Torah

Parshat Pekudei 5768

March 6, 2008

Parshat Pekudei 5768

•  Sending Mishloach Manot to Soldiers of Tzahal: Two Teshuvot
•  Family Matters- Brotherhood
•  The Land of Israel and Safeguarding One’s Life
•  Text Message Responsa
•  Stories of Rabbenu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook – Learning Torah
•  Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law: Teacher or Rabbi in the Army, Wrong Kiddush
•  On Air – One who is working on Purim, Learning the Torah portion of the week for one’s husband, Kaddish after learning Torah and reciting Kaddish too many times, Headaches and Learning Torah, Invitation from a poor person, Immersing a pan for Pesach in a mikveh used for chametz, Tzedakah for found money, Prayers during surgery


Sending Mishloach Manot to Soldiers of Tzahal: Two Teshuvot

I am suggesting that the community greatly limit sending mishloach manot to friends, and to concentrate on sending them to the soldiers in the area, whose lives are difficult. According to Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the reason for sending mishloach manot is to increase love between Jews, and according to the author of “Terumat Ha-Deshen,” to provide someone with food for the festive meal of Purim. Regarding soldiers, both reasons apply. Therefore, no one should be offended if he does not receive a mishloach manot from his friend, and all of us will be aware that our gifts are lovingly going to the guardians of our security.
[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 5 #49 in the original edition]

A year ago we began a tradition of greatly limiting sending mishloach manot from one person to his friend and to give mishloach manot to soldiers who safeguard our security and it is appropriate for us to do so. This year there is also an organized trip to an army base. Everyone should therefore donate to Tzahal, and do not be offended if you do not receive a mishloach manot from a friend. I guarantee that he is your friend with all of his heart.

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 1 #234 in the original edition]

For example, you can send mishloach manot to Tzahal soldiers through the website: www.pizzaidf.org

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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)

Brotherhood

I would like to mention a new-old doctrine: the doctrine of brotherhood. We, the entire Jewish people, are all brothers. So were we created and so were we born.

When we left Egypt, we were sunken at the bottom of the 49th level of impurity (Zohar). Everything that we learned from our father Abraham was almost forgotten (Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah, end of Chapter 1). Yet a number of things still remained – the main things: we remained brothers; we didn’t change our names, language or dress; and we didn’t speak evil gossip. By the merit of all these we were redeemed.

It is true that Moshe said, “‘Indeed the matter is known!’ (Shemot 2:9) – now I understand why we suffer. It is because of evil gossip. I saved the Jew from the Egyptian who was smiting him, but evil people spread this news, and now I’m in danger” (Rashi). Yet we didn’t all speak evil gossip. And those that did speak evil gossip, either didn’t leave Egypt or dropped out along the way. They simply were not brothers.

In the Pesach Haggadah, the evil son is told, “Had you been there you would not have been redeemed.” How then did the evildoers leave Egypt? The answer is that the evildoer who would not have been redeemed was one who, like the evil son of the Haggadah, has “removed himself from the Jewish People.” If he was an evildoer in many ways, yet remain tied with brotherhood to the Jewish people, he would have left Egypt.

The brotherhood formed in Egypt is rectification for the groundless hatred that broke out between the brothers against Joseph, as well as the arrogance of the sons of Rachel and Leah to the sons of the maidservants. In Egypt, we were all in the same boat. We became brothers. And this rectification appeared in all its glory in the case of Moshe: “He went out to his brothers” (Shemot 2:11). This is the foundation of Israel existing as a people. On the other hand, our sages expounded as follows: “There was an opaque darkness…. People could not see each other” (Shemot 10:22-23). When a person does not see his friend that is the greatest darkness there is. This is the foundation of the Sabbatical year.

Obviously, the First Temple was destroyed because of bloodshed, idolatry and sexual sin. These are terrible, heinous crimes. But was it destroyed because of the Sabbatical year? Could it go that far? Our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, explains in his introduction to his book “Shabbat Ha-Aretz” and in his article “Nechamat Yisrael” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah) that the theme of the Sabbatical year is love. We no longer say, “Mine is mine and yours is yours,” but rather, “Mine is yours.” We say, “Take, my brother. The harvest belongs to us all. It is for all of us to eat, and not for sale, and not to be destroyed. It is not even for making medicines. For if we become brothers, we won’t be sick.” The Land is very pleased with this. Then it too participates and yields three times as much progress as usual. Kayin was cursed. G-d said, “When you work the ground, it will no longer give you of its strength” (Bereshit 4:12). Kayin had jeopardized brotherhood. During the Sabbatical year, brotherhood returns, and then the blessing of the Land returns.

In the Mussaf Shemoneh Esreh we say, “Because of our sins who were exiled from our land.” The Second Temple was destroyed because of groundless hatred (Yoma 9b). We had jeopardized our brotherhood. Now, brotherhood had returned, and we have returned to our land. Yes, brotherhood has returned! Our nation is full of love! Yes! Obviously, there is a small minority of haters. In every camp there are several haters. Yet that is a negligible minority. If our nation has 50,000 haters, that is just 1%. Yet in all walks of life, people are talking to one another. There is brotherhood.

In every family there are Jews of different types and from different streams – and they love one another and help one another. And in every workplace, there are all sorts of workers, and they work together amicably. And especially in the Army, there is brotherhood. If there were no mutual love between comrades-in-arms, you could close down the army. Love between comrades-in-arms means that a person is ready to be killed for his brother. Is that not groundless love? And we find it not just amongst Israel’s heroes who were decorated for bravery after the last Lebanese war and Israel’s wars that preceded it, but in every fighter.

We are not uniform, but we are united. In our opinions we may be divided, but not divisively so. We can fight for our views, but let us not forget that we are brothers. Let us not say, “Cut the baby in half!” nor, “Let neither you nor I have it.” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah) 20.

The Committee for Finding Flaws in Others is not us. We are not members! The very idea is crazy. It’s divisive. It’s impure. Instead of casting blame – build! Build the Land! Build the nation! Build up brotherhood.

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The Land of Israel and Safeguarding One’s Life

QUESTION: A certain Rabbi said that traveling or gathering in places like Sderot (on the border with the Gaza Strip) is not forbidden based on the commandment of “You shall surely safeguard your soul” (Devarim 4:15, 23:11). Is this correct according to the Halacha?

ANSWER: This subject is divided into three parts:

1. Low-Probability Danger

This Rabbi is certainly correct that the mitzvah of “You shall surely safeguard your soul” is a firmly established law. At the same time, there is a clear distinction in Halacha between a high-probability danger and a low-probability danger. If this were not the case, we would not be able to travel in a car since every year, to our great distress, six hundred people are killed in car accidents in Israel. Many more people have been killed in car accidents since the establishment of the State of Israel than all of the Kassam rockets and all of the terrorist attacks and all of the wars, even when they are added together. We nonetheless travel in cars, obviously with the required cautions, since this is called “a non-frequent damage” in Halacha (Pesachim 8b). In our time there are statistical tools to verify the frequency of a danger. This idea is also brought in the book “Mesillat Yesharim” (end of chapter 9) that there is appropriate fear and inappropriate fear. There is appropriate fear from actual danger and there is inappropriate fear from illusions. There is a halachic responsum on this subject by Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of “Ramat Elchanan” (neighborhood in Bnei Brak). A student was learning in a yeshiva in “Yesha” (Yehudah, Shomron or Gush Katif) and his parents were concerned about the danger. Rav Zilberstein proves that “a frequent damage” is five percent. This means that if – G-d forbid – five percent of the students of the yeshiva were murdered, it would be forbidden to learn in that yeshiva. This is obviously far from reality – Baruch Hashem – since the Kassam rockets do not kill five percent of the population. In fact, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog in Shut Heichal Yitzchak proves based on Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger (#60) that a frequent danger is not five percent, but one in a thousand, but – Baruch Hashem – Kassam rockets do not kill one in a thousand people either.

2. Small risk for a Mitzvah

It is permissible to take a “small risk” for the sake of a mitzvah. The Tiferet Yisrael discusses this principle on the Mishnah in Masechet Berachot at the end of chapter one. There is a story about Rabbi Tarfon who said the Shema at night while reclining according to the view of Beit Shammai. He endangered himself while doing so and the Sages admonished him for following the view of Beit Shammai instead of Beit Hillel. But the question remains: Why did Rabbi Tarfon endanger himself, since reciting the Shema is not in the category of “Be killed and do not transgress,” i.e. requiring one to sacrifice his life for its fulfillment? The Tiferet Yisrael explains that it was permissible since there was only a small risk of danger. There is an additional proof from when Rabbi Akiva was in jail, and he used the water he received for “netilat yadayim” (ritually washing his hands) instead of for drinking. The halachic authorities ask: How could Rabbi Akiva endanger his life for this practice? The answer is that Rabbi Akiva understood that he would obtain more water, the danger he was taking was extremely minute and for a mitzvah it is permissible to take a small risk. We also find this idea in “Pitchei Teshuvah” (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 157). By the way, there is something else for which it is permissible to take a small risk – a livelihood. And, in truth, a livelihood is also a mitzvah. We find teachings that it is permissible to take a small risk for a livelihood and a mitzvah, and it is the law for the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel.

3. Settling the Land of Israel

It is obvious that settling the Land of Israel towers above every mitzvah. It is thus written in Shut Ha-Rashbash (#1) of Rabbi Shlomo Shimon, the son of the Rashbatz (Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach Duran), that one who desires to make aliyah while it is dangerous: Ascend! But one who does not want to need not go. This means that he permits ascending to the Land of Israel under danger, but one is not forced to do so. But how is it permissible to endanger oneself for the sake of ascending to the Land of Israel? This question was already asked by the King of Kuzar to the Rabbi at the end of the book “The Kuzari,” and Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Levi responds that the danger in ascending to the Land is certainly less dangerous than a soldier in an obligation war. Just as a soldier endangers himself in an obligatory war, so too does one who makes aliyah to a certain extent.

Throughout the generations, Jews displayed self-sacrifice for the Land of Israel, whether making aliyah, establishing settlements or serving in the army. This includes Religious-Zionists and secular Jews and the Charedim (Ultra-Orthodox). Charedim – whether the students of the Vilna Gaon or the students of the Baal Shem Tov – made aliyah and established settlements with great self-sacrifice. For example, Charedim established Me’ah She’arim within an Arab settlement with self-sacrifice, and the city of Petach Tikvah despite the Malaria in which many paid with their lives and the neighborhood of Nachalat Shiva in Jerusalem, which was an extremely dangerous place. Even Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld ztz”l, one of the harshest opponents of Zionism, said that we cannot abandon even one place in the Land of Israel – even if there is danger involved. The story is told in the book “Ha-Ish Al Ha-Chomah” that during the Arab Pogrom of 5689 a multitude of Arabs descended on Me’ah Shearim, the leader had his sword drawn and they screamed, “Slaughter the Jews!” When they passed the flour mill, two Charedi Jews came out, one wielding a pistol and shot and killed the leader of the gang. The second one threw a hand grenade and the entire gang fled while the two of them pursued them – one with a pistol and the other with a hand grenade. The Arabs killed many of their own in their panicked flight, trampling one another. The next day, Ha-Rav Zonnenfeld, who lived within the walls of the Old City, had to go to Me’ah Shearim for a brit milah. He left through “Sha’ar Shechem” (the Damascus Gate), and in front of their eyes lay the dead Arabs. His students said to him: “Rav, what about safeguarding one’s life?” He answered them: “If we surrender walking through ‘Sha’ar Shechem,’ there will be no Jews.” By the way, the Charedi Jew who fired the pistol was Ha-Rav Aharon Fischer, the father of Ha-Gaon Ha-Ra Yisrael Yaakov Fischer, who was the Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinic court) of the Ultra-Orthodox community until a few years ago. We therefore see that the Charedim did not fear anything – not diseases and not Arabs, and they even used a weapon when necessary.

In conclusion:

  • a. A non-frequent danger is not considered a danger according to Halachah.
  • b. It is permissible to take a minimal risk for a mitzvah or for a livelihood.
  • c. One needs self-sacrifice for the sake of settling the Land of Israel. This is how we have acted throughout the generations and in its merits we are here today.

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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: I was married a few months ago and sometimes an unpleasant situation occurs – someone suggests a “shidduch” (person to date) to me! Is it permissible to wear a wedding ring to prevent this, or is it forbidden because of the prohibition of “chukot haGoyim” (non-Jewish practices)?
  • A: There is no problem. Many G-d-fearing Jews outside of Israel have this practice. And it is a good idea to avoid confusion and as a sign of love (see Sefer Ha-Chinuch #552).

 

  • Q: Why is it permissible for a man to wear a wedding ring? Isn’t it forbidden because of “Lo Yilbash” (men may not wear women’s clothing or accessories)?
  • A: It is permissible if he wear a men’s ring (see Mishnah Shabbat 6:1) or a ring which is appropriate for a man or a women (Nedarim 49b regarding Rabbi Yehuda’s jacket which was wore by both him and his wife).
  • Q: Is it permissible to sit with legs crossed during davening?
  • A: It is not appropriate since it is not respectful to the Master of the Universe.
  • Q: Is it permissible on Shabbat to use a mineral water dispenser which provides cold and hot water?
  • A: Cold – yes, hot – no.
  • Q: I wanted to be a combat soldier and the army did not agree. After a long struggle, I succeeded and I am now a combat soldier. Should I recite a blessing?
  • A: Shehechiyanu.

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

Learning Torah

Diligence in learning

When our Rabbi was immersed in learning Torah, he did not see or hear anything. It once happened that he did not come to minchah. The students knocked on his door, but our Rabbi did not answer. They knocked again and again, but it did not help. They busted down the door and when they entered, they found him learning Rambam. He did not understand what they wanted from him. (Ha-Rav Tzvi Kostiner – Iturei Yerushalayim #16)

Completeness

During a class, our Rabbi asked the students where they had left off learning in a particular book at the end of last class. They told him and he began a few pages earlier and went over them again, and he did the same thing in various classes. (It seems that he acted this way in order to learn an entire issue and not to begin in the middle of a subject. Ha-Rav Yehudah ben Yishai – Iturei Yerushalayim #16)

Learning Gemara

A new student once had a difficult time learning Gemara. He asked our Rabbi: Why should I learn Massechet Pesachim!? After Rashi, Tosafot, the Rif and the Rambam, what else is there for me – the small one – to add? Our Rabbi responded: You have yet to learn Massechet Pesachim! Two people are not the same, and no one in the world can grasp the way in which you learn. Your soul is not like Rashi’s soul. Your soul can connect to Massechet Pesachim , and the light of the Oral Torah needs to appear through your individual soul. (Iturei Yerushalayim #16)

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Teacher or Rabbi in the army

  • QUESTION: It is preferable to be a school teacher or a Rabbi in the army?
  • ANSWER: It depends on your talents, your desire, and the need.

Your talents: Do what you can, do what you are good at. Your desire: Do what you have a passion for. The need: Where do they need you? Sefer Chasidim says that there is always a mitzvah which is a “met mitzvah” (a corpse which does not have anyone to bury it). A “met mitzvah” is one which is neglected. Perform that mitzvah! Many people do not learn Masechet Moed Katan, because they fear that it will be a bad sign (the last chapter deals with the laws of mourning)! This is nonsense, so learn Moed Katan. A tailor once had many daughters who were seamstresses. One sewed dressed, one sewed suits, etc… and one sewed burial shrouds. No one wanted to married her, because they thought that she was sewing their burial shrouds! The father took all of his money for a dowry for a husband for this daughter. Go where you are needed.

Wrong Kiddush

  • QUESTION: If someone accidently made the daytime Kiddush – Kiddusha Rabba – on Shabbat night and realized it only the day after on Shabbat day, what is the law?
  • ANSWER: The book “Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata” (47:8) says that if one remembers that he did not make the proper kiddush he should make it even later on Shabbat night and eat a piece of cake or some other mezonot. If one only remembers before lunch on Shabbat, one should recite the kiddush of Shabbat night before lunch.

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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.

One who is working on Purim

  • Q: My wife is a nurse who works all day, what should she do on Purim for Mishloach Manot and the Festive Meal?
  • A: There are two answers: 1. Mishloach Manot – It is possible to send it through an agent. You can be her agent. Furthermore, many married couples send the Mishloach Manot together. My wife and I send to certain families and we send enough food to fulfill the mitzvah for both of us. The Festive Meal – The nurses will eat. It is not written that one has to eat swan, quail and fish. It is not even written that one has to eat bread. One is required to eat. They will eat and this will be the Purim meal. If she wants to have something special, she can bring some cookies and a bottle of coke. 2. One who is involved in one mitzvah is exempt from another mitzvah. She is involved with a great mitzvah, she is taking care of the sick. Therefore, if there is no agent, no time, nothing – she is exempt.

Learning the Torah portion of the week for one’s husband

  • Q: My husband works very hard and he is not able to fulfill the obligation of learning the Torah portion each week. Can I learn it with him in mind since I am the other half of his soul?
  • A: Certainly, but he also has to learn a little. Our Sages says that one must learn something in the daytime and something at nighttime, even if it is only two minutes. He can certainly do this. Even though he will only learn a small amount in quantity, the quality will be great, since he does not have a lot of time and it is a sacrifice for him.

Kaddish after learning Torah and reciting Kaddish too many times

  • Q: Should one recite Kaddish after learning Torah with a minyan, since the Aruch Ha-Shulchan said that we should not recite Kaddish too many times?
  • A: The Aruch Ha-Shulchan was upset that people were reciting Kaddish too many times during prayer. He is not speaking about learning Torah, and one must certainly recite the Kaddish after learning Torah. The Kaddish after learning Torah is mentioned in the Gemara in Sotah (49a). The Mourner’s Kaddish is not mentioned in the Gemara, but in the Midrash. The Mourner’s Kaddish is also not mentioned by the Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch, but by the Rama (Orach Chaim 25:13 and 132:2). One must therefore certainly recite the Kaddish after learning. The “custom” of reciting a Psalm, Kaddish, Psalm, Kaddish, etc… is not needed. One can recite two or more Psalms or prayers in a row followed by a Kaddish. The Aruch Ha-Shulchan is objecting to this practice. The practice of reciting Kaddish over and over is based on a German custom, mentioned by the Rama (Yoreh De’ah 376:4) that only one person recites a Kaddish at a time. There were therefore many recitations of Kaddish so that each mourner could have one. The Gabbai would pass out each Kaddish: Dr. Burgman, you have the first Kaddish, etc… The Sephardic custom is for everyone to stand in a line and recite the Kaddish simultaneously. Only one Kaddish is needed. Then there is an Ashkenazic custom of Poland in which everyone stands on their own and starts when they want, and everyone goes at his own pace and whoever finishes first wins. This is a bad custom since no one hears and no one understands (see Gesher Hachaim vol. 1, chap. 30 #12). Nevertheless, in a place in which everyone recites Kaddish together, the Aruch Ha-Shulchan is correct: There is such a thing as a Kaddish in vain, just as there is a blessing in vain.

Headaches and Learning Torah

  • Q: The Gemara (Eruvin 54a) says that “one whose headaches should learn Torah.” Do we understand this teaching literally?
  • A: The Maharal says in his book “Netivot Olam” that the Torah is the guide for a person for everything he does in life. Therefore, if a person has a “headache,” i.e. he is confused in an intellectual sense, he should learn Torah. By learning Torah, with the help of Hashem, his head will no longer ache.

Invitation from a poor person

  • Q: If a poor person invites one to a wedding or a meal, should I attend since it may cost him money which he does not have?
  • A: If he invites you to a wedding or a meal, he wants you to attend. If you think that he is simply being polite by inviting you, you should attend and bring a gift that is at least equal to the cost of the meal. Even though you do not eat such expensive meals at home, this is a unique situation so that he does not lose money on your account.

Immersing a pan for Pesach in a mikveh used for chametz

  • Q: I bought a pan for Pesach and I want to immerse it in the mikveh now. Is there a problem to immerse it in the same mikveh which is used to immerse utensils used for chametz?
  • A: There is no problem since people generally immerse utensils when they are new. This means that one buys a utensil and his intention is to use it for chametz and he immerses it before he uses it. Even if someone immerses utensils in the mikveh after use, there is no problem since no one brings dirty utensils to the mikveh.

Tzedakah for found money

  • Q: Do I have to give tzedakah from money which I found?
  • A: Yes, any money which comes to a person – be it found, an inheritance, work, etc… needs to be tithed.

Prayers during surgery

  • Q: What prayers should one say while a loved one is having surgery?
  • A: It is always proper to recite “Tehillim” (Psalms) and of course – repentance, prayer and tzedakah push off the harshness of the decree.

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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.