large family.

Some people objected, claiming that large numbers of children encourages economic and cultural backwardness, and Israeli society does not need to encourage large families, rather, the opposite. There was one person who mentioned the article by the leftist Prof. Ephraim Yaar “Al Mishpachot Beruchot Yeladim” (“On Families Blessed with Many Children”) in which he concludes that it is preferable to call such families ‘mishpachot merubot yeladim’ (families with many children’). In his opinion, “in terms of both benefit and morality, there is no reason the state should encourage families to have large numbers of children and give them assistance through any type of incentives” – since children from such families are more academically, economically, and socially backwards.

The Ideological Basis

Indeed, there is an ideological basis as to why a mother blessed with a large family was not chosen to light a torch: it violates the feminists’ struggle for equality. It emphasizes national and religious values, as opposed to the idea that a person is measured solely by his economic and social accomplishments.

Needless to say, this approach ignores family values and the national importance of having many children, especially after the Holocaust and in view of our coping with a demographic problem. Apparently, leftists like to mention the demographic problem only when it involves encouraging giving parts of the Land of Israel away to the Arabs, and not when it comes to encouraging Jewish births.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture should have clarified the office’s position – was the lack of a mother blessed with a large family among the torch-bearers in the ceremony’s theme ‘A Time for Women’, indeed a fundamental position, or perhaps, a regrettable error? And also, whether the Ministry of Culture intends on finding a way to make amends, by praising the contribution of these precious women, who are privileged to achieve the greatest value of all – dedicating their lives to bringing life into the world, and devoting their days and nights to raising and educating their children, for the glory of the nation and the country.

Breaking the Equation

Unquestionably, we must make an effort to prove that the equation determining that children from large families are more academically and socially backwards is incorrect.

Indeed, Prof. David Tzuriel has shown in his research that there are educational benefits for kids who grew up in a family blessed with many children because they acquire mediated learning, and thus are able to absorb information from different angles, which in turn, enriches their perception. Incidentally, Prof. David Tzuriel from Bar-Ilan University is a religious man who loves his nation and land, while Prof. Ephraim Yaar is a leftist and secular. Perhaps everyone prefers to research what is important to him.

The National Advantage

Most of the studies conducted in the world on the issue of large families are incompatible for the Jewish, religious population, who values learning and contributing to society. Nevertheless, together with having large families, we must strive to accomplish giving them the best possible education, both morally and academically.

In practice, it is clear that families blessed with many children from the religious community contribute greatly to the country. Their children are loyal to the Torah, the nation, and the land; they are full-partners in strengthening Israel’s economy, and the young men strive to serve in combat units. In contrast, Western countries are faced with a severe economic crisis, because together with scientific and economic development they neglected family values, and now they do not have enough young people to continue maintaining their factories and businesses. The situation will only grow worse, and those very people who had fewer children in order to better their economic situation, will have to cope with a significant decline in their standard of living as a result of the crisis in pension funds.

Blessings over Unusual Sights for Travelers

Since many schools conduct annual class trips at this time of year, it is worth mentioning the blessings recited over unusual sights during a trip.

And although lechatchila (ideally), it is appropriate for each traveler to recite a blessing himself, when there is concern that some might forget, one person can recite the blessing and thus fulfill the other traveler’s obligation. Beforehand, they should verify that the person reciting the blessing had not seen the unusual sight thirty days preceding the blessing, because if he had, he cannot bless, for there is no novelty in it for him.

Blessing over Impressive Views

On seeing five impressive landscapes, our Sages decreed the blessing should be recited: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who carries out the work of creation” (‘osheh ma’asey bereshit‘): on seeing mountains, hills, seas, rivers, and deserts (Berachot 54a), because while observing such special landscapes, a person can open up to contemplate on creation, and recite a blessing of praise. And even if someone is not excited about seeing these landscapes – as long as viewing them is considered moving by most people, one is obligated to recite a blessing.

Seas and Rivers

A blessing is recited on four bodies of water in the Land of Israel: the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the Red Sea, and the Dead Sea. But on a lake created by a man-made dam, even if it is extremely large, a blessing is not recited, since the blessing was fixed as praise for the creation of God, and not the works of humans.

A blessing is not recited over rivers in Israel because they are not large enough.

Mountains and Hills

The condition for reciting a blessing over mountains is that they be particularly high in relation to their surroundings. Regarding hills, the condition is their shape is particularly striking; for example, they have steep and sharp cliffs, such as the striking cliffs in the Judean Desert. But over the ordinary mountains in Judea, Samaria and Galilee, a blessing is not recited. However, upon seeing Gamla, Arbel, Masada, and Sartaba, a blessing is recited because of their unique appearance. A blessing is also recited over seeing Mount Tabor, for its height is striking, and its appearance is unique.

Mountains and Hills in Israel

To illustrate this halakha, I will point out the well-known mountains in the Land of Israel that travelers tend to visit. In the Golan Heights — Mt. Hermon, and Gamla. In the Galilee – Arbel, Mt. Hazon, Mt. Atzmon, Mt. Meron (especially from the north), and the Rosh Hanikra ridge (mainly the western part). In Samaria and Judea – Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eval, Mt. Kabir, Mt. Tamon, Sartaba, Baal Hazor, Kochav Hashachar, Masada, and along the entire length of the Judean Desert cliffs, overlooking the Valley of the Dead Sea. In the Jezreel Valley – Mt. Tabor, and the Gilboa (particularly Mt. Saul); in the Carmel region — Mt. Carmel, in areas where it descends steeply into the Jezreel Valley or the ocean. In the Negev and Eilat – the Makhteshim (craters), looking into them, Mt. Ardon (Ramon Crater), Mt. Shlomo and Mt. Tzfachot.

Desert

The desert is a barren and desolate place, where little rain falls. A blessing is also recited over the Judean Desert, provided its appearance elicits an extraordinary reaction, such as while hiking in it and all the surrounding areas are deserted, or going to a lookout point to observe the arid expanses. But a person who sees the desert while routinely driving through, does not recite a blessing.

Seeing Several Sights in One Day

Seeing one large mountain does not hinder reciting a blessing upon seeing another one. For example, if one sees Mt. Hermon, and afterwards travels to the Galilee to see Mt. Meron, he should recite the blessing “oseh ma’aseh bereshit” once again. Only when one sees the same mountain within thirty days, is a blessing not recited. 

A person who sees a number of impressive sights requiring a blessing at the same time, recites one blessing over all of them. For example, if a person is in a location where he can clearly see the Kinneret and Mt. Arbel, he recites one blessing over both.

Several Striking Mountains in One Area

A person hiking in an area with a number of unique, similarly shaped hills, seeing as they are all in the same surrounding area and have similar forms, even if he sees them one after the other, he fulfills his obligation for all of them with one blessing.

Concerning impressive landscapes one sees while riding in a vehicle – a person who is impressed by them should recite the blessing ‘oseh ma’asey bereshit‘, and someone who is not moved, should not bless. But if they stop traveling in order to look at them, a blessing must certainly be recited.

 

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

When Should Women Marry

Why is women’s age of marriage not determined by halakha, as it is for men? * The ancient custom of giving ten percent of one’s assets to a marry a daughter * The rabbinic prohibition of marrying-off a juvenile daughter, and under what circumstances was it permitted * Once the economic situation in Europe improved, the marriage age of women rose * Two reasons why nowadays, the age of marriage for women is later * At present, the appropriate age for women to marry is between the ages of 18 to 22 * The responsibility of young people to plan their time well, and arrive prepared to their wedding at the proper age * The mitzvah of parents and the entire public to help young people on their road to marriage

Why Rabbis Did Not Set an Obligatory Age of Marriage for Women

As I wrote in my column about two months ago, the halakha was determined that, lechatchilla (optimally), men should get married from the ages of eighteen to twenty, and in a sha’at dachak (pressing situation), no later than the age of twenty-four. As for women, however, the rabbis did not set a specific age of marriage. The reason is that all the mitzvoth connected to establishing and supporting a family, and the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, was imposed on men as a chova (obligatory), and on women as a mitzvah. A man who fails to learn all the fundamentals of the Torah, or fails to provide for his family, is considered a transgressor. Therefore, the rabbis instructed men to postpone marriage until the age of eighteen, so they could first learn the fundamentals of Torah and reach a stage where they could begin to support a family. Women however, who are not required to learn all the fundamentals of the Torah, and were not imposed with the burden of supporting a family by the Torah as a chova, are able to marry earlier.

Likewise regarding the maximum age for marriage – since a man is obligated in the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (to be fruitful and multiply), halakha determines that it is forbidden for him to postpone marriage beyond the age of twenty, and in a sha’at dachak, twenty-four. But for a woman, given that the mitzvah of puru u’revuru was not imposed upon her as a chova, the rabbis did not set a maximum, obligatory age of marriage. Nevertheless, our Sages said that it is proper for a woman to marry at the earliest possible opportunity, to avoid delaying the mitzvah of puru u’revuru, and to prevent the yetzer ha’ra (evil inclination) from goading her (Sanhedrin 76a).

Parents Duty to Help Their Daughters Marry

Seeing as it is a great mitzvah for a woman to get married and have children, the Torah commands parents to help their daughters get married, and our Sages even instructed fathers’ to allocate a tenth of their wealth to help their daughters get married. Consequently, if a father died without stating how much he intended to give for his daughters’ wedding, a tenth of his wealth is given (Ketubot 52b; 68a; S.A., E.H. 113:1). However, if the father was alive but did not want to give a tenth of his wealth to his daughter’s wedding, Beit Din (Jewish court of law) would not intervene and force him to do so (R’ma, E.H., 70:1).

Today it is harder to assess the value of a person’s wealth, and the lengthening of life expectancy has also created a need to save larger amounts of money for old age. Nevertheless, it ought to be learned from this that it is a mitzvah for parents to spend a significant amount of money on their children’s weddings. God willing, I hope to clarify this matter in the future.

The Apparent Contradiction in Halakha

Going back to the issue of what age a girl should get married, apparently, there is a contradiction in this halakha. On the one hand, the Torah permitted a father to marry off his daughter from the age of birth until she matured, and by receiving the wedding money from the bridegroom (who must be at least thirteen years old) she becomes an eshet ish (a married woman). On the other hand, our Sages said: “One may not give his daughter in betrothal when a minor, but must wait until she grows up and says: ‘I want So-and-so'” (Kiddushin 41a).

All for the Good of the Daughter

In order to understand this halakha, it must first be explained that until the last few generations, making a living involved hard physical labor, all day long, and as a result, women were dependent on men for their existence. In times of scarcity, girls’ parents had to pay a dowry to the groom so he would agree to marry their daughter and commit to bear the burden of providing for her. Without this, parents feared their daughter would remain companionless, without a husband, children, or livelihood. At times, when parents were faced with an offer for a decent groom from a good family, they were quick to marry off their daughter while she was still young, and while they still had money for a dowry, out of fear that when she grew up, they would not be able to find a respectable groom, or would not have the financial ability to give her a proper dowry.

And occasionally when scarcity increased, the only remaining way for poor parents to save their daughter from hunger and secure her future so she could raise a family was to marry her to a well-off man while she was still little. For that reason the Torah permitted a father to marry off his young daughter.

Even during the period of the Rishonim at times, there was a need to marry off young girls, as the authors of Tosaphot wrote nearly 800 years ago: “Because every single day the exile worsens, and if at the present time a man has the ability to give his daughter a dowry, lest after a short time he is not able to, and his daughter remain unmarried forever” (Kiddushin 41a, “asur”).

The Solution upon the Death of a Father

And if the father of a family died, for the purpose of securing the young girls’ existence, the rabbis determined that her mother and brother could marry her off. However, since her betrothal by them does not carry Biblical-force, if she wished to divorce her husband, she did not require a get, but rather refused him in front of witnesses, thus annulling her ties to him, and a document of mi’un (refusal) was written for her. However, if she reached the age of twelve and showed signs of puberty but had not refused, she was his lawful wife for all intents and purposes (S.A., E.H. 155).

However, when marrying off daughters while still young was not a question of survival, the rabbis prohibited it, saying: “One may not give his daughter in betrothal when a minor, but must wait until she grows up and says: ‘I want So-and-so'” (Kiddushin 41a; S.A., E.H. 37:8). This was the practice during good periods in which Jews lived in relative comfort.

The Custom in Europe in Previous Times

In the past centuries, as the economic situation in Europe improved and stabilized and there was no longer a need to marry off young daughters to ensure their survival, this practice was completely cancelled in European countries (A.H.S. 37:33). And since marriage took place after the girls reached the age of Bat Mitzvah and puberty – usually between the ages of thirteen to sixteen – the final decision was in their hands. Still, parents had an important role to play – helping their daughters find a groom and paying the dowry, the value of which was roughly a tenth of their assets. However, the decision to get married, and the approval of the marriage itself, was made by the daughters.

Today’s Situation and Challenges

Nowadays, together with the increase in the standard of living, and the ability for women to express their talents in various fields, women’s marriage age has been delayed. There are two reasons for this:

1)    Since women are able to express their talents in numerous fields, in order for them to contribute blessing and good in the world, they must learn more Torah, and have appropriate professional development.

2)    In the past, young couples lived in extended family frameworks, and young women were able to give birth while the older women helped them raise their children. Today, however, when young couples make their own, individual lives, the age of marriage is delayed until a time when a woman is able to take care of her children herself.

Halakha Today

As we have learned, our Sages did not set an age for women to get married. In practice though, men used to get married between the ages of eighteen and twenty, while women usually married about the age of Bat Mitzvah – and in times of scarcity, even earlier.

Today, when women play more of a part in supporting the family, the appropriate age for women to get married is a bit earlier than men. First, because women mature earlier, in the same manner as the age of requirement for fulfilling mitzvoth is a year earlier, at the age of twelve. Second, the mitzvah of Talmud Torah for them requires less time and effort. Third, the duty of serving in the army rests on the men. However, in regards to the issue of supporting the family, women are partners with men. In fact, if a woman completes her professional studies earlier, she can bear the main financial burden at the beginning of the marriage, and thus allow her husband to acquire a suitable profession, and thus be able to get married at an earlier age.

In summary, the appropriate age of marriage for men today is between twenty and twenty-four, and for women, about two years earlier.

The Responsibility of Young Adults

Today, the mitzvah of marriage poses a major challenge for young adults. Within a few years they are required to establish their Torah worldview, acquire a profession that suits their capabilities, and start a family – while in addition, men are required to serve in the army and learn more Torah.

For this, young adults are required to plan their paths well, and not waste time in these precious years. For even after having defined our times as a sha’at dachak in which men are permitted to postpone marriage until the age of twenty-four and women slightly less, so they can accomplish important values – those who waste their time during these years nullify Torah commandments.

Therefore, it is the duty of each and every young person to pave a path in which they can integrate all of the values together – to marry at an early age, and nonetheless, acquire a profession that suits their talents, so they can support their families honorably, and contribute to the improvement of the world.

Parents Responsibility

Our Sages said that parents are also commanded to help their children get married at an appropriate time (Kiddushin 29a; 30b), as it is written: “Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters” (Jeremiah 29:6). In other words, the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply does not end with the birth of children, rather, it continues afterwards till the children reach the age of marriage; at that point, parents should encourage them to get married and help them with advice and financial assistance, thereby contributing to the continuation of the generations.

Society’s Responsibility

Society as a whole is also obligated to create the most favorable conditions for young adults to fulfill the mitzvah of marriage at the proper time. In order to do so, professional studies should be streamlined as best as possible, young people should be given assistance in finding affordable housing and dormitories, and to begin women’s professional studies as early as possible, so that in the first years of marriage they can help support their families more.

Good Report

I was glad to hear that a number of communities were inspired to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut on the highest level by arranging Torah lectures on matters of the day, and that even my column on the subject played a significant part.

And even here on Har Bracha, we were privileged to continue our custom. I cannot refrain from recounting that on the evening of Yom Ha’atzmaut we were privileged to host the ‘Ramatiyim Men’s Choir‘ from Jerusalem. They are a group of doctors and accountants, architects, businessmen and retirees, who meet once a week voluntarily to sing together in honor of God and His people, and are conducted by Mr. Richard Shavei-Tzion. They led the thanksgiving prayers and the evening services in a deep, moving, and wonderful way that is hard to describe. It is so inspiring to see such reputable people praying and singing fervently, filled with emunah and great love for Am Yisrael, for the settlers and soldiers, and for the Land of Israel, which continues to be rebuilt.

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

Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut: From the Barbeque to the Beit Midrash

Despite the weaknesses and wrongdoings of the Israeli government, the sanctity of Independence remains valid * The dispute among Jewish law arbiters on the blessing over Hallel on Independence Day * From the Beit Midrash to barbecues – four categories of celebrating Independence Day * The special virtue of settlements in Judea and Samaria * Inheriting the entire land depends on proliferation * In previous generations and our times – when the Jewish nation is not large enough, difficulties arise with the foreign inhabitants  of the Land * The heads of state should acclaim the contributions of mothers who nurture large families

The Sanctity of Yom Ha’atzmaut

Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) is invested with three sanctities: the mitzvah of settling the Land, which occurs by means of Israeli sovereignty over the Land; the sanctity of the fulfillment of the prophetic return of Israel to its Land – which is an immense Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) in the eyes of the nations; and the sanctity of Israel’s salvation from their enemies.

Therefore, despite all the occasional weaknesses and wrongdoings performed by government officials and Prime Ministers, our joy and thanksgiving on Yom Ha’atzmaut is still valid, because all three sanctities of the day remain firm.

The Mitzvah of Yom Ha’atzmaut

There is a mitzvah to establish a holiday, to rejoice and praise God, on a day when Jews were delivered from distress. This is what prompted the Rabbis to establish Purim and Chanukah as everlasting holidays. The Chatam Sofer explains (Y.D., end of 233, O.C. 208) that since this mitzvah is derived from a kal va’chomer, it is considered a biblical commandment. However, the Torah does not prescribe exactly how to make a holiday; therefore, one who does anything to commemorate these great salvations fulfills his biblical obligation. It was the Rabbis who determined that we read the Megillah, prepare a festive meal, send portions of food to others, and give charity to the poor on Purim, and light the candles on Chanukah.

Many Jewish communities throughout the ages kept this mitzvah of instituting days of joy in commemoration of miracles that happened to them.

The great gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Roth (Rata), writes: “There is no doubt that we are commanded to rejoice, establish a holiday, and say Hallel on [the fifth of Iyar], the day which the government, the members of the Knesset (who were chosen by the majority of the people), and most of the greatest rabbis, fixed as the day on which to celebrate, throughout the Land, the miracle of our salvation and freedom” (Responsa Kol Mevaser1:21)

The Mitzvah to Recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut

It is a mitzvah to recite Hallel on special occasions, in order to thank and praise God for the miracles He performs on our behalf. Similarly, the Talmud (Pesachim 117a) states that after the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, “the prophets among them instituted that the Jews should recite Hallel for each and every season [i.e., festival] and each and every trouble that should ‘not’ come upon them; [meaning], when they are redeemed, they should say it upon their redemption.”Rashi explains that the Sages of the Second Temple era relied on this to institute the recitation of Hallel on Chanukah.

Thus, it is incumbent upon us to say Hallel over the miracle that God did for us on Yom Ha’atzmaut. On that day we were saved from the greatest trouble of all, that of exile and subjugation to foreigners, which caused all of the terrible decrees and massacres that we suffered for nearly two thousand years.

Those who ignore this, deny God’s benevolence , prevent good from Israel, and distance the Redemption, as occurred in the days of Hezekiah, who failed to thank God for his salvation, and consequently, was not privileged to bring redemption to Israel in his times (Sanhedrin 94a).

Simply, the rabbis of the generation were divided whether or not to recite a blessing over Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

According to Rabbi Ovadyah Hadayah (Yaskil Avdi, vol. 6, O.C. 10), Hallel should be recited without a blessing. This was also the opinion of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz”l, Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli ztz”l, the Rishon L’Tzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, and the Rishon L’Tzion, Rabbi Ovadiyah Yosef ztz”l (Yabi’a Omer, vol. 6, O.C. 41).

In contrast to them, the opinion of Rabbi Meshulam Roth ztz”l was that Hallel should be recited with a blessing (Kol Mevaser 1:21). This was also the opinion of Rabbi Zevin ztz”l. The Chief Rabbis, Rabbi Herzog and Rabbi Uziel ztz”l also believed that it was appropriate to say Hallel with a blessing following the establishment of the State, but because of various objections, they refrained from issuing such a ruling. After the victories in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, led by Rabbi Shlomo Goren ztz”l, ruled that Hallel be recited with a blessing. Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l was elated.

How Should Yom Ha’atzmaut be celebrated?

In addition to the thanksgiving prayers and festive meal, there are four various levels of celebrators on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

The lowest level is going out to a park and having a barbeque. Although such actions are devoid of spiritual content, nevertheless, if the participants are happy about God’s salvation of His People – their festive meal can be considered a se’udat mitzvah.

On the second level are those who tour sites where the rebuilding of the State of Israel’s can be observed, such as national industries, museums about the history of the settlement of Israel, and military bases.

The third level are people who take trips to visit the communities in Judea and Samaria, to observe the continuation of the settling of the Land, and recite the blessing “matziv gevul almana” (“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sets a limit for a widow”). Concerning a settlement that one has visited previously, although thirty days have passed since one’s last visit, the custom is not to recite another blessing. However, if in the meantime, more houses were built in the community, a blessing should be recited.

The fourth and highest level are those who study Torah on Yom Ha’atzmaut, dealing with issues related to the mitzvah of settling the Land, the mitzvah to serve in the army in order to protect the nation and the country, and matters connected to Clal Yisrael and the Redemption. Together with this they enjoy a festive meal, accompanied by thanksgiving and happiness for the salvation we merited in the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Ingathering of the Exiles.

While on the subject, I invite readers who come up to the heart of Samaria to participate in Torah lectures to be held in Yeshiva Har Bracha from the morning until the early afternoon, and thereby gain both the third and fourth level at one and the same time.

The Virtue of Settlements in Judea and Samaria

Q: What makes the settlements in Judea and Samaria so exceptional, that it is a special mitzvah to live and visit there?

A: There are three reasons. 1) They are located in the heart and core of the Land, as God said to our forefather Yitzchak when he was forced to leave the center of the Land (Judea) because of the famine: “Sojourn in this land” – for although the land of the Pelishtim is less sacred, nevertheless, it is also considered Eretz Yisrael. And as Rashi wrote on the verse: “And Isaac sowed in that land” – even though it was not considered as esteemed as the Land of Israel itself” (Genesis 26:12).

2) The commandment to settle the Land of Israel means that the Land must be in our possession and not in the hands of any other nation, and therefore it is a greater mitzvah to settle in areas which are threatened to be surrendered, God forbid, to another nation.

3) The strengthening of communities in Judea and Samaria can prevent the most serious, existential threat to the State of Israel – the danger of the establishment of an additional Arab state in Judea and Samaria. For if, God forbid, such a state is created, its main goal will be to bring about the destruction of Israel. With the huge funds the U.N. and the Arab states will allocate, they will bring to Judea and Samaria five million Arab refugees from all the Arab countries, and threaten every Israeli city with rockets and all types of dangers, until life becomes unbearable, and the majority of present-day “peace” supporters will emigrate to other countries.

The Mitzvah of Settling the Land Depends on Procreation

The mitzvah of procreation is an immense commandment, because by means of it, the Jewish nation inherits the Holy Land. And as God said to our forefather Avraham: “For all the land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like dust of the earth; if a man will be able to count [all] the grains of dust in the world, then your offspring also will be countable” (Genesis 13: 15-16).

And following the trial of the Akeida (the binding and near sacrifice of Yitzchak), God said to him: “I will bless you greatly, and increase your offspring like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring shall inherit their enemies gate” (Genesis 22:17).

God also said to our forefather Yitzchak: “I will make your descendants numerous as the stars of the sky, and grant them all these lands. All the nations on earth shall be blessed through your descendants” (Genesis 26:4).

Additionally, God also said to our forefather Yaakov: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13-14).

Lack of Procreation Prevents Fulfillment of the Divine Promise

When Israel was about to enter the Land, despite the fact that Transjordan is part of Eretz Yisrael, the Divine instruction was to inherit only the western side of the Jordan, as explained in the Torah portion ‘Massey’. This was because there were not enough people to properly inherit the eastern side. Consequently, the plan was to first inherit the main parts of the Land, and only after proliferating, to also inherit the eastern side of the Jordan (see, Ramban, Numbers 21:21).

Similarly, concerning the matter of expelling the inhabiting nations from the Land, it is written: “I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you [to contend with]. I will drive [the inhabitants] out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and [fully] occupy the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you” (Exodus 23: 29-31).

And the price paid for not having enough Jews to settle all of the Land of Israel – our enemies remained, and the Torah’s warning, “If you do not drive out the land’s inhabitants before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the land that you settle” (Numbers 33:55), came to fruition.

Similarly In Our Times

Today’s situation is similar to the past. The fact that only six million Jews presently live in Israel and not twelve million, brought about the Arab demands that threatens the State of Israel’s existence.

If, from the time of the establishment of the State, every Jewish family had one more child, there would be another five million Jews living in Israel today. If a few hundred thousand more Jews had made aliyah before the Holocaust, we would number more than twelve million.

Criticism of State Leaders and the Head of IDF Manpower Branch

It would be appropriate for our state leaders to encourage Jewish birth, and to speak the praises of women privileged to raise large families. Why, among the 14 women selected to light a torch on Yom Ha’atzmaut, was not one mother blessed with a large family chosen? Is this not a female accomplishment worthy of praise?

It would be fitting for the Head of the I.D.F. Manpower Branch, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai (Israel’s first female Maj. Gen.) to devote a few hours a year visiting and encouraging families blessed with many children, so as to kiss the precious mothers who raise the next generation of soldiers. It’s not enough to complain about the lack of manpower in the I.D.F.; gratitude and appreciation must be conveyed to the precious mothers who raise families for the glory of the nation, and the Land.

May the words of the Prophet be fulfilled within us: “Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. They will be as numerous as the sacred flocks that fill Jerusalem’s streets at the time of her festivals. The ruined cities will be crowded with people once more, and everyone will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:37-38).

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

Setting the Tone for Yom HaShoa

Instead of the month of Nissan, in which it is forbidden to mourn, Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) should be recalled on the Fast days commemorating the Destruction of the Holy Temple * Demographically, the Jewish People have not yet recovered from the blow of the Holocaust * On Yom HaShoa, the importance of raising and enlarging the Jewish family should be discussed * Western countries support Ukraine’s nationalist government, which deprives the rights of its Russian-speaking population * In Kosovo as well, there was no justification of the West’s support of Muslims at the expense of the Serbs * The hypocrisy of those who operate out of self-interest, but speak in the name of morality

Holocaust Remembrance Day

As is well known, the date chosen for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 27th ofNisan, was in opposition to the opinion of the rabbis. Nisan, the month the Jewish nation left Egypt, is a month of happiness. Therefore, the halakha was determined that for the entire month of Nisan, prayers of supplication are not recited and public fasts are not declared (S.A., O.C. 429:2). At funerals which occur during the month ofNisan eulogies are not said. Many people are custom not to visit gravesites during this month, and one who has a yahrtzeit in Nisan visits the gravesite before Rosh Chodesh. True, after Pesach some mourning customs of the Counting of the Omerare practiced, but these days are not particularly days of sorrow or grief.

Obviously then, it was inappropriate to fix the painful Holocaust Remembrance Day in the month of Nisan, and as long an alternative day is not chosen, the proper time to remember the Holocaust are the days declared as fast days over the destruction of the Temple, primarily Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), because all of the tragedies which befell the Jewish nation since then are rooted in the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel from its Land. The Chief Rabbinate chose the fast day of the 10th of Tevet as the time to say kaddish (mourner’s prayer) for those whose dates of death are unknown. The issue has yet to be decided by the Gedolei Yisrael, whether the topic of the existing fasts should be broadened, expressing more clearly the period of the Holocaust, or to set an additional and specific day of fasting to commemorate it.

In any event, it would be proper for all teachers and schools to grant a deep, meaningful, and unique character to the 27th of Nisan, suitable to the spirit of redemption of the month of Nisan.  It should be fixed as a day in which the mitzvahof procreation and the nurturing of a Jewish family is addressed, in the sense of “And when I passed by you, and saw you weltering in your blood, I said to you, ‘In your blood [shall you] live! Yes, I said to you, in your blood [shall you] live!” (Ezekiel 16:6).

This, most likely, was the last request of the six million who were brutally tortured and murdered: that any Jew who remained alive, would do everything possible to marry, have children, and carry on the heritage. To fulfill the verse: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they proliferated and spread.”

The Sad Figures

Before the Holocaust, the Jewish nation numbered eighteen million – six million of whom were murdered during the Holocaust. Today, close to 70 years after the Holocaust, we number only thirteen million. During these years the world developed and flourished – many nations doubled and even tripled their numbers. But we, the Jewish people, remain wounded – both physically and spiritually. The number of Jews living in all the Jewish communities outside of Israel is shrinking – not because many of them are making aliyah to Israel, but because the Jewish birthrate is low, and assimilation is rising.

Only here in Israel is the Jewish population growing and multiplying – thanks to aliyahand a higher birthrate. However, the numerical increase in Israel is barely enough to compensate for the demographic decline in Jewish communities outside of Israel.

The question is: how to encourage the Jews to have more children, and identify more with Judaism? What must we do to accomplish this great and awesome mission, which is also the last will and testament of the millions of murdered victims?

First of all – Education towards Jewish Family Values

The Ministry of Education has formulated numerous educational programs dealing with democracy, tolerance, individual rights, and other topics; however, the subject of family values has been shamefully neglected. The widespread attitude today in academia and secular culture (which also influences the religious sector) maintains that freedom is the most important value. Family, in contrast – despite all its virtues – is something binding, restrictive, and stifling. True, the natural and conventional desire to raise a family remains powerful; however, it stands in strong conflict with an entire array of goals that secular culture transmits.

The Educational System

In the vast majority of schools, including religious institutions, family planning is not dealt with adequately. The value of having a large family is not praised, and students are not instructed on how to overcome the pending difficulties.

The secular-feminist environment creates an atmosphere where it is unpleasant to speak about family planning. And if it is spoken about, more often than not, the difficulties are pointed out: about how difficult it is to find a spouse (“because men…”); about domestic violence (“because men…”); about the difficulty of giving birth (“because men…”); about how difficult it is to educate children (“because men…”); about the conflict between career and family (“because men…”).

Instead of focusing on the difficulties, the spotlight should be placed on the great value of raising a family – on the wonderful blessing it provides for loving and giving. In a related manner, the various difficulties should also be discussed, pointing out that they are intended to direct us on a more correct, balanced, and accurate path. Then, all the difficulties will seem as nothing but an opportunity and a catalyst for progress.

Supportive Studies

Various studies indicate that married people are healthier, both mentally and physically, and suffer less from depression and disease. Such information should be included in high school curriculums.

There are also studies indicating that over fifty percent of people who get divorced, regret having done so a few years later. They got divorced because the fleeting desire for freedom and tranquility overcame them, but in the long term, found they had lost more valuable things.

Family vs. Freedom

For many, the short-term desire for freedom and comfort overshadows the challenge of raising a large family. Children cry at night, nag and annoy, demand attention, interfere with pursuing a career, prevent parents from going out in the evenings, and get sick just when vacation time rolls around. For someone who feels freedom is the most important value – children are a serious nuisance.

However, it must be taught and explained that freedom and comfort are not the purpose of life. Freedom is desirable in order to relax and accrue new energy for the real challenges, primarily – raising a family. But freedom by itself is a meaningless value.

Liberty is already a much more important value, but the difference between freedom and liberty should not be confused. Liberty gives a person the ability to fulfill himself according to what suits him, without foreign or external influences. Deep down, most people realize that their greatest and most profound achievement is their children – raising and educating them.

The Regret of Grown-ups

It’s important to tell young adults that most grown-ups who did not merit raising a large family – in a moment of honesty – are sorry they did not try harder to have another child or two. In retrospect, when they are able to view their lives from an overall, wise and comprehensive frame of mind, they realize they were negligent in their most important mission.

Justice in International Relations

Recently, international tensions have been stirred-up with regards to the State of Ukraine, where in the southern and northern regions, live a large Russian minority – roughly ten million people – totaling over twenty percent of the population. Located in these regions are large and important cities such as Kharkiv, the birthplace of my grandfather z”l, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk, where my grandmother z”l was born – both of whose families immigrated to Israel a century ago.

In bloody riots, the lawfully elected Ukrainian government was overthrown, honored the rights of the large Russian minority, and tilted its foreign policy towards that of Russia. It was replaced with an alternative government which, in an attempt to strengthen Ukrainian nationalism, abolished the right to use the Russian language as a second official language, as was customary among nearly ten million people, for whom, Russian was their mother tongue.

And suddenly, we hear that in the name of justice, morality, and the safeguarding of international law, Western countries led by the United States, support the present Ukrainian government, while depriving the rights of ten million Russian-speaking people. This government, supported by the West, also legitimized the actions of the Nazi war criminal Stepan Bandera, and five of its ministers are members of a neo-Nazi, nationalist, and anti-Semitic party.

Injustice is particularly evident with regards to the population of Crimea. Just fifty years ago, the Soviet regime decided to include this region into the Ukraine. Over ninety percent of its residents speak Russian; in a referendum they voted in favor of joining Russia; and yet, the West claims – in the name of justice – that they must remain subject to the nationalist, Ukrainian regime.

Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that Russian President Vladimir Putin attempts to institute standards of fairness and equality to our fellow Jews in Russia, both as individuals, and as communities.

Policy in Kosovo

This is not the first time Western countries have adopted a patently immoral position. This is also how they acted in the war in Kosovo – the homeland of the Serbian nation. As a result of illegal immigration of Muslims and Albanians to Kosovo they became the majority. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Albanians violently and murderously expelled the Serbs from their homes. This created a situation where ninety percent of Kosovo’s population is Muslim. And when the Serbs came to restore the previous state of affairs, the Western countries intervened, deciding that the future of the region would be determined by elections. Of course, the majority of Muslim immigrants voted for political independence and separation from Serbia.

Why is it that what was correct and good for Muslim immigrants, who took control of land that did not belong to them, is not correct for the residents of Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine, who have been living on their land for generations?

Political Interests

Had Western officials claimed that because of their global power struggle with Russia, and in an effort to achieve victory, all means are justified – one could possibly understand their logic, even if we disagree with the morality of their current position towards the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine. But when they come to deny the rights of peoples – in the name of justice – this is simply hideous and intolerable.

This example also reveals the morality of their position towards Arab dominance in the Middle East. A few decades ago they decided to call the mixed-multitude of immigrants “the Palestinian people” in order to infringe on the rights of the Jewish nation to its land.

Moreover, in the framework of their struggle against us, the Arabs violated every accord and treaty, and resorted to the most horrible methods of murder against civilians. Despite this, the Western countries demand we grant them a state in our historic homeland, in addition to Transjordan, which they have already stolen from us.

Unfortunately, Russia’s relations towards us have been even worse, and they continue supporting our enemies. However, it’s important to learn from these distressing examples the worth of law and justice in international relations.

 

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

Ashkenazi Stringency on Passover

Does the prohibition of kitniyot on Passover apply to quinoa? * All of the reasons Ashkenazim were customary not to eat kitniyot on Passover are still valid even today * Must Ashkenazim eat hard matzot specifically, and not soft matzot? * Jews who live abroad but are in Israel for Passover, under what conditions are they exempt from Yom Tov Sheni? * One should not rely at all on the small minority opinion of poskim who hold that a head covering for a woman nowadays is not mandatory * Women who rely on the lenient opinion of Rabbi Messas in regards to covering the head, ought to respect his strict opinion concerning family planning 

Quinoa for Ashkenazim on Passover

Q: Does quinoa fall under the general prohibition of kitniyot (legumes) on Passover according to the minhag (custom) of Ashkenazim?

A: Some authorities are machmir (stringent), because in appearance, they resemble types of kitniyot. Others are lenient, because the prohibitive custom does not apply to them, since people began eating them only in the last generation. In addition, their particles are much smaller than types of grains, and thus, are easily distinguishable.

In practice, someone who is stringent tavo alav bracha (pious conduct for which one is blessed for being strict), and one who wishes to act leniently has an authoritative opinion on which to rely on, provided he checks them well.

The Custom of Kitniyot Today

Q: Is there still room to be stringent about the custom of kitniyot today?

A: This question makes no sense. All of the reasons why people were customary to be stringent in the past remain firm and binding. If anything has changed, it would be in the direction of justifying the prohibition, because today, the concern of a mixture between grains and legumes is even greater, seeing as both are stored in the same place – at one time grains, and then kitniyot , and they are transported in the same containers continuously, without them being cleaned in the interval. Even the grinding of the two different species is done in the same place.

Nevertheless, since there is no source for this minhag in the Talmud, Sephardim who eat kitniyot should not be encouraged to be stringent.

As far as kitniyot restrictions and prohibitions are concerned, some authorities in recent generations were stringent beyond the requirement of the underlying principle of the minhag, however the halakha does not follow their opinions, as I have written in “Peninei Halakha: Pesach”, chapter nine.

Soft Matzah for Ashkenazim

Q: Are Ashkenazim allowed to eat soft matzah’s?

A: According to ikar ha’din (the essence of the law), there is no halakhic requirement for matzot to be hard. Nevertheless, Ashkenazim were customary to eat hard matzot for two reasons.

First, hard matzot can be kept fresh for a long time, and thus, can be prepared before Passover for the duration of the entire holiday. This is halakhically advantageous, because when baking matzot before Passover, even if chametz gets mixed in with them, as long as it is less than one-sixtieth of the whole, it is nullified, and may be eaten on Passover. But if such a mixture occurred on Passover, the matzot are forbidden, because on Passover, chametz is forbidden be’kol she’hu (even the slightest amount).

Secondly, the ability to know if the matzah was not baked properly and became chametz depends on stringiness of the uncooked dough. In hard matzot this is very evident, but in soft matzot, it requires more expertise.

Since this minhag also has halakhic advantages, it should not be abandoned unnecessarily. However, in pressing situations, since it has not been ruled as an obligatory custom, one can be lenient.

Second Day of Yom Tov for those who Live Abroad but Study in Israel

Q:  Do students who live abroad but are learning in Israel for a year have to keep two days of Yom Tov?

A: Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) are of the opinion that a ben Chutz La-Aretz (one who lives outside of Israel) who came to Israel for a visit, for the duration of his stay is considered a ben Eretz Yisrael  [a “resident” of Israel] (Chacham Tzvi, 167; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 496:11). But according to most poskim, since his place of residence is in Chutz La-Aretz, even when visiting Israel, he is considered a ben Chutz La-Aretz (Birkei Yosef, 496:7; Mishna Berura 496:13). Since the minhag is to be stringent, this is the halakha.

However, this din (law) changes when there is an additional safek, such as when the visitor to Israel plans on staying for an extended period of time, or has plans to make aliyah (emigrate to Israel), or has children living in Israel. In such situations we take into consideration the opinion of those poskim who say a visitor to Israel should always observe one day, plus the fact that in recent generations, the chances of Jews visiting Israel deciding to make aliyah have increased; therefore, such a visitor is instructed to observe one day, according to the minhag of Eretz Yisrael.

Consequently, students who come to Israel for a study year (approximately ten months) are considered bnei Eretz Yisrael, and even if they have clear plans to return and live with their parents in Chutz La-Aretz, their lengthy stay in Israel makes them bnei Eretz Yisrael for the duration of their stay. Additionally, there is always a chance they will decide to emigrate.

Moreover, it appears to me that after this, whenever such students come to Israel for a visit, for the entire duration of their stay, they will be considered bnei Eretz Yisrael, because after spending a year in the country, to a certain extent, they are regarded as residents. Therefore, when they are in Israel, they should keep one day of Yom Tov. However, while abroad, seeing as that is their permanent home, they are required to keep two days of Yom Tov (see, Peninei Halakha: Mo’adim, chap. 9).

A Married Woman’s Obligation to Cover Her Head

Q: Is it true there is a heter (permission) for a married woman not to cover her head?

A: A married woman is obligated to cover her head. From the Talmud (Ketubot 72a) it emerges that the source for this is comes from the Torah, for in regards to a sotah (a woman suspected of adultery), the Torah says: “The priest shall stand the woman before God and uncover her hair” (Numbers 5:18) – so as to shame her, and hence, from the Torah, a married woman’s hair must always be gathered (Meiri, Rashbatz, Ri’az). Our Sages said that according to the Torah, it is sufficient for the woman’s hair to be gathered in a net or a small pouch, but the Sages added on to this, determining that gathering the hair in a netted kerchief was not sufficient; rather, it should be covered with a non-transparent kerchief. Some authorities say the law concerning covering the head is entirely of rabbinic status (Terumat Hadeshen, 242 in the interpretation of Rambam).

This is the opinion of all the poskim. However, there are a few individual poskim who are of the opinion that the basis of covering the head depends upon minhag, and after seeing that most of the woman where they lived stopped covering their heads and all the urging of their husbands did not help – in spite of those poskim expressing their regret about it, they opined it was not prohibited. This is the opinion of Rabbi Yosef Messas (Mayim Chayim 2:110) and Rabbi Moshe Malka (Ve’Haysheve Moshe 34). However, Rabbi Malka wrote that the heter applies only when the hair is gathered, but when it is unbound, it is a Torah prohibition. From the words of Rabbi Yosef Messas, he also agrees with this (Otzar Hamichtavim 3, 884).

It must be pointed out that they spoke in a time when it seemed that, as a result of the influence of French trends on the women of Morocco, the custom of covering the head was about to disappear from the world completely, and even the wives of the ritual slaughterers and rabbis no longer listened to their husbands and uncovered their heads – therefore, they were required to find a heter for the women’s practice. However, conceivably, if they were here with us today, and saw that the majority of religious women cover their heads and are proud of it – as well as senior doctors and scientists – they would reason that the minhag is binding for all married women, and its fulfillment entails a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) and a safeguard before secular influences.

The Practical Halakha

In any event, the opinion of the rest of the poskim is that covering the head is absolutely obligatory. And although Rabbi Yosef Messas ztz”l was one of the eminent poskim in his generation, possessing a broad and deep Torah outlook – his opinion cannot be relied upon, even in pressing situations, because this is the position of thousands of poskim as opposed to a few individuals, and in such a case, the few individual opinions are not even taken into account.

The Opinion of Rabbi Messas Concerning Family Planning

It is worth noting here the position of Rabbi Yosef Messas concerning the question of family planning, according to which it is obligatory to have as many children as possible, and only when a God-fearing doctor feels there is a danger, can pregnancy be prevented (see further, Otzar Hamichtavim 3, 638):

“You asked: People who have four or more children, and have already fulfilled the mitzvah of ‘be fruitful and multiply’ with sons and daughters, and in all matters the economic situation is very difficult, and great weakness has descended to the world, and it is very hard to raise a lot of children, and even our Ashkenazi brothers make fun of our having a lot of children. Therefore, you ask if it’s permitted to use some modern-day ploys to prevent birth.

“Answer: Know, my son, even if a man has fulfilled the mitzvah of ‘be fruitful and multiply’, as long as they are healthy and able to have children, they are obligated by divrei sofrim (Rabbinical law) to give birth, as Rambam wrote in chapter fifteen of Hilchot Ishut, halakha 16:

Although a man has fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, he is bound by a Rabbinic commandment not to refrain from being fruitful and multiplying as long as he is physically potent. For anyone who adds a soul to the Jewish people is considered as if he built an entire world.”

This is also stated in the tractate Yevamot 62b.

“In my humble opinion, it seems as if it is a mitzvah from the Torah, for the verse says “Now be fruitful and multiply, swarm all over the earth and become populous on it” (Genesis 9:7) – what is the meaning of “swarm all over the earth”, if not as it is said – even if you have fulfilled ‘be fruitful and multiply’, you are not exempt from giving birth, rather, ‘swarm more all over the earth’…and Malbim z”l explains “swarm all over the earth” – this is additional procreation, “and become populous on it” – grow in strength and fortitude, end of quote.

“We have seen for ourselves how many people have had children after fulfilling “be fruitful and multiply” who were superior, both physically and spiritually. Therefore, we should not deceive ourselves with foolish claims. For if the claim is because of parnasa (making a livelihood), indeed we must have faith that God feeds and sustains all, as our Sages said ‘each baby comes with a loaf of bread in his hand’. And if the claim is about fatigue, one is not exempt because of this – only if an expert, religious, and God-fearing doctor decides that pregnancy is dangerous. Besides this, we cannot fabricate new claims from our own minds.

“And regarding the ridicule of our complacent Ashkenazi brothers concerning those who has a lot of children – the only ones mocking are the men and women bullies among them, who supervise and work in the medical and maternity clinics – may their tongues rot in their mouths! But the sincere Ashkenazim – in their eyes, the more children the better, and are praised with abundant blessings. And at the grand assembling of rabbis held in Jerusalem on Tuesday, 18th of Adar I (1967), the rabbis greatly condemned those who have fewer children, and praised and blessed those who have more…”

An Addition to His Comments

It should be noted that in this issue, Rabbi Messas was one of the machmerim (stringent), and there are authorities who are lenient on preventing pregnancy after having four or five children; the accepted instruction is that it is appropriate to prevent pregnancy after each birth for nine months to a year. With God’s help, I will clarify this issue in the future.

In any event, it would be fitting for women who rely on the opinion of Rabbi Messas in regards to covering the head, to honor his opinion about family planning, or at least encourage as best they can those who do have many children.

Redemption from Egypt and the Future Redemption

Our Sages said: “Just as Israel was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of proliferating, likewise, they will be redeemed in the future… 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 cause desolate cities to be inhabited” (Eliyahu Zuta 14), speedily in our days.

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

Making the Kitchen Kosher for Pesach

Cleaning the kitchen for Pesach should be done more carefully than cleaning the house, to ensure that not even a small crumb of chametz remains * Solutions for baking on Pesach, seeing as oven baking trays used for chametz cannot be koshered * When koshering stovetop grates, we are more concerned about the prohibition of chametz than the prohibition of mixing meat and milk * It is forbidden to eat food that fell under the stovetop grates all year round * How to kosher the sink and countertops, and is it necessary to cover a marble countertop with aluminum foil * How to kosher a microwave and dishwasher * What to do with modern tables, where pouring boiling water on them ruins them

Cleaning the House

There is a significant difference between cleaning the house for Pesach, and cleaning the kitchen. When cleaning the house, the goal is that a crumb of chametz the size of kezayit (an olive) should not remain. But when cleaning the kitchen and its utensils, the goal is that no chametz whatsoever (kol she’hu) remain, lest it gets mixed in food for Pesach. And as is well-known, chametz on Pesach is forbidden even b’kol she’hu. And when it comes to cooking utensils, even the taste of chametz absorbed in them should not remain, lest the taste of chametz, kol she’hu, get mixed in Pesach foods while cooking or baking.

There are some people who do not realize this fundamental difference and clean their house very carefully, but afterwards, slack-off in cleaning the kitchen.

Koshering a Baking Oven

To kosher an oven, clean it thoroughly and run it at its highest setting for half an hour.

It is difficult to kosher baking trays. Because they absorb through fire, they require heavy libun (heating a vessel by fire to the point that absorbed taste is incinerated), but since heavy libun will cause them serious damage, they may not be koshered. One must therefore buy special baking trays for Pesach, while the chametz trays must be cleaned and put away like all other chametz utensils. If one does not have Pesach trays, he may use disposable trays.

With regard to baking trays, however, we are stringent and require heavy libun. However, if one conducts light libun on a tray, he may place a disposable tray inside of the multi-use tray, and certainly atop the racks. It is best to cover the racks with aluminum foil, so that if something spills onto them it will not connect the Pesach tray to the insufficiently koshered racks (see, Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11:4).

Grates and Burners

Throughout the year, people usually use the same stovetop grates for both meat and milk, because even if some meat or dairy food spills onto them, the flame incinerates and befouls whatever has spilled. However, people customarily perform light libun on such grates for Pesach, because of the seriousness of the chametz prohibition (Rema 451:4; MB ad loc. 34). Alternatively, one may wrap thick aluminum foil around the bars on which pots sit, so that there is a barrier between the Pesach pots and the parts of the grates that came into contact with chametzBe-di’avad (a level of performance that ex post facto satisfies an obligation in a less-than-ideal manner), the food remains kosher even if cooked on grates that did not undergo libun.

The areas of the grates that do not come into contact with the pots, the enamel cook top beneath the grates, and the burners must be cleaned well of all residual food. Since none of these parts come into contact with the pots, they need not undergo libun or be covered with foil. Generally, people turn on all the flames for half an hour.

The Law of Food that has Fallen under the Grates

It is also important to know that throughout the year one should be stringent and refrain from eating food that has fallen onto the enamel cook top under the grates, because meat and dairy foods spill there, and the enamel becomes not kosher. If one knows that the enamel has been cleaned thoroughly and that no meat and dairy foods have spilled on it in the past twenty-four hours, one may eat what falls there. But when these two conditions have not been met, one should be stringent and refrain from eating whatever comes into contact with this enamel, because it might have absorbed the taste of meat and milk. If a thick piece of food falls there, one may cut off the side that has come into contact with the enamel and eat the rest.

Stove-tops

Electric ranges: Clean thoroughly and run on the highest setting for half an hour.

Ceramic burners: These look like smooth and unbroken glass surfaces on which pots are placed directly. They are koshered by cleaning and then heating on the highest setting for half an hour. One should wait twenty-four hours between the last chametz cooking and beginning to cook for Pesach (this heating is considered light libun, which is sufficient for it according to the vast majority of poskim).

Sinks and Counter-tops

There are two accepted practices for koshering them: Those who are lenient clean them well and then pour boiling water all over them. Before pouring boiling water on a sink or counter-top, it must be dried well, so that the boiling water touches it directly and is not cooled by any cold water on its surface. For this reason, one must first pour the boiling water on the sink and then on the counter-top, starting with the areas closest to the sink and moving further away. To do so, one can also use a steam machine, whose steam heat reaches one hundred degrees (and has the status of pouring boiling water from a kli rishon, namely the vessel in which food was cooked).

Those who are stringent, in addition to pouring boiling water on the sink, put a plastic insert in it or line it with thick aluminum foil.

If the marble counter-top is fragile, and as a result, one is careful not to place boiling pots directly on it – even those who are stringent can suffice by pouring boiling water on it, without covering it with an oilcloth or aluminum foil (see, Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11: 1-2).

Warming Tray (Shabbat Platta)

It should be thoroughly cleaned, and heated on the highest heat for two hours, and covered with aluminum foil.

blekh (a metal sheet that is placed atop a gas range on Shabbat) can be koshered in one of two ways: 1) clean it, and perform light libun. 2) Clean it, heat it for two hours like on Shabbat, and in addition, cover it with aluminum foil (Peninei Halakha 11:5).

Microwave Ovens

The common practice is to kosher a microwave oven in four steps: 1) cleaning it thoroughly of any residual food resulting from spillage or vaporization; 2) waiting twenty-four hours so that the absorbed taste becomes foul; 3) heating a container of water in it for three minutes (since microwave ovens absorb chametz via vapor that rises from food as it is heated); 4) placing something as a barrier between the rotating plate and the food that will be heated in the microwave, because chametz may have spilled onto the rotating plate, and when using it on Pesach, place the food in a plastic container or a thick, perforated carton, separating between the rotating plate and the foods being heated on Pesach. If possible, it is good to change the rotating plate for Pesach (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11:6).

Dishwashers

The filter, where residual food often gets stuck, must be cleaned thoroughly. Then the dishwasher should be run at its hottest setting, so that any absorbed chametz is released, ke-bole’o kakh polto (taste is released from a vessel in the same manner that it was absorbed). Regarding the racks, le-khathila (a level of performance that satisfies an obligation in an ideal manner) they should undergo hagala (immersion in boiling water) or irui (“pouring”; one of the ways taste is transferred; an intermediate phase between kli rishon and kli sheni) with boiling water or be replaced. If it is difficult to kosher them through hagala or to replace them, one may perform hagala by running them through the dishwasher’s longest and hottest setting. Regarding the racks, le-khathila they should undergo hagala or irui with boiling water or be replaced. If it is difficult to kosher them through hagala or to replace them, one may perform   hagala by running them through the dishwasher’s longest and hottest setting.

In any event, one must wait twenty-four hours after the last load of chametz utensils before using the machine with Pesach utensils.

Some take a stringent approach to dishwashers and consider them to have the status of a kli rishon on a flame. This means that to kosher a dishwasher one must put a white-hot piece of metal in it in order to boil the water. However, those who follow the lenient approach have authorities on whom to rely (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11:7).

The Dining Table

In the past, people would kosher their tables by pouring boiling water over them, and some took the stringent approach of pouring boiling water onto a white-hot stone on the table, so that the koshering would be at the level of kli rishon. However, today’s tables are more delicate and fragile, and would be damaged, warped, or defaced by boiling hot water.

 

Therefore, the mainstream approach is to clean the table well and affix nylon or paper to it, creating a set barrier between the table and Pesach utensils and foods. In addition, a tablecloth should be spread over the nylon or paper, and it is a good idea to avoid placing boiling hot pots directly on the table (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11:8).

The Refrigerator

Because they are used with cold food, the only concern is that some chametz crumbs might remain there. Therefore, cleaning them is what koshers them. In hard to reach places where chametz crumbs may have gotten stuck, one must pour soapy water or some other substance that will befoul the crumbs and render them unfit for animal consumption.

Kitchen Cabinets

When kitchen cupboards were made of natural wood, they often had cracks that were difficult to clean completely from chametz that got stuck there. Acharonim therefore ruled that the shelves should be covered with paper or cloth (MB 451:115). However, there is no concern that chametz remained in smooth shelves like those used today. Therefore, once they have been cleaned properly, they need not be covered with paper or cloth. Nevertheless, many people are customary to cover the shelves with paper (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 11:9).

Plastic Baby Bottles

It is better to replace them, but when necessary, one may clean them and perform hagala.

Electric water heaters

Electric water heaters and Shabbat water heaters (that are placed on the platta) must undergo hagala, because chametz crumbs may have fallen into them, causing their taste to be absorbed. Hagala in this case means filling the device to the top with water, boiling it, and then pouring it out through the opening generally used to dispense the water. Before hagala, it is good to clean out the stone deposits that accumulated inside. If one places challah loaves on the lid of the urn to warm them before the Shabbat meal, hagala should be performed on the kettle and its lid.

Thermos

After cleaning it properly, hagala should be performed on it. If this is difficult, pouring boiling water into it and around its opening is sufficient.

False Teeth

False teeth should be cleaned thoroughly before the onset of the chametz prohibition. They need not undergo hagala, because people do not normally put boiling foods or liquids in their mouths; just as they are used for both meat and dairy when cleaned in between, so can they be used on Pesach. (Some believe that due to the gravity of the chametz prohibition, they must be koshered in a kli rishon or kli sheni.

The status of braces is similar to that of one’s teeth; just as one thoroughly brushes his teeth before Pesach, so should he brush around the braces.

Selling One’s House does not Exempt Him from  Bedikat Chametz

There are some people who go away for all of Pesach, and wish to sell or rent their house to a non-Jew in order to be exempt from bedikat chametz (checking for chametz). However, according to halakha, this does not exempt them from bedika (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 4:11). Therefore, they must clean the house normally, as they do every week. And on the last night they spend in the house, they must check the house for chametz – namely, check to make sure that no crumb larger than a kazayit remains. Such a bedika in a normal-sized house after a normal cleaning should take approximately fifteen minutes. In a house with children, since they sometimes hide chametz in various places, the bedika should take more time. But if in such a house all the drawers and shelves were previously cleaned, the bedika should take about fifteen minutes, as well.

They must also normally clean the kitchen and its utensils of all substantial chametz , so they can use them after Pesach. However, they do not have to kosher the kitchen utensils that have absorbed chametz, since they do not plan on using them on Pesach.

 

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

Accepting the Mitzvoth: A Prerequisite for Conversion

The reasoning behind those calling for conversion without the acceptance of mitzvoth * The difference in conversion policy between Sephardic and Ashkenazi countries stemmed from differing realities, and not a halakhic dispute * The currently accepted procedure in the State religious courts examines the seriousness of intention of conversion candidates * Even if future observance of mitzvoth is uncertain, conversion should not be prevented * The format of conversion courts should be determined with the consent of the majority of rabbis, and via the Chief Rabbinate * The conversions of a court that does not require the acceptance of mitzvoth are invalid * If we strengthen ourselves in Torah and mitzvoth, the problem of conversions will also be resolved

The Issue of Conversion

Recently, the public debate concerning the policy of conversion resurfaced. Presently, in the State of Israel there are approximately a quarter of a million people who have roots in the seed of Israel, but in practice, are Gentiles, because their mother is not Jewish.

Some argue this represents a serious problem from a religious and national aspect, since these people are an integral part of Israeli society, and chances are secular Jews will marry them in contradiction to halakha (Jewish law), and thus produce another generation of Israeli’s who are not Jewish. In their opinion, the rabbis should convert these people without being strict about their acceptance of the mitzvoth. They claim this was position of rabbis coming from Sephardic countries, who were moderate, lenient, and ready to convert even without the acceptance of mitzvoth, and there is no reason why, in the serious situation in which we find ourselves, to adopt the strict approach of the rabbis from Ashkenazi countries.

Before we tackle the issue of the acceptance of mitzvoth it should be noted that in demographic terms, the problem is less serious than it appears, because women of reproductive age in particular are more inclined to convert and keep the main mitzvoth.

What Does ‘Accepting the Mitzvoth’ Mean?

It is written in the Shulchan Aruch:“He (the candidate for conversion) is taught some of the minor commandments and some of the major commandments, and he is taught some of the punishments for violating the commandments,” nevertheless, “we do not overburden him and we are not overly strict with him” (Y.D. 268:2).

The reason is that even if he is sincere, if suddenly confronted with all of the stringencies and fine details, he will recoil and change his mind about converting (Shach 268:4).

A tremendous difficulty stands in the way of a convert who wishes to observe mitzvoth. For a Jew familiar from childhood with prayers and blessings, the prohibitions of Shabbat and keeping kosher, things seem easy and simple. A traditional Jew, or even a secular Jew, knows when Pesach is, knows that on Pesach we eat matzah, are careful about chametz, and hold a Seder in the evening; on Yom Kippur we fast, on Chanukah we light candles, and on Shabbat we refrain from work. In contrast, the Gentile who comes to convert must learn everything all at once; if we wish to teach him all the halakhot one by one before converting – even if his intention is pure, he will recoil and not convert because of all the stringencies and details. Therefore, it was customary to convert a candidate after having been taught a few of the minor and major commandments, and after he undertook to keep all the mitzvoth.

Past and Present Practices

This was the custom in the past, seeing as the convert was joining a religious community. Consequently, it was clear that he agreed, in principle, to observe the commandments. In time, he would learn to fulfill all of them, even though at the moment of conversion he was only aware of part of them. This was how Hillel the Elder acted; he accepted three converts on the strength of an extremely basic acceptance of mitzvoth, assessing that later on, they would fulfill all the mitzvoth – and so it was (Shabbat 31a).

But when the Jewish communities weakened and many people stopped observing mitzvoth, it was no longer possible to assume that a convert who joined a Jewish community would fulfill all the mitzvoth in the future.

Is There a Difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Rulings?

This is the reason for the differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic religious courts in recent generations. While Sephardic communities remained traditional in nature, the Ashkenazi communities, failing to discover a way to deal with modernity and its effects, began to fall apart and eventually reached the point where a significant majority of Jews no longer observed Torah and mitzvoth. Therefore, during that period of time, the Ashkenazi rabbinical judges made more detailed and scrupulous inquiries into the intention of the conversion candidate to fulfill mitzvoth, whereas in the Sephardic communities the judges inquired less, assuming that the mere act of joining of a traditional Jewish community ensured the convert would observe the mitzvoth for the most part.

The Practice of the State Religious Courts Nowadays

Consequently, in order to check the intention of conversion candidates today, they are required to learn the fundamentals of Torah and mitzvoth for almost a year in an ulpan giur (conversion study center), attending two weekly sessions of three hours each, in addition to reviewing their studies at home, and being tested. To familiarize themselves with the Jewish way of life, they are coupled with a religious “adopted” family that hosts them for Shabbat and holidays. If the potential convert has children, the parent is required to send them to religious schools. Only after this can they come before the religious court. And then, according to the testimony of their teachers and adoptive families, and compliant with the impression of the members of the court – the court determines its position. If the court is convinced the conversion candidate intends on observing the mitzvoth – he is accepted as a convert; if not, he is refused.

The Practice of Private Hareidi Courts

There is a religious Hareidi court in Bnei Brak which is headed by one of the eminent Lithuanian poskim (Jewish law arbiters) that also deals with conversions, and the Chief Rabbinate relies on its decisions. I asked a very serious and responsible religious person who voluntarily accompanies numerous converts through the process – some who converted in regular State religious courts and others in Hareidi courts – what the difference in approach is between the two. According to him, the State religious courts operate formally – requiring the conversion process take place for close to a year, include intensive study, a broad knowledge of halakhot (laws) and minhagim (customs), and learning blessings by rote. The Hareidi court, on the other hand, waives the formal rules, while attempting to discern the conversion candidate’s intention to observe mitzvoth.

Results of the Hareidi Courts Compared with the State Courts

I asked him which system yields better results. He answered that to his regret, among the converts he accompanied to the Hareidi courts who were accepted there, many are not religiously observant. The situation of people converted by the State religious courts is not exhilarating either, but nevertheless, a higher percentage of those converted there are observant.

My conclusion is that the Hareidi court indeed operates as was customary for generations, however in our reality, in which a convert finds it difficult to integrate into Hareidi society, the rules of examination must be changed, and it is forbidden to waive comprehensive studies in conversion centers with all the formal requirements of the State religious courts. In addition to the educational value of such a framework – one’s regular participation in it for a year, with all the accompanying requirements, expresses serious intentions.

Those Converted in the Army Compared to Civilian Life

It should be noted that a problem exists with the conversions performed in the army in accordance with the outlines of the Ne’eman Committee, compared to conversions performed in a civilian framework, along the lines of the Chief Rabbinate. In the civilian framework, those who come to convert devote several hours to Torah study in the ulpan and at home, at the expense of work or leisure time. In contrast, the soldiers who convert are released from training, guard duty and work, to study in preparation for conversion. This is in addition to the serious problem that on the teaching staff of I.D.F. conversions, Reform Jews are also included, in contradiction to the position the Chief Rabbinate.

The Obligation to Convert Even When Religious Observance is Doubtful

Some people argue that in the current situation in which a significant percentage of converts fail to observe mitzvoth, it is impossible to convert. Or possibly we need to place extremely difficult obstacles in the way of candidates, so the percentages of those who are observant will be higher.

However, in practice, it is forbidden to do so, because the opening of the gates to converts is a sacred Torah principle for all generations and all places (Yevamot 47a; Krithot 9a). Therefore, although according to the strict law of the Torah a convert must offer a sacrifice, and without doing so he cannot convert – following the destruction of the Holy Temple, our Sages learned from the verses that it is necessary to continue converting those interested, and accept them even without a sacrifice.

This also applies to the acceptance of mitzvoth. Since we do not have the ability to determine with certainty whether the convert will observe the mitzvoth, as long as the religious court estimates that he most likely will observe them – he should be accepted, even though due to the situation of society nowadays, there is a reasonable chance he will not fulfill them. In actuality, it appears that the majority of converts do basically observe the mitzvoth.

A Court in Which the Majority of Its Converts Do Not Observe Mitzvoth should not be Maintained

However, if we find that a specific tribunal of a religious court acted with excessive naivety, and the majority of its converts do not keep Shabbat, the holidays, and kashrut – even on a basic level, similar to Jews who today are termed seriously traditional – such a tribunal must be dismantled. But even in such a case, the conversion of those already converted by such a court remains in force, since at the time of conversion they accepted the yoke of mitzvoth upon themselves.

And should the State of Israel decide to maintain religious courts that accept converts without proof of serious intent to observe mitzvoth, a safek (a legal doubt) will emerge over all of their conversions. On the one hand, if such a convert sanctifies a Jewish woman in marriage and afterwards leaves her, she will not be allowed to re-marry without a get. On the other hand, religious or traditional Jews will not marry him until it becomes clear he indeed is observant (see, Rambam, Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah, Chap. 13, halachot 15-18).

And should these courts decide on a deliberate policy of conversion without the acceptance of mitzvoth, all of their conversions would be disqualified, because they would be acting on a principle contradictory to halakha, in the same manner as all Reform conversions were entirely rejected (Iggrot Moshe, E.H. 3:3).

The Need for a Broad Consensus

Religious courts accept the convert by virtue of the Torah and nation of Israel, and therefore the agreement on determining courts of conversion should come from the majority of rabbis, with the Chief Rabbinate organizing the consensus. However, there are cases in which the Chief Rabbinate acts with unambiguous discrimination, such as preferring the Hareidi courts over the recognized religious courts of municipal rabbis, and by doing so, loses its status as an accepted and central institution.

Therefore, the Bayit HaYehudi party (Jewish Home) is acting properly by seeking to determine a law agreed upon by the majority of rabbis, and also the Chief Rabbis.

The Truly Serious Problem

Our serious problem is not the reality of a quarter of a million descendants of Jews who are not halakhically Jewish, rather, the deep and painful fact that the majority of Jews are not religiously observant. This is our most serious national problem. Even in terms of personal halakha, the prohibitions of nidah (intimate relations with a menstruating woman), for example, are not less severe than intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews. And in general terms as well, the chances this will lead to assimilation is not as severe as being married to an absolute non-Jew in chutz la’aretz (abroad).

The real solution is not making the rules of conversion more flexible, but rather for us to make an inner tikkun (repair) by studying Torah sincerely and in-depth, by fulfilling the mitzvoth seriously, and through devotion to tikkun olam (perfecting the world) by revealing the word of God, and His instructions in the Torah. Then, all the blessings of the Torah will be fulfilled through us, and as a result, all Jews will want to engage in Torah and observe the mitzvoth, and all adherents of Israel will long to convert and join the true and good life.

Those who propose taking on converts without the acceptance of mitzvoth, apparently think that the current reality, in which the majority of Jews are not religiously observant, will continue for generations. But this is a mistake. In the long term, there is no chance for secular Jews to survive as Jews. If only they would all repent! Sadly, it can be assumed that Jews who do not return to Torah and mitzvoth, will assimilate among the nations. A lenient conversion policy will not change this.

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

When to Get Married

According to Chazal, the age of marriage is eighteen, but no later than twenty * Learning the fundamentals of Torah, studying a trade, and building a house come before marriage * The permission of Jewish law authorities to delay marriage until the age of 24 in pressing circumstances, or to learn Torah * Learning the fundamentals of the Torah and professional training takes more time nowadays, therefore, the proper directive is to marry by the age of 24 * Insistence on marrying before the age of 20 in this day and age comes at the expense of professional training and military service * The damages of getting married only after establishing oneself professionally 

At What Age are Men Obligated to Marry?

Although young Jewish males become obligated to fulfill all the mitzvoth at the age of 13, our Sages said that a man should get married at the age of 18, but no later than 20. There are two main reasons for this:

A.  Torah Study

Before marrying, a young man must learn the fundamentals of Torah in order to shape his worldview and know how to live according to halakha. As our Sages said:

At five years (the age is reached for the study of) the Scripture; at ten (for the study of) the Mishna; at thirteen (for the fulfillment of) the mitzvoth; at fifteen (for the study of) the Talmud; at eighteen for marriage” (Mishna Avoth 5:21).

Our Sages also said that Torah study should precede marriage, for if one gets married first, the burden of making a living is liable to prevent him from studying Torah appropriately (Kiddushin 29b). This was also codified in the Shulchan Aruch:

A man should first learn Torah and then marry, for if he marries first, it will be impossible for him to engage in Torah study, because the millstone (the burden of making a living) will be on his neck” (Y.D., 246:2).

B. Livelihood

During the time in which young men studied the fundamentals of Torah, they spent part of the day working in order to build a house and save money to purchase the tools to make a living. From the order of the verses in the Torah (Deuteronomy 20:5-7):

Is there any man among you who has built a new house…planted a vineyard…betrothed a woman and has not married her”, our Sages learned:

The Torah has thus taught a rule of conduct: that a man should build a house, plant a vineyard and then marry a wife” (Sotah 44a).

And Rambam wrote:

The way of sensible men is that first, one should establish an occupation by which he can support himself. Then, he should purchase a house to live in and then, marry a wife…in contrast, a fool begins by marrying a wife. Then, if he can find the means, he purchases a house. Finally, towards the end of his life, he will search about for a trade or support himself from charity” (Hilchot De’ot 5:11).

Therefore, the Sages postponed the age of marriage for men till eighteen years of age, warning that in any case, they should not postpone getting married beyond the age of twenty.

The Prohibition of Postponing Marriage

Our Sages said: “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!’” (Kiddushin 29b) – an expression of condemnation for failing to perform the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (“be fruitful and multiply”).

Similarly, Rambam wrote: “The mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying is incumbent on the husband and not on his wife… If he reaches twenty and has not married, he is considered to have transgressed and negated the observance of this positive commandment” (Hilchot Ishut 15:2).

Other authorities, such as S’mag, Rosh, Rabbeinu Yerucham, and Tur Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 1:3) have also written likewise.

Regarding the verse: “A time to give birth, and a time to die,” our Sages also said: “From the moment a man is born, the Holy One, blessed be He waits for him until the age of twenty to marry a woman. If he reaches the age of twenty but has not married, He says to him: The time for you to give birth to a child has arrived, but you did not want to, it is nothing more for you than the time to die” (Kohelet Rabbah 3:3).

Additionally, our Sages said: “If a man reaches the age of twenty, but has not married – his entire life is in thoughts of sin” – because as long as getting married is not far off, he knows his passion is reserved for his future wife; but once bachelorhood continues beyond the appropriate time of marriage, and his passions cannot find their proper outlet – he becomes used to having sinful thoughts, and is unable to escape them all his life.

How Then did Some People get Married Earlier?

There were some young people who received help from their parents or were extremely talented, and were able to marry at an earlier age, and this was praiseworthy. As Rabbi Chisda commented about himself, that his superiority over his colleagues was not thanks to his talents or righteousness, but because he was privileged to get married at the age of sixteen, and consequently was able to learn Torah in purity, without the yetzer ha’ra (evil inclination) taunting him. And had he married at the age of fourteen he would have been so protected from the yetzer ha’ra, he could have fearlessly provoked the Satan without worrying about sinning (Kiddushin 29b).

In Pressing Situations Marriage was Permitted until Twenty-four

The gedolei ha’poskim  (eminent Jewish law arbiters) wrote that although according to the strict law of the Gemara, it is forbidden to postpone marriage beyond the age of twenty, to study Torah, or in pressing times of edicts and financial hardships, marriage may be postponed until the age of twenty-four. For we have seen in the Talmud (Kiddushin 30a) that when sons neglect to fulfill the mitzvah of marrying, parents must encourage and spur them on to get married. Some authorities say the parents should do this until the age of twenty-two; others say until twenty-four. The reason for setting this specific age limit is that until then they can be persuaded, and they still possess the flexibility, openness and desire required for marriage.

Based on this, Rabbi Shlomo Luria gave the following ruling with regards to someone wishing to continue studying Torah diligently: “The final age for all who want to be lenient and not marry, should not be over twenty-four years of age” (Yam Shel Shlomo, Kiddushin 1:57). If this is the case for Torah study, all the more should marriage not be postponed beyond the age of twenty-four for the sake of secular needs. Likewise,Chida wrote: “In any case, it seems that one should not postpone [marriage] for external reasons beyond the age of twenty-four” (Birkei Yosef, E.H. 1:9).

Reasons for Postponing Marriage Nowadays

In recent generations life has become more complex and more time is required to prepare for it. In the past, learning Tanach and mussar (ethics) on a simple level and halakha and its’ reasons was sufficient to facilitate establishing a Jewish home. It was enough to work with one’s father for a few hours a day until the age of eighteen, in order to acquire the professional capability to work and make a living, and even save a little money for his wedding and build a house – which consisted of one room only.

But today, in order to deal with the challenges facing us, a lot more Torah must be learned. To do this, most young people need to learn in a yeshiva framework for at least a year after the age of eighteen – and usually, even more time. And today, an additional sacred duty rests on the shoulders of young men – serving in the army and defending the people and the land – and achieving this mitzvah also causes postponement of marriage. Also, acquiring a profession which suits one’s talents usually involves prolonged academic studies, and are done after serving in the army. Likewise, the houses we live in today are more expensive because they are larger and equipped with water and electricity, and in order to purchase it, one must work for a number of years.

If marriage is postponed until after a person finishes learning all the fundamentals of Torah, completes studies for a suitable profession, and buys a house – most young people would have to get married after the age of thirty. Such a postponement is impossible according to halakha, because although the environment in which we live has become more complex, complicated, and challenging – the emotional and physical nature of man has not changed, and the appropriate age for him to get married remains between the ages of eighteen and twenty. Therefore, the length of time for a possible postponement is until the age of twenty-four, and not beyond.

Those Who Insist on Marrying Earlier

And then there are some people who adamantly claim we should not take into consideration the difficulties and challenges that modern life presents us, but continue requiring all young men to get married before the age of twenty. However, their statements run contrary to the Torah instruction of acting with derech eretz (a desired mode of behavior) (Sotah 44a; Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 5:11). And by doing so, they decree upon their followers a life of poverty, and prevent them from taking part in the development of the world using the talents God endowed them. Such people also usually tend to deny the Torah mitzvah of serving in the army to defend the people and the country.

Those Who Claim Marriage Can Be Postponed until All Preparations are Completed, as in the Days of Yore

On the other hand, some people claim that a man should postpone getting married until after completing his studies and begins earning a decent living even if it takes several years, as is customary today among young individuals living in economically and scientifically developed countries. Their statements also run contrary to halakha, which sets a limit to postponing marriage. We have also found that young people who postponed getting married have great difficulty afterwards finding their partners, and several of them remain single for many years because the appropriate time emotionally and physically for marriage is around the age of twenty. And as time passes, young people’s enthusiasm decreases, and it is more difficult for them to make an everlasting covenant of marriage. This is one of the reasons for the disintegration of the institution of family in countries where young people postpone the age of marriage.

In Our Present Situation, Marriage Can be Postponed from the Outset until the Age of Twenty-four

The complex situation in which we live can be considered a sha’at ha’dachak (pressing situation). On the one hand, young people must be given a few more years so they can base themselves in Torah and shape their worldview, and have sufficient time to take their first steps towards acquiring a profession. On the other hand, one cannot go beyond the emotionally and physically appropriate time of marriage, so as not to lose the enthusiasm and joyful youth suitable for building a relationship in its early stages.

Moreover, the mitzvoth of marriage and procreation requires man to express himself fully and completely. As our Sages said, any man who has no wife is not a proper man (Yevamot 63a), and lives without joy, without blessing, without goodness, without Torah, without a [protecting] wall, and without peace (Yevamot 62b). There is a limit to how many years a man can continue living in such incomplete circumstances. Additionally, we have learned that delaying marriage beyond necessity causes a person’s yetzer (inclination) to overcome him, to the point where he cannot escape sinful thoughts all his life (Kiddushin 29b).

Consequently, the general instruction should be not to postpone marriage beyond the age of twenty-four. And one who can get married earlier without significantly harming his Torah study, serving in the army, and preparations for acquiring a profession suitable to his talents – will be blessed. In exceptional situations, like studying an extremely demanding profession such as medicine, if there is no other option, one is permitted to postpone marriage beyond the age of twenty-four, provided his yetzer does not overcome him (see, Beit Shmuel 1:5, in the opinion of Rambam).

Next week, with God’s help, we will deal with the age women should get married.

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