Volume 1662: Mishpatim 29 Shevat 5777 25/02/2017
As Shabbat Approaches
Justice belongs to G-d/Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne
In the beginning of his book “Mussar Kodesh,” Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook discussed the difference between Divine and human morality:
“Secular morality has no depth and does not enter into the internal nature of the soul... This teaching takes no stand against the attack of various lusts which might awake in strength, and it goes without saying that such weak morality cannot serve as a guide for the general human public in all its depth and broad experience, to penetrate into the depths of the soul – and to transform the hearts of individuals and the community into a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. There is no alternative other than being guided by Divine morality. ”
The same can be said about the difference between human justice and Torah (Divine) justice. Rav Kook discusses this in “Arfilei Tohar:”
“Social punishment, especially in terms of monetary damage, has two sources in the soul: one is good and the other is bad. The first one stems from the recognition that one should never do an injustice, and that one who does so must suffer so that the good attitude (that injustice must be avoided) will gain strength. The second source is a result of a selfish feeling. Another person should not benefit from what is mine or touch what is mine, because the feeling of something being mine and of myself is stronger and more powerful than anything else... The laws of the Gentiles almost exclusively stem from this crude second source...”
A student of Rav Kook’s words explained the above ideas as follows: There is legal justice, and there is moral justice. The theme of legal justice is: give every person what belongs to him! And the role (of the courts) is to enforce this idea, to protect everybody’s possessions from being attacked by anybody else.
However, moral justice (that of the Torah, which is Divine justice) is at a much higher level. It comes to mankind with demands based on the principle that man was created in the image of our G-d, and that therefore we must get rid of animal selfishness. We must rise above it and conquer our corrupting lusts, which destroy the glory of His status.
The main objective of legal justice is to protect other people from me, from my actions. This is not true for moral justice. In this case the main goal is related to me - to make me into a better person. (See: R.Z. Pinnes, Morality of the Torah and the Talmud.)
A similar idea was expressed by the Kli Chemda on the verse, “For justice belongs to G-d” [Devarim 1:17]:
“G-d wants to establish justice – that the judgement of the Torah will be applied to Yisrael. However, when Bnei Noach were commanded to establish courts of law, the reason was to make the world peaceful but not to apply the laws of the Torah.”
The first to write this was the Maharal of Prague in his book “Tiferet Yisrael” (Chapter 25). He wrote that all the mitzvot of the Torah are Divine and that the Torah is not a natural or behavioral religion, or “ Derech eretz (proper behavior) to maintain order... Rather it is Divine. All of its words are Divine, and therefore one who observes it has the privilege of having a place in the world to come.”
The purpose of the laws of the Torah is not simply to institute proper social relationships but rather to “guide us along the paths of mercy... so that we will remain pure in our souls... and to teach us good traits” [Ramban, Devarim].
Tell a friend|Print|Close
Point Of View
Our Youthful Backyard /Zvulun Orlev
“Wild Weeds” in the Backyard
We have in our midst young men and women who gain strength from generation to generation in the path of “Torah and Labor,” and we are rightfully proud of them. The disseminating of the values of religious Zionism within our land is to the credit of these people, and it can be viewed as a success of the religious education they received in their families, from the Chemed religious school system, in the yeshivot and IDF prep schools, in our youth movements, in our communities and settlements. Credit is also due to such religious Zionist organizations as Emunah, the Kibbutz Hadati, and others.
As opposed to our wonderful youths, which number about 250,000 students in all the educational institutions combined, there are a few hundred youths, including a tough kernel of no more than a few dozen, who have abandoned the yoke of authority and the discipline of their parents, their rabbis, and their educators, ignoring the public leadership and the laws of the land. They have written their own set of national values, one that is foreign to our Torah and our nation. We cannot ignore the violent struggle of these youths in the synagogue of Amona against police and soldiers, in defiance of the calls by rabbis and community leaders to refrain from violence. The image of the destroyed synagogue is a view of our own young backyard. We can see in sharp detail the image of those who refuse to accept any authority.
What did we do, how did we react to the destruction? Except for a handful of leaders and rabbis we continued with our regular routines as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Some of us reacted calmly: They were twenty fools, they are alone, let the police take care of them. Some of us said, there is nothing we can do, we have no other course of action. Some people stayed away from controversy, saying: “They are not from among us, they are not religious Zionists” – it is not our responsibility to comment on their behavior.
However, this “backyard” causes tremendous harm, first and foremost to the young men and women themselves. Their actions lead to terrible damage to their families, their communities, to religious Zionism as a whole, and to the country. These backyard people do not suffer from damage in terms of intelligence, cognizance, emotions, or the spirit. Their head is distorted, and their soul is totally corrupt in terms of actions and values. I am sorry to say that there are some mature adults and organizations which see them as legitimate, lend them their support, encourage them, and even make use of them for their own distorted goals. Government authorities do not prosecute them fully, and the educational and therapeutic institutions have not organized properly in order to stop their downward trend and to bring them back to normative living.
Take on the Responsibility
What should we do? First of all, we must not abandon our responsibility for them and for us to search for ways to bring them back to the fold, or at the very least to prevent others from joining them. They indeed grew up in our families (including some of the most prominent and important ones), they have been living in our towns, they were educated in our youth movements and our yeshivot. They are our biological children, they are our students and members of our youth clubs. No normative family or strong community has immunity that will guarantee that such wild plants will not grow up among us. If we remain indifferent, not only will they not disappear but they will gain strength and increase their numbers without limit.
The good news is that behavioral distortion and corruption of the spirit and values of the youths can be reduced to a minimum and even corrected by proper treatment. There are educational and therapeutic models which have been shown to be capable of coping with this phenomenon. We have in our midst excellent professionals who have demonstrated successes in treating these youths. Even though we have not yet developed enough suitable places for them, there are some therapeutic institutions within religious Zionism which have shown impressive results in this matter.
What is still lacking? It is broad recognition and an awareness by us all about this problem. Rabbis, educators, and public leaders must all band together to relate to the situation. Just the acts of awareness and taking on responsibility will help to reduce the dimensions of this backyard. Awareness, responsibility, and recognizing the seriousness of the problem will guarantee that we commit the necessary resources.
Rav Kook wrote: “The objective of education is to guide a person into a proper path, whose central focus is to make him into one who is good and upright... It is clear that at times to go beyond the strict limits of the law becomes the law itself.”
It is clear that we are bound by a mitzva to dedicate our educational, spiritual, social, and financial resources to the cause of bringing our youths back to their proper form.
Success in this matter depends first and foremost on our efforts, not on the youths themselves. Let us make the effort, and we can succeed!
Tell a friend|Print|Close
The Task of the Tzadik /Rafi Ostroff
Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion
In the year 5698 (1938) the Rebbi of Husiatyn gave the following Torah insight in a sermon:
“Come now and let us have a discussion, God says” (Yeshayahu 1:18). The current topic of discussion is Eretz Yisrael.
The nation of Yisrael claims: We are going to Eretz Yisrael. Or, it would be more correct to say, we are being evicted from the lands to which we have been dispersed, and we turn towards Eretz Yisrael. (The people also emigrate to other lands, but only as private people. In response to a general national goal, we go only to Eretz Yisrael. The proof is the offer of Uganda. Even irreligious people wept when they heard this proposal, although they did not yet know if the land that was offered was good or not.) We go to the land based on the promise: “I will give it to you as a heritage, I am G-d” [Shemot 6:8]. And based on this promise in the Torah portion, “I will oppress your oppressors and I will make enemies of your enemies” [Shemot 23:22].
And now, the Jews are coming here, but the British stand at the gate and do not let them in. And those who already came in and built up the land with their blood (or their money – a pun) have encountered a wild breed of men, natives of the desert, who uproot the trees they planted and murder innocent souls. The economic foundations have been destroyed, and all roads are dangerous. (This sermon was delivered at the height of the Arab riots, during the years 5696-99 - 1936-39.)
What is it that G-d claims? He says, the promise I gave you depends on a condition: “Observe everything that I commanded you to do” [Shemot 23:13]. The reply to this condition is that Bnei Yisrael have a special privilege, as noted by Rashi: “‘Observe everything that I commanded you to do, and do not mention the names of other gods’ – This teaches us that idol worship carries the same weight as all the other mitzvot, and one who observes this mitzva is treated as if he had observed them all.” And as for Yisrael, no matter what else has happened, they do not violate the laws of idol worship, heaven forbid.
And I saw the following in Daat Zekeinim at the end of the Torah portion of Behar: “‘For Bnei Yisrael are slaves to Me, they are My slaves whom I took out of the Land of Egypt’ [Vayikra 25:55]. And then, ‘Do not make gods for you’ [26:1]. Why is this relevant here, when the passage is concerned with the laws of Yovel? I say to you, this comes to explain why we will be redeemed even though we do not observe all the mitzvot, because in any case we did observe the mitzva, ‘Do not have for you other gods’ [Shemot 20:3].
* * * * * *
The Rebbe of Husiatyn wrote this in 1938, before the great Holocaust took place, but he already saw how the Jews were being expelled from their lands. (If only more had been expelled perhaps they could have been rescued, but who could predict what was about to happen to them?)
What is the Difference between My Son and My Father-in-law’s Son?
The required condition for possession of the land is to observe the mitzvot, because this area of land is the entranceway to the King’s palace. However, the Rebbe saw the task of the great men of his generation as a need to emphasize the merits of Yisrael, in spite of what he could plainly see – that most of the people in Eretz Yisrael did not observe the mitzvot. He therefore wrote:
“It is the will of G-d that the righteous men and the leaders of the nation in every generation should awaken mercy for the people in this way and find ways to sweeten the harsh punishments that overcome them, heaven forbid. The best way to do this is to mention the other nations and to compare them to Yisrael. Then we can see the difference between “my son” and “my father-in-law’s son” – and this is the path followed by the Rebbe of Berdichev.
(According to the Talmud, Leah noted that her father-in-law’s son Eisav hated Yaacov to whom he sold the birthright, while her own son Reuven did not hate his brother Yosef who was given the birthright against Reuven’s will. See Berachot 7b.)
And here the Rebbe tells a wonderful story about Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev. He went out into the market late at night and offered some food to the people there. The Gentiles took the food and gobbled it down, while the Jews said that they must first wash their hands.
The Rebbe of Husiatyn emphasizes: The task of the rabbis is to reveal the merits of Yisrael. And in his generation he was able to say that the Jews did not worship idols and were not ready to do so (even though they did not observe the laws of Shabbat and kashrut). Today we sorely miss having such rabbis, who see their main role as a search for the merits of the people, even if the only merit that they can find is that they are not involved in idol worship...
Note: A summary of the life of Rebbe Yaacov of Husiatyn and his community appeared in issue 1646 for the Torah portion of Noach.
Tell a friend|Print|Close
The Roots Of Faith
Real Freedom /Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
What do we mean when we say that all men are free? These words have a legal connotation which has found its way into the Bill of Rights, stating that all men are free as long as their actions do not impinge on the freedom of another person. The exact boundary between conflicting freedoms will be set by specific laws.
However, the legal statement has nothing to say about independent character traits of people. Why do I make the choices that I do? Do I have a tendency to act the way I do because of the influence of factors over which I have no control? We can say that legal freedom is given to a person specifically because it is hard to believe that he is truly free, and it would therefore be patently unfair to demand that he act in a way that is different from his natural tendency.
The approach which denies that man is truly free is called determinism. This approach has taken several forms. One of these is astrology, which feels that the fate of a person is set by the status of the stars at the moment of his birth. There is also biological determinism, which feels that everything depends on genetic factors, and Greek fatalism, which believes in blind fate. Islam believes in prior fate, in that everything is set in advance by a decision of the Creator, or psychoanalytical determinism, which searches for the roots of behavior in basic trauma of childhood, or the historicism of Karl Marx, which blames everything on a class war. There are also some who claim that human behavior depends on effects of society, education, or other factors.
As opposed to all of these approaches, the outlook of Judaism stands out with all its power. It views man as a completely free being with respect to the choice between good and evil. Rambam bases this approach on four points: (1) The very fact that the mitzvot exist assumes that sin is possible (see Shemona Perakim, Chapter 8). (2) Reward and punishment would be unjust if there were no free choice. (3) Study. (4) Preparation to ward off damage.
However, we are still left with one basic question. The very fact that we are born into the world is an act of coercion. And here we have a surprising fact in the Talmud which completes the picture. “All of the products of creation agreed to be formed – they were asked if they wanted to be created and they replied in the affirmative.” [Rosh Hashanah 11a, and see Rashi). That is, every creature chose the conditions under which it would exist and the space where its free choice would have an expression – and this took place before it was created, at a stage where the difference between its own will and that of the Creator was not yet defined. And this includes the choice of belonging to a specific nation – to Yisrael or to the other nations.
This idea can be seen in the Mishna: Against your will you are created, born, live, die, and give a reckoning of your deeds (Avot 4:29). The unavoidable chain of events begins with “being created.” This corresponds to the stage where a fetus has reached forty days after fertilization (Sanhedrin 91b). This is the point when the biological recognition of existence begins, and not before.
Tell a friend|Print|Close
Nature and the Torah portion
The Use of Stones by Man and Animal/Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
“If men fight and one of them hits his colleague with a stone or a fist but he does not die, rather he falls down in bed...” [Shemot 21:18].
A Lethal Weapon
In the above verse a stone is used as a murder weapon. Stones also appear in the description of the punishment for some sins, such as a person who passes his son in front of the idol named Molech: “And say to Bnei Yisrael: Any man from Bnei Yisrael and from the stranger who lives among Yisrael who gives his son to Molech shall die. The people of the land shall pelt him with stones.” [Vayikra 20:2].
David also used stones in his battle with Goliath. “And David put his hand into the sack and he took from it a stone. And he fired it and hit the Pelishti in the forehead, and the stone was embedded in his forehead. And he fell on his face to the ground.” [Shmuel I 17:49].
A weapon is not the most common use of stone. It is more usual to see a mention of stone as a building material for various purposes, such as living quarters or worship (as a monument or an altar), or to install various items. Stone for construction is mentioned in connection with the Tower of Babel: “And one man said to another: Let us form bricks and burn them. The bricks became stone, and the mud became mortar.” [Bereishit 11:3]. Stone was also used as a monument: “And Yaacov rose early in the morning, and he took the stone which he had placed at his head and he made it into a monument. And he poured oil on its top.” [28:18].
The Torah was engraved on stone tablets: “And G-d said to Moshe, ascend to me on the mountain and remain there. And I will give to you the stone tablets and the Torah and the mitzvot which I have written in order to teach them.” [Shemot 24:12]. The mouth of a well was blocked with a large stone: “And he looked and saw, and behold, there were three flocks of sheep there... with a large stone at the mouth of the well...” [Bereishit 29:2]. And during the war against Amalek, we are told, “Moshe’s hands were heavy, so they took a stone and put it underneath him, and he sat on it. And Aharon and Chur supported his hands from both sides.” [Shemot 17:12]. In addition, stones were used as weights: “Do not have in your pocket two stones, one big and one small” [Devarim 25:13].
As opposed to the varied and widespread use of stones by humans, this is very rare among animals. In this article we will discuss some examples of such uses.
Godol, who studied chimpanzees, described specific cases where the animals threw stones at their enemies. See otters from the family of Mustelids use stones to shatter the shells of clams which they eat. The horned coot, a water bird in South America, builds a huge nest out of pebbles which it gathers into a small island in the shallow water of the lakes. The stones, which can reach a weight of 450 grams, are picked up in their beaks by the pair building the nest. The stones are piled into the shape of cone about 0.6 meters high, with a base of about 4 sq m and a top of about 1 sq m. The weight of the stones can reach as much as 1.5 tons. After the base is complete, the top is covered with plants from the water.
The blackstart bird which lives in the desert pads the entrance to its nest and the surroundings with small stones. The reason for this strange floor, which is evidently not functional, has been the subject of much research. One hypothesis is that this is a ceremonial act meant to impress the female. The ability of the male to carry relatively heavy stones to the nest is testimony to his genetic suitability.
Stone Tools for Monkeys
One of the early eras in the history of mankind is the Stone Age. The name of this prehistoric era stems from the fact that the most prominent remains from human culture of this era are vessels made of stones which can be carved – mainly various types of flint, basalt, and chalk. The raw materials were fashioned into tools, cutting instruments, and weapons. Surprisingly, archeologists found that some species of monkeys have their own “Stone Age.”
In recent times a new research branch has developed which is called “primate archeology.” In excavations in the rain forests of West Africa, in the forests of Brazil, and on the coast of Thailand, coarse “stone vessels” have been found which were surprisingly used by such primates as chimpanzees, macaque monkeys, and capuchin monkeys.
The significance of these discoveries is that man was not the only creature which left behind testimony of an ancient culture that can be studied using the techniques of archeology. Many groups of animals use such tools, which are usually made of biodegradable materials, such as leaves or twigs. For example, the long-tailed macaque monkey is unusual in that it uses stone tools to crack open nuts, clams, snails, and crabs. By this behavior, the macaque monkeys have become one of the rare species which followed mankind into the “Stone Age.” Research done at the site revealed “stone tools” which can be linked to the monkeys based on the way in which they were used. The age of the tools was estimated based on the age of the clams found at the same strata (as established by carbon 14 analysis). Preliminary analysis shows that the stone implements were first used about 65 years ago, but the researchers hope to be able to dig deeper, which will allow them to reveal the initial source of the use of stone. Similar research with chimpanzees showed that the beginning of their “Stone Age” was about 4,000 years ago. The researchers also hope to discover the factors which led to the beginning of the use of “stone tools” by the population of monkeys.
For more information in Hebrew and for pictures, and to regularly receive articles about plants and animals linked to the Daf Yomi, write e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell a friend|Print|Close
The Challenge of Adar: Downfall or Wonderful?/Yoni Lavie
Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website
The month of Adar is around the corner, and everybody is in high tension. Many children and youths anticipate this period with great enthusiasm. But in many schools the staff goes into a state of getting ready to repel an attack. Many principals have begun a countdown to the end of Purim with a silent prayer that we will come through the next two weeks with as little damage as possible.
The sharpest comment that I heard was by a home-room teacher, who said, “the
School year is divided into two parts. In the first part we educate them, build up their character, point them in the right direction, and push them higher and higher. In the second part we gather the broken pieces and repair the damage. And what separates the two halves? It is Purim...”
Admittedly, that is a harsh description, but there can be no doubt that many people have a strong feeling of missing the mark with respect to the holiday which the ARI described as being as great as (or possibly greater than) Yom Kippur (based on the famous play on words and the similarity of their two names). From one year to the next, we are dragged through event after event which might be more reminiscent of the Ninth of Ave than Yom Kippur.
Blessed is He Who Releases the Prisoners
Why does this happen? Actually, the reason is quite simple. Many of the students see this month as a wonderful opportunity to burst out of all boundaries, with permission to do all sorts of things that are forbidden during the rest of the year. And they can even happily give halachic justification for their conclusion. After all, drinking, which is forbidden all year round, is not only permitted on Purim but becomes a mitzva for one day (see Megillah 7b). This leads them to the “logical” conclusion that of course any other prohibition becomes allowed on this day. All year round you must not offend others, especially if they are older than you and you are supposed to show respect for them. But now, you are allowed to laugh, to mimic, and to poke fun, without any limits. All year round you must keep to modest limits in how you dress and in behavior – but now everything is open and becomes possible. The bottom line is that the scent of Purim reminds you more of the party hosted by Achashverosh and Haman than it makes you think of Mordechai the Jew and Esther the Queen.
So, here are some small reminders related to the wonderful month that we are about to encounter.
(1) The True Test – It is not in vain that the sages taught us that “a person can be recognized through his drink,” and “when wine goes in, the secrets come out” [Eiruvin 65]. These days present us with a great test . What is really inside us, and what comes out when the normal boundaries are dropped? This month acts as a mirror which shows us how we really stand after all the effort we expended to build up our personalities during the year.
(2) Not the Contents but the Form – The main guideline must be that what changes for this month is the form but not the contents. Whoever believes in an important principle can never give it up just because according to the calendar “Adar” has arrived. If modesty is a true value, it remains valid all the time, even right now. If insulting somebody is a serious sin all year round, there is no way to make an insult and to excuse ourselves just because it is Purim. Just as the law of gravity and other natural laws are not cancelled this month, so the laws and the edicts of the Torah remain one hundred percent valid.
(3) Just the Opposite – the real challenge which we face is how to use the tool of laughter, costumes, and opposites in order to get close to reality and to the events of which it consists, and to look at them from a fresh angle. At times it is just this method – the “Purim” approach – that will allow us to bring out constructive criticism, overcoming pitfalls and obstacles that block us during the rest of the year.
(4) The One who takes the Trouble to Prepare before Shabbat... – Getting ready properly for Adar begins the month before, in Shevat – in fact, in a broader sense it should begin in Elul. How do we go about teaching ourselves and our students what is really important to us, what message we want to convey to the world, and what we are careful to avoid? The more we implant deep inside us the values in which we truly believe, and if we manage to aim higher and higher every year – this will also be revealed in the way we celebrate Purim. This month brings up important questions that are vital for us to understand: What is true joy, and how can we achieve it? Do we have a specific subject for the “coronation” of a Purim rabbi and for the entire month, together with a message that we want to pass on? How can we manage to get the entire class to participate without leaving even one student behind?
(5) Clear Guidelines – It is very important to establish in advance – in a calm manner, without any influence of alcohol – the rules which will be in effect at the moment of truth. No “human sacrifices,” what are our limits in terms of mixing of boys and girls, clothing, drinking, and so on. It is important to understand that these limits are not set in order to stifle joy and block it from bursting forth but rather to channel it in a healthy and proper direction and to protect us from things which we might regret at some later time.
(6) Spiritual Preparation – Every holiday (and especially Purim) has a spiritual content and a treasury of messages that it is willing to share with anybody who will open his heart to receive them. The more spiritual preparations we make in study and introspection, the more we will manage to produce from this holiday.
(7) The Test of the Day After – One criterion to see if we have succeeded in celebrating Purim as we should is to answer the following question: What is our appearance on the day after the holiday? Are we empty, squeezed out, and barely able to carry on until Pesach redeems us, or are we full of new energy, vitality, and freshness in anticipation of the days which are fast approaching, with love?
We wish everybody a successful and happy month!
For reactions, added material, and to join an e-mail list: milatova.org.il
Tell a friend|Print|Close
Zomet At The Crossroads
Using a Magnifier on Shabbat for the Visually Impaired /The Zomet Institute
People who are visually impaired can read in a reasonable way by using a CCTV (closed circuit television) magnifier. This consists of a tray on which the reading material is placed and a scanning camera which sends the image to a screen. This could be a book, a newspaper, or a Tanach. There are also buttons and knobs to modify such things as magnification, contrast, and so on.
What about Shabbat? The Zomet Institute permits using this equipment on Shabbat if it is turned on for the entire Shabbat or intermittently by a timer, as long as all the control knobs and buttons are covered and inaccessible. The scanning process is continuous and takes place whether there is a page to be read or not. Our entire world is covered by cameras, and this does not present a problem on Shabbat because they do not involve opening or closing any electric circuits but only frequency modifications that correspond to the changing picture. Zomet Institute feels this does not constitute writing or recording because the image is only projected onto the screen.
Tell a friend|Print|Close
Riddle of the Week
Mishpatim /Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
Two out of the twelve last ones appear in this week’s Torah portion.
In one of the two, one vowel had been changed.
Which two appear in the portion?
Answers for last week – the riddle was: What phrase with two words appears only once in this week’s Torah portion but appears no less than five times in Mishpatim?
- The phrase is “mot yamut” – he shall surely die.
- In Yitro: “Make a boundary for the nation all around, saying: Be wary of ascending the mountain or touching its edge. Whoever touches the edge will surely die.” [Shemot 19:12].
- In Mishpatim: “One who strikes a man who dies will surely die” [21:12]. “One who strikes his father or his mother will surely die... One who kidnaps another and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, will surely die... One who curses his father or his mother will surely die...” [21:15-17]. “Anybody who lies with a beast will surely die” [22:18].
* * * * * *
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: www.hidonim.com
Tell a friend|Print|Close