In the Torah portions of Mikeitz and Vayigash we see the skill that Yosef had in predicting years of famine and years of plenty, in giving advice on how to cope with the impending crisis of a famine, and his ability to put the plan that he proposed to Pharaoh into action. The fact that Yosef was chosen to be the Viceroy shows the great importance that the Torah puts on having a national economy based on justice. The family of Yaacov was kept busy with its own personal lack of food, but now Yosef was required to respond to the entire population of Egypt and to those who came from the outside. Yosef was thus the first one who was given the task of thinking about, giving advice, and setting up a viable economic model for an entire nation and a country. Being in charge of a national economy is much more complex and complicated than organizing the finances of a family. In a nation, it is necessary to take into account other factors, such as encounters with external threats. A country must make decisions about priorities, balancing between security and education, physical and social infrastructure, and many other factors.
Positive Economics with Negative Consequences
The government of Israel can rightly be proud of the positive macro measures of its national economy as compared to other developed nations (such as the OECD) – economic stability, a high economic growth rate, low unemployment, low inflation, and other accomplishments. In these terms we are considered an international success. On the other hand, we also stand out in measures of social relationships, but in this case we are on the negative side – high poverty levels, especially with respect to children, huge social and economic gaps, low salaries with large gaps between groups, low levels of participation in the work force (especially among Chareidim and Arabs), and other serious problems.
The government erred by underestimating the amount of taxes it would collect and overestimating the government expenses. Because of the resulting surplus the Finance Minister decided to cancel a rise in income tax (1% for those who earn up to NIS 14,000 a month and 2% from NIS 20,000 a month) which was scheduled to take place in 2014. Various other proposals were made about what to do with the surplus, such as cancelling the increase in Value Added Tax, cancelling part of the decrease in children's allowance, and cancelling some of the proposed cuts in education, health, and welfare, and more. The decision to cancel the increase in income tax shows the great problems of the economic-social policy of this government, and also of those which preceded it. Canceling the income tax increase is beneficial only to those who pay the tax, especially at a high rate. Half of the people in the work force do not reach the minimum wage for paying tax, and canceling the planned increase merely widens the par in terms of economics and net salary. One who earns NIS 5,000 will gain about NIS 50 a month because of the cancelation, while one who earns NIS 30,000 will gain NIS 600 per month. If a different alternative had been chosen, the net income could have been increased by at least NIS 160 for everybody, thus decreasing the poverty rate and the salary gaps.
It is important to understand the following principle: Raising a direct progressive tax such as income tax (where whoever earns more pays a higher percentage) reduces poverty and decreases the gaps, while raising indirect taxes, like a unified regressive tax such as VAT or payments by parents to schools, increases the poverty and the gaps. If what is wanted is to reduce poverty and decrease the gaps, it is necessary to increase direct taxes and to decrease indirect taxes. Another point is that the objective of returning money to the public is to increase consumption and thus economic growth. It is clear that those who have a low income would utilize any new money that they receive, while those with high incomes will not increase their consumption but will rather add to their savings or buy a new home, such that the prices of homes will rise.
In addition, it was decided without any widespread announcements that together with the cancelation of the income tax increase the government ministries would be required to lower their 2014 budgets in an amount equal to the income tax cancelation. Based on previous experience, we can be quite sure that the budget decrease will once again include the ministries of education, welfare, health, and housing, in addition to municipalities, and other services that the country provides for its citizens, and we will be forced to pay higher prices for these services. This is the most regressive tax increase, which will do the most damage to the weak and medium levels of the country.
And here is another fact: The total budget for public expenditures in Israel (education, health, welfare, and so on) is significantly lower than that in the developed nations of the OECD. Public expenditure in Israel in 2009 was 43.9%, as compared to 48.7% on average for the OECD. That is, even today we are paying more for services that were reduced in education, health, local municipalities, and more. Other troublesome data indicates that as compared to the OECD the proportion of direct and progressive taxes is much lower in Israel (in 2008: 22.4% in Israel versus 42.2% in the OECD), while the proportion of indirect and regressive taxes is much higher here than there (22.9% in Israel versus 9.3%).
The Responsibility of those Who Decide
The above discussion clearly indicates that the humiliating negative social measures, which are characteristic of Israel alone, are not due to fate or a blow from heaven but rather are the result of human endeavors and decisions by the authorities responsible for social and economic decisions in the country.
The impressive macro achievements of the Israeli economy cannot be allowed to benefit only the few while they do not reach most of the population. The main ethical test is in providing a distribution of national resources that is more just, fair, and equal than what exists now. What we need for that is a person of vision, talents, and leadership ability, like Yosef. Let this happen as a symbol of the coming of Mashiach, son of Yosef.
As Shabbat Approaches > Going Home / Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
Yosef returns to his family. In last week's Torah portion he tried to take Binyamin for himself, hoping the brothers would agree to leave Binyamin in his hands. When a dispute develops within the nation, an increased tendency develops to separate into different groups. However, Yehuda, who felt overall responsibility for the nation, did not allow this to happen. "For your servant guaranteed the young boy to my father, saying: If I do not bring him back to you I will have sinned to my father for all time" [Bereishit 44:32]. When Yosef understood that he would not be able to divide the nation he gave up on the idea of building up Egypt on his own, completely separated from his father's house. It may be that the reason Yosef wept in this week's Torah portion was that he saw that he had failed in his approach, which would have divided the family of Yaacov into two.
However, Yosef's cosmopolitan approach cannot be completely rejected. Yehuda was careful not to destroy everything that Yosef had accomplished. According to the Midrash, Yehuda threatened Yosef, "If you do not return Binyamin, I will fill the markets of Egypt with blood." But his brothers said, "Yehuda! Egypt is not Shechem, if you destroy Egypt you will be destroying the entire world!" Egypt, The most highly developed culture of the era, is worthy of respect, it must be preserved. This culture will mold the identity of the nation of Yisrael in its melting pot. And that is why it is written, "Do not despise the Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land" [Devarim 23:8]. Our task is to gather the holy sparks, even from Egypt.
The proper path was for Yehuda to win in the controversy with his brothers, so that Yosef would become the one who prepared the way for Yehuda. This phenomenon appeared within the annals of history as two different identities of the Mashiach: the son of Yosef and the son of David. The determination of the historical process is that the Mashiach, son of Yosef, will come first, and that the Mashiach, son of David, will be the ultimate redeemer. All the nations will come to Jerusalem, and there will be no need for Yisrael to go to the other nations. This is in fact the ruling of our Patriarch Yaacov, as is written, "And he sent Yehuda ahead to Yosef, to prepare in Goshen" [Bereishit 46:28]. Yaacov showed that even when the nation is on the way to exile, the main goal is Yehuda's approach.
Our exile started as follows: "And Yisrael traveled... And G-d spoke to Yisrael in visions in the night, and He said, Yaacov, Yaacov" [46:1-2]. He changes his name back to Yaacov, although until now we have only seen Yaacov change his name to Yisrael. In some situations we must revert to the lowly position of Yaacov. This is a way to accommodate ourselves to the conditions in exile, but the main goal remains, "Your name will be Yisrael" [35:10].
Yosef's attempt to rescue Egypt by economic means did not succeed. The Egyptians did not forgive him for the good that he did for them. The world will be mended only by having the Jews return to Eretz Yisrael. "G-d will surely remember you" [50:25], and from there we will light the way for the entire world.
Rabbi Cherki is the head of Brit Olam – Noahide World Center, Jerusalem
Let Your Wellsprings Burts Forth > Do not Weep for Yourself / Rabbi Moshe Shilat Director of "The Torah of Chabad for Yeshiva Students"
With respect to the reunification of Yosef and his younger brother Binyamin, we are told in this week's Torah portion, "And he fell on the neck of his brother Binyamin and wept, and Binyamin wept on his neck" [Bereishit 45:14].
The sages teach us that Yosef wept for the two Temples which would be built in the heritage of Binyamin and would later be destroyed, while Binyamin wept for the Tabernacle at Shilo, which would be in Yosef's heritage and also would be destroyed.
However, according to the principle that "every man is closest to himself," it is hard to understand why each one cried about the Temple in the area belonging to his brother and not about the Temple in his own heritage. The explanation for this is related to the emphasis in the above verse, that each one cried on the neck of the other one.
"It Lies between His Shoulders"
The following appears in the Midrash with respect to the verse, "Your neck is like the Tower of David" [Shir Hashirim 4:4] - "Just as the neck is at the top of a man, so the Temple lies at the top of the world."
At first glance this appears to be lacking something. If the purpose of the verse is to express the great height and the importance of the Temple, the image of a neck is not the best one. The neck is not the highest part of a person, since the head is higher.
A similar question can be asked about another verse which involves the Temple, "It lies between his shoulders" [Devarim 33:12]. Rashi comments, "At the high point of his (Binyamin's) land the Temple was built, although it was twenty-three Amot below Ein Itam." Again the praise of the Temple is that it is in a high place, but not the highest one.
The Rebbe of Lubavitch explains that this is on purpose and that it has a very deep significance. The Temple is specifically compared to a neck, because the role of the Temple is exactly what is symbolized by the neck.
The Neck – A Focus of Decision-Making
Chassidut teaches us that there is no point in deep thought and insight for its own sake. The essence and role of such matters is so that man will rule his body and his actions according to the proper conclusions. From this point of view, the "neck" is a symbol of the control point of the intellect over the body. On one hand, it is the neck and not the head, but on the other hand it is higher than the body and symbolizes the transfer of instructions to the body.
Just this is the role of the Temple, which has been given the task of transferring the Divine light into the world. It is also the role of the Temple which lies within every single person – "Let them make a Tabernacle for me, and I will dwell within them" [Shemot 24:8] – He will dwell within each and every person. The "head" is the soul, "which clings and attaches between the Unique One and every individual." It is linked to G-d, who is above the world. With respect to the Temple in every person's heart, it is necessary to empower the soul to lead the body here, in this world.
One is Permitted to Weep for Another
The destruction of the public Temple stems from the destruction of the individual Temple, as is expressed by the sages in our prayers, "Because of our sins we were expelled from our land."
On the topic of our individual Temples, there is no point in crying, we are duty bound to rise up and to take action! We must get our bearings and start to rebuild the Temple – to study Torah and strengthen our service of G-d. Weeping might even cause harm and weaken our spirits. On the other hand, with respect to the personal Temple of a friend, it is important for you to wake him up and to help him to mend his ways in any way possible, keeping to a pleasant path and in a calm way. However, in the end you do not directly control his actions, and he will always have free choice. From the point of view of mutual love of all of Yisrael, it is right for you to weep about the destruction of a friend's personal Temple and to pray that he will wake up and rebuild his Temple.
These then are the two lessons that the Midrash teaches us about the fact that Yosef and Binyamin weep over each other's necks. With respect to your own Temple, you should not weep, it is your task to rise up and rebuild it. With respect to your brother's Temple, its destruction should touch you so deeply that you weep!
To extend our previous discussion of the name Jerusalem, we will discuss two more names of the city: Yevus and the City of David.
The first time that this name is mentioned (Yerushalayim) is in Yehoshua 10:1, where the name of the king of the city is given – Adonitzedek, who led a number of Canaanite kings (from the cities of Chevron, Yarmut, Lachish, and Eglon) in their struggle against Yehoshua.
Thus, Jerusalem is the name of a Canaanite city, ruled by Adonitzedek.
Later in the book of Yehoshua the border between Yehuda and Binyamin is described: "The border will rise up to the Valley of Ben Hinom to the shoulder of the Yevusite from the south, which is Jerusalem" [15:8]. This implies that "Yevussi" refers to Jerusalem. This name also appears in the list of cities in the Binyamin area, "The Yevussi is Jerusalem" [18:27].
In the description of the affair of the concubine at Giv'ah, it is written, "And he rose up and went to a place opposite Yevus, which is Jerusalem" [Shoftim 19:10]. And in the description of David's conquest of Jerusalem it is written, "And the king and his men went to the Yevussite, who dwelt on the land" [Shmuel II 5:6].
These sources imply that the name of the city was Yevus or Yevussi, and that this is linked to the name Jerusalem which was mentioned before. It is possible that Jerusalem is the name of the city, and that the people living there are known as Yevus or the Yevussites. Perhaps at first the king of the city was from Canaan, and he was replaced by a king from Yevus. Or it may be that Canaan is a general name for all the nations of the area.
What is the significance of the fact that the city belongs to the nation of Yevus and that its name is Yevus? We are not given any explanation why David chooses Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom. At first glance, it might seem that Chevron was a better choice, since David had been the king of the tribe of Yehuda for seven years, and Chevron was the tribe's capital city.
It would seem that the main reason that David chose Jerusalem was his desire to unite all of the tribes, and specifically Yehuda and Binyamin. These two tribes, who were bitter rivals, represented the children of Rachel and Leah, and they lived close to Jerusalem. An additional point in favor of this city was that it was in the territory of Yevus, a Gentile nation. The tribe of Binyamin, which had possession of the land surrounding the city, had not conquered it. Thus, David did not have to ask any tribe to leave the city for the good of the whole nation. Rather, he chose a city that was inhabited by Yevusites and made that into the capital of the whole nation.
The City of David
After the conquest of Yevus, it is written, "And David captured the fortress of Zion, which is the city of David... And David inhabited the fortress and he called it the City of David" [Shmuel II 5:7,9]. That is, the verse states that the fortress of Zion and the City of David are the same site, and gives the fortress the name the City of David. There are differences of opinion about whether the two names are completely identical or if the fortress is a specific fortified area within the city.
What is the significance of naming the city for David? The answer is that only when David comes to the city does he begin to rule over the entire nation. As a way of showing the central authority of Yisrael as a whole, David changes the name of the city and replaces the name of the nation of Yevus with his own.
We might ask: Is the City of David named for David as a man or for the king who established the unified kingdom in Jerusalem? Evidently David wanted to indicate the royal status of the city, and he called it by his name in order to begin to establish the Kingdom of the House of David. Perhaps a proof of this idea is the fact that David chose to establish a burial site for the kings of the House of David inside the city itself. The strong connection of the kings and the kingdom to the site is seen from the fact that all the kings from the House of David were buried there from the time of David until Chizkiyahu.
The fact that the royal burial place was not outside the boundaries of the city was a novel approach. Logic would have insisted that the burial be outside the limits of the city, both for reasons of convenience for the quality of life in the city and because the area of the city was limited and to have burial grounds inside made it even more crowded. There was also the matter of ritual impurity of the dead.
If it was decided in spite of these considerations to bury the kings within the city, it is likely that what took precedence was an important principle – the eternal bond between the capital city and the Kingdom of the House of David. The best way to express an eternal bond with a specific site is through the existence of a burial site.
Thus, the change of name is an expression of the transformation of the essence of the city, from a Gentile city to the city of the Kingdom of Yisrael, which is linked in its essence to the Kingdom of David.
To summarize, we have attempted to explain the different names - Jerusalem, Yevus, and the City of David. In our generation, we have been privileged to return to the City of David, to live there, to do excavations in the ground, and to tour it from one end to another. It is to the credit of the Elad association ("El Ir David") that the ancient glory of the city has been returned to it and that life has been renewed in the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, which draws its essence from the Kingdom of David.
The wonderful stories of Chassidic lore were maintained for many years only as an oral tradition. Countless stories have been told throughout the long years that Chassidut has been in existence, starting from the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples and continuing on to this very day. During long nights, at the Seuda Shelishit meal before the end of Shabbat, in times of trouble and of joy – the stories accompanied the Chassidim in everything that they did. In view of this, it may seem a bit strange that the stories were handed down orally. Except for one book – "Shivchei HaBesht" (The Praises of the Baal Shem Tov) - and also the first volumes of "The Life of Moharan," Chassidic stories were not printed for about a hundred years.
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There are many reasons why the stories were only handed down orally, but one of the main ones is undoubtedly that the people felt that writing was a medium that lacked vitality and lacked intensity compared to the experience of hearing a story. To transpose a live event to writing, and especially a written story, can be thought of as similar to a process of replacing a person, a living soul, by an inanimate object or a monument. The discomfort that the Chassidim felt with the world of writing and what it represents can be seen in a series of Chassidic stories which center around a blank piece of paper. This is paper whose writing has faded away, leaving space for the soul, for true content and significance.
Here is a story told by a poor man in Zelichov, in Lita, to the Maggid of Kozhnitz, about his meeting with Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, whom he calls Reb Levi Yitzchakel. He tells how he once hosted Reb Levi in his home, and in return he asked the rabbi to help him with his troubles. The master of the village wanted to throw him out of his house and put him in prison because he had not paid his rent.
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The Rabbi instructed me to bring a new blank piece of paper, which he took with him into his room for a quarter of an hour. Finally, he came out of the room and gave me the paper, folded in the form of a letter. He said to me, "Go to your master and give him this paper." And that is what I did. I went to the master, but on the way I began to wonder. I hadn't seen a pen or ink in the rabbi's hands, and his room was dark, without a window. How then did he write anything? Perhaps he had not written anything at all. I decided to see what was on the paper, and I opened it and saw that it was blank, with no writing at all. I was shocked, and I feared that the master would be so angry that he might even want to kill me. But in spite of this I decided that a holy man like Reb Levi Yitzchak would certainly not put me into any danger, and I went to the master on the strength of this act of faith. The master took the paper and opened it. He started to read it like a man reading a letter, but I didn't know what he was reading, because I could not hear the words and letters but only the sound of a voice.
After he finished reading, the master said to me: "I want you to know that I have thought about the matter. Why should I exchange you for another man when I do not know whether he can be trusted or not? It would be best if you remain in your position. I hereby cancel your debt, but from now on you must always pay me on time." And he sent me on my way.
I returned to Reb Levi Yitzchak, and I found him waiting for me at the crossroads. I told him everything that had happened, and he replied, "My beloved comrade, tell me the truth. Did you open my letter? And I admitted that I had done so. And he replied with a great sigh. "Oy, what did you do? If you hadn't opened the letter the whole house would have been given to you as an eternal heritage, without any need to pay rent. Now that you opened it you ruined the entire affair."
The essence of writing is the ability to transfer information. Writing is a language of agreed-upon symbols and it can therefore be deciphered. But in the above story the writing could only be read by the person to whom it was addressed. Reb Levi Yitzchak writes down his soul. What he puts on the paper is not the symbols of the letters but rather the real essence which is represented by the movement of the pen and the ink.
The Talmud explains that "anochi," the first word the Ten Commandments, is an acronym for "I wrote down and gave My soul" [Shabbat 105a]. The spirit of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is what gives vitality to the letters, which fly away after the sin of the Golden Calf, leaving behind empty and flat tablets. Putting the soul into the letters is the spirit of life, an emotion which feeds the writing and gives it meaning. The spiritual content which is represented by the written word is not severed from it, rather continues to exist even when it is invisible, when the physical writing has faded away.
Rabbi Shlomo Carelbach told a similar story about a "passport" that was written by the rabbi of Munkatch which had only blank paper in it. The man used this document to pass through checkpoints and cross borders, and to link between "heaven" and "earth." As it happens, I know a man who as a youth lived in Munkatch, which is today in the Ukraine, and who made Aliyah using an invalid passport, miraculously passing through checkpoints along the way. So here you have another variation on the same story.
These stories all have a repeated important theme. Writing – and especially formal documents, written in "cold" and legal language – is replaced by free movement and pure and living content. The tears of the rabbi of Munkatch and the prayers of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and each and every one of us accomplish their task with great power, well beyond the curtain of words and writing.
Answer: The Tana'im disagree on the above question in the Tosefta: "A person should not eat before Shabbat from the time of Mincha or later so that he will enter Shabbat with a desire for food – this is the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yossi says that a person can continue to eat up to the time that it gets dark." [Berachot 5b].
The Tosefta rules according to Rabbi Yossi, and the early commentators accept that one is allowed to set the time for a regular meal even after the time of Mincha (an obligatory meal, connected to a mitzva, is a different matter and will not be discussed here). However, the principle behind Rabbi Yehuda's opinion remains valid, and in order to begin Shabbat with a desire to eat it is considered a mitzva to refrain from setting a late time for a meal on Friday afternoon (Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 30:4; Shulchan Aruch 249:2). In principle the time when a meal should not be started is after the ninth hour of the day. However, during the winter, when the day is very short, a longer time should be set aside for not eating, to make sure that the people will be hungry at the start of Shabbat (Mishna Berura, 17).
A Fast Day before Shabbat
At first glance, in view of the above considerations, the best thing to do would be to fast on Friday and thus to begin Shabbat very hungry. This in fact appears as an act worthy of praise: "The path of people who perform good acts is to fast every Friday" [Shulchan Aruch 249:3]. However, this may in fact not be the best path to follow. The reason for Rabbi Yehuda's ruling is given in the Tosefta – to enter Shabbat with a hungry feeling. However, there is a problem. In the Tosefta of Taanit (2:7) another dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yossi appears, where Rabbi Yehuda gives the opposite opinion. In this case, the discussion is about breaking the fast before darkness on Tisha B'Av which occurs on Friday (this cannot happen with the permanent calendar which we now use). "If Tisha B'Av occurs on Friday, a person should eat an amount equivalent to a 'beitza' and drink in order not to begin Shabbat in a state of suffering, according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yossi says, one should fast the whole day."
Thus, according to Rabbi Yehuda a person must prepare properly for Shabbat and keep his desire for food in check. Eating very close to the time of Shabbat is forbidden in order to feel some degree of hunger, but one is not allowed to begin Shabbat in a state of suffering, since this too would harm the atmosphere of Shabbat. Because of this, commentators objected to the practice of those "who perform good acts," which might indeed cause people to enter Shabbat in a state of suffering (Mishna Berura 18).
When should a Fast Day End on Friday?
In the Tosefta quoted above, Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Yehuda dispute the above topic. Here too the Talmud rules according to Rabbi Yossi, in this case that the Fast Day should be completed until the end (Eiruvin 41). However, the commentators disagree whether the Talmud rules that it is an obligation to complete the Fast Day because we do not accept the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda (Ravia; Rokeyach) or if one is permitted but required to do so without any fear of entering Shabbat while fasting (Tosafot). That is, while fasting at the start of Shabbat is allowed in principle, it is not good practice because it shows disrespect for Shabbat. The Mordechai writes that the R"I tasted some food before the end of the day when the Tenth of Tevet occurred on Friday. He also writes in the name of the Maharam of Rottenberg that if Shabbat was started early eating is permitted, and there is no need to wait until after the sun sets.
The RAMA follows the Maharil (157) but he differentiates between a fast by an individual and a public fast day. He writes that for an individual fast (which must be formally accepted beforehand) the ruling of the Maharam can be followed, but that a public fast day should be completed, until the sun has set.
Summary: On a regular Friday, one is permitted to eat a short time before Shabbat begins, but it is good practice to avoid doing this, in order to enter Shabbat with a desire for food. The Shulchan Aruch discusses a custom to fast every Friday, but recent rabbis object to entering Shabbat while suffering from a fast.
With respect to a fast day that occurs on Shabbat: The fast should be completed until the stars come out at the end of the day. The fast will be broken with the Kiddush. Therefore the prayers should be recited quickly to avoid unnecessary hardship for the people who are fasting.
Let us hope and pray that the Fast of the Tenth Month will become a day of happiness and joy for all of the House of Yehuda and as a time of a holiday, and that truth and peace will be achieved (see Zecharia 8:19).
What is the Proper Time for the Shabbat Meal?
Answer: It is written, "Declare Shabbat as a pleasure, holy for G-d, respect it, and refrain from engaging in your own affairs, seeking your needs, and speaking forbidden matters" [Yeshayahu 58:13]. The sages understood that special foods are an important facet of the pleasure and honor that we are required to show, and they went very far to emphasize the importance of these matters (Shabbat 118b; Shulchan Aruch 242).
However, there is a dispute in the Talmud about the best time for the morning meal, the meal during the day of Shabbat. "'Respect it' – Rav said, make it early, and Shmuel said, make it late" [Shabbat 119a]. Rashi explains that the basic argument between Rav and Shmuel is how to best show respect for Shabbat. Is it best to begin to eat early or to wait and thereby enhance the feeling of anticipation and hunger? Other commentators feel that there is no disagreement in this passage (see Tosafot). The Shulchan Aruch rules following the TUR that the matter is subjective and every person should act in a way that gives him or her most pleasure. "If eating early gives him pleasure, because for example he has digested the meal from the night, then he should eat early. But if he most enjoys being late, because he has not yet digested the first meal, let him eat later" (Shulchan Aruch 288:7).
However, one should take care not to fast on Shabbat. The Talmud Yerushalmi prohibits even fasting until noon (Taanit 3:11), and this is also the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (288:1). This is especially important when daylight time is not in effect, since noontime is quite early (about 11:30). If the prayers and the sermon take too much time, the hour of noon can be reached without it being noticed.
Nature and the Torah portion > The Land of Goshen / Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"Tell them your servants have herded cattle from our youth until now, both us and our fathers – so that you will dwell in the Land of Goshen, for any shepherd is an abomination in the eyes of Egypt" [Bereishit 46:34].
There have been intense research efforts to find the exact site of Goshen, but so far there is no widely accepted location. The current Torah portions give several hints about this, and one of them is the verse quoted above. It is clear from the verse that Goshen is a land suitable for the grazing of sheep. However, later verses imply that the land was also suitable for intensive agriculture. As Pharaoh says, "Settle you father and your brothers in the best of our lands, let them live in the Land of Goshen" [47:6]. In order to determine the characteristics of land in Egypt that is suitable for raising sheep let us first look at similar land in Eretz Yisrael.
Sheep from Chevron
A key element in finding good grazing land is to know the traits of the sheep that will be grown. In Eretz Yisrael this was the sheep of Chevron. They had a reputation of being excellent, and they were therefore a preferred choice for sacrifices. It is written in a Baraita, "The rabbis taught: Rams from Moav, sheep from Chevron... Rabbi Yehuda says, the sheep brought are as broad as they are tall..." [Menachot 87a]. Rashi explains, "they were very broad because of their fat, the same as their height..." According to the Talmud, the sheep of Chevron were fat because, paradoxically, the surrounding land was of poor quality. "No place in all of Eretz Yisrael has such rocky ground as Chevron... But does Chevron really have rocky ground? Why is it written, 'And it happened, at the end of forty years, Avshalom said to the king let me go...' [Shmuel II 15:7]. And Rav Aviya or possibly Rabba Bar Bar Chanan said that he went to bring sheep from Chevron... That is just the point – since the land is poor it is good for shepherding and it makes the animals fat." [Sotta 34b]. Rashi explains, "'The land is poor' – the earth in rocky ground is thin and weak, and there is not much. Therefore it is not good to plow and plant for grains for human consumption. 'It is good for herding sheep' – grass grows there, which the sheep eat. 'And it makes the animals fat' – they grow because sheep will improve more on dry and rocky ground than on moist soil."
While it is true that the land around Chevron is relatively dry and is not fertile, this gives it an advantage for growing sheep, because it means that there are large tracts of land for grazing.
Fields of Grain and Lands for Grazing
From ancient times until today, many lands that are not suitable for agricultural labor are used for grazing. Areas near the edge of the desert do not receive enough rain for fruit trees but they can be used for grazing, and sometimes for raising wheat and barley. In the Tanach and in the words of the sages such areas are considered "deserts." The root of the word "midbar" – desert – is daled-bet-resh, "lehadbir," meaning to bring sheep there to eat. Areas where there was sufficient rain (such as land near the Mediterranean Sea, with 400 mm or more annual precipitation) were normally used for fruit trees – mainly grapevines and olives. This is still common practice today. The economic value of fruit trees, which served as the basis for the wine and olive oil industries, was relatively high in terms of yield per unit of land, and therefore the grain fields and grazing land were moved to the edges of the Mediterranean lands. Such areas have a semiarid climate (annual precipitation of 200-400 mm).
From a map of rainfall and climate in Israel it is clear that the area that provides the best desert and semiarid climate lies to the west and south of Chevron, as compared to the area around Jerusalem. The desert edge that is east of Jerusalem is very narrow, while the area east of Chevron broadens out and joins together with the areas south of the mountains of Chevron. The amount of precipitation in most of the natural desert edge areas is suitable for natural grazing or for fields of grain which provide very rich grazing lands after the harvest. And therefore we can assume that the land in the area of Chevron provided more food for sheep than the land near Jerusalem, and that the Chevron sheep were of a better quality.
On the Borderline
Let us now return to Goshen. The land there is very fertile, and it is therefore called "the best of the land." This area was rich in fish and in various agricultural products, as was described by the people of Israel: "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free, and the cucumbers and melons ..." [Bamidbar 11:5]. But it was also good land for grazing. We therefore assume that Goshen is on the boundary between agricultural land and the desert. This type of scenery is unusual in Egypt, since the line between areas irrigated by the Nile and completely arid desert is typically very sharp. One exception to this rule is a valley next to the city Ismailia. The Tumilat Wadi runs through this valley. The riverbed could be used to transfer water from the Nile into the valley for agricultural purposes, but additional sources of water were available that could be used for grazing. Rainwater from the mountains surrounding the valley and underground water sources created transition zones between the extreme desert and agricultural areas that received water from the Nile. These transition zones were suitable for grazing.
Most of the researchers feel that this valley, and especially the northern section, is what is called the Land of Goshen in this week's Torah portion. Prof. A.N. Pollack opposed this view, and he felt that the name Goshen does not refer to a specific geographical area but was rather a word used to describe a transitional zone between the desert and agricultural land that was settled by shepherds. His opinion is based on the fact that the name Goshen appears in the book of Yehoshua, within the area of Eretz Yisrael.
(For more information in Hebrew and pictures, and to correspond with the author: see the Daf Yomi portal, daf-yomi.com, Temura 14b, "Leharchiv".)
"Beep... beep... beep. Kol Yisrael (the Voice of Israel) from Jerusalem. It's six o'clock and here is the news, read by Malachi Chizkiya. Today at two o'clock the father who killed his two children and then committed suicide was buried. He threw his children, for and five years old, off the roof of a twelve-story building in Tel Aviv and then jumped to his death. Our police correspondent Hadas Shteif reports that only a month ago he attacked his divorcee with a kitchen knife and threatened to kill her."
That is what we heard on the radio a few weeks ago, just a normal weekday news broadcast. It was one of thousands of broadcasts that the average Israeli hears during his or her lifetime. Sometimes such broadcasts can be heard several times on the same day. After all, it is important to be aware of what is happening around us. No modern person wants to disassociate himself from what happens in the world, isn't that right?
But I think that there is still a problem, deeper and more serious than what we tend to think. This is symptomatic of an entire culture and of the people whose characters are created within it. We do not notice how these "hot" reports from the field and the "objective" and "serious" news broadcasts which are available hour after hour on radio and television by their very essence lead to long-term harmful elements that affect millions of listeners and viewers. We will discuss just two of these damaging factors.
Getting Used to Atrocities
Every ethical person who has good moral traits has a natural sensitivity that causes him or her to react to cruel and evil deeds with disgust. But what happens when he is exposed several times every day to concentrated doses of sick evil and heart-rending tragedies? The result is inevitable. The person will develop a dull reaction and apathy towards atrocities.
The next time he hears about yet another family which was completely destroyed when a train lost its brakes and fell into a canyon, he will shake his head, make a face, and change the station to something broadcasting light music. He will take another valium pill and say to himself, "That's terrible, it's the third time that this has happened this week..." The only way the masters of the rating have found to keep the attention of the listeners is to make the broadcasts more and more outrageous as time goes on. There will be a constant rise in detailed and graphic descriptions of murders, elicit sexual encounters, and other atrocities. Don't be fooled. This is not merely poor taste. It is an explicit policy of exploiting the pornography of death and cheap views of evil merely to keep the listeners from leaving.
As an aside we will ask some questions. Has anybody thought at all about the effect this can have on millions of confused children or adolescents who ride with their parents in a car and who are constantly exposed to such horrible reports? Do they have the tools to assimilate such stories? What does listening to this material do to their souls? What does it teach them about the world or about life in general?
Is there any Comparison?
Let's go further. "The number of deaths in the earthquake in Indonesia the day before yesterday is estimated to be about a hundred and twenty thousand, with tens of thousands still missing and half a million people who have lost their homes. Our foreign correspondent Yonatan Regev reports that rescue services continue to search for survivors, but that the probability of finding any survivors is constantly decreasing. Today the Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela defeated the Russian Ivan Sergeiv, and he will go on to compete in the semi-finals of the Challenger Tournament in Kazakhstan. Selah, who is rated as number 115 in the world, defeated his Russian opponent in three sets - 6:2, 6:4, 6:0."
Do you see what happened in this news summary? As if it was the most natural thing in the world, in a clear show of nonchalance and apathy, the announcer moves on easily from one story to the next, maintaining the same serious and cold attitude towards a terrible tragedy that took the lives of tens of thousands of people and a report of a quite trivial tennis match. The sharp message of a lack of proportion that represents terrible moral blindness is passed on to the minds of the listeners again and again. But if we assume that the listeners are living people and not lifeless models made of wood, what damage is done to their honest and moral attitude towards life in general?
The Daily Dose of Drugs
We can be assured that from the point of view of "keeping up-to-date" the phenomenon of people addicted to the news is completely superfluous. It is possible to get a dose of the "drug" between twelve and sixteen times a day every hour on the hour (ignoring regular bulletins on the half hour), but it is also possible to manage with about a minute of selectively reading the main headlines on the internet. In both cases, the bottom line of being informed about the events of the last twenty-four hours will be the same. But the cumulative effect on the soul is very different, especially since we are talking about phenomena that take place at an unconscious level during a period of many years.
To summarize what we have been saying in one sentence: The news broadcasts tell the stories of post-modern culture which is addicted to strong emotions and to peeping at the lives of other people instead of experiencing life directly. This is a culture that sees the right of the people to know as an important principle even with respect to trivialities or insane acts and ignores the obligations of a human being and the need to develop into a moral being who is sensitive and who yearns for good. In view of all this, we are left with one very important question: Where do we stand in this matter? How long will we continue to consume this product without paying attention to the consequences, or is there any possibility of acting differently and possibly even creating a worthy alternative?
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Holy & Secular > Holy Laughter / Roby Weintraub, author of the book "Hakodesh Shebachol"
Medical clowning is a volunteer-professional realm in hospitals.
The Zohar defines King David as the "King's Jester" – referring to the King of the Universe (volume 2, page 107a). During all of his troubles, he constantly remained happy. Another medical clown that is known in Jewish history is Hersheleh from Ostropol.
A medical clown attempts to make things easier and to turn the patient's attention away from tension and sadness and from loneliness and boredom, even if only for a few moments, in an effort to improve their functioning in terms of their physical wellbeing, their spirit, and their social contacts. The clown uses magic, balloons, music, candy, acting, jokes, and more.
Making people happy is a great mitzva. The late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach said, "Happiness stems from this world, and laughter stems from the world to come." ["Sippurei Neshama," volume 2, page 361]. The healing power of laughter strengthens the immune system and speeds up the healing process. Laughter is good for health, and this is especially true in a hospital and even more so with respect to a child.
"Then our mouths will be filled with laughter, and our tongues with joyous song" [Tehillim 126:2].
Riddle of the Week > Vayigash / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
What number appears three times in this week's Torah portion – with respect to years, people, and clothing?
Answer to riddle of Mikeitz: A "kollel" student is the source for the names of two commentaries on the Rambam. Who is it, and what are the commentaries?
The "student" is Yosef, who is called "avrech" [Bereishit 41:43]. In modern Hebrew, this word means a student in a kollel. Yosef returned their money in his brothers' packs. Yaacov said, "Take double the money and bring back the money that was returned to you, perhaps it was a mistake" [43:12]. "Double the money" is "Kessef Mishneh." Yosef rode in the second royal chariot: Pharaoh "put him into the second chariot which he had and he was called avrech and put in charge of the whole land of Egypt" [41:43]. The "second chariot" is "Mirkevet Hamishneh."
Kessef Mishneh is a commentary on the Rambam written by Rabbi Yosef Karo, and Mirkevet Mishneh is a commentary on the Rambam written by Rabbi Shlomo from Chelm.
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