The week after I write this article is expected to be very stormy. That is not only the weather forecast as of now, it is mainly a forecast of the general mood in the country. The level of security and national controversy will come to a crest, and I hope and pray that He who Dwells on High will hear our prayers to decrease the levels of anger and wrath.
Terrorism Equals Islam
In the matter of security, we are facing an enemy of a type with which our ancestors were not familiar – terrorism. This is a murderous and satanic enemy who holds a sword dripping with blood, infused with cruel insanity, who is not backed by a specific country or an army that is ready for hand-to-hand combat. Semi-anonymous terrorism has become the ultimate enemy of the free world, the world of culture – and not only in the Western World. In the past we spoke about terror nations (such as that of Stalin and others), but today the concept of terrorism has changed and it now refers to gang-style murders and callous ideological violence, without specific national or governmental links.
Here is a quote from "The Oracle," (The High Priest of all knowledge) - Wikipedia: "According to Prof. Ehud Sprinchak the definition of terrorism is 'performing harsh violence against non-combatant citizens as a symbolic act and as a means of giving a message of fear to the entire population.' Dr. Boaz Ganor adds, 'The objective of terrorism is to achieve political goals or to change overall policies.' Such actions do not target individuals but rather an entire population, such that a terrorist is usually not interested in the identities of his or her victims. Murder of a specific person, even if it is carried out by a terrorist organization, is considered political murder and not terrorism. This is true, for example, of the murders of Kennedy, Rabin, and others." I assume doctoral candidates all over the world are "making their living" from research on terrorism, and are avidly defining and redefining all the relevant terms. Meanwhile, "the sun rose, the system has bloomed, and the slaughterer continues to slaughter" [Chaim Nachman Bialick, "B'Ir Haharigah," on the subject of the pogroms of Kishinev, 1903). And this is true not only in Jerusalem, "Har Nof, the joy of the entire land" [Tehillim 48:3].
What is missing in all the learned definitions is a very simple sentence: "Any mention of terrorism is a reference to Islam!"
During the last decade terrorism has taken on a monstrous character, seemingly without any conventional solution – when it was transformed into the suicidal act of a shahid who sanctifies death. No punishment has yet been invented in any earthly court that will serve as a suitable punishment for a suicidal person for his or her murders. The only possible deterrence is related to his surroundings, by making his close relatives pay for his deeds in a way that corresponds to his level of murder. Questioning of Islamic prospective suicides who were caught on the way to performing the deed has shown that only harsh treatment of their parents (and especially their mother) together with other family members – might perhaps be some sort of a deterrent for their actions. If it will not deter their actions, it can at least serve to create a warning. Family members who can expect to be punished might be induced to "spill the beans" before the terrorist can act.
Our Minister of the Interior speaks – and more power to him for that – about revocation of the individual rights of those who support terrorism, such as social security benefits. I hope that we will pass emergency legislation that goes much further than this – expulsion, expropriation of property, and revocation of rights of parents of suicidal terrorists, and their wives and children, and perhaps the same for other close relatives in their extended family (the "chamulla"), unless they can prove that they did everything they could to stop the action and that they are strongly opposed to his or her actions. The crime would be defined as supporting or not preventing terrorism, related to what appears in the Torah: "And I will set my face against that man and h-i-s f-a-m-i-l-y, and I will cut him off" [Vayikra 20:5]. Based on the words of the sage, Rashi writes, "What was the sin of the family? ... The answer is that they all cover for him... Should we say that the whole family can be punished by karet, being cut off? No, because it is written, 'I will cut him off.' He will be cut off but not the whole family, who will be punished with suffering."
I am not naive. This emotional cry will be opposed by a strong legal wall that will cry out: "Collective punishment! Individual rights! Democracy above all else!" Well, this may be satisfactory when learned experts in academia have discussions of how to define terrorism, and there it may not do any harm. But when legal professionals get involved, we may well be in deep trouble! In the war between the religion of individual rights and the religion of the shahidim, the discouraging results are predictable...
The Jewish State Law – A Ray of Hope
And this is our opportunity to move on to another current topic – defining our country as the National Homeland of the Jews! The root of the dispute over the proposed new Jewish State Law revolves around the question whether democracy as defined by the Israeli Supreme Court is the ultimate value which will always prevail, or whether it can be superseded by values of nationality and Judaism. Since the details of one or more proposed laws are not yet available at the time that I am writing this article, and since the matter is fluid and depends on considerations related to the coalition, primaries, and elections – this is neither the right time nor place to discuss the matter in depth. However, there is one thing that I know. Only a law defining the Jewish State will give us the capability of fighting against suicidal Islamic terrorism. Only lowering democracy and legalism, the roots of the religion of individual rights, from their exalted positions can put us on track to eradicate terrorism. And at the same time, only a Jewish State Law will allow us to fight against the infiltration of Sudanese and prevent the courts from rejecting laws to put them in prison. Only a Jewish State Law will allow us to destroy homes of shahidim and not to destroy homes of Jews which were built on national land. There are other benefits of such a law, which the anti-Jewish leftists so violently oppose, no doubt for reasons that they know very well...
As Shabbat Approaches > Heaven and Earth / Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
Different sectors within Judaism read different versions of the Haftarah for this week's Torah portion. Ashkenazim read from the verse starting, "And Yaacov fled" [Hoshaya 12:13], until the end of the book (14:10). The Sephardim and the Yemenites read from "And My nation hesitate about returning to Me" [11:7], until "on the furrows of my field" [12:12]. And some Sephardi communities continue until "... in a parched land" [13:5].
We can search for the essential elements of the Haftarah in verses near sections which are shared by all the different communities, since it is a good assumption that these verses represent the combined strength of all sectors of the nation.
Near the verses shared by the various Haftarot are two verses that are very similar to each other:
"And I am your G-d from the Land of Egypt, I will yet bring you back in tents, as in past days" [12:10]. "And I am your G-d from the Land of Egypt, you will never know another god, and there is no savior except for Me" [13:4].
The two verses echo what was said in the first of the Ten Commandments, "I am your G-d" [Shemot 20:2], but they omit the phrase "who took you out (of the Land of Egypt)." This shows us that in addition to our obligation to accept the authority of G-d because He took us out of Egypt (see Rashi: "The fact that I took you out of Egypt is sufficient to make you obligated to Me" [20:2]), Bnei Yisrael also are inherently linked to G-d, even before they received any physical benefit from Him. This link is what is called "segulah" by our sages – an innate unique inner quality. And this rises up at the time of redemption: "He brings the redeemer to their children's offspring" [from the first blessing in the Amidah; see also the letters of Rav Kook volume 2, pages 186-187]. Our inherent outstanding characteristic does not negate our need for merits, rather it is an element of our most important merit: the fact that we have a unique identity of our own.
The knowledge that "I am your G-d" sets Yisrael free from bondage, because "only a slave of G-d is truly free" [Rabbi Yehuda Halevi]. As a consequence of our innate freedom, we are involved in two missions: Torah and politics. Economic independence, which came to the fore when Yisrael dwelt in tents around the Tabernacle while eating heavenly manna, facilitated the adoption of the Torah as a permanent possession within Yisrael, corresponding to the first of the two verses quoted above. Sovereign independence is possible for Yisrael because we do not recognize any other authority over us except for that of the Creator, as is noted in the second verse. It is impossible to be truly faithful to the G-d of Yisrael without fulfilling these two missions.
It may be that the combination of Torah and political action is hinted at in Yaacov's vision of the ladder at the beginning of the Torah portion, which showed him that even at the time of going out to exile it is possible to combine heaven and earth. Torah without political independence, without a political outlook, becomes something that is not relevant to "tikun" – improving the state of the world. The political dimension brings Yisrael together with its historic mission, which is to reveal that no external means are needed in order to have an encounter with the Creator. All that is necessary is to cling to His nation, which is free and idependent.
From the earliest days of Chassidut, music has played a major role in the service of G-d. Every movement within Chassidut has its own special tunes, songs of both happiness and sadness. In spite of its penchant for deep analysis and its serious depth, Chabad too has not neglected the subject of song. Just the opposite – a melody comes to replace something that is lacking, to serve as a way of expressing something that cannot be expressed in words. It is a way to communicate with G-d, to listen to Him, and to make improvements within the soul and in the world. "The 'Elderly Rebbe' influenced the world through Torah and through melodies." [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch].
Most of the tunes of Chabad were composed by the Chassidim. There are very few tunes that were composed or were taught by the Rebbe himself, and they are called "hanigunim hamechuvanim" – directed melodies. In this case, every movement, every emphasis, is precise and deliberate. The most famous of these melodies is the "Arba Bavot," a tune related to the four different worlds, which is sung only on very special occasions.
Another ancient and very exalted melody is the "Three Movements," which is made up of three segments. The first was composed by the Baal Shem Tov, the second was added by his disciple the Maggid of Mezeritch, and the third was composed by his disciple – the elderly Rebbe, the author of the Tanya.
The Melodies of the Rebbe
The two most prominent rabbis in terms of melodies were the Tanya, who composed ten tunes, and the last Rebbe, who taught ten melodies that were not well-known by the public.
For nine years (5716-5724), on the eve of Simchat Torah, after the "Hakafot" ended a few hours after midnight, the Rebbe would go up to his room and eat a light meal. He would them come back down to the Beit Midrash in the very early hours of the day, when it was neither dark or light, in a very special atmosphere, and teach the people a new tune (in the ninth year he taught two melodies).
The Chssidim described a very rare event, where the Rebbe would teach a very old melody, one section at a time, and they would repeat it until they had fully mastered it. The tunes expressed outstanding dedication in addition to happiness, and most of them were set to words from the prayers of the Days of Awe and Succot. It seems that he did not compose these tunes himself but learned them in his home in his youth.
The Rebbe gave enlightening explanations for each melody, both during the early-morning session and the next day, on Simchat Torah. After teaching the song the Rebbe would share a "mashkeh" – a drink – from his goblet with anybody who promised to broaden his study of Chassidut during the following year.
The "Tzam'ah" Project
Most of these melodies became popular very quickly, but to this very day they have not been gathered together, and they have not been accompanied by modern arrangements, of the type which not only doesn't lose the internal charm of the tune but even brings it closer to the heart of the listener. Recently, the work has finished on preparing a new CD-ROM of these tunes, by the name "Tzam'ah" – (My Soul is) Thirsty. On this recording, top musical artists will perform the songs, one song for each singer. Each melody has its own unique "touch," and the set taken as a whole is a deep and exciting creation. The CD-ROM will come with a booklet full of explanations about the melodies, based on the discussions led by the Rebbe when he taught them, all in the modern language of Israel. Listen, and enjoy.
In our last article (Chayei Sarah, issue 1549), we discussed the Rashash (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi), and we will continue this discussion now. Rabbi Sharabi (1720-1777) was one of the greatest masters of the Kabbalah. He was the head of the Kabbalah-oriented yeshiva Beit El, and he is considered as the most important commentator on the works of the ARI. The Rashash was involved day and night in Torah study and prayer, and he wrote a Siddur which described deep internal intentions of the prayers, based on sources within mysticism. But he also knew when it was necessary to close his books and take action.
* * * * * *
One day, when Rabbi Shalom Sharabi was on his way to the Beit Midrash, he saw a blind woman, barefoot and dressed in rags, holding the hand of her small daughter. There was heavy rain that day, the street was full of mud, and there were many puddles for the entire length of the street. The Rashash had pity on the woman and on her daughter, and he asked her to come home with him. He removed his cloak and wrapped it around them both, and he took his shoes off and gave them to the woman. And they continued walking in the street, with the rabbi barefoot and wearing only the garment he wore inside his home. When they reached his home, the rabbi gave the woman and her daughter warm clothing, food, and money. She asked him his name, but he refused to tell her, only saying that he too had once been a poor orphan, and that G-d had helped him, and that he therefore wanted to help her. The woman insisted again on knowing his name, and he told her, "Shalom." But she was persistent, and he finally gave her his full name, "Shalom Sharabi." The woman was shocked to hear who he was, and she started to apologize that because of her this great righteous man was interrupted in his Torah study and that because of her he had gone around outside barefoot and without his cloak. The Rashash calmed her down, saying, "You have done me a great kindness. For years I have been studying Torah, and today I was able to see that my studies were worthy." The woman didn't understand, and the rabbi explained further: "Only a man who knows when to stop studying in order to help another person can be considered one who truly knows how to study."
* * * * * *
This story shows us a scene where the Rashash is on his way to the Beit Middrash, the natural place for him as Rosh Yeshiva. This is where his great spiritual undertaking takes place, where he studies the Torah of mysticism. However, it teaches us that there are times when the spiritual labor takes place while he is on the way, and not only in the Beit Midrash while he is holding a holy book or a Siddur (even if it is the one that he wrote). His labor can consist of helping a poor widow and her orphan daughter who find themselves out in the street on a rainy day. He can be involved not only in exalted spiritual study but also in down-to-earth activity.
The Rashash understands that he cannot ignore the widow and her daughter, and he abandons his plan to go to the Beit Midrash. But he tries not to reveal his name to the woman. He wants his act of kindness to be simple and humane, without receiving any special recognition for his deed. But the woman insists, and his secret is revealed.
The Rashash spent his life studying the names of G-d and the secrets of the Kabbalah, and here, in this case, what he wanted to keep secret is revealed and his name becomes known. This is something that he wanted to avoid, but in the end the revelation of the secret leads to a deeper understanding of the true concept of Torah study.
The widow is embarrassed when she hears the rabbi's name. She feels that she caused harm to a Torah scholar and to the holy Torah by delaying the rabbi on his way to study. She makes the common error that Torah study is the only way to perform a significant spiritual act. In his reply, the Rashash shows his approach, which is the opposite of her own. There are times when "to refrain from study is the way to accomplish it." The obligation to act in a moral way takes precedence over Torah study. We should also note that in this story we are being taught a new understanding of the concept of "Torah study." The act of leaving the book closed teaches us the proper way to open it – we must study the Torah of G-d with full intention to act in a moral and spiritual fashion in this world. In fact, this is not an interruption of the study, it is rather an attempt to internalize it and transform it into practical action. This story does not involve the laws of helping other people. Rather, it is a story that elucidates the concept of Torah study.
What Is That Phrase? > A Timely Loss / Rabbi Yikhat Rozen Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality
Imma put the phone down, looking upset. "What happened?" I asked her.
"That was my sister Yaffa. You know that she lives in the United States because her husband's entire family is there. She has been working for years as a teacher in a private school. The school year starts next week, and she has been busy getting ready for the new year. She organized the material, she reviewed the different courses, and she eagerly anticipated the first day of class."
"And what happened?"
"Now, everything has changed. She just received a letter and here is what was written: 'With the beginning of the new year we are making changes in the teaching staff. Starting with the beginning of this school year you will no longer work for us, you are hereby fired. We wish you success in all your endeavors. (Signed, the principal.)'"
"Yaffa has always been considered a good teacher. The students love her, she is very good at teaching the class material, and she was successful in teahing the students to behave properly. She assumes that she is not losing her job because her work is unacceptable but rather because of staff changes or problems with the budget. But she is still frustrated, and well she should be! It upsets her and insults her that she has been singled out to lose her job. She is also worried! She had a good job in this school, what will she do now? Where will she earn a living? Will she be able to find other work as a teacher or in some other profession?"
Imma looked very worried about her sister, who was so far away. In the weeks that followed, there were other long conversations between Imma and her sister.
Yaffa found one consolation in her new situation. The management of the school was at least decent enough to give her severance pay, to help her during the time she would be looking for a new job.
For the next few months, Yaffa looked for other work. In a short time, she found a new and very interesting job, where she found satisfaction and was quite successful. She felt that G-d accompanied her in everything that she did, and that He had led her to find a better job than the one she had in the school. While looking for the new job she used up some of the severance pay, but some of the money remained and she saved it to be used when she might need it.
But she was still not aware of the real support that the Divine guiding hand had given her.
And then one day the phone rang. It was Yaffa, and she sounded very excited.
"Just listen to this," Yaffa said. "As you know I was working in a private school. Soon after I was fired, the school found that it had severe financial difficulties. The management was therefore forced to fire many other teachers. They all received a letter similar to mine, but with an important difference. These people were not given as short a notice as I was. They were warned several months in advance that they would lose their jobs. According to the law in the United States, they did not get any severance pay. It did not take very long before most of the teachers in the school were out of work, without honor, without severance pay, and without any money to help them out even for a short time."
And then Yaffa continued, "Now I understand how good G-d was to me. Clearly, I would not have been able to continue working in the school for very long. Almost all the teachers that worked with me have been fired. But I was able to start looking for a new job. And I had my severance pay, which gave me an opportunity to make a new start. But all of my old friends had to start out without any financial support!"
"Don't you see?" Imma said. "It's really amazing! Not everything that we think is best for us really is the best thing. You thought that being fired was terrible, but now you see that it was really a Divine plan to help you. It was the best thing for you to lose your job quickly. You found a job that you like more, and you even got some extra money that helped you along the way."
Question: Is there any merit to the claim of those who say that we are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount since this is a rebellion against the other nations of the world?
The verse, "I have made you swear, daughters of Jerusalem... Do not awaken the love until it is rightfully desired..." appears three times in Shir Hashirim (2:7; 9:5; 8:4). The sages derive the following from these verses:
"Rabbi Yossi Bar Rabbi Chanina said: What is the purpose of these three oaths? One is that Yisrael should not climb up over the wall. One means that the Holy One, Blessed be He, made Bnei Yisrael swear not to rebel against the other nations of the world. And one is that the Holy One, Blessed be He, made the idol worshippers take an oath not to oppress Yisrael too much." [Ketuvot 111a].
This Midrash was used as one of the central arguments against Zionism and against Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. It is the main theme of the book written by the Rabbi of Satmar, "Vayoel Moshe."
Great men of Yisrael throughout the generations completely rejected this claim. My grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Hakohen Weingarten, summarized some responsa and proofs against the "prohibition of climbing the wall" in a pamphlet by the name of "Hishba'ati Etchem" (I made you take an oath), which was published in 5736 (1976).
The Halachic Validity of the Three Oaths
The Avnei Nezer writes: "The Rambam and all the halachic decision-makers did not bring the three oaths to which Yisrael swore, because this is not a matter of halacha." In fact, the RIF, the ROSH, the Rambam, the TUR, and the Shulchan Aruch did not quote the oaths in their halachic works.
The Avnei Nezer quotes the opinion of the Hafla'ah that the oaths referred only to the exile of Babylon. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua from Kutna, disagreeing with the Kessef Mishna who interprets the Rambam as saying that the prohibition to leave Babylon also includes going to Eretz Yisrael:
"This is hard to understand, for it was only said referring specifically to the land of Babylon and not to other lands outside of Eretz Yisrael. The reason is that after the people were lazy in the time of Ezra they did not want to return to the land because they thought that they had not been given an absolute command... However, the people from our lands, who were part of the exile of Titus from Eretz Yisrael together with all the other nations, are not included in this at all, and it (moving to Eretz Yisrael) is a great mitzva..." [Yeshuot Malko 66].
Rashi too implies that the Midrash Agadah about the oaths is not relevant for the Third Temple:
"There are many examples of Midrash Agadah which do not correspond to the final order of things, for I see that Shlomo prophesied and spoke about the redemption from Egypt, the giving of the Torah, the Tabernacle, the return to the land, the Temple, the Babylonian exile, and the return to the Second Temple and its destruction." [Commentary on Shir Hashirim 2:7].
Rabbi Chaim Vital writes that the oaths were in effect only for a thousand years:
"Behold, there was a great Divine oath that the people should not awaken the redemption until the time for love had returned... Until the desire would come at the end of the oath, after a thousand years, as is written in a Baraita of Rabbi Yishmael in Pirkei Haichalot, based on the book of Daniel." [Introduction to Etz Hachaim.]
Rabbi Herzog quoted from the author of Shevet Mussar (one of the wise men of Izmir from about 300 years ago) that "the oath is no longer valid from the beginning of the sixth century."
We can also add a point based on the text of the Midrash itself – that at the same time the other nations were required to swear that they would not oppress Yisrael "too much," corresponding to the exile of Babylon, which lasted for only seventy years. (And it is not reasonable to say that the oath is also relevant for another exile, and that even though the other nations did not abide by the oath we are still obliged to do so.)
Another claim of the wise men in the beginning of the era of Zionism is that even those who feel that there is a prohibition to "go up on the wall" must admit that the oath lost its validity with the publication of the Balfour Declaration, where the other nations explicitly agreed that the time has come for Yisrael to return to its land.
The Obligation to Anticipate the Rebuilding of the Temple
The anticipation of the rebuilding of the Temple is at the very heart of our service of G-d. Every Jew prays three times a day, "Let our eyes see Your return to Zion, with mercy." And on Shabbat, in the Mussaf prayer, we say, "Let it be Your will... that You shall raise us up with joy to our land... and there we will fulfill for You our obligations of bringing sacrifices..."
No option was ever considered to forbid prayer and yearning for the fulfillment of the prophecies of redemption. The Rambam and the Radbaz and other great rabbis in all the generations went up to the Temple Mount in order to pray close to the site where the Shechina dwells.
These days, a claim is being made that we should completely remove from the agenda or at least remain silent about our yearning to fulfill the vision of the prophets to rebuild the Temple, and that we should at the very least refrain from praying on the Temple Mount. The reason given is to avoid out of a fear of making our Yishmaelite "cousins" angry (together with the other nations of the world). Similar cries could be heard in the year 1929 on the issue of praying next to the Western Wall. However, the truth is that refraining from entering the Temple Mount will not stop the incitement or the horrible murders. What makes our "cousins" angry is the very fact that we continue to exist in our own land, based on the visions of the prophets about the return to Zion, as is expressed in our prayers.
In fact, the opposite is true. Any hint that we do not have faith in the prophecies will give our enemies an opportunity to spread more oil on the horrible flames. Exile-style despair that implies giving up on the vision of the prophets in our time can only serve to strengthen the victorious feeling of our enemies, who have been waiting for a long time for this to happen.
What we must do is to double down and continue to believe and to act. With G-d's help, we will be privileged in the future to witness a full return to Zion and a transformation of the holy mountain into a House of Worship for all the nations. "And it will come to pass in the end of days, the Temple Mount will be at the head of all the mountains... And all the nations will flow towards it... And they will say, come let us rise up to the Mountain of G-d... For the Torah will emanate from Zion, and the Word of G-d from Jerusalem... No nation will lift up a sword against another, and war will no longer be taught." [Yeshayahu 2:2-6].
Nature and the Torah portion > "Armon" – A Chestnut / Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"And Yaacov took a fresh rod of poplar, and hazel and 'armon' (chestnut). He peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white of the rods" Bereishit 30:37].
The identity of the "armon" which Yaacov used for his "trick" in his dispute with Lavan is a matter of dispute between Torah commentators and scientists. In modern Hebrew, this word refers to a tree, Castanea, which in English is called sweet chestnut. It is a well-known tree whose fruit is eaten roasted, used as an ingredient in cooking, or made into a puree. The chestnut tree is a large deciduous tree (which sheds it leaves in winter) which can reach a height of 20-25 meters. The wood is an excellent raw material for making furniture, barrels, and fences. The chestnut was used in a very interesting way during the First World War. Chaim Weizmann (Israel's first President), who was a chemist, advised the British on how to produce acetone from chestnuts for use in making gunpowder. Children from all over Great Britain volunteered their services for the war effort and collected chestnuts in the forests.
Identifying the "armon" as a chestnut corresponds to the tradition of the commentators of Europe. In this week's Torah portion, Rashi writes, "Armon – in a foreign language is castinier." The word armon also appears in Yechezkel together with "erez" (cedar) and "brosh" (cypress trees). "Cedars could not block it in G-d's garden, cypresses could not compare to its boughs, and chestnut trees were nothing compared to its branches, no tree in G-d's garden was its equal in beauty" [31:8]. Here again Rashi writes, "Armonim – cashtenish in a foreign language." RADAK, who was born in Provence, an area rich in Castanea, writes on this verse, "armonim – like poplar and hazel, this is a tree and it is called castinier." In the Book of Roots it is written, "This is what is called 'dolphi' by our sages, as appears in the Targum, 'dadalov.'" And it is said that this is the tree called cashtenish."
PlaAtanus, the Dolev
There is a different translation based on the fact that most of the ancient traditions equate the armon with the "dolev" tree (Platanus, or plane tree). Onkeles in the verse in Bereshit translates armon as "dolev." In the Talmud it is written, "Armonim – dolbi" [Rosh Hashanah 23a]. The same appears in the Talmud Yerushalmi, "Armonim – dolbi" [Ketuvot 7:31; see also TUR 4:7]. Similar terms appear in the Pshitata ("dolba") and Rabeinu Saadia Gaon's commentary on the Torah ("dalab"). In modern Arabic, the eastern dolev (Platanus orientalis) is called "dalb." In the Septuagint armon appears as "platanos" and in the Vulgate it is "platanus." All of these translations equate the armon (dolba) with the eastern dolev. Those who feel that the armon is a Castanea are forced to postulate that "dolev" is a synonym for "armon."
The Hadas and the Lulav
One key to determining which of the two traditions described above is correct comes from an unexpected source – a discussion of the identity of the "anaf etz avot" [Vayikra 23:40], one of the four species used in the ritual of Succot. "We have been taught: This means that the branches cover the tree. This means that it is hadas (myrtle). Why not say it is an olive tree? Because it must have a form of a braid (avot), and this is not like that. Why not say it is 'dolba?' The branches must cover the tree, and this is not so." [Succah 32b]. The conclusion of the Talmud is that this must be referring to the myrtle. The olive tree is rejected because the leaves do not have the form of a braided chain. The "dolev" (armon) is also rejected because although its leaves form a braid they do not completely cover the tree.
Based on the above discussion, Rabeinu Tam rejects the possibility that a dolev is a Castanea, since this tree is not braided at all. "Rabeinu Tam proves from this that armon is not what is called 'cashtenish' because in the Talmud it is written that etz avot means that it covers the tree, which means that it is a myrtle. And they ask why it is not an olive tree, and the reply is that the olive is not braided. And they ask why it is not a dolev – but if armon is a dolev, that is cashtenish, the question makes no sense, since this is not braided either." [Bava Batra 81a]. Rashi writes, in fact, that "Dolba is the armon, cashtenier, which is braided but not in a way that is continuous and which covers the entire tree." [Succah 32b].
Dioscorides, who was a physician and a botanist, and Galinus, a physician, described the armon as causing an itch because its leaves are covered with a thorny fuzz. The chestnut tree does not cause itching. It is also not part of the flora of Eretz Yisrael or of Aram Naharayim, where we are told in Bereishit that Yaacov used the armon. The descriptions by Dioscorides and Galinus fit the eastern dolev, the plane tree, since its leaves are indeed covered with fine thorns that are picked up by wind and can cause an eye infection. For this reason, the tree is not used for decoration, and in some countries rows of the tree have been uprooted. Some people suggest that the word "armon" is related to "arum," naked, since the trunks of the trees are light-colored and smooth because the bark falls off in thin layers. This is a phenomenon that occurs with the eastern plane tree (in very old trees, the trunk is full of grooves). One problem that I have not solved is the question by Rabeinu Tam about identifying dolba as Castanea. At first glance, it would seem that the eastern dolev doesn't have "braided" leaves (as is stated by Rashi). One possible idea to check is whether the terms "avot" and "kalu'a" refer to the open structure of the leaves, which gives them an appearance of fingers linked to each other in a chain. Z. Amar suggested that the confusion between the eastern dolev and Castanea stems from the similar appearance of their fruits, which are both covered with "thorns."
Holy & Secular > The Hostage / Rabbi Amichai Gordin Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School
The media are reporting an unusually severe cold front that is attacking the United States. But it seems that the country was not only overtaken by cold. The record-breaking cold has also been accompanied by wave after wave of evil and contemptible acts, which have attacked the world power, especially the man who today holds the office of President of that great country.
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About half a year ago the negotiating teams of Israel and the Palestinian Authority almost agreed to an extension of the negotiations in which they were engaged. According to the agreement, Israel would release a number of prisoners and put in force a building freeze beyond the Green Line that once separated the two territories.
There was a third side to this developing agreement. It concerned our friend from across the ocean. The friendly country was supposed to free one single prisoner – Yehonatan Pollard.
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To parole Pollard at this time "would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and promote disrespect for the law." That is what the American parole commission wrote to him last week when it rejected Pollard's request for a parole.
Half a year after an agreement was reached in principle to release Pollard as part of international negotiations, the American government remembered that to free him would be to depreciate the seriousness of the crime that he committed. Release of the spy who has spent four or five times as much time in prison as any spy who was ever convicted of a similar crime would be a display of disrespect for the law...
It has once again been shown that the friendly American government is holding a Jew as a hostage. Yehonatan Pollard will remain in prison until Barack Obama achieves some political gains from the State of Israel. "G-d, save me from my friends, I will watch out by myself for my enemies."
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James Wolsey was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, the CIA. Dennis DeConcini and David Durenberger were heads of the Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate. Bernard Nussbaum was the legal advisor of the White House. Lawrence Korb was an Undersecretary of Defense in the United States.
All of these men who held senior positions have detailed knowledge of the secret files about Yehonatan Pollard, and they all signed a letter with sharp accusations against the way the American government has behaved.
In their letter, which was published last week, these senior officials voice harsh criticism against the proceedings of the parole commission which studied Pollard's request. They define the process as "deeply flawed," and they declare that the decision of the commission "characterizes the actions of Pollard in an erroneous way, and raises completely false claims about him..."
"Denying a man his freedom based on a claim of damage that is patently false, while ignoring exculpatory documentary evidence and hiding behind a veil of secret evidence, is neither fair nor just, and it simply is not the American way..."
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If after the above words there remains any doubt about the reason that Pollard is still wasting away in prison, just take a look at what was written by Dennis Ross, the American coordinator for the Middle East. "I also said that I support the release of Pollard because I believed that he received a harsher punishment than others who had committed similar crimes. I preferred not to link his release to any other agreement..."
In spite of this, Ross is not embarrassed to write that in the end his final recommendation to President Clinton was that because of his value as a bargaining chip Pollard should not be released until final agreements are reached. "It would be a huge payoff for Bibi; you don't have many like this in your pocket... You will need it later, don't use it now..."
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The American government is using the tactics of a terrorist organization. Barack Obama is keeping a man in prison only in order to extort our country. Pollard should have left the prison a long time ago. The doors of the prison remain locked because he is a bargaining chip in the negotiations that the President of the United States is conducting. Just like the actions of a crime syndicate.
The conclusion that Pollard is being held as a hostage has operational ramifications. We must act towards Barack Obama by the rules used in negotiating for the release of hostages.
First of all, we should make it clear to Obama that he will not receive any benefits from releasing Pollard. We must make sure that Pollard is no longer a bargaining chip. He should be released because that is the right thing to do, not in exchange for ransom.
In addition, Obama must know that we will pursue him wherever we can, and we will expose the fact that he is holding a human being hostage. We will do this as long as Obama remains the President, and even afterwards. Obama must be aware that in any contact with the Israeli public he will be forced to explain why he held a Jewish hostage in his prison.
Mr. President, if you continue to use the methods of terrorist organizations we will do everything in our power to remind you and the world of this fact, and we will do everything we can to harm your public image. Even twenty or thirty years from now we will not forget your despicable behavior. We will not forget, and we will make sure that you do not forget either. Beware, we are Jews, and that means that we are very stubborn...
"At Givon G-d was revealed to Shlomo in a nighttime dream" [3:5]. Does this mean that King Shlomo was a prophet?
According to the Rambam, there are some dreams that are a prophecy, and there are others that are "merely" a dream (Moreh Nevuchim 2:45). The only one who can tell which is which is the dreamer himself or herself. After Yaacov's dream he declares, "The G-d of Shaddai appeared to me in Luz" [Bereishit 48:3]. This is a description of a prophecy. With respect to Shlomo, on the other hand, it is written, "And Shlomo woke up, and behold it was a dream" [Melachim I 3:15]. David, Shlomo, and Daniel were not prophets but dreamers and the books that they wrote are in the Writings and not in the Prophets.
On the other hand, Abarbanel claims (in his commentary on this chapter of Melachim) that it was only through prophecy that Shlomo was able to receive the four visions that he saw.
This dispute is based on a deeper principle. In order to be a prophet, a person must be wise, wealthy, and courageous. According to the Rambam, these conditions represent human effort, and a person must make the effort to achieve them in order to reach the level of prophecy. According to Rav Chisdai Krashkrash (who was followed by Abarbanel), only after a person becomes a prophet will he be helped in fulfilling the prophecy by having these traits. Shlomo obtained wisdom and wealth as a result of the revelation. However, the Rambam does not agree that a person will ever receive prophecy and wisdom as a Divine gift. In order for a person to become close to G-d, he or she must make an effort.
Both according to the Rambam and Abarbanel, we will see as this story unfolds what happens to a person that reaches the very top but did not make any special effort to get there.
Riddle of the Week > Vayeitzei / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
We are two words in the Torah portion Two words that are almost the same, with a difference in only one letter One word was linked to a name of a child And the other was the cause of jealousy and competition. Taken together, we are a familiar pleasant blessing.
Answers to last week's riddle – The question was about two Jerusalem neighborhoods whose names were taken from the Tanach. "I am the third generation after one whose name is the same as the first one who left the walls. Who was first, and what is the third generation?"
The one who left the walls was Moshe Montifiore, who was the first to build a neighborhood outside Jerusalem, "Mishkenot Shaananim" (established in 1860). The name is based on the verse, "And My nation will dwell in Nave Shalom, in Mishkenot Mivtachim, and Menuchot Shaananot." [Yeshayahu 32:18]. "Rechavia" is named after Moshe's grandson. "And the children of Eliezer were Rechavia, the chief. Eliezer did not have any other sons, but Rechavia had many children." [Divrei Hayamim I 23:17].
Note: There are other proposed explanations of the name Rechavia. But in any case, the name does appear in the Tanach.