Parashat Mishpatim 5768

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Jerusalem Old City
31 Jan 2008

Parashat Mishpatim 5768

From the mouth of Ha-Rav

In the midst of a conversation with Rav Aviner, a Torah scholar mentioned that there are twenty-six bones in the foot. Rav Aviner responded that the gematria (numerical value) of the name of Hashem (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey) is also twenty-six. Thus, even “Ikveta De-Meshecha – the Footsteps of the Messiah” (period right before the Messiah arrives) has Hashem’s Name in it.

Rav Aviner once said: If you are asked to donate money to tzedakah and the ink runs out just as you start writing the check, and you cannot continue writing, do not think that Heaven is sending you an omen to refrain from giving tzedakah. Rather, you should take this as a sign that… it’s time to buy a new pen! (from Rav Moshe Har-No’i)

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Jerusalem, if I forget you…

Down through the generations we swore, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you; if I do not set Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Tehillim 137:5-6). In the Exile, this vow was the focus of all our yearnings and emotions. It was what kept us going there. We withstood all the terrible suffering because we knew and we believed: Next year in Jerusalem.

Now the time has come for action. Through Hashem’s kindness, we have returned to Jerusalem. It is all ours, and we must settle the entire walled city with Jews and Jewishness. Obviously, we must not do this at the expense of all the rest of the Land of Israel, G-d forbid, as though Jerusalem were part of the consensus and none of the rest of it is. All of Judea and Samaria is part of the consensus – the consensus of Hashem. One time, the students of our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, informed him that there was thought of transferring the Old City of Jerusalem to a foreign power. He responded, “And what about the Golan Heights?” They thought that they had been misheard, and they repeated themselves: “Master! We said ‘Jerusalem’!” Yet he insisted, “And what about the Golan Heights?” The same thing happened a third time. They were disappointed. Yet Rav Tzvi Yehudah saw everything as one unit, and he taught us that the Mishnah (Keilim, chapter 1) which states that “Jerusalem is HOLIER THAN all the rest of Land of Israel” should really be translated as “Jerusalem DERIVES ITS HOLINESS FROM all the rest of the Land of Israel.” Through the rebuilding of all Israel, Jerusalem shall be rebuilt.

We need go no further than our Sages’ words that Avraham’s covenant with Avimelech [in which he conceded part of the Holy Land to a non-Jewish king] stood as an obstacle to King David’s entrance into Jerusalem. In other words, the “Disengagement” of those days hurt Jerusalem, our holy city (Shmuel 2 5:6-9. See Rashi and Ralbag there and Pirkei D-Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 36). Indeed, already back then, liberating Jerusalem was a complicated, involved matter. This is not surprising, because the greater something is, the more complicated it is. In our own times as well, during the War of Independence, the enormous efforts to liberate our holy city failed. Finally in the Six-Day War, we returned home. Yet that is not enough. It cannot be that the vast majority of the heart of our country will be populated by non-Jews. We have to renew the Jewish presence in Walled Jerusalem. Were we fortunate enough, our government would have taken this task upon itself from start to finish. Yet we were not quite so fortunate, so the task falls not just on the community but also on the individual.

When our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, was asked about the well-known complaint that the “Nachem” prayer of Tisha Be-Av [which is recited in the Shemoneh Esri in the prayer for rebuilding Jerusalem] is not suited to the reality of our times, he would answer that the Old City is still “despised and desolate through the loss of her inhabitants.” It is impossible to go to the Old City and to see the rubble covering the synagogue ruins without bursting out in tears. When they told him that the Jewish presence in the heart of Jerusalem was being renewed, an enormous smile lit up his face. When they enumerated for him the names of the streets in the Old City, he said that they needn’t bother – all of those places, where he had studied in his youth, were etched in his memory. Indeed, our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, studied in the Yeshivat Torat Chaim where Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim is presently located. A miracle happened to that building when the Old City fell into the enemy’s hands during the War of Independence. The Arabs broke into all the Jewish homes and destroyed, pillaged and looted all the synagogues. Only this yeshiva survived because the non-Jew who lived below, one of the righteous gentiles of the world, protected it for twenty years. When we returned, he handed the keys over to the Old City’s governor, Chaim Herzog, who later became President of Israel. Chaim Herzog asked him, “How did you guard over this place for so many long years?” and he answered, “I didn’t guard it. It guarded me!” In one of his first visits to the liberated city, Rav Tzvi Yehudah entered the yeshiva. Everything was as it had been – it was only covered over with a thick layer of gray dust.

Thank G-d, the Torah is coming home. Once more, the voice of Torah is heard in the yeshiva. Once more young and old are walking around – with an armed guard – in the streets of Jerusalem. Yet Jerusalem was never partitioned amongst the tribes (Megillah 26a). Rather, it was built through the merit of all the tribes (Midrash Tehillim 122). It is the city that is “joins all together” (Tehillim 122:3); the city that makes all of Israel friends (Jerusalem Talmud Chagigah 3:6). Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish People. Jews from all over Israel and from all over the world, from all parties, all streams and all opinions are partners in the rebuilding of the heart of the universe. Indeed, Jerusalem is the heart of Israel (Tikunei Zohar 21 and Biur Ha-Gra 56).

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Parashat Vayigash 5766]

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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:

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


The municipality of Jerusalem decided to honor Rabbi Aryeh Levin with the title “Cherished Citizen of Jerusalem,” but he refused on account of his great humility. He said that he was not worthy. They next turned to our Rabbi to honor him with this title, but he also refused on account of his great humility. They next turned to Rabbi Shalom Natan Ra’anan Kook, son-in-law of Rav Kook and our Rabbi’s brother-in-law, and to everyone’s great surprised he accepted. His close relatives were so surprised because of his great humility and they asked him: “Why did you decide to accept this honor when our Rabbi and Reb Aryeh declined?” The great Rav humbly responded: “If I would have refused, they would have placed me on the same level as our Rabbis, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah and Reb Aryeh, and they would think that I am as humble as them. I know that I have not reached that level. I therefore acted this way, so they would not be mistaken. (Ha-Rav Yitzchak Dadon, “Nishkafa Kemo Shachar” p. 135).

A student asked our Rabbi a halachic question relating to a custom of Jerusalem. Our Rabbi turned to Reb Shimon, the yeshiva’s secretary and said to him: It seems to me that Jerusalem’s custom is such-and-such. It that not so? (Ha-Rav Aharon Gelik)

One of our Rabbi’s students wanted to know the parameters of the mitzvah of serving Torah scholars. When he brought our Rabbi a cup of tea, he asked: Is this considered serving a Torah scholar? Our Rabbi responded to him: A doubtful Torah scholar (referring to himself), [therefore] a doubtful serving.

Similarly, a student once saw a tiny piece of dust on our Rabbi’s hat and he pointed it out to our Rabbi, since it is known that it is not proper for a Torah scholar to have a stain on his clothing. Our Rabbi responded: A doubtful Torah scholar, a doubtful speck, a doubtful (obligation to wear a) hat…

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Faith, Torah and Prayer (Translated by Rabbi Shmuel Jablon)

QUESTION: How can one explain “Emunah” (faith), and particularly prayer, to young children – age ten – to whom prayer is not always particularly enjoyable?

ANSWER: Teaching “Emunah” to children aged ten is built around the study of Chumash, and also Tanach, which is our greatest book of faith. All of it is full of our meeting the Master of the Universe. Clearly, for this aspect, the intention is not to teach every explanation that helps us understand the verses. Rather it is the meeting with the great lights of the Torah, and thus with the Master of the Universe.

In order to teach “Emunah,” the teachers must themselves be full of “Emunah.” Thus, through the personal connection between the teacher and the student, it is possible for the student to recognize the great spiritual world that is inside of him. Of course, true “Emunah” in Hashem is revealed through clinging to His traits.

Regarding prayer, it is necessary to explain the prayers and to teach the great content that is within them, thus bringing the soul of the child closer. It is also necessary to pray using songs as the “excitement of the mouth” will awaken the “excitement of the heart.”

(From Rav Aviner’s book “Chinuch Be-Ahavah” 2, page 63)

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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.

Live worms for fishing

Nursery school or playgroup

Makeup on Shabbat

Information from an agent before signing a contract

Bird droppings and blessings

Eating apples – the forbidden fruit?

Dancing on Shabbat

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Q&A on Education with Rabbi Shmuel Jablon

Rabbi Shmuel Jablon, Head of Lower School at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland and just named Principal of the Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia’s Lower School for next year, has just released KEYS TO SUCCESS: HELPFUL HINTS FOR TEACHERS (see Excerpts from pages 26-29

A critical key to success is knowing to ask advice from others. One major figure with whom I consult is Rabbi Shlomo Aviner shlit”a, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim and Rav of Bet El. In addition to his many areas of expertise, he is an expert on the education of children. Below are translations of some questions I have asked, and answers I have received.

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Rav Aviner’s article from this week’s parashah sheet “Be-Ahava U-Be-Emuna” of Machon Meir (Translated by Rafael Blumberg)
“Be Careful not to Climb the Mountain, or Even to Touch its Edge” (Shemot 19:12)

The Temple Mount constitutes an unsolvable halachic problem. One is not allowed to enter the site of the Temple, and whoever enters there incurs “Karet” [divine “excommunication”], even today when the Temple stands in ruins. We do not know where the Temple is located on the Temple Mount. Much research has been written, many sketches have been drawn, with numerous measurements taken. That itself is the source of the problem: If everything was so certain, it would be enough to make one measurement. Occasionally a new researcher emerges and nullifies all the previous calculations. The situation has not changed in a hundred years, when the great rabbis of Israel and of Jerusalem ruled that one must not go beyond the wall. Everything is still veiled in doubt.

Already in the past when the Jews returned to build the Second Temple, a prophet was needed to determine the location of the altar. The truth has to be stated, that all this measuring was displeasing to Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, and when they would bring him a brochure with such measurements, he would shunt it aside, hiding it under a pile of books. He classified making such calculations as “spitting on the Temple Mount” (Sichot Rabbenu 21, se’if 9). He also mentioned that the mitzvah of Temple reverence does not just apply at the site of the Temple itself but on the entire Temple Mount (Sichot Rabbenu, ibid.). After the Six Day War the great rabbis of Israel announced that it was forbidden to ascend onto the Temple Mount. Our master Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook and his son Rav Tzvi Yehudah forbade ascent. The great rabbis before that forbade ascent. The Chief Rabbis of Israel forbade ascent (including Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Goren in practical terms – see “Ma’alin BaKodesh”, Av 5763, page 149); and including Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu and Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira – and we are not greater sages than they, nor greater saints nor greater Zionists.

After the Six Day War, the Chief Rabbinate deliberated on the matter, and a proposal was raised that they would not decide but would leave it up to each rabbi vis-à-vis his own community. Yet that proposal was rejected. The Temple Mount is not the private mountain of any particular community but a mountain belonging to the entire Jewish People, and those in charge of deciding are the Chief Rabbinate.
In conclusion, not only is there no mitzvah amongst the 613 mitzvot of the Torah commanding us to ascend the Temple Mount, but there is a prohibition, and you cannot turn a prohibition into a mitzvah.

As far as the Arabs who go up there, that is not our responsibility. If they wish to be living fulfillment of “Any non-Levite who comes near shall die.” (Bamidbar 9:51), that is their affair. Moreover, if halachically it is impossible to go there we understand that such is G-d’s will. We have no prophets who can inform us of G-d’s will. Yet also delay can attest to G-d’s will, whether what delays us is a practical constraint or derives from halachah, what is known as “a constraint with an inner motive”.

It is yet a long way to the Temple Mount. We have a lot of mitzvoth to do, a lot of kind deeds, a lot of Torah to learn, a lot of the Land to build, a lot of honor to show Torah scholars, a lot of love to show our fellow Jew, a lot teaching to do, a lot of solutions to find for the unemployed and for a lot of poor people, and for a lot of hungry people…

One might say: We are not ascending the Temple Mount as a mitzvah nor in search of holiness, but as part of conquering the Land of Israel.” My response to this is that there are all sorts of ways to conquer something. This is not the way to conquer the Temple Mount. The rest of the Land of Israel is to be conquered by the pioneer with his self-sacrifice and by the soldier with his weapon and by the settler with his faith – but the Temple Mount has to be conquered differently – by causing the Divine Presence to come to rest. Sometimes not everything can be approached the same way. Sometimes there are differences. See what our great master Rambam wrote in Hilchot Beit Ha-Bechirah (6:6), that the holiness of the Land of Israel is established through conquest, whereas the holiness of the site of the Temple by way of the Divine Presence. And how do we cause the Divine Presence to come to rest? Through Torah and mitzvoth, through kindness and love. We say in our prayers, “G-d builds Jerusalem” (Shemoneh Esreh), and “Jerusalem” is referring to the Temple. Yet how does G-d “build” it? We don’t see anything happening right now. Surely we should instead say, “He WILL build it”? Rather, we do not see because we have the eyes of mortal man. The commentaries explained that every mitzvah of every Jew throughout the world and throughout the generations builds Jerusalem, and when a particular quantity is achieved, then the Temple will actually be constructed. Particularly important is groundless love, as in Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s famous words that the Third Temple will be built through groundless love (Orot HaKodesh III:324).

Even King David, when he wished to build the Temple, was told by G-d that the time had not arrived. G-d told him: Now is the time of wars. Now is the time of building up the kingdom. The time for building the Temple will come later – by way of your son Solomon.

The halachic delay tells us that the time has not yet arrived. We have a lot of work ahead of us. When the Six Day War ended and Rav Tzvi Yehudah’s class for his greatest students and scholars recommenced, he humbly asked, “What should we learn now?” One student suggested, “Perhaps the laws of the Temple?…” Our master warmly grasped that student’s hand and said to him, “Before we learn that we have a lot more to learn about the laws of kings and their wars.”

Yet a longing for the Temple and the Temple Mount has existed throughout history, and every prayer ends: “May it be G-d’s will that the Temple should be rebuilt speedily in our day.” From this fierce longing we derive strength and valor to add yet one more mitzvah, more Torah learning, more kindness and more holiness. Through all of them the Temple will be rebuilt.

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

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.