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Volume 1600: Va'yishlach  16 Kislev 5776 28/11/2015

Point Of View

The Greatest Hypocrite from among our Friends /Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"Eisav ran towards him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him" [Bereishit 33:4]. "It is accepted halacha that Eisav hates Yaacov, but this teaches us that he felt pity at that moment and kissed him with all his heart" [Rashi].

"This teaches us that he did not come to kiss him ('lenashko') but rather to bite him ('lenashcho'). But Yaacov's neck became as hard as marble, and the evil one hurt his teeth. 'And they wept' – One wept for his neck, and the other wept for the damage to his teeth." [Bereishit Rabba 78].

"I heard from my mentor, my late grandfather, that the kiss is itself an act of biting, as is written, 'An enemy's kisses are excessive' [Mishlei 27:6]." [Sefat Emet, Vayishlach 5644].


Which friend of ours is a great hypocrite? You guessed it! The United States of America! This cannot be denied. It is true that this nation is our political friend, a support in terms of physical security, helps us with our budget, and is also the leader of the democratic world. I firmly believe that this friendship is based to a large extent on an honest approach, but that it has an even stronger element of self-interest and benefits, based on the Jewish vote in the presidential elections, and to curry favor with the Jewish lobby groups which have an influence on the government.

Certainly, open political disagreements are legitimate. The normal formulas for such disputes include such statements as the following: "A simple discussion between friends... Just like in the family..." Well, there are definitely a number of serious differences between Israeli policies and those of the State Department and the White House. We can list the two major issues: The nuclear energy agreement with Iran, and the demand to establish two sovereign states between the Jordan River and the Sea – one Palestinian (ethnically pure, at least in practice) and the other a Jewish nation which will have within it many Moslem and Palestinian inhabitants. This is an absurd political demand, aside from its being unrealistic and impossible to implement. However, this is not hypocrisy, it is after all an open demand that can be tied to various explanations.

Hypocrisy means to demand from the other side ethical or legal behavior which is regularly breached by the one who proposes it. For example, we can assume that if the Israeli police would treat criminal activity of dark-skinned immigrants with drawn guns like the American police do – we would be roundly scolded by the White House spokesman, presidential advisors, and preachers of ethics. There are many other examples of American hypocrisy, demanding from other countries what it refuses to do. A simple Google search will reveal many instances of this...

Our Brother Yehonatan

What has led me to discuss this matter today? You guessed it! Yehonatan Pollard, who was released a week ago. We can assume that during the past week, until this article is published, much material will appear with commentary and analysis about this semi-secret affair. The story of his capture and the details of the charges against him are hidden in a partial cloud. But even if the published reasons for his harsh treatment, which are accredited to American intelligence bodies, are all true, I can see no way to understand the refusal of a pardon by the political Presidents of the United States, and their "inability to interfere in legal matters" – while each and every one of them forced Israel to set free murderers and arch-terrorists who were prosecuted and convicted in the Israeli justice system.

This behavior is seen to be especially severe in view of the fact that Israel acknowledged that Pollard was an "Israeli agent" and granted him Israeli citizenship (in 1998, thirteen years after he was convicted). This changed the character of the discussion from a personal criminal matter to a negotiation between the two countries. During the years that Pollard was in prison, the United States released spies from Russia, Cuba, and more, and only Pollard languished in prison.

I cannot believe that the hypocritical refusal to release Pollard stemmed from a desire to keep him as a bargaining chip in relations with Israel, in order to extort concessions in the Palestinian realm. We have not seen any hint of using him in this way. Thus, all that remains is hypocrisy of the various Presidents of the United States, who found a way to take vengeance against their "friend" by stoutly refusing the requests, while hiding behind a claim based on non-interference with their justice system.

Those familiar with these matters see a principle motive for the actions of the United States in revenge sought by "intelligence bodies" against one who insulted them a generation ago. Some people point a finger at the anti-Israeli stand of many of the heads of these agencies. Such manipulation is the only way to explain the disgraceful conditions on Pollard's "house arrest" – forcing him to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements (does it include a listening device?) and prohibiting any connection to the internet. The only explanation I can think of for this decree is an attempt to set traps for Pollard so that he will be hard put to maintain his freedom – so that in the end he may be sent back to prison, to the rousing cheers of the "intelligence bodies."

I have one more very serious statement: I am not very familiar with the internal viewpoints among the Jews of the United States, but the media report that "the Jewish lobby forces" did not get sufficiently involved in the efforts to free Pollard. It could be that the question of "double loyalty" led some of the leaders of the Jewish community in the United States to refrain from acting on this issue.

* * * * * *

"An Enemy's Kisses are Excessive"

We started this article with quotes from this week's Torah portion about the hypocritical kisses of Eisav which were an expression of a desire to bite Yaacov's neck. Rabbis in the Talmud disagreed about the meaning of Eisav's kissing Yaacov. Rashi quotes the opinion of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, that the meaning of the kisses can change: "It is accepted halacha that Eisav hates Yaacov, but this teaches us that he felt pity at that moment and kissed him with all his heart." But the Sefat Emet has a novel lesson for us: There are times when a kiss itself is really an attempt to bite!

Any apparent connection between this matter and Israel's best friend is clearly coincidental.

(Written at the end of Shabbat "Vayeitzei")

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As Shabbat Approaches

Don't Stop on your Way to the Goal /Esti Rosenberg,
Head of the Midrasha for Women, Migdal Oz

In last week's Torah portion, we fled together with Yaacov from his brother Eisav, on a journey to the unknown. Together we collected stones on our way, fearing for the future. A ladder reaching into the sky and angels strengthen Yaacov's belief that he is on the right path, and give him faith in the Holy One, Blessed be He, who accompanies him into exile, and who will give him "bread to eat and clothing to wear" [Bereishit 28:20] and the strength to return home in peace.

In his sleep, Yaacov receives from the Shechina the blessings of Avraham – both land and offspring. Yaacov understands that he is not only fleeing from Eisav but that he has also been sent to find a wife, in order to fulfill the great mission, to "command his household after him, to keep on the path of G-d" [18:19].

Yaacov wakes up in fear, and he makes a vow that demonstrates his great faith in his ability to accomplish the mission, together with fear of the day-to-day obstacles which might interfere. On one hand are the blessings of Avraham and the revelation of the Shechina, and on the other hand are Eisav in pursuit and family anger and complications. Thus, Yaacov is under the influence of mixed forces as he leaves on the way to Choron, and his vow is a reminder to him not to forget his great mission – to return in peace, to build an altar and a house of G-d, and to call out in the name of G-d, as his fathers did.

Yaacov's vow has two elements: "If G-d will be with me and if He will watch over me on this path which I take..." [28:20]. In return, Yaacov promises, "this stone, which I placed as a monument, will become a house of G-d" [28:21]. And the Creator indeed fulfills His part of the bargain – Yaacov achieves greatness, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, brings him back home in peace.

After the birth of his children, leaving Lavan, and the emotionally charged meeting with Eisav, Yaacov arrives in Shechem, with all of his strength. The first thing that Yaacov should do is go to Beit El and build an altar. But he takes his time, and the problematic events of Dinah overtake him, with the result that the Holy One, Blessed be He, commands him: "Rise up to Beit El and dwell there, and build an altar to G-d who appeared to you when you fled from your brother" [Bereishit 35:1]. Rashi explains, "Since you delayed on the way, you were punished with the events caused by your daughter."

Throughout all the years, Yaacov struggles with the great mission of calling out to G-d and establishing the nation of Yisrael, while at the same time raising children, providing for his family, and coping with complex family situations. Yaacov delays on his journey because of the challenges of a full life and raising his children, but the Creator demands that he return to Beit El and returns to his mission of building an altar to G-d. We too are called on to cope with the two levels at the same time: our mission and our fate, deep significance and day-to-day living. Yaacov's vow demands of us to remember and to strike a balance between the two levels, and not to delay - to ascend to Beit El every day and to build an altar dedicated to G-d, who redeems us.

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Sweetness For The Soul

The Chassidic Art of War /Rabbi Atiel Gilady,
Lecturer in the School for the Soul and Editor of the Writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg

On the nineteenth of Kislev, the New Year for Chassidut, the following verse is sung: "He redeemed my soul in peace from a battle against me" [Tehillim 55:19]. (This was the reaction of the Elder Rebbe when he was told that he was being released from prison.) The verse emphasizes that redemption of the soul and victory in the battle came through "peace" and not by war. How do we win wars of the soul with peace? What is the "sword of peace" (see Taanit 22a) which can bring victory?

One of the innovations of Chassidut as opposed to Mussar is the way evil in the soul (and therefore in all of reality) is treated. In general, the moral outlook of Mussar involves the revealed evil in the soul, while Chassidut also involves the hidden evil (after two hundred years, this was identified by psychology as unconscious thought). However, the way to cope with exposed evil is approached in different ways. Mussar saw direct confrontation with evil as the ideal, and only after victory was it possible to advance to strengthening the good. "Turn away from evil and [afterwards] do good" [Tehillim 34:15]. Our master, the Baal Shem Tov, read this verse differently – "Turn away from evil" by "doing good," since "a small amount of light can repulse a lot of darkness" (and "darkness cannot be sent away using sticks").

Adverse Effects

A direct struggle against evil can have adverse side effects:

  • "One who fights evil becomes evil himself" – in a war against evil, a person enters into the concepts of evil. Many times, an analysis of a problem and becoming involved in its details can move a person from a healthy way of thinking to a "sick" outlook, when "ugly" ideas occupy him and become part of his internal world.
  • In addition, the struggle itself can lead to internal constriction, since when most of the effort is geared towards solving a specific problem important sections of the soul do not develop properly (as a parallel example – see what happens when the security budget is larger than the budgets for education and culture).
  • Most important, constant involvement in the struggle against evil creates a viewpoint of the world where evil becomes real and is very threatening, while the good can only stand up to it with a constant highly focused effort (leading to a low probability of success).

Deal with the Positive

Enhancing the good in the soul – not by ignoring the reality of evil and the need to be wary of it (including the simple approach to "turning away from evil") but as an art of the best way to fight evil – can lead to much better results than the above approach:

  • When the main concern is to enhance the good, the familiarity with evil concepts becomes minimal and marginal – instead of getting involved with ugly evil concepts the soul is occupied with the good and absorbs a good fragrance.
  • Being involved with light nurtures the good and healthy segments of the soul and removes internal restrictions. Even if a person has a problem, he does not define himself by the problem and imprison himself inside it. He is involved in other matters, and he becomes free and immunized in a way that will help him cope with problems.
  • Most important, by increasing the light one nurtures a world outlook where evil is a temporary phenomenon and the good is eternal and will win. (This does not mean to whitewash or ignore evil. The belief in the power and the innate strength of light and good allows true criticism of evil and greater depth in the unconscious roots. Then, even in the innermost reaches of the soul, the unconscious good gains control over the unconscious evil.)

The "sword of peace" comes to the struggle out of a sense of perfect faith in the eventual victory of good (like Shimon and Levi who attacked Shechem "with faith" [Bereishit 34:25] – "sure of the power of the elderly one"). It can become flexible and attack the faults of the soul from behind, from within the good and powerful realms of the soul, and not in a direct fight when a person may be exposed to injury and evil.

Adding to the light, which expels and transforms the darkness, is the main message of the month of Kislev, when we "add to and steadily increase" the number of Chanukah lamps. "The path of the righteous ones is like the glow of the sun, becoming brighter as noon approaches" [Mishlei 4:18]. The same is true of the nineteenth of Kislev. The Elderly Rebbe received a heavenly message that in spite of all the hindrances and the difficulties, he must redouble his efforts to disseminate the inner light of the Torah in order to mend and improve the world. Today too, with all the internal struggles among the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, what we must do most of all is to enhance the light.

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A Parsha Insight

For You, Rachel!/Rabbi Assaf Harnoy,
Post-Graduate Beit Midrash for Torah and Leadership, Jerusalem

Why Bury Rachel on the Way?

When Yaacov leaves Beit El, at the peak of his life, Rachel suddenly dies, and he buries her on the road to Efrat, near Beit Lechem. From the early days of kindergarten, we all remember that the reason Yaacov chose to bury Rachel there and not in the Machpelah Cave was so that she would be able to ask for mercy for her children as they passed her grave on the way to a long exile. Aside from geographic considerations, there is a very strong question that one may ask: Couldn't Rachel pray for her children from the Machpelah Cave? Is there some kind of distance limitation on guarding over offspring and asking for mercy, such that the prayers will be received from the area of Beit Lechem but that puts the Machpelah Cave out of bounds?

In short, what is the spiritual principle behind Yaacov's decision to bury Rachel on the road and not in the Machpelah Cave?

Yaacov Wanted to Bury Rachel in the Machpelah Cave

The above question is reinforced in the light of a remarkable Midrash which describes a conversation where Yosef asks his father why he deprived Rachel of her privilege and chose not to bury her in the holy family plot in the Machpelah Cave. Yaacov replies to his son that he originally planned to bury her in the cave, but that the Holy One, Blessed be He, prevented him from doing so:

"He asked his father, 'Why wasn't she put into the grave together with you?' – because Yosef was very upset about this. And his father began to answer him... Just as you wanted your mother to be sent for burial, so I wanted... However, I buried her where she is because of a Divine command. I wanted to bring her to proper burial, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, did not let me..." [Psikta Rabbati, 3].

Thus, we see that it was not Yaacov who chose Rachel's burial site but rather the Holy One, Blessed be He. To understand this, we must delve more deeply into the matter.

Mother Rachel

In another place, the Midrash describes the great people of every generation as they come and beg the Holy One, Blessed be He, to rescue their children from the yoke of exile and persecution. However, the Holy One, Blessed be He, refuses to listen to anybody else but only to Rachel:

"She said – Master of the World, it is clear to You that Yaacov loved me very much, and he labored for me with my father for seven years... And when the time came for me to marry my husband, my father decided to exchange my sister and me for my husband,and this was extremely difficult for me... But I consoled myself and suppressed my desire, and I had pity on my sister, to make sure that she would not be put to shame... and I gave her the signals [to be handed over to Yaacov]... Not only that, I crawled under the bed where he lay with my sister, and when he spoke to her she was silent and I replied to whatever he said... Immediately, the Holy One, Blessed be He, took pity and said: For you, Rachel, I am bringing Yisrael back to its rightful place." [Eichah Rabba 24].

A Symbol of Unconditional Love

All of Rachel's life, from beginning to end, was linked to unconditional love. This love led her to overcome her natural feelings and time after time to give in to her older sister. The highest peak of this unconditional love is apparent in the choice of her burial place. She was buried on the road – not in the place Yaacov and Yosef wanted - not in the Machpelah Cave, the family burial plot. Her burial sets Rachel aside for all eternity as the ultimate symbol of "ahavat chinam" – unconditional love. Even during the last moments of her encounter with this world, she is perpetually remembered as having given up her gravesite to her sister.

Thus, it is perfectly clear why Rachel is the one who manages to "shuffle the deck" and generate mercy for her children, who were sent into exile because of the sin of "sinat chinam" – unjustified hatred. Let Rachel's unconditional love overpower her children's unjustified hatred. The unjustified hatred which led to the destruction of the Temple and to exile is fixed and corrected based on the contrary force of Rachel – through unconditional love.

Rachel's grave is not simply a geographical site which her children will pass on their way to exile. It is a symbol of unconditional love, which helps to mend the fault of unjustified hatred which was the cause of the exile.

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Notes From The Haftarah

The Wise Men of Edom /Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem

Based on a verse from this week's Haftarah, our sages have taught us the following: "If a person tells you, 'There is wisdom among other nations,' believe it, as is written, 'I will destroy the wise men from Edom and the understanding from Mount Sei'ir' [Ovadiah 1:8]. If he tells you, 'There is Torah among other nations,' do not believe, as is written, 'Her king and her leaders are dispersed among the nations, there is no Torah' [Eichah 2:9]." [Eichah Rabba 2:13]. The verse which describes the destruction of the wisdom of Edom implies that in fact they do have wisdom. There would seem to be a direct link between the characteristic wisdom of Edom and the fact that it was lost. The wisdom of Edom, and clearly the wisdom of all of Western culture, competes with the wisdom of Yisrael. Western culture is rooted in an outlook based on criticism which is the foundation of modern science and has given mankind tremendous benefits. However, at the same time it cannot provide any help in trying to understand the internal essence of life. It will constantly remain external to existing phenomena, without being able to penetrate into them in any depth.

This was best explained by Rabbi Avraham Bibago, among the last of the wise men of Spain before the expulsion, in his book "The Path of Faith" (pages 150-151, published by Mossad Bialik). The wisdom of Yisrael, which is rooted in prophecy, is opposed by competition: the wisdom of Egypt, of Babylon, and of Edom (Rome). The struggle between the wisdom of Yisrael and that of each of the other nations takes place while Yisrael is in their midst, in exile. The wisdom of Egypt is based on developing the world of the senses and magic, and the wisdom of Babylon is based on imagination. For these two nations, the struggle against Yisrael was brought to an end in a relatively short time. In Egypt, Moshe arrived after 210 years of exile. He began the series of plagues with actions that the sorcerers could also perform, until he exposed the limits of their powers. And after only 70 years of exile in Babylon, Daniel showed the superiority of the prophets by explaining the dreams of the King which the wise men of Babylon were not able to interpret.

As opposed to the first two exiles, the exile of Edom lasted for a very long time (today we know that it was 1880 years long). This is because the spiritual competition with Judaism is based on a very fine distinction, what Rabbi Bibago calls the "chush hatevunati" – the "sense of understanding." This name, which was given by Rabbi Bibago to the concept of philosophy, has a double meaning: On one hand, an element of a sense or a feeling, and on the other hand an element of understanding. Thus, this approach claims that it has an understanding, an objective knowledge of reality, when in fact it involves subjective knowledge based on the senses. Ever since western philosophy admitted this weakness during the days of Immanuel Kant, the way has been opened for a renewal of the culture of the prophets through the return to Zion, and there is no longer any need for exile. From that time on, the calls for a return to Zion gained in strength.

Part of the wisdom of Edom will be preserved when its good elements are adopted and its corrupt elements are rejected by holy men, the children of Yaacov: "And saviors will rise up on Mount Zion to judge the Mountain of Eisav" [Ovadia 1:21]. One of the most important goals of redemption is the labor of judging and clarification of the values of Eisav, which in a broad sense will encompass the entire world.

Rabbi Cherki is the head of Brit Olam – Noahide World Center, Jerusalem

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Melodies On A Violin

Mikdash Melech : The Story of a Melody /Moshe (Mussa) Berlin

On Friday, before Shabbat, Rabbi Yisrael Lau (as a child) and his brother Naftali traveled from their home in Pietrikov to the camp in Chenstohova. From the far end of the cabin where they were sent, they heard a tune of "Mikdash Melech" ("The Temple of the King") from the poem, " Lecha Dodi." The Chazzan Yosef (Yoseleh) Mandelbaum was singing.

The melody somewhat eased the horrible suffering of Yisrael ("Lulik") and Naftali. Naftali guarded over his younger brother, as he had promised his mother to do when they were separated.

The daily schedule in the camp included hard labor that Naftali was required to do, while Yisrael, the younger brother, was left to fend for himself in the cabin. Day by day their hardship increased, but they were "consoled" somewhat by the sweet memory of the tune that they had heard, "Mikdash Melech."

The above is a summary of the story as it appears in Rabbi Lau's book, "Do Not Harm the Child."

My friend and fellow musician Berny Marinbach was searching for materials for a program for Holocaust Memorial Day, and he came across this story. Along the way to come to me for a visit, he met Barbara Mevorach, and she told him that her father attended the synagogue where the chazzan Yoseleh Mandelbaum prayed.

Mandelbaum had survived the Holocaust, and he returned to the Chassidic sect of Bobov, where he grew up, and where he composed many new tunes. This added another element to the story, and we now knew more about Yoseleh Mandelbaum.

However, the third element was still missing. Berny asked me: "What is the melody of Mikdash Melech?" I suggested a tune to him which I had known for some time, and I gave him a recording and the music written by Yoseleh Mandelbaum, the chazzan of Bobov.

And now we had to verify that our tune for Mikdash Melech was the same melody that the two brothers heard in the camp, in Chenstohova. I asked Naftali Lavie if he remembered the tune, and he said he did not. I asked if he would recognize it if I played it, and he said he would. When I sang it, Naftali agreed that this indeed seemed to be the right melody.

When Naftali celebrated his eightieth birthday, we came to his house and played Mikdash Melech. I cannot describe the excited tremor that took hold of all the people who were present.

Rabbi Benny Lau, Naftali's son, told me: "This tune has accompanied our family ever since that wonderful birthday celebration, nine years ago." When Naftali passed away, this melody was played at the burial ceremony.

Rabbi Benny Lau said, "The burial in the earth of Jerusalem accompanied by the tune of Mikdash Melech in the background was a perfect heart-wrenching ending to my father's life story."

(Written for Nafali's "yartzeit" a year after his passing, on the fourteenth of Kislev.)

To hear Mikdash Melech, click here.

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Halacha From The Source

Soldiers and Hikers, and Lighting Chanukah Lamps /Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon,
Director of the Center for Teaching and Halacha and a Teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion

Question: How can soldiers and people on a field trip who are not inside a house light Chanukah lamps?

Answer: To answer this question, it is first necessary to see if there is a requirement for a "house" in which to light the Chanukah lamps, and the precise definition of such a "house."

The Law of "Seeing" the Lamps

The laws of Chanukah include a novel rule of "seeing." That is, a person who does not light his own lamps but sees lamps lit by somebody else can recite the blessing "He who performed miracles," and the blessing "Shehechiyanu" on the first night of Chanukah (Shabbat 23a). Tosafot explain why this law was instituted specifically for Chanukah:

"With the other mitzvot such as lulav and succah, a 'viewing' is not enough to allow reciting a blessing, but for the Chanukah lamp it is acceptable because of our special fondness for the miracle, and also because there are people who do not have a house and therefore cannot observe the mitzva. And the first reason is more important, because otherwise it would be possible to find a contradiction with the mitzva of mezuza..."

This discussion by the Tosafot implies that in order to fulfill the mitzva of lighting a Chanuka lamp it is necessary to have a house available, and that anybody without a house cannot light, just as one without a house cannot observe the mitzva of mezuza. The Tosafot add that if this is true, then a blessing should have been instituted for "viewing" a mezuza too. Does this discussion imply that Tosafot changed their minds and retracted the first reply that they gave?

The first answer in the above Tosafot is based on two assumptions: (1) A house is necessary for the mitzva of lighting Chanukah lamps (as is true of the mitzva of a mezuza), and (2) When a house is necessary, a blessing for viewing alone can be recited, since people who do not have a house cannot fulfill the mitzva directly. We might suppose that by asking their question the Tosafot are rejecting the first assumption and that they feel that a house is not necessary for lighting the lamps. On the other hand, there is another possibility, that even with the second reply the Tosafot continue to accept the first assumption but they reject the second assumption and feel that even though a house is necessary to light the lamps this fact is not a sufficient reason for establishing a new blessing for viewing a mitzva.

Thus, the straightforward reading of the Tosafot implies that a house is necessary for lighting Chanukah lamps, but their underlying assumptions are not clear.

Rulings by More Recent Commentators

Recent commentators do not reach any definite conclusion about whether a house is necessary for lighting. Several prominent rabbis took care to follow the rule that the mitzva of lighting the Chanukah lamps should only be performed inside a house. Thus, a person should try to perform the mitzva even when he is not at home, but the lighting should be done in a house (Responsa Maharsham 7:148; Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikra'ei Kodesh Chanukah 18; Rabbi Shlomo Auerbach; Rabbi Elyashiv).

However, others disagree. In Responsa Tzitz Eliezer (16:29), for example, it is written that people on a field trip can light "in an open area," and this also appears in Responsa Az Nidberu (6:75).

Defining a "House"

If a "house" is indeed necessary for lighting the Chanukah lamps, how is this defined with respect to the lighting? For example, it would seem that a pup-tent (about a meter tall and two meters long) would not be considered a house, because it is not suitable for typical uses of a house. However, a larger army tent meant for use of a number of people would be considered a house (although it is best that it be closed from at least three sides).

When a hiker or a soldier does not have any house available, he should arrange for his parents to keep him in mind when lighting the Chanukah lamps, since in principle the rule of "One lamp for every man and his house" includes the entire household, even those who are away from home (Shabbat 23a; Machzor Vitri 238; see also Responsa Yechaveh Dei'ah 6:43). If later on he finds an opportunity to light in a house, he can still light and recite the blessing (at least according to the Ashkenazi custom).

Lighting in Order to "Publicize the Miracle"

It is the custom to light Chanukah lamps in a synagogue and recite the blessing, in order to "publicize the miracle" which took place, even though such lighting does not fulfill the obligation of the holiday (Shulchan Aruch 671:7). Can one light in an open area and recite the blessing, based on this custom?

According to many rabbis, since this lighting is a novel custom, it should be restricted as much as possible, specifically to a synagogue, and therefore the blessing should not be recited anyplace else (Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, quoted in Responsa Az Nidberu 350; Responsa Menachem Yitzchak volume 6, 65:3). However, some rabbis allow lighting and reciting the blessing even outside, and this is the practice in Chabad (Az Nidberu, ibid). In this case, it is best to pray at the site (Responsa Yavi'a Omer 7, Orach Chaim 57:6). For people who have not lit Chanukah lamps at all, we can also depend on the opinion that a house is not a necessary condition and we can recite a blessing.

Thus, if there is no house available, the best practice would be to light the lamps for the purpose of "publicizing the miracle" but not to recite the blessings. However, if the people pray Maariv and immediately light the Chanukah lamps, the blessings may be recited as if this is a synagogue.


One should be cautious and only recite the blessings for lighting Chanukah lamps in a house (a building or a tent large enough to be used for a dwelling, such as an army tent). That is, the lamps should not be lit in an open area. One who will not be able to light should ask his parents (and if he is married, his wife) to light for him. If later on he finds a place where he can light for himself, he should do so.

In the case where it is not possible to light, it is best to organize a public lighting in order to "publicize the miracle" of Chanukah, but the blessings should not be recited (because there is a doubt whether they should be said). It is possible to be lenient and recite the blessings if a prayer is recited in the same place, especially if the people present have not lit Chanukah lamps on their own.

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Nature and the Torah portion

The Oak Tree /Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women

"Devorah, Rivka's wet-nurse, passed away, and she was buried under Beit El, under the oak tree. And it was named the Oak of Weeping." [Bereishit 35:8].

Is it a Lone Oak Tree or a Lone Pistachio Tree?

We begin this article with a description of an incident that happened during the festivities marking the founding of Alon Shevut, the settlement where both the Zomet Institute and the editorial board of Shabbat B'Shabbato are situated. The settlement was formally established on the twentieth of Sivan 5730 (1970). It was named Alon Shevut (The Oak of Return), reminiscent of the Oak of Weeping which appears in the verse quoted above ("Alon Bachut").

The oak tree in the name is the "lone oak" which stands at the center of the area of Gush Etzion. This tree can be seen from within the "restricted" borders of Israel, and until the Six Day War in the year 5708 it symbolized the yearning of the people to return to Gush Etzion.

I was privileged to participate in the ceremony, which was attended by prominent leaders of Israel and the religious Zionist sector. Among the famous figures who were there was Minister Yigal Alon, who helped obtain necessary government approvals for the new settlement. Sometime during or after the ceremony, somebody told Yigal Alon as a joke that the settlement was named after him. Another prominent guest at the ceremony took this very seriously, and made sure to cool Alon's "enthusiasm" by claiming that the tree was not an oak but rather a pistachio tree. (The founders of Alon Shevut exploited the tension between the two ministers to advance the necessary approvals.)

In order to clear up any doubts about the "lone oak," I hereby declare, forty-five years after the above events, that the tree is indeed a common oak. (I have a photograph of the tree which I took in 5729 – that is, 1969.) But in this article, we will discuss a different question: While the botanic identity of the "lone oak" is no longer in doubt, what about the Oak of Weeping and other "oaks" mentioned in the Bible? Were they indeed oak trees?

Is it a Tree or a Plain?

In the Midrash, in translations into Aramaic, in commentaries, and in research studies, there are two general approaches to understand the Hebrew words " Alon" and "Eilon."

The traditional approach is to usually translate this as a flat plain. For example, Onkeles translates the above verse as follows: "And Devorah, Rivka's wet-nurse, passed away, and she was buried underneath Beit El on the slopes of the plain, which was called the Plain of Weeping." This also appears in the Targum of Yonatan. Rashi adopted the same approach, and he wrote: "'Under the alon' – on the slopes of the plain, as there was a plain up on the slope of the mountain, and the burial was below. The plain of Beit El was called an alon..."

There are many other examples of places which use the word "eilon" to mark a location. For example, "And Avraham passed through the land, to the site of Shechem, until Eilon Moreh. And the Canaanites were on the land at that time." [Bereishit 12:7]. "And all the masters of Shechem and the entire house of Milo gathered, and they crowned Avimelech as King, by the eilon of the monument which was at Shechem" [Shoftim 9:6]. There are other similar verses. In all of these cases, the word "eilon" is not taken to mean a tree but rather a plain.

A different approach is found in the Septuagint, the Peshitata, and to some extent in the work of Hieronymus in the Vulgate, and it is commonly accepted by modern researchers. They feel that "eilon" also refers to a tree or trees. The Targum Yerushalmi on this week's Torah portion writes, "Devorah, Rivka's wet-nurse, died, and she was buried under Beit El, underneath a 'belutah,' which was called the Belutah of Weeping." "Belut" or "belutah" is the word for an oak tree in Aramaic, Syrian, and Arabic. Amos writes, "And from before them I destroyed the Amorite, who is high as the cedars and strong as the 'alonim'..." [2:9]. Yonatan translates this as "belutin." The Septuagint translates "alon" in the verse, "They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and they burn incense on the hills, under the 'alon,' the poplar, and the elm..." [Hoshaya 4:13], as "balanos." However, it translates "alonim" in the above verse in Amos ("I destroyed the Amorite") as "druns." These two Greek words refer to species of oak trees. The Vulgate translates this as " quercus," the Latin word for oak tree. Ibn Janach writes: "Under the 'alon,' poplar – The alonim are from the Bashan, and in Arabic they are called 'belot.' And the translator called it 'belutin,' and translated 'ka'eilah v'cha'alon' as 'butama' and 'belutah.'" Rashi comments: "'Like the alonim' – chesnes in a foreign language." This word means oak trees in ancient French.

In at least some of the times the word appears, the context implies that the word "eilon" is a tree. In a series of location markers which Shmuel gives Shaul on the way before he anoints him as King, he mentions the "eilon" of Tabor. "You will continue from there and reach the 'eilon' of Tabor, where you will meet three men ascending to G-d at Beit El – one carrying three kids, one carrying three loaves of bread, and one carrying a container of wine." [Shmuel I 10:3]. Rashi writes, "Eilon of Tabor – the plains of Tabor." However, in view of the detailed instructions that describe the path Shaul is to take, it is reasonable to assume that the "eilon of Tabor" is a specific point and not the broad area of a "plain." Similarly, it is hard to accept that the "alon" under which Rivka's wet-nurse is buried does not indicate a precise location.

Yoel Elitzur feels that the first approach above is correct, but I would like to bring the following quote from his words to explain why "alon" might be used out of its normal context:

"In modern studies the use of the word 'plain' is seen as homiletic apologetics, which is rooted in Greek etymology, as is true of many other cases. Researchers have suggested the following explanation: The goal of the various translations is to maintain as great a distance as possible from any element which might diminish the belief in Divine uniqueness and accepted halacha. The respect that they felt for the ancestors of the nation would not allow them to accept any hint of holy trees as being part of their way of life and their Divine worship. From the linguistic point of view, they came across a Greek word that has a similar sound – 'aulon,' meaning a plain. Based on this, 'eilon' and also 'ayal' and 'avel' were interpreted as a 'plain...'"

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Straight Talk

What takes Precedence: A New Smartphone or a Chapter of Messilat Yesharim?/Yoni Lavie
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website

I received the following note in my mail from some unknown source: "Great news! Until now, in vitro fertilization was available only to couples with fertility problems – now everybody else can also avail themselves of this procedure! Any couple who wants to guarantee that they will have a healthier child can now turn to our clinic! Using a unique and advanced technique, we will perform a selection by which you can choose who to bring into this world and who not to bring. We will weed out fetuses that are genetically inclined to develop cancer, diabetes, and other medical problems. You will know in advance that your baby will not be prone to sickness."

What is your reaction to such an announcement? Surprise? Happiness? Do you immediately reach for the phone and make an appointment in this new clinic? Or do you perhaps react with greater caution? The rapid development of science carries along with it quite a few serious ethical dilemmas and moral problems which must be considered very carefully. We must not be blinded by the wonders of technology, which can lead us to ignore the significance of new developments and their cost to us.

Racing Ahead

The pace of the world's development is beyond our comprehension. Devices that twenty years ago would have seemed to be science fiction are sitting in our pockets today and we take them for granted. What will things look like twenty years from now? It is hard to say, but based on our experience we might feel that nothing is impossible. However, the enthusiasm with which we accept every innovation and the way we get excited about the latest science discoveries leads us to miss out on the critical analysis of its moral, spiritual, and cultural meaning. This may lead to terrible damage. Just imagine a nine-year-old boy who is sitting behind the wheel of a large truck and who presses the gas pedal. This might lead to a lethal result. When a driver with a fourth-grade mentality and skills takes charge of a monster with such great power, he is liable to run over many objects on the road.

In his book "Eder Hayakar," Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook describes the advances in the world in just these terms. Two forces lead the world – the "will" and the "ability." Ability refers to scientific and technological advances. "Will" refers to awareness, understanding, and the realm of morality. The world plods along on two feet, and the one that almost always leads is the one representing ability. Man has landed on the moon and sent spaceships that went beyond the solar system, he has decoded the secrets of the human genome and has achieved amazing results in the realm of cloning. He holds remarkable smartphones in his hand, and he has developed shared applications and social networks which link billions of people together.

However, the world rushed to accomplish all of this without analyzing the moral significance of it all. What impact does this rapid development have on society? What effect does it have on the family unit? What does it do to the spiritual development of children and to their social interactions? How can we utilize these inventions for the good and in an ethical way, without leading to a commercial takeover, and to a cynical exploitation of these great capabilities at the price of important values?

Which one Should Lead?

As people of faith, we have no doubt that the advancement of the world is a good thing. There is something in the world which pushes it to ever higher achievements, there is an angel who constantly demands more and more growth. The mending of the world in the Kingdom of G-d includes not only the spiritual issues but also the material side - eradication of sickness and conquering the forces of nature, improving the quality of life and the development of communications tools and transfer of information from one person to another. However, in the real world the rule is that every bit of light casts a shadow. And the gap between the two feet on which mankind advances creates an abyss which all too many people fall into.

Our task as parents, educators, and people of faith is to minimize this gap as much as possible. We must awaken the awareness of the fact that a tool is not just a technical object for our use but that it also brings with it a message that has an effect on the one who uses it, and that it forms his character. (Marshall Mcluhan said, "The medium is the message.") We must hold a broad and fundamental discussion of the spiritual and ethical significance of technological developments. We should sometimes be willing to pay the price of giving up some new invention when it has too big a moral, spiritual, or social price. It is wrong for parents to buy a smartphone for their children without first having a basic and courageous discussion about the issues involved. It is unthinkable that the Ministry of Science and Technology of our country is completely separate from the Ministry of Education or from humanists and social experts who can analyze the significance and the dilemmas which might stem from new developments, and to analyze these issues.

Perfection will in the end come from combining all the different forces – the spiritual-ethical and the technological-scientific, for the good of mankind as a whole. Meanwhile, if we must choose between upgrading an existing smartphone to the newest model and studying another chapter in "Messilat Yesharim," we should have a feeling that upgrading a person takes precedence over upgrading a machine.

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Exhibition Abstracts

Eighteen Menorah Branches Hidden in the Ground /Heichal Shlomo Museum,
The Center for Jewish Tradition

The museum has on display one of two Chanukah Menorahs from the Great Synagogue in Warsaw. During the Second World War, when the Nazi threat increased, the rabbi of the congregation hid the parts of the two Menorahs in an underground hiding place. At the same time, he offered them for sale through the Polish ambassador to Sweden, in order to collect some money for the needs of rescuing the people of the congregation.

Margeret Vaner-Geren, a countess from Stockholm, bought the two Menorahs for a huge sum of money. Years later, she donated them to the Heichal Shlomo Museum, with the following poem:

You, ancient menorah, 

Please tell 

The remnants of your nation Israel 

Your history. 

And when the lamps shine on you, 

Let them invoke memories of the lyre of King David at night. 

Tell the remnants of your sons 

That you were returned to your borders, 

To the site of your Temple, 

By a non-Jewish woman 

Who kept you safe for many years. 


Keren Chakak – Heichal Shlomo Museum

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Riddle of the Week

Vayishlach /Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"

Two cities which are close to each other

And which were given different punishments for the same sin

Appear in this week's Torah portion on the return journey home.

Answers for last week – the riddle was: The father asked in a vow. The son went in the time of the season. And all the brothers were invited to a banquet.

The answer: Bread and the season of harvesting wheat.

- Yaacov had the following request: "And Yaacov made a vow, saying: If G-d will be with me and will watch over me on this path which I take, and He will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear..." [Bereishit 28:20].

- His son Reuven went during the harvest season: "And Reuven went at the time of the harvest of the wheat, and he gathered mandrakes in the field" [30:14].

- Yaacov invited his "brothers" to a banquet: "And Yaacov prepared a feast on the mountain, and he called out to his brothers to eat bread. And they ate bread and spent the night on the mountain." [31:54].

* * * * * *

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