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.

From Out of the Ashes: Increase and Multiply

The memory of the Holocaust must be leveraged for rehabilitation and progress, especially as long as the public commemorates Holocaust Day in the month of Nisan, which is not a time for grief, but of building * The Jewish people have not yet reached its numerical dimensions before the Holocaust – instead of 18 million Jews, today only a little over 14 million are known as being Jews * Therefore, as many Holocaust survivors say, in response to our murderers we must encourage birth * The education system should inform students about the physical and emotional benefits of raising a family, and teach how to establish large families despite all the challenges


The Appropriate Dates for Holocaust Remembrance

The date chosen for Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), the 27th of Nisan, was in opposition to the opinion of the rabbis. Nisan, the month the Jewish nation left Egypt, is a month of happiness. Therefore, the halakha was determined that for the entire month of Nisan, prayers of supplication are not recited and public fasts are not declared (S.A., O.C. 429:2). At funerals which occur during the month of Nisan eulogies are not said. Many people are custom not to visit gravesites during this month, and one who has a yahrtzeit in Nisan visits the gravesite before Rosh Chodesh. True, after Pesach some mourning customs of the Counting of the Omer are practiced, in memory of Rabbi Akiva’s students, but these days are not particularly days of sorrow or grief.

Therefore, it was apparently inappropriate to fix the painful Holocaust Remembrance Day in the month of Nisan, and as long an alternative day is not chosen, the proper time to remember the Holocaust are the days declared as fast days over the destruction of the Temple, primarily Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), because all of the tragedies which befell the Jewish nation since then are rooted in the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel from its Land. The Chief Rabbinate chose the fast day of the 10th of Tevet as the time to say Kaddish (mourner’s prayer) for those whose dates of death are unknown.

Not to withdraw from the Public who perform a Mitzvah

At the same time, it is correct not to withdraw from the general public, which on this day fulfills a great mitzvah to remember the six million Jews, elderly men and women, fathers and sons, boys and girls. This mitzvah is based on many mitzvot, including the mitzvah ‘ve’ahavta l’reacha kamocha‘ (‘you must love your neighbor as you love yourself’), which obligates every Jew to feel a sense of brotherhood towards every other Jew, and to honor those who died with a eulogy. All the more so, it is a holy mitzvah for each of us to honor and eternally commemorate our six million fellow Jews who were murdered al Kiddush Hashem (for the sanctification of God) just because they were Jews. In commemorating the six million, we also strengthen ourselves in the observance of mitzvot dealing with war, to protect Israel from its foes, for by remembering the Holocaust we will be vigilant against our enemies, just as the mitzvah of remembering Amalek is meant to encourage Israel to stand guard against its enemies.

A Day to Encourage the Expansion of the Jewish People

In any event, inspired by the days of Nisan, during which we were redeemed from Egypt, it would be appropriate to leverage Yom Ha’Shoah in the month of Nisan in the direction of rehabilitation and momentum, with emphasis on life that the kedoshim (holy Jews) commanded us, in the sense of “And when I passed by you, and saw you weltering in your blood, I said to you, ‘In your blood shall you live! Yes, I said to you, in your blood shall you live!” (Ezekiel 16:6). A day in which the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation) is raised on high.

This, most likely, was the last request of the six million who were brutally tortured and murdered – that any Jew who remained alive, would do everything possible to marry, have children, and carry on the heritage, to fulfill the verse: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they proliferated and spread.” This is what the survivors living amongst us tell us, that with every grandson and granddaughter born to them, they defeat the cursed Nazis.

Yom Ha’Shoah for Generations

The issue of how to commemorate Yom Ha’Shoah has yet to be decided by the Gedolei Yisrael (eminent Rabbis) – whether to explicitly broaden the meaning of the existing fasts, so as to give more expression to the period of the Holocaust, or to set an additional and specific day of fasting to commemorate it. However, it seems that if the national emphasis on Holocaust Remembrance Day were to be on the growth of the Jewish nation and family values and the commending of families blessed with several children, even according to the spirit of halakha, it would be possible to hold this day in the month of Nisan.

The Sorrowful Numbers

We have not yet recovered. Before the Holocaust, the Jewish nation numbered eighteen million – six million of whom were murdered during the Holocaust. Today, close to 80 years after the Holocaust, we number only a little more than 14 million. During these years the world developed and flourished – many nations doubled and even tripled their numbers. But we, the Jewish people, remain wounded – both physically and spiritually.

Due to the low birth rate and severe assimilation, the number of Jews in all the Jewish communities abroad is shrinking. Only here, in the Land of Israel, are we increasing. Compared to Western countries, our growth is phenomenal. In all economically and scientifically developed countries, the number of children is low, and the number of people is decreasing; only we merit demographic growth, thanks to the deep connection to Jewish heritage and family values ​​rooted in Jewish tradition. Nevertheless, this is not enough to compensate for the terrible loss we suffered in the Holocaust. In order to strengthen the blessed process already existing in Israel, we must delve deeper into the importance of family values and the mitzvot of puru u’revuru.

The Conflict: Freedom versus Family

There are two conflicting movements in Israeli society: family values found in Jewish heritage, versus the secular outlook of the West. The widespread attitude today in academia and secular culture is that freedom, intended to allow an individual to express his unique personality, is the most important value. Family, on the other hand, is a binding, restrictive and suffocating framework. Indeed, a natural desire to establish a family still exists, but in practice, it stands in conflict with the secular cultural point of view. The values ​​of personal freedom also clash with national values, since identification with the nation, with its heritage and its challenges, is restrictive and oppressive for someone whose personal freedom to express his uniqueness is at the center of his world.

Consequently, the Israeli educational system, which is greatly influenced by secular values of freedom ​​promoted by academia, deals extensively with individual rights, tolerance, and democracy. These are important values, but as they are presented from the secular point of view, they clash with the values ​​of family and the nation. Thus, family values ​​are rarely dealt with thoroughly and systematically.

Therefore, it is important to learn and empower family values, which express the importance of love and giving as the center of one’s life. In contrast to the secular outlook which has less faith in true love involving boundless commitment, we must educate and explain that the whole person is one who breaks through his individual boundaries, loves and gives, is committed to his family, his nation, and tikkun olam (repairing the entire world). Freedom and comfort are not the purpose of life. They are important because they give a person an opportunity to choose his unique and appropriate path, but the choice must be in good values ​​expressed in establishing a family with love and loyalty, adding life and blessing to the world.

Discuss Family Issues in Educational Institutions

In the vast majority of schools, including religious institutions, unfortunately, the value of family, love, loyalty, and the mitzvah of puru u’vuru are not dealt with adequately. The challenge of raising a large family and ways of overcoming difficulties involved, are not advanced.

The secular cultural environment creates an atmosphere in which it is unpleasant to talk about such things. In this way, however, educators do an injustice to the students, depriving them of values ​​and information that are so vital to their lives.

In addition to the sacred value of establishing a family, reality also proves that the physical and mental state of married people is generally better, and they suffer less from depression and illnesses. This information should be included in material studied in high schools. Young people should be told that almost all adults who did not merit establishing a large family, in moments of sincerity, regret that they did not try harder to have another child or two. Because when a person views life in a broad, intelligent, and comprehensive way, he realizes that by and large, family is the most important objective in life.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, it would be appropriate to invite grandparents who have been privileged to establish large families to speak in schools about the difficulties and the tremendous satisfaction of having done so, and thus, commemorate the souls of the martyrs who were murdered in the Holocaust.

The Mitzvah of Puru u’Revuru

It is a Biblical obligation to procreate, and every child that parents give birth to, they fulfill a great mitzvah and merit participating with God in the birth of human being, and maintaining the entire world  (Nida 31a; Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5). This is the initial purpose of Creation, for God desired the world be populated, as our Sages said: “And was not the world created for the sake of reproduction” (Mishna Gittin 4:2), as it is written “He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos” (Isaiah 45:18).

Although, without a binding definition, this great mitzvah is liable to be extremely general, to the point where in many cases it would not be implemented properly. This is because marriage is a sensitive and complex matter which depends on the understanding, feelings, hopes and consent of man and woman, and also to a certain extent, parents’ support and economic conditions.

Even after marriage, the general mitzvah leaves many doubts. On the one hand, since the birth of every child is a great mitzvah, some could argue that one child is enough – seeing as he alone is like an entire world – and postpone his birth until the parents are established and experienced. On the other hand, since the mitzvah is so immense and important, perhaps an effort should be made to have as many children as possible.

Consequently, in addition to the general idea of the mitzvah, the Torah set a basic and binding definition, and our Sages added and set more fences to give the general idea a clear and binding character.

The Extent of the Mitzvah

Our Sages determined that the mitzvah to marry is up to the age of 20, and at the latest until the age of 24, and today, l’chatchila (ideally) this is the general instruction (Peninei Halakha: Simchat HaBayit u’Birchato 5: 7-12).

There are three levels in the fulfillment of the mitzvah: 1) The Torah obligation to have a son and a daughter. Even when conditions are difficult, it is necessary to make a great effort to fulfill the obligation, including using accepted medical means, such as in vitro fertilization.

2) It is an obligatory mitzvah from Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance) to strive to have four or five children. In other words, ordinary parents who are not particularly ill, physically or mentally, are obligated to fulfill the rabbinical mitzvah to have four or five children.

3) It is a hidur mitzvah (an enhancement of the mitzvah) to have more children, according to the parents ability. In other words, for parents who know they can raise more children and instruct them in the ways of Torah, mitzvoth, and Derech Eretz, it is a mitzvah for them to continue having children according to their ability. However, if they know that with more children their burden will be too heavy, and their lives will be filled with anger and nervousness, it is preferable for them not to fulfill the hidur mitzvah, because even though with each additional child they fulfill a mitzvah, conversely, in their bad mental state they will transgress other prohibitions, and this is liable to have an adverse effect on the education of the children.

Not only that, but those who wish to turn their energies to other valuable channels, in a way that will not leave them strength to raise more children, are also entitled to do so (Peninei Halakha: Simchat HaBayit u’Birchato 5: 4-6).

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

Freedom from Fashion and Materialism

The Egyptian nation represented materialism and enslavement to the body, and consequently invested resources in the pyramids and mummification of the dead, and exploited slaves for pleasure and gratification * To this day courageousness is required to free oneself from enslavement to materialism and not to submit to the dictates of society * On the holidays, including Chol Ha-Moed, one should dedicate half the day to Torah study, an attribute also required for freedom * Some Pesach laws: which medicines require kashrut certification * One should not eat or possess a food looking similar to chametz, if there is no distinguishing mark that it is kosher for Pesach * Thanking God for the most blessed winter since 1992

The Prohibition of Eating Tiny Insects and the Exodus from Egypt

All forbidden foods are called tameh’im (unclean), and eating them defiles the soul and seals it from absorbing holiness, as our Sages said, the word tumah (ritual impurity) comes from the language of timtum (dulling of the heart) (Yoma 39a). The tumah in the prohibition against eating shratzim (tiny insects) is especially grave, as it is said: ” Do not make yourselves disgusting [by eating] any small creature that breeds. Do not defile yourselves with them, because it will make you spiritually insensitive. For I am God your Lord, and since I am holy, you must [also] make yourselves holy and remain sanctified. Therefore, do not defile your souls [by eating] any small animal that lives on the land. I am God, and I brought you out of Egypt to be your God. Therefore, since I am holy, you must [also] remain holy” (Leviticus 11:43 – 45). Our Sages said: “The Holy One, blessed be He, declared, ‘Had I brought up Israel from Egypt for no other purpose but this, that they should not defile themselves with shratzim, it would be sufficient for me” (Bava Metzia 61b).

The Egyptian Nation and Materialism

In order to understand the connection between the prohibition of eating shratzim and the Exodus from Egypt, it should be noted that the distinct characteristic of Egypt was materialism. Their pagan outlook was one of extreme materialism. They did not believe in the existence of an independent spiritual soul, but rather, thought the soul was dependent on the existence of the physical body, and enslaved to it. They went out of their way to embalm the body of the dead, because they believed the whole existence of man depended solely on his physical existence; even when he died, and could not move or speak, in all other respects he still existed. That is why they made tremendous efforts in building pyramids, which are in effect glorious cemeteries for the body. From their extreme desire for materialism, the Egyptians achieved remarkable material and organizational achievements – some accomplished with the help of Yosef Ha’Tzadik – in creating stable governmental systems, a well-developed irrigation system, and a sophisticated economic structure.

Their desire for materialism led them to impurity, namely, the separation of spiritual and moral values, to the point where that in order to accumulate money and pleasures, they turned free people into slaves, and in order to satisfy their physical lusts, violated the covenant of loyalty between man and wife in all forms of adultery. This is what the Torah meant when it commanded “Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived” (Leviticus 18: 3). Our Sages said that there was no other nation in the world whose actions were more abhorrent than the Egyptians, in prostitution and incest, to the point where “the ways of Egypt” are described as: “Men marrying other men, women marrying other women, and one woman married to two men” (Maharal, Gevorot Hashem, Chapter four).

The Nature of Shratzim

In light of this, it can be explained that shratzim represent materialism, seeing as they do not exhibit any special character traits, rather, all their vitality and diligence is focused on the most material objective: attainment of food and reproducing, which is the meaning of the word “shratzim” – namely, to eat and multiply. To this end, they pollute themselves by means of all disgusting things in the world, and wherever rotting and death exists they infest, and even eat the body of man. True, such vitality has a basic existential need which also has an important place in the world, and this was Egypt’s virtue – and on account of this virtue, it is said about the Israelites in Egypt: “The Israelites paru (were fertile) and va’yishratzu (prolific), and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7).

Israel however, being a holy nation, are obligated to transcend and elevate reality from the impurity of Egypt, and commanded not to eat shratzim that express repulsive materialism, so they can reveal Divine value in every detail.

Inspired by the theory of evolution, about which Rabbi Kook said it contains aspects corresponding to the “secrets of the world of Kabbalah”, one can imagine that in the process of Creation, the shratzim preferred to relinquish numerous qualities – provided they could continue reproducing. At first, they were created large, but when asked what they would prefer – to preserve their uniqueness, or to shrink and receive more food, they chose to become smaller. And thus, each time asked, they preferred to lose their identity and be reduced, so they could adapt their bodies to obtain as much food as possible, until in the end, they became despicable vermin. And although this existential will has its place, God commanded Israel to transcend the impurity of Egypt – the impurity of servitude to materialism, in order to bring redemption to the world (Orot HaKodesh II, ‘Hit’alut Ha’Olam, paragraph 19).


The first prerequisite for redemption is the courage to be freed from servitude. Therefore, at the beginning of the process of the redemption of Israel from Egypt, we were commanded to take a lamb which was considered an idol in the eyes of the Egyptians, and to sacrifice it, and spread its blood on the doorposts. This was done as a sacrifice to God, for true redemption can only be achieved by faith in God. In essence, every human point of view stems from servitude to certain individuals or to a particular lust, and only by attachment to Hashem our God, who is above and beyond any definition, can we escape all types of servitude.

Today’s Korban Pesach: The Way One Dresses

For example: a person dresses in clothes in which he believes he will look good. However, if we delve deeper, we find that the concept of looking good is dictated by those who are considered successful. Consequently, sometimes it is difficult for a man to wear a kippa, because the most successful people in the world do not wear a kippah. And at times it is difficult for a woman to cover her head, and wear halachically modest clothing because those considered successful do not dress that way.

The willingness to sacrifice the gods of fashion, and to adhere to ways of beauty revealed in Israel’s age-old traditions, which employs all the beautiful trends of the world, but does not compromise to them, is today’s continuation of the bravery of the korban Pesach, and is the prerequisite for redemption and freedom – to choose to continue the word of God in the world.

Torah Study on the Holiday

However, faith and courage without Torah cannot bring redemption, and this is what our Sages said: “There is no free man except one that involves himself in Torah learning” (Avot 6: 2). This is the main goal of the holidays and Chol HaMoed, on which work is prohibited, so that Jews may engage in Torah in the light of kedushat ha’Chag (holiness of the holiday). And the mitzvah is to divide the times of Shabbat and holidays, half for Hashem, and half for you, “half for eating and drinking, and half for Torah study in the Beit Midrash” (Pesachim 68b). If this is the case on Yom Tov, when it is a mitzvah to arrange large meals lasting a significant amount of time, all the more so on Chol HaMoed, one should  devote at least half a day to Torah study (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1: 5-6).

From the mitzvah to divide the day into two parts, half to Hashem and half to ourselves, we learn something important – that the two parts complement one another. The part of Torah study should also be done with joy, learning interesting matters that add blessing and vitality, with family members or friends, and also the part where we engage in eating, drinking, and taking trips should be filled with content of value.

Kashrut for Medicines on Pesach

Flavored medicines, like syrup, lozenges, or chewables require kashrut for Pesach. And as long as they are not known to be kosher, they should not be eaten. Only someone who is dangerously ill, and his medicine does not have a good substitute, is permitted to eat it, because pikuach nefesh (saving life) overrules the prohibition of eating chametz.

However, if the medicine is bitter or tasteless it does require a hechsher (kashrut certification), because even if it was originally mixed with chametz that was fit to be eaten, since now it is not fit as food even in a shaat dachak (time of stress), because it is even rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption, it is no longer considered chametz.

Nevertheless, some meticulously observant people try to avoid even bitter medicines that contain chametz. They show concern for the opinion of the few poskim who maintain that medicine is not considered unfit for animal consumption since we deem it significant, and it is thus rabbinically prohibited. However, halakha goes according to the opinion of the majority of poskim, who permit a person to swallow a medicine that is not fit for eating without checking it first (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8: 7).

It should be added that the chances of medicine containing chametz are very low, even more so today, since many people are sensitive to gluten, and pharmaceutical companies do not mix grain ingredients in medicines without reason, rather, they prefer substitutes without gluten.

Do Not Possess Chametz-like Products

Some manufactures produce Pesach products that look similar to chametz products, such as wafers, cookies and rolls. However, while they do not contain chametz, as long as they appear similar to chametz products, one should be careful not to eat them on Pesach, or even keep them together with Pesach food products, lest they come to err and eat similar chametz foods, as has already happened with these products in past years. Only if a significant change has been made in the shape of the wafers or cookies can they be eaten.

A similar source for this can be found in the decree of our Sages not to bake chalavi (dairy) or basari (meat) bread in an amount eaten for more than one meal, lest one forgets the bread is chalavi, and comes to eat it with meat. If one erred and did so, our Sages decreed the bread is forbidden to be eaten (Pesachim 30a, b). If the shape of the bread is changed in such a way that members of the household will understand its’ halakha is different, and ask whether it is chalavi or basari, it is permitted. However, such a sign does not permit the baking of chalavi or basari bread to be sold, lest there be people who will not notice the sign. Only when a clear sign is made where everyone understands that this bread is either chalavi or basari, is it permitted, such as a pita with yellow cheese or a strip of meat on it (Pesachim 36a; S. A., Y. D. 97:1).

Appreciation for the Rains

With the grace of God, this year we merited receiving 942 mm of rain, with the yearly average being 620 mm – in other words, 152% of the yearly average. Since the year 5752 (1992), there has never been such a blessed winter. The rains that descend on Gav Ha’Har in the Shomron area are especially blessed, since they are all absorbed in the Mountain Aquifer, the largest and most qualitative water reservoir in Israel.

In the entire country, from Hebron and northwards, rainfall exceeded the yearly average, whereas in the north and center of the country, the average was 120 to 140 percent, and in some places, 160 percent.

The rains were divided this year in a fabulous way throughout the season, so that they quenched the earth and were beautifully absorbed into the surface and underground water reservoirs.

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

The Selling of Chametz

The sale of chametz began due to the distress of whiskey merchants in Europe * After the rabbis established the sale of chametz for merchants, the custom expanded to the general public * Today, the sale of chametz is essential for the marketplace, and for the food industry * Despite the claims that this is a fiction, the vast majority of poskim rule that the sale is valid * In principle, every individual may sell all chametz, but ideally, it is recommended to use the sale only for doubtful products, or to prevent a significant financial loss * Since it is possible to sell chametz in situations of uncertainty, many halakhic questions can be avoided * According to halakha, chametz that was sold is permitted to be eaten after Pesach

The Roots of the Sale of Chametz

By midday of the fourteenth of Nisan, every Jew must have disposed of the chametz in his possession. In the past, Jews would plan their food purchases and their meals so that by Pesach they would have finished consuming any chametz foods and thus not have to dispose of large quantities. They would leave only a small amount of chametz with which to fulfill the mitzva of bi’ur chametz in the best possible manner: by burning it.

However, occasionally one’s plan would backfire and he would find himself possessing a large quantity of chametz when Pesach arrived. In such a case, if he did not mind losing the chametz, he could burn it or give it as a gift to a decent and deserving gentile. If he did not want to lose the value of his chametz, he could sell it to a gentile before Pesach, since, as long as the prohibition has not gone into effect, it is permissible to sell the chametz and receive its full value. The prohibition against deriving benefit from chametz goes into effect on the sixth hour on the day of the fourteenth of Nisan, and until that time it is permissible to sell the chametz.

This was especially important for food merchants who would remain with large stocks of chametz before Pesach and had no choice but to sell to a gentile, in order to avoid great financial loss. Even if a gentile could not be found who was sincerely interested in buying all of the chametz, our Sages teach that it is permissible for a Jew to say to a gentile, “Even though you do not need so much chametz, buy all of my chametz for the full price, and if you want, I will buy it back from you after Pesach” (based on Tosefta Pesachim 2:7).

The Problem of Whiskey Merchants

About 400 years ago, many Jews living in Europe began to support themselves through the production and sale of whiskey. This was because the barons, the landowners, would often contract Jews to manage their affairs, and it was common for them to lease their distilleries and inns to Jews in exchange for a fixed price and/or a percentage of sales. This whiskey, which was made from barley and wheat, is considered chametz gamur (absolute chametz, in which the leavening process has been completed). To prevent the great financial loss that would come each year with its disposal before Pesach, it became necessary to sell it to a gentile before Pesach and buy it back again immediately thereafter, in order to continue selling the whiskey as usual.

How the Practice of Selling Chametz Spread

Over time, rabbinic leaders noticed that the sale was sometimes carried out improperly, leading to serious problems. If the sale is improper, the chametz remains in the possession of the Jew, and with every hour that passes he violates bal yera’eh (the prohibition against chametz being seen in one’s possession on Pesach) and bal yimatzei (the prohibition against chametz being found in one’s possession on Pesach). Additionally, it is forbidden to derive benefit from such chametz after Pesach, and it must all be completely destroyed. Therefore, rabbinic authorities began to oversee the sale of chametz, in order to ensure its proper sale. Seeing that the sale was being carried out in an orderly manner, other Jews began to participate in the transaction, in order to save their own chametz from being lost. This is how mekhirat chametz began to spread and become increasingly common.

The Sale is Essential for Manufacturers and Dealers

In recent generations, new storage methods have been introduced that allow us to preserve food products for long periods of time. As a result, food manufacturers and dealers are in constant possession of large inventories of food, and they need to sell their chametz before Pesach in order not to lose the value of their stock. Moreover, if food manufacturers were to make a point of exhausting their entire inventory before Pesach, it would take days and even weeks to restock and market their products, and in the meantime, they would lose business. Even if no competitors were to seize the opportunity, it would cause a great inconvenience to buyers, who would be unable to purchase chametz foods during the weeks after Pesach. Therefore, factory owners, food chains, and stores sell all of their chametz to a gentile before Pesach, and as soon as Pesach passes, they buy it back again and remarket it.

Claims against the Sale

However, about four hundred years ago, some of the Gedolei Yisrael, foremost the author of ‘Tavu’ot Shor‘, who himself was a whiskey maker, claimed that mekhirat chametz was not a real sale, but merely a fiction. In the first place, it is clear that after Pesach the chametz will return to the Jew. Moreover, no sales tax is paid to the government on this sale. Thirdly, in a normal sale the buyer pays for all of the chametz and physically takes it into his possession, but here the gentile neither pays the full price, nor takes the chametz with him. In addition to the principle claim that this is not a sale but a fiction, they also argued about the manner in which the sale was actually performed, such as the acquisition was not performed according to halakha, or that it was done with a gentile who did not understand its legal ramifications.

In practice, some poskim wrote that only in extreme situations, in order to prevent a significant loss, it is permissible to rely on the sale. Some even instructed not to rely on it at all (Gaon from Vilna).

The Rabbis’ Consent to Rely on the Sale

Nevertheless, the opinion of the vast majority of poskim is that mekhirat chametz may be relied upon and is as valid as any sale. By law, the gentile can refuse to sell the chametz back to the Jew after Pesach, consequently, it is a bona fide sale, not a fiction.  Nevertheless, in order to avoid even the appearance of a fiction, the rabbis made a practice of being very meticulous about all details of the sale. Since there are different halakhic opinions regarding the proper mode of purchase when a gentile buys from a Jew, the rabbis are careful to execute the sale using all forms of acquisition, so that it is clear that the sale is effective according to all opinions. In addition, they make sure that the sale is effective according to state laws as well (see MB 448:17, 19, and BHL ad loc.).

Every Jew, before selling chametz, should read the authorization contract he will be signing, so that he understands that he is empowering the rabbi to sell his chametz, and that the sale is absolute. Nonetheless, if instead of reading the contract one simply relied on the rabbi, the sale is valid, for, if the gentile comes during Pesach to take the chametz, and the rabbi tells the Jew that the chametz indeed belongs to the gentile and that he must give it to him, the Jew will do so.

A Proposal to Strengthen the Matter

It would be fitting for the Chief Rabbinate, together with the television networks, to randomly select ten people each year who sold their chametz to a gentile, and film the gentile knocking on the door of the Jew’s house when coming to pick up the chametz he had bought, and the response of the members of the household. If there was an argument, the rabbi who mediated the sale would be brought in. They would then estimate the extremely low price the gentile must pay as determined in the sale, seeing as the sale is done at floor prices – as normal for products already found in one’s home – and conclude the story with the gentile eating some of the food and taking the rest home. Thus, on each day of Chol Ha’Moed, two visits would be arranged. By doing so, the understanding that the sale is indeed valid would be strengthened.

Is the Sale Intended for an Individual?

In principle, anyone may sell his chametz to a gentile via the mekhirat chametz organized by his local rabbis. He may do so even if he only wishes to sell a small amount of chametz – for example, a package of pasta – because once it has been sold, the Jew no longer violates the prohibitions relating to chametz.

Some are stringent and prefer not to rely on mekhirat chametz since it appears fictitious: the chametz remains in the Jew’s house, the gentile will almost certainly not come to take it, and the Jew resumes eating the very same chametz as soon as Pesach is over. According to these poskim, it is only possible to sell chametz in order to prevent a great loss; concerning a small loss, one should not sell his chametz, in order to avoid possible transgression.

A Recommendation for All – Sell Uncertain Products

Nowadays, all are advised to participate in mekhirat chametz, because some food products and flavored medicines may contain small amounts of chametz, and they should not be destroyed just because of this possibility. On the other hand, these must not be kept because they may actually contain chametz. Therefore, to avoid all doubt, the best thing to do is to sell them. Similarly, there are those who maintain that one who has money invested directly or indirectly in stock of companies that produce chametz must sell these shares before Pesach. Consequently, all chametz sale documents include clauses regarding stocks and shares in these types of companies.

Concerning chametz gamur, people are advised not to sell insignificant amounts of chametz, so as not to use the mekhirat chametz for small needs. However, when a significant loss is involved, it is permitted, even le-khatchila, to sell the chametz.

Not to be Meticulous about Questions Concerning Uncertain Chametz

There are people who, because of their concern about the opinion of the stringent poskim who claim the sale is a fiction, wish to avoid it as much as possible. As a result, they often bother rabbis with various questions: first, about all the products in their home that do not have kashrut for Pesach – are they considered actual chametz or uncertain chametz, and whether they should be sold or not. Second, after they realize they contain uncertain chametz, whether their value justifies relying on the sale.

However, there is no point in bothering rabbis with such questions, for today, the sale is designed to resolve them. In other words, any uncertain product should be included in the sale.

When is it Permissible to Use Chametz after Pesach?

After Pesach, it is best not to use the chametz that was sold until one can assume that the Chief Rabbinate has bought it all back for all. When necessary, though, one may take out some chametz immediately after Pesach with a willingness to pay the gentile for it, were he to request this. It is best that the beit din make an explicit condition with the gentile that the Jew will be obligated to pay for any sold chametz he takes, if the gentile so desires. Thus, there will be no question about the Jew taking chametz immediately after Pesach.

Chametz That Was Sold – The Stringent Poskim, and the Halakha

Some people are strict and do not eat chametz that was sold because, according to stringent poskim, such a sale is not legitimate and this chametz has the status of chametz she-avar alav ha-Pesach (chametz that belonged to a Jew during the holiday), which one may neither eat nor derive benefit from.

In practice, however, one need not be concerned about complying with this stringency, because the prohibition of chametz she-avar alav ha-Pesach is rabbinic, and whenever there is uncertainty about a rabbinic law, halakha follows the lenient opinion. This is all the more true where only a small number of poskim are strict, while the overwhelming majority permit. Indeed, there were eminent rabbis who, after Pesach, would make a point of eating chametz that had been sold through mekhirat chametz, in order to demonstrate that the sale was done in keeping with halakha.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. For a further study of the laws of Pesach and its meanings, Rabbi Melamed’s “Peninei Halakha: Laws of Pesach” can be found at: