Volume 1593: Haazinu 13 Tishrei 5776 26/09/2015
Point Of View
Constant Strife on the Temple Mount /Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
"And I will bring them to My Holy Mountain and I will make them happy in My House of Prayer... for My House will be called a House of Prayer for all the nations" [Yeshayahu 56:7].
"'Har Hamoriah' – from there teaching ('horayah') goes out to the world... from there fear ( 'yir'a') goes out to the world.
'Aron' (the Ark) – from there light ('orah') goes out to the world... from there curses ('arirah') go out to the world.
'Devir' – from there a plague ('dever') goes out to the world... from there, commandments ('dibrot') go out to the world."
[Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 4:5].
Kayin and Hevel
In recent weeks, the Temple Mount has become the focus of violent Islamic riots, with religion and politics thoroughly intermingled. To make the situation clear: Islam as a religion is being exploited in the service of Palestinian nationalism. And the international community stands against Israel. The believers of Islam are being incited by false propaganda about Zionist intrigues to destroy Moslem holy sites, and the Arab statesmen and their supporters in the world have rushed out, calling for a campaign against Israel.
Our situation in the arena of international advocacy is extremely low. Our enemies are good at lying, at blood libels, and at distributing false propaganda video clips. Even if we can garner the services of our best propaganda experts, it is very doubtful if we can compete successfully with evil forces which intentionally lie, callously, without batting an eyelash. This is weaponry which we are not capable of using, and in the tournaments of international lies we will always occupy the lowest position. Actually, this should give us a feeling of satisfaction! We cannot defeat the Moslem media liars who deny the existence of our Temple on the Mount, and their belief that the El-Aksa mosque preceded the Temples of Solomon and of the Chashmona'im.
At the foundation of the world, from the time of Creation itself, this small area of 500 by 500 Amot on the Temple Mount, was the arena of the struggle between Kayin and Hevel. According to the tradition of the sages, the very first murder occurred at this very site, in the wake of a frightful dispute about the control of this mountain (Bereishit Rabba 22:7). It would seem that this event left a mark of the dispute that has lasted through the generations. The words of the Midrash which are quoted at the beginning of this article also indicate that holy words that are related to the Mount – Moriah, Aron, Devir – can be interpreted in two ways: positive and negative, light and darkness, a blessing or a curse...
A Family Dispute
We have another very difficult problem. The Israeli leftists and part of those in the center do not feel that the Temple Mount is important, not in terms of sovereignty or with respect to allowing Jewish prayers there. They accept – either openly or deep in their hearts – the wretched historical decision made by Moshe Dayan: the Western Wall for the Jews, the Temple Mount for the Moslems! To add to the tragedy of political Zionism, prominent men from the Chareidi sector support this approach – either openly or deep in their hearts – and they are joined by the Chief Rabbis and some of the rabbis of the "Chardal" (Chareidi religious Zionist) groups (who, as far as I am concerned, can be more troublesome than the others). The Or Hachaim cried out about those who hold such opinions: "All the masters of the land, the great scholars of Yisrael, will be called to account for this, and G-d will demand retribution from them for the insult of the neglected house." [Vayikra 25:25].
In spite of everything I have written above, we cannot allow the political defeatists among us to raise their hands in surrender and to abandon the Temple Mount, if for no other reason than my firm belief that any surrender leads to another one! The Temple Mount is "the home of our lives," and as far as I am concerned whoever gives it up is "heartless" and pitiable. ("Let my eyes and heart remain there for all the days" [Melachim I 9:3].) I have such people in mind when I hear the blessings of the Haftarah: "Have pity on Zion for it is the home of our lives, and help the pitiable ones with all due haste."
Divide and Conquer!
I had a dream... In my vision, we arrived at an accommodation for enforced schedules of prayer and access on the Temple Mount, in the spirit of the arrangements at the Machpelah Cave in Chevron. After much struggling and the "Goldstein massacre," arrangements for "dividing" the time in the Cave were forced on the "two sides" by the government of Israel and the IDF. At the Machpelah Cave, there is rigid "territorial" separation, with separate entrances and control points. And, behold, the level of friction has been reduced dramatically. In addition, several days a year have been set, based (I think) on mutual symmetry, when every "side" has the privilege of occupying the entire area. It will be very easy to propose a similar arrangement for the Temple Mount, and to enforce it. (Well, I admit that it may not be easy, but it will probably be quite hard to implement!)
But I woke up, and it was merely a dream! In order to fulfill the prayer of Shlomo when he dedicated the Temple as "Your place of residence, where You will do whatever the Gentile calls out for You to do" [Melachim I 8:43], and to implement the vision of Yeshayahu quoted above, "My house will be a House of Prayer for all the nations" – to do that we will need cooperation among all the religious wise men and their representative leaders. At this point, at the top of the exalted mountain, it will be impossible to enforce a political arrangement without the brave involvement of the leaders of the antagonists. To tell the truth, what is needed is not necessarily active participation but perhaps only for the leaders not to object. And here I see an image of the Chief Rabbinate.
And now my dream returns... Behold, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel (under the leadership of Rabbi David Lau?) does not oppose the idea. And the government of Israel and the IDF enforce the arrangement – and the Temple Mount will indeed be in our hands too!
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As Shabbat Approaches
The Beginning, the Middle, and the End /Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
Why did our tradition choose the Song of David (Shmuel II 22:1-51) as the Haftarah of the Torah portion of Ha'azinu, which contains the epic exalted poem written by Moshe?
For the portion of Beshalach, which includes the epic poem of Bnei Yisrael at the Red Sea celebrating the victory over the Egyptian army, the Song of Devorah is indeed fitting, since this also commemorates a great military victory. However, Ha'azinu is a broad review which begins at the beginning of history and ends with hints of resurrection in the end of days. What does this have to do with David's victory song after his wars?
It would seem that the reason for this is related to the unique character of the life of David. While the portion of Ha'azinu presents a review of the beginning and the end of history, the life of David marks the middle point of human history. From the time of Adam until David, the world continues to exist as a result of the primordial inertia by which the world and humanity were created. During this span of history, we encounter great figures which provide the driving force for the creation of the world as we know it: Adam, Noah, Shem, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaacov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, Yehoshua, Shmuel and David. The sages pointed out the continuity of this dynasty by noting that Adam's life span of 930 years was originally meant to be 1,000 years, based on the verse, "On the day that you eat from it you will die" [Bereishit 2:17], noting that a day for the Holy One, Blessed be He, is a thousand years long: "For a thousand years in Your eyes are like yesterday" [Tehillim 90:4]. But Adam "donated" 70 years of his life to David. This means that David served to "fill out" the time span of the first man, Adam, who began human history. Through the effort of his wars, David established the physical earthly Kingdom of Yisrael, which laid the way for the success of the process of history and for the mending of the path of the world. This was a turning point that started with David.
It is thus very interesting to note the tradition of the disciples of the Gaon of Vilna, that the time span from the birth of Adam until the birth of David is the same as the time from David's birth until the redemption. The calculation is very simple: David was born in the year 2854 after the creation of the world. Thus the date of the beginning of the redemption is twice that, that is 2854*2 = 5708. And that is the year when the State of Israel was established (in May 1948).
Thus, David is at the central point of the great historical saga which began with Adam and reaches out to the Mashiach, the King, that great political figure who will remain true to the Torah of Moshe and who will bring justice and peace to the world.
Putting David and Moshe together shows the link between the Torah (Moshe) and political history (David). While the other nations of the world tend to despair of the element of politics, which as far as they are concerned is the realm of evil people, Judaism teaches an optimistic approach which stems from a deep belief that human history is guided by the Creator of the World, who looks at and maintains an overview of all the generations at once.
And that is why David ends his victory song by showing appreciation for the other nations: "Therefore I will thank G-d within the nations, and I will sing to Your name" [22:50]. This justifies the eternal character of the House of David: "... for David and his offspring, forever" [22:51].
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Let Your Wellsprings Burts Forth
Water, with Joy/Rabbi Moshe Shilat
Director of "The Torah of Chabad for Yeshiva Students"
It might be surprising to hear that action together with taking on a yoke, surrender, dedication, and humility can give greater pleasure than action with identification, understanding, and free choice. In a generation where freedom and specifically personal freedom are such dominant elements, for a person to love having an obligation sounds completely hallucinatory. When does it make us feel good to be slaves?
Well, specifically on Succot, when the Torah explicitly commands us, "You shall only be happy" [Devarim 16:15], we pour a libation on the Alter in the Temple consisting of plain water, without any added taste or scent. On Succot we must "only" be happy, and the way to do so is not to pour the usual libation of wine, which is scented and has a multitude of tastes, as we do all year round. Rather we add water, even though it can never compete in any way with the wine. How is it that simplicity takes the day?
Connect to the Source
The verse, "And you shall draw water happily from the springs of help" [Yeshayahu 12:3], is interpreted as follows in Chassidut: when "water of happiness" is drawn – when it is possible to find joy in accepting the Divine yoke – then this water comes from "the springs of help." This is the water which comes from a spring, and it can offer true help.
To go into this in greater detail:
Water – This symbolizes service of G-d while accepting the yoke. Water has no taste, and it therefore is a symbol of serving G-d without needing any specific reason. Wine, which we pour on the Altar all year long, has its own unique taste and scent, and it symbolizes serving G-d for a reason and according to known principles. Such service is necessary and a positive thing, but it is not the foundation of Divine service. Service through water is the foundation, acceptance of the yoke of G-d without taking your commitment into account, as is written, "We will do and we will listen" [Shemot 24:7]. The novel element is what takes place when the service is performed.
Happiness – The greatest joy results from the fact that the water is poured onto the Altar as a way of fulfilling the Will of G-d, and this is the joy of accepting the yoke of heaven. This joy stems from the fact that by doing this we succeed in breaking through the limits of human understanding and to closely approach the One who is beyond all limits.
From the springs – The difference between a spring and a pool of water is that a spring can purify a person even without the minimum amount for a mikveh (40 "sa'ah "), since it is fed constantly from a fresh source, even if the water is not gathered into a single pool but is flowing. Spring water can even be used to purify one who is impure because of contact with the dead, which is the most serious type of ritual impurity. When a person connects directly to the source – a spring – he receives his strength directly from the spring. No other conditions are necessary for the purification to take place, and he will succeed in leaving behind any failure, no matter how serious.
Of help – When a man labors properly, every aspect of his life leads to salvation, not according to his physical strength but to an extent that is well beyond that. In this way, the man is privileged to unite with the unlimited Divine source.
Let Your Intellect Dance a Bit
"Anybody who has not seen the 'Simchat Beit Hasho'eiva' celebration during Succot has never experienced real happiness in his days." [Mishna Succah 5:1]. Not only is the joy of the water at a higher level than other happiness, it is in reality the only true happiness! People who are happy act in a way that defies logic because the essence of joy is to break out of the normal limits. "Joy breaks down the fence." When a person is capable of canceling his own thoughts he is merited with the ability to leave his own boundary behind and to link up to infinity. There can be no greater joy than this.
Man is a creature with understanding, but within the intellect there must also be something that goes beyond it. And it is therefore necessary to be happy, to dance, and to play a drum. In this way a person "draws out" all the aspects of the joy, even bringing it into his own intellect and personality. Based on the power of the joy of Succot, which is the happiness of water, something that is above and beyond the normal intellect, we are able during the rest of the year to feel a measured amount of joy using the wine which is a symbol of reason and understanding. Anybody who has seen the joy of the Simchat Beit Haho'eiva will see happiness all year round.
A Remarkable Instinct
The Tzedukim did not believe in the traditions of the sages. Therefore, among other things, they rejected the mitzva of libation of water on Succot. We are told in the Talmud that one time a priest who was a Tzeduki poured the water on his feet and not on the Altar, and the people stoned him with their etrogim (Siccah 48b).
Chassidut explains that the Tzedukim believed that any interpretation of the Torah must follow logical rules, without any added authority of the sages of Yisrael and without accepting the rules of our traditions. As far as they were concerned, the service using water which was part of tradition and which shows an acceptance of the yoke of heaven corresponded to "the feet," far away from the head. That is, it was suitable for simple folks and for children who were not fully developed, but a priest and a fully developed adult had no need for such rituals. With remarkable insight based on their instinct, the people threw their etrogim at this priest. The etrog, with its taste and its scent, is the antithesis of water (which can be compared to the aravah, without taste or scent). But even the Etrog "agrees" that the important factor is the traditions, which must be accepted.
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From the treasury of chassidic stories
Simplicity or Foolishness? /Zeev Kitsis, Kibbuts Hadati Yeshiva and Bar Ilan University
The Chassidic Story about the Boy and the Flute
I want to begin this article with my thanks to the editors of Shabbat B'Shabbato for the opportunity during the past two years to present my column about Chassidic stories. I will add a special vote of thanks to the many diligent readers who reacted, commented, and gave me worthy insights. As a final story in this series, I want to discuss one of the most famous Chassidic stories which is always mentioned at the time of the High Holidays – the story of the flute in the Beit Midrash of the Baal Shem Tov. This story, which first appeared at the end of the nineteenth century (Kevutzat Yaacov, 5657 – 1897, page 53a), has been referred to in an infinite number of variations. In the first years after its appearance, the story was reprinted in Chassidic collections and even in stories collected by a number of Jews from among the "Maskilim." The main elements of the story are very well known.
A village boy "with a blocked heart" was brought to the synagogue for the first time, after he reached the age of bar mitzva. It was Yom Kippur, and the synagogue was the Beit Midrash of the Baal Shem Tov. Without his father knowing about it, the boy took with him in his pocket the flute that he played while he tended sheep. The boy did not know how to read, but a simple yearning rose up in him to play his flute in the synagogue. When he asked his father for permission to do so, the man was startled and told the boy not to take the flute out of his pocket. Because the flute was "muktzeh" and could not be handled on Yom Kippur, the father did not take the flute into his hand, but since the boy asked again and again to take the flute out the father took hold of the flute through the boy's garment in order to prevent him from bringing it out. This continued all during the Ne'ila prayer. But just then, at the very end of the holy day, the remarkable event occurred:
* * * * * *
In the middle of the prayer, the boy suddenly grabbed the flute and pulled it out of his pocket, and blew a strong blast, startling all those who heard it. When the Baal Shem Tov heard the sound, he shortened his prayers more than usual. After the end of the prayers, he said: With the sound of his flute, this child lifted up all the prayers, and made things easier for me. This boy does not know anything, but since all during the holy day he saw and heard the prayers of Yisrael, a holy spark was lit up inside him, like a flame... reaching out to the very ends of the soul. With the power of his yearning he played the flute from the truth of his heart, without any side issues, straight to G-d Himself. His pure breath was very well received by the Holy One, Blessed be He.
[Shai Agnon, The Days of Awe, page 369, based on "Kehal Chassidim Hachadash"]
* * * * * *
It is clear that deep Chassidic foundations are embedded within this famous story: the simplicity without complexity which rises up and bursts out on its own is seen to be preferable to the adult and understanding prayers of the other people present. The boy can be viewed as similar to the invisible but holy shepherd who appears in many other Chassidic tales. In many ways, this is a figure that symbolizes the Chassidic movement itself. It is the youthful spirit of the young Chassidic movement, and it is also reminiscent of the closeness of Chassidism to nature and to the experience of living, and also of melodies hidden far away from the Beit Midrash. The spirit of youthful revolt also rises up from the tension between the boy and his father, reminding us of the opposition to the Chassidic way and of the inter-generational tension which burst out against Chassidut in its early generations. The raw sound of the flute – which can be compared to the sound of the shofar – represents peeling away of levels of oral and intellectual knowledge which might be a contrast to the "pure breath" and to the simple and pure heart.
Another element which is more difficult to accept is the fact that playing the flute is a desecration of the mitzvot of the holiday. In the end, the prayers of the congregation are helped along by an act that is in itself forbidden. In fact, in later versions of the story the flute has been replaced by "a whistle" or (in the Chabad version) by a cry of "kukuriku!" (Alshtein, Ma'aseh Choshev, page 12). Some Chassidic circles disparaged simplicity when it was accompanied by "a blocked heart" or ignorance. A story which can be viewed as a parody on the story of the flute is credited to Rabbi Yisrael of Rozhin. He told his disciples about a village man who cried with a simple and pure heart during the Rosh Hashanah prayers with the rest of the community. However, his pure and simple weeping was about the "tzimmess" (carrot stew) that he was delayed in eating... (Stories of Tzadikim, page 16).
It is absolutely clear to me that the story of the flute could not have taken place in the Beit Midrash of the Baal Shem Tov. In the prayer houses of the Chassidim, the letter of the law was strictly observed, even more than the normal custom. But in spite of this, Chassidic tales like the famous one we are discussing contain examples which might be termed "holy sins," which are performed in simplicity and in the name of heaven. Since it is clear that the Chassidim never studied these stories as having halachic validity, they serve as testimony of a deep foundation within the Chassidic soul. The stories bear witness to a desire to burst out, a yearning for the simple voice, which goes beyond the limits of life and can lead a person to self-revelation and rejuvenation.
I wish all my readers a healthy and happy new year.
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A family named "Yisraeli"
Closing the Door/Rabbi Yikhat Rozen
Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality
The bombshell came one evening when we were all together. Abba announced, "We have decided to move!"
"What did you say??" All the children reacted together, in shock. And Imma said, "Just what you heard. We have decided to move to another city."
I said, "Why should we move? What happened?" Netanel said, "We like it here!" And Yehuda mumbled, "I don't want anything new, a new house, new friends... Look how long it took me to get used to these..."
Only Tamar reacted enthusiastically: "Wow! A new house!"
And them Abba explained. "We don't have much choice. I will soon have to leave my job. You know about that already. I searched high and low, and the only new job that I found that suits my character and my skills is very far away."
I tried to reason with my parents. "How can we leave behind everything that we have here? All our lives we were right here, in this house and in this neighborhood! Work isn't everything."
Abba agreed, "You are right that work isn't everything, but it is certainly important. It is what gives us a stable basis to be able to fulfill our mission on this world. And of course it also provides us with a livelihood."
"And don't forget," Imma added, "If the Holy One, Blessed be He, arranged things such that Abba has to leave his work, this seems to be the right thing for us to do now."
Uri asked, "So what do we do? Just pick up and leave?"
Imma sighed. "Yes, that's right." But right away she added, "You don't have to worry. We will all see that there is a good life with nice neighbors in any place where we go. All we have to do is to be able to find them..."
Abba thought for a minute, and then he said: "What would you think about having us make a small good-bye party for our neighbors? After all, we have been with them for all these years..."
We all agreed that this was a good idea, and we started planning for the party. I must admit that getting busy planning a party helped us forget our sadness at leaving.
We set the date for the party one week before our move. We were surprised to see that the house filled up, more than we had expected. The first one to come was Dudu, our neighbor from upstairs – a crude and irritating boy. But this time he was quiet and well-behaved, and we all talked about how he had once rescued the elderly Mrs. Mishkowitz from a fire in her apartment. Then Yosef Hagar came, who lived on the third floor and who had left behind an entire life in order to come and live in our land. Some of my friends came too, and also some friends of Yehuda and Netanel, and Tamar's kindergarten teacher. And the drunkard Michael, who Uri was sometimes friendly with, also came, and then many others came who lived in the neighborhood and in the building.
All our guests reminded us of past events, joked around, and gave us many compliments.
All this time, we could only think of the good experiences which we had here. Weren't there also some difficult times? Weren't there moments when I felt that I wanted to move away from the neighborhood, as far as possible? Well, at the party I couldn't even remember one moment like that...
After everybody left and we had finished cleaning up after them, we remained alone, with a lot of pleasant memories but with the bittersweet taste of leaving. And then we all decided to write down all of our memories. In that way, we could preserve for us – and for others too – all of those wonderful moments (and some that were not so nice), some of our insights and some irritating incidents, the people who were so nice and some of the not-so-nice things they did. We decided to make a record of our lives here.
A few days later, when we were on the train, we met Abba's friend, the author. He was happy to hear all of our stories, and he helped us write them down for you. And that is what you have been reading – the stories of the Yisraeli family!
* * * * * *
* * * A note to my dear readers, parents and children alike: After I have written for you for the last eleven years, the time for parting has come. In future issues of Shabbat B'Shabbato, this column will be written by somebody else, while with G-d's help I will continue to write stories and books in other places.
I really had fun writing for you. At first I enjoyed gathering stories from many different sources and rewriting them, from stories of our sages to parables by Krylov, together with some stories that came my way and others from ancient sources. After a few years this column took on its present form, and we started telling the stories of the Yisraeli family – an imaginary family where every Israeli child can see a bit of himself...
I very much appreciated your reactions to the stories, and I was happy to receive your comments, which I often took into account.
My thanks to the editors of Shabbat B'Shabbato, first and foremost to my father and mentor, Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, and to the many people who worked with him throughout the years, including the current editor, Yisrael Rosenberg. Special thanks go to the gifted illustrator, Daniella Fond, who drew her charming pictures for the stories, adding additional depth to the experience of the readers.
As the years went by, I was privileged with G-d's help to publish several books for children (in Hebrew), such as: "The Yisraeli Family" (some of the stories that were published here); "Adventures in the Rimonim Library" (based on the life of Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli); and "Mashmiya Yeshua for Children" (about Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook). These are available in book stores and they can be ordered by phone at: 054-6340121.
Yikhat Rozen, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Responsa For Our Times
The Walls of the Succah /Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen
Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel
Question: Can the walls of the Succah be made of sheets of cloth?
A Wall that Moves in the Wind
The Talmud quotes the opinion of Rav Acha Bar Yaacov, that "a divider that cannot withstand a normal wind is not considered a wall" [Succah 24b]. The Talmud understands from this that a wall that "moves back and forth" (which "comes and goes") is considered as a divider that will not remain standing in a wind. Therefore it concludes that a Succah that uses a branch of a tree as a wall is acceptable only if it uses hard trees. With respect to the leaves, the wall can be accepted if it is made in the form of a crisscross – that is, if the leaves are weaved together so that they will not move in the wind. The Sefat Emet asks why a divider that moves back and forth should be rejected.
In order to define the term that "it does not withstand a wind" we must discuss the measure of "moving back and forth" for a wall, and we must decide if even a small movement of the wall makes the Succah unacceptable. The Rambam (Hilchot Succah 4:5), Rashi, and the Ritva do not give an exact definition of this term. However, from the text in the Talmud we can infer that it is not necessary to restrict the wall so that it cannot move at all. This is clear since the Talmud rules that tying the leaves is sufficient to consider that the tree does not move – but clearly there is no way to fix the leaves in a way that prevents any movement at all. It is thus clear that small movements do not make the wall invalid.
This approach was accepted by the Chazon Ish. He writes:
"It would seem that this is specifically when the wind separates the branches so that they are more than three tefachim apart and the divider is not whole for a moment – then we consider it invalid even when it is quiet – and this would be considered a temporary divider which does not withstand a wind. However, if the divider is strong enough that the wind will not separate it but all the time it remains a proper divider, we can consider it a divider which withstands a wind." [Hilchot Eiruvin 77:6].
A "wall" that is made of cloth is completely different from a divider made from the branches of a tree, and therefore any divider which moves in the wind but which has no way of opening up so that there will be 3-tefach holes should be accepted according to the above ruling of the Chazon Ish. This ruling also serves as a reply to the question asked by the Sefat Emet: Why should we reject a divider which moves in the wind, since as far as the Chazon Ish is concerned the movement of the branches ("going back and forth") is not the essence of the ruling but rather the fact that holes open up which make the divider unacceptable.
As opposed to this approach, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef concludes from the writings of the early commentators that even a small movement should lead us to reject the divider (Yechaveh Daat 3:46). He insists that this is "halacha that was handed over to Moshe at Sinai," as part of the rules of halachic limits. Rabbi Ovadia asks about the opinion of the Chazon Ish why the Talmud did not answer the question on the opinion of Rav Acha that the Mishna which approves using a tree as a wall is considering branches that move a distance less than 3 tefachim. In my humble opinion, we can explain that this indeed is the reasoning behind the answer given by the Talmud, and that the size limit of 3 tefachim is a reasonable limit.
A Wall made of Cloth
The TUR and the Shulchan Aruch (630) quote Rabeinu Peretz, who is mentioned in Sefer Mitzvot Katan. He writes that "it is not right" to make the walls from sheets of linen, even if they are tied down very tight, unless they have rods weaved into them. The BACH explains that Rabeinu Peretz's source is the passage in the Talmud quoted above, which describes how the leaves of the tree are weaved together. However, it is clear that weaving will not help if the divider is made only from soft trees that will wave in the wind even if they are tied together. According to the words of the BACH, a wall made of cloth can be used in principle of it is weaved together, just as is true of a tree.
If we look in depth at the words of Rabeinu Peretz, we will see that he does not automatically reject any divider which is not weaved. Rabeinu Peretz is afraid that even if the walls are tied tight they might come apart, and that somebody sitting in the Succah might not notice and therefore will not tie them together again. Thus, what makes the divider invalid is not the fact that it moves slightly, since even a cloth that is very tightly tied will move slightly. The novelty in Rabeinu Peretz's opinion is the he rules that the cloth must be weaved out of a fear that it might become unattached, not that the cloth itself is an invalid divider. Note also the specific phrase used, "it is not right," which implies that what is at stake is proper behavior and not halachic rejection of the divider, since the Talmud did not write about a decree prohibiting walls of cloth, and we should not make new decrees of our own. Thus, after the fact, if the cloth is tied very tightly, the wall can be used in the Succah.
Halacha in Practice
A priori it is clear that one should not make the walls of the Succah from cloth only, even if it is very tightly tied, following the opinion of Rabeinu Peretz, as quoted in the TUR and the Shulchan Aruch. We should therefore add strong dividers with no holes bigger than 3 tefachim, which is the same as weaving rods into the material. However, after the fact, if the dividers are tied tightly it is possible to rely on the opinion of the Chazon Ish, and even to recite a blessing in the Succah.
It is also important to add another matter. Rabeinu Peretz was writing about sheets that are tied to the Succah with string and ropes. However, strong sheets that are made specifically for a Succah have eyeholes on all four sides of the cloth, and there is no need to fear that they might come loose. In fact it is clear that these cloths will not come free. Thus, if the cloth moves by less than 3 tefachim, the divider is not invalid and the Succah may be used.
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Nature and the Torah portion
The Vulture and the Eagle /Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"As a vulture wakes its nest, hovering over its young,
It spreads out its wings and takes them, carrying them on its wings."
In this column, for the Torah portion of Lech Lecha 5774 (issue 1494), I briefly mentioned the confusion that exists in our sources and in our language between the "ayit" – the eagle which Avraham saw in the Covenant of the Pieces – and the "nesher" – the vulture. In this article I will expand on this theme.
The Bald Vulture
One question that many people have discussed is whether the "nesher" in the Torah and in the literature of the sages is the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), which is called "nissar" in Arabic (according to the Hebrew Language Academy, this is called "nesher keirei'ach" - the "bald vulture"). The griffon vulture feeds exclusively on carrion which it finds while it glides and scans through areas spanning dozens of kilometers. Evidently the "bald" description in its name comes from its neck and head, which have no feathers or down, a trait that allows it to burrow very easily into the carrion on which it feeds. The name "nesher" includes all the large birds of prey which eat carrion, and which includes a number of taxonomic groups.
The Golden Eagle
Aside from the "official" meanings of the above name, there are some who use it for a completely different bird of prey, the "ayit" – the eagle. The interchange between the vulture and the eagle is not a modern phenomenon, and its roots go back to ancient times. Various authors have found some confusion between the vulture and the eagle in the literature of the sages and possibly even in the Tanach. There is a clear and obvious example of the switch between the eagle and the vulture in the Talmud: "A couple came from Reket who had caught a nesher, and they had some material made in Luz. What was it? It was techelet. By the merits of mercy and by their own merits, they were able to leave in peace." [Sanhedrin 12a]. The word "nesher" (a vulture) which was used as a symbol of the Roman soldiers is based on the insignia of the Roman legions, which carried flags and ceremonial banners that had on them a picture of a large bird of prey. Yosef Ben Matityahu also calls the "nesher" a Roman symbol in his book, "Kadmoniyot Hayahudim" (volume 17, 6), where he describes a "golden nesher" that Herod placed over the gate leading to the Temple Mount. To this day many birds of prey serve as symbols of many countries and armies all over the world, because of various traits of theirs that are connected to their way of life, which is admired by many people.
The identification of the "nesher" as the word is used in Hebrew to denote the Roman eagle is wrong, because the Roman symbol is really a golden eagle (or rock eagle) and not a vulture. The soldier who carried the statue of a "nesher" at the head of the legion was called an aquilifer, from the Latin name of an eagle – Aquila. The Aruch Hashalem defines "nesher" as "the name of a known bird which was used by the Kingdom of Rome, whose symbol was a 'nesher' – Aquila." In the past, the name Aquila specifically referred to the golden eagle. The Latin word Aquila is in fact the source of the modern English word eagle. The Latin root might come from the word aquilus, which means a hue that is dark, black, or brown, corresponding to the feathers of the eagle. It is very easy to differentiate between the two species, the vulture and the eagle, at the very least by the fact that there are feathers on the neck of the eagle as compared to the bald neck of the vulture. It is true that both of these species are large birds of prey, but they lead very different lives. While the vulture exclusively feeds on dead bodies, the eagle is a bird of prey that captures most of its victims alive.
Another example of the confusion in identification can be seen in Tosafot, Chulin 63a: "Netz... In the same way mistakes are made about a 'nesher,' which is called 'an eagle' but is not, since a 'nesher' has four signs of impurity and the eagle has an extra toe."
Many authors who have studied the "nesher" and the "ayit" claim that the confusion between the names already appears in the Tanach. Their reasoning is based on several cases where one of the birds is mentioned but from the context it seems that it refers to the other one. In my humble opinion, it may very well be that all the references to the "nesher" in the Tanach involve the griffon vulture, while references in the literature of the sages, at least part of the time, involve the golden eagle. On one hand, there can be no doubt that the "Roman nesher" described above in the passage in Sanhedrin was really an eagle and not a vulture, and on the other hand most of the appearances of a "nesher" in the literature of the sages consist of quotes and comparisons from verses in the Tanach, where the word "nesher" indeed refers to a vulture.
It is possible that the shifts with time are related to the fact that in the time of the Tanach the vulture was considered a holy bird and a symbol of royal authority in such lands as Egypt, Persia, and Assyria, and there was no room for confusion. Later on, after Alexander the Great (323-356 B.C.E.) discarded the vulture and took the golden eagle as the symbol of his kingdom, the two birds became intermixed. The source of the error was that the golden eagle is common in Europe but the vulture is relatively scarce. The name "nesher," vulture, which was known in Europe, lost its known meaning and took on the meaning of the more common bird, the eagle. The word "nesher" in the Tanach is related to the meaning that was accepted in the Semite regions, where the vulture was indeed widely distributed. For this reason, the word "nesher" is used to mean a vulture in all the Semitic languages: Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Arabic, Ethiopian, and others. However, in the language of our sages, which was influenced by Greek and Roman Latin, and in foreign translations of the Tanach, the word "nesher" was rendered as Aquila – that is, an eagle.
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Holy & Secular
A Reckoning /Rabbi Amichai Gordin
Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School
Two weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, the sun set on the Shemitta year of 5775. This year, as others which preceded it, presented us with substantial difficulties. Forty-two years ago, our mentor Rabbi Lichtenstein described the situation as follows:
"The simple fact is that Shemitta 5733 is nothing less than a halachic tragedy... That is the cold and bitter truth. The only way to avoid this conclusion is to distort the facts..." ["Thoughts of Shemitta 5733" – with minor changes].
Rabbi Lichtenstein listed three values that are the basis of Shemitta. The first value is the absolute understanding thatthe earth has a master who is the true ruler of everything. The second value is to free the farmer from day-to-day irritations, so that he will be able to lift up his head and become involved in exalted upper worlds. And the third value is the concept of equality. As far as the fruit is concerned there is no difference between the rich and the poor ("Let the poor people of your nation eat" [Shemot 23:11]). And the gap between man and animal is also minimized ("And let the animals of the field eat the remainder" [Ibid]). The entire universe is fed directly from the Divine table.
And, Rabbi Lichtenstein asked in sorrow, with all of these reasons and explanations, "What remains for us today from this great and exalted vision? Nothing more than a thin shell! The transfer from an agricultural economy to an industrial one removed for the vast majority of the community all of the prohibitions of agricultural labor. At least for these people, the situation is satisfactory. They have no need to bypass the laws or to distort the truth. With our luck, these people simply do not encounter the prohibitions any more."
And he added, "With respect to the prohibitions of eating and the need to treat holy food in a special way, the situation is much worse. What options are available to the people who want to fulfill the obligations of Shevi'it with all the details? ... When a person complains about the extra trouble and expense and at the same time pats himself on the back for being so pious – just see how great the gap is between the current situation and the verse, 'Let the Shabbat of the land be for you to eat' [Vayikra 25:6]! Can we see any link between this arrogance and the low level of humanity and the exalted state of the Creator which stand at the center of the passages of the Shemitta? ... What percentage of the population lives through Shemitta with simple joy, as compared to those who are waiting with baited breath for the burden to come to an end?"
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Rabbi Lichtenstein continued as follows:
How can we resolve the difference between the halacha which has clear demands with respect to eating the fruits of the Shemitta and the spirit of Shemitta as we were commanded to observe it? Can we resolve the existential conflict between our experience during the Shemitta year and the experience which is alluded to in the commands of the Torah?
(Rabbi Lichtenstein's reply to these questions is quite surprising.) I do not want to suggest, heaven forbid, that we ignore halachic obligations, no matter whether they seem unpleasant to us or not. We are not Conservative Jews, and we understand very well our obligation to perform even mitzvot which might seem to be out of date. I only want to discuss one point: We must recognize reality and weep about it.
The truth is that there is no solution that is satisfactory and also placates our conscience. We can accept the "heter mechirah" which allows us to eat all the produce of the Shemitta year, but can we really give it a hug of appreciation? We also swallow medicine, but we do not recite a blessing over it. Let us not try to convince ourselves that a bone caught in our throat is really a candy... This is the root of the halachic tragedy. We are forced to choose between two values – The ideal of 'Let the land rest' and the economic demands of our settled land (which themselves also entail moral considerations and not only practical ones). And we must sacrifice the one for the other.
We will not complain about the decision of the Chief Rabbinate (to approve the heter mechirah). But with heavy hearts, we are sorry about the need to make a choice. Shevi'it suffers, and its failure diminishes us all.
Liberal groups view the decree of the Pruzbul as an impressive achievement, one that illustrates the ability of the halacha to adapt to new conditions. But this cannot change the truth. Was Hillel, with all the authority in the world, really happy to bypass a mitzva? Didn't he approach this task with a broken and depressed heart?
To our great sorrow, Hillel found himself and his generation in great confusion. On one hand, the Torah did not make a general command to lend money, except for the case of poor people. On the other hand, it decreed that once in seven years all debts should be erased and everything should start over again. It even added a warning that this requirement should not interfere with the readiness to give a loan.
If the generation had been found worthy, both objectives could have been achieved. Those who needed money would have found the resources that they needed, and the lenders would have been taught, at least once every seven years, to ease the closed fist in which we keep every cent as our dearest treasure.
But the generation was not ready, and the wealthy people began to close the gates before the needy people. A sensitive master of halacha understood with his deep instinct how painfully there was a need to resolve the conflict between the two values. What price would Hillel have been willing to pay to have been relieved of making this cruel choice? He did not cry out in victory at that moment. When he looked at the situation, he had only one thing to say: I was beaten. Here I am, the representative of the halacha and tradition, and I have managed to find a solution, but on another plane I have been broken. Instead of maintaining the principle, I made a decree that bypassed it.
I do not see any way, in the visible future, to improve the current status. However, at least what remains – as was true for Hillel at the time – is the pain. Without any other alternative, we will put the halachic permission and the bypasses into effect, and we will bow down to reality. But we will not reconcile ourselves to the situation. We will be upset by it, and we will anticipate that the Almighty will make up for what we lack...
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As we reach the end of the Shemitta year, let us lift our eyes up high and remember that we do not have solutions for all our problems. Perfection is not to be expected by human beings.
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The Table Of kings
Syrian Bears /Avishai Elboim
In each article in this series we deal with some aspect of a single chapter of the book of Melachim.
(Melachim II 2)
We have moved from the era of the prophet of fanaticism and fire, Eliyahu, to a time of Elisha, the prophet of water, who shows support and patience. But among the many stories of miracles performed by Elisha there is one specific story that is cruel and evidently not typical: "Small boys came out of the city and they mocked him and said, 'Rise up, bald one, rise up, bald one!' And when he turned back and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of G-d. And two bears came out of the forest and tore apart forty-two youths." [2:23-24].
Many commentaries have been given to explain how serious the sin of the young boys was, and why they deserved a punishment of death. However, since this story is really not typical of Elisha (nor of bears, for that matter) we will take another track.
The bears did not kill the young boys but rather broke up the gathering. That is, the group of boys saw the bears and went their separate ways.
We have written in the past that the miracles of Eliyahu and Elisha had symbolic significance. Perhaps by this act Elisha is a prediction about the exile of Ashur, similar to the prophecy of Hoshaya: "I will meet them on the way to Ashur, as a bereaved bear... the beasts of the field will tear them apart..." [13:8].
Perhaps the two bears represent Shalmanesser and Sancheriv, the Kings of Ashur, who will tear apart, frighten, and scatter the forty-two cities of the Levites that were scattered throughout Yisrael and Yehuda.
* * * My book "Katzar V'Lashulchan," a collection of articles that appeared in this bulletin, has just been published (in Hebrew). It can be found in the Steimatzky bookshops
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Riddle of the Week
Ha'azinu /Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
How are the following idioms expressed in Kohellet?
(1) The greater the wealth, the greater is the worry
(2) No secrets (a folk saying)
Answer to last week's riddle. It was: The first time, it appears twice. In the evening, it is recited seven times.
The answer is the declaration, "G-d is Elohim!" [Melachim I 18:39]. The first time, this declaration was made by the people of Yisrael twice on Mount Carmel.
On Yom Kippur, the verse is recited seven times, during the Ne'ila prayer.
(Thanks to my friend Zev Volk for this riddle.)
Note that we will be happy to publish your riddles here, with proper credit to the author. Send your suggestions to the e-mail address given below.
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Do you have a bar/bat mitzva coming up? Are you looking for a special quiz?
To order: www.hidonim.com
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