"Moshe is better liked than Noach. Noach was first called 'a righteous man' and then 'a man of the earth,' while Moshe was first called 'an Egyptian' and later 'a man of G-d'." [Bereishit Rabba 36:3]. As the Meshech Chochma explains in the following abridged quote, "There are two ways to serve G-d. One is to be totally dedicated to Him and to remain isolated, and the second is to be involved in public affairs and for the person to minimize himself for the good of the community. From our point of view, one who isolates himself rises to greater and greater heights, while the public servant falls down in his spiritual level. But experience shows that the opposite is true. Noach, who kept aside and did not admonish the people of his generation, descended from the status of righteousness to being a man of the earth, while Moshe was at first called an Egyptian for being willing to forfeit his life in killing the Egyptian. But in the end he dedicated his life to leading Yisrael, and he was called a man of G-d when he reached an ultimate level of perfection."
Noach's life was a descent, going lower and lower. Moshe, on the other hand, was privileged to rise up to the level of "a man of G-d." Why did Noach sink down while Moshe rose and began to shine? Some people concentrate all their efforts on serving G-d, and they are constantly involved only in their own spiritual advance. Others are involved in public affairs and minimize themselves for the good of the community. As opposed to our intuitive feeling, Moshe the "public" person rose in spiritual level while Noach, the "isolated individual," sank into the depths. Thus, it seems that being involved in public matters brings a person to a higher status. We can suggest that this stems from the fact that public service lets a person achieve a potential that an isolated person would not be able to bring out.
However, can we really believe that Noach, a righteous man, was completely apathetic to the fate of his generation? According to the Midrash, didn't he warn the people of the impending deluge? Evidently he did not put their welfare above the importance of his own spiritual level. It is also possible that he feared being mocked and becoming unpopular. Moshe, on the other hand, acts without any personal considerations and without any concerns for his status among the people. He is even willing to leave his leadership position when he begins to feel that he no longer has the proper influence on the people. Rabbi Shach is quoted as saying the following: It is said that a Jew loves to eat fish on Friday night (sweet "gefilte fish" for the Ashkenazim and spicy for the Sephardim). But does the Jew really love the fish? No, he loves himself...
The Test of Sacrificing Popularity
In the end, both Noach and Moshe were involved in public affairs, and we thus have a way of comparing them. Noach was chosen to save the entire world, while Moshe was chosen to take Yisrael out of Egypt, to receive the Torah, and to bring the people into Eretz Yisrael. According to the Meshech Chochma, the criterion for leadership is not how popular a man is among the people. Rather, the opposite is true. How ready is the leader to "sacrifice" and give up his personal popularity in the face of the challenges that face him? Noach failed in that he feared the people of his generation, who were sinners and robbers, and he was not ready to put his status and his fate in danger. In this way he was transformed from a perfectly righteous leader into a man of the earth with no influence. Moshe, on the other hand, was willing to pay for his actions with a loss of popularity and "rating," in his effort to influence the others on his Divine mission. He therefore succeeded, and after starting out as an Egyptian he became a man of G-d at the very highest level, a man who had the greatest possible influence on the nation of Yisrael.
In our generation, when (some) leaders are chosen democratically within their parties, and when candidates are elected to the Knesset and in municipal elections – they are all facing a personal and leadership challenge that is not at all simple. This is the test proposed by the Meshech Chochma. Should they prefer a popular approach, based on public relations and surveys, which promises to give them ratings and votes, or should they give preference to true values and ideologies which they espouse in order to gather the trust of the voters, while ignoring electoral considerations? Which is the better way to gather the votes of the people?
If Moshe would run for office today he might well lose! He would not be ready to give the people all that they want. Noach might have had a better chance of succeeding!
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Our Blessings for Changes among the Writers – a note by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
As is our custom, with the advent of the new year of 5775 we want to give our best wishes to several authors who have been with us in the past and to welcome their replacements, with the hope that they will favor us with their blessed outputs.
The authors of three columns are leaving us (but that is four writers) – Yogli Roichman ("A Woman's Angle"), Eliyahu and Hila Fargeon ("Educating the Youth"), and Rabbi Yosef Leichter ("Something about Books"). We wish them long and healthy lives, let them continue to spread their wares in other forums.
Who is coming in to replace them? Noa Ariel from Yitzhar will join the staff of "A Woman's Angle." Chezi Cohen (Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa; Midreshet Ein Tzurim) will tell us tales about wise men of the east, in a new column, "Light up the Face of the East." Rabbi Chagai Londin (a teacher in the Hesder Yeshiva in Sdeirot and in Machon Meir) will bring us the "Vision of Rav Kook" as timely and contemporary pearls of wisdom. And last but not least - our own Yisrael Rosenberg (who has our great thanks for his work in collecting and editing the material for Shabbat B'Shabbato) will summarize interesting tidbits about Hebrew names from the book "In the Tents of Shem" by Dov Rozen. (Do you see what we have done here? Four new columns replace three old ones. Pay attention, you will see how we do it...) And our veteran author Bar-on Dasberg will move his "Insights for the Shabbat Table" from the Torah to the prophets, with a new name, "The Table of Kings (Melachim)."
Midrash Tanchuma begins its comments on this week's Torah portion with the choice of Yisrael and the giving of the Torah. "And He gave us the Written Torah with hidden and ambiguous hints, which have been explained in the Oral Torah." The Midrash discusses the great value of the Oral Torah, which can only be obtained by one who "puts himself to death" over it. The Midrash adds that "The covenant which the Almighty made with Bnei Yisrael was in reference to the Oral Torah, as is written, 'For by these words I have made a covenant with you' [Shemot 34:27], that the Torah will not be forgotten by the people and by their offspring until the end of the generations... Therefore it was established that two sessions were required by Yisrael, for them to study by day and by night." The Midrash continues at length on the subject of the importance of the labor and the exertion to be expended in studying, "And whoever loves wealth and pleasure cannot study the Oral Torah, because its study requires great suffering and a lack of sleep." Commentators have noted about this statement that they are not sure exactly why this discussion is relevant at this point.
It is written, "Moshe commanded the Torah to us, a heritage for the community of Yaacov" [Devarim 33:4]. The Talmud Yerushalmi notes that "morashah" – a heritage – indicates a situation of doubt and weakness. And it asks, what is doubtful about the Torah? The answer is that when one begins to study the Torah there is indeed great doubt which is cleared up only after a great effort. But we may ask: Why was the Torah given in this way, leading to difficulty and rejection?
The Midrash teaches us that after the Two Tablets were shattered the Holy One, Blessed be He, taught Moshe the Torah and the Mishna, halacha and aggada, and everything that a scholar might want to ask in the future. Moshe wanted to write everything down, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, replied, "I wrote down for them the main elements of My Torah, and they treated them as alien material" [Hoshaya 8:12]. In the future the other nations would try to take possession of the Torah, as the Christians did. He therefore wrote down only the written parts, while the Oral Torah was not written on tablets but in the hearts of Yisrael, as is written, "I will write it on their hearts" [Yirmiyahu 31:32]. This means that Yisrael serves as the parchment on which the Torah is written. "He planted eternal life within us – this refers to the Oral Torah" [TUR]. In order for the Torah to be engraved on the heart, labor and great effort are needed, since whatever is achieved with little effort will easily be removed. And from that moment on, "Yisrael and the Torah is one and the same thing." [Zohar, volume 2, 90b].
"'Squeezing milk produces butter' [Mishlei 30:33]. In which people can the butter of Torah be found? It is in those who spit out the milk which they drank from their mother's breast." [Berachot 63b]. Rav Kook explains that there is an evil trait of pedagogues who want to lighten the burden of study, but that the result is that the material is not incorporated into the souls of the students. The "butter" of the Torah, the choicest part, is obtained when the students are disgusted by easily obtained knowledge and who desire to work hard and achieve the results by their own labors, like a growing child who becomes disgusted with nursing, even though mother's milk is good, easily digested, and easy to obtain.
It may be that the Tanchuma brings these ideas in the Torah portion of Noach since this is the first Shabbat of the winter session in the yeshivot. Many students would encounter difficulties in learning the Oral Torah, and they might ask why all this trouble was necessary. Why are there such difficult issues which make it hard for us to "bind" with the Gemarra? And the Midrash provides an answer: Without the proper effort, the Torah will not become firmly established in the souls of the individuals and the nation, and what comes easily can be lost with ease. And that is the essence of the covenant between Bnei Yisrael and G-d.
"This is the story of Noach. Noach was a righteous and perfect man in his generation. Noach walked with G-d" [Bereishit 6:9].
Rashi commenting on this verse brings the famous quote from the Talmud, "He was righteous for his generation, but if he had been in Avraham's generation he would not have been considered anything special" [Sanhedrin 108]. And he continues with the following: "'Noach walked with G-d' – but for Avraham it is written, 'I went before him' [Bereishit 24:40]. Noach needed help to support him, but Avraham gained in strength and walked in righteousness on his own."
From the earliest times of our youth, we were taught about the righteousness of Noach on one hand and about its limitations. Our teachers, following the lead of the sages and of Rashi, made sure to emphasize the comparison between Noach, who was righteous in comparison with the other people in his generation, and Avraham, who was righteous on a scale of all generations. This offers a beautiful explanation why Avraham was chosen to be the father of our nation, while Noach remains a minor figure as far as his status and his actions are concerned.
However, I have second thoughts which lead me to have great questions about this traditional way of viewing Noach. Can we really approach Noach's great traits so lightly, when he was the only one who was different from an entire community which acted in a way that was morally different from his own? Without detracting from the tremendous status of our Patriarch Avraham, and with our understanding that the Tanach as a book for the Jews will of course emphasize his important role in the creation of our nation, I would like to shed some light on the important role that Noach played in the history of humanity, before the nation of Yisrael came into being.
Let us imagine the situation. Evil men are moving all around the world - extorting, murdering, robbing, and carrying on. The strong steal from the weak, and only one man follows the path of G-d and lives an upright life, without harming others in order to survive. However, in practical terms, the only way to survive is to act like all the others. An example of a similar but very different situation that took place thousands of years later is described by an Englishman, Thomas Hobbes, who lived in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in his book, Leviathan. Hobbes claims that the nature of mankind is to be aggressive and violent, both because he wants to gather power and possessions in order to satisfy his desires and because in this way he defends himself against possible aggression by other people. Hobbes called this the "state of nature."
Before we take a look at the very high moral status of Noach, we should think in a simple way about the daily survival of himself and his family. How did they exist within such a dangerous world? How did they manage not to act like the other people of their generation, while they continued to live and act in a proper way? We can also add deeper questions. How did they get the instincts and the power to know what was right and what was righteous, and to live in this way in total isolation? Would we be able to live in a society where everybody – absolutely everybody – lived according to a code while we and only we were different, and all alone? The first thought that I have about this, from my daily life, is the question of buying smartphones for children. In my school there are still a few families that are holding out against social pressure and who adamantly refuse to buy their children smartphones. Only a very few succeed in this. And this is merely one small norm. How many of those very few families would maintain their stand if they would be put into total isolation, while living in a society with completely different behavioral and moral codes in all walks of life? Who among any of us could withstand such tremendous pressures?
Some people solve such problems by closing themselves off from the rest of society. That is their choice, and it is their privilege. Noach lived in a society that was the complete opposite of his own, but he contributed to it and overcame its influence. We do not encounter such greatness today, in any society – not among those in our midst who isolate themselves, and not among the open ones, who are more deeply involved. We have a long way to go in order to reach even a small part of the greatness of Noach – if we will ever be privileged to do so.
Rabbi Yechiel Moshe Greenwald, the elderly rabbi of Yadimov in Poland, wrote two books of collected Chassidic stories and sayings. Here is a short story from his collection:
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When Rabbi Klonimus Kalman, the author of Maor Vashemesh, was a young boy, he was already famous for his sharp wit and for his righteousness. Even elderly men sat and studied Torah from his mouth. One time, after he finished giving a lesson, he went outside to the street with his students. Suddenly, Klonimus saw a young goat standing in the street. And the young man, Klonimus, immediately mounted the goat and rode on it. The students were startled, and they cried out, "Rabbi, you embarrass us, are we not your students?" And he replied, "Every man must have a streak of frivolity, childish youthfulness. I too wondered if it were best for me to do such acts now and not to wait to do them after I reach the age of twenty or so."
[Likutim Chadashim, Warsaw, 5659, page 51a].
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Rabbi Klonimus Kalman Epstein, who in later life wrote one of the most important books of sermons in Chassidut, "Maor Vashemesh," was known as a modest and studious man. If I may be so bold, I would say that he did not receive the honor that was due him. His great genius, which was well known even in his youth, and his close attachment to great men of Chassidut such as Rabbi Yechiel Mechel of Zlotshov and Rabbi Elimelech of Lazhansk, gave him the opportunity to continue after them as an heir and a leader. But Rabbi Klonimus never had the privilege of leading a Chassidic community, and in fact in his home city of Krakow he suffered from harsh opposition and from periods of excommunication.
In the above story Rabbi Klonimus appears as a teacher who decides to abandon his students and their expectations while he chooses to live a modest and "normal" life.
I can imagine the "elderly" students and their astonishment at seeing the young and serious genius frolic on a goat, thus putting a crack in the serious attitude of the lesson which had just ended. In this simple act, he reminds them that great wisdom is needed in order to give up honor and maintain the simplicity, the modesty, and the light-hearted approach of the soul. Just see how much wisdom and sensitivity it was necessary for the youthful rabbi to have in order for him to understand that it was necessary for a man to have a measure of frivolity, youthful exuberance, and how important the youthful traits of freedom and revolt could be. Such free movement is called a "moratorium" in psychoanalytic terms – a release from obligations and the acquiescence of society that a young person must be free to search for his own true identity.
As it happens, we know from the children's songs that their teachers had a sense of humor of an elderly billy-goat – they were strict, elderly, and bearded. This is the source of the well-known children's song, "We have a billy-goat" ("Yesh lanu tayish"). The original song, in Yiddish, was "We have a rebbe!" And if the Rebbe is a billy-goat, the students are young kids, frolicking and frivolous in their pens. In this way, the above story presents a topsy-turvy situation. When it begins, the kid becomes a billy-goat – the young man teaches Torah and wisdom to older students. In his great wisdom, the young teacher chooses to return to the status of a kid, and he brings things back to the proper order.
From another point of view, this story may well be the story of the Chassidic movement in general, which was revealed by Rabbi Klonimus in the early and very distant past. It was a brand of Chassidut that saw simple joy as a positive factor, that knew to appreciate and listen to the charm of the simplicity and the beauty of nature, of living creatures, and of simple people.
The Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi David from Lalov, and other Chassidic masters had a very loving and close attitude towards horses and other living creatures. Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz would ask children riddles on the street. With deep attention, Chassidim would listen to the melody that rose up from the fields and from the people in the fields. As opposed to a serious "lesson" in a closed room, the young Chassid goes out into the street and into the frivolous life there. As opposed to the serious gaze of the "elderly ones," there is a youthful Chassidic spirit, based on simple joy and innocence.
One of the most impressive of the ancient cemeteries of Jerusalem that lie along the riverbeds around the city is the cemetery of Kefar Shiloach. It is adjacent to the City of David on the east, and to the Kidron River. Out of a total of about 115 burial caves that were carved into the stone in the area of Jerusalem in the era of the First Temple, about 50 were found in Kefar Shiloach.
The Ancient Cemetery in Kefar Shiloach
The graves were investigated thoroughly by David Ussishkin and Gabi Barkai, who published their findings in the book, "Kefar Hashiloach, the City of Graves in the Era of the Kingdom." The graves are dated to the end of the eighth century B.C.E. They can be divided into three groups.
The first group of twelve graves was carved in the lower cliff which is called A-Zunar, meaning a belt. The roofs of the caves are two-level or tall and spindly. The caves were designed with great care, strict workmanship, precise measurements, and in harmonic proportions. Most of them were meant to hold individual graves. The caves have small rectangular openings which are blocked by stones. The burial rooms are rectangular.
Based on architectural similarities to the cultures of Egypt and Phoenicia, the researchers suggest that the graves are from a time when Jerusalem was controlled by rulers who had a strong affinity to Phoenicia. When Yehoram, Achazia, and Attalia reigned, the Phoenicians ruled in Jerusalem, and a temple for Baal was constructed. It is possible that these graves were carved out by ministers of these three kings. Some of the graves were never used, and the excavation of others was stopped in the middle of the work. Perhaps this corresponds to the fact that this era ended suddenly with a revolt that was organized by Yehoyada the Kohen.
The second group is larger, and it consists of caves which were carved out in higher cliffs at Kefar Shiloach. The caves have flat roofs and angular cornices. Most of these caves have two or three large rooms, one behind the other. It is possible that the burial in these caves was carried out in portable wooden or stone caskets, since no burial equipment was found there.
The third group consists of four monuments placed in the northern section of the cemetery. These are monoliths – that is, blocks of stone that rest on a base carved out of the rock but not attached to it. Within them burial rooms have been carved out which were evidently used for burial of exalted people. On the front of three of them there are monumental inscriptions written in ancient Hebrew letters. One monument is known as "the grave of Pharaoh's daughter," because above the stone at the base there is an Egyptian cornice with a pyramid similar to the Egyptian monuments.
The Inscription "...yahu who was in Charge of the House"
In the third group of graves there is a monolith, a special monument, with two inscriptions.
The short inscription, engraved in a hollow in ancient Hebrew lettering, is the following: "A room on the side of the tower." According to the experts, this implies that on the side of the grave another room is carved into the rock.
However, we are more interested in the long inscription that appears in a hollow, as follows: "This (is the burial place) ...yehu who was in charge of the house, there is no gold or silver here (but) only (his bones) and the bones of his maidservant. If you open this you will be cursed." This carving is dated to about 700 years B.C.E.
From the point of view of the contents, there are four elements in this inscription: the name of the dead person, the declaration that there is nothing of value in the grave, a note about the contents of the grave, and a curse.
The name of the dead person is not complete, but his title does appear – "he who is in charge of the house." Several people with this title appear in the Tanach, such as Elyakim Ben Chilkiyahu, Ovadia, and others. This was one of the highest roles in the government beneath the king himself, and this person thus held one of the most important political and national positions in the kingdom.
Who is Buried in Kefar Hashiloach?
Prof Nachman Avigad, who studied this inscription and deciphered it, gave an interesting suggestion about which man "in charge of the house" was buried in Kefar Shiloach. Yeshayahu writes as follows: "This is what the G-d of Hosts has said: Go to this minister, Shevna who is in charge of the house and say: Why are you here, what are you doing here, that you carved out a grave here, a grave on high carved out as a place for you?" [22:15-16]. This is a very harsh prophecy, criticizing Shevna for carving himself an exalted grave in Kefar Shiloach while he was still alive. The prophet tells him that G-d plans to remove him from his position and to replace him by Elyakim Ben Chilkiyahu.
And when Ravshaka comes to Jerusalem as part of the pressure that Sancheriv applies on the Kingdom of Yehuda, the one who is at the head of the mission sent by Chizkiyahu is indeed Elyakim Ben Chilkiyahu, who has taken over the position of Shevna. The prophecy of Yeshayahu was fulfilled.
Prof. Avigad notes that the end of a name can be short, ending in an aleph, or long, ending with "...yahu." Thus, Ovda is Ovadia, Zecher is Zecharia, Uza is Uziyahu. And Shevna could be written as Shevniyahu. Clearly, the curse at the end of the inscription is meant to inhibit thieves, in addition to the declaration that there is no gold or silver at the site.
Even though we cannot positively identify the person buried at this site, it is clear that he was an important official in the Kingdom of Yehuda, and that this is his grave, at a high place, opposite the most exalted and royal position in the City of David.
The Mishna explains that according to the first (anonymous) Tana the prayer for rain starts on the third of Cheshvan, but that Rabban Gamliel says, "Start on the seventh, fifteen days after the holiday (of Succot), so that the last ones from among Yisrael will return to the Perat River." [Taanit 1:3]. The Talmud accepts the ruling of Rabban Gamliel, and this is what we do to this day – we begin to ask for rain on the seventh of Cheshvan.
At first glance, in our situation, we should really start asking for rain immediately after Succot. We need the rain, and at the present time there are no pilgrims three times a year who would have difficulty returning home in the rain after Succot (which was the reason for the delay in ancient times). In fact, this is what was ruled by the RIAZ (5a in the RIF, note 1). This same ruling also appears in the Ritva, the Ramban, and the Meiri.
However, the Rambam writes that in Eretz Yisrael the prayer for rain begins on the seventh of Cheshvan, and he does not differentiate between ancient times when the Temple existed and our current time. This also seems to be the ruling of the RIF (as the RAN understood in the RIF, Taanit 2a).
The RAN explains this ruling by noting that even today there are pilgrims. This is noted in the Midrash:
"Just as the dove, which does not abandon its nest even if you remove the fledgling birds from it, so Yisrael – even though the Temple was destroyed, the three pilgrimages were not cancelled." [Shir Hashirim Rabba 4:28].
According to this, today, when it is easy to travel very quickly from place to place, we should begin to pray for rain immediately after the end of Succot (or perhaps after a delay of two days), even according to the RIF and the Rambam!
"We can add the following: Today not only are there fast transportation facilities, it can be said that rain almost does not disturb them. There is no problem to travel and even to fly in the rain! In view of this, we should begin asking for rain right after Succot, even if we rule according to the Rambam and we say that there are still pilgrims. And even if we pray that 'the Temple should be rebuilt quickly,' and that therefore the old decrees should remain in place, there will be no need to wait fifteen days. And it will be possible to travel from place to place easily, even if there is rain!"
(The fact that times change to correspond to travel conditions and other factors appears in the Talmud, Bava Metzia 28a, with respect to returning a lost item.)
The Time of the First Rain
However, we might want to suggest that the RIF and the Rambam made their ruling based on the passage in Taanit 10 and 6, which gives the date as the time when the rain begins: "The 'yoreh' (first rain) comes in Cheshvan... as is written, 'at the proper time.'" The Meiri also gives this as the time of the first portion of rain (6a, 10a). In addition, it is written, "When do we start to ask for rain? When the proper time arrives." [Tosefta Taanit 1:2-3]. (With thanks to Rabbi Azariah Ariel for the reference.) However, in spite of this, the early commentators and other rabbis who explained the Rambam did not mention this consideration but only what we quoted above. Thus, following their lead, it would indeed seem that we should consider starting to ask for rain immediately after the end of Succot.
The Needs of Individuals and the Needs of a Community
In addition to the above, when there is a need for rain it is possible to ask for it even if there is no decree to start praying at that time. The Talmud writes that the people of Ninveh sent a question to Rebbi: What about us, who need rain in the season of Tammuz, can we ask for rain in the Amida? And Rebbi replied to them: Only a community can ask for rain in the blessing for the year ("Birchat Hashanim"), but they (in Ninveh) are considered individuals and they can ask only in the blessing "Shomeya Tefilla." (Taanit 14b).
In the Responsa of the ROSH a case is described when rain did not fall in Ashkenaz (Fourth rule, 10). The ROSH wondered why they should not continue to ask for rain until Shavuot, since they needed rain until that holiday. Rebbi ruled that the people of Ninveh could only ask for rain in the blessing Shomeya Tefilla because they were considered individuals, but all of Ashkenaz should certainly be considered a community, and they should be able to pray in Birchat Hashanim. In fact the ROSH followed his own ruling in his synagogue, but others refused to accept it and he eventually changed his mind.
The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 117:2) that individuals are not allowed to ask for rain in the summer even for all of Ashkenaz or all of Sephard. However, in a land where rain is needed, one who makes a mistake and prays for rain in the summer is not required to repeat the Amida and correct his mistake.
A Community – Only in Eretz Yisrael
If the entire areas of Ashkenaz or Sephard are considered individuals and are not allowed to pray for rain in Birchat Hashanim, what is considered a community? The Minchat Chinuch explains that a tzibur - a community – is only a group of people in Eretz Yisrael! In any other place, even millions of people are not considered a community! This is also the opinion of Rav Kook. "Evidently the reason is that he feels that the people in Eretz Yisrael are always considered a tzibur since the community in Eretz Yisrael is considered as if it is all of the nation of Yisrael." [Mishpat Kohen 134]. (See also Responsa Orach Mishpat Orach Chaim 24, where it is written that the recitation of "mashiv haruach" all over the world is meant only for the needs of Eretz Yisrael.)
In view of the above, in Eretz Yisrael, when the entire land is in need of rain and especially at a time when most of the nation of Yisrael live on the land (and even if the majority do not live in the land, there is no other place where so many Jews live, and the majority of the population in the land are Jews), we should be allowed to ask for rain even in the summer, in the blessing of Birchat Hashanim!
In any case, to be valid such a ruling must be agreed upon by the halachic experts of the generation – since praying for rain is a matter for all of Yisrael and not for individuals.
However, if an individual makes a mistake and prays for rain immediately after Succot, he should not repeat his prayer in order to correct the mistake. This even appears in the Mishna Berura (117:13), who adds that it is a good idea to add a voluntary prayer. However, in view of the above considerations it is probably best not to repeat the Amida, because the nation of Yisrael is in need of rain, and therefore a prayer recited by mistake has a positive value.
Summary, in practice: The request "Give us dew and rain" should be recited starting from the seventh of Cheshvan, but if a person mistakenly recites it before this date he is not required to repeat the Amida.
The Hebrew word for corn is "tirass." This is also the name of one of the sons of Yefet. How did this name become a common Hebrew noun?
The names of Yefet's sons are given in this week's Torah portion. "The sons of Yefet were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Yavan and Tuval and Meshech and Tirass." [Bereishit 10:2]. Yavan and Madai are well known to us from later appearances in the Tanach (Greece and Mede), and our sages linked the other names in the verse to lands that existed in their time. "'The sons of Yefet' – Rabbi Shmuel Bar Ami said, Gomer is Africa and Magog is Germany... As for Tirass, Rabbi Simon says this is Persia and the Rabbanan say it is Turkey."
Thus, one opinion is that Tirass is Turkey. How is this connected to the corn that we eat? This grain became known to the people of Europe after the discovery of America. It reached Europe through ports in Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Since Turkey was included, those who spoke Yiddish called the grain "Turkish wheat." In Hebrew, this was "Chitei Turkia." For example, the following is a quote from Reishit Limudim, written by Baruch Lindau about 220 years ago: "Chitei Turkia is a type of grain whose seeds are round and yellow... Every plant has three stalks, and each one has two hundred and forty seeds."
In the past, the Hebrew name for Turkey was "Turgema" (after a grandson of Yefet), and therefore "chitei turkia" were also known as "chitim turgamim." For example, the Chatam Sofer wrote that matzot should not be prepared from corn even though it is called "wheat," since regular wheat is food for human beings, "and it is well known that this cannot be said for these chitim turgamim, which are mainly used to feed ducks and chickens, and in very few lands are they eaten by people, even in times of famine and great distress."
As time went on, the corn was also called "chitei tirass," since as noted Tirass was identified as Turkey (perhaps the fact that "Turkish" and "tirass" share similar sounds contributed to this change). The author or "Aroch Hashulchan," Rabbi Yehchiel Mechel Epstein, discusses the decree against eating "kitniot" on Pesach, and one of the reasons that he gives is that "the kitniot can be used to make a type of dough, like some lands where instead of bread they eat chietei tirass, and the general population might not be able to tell the difference between one type of dough and another."
As a final step, the word "chitah" – wheat – was stripped off from the name and the word "tirass" itself was used. And that is what remains to this day.
The familiar concept of an "evil eye" is usually mentioned in a connotation involving bad luck or "dark" magical forces. This is in fact what might be understood at first glance from a passage in the Talmud:
"One who arrives at a new place and is afraid of the evil eye should take hold of his right thumb in his left hand and his left thumb in his right hand, and recite the following: 'I, named so-and-so, the son of so-and-so, am from the offspring of Yosef, who is not under the control of the evil eye.'" [Berachot 55a].
What is the meaning of these confusing instructions?
In "Ein Aya," his commentary on the Aggada, Rav Kook explains the matter in terms of psychology and social relationships. The "evil eye" is a reference to a situation where a person relates to his or her own actions based on the viewpoints of others. In severe cases, an external glance can have an effect on the soul in a mystical way even in the absence of any words or actions. For example, when a person enters a room full of people he might lose his confidence in himself because of the way the people look at him.
It is therefore clear that the main weapon against the "evil eye" is not the use of any incantations. Just the opposite: such "cures" only serve to enhance a person's dependence on external factors and encourage him to relinquish his own responsibility for his life. The best way to fight against social dependence is to build up an internal world that is rich and stable and that is independent of social approval. Then, "since he will find true happiness and rest for his soul in his own internal world, he will not be enslaved to the external influence of those who surround him, whose view might otherwise become the center of his existence."
Thus, Rav Kook explains the passage in the Talmud as follows: When a person comes to a new place and the world that he knows falls away, he should take "his right thumb" – which in Judaism represents the intellectual approach – "in his left hand" – which represents his physical side. The opposite is also necessary. He takes "his left thumb" in "his right hand." This means that he should unify his spiritual energy with his physical strength. Such spiritual balance is a gateway that will provide personal harmony, leading to stability and the ability to withstand external pressures.
Why should the person think about Yosef? He was the ultimate example of a person who, even while at the lowest point of slavery and dependence, was able to find in his soul the courage to refuse the advances of Potifar's wife. When a person obtains such spiritual perfection, he possesses internal fortitude which will allow him to cope with the looks of other people around him, and this will help protect him from the "evil eye."
"Of course it is not possible to expect a hundred percent success in such complex matters as education," he said, and he straightened out the black hat on his head. "But when the results show that twenty percent of the students remove their kippot, it is no longer a minor fault. This is a resounding failure of the religious Zionist educational system!" The man took a deep breath, looked me straight in the eye, and continued in a somewhat softer tone: "Look, I am sure it is not easy for you to hear these things, but just imagine a car factory where one car out of every five is faulty. The manager would be fired on the spot, wouldn't he?" He waited a few seconds to make sure that his words had the proper effect, and then he made his point in a determined way. "I am afraid that in this case the solution is not to fire one man or another. An educational system and a world outlook which does not even convince its own graduates are like a patently counterfeit bill which clearly indicates that it is not real..."
"Know where You Came From"
Quite often we hear comments from the Chareidi sector about the "spoiled fruits" of religious Zionist education. The common behavior of avoiding such discussions because of the black kippa worn by the opponent or the attempt as an alternative to find corresponding faults in Chareidi education is not sufficient and does not free us from the need to consider the claims on their true merits. Evidently no benefit will come from long discussions about the exact percentage of students who remove their kippot, since even a "mere" ten percent is a troublesome phenomenon that must be considered.
First of all, in order not to corrupt the truth we must look not only at the end of the chain but also at the beginning. We must see not only how the graduates appear when they finish the course but also what they looked like at the beginning. It is definitely to the credit of the religious Zionist educational system that its doors are open to a very broad variety of communities, including homes that are traditional and even nonreligious, which have a desire to register their children in religious schools. At times this stems from spiritual needs, while at other times it is a result of convenience and physical proximity to the home. What this means is that the religious Zionist system includes high percentages of students who do not come from Torah homes and observe the mitzvot but who are very far from religion. Many children experience a sharp contrast between the messages and the contents that they receive in school and the accepted behavior at home. The need for Shabbat observance, daily prayers, and modest dress are not obvious in many such homes. It is clear that this will have a significant influence on the typical picture of the graduates.
A Complete World of Values
Second, in some ways religious Zionist education faces a challenge that is much more complex and difficult than that of its Chareidi colleagues (or, for that matter, the secular education). It is much easier to point students towards a path that is completely black and white, to teach them one central value of "Torah study" against which all other values pale. In advance, they reject such elements as academics and communications media, theater and literature, and in general anything that entails even a distant fear of danger, which might lead to a test and failure. It is a much more difficult and challenging task, but one which is much closer to the will of the Holy One, Blessed be He, to educate towards a path that leaves room for many different values – military service and academic education, self-development and a contribution to the country, environmental worries and culture – while maintaining the Torah as the shining light which guides everything. Those of us who follow this path are required to cope with challenges and situations that are not simple at all, and as a matter of course they are in greater danger of paying a high price for their efforts. However, if we believe that what G-d wants from us is to sanctify His world within the entire range of life, to act not only as individuals closed off within our own ghetto but rather to be an active part of an entire nation which manages a modern state with its own army, economics, and culture, then we will not easily abandon this desire in spite of the difficulties involved.
Are we Ready for Life?
However, after all is said and done, there is still room for self-reckoning and to ask insightful questions that can help us improve and guide us to the high-level goal for which we strive.
We strongly encourage our high school graduates to continue their education in some advanced study program (army prep school, Midrasha for women, and so on) before taking the plunge into a full life, such as in the army or at a university. We are happy that today more and more young people are choosing such an alternative. Doesn't the fact that this is so vital for many young people and that without it there is a real fear that the load which they have built up during twelve intensive years of study may be lost when they encounter the secular society and its external temptations imply that we should examine what happened to them during their long stay in yeshivot, ulpanot, and religious high schools? What did they do there for twelve years if the load which they absorbed can be so easily lost?
There are quite a few of those who wear knitted kippot or who made them who, after a year or two in the army or in a university, appear very similar in essence to their nonreligious colleagues, in terms of priorities, way of thinking, leisure activities, and even dress styles. Can it be that the preparation we made for them for life outside the yeshiva or the midrasha is not sufficient or is not sufficiently geared to serve its purpose?
We have no doubts with respect to the basic truth of the path of religious Zionism and the great message it carries for the future of the nation and the country. But we must never give up on the constant attempt to improve and the need to rise to a higher level in order to produce graduates who will always remain strongly linked to their faith and their way of life.
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"How are you, are you free to meet somebody? She is a wonderful girl from a good family, her name is Rivka –" "Stop right there. I can't meet her." "Why, what's wrong?" "Her name – my mother's name is Rivka too. Sorry, it won't work this time, thank you for keeping me in mind..."
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The following detailed instruction appears in the will of Rav Yehuda Hachassid: "No man should ever marry a woman with his mother's name, and his name should not be the same as that of his father-in-law. If they do marry, one of them should change their names, perhaps there is some hope."
Why did the rabbi insist on this rule, which has no source in the Torah or in the words of the sages? Some commentators have written, "Perhaps a man will call his wife and his mother will come, and they will do a prohibited act." Or, perhaps there is an issue of an "evil eye," or the reason is to show respect for his mother by never using her name in front of her.
Many rabbis have written that this rule can be ignored. Some add that Rav Yehuda himself only meant it as an instruction for his own children. However, the rule was "strengthened" by the Ben Ish Chai, who wrote that some people attribute it to the ARI and that therefore one should abide by it.
In practice, current rabbis have written that "one who is not strict about this will not be treated strictly." If the couple wants to, they can give the bride an additional name.
Riddle of the Week > Noach / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
We usually talk of four seasons during a year. Where is there a division into six seasons?
Answers for the last riddle, Succot. The riddle was: How do the following sayings appear in Kohellet? (1) Nobody leaves this world with even half of his lusts in hand. (2) He dug a deep pit only to fall into his own trap.
Answers: - "One who loves money will never be satiated with money" [Kohellet 5:9] - "He digs a pit and falls into it, he breaks a wall and will be bitten by a snake" [10:8].