Volume 1630: Korach 26 Sivan 5776 02/07/2016
As Shabbat Approaches
A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey /Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne
It is said that a religious tourist complained to Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook about how frustrated he was to see the level of Shabbat desecration and other grave sins in Eretz Yisrael. He wondered why it was that so many Jews who observed the mitzvot when they were abroad became spoiled when they arrived in the holy land.
Rav Kook asked the man where he came from, and he told the Rav. That place had a reputation as a health resort. So the Rav asked him, "Then how can it be that from what I hear there are so many sick people in that city?" The man smiled and said, "It is not that the place made them sick. Rather, they were sick before they came to the resort, and that is why they came." Rav Kook told the man, "If so, then listen to the meaning of what you just said. The sick Jews who came here from afar came to be cured, it is not the place which made them sick."
And Rav Kook explained to the man the characteristic of the land which helps to mend faults. He said that this is included in the description of "a land flowing with milk and honey." I heard this story from Rav Kook's son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda.
With respect to milk, we have been taught that "blood becomes cloudy and is turned into milk" [Nidda 9b]. Rashi explains, "The blood of Nidda becomes cloudy because of the birth of a baby, and it becomes milk. This is thus a novel occurrence – at first it was blood and whoever drank it would be punished by Karet, and now it is permissible." This is the subject of the discussion in the Talmud: Why is milk permitted, since it comes from blood which is prohibited? And the Talmud finds a source for the halacha in the Torah.
A similar question can be asked about honey. While usually it is assumed that honey is produced from sweet nectar in flowers, it is seen in the Prophets that there is also honey which comes from the bees themselves. An example is the case of Shimshon: "Behold, there was a swarm of bees in the carcass of the lion, with honey" [Shoftim 14:8]. Similarly, when Shaul declared a fast his son Yehonatan dipped the end of his staff "in the honey." RADAK interprets this as "the honeycomb." The usual rule in the Torah is that what comes from an impure source is impure. However, even though the bee is an unclean bug, the Torah gave permission to eat the honey.
Thus we have seen two examples of transformation of a serious prohibition into something that is permitted. And that is the benefit of Eretz Yisrael. It is a land "flowing with milk and honey," which can transform impure material into something pure, and something bad into a good thing.
According to the Zohar, the head of the yeshiva in the palace of Mashiach will declare, "Whoever does not know how to transform bitterness into sweetness and dark into light shall not enter here" [Bereishit part 1,3].
This, in fact was the greatest sin performed by Datan and Aviram. They said, "Isn't it enough that you brought us up from a land flowing in milk and honey?" [Bamidbar 16:13]. But the expression "milk and honey" refers to the unique properties of Eretz Yisrael, which are not matched by any other site. It has the ability to change red into white, darkness into light, bitterness into sweetness, and bad into good. However, Datan and Aviram try to transfer this property to Egypt. Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook added that the shock from this attempt is so great that the earth itself trembles and blows up – "And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them" [Bamidbar 16:32].
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Point Of View
The Future of the Academic Colleges for Teachers /Zvulun Orlev
More than 35 years ago, the late Minister of Education and Culture, Zevulun Hammer, made one of the most important and meaningful changes in the way the quality of teachers is maintained in this country. He decided that seminars for teachers and kindergarten teachers would be transformed into academic colleges. They would be authorized to grant a bachelor's degree in education (the equivalent of a B.A. degree) under the auspices of the Council for Higher Education ("Malag"). However, there was one difference from other academic institutions. Instead of having their budgets controlled by the Committee for Planning and Budgeting ("Vatat"), a subsidiary of the Malag, these teacher's colleges would continue to be budgeted by the Ministry of Education, which would remain in charge of the number of students studying and the subject matter covered. Everything was to be matched with the needs of the educational system, within the framework of the law granting free education for all. In a large segment of the subject matter taught in academic institutions in Israel the students are not taught subjects that are directly relevant for their future roles (with the possible exception of physicians). However, the goal of the teachers' colleges is to train professionals to cover the needs of the country – teachers and kindergarten teachers with the proper skills and in sufficient numbers needed for all educational levels and for all sectors, and for all subjects to be taught throughout the country.
Under the Control of the Malag and Vatat
Starting with the new century, many professional committees were appointed which recommended that the colleges be moved from under the control of the Ministry of Education to Vatat, like other academic institutions in Israel. It was felt that budgeting by Vatat would lead to an improvement in the quality of the lecturers, increase the available budgets, and improve the level of teaching in the colleges. In order to do this, it was necessary to merge a number of colleges and to close any college which did not have at least 2,200 students. The idea (mistaken in my opinion) was that larger institutes of learning would guarantee better quality of education.
As time went on, there was much talk but very little action. However, recently, between the resignation of Education Minister Piron and the appointment of Naftali Bennett to replace him, the senior administrators of the Ministry of Education and the Malag decided to make the move to Vatat, and they wrote a plan for rapid implementation.
There is no room here to list everything that is necessary to implement this plan for all the existing academic colleges involved in education. It will suffice to mention two problems: (1) The intention of Vatat-Malag to eliminate all bachelor studies in the colleges and to transfer them to the universities, while in the colleges only a Master's Degree will be given. (2) The number of nonreligious colleges will be reduced to five, only two of them religious (today there are nine). Under these conditions, how will new teachers be taught?
The Damage to the Religious Colleges
It is important to be aware of a unique problem that is involved in putting the religious colleges under control of Vatat-Malag. Most of the heads of religious colleges and their administrative committees agree that it is a good idea for the colleges to move over to Malag, on condition that the educational rules continue to be valid for the colleges and not the rules of the Malag (in my humble opinion they are right). The current Vatat-Malag rules do not recognize any distinction between religious and secular studies, which means that they do not take into consideration the special characteristics of religious education as defined in the Obligatory Education Law and the General Education Law. As an example, these education laws grant authority to hire/fire teachers and principals and to set the contents of educational materials. And no sexual segregation is allowed, while today all of the religious colleges are separated by gender. Within the framework of a strict limit of two religious colleges, there will be no satisfactory way to distribute the colleges from north to south and to take gender separation into account.
I am sorry to say that the senior government officials have a fear of what they call "waking up sleeping dogs," and they are afraid to propose laws that are suitable for religious education. Malag bases its position on a legal position that will not pass the test of the Supreme Court. We must not allow the status of the religious school system to depend on a legal opinion about "what is a worthy goal that is needed" as a criterion for allowing an exception to the Basic Law of Human Respect. Rather, the fear of "avoiding sleeping dogs" requires that matters be settled by new laws which are open and which "take the high road." It is wrong to search for shortcuts and legal loopholes in existing legislation.
The Only Way is through New Legislation
The leaders of religious Zionism in all the generations carefully guarded over the status of religious education. Moving over to Vatat-Malag in the way that the government officials propose, based on existing laws, will separate the preparation of religious teachers from Chemed, the organization of religious schools. As noted above, the laws of Vatat and Malag pay no attention to differences between religious and secular education, between men and women, and between the center of the country and the periphery.
For 68 years we have been wary and we have refused to accept under-the-table solutions, relegating Chemed to an ad-hoc and second-class status. We stood our ground and demanded that Chemed must be settled in a governmental approach, based on new laws, even if there was a fear of interfering with "sleeping dogs." And our approach succeeded. Chemed was able to maintain its status and its independence even while we were part of the opposition to the government and even when the Ministers of Education were from the left (for example, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir).
The time has come for determined action to prevent substantial harm to the institution of Chemed – the religious school system. Today there is well-founded worry in Chemed, but we have the ear of the current Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett.
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Melodies On A Violin
The Great Debate /Moshe (Mussa) Berlin
About two hundred years ago, a huge disagreement erupted among the Jews, mainly the Chassidic sects, about how to relate to the Napoleonic Wars. Some people felt that they were comparable to the wars of Gog and Magog, and they openly wondered if Napoleon's ideas and conquests were good for the Jews or not. This raised a secondary question about whether the Jews should become spiritually involved in the wars by praying for Napoleon's success or failure.
The main dispute was between the "Seer" of Lublin and the "Holy Yehudi" from Peshischa. The argument grew in intensity as Napoleon approached to invade Russia in order to wage war on Czar Alexander.
Two other Chassidic leaders joined the fray. The Tanya (the "Elder Rebbe" of Chabad) announced:
"If Bonaparte wins, the status of Yisrael will be enhanced and their riches will increase, but their hearts will become removed from their Father in Heaven. If our master Alexander (the Czar) is the victor, the status of Yisrael will be lowered and they will become poor, but then they will become closer to G-d and their hearts will cling to their Father in Heaven."
On the other hand, the Magid of Kuznitz, the Seer of Lublin, and Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov all felt as follows:
"This war is an appropriate opportunity for complete redemption. Pray to G-d and beg Him that Napoleon should play the role of Gog and Magog, and that he should succeed in his war against Russia."
At first glance, this would seem to be a controversy in the name of heaven, since Napoleon did not physically wage war against the Jews, and the Czar fiercely oppressed them.
The attitude towards the wars in Poland is an expression of opposing world outlooks among Chassidic Jewry. There are communities which want to maintain a status that is closed to the outside world and completely uniform, not allowing novelties and changes which might lead to new approaches. They are willing to give up possible benefits out of a fear of turning from the path of the Torah and of assimilation. Therefore, they will pray and make a great fuss in order for Napoleon to be defeated and for the Czar to win, in spite of the problems and the suffering of the exile. People on the other side are ready to bless every possible relief that the government provides for the Jews. As far as they are concerned, improvements in standard of living and personal status will advance the chances of the redemption. They believe that if Napoleon will indeed fulfill his promises to give the Jews personal freedom, the action can even be viewed as the arrival of the footsteps of Mashiach.
Chabad maintains the "conflict" with Napoleon to this day. Instead of the word "Tzorfat" – France – they rearrange the letters to read "paratzta" ("And you will burst out to the west and the east..." [Bereishit 28:14]). And they rub out the great evils of the Napoleonic regime at the holiest moments of the year, such as during "Ne'ilah" on Yom Kippur. (Note that the sum of the numerical value of the four letters of "paratzta" ("gematria") is 770, which is a significant number for Chabad: Peh = 80, Resh = 200, Tazdik = 90, Tov = 400.) Then they play the Napoleon March (which was played by the French when they attacked Russia), to show that we have conquered him. As the Rebbe said, " Victory is ours!"
A common theme in Chassidut (including in the approach of Rabbi Nachman) is that the way to overcome the "angel" of a specific nation is to take their own tune (or hymn) and sanctify it with our prayers. In our family too we have preserved one of the Napoleonic marches which was sung by a Chassidic community, to help lead to his victory or his defeat.
Since the time of Napoleon, many great events have taken place in the world in general and in Judaism in particular, many of them on a scale of Gog and Magog. We have not yet reached any conclusions about the significance of these events. Can we say, " Behold, it stands right behind our wall" [Shir Hashirim 2:9] and "The sound of my lover knocks for me" [5:2], or perhaps not? Shall we rise up to "scale the walls" that hold us back or shall we continue to fulfill the "Three Oaths" which have been taken to mean that we must wait patiently?
The arguments continue, since "Every dispute which is in the name of heaven will continue to exist" [Avot 5:17].
Listen to the "Napoleon March": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jRzoxW4Kbo
For reactions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: www.mussaberlin.com
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Nature and the Torah portion
Honey/Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"Is it not enough that you brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, that you also seek to dominate over us very strongly?" [Bamidbar 16:13].
In edition number 1602 of Shabbat B'Shabbato, Mikeitz 5776, I suggested that the honey which Yaacov sent to Yosef was bee honey. Like the other elements of the gift, this honey had great medicinal value, and it was therefore worthy of being sent as a gift to a king. As Sforno writes, "When somebody gives a gift to a wealthy person who does not care about money, it is best to give a small amount, but that it should be a substance which is very important in small amounts. This is what can be found in the royal palace. And that is the type of gift that they brought to Yosef."
Flowing with Milk and Honey?
The verse quoted above is problematic for us, since according to Datan and Aviram Egypt was a land "flowing with milk and honey. "What could be special about sending honey from Eretz Yisrael?
One answer to this question might be that the expression "flowing with milk and honey" is not a simple phrase but rather describes a state of abundance which makes it easy to purchase these products. Another possibility is to suggest that the honey in Egypt was not taken from bees but was made from dates, which is much less expensive than bee honey. However, both of these answers seem strained, and we prefer to accept the suggestion of Menachem Dardik, who suggests that the honey which Yaacov sent was the very precious "zifim honey" which is discussed by the sages.
The first reference to "zifim honey" is in the Mishna: "Everything that pours remains ritually pure except for zifim honey and thick cakes made of honey and flour..." [Machshirin 5:9]. This means that if a person pours liquid from one vessel to another we say that the stream of liquid connects the vessels only if it is very viscous, like zifim honey. In this case, if the material in the lower vessel is impure the impurity rides up the stream to the liquid in the upper one. Not much can be learned from this Mishna about this special type of honey except for the fact that it is very viscous. Because it is so thick, when we stop pouring from one vessel to another the honey in the air is pulled back into the upper vessel. This is described in the Mishna, "It moves back." It is interesting to note that one of the modern recommended ways to test if honey is real or counterfeit is based on the high viscosity. When high-quality honey is poured out of a spoon, it flows in a continuous stream without "breaking up" into separate drops. Good honey falls in a layered structure which rapidly disappears, indicating that it is highly viscous. If this does not happen, it can be assumed that the water content of the honey is too high (more than 18%), a property which can shorten the shelf life of the product. As long as the concentration of water is less than 18% the honey can be stored for a very long time, since at this concentration the yeast in the honey cannot begin a process of fermentation, which would spoil it.
In the Talmud there is a dispute about the meaning of the term "zifim". "What is zifim? Rabbi Yochanan says, it is honey that has been tampered with (from the word 'ziyuf' – a fraud). Raish Lakish says, it is named for a place, as is written, 'Zif, Telem, and B'alot' [Yehoshua 15:24]." [Sotta 48b].
Rashi sees a link between the high quality of this honey and the fact that it is tampered with. "Since it is so good and thick, water or wine which is added to it is not detected." It may be that Rabbi Yochanan and Raish Lakish basically agree about the high quality of "zifim" honey, but they do not agree about the source of the name. Raish Lakish's approach implies that the name is derived from the place where it is produced and not only from its physical properties. This might have served as the source for the Rambam in his explanation of the name "Tzufim." He writes, "Nofech tzufim refers to honey produced in a place in Eretz Yisrael named Tzipiya, and it had a very high quality in terms of its appearance, its taste, and its scent." [Hilchot Sotta 9:12].
Honey from Southern Mount Chevron
Thus, to be consistent with the approach of Raish Lakish, we must find what makes the area of Zif so suitable for the production of honey that it was used as a name for the honey itself. I found an answer to this question in an article by Nachum Dardik, "Honey at the Time of the Bible – The Unique Character of the Honey of Zif" (Kiryat Arba Bulletin). Here is what he writes:
"Zifim honey comes from the city of Zif in the area of Yehuda – today this is a tel overlooking the Zif Junction in the area of the southern Chevron Mountains. What was special about zifim honey? It was produced from wild flowers that grow in the area: hyssop, thyme, and one other plant that is found only in the Zif Desert – 'Eizovit Hamidbar' (Origanum dayi). Dr. Amir Kitron wrote the following about this plant in a summary of medicinal herbs which appear in the book of Bamidbar: 'An outstanding abundance can be found in the area of the towns of Susia and Maon in the southern part of Mount Chevron. This plant is rich in ethereal oil with a scent that is reminiscent of mint, eucalyptus, and kampur (a medicinal herb which was grown in Japan and in China), and more.' Zifim honey was solidified and of high quality, and it was famous in the ancient world. Usually, honey from wildflowers becomes solid more quickly than other types of honey. This can help explain why Yaacov sent honey in his gift to Egypt, which was itself considered an important producer of honey... Today too high-quality honey is produced in the area of Chevron and the Chevron hills, and it often comes in first place in taste tests performed by the Israeli Honey Board."
For more information in Hebrew and for pictures, and to regularly receive articles about plants and animals linked to the Daf Yomi, write e-mail to: email@example.com
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Five Mistakes that Parents Make /Yoni Lavie
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website
Before a person can drive a car the law requires many things of him or her. It is necessary to take dozens of driving lessons, to take a test in theory, to pass an internal test with his teacher, then to pass a formal licensing test (and another... and another...). Only after a long and expensive training course does the candidate achieve the goal and receive a license. Similar actions take place with respect to almost every important realm in life. However, there is one exception to this hard and fast rule: "Educating the children." In order to bring a child into the world and raise him or her in your home for twenty years or so, there are no minimum requirements of any kind. There is no written approval or academic degree, no need for a matriculation exam, and not even a basic "parenting" course. There is a basic assumption that you will know what to do. You will react precisely as needed and in an educational way to every situation, you will know how to give advice and guide the child and the maturing adult through all the ups and downs of life, and you will cope successfully with all difficulties and challenges, along with all the other "surprises" that your child throws at you.
The only problem is that in practice this often doesn't work very well. It is true that some things are instinctive even if we have not learned them formally, but unfortunately educating children is not one of them. The process is based on a deep and complex set of rules, which in our generation have become more complicated than ever before. When somebody tries to react spontaneously and depends on things "coming out okay," there may be grave mistakes, which can exact a high price from us and from our children. The following are five common mistakes that should be avoided:
* "The whole game of soccer is total foolishness. All the players are nothing more than ne'er-do-wells whose only brains are in their shoes..." Even if we think that what interests our child is unimportant to say the least, it is wrong and unsuitable to disparage it with a wave of our hand. If some subject is important to our child, it is wrong for us to put it to shame and to show him or her that we want to clomp all over it. In addition, some parents who encounter a difficulty or problem that the child faces tend to disparage it and treat it as unimportant. They seem to think that by doing this they will help the child overcome the problem. This is a bad mistake. We can help our child much more by inclusion – by incorporating his or her feelings within ourselves and discussing them together, we can really link up to his or her position, and their needs and fears. We should never hide within our own private space, from which we chop away what they feel is important as if with a cleaver.
* "I have told him a thousand times to stop playing on the computer and to go and take a shower, but he continues to bang away at the keyboard as if I was talking to the wall." It is really surprising that understanding and intelligent parents repeat over and over some actions which they can plainly see doesn't accomplish anything... "Madam, why did it reach a thousand times and you didn't stop after five hundred or even after the first hundred?? Don't you see that this method has no effect on him at all?"
The operative principle is very simple: Never tell a child something more than twice. The first time we will give him or her the benefit of the doubt, and we may assume that he was caught up in the game, and we will repeat our demand one more time. But once the message has been delivered, there is no reason to keep repeating the demand like a broken record. (And it really doesn't pay to raise your voice and start to yell.) What can we do? After speaking to the child twice, it is time for us to "recalculate our route" and to change our tactics. For example, we might move to direct action, by turning the computer off and taking it with us on the way to the shower. The next day we might allow him to go to the computer only after he has taken a shower. Just say, "I see that you have trouble stopping in the middle of a game, so from now on you take your shower first." And so on...
* What rubbish they teach in school today... This teacher really doesn't know how to teach..." The members of the educational staff of the school are our stand-ins. They do their work in a dedicated and faithful fashion, with only moderate pay and while coping every day with complex situations. It is true that there is no guarantee that they do not make mistakes, but it is a serious mistake on our part to disparage the staff and show a lack of respect for them in front of our children. How can we expect our son or daughter to listen attentively to what they are being taught in school after their father has loudly declared, "The teacher is an idiot!" and "The rabbi is crazy"? We pay a high fee for sending our children to school. It is a shame to waste all that investment by our own actions. A basic feeling of respect between parents and the educational staff is a strong requirement for the success of our children.
* "I want to see you back here by 11 o'clock, do you hear me?? / Excuse me, but you are not leaving this house in that skirt!" Quite a few discussions take place with terrible timing. The classic place for this is at the front door, a moment before the boy or girl tries to sneak out without being caught. And this is our cue to begin a nervous discussion in a stressful atmosphere – where the chances that something positive can come out of this is similar to the possibility of signing a Middle East peace treaty next month. Even if you are a thousand percent correct, it is vital to carefully choose the right time to speak to the children, as well as the proper framework for the talk. If we do this with enough advance warning and not at the very last second and if in addition we manage to create a positive atmosphere of listening and remaining close to each other, there is a chance that we can achieve our objective.
Another important principle is the balance between negative and positive issues. If most of the conversations with a child are about criticism of his bad points, he will learn to close the door tight and stop listening. It is very important to make sure that the main contact between the two of you should involve good things, related to happy events and the family. Do this and it is possible now and then to slip in some criticism, and there is even a chance that it will have a positive effect.
* "And now for the job of head of the opposition..." Quite often parents are frustrated when they explain some educational principle to their son in a very clear and detailed way, while he remains obstinate and rejects point after point in a way that seems to them to be weak and unimpressive. We should not get excited or become upset! Sometimes this is just part of the game. Some young people enjoy playing the role of the "opposition leader." Say "black" and they will say "white," say "hot" and they will insist on "cold." This does not mean that they don't listen, and that at least some of your arguments didn't sink in. Perhaps you will even hear them quoting you word for word in a conversation with their friends. Do not despair of the labor of education, even if at first glance it appears that you are talking to the wall...
For reactions, added material, and to join an e-mail list: milatova.org.il
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Riddle of the Week
Korach /Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
This week's Torah portion includes the word with the highest
Numerical value in the Torah (1500).
What is the word?
Answers for last week – the riddle was: The "truth" which we usually hear is missing from this week's Torah portion.
- Twice a day we recite the Shema, and we end the command to wear tzitzit with the words, "Your G-d is truth (emet)." But in the Torah itself the word "truth" does not appear.
(With thanks to Mann, from Petach Tikva, who sent the riddle.)
- A Second Answer: In Moshe's prayer (Bamidbar 14:18), he mentions 9 of the 13 traits which we repeat in our daily prayers (Shemot 34:6). One of the traits that he does not mention is "truth." (With thanks to Azriel Berger, who sent this solution, quoting Rabbi M.M. Yaakobowitz.)
* * * * * *
We will be happy to publish your riddles here, with proper credit to the author. Send your suggestions to the e-mail address given below.
Do you have a bar/bat mitzva coming up? Are you looking for a special quiz?
To order: www.hidonim.com
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