From the virtual desk of the OU VEBBE REBBE
The Orthodox Union – via its website – fields questions of all types in areas of
kashrut, Jewish law and values. Some of them are answered by Eretz Hemdah, the
Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, founded by HaRav Shaul
Yisraeli, zt"l to prepare rabbanim and dayanim to serve the National Religious
community in Israel and abroad. Ask the Rabbi is a joint venture of the OU,
Yerushalayim Network, Eretz Hemdah... and the Israel Center. The following is a
Q&A from Eretz Hemdah...
Q. As a gabbai who deals with various tzedakah collections, a
few questions have arisen regarding changes in the recipient.
1. May one who intended to give to a certain institution but put the money in
the wrong box take out the money & switch it?
2. Money was collected for a certain need (e.g Maot Chittim for Russian Jews)
but was not distributed on time. Can it be used for other needs or do you have
to find a way to return it to the donors?
3. What happens if an institution put out a tzedakah box but never came to pick
A Indeed a gabbai tzedakah must get extra sachar for all the complications that
arise. We'll deal with each question separately, although there are some
1. There are two elements to the binding nature of a donation.
One involves an explicit or implicit neder (oath) to give tzedakah. The other
involves acquisition (kinyan) of the donation by or on behalf of the recipient(s).
Each element has rules as to when it is binding and when a mistake renders the
donation void. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 258:6) does rule that one cannot
back out of a donation, even with sh'eila (the tzedakah equivalent of hatarat
nedarim), once it reaches the hands of the gabbai. There is a complex discussion
as to whether and when a tzedakah box is considered like the hands of the gabbai
(see discussion in Tzedakah U'mishpat 8:(25)). However, if the money was placed
in the box because of a full-fledged mistake, the rules of kinyan b'ta’ut
(acquisition based on a mistake) apply, and the money may be removed and put in
the intended place without problem (ibid.). Tzedakah is not like hekdesh, and
its money does not have intrinsic kedusha (Rama, Yoreh Deah 259:1). Therefore,
it doesn't matter if one takes back the coins or bills he put in or different
2. Assuming that we're talking about the same group of needy people or that the
group was never clearly defined, there is no problem giving the money for
similar needs. Although we find that money collected for a Purim seudah should
not be switched to other purposes (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 694:2), this
halacha is interpreted by most poskim as an exception, not the rule. Certainly,
when the money will be used by the same pool of poor people, under similar
circumstances, the gabbai may make the changes as needed (see Nikdash Bitzdakah
342). If the need totally disappears, the money should be given to other
recipients, preferably with similar needs (see Tzedaka U'mishpat, ibid.; Tzitz
3. When receiving tzedakah boxes from people and institutions, it is best to
stipulate that you are planning to give the money to them specifically only if
they come to receive the money within a set amount of time. Even if you did not
make such a stipulation, but you cannot track down the recipient, you, as gabbai,
are not required to watch the money indefinitely and may transfer it to other
charities of that type. If you put your own money in without a stipulation, you
should preferably do sh'eila (ibid.).
Hasidic Wisdom from the book by Simcha Raz (Elkins/Elkins)
Just as we accept that our neighbor’s face does not resemble ours, so must we
accept that our neighbor’s views do not resemble ours.
- Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
People are always scrutinizing their deeds to find out why they have been chosen
to suffer so.
I have yet to see someone who contemplates why they merited such weath and
- Rabbi Eliyahu of Viskut
Our Sages instructed us then “when judging each and every
individual we must give them the benefit of the doubt” (Avot 1:6).
How much more so, then, must you give the entire People of Israel the benefit of
- Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
Rite & Reason by Shmuel Pinchas Gelbard
It is customary to make the Tzitzit white, even if the tallit is a different
Reason: The pasuk in Daniel (7:9) states: “as I looked, thrones were placed and
an Ancient of Days sat, whose garment was white as snow.” (Pri Megadim).
Ed. note: Halachically, the strings of tzitzit can be dyed the same color as the
garment as to which they are attached, or they can be white. With blue, there’s
a further complication because of T”CHEILET. In practice, the strings are almost
always white (except of course, for the P”TIL T:CHEILET - see page 17).
It is customary to wind the tzitzit threads into 4 segments. The first segment
is formed by winding the shamash (longest thread) around the other strings seven
times. The second segment has eight windings, the third has eleven and the
fourth has thirteen.
Reason: This is because 7 and 8 equals 15, corresponding to the numerical value
of YUD-HEI. Together with the third segment which has 11 windings, we arrive at
26, the g’matriya of G-d’s four-letter name. The final 13 windings are
numerically equivalent to ECHAD. Hence, the tzitizt “spell out” the words HASHEM
In most Ashkenazic communities, an unmarried man does not where a tallit during
Reason: Immediatley after the pasuk (Dvarim 22:12) which commands the mitzva of
tzitizt, is the pasuk, “if a man takes a woman (in mar- riage)...” (Maharil)
Reason: Making the unmarried men in shul more noticeable will motivate them
(hopefully) to fulfill the mitzva of marriage.
Ed. note: If so, then it will also help eligible woman spot the eligible
ArtScroll Series • Mesorah Publications Ltd.
WORDS OF WISDOM WORDS OF WIT by Shmuel Himelstein
R’ Yospe of Ostraha was a very wealthy man. When his daughter became very ill,
he distributed tzedaka to different people, asking only that they pray for his
daughter’s recovery. Many of those who had received the tzedaka from R’ Yospe
embarked on a series of fasts, begging Hashem to save the girl.
One of those who was given tzedakah to pray for the girl was the
saintly R’ Yitzchak of Drohowitz. R’ Yitzchak, unlike the others who had
received money to pray for the girl, used the money to buy a feast, which he
Later, after the girl had recovered, some of R’ Yitzchak’s friends asked him,
“Rebbe, why didn’t you act like the others and embark on a fast?” R’ Yitzchak
explained to them, “If I had fasted, that would have made absolutely no
impression in Heaven. They’re used to my fasting for days on end, and another
fast would have been of no consequence. However, when I used the money to
prepare a lavish feast, they immediately took notice in Heaven and asked, “Why
is it that R’ Yitzchak is suddenly eating a full meal?
Where did he get the money?’ They began to investigate what had happened, and
soon found out that R’ Yospe’s daughter had become ill, and her father had given
lots of tzedakah. It was then that they sent her a cure.”
Meet Murex Trunculus
Following are excerpts from the website of P'til Tekhelet, the Association for
the Promotion and Distribution of Tekhelet, Jerusalem, Israel. (www.tekhelet.com)
They are presented here in honor of the mitzva of Tzitzit as found in this
week’s parsha, in honor of all the mitzvot of the Torah of which Tzitzit are
meant to remind us, and in honor of He Who gave us Torah and Mitzvot.
“There is an obligation upon all who are capable, to search for [tekhelet], to
merit Israel with this commandment, which has been forgotten for the last many
centuries. And he who succeeds in this, will surely be blessed by God.”
(Rabbi G. E. Leiner, the Radzyner Rebbe)
The secrets of the tekhelet color, its source and method of manufacture have
been lost for over 1300 years. As a result, many of the laws pertaining to its
use have been deemed “academic”, and their study was, to a certain extent,
neglected as compared with the more prosaic statutes. What is the signifi- cance
of the blue thread and why has this commandment fallen into disuse?
Over the past few years, there has been an increasing awareness and renewed
discussion regarding the Biblical dye tekhelet...
Tekhelet was worn by nobility and priests throughout the ancient world. It is
found in those contexts within the Bible as well; it adorns the Tabernacle and
comprises the special clothes of the high priest.
On this basis Professor Jacob Milgrom has suggested an explanation of the
significance of the blue thread on the Jew’s garments.
Tzitzit is the epitome of the democratic thrust within Judaism which equalizes
not by leveling but by elevating... In antiquity, the tzitzit (and the hem) was
the insignia of authority, high breeding and nobility. By adding the blue woolen
cord to the tzitzit, the Torah combined nobility with priesthood: Israel is not
to rule man but to serve God. Furthermore, tzitzit is not restricted to Israel’s
leaders, be they kings, rabbis or scholars. It is the uniform of all Israel...
What does Tekhelet come from?
The Talmud describes Tekhelet as coming from a sea-creature called a chilazon.
In a homiletic passage, the chilazon is characterized as "similar to the sea,
being similar to [but not] a fish, and coming up from the sea once in seventy
years [rarely]." Chilazon in modern Hebrew means "snail". Rabbinic, historical,
archaeological and chemical evidence point to Murex trunculus snails as the
source of Tekhelet.
How is Tekhelet produced?
Murex snails possess a gland which contains the source of Tekhelet.
Dibromoindigo, which originates from glandular secretions of a fresh snail,
bonds chemically to wool when put into solution in a reduced state (vat dyeing).
In the presence of sunlight, the dibromoindigo debrominates to indigo, leaving
color-fast blue wool.
Why should I wear Tekhelet?
Wearing Tekhelet on tzitzit is a mitzvah prescribed by the Torah. It is a
commandment which is intended for all generations, independent of location and
unrelated to the existence of the Temple. It is only during the last century
that we have had the means and privilege of embarking upon the restoration of
Tekhelet, which has been denied to us for many centuries. Dare we let this
opportunity pass us by?
How should I tie Tekhelet on my tzitzit?
There are different opinions regarding how Tekhelet should be tied. Bear in mind
that the technique chosen does not qualify/disqualify the mitzvah, except for
certain minimal requirements.
Here are SOME of the different opinions concerning tying tzitzit
"The experience was memorable, enjoyable, and even emotional...
The rediscovery of the chilazon and the techelet in our time is a remarkable
event, not different perhaps than the rebirth of the Jewish people and its State
of Israel themselves. It is a testimony to the absolute, unqualified, unreserved
commitment of the Jewish people to the Torah, G-d and the Land of Israel." —
Rabbi Berel Wein
The mere thought of being able to perform a long lost, precious
mitzva is unbelievably exciting. Actually doing it is a very, very special
experience, one with deep spiritual satisfaction. There are strong and
impressive arguments for Murex Trunculus being the source of T’cheilet. Go for
How many snails does it take to complete a set of tzitzit? One to make the dye
and 29 to tie the tzitzit (just kidding). We estimate that it takes approx. 30
snails to produce a set of Tekhelet strings.
Ignorance is subject to a vicious cycle in which one shies away from learning
for fear of revealing his ignorance and so confirms his ignorance even more.From
A Candle by Day by Shraga Silverstein
The Number 40
Note the reoccurrence of the number 40. From all indications, the number 40
represents the completion of a process, be it positive or negative. An embryo
develops into a fetus in 40 days. Even earlier than that, there are certain
things associated with "40 days before the baby is formed". The process of
Moshe's acquiring of Torah took 40 days and 40 nights. As did the attainment of
forgiveness for the people - 40 days on Har Sinai following the Golden Calf and
40 years for the Sin of the Spies. All living things (except No'ach and those
with him in the Ark) were killed off during 40 days of the Flood. A mikve must
contain a minimum of 40 measures of water. Cleansing of another type - via the
punishment of MAKOT - is achieved by 40 (less 1) lashes. The complete definition
of Creativity, vis-a-vis the prohibited categories of Melacha on Shabbat is also
40 (less 1). Forty years is the age that Pirkei Avot assigns to the acquisition
of deep understanding. There are several 40 year periods in the Tanach, periods
of peace, periods of war, length of a king's reign... 40 is a special number.
[SDT] Part of Moshe’s instructions to the Meraglim was to check out the land,
HATOVA HI IM RA’AH. We usually explain that as “if it is good or bad”. But we
can (and maybe should) look at it in a slightly different manner. That the Land
is TOVA, even if it appears to us a bad, or lacking. Even if we perceive it with
flaws, we must always know that this Land is TOVA. It is good. And its people
are good. Even if they sometimes appear to be less than good. This does not mean
to ignore negative things. It means to keep them in perspective. The Land of
Israel and the People of Israel are intrinsically good. It is an important way
to view things, because we will be incouraged to improve matters in the hope
that the good that we know is in there will emerge. Otherwise, we might not take
up the challenge, and that would be a shame.
Concerning the mitzva of Wine of Libation from this week’s parsha...
A bull is accompa- nied by half a Hin, a ram by 1/3 Hin, and a lamb by 1/4 of a
Hin. 1 Hin = 6 Log, so the N’sachim are 6, 4, and 3 Logim respectively. Mishna
Menachot 12:4 (end) teaches us that one can donate to the Mikdash only amounts
of wine (and oil) that match specific korbanot exactly.
This means that one can donate to the Mikdash 3 Logim of wine or oil, because
that amount can be used for a lamb. Similarly, one can donate 4 or 6 Logim,
which correspond to a ram and a bull. What about 10 Logim? Yes, because that is
the total NESECH or oil for a bull and a ram, or a ram and 2 lambs. The Mishna
states that donations of 1 or 2 Logim cannot be made, nor 5, since those amounts
do not match any animal or combination of animals. Obviously, there must be a
whole number of Logim in gift to the Mikdash. The mishna concludes by saying
that any (whole) number of Logim from 6 and up is acceptable.
Here’s a “fun” task to work out with your children or guests at
the Shabbat table. Explain the mishna and ask them to come up with the
animals-combination for different numbers. Ask if there are different ways of
getting to the number. E.g. 18 Logim matchs 3 bulls, 2 bulls and 2 lambs, 1 bull
and 4 lambs, 6 lambs. Make it harder by saying that there must be at least one
of each animal. Etc.
From the Desk of the Director
Parshat Shlach Lecha opens with the notorious episode of the twelve
distinguished leaders sent to survey the Land of Israel. Their consequent report
sowed fear into the hearts of Bnei Yisra'el. The parsha closes with the
injunction to wear Tzizit on four-cornered garments so that one should remember
all of Hashem's commandments.
In both instances the Torah employs the use of the Hebrew term "Latur."
In the case of the 'spies,' the expression means "to tour" [the Land], while
regarding the mitzva of Tzizit the term cautions us not to let our eyes lead us
astray. Given the latter negative connotation, we can certainly identify with
those who question the validity of sending the spies in the first place.
Rashi explains that initially Moshe was not in favor of a search
party. After all, Hashem had told Bnei Yisr'ael that the Land was good. However,
aware of the persuasive power of prejudice and personal agendas, Moshe
mistakenly acquiesced to the will of the people in the belief that they would
back down on seeing his readiness to go along with the plan.
The parsha of Tzizit strengthens the notion that vision has the
potential either to distract us or point us in the direction of truth. The
choice is ours. It all depends how you look. The root meaning of "Tzizit" is to
look intently (Shir Hashirim 2:15). Thus, notes the Sforno, the Torah instructs
us which associations to make when beholding the fringes. Left to their own
devices our eyes are agents seeking out worldly pleasures. But when our eyes
perceive the blue threads that symbolize the Throne of Glory in the heavenly
skies, then the fringes surely become the true royal insignia of the King of
Shabbat Shalom, Menachem Persoff, Director, Israel Center
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