Shabbat Legislation – Only Through Agreement

The Sanctity of Shabbat

Whenever disputes concerning Shabbat arise, terrible sorrow fills the heart. Surely, Shabbat is intended to reveal the ideals of ‘emunah‘ (faith) and ‘herut‘ (freedom), and consequently, Shabbat is a reminder of Creation and the Exodus from Egypt, and is a sign that God gave to Israel to be His Chosen People, as the Torah says: “It (Shabbat) shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel” (Exodus 31:17). Shabbat is the source of holiness and blessing, as it is written: “And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy” (Genesis 2: 3). As a result of the sin of ‘Chilul Shabbat‘ (desecration of Shabbat) the Holy Temple was destroyed, and we were exiled from our Land (Jeremiah 17; Ezekiel 22; Talmud, Shabbat 119b), and in the merit of keeping Shabbat, we were privileged to have inherited the Land and will merit inheriting it in the future (Bereishit Rabba 46: 9), and Israel will achieve Redemption (Isaiah 56; Talmud Shabbat 118b). How then can so many of our brethren, the Children of Israel, not keep Shabbat according to Jewish law?

The Shabbat Crisis

Over the past few generations, the Jewish people underwent a great spiritual crisis, the gravest expression of which is Shabbat desecration, which leads to spiritual and national assimilation.

Until the modern era, a Jew who publicly desecrated Shabbat was considered to have removed himself from ‘Clal Yisrael’ (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future). Therefore, our Sages ruled that a Shabbat desecrater is halachically judged as a non-Jew who cannot be counted in a ‘minyan‘ (prayer quorum), any wine he touches is forbidden to drink, and there is no mitzvah to render him ‘chesed‘ (an act of kindness) as with other Jews. However, after Shabbat desecration became a common occurrence in recent generations, some of the leading ‘poskim’ (Jewish law arbiters) ruled that as long as the Shabbat desecrator does not do so defiantly, he should not be regarded as an idolater (Melamed Le’Hoil, O.C. 29; Binyan Tzion HaChadashot 23, Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 1:15). And although this ruling holds consolation for Shabbat desecraters, it reflects our appalling situation, namely, that Shabbat is no longer an expression of Jewish identity.

Religious Coercion Will Not Help

Despite the frustration and the pain, coercion will not help strengthen the status of Shabbat – neither in the individual nor in the public sphere. The value of freedom is one of the most important elements in the Torah. Without freedom, there is no room for ‘bechira chofshit’ (freedom of choice), and no room for the great destiny imposed on man. The value of freedom was revealed during the Exodus from Egypt and was strengthened in the Giving of the Torah. The value of freedom is perhaps the most important, positive value revealed in recent generations, for which people are ready to fight for, and for which people are willing to forfeit almost all other values. Therefore, when the issue becomes a question of coercion, even traditional Jews who cherish Shabbat but do not meticulously observe it, feel threatened and join the struggle against Shabbat.

The situation is difficult. Things that were understood by the secular public three generations ago are not understood today. In the past, even Jews who did not observe Shabbat in their own homes realized that on the streets of Israel Shabbat should be observed. This was the position of the mayor of Tel Aviv Dizengoff, Berl Katznelson, and most of the secular Zionist leaders. However, after three generations of distancing themselves from Jewish tradition, this position has greatly eroded. Their successors have forgotten Jewish tradition and have become completely secular, and they are the ones leading the struggles against Shabbat and Jewish tradition. While the traditional public is fond of Shabbat, they are not prepared to have it forced upon them.

Correcting the Situation: Education and Inner Repentance

In our current situation, there is no quick solution: the crisis is so great that only a very deep and profound education, which begins with our own inner ‘teshuva’ (repentance), will be able to elevate the status of Shabbat anew. If we see that the status of Shabbat has been harmed, we must first awaken ourselves to ‘teshuva’ – to examine how we can observe Shabbat in an ideal manner – through Torah and prayers, meals and rest, so that Shabbat will not be kept ‘ke’mitzvat anashim melumada’ in other words, obediently and without rationale, out of habit, and void of content. Rather, Shabbat should be filled with the deep content of meaningful, stimulating, and enjoyable Torah study whose inspiration continues throughout the week. We must diligently pay attention that prayers are uplifting and not burdensome, that the meals are pleasurable and not oppressive and unify the family, leaving time for study, and deep conversations. As a result, the effects of such education and inspiration will continue, and the significance of Shabbat will gradually spread to all of Israel.

Between Coercion and Agreed upon Legislation

While passing laws that have a broad consensus can be of some benefit, nevertheless, as long as they are carried out by representatives of the Haredi and religious parties through means of coercion by threatening to topple the government, they are liable to do more harm than good. The only way to establish laws strengthening Shabbat is by broad agreement with representatives of the traditional public, who represent the majority of the Israeli public. Religious members of the Knesset may be the catalysts of such laws, but any such legislation must be fully agreed upon by the representatives of the traditional public so that it will express a broad national consensus.

The Position of Our Rabbi and Teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook

Concerning this issue, it is important to relate the words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l, in an interview with Avraham Naveh (Ha’aretz, 14 Av 5737 (1977), quoted in “Maracha Ha’Tziburit” edited by Rabbi Yosef Bramson, pg. 122):

Q: Rabbi, it is known that you were a supporter of the ‘League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion’.

Rabbi Kook: Correct. I said at the time to the members of the ‘League’ that they were absolutely right: I hate religious coercion. With what sort of justice, and with what kind of integrity can one impose religion on a person? … To my dismay, it later turned out that among the group were some who hated religion … but in the sense of opposing coercion, they are truly righteous, and there was a mutual understanding between us. Some good advice was given to the members of the ‘League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion’ around this table.

Q: Rabbi, do you think that there is religious coercion in the state?

Rabbi Kook: I once said that matters in the country are managed by the Knesset. There is no other democratic way to arrange matters. And if laws are passed by them – they should be honored; this is not coercion.

Q: But nevertheless, as a result of the recent coalition agreement, the polarization between religious and secular has increased.

Rabbeinu: We, thank God, increase love among Jews in our circles; this was the way of Abba ztz”l, which I continue. We need to increase ‘ahava‘ (love) and ‘emunah‘ (faith) …”

Other things he said in an interview with Shivty Daniel (Hatzofeh, 10 Av 5733 (1973), quoted in “Maracha Ha’Tziburit” pg. 61-62): “From my personal experience I am aware that intellectuals and people of mind and spirit are sending out feelers of ‘teshuva’ … Of course, the turning point doesn’t occur in one day… It is an internal and slow process, but it exists and influences, returning quite a few to the source of the Torah …I believe that the majority of Jews are connected to tradition, including those that seem to be the furthest away … If they saw in all Jews a model of faith and love of Israel, integrity, and benevolence, certainly the rapprochement would be immeasurably greater. Just recently, the Prime Minister (Golda Meir) said that if the tragedy of a split between religion and state occurs, the ultra-Orthodox Haredim from ‘Aguda’ would be guiltier than the secular. To my great dismay, this is the situation: those people, in their narrow, faith-limited ‘Haredi-ism’, pushing for divisiveness – are delaying the return of Jews to Torah and mitzvot.

“In a panel discussion held at my home a few years ago, one professor (Bar Hillel), a secular Jew, claimed that the Knesset’s resolutions on matters of religion are coercion of the minority over the non-religious majority. I replied to him that although these decisions were passed on the basis of coalition agreements, at their core, lay the shared responsibility for our existence as a people. The majority of Knesset members believe, like their constituents, that uprooting laws of the Torah in matters of marriage will divide the Jewish people, fuel serious controversy, and shake the foundations of our very lives. Marriage law is not coercion, but essential for life …”

These words, spoken some forty to forty-five years ago, in principle, are also appropriate today, in particular, the basic distinction between coercion and accepted legislation.

Legislation – with the Consent of the Traditional

Legislation that reflects the broad consensus of representatives of the majority of the public, whereas its harm to the minority that disagrees is marginal, is the correct way to regulate social order in all areas – including relations between religion and state. However, legislation based on pressures that fail to express broad agreement, or that have a wide agreement but severely harms the minority, and on the other hand, the majority will not be significantly harmed if not legislated, is considered coercive and intervention in the lives of individuals and groups who strongly reject it.

In order to find the right balance, the representatives of the traditional public must be full partners in all these legislative processes. And if possible, it would be preferable for them to even be the initiators of the legislation designed to express the character of Shabbat in the State of Israel.

The Passing of the Supermarket Law

In practice, even the representatives of the Haredi public themselves understood that it was impossible to implement Shabbat forcibly, and therefore the ‘Supermarket Law’ enacted is filled with holes and ambiguities in order to obscure its coercion, nevertheless, it left an impression of coercion that aroused strong opposition. In practice, the religious MKs had to support it, both in order to uphold the government and also because ultimately, they had to support Shabbat observance.

Support for Businesses that Observe Shabbat

In the current situation where many businesses in the fields of commerce and entertainment are open on Shabbat, the circumstances of businesses that observe Shabbat has become difficult – the unfair competition created against them is liable to destroy them financially. Therefore, those who cherish Shabbat have a moral duty to prefer buying from businesses of Shabbat observers. For this purpose, it would be useful to develop a user-friendly application that would allow anyone searching, to know which Shabbat-observing business is in the area.

‘Ger Toshav’: Obstacles and Aspirations

The Torah’s vision is that in the Land of Israel, besides the Jewish nation, only those who share in Israel’s mission of being a ‘light unto the nations’ may live here * The controversy surrounding the issue of non-Jews residing in the Land of Israel today, when the status of ‘ger toshav’ (resident alien) does not apply * The Druze meet the conditions of ‘ger toshav’, as opposed to those Arabs who support terrorists, and do not recognize Israeli sovereignty * Presently, fulfilling the mitzvah to expel the hostile minority is impractical * In spite of this, the concept of ​​’ger toshav’ should be studied in depth, and aspire to implement when possible * Once we delve deeper into the moral logic of the mitzvah, it will serve as a model for all countries coping with immigrants

Non-Jews Residing in the Land of Israel

The grand vision of the Jewish nation in its land is for the land to be inhabited by the Jewish people, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem the Holy Temple will stand, all forms of national life will be conducted according to the teachings of the Torah morally and with holiness and the people of Israel will be a light unto the nations who will come to visit Israel and receive inspiration for their nations’ betterment and that of the world, as expressed in the words of the prophet: “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2: 2-4).

In order to achieve this vision, the entire land must be inhabited by Jews, and only non-Jews wishing to be part of Israel’s grand vision will be able to join the Jewish people in the status of a ‘ger toshav‘, or technically, a ‘resident alien’. While the road to realizing the vision is still long, we should nevertheless strive to the best of our ability to achieve it.

Consequently, we need to study the two prohibitions mentioned in the Torah regarding the residence of non-Jews in the Land of Israel. The first prohibition is a general one obligating the people of Israel, as written in the Torah: “Do not allow them to reside in your land, since they may then make you sin to Me. You may even end up worshiping their gods, and it will be a fatal trap to you” (Exodus 23:33). The second prohibition is directed to each and every individual not to sell land to a non-Jew so as not to give him a resting place in the Land, as it is written: “When God your Lord places them at your disposal and you defeat them, you must utterly destroy them, not making any treaty with them or giving them any consideration (in Hebrew, ‘lo techonem’, which is interpreted by our Sages as ‘do not give them a resting place’). Do not intermarry with them… [If you do], they will lead your children away from Me, causing them to worship other gods” (Deuteronomy 7: 2-4).

Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) are of the opinion that these prohibitions apply to non-Jews who are not worthy of being considered a ‘ger toshav’; however, one who is worthy of being considered a ‘ger toshav’, i.e., one who observes the Seven Noahide Laws out of belief in the Lord, the God of Israel, and accepts the sovereignty of the Jewish people in its Land as decreed by the Torah, may reside in the Land of Israel (Kesef Mishneh in his commentary to Rambam (Maimonides) ‘Mizbach Adama’).

Others say that any non-Jew who was not actually accepted by a ‘Beit Din’ (rabbinic court) as a ‘ger toshav’, we are commanded not to settle in our Land, and not to give him a resting place in the Land of Israel. And when ‘Yovel’ (Jubilee year) does not apply, rabbinical courts lack the authority to accept a ‘ger toshav’ and thus today, there is no ‘heter’ (rabbinic allowance) to permit non-Jews to reside in the Land of Israel. The reason for this opinion is that the Torah sought to guide us in establishing a holy nation in the Land of Israel, and as long as a non-Jew does not accept in an official and orderly manner to live according to the principles of the Torah of Israel, he can adversely affect society (this is the opinion of Rambam according to ‘Magid Mishneh’ and ‘Minchat Chinuch’, and also Ritva and the Netziv).

The Halakha’s Attitude towards Arabs Residing in the State of Israel

At the time of the establishment of the State, the foremost Rabbis of the time discussed the status of the Arabs, and the question of whether we are commanded to actively work towards their expulsion from our Land, or to encourage their emigration. Several rabbis, led by Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, regarded the Arabs as observing the Seven Noahide Laws, and since they already lived in Israel and recognized the right of the Jewish people over their land, there was no mitzvah to expel them. Conceivably, even the poskim who adhere to the second opinion would agree that the prohibition is only in allowing a person who was not accepted as a ‘ger toshav’ before a ‘Beit Din’ to immigrate to the Land of Israel, but someone who already lives here, if in practice he is on the moral level of a ‘ger toshav‘, there is no need to expel him, or encourage his emigration.

Over the past decades it has become clear that the majority of the Druze community in practice, fulfill the Seven Noahide commandments, recognize the right of the Jewish people to their Land, and assist the Jewish people in its war against its enemies, and therefore, should be regarded as ‘gerim toshavim’ (plural).

On the other hand, however, many of the Arabs living in Israel do not accept Israel’s sovereignty over our Land. Additionally, many of them do not fulfill the Seven Noahide commandments – some, by assisting the terrorists who transgress the prohibition of “You shall not murder,” and others, by doing nothing to bring the terrorists to trial, as they are instructed to do in the seventh commandment of the Noahide laws – to establish a righteous, judicial system (see, Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 9:14). It emerges then, that many of them are not considered ‘gerim toshavim’, and it is a mitzvah to expel them from the Land. When international and ethical reasons prevent us from expelling them, at the very least, we should encourage their immigration.

In addition to the question of which foreigners we are commanded not to settle in our Land so as not to be swayed after their way of life, when it comes to a national group liable of claiming sovereignty over the land, there is an additional consideration for them not to reside in our Land – so that we are able to fulfill the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the Land of Israel).

Can the Halakha be Fulfilled?

For many reasons we are unable to expel the non-Jews who do not accept the Seven Noahide laws as commanded by the Torah.

First, the commandment is obligatory only when we have the power to fulfill it, but when ‘yad ha’goyim tikifa aleinu’ (when the Gentiles predominate), under duress, we are prevented from fulfilling the mitzvah (Rambam, Laws of Avodah Zara 10:6). Also, the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ does not require us to rely miracles and fight the entire world alone. It seems that today when the strongest countries in the world oppose it, and the State of Israel’s security and economic status to a large extent is dependent upon them, we are regarded as ‘yad ha’goyim tikifa aleinu’, and lack the power to expel Arabs who openly fight against us from the land – and undoubtedly, we lack the power to expel their families, and the Arab population hostile towards us.

‘Darchei Shalom’ (For the Sake of Peace)

Apart from this, we are also unable to expel the hostile Arab population because of “darchei shalom“, because such an action would violate the endorsed peace in international relations, and we have found that at times, mitzvot are overridden because of ‘darchei shalom’ (Gittin 59a; Rambam Matnot Aniyim 1: 9).

‘Chilul Hashem’ and ‘Kiddush Hashem’

Moreover, in recent generations thanks to the moral influence of Israel’s Torah, the nations of the world have undertaken laws protecting the rights of minorities, and because of ‘Chilul Hashem’ (desecration of the Name of God) it is forbidden for us to expel Arabs not defined as ‘ger toshav’. There is a halakhic rule that there is nothing permitted to a Jew, yet forbidden to a ‘B’nei Noach’ (non-Jew) (Sanhedrin 32a), and if according to the laws enacted by most civilized nations of the world it is forbidden to expel members of a minority population even if they are hostile, Israel must also take into account, to the extent possible, this moral position – all the more so in the case of binding international treaties.

The Mitzvah is Not Nullified

Nevertheless, the basic mitzvah of course is not nullified, and we must strive to find a way to fulfill the commandments of the Torah within the framework of the currently accepted moral perception. To this end, we must delve deep into the moral values ​​in such a way that it will be understood how the fulfillment of the mitzvah will lead to a moral, just, and improved situation for the entire world, and thus, we will find the appropriate ways to fulfill the mitzvah.

The Advantage of the Capitalist Position

The principle of the mitzvah must also influence our position on socio-economic questions. For example, there are different views regarding the responsibility of the state for the welfare of its residents, both morally, and economically. This issue is debated by theorists and economists. The capitalist position minimizes the responsibility of the state and emphasizes the responsibility of the individual for himself, his family, and his friends; on the other hand, the socialist position broadens the state’s responsibility, and minimizes the responsibility of the individual to himself, his family and friends. Additionally, some of them stipulate several of the rights granted by the state on the acceptance of obligations such as military service, while others don’t.

With the idea in mind that it is desirable for non-Jews who do not fulfill the Seven Noahide Laws to emigrate from Israel, the capitalist position which conditions most of the rights granted on the acceptance of obligations should be preferred, so that Arabs who are unwilling to serve in the army will receive less benefits from the state, thereby reducing their incentive to remain in Israel, and increasing their motivation to emigrate to countries whose identity suits them better.

The Jewish National Fund

This holds true with regard to the debate over the status of the Jewish National Fund as well. Since the state is being hindered from giving preference to Jewish settlement, the Jewish National Fund, which belongs to the Jewish people, should be strengthened as much as possible, so that it can encourage Jewish settlement to its fullest extent.

Military Policy Plans

We hope for peace, but we may still have to go through wars and crises. If, however, we keep in mind the goal of fulfilling the mitzvah, we can work to ensure that the outcome of the wars and crises will be the expulsion of hostile foreigners from our country, and the encouragement of emigration of those who do not support the State of Israel’s Jewish identity.

A Vision for Many Nations

Finding a profound solution to the fulfillment of this mitzvah and to the challenges of the identity and security of the State of Israel, will bring healing and blessing to many countries that are struggling with similar problems. The model of the mitzvah of ‘ger toshav’ can serve as a moral means for preserving their national identity, along with a fair and respectful attitude towards immigrants. A ‘ger toshav’ is required to accept upon himself two principles: The first is to recognize the national and religious identity of the native citizens, and to bear the burden of national challenges vis-a-vis the enemy or competing cultures. The second is the acceptance of the Seven Noahide commandments, which includes proper moral behavior.

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

Sign the New Organ Donor Card

The main points of the complex issue of organ transplants * The essential question: Determination of the moment of death – is brain death considered death, even though the heart continues beating? The Chief Rabbinate decided to allow transplants, but justifiably conditioned it on the presence of a God-fearing physician * The medical establishment, which for years attacked the Rabbinate, opposed the intervention of rabbis an thus prevented numerous transplants * Following the initiative of MK Schneller and a softening of the medical establishment, it was agreed that rabbis would authorize the transplants * Only recently have enough rabbis been trained to rule in this field, and the clause the Rabbinate requested has been added to donor cards * Today, it is a mitzvah to sign the organ donor card

Is it Permissible to Transplant an Organ from a Deceased Body into a Living One?

In principle, it is forbidden to take an organ from the body of a deceased person due to three prohibitions: 1) it is forbidden to benefit from a deceased body. 2) It is forbidden to desecrate a deceased body. 3) It is a mitzvah to bury the dead, and whoever takes a limb from a corpse, forfeits the mitzvah of burial of that specific organ.

Accordingly, there are poskim (Jewish law arbiter) who are of the opinion that it is forbidden to transplant an organ from a deceased person in order to save a life, because the deceased are exempt from mitzvot, and are not obligated to give up a limb to save a living person (Binyan Tzion). However, in the opinion of most halakhic authorities, it is permissible to take a limb from the deceased in order to save lives, because ‘pikuach nefesh’ (the saving of life) overrides the mitzvot of the deceased’s honor and burial (Noda B’Yehuda, Chatam Sofer, and many others). In practice, since this issue concerns the saving of lives, Rabbi Goren ztz”l wrote that it is a mitzvah to follow the opinion of the majority of halakhic authorities.

The Question of Brain Death

There are patients whose lives depend on whether organs will be found for them for transplantation. Today, it is possible to receive a heart or a liver for transplantation from someone who was severely injured, whose brain, including the brain stem, had died, but their hearts still beat with the help of a ventilator. If the heart were to stop beating, the blood and oxygen would stop flowing into the organs and they would degenerate, become irreversibly damaged, and not be transplantable; but since the blood system continues functioning, some organs remain vital, and can be transplanted.

The essential halachic question is: what is the status of a person who died of brain death, but whose heart is still beating? If he is considered alive, then the taking of his limbs is murder; if he is considered dead, then it is a mitzvah for his family members to donate his organs in order to save lives.

Disagreement among the Halachic Authorities

In principle, it is agreed that death is determined by breathing (Yoma 81a; Rambam Shabbat 2:19; S. A., O.C. 329:4), and since breathing is dependent on the brain, in the opinion of some of the eminent poskim, a person whose brain has been completely destroyed, including the brain stem responsible for breathing, and can no longer function and breathe independently, is considered dead, and organs may be removed from his body for transplantation (Rabbi Goren, Rabbi Yisraeli, and also, as testified in the name of Rabbi Feinstein).

In contrast, some eminent poskim maintain that as long as the heart beats a person is still considered to be alive, and one who takes organs from him for transplantation is considered as if he murdered him (Rabbi Waldenberg, Rabbi Wozner, and Rabbi Elyashiv).

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l also forbade, and although he was of the opinion that in principle the brain determines death, nevertheless, he was apprehensive that the doctors’ measuring devices were not sufficiently accurate and based on their tests, doctor’s may conclude the brain died completely – while in truth, part of it was still alive.

Our Rabbis Decision

During the tenure of the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz”l and the Gaon Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l as Chief Rabbis, this question came before them. Together with their colleague Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli ztz”l and the other members of the Rabbinical Council, they delved deeply into the issue and in 1986 decided that death was determined by the brain, and consequently, it was permissible to take organs for transplant from a brain-dead person.

One of the sources of this is found in the Mishnah (Ohalot 1:6), according to which a person whose head was cut off is considered dead, even though his body convulses; and, as it turned out, if a beast’s head was severed and attached to a life-sustaining machine, its heart continued beating. Hence, the heartbeat after the brain dies is not a sign of life, but is like the convulsion of a dead person whose head was cut off.

In order to prevent any doubt, strict control conditions were established by which it would be possible to ascertain clearly that the brain was indeed dead, including the brain stem. The rabbis also agreed that one of the two doctors who would determine the death of the brain would be a God-fearing doctor whom they trusted.

Caution in Verifying Brain Death

It should be noted that our rabbis’ position of requiring the participation of a God-fearing physician in the death-determination team was not due to stubbornness, or a desire to intervene in the doctors’ work. The demand stemmed from a well-founded fear that there are doctors who believe it is permissible to take organs from a person – also from someone defined as being in a vegetative or terminal state although though his brain was not yet completely dead – because in any case, there is no longer a chance of his returning to life. While such a position stems from good intentions, according to Jewish law it is considered murder.

In addition, the concept of ‘brain-death’ is vague because it is a gradual process of degeneration, and determining the given moment when the brain is considered alive, and then dead, is difficult; rather, as time passes, the function of the brain stem cells gradually decrease. It was necessary to determine the stage at which the brain completely ceases to function, in such a way that there is no longer any possibility of activating the respiratory system even though some activity still occurs in certain cells within it. Since the question is complex, it was necessary to establish a strict and reliable control system.

The Ugly Face of the Medical Establishment

But then, the medical establishment’s ugly face was revealed. For years, people from the medical establishment alleged that the rabbis did not care about saving lives. Without recognizing the seriousness of the matter, and the difficulty in deciding on an action that could be either murder or life-saving, they accused the rabbis of being afraid to decide the halakha, and in the meantime, people needing transplants were dying. But then, when the rabbinate decided in favor of the lenient opinion, it suddenly became clear a more important value than human life was involved, namely, the honor of the medical establishment. True, the issue of transplants was important, but not to the point of agreeing to the Rabbinate’s request that one of the doctors determining the moment of death be appointed by the Rabbinate. Let all those requiring transplants die, so long as the Rabbinate does not participate in determining the moment of death. And so it was: dozens of people died as a result of the insistence of the medical establishment.

Testimony of a Senior Doctor

After I had given a lecture on this issue, a senior doctor approached me and said frankly, he himself would not trust the doctors on this question. First, because it is difficult to define definitively what exactly brain-death is. Second, being familiar with the medical system as he was, regrettably, some doctors would be willing to determine brain-death prematurely. Only after telling him that the Rabbinate had demanded a representative on its behalf would partner in determining the moment of death, was his mind set to rest.

MK Otniel Schneller’s Initiative

Twenty years later, MK Otniel Schneller delved into the issue, initiating and steering the enactment of the ‘Brain-Respiratory Death Law’ and the ‘Organ Transplantation Law’. Despite the opposition of various doctors, medical standards were set in law corresponding to the Rabbinate’s demands. It was also decided that two senior doctors who had absolutely no involvement in organ transplantations would participate in determining the moment of death. These doctors would not treat the patient, and would not represent the interests of another patient who needed a transplant. These doctors would undergo special training by a committee to be established for their accreditation. In addition, it was decided that a medical-halachic control committee would be established to examine all the death certificates of brain-death to check if they were done according to halakha and lawfully. In practice, Rabbi Avraham Steinberg told me that after examining more than 200 cases they didn’t find a case of a significant breach of the regulations, so that practically speaking, there was not even one case of removing a living patient from a ventilator for transplantation. Otniel Schneller deserves to be honored for this.

Continued Insistence

However, the Rabbinate’s demand had not yet been fulfilled because the medical establishment still insisted on not including expert rabbis in supervising the process of approving the moment of death. Over time, the medical establishment softened its position, and agreed to add a clause to the ‘Adi’ organ donor’s card, allowing religious people to state that the donation is contingent upon the consent of a “clergyman” agreed to by the family. It seemed that adding this clause would have solved the problem. But in practice, it turned out that the problem was not resolved because more than ninety-nine percent of the “clergy” were unfamiliar with the instruments meant to check the state of the brain and consequently could not permit a person to be disconnected from life-saving machines, thus, forfeiting the possibility of organ transplantation. Only when they found a way to contact one of the rabbis who was an expert in the matter, were they able to permit organ transplantation according to the rulings of our rabbis.

Mitzvah to Sign the New Organ Donor Card

Recently, a satisfactory solution was found. The Chief Rabbinate, in cooperation with the National Center for Transplantation, trained dozens of rabbis from all over the country, and additionally, the following clause compliant with the Rabbinate’s request was included in the ‘Adi’ card: “I request that my family consult with a rabbi who was trained and authorized by the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Health concerning the halachic aspects of organ donation.”

It is a mitzvah to sign on an organ donor card with such a clause. And merely by signing on such a card, one is considered as having taken part in the saving of life, for indeed, our Sages have said: “If a person thought to fulfill a mitzvah and he did not do it, because he was prevented by force or accident, then Scripture credits it to him as if he had performed it” (Berachot 6a). May we all merit a good and long life.

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

The Demonstrations Themselves are Corrupt

The relatively minor suspicions against Prime Minister Netanyahu which have not yet been proven are not serious enough to oust representatives chosen by the public * Highlighting certain offenses among right-wingers while they exist on the left as well is itself corrupt * Even if failings are discovered in the government it is not fundamentally corrupt rather ethical, and provides for the weak * Violation of voter’s will is corruption * Demonstrations undermining the government harms millions of citizens who voted for it * Demonstrations heightening the chances of elections causes damage to the economy and society * A note on the customs of accompanying a bride and groom to the wedding canopy

Q: Why aren’t the rabbis joining forces with the demonstrators against corruption in the government and calling for integrity?

A: Because these demonstrations themselves are corrupt! They are organized by interested parties who lost the elections, and are now trying to change policy by pressuring police investigators and attorneys through legal means to topple the government and bring about elections. The Left was overwhelmingly defeated in the elections because the public was fed up with their political path and arrogant behavior, and now they are trying to replace the government by a disgraceful exploitation of ethics ​​in order to advance their political goals.

The Crux of the Matter

The allegations against the Prime Minister are just suspicions. Nothing has been proven against him, and it is a well-known rule that judgment is not passed based on suspicions – all the more so when all the media reports are heavily biased. Even according to the slanted reports, the matters that the Prime Minister is under investigation for are gifts he received over a number of years, and added up to a total of several hundred thousand shekels. These are not large amounts of money for the Prime Minister – he could receive the same amount of money for one or two lectures after he retires. If he wanted to get his hands dirty in a weapons deal, like Ehud Barak, he could have received ten times more. The matters he is suspected of are related to improper behavior, but not the type that corrupts the foundations of government.

In every political party and government there were all types of corruption. It’s natural that people possessing power are sometimes tempted to use it for their own good, but even according to the suspicions, this is not an exceptional case.

Discrimination Is Corruption

The “purists” argue against us that the fact left-wing politicians behave corruptly does not absolve us from demanding right-wing representatives to act ethically, and if they don’t, we must join the leftists and demand they be brought to justice immediately.

Discrimination, however, is the most serious corruption. When politicians from the Left are judged leniently by the media and the courts, while politicians from the Right are judged severely, this is the gravest type of corruption. This is what leads decent people from the Left to believe that Right-wing politicians are about to destroy the judicial system and democracy, and if they are not stopped by all possible means, the State of Israel will go to ruins. This basic discrimination is what continually feeds the judicial system, police, and media to treat the suspicions against the Prime Minister so harshly. After the so-called “corruption” of the right-wing government was raised to the top of the flagpole, anyone who opposes them is considered a ‘tzaddik’ (a saint). Thus we find policemen leaking investigations and encouraging demonstrations against the Prime Minister, and attorneys who see it as their sacred duty to thwart government policy. Participation in these demonstrations strengthens the infrastructure of this built-in corruption.

In a similar vein, those who boycott the State of Israel because of its treatment of the Arabs create severe discrimination between the strict jurisdictions of the State of Israel compared to other countries in similar conflicts. This grave discrimination is the foundation of the deep-rooted hatred for the very existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Media is Not the Gatekeeper

The secular media claims that it is the moral “gatekeeper” of the public, and as a result it attacks Netanyahu and his government on corruption. But if they are gatekeepers, why didn’t they ever ask why Netanyahu is unfaithful to his party’s platform – to develop Judea and Samaria for the sake of the Jewish people? Why isn’t he loyal to his voters wishes to strengthen the Jewish character of the State of Israel, and why has he regularly capitulated to the judicial system, in its various branches, without doing what is necessary to restrain its power and restore the proper balance between the branches of government? The only explanation is that the media plays a role in the political debate and corruption is not at the top of its agenda, but rather, the overthrow of the right-wing government.

Our Disagreement with the “Purists”

It can be said that the root of our disagreement with naïve people who participate in these demonstrations for moral reasons touches on assessing the credibility of the media. Those who think that the media reports honestly are convinced that the case of Netanyahu involves unusual corruption. But even according to the slanted leaks this is a mistake. The majority of the public realizes the media is corrupt – only 30% trust it (according to the annual research of Prof. Tamar Hermann). And the public is mistaken – the media is even more corrupt than it realizes.

If the state of the government was corrupt, as the prophet says: “Your leaders are rebels, friends of thieves. They all love bribes and run after gifts. They give no justice to orphans, the widow’s complaint doesn’t catch their attention” (Isaiah 1:23), everyone would be obligated to go out and protest against the government. But the reality is completely different. Israeli society as a whole condemns theft and bribery, and anyone who is caught, is sentenced and punished. The government works persistently to assist orphans and widows, and all government agencies attempt to prevent discrimination against them. Are there problems? Of course there are. However the basic position is principled, and in actuality as well, there is no institutionalized corruption.

If there is a present need to demonstrate, then we should demonstrate against the judicial system which oppresses the public and appropriates for itself governmental powers, to the point where any public representative who attempts to implement the positions he pledged to his constituents is prevented by the judicial system, and anyone who tries to rein in the judicial system is in danger of libel, investigations, and political assassination.

Violation of Voter Trust is Corruption

The most serious corruption of public officials is a breach of voters’ trust. Private matters that do not amount to particularly serious offenses should be judged separately, after the period of public service.

The demonstrators’ claim that a government should be brought down on certain suspicions is a mortal blow to the public that elected its representatives to fulfill their mission for four years. Harming these public representatives cheats and embezzles the public’s right of being represented by its elected representatives. For example, the damage caused to former MK Yinon Magal, who resigned from the Knesset following allegations of improper behavior was unjustified, because even if his behavior was not completely appropriate he was elected as a public representative, and improper behavior in one area which does not harm his constituents is forbidden. His overthrow was not a punitive act against him, but rather against his voters who are now deprived of the distinct representation for which he was elected. Magal was elected as an articulate and active spokesman for national and Jewish values, and now his voice in the Knesset is missing.

No one objects that after the Prime Minister has completed his term he should stand trial and face justice, and if found guilty, bear full punishment. But now, it is not he who is being punished, but rather the public who voted for him. It naturally follows that all these demonstrations are not against Netanyahu, but rather against the millions of supporters who voted for the government.

If we were talking about a public crime of promoting businessmen at the expense of the needs of the state, or a serious personal crime such as murder, rape, etc., even those who voted for him to be their representative wouldn’t want such an emissary. But when it comes to offenses related to improper personal behavior, politicians have to stand up to the voters’ decision – if wanted, they’ll vote for him. If not, they won’t. And if illegal aspects are involved, he should be tried after his term is over.

Being Dragged into Elections is Detrimental to the Country

In addition to the injustice caused to those who voted for the government, every election campaign places the public in a whirlpool of disputes and quarrels, and also harms the economy by paralyzing the continuous functioning of government ministries and creates an election economy. When all of this happens as a result of minor suspicions relative to the damage – suspicions which have not yet been proven – this is an extremely serious blow to the public.

Not only that, but all these demonstrations taint the interrogation process by putting forbidden pressure on the interrogators, lawyers and judges. Thus we find leaks coming from all the interrogation rooms, officers involved in encouraging political demonstrations, and the public’s trust in the police and the judicial system is harmed. This also is a severe blow to the public.

The Custom of Chaperons in a Jewish Wedding

One of the most beautiful customs in a Jewish wedding is that of the chaperons (‘shooshvan’im‘) – those accompanying the bride and groom on their way to the wedding canopy, as is the custom of escorting kings and queens – while guests gather around them and dance. The accepted practice is that the respective fathers accompany the groom, and the mothers accompany the bride.

This is the custom in the Land of Israel, and in most Jewish communities. In recent times, families that immigrated from America have the custom that the groom’s father and mother escort their son, and the bride’s father and mother accompany the bride. There are rabbis who are very meticulous in maintaining the custom of the Land of Israel, and several are unwilling to arrange a wedding ceremony in which the customs of the Land of Israel are altered.

In practice, however, if the parents insist on this, since it does not entail a halachic prohibition, they should be allowed to do so. However, l’chatchila (ideally), it is proper to maintain the custom of the Land of Israel that the fathers accompany the bridegroom and the mothers accompany the bride, as this conveys a positive expression of the union of the two families by means of the children’s wedding. In Israel, when there is a disagreement between the two families, the traditional custom in Israel should be followed, according to which the respective fathers accompany the groom, and the mothers accompany the bride.

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

Continuing the Struggle in the Courtyards of Your Sanctuary

President Trump’s declaration is not a novelty, but the opposition to it attests to its importance * Not unlike the Balfour Declaration, it is specifically the Jewish representatives in the foreign government who are obstructive to the declaration * The Reform movement tried to sabotage the recognition of Jerusalem akin to their erasing of Jerusalem from prayers, but at the same time, demand changes of the status quo at the Western Wall * What remains of the Hasmonean victory is the liberation of the Jewish spirit from its bonds *Today as well, the struggle against the successors of Hellenism – secular, liberal culture – centers around the Temple Mount * The challenge is immense, precisely because Israel aspires to receive from the nations, and influence them * Laws of Chanukah for guests

President Trump’s Declaration

About a week ago, a storm erupted following U.S. President Trump’s declaration of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the one hand, there is nothing new in this declaration because this has been the reality since the establishment of the state 70 years ago; since then, Jerusalem has grown, developed, and strengthened, and is the center of Israeli sovereignty in all respects. The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital today, can be likened to a person who married years ago, had children and grandchildren, but just now people remember to congratulate him on his wedding! On the other hand, however, the strong opposition to this declaration attests to its importance, because for various reasons, haters of Israel are pressuring all countries not to recognize the special connection of the Jewish people to its land and to Jerusalem, its holy city.

Regrettably, the representatives of the Jewish community in the United States did not pressure the administration to fulfill its promise, rather, it was Christian lovers of Israel through their representatives in Congress, the Senate, and the government such as Vice President Pence and U.N. Ambassador Hailey who initiated the declaration. Our blessings go out to them. Their steadfast support for the State of Israel’s existence and the strengthening of its capability warms our hearts.

In Contrast to the Balfour Declaration

Of course, there is no room to compare the Trump Declaration to that of the Balfour Declaration. First of all, during the times of the Balfour Declaration the situation of the Jewish people was at a low ebb. Jews had no political, military, or economic standing whatsoever. And then, lo and behold, the foreign minister of Britain, who at the time was the world’s leading superpower and on the verge of conquering the Land of Israel, declared that Britain would work to establish a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. True, Lord Balfour was not Prime Minister at the time, however he held a very important position given that in his previous capacity he had served as Prime Minister, and thus, had enormous influence. Stemming from his deep religious faith, he saw it as his duty and privilege to fulfill the lofty mission of history, to realize the vision of the prophets, and to help the Jewish people regain their independence in their sacred homeland.

Unfortunately – not unlike the Reform movement today – then as well, a Jewish minister in the British government objected to the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to its homeland and together with him, the haters of Israel sabotaged and weakened the declaration: instead of it being drafted as a declaration of His Majesty’s Government and directed to the Zionist Movement as planned, it was written as a declaration by Lord Balfour, and delivered as a personal letter to Lord Rothschild. Nevertheless, the declaration still carried tremendous weight, and was the basis for the decision of the League of Nations in San Remo regarding the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, and the preference for the national right of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel over the rights of the Arabs and other non-Jews who lived there at the time, who were promised only religious and civil rights, but not national ones.

The Reform Movement’s Opposition

Sadly, the Reform movement who wished to sabotage Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem out of animosity towards the President and Jewish nationalism, were the ones who decades ago removed the Land of Israel and Jerusalem from the wording of prayers, and who now want the State of Israel to recognize them as a legitimate stream of religious Judaism equal to that of traditional Torah Judaism, and they are the ones who want to change the accepted and beloved customs at the Western Wall, which was conquered by the State of Israel in opposition to their beliefs. And when their position is not accepted they provoke hatred, and slander the State of Israel and faithful Jews throughout the world. They perform an act like Zimri through assimilation and sabotage of anything national, but seek reward like Pinchas the holy representative of Judaism for generations. How much agony and grief have we suffered from the pains our Reform brothers have afflicted us. We wish to embrace them as beloved brothers, and receive them here in Israel as full partners in the revival of the nation, but instead, they continue to wound and sabotage.


The Victory of Chanukah

The days of Chanukah are the days of victory of Judaism over Hellenism. All the surrounding nations at the time became Hellenistic; Hellenistic Jews collaborated with the foreign government in order to force other Jews to worship idolatry. However, those loyal to the Torah adhered to their faith and with self-sacrifice and devotion, raised the banner of revolt against the ruling culture. In a difficult and tormented process, they succeeded in liberating the Temple, and restored the sacrificial services to its former state.

The Spirit of Judaism versus Hellenism

True, from a geopolitical point of view the Greeks, and after them the Romans, nevertheless remained rulers both politically and culturally, and as a result of this, Hasmonean rule also failed, with the great grandson of Matityahu the Priest, King Yanai (Jannaeus) and his descendants attracted to Hellenism themselves. But in the awesome days of splendor in which the Temple was liberated and the miracle of Chanukah took place, the Jewish spirit was released from its bonds, and established its status in the Beit Midrash (study halls) of the Oral Torah, and by virtue of this, we are alive and exist to this day. Not only that, but in a tortuous process the Jewish spirit shattered Hellenism, and turned it into a tool for revealing values ​​that had been taken from Judaism.

Judaism can manage with Hellenism because Judaism gives expression to profound and ethical values, and has no problem utilizing Greek wisdom as a magnificent tool for revealing and expanding these profound ideas. However, Hellenism cannot remain a dominant concept as long as Judaism is in the world, because Judaism touches on questions of the soul for which Hellenism has no answer. That is why the Greeks tried to assimilate the Jewish people through their decrees. But as long as the Jewish nation adheres to its faith and Torah victory is assured, because our roots stem from a deeper and higher place – from the Eternal Source.

In Our Times – The Temple Mount

Today as in the past, the Jewish spirit striving for ‘tikun olam’ (perfection of the world) by means of revealing the spiritual holiness that gives eternal, moral meaning to all human and national contexts, finds itself in a profound struggle against the secular, democratic, liberal worldview – the successor of the Hellenism – which aspires to arrange the world by means of superficial equality that denies the revelation of holiness in the national and collective order of life.

And once again, the struggle comes back to center around the Temple Mount, the site of the Holy Temple, which manifests the revelation of sacred values within physical reality. And just as in the past, the winds of foreign culture blowing throughout the world are extremely powerful – hundreds of millions of talented people are developing it, billions of people consume it, and even many of our fellow Jews are drawn after it and do not understand the importance of the sanctity of the Holy Temple, and its significance.

However, the Holy Temple is the foundation of everything. “And I will dwell within them” – God dwells within the actual, physical reality of the Jewish nation – despite all the complications. And thus we learn from the holiday of Chanukah, that from all the Hasmonean victories and their numerous achievements, nothing remained for generations except the days of Chanukah, in which we celebrate the purification of the Temple, and the restoration of its holy service. Only because the Hasmoneans were aware of this and despite all their transgressions, constantly remained connected to the Temple, did their kingdom endure. Even the evil Herod acted to fortify and adorn the Temple, and consequently, the period of his reign is also included in the two hundred years in which Jewish sovereignty returned to Israel as a result of the days of Chanukah (Rambam, Laws of Megillah and Chanukah 3:1).

Self-Sacrifice for Faith

Dealing with this is difficult and complicated. If we were meant to ignore the entire world surrounding us and in consequence, God would miraculously assist us, things would be relatively easy. However, our task is to perfect the world in the kingdom of God, to be connected to the nations as the heart of man is connected to his limbs – to study their ways and cultures, in order to give each and every nation and tongue its important and respected place.

The great difficulty is in creating the proper balance between the tendency of convergence into the uniqueness of Judaism, into the Torah given to Israel alone – “He did not do so to any other nation; and of His laws they were not informed” (Psalms 147:20), and the opposite tendency of encountering different cultures, to acquire from them wisdom, science, and artistic means, and influence them from the Inner Light – “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalms 96:3).

When we fail to precisely maintain the pure Torah position, conflict and complications arise. Nevertheless, as long as the Jewish people are willing to sacrifice themselves for their faith and beliefs without sacrificing the wisdom and inherent morality of the cultures of the various nations, which emerged from the Image of God in man and is inspired by the values of our Torah that have spread to different cultures and beliefs – as long as we remain steadfast on this straight course – our path is paved for success. However, even if we fail to properly define the challenge before us the values ​​of holiness will nevertheless prevail, however, the process will involve suffering, leaving us no choice but to adhere to the values ​​of holiness.

One Who Adheres to His Faith Will be Heeded

Ultimately, one who strengthens himself in faith and does not budge from it, his enemies will fall beneath him and his thinking will be heeded by all, as was the case with Joseph who, although sold as a slave, did not succumb to the seduction of his master’s wife – ” She spoke to Joseph every day, but he would not pay attention to her” (Genesis 39:10), and in the end “Pharaoh took his ring off his own hand and placed it on the hand of Joseph… [Joseph] was thus given authority over all Egypt” (ibid, 41:42-43); not only that, but Osnat, the daughter of his master’s wife, was given to him in marriage.


Chanukah Candles for Shabbat Guests

A family that is hosted on Shabbat, seeing as they also sleep there, their home on that Shabbat is that of their host. According to the custom of Sephardi Jews who light only one menorah in their house, the guests should give a ‘pruta‘ to the host so they will have a share his candles, hear his blessings and view the candles, and thus fulfill their obligation. ‘Bediavad’ (after the fact), even if they do not give a ‘pruta‘, they have fulfilled their obligation, since they are dependent on their hosts, and the lighting of the owner of the household fulfills the obligation of all the guests. According to the Ashkenazi custom, where every person lights a menorah, guests should also light candles with a blessing.

If they sleep in a separate apartment, according to all customs, they should light candles in there.

Where to Light After Shabbat?

On Saturday night, if the guests plan to return home quickly, it is best for them to wait to light candles at home. If they plan to get home so late that people will no longer be walking on the streets, it is preferable that they fulfill the mitzvah in their hosts’ home, the same way they did on Friday evening.

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

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

Chanukah Candle Lighting Today

Even today it is appropriate to light the Chanukah candles at ‘tzeit ha’kachavim’ (nightfall), and it is especially desirable to dedicate the following time to the study of the holiday, and family gatherings * One who finds it difficult to return home early can light when he gets home, and recite the blessings only if there is someone who will see the candles * In the event that one of the spouses is not home at candle lighting time, in most cases, it is preferable to wait * One can be lenient and light the candles at public events, especially in the presence of people who are not religiously observant * For those living in an apartment building it is preferable to light the candles on the windowsill, even if one lives on a high floor * Lighting the candles outside the door in a glass container, is a ‘hidur’, but not obligatory

The Proper Time and Duration of Lighting

The Sages ordained that one must light the Chanukah candles when the miracle will be publicized most effectively. In the past, when there were no street lights, at nightfall the streets would fill with people returning home from their daily activities. Therefore, the Sages declared that the proper time to light the candles is “from sunset until the marketplace empties out” (Shabbat 21b).

And although today we have electric lighting, and most people continue working into the evening and return home after nightfall, one should try to return home as soon as possible, in order to light close to the ideal time ordained by the Sages – from tzeit ha’kochavim (nightfall).

If possible, how ideal it would be if one could return home early on Chanukah before five o’clock, and after the candle lighting, gather together with one’s family and learn about the miracle of Chanukah, and the destiny of the People of Israel.

Ma’ariv (Evening Services) and Candle Lighting

Men who regularly pray Ma’ariv immediately at tzeit ha’kochavim should pray as usual and afterwards, return home quickly to light the candles.

For those who usually pray Ma’ariv later, it is preferable they light candles at tzeit ha’kochavim and pray at their usual time, and thus be able to light at the more ideal time, tzeit ha’kochavim.

One must be careful, however, not to eat dinner beforehand. If there is concern that after a party following candle lighting, one will forget to pray Ma’ariv, it is preferable to pray at tzeit ha’kochavim, and light candles after Ma’ariv (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 12,13; 13, footnote 4).

Cancelling a Regular Torah Class  

In a place where a regular Torah class takes place after Ma’ariv, and if as a result of the participants going home to light candles after prayers the class will be cancelled, it is preferable to hold the class at its regular time and to light candles afterwards, because Torah study is superior to lighting the candles at the ideal time (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 12, 13; 13, footnote 13).

Those Returning Late from Work

A person who finds it difficult to return home at tzeit ha’kochavim, is permitted to light candles with a bracha (blessing) after he returns from work, for even in the past in the opinion of the majority of poskim (Jewish law arbiters), bediavad one could fulfill the mitzvah all night long – kal ve’chomer (all the more so) today, when many people normally return home after tzeit ha’kochavim.

However, a person who comes home late should try to light the candles as soon as possible, and at the latest, light before 9:00 P.M., because until that time, even latecomers usually return home from work. Only in a sha’at dachak (pressing circumstance) is one permitted to light the candles all night long, and to recite the blessing only if there is at least one other person in the house or on the street who will see the candles (ibid 13: 8, footnote 12).

A latecomer must be careful not to eat achilat keva (a proper meal) until he lights candles (ibid 12, footnote 13).

Waiting for a Spouse

In many families, the question arises as to the appropriate procedure when one’s spouse cannot return home from work by tzeit
ha’kochavim. Is it better to light at tzeit, or wait for his or her return?

Technically, it is not necessary for both spouses to be present for candle-lighting. When either one of them lights candles in their home, they have both fulfilled their obligation. Therefore, it would seem preferable for one to light at tzeit. Nevertheless, in practice it is preferable in most cases to wait for the spouse to return home. For if the latecomer does not have the opportunity hear the blessings on the candles elsewhere, he should be waited for. And also, if there is concern that one’s feelings might be hurt by the fact that the mitzvah was observed without him, or that one’s connection to the mitzvah will be harmed, they should wait until the other spouse returns.

If they wish, they can decide that the spouse at home will light candles on time and with a bracha, and when the other spouse returns, he or she can also light candles with a blessing (ibid 12: 4, footnote 2).

Waiting for Children

According to the custom of Sephardim, where only one member of the family lights candles for all members of the household, according to the same considerations previously mentioned, i.e. that one should wait for a spouse, they should also wait for each member of the family.

However, if the latecomer arrives after 9:00 PM, it is preferable not to wait for him and light beforehand, and the latecomer should be careful to participate in a candle lighting and hear the blessings elsewhere. If he cannot, and it is not a one-time event, it is preferable for him to follow the Ashkenazi minhag (custom), and have kavana (intention) not to fulfill his obligation in his family’s lighting, and when he arrives home, he should light the candles himself with a bracha.

According to Ashkenazi minhag, candle lighting is not postponed until children arrive, and when they do arrive, they should light candles for themselves with a bracha.

Do Children Light Candles? (For Sephardim)

The minhag of Sephardim is that only the head of the household lights the Chanukah candles, but if the children are eager to light a menorah, they are permitted to light candles without a blessing. In families where the children really desire to recite a blessing, or the father especially wants them to bless, they can rely on our teacher and guide, the Rishon LeTzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, who permitted children up to the age of Bar Mitzvah to light candles with a blessing.

In the opinion of Rabbi Shalom Mashash ztz”l, even boys who have passed the age of Bar Mitzvah may have the kavana not to fulfill their obligation with their father’s lighting, and to light the candles themselves with a bracha (Yalkut Shemesh, O. C., 192). In times of need, one is permitted to rely on his opinion.

Candle Lighting at Public Gatherings

Many people glorify the miracle by lighting Chanukah candles wherever people gather, such as at weddings, bar mitzva’s, bat mitzva’s, Chanukah parties, and lectures.

There are poskim, however, who maintain that one should not recite a bracha at such gatherings, because the berakhot are customarily recited only in synagogues (Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Elyashiv).

On the other hand, there are those who believe that it is permitted to light candles with a bracha in any place of public gathering, because the reason for the minhag of lighting in the synagogue is to publicize the miracle, and therefore candles should be lit at any place where there is a public gathering (Rabbi Yisraeli; Yebiah Omer, sect.7, 57:6). If possible, it would be good to pray Ma’ariv at the gathering, and then to a certain extent, the place could be considered a synagogue, and thus they would be permitted to light the candles in any case (Rav Eliyahu).

In practice, a person who wishes to rely on poskim who say it is permitted to light with a blessing, is allowed to do so. This is also the proper way to act l’chatchila (ideally) when there are people present who do not observe the mitzvot. In such a case, it is preferable to honor a secular Jew with the lighting of the candles, thus making it clear that the mitzvoth belong to all Jews, both observant and non-observant (Peninei Halakha 12:15, footnote 18).

Where to Light in an Apartment Building

Ideally, our Sages determined Chanukah candles should be lit near the doorway facing the street, in order to publicize the miracle to passers-by in the street. However, there is disagreement about where the entrance is for those who live in a high-rise building. Some poskim say at the entrance to the building, but one should not follow this opinion since there are poskim who believe that one does not fulfill his obligation by doing so, for the mitzvah is to light next to a person’s private home.

Therefore, it is preferable to light candles in the window facing the public domain. And although some poskim are of the opinion that it is preferable to light on the left side of the door entrance facing the stairwell, it is preferable to light on the windowsill, because the primary objective is to publicize the miracle. Even for those living on the fourth floor or higher, it is preferable to light candles on the window. True, our Sages said that one who lights the candles in a place higher than twenty cubits (9.12 meters) does not fulfill his obligation, however, they spoke about a person who lights the candles on a pillar in the middle of his courtyard. But someone who lights the candles on the windowsill inside his home, about a meter and a half from the floor of his house, most certainly fulfills his obligation. And since people normally look at the windows of apartment buildings, by lighting the candles on the windowsill, the miracle is publicized even more (ibid 13: 3).

For those following Ashkenazi minhag, where the children also light candles, it is preferable for the head of the family to light on the windowsill, and one of the children near the entrance to the apartment.

Where to Light in a Private House

Our Sages said that the recommended place to light the Chanukah candles is near the entrance to the house outside, on the left side of the entrance, with the mezuzah on the right, and the candles on the left, so that someone passing through is surrounded by mitzvot (Shabbat 21b). In other words, it seems our Sages’ enactment indicates that in the past there was no concern that the wind would blow out the Chanukah candles that were lit at the entrance to the home. Homes were built close together, many cities and courtyards were enclosed by a wall, and there were no strong winds blowing between the homes. Therefore, evidently, it was possible to light candles outside entranceways and courtyards without worrying that the candles would blow out. Today, however, when one lights candles outside, the wind usually blows them out. The only way to protect the candles is to light them in a glass box, like an aquarium.

However, our Sages never required people to buy glass boxes in order to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles. Therefore, one who does not wish to buy a glass box may light the candles inside his home. If he lights in a window facing the street, he beautifies the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle to the same degree as one who lights in the entranceway, though he does not further beautify the mitzvah by lighting on the left side of the entranceway and thus surrounding himself with mitzvot (the mezuzah on the right, and the candles on the left). 

To Light Candles by the Door or by the Window?

When a person has an aquarium and can light at the entrance to his house from the outside, however, the location of the entrance is not visible from the street, but on the other hand, if he lights the candles on the windowsill, passersby’s will see it – there is a disagreement among the poskim where it is preferable to light. It seems that in practice, it is more mehudar (rendered more beautiful) to light by the window; however, there is also an advantage to lighting in the entranceway. If several family members are lighting, as is the Ashkenazic custom, one should light at the entrance to the house, and another, on the windowsill (Peninei Halakha 13:2).

The Candles

All candles are kosher for Chanukah candles, provided they can be lit for at least half an hour. And if numerous people see the candles from the street, it is preferable to use candles that will burn for several hours, in order to publicize the miracle more effectively.

The candles lit on Erev Shabbat should remain lit for approximately an hour and a quarter, because since they are lit before Shabbat begins, they need to continue burning for half an hour after tzeit ha’kochavim.

Ideally, one should choose candles whose light shines most beautifully, in order to publicize the miracle. That is why many people choose to light either wax or paraffin candles, because they give off a particularly beautiful light. Some say that it is preferable to light olive oil, which shines beautifully, and also reminds us of the miracle of Chanukah which was performed with olive oil (ibid 12: 6).

Electric Light Bulbs

According to the majority of poskim,
one may not use electric bulbs, because they are not considered candles. Indeed, concerning Shabbat candles, according to numerous poskim, one may fulfill his obligation with electric light bulbs; however, in regards to Shabbat candles, the main purpose is to add light, whereas for Chanukah candles, the intention is to remind us of the miracle that occurred in the menorah of the Temple, and therefore the candles should be similar to those of the Temple (ibid 12:8).

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

Don’t Resign, Bear the Burden

Should observant ministers resign in the event of Shabbat desecration by the government * The mitzvah of rebuke requires one to protest, but it is enough to express your position without reaching a confrontation * It is forbidden to conduct a partnership with a Shabbat desecrator, or to benefit from Shabbat desecration * In the light of this, the Haredi position is resignation from the government, and not bear responsibility for the desecration of Shabbat * Already from the time when the separation of communities in Europe was discussed, most Gedolei Yisrael objected to separation and disengagement from the general public * Participation in the leadership of the state should continue, and cooperation with the traditional public in order to preserve the character of public Shabbat observance should be increased

Recently, a consequential and serious question surfaced once again: how should religiously observant ministers who are members in the government coalition relate to Shabbat desecration carried out by a government agency, such as the Israel Railways corporation? Do they share responsibility for this and should resign, as Minister Litzman did this week, or should they attempt to minimize the Shabbat desecration, but not resign?

The Logic behind the Haredi Position

The responsibility of each minister for the overall activities of the government makes him a partner in any activity carried out on behalf of the government. Consequently, when a government-owned company such as the Israel Railways desecrates Shabbat, all members of the government become partners in the transgression, and any observant minister must resign. This is the reason why for many years, representatives of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties who were members in the coalition refrained from becoming ministers, because members of the Knesset who support the coalition, do so by weighing the benefits and losses of supporting the coalition, but the law obliging ministers to take responsibility for all the decisions and actions of the government does not apply to them. Understanding the importance and significance of running a government ministry, they agreed to be appointed deputy ministers, who in practice run a government ministry, but do not share the common responsibility of the ministers, because they do not have the right to vote in government. Only in the wake of a decision by the High Court was Litzman forced to be appointed as minister, and presently, when in the name of the government Shabbat is publicly desecrated, he was forced to resign.

This is the Haredi position at its finest, and is admirable, especially when a successful minister like Yaakov Litzman is prepared to give up his status for the sake of a sacred principle.

Nevertheless, the prevalent position of our ‘Beit Midrash’ is different. Before we examine it, I will summarize a few halachic issues relevant to this topic.

The Obligation to Protest, and the Prohibition of Participating in a Sin

From the general mitzvot of “Love your neighbor as yourself” and the mitzvah of mutual responsibility, is also derived the mitzvah to rebuke our fellow Jews who commit a sin, so that they do not falter in their transgression, as written in the Torah: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. You must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him…You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18).

When there is a chance that the rebuke will have an influence – a person who refrained from rebuking is considered partner in the sin (Shabbat 44b). Even when there is no chance that the rebuke will have an effect one is obligated to rebuke, in order to express protest against the transgression, and it is sufficient that a person’s position of disproval of the sin be made known. If one has not voiced his position, it is enough to express one’s protest without reaching any confrontation, as our Sages said (Yevamot 65b): “As one is commanded to say that which will be obeyed, so is one commanded not to say that which will not be obeyed” (R’ma, O.C. 608:2; M.B. 9).

The mitzva of rebuke does not apply to desecrators of Shabbat who do it publicly, maliciously and defiantly, since they have removed themselves from Jewish brotherliness (Biur Halakha 608:2, s.v. “aval”). However, since they are Jews, when possible it is a mitzvah to bring them closer to repentance but not in the manner of reproach since they do not accept the basic principles of the Torah of Israel, and concerning this, our Sages likewise said that one is commanded not to say that which will not be obeyed.

Partnership in a Business that Violates Shabbat

When a person is a partner in a business or a store with a non-Jew, he is obligated to close it on Shabbat, and even if the non-Jew wants to work for himself, the Jew must prevent him from doing so, for our Sages forbade a Jew to gain benefit from the work that a non-Jew did for him on Shabbat. Nevertheless, a Jew and a non-Jew are permitted to make an agreement at the time of purchase of the business or store, according to which the business is owned solely by the non-Jew on Shabbat, on Sundays solely by the Jew, and co-owned on the rest of the week, but since such a situation may lead others to suspect they are doing something forbidden, they must publicly publish their agreement (S.A., O.C. 245:1-3).

When the co-owner operating the business or store on Shabbat is a Jew who desecrates Shabbat, the prohibition is exceedingly more severe, since the other Jew becomes a partner in the prohibition of Shabbat desecration. Therefore, there is no ‘heter‘ (rabbinic allowance) to sell him the store or business for every Shabbat.

The Prohibition of Benefiting from Shabbat Desecration

In order to fortify the honor of Shabbat, and prevent Jews from participating indirectly in Shabbat desecration, our Sages enacted a prohibition not to benefit from work performed on Shabbat, even if it was done by mistake. If it was done deliberately, it is forbidden for anyone for whom the work was done for to gain benefit from it forever. And if the work was done for the public, it is forbidden for the entire public to benefit from it forever (S.A., 318:1; Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 26:7).

Apparently, according to this, if Jewish laborers worked on setting the railway tracks on Shabbat, it would be forbidden to travel on them forever. In this case, however, when representatives of the religious public requested, pleaded, implored, and even threatened to prevent laborers from working on Shabbat, but in spite of this, work continued on Shabbat, the religious public is not guilty of the work done against their will, and is permitted to travel on these tracks after Shabbat. All the more so when the representatives of the railroad company claim that they did not transgress a prohibition, since this is a matter of ‘pikuach nefesh‘ (the saving of lives).

The Shabbat Law in the State of Israel

In general, Shabbat was determined by law as the national day of rest of the State of Israel, in which employees cease working. However in addition to that, it was determined by law (in the year 1951), that the Ministry of Labor would grant work permits on Shabbat in order to prevent harm to state security, the economy, or essential public needs.

In other words, even for needs that are not ‘pikuach nefesh’ which are prohibited from being performed on Shabbat according to Jewish law, the Ministry of Labor grants work permits. The permits are granted within the framework of the accepted status quo, such as the operation of public transportation in Haifa as it had operated even before the establishment of the state. Work permits are also granted as a result of various public pressures, with permits not being given in matters in which the religious community is affected, while in matters where the religious community is relatively uninvolved but are more essential for the secular public, a greater amount of permits are granted – for example, the Israel Broadcasting Authority which operates on Shabbat based on public pressure, which was expressed in the secular court’s decision.

Separate or Undivided Communities

The Haredi public’s position regarding the government is based on the position of the rabbis who initiated and supported the separation of the Jewish communities in Europe so that observant Jews would not be partners with transgressors. However, many of the ‘Gedolei Yisrael’ (eminent rabbis) believed that the communities should not be separated, because there is a fundamental difference between individuals who choose with whom to form a partnership who are obligated to refrain from cooperating with Jews who desecrate Shabbat or commit other transgressions within the framework of the partnership, and public frameworks in which individuals are included against their will. There are two reasons for this: 1) because the fact of living together in one place requires them to cooperate in all common matters, such as building roads, and creating a water supply, and sewage, electricity, medical, and police systems. 2) Because of the fact that we are members of one people, and even if on a private level the mutual responsibility between us has been infringed in regards to numerous and significant mitzvot, nevertheless, the general, mutual responsibility always exists. This is similar to members of a family who always remain related, and an example of this is that they are obligated to sit ‘shiva’ for one another.

The first reason can be annulled by moving to a deserted island, and undermined by creating a separate community. Still, the separation would be partial for certain matters, since all matters involving the entire public, such as transportation, water and sewage would remain in the hands of the majority of the public. At the very most, a separate community can say: We will take part only in matters where we have a separate community, but in common matters, we will not take part, and whatever the public does is without our partnership and responsibility. This is the Haredi position.

On the other hand, the prevailing position among the majority of the ‘Gedolei Yisrael‘ is that since we are one nation, it is forbidden for us to separate, and consequently, the two reasons require us to be partners in bearing the burden of all public affairs.

And if in the Diaspora many ‘Gedolei Yisrael’ instructed not to separate communities, and as the Netziv wrote (‘Meshiv Davar’ 1:44), that separation is “as difficult as a sword in the body and existence of the nation,” how much more so in the state of the Jewish people, in the Land of Israel.

Protest is Measured According to the Benefit

Seemingly, one could reply: Indeed, from the aspect of mutual cooperation, it is forbidden to separate – we are partners against our will because we are all members of the same people and live together in the same country, therefore we will vote in elections. But still, from the aspect of the mitzvah to protest, we are obligated to refrain from participating in the government.

However, the mitzvah of protest is dependent on its benefit, and therefore, when the protest will not be hearkened to, it is a mitzvah not to voice it (Yevamot 65b), because the mitzvah is not to carry out the protest, rather, it stems from the mitzvah of “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and therefore, the main thing is to be concerned for the welfare of our fellow Jews. Similarly, we find that our Sages enacted not to join an ‘am ha’aretz’ (someone negligent in their observance of the mitzvot due to their Torah ignorance) in a ‘zimun’ (responsive introduction to Grace after Meals), out of protest against him (Berachot 47b), however, in the days of the Rishonim, the directive to join them in the ‘zimun‘ was declared, because if they were distanced, they would move farther away from Torah and mitzvot (Tosafot, S. A., O.C. 199:3). Therefore, the entire point of the protest was for their benefit, so that if they were not allowed to participate in the ‘zimun‘, they would try harder to connect to the Torah. But if we see that the protest has no benefit, but rather causes harm, it is better to allow them to participate in the ‘zimun‘.

The Proper Policy in Shabbat Observance

In light of this, the proper policy is to increase cooperation between the religious community and traditional Jews, who are the clear majority of the Jewish public in the State of Israel, and include them in taking responsibility for the public character of Shabbat in the State of Israel, in order to create a framework that gives maximum respect to the sanctity of Shabbat and its halachic observance.

The general rule is that the more public a matter is – let alone, state oriented – the greater the need is for Shabbat observance, whereas when it comes to the lives of individuals, less intervention is required, as we have previously learned that it is a mitzvah not to say that which will not be obeyed.

It should be noted that the Haredi position has become more moderate over the years, and we now see that as a result of cooperating in the affairs of the state, they have expressed a resolute position and a strong protest that has facilitated advancement and reform, just as Minister Litzman’s resignation led to legislative amendments in the right direction. In other words, in a closer look, we find that the differences between Haredi and National Religious positions are narrowing favorably, with the Haredim learning about brotherhood and responsibility for ‘Clal Yisrael’ from the National Religious, while the National Religious learn from the Haredim about having more courage and adherence to principles.

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

‘Gifts to the Poor’ – Shared Cooperation

Ways of helping the poor according to the mitzvot of the Torah * ‘Tzedakah’ and ‘matnot aniyim’ (gifts to the poor) care for their basic needs, whereas mitzvot that do not have a prescribed payment provide occasional additional assistance * The poor have to be active partners in collecting the gifts, and do not receive them passively * The portion of the grain distributed to the poor causes the owners only a minimal loss, and is even beneficial * The Torah does not advocate the creation of artificial equality, but rather, cooperation and correlation between all sectors of society * The taking of ‘challah’: a correction and clarification from last week’s article * The measurements of the “Chazon Ish” should not be taken into account * The amount needed to be taken from whole wheat flour

The Torah’s Guidance in Helping the Poor

One of the central ethical questions in every society is how to help the poor. In principle, the basic assumption that society is obligated to assist the needy could be challenged, but as a result of the Torah’s influence on human culture the revelation of good in man has been strengthened, and in practice, this question no longer exists. Nevertheless, there is still a need to clarify what is the most suitable way to help the needy, in the most beneficial and respectful way. Some people simplistically claim that the needy deserve to have all their needs taken care of. They should not have to ask for favors! Society is obligated to help them! Some people go as far as to claim that as long as society has not provided them with all their needs, it is society who is to blame for their condition. However, as we shall see, the Torah’s instruction is significantly more complex, with the aim of helping the poor by having him share the responsibility for his own fate. In addition, Torah instructs that assistance to the poor should be provided through a continuous correlation between the rich and the needy, with the rich sharing their happy occasions with the poor, and the poor thanking and respecting them for that.

Four Means of Helping

The Torah commanded us to help the poor in four ways: firstly, and primarily, through agricultural gifts that the poor would collect by themselves from the fields. The second way was through ‘tzedakah‘ (charity) to supplement the needs of the poor if the gathering of the gifts did not meet their basic needs. Incidentally, the highest level of ‘tzedakah‘ is to help the needy acquire a profession and find work.

The third way is through ‘ma’aser ani’ (the poor tithe). After the owners of fields collected their crops, they would set aside ‘terumot‘ and ‘ma’aserot‘ (tithes), and in the third and sixth years of the seven-year Shemittah cycle, they would set aside ‘ma’aser sheni‘ (a second tithe) for the poor, and by means of it, the poor would be able to live relatively comfortably for two years out of seven. It is interesting to note that this was not a fixed allowance, rather, the regular portion of their basic needs was provided by collecting ‘matnot aniyim’ and supplemented by ‘tzedakah‘. For two years out of seven, they received additional assistance.

The fourth way is by having them share in the mitzvot of happy occasions – in the feasts of the ‘Regalim‘ (Pilgrimage Festivals) and family celebrations, and this was one of the goals of ‘ma’aser sheni’ and ‘ma’aser behema‘ (the tithes of the beast). And once again, this was not a fixed allowance, rather, in every joyful event, the hosts of a feast were commanded to share their feast with the poor in the community, and the poor are commanded to participate in the celebrations, bless their hosts, and wish them to merit celebrating many more happy occasions among the nation of Israel.

It is possible to expand on the significances of the various gifts, but at the moment, I will concentrate on the ‘matnot aniyim’ (gifts of the poor), which is the primary way of helping the poor.

Five Gifts for the Poor

The mitzvah is for a person to share the five gifts from the blessings of his harvest: ‘pe’ah‘ (corners of the field), ‘shichichah‘ (forgotten produce), ‘leket‘ (gleanings), ‘peret‘ (one or two grapes that fell to the ground), and ‘olelot‘ (small clusters with few grapes). ‘Pe’ah‘ – is to leave at least one sixtieth of the harvest at the edge of the field, and if the blessing of one’s harvest increased, or the needs of the poor heightened, it is fitting to leave more. ‘Shichichah‘- is if one forgot to pick or gather some fruit from his field, he would leave it for the poor. ‘Leket‘ – if during the reaping one or two stalks fell to the ground, one must leave them for the poor. ‘Peret‘ and ‘olelot‘ pertain only to grapes: ‘peret‘ – if during the vintage one or two grapes fell from a cluster, they should be left for the poor; ‘olelot‘ – if there are small clusters, they should be left for the poor.

Today, for numerous reasons, it does not pay for the poor to go to the fields and collect their gifts (as a way of illustration: in the past, the value of the agricultural produce of the GNP was about seventy percent; today it is about a quarter of one percent).

Nevertheless, from the principles emerging from these mitzvoth, we can learn about the ideal way to help the poor, according to the Torah.

The Poor are Responsible for their Livelihood

First of all, the mitzvah is for the poor to come to the fields and gather these gifts of the harvest by themselves. Therefore, only the poor were permitted to pick the gifts, but the owner of the field or anyone who was not poor, was not allowed to pick the gifts for a poor friend who could make it to the field, and if he did pick, whatever he picked was confiscated and given to the other poor people who came to the field (Rambam, Laws of Matnot Aniyim 2:19).

Even if there were nine elderly poor people who asked the owner of the field to reap the ‘pe’ah‘ for them so they could share it amongst themselves equally, and one young man demanded that everyone reap for themselves, we listen to the young man who spoke correctly and according to halakha, i.e., that the mitzvah of the gifts is that the poor collect the gifts by themselves. However, in regards to a tall tree like a palm tree, where if the poor were to compete in reaping its fruits things could get dangerous, the Sages determined that the field owner would pick the ‘pe’ah‘ for them all, and divide it equally (Mishnah Pe’ah 4:1; 4; Rambam 2:16-20).

Concern for Society as a Whole

Another principle can be learned from ‘matnot anyim‘, that helping the poor should be done in the most economical way for the rich, and the most beneficial way for the poor. For indeed, these mitzvoth encompass immense wisdom, for if, for example, an owner of a field pays a hundred shekels to harvest or pick a hundred kilos of fruit, in order to harvest the leftover fruits of ‘leket‘, ‘shichichah‘, ‘peret‘, and ‘olelot‘, would cost him at least five times as much due to the huge effort required to harvest the few remaining fruits scattered in the field, or on the trees. Thus the poor, who in any case have no better jobs, benefit from collecting the remaining fruits in the fields, while the owner of the field does not incur any great loss.

Not only that, but the gathering of the fruit overlooked on the trees prevents insects from being attracted to them and causing diseases for the tree. In addition, the few grapes that fell from the clusters usually were a bit blemished, so that the vine owner’s loss by leaving them for the poor was negligible, while the poor were happy to collect them.

Regarding ‘pe’ah‘, the cost of harvesting and picking ‘pe’ah‘ is equal to that of the rest of the grain and fruits in the field. Nevertheless, there is immense wisdom in the mitzva to give ‘pe’ah‘ at the edge of the field, because when the owners harvest their fields and reach the edge of the field, they usually are exhausted from work, and as a result, it is convenient for them to be generous and leave more for the poor. All the more so when the owners of trees decided to leave the fruit at the top of the tree as ‘pe’ah‘, it being more difficult for them to reach, the poor orphan children would climb up the trees, and pick the fruit effortlessly.

It should be added that all these mitzvot also educated the owners of the fields to be generous, and to distance themselves from greed.

Today’s Challenge

Many other ideas are hidden in the halakha’s of ‘matnot aniyim‘ that I have not detailed. In any event, we have learned a number of important principles, and we are all compelled to weigh the possibilities and think about how these mitzvot can be applied to our times.

In the meantime, we have learned that the idea of “class war” or aspiring for artificial equality, is totally unacceptable. The Torah emphasizes brotherhood between all, and guides everyone to cooperate for the benefit of society at large.

The Measurement of Taking ‘Challah

Last week, as a result of a transition to new software, an error occurred in all the numbers of the measurements for taking ‘challah’. Therefore, I will clarify the halakha once again, with additional explanations.

Q: What is the practical halakha regarding the weight of flour obligated in the taking of ‘challah‘ with a blessing?

A: From the amount of one kilo and a half of flour, ‘challah‘ should be set aside with a blessing, and from one kilo and one hundred and fifty grams, ‘challah‘ should be set aside without a blessing.

The measurement is determined by the volume of flour of 43 ‘beitzim’ (eggs) and one fifth of an egg, which is 2.16 liters. It would be excellent if we had a utensil of this volume to measure, but since we are used to measuring by weight, we have to compare the volume to the weight. According to Rambam, the weight of the flour is about two-thirds of its volume (when the flour is densely packed), thus, for flour weighing 1.471 kilo ‘challah’ must be taken (Laws of Bikurim 6:15). According to many poskim (Jewish law authorities), the flour should be approximated in its normal state as it is sold, or as it is poured out of the bag (Magen Avraham 456:4, Machatzit HaShekel, ibid; Pri Chadash 1), and then, its weight is about half of its volume. And since their opinion should be taken into consideration, ‘challah‘ should be taken without a blessing already from the measurement of 1.150 kilo.

However, according to the accounting of Rabbi Chaim Na’eh, the measurements are larger – 1.666 kilos with a blessing, and 1.250 without a blessing; but this is because he calculated them according to the weight of the coin mentioned by the Rambam (zuz-darham), after the Turks added onto it an additional 12 percent. Its weight in the days of the Rambam was 2.83 grams, but about four hundred years ago the Turks increased its weight to 3.2 grams. After becoming absolutely clear that the weight of the darham during the days of Rambam was about 12 percent less, the measurements should be updated, and the measurement according to Rambam for taking ‘challah‘ is 1.471 kilos, and not 1.666 (the same holds true for a ‘beitza‘, whose volume is 50 cc and not 56, and the measurement of a ‘revi’it‘ is 75 cc, and not 86).

The Measurements of the ‘Chazon Ish’ Need Not be taken into Account

There is an additional accounting of measurements known as ‘shiur Chazon Ish’, based on the writings of Rabbi Yechezkal ben Yehuda Landau (‘Noda Biyhuda’), who is of the opinion that today’s eggs are smaller than the eggs spoken by our Sages, and therefore, all the measurements are double. However, in addition to the fact that this approach is extremely difficult, all the Sephardi poskim and the majority of Ashkenazi poskim did not take it into account, and the prevalent ‘minhag‘ (custom) is also not to take it into account. Therefore, already from a kilo and half of wheat flour, ‘challah‘ should be set aside with a blessing, and from a kilo and one hundred and fifty grams, ‘challah‘ should be set aside without a blessing.

All According to the Type of Flour

Everything I wrote is in regards to regular wheat flour, but whole wheat flour is more airy, and already from approximately 1.430 kilograms ‘challah‘ should be taken with a blessing, and from 1.100 kilos, ‘challah‘ should be set aside without a blessing. Barley flour is even more airy, and already from approximately 1.060 kilo, ‘challah‘ should be taken with a blessing, and from 880 grams, ‘challah‘ should be taken without a blessing.

In order to solve all the doubts, it would be appropriated to manufacture a 2.160 liter container for careful measuring of all types of flour that require a blessing when taking ‘challah’. However, as we have learned, there are some poskim who are of the opinion that the flour should be densely packed, consequently, as long as the flour fills the container to the marked measurement, ‘challah’ would be set aside without a blessing, however, only if the flour reached the marked measurement after beating the container three times in order for the flour to sink, would a blessing be recited.

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

“I Am Entirely Rabbi Kook”: Rabbi Dov Yaffe ztz”l

In memory of Rabbi Dov Yaffe, the senior ‘mashgiach’, who passed away last week * His joy over every new book by Rabbi Kook, and his shock at those who humiliated him * Tearing his garment when Rabbi Charlap died * His undertaking for a student who was forced to leave the yeshiva * The spreading of Torah and Mussar in yeshivas throughout the entire country * How yeshiva students can participate in a faraway wedding – without leaving the Beit Midrash * One of the tenets of his teachings: be true, and beware of imitations and fakes * How to calculate the amount of flour required to take ‘challah’

Rabbi Yitzhak Dadon shlita, who has written more than ten books (including ‘Atchalta He‘) about the supportive attitude of the ‘Gedolei Ha’Rabbanim’ (eminent rabbis) of all ethnic denominations towards Zionism, and other topics in halakha and aggadah from the teachings of Rabbi Kook and his students, sent me articles he had written about the “zaken ha’mashgichim” (the senior of the spiritual yeshiva supervisors) Rabbi Dov Yaffe ztz”l, who died a week ago on the 19th of Marcheshvan. Rabbi Yaffe served as the ‘mashgiach‘ at Yeshiva ‘Knesset Yehezkel’ in Kfar Chassidim and at the ‘Kol Ya’akov’ Yeshiva, and spread his patronage over other yeshivas. In order for us to be privileged to participate in eulogizing this ‘tzaddik’ (righteous man), I will quote mention what Rabbi Dadon wrote me.

“It came to my attention that the eminent rabbi, Rabbi Dov Yaffe, had probed the writings of Maran Harav Kook ztz”l, and I paid a visit to his tiny room in the ‘Kol Ya’akov’ yeshiva to see if it indeed was true, and if so, to ask for his help in opposing an evil man, Avraham Hazan, may the name of the wicked rot, who published a book ‘Da’at HaTzionut’ (‘The Religion of Zionism’) full of abuse and blasphemy against Rabbi Kook ztz”l. With his typical patience, Rabbi Dov listened to me till the end, and when I had finished, he quietly asked me in complete shock: “He (that evil man) has no fear?” Then, with his charming smile, he said to me: “I am entirely Rabbi Kook!” I didn’t understand, and asked him what he meant. He answered: “I have built myself entirely from Rabbi Kook!” He told me that he had read his books, and was elated over every book published from the works of Rabbi Kook ztz”l, so I decided that every book that came out, I would bring to him. And when they published “Pinkasei Ha”Ra’aya” I quickly brought them to him, and he accepted them affectionately (in the presence of some yeshiva students who were a bit puzzled, but Rabbi Dov was faithful to his inner truth…). From then on, I had the privilege of sitting with Rabbi Dov for hours on end, in conversations about ‘mussar‘ (ethics) and rabbinical history. He also received my books warmly, and said that he had very much enjoyed my book “Sichat Avot” – the words of Maran HaRav Kook and his students on Tractate Avot. When I brought him the book of the Gaon Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Charlap ztz”lRazei Li“, after a few weeks he said to me: “This is a superior book.” When I published my book of ‘Ke’marei Barak’ – insights of Rabbi Kook ztz”l on the revealed Torah (‘pilpul’ and halakha) on the weekly Torah portions – Rabbi Dov honored me with a letter of approbation which appears at the beginning of the book.

“On one day during ‘bein ha’zmanim‘ (semester break in yeshiva), I went with my son David to visit him at his son-in-law’s house, and while giving my son some advice on ‘mussar’, he suddenly turned to me, and said (next to his son-in-law): “Did you tell him?” I didn’t understand what he meant, and asked: “What should I have told him?” Rabbi Dov smiled, and motioning with his hand from head to toe, said: “Didn’t you tell him that I built myself up entirely on Rav Kook?” We left in awe.

His Position against the Evil Ridiculer of Rabbis

As mentioned above, the beginning of the acquaintance between Rabbi Dadon and Rabbi Dov Yaffe was in the context of the activity of that evil person, who disseminates in his book and website slander and libel about ‘Gedolei Ha’Rabbanim‘ (eminent rabbis) – first and foremost, Rabbi Kook. In order to stifle him, Rabbi Yitzchak Dadon came to Rabbi Dov Yaffe ztz”l and informed him about it.

“Rabbi Yaffe asked to meet with Rabbi Elyashiv ztz”l at his home, and consult about how to prevent the publication of the book. The meeting was attended by five people, and as per the decision of Rabbi Elyashiv ztz”l, it was decided not to publicly protest against the book, so as not to publicize it even further, but rather to contact the distributors in order to stop its distribution. We turned to the distributors but, unfortunately, under various pretexts, they continue to distribute this venom – the power of money has caused them to deny their rabbis…

“Afterwards, a group was formed of ‘b’nei Torah‘, specifically from the Haredi sector, who came out publicly to fight that heretic, and when they came to Rabbi Dov, he said to them: ‘I am at your disposal, whatever you ask, I will try to help you in this matter.”

His Life Story

Rabbi Dov Yaffe was a virtuous man, an architect of the paths of ‘mussar’, and a leader of its ranks. He was born in Vilna in in 1928, and at the age of seven immigrated to Israel. His family lived in Tel Aviv. In his early life, he studied in the yeshiva of the ‘Yishuv Ha’Chadash’, and later, ascended to Jerusalem to study in the Hebron Yeshiva. There, he became devotedly attached to the head of the yeshiva, the Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna ztz”l. During that period, he was introduced to a number of outstanding figures living in Jerusalem, the most special of whom was the Gaon Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Charlap ztz”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav. He was close to Rabbi Charlap for about six months, and quoted his words and teachings until his death. When Rabbi Charlap died, Rabbi Dov tore his shirt, as is the halakha when one’s ‘rav muvhak’ (primary rabbi) dies. In time, he said: “The holiest person I was privileged to meet in my life, was Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap.”

“In 1948 Jerusalem was besieged, and his family became increasingly worried about their son. As a result, he was forced to move to the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. There, he grew close to the Gaon the Chazon Ish ztz”l and became extremely attached to him. Similarly, he became close to the legendary ‘mashgiach‘ of Ponevezh, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler ztz”l, author of ‘Michtav Me’Eliyahu‘.

The Move to the Slobodka Yeshiva

“In Ponevezh, there was a young yeshiva student who had problems with Torah learning and faith, and Rabbi Dov, who was studying at the yeshiva at the time adopted him, and tried in every way possible to help and encourage him, and instill in him the spark of faith and love of learning. However, his circumstances were shaky. The yeshiva was not patient with him, and, forced to leave, he decided to move to the Slobodka yeshiva. When Rabbi Dov found this out, he made his way to the home of the Chazon Ish, and unfurled the case before him. To his surprise, the Chazon Ish said to Rabbi Dov: “This young man is dependent on you. You must leave the yeshiva with him, and go to the Slabodka yeshiva. And so he did.

“About ten years ago this young man, who by then had already become a husband with his own grown children and grandchildren, met Rabbi Dov’s son in the street, accompanied by some of his children. He stopped the rabbi’s son and said to him: “Do you see these children with whom God has blessed me? You should know that all of them are on account of your father! Thanks to him, I remained in the world of Torah!”

This wonderful story demonstrates the profound understanding of the Chazon Ish, who recognized Rabbi Dov Yaffe’s educational powers as a young man.

Mashgiach’ in Kfar Hasidim

“From Bnei Brak, Rabbi Dov moved on to the main station of his life, the ‘Knesset Chizkiyahu’ yeshiva in Kfar Hasidim, where he was appointed as ‘mashgiach’ under one of the eminent and righteous rabbis of the generation, the senior ‘mashgiach’ Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian ztz”l, and when he passed away in 1970, Rabbi Dov was appointed in his place as the ‘mashgiach’ of the yeshiva (its spiritual administrator). Shortly after his appointment, he was required to make a decision. One of the most prominent yeshiva students was about to get married in Bnei Brak. At that time, transportation from the north to the center of the country was limited, and the journey to and from the wedding would take two days. Since this was an important young man, all the yeshiva students wanted to attend his wedding. The question was whether it was proper to close down the yeshiva for two days in the middle of the semester? The Rosh Yeshiva hesitated, turned to Rabbi Dov, and said to him: “You are the spiritual administrator of the yeshiva – you decide!”

Rabbi Dov thought to himself: How, on the one hand, could he have all the young men take part in the joy of their friend, but on the other hand, not close the yeshiva for two days? His decision was: half of the boys would attend the wedding, and half of them would remain in the yeshiva, but so that those who remained would also be able to participate in the groom’s joy, a festive meal, similar to that of the wedding, would be served in the yeshiva, and the boys would dance in the dining room at the same time as those in Bnei Brak. Thus, the young men who remained, along with their devotion to learning Torah in the yeshiva, would be able to experience the joy of their friend’s wedding.

His Doctrine: Be True

Over the years, other yeshivas sought his guidance, and thus, in addition to his spiritual work in Kfar Hasidim, he was appointed ‘mashgiach‘ at the ‘Kol Yaakov’ yeshiva in Beit Vegan in Jerusalem, and other yeshivas. From then on, he began travelling all over the country, wherever he was asked to come and illuminate the Torah of the masters of ‘mussar’. In the year 2012, he was assigned to the Council of Torah Sages of ‘Degel HaTorah’.

“He warned against imitations, and desires and yearnings for momentary and transient possessions, which are only imitations and forgeries of the Eternal Source. He encouraged aspiring to true greatness, to be true in all ways of life, and thus, his students decreed that his book be entitled: ‘L’avdecha B’emet’ (‘To Serve You in Truth’).

The Measurement of Taking ‘Challah’

Q: How large must the dough mass be to require the taking of ‘challah’ with a blessing?

A: From the amount of one kilo and a half of flour, ‘challah‘ should be set aside with a blessing, and from one kilo and eighty grams, ‘challah‘ should be set aside without a blessing.

The measurement is determined by the volume of flour of 43 ‘beitzim’ (eggs) and one fifth of an egg, which is 2.16 liters. If we had a utensil of this volume it would be excellent, but since we are used to measuring by weight, we have to compare the volume to the weight. According to Rambam, the weight of the flour is about two-thirds of its volume (when the flour is tightly packed), thus, for flour weighing 1.471 kg ‘challah’ must be taken (Laws of Bikurim 6:15). According to many poskim, the flour should be approximated in its normal state as it is sold, or as it is poured out of the bag (Magen Avraham 456:4, Machatzit HaShekel, ibid; Pri Chadash 1), and then, its weight is about half of its volume. And since their opinion should be taken into consideration, ‘challah‘ should be taken without a blessing already from the measurement of 1.080 kg.

However, according to the calculations of Rabbi Chaim Na’eh, the measurements are larger, but this is because he calculated them according to the weight of the coin mentioned by the Rambam (zuz- darham) after the Turks added on to it over 12 percent. The weight of the darham during the days of Rambam was about 2.83 gram, and about four hundred years ago the Turks increased its weight to 3.2 grams. After becoming absolutely clear that the weight of the darham during the days of Rambam was about 12 percent less, the measurements should be updated, and the measurement for Rambam for taking ‘challah‘ is 1.471 kilos, and not 1.666 (the same holds true for a ‘beitza‘, whose volume is 50 cc and not 56, and the measurement of a ‘revi’it‘ is 75 cc, and not 86).

All this refers to regular wheat flour, but barley flour is more airy, and already from approximately 1.060 kilo, ‘challah‘ should be taken with a blessing, and from 880 grams, ‘challah‘ should be taken without a blessing.

It would be appropriate to produce a vessel whose volume is 2.160 liters, in order to ensure that in it, one could safely estimate the measurement of all types of flour obligated by the mitzvah of taking ‘challah‘.

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

Not Only Animals Suffer

People are willing to work hard to make a living, even to buy luxuries, therefore, it is justified that animals should also work hard * Just as a waiter works hard for the pleasure of others and earns a salary, animals also work hard and receive payment: in exchange for their efforts, they are cared for * Many leftists active for animal rights accuse others of exploiting animals as part of a distorted moral worldview * Striving towards vegetarianism is unnecessary – when the entire world reaches a higher spiritual level, people will not eat meat * Do not be frightened by videos of slaughtered animals: the spasms after slaughter are involuntary reflexes

From the numerous questions and responses I received in the wake of my articles on cruelty to animals, it clearly is an issue concerning many people, therefore I will devote another article to the subject. In the future, I will try to answer questions I did not have time to address.

Cruelty to Animals for Man’s Pleasure

Q: “Rabbi, you wrote in your column ‘Revivim’ that under certain circumstances it is permitted to fatten geese to increase their liver. Shouldn’t the fact that goose liver, or foie gras, is not a basic necessity, but rather a luxury dish, be taken into consideration in this issue?”

Someone else asked: “Is it worthwhile causing animals to suffer so that people can eat a fancy dish of foie gras?”

Another question: “Last summer while vacationing, my wife and I spent time horseback riding. Rabbi, after reading what you wrote about using of animals, including the fact that horseback riding involves sorrow to the horse because of the pain caused by the bridle in their mouths and kicking them to ride faster, we have a question: Was it okay for us to have gone horseback riding for our recreational enjoyment, or perhaps, riding a horse is permitted only for a greater need?

The Suffering of Animals is Similar to that of Man

Anything that is for the benefit of man and his enjoyment, and does not cause great suffering to an animal, is permissible and proper – provided one treats his animal fairly, feeds it when it is hungry (Gittin 62a), and refrains from muzzling his animal while it is working, thus preventing it from eating. Also, if one’s animal suffers greatly, he should try to spare it of its grief.

Earning a living and survival involves suffering. Just as man struggles, works, and takes pain to make a livelihood, how much more so is he permitted to use the animals in his possession for his livelihood, given that their sensitivities and consciousness are considerably less than those of human beings. If a person is willing to work in physically difficult jobs for his livelihood, such as construction, farming, hauling loads, working night shifts, or mentally straining office work, all the more so is he is permitted to distress an animal for his livelihood. Animals earn their living in a similar fashion, for thanks to their helping man, he takes care of them, and feeds them. Regarding this, a fitting adage might be: “The reward is according to the suffering” – in other words, according to an animals’ suffering, is his livelihood.

Therefore, as long as the goal is not to grieve the animal and people are willing to pay for it, and the animal is not caused terrible suffering, it is permitted to grieve animals for the purpose of one’s livelihood. In the same manner as we do not claim in regards to people attending a wedding: Is it right for them to have workers toil from morning to night for their sake, so they can indulge themselves, finding neatly-set, well-designed tables arranged with elegant tableware, decorative napkins, and countless selections of attractive and adorned portions of food. Not only that, but if the workers are remiss in their cleaning, setting the tables, or making the food tasty – they are reprimanded. In the same manner, claims should not be made that it is not right to fatten geese for the personal pleasure of geese breeders and those who eat foie gras; because had the workers not toiled in preparing the wedding, they would not have received their salaries, and if the geese had not been fattened – they would not be bred, or ever existed. True, if the fattening involves terrible and great suffering it should be prevented, but standard fattening does not involve great and terrible suffering.

Similarly, one is also permitted to ride a horse for pleasure, because this is a horse’s chore and does not cause it great suffering, and for this it receives its salary – i.e., food, lodging, and medical care, and by means of this, it subsists.

This is the general rule: anything that people are willing to pay for, and have no intention of causing grief to the animal, is a sign that it is important to them, and therefore, one is permitted to make use of the animal.

Why are the Activists Leftists?

Q: “As an animal rights activist who lives in Samaria and is observant, I am disturbed by the fact that there are almost no observant people among the activists for animal rights. This fact creates the perception that leftists are ethical people, whereas for the rightists, morality doesn’t matter. Wouldn’t it be a sanctification of God if we were more sensitive to the short lives and tragic deaths of calves and birds?

A: It seems to me that the fact that most animal rights activists are inclined to support the evil side of the Israeli-Arab conflict, as they do in other conflicts around the world, proves that their position is flawed.

The Moral Flaw of the Left

Out of motives of morality, social justice, and concern for the rights of the powerless, left-wing movements proposed plans for a new and improved world, but, in order for it happen, the old world had to be destroyed. By destroying the old, they severed the connection between rights and responsibilities, sabotaged all basic moral systems, and disrupted all social and economic systems. One can no longer know what is worthy, and what is not; what a person has the right to demand or what he can ask for, but not demand. In the imaginary world of the left, there is no real way of gaging the value of things and salaries, and thus, it is unsustainable, but when attempts are made to keep it alive, all systems are ruined. In the leftist world – in the name of “freedom of speech” – they use violence and the banning of all media outlets and public institutions against the freedom of speech of those with different views. In the name of “political correctness”, they censor and gag mouths.

In contrast, the moral rules of the Torah are based on reality and on the rules of ‘derech eretz’ (ethical behavior), according to which the value of things is determined by the willingness of people to pay for them, and as long as there is no injustice or corruption involved, things are valid, and justify payment. Therefore, it is permissible to employ a worker to decorate a wedding hall with all types of extras, in accordance with what makes people happy and what they are willing to pay for provided the employer does not humiliate his employee to work needlessly, with the intention of showing his superiority over the worker, for example, telling him to clean a crumb off a table that the employer could easily remove himself, or to dig pits in a place where there is no need – similar to what we were commanded: “Do not dominate such a slave to break his spirit” (Leviticus 25:43).

This is also true regarding all other rights, namely, they must be based on the real human world. Just as the threshold in employment is abuse of the worker, so too in all other rights the threshold is abuse or violence. And not like the leftist position which establishes a range of abstract values ​​that blames the suffering of the weak on all the rest of the world, and for that reason, the weak must be called “disadvantaged”, and consequently, all others can be mistreated in order to presumably correct the injustice done to the “disadvantaged”. At first glance, such a position seems to benefit the weak, but with further inspection, it actually undermines all systems of morality, society and the economy, and leads all of us into the abyss of dispute, strife, and deprivation. It is no wonder then, that an extreme leftist will hold the same distorted values ​​about animals who were weakened by a more developed animal called ‘man’, portraying himself as superior to the rest of the species in order to exploit them, because all of life can be described in political terms – it’s a struggle between oppressors, and the oppressed.

Striving for Vegetarianism

Q: “Rabbi Melamed, peace and blessings! Thank you so much and ‘yasher koach’ for your articles in general, and for the one’s concerning cruelty to animals in particular. There were times when I debated whether it was right and ethical to eat meat. When I was young, for two years I abstained from eating meat, and it damaged my health. Rabbi, you wrote things from the wisdom of the Torah that resolved all my doubts. It is important to eat meat, especially since ritual slaughter causes animals minimal suffering… Indeed, I do not eat meat every day, also because I heard that it is not healthy to eat a lot of meat, and also because it is a higher spiritual level. I just wanted to ask, is it worthwhile in the course of time to aspire to become completely vegetarian because of its higher spirituality (if it does not harm my health), or is this an important step forward to reach only in the times of the Final Redemption?

A: There is no need to aspire to reach a level of vegetarianism, rather, we need to strive to improve ourselves in the challenges in which we are commanded, namely, the observance of Torah and mitzvoth, and the refining of good character traits. When the world reaches a higher level, we will not eat meat, and there will be no need to eat meat.

Claims against Ritual Slaughter

Some readers sent me links to problematic videos, indicating that in slaughterhouses animals are abused and that slaughtering involves great and terrible suffering, and therefore, people should stop eating meat.

The claim against ritual slaughter is incorrect because all laws of ritual slaughter are intended to ease the suffering of animals, for indeed the knife must be sharp and the motion of slaughtering is fast, so that immediately the blood ceases from reaching the brain – and as a result, within a few seconds the brain can no longer absorb the pain. The animal’s spasms following this are reflective movements of the nerves, devoid of any feeling or awareness. The videos do indeed depict crude and wild behavior on part of the workers, but their savagery following slaughter, although it does not cause the animals suffering, is contrary to halakha and secular law. The behavior during transportation to the slaughterhouse, of course, must be corrected. However, there is no room for exaggerated claims based on the projection of human feelings onto animals.

Raising Household Pets

Q: According to halakha, is it permissible to buy pets such as a dog, a cat, or a parrot, and raise them?

A: It is permitted (Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 117; Birkei Yosef 2). However, when the pet causes grief to one of the family members, it is forbidden to bring it into the home. Likewise, someone who has a dog who frightens visitors to his house should send the dog to a trainer, so that the dog learns to stop barking, and its owner can host guests with due respect (Shabbat 63a, b).

Our Sages said that a person should not bring an animal into his home or yard without knowing he can provide food properly (Yerushalmi, Ketubot 4:8), including being able to provide a suitable kennel or cage for it, clean its place as needed, and ensure that it is vaccinated if necessary.

If one’s pet becomes ill, the owner must take care of it as customary, and if the pet’s illness is terminal and it suffers, it’s best to put it out of its misery.

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

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed