Six Hours between Meat and Milk – Children Also?

How the different customs of waiting between meat and milk was established – six hours, one hour, and three hours * Today, when clocks are used to tell time, ideally, the six hours waiting period must be accurate * Infants do not have to wait between meat and milk – only their mouth’s should be cleansed * For young children before the age of education, it is preferable to wait an hour * Upon reaching the age of education, it is preferable to wait three hours, and later on in age, six hours for those whom this is their custom * The definitions are not clear cut, because the mitzvah of education depends on the nature of the child, parents, and other factors * According to halakha, after eating yellow cheese there is no need to wait

Q: Should we be strict with children who have reached the age of education, not to eat dairy products within six hours of eating meat, even when this may disrupt the dinner-time schedule – a meal usually based on dairy products?

Eating Milk after Meat

First, I will explain the halakha, and afterwards, discuss how it applies to young children. Our Sages forbade eating dairy foods after eating meat, lest a particle of meat or its taste remained in one’s mouth, and as a result, meat and milk would be eaten together. Regarding this, Mar Ukva, one of the early Amoraim, (the Jewish Torah scholars of the period from about 200 to 500 CE, who “said” or “told over” the teachings of the Oral Torah), said: “I am as vinegar is to wine”; in other words, his father was strict, and would wait twenty-four hours between eating meat and dairy, whereas he would wait only until the following meal (Chulin 105a).
Most of the Rishonim (the leading rabbis and Jewish law arbiters who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries) learned from this that it is necessary to wait six hours between eating meat and milk, since in the past, when it was customary to eat two meals a day, this was the shortest interval of time between two meals. This is the practice of all the Sephardic Jews, and most of Ashkenazic Jews (S. A. and Rama 81:1). Some eminent Ashkenazi poskim (Jewish law arbiters) believe that the main thing is not to eat meat and then milk in the same meal, but rather, first to finish eating meat, to wait an hour, and then it is permissible to eat milk. This is the custom of some Ashkenazim (Tosafot, Rav’ya, Rama). And there are some families in Western Europe who in principle accepted the opinion of most of the Rishonim that one should wait between eating meat and milk the amount of time between one meal and another, but since today the custom is to eat three meals a day, the shortest interval of time between meals is approximately three hours; therefore, they would wait three hours between eating meat and milk (see, Darchei Teshuva 89:6).

There were some eminent Achronim in Ashkenaz who encouraged everyone to wait six hours after eating meat, until about one hundred and fifty years ago this custom became binding in Eastern Europe, as written in the book ‘Arukh HaShulchan’: “It is the common practice in all of the Diaspora to wait six hours and God forbid to change this, and one who does is in the category of ‘ha’poretz geder’ (one who breaks down Rabbinic ‘fences’, and as a result, deserves to be bitten by a snake) (89:7).” Nevertheless, since it is appropriate to highly respect Jewish customs founded by eminent Torah scholars, those whose family minhag is to wait an hour, or three hours, should not be encouraged to change their custom.

Six Complete Hours

In any event, the custom of all Sephardim and most Ashkenazim is to be strict to keep six hours, however some poskim believe that this does not mean six complete hours, since in the times of the Rishonim there were no clocks to calculate six hours exactly; consequently, the meaning is approximately six hours, and anything over five hours (Siach Nachum 46), or five and a half hours (see, Yibiyah Omer I, Y.D. 4), is permissible to eat milk. However, in the opinion of many of the Rishonim, it is obligatory to be meticulous that six complete hours have passed, and this was codified in the Shulchan Arukh (89:1). And perhaps since watches have become commonplace and most people determine their time of day precisely, the separation of meat and milk should also be done accurately, and therefore, the six hours should be six whole hours.
Moreover, when the time of waiting six hours was set, it was determined by the shortest interval between two meals, when in practice, the majority of people waited seven or eight hours.

‘Be’shat ha’tzorech’ (when necessary) one can be lenient after five and a half hours; when the need is even greater, it is possible to be lenient after five hours-plus have passed. Those who are scrupulous (‘mehedrim’) are stringent to always wait six whole hours. In a case of doubt whether or not six hours have passed after eating meat, even those who are ‘mehedrim’ can be lenient and eat dairy.

After a Meat Dish

One who eats food that was cooked with meat, although he did not actually eat the meat, and therefore, according to the letter of the law, does not have to wait six hours, since whatever he did eat had a noticeable taste of meat, the minhag is to be stringent and wait six hours before eating dairy. However, if one ate food that is ‘be-chezkat basari’ but has no meat taste, even though it is forbidden to be eaten together with dairy foods, after having eaten it, one can eat dairy foods immediately.

General Rules in the Laws of Educating Young Children

There are some basic rules in the education of children: 1) it is forbidden to feed, even a newborn baby, prohibited food. 2) It is a mitzvah to educate children to wait between eating meat and milk, and the mitzvah to educate them to do so is when they understand the commandment, and are able to calculate the hours that one must wait between meat and milk. 3) A food that is intrinsically kosher, but is temporarily forbidden to be eaten because not enough time has passed, is not included in the prohibition if children find it difficult to wait, and therefore, we do not educate young children (six and seven-year-old’s) to fast for a number of hours on Yom Kippur. 4) As far as education of young children is concerned, in ​​times of need, it is possible to rely on lenient opinions. In line with these rules, I will clarify the progression of educating towards keeping the interval between eating meat and milk.


Infants who do not yet understand the difference between meat and milk are allowed to be fed milk after meat, provided their mouths and hands are cleaned from the remains of the meat, so as not to feed them meat and milk together.

When the toddlers begin to understand the difference between meat and milk, but have not yet reached the age when they can calculate the hours – approximately between the ages of three and five – it is correct that, when possible, they should wait about an hour between meat and milk. When necessary to feed them milk so they can fall asleep, or to avoid crying, their mouths and hands can be washed, and then fed milk without waiting for an hour.

Children from the Age of Education

Once the child reaches the age of ‘chinuch‘ (education to mitzvoth), around the age of five or six, one should start to train them to wait between eating meat and milk. And since often the time for their next meal is less than six hours after having eaten meat, it is sufficient to accustom them to wait for approximately three hours, the shortest interval of time customary to wait between two meals.

Once they reach the age of nine or ten, since they already know how to calculate the hours and can wait longer between meals, it is correct to accustom them to wait for approximately six hours. And when necessary, such as when they eat with their younger siblings and it is difficult to feed them afterwards, they may wait only three hours between meals. Similarly, at a birthday party when it is difficult for them to resist eating dairy foods, they can be lenient after waiting three hours. The closer they get to the age of mitzvot, the more they should be trained to keep six hours.

Education: Gradually, and with Flexibility

A person reading this should not be surprised that the halakha pertaining to education is not cut and clear, for in truth, this is the mitzvah of education – to teach a young child to progress gradually over the years until he keeps six hours (the custom of the majority of Jews). And since this is a process that depends on many factors, this halacha has a general intention which must be acted upon with flexibility according to the situation. Therefore, aside from consideration of a child’s age, one must take into consideration the physical and mental state of the child, for a healthy child cannot be compared to one who is weakly, and a brave child cannot be compared to a spoiled child. In addition, the mitzva of education depends on the nature of the parents: every parent is commanded to educate according to their character – some parents tend to be strict, while others are lenient – and we cannot demand from someone who is similar in character to Shamai, to behave like Hillel, and vice-versa. Education also depends upon how a household is organized: if a family has small children, mealtimes are closer, and there is more need to be lenient. Therefore, it is impossible to set clear boundaries, but rather basic guidelines alone, and consequently, the halakha is expressed by words such as “correct” and “proper”. Correspondingly, we find that most of the poskim as well gave general guidelines; among those who tried to give detailed advice, diverse and contrary guidance was presented, mainly due to differences in lifestyles.

Waiting after Eating Yellow Cheese

Q: Is someone who ate yellow cheese permitted to eat meat afterwards?

A: Some of the eminent Rishonim in Ashkenaz were strict to wait between eating hard cheese and meat, similar to waiting between eating meat and milk, because the taste of this type of cheese is strong and lasting – no less than a meat dish, and just as we are strict to wait after a meat dish, one must wait after eating hard cheese. However, these rabbis instructed to do so according to their custom of waiting an hour after eating meat, and consequently, they instructed to wait an hour after eating hard cheese. But since many people in Ashkenaz waited six hours between meat and milk, there were those who were strict to also wait six hours between eating hard cheese and meat.

Indeed, the hard cheese they referred to was a cheese that had been prepared for six months, or had been prepared for less time, but had been hardened by means of worms and molds that produced a ferment greatly strengthening its taste. And there were some poskim who went further, and were strict in regards to all hard cheese, even if it was prepared in only a few days, like yellow cheese, lest pieces of it get stuck in one’s teeth.

However, in practice, the halakha goes according to the majority of poskim, and it is not obligatory to wait after eating hard or yellow cheese more than regular cheese. One who wants to eat meat after eating regular or yellow cheese, has to cleanse and rinse his mouth, by eating a hard food such as bread, and drinking water or some other beverage, or by brushing his teeth to remove any remaining milk from his mouth. And those who wish to enhance the mitzvah, wait an hour between eating hard cheese and meat.

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:

A Unique Nation Indeed

The Prime Minister of India represents the great number of people in the world who are in awe of Israel * In the West, Israel is repressed; but in the East, Israel is constantly taken notice of * Israeli academics are perplexed when asked what the secret of Israel’s success is, and whether it is related to the study of the Gemara * Jew’s success is not dependent on any specific study, rather, the inner quality of striving for limitlessness * The Left’s outlook that there is no essential difference between nations has Jewish roots, but precisely from the principle of freedom, the uniqueness of each nation is achieved * Our task is to connect inner faith with its realization in ‘tikun olam’, in all spheres of life

The ‘Segula‘ of Israel

Many people find it difficult to accept the fact that the Jewish people are an ‘am segula’ (a unique nation). Anti-Semites throughout the ages rose up against this. In this week’s Torah portion as well, we learn about the wicked Balaam who denied the uniqueness of Israel, until God turned his curses into blessings, and against his will, became one of the central spokesmen regarding Israel’s specialness. In our times, people devoted to an egalitarian, humanistic outlook – which is the prevailing view in academia and the media today – rebel against the uniqueness of Israel.

On the other hand, many people in the world believe that there is something wondrous about the Jewish people. They are amazed at the successes of the State of Israel despite the constant need to deal with numerous violent enemies, which recently, the world has been forced to deal with – Islamic terrorism. An impressive expression of this fondness was given this week by the visit of a friend of Israel, Indian Prime Minister Nerandra Modi. The largest democracy in the world, a country with the second largest in population (about one billion, two hundred and seventy million), which is in the process of accelerated economic growth, to the point where it is estimated that in 20 years, India’s economy will be the largest in the world. In an interview with the ‘Yisrael Hayom’ newspaper, he said: “I share the view of many of my fellow citizens about Israel. In India, Israel is perceived as a technological powerhouse, and a country that has braved many odds. Many tech-based inventions have their roots in Israeli universities and laboratories and have benefited humankind. These include articles ranging from USB flash drives to cherry tomatoes. The way you transformed yourself from being a water-deficient country to a water-surplus country; the manner in which you made your deserts bloom, are all amazing accomplishments. All these images have made a deep imprint on my mind.”

In the West, Israel’s Uniqueness is Repressed

In Western countries, however, it is difficult to speak about Jew’s special talents, because it raises up from the abyss of collective memory, the diabolical myths that Christianity had attached to Jews, and is liable to arouse strong anti-Semitism once more. Consequently, many people prefer not to even mention the term “Jews” but rather to talk about “individuals”, of whom, many of the very successful in various fields happen to be of Jewish origin. This position is greatly strengthened by the dominant leftist ideology in academia and the media, according to which there is no essential difference between nations, and the improvement of society is dependent on individuals believing in absolute equality between people, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Consequently, the talk about the uniqueness of the People of Israel infuriates a leftist, as it constitutes a barrier between humanity and ‘tikun olam’ (repair of the world).

Visitors from the East are Amazed

But people from Eastern countries, who are immune to the complexities of the past, tend to look more objectively at the Jews and the State of Israel, and many of them are amazed and interested in learning the wonderful secret inherent in the success of the Jewish people. They come to visit Israel in order to learn from our scientists what the secret of the Jewish mind is. I will attempt to describe these encounters as I have understood from conversations of Israeli professors who welcome guests from the East.

The Embarrassment of Israeli Academics

First of all, many of our academics have no answer, and are embarrassed. Being deeply rooted in Western culture and leftist perceptions, they are unable to speak about the Jewish people as an “am segula,” and find it difficult to agree that the Jewish nation has a unique essence. On the other hand, happy about the honor that has befallen them, try to find a reasonable answer that will satisfy their distinguished guests.

Thus, they reiterate to the guests the fundamentals of modern education, and explain that the secret lies in the “ability to ask questions” and “cast doubt” – to the point where Judaism is essentially depicted as a “culture of controversy.” To the guests this sounds inadequate since all of the world’s intellectuals say the same thing, and yet, the Jews are more successful. Puzzled, they wonder whether the secret is connected to the study of the Talmud over which Jews are known to split hairs, without realizing that the Jews standing before them are of the type called “chiloni” (secular), and many of them do not even know how to learn a page of ‘Gemara‘. The guests suspect that indeed, the secret of success lies in the Talmud, but that the lecturers prefer to hide it. When the guests are prominent people, such as ministers of education and science, they sometimes ask explicitly to include in the framework of their visit to Israel a trip to a yeshiva and Talmud Torah where they study “Talmud- Gemara“, in order to truly crack the secret of the Jewish mind.

Even for religious Jews it’s hard to understand. On the one hand, the study of the ‘Gemara‘ indeed develops the mind, but on the other hand, in recent generations most of the Jews who were famous as pioneers in the fields of natural and social sciences did not study the Talmud.

The Secret of Israel’s Uniqueness

In truth, the great achievements of the Jewish people are not the result of learning ‘Gemara‘, or the ability to ask and question. These are very effective tools, but the matter has to do with the Jewish trait of endlessly striving for ‘tikun olam’, to perfect the world in all spheres of life. For those who find it difficult to accept essential differences connected to the soul, Judaism can be explained as a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo, and constantly encourages thinking and creativity for improvement. Therefore, even a Jew whose family did not observe the mitzvot and did not study Talmud, as long as this Jewish culture is alive in his family, he is stimulated from childhood to believe that more can be achieved in all areas. This striving is also expressed in internal unrest and in various psychological disorders (obsessions, anxieties, insomnia) in which Jews excel. Occasionally this striving causes Jews to reject and act brazenly towards sacred ideals that most people believe in, and in the extreme, can evidence itself in revolutionism and constant subversion. This is one of the motives for anti-Semitism. Anyone whose worldview permits him to accept essential differences, realizes that all this stems from the unique soul that God gave to Israel – this is the ‘segula of Israel’.

The leftist worldview stems from the concept of ‘achdut‘ (unity), which seeks to abolish the frameworks that divide people, and remove the external barriers that separate between the ideal and reality. Therefore, it possesses an ideal Jewish element, but it conflicts with the principle of freedom, which imparts unique value to the special distinctiveness of each person, nation, and gender.

Endless Striving for Kindness and Truth

When our forefather Avraham invited guests to his home, he did not do it because he was commanded, or because he hoped for a nice reward, but because that is what he wanted most of all. Thus, we find our forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak engaged in the digging of wells, Yaacov rolled the stone over the top of the well, because from the well water would be drawn for all. Our forefather Yaakov also worked diligently and faithfully in grazing the sheep, even when it was not for his own needs and profits – in order to add prosperity to the world through food, and woolen clothing. And Yosef the Tzaddik (righteous), although he could have been bitter for being sold into slavery, did not lose his vitality, and wherever he went, tried to improve the situation of those around him, up until he saved the Egyptian kingdom from terrible hunger. Similarly, today’s scientists and entrepreneurs, in their actions for the welfare of humanity, are idealists following in the path of the forefathers.

When Moshe left Pharaoh’s palace and saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, even though he realized he was endangering his life, he beat the Egyptian, and saved the slave. As a result, he forfeited his status as prince of Egypt, and was forced to flee to Midian. There too, upon seeing the daughters of Jethro being discriminated against, he could not stand idly by, and risking a confrontation with the local shepherds, fought alone for their right to receive their deserved turn in-line to water their flock from the well.

When Ruth the Moabite decided to join her mother-in-law Naomi on her way back to Bethlehem in the Judean Hills, it was because she could not leave her alone in her terrible sorrow. As a result, her heart was opened to faith in God, converted to Judaism, and became the mother of the kingdom of the House of David.

In a similar manner, our Sages said that three attributes characterize the Jewish people: 1) they are merciful, 2) benevolent, and 3) bashful, in the sense of being God-fearing (Yevamot 79a). If someone does not exhibit these attributes, his Judaism is questionable.

The Foundation of Optimism: ‘Emunah

The endless striving for unity, kindness and truth – which are the perfection (‘tikun‘) and advancement of the world – is connected to belief in God, for Israel are ‘ma’aminim b’nei ma’aminim’ (believers, the children of believers) (Shabbat 97a). True, all human beings have the inherent attribute of ‘emunah’ (faith), however, there was never a nation in the world where so many of its offspring devoted their talents and lives to their belief. This faith is expressed in the fact that Jews are never satisfied with limited truth and good, but always strive to advance towards a more complete understanding. Consequently, the People of Israel were suited to accept the Divine Torah rooted in ‘ein sof’ (infinity) and revealed to the world, in which one can always gain further understanding and ideas, endlessly.

This faith is also a belief that one can perfect and elevate reality to a higher level, since everything possesses a Divine spark which, if revealed, can advance the world. To continue advancing, idolatry must also be renounced, including all the conformities that limit and interfere with the continued pursuit to correct and improve the world.

This faith is the basis for the wonderful optimism of Jews – despite there never having been a people who suffered as much in history, Jews never lost their faith in the possibility of ‘tikun‘. By virtue of this faith, the nation of Israel produced so many innovators of social and scientific ideas, revolutionaries, and entrepreneurs.

The Connection between Faith and its Realization

Unfortunately, in our current situation a crisis exists between faith and Torah study – which are the wellsprings of great ideals – and the realization of the vision of ‘tikun olam’ by members of science and society, and consequently, the vision of Judaism is revealed only partially, and in a fragmented manner. The more aware we become of our special role, the easier it will be to mend the schisms; belief in Hashem, the God of Israel, will be revealed in all spheres of life; the light of Torah will illuminate, guide, and enhance all fields of ethics, science, society, and the economy, and miracles and nature will unite for the glory of the People of Israel, the Land of Israel, and all humanity.

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:

Academic Reserve for ‘Sherut Leumi’

Everyone is meant to realize his talents in order to perfect the world in the kingdom of God as well as women, who can contribute to society and science * Torah, mitzvot, and family life are not meant to be an obstacle for women who wish to advance, but rather a source of blessing * The main obstacle to realizing women’s talents is the period of ‘Sherut Leumi’ (National Service) * The solution: academic studies should precede ‘Sherut Leumi’, followed by a period of contribution to the community in exchange for a reduced salary * An academic reserve program for ‘Sherut Leumi’ will streamline the service, and make it more efficient and professional * The road to realizing the idea will begin in the upcoming school year

The Ideal of Realizing Women’s Talents

The ideal is for every person to realize all his talents for the purpose of ‘tikun olam’ (perfecting the world) in the kingdom of God. In this way, one merits revealing the image of God within him, and becomes a partner with God in the world’s continuation and improvement.

In light of this ideal, this article will deal with the challenge faced by women exhibiting academic talents, including: the building of one’s personality through Torah study in the fields of ‘emunah‘ (faith) and halakha (Jewish law), establishing a praiseworthy family, utilization of talents in the fields of research, development, or profession – each woman in the field that best suits her.

This challenge has emerged in recent generations. Thanks to technological advances, the amount of time and effort required to maintain a family household has decreased and become relatively easy. In addition, because most of the household work no longer depends on physical strength, women can excel in many different fields in which intellectual and inner talents plays a central role. The question is how to fulfill both challenges successfully: on the one hand, the building of ‘emunah‘, Torah, and establishing a praiseworthy family, and on the other hand, utilization of one’s talent for the purpose of developing the sciences, society, and economy in light of the Torah.

Today in Western culture, talented and successful women usually neglect the importance of family. Many of them remain single or marry at a later age, without having children. The more outstanding and successful they are, the higher the percentage is of women without children – not to mention the entire question of Torah and mitzvot, of which they absolve themselves completely.

The Blessing of the Torah Way

We believe that Torah study and observance of mitzvot, along with the establishment of a praiseworthy family, will benefit all fields of science and economy, as we say in the second paragraph of the Sh’ma: “If you are careful to pay heed to my commandments, which I am prescribing to you today, and if you love God your Lord with all your heart and soul, [then God has made this promise]: I will grant the fall and spring rains in your land at their proper time, so that you will have an ample harvest of grain, oil and wine…” (Deuteronomy 11:13-14). The meaning of the words “fall and spring rains in their proper time” that produce the crops of the fields, must be interpreted in each generation according to its concerns (similar to what the ‘Shlelah’ writes about the matter of reward and punishment explained in the Torah.) If so, the “rain” falling from heaven in our generation can be interpreted mainly as the inspiration for development of science, economy, and society. The “grain, oil, and wine” that grow by virtue of this are the food for our sustenance (‘grain’); joy, inspiration, and creativity (‘wine’); and a fulfilling life with prosperity and meaning (‘oil’).

‘Kiddush Hashem’

It is worthwhile adding that Israel’s main ‘Kiddush Hashem’ (sanctification of God) in the eyes of the nations is achieved through the development of science in the light of Torah, and as it is stated: “Safeguard and keep [these rules], since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, ‘This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people'” (Deuteronomy 4:6). For in truth, the words of the Torah themselves are intended for Israel, but the abundant blessing flowing from them to all the sciences is evident to the nations of the world, and as a result, Hashem’s name is sanctified in the world, and humanity is inspired to walk in the ways of Hashem. Likewise, we learned in the Talmud about the value of the study of science: “One who knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary courses, but does not, of him Scripture says, ‘But they regard not the work of the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of his hands’ (Shabbat 45a), and this does not refer only to the wisdom of astronomy, but to all secular wisdom (Maimonides, Maharal, the Vilna Gaon, and others).

How to Combine All of This

The big question is: How can religious women who devote time to Torah, mitzvot, and establishing praiseworthy families, be front-runners of global science while having to contend with the most talented people worldwide, as well as secular Jews in Israel? We believe, however, that when science is learned in conjunction with Torah and family values, it receives blessing, and is of higher quality, profounder, and more beneficial to humanity. All this, provided the students are focused on the goal, and do not waste time.

The Critical Years: Ages 17-22

One of the problems impeding the ability of young Torah-based women to fulfill their academic talents is the period of ‘Sherut Leumi’ (National Service). This usually lasts for a year or two, and sometimes an additional year of study in a ‘Midrasha’ (seminary) during the most critical period of a young woman’s life. While academically outstanding women in Western countries finish their doctorate at the age of 24, in Israel, because of ‘Sherut Leumi’, everything is postponed for several years. Not only the time devoted to ‘Sherut Leumi’ delays, but the very fact that a talented young woman is not required to plan her track of progress continuously from her high school years, hinders her ability to plan rapid progress suitable to her talents. She could have completed her bachelor’s degree at the age of nineteen, but this never even crossed her mind. Thus, young women who excel academically begin thinking about the direction of their development in scholarship only from the age of 20 and above, and because marrying is a greater mitzvah, the brilliant career they could have had is wasted. They will become excellent teachers, perhaps they will be able to advance in academia, but only a very few number of them will succeed in realizing their full potential. And the reason is not because they have to invest time in Torah, mitzvot, and establishing a family – this investment, we believe, brings blessing – rather, mainly because the valuable years between the ages of 17 and 22 were not used optimally, in order to place them on the runway necessary for academic development, and the building of a social status enabling a welcome influence.

Academic Reserves for ‘Sherut Leumi’

The value of volunteering in ‘Sherut Leumi’ is important, and therefore, we are fortunate that the young women of the National-Religious sector do not want to shirk their service. However, in order to realize the grand vision of utilizing one’s talents for the glory of the Torah, the nation, and humanity as a whole, there is a need for an “Atuda Sherut Leumi” (an Academic Reserve for National Service).

In this framework, young women will be able to begin their academic studies immediately after high school, and after the period of study – whether it be at the end of a first, second, or third degree – they will contribute to society in the field they studied, and be paid half of the usual salary for their work. The various sums of money that the state invests in the young women serving in ‘Sherut Leumi’ or in the army, will be given to participants in the ‘Atuda Sherut Leumi’ program, in order to help finance their studies. Such a program will be extremely profitable for the state, both economically and socially.

Additional Benefits of the Program

This program can also solve other problems: it will enable girls who have grown-up in low-income families to soar professionally, for the glory of their family, and country. It will allow girls who, after ‘Sherut Leumi’, are torn between two desires – to marry at an early age, or acquire a quality profession demanding exhaustive studies – to combine the two values ​​together, for already at the age of 21 they will be able to marry while finishing their bachelor degree. From this position they will be able, relatively easily, to pursue a master’s degree and a doctorate.

The Economic Benefits for the State of Israel

Economically as well, the program will benefit the State of Israel, because from a purely economic point of view, women’s army service and ‘Sherut Leumi’ does not pay. It would have been preferable to hire workers to do all the required jobs more efficiently, and eliminate the hidden unemployment that is costing a fortune; and this, in addition to delaying the entry of young women into the educational and work force, which also reduces the GDP by approximately 5% – which is the contribution of women to the country’s economy.

The reason for the continuation of mandatory army service – and consequently ‘Sherut Leumi’ as well – for the entire population, even though it is not economically profitable compared to a professional army, is principled: 1) In order to involve the entire public in contributing to the state. 2) To give expression to the value of equality between men and women.

By way of the ‘Atuda for Sherut Leumi’, each young woman will make a significant and far-reaching contribution to the state, both economically and socially, for in truth, her contribution will be considerably larger if she volunteers in the same hospital as a registered nurse, or a doctor. And a certified teacher will contribute more to a school than a volunteer; and an attorney or an accountant can contribute more to the needy than a volunteer who has not studied the profession. Similarly, a researcher at a university can contribute much more to the advancement of students and research, than on a voluntary basis in which she does not express her full talents.

Achieving the Program

In order to implement the program in the best possible manner, it would be fitting to establish a team within the framework of ‘Sherut Leumi‘ to examine the universities in which it is possible to initiate preferred learning tracks within a suitable atmosphere for religious women from the Torah-based public. This team would choose the preferred professions in terms of their contribution to society, pool all the various budgets intended for the young women participating in ‘Sherut Leumi’ or army service, and determine the method of assistance during their studies – this, in exchange for the period of volunteer work for which they will receive half of the average salary customary for such work. This volunteer work will most probably be performed with great dedication, seeing as the volunteers will be aware that the more they contribute, the more likely they will be accepted for a permanent job.

The greater the number of young women from the Torah-based (Chardal) community and young women from low-income families who are able to realize their talents in meaningful academic studies, the more society as a whole will benefit. In addition to this, it will be a great ‘Kiddush Hashem’ when it becomes apparent to all that loyalty to Torah and mitzvot – including family values – does not impair one’s ability to express her talent in the best possible way, rather, the exact opposite: it enhances the blessing in family, work, and in research – for the glory of Torah, the nation, and the Land.

The Program in Har Bracha

In order to help a little in achieving this vision, a program for young women who excel in academic studies that are interested in ‘Atuda for Sherut Leumi’ will be established next year in Har Bracha. The program will include educational assistance and meaningful Torah study. At the moment, we are working on arranging the program within the various frameworks, and also enlisting public figures who expressed their support for the program. At the same time, young women after their ‘Sherut Leumi’ who excel academically will also be able to join the program.

We hope we will be privileged to see our daughters enlighten the world with their wisdom, out of modesty and holiness, until all those who see them will recognize the Torah’s blessing.

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:

Today’s False Gods

Faith is rooted in man, thus he has always sought ways to express it * Idol worshippers created gods that identified with their base desires, preventing them from advancing morally and ethically * The Torah forbade any belief that restricts or limits God: only the One God who created everything is to be believed in, and He is above and beyond all * Today as well, people still put their trust in things that give them power, such as money and honor, or a variety of ideologies * An ideology that emphasizes one value while denying others, in the end, will cause destruction and be obliterated * Christianity and Islam can remain in the world, provided the pagan elements are removed

Man Seeks Expression of His Faith

All human beings possess the attribute of ‘emunah‘ (faith). The soul in its roots is connected to God, and draws its life from Him; consequently, man naturally believes his life is connected to eternity, and that it holds immense value – far beyond the ordinary routine of his earthly life. Therefore, everywhere humans ever existed, we find they had some type of religion.

In other words, on the basis of faith inherent in man, various human societies create a religion for themselves that provides a concrete framework for their faith, and gives meaning to their lives. Typically, the founders of these religions envisioned the gods in a relatively abstract way, but seeing as abstract ideas are difficult to grasp, they created statues and images that would express the higher forces in a tangible manner.

Since these gods were created from the consciousness of people who wished to give faith expression in their lives, they symbolized all the ideas that people valued, such as life, fertility, power, war, money, love, beauty, and others. As a result, a lethal combination of man’s selfish desires to achieve pleasures and honor and his heart’s sense of faith was created. Instead of faith elevating man, thereby changing his character for the better and improving his ways in order to add good and blessing in the world – ‘avodah zara’ (idol worship) came, attempting to give meaning to the world as it existed, thus blocking the way of true faith in the One God, the Source of all Life, whose purpose is the perfection of the world through the word of God. The faith of idol worshippers became a device designed to glorify man’s desires and pleasures in his existing state, and facilitate the fulfilment of his desires. An idol worshipper does not aspire to improve himself morally, rather, he wishes to satisfy his needs. To do so, he is ready to offer sacrifices, whisper incantations, and perform mystical actions that will help him become wealthy, defeat his enemies, or achieve other goals he desires.

Did People Really Believe Idols were Helpful?

Were the idols helpful? After all, they are merely wood and stone? How could people believe in them? Rather, these gods gave an answer to the question of faith. True, it was a false answer, but people did not have an alternative that gave expression to the faith that was so ingrained in their lives. And seeing as man expressed his faith in the gods, this faith gave him confidence and strengthened his powers to do as he wished – for he wasn’t acting only in his own name, but also in the name of larger and stronger forces than himself, who justified his aspirations and path.

The Mystical Power of Idolatry

Apart from that, many people interpret that just as forces of nature exist in the world that man can harness to his needs, likewise, beyond them exists spiritual forces called angels and demons that activate the forces of nature, and man can incline them to his needs by way of magical actions. In truth, all the spiritual forces that activate the forces of nature were created by God, and derive their existence from Him. However, the idol worshippers chose for themselves specific spiritual forces, connected with them, and were able to activate them for themselves, and thereby gain success. But since they related to the spiritual forces as being detached from their roots, they turned into forces of impurity which, in effect, gave them power for a certain period of time – but eventually, brought about their destruction, because they disconnected them from the Source of Life.

Negation of Defined Beliefs

When the sin of idolatry is committed, i.e., the Divine revelation is diminished into a particular statue or definition of a specific image both faith and consciousness remain limited, and consequently, it is impossible to truly rise above and beyond the finite realm of life, and faith cannot receive true expression. Since it is a narrowly defined idol, it arouses increasingly difficult questions, until the point where one is forced to disavow it. However, given that one is seeking faith, he will attempt to find a new idol to believe in. But because it is an idol as well, he will once again be disappointed, and reject it. Thus, humankind oscillates between faith and heresy, without finding rest for the soul.

Therefore, the Torah forbade making statues and pictures to describe faith. Additionally, it is also forbidden to define God with any intellectual or ethical-moral definitions, because each definition empowers one value over the others, and consequently, fails to express God’s limitlessness, which is above and beyond all restrictions and ethical definitions. A defined faith arouses questions about all the values ​​that are not included in it, and consequently, man is placed once again in the grueling turmoil between belief in idols, and heresy.

Only by the total negation of all idolatry can one reach faith in the One God who created everything, but He himself is beyond definition. Such a pure faith does not raise questions leading to heresy, motivates man to constantly progress and ascend in the ways of God, and enables the Jewish nation to accept the Torah and mitzvot, through which they can adhere to God’s ways and add life, until the world is perfected in the kingdom of God.

Idolatry Today

Over time, in a gradual process, the Jewish nation’s struggle against idolatry bore fruit, and many people no longer believe in statues; however, belief in different forces still exists, and this is the idolatry of our times. There are two main types of idolatry:

1) People who believe in money, honor, and physical lust: they believe that if they attain money or honor, or satisfy their various desires, they will have a truly good life. These people worship the gods of money, lust, honor, and the like. Such idolatry possess great power, for in the short term, it provides its followers satisfaction and vitality to strive for the realization of their dream, but ultimately, it disappoints. Even if for years such people deceived themselves, thinking they had succeeded in fulfilling their dream, deep down in their hearts, they know that all the achievements they had attained in this transient world had no real value. None of the ordinary, material objects in this world gives real value to their lives, and therefore, cannot offer them real satisfaction either. ‘Kohelet‘ (the Book of Ecclesiastes), written by King Solomon, describes this.

2) Those who believe in a particular ideology: this a higher belief that can give a person greater meaning to life, for it is a belief in values ​​or ideologies that will make the world better and more perfect, such as a belief in the value of love, truth, equality, nationalism, science, democracy, humanism, or feminism. Similar to idolatry, these beliefs also grant their followers vitality and help them succeed for a limited period of time, because they connect them to true values of importance, and acting on their behalf brings to light new forces in life. In the long term, however, such belief also disillusions.

Thus, for example, the believers of communism were sure that the rule of communism would redeem the world. Towards this end, they caused terrible suffering to countless people, until many of them became disillusioned with the agony their idolatry had brought to the world. Likewise, those who put their faith in democracy are certain that the rule of democracy will redeem the world, and to this end, are willing to offer innumerable human sacrifices, until in the end because of the great deal of agony, they come to understand that democracy on its own is also an idolatry that has failed.

The same hold true for all the various, different values: as long as they are not linked to the complete faith in God that includes all values, they are limited and idolatrous, and obstruct the path to complete faith, because they present an alternative that will take a long time until it turns out it will fail. It is important to note that belief in a particular religious leader or politician, even if he is a ‘tzadik’ (a righteous person), is liable to turn into idolatry in the heart of a believer.

Combining the First Two Commandments

Only through the combination of faith in the One God, and denial of all ‘avodah zara’ of a particular faith, ideology or personality, leads to the complete faith that connects man to the source of his life – a faith that includes all values ​​as one, and accepts the Torah’s guidance on how to reveal and combine them harmoniously, in a manner that will bring ‘tikun‘ (perfection) and blessing to man, and the world.

Christianity and Islam

Following the giving of the Torah and the deeds of Israel in the world, two notable religions arose which were directly influenced by Israel’s faith: Christianity and Islam. In spite of this, they are still in a compromise agreement with idolatry, because the very definition of God as ‘chesed‘ (compassion) in Christianity, or as ‘din‘ (strict judgement) in Islam, is a type of idolatry. In addition, Christianity personified God in the form of man, thereby deviating from pure unity, into a material trinity that restricts the scope of Godly values. For example, it qualifies the value of love, expressing it towards partners to the path, but towards others, it will often turn into terrible cruelty. In Islam, a deep drawback exists, for it reduces Godliness to Divine leadership revealed to a man from above, whose rule must be accepted by its followers with respect and submission, and imposed by force on all mankind. It does not see the great Divine value in human creation in all its components, which is a Divine revelation constantly being revealed by man, who was created in God’s image for this purpose.

Judaism’s Attitude towards the Various Religions

In principle, according to halakha (Jewish law), non-Jews are permitted to establish a religion for themselves that will provide a framework suitable for their unique character – provided it is free of idolatry – by being connected to the pure faith in Hashem that is revealed through the nation of Israel, not to force itself on others, and not to invalidate other values. In other words, the vision of the ‘Geulah‘ (Redemption) does not demand the eradication of the various religions, but rather, the removal of the pagan evil in them, that obstructs the revelation of the complete good, and leads to murderous domination. As it is written: “I will take away their abominable religious practices; then those who survive will become a community of believers in our God” (Zechariah 9: 7).

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:

Underlying all Arguments: Disdain of the Land

Because the Spies did not love the Land of Israel, they found rational reasons to fear entering it * To this day, all rational considerations are based on a misunderstanding of the value of the Land * Rabbis do not give orders, rather, they engender processes in their students and in this way, build a bond to the country within them * The juxtaposition of settlements versus the needs of citizens is a lie – the settlements of Judea and Samaria are preventing the establishment of a terrorist state * The revelation of holiness in the physical is possible only in the Land of Israel * The settlements are Israel’s genuine ‘victory prize’ against Islam

What was the Actual Sin of the Spies?

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?

No Love, No Effort

The sin of the spies was that they did not understand the value, or love the Land of Israel, and as a result, lacked the desire to enter 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.

History Repeats Itself

Today as well, the vast majority of people who want to withdraw from Judea and Samaria do not love the Land of Israel and fail to understand its significance, and thus, do not feel a connection to Judea and Samaria. Even if there were absolutely no security or demographic problems whatsoever in these areas, they would not be willing to make an effort to settle them.

The Influence of Rabbis

We often hear misinformed people who believe that rabbis wield influence by imposing orders upon those who listen to them. However, they are missing the point. True influence does not stem from orders, but from the study of the essential values ​​of life. When parents and rabbis teach the importance of the Land of Israel by way of the weekly Torah portions and the halachot (laws) related to the mitzvah of settling the land, an internal process occurs among the students. They observe every aspect of life from the vantage point of ‘mitzvat yishuv ha’aretz’ (the mitzvah to settle the Land), and as a result, many of them move to the settlements, and numerous others support the settlers. In view of this, it would be advisable for rabbis to conduct a self-analysis: if they see that a large percentage of their students are negligent in the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’, apparently, it is because they have not heard about the significance of the Land of Israel from their rabbis.

The Importance of Praising the Land

In order to inculcate the value of the Land of Israel among the people of Israel, the Torah lavishes her with praises: “The eyes of God your Lord are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12); it is a land with “flowing streams, and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain…a land not lacking anything” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10); and fifteen times the Torah repeats itself, saying it is a land flowing with milk and honey. Our Sages also frequently praised the Land, teaching us that in addition to the mitzvah to settle the Land, one must also understand its’ value, and to love and cherish her. Even the Rambam (Maimonides) in his Code of Jewish law emphasizes the importance of the general sentiment of love towards the Land, writing: “The great Torah scholars would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and embrace her stones, and roll in her dust, as the verse says, “For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:10).

We Have Not Forgotten the People, We are Protecting Them

Occasionally, the ‘yetzer ha’ra’ (the evil inclination) cloaks itself in righteous claims, with arguments such as: “The people of Israel come before the Land of Israel, and you, the settlers, have forgotten the people of Israel.” There are even some “tzadikim” (seemingly righteous people) who condemn the settlers, questioning: “What have you done for the people of Israel?” Are they blind? If not for the settlers, a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would have been established years ago, and all the cities in the Coastal Plain region would have been under attack, and many of them would have been killed and wounded, God forbid. Can the Jewish people be helped more than that? We’re talking about the actual saving of lives! Only due to the fact that we merited loving the land and established settlements throughout Judea and Samaria does Israel still inhabit these holy areas, thus preventing the terrible dangers of the establishment of a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria! Be that as it may, our numbers in Judea and Samaria are only enough to withstand the current pressure, but should it increase, our ability to persevere is uncertain. We are still in need of tens of thousands of families to ensure our existence – for the sake of our nation, and redemption.

Arise, dear brothers and sisters! Come up to the mountains of Judea and Samaria, to settle the wilderness and build the ruined cities. And by virtue of this mitzvah, the Jewish nation will merit bearing sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters – as numerous as the sands of the sea, and the stars of the heavens. There are many houses that remain to be filled, and many houses that can be built; and as more families arrive, additional opportunities will open up for further building.

The Revealing of Faith Depends on the Land of Israel

We will continue explaining the value of the mitzvah to settle the land. Our Sages said: “The mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah” (Sifri, Reah, 53). In halachic terms as well, this is the only mitzvah that in order to fulfill it, lives are endangered, for we were commanded to conquer the Land of Israel, and the Torah does not expect us to rely on miracles (Minchat Chinuch, 425, 604). Not only that, our Sages said: “One who lives outside of the Land is similar to one who worships ‘avodah zara’ (idols)” (Ketubot 110b). Seemingly, this is difficult: why is a person who lives outside of the Land of Israel considered an idolater?

The answer is that the fundamental sin of idolatry is that it divides and separates the world into different spheres, each belonging to separate forces and gods. The greatest separation existing in the world is the separation between spirituality and materialism, the soul and body, which is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a separation between good and evil. Since outside the Land of Israel a Jew can reveal holiness only in spirituality, alongside a certain alienation towards nature, it seems as if the word of God is revealed only in the spiritual realm; there can be no graver violation of Israel’s faith than when it appears as if the material realm in its entirety exists without Divine inspiration, and even in opposition to it. Therefore, a person who lives outside of the Land of Israel where faith is revealed in spiritual life alone, is considered as if he worships idols.

In contrast, the uniqueness of the Land of Israel is that it is ‘Eretz HaKodesh‘ (the Holy Land), where the word of God can be revealed in its’ physical realm as well. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to settle the Land, to build houses, and to plant trees. For that reason, Israel’s unified faith is revealed specifically in the Land of Israel.

The Situation of Jews Outside of the Land of Israel

Q: Is it categorically impossible to reveal holiness in the material realm of life in ‘Chutz L’Aretz’ (outside of the Land of Israel)?

A: It would seem that presumably, holiness can be revealed in the material side of life in ‘Chutz L’Aretz’, but in practice, this is not possible. Ostensibly, it was a positive achievement for Jews to develop the sciences of physics and chemistry for the benefit of mankind, and develop banking systems, and build railway tracks for the benefit of all. This is exactly what the Jews in Germany did, and the Nazis used their money to finance their government and army, and to wage a murderous world war. On the same railroad tracks that Baron Hirsch laid, Jews were transported to be slaughtered with gases developed by the discoveries of Jewish scientists. Similar “achievements” occurred in the Soviet Union, before that in Spain, and in every country where Jews resided. True, things are a bit more complex, but generally speaking, this is the curse of the exile. Only when Israel reveals the word of God in the Land of Israel is unifying faith revealed in the world, and from out of the Land of Israel, goodness and blessings spread to all nations and countries.

To My Brothers, the Settlers

Once again we are hearing potentially harmful proposals regarding Israel, and malicious thoughts about the settlements. The interests of countries to get along with the Arab states blinds their vision, and prejudices their opinions against us. The struggle today is not determined by the strength and quantity of weapons – the fact is we have more weapons than our enemies – but nevertheless, we have failed to defeat them. They demanded the release of a thousand terrorists in exchange for one soldier – and got them, despite Israel’s proclaiming for years that it would not give in to such demands. As far as the Arabs are concerned, whoever shows more patience will win, because they are ready to wait for decades or even centuries, whereas the Western mindset is incapable of such perseverance. Consequently, in all the military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, the fact that they survived is considered by them as a victory, and enables them to initiate further armed conflicts. The only thing they see as a loss is the settlements, and the settlers. Jewish attachment to the land is proof that the Jews are more heroic, more determined, more courageous, and more successful. This is the State of Israel’s only ‘victory prize’ which truly deters them. In consequence, enemies of Islam throughout the entire world admire the settlers, and hence, the State of Israel which stands behind them. They understand that the settlers are the clearest expression of the victory of truth, justice, and goodness over the violence and terror of the Muslims.

This is the appropriate moment to encourage and bless the settlers to grow stronger in settlement of the Land of Israel, and not be deterred by external malicious forces, or weaknesses from within.

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

The Guilt of the Elders of Israel

The sins spoken of in this week’s Torah portion were committed by evil members of the nation, but the elders were guilty for not objecting * In the wake of their silence the sins spread throughout the entire nation, and the decline in faith lead to the Sin of the Spies * Entry into the Land requires national responsibility and mutual concern, both spiritual and physical * Some laws of immersion for eating utensils: A utensil purchased from a Jewish-owned factory must be immersed in a mikveh, even if the workers are non-Jews, and vice versa *A utensil purchased by a Jew and non-Jew together is exempt from immersion * A utensil bought by the IDF or Israeli Police Force must be immersed because it passes into Jewish ownership * A convert is not required to immerse his old utensils

From the Desert to the Land of Israel: Hopes and Crises

In the Torah portion ‘Behaalotcha’, the renewed journey to the Land of Israel began. The first journey was interrupted by the sin of the Golden Calf; it then became clear that the road to the Promised Land was fraught with obstacles, and that the Jewish people must prepare in the best possible manner so they could withstand the anticipated battles with its external enemies, and more severely, with its internal enemy – the evil inclination casting doubt on faith and inclining the heart to physical desires, instead of making an effort to realize the vision.

In order to cross the difficult path, God commanded Moshe to place the Tabernacle in the center of the Israelite camp, to sanctify the tribe of the Levites, and to situate them around the Tabernacle so they could preserve the holiness of the sanctuary, enlist and order all men of army age – “each one in his own camp, and each one designated by the banner for his division” – heading towards the conquest and settlement of the Land, and to order the twelve tribes of Israel around the Tabernacle, and thus, with the entire camp revealing the grand vision – to prepare for the journey. And behold, the cloud of God rose above the camp, and the journey began. “And when the ark went forth, Moshe said, ‘Arise, O God, and scatter your enemies! Let your foes flee before You!’ (Numbers 10:35). God wanted to hasten their entry into the Land, and to bring them there quickly in three days, however, already at the first encampment, the wicked at the edge of the camp began to complain about the hardships of the journey, and the righteous did not rise up against them to object. “The people began to complain, and it was evil in God’s ears. When God heard it, He displayed His anger, and God’s fire flared out, consuming the edge of the camp” (Numbers 11: 1).

The Elders were Punished as Well

Who were the people consumed at the edge of the camp? Simply speaking, it was the most wicked, those who complained. However, on the other edge of the camp as well, among the most righteous, people were punished. These were the elders of the nation, those men who guarded the embers of faith in Egypt, who when Moshe returned from Midian, God commanded them to accompany him to Pharaoh, to demand he let Israel go; but out of fear, they slipped away, one by one. At the revelation at Mount Sinai, God chastised them by commanding that only Moshe would ascend the mountain, and they would have to remain with the nation at the foot of the mountain (Exodus 5: 1, and Rashi there). Instead of comprehending their sin and accepting its ‘tikun‘ (rectification) with humility, the elders did not pay enough respect at the giving of the Torah, and alongside flippantly eating and drinking, they gazed at the ‘Shekhina’ (Divine Presence) warranting death, however, God did not wish to disturb the rejoicing of the Torah, and postponed their punishment until the incident of the complainers. This was their last chance to rectify their sin: had they shown concern for the honor of Heaven, and protested against the complainers, they would have rectified their sins and saved themselves. But acting indifferently, they were punished, and consumed by the fire of God (Exodus 24:10-11, and Rashi).

The Situation Worsens

When the elders of the nation did not protest, the mixed multitude, the frivolous people, began yearning for meat and complaining. Once again, the great leaders of Israel did not rise up to object, and as a result, many of the Israelites joined in the crying. Seemingly, this did not demonstrate disrespect for the honor of Heaven, but in truth, their weeping was a harsh and offensive complaint. Instead of seeing all the good that God had done for them, they wept. “God became very angry, and Moshe also considered it wrong” (Numbers 11:10).

The Attempt to Rectify by the Seventy Elders

It was still possible to rectify the situation. For this purpose, God commanded the appointment of seventy elders, those same policemen who selflessly gave themselves up to be flogged in Egypt. When Pharaoh decreed Israel be forced to hard labor, he appointed foremen to strike the Israelites in order to expedite the completion of the work quota imposed upon them. However, those same foremen had mercy on their brethren and refrained from oppressing them, and as a result, the Egyptians beat the foremen, as written in the Torah: “The Israelite foremen, whom Pharaoh’s administrators had appointed, were flogged. They were told, ‘Yesterday and today you did not complete your quotas. Why didn’t you make as many bricks as before?” Because they bore Israel’s sorrow and bent their backs to suffer the lashes in their stead, God commanded Moshe appoint them to the Sanhedrin, and imparted some of the spirit which rested on him, to them: “When the spirit descended on them, they gained the gift of prophecy and did not lose it” (Exodus 5:11, Numbers 11:16 and Rashi).

With all their greatness, the seventy elders failed to rectify the sin, to protest against the complainers, and assist Moshe in leading the people. This is the communal responsibility required of the righteous in order to enter the Land, where all of Israel is dependent on one another. Though the new elders remained in their individual righteousness, they were unable to rise to a ‘Clal Yisrael’ level, and therefore did not receive further prophecies.

Only Moshe Stood in the Breach

The people continued complaining and hurling accusations towards Heaven, suggesting that God lacked the ability to feed and gratify them. God gave them flocks of quail to show that His power was not limited, and that same meat they petulantly requested, turned into an obstacle, for all those who fell upon the quail to eat it lustfully – were punished and died by the wrath of God.

Nevertheless, the basic sin was not rectified, and the righteous did not feel the responsibility to protest against the sinners. The cracks continued penetrating deeper, reaching the holier sections of the nation, to the point where even Aharon and Miriam spoke against Moshe, implying he was acting with excessive celibacy. Undoubtedly their intentions were for the good, but since complaining had become widespread amongst the people, they also failed to properly take into account the honor of Moshe Rabbeinu, the messenger of God. And there was no one to express opposition except God.

Even though the wicked were punished at the edge of the camp, and the mixed multitude and the lustful Israelites were punished, and Aaron and Miriam were reprimanded – the righteous did not wake up to accept that from then on they would stand against sinners. The people had become accustomed to blaming God and Moshe in times of crisis, instead of conducting a soul-searching aimed at self-correction.

The Climax of the Downfall – A Crying for Generations

Thus, the Children of Israel’s faith in God and Moshe Rabbeinu was fractured, and they asked to send spies before entering the Land. And when the spies returned, they spoke slanderously of the land, expressing their opinion that the people of Israel would not be able to conquer the Land, and at that moment, that generation stood before its greatest trial. At the last minute, Yehoshua and Calev tried to oppose the spies and save the nation from itself. But it was too late, their words fell on deaf ears. The righteous had become accustomed to God saving them, and having Moshe Rabbeinu stand alone against the wicked. But when the Divine response to the words of the spies did not come immediately, they too were filled with the fear of the challenge of entering the Land, and together with all the people, wept that night.

In this crying, they essentially despised the cherished Land, and turned their backs on the main challenge for which they had left Egypt – to reveal the word of God in the Land, as the Torah says: “I will bring you to the land regarding which I raised My hand, swearing that I would give it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am God” (Exodus 6:8; 3:17).

It was then that the verdict of destruction for that entire generation was decreed, and the entrance into the Land was delayed for forty years, until all of their carcasses fell in the desert, and their sons could enter the Land. And since that generation was considered a ‘dor deiah’ (uniquely intellectual) – a generation that had experienced the enslavement of Egypt, the miracle of redemption, and the giving of the Torah – the night on which they sinned, the night of Tisha B’Av, became a night of crying for generations.

May it be God’s will that we merit bearing the national responsibility, to stand in the breach, to diligently strive for the revelation of the word of God through the settlement of the Land of Israel, both physically and spiritually, and thus rectify the sins that led to the destruction.

Immersion of Utensils Depends on Ownership

Q: A person who buys an eating utensil made in a factory that belongs to a Jew, but all the employees are non-Jews, does the utensil have to be immersed in a mikveh?

A: As a preface, when a Jew buys or receives an eating utensil made out of metal or glass, it is a mitzvah to immerse it in a mikveh to purify it, similar to a ‘ger‘ (convert) who is required to ritually immerse himself as part of his conversion. However, everything is contingent on ownership: if the Jew owns the factory, even if all the workers are Gentiles, the utensils do not require immersion. On the other hand, if the factory belongs to a non-Jew, even if all the workers are Jewish, the utensils require immersion.

Q: Does a merchant who purchases eating utensils from a Gentile with the intention of selling them, have to immerse them in a mikveh?

A: As long as he intends to sell them, he is not required to immerse them, since, as far as he is concerned, they are utensils intended for merchandise. But a Jew who buys them from him in order to use them, is obligated to immerse them.

Jewish and Gentile Partnerships

A utensil that was bought from a non-Jew, by a Jew and a gentile together – does not require immersion, since it has not been completely transferred to Jewish ownership. Jews are permitted to eat with these utensils, just as Jews are permitted to eat with the utensils of a Gentile, provided they were not used for ‘treif’ (un-kosher) foods in such a way that the taste of the ‘treif’ food was absorbed or stuck to the utensil. If afterwards the Jew purchases the Gentile’s share in the utensil, he would be obligated to immerse it with a ‘bracha’ (blessing).

IDF and Police Utensils

Eating utensils purchased by the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police Forces, and other bodies belonging to the State of Israel, require immersion with a ‘bracha‘. And although there are non-Jewish citizens with full civil rights in the country, since the State of Israel is generally defined as a Jewish state, the utensils require immersion.

Utensils of a Convert

Q: About a year ago we were privileged to undergo conversion, sanctify ourselves, and join the people of Israel. The question suddenly came to us: Do we have to immerse all of our eating utensils?

A: A ‘ger‘ does not have to immerse his utensils, because when he performs ritual immersion and becomes a Jew, the utensils in his possession are also purified along with him. True, in recent generations, some authorities have voiced doubts about this (Darchei Teshuva 120:4 in the name of Chadrei De’ah; Meharashag 3:48), and in their wake, some rabbis of the last generation wrote that ‘gerim‘ are required to immerse their utensils without a ‘bracha’. However, the Rishonim and the Acharonim did not mention this seemingly essential halakha, and if ‘gerim’ are indeed required to immerse their utensils, it cannot be that they would have forgotten to mention such a halakha as part of the laws of conversion, or of the laws of ‘tevilat kelim’ (immersion of utensils). In light of this, we are compelled to say that the utensils of a ‘ger‘ do not require immersion, since they are purified along with his conversion. (Thus is written in ‘Shem M’Shmuel’, Matot 5678, in the name of his father ‘Avnei Nezer’; Nezer HaKodesh Yoreh Deah 17; Tzitz Eliezer 8:20; Minchat Asher 3:66).

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:

‘Mincha’ and the Workplace

A letter from a high-tech employee: If workers eat and talk on the phone while at work, there is no reason for them to cut-short their prayers * Differences in rank in companies exist – junior level employees have time on their hands, but managers and senior executives are very anxious * In practice, those who are extremely busy should be permitted to daven an abbreviated ‘Mincha’, but it is desirable to split into two minyans when possible * In continuation of the issue of equality and gender differences: Today, Jewish law courts seldom take action against women who refuse to divorce * A way should be found to preserve – even in today’s reality – the halakhic objective of favoring the family

An Abbreviated ‘Mincha‘ Prayer at Work – Is it Possible?

In the past, I wrote an answer to workers in a high-tech company who were at odds as the ideal way to pray ‘Mincha‘ (the Afternoon prayer) – as usual, with ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ (the repetition of the prayer leader [‘shaliach tzibur’], or ‘chazan‘, cantor), or an abbreviated version without the repetition. I wrote that they should pray a shortened ‘Mincha’, without the repetition of the ‘chazan’.

In response, I received a question from an admirable man:

“Thank God, I have worked for eight years in various high-tech companies. Whenever I signed a contract, I asked the employer whether I could pray ‘Mincha‘ during work, and not at the expense of the lunch-time break given to each employee. They always responded positively, and did not set a time limit. I am therefore very puzzled by the claim of some workers: ‘since we are in the middle of work, we should ‘daven’ (pray) an abbreviated ‘Mincha‘ prayer.’ It’s hard for me to believe that an employer would be upset about a few more minutes of prayer. (True, in regards to an employee who normally doesn’t recite all the preliminary ‘korbanot’ (non-obligatory prayers recited by some before ‘Mincha’), there is room for scrutiny).

Moreover, all high-tech workers know that breaks are not fixed and under pressure. Employees do not work every minute of the day! Sometimes we chat, sometimes we go out to talk on the phone or, God forbid – to have a smoke … If so, why should prayer time alone be strictly scrutinized? Shouldn’t prayer at least enjoy the same status of work?

Furthermore, in workplaces where there is no ‘minyan’, and one must walk a few minutes to another place where there is a ‘minyan‘ – employers permit it, just as they allow thousands of high-tech employees a few minutes in the afternoon to go eat at a restaurant, and no one would dream of shortening their lunch break because of the time spent walking, ordering food, and the like. The most important point is that this treasured ‘pearl’ – the ‘Mincha‘ prayer – should illuminate all of our work, and raise the entire day to a higher level.

I write all this as a student discussing an issue before his rabbis, and from my work experience. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you Rabbi Melamed, for the wonderful things you write every week. I get a lot out of them!”

Different Levels in the Workplace

In order to explain my position, I must first say that the question I receive from various high-tech companies is usually this: senior executives and managers are anxious and busy, and interested in praying an abbreviated ‘Mincha‘. Concerning mid-level employees – some prefer a short prayer, and others prefer regular prayers. Workers at the junior level tend to prefer praying the regular ‘Mincha‘ prayer. Those who work as cleaners prefer to pray ‘Mincha‘ with ‘korbanot‘.

I asked myself: What would happen if the cleaning workers became executives? Then, would they prefer to pray ‘Mincha‘ with ‘korbanot‘, or would the pressures overcome them, and want to shorten ‘Mincha’, or perhaps even avoid praying at all? And what would happen if the executives were the cleaning workers – would they prefer a long prayer, and maybe even ‘korbanot’ – because, what difference would it make if they cleaned another half an hour, or less…? In short, it is difficult to assume that the more senior a person is, the less he cares about prayer; rather, it appears that the more senior a person is – the more responsibility and pressure is placed upon him, and the harder it is for him to leave everything for a long time. He may be able to eat lunch at length, because there, he takes his mind off things and relaxes, but in prayer, he finds it difficult to concentrate, because work difficulties constantly flood his mind.

The Validity of the Repetition of the ‘Chazan

There is a fundamental difference of opinion: When everyone knows how to read from the ‘Siddur‘ (prayer book), does the repetition of the ‘shatz‘ (an abbreviation of ‘shaliach tzibur’) need to be said, given that the ordinance of the repetition of the ‘shatz‘ was intended for someone who does not know how to pray himself? Indeed, Rambam in his responsa (Pe’er Ha-Dor 148), wrote that the ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ should be recited, because when our Sages fix an ordinance, they do not make a distinction between different places, and therefore, even in a place where everyone knows how to read, ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ is recited, and his words were brought down in halakha in the ‘Beit Yosef’ (124:3). However, Rambam himself ruled that in places where many people chattered during ‘chazarat ha’shatz’, the congregation should pray one prayer, without the repetition, and the ‘chazan‘ should say the prayer aloud; those who knew how to pray, would pray with him in a whisper, and those who did not know how to pray, would fulfill their obligation by listening, and thus ” the Chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s Name) which has spread among the non-Jews who say that the Jews spit and chat during their prayers, will be removed” (Blau 258).

In practice, the custom of many communities was not repeat ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ in the ‘Mincha‘ prayer, and some communities did not repeat ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ in all weekday and ‘Mussaf’ (additional) prayers. This was the practice of Sephardim in North Africa, as well as in Yemen. Although, it is written in ‘Beit Yosef’ (paragraph 234) that this custom of the Sephardim is incorrect, and the proper way to pray is similar to that of the Ashkenazim who recite ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ in the ‘Mincha’ prayer, and this was the instruction of the sages of Safed, who even decreed ‘nidui’ (excommunication) on those who violated their rulings.

On the other hand, the lenient view is strong – the fact being that many communities continued acting in this manner, and there were also Ashkenazi communities in which they did not recite ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ in the ‘Mincha‘ prayer. Moreover, our Sages said in the Mishna: “He who makes his prayer a fixed task, it is not a genuine supplication” (Berakhot 28b), i.e., his prayer is like a heavy burden on him (ibid. 29b). And this in fact is what some Rishonim wrote, that when one is preoccupied and finds it difficult to concentrate, he should not pray at all (Tosafot, Maharam of Rothenburg). Therefore, when there is a ‘minhag’ (custom) consistent with the letter of the law that ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ is not recited, it is preferable to follow that ‘minhag‘, so that the prayer does not seem like a burden.

Rav Messas: Waive ‘Chazarat Ha’shatz’

Rabbi Yosef Messas (Responsa ‘Maim Hayim’ I, O.C. 41) writes that even in synagogues, it is preferable not to say ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ in the ‘Mincha‘ prayer: “For in truth, we are witness that for the general public ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ is like a sorrow on their souls, and a heavy burden for them, and although it is only for a short amount of time, nevertheless, because it seems superfluous to them, given that they have already fulfilled their obligation, consequently, they are becoming very disgusted with it.” Nevertheless, praying with a ‘minyan’ should never be annulled due to lack of intention, because one of the great foundations of “the existence of the Jewish nation and its connection to Torah is the assembly in synagogues to express gladness and prayer, for by doing so, they indicate that there is a great and awesome God in the world.. and the prayers are the source of life, and the spring of salvation for the remnants of religion that remains in the hearts of every Jew, for whoever is without prayer, you will find he is wildly devoid of all belief… therefore, even if prayer is said without intention, it is not grave – to what is this similar – to a person who makes sure his ceiling does not fall – if he can do so with iron bars – good; if not – he supports it even with wood beams. We are in a similar situation – our religion and our nation are presently being supported, even by prayers without intention.”

In Practice a Shortened Prayer Should be Permitted

In conclusion, employees who come to pray in a ‘minyan‘ despite their anxiety should be respected, and if one of them asks to shorten the prayer – all the more so, if he’s a senior executive – his request should be granted, because his anxiety is understandable, and since this method of shortened prayer has an important place in halakha, one should not compel him to pray at length. If there are enough people, two ‘minyans‘ should be held – one of them with ‘chazarat ha’shatz’ and the other without, and each person can chose whichever way he prefers to pray.

‘Igun’ (“Chaining”) of Men

Two weeks ago I wrote that halakha sets certain differences between the status of men and women – concerning issues of ‘igun’ (“chaining”) the status of women is weaker, whereas in financial matters the status of men is inferior – this, because the objective of halakha is not equality, rather, the good of the entire family – both the men, women, and children. When the main goal is equality, marriage is destroyed, the number of children born decreases in a way that causes crisis, to the point where most of the children born today in Western society grow up without a father present in their lives.

However, I received a well-informed response according to which the objective of halakha is not happening: “Rabbi, the things that you wrote are true on a halakhic level, but in actuality, and in Israel’s legal practice today, the reality is the opposite; the possibility of obtaining a ‘heter nisu’im’ (a ‘marriage permit’ involving the consent of one hundred rabbis) causes men who are refused divorces to receive less response from the legal system to their plight.

In order to deal with men who refuse to give a ‘get‘ (bill of divorce), the courts adopt various coercive measures, starting from preventing them the ability to have a bank account or a driver’s license, to denying them the opportunity of engaging in an certified profession such as a doctor or a lawyer, till the foreclosure of assets and the imposition of long prison sentences. The courts issue hundreds of such orders annually.

Seemingly, similar measures should be applied against women who refuse to divorce, but the Supreme Rabbinical Court ruled that the best way to deal with a woman’s refusal to receive a ‘get’ is by means of the husband’s ‘heter nisu’im’, and not by enforcing a ‘get‘ on a woman.

The ‘heter nisu’im’ could indeed have been a solution for men refused a ‘get’, and could have been an appropriate substitute over a woman who refuses to give her husband a ‘get‘, however, in light of the Supreme Court ruling and the Attorney General’s instructions, the use of a ‘heter nisu’im‘ as a solution to divorce refusal can only be granted in rare and exceptional cases.

Thus, the advantage a man refused a ‘get‘ by his wife had possessed, is now to his detriment, to the point where today the possibility of a man receiving a ‘heter nisu’im’, or significant enforcement measures in the form of imprisonment of his wife – are zero (to put things in perspective, in the last five years, 69 arrest warrants were issued against men who refused to give their wives a ‘get‘, and not one against an unwilling woman).

This discrimination is yet another example of how a certain advantage that a man had in the past has become his detriment as a result of the routine conduct of the rabbinical and civil courts, and serves as another way for women to blackmail men, without paying a price. In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons why today the number of men refused a ‘get‘ by their wives, is larger than the number of women refused a ‘get‘ by their husbands (427 men refused a ‘get‘ by their wives in the last five years, compared with 382 women refused a ‘get‘ by their husbands, according to a report by the Rabbinical Court).”

Realizing the Intention of Halakha

My response: Indeed, the changes in the fine balance established by halakha between men and women undermine the institution of marriage, as they cause more people to despise marriage, break their covenant, and harm their children. The rabbinic judges must find the golden path to express the practical intention of halakha in our generation, in which the social and economic status of men and women has changed.

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:

Connecting Nationalism to Torah

While in Israel, foreign students studying in Israel and those living here temporarily or have relatives here, are exempt from second day of Yom Tov * Sefirat HaOmer connects the national side of the Jewish people to their spiritual side, and the basic, natural ’emunah’ (faith) to the way of Torah *Learning Torah all night on Shavuot is fabulous – similar to the adornment of a bride (the Torah) before her marriage, but it is not obligatory * Each person should assess what is more appropriate for him – to study at night and be awake during the day, or vice versa, provided his choice is for the sake of Heaven * The laws of the ritual washing of the hands, ‘Birkot HaShachar’, and eating before prayers for someone who remained awake all night

Second Day Yom Tov for those Visiting Israel, but Live Abroad

The Rabbis instituted that in chutz l’aretz, (outside of Israel) all the Chagim (festivals) must be observed for two days. However, the poskim (Jewish law arbiters) disagreed about a ‘ben chutz l’aretz’ (one who lives outside of Israel) who came to Israel for a visit. Some are of the opinion that for the duration of his stay, he is considered a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’ [a “resident” of Israel] (Chacham Tzvi, 167; Sulchan Aruch HaRav, 496:11). But according to most poskim, since his place of residence is in chutz l’aretz, even when visiting Israel, he is considered a ‘ben chutz l’aretz‘, and this is the customary practice (Birkei Yosef, 496:7; M.B. 496:13). 

And although ‘m’ikar ha’din’ (according to the strict letter of the law) it would be possible to be lenient, since the law of second day Yom Tov is a Rabbinical decree, and the general rule is ‘safek d’rabbanan l’kula’ (leniency for a doubt of Rabbinic issues), the accepted minhag (custom) is to be strict, and therefore, one even recites the unique blessings for Yom Tov. However, it appears that if the visitor has a deep attachment to the land, and consequently, there is a certain chance that he will choose to immigrate to Israel, while he is in Israel, he should act according to the custom of the Land of Israel.

Those with Affinity Who are Exempt from Yom Tov

Consequently: 1) a student who comes to Israel for a year of study is considered a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’ while in Israel. 2) A person who visits frequently, once his combined visits accumulate to a year, is already considered to be somewhat of a permanent “resident”, and from then on during the holidays he spends in Israel, should observe only one day. 3) A visitor to Israel who plans on making aliyah when possible, even if he visits for a short time and it will be years until he realizes his plans, for the duration of his stay in Israel, should act as a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’, and observe one day. 4) A visitor with children or parents who made aliyah is considered as having a strong connection to the country, and for the duration of his stay in Israel, should act as a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’. 5) A person who purchased an apartment or a house in Eretz Yisrael in which to live while visiting, even though his visits have not yet accumulated to a year, on account of his owning an apartment, he should act as a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’ while in Israel. 6) A person who left Israel to live in chutz l’aretz, even if he has lived there for tens of years, since he previously resided in Israel for a long period of time, as long as there is even the slightest chance he might move back, he should act as a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’ for the duration of his visit to Israel.

However, when these people are abroad, since in practice they have not yet immigrated to Israel, they are considered to be ‘b’nei chutz l’aretz’ (foreign citizens) in every respect, and they are obligated to observe second day Yom Tov (these laws are explained in ‘Peninei Halakha: Z’manim’ 9, footnote 8).

The Connection between Pesach and Shavuot

The holiday of Pesach expresses Israel’s national side, because in the Exodus from Egypt, Israel’s uniqueness was revealed, for God chose us from all the nations. On the holiday of Shavuot, we received the Torah, in which the spiritual side of Israel was expressed. Sefirat HaOmer (the counting of the Omer, the days between Pesach and Shavuot) connects the national side with the spiritual side, as we express in the blessing of the Torah: “He who chose us from among all the peoples” on Pesach, and accordingly “gave us his Torah” on Shavuot.

The world was created with the intention that through Israel and the Torah, the Divine ideals would be revealed in it, as our Sages expounded on the word ‘be’reishit‘ (in the beginning): the world was created for the sake of Israel, who are called ‘reishit‘ (beginning), and for the Torah, which is also called ‘reishit‘. The Torah cannot be revealed in the world without Israel, and Israel cannot be revealed in the world without the Torah. Therefore, the most serious sin is the separation between Torah and Israel, and hence, the importance of Sefirat HaOmer, which is intended to connect the national holiday of Pesach with Shavuot.

The Connection between ‘Emunah‘ and Torah

An additional explanation: On Pesach, the fundamental ‘emunah‘ (faith) hidden within Israel’s soul is revealed, and on Shavuot, we merited transcending to the level of a developed ‘emunah‘, enlightened and expanded by the Torah. Fundamental ‘emunah‘ is the basis of everything, but it lacks the ability to direct, and rectify life. By means of the Torah and its commandments, we are able to connect all components of our lives – the intellect, emotions, and the practical side of life, to ‘emunah’.

From the basic belief in God and Redemption which was revealed on Pesach, it is possible to ascend to Shavuot, to the level of the Torah, in which the vision and path to actual ‘tikkun olam’ (rectification of the world) are elaborated. Torah cannot exist without the foundation of fundamental ‘emunah‘, and ‘emunah‘ is unable to exist without Torah that teaches how to implement it. Therefore, each year anew, we return to fulfill the festivals of Pesach and Shavuot, and count Sefirat Ha’Omer which connects them.

Studying Torah on the Night of Shavuot

Q: Is it obligatory to stay awake on the night of Shavuot and study Torah all night, or is it better to go to sleep, and thereby pray the Morning prayers with proper concentration, and study Torah alertly?

A: There is no obligation to study Torah all night. Nevertheless, there are those who do so, in accordance with what is explained in the Zohar:
Chassidim Ha’Rishonim (the early pious ones) would not sleep on that night, but engage in Torah…and thus Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said to the ‘chaverim‘ (close students) at night when they gathered by him: Let us prepare the bride’s jewelry so that tomorrow, in the matrimonial service, she will appear before the king appropriately. Fortunate are the ‘chaverim’, when the king asks the queen: ‘Who arranged your jewelry, and adorned your crown?’ There is no one in the world who knows how to prepare the bride other than the ‘chaverim’. How happy is their portion in this world and the World to Come”. It is further related
in the Zohar: “Rabbi Shimon and all the ‘chaverim’ were joyously studying Torah. Every one of them brought forth a new discovery in the Torah. Rabbi Shimon was rejoicing together with all the friends. Rabbi Shimon said to them: My sons, how happy is your lot, because tomorrow the bride shall not approach the bridal canopy without you. Because all those who prepared the adornments of the bride during this night and rejoice with her, shall all be recorded and written in the ‘Sefer Ha’Zikaron’ (Book of Remembrance), and the Holy One, blessed be He, blesses them with seventy blessings and crowns from the Upper World”.

In order to understand the words of the Zohar, it must first be explained that the day of ‘Matan Torah‘ (Giving of the Torah) is described by our Sages as a wedding day on which God bonded Himself with ‘Knesset Yisrael‘ (the Nation of Israel), similar to a groom and his bride (Taanit 26b). Every year on ‘Chag Shavuot’, the idea of ‘Matan Torah continues to be revealed, and ‘Knesset Yisrael’ connects back with God, like a bride with her groom. The Kabbalists said that those who study Torah on the night of Shavuot are similar to the grooms and bridesmaids of the ‘kallah’ (bride), preparing ‘Knesset Yisrael’ to receive the Torah in the most beautiful way. Consequently, when the day arrives, ‘Knesset Yisrael‘ merits ascending to God, uniting and connecting with Him on a higher level. As a result, Israel merits abundance of Torah, life, and blessing for the entire year.

The ‘Minhag’ is Not Obligatory

Nevertheless, this ‘minhag’ (custom) is not obligatory, and there were eminent rabbis who preferred to sleep on Shavuot night, reasoning that if they remained awake all night they would not be able to concentrate properly in the Morning prayers, would not be able to study at night with sufficient alertness, would have to make-up lost sleep-time, thereby causing ‘bitul Torah‘ (a waste of Torah study time), or, as a result of their tiredness, would not be able to rejoice properly on Chag.

However, those who do remain awake believe that even if the learning at night is not of such high quality, and even if it is difficult to concentrate in the Morning prayers and the tiredness is liable to burden one’s happiness on the Chag, nevertheless, this ‘minhag‘ is a wonderful and deep expression of love for God and Torah, and an expression of a willingness to forgo the pleasure and comfort of sleep – in honor of Heaven, and in the honor of ‘Knesset Yisrael’. That too encompasses a great sense of happiness on the Chag. Ultimately, each person should chose his custom l’shem shamayim (for the sake of Heaven).

The Laws for Those Who Remained Awake All Night


‘Netilat Yadayim‘ (ritual washing of the hands): Even a person who remains awake all night must perform ‘netilat yadayim‘ before Morning prayers, however, the poskim were divided on whether to recite a blessing over this washing, or not. According to Sephardic custom, one does not recite a blessing over this washing of the hands in any case; according to the Ashkenazi custom, it is best is to relieve oneself before prayer, and to touch one of the covered areas of one’s body which had become a bit sweaty since one’s last bathing, and thus, be obligated to wash one’s hands with a blessing.


‘Birkot HaTorah’ and ‘Birkot HaShachar’


According to the vast majority of poskim, when one comes to pray Shacharit (the Morning Prayers) of a new day, he recites ‘Birkot HaTorah’ (Blessings over the Torah) and ‘Birkot HaShachar’ (the Morning Blessings), because a person should recite a blessing over the Torah every day, and thank God through ‘Birkot HaShachar’ for the general good He grants to the world.


Concerning ‘Birkot HaShachar’, some poskim are of the opinion that if one did not sleep at all from the time he recited the blessings the previous day, he is not required to recite them again. Also, regarding the blessings of ‘Elokei Neshama’ and ‘Ha’ma’avir Sheina’, there are some authorities who hold that a person who did not sleep cannot recite these blessings, because these blessings are recited in the singular.

In practice, one who wishes to recite these blessings is permitted to do so, for this is the ‘minhag‘ of all Sephardim, and many Ashkenazim. There are some Ashkenazim whose ‘minhag’ (in accordance with the Mishna Berura) is that if they do not hear the blessings from someone else, they recite these four blessings without ‘Shem and Malchut’ (“Hashem Elokenu Melech Ha’olam”). An Ashkenazi Jew who is uncertain of his ‘minhag‘ is, may act according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, and recite all the blessings himself.


When to Say the Blessings: According to halakha, ‘Birkot HaShachar’ and ‘Birkot HaTorah’ are recited close to the Morning prayers. According to kabbala‘Birkot HaShachar‘ are recited after ‘Chatzot haLayla’ (midnight), and ‘Birkot HaTorah‘, after ‘Amud HaShachar’ (dawn).

Eating and Drinking before the Morning Prayers

During the night, one may eat and drink without limitation. However, from half an hour before ‘Amud HaShachar’, it is forbidden to eat a ‘seudah’ (a meal), lest one gets over-involved in his meal. This includes the prohibition of eating bread or cakes whose size is larger than a ‘beitza‘(an egg), however, one may eat without ‘keviyut seudah’ (setting a meal) fruits and vegetables and cooked ‘mezanot‘ foods without limitations. From ‘Amud HaShachar’ (approximately 04:00), it is forbidden to eat anything, or to drink coffee or juice, and even one who had started eating or drinking beforehand, should stop. One is allowed to drink only water after ‘Amud HaShachar’.


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:

Equality, No; Family Unity, Yes

Although equality between men and women is a basic principle in halakha, in family-related laws, differences exist between the two * Each difference has a purpose – the unity of the family. * In the past, having two wives was necessary because many women required men to support them, but the Torah hinted that it was problematic * A man can also be an ‘agunah * Laws that ostensibly reinforce the status of the husband, actually maintain his connection to the family, and prevent him from abandoning his wife and children * Women today are also wage earners, but it is still the husband who commits to the ketubah, to avoid evading his responsibility as a parent

Q: Why does the Torah discriminate against women by allowing a man to marry two women, but does not allow a woman to marry two men? And why does the Torah decree the law of ‘agunah‘ on a woman, and not on a man? And why is the halakha more severe for a woman who betrayed her husband, than for a man who betrayed his wife? Isn’t the value of equality between the sexes important in Jewish law?

A: The basic principle in halakha is that there is equality between the sexes, “The Torah equated woman to man concerning all the laws in the Torah” (Kiddushin 35a). However, in family law there are basic halachot that lack equality: in marital law, the man has an advantage, and in matters of livelihood and sustenance, the woman has an advantage. The guiding principle is the good of the entire family. I will now explain.

The Torah’s Attitude Concerning Marrying Two Women

Although the Torah permits a man to marry two women, it hints to us that this is a problematic and undesirable reality, for indeed, in all the stories and discussions in the Torah about polygamy, we encounter problems. This is because the multiplicity of women hurts the complete love that should prevail between husband and wife, and provokes conflicts within the family, to the point where the Torah terms the additional woman as “tzara“, or trouble.

The permission to marry a few women, however, was a necessity that cannot be condemned, for at times when making a living was difficult and arduous, and quite a few people died at an early age because of poor nutrition and disease, the fate of unmarried women was sometimes unbearable. It was not by accident that the Torah commands us to help the widow, for after her husband died, she remained without her main source of income. Therefore, a well-to-do man who was able to support a number of women was permitted to marry more than one wife, provided he could support them properly, and give pleasure to both of his wives with tremendous joy as they deserve, according to the rules of the mitzvah of ‘onah‘ (marital relations).

Nevertheless, even over two thousand years ago, marrying two women was considered improper by our Sages, and thus we find that the Tannaim and Amoraim did not marry two women, as stated in the essay of Rabbi Reuven Margaliot ztz”l (Olelot 6).

Approximately 1,000 years ago, Rabbi’s in Ashkenaz, led by Rabbeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah, decreed a man should not marry two women. Gradually, their decree was accepted in additional communities, until it became accepted in all of Israel.


A married woman can be released from her marriage and marry another man in one of two ways – after her husband dies, or after receiving a ‘get‘ (bill of divorce) from him (Kiddushin 2a). Without this, she is considered a married woman forbidden to all men, and if, God forbid, she gives birth to a child from another man, the child is a ‘mamzer‘ (bastard). Occasionally, unfortunate incidents occur where a man is lost and no one knows if he is alive or dead, and consequently his wife remains an ‘agunah‘ (“chained” to her marriage). In such cases, great efforts are made to find evidence concerning the lost husband’s situation, and if it is possible to prove that he is dead, his wife is released from her status of ‘agunah‘, and allowed to marry.

Another type of ‘agunah‘ is in the event of a dispute between the spouses, and the Beit Din (Jewish law court) concludes that the woman is right in demanding a divorce, but the man refuses to release her by giving her a ‘get‘. According to halakha, the court is required to beat him until he willingly gives her a ‘get‘, i.e., he explicitly says that he gives the ‘get‘ on his own accord. Otherwise, they continue beating him until the woman is released – either by the husband giving her a ‘get‘ with full consent, or by his death…

However, some poskim are doubtful about the extent to which a ‘get‘ can be imposed, and due to the weakness of the rabbinic courts, the position of these poskim raises difficulties in obtaining a ‘get‘ in the case of particularly stubborn husbands. The problem has grown nowadays because under civil law, beating a husband is illegal. Nevertheless, attempts are made to find ways to enforce the court’s decision on recalcitrant men, and they almost always succeed. As cooperation between legislators and the religious courts increases, the more difficult cases of husbands refusing to grant a ‘get‘ will diminish.

A “Chained” Man

A woman can also “chain” her husband, since as long as she does not accept the ‘get‘, he cannot marry. In practice, the number of husbands who are refused a ‘get‘ from their wives is slightly higher than the number of woman refused a ‘get‘, and even in this matter for various reasons, the courts at times delay the imposition of sanctions on women, and the time men remain “chained” is lengthened. However, the “chaining” of men is easier than that of women, because in special cases through a long process involving the consent of one hundred rabbis, they will allow him to marry. In addition, if he begets a child without divorcing his wife, the child is not a ‘mamzer‘.

Jewish Laws in which the Status of Women is Weaker

In four laws, the status of women is weaker than that of a man: 1) A married woman who has not received a ‘get‘ and subsequently conceived from another man – the child is a ‘mamzer‘, whereas a married man who slept with a unmarried woman who conceived – the child is not a ‘mamzer‘. 2) A married woman who cheats on her husband, is forbidden to her husband and to man with whom she slept (in practice, a rabbi should be consulted with in such a situation), whereas a married man who betrayed his wife is not forbidden to his wife. 3) An ‘agunah’ whose husband is lost is not permitted to marry because she is a ‘safek nisuah’ (possibly married), whereas a husband whose wife was lost and was unable to be found is permitted to marry with a special permission of Beit Din, since according to the letter of the law in a pressing situation, a man is permitted to marry two women. 4) For this reason, a woman who does not agree to receive a ‘get‘, in a pressing situation and after a long process, her husband is permitted to marry another wife without divorcing her; but when a man does not agree to give his wife a ‘get‘, as long as he is alive, his wife is not permitted to marry another man. Therefore, if a recalcitrant husband was caught before trying to flee, he would be beaten until he gave a ‘get‘.

The Differences Maintain the Family

God’s laws are beyond our reach, and therefore we can never fully understand them, but one fundamental aspect cannot be ignored: a woman always knows who her child is, for he or she is born of her womb; on the other hand, a man is liable to doubt whether his wife conceived from him or, Heaven forbid, from another man. And if he is in doubt, he will not want to work and support his wife and children, will alienate himself from them, and certainly will not want to invest in their education. By means of the strict laws against a woman who betrayed her husband, and as a result of her inability to marry without a ‘get‘, the Torah guarantees a man that his wife is faithful to him, her children are his, and he can devote his life to his wife and children without concern. It is hard to imagine that without this, a stable family can be maintained.

Furthermore, a woman is naturally more devoted to her children: she carries them in her womb for nine months, breastfeeds them, and consequently, also takes more care of them. On the other hand, a man’s natural connection to his children exists only through love, devotion, and moral responsibility towards them. By means of these laws a man becomes attached to his wife and children, and dedicates himself to their livelihood and welfare.

The situation in secular society which did away with these laws in accordance with the notion of absolute equality, proves the importance of these laws, without which the family unit falls to pieces. It can be said that halakha does not deal with equality between man and woman, but rather, shapes the most appropriate way to benefit both man, woman, children, and the entire family.

Marriage Obligations and the Ketubah

When a man gets married, he obligates himself to support his wife and to take care of all her needs, as is standard in their surroundings. In addition, he takes upon himself in the ‘ketubah‘ that if he divorces her, he will pay her at least two hundred ‘zuz‘, an amount sufficient to exist for a year. Usually, much higher amounts of money are written in the ‘ketubah‘.

The obligation of earning a living is placed on the man, because until modern times, making a living involved hard, physical work, for which man had a greater advantage. In addition, housework and childcare took several hours, for everything was done by hand including drawing water, preparing bread and food, and sewing and knitting clothes.

In exchange for the man’s obligation to take care of all of his wife’s needs, the woman is obligated to take care of all the household needs and care for the children, and that all the money she earns and the assets she brings with her from her parents’ home would be in her husband’s possession. Since this agreement is for the benefit of the woman, if a wife so desires – she can cancel it, and say to her husband: “eini nizonet ve-eini osah“, or in English, “you do not have to feed me, and I will not turn over my earnings to you”.

When a Woman is Partner in Earning a Living

In recent generations, thanks to technological advances such as the ability to get water from the tap and to buy inexpensive food and clothing, the time required for housework decreased, and in their spare time, women began to work and earn a living. With the money they earned, they could buy additional help with the housework and pay for child care, thus creating additional time they could dedicate towards work. Concurrently, the educational system for boys and girls improved, providing women the tools to integrate into many more profitable sectors of the economy. Thus, in a gradual process, women’s salaries increased, to the point where today, some of them earn more than their spouses. In such a situation, a woman must also participate in providing for her children in accordance with her income.

In spite of all the dramatic changes in women’s economic and social status, even today, man’s obligation in the ‘ketubah’ is extremely important for two reasons. First, the basic structure of most families is that the man is still more responsible for earning a living, and the woman is more responsible for taking care of the children and the home. Second, the man’s commitment is also to his children, and if a man does not commit to his wife, there is fear he will escape parental responsibility. This commitment is no less important nowadays than in the past, because modern life has harmed the stability of the family unit, to the point where a large percentage of children growing up in Western countries today grow up with their mother alone, without their father present in their lives.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed, including his numerous books on Jewish law and faith, can be found at:

Honor the IDF, File Complaints

The Chief Rabbinate and Minister Bennett acted correctly by postponing the Lag B’Omer school vacation, and it would be fitting for those participating in the Meron celebrations to learn from them * Those who follow Ashkenazi minhag should take a haircut this Erev Shabbat * People with a ‘mamlachti’ outlook must also file a complaint when halakha is violated in the IDF, for the betterment of the army * With all the difficulty of filing a complaint, sometimes it is necessary * Children are not prohibited from eating before Kiddush, and therefore it is permissible to distribute candies at the end of prayers * Deaf-mutes who can communicate are obligated in mitzvot, and it is important to recognize and appreciate their efforts to fulfill them * A mute person is counted in a minyan even though he does not answer ‘amen’

The longstanding position of the Chief Rabbinate that on Lag Ba’Omer which falls out on Motzei Shabbat bonfires should be postponed until Sunday evening, is correct and should be endorsed. We find that our Sages annulled the mitzva of blowing a shofar and the taking of a lulav when Rosh Hashana or Sukkot fell out on Shabbat, lest there be people who desecrate the Shabbat by carrying the shofar or lulav in the public domain (Rosh Hashana 29b; Sukkah 43a). If this is the case with regard to mitzvot from the Torah, how much more so should the minhag (custom) of lighting bonfires be postponed, so as not to cause people to desecrate Shabbat in the preparation and lighting of the fires.

Furthermore, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett should be commended for accepting the Rabbinate’s request and postponing the day-off from school till Monday. Hopefully in the future this will become a permanent rule, namely, that Lag B’Omer bonfires not be lit on Motzei Shabbat. Hopefully, the Haredim will also conduct themselves as real ‘haredim l’dvar Hashem‘ (‘fearers of the word of God’), and postpone the lighting of fires in Meron and elsewhere, until Sunday night.

In any case, since the school vacation was postponed to Monday, lighting bonfires on Motzei Shabbat is also clearly forbidden because of ‘bitul Torah’ (wasting time when one could learn Torah), for it will cause many students to lose two days of study.

Haircuts and Shaving on Erev Shabbat

When Lag Ba’Omer falls out on Motzei Shabbat, according to Ashkenazic minhag and some Sephardim who customarily end mourning customs on Lag B’Omer itself, such people should shave and, if necessary, take a haircut in honor of Shabbat. This is because it is not respectful for the Shabbat that at its conclusion customs of mourning cease, while prior to it, no preparations are made. However, according to the minhag of most Sephardim who normally end their mourning customs at Lad B’Omer (the 34th day of the Omer), haircuts should not be taken until Monday morning (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 3: 2-3, footnote 8).

Concerning the Struggle of Religious Soldiers in the Army

Before Pesach, I dealt extensively with the growing difficulties of religious soldiers in the IDF, which in recent years has begun imposing a secular culture on its soldiers. The conclusion was that since the IDF’s rules were basically designed to provide the army with a Jewish character according to halakha, and to guarantee a convenient possibility of observing Torah and mitzvot – if the soldiers knew how to stand-up for their rights, demand their commanders carry out full orders, if need be file a complaint, and in pressing situations, involve public figures and the media as well – the majority of the problems would be resolved.

For example, the severe problems in Bahad Echad (officers’ training base) could have been resolved had one cadet filed a complaint about the systematic violation of the orders prohibiting the entry of male cadets into women cadet’s quarters and vice versa, certainly not in bathing suits! And all this with the knowledge of the commander of Bahad Echad, who even had the nerve to reprimand a religious cadet who complained about it. An organized complaint, accompanied by public and media pressure, could have gotten this insolent officer removed from the army.

Getting more soldiers to file complaints involves a profound and significant change of perception among the National-Religious public – a transition from a belief that a complaint constitutes an affront to the “malchut” (divine sovereignty of the State of Israel) – to a perspective that a complaint actually corrects and improves the system. There are some Roshei Yeshivot and Mechinot who agreed with this position, and indeed, in preparation for the upcoming draft in the summer, plan to prepare the recruits for problematic situations they are liable to encounter, to familiarize them with army orders and the proper, polite and assertive way to demand their implementation, and how to file a complaint when necessary.

In order to further strengthen this process, here is a letter from a soldier’s personal experience:

An Informative Letter Concerning Filing Complaints

“Shalom, Rabbi! Perhaps if one views things from “above”, like some of today’s critics of the IDF, it may seem that the convenient, correct, and ethical solution is to respond to every injustice in the IDF by filing a complaint. However, you must understand that from the lower side of the hierarchy – from one’s direct officer to the battalion commander – a complaint is considered ‘yahareg u’bal ya’avor’ (a sin one is commanded to die for, rather than commit). Any commander who is complained about will feel, and rightly so, that a personal war is being waged against him, because in the IDF system, there are many small processes that must be exhausted before filing a complaint.

Filing a complaint serves as a last resort, whereas for the most part, refusing to obey an order is seen as a more plausible and valid means of expressing dissatisfaction. For this reason, it seems fairer to the lower echelons not to complain about every religious problem.

On a personal level, during my service as an officer I had to refuse orders almost ten times (most of them because of religious issues), and in the eyes of my commanders, it was considered far more legitimate than filing a complaint.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, filing a complaint is legitimate only after an attempt to convince the commanders, together with a readiness to reach confrontation with them, but without involving other parties.

True, because of not being mentally prepared for the fact that sometimes one has to complain, there were two incidences for which I regret not filing a complaint. The first was in basic training, in the battery (an artillery company) when we were placed together with female soldiers. The company officer and the battalion commander of the battery deliberately failed to impose the proper dress orders for the female exercise trainers, despite our requests to enforce the order because of modesty.

The second incident: I had a sergeant who deliberately harassed me over religious matters. Despite my complaints to the company and battalion commanders, it was not taken care of.

Eating before Kiddush for Children

Q: Rabbi, last week you wrote that you distribute chocolate candies to children after Friday night services. Are you not concerned of leading the children astray, because they might eat the chocolate before Kiddush?

A: It is a mitzvah from the Torah to remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it, and our Sages determined fulfilling the mitzvah by reciting Kiddush over a glass of wine. Since the mitzvah already comes into effect upon the commencement of Shabbat, our Sages determined not to eat, or even drink water, before fulfilling the mitzva of Kiddush (SA OC 299:4).

However, this prohibition does not apply to children, since children must be educated not to eat forbidden foods that are intrinsically prohibited, such as neveilot and treifot, but there is no obligation to educate them not to eat kosher foods during a time when it is prohibited to eat, because it is more difficult for children to refrain from eating and drinking. Therefore, there is no mitzvah to educate children who have reached the age of chinuch (education) – age five or six – not to eat during the first hours of Yom Kippur, but only from the age of nine years old did our Sages say to begin teaching them to fast for a few hours. Therefore, it is also permissible to allow them to eat before prayers (MA 269:1).

When there is no difficulty, it is preferable to encourage children to restrain themselves from eating. But since they are not prohibited, if they are hungry, thirsty, or crave to eat chocolate – they are permitted (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 6:9). On the contrary, it is good for children to be familiar with the halakha, and then they can decide whether they want to refine and strengthen their power of restraint and not eat until after Kiddush, or to act according to the letter of the law and eat before Kiddush.

A Deaf-Mute Completing a Minyan

In my previous article, I wrote that a deaf-mute who understands sign language can be included in a minyan. Not only because this issue is disputed among the poskim, and since the minyan is of rabbinical law one can rely on the lenient opinion, but rather, because nowadays there is room to count him in the minyan even according to the opinion of poskim who were machmir (stringent) in the past. Perhaps a few generations ago when only a few deaf-mutes knew how to communicate, some poskim felt they should not be excluded from the vast majority of deaf-mutes who could not communicate, and as a result, they too were exempt from the mitzvot. However, after having merited in recent generations to see the majority of deaf-mutes learn how to communicate, we can say that even in the opinion of the stringent poskim, deaf-mutes have a new status, are obligated in all the mitzvot, and thus, are counted in a minyan.

In response to my article, I received a delightful letter from Mr. Avi Herman:

“Honorable Rabbi Melamed, shlita. Last Shabbat, we hosted a group of 20 deaf people in our home in Kochav Hashahar. The organizer and head of the group is Rabbi Yehoshua Sudkoff, a Chabad Hasid and a deaf rabbi himself, who is involved in Torah study and bringing the deaf community in Israel and abroad closer to Judaism. Incidentally, Rabbi Sudkoff studies in the “Ma’aseh Nissim Kollel” in Jerusalem, which is composed entirely of deaf people studying Torah.

Shabbat was very uplifting. The group participated in the prayers and heard Torah lessons with sign language translation performed by my wife Nannet, who is a certified sign language interpreter.

One of the most exciting aspects of Shabbat was to discover, totally by chance, your recognition of the halachic status of these deaf people in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper. It was exciting to read and feel that the difficult efforts made by deaf Jews to learn Torah and observe the mitzvot, are indeed being recognized in Jewish law.

Note: These deaf people are only deaf, they are not deaf-mutes – their difficulty in talking is because they do not hear. Some of them manage to overcome this difficulty, and express themselves in speech as well (although, sometimes it is difficult to understand), and some of them do not speak at all, but the problem is not in their vocal cords (and therefore, they are not mutes)”.

Although in halakha, they are called “deaf-mutes” according to actual reality.

A Mute Person who does Not Answer ‘Amen

Nonetheless, I also received the following question: “Ultimately, in a minyan of ten, nine have to answer ‘amen‘, so how can a deaf-mute be counted in the minyan if he can’t answer ‘amen‘?”

A: It was codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 55:6-8), that even someone who is asleep, or a deaf person, praying the ‘Amidah‘ participate in the minyan, even though they cannot answer ‘amen‘. On the other hand, concerning the repetition of the shaliach tzibbur, the Shulchan Aruch wrote (124:4): “If nine people are not paying attention his berachot are close to being l’vatalah (in vain)”.

According to the majority of poskim, a sleeping person and someone who is deaf are counted in a minyan, however, l’chatchila (ideally) it is better that there be nine answering, and therefore the Shulchan Aruch wrote his berachot are “close to being” in vain, in order to encourage the “dreamers” to answer ‘amen‘ (MA, Drisha, and others). Some poskim are machmir not to count in the minyan someone who does not answer (see, Taz). Others say that in the repetition of the shaliach tzibbur there must be nine people answering, but for other recitations of kedusha there is no need (Shulchan Arukh HaRav, Bach). However, if the deaf person reads lips and has kavana to answer ‘amen‘, it is possible that even in the opinion of the poskim who are machmir, he is counted.

In practice, the halakha goes according to the opinion of the majority of poskim, namely, that both someone sleeping and a deaf person are counted in the minyan, but ideally it is correct to be stringent in the repetition of the shaliach tzibbur, that if there are not nine people answering, they should daven once, without the repetition: At the beginning, the shaliach tzibbur recites the first three blessings aloud, so that they can answer kedusha. In Shacharit (the Morning Prayer), when there are kohanim present, he also recites the last three blessings aloud, and the kohanim pray on the duchan (podium), so they can recite ‘Birkat Kohanim‘.

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

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed