MISC section - contents:
 Vebbe Rebbe
 From the virtual desk of the OU
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, headed by Rav Yosef Carmel and Rav Moshe Ehrenreich, 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: I am part of a group of around 10 Jewish prison inmates (some, like me, are studying for conversion). Our cells (5' x 9') have a toilet in them and during the time for Shacharit and Ma'ariv, I am not able to get out. Can I put on my tallit and pray at that time, in a "dirty place", or is it an abomination to Hashem? Our rabbi died a few years ago, and we don't have anyone to answer our questions any more. Also, could you send us some texts to study from?
A: It is a problem to involve oneself in holy things in proximity of excrement, as we will briefly discuss. Those who are not Jewish yet are not bound by those requirements, which are not included in the seven Noahide laws. However, your letter [shortened above] makes it clear that you want to follow the laws like a Jew. Therefore, we will present the laws for your whole group under your difficult circumstances (and this will serve as one of the study materials we will send).
One may not pray or make blessings in or opposite bathrooms (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 83:1). However, not necessarily is every room with a toilet a bathroom. Poskim (halachic authorities) have discussed to what extent rooms with a toilet that are used also for things such as washing hands, shaving, etc. have the status of a bathroom. In your case, the room is as multi-purpose as it gets, which gives grounds for leniency.
The very presence of a toilet, even a cleaned one that is outside a bathroom, raises problems. One may not recite things of sanctity within approximately six feet of a waste receptacle or any distance when one is facing it. There is a distinction regarding whether it is made out of an absorbent material. Absorbent materials that are coated with a glaze, like most modern toilets, are also the subject of dispute (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 87:1 and commentaries). However, this is of limited help when the utensil is used only for the "dirty" purpose (ibid. 83:5). However, if one can cover the toilet all around or get a 30 inch partition in front of it and smell does not emanate from it, this problem is solved (ibid. 76:1).
There is another reason for leniency in modern bathrooms in general. The Talmud (B'rachot 26a) says that Persian bathrooms do not have a status of a bathroom because the hole is built on an incline so that excrement rolls down and away. Poskim compare and contrast our modern toilets, which of course, flush (as opposed to those in Talmudic times) to the Persian ones. On one hand, during most of the day, the toilet is (relatively) clean. On the other hand, the excrement stays put until one gets around to flushing. In general, under normal circumstances (hopefully when you and your friends will be out of prison), we would not allow one to make blessings or pray in such a room. However, under the circumstances, there is room for leniency, if there is not a bathroom smell where one is.
The Rama (the Ashkenazic counterpart of the Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 62:4) says that when one is in a place that is not totally clean, he can and should contemplate the words of the Shema (as an example of all holy texts), rather than to recite them. Although it is generally forbidden even to think of such things in an unclean place (Beit Yosef, OC 25), this is a good solution for borderline places.
Therefore, we suggest the following. When you have to recite a prayer or blessing while in your cell, try to get out of a six foot radius of the toilet (probably possible with the diagonal), face the other way and read the texts without uttering them with your lips. Your tallit is not a matter of holiness, although it is an important thing since it is used for prayer. Therefore, in your cell, which does not have a full status of a bathroom, you may wear it without making a blessing, or as mentioned, by contemplating the blessing.
 Candle by Day
There seems to be a kind of tacit agreement among mankind to approve of one another's mediocrity in order that it not be necessary for anyone to over-exert himself.
From "A Candle by Day" by Rabbi Shraga Silverstein
A Candle by Day - The Antidote - The World of Chazal by Rabbi Shraga Silverstein
Now available at 054-209-9200
 Wisdom and Wit by Shmuel Himelstein
R' Mordechai Bennet was already an old man when he met the Chasam Sofer at a summer resort. While they were there, R' Mordechai received an urgent letter regarding a woman who was an aguna - a woman abandoned by her husband - and without a divorce or proof of his death, she could not remarry. New evidence had been found which might permit her to remarry. R' Mordechai was asked to review the case and offer his opinion of it.
Turning to the Chasam Sofer, R' Mordechai said to him, "I am really old and not well, but this matter is an urgent one. Could you review the halacha and answer the writer?"
"Rebbe," said the Chasam Sofer, "while I would be happy to do so, I have absolutely no sefarim here with me. At the very least, I would need to have the Tur with the Beis Yosef's commentary on Even Ha'ezer Section 17, which discusses the entire question at great length."
(That particular section is one of he longest in the entire Tur.)
"Oh, is that your problem?" said R' Mordechai. "Please take a pen and paper and start writing." He then dictated the entire section, word for word, from memory. When the Chasam Sofer finished writing, R' Mordechai told him," Now you have all that you need to be able to answer the letter."
R' Pinchas, the Rav of Frankfurt, was once asked: "Is it true, Rebbe, that when you were younger you traveled to the Maggid of Mezeritch, the famous Chassidic leader?"
"That is true," replied R' Pinchas. "How is it that a person such as you did such a thing without investigating first?" the man persisted.
"You are absolutely right," said R' Pinchas, "and I am indeed to blame. Had I investigated first about the greatness of the Maggid, I would have walked the entire distance to see him, rather than traveling by carriage."
Shmuel Himelstein has written a wonderful series for ArtScroll: Words of Wisdom, Words of Wit; A Touch of Wisdom, A Touch of Wit; and "Wisdom and Wit" - available at your local Jewish bookstore (or should be). Excerpted with permission
 CHIZUK and IDUD for Olim & not-yet-Olim respectively
The result of transgressing the sexual prohibitions of Parshat Achrei Mot is described in Vayikra 18:25 "The land will 'spit out' its inhabitants."
As R. Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (Commentary on the Torah, Vayikra 18:24-28) points out, every person ("adam") who comes from the earth ("adama") is rejected by it, should he defile it. For example, this is what happened in the time of No'ach. However, Eretz Yisrael, the chosen land, has a special relationship with B'nei Yisrael, the chosen people. We were selected by God to educate the people of the world to live moral lives and therefore, unethical behavior is absolutely intolerable. The Land of Israel will not flourish unless its society fulfills the lofty goals that God has set for it. If some individuals are guilty of moral corruption, only they will be punished. However, if the entire society acts unethically, and immorality becomes the national "way of life", the entire nation has betrayed the Torah and God's land. Therefore, it will be expunged from the land just as a foreign object is expunged from the body.
This has happened to us and it is a very frightening. How do we deal with it? Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik (Divrei Hahkafah, 92-93) suggests that we look to the haftara for consolation. At first blush, it would seem that Chapter 9 of Amos has no connection to the mitzvot and prohibitions of Parshat Achrei Mot or Parashat K'doshim, when it is recited. However, the Rov points out that it is precisely because of the last line in the haftara, where God gives the people of Israel hope, and promises them that galut is temporary and they will return to Eretz Yisrael: "And I will bring my nation Israel back, and they will (re)build destroyed cities and settle in them.. and I will plant them in their land, and they will never again be uprooted from the land that I gave them (Amos 9:14-15) We will be given the chance to repent and return.
B'chasdei shamayim, we have been given the opportunity to return to Eretz Yisrael. We pray that more and more Jews come here and join us in creating the moral society mandated by the Torah, thus hastening the arrival of Mashiach.
Rabbi Aharon Angstreich, Jerusalem
TORAH THOUGHTS as contributed by Aloh Naaleh members for publication in the Orthodox Union's 'Torah Insights', a weekly Torah publication on Parshat HaShavu'a
 Parsha Points to Ponder - Acharei-K'doshim
1) Why does the Torah identify Aharon as Moshe's brother when instructing Moshe to teach the strict laws regarding the kohanim and not entering the holy of holies (16:2)?
2) Why does the Torah teach not to perform acts like the LAND OF EGYPT and THE LAND OF CANAAN instead of focusing on the people who lived in those lands (18:3)?
3) Why does the Torah say USHMARTEM ATEM which essentially means AND YOU SHOULD GUARD YOU when concluding the laws of immoral relationships (18:26)?
Ponder the questions first, then read here
1) The Kli Yakar answers that G-D was emphasizing that Moshe should not think that his close familial relationship with his brother would protect Aharon if he entered the holy of holies at an improper time and/or way.
2) Rav Dovid Feinstein suggests that the Torah is teaching the root cause of the moral depravity of the people in Egypt and Canaan and, by extension, every- where in the world throughout history. It is the land, itself. If the land is very fertile, as it was in Egypt and Canaan at the time, then this tends to lead the people to living self-indulging lives including immorality. Thus, we should not act in the way that the LAND OF EGYPT and the LAND OF CANAAN led its inhabitants to act.
3) The Ohr HaChayim explains that these mitzvot are so important that the Torah wanted to emphasize that we not only should make sure that we observe them but that the Beit Din and the leaders should do whatever they can to make sure that others do so as well. The extra ATEM is directed to them.
Parsha Points to Ponder is prepared by Rabbi Dov Lipman, who teaches at Reishit Yerushalayim, Tiferet, and Machon Maayan in Beit Shemesh and RBS and is the author of "DISCOVER: Answers for Teenagers (and adults) to Questions about the Jewish Faith",just re-published by Feldheim, email@example.com
 Portion from the Portion by Rakel Berenbaum
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FROM K'DOSHIM TO BAVA KAMA
In Parshat MISHPATIM this year, I talked about the connection between the biblical verses from that portion and the page learned at that time by those who learn DAF YOMI - the daily page of Talmud. At that time they were learning the fifth chapter of BAVA KAMA in N'ZIKIN called SHOR SHENAGACH ET HAPARA - an ox that gored a cow.
This week we can bring a similar connection. Last Sunday those who learn in the 12th cycle of DAF HAYOMI finished learning page 119 of the tenth chapter (HAGOZEL UMA'ACHIL) of BAVA KAMA. In so doing they had their first SIYUM in the Order of N'ZIKIN. This chapter deals with laws pertaining to someone who steals.
The verse in our portion of K'DOSHIM (19:11) warns us not to steal - LO TIGNOVU. The word TIGNOV refers to stealing secretly. Some examples include shoplifting, pickpocketing, using an item that someone asked you to watch without getting explicit permission, and using things at work that belong to the employer such as pencils and paper.
And what about getting benefit from stolen merchandise? We are forbidden to buy stolen goods. Meaning, if one is going to buy a used bike he should make sure that it is not stolen. If a thief would know that he is unable to sell his stolen goods, he might not steal anymore.
Page 118 of BAVA KAMA deals with the issue of someone who has had an object stolen from him (let's say Reuven) and then sees that object in someone elses's possesion (Shimon). HAMAKIR KEILAV USFARAV B'YAD ACHER. For example Reuven had a bicycle that was stolen and then he sees Shimon riding it. Reuven goes to Shimon and asks for his bike back. Shimon says that he bought the bike for 500 shekel and he can't just give him the bike. What happens in a case like this?
The Gemara says that actually Reuven should be allowed to take his bike back without having to pay anything for it, but the Rabbis have made a TAKANAT HASHUK. They decided that in order to make sure that people would continue to do business with each other - buying and selling - it must be that we must assume that when we go to a public store the objects there are not stolen and we are permitted to buy them. So in the case with the bike, Shimon must swear that he bought the bike for 500 shekel and if Reuven wants his bike back he must pay for it. Many interesting laws just from one pasuk in the Torah telling us not to steal.
YISHAR KOACH to all those who learn DAF YOMI.
Since the portion talks about stealing, this week's recipe is for cookies that it would be hard not to steal from the cookie jar - because they are so good.
WHO STOLE THE COOKIES FROM THE COOKIE JAR CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1cup ( lb. / 200g) margarine, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp.baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz.)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Beat margarine and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
In another bowl, mix dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir or beat into margarine mixture until well mixed. Add chocolate chips (and nuts, if desired).
Drop dough in 2-tablespoon portions, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets.
Bake at 400F (200C) until cookies are lightly browned and no longer wet in the center (you can break one open to check), about 6 to 8 minutes; if baking more than one pan at a time, switch pan positions halfway through baking.
Let stand on pan to firm up, 2 to 5 minutes, then transfer to racks with wide spatula (so they won't break) to cool completely. Then watch out for those cookie thieves!
 from Machon Puah
Saving a Life or Stopping a Pursuer?
Last week we saw the Mishna that states that before the child is born we can abort him in order to save the mother's life, but once he is born or even the majority of the body is out of the mother then we cannot touch him since we do not push off one soul before another.
This suggests that the unborn fetus is not considered alive and only receives the soul at birth. It is clear from the Mishna that the reason that before birth we do all that we can to save the mother's life but after birth we cannot interfere is that before birth he has no soul and only receives that afterwards.
However, the Rambam brings this Mishna in his discussion of the laws of the rodef, the pursuer. It is a mitzva to stop the pursuer and not to be overly merciful. "Therefore" the Rambam writes (Hilchot Rotze'ach 1:9) "the Rabbis taught that when a woman is in danger during childbirth it is permitted to cut up the fetus either by hand or by a drug since he is like a pursuer to kill her. But if his head came out then we cannot touch him since we do not push off one soul for another and this is the nature of the world."
The Rambam adds to the issue another element, namely that of the pursuer, and it is for this reason that we are allowed to kill the fetus. This does not appear in the Mishna and this addition changes both the understanding of the Mishna and the dynamic of the question. Since it now appears that were the fetus not a pursuer it would be forbidden to touch him and thus the Rambam appears to be of the opinion that the fetus is considered alive and only when he is a pursuer can he be killed.
But according to this, the child is a pursuer for the entire time that he endangers the mother. Why then does the Rambam permit killing him prior to his birth but forbid it when the birth has reached a critical point, namely that of the head emerging? If the child is a rodef before the birth since he could kill the mother, then he should remain so even after until any danger has passed.
These questions are not only academic but hold the key to understanding the halachic status of the unborn child.
The Puah Institute for Fertility and Gynecology in Accordance with Halacha is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Puah has offices in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. To contact the Puah Institute please call 1-800-071111 in Israel or in the US 718-336-0603. website: www.puahonline.org
 Pirkei Avot
He (R' Chanina b. Dosa) used to say, He in whom the spirit of his fellow-creatures takes delight, in him the Spirit of the All-present takes delight; and he in whom the spirit of his fellow-creatures takes not delight, in him the Spirit of the All-present takes no delight.
We don't say (are not supposed to say) Who cares what other people think of me; I know that G-d knows the truth. It does matter what others think of us and our actions. R' Chanina b. Dosa is teaching us that G-d Himself "appreciates" (so to speak) when a person is well-thought of by his fellows. Obviously, this teaching is not talking about someone who has others fooled. Caring what one's deeds convey to others is learned from the oath that Moshe administered to the tribes of Reuven and Gad - if you keep to the oath, then you will be guiltless in the eyes of G-d and of Israel. How one's behavior is perceived by others is a factor in Kiddush HaShem (and its opposite).
 Guest Article by Eliyahu Schwartzman - Lesson from Yehoshua
Ed. note: The views expressed in the following article are the author's and do not necessarily represent the views of the Orthodox Union, OU Israel, the OU Israel Center, or Torah Tidbits. We welcome reader feedback for possible publication in Torah Tidbits.
HaRav Shlomo Goren z"l told the story of a meeting of army generals with David Ben Gurion, which took place in the early days of the State. One general proposed that there be a separate division of the army for religious soldiers. This division would adhere to the laws of Kashrut, Shabbat, etc. and the "rest of the army" would be able to conduct itself otherwise. It was not Rav Goren who responded; it was Ben Gurion. We are one people and we have one army. And since you do not refuse to eat kosher, but he (pointing to Rav Goren) objects to eating non-kosher, then everyone in the army will eat kosher. The IDF has many rules and regulations that require adherence to halacha. It is against army regulations to violate Shabbat in public. It is forbidden by the army to mix milk and meat utensils. The army must provide adequate davening time for soldiers who request it. And the list goes on and on.
This does not mean that these regulations are always followed in practice. But that can be said for many army regulations. A lot depends upon how many soldiers need and want the religious regulations to be followed. And that is part of the point of this article.
We, the people of Israel - and we, the Jewish People, owe a debt of gratitude to the Israeli Defense Forces for all they have done and will continue to do in defense of this country. To be sure, this debt of gratitude is to G-d for all He has done. And since He works hand-in-hand (so to speak) with the IDF, they share our gratitude and appreciation.
Which brings us to the main point of this article - all Jews in Israel should be doing military service or National Service of some kind, in order to help in the national effort to keep our enemies at bay and to help make our society more secure and productive.
"But what about the fact that someone learning Torah full time is also contributing to betterment of society and the defense of the country?"
This is so, but there are two main problems with this argument.
The State of Israel is at war with its enemies. Sometimes the war is "hotter" than at other times, but it is no less war. And this kind of war can clearly be classified as MILCHEMET MITZVA (defined as an obligatory battle such as those for the original conquest of Eretz Yisrael, and a war defending ourselves from threat of anihilation). There are no exemptions for this kind of war. A Chatan is taken from his Chupa and a yeshiva student from the Beis Medrash. The Torah's exemptions for someone who recently betrothed a woman and has not yet married her, someone who has built a house and not yet started living in it, etc. apply to MILCHEMET R'SHUT (classically defined as a war declared by a king for the purpose of expanding territory), not to a MILCHEMET MITZVA.
If for no other reason, all our children should be taught and encouraged to do national service - either in the army or in a myriad of civilian positions that benefit society. Yes, we have to daven and yes we have to learn Torah. And yes we have to increase the amount and quality of mitzvot and chessed we do. And all of that greatly benefits the Jewish People. But these activities do not necessarily replace military and national service.
How do we know this to be so? Let's learn a lesson from Yehoshua. "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua..." (Avot 1:1).
"...but his servant Yehoshua bin Nun, a young man, departed not from the Tent." Moshe Rabeinu taught Torah to all of Israel. He was the Rebbi of every single Jew who stood at Har Sinai. Yehoshua was his main Talmid Muvhak. Not only did he learn Torah from Moshe Rabeinu, he was entrusted with being the main force in transmitting Torah to the next generation.
And when Amalek attacked the people, whom did Moshe call upon with the TZAV SHMONEH of the time? Yehoshua. Wait a minute - that was before Matan Torah! And how many battles did he lead and fight after the Torah was given? After he became the one to learn from Moshe and to be the next Gadol HaDor. Yehoshua was the quintessential yeshiva bocher who served in the army. He was the first Hesdernik. Or, perhaps the first Nachal Chareidi soldier.
There are many yeshiva boys who serve in the army. Many distinguish themselves as soldiers and officers.
There should be more. Many more. The more religious fellows there are in the army, the more Jewish and halachic the army is. Many non-religious soldiers respect their dati comrades. Many develop a respect and interest for Torah and mitzvot because of the dedication shown by the religious soldiers. (Of course this isn't always so, unfortunately, but it would increase with more of our young men sharing the responsibility for protecting our nation and our people.)
One more item to add to the above. And no small item it is. Fact: There is a resentment in the non-observant population (and even in the Dati Leumi "camp") towards the "Chareidi" segment who do not serve in the army (or at least participate in some National Service framework) and a lowering of the esteem they have for Torah and Torah Jews. They resent having to do more reserve duty and having their children serve longer in the army because of those who do not serve. Behaving in such a way that lowers the esteem for Torah in the eyes of the beholder is defined as CHILUL HASHEM.
Do I think that there will be more respect for Torah on the part of the not-yet observant if more religious people would serve this country as the rest of society does? ABSOLUTELY, YES. This doesn't mean that non-religious people will "return" to Torah overnight. But it will be a major step in that direction.
Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut are occasions to acknowledge the sacrifice and dedication of thousands of people - those who were killed and those who, B"H, live on - to the survival and growth of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael.
May we merit the day when all nations will know HaShem and His relationship to the Jewish People and our enemies will become friendly neighbors. When the Jewish People will lovingly embrace Torah values and practice. When all the Jews will return to Eretz Yisrael, to rebuilt Jerusalem with the Third Beit HaMikdash, BIMHEIRA B''YAMEINU AMEN.
Space Shuttle - MAABORET CHALAL
"IN ORBIT" - BIM'UFA
 Divrei Menachem
After teaching us about the prohibition to eat blood - that seems to touch us to our very core - parshat Acharei instructs us not to perform the practices of the peoples of Egypt and Canaan or to follow their traditions but, "to carry out My laws and safeguard my decrees..(Vayikra 18:1-4).
Of course, the customs of the Egyptians were among the most morally decadent in the world and the deeds of the Canaanites were the most abominable. As if to illustrate the point, the parsha continues to discuss the laws of immorality and forbidden relationships that were the pernicious hallmark of these indigenous cultures.
From the reference to these extreme societies, one may be led to thinking that the imitation of "lesser evils" could be tolerated. However, our rabbis understood the pervading and corrosive effects of assimilation, the damaging results on the national and spiritual psyche of the Jewish people when they begin to emulate the mores of their gentile neighbors.
For example, Rabbi Hirsch cautions that one should not celebrate the holy days of surrounding nations. He adds, however, that one "must [also] not do anything to mar their festive spirit or to parade non-participation in a manner that might arouse animosity." Perhaps there is here also an important lesson in tolerance that we could adopt within our own circles.
Shabbat Shalom, Menachem Persoff