Shabbat-B'Shabbato - Parshat Bechukotai
No 701: 27 Iyar 5758 (23 May 1998)
The Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel
"PEACE IN THE LAND"
by Rabbi Chanan Porat, MK, one of the liberators of Jerusalem
This week's Torah portion starts with an idyllic picture of a holy nation
following the path of G-d, living an everlasting life on its own land in
accordance with the Torah. One of its central promises is that of peace: "I
will bring about peace in the land ... and no sword will pass through your
land" [Vayikra 26:6]. This would seem to be a prophesy of peace and
tranquility, with no fear of war. However, the very next passage contradicts
this: "You shall pursue your enemies, and they will fall before you by the
sword" [26:7]. While this may be welcome news, what has happened to the
peace which was promised in the previous verse, peace which is greater than
any possible victory? Where is the exalted vision of the prophet? "And they
will transform their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning
hooks; no nation will raise a sword against another, and they will no longer
study war" [Yeshayahu 2:4].
The Ramban suggests two answers to this paradox: (1) "There will be peace
among you, and no man will fight his brother;" and (2) "The peace refers to
the fact that there will be no wild animals in the land and no sword will
pass through the land. However, you will pursue your enemies by leaving your
land to wage war with them, and they will flee." According to the first
explanation, the word "haaretz," the land, refers to the national
experience: peace within the nation, without internal strife. The second
explanation sees the word "haaretz" as a geographic reference: there will be
peace within the boundaries of the land. Even if there is war, it will take
place beyond the borders.
This does not describe the utopia at the end of days. However, even in this
situation, when "darkness covers the earth, and nations are engulfed in
clouds" [Yeshayahu 60:2], Yisrael is able to live in security. The nation
may still need the power of the sword, but it is aimed at the enemy and not
used by the people against each other. If it becomes necessary to fight, the
nation is able to repulse an invasion and transport the battle to the area
of the enemy.
How relevant these words are for our generation, we who had the benefit of
seeing such occurrences with our own eyes, during the Six Day War, when we
returned to the whole area of Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem. We can never
forget the excitement of the wondrous days which preceded the war, the
feeling of fate and destiny of an entire nation proudly standing "as one
man, with a single heart" [Rashi, Shemot 19:2], to face those who rose
against us. At the time, there were no divisions between religious and
irreligious, left and right, Sephardi and Ashkenazi. All faces were turned
towards each other, with love and friendship in their hearts, with peace and
compassion. And we cannot forget the courage of the leaders of the nation
and officers of the army, who with G-d's help were able to move the battle
into the enemy's territory. Their airplanes were destroyed before they left
their own bases, and the attackers were chased to the banks of the Jordan,
to the Suez Canal, and to the heights of the Chermon and the Golan.
Let us pray to the Almighty for the ability to extract from those glorious
days of courage the roots of our victory: brotherly love, courage, and power
over our enemies, which will lead to the blessing, to spread out a booth of
peace over us, and over His entire nation Yisrael, and over Jerusalem.
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EXPLAIN A MIDRASH: The Danger of Wild Animals
by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv
The Almighty promised, "If you follow my laws, I will bring about peace in
the land ... I will remove the wild animals from the land, and no sword will
pass through your land [Vayikra 26:6]. The sages disagree about the way the
wild animals will be avoided: "Rabbi Yehuda says, the animals will disappear
from the world. Rabbi Shimon says, they will stop doing harm" [Sifra].
The controversy is whether the passage refers to physical removal or
disappearance of danger. It may be that the same basic argument is at the
root of another halachic disagreement: "On the first day, remove all leaven
from your houses" [Shemot 12:15]. According to Rabbi Yehuda, "chametz must
be destroyed by burning" [Misha Pesachim 2:1], since he feels that what is
required is physical destruction, to completely remove the chametz from the
world. Rabbi Shimon, on the other hand, evidently understands that a mental
cancellation is enough, as is written in the Midrash, "by Torah law, the
idea of cancellation is sufficient." That is, destruction can be conceptual,
even though physically the object still exists.
The second type, conceptual removal, is the greater of the two. This is seen
from the continuation of Rabbi Shimon's words in the Sifra: "What better
shows the greatness of the Almighty, when there are no dangerous animals, or
when the animals exist but they pose no threat? The answer is the latter,
when they are still there but cease to be dangerous. As is written, 'A song
of praise for the day of Shabbat' [Tehillim 92:1]. This refers to removing
danger from the world, by causing it not to be harmful." The praise of G-d
in the future will be that all of creation remains intact, with none of its
elements missing, but with all living in peace and harmony. As the Midrash
continues, "As is written, 'And a wolf will live with a sheep, and a tiger
will lie with a goat' [Yeshayahu 11:6]."
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SCIENCE AND THE TORAH PORTION:
"You Shall Eat Your Bread to Satiety"
by Idit Gamliel
The basic act of eating should provide us with balanced nutrition, to the
point of satiation, but not beyond this. However, western society, including
our own country of Israel, is characterized by such a plentiful amount of
food that it is not difficult for one to overeat and become overweight. This
possibility has become a health hazard, in particular as related to diseases
of the heart and blood vessels. This often involves hardening of the
arteries, caused by excessive levels of fat in the blood, especially
Cholesterol is needed by the body for such matters as forming membranes of
cells and in the production of salts by the gall bladder, vitamin D, and
steroid hormones. Cholesterol is a component of two types of particles in
blood: HDL and LDL. It is LDL which tends to settle out on the walls of
blood vessels and may cause them to become clogged. This is therefore known
as "bad cholesterol." HDL, on the other hand, is called "good cholesterol."
Under normal circumstances, the body manufactures its own cholesterol and
removes the excess through excretions of the gall bladder. A low fat diet
and regular exercise can help maintain a proper concentration of "good
cholesterol" in the body.
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POINT OF VIEW: Joy in Jerusalem
by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
Tomorrow is Yom Yerushalayim, celebrating the day that Jerusalem was
liberated from oppression and the beginning of its rebuilding by our nation.
Is there any poet who has not written the praises of the city? Is there
anyone who has not sung to it a song of eternity?
"My soul thirsts and yearns for the courtyards of G-d ... Beautiful site,
joy of all the world, Mount Zion, north of the city of the great king."
- sung by David [Tehillim 84:3, 45:3].
"Zion is perfection of beauty, awaken in me the heights of love and favor
The souls of your colleagues are tied to you, they are happy with your success
And they bear the pain of your desolation and cry about your disaster."
- this was the lament of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi.
"Jerusalem is a port on the eternal coastline, the Temple Mount
Is a great ship, a lavish vessel of enjoyment;
It always arrives and always starts out anew."
- the feelings of a modern poet, Yehuda Amichai.
"For your name scalds the lips, as the kiss of a serpent
I cannot forget you, Jerusalem, which is formed completely from gold."
- the concluding praise by Naomi Shemer. In writing this, she provided the
voice of heaven and an echo of past generations to the ears of the heroes of
the IDF who returned to the holy site 31 years ago.
Each and every person has his or her own Jerusalem with which to become
attached in undying love: from the heights of Mount Scopus to the cisterns;
from the Clouds of Honor to alleyways of stone; from the leaders of the
nation to the athletes of the Beitar sports club; from "a strip of land
which was part of the heritage of Yehuda, on which the altar was built"
[Yoma 12a] to the market of Machane Yehuda; from the Flower Gate to the Dung
There are two cities of Jerusalem, one above and one below. There are those
who see a hint of this in the name itself, "Yerushalayim," ending in a
grammatical form which usually denotes a pair of objects: "The Almighty
said, I will not come to the upper Jerusalem until I have also arrived in
the lower Jerusalem" [Taanit 5a]. This sentence does not make clear which
one is more important, and which one takes priority.
Two weeks ago, at the end of Shabbat, Jerusalem overflowed with joy. The
Beitar team from Jerusalem had won a game and the championship! Fans in
yellow uniforms danced in the streets and poured champagne as if it were
water. I found myself looking askance and asking, "Does this symbolize
Jerusalem?" A ball kicked in the stadium in defiance of the sanctity of
Shabbat bringing victory, is this what should bring us to the heights of joy
and happiness? Should feet which have learned to kick instead of walking to
the holy sites on the three holidays (Pesach, Shavuot, Succot) be the object
or our admiration? I hesitate to repeat the words of our sages about the
destruction of the areas around Jerusalem, such as Beitar: "Why was Tur
Shimon destroyed? It is because the people played ball on Shabbat" [Eicha
But my inner voice of accusation was countered in my mind by the prophet
Eliyahu, in his role as the one who will reunite the hearts of the children
and the parents. He might well have told me, "Beitar in Jerusalem will serve
as protection against the tragedy of splitting the city in two" (from the
Hebrew word "bitur"). My wise readers should understand that this is not a
simple play on words but a deep-rooted message, reminiscent of the words of
another prophet, "that the streets of the city will be filled with boys and
girls at play" [Zecharia 8:5]. If they are on the playing fields on
weekdays, they will eventually stream to the houses of study on Shabbat.
A few hours later, around midnight after that Shabbat two weeks ago, Rabbi
Levi Yitzchak from Berditchev, the defender of Yisrael, might have taken
notice of new cries of joy, and this is what he would have said: "Almighty,
the voice of triumph in the stadium are preferable to winning first place in
the Eurovision, a song festival of fools and perverts. The gods of the
stadium (the culture of Greece) are to be preferred to the singing idol
peddling his/her wares in the Bathhouse of Aphrodite ... 'They say, we will
make a handsome Aphrodite for the bath ... and it stands at the mouth of the
sewer, with all the nation ... turned towards it.' [Mishna Avoda Zara 3:4]."
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Flying Over Jerusalem
by Rabbi Uri Dasberg
Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and it is visible from afar in all its
splendor. It is even more beautiful from high in the sky, truly a
breathtaking sight. However, there might be a halachic problem if an
airplane flies directly over the Temple Mount. It is forbidden to enter the
Mount (at least, according to the Rambam), since the Divine Shechina never
left the site, and Jerusalem retains its holiness even when desolate. On the
other hand, it can be assumed that we are all ritually impure. Is the
prohibition only at ground level or does it reach to the sky?
The air of the Temple area must have the same status as the ground, for
otherwise any portion of a sacrifice moved from one place to another to be
eaten would become prohibited, as it left the "azara," the holy temple area
when it was carried through the air. On the other hand, roofs and upper
floors on the Temple Mount were never declared holy in the first place.
However, it is only the roofs and rooms which existed at the time of the
Temple which were exempted from holiness, but anything which was added later
- and this would include anything on the floor of an aircraft - is in the
holy space of the air of the Temple. This air has no height limit, and one
who is ritually impure is forbidden to enter it.
The basis of the prohibition is the verse, "She shall not enter the Temple"
[Vayikra 12:4]. At first glance, this would only seem to prohibit entry onto
the Mount in a "normal fashion." Because of this exception to the rule, one
who enters by way of a roof is not punished (Rambam, Bi'at Hamikdash 3:19).
The sky is certainly not to be considered a normal path of entry into the
Temple area (even though it may well be that prayers rise up through the
heavens), and this might provide the basis for allowing a flight over the
Temple Mount. However, the law is that even though one who enters by way of
a roof does not receive the heavenly punishment of "karet," he is punished
by lashes according to a rabbinical decree, "even including one who enters
by a tower flying in the air" [Rambam, ibid]. (Is the Rambam hinting at the
possibility of an airplane?)
According to legend, when Sir Moshe Montefiore came to Eretz Yisrael in
1867, he and an accompanying rabbi were taken into the Temple site in a
canopy carried by Gentiles in order to avoid the prohibition. In spite of
this, his actions created a stir in Jerusalem, including some who wanted to
excommunicate him. In the end, Montefiore apologized, admitting that he had
made a mistake.
Reference: "Yavia Omer," volume 5: Yore Dei'ah, 26
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RELIGIOUS ZIONISM IN ACTION:
Jerusalem is Forever
by Nissim Swed
Have you visited the Offal? And what about Gehenna (Gai ben Hinnom)? Have
you waded into the Shiloach stream? Whether you have visited these places or
not, you should know that these days it is possible with proper guidance to
tour them all, and also many other sites which we have heard about or read
about in the Tanach, even though the nation was out of contact with them for
a very long time.
The residents of "David's City" (El-Ad), who have renewed the Jewish
settlement in the area, have established a Visitor's Center. This center
provides experienced tour guides, who can take you through the maze of time
and place. They will take us along the ruins of the aqueduct which brought
water from faraway springs to the Temple Mount; they will show us the
ancient Canaanite wall of Jerusalem; they will describe burial techniques
during different eras of history; and they will guide us through a time
tunnel, jumping back and forth between the First and Second Temples, and
leading up to remains of more recent settlement activities of modern times.
There are many options: tours are available for individuals or groups, for
expert hikers or for families with children, day or night. If desired, it is
possible to organize a seminar for one or more days, and a tour can be
arranged as part of a bar-mitzva celebration, ending at the Western Wall.
For more information, phone: 02-6262341.
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THE WAY IT
The Streets of Jerusalem
As told by Dov Ginechovsky
It was on a Friday that Jerry moved from New York to Jerusalem. He took an
enchanted walk through the streets of the city, feeling its holy character
with his entire being. Not like in the city where he came from, in Jerusalem
all of the stores closed in early afternoon and the streets emptied, filling
with the scent of Shabbat food, even in those neighborhoods which do not
have an exclusively religious population. The only thing which disturbed him
was finding his way in the streets. In New York this is easy, since streets
are called by numbers or letters of the alphabet, in sequence. Even if the
streets are called by name, their initial is often in alphabetical order.
Eventually, Jerry learned that the street names in Jerusalem also have an
internal logic of their own, which provides an advantage over other systems:
knowing the street names in Jerusalem can improve one's knowledge of Jewish
history and prominent people from the past. Where is Tzefania Street? No
problem, it is close to Zecharia Street and Malachi Street, in Kerem Avraham
- they are all from the later prophets. Where is Reuven Street? What a silly
question! It is of course near Yissachar Street and Yehuda Street, in Baka -
all three are sons of Yaacov. How does one reach Alfasi Street? How else but
through Ramban Street and Ben-Maimon Street, passing Radak Street along the
way? In Rechavia, the streets are named for Jewish sages of the Middle Ages.
Gershom (by now he used his Hebrew name) received a lot of pleasure from the
map of Jerusalem. Each day taught him something new about history. But there
was one inconsistency, something he didn't understand. Wasn't Rabbi Yehuda
Halevi one of the most important scholars of the Middle Ages? He wrote such
important works as the Kuzari, and "Zion, Do you Not Question." Why was he
left out of Rechavia, and moved to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, to be
used as the name of a set of stairs? With all the importance of the Jewish
Quarter and the fact that Rabbi Yehuda died near the site of the stairs,
shouldn't his name appear close to those of Ibn Ezra, Alchrizi, and Ibn
He was in for a surprise. It turns out that at one time there was indeed a
street in Jerusalem named for Rabbi Yehuda Halevi. Today it is called
Ussishkin Street. While Menachem Ussishkin was still alive, he wanted to
name a street for himself. In the middle of the night, he went to the street
and replaced all the signs with his own name. When the committee members of
Rechavia discovered what he had done, they decided on a fitting punishment
for one who gave his own name to a street: No other street would ever be
named for Rabbi Yehuda Halevi. Thus, for all time to come, anybody asking
why there is no street named for Rabbi Yehuda would learn of Ussishkin's
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Shabbat-B'Shabbato 5758 Archives
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SHABBAT-ZOMET is an extract from
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in Israel. It is published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel, under the
auspices of the National Religious Party.
Translated by: Moshe Goldberg
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