“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; http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html
AS SHABBAT APPROACHES Standing Still or on the Move?
- by Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne
The combination of the two words "Nitzavim-Vayeilech" is a paradox in itself. "Nitzavim" means to stand in place, while "Vayeilech" refers to progress and movement. Or Hachaim in fact explains the word Nitzavim in a different way, as an appointed official ("Hanitzav – the one in charge of the harvesters" [Ruth 2:5]). In the same way we have all been appointed by G-d, every person according to his or her traits, to perform specific tasks in life. When a person fulfills his or her own appointed task and does not look in other directions at tasks of others, he will advance to a better status.
The Natziv goes into detail in the Torah portion of Eikev, on the verse, "And now, Yisrael, what does your G-d ask of you but to fear G-d, to go in His ways, and to love Him" [Devarim 10:12]. He explains that this is not a demand that every person in Yisrael fulfill all of these different types of obligations. Rather, the wise men and the Torah scholars must show love, the leaders must show fear since they hold the keys to the public funds, and the other parts of the nation have other obligations.
"Each of these groups is different from the others in what the Holy One, Blessed be He, demands of them. That is why it is written, 'Today you all stand, the leaders of your tribes, your elders, your officials...' [Devarim 29:9]. What would have been missing if the verse had been written, 'You all stand today, to observe the covenant of G-d,' which would include everybody? The answer is that every group has its own covenant, and what the Almighty demands from one is not the same as what He demands from others – and in fact it is almost forbidden for any other group. Thus, the people occupied with Torah are not allowed to abandon their studies and become involved in public service, just as public servants are not allowed to change their ways and to spend their time studying. As is written, 'welcoming guests is more important than greeting the face of the Shechina' [Shabbat 127a]." [Natziv].
Nothing is more important in principle than greeting the Shechina, but somebody who is skilled in such matters as welcoming new olim to the land is not allowed to ignore this and spend most of his time on learning Torah and on the love of G-d. And Rav Kook wrote that there were some people involved in Torah who went on a bad path because they ignored their own personal traits and studied parts of the Torah that were not suitable for them.
Rav Kook explains that this is the basis for our confession at the end of Yom Kippur: "My G-d, until I was created I was not worthy, and now that I have been created, it is as if I was not created." The fact that I was not created before now proves that the world was not lacking in anything without my presence, and the fact that I was created at this point evidently shows that there is a specific task that I must accomplish now. If I do my task properly, then I am worthy. But if I do not perform the actions for which I was specifically created, I have reverted to being unworthy, just as before.
According to Chassidic sources, the word "today" is a hint of Rosh Hashana. On Rosh Hashana we stand up to be given our appropriate role, the task about which we can truly say that our arrival in the world was worthwhile.
POINT OF VIEW Migron as a "Slippery Slope"
- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute
He [Sancheriv] attacks Ayat and comes to Migron, he leaves his tools in Michmas... Today he will stand at Nov to wave his hand at the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem." [Yeshayahu 10:28,32].
Until recently I did not delve very deeply into the details of the issue of Migron. Like most of the population of our country, including those on the political right, my impression was that aside from the general question of justifying the "settlements" this was a legal struggle dealing with specific issues, such as land ownership, citizen's rights, priorities in destroying illegal structures, and so on. But after I went into the matter in detail, including reading neutral background material, I have come to the conclusion that this is indeed a "slippery slope" setting a precedent that might lead to destruction of the whole settlement enterprise in Yehuda and the Shomron. (Note in passing that the Hebrew word for "slope" is "midron," almost the same as the name Migron.)
The sovereign state of Israel refuses to apologize to the Turkish government for last year's flotilla protesting the Israeli blockade of Azza, even in moderate language, because any concessions on this issue might be taken as surrender which will lead to other attacks against us. In a similar way, giving up on Migron will mean surrender to a legal sword that the Israeli High Court of Justice is stretching out over the unsettled lands in Yehuda and the Shomron.
(1) Everybody agrees that Migron is situated on land that has not been in use for hundreds of years and that was never considered as belonging to any private interests. (2) Everybody agrees that this land is recorded in official papers as belonging to Palestinians. (3) Everybody agrees that the owners were traced by Peace Now or other traitorous organizations, and these "owners" were never aware of their rights to the land. They did not initiate any claims for the land or demands for any compensation. (4) Everybody agrees that the formal records were written only about fifty years ago by the Jordanian King as part of a fictitious distribution of land to tribal leaders and associates. (5) Everybody agrees that it is now clear that there are formal owners of the land, and that therefore there is a legal problem with respect to the land in this area. (6) Everybody agrees that after the fact an effort was made to purchase the land or to propose government compensation, but that the leftist traitorous organizations blocked these efforts. (7) Everybody agrees that the Israeli government invested money in the settlement of Migron – in planning and infrastructure, and so on – in all innocence from the point of view of robbing private land.
Okay, so what comes next? (8) Everybody agrees that this problem is not limited to almost fifty families who live in Migron, but that it is a fundamental and wide-ranging problem that casts a shadow over the entire future of the settlements in Yehuda and the Shomron, because of similar circumstances. (9) Everybody agrees that this matter goes beyond the normal range of issues brought before the High Court of Justice, and that it should be handled through Zionistic laws or by finding a way within the framework of existing law to expropriate these lands for public use, with proper compensation to the owners. And that is what we wrote above: Giving up on the subject of Migron means that we will be surrendering to the threat of the legal sword which hovers over large areas of our land.
Not with Loud Noise, with Strategy
I am convinced that the main area of struggle in this issue should not be a public debate consisting of loud war cries. In addition, a direct confrontation in the courts, with their current leftist composition, is a lost cause. In the legal arena I propose two by-pass routes. One is to strengthen such organizations as "Regavim" and other rightist legal institutions, to help them to swamp the courts with an infinite number of cases about Arab illegal construction and about unequal treatment by the Israeli legal authorities. While the technique that "neither you nor I will have what we want" does not always work for practical reasons, in this case the goal of such a move is to tear away the leftist curtain that conceals the High Court of Justice, and this has value in addition to the claims themselves.
The second front should be opened against the State Attorney's office, which is responsible for enforcing the laws. This must be invigorated by adding new blood to the organization or by establishing new procedures and priorities in the spirit of national Zionism. And who is responsible for this? It is the Minister of Justice!
As I noted above, it would not be worthwhile to make "a large tumult about settlements" in the political arena, because of the reactions that we might expect from the other nations of the world. Large demonstrations against the ruling of the High Court on a question that is perceived to be limited to ownership rights will not help, and in fact will play directly into the hands of the traitorous left. In the end, this will not manage to accomplish anything positive. For the same reasons, evidently there is no real possibility now to change the existing laws of land expropriation that is not directly related to security issues. What remains is to work in roundabout ways by trying to convince relevant people, including the Minister of Defense and those who work with him. The main thing to do is to invest large sums of money behind the scenes to convince the public, to find contact people, and to purchase rights to the land in Migron. The return on such an investment will not be in Migron alone but rather in land throughout Yehuda and the Shomron. Migron will be the focal point in the effort to meet the challenges to national Zionism in modern times!
* * * * * *
At the time of the Tanach, as seen in the quote at the beginning of this article, Migron was on the path taken by Sancheriv on his way to attack Jerusalem. (Have you noticed that the name Sancheriv includes the Hebrew root chet-resh-bet, meaning to destroy?) The verses quoted above are part of the description of his vigorous and bold journey. As the sages wrote, "He passed through Yehuda in haste. Sancheriv made ten trips on that day" [Sanhedrin 94b]. He wanted to wave his hand towards Jerusalem as a sign of scorn. Is the traitorous left descended from Sancheriv?
RESPONSA FOR OUR TIMES The Essence of Rosh Hashana
- by Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen, Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel
Question: (1) According to the Zohar (and Magen Avraham 584:2), no mention is made of any sins on Rosh Hashana. If so, what is the meaning of teshuva, repentance, on this day? (2) What is the basis on which we are judged on Rosh Hashana? It might seem that if judgment takes place all the evil people should die immediately, and righteous people should never die at all.
Answer: "Rabbi Krospedai says in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Three books are opened on Rosh Hashana – one for completely evil people, one for perfectly righteous people, and one for average people. The righteous are immediately written down and sealed for life, evil people are immediately written down and sealed for death, and the average people are put on hold between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If they achieve merits, they are written down for life. If not, they are written down for death." [Rosh Hashana 16b]. It seems that the Rambam took these words of the Talmud at face value (see Hilchot Teshuva Chapter 3).
The Ramban, in his sermon on the subject of Rosh Hashana, asks out of the purity of his straightforward approach: "We might ask: How could Rabbi Yochanan declare such an important and deep ruling on which all the mysticism of the world depends... Do all the righteous people live and all the evil ones die? The truth is that the entire world and all its pleasant elements are in the possession of the evil ones. The written word cries out against what he wrote, 'There are righteous people who perish while they continue with their righteousness... and there are evil people who continue with their ways for a long time' [Kohellet 7:15]. Has this wise man never seen the Book of Iyov, which is full of proofs of this fact?"
The solution proposed by the Ramban is that the context of "righteous" and "evil" as used in the Talmud refers to the plaintiffs in a verdict (as in the verse, "They shall acquit the righteous one and convict the evil one" [Devarim 25:1]) and not to the personality of the one being judged. He notes that on the day of a person's death he is judged for his deeds, but on Rosh Hashana his future is decided. If the decision is that he will live, he is called "righteous," and if not he is called "evil."
This disagreement is relevant to the essence of teshuva. According to the Rambam, it is important to repent for the sins and to perform mitzvot in order to be judged innocent and to be written down in the book of the righteous. However, according to the Ramban, it is not clear exactly what influences whether a person is acquitted or not.
The Approach of the Ramchal
The above words can best be understood from a note by the Maharal in his siddur. He writes that on Rosh Hashana it is necessary "to mend the stages in the secret of the upper level of unity, which provides the strength of Yisrael. The trial that takes place on this day is related to the secret of internal guidance and the secret of this unity." In simpler terms, Rosh Hashana is the day when the rule of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is established over the world, and the King of the Universe sets the role that every person plays. The parameters that define this status are not the actions of the person but rather the will of the King. At times the considerations of the Almighty, in His mystic guidance of the world, lead to the death of a righteous person and to success for an evil one. This might happen, for example, in order to create a world where there is true free choice between good and evil.
This means that the judgment on Rosh Hashana and the establishment of the rule of G-d are one and the same, and that in order for us to stand up for judgment we must cancel out our own will in the face of the Kingdom of G-d. A person must say, I am like Avraham, who said at the time of the Binding of Yitzchak, "Hineini – I am here" [Bereishit 22:1]. The sages taught us, "He said, I am here. I am here for the priesthood, I am here for royalty, I am here to slaughter, I am here to be killed." [Tanchuma]. This is a simple interpretation of the verse – I am ready to do whatever the King of the World demands of me, I have no inherent value in the face of the Kingdom of G-d. Thus, the service of G-d on Rosh Hashana is not related to the sins of the past but is rather a total dedication to be part of the Kingdom of G-d and to sanctify G-d in the world, both in our lives, and if necessary in our death. Let us pray that the King of the World will write us down in the book of the perfectly righteous, and that we will fulfill our appointed task out of a sense of total surrender to the Kingdom of G-d.
HALACHA FROM THE SOURCE "Ashrei" – the Verses that are Added
- by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion
Before the beginning of the Psalm "Tehila L'David" [Tehillim 145:1], we add two verses: "Ashrei – Happy are they who sit in Your house, they will give continue to give You praise" [Tehillim 84:5] "Happy is the nation which is treated so, happy is the nation whose Deity is G-d" [144:15]. The Tosafot explain that these verses are the source for the custom of the pious people who sat in contemplation for an hour before starting to pray. We therefore recite the verses as an introduction to the prayer.
In the era of the Geonim, some people would add six different verses which begin with the word "Ashrei." The Tosafot write that only one verse should be recited (Berachot 34b}. We recite two verses, as noted above.
Why were these verses added to the basic Psalm? As noted they are evidently the source for the custom of the pious people.
"Pious people would sit in contemplation for an hour – What is the source for this? Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi said, it is written, 'Happy are they who sit in Your house.' And Rabbi Yehoshua said, One who prays must sit in contemplation for an hour after the prayers, as is written, 'The righteous will praise Your name, the upright ones will dwell before You' [Tehillim 140:14]."
The verse "Happy are they who sit in Your house" teaches us that one should pause for a while before starting to pray. In the previous articles we saw the importance of reciting Pesukei D'Zimra to prepare or as an introduction to the prayers. In Pesukei D'Zimra we praise G-d. Before the central Psalm of praise, "Tehilla L'David" [Tehillim 145], we put an emphasis on the fact that one who dwells in G-d's house is happy. One who has a desire to recite praises must go through a process of proper spiritual preparation. He cannot come in a rush, he cannot come running. When one comes in haste, he may be able to recite the prayer but he will find it difficult to pray and it will certainly be hard for him to praise G-d.
The Shulchan Aruch does not usually write about the proper length of time of the prayers. However, with respect to Pesukei D'Zimra, it is written, "the prayer should be recited not in a hurry but in a calm manner" [51:8]. The Mishna Berura defines the calm attitude that is needed as that of a person who is "counting money" .
It would seem that this practice is not only in order to prevent us from swallowing the words or skipping some of them. True thanks and true praise must stem from a relaxed and calm feeling. In order to praise in a proper way one must be in the proper spiritual state. When one rushes through the verses of the Pesukei D'Zimra, it is difficult to get into the proper mood. (What is the proper length of time? The Maharil implies that this is half an hour – quoted by responsa of Maharam Mintz, 8. This also appears in Mishna Berura 53:10. The usual practice today is to recite the prayer much faster than this, but it is important not to exaggerate and recite it too fast. Every congregation should decide what time is best for it, such as ten or twelve minutes – as was instituted by Rabbi Bina in Netiv Meir – or about a quarter of an hour. It is a good practice to stick to whatever length has been accepted by the congregation.)
If a person is under stress when he comes to pray, the prayers become something of a burden. Many people in fact do not feel joy during Pesukei D'Zimra because they recite the verses under pressure. In order to sing praise, what is needed is a feeling of a relaxed pause. In order to give praise it is necessary to be sitting: "Happy are they who sit in Your house." Only one who is sitting, who has freed his spirit from all of his mundane occupation, can achieve the status of those who give "great praise."
"Happy is the nation whose Deity is G-d." This is a second introduction. It is not enough that we sit down, it is not enough that G-d is our G-d. This is what transforms us into being happy - to sit in the House of G-d, to have all the good things that G-d gave us ("Happy is the nation which is treated so."). We are happy that G-d is our G-d. After this introduction, we can indeed begin with praise.
- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality
Large proclamations were hung up all over the city asking for people who wanted to work for a short time on a strenuous job. Five men came to the interview, and they met a respectable-looking man dressed in a suit and tie, wearing expensive shoes and with a diamond-studded gold watch on his hand. The man explained that they would be required to dig into the ground. He promised to pay each man a hundred Shekels for every hour of work.
A hundred Shekels? The men could only wonder at the amount, which was much higher than the normal pay for such work. They decided that this must be a man who was so rich that he didn't care how much he paid! Of course nobody said anything out loud about the high pay, they were all afraid that their new boss might change his mind. They were all ready to start immediately.
Mr. Diament, their new boss, took them on a long ride straight into the heart of the desert. At one point he left the paved road and turned into a desolate dirt road while looking at a map over and over again. After a long ride, he stopped the car and declared in a festive voice, "Here we are!"
None of the workers could understand what Mr. Diament had found in this desolate spot, but when you have been promised a salary of a hundred Shekels an hour you don't ask too many questions. They took out the shovels from the trunk of the car and started to dig enthusiastically, following the instructions that they were given. Now and then, Mr. Diament would pick up a clod of earth, look at it, and throw it back on the ground. Sometimes his eyes would light up and he would put the earth into a box. But he never explained what he was doing.
This work continued for two whole weeks. Every morning the workers would travel to the desolate "hole in the ground" in the heart of the desert and dig from morning to night. Mr. Diament stayed with them and showed them that he was happy with their work. The truth is that they were getting very bored – but when they started to feel despair the men remembered their very large salary, and they continued working.
Mr. Diament ever so slowly filled up his box with clods of earth, but it seemed that he still had not found the main thing that he was searching for. Every day he became more and more impatient, and he would check the earth over and over.
And then one day, it all came to an end. After more than two weeks of digging, Mr. Diament went down into the pit as usual. He bent down and tested the clods of earth, and he suddenly shouted, "We found it!" He picked up a piece of earth no larger than a fist and started to tremble from excitement. "It's amazing! It's unbelievable!" He cried out over and over again. He hugged the clod of earth almost as if it were a beloved baby. Could it be that he had gone mad? But the men didn't care at all – today they could expect extra pay!
Only a long time afterwards did they find out the significance of their strange work. There was a small headline in the local newspaper: "The diamond dealer Moshe Diament succeeded in finding a rare diamond worth millions of Shekels." The story explained that after a long and detailed study the dealer had discovered a rare deposit of diamonds and in a secret digging operation he had uncovered many precious stones. The high point of the operation was to find a huge diamond, very rare and beautiful, which was worth a small fortune. He explained that the diamond was covered completely with mud, but that his expertise and many years of experience helped him find the precious stones deep in the ground.
Only then did the workers realize what a great treasure they had been holding in their hands, but at the time they did not know how valuable it was...
* * * * * *
This story is an allegory. We work very hard all our lives. We do not always appreciate the treasures that pass through our hands. There are times when we give up Torah study or good deeds without paying attention, without knowing the great treasure that we are throwing away as if it were nothing more than a clod of earth... At this time of the year, which is dedicated to repentance and good deeds, let us gather our strength and do more and more good deeds. Let us gather more and more treasures and fill our boxes with great wealth in anticipation of the coming new year...
(Source: "Purity in Halacha and Aggada") Reactions and suggestions for stories: firstname.lastname@example.org