A Crying for Generations

The notion that Torah and action can be separated is the root of the mistake that led to the Sin of the Spies * Those who refused to immigrate to Israel in the early days of Zionism were partners in the modern-day Sin of the Spies, for which we pay the price to this day * Baseless hatred, for which the Temple was destroyed, is also a reflection of the Sin of the Spies * When Tisha B’Av falls on Erev Shabbat, preparations for Shabbat may begin as early as the morning

On Tisha B’Av, the Generation of the Desert chose to believe the Spies, who claimed that the People of Israel would not have the power to conquer the Land: “The entire community raised a hubbub and began to shout. That night, the people wept” (Numbers 14:1). As a result of their sin, it was decreed that all men of military age would die in the wilderness and not get to see ha’aretz ha’tova (the good Land), and only after their corpses fell in the desert were their children able to enter the Land with Yehoshua son of Nun and Calev son of Yefuneh, who did not participate in the sin. At that moment God said, ” You have wept without cause: therefore will I appoint a weeping to you for future generations” (Sanhedrin 104b). In other words, if the Sin of the Spies was not rectified, the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) would be destroyed, Israel would be exiled from their Land, and the Jews would mourn for generations on Tisha B’Av (Taanit 26b; Tanchuma, ‘Shlach’).

The Root of the Sin

The root of their sin was that they did not understand the value of Eretz Yisrael, and did not love it, as stated: “They despised the pleasant land;
they did not believe His word” (Psalms 106:24). One who does not love the Land dodges the need to fight for it, and tends to be easily convinced it is impossible to conquer and settle it. He will find many reasons to strengthen his position, but in truth, the main motive is that Eretz Yisrael is not important to him, and consequently, he is not willing to dedicate himself to its settlement.

This is true in all areas of life. For example, one who does not appreciate Torah study will find it difficult to study it diligently, both in the early phase of learning the fundamentals, and also later on in life in when required to set times for Torah study, particularly on Shabbat Kodesh. Someone who does not value the importance of academic studies will be incapable of finding the inner strength to pursue their completion. One who does not appreciate the significance of combat service will not be able to find the inner strength to withstand arduous training, preparing him to become a fighter. A person who does not appreciate the value of family life will not be able to find the strength to seal a marriage covenant, and establish a family. All these people will find a thousand excuses for themselves, but the real reason is – they simply do not want to.

Heresy in Belief in the Unity of God

The unique value of Eretz Yisrael is that in it, complete emunah (faith) in the unity of God is revealed. In other words, in Eretz Yisrael, emunah is revealed in all areas of life: in Torah, in work, in science, in art, in the life of the individual and the community, the Clal, and the state. On the other hand, the sin of avodah zara (idol worship) is that it divides and separates the world into different domains and different idols. The greatest separation in the world is the separation between spiritual and material. Therefore, one who lives in Chutz L’Aretz (outside of Israel), in a place where there is no sacred inspiration of kedusha (holiness) in worldly life, is considered as one who serves foreign idols, and has no God (Ketubot 110b).

The sin of the Spies was that they thought that life in the desert was more sacred than life in Eretz Yisrael, and consequently, it would be better for Israel to remain in the desert and study in the ‘kollel’ of Moshe Rabbeinu and the Seventy Elders; in the morning, they would eat manna, and in the evening slav (quail). However, the Torah commanded us to enter the Land, because the entire purpose of the Creation of the World is to reveal the belief in God’s unity in all areas of life; to enjoy and rejoice in all the good that God created, and to further rectify and perfect it. For this purpose, God chose his nation, Israel, to declare the glory of God by entering the Land, and fulfilling the sacred values ​​in all areas of life, and consequently, the entire world will be rectified and redeemed.

The Terrible Price of the Sin of the Spies Nowadays

Today, just as in the past, the price of choosing not to make aliyah (immigrate) to Eretz Yisrael when possible, is grave. As I wrote three weeks ago, but nonetheless, is worth repeating a thousand times: about a hundred and twenty years ago at the time of the establishment of the Zionist movement, the Jewish people numbered approximately eleven million. The Arabs who lived in all areas of the Biblical borders, including Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, numbered a little more than five million, while on both sides of the Jordan, there was just a little more than half a million Arabs. At that time the Jewish nation had the opportunity to return to Eretz Yisrael, and flourish and multiply in it. However, almost all of the nation remained in the Diaspora, suffered the Holocaust, the rule of Communist oppression, and assimilation – whether under duress, or voluntarily. Today, there about fifteen million declared Jews throughout the entire world, and in Israel, approximately seven million. In contrast, the Arabs in the vicinity of Eretz Yisrael grew from five million to over eighty million.

The Breach Began with the Sin of the Golden Calf

The breach that led to the Sin of the Spies began with the Sin of the Golden Calf, which occurred a year earlier on the 17th of Tammuz. Moshe Rabbeinu failed to descend Mount Sinai at the expected time; the people were left with doubts and the need to establish an alternative to the previous leadership. In the Generation of the Desert, the sin was in the placing of a golden calf designed to express faith in a tangible way; had Moshe Rabbeinu not come down from the mountain and prevented the breach, the nation might have been scattered to fragments of pagan beliefs.

In contemporary times the tide of modernity has swept the world; the light of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Torah has hidden itself in the purity of the misty clouds, and the tendency to seek a substitute – a golden calf – once more, has arisen. The righteous holy souls stood guard over pure emunah without seeking go-betweens, while maintaining hope and commitment to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. However, many Jews began to look for alternatives or additions to belief in God’s unity. Some were drawn after new ‘golden calves’ of rationalism, liberalism, communism, and a variety of reforms. On the opposing side, in the face of modernist leaders taking responsibility, there were those who tried to preserve religion by inventing new golden-calf ‘prohibitions’: not to immigrate to Israel, not to enlist in the Israeli army, not to study science, and not to engage in yishuvo shel olam (betterment of society). Even someone who was privileged to immigrate to Israel and in practice contributes to the multiplicity of the Jewish nation and yishuv ha’aretz – as long as his emunah does not match his actions and he considers the situation of the Jews in Israel as a state of galut (exile) – he is in need of profound repentance.

Baseless Hatred is Parallel to the Sin of Despising the Land

Parallel to the sin of despising the Land, there is also the sin of baseless hatred. Both stem from the same root – the idolatrous concept that holiness is revealed only in some areas of life. In consequence, involvement in yishuv ha’aretz is not considered important, segments of the nation are alienated – Haredi’s, settlers, seculars, leftists, socialists – and various circles, such as the Reform and Conservative, are boycotted.

Admittedly, involvement in yishuv ha’aretz and enlisting in the army encompasses difficulties. However, this is the challenge we face – to reveal emunah in all areas of life. Connection to all segments of the nation also involves difficulties and debates over the principles of the Torah, morality and our Jewish identity; however, the Torah teaches us that the entire nation of Israel were chosen to reveal God’s unity, and even the wicked are called sons of God. Someone who ignores this, who does not respect the various segments of the nation, denies the belief in the unity of God and the Torah, because only through the entire nation of Israel can the belief in the Unity of God be revealed. And when we are not worthy, Torah is revealed by way of arguments and sins, as we have learned that even from Israel’s sins, entire passages in the Torah were written. We find then, that one who separates himself from segments of the nation it is as if he uproots passages from the Torah, because only by dealing with the positive element in sin, and in groups that espouse this idea, can repentance and rectification be achieved.

Torah Study on Shabbat

The root of the Sin of the Spies lies in the aspirations of holiness. For although it is quite nice to speak loftily about the revelation of holiness in life, however, in practice, preoccupation with everyday life may distance a person from the Torah, and his Torah learning and observance of mitzvot is liable to be weakened.

This is why God gave us Shabbat, so that on it, we could engross ourselves in Torah study in conjunction with the pleasure of the meals and rest, and by doing so, we reveal the kedusha (sanctity) in both the soul and body, as our Sages stated: Shabbat should be divided “half for eating and drinking, and half for the Beit Midrash” (Pesachim 68b).

Similarly, our Sages said: “The Torah said to God, ‘When the Jews enter the Land of Israel, one will run to his vineyard, and another to his field. What will be with me?’ God replied, ‘I have a match for you, and its name is Shabbat. Because they are not working for a whole day, they have time to learn you.’” (Tur, O.C. 290). In other words, this is not just an excuse to appease the Torah, rather, like an educator, the Torah’s question is intended to inspire us to understand the deeper meaning of Eretz Yisrael and Shabbat. By studying Torah on Shabbat, out of oneg (pleasure) and peace of mind, which results from engaging in the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, the words of Torah will be revealed in their full meaning and blessing. Thus, yishuv ha’aretz does not cause bitul Torah (cancellation of Torah), rather, it provides a further understanding of Torah – to beautify and increase Torah, and sanctify God’s Name throughout the world.

Therefore, we must make every effort to dedicate half of Shabbat to Torah. The accusations against dedicating Shabbat as a day of Torah study are immense. However, our lives depend on it. This is the way to elevate work, and this is the way to fulfill the grand vision of Am Yisrael in revealing the Unity of God in the Land.

The Laws of the 10th of Av that Falls Out on Friday

Since the majority of the Temple actually burned on the tenth of Av, the people of Israel have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine on that date. According to Sephardic custom, the prohibition lasts the entire day, while Ashkenazim observe this custom only until midday.

Most Achronim maintain that, in addition to refraining from meat and wine, one may not wash clothes, wear freshly laundered garments, take haircuts, listen to joyous music, or bathe in hot water on the tenth of Av. One may, however, wash oneself with lukewarm water. Some authorities rule leniently, prohibiting only the consumption of meat and wine, while permitting bathing, haircutting, and laundering, without limitation. Ideally, one should follow the stricter opinion, but one may act leniently under pressing circumstances.

When the Tenth of Av falls out on a Friday, one is allowed to take a haircut, do laundry, and bathe, in preparation for Shabbat, starting from the morning. And if one is pressed for time, he may even start preparing immediately after Tish’a B’Av ends (Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 10:19).

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

Freedom of Press and Constructive Lashon Hara

The conditions for speaking lashon hara for a constructive purpose does not apply in a situation where strict adherence to the conditions will completely offset its achievement * Media reporting is of greater importance in democratic states, than in small communities * The media was initially devised by people with leftist views, therefore it is especially important to balance it with positive values

In the previous article I explained the importance of a free and diverse media, to critique government institutions and people with power and authority. And although it involves admonishing others, and often the reports are inaccurate and sometimes even erroneous, nevertheless, based on two halakhic foundations, freedom of press is permissible, and even proper: 1) Because of the public benefit of the media, on account of which those in authority and power are reluctant to commit crimes in order to further themselves or those close to them at the expense of the public. 2) Recognizing the numerous benefits of having a free press, the public in democracies agreed to allow the media to operate, and consequently, it functions within the framework of the rule ‘dina d’malakhuta dina’ (the law of the country is binding).

Nevertheless, in order for the criticism to be within reasonable limits, basic rules of fairness were established: members of the press only deal with individuals and institutions that the public benefits by shedding light on information about them; the journalist must check the information in his possession, as well as give those criticized the right to respond; and of course, those censured have the right to recruit journalists to help them retaliate (somewhat like the ‘invisible hand’ of Adam Smith).

Following the previous article, I received a number of important comments and questions. I will present a few of the arguments, and attempt to contend with them.

The Rules of Lashon Hara (Defamation)

The main argument is that according to what is explained in the book ‘Chofetz Chaim‘ (Rule 10:1, 14), working in the media necessarily involves the prohibition of lashon hara. And although in principle it is permissible to speak lashon hara for a constructive purpose, there are seven conditions for this, and upholding them does not allow for a free press. These are the conditions: 1) The speaker must have witnessed the incident himself, rather than knowing about it from rumor. 2) The speaker should reflect thoroughly that he has indeed understood correctly what happened. 3) The speaker should first approach the transgressor privately and rebuke him with gentle language, and only if the transgressor does not listen, when it is beneficial, is it permissible to defame him. 4) Not to exaggerate or lie even a little. 5) The speaker must have pure intentions (“to’elet,” lit. “purpose”), and not out of hatred or revenge. 6) If the purpose of speaking lashon hara can be achieved in another way rather than speaking it, it is forbidden to speak lashon hara. 7) By speaking lashon hara, the transgressor should not be caused more damage than would be appropriate as determined by a Beit Din (court of Jewish law) reviewing the case.

Ostensibly, a journalist cannot uphold these rules, since his scoops are usually not based on cast-iron certainty, and consequently, it ends up he violates the first and second conditions. Seemingly, the third and sixth condition also cannot be met, since a journalist does not first try to admonish the offender, and does not check to see whether the damage can be prevented in another way. If he were to try, chances are the offender would apologize and commit to change his ways, or find another way to prevent the publication. But in practice, he may very well continue to break the law without the journalist having a way to continue monitoring him. Thus, if a journalist acts in accordance with the third and sixth conditions, he will betray his job as a journalist, and fail in deterring offenders. The seventh condition cannot be met either, since according to it, one can speak lashon hara only if the offender is not caused more damage than would be appropriate as determined by a Beit Din. In practice, there is no way to know what damage will be caused as a result of the publication, because it depends on the status of the offender, public opinion, the timing of publication, and numerous other factors.

The Heter According to Halakha

However, it seems that in principle, even according to what is explained in the book ‘Chofetz Chaim’, it is permissible to maintain a free press, because all the conditions are based on to’elet, and if the to’elet cannot be achieved according to the seven conditions – as long as the goal is for the benefit, the ‘Chofetz Chaim‘ also agrees that one may speak lashon hara without them.

I will illustrate with an extreme example: Reuven asked Shimon if he should do business with Nimrod. Simon does not know if it’s true or not, but he heard a rumor that Nimrod’s three former partners had been murdered and their bodies buried in the concrete foundations of high-rise buildings. If he were to tell this rumor, it would turn out that he transgressed most of the conditions, because the rumor is uncertain, and he also did not try to admonish Nimrod, etc. Could it be forbidden to tell this rumor?

A less extreme example: Nimrod’s three former partners, who were extremely wealthy, went bankrupt while Nimrod doubled his fortune every time. Nimrod is rumored to have deceived them and incriminated them unlawfully, and they remain silent because Nimrod promised them a salary for the rest of their lives in exchange for their silence. The rumors of course are unfounded. Could it be that for this reason Shimon is forbidden to warn Reuven about Nimrod?!

Another example: Reuven asks Shimon if he should make a shidduch for his daughter to x. Shimon believes that x is a con artist, corrupt, and violent. The problem is that Shimon hates x, and thus, according to the fifth condition that speaking the lashon hara be with pure intent, he is forbidden to tell this to Reuven. Could it be that according to halakha, Shimon should say nothing and allow Reuven’s daughter to marry x, who may be a violent criminal?!

To put it another way, the seven conditions lay down rules of principle, but the overriding condition of all of them is the consideration of benefit to others. Consequently, when it comes to a significant risk to others – even when the conditions are not met, the questioner must be saved from the concern of danger or damage.

Life in a Small Community versus a State Framework

All this refers to damage caused to a single person – how much more so when speaking of the media, which deals with saving the public. If we delve deeper into the examples given in the tenth rule in the ‘Chofetz Chaim’, we find that it is speaking about a framework of life in a small community where there is almost no need to speak lashon hara when it is uncertain, because everyone knows each other, and even without being told a rumor, people usually know to beware of cheaters and exploiters. In addition, even when the person asked remains silent because he does not know how to answer with certainty, the questioner can understand from his silence that there is room for concern. Also, since these are people who know each other personally, the possibility of first admonishing the transgressor or preventing the damage in other ways, is a reasonable possibility, and there is no need to spread the lashon hara publically.

Nowadays, however, thanks to means of transportation and communication, people live in much larger settings. If there was no free press, people would be able to lie and deceive a very large populace who are unable to get to know them personally. And one of the effective means against such individuals is a free and hard-hitting media. Thus, according to the basic principle of speaking lashon hara for benefit, in large settings it is necessary to have a media that blows the whistle and is critical, although, with a warning attached that matters reported on are indefinite, and only after a police investigation and legal inquiry can more reliable information be obtained. And this is indeed the credibility the public attributes to the media – limited trust.

Should There Be a Free Press in a Religious Society

Some argue that although a free press in secular society is valuable, but should be avoided in religious society. For in religious society, when a person has a claim against another, a public figure, or an institution, he must bring his claim before a Beit Din (court of Jewish law) or a rabbi, and not make it public. And since it is forbidden to have a free press in a religious society, consequently, it is also forbidden to read or pay attention to investigations dealing with the religious society.

This claim is important, and I wish we were able to act accordingly, but it seems to be possible only in an ideal society where the Beit Din has the authority to examine every claim, and all of the religious and Haredi public – with all their various factions – are obliged to accept the Beit Din’s exclusive jurisdiction. In our current situation, however, there is no Beit Din agreed upon, until quite often, the factions of the religious and Haredi public turn to the secular courts to resolve difficult disputes. Not only that, but since the Haredi and religious public does not have a free press according to the accepted format, it has problematic replacements, in the form of street ads or partisan newspapers that avoid any criticism of those close to them, and defame opponents disproportionately. A free press cannot prevent all the problems, but it could improve to some degree the ability to correct them. For in a state of partisan rivalry, the criticism leveled is sweeping, extreme, and one-sided, lacking the ability to focus on the real problems of good governance, and individual or institutional corruption. It turns out that sometimes people who are more committed to moral values, ​​are unable to overcome public or institutional fraudulence due to a lack of effective public criticism.

The Worldwide Problem of Conservatives

In general, those with a religious and conservative stance tend to criticize the free and critical press, because it harms the dignity of those in authority, and because it is recalcitrant and unsupervised. On the other hand, those with left-wing liberal positions willingly support the free press, since from the liberal side that advocates freedom, the value of freedom of expression is implicit, and from the leftist side fighting for equality, any harm of power or authority is a positive thing intended to promote equality. The upshot is that the media as a whole was built on the values ​​of the liberal left, and most journalists are predisposed to harshly criticize groups and personalities that represent values ​​of religion, nationalism, tradition, family and conservatism, which from their point of view endangers the values ​​of liberty and equality. In practice, the outcome is that the media throughout the world is very left-leaning.

The solution: understanding the positive value of the media and creating quality, right-wing and religious media which will utilize the media’s beneficial tools to reinforce positive values, ​​and for harsh criticism when these values ​​are harmed by movements, institutions, or individuals.

With the help of God, I will dedicate another article to the rules of morality worthy of journalists and media consumers in accordance with halakha.

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

The Media and Journalists in Halakha

Working in journalism almost unavoidably involves the publication of information prohibited under the dry rules of the laws of lashon ha’ra * Nevertheless, in a democratic state its role has been shown to be essential to maintaining the integrity of elected officials, and strengthening the rule of the people * Consequently, it appears that having a free press is permitted and even a mitzvah, both in terms of its usefulness, and its wide acceptance by the general public

The issue of the media is central to our public lives. There are two principle questions pertaining to it: 1) According to halakha, is there room for a free press that engages in criticism and publication of unfavorable things about people and organizations; or, in a state governed by halakha, due to the prohibition of lashon ha’ra (slander) a free press is forbidden? 2) Assuming that a free press is not prohibited, is being a journalist an unethical job, or acceptable under certain conditions? To answer these two questions, the prohibition of lashon ha’ra must first be defined, and conversely, the role of the media.

The Rules of Lashon Ha’ra and Rechilut (Gossip)

There are three parts to the prohibition: rechilut (gossip), lashon ha’ra (slander), and hotza’at shem ra (libel) (Rambam Hilchot De’ot 7: 2). The least severe of the prohibitions is rechilut, i.e., reporting on the private life of an individual, which does not necessarily have a negative side, but infringes on the person’s privacy. More severe is lashon ha’ra, i.e., a true report of bad deeds or bad behavior of an individual. The most severe is hotza’at shem ra, i.e., publishing evil lies about others.

There are three prohibitions included in the term lashon ha’ra, which is considered one of the most severe sins because it poisons society and all inter-personal relations, to the point where our Sages compared it to the three most severe sins all together – idol worship, incest, and bloodshed – and even worse than them, given that the First Holy Temple was destroyed because of the three sins for seventy years, while the Second Holy Temple was destroyed for baseless hatred and lashon ha’ra for an extremely long period of time (Yoma 9b; Archin 15b).

It is Seemingly Forbidden to be a Journalist

According to this, it would seem there is no heter (halakhic permission) to permit a free press, and no heter to work as a journalist, since this is a profession whose entire goal is to search out flaws in people or groups and publicize them, which is the prohibition of lashon ha’ra. What’s more, since naturally journalists are unable to investigate every story until the end, they will often transgress the sin of hotza’at shem ra. Beyond that, in order to interest media consumers, rechilut is often spoken about famous personalities and leading institutions.

Likewise, because the main job of journalists’ is to find fault with people and publicize it, they are considered baalei lashon ha’ra (habitual speakers of lashon ha’ra), about whom Rabbeinu Yonah wrote that they are like flies which are always attracted to filthy places, and see evil in their friends, and this is a sign that they themselves are evil (Shaarei Teshuvah 3, 217), in the same manner of our Sages statement: ‘Kol haposel, be-mumo posel’ – someone who makes accusations about others will invariably project his own problem on others” (Kiddushin 70a).

And although it is permissible to say things in condemnation of others when it is useful, such as to save a person from falling into a trap in a business deal with a dishonest partner or to marry an unsuitable spouse, after all, according to the explanation in rule ten of the book ‘Chafetz Chaim’ the conditions to speak lashon ha’ra are extremely limited. First, a person is allowed to speak lashon ha’ra only if he had firsthand knowledge of the incident and not to repeat what he heard from others, which is usually not the case with a journalist. Another condition is to rebuke the subject first, that is to say, if the speaker thinks that if he discusses the matter with the offending party directly, there will be a positive outcome, he must speak with him before publicizing the issue to others. If so, it is impossible to have a free press, since everyone who is rebuked will immediately declare he regrets what he did and intends to change his ways, but the journalist has no way to verify his intention. And another condition is that the speaker has constructive intentions, only to be helpful, whereas a journalist earns a living from his disclosures and benefits from them.

The Role of the Media in a Democratic Society

In contrast, we will move on to the positive value journalism: it is commonly agreed that a democratic state cannot exist without freedom of the press, and to that end, society and government must allow, and even encourage, a diverse, independent, and free press. In general, the media has three roles: 1) to inquire. 2) To express viewpoints that can bring about a change in public attitudes. 3) To serve the public by conveying information.

The first role, to inquire, is the most important of the three, and it touches on the question of lashon ha’ra. The media probes the government, which has the power to carry out important matters and even to hide them, and the more power the media has to publish criticism of the government’s actions, the more careful it is not to violate law and morality. The role of the media is also to probe powerful and influential agents such as manufacturers, dealers, leaders in the fields of religion, culture and society and public institutions, which sometimes mislead the public, and the free press can expose their lies, and thereby benefit the public.

In order for the media to fulfill its role, in democracies, it is stipulated by law or by an agreement enshrined in court rulings that except in extraordinary cases, journalists must be granted confidentiality so they will not be required to disclose the source of the information. In other words, even though they obtained the information illegally, out of improper motives of competition and retaliation, there is agreement to waive the enforcement of the law against the leaker of the information. Specifically, there is agreement to waive petty crimes in order to prevent significant damage to the public, and to thwart the major crimes of those in power that the media scrutinizes.

The Benefit in Journalistic Enquiry

The benefit of journalistic enquiry is both on the criminal and moral level. On the criminal level: 1) Instead of placing battalions of police in all places to enforce the law and prevent crime, in a democracy, freedom of press prevents many crimes through the deterrence of publication of investigations. 2) Even after committing crimes, although there is no evidence that can lead to a conviction in court, in consequence of journalistic inquiry, criminals refrain from continuing their actions. 3) Occasionally, thanks to the investigations, evidence emerges that matures into indictments.

And on the moral level: the media investigates acts that are not criminally culpable, but in practice, harm the public, such as investigations of useless products, drugs, and healers, or censure of fraudulent leaders or counselors, thus allowing the public to consider and choose whether to continue believing them.

The Aspect of Mitzvah in the Three Levels

According to this, from three aspects media conducted by halakha fulfills a mitzvah. First, the fear of the media is beneficial as a general rebuke designed to remedy sinners from their transgressions, as the Torah says: “You must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17). Second, saving people and society in general from corrupt people and groups, as written: “Do not stand still when your neighbor’s life is in danger” (Leviticus 19:16), and this mitzvah also includes the removal of obstacles, and the prevention of harm from others. Third, the moral value of condemning the wicked and acts of injustice, in order to rectify society (Shaarei Teshuvah 3: 218; Chafetz Chaim 10: 4).

The First Foundation for a Heter: The Public Benefit

We find then, there are two grounds for permitting a critical and free press, even when it cannot meticulously guard the conditions explained in the ‘Chafetz Chaim’.

The first foundation: the vast benefit to the general public, for the principle rule in all the laws of lashon ha’ra is that when there is significant benefit, it is permissible to say something derogatory about another person. For example, in order to save him from entering into a partnership with a person whose credibility is in doubt, or from a shidduch (match) with a person whose character traits are not adequate. Similarly, in a democracy, it is permitted for citizens to speak disparagingly of public figures or groups that are conducted improperly, because of the great public benefit of doing so. This benefit concerns everyone, because in a democracy, each individual is a partner in the management of public life, and if he hears that under the responsibility of a certain minister or mayor, acts of corruption or negligence have occurred, he can vote for another candidate (God-willing, on another occasion I will explain how these issues are also consistent with the ‘Chafetz Chaim’).

The Second Foundation: Public Consent

The second foundation: on top of the recognition of the great benefit of having a free press – something that has become clear over many years through trial and error – there has been widespread public agreement in all democracies in favor of a critical, independent, and incisive media. This public consensus holds similar validity to the weight of the well-known rule ‘dina de’malchuta dina’, according to which the government has the right to legislate and impose taxes on citizens, and to punish those who break the law or do not pay tax. And it should not be argued that the government robs the citizens by imposing a tax on them, and infringes on their rights while enacting laws and punishing those who violate them, because all citizens have agreed to waive some of their rights in order to have government rule, for if not, society would crumble, and every man would swallow his neighbor alive. Indeed, citizens who are harmed by the strong arm of the government resent it, still, they do not question its authority, as they also admit and agree that it is better to have a government than the chaos that is liable to prevail without it, and in doing so, give the government the right to legislate and collect taxes.

Similarly, society as a whole has agreed that in order to maintain a democratic government that gives more rights and freedoms to citizens and does less harm, it is necessary to have a free and incisive press, which will protect the citizens from those in power and control who are capable of harming them. And although almost always, those who are harmed by the media feel they have been wronged, they still agree with the principle that a free press is necessary. In such a situation, any person who decides to enter public life, thereby agrees to expose himself to media criticism, because these are the rules society has set.


In conclusion, even in a state governed by halakha, it is mutar (halachically permissible) and even a mitzvah to maintain a free, divulging, and investigative media – even if the journalists themselves do not fulfill their role out of good motives – provided the condemnation touches on individuals whose activities have a public impact, and the criticism concerns an aspect related to their public influence.

It is still worthwhile to clarify whether, and how, a God-fearing person can engage in such a free and critical media according to the rules of halakha. I will discuss that at another time.

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

Today’s Sin of the Golden Calf and the Spies

The Sin of the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies, which occurred during the days of ‘Bein Ha-metzarim’ which we entered this week, are the prototype of all other sins * As long as these sins are not rectified, and our faith and Torah is not exact, we will continue to pay their price * The fear of many Jews to immigrate to Israel in the early days of Zionism was the continuation of the Sin of the Spies, and consequently, we had to pay the terrible price of the destruction of our People

The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz was set because on that day the walls of Jerusalem were breached. The fighting continued in Jerusalem for three weeks, and at the end, on Tisha B’Av, the Temple Mount was conquered, the Second Temple burned, and the long exile began. Our Sages said in the Mishna (Taanit 26): “Five tragic events befell our forefathers on the seventeenth of Tammuz: the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments were broken, the continuous daily offering (Tamid) was terminated, the city of Jerusalem was breached, Apostomus burnt a Torah scroll, and an idol was erected in the Holy Temple.”

The Meaning of the Mishna and the Sin of the Golden Calf

Taking a look at the Mishna, we see there is an inner connection between the five events that occurred on t 17th of Tammuz. All of them express a crisis that harms spiritual roots, fractures the wall of faith, and causes severe damage that if not rapidly rectified, will subsequently, on Tisha B’Av, cause complete destruction.

The source of all the calamities of the 17th of Tammuz is rooted in the Sin of the Golden Calf. After the revelation on Mount Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu was called to stay on the mountain forty days and forty nights to receive the Torah from God. On the day the people thought was the fortieth day – they waited for him to descend, and when he did not, they demanded Aaron HaKohen make a statue representing the God that had taken them out of Egypt. Aaron held them off, and asked them to bring the women’s jewelry to make a statue from it, in the hope they would refuse. However, many of them brought their wives’ golden jewelry. Aaron made a golden calf from them, but postponed the slaughtering of a sacrifice to it till the following day, in hope that in the meantime, Moshe would come down from the mountain. However, Moshe had not yet descended, but the people had already begun slaughtering sacrifices to the calf, and make a feast. At that moment, a great accusation in Heaven transpired, and God sought to consume the entire nation and rebuild it through Moshe Rabbeinu’s offspring. In the meantime, Moshe Rabbeinu came down from the mountain with the Tablets in his hands, and upon seeing the Golden Calf was angered, threw down the Tablets, shattered them, and punished the sinners. He then commenced an act of teshuva (repentance) and tikun (rectification), giving over his soul in prayer for Am Yisrael, until God agreed to forgive the people, and not destroy them.

The Two Great Sins – The Golden Calf and the Spies

The two fundamental sins noted in the Torah are the sin of the Golden Calf on the 17th of Tammuz, and the sin of the Spies on Tisha B’Av. In the sin of the Golden Calf the people still believed in God, however, they thought that intermediary powers were needed. However, since they desecrated the purity of emunah (faith) and the Torah – a year later, on Tisha B’Av, they lacked the strength to confront the Spies who dissuaded them from entering Eretz Yisrael, despised it, betrayed the word of God and the purpose of the Torah, and were punished in that the entire generation that had left Egypt, died in the wilderness. Not having corrected the sin, the punishment continued for several generations, as our Sages said of the sin of the Spies that occurred on Tisha B’Av: “God said to them: You cried for naught, and I will decree that you cry for generations” [Taanit 29a], for on Tisha B’Av the First and Second Temples were destroyed. In other words, the sin of the Golden Calf extends to the destruction of the Holy Temple.

It is no coincidence that these were the two most severe sins, because essentially, they are the prototype of all sins. The sin of the Golden Calf harms the principles of emunah and Torah, and if not rectified, it reaches the sin of the Spies, which impairs the Torah and Israel’s fulfillment of its purpose – the revelation of the Shekhina (Holy Presence) in Eretz Yisrael. And in every generation we have to guard ourselves from transgressing these sins, because every flaw in the purity of emunah and Torah has its source in the sin of the Golden Calf, and every flaw in yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel) has its source in the sin of the Spies. If we achieve exactness in our emunah and Torah, striving to fulfill them in Eretz Yisrael, the blessing will be boundless. But if, God forbid, we are inexact in our emunah and its fulfillment, the price to be paid is unbearable. As our Sages said: “No retribution whatsoever comes upon the world which does not contain a slight fraction of the sin of the Golden Calf, as it is written (Exodus 32:34): ‘Nevertheless in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them’ (Sanhedrin 102a). And if we do not correct the sin of the Spies, we will continue paying for it in the prolonged destruction of the Temple and the Land, as our Sages said: “Any generation during whose days the Temple is not rebuilt is regarded as if it had destroyed it” (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1).

The Sin of the Golden Calf in Every Generation

In every generation the Jewish nation is compelled to deal with a challenge that is liable to lead to the sin of the Golden Calf. This is because the world changes from year to year, and at every stage, for a moment, it seems as if Moshe Rabbeinu is delayed; no one knows what happened to him, and there is no one to illuminate our path. And instead of strengthening our emunah and to the best of our ability, continue growing in Torah and mitzvot, there is a tendency to seek ‘golden calves’ to mediate between pure emunah, and contemporary life. This is especially true during times of crisis and significant changes in lifestyle; then, the absence of the guidance of Moshe Rabbeinu seems more pronounced, and at that time, even glorified souls like Aaron HaKohen are liable to be enticed by the public, and have no choice but to agree to some type of ‘golden calf’ to act as an intermediary (see Kuzari 1:97).

The Sin of the Spies in Every Generation

Similarly, in every generation we are compelled to face difficulties in fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, for the settlement of the Land always presents challenges – whether it be external enemies rising up against us, or internal difficulties. In other words, in order to settle the Land properly, all ideas and mitzvot must be “settled” in everyday life, with all its difficulties. Claims then arise that the ideas are too lofty, obscure, and impractical. For instance, Shabbat observance, setting times for Torah study, and prayer will impede upon work and science; the values ​​of truth and morality – will hinder entrepreneurship. But just as difficult questions in the Gemara are ‘settled’ and resolved, so too, the Land’s difficult questions must be ‘settled’ according to the Torah’s guidance, and show how it is precisely walking in God’s way that settles the Land with additional blessing.

The Enormous Challenge of Recent Generations

In recent generations, the Jewish people have faced a new struggle, spiritually difficult than previous challenges. Out of philosophical and scientific development, accelerated social, economic and demographic development began, unparalleled to the past. Numerous questions began piling up on religious tradition as a result of all the scientific discoveries, and before one of them could be answered – seven new questions arose, which increasingly grew and intensified. Attempts were made to deal with questions from the exact sciences, and in the meantime, questions from the field of history arose. In the process, severe attacks on religious frameworks began to emerge from the values ​​of human freedom and rights. And, most difficult of all, opposing worldviews to religion developed, such as liberalism, communism, rationalism, capitalism, which offered realistic solutions to the world’s advancement, and to some extent, even its redemption, claiming that, at best, when religion restricts itself to the private domain, it can be tolerated; and at worst, when it attempts to influence society – it interferes with tikun olam (fixing the wrongs in the world).

The Sin of the Golden Calf Today

The great challenge of the sin of the Golden Calf reappeared in modern times in full force. Moshe Rabbeinu remained in the foggy mist of Mount Sinai, and we should have adhered to pure emunah, and delve into the Torah which teaches us that the essence of its fulfillment is in Eretz Yisrael, in the joining of heaven and earth, guiding us to see in galut (exile) a temporary state of punishment and illness, and asserting that all the observance of Torah and mitzvot in the Diaspora is intended that once possible, we immigrate to Israel and fulfill the Torah and mitzvot there; and by doing so, we also return the Shekhina from its exile, once again to dwell among Am Yisrael and in Eretz Yisrael. This was the way many of the great Sages instructed, including the Gaon from Vilna, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, and after them, Rabbi Kalisher and Rabbi Alkalai, and other precursors of Zionism.

However, it was very difficult to stand the test. Jewish identity was attacked on all sides. The nation began to drown in questions, and there seemed to be a need for a ‘golden calf’ to help mediate. Thus, different conceptions began to develop. Some argued the Torah, or parts of it, should be abandoned in order to join the “golden calves” of the advancement process. On the opposing side, counter to the accountability of the leaders of modernity, there were rabbis and chassidim who argued in the name of religion that it was forbidden to change anything from the customs of the galut – not to immigrate to Israel, not to work for the betterment of society, not to engage in science. And to preserve the situation, a host of ideas were offered to enthuse peoples’ hearts, which in themselves are, in a sense, a ‘golden calf,’ disrupting the balanced way of Torah and mitzvot.

As a result, when it was possible to immigrate to Israel, there were not enough spiritual and religious resources left to inspire mass immigration to Israel.

The Result of the Sin of the Spies Today

About a hundred and twenty years ago, close to fifty years after Rabbi Alkalai and Rabbi Kalisher had initiated their activities, at the time of the establishment of the Zionist movement, the Jewish people numbered approximately eleven million, while the Arabs who lived in all areas of the Biblical borders, including Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, numbered a little more than five million, with a little more than half a million Arabs living on both sides of the Jordan. At that point, the Jewish nation had the opportunity to return to the Land of Israel, in which to flourish and multiply. However, the majority of our nation were afraid to uproot themselves from the Diaspora, to immigrate to Israel, and to take their fate in their own hands, as the Torah commands. Indeed, the challenge was immense; immigration to Israel in those days involved many difficulties. However, the refusal to fulfill the mitzvah to immigrate to Israel when it was possible to do so, was in a sense, a modern-day sin of the Spies, and as we were warned in the Torah, the price for it is dreadful. We suffered the Holocaust, the rule of Communist oppression, and assimilation. And thus today, there are about fifteen million declared Jews in the world, and in Israel, approximately seven million. In contrast, the Arabs in the vicinity of Eretz Yisrael benefited from the fruits of the industrial revolution, the growth of food production, and the improvement of medicine, and grew from five million to more than eighty million.

Nevertheless, it is not too late. It is still possible to unite around the national and divine mission, and correct. “Get ready! We’re going up to Zion to the Lord our God!” The Lord proclaims: Sing joyfully for the people of Jacob; shout for the leading nation. Raise your voices with praise and call out: “The Lord has saved his people, the remnant of Israel!”  (Jeremiah, 31: 5-6).

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

The Love of Eretz Yisrael and Diligent Torah Study of Rabbi Meshulam Rata ztz”l

The positive attitude to Zionism and the settlement of the Land of Israel was shared by Rabbi Meshulam Rata (Roth) and his rabbi, Rabbi Meir Arik * His diligent Torah study was exceptional, and he himself fulfilled the command ‘meditate on it day and night‘ in the plain sense of the words * When he fled Europe and arrived in Eretz Israel, he was received with respect and appreciation, and appointed to serve in the Great Beit Din

About a month ago, I began telling the story of the life of the great gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Rata (1875-1962), on the occasion of the publication of his book ‘Kol Mevasser’, in a well-designed and renewed edition. Since our teacher and mentor HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook ztz”l described him as the Gadol ha-Dor (eminent sage) of the generation after the passing of Maran HaRav Kook, we will continue relating the history of his life.

His Rabbi, Rabbi Meir AriK

As I mentioned previously, Rabbi Meshulam studied with the great sages in his surroundings, but his most prominent rabbi was Rabbi Meir Arik (Arak) ztz”l (1885-1926), author of “Minchat Pittim” on Shulchan Aruch, and the Responsa ‘Imrei Yosher’, as well as other books.

Rabbi Arik invested a great deal in his student, and was willing to spend a significant amount of time studying with him on the subjects his student chose, as Rabbi Meshulam wrote in a letter to his father when he was 17. He also said that his rabbi suggested that he put most of his effort “in the study of Shulchan Aruch aimed at halakha“, because he was about to marry, and unless he was proficiently versed in halakha, he would not be respected as a rabbi in his father-in-law’s house and in his community. Their friendly relationship and the understanding between them was very deep, and, as he wrote his father in his letter, his rabbi told him it was very rare for two people to be of the same mind in all their opinions and behaviors, but “our opinions and our views are generally consistent, not beyond a bowshot, and so our relationship is strong and rooted firmly and securely… therefore, how good and how pleasant it is for such brothers to dwell together in unity on Torah and mitzvot.”

Later on, when his rabbi sent him his book, “Minchat Pittim,” Rabbi Meshulam wrote him a long letter, from which I will cite a few lines indicating his special connection to his rabbi: “Your precious book came into my sight yesterday, shining like the sun of righteousness through spreading clouds, with tens of thousands of its glorious rays of light glowing… you have revived my soul, my master and teacher… Who would have created lips for me to express and articulate my heartfelt emotions that I sensed, which touched my memory of our soul-bound friendship! Oh, how I wish it was the pleasant months of the past, sitting in your shadow, listening to your lessons, back then I imagined that no one in the world could be as happy as I… I am writing this to you, my teacher and friend, and I envision seeing eye-to-eye the light of your face, speaking to you about everything my heart feels at the moment, and I love you with my soul, my pleasant teacher! … How fortunate you are, my friend and beloved guide! How joyful and prosperous you are!”

Their Attitude to the Settlement of the Land of Israel

Incidentally, in relation to Zionism as well, his rabbi was not far afield. Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook said that when he had traveled to Europe, he met the illustrious gaon Rabbi Meir Arik, and he told him that he had formed a friendship with Rav Meshulam, and although he was thirty-five years older, he had great respect for him. Rav Tzvi Yehuda also said that in the great assembly of ‘Agudat Yisrael’ in Vienna at the time of the Balfour Declaration, a motion was made to oppose the Balfour Declaration, and to reject it with the legendary ultra-Orthodox claims. At that moment, two eminent Torah sages sitting in the presidency, Rabbi Meir Arik and Mahari Assad, studied the document and said that the hand that signs it should be cut off. And thus, the sinners’ initiative was dismissed.

Following In the Hasidic Path

Along with his greatness in Torah, Rabbi Meshulam continued in the path of his family and teachers and was a hasid, and in his youth for twenty years traveled to Rebbe David Moshe of Chortkov (1826-1904). After he passed away, Rabbi Meshulam was not a hasid of any particular rebbe, but was associated with great appreciation to the rebbes of Beit Ruzhin, the common side they all had was their commitment to Israel’s unity and the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, and some of them, such as the Hosiyatin Rebbe, were even professed supporters of religious Zionism (“Mizrahi”).

Once, in his old age, Rabbi Meshulam and the outstanding Rabbi Reuven Margaliot (also a Zionist, of course) were at the joyous Beit Ha-Sho’eva celebration at the house of the Rebbe of Sadigora in Tel Aviv, and as son’s of Hasidic families, both of them danced with joy. Sometime later, the Rebbe wrote to his brother-in-law that these two brilliant sages had visited him, and when they danced together “it seemed to him as if two Torah scrolls were dancing.”

From his Daughter’s Memories, the Rebbetzin Sarah

“Our family home was also the ‘beit ha-Rav’ (‘the rabbi’s house’), a concept that included respect for the Torah and its guardians, and awe and appreciation for the ancestral tradition. The Rav (Rabbi Meshulam) was accepted as rabbi to the Chorostkiv community when he was just twenty-four years old, and spent most of his life there. He was the sandak at the brit milah of the new born babies, was present when they arrived at the age of mitzvoth, and the first time they were called up to the Torah on their Bar Mitzvah, married them under the wedding canopy, and was even the sandak at the brit milah of their sons. The Rav was connected with all his heart and soul to the members of his congregation, participating in their sorrow and joy, and their grief and rejoicing. His home was a ‘house of meeting for the sages’, to which people came to consult about family matters, boys’ education and daughters’ marriage, matters of livelihood, and neighborly disputes. He was the confidant of all the townspeople (although, since the community was small, the vast majority of his time was focused on his Torah studies).

“The Rav’s father was a lover of Zion, a ‘Mizrachi’ man … The Rav’s house was a merging of Torah, wisdom, and derech eretz on the one hand, and religious Zionism and the love of Eretz Israel on the other. In this spirit he influenced the ba’alei batim and the youth in our town, and many of them made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. And when they came to say goodbye to him, he escorted them at length in honor of their aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.

“Human dignity was a sacred value for our father, and in this spirit he educated us – my late brother Ephraim, and myself. My father z”l showed special affection for the ‘Yad Harutzim’ corporation of crafts workers and manual laborers. They also showed him great affection and appreciation. I still remember the letter of recommendation that my father z”l wrote to the ‘Mizrahi’ in Lvov for a Jew preparing to immigrate to Israel, testifying about him, “that this dear and good Jew, is a laboring man, who, throughout his life has fulfilled the great mitzvah of ‘You will eat the fruit of your labor’…”

His Diligence

He was known for his tremendous diligence – during times of war, or at times of peace; during times of torment, or in days of calm. Of his persistence in learning, one of his students said: “I once had the opportunity to sleep with him in his room for four weeks (apparently, this was after his wife passed away), and I saw his night order: for the first third of the evening he learned continually , and when he went to rest for a few hours, he took numerous books with him to his room and put them on his desk next to his bed, and almost every half hour he would wake up, wash his hands, read the books, and go back to sleep. He repeated this several times during his few hours of sleep. When I asked him about this, he explained to me that whenever he thought of something the Sages or the Rishonim had said, and he wasn’t sure he had remembered their words orally – immediately he felt the need to go over their statements, so he could recite them exactly.” Thus, all his life, he literally fulfilled the command “meditate on it [Torah] day and night” in the plain sense of the words.

His Aliyah to Israel

When WWII reached Czernowitz (Tchernovitz), Rabbi Meshulam could have escaped as many of the city’s Jews did, but he did not want to leave the members of his community, and acted on their behalf with devotion during the war. Towards the end of the war, a week after his daughter and son-in-law, with the mercy of God he managed to escape and immigrate to Israel. In the summer of 1944, when he was about seventy years old, he settled in Jerusalem, was received with great respect, and was asked by the Chief Rabbis to join as a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, and as a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council.

Together With the Chief Rabbinate

The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog ztz”l, who was himself a tremendous gaon, would consult with him on difficult questions, and was used to saying: “Everyone acknowledges that in this generation there is no greater rabbi than Rabbeinu Meshulam Rata.” At times when Rav Herzog was asked to rule leniently on a halachic matter, he would say: “If Rabbi Meshulam is willing to do so, I will agree with both hands.” For example, when a species of cow with a hump was brought from Madagascar that was unknown at the time (zebu), the Chazon Ish ruled it was not kosher, but Rav Meshulam together with Rav Herzog ruled it was kosher, and their opinion was accepted as halakha for all of Israel (Kol Mevasser 1:9; see, Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 1:17, footnote 1). He also ruled to determine Israel Independence Day as a holiday, and to recite Hallel with a blessing. However, with regards to the blessing, he conditioned it on the consent of the majority of the great rabbinic leaders (Kol Mevasser 1: 21). In practice, it was agreed upon at the time to recite Hallel without a blessing, but after the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, it was decided to recite Hallel on Independence Day with a blessing.

For a while, the Chief Rabbis determined that he would be the examiner and the one to grant ordination to rabbis, however, even great Torah scholars failed his rigorous exam, and therefore, other examiners were selected.

When Rav Herzog was asked by Torah scholars of Jerusalem, how a rabbi like himself, who grew up on rulings of Lithuanian rabbis, paid such respect to a Galician rabbi and posek, he replied: “He is not a Lithuanian, and not a Galician; in his halakhic rulings he is similar to the ancient poskim, the one’s upon whom the principles of halakha are based.”

The End of his Life

After a few years of living in Jerusalem in order to improve his health, he moved to Bnei Brak. At the end of the Jewish year 5719 (1959), his second wife, Rebbetzin Leah Rubin, died. A few months later, on a dark night on Chanukah, Rabbi Meshulam was sitting in his chair near midnight, engrossed in Torah as usual, and suddenly he fell from his chair (apparently, bending down to pick something up), and broke his hip. From that day on, he failed to recuperate, and after hospitalization, he moved to Haifa to the home of his daughter and son-in-law, who served as a Major in the Navy. They faithfully fulfilled the mitzvah of kibud av (honoring one’s father), and arranged his library for him there, so he could continue studying Torah as usual.

On the 26th of Kislev 5723 (1962), the second candle of Chanukah, at the age of 88, his soul returned in purity to its Creator. His descendants continue in his path, engaged in the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, and settling the Land.

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

Attitude of the Great Sages of the Last Generation to the Reform Community

In Rabbi Kook’s yeshiva, it was clear that no Jews, including the Reformers and Conservatives, should be boycotted * Precisely the Great Sages of the last generation who lived in the U.S. and were very familiar with those communities, maintained relations of respect and cooperation with them * Testimony from the son of the Rishon Le’Tzion, Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim ztz”l , about his attitude toward the various streams of Judaism


For the past two weeks, I have explained that it is forbidden to impose boycotts on the leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements, and this prohibition involves collective pikuach nefesh, as the Netziv said: “Like swords to the body and existence of the nation.” On the other hand, the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael applies to all Jews, and indeed because we have a fundamental debate on the foundations of faith and Torah with them – we must balance the reproach with public expressions of brotherhood. For too long we have not met. Oceans separated us. The longing intensified. Thank God, we now are able to meet. In opposition to my view, some argued that all the Gedolei Ha-Dor, the leading sages of the previous generation – including Rabbi Soloveitchik, the Chief Rabbis, and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook – instructed to boycott them, i.e., not to meet with them publicly, and with dignity. This is simply false. Since these issues touch on two existential foundations – Ahavat Yisrael and its unity, and the truthful ways of studying Torah – I will make an effort to explain things properly.

Our Teacher and Guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman shlita, the head and founder of Yeshiva Kiryat Arba and one of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s prominent students, read what I had written and the responses of my critics, and told me he was deeply shocked by the latter, and wished to support me and my position. He said that he was occasionally invited to speak with Reform communities and participate in panels with Reform rabbis, and he asked Rav Kook whether or not to attend. Rav Kook replied that if they wished to listen I must certainly speak with them, and even added that after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State, the Reformers had begun a positive process of coming closer to the values ​​of the nation and the land and the restoration of Zion and Jerusalem to prayers. Years after Rav Kook passed away, Rabbi Waldman once again consulted with Rabbi Avraham Shapira ztz”l and also the Rishon Le’Tzion Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l, and they both thought it appropriate to attend public meetings with them.

Rabbi Soloveitchik’s Fundamental Attitude

The position of the great rabbis of America is especially important, as they were personally familiar with the Reform communities and delved into this issue. In his usual manner, Rabbi Soloveitchik divided between brit yi’ud, (covenant of destiny) in which partners are those faithful to Torah observance, and brit goral, (covenant of fate), in which all Jews are partners, including the Reformers. Therefore, in his opinion, issues of halakha should not be discussed with the Reformers, but on issues broadly agreed upon and related to all Jews – it is desirable and even obligatory to cooperate with them (Ish Al Ha’eidah, pp. 180–183). Not only did he meet with them publicly and respectfully, but for decades until his passing, he was a key partner in the umbrella organization of Jewish congregations in America, the Synagogue Council of America (SCA) founded in 1926, which was comprised of two Orthodox organizations, two Conservative, and two Reform. The Orthodox organizations were the UOJCA (The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, later referred to as the OU) and the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America). Rabbi Soloveitchik was the head of the RCA halachic committee, and many of the other participants in the organizations were his students from Yeshiva University. These two organizations remained within the umbrella grouping even after the opposition of Rabbi Feinstein and Rabbi Kotler (in 1956), and this continued until after the passing of Rabbi Soloveitchik.

A Wonderful Letter in its Depth and Precision

An enlightening educational fact is Rabbi Soloveitchik’s friendship with Conservative Rabbi Joseph Shubow, whom he appreciated for his spiritual work as a Conservative community leader, and did not avoid calling him Rabbi. As part of their friendship, Rabbi Soloveitchik was invited to sponsor and participate in an event honoring Joseph Shubow at the Conservative Temple Bnai Moshe. His letter of reply to the invitation is instructive and worthy of study, and as he wrote, it was written after much thought to accurately express his complex position, which contains deep wisdom, derech eretz, precision, good heartedness, and humility. Thus he wrote to Philip Fleischer, President of Temple Bnai Moshe:

“I cherish my long association with Rabbi Shubow and I consider him a dear and distinguished friend whom I hold in great esteem because of his many talents and fine qualities. It is self-evident that if the dinner were being given only in honor of Rabbi and Mrs. Shubow I would consider it a privilege to serve as one of the sponsors.

“On the other hand, however, this reception, to my regret, will also serve as an occasion to celebrate the completion and dedication of the new temple. Let me say unequivocally that I do recognize the importance of this new house of worship for the Jewish population of Brighton as a means of communal organization and unification. I also appreciate the unselfish efforts on the part of the members and leaders which make such an undertaking possible. Their pride in having attained their goal is fully warranted. You in particular have manifested a strong sense of community awareness and devotion for Jewish causes for which you should be congratulated.

“Yet, all this does not justify my serving as a sponsor of a dinner at which the dedication of this temple will be celebrated since the latter will, in all probability, have a mixed seating arrangement which is in my opinion not in consonance with our time-honored Law. The requirement for separate seating is almost a truism in our religious code and I have neither the right nor the desire to sanction either by word or by silence a departure from this tradition. My presence at the celebration or the appearance of my name as a sponsor would be tantamount to a tacit approval of mixed seating (in the synagogue), a thing which would greatly disturb by conscience. Therefore, after I had given the matter considerable thought I arrived at the unavoidable conclusion that my role in connection with this affair would prove to be absurd, so I respectfully decline.

“I wish to impress upon you that my words are not to be interpreted in the sense of criticism or censure. I am not a preacher by nature and I have never tried to convert others who are committed to a different philosophy to my viewpoint. I write this letter with a sense of deep humility explaining to you my feelings on the matter. I hope that you realize and fully understand my position and appreciate my hesitance in accepting an honor which would be in direct opposition to my inner convictions… Please convey my best wishes to Rabbi Shubow and his wife, and wish them many years of joy and happiness” (Ish Al Ha’eida, pp. 165-16). This letter was written in 1954, when Rabbi Soloveitchik was already considered one of the leaders of Zionist Orthodoxy in America, and the rabbi and teacher of hundreds of rabbis who served in the Rabbinate.

Rabbi Yisrael Porath ztz”l

There is further evidence of Rabbi Yisrael Porath ztz”l (1886-1974). This verification is important as it represents the yeshiva of Maran Rav Kook ztz”l, as Rabbi Porath was one of the great Torah sages of Jerusalem, a friend of Rabbi Charlap and Rabbi Frank, and one of the most distinguished disciples of Rav Kook. In 1922 he was called to serve as a Rabbi overseas. When he took leave of Rav Kook, given that the Rav viewed him as a great and faithful talmid chacham, he asked him to write an introduction to Talmudic tractates, as part of the fulfillment of the vision of Torah study as cited in “Hartza’at HaRav.” Rabbi Porath fulfilled Rav Kook’s exhortation, and wrote seven volumes of introductions to the Talmudic tractates, called “Mavo’ ha’Talmud.” His great-grandson, Rabbi Yaacov Idels shlita, lives in our community of Har Bracha. He brought me the book about Rabbi Porath, ‘Mishkenotecha Yisrael,’ and I will quote from it, facts of his leadership in relation to the Reformers (pp. 82-85).

The Meetings and Respect for Reformers

“The path Rabbi Porath chose was not a path of war or disrespect. In his usual manner, Rabbi Porath acted with an extraordinary combination of firmness and moderation. Thus, a year after his arrival in Cleveland, he delivered a series of lessons on the difference between Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. In a newspaper publication about the planned lessons, it was written that Rabbi Porath states that the lessons will not be critical, but will deal with the question of the true difference between the different streams…..”

Thus, when Abraham Friedland, perhaps the most important educational figure in non-Orthodox Cleveland Jewry died, Rabbi Porath was among the eulogists.

Admittedly, rabbis from the ultra-Orthodox Telz Yeshiva, despite respecting Rabbi Porath as the Rabbi of the city, did not view his good relationship with the Reformers favorably. Once, after Rabbi Porath attended a conference with a representative of the Reform community, one of the ultra-Orthodox rabbis phoned him. “The Rebbetzin, who heard that the voice from the other side of the line was talking angrily, and that Rabbi Porath seemed uncomfortable, asked him at the end of the conversation whether everything was okay. Rabbi Porath answered: ‘This is a conventional war, not a nuclear one.’”

“A special relationship developed between Rabbi Porath and Abba Hillel Silver, perhaps the most important Reform rabbi in Cleveland and one of the most important in America in his generation … The relationship formed was a bond of friendship, founded on the two rabbis’ being zealous Zionists, and perhaps the relatively conservative-religious roots of Abba Hillel Silver, also contributed to the relationship.

“In addition, Abba Hillel Silver donated about $500 toward the expenditures of the Talmudic books ‘Mavo’ ha’Talmud’, and even sat on the book’s donation committee.

“In 1958, when the Jewish National Fund decided to plant a forest in honor of Rabbi Porath, Abba Hillel Silver was the keynote speaker at the ceremony … Rabbi Porath along with the Rebbetzin attended the funeral of Abba Hillel Silver.

“The good relations and great appreciation the Reform community had for Rabbi Porath led them to consult with him at times on matters of halakha…” and in the book, examples are even given of their consideration for him.

The Rishon Le’Tzion, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim

This was also the position of the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim ztz”l, who was especially appreciated by Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook. His son, Mr. Moshe Nissim, former Minister of Finance and Justice, read my remarks and requested to voice his support for my position. He affirmed that his father, as Chief Rabbi, occasionally held meetings with representatives of all streams of Judaism. Along with his staunch position that completely rejected the Reform, he was of the opinion that no group of Am Yisrael should be boycotted. He added that every Shabbat in his father’s house an open kiddush was held, in which Conservative and Reform leaders (and, of course, even distinguished personalities and groups from Israel and abroad) regularly participated. He mentioned, for example, Professor Moshe Davis, founder of the Institute of Contemporary Judaism at the Hebrew University. In conclusion, he said his father “believed that no Jewish representatives should be boycotted.” “This is the truth, and the truth must be made public.”

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

Avoid Boycotts

Boycotting an entire segment of the Jewish people demands great caution and constant re-examination * It cannot be asserted that the Reform community causes damage to an extent that justifies boycott, even if in the past there was justification * The perception that your righteousness is measured by your exclusion of others, which unfortunately has penetrated the National Religious public, is unacceptable and should be avoided

In my last column, I explained that it is a mitzva to maintain a warm relationship with fellow Jews from all movements and streams, including Reform and Conservative, and together with the mitzva to admonish against breaches of the Torah, we must also give expression to the mitzvah to ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’ in our encounters with them, and thus oppose boycotting their representatives, for the prohibition of hate and the mitzvot of admonition and love are interconnected, as is written:

Do not hate your brother in your heart; you must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.

Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people; you must love your neighbor as you love yourself; I am God.” (Leviticus 19: 17-18)

Three claims have been raised against this view and in favor of boycotting representatives of these movements:

  • They encourage assimilation, which is the most serious threat to the Jewish people. Every encounter with them gives them legitimacy and intensifies assimilation;
  • They harm Torah tradition and the observance of mitzvot, and damage the status of the Chief Rabbinate;
  • All the great sages (“gedolim”) of the past agreed they should be boycotted, so it is forbidden for a rabbi to meet with them publicly, against the view of these sages.

Preface to the Discussion

Needless to say, we have strong disagreements with our Reform and Conservative brethren regarding Torah tradition and halakha. Therefore, unfortunately, we cannot acknowledge their halakhic authority vis-à-vis conversion, weddings, and the like, and owing to the obligation to protest, we are also unable to attend their prayers and weddings. In addition, for many years they estranged themselves from Eretz Yisrael and from Israel’s redemption, and even today many of them believe the libels our enemies spread against the State of Israel and against the settlers in Judea and Samaria. The question is whether these disagreements should lead to hatred and boycott, or whether we must find ways to increase peace, love, and mutual understanding to the degree possible.

The Premise

Before starting the discussion, we must establish the premise. The unity of the Jewish people is one of the supreme values ​​of the Torah, and upholding it is a matter of collective piku’aḥ nefesh. As our Sages said (Yoma 9b), the First Temple was destroyed because of the sins of idolatry, incest, and bloodshed. “But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they occupied themselves with Torah, observance of mitzvot, and the practice of kindness? Because there prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered equivalent to the three sins of idolatry, incest, and bloodshed together.” The controversy in the Second Temple era was between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And this is what the Netziv (Responsa Meshiv Davar 1:44) meant when he address whether the God-fearers (“Orthodox”) should separate from the Reformers and establish their own separate community: “This suggestion is terrible, like swords to the body and existence of the nation,” for even when we were in the Holy Land, with a certain degree of autonomy, “the Temple was destroyed and Israel was exiled because of the controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” Similarly, our Sages said (Sifrei Naso 42):

Great is peace, for even if Israel worships idols, if they live in peace, the Holy One, as it were, says that the Accuser (‘Satan’) cannot touch them, as it is stated (Hosea 4:17) “Ephraim has bound himself to idols—leave him alone.” [I.e., the Ephraimites have bound themselves together, and so are left alone, even though they bonded together to serve idols.] But when they are divided, what is written of them? “Their hearts are divided—now they will be laid waste!” (ibid. 10:2).

And in the Tractate Kalla Rabbati (Chapter 5): “As long as they are joined together, even to worship their idols, leave them alone.” That is why the destruction of the Second Temple is more severe than the destruction of the First Temple.

Therefore, instituting a boycott against representatives of a Jewish movement is a grave and terrible method that endangers the nation. Only when there is no choice, when there is a present, palpable state of national piku’aḥ nefesh, can it be implemented. It would be like a situation where a diseased limb must be amputated to save the patient from a greater risk of life. Therefore, as long as there is some doubt that it is not a situation of certain national piku’aḥ nefesh, or that the nation can be saved in other ways, it is forbidden to employ a boycott, which is even more dangerous to the existence of the Jewish people. And even if it was necessary to take this terrible measure for a certain period of time, it must be examined periodically to see whether it is still necessary, for every year the boycott continues, another cohort of young Jews undergoes this dangerous and horrible surgical operation, which concerns millions of Jews who identify as such. In light of this, we will examine the three claims.

Encouraging Assimilation

Some argue that the Reform movement causes assimilation, and the only way to save the Jewish people is to boycott them. First, we must examine whether this is true. The argument can be made that in the early generations, when the Reform and Conservative movements attracted observant Jews, they thus increased the risk that those Jews would assimilate, for the assimilation rate in these movements was immeasurably higher. Yet the matter is still unclear, because the question is what those Jews would have done had they not gone over to the Reform or Conservative movement: If they would have remained observant, then indeed the chances of them remaining in the Jewish fold would have increased. However, if they had abandoned everything, as many did (20% of German Jews converted to Christianity in the wake of Emancipation), then joining these movements actually delayed the assimilation process.

Even today, some argue that as a result of the Reform movement’s willingness to officiate marriages between Jews and non-Jews, assimilation is increasing. Perhaps they are right. However, given present circumstances, where over 70% of non-observant Jews in America and about 80% in Europe marry non-Jews, it is more likely that the position of Reform leaders does not affect their decision. It would seem the phenomenon of assimilation preceded and caused the Reform decision to officiate marriages of Jews with non-Jews, so as to maintain their connection to Jewish identity. It appears that, indeed, affiliation with the Reform movement, and even more so with the Conservative movement, preserves, to a greater or lesser extent, the Jewish identity of assimilating Jews. I have met a number of Jews who told me that thanks to these movements, they retained their Jewish identity and over time became observant and immigrated to Israel. And they are grateful to the movement for that.

At any rate, the claim that they are causing masses of Jews in the Diaspora to assimilate is far from proven, and it consequently does not justify using the dangerous tool of boycott.

Legitimation of Transgressing the Torah

Another argument that has been raised is that a public meeting with Reformers gives them legitimacy, and as a result, some people will stop being observant or pick and choose which mitzvot they want to keep. It is also argued that meeting them increases their demand for equal status to the Chief Rabbinate, which would be dangerous and destructive for the Jewish people.

This claim, as well, must be questioned, for even without Reform, there are unfortunately many Jews who stop keeping mitzvot, for a variety of reasons. Moreover, today, anyone who wishes can join a Reform or Conservative community. On the other hand, it is likely that precisely the policy of boycotting strengthens their claim to a separate legal status, so perhaps it would be better for the Chief Rabbinate to treat them with dignity and friendship. Perhaps this would even improve the status of the Chief Rabbinate, because in the eyes of many traditional and secular Israelis, the boycott is despicable. It pushes them away from Torah and mitzvot and causes them to question and undermine the status of the Chief Rabbinate. Perhaps a positive attitude toward Reform and Conservative would bring more Jews closer to Torah and mitzvot.

In sum, it seems that the policy of boycotting does more harm than good to Torah observance, the status of the Chief Rabbinate, and Jewish identity. And even according to those who believe that the boycott is effective, it is not a matter of national piku’aḥ nefesh that justifies taking such severe and dangerous action.

Did the Gedolei Ha-Dor Decide to Boycott?

In light of what I have clarified, it is clear these Jewish movements should not be boycotted. However, opponents will still argue that the leading sages, the gedolei ha-dor, decided to boycott these movements, and their decision should not be altered. However, even if we accept this unproven argument (and ignore the position of the rabbis who opposed the boycott), since we are dealing with a public issue that depends on real-world circumstances that naturally change, we are obligated to reconsider it periodically. For with each additional year of boycott, another cohort of Jews undergoes a terrible and risky amputation. Therefore, anyone who quotes eminent rabbis from previous generations, if accurate, can contribute to the historical debate, but these quotes do not obligate us to adopt the same position nowadays.

In conclusion, given the present reality, it is forbidden to boycott the representatives of the Reform and Conservative movement. This does not demand or require everyone to meet people they do not wish to meet. It is only a determination that the boycott is forbidden.

The Boycott Method

The frequent use of boycotts against movements in recent generations has produced a frightful reality in which Jews think that the more meticulously they boycott, the more “righteous” they are considered. Instead of occasionally re-examining whether the boycott is justified, they become more entrenched in their error and apply it to other movements, thus stabbing the heart of the nation with more and more daggers. One group boycotts Zionists, another boycotts soldiers, others boycott Neo-reformers, and still others boycott the academic world. Then another group boycotts rabbis who do not boycott academia, or Zionism, or anyone who does not accept Rabbi X as the gadol ha-dor. Thus, we find Hasidic Rebbes or yeshiva heads who are brothers but have not spoken to one another for years. “God-fearing” people nod their heads in understanding that these methods are all very saintly, as though it is not a public breach of the Torah.

Recently, the boycott method has penetrated the national-religious public. The main Torah debate facing some distinguished rabbis is where to draw the line—that is, who to boycott. Ignoramuses stir the pot, whispering in the rabbis’ ears, speaking slander and libel, and creating a situation that for some rabbis, a “sacred” assembly must declare from the outset who they disqualify and who they boycott. Only then can they discuss the “fateful” question about the “new and dangerous developments” with which only the most terrible events in history can ever compare, who is to blame for it, and what measures to take against them.

At any rate, as for me, if God gives me strength, I will try to proceed in the opposite direction: Whenever there is an initiative to boycott well-intentioned people, even if I deem them dreadfully wrong, if I have the opportunity, I will meet with them publicly, with dignity and love. And if I am attacked for this, I will meet with them repeatedly, and thus include myself in the sanctity of Knesset Yisrael.

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

Attitudes toward the “Deal of the Century” and to our Reform Brothers and Sisters

The “Deal of the Century” is basically positive, but every effort must be made so that the application of sovereignty does not come at the expense of concessions on areas of Eretz Yisrael and the establishment of a Palestinian state * My decision to participate in a public meeting with a Reform woman rabbi this week was done deliberately to show that we do not boycott them * Despite our profound disagreements, we must see the positive in the Reform and Conservative movements and treat them with Ahavat Yisrael

Disagreements and confusion accompany the “Deal of the Century” promoted by President Donald Trump, a friend to our country and nation, in conjunction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those in favor rightly claim that applying sovereignty to Jewish communities with American support is a huge achievement, which will allow for an impetus of greater settlement in most of the communities. In addition, for the first time, the Arab claim to a state is contingent upon their adherence to guidelines and moral standards that run counter to their basic beliefs, which they are unlikely to meet. Those who oppose rightly claim that, in principle, it is forbidden to agree to the establishment of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, both because of the prohibition of betraying Eretz Yisrael and because of the security risk involved. In addition, they argue against the building freeze that would apply to isolated communities and against the drawing of maps that, on one hand, apply Israeli sovereignty to some Arab villages, and, on the other hand, limit the area for the construction and expansion of Jewish communities.

It seems that as long as we Jews do not reach a broad consensus on our goals we will be forced to progress along a winding and bumpy path. However, so that we avoid confusion, it is proper to examine every plan in accordance with the mitzva of settling Eretz Yisrael in all its components. That is: Will the plan advance our fulfillment of the mitzva in both the short-term and long-term? Both from the perspective of expanding settlement and from the perspective of applying sovereignty?

It seems that, in our present situation, despite the mistake that the Prime Minister made when he put drafts of maps in the hands of unfit people, the plan, fundamentally, is a step forward. However, it is our duty to fight and push as hard as we can to improve the plan, so that building will be able to continue in all communities, and so that Israeli sovereignty is not applied to Arab villages as long as there are open areas that can be annexed first. Likewise, we must fight for the principle that we accept the plan as a basis for negotiations on advancing Jewish sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and regulating the status of Arabs, and not as a commitment to the concept of a “Palestinian state.” In this way, the plan can be accepted, as it advances us with respect to both sovereignty and settlement. Kudos to all those fighting at every step and over every clause to improve the plan.

Question about Meeting Reform Jews

Late last summer, I attended the “Our Common Destiny” conference in Jerusalem, attended by representatives from Jewish communities in Israel and around the world, from all streams of Judaism, to strengthen the mutual responsibility of all segments of our people for one another, based on our shared destiny. As a continuation, I held a Zoom conversation, in context of a virtual conference organized by the newspaper “Makor Rishon”, with the Reform Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur from France, moderated by Professor Gil Troy.

Some people have asked me: Is it not accepted that we boycott Reformers? Why did I breach that boundary and agree to participate in a dialogue with them? The answer, in fact, lies in the question. The year before last, there were several events in which major figures from the religious and Haredi public argued that Reform and Conservative Jews should be boycotted. These views were voiced in controversies about the Western Wall and in criticisms of former Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, who amiably met with Reform and Conservative leaders abroad, and called them ‘brothers’. I was astonished to discover that in the wake of the bitter debate over Reform and Conservative ideology, the mistaken view that we must boycott Reform communities and their representatives emerged. As I considered this further, I found that a campaign of intimidation was being waged against those who think they should not be boycotted. Therefore, although I almost always refrain from attending meetings and conferences in order not to interrupt my studies, I resolved that the next time I was invited to meet with Reform or Conservative representatives, I would go. Thus, the question is the answer. It was not by chance I accepted the invitation, but with explicit intent to express the sacred obligation to maintain good relations among all Jews and their communities.

In order not to unfairly represent those who do boycott, it should be noted that the majority of them agree that individually, and preferably clandestinely, one may meet with Reform Jews. However, in their opinion, it is forbidden to meet with representatives of the Reform movement.

The Proper Way to Relate

It is true that we have profound disagreements about the fundamentals of Jewish faith and the Torah, to the extent that we do not consider Reform to be a stream of Judaism that expresses authentic Torah tradition. We cannot even accept Conservative Judaism, which is closer to us, as representing Torah tradition. However, these two movements represent large Jewish communities of adherents who practice Jewish customs, for whom the Jewish character of their lives is important, and who espouse important ideals of tikkun olam (repairing the world). In practice, they strengthen the Jewish identity of their members, thus hindering the process of assimilation occurring in the Diaspora.

Therefore, it is proper to treat their representatives as we treat representatives of major, important movements whose members are Jewish; who address matters of Jewish education, culture, ceremony, and community activism; who feel responsibility for, and solidarity with, all Jews, including residents of the State of Israel. Such movements have long existed in Israel and abroad: World Maccabi, B’nai Brith, the Joint Distribution Committee, the Kibbutz Movement, Hashomer Hatzair, and the various Jewish youth movements. And just as all the positive actions of these movements should be esteemed, so too we must show appreciation for all the positive accomplishments of the Reform and Conservative movements in the realms of philanthropy, morality, and the strengthening of Jewish solidarity.

Boycotting communities means boycotting their members

Those who claim that congregations and institutions should be boycotted is essentially boycotting the people. Just as, within a community, ties are forged among members, so too, ties between communities and congregations are forged by their representatives. Human beings, by nature, organize themselves into communities, and there is no way for the members of one community to make contact with members of another community without their representatives meeting. If we wish to strengthen the mutual responsibility of all Jews for one another, representatives of the various congregations must meet in friendship and respect.

Moreover, precisely because we are compelled to dispute them and deny them the religious status as they wish, we must find ways to express our fundamentally positive attitude toward them, to express the fact that we are Jewish brethren, and to learn to appreciate the good virtues of each and every one of them.

Because of the Struggle, we must Increase our Love

The Torah teaches us a similar lesson when it places the mitzva to reprove a fellow Jew who has transgressed with the mitzva to bear no hate toward him and even to love him:

Do not hate your brother in your heart; you must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.

Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people; you must love your neighbor as you love yourself; I am God.” (Leviticus 19: 17-18)

Thus, even when compelled to chastise or dispute someone who does not fulfill a mitzva, the mitzva to love and aid him remains in full force. Moreover, if we were to encounter two people, one who observes mitzvot and one who we have had to chastise and dispute for his non-observance, it is a mitzva to first help the one we reproved, so that he knows that the criticism is only about that specific issue, but that as a rule, we are loving brothers (see: Mishna Berura 32:2; Tosafot on Pesaḥim 113b, s.v. “lakhuf yitzro”). Thus, when it comes to Reform and Conservative leaders, after we have had to dispute them without compromise, we have a mitzva to seek ways to express our fraternity and our common fate and destiny, and even to learn from all the good in them and in their views.

It is Better to Bring Close than to Push Away

It is not sufficient merely to balance reproof with expressions of love. The loving side must outweigh the chastising and disputing side, as our Sages said: “Always let the left hand push away and the right hand draw near – not like Elisha, who pushed Gehazi away with both his hands, and not like Yehoshua ben Peraḥya, who pushed away one of his disciples (Jesus of Nazareth) with both hands” (Sota 47a). In other words, our Sages criticized the greatest rabbi of that generation, because by pushing Jesus away with both hands, he indirectly caused his separation from Judaism and the emergence of Christianity, with all the troubles it brought upon the Jewish people. Certainly, then, it is forbidden to boycott and push away Jews and movements who declare, in many of their principles, their loyalty to the Jewish people and its spiritual heritage.

The Mitzvah to Love a Fellow Jew

The view I articulate here is based on two important foundations: ahava (love) and the Brit (Covenant). Ahava is grounded in the mitzva, “you must love your neighbor as you love yourself,” which Rabbi Akiva called, “the main principle of the Torah” (Leviticus 19:18; Sifra, ad loc.). The Covenant refers to the covenant that God made with Israel, His nation – a Divine covenant that will never be broken, even if, God forbid, Israel worships strange gods. As Rabbi Meir said, even when Israel acts wickedly and worships idols, they are called God’s children (Kiddushin 36a). The halakha, in this case, follows Rabbi Meir (Responsa Rashba 1:194; Responsa Har Tzvi, Even Ha-ezer 97. This is also the meaning of the Sages’ conclusion that redemption is not contingent on repentance (Sanhedrin 98a).

Responsibility for Jewish Unity

Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (“Netziv”) was asked about the formal separation of communities (“austrittgemeinde”), such that the God fearers (“Orthodox”) would form separate communities from Reform, so as not to be influenced by them, just as Avraham separated himself from Lot. He replied: “This suggestion is terrible, like swords to the body and existence of the nation” (Responsa Meshiv Davar 1:44). In other words, aside from being prohibited, it endangers the existence of the nation. Thus, the solution to prevent spiritual decline is increased Torah study.

Following World War I, some rebbes from the Ruzhin dynasty arrived in Vienna. The heads of the separatist Orthodox community asked the rebbes and their ḥasidim to join their community. The request was posed to Rabbi Yisrael of Chortkov. The Rebbe asked them, “How many Jews are there in your community?” They answered: “Ten thousand.” “And how many Jews are there in all of Vienna?” They responded: “Two hundred thousand.” The Chortkover Rebbe said to them: “You want me to reduce my ahavat Yisrael from 200,000 to 10,000!? This runs against the approach of my sainted ancestors. On the contrary! From your words I see that the religious condition of Judaism is broken and degraded in every respect. It is therefore necessary to invest great efforts in collective improvement” (Avir Ha-Malkhut, vol. 1, p. 258).

We thus see, based on the Torah’s guidance, that we should not boycott Jewish communities and their representatives. On the contrary, it is a mitzva to increase love and peace among all Jews.

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

The Gadol HaDor Rabbi Meshulam Roth

The persona and history of the Gaon Rabbi Meshulam Rata (Roth) ztz”l, are not sufficiently told, although Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda called him the Gadol HaDor after Rabbi Kook ztz”l * From an early age his genius in Torah was clearly evident, and the roles he performed in the Rabbinate carried great importance * Rabbi Rata was connected to Eretz Yisrael and the Mizrachi movement, and merited having his descendants serving as Rabbis in Judea and Samaria, and engaging in the defense of the Land

Recently, a new and elegant edition of the two volumes of the halachic Responsa “Kol Mevasser” by the true Gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Rata (1875-1962), was published by Mosad HaRav Kook (the Rabbi Kook Institution). One of the important additions to the new edition, is the summary of each answer in a detailed and accurate way, by Rabbi Elkana Segal, the son-in-law of the author’s granddaughter. Our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l, was asked who was the Gadol HaDor in the generation after Maran HaRav Kook ztz”l, and he answered: Rabbi Meshulam Rata. This is an opportunity to relate a little bit of his history.

His Childhood

Already as a young child, Rabbi Meshulam was a great shakdan (diligent Torah student), and thanks to his ingenious talents, he grew in Torah. His father was a Chortkov chassid, a branch of the Chassidic Dynasty of Ruzhyn. The first time his father took him to the Grand Rebbe, Rabbi David Moshe from Chortkov, Rabbi Meshulam was nine years old. Seeing as he was wise, he went with hundreds of chassidim to hear the drasha (sermon) of city Rabbi, who was a great Talmid Chacham. Following the in-depth drasha, some of the chassidim asked the child if he understood what was said, for they saw that he had shook his head in agreement during the drasha. The boy replied that he understood, and could even repeat it. The chassidim stood him on a table, and the boy repeated the drasha exactly, without missing a word. He even repeated the Rabbi’s movements exactly at the precise time – when the Rabbi stroked his beard, or held his forehead, the boy repeated these movements as well.

After the Rabbi of Zalzczyki tested him extensively, the Gaon Rabbi Leibella Bernfeld, said: “This child is similar to one who repeats his studies not a hundred and one times, but rather, a thousand and one times!” And even in books of machshava (Jewish thought) such as ‘Akedat Yitzchak’ he learned while he was a child, and when others had doubts, he was able to review and discuss the book. In his special genius, he was able to read and become acquainted with the subjects of nature, history and philosophy in a short time.

His Rabbis

Rabbi Meshulam studied with the eminent rabbis in his vicinity who were associated with courtyards of Beit Ruzhyn, among them Rabbi Ya’akov Weidenfeld author of ‘Kochav Me’Ya’akov (chassid Husiatyn), whose son, the Rabbi of Tshebin (1881-1965), honored Rabbi Meshulam as if he was a student before his rabbi, and said about him: “Rabbi Meshulam was considered one of the Gedolei HaDor while he was still an avreich (young yeshiva student).” Rabbi Meshulam also studied with Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, author of “Mechazei Avraham” (chassid Sadigora). However, his most prominent rabbi was Rabbi Meir Arik (Arak) ztz”l (1885-1926), author of ‘Minchat Pitim’ on Shulchan Aruch, and the Responsa ‘Imrei Yosher’, as well as other books.

His Family

Even before he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, the wealthy Rabbi Shimshon Steinholtz from Melnitsa, chose him to groom his daughter Zippora, and she even embroidered the first pouch for his tefillin. During the long years between the engagement and the marriage, one of Russia’s wealthiest Jews offered his intended father-in-law a large sum of money, so that he would agree to hand over the match to his daughter. Rabbi Shimshon rejected the proposal, saying: “All the wealthy Russian Jews put together, do not have enough money to match the worth of such a groom.” And the rabbis who were present, agreed.

In 1894, almost at the age of twenty, he married Zipporah, and they lived in her parents’ home in Melnitsa where he served as rabbi – ‘without expectation of receiving an award’ – for approximately four years.

In a letter to his friend, he said of his wife: “I thank God the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for me… a pleasant wife, a lovely hind and a graceful doe, a dear soul, she has all the right and lofty character traits, she is honest and innocent, humble and gentle, wise and educated, perfect in most wisdom and science, gentle and sublime emotions will flow with her soul, good hearted and a precious and pleasing temperament, our souls imbued with delicacies … “.

Two children were born to them, the eldest Ephraim, and the second, Sarah. Ephraim had brilliant talents, and grew in Torah. Every week, Rabbi Meshulam would study the Torah portion of the week with Sarah, and on Shabbat eve, learned with her from the book ‘Ein Ya’akov’, and taught her to study a lot of Tanakh.

In 1918, when Ephraim was nineteen, he died of tuberculosis. His parents’ grief was immense. Rabbi Meshulam took comfort in his studies; the Rebbetzin, however, was grief-stricken, and suffered torment until her death. From Sarah the daughter, the family continued, and Rabbi Meshulam found pleasure and happiness in her, until his old age.

Rabbinate of Khorostkiv

Despite Khorostakiv being a small town, it merited having great rabbis serving there. In continuation of this tradition, Rabbi Meshulam was presented as a candidate for the town’s rabbinical office. As was customary in those days, the candidates for the rabbinate would give a drasha before the public on Shabbat, and that would determine who would be appointed rabbi. When Rabbi Meshulam’s Shabbat arrived, at two in the afternoon, everyone gathered in the Great Synagogue. The rabbi stood by the Holy Ark, holding a Tanakh, and gave a drasha for six consecutive hours. In the drasha he exhibited proficiency and acumen in Talmud and poskim, and everyone marveled at his greatness. He was elected rabbi of the town in 1898 at the age of twenty-four, and for approximately thirty years, served as the community’s rabbi.

A small group in the town, people who loved to quarrel, chose another rabbi. The controversy grew and was very distressing to Rabbi Meshulam, to the point where he wished to leave on account of the dispute. However, the townspeople, the vast majority of whom supported him, prevented him from leaving, and he had to endure bitterness for most of the years he spent there.

He was active in the organization ‘Mi’Tzion Taytzei Torah,’ and founded a school in the spirit of “Mizrachi” in Khorostkiv, and also founded a yeshiva and headed it. For this yeshiva, he wrote his famous curriculum. He was accustomed to test the younger students twice a week, and once a week gave an in-depth class to the older students. Knowing how to speak German and Polish, he would sometimes speak on behalf of the public and the rabbis with government officials.

In 1929, he was accepted as rabbi of Schatz in southern Bukovina, where he served for approximately six years. In his last year in Schatz, his wife passed away.

His Righteousness and Support for Zionism

In addition to his tremendous genius, he was also a tzadik (righteous), and his prayers were with devotion and the outpouring of his soul. He had a very pleasant voice, and it is said that anyone who heard him sing the prayer “Nishmat” on Shabbat Kodesh, would think about doing teshuva. The Admorim (Grand Rebbe’s) would also rise early in the morning, and go to his house to hear him speak words of Chassidut.

The Gaon, Rabbi Meshulam was active in the Mizrachi movement, and was also elected on its behalf as a representative to the Twelfth Zionist Congress in 1921. It should be noted that in his association with the Admorim of Beit Ruzhyn, his love of Eretz Yisrael and his support of Aliyah was not a great surprise, for among the Admorim of Ruzhyn, a number of them also supported Mizrahi.

The Chernovtsy Rabbinate

The gabbi’s (sextons) of Lamberg (Lvov) offered him the rabbinate of their important city, whose rabbis were Geonei Olam (great Torah geniuses), however, it was on condition he cease his activity for the Land of Israel. Of course, he refused. He was finally elected to the Czernowitz Rabbinate in the 1935, in which a large and important Jewish community of about fifty thousand Jews were active. There, he established a Beit Midrash for Rabbis. Apparently, his Zionist position saved him, for if he had been elected as Rabbi in Lamberg, he would have suffered the Holocaust like the rest of the Jews of Poland, for whom, only a small number were saved.

One of the candidates competing against him for the Chernovtsy Rabbinate was Rabbi Rubin, who suggested to Rabbi Meshulam, who was then a widower, to marry his sister Leah, who was also widowed by her rabbi husband. In the year 1936 they married, and she stood at his side, immigrated to Israel with him, and devoted herself to his well-being, until her last days. She died three years before him.

His Son-in-law, Daughter, and Their Offspring

The young yeshiva man who was sent to bring Rabbi Meshulam to Czernowitz to deliver the drasha for rabbinical election, was Rabbi Yisrael Heitner, who was orphaned from his father at an early age, and grew up with his mother and brother at the home of his maternal grandfather. He was a virtuous and upright man, and at that time, lived with his widowed mother, and was involved in teaching. During the trip, Rabbi Meshulam recognized his outstanding virtues, and matched him with his daughter. In the winter of 1936, Rabbi Yisrael was crowned as the Rabbi of Berland in Romania. He and his wife the Rebbetzin, also acted politely and respectfully towards their poor Gentile neighbors, and treated their Gentile maid generously. During World War II, when demonstrations against the Jews began, the Gentile neighbors assisted in their rescue. After making Aliyah to Israel, Rabbi Heitner, who changed his last name to ‘HaEitan’, served in the I.D.F. as a navy rabbi. Two children were born to them, Zippora and Yitzhak Meir, who later studied at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav under the tutelage of our teacher and mentor Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l.

His great-grandfather cherished his grandson, and in his introduction to the second volume of his Responsa ‘Kol Mevasser’, thanked his young, God-fearing Torah scholar grandson, Yitzchak Meir, who assisted him in the work of arranging the answers. Several years later, Rabbi HaEitan was appointed rabbi in the Moshav Beit Meir, and out of his love of Eretz Yisrael, joined the settlement movement, established his home in Kedumim in the Shomron, and served as the Regional Rabbi of the Shomron. As part of his rabbinical work, he and his wife would spend almost every Shabbat in one of the new, small communities, strengthening them with their enthusiasm and devotion. One of the special communities in which they frequently visited on Shabbat, was Har Bracha. When I applied to serve as Rabbi of Har Bracha, he was very pleased. He passed away in 1991.

The daughter of Rabbi Yisrael and Sarah, is Zafira Zipporah, who married Tzvi Camille, an engineer, who was a partner in building the State of Israel’s atomic power plant, and for that, received the Israel Security Award. Every day he would immerse himself in a mikveh, pray vatikin (prayers at sunrise), and give a shiur in Daf Yomi. Zafira was a teacher, and raised their five children. One of their sons-in-law is the educator and author, Rabbi Avi Ratt, who is also the great-grandson of Rabbi Meshulam’s brother. The name Ratt in Hebrew is the furtherance of the name Rata in Yiddish.

His Last Days

Even during his weakness in his last years, he did not cease to engross himself in Torah. Even in his last days, while suffering in agony, he sang shirei de’vay’kute (devotional songs) – ‘Ve’karev Pizureinu’ and ‘Nishmat Kol Chai’,” and while doing so, returned his soul in purity to its Creator, on the 26th of Kislev 1962. His funeral went forth from the Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav, and Gedolei HaRabbanim (eminent Rabbis) eulogized him.

With the help of God, I will dedicate another column to his greatness and Torah teachings.

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

From Bitter to Sweet – The Virtue of Torah and Am Yisrael

The custom of eating dairy foods on Shavuot symbolizes the virtue of the Torah, to turn the negative sides of the world into good * This virtue also depends on the virtue of the nation of Israel who study Torah, especially in the Land of Israel * Those who disregard the value of nationalism and the Religious Zionists who embrace it, err in a fundamental and essential point in the Torah

There is a precious custom dating back to the era of the Rishonim (1100 -1500), to eat foods made out of milk and honey on Shavuot. The source of this custom stems from communities in Ashkenaz and France, and from, there spread to many Jewish communities throughout the world. Nevertheless, there are Jews who do not practice this custom, such as many immigrants from Yemen, Libya, Djerba, Bukhara, and Persia.

The foundation of the custom stems from Divrei Chachamim (words of the Sages) who said that the Torah is compared to milk and honey, as the verse in Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) says: “Milk and honey are under your tongue,” and our Sages said: “As the Jewish nation stood before Mount Sinai and said: ‘All that the Lord spoke, we will do and listen (‘na’aseh ve’nishma’), at that same time, God said to them: ‘Honey and milk are under your tongue.” In other words, in the merit of Israel’s agreement to accept the Torah without doubt, the words of Torah would be sweet like milk and honey in their mouths.

Rabbi Kook further explained that milk and honey are two foods both produced from impure sources. Honey is produced from bees which are impure insects, and milk is produced from blood which is forbidden to be eaten. Precisely because they are transformed from impure to pure, they possess a unique taste, alluding to ‘tikun olam’ (perfecting the world). This is the virtue of Torah, which perfects the negative sides of the world, and turns them into good, as our Sages said: “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: ‘My children! I created the yetzer ha’ra (the evil inclination), but I also created the Torah as its antidote; if you occupy yourselves with the Torah, you will not be delivered into its hand.” In other words, the Torah does not eliminate the yetzer ha’ra, rather, it adds flavor to it, until it is transformed into good.

The Land of Milk and Honey

The main virtue of milk and honey, of course, is related to the Land of Israel, which, fifteen times in the Torah, is called “the land of milk and honey,” because by means of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (the settlement of the Land) it sanctifies the secular and earthly, and in doing so, also turns the ‘bad’ into an especially sweet ‘good’, similar to milk and honey which are pure, but created from the impure.

Torah and Israel

This segulah (unique virtue) of Torah to turn bad into good depends, of course, on Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel), who study Torah and perfect the world in its Light. Moreover, if Israel had not accepted the Torah, it would be empty of content to keep it in existence, and it would return to emptiness and formlessness, as our Sages said (Shabbat 88a): “The Holy One, blessed be He, stipulated with the Works of Creation and said to them: ‘If Israel accepts the Torah, you will exist; but if not, I will turn you back into emptiness and formlessness.” Similarly, our Sages said (Vayikra Rabbah 23:3): “God saw a single rose-colored flower, to wit, Israel. God took it and smelled it when God gave them the Ten Commandments, and God’s spirits were calmed when they said, na’aseh ve’ nishma, God said, “The orchard shall be saved on account of this flower. For the sake of the Torah and of Israel, the world shall be saved.”

The revelation of the Torah and Israel’s segulah depends on Am Yisrael inheriting and settling its Land, because all the mitzvot were given in order for us to fulfill them Eretz Yisrael in a national and governmental framework. And even though outside of Eretz Yisrael we must fulfill the individual mitzvot that are not dependent on the Land, all of their obligatory status abroad is so that we know how to fulfill them properly when we return (Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi’it 6:1; Kiddushin 1:8; Bavli  Kiddushin, 37a; Sifre 43-44).

Counting the Omer – Connecting Nationalism and the Torah

One of the manifestations of the connection between the Nation and the Land to Torah, is that Chag Shavuot –‘ Z’man Torateinu’, does not have its own date, rather, its date depends on Chag Pesach. On Chag Pesach, the purpose of the Nation and the Land were revealed, for God chose His nation, and took us out in order to give us the Land of Israel, as it is written (Exodus 3:7-8): “God said, ‘I have indeed seen the suffering of My people in Egypt… I have come down to rescue them from Egypt’s power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…”(also in Exodus 6:4-8; 13:3-5; 13:11). And this is the intention of Sefirat HaOmer (the Counting of the Omer), to connect between Chag Pesach and Chag Shavuot; to connect the value of the Nation and the Land, to the value of Torah, for there is no Israel without Torah, and no Torah without Israel.

And although these two values ​​are interrelated and interdependent, it is imperative that each of them be expressed in its own right, so that they do not blur each other. Therefore, we have two separate holidays, one for the idea of Am Yisrael, and the other, for the Torah.

And thus, we find in Tanna De’bei Eliyahu (Parsha 15): “I was once going from one place to another, when an elderly man came to me and asked about matters in the Torah. He said to me: Rabbi, I have two things in my heart, and I love them both dearly: the Torah and Israel. But I don’t know which one comes first. I said to him: People say that the Torah precedes everything, but I would say the holy of Israel come first…”

Those Who Ignore the Sanctity of the Value of Nationalism

At times, I am amazed to read Haredi journalists and rabbis who speak disdainfully about the value of nationalism, claiming that those in the National Religious public err, in that they give it too much importance. It is incredible how people accustomed to reading the Torah can be so ignorant that they do not understand the value of Israeli nationalism. Apparently, this is the deep meaning of the words of our Sages (Chagigah 5b): “There is no greater bitul Torah (abrogation of the Torah) than when the Jews were exiled from their place.” This does not imply that they didn’t diligently study Torah in exile, rather, the meaning is that, as a result of the galut (exile), they do not comprehend the Torah properly, and all the mitzvot, instructions and ideas mentioned about Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael are understood in katnut (smallness of mind), and consequently, they do not understand that it is the main point of the Torah – to instruct Am Yisrael how to reveal the word of God in the life of the Clal (all of Israel) and the prat (individual Jews), within a national framework in Eretz Yisrael. When it was very difficult to immigrate to Israel, Jews who lived abroad could have been given benefit of the doubt. Today, however, it is hard to judge favorably those who insist on continuing making the same mistake. And the more of a baki (skilled) and palpalan (hairsplitter) such a person is in Torah, his lack of understanding is worse.

While it is clear that the challenge of fulfilling Torah within a national framework in Eretz Yisrael is accompanied with great complications, as we have learned in the Torah regarding the Sin of the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies, and as we have learned in the Prophets about all the complications that accompanied the Kingdom of Israel, the Mishkan, and the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple). Nevertheless, this is the manner in which the Torah determined we reveal the Word of God to the world.

May it be that out of the joy of Chag Pesach and Chag Ha’Atzmaut, we merit receiving the Torah on Chag Shavuot once again, and in doing so, its words will be pleasurable for us like milk and honey, and through its instructions, merit to sanctify the secular, and turn the bad into good.

Chag Shavuot This Year

This year, we are fortunate to have Chag Shavuot fall out on Friday, followed by Shabbat. This is a special occasion, for according to the accepted opinion, it was the same way in the year we left Egypt. The exodus from Egypt occurred on Thursday, and on Friday the 6th of Sivan, the 50th day arrived, the day intended for the Giving of Torah. However, Moshe Rabbeinu requested to add an additional day for preparing to receive the Torah, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu agreed with him, and postponed it to Shabbat, the fifty-first day of Sefirat HaOmer (Shabbat 86b- 87a).

Out of this amazing fact, we learned about the significance of Torah She-be’al Peh (the Oral Torah), that the Torah She-b’chtav (the Written Torah) cannot be revealed without it, and thus, even Matan Torah was postponed by a day in accordance with Torah She-be’al Peh, namely, according to Moshe Rabbeinu’s interpretation.

However, this would seem to present us with a difficulty. As Shulḥan Arukh (494:1) states, we refer to Shavuot as “Zeman matan Torateinu” (the season of the giving of our Torah). Why do we call it that if Shavuot is not actually the day the Torah was given? Shavuot takes place on the fiftieth day of the Omer, whereas we received the Torah on the fifty-first day! The answer is that in truth, from the heavenly point of view, right after the completion of Sefirat HaOmer the sacred day of the giving of the Torah arrived, and God blessed us with the Torah (in potential). It was only from the human point of view that we needed an additional day before we were capable of receiving it in actuality. Nevertheless, for future generations, the giving of the Torah is commemorated on the day that God had originally ordained and sanctified, when the Torah was given to us in potentiality (Maharal, Tiferet Yisrael ch. 27).

When Chag Shavuot falls on Friday, it turns out we celebrate two sacred days – first, Shavuot, which is the day when God had already given us the Torah in Heaven, and we continue celebrating on Shabbat, which is the day we actually received the Torah. It is especially important on this Shabbat to dedicate half of it to the Beit Midrash (a minimum of six hours of Torah study).

Eruv Tavshilin

When Yom Tov is followed by Shabbat, it is a mitzvah to set aside an eruv tavshilin before Yom Tov. Doing so makes it permissible to cook and bake on Yom Tov for Shabbat. The eruv consists of food that is prepared before Yom Tov for Shabbat. It is called an eruv (literally “merging”) because it merges or joins together the food of Yom Tov and the food of Shabbat. Once the eruv has been set aside, then just as it is permissible to bake and cook on Yom Tov for Yom Tov purposes, it becomes permissible to bake and cook on Yom Tov for Shabbat purposes as well. True, on the Torah level it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbat even without an eruv, but our Sages prohibited doing so, in order to preserve the honor and dignity of both Yom Tov and Shabbat (Beitza 15b).

The following is the procedure for setting aside an eruv tavshilin. Taking the cooked food and the bread, one recites the following berakha: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us concerning the mitzvah of eruv” (“asher kideshanu be-mitzvotav ve-tzivanu al mitzvat eruv”). Afterward, he should recite: “With this eruv it shall be permitted to us to bake, cook, light a flame, and do everything necessary on Yom Tov for the sake of Shabbat.”

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