Hashem’s Blessing to the Nation in This World

The reward and punishments written in the Torah are intended primarily for the entire nation, and are meant to be fulfilled in this world * The blessing is realistic: A nation that lives a Torah and faith-based life – is wiser, invests more, has more families, and is more successful in all spheres of life * When the State of Israel lives according to the Torah, its security, scientific, and economic success will make it exemplary for the Gentiles * On Rosh Hashanah we pray primarily for the crowning of Hashem as King through the nation * In the exile, crowning of Hashem as king was expressed mainly in our cry that He save us; in the Land of Israel, the crowning of Hashem means accepting responsibility and building a society according to the ways of Torah

The Question of Reward and Punishment

It is widely believed that the reward and punishment written in the Torah in affairs concerning life in this world are mainly directed at the individual, who, if he follows the ways of Torah and mitzvot will merit wealth and happiness, and a good and healthy life. If so, a question arises – how is it that there are tzadikim (righteous people) who suffer from poverty, illnesses, and deprivation, and in contrast, rasha’im (evil people) who enjoy riches, good health, and esteem.

Indeed, our Sages said: “The length of one’s life, the number of children he will have, and his livelihood, depend not on merit, but rather on mazal (good fortune)” (Moed Katan 28a). All of these virtues are not dependent on one’s merit, but on his mazal, in other words, his fate, or the destiny he was assigned when born. The Gemara brings evidence of this from the lives of two of the great Amora’im – Rabbah and Rav Hisda, who were both tzadikim — in times of drought, both of their prayers were answered. Rav Hisda lived ninety-two years, and Rabbah lived only forty years. In Rav Hisda’s house, sixty weddings took place, and in Rabbah’s house, sixty cases of bereavement occurred. In Rav Hisda’s house wealth abounded – even the dogs were fed the purest wheaten bread (‘loshon guzma’ – not to be taken literally), while Rabbah’s house was poverty-stricken – they didn’t even always have cheap barley bread to satisfy their needs.

The Remuneration Spoken of in the Torah is intended for the Clal

Rather, the main reward and punishment for the individual are in Olam HaNeshamot (the World of Souls) and Olam Ha’Ba (the World to Come), whereas the reward and punishment written in the Torah are written for Clal Yisrael (the entire physical and spiritual community of Israel, past, present, and future), for the Torah talks of rainfall and economic blessing that descends from Heaven over the entire Land of Israel, and a general state of health, fertility and peace, victories over enemies and a praiseworthy status in the world, and above all, the dwelling of the Shekinah (Divine Presence). And as for punishment, in contrast, drought, a curse on the crops of the Land, poverty and famine, epidemics, defeat at the hands of our enemies, the concealment of the Shekinah, servitude to other nations, and exile.

A nation’s general situation, of course, greatly affects each and every individual, for indeed, even if an intelligent and industrious person is born in a poor country torn by wars, his life will be short and miserable. In contrast, someone born in a rich and developed country, even if he is not so talented and diligent, will live a comfortable life.

Freedom of Choice

If the main reward and punishment in this world was intended for the individual, we wouldn’t have bechira chofshit (freedom of choice), and no expression of the tzelem Elokim (image of God) in man, for if every sinner was punished on the spot – no one would ever sin, and if for every good deed a person received an immediate reward – everyone would be tzadikim. However, when the judgment is for the Clal, in any case, it progresses in a long and complex process, and an individual’s fate depends largely on his overall destiny, and not by his choice. Thus, each individual chooses his path according to his beliefs and values.

In any event, the precise and correct judgment remains unchanged, for, in Olam HaBa, each individual will receive exactly what he deserves.

A Glimpse of the World to Come in this World

All the same, a little bit of the reward in Olam HaBa descends from above and is revealed in this world, for indeed, a person who chooses the good path – merits emunah (faith), and consequently, everything that happens in his life, fills him with meaning; even when he suffers torment, Hashem is with him, and his anguish is eased. On the other hand, one who chooses evil, even if he enjoys the pleasures of this world, his life is empty and meaningless, and ultimately becomes loathsome. Besides that, the more we look at the longer term, we see that even in this world, the tzadikim usually merit greater blessing.

The Natural Blessing of Torah Life

Let’s return to the Torah’s guidance – if we follow the ways of Hashem we will merit receiving favor and blessing, that will come to us in a natural way. This is one of the most important objectives of Torah study – explaining the logic of how the observance of Torah and mitzvot gives value and meaning to all fields, and thus, is blessed. Even if such an advantage is indicated by a few percentage points on an individual basis, and consequently does not violate bechira chofshit, when it comes to an entire public living by the light of Torah – the blessing is wonderfully abundant.

In other words, if we comprehend the Torah properly, we will better understand the value of education in general, and the development of science in particular (as explained in Rambam, the Gaon of Vilna, and many more), and as a result, it would be reasonable to assume that our children will, on the average, reach better academic achievements by a few percentage points than is customary in developed countries. Thanks to recognizing the value of work and its contribution to tikun olam (perfecting the world), they will exert a bit more effort acquiring a quality and useful profession, and at their jobs, will probably reach a slightly higher level on the average than is customary in developed countries. Thanks to setting regular times for Torah study throughout the week, and in particular on Shabbat, they will merit a little bit more inspiration in development, creativity, and assimilating Torah values in their fields. Thanks to modesty and moderation, each individual relative to what he or she has, they can spend more years studying the profession or science they chose, and reach slightly better achievements in their fields.

Thanks to emunah and adherence to tradition, all these values ​​will continue to be strengthened, and will also add social cohesion and a sense of camaraderie. Thanks to the Torah guidance of family life, more families will live in love and happiness, and merit raising more children to Torah and mitzvot, and all other good deeds. Thanks to emunah, there will be greater willingness to contribute to the nation in the army and in settlement of the country; the security situation of the state will improve, and of course, this improvement will reflect on all other areas.

In order to realize all this goodness for the long-term, of course, everything has to be founded on the belief in Hashem and His Torah, with all its values and morals.

The Vision for the State of Israel

If indeed we do merit adhering to the proper path, we can assume that the State of Israel’s GNP (Gross National Product) will be, on average, higher than the other developed countries. We will continue advancing in the fields of social welfare, improve the educational system, and then, within two generations, the average wage in Israel will be twice as high as in the most developed countries. The Nation of Israel, living in its Land, will multiply, grow stronger, and lead the world in terms of ethics, science, and economics.

Diaspora Jews, of course, will long to make aliyah and take part in the success, and even those “lost in the land of Assyria, and those dispersed in the land of Egypt” will seek to discover their roots, and return to their People and their Land. And a great, powerful, and populous nation will proclaim faith and justice to the world, paving the way for moral education and intellectual development for the benefit of mankind, innovating methods and technologies for longevity and quality of life, and thus, in a natural way, we will merit seeing the fulfillment of the prophet’s vision: “In the end of days, the mount of the Lord’s Temple will be established above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.’ The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2: 2-3).

Rosh Hashanah Prayer

Consequently, our main prayers in the Yamim Nora’im (the High Holidays) concern the general condition of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, and this is the main judgment rendered on Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, in the Birkat Ha’Yom (blessing of the Day) in the Amidah (silent) prayer, our main request is for the dwelling of the Shekhinah and the revelation of His kingdom in the world, upon which blessing is contingent: “Our God and God of our ancestors, may your sovereignty be acknowledged throughout the world. May your splendor and majestic glory be reflected in the lives of all who dwell on earth. May all that you have made be aware that you are their Maker, and may all that you have created acknowledge that you are their Creator; and may all that breathe the breath of life proclaim: The Eternal, God of Israel, reigns and his sovereignty embraces everything in the universe.”

The Crowning of Hashem – Accepting Responsibility

A person may think that the foundation of emunah is self-effacement and the recognition of man’s uselessness as opposed to the greatness of Hashem, and thus, his whole prayer is just a cry for help, that Hashem will do everything, save and redeem us. However, according to everything we have learned in the Torah, from the ways of our Avot (our forefathers) and tzadikim, the meaning of crowning Hashem is the fulfillment of the Torah in all its glory, by means of which, all blessings in the Torah are continually revealed, and this is the way the kingdom of Hashem is revealed in the world.

In this manner, Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God) is much greater, since not only does Hashem bestow upon us plenty from above, but rather, by our following in the path of Torah and mitzvot – Divine abundance already inherent in man and the world is continually revealed. As it is said: “Truth springs up from the ground; righteousness gazes down from Heaven. Yes, Hashem gives what is good, and our Land yields its produce.” (Psalm 85:12- 13).

This is how Hashem is crowned in the world in the proper manner.

However, when God forbid, we are in terrible exile, all we have left is to cry out to Hashem, and this is the way we proclaim His kingdom – that we have not lost faith He will redeem us. But when He begins to redeem us, and we have the ability to act, then, it is our duty to fulfill the Torah in practice, and do all we can to realize its guidance and blessings. This is the true de’vaykut (devotion) to Hashem – that all of life is all revealed through our faith and actions.

We Forgot How to Crown

As a result of the agonies of exile, to a certain extent, we have forgotten how to reveal the kingdom of Hashem in the proper way. This is because, on account of the sins that led to exile, His kingdom is revealed to us through punishment, the most severe of which is exile with all its terrible sufferings, and consequently, all we have left is to cry out to Hashem. However, this is not the appropriate way, for the punishment came as a result of of the forsaking of Divine guidance in the world. In other words, the problem was not that we did not cry out to Hashem, but rather, that we went astray after idolatry, and sinned in murder, incest, the torment of orphans and widows, distortion of justice, baseless hatred, unethical behavior between man and his fellow man, desecration of Shabbat, and slave bondage. As a result of this, all the work in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) was individual; society fell apart, and all the curses in the Torah came upon us. If we do not make an effort to be redeemed from exile on our, willingly, then: “This is what Hashem Elokim says: As surely as I live, with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be your king!” (Ezekiel 20:33).

We must pray on the Yamim Nora’im, they should be for the good, that we merit working in conjunction with Hashem in the revelation of His kingdom, through the powers, talents, and initiative that Hashem has given us, and by doing so, we will merit receiving all the Torah’s blessings in a natural way, all of which are songs and glory to the King of the world.

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

Why Does Food Need Kosher Supervision?

A person’s basic loyalty to eating kosher is not applicable in the business world, where there is concern people will cheat to make money; therefore, food must be supervised * The list of ingredients shown on a product wrapper does not indicate its kashrut, because all food additives such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, flavor enhancers, etc., are not specified * Food additives can be problematic as far as kashrut is concerned, especially in two controversial substances – glycerin, and gelatin * Since the consumer is not familiar with all the additives, and is not aware of the complex controversies, all industrial food products must have kashrut supervision

Q: Is one obligated to buy food with kashrut supervision? Why can’t a person rely on the seller or manufacturer who testifies to his products, such as dairy products made from cow’s milk, and are obviously kosher anyway? And various sweets such as chocolate, why do they need kashrut supervision – after all, they’re made from cocoa and sugar and other kosher ingredients? Why worry they contain something prohibited?

Basic Loyalty and Supervision of Merchants

A: As a matter of principle, Jews are credible when it comes to mitzvot, therefore the Torah commanded that every Jew, whether male or female, fulfill the mitzvoth of kashrut himself: slaughter his beasts and kasher them from chalavim (fat portions), gid ha’nasheh, and blood, without a Kohen or Chacham supervising him, and separate terumot and ma’asrot (tithes) from his fruits without the supervision of representatives from a Beit Din. Thus, any Jew who is a guest at another Jew’s home may rely on him and eat his food – assuming that before the meat was prepared he slaughtered the animal according to halakha, that he did not mix meat and milk in his foods, that he made sure there were no insects in them, that he separated terumot and ma’asrot from his fruits, and that challah was taken from his dough-like batter. Not only that, but according to the mitzvoth of the Torah, even the Kohanim rely on every Jew and eat from the animals they slaughtered, for the Torah commanded Jews to give the zero’ah, lechaim, and keyva to the Kohanim to eat. Regarding this, the Chachamim said: “One witness is relied upon in prohibitions,” i.e., that one man may attest to his food that they are kosher (Rashi Yevamot 88a, s.v. ‘ve’amar’; Chulin 10b, s.v. ‘eid’). We have also learned that every Jewish man trusts his wife that she has cleansed herself of the impurity of nida (Tosafot, Gitin 2b, s.v. ‘eid’). However, this basic trustworthiness depends on two conditions: first, it is a person who knows how to fulfill the details of the mitzvot. Secondly, this person is not known as one who disrespects the mitzvah.

However, when it comes to a merchant who makes money from selling food, he is judged differently: just as Beit Din is obligated to supervise that the weights and measurements of merchants are accurate, and without supervision, there is fear their yetzer will overcome them (Baba Batra 89a), so too, food merchants must be supervised (Aruch HaShulchan, Y.D. 119:4). Therefore, food products produced in factories must also be supervised, since the factory owners make a living from them.

What Are Food Additives?

Q: Since the law requires factory owners to write the ingredients of each product, and if they cheat they are fined, thus, they already have supervision and the kashrut of each product can be determined by the ingredients contained therein. Why do we need the supervision of a rabbinate on products such as milk and candies, whose preparation does not involve halakhic acts such as shechita and the separating of terumot and ma’asrot?

A: In the modern food industry additives are used, such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, moisturizers, crystallizers, and flavor and color enhancers. In other words, when they want to mix two substances that do not naturally mix, such as water and oil, to produce chocolate or milk delicacies, they use an emulsifier that binds and congeals the two. Since sometimes even after using an emulsifier the two substances tend to separate, they use a stabilizer that keeps them combined. In order to preserve the moisture of products that tend to dry out, they use glazing agents. When they want to prevent food from gelling so it stays nice-looking, soft and flexible, they use anti-caking substances. When they want to make a liquid product thick, such as dairy products made from liquid milk, they use emulsifiers such as gelatin. When they want food products to be preserved for a long time, they use preservatives and antioxidants. Flavor enhancers are also used, whose purpose is to enhance certain flavors and to diminish the tastes of others.

Marking of the Additives

In many countries of the world, including Israel, food additives are labeled according to the European classification represented by the letter E (Europe), and the ingredients are classified according to their purpose. Each series of hundreds have a special designation. Ingredients used as edible food coloring are indicated by numbers 100 to 199, i.e., E100 to E199. Preservatives are given the next series, and their labeling is E200 to E299. Acidity regulators and antioxidants are labeled E300 to E399. Thickeners, emulsifiers, and stabilizers are marked E400 to E499. Gelatin is included in this series and is marked E441, and glycerin is marked E422. In the 500-599 series are anti-caking substances and acidity regulators. The series of flavor enhancers is 600-699. The series of 700-799 is antibiotics to prevent bacterial development. 900-999 is a series of glazing agents, gases, sweeteners, and others. These are the main ingredients used in the food industry.

In practice, every industrial product today has dozens of additives, and their kashrut requires supervision. The law does not require the labeling of all of them, but only the main ones.

The Kashrut of Food Additives

Almost all food additives are produced abroad, therefore, when they are plant-based, they do not involve halakhic questions, except for substances produced from stam yainum (wine which might have been poured for an idolatrous service). However, when they are produced from animals, they are usually prohibited, because they are produced from impure animals such as pigs, or from pure animals that were not slaughtered according to halakha. Additives noted as being problematic are glycerin, followed by gelatin.

Glycerin

Glycerin is one of the fatty substances in an animal’s body, and its purpose is to preserve energy for times of starvation. It is used in the food industry for emulsion, stabilization, thickening, sweetening, preservation, and other purposes. Its marking is E-422. In large factories around the world, it is produced from impure animals such as pigs, or from pure animals such as calves that have not been slaughtered according to halakha. Today there are plant and synthetic substitutes.

At first, about 150 years ago, glycerin was used for the purpose of thickening and sweetening liqueurs. It was produced by boiling, which did not make it inedible, and consequently, the poskim agreed that its use was prohibited (Darchei Teshuva 103:70; Yismach Levav, Y.D. 24). With the development of the food industry, glycerin also began to be used as a stabilizer, emulsifier, preservative, and as an anti-crystallization agent and other uses, so that sometimes it is enough to use just a minimal amount of it. In addition, an alternative method of distilling glycerin from fatty acids was developed by mixing caustic soda with fat. At that stage it is toxic and inedible, and afterwards, the glycerin is separated from the caustic soda, and is once again edible.

Some poskim say that since there was a stage in which the glycerin was inedible, its prohibition is void, and after becoming edible again, ‘panim chadashot ba’u l’kan’ (something entirely new), and it is not prohibited. In addition, many times the amount does not reach one-sixtieth, and in any case, is nullified. And it cannot be argued that it has the status of ma’amid (a gelling agent), because quite often its effect on a food product is not as evident as a regular ma’amid (Sridei Aish 2:21).

On the other hand, in the opinion of many poskim, glycerin is not considered a new product, since it is only separated from the fatty acids that were attached to it. In addition, it itself is edible, for only the addition of caustic soda made it inedible, and afterwards, when removed, the glycerin remains edible as it was initially. Therefore, when it is the sole ma’amid, it is prohibited, and even when it is not the only ma’amid, it is forbidden to be mixed-in deliberately, and if it was mixed-in, l’chatchila (ideally), it is forbidden to eat it (Minchat Yitzchak 5:5; Mishneh Halachot 9: 154). Since the reasoning of the machmirim (strict poskim) is convincing, and is the opinion of the majority of poskim, this is the practical instruction, that glycerin should be produced from pure animals that have been slaughtered according to halakha, or from vegetable oil.

Gelatin

Gelatin is produced from the collagen protein found in bones and skins. Its job is to stabilize and gel candy, ice cream, dairy products, and the like. Large factories produce it from impure animals such as pigs, or pure animals such as calves that were not slaughtered according to halakha. In the production process, the bones and skins are soaked in lime to extract liquid and additional substances, and the remains are ground into powder, which is the gelatin.

There are poskim who permit gelatin, since in its production process, the bones and skins lose all their taste to the point where they are no longer edible, and since panim chadashot ba’u l’kan, it is not prohibited. And if it is extracted from the hard part of the bones, there is another reason to permit it, because this part of the bone is never considered edible, and consequently, from the start, the prohibition does not apply to it (Achiezer 3:33; Har Tzvi, Y.D. 83; Yebiah Omer, Vol. 8, Y.D. 11).

On the other hand, there are poskim who prohibit gelatin, because the production of gelatin is not considered to be the creation of anything new, but merely the separation of collagen from the other substances, and consequently, the Torah prohibition applicable to the bones and skins of impure animals and nevilot remains on the gelatin separated from them. It is not batel be’shishim, since it has the din of a ma’amid that is not batel be’shishim (Iggrot Moshe, Y.D. 2:23, 27; Minchat Yitzchak 5: 5).

In practice, those who want to be maykel (lenient) are permitted since the controversy is in Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical), for in practice, gelatin has no taste, rather, it is a ma’amid and stabilizer, and the general rule that a ma’amid aino batel afilu  b’elef (a ma’amid is not nullified even in a thousand) is derived from Divrei Chachamim. Nevertheless, l’chatchila (ideally), it is proper to take into consideration the opinion of the machmirim (stringent poskim), in particular, today, when it is possible to obtain gelatin produced from kosher animals or to use alternative coagulants.

Every Product Requires Kashrut Certification

In practice, consumers are not familiar with all food additives (only a few of which have been mentioned in this column). They cannot know what is produced from prohibited animals, and what is produced from plants or synthetic materials, which food additive is considered a ma’amid which prohibits the food, and which additive is not considered a ma’amid. Therefore, responsible kashrut supervision of all industrial food products is required, and without such supervision, no industrial food may be eaten. Since in certain matters there are controversies, there are different levels of kashrut supervision. In regular kashrut, the opinion of individual poskim and sofakot d’Rabanan (uncertainty in rabbinical ordinance) are not taken into consideration, and kashrut is given according to ikar ha’halakha (the principal halakha), and there are kashrut organizations who take into consideration the approaches of all the machmirim, and give kashrut le’mehadrin.

As I wrote this column, I regrettably heard that Rabbi Oren Ben Zahara Duvdevani shlita, who contributed from his knowledge and experience to the inquiries presented in this column, is ill. May Hashem send him a complete recovery.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. The original article may found at: https://revivim.yhb.org.il/

The Secret of Rabbi Kook’s Greatness

Many people in Rabbi Kook’s generation, including Torah scholars, wondered how he managed to have command of so many different issues in Halacha and Aggadah – alongside his unceasing involvement in public affairs * The explanation is that for Rabbi Kook everything was Torah, and every field he encountered, he  addressed in a comprehensive fashion * More about Rabbi Kook’s greatness: Why the light in his house was on until late at night, what Agnon said about Rav Kook after studying with him for nine straight hours, and what would have happened if his seminal book “Orot HaTeshuva” had been translated into English

In honor of the 3rd of Elul which occurred this week, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Kook ztz”l, I will mention a bit of the greatness of the Gadol Ha’Dor of past generations.

His Diligence in Torah Study

Rabbi Kaniel ztz”l, the Rabbi of Haifa, wrote: “No less than his gift of genius, he had a genius of work, diligence, and perseverance to the point of mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) for Torah. When he studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva, his diligence was above and beyond human power (he would study be’iyun (in-depth) sixty pages of Gemara with meforshim (commentators) every day … I merited learning privately with Rabbeinu, and saw the aish ha’kodesh (the sacred fire) in his heart for love of Torah, as an endlessly rising flame, and only with great effort was it possible to drag him away from his studies to eat a little something to keep him going. Once, while walking with one of Jerusalem’s wise Torah scholars, I passed by Rabbi Kook’s house well after midnight, and we saw a light in the house. We wished to find out who was interrupting the rabbi’s rest so late at night, after he had dealt with so many difficult concerns the entire day. How astonished we were when we saw Rabbi Kook himself holding a large book, pacing back and forth across the hall, devouring page after page with unparalleled enthusiasm …”

The administrator of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Shabtai Shmueli, told: “Once, I had to enter his room during his studies to have him write a few lines of gratitude and blessings to a generous donator. I went in quietly not to disturb him, and waited until he realized I was there, but he was immersed in learning Tractate Sukkah, and it took a considerable amount of time until he “discovered” me. The amount of pages of Gemara he went through is etched in my memory. His concentration and the speed of his study amazed me greatly, and until today, I remember that experience” (Likutei Ha’Raya, Vol.1, pgs. 45-47).

The Greatness of his Personality

Rabbi Yisrael Porat ztz”l wrote: “Usually, people who have won a name for themselves also attain a sense of awe from distant people who have heard about them … but when they come to know them closely, their degree of admiration diminishes … after all, everyone has weaknesses and shortcomings that help diminish themselves. This is not the case with our great Rabbeinu – the more you stood before him, the more you had a chance to observe his leadership, and the more you heard him speak – the more you saw him transcend and rise above your reach; you became a fan and an admirer, wishing to sit at the dust of his feet, because you saw before you a spectacular phenomenon of true genius, a man with a comprehensive and penetrating mind, a good Jew in the fullest sense of the word, and a man of prominence.” “He was a spring which steadily increases its flow. He used to speak for several hours straight, spawning gems embedded with ornaments on the topics of Halakha, Aggadah, Kabbalah, and religious philosophy. His words were pure and refined, to the letter of the Talmud and Midrashim, Zohar and Moreh Nevuchim, and in all books of Judaism in all fields. When he sat down at the table to write he wrote endlessly, page after page, as long as he wasn’t interrupted…”

Rabbi Reuven Margaliot ztz”l asked Rabbi Aryeh Levin ztz”l: “What made Rabbi Kook so great?” Rabbi Aryeh replied, “I am not the one who knows how to estimate his greatness, but I can only say this: I have never seen any katnut (smallness) in him” (Likutei HaRaya Vol. 1, pages 17-24).

His Genius

Rabbi Karroll, Rabbi of Kfar Hasidim, said that when he came to Maran Rabbi Kook ztz”l, he intended to talk to him about some well-prepared issues, and to his great amazement, Rabbi Kook was well-versed in all of them, as if he had just studied them (Likutei Ha’Raya, p. 53).

Rabbi Dov Eliezerov said: “On one of the times I visited Rabbi Kook, the Rabbi of Teplyk was there, and we saw something that aroused in us great admiration. Rav Kook was asked a question in hilchot nashim (the laws of women), and behold, he began to recite from memory the words of the Gemara and Rambam, and the methods of the Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch – everything was clear to him. Another time, I saw a Torah scholar who had written a book on the Tractate of Midot came to visit Rav Kook with drawings in his hand, and I was amazed to see Rav Kook make various clarifications and corrections on a subject that few people dealt with (ibid., P. 56).

Rabbi Bezalel Zolti ztz”l told that at the levaya (lit. ‘accompanying’; the funeral procession) of Rav Kook, he walked alongside the mashgiach, Rabbi Leib Hasman and the street next to Rav Kook’s house was filled with rabbis and heads of yeshiva’s and Talmedei Chachamim (Torah scholars) from Jerusalem and all over the country. Rabbi Hasman said to him in Yiddish: “You see here so many ‘heads’; well let me tell you, we are accompanying the greatest ‘head’ of all of the ‘heads’ put together” (ibid., P. 52).

Rabbi Zevin ztz”l, who was one of the great geon’im (Torah geniuses) himself, wrote: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that Maran, the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook ztz”l, was the only one of the Gedolei Torah in our generation who had a command of both halakha and aggadah. Rabbi Kook was without equal in niglei (the revealed side of Torah) and nistar (the hidden side of Torah)… in fact, in a sense, he personified halakha and aggadah… “(Ishim ve’Shitot, p. 210).

The Secret of His Greatness in Torah despite his Tasks

Many were amazed that Rabbi Kook was preoccupied with answering questions of numerous people in issues of halakha and public and personal leadership, and yet it seemed that he was constantly reviewing his learnings – in bekiut (broad familiarity with large swaths of data), and iyun (in-depth analysis). Usually, rabbis required to answer questions or heads of yeshiva’s engaged in giving in-depth classes specialize in the certain field they are dealing with, and in other areas, their greatness diminishes. But with Maran Rabbi Kook ztz”l, everything was Torah – in all issues asked, and in everything he heard or saw – he immediately thought of verses from the Torah, words of Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim, directly and indirectly related to that certain subject, and in this way, in his mind he would go over entire issues, and come up with chiddushim (new insights). Thus, along with providing answers on various topics, in his thoughts he would go over his learnings, and deepen them limitlessly. This was evident to the talmedei chachamim who met with him, that when they raised a topic and Rabbi Kook felt they could understand his thoughts, the lightening bolt of his chiddushim shined fiercely and proficiently in all areas related to the subject in question. Even great Torah scholars found it difficult to keep track of his ideas, because in order to so it required great proficiency and quick comprehension of deep ideas.

Our family tells of my grandfather’s uncle from my father’s side, the Rabbi and Gaon Shalom Melamed ztz”l, the Rabbi of Uman who at the end of his life made aliyah to Jerusalem and was a member of the Hasidic Beit Din in Jerusalem, that before he went to visit Maran Rabbi Kook – he made sure to prepare the issue he intended to talk about very well. He explained that to speak to Rabbi Kook, one had to be proficient in all sides of the issue, otherwise, it was difficult to understand him.

In a similar manner, the author Shai Agnon wrote: “I was fortunate that from the day I met him, in the beginning of the winter of 1907, he befriended me, and I merited hearing Torah classes from him in Rambam’s Hilchot Yisodei Torah (the laws of the foundations of Torah) and Hilchot De’ot (the laws of personality development), and there is no end to the things I got to hear from him – they all deserve to be written for future generations. One day I sat before him for nine straight hours – nine continuous hours without a break – he, ztz”l, would talk, and I would listen. I’m sorry I did not get what he said, but I knew they were extremely deep. I have seen many gaonim, chachamim and tzadikim, but a gaon, tzadik, or chacham who combined all these virtues like Rabbeinu HaGadol (our great Rabbi) ztz”l, I have not found” (‘Mi’Atzmi Al Atzmi’, pg.445). In the past when I read this, I thought that Agnon was joking as he often did, but after hearing how great rabbis prepared before meeting him, I realized he had written honestly.

An Abundance of Ideas

Rabbi Naftali Stern wrote: “His Torah teachings by memory, his speeches, his lectures, his conversations, and his words… this is a unique case of the greatness of a spring which steadily increases its flow orally, a torrent of Torah and wisdom that would continuously increase and gush forth from the breathe of his holy mouth. And without a doubt, anything spoken by Rav Kook was infinitely greater, broader, and more comprehensive than the writings of Rav Kook. Without exaggeration, one could say: if a typist, registrar, or a recorder had been by his side at all times… then Judaism would have been enriched in the wealth of dozens of volumes of supreme works, and words of thought and vision, in all areas of Jewish and universal spirit and thought. Anyone meriting to be in the presence of Rabbeinu ztz”l… felt and saw a celestial breathe flowing out of his mouth without any flaw or delay, with brilliancies and sparks of holy thoughts running back and forth, and his entire being brimmed with light, illuminating and warming the hearts of his listeners… “(Likutei Ha’Raya 1, page 29).

Orot HaTeshuva’ (The Lights of Repentance)

A memorable testimony from Prof. David Tamar in the name of my maternal grandmother’s uncle, Prof. Ber: “I was a student of Prof. Yitzhak Ber z”l. He was not only an in-depth historian, but also a comprehensive thinking man. Once, our conversation turned to Rabbi Kook ztz”l and his books. Professor Ber then said to me that if “Orot HaTeshuva’ had been translated into one of Europe’s languages, Rabbi Kook would have been regarded in the world of non-Jewish culture as one of the greatest thinkers of the last generations” (ibid., P. 30).

Regarding ‘Orot HaTeshuva’, Rabbi Neria recounted that the Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said to him that he studies Rabbi Kook’s books, and in his opinion “His most theoretical and coherent book is ‘Orot HaTeshuva’, and its main chiddush is that teshuva is not necessarily related to sin, but rather that a person returns to himself, to his source.” Rabbi Soloveitchik also told him that he “also studies ‘Orot HaKodesh’ and draws ideas from it, however, I give them a different form” (ibid., Pp. 250-251).

In view of this, it would be appropriate for us to awaken before the upcoming High Holidays, they should be for good, and engage in this holy and wonderful book, ‘Orot HaTeshuva’.

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

The Prohibition of Blood and Salting of Meat

The prohibition of eating blood applies to cattle, beasts, and fowl, but not to less developed species such as fish and grasshoppers who feel less pain * Meat cooked without blood being removed – prohibits the entire piece of meat * The different ways of kashering meat * Most poskim do not hold like Rambam that meat must be scalded after salting, but this is an important hiddur * Following comments to the previous column about vegetarian restaurants abroad: Vegetarians can also be dishonest as long as there is no proper supervision * A kashrut certificate is required also due to concern of shratzim and wine of goyim

The Prohibition of Eating Blood and its Meaning

Along with the heter (halachic permission) to eat meat outside the framework of a korban (ritual sacrifice), we were forbidden to eat the blood, as written in the Torah: “When God expands your borders as He promised you, and your natural desire to eat meat asserts itself, so that you say, ‘I wish to eat meat,’ … you need only slaughter (shechitah) your cattle and small animals that God will have given you in the manner I have prescribed. You may then eat them in your settlements in any manner you desire. Be extremely careful not to eat the blood, since the blood is associated with the spiritual nature, and when you eat flesh, you shall not ingest the spiritual nature along with it” (Deuteronomy 12: 20 -23). In other words, blood has a special purpose, to sustain the soul of the animal, and thus, even though the Torah permitted us to eat meat, it did not permit the blood to be eaten.

The Species Included in the Prohibition

The prohibition of eating blood applies to the developed species: cattle, beasts, and fowl (Leviticus 7: 26; Keritut 21b). But on the less developed species, such as fish and grasshoppers, there is no prohibition of blood. In other words, the prohibition of blood applies to the species requiring shechitah, and not to species that do not require shechitah. One of the reasons for the mitzvah of shechitah is to minimize the pain of species whose meat we consume, and the mitzvah applies to species whose brain and nervous systems are more fully developed, and therefore, also feel more pain. But the less developed species, such as fish and grasshoppers feel less pain, and therefore, there is no obligation to perform shechitah on them and there is no prohibition of eating their blood.

Blood Absorbed in the Flesh

Blood absorbed naturally in the flesh is permitted to be eaten. Therefore, it is permissible to eat a piece of raw meat. Nevertheless, since while cutting meat blood is liable to splatter on the area cut, it must be washed, and only then may it be eaten raw without additional kashering (S. A., Y. D., 67, 1-2).

Meat that has Not Been Kashered

When cooking meat that has not been kashered – the entire piece of meat is forbidden to be eaten because of the blood excreted and re-absorbed in it when cooked. And if this piece of meat is cooked in a pot of stew for instance, since we cannot estimate how much blood it contains, we are machmir (stringent) and consider it as if it is entirely blood, and if the entire cooked dish is not pi shishim (sixty times greater) than the piece of meat – the entire cooked dish is forbidden (S. A., ibid, 69:11).

Therefore, meat must be kashered before cooking. However, in the opinion of the vast majority of Rishonim and Achronim, the kashering of meat is intended to prevent a rabbinical prohibition of our Sages, since blood that is cooked or salted is forbidden only by Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance) because it is inherently altered, and not suitable for sprinkling on the altar.

Ways of Kashering Meat from Blood

Basically, there are four ways to kasher meat from blood absorbed in it: 1) melicha (salting); 2) tzliya (roasting); 3) chalita (scalding) in boiling water; 4) chalita in vinegar wine. Melicha and tzliya are intended to draw the blood from the meat, while chalita in boiling water or vinegar is intended to lock in, or solidify blood in the meat, to the point where the blood absorbed in the meat can no longer move from its place, even in cooking. Since there is no prohibition of blood absorbed in meat, after chalita, the meat may be cooked.

However, the Geonim forbade kashering meat by means of chalita, lest chalita not be done properly. This is because chalita in boiling water depends on being able to constrict the meat with a strong stroke of heat, but if the water is not sufficiently boiled, or if the meat is not placed into the water at once, or the boiling water is lower in volume than the meat – they will not be able to constrict the blood in the meat. And as for chalita in vinegar, there is concern that the vinegar will not be strong enough. There is also concern that the vinegar will evaporate a bit, and this is a sign that chalita was unsuccessful and the blood was not solidified, and thus, the meat and vinegar are prohibited, and may go unnoticed (Chulin 111a; S. A. 67:5; 73:2). Therefore, someone who wants to cook meat is obligated to kasher it first by means of melicha or tzliya.

Melicha and Chalita According to Rambam

Melicha and tzliya are designed to remove blood from meat. Melicha does this by a process called osmosis. In other words fluids, including blood, seek that their salinity content be equal, and when blood “senses” a lot of salinity on the surface of the meat, it is drawn to the salt, and leaves the meat.

However, even after melicha is completed, red fluid may still flow from the meat. According to Rambam and Ra’ah it is blood, since melicha draws blood only from the outer parts of the flesh, but on the inner parts, blood still remains. In their opinion, so that the blood is not emitted from its place and prohibit the meat, after melicha it is obligatory to perform chalita on the meat in boiling water, so that the blood is constricted and will not emit, and consequently, will not be prohibited.

The Benefit of Melicha without Chalita

However, in the opinion of the vast majority of poskim, it is not necessary to perform chalita on meat after melicha. Since we find that even after melicha, blood still secretes from meat, this ostensibly poses a problem for these poskim. There are two main explanations for this:

First – this liquid that secretes from the meat is not considered blood but “chamar (wine) basar (meat)” (Rashba, Terumah, and Chinuch). In truth, it is hard to define what blood actually is, since blood has red and white cells, and presumably, the red ones are referred to as blood, but they also are not in a permanent state, for melicha drains some of its fluids, and the question is, how to define what remains. According to this explanation, the red liquids remaining in meat after melicha are not considered blood, but mohel (water-based juice).

According to the second explanation, which apparently is most commonly accepted by the majority of Rishonim, even if the chemical composition of the mohel secreted from meat after melicha is similar to blood, as far as halakha is concerned, it is not judged as blood. This is necessarily so, since it is impossible for the prohibition of blood to apply to blood that cannot be humanly extracted from meat, for the Torah was not given to the ministering angels. Therefore, on the red liquids that remain in the flesh after melicha and tzliya the prohibition of blood does not apply. And after melicha was performed according to halakha, there is no longer any prohibition on the blood left in the meat and may be cooked, and if it flows out, one is permitted to drink it.

The Minhag Regarding Chalita

In practice, the common minhag (custom) is not to take concern of Rambam’s opinion, and not to perform chalita on meat in boiling water after melicha (Rema, Bach, Lavush, and Pri Chadash). Only among Olei Teman (Yemenite immigrants) are there some who are machmir to perform chalita on meat as Rambam said.

Some poskim say that the obligation of chalita according to the opinion of Rambam is only when melicha was done to the meat for only eighteen minutes, but if the meat is put in salt for an hour as is customary today – all the blood is secreted or solidified in the meat, and even according to Rambam, it is not necessary to perform chalita on the meat in boiling water afterwards, and even if red liquid is flows from it, it is not prohibited (Aruch HaShulchan 69: 36-40). Even Yemenites who are customary to be machmir and perform chalita on meat may rely on this b’sha’at ha’tzorech (in time of need).

However, chalita according to Rambam is an important hidur (embellishment of a mitzvah), and all members of the various ethnic communities who wish to embellish the mitzvah, especially Olei Teman, should do so, as Rambam wrote. And this is our custom in the kitchen of our Yeshiva in Har Bracha, where we try to perform chalita on meat before cooking it, in order to also fulfill the mitzvah according to the opinion of Rambam, and the minhag of many Olei Teman.

Vegetarian Restaurants without a Kashrut Certificate

I received a number of questions about the previous column, where I explained that it is forbidden to eat in a non-Jewish vegetarian restaurant that does not have a kashrut certificate, because of the prohibition of bishulei goyim. Indeed, Rabbi Prof. Dror Fixler wrote on the basis of certain opinions, that there is no prohibition of bishulei goyim in the food of these restaurants (Techumin 39). However, the principle of the matter goes according to the majority of Rishonim and Achronim, that many foods in these restaurant are included in the prohibition of bishulei goyim, which applies to all foods that are not eaten raw and are served on a kings table – since flour, grain, and legumes, and some of the hearty vegetables such as potatoes are not eaten raw. They are also served on a kings table, i.e., it is not a disgrace to serve them before distinguished people.

I also added that even when it comes to a cooked dish of foods that people are used to eating raw, like most fruits and vegetables, there is concern that even restaurant owners who claim that all of their products are vegetarian, may deceive their customers and mix into the food gelatin produced from skins and bones of animals, which are meant for thickening and hardening of foods. Even more, there is concern that glycerin, an animal fat derived from neveilot (kosher animals that died without shechitah) is mixed in, for it is extremely inexpensive, and beneficial for adding taste and thickness to foods.

Regarding this, readers asked: How can I raise such a concern, seeing as the principle of vegetarians is that there is no animal product in the food? How can it be that they mix in animal gelatin or glycerin? However, the concern does exist, as we know from our own kashrut system: although in general, religious and traditional Jews are careful to eat kosher – when they are engaged in the food trade, there is concern that greed or economic hardship will cause them to go astray, and deceive. Therefore, while in principle, we rely on an individual who attests to the foods he has prepared as being kosher, when he sells them, we do not rely on him without a certificate of kashrut (see, Rambam, Laws of Prohibited Foods, 11:25-26; Rema, Y.D. 119:1; Aruch HaShulchan 119:3-4). Thus, as long as there is no system of supervision that gelatin and glycerin and similar items are not mixed in products, their kashrut cannot be relied on in even for foods that do not have the prohibition of bishulei goyim.

There were others who justifiably maintained that one should also be concerned about the prohibition of shratzim (vermin), which, if the vegetables and fruits are not checked as required, may have shratzim in them. And even according to the lenient opinion regarding tiny shratzim not visible to the naked eye, there is concern that if the restaurant staff are not aware of the prohibition of shratzim, they may not even remove visible shratzim from the vegetables and fruits. There is another concern as well, which Rabbi Prof. Fixler also mentioned, that even when it comes to foods that clearly do not fall under the category of bishulei goyim, one must check that they do not mix into the food, wine, or wine vinegar, which is prohibited because of stam yainum (wine which might have been poured for an idolatrous service).

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

Vegetarian Restaurant Abroad – Is It Kosher?

Vegetarian restaurants do not use animal products, so seemingly, there is no problem with milk and meat; the main question concerns bishulei goyim * Our Sages forbade bishulei goyim to prevent assimilation and erasure of Jewish identity * To be included in the prohibition, the dish must be from food not consumed raw, and can be served at a respectable meal * In the opinion of most poskim, the prohibition also applies to restaurants and not just private homes * In conclusion, one should not eat abroad in vegetarian restaurants that do not have a kashrut certificate * Aside from halachic reasons – without kashrut supervision, there is no certainty that the restaurant owner is honest

Non-Jewish Cooking in Vegetarian Restaurants

Q: May a Jew eat abroad in a non-Jewish vegetarian restaurant that does not have kashrut supervision? Vegetarians take great care, for moral and health reasons, not to mix a shred of animal food in what they eat, and thus, apparently, the foods prepared by them contain no prohibitions. After all, most of the caution about forbidden foods is related to foods from animals – not to eat wildlife and unclean animals such as pigs, horses and lions; not to eat impure birds such as ostrich, eagle and hawk; not to eat unclean fish like catfish; not to eat crawling creatures like a frog, and seafood like shrimp and lobster. Even when it comes to pure animals, if they are mammals or poultry, they need to be slaughtered according to halakha, and if not, they are considered a neveilah, and are forbidden. Even after being slaughtered according to halakha, one has to be careful not to mix meat with milk. And as far as milk goes, it is forbidden to drink the milk of a non-Jew, out of fear they might mix pure milk with milk from unclean animals. And with fruits and vegetables, terumot and ma’asrot (tithes) must be taken, but only in Eretz Yisrael, while abroad, there is no obligation to take tithes. Only if there is wine or wine vinegar in some food is it forbidden because of the prohibition of yayin goyim (non-Jewish wine).

The main question remaining, then, is whether foods cooked in a restaurant are prohibited because of the issur (prohibition) of bishulei goyim (the prohibition of eating food cooked by a non-Jew). I will first explain the fundamentals.

The Foundation of the Decree – Fear of Assimilation

Our Sages decreed that it is forbidden for Jews to consume the wine, bread, and cooked foods of non-Jews, in order to prevent assimilation. This does not mean that our Sages feared that the first time a Jew ate food cooked by a non-Jew – immediately, he would be overcome by his desire to assimilate; rather, their intention was to place a fence and a warning sign before the possibility of heartfelt connections between Jews and non-Jews which were liable to lead to assimilation. And, as our Sages said, in the matter of bread, oil, and wine: “They decreed … against their bread and oil on account of their wine; against their wine on account of their daughters; against their daughters on account of another matter” (Avodah Zara 36b). The meaning of “another matter” is idolatry. Seemingly, if the fear is that a Jew might become an idolater, our Sages should have said from the start that they made the decree on bread, oil, and wine because of idolatry. Rather, they wanted to teach that the fear was of assimilation, for if the fear was only that a Jew might transgress the prohibition of marrying a non-Jew, or only transgress the prohibition of idolatry – while still maintaining his Jewish identity – they wouldn’t have made a decree against eating food cooked by a non-Jew. But since the chances are that due to inter-marriage, a Jew might become an idolater and assimilate amongst the Gentiles, it was necessary for our Sages to establish a set of restrictions.

Fear of Assimilation and not from Forbidden Marriage

Therefore, it is not forbidden for a Jew to eat food cooked by another Jew who he is forbidden to marry, such as a mamzer (bastard) or an eshet ish (a married woman), because there is no fear of assimilation. On the other hand, even though the decree was intended to prevent marriage ties, it also applies to non-Jews to whom there is no fear of marriage, such as the elderly, eunuchs, or priests who pledged not to marry, because our Sages did not make distinctions in their decree (Responsa of Rashba 1: 248; R’ma, Y.D. 112:1). We see then that the overall intention of the decree is to educate Jews to guard their uniqueness, and to avoid things that may express a heartfelt personal connection that may eventually lead to assimilation. For even a heartfelt connection with a person who one cannot marry, may lead to a wedding with his relatives and acquaintances.

The Cooked Foods Included in the Prohibition

The prohibition of bishulei goyim only applies to cooked foods that are of some importance and can be served at a respectable meal, and consequently, are liable to lead to heartfelt connections. Regarding simple foods, however, there is not much of a concern, since their cooking process is insignificant, and therefore, one is permitted to eat them.

There are two rules in defining important cooked foods: first, that they are not eaten raw; rather, cooking is what prepares them to be eaten. Second, they are served on the table of kings as a relish with bread, but if they are cooked foods that only ordinary people normally eat, they are not prohibited (Avodah Zara 38a; S.A., Y.D. 113:1).

The First Rule: Not Eaten Raw

The first rule: food that people do eat raw, rather, cooking is what prepares it to be eaten, and as a result, its cooking plays a significant role – if cooked by non-Jews, it is forbidden. Consequently, most of the foods cooked in vegetarian restaurants are included in the prohibition, since varieties of wheat, both as grains and flour, are not eaten raw, and cooking is what prepares them for eating. And varieties of legumes, such as rice, lentils, and corn are not eaten raw, and therefore, it is forbidden to eat them cooked.

Determining whether food is eaten raw depends on its condition before cooking. For example, in the past, people were accustomed to eating raw wheat kernels, therefore if they were cooked, they would not be prohibited. But if the wheat kernels were ground into flour, seeing as flour is not eaten raw, any cooked food made from it is forbidden. Nowadays, we are not accustomed to eat raw wheat, and the prohibition of bishul goyim also applies to it.

However, most fruits and vegetables are not prohibited since they are eaten raw, but most of the filling dishes served in vegetarian restaurants are based on grains, legumes, and vegetables that are not eaten raw, and fall under the prohibition.

The Second Rule: A Respectable Meal

The second rule is that the food “is served on the table of kings as a relish with bread.” In other words, it is eaten as part of a meal, as the main dish intended to satiate, or as a tasty dish served as dessert at the end of a meal. That is to say, even a cooked dish of a food that is not eaten raw, if it’s not eaten in a respectable meal, the prohibition of bishulei goyim does not apply to it.

According to this rule some poskim wish to be lenient, claiming that foods served in popular restaurants, as long as they are not normally served on a kings’ table, or before highly distinguished people, are not prohibited. There were even rabbis who were in contact with the British royal kitchen, and called to find out about any foods they had doubts over, to find out whether it was served on the queen’s table. However, the Queen of England’s customary table practices do not determine the law, rather, the meaning of a “kings table”, is a meal of respected people (Issur ve’Heter Ha’Aroch 43:2; Chaim Sha’al, Vol. 1, 74; Ben Ish Chai, Shana Shni’ah, Chukat 9). In the past, when society was more divided into classes, there were cooked foods that poor people used to eat, such as small fish and porridge, which, if served before ministers, would be considered an affront to their dignity (Avodah Zara 38a). Nowadays, these foods are also served at respectable meals, because today thanks to the variety of foods and the openness of society, all foods that people are used to cooking are considered respectable, and ministers normally eat them at meals. What’s more, in a democratic society, most ministers grew up in ordinary homes, and are fond of foods they ate in their parents’ home, and with their friends.

Consequently, this rule excludes from the prohibition only highly inferior foods, or foods normally not served in a meal, such as sweets, chocolate, roasted nuts, and other snacks. But breakfast cereals and rice crackers fall under the category of bishulei goyim, since people normally eat them for a filling breakfast. Additionally, any cooked dish that restaurants are not ashamed to serve – is considered a respectable food.

Vegetables Dependent on Minhag

There are foods that in some places are eaten raw, and in others, are eaten only cooked. Regarding this, the poskim wrote about following the minhag ha’makom (custom of the place), and not taking into consideration the minhag of individuals (Maharikash, 113:3; Shiurey Bracha 1; Chochmat Adam, 66:4, and others). Today, geographical location is not the defining definition of one’s perception, for people move from one place to another, and in every place, people of different cultures live; therefore, the concept of makom must be defined as the surroundings in which one lives. One’s surroundings include family, friends, and neighbors with whom one has contact. In other words, our Sages prohibited cooked foods that have importance, and the importance for each person is determined by his familiar surroundings, and not according to what he heard about people’s customs in other places.

Therefore, in general, bishulei goyim is prohibited as far as potatoes, zucchini and eggplant are concerned since in most places they are not eaten raw. Even a person who heard that there are some people who eat them raw, as long as in his environs they are not normally eaten raw, even rarely, the prohibition of bishulei goyim applies to him. However, someone who lives in a place where those around him eat these vegetables even when they are raw, for instance, they mix slices of them in salads, the prohibition of bishulei goyim does not apply to him.

Bishulei Goyim in a Restaurant

Some poskim are of the opinion that just as our Sages were lenient in sha’at ha’tzorech (times of need) to buy bread from a paltar goy (a non-Jewish baker) since personal relations are less intimate regarding pastries baked for the public at large, similarly, we should be lenient for a non-Jewish cook who cooks for a number of people, such as a cook in a restaurant who has no connection with the diners, that in a sha’at ha’tzorech, food cooked by him is permitted to be eaten (Maharitz Yishanot 161). However, in the opinion of the vast majority of poskim, the heter (halachic permission) to eat pat paltar is unique for bread because people’s lives depend on it, but as far as cooking is concerned, our Sages did not make a distinction in their decree, and the prohibition applies whether cooking is done at home in one’s kitchen, or in business or public kitchen (Tashbetz 1:89; Shiurey Bracha 112:9; Erech HaShulchan 3; S’de Chemed, and many more).

However, when bishul goyim is done in an industrial factory whose products are bought in stores, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote that, since the distance between the cooker and the buyers is much further away, many people are accustomed to be lenient, and they should not be remonstrated (Iggrot Moshe, Vol.4, Y.D. 48:5).

Practical Summary

From what we have learned, most foods cooked in vegetarian restaurants are prohibited because of bishulei goyim, since they are made from foods that are not normally eaten raw, and are served on a king’s table and to distinguished people.

Even if the cooked dishes are made from foods that are also eaten raw, so that the prohibition of bishulei goyim does not apply to them, there is concern that even restaurant owners who claim they use only vegetarian products, may be cheating on their customers and mixing in gelatin or glycerin (obtained from neveilot) for food certification or taste, or wine or wine vinegar, and no one will be aware because there is no kashrut supervision.

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

Soap and Kashering Utensils: Answers to Responses

Since it was claimed here three weeks ago the fact that nowadays utensils do not absorb and emit tastes is due to the invention of soap, and involves halakhic implications – I received numerous comments * This claim does not contradict common halachic practice, since our Sages already permitted utensils that a non-Jew actually checked and said have no taste * Publication of the claim also does not contradict common halachic custom, and consultation with the public in general refines study in the Beit Midrash * A letter from a chemist explains: The significant change in the use of soap which made the removal of fats much more effective, occurred less than a century ago

Summary of the Previous Column on the Subject

In a column published in the Torah portion of ‘Matot’, I briefly explained the issue of kashering utensils, while addressing the central question that has arisen in the last generation:  from the words of the Talmud and poskim, it appears that metal vessels absorb and emit tastes, while in practice, we do not discern the emission of tastes from metal utensils. As a result, some poskim claimed that today, metal utensils are exempt from kashering, but in my article, I explained that the obligation of kashering utensils does not depend on the sense of taste, but nevertheless, it is forbidden to use a treif (non-kosher) utensil that was not kashered according to the way it was used – if it was used with something cold, it is kashered by washing it in cold water; if it was used for cooking, it’s kashered by hagalah (immersion in boiling water); if it was used with fire, such as a skewer, it’s kashered by libun (with a direct flame).

However, since we know for sure that after cleaning metal utensils, they do not emit tastes, be’di’avad (ex post facto), if one accidentally cooked soup in a treif pot, even though the pot must be kashered, the soup is kosher. In addition, in all disputes regarding nat-bar-nat (a secondary taste) and charif (a pungent food), in metal utensils, pots and knives, the opinion of the lenient poskim should be followed, since, in actuality, metal utensils do not emit noticeable taste.

On the issue of kashering utensils, I received dozens of questions, objections, and scholarly responses which can be divided into three areas: 1) on the halakha itself; 2) on raising the complex issue – which should be decided by rabbis – before the general public; 3) on the interpretation of actual fact. I will endeavor to answer the questions.

Halakha

Many poskim are of the opinion that even if treif utensils do not emit taste, if they are b’nei yomo (utensils that have not been used for hot food for more than 24 hours), the food cooked in them is prohibited, as the halakha is explained in the Shulchan Aruch (Y. D., 93: 1). Also, nat-bar-nat should be taken into account, i.e., Ashkenazim poskim hold that if one cooked a parve food in a ben yomo baseri utensil, it is forbidden to eat it with dairy, because of the taste absorbed into the parve food (R’ema, 95:2).

However, it seems more likely that these halachot were said in cases where taste cannot be determined, whereas when we know there is no taste – a treif utensil does not prohibit food cooked in it, and a basari utensil does not turn a parve food into being basari. The proof for this is that our Sages relied on a k’feila, i.e. an expert, non-Jew, who, if he said that the cooked food did not have a treif taste, it is permitted to be eaten (Chulin 97a, b). Although, due to various concerns, we do not rely on a k’feila (Re’ma, 98:1), however, all this is in specific circumstances, but when it is clear there is no taste – even R’ma agrees there is absolutely no prohibition (Teshuvot Re’ma 54; Maharsham 3: 377). To reinforce this, a few years ago in classes I gave, I asked the residents of the community Har Bracha if anyone could taste the flavor of food cooked previously in the same pot. Hundreds of people checked this for several years, and no one who had normally cleaned the pot discerned tastes absorbed in them. There were, however, some people who reported traces of tastes, but it turned out it was because they had not cleaned the pot well. Scientific studies also confirm this fact.

This halakha stands by itself, even if we do not know how to explain the differences between utensils in the days of our Sages and the Rishonim, and those of today.

Nevertheless, if be’zadon (maliciously), someone cooked in a utensil that required kashering, even though it does not emit taste, the cooked food is prohibited to the person who cooked it and for those it was cooked for, as many Rishonim and Achronim determined. Although there are lenient poskim, in my humble opinion, it seems proper to be machmir (stringent) in this, in order to reinforce the obligation of kashering utensils.

Presenting the Issue Publicly

Some people argued that it is wrong to present a serious issue that should be debated among the rabbis in a popular newspaper, especially when it comes to conclusions that seem somewhat different from the norm (both for chumra (stringency), in the chiddush that utensils are obligated to be kashered even if they do not emit taste, including glassware, and for kula (leniency), in the case of nat-bar-nat). Others argued that this should have been discussed by talmedei chachamim first.

There are many answers to these arguments, and I will mention one. Torah study has two parts: one – exactness in the methods of the Rishonim and Achronim, which is an issue for talmedei chachamim, and the other – general conjectures and informed explanations from the natural and social sciences. Thanks to presenting the issue to the general public, which is made up of both talmedei chachamim and people knowledgeable in various fields, the Beit Midrash is broadened, and learning becomes tremendously enhanced. In practice, it turns out that I involve the public in many issues, and with the responses of talmedei chachamim, scientists, and the opinions of various people, I reexamine things together with talmedei chachamim from the yeshiva, and consequently, the issue is clarified thoroughly. Below, I will cite an informed letter I received thanks to sharing the issue with the public.

Actual Fact

The question regarding actual fact is difficult: It is clear that our Sages, as well as the Rishonim and Achronim, related to metal utensils as absorbing and emitting tastes, and there is absolutely no doubt that this was the case. On the other hand, from what we now know, metal and glassware do not absorb and emit tastes, because taste molecules are much larger than the spaces between the particles from which the metals are composed. There are lamdanim (Torah students) who are comfortable living with such questions, but in the eyes of ordinary people, such a question requires Torah scholars to investigate and clarify what our Sages said, and the halakha according to the reality they spoke about.

 

Some explained that metals today are composed of different materials and therefore do not absorb tastes, while the metals used in the days of our Sages were cruder and taste particles seeped into them. Others explained that indeed, even in the past it was impossible for taste particles to penetrate metal, but in the context of the metal industry in the past, casting was not uniform and complete, and therefore particles of taste penetrated into spaces left in the metal. By the way, this explanation sounds a little more logical, but still not sufficient, because our Sages said that the absorbed tastes can be as strong-tasting as the volume of the side of the utensil. Therefore, I was inclined to explain that most of the tastes came from what was stuck to the utensil, and the main change that occurred in recent generations is that only about two hundred years ago, the method of industrial detergent production, which is the basic substance for soap, was discovered in France. Gradually, its use became widespread until about a century ago, liquid soap began to be manufactured in Germany, which, within decades of being used, became widespread throughout the world.

Concerning this explanation, others justifiably questioned: why then, only in the last fifty years did we begin to discern that utensils do not emit tastes, and not two hundred years ago? The answer to this, along with an informed explanation, I fortunately received from Yitzchak Yaffin from Kedumim, a chemist who for years worked as manager of a laboratory for cleaning products, who, together with his wife Yehudit, a chemistry teacher, attempted explaining the issue in a relatively simple language.

A Letter from Yitzchak Yaffin

“Thank you very much, Rabbi, for your article on the laws of bli’at kelim. Rabbi, with your permission, I have comments regarding terminology and scientific accuracy. They do not concern the practical and halakhic conclusions.”

“The essence of the argument: Soap has been known for thousands of years as a substance having the characteristics of cleansing and removing fats, but not on a sufficient level. It is true that in 1790 Leblanc discovered an industrial way of producing a substitute for ash, which led to a considerable increase in the use of soap and enabled its mass industrial production, but the efficiency of fat removal was still unsatisfactory. The significant breakthrough occurred in the 1930’s, with the development of much more effective synthetic detergents. It seems to me, Rabbi, you were alluding to this development from about a century ago, and not necessarily the invention of soap, which is not new.”

“In detail: The difficulty in removing fats stems from a well-known phenomenon – water does not mix with oil. However, there are substances that enable the mixture of water and oil. These substances are called “surfactants”, or surface active agents. The secret of the action of these substances lies in the structure of their molecules: The molecules of these substances have two parts – one similar to water, and capable of combining with water, and the other similar to oil, and capable of combining with oil. Thus, these molecules are capable of combining water with oil, and washing it away (some call these substances “detergents”, but the term ‘surfactants’ is scientifically more accurate).”

“Already thousands of years ago, it was known that when oil is cooked with ash, soap is produced, which is a substance capable of cleaning and removing fats. Today, we also know the reason: When oil is cooked with ash, a new molecule containing residual oil is created. This fatty residue is the part of the molecule which is capable of combining with oil. This molecule also has a water-like part, capable of combining with water, and consequently, the soap acts as a surfactant, although, as mentioned, not so effectively.”

“Modern chemistry has developed ways of synthesizing artificial surfactants. These substances allow a much stronger connection between oil and water, which can produce much more effective detergents. Noteworthy, is the first synthetic substance, Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate, which is still used today as a major ingredient in liquid dishwashing soap and other detergents (in the 1960’s it was slightly modified for environmental reasons).

Summary of the Explanation for the Time Being

The change that has occurred in relation to utensils is first and foremost the ease with which we can now clean dishes, because today, soap is of high quality and inexpensive, and every house has running water, and as a result, all utensils that are cleaned normally, do not emit tastes. In the past, however, even when people attempted to clean utensils, since soap was extremely expensive and ineffective, and additionally, houses had no running water, a thin layer of residue of foods almost always remained stuck to the utensils whose taste was highly concentrated, given their liquids had evaporated. The other change which is also significant is that in the past the surface of metal was generally rough making it harder to clean, whereas today, the metal industry has greatly improved, and the surface of metal is as smooth as glass and easier to clean. And certainly, there are no crevices left unfilled in the casting.

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

Laws for Postponed Tisha B’Av

When Tisha B’Av is postponed, pregnant and nursing women act as they do on the Minor Fast, and any difficulty exempts them from fasting * During Shabbat, mourning should not be expressed, but from sunset, activities which are not necessary on Shabbat should be avoided – we remain in our Shabbat clothes, but we do not eat * When Shabbat is out, Havdalah is done verbally, and at the conclusion of the fast, Havdalah is made over a cup, so that one is permitted to eat and drink * Someone who is sick and has to eat on Tisha B’Av must first make Havdalah * As part of the love and tikkun we strive for during these days, it is also worthwhile to become familiar with the character of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and delve deeper in understanding his positions, which are far from those claimed against him

Pregnant and Nursing Women

In general, pregnant and nursing women are obligated to fast on Tisha B’Av, and are exempted from the Minor Fasts, such as the 17th of Tammuz and the Tenth of Tevet. However, when the fast of Tisha B’Av is postponed, as it is this year, the obligation of the fast of Tisha B’Av is more similar to the Minor Fasts. Nevertheless, because of the importance of the fast, l’chatchila (ideally), when there is no difficulty it is preferable for pregnant and nursing women to fast, but even if a small difficulty arises they are exempt, even though they are not considered sick.

In practice, it turns out that about 90% of pregnant women and those who partially nurse, need not fast. Those who nurse fulltime, or close to it, do not need to fast, in order not to diminish their milk supply.

The Eve of Tisha B’Av on Shabbat

When erev Tisha B’Av falls on a weekday, already at the seudah ha’mafseket, we begin practicing the minhagim (customs) of mourning: we do not eat two cooked items, we sit on the ground and do not sit together with other people, but rather, like a mourner whose deceased lies before him, and sits alone (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 9:1-3).

However, when erev Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, there is no sign of mourning on Shabbat, for indeed, the general rule is there is no avelut (mourning) on Shabbat. Therefore, if Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, the fast is postponed to yom rishon (Sunday), and on that Shabbat we eat meat and drink wine and place on the table even a meal fit for a king like Shlomo Ha’Melech, and we sing Shabbat songs as usual, for there is no avelut on Shabbat.

The Intermediate Time between Shabbat and the Fast

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

Seudah Shlishit

Therefore, we eat seudah shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) like we do on any other Shabbat, including the singing of Shabbat songs. However, we stop eating and drinking before sunset (Jerusalem: 19:33, Tel Aviv: 19:31, Haifa: 19:34, Be’er Sheva: 19:29) because there is no obligation – from a Shabbat perspective – to continue eating seudah shlishit after sunset. It is also fitting not to sing joyous songs after sunset, and doing so does not constitute an expression of mourning, for people do not generally sing happy songs every moment of Shabbat.

We also refrain from washing and anointing ourselves after sunset; after all, we do not bathe or anoint ourselves on Shabbat every moment. However, one who relieves himself during bein hashmashot should wash his hands normally, for if he washes as is required on the fast, in effect, he is mourning on Shabbat.

Changing Clothes and Shoes

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

Some people have a custom to remove their shoes at sunset, provided that they do so without letting others know that it is for the sake of mourning, for it is one of the things prohibited on Tisha B’Av, and since in any case one is not obligated to wear shoes every moment of Shabbat, it does not constitute a disrespect for Shabbat if one removes them at sunset. But if there are people in the vicinity who think he has removed his shoes for the sake of mourning – this would constitute a prohibition, and therefore the prevalent custom is to remove shoes after Shabbat has ended.

One should wear clothing that was already worn the previous week, because one may not wear freshly laundered clothing on Tish’a B’Av.

Evening Prayer

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

Verbal Havdalah and on Wine

Every Shabbat we make havdalah verbally and over a cup of wine. Verbal havdalah is done by saying “Ata Chonantanu” – in the Ma’ariv prayers, or by saying “Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol” which permits us to do work, and also havdalah over a cup of wine which permits us to eat and drink. Since this Motzei Shabbat the fast begins, it is impossible to say havdalah over a cup of wine. Therefore, we postpone saying this form of havdalah until after the fast, which permits us to eat. Nevertheless, we say havdalah – “Ata Chonantanu” in the Ma’ariv prayers at the beginning of the fast, after which we are permitted to do work (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 9: 5).

Blessing over the Candle

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

Women also recite the blessing over the candle. If they are in the synagogue – they should hear the blessing from the chazan (cantor) and enjoy the light of the candle lit next to them, and if they are at home – they should light a candle and recite the blessing over it (see, Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 8:1,1).

Havdalah at the End of the Fast

At the end of the fast one should make havdalah over a cup, and recite two blessings: “Al ha’gefen”, and “Hamavdil”. The blessings over the besamim (spices) and the candle are not recited.

At the end of the fast, it is forbidden to eat before reciting havdalah over the cup.

Havdalah for a Sick Person who needs to Eat

A sick person who needs to eat on Tish’a B’Av, must say havdalah over a cup before eating. If possible, it is preferable to use chamar medinah, such as beer containing alcohol. If one does not have beer, he may make havdalah over coffee, because in the opinion of many poskim, it is also considered chamar medinah (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 8:4). If one does not have chamar medinah, he should say havdalah over grape juice, which, lacking alcohol, does not gladden. And if even that is unavailable, be’di’avad he should say havdalah on wine and drink a cheek full (around 40 ml.).

A minor who eats on Tish’a B’Av need not say havdalah before eating.

Kiddush Levanah

The custom is to postpone Kiddush HaLevanah (the Blessing of the Moon) until after the fast, because the blessing must be recited joyously, and we decrease our joy during the Nine Days.

Many people are accustomed to saying it immediately after the Ma’ariv prayer at the conclusion of the fast, but it is improper to do so, le’chatchilah. After all, it is difficult to be happy then, when we have yet to drink, eat, wash our faces and hands, or put on regular shoes. Therefore, each community should set a time – an hour or two after the fast – for the recitation of Kiddush Levanah, and in the meantime, everyone will have a chance to eat something and wash up. This way, they will be able to say the blessing joyously. Where there is concern that delaying Kiddush Levanah may cause some people to forget to say it, the congregation may say it immediately after the fast.

Mourning on the Day after the Fast

Most of the Beit HaMikdash was burned on the 10th of Av. However, the fast was determined by the time the fire first started, but since most of the Beit HaMikdash was burnt on the 10th, Jews customarily refrained from eating meat or drinking wine on the 10th of Av. The minhag of some Sephardic Jews is that the prohibition continues all day, and the minhag of Ashkenazi Jews and some Sephardic Jews is only until chatzot ha’yom (midday).

In addition, many Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews are customary to refrain from washing clothes, wearing freshly laundered garments, taking haircuts, listening to joyous music, or bathing in hot water on the 10th of Av. Some people are machmir (act stringently) until chatzot, while others are not machmir at all.

However, this year, when Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat and the fast is postponed until Sunday, the 10th of Av, the customs of mourning do not continue after the fast, and one is allowed to bathe in hot water, do laundry, wear laundered clothes, and listen to regular music. However, many Jews are customary to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine that night, because, seeing that everyone fasted during the day, it is improper to immediately rejoice by consuming meat and wine. Others permit the consumption of meat and wine immediately following the fast when it is postponed (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 10:20).

To Increase Love, Deepen Understanding, and Strive for Tikkun

One of the paths of teshuva (repentance) and tikkun (rectification) appropriate for the Fast of Tisha B’Av, is to increase love. There are those who claim that Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh shlita supports violent acts in violation of the law to deter Arab enemies, or that he supports coercion in order to impose Torah laws on the public. Those familiar with him, know that this is not his position, but for those unfamiliar with Rabbi Ginsburgh, here is his official position in the ‘Gal Einai’ newsletter published in Elul 5775 (2015):

“The Prophet Zechariah says: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty’; a significant change will not come about by coercion or violence, but by the power of spirit – by bringing God’s word to the Jewish nation and the world with a bright and welcoming countenance, so that the general public will willingly consent. Bringing the Torah messages to reality in such a way requiring not only to be satisfied with the Torah’s halakhic side, but also a great deepening of the roots of the Torah’s inner facets. In particular, Chasidut teaches that those wishing to bring about tikkun and redemption should focus on the desired future building, and not the destruction of the existing one. The struggle over our public character needs to be done mainly by way of hasbara (explaining) and chinuch (education). There is no room for violent acts of individuals. In general, harsh and aggressive action against Israel’s enemies is the role of the security forces, except in cases of pikuach nefesh (life-threatening situations) requiring self-defense (according to our Sages determination ‘lf someone comes to kill you, kill him first’).

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

Jabotinsky – Vision, Dedication and Faith

Jabotinsky – Vision, Dedication, and Faith

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who died 79 years ago today, would have become one of the world’s most successful orators, had he not decided to devote himself to act on behalf of the Jewish nation * The Jewish Legion he founded and commanded to protect Jerusalem from Arab rioters, despite British policy, saved many Jews, while he himself paid a heavy price * His brilliance led him to different positions in contrast to his fellow Zionists who attacked him harshly, nevertheless, his accuracy was proven years later – often, too late * Out of his devotion to the nation he later became more traditional, and the warm connection of his followers to Judaism has continued to this day

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

As part of gratitude to eminent Jewish personalities, it is worth mentioning the founder of the Betar movement, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who passed away on the 29th of Tamuz, 5700 (Aug. 4th, 1940), and in his teachings and deeds worked for the redemption of the Jewish nation and its land – matters important to discuss during the days of ‘bein ha-metzarim’ (the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av). In doing so, we will also come to understand the significance of the enormous crises that befell the Jewish people in modern times, which occasionally led great personalities who grew up in assimilated environments, such as Herzl and Jabotinsky, to reconnect in a deep and wonderful way to their people and country, and to make a decisive contribution to the process of Israel’s redemption in the Gathering of the Exiles, and settlement of the Land. This phenomenon was profoundly explained by our teacher and guide, Rabbi Kook, and has important implications to this day.

Jabotinsky was born in 5640 (1880), orphaned from his father at the age of six, and grew up in a home where Jewish tradition was considered as something distant for the elderly. His hometown was Odessa, whose Jews were known for distancing themselves from Torah and mitzvot. Like many of his peers, he began to assimilate into Russian society and culture and was quite successful.

His talents were brilliant. Already at a young age, he became famous as a writer and gifted translator with a bright future ahead of himself. He was also considered one of the best speakers in the world. He mastered nearly twelve languages and was able to write articles and speak fluently in most of them. He also completed law school and was certified as a lawyer. Had he worked as a lawyer, he would undoubtedly have been considered one of the greatest in his field, having status and wealth. But from the moment he became captivated with the national Jewish idea, he dedicated himself to his fellow Jews, leaving nothing for himself.

Zionism and Dedication

During World War I, Jabotinsky worked to establish the Jewish Legion as part of the British army and participated as an officer in conquering Eretz Yisrael from the Turks. He believed that if the Jews participated in the conquest of the Land their right to it would be recognized, thus preparing the political and military infrastructure for the establishment of the state. Indeed, the Jewish Legion had a significant contribution to the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain declared it would work to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael.

Establishment of a Protective Force in the Land

In 5680 (1920) when the Arabs began a wave of incitement against the Jews, Jabotinsky warned they were about to start rioting against the Jews. When he saw that the commanders of the British army were indifferent to the situation, he organized the members of the Jewish Legion into a protective force, and openly trained them. This was the foundation for the establishment of the Haganah, which, upon the establishment of the state, became the infrastructure for the founding of the IDF. When the wave of riots and murders all over the country began, Jabotinsky appealed to the commanders of the British army, requesting they assign the army to stop the Arab riots in Jerusalem where the majority of the Jewish population was concentrated. The British, however, stood by and refused to exert force against the Arabs. Seeing this, in contradiction to military orders and knowing he was liable to pay a heavy price for it, Jabotinsky enlisted his soldiers from the Jewish Legion and fought the Arabs. In doing so, he saved the Jews of Jerusalem.

His British commanders put him and his soldiers on trial for refusing orders, looting, and disruption of order. Jabotinsky was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor and lowered to the rank of private, but since he took full responsibility upon himself during the trial, his soldiers were punished with light sentences.

From his prison cell, Jabotinsky waged an international public struggle in which he demanded absolute acquittal. He and his companions embarked on a prolonged and life-threatening hunger strike. The public campaign succeeded – at first, his sentence was shortened to one year, and eventually,  canceled completely. Nonetheless, the Jewish Legion was disbanded.

Jabotinsky and his soldiers, who were imprisoned in the Acre prison, stopped their hunger strike following a letter written to them by Maran HaRav Kook ztz”l: “Our brothers, the pure heroes … dear brothers … do not harm your health … in particular, it is my duty to declare to you my beloved sons,  that what you are doing is forbidden by any way or shape by our holy and pure religion … stay strong, dear brothers, and wait for salvation to come … your faithful brother, who shares your sorrow, and looks forward to rejoicing in your happiness, in your speedy redemption” (Likutei HaRaayah, pages 61–62).

In Exile

Upon intensifying his activities for aliyah and the establishment of a Jewish state, the British expelled him from the country, or to be more exact, after leaving the country in 1929, he was denied his entry visa.

In exile, and out of loyalty to his homeland, Jabotinsky refused to accept citizenship of any country and did not buy or rent a home. For nearly twenty years, he wandered from place to place, speaking about Eretz Yisrael, the Hebrew language, and the return to Jewish history. At the end of his life, he also emphasized Jewish heritage and faith. His wandering for the sake of the Jewish people prevented him from having a routine family life.

In the course of his Zionist activities, he wrote and published articles in some of the world’s most important newspapers. As a gifted writer, he was paid a nice sum of money for his articles and writings. Part of the money he earned he sent to his wife, mother, son, and sister who lived in Eretz Yisrael, and the rest he contributed to the Zionist movement. He left only a little for himself to pay for his stay in cheap hotels.

The Revisionist Zionists

In 1929, Jabotinsky established the Revisionist Movement, which operated as part of the World Zionist Movement advocating mass immigration to Israel, and the establishment of the Jewish state.

When the Nazis came to power (1933), he intensified his efforts. He would travel in Eastern and Central Europe from one city to another and from town to town, slept in trains and cheap hotels, embarked on meetings and lectures advocating for immediate immigration to Eretz Yisrael and the urgent evacuation of Jews from Europe. He felt that a dreadful Holocaust was about to happen to the Jewish people in Europe.

As a result of his efforts, he was vilified and attacked by members of the Left-wing Zionist parties, by the Bund, and by anti-Zionist circles of all sorts. His political rivals in the Zionist Organization were Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion.

After his positions were rejected, he felt he had no choice, and in view of the Nazi danger in Europe, was obligated to act within a new framework. In 1935 he established a massive Jewish organization working to promote immigration and the Jewish state. Within two years, more members were registered in his organization than in the old Zionist Organization. But it was too late. World War broke out, and his positions could no longer save anyone.

Remarkable Analytical Skills Wasted

His socio-political analytical skills were remarkable. In his clear analyzes, Jabotinsky predicted long-term processes way in advance, according to which he formulated positions that over the years turned out to be remarkably accurate.

He did not pursue honor, authority, or money, nevertheless, his rivals, Weizmann and Ben-Gurion, envied him for his talents, did not grasp the depth of his positions, and systematically and flagrantly worked against him.

In the end, many of his positions were accepted, but sadly, only ten years or later, which at times was tragic. This was the case, for example, with his “Iron Wall” policy concerning the Jewish-Arab struggle, which inevitably materialized in Israel’s wars, but had it been accepted beforehand as a formal position, it most likely would have acted as a deterrence, and achieved incomparably better results.

Also regarding the question of independence, he believed that the demand for a Jewish state should be met immediately by the right of privilege, and demand the strict fulfillment of international promises and obligations to the Jewish people. His position was accepted only after the Holocaust.

After the occupation of the country by the British, when the gates of the country were open without restriction, he demanded a call for mass immigration to determine a solid Jewish majority in the country. The Zionist leadership that advocated selective immigration was strongly opposed, and thus, nearly ten precious years passed.

After the British restricted immigration quotas, he called for a vigorous fight and took action despite the ban. In this framework, called “aliyah af-al-pi” (aliyah nevertheless), tens of thousands of Jews immigrated, and thus survived the Holocaust. Only after the Holocaust did Leftist parties join in organizing “illegal” immigration to Israel.

He was in favor of free market initiative in developing the country and its economy (moderate capitalism). His rivals worked to suppress private initiative. Only due to lack of choice was the idea accepted after decades.

His position was to act overtly in international relations, rather than lobbying in back rooms. History has shown overt activity to be more beneficial.

Also, the rebellion against British rule, which led to the establishment of the state, was already planned by him in 1937.

His Attitude towards Tradition

Stemming from the Jewish national issue, Jabotinsky came closer to Judaism. Several times he expressed genuine regret for not having received a traditional Jewish education. When his friends asked him about his changed attitudes concerning religion and faith, he explained that over time he realized that the mysterious foundation of faith and religion was a basis without which life could not be built, and certainly, not a Jewish life.

True, he criticized phenomena that seemed to contradict the values ​​of freedom of conscience and freedom of opinion, but it is important to note that in this matter, although in a different style, he concurred with some of the views of Rabbi Kook, who saw the values ​​of freedom and liberty as important beliefs.

In the constitution of the New Zionist Organization which he founded, he wrote: “The aim of Zionism is the redemption of Israel and its land, the revival of its sovereignty and language, and the rooting of its sacred teachings in the life of the nation. Its ways: Creating a Hebrew majority in Eretz Yisrael on both sides of the Jordan, establishing the Hebrew state on the foundations of civil liberty and the principles of justice in the spirit of Torat Yisrael“.

It is worth noting that in the first version he wrote “the imposing of its sacred teachings in the life of the nation”, but in the end, compromised with the opinion of the majority of the founding members, and wrote “rooting” instead of “imposing”.

These are the foundations that underpin the positive attitude to tradition in the Revisionist Zionist movement in its various incarnations, up to today’s Likud party.

His Attitude toward Rabbi Kook

In an article written at the end of the summer of 1934, after the acquittal of Avraham Stavsky of Arlozorov’s murder, Jabotinsky addressed Rabbi Kook: “From Rabbi Falk (the military rabbi of the Jewish Legion in World War I), I first heard the name Rabbi Kook. The rabbi was living in London at the time, and Falk was one of his students. It is not easy to faithfully describe a student’s attitude towards his rabbi. Rabbi Falk spoke of Rabbi Kook not only as a revered teacher but as a holy guide. For hours, he sat and explained to me Rabbi Kook’s worldview … For the first time in my spiritual life, my heart opened to that same ancient terrain – but new for me – which contains answers to all our deep problems, and stems from our ancient Scriptures … and behind all the revelations hidden in the verses and aggadot, stands a rare and precious human personality, a soul living in a unique world, a world of lofty and noble ideas, a soul that builds its daily life according to an eternal order, a soul that breathes and operates in certain perpetual contact with a supernatural power”. (Mo’adei Raayah, page 395).

Concerning Public Shabbat Desecration

In the name of Rabbi Kook, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Chechik, related: “It once happened that on a Sunday, Jews whose hearts ached for the desecration of Shabbat, came and told Rabbeinu that on Shabbat some youth had gathered on the field behind the Bukhara houses playing soccer, and transgressed Shabbat prohibitions. Since the youth were members of Betar, whose leader was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, consequently, it would be highly appropriate for Rabbeinu to write a letter of protest to him.

“After Rabbeinu sadly listened to them, he asked me for a piece of paper, and wrote a pleasantly worded protest letter with candid reproach to Mr. Jabotinsky, and asked me to give it to him. When I arrived and handed Jabotinsky the letter and he saw that it was from Rav Kook ztz”l, he asked me to wait until he read it. After reading the letter, he sank into reflection, his face expressing sorrow. Immediately, he asked me: Do you know the contents of Rav Kook’s letter? After I told him I did, he asked me to tell Rabbeinu not to worry, that he would use all of his influence to make sure it didn’t happen again and added that he would also meet Rabbeinu to discuss the matter. He graciously accompanied me to the door, and asked me to send his warm regards to “our dear Rabbi.”

The Attitude of Rav Kook and His Son Rav Tzvi Yehudah towads Jabotinsky

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda supported Jabotinsky’s political positions, and the armed struggle of the Underground movements, Irgun and Lechi, against the British occupation and Arab rioters, and even boasted that he agreed to hide Underground literature in his home.

Similarly, I also heard testimony that Rabbi Kook ztz”l had tremendous appreciation for Jabotinsky’s self-sacrifice for the people of Israel, his correct positions, and the purity of his character traits. I heard that when a letter was brought to Rav Kook from Jabotinsky concerning the libel surrounding the murder of Arlozorov, he said that Jabotinsky was “an angel of God.” No such leader of the Jewish people at that time received such adoration from Rav Kook.

His Last Day

Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s vigorous activities for years that knew no bounds, as well as the feelings of disappointment and humiliation he felt among his Zionist associates, and most of all the missed opportunity – the Holocaust had begun, and all the many Jews he had met and called for their immigration to Eretz Yisrael, were left trapped in Europe – gnawed his heart, and he died of a massive heart attack while visiting a Betar summer camp in New York. In his will, he instructed his bones be brought for burial to Eretz Yisrael, but only by order of the Jewish state that was to be established. Indeed, in 1964, after Ben-Gurion resigned as Prime Minister, the Israeli government, led by Levi Eshkol, decided to bring his remains and that of his wife to Eretz Yisrael, and their resting place is on Mount Herzl, next to the seer of the State of Israel.

On his last day, the 29th of Tammuz, 5700 (August 4th, 1940), while traveling from New York to the Betar camp in the suburbs, he unexpectedly asked one of his companions who was a traditional Jew, to sing for him the “Kol Nidre” prayer, saying that he did not quite recall the words in Aramaic. After he sang it to him once, Jabotinsky sank into deep reflection, and asked him to sing “Kol Nidre” a few more times.

As well-known in Jewish tradition, a person’s last day holds a concise expression of his entire life. Jabotinsky’s cleaving to the “Kol Nidre” prayer,  symbolizing more than any other prayer the sacred day of Yom Kippur, expresses the purity of his actions for the sake of the Jewish nation, its Land, and its spiritual culture.

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

Have the Laws of Kashrut Changed?

Have the Laws of Kashrut Changed?

Many studies have proven beyond doubt that metal and glass utensils do not absorb flavors, which raises a question about the halakha of kashering utensils based on the assumption that utensils absorb and emit them * The halakha does not change, and the metal utensils have not changed, but it seems that the invention of soap changed reality * From the poskim it has been proven that absorption of flavors stemmed from the layer of grime accumulated on the utensils, but today the widespread use of soap prevents this * In light of this, all the foundations of hilchot keilim remain in place, and only in laws that actually depend on absorption of flavor, has the law changed

 The Basis of the Mitzvah of Kashering Utensils

Three years ago, I shared with the readers the explanation of an important and complex halachic issue that arose in the past generation, and now I will briefly summarize it with its main halachic conclusions.

After Israel defeated Midian and captured their spoils, they were commanded to kasher the vessels as they were used – “k’bolo kach polto” (in the same manner a utensil absorbs, it also releases what it has absorbed). In other words, utensils used for cooking – their kashering is done by hagalah (immersing in boiling water), and utensils used for roasting or baking – by way of libun (kashering with direct fire until the vessels becomes red-hot), as the Torah says: ” This is the rule that God commanded Moses: As far as the gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead are concerned, whatever was used over fire must be brought over fire and purged… that which was not used over fire need only be immersed in a mikveh” (Numbers 31: 21-23).

At the basis of the mitzvah, our Sages explained that the taste of a food cooked in a utensil is absorbed in its walls, and if after cooking a treif (non-kosher) food in a pot, kosher food is cooked, the treif flavor is released from the walls and is absorbed in the kosher food. And our Sages instructed that since we do not know how much taste is absorbed and stuck to the walls, and what strength it has, the walls must be considered as if they are filled with the prohibition. Since the pot contents are almost always not sixty times the thickness of the walls, it follows that whenever a dish is cooked in a pot that has absorbed a forbidden taste, everything that is cooked in the pot will be prohibited. The same applies to a pot in which milk was cooked and then meat, that since in the meat dish there are not sixty times the thickness of the walls that absorbed milk, the meat dish is forbidden. In order to be able to cook in a treif pot, it must be kashered as it is used – “k’bolo kach polto” (Avodah Zarah 74b; 76b).

The halakha goes according to Rabbi Shimon, that if the treif pot had not been used for twenty-four hours, be’di’avad (after the fact), the dish cooked in it is not forbidden, because after a period of twenty-four hours the taste absorbed in the utensil is pagum (defective), and a taam pagum (defective taste) does not make the dish forbidden. But l’chatchila (ideally), it is forbidden to use the utensil without kashering it (S. A., Y. D. 122:2).

The Big Question Nowadays

In recent generations, it has become evident beyond any doubt, according to the experience of many people who have examined it in their home kitchen, as well as scientific research, that metal vessels, similar to glassware, do not absorb flavors and consequently, also do not emit them. In other words, if milk is cooked in a pot, and afterward the pot is thoroughly cleaned, and then meat is cooked in it, the meat will not have any taste of milk. And if treif meat was cooked and then the pot was cleaned well, and immediately afterward a vegetable dish was cooked in it, the vegetables will not have any taste from the treif meat.

Ostensibly, since the obligation to kasher a utensil is to remove the flavors that have been absorbed in it, after it has become apparent that metal and glass utensils do not absorb flavors – the Torah’s commandment to kasher them after treif has been cooked in them, is null and void. On the other hand, however, we have learned explicitly in the Torah that it is a mitzvah to kasher metal utensils?

Have Metals Changed?

At first, I speculated: perhaps metals have changed and in the past, they were less solid and impervious and therefore absorbed flavors, similar to earthenware and wood utensils. However, it turns out that metals of various types are common substances known not to have changed, and unlike clay and wood that have pores through which taste-bearing materials can penetrate into the thickness of the utensil, flavors cannot penetrate metal-bearing materials because the taste molecules are far larger than the spaces between the particles from which metals are made.

If so, the question remains: How is it possible that our Sages said that metal utensils emit flavors from the previous dish cooked in them, but today we do not taste it at all?

The Change Comes From the Invention of Soap

After further study, I discovered that the change that has taken place in recent generations is in our ability to clean utensils. Only a little over two hundred years ago (1790), Nicolas Leblanc, a French chemist, discovered the method used to make detergent, the basic substance of soap, which can dissolve and remove fats and grime. In a gradual process, the use of soap became common, until about 100 years ago, liquid soap, which in time was used worldwide, also began to be produced in Germany.

In other words, in the past, although utensils were washed well, and materials such as ash and burr which work similarly to soap were used, almost always particles of food cooked in utensils remained stuck to their sides. These tastes were called “absorbed flavors” since they became one with the sides, and secondary to them. In addition, metal surfaces are covered with tiny cracks (which can be seen with a microscope) and taste-bearing materials can enter them, and may be considered as actually absorbed in the metal, even though they do not penetrate into its thickness. In earlier times, metal utensils were often coarser, and the holes in their walls were larger.

Nevertheless, as long as soap was not used, even after serious cleaning, there was almost always a thin layer of residue food leftover on the side of the utensil which transferred tastes. And because the liquids in this layer evaporated, the taste-bearing materials remained there in a high concentration, to the point where our Sages hypothesized according to experience that sometimes their taste was equal to that of the thickness of the walls. And since it is a thin layer exposed to air, an accelerated biochemical processes of decay would have occurred, to the point where our Sages hypothesized that if the utensil was not ben yomo (over 24 hours had passed), it was already clear that the taste that stuck to, and absorbed in its walls, were pagum.

Evidence from the Poskim

After understanding this, with the help of Rabbi Maor Cayam shlita, I found that in essence, this is what emerges from the words of the Rishonim, who explicitly wrote that at the time utensils undergo hagalah, the filth and grime emitted from the utensils into the water becomes very thick. Thus, they were speaking about the fats that were stuck to the sides of the utensils which the boiling water had melted until they mixed-in with the water. Consequently, Rabbi Aharon Halevi (Ra’ah) wrote that many utensils should not be immersed in the same water, for fear that “there will be a lot of zohama (filth), and consequently, the power of the water (to extract the tastes) is nullified, and the water changes its form…” (Bedik HaBayit 4: 4); and thus wrote Ran, that many utensils should not undergo hagalah “to the point where the water changes its form due to emitted material from the utensils, for it is as if one immersed a utensil in sauce…” (Chulin 44a, in dapaei Rif), and as explained by many other Rishonim. Today, the water does not change form because utensils are cleaned with soap.

The Obligation to Kasher Remains

In light of this, the obligation to kasher metal utensils used with treif remains in place, since even in the past, metals did not actually absorb tastes within them; thus, the obligation to kasher them is because when they were used with treif, the tastes stuck to their sides. And just as it is obligatory to kasher treif utensils after twenty-four hours have passed, even though the taste-bearing material stuck to them is already considered pagum and not prohibited, similarly, it is also obligatory to kasher utensils after removing all the remnants of food with soap.

If we delve deeper into the words of the Rishonim, we find they differed whether the obligation to kasher after cleansing, similar to the obligation to kasher a treif utensil after 24 hours passed, is from the Torah or of rabbinical ordinance. According to those poskim who believe that “ta’am k’ikar d’Rabanan” (‘a taste is like the entity itself’ is of rabbinical ordinance) (Ramban, Rambam, Ra’ah, Ran, Nimukei Yosef, Ritva, and others), since the tastes that were absorbed and stuck to the utensils are not prohibited by the Torah, thus, the obligation to kasher utensils from the Torah also applies to tastes that became pagum or were removed, or as Ramban wrote that the kashering of utensils is for “a virtuous reason,” similar to the mitzvah of immersing utensils that a Jew bought or received from a non-Jew in a mikveh (Ra’ah, Bedek HaBayit 4: 1). And in the opinion of those poskim who believe that “ta’am k’ikar D’oreita” (‘a taste is like the entity itself’ is from the Torah)” (Bahag, Tosafot, Rabbeinu Tam, Terumah, Ra’zah, Raavad, Rosh, and others), after the taste is removed or is pagum, the obligation to kasher is of Rabbinical ordinance.

The Halakha in Laws Dependent on Taste

According to this explanation, all the fundamentals of the laws of kashering utensils remain in place, and only in laws that actually depend on taste, has the law changed. For example, if one made a mistake and cooked kosher food in a treif pot, just as if 24 hours had passed since the treif was cooked in the pot the food cooked in it is kosher, similarly, if the pot was cleaned with soap, even though 24 hours had not passed since the treif was cooked – the food cooked in it is kosher.

However, if it was done be’zadon (maliciously), in other words, one knew that the pot required kashering, and nevertheless he cooked kosher food in it, from Divrei Chachamim (Rabbinical ordinance), the food cooked is forbidden for anyone who it was cooked for, even though in practice, the pot did not emit forbidden tastes into the cooked food. There are, however, some later poskim who were lenient even for someone who cooked it be’zadon (Tiferet Le’Moshe, Maharam Shick, Iggrot Moshe, and others), but in practice, one should be machmir (act stringently), as many Rishonim and Acharonim wrote (among them, Rashba, Ritva, Radbaz, Knesset HaGedolah, Pri Migadim, Beit Shlomo, Zivchei Tzedek).

Cooking Parve Food in a Basari Utensil (Nat-Bar-Nat)

As well known, the Rishonim differed on the question of whether it is permitted to cook parve food in a basari (meat) pot in order to eat it with chalav (dairy), or vice versa (this law in Hebrew is called “nat-bar-nat d’hetera“). In accordance with the words of the Rishonim, three minhagim (customs) was established: 1) the minhag of some Sephardic Jews, who hold that l’chatchila (ideally), one is permitted to cook in a ben yomo basari pot (a pot that 24 hours have not passed since meat was cooked in it) a parve food in order to eat it with chalav. 2) The minhag of most Sephardi Jews is that, l’chatchila, one should not cook parve food in a basari pot to be eaten with chalav, but if the basari pot is not ben yomo, one can cook a parve dish in it, in order to eat it with chalav. 3) For the minhag of Ashkenazic Jews, even b’shaat ha’tzorech (time of need), parve food cooked in a basari pot that is ben yomo cannot be eaten with chalav, and only be’di’avad (after the fact), if it got mixed in, it may be eaten. And if the basari pot is not ben yomo, b’shaat ha’tzorech it may be eaten with chalav.

According to what we have learned, all this is intended for earthenware utensils that absorb flavors, or metal utensils that have not been thoroughly cleansed with soap. However, in a metal utensil that has been cleansed with soap, members of all ethnic groups can act according to the lenient method.

The Law Concerning Charif

Similarly, the Rishonim differed as to charif (sharp, or spicy) food. Some poskim are of the opinion that the spiciness of the food enhances taste, therefore, if one cooks or cuts a charif food in a basari pot, the cooked dish becomes basari, and the minhag is to take into consideration their opinion (S. A. 91: 1). However today, when pots and pans are cleaned with soap, the lenient opinion should be followed, namely, if one cooked or cut a charif parve food in a clean basari utensil made of metal or glass – the food remains parve, and may be eaten with chalav, or vice versa.

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

The Three Weeks: Permitted and Forbidden

17th of Tammuz: Nursing and pregnant women are exempt from fasting, as well as sick people who are bedridden * Weakness and headaches are a natural phenomenon when fasting, and are not a reason for exemption, but someone who is liable to get sick, is exempt * One may swallow medicines without water, and also pills with caffeine for those who need them * Soldiers in operational activity are exempt from fasting, but soldiers in training must fast * What kind of music may be heard during the Three Weeks * What is forbidden to buy during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days * Vacations are permitted until Rosh Chodesh Av, while maintaining strict rules of caution

Pregnant and Nursing Women on the Minor Fasts

Pregnant and nursing women are exempt from the Minor Fasts (where the fast is only during the day), because when Israel accepted to fast on the Minor Fasts, they did not accept it for pregnant and nursing women, because fasting is more difficult for them. In Germany (Ashkenaz), many pregnant and nursing women had a custom to act strictly and fast on the minor fast days.  Perhaps they did so because of the harsh decrees that the Jews suffered there.  In any event, the prevalent custom today, even among Ashkenazi Jews, is that pregnant and nursing women do not observe the minor fast days.

The Two Years after Birth

Some poskim exempt all women from fasting for 24 months after giving birth, because in their opinion the exemption does not depend on nursing but on the hardships of childbirth, from which it takes 24 months to recover (Maharasham and Yichevei Da’at 1:35).  In practice, most poskim rule strictly and require every woman who has stopped nursing to fast even on the Minor Fast days.  This is the prevalent custom, but one who wants to adopt the more lenient opinion has upon whom to rely. And a woman who feels weakness, even though she is not considered truly sick, is entitled to be lenient (ibid, 7: 8, 11).

The Infirm are Exempt

When the Prophets and Sages instituted these fasts, they did so for healthy people, not for the sick.  This is the difference between Yom Kippur and all other fasts.  On Yom Kippur, even the infirm are obligated to fast, because it is a Biblical command.  Only people whose lives may be in danger if they fast are exempt, for the preservation of human life overrides the Torah’s commandments.

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

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

A weak or very old person who suffers while fasting and fears that if he fasts, he will get weaker and sick, is exempt from fasting. Also, a sick person who has recovered from his illness but still feels weak, and fears that if he fasts, his illness will return, is exempt from fasting.

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

Swallowing Medications

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

Headache Pills

Many people drink a few cups of coffee a day, and while fasting, suffer from severe headaches. In order to prevent this, it is advisable to use pills containing caffeine (there are Acamol or Dexamol tablets and the like, with caffeine), and swallow them on the fast without water, so they can fast without severe pain.

The Duration of the Fast

The Minor Fasts last from daybreak (alot hashachar) to the emergence of the stars (tzait ha-kochavim). Alot hashachar is when the first light begins to appear in the east.  Tzait ha-kochavim is when three medium-sized stars are visible in the sky.  There are different opinions as to when exactly alot hashachar occurs – either when the first light begins to appear in the east (when the sun is 17.5 degrees below the horizon) or a short time later, when the eastern sky is illuminated (when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon).

There are also two major opinions regarding tzait hakochavim.  It occurs either when experts and those with excellent eyesight can see three stars (when the sun is 4.8 degrees below the horizon) or when regular people can see three stars (when the sun is 6.2 degrees below the horizon).

According to the letter of the law, we should follow the more lenient opinion, because these fasts are Rabbinic enactments.  However, it is best to act strictly.  Since we are already fasting all day long, it is preferable to add a few extra minutes in order to fulfill our obligation according to all opinions  (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim, 7: 3).

Eating before Dawn

Even though the fast starts at alot hashachar, the prohibition to eat sometimes begins the night before.  If one has in mind not to eat anymore until the beginning of the fast, it is considered as if he accepted the fast upon himself, and he may not eat.  Therefore, one who goes to sleep the night before a fast and wakes up before daybreak may not eat, but be’di’avad, he may drink, since it is customary for people to wake up before a fast and take a drink, and this is considered as if he had thought about it (see, Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 7: 4, 5).

Rinsing One’s Mouth with Water

It is permitted to rinse one’s mouth with water, in order to remove bad odor, or to prevent distress. It is also permissible for a person who is distressed to use toothpaste to clean his mouth well, and remove the bad smell.

On Tisha B’Av, which is a more severe fast and bathing is also forbidden, only someone who is very distressed may wash his mouth and brush his teeth without toothpaste. But on Yom Kippur, whose obligation to fast is from the Torah, even those who are very distressed are not permitted to be lenient in this matter (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 7: 5).

Children under the Age of Mitzvot

Children who have yet to reach the age at which they are obligated in the mitzvot are exempt from the fasts that the Rabbis instituted, and are fed simple foods, in order to teach them to mourn with the congregation. But it is not a mitzvah to train them to fast, because only on Yom Kippur, which is Torah-based, is there a mitzvah to train them to fast. If the children are big and healthy and wish to fast until noon, it is commendable, but they should not fast the entire day (ibid, 7:9).

Soldiers

Soldiers who are engaged in active security operations that are liable to be compromised if they fast, should eat and drink as usual so that they may carry out their mission properly. However, soldiers who are merely engaged in training, must fast.

Bride and Groom

A bride and groom, that one of their seven days of rejoicing after their wedding falls on a fast day – are obligated to fast, because public aveilut (mourning) overrides individual joy. However, when the fast is postponed like this year, it is permissible for the bridegroom and bride to break the fast after Mincha Gedolah in the afternoon (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 7: 9, 12).

Dancing and Music during the Three Weeks

Although our Sages did not make special enactments to indicate the distress and mourning of the Three Weeks, the Jewish custom is to abstain from dancing during the entire Three Weeks (M.A. 551:10).

As an addendum to this, one must not listen to happy music during these days, and even non-joyful music should not be listened to aloud (in a volume that can be heard outside a room), because even listening to music at a high volume makes it more festive and practically transforms it into a joyous song (Peninei Halakha 8: 4-5).

Shopping and “She’hecheyanu” during the Three Weeks

It is customary not to buy a garment or a piece of furniture on which the blessing “She’hecheyanu” (“Blessed are You, Lord…Who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time”) is recited, because these days are days of calamity, and on them, how can one say ‘who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time’.

However, until Rosh Chodesh Av one may purchase items that would not require one to recite She’hecheyanu. For example, one may buy socks or undershirts, because these items of clothing are not significant enough to warrant the recitation of She’hecheyanu. One may also buy a garment that requires alterations, to be worn after Tisha B’Av. Since it cannot be worn at the time when it is purchased, one does not recite She’hecheyanu at that time. Furthermore, according to those who customarily recite She’hecheyanu only when they first wear the clothing, one may buy a new garment during the Three Weeks, on the condition that he wears it and recites the blessing after Tisha B’Av. Similarly, a couple may buy a piece of furniture, because, as partners in the purchase, they recite the blessing of Ha’tov Ve’hametiv rather than She’hecheyanu. An individual, on the other hand, must refrain from buying furniture to avoid reciting She’hecheyanu.

Shopping during the Nine Days

Once the month of Av begins, business transactions are curtailed, and one must refrain even from purchases on which She’hecheyanu is not recited. It is also preferable to curtail even ordinary purchases. For example, if one usually makes a big shopping trip and stocks up on food and household items only once every few weeks, ideally, one should refrain from doing so during the Nine Days.

Outings and Vacations

Some poskim maintain that one must refrain from taking pleasure trips and swimming in an ocean or a pool during the Three Weeks, in order to limit our enjoyment during this mournful period. Furthermore, since these days are prone to calamity, one must avoid potentially dangerous activities.

From a halakhic standpoint, however, these activities are not prohibited. After all, our Sages only instructed us to curtail our joy from the first day of Av. They did not prohibit engaging in pleasurable and enjoyable activities before then. The only thing one should avoid is special celebrations, like parties, concerts, and dances. Therefore, one may go hiking and swimming and one may vacation in a hotel until the end of Tamuz. In addition, the concern about engaging in potentially dangerous activities is not so serious that one must be more cautious than one generally should be throughout the year. Thus, one may go hiking and engage in similar activities during the Three Weeks, while taking particular care to follow the safety precautions that apply to such activities throughout the year.

“When Av arrives, we curtail our joy”, therefore, one must refrain from outings and recreational activities that are mainly designed to provide pleasure and joy. However, one may go on a trip or vacation that is designed primarily for educational or therapeutic purposes during the Nine Days.

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