Shabbat B' Shabbato

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Volume 1634: Matot  24 Tammuz 5776 30/07/2016

As Shabbat Approaches

"Chavot Yair" and "Novach"/Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne

"And Yair Ben Menasheh went and captured their villages, and he called them Chavot Yair. And Novach went and captured Kenat and its suburbs, and he named it Novach, in his name." [Bamidbar 32:41-42]. Rashi notes, "'He called them Chavot Yair' – Since he did not have any children, he named the area in his own name, in memory. 'He named it Novach' – There is no dot in the 'heh' of the word 'lah' – it. I saw in the writings of Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan that since this name did not continue to exist it is written in such a way that it could imply the word 'lo' – a negative."

What did the Torah want to teach us by writing the word "lah" in this way, implying an additional meaning of a negative? In addition, we might ask why the name "Chavot Yair" did continue to exist, as is written, "they are called Chavot Yair, to this day" [Shoftim 10:4].

A person's possessions are not his or her essence. And that is why the villages are called "Yair's villages" – that is, Yair owns some property. But they are not the same as Yair himself. When Novach tried to name the area after himself, he implied that both he and the property were one and the same. When a person and his property are identical, they will not exist for all eternity. This is what the sages taught us about the tribes of Gad and Reuven – since they loved their money it did not remain in their hands forever.

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsh writes as follows: "Perhaps this is a harsh scolding of Novach. He wanted to make an eternal monument for himself out of buildings made of wood and stone. But that is not the proper path for a true Jew who wants to memorialize himself on the earth. The only way his name will be remembered for all generations is the great flights of the spirit, through moral dedication to Divine obligations, and through a noble life."

Two basic mitzvot can be considered the essence of man – the Torah and prayer. When a person starts out, "He desires the Torah of G-d" [Tehillim 1:2]. As time goes on and the person becomes dedicated to the Torah, it becomes his own possession: "And he will study his Torah day and night" [ibid]. Torah and the man become one and the same. Therefore, the sages wrote, "How silly other people are – they stand up before a Torah scroll, but they do not stand up for a great man."

The same is true for prayer, as is written by David: "And I am my prayer... [Tehillim 69:14].

With respect to the verse about Nevuchadnezer, "And he burnt down every great house with fire" [Melachim II 25:9], the Talmud quotes a dispute – "One says this is a place where Torah becomes great, and the other says it is a place where prayer becomes great." [Megillah 27a].

The Master of the World promised Avraham that "I will make you into a great nation" [Bereishit 12:2]. The sages explain that He said to him that he would be the father of the nation about which it is written, "For who is such a great nation who has G-d so close to it, like our G-d, whenever we call out to Him? And who is such a great nation which has such righteous laws and decrees, like this entire Torah?" [Devarim 4:7-8]. This is a promise that we will be a "great nation," and it is also a promise about a "great home," where both Torah and prayer will be enhanced. The synagogues and the Batei Midrash display the greatness of Bnei Yisrael. The sages teach us that when Nevuchadnezer burned "a great house," he was burning synagogues and Batei Midrash, which reveal the great characteristic of Yisrael.

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Point Of View

"Deja Vu" in Amunah /Zvulun Orlev

A Chain of Settlement Destruction

The concept of "deja vu" comes from French. It refers to a feeling that a situation is not new but is something which we have already experienced in the past. Such a past event seems very familiar to us from our past.

When I became aware of the completely just public struggle to prevent the uprooting of the community of Amunah, I had a strong feeling of deja vu. This was a repeat of the tough public and parliamentary battle in which we were engaged four years ago, opposing the uprooting of Migron and against the destruction of the "Ulpana neighborhood" in Beit El. I felt that I was in a "flashback" – reliving a picture from the past. Here again we have claims of Palestinian ownership of land in a settlement which has been in existence for decades, and where dozens of families live. The town was established innocently, it was formally recognized, and it even received budgetary support and government services just like any other legal settlement.

It seems that the Justice and Defense Ministries did not check in sufficient depth the claims of the Palestinians, some of whom do not live at all in the geographic area, and therefore the ministries accepted the rulings of this court, which demanded that all the buildings must be destroyed.

A Missed Opportunity to Make a New Law

At the time, I proposed a law based on principles that are accepted not only in Israel but also in other parts of the world – "Protection of Property Holders in Yehuda and the Shomron." This was the "Migron Law," number 3632/18. Here is the main clause of this proposed law. "If a municipal neighborhood was established in Yehuda and the Shomron with at least twenty housing units, on land that a person claims belongs to him... However, if he did not turn to a court that has the authority to remove illegal occupants for at least four years after the neighborhood was established, and there was no sign of ownership on the land itself, any buildings which were erected on the site will not be evacuated and will not be destroyed. They will remain in the hands of those who have possession of them. The court has the power to order compensation for the ones who claim ownership, or to give them alternative land close by of about the same value, if it is proven that the claimant is indeed the owner of the property."

That is, if one who claims to own the land did not turn to the appropriate court (and this is not the Supreme Court!), even if it is later determined that the Palestinian has legal right to the land, there will be a need to strike a balance between the public interest in preventing destruction and the opposing value of ethics and natural justice. This will be the fate of neighborhoods and homes which were constructed without any knowledge that private property was involved. We are not allowed to try to fix one grave injustice by creating another matching one.

The approval of this proposed law would have solved not only the problems of Migron and the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El. It would have blocked the Supreme Court decision on Amonah and prevented a similar danger to about 8,000 homes in Yehuda and the Shomron where more than 50,000 people currently live in a similar legal situation.

The Law of Amonah is the Same as the Law of Lehavot Haviva

When I presented my proposal for the law in the Knesset, I quoted from the words of former Prime Minister Eshkol (who was from the political left!) about the kibbutz Lehavot Haviva, and not about a modern-day settlement: "There is a settled place where some buildings have been erected on the land of an Arab who is in Israel now. He is suing to receive his land, and there is no doubt that he should receive some sort of compensation. However, there is also no doubt that it is impossible to destroy the buildings. By law, in terms of justice, and by statute, the members of Kibbutz Lehavot Chaviva have no desire to abandon their land."

Lehavot Chaviva was not destroyed, and the kibbutz stands proudly at the same site in all its glory. The more recent rightist government, following the lead of Minister Benny Begin, rejected my proposed law on June 6, 2012, with a vote of 62 against and 22 in favor. Where is Levi Eshkol when you most need him?

Lehavot Chaviva was not destroyed, but Migron and the houses in Beit El were destroyed. The houses in Amonah and thousands of other homes might well be destroyed, heaven forbid. It is unfortunate that in Migron and in the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El specific relatively simple solutions were found for the problems (based on moving the areas, with promises to build quickly). We warned at the time that if the proposed law is not approved the Palestinians will take advantage of the legal situation and will win many more court cases requiring many houses to be destroyed. We warned that our enemy will not stop with Migron and Beit El. And that is how we have now arrived at Amonah. Let us avoid any illusions! Amonah is not alone, and it will not be the last case! Thousands of houses and neighborhoods now hang in the balance in Yehuda and the Shomron, in the same situation as Amonah. The fate of Amonah will set the tone for thousands of identical cases that are exactly the same in legal terms.

If there is some other legal solution, such as the report written by Justice Edmond Levi, by all means bring it on! Act upon it, and quickly! Since we uphold the law and refuse to fight violently against soldiers and policemen, it should be very clear that without some kind of legal solution the only possible course of action is to abide by legal decisions of the Supreme Court.

I am not naive, I realize that it will not be easy to pass this law. In this world, which is so hostile to our control and to the settlements in Yehuda and the Shomron, we can expect to be required to pay a heavy price if we take a strong stand. However, what alternative do we have? Shall we leave thousands of houses in Yehuda and the Shomron in danger? There is no other way to extricate ourselves from this complex situation except for making new laws!

The Palestinian attempt to take over the land is based on nationalism, in an attempt to curtail our settlement activity, and it has nothing to do with property rights. This must be treated not as a political issue but as a legal matter of property, and discussion must revolve around preventing any harm to rights of purchase and to private property rights. There are a number of possible legal solutions to these problems, and we must adopt them as soon as we can.

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Melodies On A Violin

We are Pioneers /Moshe (Mussa) Berlin

Our holy Rebbe the author of Imrei Shaul visited Eretz Yisrael for a second time in the year 5692 (1932). In Tel Aviv the Rebbe led some very grandiose meals. People came in droves from many different sectors of the population, including many of the pioneers of the time, who wore clothing of a new type. The Rebbe said the following about these people: The pioneers exert great efforts in building, which is labor that makes the body very weary, and they dedicate their souls to revitalizing our desolate land. This is what they do all week long. But it is important for them to know that when Shabbat arrives they can pause in their efforts, and they should do nothing other than spend their time with rest and quiet. On Shabbat, G-d takes on the role of our "pioneer." He sends down blessings and abundance, for "G-d will save you by virtue of the mitzvah of Shabbat" [from "Ma Yedidut," Zemirot sung at the Shabbat Table].

In an earlier visit, in 5682 (1922), the Imrei Shaul composed a melody for "Ereshet Sefateinu," a refrain recited after the blowing of the Shofar. The tune spread rapidly throughout the land, and everybody enjoyed singing it. When the Rebbe known as the "Chalutz" (the Pioneer) heard it – Rabbi Yeshayahu Shapira, who lived in Kefar Pinnes – he asked for permission to use the tune for the poem "E-l Adon," which is part of the morning prayers on Shabbat. He was given permission on condition that the original melody would not be modified in any way. And this indeed became the most famous tune for E-l Adon.

On this first visit, the Rebbe was walking back from a "Tish" – a Friday-night gathering – from Geulah, in Jerusalem, on his way to Givat Shaul, where he was staying, accompanied by a group of followers. On the way, they met some pioneers, who asked the Rebbe about his skill in composing new music. He told them that this was not an innate trait but rather a direct gift from heaven. He said that the melodies came to him as a whole and not in separate parts. On the spot he wrote two new songs for them: "Perok Yat Anach" [from "Ya Ribon"], and "Veyiten Lecha" [recited in Maariv, at the end of Shabbat].

The album "Chavivin" by the Belz Chassidut includes the melody "The Seventh Hakafah" as part of a medley of happy songs. They note, "This is an ancient tune that was sung in Belz before the World War... on Simchat Torah. In recent times, by the holy command of the Rebbe, this melody was brought back and it became holy once again, and it is sung in our holy courtyard on various occasions." What is this melody which lost its sanctity and has now come back in favor? It may be hard to believe, but this is a tune sung all over the world – "Hava Nagillah," which was adopted by the pioneers.

Many Chassidic melodies were incorporated into the songs of the pioneers (even though they denied any connection with religion, and they prayed to the "religion of labor"). They sang Chassidic tunes, which remained embedded deep in their souls, while they performed the labors of harvesting hay and straw. Many of their songs such as "Rad Halailah," "Shir Samayach," "Havu Levainim," and more, were originally melodies sung at the Chassidic " Tish." When these melodies crossed over to the realm of the pioneers they were removed from the Chassidic repertoire, but today the trend is to bring them back to their original source.

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Nature and the Torah portion

Revenge/Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women

Take vengeance of Bnei Yisrael from the Midyanites, and then you will be gathered onto your people" [Bamidbar 31:2].

Many people have struggled with the apparent contradiction between the command to take revenge on Midyan and the general prohibition against revenge, as is written, "Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against the people of your nation, and you shall love your colleague as yourself – I am G-d" [Vayikra 19:18]. In a formal approach, one might say that the prohibition is only relevant for a person from Yisrael, as is written, "the people of your nation." Alternatively, we can invoke the Talmud, which states that the prohibition of revenge pertains only to financial damage and not to physical or mental harm (Yoma 22b). Regarding a male or female slave, the Torah commands us, "If a man strikes his slave or his maidservant with a staff and they die under his hand, they shall be avenged" [Shemot 21:20]. For killing a free person, there is a concept of blood vengeance: "Let the one who struck another be put to death, he is a murderer. The blood avenger shall kill the murderer by striking him..." [Bamidbar 35:21].

Thus, we see that there are different conditions for which revenge is allowed or forbidden. However, from the moral point of view the question remains. If revenge is evil, why is it permitted in some cases? Various answers have been given for this question, and I have chosen one that will allow us to make a comparison with the world of nature. Permitted revenge is an act that has a future significant benefit. In other words, revenge that is allowed is an act that will enhance the glory of heaven and eliminate situations where the name of G-d is desecrated. Based on this approach, we can say that Bnei Yisrael were given a command to wage war on Midyan in order to fulfill a Divine mission. This revenge is described by such verses as, "Revenge and retribution are Mine" [Devarim 32:35] and "Against such a nation, how could my soul not take revenge?" [Yirmiyahu 5:9]. Revenge for murder is meant to deter or prevent the murderer from repeating the evil act. Prohibited revenge, on the other hand, is personal vengeance which is meant to relieve the person of anger but does not have any useful value.

Perhaps we can learn something from the world of the animals in the way that Rabbi Yochanan declared: "If not for the Torah, we would learn about modesty from the cat, theft from the ant, and illicit sex from the dove" [Eiruvin 100b]. Ethologists (who study animal behavior) have tried to determine if the human activity known as "revenge" exists in animals too. A partial literature search on this subject shows that usually behavior that at first glance seems to be revenge stems in practice on an effort to defend geographical territory or resources or to prevent a repeat of a harmful act, but that there are almost no known cases of revenge as we define it. An example is the case where animals that serve as prey attack and kill the young of their attackers. The African buffalo often kills the lion cubs in its territory. Some researchers have viewed this as revenge, but the current view is that the buffaloes see the lions as enemies from which they must defend themselves, without considering their age. The buffaloes also attack hunters, and they are recognized as the main cause of the death of hunters during the hunting season.

A resident of Ramat Hasharon reported that for a very long time he was the object of repeated attacks by a crow after one of its chicks fell into his garden. His only "sin" was to try to help the chick by picking it up. From then on, he was forced to leave his home on the run, holding an umbrella and wearing a helmet for protection. He said that he felt as if he was living in a Hitchcock movie. These harsh attacks are specifically aimed at the man, and not his wife and children. Here again it is possible that what we see is instinctive aggression against a figure who was perceived as a source of danger for the chicks.

One case that indeed seems to be an act of revenge, although this is also controversial, is increased attacks on human beings by African elephants. It has been reported that herds of elephants have destroyed entire villages without any apparent cause. Some researchers see this as a form of revenge, in return for years of abuse of the elephants. This gives new meaning to the old adage, "An elephant never forgets." Elephants are very intelligent, and they do have a long enough memory that they could be taking revenge. While it is true that such attacks took place in the past, at the time they were explained as territorial struggles or competition for food. However, in view of the fact that the elephant population has decreased sharply and that there is ample food for them, this no longer appears reasonable.

I will finish with a story that I heard from Chanoch Plesser, of Sedei Eliyahu, which might indeed be a real case of animal revenge. "This is a story told to me by my late father, Of Blessed Memory, about an event he witnessed around the year 1930. A veterinarian lived next door to them in Kefar Sava. One afternoon he was sitting quietly on the porch of his house, and suddenly a camel appeared and broke into the yard, trying to attack him. With great difficulty, he managed to escape into his home. A little while later an Arab camel-driver arrived and managed to calm the animal down. He explained that a year before the camel had been treated by the veterinarian who lived there. The veterinarian had extracted a tooth from the camel, a procedure which was very painful. And now, a year later, when the Arab was leading a convoy of camels near Kalkilia, the same camel became agitated, left the convoy, and ran straight to Kefar Sava. Evidently the Arab understood what was about to happen, and he chased after the animal..."

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Straight Talk

Okay, but not Right Now /Yoni Lavie
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website

A few months ago, a young man 27 years old from Bat-Yam was arrested on suspicion that he had stolen a bag of potato chips. According to the charge, he went into a yard, but when he saw that the woman inside noticed him he immediately ran away. A while later he tried his luck again, going into the front door of a house, which was not locked. Inside there was a 12-year-old boy who asked the suspect what he wanted. He replied that he was hungry, took a bag of potato chips, and left. The man was arrested a short time later and was brought before a judge, who remanded him for three days.

What is interesting in this story is that a few months before this incident Elite, the company which makes the chips, ran an extensive advertising campaign whose main slogan was, "It is only natural that you cannot control yourself." What can we say? Evidently the ad was a huge success...

What do you Need in Order to be Successful in Life?

One of the most famous psychological experiments in the world was done by Walter Mischel at Stanford University. It is called the " Marshmallow Experiment." Mischel tested a group of children four years old by giving each one a marshmallow. They were promised that if they waited 20 minutes and didn't eat it, they would be given a prize of a second marshmallow. Would they withstand the temptation? Most of the children failed and didn't wait for the larger reward. A few seconds after the adult left the room, they gobbled up the marshmallow that was sitting on the table. There were a few outstanding children who managed to overcome their desire for the tasty candy, and waited patiently until the time was up. The children were tested years later, and the conclusion was startling. The children who had shown that they were able to delay their gratification were much more successful than the others. They were better in their studies and in work, with highly significant differences between the groups. It was clear that the trait needed most in order to succeed in life was not beauty, money, wisdom, or personal charm. The important factor was the ability of a person to control his or her desires.

Hold Back on the First Bite

As people with faith, we are sure that one of the basic differences between human beings and animals is that man is not ruled by his animal instincts, but that he has the ability to overcome them and to have moral power take control over nature. We start the day by declaring that G-d "binds Yisrael with strength," and we insist, as G-d said to Kayin, that even though "you have your inclination... you can control it" [Bereishit 4:7].

Moreover, a person of faith believes in, practices, and develops the "power to overcome" almost every day of our lives. One conspicuous example of this can be seen every Friday night after the prayers. A Jew enters his home and blesses the family with the traditional blessing, "Shabbat shalom." He smells the pleasant odors of the Shabbat meal, the combination of hot soup with chicken and potatoes flavored exactly as he loves produces a mix that is very hard to withstand. But in any case, before he will have the pleasure of putting the first morsels into his mouth, he must pass through a system of hurdles that will take some time. First the family must sing "Shalom Aleichem" (every line three times), then " Eishet Chayil" (following in some sectors by "Bar Yochai"). Many minutes pass by before the man can take his first luscious taste of the enticing food. There is Kiddush, blessing all the children (for those whose custom demands this), washing the hands, and the blessing on the bread. A lot of patience and overcoming simple urges is needed. And we have not said anything at all about the Seder night on Pesach – until we reach the meal we have a process that might take several hours, without having eaten anything other than a vegetable, the "karpass."

The Reward for Waiting

There can be no doubt that regular practice has a positive result, and the power to overcome and to delay gratification develops for us in significant ways. The result can already be seen at an early age, when a six-year-old who has just finished off a scrumptious piece of chicken decides that he wants to wash it down with chocolate milk. But he is able to accept the fact that after eating meat he must wait before drinking milk. The remarkable ability to delay and to overcome the simple urge until the proper time is seen as a vital theme in many realms: Shabbat observation, maintaining the distance between sexes, guarding what the eyes look at, "protecting the circumcision." And the same strengths are needed for matters that are not strictly related to religion, such as weight-watching.

One factor that helps a person succeed in this difficult task is to fully accept the fact that "everything has its proper time, and there is the right time for everything under the sun" [Kohellet 3:1]. Everything has its proper time. One who cannot control his desire and begins to eat a fruit before the right time might discover that it is not yet ripe, and that his impatience caused him to miss an opportunity to eat fully ripened fruit. (This can be linked to the first sin in the history of mankind and eating from the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge, but that is a subject for another article.)

What about the bag of potato chips with which we started our story? The Jewish outlook can accept a statement that "It is only natural that you cannot control yourself." However, we add that a man has the ability to take control of nature and to rise up above it (that is one of the basic ideas of the Brit – the covenant of the circumcision). With the power of our souls and using our minds and willpower, we can overcome our instincts, postpone our desires, wait patiently, and wait for the proper time. This is true about potato chips, and it is true for all other areas in our lives.

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Riddle of the Week

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

A word which appears only once in the entire Tanach

Can be found in this week's Torah portion,

It appears in the name of a modern government office.

In the Torah portion, it is mentioned in a negative way.

(Thanks to Gadi Eidelheit, Givat Shmuel - look for him on the internet.)

Answer to last week's riddle – it was: A figure in the Torah portion is connected both to good and to evil.

(With our thanks to Shulamit Citron from Bnei Berak.)

- The answer: the inclination - "yeitzer" –

- "The children of Naftali by families were: From Yachtze'el the family of Yachtze'ili, from Guni, the family of Guni, from Yeitzer the family of Yitzri, from Shileim the family of Shileimi." [Bamidbar 26:48-49].

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