HOLY AND SECULAR: "Help Me in My Troubles"
- by Rabbi Amichai Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School
Just as I was leaving my car, the announcer began a curious monologue. It was a little before eight o'clock in the morning, and my radio was set to Reshet Gimmel, a station which proudly declares that it broadcasts only Israeli music. "I have my doubts whether I should share this with you," she said, hesitating. "Dozens of times this week I received a new song in e-mail which is not being broadcast on the radio. I listened to the song, and it is very bad and even repulsive. It is at a very low level, and its theme is callous and crude." After giving some details about the song, she continued, "Compared to this terrible song, every other song that is broadcast appears as if it comes from the Tanach."
At the end of her speech, the announcer said, "Now, in order to clear the air from this filth, let us listen to the new song, 'To you, my G-d'." And beautiful music came from my radio, as a liturgical poem written by Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra filled the air, sung by Meir Banai.
"To You, my G-d, goes my passion, my desire and my love is for you / My heart and my kidneys are yours...
I will moan for You and I will not be silent, to light up my darkness...
I will shout to You, I will be attached to You, until I return to the earth...
Royalty is Yours, exaltedness is Yours, it is good to praise You / You provide help at a time of trouble, help me in my troubles...
What am I, what is my life, what power do I have / As a straw in the wind, pushed here and there, how will You remember my sins...
Let the hidden light before You be my hiding place and my dwelling / Let my place of dwelling be under the shadow of Your wings."
* * * * * *
Two phenomena have appeared at the same time in Israeli culture, one ugly and painful and the other pure and clean. The ugly phenomenon is a lack of modesty, a callous shallow approach that is typical of many of today's works of art. The Israeli media are filled with a coarse and shallow approach. This is a wide ranging phenomenon which includes shameless advertisements, insensitive songs, and ridiculous television programs.
The other phenomenon is the remarkable way that creative artists are coming closer to the roots of Judaism. There was a time when the name of G-d was heard mostly in terms of denial ("He never... commanded us" and "No miracle happened to us", and so on) or in a cynical way ("The prophet Yechezkel was a whopper of a prophet" and "He didn't intend for it to be dark"). But now G-d's name appears in an honest and blessed way, expressing complete and direct submission to Him.
A prominent musical critic claimed that the words of the above poem, "You provide help at a time of trouble, help me in my troubles," are as powerful as the request, "Put me under your wings and be a mother and a sister for me." But in the previous generation, in such songs as the second one, "Put me under your wings," the desire for a safe haven referred to love between a man and a woman. Today this type of love does not appear in our culture, and a request for a haven is more likely to be addressed to the Almighty, who is great and powerful. The desire for contact with G-d is becoming stronger and stronger.
These two phenomena are connected. The shallow approach that has appeared in some of our culture highlights the need for a higher level of values and meanings. The announcer on Reshet Gimmel demonstrated this link in a remarkable way. It was her disgust and revulsion of the shallow culture that led her to connect an ancient liturgical poem to today's Israeli society.
* * * * * *
"Our generation is wonderful," Rabbi A.Y. Kook wrote more than a generation ago. The people of his time were instilled with ideals that kept absolute truth hidden from them. Today, idealism has withered, and our generation has been left with an empty spirit. It is not at all surprising that our generation is in pursuit of meaning and significance. The conclusion is that the current generation is wonderful too.
The shallow approach to which Israeli culture has descended has led to an opportune moment to search for depth and greater meaning. Will we succeed in helping Israeli society find its way back to true Jewish traditions?
A CHASSIDIC THREAD : Internal Vision Instead of External
- by Rabbi Shlomo Shok, teacher in Yeshivat Siach and Nokdim Prep-school
If eyeglasses had been invented when Yaacov grew old, he could have bought himself a pair for reading and distance vision and solved his problems: "And Yisrael's eyes became weak with age, so he could not see" [Bereishit 48:10].
Did the invention of spectacles bring only good? Don't they provide a mixture of good and evil, just like everything that was created ever since the sin of Adam and Chava?
When I found that the letters of what I was reading were blurred, I bought a pair of eyeglasses, and the letters once more became my faithful friends. But aside from the nose and the ears on which the glasses rest, I asked myself what would have happened if they had never been invented, so that as we reached a more advanced age we would not always be able to read the letters in front of us.
Not that we would no longer be able to see, G-d forbid, but perhaps because of our limited vision we would read less. Then we might pay more attention to the knowledge that we had already gained in the past when our eyesight was stronger and younger.
In the tractate of Yoma, the Talmud explains that Yaacov's eyes became weak since he had sat in a yeshiva and labored over the study of Torah. We can say that external vision plays a decreasing role as compared to internal vision, which enhances as the years advance. Eyes see whatever crosses their path, but internal vision can see beyond the physical.
At this stage in his life, Yaacov has reached the high point of his age, which gives him a possession of wisdom and blessings, and he therefore immediately blesses Efraim and Menasheh and then his other sons. His view to far distances even makes it possible for Yaacov to reveal the end of days to his sons. It is true that the Talmud writes that he was not permitted to reveal the end, but this implies that his vision was clear enough for him to do so if it had not been forbidden. He could indeed see what cannot be seen from the outside.
When the Torah teaches us that we must not follow the direction of our eyes, perhaps it is telling us not to allow our eyes to be our main guides.
I walk great distances.
I leave in determination again and again.
In the morning I will arrive before the rising sun.
What is the point of arriving before the sun rises? It is sometimes a good thing to see a beautiful sunrise. But there are times of darkness as at the break of dawn, when it is still not possible to see. And then we can perhaps see internally what we cannot see externally.
HALACHA FROM THE SOURCE : What is the Definition of "One Type of Food"?
- by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion
Last week we saw that "borair" – selection – is permitted on Shabbat when there is only one type of food, meaning that it is permitted to pick out the large or the small pieces of a single food, and other similar actions.
What is the definition of a "single type" of food? Terumat Hadeshen writes that if two types of fish have different names they are considered as two different foods. This was also accepted by the RAMA (319:3). On the other hand, they both allow choosing large pieces out of smaller ones if both types of fish are taken together, as if only one type of fish were present (since the person does not differentiate between them, they are considered a single type of food).
The Pri Megadim gives the following definition (319:5): Anything which differs in name or in taste is considered as two different foods. He compares this to the case of reciting the blessing of "Shehecheyanu" for new food, which must be repeated for every different food (225). In this case, Magen Avraham writes that the blessing is repeated only if the two foods differ in name or in taste (225:10).
This then means that fresh and dried fruit (such as grapes and raisins) and cakes made from different ingredients must be considered two types of food, since their names and preparation are different.
The Maharil writes that it is forbidden to select large pieces of matza which were not ground well from matza flour (quoted in the TAZ 319:2). The TAZ brings this as a proof of his approach that borair of a single type of food is prohibited. However, as noted, we are lenient in this matter and rule that there is no prohibition of borair for a single food. How then can we explain the ruling of the Maharil? The Pri Megadim explains that the larger pieces are considered as a different type of food because matza balls can only be made from the finely ground matza (see also Eglei Tal and Torat Shabbat).
This implies that there is another general rule which we have not yet stated: If the same basic type is used in more than one way, the two alternatives are considered two different types. (See Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata 3:27, referring to flat plates and soup bowls, a knife and a fork, and clothing for Shabbat and for a weekday).
Two foods that are made from one basic type but differ in a small and insignificant way are not included in the prohibition of borair. This is because they are not considered a mixture but rather a single food, such that separating them is not a significant act. Some examples: One is allowed to separate very fresh bread from other bread that is not as fresh (although still edible). The same is true for hard and soft fruit (as long as both the hard and the soft are edible) – one is permitted to separate the desired fruits from among a mixture. One is also permitted to separate well cooked meat from tougher pieces (which are edible) even if the selected meat will not be eaten immediately.
It is also permitted to check the dates on cups of yogurt, in order to separate the freshest ones and either eat them first or put them aside for later use.
In summary: The prohibition of borair does not apply for a single type of food (or other objects), and therefore small pieces can be chosen from a multi-sized mixture, even if the selected material will be put aside for later. However, if there is a different use (fork and knife), a different taste or name (white and dark bread, various cakes) the act of selection is prohibited. If one type of food is only marginally edible, selection is prohibited by a rabbinical decree, but if both are edible the preferred one can be separated.
2 - MACHON MEIR
MACHON MEIR http://www.machonmeir.org.il/english/main_id.asp?leng=English&len_id=2
From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Faith is pure when it is full of inner emotion without self-deception, and without alien intrusions… All the same, whoever is graced with intelligence cannot function without intellectual logic. For him, innocent faith cannot surface unless it is forged with the light of knowledge"
Message for Today:: Come and Listen, Sons of Jacob
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Before his death, Jacob gathers together his sons with the purpose of telling them what is going to happen to them in the end of days, as it says, "Jacob called for his sons. [When they came,] he said, 'Come together, and I will tell you what will happen in the course of time" (Genesis 49:1). Rashi comments, "He wanted to reveal the end of days to them, but the divine presence [and with it, Jacob's prophetic intuition] left him, so and he began to say other things." What were those other things? He said, "Come and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel" (verse 2).
At first he wished to reveal to them all the difficulties and complications and wars that they would face in the end of days, but then the divine presence left him (see Pesachim 56a; Rashi). Instead, he began to talk with them about the salvations and comfort that would be theirs in the end of days, with the ingathering of the exiles and the increased stature of the Israel, alluded to by verse 2.
Our sages, in relating to the divine presence having left Jacob, attribute this to Jacob's having wondered whether there was a flaw in his offspring, the way there was a flaw in sons of Abraham, such that Ishmael emerged from him, and Isaac, such that Esau emerged from him. His sons responded, "Listen, O Israel! Hashem is our G-d, and Hashem is One." Just as in your heart there is only the One, we too believe that Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One." Jacob breathed a sigh of relief and he said, "Blessed is G-d's glorious, sovereign Name forever and ever."
Jacob believed in G-d's Oneness. He possessed a faith that all the complications and difficulties he faced in his lifetime could not undermine. In every time and under all circumstances, he believed in the existence of G-d, whose sovereignty is over all, and whose entire will is to bestow benevolence on us, and he believed that we must cling to G-d's will. He feared lest this faith had not attached itself to his sons. Then, however, they answered him, "Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our fathers – is One."
From then until today, Israel have been proclaiming morning and evening this dialogue between Jacob's sons, who cried out "Hear O Israel," and between the father who joyfully responds, "Blessed is G-d's glorious, sovereign Name forever." We are to continue with the command and promise, "You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, soul and might." We are to love G-d whatever measure he sends us.
Today, how fortunate we are that we are privileged to see with our own eyes the revealed end of days. We are seeing the ingathering of the exiles taking place before us. We are seeing the children continuing to follow in the path of Jacob, returning in their masses to Jewish tradition, and proclaiming morning and evening, "Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is one." The day is not far off when also Rambam's words shall be fulfilled: The Messianic King is going to rise and restore the kingdom of David to its former glory. He will rebuild the Temple and gather in all the dispersed of Israel." (Hilchot Melachim 11:1). Looking forward to complete redemption
Avoid the Forces of Evil
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
Question: In your leaflet of Vayechi, 5767, you wrote about soldiers who are castigated for the very fact of their being soldiers in the I.D.F. As for myself, during my squad commander's course, we were asked to take part in workshops in advance of the upcoming Gush Katif evacuation. Since I refused to take part in simulations of the real event, I was put on trial before the base commander and evicted from the course. I went back to my regiment and carried out military actions with all my comrades. We set ambushes around settlements, blocked roads outside Arab villages, landed via helicopter to carry out military actions, carried out arrests and performed a wide range of activities involving great danger. One day, when I was standing waiting for a ride that would take me in the direction of my base where I serve, a car stopped for me, and the driver said the following sentence to me: "I am heading towards settlement X (right next to my base). I only take civilian hitchhikers and not soldiers."
Obviously I was in uniform with a gun.
I asked him, "Why?" and he answered, "Figure it out yourself." I said to him, "I don't understand," so he said, "Think some more. And if you don't understand, think still more. And if you still don't understand, that's pretty bad."
People who were standing with me on the road were embarrassed for me. They were in absolute shock. "How can such a thing be? How can he do such a thing? It would be one thing if he asked you if you took part in the expulsion, but not to give you a ride just like that?" I exercised restraint. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that apparently he was in a great rush, and I waited for another ride.
Yet I would like to have answered him as follows:
I, who almost every night lie outside your settlement to ambush terrorists, in order to preserve your life and the life of your wife and children –
I, who spent my last Rosh Hashanah in an ambush, lying at an observation point to protect your settlement, making Kiddush over wine that we brought with us in our gun pouch, using challah and honey that we brought with us from the base, while thinking about my own home, my yeshiva, and about an entire range of other things that Rosh Hashanah reminds me of –
I, who in the pouring rain lie in ambush, freezing from cold, wet down to the bone, only so that you can sleep in your warm, pleasant home, safe and calm –
I, who with my platoon spent a rainy night carrying out an arrest in one of the local villages, arresting a terrorist who was planning on committing a terror act in one of the area settlements,
I, who gave up on my dreams of being an officer in the army for the sake of the ideals that you and I both believe in –
Are we brothers, or was that just a dream?
Rav Aviner: Yes, we are brothers, and we have to do all we can to preserve that brotherhood.
“May G-d Make you Like Ephraim and Menashe”
Rabbi Yoram Eliyahu - Lecturer at Machon Meir
In our parasha it says, "On that day Jacob blessed them. He said, '[In time to come] Israel will use you as a blessing. They will say, 'May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh'" (Genesis 48:20). Indeed, there is a Jewish custom for parents to bless their children with this blessing on Friday nights, saying: "May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe." The question is asked: why does Jacob skip over an entire generation and not find among all his sons one who is worthy to be a conduit of blessing?
Some explain that Jacob's sons had grown up in Eretz Yisrael around the tent and beit midrash of Jacob their father. In such an incubator it is no surprise that righteous people of this sort would emerge. Yet Ephraim and Menashe grew up in Egypt, in the home of the Egyptian viceroy. In such an environment it was easy to veer off the path. Yet they both still withstood these tests and emerged righteous. Jacob therefore blessed his sons as follows: even if you find yourselves in difficult situations, facing trials of one sort and another, may you merit to remain righteous like Ephraim and Menashe.
Some explain that from the start of the book of Genesis we find quarrels between brothers, especially when the younger one surpasses the older one in greatness. That is how it was with Cain and Abel, with Isaac and Ishmael, and with Jacob and Esau. Even amongst Jacob's sons brotherhood did not reign between them in their early years. Now Jacob had given precedence to Ephraim over Menashe the firstborn when he blessed them, yet we find no quarrel or rivalry between them. Jacob therefore blessed his sons, saying, "Even if one of you surpasses the rest of his brothers in greatness, let there be no jealousy and hatred between you, but love and brotherhood, as between Ephraim and Menashe."
Why Ephraim Was Given Precedence over Menashe:
When Joseph sees his father place his right hand on Ephraim's head, he tries to lift it up and put it on Menashe's head. Yet the Torah says, "His father refused and said, 'I know, my son, I know." (verse 48:19). The word "refused" [vayima'en] is rare in the Torah, and it recalls the same word's appearance in Parashat Vayeshev. There, when Potiphar's wife approaches Joseph asking that he sin with her, it says, "He refused, and he said to his master's wife" (Genesis 39:8). Is there a direct connection between these two refusals?
In Torah Shleimah, by Rabbi Kasher, we find a quotation from the Zohar – as follows:
"He refused: G-d said to Joseph, 'You refused her advances. I therefore swear that there will be another refusal in the future and your sons will be blessed through it.' Therefore it says, 'His father refused, and said: I know my son, I know.'"
Why Was Joseph's Refusal Responsible for Ephraim Being Given Precedence?
I believe that we can answer this question by way of the Netziv, Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, in his work "Ha'amek Davar" who asks regarding the verse, "Jacob deliberately crossed his hands" (Genesis 48:14): why didn't Jacob switch Ephraim and Menashe, placing Ephraim to his right and Menashe to his left? Why did he prefer to switch his hands? The Netziv answers that all the precedence given to Ephraim over Menashe was only "in spiritual matters transcending the laws of nature". Yet in mundane affairs, in practical matters, Menashe still came first and was still greater than Ephraim. The hand, symbolizing the spiritual side, "serves the brain and the mind, and the foot serves our mundane affairs."
Therefore, from the point of view of the foot – the non-miraculous world – the world of action, Menashe was the greater one, hence he remained on the right side, by Jacob's right foot,. Yet with everything having to do with the hands, the spiritual world, the right hand was linked specifically to Ephraim, for in this he was greater and took precedence. He therefore merited the blessing with the right hand.
In accordance with this we can explain as follows. It is well known that man has physical drives and cravings and sometimes these have exclusive control over him. Joseph, who overcame temptation and did not sin with Potiphar's wife, made it clear that the spiritual side in men is dominant, and that by way of Torah and mitzvoth man can overcome these physical drives. As Joseph said to Potiphar's wife, "How could I do such a great wrong? It would be a sin before G-d!" (Genesis 39:8). G-d therefore says to Joseph, "I swear that by virtue of your refusal, your overcoming your passions and your making your spiritual forces guide your life, you will merit another refusal, that Jacob will give precedence to the spiritual Ephraim who dominates and shows leadership in spiritual matters, and Jacob will place him over Menashe.
It turns out that Ephraim's being given precedence over Menashe teaches us a major principle. The spiritual side in us has to lead and control in our daily lives. Making it take control will bring a person to proper conduct even in his practical and mundane affairs, and he will merit G-d's blessing in everything he does.
3 - NCYI
NCYI Weekly Divrei Torah, From: http://www.youngisrael.org/
Rabbi Shimon Silver Young Israel of Greater Pittsburgh, PA
Sefer Beraishis is called Sefer Ha'avos, the book of the forefathers. Yosef is the only one of the Shevatim whose death is mentioned in both Sefer Beraishis, at the end of this parsha, and in Sefer Shemos, together with the other Shevatim. Some say that Yosef merited being both an Av, fathering two Shevatim of his own, and a Shevet.
It is important to remind ourselves when we read about the Avos and the Shevatim, that they were exceptional people. They were greater than anyone we ever met or any gedolim about whom we heard stories. We also learn that they observed the entire Torah. So much so, that we often find chazal or later commentaries discuss how they fulfilled certain mitzvos. In fulfilling the Torah, they forged the path for the Jewish people. In this light, Sefer Ha'avos is here to teach us their 'story' so that we learn to follow their paths. Each shevet blazed a path for his descendants. Yosef must have some patriarchal qualities that blaze a trail for all of Klal Yisroel.
Yosef is held up as a paradigm of Kibud Av. He was willing to risk his life when Yaakov sent him on the mission to see his brothers. Yet we find in this parsha that he seems to contradict his father! He even gets involved physically, when he switches the hands around. This is almost like ruling in the presence of one's rebbi, punishable by death! He surely realized that Yaakov had something in mind when he crossed his hands. We might say that Yosef had already foreseen what Yaakov was concerned about. He had already rearranged the two sons. Yosef did not realize that Yaakov was not so 'blind' after all. But he could have spoken with more reverence to his father. And why did he switch Yaakov's hands after Yaakov had already given a brocha?
Perhaps we have not read the parsha correctly.
In fact, the Talmud teaches us a reverent way to disagree with a parent or teacher. One should say "Does not the Torah say ...?" or "Did our Rebbi not teach it to us like this?" (Kidushin 32a, Brochos 16b), rather than, "Not so, father! This one is the firstborn! Place your right hand on his head!" The Talmud (Eruvin 67b) discusses a situation where a disciple is in the presence of his rebbi when someone comes with a she'aila. If the disciple thinks his rebbi is ruling erroneously, what should he do? If the issue is Scriptural, the talmid must speak up right away, before the questioner leaves and acts on the ruling. If the matter is Rabbinical, he should let the questioner go and act on the ruling, and then ask his rebbi his question. Maybe the rebbi ruled correctly, and the talmid needs to learn from him the reasoning behind his ruling.
When Yosef first saw Yaakov switch his hands, he understood that Yaakov knew what he was doing. However, he questioned why Yaakov had placed his right hand on the younger son. Yosef did not feel that this matter was equal to ruling on a Scriptural matter. Therefore, he let his father give the blessing first, and questioned him later. After Yaakov had blessed them, Yosef asked Yaakov why he did it this way. Rather than challenge him irreverently, he moved Yaakov's hands, though it was already after the brocha. He then said "Lo chain avi? Is it not this way, father?" referring to the order that Yosef had arranged them. He was saying to Yaakov "Did I not do the right thing? After all, Menashe is the bechor. Why not put your right hand on his head?" By first switching the hands and then asking respectfully, "Is it not so, Father?" Yosef was actually demonstrating the highest ideal in Kibud Av. Furthermore, by waiting to ask until later, he was demonstrating the highest ideal in Kevod Harav.
By no means was he ruling in the presence of his rebbi. Actually, he was wondering himself why Yaakov switched them around. He was hoping for an answer on the lines he was given.
The Torah gives us all the details we need, to learn Kibud Av from Yosef. Unfortunately, we could easily misunderstand the Avos, leaving us with questions and underestimations of who they were. We could also be 'learning' wrong ideas. If we are to learn from and emulate them, we must remind ourselves who the Avos were. This should keep us pointed in the direction of true understanding of the Sefer Ha'avos.