“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)
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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
Starting point: The Obligation of a Sacrifice for Ritual Impurity
by Rabbi Amnon Bazak
In this week`s portion, in the beginning of Chapter 5, the Torah describes the obligation of a ``Chattat`` sacrifice for anybody who has become ritually impure and then forgot about it. ``A person who touches any impure object... And he will be impure and guilty, or if he touches a human impurity, for every contamination that will make him impure, if it is concealed from him and then he remembers and is guilty... Let him bring his sacrifice to G-d for the sin that he did.`` [5:2-3,6]. Exactly what sin was committed? Based on the sages, Rashi explains that this refers to one who ate holy flesh or entered the Temple after he became impure. The Ramban adds, ``It is not a sin to touch a dead animal or an insect, and not even Kohanim were prohibited to do this. Thus, it cannot be that the Torah would obligate one who touched them to bring a sacrifice. What it refers to is when a man becomes impure and does not know about it... and he then sins after he has forgotten, he must bring a sacrifice. And it is clear that forgetting alone is not a sin unless he then eats holy flesh or enters the Temple.`` However, this leaves us with a question: Why did the Torah ignore the main point, that the sinner ate holy food or entered the Temple?
Perhaps the simple interpretation of the passage is that the sacrifice is indeed required because the person has become impure. There may not be a prohibition to touch something that is unclean, but if a man becomes impure he is obligated to become pure, even if he is from one of the other tribes and not a Kohen. The reason is that the existence of ritual impurity among Bnei Yisrael detracts from the sanctity of the Temple. This is explicitly noted with respect to the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. He is required to purify the Temple from two things: ``Let him atone for the holy site (1) from the impurities of Bnei Yisrael and (2) from all their sins. And let him do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which rests among them in their impurity.`` [Vayikra 16:16]. In that case too Rashi notes that the verse refers to an impure person who unintentionally entered the Temple, but the Torah explicitly mentions only the impurity and not the fact that he went into the Temple.
The same issue is mentioned explicitly in the Torah portion of Chukat: ``Anybody who touches the body of a dead person and does not purify himself has defiled the Tabernacle of G-d, and that person will be cut off from Yisrael`` [Bamidbar 19:13; see also 19:20]. There too Rashi explains that the sinner entered the Temple area, but once again this is not mentioned in the Torah (see also Vayikra 17:16, and the commentary of Rashi). The simple interpretation may be that a man is obligated to purify himself from any ritual impurity, and if he does not do so he can be compared to one who made the Tabernacle unclean. However, the obligation to bring a sacrifice in this week`s portion is specifically related to a person who forgets that he is impure and therefore actually defiles the Tabernacle.
As is well known, the halacha does not require a person to purify himself, and a sacrifice is required only if an impure person is involved in holy matters. Perhaps the difference between the halacha and the simple meaning of the verses is related to the difference between the Tabernacle and the Temple. In the Tabernacle we are told explicitly that ritual impurity within the nation harms its sanctity, since, as we know, the Tabernacle "rests among them, in their impurity." The Temple, which was physically further away from the people, was separated from them, and therefore the sanctity is harmed only if a person actually enters the holy site.
Sermon By A Guest: ``Lishema`` in Bringing a Sacrifice
by Rabbi Shai Finkelstein, Torah Mitzion Kollel, Memphis, Tennes
A large part of Vayikra is concerned with the different types of sacrifices. There are many differences between the various sacrifices, but they all seem to have one thing in common. This is the concept of ``lishema`` - in general, the animal must be dedicated intentionally to the correct type of sacrifice. Is this requirement in the rituals of the Temple the same as the usual halachic concept that ``mitzvot must be performed with full intention`` (``b`kavanah``), or is something unique demanded with respect to sacrifices?
The basic concept of the requirement of ``lishema`` is to create a new status of an object, a way of placing it in a new reality that did not exist before. For example, a ``get`` is a divorce document which includes the names of the man, the woman, and the city where they live. However, if this is not written with the specific man and woman in mind, as is required by the verse ``he wrote it FOR HER`` [Devarim 24:1], it remains a meaningless piece of paper that will never achieve the status of a ``get.`` The proper intention is what gives this document a new identity, one it did not have beforehand.
In view of this definition, the concept of ``lishema`` is not the same as the principle that ``mitzvot must be performed with full intention.`` The concept of ``kavanah`` is on a different plain, and it refers to paying attention to the act of the mitzva itself. For example, Tefillin are holy whether a man has the proper intention of wearing them or not, it is the man who has a halachic problem if he does not have the proper intention. ``Kavanah`` does not change the status of the object, it is related to the link between the person and the mitzva.
Based on this differentiation between ``kavanah`` and ``lishema,`` it seems that there is a unique aspect to the requirement that sacrifices be dedicated, ``lishema.`` Sacrifices without the proper intention continue to be mere animals, with no essential change of their status. If a man sins and then brings a ``Chatat`` sacrifice without the proper intention, there is something missing in the essence of the sacrifice. This can be seen from the first Mishna of Zevachim: ``Any sacrifice that has been offered not `lishema` is valid but its owner does not receive credit.`` That is, when a person brings an animal to the Temple it is a potential sacrifice, but its purpose and character remain undetermined until the owner`s intention, ``lishema,`` bestows on it the status of a sacrifice. If this does not happen, the sacrifice can be brought to the Temple but it is not related to the owner.
In the blessing for Torah study, we pray that we will ``study Torah with the proper intention (lishema).`` This means that proper Torah study depends on its being instilled with the objective of study of G-d`s words. Only in this way can we create valid Torah study and maintain the sanctity of the Torah for all generations to come.
The Education Corner: The World of Truth
by Rabbi Amichai Gordin
One time, I heard an interesting question based on a Chassidic approach: We have been taught that a person does not sin unless a spirit of foolishness has taken control of him. If that is true, how can a person ever be punished for sin? After all, one who is acting in a foolish way is not obligated by any of the mitzvot of the Torah. The answer given by the sages of Chassidism is that we are not punished for the sin itself but rather because we have not repented.
The main thing is the effort that we expend. Take as an example a group of soldiers who are fighting against a force stronger than their own. Should they simply run away? The answer is no, they must understand that they have been given the tragic role of soldiers whose task is to inhibit the advance of the enemy. Because of the existence of such soldiers, the French army was able to stop the German advance in the First World War.
We must do the best we can. Suffering a defeat is not necessarily a disaster. It does not mean that we did not perform well, rather it means that we can do better in the future. We can expect to be rewarded not on the basis of our successes but rather in proportion to our efforts. If we made an attempt to do something good and failed we will still receive a reward, while if we succeeded without making any attempt we will not receive any reward. The Almighty, high above, knows exactly how much effort is put in by each and every person, and He is the one who will decide who gets a reward, nobody else participates in the decision. We have no way to rate how righteous a person is. Only G-d knows if a person is truly wicked or righteous.
Yosef, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua, was very ill. When he was cured, he told his father that he had been in heaven and that he had seen a topsy-turvy world. Those who were most prominent in our world were in a lowly position, while the lowly people on earth were raised up. His father said that Yosef was wrong, he really saw the world the way it should be. There are people who have performed many mitzvot but are still at a very low level, since they could have achieved much more. And there are other people who have performed very few mitzvot but whose level is very high, since in relation to their status they have moved very far along the right path.
(Sponsored by the Center for Religious Education in Israel)
A Chassidic Thread: To Pray Like a Wild Anima
by Shlomo Shok
The rituals of the sacrifices come not only to respond to our greatest needs. We are moved by animal instincts that operate within us and have an effect on us. It is not enough for us to just deny these forces and repress them. In our rituals of the sacrifices, we intentionally channel these animal forces in a conscious and organized way, in order to make use of them for worship of the Almighty. ``A man from among you who brings a sacrifice to G-d`` [Vayikra 1:2] - a sacrifice is ``from you,`` related to all aspects of the personality of man. Therefore, our animal side must also participate in the service of G-d.
Since the sacrifices have been now replaced by prayer, we must learn how to pray based on the ideas of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev. He taught us to pray like an animal (without causing fear in the hearts of the surrounding people). ``I want you to be like animals roaring in the forest all night long.`` The communication skills of the animals are not as highly developed as those of man. When we have one thing to say, it is not mixed at the same time with a different message. An animal, on the other hand, always says everything at once. Its pain and its desire for its needs are expressed in roaring and crying, and these expressions include all the animal wants to say. The animal and its sound become one and the same - the wailing of a cat becomes the cat itself. The way to become one with prayer, without any separation or distance, is to stop reciting the prayer and to begin roaring like an animal. It is necessary for the sequence of the words and letters to become blurred and to begin to include the ecstasy of the spaces between the words. Let us pray with all aspects of our personality, let us attack with animal ferocity without giving up our independence. In this way, our prayers will also be described by the phrase, ``All my bones will talk`` [Tehillim 35:10].
The ways of the Fathers: Chapter 3 Mishna 16
by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv
``Rabbi Yishmael says: Treat a leader in a light manner and be pleasant to one who is young, and receive every man with joy.``
Evidently, Rabbi Yishmael`s words are related to the words of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dossa (Mishna 13), referring to ``everybody who satisfies the spirit of the people.`` What should a person do in order to cause everybody to be satisfied with him? People are different from each other, how can one path be right for contact with everybody? The answer that Rabbi Yishmael gives is that one should not follow the same way all the time. Rather, the approach must be tailored for every individual. Since there are many different types of people, each with his own characteristic traits, Rabbi Yishmael gives two examples which pertain to two extremes. First is a leader, or a prominent sage. The other is young people (``tishchoret`` - literally, one whose hair is still black and has not turned white). While he in principle refers to a group of people, Rabbi Yishmael talks in terms of an individual representing the group - a leader and a young man. Within the framework of the general principle, to be pleasant and to yield, it is necessary to relate to every person within the group as an individual.
It is interesting to note that even though very different groups are considered the recommended approach is similar. Treat one group with a light approach and be pleasant to the other group. Perhaps these two extreme cases need a softer and more considerate approach than the middle groups, since they might be more sensitive and more stringent, and this should be taken into account.
While his main advice is with respect to old and young people, in the end Rabbi Yishmael gives a general principle that is valid for everybody. ``Receive every man with joy.`` As the Rambam notes in his commentary, this is more stringent than the advice given by Shammai, ``Receive every person with a pleasant face`` [Avot 1:15].
It may be that the phrase ``kol ha`adam`` in the Mishna means not only every specific person but also ``the entire person`` - referring to the complete person, with all his characteristics. A divided approach would be wrong, to accept one part of a person and reject another part. Rather, it is necessary to accept all aspects of a person, without exception.
Torah Society and government: Slaughter the Cattle
by Rabbi Uri Dasberg
Nowadays it is possible to perform surgery with the aid of a laser beam, which is extremely concentrated and can cut much more accurately than a knife. Can a laser beam be used as a replacement for a blade in ritual slaughtering? One answer might be based on the fact that the laws of slaughtering are derived from the knife that Avraham took with him when he took Yitzchak to be sacrificed. This implies that it is necessary to use a utensil, as Rabbi Eliezer says (Zevachim 97b). However, this is true only for ritual slaughter of a sacrifice. In the case of an animal for general use, it is possible to use even ``the edge of a reed,`` which is not a utensil but the stem of a plant. It is true that we now insist on using a knife made from metal, but this is probably due to the fact that a steel blade can be made very sharp.
Another requirement for ritual slaughtering is that it be done by human power. If a man drops a knife, which then slaughters an animal, the meat will not be kosher. For the same reason, it is not permitted to use a sharp disk spun by a motor to cut the throat of the animal. Even if the disk is spun by a man, the Talmud rejects the use of a spinning disk, because it is not directly powered by the man. There are other things that can make a slaughtering invalid, such as if the throat rests for a long time on the blade. This is ``shehiya,`` a pause during the process, and it is one of five effects that can cause the slaughtering process to fail. It might seem that using a laser is less likely to cause problems than a knife because of the precision and speed with which it works.
One possible reason for rejecting a laser is that when it is used there is no longer a man who aims the beam but rather the focus of the laser tube. The answer to this is that there is no reason to believe that slaughtering requires positive intent. In general, mitzvot need intent to be performed, but this refers to those mitzvot that are a required act and not those whose purpose is to prevent us from violating a prohibition (in this case, eating non-slaughtered flesh).
With all of the above considerations, why shouldn`t a laser in fact be used for slaughtering? The answer is that there are two main faults with a laser. First, its operation can be compared to a needle penetrating deep into the flesh. Slaughtering with a needle is forbidden, among other things because this results in ``derissa,`` pressure on the blade instead of a cutting action. In addition, a laser beam will burn the flesh before it begins to cut. Thus, it damages the internal organs of the animal before they are cut, making the animal unkosher.
``For six days, labor will be performed, but the seventh day will be holy for you, a Shabbat for G-d`` [Shemot 35:2]. ``The prohibition of Shabbat appears before the construction of the Tabernacle, to indicate that it does not take precedence over Shabbat`` [Rashi].
Recent news articles have indicated that religious businessmen are being deprived of their rights because of their observance of Shabbat. They are raising the ``cry of Shabbat`` and they warn against the current situation in Israel, which causes hardships and decreases economic opportunity for people who refuse to do business on Shabbat.
Based on my experience with the subject of Shabbat in the public arena, as the director of Zomet Institute since it was established in 5736 (1976), I would like to make some comments about this painful matter, from various points of view. I will discuss three different types of economic involvement with Shabbat: people who sanctify the holy name, those who benefit from work on Shabbat, and those who struggle with the situation.
What do I mean by people who sanctify the holy name? Many of the articles in the press refer to owners of businesses, Shabbat observers, who cannot participate in bids for places in malls which have a strict rule ... not to allow closing on Shabbat! For example, who would have thought that in the sparkling new air terminal, ``Natbag 2000,`` at the entrance to the country, Shabbat observers would be completely rejected? It is as if there was a desire to place a signal ``on the overhead beam and on the two doorposts`` (see Shemot 12:23) proclaiming, ``this is not a religious country.`` Is the Almighty expected to skip over such doors, which signify places that have no interest in His ways?
Such religious businessmen are struck with a double blow. Not only are they not allowed to bid for these outrageous tenders while they observe the day of rest, their ``restless`` competitors make a profit out of their losses. I want to express my appreciation for their sanctification of G-d in refusing to pursue ``solutions`` such as finding a non-Jewish partner or searching for convoluted halachic rulings to address the problem of Shabbat earnings.
The real solution to this problem is very simple indeed. It is necessary to give them support both in spirit and in extra financial rewards. There is a need for a reliable institution that will provide certification of ``Shabbat observers`` in all areas of commerce. These certificates should be publicized in every way possible, in order to recommend that their products should be preferred over others. The cost of such advertising will be very low, since there will only be one line of text: ``Buy the products listed at the `Shomer-Shabbat` website.`` (Do not look for the site, it does not exist yet.) While we are at it, a special category should list Jewish internet sites that do not make any sales on Shabbat (I have no problem with an informational site that is open on Shabbat).
More than once in these columns I have expressed my opposition to any kind of consumer boycott (such as for political reasons), because such action is a two-edged sword. However, I firmly believe in giving preferential treatment in order to overcome a wrong, corresponding to the command, ``Your brother shall live together with you`` [Vayikra 25:36] - in this case, the man is ``your brother`` in observing Shabbat. For example, I have opposed gathering lists of leisure sites that are open on Shabbat. On the other hand, I am in favor of maintaining lists of gas stations that are closed on Shabbat. While it is true that there is no halachic requirement, and it is not practical to refuse to buy in a store that does not observe Shabbat, a Shabbat observer should be preferred when possible.
Let it be noted that this is not only theory, and Zomet Institute will be happy to establish a national project of this type. We will do our best to ``make Shabbat for all their generations`` [Shemot 31:16], if we can find a minimum budget to support this worthy cause.
A place of honor will be reserved in any such list for owners of shopping malls and other sites who insist on renting only on condition that Shabbat is observed. Even if they might be able to find some sort of halachic justification for Shabbat earnings, this way their future world will be protected, while they also earn a just reward in the present world. As a proof, we can remember the religious settlements which strived so hard when they were first established to prove that they could be as profitable as other settlements that were not religious, or even more so.
What about the second category, those who derive a benefit from Shabbat? ``They should be put to shame`` (see Mishna Yoma 3:12). There have been recent reports about religious businessmen with controlling commercial interests, who earn profits from Shabbat desecration with their approval, sometimes almost under their sponsorship. Even if they donate all of their Shabbat profits to charity, they will not be absolved of indirect responsibility for desecration of Shabbat. I am convinced that there can be no halachic justification for such activity, even if some convoluted reasoning can be found after the fact. It is important to note that forcing people to desecrate Shabbat, whether directly or indirectly, is many times worse than deriving a benefit from Shabbat earnings, even though ``religious intuition`` mistakenly implies that the opposite is true.
Balance the Reward Against the Loss
Who are those in the third category, those who struggle? The point of departure for this discussion can be with respect to economic activities outside the world of commerce, such as industry, communications, or tourism. Here there is a real dilemma. Should a Shabbat observer refuse to enter these fields of endeavor even though he is willing to refrain from any personal involvement or any profit related to Shabbat, letting the others ``do whatever they want``? Or, is there a positive value to having observant Jews participate in all walks of life?
We can suggest two reasons why it is important to become involved. First, it is not reasonable to expect us to remain in religious ghettos, outside the main spheres of activity in the land. The challenge of participating in the economic life of the country is no different from the challenges in defense, science, medicine, and all the other important areas.
The second reason to be active is even more important. I expect religious people who meet this challenge to rise to the top of their respective fields, where they will then proceed to provide the branch of endeavor with a Jewish imprint. We are in dire need of a Jewish approach to industry, communications, tourism, leisure time, transportation, shipping, and just about everything else. If there is any possibility of returning the Jewish character to Shabbat, let us start on this project with our work during the other six days of the week.
(Note: this article was originally written for the Torah portion of Vayakhel-Pekudei, and it is being printed here on the principle that once it has been written, ``a Mishna should never be deleted`` [Yevamot 30a, and other places].)