"At the end of seven years, at the time of the Shemitta year on the holiday of Succot... Gather the nation." [Devarim 31:10,12].
The Poetry of Shemitta
Rav Avraham Yitachak Kook, the father of Torah Zionism and the poet of Shemitta, uses exalted language to describe the ideal, visionary, and utopian seventh year. "A year of quiet and peace... A year of equality and expansion of the soul. There is no private property and no designated rights, and Divine peace reigns over everything whose soul breathes within him... Mankind returns to its fresh nature... A spirit of sanctity and nobility envelopes everything. 'Let there be a Shabbat year for the land – Shabbat for G-d.' [Vayikra 25:4]." [From the introduction to Rav Kook's book, Shabbat HaAretz]. Let it come true quickly for all of us – Amen!
The Confusion of Shemitta
In practice, the daily reality is very far from this noble and peaceful holy atmosphere. This article is dedicated to the viewpoint of the consumer, who purchases the goods and who is interested in keeping his or her table kosher, as opposed to the viewpoint of the farmer who grows and provides the produce of the land. There is great confusion in the religious consumer markets, and it seems to me that the housewives and those who have the responsibility of purchasing food for religious institutions are quite confused. Among the rabbis within religious Zionism a line is being drawn between those who prefer the "heter mechirah" and others who give their preference to the "otzar beit din." On the other side, the Chareidi sector supports purchasing from a Gentile as the only valid approach. From their viewpoint, all the other possibilities are "Mizrochnik" – a derogatory name for a religious Zionist approach. (This includes hydroponics, hothouses, and such geographic locations as the southern or western Negev and the Aravah.)
I will attempt to put some order in this situation, acting like a neutral "United Nations observer," at least for the purposes of the article.
Without any doubt, an important element of the existing dispute is not connected to the halacha of Shemitta but rather to strictly external arguments – pseudo-halachic, based on outlook, and related to various camps. The "heter mechirah" (a formal sale of all the land in Israel to a Gentile during the year of Shemitta) certainly has no less a basis than many other accepted halachic devices which employ "devious" actions. (This includes such examples as selling the chametz before Pesach, a "heter isska" to allow banks to lend money and deal with interest, the "eiruv" that allows carrying on Shabbat, the "prozbul" that supersedes the prohibition of collecting loans after Shemitta, milking on Shabbat, handling firstborn among cattle, and more. (See my article in Techumin, volume 21, "Halachic deviousness as public decrees," which has been reprinted in my new book, "Bachatzotzerot Beit Hashem.")
However, the heter mechirah for Shemitta has been tagged in the Chereidi sector with a red banner because it is identified with Rav Kook, even though he did not initiate the idea but merely supported it in his capacity as "rabbi of the settlements" during the pioneering era of Zionist settlement. The heter mechirah has been transformed into an item that is "muktzeh" – that is, totally rejected – because of its relationship to Zionism, and candidates for Chief Rabbi have been judged and elected based on their attitude towards this matter. There is no possibility of ever reversing this outlook. It has become a social "truism" and it has very little to do with halacha. In reaction, on the other side, which sees Zionism as holy, there are some who view the heter mechirah as a factor in the sanctity of Zionism, and who therefore consider any belittling of the idea as heresy.
The concept of an "otzar beit din" (which does not include a heter mechirah) is a great hit in the Torah-Zionist realm, and it goes hand in hand with the approach of the Chazon Ish, who strongly objected to the heter mechirah. This is a complex devious halachic device (much more complicated than the heter mechirah). This stems not only from the very novel halachic principles that are involved but also in the permission granted to merchandise the produce to consumers who want the fruits to have Shemitta sanctity, in spite of the Torah prohibition to buy and sell Shemitta produce. And indeed this is a case where "the problem is the solution." The sanctity of the produce, which is considered a fault by those who oppose this solution is its main benefit in the eyes of its supporters. We should bless G-d for having come to a state where people "love sanctity" and willingly take on a beloved but challenging mitzva which includes within it an exaltation of the spirit and a desire to be linked more closely to the holy land.
The Gentile as an Intermediary Approach
An avowed skeptic, who refused to ever make any decision, said, "Until Rashi and Rabeinu Tam come to an agreement between them which is the correct sequence of the passages in the Tefillin, I do not wear either one." Today, he says, "Until the arrival of the Mashiach, who will make the final determination whether the heter mechirah or otzar beit din is best, I will depend on the Gentile, a position that has no problems." And if the Chazon Ish added a new stringency, to treat fruits from Gentiles as if they too have Shemitta sanctity (a Bnei Berak ruling that was never accepted in Jerusalem), there is another escape – import fruits and vegetables from abroad, strictly from Gentile production. And as to the claim of the Zionists that the Gentiles – in Israel and abroad – are thereby making merchandizing inroads that will last for years and are increasing the amount of land that they work (while the Department of Agriculture constantly increases their water quota) – these are claims that have nothing to do with Shemitta but are based on concepts that are nationalistic, Zionist, and outside of the realm of the Chareidi sector.
As far as I am concerned, whoever limits his viewpoint specifically to the laws of Shemitta can accept and eat any of the fruits and vegetables that have been given kashrut approval. On the assumption that the approving authorities are doing their work in a satisfactory way, I see no reason to spread panic among the public, to bring the produce from far away with a greater cost by rejecting one kashrut approval or another.
The following is a simplified table of the situation from the point of view of the consumers (asking for forgiveness from my pedantic colleagues):
Otzar Beit Din
From Eretz Yisrael
Everything is permitted – no limits on the consumer
Enhance the fondness of the sanctity of the fruits
No limits or Shemitta sanctity. Some feel that the fruits are holy
No limits (some rabbis feel that there can be a problem of appearances)
Shemitta is completely bypassed
Handling the produce can be difficult (special distribution is needed, and remains must be treated in a special way)
The hold of Gentile interests in Eretz Yisrael is enhanced. Some rabbis feel that the fruits must be considered holy
A permanent increase in all imports from Gentile lands, not just during Shemitta
. . * * * * * *
As the year 5775 begins with the approach of the Torah portion of Bereishit, we will say farewell to the writers of three departments that have enriched our bulletin for the past few years (two men and two women!). The time has now come to convey to them our heart-felt gratitude. They are: Yogli Roichman, Aliyahu and Hila Fargeon, and Rabbi Yoseph Leichter. Let them continue to have long and productive lives, and let them find other venues to disseminate their wares.
Who will replace them? For the time being this will remain our surprise for you...
The prophecy of Zecharia, which we read as the Haforah, transforms Succot into a universal holiday, during which the entire world will ascend to Jerusalem. In addition, however, it also describes two historical changes that echo in our minds to this very day.
"And it will happen on that day that water from a spring will flow out of Jerusalem, half going to the Eastern Sea (Hayam Hakadmoni) and half to the Western Sea (Hayam Ha'acharon)" [Zecharia 14:8]. This can be understood both from geographic and from historic viewpoints. Geographically, one who stands facing the rising sun sees from the east the primordial sea (hakadmoni) - the Dead Sea. And behind him (ha'acharon) he can see the Mediterranean Sea. Until the time of Zecharia, Yisrael stood facing the lands to the east, but in the future the culture of the west will come from behind, starting with the rule of Greece. Zecharia had a vision of this future development, and he prophesizes that in the end the greatest influence will not be from the east or the west, but that the water of Jerusalem will have a great influence on both cultures.
Kadmoni and acharon also represent the past and the future. Today too we vacillate between the cultures of the east and the west, between the conservatism of the past and innovation of the future. We must meet the challenge of making use of the water of the spring to mold our own culture and not to drown in foreign waters.
As Shabbat Approaches > Pesach for the Nations / Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
On the face of it, the date of the holiday of Succot seems to be out of place. The Torah teaches us that the purpose of Succot is "so that your later generations will know that I caused Bnei Yisrael to dwell in succot when I took them out of the Land of Egypt" [Vayikra 23:43]. This could be a hint of the event that is described in the Torah portion of Bo: "And Bnei Yisrael traveled from Raamses to succot" [Shemot 12:37], meaning that the people sat then in succot, temporary booths. This is true whether we accept the word at face value as meaning physical booths or if we say that it refers to the Clouds of Glory (which is the subject of a dispute between the rabbis). But this event took place on the fifteenth of Nissan, on the holiday of Pesach. Thus, Succot should take place during Pesach. Why has it been put off for a full six months?
To answer this question, we note that the holiday of Pesach emphasizes the difference between Yisrael and the other nations. On Pesach we reject the negative side of the other nations: "Pour out Your anger on the nations which do not know You and on the families which do not call out in Your name" [Yirmiyahu 10:25]. However, Succot is a universal holiday, when we invite the other nations to participate in the festivities. All the nations will ascend to Jerusalem on Succot, and when the Temple exists we even bring seventy sacrifices on Succot in order to atone for actions of the seventy nations of the world.
This implies that Succot is the equivalent of Pesach for the other nations of the world. If the time had been ripe when the Exodus from Egypt took place, all the nations of the world would have been rescued from their internal bondage at the same time that we left Egypt, and Succot would indeed have taken place at the same time as Pesach. The universal holiday would have been combined with the national holiday of Bnei Yisrael. However, since neither the other nations nor Yisrael merited to have this happen at the time, their redemption was delayed until some future date, and their holiday takes place in Tishrei, at the time of year which is the new year for the other nations. In the end, then, the Hebrew year consists of three time periods. (1) Pesach celebrates the release of Yisrael from Egypt in the past. (2) Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah, which takes place anew every single day, in the present. (3) The third holiday, Succot, marks the time for a future event – the redemption of all the peoples of the world at the same time as Israel reaches its final and last redemption.
There is also another hint here. In order to become reconciled with the other nations, leading to an uplifting of all the souls of mankind, there is a need to pass through the Days of Awe as a way of deleting all the sins and failures of mankind. Only in this way will Yisrael be able to once again meet with the other nations of the world, and they will help reunite Yisrael with the world of nature. The nation of Yisrael has struggled against nature for thousands of years, since the cultures with an affinity to nature were always related to idol worship. Only at the end of days will it be possible to see sanctity within nature. The main rituals of the holiday are to take hold of fresh branches that come from the realm of nature and to bring them into a temporary home that is made up of green vegetation, in order to reunite with the sanctity that is part of nature. And this is a description of the great primordial lights which are being preserved just the way they are, so that they can be revealed in the distant future.
Rabbi Cherki is the head of Brit Olam – Noahide World Center, Jerusalem
Everybody knows to quote the Midrash about the fact that the four species of Succot represent four types of Jews – with taste and odor, with taste or odor but not both, and with neither taste nor odor. The mitzva is to take hold of all four types together, and this way the performance of the mitzva hints at the need for complete unity when we turn to G-d.
The Chassidic approach notes that the unity of the four species can be seen not only when they are joined together but when each species is analyzed separately.
The lulav is the "top of the date tree" [Vayikra 23:40]. The Talmud notes that the word "kipat" is written without a yud, hinting that the leaves must be united with the central stalk. We are taught that "if the leaves are spread apart the lulav cannot be used."
The hadas, "a branch from a thick tree" [ibid], must have three leaves that grow from exactly the same place on the branch, in a way that emphasizes unity and order.
The aravah, a willow branch, is called "achvanah" in the Talmud, denoting the close unity of the leaves of this tree, which grow so close that they overlap.
The trait of unity is even more prominent with respect to the etrog. The sages teach us that the phrase "a fruit of a tree that is beautiful" – hadar - [ibid] also hints at the word for dwelling, meaning that the fruit remains on the tree for a long time, even as long as an entire year. It not only survives the changes of the seasons, it can continue to grow and expand as the climate changes. The etrog is a fruit that creates unity out of changing situations. This trait does not exist in other fruits, which always develop during a specific season, even if they do manage to survive on the tree longer than other fruits.
Gathering together Jews who are very different from each other is important, but what is the significance of the innate unity of each and every species? Is each of us meant to unify with ourselves?
"It Represents the Holy One, Blessed be He"
The answer to the above question is that the unity is the unity of G-d! G-d is one not only in the sense that there is no other, but also in that there is nothing else aside from Him. Not only is He the only G-d, He is the essence of being One. There is no other, and there is nothing without Him. The revelation of G-d within each one of the four species is a feature that is great and wonderful, and it gives us the opportunity to feel the true unity of G-d that is "in heaven above and on the earth below, there is nothing else" [Devarim 4:39]. There is no reality separate from G-d, and His unity can be seen in each and every detail of reality.
And this is the hidden meaning of another remarkable Midrash about the four species. "The etrog is the Holy One, Blessed be He, the lulav is the Holy One, Blessed be He, the hadas is the Holy One, Blessed be He, the aravah is the Holy One, Blessed be He" [Vayikra Rabba 30:9].
The nation of Yisrael is responsible to reveal the unity of G-d in the world, as we say in our prayers: "You are One, and Your name is One, and who is like Your nation Yisrael – one nation on the earth?" [Shabbat Mincha]. Based on the unity of Yisrael, which is revealed in the unity of the four species, the "Oneness" of G-d is revealed on the earth. The revelation of the Holy One, Blessed be He, comes about when the four types of people in the nation take hold of the four species.
The Hidden Meaning of the Shaking the Four Species
And since all four species represent the Holy One, Blessed be He, we take hold of them with great holiness and purity, and by the way we shake them we rid ourselves of all evil spirits and draw His sanctity within us. There are many different intentions for the patterns of shaking the four species. Here is one of the most novel ideas, which was found in a notebook that was in the desk of the Rebbe of Chabad after he passed away.
We first point south and north – In this way, a person shows that he is not afraid of the evil inclination, neither the heat of lust (which is hinted at by the heat of the south) nor by the cold (hinted at by the cold of the north).
And then to the east – We shake towards the direction where the sun rises in order to express the desire of the Jew to add more and more light in the world, without accepting the existing light as sufficient.
Up and down – We yearn to reach the highest possible levels. We are involved in the inner secrets of the Torah, and one who feels that he is drawn to "the depths" can descend, take action, mend the situation, and make changes and have an influence even "deep below" – at a low level.
The last shake is towards the west – The Shechina rests in the west, and a Jew achieves perfect unity with sanctity, a feeling of total insignificance, and clinging to the Creator. This can lead to a feeling of partnership. By virtue of his deeds he is merited to become "a partner of the Holy One, Blessed be He, in the act of creation."
In the spirit of the holidays which occur at this time, we would like to dedicate our last column to some confessions and to a few words of farewell.
Our first apology is for the fact that we did not talk about all the different phenomena which we encounter and about how serious they are. We did indeed leave out many interesting stories, including the lessons that they might have taught us. The reason is that when you talk about one problem after another and go into in-depth discussions of the educational problems of the home that is Jewish, Torah-inspired, and morally valued, the heart can well descend into a situation where "darkness covers the earth, and a thick mist covers the nations" [Yeshayahu 60:2]. And the truth is that as people with faith, sons of ancestors with faith, it is clear as the sun to us that the most important elements are a joy of life and belief in the ultimate good of the soul. This will lead to a situation where "G-d will shine on you" [ibid].
In books related to Kabbalah and Chassidut we are taught that the sin of the Tree of Knowledge in the Torah portion of Bereishit (are you reading this article at the end of Succot?) was that Adam chose to look at the lowly elements of reality, which eventually dragged him down. Not only didn't he rescue the serpent, but Adam's head – as it were – was no longer in the Garden of Eden, even before he was expelled. With this point of view in mind, we wrote in our earliest columns about educational aspects of the Torah portions, illustrating our points with a few stories. These were the articles about which we received the largest number of responses. In the end, the editors of the bulletin asked for more stories from the field, and that is what we gave you, in a carefully measured way.
Our second apology is that we were not always fair to the bulletin itself and to our readers in that at times we presented side alleyways as the main highway. That is, there were a number of cases where youths whose parents or teachers read our columns turned to us and asked us to use the column to send a message to the adults. In at least one case that we know about, we managed to help in this way. (Was this your child? Well, in at least 99% of the cases, our answer would be no.) But our conscience is not completely clear, and we therefore hope that this note will amuse our readers and not bring us criticism.
Third and last, we apologize that we did not spend enough time on writing our columns. We have the privilege of receiving many requests for help in very private circumstances. The nature of the world is that whatever is extremely urgent takes precedence over what is merely important, so whenever we sat at the computer we would first take care of emergencies and only later, in the wee hours of the night, did we find the time to write our articles. You can ask the editors which column was always submitted among the last ones, after repeated reminders. We have no doubt that the editors are now breathing a sigh of relief not only because this is our last column, and because it once again was sent to them at the last minute, as usual. Perhaps it would have been better to combine the objectives by structuring this column as a series of responsa.
And now, within the era of the holidays, we return to the first sentence above, with words of farewell. First of all, we thank "Shabbat B'Shabbato" for the prestigious forum that they provided us, and for their gracious patience. We thank those who provided us with inspiration, such as Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Shmuel Yaniv, Rabbi Yehoshua Shapiro, Rabbi Yitzchak Shapiro, Rabbi David Dudkevitz, Rabbi Pincho Rubenstein, and Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who at critical intersections guided us, advised us, and helped us reach out to young hearts and minds. We give our hearty thanks to the permanent supporters of the Jewish Tent: "The Religious Zionist Enterprise" directed by Tzvi Tzvival and Benayah Friedman, the wonderful Keinar Hotel, where we are always pleasantly surprised to see the way it caters to our youths, to Nati Avivi from "Ahavti," and to Achiyah Dan from "Manifah."
We end with the hug that we promised in the title of this article. An idea that is attributed to the Holy ARI draws a comparison between sitting in a succah and a hug by the Creator. The two minimum full walls of the succah stand for the upper arm and the forearm, while the required additional small wall that is merely a "tefach" wide is a fist that represents an embrace between two courageous hearts. Our desire to remain in the succah is a measure of how capable we are of receiving a hug. The strength of the embrace we are able to accept is an indication of what we can give others. A hug is also the most important element in the home, and with a hug we leave you, with our wishes for a happy and blessed year.
A family named "Yisraeli" > Heaven Help Us! / Rabbi Yikhat Rozen Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality
Everything is ready. The succah is standing proudly in our yard, beautiful and decorated. Very soon the holiday will begin, and we will go inside.
For the holiday we have invited important guests: my cousin Yasmin and her whole family. After the evening prayers we all went down to the succah, ready to sit down for the holiday meal. Yasmin, who has trouble with her feet because of a handicap, used her crutches to get down to the succah on her own, as happy as she could be. I went down the stairs very carefully, holding a steaming pot in my hands.
And then there was a sudden bark – "Bow-Wow!" I was so startled that I almost dropped the pot. I managed to settle down and looked around, and I was very frightened to see a big black dog roaming around our yard.
I want to tell you that the thing I fear the most in the whole world is a dog. I myself do not understand why they scare me so much, people always try to calm me down by saying such things as "He barks but he never bites... He is such a cute dog... Don't worry, little girl, he won't do anything to you..." I know that they are right – but I freeze from fear every time I see a dog.
And now, this huge black dog was roving around right near me. Who knows, maybe he will come into the succah with me too! Yasmin had passed me by in spite of her crutches, but I went slowly, step by step, trying somehow to reach the succah without passing right by the dog.
But there it was – perhaps Satan had sent the dog to torment me. Just then he decided to come closer and closer to me, wagging his tail, and showing his sharp teeth! I stood still, hoping that he would move on, but it seems that he decided that I was easy prey, and he started to smell my foot.
Boy was I scared! I had the feeling that in another moment he would open his mouth wide and take a big bite out of my foot!
For a minute I froze in place, and then I heard a scream come out of my mouth. And all at once I was free. I didn't pay attention to the heavy pot any more, I just ran as fast as I could to the succah and rushed inside. All I wanted to do was to put the pot down and hide among all the others that were already there.
"What happened?" Yasmin asked me. "What was that scream we heard?"
And I was trembling so much that I could only stammer, "It – it – it's the dog!" I was breathing hard and shaking.
The dog had followed me, and he stood at the door of the succah, looking in. But he didn't come inside. Yasmin came close to me, hugged me, and waited for me to calm down. The dog gave a soft growl and went away.
Only after the dog moved away, Yasmin started to talk. She said, "You know that we used to live in Gush Katif, don't you?" Of course I knew that. Yasmin continued, "I have vague memories of something that happened to us once on Succot, but my father can probably tell you more about it."
And her father, Uncle Tzvika, said, "Do you mean the story of the artillery shell?" Yasmin answered, "Of course."
Tzvika said, "Here is the story. I always sleep and eat in the succah, as we have been commanded by the Torah. That year the Arabs were shooting shells at us all the time. There were not even any sirens to warn us. Every now and then we heard a frightening shriek, and we would run to find cover. How did it happen that many people were not injured? It could only be explained as a heavenly miracle! I don't have any more logical explanation.
"On Succot, we were not sure if we should sleep in the succah, or if it might be too dangerous. I decided that since there was no defense anyway, and since it was just as dangerous in the house - where we never had enough time to reach a shelter anyway - I might just as well sleep in the succah. I started the night peacefully, and then there was the familiar shriek – artillery fire! What should I do? A direct hit on the succah would destroy it completely!"
And then his wife, Aunt Oshra, continued. "It turned out that the succah was the safest place around. The shell landed not far from us, in an open area, but it never got into the succah itself!"
Yasmin turned to me. "You see? The dog didn't come into your succah either. And thieves usually do not visit on Succot. I learned a very important lesson from that shell that fell near us. It is G-d who is in charge of whatever will happen to us. If He decides to protect us, even a rickety succah made of boards and leaves will keep us safe, and if not – then there is nothing that will keep us safe!"
"So what are you saying? That we don't have to be careful or guard over ourselves?" I asked, still trembling a bit.
And Uncle Tzvika said, "Of course we should be careful. But to be afraid? That is going too far! G-d is with us! If we do everything we should, there is no reason to be afraid, and G-d will help us."
The Source for the Prohibition of Destroying Shemitta Fruits
The prohibition of destroying Shemitta fruits is derived from the verse, "Let the Shabbat of the land be for you for eating" [Vayikra 25:6]. The Talmud learns from this, "for eating, and not for business" [Avoda Zara 72a]; "for eating and not to be burned" [Menachot 84a]; "for eating and not to cause a loss" [Pesachim 53b]. In a different matter, the Talmud in the tractate of Shabbat teaches us that an action that is not a result of the direct force of a person but was done by indirect action ("gramma") is not considered "a human action" in terms of acts that the Torah prohibited.
However, with respect to the prohibition to destroy Shemitta fruits, there is room for some discussion. Is the basis for the prohibition a need to refrain from acting in a way to "humiliat" the fruit? If so, perhaps the use of gramma might be permitted. On the other hand, if the emphasis of the Torah is that the fruit must be eaten, then the prohibition would depend on the final result. Then, any act that prevents or limits the consumption of the fruit would not be allowed, even if a process of gramma is used.
Cooking Shemitta Vegetables in Oil that is Teruma
In his responsa (1:83), the Maharit was asked if one is allowed to feed strawberry leaves to silkworms, since trimming off the leaves causes the berries to fall off more quickly and they are therefore ruined. He allowed doing this for several reasons. Among other things, he discusses the issue of gramma in a loss of Shemitta fruits.
"And even though when this is done the fruits dry up and fall off, as is noted in Chulin – that if not for the leaves no fruit would exist – this does not violate the prohibition 'for eating and not to cause a loss' since the process is one of gramma and not a direct action. This can be seen from the Talmud Yerushalmi, Chapter 1: 'bundles of vegetables can be put on the roof, where they will dry by themselves.' That is, this is food for humans and it is not permitted to feed it to the animals, but once it has dried and is no longer fit for human consumption it can be given to the animals."
The Ridbaz (Beit Ridbaz 5:1) followed the lead of the Maharit, but he writes that the question is related to a dispute of Tana'im:
"Vegetables of Shemitta should not be cooked in oil that is Teruma, to avoid making it unfit. Rabbi Shimon allows it, and he says that the last thing treated becomes holy because of Shemitta and the fruit itself is forbidden." [Mishna, Shevi'it 8:7].
The Reason for the Prohibition
The Rambam (in his commentary on the Mishna) explains that the fear in the above Mishna is that some of the "Shemitta vegetables" will suffer a loss (both Bartanura and Tiferet Yisrael write the same), because they will have to be treated as Teruma, holy food eaten only by Kohanim. (This is opposed by the ROSH and the RA"SH – Rabbi Shimon of Shantz – who explained that the fear in the Mishna is that Teruma oil will be destroyed if the vegetables are burned when the time comes to destroy unused Shemitta products.) The Rambam writes:
"'To avoid making it unfit' – If the food is declared unfit because the Teruma becomes ritually impure everything will be burned, and in an indirect way this will prevent the Shemitta fruits from being eaten... And Rabbi Shimon's opinion is not accepted by the halacha."
Since when the food is cooked the Teruma oil is still pure, and the only fear of the unnamed rabbi in the beginning of the Mishna (whose opinion is accepted as halacha) is for a possible impurity in the future, we see that the Rambam feels that it is forbidden to cause Shemitta fruits to be destroyed even by a process of gramma. (This is also the opinion of the author of Mishmeret Habayit, who discussed this matter with the Ridbaz, as is noted in the above responsa).
However, the Ridbaz (who agrees with the Maharit who permits destroying Shemitta fruit by a process of gramma) notes that the case of cooking Shemitta vegetables in Teruma oil is more serious than a normal case of gramma, since if the Teruma becomes ritually impure in the future it will have to be burned by positive action, while it is only the prohibition to eat it that comes automatically. This is also the opinion of the GRA in his commentary on the Mishna:
"If the Teruma becomes impure it will be necessary to burn everything, but the Torah told us, 'for eating and not for a loss.'"
On the other hand, from the wording of the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishna – "in an indirect way this will prevent the Shemitta fruits from being eaten" – it seems that the fear of the Tana is that the fruit itself will become forbidden, and evidently all form of gramma is forbidden. In my humble opinion, the reason that the Rambam did not mention destroying the fruit by direct action is that once it is no longer fit to eat there is no longer any prohibition of destroying it, since this is derived from the command that the fruit is "for eating." (However, according to the GRA, quoted above, the prohibition to destroy the fruits stems from their inherent sanctity and it remains valid even after they are no longer fit to eat.)
A Definite Loss versus a Case of Doubt
We have seen that the ROSH and the RA"SH disagree with the Rambam, and they explain that the fear in the Mishna is that the Teruma will be burned unnecessarily because the time when the Shemitta fruits must be destroyed will arrive. This seems to imply that they do not prohibit destroying Shemitta food by a process of gramma. However, it may be that the reason they do not accept the opinion of the Rambam is that in the case in the Mishna there is no certainty that the gramma loss will take place, if the Teruma does not become impure. And then perhaps they will agree with the Rambam in a case where the loss through gramma is definite.
Previously we saw that the Maharit proves his opinion (to allow gramma for destroying the fruits) based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, which permits putting the fruit on the roof where it will dry out, transforming it from human to animal food. That is, one is permitted in this way to get rid of human food! However, the Mikdash David and the Chazon Ish reject his proof, and they differentiate between a place where the fruit will become spoiled in a natural process (from the rays of the sun) and taking some positive action which leads to the spoilage (by causing the leaves to fall away). The Mikdash David brings a proof for his opinion from a verse. "For your cattle... all of the grains will be available to eat" [Vayikra 25:7]. This implies that the animals belonging to a person should not be prevented from eating the fruit, even though one is forbidden to physically feed them (as the Rambam writes, see Hilchot Shevi'it 5:5), since feeding animals is also a natural action.
Sefer Hashemitta (7:3), Torat Haaretz (8:37-44), Kerem Tzion, and Halachot Pesukot (12:1) all accept the opinion of the Maharit, who allows causing the loss of Shemitta fruit through a process of gramma. However, we have seen that many recent rabbis reject this opinion and that the Rambam explicitly disagrees with it. In addition, from a logical point of view it would seem that we should depend on the actual result of an action. Thus, a priori we should forbid causing the loss of the food indirectly, through gramma. It is clear, however, that there is no problem in simply waiting until the food spoils in a natural way.
In many communities there is a custom of reading the Book of Kohellet during Succot. In his introduction to Shir Hashirim, the Natziv gives a reason for this custom:
"This is because Shlomo read out Kohellet on the holiday of Succot, since that is when the wise men of the other nations were gathered together. They had been sent to accompany the sacrifices of the oxen during the holiday, which were linked to the falling rain for them... In this way the Holy One, Blessed be He, wanted all the nations of the earth to get to know G-d, through His nation Yisrael. And that is how it will come about in the future, as in the prophecy of Zechariah: 'And it will be, for those who will not ascend from among the families of the earth to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, G-d of Hosts, that no rain will fall for them.' [14:17]. And therefore Shlomo would show by ethical wisdom that is also understood by the wise men of the world that it is the responsibility of mankind to fear G-d and to observe His mitzvot... And we have explained that this is the reason that the name of G-d does not appear in the entire book of Kohellet but only the name Elohim, which is recognized by all mankind..."
In the wake of the books of wisdom written by Shlomo, other wise men of Yisrael followed in his path and wrote other books of wisdom. One example is Ben Sira. Rav Hai Gaon too, in spite of all of his many tasks as the Rosh Yeshiva and making halachic decisions for the entire Diaspora, found the time to write a poem of ethical instructions named "Shirei Mussar Haskel" – Poems with an Ethical Message.
For Whom is it Meant?
The purpose of this epic poem is to "teach the youths from their earliest years" the proper way to live, good customs, relationships between friends and colleagues, and good behavior within the family. The opening line of the poem is: "Yerai H'El bni raishit omri" – Let G-d show my son the beginning of my sayings.
Which son is referred to in this line? Did Rav Hai Gaon have a son? In the eulogy that Rabbi Shmuel Hanagid wrote about him it is written, "If he passed on without a son, on the day he went below his position was not filled, and it did not return to its rightful quarters. And he did not have the privilege of a son, but he had children in all the lands of Arabia and Edom, who he raised on Torah and developed as teachers, like Moshe who gave birth to the sons of his brothers." It seems that Rav Hai did not have a son. On the other hand, genealogical records indicate that the Maharal was a descendent of Rav Hai Gaon, and that Rav Hai had a son name Rabbi Yosef from Rome. Some people have suggested that the son died while his father was still alive (Rav Hai Gaon died at the age of 99). Or perhaps the records are mistaken, and Rabbi Yosef was Rav Hai's son-in-law or his grandson. Or perhaps Rav Hai Gaon was writing for his students, whom he treated as his own children.
Rav Hai's poem contains ethical guidance that is based on verses from the Tanach and statements by the sages. For example, "Eat bread and salt, and feed on grass, but do not ask for any money from donations." His advice is, "If you have sons and daughters, send them all the time to the store, buy books for them with all your might, and hire a teacher for them from an early age." "Teach your sons a skill, on the morrow it will be a cure for them." The Gaon recommends proper nutrition: "Do not eat bad things and go hungry, eat good things and they will be pleasant. And if your satiation lightens up a bit, your sleep will be good for you." Prayers should be recited as part of a minyan: "Always be part of the proper order, pray within a community and a minyan." The Gaon advises that it is best to be the tail of a lion: "Be a tail of a lion and you will rise, but you will fail if you are the head of a fox." Man must always make sure to study: "All the time have a book in your bosom and intelligence will cling to you... Know wisdom and if it is remarkable, know calculations and about medical books, and you should know about the birth of the moon and the times of the holidays every year... Gather together all wisdom, take possession of understanding and not gold or silver." At the end of the poem, the Gaon advises, "Do three things: Think in a proper way, buy a field, and get a friend and a book... In the end, observe the Torah and the laws, and then you will receive charity from G-d."
Dedicated to the Donors
Rav Hai Gaon wrote poetry and liturgical works, including the popular poem, "Shema koli asher yishama bekolot" – hear my voice which will be heard in different sounds." This is sung to this very day in many communities before the Kol Nidrei is recited, on the eve of Yom Kippur.
He also wrote poetry praising benefactors who sent donations to the yeshiva in Pombadita. One poem, "Hanimtza l'hoda'a," was dedicated to the prominent Rabbi Avraham Ben Ata from Kairouan. Another was written in honor of Rabbi Yehuda, a community leader in Kairouan. Prof. Ezra Fleisher, who restored most of this mammoth poem, with three hundred and ten stanzas, found that it was written in honor of the marriage of Dunash Ben Rabbi Yehuda, the head of the studies, to the daughter of Rabbi Yaacov Ibn Shahin. (See: Rav Hai Gaon's Poem to Rabbi Yehuda Rosh Haseder from Kairouan – its circumstances and its surroundings. Tarbitz, volume 65, Nissan-Sivan 5756, pages 451-482.)
More than twenty years have gone by since the Chanukah party of the year 5753 (1993), but the words spoken there still ring out in my head. That year, Rabbi Amital might just as well have performed open heart surgery on all of us, without anesthesia. The rabbi did not spare us. He discussed the well-known issue of bringing the secular community closer to the values of Judaism, while expounding on the beauty of the ideas of the secular approach. The following summarizes what he said on the subject.
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There is a problem, the rabbi said. We cannot speak to the nonreligious sector on the basis of faith, since they do not believe. So what can we do? We market to them the social values of Shabbat and the cultural values of Shabbat, and the nationalistic values of Shabbat, and how important it is and how advantageous it is for educating the children. That is all very pretty, but the main element is missing...
We say that Shabbat is important, that Yisrael should not preserve the Shabbat as much as that the Shabbat will help to preserve Yisrael. There are so many beautiful reasons for Shabbat. But if that is all there is to it, why not have our Shabbat meals on Wednesday? Where is the Holy One, Blessed be He, in the equation? We market them the Shabbat without a soul, without faith in the Holy One, Blessed be He. It is like trying to convince somebody how beautiful and important it is to have a Shabbat meal on Wednesday, to observe Wednesday as Shabbat. It is impossible to speak about Torah without obligations. There is no Torah without the obligations to the Holy One, Blessed be He.
How often is it that we speak about the cultural heritage of Yisrael instead of speaking about Torah? Instead of the Holy of Holies, we talk about the sanctity of Yisrael, the sanctity of the nation, our traditions, about the "Rock" of Yisrael, and all sorts of other fancy names.
We try to market Torah without the Holy One, Blessed be He. We see how huge Judaism is and the tremendous messages of Judaism, and this leads us to get excited about a pipe dream that we must share this great wealth with the public at large. The problem is that in order to sell the concept to the secular society we remove the soul from Judaism.
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And Rabbi Amital added that we, the religious sector, have paid dearly for our attempt to focus on the ideas of the Torah while ignoring the One who gave us the Torah.
A great price has been paid for this, among us too. We have become used to this type of description. All of a sudden, religious people have begun to talk about the sanctity of Yisrael and the heritage of Judaism and the traditions of Judaism. I argued about this with some very good people from the religious kibbutz movement as long as twenty-five years ago. I know that this approach stems from a very warm desire, but I said to them that they should check back through past issues of their bulletin, Amudim, for many years to see how many times the name of G-d appears. The magazine is full of many references to the subject of "the heritage of Judaism" and similar phrases, but G-d's name is not there. Because of their good intentions, they have become accustomed to use the same language that we tend to use with nonreligious people. We talk the same way among ourselves too.
And that can be linked to another problem. Faith must be constantly renewed. All the time. But because of our struggles against the world of reform, which maintained the faith but set aside all of the mitzvot, we began to emphasize the mitzvot and we ignored faith and the Holy One, Blessed be He.
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And the rabbi ended by giving us advice about what we should do. He analyzed various types of trends in the secular camp, and his main conclusion was that the most important language to use in contact with Israeli society does not use words but rather demonstrates through personal behavior.
The rabbi therefore listed three basic requirements:
The first demand that he gave was for ethical purity. Rabbi Amital insisted that we should stand out in the purity of our ethical behavior. We must make every possible effort to concentrate on ethics and proper relationships between one man and another, such that there must never be any "stain on our clothing."
The second demand was for honesty and authenticity. We must act in a way that is honest and not hypocritical, without play-acting. It is impossible to fake purity, faith, or beauty. What people want to see is honesty.
The third requirement was to "think big" and know how to assume personal responsibility. We cannot simply be robots who always do just what wise and understanding people tell us to. Responsibility begins with us, each and every one of us. In matters of halacha we should ask a rabbi. In matters of personal behavior, we bear the responsibility for our actions. We can seek advice, but we must have the courage to make our own decisions. The general public is hungry for people who are ethical, honest, who "think big," and who take on responsibility.
If this is what we do, our truth will shine out, with G-d's help, in a pleasant way.
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"Sanctify us with Your mitzvot, and place our lot with Your Torah. Satiate us with Your plenty, and make our souls happy with Your salvation. And purify our hearts to be able to serve you in truth..." [Shabbat Amidah.]
Riddle of the Week > Succot / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
How do the following sayings appear in Kohellet? (1) Nobody leaves this world with even half of his lusts in hand. (2) He dug a deep pit only to fall into his own trap.
Answers for last week, Yom Kippur: The question was: What do the following have in common – a fish, a worm, the wind, and a "kikayon?"
They are all related by the use of the word "vayeman" in the Book of Yonah, meaning that G-d specifically chose them to accomplish His tasks. - "And G-d arranged for a large fish to swallow Yonah" [2:1]. - "And G-d arranged for a kikayon which grew over Yonah's head to provide shade on his head, to save him from his bad feelings, and Yonah was very happy about the kikayon" [4:6]. - "And G-d arranged for a worm at dawn which struck the kikayon" [4:7]. - "And behold, when the sun rose, G-d arranged for a gentle east wind, and the sun struck Yonah on his head" [4:8].