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Volume 1645: Haazinu  13 Tishrei 5777 15/10/2016

As Shabbat Approaches

“You are Fat, You are Thick, You are Covered with Fat”/Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne

The words of the sages with respect to the above verse were a source of great worry for Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, and he wrote about this matter to his father-in-law, the “Aderet.” “I will openly state to my honorable sir, that I am bothered by the Midrash Sifri in the portion of Ha’azinu which quotes the verse, ‘And their land will be filled with silver and gold,’ in commenting on the verse, ‘You are fat, you are thick,’ writing about three generations before the coming of the Mashiach. And you will understand my thoughts. However, in any case the Holy One, Blessed be He, will do what is necessary for the good of His name, and He will bring His redemption closer, and G-d will act alone, let it be quickly in our time.” [Orach Mishpat, Orach Chaim 48].

Here are some more details from the Sifri which caused Rav Kook to be so afraid. “‘And Yeshurun became fat and kicked’ [Devarim 32:15] – The people rebel when they are satiated. You can see this with the people of the Deluge, who only rebelled before the Holy One, Blessed be He, out of an excess of food and drink, and out of calm... And when you enter the land, you will only rebel in response to food and drink and calm... And another point: It is written, ‘You are fat, you are thick...’ [Ibid] – These represent three generations before the days of the Mashiach, as is written, ‘And their land is full of silver and gold...’” [Sifri Ha’azinu 318].

The last verse quoted above in the Sifri is the following: “And their land is full of silver and gold, with no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses, with no end to their chariots. And their land is full of idols, they bow down to their own handiwork.” [Yeshayahu 2:7-8]. The prophet is describing moral decay. First the land fills up with treasures of silver. In the next stage the excessive wealth is used to buy luxuries – horses, chariots (and cars?). The way is then clear for the third stage – silver and gold become idols, and the people become enslaved to them. All of this happens three generations before the coming of the Mashiach.

This subjugation to silver and gold can even be attributed to intellectuals and Torah scholars. The Netziv wrote that the main ones who influenced the others to sin were Torah scholars, “and that was the trait of the love of wealth in the Second Temple, and it still dances around among us to this very day” [Harchev Davar, Devarim]. This also appears in Sforno in this week’s Torah portion: “‘And Yeshurun became fat’ – People who are skilled in analysis are called Yeshurun... you have turned the community of Torah masters and analysis to physical pleasures, and you have thus become too fat to understand the details of the truth... ‘And he abandoned the G-d who made him’ – therefore the multitudes have abandoned G-d, and they have ‘shown contempt for the Rock of their salvation.’ [Devarim 32:15].”

Evidently these words of the Sifri were in Rav Kook’s mind when he wrote the following: “We accept that there will be a spiritual revolt in Eretz Yisrael and within Yisrael at the time when the beginning of the revitalization of the nation will begin. The physical calm that will be achieved by part of the nation... will diminish the soul... the yearning for exalted and holy ideals will cease, and as a consequence the spirit will decline.” [Orot Hatechiya, 44].

It is interesting to note that the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik also blamed the love of wealth for the sickness of the new settlement Tel Aviv. When he moved away from the inhabitants of “sick Tel Aviv,” he said that the signs of the illness, among other things, included recent events when people took advantage of the poverty of new Olim in order to increase their own wealth, stealing their last prutot by increasing the rent. “The result is internal disintegration of the nation, a rise in the number of political parties, unfounded hate, and more. The entire settlement movement is sick, and our Tel Aviv is sick.”

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Point Of View

“Reb Avrum”/Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

“Ask ... your elders, and they will say to you” [Devarim 32:7].

Nine years have gone by since the passing of our mentor Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, the Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav, during the Succot holiday in the year 5768. Among other things, “Reb Avrum” had the privilege of serving as the Chief Rabbi of Israel for a decade, filling the position established by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, who was the father-in-law of his brother-in-law (Rabbi Natan Raanan). Before this, Reb Avrum served many years as a judge in the rabbinical courts.

His greatness in Torah, both erudition and halachic decisions, is engraved within the pages of his books – “The Lectures of our Mentor GR’A Shapiro” on the tractates of the Talmud and “Minchat Avraham,” a collection of his responsa. His rulings in the rabbinical court are outstanding examples of learned decisions that show intimately involvement in current reality. Some of these rulings have appeared in the volumes of Techumin, published by Zomet, a total of twenty-two articles on the subject of halacha. Some of these were given to us by his son after Reb Avrum’s passing. (Here are two examples from the most recent volumes: “One who brings a case to a secular court and then comes back to a rabbinical court,” and “Is the priority for receiving charity the same as that for an inheritance?”)

Even though he never served in a “classic” rabbinical position, Reb Avrum was the admired teacher and rabbi of hundreds of students. I venture to suggest that this is especially true of those students who were appointed as community rabbis or became teachers in the educational system. Such people could always expect a warm welcome in his home, with constant overflowing of practical advice and a sprinkling of stories of the wisdom of the great men of Yisrael “in the previous generation,” always with amusing anecdotes and a significant lesson. It seems to me that no former student who started on a task of teaching or a new position of a rabbi was ever allowed to leave without being “scolded” by the rabbi: “Where are your felt hat and your rabbinical frock?” In my eyes, this constantly repeated question was meant to give a message of a required link between the chain of Eastern European rabbis with the wise men of Jerusalem “in previous and earlier generations” and the Torah scholars who are part and parcel of religious Zionism. The verse quoted above from this week’s Torah portion, “Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will say to you,” is an appropriate theme for a major segment of his educational legacy.

Indeed, as far as I am concerned Rabbi Shapiro was a perfect symbol of this connection, launching an approach that stands strong, without any twists and no “if, and, or but.” Reb Avrum was a man of religious Zionism with all his soul, of the type of the rabbis who founded “Chovevei Tzion,” which raised the banner of Zionist redemption years before the Zionist Congress was held in Basle. His family relationship to Rav Avraham Kook, the visionary Kohen and greatest religious Zionist of all, drew Reb Avrum into the same realms of activity with love, and led him to fill the same post as his predecessor. This is intimately linked with his outstanding contribution in his calls for settlement in all the regions of Eretz Yisrael. His declarations of “Daat Torah” that opposed surrendering to our enemies even went so far as to allow refusing an order in the IDF.

May his soul be bound above the living.

* * * * * *

The next issue of Shabbat B’Shabbato is scheduled to be published for the Torah portion of Noach. We will take this opportunity to take leave of an author who will no longer be with us next year. Mussa Berlin, who has been with us for only one year, has asked for “respite” from writing his excellent articles based on stories and their connection to music.

Who will replace him? See our bulletin starting next year.

Happy holidays to all!

(Written after the end of Shabbat, Torah portion of Vayeilech.)

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When The Children Open Their Hearts

A Succah of Life /Meirav Maggeni,
Author of Content and Stories in Chemed, the Religious School System

I get very excited about Succot, something about the holiday makes me feel wonderful. Do you feel the same?

Right after Yom Kippur ended, Abba took the walls of the succah out of the storage closet and called to me to come and help. I was very happy. Abba said, “This year we will build a very big succah, so that we will have room for all of our guests,” and he gave me a mysterious smile. “What guests?” I asked, but Abba just smiled – and I was left with my curiosity.

The afternoon before the holiday, the succah was fully decorated and looked very inviting, the table was set, and the delicious odors of the food filled our house. The holiday was going to start soon, but I still did not see any guests. Abba also seemed a bit worried.

And then, half an hour before candle lighting time, there was a knock on the door. In walked a family which I had never met before – a father and mother, with four small children. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed. I had expected to see our grandparents, or some aunts and uncles. I stood there quietly and watched how Abba gave our guest a great hug, which soon became a joyous dance. He called out to me, “Come, meet a friend of mine from when we were children.”

The man told me his name, “Ari Kaplan,” and shook my hand. In the end, he was a likable and happy guest. He had a good voice and he sang whenever he had a chance. He helped make the holiday even happier than usual. After the meal, Abba turned to Ari, and said, “Okay, the time has come for you to tell us the story of the succah of life. And Ari knew exactly what Abba was talking about. He took a deep breath, and he started: “This is a story about my great-grandfather, Aryeh Leib Kaplan. He lived in Communist Russia. At the time, anybody in Russia who observed the mitzvot of the Torah was considered a traitor. But Sabba Aryeh fought like a lion to do the mitzvot. He had four children, and not one of them went to the public Communist school. He taught them Hebrew, Torah, and our faith, all at home. Savta Devorah taught them science and arithmetic. His neighbors warned him, ‘Your children will not be able to manage in their lives without a formal school degree.’ But Sabba Aryeh said, ‘You will see, my children will do better than anybody else. When a Jew does what he is supposed to do, he always has the best possible life.’

“Sabba did all the mitzvot in secret, there was no way he could hide a succah. However, he didn’t care. If it was necessary to build a succah, he would build a rickety one in his back yard. A few yeshiva students came and sat with him in his tiny succah. It felt like paradise to them, but after the holiday Sabba paid a heavy price for his actions. He was arrested by the government and accused of performing religious rituals without a license, subversive activities, and providing support to the enemy. The punishment for these crimes was banishment to Tashkent. So Sabba and Savta were sent to exile, hoping that they would have an opportunity to rejoin their children, who were grown up (and some of whom were already married).”

Ari paused for a moment and took a long sip of tea. I said to him, “I don’t understand why you said this was a story about a succah of life. To me it looks much more like -” But Ari interrupted me. “Patience,” he said. And then he continued with his story.

“And then, Germany declared war on Russia. Many Jews were happy that they would finally be freed from Russian Communism, but they didn’t realize how dangerous the Germans were, so they didn’t run away. However, the children of Sabba and Savta took the opportunity to flee, and they went to Tashkent to join their parents. After many difficult expreiences, including being on trains that were bombed by the Germans, they managed to get to their destination.

“In Tashkent, the people suffered from typhoid and from famine, and the children were sorry to find that their parents had passed away. After four very difficult years the war ended, and Reb Aryeh’s children returned to their home in Russia. They were astonished to find that they were the only Jews from their entire town who were still alive! The Germans had not left one living Jew!

“At that moment, they all remembered the rickety succah that their father had built in his yard. They wept bitterly, but they thanked the Creator, who had saved them from death. Aryeh’s children made Aliyah, and unlike many other Olim they were able to adapt quickly to the new life because of their good knowledge of Hebrew, which their father had taught them at home. My mother always said that Sabba Aryeh must look down on his offspring and say, ‘I told you that my children will do better than anybody else. If a Jew does what he should, things will always be best for him.’”

With that, Ari finished his story, and he burst out in song. Abba poured out some wine, and we all said, “Lechaim – to life!”

(Based on a story by Chaya Alon, on the Aish Hatorah website.)

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Holy & Secular

Normal Behavior and Limits /Rabbi Amichai Gordin
Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School

Committee Chairman: We have called this meeting of the Education Committee of our town in response to several of our members who want to discuss the question of separation of the sexes in our school.

Mr. Separatovsky: It is imperative that we separate the boys and the girls starting from the First Grade. Mixing boys and girls together is very problematic and also violates the halacha. This is what is written in all the holy books, and the rabbis have ruled this way too.

Mrs. Mixorovsky: How can you say that? This religious extremism is very dangerous, and we must fight it as hard as we can.

Mrs. Adament: My son will not learn in a mixed class! Not even one that is half mixed!

Mr. Stubborn: My daughter will not sit in a class that is separated! Not even one that is half separated!

* * * * * *

After three hours of violent discussion between the deaf on both sides:

Committee Chairman: Before I summarize, I will ask Leonid to give us his opinion. Mr. Leonid, you have not said a word all through our discussion.

Leonid: Excuse my lack of good Hebrew. You were discussing whether to be separate or to be mixed together, right?

Committee Chairman: Yes.

Leonid: Separate what?

Committee Chairman: What?? We were talking about the First to Third Grades in school!

Leonid: Oh... I thought you were talking about the Education Committee itself. It is a bit odd to talk in a mixed committee about separating the sexes in school...

* * * * * *

A mixed society is not just a question for youth movements or school. A mixed society is encountered whenever men and women participate together in joint activities. It is almost an absolute necessity in the workplace, and it is very common wherever we live and are active.

It is very unfortunate that most of the practical discussions about a mixed society concentrate on the physical framework, the setting, and the physical boundaries. Are men and women allowed to sit together? When is a separation boundary required and when is it not needed? What is the proper height of the mechitza, the boundary, how should it be built?

Because of our detailed preoccupation with the framework, the main and most important question is usually ignored. This is the behavior of the people within the framework. The main question is not the framework but rather what is required of the person who is inside it. A framework does not create a situation, it allows it to take place.

Certainly the question of the framework is important. But the question of personal behavior is much more important. An obsessive preoccupation with the question of separation or mixing robs us of much needed energy.

No matter how hard we try we will never create a totally separate society. There will always remain some mixed elements. With all due respect for the framework, it is much more important to educate the people to have personal responsibility. A person cannot depend only on the framework, no matter how it is organized.

* * * * * *

What is needed on a personal level from every person? Normal behavior and limits.

We must be normal and behave in a normal way. Anybody who spends all his or her time on the question of what is allowed and what is not can rest assured that he or she will come to the point of having disturbing thoughts.

Try not to think about a white elephant for a whole minute. When we try to block out specific thoughts by force, we can be absolutely sure that just these thoughts will come to us. On their way into our minds they will break through all of our defensive walls. Sure, even if we don't try to think about a white elephant we might do so. But if we explicitly try to block our thoughts about it, the white elephant will surely appear.

If a person begins to entertain some thoughts, he or she should never quarrel with them. It never helps. But we must take care not to enhance the thoughts that we do have. Neither more nor less than what has come to us.

The Sefer Hachinuch explains the prohibition, "Do not follow your eyes" [Bamidbar 15:39], as follows: "This pertains to anybody who follows his eyes – that is, who pursues the lusts of the world... And one is not punished by lashes for this sin... This is because the way a human being is made it is impossible for him never to see more than is proper, just as it is impossible that his thoughts will not sometimes go beyond what is proper."

A person is not punished for what came up in his mind against his will but for what he did and for ideas which he initiated. Act normal, without any special "nerves."

* * * * * *

However, together with maintaining a normal approach, it is necessary to have clear and strong limits. The limits must be maintained. The boundary is not merely a prohibition to be together alone and to touch each other. The limit also includes a proper relationship between men and women. Yes to social relationships, no to personal or intimate contact. Yes to serious contact, no to frivolous talk.

As we wrote in this column two weeks ago, the relationship of a married couple might be harmed not only by forbidden physical contacts but also as a result of spiritual contacts. The fact that a man and a woman spend many hours together at work does not mean that any and all subjects are open for discussion. A married man must keep intimate subjects only for discussions with his mate. Natural and normal conversations that are held in the workplace must never be allowed to cross the boundary to intimacy or lightheartedness.

The person and only the person himself is responsible for these limits. Nobody else will ever know if he or she maintained the limit or not. Only the heart will ever know the true intentions.

For reactions and comments:

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Zomet At The Crossroads

Fixing the Screen of a Flour Sifter /The Zomet Institute

Almost a year ago we wrote in this column that a serious halachic flaw had been discovered in an electric machine for sifting flour – Flour Sifter Number 886, sold by the “Salmor” Company. We originally gave this machine our approval, since the mesh of the screen followed accepted norm in the “kashrut market” of 50 mesh. However, it turned out that a large amount of the flour was able to bypass the screen and was therefore not sifted at all. (See issue number 1597, Chayei Sarah 5776.)

We therefore wrote on the Zomet website and in other places that this sifter should not be used unless the bypass is blocked. At the time, we did not have any idea how to accomplish this.

We can now announce that in response to our request the importer, Salmor, has been able to design a plastic ring which blocks the bypass. We can send you a replacement screen with the ring for only NIS 15 (a handling charge). Send a check in this amount (to Zomet Institute, Alon Shevut 90433) or phone us at 02-9932111 to leave your credit card details.

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Riddle of the Week

Ha’azinu/Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"

Take the first away from the first and you get the first.

What is this?

Answers to the last riddle – it was: The name of another “portion” appears in this week’s Torah portion, and the same number plays a prominent role in verses in both portions. What is the portion, and what is the number?

- The portion is “Mikeitz” and the number is 7.

- In Vayeilech it is written, “And Moshe commanded them, saying: At the end (‘mikeitz’) of seven years, at the time of Shemitta, on the holiday of Succot” [Devarim 31:10].

- In the Torah portion of Mikeitz, it is written, “At the end (‘mikeitz’) of two years, Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing on the Nile. And seven cows rose up from the Nile...” [Bereishit 41:1-2].

* * * * * *

We will be happy to publish your riddles here, with proper credit to the author. Send your suggestions to the e-mail address given below.

Do you have a bar/bat mitzva coming up? Are you looking for a special quiz? To order:


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