The Temple – A Model for Religious Zionism

The Temple structure represents the central values ​​of the Torah, which are reflected in Religious Zionism * At the center is the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), expressing both the holiness of Torah, and the holiness of Israel * The Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary) draws from the Kodesh HaKodashim, in which the Shulchan (Golden Table) represents work and livelihood, the Menorah represents secular wisdom, and the Ketoret (Golden Altar) represents the service of prayer in cooperation with the general public * The Mizbe’ach HaChitzon (Great Altar) represents self-sacrifice, expressed in each of these areas, and especially in devotion to the Nation and the Land * This is the great vision of Torah, but some of the public see fit to minimize it because “et la’asot la-Hashem, heferu Toratekha” (“it is a time to act for God, they have made void your Torah)”—the problem is when the great vision is forgotten

Uncertainty about the Path of Religious Zionism

From time to time I am approached by people debating controversial issues between the Haredi public and the National-Religious public, such as: 1) Why does the National-Religious public emphasize Israeli nationalism, and does not act like the Haredi public, which emphasizes Torah and mitzvot alone? 2) Is it preferable for someone who can make a living from a subsidy and support of his parents to devote his entire life to studying Torah in kollel, or is it better for him to earn a living from working? 3) Is the fact that the National-Religious public studies sciences as well as Torah, l’chatchila (ideal), or is it only because the rabbis are unsuccessful in convincing the public to study only Torah?

A: In principle, the National-Religious public’s path is the correct path to choose l’chatchila, because this is the way of the Torah, and only by means of it, can Am Yisrael (the Jewish Nation) fulfill its mission – to adhere to God’s ways, settle the Land, and establish a state in the light of the Torah’s instructions, until the time comes when all mankind receives inspiration from Am Yisrael, ‘from Tziyon will come forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem’, and blessing and peace will spread to all peoples.

This great vision the Torah sets before us can be explained in many ways. At this time, I will explain it by contemplating the Mikdash (Holy Temple), which is meant to express the complete vision of Am Yisrael and for that reason we are commanded to build it in the holiest place in the world, and consequently, the Torah elaborates on the mitzvah of building the Mishkan and its vessels.

The Holy of Holies

The Mikdash was divided into two parts: the inner third was the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), and the remaining two-thirds was the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary). The Kodesh HaKodashim was designated for the revelation of the brit (covenant) between God and Israel, and therefore, in its center was the Aron (Ark) containing the Tablets of the Covenant. This brit between God and His Chosen Nation Israel, is fulfilled by means of the Torah, and therefore the Torah was also placed in the Kodesh HaKodashim – in the opinion of Rabbi Meir, in the Aron itself, and in the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, on its side (Bava Batra 14a).

Above the Aron was the Golden Kaporet with two Keruvim on it, which were made in the like of male and female lovers, meant to express that the connection between God and Israel is a bond of love and life – “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

From this we learn that in addition to the sanctity of the Torah, the sanctity of marriage is also rooted in the Kodesh HaKodashim – that the love and joy between husband and wife, by means of whom life flows to the world, in a small-scale reveals the idea of ​​the belief in Unity in this world, as hinted in Rabbi Akiva’s words: “For all the Ketuvim (Writings) are holy, but Shir HaShirim (The Song of Songs) is Kodesh Kodeshim” (Holy of Holies) (Mishnah Yadayim 3: 5).

We find, therefore, that the two basic values ​​revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim are the sanctity of emunah (faith), and the sanctity of Israel, and they receive expression by means of the Torah and marriage. Indeed, we find that our Sages compared the mitzvah of Torah study to the mitzvah of marriage, in their statement that it is forbidden to sell a Torah scroll except for the fulfillment of two mitzvot – in order to learn Torah, and to marry (Megillah 27a).

Between Kodesh and Kodesh HaKodeshim

There were three vessels in the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary): the Shulchan (Golden Table), the Menorah (lamp), and the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret (The Altar of Incense). The Shulchan represented all types of work and matters of livelihood; the Menorah represented all types of secular wisdom in the world; and the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret, on which the incense was burned every morning and evening, represented worship of the heart in prayer, as it is written: “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Psalms 141:2).

A curtain was placed between the Kodesh and the Kodesh HaKodeshim, in order to differentiate between the levels of holiness, for of the holiness of the Kodesh is derived from the Kodesh HaKodeshim. In other words, the sanctity of work, science, and prayer stems from the sanctity of the brit between God and Israel. Without the partition, the world would not be able to absorb the sublime light of the Kodesh HaKodeshim, and it would vanish and ascend to the heavenly heights without being able to shower light and blessing to the Kodesh, and thus to the entire world. In other words, when the difference between the levels is blurred, between the value of the brit between God and Israel and the ways in which it is realized, the brit cannot exist. Therefore, on the one hand, the brit must be the most important, but on the other hand, it must be revealed in the ways of human beings. And this is the way the general teaching of the Torah “in all your ways, know Him”, is fulfilled.

The Shulchan

The table on which the Lechem HaPanim (Showbread) was sacrificed expresses the value of work and earning a livelihood, for by means of working, man participates with God in the existence and development of the world. Therefore, even in the Garden of Eden, Adam HaRishon was commanded “to work it, and watch it” (Genesis 2:15). All the more so after he sinned, was punished, and expelled from the Garden of Eden, must he work hard to repair the world that was damaged by his sin. In any case, the role of the Shulchan is to express the sacred value of all types of labor in which man works so as to settle the world and add to it, blessing and goodness. There is a special virtue in working in the Land of Israel, for in a way, it is similar to the work of the Garden of Eden, since in the Land, one fulfills the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel) (see, Chatam Sofer, Succah 36b).

The Menorah

The Golden Menorah expressed the value of all the secular wisdoms and arts of the world, and it had seven branches relating to all the different types of wisdoms, all of which are essentially Divine wisdoms. Proof of this is the fact that our Sages enacted that a person who sees a wise, non-Jewish scholar blesses: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.” Hence, the secular wisdoms also come from His wisdom, but in contrast to the wisdom of the Torah, they are marginal. However, when the secular wisdoms are studied for the sake of Heaven, out of attachment to the Kodesh HaKodeshim, they consequently absorb from its holiness, and are elevated. Therefore, upon seeing a God-fearing Jew who is known to be a great scholar in science, the same blessing said over Sages of the Torah is recited: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given from His wisdom to those who fear Him” (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 15:18).

The Golden Inner Altar

The Mizbe’ach HaPe’nimi (The Golden Inner Altar) on which the ketoret (incense) was burned, expressed worship of the heart in prayer. The ketoret was made from eleven incenses, relating to the ten levels of sanctity upon which the world was created. There was another important incense in the ketoret: galbanum, which had a bad smell, relating to the wicked of Israel, who, as long as they still remain connected to the Clal (general public), are bound together in kedusha (holiness), and their bad smell even becomes pleasant.

Just as the ketoret expresses the unity of Israel, so too the essence of prayer is for Clal Yisrael, and as our Sages instituted the wording for prayer. Out of prayer for Clal Yisrael, each individual Jew can draw a special prayer for himself, that he be privileged to be partner in the great vision of Clal Yisrael and Tikkun Olam (repairing of the world).

The Great Outer Altar

On the face of it, all the Godly values ​​already received expression in the Mikdash. Why then, was there a need for the great and awe-inspiring Misbe’ach in the Temple courtyard, where fire burned day and night?

Because misirut nefesh (sacrifice and devotion) must receive expression. All the lofty and good values ​​cannot exist in the world without misirut nefesh. One cannot merit attaining Torah without being willing to sacrifice leisure time in order to study it diligently. It is impossible to maintain the covenant of marriage without the willingness of husband and wife to devote themselves to one another, and be willing to compromise and sacrifice. It is impossible to succeed at work without dedication and a willingness to make an effort, and occasionally put in additional hours. Likewise, a scientist would never be able to discover the secrets of nature without devoting himself to his research.

Above and beyond all this, Am Yisrael, whose roots are in the Kodesh HaKodashim, cannot exist without the holy soldiers willing to sacrifice themselves for the sanctity of the Nation and the Land. And to every place where the soldiers of Israel stand on guard to protect their Nation and Land, spreads forth the sanctity of the Mizbe’ach, whose roots are in founded the brit between God and His Nation in the Kodesh HaKodeshim.

When we are worthy, the mesirut is expressed in the offering of korbanot (sacrifices), giving ma’aser kesafim (money tithe), willingness to sacrifice and help family and friends, and studying Torah in difficult circumstances. Occasionally, however, difficult times arrive, when, if a person wishes to remain connected to eternal values, he must be prepared to sacrifice life itself. Without the Mizbe’ach, the Beit HaMikdash cannot exist, as well as all the sacred values ​​in the world.

Another central foundation was revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim and the Mizbe’achteshuva (repentance)! The shga’gote (unintentional transgressions) are atoned for by the Mizbe’ach, and the zedonote (intentional transgressions) through a connection of misirut nefesh to the Kodesh HaKodashim.

Answers to the Three Questions

The answer to the first question comes from the Kodesh HaKodashim, for indeed, the place of Israeli nationalism is founded in the Kodesh HaKodashim, in the brit between God and Israel. This is the foundation of emunah – that God chose the Nation of Israel in order to reveal Himself in His world. And even when Israel sins, by means of them, emunah is revealed, as we have learned in the Torah, that even because of the sins and punishments of Israel, portions were written in the Torah. And thus, the entire history of the Jewish people is in essence the revelation of emunah and Torah.

The answer to the second question comes from the Shulchan, namely, that work possesses sacred, self-value by means of which one reveals the image of God within him, and participates with the Creator in perfecting and repairing the world. Moreover, it is forbidden for someone who is able to work, to earn a living from tzedakka (charity). Undeniably, a career in teaching and education is also important and sacred work, and whose livelihood comes from the public, as the Torah commanded the procuring of terumot and maasrot (tithes) for the Kohanim and the Levites.

The answer to the third question comes from the Menorah, that there is sacred self-value to the study of secular wisdom, as explained in the words of our Sages (Shabbat 75a). The Gaon of Vilna added that to the extent an individual lacks knowledge in secular wisdom, conversely, he lacks one hundred-fold in Torah wisdom, for secular wisdom is a vital adjunct to the Torah (see, Peninei Halakha: Likutim Aleph: 1; 14-6). Additionally, the location of the Menorah is in the Kodesh, adjacent to the Kodesh HaKodeshim.

Differences of Opinion about the Degree of Restricting

However, since it is difficult to fulfill the entire vision, sometimes it is necessary to narrow the areas of activity, in the sense of “et la’asot la-Hashem, heferu Toratekha” (“it is a time to act for God, they have made void your Torah”). This is the basis of the Haredi method, which restricts its involvement to the more necessary and secure fields, to the point where amongst many, the vision is almost totally forgotten. The Torani (National-Religious) public is also required to utilize the method of restriction in its education, and it ought to learn from the experience of various circles in the Haredi community. However, unlike the Haredi public, in principle, it places before its eyes the Torah’s great vision, and aspires to realize it.

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

Leaving a Wedding Early

Leaving a Wedding Early

The more meaningful the enjoyment of a certain type of food is, the more important it’s blessing * The highest level of Birkat Hamazon is at a wedding, since it is a meal in honor of the most important of mitzvot, therefore, our Sages added a special Zimun and Sheva Brachot * It is obligatory to stay for a Zimun with a minyan unless there is a great need to leave, such as a financial loss, a fixed Torah study session, or if it might cause lack of alertness in prayer or work * In principle, Sheva Brachot can be said at every individual table, however, it might hurt the feelings of the family * For that reason, it is preferable for the hosts to encourage those who leave early to recite Sheva Brachot

Food and Its Blessing

The most important bracha (blessing) of all brachot is Birkat Hamazon, which is the only bracha that all agree its obligation is from the Torah, whereas our Sages enacted its fulfillment with four elongated brachot. A lot of people think the most important thing is the food a person needs and wishes to eat, and as a tax burden to Heaven, he must thank and bless the Creator of the world. Thus, they believe that if the tax burden can be reduced – why not? Consequently, if a large and sumptuous meal of fish and meat, rice, potatoes, beans and lentils, ice cream and delicacies can be eaten, it’s preferable to exempt themselves with a short bracha of “borei nefashot”. On the other hand, there are “tzadikim” who believe that the main idea is to bless God, and it is better for one not to gain enjoyment from this world, however, it’s impossible to recite blessing without eating, therefore one must wash his hands and eat bread so that afterward he can merit reciting Birkat Hamazon.

But in truth, a complete and happy life is a combination of the two together, like life itself, composed of body and soul; physical gratification and the revelation of the sacred values ​​within this life-preserving pleasure by means of the bracha. Therefore, Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), through which holiness is revealed in the Land in reality, occupies such a central place in Birkat Hamazon, as it is written: “When you eat and are satisfied, you must therefore bless God your Lord for the good land that He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10), and prior to this the Torah says: “God your Lord is bringing you to a good land – a land with flowing streams, and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain. It is a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates – a land of oil-olives and honey- [dates]. It is a land where you will not eat rationed bread, and you will not lack anything – a land whose stones are iron, and from whose mountains you will quarry copper” Deuteronomy 8: 6-9).

How fortunate we are the Torah commanded us at every meal to relate to food by means of eating and blessing – with bodily pleasure, and spiritual emunah (faith). Eating with this goal can help us eat correctly – not too much, and not too little. To enjoy the fine and inherent taste of healthy foods, and not to be enticed by the tempting taste of foods that harm our health.

The Zimun

If three people participated in a meal, our Sages enacted the broadening of Birkat Hamazon by means of zimun, namely, adding a blessing of introduction to Birkat Hamazon. If ten people ate at the meal, then the zimun is performed in a more dignified manner with the mention of HaShem. The gathering of many people together holds great power – the mutual interaction between them creates something more than all the individuals possess. The smallest group consists of three people, and when three people eat together – beyond the benefit and enjoyment they derive from the food, additional emotions are stirred in their souls, their meal receives the status of a social event, and thus, their Birkat Hamazon also has to receive a more important status, for indeed, Birkat Hamazon should give expression to the sacred, inner value in food, and the more important the meal is, the more important the bracha should be, so that it can give food its worthy significance.

For three women who ate together, as well, – it is a mitzvah for them to recite Birkat Hamazon with a zimun (Arachin 3a; Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5: 7).

Zimun and Sheva Brachot at a Wedding

A wedding meal is the most important of all the meals we hold, since it is a feast in honor of the most important mitzvah of all the mitzvot, by which the couple fulfills the mitzvah of ve’ahavta le’reiecha kimocha (to love your neighbor as yourself) completely, and with the help of God, merit giving birth to life. Therefore, at the end of the meal, our Sages instituted the reciting of Birkat Hamazon on its highest level, with a zimun and Sheva Brachot.

In practice, however, there is a problem, seeing as most of the participants in a wedding meal wish to go home beforehand. The question is whether it is permissible for those who leave early to recite Birkat Hamazon without a zimun and Sheva Brachot, or do they have to stay until the end of the wedding and the concluding Birkat Hamazon with a zimun and Sheva Brachot. Or perhaps it correct to recite Birkat Hamazon at the end of the meal a little earlier, in order to give all the guests the opportunity to participate in the zimun and Sheva Brachot?

The Principle Prohibition of Leaving before Zimun

As a general rule, a person who participated in a meal of ten men is obligated in the important zimun of ten, and even to recite a zimun of three men is forbidden, since one is already obligated in the zimun of ten. And as our Sages said, that ten who ate together are not permitted to separate until there are twenty (Berakhot 51a, S. A., O. C. 193:1).

Kal ve’chomer (all the more so) at a wedding meal, in which together with Birkat Hamazon, we recite the blessings of Sheva Brachot, and some poskim say that whoever participates in a wedding meal is obligated to hear Sheva Brachot (Cheishev Ho’ephod 9; Daat Sofer 26: Iggrot Moshe, O.C. 1:56). There is even a posek who is of the opinion that the words of our Sages, ” Whoever partakes of the wedding meal of a bridegroom and does not gladden him transgresses ‘the five voices’ mentioned in the verse ‘The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say, Give thanks to the Lord of Hosts” (Berachot 6b), are directed toward someone who does not wait until Sheva Brachot (Rebbe Chaim from Brisk, cited in Nitei Gavriel 98:1). Nevertheless, there are poskim who are of the opinion that it is not obligatory for each participant to hear Sheva Brachot, rather, there is a general obligation to hold at the end of the meal Sheva Brachot (Mahari Shteif 7; Minchat Yitzchak 2:43; Tzitz Eliezer 11:84). In any case, even these poskim agree that the obligation of zimun of ten obligates them to remain until the end (see, Otzar HaPoskim 62, 25, 10).

When is it permitted to leave before Zimun

However, the obligation to remain until zimun at the end of the meal is in a normal situation, but in a situation where one is compelled, or le’tzorech gadol (in a case of great need), one is permitted to leave the group and recite Birkat Hamazon without a zimun. For example, someone who has to leave in order to prevent himself from losing money or for the purpose of a mitzvah, may bless without a zimun. Therefore, someone who is concerned that if he stays until the end of the wedding will find it difficult to get up the next day for prayer, or be tired at work, is permitted to recite Birkat Hamazon without a zimun, and return home. Likewise, someone who regularly sets aside time to study Torah every night, and if he remains until the end, will fail to maintain his regular Torah study, is permitted to recite Birkat Hamazon without a zimun. In all these situations, it is minhag chassidut (pious conduct) for his fellow diners at the table to join him in a zimun of three. But short of a great need, it is forbidden to leave before zimun (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5:11).

In any case, someone who knows in advance that he will have to leave before the end of the meal should think to himself that even though he eats with them, he is not really part of the group, and should tell those at his table that he will have to leave before the end, and thus, exempt himself from the obligation of zimun and may recite Birkat Hamazon by himself – even if it’s not for a great need. And if those at his table wish to join him in a zimun, he should do so, since in practice he ate with them – and although he did not think to eat with them together until the end, they are permitted to make a zimun with him (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5:11).

The Possibility of Sheva Brachot at Each Table

Since in practice the majority of people usually leave before the zimun, it would seem that at every table where most of the guests wish to leave before the end of the meal and zimun, they should make a zimun of ten men over a glass of wine with Sheva Brachot. For indeed, according to halakha it is possible to make a zimun and Sheva Brachot at each individual table, and the bride and groom do not have to sit with them, for Sheva Brachot can be recited at a wedding meal even when the hosts do not hear the blessings (S. A., E. H., 62: 11; Aruch HaShulchan 37).

In a Case Where the Hosts’ Feelings will be Hurt

However, it is forbidden to make a zimun of ten men when there is a concern that the wedding hosts’ feelings will be hurt by the fact that their guests are making a zimun by themselves at their table, and leaving the meal prematurely. As written in the Shulchan Aruch: “And they are not permitted to divide into groups of ten, because they will have to recite the blessing aloud and the baal ha’bayit (the host) will hear them and be annoyed with them”, and therefore they should divide up into groups of three and recite the blessing quietly so that the baal ha’bayit will not hear” (O.C. 193:1). The person leading the zimun with three men says “sheh’ha’simcha bi’m’ono”, but should not recite the blessing “asher bara”, since it requires a glass of wine, and if he makes a zimun over a glass of wine, it is liable to hurt the feelings of the hosts.

However, if they are distinguished people like rabbis and public figures whose time is precious, and the groom would like them to make a zimun of ten men, it is a mitzvah for them to do so, and also to recite Sheva Brachot (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5:18).

Suggestion

In practice, since many people usually do not stay until the zimun at the end of the wedding, it seems best that the hosts encourage the guests to hold Sheva Brachot at their tables. In other words, towards the end of the main course, when some of the people intend to leave, they should pour a glass of wine, one of them recite zimun with ten men over the cup of wine, at the end of Birkat Hamazon pass it around to those who recited the blessing so they can participate in Sheva Brachot, and at the end, the one who recited zimun should say the blessing over the wine and drink from it. In order to avoid harming the general process of the joy of the wedding, it is proper not to take pains over the zimun and Sheva Brachot, rather, to do it indiscreetly and quietly so that only the people at their table will hear them, and not at the other tables. It is also preferable not to prepare two cups according to Ashkenazi minhag (custom), but rather, make do with one cup according to the Sephardic minhag (see, S.A., E.H, 62:9).

Summary

  1. In general, it is incorrect to leave a wedding before the zimun and hearing Sheva Brachot.
  2. For a tzorech gadol it is permitted to leave before the zimun, for example, someone concerned he will be tired the next day at work. Anyone who knows this in advance should apologize at the beginning of the meal to those sitting at his table for having to leave in the middle, thus exempting himself from the obligation to make a zimun with them.
  3. If those sitting at his table agree, he should make a zimun quietly with three others, and say in the zimun sheh’ha’simcha bi’m’ono.”
  4. If the person leaving knows that the hosts would want him to make a zimun with ten men over a cup of wine and bless Sheva Brachot, he should do so. But if not sure, he should make a zimun with three men.
  5. Since in practice weddings are long, and seeing as many people leave before the zimun, it is appropriate for the hosts to encourage all those intending to leave before the end of the wedding to make a zimun over a cup of wine with ten men and recite Sheva Brachot, and at each table, the first group to leave, organize a zimun of ten. Family members and the closest of friends should not participate in their zimun, and instead, be responsible for the larger zimun and Sheva Brachot at the end of the wedding. There is no need for ten men who have not participated in any zimun to remain, rather, it is sufficient that there be five who have not heard a zimun, provided that the one making zimun is one of those who did not participate in a zimun beforehand (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5:12).

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

Kashrut: Meat and Dairy – How to Separate

It is advisable to use separate sinks for meat and dairy, but when necessary, one may use one sink and one marble kitchen countertop * It is permissible to use one dishwasher with one tray for meat and dairy, but without washing them together * One may use the same stovetop grate for meat and dairy, as well as electric and ceramic cooktops * Food that falls on the surface under the stovetop grates is forbidden to eat, unless the surface is clean * If using a single-compartment oven – it must be kashered between meat and dairy * How to use the same microwave for meat and dairy

Unity of Religious Zionism for the Sake of the Nation

From the outset, I thought to continue my custom of not expressing a position in favor of a particular party, believing that as a rabbi with students belonging to different parties – all of them with good intentions – not to limit myself by supporting a particular party, and not to disassociate anyone who prefers a different one.

In a way, as a continuation of that position, the best thing today is for all parties identifying with religious Zionism to unite in one list, thus expressing the variety of values this dear and idealistic public encompasses, from all of its sides.

Such a position will benefit the entire right-wing and traditional public, and indirectly, Israeli society at large, for religious Zionists, in all their diversities, encompass all the important ideals: loyalty to Torah and investment of vast time and resources in its study, clarification, and imparting in educational systems for future generations; observance of mitzvot with great devotion, even under difficult conditions of a secular environment; loyalty to the values ​​of Derech Eretz and human morality; love of the Nation and the Land; taking the lead in yishuv ha’aretz (the settlement of the Land); dedication to Israel’s security; volunteering in immigrant absorption; volunteering in helping others; engaging in science at a high level contributing to the prosperity of the State of Israel, and to a great extent, even to the advancement of humanity; participation in all fields of employment in the economy for the benefit of society and the economic prosperity of the State of Israel; and appreciation for all sectors of culture and art. All these values ​​are common to all religious Zionists; differences only arise concerning the extent and centrality of each value, but this is precisely the virtue of the religious Zionist sector – that in its entirety, it gives expression to all values.

Must a Kosher Kitchen have Two Sinks?

Ideally, there should be two sinks in a kitchen, one for meat and one for dairy, in order to fortify the separation between milk and meat, in keeping with the objective of our Sages, reflected in the enactment of takanot (Rabbinic institutions) they instituted regarding distancing between meat and milk.

However, b’shaat ha’tzorech (in time of need), one sink and one marble countertop may be used for both meat and milk, provided that one makes sure the sink and the marble countertop are cleaned of leftover food. This was the practice in the majority of Jewish homes a few generations ago when connecting houses to running water through pipes began, and due to high costs, only one sink was installed in many kitchens. There are still old houses in Jerusalem in which righteous and God-fearing people lived, with only one sink in the kitchen.

Indeed, one posek was machmir (stringent) in this issue, out of concern about a distant speculation that the pouring of boiling water could bring forth tastes absorbed in a utensil, and insert it into another (Minchat Yitzchak 2: 100). Another posek required the use of separate racks for meat and milk, in order to create a separation between the sink basin and utensils (Iggrot Moshe, Y.D. 1:42). However, according to halachic rules, and according to the consensus of the majority of poskim, as long as the sink is cleaned between the use of dairy and meat, it is permissible to use one sink (see, S. A., Y. D. 95:3; Y.O., Vol. 10, Y.D. 10; Ohr L’Tzion, Vol.3, 10:11).

Dishwasher

Some people are careful to buy two trays, one for meat dishes and another for dairy, in order to safeguard the customary practice of separation between meat and dairy utensils. Some people even make a point of designating the dishwasher as being either meat or dairy. On the other hand, some people are lenient mei’ikar ha’din (according to the law, strictly speaking) to wash meat and dairy dishes together, because the dishwashing soap pogem (ruins, or spoils) the remnants of meat and dairy food (Y. O., Vol. 10, Y. D., according to S. A., Y. D. 95: 4).

In practice, one should not act leniently and wash meat and dairy dishes together in a dishwasher, since the soap does not always spoil the tastes before they are mixed together. But it is permissible l’chatchila (from the outset) to wash dishes in the same dishwasher and on the same tray, one time meat dishes, and another time dairy, but not together. However, when based on prior experience one knows that after washing very dirty dishes particles of food and oily or greasy substances remain in the dishwasher, after washing dishes, one should make sure to run the dishwasher once again on the highest temperature, in order to clean it thoroughly before washing the other type of dishes.

Some people are mehadrin (meticulously observant) to remove the remnants of food from the filters, out of concern their taste is not sufficiently spoiled, and remnants of meat and milk will accumulate in the filter. In practice, however, one should not be concerned that remnants of food in the filter have not been spoiled.

Stovetop Grate, Electric and Ceramic

One is permitted to use the same stovetop grate for meat and dairy, because even if a little meat or dairy sauce spilled onto the grate, the fire of the gas burner burns and spoils what has been spilled.

The same is true for electric and ceramic cooktops, namely, one is permitted to place on the same surface one time a meat pot, and another time a dairy pot, since the heat of the cooktop burns what sometimes spills from them.

When meat and dairy pots are cooked at the same time, one should make sure there is room between them, so that one pot does not spill-over onto the side of the other pot.

The Surface under the Grate

One should be machmir (stringent) not to eat food that fell on the metal surface under the grate, because sometimes there are remnants of meat and dairy foods. If a thick piece of food fell, one can cut and throw-out a 2 cm-thick section from the side that touched the surface, and eat the rest. However, if it is known the surface had been cleaned well, and remained clean, one is permitted to eat what fell on it, since the concern is only the oily grease on it, but one should not be concerned that it absorbed taste that will emit afterwards. Also, if dairy food fell there, and one knows that since the last cleaning meat was not cooked, the dairy food that fell there is kosher.

Induction Cooktop

On an induction cooktop, the surface on which the pots are placed is sealed. However, unlike ceramic cooktops where the heat originates in the ceramic surface, on an induction cooktop, the heat source is from the pot heated by an electromagnetic field, and from the pot the heat expands to the dish and the surface on which it is placed. Thus, these cooktops do not burn what spills over from the pots.

According to the letter of the law, if one makes sure to always clean the cooktop from food spilled on it, on those same areas it is permissible at one time to heat a meat pot, and at another time to heat a dairy pot, since the glass surface of such cooktops do not absorb, and also, all contact there is from one utensil to another.

Those wishing to le’hadare (to be meticulously observant), designate one side for cooking meat, and the other side for dairy. B’shaat ha’tzorech, one may thoroughly clean the surface, and then cook a meat pot on the dairy side, and vice versa.

Baking Oven

A person who wants to use the same compartment once for meat, and once for dairy may do so, provided he has a special baking pan for meat, and another for dairy, and makes sure to kasher the oven between the two by heating it for half an hour at the highest temperature.

However, it is Jewish custom to make a separation between meat and milk, and accordingly, many people are customary le’hadare and purchase an oven with two compartments and designate one for meat and one for dairy, or to buy an oven with one compartment and designate it only for meat, or only for dairy.

However, even those who are mehadrim not to use the same compartment in the oven once for meat and once for dairy, b’shaat ha’tzorech may heat it on the highest temperature for half an hour, and thus kasher it for the other type of food.

If one erred and cooked a dairy dish in the meat compartment without kashering it, be’di’avad (ex post facto) the dairy food is kosher, since in practice, no actual taste of meat has entered the dairy food, and at most, the steam may give an odor of meat in the dairy food, however, be’di’avd, odor does not prohibit.

Baking of Parve Challot in a Meat Compartment of an Oven

Q: What should be done when there is an oven compartment in which meat or dairy food was baked, and one wants to bake in it parve challot, namely, challot that can be eaten with either meat or milk?

A: It is the custom of many people le’hadare, and first to heat the oven on the highest temperature in order to make it parve. However, me’tzad ha’din (according to the letter of the law), one may bake a parve pastry in an oven in which a meat or milk dish was baked beforehand without kashering it, since it is clear there is absolutely no possibility it will have the taste of meat or milk.

Microwave

The same microwave can be used for dairy and meat foods if a separation is made between them. In separating, two things should be noted: first – not to place dairy or meat foods directly on the same plate; second – that a lot of vapor from the microwave cavity should not enter the food being heated.

Therefore, one should be careful not to place foods directly on the permanent plate of the microwave, rather, dairy foods should be placed on a dairy plate, and meat dishes on a meat plate, and these plates should be placed on the microwave plate. In addition, a plastic lid should be designated for dairy foods, and another lid for meat foods. And although vapors escape through the small openings in the plastic lid designed for microwaves, the vapors emitting from them do not have the power to accumulate on the walls and the roof of the microwave and transfer taste, kal v’chomer (all the more so), they lack the power to extract a taste that may have been absorbed into the microwave walls, and insert it into the heated food.

Additionally, one may determine the normal state of the microwave is dairy, and if someone wants to heat a meat dish, he should place an additional plate or other surface on the microwave’s permanent plate, and cover the meat dishes with a plastic lid or box, or wrap it in a bag. L’chatchila, this is the correct way to act when one wants to heat parve food to be eaten with meat dishes.

Kashering a Microwave

A microwave that was made treif (non-kosher), should be kashered in three stages: 1) Clean the remaining food that may have been leftover due to spilling. 2) Immerse the rotating plate in boiling water. 3) Place a bowl of water with soap in the microwave, and heat it for about ten minutes on the highest temperature, thus kashering it from the steam and “perspiration” that it absorbed while heating the treif food.

Be’di’avad, when it is difficult to kasher the microwave, such as in a place of work or when there is no time to kasher it, one can heat foods by putting them on an additional plate, and put it in a bag or box that will wrap it on all sides, even if openings are left for steam to escape. This is because in practice, since vapors from the microwave will not enter the food, even though the microwave is treif, the food remains kosher l’mehedrin (strictly kosher). Nevertheless, one should not leave a treif microwave oven in the house, rather, it should be kashered without delay, lest one forgets and heats food without a separation between the microwave and the food.

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

Eretz Yisrael – The Center of Torah

Eretz Yisrael – The Center of Torah

Anyone  observing the plain sense of this week’s Torah portion cannot fail to notice the central place of the Land of Israel * During the exile, many Torah scholars were accustomed to ignoring the central position of the Land in the Torah, thus creating the impression that holiness and spirituality are detached from the Land and reality * Focusing on the Land of Israel means settling it, developing in it all spheres of life, and grappling with the conflict between this and the challenges of the economy, security, law, and more * The Gedolei HaDor are not opposed to Yishuv Ha’Aretz: Those who oppose it, do not understand one of the central elements of the Torah, and therefore, cannot be called “Gedolei Ha’Dor”

The Exaltedness of the Land of Israel

“The foundation of Israel’s exile and low stature that continue on this earth are due only to our failure to publicize Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), it’s worth and wisdom. Moreover, we do not rectify the sin of the spies, who slandered the Land, with a response of equal measure: to make known to the whole world the glory and majesty of the Land, its holiness and splendor. Following all of our trespasses in the other direction, we should only merit to express even one ten-thousandth of the Land’s delight, the luminance of its Torah, the glory of its wisdom, and the holy spirit that reigns in its midst (Rabbi Kook, Iggeret 96).”

The Example from Rabbi Teichtal HY”D

The entire Torah is filled with praise and appreciation of Eretz Yisrael, but without being taught to take notice, but when the majority of the gedolei lamdanim – well-informed, sharp-minded Torah scholars – come to define holiness, they fail to take this into account.

An illustrative example of this comes from the preface of Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal HY”D, who was one of the most brilliant Torah scholars of the generation, learned and sharp-minded, author of the halachic responsa “Mishneh Sachir”. Nevertheless, he felt there was no mitzvah to immigrate to Israel and also minimized the value of non-observant Jews, and consequently, strongly opposed cooperation with the Zionist movement which was led by non-religious Jews.

During the events of the Holocaust, Rabbi Teichtal re-examined the issues of the nation and the Land, found that he had erred, and wrote an entire book about it – “Eim HaBanim Semeichah.” The book itself testifies to the author, who was a gaon (genius), a superlative expert, and extremely sharp-minded. He wrote most of the book from memory while fleeing and hiding from the fear of the Hungarian regime that collaborated with the Nazis. All the thousands of sources he cited in his book from the Written and Oral Torah, the revealed and hidden sides of Torah, the Rishonim and Achronim he knew well and memorized, but before recognizing the value of the Land of Israel, did not merit learning them properly. Apparently, like many lamdanim, he learned the external aspects of the Torah in depth but ignored its inner meanings.

He wrote in the introduction to his book: “I must confess the truth and declare my sin. I, too, despised the rebuilding of the Land, because I heard unqualified statements made by many Haredim, which became firmly implanted in my heart. I did not concern myself with this matter at all, because I was preoccupied with learning, teaching, and writing volumes on the Talmud and its commentaries, as well as responses to questions regarding the word of Hashem. I only delved into this halakha after we suffered afflictions in this bitter exile. Hashem enlightened me, and I saw that I and all those who opposed this movement were mistaken. I admit and say…that which I previously told you was mistaken. When rabbis admit their mistake, they are praiseworthy. Thank God, I have no qualms about publicly expressing the truth that is in my heart.”(Pri Ha’aretz edition (Heb.), p. 21; Kol Mevaser edition (Eng.), p. 28).

He also cites quotations from the Geonei Ha’Dor (the eminent Torah scholars of the generation) who encouraged Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and even to collaborate with the secular Jews for the purpose of the mitzvah. Before that, however, he had ignored them, because this was the accepted practice in his circles.

Abundant References in the Torah

Every year we read all of the Torah portions, and a person unaccustomed to pay attention to the significance of the Land of Israel will be astonished at the abundance of the numerous and important references it has in the Torah.

Occasionally, I encounter learned Haredi or Modern Orthodox people who claim that we exaggerate in the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (the settling of the Land). Instead of arguing, I prefer to ask them to pay attention during the coming year to the place the Land of Israel has in each week’s Torah portion. If they are honest, they are amazed at how ignorant they were and admit that despite the fact they had read the Torah numerous times, they never paid attention to the central place of Eretz Yisrael.

After understanding the significance of the Land in the Torah, one can understand why our Sages said: “Whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God” (Ketubot 110b), and, “Settling the Land of Israel is equal to all the commandments in the Torah” (Tosefta 77: 4, 3, Sifrei, Re’eh 53).

From the point of view of halakha, as well, this is the only mitzvah in which fulfilling it, lives are endangered, for we were commanded to conquer the Land, and the Torah does not command to rely on miracles (Minchat Chinuch 425,604; Mishpat Kohen 143).

Revealing Faith in All Spheres of Life

And still, the detractors argue: How can the Torah, which is completely holy and spiritual, give central status to a physical land? However, the foundation of Jewish faith is that God gives life to everything, and therefore the guidance and blessing of Torah must be revealed in all aspects of life, spiritual and material, in all fields of science, in all types of emotions and talents, in the life of the individual, family, community, and nation. All of this can only be revealed in the Holy Land, where heaven and earth connect; where on its’ mountains and countryside the Prophets prophesied about Tikkun Olam (perfection of the world) in the Kingdom of God, and on whose land grow holy fruits that require terumot  (heave offerings) and maaserot (tithes) to be taken, and in whose center the Holy Temple was built, where all the sacred values are revealed in a concise and concentrated form.

Eretz Yisrael is not pitted in the struggle against the rest of the nations – on the contrary – the role of the Nation of Israel is to reveal kedusha (holiness) in Eretz Yisrael, and, as a result, light and blessing will spread out to all peoples, and countries. However, the stipulation for all this is yishuv ha’aretz, and consequently, wherever the Torah refers to the Geulah (Redemption), the foundation is the return of the People of Israel to its Land, the building of the ruined cities, and the flowering of the deserts.

On the other hand, when Jews attempt to reveal emunah (faith) while ignoring the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, they thereby transgress the sin of avodah zara (idolatry). They deny the Divine light revealed in all the sciences and all the literary and artistic talents, deny the image of God in man and in the value of His work and His preoccupation with yishuvo shel ha’olam (the welfare of society). They deny that the One God created and sustains the entire world, and deny the Torah, which guides us to see the Divine light in everyday life and deny the value of the mitzvot which instruct us how to reveal God’s blessing in all areas of life. For that reason, they are considered idolaters, for they prevent emunah from illuminating the world, and adding blessing to it. In other words, idolatry is the separation of emunah from all its breadth, and as a result, even a spiritual conception becomes idolatry when it disconnects the believer from the Divine unity revealed in all the universe.

The Sin of the Spies

Accordingly, one can understand the terrible severity of the Sin of the Spies, more severe than the sin of the Golden Calf, as punishment for which, death was decreed on all members of the Dor HaMidbar (Generation of the Desert). And even Moshe, the faithful shepherd, was caught in their sin, and the two Temples were also destroyed because of it.

As long as we fail to correct the Sin of the Spies, the punishment still hangs over our heads. Therefore on the Shabbat in which we read the Torah portion of ‘Shlach Lecha’, we must be especially motivated to speak in praise of the Land of Israel.

Are there Gedolim who Oppose Yishuv Ha’aretz?

Q: How can it be that there are Gedolei Torah (eminent Torah scholars) who oppose yishuv ha’aretz and the value of Israeli nationalism?

A: It is impossible for a gadol in Torah to deny this because the entire Written Torah and the words of our Sages are full of clarifications of the value of the Nation of Israel and the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz. And if there are people who are well versed and sharp-minded in details of Torah who are not aware of the important status of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, or the value of Israeli nationalism, it is proof they did not understand the Torah correctly. At best, one can say they are gedolim at understanding some of the Torah’s details, and in this respect, they are gedolei Torah, but they are not gedolei Torah in the full sense, let alone Gedolei Ha’Dor. What distinguishes a gadol in Torah from someone who is not, is that the gadol understands the fundamentals of the Torah, the roots from which the branches emerge, and thus, all the details are properly understood. However, someone who is not gadol, does not understand the fundamentals, and consequently, understands large parts of the Torah superficially, but does not understand their meaning.

It should be noted that even among the extreme Haredim, few reject the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, and the value of nationalism. However, there are many who belittle the value of these mitzvot, in the sense of the Sin of the Spies, and thus in their reasoning oppose yishuv ha’aretz. Consequently, it is inappropriate to consider them Gedolei Torah.

The Full Significance of the Mitzvah

Without the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, all the values ​​and mitzvot in the Torah become detached and severed, and their entire fulfillment is in the sense of remembrance so they won’t be new to us when we return to Eretz Yisrael (Sifrei, Ekev 37). People can speak beautiful words about the values ​​of Torah and morality as long as they have no responsibility for the existence of the state. But what do we do when there are enemies? How do we settle the land while adhering to moral principles? How do we resolve the apparent conflict between heaven and earth, between the mitzvah to study Torah and the mitzvah to develop agriculture, manufacturing, sciences, economics, etc., and instead of confrontation, reveal the kedusha in all walks of life, and create interaction between all them? How do we solve the tension between the value of commitment to mitzvot and the value of the freedom God granted to each person? The mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, which includes establishing governmental and legal systems, obligates us to discuss all this beyond the accepted practice in the Diaspora-oriented yeshiva learning halls. The mitzvot between man and his fellow man are also learned to their fullest extent when required to be carried out among an entire nation.

Thus, we find that by observing the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, it requires us to reconcile all of the Torah and mitzvot with reality, for more than all other countries, Divine governance is revealed in Eretz Yisrael compelling the nation of Israel, at every turn, to contend with the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot. This is the plain meaning of the verse: “It is therefore a land constantly under God your Lord’s scrutiny; the eyes of God your Lord are on it at all times” (Deuteronomy 11:12).

Not only that, but by complete fulfillment of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, the word of God will also be revealed to all peoples, and ‘from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem’, to perfect the world in the Kingdom of God, as expressed in the words of the Torah and Prophets. In light of this, we can understand why Talmidei Chachamim (Torah scholars) who fail to understand the value of Eretz Yisrael cannot be considered gedolei Torah.

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

Public Shabbat Desecrator who Touched Wine

Due to the severity of the desecration of Shabbat, it was ruled that wine touched by a public desecrator of Shabbat is forbidden to drink * In recent generations society has changed, creating a situation in which the public desecration of Shabbat does not indicate a break with Jewish identity * Therefore, be-di’avad, one is permitted to drink from wine touched by a public Shabbat desecrator, as long as he does not intend to defy Judaism * In any event, one should not go beyond halakha and prohibit wine poured or transferred by a Shabbat desecrator * When it comes to a mitzvah, such as a Shabbat meal or a wedding, even l’chatchila, the wine may be consumed

 

A Jew who Publicly Desecrates Shabbat

Shabbat desecration is considered especially grave, to the point where our Sages said that a korban (ritual sacrifice) should not be accepted from a Jew who publicly violates Shabbat, his ritual slaughter is not considered kosher, and when all the residents of a chatzer (courtyard) want to make an eruv chatzerot, he invalidates the eruv as a non-Jew (Chulin 5a; Eruvin 69b). According to this, Rambam (Maimonides) wrote: “The observance of Shabbat and the prohibition against worshiping false deities are each equivalent to the observance of all the mitzvot of the Torah. And Shabbat is the eternal sign between the Holy One, blessed be He, and us. For this reason, whoever transgresses the other mitzvot is considered to be one of the wicked of Israel, but a person who publicly violates Shabbat is considered as an idolater. Both of them are considered to be equivalent to non-Jews in all regards” (Laws of Shabbat 30:15).

A Shabbat Desecrator who Touched Wine

According to this, some Rishonim wrote that wine touched by a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbat is asur (forbidden) similar to the law of wine touched by a non-Jew who is not an idolater, namely, it is forbidden to drink, but mutar b’hanah (one may receive benefit from it) (Bahag, Rabbeinu Yonah, Eshkol, Rivash, and others). In other words, wine touched by an idolater is asur b’hanah, and if it was touched by a non-Jew who is not an idolater, or a Jew who desecrates Shabbat, the wine is forbidden to drink, and mutar b’hanah.

Indeed, this law is not mentioned in the Gemara, and many Rishonim did not mention it, therefore, some poskim are of the opinion that halachically there is absolutely no prohibition of wine touched by a public Shabbat desecrator (Responsa of Rashi 169; Rabbi Chaim ben Atar). On the other hand, some are stringent and believe that the halakha of a public Shabbat desecrator is the same as an actual idolater, and that the wine touched by him is also asur b’hanah (Tvuot Shur 11:12). However, the vast majority of Achronim agreed that according to halakha, wine touched by a public Shabbat desecrator is forbidden to drink, but mutar b’hanah.

This was the custom for many generations, for indeed, Shabbat was the clearest expression of Jewish identity, and anyone who dared to publicly desecrate Shabbat exhibited a terrible defiance of Israel’s faith, and openly announced to the world that he did not identify with Judaism.

The Question in Recent Generations

However, in recent generations, many Jews were influenced by non-Jews, to the point where a situation was created in which Shabbat was no longer the expression of Jewish identity. In addition, if in the past protesting against the desecrators of Shabbat helped prevent them from violating the rules, in recent generations, it distanced people instead of bringing them closer. Therefore, b’shaat ha’tzorech (when necessary), many of the latter poskim ruled leniently, and instructed that only someone who desecrates Shabbat flagrantly in order to spite and defy Israel’s traditions, is considered to be equivalent to a non-Jew. However, someone who respects Shabbat by making Kiddush and by lighting Shabbat candles is not considered to be equivalent to a non-Jew. Furthermore, if he is a Jew who has not received Torah education, since he does not understand the severity of desecrating Shabbat, he is anus (lit. ‘forced’), and is similar to what our Sages said about a tinok shenishba (a Jew raised without an appreciation for the thought and practices of Judaism), namely, that all of his Shabbat desecrations are considered as if he was anus. And even if he grew up in a religious home, sometimes secular influence is so strong to the point where he is close to being considered shogeg (not on purpose) and anus, for he cannot resist the spirit of the times. Additionally, the concern that stringency in this issue may cause insults and disagreements in families and communities should be taken into account.

The Strict and Lenient Opinions

True, there are some poskim who are machmir (strict) and are of the opinion that precisely today we must be more stringent, in order to prevent Shabbat desecrators from influencing observant Jews (Pri Ha’sadeh 1: 62; Minchat Yehiel 1:105; Minchat Elazar 1: 74; Yaskil Avdi Vol. 8, Y.D. 19; Tzizt Eliezer 12:56).

In practice, however, the accepted view of most poskim is that in order to prevent insult and maintain the proper brotherhood amongst Jews, for various reasons, fundamental and secondary, one should not be machmir regarding wine touched by a Shabbat desecrator, as long as they do not do so le’hachis (one who transgresses as to anger) (Yehudah Ya’aleh, Y.D. 50; Binyan Tzion Chadashot 23; Uri Ve’yishi 100; Melamed Le’Hoeil, O.C. 29, Y.D. 52; Maharsham 1: 121; Livushei Mordechai, Achiezer 4: 37: Sho’el Ve’Nishal 3:216; Chelkat Yaacov, Y.D. 58; Otzer Ha’Michtavim, Vol. 2; Beit David 1:132; Iggrot Moshe, O.C. 5:37; Yabiyah Omer Vol. 1, Y.D. 11; L’Harot Natan 1:39; Asei Lecha Rav 2: 51, and many others).

Halakha Summary

The halakha goes according to the lenient poskim, who are of the opinion that in order to prevent insult and maintain the proper brotherhood amongst Jews, b’shaat ha’tzorech, one may be lenient and drink wine touched by a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbat. The more respectful he is of Jewish tradition, the more room there is for the heter. On the other hand, the more the Shabbat desecrator knows the severity of the prohibition and does not respect tradition, there is less room for the heter. But after all, as long as the public Shabbat desecrator feels some Jewish identity, and does not violate Shabbat le’hachis and to vex those who observe tradition, be’di’avad (after the fact), one may drink the wine he touched.

And if the wine is pasteurized, there is another reason one may be lenient, for some poskim are of the opinion that pasteurized wine is considered mevushal (cooked), which is not prohibited if touched by non-Jews.

Stringencies Created by Mistake

Due to widespread ignorance of these laws, even Torah students do not know the halakha, and are more stringent than necessary according to the rules of halakha, as will be explained.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that one has to be careful a Shabbat desecrator does not pass a glass of wine from one side of the table to the other, but do not realize that even if a non-Jewish idolater were to do this, the wine would be kosher.

I will expound upon this a bit. It is agreed that wine is forbidden by contact, but the Rishonim disagree whether it is forbidden by shich-shuch, that is, shaking the glass firmly to shake the wine in it. There are those who prohibit, because in their opinion, this was also the way in which the non-Jews would worship idols (Rambam, Rivom, Ramban, Rosh, Shulchan Aruch and R’ma 124:17); others permit, and are of the opinion that only actual contact makes the wine forbidden, and not shich-shuch (Ravad, Rashba, Riv, Meiri, Revash, Maharashdam, Bach, Taz, and Knesset HaGedolah).

When the person who shakes the wine is a goy oved avodah zara (a non-Jewish idolater), l’chatchila (ideally) we act according to the strict opinion, but this is on condition that the non-Jew shook the wine without reason, because this was the way idol worshippers poured wine to their gods. But if the non-Jew lifted the glass and moved it to another place, or even climbed up stairs with it, even though the wine moved firmly in the glass, because it shook due to walking – the wine is permitted (S. A., Y. D. 125:10; Drisha 5:16; Rashdam, Rashal, and others).

Kal v’chomer (all the more so) when it comes to a non-Jew who is not an idolater, for even if he actually shook the wine without reason, the wine is permissible. All the more so when it comes to a Jew who violates Shabbat, where the poskim disagree whether he is considered as a non-Jew.

Pouring Wine

Many mistakenly think that if a Shabbat desecrator poured the wine it is forbidden, but they do not know that even if a non-Jew did so, according to the majority of poskim, the wine is kosher. For only if a non-Jewish idolater pours wine from a bottle to a glass, the wine in the glass is forbidden to drink, but mutar b’hanah. In this case, the poskim disagreed about the wine remaining in the bottle, and the halakha is ruled by the majority of poskim who are of the opinion that even the wine remaining in the bottle is forbidden to drink (because of the joining of “nitzoke”). But if the pouring was done from a barrel of wine, since this is a great loss, we rely on the opinion of the poskim who permitted the wine remaining in the barrel (S. A. and R’ma, Y. D., 125:1; 126:1-2).

If a non-Jew who is not an idolater pours from a bottle into a glass, in the opinion of many poskim, the wine in the glass and the bottle are permissible (Shach 124:11; D’gam, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Aruch HaShulchan, Ish Matzliach, Chazon Ish). And some poskim are machmir, and prohibit drinking the wine in the glass, but permit the wine remaining in the bottle (Taz, Yabiyah Omer, Y.D. 1:11). And even though according to the rules of halakha we should rule according to the opinion of the lenient poskim, many people tend to be machmir, and some are even machmir regarding the wine remaining in the bottle.

But if the pourer is a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbat, whose status, as we have learned, is disagreed upon, without doubt the halakha goes according to the vast majority of poskim who ruled leniently, permitting to drink the wine he poured into the glass. Kal v’chomer, if the public Shabbat desecrator only opened the bottle, there is absolutely no problem with the wine remaining in it.

Drinking from the Same Glass

In practice then, the problem is when a public Shabbat desecrator drank from the glass, since according to the stringent poskim he is considered as a non-Jew, the wine remaining in the glass is forbidden to drink.

In addition, in the opinion of the stringent poskim, it is forbidden to employ workers who publicly desecrate Shabbat in the wine-making process, since occasionally while working, they need to touch the wine with their hands. And although according to the opinion of the lenient poskim it is permitted, since even they were lenient only be’di’avad, wineries employing public Shabbat desecrators are not granted kashrut l’chatchila.

When Dealing with a Mitzvah, One May be Lenient L’chatchila

It seems another important element should be added: Although the general heter to drink wine that a public Shabbat desecrator drank from is be’di’avad, when dealing with a mitzvah – such as a Shabbat meal held according to halakha (without cellphones), a traditional wedding ceremony, or a festive wedding meal held in line with halakha, without mixed dancing – l’chatchila, all those attending at that moment may be considered as “kosher” Jews who respect tradition.

This is because they gathered there for the purpose of a mitzvah, similar to what our Sages said regarding amei ha’aretz (people ignorant of halakha), that when they ascend to Jerusalem on the Pilgrimage Holidays, they are considered as chaverim (those who fully observe halakha): “In Jerusalem, they are trusted regarding kodesh, and during the festival season, they are trusted regarding terumah, as well” (Mishnah Chagigah 3:6). And the reason in the Gemara is: “As Scripture says: ‘So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, as one united company’ (in Hebrew, ‘k’ish echad chaverim’) – the verse itself made all of them chaverim” (Ibid. 26a).

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

Shavuot – Complete Joy

Torah affects all aspects of life, both spiritual and physical, and therefore the joy of Matan Torah is expressed both in the study of Torah, and in a plentiful meal * The laws of Shavuot on Motzei Shabbat: The prohibition of preparing from Shabbat to Yom Tov, when to eat Seudah Shlishit, how to light candles, and is showering permitted * The laws of Birkot Ha’Torah and Birkot Ha’Shachar for those staying awake all night * Until what time in the morning is it permissible to eat and drink * Foreign residents residing in Israel on Chag: Which ones, so attached to the country, are exempt from keeping two days of Yom Tov?

The Complete Joy of Shavuot

The joy of Chag Shavuot holds a special virtue over the other holidays, for even in the opinion of those Torah scholars who are of the opinion that one is permitted to dedicate almost all of the holiday to Torah study and minimize eating and drinking, on Chag Shavuot, together with Torah study, one is obligated to partake in very significant festive meals since “it is the day in which the Torah was given” (Pesachim 68b).

From this halakha we learn an important principle: The Torah is intended to add blessing and joy in all aspects of life. The special virtue of the Torah is that it guides to the path of unifying faith, whose purpose is to continue blessing and life, both spirituality and materiality. Therefore, the joy of Shavuot must be expressed both in Torah study and in eating and drinking. May we merit to rejoice in Torah study and the joy of meals on Shavuot, and thus, continue the Torah’s blessings in all aspects of life throughout the entire year.

When to Eat Seudah Shlishit

Since this year Chag Shavuot falls out on Motzei Shabbat, ‘l’chatchila‘ (ideally), it is best to eat ‘seudah shlisheet’ (the third Shabbat meal) earlier, before the last three hours of the Shabbat day. Preferably, ‘seudah shlishit’ should be held a little after ‘chatzot Yom Shabbat‘(midday), i.e., at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. If one did not do so, he should nevertheless eat ‘seudah shlisheet’, even during the hours close to the beginning of Yom Tov, but should try to limit his eating so as to have an appetite for the evening meal of Yom Tov.

Preparation from Shabbat to Yom Tov

When Yom Tov falls on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) as it does this year, one must be careful not to prepare anything from Shabbat to Yom Tov, since Shabbat is intended for holiness and rest, and not for preparations for another day, even if it is Chag (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 22: 15-16).

Consequently, it is forbidden to wash dirty dishes from Shabbat to use on Yom Tov; only after Shabbat has departed (20:25) can dishes be washed in order use them on Yom Tov. It is also forbidden to clean the table on Shabbat in honor of the holiday, but the table can be cleaned so that it is tidy on Shabbat, even though this will be beneficial for the holiday.

‘B’sha’at ha’dachak’ (times of distress), on Shabbat one is permitted to perform routine actions that do not involve great effort, for the sake of the Chag. For example, when waiting for Shabbat to depart will cause a significant delay in the Yom Tov meal, it is permissible to take frozen food out of the freezer on Shabbat.

Heating and Cooking for the Holiday Night

It is forbidden to place food on a ‘platta‘ (hot plate) on Shabbat to be eaten at the evening meal of Yom Tov, but only after Shabbat is over (20:25) and one says, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh” (“Blessed be He who distinguishes between holy and holy”). Only then is one permitted to start organizing the needs of ‘ochel nefesh’ (food preparation allowed on Yom Tov), and to cook and heat the food.

Candle Lighting

It is forbidden to light the holiday candles before ‘tzait ha’chochavim’ (nightfall), rather, one should wait until the stars have appeared in the sky and Shabbat has departed (20:25), and then say, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh“, and light the candles.

Since it is prohibited to light a new fire on Yom Tov, one must prepare before Shabbat a candle that will burn for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light the Yom Tov candles. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should transfer fire from one of his neighbor’s candles to light the Yom Tov candles.

It is permissible to push the candle forcibly into the candlestick holder, even though this causes the candle to be slightly crushed. Similarly, one may remove by knife the remaining wax in the candlestick which interferes with the placement of the new candle, and one is allowed to remove the metal disc stuck to the bottom of the glass cup in which ‘neronim‘ (candles that turn into oil) were used. It is also permitted to insert a floating wick into a floating cork.

However, it is forbidden to heat a wax candle to attach it to a candlestick holder, lest one transgress the rabbinic decree of ‘ma’rey’ach‘(spreading or smearing), which is a ‘toledah‘ of ‘mi’ma’chake‘(scraping/sanding a surface to achieve smoothness). It is also forbidden to cut or file the bottom of the candle to insert it into the candlestick because of the prohibition ‘mi’cha’taych‘(cutting any object to a specific size).

Bathing on Shabbat and Chag

Since Shabbat and Yom Tov are adjacent, and many people are used to showering every day, those who feel the need to shower on Shabbat afternoon are permitted to wash themselves in warm water – i.e., water in which they do not suffer from its coldness, but on the other hand, is not hot. One should not wash in hot water because of the rabbinical decree of ‘mirchatz‘. But on Chag, one is permitted to wash even in hot water, provided the water was heated in a permissible way, such as by a ‘dude shemesh’ (solar heater), or by a Shabbat-timer (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:8; Moadim 5:10).

Bathers must remember not to comb their hair, because combing sheds hair, which is prohibited from the Torah. One must also be careful not to squeeze his hair for the sake of the water coming out of it; this is noteworthy when one shampoo’s his hair and wishes to squeeze out the soap to use while washing the rest of his body.

The Washing of Hands for Those Remaining Awake All Night

Even a person who remains awake all night must perform ‘nitilat yadayim‘ (washing of the hands) before morning prayers, however, the poskim were divided on whether to recite a blessing over this washing, or not. In practice, according to Sephardic custom, one does not recite a blessing. According to the Ashkenazi custom, it is best is to relieve oneself before prayer, and to touch one of the covered areas of one’s body which had become a bit sweaty since one’s last bathing, and thus, be obligated to wash one’s hands with a blessing.

Birkot Ha’Shachar for Those Remaining Awake All Night

Birkot Ha’Torah (Blessings over the Torah): The widely accepted minhag goes according to Rabbenu Tam, that even if one did not sleep at all during the previous day, since he is praying Shacharit (the Morning Prayers) of the new day, he must recite ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’.

Birkot Ha’Shachar (the Morning Blessings): Even those who remain awake all night recite ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’, because ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ were fixed as prayers of gratitude for the general good in the world, and not just the self-interests of each and every individual. Therefore, even a blind person recites the blessing ‘po’kay’ach ivrim’ (‘Who gives sight to the blind’), and one who did not sleep recites the blessing ‘zokayf ke’fufim’ (‘Who straightens the bent’).

Brachot “Elokei Neshamah” and “Ha’maavir sheina”: There are some poskim (halachic authorities) who hold that a person who did not sleep should not recite these blessings, because these blessings are recited in the singular, as individual thanks for the return of one’s soul, and the passing of sleep. Therefore, it is proper to hear them from someone who actually did sleep, and have ‘kavana’ to fulfill one’s obligation.

When there is no one to recite the blessings, according to the majority of poskim, one should recite the blessings himself, and this is the custom of all Sephardim, and some Ashkenazim. There are other Ashkenazim whose custom is to be ‘machmir‘ (stringent), and due to ‘safek‘ (doubt), recite the blessings without ‘Shem and Malchut’. An Ashkenazi who does not know what his custom is, should act according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, and recite all the blessings himself.

In summary, according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, those who remain awake all night recite all ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’. The ‘mehadrin’ (those who embellish the mitzvot), when possible, fulfill the obligation of ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ and the blessings “Elokei Neshama” and “Ha’Ma’avir Sheina” by hearing them from someone who slept at night.

When to Recite Birkot Ha’Shachar

According to halakha, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ are recited close to the morning prayers. According to Kabbalah‘Birkot Ha’Shachar‘ are recited after ‘chatzot ha’layla’ (midnight), and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah‘ after ‘amud ha’shachar’ (dawn).

Eating and Drinking before Morning Prayers

During the night, one may eat and drink without limitation. However, from half an hour before ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat a ‘seudah’ (a meal), lest one get over-involved in his meal. This includes the prohibition of eating bread or cakes whose size is equal to, or larger, than a ‘beitza‘ (an egg), however, one may eat without ‘keviyut seudah’ (setting a meal) fruits and vegetables and cooked ‘mezanot‘ foods without limitation. From ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat anything or to drink coffee or juice, and even one who had started eating or drinking beforehand – should stop. One is allowed to drink only water after ‘amud ha’shachar’ (someone who needs to drink coffee in order to have kavanah in prayer is permitted to drink coffee without sugar before tefillah). (This year on Chag Shavuot, ‘amud ha’shachar‘ is at 4:06 A.M. in Israel).

Second Day Yom Tov For those who live abroad, but are in Israel

Our Sages instituted that in Chutz La-Aretz, all the Chagim must be observed for two days; however the poskim differed about the halakha concerning a Jew who lives outside of Israel, but is visiting Israel. There are those who say that when he is in Israel, his status is that of one who lives in Israel, and should hold only one day of Yom Tov (Chacham Tzvi, 167; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 496:11), but according to most halakhic authorities, since his place of residence is in Chutz La-Aretz, even when visiting Israel, he is considered a ben Chutz La-Aretz, and this is the accepted practice (Birkei Yosef, 496:7; Mishna Berura 496:13).

Although according to the principle of the law, the halakha should have been lenient, since the second day of Yom Tov is of rabbinic ordinance and the rule is safek d’rabanan l’kula (a rabbinic ordinance with a doubt is ruled leniently), nevertheless, the accepted minhag is to be machmir, and since this is the minhag – the unique brachot for Yom Tov are even recited on the second day of Yom Tov.

However, it seems that when the visitor has a deep attachment to the country, and thus, there is a certain chance he will choose to immigrate to Israel, when he is in Israel, he should act according to the minhag of Eretz Yisrael.

Those Who Reside Outside of Israel but Have an Attachment to the Land

1) Someone who comes to Israel for a year of study, his long stay in Israel turns him into ben Eretz Yisrael (a resident) for the duration of his stay.

2) One who occasionally comes to visit Eretz Yisrael, if his visits accumulate to a year, he is considered somewhat of a resident, and from that point onward, if during the Chagim he is in Eretz Yisrael, he should keep only one day.

3) Someone who comes to visit Israel and intends to immigrate when possible, even if he visits for a short period of time, and it will be many years before he can realize his plan, while he is in Israel he should act as ben ha’aretz, and keep one day.

4) A visitor who has children or parents who immigrated to Israel is considered to have an affinity to the country, and during his stay in Israel, should keep one day.

5) One who purchased an apartment in the Land of Israel in order to live there during his visits, even though his visits have not yet accumulated to a year, while he is in Israel, he is considered a ben Eretz Yisrael in the merit of his apartment.

6) A ‘yored‘ (one who has left Israel on a permanent basis) who determined his home is abroad, even if he lived there for decades, since for a significant period he lived in Israel – as long as there is any chance of his returning to Israel, when he visits Israel, he should act like b’nei Eretz Yisrael.

However, when such people are abroad, since in practice they have not yet immigrated to Israel, they are considered to be foreign citizens in every aspect, and it is their obligation to observe second day of Yom Tov of the Diaspora (these laws are explained in ‘Peninei Halakha: Moadim’ 9: 8).

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

Birth – A Blessing for Family and Nation

Birth – A Blessing for Family and Nation

The census in this week’s Torah portion indicates the importance of the multiplicity of the Jewish people and their families * The haftarah also indicates that the redemption of the nation depends on the number of its people * The Torah’s way of taking a census conveys an appreciation for man, owing to his Godly image * The multiplicity of children includes all the blessings and mitzvot * One should be mindful of the impact the age of marriage has on the size of a family, as well as the difference in age between children * This does not diminish the value of those who did not merit to have children, whose influence can also be enormous * What did Ben-Gurion write to the mothers of large families?

Large Families

Many people wish to have a large and glorious family, to fulfill the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation) exceptionally, and to see sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, great-grandsons and great-granddaughters engaged in Torah and mitzvot for the glory of the Torah, the Nation, and the Land. In this general mitzvah one merits revealing all the Torah values ​​and mitzvot, emunah (faith) and bracha (blessing), the brit (covenant) and ahava (love), commitment and joy, mitzvot between man and God, between man and his fellow man, between man and his nation, and bringing closer the Redemption.

In order to realize this great and wonderful vision, it is important to present important information to those interested. Everyone knows that the number of children is a key component, but many are unaware of the crucial impact of the age one gets married and gives birth. To this end, I will add tables showing the effect the number of children and the age of marriage has on family growth.

Indeed, halakha guides us both in the mitzvah related to the number of children and in the mitzvah related to the age of marriage, and the postponement of pregnancy. Regarding children, the Torah commands one to give birth to a son and daughter, while d’Rabanan (rabbinical mandate), the instruction is to have four to five children, and beyond that is mehadrin (glorifying the mitzvah) (Peninei Halakha: Simchat Ha’Bayit u’Berchato 5:4-6). Regarding the age of marriage, the original guidance was until the age of twenty, and today, until the age of twenty-four (ibid 5: 7-11). Postponement of the first pregnancy – only under special circumstances (ibid. 5: 15), and afterward for health purposes, until the fulfillment of the mitzvah as per its varying levels (5: 13-16).

Accordingly, it should be noted that the elapse of time between births also has a significant impact on the growth of a family. Two tables are presented for this purpose, one for a two-year interval between births, and the second for a three-year interval.

Note to the Table

Today, with the Western world’s empowerment of man as an individual, serious problems of loneliness, alienation, and despair have emerged. It should be emphasized that the main blessing of the family is goodwill, love, and happiness, from an early age until advanced years. These tables are only tools to assist the judgment of those wishing to raise a family.

The table summarizes the number of offspring parents will have when they reach the age of one hundred. This, taking into account the average age of marriage, and the average intervals between births and the number of children when a child is born about a year after marriage. Obviously, there is no family where all the children marry at the same age and no family with all its children having the same number of offspring. The table deals with averages.

Consequently, there are no averages for more than seven children, because it is difficult to estimate the possibility of a family whose offspring will have an average of eight children for nearly one hundred years.

Chumash Ha’Pekudim – The Book of Numbers

The size of a Jewish family should not be taken lightly, for in the Chumash BamidbarChumash Ha-Pekudim (The Book of Numbers) – we learn about the great and sacred importance of the multitude of Israel’s families. In the Torah portion Bamidbar, in the second year of Israel’s departure from Egypt, Moshe was commanded to count the Children of Israel, their families and tribes, with the sum repeatedly counted in different contexts. And once again, at the end of forty years, Moshe was commanded to count the Children of Israel (Numbers 26: 2). In all, the Torah dedicates nearly eighty-one verses to the counting of Israel in the Torah portion Bamidbar, and in the Torah portion of Pinchas, about fifty-one verses. As Rashi wrote: “Because they were dear to Him, He counted them often. When they left Egypt, He counted them, when many fell because of the sin of the Golden Calf, He counted them to know the number of survivors, when He came to cause His Divine Presence to rest among them, He counted them” (Numbers 1:1).

Redemption, Inheritance of the Land, and the Counting of Israel

In the opening of this week’s haftarah, it is written: “Yet the time will come when Israel shall prosper and become a great nation; in that day her people will be too numerous to count—like sand along a seashore! Then, instead of saying to them, ‘You are not my people,’ I will tell them, ‘You are my sons, children of the Living God… At that time I will make a treaty between you and the wild animals, birds, and snakes, not to fear each other anymore; and I will destroy all weapons, and all wars will end. Then you will lie down in peace and safety, unafraid; and I will bind you to me forever with chains of righteousness and justice and love and mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before.” (Hosea 2:1-22).

The mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (the commandment to settle the Land) is also connected to the number of the Children of Israel, as God said to our forefather Yaacov: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Genesis 28: 13-14). Because they were negligent in the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation) during the forty years that they wandered in the desert, the Israelites did not merit inheriting the Land properly, and enemies remained in the Land harassing them (Exodus 23:29-31; Numbers 33:55; Nahmanides ibid, 21:21; Malbim, Exodus 23:29).

Additional Measures of Blessing

It must be emphasized that the number of children is not the only measure of blessing, success, and happiness. Some of the greatest Torah scholars did not merit having children – and their contribution to the Jewish people in Torah, good deeds, or public leadership was enormous. Regarding such people, Hashem said: “I will give them—in my house, within my walls—a name far greater than the honor they would receive from having sons and daughters. For the name that I will give them is an everlasting one; it will never disappear” (Isaiah 56: 5). All the more so regarding those meriting to have children, but not as many.

How to Count People

There is also a difficult problem in counting people since by referring to a person as a number it diminishes him; it ignores his uniqueness, his absolute value, and the image of God within him. We also learned in the Torah that the counting of people is liable to cause a plague, as it is stated: “When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life. In this manner, they will not be stricken by the plague when they are counted” (Exodus 30:12). We have also found that in the days of King David as a result of an improper counting, a judgment was decreed against Israel and approximately seventy thousand people died in a plague (II Samuel, Chap. 24).

Rather, the Torah commanded that when the Israelites were to be counted, each one would give half a shekel as an offering to Hashem, the coins would be counted, and thus, they would know how many people there were. In this way people themselves are not counted, because they have no number; rather, their subsequent actions are counted, which is permissible. Even the counting itself must be performed in holiness and for Heaven’s sake, as an offering to the Mikdash (Holy Temple), and to fulfill the commandment of Israel’s wars in the number of soldiers fit to go out to the army in the Chumash Bamidbar.

When Israelites are counted in this way, namely, their sacred appearance and not themselves, the count elevates them, and “raises their heads”, as stated in our Torah portion: “Take the sum (literally, ‘raise the heads’) of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by families following their fathers’ houses” (Numbers 1: 2), and also in the following Torah portion regarding the sons of Levi it ​​is said: “Make a count (lit., ‘raise the heads’) of… the children of Levi by their families, according to their fathers’ houses. From the age of thirty until the age of fifty, all who enter the service, to do work in the Tent of Meeting” (Numbers 4: 2-3).

A Letter from the Government to Women with Several Children

In conclusion, it is interesting to mention the 100 Lira grant awarded by the Israeli government during the early years of the State of Israel to every mother who merited giving birth to ten children. One hundred Lira in those days was worth a few months’ salary.

The letter attached to the grant read: “In honor of Mrs. __ the Government of Israel hereby sends you a check for 100 Lira – in recognition and encouragement of a Jewish mother who gave birth and raised ten children. May you merit raising them to Torah, work, and good deeds, for the homeland and the nation, and may your hands be strengthened. D. Ben-Gurion.” I received a copy of the letter from a man whose late grandmother was honored to receive the grant.

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

Kabbalah and its Meaning

There is nothing in the world that does not hold within it a hidden side – from the inanimate formed of atoms, to the deep-layered soul of a man * Some reveal the layers of depth by means of crises, but with the help of Torah and Mitzvot they can be reached in the best and most moderate way * For most of the world, the ‘sod’ is revealed gradually, except in righteous Tzaddikim like Rashbi * By virtue of his connection to the ‘sod’, Rashbi believed that Torah scholars do not need to work for a living, and even refused to compromise with the Roman monarchy * Even though the majority of Sages accepted the balancing of the ‘sod’ and the present physical world, unique individuals such as Rashbi illuminate creation

The Sod

To understand the value of Torat Ha’Sod (the hidden, or secret Torah, also known as Kabbalah), it must be explained that there is nothing in the world that does not have a hidden side. Even a stone that appears to be lifeless and inert contains secrets about the structure of matter, composed of tiny particles that are constantly in motion. All the more so in regards to flora and wildlife. Above and beyond that, coded in man’s mind and emotions are sodot (secrets) that even the deepest person cannot fully reveal. For example, a person decides to choose a profession for himself believing that it was because of his interest in the profession. Years later, upon delving deeper, he finds that there were deeper reasons connected to values ​​he had adopted in his youth, and after delving deeper, he finds even more profound reasons, sometimes related to his parents’ upbringing, or to that of his grandparents. And even after realizing this, he understands only the relatively superficial secrets, because within them lies even deeper and more hidden sodot. Sometimes when the deep reasons are in certain contradiction with the obvious reasons, all of a person’s choices fail, and he cannot understand why. The more a person understands his sodot, the better he will be able to direct his life.

Secrets of the Torah

In order to understand the depth of the sodot, it is not enough for a person to delve into himself, he must understand the deep secrets that drive the entire world, of which he himself is only one link. This is what Torat Ha’Sod deals with. Since these sodot are very deep secrets, above and beyond simple consciousness, explaining them is difficult. Therefore, most of the sages of Kabbalah used allegories composed of “worlds”, sefirot (spheres), and partzufim (personas). There are some Gedolim (eminent Torah scholars) like Rambam, who explained the profound secrets they discovered through their deep Torah study in a different way. Nevertheless, no great Torah scholar fails to search in every issue the deep foundation upon which it lies, and this principle is the beginning of the sod.

The Distance between the Sod and Ordinary Life

It is not by chance that a person is usually unaware of his sodot. They contain awesome powers that, if suddenly exposed, would cause him to collapse. The more one establishes himself and his self-confidence, in his mind and emotions, he is able to understand deeper and more awesomely glorious sodot. The sodot also encompass an abyss, such as the complexes and dark desires Sigmund Freud described, and without proper training someone exposed to the sodot is liable to be sucked into the abyss, and lose his faith in God and himself. Therefore, the deep ideas are sodot that have a large influence, nevertheless, are concealed so as not to interfere with the course of life. However, it is impossible to block the sodot, and thus, they are revealed gradually. When we choose well, following the path of Torah and mitzvot, they are revealed in a positive and balanced way. When we do not choose good, they are revealed in a negative way giving rise to crises, which then require great repentance or suffering in order to restore them for the better.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

The majority of the Sages of Israel tended towards the middle path, which reconciles between the sod and the revealed, between the ideal and the difficulties found in this physical world. However, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi, for short) was so closely connected to the sod, that he was unable to compromise with revealed, everyday reality.

The Livelihood of Torah Scholars

In Rashbi’s opinion, a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) should only study Torah, without worrying at all about making a living, seeing as he is connected to the Torah by which God created His world, and by means of learning Torah in depth and detail the world is elevated to its perfected state in which man does not need to work – he would already be worthy to receive blessings and parnasa (livelihood) in one way or another, without having to work.

Therefore, when Rabbi Yishma’el stated the opinion accepted by most of the Sages of Israel, that even talmidei chachamim must conduct themselves with derech eretz (earn a living) and be involved in yishuvo shel ha’olam (concern for the needs and development of society), Rashbi replied: “Is that possible? If a man ploughs in the ploughing season, and sows in the sowing season, and reaps in the reaping season, and threshes in the threshing season, and winnows in the season of wind, what is to become of the Torah? No; but when Israel performs the will of the Omnipresent, their work is performed by others, and when Israel does not perform the will of the Omnipresent, their work is carried out by themselves…Not only that, but the work of others is also done by them” (Berachot 35b).

The conclusion of the majority of the Sages of Israel is that, although l’chatchila (ideally), before the sin of Adam Ha’Rishon (the first man) there was no need toil in work – after the sin, part of our tikkun (perfection) is achieved through working (see, Kiddushin 82b). This is what Abaye said: “Many have followed the advice of Rabbi Yishma’el, and it has worked well; others have followed Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and it has not been successful.” This is how Raba instructed his students, to work during the months requiring a great deal of work in the fields, so that during the rest of the year they would be free to study Torah (Berachot, ibid).

And although Rashbi’s approach did not suit the reality of this physical world, miracles were performed for him, and he did not have to forsake his studies in order to earn a livelihood.

The Attitude of Our Sages to the Rule of the Gentiles

The Jewish Sages have traditionally pursued a middle path, taking into consideration the difficulties of our present world. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, though, pursued absolute and ultimate truths. Concerning foreign rule, our Sages, in an attempt to prevent confrontations between Jews and the empires which ruled over them, taught that Jews must pray for the peace of the kingdom, “for were it not for the fear thereof, men would swallow each other alive” (Avodah Zara 4a). Only when the kingdom forced the Jews to betray their religion and there was no other choice, did they advocate rebellion.

In accordance with Torat Ha’Sod, Rashbi understood the central place of Israel in the world – that God imbues life to the world on their behalf, and that even during their exile the world continues to exist owing to them, as Rashbi said: “Come and see how beloved are Israel in the sight of God, in that to every place to which they were exiled the Shechinah (Divine presence) went with them” (Megillah 29a). Through Torat Ha’Sod, Rashbi connected to complete faith, to segulat Yisrael (uniqueness of Israel) and belief of Redemption, and maintained that it was permissible to provoke the wicked in this world (Berachot 7b).

Out of his adherence to Torat Ha’Sod, he was unable to tolerate the seeming reality in which the wicked ruled Israel, as related in the Talmud (Shabbat 33b) that once a discussion took place between three Sages regarding the kingdom of Rome. Rabbi Yehudah bar Ilai chose to emphasize the positive aspects of their regime, while Rabbi Yossi preferred to remain silent. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, though, could not bear hearing praise for such an evil kingdom. He retorted, “Everything they built, they built for themselves: They built market places in order to place prostitutes there; bathhouses, in order to refresh themselves; bridges, in order to collect taxes.”

When this discussion became known to the Romans, they decreed: “Rabbi Yehudah, for praising us, shall be promoted; Rabbi Yossi, for remaining silent, shall be punished through exile; Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, for speaking out against us, shall be put to death.” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai fled and hid in a cave with his son – his wife providing them with food and water. The Romans pursued them with all their might, until finally they were forced to hide in a different cave which no one knew about. There, a miracle occurred: a carob tree sprouted up, and a natural spring began to flow, sustaining them for twelve years until they were informed that the emperor had finally died, and his decrees were nullified.

By then, as a result of their study in the cave, Rabbi Shimon and his son had become so elevated in Torah that when they came out they were unable to bear the sight of mundane worldly endeavors. Every place upon which they set their eyes was set aflame. They had to return to the cave for an entire year to delve deeper in Torah until they could understand the true value of this world. Having achieved this, they came out (Shabbat 33b).

A Path Suitable for Individuals in Which All Benefit

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s approach is unsuitable for the general public, and halakha follows the opinion of the majority of the Sages of Israel, namely, that one should not rely on miracles, the limitations of the world must be taken into consideration, and in times of distress, the lenient opinion of halakha should be applied. Since this is the halachic ruling of the majority of our Sages it is proof that this is God’s will – that we act to perfect the world while taking into account the reality of life in this world.

Nevertheless, there is great value in the existence of an eminent Torah scholar who lived his life uncompromisingly and in accordance with absolute values, who rebelled against the curse decreed upon mankind as a result of the sin of Adam Ha’Rishon, who clung to the Torah with great diligence, relied on miracles, and was assisted by God. By way of such individual Torah scholars, magnificent light from the eternal world appears in our physical world – from the vision of Israel’s redemption.

This is the reason why the nation of Israel hallowed and revered Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai for his devotion to the Torah and the faith of Israel.

Towards the Sabbatical Year

By the grace of God, towards the upcoming Shemitah (Sabbatical) year 5782 (2021), the Ministry of Agriculture, under the leadership of Minister Uri Ariel, has increased its support for farmers who plan to refrain from working the fields during Shemitah. The plan is that every farmer who intends to observe Shemitah is required to deposit a certain sum each year, and alternatively, the State will guarantee a double sum of money. A farmer can set aside up to ninety thousand shekels, and alternatively the State will allocate one hundred and eighty thousand shekels. With this sum of money, farmers will be able to subsist during the Sabbatical year. There is an additional plan for orchard owners requiring funds to preserve trees during the Sabbatical year.

Since next week is the last week in which one can join the program, it would be fitting for every farmer able, to join the program and observe the Shemitah. For more information, please call ‘Birkat Ha’aretz’: 02-531-9070, or 054-8509970.

All agree that this is the best way to observe Shemitah. As I explained in “Peninei Halakha: Shevi’it ve’ Yovel” (11:1), increase of the State’s support for farmers observing Shemitah is the best practical way by which it is possible to gradually progress towards full observance of Shemitah.

On the other hand, ‘Otzar Beit Din’s approach provides no solution, but in practice complicates things, rather than advancing them. Therefore, in the case of not observing Shemitah, it is preferable to work within the framework of the ‘Heter Mechira’ than by means of ‘Otzar Beit Din‘, both because the leniencies of the ‘Heter Mechira‘ are broader than those of ‘Otzar Bet Din‘, and also because the ‘Heter Mechira‘ is more beneficial for yishuv ha’aretz (the settlement of the Land of Israel) (ibid, 7:10-14; 8:8).

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

Lag B’Omer and Weddings

Although many Sephardim marry only from the 34th day of the Omer, and until then observe all the customs of the Sefira, there are differences of customs among the different communities – and therefore whoever marries on Lag B’Omer has a halachic authority to rely on * Among Ashkenazic Jews there are also different customs, but the majority usually marry from Lag Ba’Omer, and the machmirim only avoid large joyous occasions during the rest of the Sefira days *  In general, in cases of doubt, it is better not to delay marriage * A moving story about the heroism of spirit that Rabbi Steiner related on Yom Ha’atzma’ut at an event in honor of Minister Uri Ariel

Spiritual Heroism and Minister Ariel

In the book “Ha’Ruach Sh’Gavra al Ha’Dracon” (“To Vanquish the Dragon”) (Feldheim Publishers), the author of the book, Pearl Benisch, tells about the wonderful story of the girls of Beit Yaakov in the Holocaust camps. Despite the great distress and starvation, they were willing to hand over everything they had for the sake of others. A girl was able to give up her only slice of bread which at times was the only food to be had after an entire day of hunger, for another girl – because she was hungrier. One girl gave her last drop of water for the sake of another girl begging for water.

The book tells about Naomi Goldberg, a student in Beit Yaacov from Pavianich, who worked in the kitchen in the Bergen – Belsen camp. There were two kitchens in the camp: one prepared separate food for the prisoners, and the other, regular food for the Germans.

The situation in the camp worsened from day to day. Hunger, thirst, and lice led to the spread of typhus. Thousands died in the plague, their bodies remained lying in the camp. The sick and dying lied on the floors of the barracks. But every evening, “a tall, thin figure towering above them all” appeared. Naomi would walk around the camp with love and compassion. In a bulky apron with bursting pockets she would hide a piece of bread or a potato. From all sides, the sick and hungry whispered to her, “Naomi, Naomi.” She would lean over on her knees, pour a bit of coffee into their hungry and thirsty mouths, feed them a couple of grains of sugar, nourishing them all with her ample smile.

On one occasion, the author writes, she herself felt dreadfully tired. Naomi saw her in the bathroom, looked at her with a frightened face, and then said, “Wait here, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” In no time she returned, with a bowl of cereal porridge hidden under her apron. “Eat immediately,” she ordered, “you look like a walking dead.” It was food cooked for the Germans, and Naomi risked stealing it under their noses. “I have never done this before,” she said, “but I can see you urgently need food.” Naomi would never dare steal food for herself, but to save someone else’s life, she was willing to risk her own life.

Naomi Goldberg z”l survived the camp, immigrated to Israel, and established her home in Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi. One of her son’s is Minister Uri Ariel.

This story was read by Rabbi Chaim Steiner shlita, at the Har Bracha Yom Ha’Atzma’ut celebration, attended by some of the pioneers and leaders of the settlements in Judea and Samaria dedicated to Minister Uri Ariel in honor of his longstanding public activity, with humility and dedication, in the renewal of settlement in Judea and Samaria, in his numerous duties including Gush Emunim, settlement, and in his role in the Knesset and government – for the People of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.

Weddings on Lag B’Omer According to Sephardic Customs

Q: I was invited to the wedding of a Sephardic Jew which will be held on the night of Lag B’Omer – according to him, this was the minhag (custom) of his Sephardic community. According to my knowledge, the Sephardic minhag permits marriages only on the day of the 34th of the Omer. Does he have a halachic authority to rely on?

A: Indeed, it seems from the Shulchan Aruch (493: 2), and even more so in the Beit Yosef, that according to the opinion of Rabbi Yosef Karo, it is permissible to marry only from the 34th of the Omer and onwards, but on Lag B’Omer it is forbidden. This is according to the Sephardic tradition, according to which the Gemara (Yevamot 62b) maintains that the students of Rabbi Akiva died until “p’ros Ha’Atzeret“. The word “p’ros” means ‘half’, in other words, half a month before Shavuot. When we subtract fifteen days from the forty-nine days of counting the Omer, there remains thirty-four days remain, in which the students of Rabbi Akiva died, and these are the days we observe the mourning customs. And since part of a day is considered like a whole day, from the morning of the 34th of the Omer, it is permissible to get married and take a haircut (S. A., 591:2). This was the halachic decision in our generation by the eminent rabbis, our teacher and guide Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, ztz”l, and the Gaon Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in his responsa ‘Yabia Omer’ (Vol.3, 26: 4). This was the minhag in the Land of Israel and Syria, as well as in Algeria according to the Tashbetz (1:178), and in a few other communities. In Djerba, they were machmir (stringent) until the eve of Shavuout.

On the other hand, in most of the Sephardic communities, in practice, the custom was to get married already from Lag B’Omer. This was the minhag of many Jews in Morocco, as Rabbi Yosef Mashash wrote in ‘Otzer Ha’Michtavim’ (Vol.3: 1868), and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Toledano (441:1), as well as in Tunisia (Aley Hadas 13:1), in Libya (HaShomer Emet 34:18), and as presented in the books of minhagim from Babylon, Persia, Kurdistan and Bukhara. This was also the minhag in Egypt according to the opinion of Maharikash, and in Turkey, as quoted in ‘Moed L’Kol Chai’ (6: 1), by Rabbi Chaim Palaji.

Thus, anyone who knows that this was the minhag of his community is permitted l’chatchila (from the outset) to get married on Lag B’Omer, and even someone who does not know this was the minhag of his community, b’shaat ha’tzorech (in a time of need) he may rely on those who do so (see, Yabia Omer 5:38).

In any event, since he has a reputable halachic opinion to rely on, he should not be admonished, and certainly it is a mitzvah for his relatives and friends to attend his wedding and make him happy.

The Ashkenazi Minhag during Sefirat Ha’Omer

The custom of Ashkenazi Jews, which was prevalent in Eretz Yisrael during the times of the Old Yishuv, incorporated several traditions. The major customs of mourning continue until Lag B’Omer, and some of them continue afterwards. This, according to the masoret (tradition), that the plague stopped on Lag B’Omer, but the students whose illness began before Lag B’Omer, died afterwards until Shavuot (Maharal, Chiddushei Aggadot to Tractate Yevamot, 62:2). Thus, they fulfilled the two traditions, first, that the plague lasted throughout Sefirat Ha’Omer, and second, that it ended on Lag Ba’Omer.

Therefore, Ashkenazim do not take haircuts, celebrate weddings, play music, or dance until Lag B’Omer. Afterwards, however, they refrain only from weddings and very joyous affairs. From the beginning of the month of Sivan, marriage is permitted, because the joy of Shavuot, already evident from the beginning of the month of Sivan, cancels the mourning.

Another reason: during the Crusades and the Chmielnicki Massacres of 5408-5409 (1648-49), hundreds of thousands of Ashkenazi Jews were killed, and these murders occurred mainly during the latter part of the Omer period. Therefore, Ashkenazi communities refrain from large celebrations during this period.

Some Ashkenazim were accustomed to observe 33 days of mourning from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the eve of Shavuot, and the basis of their custom is based on the opinion that one should observe 33 days of mourning, no matter if it is at the beginning or the end of the counting of the Omer, and since at the end of the Omer it is more appropriate to mourn, that is when they would observe the customs of mourning.

In practice, however, today many Jews who made aliyah from Ashkenazic countries are lenient, and hold marriages from Lag B’Omer onward, and only large happy occasions that are optional in nature are avoided until Shavuot. One may act accordingly l’chatchila, because weddings are a great mitzvah, and thus, in any safek (doubt) the halakha should be decided according to those poskim who are of the opinion that it is permissible to marry. In addition, we have learned in the Talmud (Moed Katan 8b),  that one of the reasons our Sages forbade marriages during Chol Ha’Moed was in order not to postpone the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation), for if marriages were permitted on Chol Ha’Moed, people who intended to get married before the holiday would prefer to postpone the marriage to a time when everyone was off from work and more people could participate in their joy, and they could even save money by combining the festive meals of Chol Ha’Moed and the wedding together. Thus, we see that delaying marriage is something that should be avoided, and therefore when there is a safek, people should be instructed according to the minhag that marriage should not be postponed.

Microwave for Meat and Dairy Use

Q: Can a microwave be used for both meat and dairy foods?

A: The same microwave can be used for dairy and meat foods, if a separation between them is made. In such a separation, two things should be noted: first – not to place dairy and meat foods directly on the same plate, and second – a great deal of moisture from the cavity of the microwave should not enter the food being heated up.

Therefore, one should be careful not to place foods on the permanent plate of the microwave, rather, dairy foods should be placed on a chalavi plate and meat foods on a basari plate, and these plates should be placed on the microwave plate. In addition, a plastic lid should be set aside for dairy foods, and another one for meat dishes. And although a large amount of steam may come out of the openings of the plastic lid, the moisture does not have the ability to accumulate on the walls and on the roof of the microwave and absorb flavor; kal v’chomer (all the more so), such steam does not have the ability to release flavor that might have been absorbed in the walls of the microwave, and enter the food being heated.

Also, one can determine that the normal state of the microwave is chalavi, and if he wants to heat basari food, place an additional plate on the permanent plate or some other separator, and cover the meat dishes in a container or wrap them in a bag. And when the microwave is chalavi, l’chatchila, even parve food one wants to eat with basari foods should be covered.

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

Birth Builds the Country

The sanctity of Independence Day – by virtue of observing the mitzvah of settling the land, sanctifying God’s name, and salvation from our enemies • Anyone who does not admit that the State of Israel saved the Jewish people from secularization and assimilation – is ungrateful towards God and Zionism • It is fitting to visit the new settlements on Independence Day, and even more appropriate to dedicate the day to studying about the People, the Land, and Redemption • Inheritance of the Land is contingent on the fulfillment of the mitzvah of procreation • In the days of Yehoshua, the Nation of Israel found it difficult to inherit the land because of a lack of people • Today as well, if we strengthen the birthrate, the State of Israel’s situation will improve immeasurably

The Three Sanctities of Israel Independence Day

Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israel Independence Day) is crowned with three sanctities:

1) The mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel). At the time of the proclamation of the establishment of the State, the Jewish people returned to observe the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, whose main point is for the Land of Israel to be under Jewish sovereignty (Ramban, Beit Yosef, Bach, O. C. 561; M.A. 1, M.B. 2).

2) The sanctification of the Name of God in the eyes of the nations – through the fulfillment of the words of the Prophets who prophesied about Israel’s ingathering to their Land, as it is written: “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24), and in numerous other verses. Our Sages said: “The Ingathering of the Exiles is as great as the day upon which the heaven and earth were created” (Pesachim 88a). And as Rabbi Abba said: “There is no clearer sign of the End of Days than this verse: ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are soon to come” (Ezekiel 36:8) (Sanhedrin 98a).

 

3) The sanctity of the saving of Israel from their adversaries, for on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the People of Israel were rescued from slavery to liberty, from enslavement to foreign rulers with all that entails, to political independence. As a result, the Jewish people were also saved from actual death to life, for until then we were unable to defend ourselves against our enemies who persecuted us, but since then, with the grace of God, we defend ourselves and are victorious.

Spiritual Salvation

Some people find it difficult to rejoice on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut because they accept the falsehood that the Zionist movement caused the abandonment of Torah and mitzvot. However, the truth is the exact opposite. Although many disbelievers operated within the framework of the Zionist movement and one of their goals was to secularize the nation, in practice, thanks to the Zionist movement and its activities on behalf of the ingathering of the exiles, the Jewish people were saved physically and spiritually.

Secularism was caused due to many reasons – mainly because of the difficulty in dealing with enlightenment and modern society. Aliyah (immigration) to Israel was not the source of the problem, but rather, the solution. Consequently, in all Diaspora communities the percentage of assimilation and secularism is immeasurably greater than in Israel. Anyone who refuses to see this, and slanders the State of Israel, is an ingrate – unthankful for the goodness God has bestowed upon us, and unappreciative towards the activists of the Zionist movement over the generations.

Therefore, despite weaknesses and occasional wrongdoings by Ministers and Prime Ministers, all the same, our joy and thanksgiving for Yom Ha’atzma’ut remains firm and valid, for all three sanctities of the day have not changed.

The Mitzvah to Set a Yom Tov over Salvation

It is a mitzvah to establish a Yom Tov (holiday), to rejoice and praise God, on a day Jews were delivered from distress. This is what prompted the Rabbis to establish Purim and Hanukkah as eternal holidays. Even though it is forbidden to add mitzvot onto those already written in the Torah, nevertheless, on a day in which Jews were delivered from distress, it is a mitzvah to fix a day of joy and thanksgiving. The Rabbis derived this from a kal va’chomer (a logical inference): When we left Egypt and were delivered from slavery to freedom, God commanded us to celebrate Pesach and sing praise to Him every year; all the more so must we celebrate Purim, when we were saved from death to life (according to Megillah 14a, and also explained by Ritva, ibid).

The Chatam Sofer explains that since this mitzvah is derived from a kal va’chomer, it is considered a Biblical commandment. However, the Torah does not give detailed instructions exactly how to observe the holiday. Therefore, one who does anything whatsoever to commemorate the salvation fulfills his Biblical obligation; it was the Rabbis who determined we read the Megillah, prepare a festive meal, send portions of food to others, and give charity to the poor on Purim, and light the candles on Hanukkah (Y.D. end of 233, O.C. 208).

Establishing a Yom Tov on Yom Ha’atzma’ut

Thus, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate headed by the foremost Rabbis of Eretz Yisrael at the time – lead by two of Israel’s illustrious Torah scholars – Rabbi Herzog and Rabbi Uziel, established Yom Ha’atzma’ut as a Yom Tov. This was also the opinion of the majority of Rabbis in Israel.

Similarly, the illustrious Gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Roth, wrote in his responsa ‘Kol Mevaser’, that it is a mitzvah to establish a Yom Tov on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, explaining this obligation based on RambanRitva, and other Rishonim and Acharonim. He clarifies that this is not in violation of bal toseef (“You shall not add”), for the prohibition against inventing a holiday refers only to holidays that do not commemorate a salvation. Based on the kal va’chomer, however, we are obligated to institute holidays that commemorate salvations.

Israel’s Custom for Generations

This is not a new minhag (custom) introduced for Yom Ha’atzma’ut, rather, this was the practice of numerous Jewish communities who instituted days of joy in commemoration of miracles that happened to them. Many of them used the name Purim in reference to these days, such as ‘Frankfort Purim’, or ‘Tiberias Purim’. Some communities had a custom to partake in festive meals, to send portions of food to one another, and to give charity to the poor (see Maharam Alshakar 49, M.Aand E.R. 686; Chayei Adam 155:41; Yaskil Avdi, vol. 7, O.C. 44:12).

Reciting Hallel

Since one is obligated to thank and praise God for the miracles He performed on our behalf, consequently, it is a mitzvah to recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the day we were delivered from the greatest trouble of all – that of exile and subjugation to foreigners, which caused all of the terrible decrees and massacres we suffered for nearly two thousand years.

Similarly, the Talmud states that after the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, “the prophets among them enacted that the Jews should recite Hallel for each and every time, and each and every trouble – may it not come upon them! – and when they are redeemed, they should recite it in thankfulness for their redemption” (Pesachim 117a). Rashi explains that according to this, the Sages of the Second Temple era enacted the recitation of Hallel on Hanukkah (this is also explained in Yerushalmi Pesachim 10:6, Shemot Rabbah 23:12, and Megillah 14a).

The Gaon, Rabbi Meshulam Roth, wrote that it is a mitzvah to recite Hallel with a blessing, and this is our custom. Nevertheless, there are Gedolim (eminent Torah scholars) who, owing to various concerns, instructed to recite Hallel without a blessing, and those wishing to do so have a valid source to rely upon. However, those who believe that one should not thank God for the establishment of the State of Israel and all the positive things which occurred as a result of it have no halakhic basis to rely on, deny the goodness of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and distance the Redemption (Sanhedrin 94a).

Torah Study on Yom Ha’atzma’ut

As in all of Israel’s Yamim Tovim (holidays), it is a mitzvah to set a time for Torah study on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. There are two main reasons for this. First, in days in which holiness is revealed, this sanctity must be expressed by the study of Torah, which is the highest and most exalted mitzvah. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “Shabbat and Yom Tov were given solely to study Torah on them” (y. Shabbat 15c). Second, each day has its own character, and it is a mitzvah to study Torah concerning affairs of the day. As our Sages said, “Moses laid down a rule for the Israelites that they should enquire and give expositions concerning the subject of the day — the laws of Pesach on Pesach, the laws of Atzeret (Shavuot) on Atzeret, the laws of Chag (Sukkot) on Chag” (Megillah 32a).

Four Levels in Celebrating Yom Ha’atzma’ut

In addition to the thanksgiving prayers and festive meal, there are four various levels of celebrators on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

The lowest level is going out to a park and having a barbeque. Although such actions are devoid of spiritual content, nevertheless, if the participants are happy about God’s salvation of His People – their festive meal can be considered a se’udat mitzvah.

On the second level are those who tour sites where the rebuilding of the State of Israel’s can be observed, such as national industries, museums about the history of the settlement of Israel, and military bases.

The third level are people who take trips to visit the communities in Judea and Samaria, to observe the continuation of the settling of the Land, and recite the blessing “matziv gevul almana” (“Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sets a limit for a widow”). Concerning a settlement that one has visited previously, although thirty days have passed since one’s last visit, the custom is not to recite another blessing. However, if in the meantime, more houses were built in the community, a blessing should be recited.

The fourth and highest level are those who study Torah on Yom Ha’atzmaut, dealing with subjects related to the mitzvah of settling the Land, the mitzvah to serve in the army in order to protect the nation and the country, and matters connected to Clal Yisrael and the Redemption. Together with this, they enjoy a festive meal, accompanied by thanksgiving and happiness for the salvation we merited in the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Ingathering of the Exiles.

Yishuv Ha’aretz and the Mitzvah of Puru u’Revuru

One of the important subjects that should be dealt with on Yom Ha’atzma’ut is the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation), by means of which Israel inherits the Holy Land, as it was said to our forefather Yaacov: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13-14).

When Israel was about to enter the Land, the Divine instruction was to inherit only the western side of the Jordan, despite the fact that the eastern side of the Jordan River is part of Eretz Yisrael and had already been conquered,  as explained in the Torah portion ‘Massey’. This was because the ‘Dor HaMidbar’ (the Generation of the Desert) despised the Land of Israel and was negligent in the mitzvah of puru u’revuru, and consequently, during the forty years of wandering in the desert, they did not continue to multiply and increase as they did in Egypt. This created a situation in which there were not enough people to properly inherit the eastern side of the Jordan as well (see, Ramban, Numbers 21:21).

The price paid for not having enough Jews to settle all of the Land of Israel was that our enemies remained, and the Torah’s warning, “If you do not drive out the land’s inhabitants before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the land that you settle” (Numbers 33:55), came to fruition.

The State of the Country Depends on Birth

About 120 years ago, at the time of the establishment of the Zionist movement, all the Jews of the world numbered approximately 12 million. The number of Arabs living in all the regions surrounding Eretz Yisrael, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, was similar. The Arabs in Eretz Yisrael on both sides of the Jordan numbered only a few hundred thousand. Had the Jewish nation merited immigrating in millions to Eretz Yisrael, our situation today would have been immeasurably better. However, we failed to do so, and in the meantime we were thrashed through the Nazi holocaust, Communist annihilation and assimilation, and today the number of known Jews worldwide is approaching 14 million, while the Arabs surrounding us number more than 200 million.

 

And yet, the future is in our hands. If we strengthen ourselves in this mitzvah and give our children a good education, within a few generations we will be able to make up for what we have lost. God-willing, I hope to expand on this in my next column. (If one of the readers is a historiographer who can help by providing accurate data on the number of Jews and Arabs in the past and present, I would greatly appreciate it).

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