Volume 1589: Ki-Tetze 14 Elul 5775 29/08/2015
Point Of View
Selective Forced Feeding /Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
"Do not allow yourselves to see the ox of your brother or his sheep go astray... You shall return it to him" [Devarim 22:1-2].
"How do we know that this is still valid if he is about to lose something from his own body? It is written, 'You shall return it to him.'" [Sanhedrin 73a].
The Difference between a Sick Person and a Terrorist
Here is a pronouncement made by Dr. Leonid Adelman, the head of the Israeli Medical Association: "Doctors are prohibited from participating in forced feeding of prisoners, because this is a matter of torture... This is a dangerous procedure which is forbidden according to our laws of ethics." This statement is a challenge of the "Law of Forced Feeding" for security prisoners who start a hunger strike (why only them?). The law was passed a month ago by the Knesset in the wake of a new "weapon" used by the terrorists – a hunger strike to the death, thereby calling for a "worldwide protest" against Israel. Without a doubt, this pseudo-medical ruling carries with it a number of hidden messages that are political and cultural in nature, as is plain for all to see. In principle it is similar to calls for revolt from various directions against laws of the land in the realms of settlements and security, economics and taxes, culture and education, religion and the state, and many similar issues. Can yeshiva heads who call out for their students not to report for registration with the security forces point to the worthy Dr. Adelman as a source for their advice?
On the tip of my tongue, I find it necessary to take note of something that demonstrates the political links of Dr. Adelman's declaration: Why was the voice of the Israeli Medical Association not heard when a youth recently refused chemotherapy in the Rambam Hospital? "The whole world" was called on to join in the effort to force the boy to take the treatment. Where were Dr. Adelman's ethical limits which forbid coercion? Perhaps we might try to make a difference between an adult and a child, but my heart tells me that the good doctor differentiates between a Jew and a Gentile, or more precisely – between a sick person and a terrorist. And it seems that only the latter is protected by ethical rules!
Ethics and Halacha
In my comments below I will make an effort to completely leave out my nationalistic feeling, which leads to a conclusion that we should be more stringent with terrorists than with other human beings. I will also ignore my feelings based on security issues, that we are in a war with our enemies, and that sometimes, as often happens during a war, it is necessary to take steps that are not the most ethical actions in the world. I will also ignore the strong background noise about "what the other nations will say," which we can assume echoed in the respected head of Dr. Adelson, who is so afraid of "torture." What I write below is purely from the Jewish point of view.
I am not familiar with "the laws of ethics" and with those who wrote them. One thing I do know: It is clear and definite according to the laws of our Torah, which is the basis of all of our ethical thought, that if a person is about to starve to death he must be saved even if this means to use force to make him eat. This obligation comes straight from a verse in the Torah: "Do not stand idly by when the blood of your colleague is in danger" [Vayikra 19:16] (which if anybody cares, was adopted by the Knesset). And this was expanded in the Talmud based on a verse in this week's Torah portion, quoted above, as an extension of the laws of returning a lost item.
(We might suggest that Dr. Adelman accepts that there is a difference in the need to save a life depending on whether the person is a Jew, as is written in the verse quoted above, "your colleague." After all, we have been taught that the law for a Gentile is that "he is not to be lowered into a pit, but neither is he pulled out." However, I seriously doubt that Dr. Adelman ruled on the dispute between the early commentators, whether the lack of an obligation to rescue a Gentile is only valid for the Seven Nations of Canaan or for every Gentile, or perhaps only for those who do not observe the Seven Commandments of Bnei Noach. Note that there is also a specific dispute about the status of Moslems in this case. The entire subject awaits further study in depth.)
As I have said, I am not an expert in the ethical rules of the "religion of personal rights" and European morality, but I do know that in the volumes of Techumin (the halachic series published by Zomet Institute) there have been three articles published on "forcing a sick person to be treated." This includes a responsa by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Techumin volume 5, 5756–1996, later reprinted in Igrot Moshe, volume 2, 73), where he rules that"the physicians must do what they can, including coercion," as long as the necessary treatment is not dangeous. In volume 2, Rabbi Moshe Raziel wrote an article based on a responsa of the Radbaz that "a person should be fed by force," and in volume 25 the brothers Rabbi Naftali and Dr. Yechiel Bar Ilan wrote a comprehensive review article of the entire matter. And in all cases the point of departure is the level of danger involved in the forced treatment. However, with respect to "food and drink," all the articles agree that the patient "must be stuffed." (Note that all these articles refer to Jews and not Gentiles.)
That is our ethical approach! And all the ethics committees in Europe, and in the universities, and those in Israel who let their eyes wander abroad, have no standing against the ethical Jewish halacha, which is the most moral of all, no matter what the Israeli Medical Association says.
Yisrael and the Nations
As hinted above, my heart tells me that between the lines in the declaration of the Israeli Medical Association there is a hint of another message. It is something like: We are not interested in the Torah of Yisrael! The question of security of the State of Israel is not an issue for us! We never took an oath to be loyal to the laws of the Knesset! We want to be able to visit London and Rome, Munich and The Hague, without being arrested for the silly elements of Israeli security. We see a difference between forced feeding or a medical treatmentof a Jew – which is permitted, and possibly even desired – and forced feeding to save the life of a terrorist. This is not allowed, since it is protected by the laws of international ethics...
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As Shabbat Approaches
The Essence of Existence /Rabbi Oury Cherki, Machon Meir, Rabbi of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem
The Prophet Yeshayahu turns to the community of Yisrael with consolation: "Be happy, barren woman who did not give birth" [54:1]. Who is this person to whom the prophet turns? Is there a personality that stands alone, which has a dialogue with the Creator? The answer is that it is the entire nation, throughout all the generations, which is viewed as a single collective personality, and which is addressed by a collective noun denoting fondness – a companion, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a mother, or a virgin from Yisrael.
The community of Yisrael appears as being in competition with other communities. In this week's Haftarah (the first verse of which is quoted above), it is described as a desolate woman whose husband left her, as opposed to the "possessed one" which represents an attempt to establish "a mystical enlightenment, recognized to be faithful, which can be external to the existence of the nation" [Rav Abraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot, page 17]. In the annals of history, this desire was fulfilled within Christianity and Islam, which during the time of exile wanted to absorb the enlightened approach of the community of Yisrael without maintaining any contact with the nation of Yisrael itself.
Such attempts are possible only at a time when the light of the Shechina – the holy presence - which appears within Yisrael is diminished and when the community of Yisrael appears as a spiritual movement similar to others, in a status of "low-level uniqueness." However, at the time that the nation returns to its land, when the "high-level uniqueness" is revealed, all other spiritual insights disappear by comparison to the community of Yisrael, and in fact they are absorbed within it. The result is that the community of Yisrael is revealed in its true state, not as one religion of many or as one nation among all the others, but rather as the essence of all existence – a point of reference which includes everything that is encompassed by the boundaries in a worthy way (see Orot, page 138).
In such a perfect situation, an encounter with secular life and general culture is no longer dangerous, since "when the power of Yisrael is great and its soul shines within it spectacularly, and its practical branches are completely in order, with sanctity, uniqueness, and blessing, with respect to the Temple and the government, prophecy and wisdom – then the expansion to include the secular, to give pleasure to spiritual and physical senses, to look penetratingly into the lives of many different nations and peoples, including their works and their literature, and the increasing strength of natural life, are all good and have the ability to broaden the good light." [Orot, page 67].
The prophet brings the news of expansion of the sanctity to include all of the realm of the living: "Expand the place of your tent, let the curtains of your dwelling-place be stretched out, do not hold back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your tent stakes, for you will expand to the right and to the left and your offspring will inherit other nations and settle desolate cities." [54:2-3].
Redemption cancels out the shame of the Christian claims against Judaism: "Have no fear, for you will not be put to shame, do not feel humiliated for you will not be disgraced, for you will forget the shame of your youth and you will no longer remember the humiliation of being a widow." [54:4].
Redemption also renews a world-encompassing approach of Divine guidance which is not limited by the boundary of Yisrael as it was in the time of exile but which turns towards the entire world: "And your redeemer, the Holy One of Yisrael, will be called the G-d of the whole world" [54:5].
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Let Your Wellsprings Burts Forth
Go Out to War /Rabbi Moshe Shilat
Director of "The Torah of Chabad for Yeshiva Students"
The declaration, "When you go out to war against your enemy" [Devarim 21:10], is interpreted by the author of the Tanya as the "Divine soul" going out to battle against the evil inclination – the "animal soul." Rebbes of Chabad who followed him expanded this basic idea by finding new details in the verse that refer to this war. The following are some examples of their comments.
"When you go out" – By the very fact that it arrived in this world, the soul left its natural habitat, high and exalted directly under the Throne of Glory. The act of leaving is in itself an act of war. If we left and have arrived in this world, we are already in this war. It is important for us to recognize this fact.
On the other hand, we must take into account that we must always feel that we are on the move – leaving our natural place and going into "enemy territory" because this is G-d's will. The only way we can win the war is to continue to "be led" by our close clinging to G-d, to feel that this world is external to our natural place, but we must always remember that we have been placed exactly where G-d wants us to be. We have not come here in order to float above reality and to withdraw from humanity, we are searching for "close contact," and we want to be active and have an effect on the world.
"To war" – Even though the ultimate goal is not to shatter the evil inclination but rather to refine it and mend it – to achieve a situation where the evil inclination also loves G-d – we must wage war along the way to the exalted goal. The evil inclination will never reach a stage when it changes direction and accepts our way if it does not first suffer from painful blows. The war must change it into a "tool" for refinement and mending.
"Over your enemy" – What is written is not "against" your enemy but rather "over" your enemy. You are definitely on top, because you come with the power of a Divine soul which is "part of the G-d above."
There is another and deeper explanation. Remind your adversary what is "above your enemy" – what is above him, his own spiritual root. In this way, you will remove the basis of the evil. The foundation of the animal soul stems from the beasts that are mentioned in the legends of creation. The foundation of the enemies, according to mystic lore, is the separation from divinity, whose goal is to create a fire of yearning that will lead to a renewed closeness. As time passed and the worlds descended lower and lower, the distance for the purpose of becoming closer became a void and was blocked. When we awaken the animal soul from its foundation, "over your enemy," the possibility will arise to overturn it and to bring it into our forces. "When man began to fight the war, the opposite side lost its force."
"And you will capture its captive" – Aside from the victory itself, there are other bonuses. The captives are Divine sparks which exist within the shells and the evil inclination, and now they return home, to become holy.
The captive entity from the evil inclination is still called "its captive." It is still related to evil, because within it there are still special powers, like the extra merit that those who have repented have over the entirely righteous people. The sparks have unique strengths, and the novelty stems from the fact that they reach us as a result of our waging war.
The Holy One, Blessed be He, gave the shells strength, and this is strong and true power. He also gave us strong and true power, in order to be able to conquer them. This is not a victory over a meaningless void, because the Holy One, Blessed be He, created them with great power in order to oppose sanctity, but we are able to capture this strength from them! And when we capture such strength, the novelty is great and prominent.
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From the treasury of chassidic stories
If there is no World to Come /Zeev Kitsis, Kibbuts Hadati Yeshiva and Bar Ilan University
The collection "New Stories" which appears in the book "The Life of Maharan" is a secrete manuscript that was published by the Breslev Chassidim. This document was revealed about sixty-three years after it was written and hidden away, which happened while Reb Nachman was still alive. It contains sections of a diary, visions, and dreams of Reb Nachman. One of these previously hidden sections, written in the first person as something of a personal diary of Reb Nachman, is in my opinion the most wonderful and earth-shaking document in the Breslev writings. It is written as a dream that Reb Nachman had in the last month of Kislev in his life, in the year 5570 (1810).
In the beginning of the dream, Reb Nachman discovers to his horror that a very heavy sin rests on his shoulders, and because of this all of his followers and his acquaintances have moved away from him, even including his family members and friends. Until the very end of the dream, Reb Nachman is not able to understand the nature of this great sin. Group after group of people, including his past students, stand outside on the street whispering about the terrible sin and about the great "desecration of the name" which was caused by their rabbi. The Kafkaese vision continues, and Reb Nachman is forced to go into exile in a faraway forest, surviving with great difficulty with the help of five students who have remained with him.
And here "an elderly man" enters the story. He scolds the suffering Reb Nachman with harsh words: "How can you not feel shame in front of your fathers, opposite your grandfather Reb Nachman (from Hordonka) and your grandfather the Baal Shem Tov. How is it that you are not ashamed in front of the Torah of Moshe and in front of the holy forefathers?"
The peak moment of the nightmare comes when Reb Nachman discovers that he has even forgotten his Torah knowledge, and that he can no longer read the holy books. The elderly man brings him a book, "And I did not know at all how to put the book down. I opened the book and I could not understand anything about it at all."
Thus, Reb Nachman is completely alone. He is left without his students – who leave quickly when they understand that their rabbi can no longer teach them Torah – and without any other friend or somebody close to him, but only with an absolute feeling of guilt. And again he is scolded by the elderly man – who represents the previous generations, the Torah, and "the people of the heavenly world" – who declares to him that not only will he not have a portion in the Garden of Eden, but that "even in Gehenom there will be no place for you to hide." At this point, the story reaches a climax, and Reb Nachman is saved.
* * * * * *
And then I remembered the story of the Baal Shem Tov, as is well known, when he also thought that he had no place in the World to Come. And he said, "I love the Blessed G-d even without the World to Come." And I turned my head backwards with great bitterness. And when I turned back, there gathered around me all of those mentioned above in front of whom the old man told me to feel shame - that is, my grandfathers and the forefathers, and so on - and they greeted me with the verse, "The fruit of the land will be for pride and glory" [Yeshayahu 4:2], and they said, "the opposite is true – they will all be proud of you."
* * * * * *
Thus, it turned out that the entire episode was a test. Reb Nachman is brought back to the starting point of his life. He loses all of his accomplishments, his Torah, his Chassidim, and his standing. At that point Reb Nachman is reminded of the "known story" about the Baal Shem Tov. This "known story" is hinted at in other Breslev writings. According to the story, the Baal Shem Tov was turned aside to thoughts of moving away from Judaism, and it was therefore decreed that he had lost his place in the Garden of Eden ("All the Stories of Reb Nachman," pages 326-327). We are told that this gave him great cause for joy, since he was happy for the opportunity to serve G-d without any reward. In later versions of the story, the Baal Shem Tov gives up his portion in the World to Come to a childless couple so that they will have children, implying a direct choice of existing in this world in preference to getting a reward in the World to Come.
This is then the absolute test for the man of faith: Is he able to continue to act without any reward and without external support and a show of social appreciation? This is the existential return to the "here and now," to the essence of the soul as it is: "See how we stand, poor and empty " [Prayer for Yom Kippur eve].
We are told that when Reb Nachman told this story he wept bitterly. It is a weeping of fear and loss, but also a cry of joy, reconciliation, and great hope.
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A family named "Yisraeli"
The Gift /Rabbi Yikhat Rozen
Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality
"Naama, my dear, Mazal tov on your birthday!" My Savta said this. She gave me a bill for NIS 100.-, and she said, "Here is a present, Naama. Buy with it something nice that you want. Enjoy it!"
I did enjoy it, and I was very happy with the gift. A whole bill for 100 Shekels, just for me! That's a lot of money! I can buy anything I want in the whole world! Well, maybe not really, but I can buy something that is valuable... And it's always best that I choose something that I really want instead of having Savta buy me whatever they offered her in a store!
On my birthday I didn't manage to get to a store to shop, so I carefully put the bill in my wallet, well hidden. I wouldn't want anybody else to get their hands on it!
The next day I was again too busy to go shopping. And then there was a field trip, and then the next day I was too tired to go out. And that's how it came about that two weeks later I hadn't yet bought anything.
Wow! Two whole weeks had gone by, and I still didn't have a real present! Imma asked me, "Naama, do you want me to go with you to look for a present?" I said, "No, I would rather choose by myself." And Imma left it at that.
And then, finally, I went out into the city and started looking for something.
First I went into a bookstore. The huge selection of books confused me. Shelf after shelf of books suggested an infinite number of choices. Fascinating figures winked at me from the covers, inviting me to read their stories, and shining letters tried to entice me even more. The problem was that most of the books were too expensive. And I wasn't sure that the books that I could buy were worth it. What if I would read something once or twice and then it would sit idle in my closet? Would that be worth spending all the money that I had? After all, I could always borrow a book from the library!
I convinced myself that this store was not for me, and I went on to a toy store. In this store I saw a much bigger selection. On one side, there was a whole corner devoted to dolls and accessories. Should I buy a doll? No! I am too old for dolls! (But don't tell anybody about my favorite doll, Yamima.)
I went over to the section for board games. There were dozens of games here. All of them looked interesting, all of them were enticing. Here was "Peak Hour" – a game that fascinated me at one time. I stood looking at the game, which by now had been copied in other similar games, but then I realized that I was bored by the game. And there were many other puzzles, games, and challenges. On every package there were exciting slogans, such as: "A wonderful game... Gets you thinking and fires up your imagination... Helps to develop the minds of the children..." and more. But of course anybody could write whatever they wanted on the package. I got the feeling that all the games were very similar, and I was sure that after I played a few times I would be bored again... From there I went on to other areas of the big store. But the same thing happened again and again. Nothing fired up my imagination.
After I gave up on the toy store, I went into a jewelry store. Almost everything in the store was too expensive for me, and what didn't cost too much didn't look very good, or was too dainty and looked as if it might break soon. I left that store very fast.
I stood outside the store in despair, and I thought to myself: How can this be? How is it that every time somebody brings me a present I am very happy and enthusiastic, and now, when I was given money to spend freely and choose whatever I wanted, nothing appeals to me? All of a sudden everything is either too expensive, or too simple, or boring, or something that will only interest me for a short time, or too fancy, or too fragile – nothing looked like I would want to buy it! And if I found something that really looked good, it was because I already have it! Is it only other people who can choose a present for me?
Could it be that the very fact that I am free to choose my own gift spoils the fun of getting a present?
I don't know the answers to these questions. But next time I think I will be happier if Savta gives me a present and not money!
***** NOW AVAILABLE: A new book by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen: "Adventures in the Rimonim Library." To order this new book and "The Yisraeli Family," in Hebrew, contact: 054-6340121.
(Note: The stories of the "Yisraeli" family are based on true events or on stories that could have been true.)
Reactions and suggestions for stories: email@example.com
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Responsa For Our Times
The Mitzva of Monetary Shemitta after the Decree of the Pruzbul /Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen
Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel
Question: Now that the Pruzbul has been established, is there any reason to continue to observe the mitzva of monetary Shemitta?
The Obligation of Monetary Shemitta Today
The following appears in the Torah:
"At the end of seven years you shall establish a Shemitta. And this is the matter of the Shemitta. Let everyone who has a debt due to him, whose colleague owes him money, not claim it from his colleague or his brother, for this is called Shemitta for G-d... If there is a poor person from among your brothers in a city in your land which G-d gives to you, do not harden your heart and do not close your hand to your poor brother... Beware, lest you are led by your evil heart into saying, the seventh year of the Shemitta is approaching, and you will think with evil about your poor brother, and you will not give him a loan... Give it to him, and do not feel bad in your heart when you give to him, because for this reason G-d will bless you in all that you do and in all your undertakings." [Devarim 15:1-11].
The Rambam counts three mitzvot as being related to this command: (1) To cancel all loans due to a person. (2) Not to attempt to collect or to claim the return of the money. (3) Not to refuse to lend money before Shemitta in order not to lose it.
This command, to cancel the debts, is very hard to observe, and because of the difficulty people refused to lend money. As is written in the Mishna, "A loan with a Pruzbul is not cancelled by Shemitta. This is one of the decrees that were made by Hillel the Elder, when he saw that the people refused to lend money to each other, thereby violating the prohibition of the Torah, 'Beware, lest you are led by your evil heart,' and so on. Therefore Hillel established the Pruzbul." [Mishna Shevi'it 10]. Hillel's goal was not to cancel Shemitta but rather to support the mitzva of charity, of which the highest level is to give a loan. Our question now is whether after the establishment of the Pruzbul we want to limit its use in such a way that the mitzva of monetary Shemitta will still be observed.
Rabbi Yonatan Eibshitz felt that even according to those who feel that monetary Shemitta is not required today it is a good thing to keep a "memory of the mitzva" by writing a Pruzbul:
"If this is a mitzva why shouldn't we maintain it by clinging to it with joy... Our sages of the Oral Torah established that we should maintain it in modern times too... It is best for everybody who fears the word of G-d to listen and at least to keep a memory of this mitzva, which existed when we lived on our land... This is only if the halacha is like the opinion of the RAZAH (that observing Shemitta is merely a pious act), but the vast majority of the wise men of our generation accepted the simple reading of the Talmud, that Shemitta is valid at this time too... outside of the land as Torah law, for the matter of monetary Shemitta... According to the opinion of the Rambam (Shemitta V'Yovel 4:25) and Tosafot, Shemitta for land is valid today by Torah law in Eretz Yisrael because the sanctity of Ezra was not cancelled and monetary Shemitta is in effect everywhere by Torah law. And thus it is very worthy for every man to be stringent and at least maintain the memory of this mitzva with a Pruzbul, as I wrote above, so that this mitzva will not be forgotten from among Yisrael." [Urim-Vetumim 7:1].
Observance of the Mitzva of Shemitta after Hillel's Decree
The Ben Ish Chai explains (Torah portion of Ki Tavo) that the decree by Hillel was meant only to remove the obligation to cancel the debt, but it does not remove the mitzva of cancelling the loan. Therefore he proposes that a man should make a specific loan after writing a Pruzbul, so that it will not be covered by the Pruzbul, in order that he will still observe the mitzva of Shemitta for this loan.
"There are some pious people who after writing a Pruzbul give a small loan to a friend – ten grush, more or less – and this amount is outside of the Pruzbul since it was given after the Pruzbul was made. Then, after Rosh Hashanah, when the friend comes to return the loan he will respond that it has been cancelled and will refuse to take it. Thus, the borrower will have the use of the loan, and the lender will have a mitzva of Shemitta, which he observed in practice. With praise to G-d, I observed this mitzva here in our city of Baghdad. I printed Pruzbul documents and distributed them to several people who used them. I also taught them to make a small loan after making the Pruzbul and to observe the mitzva, as written above. Happy are Yisrael who love the mitzvot of G-d and perform them with joy..."
I would like to add my voice to the call by Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, to join in putting the Ben Ish Chai's proposal into effect by means of the "Otzar Ha'aretz" organization and "Pa'amonim," which propose to invite the public to observe the mitzva in practice. They have prepared a Pruzbul form which includes a loan to needy people that is beyond the scope of the Pruzbul.
In my humble opinion, in addition to this "loan" which is given a priori with the intention of observing the mitzva of Shemitta, any person who has the financial ability to do so should expand the Pruzbul to exclude loans that were given to private individuals for their own use and not for business purposes, and in this way to leave the Pruzbul only for loans which the lender cannot afford to cancel.
In this way, the person will be observing the mitzva of Shemitta in the simplest possible way. Let us pray that we will merit observing monetary Shemitta according to Torah law, in all of its detail.
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Nature and the Torah portion
Plowing with an Ox and a Donkey Together /Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together" [Devarim 22:10].
Sefer Hachinuch writes the following about the above mitzva:
"Not to plow with an ox and a donkey together, and the same is true for any pair of animals, one of which is pure and the other is impure. And not only plowing is forbidden but also any common labor, such as threshing or pulling a wagon and all other types of labor. And about this it is written, 'Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together.'" [Mitzva 550].
Commentators have suggested many reasons for this prohibition, and we will discuss some of them in this article. The Chinuch (ibid) quotes the approach of the Rambam and also gives his own proposal, which ends with a surprising psychological note:
"The Rambam wrote that the root of this mitzva lies in the prohibition of mating different species of animals, since a common practice of agricultural workers is to bring a pair of animals into one barn and to join them together... And while begging the permission of the illustrious rabbi and accepting his opinion, I will add my own suggestion and say that the reason for this mitzva includes animal suffering, which is prohibited by the Torah. It is well known that different types of animals and birds are greatly upset if they are forced to live with other species, and this is especially true when they are made to work together. We can see with respect to the animals which are not under out control that every type of bird lives with its own kind, and all the animals and other species also always stay together with their own species. Every wise person should learn from this that two people who are far apart in their natures and in their behavior should never be appointed to perform a task together, such as an evil person and a righteous one, or a simple person and a respected one. If the Torah was strict about the suffering caused for two animals which do not have a thinking mind, the same is certainly true for people, who have a thinking soul with which to understand their Creator."
The above quote is relevant for my column in two ways: (1) The Sefer Hachinuch takes note of the fact that animals tend to appear in uniform flocks, made up of a single species; and (2) the behavior of animals can in some situations serve as a basis for understanding human emotions.
Other reasons for this mitzva are brought by Chizkuni. (1) The fact that the ox chews its cud while the donkey does not might lead the donkey to become jealous, thinking that the ox eats while they both work. (2) The ox is the "king" of the domesticated animals, while the donkey is a lowly species, and it is therefore not proper to put them together. (3) The prohibition stems from the fact that the Holy One, Blessed be He, has pity on the animals, which might suffer from the combined labor, since they have different levels of strength.
According to the last suggestion above, the differences between the physical properties and the behavior of the ox and the donkey are relevant not only for the prohibition of making them plow together but also in the way they are used as beasts of labor.
It is written in the Talmud, "We have been taught in Tana Devai Eliyahu: A man should always place himself with respect to the words of Torah as an ox is placed in a yoke, and as a donkey carries a burden" [Avodah Zara 5b]. In addition, "A messenger came to Iyov and said, the oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby" [Iyov 1:14]. The Talmud brings a commentary by Rabbi Yochanan, who derives from this verse that the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Iyov a taste of the world to come while he was still in this world, and therefore the donkeys were able to immediately graze on the plants that had just been planted (Bava Batra 15b).
We might suggest, based on the simple interpretation of the verse, that there was a division of labor among the animals. While the oxen plowed, the donkeys grazed because they had no work at the time. In general oxen are used for plowing, as in the allegory of Rav Papa, "As the ox-driver goes and comes back" [Bava Batra 54b]. The reason for the different roles is that the oxen are better suited for plowing than donkeys – that is, for the task of pulling a plow. The donkeys are better suited for carrying a burden. The great strength and the slow movement of the ox allows it to plow, but is not really good for the task of carrying. The slow pace of the ox, which would usually be considered a disadvantage, is a benefit in plowing because it gives better control over the direction of the ox and allows for plowing straight and parallel rows.
An Ox or a Donkey?
Early commentators explain the difference between plows used in Babylon and in Eretz Yisrael on the basis of the differences between oxen and donkeys. "The four Amot that are mentioned are relevant for work in a vineyard. Shmuel said, This is only true in Eretz Yisrael, but in Babylon the measure is two Amot." [Bava Batra 26a]. Rashi explains, "Two Amot is the measure for Babylon, since their plows are shorter." In Eretz Yisrael the land is harder, and therefore greater strength is needed for plowing, so that oxen are used. In Babylon it is possible to use donkeys, and therefore the plows are shorter. (See Ramban, ibid).
It is interesting that in mountainous areas donkeys are typically used to pull a plow. On a mountain, plowing is along short furrows in rocky ground, and it is possible that the heavy and unwieldy oxen are not well-suited for this task. See the commentary of the RADAK on the verse, "Do horses run on rocks, is it possible to plow with cattle? You have transformed justice into poison and righteousness into wormwood" [Amos 6:12]. The RADAK writes, "It is not the way of the world that horses will run among the rocks, and it is not proper for a man to plow using cattle in the rocks, and if this happens it is not the natural way of the world – and you are doing things against the way of the world." That is, cattle cannot be used for plowing on a mountain.
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Holy & Secular
Excessive Disprespect /Rabbi Amichai Gordin
Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School
Eldar Lau describes an advanced "Bnei Akiva" camp from his perspective: Just look how some stupidity can create religious thinking that is shallow and empty. In all sorts of occasions throughout this wonderful camp, some people appeared with the title "rakaz" – coordinator – and like a Taliban police force searched for every single encounter between boys and girls... The faults in our society will not be fixed by such shallow acts of pursuit... The movement that was known to Rav Kook eighty years ago taught great people to take on responsibility for the future of our country and for mending society, and it was not occupied with external shells that have almost no meaning...
[From a post that was written by Eldad's father, Rabbi Benny Lau.]
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Mordechai Yurivetzky reacted to the words of Eldad Lau: Perhaps the time has finally come to rid us once and for all of this concept of "an a priori mixed society" which so many good people depend on, and to speak out in a loud voice: We can have a modest and mixed society – but only after the fact. I am not the one who says this, rather it is the great halachic decision makers of the last generation...
Is Bnei Akiva a movement of Torah? Of holiness? Of truth? To my sorrow, the answer is no. The reality in the field speaks for itself. Today there is only one movement that educates in a way of sanctity, separation, and a living Torah with all its might, and that is the youth movement "Ariel" ... Do not lie to yourselves and claim that your path is the way of Torah.
[From the Kippa website.]
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There is a great and important dispute among great and important rabbis within religious Zionism about the subject of a "mixed society." Let us emphasize and write down what goes without saying, but it is important to state. There is no rabbi on the face of the earth, or above or below it, who states that mixed dancing is allowed. There is no rabbi who permits mixed overnight stops in close proximity. It goes without saying that no rabbi will permit physical contact between boys and girls.
However, the rabbis have a dispute over whether it is necessary to create physical distance between boys and girls. Some great and very important rabbis forbid mixed seating at weddings. There are other great and very important rabbis who forbid any joint activities by boys and girls. The list of rabbis is very long, we do not have the room to mention them all here. We merely note that there is a possibility that if Rav Kook were still alive today he might have stood at the head of such a group of rabbis. Rav Kook, the great light of our times, opposed letting women vote in elections, in his time.
However, together with these important rabbis, there are great rabbis who saw things differently. These rabbis gave permission a priori for mixed seating at weddings (for example, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein). These rabbis felt that normal life styles today depend on joint activities of the two sexes (Rabbi Soloveitchik, our mentor Rabbi Lichtenstein, and others). These rabbis understood that there are places where we are obligated to separate, but that there are also places where the separation between the sexes must be personal and internal. These rabbis felt that the way to create a holy society was through a full life that is based on strict adherence to religious principles as performed by the people themselves and not only as built up by concrete walls.
In their letters, Eldar Lau and Mordechai Urivetzky are expressing a deep and blessed desire to mend the world. Unfortunately, on the way to their goal they fell into a deep pit consisting of a disparaging attitude towards some great rabbis. One cannot say about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who supports the idea of separating the sexes, that he "has religious thinking that is shallow and empty." We cannot say that Rav Kook was involved in "external shells that have almost no meaning."
However, Yurivetzky's replies are spoiled by the very same faults. The claim that all of the rabbis of the generation did not accept the approach that "a modest mixed society" is the a priori choice is reminiscent of newspapers like "Pravda" and others like it. The claim that only Ariel follows the true Torah path casts a shadow over many great and important rabbis, for whom we are all required to show respect, and it virtually blots them out together with their opinions.
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Our sages were very careful to pay attention to and show respect for other opinions than their own. With respect to the basic disagreement between Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel, the Talmud teaches us, "Since it is true that both sides are based on the words of the living G-d, why was Beit Hillel given the privilege that we accept their opinions as halacha?" The answer is simple and straightforward. The advantage of Beit Hillel was not wisdom or understanding. Rather, the important factor was that they were able to listen and learn from their opponents. "It is because they were pleasant and accepted criticism, and they taught their own opinions and also those of Beit Shamai. Moreover, they brought the words of Beit Shamai before their own words..." [Eiruvin 13b].
Only when "these and those," both sides, are together, is the result "the words of the living G-d." But when "these and those" remain separate from each other, they no longer speak the words of the living G-d. Divine truth consists of the Torah of the nation of Yisrael. And this means the entire nation of Yisrael. If the approach of one Beit Midrash is missing, the Torah will no longer be the Torah of the whole nation.
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The Table Of kings
Who is an Enemy and Who is a Friend?/Bar-on Dasberg
In each article in this series we deal with some aspect of a single chapter of the book of Melachim.
(Melachim I 22)
The prophet Michaihu Ben Yimla gave us the first opportunity to "peek" at a discussion around the Throne of G-d. The second opportunity will be given to us by Yeshayahu in his first prophecy (chapter 6). There are parallel elements in the two prophecies: A description of the Holy One, Blessed be He, sitting on His Throne, the legions of the heavens around Him, and a search for a volunteer to perform a complex mission. In Melachim, it is, "Who will entice Achav, so that he will rise up and fall?" For Yeshayahu, the mission begins with, "The heart of this nation has become fat."
Yeshayahu volunteers immediately: "Here I am, send me." Here in Melachim, it is hard to find a volunteer. "And this one said one thing, and another said something else." Perhaps here too it was expected that the prophet himself would volunteer. In the end, the wind took on the job.
Why didn't Michaihu volunteer? Perhaps, as opposed to Eliyahu, who had an open dispute with the royal house, Michaihu wanted the king to succeed. According to the sages, Michaihu was the one who encouraged Achav before his victory over Aram. This did not prevent him from criticizing Achav when he felt it was necessary.
In this chapter of Melachim, Michaihu's loyalty reaches a peak. He reveals to Achav that there is a Divine plan to kill him. However, instead of thanking Michaihu, Achav reacts by saying, "He does not prophesy good for me but only evil."
It is not always true that one who criticizes you wants bad things to happen to you. There are times when the opposite is true.
* * * My book "Katzar V'Lashulchan," a collection of articles that appeared in this bulletin, has just been published (in Hebrew). It can be found in the Steimatzky bookshops.
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Riddle of the Week
Ki Teitzei /Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
What do the following have in common in this week's Torah portion?
A change of clothing,
A change of weights,
A change of a vow,
And the return of a woman.
Answers to last week's riddle – It was: What do the following have in common: A large number of wives;A fear of fighting in a war; Determining that a person is a false prophet; And revenge by a blood relative?
The heart is involved in each of these items.
- Too many wives lead to the heart being turned away: "He shall not have many wives, and his heart will not turn away" [Devarim 17:17].
- One who has a weak heart will cause the nation to lose courage: "Who is the man who is afraid and whose heart is weak, let him go and sit in his home, and he will not weaken the hearts of his brethren like his own" [20:8].
- As part of the test for a false prophet, it is written: "And if you will say in your heart, how will we know what it is that G-d has not said..." [18:21].
- The blood relative pursues one who has killed another by accident when his heart becomes warm: "Lest the blood relative will chase after the killer, because his heart will become warm. And he will catch him, because the road is long, and he will kill him. And he is not liable for a punishment of death, because he did not hate him yesterday or the day before." [19:6].
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Do you have a bar/bat mitzva coming up? Are you looking for a special quiz?
To order: www.hidonim.com
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