Parshat Vayikra 5768

March 11, 2008

Parshat Vayikra 5768

An Attack on the Heart

These were Rav Aviner’s opening thoughts on his Thursday night radio show a few hours after the terrorist attack at Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, followed by the questions from the show

The heart of our State has been wounded – the spiritual heart. Mercaz Ha-Rav is the mother of all National-Religious Yeshivot, Zionist Yeshivot and the largest of all of the Yeshivot. It was established by Maran (Our Revered Teacher) Ha-Rav Kook to spread a grand vision of the revival of the Nation of Israel in its Land. Any attack is dreadful and all the more so an attack on the heart. This is the yeshiva where I learned and everything within me is from this yeshiva. It is not by chance that they chose this holy place. The forces of evil wanted to attack the heart, even though they will obviously not succeed in their goal. The Nation of Israel is certainly stronger than the forces of evil, and Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav is certainly the strongest of all.

We must remember that we are dealing with an enemy. We are at war. During war we are not merciful to the cruel. One who is merciful to the cruel is cruel to those who require mercy (Tanchuma, Parashat Metzora 1; Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel 1 #121). We are the merciful and they are the cruel, and when you are merciful to the cruel, you are cruel to your brothers and sisters. This is a war like any other war. There is a concept of the total war which means that, while we do not look for wars (we are a Nation which loves peace, searches for peace, and loves all people), if someone attacks us, we respond with all our might. When the enemy simply shaved half of the beards of some of King David’s soldiers and tore their clothes, he went to war. In a war, the most important aspect is deterrence. You cannot place a soldier on every square meter. The Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim (vol. 1 #41) discusses his national philosophy and writes that the secret to security is deterrence. One must therefore strike his enemy with all his might. It makes no sense to provide terrorists, evil people and murderers with electricity, gas and weapons! Are you crazy providing terrorists and murderers with weapons?! The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (15-16) says that it is forbidden to provide regular murderers with weapons, and you give weapons to these people, not only in the past but now. Have you lost your mind?! This mercifulness towards the enemy is harming us. Other countries understand that we need to fight with all our might. Perhaps they will yell and scream, but they would do that regardless of what we do. I remember a joke – although it is certainly not a night for jokes – from Meir Uziel, a comedian and grandson of former Chief Rabbi Rav Uziel: in the competition for Ms. Ethical among the 200 nations of the world, we always come in last place, since we are the only ones who show up! We must certainly be ethical, but to our brothers, not the enemy. During the Second World War, the Allied power destroyed neighborhood after neighborhood in Berlin, because everyone understood that there was no other way to wage war. Did King Hussein of Jordan deal with Black September with child gloves? No, he killed 17,000 Palestinians and ended his Intifada once and for all. President Assad killed 21,000 Palestinians in one month when there was an uprising in Syria. And when Hamas wanted to take over Gaza, they killed many, many people. This is the language they speak and understand. This is how we must deal with them.

I remember that a terrorist once attacked a woman in Neveh Dekalim. She lay down on the baby carriage to protect her baby, and he stabbed her fifteen times in the back. By some miracle, someone came and shot him and saved her. Later, an unethical reporter interviewed the rescuer on the radio and asked: “How do you feel after killing a person?” He responded: “The thing which I killed was not a person.” I remembered this and quoted it various times. I once met someone and I said “shalom.” He said: “You don’t know me but you quoted me. I am the person who killed that thing which was not a person.” I said: “Yashar Koach – Way to go. Your actions followed what the Rambam says in Moreh Nevuchim (vol. 1 #7).” The Rambam discusses the “demons” mentioned in the Gemara. He says that a “demon” looks like a person on the outside, but is a wild animal on the inside. It is more dangerous than a wild animal in that it has intellect. People periodically ask me: Is the theory that we came from animals true? I answer: “I do not know. I was not there. The question, however, does not bother me. What bothers me is whether we have left being animals.” We must therefore wage war with strength and courage and strengthen the Nation of Israel in our Land.

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From the parashah sheet “Mayanei Ha-Yeshua #339 – Parashat Vayakel 5768

Don’t Let Him!

Don’t let him abuse you. Whether you are a girl, a young woman or a woman – don’t let him. Whether you are single or married – don’t let him. Not verbally, not with “light” abuse and not with severe abuse. Do not freeze in place. Yell out loud so that everyone can hear you. If he touches you, slap him. If he tries to do worse and there is no choice – kill him. Yes, kill him. And it happened – a disgusting man burst into a young woman’s apartment and wanted to have his way with her, and she killed him. Based on the law that it is permissible to use reasonable force to protect oneself, the court of the State of Israel ruled that her reaction was certainly reasonable.

Don’t let a man consider you as an object for his use and benefit. No, you are a person. If it has already happened to you, please turn to the police. Don’t worry. Don’t be embarrassed. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. He should be embarrassed. He is disgusting. Also, do not yield to pressure such as: “This will destroy the connection between him and his wife!” – Let it be destroyed! But it is okay to destroy you?? After he is rehabilitated, his relationship will be rehabilitated. Or: “This will destroy his high standing, since he is a respected person!” – Let it be destroyed! He is not a respectable person! He is foul! And if he is from your family and they begin to emotionally press you: “You would do this to your uncle? Or to your brother? Your grandfather? Your father?” Yes! You should certainly do this to them and it is a great act of righteousness which will have the effect of saving two things: Saving all of the future girls and young women who would suffer from him and saving this man from addition sins.

There are too many cases of abuse. Obviously, even one case is too much, but there are much more than just one. According to the estimates of women’s organization in Israel, during the last year there were 50,000 cases of harassment against women ages 25-40. You can add to this number the girls who are too young or the women who were too old and were not included in the report as well as many others who were embarrassed to make a complaint. A new study shows that 25% of religious women were subject to abuse to varying degrees. This is the same percentage as the general population.

A majority of the abuses were committed by people known to the women: Relatives (30%) or friends (40%) or teachers. The overwhelming majority of women who were abused (65%) do not tell a man. Only 15% tell their mothers and 6% tell their fathers. A girl or young woman who has been abused and does not relate it will walk around with a terrible wound – a guarded secret – she will be sad, fearful and racked with feelings of guilt – without justification.

I therefore suggest putting 50,000 men in prison so that others will hear, see, fear and will no longer act evilly. They will realize that when a woman says “no” – it means just that! Even if she does not say “no,” one needs only a little intellect to understand that she means no.

Obviously, not all men are like this, most are modest and gentle. And if you are not yet married, do not fear – you will find a gentle and pure man. To our distress, this lowly group exists outside all strata of society: men from high socio-economic standing and low socio-economic standing; Secularists, Religious-Zionists and Charedim (ultra-orthodox); Askenazim, Sefardim, Yemenite and Ethiopian. It is logical that the evil inclination is not racist, choosy and does not have a political affiliation.

Don’t let him. Don’t be afraid. Even if it is in the work place – don’t be afraid. Even if it involves a superior – don’t be afraid. The many women’s organizations will gladly help you, guide you and advise you. You will not be alone.

If you identify that this has happened to friends, encourage them to talk to you. If you are a teacher, please speak to your students about this and encourage them to speak to you privately. And if you work with the young, encourage them to confide in you.

But prepare yourself spiritually, since the harasser will not give in easily. He will say that you asked for it, initiated it, enticed and seduced him with provocative clothing, etc… Don’t worry, however, women’s group will help you through it.

The essential thing is that you should not feel guilt, you did nothing wrong. He is guilt and you are pure. If something happened to you in your youth, this will not affect you from marrying a pure and good young man. You are completely fine, you are pure.

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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 for a yeshiva student to enjoy the benefits from stores or companies for being a yeshiva student or is this prohibited because one should not use the Torah “as a spade with which to dig” (Pirkei Avot 4:5)?
  • A: It is permissible. See Rambam ibid. and the reason is that stores give discounts to all types of people, not only yeshiva students.
  • Q: I lost a calculator in class a few months ago and now I found one just like it, can I keep it?
  • A: You should first announce that you found it for a few months. If no one comes forward, write the details down in a notebook (i.e. what it looks like, approximate value, etc…) and you may use it.
  • Q: Is it permissible to enter a church to visit and learn? Why or why not?
  • A: It is forbidden, since Christianity is considered idol worship. The Rambam even rules that it is forbidden to live in a city which has a church (although we do not rule this way).
  • Q: I lent my father a large amount of money and he has not repaid me in a long time. What should I do?
  • A: You may request it with humility. Obviously, it is a different if they are poor and are strapped for money.
  • Q: I will be in the army for Purim. How can I perform the mitzvah of mishloach manot?
  • A: You can send it to another soldier, even from that which you receive from Tzahal.

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

The Struggle Over the Land of Israel – Part 1

After the Six-Day War, our Rabbi placed the issue of the wholeness of the Land of Israel at the forefront of his public activities. He repeated over and over that it is a clear Torah prohibition to give any territory of the Land of Israel to non-Jews. He wrote and publicized hundreds of letters and proclamations, in calls to the public and the heads of the State – since he remained in close contact with them – to stand firmly for the wholeness of the Land and settling in all parts of the Land.

Our Rabbi distributed many broadsides on the subject of our holding on to the Land of Israel. He never based his argument on issues of security with the Arabs; the broadsides were always built on Torah foundations:

1. “Do not show them favor” (Devarim 7:2) – Do not give them a holding in the Land (Avodah Zarah 20a).

2. “The Land shall not be sold in perpetuity” (Vayikra 25:23).

3. Annulling the mitzvot dependent on the Land.

4. A legal argument that the Land not only belongs to those who live there now, but to all of the Jews in the past, present and future. Therefore no one has the authority to forfeit parts of the Land of Israel to the non-Jews, and there can be no referendum on Yehudah and Shomron, just as there can be no referendum on any mitzvah in the Torah. He also emphasized the need for self-sacrifice for the Land of Israel which should ideally be self-sacrifice in life.

The first broadside was “Do Not Tremble” after the Six-Day War. Our Rabbi told the students: “You are to close the Gemara now and go out for a few weeks to distribute this broadside in the entire breadth of the Land.” The broadside was distributed in thousands of copies throughout the world, translated into English and even Arabic. This broadside was written after the Six-Day War in light of the discussion of the Government about relinquishing parts of the Land which were conquered. Those who supported the idea of the Greater Land of Israel signed a different document, with the statement that now all of the Land of Israel has returned to our control. Our Rabbi refused to sign it because the East Bank of the Jordan was still not under our control. He therefore wrote his own document. (Sefer Eretz Ha-Tzvi, pg. 19)

To the claims that he placed exaggerated importance to the issue of the Land of Israel, our Rabbi responded, “The words of our Sages are holy that the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is equivalent to all of the mitzvot of the Torah” (Letter, Iyar 5735).

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

“When Adar enters” and the attack on Mercaz Ha-Rav

  • Question: Our Rabbis say “When the month of Adar enters joy increases.” How then could this attack occur on Rosh Chodesh Adar?
  • Answer: There is no connection. This month of Adar is a month of joy and we are bereft and broken over what has occurred. We have mixed feelings. Educators have called me and said: We are going to go ahead with the activities we planned (many schools have fun events for the beginning of Adar). We will continue to dance and sing because the enemy wants to break our morale, but they will not succeed. Terror cannot destroy a country, but it can lead it to despair. A Chinese aphorism: Kill one person and cause thousands to fear. The principals of the schools said: On the contrary, we will dance and rejoice. They asked: What do you think? I said: You are right, but you should begin with prayer, Tehillim and somber words. Adar is Adar and we are also sad – both. In Parashat Shemini, Aharon’s sons are killed during the dedication of the Mishkan and Moshe Rabbenu said: Remove them. Rashi explains: Take the deceased away from the bride. This is the great wedding of the Nation of Israel with the Land of Israel which has continued for more than 120 years. There are highs and lows during a wedding as the Gemara (Shabbat 130a) says: There is no ketubah without issues. There are precious deceased ones at the wedding and after we mourn we will return to the bride.

Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a mitzvah

  • Q: How could this attack have occurred to yeshiva students while they were learning Torah when we say “Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a mitzvah?”
  • A: See the Gemara in Pesachim 8b. “Harm will not befall one on the way to perform a mitzvah” is said in regard to an infrequent occurrence. The example given there is one who is checking for chametz and perhaps he should check under rocks. No, he should not check because there may be snakes or scorpions under the rocks. The Gemara asks – how so, harm will not befall one on the way to perform a mitzvah. Answer: This is a frequent occurrence and there is therefore a chance that he may be harmed. Another example: A person has a joint wall with a non-Jewish neighbor, and perhaps he should stick his fingers into the cracks in the wall to search for chametz. No, he should not check because the neighbor may accuse him of witchcraft and causes him terrible problems. The Gemara asks – how so, harm will not befall one on the way to perform a mitzvah. Answer: This is an evil neighbor and it is considered a frequent occurrence. We do not apply this principle when there is a frequent occurrence. This is discussed at length in the book “Mesillat Yesharim” at the end of chapter 9. It is obvious that if a terrorist enters and shoots in every direction this is a frequent occurrence and even people performing a mitzvah are harmed.

Birchat Ha-Gomel

  • Q: I learn at Mercaz Ha-Rav, but was not there during the attack. Should I recite Birchat Ha-Gomel (for having been saved)?
  • A: No, you were not there.

Reciting Tehillim at night

  • Q: Is it permissible to recite Tehillim at night for those who were injured?
  • A: It is well known that people say not to recite Tehillim at night, but this is not precise. 1. There is a ruling not to learn Chumash at night brought by the Mishnah Berurah chapter 239 in Shaar Ha-Tziyun #1. This ruling, however, is not in the Gemara, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and not even in the Mishnah Berurah. From this source, we learn that it is not an obligation, but a stricture based on mysticism. There is also a midrash that when Moshe Rabbenu was in Heaven he learned Chumash during the day and Oral Torah at night. This, however, is a stricture and it is certainly permissible to learn Chumash at night. 2. Many authorities point out that Tehillim is not Chumash, it is Nach – part of the Ketuvim. 3. Reciting Tehillim is not learning Torah, it is prayer. There are therefore three reasons which can be joined together to allow it. Maran Ha-Rav Kook writes in one of his responsum that people sometimes do not use their brains – instead of learning Torah at night, they waste their time. This is certainly not our Rabbis’ intention. It is therefore permissible. Furthermore, we do not recite Tehillim on Shabbat for the sick because we do not plead with Hashem on Shabbat. In cases of a life-threatening situation, however, we desecrate Shabbat in that manner and in this case it is therefore permissible to recite Tehillim.

Religious-Zionists harmed more often

  • Q: Why are Religious–Zionists harmed more often than Charedim (Ultra-Orthodox) by terrorists? Perhaps this is a sign that we have erred in our position.
  • A: On the television station of Hezbollah – Al Manar, they said that Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav was attacked precisely because it produces many soldiers. It is obvious that a combat soldier is harmed more than a soldier in a support unit – although the latter are also important. And someone who goes to the army is obviously harmed more than someone who does not go to the army. And someone who lives in a dangerous place is obviously harmed more than someone who does not live in a dangerous place. They attacked Mercaz Ha-Rav because it produces courageous and strong soldiers. They are therefore afraid of it and with good reason. This is certainly a sign, since the forces of evil always attack the strongest point and that which threatens them the most.

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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.

Visiting the Bahai Temple in Haifa

  • Q: Is it permissible to visit the Bahai Gardens and Temple in Haifa?
  • A: It is certainly forbidden to enter a Temple of idol worship or anything connected to idol worship, but the Baha’i faith is not idol worship. The Baha’i faith is a universal, general belief which was a reform breakaway from Islam. They believe in loving everyone, human respect, world unity and other universal values. They also do not hate the Nation of Israel and do not wage war against the Nation of Israel which Muslims do to our distress. It is a good sign that they have positive relations with the Nation of Israel who has returned to the Land of Israel. They had Muslim roots, but they are not Muslims. Islam is also not forbidden, but there is still a problem with it because it has as a belief that the Torah was nullified. It is therefore a false belief. This is what Rabbi Yosef Albo writes at the beginning of Sefer Ha-Ikarim that Islam is a false belief, since it “erases” the Torah. This is the error of Islam, but the Bahai faith is not Islam. It is therefore permissible to enter the Temple which is built over the grave of its first leader, “Bab,” and to see the beautiful gardens.

Kohanim in Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah in Hevron

  • Q: Is it permissible for a cohain to enter Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah?
  • A: There is a halachic dispute if the graves of the righteous are impure. If the graves of the righteous are not impure, then it would be permissible for cohanim to enter Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah, Kever Rachel, the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, etc… While some permit it, most authorities rule that the graves of the righteous are impure and that it is forbidden for cohanim to enter. It is not possible to give lashes to someone who does enter, since there are those who permit it. Some authorities also explain that Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah is built so that the lower structure where the graves are located is covered and detached from the building. Much has been written about this issue. I do not know much about this, since I am a cohain and I have never been inside Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah. Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not enter and I am not more righteous than him, so I also do not enter. The same question applies to Kever Rachel. Even according to the opinion that the graves of the righteous are impure, some say that the building was made in a way to make in permissible. Again, Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not enter, so I did not.

Difficulty in reciting birkat ha-mazon

  • Q: Many times when I eat, my baby cries, I take care of him and the time for reciting birkat ha-mazon passes. What should I do?
  • A: If you began to eat, you must recite birkat ha-mazon. You can sometimes shorten the birkat ha-mazon and end after “Ve-Al Yechasrenu” and then recite the “Ha-Rachaman, Ha-Rachaman, Ha-Rachaman” later. You have to plan it out so that you can eat and recite the birkat ha-mazon. If the baby cries, you do not need to jump up and immediately care for him. If I not talking about the case where something happened to him, but where he is simply crying. It is not healthy for a baby if you run to him every time he makes a peep. Some psychologists says that one should be a good mother, but not too good of a mother. This is not because we do not love our children, but we do not want them to think that their needs will always be immediately met. They will be overly pampered and not value what others do for them. Even if you are not in the middle of the birkat ha-mazon, you do not need to run immediately for every peep.

“Shehakol” for nursing baby

  • Q: Should I recite “shehakol” for my baby before he nurses?
  • A: No, he is exempt from the blessings and other mitzvot, since he is young.

Sitting on the floor on Shabbat

  • Q: Is it permissible to sit on the floor on Shabbat since some say that it is a sign of mourning (and it is forbidden to display signs of mourning on Shabbat)?
  • A: The basic Halacha is that it is permissible to sit on the floor on Shabbat and our ancestors did so. Some people are strict based on Kabbalah not to sit directly on the floor, but rather to sit on something. It is therefore permissible to sit on the floor, especially children who often play on the floor.

Painting a mourner’s apartment

  • Q: My wife is in mourning, can we paint our apartment?
  • A: There are two issues: 1. We do not find a prohibition against painting a mourner’s home. 2. It is not only the mourner’s home, the other people who live there who are not mourners. Even it was forbidden to paint, it would be permissible for them. They do not need to mourn. A more serious example: it is forbidden to listen to music during mourning, but there are other people in the house and they want to listen to music. It is permissible for them to listen and if the mourner hears the music it is a benefit which comes to a person against his will (Pesachim 26). Here, however, there is no prohibition to paint.

A non-Jew putting Tefillin on a Jew

  • Q: Is it permissible for a non-Jew who takes care of a Jew to help him put on his Tefillin?
  • A: There are two issues: One needs to put on Tefillin and one needs to have Tefillin on him. The essential matter is to have the Tefillin on him. A non-Jew can therefore help put them on. If there is a choice, a Jew should certainly put them on his fellow Jew, since he is also obligated in the mitzvah.

An uncircumcised Jew

  • Q: Is a Jew who has not had a “brit milah” forbidden to marry?
  • A: He is a Jew who is lacking an important mitzvah, but this does not render him unfit to marry. A Jew is a Jew even if he is not circumcised.

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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.