Rabbi Kook: Authoritative, Posek, Visionary

83 years after his death, it can be clearly seen that Rav Kook was not disconnected from reality, rather the exact opposite – he warned against dangers and crises * The Rav saw that distance from the holy source could damage Zionism, and that progress could lead to a deterioration in humanity – but he believed in our ability to save the situation, and paved the way for Tikkun in the light of the Torah * Rav Kook was very strict towards himself, and tended to be strict in his leadership of the public, but was against baseless ‘chumrot’ which could alienate the public from the Torah * His vision of the redemption of the Torah included initiatives to study the general rules of the Torah, in order to understand its methods and order

Realism and Faith

Some argue that Rabbi Kook was an incorrigible optimist who did not pay attention to reality. But the truth is the exact opposite: His letters show that he was very realistic, and recognized the dangers facing the Jewish people. He also wrote about the danger to humanity in the development of science and society while distancing itself from faith, as it resulted from the catastrophes inflicted on humanity by the communist and Nazi movements. Similarly, with his support for those involved in settling the Land and the Ingathering of the Exiles, he estimated that without connecting to the holy source, secular Zionism would not be able to cope with the difficulties and obstacles that would stand in its way. He was right: without the First World War, and even more so without the Second World War and the terrible Holocaust that had taken place in it, the Zionist movement would not have come to the establishment of the state. Rabbi Kook did not rely on the Holocaust – he spoke about the responsibility of the generation to advance the Jewish people to the establishment of the state without a terrible disaster. Therefore, he warned everyone who listened that the national movement had to be connected to the holy Jewish sources and to work energetically for the survival of Israel. The statement was both for secular Zionism and for the ultra-Orthodox public, which stood by and did not enlist in aliyah and settlement of the Land.

But Rav Kook was also very optimistic. He believed with complete faith in God who had chosen His people and promised to redeem them. Moreover, he also had a vision of how to advance the people of Israel in the process of its redemption, how to deepen the Torah and illuminate its light until all of Israel repented. In other words, the source of his optimism lay in the path in which he paved the way for progress, with the sharp knowledge that if we did not merit it, we could expect, heaven forbid, severe suffering, both spiritual and physical.

In this he was different from most of his fellow rabbis, who on the one hand were less concerned about the spiritual and national dangers facing the Jewish people, and on the other hand were less optimistic about the ability to act to change reality for the better.

It is not a coincidence that his books are called “Orot”, or ‘lights’, because they express the faith and the way of seeing the whole picture of the world in all its parts, and it is the light that illuminates the advantages and disadvantages in practice, and the way to enhance the advantages, and overcome the shortcomings and rectify them.

The Difficulty in Understanding Rabbi Kook’s Teachings

So great, wide and deep was the teachings of Rav Kook that even his greatest students found it difficult to understand it as one whole system. As Rav, the Nazir, Rabbi David Cohen, stated in the introduction to the “Orot HaKodesh” (p. 18). About seven years after he met Maran HaRav, when he was about thirty-five years old, knowledgeable in Torah, thought, Kabbalah, and general philosophy, he addressed the rabbi with a question: “Rabbi, there is holiness present here, within your spirit, and special influence. Rabbi, do you have an overall discipline? A specific teaching content? A philosophy? And the answer is: Yes, of course … Since then I have decided to clarify the Rav’s teachings as a complete Divine system, its foundations, and the fundamentals of the elements, and according to them, to choose his writings and arrange them in articles. He went on to say: “Rav Kook has handed over to me his holy writings, and encouraged me in his words, because he trusts me in my arrangements.”

His Halakhic Doctrine – For Himself, and For the Public

In the Talmudic and Halachic spheres it is difficult to understand his teachings, to the point where it seems there are three Rav Kook’s: one – a holy and strict Hasid, the other a conservative who tended to chumra (strict) and, when necessary, was maykel (lenient), and the third, one who innovated ideas about the redemption of the Torah and its teaching. However, when one understands his full personality, one realizes that we are talking about one extraordinarily eminent person, who encompassed complete and different worlds, which united into one world in his personality.

In his inner world, Rav Kook was a Hasid, a Parush (separated) and Kedosh (holy) who, having seen the point of truth and light in every opinion and custom, tended to go out of his way and be stringent according to all the different opinions. And he had no difficulty in that, because he was happy in any hidur that had a basis in halakha, provided that the chumra was not at the expense of others. For example, he would immerse himself in a mikveh every morning; he did not look at the figure of a woman, although he used to receive questions from women, and treated them with respect and politeness; even on vacations, which was customary among the rabbis, he was diligent in his studies, to the point where older rabbis told him that if he did so, he would not be able to rest properly on his vacation; and when he got out of the ocean, he was careful to abandon ownership of the towel that he used to dry himself off with, so that he would not enter into a distant halachic doubt, lest the towel required tzitzit. This was a chumra none of the great rabbis who were with him ever thought of. Similarly, he was meticulous about the details of minhagim (customs): before Tisha B’Av, he first removed his left shoe, because it is a halitzah of mourning, and before Yom Kippur, he first removed his right shoe, for it is the halitzah of a joyous mitzvah of Yom Kippur. Thus, in all his ways he was particular and meticulous.

However, he was forced to serve in the rabbinate, because of his poverty and public necessity, and under his rabbinic leadership he tended somewhat to chumra and orthodoxy, even though his rabbis (Rabbi Don Yechia Melocin, Rabbi Reuven Medinburg and the Netziv of Volozhin) did not. It was only in times of duress that he decided according to halachic rules to be lenient, as did all halakhic authorities for generations. In this, too, he ruled leniently only to the extent necessary, and beyond that, was machmir. It seems that there were two reasons for his tendency to be machmir: one, because of his being a Hasid and devoted to the sanctity of the commandment, he sought to preserve it as much as possible; and the second reason, so as not to increase the distance between the circles of the ultra-Orthodox and the religious and the traditional, and thus maintain the unity of Israel which is so necessary (unfortunately, this attempt was not so successful).

Heter Hamechira

For example, with respect to the heter ha’mechira (a halakhic means of allowing agriculture to continue during the Shmita year): On the one hand, Rabbi Kook established the heter mechirah, and on the other hand, when at all possible, he tended to follow the opinions of those who were machmir, and even after the mechira, he forbade Jews to perform the tasks written in the Torah, even though according to the letter of the halachic law, there is no difference between the melachot (types of agricultural work), for Shmita in our times is of rabbinical ordinance. He was even very upset in regards to what he was lenient about. But when rumors went out questioning the mechira, he wrote again and again that it was very well established, and indeed, it was possible to permit in times of distress – even without the mechira. Regarding those who slandered the mechira, he protested gently and lovingly in line with the custom of his Hasidut, while firmly protecting the farmers, so that their status would not be harmed, or the great mitzvah that they fulfilled, the mitzvah to settle the Land (see Igrot HaRaya 192, 241, 253, 310, 312).

I will not refrain from expressing my position here, that after the issue of Shemita has been in dispute for more than a century, it can be concluded that it is preferable to rely more on the heter mechirah, both because the mechira is highly based on halakha, and because the tendency to chumra and trying to organize an Otzer Beit Din has not prevented the dispute with the Haredi public, and did not bring the farmers of Israel closer to keeping Shmita, whose main purpose is to refrain from work. At the same time, progress must be made gradually towards fulfilling the Shmita, by encouraging farmers who are capable of refraining from work completely (as is the practice of the Ministry of Agriculture).

Rav Kook Was Opposed to Far-reaching Chumrot on the Public

Although when it came to customs that do not have a strong foundation, Rabbi Kook was meticulous not to weigh down with chumrot, and on that he had to argue with the rabbis as well, because due to the fear of secularization and reform, they tended to be overly stringent, as he wrote concerning sesame seed oil (Orach Mishpat 108-114), and went as far as to explain that one who adds on a gezeira (decree) to another gezeira transgresses a prohibition (Rashi, Beitzah 2b).

In his words there, against the stringent claim that if we do not become stringent the “fence will be breached”, his position appears for generations that the opposite is to be feared – if we become more stringent in what is not needed, the fence will be breached even more so: “I know clearly the characteristic of our generation, precisely by seeing that everything permitted we [the rabbis] do according to the depth of the law, they will understand that what we are not permitting is because of the truth of the law of Torah, and that many will be found who adhere to the Torah, who will listen to the voice of the teachers with the help of God. This is not true when it is revealed that there are such things, that according to the letter of halakha they deserve leniency, and rabbis did not feel the pain and sorrow of Israel, and left matters in their prohibitions, the result is, God forbid, a great desecration of God, until many people will be furious and say concerning certain major bodies of the Torah, that if the Rabbis want – they could be lenient, and this will result in perverted judgement” (ibid., page 126).

Teaches the General Rules of the Torah

Apart from his preoccupations and worries with the work of the rabbinate, Rabbi Kook was a great visionary who deeply understood the spiritual crisis in which the Jewish people were situated, and formulated ideas for the redemption of the Torah and its teachings, parallel to the redemption of the Jewish people upon its return to its Land. He spoke of the need to learn the halachic and intellectual rules of the Torah, so that the Torah can appear in its full and complete light, as one logical system, which draws blessing from heaven on the soul of Israel, and continues the blessing to the core of the Land – in the building of the nation in all orders of society and economy, and the life of every family and individual.

To this end he conceived the idea ‘Halakha Berura’ and ‘Biur Halakha’, to connect the Talmud and its commentaries with the learning of halachic works such as the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries. Thus, a straight and logical line would continue from the foundation of the explanations in the Talmud to the details of the halakhot. To this end he also formulated the idea of ​​the Talmudic Encyclopedia, in order to place all the issues as one system, from which the sub-rules diverge from the general rules. He also had ideas for writing general introductions to all the important tractates and books (these ideas are explained in “Orot HaTorah” and in many other letters).

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

Facing the LGBT Community – Education and Love

Since the Akeida, the binding of Isaac, the Jewish nation has dealt with trials in performing the Divine command – fulfilling the word of God also with sorrow and pain – believing that this is the moral way * Both contemporary and rabbinical evidence indicate that in a culture in which the family framework is strong, same gender inclination is less widespread * This implies that educating towards family values ​​can reduce the desire for same gender inclination * Concerning those with such inclinations – we must understand their sorrow and pain, and it is forbidden to exclude them from the community * Even those who fail and sin, as long as they do not defy the Torah, have a portion within in the religious framework, and even a portion in the World to Come

Questions from Religious LGBT’s

Q: I am a religious person, I grew up in religious institutions and was educated in yeshivas – but what can I do – God created me with an inclination for my same gender. I tried to struggle with it. For long nights I cried and suffered, but finally I accepted my inclination. I live with my partner, who also comes from a religious background. What is the position of halakha: Should I deny my feelings? Do we have to hide our relationship? Why can’t a way be found to allow us to get married and arrange our marital status like any man or woman? Is it possible that the Torah instructs a person to deny his natural feelings?

The Divine Source of the Torah

A: The uniqueness of the Torah as opposed to the other wisdoms is that its source is Divine. God gave it directly and openly to His people Israel at Mount Sinai. Therefore, even when we do not understand the reason for a particular commandment, we understand that the Creator’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and therefore we accept it even when it is difficult to fulfill. The most extreme case of a Divine command that is difficult to accept and understand is the commandment of Abraham to raise his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Because Abraham was a great believer, despite his terrible sorrow, he fulfilled the commandment of the Creator.

This emunah (faith) does not deny the moral purpose. On the contrary, this is the essence of the aspiration of faith, to correct the world with justice and judgment, with grace and mercy, in order to benefit all creatures, as it is stated: ” God commanded us to keep all these rules, so that [we] would remain in awe of God for all time, so that we would survive, even as [we are] today” (Deuteronomy 6:24). Therefore, Abraham obeyed the Divine command and bound his beloved son on the altar, because he knew that God, his Creator and Source of his life and happiness, wanted their best, and although he did not understand how and why – this commandment was also intended for their own benefit.

Acceptance of the Mitzvah affects the Inclination

Therefore, even when it is extremely difficult, we must accept the commandments of the Torah, including the great commandment for every man and woman to marry according to the Law of Moses and Israel, to have a relationship with love and joy, and to multiply and be fruitful. And we must accept the severe prohibition of mishkav zakhur (sodomy).

Education is very useful, as it turns out that desire for the same gender can develop in many people at different levels, and the more we educate towards the acceptance of the yoke of Torah and mitzvot – and to identify with the values ​​and ideas inherent in them – thus, more people manage to overcome the desire for their same gender, manage to divert all their desire with joy and love for the woman who suits them, and build their family in holiness according to the Law of Moses and Israel.

Education is the reason for the significant differences in the percentage of men who feel a desire for their same gender within different circles. Although we do not have exact numbers, it is clear to every honest observer that the differences between the religious and secular public are enormous. If among the religious public, the percentage is low, among the secular-traditional population the percentages are higher, and among the secular-liberal population, the percentages are much higher, perhaps more than ten percent.

In other words, the appearance of the same gender inclination is influenced by various factors, such as genetic inheritance, environmental impact, and cultural and educational influence. The weaker the genetic and environmental orientation, the stronger the effect of education and culture.

Cultural Impact – Proven

Culture, that is, education and the environment, weighs heavily. It is a fact that there were cultures in the past, such as Egypt and ancient Greece, that this phenomenon was very common among them. On the other hand, among Jews, when environmental conditions encouraged proper marital relations between men and women and negated relations between men, this tendency was almost never expressed. So much so that even though the Sages set many restrictions on incest, the Sages did not forbid two men to sleep together without clothes under one blanket, for they were not suspected of reaching forbidden relations (Kiddushin 82a). Since there is no chance that this phenomenon existed without the Sages knowledge, one must conclude that in the times of Chazal, our Sags of blessed memory, the phenomenon of men’s desire for fellow men was not widespread.

True, in more recent times, Rabbi Yosef Karo (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 24:1) tended to be strict for two men not to be secluded because violators abounded, and his words corresponded to the prevailing situation in the Islamic countries where this phenomenon existed in low percentages. However, during the same time in Ashkenaz, Rabbi’s wrote that we find that Jews were not suspected of this, and there is no need to be more stringent in the prohibition of yichud (prohibition of seclusion) between men (Bach). Not only that, but some say that it is forbidden to be stringent in this matter, because of yohara (haughtiness) [Yam Shel Shlomo].

Since it is difficult to assume that the basic nature of people has changed, one must conclude that even those who were born with a tendency towards homosexuality, in a social framework of the kind that had been prevalent in Israel for many generations, such tendencies almost never came to expression.

Even today, the environment has an impact. I read that it was found in a study that from relatives of AIDS patients, the percentage of men who attested to being attracted to men was lower than that of the general population. On the face of it, the situation should have been the exact opposite, since according to the theory that homosexuality has genetic roots, the percentage of those who have this tendency among their family members should have been higher. But fear of the disease, which in those days was incurable, caused some people to change their attitude toward the tendency that was suppressed in them (Tim Harford, ‘The Logic of Life’, p. 20).

It seems that the desire of those who have a same gender inclination to have children is stronger among Jews than in other Western nations because Jewish culture encourages marriage and children, and in connection with the Jewish tradition and the culture surrounding them, they seek to establish a family and have children in their own way.

To Educate towards the Mitzvah and its Light

Therefore, precisely in our time, when secular culture around us permits and encourages homosexuality, it is incumbent upon parents, educators and rabbis to strengthen the deepening of the education towards marriage in the framework of halakha, and explain at length all the good and light in the love between man and woman, and the tremendous value of establishing a family and raising children and their education. When we arrive at the order of prohibitions of incest in the Torah, including the prohibition of mishkav zakhur, we must clarify them clearly while maintaining the proper modesty.

The Positive Attitude towards Those Suffering from Such Inclinations

Along with the study of both the positive and negative mitzvot related to the family, one must be careful not to insult and hurt those who suffer from homosexual inclinations. Sometimes the pain of the sufferers is unbearable, to the point where some young people choose to end their lives due to their suffering. Therefore, men and women who feel so inclined should be instructed to discuss this with their parents and with a rabbi or counselor in order to relieve themselves of the suffering that accompanies them, and to find the best way to deal with it.

It is also important to emphasize that we should not act more stringently towards those who sin in the prohibition of mishkav zachur than with other serious sinners, such as desecrators of Shabbat. And just as we call to the Torah those who profane Shabbat as long as they do not do so l’hachis (to infuriate), so too, sinners of this prohibition should be called up to the Torah as long as they do not do so l’hachis. And even more so when it comes to people who try to keep Torah and mitzvot, who ostensibly are careful not to transgress the grave sin of mishkav zachur.

Moreover, many of those who fail in this sin do not do so for reasons of convenience, like those who profane Shabbat, but out of sorrow that their inclination compels them.  And although according to halakha they must overcome their inclinations, those who do not have to deal with this urge must not judge those who failed, for who knows if he himself would have succeeded in passing the test. Only the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Creator of the souls, knower of thoughts and examiner of hearts, knows each person’s yetzer (inclination), and can truly judge him with mercy, according to the extent of his trials and pains.

Not to Distance from the Religious Community

It is important to emphasize that even one who fail to overcome his desires and sins in mishkav zachor – is obligated in all the other commandments of the Torah, and must strengthen himself as much as possible in whatever way he can. And even with regard to this sin, every single day and every time that he succeeds in overcoming his desire and avoids sin, he has a great reward.

Therefore, whenever possible, we must try and dissuade the sinners from transgressing in this matter. Nonetheless, we must love even someone who fails to overcome his yetzer, and realize there is great value in every mitzvah he fulfills. Therefore, we should be careful not to distance them from the synagogues, so they can strengthen themselves in Torah and mitzvoth as best as they can. And, as is well-known, the value of Evil is limited, whereas the value of Good is endless. Likewise, the severity of sins is limited, whereas the value of mitzvoth is endless. Therefore, even one who falters in these transgressions, merits life in the World to Come thanks to his mitzvoth and good deeds.

Honor for the Framework of Halakha

Since the environmental and cultural influence is strong, even those who feel that they cannot overcome their yetzer, must strive to respect the halakhic framework. Even if one has a permanent partner, he should define him as a close friend and roommate, and in this way religious society will be able to accept him, without having to confront him.

The Attitude towards the Protesters on Tisha B’Av

Q: How should we relate to the big demonstration held on the fast of Tisha B’Av against the surrogacy law?

A: This was a severe defiance of all that is sacred to Israel – starting from damage to the national religious mourning, and ending with the violation of the commandments of the Torah and the contempt for the various opinions in a disgraceful manner. It is true that in the past the public attitude towards such inclinations was humiliating and violent, but today, the public has already condemned the violence against them, while they themselves have become verbally violent towards holders of different views.

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

The Believer in Israel Will Deal with its Challenges

From the Sin of the Spies until today: The real arguments depend on faith and worldview * Those who do not love the Land and do not believe in its significance will in any case estimate that defending it is impossible, while those who believe in the mitzvah of settling the Land will find the practical solutions to maintain our hold on it * Even the factual arguments surrounding the demographic situation, not to mention the moral disputes, all depend on the question of love and faith in the Land * This is not meant to turn a blind eye to reality, rather, out of  faith we find the realistic ways to deal with the situation * In this way will redemption come through reality – little by little

The Sin of the Spies – The Root of the Destruction

As is known, the Sin of the Spies is the root of the destruction of the Land and the Temple. On the ninth of Av, the generation of the desert chose to believe the Spies, who claimed that Israel would not be able to conquer the land: “The entire community raised a hubbub and began to shout. That night, the people wept. All the Israelites complained to Moses and Aaron. The entire community was saying, ‘We wish we had died in Egypt! We should have died in this desert! Why is God bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will be captives! It would be best to go back to Egypt!’ The people started saying to one another, ‘Let’s appoint a [new] leader and go back to Egypt” (Bamidbar 14: 1). In the wake of their terrible sin, it was decreed that all men of military age would die in the desert and would not be able to see the good Land. Only after their bodies would fall in the wilderness would their sons be able to enter the Land, with Yehoshua Bin Nun and Calev ben Yefunah who did not participate in the sin.

At the same time, the Holy One, Blessed be He, said: ” You have wept without cause: therefore will I appoint a weeping to you for future generations” (Sanhedrin 104b), and it was decreed that the Temple would be destroyed, and Israel to be exiled from their land (Ta’anit 26b; Tanchuma Shelach).

What Sin did the Spies Commit?

Seemingly, the incident of the Sin of the Spies poses a difficulty: what sin did they actually commit? After all, the spies were sent to explore the land, to see whether the people living there were strong or weak, whether the inhabitants of the country were few or many. And behold, according to their best judgment, they concluded that the Canaanites living in the land were aggressive, the land’s cities were large and well-fortified, and if the Israelites were to try and conquer the land, the men would fall by the sword, and the women and children would be sold as slaves. This was their assessment, so what choice did they have – to sit silently and watch while the people of Israel strode to their destruction? They were morally obligated to warn against the danger! And even if the Spies and the people erred in judgment, should the punishment have been so severe – to the point where all of them would die in the desert, the Jewish nation’s entry into the Land be delayed for forty years, and if their sin was not rectified – on that same day, the two Temples would eventually be destroyed?

When there is No Faith, Excuses Abound

The Spies were punished not for the mistake of judgment, but for the fact that they did not understand the value of the Land and did not love it, as it is written: “Moreover, they despised the pleasant Land, they did not believe His word” (Psalms 24:24). Consequently, they misjudged and exaggerated the power of the Canaanites facing Israel. For that reason, when Yehoshua and Calev tried to save them, they declared at the outset: “The Land is very, very good.” Only afterwards, out of a recognition of the value of the Land, did they call upon the people to strengthen their faith in their ability to defeat the Canaanites (Numbers 14: 9).

A person who does not love the Land abhors the need to fight for it, and subsequently convinces himself that it is impossible to conquer and settle it, and finds a thousand reasons why. However, the main reason is – he simply does not care about the Land of Israel, and all his reasons are merely excuses. No one is willing to invest time and effort in something he does not value. For example, a person who does not value the importance of university studies will be incapable of finding the inner strength to pursue their completion. Someone who does not appreciate the significance of combat service will not be able to find the inner strength to withstand arduous training, preparing him to be a fighter. One who does not appreciate the value of family life will not be able to find the strength to seal a marriage covenant, and establish a family. Each one will find a thousand realistic reasons why the time is not right to study, to enlist in the army, or to get married, but the real reason is – they simply do not want to.

The Position behind the Security Policy

Even today, it is a fact that the main characteristic of most of the leftists who support the withdrawal from Judea and Samaria is that the love of the people and the Land is not central to their lives, and their belief in God is also weak. Like the Spies of old, today they also candidly claim that in order to save the State of Israel, we must withdraw from Judea and Samaria and establish a Palestinian state. They also claim that if we continue to settle in Judea and Samaria, we will endanger the State of Israel because it will lose its Jewish identity, or it will become an undemocratic country that the whole world will distance itself from as a leper, until it can no longer exist. On the other hand, those who believe in God, the Giver of the Torah, and the love of the People and the Land is central to their lives, tend to believe that settlement in Judea and Samaria will strengthen the State of Israel, and any withdrawal will weaken it, and endanger its existence.

Underlying the Debate over Morality

Not only that, but belief and values ​​also influence moral attitudes. The leftists are convinced that expelling Jews from the settlements is moral, but it is immoral to expel Arabs even in return for appropriate compensation. The extremists in the left think the settlement is a crime. On the other hand, the rightists are convinced that the Jewish people have exclusive right over Judea and Samaria, and under certain conditions it is possible to expel Arabs.

In times of war, the leftists tend to oppose serious harm to the Arabs on the assumption that the Arabs’ position is right. On the other hand, right-wingers support severe attacks on them, on the assumption that they are the evil side of the conflict and that they should be punished properly. Moreover, the moral-faith assessment influences the assessment of reality: in the opinion of the leftists, if we deal with the Arab enemy with a hard hand, the security situation will worsen, and in the opinion of rightists, the situation will improve.

The Debate over Numbers

Even concerning the demographic numbers, which seemingly depend on reality, belief and values have an influence. The extreme left (including officers from the Civil Administration) estimates that about five million Arabs live in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip; the moderate leftists believe that they number slightly more than four million (Prof. Della Pergola); right-wingers believe that their number is slightly more than three million (Yoram Ettinger), and extreme right-wingers believe they number about two million. If this is the debate over the numbers of those living today, all the more so the belief-based position affects future assessments. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, left-wing demographic experts have estimated that within twenty years the Arabs will become a majority, and right-wing experts believe that the Jewish majority will grow.

Humorously, the settlers say that it is not worth prolonging arguments with left-wingers, because every half hour the debate grows, the number of Arabs rises by half a million. With the mercy of Heaven, after the debate is over, reality returns to itself and the exaggerated numbers dissipate into thin air…

Redemption in Reality

In reality, it is also possible to make mistakes on the other side – to ignore the difficult problems in reality, and to think that the main thing is to believe that if we really want to settle the country urgently, it will be possible to skip over all the problems and everything will work out miraculously. But this, too, is a grave sin (as the Ma’apilim did after the Sin of the Spies). This is because both reality and nature are Divine creations, and ignoring the problems of reality and natural difficulties is heresy. In other words, those faithful to the People and the Land must recognize reality as it is, not change the numbers and not bias the assessments to suit their faith, aspirations, and hopes. The main purpose of the mitzvah of settling the Land is to reveal the faith within the earthly life, within a rational framework. This is also the goal of the entire Torah, to be fulfilled in the Land, within the framework of the natural laws, without relying on miracles, and thus it will be revealed how walking in the ways of God adds blessing and life. The mitzvot related to the family bring blessings to the family, the mitzvoth related to livelihood and morality lead to economic success, the mitzvoth associated with the nation advance the nation, and so forth in all the areas of life that mitzvot deal with.

Returning to the settlement of the land: Inspired by faith and its guidance, we must seek the real and moral ways to settle the Land even within our complicated reality. Since reality is complex and given to change, in joint efforts we can find the rational ways to settle the Land, and after our plans are completely realistic – we can hope for God’s help.

Redemption Little by Little

Since redemption must come through natural reality, rationally, it develops and progresses gradually, without any skipping over. As the Sages said: “Such will be Israel’s redemption: at first it will be little by little, but the longer it continues it will grow and grow”(Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 1: 1). In other words, even though everything begins with God, “the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it…”, the goal is that everything be revealed through us, as the verse continues: “…who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42: 5). If the goal was to reveal the faith in God by skipping over all the laws of intelligence and nature, redemption would have to come at once, while scrapping reality. However, the complete faith is revealed in the heavens and in the earth, and in the complete redemption, both the earth and nature are redeemed, the intellect and emotions, and all human qualities are redeemed. To this end, the process of tikkun (correction) is gradually being accomplished through human actions.

This is what was said in the Zohar: “When the Holy One, blessed be He, will raise them up and bring them out of the Exile, then He will open for them a slight, very thin opening of light, and then open a slightly larger opening, until the Holy One, blessed be He opens the Upper Gates to the four directions of the world” (Va’yishlach 170:1 Tirgum). In this way, Israel will be able to absorb the value of Torah and the mitzvah of settling the Land, and to participate fully in its fulfillment, until the entire world is redeemed.

The Tikkun – the Refining of Faith

The Spies denied the process of redemption of the Land; they did not believe that it was possible to act according to the Torah to change the reality for the better. They thought one of two things: Either God will perform a miracle for us and redeem us, or there is no way to overcome the difficulties of reality. The correction of the Sin of the Spies and the redemption of Israel and the world depends on the refining of faith. On the one hand, recognizing the greatness of God in the destiny of the people of Israel and in the significance of the Land. And on the other hand, in the recognition that the word of God must be revealed through rational, natural reality without any skipping over. This is the essence of the commandment to settle the Land, and therefore it is equivalent to all the commandments.

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

When Tisha B’Av Falls Out on Shabbat

Pregnant and nursing mothers who find it difficult to fast can be lenient when the fast is postponed * It is a mitzvah to wash oneself before Shabbat; Sephardim can do so in hot water * It is forbidden to mourn on Shabbat, therefore we eat and are happy as usual, including the pre-fast meal * The time from sunset on Shabbat until the end of Shabbat is an intermediate period of time when it is forbidden to eat, but on the other hand, noticeable signs of mourning are also prohibited * After Shabbat is over Havdalah is recited verbally, but not over wine * An ill person who eats on the fast day must make Havdalah, ideally over a drink other than wine * One should not eat before Havdalah after the fast * When the fast is postponed, there is no mourning the following day

Pregnant and Nursing Women

In general, pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast on Tisha B’Av but are exempt from the minor fasts, such as the 17th of Tammuz and the Tenth of Tevet. But when Tisha B’Av is postponed, as it is this year, the obligation of the Tisha B’Av fast is more similar to that of the minor fasts. Indeed, due to the severity of the of the fast’s importance, ideally, when it is not difficult, pregnant and nursing mothers should also fast; but if there is any difficulty whatsoever, they are exempt, even though they are not considered ill. In practice, it turns out that about 90% of pregnant and partially nursing women do not need to fast.

Women who nurse full-time, or nearly full-time, do not need to fast, so as not to diminish their milk supply.

Washing before Shabbat Chazon

It is a mitzvah to wash oneself before Shabbat, including before Shabbat Chazon, and even before Shabbat Chazon that falls on Tisha B’Av, because mourning on Shabbat is prohibited. The minhag (custom) for Ashkenazim is to wash with warm water whose temperature is not pleasurable but also does not cause any grief. The minhag for Sephardim is to bathe in hot water as usual (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 8:21).

The ‘Seudah Mafseket’ Meal on Shabbat

When the eve of Tisha B’Av falls on a weekday, customs of ‘aveilut‘ (mourning) already begin at the ‘seudah mafseket’ (the pre-fast meal): in this meal we do not eat two cooked dishes together, we sit on the floor and do not sit together, like a mourner whose close relative had just died and sits on his own (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 9:1-3).

But when the eve of Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, it is forbidden to show any sign of mourning, for the general rule is there is no mourning on Shabbat. Therefore, if Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, the fast is postponed to Sunday, and on that Shabbat, we eat meat, drink wine, and even serve a meal fit for a king. We also sing Shabbat songs as usual, for there is no mourning on Shabbat.

The Intermediate Period of Time between Shabbat and the Fast

There is an intermediate period of time between Shabbat and the fast, during which Shabbat has not yet ended, but the prohibitions of the fast have already begun. This happens because we are unsure when one day ends and the next day begins – at sunset, or when the stars emerge. Therefore, the period between sunset and the emergence of the stars is ambiguous, being possibly day, and possibly night. It is called “bein hashmashot” (twilight). And since there is a mitzvah to add time onto Shabbat, the holy day continues until a few minutes after the stars emerge. Consequently, the time between sunset and shortly after the emergence of the stars is both Shabbat and the fast. During that time, it is forbidden to do anything that would appear like a custom of mourning, because we do not mourn on Shabbat. On the other hand, after sunset, we avoid doing anything that is not necessary for the sake of Shabbat, like eating, drinking, washing, and anointing.

‘Seudah Shlishit’

Therefore, we eat seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) like we do on any other Shabbat, including the singing of Shabbat songs. However, we stop eating and drinking before sunset (in Jerusalem at 19:48, Tel Aviv 19:46, and Haifa 19:49, and Be’er Sheva 19:46), and this is not considered harming the honor of Shabbat because there is no obligation – from a Shabbat perspective – to continue eating seudah shlishit after sunset. It is also fitting to refrain from singing joyous songs after sunset, and doing so does not constitute an expression of mourning, for people do not generally sing happy songs all the time on Shabbat.

Other Laws of the Intermediate Period of Time

We also refrain from washing and anointing ourselves after sunset, and this is not considered harming the honor of Shabbat because, after all, one does not continuously bathe on Shabbat in any case. However, one who relieves himself during ‘bein hashmashot’ should wash his hands normally, for if he washes as required on the fast, he is, in effect, mourning on Shabbat.

We remain in our Sabbath clothing, keep our shoes on, and continue to sit on chairs and greet each other until a few minutes after three, mid-sized stars appear in the sky. Then, we say ‘Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol’ (‘Blessed is He Who separates between the holy and the mundane’), by which we take leave of Shabbat. Afterward, we remove our shoes, take off our Shabbat garments, and change into weekday clothes.

Some people have the custom of removing their shoes already at ‘bein hashmashot’, because wearing comfortable shoes is one of the prohibitions of Tisha B’Av, and since in any case, one is not obligated to wear shoes at all times on Shabbat, removing them at sunset does not involve harming the honor of Shabbat. However, it is clear that if a person takes off his shoes and other people in his company realize he is doing it for the sake of mourning, it would be forbidden. Therefore, the accepted practice is to remove shoes after Shabbat is over.

When changing clothes from Shabbat to weekday garments, one should wear clothing that was already worn the previous week because one may not wear freshly laundered clothing on Tish’a B’Av.

Evening Prayer

Many communities have the custom to delay Ma’ariv (the Evening Prayer) until around fifteen minutes after Shabbat ends, in order to give everyone time to take leave of the Shabbat at home, remove their shoes, change their clothes, and come to the synagogue for Ma’ariv and the reading of Eichah in weekday clothes.

Havdalah on Tish’a B’Av When it falls Out on Saturday Night

The fast begins immediately after Shabbat, making it is impossible to say havdalah over a cup of wine. Therefore, we postpone saying this form of havdalah until after the fast. Nevertheless, we say havdalah – “Ata Chonantanu” – in the Ma’ariv prayers or “Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh l’chol“, after which we are permitted to do work.

Blessing over the Havdalah Candle

We recite the blessing over fire on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), because this blessing is not dependent on the cup of wine. Rather, it is an expression of thanks to God for creating fire, which was revealed to Adam on the first Motzei Shabbat. The custom is to recite the blessing after Ma’ariv before the reading of Eichah, because people light candles at that time.

Women also recite the blessing over fire. If they are in the synagogue, they hear the chazan’s blessing and gain pleasure from the light of the candle lit close to them; if they are at home, they light a candle and recite the blessing (see, Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 8:1, footnote 1).

Havdalah Over a Cup of Wine after the Fast

At the end of the fast, before eating or drinking, one must say havdalah over a cup of wine, which includes two blessings: ‘Al ha’gefen’ (‘on the wine’) and Ha’Mavdil (‘He Who separates’). No blessing is made on spices or fire.

Havdalah for an Ill Person Who Ate on Tisha B’Av

A sick person who needs to eat on Tish’a B’Av, must say havdalah over a cup of wine before eating. In such a case, it is proper to use ‘chamar medinah’ [a distinguished beverage other than wine] (preferably something intoxicating, but any ubiquitous drink, like coffee, will do (see, Peninei Halakha, Shabbat, vol. 1, 8:4). If one has no such beverage, he should say havdalah over grape juice, and if even that is unavailable, he should say havdalahbe’di’avad – on wine, and drink a cheek-full (around 40 ml.). If a minor who has reached the age at which we teach him to recite blessings is present, it is best to let him drink the wine instead of the sick person. A minor who eats on Tish’a B’Av need not say havdalah before eating.

‘Kiddush Levana’

The custom is to postpone ‘Birkat HaLevanah’ (the Blessing of the Moon) until after the fast, because the blessing must be recited joyously, and we decrease our joy during the Nine Days. Many people are accustomed to saying it immediately after the Ma’ariv prayer at the conclusion of the fast, but it is improper to do so, le’chatchilah. After all, it is difficult to be happy at that moment, when we have yet to drink, eat, wash our faces and hands, or put on regular shoes. Therefore, each community should set a time – an hour or two after the fast – for the recitation of Birkat HaLevanah, and in the meantime, everyone will have a chance to eat something, and wash up. This way, they will be able to say the blessing joyously. Where there is concern that pushing off Birkat HaLevanah may cause some people to forget to say it, the congregation may say it immediately after the fast.

Mourning Customs on the Day after Tisha B’Av

The Babylonians conquered the Beit HaMikdash on the seventh of Av, setting it ablaze on the ninth of the month, late in the day, and it continued burning throughout the tenth of Av. Since the majority of the Temple actually burned on the tenth of Av, the people of Israel have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine on that date. According to Sephardi custom, the prohibition lasts the entire day, while Ashkenazim observe this custom only until midday. Many have the custom not to take a haircut, bathe in hot water, do laundry, or wear laundered clothes on the tenth of Av.

But this year, when the fast is postponed until the tenth of Av, mourning customs do not continue after the fast has concluded, and one is permitted immediately after the fast to wash in hot water, to do laundry, and wear freshly laundered clothes. Although, in the opinion of many authorities, one should refrain from eating meat and drinking wine after the fast, because, having fasted on that day, it is not proper to immediately enjoy eating meat and wine. There are other authorities, though, who are lenient in regards to eating meat and drinking wine after a postponed fast (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 10:20).


As is true regarding all other mitzvot, we are commanded to educate our children to keep the mitzvot relating to Tish’a B’Av and mourning over the churban (destruction of the Holy Temple). Since children are weak, however, it is impossible to teach them to fast when they are young. Therefore, we train them to fast a few hours, depending on their strength, only starting from age nine. They should not fast the entire day (Rama of Panow 111). When feeding children on Tish’a B’Av, one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to join with the community in mourning. Many people are careful to teach their children who have reached the age of chinuch (education) – from around six years old – not to eat or drink on the night of the fast.

At the age of chinuch, we teach them not to wear leather sandals or shoes, and not to apply ointments or bathe for the sake of pleasure (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 10:21).

May it be God’s will that out of our mourning for the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, we will soon merit its’ building, in joy.

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

Gid Hanasheh and World Challenges

Gid Hanasheh, which according to the deeper teachings of the Torah is connected to Tisha B’Av, represents the weak point of the Jewish people * Out of all the tendons in the body, the angel representing Eisav succeeded in injuring the tendon that connects the upper part of the body to the legs, in other words ideas and the heart, to reality * When a breach exists between spiritual and practical people, the spirituals lose their grip on reality and their influence wanes, and the people of action are dragged after this world and its desires * At the root of the problems of our generation, upon which we are mourning during these days, is the disconnect between the spiritual and practical people, and we must act to reconnect them

Gid Hanasheh and Tisha B’Av

During these days when we mourn the destruction of the Temple, it is appropriate to learn a little about the prohibition against eating the gid hanasheh, which, according to the Kabbalists, is related to Tisha B’Av. For the 365 tendons in the body are compared to the 365 days of the year, and the prohibition of the gid hanasheh is related to the day of Tisha B’Av, which is hinted at in the verse: “The Israelites therefore do not eat the displaced nerve (gid hanansheh) on the hip joint to this very day” (Genesis 32:33) – not to eat on Tisha B’Av. (Zohar and Midrash Ha’Ne’Elam). Before we expand upon the reasons of the commandment, we will explain its laws.

Hilchot Gid Hanasheh

Although the beginning of the gid hanasheh is in the spinal cord and ends at the end of the leg, only the part that passes next to the hip on the thigh is forbidden from the Torah, because it is on the “hip socket of the thigh”. In a large bull it is about eight centimeters long, and in a large sheep about four centimeters (Rama, Yoreh Deah 100: 1; Taz, ibid 3). Our Sages also prohibited the beginning of this tendon from the spine and its continuation until the end of the thigh. They also prohibited the tendrils of the gid hanasheh, i.e. the branches that spread into the flesh on the thigh, and also forbade the outer tendon that is secondary to the gid hanasheh. The holy Jewish people are customary to also prohibit the fat around tendon and tendrils. The removal of all the parts that are forbidden from the words of the Sages and due to Jewish custom is a complex task that requires learning.

Although the taste of the gid hanasheh is very faint and almost imperceptible, nevertheless, since the Torah forbids it, those who eat it with the thigh, even though they do not enjoy its taste, transgress the Torah prohibition, which is punishable by lashes. The tendrils and fat around the tendon forbidden by the Sages and custom are tasty, and therefore if cooked in a dish, as long as the taste is noticeable in the dish – the dish is forbidden to be eaten. Gid hanasheh is forbidden to eat, but one is permitted to gain pleasure from it (S.A., Y. D. 65: 9-10).

The Dispute with Esau’s Ministering Angel

It is told in the Torah (Genesis 32) that when our father Yaakov returned to the Land of Israel and passed his family over the Jordan, a man fought him at night. When he saw that he could not defeat Yaakov, he struck his thigh, and from then, Yaakov’s leg was lame and he limped on his thigh. But Yaakov Avinu did not surrender and struggled with the man until dawn, and then it turned out that the man was an angel, and only after he blessed Yaakov did Yaakov agree to send him on his way. Our Sages said the same angel was Eisav’s ministering angel, and their struggle had risen up to the Throne of Glory because it touched the very foundations of faith. Eisav’s minister asks that this world behave in its own, natural way, i.e., according to its physical interests; whereas Yaakov Avinu seeks to correct this world by faith, values, and Torah. When Eisav’s angel saw he could not overcome him, because of the strength of his faith, he struck his weak spot – the gid hanasheh.

Connecting the Upper Part of the Body to the Legs

Through the gid hanasheh, the nervous system moves from the spine to the legs. Spiritually, it connects the upper parts of man, his head and heart, which express man’s thoughts and feelings, to the legs which express action. The injury to the gid hanasheh conveyed Eisav’s claim: While your talk about faith is lofty and beautiful, and the values are ideal, nevertheless, in practice, it is doomed to failure. It is impossible to lead the world according to the values of holiness, because sins triumph over. Not only that, but even the righteous themselves fall into sin, as indicated by the gid hanasheh being located next to one’s intimate area of the body. The word “nasheh” in Hebrew stems from the words ‘chul’shah‘ (weakness), “shichachah” (forgetfulness), and “shinui” (change), in other words, in the transition to the legs and the world of action – the good ideas are weakened and neglected.

The Disconnect between the Practical and the Spiritual

This is what our Sages said in the Zohar, that by way of this injury, the angel of Eisav harmed the connection between practical people and those who are spiritual, and by doing so, the people of deed are weakened, forget their partnership in the observance of the Torah, and do not maintain talmidei hakhamim (Torah scholars). As such, the spiritual people have no feet to stand on, they fall, and the Shekhina (Divine Presence) departs from the world, since they deny the value of the resting of the Shekhina; the Temple is destroyed, and Israel is exiled from their Land.

Our Sages also said in the chapter Gid Hanasheh (Chulin 92a) that they sent from the Land of Israel to Babylon to ask for mercy, and the fruit (i.e. the Torah scholars) should pray for the leaves (i.e., the ‘amei ha’aretz‘ [lit., the people of the land], because if it were not for the leaves, the fruit would not exist. In other words, without the support of the practical people, the spiritual people would not exist (as R. Zadok of Lublin explained in Kometz HaMincha 2: 80).

This is also the foundation of the mitzvot of terumot and maaserot, by which Israel is connected to the Kohanim and Levites, who guard the sanctity of the kodesh, and teach Torah to Israel. As a continuation of this, our Sages also determined that other forms of livelihood would also provide for the maintenance of Torah scholars and its teachers, so that practical people would be connected to the values of holiness, and Torah scholars would teach Torah to Israel.

Tzadikim without Grounding in Reality

Our Sages (Bereishit Rabbah 77: 3) also said that the damage to the gid hanasheh harmed “the righteous men and women, the men and women prophets who were to stem from him.” And in the Zohar it is explained that the ministering angel of Eisav harmed all the prophets except Moses; in the wake of the injury to the gid hanasheh, the prophets are unable to accept their prophecy while standing, but only after having fallen. The inability to stand indicates weakness in the complete, precise and practical expression of prophecy; without practical people who are connected to the righteous and the prophets, the righteous are unable to fulfill their ideas in reality, and the prophets are unable to express the ideas of their prophecy in a stable and precise manner. In other words, the men of action support the men of spirit in all respects – both in that they maintain them with donations and tithes and money, and devote themselves to the realization of spiritual ideas in the world of action, and only by doing so can the righteous men and women, the male and female prophets, direct and refine their words. Otherwise their ideas will also fall.

Faith until ‘Alot HaShachar’

Following the injury to the gid hanasheh which continued the distancing between the men of spirit and the men of action, sins increased, causing the death of the righteous with the rest of the people during the days of destruction and terror, when darkness covered the Land. Nevertheless, our father Yaakov stood bravely against Eisav’s angel until alot ha’shachar (dawn), and when the light began to shine, the angel realized that Yaakov could overcome the obstacles and cross the Yabuk River passage, build the house of Israel in the Land, and reveal the Divine Presence in the world. Consequently, he had to agree, and bless him.

The act of the fathers is a sign for the sons – namely, that Israel will stand with courage and devotion against all those who rise up against them to destroy them, until the light of their redemption shines, and all those who defy them will bless them against their will (Sefer HaChinuch 3). Then the ‘gid she’nasheh’, i.e., the tendon that was displaced, will return to its place, and the connection between the thoughts in the mind and the good desires of the heart will be completed into the actions of the legs.

We find, therefore, that the caution in prohibiting the eating of the gid hanasheh hints at the preservation of the connection between the world of the spirit and the world of action. Anyone who eats this tendon, it is as if he accepts the awesome lacking caused by its being displaced, and causing a certain separation between the spiritual world and the world of action.

The War on the Sinners of Israel

At the Yabuk crossing, where the ideas from the spiritual world pass into the world of action, occasionally change for the worse, as our Sages (Chulin, 91a) have said that Yaakov returned in the dark of night to the other side of the river to bring small jugs forgotten there. These small jugs hint to the weak, and to the sinners of Israel, which Yaakov, as well, did not give up upon, because without them, Knesset Yisrael is incomplete and cannot repair the world. The weakness of these people is not because of their wickedness, but because their role is to reveal holiness within the earthly reality, and sometimes this role is very difficult, because until all material inclinations are corrected, the world’s lusts are liable to overcome and cause people to sin. The place indicating these souls in Jacob’s body, the father of Israel, was the gid hanasheh, near the place of lust. Therefore, this was the place of the weakness of Yaakov, where Eisav’s angel could cause damage.

Though the gid hanasheh has great importance, through which the nerves pass to the legs, it has no taste. This is also the way people who deal with the world of action and lusts feel at times – they do not feel the goodness while performing the commandments. Similar to the aravah (the willow), which has no taste and no smell, but it must be in the four species, and the entire tikkun depends on it (Peninei Halakha Sukkot 4: 2-3). Since at times the practical people do not enjoy the mitzvah, many of them tend to sin. In the end, however, the sun rose for Yaakov, and he overcame the angel, just as the wicked of Israel will eventually be corrected. Perhaps this is why the holy Jewish nation have been so strict in the fulfillment of the prohibition against the gid hanasheh, to the point that after our Sages forbade its tendrils, Jews would also prohibit its fat, which has taste, and perhaps further attracts the sinners of Israel to sin.

The Tikkun for Our Times: Connecting Spirit and Practice

In our times as well, the lacking is mainly in the sin of the gid hanasheh, namely, the connection between the great idea of the State of Israel and yishuv ha’aretz, to a practical life that fails to connect properly to the idea. From this, all of our problems arise: concerning Hok Ha’Leum (the Nationality Law), concerning the settlement of the Land, concerning the encouragement of aliyah as the vision of the Torah and the prophets. Concerning Torah scholars who are not connected to the world of action, and men of action who disparage the people of the Torah. Our Sages said: “Each generation in which it [the Temple] is not built in its days, they are deemed as having destroyed it” (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1). For this we must mourn, so that we will act with all our strength and ability to connect heaven and earth in the building of the Land and the Temple.

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

Torah Study on Summer Vacation

The obligation to study the Torah applies throughout the year, and summer vacation is an excellent opportunity to fulfill it * When talking with children in advance about learning during the summer vacation, and planning with them how to use the time, they agree * If parents make use of Shabbat to learn Torah, children learn to use their time during summer vacation * Summer vacation is an excellent opportunity for parents to educate their children themselves, and to share with them their world of values ​​* The cause of many of the disruptions and spiritual downfalls that can occur – going to bed late, and waking-up late * A moving halachic question: Should a family’s immigration to the Land of Israel be celebrated during the Nine Days?

The Challenges of Summer Vacation

Each year, summer vacation arrives accompanied by concerns and stress. Aside from it being way too long and deserving to be shortened, parents ought to prepare beforehand, so the vacation passes smoothly, and does not turn into a time of chaos and spiritual decline.

To this end, parents should speak with their children before the vacation begins, and together, summarize their schedules and various plans for vacation time, and later on, make sure they adhere to them. In principle, most children agree that it is important to set specific times for Torah study during the vacation, to utilize the free time by reading insightful books, helping their parents, and other useful activities. And when matters are agreed upon from the start, it is easier to put them into practice.

Why it is Essential to Get Up on Time

First of all, it is important to be strict about time schedules. Waking-up in the morning should be at a reasonable hour – at the latest, 8:00 A.M., and bed-time should be the same as throughout the school year, or at most, an hour later. The root of all problems begins with the disruption of sleep. When youth go to bed at 2:00 A.M., and wake-up at 10:00 in the morning, essentially, they live without parental supervision and guidance. They come home when their parents are sleeping, and wake up after they’ve left the house. Parents have no opportunity to hear about their children’s activities, or monitor them.

Thank God, we have the mitzvah to read ‘kriyat Sh’ma‘ and pray within a precise time, and thus, even a person who by nature is a late riser, given that he aims to fulfill the mitzvah, merits waking up on time, and organizes his life properly, praying in the 8:00 A.M. minyan at the latest.

All the problems start when children go to bed too late. During that time, when their parents are sleeping and there are almost no adults on the streets, they begin to do stupid things. That’s when they start experimenting with drugs. After all, a youth who gets up to pray, eats breakfast, and sets specific times for Torah study, does not suddenly start taking drugs between morning prayers and breakfast, or between his regular Torah study and his other hobbies!

The decline into loathsome behavior, negative friendships, and doing drugs, begins in the wee hours of the night, when bored youth who got up late in the morning, can’t fall asleep at night, and hang out with friends with nothing else to do but drink, eat, laugh at nonsense, and seek out thrills.

This is what is explained in Pirkei Avot (3:4): “Rabbi Chanina ben Chachinai says: He who keeps awake at night, or travels alone on the road, and makes room in his heart for idleness, sins against himself.” The commentators explained that nighttime is intended for sleep, or diligent Torah study; someone who remains awake at night idly, is asking for trouble.

Serve as an Example – on Shabbat

Obviously, simply refraining from negative influences is not enough. Summer break should be filled with positive content, and most importantly, by setting specific times for Torah study, which is ‘our life and length of our days’, and every Jew, whether old or young, while in school or during vacation break, is obligated to learn Torah every day. Parents should summarize with their children which books they will study, and what their goals should be.

Summer vacation is an especially good time to learn topics that are easy and close to one’s heart. It also can serve as an opportunity to review familiar topics. In any case, learning should be done with straightforward and comprehensible books, so that the children or youth – each according to their level – can feel confident and pleased in their studies.

It is advisable for children to learn partly on their own, and partly with a chevrutra (study partner) of similar age, and parents should help them arrange this. Boys and girls should learn separately. Younger children should be motivated to learn by giving them small prizes, while older children should be inspired with rewards appropriate for their age.

If the family has children of different ages, parents can ask the older kids to learn with the younger ones, and in this manner, increase their study time.

Learning with Children

The best advice for educating children is for parents themselves to learn Torah together with their children. Frequently, parents complain about how worn-out they are from summer vacation. Their children drain them emotionally, nudging them to find something for them to do, and constantly complaining that they’re bored. No matter how hard parents try to keep them occupied, the kids continue nagging.

Instead, it is better to arrange a meaningful study session together, and at times when they are bored – offer to continue learning. Learning together will turn vacation time into a productive and pleasant period, and the parent’s relationship with their children will be built on a positive and uplifting basis. As a result, the moral requests parents make of their children, will be more understandable and acceptable.

Build the World of Values

Although most of learning is conducted by teachers on behalf of the parents, the parents still have the most central part of the mitzvah to teach them Torah: understanding the overall vision of the Torah. This is done in open conversations with the children about life and its meaning, by sharing, according to their understanding and age, the moral goals that the parents set for themselves – Torah study, observance of mitzvot, work, and responsibility for Klal Yisrael. Vacation is a good and appropriate time for such conversations as well.

Making Aliyah during the Nine Days

Question: Rabbi, Shalom! First of all, I would like to express my appreciation for your series of “Peninei Halakha” books, which conveys both halakha and knowledge about who we are, and where we came from, and how we have come to this point. With God’s help, all your actions should be blessed, and you should enjoy happiness and pleasure, and good health all of your life!

Precisely because of my appreciation for you, Rabbi, as an honest posek (Jewish law arbiter), and also as a Zionist in the deepest sense of the word, I turn to you with a somewhat delicate question regarding the limitations of the Nine Days before Tisha B’Av. Here are the facts: My brother, his wife and their two small daughters will come to Israel from Canada on Wednesday (they arrive in Israel on the 4th of the month of Av). They are not religious, but quite traditional. I am a chozer b’teshuva, but we come from a very proud Jewish and Zionistic family.  My brother and his family’s Aliyah are a significant and exciting event for all of us. My wife and I immigrated to Israel alone 24 years ago, and I have only one brother. Our parents are still in Canada, and my sister-in-law is an Israeli who left the country many years ago to be with him.

My question borders between halakha, feelings, and a Klal Yisrael attitude: How much is it permissible for us on the day and week they immigrate to celebrate their aliyah? Is it permissible to sing, to play musical instruments, to wave balloons and colorful and happy signs at the airport? Is it permitted to do so in the apartment they will arrive at on that day? And is it permissible to celebrate a family meal with friends in a restaurant? At home? Is a meat meal permissible, and can wine be consumed at such an event?

Rabbi, if you can give me general or specific guidance on the matter, I would be very happy, and it will make it easier for us to experience this great and awesome event, as appropriate for an Israeli and a Torah observant Jew, and also as a loving brother who tries to be compassionate.

Answer: Rejoice in the Mitzvah

This is indeed a joyous occasion for the observance of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel), which our Sages said is equal to all the mitzvot. Just as when a tractate of Talmud is completed, it is permissible to perform a seudat mitzvah (a joyous mitzvah meal), all the more so for such a great mitzvah as this, for in addition to its mere greatness, it is to be hoped that it will advance and elevate the future of your brother’s family for the better.

Therefore, you are allowed to celebrate at the airport, and you should wave a sign with the words “Ve’shavu banim le’g’vulam” (“And the sons have returned to their border”), or something similar.

In addition, it is permitted to hold meals in honor of their aliyah with drinking wine and eating meat, provided that the meal takes place on the day of aliyah or the following day, for indeed the kabbalists (Rabbi Avraham Azulai in his book “Chesed L’Avraham”) said that on the first night a person enters the Land of Israel, he receives a new soul, whether he is aware of it or not, and therefore the following day deserves to be celebrated.

If you have dinner at a restaurant, you should find a way to make it clear to those around you that you are celebrating Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and thus, it is not a violation of the mourning for the destruction of the Temple – the exact opposite – a seudat mitzvah that rectifies the mourning.

Incidentally, I must point out that your question moved me to tears. May you merit all the blessings and goodness of the Land of Israel.

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: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il/

17th of Tammuz: Who Fasts and who is Exempt

When our Sages determined the “minor” fasts, they did not oblige pregnant and nursing women, and the sick * A woman who stopped nursing – according to the majority poskim must fast, and some say that she is exempt for up to two years from birth * Weakness and a headache do not exempt one from fasting, rather, only an illness unrelated to the fast * Someone who knows the fast will make him sick – is considered ill, and is exempt * How to take medicines on minor fasts, and how to deal with the shortage of caffeine * Someone who broke the fast by accident must continue to fast * The obligation to educate children to fast applies to Yom Kippur, and there is no need to accustom them on other fasts

The Current Status of the Minor Fasts

When the prophets instituted the four fasts after the destruction of the First Temple, they modeled them after the fast of Yom Kippur, which is how the Rabbis usually enact decrees, modeling them after the Torah’s commandments.  Since Yom Kippur lasts an entire day, the prophets instituted the four fasts as full-day fasts, and since there are five prohibitions on Yom Kippur – eating and drinking, bathing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations – they prohibited the same things on the fasts commemorating the churban (destruction of the Temple). This is how the Jews observed these fasts throughout the seventy-year Babylonian exile.

When the exiles returned from Babylonia to build the Second Temple, these fasts were canceled and transformed into joyous days, as it says, Thus says the Lord of Hosts, “The fast of the fourth month (Tammuz), the fast of the fifth (the ninth of Av), the fast of the seventh (the third of Tishrei), and the fast of the tenth (the tenth of Tevet) will be to the House of Judah for joy and for gladness, and for festive days; love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

And when the Second Temple was destroyed, the Jews went back to observing the very same fasts, keeping them throughout the difficult years following the second churban, during which Bar Kochva’s rebellion and the destruction of Beitar and Judea took place.  Thus, the status of these fasts depends on our national situation: at a time of evil decrees and persecution, we are obligated to fast, but when the Temple is standing these fasts become days of joy and gladness.

In the intermediate situation – when the Temple is destroyed, but we are not plagued with harsh decrees, as was the case during Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi’s lifetime – the status of these fasts depends on the will of the Jewish people: “If they want to fast, they do so; if they do not want to fast, they do not fast.”  This is the law regarding the tenth of Tevet, the seventeenth of Tammuz, and the Fast of Gedaliah.  Regarding Tish’a B’Av, however, the matter does not depend on the nation’s will, and everyone is obligated to fast, even in the intermediate situation, because both Temples were destroyed on that day (Rosh HaShanah 18b).

In practice, the Jewish people are accustomed to observing all the fasts, even in the intermediate situation.  Therefore all Jews are obligated to fast on these days.  This is the halakha until the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt, speedily in our days, when the fast days will become joyous festivals.

Nursing and Pregnant Women are Exempt from Fasting

Nursing and pregnant women are exempt from the minor fast days (those which last for daytime alone), for the following reason.  According to the letter of the law, the Prophets ordained that we observe these fasts when Israel is faced with harsh decrees, but when no such decrees exist, it is up to the Jews to decide whether they want to fast or not.  And indeed, the Jews have accepted upon themselves to fast on these days until the Temple is rebuilt, speedily in our days.  However, from the very beginning, the custom has been that pregnant and nursing women do not fast on these days, because it is harder for them to fast.

In Germany (Ashkenaz), many pregnant and nursing women had a custom to act strictly and fast on the minor fast days.  Perhaps they did so because of the harsh decrees that the Jews suffered there.  In any event, the prevalent custom today, even among Ashkenazi Jews, is that pregnant and nursing women do not observe the minor fast days.

Two Years after Birth

A nursing woman is exempt from the minor fasts as long as she nurses her child.  Even if the child receives additional nourishment, the mother need not fast as long as she has yet to stop nursing her baby.  Some poskim exempt all women from fasting for 24 months after giving birth, because in their opinion the exemption does not depend on nursing but on the hardships of childbirth, from which it takes 24 months to recover.  In practice, most poskim rule strictly and require every woman who has stopped nursing her child to fast even on the minor fast days.  This is the prevalent custom, but one who wants to adopt the more lenient opinion has upon whom to rely. And a woman who feels weak, although she is not considered to be seriously ill, may act leniently (Peninei Halakha 7, 8, 11).

The Ill are Exempt

When the Prophets and Sages instituted these fasts, they did so for healthy people, not for the sick.  This is the difference between Yom Kippur and all other fasts.  On Yom Kippur, even the infirm are obligated to fast, because it is a Biblical command.  Only people whose lives may be in danger if they fast are exempt, for the preservation of human life overrides the Torah’s commandments.  Even then, if possible, one should make do with eating only a little, and eating in shiurim. But in the rest of the fasts that our Sages instituted, including Tisha B’Av, the ill are exempt, and do not have to eat or drink in shiurim, rather, they should eat and drink as usual, but not delight themselves with sumptuousness foods (ibid 7: 7).

Who is Considered Ill?

In general, people whose pain or weakness precludes them from continuing their regular routine of life, forcing them to lie down, are considered sick.  For example, those who have the flu, angina, or a high fever need not fast.

Almost everyone develops a headache and feels weak on a fast day, and most people find it easier spending the day in bed than continuing to function normally.  Sometimes, a person who is fasting even feels worse than a flu sufferer.  Nonetheless, such feelings are not considered a sickness, rather the natural effects of fasting, which will pass within a few hours after the fast is over.  Therefore, only one who needs to lie down because of an illness is exempt from fasting.  One who suffers from the fast itself, however, must continue to fast even if his weakness causes him to prefer to lie down in bed.  Only one who becomes so weak from the fast that he leaves the category of a suffering faster and enters that of the infirm may break his fast.

In addition, anyone who knows that fasting can cause him to fall ill need not fast.  For example, someone who suffers from an active ulcer or severe migraines is exempt from fasting, because it is liable to precipitate his illness.  Similarly, a weak person who knows that there is a good chance that he will become ill if he does not eat is exempt from fasting.  Diabetes sufferers who need to take insulin need not fast, and some of them are even exempt from fasting on Yom Kippur.  Those who have kidney stones are exempt from fasting, because they have to drink a lot of water.  A person with high blood pressure is not considered sick and should fast, unless his doctor instructs him otherwise.  Whenever in doubt, consult a God-fearing doctor (ibid 7:7).

Swallowing Medications

It is also important to note that sick people who need to take medicine regularly, like a person who has started a regimen of antibiotics or one who suffers from a chronic disease, must continue taking their medicine even on a fast day.  If possible, one should swallow it without water.  Realize that almost no medicine, including antibiotics, does any harm to those who take it without water.  One who cannot swallow pills without water should add something bitter to the water, until it becomes undrinkable, and use it to swallow the pill.

Caffeine for a Headache

Many are accustomed to drinking a few cups of coffee a day, and when fasting, suffer from severe headaches. In order to prevent this, it is advisable to take pills containing caffeine (Acamol and Dexamol and the like have tablets with caffeine) and swallow them on the fast without water. In this way they will be able to observe the fast without excessive pain. And if they do not have similar pills, they can swallow instant coffee grains without water, which, since it is bitter and tastes bad – no prohibition applies to eating it in order to prevent pain.

Eating before Dawn

Even though the fast starts at alot hashachar (this year at 03:50), the prohibition to eat sometimes begins the night before.  If one has in mind not to eat anymore until the beginning of the fast, it is considered as if he accepted the fast upon himself, and he may not eat.  Therefore, one who goes to sleep the night before a fast and wakes up before daybreak may not eat, for he has already taken his mind off of eating.  However, if he stipulates mentally before going to sleep that he will eat something if he wakes up before alot hashachar, he may eat, because he has not yet accepted the fast upon himself.

All this is true with regard to eating, but the poskim debate the issue of drinking.  According to the Rama, one may drink even if he did not make an explicit stipulation before going to sleep, because many people take a drink of water when they wake up, and it is therefore as if he had intention to drink if he wakes up before daybreak.  The Shulchan Aruch (564:1), however, holds that there is no difference between eating and drinking, and only one who stipulates, before going to sleep, that he will drink some water when he rises before daybreak may drink.  In practice, one who wants to drink before the fast begins should make a mental stipulation to this effect, but be’di’avad, one who wakes up before alot hashachar and is thirsty may drink, even if he failed to stipulate (see MB 564:6, KHC 10).

Rinsing One’s Mouth with Water

Ideally (le-chatchila), one should not wash one’s mouth on the minor fasts, because there is concern that one might swallow drops of water.  However, one who detects that his breath smells bad may wash out his mouth, because he has no intention to drink, only to clean his mouth.  Still, he should be very careful not to swallow any water.  One may use toothpaste in order to clean out his mouth thoroughly and remove a bad smell, if not doing so causes him distress.

Tish’a B’Av is a stricter fast, which entails a prohibition against washing oneself.  Therefore, one should act more stringently and, unless it is very necessary, not rinse his mouth.  Only someone who would be greatly distressed may wash out his mouth and brush his teeth, without toothpaste, even on Tish’a B’Av.  On Yom Kippur, however, when one must fast according to Torah law, one should not be lenient.

One who Drinks by Accident on the Fast

One who accidentally eats or drinks on a fast day must continue fasting, because these days were instituted as fast days due to the troubles that occurred on them.  Even if one eats or drinks enough to be considered as one who broke his fast, thus forfeiting the ability to say Aneinu in Shemoneh Esrei, he is still forbidden to eat or drink.  After all, one who committed one sin is not allowed to commit a second (SA 568:1).  In such a scenario, the person does not have to fast a different day to make up for the fast he broke, because we are obligated to fast specifically on the days that our Sages established for fasting.  Indeed, some people have a custom to accept upon themselves another fast to atone for the one that they broke, but one is not obligated to do so (MB 568:8).  It is better to atone for this by giving more charity and learning more Torah.

The poskim debate the halakha of one who forgets that it is a fast day, makes a blessing over a cup of water, and then remembers the fast.  Some say that the prohibition of making a blessing in vain is of Biblical origin, while drinking on a fast day is only a Rabbinic injunction.  Therefore, it is preferable to take a small drink in order to save oneself from saying a blessing in vain.  Others maintain that since most Rishonim hold that a blessing in vain is a Rabbinic prohibition, it is better not to drink at all.  In addition, it is improper to fix one sin by committing another one.  It seems to me that this is the course of action one should take.

Children under the Age of Mitzvot

Children who have yet to reach the age at which they are obligated in the mitzvot are exempt from the fasts that the Rabbis instituted.  And our Sages did not require us to train our children to fast for a few hours; they did so only in regard to Yom Kippur, which is Torah-based…  Nonetheless, many have a custom to train their children to fast a few hours, each one according to his or her strength.  But children should not fast all day long (Rama of Panow 111; see KHC 554:23).  When feeding children on a fast day, one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to mourn with the congregation (MB 550:5).

Soldiers, Brides and Grooms

Soldiers who are engaged in a defensive operation that is liable to be compromised if they fast should eat and drink as usual so that they can carry out their mission properly.  However, soldiers who are merely training must fast.

Brides and grooms are obligated to fast on the minor fast days.  Even though they have a mitzvah to rejoice for seven days after their wedding, and they are therefore forbidden to accept upon themselves a private fast, nonetheless, they must observe public fasts, because public mourning overrides private joy.  Although when the fast is postponed from Shabbat to Sunday, like this year, the bride and groom are allowed to break the fast after Mincha Gedolah in the afternoon (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 7:9, footnote 12).

The Aneinu Prayer

The Rabbis prescribed that we add a special blessing for the fast, called Aneinu, in our prayers.  The cantor inserts it in between the blessings of Go’el Yisrael and Refa’einu when he repeats the Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharit and Minchah.  He says it only if there are at least six people in the congregation fasting, and he has to be one of them (SA 566:5).

Individuals, however, do not say Aneinu as a separate blessing in their silent prayers.  Rather, they insert it in the middle of the blessing of Shomei’a Tefillah (Ta’anit 13b).  There are various customs as to when we say Aneinu.  Some say that one should recite Aneinu in all three prayers of the day.  And even though we do not fast at night, one should say it in Ma’ariv because the day as a whole is called a fast day.  Yemenite Jews and some Sefardic Jews follow this custom.  Most Sefardim say Aneinu only when the fast is in effect.  Therefore, on the minor fasts they say it in Shacharit and Minchah, and on Tish’a B’Av, they say it also in Ma’ariv (based on Razah, KHC 565:17).  Ashkenazi Jews are accustomed to saying Aneinu in Minchah alone, because they are concerned that perhaps someone will say it in Shacharit, become weak during the day, and break his fast.  Then, his statement “on this day of our fast” will turn out to be a lie.  Therefore, they say Aneinu only in Minchah, because one who has fasted this long will probably complete the fast (based on the Geonim and Rashi; Rama 565:3).  Everyone should continue his family custom.

One who eats less than an olive-sized portion of food or drinks less than a cheek full of liquid is considered to still be fasting and should say Aneinu.  But if one eats or drinks more than that, he has broken his fast and may not recite Aneinu.

Birkat Kohanim (the Priestly Blessings) During Mincha

Throughout the year, the kohanim (“priests”) do not lift their hands to bless the people during Mincha services, because people usually eat a meal before Mincha and we are concerned that the kohanim might bless the people when they are drunk, which is forbidden.  On fast days that have a Ne’ilah service, like Yom Kippur and the fasts that the Rabbis instituted for droughts, the kohanim bless the people during Ne’ilah, because there is no reason to fear that they will be drunk, seeing that it is a fast day.  During Mincha of those days, however, the kohanim do not bless the people for fear that they may mistakenly think that they are supposed to do so on regular days, as well.  Regarding ordinary fast days, on which we do not pray Ne’ilah, the law depends on when the congregants pray Mincha.  If they pray at the same time that Ne’ilah is usually said [i.e., shortly before sunset], the kohanim bless the people.  But if the congregation prays Mincha earlier, Birkat Kohanim is omitted, since it is not the time designated for Ne’ilah.  In such a case, the cantor, as well, omits “Elokeinu v’Elokai Avoteinu,” which is customarily said when no kohanim are present.

Therefore, it is fitting to call Mincha on fast days for a time that enables people to merit participating in the mitzvah of Birkat Kohanim.  Ideally, one should pray Mincha within half an hour of sunset, which is the best time to pray Ne’ilah.  Nevertheless, as long as the congregation prays after plag mincha, the kohanim may lift their hands and bless the people.  If they pray earlier than that, however, Birkat Kohanim is omitted.

kohen who is not fasting should not ascend the platform to bless the people.  And if there are no other kohanim, some authorities say that he still may not go up, while others maintain that he should.  The latter opinion goes as far as to say that he should go up even if there is one other kohen (Lu’ach Eretz YisraelHalichot ShlomoTefilla 10:13).  If there are less than six people fasting, no kohen should go up to bless the congregation during Mincha, even if he is fasting (see Piskei Teshuvot129:2).

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

Is Checking Eggs for Blood Relevant Today?

In the past, it was obligatory to check eggs when opening them, but today the situation is different: All eggs under supervision are not fertilized * If blood is found in an egg, it must be removed because of ‘marit ayin’, but l’chatchila, it is not necessary to examine eggs * In continuation to previous articles concerning Torah scholars and their authority: The Chief Rabbi of the IDF  does not have the authority of ‘mara d’atra’, since he was not chosen by God-fearing people and was not given independence * The military rabbis have tremendous importance, but their rulings do not obligate the soldiers * Recognition of the problem of the Chief Rabbi’s lack of authority will lead to the strengthening of his position

Blood in Fertilized Eggs

Q: Do eggs need to be checked for blood? And what should be done if blood is found in them? Is there a difference between regular eggs and organic eggs?

A: In order to answer, we must first explain the halakha concerning fertilized eggs, i.e., the eggs of chickens that were fertilized from a male cock, and from which a chick can develop. This was the most common type of egg in the past.

If such eggs have blood in the place from which the chick’s formation begins, it is forbidden by the prohibition of ‘dam‘ (blood), and the prohibition spreads throughout the entire egg. Some authorities say that this prohibition of blood is from the Torah, for just as the blood of a chick is forbidden from the Torah, so too the blood from which it begins to grow is forbidden from the Torah (Rashba and Rosh), while others maintain that it is forbidden ‘m’divrei Chachamim’ (Rabbinical), since in practice it is not yet the blood of a living animal (Rif, Rambam, R”ah, Sha’arei Dura).

But if the blood in the egg is not in place of the beginning of the formation of the chick, such as when the formation of the egg ruptured one of the blood vessels that enveloped it, there is no prohibition in this type of blood, because it does not belong to the formation of the chick. However, on account of ‘marit ayin’ it must be removed, and the egg is permitted. (‘Marit Ayin‘ (literally “the vision of the eye”) describes rabbinic enactments that were put into place to prevent a third-party viewing one’s actions from arriving at the incorrect conclusion that a forbidden action is permitted).

The Rishonim disagreed as to where the chick begins to take shape. Some say that it is in the yellow interior of the egg called ‘chelmon‘ (yolk) (Rif, Rambam, and S.A. 66: 3); on the other hand, there are those who say that the beginning of the formation is in the outer white part called ‘chelbon‘ (albumen) (R’ah and Rashal). Some say that as long as the blood is in place of the albumen bond, i.e., in the thread that connects the yolk to the top of the egg, only the blood is forbidden but the rest of the egg is permitted, because the formation has not yet begun; when the blood has spread to the yolk core, the formation of the yolk has begun, and the whole egg is forbidden (Rashi and Tosafot). In practice, since wherever there is blood in the egg a fear exists that it is forbidden because of the blood of formation according to one of the approaches, the custom is to prohibit the entire egg (R’ma 66:4; Bach in O.C.).

Is it Obligatory to Check Eggs?

All this, however, if the blood is visible. On the other hand, someone who wants to eat a hard-boiled egg, or make a hole in the egg and gulp it down, does not have to examine it before eating it, since the vast majority of eggs do not contain blood, and as a rule, we follow the majority. But if the eggs are opened in order to make an omelet, or to mix them in a dish or a pastry, since in any case the interior of the egg is visible, one must be strict to check if there is blood in it (B.Y., S.A., and R’ma 66:8). Since if blood is found, the entire egg is forbidden, each egg should be examined in a separate container, so that if blood is found in one of the eggs, it alone will be thrown away, and having to throw away the eggs and the dish they were mixed in with will be unnecessary.

It should be noted that in eggs whose shell is brown (a certain type of hens) there are more brown spots which sometimes also tend to be orange. These stains come from the shell, and are not forbidden, because only what is red as blood is forbidden (Darchei Teshuva 66:22). In fact, white shells causes stains in eggs as well, but since they are white, they are not as visible.

Unfertilized Eggs

If blood is found in an egg that is not fertilized, because it is from a chicken grown in non-male poultry farms, the blood in it is not prohibited – because it cannot be the beginning of the formation of a chick; rather, it is caused by the blood that was ruptured during the formation of the egg. Since this is the case, it is not obligatory to examine such eggs, since only if blood is seen in them, must it be removed (see Iggrot Moshe, Y.D., 1, 36, and Y.O. sect. 3, Y.D. 2, about blood found in eggs about sixty years ago, when the percentage of fertilized eggs in the markets was more than ten percent).

Most Eggs are Not Fertilized

In Israel today, it is forbidden to sell fertilized eggs for health reasons because they contain residues of medicines that are injected into the chickens that lay them. If they want to turn these chickens into egg-laying chickens for edible purposes, according to the law, they have to separate them from the males and wait for about two weeks for the drugs to dissipate from their bodies. The mark for eggs that are allowed for marketing is a stamp, which includes the stamp of the marketer, the date of manufacture, the size of the egg, and the expiration date.

In fact, at least 97 percent of the eggs currently marketed in the State of Israel are supervised eggs with a stamp, and the other eggs are marketed from illegally smuggled produce (from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, or poultry owners who sell eggs in cash to avoid paying taxes). The percentage of fertilized eggs is very small, originating from breeding bands that when successfully smuggled, arrive mainly for industry. Thus, even among eggs that do not have a stamp, there are almost no fertilized eggs.

“Free” and Organic Eggs

Organic eggs and “free” eggs marketed in stores are also eggs that are not fertilized. “Free” eggs are the eggs of chickens grown in ten times the area of ​​the common chicken coop, to prevent causing them grief. In Israel, “free” eggs are less than one percent of all eggs. Organic eggs are the eggs of chickens who have received organic food, have not been sterilized with chemicals, nor have they received the majority of injections.

The Practical Halakha

Since all the eggs with the stamp are not fertilized, there is no need to examine them for blood, and only if blood happens to be seen in them should it be removed because of ‘marit ayin’. Nevertheless, many people still check eggs. There are two possible reasons for this custom: one, they do not know that almost no fertilized eggs are sold anymore, and that all the eggs with the stamp are not fertilized, and if they knew, they would not have checked. The second reason, since it was customary to examine eggs for generations, they continue to check because of ‘marit ayin’, even though this is not obligatory.

Those who buy eggs without a stamp – according to the strict law, they do not have to check, since more than ninety percent of them are not fertilized, seeing as fertilized eggs are more expensive. But there is more room for stringency, since there may be fertilized eggs among them. However, for health and legal reasons it is better not to buy them.

I was assisted by R. Shalom David, a senior member of the Council of the State of Israel’s Chicken Coops

IDF Rabbis Are Not the ‘Mara D’atra’

According to the articles I wrote in recent weeks about the authority of rabbis, the position I have expressed over the years that the IDF Chief Rabbi does not have the authority of mara d’atra (the local authority of Jewish law) can further be understood for two main reasons: 1) A mara d’atra must be chosen by God-fearing people, who seek his guidance in order to strengthen the observance of Torah and mitzvot, and not as the Chief IDF Rabbi is chosen today, by the Chief of Staff. 2) The mara d’atra must have independence and teaching authority, whereas the Chief IDF Rabbi is subordinate to his commanders in matters unrelated to war and life-saving. He is forbidden to publish a halakha that has public ramifications without the explicit authorization of his commanders and the IDF Spokesperson, and if he publishes such a halakha, they will be able to dismiss, or prosecute him. In such a situation, it is clear that he does not have the authority of mara d’atra, but rather of a senior officer and adviser to the Chief of Staff on matters of religion, as outlined in IDF orders.

We can learn about the status of the Chief Rabbi of the IDF in comparison with the position of the Military Advocate General. In order to fortify the status and independence of the Military Advocate, it was determined that only from a command standpoint is he subordinate to the Chief of Staff, but in matters of law he is subject to the law as interpreted by the court. In addition, it was decided that he would be appointed by the Defense Minister on the Chief of Staff’s recommendation, as opposed to the Chief IDF Rabbi who is appointed by the Chief of Staff.

All the same, the role of the Chief IDF Rabbinate and the other military rabbis is still very important. It is incumbent on them to give expression to the spirit of Israel in the army, to assist the soldiers in observing the Torah and mitzvot, and to preserve the sanctity of the camp. From a halakhic point of view, as well, l’chatchilla (ideally), each question should be asked to the military rabbis since they are in the field, and through their response they can also solve the problem primarily by their ongoing relationship with soldiers and commanders alike. Obviously, I also do not intend to harm the personal qualities of the Chief IDF Rabbis, for whom I have great admiration as Torah scholars and men of virtue. I also had the privilege of being their personal friend.

Women’s Singing as an Example

An example of the halachic implications of the fact that the Chief IDF Rabbinate does not have the authority of mara d’atra: When the army decides to force soldiers to listen to women’s singing, and the Chief Rabbi permits this as long as the soldiers lower their view, his ruling does not have the authority of a mara d’atra. First of all, as long as he does not have the authority to order the army not to force soldiers to do so, he does not have the authority to order soldiers to obey this coercion.  Second, because the observant public did not participate in accepting him as Chief IDF Rabbi, but rather, he was appointed by the Chief of Staff.

To Rehabilitate the Authority of the Chief IDF Rabbi

There were those who claimed that my position weakened the Chief IDF Rabbi, but the truth is the opposite. Only after exposing the reality can the situation be corrected. Just recently a number of Knesset members, led by MK Betzalel Smotrich, have proposed a bill to equate the position of the Chief IDF Rabbi to the status of the Military Advocate General, so that the Chief Rabbi will also be independent in his halakhic positions, and in liaison with the Council of the Chief Rabbinate. In addition to this, the decision of his appointment will be removed from the Chief of Staff, and transferred to a committee composed of the Chief Rabbi, the former Chief IDF Rabbi, the Head of a Yeshiva, the Head of IDF Personnel, and public representatives.

In this situation as well, the position of the Chief IDF Rabbi will be considered mara d’atra only for what he was chosen, i.e., questions encountered between halakha and military reality, and not the major questions in dispute. For example, there will be meaning to his ruling in the current state of the army, if, bediavad (after the fact), an order was given to listen to women’s singing, one should rely on the opinion of those who are lenient and lower one’s eyes without leaving the place; but still, he will not have the authority to decide a principled decision that the halakha follows the lenient opinion.

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

Why I Supported the Kashrut of ‘Tzohar’

Jewish courts of law have always given representation to all the tribes of Israel * Today’s tribes are the different ethnic groups and circles – all of them must be represented in the world of Torah and halakha * A wide public stands behind the rabbis of Tzohar, and therefore it is fitting and even obligatory for them to have a kashrut system * The Rabbis of Tzohar are not less God-fearing than other Rabbis * When one side does not recognize the purity of intent of an opposing party, serious disagreements arise * For personal reasons, I am not a member of the Tzohar Rabbinate, but I am happy to participate in their deliberations – and in other bodies in the Torah world as well

A few months ago, I expressed my support for the Tzohar Rabbinical initiative concerning kashrut. I was asked various questions about my position, and although this is a complex issue, I will try to briefly explain it.

Torah to a Nation Composed of Tribes

The Lord our God and the God of our forefathers chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah from Moses at Sinai. “Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehillat Yaakov” (‘The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov’). Since the revelation at Mount Sinai, the Torah is the inheritance of Klal Yisrael. This means that the authority to determine halakha is given to the Sages of Israel, i.e. to the Sages who are accepted by Israel. In practice, Israel is one people made up of tribes, for indeed God’s oneness is revealed in different shades according to the various features existing in the world. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to appoint judges from all the tribes.

The Sanhedrin was established in a Representative Manner

This is what we learned at the time of the establishment of the first Sanhedrin, when God commanded Moses: “‘Assemble seventy of Israel’s elders – the ones you know to be the people’s elders and leaders… When I lower My essence and speak to you there, I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will grant it to them. You will then not have to bear the responsibility all alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).

Ostensibly, Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest of the prophets, should have determined in the spirit of his holiness who the seventy elders would be according to their fear of God and their wisdom, regardless of their tribal origin; but since the Sages are ‘Sages of Israel’, it was necessary for each tribe to be represented equally. Therefore, Moses was commanded to choose “the ones you know to be the people’s elders and leaders,” – in other words, they are accepted by the people and their tribes. As Rashi explains, according to the Sages: “Those whom you know, that they were appointed as officers over them in Egypt [to oversee] the rigorous labor, and they had mercy on them, and were beaten on their account, as it says, “the officers of the children of Israel were beaten (Exod. 5:14). Now they shall be chosen in their greatness, just as they had suffered in their [Israel’s] distress” (Numbers 11:16). In other words, the most prominent representatives of the tribes should be chosen, those who sacrificed their lives for Israel, and not only great ones in fear of God and wisdom.

Moreover, given that the number seventy cannot not be divided into twelve equally, Moshe casted lots so that the appointed elders would be accepted by all. According to Rashi “But [the number was chosen] by lot, because the number [of elders] for twelve tribes came to six for each tribe, except for two tribes who would receive only five each. Moses said, “No tribe will listen to me to deduct one elder from its tribe.” What did he do? He took seventy-two slips and wrote on seventy [of them, the word] ‘elder’ and two of them he left blank. He then chose six men from each tribe, totaling seventy-two. He said to them, “Draw your slips from the urn. Whoever picked [one inscribed with] ‘elder’ was [already] sanctified. Whoever picked a blank slip, he said to him: The Omnipresent does not want you”(Rashi, Numbers 11:26).

The Mitzvah of Appointing Judges for the Tribes

Similarly, we are commanded for generations: “Appoint yourselves judges and police for your tribes in all your settlements that God your Lord is giving you, and make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people” (Deuteronomy 16:18). The Sages said in the Jerusalem Talmud: “It is a mitzvah for every tribe to judge its own tribe” (Makkot 1: 8), as well as in the Babylonian Talmud: “It is a mitzvah for a tribe to judge its own tribe” (Sanhedrin 16b).

According to Ramban (on the Torah there) it’s possible there may even have been a commandment to appoint a Beit Din Gadol (Sanhedrin) for each and every tribe with certain powers over members of that tribe: “Just as the Great Sanhedrin is appointed in charge of all the courts of all of Israel, so will one court be in charge of each and every tribe.  And if they had to resolve or decree something about their tribe, they would decree and resolve it, and it would have the same validity as that of the Great Sanhedrin for all of Israel”(see Rambam, Sanhedrin 1: 1, and commentaries there).

It should be noted that the Kohanim (priests) and the Levites received cities within the tribal lands, and apparently, as far as matters about the appointment of judges of the tribe were concerned, were considered as members of the tribe they lived in, received tithes from, and identified with (see (Sanhedrin 32a; Rambam Sanhedrin 2a).

The Tzohar Rabbinical Circle

Today, the different “shades” (tribes) of the nation are divided into ethnic groups and circles. Ethnic groups whose former place of residence in exile is shared, and societal circles whose ideological-value-based concepts unites them. Today in Israel, ideological identity is no less powerful than ethnic identity. In any event, Torah scholars of one sect or group must not disqualify the scholars of another, as long as they are loyal to the Torah and its commandments. And even if their halachic opinion is unacceptable to the majority, it is forbidden to disqualify their position regarding what they rule in their own communities, for example the authority of mara d’atra (local rabbinic authority), and their opinions must be considered and they must be included in general halakhic discussions.

The rabbis of Tzohar represent a large and important community of people from all ethnic groups who keep Torah and mitzvot, and invest their energy and wealth in building religious communities, synagogues, religious schools, yeshivot and midrashot. They strive to combine work, Torah, and science and be faithful to the tradition of the Torah while being open to modernity, out of a clear recognition that this is God’s will. They accept upon themselves rabbis of the type of Tzohar, rabbis who understand them and adhere to their ways. The rabbis of Tzohar are Torah scholars and God-fearing, no less than rabbis in the other religious and ultra-Orthodox circles.

According to the principles we have learned, it is imperative that rabbis who represent this important circle receive full expression in the entire Torah community as is customary in our times, and since almost every group has a kashrut organization, the Tzohar rabbis should also have one.

How to Manage Disagreements

As long as there is reasonable cooperation between the Torah scholars of the various circles and all of them receive expression, and there are no Torah scholars of one circle imposing their opinion on members of other circles – let alone not rejecting their Torah scholarship – one can aspire to set common positions and demarcate the boundaries of the discussion. Sometimes it does not work, just as for years a compromise was not found between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and in such a case, both sides have to be careful to respect each other, and not to boycott one another.

But when groups and institutions try to impose their opinion on members of another circle, and abolish the status of their rabbis (and to boycott them from becoming rabbinical judges and rabbis) we are no longer speaking of a situation where the rabbis of Tzohar should also establish a kashrut organization, but rather a situation in which it is almost obligatory for them to establish one, just like other accepted rabbinic organizations, in order to give halachic and Torah expression to their part in the Torah. If they do not, then they are similar to a prophet who suppresses his prophecy, or as our Sages said: ” Yea, all her slain are a mighty host’ — this refers to a disciple who has attained the qualification to decide questions of law, and does not decide them” (Sotah 22a).

How Does a Difficult Dispute Develop?

At first, there is an argument over a focused halakhic issue. However, when an agreement is not reached, instead of agreeing to disagree and continuing to respect each other, one side thinks that the other has no authority to retain his position, because, essentially, his position is inferior, since he belongs to a liberal circle, or his position differs from that of most rabbis. Then, that same party departs from the particular halakhic issue they have debated, and moves on to a more acute arena, in which the main argument is that the rabbi against whom he is arguing with is not authorized to express a halachic position, for in any case, who appointed him to be a rabbi who can express a position at all?

Since this argument is not convincing enough, and the rabbi who is being attacked remains in his position, consequently we are now moving over to a dispute of a different magnitude – since we are no longer dealing with a person who rules on a matter without authority, but with a person who undermines the foundations of authority as a whole, and thus, it is compulsory to wage an all-out war against him…

Since this argument, too, is not accepted by the opponent, who swore he was loyal to the Torah and does not seek to undermine the foundations of the authority, then apparently the debate is no longer about the rabbis’ honor and authority, but stems from outright wickedness, seeking to uproot the Torah from Israel. In the end, one must marvel at the extent to which the “soldiers” behave with moderation in regards to the rabbis of Tzohar – only boycotting and humiliating them with words, and do not take harsher punitive measures against them…

Incidentally, this happens sometimes in the Haredi community, even against eminent rabbis, and sometimes it even reaches actual violence. Let us hope that in this matter the national-religious and Torah public will not try to emulate them.

It all begins with the failure to recognize the authority of rabbis to rule for their constituents. With God’s help, next week I will explain the source of authority for halachic ruling.

“I am a Friend to Everyone Who Worships You”

A number of times I’ve been asked if I am a member of the Tzohar rabbis’ organization. The answer is complex. First of all, it is a great honor for me to be among those who perform mitzvahs, and therefore I am happy to be identified with the rabbis of Tzohar. Not only that, but some of the leaders of Tzohar rabbis are personal friends of mine from the time we studied at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, and even before that. About ten years ago, they also suggested that I be a partner in the management of the Tzohar rabbis, and in their modesty, agreed that a decision would not be made against my opinion, since their goal is that decisions of the administration be accepted with full agreement.

However, for several reasons I could not agree. The main reason is that years ago, I decided to devote my time to clarifying halachic issues and writing them in the framework of ‘Peninei Halakha’. Consequently, I hardly ever leave the community of Har Bracha, and I cannot take upon myself another public burden. In addition, sometimes my opinion is different from theirs, and I do not want to enter into an argument, or try to prevent them from expressing their opinions which I respect because it stems from fear of Heaven and is based on serious and reasoned halakhic study.

However, I wish to be a partner in everything possible for the benefit of Klal Yisrael and the Torah. Therefore, although I cannot bear responsibility for the decisions of the Council of Rabbis of Tzohar, I am pleased that my colleagues invite me to participate in their deliberations and count me as a member.

At the same time, I identify with, and belong to, other rabbinic and religious organizations and circles, which, in their own way, work for Klal Yisrael and the Torah.

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

Writing of the Laws of Kashrut

The thoughts and decisions behind the new volume of ‘Peninei Halakha’ dealing with kashrut * The order in the new book differs from the order in the Shulchan Aruch: In the Land of Israel, the mitzvot dependent on the Land are once again the main laws * In exile we focused on prohibitions whose main concern was survival amongst the Gentiles, whereas the mitzvot that are dependent on the Land deal with society’s rectification, and the building of holy life * As long as most of the Jews live abroad – the mitzvot dependent on the Land are not applicable from the Torah, and the vision of overall redemption is far from realization * We are not close to a Jewish majority in Israel, because there are many Jews in the world who are not aware of their Jewishness, such as Madeline Albright and John Kerry, for example

The New Volume: Kashrut I

With the grace of God, last week, the book “Kashrut I: Vegetation and Animal” – was published as part of the ‘Peninei Halakha’ series. Since this column is personal, I thought that it would be appropriate to share the thoughts that accompanied the writing of the book (which appear for the main part, at the beginning of the book).

For years, I thought to arrange the laws of kashrut as they are arranged in the Shulchan Aruch, section Yoreh De’ah. In other words, to begin with the laws of shechita (ritual slaughter) and treifot (mortal injuries or physical defects that disqualify a member of a kosher species of mammal or bird from being kosher), the prohibition of blood, chelev (animal fat prohibited from eating), vermin, meat and milk, mixtures, cooking of Gentiles, tevilat kelim (immersion of vessels in a mikveh to make them kosher), and yayin nesech (wine poured in the service of idolatry) (S.A., Y.D. 1- 138), and afterwards, deal with the mitzvot dependent on the Land, and the laws of vegetation and animals (S.A., Y.D. 292-333). However, while studying the laws of shechita and treifot, mixtures, and meat and milk, I found that if one wishes to look at the laws of kashrut in full, one must precede the laws of vegetation to the laws of animals, since most of our food is from vegetation – grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables. Moreover, since my plan was to preface every issue with a conceptual idea, I found that the basic ideas about kosher food are hidden in the commandments related to foods produced from plants, mainly the mitzvot dependent on the Land of Israel, because out of the sanctity of the Land, the holiness of the fruit that grows on it becomes apparent. The central expression of this is in the mitzvot of terumot and ma’aserot (tithes), challah, and matanot l’ani’im (gifts to the poor) – leket, shichichah and pe’ah, peret and ololot.

The Part Devoted to Vegetation

Therefore, I decided to begin with a clarification of the laws relating to the growing of vegetation, including the laws of chadash, orlah, kilei ilan and behama, kilei zera’im and kerem, and matanot l’ani’im (chapters 1 – 6). Afterwards, the laws of permitting vegetation to be eaten by means of the provision of separating terumot, ma’aserot, and challah (chapters 7-12). While dealing with vegetation, a chapter was devoted to the laws relating to the prohibition of “bal tashchit“, which is based on the preservation of fruit trees and foods (chapter 13). Thus, most of the book deals with the laws of vegetation (242 pages out of 375).

The Part Devoted to Animals

Afterwards, three chapters (14-16) were devoted to the basic attitude toward eating meat, and the way of raising animals, and in doing so I explained at length the laws of cruelty to animals and shiluach ha’ken. In chapter 17, the pure and impure species were detailed. Another two chapters (18-19) were devoted to the laws of ritual slaughter, the prohibition of oto v’et be’no (‘it and its son’), the covering of blood, and laws the Torah commanded to be given from animals – such as the zeroah, l’chaim, and keiva, bechorot, ma’aser behema, and reshit ha’gez. With this, I finished the first part of the laws of kashrut, which is titled ‘Ha’Tzomayach ve’Ha’Chai‘ (“Vegetation and Animals”) (some of the laws in this volume are explained briefly in ‘Peninei Halakha: Likutim’, part 1, chapters 12-13, and ‘Likutim’, part 3, chapters 9-12, and henceforth will not be printed anymore in the ‘Likutim’).

The Plan for the Upcoming Volume

In the second part, God-willing, I will explain the details of the halachot concerning the consumption of meat foods: the examination of treifot – glatt and kosher, the preparation of the meat by removing the blood, chelev and gid ha’nasheh, the laws of meat and milk and the separation between them. In addition, I will explain the laws of vermin and worms, the order of the kitchen, the preparation of vessels, and the distancing from the cooking of Gentiles, yiyin nesech, and the immersion of vessels. Therefore, the second part will be titled “Kashrut II – Food and the Kitchen.” On first thought, it seemed that the second part would be longer, but now, apparently, (most of it is already written), it will be shorter than the first, for concerning the number of mitzvot and halachot, the first part is much larger, and by far, broader. Its content relates to the majority of the Seder of Zera’im in the Mishna, which is one of the six orders that cover the entire Oral Law, and a few more chapters in Tractate Chulin; while the second part, although very practical, deals with less than two tractates in the Gemara (the majority of tractate Chulin, about half of Tractate Avodah Zarah, and a little of the tractate of Pesachim).

The Values ​​Revealed in the Laws of Kashrut

The attitude toward the food that Jews eat in the Land of Israel is one of the expressions of a faith-based life, as expressed in the commandment of the Torah to recite Birkat Hamazon after eating, the main portion being the blessing of the Land, as our Sages said: “There is no blessing more cherished than the blessing over the Land”, as is the plain meaning of the verse (Deuteronomy 8:10): ” When you eat and are satisfied, you must therefore bless God your Lord for the good land that He has given you.” (Bamidbar Rabbah 23:7; Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5: 1, 5: 4). In the Land of Israel, holiness is revealed within nature (Orot HaTikhiya 28), and therefore, food and eating in the Land are related to holiness. In the system of the mitzvot dependent on the Land, we express the totality of values ​​that are revealed in the food that Jews grow in Israel.

First of all, the mitzvoth of chadash and orlahchadash in grain, and orlah in the fruit of the tree. These two mitzvot are meant to sanctify the first crop, in grain – by the offering of the Omer to God each year, and in the fruits of the tree – by eating the fourth year’s fruit in holiness in Jerusalem. In both of these mitzvot we also learned the element of restraint. Kilayim express the uniqueness of each species, a uniqueness that expresses the unifying-faith and its revelation in the world by multiplicity of species, each with its own uniqueness. In the mitzvah of gifts to the poor, we learn how to reveal the values ​​of charity when we merit to reap the fruits of our labor. In terumot, ma’aserot, and challah, we learn how to uphold the values ​​of holiness and education in Israel, by maintaining the Kohanim (priests) and Levites dedicated to Torah and the education of Israel, and by connecting all of Israel to the Temple by eating ma’aser sheni in holiness in Jerusalem together with the poor, in joy. Thus, holiness is revealed within reality, and elevates the foods of the Land of Israel to the level of holiness, by virtue of which Israel is given the strength and vitality to reveal God’s word in the world, and thus rectify the entire universe.

In light of this, it is more understandable that it is indeed appropriate to open the laws of kashrut with the mitzvot of vegetation that grows in the Land of Israel, and with the basic laws pertaining to eating meat, which reveal the values ​​that should be revealed in food. From this we will continue to volume two, which will deal with prohibitions related to food from animals, and the separations from non-Jewish cooking. It is true that during the long exile, the central issues in the laws of kashrut were meat in milk and their mixtures, the prohibitions of yayin nesech and the cooking of non-Jews, because we dealt mainly with survival, which is halakhicly expressed in terms of caution of prohibitions and assimilation, and goes according to the order of halachot in the Shulchan Aruch – Yoreh Deah. However, now that we have been blessed with the Ingathering of the Exiles and the building of the Land, it is appropriate to return to the revised order, in which we first deal with the values ​​of holiness that are revealed in the mitzvot dependent on the Land, according to the order of the Mishna, which begins with the Order of Zera’im, beginning with Berachot Ha’Nehenim, and continuing with the mitzvot dependent on the Land.

Since most of the book deals with the mitzvot dependent on the Land, I have devoted a long chapter (chapter 12) to a review of all the mitzvot that have been dependent on the Land throughout Israel’s history – from the time of Israel’s entry into the land during the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun, through the destruction of the First Temple and the destruction of the Second Temple, and until God merited us with His great mercy to return to the Land of Israel and establish the State of Israel.

Spiritual Introductions are Unnecessary

In previous books I found the need to preface spiritual, faith-based introductions, sometimes in an entire chapter at the beginning of the book, and sometimes in the introductory sections at the beginning of the chapter. In this book, however, which opens with the mitzvot dependent on the Land, I find there is no need for this: the explanation of the mitzvah is itself the idea, and there is no need for any preamble.

There Is Room to Aspire for More

From the study of the many important mitzvot that deal with the kashrut of food grown in the Land of Israel, we can understand just how lacking our lives are: we have yet to gather all the exiles and the Temple is still destroyed, and therefore, we cannot properly observe the mitzvot dependent on the Land, and reveal holiness within all walks of life. Nevertheless, the observance of these mitzvot, according to the guidance of our Sages, gives us inspiration and guidance to reveal the values ​​of holiness within our lives, and thus, we will merit, with God’s help, to speedily fulfill them completely, and from the mitzvot related to agriculture, Torah instruction will spread to all the other areas.

When Will We Be Biblically Obligated to Fulfill the Mitzvot?

As is well known, the mitzvot of terumot, ma’aserot, and challah are binding from the Torah only when the majority of Israel live in the Land; but when most of Israel still lives abroad – the obligation to fulfill the mitzvot is only of rabbinical ordinance. Some believe that the Jewish people today numbers about thirteen million people, and if so, the majority of Jews will soon live in Israel and be obligated in these mitzvot from the Torah. But apparently, the number of people who can prove that they are Jews is at least twenty million. As an example, we can bring the case of George Osborne, who, for six years, was the British Minister of Finance; only recently, at the age of 46, did he discover that he is Jewish: his brother Theo had asked to convert properly to marry a Jewish woman named Justin Fischer, but it turned out that in fact, he was Jewish. His grandmother, the mother of his mother, was a Jewish woman, a member of a synagogue in Budapest who, because of the Holocaust, hid her Jewish roots, until recently, after a simple check, it became clear that she was Jewish. About two weeks ago, Theo married according to halakha, and his brother, the former finance minister, said that the entire family was happy to meet with its Jewish roots, and participated happily in the kosher Jewish wedding.

Professor Madeleine Albright, who served for four years as US Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, related a similar story. Her parents converted to Christianity to be saved from persecution, and only in adulthood did she learn that she was a Jew, and that her relatives were murdered in the Holocaust. This is similar to the story of John Kerry, who was a candidate for the presidency of the United States and served as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, and only at the age of sixty did he learn that his father’s family were Jews who had converted to be saved from persecution. His brother returned to his roots and converted. Therefore, we see that in spite of everything, even educated and astute people sometimes are unaware that their grandmothers and grandfathers were Jews. If we add to the account the descendants of Marranos from hundreds of years ago, we will reach more than 100 million. With God’s help, soon the words of the Torah will be fulfilled in us:” Even if your diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, God your Lord will gather you up from there and He will take you back… God will be good to you and make you flourish even more than your ancestors… God will remove the barriers from your hearts and from the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love God your Lord with all your heart and soul. Thus will you survive” (Deuteronomy 39:4-6).

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