“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l
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1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel; http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html
STARTING POINT: "I Hope for Your Help, G-d"
- by Rabbi Amnon Bazak, Yeshivat Har Etzion
After the blessing of the tribe of Dan, Yaacov adds a short phrase: "I hope for Your help, G-d" [Bereishit 49:18]. The commentators have difficulty explaining why the prayer appears at this point. Many feel that it is related in some way to the future of the tribe of Dan, either in general (Rashbam) or with respect to specific events (Rashi, who explains that the prayer is related to Shimon's final request from G-d). But it is still not clear why Yaacov prays about the tribe of Dan even though his blessing gives no hint of any trouble. In general, Yaacov's blessing to Dan about his military success ("Dan is a serpent on the road, a snake along the path, who bites the heels of a horse so that his rider falls backwards" [49:17]) is quite similar to the blessings of Gad ("Gad will gather into a battalion and he will pursue it by the heel" [49:19]) and Binyamin ("Binyamin is a preying wolf, in the morning he will devour his prey, and at night he will distribute the spoils" [49:27]). Why didn't Yaacov feel the need to add an additional prayer to these blessings too?
In view of this question, Yaacov's prayer might be understood in a simpler way. Perhaps his prayer was not linked specifically to Dan but was a general one for all the tribes, as part of Yaacov's blessings to his children. If this is true, it can teach us about a novel aspect of Yaacov's blessings. The sequence of the blessings corresponds to the order of the children. First Yaacov blesses the six sons of Leah and he ends with Rachel's two sons, putting the sons of the maidservants in the middle (we have discussed this sequence in the past). If Yaacov's prayer was meant as a general prayer it should have been in the middle of all the blessings. However, it really appears after the seventh tribe – the six sons of Leah and the tribe of Dan – and before the remaining five sons – the three of the maidservants and the two sons of Rachel. Why was this asymmetric place chosen for the prayer?
The answer is that the sequence is indeed very reasonable. Yaacov's words to the sons of Leah refer to six tribes, but in practice they are given to us in only five blessings, since Shimon and Levy are included in a single statement, when he rebukes them ("Shimon and Levy are brothers..." [49:5]. In addition, here is what Yaacov tells these two tribes: "I will divide them among Yaacov, I will disperse them in Yisrael" [49:7]. This is the opposite of the other brothers, for whom the proper heritage is an important element of the blessing. For example, see the blessings of Yehuda (an abundance of wine – see 49:11), Zevulun ("He will dwell on the seacoast" [49:13]), Yisachar ("The land will be pleasant" [49:15]), and Yosef ("The blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the depths below" [49:25]). This subject is also hinted at in the blessing of Reuven ("You will not be first" [49:4]) – You will not receive the double portion of the firstborn, but rather your regular inheritance. Thus, Yaacov's prayer for help is indeed at the center of the blessings of tribes, referring to those that received a specific heritage: five before his prayer and five afterwards.
POINT OF VIEW: Where Are the Rabbis?
- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute
The longest school strike in the history of Israel has just ended (more than 60 days long). The educational system is still licking its wounds, and the leaders of the country are getting ready to take care of the next strike. Actually, the next one is already here – a strike by the academic staff of the universities.
During the strike, there were repeated hints of a question among the religious Zionist public (this is the only part of the religious sector for whom the strike was relevant), in editorials and periodicals: Where are the rabbis? How can it be that we do not hear from them about such a vital issue, one that must certainly be important to them? The "serious" ones added the following declaration to their question: "Here we go again, the only questions in which the rabbis and leaders of religious Zionism are really involved are related to Eretz Yisrael and the settlements." And those who were even harsher added some advice: "The time has come to update our approach and put the social agenda at the top of our priorities." And those who give advice on these matters (that is, strategists and public relations experts) said: "Even if the political subjects are the most essential ones, a social agenda should be developed and emphasized in order to improve our image, especially when elections come around." And they are certainly right in this.
So, Where Are the Rabbis?
There are two answers to the above question. First, I can reply with a straight denial of the basic assumption. Rabbis definitely commented about this issue, starting from those who are directly involved, such as leaders of educational chains or single institutions, and also including rabbis who simply wanted to express their opinions or replied to interviewers and even columnists on the internet and in weekly parsha handouts. Even I contributed my humble opinion in an article in this bulletin almost two months ago. I do not agree with everything that has been said or written, but there is no doubt that many opinions were expressed. And this fact leads me on to the second reply to this question.
There is a common misconception that the halacha provides "mathematical" replies for every question in the world, such that every single rabbi will reach the same ultimate answer if he has the prerequisite knowledge and has the appropriate tools on his desk. This is absolute nonsense! There is no such thing as an ultimate answer, certainly not on issues for which the element of "policy" is an important factor. And this can be illustrated very well with respect to the issue we are discussing, the teachers' strike. If we had only been involved with the strictly legal aspects – for example, are the teachers allowed to ignore a signed contract, or can students be sent to waste their time instead of studying Torah – then there would certainly be room for a purely halachic decision. This is the same as any case of a legal ruling. Even in this case, there might be disagreements in principle, based on interpreting the circumstances in different ways. But this is the place filled by the halacha.
Flavoring the Approach with Halachic Policy
However, on many questions of major importance, such as setting priorities among different national resources, the salaries of teachers as related to those of other professions, working conditions, vacations, and other similar policy issues, anybody who thinks that the Torah has a monolithic approach is completely wrong! The Torah definitely has what to say about these things, but as a way of inspiration and indicating a direction, without going into any details. In general, such decisions are characterized by a generous helping of the world outlook of the one who is giving his reply to the questions.
My late father, Dov Rozen, use to tell the following story from the days of the pioneers (from his personal experience as one of them), during the era when the Zionist entity was being formed. The religious pioneers asked the rabbis of Poland : is one permitted to actively support the principle of "Jewish labor," forcing the farmers to hire relatively expensive Jewish laborers instead of cheaper Arab labor? Rabbi Chaim Ozer Gruzansky of Vilna replied: It is forbidden to force them! The laws of "ona'ah" – unfair trade – apply in this case. On the other hand, Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector of Kovna, who had a soft spot in his heart for the "Lovers of Zion," replied that it is permitted, because of the importance of settling the land! In each case, the personal outlook of the rabbi had an important influence on his decision.
Are the teachers who demand limiting class size to thirty students violating an explicit halacha? It is written, "One teacher is enough for twenty-five children. If there are between twenty-five and forty, somebody should be provided to help the teacher. If there are more than forty, a second teacher is needed." [Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei'ah 245:15]. But perhaps the ruling of the Tania, which is stricter, is the correct one: "One teacher is sufficient for twenty-five children only in order to teach them the Torah, but this is not enough to teach the Mishna and the Talmud" [Shulchan Aruch Harav, Talmud Torah 1:3]. Could it be that in such specific details the halachic rulings are meant to be policy indications for the responsible officials, depending on circumstances and available resources, and not exact definitions?
It is clear that in questions of public policy, especially those involving economics and social affairs, there is ample room for both socialistic and capitalistic outlooks, and the same is true for questions about the policies of community leadership. Our traditions provide guidance for all walks of life, and the twenty-seven volumes of the Zomet Institute publication "Techumin" testify to this fact. This is the central challenge of the vision of a Jewish state, in its relevance for the rabbis of religious Zionism. But it is a far cry from our original question, where are the rabbis?
* * * * * *
"And Yisrael put out his right hand and placed it on Efraim's head... He crossed his arms" [Bereishit 48:14]. In this week's Torah portion, Yosef the father intends for the right hand to be placed on the firstborn Menasheh, and Yaacov the grandfather shows a preference for Efraim. This can easily be taken as an educational dispute between the father and the grandfather, as many commentators have indeed explained. Can we really say that one of them was right in absolute terms and not the other?
RESPONSA FOR OUR TIMES: Removing a Smoking Heater on Shabbat
- by Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen, Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel
Question: When a kerosene room heater uses up its fuel it begins to smoke and gives off an unpleasant odor. Almost all of the modern day heaters have a relatively small tank, and therefore the fuel is usually finished before Shabbat ends. Can such a heater be removed from the house?
A Heater Can Be Compared to a Lamp
It is written in the Mishna: "A new lamp can be handled but not an old one. Rabbi Shimon says, all lamps can be handled except for a lamp that is burning on Shabbat" [Shabbat 3:6]. That is, everybody agrees that a lamp that is lit may not be moved. The Talmud concludes with a statement by Rava, that a lamp serves as "a base for a forbidden object" [Shabbat 47a]. This implies that a heater that has gone out is similar to a lamp and cannot be handled (in spite of the fact that we are not afraid that it will be relit – see Orach Chaim 273:7).
Two places in the Talmud discuss handling pieces of animal excrement. In Shabbat (121b) it is written that this may be handled on Shabbat and this is the basis of a ruling by the Rambam: "With respect to anything that is filthy, such as excrement or vomit, if they are in a courtyard where people are sitting they may be removed to the rubbish or to an outhouse, and this is what is called 'a piece of excrement'." [Shabbat 26:13]. In another place, the Talmud explains that filthy items do not have to be removed while handling a permitted utensil but can be removed directly in contact with the hand (Beitza 36b). This was accepted by the TUR and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 308:34). It would seem that an extinguished heater that has an offensive odor can be treated as a filthy material and can be handled directly. This is in fact the ruling in the book "Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata" with respect to a smoking heater ( 13:18 ).
Creating a Filth
However, there is another question with respect to a kerosene heater. Is it permitted to begin a process before the start of Shabbat which will lead to the creation of filth which it will be necessary to remove during Shabbat? This question appears in two separate passages in the tractate of Beitza. One ruling is that one is not permitted to perform an act that will create a "piece of excrement" (21a). But in the second case, Abayei and Rabba discuss the issue, and in the conclusion Abayei accepts Rabba's position that one is indeed allowed to initiate a process which will create filth that will have to be removed. And this passage was accepted as the halacha by the RIF and the ROSH. Other commentators noted the apparent contradiction between the two passages. Tosafot and Raavad (in notes on Rambam, Shabbat 25:24) limited Rabba's permission to cases where a loss will be incurred if the action is prohibited.
On the other hand, the Rambam does not bring this matter at all, implying that he accepted the first passage quoted above, which forbids beginning such a process. However, it seems that what he prohibits is to create the "piece of excrement" on Shabbat itself, but that one is allowed to begin a process before Shabbat that will lead to the creation of filth.
Another aspect of this issue is the question of whether the waste has been created spontaneously. Tosafot (Beitza 26a), the ROSH (Responsa 22:8), and the Rambam restrict the prohibition of handling a filthy item to when it is created spontaneously, such as falling rain which becomes mud, but do not include a case where it is created by man.
In view of the above discussion we might have thought to follow the Rambam and to allow handling such material if it is the result of a process which was started before Shabbat (note that the bad odor of a burned-out heater is generated spontaneously). However, the TUR and the Shulchan Aruch ruled that the prohibition is much broader: "One should not create a piece of excrement, that is, to create something that will become repulsive, with the intention of removing it when it exists." As the Aruch Hashulchan notes, "Why should we cause unwanted material to be handled for no good reason?" Thus, we should not light a heater with the intention of removing it after it goes out, unless the alternative might lead to great loss.
A LESSON FOR THE CHILDREN: To Find a Loved One
- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Merkaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi
(This is a true story that happened a few weeks ago. Written by my father-in-law, Moshe Goldberg)
"I want to console you for your loss," the rabbi said sympathetically. "We will start your mother's funeral in a few minutes. What was her name?"
"Susan Telesford," I said, and I added her Hebrew name, "Zissel bat Mordechai." And I said to the rabbi, "But I have a different last name, my name is Mark Shmidt."
"Why do you have a different name than your mother?" he asked me.
I was tempted to answer in the Jewish way, with another question: Do you want the long answer or the short one? Both my mother and father lived through the Holocaust, each one with a very different story, but really all the same, running from the threat of death. When my father was ten years old, he saw the members of his family killed by the Germans, right before his eyes. He spent the rest of the war alone in a forest, using all of his energies to survive. My mother was six years old during Kristallnacht, and she remembered seeing the Nazi-organized rioters destroy her father's clothing store, throwing him down the flight of stairs that led from the store to their home. The family spent the next few years in the "Flucht," on the run, trying to escape from the inferno in Europe. They passed through Belgium, France, Spain , Portugal, and Cuba, before they could get into the United States, after the end of the Second World War.
And afterwards, both my mother and my father lived through harsh times. They were divorced a few months before I was born, and my mother remarried several times. My father eventually broke all contact with us. Then, three years ago, my mother said to me, "I am afraid that Sam has passed away, can you find me the details? I miss him, and I am sure that he misses me too." I was not sure exactly what she meant by the last sentence. But through Social Security records I discovered that my father had indeed died ten years before, and I even found the hospital where he died and the exact date. Now I could say kaddish in his memory. But I could not find where my father had been buried.
My mother passed away after a long illness, suffering for more than a year. It all started with open heart surgery, but she never fully recovered from her operation, her condition slowly becoming worse and worse: memory loss, dialysis. We found her a good hospice where we were able to visit her almost every day.
And now, yesterday, my mother had passed away – suddenly, without any warning, a few minutes after the nurse had spoken to her.
Why is my name different from my mother's? I gave the short answer: "She remarried, but I kept my original name."
"And what is your father's name?"
"His name was Sam Shmidt, but I lost all contact with him."
And the rabbi looked at me. After a long pause, he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "Mark, I buried your father in this cemetery thirteen years ago. A friend brought him here to be buried."
There was nothing I could say. Was my search for my father over? Had we really found his grave, today of all days? How could the rabbi remember the name of a man without any family whom he had helped to bury thirteen years ago? Could he be mistaken now? After the ceremony for my mother, the rabbi took me and my family to the grave. The name and the date are right, it really is my father's grave.
The rabbi explained to us how he remembered the name Sam Shmidt after such a long time. My father wrote down a summary of his life – the name of the small town in Lithuania where he was born, his experiences during the war and afterwards – and gave it to a friend to keep. And when he died, his friend gave the papers to the rabbi. The rabbi had searched for some relative to give the papers to, and now, he had found me.
But it was not really the rabbi who had found me. I cannot escape feeling that in her death, my mother, after all these years, was the one who showed me the way to my father.
Reactions and Suggestions for Stories: firstname.lastname@example.org
TOURING THE LAND: In the Wake of the Mothers and the Children
- by the Kefar Etzion Field School
On the twenty-eighth of Kislev 5708 (1947), the Convoy of Ten fell. This was the first time that a supply convoy to Gush Etzion had been ambushed. Ten of the riders were killed, shattering the quiet of Gush Etzion. These first shots opened up the fierce battle over the area of Gush Etzion, a battle which eventually ended with the declaration, "The queen has fallen" – the coded message that the Gush had been captured by the Arab Legion.
At the time that the convoy was attacked, there were four settlements in Gush Etzion: Kefar Etzion, Massuot Yitzchak, Ein Tzurim, and Revadim. Four hundred and fifty people lived there, including 71 children. As a result of the unstable conditions and the lack of water and food, it was decided to evacuate the children and their mothers. On the twenty-third of Tevet 5708, the mothers and the children traveled in armored cars, with British escort, to the first station on what was to be a very long journey. The separation was a difficult event, and those who had been evacuated were sorely missed in the Gush.
The evacuees were sent to the Ratisbon Monastery in Jerusalem , where they remained during the battles over Gush Etzion, almost completely separated from their husbands and fathers, who were deeply involved in the fighting.
"Is this a dream? ... In spite of the heavy mourning and the despair, the bells continue to ring, we eat, do guard duty, have hope, and even laugh now and then... Who knows what the future holds in store for us, it is best not to think about it. We can expect difficult times ahead, but we will win and see our children hiking in the area..." [From a letter written by Yaacov Klepholtz in Kefar Etzion to his wife in the monastery, 9 Shevat 4708.]
After the bitter news about the fall of Gush Etzion, the evacuees were transferred to classrooms in the "Netzach Yisrael" school in Petach Tikvah, and from there to "Giv'at Aliyah" in Yaffo, where they were joined by the few survivors of the last battle of the Gush.
At the end of the Six Day War, after nineteen years of yearning, the children of Kefar Etzion returned to the hills and renewed the Jewish settlements in the area.
This week, sixty years after these events, we will take a journey in the footsteps of the evacuees from Gush Etzion.
We begin our tour in Kibbutz Kefar Etzion, with a visit to the local museum and to the only house that remains from the time of the fighting in 5708. We then go north, to Jerusalem, to the Ratisbon Monastery, where the evacuees stayed during the battle. This is on Shmuel Hanagid Street in Rechavia, near the Yeshurun Synagogue.
We then go west on Route 1 to the neighborhood of Jebelia, south of the wall of Yaffo, next to "Giv'at Aliyah." We visit the local synagogue, which is named for the martyrs of Gush Etzion, and where the people of Kefar Etzion prayed and kept up their hopes.
"There is hope for a good end, G-d says, and the children will return to within their border" [Yirmiyahu 31:16].
(Written by: Yehuda Goldman)
Wednesday, 17 Tevet (26/12): In the wake of the First Aliyah, Renana Zer Kavod
Friday, 19 Tevet (28/12): Springs and pursuit of the enemy in the Jordan Valley (for good hikers), Areleh Meitlis
Tuesday, 23 Tevet (1/1): In the wake of Lot in the hills of Sedom, Aryeh Rotenberg
Contact: Kefar Etzion Field School , 02-9935133, www.k-etzion.co.il
MEN OF YISRAEL: "And Yisrael's Eyes Became Weak with Age... And He Blessed Them"
- by Rabbi Uri Dasberg, the Zomet Institute
In the Diaspora, prominent people were often named for the cities in which they lived – the Gaon from Vilna, the Rabbi from Sokatchov, the Rabbi of Lubavitch, etc. This is not a common practice here in Eretz Yisrael, perhaps because every city in the land can boast a number of famous rabbis and righteous and pious people. How then can we identify the prominent men without adding their first names (Reb Avraham), their family names (Rabbi Elyashiv), or the names of important books that they wrote (Chazon Ish)? So why does Raanana have the honor of having a righteous man named for it – the Tzadik of Raanana? And don't think that Rabbi Yitzchak Huberman of Raanana was born there or that he became famous only when he moved to that city (about the year 5709 - 1949). He was already famous in Warsaw , where he was known to the prominent scholars of the time as a dedicated student. At the early age of 17, he was an expert in the TUR, the Beit Yosef, and the Yoreh Dei'ah of the Shulchan Aruch. One time, as an old man, he was very surprised that a 16-year-old did not understand an item in the Talmud. "At your age, I had already learned the entire Talmud..." He arrived in Raanana only during the first years after Israel was established.
His intense study habits were famous far and wide. In Raanana, his neighbors tried to figure out when he slept, since at all hours of the night the lights were on in his house, and he could be heard studying. When he told an acquaintance one of his Torah novelties, and the man asked how he discovered such innovations, he replied: When I have a question, I do not sleep for entire nights, until I find the answer. His Torah innovations have been collected in a three volume work, "Ben L'Oshri – Beracha Meshuleshet" (the last volume was published after his death).
The name "The Tzadik of Raanana" was given to him by the Rabbi of Gur, the Beit Yisrael, who came every week to Rabbi Yitzchak's small house to study Kabbala with him. The rabbi spent all of his time studying. In his old age he became blind, but then he discovered that he was successful in blessing people, especially on the subject of children being born to barren women. He used to declare that on Rosh Hashanah a limit was set in heaven of how many souls he was allowed to bring down to the earth during the coming year. Near the end of the year (in the months of Av and Elul), he would often tell people to leave and come again the following year, since he had already used up his quota of new souls in the current year. The many people who arrived to ask for a blessing at this stage of his life gave him an opportunity to lend financial support to yeshivot and places of Torah study. He would donate any money that was given to him for his blessings, while he continued to live in a small and meager house with only one and a half rooms. Ever since he passed away on the thirteenth of Tevet 5737 (1977), his disciples have maintained the yeshiva in his house. This yeshiva and his books serve to continue his path, since he did not have any children of his own.
Words of Torah by our Subject: Yaacov said, "Efraim and Menasheh will be like Reuven and Shimon for me" [Bereishit 48:5]. In this way, he "adopted" his two grandsons as sons, and from then on each one was treated as a separate tribe. Is this true of every adoption? Is an adopted child really considered the same as a person's natural child?
According to Rabbi Yitzchak Huberman, the prohibition of "yichud" – being together in isolation – remains in effect for an adopted daughter and her father and for an adopted son and his mother. He proves this from the Midrash on the verse about Mordechai. "Mordechai took [Esther] to him as a daughter" [Esther 2:7] – read this not as "bat" – a daughter – but as "bayit" – in the home, meaning that he married her. It is clear that Esther was not his real daughter, as is written explicitly, "Esther, daughter of Avichayil" [ 2:15 ]. Avichayil was her father, not Mordechai. But Mordechai raised her from the time of her birth (according to the Talmud, Esther's mother died in childbirth). Why did Mordechai marry her? The reason is as noted above, he did not want to violate the law of yichud. Similarly, in the Torah, Menasheh is still known as "the son of Yosef" [Bamidbar 27:1], even though he was adopted by Yaacov.