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: 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.”

Pondering Passover

Pondering Passover
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TWO NAMES

Two terms are mentioned with regards to this holiday in the Torah:
Chag Hamatzot (“The Festival of Unleavened Bread”) and Chag HaPesach
(“The Holiday of the Pesach Sacrifice”) These names are parallel to
two aspects of the festival – one is the crystallization of the Nation
of Israel’s Emunah, or belief, in God – symbolized by the name “Chag
Hamatzot” – and Israel’s treasured status – symbolized by the name,
“Chag HaPesach.” In the course of the Exodus from Egypt, God’s
Providence over the world revealed itself in the most obvious,
concrete manner. Consequently, Jewish belief in Hashem is rooted in
the Exodus. This is what the Matzah, consumed on the Seder night,
symbolizes. In the words of the Passover Haggadah: “This matzah that
we eat, what is its significance? We eat it since our forefather’s
dough did not leaven prior to the moment when the King of Kings, the
Holy One Blessed Be He, appeared to them and redeemed them.”

The Nation of Israel’s unique, treasured status also manifested itself
during the Exodus. During the ten plagues, the distinction drawn by
God between Israel and Egypt became abundantly clear as the Egyptians
were consistently smitten while the Jews were consistently spared.
This sharp delineation was most stark during the smiting of the first
born, when God smote the Egyptian homes but “jumped over” Jewish ones.
The term “Pesach” is a reference to the “skipping over” of the
Israelite homes.

These two foundational ideas, belief in God and the uniqueness of the
Children of Israel, are also intertwined. We were formed into a new,
treasured nation during the Exodus so that we would ultimately receive
God’s Torah; Israel’s fate is dependent on its ongoing link to the
Divine: When the Jews perform the will of the Creator and sanctify His
name in the world, they are beneficiaries of all of the Torah’s
blessings. When, on the other hand, they transgress His will, all of
the misfortunes cited in the Torah befall them.

The sanctification of God’s name in the world is dependent upon
Israel, as the prophet Isaiah states: “I created this nation for me,
so that they would speak of My praises.” This is why God’s very
contemplation of the creation of Israel preceded the actual creation
of the world. The world was only created so that Israel would
introduce knowledge and understanding of God to the world. This is
also the meaning of the Talmudic passage that asserts that God made
His creation of the world contingent upon Israel’s receipt of the
Torah. If the Jews would have failed to accept and fulfill the Torah,
creation would have been without purpose, and the universe would have
justifiably been thrown back into chaos and disarray.

The treasured status of Israel was more sharply illustrated by the
fact that God chose us to be His nation, despite the fact that, at the
time, we were lowly slaves, immersed, as the Kabbalah tells us, in the
49th level of ritual impurity. In light of the above, the two names of
this holiday represent two themes that are really two sides of the
same coin. The reality of God was to be finally revealed to the world,
and the Jewish people were to be the vehicle for that revelation.

WHY THE EXTENDED SERVITUDE?

Question: Why was it necessary for the Jewish people, before they
became consolidated into a full-fledged nation, to be enslaved in
Egypt for such a long time and under such harsh conditions? Answer:
The destiny of the Nation of Israel is to morally improve the world.
In order for the nation to take on this challenge, it had to
experience, in a very concrete manner, the extent of suffering and
pain that one man could potentially cause to another.

On several occasions, when the Torah commands us in matters between
man and his fellow man, it reminds us of our national experience in
Egypt. “Do not oppress the stranger, since you know the soul of the
stranger, because you were strangers in the Land of Egypt. (Shmot 23,
9) Elsewhere, in Vayikra 19, 33-34, we are told: “When a stranger
lives with you in your land, do not oppress him. He should be treated
as a regular citizen…and you shall love him as yourself, because you
were strangers in the Land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” The
sages note that before God began to smite the Egyptians, He told Moshe
to command Israel regarding the Mitzvah of releasing servants. Why?
Before they left Egypt, they had to agree that in the future, when
they are free men and become masters of their own servants, they will
not take unfair advantage of those servants. Thus, after six years, a
Jewish slave-owner must release his servant – and even provide him
with generous “parting gifts”!(Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh Hashanah, 3, 5)

Something truly wondrous happened during the exodus from Egypt: all
other nations, when they succeed in overcoming their oppressors,
become haughty, and themselves become the “taskmasters” of their
former masters. Yet Israel, even after the Egyptians were totally
beaten, did not attempt to overpower and dominate them. All the
Children of Israel cared about was their own freedom!

This was the first time that the ethical concept of the inherent
freedom of man was revealed to the world. It is against this backdrop
the festival of Pesach is referred to as the “Festival of Freedom.”
Our sages codified this in the text of the silent prayer for the
holiday, calling Pesach “the time of our redemption…” Not
coincidentally is this the first of the festivals, the holiday in
which the foundation of man’s freedom was laid; a free man has moral
responsibility for everything he does as an individual and as a member
of society. Perhaps this is also why they used to determine the years
of a king’s reign from the month of Nissan, so that the Jewish
monarchy would be firmly grounded in the concept of freedom.

THESIS AND ANTI-THESIS

Israel and Egypt are polar opposites: Egypt was a highly materialistic
society; Egyptians were believers in idolatry. But the Jewish nation
held an abstract, spiritual conception of the world, and therefore
only Israel could accept the abstract belief in the One God, who
possesses neither physical form or any other material quality.
Therefore, Israel’s relationship to the physical world is also pure
and perfect, This is why the people of Israel are, by their very
nature, modest and distant from sexual immorality. The Egyptians, on
the other hand, because of their focus on materialism, were very drawn
to sexual licentiousness. Thus, the Torah commands, in Vayikra 18:3,
“The deeds of Egypt, the land in which you dwelt, do not perform.” And
our sages say in the halachic midrash on Vayikra, Torat Cohanim:
“There was no nation as abominable in its actions as was Egypt.” The
Maharal of Prague, in his epic work, Gvurot Hashem, notes that this
was particularly true of the generations of Egyptians that enslaved
Israel.

No doubt that during this era, Egyptian society achieved great things
in terms of land development and usage, forging a stable system of
government, a sophisticated irrigation system, and an advanced
economic system – with the help of our forefather, Yosef. However,
these accomplishments were divorced from any spiritual context. The
Egyptians did not believe in the existence of an independent,
spiritual soul, but rather thought that the soul was dependent, even
subservient to its physical casing. This is why the Egyptians exerted
such great effort to embalm dead bodies, since they thought that man’s
whole reality was intertwined with their physical existence; a
person’s death was, for them, not the end of his physical existence,
it just meant that he could not speak or move. But in all other
senses, he is completely alive.

"The Golden Calf Replayed" (Part 1)

Gilad Shalit

Once again, the left-wing with assistance from the media is organizing
dances around their golden calf. This time it’s the demand to do
everything possible to return Gilad Shalit home. They compose songs,
light candles, etc, all to intensify the dancing around the new golden
calf. Professional demagogues compete with each other spreading
seemingly moral claims. One declares that the State of Israel made a
covenant with every soldier to return him home [if he is captured],
and it is forbidden to breach this covenant. The choir, in its
foolishness, follows along by saying that everything must be done to
return Gilad home.
The level of stupidity they have reached is unbelievable. The State of
Israel sends soldiers to be killed for the sake of the security of
Israel. She also sends soldiers to endanger their lives to capture
terrorists. All of a sudden, when a soldier falls captive, we have to
do ‘everything’ to return him?! Some even have the chutzpa to claim
that they are speaking in the name of the soldiers! It’s the soldiers
themselves who will be the first to pay the price if, G-d forbid,
‘everything’ is given to return the captive home.

The Hidden Motive

All of this has a motive. The left-wingers are interested in releasing
terrorists even without Gilad Shalit. The fact is that before every
Muslim holiday some type of ceremony is held freeing terrorists. In
deed, they are usually small fish, but never the less they are
released before their scheduled time. In the opinion of these left-
wingers, the war against terrorists is meaningless, for only Israel’s
surrender to their demands, including awarding the Arabs sovereignty
over Judea and Samaria and the right to settle anywhere in the land,
will lead to peace and quiet. Joining the left-wingers are myriads of
foolish, short-sighted people, whose intentions, to help the captive,
are good, but their vision is short-sighted.
If those left-wingers were asked to give up 2,000 shekels from their
salaries for a number of years for the sake of Gilad Shalit, suddenly
it would become clear that not ‘everything’ must be done for him. The
meaning of ‘everything’ is surrendering on the integrity of the State
of Israel and on the security of its citizens.

Idol Worship

This is the way of idol worship – to elevate one specific value,
thereby cancelling other values. It sounds good, and the idea is short
and catchy. “Peace Now” and all the problems will be solved. Or in the
new style: “Two states for two nations” and all the problems will be
solved. This is what’s presently happening with Gilad Shalit.
Even before we discuss the sin of idol worship and stupidity, we are
talking about people whose value system is sparse. These are people
who do not understand the purpose of the Jewish nation and the value
of the land of Israel. Therefore they are willing to surrender in the
name of the promised quiet. This is similar to when the people wanted
the Golden Calf, and didn’t have the patience to wait for Moshe
Rabbeinu for even a couple of days. Seemingly, they really didn’t want
him to return, therefore they were willing to accept the substitute of
the Golden Calf, whose religious demands were more moderate, and whose
preparation was quick and simple.

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel (Part 1)
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel

The commandment, or mitzvah, to settle the Land of Israel is
obligatory upon both the individual Jew and the Jewish nation as a
whole. The mitzvah requires that the nation conquer and settle all of
the Land of Israel and that each individual Jew dwell in the Land.
Regarding the nation’s responsibility to take control of Israel and
settle it, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, the Ramban, writes (in his
commentary on Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvoth): “We are commanded to
inherit the land that the almighty God gave to our forefathers
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not to leave it in the hands of other
nations or in desolation, as it says, ‘Inherit the land and live in
it, since it is to you that I am giving the land to
occupy…'” (Numbers 33:53).

If we examine the Ramban’s words carefully we will discover that there
are two parts to the mitzvah of settling the Land. The first part
involves the Jewish people ruling exclusively over the Land of Israel,
or Eretz Yisrael, thus leaving no room for foreign governing in the
Land. Even when this is accomplished, however, the mitzvah is still
not considered complete. The second part of the mitzvah requires the
settling of every part of the Land, including the most desolate areas.
The mitzvah obligates us not only to dwell in developed cities or
towns, but to make the wasteland bloom as well. Only when the Land is
under Jewish rule and every part of it is settled, cultivated and
flourishing, will the commandment have been completely fulfilled.

The Ramban emphasizes that this commandment is applicable not only to
the period of time during which the Jews made their exodus from Egypt
and subsequently conquered Israel, but for all generations. In all
generations we are obligated to rule over the Land and to settle it.
Unfortunately, for much of our long history we have been incapable of
fulfilling this commandment, for we, the Jewish People, have been
confined to exile in both body and soul. Yet in recent times, through
the goodness of God, the end of the exile has begun to reveal itself –
our situation has changed and we are now once again able to fulfill
this mitzvah.

The Individual’s Part in the Complete Mitzvah

There are many levels involved in the individual’s part of the mitzvah
of settling the Land of Israel. Those who dwell in Israel are partners
in this mitzvah, for their presence strengthens the Jewish control of
the Land. Those who live in areas that are more desolate, such as the
desert, or in Judea and Samaria, fulfill the mitzvah on an even higher
level. Their presence in these parts of the Land contributes doubly to
the mitzvah, for they are not only strengthening the rule over the
areas in which other nations are attempting to wrest away from the
Jews, but they are also helping to ensure that all of the Land is
cultivated and settled. Those who live in other places in Israel that
are more isolated from Jewish presence and are surrounded by enemies,
are fulfilling the mitzvah to an even greater extent. The wise Sages
have said that the Land of Israel is only acquired through pain and
suffering; the greater the suffering, the greater the reward.

The commandment to settle the Land of Israel is unique in that, unlike
most other mitzvot, its fulfillment doesn’t involve the performance of
any specific act, such as laying tefillin, giving tzeddakah or
praying. Each Jew who lives in Israel is performing the mitzvah of
settling the Land just by his dwelling in it. It follows, that for
those who merit residing in the towns of Judea and Samaria, mundane
daily acts, such as breathing, eating and sleeping, become mitzvot in
themselves.

For those who live outside of Israel but financially support its
settlement, their partnership is limited as they are not fulfilling
the commandment with their physical presence. And those who do live in
Israel and also help to support its settlement towns are partners in
the settling of the Land’s holy places, which of course, raises the
level of greatness for this mitzvah.

Blessings Over Joy

Blessings Over Joy
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Thanking God for Both the Good and the Bad

The objective of pronouncing blessings is to cause us to always
remember the Creator, Who watches over all of His creatures at every
moment. By blessing we are repeatedly reminded that God does not
reside in some detached and lofty abode, but rather that every thing
which exists in our world does so by virtue of a divine inner spark.
Every single event which takes place in the world has spiritual
significance and a divine objective which beckons to be understood.
Hence, when a person experiences a certain joyous incident, he must
praise and thank the Creator, and pronounce the blessing
“Shehecheyanu.” On the other hand, if, Heaven forbid, one experiences
a tragedy, one must realize that this too is the result of God’s
providence, and though we do not always understand what sort of logic
lies behind such an event, we must all the same have faith and know
that God is a fair judge and that all of his decisions are just. In
such circumstances one therefore blesses, “Barukh Dayan
HaEment” (Blessed is the fair judge).
The knowledge that God runs the world, and that whatever occurs
happens as a result of His providence, gives meaning to every event in
life. When a person merits a joyous occasion, his joy is deepened by
his awareness of the fact that this was not the result of coincidence,
but of the hidden hand of God. And even if, Heaven forbid, a person
experiences a tragedy, he is better equipped to accept it when he
knows that it has meaning. The conviction that God watches over
creation adds light to the world even during difficult hours, for the
believer knows that even if at present he is not aware of what good
can possibly come out of this tragedy, he at any rate knows that
whatever God does in the world is, when all is said and done, for the
best. One, though, who does not possess faith, is faced with nothing
more that hardships, and the pain penetrates his heart, providing no
remedy or meaning.

“Shehecheyanu” and “HaTov VeHaMetiv”

The Sages introduced two blessings for the purchase of new and
gladdening items: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the
Universe, who has granted us life and sustenance and permitted us to
reach this festive occasion,” and “Blessed are You…the beneficent
One, Who bestows good.” The difference between them is that so long as
the joy belongs exclusively to one individual, he must bless
“Sheyecheyanu.” Yet, when the joy is shared by two or more
individuals, it is collective, and they therefore bless, “the
beneficent One, Who bestows good.” Hence, if a couple buys, for
example, a heating furnace, cooking stove, table, chairs, beds, or
anything else connected to the needs of the home, because the joy is
shared by the two of them, they must bless, “the beneficent One, Who
bestows good.” But a single individual who buys the same items for
himself will bless, “Shehecheyanu.” The same goes for a new garment: a
dress, pants, skirt, or any other item which makes a person happy.
Over such things, one blesses “Shehecheyanu.” And even if the husband
is happy because his wife has a new garment, all the same, the real
and actual joy belongs to the woman, and therefore she alone
pronounces the blessing.

Winning the Lottery and Receiving an Inheritance

A person who wins the lottery must, of course, thank God and pronounce
a blessing. This is true not only for large amounts, but for small
amounts as well. Even a person who wins a few hundred shekels, and is
happy about this, must pronounce a blessing. The question is, though,
should he bless “Shehecheyanu or “the beneficent One…” If the winner
is single, or married yet each of the spouses has his or her own bank
account, since the money is really the winner’s alone, he or she must
pronounce the blessing. If, though, the money enters their joint
account, because it brings happiness to both of them, “the beneficent
One” must be pronounced.
The same is true regarding one who inherits money or property – he
must pronounce a blessing. And even though he would prefer to forgo
the inheritance and have his relative remain alive, all the same, the
blessing is pronounced for the benefit derived from the inheritance
which, nevertheless, causes happiness in its own right. Therefore,
when a close relative dies, one blesses: “Blessed be the True Judge”.
Afterwards, when the bereaved inheritor receives his inheritance, he
must thank God and pronounce the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. Here, too,
if he is a sole inheritor, he blesses, “Shehecheyanu,” but if a number
of individuals divide the inheritance between them, they must bless
“the beneficent One…” And if there is one inheritor, yet he is
married and a father of children, it would appear that if the money
enters into his and his wife’s joint account, they must bless “the
beneficient One…” for she too shares in the joy. If, though, the
inheritance goes into the benefactor’s own personal account, and is
not divided with the spouse, even though she will no doubt derive
indirect benefit from the inheritance, all the same, he pronounces the
“Shehecheyanu” blessing. This is because in principal the money
belongs to him, and theoretically she may end up deriving absolutely
no benefit from it whatsoever (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 223:2;
Mishnah Berurah 9; Biyur Halakhah, Dibbur Hamatchil: “Ein”).

A Gift

We have already mentioned the difference between the “Shehecheyanu”
and “the beneficent One…” blessings. i.e., so long as the joy is
shared by two or more individuals “the beneficent One” is pronounced;
when the joy is the sole possession of a single individual
“Shehecheyanu” is pronounced. For example, if a woman buys a new dress
for herself, she blesses “Shehecheyanu.” And despite the fact that it
also makes her husband happy, the actual tangible enjoyment is the
woman’s. Interestingly, though, when a husband buys his wife a dress
as a gift, even though the woman is the one who wears the dress, the
Shulchan Arukh says (Orach Chaim 223:5) that she blesses “the
beneficent One…” The reason for this is that by giving the gift to
his wife the husband became an active participant in the joy. The same
is true regarding any gift that a person gives to his fellow. The one
who receives the gift must bless “the beneficient One…”
There are, though, authorities who disagree and hold that because the
one who gives the gift receives no actual tangible pleasure, he is not
to a true partner in the pleasure, and therefore the one who receives
must pronounce the “Shehecheyanu” blessing (Mishnah Beruruah 223, 21).
In such a situation, then, the one who receives the gift may chose how
to bless, for either of the two blessings is acceptable.

"The Month of Adar"

The Month of Adar

The Sages of the Talmud teach that when the month of Av begins, we
lessen our joy; when, though, the month of Adar begins we increase our
joy. They, in fact, are subtly telling us that there is no coincidence
in the world, and that each season has a unique character and nature
of its own. The fact that the destruction of the First and Second
Temples occurred on the ninth of Av is an indication that the
beginning of the month of Av, by its very nature, is a time of
retribution; the fact that the Purim festival took place in the middle
of the month of Adar is a sign that the month of Adar possesses a
unique capacity to transform the bad into good.

Rav Papa adds that if a Jew has a court case or business transaction
with a stranger in the month of Av he should do his best to avoid it,
for this month is a time of misfortune for him. He should try to
arrange such undertakings in the month of Adar. In Adar, a Jew enjoys
good fortune. Now, if this is true concerning an individual Jew, how
much more so regarding the People of Israel as a whole. It follows
that there is no better time of year for dialogue between Israel and
the nations than the month of Adar. As in the days of Purim when evil
decrees were transformed to good, so too in our days all the evil
thoughts of the nations will be transformed to blessings and success.

The Four Parshiot

In addition to the fixed arrangement of weekly Torah-readings, the
sages instituted the reading of four special Torah portions, or
Parshiot, in the month of Adar.
The first is Parshat-Shekalim (Numbers 28:9-15). This reading was
instituted in order to remind the entire People of Israel to donate
the yearly half-shekel contribution – a contribution used to purchase
the communal sacrifices which were to be offered up in the Holy
Temple. Concerning this sum there was no difference between rich and
poor; each was commanded to give a half-shekel, no less and no more.
This contribution can be seen as an indication that concerning the
most fundamental act carried out in the Temple – the offering of
sacrifices – every Jew is equal. Even if money was left over from the
previous year, the sacrifices for the coming year would not be bought
with it; the Torah demands that each year’s sacrifices be purchased
from the donations of the new year. The year, as far as sacrifices are
concerned, begins on the first of the month of Nisan. Therefore, each
year on the first of Adar (the month preceding Nisan), the courts
would make an announcement reminding people of the half-shekel
offering so that during the month of Adar everybody would bring their
contribution. With the beginning of Nisan, the communal sacrifices
would be bought from the new contributions. In order to strengthen the
court announcement, it was instituted that Parshat-Shekalim be read on
the Sabbath before the first of Adar. And if the first of Adar falls
on Sabbath, Parashat Shekalim is read therein. With the destruction of
the Temple, the sages enacted the continued reading Parshat-Shekalim,
in remembrance of the Temple and the mitzvah of the half-shekel.

Following Parshat-Shekalim is Parshat-Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19). In
reading this portion of the Torah we fulfill the Mitzvah to remember
what the nation of Amalek did to us. The sages instituted its reading
just before Purim in order to link this mitzvah to the Purim holiday
on which we celebrate the blotting out of Haman who was of Amalekite
genealogy.
The third Parasha is Parshat-Parah (Numbers 19:1-22). In this portion
we learn about the practice of ritual purification in order that we
are able to go to the Holy Temple and offer up sacrifices. The Sages
instituted its reading just before the month of Nisan in order that we
prepare and purify ourselves for the offering of the Passover
sacrifice.
The fourth and final Parasha is Parshat-HaChodesh (Exodus 12:1-20),
and it was instituted to be read on the Sabbath before the first of
Nisan. If the first of Nisan happens to fall on the Sabbath, Parshat-
HaChodesh is read therein. Its reading was instituted in order to
remind us that the month (Chodesh) of Nisan is the first month of the
Jewish calendar. In addition, Parshat-HaChodesh makes mention of
Passover preparations.

by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed