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Volume 1580: Chukat  10th of Tammuz 5775 27/06/2015

Point Of View

Unauthorized Kashrut Certification /Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

Kashrut Certification that is "Private" and "High-Level"

A hearing will soon take place in the Supreme Court in Israel on a request for an injunction by some restaurant owners in Jerusalem against the Chief Rabbinate, which fined them based on the Kashrut Fraud Prevention Law that gives the Rabbinate (and the IDF) exclusive control over the concept of "kashrut" in Israel. These restaurants are "approved by the community" in the framework of "private supervision," headed by Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz, who is challenging the local Rabbinates and the Chief Rabbinate. The approval certificates are worded in a sophisticated way, in order to avoid using the protected word "kosher" – (for example "this place is supervised," and other roundabout hints). And just in case somebody might think that the supervision involves other issues, such as health, ecology, or security, he can check his assumptions at their website, The State Attorney as usual sets his eyes on the strict letter of the law, and he has therefore expressed support for the petitioners. The judges of the court scolded him, trying to "pay attention to how the people normally behave" [Berachot 45a], and demanded to hear from him the position of the Chief Rabbinate. The future result is not easy to guess. Will it depend on the specific judges who are called upon to rule? (As an aside: the kashrut approvals of the "Badatz" organizations are evidently provided in addition to regular approval by the Rabbinate. They have branded themselves as "Mehadrin," holding to an especially stringent level of kashrut, and it seems that there is a demand for this.)

I agree with the feeling that the time has come for privatization in the realms of kashrut and other religious services (such as has been done with medical insurance and public transportation...). This would place the Chief Rabbinate in a regulatory role, "higher-level" supervision, giving approvals to those who directly supervise the kashrut, attesting to their honesty and their authority . Perhaps the Rabbinate should also be involved in setting the work conditions of the kashrut supervisors. With respect to the new organization in Jerusalem, I would insist on one other precondition – only groups that have proven experience in the field and that have attained public trust would be able to enter the arena as independent supervisors of kashrut. And there is another prerequisite: Transparency – the organization must prominently display the "kashrut elements" on which they depend, and which rabbis give them approval. For example, there might be room to accept rabbis who are willing to give kashrut approval to firms which do not observe Shabbat, while some people might reject them. Some would prefer to be stringent with respect to cooking in a restaurant by a Gentile, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, while others may be more lenient, following the opinion of the RAMA (see Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yechaveh Dei'ah, 5, 54). Some will be willing to accept the "heter mechirah" for Shemitta, while others will not. Some will be stringent about milk of Gentiles. Many examples can be given. But the main point is that there should never be any room for deception and misleading claims.

In the petition in Jerusalem, as long as the current law remains in effect and there is no regulatory mechanism, and as long as there is no "higher-level" supervision over the "private supervision," the situation is indeed one of deception and misleading claims. The normal citizen, who is not aware of the ins and outs of all the power fights against recognized institutions, will tend to accept any "certificate of supervision" as if it was given by the officially recognized kashrut authority. Would we tolerate such sophisticated wording with respect to the ingredients of our food? Would the relevant government authorities allow "approvals" of this type with respect to health, security, or ecology, using very tricky wording?

Shabbat Work Approvals without the Proper Authority

And now we move on to a different but related subject. We start with proper disclosure: the sections that follow are not written in a way that is fully objective. They involve Shabbat work approvals that do not have the proper authority, and in this case they deal with my main life's work – the interface between halacha and technology.

There are no laws that cover this realm, and the authority of the Zomet Institute stems from broad recognition by the public and by many halachic experts. With respect to Shabbat elevators, we check and issue approvals for their halachic suitability, since we cannot rely on the company which installs the elevator to testify about its own work. (We note in passing that the elevators in many hotels have not been checked and were not issued any certificate. It may well be that families and communities which stay in hotels are not aware of this fact.) I assume that you will be surprised by the following scoop: A company (?) has been formed which gives approvals for Shabbat elevators, and which mentions two rabbis in its advertising: One is an unknown neighborhood rabbi from the center of the country (who has meanwhile rescinded his approval), and the other is a "Kabbalah" master who performs mystic wonders and cures, and who has caught foolish women in his net and was recently charged with some very serious "indecent acts." This man gives approvals of Shabbat elevators, and since he charges NIS 200 less than we do at Zomet Institute, many contractors accept his very flowery signature. And the residents are not at all aware of the quality of the "merchandise" they have bought.

And here is another sensation: people who are handicapped and who need a motorized wheelchair (a "kalno'it" in Hebrew) can install Shabbat controls which were developed by the Zomet Institute, with the support of very prominent rabbis, as has been widely publicized in many places. The technology department of Zomet makes the mechanism for the chair, and gives its approval as to the proper installation. But we recently became aware that there is a "Shabbat control" on the market which clearly – as can be seen by even the most novice technical people – involves outright Shabbat violations . People in need paid good money to somebody (a nonreligious technician who got the idea while working in a legitimate company). This man obtained an "unreliable and unsigned semi-approval," and evidently several dozen people were taken in! It seems that most of the fake mechanisms were installed in motorized wheelchairs manufacture in Kibbutz Tzora. (The imposter is not from there. I note the name of the manufacturer to warn people who have bought a wheelchair to carefully check the certificate of approval in their possession.)


Let me add that rabbis who are not expert in the issues involvedshould refrain from giving Shabbat approval to hot water heaters or samovars, or to ovens. And this reminds me of the recent scandal of the "kosher switch" which is being promoted by a group in the United States. This "kosher for Shabbat switch" has received approvals by some very low-level rabbis but is rejected by all the rabbis of recognized authority.

Just as it is unthinkable that approval by an amateur will be accepted in matters of security or health, so caution is needed for religious approvals.

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As Shabbat Approaches

Exile and Eretz Yisrael /Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne

"And Moshe sent messengers from Kadesh to the King of Edom, saying: 'This is what your brother Yisrael says – You know of all the hardships which befell us. Our fathers descended to Egypt... And the Egyptians were evil to us.'" [Bamidbar 20:14-15].


There are two questions we can ask about this. (1) Why did Moshe see fit to list the problems of the past to the King of Edom? (2) Moshe describes the nation as "your brother Yisrael." Why does he use the phrase "your brother" in this case?


Here is how the sages replied to these questions. "Moshe said, 'you know.' When G-d said to Avraham, 'You should know that your offspring will be strangers' [Bereishit 15:13], we were enslaved and you remained free. To what can this be compared? It is like two brothers, and when financial obligation appeared in their father's name one of the brothers paid it. Later, he began to make demands of his brother. He said, you know that we were both obligated for the debt but that I paid it. Therefore, do not refuse me when I come to you with requests." [Tanchuma].


Avraham was promised, "I have given the land to your offspring" [Bereishit 15:18], but exactly who is the favored offspring was not clear. Was it Yitzchak or Yishmael? Yaacov or Eisav? The answer is clear, since in the covenant with Avraham it is written, "Your offspring will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and they will be forced to work for them and they will be tortured. And the fourth generation will return here. And on that day G-d made a covenant with Avraham, saying, 'I have given this land to your offspring." [15:13-18]. And thus it is clear that the offspring who went through the melting pot of Egypt are the ones who are meant to receive a heritage in the land.


"And Eisav took his wives and his children... and he moved to a different land because of his brother Yaacov" [Bereishit 36:6]. Rashi notes, "See the Midrash Agadda: This is because of the obligation, 'your offspring will be strangers' which was relevant for the children of Yitzchak. Eisav said, I will go away from here, and I will have no part in the gift of the land which he received or in paying off the obligation."


The following is written at the end of the Torah portion of Vayishlach: "These are the chiefs of Edom, according to their dwelling places, in the lands of their heritage" [36:43]. And the next verse is the beginning of the portion of Vayeishev, "Yaacov settled in the land where his father lived." [37:1]. At this point, the saga of the descent to Egypt begins, and the decree of exile involved only Yaacov and not his brother. And that is why the promise, "I have given the land to your offspring," specifically refers only to Yaacov and not Eisav.


This explains why Moshe tells the King of Edom, "This is what your brother Yisrael says." Rashi explains that the two brothers might have been required to pay the debt of living in exile, but in the end your father – Edom – left and did not want to participate in the obligation. Therefore, "Let us pass through your land" [20:17]. You have no heritage in Eretz Yisrael, just as you did not take part in fulfilling the prior obligation.


Only the "melting pot" of suffering, enslavement, and the tribulations of exile can give a people the privilege to take possession of Eretz Yisrael. As the sages wrote, the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Yisrael three precious gifts which are obtained only through suffering – the Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the World to Come.

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A Woman's Angle

Beware of Complaints /Tirza Frankel

Both the affair of "Mei Merivah" and the events surrounding the copper serpent, which appear in this week's Torah portion, involve the human trait that is the most difficult one to cope with – complaints.

Bnei Yisrael, who lived as slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, were rescued by a series of miracles, almost without any human intervention. Like a kind father who does everything for his children, G-d brought us through the Red Sea with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, led us through the desolate desert, and kept us alive. This was an entire nation, against all the enemies and the challenges. And through all of this, we complained. Just look at the intensity of the complaints: "Why did you lift us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place?" [Bamidbar 20:5]. Is such an ungrateful attitude reasonable in the face of all the unending labor and sacrifice shown by Moshe and Aharon, under the guidance of the Holy One, Blessed be He?

The first time that Moshe encounters such an attitude he is angry. He feels that he has failed, and that he sinned: "And G-d said to Moshe and Aharon, because you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me before Bnei Yisrael, therefore you will not bring this community to the land which I have given them" [20:10]. At first glance, we might wonder about the harsh punishment that has been given to Moshe, the greatest of all the prophets, who only sinned after developing such an easily understood and human anger. Moshe was only human after all, and anger can make any of us lose sight of the main path! But still, Moshe was punished, and he would not be the one to bring the nation of Yisrael to the promised land.

The straightforward interpretation of the story is of course that Moshe was punished for the sin of a lack of faith in the Holy One, Blessed be He, and that He would make water flow from the rock after Moshe spoke to it. But I find it hard to accept this simple explanation, and I wonder if G-d did not send another message to Moshe, to Aharon, and to Bnei Yisrael. Perhaps this is a message about anger in general.

There is no parent in existence that has not had this feeling at one time or another. Here we invest our very souls in the development of our children. We bring them into the world, sometimes after terrible pain and with great effort. Sometimes the fact that they are born is a great miracle in itself. Then we raise them. And during their childhood, together with the magic and the great love, we often fall down from weariness, bleary-eyed. As they begin to mature, along with the pride about who they become, we find it hard to stand up to their rebellious nature and to the ever increasing monetary demands, and we are overwhelmed by the sacrifices which we must make, something we never dreamed of when we first became parents. And what do they do? They complain... "Why didn't you do this? Why did you say such and such? How could you put us to such shame?" And it goes on and on... And what is the normal reaction of every full-blooded human being? He or she gets angry, and rightly so. How far can this go? How much sacrifice and how much more giving will be necessary until this child begins to understand the great love that we have for him or her, with all our heart – that he breaks our heart now and then, that we are on his side and not against him, that he owes us all of his happiness and his growth, his ability to go where he can, everything!!?

Perhaps Moshe's strict punishment is a message to every beginning parent and leader: The one that is being led, the worker, the child, or the adolescent – they will always complain. That is human nature, that is the way the Holy One, Blessed be He, created us. Evidently we will not grow and develop without sharply criticizing the one who came before us. That is the only way we will be able to grow into people who stand on our own two feet, without being dependent on anybody else. Whoever doesn't start to complain at some point in his life might even be a cause for alarm, because he or she remains dependent on others for life.

The Holy One, Blessed be He, wants Moshe to understand this human trait, which is hard to accept but which is necessary, which in this case foretells the will of the nation to rid itself of the total dependence. And perhaps that is why Moshe is "punished" by not going into the land with them. In reality, he is passing on a message that when they reach the land they will need a new kind of leader. They will be required to show a higher level of independence, no longer to be so dependent on others.

And what about us – the parents, the teachers, the bosses, and the leaders? Let us allow them to complain. They do not really oppose us, they are promoting themselves and their independence. This is a healthy situation which will give satisfactory results.

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The Light Starts In The East

The Power of a Second Answer/Chezi Cohen,
Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa and Midreshet Ein Hanatziv

Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul

Every one of us has at one time or another turned to a rabbi with a halachic question. Sometimes the reply is immediate, and sometimes the rabbi must study the issues involved. It can happen that the rabbi answers right away but then later on adds something or changes his ruling. It would seem that for Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul the second reply, which was given after the immediate first one, was often more important than the first one.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (1924-1988) was the Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, and he was well-known for his halachic rulings. He was born in Jerusalem. His family was from Persia. He spent his time studying Torah in a state of poverty, something which he did not even tell his mother. He studied in Yeshivat Porat Yosef with the scholars Yaacov Adas, Tzadka Chutzin, and the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Ezra Attiah.

* * * * * *

One time a girl came to the yeshiva holding a chicken in her hand, in order to ask Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul whether it was kosher or not. The students wanted to make her wait until the end of the lesson, but she insisted on seeing him right away. The rabbi stopped his lecture, and the girl told the rabbi that the slaughterer had ruled that the chicken was not kosher, and that her mother had asked Rabbi Abba Shaul to check it too. The rabbi looked at the chicken and immediately ruled that it was not kosher, and he continued with his lecture. A few minutes later, the rabbi stopped his lecture again and asked the students to bring the girl back. When she came, the rabbi took out enough money for a new chicken and gave it to her, to buy a new one. When he saw that the students were wondering what he had done, Rabbi Abba Shaul explained to them: "If her mother sent the girl with the chicken to interrupt my lecture, in order to get a second opinion, it is clear that she needed the chicken very much, and that she did not have the money to buy another one."

* * * * * *

As a halachic expert, Rabbi Abba Shaul replied to anybody who turned to him with a question. The above story involves a question that was brought to him at a time which interfered with his lecture. The students first tried to act according to their natural instinct and not to interrupt the lecture, since as far as they were concerned Torah study took precedence over a question to the rabbi. But when the girl insisted, the rabbi listened intently and then ruled that the chicken was unfit to eat.

This could well have been the end of the story, but the rabbi understands that while his original ruling is halachically correct it is not suitable for the situation – while the halacha cannot be changed, it does not take into account the whole story. So the rabbi begins to think not only of the question but also about the woman who asked it, and he decides that he must help her in her dire straits. He feels that his responsibility does not end with the halacha but extends to the ramifications of his ruling. He is responsible not only to uphold the law but also to go beyond the strict halacha. And indeed this act, beyond the halacha itself, became the message passed on for later generations, while the details of the original halachic question do not appear in the story at all. It is the second reply that remains as a message for all time. The rabbi's first instinct may be to give a halachic ruling, but his second answer goes beyond this – and it is therefore broader and more complete.

The following story illustrates a similar idea:

* * * * * *

A student found a bill for a large sum of money in the Beit Midrash, and he asked Rabbi Abba Shaul what to do with it. The rabbi ruled that he is not required to announce his find, and that he could keep the bill. When the student turned to go, happy with his find, the rabbi called him back. He gave him a bill for the same amount to keep, and he asked the student to announce what he had found. To his joy, the rabbi found that the bill had been lost by a married student who had a great need for the money that he had lost.

* * * * * *

According to the strict halacha, there is no need to return money that was lost, since it does not have any specific markings by which the owner could reclaim it. When the student came to Rabbi Abba Shaul he wanted to know what to do. The rabbi answered in terms of the strict halacha, and the one who found the money was very happy. But then the rabbi remembered the person who had lost the bill. Perhaps the great joy shown by the one who found the bill led the rabbi to think about the feelings of the one who had lost it, and he evidently began to consider the ramifications of his ruling.

What is the relationship between the first and the second answers? Evidently in these stories we can see a response that is made up of two stages. At first, Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul establishes the halacha: The chicken is not kosher, and the one who found a large bill can keep it. But then the rabbi sees that there are consequences to his rulings, and he goes up to a second and higher stage, where he feels responsible for the sorrow of the woman or the one who lost the money. He therefore acts beyond the strict halacha, out of a feeling that he has a responsibility to close the gap between the halacha and life, and he is even willing to pay from his own pocket in order to bring the two sides of the question closer to each other.

e-mail: (I will be happy to hear any stories you have about the wise men of the east.)

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"The place" in the world

The Shiloach Pool/Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, Yeshivat Har Etzion

The Site of the Pool and the Era of its Existence

The Shiloach Pool lies at the southern end of the City of David, under the southern cliff of the city. It is at the southern end of the Tyropoeon Valley, which was called the Valley of the Cheesemakers at the end of the Second Temple Era. (This may also be the "Charutz" Valley mentioned by Yoel (4:14).

Before the point where the stream met the Kidron River, a dam was built which closed off the flow and allowed the water to be collected at this point in the city. In excavations at the southeastern end of the pool, an internal wall was found which forms a dam blocking the stream, from the time of the First Temple, and another wall further out, dated to the time of the Second Temple. In addition to forming the dam, this wall was part of the wall of the city.

An early channel brings water from the Gichon Spring to the south, to this pool. This is dated to the era of the Patriarchs. It can therefore be assumed that this pool was in use for a very long time – starting with the era of the Patriarchs – the time of Malki-Tzedek, King of Shalem – until the end of the Second Temple, as a central water reservoir south of the city of Jerusalem.

The Names of the Pool

Since this is the earliest reservoir in the city, it is reasonable to assume that it was the pool constructed by King Shlomo in Jerusalem, which is mentioned in Kohellet: "I made pools of water in order to irrigate a forest of growing trees" [2:6]. Perhaps he is referring to this very pool, among others.

The area to the southeast of the pool is usually identified as the area of the "Garden of the King" (Melachim II 25:4). Perhaps we might suggest that the scene depicted in Shir Hashirim refers to this site, along the channel of the Kidron River: "I went down to the nut garden, to see the green plants of the stream, to see if the grapes were budding, if the pomegranates were flowering" [Shir Hashirim 6:11].

In the time of Chizkiyahu, the prophet Yeshayahu says, "You made a reservoir between the double walls, by the old pool, but you did not look at the One who made it and you did not see its Creator from a long time ago" [22:11]. It is quite likely that this pool can be identified as the reservoir between the walls, which can be seen at this site, mainly based on the topography of the area.

During the return to Zion, when Nechemia describes the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem, he mentions "the wall of the Shelach Pool leading to the Garden of the King, and going up to the steps descending from the City of David" [3:15]. This verse forms a link between the pool and the King's Garden which is close by. And the name given is the "Shelach" Pool.

The name "Shiloach" seems to be linked to the flowing of the water. See for example, "He who sends springs in the streams, they will flow between the mountains" [Tehillim 104:10]. Also, "... since this nation was disgusted by the waters of the Shiloach, which move slowly, and is happy with Ratzin and the son of Ramaliah" [Yeshayahu 8:6].

The Arabic name of this pool is Birkat El Chama.

The Construction of the Pool

It seems likely based on the excavations at the site that there was a magnificent pool from the time of the Chashmona'im, and a second pool that was even more magnificent during the time of the Second Temple.

It is reasonable to assume that the pool was as wide as the original riverbed, including the area which today consists of a garden. Based on this, we can say that the original size of the pool was 50 by 60 meters, about three dunams.

There are three sources of water in the pool. (1) Chizkiyahu's Tunnel, which brings the water from the Gichon Spring through the Tunnel; (2) Drainage from the eastern channel which gathers the water from the city, including surface water from the slopes; and (3) Direct rainwater.

The three sources of water, the position of the pool at the southern tip of the City of David, and the proximity to the Temple, are what characterize the essence of this pool. These elements influenced the character of the pool and its uses during passing generations.

In the Second Temple Era, the pool was surrounded by stone stairs that led down to it from all sides. Some of these stairs still exist to this day.

The Uses of the Pool

Sources from the Second Temple Era mention the Shiloach Spring in two contexts. The first is as the source of fresh water for "Mei Chatat," which was used in the purification to counteract impurity because of contact with the dead. The second context is the libation of water on the Altar during Succot. "How was 'Nissuch Hamayim' performed? A dish of gold which held three Lugim of water would be filled from the Shiloach" [See Mishna Succah Chapter 4, 9-10]. From there the water would be brought up to the Temple, and it was then poured onto the Altar. This act was a symbol of the fact that we are judged about water during Succot. Symbolically, the nation of Yisrael would bring to the Holy One, Blessed be He, the very last drops of water that it had, asking that in their merit G-d would bring a lot of water to Bnei Yisrael during the coming year. This is reminiscent of the verse, "Everything stems from You, and we gave You from Your own hand" [Divrei Hayamim I 29:14].

It is interesting to note that we are aware of one central spring in the City of David, and that is the Gichon. But what about the Shiloach? Note that whenever the word Gichon appears, Yonatan Ben Uziel translates it as "Shilucha." It may be that when the water reached the Shiloach Pool it was named for the Shiloach Spring even though in reality it was water from the Gichon which was brought to the Shiloach through Chizkiyahu's Tunnel, since this was viewed as a separate spring.

From the site of the pool, a beautiful and impressive flight of stairs has been discovered which leads all the way up to the foot of the Temple Mount. Several dozen meters of the staircase have been found. A main drainage channel was also found which leads surface water from the city to the Kidron stream, which is situated southeast of the city.

Today the end of Chizkiyahu's Tunnel is in a small pool from the Byzantine era, named Siloam (the Greek word for Shiloach). This is part of the remains of the Shiloach Church, which is dated to the fifth century C.E., during the time of the Empress Aelia Eudocia. After the destruction of the Second Temple, as time passed, the path of the Tyropoeon Valley was filled and the original Shiloach Pool was filled by sediments. The position of the pool was therefore moved a few dozen meters to the northwest, and that is where the Byzantine pool was built.

It is exciting to get a close view of the place from which, in the time of the Temple, water was drawn and then brought up through the main street to the Altar, in order to perform the mitzva of libation of water. There is no doubt that this was also a site from which people who had gone through a process of purification would rise up to the Temple.

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Halacha From The Source

Field Trips /The Center for Teaching and Halacha, Directed by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Question: How is it that we are allowed to go hiking? Don't the conditions on many such trips tend to be much more dangerous than if we would stay at home?


"G-d Watches over the Simple Ones"

In several places in the Talmud, the following principle is repeated: "G-d watches over the simple ones" [Tehillim 116:6] (Nida 31b; Yevamot 12b; Avoda Zara 30b). That is, one is allowed to take risks that are commonly accepted by most people. We might well say that the concept of "danger" is set by the common practice of the people around us, and therefore whatever is commonly accepted is not considered to be dangerous. This is what is implied in the passage in the Talmud, which explains that one can perform a specific act because "many people repeatedly do it" [Shabbat 129b]. The same is implied by Rashi (Yavamot 12b) and the ROSH (Avoda Zara 4:7). This is also written explicitly in Responsa Torat Chesed (Even Ha'ezer 44:3).

However, this can be interpreted in another way: that even though the act is dangerous, the Holy One, Blessed be He, protects the majority of the people, and He does not demand that we act differently than the rest of the world. This is what is implied by a passage in Ketuvot 39b, which explains that a person is allowed to put himself in danger, because of the principle that "Heaven will show mercy." This is also the position of the Ritva (ibid). In any case, no matter how the matter is interpreted, it seems that one is allowed to go on a field trip, since this is an action in which many people participate.

Danger in Order to have Pleasure

In spite of the above, Rav Kook wrote to his son that one should not permit going on a field trip.

"The very idea of going on a field trip, even if there is only a very small chance of danger, heaven forbid... is not a worthy idea... even though the common practice is for people to do this, it is only allowed if necessary for a livelihood... but it should not be done just as a trip for pleasure." [Igrot Hare'iyah volume 3 – Letter 852, page 132).

According to Rav Kook the permission to go into danger when it is common practice by most people is only if there is a need, such as for livelihood, but if the purpose is just enjoyment (which would include a field trip), one is not allowed to enter a dangerous situation even if the action is a common one done by most people.

On the other hand, Rabbi Feinstein implies that one is allowed to get into a dangerous situation even for a hike:

"If one goes on a trip and has doubts whether it might be dangerous, but he has decided to go because it is necessary or just for a hike (which is permitted from the point of view of danger, since this is a very minimum danger)... He should pray that the Holy One, Blessed be He, should protect him even from a distant danger." [Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim volume 2, 59].

Perhaps their basic dispute depends on which of the two above opinions is to be accepted: Rav Kook feels that "G-d watches over the simple ones" means that the danger continues to exist but that G-d provides protection, and therefore when there is no great need to go on a trip it should be avoided. However, Rabbi Feinstein feels that the verse implies that there is no longer any danger, and one is therefore permitted to enter such a situation merely for personal pleasure.

In practice, it seems that the accepted custom is to allow hikes, especially in Eretz Yisrael, where there is a mitzva to travel around, and since such activity serves to strengthen our connection with our ancestors and with the land. In addition, perhaps participating in field trips can be viewed today as a need, especially for the people living in Eretz Yisrael, who are used to hiking as a normal part of their lives. Unfortunately, it would seem that such hikes are no more dangerous than other trips in vehicles or sometimes even crossing the street, and therefore they do not involve any special dangers. We can therefore say that in practice we allow participation in field trips.

Protection from Danger

In spite of our conclusion above, we must remember that the verse, "G-d watches over the simple ones" does not apply when there is a substantial known danger, and it is therefore necessary to carefully weigh the situation in any real case. (See: Responsa Achiezer 1, Even Ha'ezer 23; Responsa Ezrat Kohen 37.) It is therefore necessary to check out every field trip with care, and to make sure that everything is planned in detail (water, what time of day there will be walking, and so on). It is important to check the route in terms of safety and security.

The book "Messilat Yesharim" can help us to clarify this point. In Chapter 2, it is written that a person must protect himself from danger, and that if he or she doesn't do this he is at a lower level than the animals, which by their very nature take care of themselves. In Chapter 9 the author expands on this theme. First he notes that some people are afraid of everything, even cold, heat, or wind. He notes that this is a bad trait. But if so, when should a person take precautions against danger? He writes:

"Know that there is more than one type of fear. There is fear that is worthy and there is foolish fear. There is a feeling of confidence and there is behavior that is wild and irresponsible. Remember that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created mankind with understanding and good logic, so that he will act properly and avoid harmful things... One who is foolish in his fears will add one protection over another and one fear after another. And he adds one guard to another in such a way that he is prevented from studying Torah and serving G-d.

"The rule for differentiating between the two types of fear is what the sages taught, when they said that the situation is different when danger becomes frequent (Pesachim 8). In a case where the danger is known and prominent, one must take precautions. But if the danger is not known, one should not be afraid. It is with this in mind that it is written, 'danger that cannot be seen does not concern us' [Chulin 46]. A wise person should only take into account what his eyes can see."

That is, in a place where danger is frequent, we must take steps to avoid it. A person who ignores a known danger is being irresponsible and not showing a feeling of faith. But if there is no known danger (as noted, this includes a place where field trips are common, and after making appropriate preparations), one should not be afraid, and one is allowed to go on a field trip.


One is allowed to go on a hike or a field trip, based on the principle that "G-d watches over the simple ones," on condition that it is to a place which is a common site for such trips (or at least where there is no reason to feel that it is more dangerous than other places), and when the hike has been planned well. And even then it is important to avoid specifically dangerous actions. This is a thin line which every one of us must analyze fully, both in planning a trip and during the trip itself.

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What Is That Phrase?

Acronyms – After the Fact/Yaacov Etzion

A common expression these days is "study of 'liba'" – meaning core subjects – where "liba" has a quote symbol. That is, the word is an acronym for "Basic studies in secular education." However, at first the word was not seen as an acronym but rather as a word from the root "lev" – a heart. Thus, it referred to educational material that was central and important.

This is only one example of a common phenomenon in language, where a word is viewed as an acronym even though it has its own root and meaning. Another prominent example comes from the Talmud. The word "teiku" is used to denote that no definitive answer has been found for a question. This started as a phrase in the Beit Midrash and has found its way into sports, referring to a tie at the end of a game. Teiku in Babylonian Aramaic means to stand in place, that an issue cannot be resolved. The original word is "teikum," but the final "mem" was dropped, as has happened in other cases. As time passed and the word was no longer clear, the word was interpreted as an acronym – that Eliyahu ("Tishbi") will answer all questions in the distant future.

Another example of this phenomenon is the pair of words, "Shehi Pehi." The source of this expression is in the tractate of Megillah, where it is noted that Haman libeled Yisrael by saying that they were idle and not productive, and that all they ever did was "Shehi Pehi." Rashi explains that this is an acronym for "Shabbat hayom, Pesach hayom - Today is Shabbat, today is Pesach." However, this is hard to understand, since this is the only place where this acronym appears. In addition, this phrase, which is proper Hebrew, appears in a passage in the Talmud written in Aramaic. Indeed, in accurate manuscripts of the Talmud the phrase is not marked as an acronym, and it is written in a slightly different way, "Shihi Pihi." This phrase has been found to be Aramaic, and it indeed refers to one who is idle and of no value.

The same can be said of the words "b'laaz" and "vedok," which often appear in our sources. The use of a quote symbol in the text is meant to indicate that these are special words (since the concept of a bold typeface had not yet been invented in the time of the Talmud). But as time went on they took on meanings as acronyms. Thus, laaz, which is a proper word, is said to be an acronym for, "in the language of a foreign nation." Actually the word appears in the Tanach: "When Yisrael left Egypt, when the House of Yaacov left a foreign nation (mei'am loez)" [Tehillim 114:1]. And the command, vedok, which means that the matter being discussed should be reviewed thoroughly and critically, was given a meaning as an acronym, such as "study and you will find it easy," or "this is not simple," even though it is really a single word.

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The Clear Vision Of Rav Kook

Transforming a "Chok" into a "Mishpat"/Rabbi Chagai Londin,
Hesder Yeshiva in Sdeirot and Machon Meir

Some of the wise men of Yisrael throughout the generations (such as the Rambam and Rav Saadia Gaon) differentiated between two different types of mitzva: Chukim ("decrees") and Mishpatim ("laws"). A Chok is a command which at first glance appears to have no logical reason, such as the law of the Red Heifer. A Mishpat, on the other hand, is a command which can be understood at a simple human level, such as the command "Do not steal" [Shemot 20:13].

However, Rav Kook explains the difference between these two concepts in a somewhat different way. "Practical mitzvot can be analyzed in two ways: by a logical approach, and by looking for the reason and the necessary revelation which is beyond logic and is founded on the reasons for the mitzva." [Orot Hamitzva, Chapter 3]. That is, Rav Kook teaches us that in every mitzva there is an element of Chok and also a reasonable explanation of Mishpat. In other words, we cannot say that the mitzvot called Chukim have absolutely no basis in logic and morality. Rather, our lack of full understanding is a symptom of the fact that their logic and ethics is at an especially exalted level. We cannot see this logic when we first encounter the mitzva, but we can expose the hidden aspects of the mitzva in an infinite process which never comes to an end. Thus, even with respect to the ultimate examples of Chok, such as the Red Heifer, we have the capability of achieving some level of understanding.

As an example of the above, Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsh explains (in his commentary on Bamidbar 19:22) that the Red Heifer is an expression of the highest possible life (a cow is a frightful animal with a great capacity for performing labor, red is a color that is related to blood, which symbolizes the power of life). The path to purification from the ritual impurity of death is by linking to the most intense elements of life, and this is done by sprinkling the ashes of the Red Heifer (mixed with water, which also symbolizes a source of life, nature, and freshness) onto a person who has come into contact with death.

Mishpatim , on the other hand, are mitzvot which have an initial explanation that is plain for all to see, but they also have infinite levels of deeper and deeper reasons which have not yet been revealed to us and which will become clear as the generations continue to develop. For example, stealing is not merely taking away possessions from somebody but rather entails an element of "stealing part of a soul." The masters of the mystic side of the Torah of Yisrael treat the possessions of a person as part of his or her personality, and in this way stealing property not only prevents the soul of a person from achieving its intended purpose but also injects into it a foreign element that comes from the soul of the robber.

The bottom line is that each and every mitzva, even one such as the Red Heifer, has a "Chok" level of logical reasons which will be revealed in the future but which we do not yet understand, while it has a parallel "Mishpat" level of reasons that have already been revealed today. The difference between the two types of mitzva is that in laws that are called Chukim the future mystic factor is dominant, while in mitvot that are considered to be Mishpatim the presently revealed reasons are given a greater emphasis. Thus, our task is to delve deeply into all of the mitzvot, and to "transfer" more and more levels from the mystic side to the revealed dimension – from a level that is foreign to us today to a level where we have a much greater understanding and for which we have a more natural empathy.

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Straight Talk

Humanities/Yoni Lavie
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website

There are words which make you catch your breath and from which your heart loses a beat, just by virtue of the fact that you heard them out loud. You must stop the flow of your activity and bow down to them in order to show your respect. It would seem that one such expression is "ish ruach," a phrase which means an intellectual. There is something about these exalted and unique creatures, which are the pride of the entire human society, that causes anybody who comes near them to listen with rapt attention and with a feeling of sanctity to every word that comes out of their mouths. Recently we were given some news about an important activity undertaken by these giants. "A group of a hundred intellectuals signed a letter attacking the Minister of Culture... In a special gathering of intellectuals, the actor... attacked..." And the press was there, quick to take pictures and to quote the words, to publish prominently.

But as usual they blithely ignored the most basic question: What changed now? How did these actors/artists/singers and even authors merit to have their opinions suddenly become more valuable than what other people say? Does the fact that a person has a Divine gift of a talent in acting, sculpting, or singing automatically give him or her a greater share of understanding reality and knowing truth than the lowliest merchant in the markets?

Actually, the same question can be asked about a person who really is very smart, and by virtue of his skills and hard work made discoveries which brought him a Nobel Prize. The moment such a person gets the prize, he is surrounded by microphones and cameras, and over and over again he or she is asked for a learned opinion about matters that are as far as can be from his field of expertise. What can we do if a world champion of chemical reaction theory has no knowledge at all about the dispute between the Palestinians and Israel or about solving Israel's economic problems, and if therefore his random thoughts about such matters can be placed on a scale that ranges from embarrassing to funny?

Two years ago, when the affair of the "famous singer" hit the headlines, the very foundations of the world shook. It seems that this exalted figure performed ugly acts and exploited innocent young women in a way that we will not describe further because of our respect for our readers. Unfortunately, our collective memory is very short, and within a few weeks the subject of our discussion returned to his former status, as if nothing at all had happened. But anybody with eyes to see and with half a brain in his head should not be able to understand why this discovery was met with such disbelief in the first place. Is there any reason to expect especially moral and exemplary behavior from such a person? Should we expect him to be more sensitive than others? Just because many people like his singing voice, or because he has special skills when he holds a paintbrush, does that mean that his personality is greater and more refined than that of other people? Why in the minds of the public and of the press should his opinion have any great weight, such that we must all stand at attention and listen to his every word as if it were Torah sent down to us from Mount Sinai?

Are there Limits to the Freedom of Expression of Artists?

Speaking of the thoughts of intellectuals, we should take note of the words of the French philosopher and author Voltaire (who, as it happens was a strong anti-Semite): "I don't agree with a word of what you say, but I will defend to the death for your right to say it." It seems to me that this statement has become one of the stalwarts of our democratic and liberal society, which has such high praise for freedom of expression and religion. In the name of this statement, people are adamant that they will accept and glorify extreme opinions, even if they are dangerous and poisonous, while on the other hand they are willing to condemn and to crucify anybody who tries to express any criticism about the absolute freedom to say anything. Their decisive claim is that the very soul of art is the ability to freely create without any limitations. Any obstacle, limit, or censorship interferes with the holy principle of freedom of expression, and art must remain completely free to express anything that it wants to.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, one of the truly greatest thinkers of recent generations, had great admiration for free art expression, and he felt that it was very important to support it. Here is what he wrote in his book Olat Re'iyah:

"Literature, painting, and sculpture will soon bring out the potential of all of the spiritual concepts that are engraved into the depths of the human soul. And as long as there remains even one drawing which has been revealed in the thinking and feeling soul but which has not come to fruition, it is the duty of the arts to bring it out."

However, at the same time Rav Kook emphasized in a clear and sharp way that the most exalted value is not freedom of the arts but rather something else entirely:

"It is clear that the only treasures which are worthy of being developed are those which make the atmosphere of reality pleasant and scented. 'From each and every word that came from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed be He, the entire world was filled with spices.' On the other hand, those hidden elements which are best left buried, should be treated with the shovel that is on a person's back and covered over. Woe is to the one who uses this shovel in an opposite action, in order to increase the amount of shame."

Should everything be published and brought into the light of the world? Is the most exalted moral value to expose everything, no matter what the consequences are and what the price will be? This might well be the line that guides modern pluralistic culture, which has lost its moral compass and its element of security. However, it is lost and confused, and it is drowning in a sea of opinions, while it is not sure where absolute truth lies, or even if there is such a thing as absolute truth.

As faithful Jews we walk on firmer ground, much more stable and solid. What stands at the peak of our aspirations is not to simply reveal and publish everything but rather to enhance the good and the ethics of the world. What guards and advances this goal is worthy of being exposed and publicized, but whatever interferes with it or sends it further away is best left behind, covered and buried.

Does all this mean that a religious artist is of necessity limited, since the halacha holds him back and blocks him from expressing what lies inside him? Absolutely not. The challenge before him is to remain clean and pure. When he learns to do this, it is clear that whatever he does will be the same, without any need for artificial limits or obstacles. Just as a leftist artist is free to create while we can rest assured that his work will never be tainted by any rightist approach, so an intellectual with a pure and refined spirit will be able to express himself in complete freedom. And what if he has not yet reached the ultimate state of purity? Then it is best if he will continue working on himself, on his traits and his outlook, before he rushes to create and publish his works.

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Items From "In The Tents Of Shem"

A Verse for Every Name /Dov Rozen,
(Summarized by Yisrael Rosenberg)

There is a well-known custom for every person to recite at the end of the Shemonah Essrei a verse that begins and ends with the same letters as his or her name or names.

In the Succah of the Katan family, they took this one step further.

"What could give a person more pride than the olive seedlings planted around his table, as exemplified by his sons and daughters, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. Every father and mother in Yisrael will try with all their might to gather all of the offspring to them. Will they not yearn to place their images in front of their eyes by showing their pictures inside their Succah? However, the Succah is a holy dwelling place, and it would not be proper to desecrate it with secular pictures.

"Therefore it was proposed to represent the family not by real-life pictures but rather by symbols of holiness. And the result was to spread out on a sheet that covers the walls of the Succah not pictures of the family members but the verses that serve as hints of the names of each and every one... Thus, we have become used to mounting a tree representing the family, where the verses at the top represent the mother and father, and those at the next level down are the verses of the sons and daughters (including their mates, if they are married). On the third level down are the verses referring to the grandchildren, every single one in his or her proper place, according to families. And every year some new verses are added..."

[Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5738 (1978)].

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Riddle of the Week

Chukat/Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"

An action was performed by a man before the giving of the Torah 

And by a group in this week's Torah portion. 

The name of the group is the same as the second name of the man. 

What is the action, who is the man, and which group is it? 

Answers for last week – the riddle was: They appear first. The head of the tribe is also first. He who reads first is missing from the beginning. 

The answer is:

- The tribe of Reuven appears first – at the beginning of the Torah portion of Korach.

- The head of the tribe of Reuven is called "Reishit Oni" – "Reuven, you are my firstborn, my strength and the beginning of my vigor" [Bereishit 49:3].

- Yaacov, who used the above verse in his blessing, is missing from the family listing in the beginning of the Torah portion of Korach, where Korach was traced back to Levi, Yaacov'a son, but Yaacov himself is not mentioned. "And Korach took - the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehat, the son of Levi" [Bamidbar 16:1].

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