Parashat Vayechi 5768

December 20, 2007

Parashat Vayechi 5768

Parashat Vayechi – If you will it, it is not a dream

Question: Once again a sense of dizziness confounds our leaders, who raise the idea of giving up part of our Land, G-d forbid. How should we struggle for our Land?

Answer: If we want to cure an illness it is not enough to focus on its external signs, we must understand its cause. What is the reason for all of this weakness? Fear. Fear of enemies both from within and from without. Fear of all types of problems and difficulties. If this is the case, what is the medicine? Strength and courage. How do we attain strength and courage? From love of the Land of Israel and understanding the value of the Land. When we love and understand, we will be ready for great toil and self-sacrifice, and we will not fear anything. General Yitzchak Sadeh, one of the founders of the Palmach, wrote that a truly courage person is not necessarily someone who abandons his feelings of fear, but an idealistic person who understands the greatness of his mission, and therefore a physically weak person can say, “I am courageous.” The Rebbe of Gur, the author of “Sefat Emet,” explains at the beginning of Parashat Shelach that the Land of Israel is acquired through desire and toil. We are not denying that building the whole length of our Land did not involve great toil, but when there is desire, people are ready for any amount of toil. He writes that the same applies to learning Gemara. We can add that this is also the case with marriage.

We therefore know the solution: To fill the Nation of Israel with the desire for the Land of Israel. This desire certainly exists, because without it, there would be nothing here: No building of the Land, no return to Zion, no establishment of the State and no founding of the army. We should therefore be more precise: We must strengthen the desire of the Nation of Israel for the Land of Israel.

We have already learned this from Yaacov Avinu. Hashem said to him: “The Land upon which you are lying, I will give to you and your descendants” (Bereshit 28:13). This is surprising: This is an extremely small area?! Rashi explains: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, folded up the entire Land of Israel under him. He hinted to him that it would be easily conquered by him like the four amah (six feet) which is the place of a person.” If a person knows that the Land of Israel is his place, it is easy for him to conquer. If a person “lies down” on the Land of Israel, i.e. displays self-sacrifice for it, it is easy for him to conquer. And if “this is the stone upon which he lays his head” (Bereshit 28:18), then it is easy for him to conquer.

Why exactly is the detail of Yaacov Avinu putting the stones there important? Answer: These stones are the stones of the Land of Israel and they were very dear to him. At the end of the Kuzari (5, 27), the Jewish spokesman is asked, when will the Redemption arrive? He answers: “When they yearn for the fundamental yearning, as it says: ‘For Your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her dust”’ (Tehillim 102:14). The love of the stones by the Nation will bring Redemption. The Gemara relates that Rabbi Abba would kiss the stones of Acco and Rabbi Chaim bar Gamda would roll in the dirt of the Land of Israel, as it says: “For Your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her dust” (Ketubot 112a-b). There is something strange in Rashi’s commentary on this Gemara. He simply copies the verse, without offering an interpretation. I saw an explanation – I believe in the name of the Vilna Gaon – that those Rabbis who kissed the stones and rolled in the dirt did not do so to fulfill the above-mentioned verse, but because they loved the stones and dirt of our Land in the depths of their souls. This is the secret: To strengthen love.

Avraham Avinu was told: “Arise, walk in the Land, its length and its breadth, for I am giving it to you” (Bereshit 13:17). Our Sages explain: “In order that the Land would be easily conquered by his children” (Baba Batra 100a). The love of the journey makes the conquering easy. Yitzchak Avinu was told more: Do not only “Arise, walk in the Land,” but “Dwell in the Land…live in the Land” (Bereshit 26:2-3). And Yaacov Avinu even more so: He laid down on the Land, he clung to the Land. Even if he had only laid down on four amah he would have been able to spring forth and conquer the entire Land, as is written in the commentary “Da’at Zekenim Mi-Ba’alei Ha-Tosafot”: “‘The Land upon which you are lying’ means that I will give you that upon which you lay, and you will spread out in every direction by yourself and conquer all of your surroundings, as is the case with important horsemen. They give them a little land and they conquer all of the surrounding with their courage.”

If we strengthen the love of the Land of Israel, we will then hold on it with self-sacrifice, and even spread out to the west, east, north and south. If you will it, it is not a dream.

[From the parashah sheet “Ma’ayanei Ha-Yeshu’a” – Parashat Miketz 5768]

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Text Message Responsa

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Some appear in the parashah sheets “Ma’ayanei Ha-Yeshu’ah” and “Olam Ha-Katan.” Here’s a sample:

  • Q: What should I do if there is a contradiction between what my husband wants and what my mother wants?
  • A: You should confer together with your husband.
  • Q: Is it a problem of “Yuhara – religious arrogance” to grow long pe’ot if great Rabbis do not grow them?
  • A: There are many great Rabbis who grow long pe’ot. There is therefore no problem of “yuhara,” but if your Rabbi does not have long pe’ot, ask him or your Rabbi’s students.
  • Q: Many of my friends who are young married couples act affectionately in public. It makes me uncomfortable. Is there a halachic problem with this?
  • A: According to Halachah, a married couple should not act affectionately in front of others (Shulchan Aruch 21:5 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152:11).
  • Q: Is it permissible to study for an exam on Shabbat?
  • A: The Rambam rules that it is forbidden to study secular subjects on Shabbat, and the Ramban rules it is permissible. The Halacha is like the later opinion, but one who is strict and chooses the first opinion – may a blessing come upon him. In sum: It is permissible.
  • Q: I decided to change from a knitted-kippah to a black-kippah. Is there a difference?
  • A: There is no difference. All kippot are good.
  • Q: What is the proper size of a kippah?
  • A: It should be seen from all sides, but it is proper if it covers the majority of one’s head, since a kippah is for awe of Hashem.

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Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook

Mourning the Holocaust over and over

Our Rabbi was unable to mention the word “Holocaust” or to talk about the subject without shedding tears. He felt the great lost every time anew, even years after the Holocaust (Yosi Bitan).

Students asked our Rabbi: The Chief Rabbinate of Israel established the 10th of Tevet as a remembrance of the Holocaust to recite Kaddish for the Kedoshim (holy ones) who perished in the Holocaust, but their date of death is unknown. If so, why did the Government of Israel establish the 27th of Nisan as Yom Ha-Shoah? Our Rabbi responded: One should mourn for the Holocaust every day.

A Eulogy for the Telz Yeshiva

A student who was caring for our Rabbi once sat next to his bed while he slept. Our Rabbi woke up in the middle of the night, sat on his bed and began to sob. The student asked him: “Why is Ha-Rav crying?” Our Rabbi answered: “I dreamt about the Telz Yeshiva which was destroyed in the Holocaust.” The student asked: “But Ha-Rav always speaks about the Torah of the Land of Israel…” Our Rabbi sobbed even harder and said: “What do you know? Were you in Telz? Did you see the greatness and power of Torah?!” Our Rabbi cried until he finally asked for a pen and paper, and he wrote a eulogy for the Telz Yeshiva. He then calmed down and went back to sleep (Ha-Rav Eli Horvitz hy”d in Me-Emek Chevron, 2 Elul 5762, p. 94).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Being Drafted into Tzahal – Israel Defense Force

A talk given after lunch at the yeshiva –

  • Q: It is a mitzvah to be drafted into Tzahal?
  • A: Absolutely. It is a mitzvah for three reasons – just as everything in the army is in threes:
  1. Pikuach Nefesh – The army protects the lives of millions of Jews; we have many enemies. Saving a life overrides just about every mitzvah in the Torah except the most severe ones.
  2. Conquering the Land – The army safeguards the Land of Israel. There is a mitzvah to conquer the Land and then to hold onto to the Land. At the end of the book “The Kuzari,” the King of Kuzar asks, is the reason you do not make aliyah to Israel is that it is dangerous? The Jewish spokesman answers that it is not dangerous, and even if it were dangerous, it is not more dangerous than an obligatory war which we are also required to fight.
  3. Sanctification of Hashem’s Name – When the Nation of Israel is low, pitiful and oppressed; it is a desecration of Hashem’s Name. When we are strong and settled in our Land it is a sanctification of Hashem’s Name. Rav Nisenbaum – who was a major Zionist – once said: What is sanctification of Hashem’s Name? It is not when it is written on a Jew’s tombstone that he was murdered sanctifying Hashem’s Name.

Some say that the army is no good. It does not protect modesty, it expels Jews, etc… Don’t exaggerate! It is true that there are immodest things which occur, but it is not completely immodest. It is true that it was used to expel Jews, but do not say that it is the “Israel Expulsion Army.” We struggle against these things, but just as a person is judged on the majority of his acts, so is an army. “There is no righteous person in the world who does good and does not sin” (Kohelet 7:20). The army is judged on the majority of its acts. Yes, there are problems, but what do you suggest? No army. If we did not have an army, we would have no immodesty problems – all Jews would be dead. If we did not have an army, there would be no expulsions, because all Jews would be dead. On the whole the army is good, and it is an army of Hashem.

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On Air

Every Tuesday and Thursday night Rav Aviner answers questions of Jewish Law and faith on the radio in Israel. On the Air presents a sample of these answers each week.

**Please note a correction to the answer for ‘Moving a Chanukiyah’ in the On Air portion of Parashat Vayigash**

The remaining oil in the chanukiyah

  • Q: Do you have to burn the remaining oil in the chanukiyah?
  • A: You do not have to burn it, but you have to dispose of it in a non-disgraceful way. You cannot simply throw it in the garbage because this is treating it disgracefully. Here are two examples for disposing it: You can pour it in the ground next to the house or you can wrap it in two plastic bags and place it on top on the garbage. You can also place it in the “geniza,” but this is not a good idea because it will make it dirty.

Sick children and a new house

  • Q: My son bought a new house about four years ago, and since then one of his children has been sick just about every month. He never had a “chanukat ha-bayit – dedication of the house.” Could this be the reason for the children being sick?
  • A: No, there is no connection between the two things. Children are sick a lot. This is not a rare occurrence, especially because people have a lot of children here. Having a “chanukat ha-bayit” is a custom, not a mitzvah. He did not perform a good custom, but it is not a transgression. It is not a transgression for which one suffers, and even if he did sin by performing such a transgression he would suffer, not his children. Both before, during and after the children are sick he should prayer, repent and give tzedakah. These always help.

Child cheating on test

  • Q: My son received a test back in school without a grade and a note from both the teacher and principal that he cheated. He insists that he did not cheat, and the student next to him cheated off of him. What should I do?
  • A: If he did not copy, he should write a respectful note to the teacher and principal stating that he did not cheat. By doing so, he is placing blame on the other student, and it is a problem of “lashon ha-ra” (speaking evil against others), but if he did not cheat he has to say so. The letter should not be an attack or accusatory, because that causes others to attack back. It should be respectful.

A child who has gone off the path

  • Q: What should I do with my child who wants nothing to do with Torah and mitzvot?
  • A: In dealing with children, there are no tricks or patents. If there was, Avraham would have used it with Yishamel. Yitzchak would have used it with Esav. Moshe would have used it with his grandson who worshiped idols, etc… So what do you do? You must build bridges and trust. He has to trust you. He suspects you, and takes every word and look as a critique. Little by little you have to build the bridges which collapsed. The more he feels your authority, the more he will rebel. You have to listen to him, come to him, talk together. You have to figure out how to live together without making demands. You can say something like: “You do this and you know that it pains us, but we love you until the end of time. Let us figure out how to stay close.” If he does not listen to you, find someone he trusts – a family member, a friend, a neighbor – and have them talk to him. You have to talk together again and again and again, and maybe you will move a millimeter. One step forward and two steps back. It is a long process. There is no miracle cure. Children go through crises, ups and downs, and they need a parent. When? You can’t know, but one day the door will be open. You have to have love, understanding and patience. Rav Kook has three letters to Rav Milstein whose sons abandoned Torah, the Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel. Rav Kook tells him to support them spiritually and financially, and talk to them. If it does not have an effect now, it will have an effect later. If it does not have an effect later, it will have an effect with their sons. If it does not have an effect with their sons, it will have an effect with their grandsons. He placed the “tractate of patience” before him. With the help of G-d, you will not have to wait that long, but you need to be patient.

Statute of limitations on debts

  • Q: Is there a time limit on paying debts?
  • A: No. The Shemitta year cancels out debts, but if one writes a “prozbul” (a document which gives the debt to the Jewish court who collects it and then gives it to the lender), there is still an obligation to pay. The Mishnah says that if one lends on condition that the Shemittah years does not cancel the debt, the debt is not canceled. The Chatam Sofer says that even if one forgot to make this stipulation, the debt is not canceled.

Tzedakah obligation

  • Q: I agreed to give tzedakah to an institution for a year, and they would take it out of my bank account each month. The year ended and they continued to take it out. I called and they said that they need the money. Can I stop giving to them?
  • A: Yes, you fulfilled your agreement, and now you can give to anyone you wish.

Forgiving someone who was disrespectful to a Rabbi

  • Q: In the community where I live, there is someone who was disrespectful to the Rabbi, and I can’t even talk to him. He does not seem to regret what he did, and I don’t think that he will accept my rebuke. Do I have or am I permitted to forgive him?
  • A: This is not your honor, it is the Torah’s honor. We are not obligated to forgive someone who has not requested forgiveness. You are allowed to forgive someone who has done something to you. If you have a good heart, you can forgive him. This is an act of piety. Here, he was not disrespectful to you, he was disrespectful to the Rabbi, you therefore cannot forgive him in place of the Rabbi. If you are angry with him in your heart, you have to tell him that you are upset for this or that reason. This is like what Rashi says about Yosef’s brothers. The Torah says that they could not speak to him peacefully, and Rashi explains that out of their shame, you learn their praise: They did not speak to him one way, but feel differently in their heart (Bereshit 37:4). It is even worse for someone who shames a Torah scholar. There is no cure for his ailment. In the Gemara in Baba Metzia (84b), Rabbi Elezar Be-Rabbi Shimon dies, and they laid him on a slab in the attic for many years. One day, they saw a worm came out of his ear, and they were surprised. He came to them in a dream and said that it was because he once heard a Torah scholar shamed and did not protest. On such things, we need to protest. We need to protest everything which is against the Torah, but this in particular. Shaming a Torah scholar is not only his shame, but the shame of the Torah. Disputes and disagreements are acceptable, but not shaming. It is written in the books that Torah scholars do not want to discuss this subject, because then people will say that they are saying it for their own benefit. Torah scholars therefore do not talk about this, but it is very severe. The Gemera in Sanhedrin (99b) says that a heretic is one who shames a Torah scholar. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 10:1) compares this to a structure of stones: If one stone is shaken, the entire structure is shaken (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10:1). That is to say, one who scorns any Torah scholar, knocks over the entire building of the Oral Torah in Israel. The Radvaz (vol. 4 #187) writes that even a Torah scholar who errs should not be shamed. His proof is from the Gemara in Sanhedrin (99a) that a Torah scholar named Rabbi Hillel – not Hillel the Elder – said that the Messiah will not come. Rav Yosef said: May Hashem forgive his sin and he brought proofs. Rav Yosef spoke to him in the third person with honor, and said that he erred and should be forgiven, because the damage done by shaming him would be much worse than the damage done by him saying that the Messiah will not come!

The cross of a Chevrolet

  • Q: Is the cross on a Chevrolet forbidden?
  • A: I understand that it is not really a Christian cross, it is simply a decoration. It is similar to when someone writes a plus sign, he is not writing it in connection to Christianity. The Shulchan Aruch explicitly writes that a decoration in the form of a cross which is not connected to Christianity is permissible.

A mourner buying a winter jacket

  • Q: Can a mourner who has to travel outside of Israel buy a winter jacket?
  • A: It is correct that a mourner does not wear or buy new clothing. Since he needs to in this case, the solution is to put a little dirt on it here and there before he wears it – just a bit – and then it is no longer new. As is known, he can also give it to someone else to wear for a little, but this is easier.
  • Q: Can he step on it?
  • A: This won’t really help because the floor is clean and shoes are usually clean. It is best to put a little dirt on it.

Bringing boss coffee with milk after a meat meal

  • Q: Can I bring my (Jewish) boss a cup of coffee with milk after a meat meal?
  • A: You certainly cannot bring him coffee with milk after a meat meal. You have to let him get it himself. If he gets it himself, we do not throw stones. There is an opinion of the Tosafot (Chullin 105a) that you can eat milk after meat from one meal to the next, but we do not hold that like. There is also the custom of Jews from Holland to wait only an hour, but I understand that he is not from Holland. There is therefore a problem and he will need to get it himself.

Seeing the moon through glasses

  • Q: When they would sanctify the new month by the sighting of the moon, could one of the witnesses see the moon through glasses or would he need a naked-eye?
  • A: There has been much discussion among halachic authorities whether seeing through glasses is considered seeing. The majority of authorities rule that it is considered seeing. This question arises when we sanctify the new moon each month nowadays or when we read the Torah since we have to see the parchment. The majority say that seeing through glasses is considered seeing.

A Kohen with glasses

  • Q: Can a kohen wear glasses or is this considered a blemish which would disqualify him from serving in the Temple?
  • A: This is not considered a blemish. A blemish is something which protrudes out, like having extremely protruding eyes. This is something unique which draws people’s attention. Wearing glasses does not draw people’s attention. There is a different problem for kohanim. It is forbidden for him to have extra clothing. It invalidates his service. Glasses, however, are not considered clothing.

Kohen and a convert

  • Q: I have been dating a woman for the last three years who converted to Judaism. I am a cohain and recently found out that a cohain cannot marry a convert. Is there anything I can do?
  • A: This is a real tragedy. There is no solution. It is not a stricture, but a law, so there is no getting around it. It is a difficult trial and sad. Everything is for the best. How is this for the best? I do not know, but everything is for the best. May Hashem send both of you worthy partners.

Praying over distress

  • Q: If a person davens to Hashem to remove a distress and Hashem answers, won’t he receive a different distress in its place if Hashem has decided that he will suffer?
  • A: We are commanded to pray. There is daily prayer, and in addition, there is an obligation to pray when one is in distress. There are even Rishonim (early authorities) who hold that daily prayer is a rabbinic mitzvah, and prayer when one is in distress is a Torah mitzvah. Someone who is therefore in distress must pray. This is what Hashem told us to do, as it says, “When you go to wage war in your Land against an enemy who oppresses you, you shall blow the trumpets, and you shall be recalled before Hashem, your G-d, and you shall be saved from your enemies” (Bamidbar 10:9). The reason that Hashem sends a person distress is in order for a person to pray. It is not like we think that we daven because we have distress. It is the exact opposite. This is written in connection to our foremothers. They were wise, wealth, beautiful, and Hashem said that if I give them children they will not pray. Hashem desired to hear the prayers of the righteous. Pray increased devotion to Hashem, He therefore sends prayers so that we will pray. After one prays a lot, there is no longer a need for the distress, so Hashem removes it. This is obviously not math, and there are other reasons for distress that we do not understand.

Praying only for Redemption

  • Q: Instead of praying for all sorts of things, shouldn’t we only daven for the Redemption and then all the problems will be resolved?
  • A: This is not a good idea, because what will be until the Redemption arrives? We do not know when the complete Redemption will be. Should everything be in a destroyed state until that time? We do not say that either we receive everything or nothing. The Shemoneh Esrei is built around the 13 requests in the middle, and included are prayers while we are since in exile. Rashi says that when we daven at the beginning that Hashem should redeem us, this is redemption within exile. We were in exile for 2000 years, and during this time we needed all sorts of things even though it was not yet the Redemption. An example of redemption within exile is Purim. We were in exile, and Hashem still saved us and this was also a great thing. We therefore pray not only for Redemption, but also for smaller things.

Chinese Medicine

  • Q: Is it permissible to use Chinese Medicine?
  • A: The Torah does not teach us which types of medicine are good and which are not good. The Rambam in his letters to the Sages of Marseilles writes that there are three ways to discern if a certain type of medicine is beneficial: Through intellect, trial and prophetic revelation. Chinese medicine is built upon all sorts of things which are not clear and we therefore cannot intellectually ascertain if it is beneficial. Experience has shown us that Chinese medicine does not work any more than a placebo. When someone takes a placebo, the brain releases endorphins which help heal the body. And we have not received a prophetic revelation. The Chinese do not even use Chinese medicine, Europeans come and use it.

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Checking Mezuzot After Tragedy

Question: If someone experiences a family tragedy, should he have his mezuzot checked?


1. Repenting for what you are not doing well

Someone who experienced a family tragedy suggested that perhaps he should repent and check his mezuzot. Absolutely, mezuzot should be checked even without a tragedy. Tefillin also need to be checked. The Halacha discusses how often they should be checked even without a tragedy, and if there is a tragedy they should be checked all the more so. Mezuzot should be checked, and Tefillin should be checked. And if he speaks lashon hara (evil speech), he needs to check it. If he watches television, he needs to check that. Everything needs to be checked. What does “everything” mean? If he knows that his mezuzot are not kosher, he needs to check them; but if he knows that he has a different transgression, he needs to check that. This means that a person does not have to save himself from a transgression which he does not have and ignore a transgression that he does have. The Gemara in Shabbat (32b) does in fact say that for the transgression of mezuzah people die, as it in written in the Torah, “And you shall write them on the door posts of your house” and it is followed by “in order to prolong your days and the days of your children” (Devarim 11:20-21). They die for this transgression. It is written. But many other reasons why people die are also mentioned there: Niddah (having relations with a menstruant woman), challah (not separating part of dough to give to cohanim), failing to light Shabbat candles, one who refers to the holy ark (aron ha-kodesh) as a closet (aron), one who refers to a shul (beit knesset) as a house of gathering (beit am), for violating vows, for the sin of theft, for the sin of dispute and many other things in a long list. It is not only mezuzot. One needs to check all sorts of things. The Rambam writes in the Laws of Fasts (1:3) that if something bad occurs, one should not say that it was happenstance. This is cruel. If something bad occurs, one must repent. “For what?” Someone asked me. “For what are you telling me to repent?” For what you are not doing well. There is no standard repentance. A person must repent for what he is not doing well, and only he knows what this is. If he did not check the mezuzot, he needs to check them. The Gemara in Yoma says that the mezuzah must be checked twice in seven years (Yoma 11a and brought in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 291:1). There are those who say, however, that with the weather – hot, cold, moisture – one is required to check them more often. We see that mezuzot are ruined, but there is no obligation to specifically check a mezuzah if a tragedy occurs as we see in the Gemara. It is possible that this is an easy thing to do. If it were written that tragedies occur because of disputes and we must stop arguing, it is a lot of work to stop arguing. To stop stealing – what would be? Checking a mezuzah is relatively easy and inexpensive. Perhaps this is why people act this way. There is, however, no connection. A person must repent for what he is not doing well and only he knows what this is.

2. The Prohibition of Sorcery

Even without a tragedy we need to repent. Every day we need to repent (see Pirkei Avot 2:10). If a tragedy occurs, it awakens a person. Why did his occur right now and not beforehand? “Yesterday, just yesterday, I began to learn in a seminary and my uncle was killed in a traffic accident.” Is this a sign that you should not study there? You see that this occurred at the same time. Perhaps it is not a happenstance? No, there is no connection. I do not understand the meaning of coinciding events. Deciphering coinciding events can also reach the Torah prohibition of sorcery. What is sorcery? “A fox passed on my right, a cat passed on my left, I am not leaving the house.” “Something came out of my mouth. Ah, it is a sign” (see Sanhedrin 65b-66a). One cannot live life based on such occurrences. Perhaps you will bring an example from Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, who was searching for a wife for Yitzchak: “The young women who says…this is the one” (Bereshit 24:14). Someone said that Eliezer transgressed the prohibition of sorcery. G-d forbid! These are not simply words, she needed traits to follow them. He was not indulging in sorcery, but defining a specific type of behavior, establishing a sign and saying that he would act based on it. There are times, however, that it is sorcery if a person behaves in a certain way based on something not connected to a matter.

3. Isn’t a Mezuzah for Protection?

Some people ask, isn’t a mezuzah for protection? We see in the Gemara in Shabbat (31-32) that there are two columns of many, many things, along with the mezuzah, which are for protection. Perhaps they are referring to the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (11a), where Onkelos, the nephew of Titus, converted to Judaism. The king sent soldiers to bring him back to idol worship and he converted every soldier. He sent other soldiers and he said, “Do not listen to him.” “We are taking you, but not listening to you.” Onkelos said, “One moment, wait,” and he put his hand on the mezuzah. He said to them, “The way of the world is that a king of flesh and blood sits inside and his servants guard him outside, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, His servants are inside and He guards them outside.” He spoke and converted them. Thus, this is a proof that the mezuzah is for protection. The Rambam (Hilchot Mezuzah 5:4) says, you perform mitzvot to protect yourself? You are affixing a mezuzah for this purpose? You affix a mezuzah to service Hashem, not in order to protect yourself. The Kesef Mishnah, says, however, that this is difficult to understand based on what Onkelos the Convert said. This is not a difficulty. This is only what he said to the Roman soldiers and not the real reason. He then quotes another Gemara in Menachot (33b), which was not stated to the Roman soldiers, that one must place the mezuzah on the handbreadth closest to the public domain. Rav Huna explains that this is the way that it will protect. The mezuzah absolutely protects, but we do not perform the mitzvah of mezuzah in order that it will protect us.

4. All Mitzvot Protect

All mitzvot protect, but we do not perform them for this purpose. The Rambam writes (ibid.) that there are people who add the names of angels and righteous people into the mezuzah. They think that if the mezuzah usually protects than this is a “mezuzah-plus” with all of these additions. The Rambam says that, first of all, one who does this is an idiot who loses the mitzvah because it is forbidden to write things on the mezuzah. It is permissible to write things on the back of the mezuzah, “Shaddai” and “Kuzo Bemuchsaz Kuzo” is written. This is the back, but it is forbidden to write things on the front of the mezuzah. He is an idiot because he loses fulfilling the mitzvah, but he also loses the World-to-Come. You take something which is service of Hashem and you transform it into an instrument for yourself to get benefit in this world. One needs to take all of his possessions, all of his strength, all of his health, all of his money, all of his abilities and service Hashem. You have turned everything upside down. It is not that you service Hashem, but Hashem services you! The World-to-Come is therefore taken from you.

5. The Reason for the Mezuzah

The Rambam then writes that the purpose of the mitzvah of mezuzah, which is written in it, is the love of Hashem and the unity of Hashem. If he fulfills the mitzvah of mezuzah for protection he enjoys the vanity of this world and forgets the essence. He forgets the love of Hashem and the unity of Hashem. Every time he passes, he sees and he is reminded (Menachot 43a and Rambam, Hilchot Mezuzah 6:13): One who has tefillin on his head and arm, tzitzit on his clothes and a mezuzah on his door is ensured that he will not sin since he has many reminders. The tefillin reminds him, the tzitzit reminds him and the mezuzah reminds him. When you see the mezuzah you remember the Master of the Universe. You are reminded of the Master of the Universe, the Rambam says, and you will not sin. This is the protection. This is the angel. You do not need to write the angels inside, “For His angels will escort you to guard you in all of your paths” (Tehillim 91:11), to guard you so that there will be awe of Hashem and love of Hashem. This is the protection that guards you, not the vanities of the world.

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Family Matters – Ha-Rav writes weekly for the parsha sheet “Rosh Yehudi” on family relationships

To be objective

When a person marries he becomes objective. This means that he becomes capable of seeing things from the point of view of his spouse. A young child is not capable of being objective. He is egotistic and sees himself as the center of the world.

Story #1: “Why are you crying?” “Because my brother has two candies and he won’t give me one.” “But they are his.” “So what? He could give me one.” Next day: “Why are you crying now?” “I have two candies and my brother wants one.” “So give him one!” “It’s mine, why should I give him?”

Story #2: “Do you have any brothers?” “Yes, two.” “And do your brothers have brothers?” “Yes, one!” He is not anyone’s brother. He alone is the center of the world.

Story #3: His father is angry. He thinks it’s because of him. His father is happy – same thing.

From the age of approximately ten years old, a child begins to develop the ability to see things in an objective manner; i.e., from the perspective of someone else. This trains him for marriage. It is not an easy labor to become objective, but it is necessary for marriage as well as being pleasant and exalting.

Special thank you to Fred Casden for editing the Ateret Yerushalayim Parshah Sheet

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Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner is Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim. All material translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig. For more Torah:

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.