Parashat Mishpatim 5768
- From the mouth of Ha-Rav
- Jerusalem, if I forget you…
- Text Message Responsa
- Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook – Humility
- Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law: Faith, Torah and Prayer
- On Air – 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
- Q&A on Education with Rabbi Shmuel Jablon
- “Be Careful not to Climb the Mountain, or Even to Touch its Edge”
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:
- Q: Is it permissible to “set up” secular Jews, even though they probably will not keep the laws of Family Purity if they are married?
- A: It is a great mitzvah (and, to our distress, even before the wedding they would transgress various halachot).
- Q: Does a loan have to be given before two witnesses or is a document sufficient?
- A: Signing on a document is sufficient.
- Q: Is it permissible for woman to ride on a horse with pants under her skirt?
- A: Yes. The skirt should be long and modest.
- Q: I rode on a bus and the driver said that I did not have to pay. Do I have to pay twice the next time I ride?
- A: Yes.
- Q: I have extremely dry hands. Can I put cream on my hands on Shabbat?
- A: Yes, but liquid cream is preferable.
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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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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
- Q: Is it permissible to use live worms for fishing or is it considered “tza’ar ba’alei chaim – cruelty to animals”?
- A: We can divide this subject into two parts: 1. “Tza’ar ba’alei chaim” is when a person causes an animal distress for no reason. There is no prohibition, however, if there is a human need. For example, it is permissible to have a zoo, since there is a human need; not a physical need, but a cultural need. The Rama (Even Ha-Ezer 5:14) writes, however, that even though plucking a feather for a quill from a live goose is permissible, people refrain from doing so because it is cruel. If one is able, he should find a viable substitute. The basic Halachah is that it is permissible to pluck the feather, and it is certainly better to pluck a feather and cause the goose pain than to kill it for to the feather, if there is no other option. Regarding the worm, it is preferable to find a viable substitute, but it is not obligatory. 2. Is it permissible to go fishing at all? This whole discussion is dependent on the reason one is going fishing. Is he going fishing in order to eat or for sport? Rav Yechezkel Landau in Shut Noda Biyehudah (Yoreh Deah 2:10) was asked: Is it permissible to hunt? He was asked in regard to the danger involved, since the animal could attack him. He says that it depends on the reason he is hunting. Is he hunting for his livelihood or for fun? If it is his livelihood, it is permissible to take a limited risk. If it is for fun, however, it is a problem. He says that not only is the potential risk a problem, but it is also cruel. Hunting is the way of Nimrod and Esav. He does not rule that it is forbidden according to the basic Halachah, since it does have a human need, i.e. human enjoyment, but he should refrain from hunting on account of the cruelty involved. The same applies to fishing: Is he is going fishing to eat or for his livelihood, or he is going for fun? If he is going for fun, not only do the worms suffer, but the fish suffer as well. They are caught on the rod, a hook cuts their mouth, they are reeled in and later released, etc… This is not the type of pleasure which is appropriate for dear Jews.
Nursery school or playgroup
- Q: Should a three year old be in a nursery school or a playgroup?
- A: Some children require more social interaction and some require less. Even if we decide that your child requires more social interaction, a few other children will suffice. A child at this age does not really play with other children, but plays in the presence of other children, i.e. parallel play. He therefore does not need the presence of so many children. There is an advantage to a playgroup in that he will not drown in a sea of children. It is obvious that the best caregiver is the child’s mother, but there are other circumstances that do not always allow her to be with the child all of the time. The caregiver must therefore be as motherly as possible. If there are fewer children, it is easier. There is, however, also confusion for a child in a playgroup, since the mothers often take turns in a playgroup and children love order and stability. There is therefore also a deficiency. In sum: Both options are good, and do what is best for you and your child.
Makeup on Shabbat
- Q: Is makeup permissible on Shabbat?
- A: Is it forbidden to apply many types of makeup on Shabbat. A powder which lacks any oily substance is permissible, since the oily substance is what colors the skin and “coloring” is forbidden on Shabbat. Without the oily substance, it is not considered “coloring.” It is certainly permissible to apply makeup on Friday. There is long-lasting makeup which you can put on. You can purchase it a Charedei (Ultra Orthodox) cosmetic shop.
- Q: Which cosmetics?
- A: I remember that I once sat on a Beit Din for conversion and we asked which meat is kosher. The convert answered: The one with the seal of the Rabbis. Easy work. Go to the store and you can ask.
Information from an agent before signing a contract
- Q: Does one have to pay an agent who you agreed to take on and he gives you information, but you have yet to sign a contract?
- A: You certainly have to pay. One’s word is one’s word. Nevertheless, this is not a hard and fast rule. The Gemara in Baba Metzia (44, 47-49) mentions four different types of people who do not uphold an agreement: 1. Sometimes you can take him to court. 2. Sometimes you do not take him to court, but the One who punished the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Tower of Babel will punish him. 3. Sometimes “the One who punished him” does not apply, but the spirit of our Sages is not pleased with him. 4. And sometimes you do nothing to someone who does not uphold an agreement. For example, I say that I am giving you my car and I do not – this is nonsense. It is forbidden to say nonsense, but it does not obligate someone. In our case, he received the product. If I am selling you my bike for one hundred shekels and you take the bike, you obviously have to pay even though we did not sign anything. Here, the agent gave something and the person took it. He is therefore responsible to pay, even though he did not sign anything. Furthermore, even if no price was agreed upon, he has to pay, since the custom is that one pays the agent. How much to pay is a different question. We follow the accepted the norm, because the agent is obviously working in order to be paid.
Bird droppings and blessings
- Q: Is it permissible to recite a blessing in front of bird droppings?
- A: It depends. It is forbidden to recite a blessing or pray in the vicinity of feces which reek. You are obligated to cover them. This is based on: “You shall cover your excrement…for Hashem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camp…He shall not see a shameful thing among you” (Devarim 23:14-15). In the case of bird droppings, they usually do not reek.
Eating apples – the forbidden fruit?
- Q: Is it permissible to eat apples, since it was the forbidden fruit?
- A: In the Gemara in Berachot (40a), there are three opinions as to the type of fruit on the Tree of Knowledge: Wheat, figs or grapes. The Christians say that it was an apple, we do not. Even regarding the opinion that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was wheat, it does not matter. We still eat wheat. It was only forbidden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, but it is permissible to eat wheat, figs and grapes.
Dancing on Shabbat
- Q: Is it permissible to dance on Shabbat?
- A: The Mishnah and the Gemara in Beitzah (36b) say that it is forbidden to dance on Shabbat and holidays out of a concern that someone may play an instrument, something may happen to the instrument and then he may repair it which is a Torah prohibition. Today, it is permissible to dance for three reasons: 1. The Rama in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 339:3) writes that we do not protest dancing on Shabbat, since people are already accustomed to this activity, and it is better for them to perform it unwittingly than doing so wittingly. He also writes that some explain that nowadays it is completely permissible since we are not experts in repairing instruments and there is no concern of violating a Torah mitzvah. This helps Ashkenazic Jews, but not Sefardic Jews, since they do not rely on the Rama. It is clear that based on the style of the Rama, he was not enthrall with this leniency. But many communities do dance on Shabbat, and not only Religious-Zionists. In Shut Minchat Eleazar (vol. 1), Ha-Admor of Munkatch, who was definitely not a Religious-Zionist, writes at length that it is certainly permissible to dance, as does Shut Devar Yehoshua. They permit dancing as is the custom of many communities. 2. In the book “Ha-Kuzari,” Rabbi Yehudah Halevy, who was a Sefardic Jew, writes that there is a value to fasting and ascetic practices, but there is also a value to rejoicing, and our dancing on Shabbat and holidays is not less of divine worship than fasting and ascetic practices. This means that there is a Sefardic Rishon (Rabbi of the Middle Ages) who permits this activity. 3. The Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. #9) writes that the concern and the reason for the prohibition are only when people dance to a precise rhythm, but what people do today is not considered “dancing.” People go around in a circle and jump up and down. People do not dance in a way that it must be accompanied by musical instruments and there is thus no fear that someone will repair a musical instrument. There is a story about Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein that a student in his yeshiva finally got married after many, many years. At the Aufruf, they were so excited that they began to dance around the bima including Rav Feinstein. A student asked him: Isn’t it forbidden to dance on Shabbat? Rav Feinstein responded: You call this dancing?! The permission to dance therefore applies to both Ashkenazic and Sefardic Jews. This is the reason that many communities for many generations dance on Shabbat and holidays.
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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 www.rabbijablon.com). 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.
- QUESTION: In school we prefer to teach Judaic Studies Ivrit b’Ivrit (with the language of instruction as Hebrew). But sometimes that is difficult for some students- either due to difficulties learning a second language or because it’s hard to explain something in Hebrew. What is the Rav’s view of teaching this way.
- ANSWER: Mix (the languages)- Ivrit b;Ivrit, a little in English and a little in Hebrew, particularly with deep things such as Jewish thought. Then it is allowed. You see that the Gemara is in Aramaic; and you see that Targum Onkelos is in Aramaic. You see that the Rambam wrote “The Guide for the Perplexed” and his commentary to Mishna in Arabic. HaRav Sadya Gaon wrote a translation of the Torah into Arabic. You see that this is permitted. Sometimes Rav Kook gave classes in Yiddish for old students who didn’t know Hebrew.
- QUESTION: And if there are students who CAN learn Ivrit b’Ivrit but they can learn more Torah if there is English?
- ANSWER: Teach in Hebrew and sometimes add English so they can understand more.
- QUESTION: What is the Rav’s opinion on “skipping classes”?
- ANSWER: In order to skip classes, one also needs emotional maturity. Practically, one should get advice from a child psychologist.
- QUESTION: How can we strengthen the connection that students (outside of Israel) have to the Land of Israel?
- ANSWER: Talk about the Land of Israel, of the honor of the nation, of the strength of the Israeli Army, of national pride, and talk and talk. Of course, one must teach everything but the direction is towards the Land of Israel!
- QUESTION: How does one teach against “chutzpah” (gall)?
- ANSWER: Teach that modesty is a great strength- and bring examples of Avraham, Moshe and David.
- QUESTION: After numerous talks with children about behavior and “chutzpa,” is there a place for educational, natural consequences?
- ANSWER: Along with good education- which comes with love, encouragement and joy, there is always a need to set limits/boundaries; and one who crosses them needs to bear the consequences. This is part of the concept (of education).
- QUESTION: Does the Rav have advice as to what pictures of Gedolim (great Torah leaders) should be hung on the walls of the school?
- ANSWER: Gedolim that the students admire- “Your eyes should behold your teacher.”
- QUESTION: When should we begin educating about dressing modestly?
- ANSWER: One should begin educating for modesty at age six, like all other areas of education. Of course, one should not pressure, like in other areas of education.
- QUESTION: For younger children, is it best in school to daven the Amida silently or out loud, in order to be sure everyone is reading properly?
- ANSWER: It is best to daven silently, in order to educate them in what, according to Jewish Law, we are supposed to do. If there’s an educational necessity, it is possible to daven out loud. It’s not possible to know in advance if they are reading correctly. One has to test and see.
- QUESTION: Sometimes we have students in Jewish Day Schools in America who are very weak and have great difficulties and sometimes feel bad about themselves. But the only other choice would be for them to be in a non-Jewish, secular school. What should be done?
- ANSWER: In general, they simply need to be in a Jewish school, as outside they will be totally assimilated. It’s hard for him. One must speak to him, try to help him so it won’t be so difficult.
- QUESTION: And if the child disturbs other children?
- ANSWER: That is a different matter. You are teacher for all of the children; and it’s impossible for one child to be able to disturb everyone. Every child is allowed to disturb a little. But one cannot have one child destroy an entire class. You’re responsible for the whole class. If they are good teachers, they will succeed.
- QUESTION: If a school has limited funds, and one can either spend money to assist weak students or to strengthen students who may grow into being Torah scholars, what takes precedence?
- ANSWER: It is all important. But it is more important to strengthen the strong students. This is what our Rabbis teach us. You cannot save the entire world. But what you do, you should do well. I am not saying to forget about the weaker students. But what you do, do well. It’s not up to you to finish the work, but you’re not exempt from starting. Whatever you do, do well.
- QUESTION: So if there are two students, one weak and one strong, what takes priority?
- ANSWER: Strengthening the stronger one. If he becomes a Torah Scholar, he’ll bring even greater blessings.
- QUESTION: Is this the case even if the weaker one will need to leave the school?
- ANSWER: It’s difficult to judge specifics. But in general, this is the priority. Is it better to give money to get two nurses or one doctor for a hospital? I prefer one doctor to two nurses.
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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: RavAviner@yahoogroups.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.