"And Malki-Tzedek, King of Shalem, took out bread and wine, and he was a priest of the exalted G-d" [Bereishit 14:18].
New Rabbis after some Complications
After ten or eleven years that the exalted post of the Rabbi of Jerusalem was not filled (since the passing of Rabbi Yitzchak Kulitz and Rabbi Shalom Mashash in 2003), the void has now been filled with the new elections of two candidates, Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar and Rabbi Aryeh Stern. The position of Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem is indeed exalted and honorable, possibly the most prestigious job of its type in the world, and former Chief Rabbis include such legendary luminaries as Rabbi Yisrael Salant and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, along with a long list of prominent rabbis, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The current choice of these two rabbis involved both complex political struggles and intricate legal delays. However, this obstacle course is now behind us, and we can hope to derive pleasure from the activities of the newly-chosen rabbis, and especially from their joint activities on our behalf.
All of the struggles and the manipulated deals, and all the administrative and legal twists and turns, were centered on one question only: Is there a possibility for the religious Zionist movement to find a suitable rabbi who will be accepted by a majority of his colleagues? The question was never whether a candidate was appropriate for the job of rabbi of Jerusalem, but rather where he came from and in which surroundings he developed.
Rejection or Inclusion?
Indeed, I admit that as far as the residents of Jerusalem are concerned it does not matter very much which rabbi was chosen or from which "sector" he comes. In fact, for more than ten years the city continued on its way without a Chief Rabbi, and the sky did not fall. And it seems to me that the religious services of the city continued to operate, for better or for worse, even without a "ruler in the palace/capital." And I also admit that the question of how the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem will behave is nowhere near as important as the key question of the elections themselves: Can Torah Zionism succeed in achieving a prominent position within the rabbinate or not? To put it even more bluntly – as far as I can tell the character of and the role played by the Jerusalem rabbinate would be virtually the same no matter if it would be directed by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, the Chassid, Rabbi Aryeh Stern, the Zionist, or Rabbi Eliyahu Shlezinger, the "Lita'i." They are all well-liked, they are all clear in their statements, they are all pleasant to others, and they all know the same Torah. But now we come to the sharp blade of contention within the Beit Midrash: Will the camp (or camps) of the Chareidim admit that the above statement is true? And here the answer is well known, it is a resounding "NO!"
To our great sorrow, there is a complete lack of symmetry between the Chareidi and the religiousZionist camps with respect to mutual recognition of relevance to Torah and showing respect for prominent rabbis. Based on tradition, the Chareidi Torah giants are recognized and honored by the Torah Zionist camp. Their books are studied in detail, as is clearly seen on the walls of the Batei Midrash, where the books by Chareidi rabbis are displayed prominently. However, on the other side there is open rejection instead of respect, contempt instead of appreciation, and disregard instead of a show of interest.
I am not referring only to books about philosophy and faith or even books about current issues in halacha (such as "Techumin," which deals with Torah, society, and the state, or books that deal with halacha in the army and modern economics). Rather, I am referring to books that are strictly analytical or involve pure halacha. Perhaps the best example of this is the edition of the Talmud "Halacha Berura U'Birur Halacha" edited by Rabbi Aryeh Stern, the newly-elected Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Evidently the twenty-five tractates of this treatise cannot be found in any of the Chareidi yeshivot, even though it consists purely of collections of all the opinions of the early commentators for each passage in the Talmud. Matters even went so far that one of the Lita'i "mashgichim" commanded that a single volume that was displayed as an advertisement be removed immediately, striking the table and declaring that he would "resign if this book is allowed to enter our holy place," or something similar. And why is this so? It is totally unacceptable for them to acknowledge or to allow a belief that Torah can exist among the "goyim" who studied at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav and its subsidiary yeshivot!
However, in the end truth will prevail! There is valid Torah in the Torah Zionist camp, there are yeshivot and kollelim, there are rabbinical judges and authors, there are philosophers and educators, there are people with outstanding personal traits and wise men who can take part in halachic disputes ("baalei terissin" – see Berachot 27b).
And... now there is a Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem! I have a rabbi, my brother!
* * * * * *
The first time Jerusalem is mentioned in the Torah is in this week's Torah portion, in the verse quoted above, where it is called Shalem. There is also a hint of the rabbis of Jerusalem in the verse, with the name Malki-Tzedek. "Who are the kings (melech)? They are the Torah scholars." (See Gittin 62a, commenting on the verse, "Kings will rule over me" [Mishlei 8:15].)
In the Midrash, the sages note that Malki-Tzedek was Shem, the son of Noach (Rashi). He was the innovator of the concept of studying in a yeshiva, and a veteran Rosh Yeshiva, as in the phrase, "The Beit Midrash of Shem and Eiver" (see also Rashi, 21:8 – "The prominent scholars of the generation were Shem and Eiver"). The veteran scholar of the generation receives Avraham, the Ivri, with a blessing and presents him with bread and wine, which is a hint of the Torah – Halacha is the bread, and Aggada (thought and an approach of belief) is referred to as wine.
As Shabbat Approaches > My Slave / Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
There are two ways to serve G-d, either as a slave or as a son (Introduction to Shaarei Hakodesh 1:3).
The first one, labor as a slave, is a technical activity, which only requires the person to perform the specified duties. One who acts as a slave does not try to determine the reasons for the mitzvot that he observes. Everything that he does can be summarized in the sentence, "Tell me my obligation and I will do it." This approach is based on a religious justification, almost as if there is a fault in trying to understand the wisdom behind the mitzvot, on the assumption that G-d wants obedient slaves who do not ask any questions. This approach implies that acceptance of the yoke of heaven diminishes a human being and narrows his horizons.
A son's labor, on the other hand, includes within it the understanding of mankind. The word "ben," meaning a son, is related to the word "bina," which means understanding. In a technical sense, there is no difference between the two types of service. Whatever a slave does for his master is the same as what a son does for his father. However, a son is allowed to search in his father's archives (Zohar, Ra'ya Mehemna, Behar, 111:2). The "archives" are the thoughts behind his requests from his son.
In view of this, we might wonder about the description "a slave of G-d" or "My slave" which is used as a phrase to describe the greatest men of our nation, including Moshe himself. The wonder is even greater when the entire nation is called by this title, as in the words of the prophet: "You are Yisrael My slave, Yaacov, whom I chose" [Yeshayahu 41:8] – from this week's Haftarah.
The explanation of this apparent paradox is that there is a great chasm between one who performs labor as a slave and one who is called "a slave of G-d." The first one performs his service out of fear, while the second one has achieved the status of a son and serves out of love. However, because of his great love he wants to behave in the manner of a slave – not because he despises wisdom, heaven forbid, but because he wants to achieve what lies beyond attaining wisdom as a personal experience. And that is why later in the same verse it is written, "the offspring of Avraham, who loved Me" [41:8]. The verse teaches us that the title "My slave" stems from love and not from fear. As the Rambam has noted at the end of Hilchot Teshuva, "One can only love G-d through knowing about Him, and the strength of the love corresponds to the knowledge, whether it is a small amount or a large amount. Therefore a person must dedicate himself to the study of wisdom which teaches him about the Creator."
The fact that we love G-d is in itself the reason for our redemption. "Do not have any fear, worm of Yaacov" – that is, do not serve out of fear – but "I have helped you, that is what is said by G-d and your redeemer, the holy one of Yisrael" [41:14].
And this leads us to the essence of the approach of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. The purpose of the political redemption of the nation of Yisrael is to bring about a change in our awareness, basing our faith on pure intellect, free of all fear which can destroy the power of the spirit. This is a call to encourage the spirit while removing the minor elements of recognition which darken the glory of faith, while enhancing the power of deep insight of the thoughts of Yisrael and the world in general.
This week the very name of the Torah portion is a demand: "Go for your own sake!" [Bereishit 12:1]. The first thing that this means to me is to go to the people and bring them closer to Judaism, as Avraham and Sarah did. Allow me, in connection with this idea, to share with you some feelings that are still fresh in my mind from the holiday of Succot.
See just how easy it is, how necessary it is, how happy it makes you feel. Take your lulav, go out into the street, and ask people if they want to hold it in their hands. The vast majority jump at the chance enthusiastically. They are happy to help others be happy and to show the joy of observing a mitzva, specifically a mitzva linked directly to joy and to the happiest holiday of the year, and also to the month of Tishrei – this month which has the most influence and which sets the tone for the entire year.
The fresh quality of the four species which come straight from nature, the well-known comparison of the four species to the different types of Jews, and the ease with which the mitzva is perceived - ("just hold it in your hand to observe the mitzva!") – make this one of the most easily accessible mitzvot for the general folks in the street to begin a relationship with practical mitzvot. Millions of Jews await us on the streets, in malls, and in public parks, and also at home.
A Feeling of Divinity
You observe the mitzva of the four species with people whom you meet, and they show their excitement. Many people shut their eyes tight to kiss the lulav. It seems that they are very happy to take hold of refreshing and heartwarming plants, it gives a good feeling, and it makes them happy. But why are they excited? It is because every Jew has a deep-seated feeling that a lulav is not "just a lulav" but that "a lulav is the Holy One, Blessed be He." The word "lulav" can be read as two words, "lo lev" – He has a heart. The four species are an indication of G-d, an expression that touches upon the heart of the Jew at the moment when he takes hold of the lulav. Look closely into the eyes of the one who picks up the lulav and you will see with no doubt about it: The spark lights up!
Usually I go on this mission with a friend. We both have a set of the four species, we go together in order to succeed in our task. And every time our success is greater than what we anticipated and planned. Every year we are surprised again and again by the response and the thirst, I would even say the yearning.
To succeed, it is necessary to go with an attitude of "combat readiness." The success of the mission depends on having made an internal decision that you must succeed. The Rebbe of Lubavitch always described this with the title, "Operation Lulav." These are not idle words, you must approach the mission as if it were a military operation, otherwise it may remain shallow and not proceed at all.
If it is Possible than you are Obligated
One day I went to the Children's Museum in Cholon. There may not be huge crowds there, but I assumed that I would meet a large number of intelligent nonreligious Jews, people who take their children to a museum instead of an amusement part. And I was right. When I asked the first one I met if this was the first time this year that he held a lulav, he replied, "No, it's the first time in my life." I was shocked. We spoke a bit. He is a normative Israeli, thirty-seven years old, and his grandfather was not religious. Nobody had ever offered him a lulav, and he said, "No way would I ever go looking for the opportunity on my own. But I must say that it really did something for my soul."
I shudder when I think of how many Jews like him live in the land, who have never held a lulav in their hands at all because of our lack of initiative. The simple fact is that we never found the opportunity to propose it to them.
Not far from the museum there is a kiosk. A young man, of large proportions, was selling his wares. From far away he waved me to come closer. Excitedly, he grabbed the lulav and the etrog from my hand, raised his eyes, and called out: "G-d, open up my heart!" He recited the blessing and shook the lulav with his eyes shut tight. Happy is Yisrael.
There were dozens of cases where a woman forced her husband to do the mitzva and children who begged their father to take hold of the lulav. There was also a somewhat strange case of a father who told his children to recite the blessing, while he adamantly refused to do so.
The last man to whom I suggested that he take the lulav replied with a resounding "NO!" His response almost sent me into despair, but then I realized that G-d was sending me a message – that we have much work left for next year...
The next great opportunity for lighting the sparks of the souls is Chanukah, and the time has come to start preparing for this already. But even on a normal weekday in Cheshvan one can suggest to somebody to put on tefillin and it is possible to teach a Torah lesson. And if it's possible, it's an
"The big show will be next month! Every boy who knows how to sing, play an instrument, or perform is invited to show his talents!" There were big posters in my school announcing the event. This was the annual talent show in our school. And I had already made my decision – this year I would take part in the contest!
It was very hard for me to decide what to sing, and in the end I composed my own tune. I practiced a lot at home, and everybody told me that it was a very beautiful song, and they were very enthusiastic about it. In my family, everybody hummed the tune all day long...
One day I heard Imma talking on the phone in the next room, something like this: "Listen, my son is taking part in the young talent contest in school. He wrote a song that is really great! You must come to hear him. It's really fantastic! I am sure that he will win first prize! The truth is that I knew all along that he loves to sing and that he does it well, but I didn't know how talented he really is..." And she went on and on, until she saw that I was coming close to her, and she stopped talking all at once. Of course I didn't let on that I had heard anything, but I was very proud and happy.
And then the great day arrived. The auditorium was filled with excited students and their parents. About fifteen students had asked to perform. The order was set by lot, and I was given number 12.
In my opinion, the first contestant was pretty weak. He sang a well-known song, and he did not do it very well. But the second one was a big surprise. It was Ronnie, a boy from my class, who has a very special voice. The moment he started singing everybody started to applaud. He wasn't confused by the noise, and he continued singing, in a loud and beautiful voice. He didn't miss a single note, and when he finished the auditorium shook from the sound of the clapping. I saw right away that this would be serious competition for me...
The third one was pretty good too, and the fourth one was not quite as good. As time went on I stopped listening in detail because I was too nervous, and I was impatient while I waited for my turn.
And then the teacher Tzvi, who was master of ceremonies, called out: "Number 12, let's hear Yehuda Yisraeli!"
With trembling feet, I went to the center of the stage, took hold of the microphone, and then I heard myself begin to sing. When I finished, the room filled with the sound of clapping. But I wasn't sure. Was the applause for Ronnie much louder and stronger or not?
When all the performances were over, one of the judges came onto the stage and announced the results.
"Third place goes to Ofir, from fifth grade." Ofir was greeted with strong applause when he came to get his prize from the principal.
"And in second place..." – and here the judge stretched out his words, just to increase the tension – "we call on Dan, from the sixth grade." He too received a loud round of applause.
"And in first place..." – and here I was sure that my name would be called. "This time we have a very young performer! Give your congratulations to... Ronnie from the second grade!"
What a disappointment! I wasn't picked for any of the three first places, I didn't win any prize at all! I was just another contestant. Why did I spend so much time practicing? Everybody who heard my song beforehand was sure that I would win first place! I felt terrible!
But I must admit that I knew the truth. I heard myself practicing, but I didn't hear anybody else. I had no way of knowing who really the best one was. And anyway, everybody knows that songs are a matter of opinion, and I guess the judges enjoyed the other songs more.
But the fact that I lost really hurt! I was very disappointed!
As I left the auditorium I felt a salty taste in my mouth, and I understood that it came from the tears that were getting into my throat. I just wanted to run away, to get home, and to curl under the thickest blanket that I could find.
Suddenly I felt a strong slap on my back: "Wow, you were very good!" my friend Yosef shouted at me. "I didn't know that we had such a great talent in our class!" I was confused for a moment, but Yosef went on. "Yehuda, you are a born singer! You have a great future ahead of you!"
And I replied, embarrassed, "But I didn't even win any prize."
"What difference does that make?" From Yosef, the question sounded like it was the honest truth. "Everybody knows what a competition is. Even if all fifteen contestants were very good, they had to pick only three for the top prizes. So what? Does that mean that all the others weren't good? Of course not!"
And there it was, Yosef was doing it again. He made me happy again, and sent my feeling of being upset into the background, where it belonged. His very simple question helped me to understand what never occurred to me until then – it is fun to compete, but to be really good is best of all, whether you win the competition or not...
Question: Can the remains of food that has Shemitta sanctity be placed in a composter?
Answer: The correct use of the produce of Shemitta is described by the Torah in the portion of Behar: "Let the Shabbat of the land be for you for food, for you and for your slaves... and for your cattle and for the animals in your land, let all the produce be for them to eat." [Vayikra 25:6,11]. Similarly, in the Torah portion of Mishpatim, it is written, "And on the seventh year abandon the land, and the poor people of your nation will have what to eat, and the animals of the fields will eat the remainder" [Shemot 23:11]. From these verses we see that the holy fruits of Shemitta are meant for two purposes – food for people and food for animals. In the Talmud we are taught that the produce of Shemitta must be eaten, and that destroying the produce of Shemitta is forbidden (Pesachim 52b).
A composter is a vessel that holds remains of organic food which slowly goes through a process of chemical decomposition, producing organic fertilizer (compost). The process is a chemical reaction which gives off heat, and therefore adding new food to the composter hastens the decomposition. This clearly implies that creation of compost is not one of the original goals of fruits that have Shemitta sanctity, and that putting Shemitta produce into a composter is a forbidden act of destroying Shemitta fruits.
Ways to Put the Remains in a Composter
Putting Shemitta produce into a composter will only be permitted in two ways: (1) To wait until the fruit has spoiled on its own, so that it is no longer holy, and then to put it into the composter. (2) To put it into the vessel in a way that will not be considered actively destroying the fruits.
My colleague Rabbi Rimon (in his book "Shemitta," page 367) recommends the second alternative. He allows covering the top layer in the composter with sand or paper and putting the new remains on top. It is true that the new remains will still spoil after a few hours, but since this does not happen immediately but only as an indirect act ("gramma"), it is not prohibited. There is no doubt that this method follows the opinions of great rabbis. The first of these was the Maharit (volume 1, chapter 3), who allows destroying Shemitta produce through gramma, and he was followed by others, such as the Ridbaz (Beit Ridbaz 5:1), Sefer Hashemitta (7:3), Torat Haaretz (8:37-44), and Kerem Tzion (Halachit Rulings 12:1).
However, in my last article in this bulletin (in the issue of Succot) I noted that the Chazon Ish and Mikdash David rejected the Maharit's proof based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, and I quoted the explicit opinion of the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishna (Sheviit 8:7) – that spoiling by an act of gramma is forbidden. I explained that the matter depends on the characteristics of the prohibition, and that what matters in the end is the final result, whether the amount of fruit that is eaten will decrease or not. And since logic leads us to accept the opinions of the Chazon Ish and Mikdash David and the explicit ruling of the Rambam, in my humble opinion one should not depend on gramma but rather should wait until the fruit becomes spoiled and unfit for human consumption.
Unfit for Humans but Suitable for Animals
The Rambam accepts the opinion of the Tosafot:
"One should not change fruits from what is natural for them, as is also true for Teruma and Maaser Sheni. What is normally eaten raw should not be cooked, and what is normally cooked should not be eaten raw. Therefore animal food should not be cooked, and food that has spoiled or bread that has become moldy should not be treated, in the same way that teruma and maaser should not be eaten." [Hilchot Shemitta V'Yovel 5:3].
The Rambam ruled according to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Maaser Sheni 2), that in contrast to teruma which loses its sanctity when it becomes unfit for human consumption, Shemitta produce retains its sanctity even after the food is no longer fit for humans but is still suitable for feeding cattle. According to the Tosefta, fruit becomes unsuitable for human consumption after "it loses its form." The RASH explains that this means it has been kept overnight, and this is also the opinion of the author of Pe'at Hashulchan, a student of the GRA. This implies that just keeping the food overnight is not sufficient to allow putting it into a composter, since it is still fit for animals, and it therefore retains its holy status.
However, since we are involved with food that was originally intended for human consumption, it would seem that once it is no longer fit for humans the possibility that it can be fed to animals does not automatically become valid, as was made clear by the Chazon Ish:
"One can put the peel into a wooden vessel until it becomes moldy and unfit for human food, and then it can be thrown away. And if it can still be fed to an animal, it would seem that if the majority of people would give it to animals it is still holy but if most people do not set it aside for animals, then its sanctity has ended..." [14:7].
On the other hand, according to Rav Kook (Shabbat Haaretz 7:13), even the possibility of eating the food in an emergency defines it as still being holy, in the case of both human and animal consumption, which would imply that it is necessary to wait until the food is completely spoiled! However, in my humble opinion, with respect to food that was originally intended for human consumption and might be considered for animals only after it became unfit for humans, even Rav Kook would agree with the Chazon Ish – that it will not be considered holy because it is for animals. After all, we have been taught that human and animal foods are two separate categories. "'Let the poor people of your nation eat' – what is suitable for man should go to man, and what is suitable for cattle should go to the cattle." (Torat Kohanim, Behar, chapter 1). We can thus assume that human food will not be transferred over to animals. In my humble opinion, even the Chazon Ish intended for his opinion to apply only when food was actually transferred from human beings to animals.
Nature and the Torah portion > Tola'at" - a Worm / Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"Do not be afraid, worm of Yaacov, the people of Yisrael. I have helped you, that is what is said by G-d and your redeemer, the holy one of Yisrael" [Yeshayahu 41:14].
Finding Half of a Worm
The above verse from this week's Haftarah reminds me of a joke which my friends and I enjoyed very much before we reached the age of adolescence. "What is worse than finding a worm in an apple that you are eating? The answer is: finding half a worm!" The "tola'at," a worm, occupies an important and very prominent position in the realm of halacha, in laws that are related to "forbidden foods." We are constantly warned about the need to avoid worms that have taken up residence in some food or other. All year round we are required to sift our flour, and at Pesach we are warned about worms which attach themselves to the gills of the carps we want to eat, and that is not all. I want to go right to the "bottom line" of this article, and I can tell my readers that in general "there is no such animal." In fact, in apples, in figs, in unsifted flour, and in the gills of fish there are no worms at all. I do not mean to say that we do not have to be careful to avoid forbidden foods, but rather to say that according to modern biological definitions these foods are never infested by worms. The care which we must take in order to supervise our food stems in general from a fear of finding other living creatures, but not worms!
A Group Name
The ancients included different creatures from many different taxons (groups of animals) in the term "tola'at." This included both creatures that are long, soft, and without legs, and in general creatures with irregular forms. For example, the silk aphid is called a tola'at, as is the caterpillar which gnawed away the "kikayon" that provided shade for the prophet Yonah, causing it to dry up. "And G-d organized a worm the next day at dawn and it destroyed the kikayon" [Yonah 4:7]. The Greek word "skolex" for a worm included the earthworm, larva from various insects, and maggots, among other things. Even the pioneer of modern taxonomy, Carolus Linnaeus, used the word "vermes" (Portuguese for worm) as a general term including various species of worms, mollusks, and more. It is interesting to note that Rashi interpreted "the worm of Yaacov" using a word similar to the one Linnaeus used more than 700 years later: "'The worm of Yaacov' [Yeshayahu 41:14] – The family of Yaacov is weak, and it has no strength except in its mouth. 'Tola'at' is 'vermona' in a foreign language."
In the Mechilta of Rabbi Yishmael there is a more limited definition of the word "tola'at," evidently referring only to larva. "It is also written, 'Do not be afraid, worm of Yaacov, the people of Yisrael.' Just as this worm strikes the cedars using its mouth, so the only recourse that Yisrael has is through prayer. And it is written, 'I gave you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the Emorites with my sword and my bow' [Bereishit 48:22]. [Mechilta D'Rabbi Yishmael, Beshalach, 2]. The RADAK quotes this Midrash and adds one more detail of the structure. "And we are taught (in Midrash Tanchuma) why Yisrael is compared to a worm, saying that just as a worm strikes the cedar trees only with its mouth, even though it is soft it can still strike the hard material..." The Midrash is describing the soft larva of some insect which burrows into the tree and can cause it extensive damage. Since the word "erez" – a cedar tree – is used by our sages not only for the cedars of Lebanon but as one of a large group of non-fruit trees, we cannot establish the exact identity of the "tola'at" which strikes the cedar, but we can propose several possibilities.
One type of insect whose larvae burrow into tree trunks includes beetles of the family Buprestidae. One of the most prominent species is the Middle Eastern jewel beetle. Its larva, which hatches from the egg penetrates into the tree and develops there, leaving behind a channel of compresses sawdust. The larvae pupate under the bark of the tree. The elliptical opening through which the adult beetle emerges from the tree is quite big and is easy to find. An attack by the larvae of these beetles can lead to the tree shriveling up within a few years. Another group of beetles whose larvae burrow into trees is the family Cerambycidae. The larvae of these beetles can feed on furniture in the home, trees in a forest, and in a commercial orchard. One famous beetle is the almond beetle, which burrows into the family Rosaceae, including many deciduous trees (which shed their leaves during the year). The "worms" in flour are eggs and larvae of a beetle called the rice weevil. Their larvae develop only within the grains of cereal plants (Graminae). The female digs a depression in the grain, lays an egg in it, and seals the hole with a special secretion. The larva which hatches feeds on the contents of the grain and pupates inside it. The adult beetle leaves by chewing an opening out of the empty grain. Infected grains can be identified easily by floating them in water, since they are hollow.
Larvae of Flies
"Lettuce without worms" is meant to protect us from a different type of pest. They are larvae of a fly called the pea leaf miner. They burrow into the lettuce leaves and they therefore cannot be removed by simply rinsing the leaves. They can be recognized by finding the channels that they make, which have the appearance of light stripes in the background of the green sections of the leaves. The "worms" in figs and other sweet fruits are the larvae of the Mediterranean fly.
We simply do not have enough room here to describe all the pests that may appear on our tables, and I will summarize the subject by saying that in apples there is no worm but some kind of larva of an insect. I assume that anybody who read this article to the end will ask himself, "What difference does it make?" The truth is that I don't have a good answer to this question, and I admit that the article stems from the pedantic interests of a zoologist.
Three weeks ago, in our previous column in this bulletin, we brought a summary of a talk by Rabbi Amital about twenty years ago. He complained that we market the Torah to the secular community and therefore also to ourselves without any reference to the Holy One, Blessed be He. We explain the mitzvot and ignore the Holy One, Blessed be He. We are so involved in the reasons for the mitzvot that we sometimes forget the One who gave the Torah.
Mitzvot without G-d are lacking and lean. If Shabbat is observed for reasons related to society, culture, and spirituality, we could also welcome the Shabbat on Wednesday. The ultimate power of the Torah depends on the Holy One, Blessed be He. There can be no Torah without Him. When people become acquainted with the Torah through a path which bypasses G-d we are removing the very soul from the Torah.
I received many reactions to the article. But the most important reaction that I saw was not sent directly to me, it was published in the newspaper, Haaretz. I seriously doubt that Rogel Alper ever held a copy of Shabbat B'Shabbato in his hand, but it turns out that what he wrote was a perfect match to that talk of Rabbi Avital.
* * * * * *
"The meals on Pesach and Rosh Hashanah are the most important family events in the Hebrew calendar, for Jews in Israel and all around the world – both nonreligious and religious," Alper thus accepted the Jewish calendar. "But Succot? This holiday, next to Simchat Torah, is celebrated in a frightful way, lasting for an entire ten days. Succot is marked in a disproportionate way which does not do justice to its minor status in the experience of the nation."
Alper continued, "The nonreligious Jews have no need for Succot. Agriculture has its Shavuot and the Exodus from Egypt has its Pesach. As far as our lifestyle is concerned, Succot is superfluous, and the free time it gives us is nothing more than an irritation. The fact that it exists in the vacation calendars is a symbol of religious coercion which does not serve any need of ours..."
"If you would have asked me a few days ago about the significance of Succot, I would have said, without shame, that I have absolutely no idea. It has something to do with a series of holidays and temporary dwellings in the desert, and also the harvest... I have had my fill of letting Tishrei go by with a feeling of estrangement and internal exile. This is not normal either."
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From his point of view, Rogel Alper is absolutely right. We have marketed the Hebrew calendar to him without the Holy One, Blessed be He. He agreed to accept Pesach because of the Exodus and Shavuot because of the world of nature. But that's it. Now we are stuck with Succot. This is a time when we sit underneath the Glory Clouds of the Holy One, Blessed be He. Alper will have none of this. And from his point of view, he is absolutely right.
If we don't explain that there is something unique that stands behind the Jewish nation and the Torah, it is very difficult to accept that our country is a Jewish country. If we don't understand that there is something very special about this land, it is very hard to understand why we are here.
It is not by chance that many of the young people see their future as taking place across the ocean, away from our land. And it is not by chance that the same Rogel Alper wrote a few weeks earlier, "Israel is not worth the price that it exacts from us... I cannot justify to my child our continued living here. Israel is a dangerous place, which takes from them much more than it gives in return, and all for reasons that I do not accept..."
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What can we say to the Alpers who do not understand why their children miss school for a week and a half on Succot, and who do not understand why they should remain here in this land? The answer is very simple. We do not have an answer.
The answer to these questions for us stems from a source that the others are not willing to accept. It would be a pity to just make them and us angry. There is no way to convince them, and there is no point in getting angry. From their point of view they are right. If there is nothing special here, why should we stay here?
In this situation there is only one language that can be used. This is the language of action and showing a personal example. If we really believe in what we do, we must be confident that in the end the truth will be victorious. We must live in a way that is honest, upright, and fair. Rabbi Amital emphasized again and again that if we remain upright, pure, truthful, and honest, the truth will be passed on. There is no replacement for personal example.
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Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi asked, "What is the path that a person should choose?" And he replied, "It is the path that is a credit to himself and is seen by other men as honorable." [Avot 2:1]. The upright path is not the one that everybody accepts, it is the path that the others appreciate and glorify. There is no need to convince the other people to agree with our path, what we must do is make sure that they respect the path that we follow. We must act in a way that is upright and pure, without any pretentions.
In each article in this series we will deal with some aspect of a single chapter of the book of Melachim.
In the political controversy surrounding the appointment of the new king it seem pretty clear who deserves the support of the people. On one side is the older son who survived, Adania Ben Chagit. He is supported by the veteran trusted military chief, Yoav Ben Tzruya. Yoav remained faithful to David even during his lowest ebb (he was even so faithful that he "refused to obey an order" given by David himself). On the same side, there is Avyatar the Kohen, the only remaining descendent of the dynasty of priests descendent from Eli the High Priest. He also accompanied David throughout his struggles.
On the other side there are Shlomo, the young son who was born in a marriage that was controversial (and remains so to this very day). He is supported by second-level military men and priests. But he holds David's secret promise that he would rule after David. This was such a well-kept secret that we did not even hear about it until this chapter of the Tanach.
The simplest option for the aged king would certainly be to support the popular side of Adonia, or at the very least to step aside and let the events unfold on their own. However, David chooses to follow the truth and not the "popular" line. He keeps his promise and appoints Shlomo as king. This is the strength of a leader who is not led by others.
When leaders are strongly influenced by external factors, the popularity of King David may reach a low point.
Riddle of the Week > Lech Lecha / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
We are a phrase of two words That are linked to the same figure. This week we appear in the front And next week we appear at the end.
Last week, Noach, the riddle was: Where do we find a list of six seasons instead of the usual four?
Answer: "For the rest of the days of the world, planting and harvest, cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night will never cease" [Bereishit 8:22]. Rashi quotes from the Talmud, Bava Metzia 106b: Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel says in the name of Rabbi Meir, and Rabbi Shimon Ben Menassia said the same: from the middle of Tishrei through Cheshvan and half of Kislev is planting; from the middle of Kislev through Tevet and half of Shevat is winter, from half of Shevat through Adar and half of Nissan is cold, from half of Nissan through Iyar and half of Sivan is harvest, from half of Sivan through Tammuz and half of Av is summer, and from half of Av through Elul to half of Tishrei is heat."
Rabbi Yosef Chaim, better known by his nickname, Ben Ish Chai (1834-1909), was one of the greatest wise men in recent generations. He lived in Iraq, but his influence was felt throughout the east. It is well known that the prophet Eliyahu was revealed to him at the end of every Shabbat in the attic. Today's story tells how his students wanted to have Eliyahu revealed directly to them.
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One time, the people around him pressed the disciple Rabbi Yehoshua Sharabi, who was known for his nimble movement, to burst into the Ben Ish Chai's room in order to catch a glimpse of Eliyahu. And Sharabi ran like a deer, jumped from one step to another on the staircase, and tried to reach the attic. But before he reached the top, the door opened and the Ben Ish Chai asked him, "Chacham Yehoshua, what are you doing here?" And the surprised disciple replied, "I have heard that the Prophet Eliyahu appears in your house, and I have come to see him." Rabbi Yosef Chaim looked at his student and said, "One does not meet Eliyahu by running fast but rather as a result of slow steps and hard labor."
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At the center of this story there are two staircases. The first one is real, and it is the one which leads to the attic, where the Ben Ish Chai studied. Just as Mount Sinai and the Temple Mount, the attic is in a high place, and to get there it is necessary to climb. The other staircase is a spiritual one which a person must climb in order to have the privilege of meeting Eliyahu. In our story the physical and the spiritual staircases have become intertwined. The disciple, Yehoshua Sharabi, wants to meet Eliyahu too, and he therefore jumps quickly onto the wooden steps, in an attempt not to miss the critical moment. But the Ben Ish Chai stops him. He is aware of his disciple's action and goes out towards him, thereby not letting him open the door. The Ben Ish Chai is opposed to shortcuts. It may be possible to jump over the wooden stairs, but there is no way to jump up the spiritual staircase, one must be ready to advance step by step in order to be ready for revelation. The rabbi opposes a search for exhilarating and emotional peaks, he insists that we must improve our ways step by step.
This same demand appears in one of the sermons by the Ben Ish Chai. The Ben Ish Chai viewed the command to Avraham – "Lech lecha" (go for yourself) – [Bereishit 12:1] – as an instruction for each and every Jew. A human being is called "mehalech" (on the move), as opposed to the angels who are "omed" – stationary. Thus, "what is meant by the phrase lech lecha is that the title 'lech,' to go, belongs to 'lecha,' you, human beings, as opposed to the description of being stationary. Movement is what sets mankind apart. And that is why the righteous person is on the move, changing and always improving in his service of G-d.
The Ben Ish Chai compares this to a man who dreams that he sees the king standing in the middle of a ladder that has a thousand rungs. In the morning he tells this to the king, who presents him with a gift of a thousand gold pieces. His neighbor sees this and she begs her husband to tell the king that he had a dream where he saw the king standing at the top of the ladder, in the hopes of getting a bigger reward. But to her surprise, the king commands that her husband should be thrown down from the roof. Why did he do this? The Ben Ish Chai explains that the king was happy about the first dream because it was optimistic – in spite of his many accomplishments there was still room for the king to improve and advance. He therefore rewards the first dream with a thousand gold pieces, one for each rung of the ladder, because he feels that the dream implies that he would receive credit for the rungs that he has not year reached. He does not despair from the long road ahead of him but rather sees it as a source of hope, in that he expects to cope with new challenges in the future, when he would encounter new frontiers. In the imaginary "dream" of the neighbor, on the other hand, the king has already reached the top of the ladder, and all that is left for him is to shrivel up and waste away. He therefore punishes the man who told him this dream.
In his allegory of the ladder the Ben Ish Chai teaches us something else which is also vitally important. We must always see ourselves as standing in the middle of the ladder. We must not let it suffice to look upwards, with a desire to improve matters, we must always be keenly aware of the rungs we have already climbed. In this way we will be able to maintain the proper balance between the accomplishments of the past and the demand for infinite improvement.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (I will be happy to hear any stories you have about the wise men of the east.)