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Volume 1586: Eikev  23 Av 5775 08/08/2015

Point Of View

In the Bayit Yehudi, There is no Gay Pride Community, Only Individuals who are Different /Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

[Even Bnei Noach] "do not write a Ketuva for males, and they do not weigh the flesh of a dead body openly in a shop" [Chulin 92b].

All of our hearts go out to the family of Shira Banki, who was murdered by a hateful sinner of the lowliest kind possible. It is an abject shame to hear about a life in its season of spring which was chopped off ahead of its time, and about a soul that was taken away by a lowly blood-spilling hand.

I might remain silent at this time if not for the widespread onslaught against the "extreme right," which is being used by the "gay community" to extort from ministers, MK's, and other public figures "a guarantee" of support for their demands for equal rights, for recognition of single-sex marriages, and to advance their position in society, among other things. Within this framework of "taking advantage of an opportunity," MK's from the right in general and from the Bayit Yehudi in particular were not allowed to express their opposition to the murder and to the lack of tolerance. And indeed the last few days have been characterized by a veritable parade of prominent politicians who are bowing down to the "idol of abomination" and taking it under their wing.

And this leads me to send a message to the leaders of the Bayit Yehudi Party. In the Bayit Yehudi there is no "gay community." Any organized group which flies a banner of perversion and entices others to join with pride – must remain outside the Bayit (the home).

Allow me to explain my position. I am not blind or deaf, and thank G-d I do not suffer from a blocked heart. On an individual level, my heart goes out to the individuals who are suffering. Some of them find respite within various frameworks, and I would recommend that they consider contacting"Kamocha," under the leadership of Rabbi Ahreleh Harel from Shilo. However, and this is the great travesty – What justification is there for organizing a community? What is there that calls for pride? Whoever is loyal to the values of the Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) to at least some degree knows that this is a case of being different from the norm and not something that calls for showing off. Modesty, not pride!

The clarion call for an organized community and lifting the heads high in order to set up "a different type of family" are attacks against the values of the Jewish home (and the Jewish state too). Woe to whoever agrees to gather this foreign culture into the Jewish home in order to placate the press or to gain political support.

To put it briefly: Personal understanding and compassion – Yes! Combining together into a community – Never! Consideration at a personal level for a situation that is discouraging – Yes! A colorful celebration and a parade – Never!

(Written Sunday)

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Everybody Loses in the Destruction of the Dreinoff Houses in Beit El /Zvulun Orlev

A Parade of Losers

The destruction of the Dreinoff Houses in Beit El can only be described as a "lose-lose" situation. Not only is there no side which gained anything, every party to the events lost in a big way. First and foremost, "Eretz Yisrael" lost in that it was forced to suffer the destruction of homes. Just as we show our joy at the establishment of a new neighborhood in Eretz Yisrael with the blessing, "He who resets the boundaries for a widow," so we are pained by any destruction, even if it is only two houses, and even if they will be rebuilt. The settlement movement in Yehuda and the Shomron lost, in spite of the fact that they have a majority in the Knesset, in that they were not able to prevent the destruction, even though a formal building approval was obtained at the last minute. There is a fear that the precedent of the Dreinoff houses might pursue many other homes in the area of Yehuda and the Shomron.

The Israeli Supreme Court lost when it decided that "the the bulldozers will take precedence over the buildings," even though the building approval made many citizens of the country angry, including law-abiding citizens like me. This seemingly unfounded ruling carries with it the danger of weakening even further the trust of the public in the Supreme Court and the acceptance of its authority in political issues. The ruling will increase the pressure to change the method of choosing the judges in the court and will advance the idea of establishing a separate constitutional court system and other ideas whose purpose is to put limits on the authority of the Supreme Court.

The government lost in that its image has been tarnished further through no fault of its own. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister lost in that irrespective of their declaration opposing the destruction they did not have the authority to prevent it, and they were forced to deflect passionate criticism. The State of Israel lost when the world got a picture of the violent reaction to a Supreme Court ruling, and the compensation which the government was forced to pay by promising to build hundreds of other homes in Beit El, Jerusalem, and Yehuda and the Shomron because of the destruction of the two houses. And in fact this construction is not related at all to the existing affair of additional destruction of houses in Beit El.

The national coalition lost and was shaken when ministers and MK's within its ranks were guilty of passionate populism against the positions of the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, even though they knew full well that the ministers did not have the authority to block the destruction. The speakers did not hesitate to cynically utilize the situation in order to pursue political gains, and to enhance their personal and party popularity, even at the cost of public struggles among members of the security cabinet, who jointly share responsibility for the destruction. The state attorney's office also lost when it claimed, as was proper, that the Supreme Court should delay the destruction because the licensing situation had changed, and when its request was rejected on the spot.

The contractor Dreinoff lost in that large sums of money invested in the construction were written off, and he will in addition be fined for the cost of the destruction itself, about a million shekels. Some of the residents of Beit El lost when they objected to the construction out of considerations of protecting the environment, creating a neighbor's dispute that moved beyond the borders of the settlement. It is reasonable to assume that in the next round of this matter, the people will no longer dare to raise these issues, since nobody can be expected to listen to them anymore.

Another factor that suffered a loss was the strategy of violent opposition to the destruction in order to exact such a high price that the government will be deterred from further such actions even in the face of a decision by the Supreme Court. It is important to emphasize that the vast majority of the opposition shown was through actions that were completely legal and in line with democratic principles. Thus, the strategic loss was twofold: First of all, the violent physical friction did not accomplish its goal. Second, the unchecked violence caused great damage to the status of the settlements in Yehuda and the Shomron in the eyes of the sections of the nation which are not strong supporters of the settlements. We should remember that the destruction of Gush Katif was made possible, among other things, by the success of Prime Minister Sharon in forming a negative image of the settlers ("extremists, messianics, fanatics") and by delegitimizing the settlements, in order to accuse the settlers of power struggles and a refusal to accept the rule of law and the democratic process. Sharon and the press created an atmosphere in which there was a threat that the settlers were about to start a civil war, using live weapons. In this way, Sharon and his supporters were encouraged by a "wind blowing on their backs," based on broad public support for abandoning Gush Katif.

Strengthening the National Resolve

Indeed, in the last decade we achieved a deep understanding that an attempt to strengthen the national acceptance of the need for settlement activity and the creation of a broad consensus in support of the settlers are the most important ways to guarantee the future development of the settlements. The violent acts of a few dozen young people, even though it is not clear who instigated them and led them, brought us back by great strides and caused great harm to the possibility of convincing the people about the importance of the settlement activity. To "settle in the hearts of the people" is not an empty cliche but rather a main artery in the struggle for support of the settlements.

With the Drienoff affair, we have further eroded the vital principle of showing respect for the governmental authority and democratic ideals. Let us make it clear that even under the most trying circumstances we will not abandon our principles, and we will fight for our goals in every legitimate way. On the other hand, we must strongly oppose any use of force, violence, and rioting, and we must voice strong criticism for any cases of raising a hand or using verbal abuse against the country, its soldiers, its police, its judges, and its ministers. With such tactics we will never become the leaders of the county.

The only way to success will be based on advance planning. We must build, and build a lot, in a way that is not based on adventurous legal twists and turns. In this way, the above descriptions of loss will be transformed into "win-win" situations.

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As Shabbat Approaches

The Sin of the Golden Calf and Christianity /Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne

The sin of the Golden Calf is considered as having been the worst sin that ever took place. Even though the early commentators diminished the severity of the sin by explaining that it was not exactly an example of idol worship, in any case we have been taught that the verse, "And on a day of reckoning, I will take retribution" [Shemot 32:34], means that every difficult time in Yisrael includes an element of punishment for the Calf (Rashi). What makes this act so serious?

It is written, "He came to the nations where they went, and they desecrated My holy name, saying, can this be the nation of G-d, who were expelled from His land?" [Yechezkel 36:19]. Why is it that when the nations say that Yisrael sinned and G-d punished them with exile, this is considered a desecration of the holy name? After all, in this week's Torah portion, it is written, "And the nations will say: 'Why did G-d do this to this land?' And they will say, 'It is because they abandoned the covenant with their G-d.'" [Devarim 29:23].

The sages noted that the first word in the verse by Yechezkel is in the singular, as opposed to all the rest of this chapter, which is plural. This means that the Holy One, Blessed be He, came to the place where Bnei Yisrael were in exile, and that is the place where He hears the reaction of the other nations. They say, "If these people are the nation of G-d, why were they expelled from their land?" If you are the Chosen People, why did G-d throw you out of the land? That is, they do not conclude that G-d has punished them for their sins, rather that the nation has lost its status as the Chosen People, and that a new covenant has been formed. The exile is the foundation of the Christian doctrine of "replacement theology" – and this is a terrible desecration of the holy name. The Holy One, Blessed be He, must react to this doctrine, and He therefore declares that in order to sanctify His name He will gather the exiles of Yisrael from all the corners of the earth, even though they have not yet repented. "And the nations will know that I am G-d" [Yechezkel 36:23], and that G-d did not abandon Yisrael in spite of everything.

As far as the Christians are concerned, the breaking point was the sin of the Golden Calf, and the shattering of the Tablets symbolized the end of the covenant with G-d. The serious problem with the sin of the Calf is that it gave the nations of the world an excuse to postulate that G-d broke the covenant with Yisrael and chose a different people. "... for Aharon let them be disgraced in front of those who rose up against them" [Shemot 32:25].

"If not for the sin of the Golden Calf, the nations who lived in Eretz Yisrael would have surrendered to Yisrael and given in to them, because the name of G-d by which Yisrael were called would have awakened in them a feeling of awe. No war would have been fought, and the influence of G-d would have been distributed in peaceful ways, as will happen in the days of the Mashiach." [Rav Kook, Orot].

About a hundred years ago, Herzl asked the head of the church to support the return of the Jews to their homeland. He replied, "How can we declare that we agree that the Jews should take over as owners of the Holy Land without giving up our most exalted principles?"

In the fourth century, one of the leaders of the church wrote, "The revenge will be for all eternity. They will never have a state of their own, and certainly not a Temple. It is G-d who dispersed them, He hates the Jews and He always has."

Who will remove the dust from the eyes of these people so that they can see that all of the prophecies of redemption have been fulfilled through the nation of Yisrael and not through those who follow the New Testament? Recently the Pope visited Israel and put a wreath Herzl's grave – as if to say, you were right and we were wrong.

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The Illustrated Midrash

Straightforward and Simple/Yisrael Rosenberg

"No man or woman will be barren among you, nor among your cattle" [Devarim 7:14].

"No man or woman will be barren" ... Here is another matter: Rabbi Yonatan said, no man or woman will be barren, without a reply. Rabbi Yonatan was once passing through an area of Kutim (on his way to prayer in Jerusalem), riding on a donkey, together with his driver. A Kuti joined him. When they reached Mount Gerizim, the Kuti said to Rabbi Yonatan: Rabbi, what is the law with respect to that holy mountain? (That is: why don't you pray here, since the mountain is holy?) Rabbi Yonatan replied, Why do you say it is holy? And the man replied, It was not covered with water during the Deluge. And he asked, How do you know? He said, is it not written, "Son of Man, say to it, you are a land which was not purified, no rain fell on it on the day of rage" [Yechezkel 22:24]? Rabbi Yonatan replied, If that were so, the Holy One, Blessed be He, should have told Noach to go there and not to build an ark! The man replied, He only commanded Noach in order to test him! And Rabbi Yonatan was silent.

The animal driver said to the rabbi, Give me permission and I will answer him. And the rabbi said, Go ahead. So the driver said: Isn't this mountain under the heavens? And the Kuti replied, What, do you think it is higher than the heavens? The driver replied, Is it not written, "All the high mountains underneath the heavens were covered" [Bereishit 7:19]? So Rabbi Yonatan immediately dismounted from the donkey and let the driver ride for a distance of four Milin... That is what it means, 'among your cattle' – even among those who drive the cattle.

[Devarim Rabba Eikev 6].

* * * * * *

This remarkable story brings up many questions. First of all, the proof that the Kuti brought about the sanctity of Mount Gerizim is quite weak, since the verse that he quotes involves the earth and not a specific mountain. Why should he think that it refers to Mount Gerizim? In addition, how can it be that a reply which was so easy that a simple animal driver knew it was not obvious to Rabbi Yonatan?

One possible explanation for this enigma lies in the sharp contrasts in the story. After the Kuti defeats Rabbi Yonatan in interpreting the Midrash, which is the mainstay of the wise men of Yisrael, the animal driver comes to the rescue. He defeats the Kuti on his own "home ground," with a simple interpretation of a verse. Perhaps the purpose of this story is to emphasize that even though the Midrash in general is very important no verse can ever lose its simple meaning. One who is not an expert in the simple meanings of the text might even be defeated by a Kuti.

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The Light Starts In The East

"Recognize the Spirit of the Times" /Chezi Cohen,
Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa and Midreshet Ein Hanatziv

Rabbi Yisrael Zeitun

Rabbi Yisrael Zeitun (1840-1921) was the head of the rabbis of Tunis and the chief of the High Rabbinical Court. He was a student of Rabbi Avraham Chajaj and Rabbi Yehoshua Bassis. He wrote thousands of halachic responsa, some of which have been printed and others still in manuscript. At first he was a merchant of wax, and he was thus quite familiar with the ways of commerce, which later helped him greatly as a judge. Rabbi Yisrael was known for his superb moral traits: He loved peace, and he showed deep respect for every person, but he held his beliefs with great strength.

Rabbi Zeitun was sensitive to actions of other wise men, as can be seen from the following story.

* * * * * *

One time Rabbi Zeitun was told that one of the rabbis from the city of Sussa punished somebody with lashes. Rabbi Zeitun wrote to him: "My friend! It seems to me that with all due respect you are five hundred years old or more, and you are therefore not aware of the atmosphere in the world today ... This is not the proper way, not in this city. It would be very good to see you mend your ways and behave in a manner that is better suited to the times..."

* * * * * *

The rabbi of Sussa seems to be trapped in the past. He punishes a defendant very harshly, with lashes. But Rabbi Zeitun feels that this is not an appropriate technique in view of changes that have taken place in the world. He calls this "the atmosphere in the world today." This is not the time to invoke such a harsh punishment.

Rabbi Zeitun criticizes the rabbi of Sussa with a sting, saying that he is living five hundred years in the past – that is, he is a man who is not aware of modern trends. In his note he hints at the words of the Mishna, "Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaria said, I am – as it were – seventy years old" [Berachot 1:5]. But in that case the exaggeration is said by the speaker himself in order to enhance the novelty of what he is saying, while in this case the phrase is used by another wise man as harsh criticism. Rabbi Zeitun chooses the large number five hundred, as an expression of a very ancient time. He insists that a rabbi must behave "according to the current time" and not revert to practices that took place in the past and are not suitable for the modern world.

The reference to changes having to do with the times does not appear by chance, rather it is typical of the educational and spiritual path of which Rabbi Zeitun approved. He was an ardent supporter of the entrance of the Alliance schools in Tunisia, since he felt that this was the proper way to teach in modern times. He wanted to help Dr. Uziel from Paris establish an Alliance school in Jerba, and he sent letters to rabbis who were strongly opposed to the school. He continued with his support of secular subjects and of the Alliance schools even after his mentor, Rabbi Avraham Chajaj, changed his mind and decided not to support the idea.

Rabbi Zeitun claimed at various opportunities that the behavior of religious leaders was due for a change:

* * * * * *

There was a harsh dispute between rabbi Binyamin Chadad from Jerba and Rabbi Yaacov Cohen Gadisha, the Chief Rabbi of Jerba. This became very serious, so much so that Rabbi Gadisha ordered a ban to be placed on Rabbi Chadad. When Rabbi Zeitun heard this, he wrote to them: "When I saw all that has been written, my bones were shaken from the trembling because of this terrible act. Woe to the ears which hear about this matter, that Torah scholars are putting each other to shame and have even reached such a stage – I am very saddened to hear this. I for one will have none of it, and all my days I have kept my distance from any arguments, especially with other wise men."

* * * * * *

Rabbi Zeitun is greatly upset by the harsh dispute. The fight between the wise men shocks him greatly, and he is very sorry not only for the fight itself but also by the fashion which the Chief Rabbi chose to cope with the situation – by placing a ban on a Torah scholar. He opposes such a coercive act. In his opinion it is no longer proper in modern times to place a ban on another person. This procedure, which was used in the past to enforce the authority of a leader, has become outmoded and should not be used any more.

What is the task of a Chief Rabbi? Rabbi Zeitun made many public rulings and led significant moves on a national level, but at the same time he felt it was important to teach the wise men that the changes that come with modern times require the rabbis too to modify their behavior.


(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 Shushan Gate /Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, Yeshivat Har Etzion

In the last article we discussed the Chulda Gates, the southern entrance of the holy Temple Mount. In this article we will discuss the eastern entrance of the Mount – The Shushan Gate.

The Name of the Gate and its Significance

We are taught in the Mishna: "There were five gates leading to the Temple Mount... The eastern gate has an image of Shushan the Capital, it was where the priest who burned the Red Heifer, the Heifer, and all of those who participated in the process would exit to go to the Mount of Olives." [Midot 1:3].

Thus, evidently the name of this gate was the "Eastern Gate," and the Mishna tells us that it had on it a shape signifying Shushan. In his commentary on the Mishna, the Rambam writes the following: "When they ascended from the capital Shushan to build the Temple... the King commanded them to make a sign in the shape of Shushan in the Temple, so that they would maintain a fear of the King and remember when they lived there and would not revolt against him. And that is why they put its design on the eastern gate, among the gates on the Temple Mount."

The Talmud, in Yoma 9b, brings a disagreement between Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan about why the Shechina did not appear in the Second Temple (this is clear since the Second Temple lacked various elements that are expressions of the existence of the Shechina, such as the Kaporet and the Keruvim, the Holy Ark, and other signs). Reish Lakish says that "if you had been like a wall and you had all ascended to the land in the time of Ezra, you would have been comparable to gold, which is never taken over by rot. Now that you came like doors, you are compared to the cedars which are taken over by rot." This is also quoted by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi in the Kuzari.

Rabbi Yochanan feels that even if the people had all come in the time of Ezra the Shechina would not have come into the Second Temple. He derives this from the verse, "Let G-d expand Yefet, and he will dwell in the tents of Shem" [Bereishit 9:27]. Even though G-d favors Yefet, the Shechina will only appear in the Temple of Shem. Since the Second Temple was built with the permission of and under the sovereignty of Persia, the Shechina did not appear there.

According to the above Mishna, the command of the King of Persia to engrave the image of Shushan on one of the gates of the Temple was meant to preserve the fear of the Kings of Persia for all generations and to guarantee that the people would never revolt against them.

Fear and Respect of the Temple

In the Mishna it is written, "A person should not be light-hearted at the site of the eastern gate, which is oriented towards the Holy of Holies" [Berachot 9:5]. This command of showing respect for the site of the Temple remains in effect even today, when the Temple no longer exists.

It is interesting to note that all the gates to the east of the Temple are in a single straight line. From east to west, this consists of: The eastern gate (Shushan Gate); the gate of the courtyard of the women; the Gate of Nikanor; and all the gates of the Temple itself – the gates of the Ulam, the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies.

The commentators disagree about exactly which gate is mentioned in the Mishna. Rambam understands that it is the Nikanor Gate, which separates between the court of the Levites and the court of the Shechina. This implies that there is a specific law of respect for the Temple inside the court of the Levites – on the Temple Mount – since it is oriented towards the Holy of Holies. Rashi, on the other hand, writes that it is referring to the eastern gate of the Temple Mount. This would imply that the prohibition of light-heartedness is relevant even outside the Temple Mount, in the direction of the eastern gate.

The practical significance of the prohibition of light-heartedness is that one should not relieve himself outside of the Temple Mount opposite the eastern gate.

The Shechina is in the West

We note that the western direction has special significance. With respect to the direction of prayer, the Talmud quotes the opinion of Rabbi Akiva – that the Shechina is in the west (Bava Batra 25). Several reasons are given for this. The first is that this is the opposite of the way idol worshippers turn, to the east, in the direction of the rising sun. In addition, it is written, "the hosts of the heavens bow down to You" [Nechemia 9:6]. This implies that the sun, the moon, and the stars all bow down – as it were – to the Shechina in the west, thereby recognizing the authority of the Holy One, Blessed be He. Thus, the Kohen who serves in the Temple symbolically carries on his back the rays of the sun, the moon, and the stars – and he bows down together with all the rest of the world towards the Holy One, Blessed be He. It is as if all of creation bows down to the Shechina, which dwells in the west.

This viewpoint comes into play in another matter. The Mishna describes the walls of the Temple Mount as follows: "All the walls there were tall, except for the eastern wall – since the Kohen who burned the Red Heifer stood on the top of the Mount of Olives and could see the gates of the Sanctuary while he sprinkled the blood." [Midot 2:4]. The entire eastern wall of the Temple Mount was low, so that while the Red Heifer was burned on the Mount of Olives it would be possible for the Kohen to actually see the entrance to the Sanctuary (which led to the Holy of Holies).

A similar idea can be found in the Talmud Yerushalmi: "The early prophets labored very hard so that the eastern wall would be low enough in both the seasons of Tevet and Tamuz." [Eiruvin 5:1].

The Uses of the Gate

We may note that the eastern wall of the high plane on the Temple Mount is oriented almost exactly in a north-south direction in an astronomical sense. This suggests that it marks the position of the eastern side of the court, where the Nikanor Gate was. The estimated position of the original eastern gate of the Temple Mount is a few dozen meters south of the Mercy Gate. It is quite reasonable to assume that the goat sent to "Azazel" on Yom Kippur was sent out through the eastern gate of the Temple Mount, and from there it was sent to the east. According to the Mishna, "A ramp would be made for it because of the Babylonians" [Yoma 6:4]. This would be a battery that went from the eastern gate down to the path of the Kidron River in the east, and not a tall bridge to the Mount of Olives, as appears in some of the models.

In addition, it is possible that the removal of the bull and the goat to the place of burning on Yom Kippur was done through the same eastern gate of the Temple Mount. Thus, the main use of this gate seems to have been for moving the Red Heifer and sending out the goat to "Azazel," and not for entrance and exit of people who came to visit the Temple Mount.

Another use for the gate was in a room that was built above it, as appears in the Mishna: "There were two measurements of an Ama at the gate with the capital, Shushan... On the northeast corner one the length was half a finger larger than the Ama of Moshe (that is, compared to the measure kept at the time of Moshe). On the southeast corner there was an Ama that was half a finger longer than the first one, that is, it was a full finger-length longer than that of Moshe. Why was this described as one large and one small? The artists would take material measuring with the small one and return it measuring with the larger one, so that they would never be guilty of 'me'ilah,' using holy material for their own benfit." [Keilim 17:9].

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Halacha From The Source

Priorities in Reciting Berachot /The Center for Teaching and Halacha, Directed by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

In this week's portion the Torah describes the praises of Eretz Yisrael, specifically mentioning the seven species which grow in the land: "A land of wheat and barley, and the grape and the fig and the pomegranate, a land of oil-producing olive trees and honey (dates)" [Devarim 8:8].

Our rabbis derived from this verse the priority of blessings within the seven species. This law involves the case wherethe blessings for different species are the same, but we must first discuss the law when different blessings must be recited for the different items.

(1) Different blessings

This case is summarized in an acronym, "Maga Eish" (mezonot, gefen, eitz, adamah, shehakol – baked goods, wine, fruit, vegetables, and anything else). For example, when there is a choice of foods with different blessings, one should start with mezonot (of course, if there is bread for a meal, the blessing should be "hamotzi"). And the blessings continue in the sequence of "maga eish," as above. This corresponds to the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (211).

This rule means that the importance of the blessing takes precedence over the quality of the fruit! The factor which sets which food should be eaten first is a rule to start with the most significant blessing. Only if the blessings are the same for different foods do we check the fruit or the food to see which is more significant, in order to decide the sequence of eating.

(2) This is Relevant only if We Want to Eat Both Foods Now

It can happen that a person is ready to eat one food, say meat, but on the table there is also some cake to be eaten as a desert. Even though mezonot takes precedence over shehakol, it is possible to recite the shehakol (for the meat) first, since he is not interested in eating the cake yet. This was written by the Ritva (Berachot Chapter 2) and accepted by the RAMA as a practical halacha (211:5).

(3) Seven Species, with One of Them a Favorite

There is a dispute whether the sequence of the seven species is most important, or if we should start with what we prefer most:

"If a person has many species in front of him, Rabbi Yehuda says, If he has in front of him from among the seven species he should start with that. The Chachamim say, He can recite the blessing on any species that he wants."

[Mishna, appearing in Berachot 40b].

Rav Hai Gaon , the Rambam (Hilchot Berachot 8:13), and some of the early commentators rule in accordance with the opinion of the Chachamim, that one should start with what he likes best. However, Tosafot, the ROSH, the Rashba, and most of the early commentators accept the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, that one should begin with something from the seven species.

What is the basis of this dispute? Which fruits are included in the seven species is an objective judgement, stemming from the importance of the various species themselves. On the other hand, a preference depends on personal feelings of a person. According to the Chachamim, what is most important is the feeling of the person, and if he or she wants to eat a specific fruit first he can start the blessings with this one. However, Rabbi Yehuda and the majority of the early commentators feel thatthe importance of Eretz Yisrael is what establishes the proper sequence. And therefore the sequence must always be as it is set by the seven species – since Eretz Yisrael gives the fruit a special significance.

The Shulchan Aruch (211:1-1) brings the opinion of the majority of the early commentators – to start with the seven species - and he then brings the opinion of the Rambam, that one is allowed to start with his own preference. This implies that the main ruling of the halacha is to start with the seven species.

However, the TAZ writes that it is possible to follow the ruling of the Rambam and start with personal preference, but in the Mishna Berura it is written that one should start with the seven species, because this is the opinion of the majority. This means that a person who begins with his own preference is able to rely on a recognized ruling. And the Mishan Berura also recognizes this possibility (11).

(4) The Priorities within the Seven Species

The Talmud explains that within the seven species themselves, whatever appears in the above verse closest to the word "land" should come first (Berachot 41b). If two species are the same distance from the word "land," the one closest to the first time the word "land" appears comes first (this has little practical significance, since usually wheat and barley come before olives and dates, since the blessing mezonot comes before eitz).

The sequence is outlined in the following table:













Oil olive

Honey (date)

Thus, the proper sequence is: Olive, date, grapes, figs, pomegranate. This is the sequence given in the Shulchan Aruch (111:4).

Here is a memory device to keep track of the sequence within the seven species: Whatever has fewer seeds comes earlier in the sequence. An olive has one pit (and it is first), a date has a divided pit (as if it is two), grapes have several seeds (usually three or more), figs have many seeds, and the pomegranate is full of seeds.

It may be suggested that the sequence within the seven species stems from the participation of mankind in preparing the food. Wheat and barley are mostly eaten as bread, and that is why the Torah views bread as something very special. Olives, dates, and grapes are fruits from which man makes important products (oil, honey, and wine), and they therefore come before the fig and the pomegranate. The Holy One, Blessed be He, created a world which demands that we put in an effort in order to mend and improve it. Therefore, the greater the effort we put into any fruit before we eat it, the greater is its importance.

Summary in Practice – the Sequence of Blessings

(a) The importance of the blessing – following the sequence "Maga Eish" – mezonot, gefen, eitz, adama, shehakol. For example, the fruit of a tree (such as an apple) will always come before produce from the ground (such as potato or pineapple). Thus, when wheat is eaten in such a way that its blessing is adama or shehakol, and one also wants to eat an apple, he should recite the "eitz" for the apple first. And this also means that even when one eats food whose blessing comes first he should start with that food.

(b) The seven species – When the blessing is the same, the seven species should be eaten first.

(c) Within the seven species – whatever is closest to the word "land" in the verse comes first (olive, date, fig, grape, pomegranate).

(d) A whole fruit – a whole grape comes before a cut salad.

(e) A favorite food – When all other elements are the same, one should start with what he prefers the most.

(f) If a person wants one species right now and will only want another one later on, he can recite the first blessing for the food that he wants, and the rules of priority of the blessing is no longer binding.

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What Is That Phrase?

"Eikev" – In the Footsteps /Yaacov Etzion

The commentary by Rashi at the beginning of this week's Torah portion is well-known: "'And it will be, as a result (eikev) of your listening' [Devarim 7:12] – referring to the simple mitzvot which a person tramples with his heel (akev)." The sages who wrote the Midrash which Rashi quoted were not interested in discussing the ultimate source of the word "eikev." However, evidently the heel at the bottom of the foot is really connected to the etymology of the word. A person who walks on his heels leaves "ikvot" (footsteps) after him. And this same word therefore also means a result, something that took place after an event. Similarly, the first two words of the portion, "eikev tishme'un," mean "as a result of the fact that you heard."

Our sages taught us that a person is "related to himself," and this can be seen very easily in the realm of language. Many basic words developed as an expansion of their use as names for limbs of the body. We have seen that the word eikev, meaning a cause, was derived from the word for heel. A word that is used in a similar way is "regel," a foot. And here is what Yaacov says: "I will travel slowly, because of the labor which awaits me, and because of the children" [Bereishit 33:14]. The word used is "regel," in this context meaning because. This is still used in this way in modern Hebrew.

We can also mention the knee (berech), which is connected to a blessing (beracha), since one may go down on his knees to recite a blessing. And the thighs (motnayim) which are evidently connected to being gentle and calm (metinut). Let us take a deeper look at the back (gav). In the Tanach the phrase "al gav" appears only one time, and it is not far from the literal meaning of the words: "On my back those who were plowing plowed, they extended their rows" [Tehillim 129:3]. That is, as it were, the enemies stepped on my back and plowed it. The sages disassociated the phrase from a physical back. For example, "the people would take their lulavim to the Temple Mount, and those in charge would receive them and place them on a shelf (al gav)." [Succah, Chapter 4]. And the word "agav" – which means "by the way" – is a shortened version of the phrase "al gav," referring to something that has been added on a journey, such as a burden loaded onto the back of an animal (the ayin has been replaced by an aleph, and the lamed has been dropped).

A different word for a back is "achor," and on this basis many words related to positions have been formed – "after the mountain" is " mei'acharei" and the western sea is "hayam ha'acharon" – behind whoever turns towards the east. This has also taken on meaning with respect to time: "After these events..." "Let's meet after three o'clock." It is also used in a more abstract sense, with a meaning of a cause for an event – "mei'achar" – since you did a good deed, you will be rewarded.

We can also mention the face – "panim." This is the source of "lifnei" – before in space and in time. And then "mipnei" has taken on a meaning of the cause for something.

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The Clear Vision Of Rav Kook

My Power and the Strength of my Hand"/Rabbi Chagai Londin,
Hesder Yeshiva in Sdeirot and Machon Meir

Possibly in reaction to the Iranian threat or to the first anniversary of Operation Protective Edge, some signs were posted near my home this week with the following message: "We cannot rely on anybody else but Our Father in Heaven, not on the Protective Dome anti-missile system! It is all personal Divine guidance! Nation of Israel: Repent before it is too late!"

Even though these declarations were not signed by any official body, they seem to be an echo of statements made in the religious realm every now and then, especially in times of personal or public stress. Such statements have a simple point of departure: Our task is to serve G-d, and service of G-d means to become more and more spiritual. Therefore – the further a person is removed from worldly systems, the more he or she is helpless in the face of the difficulties of reality and depends on "a greater power" which will help him miraculously, the more the situation will improve.

In his writings, Rav Kook, presents an opposite viewpoint: Our task is indeed to separate ourselves from materialism but not from the material world. Divine reality is not a simple matter of abstract spirituality. Rather, it develops from the heights of heavenly reality and down to the natural world below, including all of its working systems. Because of this, the more initiative and wisdom a person applies in managing worldly matters, the higher is the quality of his Divine service.

There is a known story about Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who used to go out on Yom Haatzmaut to watch the IDF parade which took place at the time in Jerusalem. Somebody asked him if there was not a danger that such a show of physical force was against the spirit of the verse in this week's Torah portion, "And you will say in your heart: My power and the strength of my hand have given me all this wealth!" [Devarim 8:11]. Rav Tzvi Yehuda replied, "There is no problem for a person to say, 'My power and the strength of my hand,' but we must remember to add the continuation: 'And you shall remember your G-d, for He is the one who gives you the strength to gather the wealth.'"

There were indeed times in the past of our nation when there was a real danger that the material wealth might sweep man along such that he would forget the name of G-d. And therefore some of the wise men of Yisrael chose to emphasize the miraculous elements to the detriment of material activity, but today what we need is spiritual "nourishment" that will help to develop people of faith within the world of action. They must be Torah-true, normal people full of spiritual stability, who will be able to participate in the practical world and manage it in a holy way. The theme of the declaration which I quoted at the beginning of this article is in principle correct: everything operates according to the principle of personal Divine guidance, and we must all repent. But this will be expressed in such systems as Iron Dome, the prime examples of innovation on the human and the Israeli scene, which would not have been at all possible if not for our G-d, who gave us the power to act in the real world.

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Straight Talk

Matchmaking Q & A /Yoni Lavie
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website

The following questions come from a virtual meeting that I held last week with about a hundred "WhatsApp" matchmakers. This is a group of good people who are involved in matchmaking, and to help them along have established WhatsApp groups where they discuss ideas for matchmaking. Up to now, they have had several successes, and who knows what the future holds?

* What is the role of a matchmaker as far as you are concerned?

To be involved in matchmaking is a great mitzva and a partnership with the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the sages have taught us – that He is involved in arranging couples since the time the world was created. In our generation this is a mission of national importance, and anybody who has a relevant skill is obligated to participate. In order to help a boy and girl meet, there is no need for unusual experience or talents, and many people without any background in this subject have successfully matched two hearts and have created weddings. The current situation, with so many wonderful and high-quality unmarried men and women waiting for years to establish a new house in Yisrael, is intolerable, and as a society and a nation we must gather our forces and decide together what we can do to change matters.

As far as I am concerned, the task of a matchmaker is not merely to propose a match but also to stay with the young couple as their relationship develops. The matchmaker should lend support, guide the couple, give advice, and provide strength. Many possible matches fail not because of a lack of suitability but because the two sides do not behave correctly, and proper accompaniment can help greatly (of course, this means that the matchmaker must have the right skills to do this and must be available as needed).

* What should I tell myself as a matchmaker when I spend a lot of time on a match and nothing happens?

You should remember that this is a very complex mission, and there is no way that will not lead to some misses and disappointments. I purposely do not call them failures, since we believe that every experience of that type is part and parcel of our effort, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, certainly sees our attempts and is happy with them. Moreover, from a "national" point of view even "futile" attempts to help a person reach his or her goal can help them clarify their position and achieve important understandings that can help later on. It goes without saying that it is important to analyze the situation by holding a long conversation with the prospect after every possible match that failed, in order to get closer to the mark next time. It is reasonable and natural that only one marriage will result from dozens of attempts and ideas, and we should not be disappointed or curtail our efforts because of this. It is true, however, that if a person discovers that he fails time after time and that his efforts lead to nothing more than frustration and anger, it may well be that his mission in the world is to find another way to contribute to the nation of Yisrael.

* What do you think of "wish lists" describing what a prospect wants from a possible match?

Every unmarried person arrives at the world of meeting others with some sort of ideal model which he or she is looking for, and a list of traits that he or she would like the new mate to have. How is this model created? It is fed by things that we have met in the past, in addition to examples that we have seen in books and films. Any prospect is also influenced by the previous experience in dates. From this point of view, as time goes on the search becomes more and more complicated, since the model that the prospect has is continuously getting more and more sophisticated. Every new date might add a novel improvement to the ideal model in the prospect's head by adding some new trait or skill that seems worthwhile.

Can this ideal model ever really exist? Well, sometimes it even includes elements that contradict each other, which might correspond well in theory but can never exist in one person in the real world. But even if we assume that the model is possible, will it really be suitable for the young man or woman who is pursuing it?

In singles workshops and in couplehood counseling, a person is helped to become aware of the model in his or her head (sometimes even in the unconscious mind), and the model is analyzed in a more rational way. As matchmakers, we cannot take a person whom we might not know very well, put him or her through a process, and then completely analyze their personality and tell them what is best.

What can we do?

(1) When we ask him or her what they are looking for, make sure they focus by asking for four items that are most important. Even if the first list has forty items in it, it is best for the prospect to narrow it down to no more than four items.

(2) We cannot decide for the candidate if a specific item is good and suitable for him, and we will not always understand why one specific element is important. But we must accept his judgement and his choices, and be very careful not to show arrogance or to belittle the person we are talking to. It is possible to ask questions carefully and gently that are meant to "open up" the matter, in an attempt to get to the root of the issue, while at the same time possibly getting rid of stigmas.

For example, if somebody refuses to meet a candidate from another sector, we can try to understand what there is about this other sector that bothers him or her. (Are they stingy? Are they always angry? Do they have the wrong skin color? And so on.) Will you also refuse to meet somebody from this other sector even if he/she is kind and generous, with fantastic traits, and very handsome/beautiful?

Here is another example: A girl might refuse to meet somebody who in the army was not in a combat position. What exactly bothers her about this? Is it that he is not an idealist? That he is not "manly" enough? And what if there is a boy who is absolutely top quality but had some medical trouble, and therefore served in a crack intelligence unit, and who is an idealist to boot and thinks only of the nation of Yisrael – would that still bother the girl?

* When is it a good idea to send a prospect for couplehood counseling?

In many cases, the best possible gift to give somebody is to recommend that they turn to an appropriate professional who can help them. This is true in all walks of life, and certainly in such a complex and confusing matter as a search for a mate. I warmly recommend for every single person who has participated in a high two-digit number of dates to "recalculate their route" by consulting an expert in the field, with appropriate experience. Sometimes, within two or three meetings some things will come up that can help matters along, open up blocked paths, and so on. It would be a shame to be deterred from what might be a positive experience and might even shorten the time needed for progress along a tortuous path. As matchmakers we should certainly recommend professional help in any situation where there seems to be a need for more than a small local push.

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Items From "In The Tents Of Shem"

A Legend that is Real /Dov Rozen,
(Summarized by Yisrael Rosenberg)

Giving birth on the way to the hospital can be a very unpleasant experience. And to give birth on a bus can be even more unpleasant. Many legends exist about babies born on a bus who were given a free ride for the rest of their lives, but not many people realize that this legend has really happened.

"Eighteen years after she was born on an Eged bus, the bride Egeda Serbero from the Moshav Amikam was married. One of the guests at the wedding was their friend, the one who delivered the baby, an Eged driver - Chaim Tur Kaspa from Haifa. He came representing Eged, and he brought a gift for the couple from the bus cooperative. Chaim said to us that at the time Eged gave the family a gift of a baby carriage, and also gave Egeda a free pass on all Eged busses for life." [Maariv, 19 Cheshvan 5732].

Dafit was also born on an Eged bus, made by the company Daf:

"Dafit was born on a Daf bus, in the midst of a wild ride on the road from the traffic light at the entrance to Nahariya to the government hospital in the city. The mother – Orna Batish, who had a son and a daughter, was the wife of the driver, Yaacov. He delivered the baby in a very unusual way, one hand on the wheel of the large bus with the other hand holding the newly-born baby. All the time, he tried very hard to stay on the road and to keep the baby from falling to the floor as it came into the open air." [Maariv, 20 Av 5737].

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Riddle of the Week

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

It was once a land with much water

And now it is important for milk

What is it?

Answers to last week's riddle – The riddle was: One out of three, with two sets of three. If you "opened up" the two threes – You have another word with the same letters but pronounced differently.

The solution is based on alternate meaning for the names of the vowels. Thus, "patach" is a vowel but the word patach means to open up.

"Betzer" is one of the three sanctuary cities, and it has two letters marked with a "segol" – three dots. "Betzer, in the desert, on the plain belonging to Reuven" [Devarim 4:43].

If the segol is replaced by a patach, the word is "batzar" – "When you are in distress and all of these things happen to you, at the end of days" [4:30].

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