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s - by Shlomo Ilan, Principal of the Environmental School, Netivot

"For in their anger they killed a man, and by their will they uprooted an ox." [Bereishit 49:6].

Who among my readers is not familiar with cats that are constantly jumping out of garbage cans in the street, in the back yard of a restaurant, or even in the back of a hospital? How often have we seen a little boy crying because he has been frightened by a stray dog? The constant increase in the number of stray animals which gather around human society but are not wanted by pet owners is a serious problem both for human beings and for the animals themselves.

From the point of view of man, aside from the panic that these animals can sometimes cause, they add to the spread of garbage from waste bins and to the spread of disease. From the point of view of the animals, about 100,000 dogs are killed every year worldwide, and thousands of cats die from hunger or are run over by cars.

One possible solution to this problem is sterilization, and this is a recommended procedure for preventing disease in the womb and in the udders (cancer of the udders is the most prominent type of cancer in dogs, and sterilization can reduce its prevalence to 1% of the original number!). Sterilization can also prevent various problems of pregnancy and birth, such as false pregnancy, poison due to pregnancy, and infection of the womb. The lack of a period of "heat" is also more convenient for the owners of a female: there is no bleeding and dogs or cats do not gather outside the house. But the most important point is that sterilization prevents the birth of unwanted strays. Thus sterilization and castration are the most efficient way of improving the lot of pets.

In the Shulchan Aruch it is written, "It is forbidden to destroy the organs producing semen both in man and in cattle, animals, and birds..." [Even Ha'ezer 5:11]. In view of this, it is interesting to see the response by Rabbi Aviner to a veterinary, Dr. Ofer Tzadok, which was published in the "dog forum" of Tapuz in April of 2009:

"1. It is written, 'One who sterilizes a female, both in human beings and in other species, is not punished but has violated a prohibition' [Even Ha'ezer 5:11]. This seems to contradict another ruling: 'a woman is permitted to drink a potion that will sterilize her so that she will not have any children' [5:12]. According to the BASH (Beit Shmuel) sterilization is prohibited if it is performed by direct action but indirect sterilization such as drinking a potion is permitted. The BACH writes that sterilization is permitted if it is necessary for medical reasons or to prevent the pain of childbirth, but that it is prohibited if not for a valid reason. Thus sterilization by an operation is forbidden according to the BASH and permitted according to the BACH if there is a special reason, such as pain of childbirth or a medical condition.

"2. On the other hand, there is a question if this is prohibited at all for females among the animals. It is true that the Magid Mishna feels it is prohibited (Rambam, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 16:11), as does the Minchat Chinuch, but the TAZ feels that there is no prohibition in principle to sterilize a female. Rather, the prohibition stems from the fact that the one performing the operation is striking or injuring the person, and this is even forbidden for an animal because of animal suffering. But in this case it would be permitted since it is performed with anesthetics and the animal does not suffer. In addition, it is written in Netivot L'Shabbat that the reason for the prohibition is the injury that is caused, and that even in the case of self-inflicted injury the law is that it is prohibited but

no punishment is incurred, and for this reason drinking a potion is permitted. This implies that there is a prohibition only in the case of a human being and not an animal.

"3. Thus, there is a double level of doubt in this case – perhaps the halacha is according to the BACH, that sterilization is permitted for a medical reason, which applies in this case, or perhaps the reason for the prohibition is to prevent animal suffering, which does not apply in this case because of the anesthetics. Thus this is a double doubt with respect to a rabbinical decree, and it can save animals from repeated suffering. The conclusion is that one who is lenient in this case has a valid opinion to rely on."

It is important to note that Rabbi Aviner added that this ruling also applies to cats.

E-mail: ilanrn@gmail.com

PEOPLE OF YISRAEL: Atoning for the Golden Calf in Jerba

- by Rabbi Uri Dasberg, the Zomet Institute

"And you shall carry me from Egypt and bury me in their burial site" [Bereishit 47:30].

The Second World War did not skip over the island of Jerba, in Tunisia. After the island was captured by the Germans, soldiers appeared at the door of the synagogue one Shabbat morning and ordered the Rabbi, Moshe Kalfon Hakohen, to immediately collect fifty kg of gold from the local Jews. They claimed that the Jews of the island had sent signals to Allied airplanes to bomb the port. The rabbi was threatened and forced to ride with the soldiers on Shabbat to other neighborhoods and help collect the gold. Women removed their gold rings, and people who had been hoarding gold for troublesome times or in order to prepare a wedding for their children were forced to part with their savings. The rabbi managed to collect slightly more than 42 kg and the Germans promised to come back for the rest. But on the following Shabbat the British captured the island. After this incident the rabbi's health deteriorated. Rabbi Kalfon was a Kohen, with a lineage dating back to Ezra the Scribe. It was said that the fact that he managed to collect the gold was a sign that the sin of the Golden Calf and the fact that the people had willingly donated their gold at the time had been forgiven. The Arab who accompanied the Germans and acted as an interpreter for them when Rabbi Kalfon was forced to ride to various Jewish communities later died when he stepped on a mine.

The French governor of the island met his death in a similar way. This was preceded by a visit to Jerba by Rabbi Yitzchak Levi Rabinowitz, from South Africa. Rabbi Kalfon asked Rabbi Rabinowitz to obtain permission for the Jewish community to buy wheat from the farmers in order to bake matzot. The law at the time prohibited private sale of wheat, but the governor promised Rabbi Rabinowitz that he would honor the request on condition that Rabbi Kalfon would also appear before him. When Rabbi Kalfon came, the governor scolded him for having a foreign representative act as an intermediary for the request. A few days later the governor died. When Rabbi Rabinowitz heard, he said, "Speaking harshly to Rabbi Kalfon is forbidden." Rabbi Kalfon was also well known to the Arabs, who considered him a miracle worker.

Rabbi Kalfon wrote many books on the subjects of halacha and agadda, including a five-volume comprehensive book of responsa, "Shoel V'Nishal." He was forced to accept the position of rabbi. When it was first offered to him, he reacted by taking a vow that he would never accept the position. Years later, when he was convinced that the community really needed him, he found a way to cancel the vow. He summarized the halachic principles involved in his book of responsa.

Rabbi Moshe Kalfon passed away on the eighteenth of Tevet 5710 (1950), sixty years ago. He yearned for his entire life to move to Eretz Yisrael, he his poor health prevented him from doing so. He was one of the founders of "Ateret Tzion," a Zionist organization supporting Aliya, the institutions in the land, and the use of Hebrew. In his book "Geulat Moshe" from the year 5680 (1920), he suggested practical proposals for establishing a country. For example, he proposed buying steamships in order to bring Jews from all over the world for tours of the land, so that the people would return to their homes and publicize the idea of Aliya. The army that was necessary for the defense of the land he calls "the association responsible for finding the necessary soldiers and army battalions." After his death his desire was fulfilled, and his bones were brought to Israel for reburial five years ago.

Words of Torah by our Subject:

"And he said, who are these two? ... They are my sons, whom G-d gave to me in this place" [Bereishit 48:8-9].

How could Yaacov not have known them, hadn't the two brothers been coming and going in his presence for years? The answer is that usually they had been coming to him in normal modest clothing. But now they came with Yosef, the viceroy of the country, and he gave them royal Egyptian clothing to wear. Yosef understood the implied reprimand in his father's question, and he replied, "They are my sons, whom G-d gave to me in this place." He thus explained that they wore royal clothing since they were born in Egypt after Yosef came to power. Yaacov thanked him and accepted what he had said, and he therefore responded by saying, "bring them to me and I will bless them" [48:10]. [Yad Moshe, volume 1].

GUEST COLUMN: Open Descent and Hidden Ascent

- by Rabbi David Gavrieli, Head of Neve Dekalim Hesder Yeshiva, Ashdod

We stand full of amazement with respect to the generation in which we live. On one hand, we clearly see the wonderful process of redemption, with the gathering in of the distant exiles and our rejuvenation in our land. But on the other hand we see a great spiritual decrease in comparison to previous generations. How do these two processes exist together?

Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin asked a similar question in this week's Torah portion: "At first glance, in terms of logic, since Eretz Yisrael is the holiest place in the entire world, it would have been most appropriate for Yaacov to enhance his holiness in the holy land and not in the impure land of Egypt, with its people, who were the most contaminated in the whole world." [Pri Tzedek, Vayechi 1].

This question becomes even stronger in light of Rabbi Tzadok's explanation (based on the Zohar, Vayechi, 116b) of why the Torah explicitly notes how many years Yaacov lived in Egypt: "seventeen years" [Bereishit 47:28]. Even if the Torah had not given us the number it would have been obvious, since we are told that Yaacov came to Egypt at the age of 130 and died at the age of 147. That is, he was in Egypt for 17 years! Why did the Torah write this explicitly?

Rabbi Tzadok explains that Yaacov's life was not considered a life until he went to Egypt, since he was in sorrow, as is written, "I was not calm and quiet, and I was tormented" [Iyov 3:26]. Only after Yaacov arrived in Egypt did he return to having a "life," as is written, "And Yaacov lived" [Bereishit 47:28]. Thus, the final seventeen years retroactively gave meaning to his earlier years. And that is the reason that he enhanced his holiness in Egypt even though it was a land of impurity.

This explains why this portion begins without any space to separate it from the previous one. In general the space between different portions would give Moshe an opportunity to look in depth at the difference between them. But in this case the matter is very deep and cannot be understood by a human being, and this is symbolized by the lack of a space in the text.

Rabbi Tzadok ends his commentary as follows: "In any case we are taught in this matter that we should not be discouraged by the fact that the levels of the souls are decreasing – and how can we expect the redemption to come? ... I heard in the name of the holy rabbi of Parshischa that even if the souls are decreasing in level in every generation the central point of the heart is becoming more and more pure in every generation."

Rav Kook defined this phenomenon as involving the greatest issues in the world, based on the sanctity of the mystic secrets of the Torah. He wrote as follows: "It is a great principle that even though the world continually decreases in level, this is only external. That is, the deeds and the traits descend and go below the level of earlier generations in terms of individual souls. But from the internal point of view, that is, the overall general sanctity of the nation, the community of Yisrael rises in each and every generation over the previous ones, because sanctity builds up... Therefore, the totality of the nation in its internal state becomes more filled with the light of G-d than it was in the past. But this will not be revealed to the naked eye until our Mashiach comes, hopefully in our day..."

Just as Yaacov began to "live" when externally he appeared to be in exile and in spiritual descent, so our wonderful generation is alive in the midst of an external view that blocks the internal state from view. Perhaps this is a way of preventing "attacks" from those who would delay the process.

In the current times, it is necessary for us to put our faith in the great internal strength of the nation of Yisrael, even though from an external point of view the situation seems not to provide much hope.

A CHASSIDIC THREAD: Large Networks full of Holes

- by Rabbi Shlomo Shok, teacher in the Nokdim Prep-school

"To be on the network" means that we want to be involved in all the possible encounters in our lives. We would like to be "in control." We find it difficult to accept facts in our lives that turn their backs on us, that remove from us any possibility of control even with respect to our own lives.

It often happens, for example, that we beg our body not to be sick (after all, the next day we are scheduled to participate in a field trip). And we continue to beg until our body makes a decision (meanwhile, we remain at home). Our spirituality also often takes on an independent attitude which is suited to our current needs, especially when our surroundings want us to be in a happy mood.

This is also true of life systems that are external to us. Who remembers the small grocery store that has disappeared from the neighborhood? The large supermarkets have completely swallowed it up! The desire to take control over everything else, in a big way, is "the new hope."

Our small attempts and those of the large systems to "network" do not take into account one fact: every net has holes, and these constitute the largest area of the net. Therefore, in our attempt to network our lives "perfectly" we can expect that our desire to expand will fall into some black hole, which will lead to delays and disappointment.

"Once there was an artist who was born with a discerning eye and a wise heart that gave him the ability to draw many things. One time he drew a garden which had fruit trees in it. People saw his drawing and praised it. One time a person came to the artist and praised him, and he added a proof that he had seen with his own eyes. Birds which had passed the painting did not realize that it was a drawing, and they pecked at the picture in an attempt to pick the fruit off the trees.

"The man thought that this praise would make the artist happy, but that is not what happened. Just the contrary – the artist responded with a deep sigh. If you were right, the guards that I placed near each tree would be so impressive that the birds would have been afraid of them. Since the birds did not pay any attention to them, it is clear that I failed in my drawing." [B'eir Hachassidut, Rabbi Bunam].

The fruits were a great success, but the guards were not drawn as well. The artist declares that he has failed, he gives a deep sigh, and in this way he falls into the black hole of the unfulfilled "network."

To be free ("ben chorin") is to fall into the holes ("chorim") and to continue in any case to the next drawing. It is to know that in this world every large network has large holes.


- by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion

"My G-d, the soul that you gave me is holy..." Why doesn't this blessing begin with the word "baruch" – You are blessed?

The blessing appears in the Talmud, where it is noted that it should be the first blessing recited in the morning. "When one wakes up he says: My G-d, the soul which You gave me is pure, You created it within me, You breathed it into me, and You maintain it within me. And You will take it from me and return it to me in the future. As long as the soul is in me I give thanks to You, my G-d and the G-d of my fathers, Master of all the worlds and Master of all the souls. You are blessed, He who returns the souls to dead bodies." [Berachot 60b]. We have noted in the past that today we do not recite this blessing first because our hands are not pure. Rather, we begin the day with "Modeh Ani" and delay the recitation of this blessing until after we have washed our hands.

Blessings usually begin with the words "You are blessed." This is true of "Asher Yatzar," which we discussed in recent articles. This is the rule given in the Talmud: "All the blessings begin with 'baruch' and end with 'baruch' except for blessings on fruit, blessings over the mitzvot, and blessings that closely follow another blessing" [Berachot 46a]. That is, if a blessing is immediately preceded by another one that ends with a phrase starting with "baruch," this can then be considered the beginning of the new blessing. But if that is the rule, why doesn't "Elo-hai Neshama" begin with the phrase "You are blessed?"

The Tosafot explains that this is a blessing of thanks, and "Since it only consists of thanks it does not begin with baruch" [ibid and Berachot 14a]. Other early commentators felt that this blessing should indeed be recited after another blessing that ends with baruch, which will serve as the beginning of this blessing. For example, the ROSH wrote, "In the morning one should not pause between Asher Yatzar and Elo-hai Neshama because the reason that it does not start with baruch is that it is close to the first blessing." [Responsa rule 4:1].

The Shulchan Aruch rules according to the Tosafot. "Elo-hai Neshama does not start with baruch because it is a blessing of thanks, and blessings of thanks do not start with baruch" [6:3]. In spite of this, the Mishna Berura and others write that it is best to recite Elo-hai Neshama immediately after Asher Yatzar, taking the approach of the ROSH into account.

Why should the Blessing be Recited after Asher Yatzat?

In principle it would seem that Elo-hai Neshama can be recited close to any other blessing too, but it seems that there is good reason to recite the two blessings together. This is the opinion of the ARI ("Sh'ar Kavanot"). It is also implied by the beautiful words of the GRA: "The blessing Elo-hai Neshama was established, related to the soul, and Asher Yatzar involves the body. And this is why the early rabbis placed Elo-hai Neshama immediately after Asher Yatzar." [Biur Hagra 4:1]. That is, we recite a blessing about our souls immediately after a blessing about our bodies.

Summary: It is best to recite Elo-hai Neshama immediately after Asher Yatzar, although in principle it can also be recited independently, since it is a blessing of thanks and therefore is not required to begin with the phrase, "You are blessed."


Based on the Yismach Moshe edition of the Commentary by Or Hachaim, as summarized by Boaz Ofan

Yaacov's Extra Soul

This week's Torah portion starts with, "And Yaacov lived in the Land of Egypt ... and the days of Yaacov were..." [Bereishit 47:28], and then immediately, in the second verse, the name is changed to Yisrael. "And the time for Yisrael to die approached... And Yisrael bowed down at the head of the bed." [47:29,31]. Later, during the blessing of Menasheh and Efraim, the names change once again. "And Yisrael strengthened himself and sat on the bed... And Yaacov said, El Shadai appeared to me in Luz..." [48:2,3]. The same is true of the blessings of the tribes: "Gather around and listen, sons of Yaacov, and hear your father Yisrael" [49:2].

On the other hand, from the time that Yosef is sold until the news that "Yosef is still alive" [45:26] the name Yaacov is used almost exclusively and the name Yisrael almost never appears. What does this mean?

The Or Hachaim explains that the name of a person is a reflection of his soul. Yaacov is the name for his initial soul, and Yisrael hints at the extra soul that was given to him because of his close attachment to G-d. Just as the "extra soul" during Shabbat appears only at a time of "Shabbat joy," so the name Yisrael is revealed only when he is happy and "joyous about G-d."

From the time Yosef was sold Yaacov was in deep sorrow, until he was told that his son was still alive. Then his spirit returned to him and he rose to a higher level, but he immediately became sad again because of the descent to Egypt. Only near the end of his life did his spirit return to him, as is written, "You rejuvenate their spirit as they die" [Tehillim 104:29]. He can then bless the future generations with all parts of his soul – both Yaacov and Yisrael.



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”

(Midot HaRe’iyah)

Message for Today: “Your Right Hand Crushes the Foe”

Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

When Jacob was about to die, he wished to reveal to his sons what would happen to them in the end of days, as it says, “Jacob called to his sons and he said, ‘Gather together and I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days’” (Genesis 49:1). Indeed, Jacob did wish to reveal the end of days to his sons, but the Divine Presence removed itself from him (Rashi, ibid.).

By contrast, the wicked prophet Bilam – not to mention him in the same breath with Jacob – succeeded in revealing to us what would happen to Israel in the end of days: “A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel, crushing all of Moab's princes, and dominating all of Seth's descendants” (Numbers 24:17). When Jacob saw that the divine presence had removed itself from him he feared that one of his children had ceased his attachment to G-d. After all, Ishmael had emerged from Abraham and Esau from Isaac. Yet his sons answered him, “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is one! Just as in your heart there is only One, so in our hearts there is only One.” That moment Jacob responded, “Blessed is the name of G-d’s glorious Kingdom forever and ever.” (see Pesachim 56a). Jacob’s sons, in undertaking the yoke of G-d’s sovereignty before their father, were proclaiming: Father, Israel! Do not worry! We believe that Hashem, the G-d of Israel is King, and His sovereignty is over all, in all times and places. Your revealing the end of days to us can neither add to nor weaken our faith in the One G-d.

Yet the nations of the world, and the haters of Israel amongst them, such as Bilaam and Balak, have to realize that in the end of days we will crush and undermine them when they come to attack us (see Numbers 24:17).

Today, we are experiencing the revealed end of days, with the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of the State of Israel. It is no longer enough to undertake the yoke of G-d’s Kingdom and to pray that He remove the threat from our enemies who are rising up to destroy us. Our enemies may be likened to a boxer with both a strong left and right punch. With the left hand, the Arab marauders of our land hit us with a war of attrition involving relentless terror. Simultaneously, the surrounding Arab countries are like the right hand preparing the knock-out punch, G-d forbid, in the form of atomic, gas and chemical weapons of mass destruction, and everything else imaginable.

The call of the hour is to awaken from our slumber, to unite and to prepare the people and the army to fight back forcefully, in order to deter the cruel enemy. It is not enough to have a strong army. In order to win, we also need a strong spirit and great faith in our identity, destiny and future, a spirit that can unite the nation. Jacob’s call, “Gather together,” has to stand before our eyes.

By such means we will see with our own eyes the fulfillment of the end of days (Rashi, Pesachim 50), when G-d’s right hand will strike our enemies, and the words of Exodus 15:6 will be fulfilled: “Your right hand, O G-d, is awesome in power; Your right hand, O G-d, crushes the foe.” Shabbat Shalom!

My Soul Thirsts for You”

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner- Chief Rabbi of Bet El

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