The struggle between Yaacov and Eisav is related to the question of economic privileges. The birthright includes a double portion of the heritage, and the blessing "from the dew of the heaven and from the fat of the earth, and much grain and wine" [Bereishit 27:28] provides financial security. Avraham and Yitzchak suffered from famine and were forced to move to Egypt (Avraham) or to depend on Avimelech for sustenance (Yitzchak).
This gives us a good opening to discuss the Israeli government budget for 2015 which was passed by the government and which went through its first reading in the Knesset. The press emphasized the weak points of the new budget: "The assumptions of the budget (income and expenses) are not realistic... It contains no reforms to help expand the economy... Education, welfare, and defense were given too much/too little... It provides no social message... It is a case of despicable political compromises together with specific party and personal interests... The budget does not contain vision for the future, creativity, or imagination..." – and so on. As far as I am concerned, at least some of these claims are justified – those that are based on worry for the resilience of the national economy, unemployment in the peripheral areas, a lack of growth, and a reduction of investments.
However, in my view, the main problem is a lack of an overall national-social-economic policy based on Zionistic and Jewish values, which are more important to me than the narrow economic viewpoint. There is a lack of a broad national outlook which provides a proper balance between all of the factors which can give us a secure future. There is too much small politics in the budget, including such elements as a desire to make headlines and the element of party politics.
It seems to me that in budget discussions the government follows the lead of the economists of the Treasury Ministry, who judge the budget based on purely economic criteria which ignore such measures as the poverty rate, gaps in society, the quality of the education, and welfare. The students, the elderly, the children in danger, the widows, the ill, and those who lack means of support in general are shunted aside in the interests of discussions involving such items as the deficit, taxes, and the defense budget.
What is Needed is a Budget that is Robust
The State of Israel is not an economic entity which is to be judged solely by a profit and loss statement. Economics is a very important tool in its continued existence, but there are more important tools needed to secure its future. Many of my readers will agree with me that the strength of the state and its security are more important than economic strength. However, there are two other elements aside from political strength – the value system and the robustness of its society. The roubstness of the value system – based on Judaism, Zionism, and democracy – is a necessary guarantee for national existence, for unity of the nation, for a fateful partnership, and for loyalty to the country and to the people. If this element loses strength there will be no more Aliyah, and people will leave the country to move to any corner of the globe with better economic conditions or physical safety. The other element, the robustness of society, serves as the basis for mutual responsibility, a willingness to contribute, to help, and to work for the good of the nation and for its future development.
The rate of direct taxes (income tax) and progressive tax in Israel is lower as compared to the average in the developed countries of the OECD (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). This is one of the main reasons for the large social gaps in Israel, as measured by the Gini coefficient. On the other hand, the rate of indirect tax (such as VAT) and regressive taxes in Israel is higher than the OECD average. This situation leads to increases in social gaps and in the poverty rate. The unjust tax structure is strengthened by the fact that there are as much as 15 billion Shekels in tax benefits to private companies which have very large profits. Therefore, the "main" message of the budget, that "there are no increases in taxes" and that the tax structure will not change, is disappointing and deceiving. The budget continues the existing trend of decreasing the civilian budgets as compared to the average of the OECD countries, which means that the country provides less in terms of education, health, welfare, housing, and more. When the country gives less, its citizens are required to pay more for these services. (An example is afternoon kindergartens, which were free last year and will cost about NIS 600 a month this year.)
Education Creates Robustness
The budget continues the relatively low investment in the students in Israel at a level about 25% less than that of the OECD. The gap is expressed by a lack of about NIS 13 billion in the base of the budget for education! This is the sum that is missing to support our main sources of future creativity for robust values – the educational system, the youth movements, and many other informal educational institutions.
Every school wonders what to do about this lack in the budget. Should they put an emphasis on education towards values at the expense of other realms of knowledge related to culture, science, and technology? Or, should they give a preference to study needed for defense and economic security over education for moral values? We have indeed been privileged to become an international power in such matters as defense and economics, but we must admit that to do so we have paid a high price in lacks in education, health, and welfare. What we are missing and what is necessary is for us to become equally as powerful in the realms of moral and social values.
The Knesset has the job of shaping the final form of the new budget. Let us hope that the call for a balanced national budget and proper attention to the need for national robustness will in the end be heard, so that the overall goals of our country will be taken care of as necessary.
Let us pray that together with the economic blessings of "the dew of the heaven and the fat of the earth, and much grain and wine" we will also merit the blessing of safety and defense, "The other nations will serve you, and the nations will bow down to you. You will be a master of your brother, and the children of your mother will bow down to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed." [Bereishit 27:29].
Our sages have taught us: "If somebody tells you that both Caesarea and Jerusalem exist, do not believe it. If they say that Caesarea was destroyed and Jerusalem is settled or that Jerusalem was destroyed and Caesarea is settled you can believe it, as is written, 'One nation will be stronger than the other' [Bereishit 25:23]." [Megillah 6a].
When did the fortune begin to change for the first time? We are taught, "On the day that Shlomo married Pharaoh's daughter, Gavriel descended and stuck a reed ("kanneh") into the sea, and the reef of Rome was built there" [Sanhedrin 22]. The fact that Yisrael began to show an interest in Gentile culture eventually led to the rise of Rome. And Rome was the source of the spread of Christianity, which claims that it replaces Yisrael. According to the Rambam in various places, Eisav is Edom, and the people from Edom were the first ones "who followed 'that man' who claimed that he was Mashiach, and this error spread to Rome, which was holy for them." From there Christianity was disseminated to the entire world, a fulfillment of the above prophecy, "When one rises up the other falls."
Rav Avraham Yistzchak Kook wrote some remarkable things about the kanneh associated with Rome. "The ga'ar chayat kanneh, which in its literary form represents an obstacle, will have its lowly part removed – this is the part that descends to the depths of darkness – and what remains will become holy, using its strength to show what is suitable to be shown in the world... And the kanneh which became a reef on which the great city of Rome was built... will call out to the kanneh and declare: Behold, they are the first of Zion, and they will spread the news of Jerusalem. [Yeshayahu 41:27]." [Orot Hakodesh]. (In terms of Kabbalah, the "chayat kanneh" is a female animal representing the evil of Eisav, and "ge'ar chayat kanneh" is the male of the species.)
At the end of Pesachim, the Talmud teaches us that all the nations of the world will want to present gifts to the Mashiach, who will accept them. But when the Kingdom of Edom will appear, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will say to him, "Rebuke the chayat kanneh" [Tehillim 68:31]. The Talmud comments that this refers to the animal which lives among the reeds, the swine of Rome. In another commentary, the Talmud explains the verse to mean, rebuke the animal of Rome, and take possession (from the word "liknot," related to "kanneh") of the community of Yisrael. From that point on Yisrael will be on the rise and Rome will descend.
Another interpretation is as follows: Rebuke the animal whose actions are written down using a pen made from a reed. This refers to Christianity, which is involved in writing holy books and filing complaints about Yisrael.
Rav Kook expands this theme to the subject of literature in general. Many people oppose the concept of literary writing because the pen made from reeds (from a kanneh) is used to describe dark and negative objects. But Rav Kook feels that there is no need to destroy the kanneh completely and to refrain from using it. Rather, it must merely be fixed, removing the "lowly part" from it. The result will be that literary writing will be transformed into a blessing.
If we look at the graphical forms of the Hebrew letters, we see that "kuf" (the first letter of kanneh) has a long leg that extends below the line. If we shorten this leg somewhat, the "kuf" becomes a "heh," changing the word from kanneh to "hineh" – behold. This is one of the names of the Machiach – "Behold, they are the first of Zion (Rishon Letzion)."
This concept, that we should not try to completely destroy a negative object but rather to remove its negative aspects, is discussed by Rav Kook with respect to many different subjects, such as the rejection of the secular Zionist movement. The same is true for literature in general. Since this has control over the world today, "We must show that we can incorporate this skill so that it becomes our own, and we will no longer maintain an absolute rule that anybody who has literary talent or is a famous poet must be an apostate and a sinner by definition. We must destroy this false tower." [Igrot Rav Kook, Volume 1, page 195].
This week's Torah portion is one of the best examples of the principle which was first formulated by the Ramban in his commentary on Bereishit 12:6 ("And Avram passed through the land") – "The actions of the fathers are a sign for the descendants." This starts with the story of the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka, which hints at what will happen to their son Yaacov. It also includes the birth of their two sons, one who is chosen to continue the mission and the other who leaves the family, as happened with Yitzchak's father Avraham. Then there is the story of the famine in the land which forces Yitzchak to leave where he is and to put his wife in a dangerous position in their meeting with the people of Gerar, like what happened to Avraham and Sarah. And there is also the story of digging the wells and the dispute with the Philistines, as in the days of his father Avraham. One after another we are told stories where both the style and the text itself are repeated, in order to emphasize that what happened to the father and the way he reacted can be viewed as an introduction to what will happen later to the son. And beyond this, it also includes the way the son reacts to the situation, an echo of what his father did first.
Since we believe that the Tanach is much more than a book of history but rather first and foremost an educational tool, we cannot ignore the very important message that is embedded within these repetitions of the events of the fathers in the lives of their sons. The Holy One, Blessed be He, has chosen to pass on to us what might be one of the most important lessons for human beings, as parents to their children – any action that you take has broad consequences that go far beyond what is visible to you at the current stage of your lives. Every choice of yours to follow a certain path or to turn aside at one point will have a direct influence on the choices that your children will make and on what will happen to them.
There is no way that we can ignore or make light of such a message. From the moment that we reached maturity and decided to take on the responsibility of becoming parents, we must stop thinking only of here and now, or thinking as an individual – rather, we must consider the consequences of our actions and the great responsibility that is linked to every move that we make. We must understand that our actions will leave their mark on our own future and on that of our offspring. To put it another way, a complementary statement to "The actions of the fathers..." is the opposite: "Fathers have eaten sour fruit, and the teeth of the children were set on edge" [Yirmiyahu 31:28]. Every action that we take is a hint of the actions of our children, and if we choose to perform evil acts our children may be the ones who will pay the price.
For me as a teacher not a single week goes by that I do not think of this vital message – of the tremendous responsibility that is unfortunately sometimes ignored by the parents. Time and again I hear exaggerated and irresponsible statements by the children that are quite often echoes of things said by the parents. My colleagues and I always find ourselves wondering if we as parents truly understand the huge responsibility that we must accept in educating our own children. Do we understand that brief statements that we can make as individuals without much thought and without any consequences are echoed and take on dangerous meaning when we utter them as parents? Do we really understand that our words, our deeds, and our personal example, all leave clear and strong traces in the actions of our children? When we as parents decide to say or do something, do we understand that we are involved not only in our own responsibility but have put our full weight behind our choices for the future of our children? If we keep these things in mind whenever we make a decision, will we learn to be more careful in our statements and our deeds?
Specifically now, I am once again filled with trepidation. In these harsh times for the nation of Yisrael, when we are once again threatened by the sword of terrorism, will we be able to overcome the great anger that rises up within us and remain cautious and responsible with our statements in the home and outside? Will we know how to act in a responsible way, for the good of our mutual future?
One of the best known Midrashim within Chassidut, which is also brought in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, is a commentary on the verse, "... for you shall go out with joy" [Yeshayahu 55:12]. The Chassidic approach sees the joy in the verse not only as a description of the redemption from exile but also as the cause of the event. It will happen "with joy" – as a result of joy. This is the only way that you will have the merit of "going out." That is the way the Chassidim read the verse. The force which provides joy is the path that leads to return from the exile.
Thus, this interpretation sees happiness not as a result of redemption or as a solution but rather as a different kind of joy. This is happiness that exists in spite of the exile and the despair, it is what allows freedom of the soul, which is followed by redemption and an actual solution to the problems.
My mentor and my father-in-law, Rabbi Shagar, was deeply involved in the study of this Chassidic concept. It is hard to say that he was in general known as a happy person. The opposite is true: Rabbi Shagar was known for his melancholy personality and for the physical and spiritual tortures which afflicted him. As the son of Holocaust survivors and as one who carried physical and spiritual scars from the armored battles at Nafach in the Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Shagar was known as a deep person who tended towards a pessimistic outlook. However, just because of this, happiness plays an important role in his teachings. In his lectures and his writings, he returned again and again to the concept of joy, especially in its Chassidic form.
"The reflex of the wise man does not allow him to be happy because he is always searching for the significance and the meaning of happiness and he cannot find them," Rabbi Shagar wrote in commenting on Kohellet. The wise man "sees himself as being 'on the outside' and he is not capable of joining the circle of dancers." Therefore the book of Kohellet proposes to the wise man to be involved in "partial foolishness" [Kohellet 10:1], in order to be able to achieve a level of forgetfulness which is necessary to develop joy.
Such a pessimistic reflex was once the lot of the Baal Shem Tov himself, as is described in a story from the traditions of the dynasty of Hosiatin.
* * * * * *
One time at the end of Yom Kippur the moon could not be seen in order to be blessed, and the Baal Shem Tov saw through the Holy Spirit that if on that night this mitzva would not be performed it would be a bad sign for Yisrael, heaven forbid. The Baal Shem Tov was very unhappy about this, and he tried to influence "great minds" so that the moon would appear. Again and again he asked, "Has the moon appeared?" But the sky was so covered with dark clouds that it was not reasonable to expect the moon to appear. However, since the Chassidim were not aware of the inner thoughts of their rabbi, just like every other year they organized a meal of sanctity and joy at the end of Yom Kippur in honor of the fact that they ended the holy day in peace. They were happy about their own prayers and about the prayers of the rabbi, who they viewed as the equivalent of the High Priest in the Temple. So the Chassidim were happy, and they danced with holy excitement.
At first the Chassdim danced in an external room, but when the joy increased they pushed their way into the room of the Baal Shem Tov. As their happiness increased, they had the courage to invite their rabbi to join them in their dance. And the Baal Shem Tov stood in the middle of the circle and danced with them. At that point somebody cried out that the moon had appeared, and they were able to recite the monthly blessing with great joy.
[Divrei David, pages 65-66].
* * * * * *
The joy of the Chassidim, who are not aware of the gloomy thoughts of their rabbi, is successful in causing the moon to show its face. Evidently the clouds which cover the moon are the very same ones which cloud the soul of the Baal Shem Tov. The gloom of the soul, which stems from the deep and hidden knowledge of the rabbi, does not allow the "great minds" to perform their tasks. And the sky above the head of the Baal Shem Tov remains gloomy and blocked.
And here the stubborn dance of the Chassidim comes into the picture. The joy increases and conquers the sadness in the rabbi's heart, almost by brute force. They remove the clouds that cover his heart, and in the end he too is happy and dances at the center of the circle. And the moon appears.
I cannot help remembering the many students of Rabbi Shagar, many of whom helped him – knowingly or not – to overcome his reflexive feelings and to join in their simple dance of happiness.
A close friend of Rabbi Shagar, who was sent together with him at the end of Yom Kippur 5734 (1973) to the battle of Nafach, is Rabbi Chaim Sabbato. In his books Rabbi Sabato tells how he went into war after joining the stubborn dance of a group of Chassidim who were blessing the moon. This dance became part of his war experience, and he returned to the dance when he came home safely. The stubborn faith, which continued in spite of everything, which flows in a natural way of life and simplicity – just as in the dance of the Chassidim – is the experience described by Rabbi Sabbato as the feeling of faith from within the heavy shadow of war. And Chassidim continue to force themselves to bless the moon every month, until the day will come when the shadows will be driven away (see Shir Hashirim 4:6).
A study of the site of the heritage of Binyamin in general and Jerusalem in particular shows that both are at a relatively low height as compared to the other bordering heritages of Efraim and Yehuda, and to other cities.
The northern border of the heritage of Binyamin is in the area of Beit El. The southern border is in the area of Jerusalem. In going north from the area of Binyamin one rises up towards Shiloh and Shechem, and to the south one rises in the direction of Chevron. To the east, the only low area which does not border on a steep cliff leading down to the Jordan Valley or to the Dead Sea is that of Binyamin. It is therefore not surprising that all of the ancient roads leading from the mountains to the Jordan Valley go through the route from Jerusalem to Jericho, which is the lowest area in the heritage of Binyamin.
We would like to suggest that this topological and spiritual reality also has spiritual significance.
In Moshe's blessing to Binyamin, it is written, "He said to Binyamin: A friend of G-d, he will dwell securely on Him, He hovers over him all day and rests between his shoulders" [Devarim 33:12]. From the straightforward meaning of the verse one can see that the description of the borders of the heritage includes "shoulders" – to the north, the shoulder of Luz (Beit El), to the south the shoulder of the Yevus (Jerusalem), to the west the shoulder of Mount Ye'arim and Ekron, and to the east the shoulder of Jericho, a shoulder opposite the Arava and the shoulder of Beit Choglah. This is one of the unique elements of the heritage of Binyamin as compared to those of the other tribes.
Thus, the straightforward meaning of the verse is that to "rest between his shoulders" is a reference to the shoulders which form the boundaries of the heritage of Binyamin, where the Shechina resides.
The sages give us several reasons why this is an appropriate place for the holy Shechina. Binyamin was born in Eretz Yisrael, he was not involved in the sale of Yosef, he did not bow down to Eisav, and he was the youngest brother. It is interesting to note that the arrival of Binyamin in Egypt and the fact that Yosef's goblet was found in Binyamin's bag are what brought together the two great powers of the nation – Yosef and Yehuda – and led to full unity among all the brothers. Thus, Binyamin was the tribe which united all the tribes. It is therefore fitting that their heritage was situated between those of the two leading tribes in the nation, Efraim (Yosef) and Yehuda.
We can say in a Midrashic approach that what is needed in order to unite the two great forces within the nation together with all the other tribes is humility. The area of Binyamin is substantially lower than the heritages of Efraim and Yehuda, which share borders with it, so that Binyamin will be able to join them and all the other tribes together into a single unity.
With respect to Jerusalem, on the southern edge of the heritage of Binyanim, it is written, "A song of rising: Those who trust in G-d are like Mount Zion, which will not falter but will sit forever. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and G-d surrounds His nation from now and forever." [Tehillim 125:1-2]. Thus, Jerusalem is lower than the hills around it, which can be seen from the fact that the City of David is lower than the Mount of Olives to the east, Mount Moriah to the north, and the western hill (the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and Mount Zion).
The spiritual significance of this fact can be explained in several ways.
We can say that just as at Mount Sinai, according to the Midrash, G-d wanted to be revealed at the lowest site, the same is true for Jerusalem, the site He chose for His resting place.
Another explanation is that as opposed to idol worshippers, who choose the highest possible site in order to be as close as possible to their gods, whose power is revealed in their physically high position, G-d can be revealed in both high and low areas. As is written, "G-d is higher than all the other nations, His glory is above the heavens. Who is like our G-d who sits high above and who also looks down on heaven and earth?" [Tehillim 113:4-6].
We can also say that Jerusalem is at a low point to emphasize that its very existence depends on direct supervision by the Holy One, Blessed be He. It is therefore expected of Jerusalem and of its inhabitants to constantly remain dependent on Divine guidance.
The Talmud describes how Shmuel the Prophet and King David searched for the appropriate site for the Temple (Zevachim 54b). On one hand, it is written, "And you shall rise up to the place" [Devarim 17:8], which implies that the site should be at the high point of Eretz Yisrael. Based on their study of the Book of Yehoshua, they understood that it should be in the heritage of Binyamin. They thought of putting it in "Ein Eitam," but they looked for a lower place, as is written, "He will dwell between his shoulders."
Thus, the verse "He will dwell between his shoulders," which we saw above in reference to the heritage of Binyamin is viewed in the Talmud as a guide for the position of the Temple. This implies that the Temple, even though it should be in a high place so that pilgrims will be forced to climb up, should still be in a relatively low place.
Based on the discussion in the Talmud and the fact that the Temple was situated on Mount Moriah, we can suggest that the "shoulders" in this context are a reference to the Mount of Olives in the east and to the western hill in the west. This means that the Temple itself is also situated between "shoulders."
Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen wrote articles in recent issues of Shabbat B'Shabbato (numbers 1545 and 1547) on the subject of using "gramma" to allow Shemitta produce to spoil and on whether a composter can be used. He concluded that the use of gramma to spoil the food is prohibited, and that food which is fit for human consumption should not be placed in a composter. In this article we will once again discuss this matter, and we will see that the words of the sages and of prominent rabbis might lead to a different conclusion.
Those who Permit the Use of Gramma to Spoil the Food
Let us first review the physical situation. A composter is a vessel where organic wastes are placed (together with other materials) under conditions of aeration and moisture which lead to enhanced growth of bacteria and to acceleration of the process of spoiling. Placing the Shemitta produce directly on the material causes immediate damage, but if the fruits are placed on some sort of separation the damage is not immediate, but the fruit spoils more quickly than it would otherwise (we will discuss this in greater detail below).
There is a description in the Talmud Yerushalmi of a situation that is very similar to this:
"A group of vegetables can be placed on the roof, so that it will dry by a process of gramma" [Shevi'it 6:1].
That is, the Yerushalmi allows placing food that is fit for humans onto a roof so that it will dry out quickly and be transformed into animal food. That is what the Maharit understood (1:83), and he concluded that one is permitted to use a process of gramma to cause Shemitta produce to spoil. Many later rabbis accepted the opinion of the Maharit, including the Ridbaz (Beit Ridbaz 5:1), Rabbi Tokachinsky (Sefer HaShemitta 7:3), and Yalkut Yosef (Shevi'it 15:27). They imply that one is allowed to treat the fruit in a way that speeds up its spoilage (such as hanging it in a succah), and we can assume that they also allow placing the food in a composter.
Those who Prohibit the Use of Gramma
There are also other sources which prohibit causing the Shemitta produce to spoil even by an indirect process. One such source is the words of the Tosefta 5:13), which was accepted as halacha by the Rambam (Hilchot Shevi'it 5:5):
"If an animal went by itself under a fig tree and ate there, one is not required to stop it, as is written, 'For your cattle and for the animals in your land all of the produce will be available to eat' [Vayikra 25:7]."
The Rambam explains that if not for the explicit permission in the verse the owner would be required to prevent the animal from eating the fruit or from damaging it. This might imply that there is a requirement to prevent damage to the fruit, and it goes without saying that to cause such damage is prohibited!
Based on this source, some recent rabbis derived that one is not allowed to cause damage to Shemitta produce even through gramma, and that it must be preserved and not allowed to spoil. For example, that is what was written by Rabbi Binyamin Zilber (Hilchot Shevi'it 5:8), and Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen also arrives at the same conclusion in his articles.
Another source that Rabbi Hacohen used to derive his opinion prohibiting spoilage of the produce is the Rambam's commentary on the Mishna (Shevi'it 8:7), where he explains that one is not allowed to cook Shemitta vegetables in oil that has the sanctity of teruma, out of a fear that the oil might become ritually impure and it might therefore be required to destroy it by burning, such that the Shemitta vegetables will also be burned (that is, the vegetables will be destroyed indirectly). However, the Maharit has shown that while the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishna (2:10) felt that one was not allowed to cause Shemitta produce to spoil, he changed his mind and wrote the opposite in Mishna Torah (Shemitta 4:18). Thus, the fact that there is another source in the commentary where the Rambam does not allow spoiling the produce is of no consequence.
Defining the Prohibition
What is the root of the dispute between the different rabbis? Evidently according to the Maharit the prohibition is of the type "gavra" – that is, the law is a prohibition for a person to act in a certain way. This means that a person is not allowed to cause the produce to spoil. We can then conclude that if a person does not take any specific action no violation has taken place.
On the other hand, the others view this prohibition as being of the type "cheftza" – relevant directly to the holy fruit. It requires that we eat the fruit and also make sure that we do not harm it in an unnatural way. This means that even spoilage caused by a process of gramma is a violation.
Based on this, Rabbi Elyashiv claimed (Mishpatei Haaretz 21, note 25) that even those who prohibit causing spoilage will admit that in the case of produce that is not being kept for human consumption there is no prohibition of the use of gramma, since it will in any case not be eaten but will be allowed to spoil. This would mean that fruit or vegetables that are not meant to be eaten can be put into a composter (on top of a separation, as noted above).
In addition, the rulings that completely forbid the use of gramma are minority opinions. A few rabbis discussed the Tosefta mentioned above and wrote that causing spoilage is forbidden when "it is the result of specific action" (such as being eaten by animals), while it is permitted to let holy produce spoil "on its own in a natural way" (such as drying out on a roof or spoilage). That is what was written by Hamikdash David (Shevi'it 42). Based on this, Rabbi Kanievsky wrote (Derech Emunah, Biur Halacha, Shemitta 5:5) that "there is no prohibition to put it on the roof, even though that will hasten its drying out."
We can conclude that if we see putting the food into a composter as "causing spoilage" it can be permitted, because many rabbis permit the use of gramma to cause spoilage and others permit acceleration of natural spoilage. In addition, the minority of rabbis who forbid causing spoilage will agree (according to Rabbi Elyashiv) that leftovers that will not be fed to humans can be caused to spoil.
Direct Spoilage or Gramma?
In any case, it is possible that we should forbid placing leftovers in an active composter. This is because the Chazon Ish wrote that putting food in a place which accelerates its spoilage is considered an active process and not gramma (Shevi'it 14:10). He therefore prohibits placing leftover food in direct sunlight (Derech Emunah, Shemitta 5:13). This would imply that Shemitta produce should not be placed in a composter which already contains "ripe" material, so that the processing of new raw material is accelerated. This is indeed the opinion of Rabbi Yaacov Ariel (Responsa Chevel Nachalato 15:43).
In view of the above, leftovers which have Shemitta sanctity can be placed in a new composter on condition that there is a thin separation between the leftovers and the other waste material. When the composter becomes active, it is best not to add new leftovers, but somebody who has put in material under these conditions (with a thin separation) can depend on other lenient opinions, since many of the rabbis quoted above explicitly permit such action (Ridbaz, Yalkut Yosef, and others).
One should also make sure that the composter is lying on a board or other support, to prevent the material from fertilizing the earth below during Shemitta itself.
The word "hachi" appears twice in the Torah, both times in relation to Yaacov. The first time is a quote from the words of Eisav, when he found that Yaacov had received the blessing meant for him. "And he said, is his name Yaacov (Hachi karah shemo Yaacov?), that he bypassed me twice? He took my birthright, and now he has taken my blessing." [Bereishit 27:36]. If the Torah had punctuation marks, a question mark would probably appear in this sentence (as it does in the above translation). Eisav asked a rhetorical question: Is the fact that he bypassed me twice linked to his name, Yaacov? Not only did he take my birthright, now he has also taken my blessing!
The word "hachi" is a combination of two elements. The "heh" signifies a question, followed by the word "ki." (The combined meaning is something like, Is it true that?) Similar constructs appear in the words "halo" and "ha'im."
But then, how did the word "hachi" take on an independent meaning, denoting the highest degree of an adjective? "Hachi chazak" means the strongest, "hachi gavoha" means the highest.
The answer to this question stems from a verse describing one of King David's heroes, Avishai Ben Tzruya: "Of the three men he was the most respected ("min hashelosha hachi nichbad") and he became their leader, but he could not be compared to the three" [Shmuel II 23:19]. In this verse the word hachi is not needed in order to imply the degree of honor, and the verse would have the same meaning even if the word "hachi" did not appear. (Compare this to the description of Benayahu Ben Yehoyada, "Of the thirty men he was most respected ("hino nichbad"), but he could not be compared to the three" [Divrei Hayamim I 11:25].) However, since the word "hachi" appears in this way, it took on a new meaning later that implies added emphasis.
At first, the writers used the original form of the expression, and they wrote that somebody was "the most respected" of a group. For example, this is what Mendele Mocher Sefarim wrote in his book "Nature Studies" about one species of turtle as compared to some others: "Of the three types of turtles which live in Europe, this one is the most honored ("hachi nichbad"). It lives in large numbers in forests in Greece and Italy and on the islands of the Mediterranean Sea."
With time, the word "hachi" was added to other adjectives, such as "nicest... tallest" and so on, in spite of the fact that many language experts do not see this as "the best policy."
The Clear Vision Of Rav Kook > "Modeh Ani" / Rabbi Chagai Londin, Hesder Yeshiva in Sdeirot and Machon Meir
The first words that a Jew should say when he or she opens his eyes in the morning are the words of "Modeh Ani" - "I give thanks to You, living and eternal King, that You have returned my soul to me with mercy, Your trust in us is great." This formula entails a gradual process that describes what should take place within our soul as we move from sleep to wakefulness. (Based on the words of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook in his Siddur, "Olat Re'iyah.")
"Modeh" – Thanks. Our appreciation of the action of the Creator is the first emotion that should appear in our hearts as we wake up.
"Ani" – I. The appreciation does not remain as an abstract element, rather it creates a personal change which is renewed every day. A person should become filled every day with an emotion of "I" – a fantastic feeling of fulfillment which will help him or her accomplish his appointed task for the day to come.
"Lefanecha" – To You. The "I" does not stand alone but is linked to its source. A person should feel every morning that he stands before G-d in a way that demands behavior at a high moral level that is appropriate for each and every moment of the day.
"Melech" – The King. To stand before G-d requires an understanding of just in front of whom we are standing. We stand before the "King." This world, in spite of the contradictions and the many forces that struggle within it, is moving in the end in a specific direction (towards "Royalty").
"Chai" – Living. The kingdom of G-d which we mentioned in the previous word is not something that leads a person to becoming frozen and static, but rather makes him part of a great reality which is full of movement and life. Divine perfection removes us from a situation of lacking and death into a world of perfection and activity.
"Vekayam" – Eternal. Divine perfection is revealed in the foundation of the world if we have the desire to see it. The world is filled with reality and stability. A person is meant to take hold of his or her life during the day and to link it to activities which are connected to improving the world.
"Shehechzarta Bi Nishmati" – You returned my soul to me. We thank the Master of the World that he returned to us the specific soul which is uniquely ours. If we wake up in the morning, this is a sign that there is a specific task that only we can perform today.
"Bechamla" – With mercy. The soul of a person, his own personal messenger, is required by the Creator, as noted above, to appear in complete fashion. But this demand is based on "mercy," in a way that progresses gradually and is suitable for human ability.
"Rabba Emunatecha" – Your trust in us is great. The Holy One, Blessed be He, places great trust in us. In spite of our failures during the previous day, the Creator shows great faith in us that the morning which is breaking out entails new opportunities for us to correct our mistakes and to fulfill our appointed task in the world.
What is the proper way to find a mate? What is the best way to find somebody who is suitable for you? From the stories of our Patriarchs, we can see that there is no single correct answer to this question. Not one of them found his or her mate in the same way as any of the others. Yitzchak and Rivka met through the tried and tested method of "matchmaking" (with all the credit going to Eliezer). For Yaacov and Rachel the matter started with love at first sight at the well in Charan. Yaacov and Leah were married as a result of a fraud by a charlatan of a father-in-law who in his audacity switched the bride on the wedding night. We do not know much about how Avraham and Sarah met except for the fact that they were related to each other. It may be that they knew each other as children living in the same neighborhood in Ur Kasdim.
So, you might well ask, what can we conclude? Perhaps there is no single conclusion, or perhaps the multitude of options is meant to imply that all the different paths are acceptable on the way to the "holy" objective. The passage of time and modern technological advances have also opened up new avenues of approach. In recent years, the alternatives have been upgraded with the advent of websites dedicated to helping people meet. "Love at first sight on the screen" has become an accepted way to reach the chuppah, as has happened for thousands of couples every year. And the keyboards are open for more opportunities.
What makes us Happy at a Funeral?
However, in spite of everything, the fraction of young unmarried people has never been higher. The huge number of tens of thousands of single men and women only in the sector of the knitted kippa requires us to do a reckoning and to take on personal responsibility in trying to cope with this challenge. Not very long ago, I met an old friend, a seasoned bachelor, at the funeral of a mutual acquaintance. I could not ignore the broad smile that lit up his face. In reply to my questioning look, he explained: "At long last, I am someplace where people do not turn to me and say, 'Well, it's your turn next!'" Evidently we need something a bit more than just giving our vague and unachievable best wishes or void expression of compassion with respect to our friend's situation. This really doesn't help, it can only be annoying and irritating.
However, there is in fact one thing that (almost) everybody can do in order to help establish new homes within our nation. What is this formula? It is to make proposals. Just make suggestions.
Do you Have the Necessary Skills?
As opposed to what many people mistakenly think, there is no need for any special talent in order to introduce a man and a woman. It is not necessary to have a degree in "companionship," and you do not have to be married yourself. In all, there are only four basic requirements. (1) To care about the people involved. (2) A few minutes of free time. (3) Pen and paper. (4) A telephone.
It can be assumed that everybody has these resources readily available in the home.
Of course, when one wants to become involved in this mission it is best to do it in a wise and efficient way. What do I mean? Here is a list:
(1) When you are recommending a prospect to a young woman, try to give as detailed a description of the man as possible, including background (school, army, future plans), basic character, and external description.
(2) Explain why you think this is a good match. (If you do not have some good reasons, perhaps you should rethink the proposal. Vague statements like, "He is a great guy from a good family, just like you," which is typical of the aunts in past times, will simply not do.)
(3) Suggest other options for finding out more information from alternate sources and others who know the prospect from different angles. Examples could be fellow soldiers, a local rabbi, a friend from his yeshiva, and so on.
(4) Show some enthusiasm, and try to generate some excitement. This last item is especially important for sworn unmarried folks who have met many unimpressive candidates. A description that from the very beginning sounds average will not make it easy for the prospects to move.
Reliability and Determination
Here is an important warning: The exalted objective of building new homes within Yisrael does not cancel out the prohibition against lying. It is also not a good idea to exaggerate. There is no point in "inflating" matters just to get the two candidates to meet, especially since such tricks will be discovered from the moment that they see each other on their first date.
Also, forget about convincing the prospects with "cute" arguments, such as, "What difference does it make if you say yes, all you will lose is one evening." Or, "Enough questions from you. Stop being so choosy, you can't really tell unless you actually meet." People are not blocks of wood. Any useless encounters leave behind a residue and scars. Our main goal is to encourage marriage, not any other pastimes.
And this leads us to our final note. Do not despair if this doesn't work at first, or even after eight or nine attempts. Try to improve your approach and to improve in general from one attempt to the next. Of course, if after a long series of tries you find that you are simply losing friends and getting into fights, give it up. Evidently the Holy One, Blessed be He, has favored you with other talents for the benefit of mankind, not necessarily as a matchmaker.
In summary: If everybody who reads this article now will take it upon himself or herself to pause for five minutes and think about one proposal that can be made this week (!), there can be no doubt that the result will be quite a few happy couples who start out building an eternal edifice.
Riddle of the Week > Toldot / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
Mei'ah She'arim is a neighborhood of Jerusalem which appears in this week's Torah portion: "And Yitzchak planted in that land, and that year he discovered a hundred gates, and G-d blessed him." [Bereishit 26:12]. This week's question concerns two other Jerusalem neighborhoods whose names were taken from the Tanach. "I am the third generation, named for the first one who left the walls. Which was first, and what is the third generation?"
The answer for Chayei Sarah The riddle was: What title do these four women have in common? The first, in the Torah, is linked to hundreds of thousands. The second, in the Prophets, is the mother of kings. The third, in the Writings, is linked to "Al Hanissim," and the fourth came before the third.
The answers: All four women were beautiful – "tovot mar'eh." - Rivka: "The maiden was very beautiful" [Bereishit 24:16]. And she was blessed, "You will become hundreds of thousands" [24:60]. - Bat Sheva, Shlomo's mother: "The woman was very beautiful" [Shmuel II 11:2]. She was the mother of the kings of Yehuda. - Esther: "The young girl was beautiful" [Esther 2:7]. - Vashti: "He commanded to bring Vashti... to show the nations and the ministers her beauty, because she was beautiful" [Esther 1:11]. Vashti was the queen before Esther.