Remembering the Temple's Destruction

In Remembrance of the Temple’s Destruction

In the wake of the destruction of the Holy Temple a great change took
place. It seemed as if after the destruction, and all that came in its
wake, it would no longer be able to continue living in a normal
manner.The Talmud relates (Tractate Baba Batra 60b):”Our Rabbis
taught: When the second Temple was destroyed, many of Israel separated
themselves from eating meat or drinking wine. Rabbi Yehoshua
approached them, saying: ‘My children, why do you not eat meat nor
drink wine? They replied: ‘Should we eat meat of which sacrifices were
brought, or drink wine which used to be poured as a libation on the
altar, but now no longer?’ He said to them: ‘If so, we should not eat
bread either, because the meal offerings have ceased.’ They replied:
We can live on fruit.’ ‘We should not eat fruit either, [he said,]
because there is no longer an offering of first fruits.’ ‘Then we can
manage with other fruits [they said].’ ‘But, [he said,] we should not
drink water, because there is no longer any ceremony of the pouring of
water.’ To this they could find no answer, so he said to them: ‘My
children — come and listen to me. It would be wrong not to mourn at
all, because the evil decree is executed. To mourn too much is also
impossible, because we do not impose on the community a hardship which
the majority cannot endure.’ ”
R’ Yehoshua continued and explained to them that the principle is that
life must go on. We cannot allow our great mourning over the
destruction of the Holy Temple to cause a state of depression that the
nation cannot endure. It is therefore impossible to institute that so
long as the Temple sits in ruin it is forbidden to consume meat or
drink wine. However, any time a person participates in a celebration,
he must recall the destruction of the Holy Temple, for as long as the
Temple is in ruins, the joy is still not complete.

Therefore, the Sages teach that a groom on his wedding day must place
Jerusalem above his highest joy and put ash on his head as a sign of
mourning. Likewise, when a person builds a house he must leave a
square cubit of wall without whitewash in remembrance of the Temple’s
destruction. And when preparing a celebrative meal, one must exclude
one cooked food in remembrance of the Temple’s destruction. And the
same is true of women’s jewelry.

A Square Cubit – Remembrance of the Temple’s Destruction

The Sages enacted a number of ordinances in order to remind us of the
destruction of the Holy Temple. The underlying principle is that when
a person has the good fortune of arriving at an occasion that gives
him a sense of gratification, he must remember that his joy is still
incomplete, for the Temple lies in ruins.

Therefore, the Sages instituted that when a person builds a house for
himself and reaches its final stage, the whitewashing of the walls, he
must remember that the house of the nation, the Holy Temple, still
lies in ruins. And in remembrance of the destruction of the Holy
Temple he must leave a square cubit of wall without whitewash.

In this ordinance, the Sages teach us that so long as the Holy Temple
is not built, the private home of an individual also cannot be
complete. Therefore, a square cubit of wall must be left without
whitewash. A cubit is approximately half a meter, and therefore, in
practice, a square half meter of wall must be left without whitewash.
In the same respect, if a person covers his walls with wallpaper, he
must leave a square half meter of wall without whitewash and without
wallpaper.

The bare square cubit must be in a place that catches the eye. The
Sages therefore instituted that this square cubit be situated opposite
the entrance of the house. Some have understood this to mean that the
square cubit should be situated above the entrance inside, in order
that the people in the house always see the area without whitewash.
However, according to most authorities, the non-whitewashed space
should be situated on the wall opposite the entrance so that whoever
enters the house can see it. Only in a case where it is impossible to
leave a space opposite the entrance – for example, in a house that has
no wall opposite the entrance – is it permitted to situate the non-
whitewashed space above the entrance (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim
560:1; Mishnah Berurah 3; Aruch HaShulchan 5).

The Law Concerning One Who Buys a House

It often happens that a person buys a house from somebody else and
discovers that no square cubit of wall has been left without
whitewash. In such a case, does the buyer have to scrape off some of
the wall opposite the entrance in order to uncover a square cubit in
remembrance of the Temple’s destruction? Or do we say that because he
was not the one who whitewashed the house to begin with, he is not
obligated to leave an area without whitewash in remembrance of the
Temple’s destruction?

Answer: It all depends on who built the house, i.e., who the original
owner was. If the person who built the house was a Jew, he was
obligated to leave a square cubit of wall without whitewash. If he did
not do so, the square cubit of wall was whitewashed counter to Jewish
law. Therefore, the buyer must scrape off the whitewash. However, if
the original owner was a non-Jew, he was not obligated to leave an non-
whitewashed area, and it follows that the buyer is exempt from
scraping off a square cubit of whitewash (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim
560:1; Mishnah Berurah 4).

It does not matter who the builders are. What matters is who the owner
of the house is. If the owner of the house is a Jew, he must leave a
square cubit of wall without whitewash even if non-Jew’s build his
house, for they are building the house for him. And if the workers
mistakenly whitewashed the entire house, the owner of the house must
himself scrape off a square cubit of wall opposite the entrance.

Ceramics, Wallpaper, and Decorative Paint

There is a debate in Jewish law between Rambam and Tur over the
question of whether or not it is permissible, while the Temple sits in
ruins, for a person to decorate the walls of his own house with
decorative ceramic tiles or patterned wallpaper, or even a patterned
two-color paint job. While it is clearly permissible to hang pictures
on the walls, there is disagreement about painting the walls with
decorations or patterns.

According to Tur, it is permissible for a person to beautify the walls
of his house with all sorts of decorations on the condition that he
leave a square cubit of wall without any decoration and or whitewash
in remembrance of the destruction of the Holy Temple (Tur, Orach Chaim
560, based upon the third Baraitha in Baba Batra 60b).
However, according to Rambam, with the destruction of the Holy Temple
the Sages instituted a prohibition against overly decorating one’s
home. Therefore, it is forbidden to cover the walls with ceramic
tiles, wallpaper, or decorative paint. When the rabbis instituted
leaving a square cubit of wall un-whitewashed they were referring to
whitewash or paint, but decorating the walls with ceramic tiles, etc.,
is completely forbidden (Laws of Ta’aniot 5:12, based upon the third
Baraitha in Baba Batra 60b, and this is how Shulchan Aruch rules,
560:1).

As far as a final ruling is concerned, many authorities follow the
lenient opinions, and the accepted practice in many households is to
decorate the walls with wallpaper or decorated ceramic tiles. And in
remembrance of the Temple’s destruction they leave a square cubit of
wall un-whitewashed (Rif and Rosh also insinuate that it is
permissible, and Mishnah Berurah 1 writes that this is the custom).
The pious, however, act stringently, in keeping with the opinion of
Rambam. They refrain from decorating the house with ceramic tiles and
the likes and make due with whitewash or a simple paint job. And, of
course, they leave a square cubit of wall un-whitewashed and
unpainted.

All authorities are in agreement that in synagogues and study halls,
there is no need to leave a square cubit of wall unpainted. It is
likewise permissible to cover the walls of these places with wallpaper
or decorative ceramics. This is because the rabbinic ordinance applies
specifically to private homes, not public places (Magen Avraham and
Pri Megadim 560:4 ).

A Depiction of Jerusalem

Some people practice the erroneous custom of hanging a picture of the
Temple Mount opposite the entrance of the house. This is not in
keeping with Jewish law, for the picture cannot replace the rabbinic
ordinance. Rather, one must leave a square cubit of wall un-
whitewashed opposite the entrance of the house. And if a person seeks
to go beyond the letter of the law by making some kind of sign that
will cause whoever enters the house to understand the significance of
this bare square cubit, he can hang a picture of the Temple Mount
above or next to the bare space. It is also possible to write the
verse “If I should forget thee Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its
cunning” (Psalms 137:5). Others leave the plaster exposed but etch a
picture of walls into it, and since there is no whitewash, they
fulfill their obligation.

Though, as we learned in the previous section, it may well be that
those who follow the lenient path have authorities to rely upon, for
perhaps the underlying principle of the rabbinic ordinance is that
there be something that recalls the destruction of the Holy Temple –
and a picture of the Temple Mount certainly recalls the destruction of
the Holy Temple – but according to the overwhelming majority of
authorities the main idea of the ordinance is that the square cubit be
left with neither paint nor whitewash. This shows that the house’s
construction is not complete, and it gives expression to the idea that
so long as the Holy Temple is not built, our own private house also
cannot reach completion.

Islam Lives by the Sword

War with the Arabs

Question: With all due respect, Rabbi – do we have a choice? All the
leaders of the world are pressuring us to withdraw from Judea and
Samaria, and in their opinion, withdrawal will bring peace and
security. How can you be so sure they are wrong, and that an agreement
to withdraw will not bring peace?
Answer: The path ahead of us is not simple. We are in a state of war
with the vast majority of Arab countries, with Islamic believers
throughout the world supporting them. We are talking about ten’s of
million’s of enemies who are ready to go to war against us at any
moment, and hundred’s of million’s more who voice support for it. In
such a situation it is easy to be enticed by the false prophets who
promise peace. However, one who examines the circumstances with open
eyes will understand that withdrawal and compromise will not bring an
end to the Arab’s war against us, but on the contrary, it will only
increase it.
In order to understand this, the source of our enemy’s motivation must
be understood.

Islam – A Religion of War

It is no coincidence that the Arabs have succeeded in imposing the
Islamic religion on many nations, to the point where presently there
are approximately 1,400,000,000 people who are believers. The genetic
code of Islam is directed towards a steadfast war to impose the
religion of Mohamed on the entire world by means of the sword. And to
achieve this goal, everything is legitimate. If they need to lie –
they will lie. If they need to kill – they will kill. Even if it takes
hundred’s of thousands or even millions – they will kill. It was not
the enchanting beauty of the Islamic religion which drew so many
nations to accept it upon themselves, but rather the clear threat of
death.

Special Motivation Towards War

All nations reached their achievements through wars and victories;
however in Islam, unlike other cultures, the principle of compromise
is unacceptable, especially a compromise over land. Therefore, even
when the Muslims lack the power to defeat their enemy, they are not
willing to accept compromise. If they make a cease-fire (‘tahadiya’ in
Arabic), in the view of Islam, it is only a recess which must be
utilized to prepare for the continuation of the war. If possible, in
the meantime they will weaken their opponent with terrorist attacks
and ransacking. If not, at the very least they will attempt to
anesthetize him with lies, until they are able to attack once again
and defeat him.
This fundamental principle causes the Muslims never to lay down their
sword; to always be ready for the continuation of the war. Similarly,
the deep genetic code of Islam does not compromise with weakness, but
rather turns it into a period of preparation for the continuation of
the war. This is how the Muslims succeeded to impose their religion on
many nations, who in turn, according to this genetic code, continued
to conquer additional territory.

Territory Previously Conquered by Islam

According to the Muslim way of thinking, the world is divided into two
areas: ‘Dar al-Islam’ is the area already conquered by Islam. ‘Dar al-
Harb’ is the area of war, which the Arabs are commanded to conquer
until it is turned into Muslim territory. After a certain territory
has been conquered by Islam, it is declared as holy Muslim territory
which is forbidden to be relinquished under any circumstances. Even if
this territory is conquered by another nation for hundreds of years,
according to Muslim law it is still considered holy land which must be
returned to Muslim control. Accordingly, Muslims execute more
terrorist attacks in Spain and large parts of India, because the Islam
which conquered them in the past, demands them in return now. And if
unable to conquer them, the Muslims will at least carry out terrorist
attacks, so that normal life cannot be conducted there until they are
returned to Islamic rule.

The Land of Israel: War Zone

The State of Israel constitutes a double problem from their
perspective, for it was established on territory that was conquered by
Islam since its foundation (except for a period of approximately 100
years when it was ruled by the Crusaders), and not only this, but the
land of Israel is located in the heart of Muslim territory. Therefore,
as far as they are concerned, this is the first place they must
conquer – either by sword or by guile. Some Muslims are more
religious, others less; however, the central foundation which strives
to conquer and rule, remains alive to a great extent amongst all of
them.
The present debate between the moderates and the extremists is over
the question of whether it is necessary to implement agreements with
the State of Israel in order to cause its collapse, or to crush it
from within through extended gorilla-warfare. Concerning the goal
itself – the dismantling of the State of Israel and the conquering of
the entire Land of Israel – none of them concede.

Silence from Middle East Experts

There are numerous university departments which deal with the study of
Islam and Arabic nations. Seemingly, one could ask: why don’t these
experts warn the Western governments about the danger to be foreseen
from the awakening Islam?
The problem is that today’s ‘politically-correct’ language does not
allow the Muslim threat to be discussed seriously. All people are
supposed to be equal without discrepancies of religion, race, or sex;
how can one then claim that the Muslim culture presently produces the
most serious threat to world peace? Therefore, even one who analyzes
the subject correctly is not able to express his thoughts properly
within the framework of the accepted public forum. Thus, the danger
continues to grow without any experts warning Israel and the world
about it. By the way, there are actually a number of Muslims who, in
their wish to highlight the positive sides of the Islamic culture, are
worried about the rise of the negative aspects. They presently are the
only ones who are cautioning about the dangers of Islam, but nobody
listens to them.

How to Deal with the Threat

The only way to exempt a Muslim from going to war is to create a
situation where he is totally compelled – without the ability or
chance to succeed. Then he will wait for years or generations, and
when the time is right, return to war. Perhaps in the meantime the
Muslims will repent and correct their outlook, or instead, the time
will come for this religion to disappear from the face of the earth as
other religions have in the past.
However, when we project doubts in relation to our rights to the land
and our readiness to fight for it, we are encouraging them to attack
us. Additionally, our international status does not improve, just as
it did not improve as a result of the woeful Oslo Accords. The more we
agree to compromise, the more people throughout the world will support
the demand to “return” to the Arabs “all their rights” – in other
words, to put an end to our existence. This is what happened as a
result of the “Bar Ilan speech”. The Prime Minister and his supporters
were sure that in the merit of his capitulation to pressures and his
agreement to establish a demilitarized ‘Palestinian State’,
international pressure concerning the topic of the settlements would
be removed. Lo and behold, the reality is the exact opposite – any
compromise from our side results in additional demands.

The Settlements: Our Guarantee to Peace and Security

Therefore, the existence of the settlers and the settlements, which
come in the name of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the
most important thing for Israel’s security. Our enemies know that they
have no chance to defeat Israel in a face-to-face war, but they are
sure that they can destroy Israel through terror and gorilla warfare.
It is only the settlers with their firmness and faith which stand in
their way. As long as the settlers are not ready to compromise on
anything, and continue to hold tight to the land, multiply, get
stronger, and stand firm as a defensive shield, the Muslims won’t be
able to defeat Israel.
Fortunate are those who assist these courageous people, helping to
enlarge and widen the settlements, for this is the foundation of the
security and salvation of Israel. ”Be of good courage, and let us be
strong for our people, and for the cities of our God”.

Postponing Pregnancy (Part 1)

Postponing the Obligation to Have Children

Question: I am a twenty-year-old woman and, God willing, I will be
getting married soon. My question is this: Am I permitted, according
to Jewish law, to postpone pregnancy for two years in order to finish
the majority of my university studies without the burden of pregnancy
and parenting? I should point out that my future husband and I want to
have a fairly large family, five or six children. The question is can
I postpone birth by two years?

Answer: A person may not delay fulfilling the commandment to have
children. On the contrary, one must always hasten to perform Torah
precepts. In this vein, Rabbi Yoshia teaches: “It is written ‘Be
careful regarding the matzah’s’ (Exodous 12:17), and just as a person
must not allow the [dough of the] matzah’s to ferment, so one must not
allow the mitzvah’s (Torah commandments) to ‘ferment’; rather, if you
have the opportunity to fulfill a commandment, do it immediately.” And
Rabbi Shimon bar Lakish adds, “You must not skip over the precepts” –
i.e., do not postpone a commandment that has come your way, even in
order to fulfill another commandment (Yalkut Shimoni, Parshat Bo 201).
Now, in view of the fact that there is an obligation to fulfill
commandments with alacrity, it is clearly unacceptable to cause a
commandment’s fulfillment to be delayed. This is especially true when
it comes to so important a commandment as bearing children, a
commandment upon which the world depends and by virtue of which man
becomes partner with the Holy One, blessed be He.
The Sages forbade the sale of a Torah scroll except in order to
fulfill one of two commandments: the commandment to study Torah and
the commandment to bear children (see Tractate Megillah 27a; Beit
Shmuel, Even HaEzer 1, 15-16). Sometimes there is a particular
problem, physical or mental, that allows for postponing the
commandment, but it is proper to consult with a Torah scholar in order
to be sure that the problem indeed justifies delaying the obligation.

Postponing is No Solution

I would add, however, that I do not quite understand your question.
Why do you think that after your studies it will be easier for you to
have children? Most subjects studied in the university can be covered
in half a day, or slightly more, and the studies last for only about
seven and a half months a year. By contrast, most jobs necessitate
more than half a day’s work and continue for about eleven months of
the year. If you think it will be difficult to give birth while you
are a student, how will you be able to do so after you have entered
the working world?
In truth, this is a matter of determination and priority; the more a
person grasps the importance of family and children, the more desire
and willpower one has to bear children, to raise them, and to educate
them. Just as you will have strength at the age of thirty to give
birth, to take care of children, and to work, so too today you will
have the strength to learn a profession and to begin to raise
children. And just as at the age of thirty you will not be able to
immerse yourself entirely in work outside the home, so too today, you
will be unable to immerse yourself entirely in studies and
establishing yourself in work.

The Problem of Religious Colleges

Question: All of the above is true as far as university study goes,
but there are women who study in colleges where students must attend
classes from morning to evening. In such cases it is indeed easier for
women when they graduate and begin teaching. What, then, should a
woman do if she finds herself in this situation?

Answer: This is indeed a painful problem. A number of young women
inquired regarding this problem and I advised them to transfer to an
institution in which the study lasts fewer hours each day, so that
they are able to dedicate more time to establishing their families.
True, from the perspective of the religious framework these colleges
have an advantage, but it is forbidden to endanger the family,
marriage, pregnancy and childbearing, in order to learn in such
institutions. However, where there is reason to believe that a woman
will deteriorate spiritually at the university, it is best that she
remain in a religious framework.

Best to Give Birth When Young

I would go even further and say that, in many respects, the earlier
you give birth, the easier your life will be. Even if you know how
many children you want to have, it is best to have them when young.
The earlier the pregnancies, the easier they are and the less danger
there is. Moreover, younger parents have more strength to bear the
burden of rearing and educating children. When your children grow you
will be able to invest more time in your work outside of the home and
in nurturing your talents.
Moreover, because we only live so long in this world, one who
postpones birth will naturally see her offspring for fewer years. For
example, she will enjoy fewer weddings, births, and celebrations of
her offspring.
It must also be added that pregnancy is not guaranteed to anybody, and
preventing oneself from giving birth is like preventing divine
blessing and generosity. Who can say if when a woman is finally ready
to have children she will merit divine generosity?

Miraculous Remedies and Wonder Working

Cure-Seeking through Blessings and Miraculous Remedies

How should we view the practice some people have of approaching rabbis
with requests for healing, miraculous remedies, and amulets?
At “Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav,” under Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, there was
no such dealing in the supernatural, and one did not go to request
magical remedies or blessings from rabbis. No doubt, there is a place
for supplication prayers and for receiving the blessings of prominent
Torah scholars; where there is Torah greatness, there is certainly
divine assistance and unique providence. Such providence, though, is
not to be confused with an independent talent for wonder working.
Rather, it results from the spiritual might of the Torah knowledge
which the scholar possesses.

In general, it is possible to say that the more Torah greatness and
perfect faith one possesses, the less need one feels for resorting to
the supernatural; where Torah knowledge is lacking there is a greater
tendency toward wonder working, blessings, miracles, and amulets.
Indeed, it is no coincidence. Man possesses a yearning for the
spiritual, for things that reside beyond his own mundane physical
realm. He harbors a thirst for the living God and for closeness to his
Maker. When one studies Torah and senses that it is the source from
which he quenches his thirst, he no longer feels the need to visit
wonder-workers. He appeals directly to his Creator, the Ultimate
Source of all things. When, though, one lacks Torah knowledge and
faith, one feels the need for conjurers of miracles and wonders.
Because he finds no spiritual sustenance in Torah study, he searches
for it in the miraculous. He does not quite comprehend the
spirituality that exists in Torah greatness. He feels the need for
wonders, powerful spiritual flashes, in order to strengthen his faith.
This is reflected in the words, “Miracles and wonders in the plains of
the children of Ham” – in a place of darkness, lacking genuine Torah
insight, a need for spiritual flashes makes itself felt. One, though,
who is full of Torah, whose Torah study is the great central spiritual
channel through which he becomes filled with a sense of closeness to
God – a person like this feels no need for wonders.

In addition, one must be aware of the fact that the capacity for
spiritual insight exists not only with Torah personages and scholars.
Even non-Jews possess such powers. Such capacities, though, lack
exactness, for what we are dealing with here is not prophecy, but
general insight. While such insight is sometimes accurate, it is
preferable not to become dependent upon it, for it can also cause
damage.

It is told, regarding Rabbi Zusha, one of the giants of Hassidism,
that he had a follower – a Hassid – who sought his advice with regard
to everything related to God’s service, and would even give him
redemptive money as a form of atonement. One time, the Hassid came to
the house of the rabbi and found that the rabbi was out. He asked
Rabbi Zusha’s wife where he had gone and she replied that Rabbi Zusha
had gone to his rabbi, the Maggid of Mezritch. The man was surprised
to hear that Rabbi Zusha, his rabbi, also had a rabbi, and said to
himself, “Why should I go to a disciple when I can go to the rabbi.”
Yet, from the moment he began frequenting the Maggid he experienced
misfortune in all respects. The Hassid went to Rabbi Zusha and asked,
“How is it that when I sought your advice I succeeded, yet when I
sought the advice of your rabbi who is greater than you I encountered
misfortune?” Rabbi Zusha answered, “I will tell you. When you did not
search out the best possible rabbi in order to give him your
redemptive money, God did not make so thorough a check to see if you
are a good and upright person deserving of His blessing. But, when you
searched out the best possible rabbi in order to give him your
redemptive money, God began to inspect you as well, to see if you are
a good and upright person deserving of His blessing.” This tale
contains a profound lesson. A person who has a rabbi who understands
him and guides and councils him in his service of God merits heavenly
blessing. If, though, a person is not truly connected to a rabbi, yet
merely goes to him in order to receive a blessing and displays no
sincere desire to change and improve, God inspects him more closely.

All hardships that befall an individual befall him in order to perfect
him and direct him in his service of God. When a person goes to a
rabbi who does not know him, the rabbi tells him to say a few chapters
from the Book of Psalms, light candles, etc. Perhaps this will be of
some benefit to him, perhaps not, for the rabbi’s advice is just that
– advice. It is not prophecy. This is not the way for a person to deal
with his difficulties. And while it is still best to refrain from
denying this path to a person who does not possess a healthy
connection to the Torah and whose connection to rabbis and blessings
is what fills his entire spiritual world, all the same, a person
should be aware that the main channel for clinging to God is through
the study of Torah and closeness to a rabbi who provides him with
guidance regarding his service of God. This is the path taken by
people of Torah, and it is the healthiest approach to serving God.

Miraculous Remedies and Amulets

Having addressed the practice some people have to request healing and
blessings from rabbis, let us continue and deal with the phenomenon of
miraculous remedies and amulets. It is not advisable to seek out such
supernatural devices, despite the fact that they sometimes contain
concrete solutions to problems. This is not the path that the Torah
has chosen. This path does not appear anywhere in the entire Oral or
Written Tradition. Often, such things are no more than a hoax and a
deception. According to Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the Rambam, for
instance, the effect of such practices is no more than psychological.
Yet, even if we were to accept their legitimacy, this is not the
correct path. For this reason, the Sages teach us that when
difficulties befall a person he must reflect upon and examine his
ways, to check his behavior, to repair and refine his service of God.
Instead of seeking out short cuts through supernatural and miraculous
solutions, one should make a thorough spiritual mending.

Hassidism thus teaches the following story: A villager hired a tutor
to teach his son Torah. When it became known to the father that this
innocent teacher was in fact a secret mystic, he pleaded with him to
teach him the language of the birds. Initially the teacher refused,
but the father insisted and threatened to make public the fact that he
was a mystic. Finally the teacher gave in, and agreed to teach the
father the language of the birds. After mastering this, the father
would go about listening to the birds. If the man heard the birds say,
“Whoever buys flour today will gain,” he would buy, “Whoever sells
wheat today will gain,” he would sell. And so, in this way, the
villager became wealthy because of the birds. One day he heard the
birds say, “This villager will die in thirty days.” Startled, the
villager turned to the mystic and asked him what to do. “I told you,”
said the mystic, “that you were better off not knowing the language of
the birds. True, if you had remained ignorant of the language of the
birds you would have lost a bit of money here and there, but this
would have served as atonement for you and you would have continued to
live. Now, though, there is no way of escaping your fate.”

This tale too contains a profound message. “Be innocent before God
your Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:13). If trouble befalls a person, it is
actually for his own good. One must deal with it and learn how to
improve his actions. Yet, when one avoids difficulties through the use
of supra-logical actions, this does not mean that he has solved the
true problem. Even when supernatural practices succeed – and quite
often what appears to be success is no more than an illusion – it is
likely that this is only a partial solution. Yet, when one does not
solve the problem from its foundation, it is bound to reawaken and
burst forth from another direction.

In summary, the healthy way of serving God is through studying His
Torah, through adhering to the Torah, and clinging to the Torah
scholars who guide us according to the word of God. The more one grows
in Torah, the less one deals in supernatural devices. Therefore, one
must seek guidance from a rabbi concerning proper service of God. This
relationship becomes the true source of one’s blessing. If a person
confronted with difficulties attempts to bypass them via supernatural
exercises and amulets, he will not solve the true and fundamental
problem, and it may reappear in some other situation.

The Two Sins of Netanyahu

What’s so bad About the Prime Minister’s Speech

Question: I have read responses from right-wing spokespeople on Arutz
7, and all of them are disappointed and embarrassed about the Prime
Minister’s speech. I don’t feel betrayed. What do you expect the Prime
Minister to say in such an official speech? Do you expect him to
declare that he supports the transfer of all the Arabs? If he’s not in
favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state, what’s his
alternative? What exactly do we want him to say?
Honestly speaking, I was not disappointed with his speech, and even a
little bit pleased, for everyone knows that the Arabs won’t agree to a
demilitarized Palestinian state, or to recognize Israel as the Jewish
state, so at least there won’t be evacuations, and we can build
according to our natural growth needs. Does anyone have a different
solution?

The Sins of the Speech

Answer: The Prime Minister sinned twice. His first sin was his
agreement to concede the inheritance of our forefathers and to give it
to another nation. God promised us this land, from the Euphrates River
to the Nile River. We are the only ones who have national and
historical rights on this land, for during all the years of our exile,
we never gave-up hope of returning to her. The Prime Minister conceded
this absolute right. We can learn something from the Arabs, who, for
nearly twenty years have been conducting negotiations with us,
speaking and promising us peace, and yet they still haven’t conceded
on any of their demands.
The Prime Minister’s second sin was that he lied to his voters. Only a
few months ago he conducted an election campaign whose central
platform was the rejection of an Arab state in the land of Israel, and
within a few months, he broke his promise. Later on, he will blame his
voters for expecting him to fulfill his promises.

The Religion of Islam – A Warring Religion

We have no easy and simple solutions. We are in a state of war with
the vast majority of Arab nations, and the believers of Islam
throughout the world support them. We did not initiate this situation,
and nothing that we do will stop their war against us.
According to the Islamic way of thinking, the world is divided into
two sections: ‘Dar-al-Islam’ is the section already conquered by
Muslims, and ‘Dar al-Harb’ is the place of war. One of the central
commandments, from their point of view, is the commandment of Jihad,
in other words, the commandment to wage war and conquer, turning the
combat area into Muslim territory. The State of Israel constitutes for
them an especially difficult problem, for it was established on an
area that had already been conquered by Muslims, and therefore, it is
the first place they must conquer – by sword or by guile. Their
religious belief has been weakened; however, this genetic code remains
as their central, national motive.
The only way to exempt a Muslim from war is to create a situation
where he is totally compelled – he has no chance or opportunity to
succeed. Then he will wait for years, if not generations, and when the
time is right, he will go to war once again. This is the religious
Muslim motivation – to impose their beliefs by force of the sword.

The Failure of Capitulating

Therefore, any agreement to give them rights over any part of the Land
of Israel constitutes a foundation and an incentive to continue their
war against us. This won’t remove the Iranian threat, rather it will
increase it. Only one who does not surrender to pressure can deter the
enemy from using nuclear weapons.
Unlike the proclamations of his advocates, Prime Minister Netanyahu is
continuing the policy of a building freeze and discrimination against
the communities in Judea and Samaria. His speech will not allow him to
help the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria in the future; it
will only invite additional pressure and hinder any of his efforts to
strengthen them. Such voices can already be heard from the leaders of
Europe and America.

The Alternative

The only response to the Arab threat can be found in a return to our
roots – to the true reason why we got here. A return to the covenant
which God made with Abraham our forefather (Genesis 15:18): “To your
descendants I have given this land, from the Egyptian River as far as
the great river, the Euphrates”. A return to the mitzvah we are
commanded in the Torah (Deuteronomy 1:8): “Come, occupy the land that
God swore He would give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and
to their descendants after them.”
Therefore, it is forbidden to concede even one grain of land. Israeli
sovereignty should be applied to more areas of Judea and Samaria
without granting any more civilian rights to additional Arabs. On the
contrary, we must work towards the expulsion from Israel of all those
people who oppose the existence of the State of Israel. True, our
ability is limited, and at the present time we lack the strength to
expel all of our enemies from the land, but we can definitely create
motivation amongst those who are hostile to the State of Israel to
emigrate to other countries.
We must inform our neighboring countries that we have a claim to the
entire land of Israel – till the Euphrates River. Indeed, in the
meantime, we are not planning to go to war, however, any war started
against us will be utilized to liberate additional land and to expel
additional enemies from our land. Then the Arabs will understand that
in a war against us, they stand to loose. Then they will honor us, and
wait for us to become tired or weak. For decades, our leaders have
taught them that there is no price for wars – either they won, or they
didn’t win, but they couldn’t lose, for we are afraid to conquer
additional territory, and we can’t govern them properly due to our
moral weakness. But when we display strength, firmness and faith, they
will understand that if they try to fight us, they will lose even
more.
The World Can Understand

There are those who claim that the world won’t understand this. But
the world will not even understand what Netanyahu said. If he agreed
to an Arab state, why won’t he freeze the settlements? On the
contrary, he proved that he can be pressured, and therefore his
position will not be understood, but rather be used as the foundation
for additional and stronger pressure.
On the other hand, if we were to talk, at every opportunity, about our
rights to all of the land of Israel, many people would understand us.
If we were to give each ambassador and every visitor a book of the
Bible and on the front pages, in gold lettering, print all the verses
where God promised us the land, translating them into all the
languages, and together with the honored visitors, read the verses and
be enthused by the miracle of the Return to Zion – then they would
honor us and our position. Unfortunately, this hasn’t even been tried.

With the Kindness of God and in the Merit of the Settlers

It is only because of the kindness of God and the self-sacrifice of
the settlers, who, with their bodies, are preventing and restricting
any withdrawals, that Israeli politicians do not retreat and concede
to the Arab pressure. If it weren’t for the settlers, our
international situation would be much worse, and we would be facing a
difficult battle for Jerusalem and the cities in the Lower Plain, such
as Tel Aviv and Petach Tikva.
We must enlarge our study halls and yeshiva’s, so they can conceive an
organized, political doctrine. We must produce honest leaders,
possessors of vision and practical wisdom, who know how to advance the
State of Israel towards its goals.

Settling the Land of Israel (Part 2)

Poor Public Image

Many are concerned about the bad image that resistance is liable to
cause the settlers of Judea, Samaria. True, the issue of public image
must be taken into account; the advice of Rabbis and experts must be
sought so that people known in what manner to speak and how to act. On
the other hand, it must be remembered that it is not always the short-
term effect that needs to be taken into consideration; sometimes the
value of the long-range lesson is of greater importance. Sometimes an
act which results in severe short-term damage, serves the important
role of making a clear statement concerning the importance of settling
the Land, and impresses upon all the preference of Divine law over
transient political rulings. Even if our efforts to settle the Land do
not produce the sort of fruits we would like them to, we, in our
determined stand, have at least established the desired goal – and
eventually we will reach it. Indeed, Judaism and Torah leaders have
followed this path numerous times throughout history.

Fear of a Rift in the Nation

The media’s ranting that resisting settlement evacuation causes a rift
in the nation is simply untrue. How can passive resistance to
participating in civil action possibly have such extreme
repercussions? The religious community is overly sensitive to these
sorts of attacks, and the leaders of the Left along with the media
take advantage of this sensitivity. The more we allow ourselves to be
flustered by such accusations, the more they will be hurled at us. The
more that we argue amongst ourselves and make biting allegations
against one another, the more accusations will be made against us by
the media. We will be labeled inciters, agitators, and criminals.
(This is precisely what the media did to Effie Eitan. He made rational
and pointed remarks concerning the mass desecration of Sabbath, yet
was portrayed as an inciter.)
It is important to note that all of the accusations insinuating that
somebody permits using violence against soldiers, police officers, or
anyone, are complete lies. Only passive resistance was permitted by
Rabbis.

And if the Left should choose to Refuse?

Do we not run the risk that our refusal to follow orders on Halakhic
or patriotic grounds will bring in its wake a refusal on the left to
take part in protecting the settlers or conquering the Land of Israel?
In this matter, one must make a distinction between truth and
falsehood. Our position is genuine, and based upon both Torah and
human rationale. Their position, on the other hand, is based upon
mistaken human leanings – of the sort which at one time lead men to
prostrate before Stalin, the “Sun of the Nations,” or later to kiss
and embrace Arafat and his cohorts. We come in the name of moral
values that build the nation. Yet, values that call for uprooting
settlements and refusing to do battle with the enemy are outright
destructive and undermining.

In the same respect, such people could claim that if it is permissible
for Jews to sacrifice themselves for Torah and faith, it is
permissible for idolaters to sacrifice themselves for the sake of
their beliefs. All of the Prophets of Israel cried out against such
rationale, for they were able to distinguish between the essential
difference. We pray to the living God; they pray to wood and stone.
Countless sources could be cited to this effect.

The Present Dispute

During the reign of the Rabin Government, a practical question arose:
Does Halakha permit taking part in the dismantling of settlements and
army bases? Leading rabbinical authorities, amongst them Rabbi Goren,
Rabbi Yisraeli, Rabbi Yosef Kapach, Rabbi Nerya, and Rabbi Shapira
ruled that a Jew was obligated to refuse participating in such an
action. At present, the question is slightly different: Is the
dismantling of outposts considered a definitive act of Torah
violation?
There are those who hold that where the intention is to uproot a
settlement in order to hand it over to Arabs, then it is clearly a
violation of the Mitzvah to settle the Land, and one is obligated to
refuse participation in such an act; when, however, an outpost whose
site will not be given to Arabs is at issue, and opposition to its
existence stems from formalities alone, the government’s order does
not contradict the Torah, and it is permissible to carry out such an
act. Other Rabbis, among them myself, hold that the intention of the
present dismantling violates the Mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel,
for it uproots vibrant Jewish settlements, and leaves their locations
barren. (The fact that this act is being carried out, as some claim,
for political reasons, certainly does not make it any more
acceptable).
At any rate, in light of the above dispute, the Committee of the
Rabbis of “Yesha” (Judea and Samaria) publicized the following
statement: “We call upon all soldiers to approach their commanding
officers with the request that they be released, on conscientious and
faith-related grounds, from any activity connected to the evacuation
of outposts.” In addition they declared that “every outpost in the
Land of Israel is seen as a fulfillment of the Mitzvah to settle the
Land; accordingly, it is forbidden to evacuate such outposts.”

What, though, does a soldier do if his commanding officer refuses to
respect his request? In this regard there are differing opinions among
Halakhic authorities, and each individual must follow the decision of
his own rabbi. The Committee of the Rabbis of Yesha plan to convene
again in order to reach a clear and unified position on this issue.

Settling the Land of Israel

The Sages teach (Sifri, Re’eh 53): “The Mitzvah of settling the Land
of Israel is equal to all of the other Mitzvoth in the Torah.” This is
due to the fact that, in addition to its own inherent value, the
Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel serves as a foundation for the
healthy national existence of the Jewish people. Such an existence
allows the Jewish people – a people whose task it is to spread faith
in God and the Divine word – to bring about the perfection of the
entire world. It is for this reason that the Prophets of Israel
prophesized at length regarding the settlement and burgeoning of the
Land of Israel; the poets crowned her with a thousand crowns, and all
of the great rabbis longed to reach her soil.

This Mitzvah also embodies the principle of unity and love among the
Jewish people because it is fulfilled by the people and for the
people.
So central is the commandment to settle the Land of Israel, that the
Torah instructs us to risk our lives in order to conquer and hold on
to the Land (Minchat Chinukh 425). The Torah even permits violating
certain aspects of Sabbath in order to hold on to her – even if just
to purchase one house (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 307:5). In extreme
cases the Torah even allows for divorce in order to fulfill this
commandment (Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 75:4).

Religious Zionism

The commandment to settle the Land of Israel – i.e., that the Land be
in our hands, and not left barren – has always served as the
foundation and underpinning of religious Zionism’s approach to Aliya
(Jewish immigration to Israel), settlement, defense, and state. It
lies behind our viewing today’s events as the “first flowering of our
redemption” as foreseen by the Prophets. True to this philosophy, all
religious-Zionist educational institutions educate toward love of the
nation, the land, and the state; they advocate sharing the burden of
military service, economic and social responsibility, and
participation in all aspects of Jewish life, and in the entire Jewish
world. In the words of Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the “Chatam Sofer” (on
Sukkah 36): Any action or enterprise that serves to advance Jewish
settlement in the Land of Israel is included in this Mitzvah.

Joining Forces with Irreligious

With the appearance of modern Zionism, an intense dispute arose
between Rabbis. The debate centered on the question: Is it permissible
to join forces with irreligious elements of the Zionist movement?
Because of the great importance of the Mitzvah of settling the Land of
Israel, and despite the great difficulties involved, our prestigious
and eminent Rabbis concluded that such cooperation was indeed
necessary; this was the path that must be taken in order to settle the
Land and harbor the Redemption of Israel. This was the position taken
by renowned Torah authorities such as Rabbi Kook, Rabbi Reines, Rabbi
Hertzog, Rabbi Amiel, Rabbi Uziel, Rabbi Adaya, Rabbi Ratah, Rabbi
Charlap, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and others.

Prohibition against Uprooting

It is clear, then, that participating in any sort of action that aims
at violating this great Mitzvah – a Mitzvah that guides our every step
and for which we are willing to sacrifice so much – is forbidden.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, of blessed memory, thus
ruled that it is forbidden to hand over portions of the Land of Israel
to non-Jews, not to mention uprooting a Jewish settlement for this
purpose.
When, in time, the question arose as to what ought to be done in a
situation where a ruling of the Israeli government clashes with the
essential commandment to settle the Land of Israel, it was declared
that there is clear and unquestionable preference for the law of the
Torah. Eternal, never-changing Torah commandments take precedence over
any type of government decision, which, by its very nature, is given
to change.

This principle holds true not only regarding the commandment to settle
the Land of Israel; it is the case concerning all of the Mitzvoth of
the Torah. It is forbidden to follow the law of a king or government
that negates the word of the Torah. Then Chief Rabbi of the Israeli
Defense Forces, Rabbi Shlomo Goren zt”l, publicized this ruling and,
despite the rebuke of the Chief of Staff, refused to reverse it. (The
precedent for this ruling can be found in Sanhedrin 49a and in Yad,
Hilkhot Melakhim 3:9).
Clearly, it is preferable to do everything possible via the Knesset,
the Government, and the public, in order to prevent the emergence of a
ruling which negates such an important Mitzvah. Yet, if this is not
successful, it becomes necessary to stand in adamant, passive
opposition to the Government ruling – a ruling which, in the words of
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, is “null and void in comparison to the eternal
law of the Torah.”

Yet, even if we accept the fact that not all Knesset members
understand the Halakhic prohibition involved here, how can anyone even
consider commanding a Jew, for whom the Mitzvah to settle the Land of
Israel is so central, to destroy a settlement and to displace its
residents? How is it possible to order a Jew to uproot with his own
hands the very foundation of his faith? Could their hearts be so hard?
Would they even command a person to dislocate his own parents? Are
they not ashamed to command a person to assault that which is most
dear to him?

Torah Study or Profession

“A Spade With Which To Dig”
The Mishnah (Avot 4:6) begins by teaching us the desired intention
when studying Torah:
“If one learns [Torah] in order to teach, he is given the means to
learn and to teach; if one learns in order to do, he is given the
means to learn, to teach, to observe, and to do.”

The Mishnah continues:
“Rabbi Tzaddok says, ‘Do not make the teachings of the Torah into a
crown with which to adorn (i.e., be proud of) yourself, nor like a
spade with which to dig (i.e., earn a living).’ Hillel would say, ‘One
who makes use of his crown passes away.’ From here we see that whoever
derives benefits from his Torah knowledge removes himself from the
world.”

The Practice of the Talmudic Sages
This was indeed the practice of the great Torah scholars from the
Talmudic era. No less an authority than Hillel the Elder, before being
appointed to the position of president of the Great Sanhedrin, would
earn a meager salary as a woodcutter. When he took his position as
president, however, the community bestowed great wealth upon him. This
was the rule. Whoever was appointed to a position of authority, such
as president of the Sanhedrin or deputy to the president, would be
made wealthy by the community. The practice of enriching community
leaders was carried out because having rich and distinguished leaders
brought honor to the community, for wealth caused their leaders’ words
to carry more weight. It is told of R’ Abba of Acco that he was poor,
and R’ Abahu went out of his way to have him appointed to an important
position so that he should be granted wealth (Sotah 40a).

However, other Torah scholars who did not hold positions of authority
did not live at the expense of the community – even very great Torah
scholars. R’ Shimon HaPakuli used to make cotton; R’ Yochanan the
Cobbler used to earn his living repairing shoes; R’ Meir supported
himself by performing scribal work; R’ Pappa used to plant trees; etc.
In those days, people used to assist the rabbis in their work and
business. Rabbis were thus able to earn what they needed in a short
period of time, while dedicating most of their time to Torah study.

Rambam’s Position
In his commentary to the Mishna, Rambam comes out strongly against
those who study Torah and demand that the community support them. He
brings numerous examples of leading Torah authorities from the period
of the Mishnah who would earn their own living and never even
considered having the community support them.

Accordingly, Rambam rules, “One who decides that instead of working he
will occupy himself with Torah study and live from charity, profanes
God’s name, disgraces the Torah, extinguishes the light of the law,
brings harm upon himself, and removes himself from the World to Come,
for it is forbidden to derive benefit from the Torah in this world.
Hence, the sages teach: ‘Whoever derives benefit from his Torah
knowledge removes himself from the world’; they have also commanded
us, saying: ‘Do not make them (the teachings of the Torah) into a
crown with which to adorn yourself, nor like a spade with which to
dig’; they have also commanded us, saying: ‘Love labor and despise
status’; and, “Any Torah that is not accompanied by labor is destined
to be nullified and to lead to transgression, and such a person will
end up robbing other people.’”

The Tribes of Zevulun and Yissachar
On the other hand, it is well known that the tribe of Zevulun occupied
itself with commerce and supported the Torah scholars from the tribe
of Yissachar, and in this regard the sages taught,
“When Moses came to bless the tribes of Israel, he blessed Zevulun
before Yissachar, in accordance with the verse: ‘It is a Tree of Life
for those who cling to it, and those who support it are
content’” (Bereshit Rabba 72:5, 99:9).

Rambam Approves of Such an Approach
Rambam, of course, approves of the practice of Zevulun and Yissachar.
And while he holds that earning a living through the sweat of one’s
brow is praiseworthy and pious behavior as he writes in Hilkhot Tamud
Torah 3:11],
“One who earns a living through his own labors possesses a great
virtue, and such was the custom of the early pietists, and one who
behaves in this manner merits all honor and goodness in this world and
attains the World to Come, as the verse states, ‘When you eat the
labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it shall be well with
you.’”),
a person is not obligated to adopt such a pious practice. In fact,
sometimes, in order to disseminate Torah amongst the Jewish people, it
is preferable to forgo such piety. Indeed, for years Rambam himself
studied Torah diligently while being supported by his brother David
who dealt in commerce. Only after his brother drowned at sea was
Rambam forced to go into medicine in order to support his family and
the family of his brother.

Do not make yourself dependent upon the community
We find, then, that the difference between the prohibition of
supporting oneself through the Torah on the one hand, and the practice
of Yissachar on the other, is in two areas: (a) the pure intention of
the student, and (b) that it be done respectfully, not disgracefully.
Members of the tribe of Yissachar did not study Torah in order to earn
a living. They no doubt had fields and were accustomed to working
them. Rather, members of the tribe of Zevulun, possessing as they did
great wealth, approached the tribe of Yissachar and encouraged them to
spend more time studying Torah. To this end the tribe of Zevulun would
be willing to support them financially. It never occurred, though, to
the tribe of Yissachar to approach the tribe of Zevulun in order to
ask for such support.

The Dissenters from Rambam’s Opinion
Many early Torah authorities disagree with Rambam on this issue. They
argue that if Torah scholars were to refrain from receiving money from
the community, the light of Torah would be extinguished from the midst
of Israel, and there would be no one to teach the people Torah.

Even those who disagree with Rambam admit that to eschew the financial
support of the community is a pious attribute and that, in the days of
the Talmud, Torah scholars indeed worked to support themselves while
at the same time establishing many students. However, say these
authorities, over the course of time there was a decline in Torah
greatness, and it is no longer possible to occupy oneself with earning
a living while studying and teaching Torah.

In the age of the Mishnah and the Talmud most emphasis was placed on
depth of understanding, for the quantity of Mishnayot and Baraithot
was not so great, and study was, for the most part, aimed at deepening
the Torah foundations. It would appear that their labor did not
prevent them from continuing to deepen their Torah contemplations as
they worked. However, with the passing of time, the number of opinions
and interpretations multiplied and the learning material grew
immensely, and students of Torah were forced to spend many more hours
studying in depth and memorizing the Talmud, the Geonim, and the works
of the early authorities.

Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach, in his work Hatashbetz (vol. 1, pp.
142-148), agrees with the above opinion and cites many supporting
sources. The great later authorities, most importantly R’ Yosef Karo
(Kesef Mishneh, Beit Yosef 246) and R’ Moshe Isserles (Yoreh Heah
246:21), ruled likewise.

Dispensation for Yeshivah Students Who Plan To Teach
In addition to everything we have said so far, because of the gradual
decline in Torah scholarship and the great increase in books, it goes
without saying that it is impossible to produce even moderate Torah
scholars unless they study Torah on a full time basis. And if the
community does not finance the study of these Yeshiva students, there
will not arise any Torah scholars who will be able to teach and guide
the next generation.
Hence, though according to the letter of the law it would be best if
those who learn Torah would earn their income through the labor of
their own hands, over the course of time it has become necessary to
change the original custom and to support Torah students in order that
the Torah continue to thrive in Israel’s midst.
This, moreover, is the desire of the community. The community wants to
foster Torah scholarship in order to assure that Torah scholars will
arise who will be able to teach Torah and render rulings on questions
of Jewish law. And since the only way to realize such a goal is by
allowing students to dedicate themselves to Torah study on a full time
basis, the community donates funds in order to support Talmudic
academies in which Torah students and educators learn. This position
is taken by Maharashal and Shakh (Yoreh Deah 246:20), as well as R’
Chaim ben Attar (Rishon LeTziyon 246:21).

An Additional Dispensation for Our Generation
An additional problem has arisen in our own generation, namely, that
many youths are slow to reach a level of knowledge that allows them to
live in accordance with the Torah. Therefore, because there is a
commandment to educate children so that they know the Torah and are
able to live according to its laws, parents must continue to finance
their children’s studies for another few years in the Yeshiva in order
that they succeed in acquiring a firm Torah foundation. And because
there are parents who are not able to pay for their children’s
education (and there are even some parents who do not want to pay),
the community as a whole must take this responsibility. Therefore, it
is necessary to gather donations in order to support Yeshivas.

Students Who Are Not Suited To Teach
However, after a student has studied for a number of years in a
Yeshiva and has received a firm Torah foundation, it is best to direct
him according to his talent and ambition – whether in the field of
Torah, viz., education or Rabbinate, or towards some practical
occupation which suits his character, such as, for example, business
management.

As far as our present inquiry is concerned, if a person finds that he
is not suited to be a teacher or to serve in the Rabbinate, he is no
longer permitted to study Torah on a full time basis and to be
supported by the community or from charity.

This is the path which we follow at Yeshiva Har Bracha. Upon
completion of the standard course of study, which lasts five years
(and includes military service), each student chooses the path in life
that he feels truly suits him – whether in religious or secular
vocations. The Yeshiva, for its part, encourages each student to be
true to his unique character. In this manner, many of our students go
on to learn a profession, and they do this on the most prestigious
level that they possibly can according to their ability. At the same
time, they continue to set fixed times for Torah study each day,
internalizing values of self-sacrifice and love for the Torah and its
study and for the scrupulous performance of the commandments. They
also strive to practice much charity and kindness, to aid in the
development of the Land of Israel, and to sanctify God’s sacred name.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed is the Dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and a prolific
author on Jewish Law. Rabbi Melamed is one of the most active leaders
amongst the religious-Zionist public. Parts of this article were
translated either from his highly acclaimed series on Jewish law
“Pininei
Halacha” or from his popular weekly column “Revivim” which appears in
the Basheva newspaper. Rabbi Melamed’s books “The Laws of Prayer” “The
Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are presently being
translated into English, and are due to be printed, please God, in the
near future. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi
Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1 This article also appears
at: www.Yeshiva.org.il

Torah Study or Profession?
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

“A Spade With Which To Dig”
The Mishnah (Avot 4:6) begins by teaching us the desired intention
when studying Torah:
“If one learns [Torah] in order to teach, he is given the means to
learn and to teach; if one learns in order to do, he is given the
means to learn, to teach, to observe, and to do.”

The Mishnah continues:
“Rabbi Tzaddok says, ‘Do not make the teachings of the Torah into a
crown with which to adorn (i.e., be proud of) yourself, nor like a
spade with which to dig (i.e., earn a living).’ Hillel would say, ‘One
who makes use of his crown passes away.’ From here we see that whoever
derives benefits from his Torah knowledge removes himself from the
world.”

The Practice of the Talmudic Sages
This was indeed the practice of the great Torah scholars from the
Talmudic era. No less an authority than Hillel the Elder, before being
appointed to the position of president of the Great Sanhedrin, would
earn a meager salary as a woodcutter. When he took his position as
president, however, the community bestowed great wealth upon him. This
was the rule. Whoever was appointed to a position of authority, such
as president of the Sanhedrin or deputy to the president, would be
made wealthy by the community. The practice of enriching community
leaders was carried out because having rich and distinguished leaders
brought honor to the community, for wealth caused their leaders’ words
to carry more weight. It is told of R’ Abba of Acco that he was poor,
and R’ Abahu went out of his way to have him appointed to an important
position so that he should be granted wealth (Sotah 40a).

However, other Torah scholars who did not hold positions of authority
did not live at the expense of the community – even very great Torah
scholars. R’ Shimon HaPakuli used to make cotton; R’ Yochanan the
Cobbler used to earn his living repairing shoes; R’ Meir supported
himself by performing scribal work; R’ Pappa used to plant trees; etc.
In those days, people used to assist the rabbis in their work and
business. Rabbis were thus able to earn what they needed in a short
period of time, while dedicating most of their time to Torah study.

Rambam’s Position
In his commentary to the Mishna, Rambam comes out strongly against
those who study Torah and demand that the community support them. He
brings numerous examples of leading Torah authorities from the period
of the Mishnah who would earn their own living and never even
considered having the community support them.

Accordingly, Rambam rules, “One who decides that instead of working he
will occupy himself with Torah study and live from charity, profanes
God’s name, disgraces the Torah, extinguishes the light of the law,
brings harm upon himself, and removes himself from the World to Come,
for it is forbidden to derive benefit from the Torah in this world.
Hence, the sages teach: ‘Whoever derives benefit from his Torah
knowledge removes himself from the world’; they have also commanded
us, saying: ‘Do not make them (the teachings of the Torah) into a
crown with which to adorn yourself, nor like a spade with which to
dig’; they have also commanded us, saying: ‘Love labor and despise
status’; and, “Any Torah that is not accompanied by labor is destined
to be nullified and to lead to transgression, and such a person will
end up robbing other people.’”

The Tribes of Zevulun and Yissachar
On the other hand, it is well known that the tribe of Zevulun occupied
itself with commerce and supported the Torah scholars from the tribe
of Yissachar, and in this regard the sages taught,
“When Moses came to bless the tribes of Israel, he blessed Zevulun
before Yissachar, in accordance with the verse: ‘It is a Tree of Life
for those who cling to it, and those who support it are
content’” (Bereshit Rabba 72:5, 99:9).

Rambam Approves of Such an Approach
Rambam, of course, approves of the practice of Zevulun and Yissachar.
And while he holds that earning a living through the sweat of one’s
brow is praiseworthy and pious behavior as he writes in Hilkhot Tamud
Torah 3:11],
“One who earns a living through his own labors possesses a great
virtue, and such was the custom of the early pietists, and one who
behaves in this manner merits all honor and goodness in this world and
attains the World to Come, as the verse states, ‘When you eat the
labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it shall be well with
you.’”),
a person is not obligated to adopt such a pious practice. In fact,
sometimes, in order to disseminate Torah amongst the Jewish people, it
is preferable to forgo such piety. Indeed, for years Rambam himself
studied Torah diligently while being supported by his brother David
who dealt in commerce. Only after his brother drowned at sea was
Rambam forced to go into medicine in order to support his family and
the family of his brother.

Do not make yourself dependent upon the community
We find, then, that the difference between the prohibition of
supporting oneself through the Torah on the one hand, and the practice
of Yissachar on the other, is in two areas: (a) the pure intention of
the student, and (b) that it be done respectfully, not disgracefully.
Members of the tribe of Yissachar did not study Torah in order to earn
a living. They no doubt had fields and were accustomed to working
them. Rather, members of the tribe of Zevulun, possessing as they did
great wealth, approached the tribe of Yissachar and encouraged them to
spend more time studying Torah. To this end the tribe of Zevulun would
be willing to support them financially. It never occurred, though, to
the tribe of Yissachar to approach the tribe of Zevulun in order to
ask for such support.

The Dissenters from Rambam’s Opinion
Many early Torah authorities disagree with Rambam on this issue. They
argue that if Torah scholars were to refrain from receiving money from
the community, the light of Torah would be extinguished from the midst
of Israel, and there would be no one to teach the people Torah.

Even those who disagree with Rambam admit that to eschew the financial
support of the community is a pious attribute and that, in the days of
the Talmud, Torah scholars indeed worked to support themselves while
at the same time establishing many students. However, say these
authorities, over the course of time there was a decline in Torah
greatness, and it is no longer possible to occupy oneself with earning
a living while studying and teaching Torah.

In the age of the Mishnah and the Talmud most emphasis was placed on
depth of understanding, for the quantity of Mishnayot and Baraithot
was not so great, and study was, for the most part, aimed at deepening
the Torah foundations. It would appear that their labor did not
prevent them from continuing to deepen their Torah contemplations as
they worked. However, with the passing of time, the number of opinions
and interpretations multiplied and the learning material grew
immensely, and students of Torah were forced to spend many more hours
studying in depth and memorizing the Talmud, the Geonim, and the works
of the early authorities.

Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach, in his work Hatashbetz (vol. 1, pp.
142-148), agrees with the above opinion and cites many supporting
sources. The great later authorities, most importantly R’ Yosef Karo
(Kesef Mishneh, Beit Yosef 246) and R’ Moshe Isserles (Yoreh Heah
246:21), ruled likewise.

Dispensation for Yeshivah Students Who Plan To Teach
In addition to everything we have said so far, because of the gradual
decline in Torah scholarship and the great increase in books, it goes
without saying that it is impossible to produce even moderate Torah
scholars unless they study Torah on a full time basis. And if the
community does not finance the study of these Yeshiva students, there
will not arise any Torah scholars who will be able to teach and guide
the next generation.
Hence, though according to the letter of the law it would be best if
those who learn Torah would earn their income through the labor of
their own hands, over the course of time it has become necessary to
change the original custom and to support Torah students in order that
the Torah continue to thrive in Israel’s midst.
This, moreover, is the desire of the community. The community wants to
foster Torah scholarship in order to assure that Torah scholars will
arise who will be able to teach Torah and render rulings on questions
of Jewish law. And since the only way to realize such a goal is by
allowing students to dedicate themselves to Torah study on a full time
basis, the community donates funds in order to support Talmudic
academies in which Torah students and educators learn. This position
is taken by Maharashal and Shakh (Yoreh Deah 246:20), as well as R’
Chaim ben Attar (Rishon LeTziyon 246:21).

An Additional Dispensation for Our Generation
An additional problem has arisen in our own generation, namely, that
many youths are slow to reach a level of knowledge that allows them to
live in accordance with the Torah. Therefore, because there is a
commandment to educate children so that they know the Torah and are
able to live according to its laws, parents must continue to finance
their children’s studies for another few years in the Yeshiva in order
that they succeed in acquiring a firm Torah foundation. And because
there are parents who are not able to pay for their children’s
education (and there are even some parents who do not want to pay),
the community as a whole must take this responsibility. Therefore, it
is necessary to gather donations in order to support Yeshivas.

Students Who Are Not Suited To Teach
However, after a student has studied for a number of years in a
Yeshiva and has received a firm Torah foundation, it is best to direct
him according to his talent and ambition – whether in the field of
Torah, viz., education or Rabbinate, or towards some practical
occupation which suits his character, such as, for example, business
management.

As far as our present inquiry is concerned, if a person finds that he
is not suited to be a teacher or to serve in the Rabbinate, he is no
longer permitted to study Torah on a full time basis and to be
supported by the community or from charity.

This is the path which we follow at Yeshiva Har Bracha. Upon
completion of the standard course of study, which lasts five years
(and includes military service), each student chooses the path in life
that he feels truly suits him – whether in religious or secular
vocations. The Yeshiva, for its part, encourages each student to be
true to his unique character. In this manner, many of our students go
on to learn a profession, and they do this on the most prestigious
level that they possibly can according to their ability. At the same
time, they continue to set fixed times for Torah study each day,
internalizing values of self-sacrifice and love for the Torah and its
study and for the scrupulous performance of the commandments. They
also strive to practice much charity and kindness, to aid in the
development of the Land of Israel, and to sanctify God’s sacred name.

Material Reward, Spiritual Beauty

Reward for Mitzvoth

Why does the Torah mention only the material reward which is given to
one who upholds the commandments; why is the spiritual reward – a
reward which awaits the deserving in the World to Come – only hinted
at? Many answers have been given to this famous question, and all of
them are good and correct. Yet, the simplest and most basic answer of
all is the one given by Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra in his classic Torah
commentary (see Deuteronomy 32:39). If the Torah had revealed the
spiritual reward that awaits a person in the World to Come, explains
Ibn Ezra, only a select few would be able to grasp its significance.
As a result, few would exert themselves to fulfill the Mitzvoth. The
value of earthly reward, though, can be appreciated by all.

Another explanation is that man’s eventual spiritual reward is so
obvious that it need not be mentioned outright by the Torah. It is
obvious that the soul is refined through the fulfillment of
commandments. The real novelty is that the perfection which comes
through the fulfillment of the Mitzvoth is not limited to the World to
Come – it is of an all-encompassing nature, finding expression even in
the physical bounty and joy of this world (see Ramban on Exodus 6:2;
Leviticus 26:11).

Having touched upon the relation between the physical and spiritual,
let us go a step further and view this relationship in light of a
moving question that was put to me.

The Question of Beauty
Question: I am a twenty-seven year old single woman, and I have many
single girl friends like myself. We are all victims of the same
painful phenomenon. Nearly all young men place great importance on
physical beauty. Yet, one does not marry a photograph; one marries a
human being with thoughts and feelings. So why then is beauty so
important? One of my friends who has some experience in match-making
tells me that if a man is not told in advance that his intended match
is pretty, or that she at least has “a lot of charm,” he will usually
not agree to meet with her. Why should man’s nature be such? We women
are not getting any younger or any more attractive.

Answer: If a man’s only incentive in marrying was to fulfill a Torah
commandment, it is possible that only one in a thousand would actually
wed. The rest would find excuses in order to exempt them from this
obligation. Similarly, if the food that God created for us was
gray-colored and repulsive, even if it contained all the essential
vitamins, many people would become sick and even die of malnutrition.

Outer appearance and initial attraction constitute the gate through
which couples enter into everlasting union. If, after this initial
stage, a couple continues to build its relationship according to the
guidance of the Torah, observing the laws of modesty and showing
increased love for one another, its relationship will flourish. The
more their wisdom and sensitivity grow, the more the bond between them
is strengthened. If this route is taken, the pair’s love will grow
endlessly stronger, despite aging and all that comes with it.

When we one day merit the complete Redemption and the Resurrection of
the Dead, the physical body will accurately reflect the state of the
soul; the more that the soul is refined, the more beautiful the body
will become. When this happens the elderly will be more beautiful than
the young. The Sages teach that the Matriarchs possessed this sort of
beauty, as did Moses who’s “cheeks never sank.”

Beauty which Reflects Essence
Question: Should not young men be taught that outer beauty is not all
that counts?
Answer: Yes, young men should be taught this lesson. All the same, it
is not possible to do away with man’s appreciation for beauty, for
this is part of his nature. Furthermore, such appreciation is good,
for it allows marriage to be accompanied by a feeling of joy.

The Talmud relates a story about a certain individual whose family
pressured him to marry one of his own relatives. Yet, because she was
unattractive he jumped up and vowed that he would never marry her. She
approached Rabbi Ishmael, who took her in and saw to it that she be
adorned and beautified. After she had been fittingly made up, Rabbi
Ishmael asked the young man if this was the woman that he had sworn
not to marry. He answered, “No, for now I find her very attractive.”
At that moment Rabbi Ishmael lifted up his voice and cried, “Indeed,
all Daughters of Israel are beautiful, only that poverty renders them
unattractive.” The Rabbi performed the same favor for a number of
other young women. When he passed away, the women lamented, saying,
“Daughters of Israel, cry over the loss of Rabbi Ishmael!” (Tractate
Nedarim, 61).

Now, it would have been possible to nullify the young man’s vow by
other means, for example, by convincing him that beauty is not the
most important factor when choosing a bride. Were the Rabbi able to
convince him of this, it would not have been difficult to find a
loophole for nullifying the young man’s vow. Rabbi Ishmael, though,
knew better than to take this path. He understood that it was
preferable for the young woman to beautify herself in the eyes of her
prospective groom so that he marries her joyfully.

The Torah is realistic. Rather than go against man’s nature, it
chooses to guide and direct it. True, it must be stressed that
admirable character traits are more important than beauty; on the
other hand, it is impossible to force a man to marry a woman that he
does not find attractive.
We are not interested in going against nature, for the Almighty has
filled creation with many layers of significance. Beauty merely
reflects inner vitality, or character, which resides beneath the
surface of physical appearances. Shallow people run after outer
appearance and ignore other, more important characteristics; those who
possess greater insight delve deeper, in order to uncover those
underlying characteristics which represent, for them, perfect beauty.

Beauty is Subjective
Every person possesses his or her own unique beauty, as Rabbi Ishmael
teaches us: “Indeed, all Daughters of Israel are beautiful.” When,
though, the age of marriage is put off, it becomes difficult to
perceive this unique beauty. The optimum vitality so characteristic of
youth decreases.

In truth, younger men are more open and more flexible and therefore
think that most of the girls they go out with are attractive. Often,
on the first date a young woman does not appear pretty in the eyes of
the young man, yet, as they get to know one another the man discovers
her true beauty, to the point where he does not even understand how he
could ever have thought that she was not beautiful.

More matured men, though, (from about the age of twenty-five) consider
only about half of the women they date attractive; the “elderly” (from
about twenty-eight) generally consider only a minority of the women
they meet with beautiful. It is difficult for them to discern the
subjective beauty that exists in every woman. It is possible to give
lectures on “grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain” (Proverbs 31:30).
This approach is somewhat effective. Yet, reality as a whole does not
change. This is the reason that it is difficult for older people to
marry. Even when they do marry, they often feel that they had no
choice but to compromise for somebody who was not exactly to their
liking.

Because of its great importance – according to our Sages God Himself
is busy arranging matches – I hope to return to this issue again in
the future.

The State of Israel

On the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, 5708 according to our
counting from the Creation of the World (May 14, 1948) when the
establishment of the State of Israel was declared, the Jewish nation,
after two thousand years of exile, merited to once again fulfill the
mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel. As a result of the declaration
and the implementation of sovereignty over parts of the land, we began
to fulfill the mitzvah of Eretz Yisrael being in our control and not
in the control of other nations. True, before the establishment of the
State, every single Jew who lived in the Land of Israel fulfilled the
individual mitzvah of settling the land. Nevertheless, the essential
aspect of the mitzvah, namely, its general facet, that the land be
ruled by the Jewish nation and not by foreigners, remained
unfulfilled. Even during times when many Jews lived in Eretz Yisrael,
as long as the land was under foreign rule, we did not merit the
fulfillment of the general mitzvah.
Likewise, the Sages decreed that one who sees the cities of Judea in
ruins says: “Your holy cities have become barren,” and tears his
garment. The general rule is that as long as sovereignty of the land,
or parts of it, is in the hands of non-Jews they are considered to be
in ruins, and one tears his garment upon seeing them. If, however,
these areas were under Jewish rule, even if the majority of its
inhabitants were non-Jews, they are not considered to be in ruins, and
one does not tear his garment upon seeing them (Beit Yosef, Bach,
Orach Chaim, 561:2).

Thus, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz’l would emphasize, that on
Independence Day, we merited to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the
land. Once, at the Independence Day festivities at Yeshiva Merkaz
HaRav, a prominent rabbi spoke about the great value in the
establishment of the State, for since then, many yeshivot were started
and it became easier for religious Jews to keep Torah and mitzvoth.
Therefore, he concluded, we must be happy and thank G-d for the
establishment of the State. Our Rabbi and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah
HaKohen Kook, took pains to add and emphasize that the very essence of
the establishment of the State was itself a tremendous event, it being
one of the greatest mitzvoth in the Torah. Subsequently, without
doubt, other mitzvoth would be fulfilled, for the fulfillment of a
mitzvah begets another mitzvah. In summary, the establishment of the
State itself is of great consequence, and not just as a means to
perform other mitzvoth. Additionally, the establishment of the State
and the blossoming of its desolate areas is an important stage in the
Redemption of Israel.

For many generations, we were forced into a situation where we could
not fulfill this mitzvah, for we lacked an army and weapons that would
facilitate the conquering of our land and establishing sovereignty
over it. It follows that the creation of Israel’s military power
before the establishment of the State, and its strengthening and
consolidation in the creation of the I.D.F., allow us to fulfill the
mitzvah. Thus, the mere existence of the army is a necessary means of
fulfilling the mitzvah to settle the land, in addition to the mitzvah
of saving Jews from their enemies. And so it will be until better days
arrive, when the prophetic vision of Isaiah is fulfilled (2:2-4): “And
it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the
Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and
shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto
it. And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the
mountain of the Lord, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and he will
teach us of his ways, ad we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion
shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he
shall judge among the nations, and shall decide among many people: and
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into
pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither
shall they learn war any more.”

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed