Chanukah Candle Lighting Today

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

The Proper Time and Duration of Lighting

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

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

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

Ma’ariv (Evening Services) and Candle Lighting

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

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

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

Cancelling a Regular Torah Class  

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

Those Returning Late from Work

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

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

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

Waiting for a Spouse

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

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

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

Waiting for Children

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

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

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

Do Children Light Candles? (For Sephardim)

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

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

Candle Lighting at Public Gatherings

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

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

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

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

Where to Light in an Apartment Building

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

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

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

Where to Light in a Private House

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

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

To Light Candles by the Door or by the Window?

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

The Candles

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

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

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

Electric Light Bulbs

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

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

Don’t Resign, Bear the Burden

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

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

The Logic behind the Haredi Position

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partnership in a Business that Violates Shabbat

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

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

The Prohibition of Benefiting from Shabbat Desecration

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

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

The Shabbat Law in the State of Israel

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

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

Separate or Undivided Communities

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

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

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

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

Protest is Measured According to the Benefit

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

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

The Proper Policy in Shabbat Observance

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

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

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

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

‘Gifts to the Poor’ – Shared Cooperation

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

The Torah’s Guidance in Helping the Poor

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

Four Means of Helping

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

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

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

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

Five Gifts for the Poor

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

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

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

The Poor are Responsible for their Livelihood

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

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

Concern for Society as a Whole

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

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

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

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

Today’s Challenge

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

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

The Measurement of Taking ‘Challah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All According to the Type of Flour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Position against the Evil Ridiculer of Rabbis

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

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

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

His Life Story

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

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

The Move to the Slobodka Yeshiva

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

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

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

Mashgiach’ in Kfar Hasidim

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

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

His Doctrine: Be True

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

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

The Measurement of Taking ‘Challah’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Only Animals Suffer

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

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

Cruelty to Animals for Man’s Pleasure

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

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

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

The Suffering of Animals is Similar to that of Man

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

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

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

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

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

Why are the Activists Leftists?

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

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

The Moral Flaw of the Left

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

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

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

Striving for Vegetarianism

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

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

Claims against Ritual Slaughter

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

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

Raising Household Pets

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

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

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

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

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

Cruelty to Animals versus Human Needs

The three determining rules in cases of a conflict between human needs and animal suffering * Cruelty versus mild suffering * Animals possessing developed senses versus those with less * Domestic animals versus wild animals * Due to the great financial loss of chick breeders, it is permissible to destroy chicks with modest suffering * The dispute over whether the killing of animals is considered suffering * There is no holiness in every moment of an animal’s life, thus, it is permissible to kill it in order to prevent it from suffering * The false image created by the Broadcasting Authority regarding the kosher certification of the Rabbinate – another proof the Broadcasting Authority should be shut down

The Rules of Cruelty to Animals

I received several questions and responses following my column on cruelty to animals, and I learned something from each response. From most of them, I learned about the various questions bothering people, and from the hateful responses, I learned just how distorted people’s ethics and thoughts can become – even reaching heights of evilness – as a result of a distorted moral viewpoint.

In order to answer the majority of the questions, I would like to emphasize that the essential rule in this issue is that it requires a balance between two values. On the one hand, the needs of man precede those of animals, as the Torah says: “God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the land and conquer it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land” (Genesis 1:28). After this, the sons of Noah were permitted to eat the flesh of animals, as it is written: “There shall be a fear and dread of you instilled in all the wild beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the sky, in all that will walk the land, and in all the fish of the sea. I have placed them in your hands. Every moving thing that lives shall be to you as food. Like plant vegetation I have now given you everything” (Genesis 9: 2-3). On the other hand, it is a mitzvah to try as best as possible not to afflict animals and not to treat them cruelly. Therefore, when the sons of Noah were permitted to eat meat, the Torah forbade eating ‘eiver min ha’chai’ (a limb torn from a live animal) because of the cruelty it entails.

In practice, when there is a conflict between human needs and the goal of not causing suffering to animals, one must weigh the necessity of man versus the suffering caused to the animal. For example, eating meat is essential for humans, and ritual slaughter causes animals’ minimal suffering, therefore it is permissible to slaughter them. But when it comes to a less vital need for man, or when the need causes the animals’ great suffering, the question is more complex. The halakhic ruling is determined by weighing three basic rules:

The First Rule: Levels of Suffering

There are different levels of suffering: great and terrible suffering, great suffering, and ordinary suffering. Great and terrible suffering is forbidden, just as the Torah forbade eating a limb torn from a live animal. However, in very rare cases, and for highly essential purposes, it is permissible to cause great and terrible suffering to animals, such as the decree to “sterilize” horses (to cut off their feet above their hooves) which were bought in a market of idolatry (Avodah Zara 13a).

Great suffering: Our Sages taught that if a beast fell into an aqueduct on Shabbat and there was no way of feeding it there and consequently it would starve, since this is considered great suffering, it is permitted to violate ‘issurei d’rabanan’ (prohibitions of the Sages) in order to extricate it. But if the beast can be fed there, although it is suffering, since this is not considered a great suffering, one must wait until Shabbat is over, and then extricate it (Shabbat 128b).

Normal suffering: For the purpose of one’s livelihood and other uses of man, it is permissible to cause suffering to animals, including burdening them with loads, and riding horses with bridles that cause them pain. When necessary, it is even permissible to cause them great suffering for the purpose of earning a living, such as training a horse by using a whip, or loading heavy cargoes onto beasts of burden.

The Second Rule: Categories of Animals

Animals are divided into different categories; the more developed the species, the more suffering it feels, and thus, the more careful we must be in dealing with it. The level of development is measured by the brain and nervous system. In mammals such as dogs, beasts, monkeys and dolphins, these systems are relatively developed and therefore feelings of sorrow and joy can be discerned in such animals, they can be even be taught certain things, the mother animal recognizes her children, and takes care of them compassionately. There are also differences between the species of mammals. For example, a dog is more developed than a lamb and thus is more capable of expressing certain emotions, and when afflicted, its suffering is greater. On a lower level of the mammal family are birds; beneath them are reptiles, such as lizards; then fish, and on the lowest level, insects.

Therefore, for example, when a person has to get rid of mice from his house, when possible, it is best to hound them out or kill them quickly, in order to minimize their suffering. But when a person needs to get rid of insects from his home, he can kill them in any manner whatsoever and without hesitation, since their feelings are weaker.

One of the main reasons for the mitzvah of ‘shechita‘ (ritual slaughter) is based on this rule. Therefore, we are commanded to slaughter mammals with two ‘simanim‘ (physical signs), which is the easiest form of death; for birds whose feelings are less sensitive – we are obligated to slaughter them with only one ‘siman‘; for fish and grasshoppers who are even less sensitive – there is no mitzvah of ‘shechita’, rather, they can be killed in the most convenient way for man. Similarly, when scientific research is required when possible, it is preferable to perform it on a species that is less sensitive.

The Third Rule: Assisting Man

The more a beast or animal assists a person, the more compassionately and fairly it should be treated. Therefore, the Torah commanded us to help a donkey who had collapsed under its’ burden (Exodus 23: 5), and not to muzzle a beast, thus preventing it from eating while working (Deuteronomy 25: 4). Consequently, it is more fitting to have mercy on domesticated animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, and chickens, as well as dogs that help guard, and cats that get rid of snakes and mice from one’s house (She’elat Yavetz, 1:110).

On a lower level than this is our treatment of wild animals, which we are not commanded to feed; nevertheless, it is a ‘midat chasidut’ (pious act) to treat them kindly and with compassion, and for this purpose the poskim (Jewish law arbiters) even permitted one to take pains on Shabbat to give his leftover food to abandoned animals (Aruch Ha’Shulchan 324:2-3; M.B. 31).

The Importance of Animal Life

Q: Rabbi, you wrote that following the ban on the force-feeding of geese, geese have become virtually extinct in Israel. Should this be a consideration? What does it matter to a goose how many other geese there are? All it cares about is not being caused to suffer!

A: The basic principle is that subsistence and life are good and positive things. For this purpose, all animals are willing to suffer greatly, chasing all their lives after food and water, and fleeing predators. Therefore, as long as the geese subsist under conditions that are not horrible and threatening, it is preferable.

In regards to man who possesses awareness and responsibility, a dispute ensued between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel: “The former asserting that it were better for man not to have been created than to have been created, and the latter maintaining that it is better for man to have been created than not to have been created” (Eruvin 13b). Whereas animals, by their very survival, are happy – their only instinctive concern is to subsist, with no additional considerations. Unless, of course, they are caused great and terrible suffering, in which case, perhaps they would prefer to die.

The Killing of Male Chicks

Q: Is it permissible to kill male chicks only because they are of no use? Particularly, since they are brutally and cruelly exterminated by shredding or by gas?

A: If male chicks are not in demand because the price of handling them is higher than the price farmers can get for their meat, they are permitted to be killed, because the growers are not duty-bound to feed the chicks until their final day without receiving any financial gain from them. And although this manner of killing them seems harsh, in truth, it is not cruel, because cruelty to animals is measured by the degree of suffering they feel, and the act of killing itself – if done quickly, or with gas used to induce unconsciousness and then death, there is almost no suffering.

Is the Killing of Animals Prohibited?

Moreover, many halachic authorities have clarified that there is a disagreement among the poskim whether there is a prohibition to kill animals. Some are of the opinion that the prohibition against cruelty to animals is only applicable when they are alive, but the prohibition against cruelty to animals does not apply to killing them (Taz, Y.D. 116:6; Nodah B’Yehudah, Mehadurah Tinyana Y.D. 10; Avodat HaGershuni 13). Others say that the prohibition of cruelty to animals also includes the prohibition to kill them, and consequently, only for the purpose of earning a livelihood or honor is it permissible to kill them, just as causing them suffering is permitted (they learned this from Maimonides, ‘Moreh Nevuchim’ 3:48, Chinuch 451, Radbaz, and Ginat V’radim on ‘schita’. This is also what Marhasham wrote, 4:140).

However, it seems that there is no need to say there is disagreement in this matter, since all agree that the longer the suffering, the greater the prohibition, and consequently, the main prohibition of cruelty to animals is when they are alive, and only in a case of great necessity is it permitted to kill them. On the other hand, all can agree that killing involves a certain amount of suffering, even in the mere fact that they cannot continue living, and therefore, without any necessity, it is forbidden to kill them.

Euthanasia for Animals

There is holiness in every human life, and every moment the Divine soul dwells in a person is priceless, and even if a person is suffering from a serious illness, it is forbidden to kill him. On the other hand, animal’s lives’ are not as precious, and therefore the mitzvah is not to cause them suffering; however, there is no mitzvah to guard over their lives. Therefore, a person who has a cat or a dog suffering from a terminal illness or who were injured in an accident, and they suffer without chance of recovery – it is preferable to kill them in a painless manner, in order to prevent them from suffering.

The “Investigation” of the Rabbinate’s Kosher Certification

Q: Recently, an investigative report was broadcast about the kashrut of the Rabbinate in the “Shetach Hefker” program of the Public Broadcasting Authority. It painted an extremely dismal picture. Rabbi, can you watch the program and give an opinion as to whether the Rabbinate’s kashrut approval can still be relied upon?

A: I saw the program – it was appallingly edited. All the important details on which a claim could be based, were not substantiated. The name of the rabbi and the place they were complaining about was not revealed. The statements of the Rabbinate’s representatives were edited and cut, so that the problems were emphasized, and the conclusion that the kashrut certificate could be relied upon was obscured. And then, all of a sudden towards the end of the “investigation,” the ominous tone was switched to a pleasant one, and the interviewer began smiling. What happened? They began talking about a private kashrut organization. This organization’s cooperation with such a program raises doubts about its credibility.

As far as halakha is concerned, even if it becomes clear that from time to time rabbis are found who are not properly supervising, as long as the vast majority of rabbis are known to be honest we go according to the majority, and therefore, the kashrut certificate can be trusted. Only when it turns out that a particular rabbi or place is not reliable does his kashrut cease, and it is a mitzvah to publicize it as soon as possible, as the Chief Rabbinate does.

It is worth repeating here what I wrote last week: Action must be taken to close the Public Broadcasting Authority. Why must we fund propaganda against the Rabbinate with our tax money?

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 Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Geese

There is room for revising the definition of cruelty to animals to meet our times, but with discretion and devoid of political pressure * In the past, force-feeding of animals was not considered cruel and was halachically permissible * Today, counter to modern methods, force-feeding of geese is disputed amongst the poskim * In light of the complexity of the issue, it would have been appropriate to seek a balanced solution as policymakers attempted to do, but the Supreme Court indiscriminately outlawed force-feeding, thus striking a blow to the geese breeding industry * A prayer for a school’s inauguration * The Israel Broadcasting Authority: Another platform of scorn and hatred for the left to exploit, at the expense of the taxpayer

Changes in the Definition of Cruelty to Animals

As we learned in my previous article, a person is permitted to use and afflict animals for the sake of his livelihood. However, animals must not be caused distress systematically with terrible and cruel pain for the sake of making a living – the prohibition of ‘eiver min ha’chai‘ (a limb torn from a live animal) for an example.

I wrote that there is room to argue that together with the rise in man’s standard of living, both morally and economically, the concept of cruelty to animals can also change. And just as in the past certain things were not considered afflictions by man but today are, likewise, there may be things that in the past were not perceived as horrible and cruel pain for animals, but in the future, will be considered as such, and consequently, will be forbidden to be performed systematically for the sake of earning a living. This process can be conducted responsibly, or on the other hand, through violence, threats, and the spreading of lies. If the latter occurs, the rash decisions that policymakers agree to take will then have to be counterbalanced and corrected, or in a worst-case scenario, the “all-knowing” Supreme Court judges will decide. To a certain extent, it seems that this is what happened regarding the force-feeding of geese.

The Fattening of Animals in Halakha

The process of fattening animals does indeed cause them discomfort, however, our Sages regarded it as a tolerable form of distress that could be performed ‘l’chatchila’ (from the outset) for the purpose of earning a living (just as man is also willing to toil and denigrate himself for his livelihood). Thus, we have learned (Tractate Shabbat 155b) that camels were force-fed, i.e., food would be forcefully pushed down their throats to an area in their body where they could not spit it up, so they would be able to walk in the desert for several days without eating. Similarly, calves and roosters would be force-fed in order to fatten them.

It was also customary for geese to be force-fed in order to fatten them, to the point where the geese forgot how to eat on their own without food being forced down their throats, and as a result, the rabbis permitted non-Jews to force-feed them on Shabbat so they would not suffer due to starvation (Responsa, R’ma 79). However, a problem arose that as a result of the food being forced down their throats, their esophagus was wounded, and there was fear that the goose had become ‘treif’ (non-kosher). Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) permitted geese to be eaten after the esophagus was checked (R’ma, Y.D., 33:9, and several others), while other poskim forbade it, reasoning that the geese could possibly have been made ‘treif’, but when checked, the wound had gone undetected (Bach, and several others).

The Issue of Force-Feeding Geese Today

In the last few generations the process of force-feeding has developed, and instead of being done manually, machines are now used. Additionally, breeders found that in order to enlarge the liver it was advantageous to force-feed the goose corn and curtail its movement, and as a result, they were able to increase the goose’s liver ten times its natural size. Some poskim believe that by doing so, the goose’s suffering is increased because it is fed in larger amounts. In addition, dry corn increases the risk of damaging its esophagus and making it ‘treif‘. Conversely, there are those who believe that this does not cause greater suffering than in the past; not only that but in recent times the method has been refined and breeders began feeding the geese a liquid corn porridge inserted into their stomach with a thin tube, in a way that does not burden them during the force-feeding process, and also reduces the risk of making them ‘treif‘. Still, several poskim argue that increasing the liver to ten times its natural size causes the goose immense suffering and difficulty in breathing and walking. As far as practical halakha is concerned, there are some poskim who are inclined to forbid it because of ‘tzar ba’alei chayim‘ (cruelty to animals) (Rabbi Yaakov Epstein in “Chevel Nachalato” 9:26), while others say it is not forbidden (Rabbi Itai Elitzur in ‘Techumim’ 24; Rabbi Pinchas Toledano, ‘Brit Shalom’, Vol.2, Choshen Mishpat 7). Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel shlita is of the opinion that it is not forbidden, but it is not ‘mehudar’ (not the greatest), and therefore, the kashrut given to goose liver is ‘kosher’ and not ‘glatt’.

In such a situation, it would have been appropriate to set restrictions on the extent of force-feeding, in order to balance human needs with the suffering of the geese, in a way breeders could continue raising and fattening geese. In practice, as a result of the fierce struggles of animal welfare organizations against the geese breeders, a law prohibiting force-feeding of geese was enacted in several countries. In the State of Israel, politicians attempted to regulate an interim plan with geese breeders that would allow force-feeding to continue under more favorable conditions. However, the Supreme Court judges decided to accept the position of the animal welfare organizations and completely prohibited force-feeding of geese in Israel.

In practice, geese have virtually become extinct in the State of Israel, and it is highly doubtful whether the surviving geese and those prevented from being born, are happier today… Apparently, they are oblivious to all this, just as they were oblivious to the terrible suffering that people attributed to them.

A Prayer for the Inauguration of the Har Bracha Schools

On Tuesday we merited inaugurating two new school buildings (one for boys, one for girls) together with Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The schools began six years ago in temporary buildings, and with the grace of God, today there are already over 200 students in each school, all residents of the community. In light of the growing numbers, there are already two classes, both boys and girls, in the first grade, and according to the rate in the kindergartens and day-care centers, in six years the number of students will be more than double.

Here, I must mention that this blessed growth is taking place in all areas of the Samaria Regional Council. This year, there are approximately 800 students in sixth-grade classes, and in the compulsory kindergarten, there are approximately 1,400 students (this, in addition to the students of the local councils, such as Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, and others). However, it should be noted that the main increase in population is in communities located close to the “Green Line”; unique, is the community of Har Bracha, which, despite being located in ‘Gav Ha’Har’ on the frontlines of Jewish settlement – manages to grow as fast.

Instead of delivering a speech I invoked a prayer to God, envisioning the layout of the Holy Temple. In this article, I omitted from the prayer a few sentences referring to Har Bracha, so that the prayer would be suitable for all schools.

“May it be the will of the Lord our God, and the God of our fathers that in the schools we are happy to inaugurate today, boys and girls will be brought up and educated towards faith in the great vision that God intended for His People Israel, to bring blessing to the world by walking in His ways and settling the Land, as it is written: “God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).

May it be the will of our Father in Heaven that the ‘Kodesh Ha’Kodeshim’ (the ‘Holy of Holies’) be symbolized in the schools by the education of the students towards loyalty to the ‘brit‘ (covenant) between God and His People Israel, the study of Torah and the fulfillment of its commandments, and the building of families with love and joy, as expressed in the ‘Luchot HaBrit’ (‘Tablets of the Covenant’), the Torah, and the ‘Cherubim’ in the Holy of Holies.

May it be His will that from this stems education of the world’s various wisdoms and sciences, and participation in ‘yishuvo shel ha’olam’ (development of the world) – each child according to the source of his soul and unique character, as symbolized in the ‘Shulchan’ (‘Table of the Showbread’) and the ‘Menorah’ (the seven-branched candelabra) in the ‘Mikdash‘ (‘Holy’).

May the dear and precious teachers, both male and female, merit educating all their students towards excellence in Torah, good character traits, and good deeds; to educate their students to believe in the talents that God has given them, to teach them to pray and elevate their aspirations and yearnings, until each and every child is privileged to refine his unique talent – as symbolized by the ‘ketoret‘ (incense) on the ‘Mizbayach Ha’zahav‘ (‘Golden Alter’).

May the schools educate towards devotion to Judaism’s sacred values, for these values exist only out of devotion and sacrifice. May the sacrifice be one of a life of devotion, and not in the sanctification of the lives of soldiers and holy settlers killed in the sanctification of God, the Nation, and the Land.

May it be His will that out of loyalty to the Torah, the Nation, and the Land, the students merit developing their talents in the study of foreign languages, in order to realize Israel’s universal vision, as the prophet said: “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of God and serve him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).

May it be God’s will that these schools produce Torah scholars who will illuminate the world, scientists who will reveal the secrets of creation for a blessing, public activists who are dedicated and loyal, and men of valor and action in all spheres of life.

And when the graduates of the schools grow up and become grandparents, and their grandchildren ask them to tell them a little about how they achieved such important ideals in their lives, they will recall how wonderful and productive their time was in their elementary school.

And may we all merit seeing the settling of our cherished Land and the redemption of all its expanses, and the building of the Holy Temple in our days.”

Concerning the Israel Broadcasting Authority

Last Motzei Shabbat, while enjoying a ‘Melaveh Malka’ meal, I listened to the “Hidabroot” radio show, moderated by Kobi Barkai on Reshet Bet. He interviewed the leftist, religious professor Avi Sagi. I listened to the show for about twenty minutes, and that was enough to ruin my pleasurable meal. Sagi vented hatred and contempt for the National-Religious public, its values, and its rabbis. He referred to the words of our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook in regards to the Holocaust with insensitivity and wickedness, plucking out a few sentences that had been spoken figuratively, from an entire philosophical worldview.

I have never heard a radio show that allowed someone to speak at such length with so much hate, contempt, and slander about another group, with the interviewer all the while addressing his hateful diatribe as praiseworthy truth!

The additional attempt to establish a broadcasting authority at the expense of the public has failed. Aside from the fact that the absolute majority of the presenters, interviewers, and commentators are staunch leftists, they still dare to broadcast such a contemptuous program at the expense of public funds without any response. By the way, apparently it’s impossible to produce a parallel radio program from the right-wing because it’s impossible to find a rational person from the religious public who would express such hatred and contempt for left-wingers!

The mask of “objectivity” and ” neutrality ” behind which the public broadcasting bodies are hiding – at a cost to the taxpayer of nearly NIS 1 billion a year – must be torn away, and then, decisive action must be taken to cancel the Israel Broadcasting Authority and Galei Tzahal (the Army Radio station), so that from here on in, the leftists will have to contend with the need to win over the trust of the public without any monopolies, or public funding. In connection to this, now is the opportunity to recommend Erez Tadmor’s book “Why You Vote for the Right but Receive the Left?” This is an important and incisive book that pierces the heart and provokes reform.

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:

Animals Should Be Used, Not Abused

Human needs precede those of animals * Nevertheless, it is a mitzvah to treat animals with mercy and compassion, and not to afflict them uselessly * Just as a person burdens himself and takes pain to earn a living, so too, he is permitted to afflict his animals when necessary * It is permitted to afflict animals for the sake of human or national dignity, and also for the sake of faith and the preservation of the Torah * The disputes among the poskim regarding raising animals under crowded conditions, and starvation * Even if the standard of living of animals has changed, in the same manner as that of human beings, any legislation on this issue must be responsible, and free of external pressures

Man’s Relation to Animals

It is permissible for a person to use animals for the sake of his work, just as it was customary in the past to load burdens on donkeys and mules, to plow with oxen and horses, to ride on horses, camels and donkeys, and even to eat the flesh of animals. Not only that, but it is a mitzvah to offer sacrifices from animals and birds, including the mitzvot of the ‘seir ha’mishtalayach‘ (the scapegoat of Yom Kippur), and the ‘eglah arufa’ (the decapitated calf). This is the meaning of our Sages statement, that animals were created to serve man (Kiddushin 82a; Sanhedrin 108a), including eating their flesh. It can be said that just as animals are permitted to eat vegetation, so too, man is permitted to eat animals.

Nevertheless, it is indeed a mitzvah to treat them compassionately and decently, and it is forbidden to cause them needless pain; consequently, we are commanded when we see a donkey lying under its burden, to help unload it (Exodus 23:5; Bava Metzia 32b); not to muzzle an ox when it is treading grain (Deuteronomy 25:4); and not to eat until we give them their food (Gittin 62a).

Thus, we see that striking a balance between the two values is essential: on the one hand, human needs precede those of animals, and on the other hand, we must try to the best of our ability not to afflict them.

The ‘Heter‘ (Permission) for the Sake of Earning a Living

It is permissible for a person to afflict animals (‘tzar ba’alei chayim’) when his purpose is not to cause them pain, but rather, for the sake of ‘parnasa‘ (livelihood), such as burdening them with loads, hitting them so they stride, riding horses and leading them by means of a painful bridle in their mouths, urging them to gallop quickly by whipping them with a lash, or sticking the spurs of one’s boots in their sides. True, the ‘Ba’alei Mussar‘ (the masters of Jewish ethics) warned to treat animals with compassion – not to burden them with heavy loads, or tug at their bridles and beat them unnecessarily. But just as man struggles, sweats, and demeans himself for the sake of his livelihood, his beast also shares in the burden along with him, and since animals’ standing and sensitivities are inferior, it can be subjugated to more difficult and agonizing work. However, afflicting animals beyond necessity is forbidden, and moreover, if an animal is suffering in vain, it is a mitzvah to rescue it from its suffering.

Affliction for the Sake of Human Dignity and Beliefs

Not only that, but just as human beings now and then are willing to bear great sorrow for their dignity and beliefs, in the same way – and even more so – at times, it is permitted to afflict animals for the sake of the dignity and beliefs of human beings. Thus, we find that God commanded Joshua before Israel’s war against the kings of the north, to ‘sterilize’ their horses and burn their chariots (Joshua 11: 6). ‘Sterilizing’ the horses meant the cutting off of their legs above their hooves, causing them to stumble on the stumps of their legs, in shame for having participated in the war against Israel. And even though the horses could have been captured as spoil or killed, Joshua was commanded to ‘sterilize’ them in order to leave them crippled, thus teaching the enemies, and Israel, not to put their trust in horses, and for all to see the horses that were once the pride of the fighters, limping in search of pasture to remain alive (Radak, Abarbanel). And although this ‘sterilization’ caused the horses’ tremendous pain, we learned from this that for the sake of a great moral purpose such as this, it is permissible to afflict animals.

In the same manner, after the death of a king, due to his honor, all his vessels would be burned, so that others would not use them; this included the ‘sterilization’ of his horses’ and animals’ legs, i.e. they would cut off their legs above their hooves, so they could not be used. And although this ‘sterilization’ caused them great pain, the honor of the king, which in effect is the honor of the nation, was more important (Avodah Zarah 11a, Tosfot “okrin”).

Similarly, we find that Rabbi Yehudah permitted the sale of roosters to non-Jews, and to prevent them from using it for idolatry, its’ finger would be cut off. Thus, we see that for financial profit, our Sages permitted the affliction of an animal by way of cutting off a finger (Mishna, Avoda Zara 13:2).

For the Purpose of Preventing a Transgression

We also find that our Sages fined someone who went to trade on a market day devoted to idolatry, that everything he bought there was destroyed, and if he bought cattle, they would cut off their legs above their hooves so the purchaser would not be able to derive benefit from them. And although this entailed ‘tzar ba’alei chayim’ (unnecessary suffering to animals), our Sages decreed to do so in order to distance Jews from idolatry (Avodah Zarah 13a; Tosfot, “amar Abaye”).

Similarly, the Sages ruled that if a person dedicated a beast to the Temple while the Temple was destroyed, to prevent him from stumbling in the sin of using a sanctified animal, they would place it in a fenced-off enclosure so that it would die there of starvation. The Sages did not propose it be slaughtered and thus minimize its suffering, lest someone mistakenly eat its flesh. And they did not suggest killing it in another manner, in order not to be perceived as imposing a defect on sanctified animals (Avodah Zarah 13b). We see then, that for the sake of preventing a person from sinning, our Sages instructed the affliction of an animal by starvation (Ramban, ibid).

The Prohibition of Benefitting or Earning a Living from Cruelty

Nevertheless, without an essential need for man, it is forbidden to afflict animals. Therefore, it is forbidden for a person who enjoys beating and torturing animals to do so, since this has no real purpose other than satisfying his instinct of cruelty. And even if there are cruel people who are willing to pay a dog owner a million shekels if he gives them his dog so they can torture it, it is forbidden for him to do so for any sum of money, because such torture has no essential need other than cruelty, which is forbidden from the Torah.

It is also forbidden for an edgy person in a bad mood to beat animals cruelly, and even if he claims that by beating them, it helps him calm his nerves, it is forbidden from the Torah (Igrot Moshe, Even HaEzer, sect. 4:92, and seemingly as well from the definition of the Chatam Sofer in Bava Metzia 32b).

Methods of Raising Cattle and Poultry for Food

The general rule is that anything a person does for his own benefit, and not out of cruelty, is permitted. Therefore, it is permitted to raise chickens and calves for meat in overly crowded conditions in order to save money on their growing costs. Similarly, it is also permissible to raise chickens for eggs and cows for milk in very crowded conditions, for just as a person is willing to suffer the hardships of working and living in overcrowded places in order to save costs, all the more so is he permitted to crowd animals in order to save costs.

Nonetheless, there are some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who are inclined to say that when it involves immense and terrible suffering it is forbidden, because the ‘heter’ (rabbinical permission)
to afflict great suffering on animals, such as the cutting-off of the horses legs above their hooves, was a rare ‘heter’ for a special purpose – for the honor of the monarchy or for the removal of idolatry, but it is forbidden to afflict great suffering on a regular and systematic basis for the sake of earning a living (Rabbi Eliyahu Klatzkin in ‘Imrei Shefer’ 34; Y.D. 196). Many poskim are inclined to say that as long as it is for the sake of earning a living, it is permitted to afflict animals with great suffering (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kamma 10:37; Shvut Yaakov 3:71; Chatam Sofer, Bava Metzia 32b; Sulchan Aruch HaRav Tzar Ba’alei Chaim 4; Daat Kedoshim, Y.D. 24:12).

However, in practice, the questions are generally not based on the principle, rather, the debate is whether this is indeed considered immense and terrible suffering, for under normal circumstances, raising animals for their meat, milk, and eggs does not involve immense and terrible suffering.

An Example: Starving Chicken

Naturally, the chickens lay eggs from the age of six months until they reach the age of twenty months, and then, they are slaughtered. It is possible to extend the egg-laying period by starving them in the fifteenth month for ten days, and consequently, as a result of their starvation, their feathers fall off; then, upon feeding once again, their strength returns, their feathers re-grow, and they are able to lay eggs until they are twenty-eight months old. May chickens be starved and afflicted for this purpose? Some poskim say it is forbidden, because for the sake of earning a living one is only permitted to afflict animals with routine suffering, but there is no ‘heter’ to afflict them with immense pain for the sake of earning a livelihood, because this would already be considered cruelty (Shevet HaLevi 2:7). But in the opinion of Rabbi Goldberg, the rabbi of Kfar Pines, such a method of raising chickens is permitted since it is done for the benefit of the economy, and this is the purpose of raising birds. In addition, in the long run, starvation makes the chickens healthier – the fact is, they live longer (Ha’aretz ve’Mitzvotey’ha, and codified as well, in Minchat Yitzchak 6:145).

In practice, it seems appropriate to follow the lenient opinion, both from the side of its logic, and also because in such issues rabbis from agricultural moshavim have an advantage, for they are considered the ‘mara d’atra’ (“master of the locality”) because they are thoroughly familiar with the methods of raising animals and birds, and know how to properly weigh the benefits of growers, against cruelty to animals. On the other hand, those unfamiliar with the methods of raising birds and calves are sometimes shocked to see them. This is analogous to a city-dweller arriving at a remote village, and is shocked by the sight of people living in huts without electricity and water as their ancestors did for generations, or a countryman who comes to a city and is shocked by the overcrowding, congestion, noise, and pollution in which the locals live.

The Possibility of Change in the Definition of Affliction

There is room to say, however, that with the increase in the standard of living of human beings, both morally and economically, the concept of ‘tzar ba’alei chayim’ can also change. Just as in the past certain things were not perceived as affliction to human beings but today are, in a similar fashion, there may be things that in the past were not perceived as immense and terrible sorrow for animals, but in the future will be considered as such, and thus forbidden to be performed systematically for the sake of ‘parnasa‘. Such a position can have an impact on individuals who will abstain from eating the flesh of animals that are raised under conditions they consider cruel. This position can also affect the general public, whose representatives will responsibly weigh the totality of values, and establish laws that will reduce the suffering of animals and birds raised for the food industry, while at the same time, impose the additional economic costs of enforcing these laws on the general public, without harming the poor. In a less favorable scenario, Knesset members will be swayed by the public pressures of the representatives of animal rights organizations, and without profound moral consideration, determine laws appealing to those with influence, while ignoring the poor.

With God’s help, I will continue discussing this issue next week.

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 Enveloping Light of the Sukkah

The mitzvah of sitting in the Sukkah is unique in sanctifying man’s daily routines. The eating and drinking, the chatting, and the sleeping which we do in the Sukkah are elevated and sanctified to the point where they are deemed mitzvoth.

It is specifically on Sukkot that we merit this, because Sukkot is ‘Chag HaAsif’ (the holiday of in-gathering). This is when both the physical and spiritual in-gathering of the year are completed – the in-gathering of grain and fruit, as well as the in-gathering of all our Torah study and all of our good deeds. Thanks to the repentance and atonement that we undergo during the month of Elul and Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the ten days of repentance), this in-gathering is innocent and pure, and we can thoroughly enjoy it.

Sukkah and the Land of Israel

In this sense, the mitzvah to live in the Sukkah and the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel are similar (Vilna Ga’on, cited in Kol HaTor 1:7). Both of these mitzvoth envelop us, and we immerse ourselves in their atmosphere of holiness. By doing so, even our mundane activities become sanctified.

By settling the Land, the Jewish people show the world that when life is illuminated by faith and Torah, everything becomes sanctified: eating, drinking, and sleeping; family life and interpersonal relationships; work and craft; business and scientific research.

The Sukkah of Peace

If we gather together all the different types and degrees of goodness, even those which seem to contradict each other, God spreads His Sukkah of peace over us, and the Jewish people stand united and with solidarity. If each positive quality stands alone, there is no unity. But on the holiday of in-gathering, when all positive qualities are gathered together, unity appears. Thus our Sages state: “It is appropriate for all Jews to sit in one Sukkah” (Sukkah 27b). Similarly, taking the four species together hints at the variety of Jews who join together on Sukkot.

The Land of Israel unites the entire Jewish people, including all its groups and subgroups; the redemption depends upon this. Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that all the evil in the world has risen up against the Jewish people, which has returned to rebuild its homeland in accordance with God’s word as conveyed by His servants the prophets.

Israel and the Nations of the World

Since Sukkot reveals the sanctity of all spheres of life, the holiday is relevant to non-Jews (who are traditionally referred to as the seventy nations of the world). Accordingly, our Sages state that the seventy bulls which we offered in the Temple over the course of Sukkot were offered on behalf of the seventy nations. (See Peninei HalakhaLaws of Sukkot 1:13).

Our relationship with non-Jews is complex. Throughout our long history, they often viciously abused us; nevertheless, our basic attitude towards them is positive.

The following two quotes from the Sages illustrate this attitude. The Talmud states, “Woe to the non-Jews, who lost something but do not know what they lost. When the Temple stood, the altar atoned for them. Now who atones for them?!” (Sukkah 55b). According to the Midrash, “The Jews said, ‘Master of the Universe, we offer seventy bulls [for the non-Jews]; they should love us, but they hate us.’ Thus we read in Psalms 109:4: ‘They answer my love with accusation, but I am all prayer'” (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:24).

Sukkot in the Future

Because Sukkot is the holiday which expresses the connection between Jews and non-Jews, in the future it will be the litmus test for the nations of the world. All who ascend to Jerusalem on Sukkot, to bow before God and to celebrate together with the Jewish people, will merit great blessing. This accords with what Zechariah says about non-Jews: “All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a yearly pilgrimage to bow to the King, Lord of Hosts, and to observe the holiday of Sukkot. Any of the earth’s communities that do not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow to the King, Lord of Hosts, shall receive no rain. . . It shall be afflicted by the same plague with which the Lord will strike the other nations that do not come up to observe the holiday of Sukkot” (Zechariah 14:16-18).

Attitude towards Philo-Semitic Christians

In modern times, we have witnessed increased support for Israel among evangelical Christians. Lord Balfour is probably the best-known among them. Thanks to his belief in the Bible, he spearheaded the British decision to establish a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the numbers of philo-Semitic evangelicals have increased. They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel.

However, Jews must deal with the question of how to relate to friendly Christians. For close to two thousand years, Christians have persecuted the Jewish people – murdering, debasing, expelling, or forcibly converting them. How is it that suddenly Christians love us? Furthermore, how do we handle the Rambam’s declaration that Christianity is idolatry?

The Attitude towards the Jews and the Torah Is the Litmus Test

It would seem that everything depends on their attitude towards the Jewish people and the Torah. The most serious problem we have with Christianity is its denial of God’s choice of the Jewish people and of the eternal relevance of the Torah. Christians have classically believed in supersessionism, maintaining that they have replaced the Jews and that the Torah and its commandments are no longer binding. Because of these beliefs, they caused us a tremendous amount of suffering. Additionally, they did as much as they possibly could to convert Jews to Christianity.

As Rabbi Kook puts it: “The primary poison contained in belief systems which deviate from the Torah, such as Christianity and Islam, is not in their concepts of God, even though they differ from what is correct according to the fundamental light of the Torah. Rather, [the poison] is in what results from them –abrogating the practical mitzvot and extinguishing the [Jewish] nation’s hope regarding its complete renaissance” (Shemonah KevatzimKovetz 1, #32).

Elsewhere, in discussing Jewish attitudes towards different religions, Rabbi Kook states that our goal is not to replace or nullify them, but rather to gradually elevate and correct them, so their dross will disappear. This will inevitably lead [the religions] to return to their Jewish source (Igrot HaRa’ayah, Vol. 1, p. 142). It seems that Christian philo-Semites are undergoing a very impressive process of elevation never previously experienced by Christianity. Therefore, with the appropriate caution, we are spiritually and ethically obligated to relate to this process very positively.

Tommy Waller

Recently, a troublemaker distributed libelous materials accusing Tommy Waller, an American Christian, of being a missionary. This despite the fact that Tommy has been actively recruiting Christian volunteers for Israel for ten years, and not a single Jew claims that Tommy or any of the thousands of people he has brought here have tried to undermine their faith. Therefore, I feel it is incumbent upon me to speak on his behalf.

Out of an abiding faith in the uniqueness of the Jewish people and in the Divine mission to settle the Land, Tommy has rallied support for Israel from American Congressmen and Senators. The (former) head of the Shomron Regional Council, Mr. Gershon Mesika, told me that Tommy’s activities have been very influential. Each year, through the summer, he organizes groups of Christians who love Israel to volunteer here. As he is a big believer in family values, many of the volunteers come with their entire families, including the young and the elderly. In recent years, at the request of the Regional Council, the Har Bracha settlement has hosted the volunteers on a hilltop near our community. From this base, the volunteers set out to work in vineyards and orchards throughout the Shomron.

Because of our difficult history with Christians, and due to concerns about possible missionizing, I felt it necessary to meet with Tommy. I wanted to have an upfront discussion with him about precisely what his positions were. At the same time, I wanted to convey a Jewish position without kowtowing or obsequiousness.

In the course of our conversation, I asked him: “If a Jew were to come before you and ask you whether it is better to be a Jew or a Christian what would you tell him?” He responded: “I would tell him to be a Jew!” Tommy added that he had not always thought this way. Originally, like other Christians, he was interested in everyone becoming Christian, but eventually he realized that this earlier position was the result of ignorance. Now, following his exposure to the Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel, he wishes for all Jews to observe the Torah and mitzvoth.

I asked Tommy what led him to dedicate his life to bringing Christian volunteers to Israel. He told me that he read Isaiah 61:5: “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your plowmen and vine-trimmers.” This greatly moved him, and he said to himself: “Maybe I can be the one who is privileged to fulfill this holy verse!” Ever since then, he has encouraged people to visit Israel and to help Jews work the land.

Every summer Tommy brings hundreds of volunteers, some for a week and some for longer periods. They bring us greetings of peace and friendship from tens of millions of Americans who love us, and when they return home they serve as loyal ambassadors for Israel.

For the Sake of Heaven

When I began to look into this issue a number of years ago, I publicly declared that I would not accept any money for myself or my yeshiva from Christian friends of Israel, so that I could research the subject without a conflict of interest. I also made a statement to that effect in my column about two years ago.

In the meantime, at the initiative of a Jewish go-between, the Har Bracha settlement received such a donation, 120,000 shekels which it used towards building a park that cost over half a million shekels. When I heard about this, I asked the secretary general of Har Bracha to do me a favor and return the money. This was not because I felt there was any halakhic problem with accepting it, but because I wanted our positive attitude towards Christian philo-Semites to be purely for the sake of heaven. The righteous secretary general apologized and said he had not thought I had included the settlement in my commitment. (In truth, while I am the rabbi of the settlement, I cannot make commitments for it.) To my delight, he nevertheless responded positively to my request and returned the entire amount.

Hopes of Redemption

Sometimes I see these honored guests walking on our roads and paths, and I am filled with great love; I am deeply moved and have to hold back tears. How beautiful are these people, who volunteer enthusiastically, crossing oceans and continents to come express their wonderful connection with us. How they shine with joy at being privileged to see the miraculous return to Zion, to walk on holy ground, and to contribute to making the desert bloom. Perhaps they are the pioneers who begin to fulfill the words of the prophecy:


“In the end of days, the Mountain of the Lord’s House shall stand firm above the mountains and tower above the hills, and all the nations shall stream towards it. Many peoples shall go and say: “Let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, that He may instruct us in His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For Torah shall come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge among the nations and arbitrate for the many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not take up sword against nation, and they shall never again know war” (Isaiah 2:2-4).


For related articles by Rabbi Melamed, see “Christians Who Love Israel” and “Make His Deeds Known Among the Nations.”

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

Return to Torah, Faith, and Intimacy

The Holy of Holies expressed the foundations of faith, and in its absence on Yom Kippur, we should return to the value of faith, and to the belief that the world can be repaired in its light * The Holy of Holies is also the place of the Torah, and now is the time to strengthen our bond to it * Similar to the daughters of Israel of old who danced in the vineyards on Yom Kippur, nowadays on Yom Kippur, it is also appropriate for single men and women to pray for their match, and to clarify their aspirations * Those who need to take pills during the fast can swallow them if they do not have a good taste * Comfortable shoes are forbidden comparable to leather shoes * Social protests: Many of the struggles cause more damage to society than good

Yom Kippur – the Holy of Holies

The essence of ‘teshuva‘ (repentance) lies in the uppermost of sources, and thus, the primary service of Yom Kippur in the ‘Beit Ha’Mikdash‘ (Holy Temple) took place in the ‘Kodesh HaKodeshim’ (the ‘Holy of Holies’, the Inner Sanctuary). The ‘Beit Ha’Mikdash‘ is the place where Godly values ​​are revealed, and are drawn from there to the entire world. In the ‘Heichal‘ (Sanctuary), entitled ‘Kodesh‘, was situated the ‘menorah‘ (candelabrum), symbolizing all of human wisdom; the ‘shulchan‘ (the ‘Table of the Showbread’) symbolizing all types of work with which man makes a livelihood; and the ‘mizbayach ha’ketoret’ (the ‘Altar of Incense’) symbolizing the prayers and yearnings for closeness to God. On a more exalted level, in the ‘Kodesh Ha’Kodeshim‘, the ‘Holy of Holies’, the foundation of Israel’s faith and Torah is revealed. Thus, the ‘Aron Ha’Brit‘ (the Holy Ark), in which the ‘luchot HaBrit’ (Tablets of the Law) and the Torah were placed, was situated in the ‘Holy of Holies’, and above it were the two ‘Cherubim’ symbolizing the covenantal connection and love between God and Israel. From the ‘Holy of Holies’, life force is drawn to the entire world, to all the various human wisdoms and types of work, and to all living beings and their longings. Only the Kohen Ha’Gadol (High Priest) himself, in the name of all of Israel, would enter the ‘Holy of Holies’ on Yom Kippur, so as to unite the entire world with its source, and thereby draw to it atonement, forgiveness, and life.

After the destruction of the Holy Temple and the subsequent exile, the sanctity of the ‘Holy of Holies’ is revealed by way of Israel’s desires and yearnings for God’s name to be sanctified on His nation of Israel, on His city of Jerusalem, on Zion the dwelling place of His glory, on the kingdom of the House of David, on His foundation and sanctuary, and God alone will reign King over all His works.

Return to the Values ​​of the ‘Holy of Holies’

The repentance of Yom Kippur is the return to the basic values ​​revealed in the ‘Holy of Holies’. First and foremost is the value of ‘emunah‘ (faith), which is compatible to Israel’s ideals. For indeed, the purpose of the Jewish people is to reveal faith in God and Divine ideals – in other words, the way to live in this world in the light of the Divine values according to the guidance of the Torah, until the world’s complete rectification. This ideal is expressed in the infinite belief that it is always possible to correct reality, and elevate it to a higher level. The tablets of the Ten Commandments placed in the Ark in the ‘Holy of Holies’ symbolized the covenant of faith between God and Israel, receiving expression through the commandments of the Torah – the essence of which is the Ten Commandments. The ‘Cherubim’ above the ark also hinted to the connection between God and ‘Knesset Yisrael’ (the Assembly of Israel).

Consequently, the main prayers on Yom Kippur concern ‘Clal Yisrael‘, in whose redemption the revelation of faith and redemption of the entire world depends.

Awakening to Torah Study

Inside the Ark were the Tablets of the Law, and a Torah scroll was also placed in the ‘Holy of Holies’. True, there is a dispute as to whether it was placed inside the Ark, or on its side. The opinion that the Torah scroll was placed inside the Ark is understandable, for the Torah is the foundation for all the revelation of God’s Word to the world and His guidance. The question is: What is the reasoning of those Torah scholars who believe that the Torah scroll was placed on the side of the Ark? Perhaps it can be explained that in their opinion the Torah is not only the tangible Torah scroll itself, i.e., the Written Torah alone, rather, the Torah includes both the Written and the Oral Torah; consequently, the Tablets of the Law, which symbolize the covenant between God and ‘Knesset Yisrael‘ expresses the entire Torah, and therefore only they were placed in the Ark.

As a continuation to the Yom Kippur service in the ‘Holy of Holies’, it would be appropriate on Yom Kippur for every man and woman, old and young, to connect to the Torah with greater drive and enthusiasm, and take upon ourselves to increase and deepen our Torah study in the coming year. Shabbat is the day on which one must be most diligent about increasing Torah study, because by learning on Shabbat, illumination is drawn from the ‘Holy of Holies’ and infused into the practical aspects of life. This is particularly appropriate for those engaged in ‘yishuv ha’olam’ (developing society practically), upon whose Torah study on Shabbat, ‘Tikkun Ha-Olam‘ and its redemption, depends.

Establishing Blessed Jewish Families

When the ‘Beit HaMikdash’ existed, after the service of the ‘Kohen HaGadol’ in the Temple, the daughters of Jerusalem would dance in the orchards, and in this manner, find their future husbands. Seemingly, one could ask: How could it be that on the sacred and awesome Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, they concerned themselves with finding their spouse? However, establishing a Jewish family is interrelated to the ‘Holy of Holies’, as our Sages said concerning a husband and wife who are loyal to each other, that the Divine Presence abides among them (Sotah 17a), for through their loyalty and love, Divine unity is revealed in the world. Similarly, the Ari HaKadosh said that the mitzvah to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), regarding which Rabbi Akiva said, “This is a great rule in the Torah” (Safra, ibid.), is fulfilled in its completeness between husband and wife. We also find that the shape of the ‘Cherubs‘ placed on the Ark in the ‘Holy of Holies’ was in the form of a man and woman fulfilling the mitzvah of conjugal relations. This comes to teach us that holiness does not diminish life, but rather, empowers it. And when Israel ceased to do the will of God, the ‘Cherubs‘ parted one another, turning their faces towards the Temple (Bava Batra 99a).

Think and Pray about Matchmaking

True, nowadays we do not engage in matchmaking on Yom Kippur. Perhaps because we do not deserve to do so when the Temple is destroyed. In any case, seeing as the sanctity of Yom Kippur is interrelated with the sanctity of the Jewish family, it is appropriate for all single men and women to think and pray about finding their respective partners. Often, the negative character traits of pride and greed prevent a person from finding a suitable match. On Yom Kippur, when one’s pure soul is revealed, he is able to reflect more accurately about his aspirations in life, and about a truly suitable match with whom he can fulfill a life of Torah and mitzvot, and together, increase joy and life.

Married couples should also repent on Yom Kippur for not having loved and cheered each other properly, and pray they will unite in love and joy, that the ‘Shekhina’ (Divine Presence) dwell between them, and merit raising sons and daughters engaged in Torah and mitzvoth.

Swallowing Medications on Yom Kippur

It is permissible for a person who regularly takes pills every day to swallow them on Yom Kippur, and likewise, a sick person experiencing discomfort due to his illness is permitted to swallow pills for medicinal purposes on Yom Kippur, provided the pills do not have a good taste and one makes sure to swallow them without water. A person who cannot swallow pills without water can mix a drop of soap into the water, thereby significantly spoiling its taste, and with this water, swallow the pill.

Also, someone who suffers from severe headaches due to a lack of coffee or for other reasons, is permitted to take pills containing caffeine, or pills to relieve headaches. Likewise, someone who knows that fasting is liable to cause an outbreak of pain, such as a one who suffers from migraine headaches, is permitted to take pills in advance to prevent the onset of such pain.

Shoes Made of Rubber or Cloth

It is forbidden on Yom Kippur to wear shoes or sandals that people regularly wear while walking outside in places where there are stones, no matter what material they are made of. But it is permissible to wear cloth slippers or very plain rubber shoes which people do not regularly wear outdoors in places where there are stones and gravel. True, in the past the practical instruction went according to the opinion of the Rishonim who were lenient and permitted one to wear any type of shoes and sandals that were not made of leather. However, these were sandals and shoes that were uncomfortable to walk in, because in the times of our Sages and the Rishonim, shoemakers did not yet know how to make sturdy, durable, and flexible shoes and sandals from materials other than leather. Therefore, it was possible to say that anything made of these materials was not considered shoes or sandals. But today, when sturdy shoes are regularly made from various non-leather materials, they are considered similar to ordinary shoes and sandals, and therefore, it is forbidden to wear them on Yom Kippur.

Indeed, in the previous generation when the production of shoes and sandals of reasonable quality from non-leather materials began, there were rabbis who nevertheless instructed leniently, permitting them to be worn on Yom Kippur because there was still a considerable difference between shoes made of leather and other materials. But as time passes, and the production of quality shoes from various materials becomes the norm, fewer poskim permit them to be worn on Yom Kippur (Peninei Halakha: Yamim Nora’im 9:5).

The Protests of the Disabled and Social Organizations

Q: Rabbi, with Yom Kippur approaching, I would like to ask you a question: Why is it that the religious public, who knows how to fight for national causes, does not participate in the social struggles of justice for disadvantaged groups, such as the disabled and single mothers?

A: These issues are complex, and the majority of people fighting for them are ignorant of the complexities, and as a result, their positions contain numerous moral flaws. Thus, often the damage of accepting the demands of the activists is greater than the benefits, both morally and socio-economically. Take for example the protest of the disabled: the majority of their claims are unjustified, mainly because they refuse to accept the government’s proposal to provide substantial assistance to those who are truly unable to make a living, and provide reduced assistance to those with disabilities who are able to earn a living (the definition of work disability is only a partial measure of physical work).

The principle is that a person should be responsible for his own life, and only when he incapable of doing so is it a mitzvah for society to assist him. The term “disadvantaged” is also fundamentally flawed, because it assumes that there are groups that have ‘deprived’ them, and as a result, are obligated to compensate them. In order to win these struggles, left-wing movements throughout the generations use methods of false propaganda, and implant misleading terms in the public discourse which unconsciously create a distorted picture of the world.

Yom Kippur is intended for ‘teshuva’ out of love, and the most severely immoral thing is to exploit the emotional motivation of ‘teshuva’ and love for foreign purposes that conform to the interests of various groups. Similarly, it is also forbidden to exploit the feelings of repentance in order to humiliate people who work and earn a living, and instill in them feelings of guilt for supposedly weakening other people, accusing them of being successful, healthy, and having functioning families, instead of praising them for their contribution to society, and to the state.

It should be noted that even a poor person, or one who suffers, should repent on Yom Kippur. He must cleanse his heart of feelings of jealousy, envy, and blaming others for his fate, and fill his heart with gratitude towards those who help him. Precisely on account of this, he will enjoy a good life, honor, and well-being.

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: