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שו"ת אונליין
רבני שו"ת מורשת
  הרב אישון שלמה
מסחר וצרכנות כהלכה
  הרב אלנקווה יוסף
כללי וטיפול בחרדה, חינוך ילדים ודיני אבלות
  מר גלברד שמואל
טעמי המנהגים ומקורותיהן
  הרב לאו דוד
שאלות הלכתיות
  הרב ערוסי רצון
משפט התורה, משנת הרמב``ם ושאלות הלכתיות
  הרב עמית קולא
הלכה ומחשבה
  הרב אברהם יוסף
שאלות בהלכה, הלכות שבת וחג.
  הרב שרלו יובל
שאלות בהלכה; מחשבה ומשנת הציונות הדתית
  מכון התורה והארץ
מצוות התלויות בארץ
  רבני מכון פועה
גניקולוגיה ופוריות, טהרת המשפחה, חתנים
  מכון עתים
ייעוץ ומידע במעגל החיים היהודי
  מכון שלזינגר לרפואה והלכה
רפואה והלכה
  מכון שילה
פסיכולוגיה קלינית-טיפול זוגי ומשפחתי, טיפול ב
  הרב איר שמחוני
שלום בית, ייעוץ זוגי, הורות
  הרב ברוך אפרתי
הלכות צבא וסוגיות אזרחיות
  הרב משולמי כתריאל
מודעות והגשמה עצמית
  הרב יעקב רוז`ה
אבלות, זיהוי חללים והתרת עגונות
 
אמונה
 
הלכה בתחום הצבאי, שבת ומועדים וטהרת המשפחה
 
בריתות
  הרב ראובן בר-כץ
זוגיות, קשיים בחיי הזוגיות והאישות
  רבני דרך אמונה
הלכות מדינה, משנת הרב קוק, משנת הציונות הדתית
  רבני מכון משפטי ארץ
דיני ממונות
  הרב שמעון בן שעיה
גישור כהלכה - זוגיות, שלו``ב, גירושין, אישות

פרשת השבוע

דף הבית » פרשת השבוע » Shabbat B'Shabbato » גליון 31, פרשת במדבר
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The Role of the Rods in the Ark - by Rabbi Amnon Bazak, Yeshivat Har Etzion ( גיליון 31 פרשת במדבר , Starting Point )


This week's Torah portion describes the sequence of dismantling the Tabernacle before a journey in the desert, including covering various utensils with cloth. But one very surprising detail appears in the description of covering the Ark. "And they shall cover it with a cover made of leather from the hide of a 'Tachash,' and they shall spread out a garment made completely of techeilet, and they shall put its rods in place" [Bamidbar 4:6]. That is, after the Ark is covered with various types of cloth, the rods are to be put into the rings, as is done with the other utensils. "A cloth of techeilet shall be spread out over the Table... And they shall cover it with leather from the hide of a 'Tachash,' and put its rods in place" [4:7-8]; "And over the Golden Altar they should spread a cloth of techeilet and cover it with leather from the hide of a 'Tachash,' and put its rods in place" [4:11], among others. However, this seems to be in direct conflict with what is written earlier in the Torah: "The rods shall be in the rings of the Ark, they shall not be removed" [Shemot 25:15]. This means that the rods remained in the rings of the Ark permanently and are not only put there when preparing for a journey.

Different approaches have been suggested to solve the problem of this contradiction. Ibn Ezra and the Ramban explain that the verse about the Ark does not refer to placing the rods into the rings but rather to putting the rods on the shoulders of those who carry it. Perhaps this is hinted in the slightly different wording. The preposition "et" appears in all the other verses, but not in the verse about the Ark. Ibn Ezra also proposes a different solution: that the rods were removed before the Ark was covered, and only after the covers were in place were the rods returned to the rings. Other commentators have proposed different explanations.

The straightforward interpretation of the verse indeed implies that the rods were put in place only during a journey. Thus, the two passages, in Shemot and Bamidbar, refer to two different viewpoints of the role of the rods. In this week's portion, the rods are viewed as having a functional purpose – to carry the holy utensils – which means that it is not necessary for them to be in the rings while the Ark is at rest. In Shemot, the fact that the rods remain in the Ark all the time is emphasized, as we have discussed in the past, in order to show that the situation is temporary, and that the revelation of the Shechina is not linked to a specific geographic site but rather to wherever the Ark is at a given moment. That is, the rods signify the fact that the Ark will move from its position, until it finally arrives at its permanent place in the Temple (see Radak on Melachim I 8:8). This explains why the command to leave the rods in place is linked to the Ark, which is the symbol of the presence of the Shechina, and not to other utensils.

According to Chizkuni, there were four rods. Two were kept permanently in the rings, and two were not permanent. From the conceptual point of view, this is a practical and symbolic solution. The permanent rods are symbols of the temporary position of the Ark, while the movable ones signify the practical aspect, that they are used to carry the Ark during a journey.

POINT OF VIEW

Does Conquest Lead to Corruption? - by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Director of Zomet Institute

"G-d has not given you the heart to know, the eyes to see, and ears to hear until this very day" [Devarim 29:3]. "A person does not fully understand the approach of his mentor... until forty years have passed" [Rashi].

Unique Moments in the Life of a Nation

The blast of freedom that was sounded by Rabbi Shlomo Goren in the alleyway of the Western Wall, on the twenty-eighth of Iyar forty years ago, echoed in my ears in the dining room of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. Our reserves battalion had dug fortifications in the area opposite Azza, in order to prepare the way for paratroopers who later broke through the enemy lines (the IDF depended on the kibbutz for its food supply). All ears were glued to the little transistor radio, which resounded with great news, increasing in frenzy, hour by hour (the media of the time, before the days of the internet, did not report lists of casualties and failures during the progress of the war). Suddenly, the awesome sound: Tekiya-shevarim-teruah-tekiya gedooolah! "What are those strange sounds?" some of the kibbutz children asked. One could tell that their souls were excited even though they had never heard the sound of a shofar before, and they evidently had no inkling about such concepts at all.

The echo of Rabbi Goren's shofar – the symbol of victory of the Six Day War and the epitome of the redemption of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – caused the hidden recesses of the soul to tremble. The sound went from Jerusalem to Yad Mordechai, and also to Bat Yam and Beer Sheva. And it continued on to Russia and Romania, to the United States and Australia, to South Africa and to Brazil.

If there is any meaning at all to the phrase, "There are special moments in the life of a nation..." – it must refer to a time such as this. (I do not know who "invented" this pathetic phrase. In any case, on the fifth day of the Second Lebanon War it was cheapened by the Prime Minister, in a speech: "There are moments in the life of a nation when it must look clearly at reality and say: No more! And I say to everybody: No more!" The words were appropriately hurled in the Prime Minister's face by the main speaker at the recent demonstration in Tel Aviv, when he said: "There are moments in the life of a nation when it must stand up in the name of democracy and Jewish ethics, and say: No more!")

But let us return to the real moments of truth. Everyplace in the world where the news of the salvation of Yisrael reached, the Jewish soul awoke from its stupor. And the result was not long in coming. The awakening of the Zionist feeling among the Jews of the former Soviet Union, and the cry of the world to its leaders, "Let my people go!" – came about in response to the swelling up of national feeling after the Six Day War. A million immigrants from the Soviet Union and the enhanced link between Israel and all the Jews of the world were the result of the shock wave following the IDF victories and the redemption of our homelands. One may wonder which of these elements was the more important of the two. Sociologists will give credit to the glory of victory, while humanists will give praise to the call of eternity. The truth is that both approaches are right.

And within the country there was a corresponding effect. This includes: returning to the areas of the Tanach, the revitalization of Zionism as practiced by Gush Emunim, 300,000 settlers in the area of Yehuda, the Shomron, and the Golan (as per the Bureau of Statistics, end of 2006), the settling of greater Jerusalem, and an unprecedented improvement in our security. All of these elements are engraved in stone in the history of Yisrael.

"Conquest Leads to Corruption" – An Untrue Slogan

So much for the "good news." Did anything bad happen? I cannot believe that anybody will claim that our international status would have been better if not for the Six Day War. There is only one item that remains, and that is the belief that "conquest leads to corruption." This is a slogan that is repeated every single day and is bandied about by the representatives of the political left as absolute truth, so much so that even the right has begun to believe it. But, in all modesty, I dare to claim that this slogan is false.

I agree that the control of people who have been conquered can lead to corruption. But are we talking in this case of suppressing the "conquered" and making them into slaves who chop our wood and draw water for us? Does our case include exploitation and abuse of natives which is typical of conquering nations? Something that can corrupt to an even greater degree is the exploitation of the "foreign workers!" The links between wealth and the authorities is a much greater degree of corruption! Government deals of tit-for-tat are much more corrupting! Permissiveness, pubs, and hedonistic media reports are much more corrupting!

I do not close my eyes to abuse at the security barriers, or to destruction of olive trees or taking control of controversial areas, and similar actions. But are these typical of Israeli society? Does it describe the political right? The settlers? That is ridiculous! Almost all of these phenomena would completely disappear if not for the murderous acts of the Palestinians. The thesis that "conquest corrupts" is a corrupt libel of those who oppose the nationalistic ideology. We should not be surprised at the use of such tactics in view of our recent experience with how the media touted the benefits of the "disengagement" process in terms of security, economics, and social improvement. Is there anybody left at all who still believes that this was not false propaganda? The Prime Minister of the disengagement was awarded with a huge hug by the media when he spouted the code words, "conquest corrupts." In one fell swoop, we were able to view the nakedness of the press and the left, in the way they used this to cover the true corruption that served as a motive for all that the Prime Minister did.

* * * * * *

There are elements in the history of a nation that can only be comprehended after the perspective of one or two generations. Forty years is for all intents a long enough time to provide a true perspective. We quoted above the words of Rashi, which have become a well known motto: "A person does not fully understand the approach of his mentor until forty years have passed." This refers to how the nation understood the events of the desert, and that to develop this understanding can take as long as... forty years.

Viewing the Good as One Looks at Scenery - by Rabbi Shlomo Schock, teacher in Yeshivat Siach and Nok ( /Rabbi Shlomo ShokIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , A Chassidic Thread )



The command by G-d to Moshe at the beginning of Bamidbar to take a census of Bnei Yisrael begins with the words, "Lift up the heads..." [1:2]. This implies a demand to look at reality from an exalted position, which as far as possible includes a broad view of everything that is happening. In the journey of Bnei Yisrael in the desert, which is much more than an "annual hike," every tribe has its own banner, which is flown high, leading to a general visual view of what is happening.

"The land is full of flags..." Like in the desert, and like in life in general, things do not always make us happy. When we are holding our heads down, we can only see what is right in front of us and no more. And this explains why we enjoy getting out in nature, to stand up on a lookout point where we can see far into the distance. The far view skips over the data which lies right in front of us, and we can get a view that broadens our feeling.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslev tells us about a very special "traveler" who knew how to take in all the good in one glance: "'And Yitro was inspired by all the good' [Shemot 18:9] – for regular people, the joy is not for all the good at once, since happiness has many different elements. For example, when one goes to a wedding (by the way, mazal tov to my son Yitzchak and to Tamar on their engagement), some of the people enjoy the food... and others might be happy about the music... while there are those who are happy about the wedding itself, like the parents of the couple, who do not care about the food but rather the wedding. There are many different types of joy, but there is no individual who is happy about all the elements together... But the greatest type of joy is that of one who is happy for all the reasons together. And this is impossible unless one knows how to look from above at all the good... When we combine all the elements of happiness together, we will see that the quality of the happiness is enhanced..."

Each and every one of us is happy about something now and then. If we would hang a banner over every joy that comes our way, all the banners would fly together in our lives over our heads. Then, with an exalted view from the top, gathering all the elements of joy together, we might now and then have the privilege of Yitro's great ability.

In a similar way, the joy of the coming holiday of Shavuot is a fulfillment of the combination of forty-nine days which preceded it. The joy of looking at this all together, with a broad overview, can help us to receive the Torah yet again, in order to reveal within it new elements of life.

The Poet Alcharizi in Jerusalem - by Zev Wallack ( /Zev WallackIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , Land of My Birth )


Rabbi Yehuda Alcharizi was born in 1170. He was the last poet in a long and distinguished line of Jewish poets in Spain, and nobody as great as he rose up afterwards. He had an impressive appearance: He was tall, with white hair and a handsome face. At first, he lived a good and wealthy life, but as time went on he lost his fortune. Like Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, he spent his time wandering, and he depended on wealthy supporters for his livelihood. He was also a commentator and a language expert, and he excelled in sharp writing and satire. Like Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Alcharizi expressed his longing for Eretz Yisrael through poetic liturgical writing, as in the following:

"My soul yearns for Zion, from its exile in Spain it rose up from the depths to the heavens... The Almighty will yet seat it in a canopy, it will return to its greatness after being downtrodden... Shalom to the city of peace, whose beauty is concealed, those who look at her ask where she is/ Every day I will weep for her dust, it brings about the sickness of my soul and my pain... My soul and my spirit yearn for Zion, to be there all my life and for my rest... I will weep about her dust constantly, until it leaves a mark on my forehead..."

Alchaziri started on his long journey in Toledo, Spain, traveling by ship to Alexandria, in Egypt. He visited Cairo and continued on to Eretz Yisrael. He entered the land through Azza and hurried straight to Jerusalem. In the year 1216, he managed to satisfy part of his yearning. He was not able to settle in Jerusalem, but he was at least able to visit. Here is how he described his arrival in the holy city:

"When I entered within its boundary, I kissed the ruins and I played in its dust/ And when I finished mouthing my worthy thoughts before my King, I rose up from bowing on my knees... And I lifted my eyes and saw the site of the Temple and the courtyard, from which the holy Menorah was removed because of our sins, to be replaced by a foreign flame."

At that time, a change for the better was taking place in the city, after a long period of ruin and destruction. The Christian government, which was fanatic and cruel, was replaced by the tolerant conqueror Salach A-Din, who encouraged the Jews to return and settle in Jerusalem. This was also a short time after the "great Aliyah" of 300 rabbis who came from France and England. The influx caused the city to begin to recover, and several new synagogues and yeshivot were established. But conditions were still difficult, and most of the rabbis returned from where they came.

In order to get a view of the Temple Mount, Alcharizi ascended the Mount of Olives, and looked from above at the site of the Temple. His heart throbbed at the site of the Gentile houses of worship that had been erected at the site of the Temple, and he wept, as follows:

"Soon afterwards, our yearning pulled us to rise up on the Mount of Olives/ and to pray to the Maker of Wonders, to bow down to the King, the G-d of Hosts/ Our eyes were filled with tears, and our souls were sad/ Looking at the site of the courtyard, which was transformed into idol worship/ And we hid our faces, so as not to look at the site of the great glory, where G-d's dwelling place was at first/ Where the Shechina rested in ancient times, and was now covered by a cloud/ All that was left of the buildings were painful signs that brought memories, and anybody who looked would burst out in tears."

In Jerusalem too, Alcharizi did not find a place to rest. Perhaps this was caused by the disputes and arguments of the Jews in the city, which upset him and put him in despair. Or perhaps it was due to his adventurous nature, which made it difficult for him to stay in one place for very long. Perhaps the two features worked together. He continued wandering, going to Tzefat, Damascus, Chaleb, Charan, Mussul, and Baghdad, finally reaching Botzrah, in the Persian Gulf. He then returned to Chaleb, where he died, while his lips declared, "If I forget you, Jerusalem..." [Tehillim 137:5].

(Source: Moshe David Gaon, "Jews of the East in Eretz Yisrael"; Chaim Shirman, "History of Hebrew Poetry")


The Sanctity of the Fruits of the Land - by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Amichai, Institute for Torah and the ( Issue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , Guests for shabbat )


(This column is sponsored by the Education Department of World Mizrachi: See www.mizrachi.org/chinuch)

On Shavuot, when the entire nation of Yisrael comes to pay its respects at the Temple, one who brings with him Bikurim – the first fruits – stands up before G-d and declares, "My father was a lost Aramite..." [Devarim 26:5]. This is the passage which is expounded in the Haggada, on Pesach. At the epitome of the night when we have been commanded to discuss the redemption from Egypt, we recall the Midrash with respect to the declaration of the Bikurim. At first glance, we might have expected that we would discuss passages from the book of Shemot which are directly related to the redemption. Why do we search for comments about the Exodus from the passage of Bikurim? This question is even stronger in view of the wording of the declaration: "I have come today to tell your G-d that I have come to the land" [26:3]. Why emphasize that this is happening today? Clearly, the man is standing at that moment before a Kohen.

The author of the Hagadda "Or Yesharim" (Rabbi Yechiel Heller) replies to this question that the redemption is not complete and has not reached its final stage until the arrival in Eretz Yisrael, planting the seven species of the land, bringing an offering of Bikurim to the Temple, and partaking of the fruits of the land. This is the main objective of coming to the land. And that is the reason that one who brings Bikurim emphasizes - "today". This is the day that he achieves the goal, at the end of the sequence: redemption from Egypt, coming to the land, building the Temple, and finally eating the holy fruits. In the Seder, we combine the two declarations – the means and the objective – and we do this by discussing the passage of Bikurim. Doing so teaches us that this mitzva is the ultimate goal of our redemption from Egypt.

Activity Beyond the Sermon: The Institute for Torah and the Land

The institute was established twenty-one years ago in Gush Katif, in order to provide guidance to Jewish farmers who want to fully observe the mitzvot related to the land, especially in view of modern technological developments in agriculture and agricultural mechanization. The institute is deeply involved in the halachic and conceptual approach of Rabbi A.Y. Kook and his disciple, the late Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli. It operates under the guidance of the former chief rabbis, Shapiro and Eliyahu, who advise the staff and the rabbis of the institute in practical matters. The heads of the institute are Rabbi Yaacov Ariel and Rabbi Yigal Kamintsky.

During the six years of planting, the staff of the institute advises farmers in such matters as identifying specific species, kela'im (intermingling of species), orlah, terumah, and maaser. As part of this activity, the "Beit Ha'Otzer" fund, which provides a practical way to observe the mitzvot of Maaser Rishon (given to a Levi), Maaser Ani (for poor people), and redemption of Maaser Sheini. Beit Ha'Otzer serves thousands of people throughout our land, giving them a simple way to observe the mitzvot of maaser and terumah. The rabbis of the institute have responded to dozens of questions from all around the country, in addition to writing books and teaching about the mitzvot that are related to the land.

One year is special in every seven year cycle, and that is next year, 5768, which is Shemitta. This has many complicated laws. The institute has taken on several central tasks as the next Shemitta year approaches: To publish the full text of the book by Rabbi A.Y. Kook, "Shabbat Ha'Aretz," from handwritten manuscripts, and to educate about the laws of Shemitta, printing both scholarly rabbinic texts and summaries for the general public, using modern audio-visual techniques. The objective of all the work is to benefit Jewish farmers.

Next year will be the first one that the institute does not operate from its natural site, in Gush Katif. The expulsion that we experienced did not curtail our spirit, and as preparation for the Shemitta we have established an organization known as "Otzar Haaretz." This will provide consumers with fruits and vegetables mainly from Jewish farmers who observe the laws of Shemitta, in order to encourage Jewish farming within our land. It will provide fruits and vegetables exclusively from Jewish and not Gentile sources.

Otzar Haaretz, which was established under the guidance of four rabbis – Shapiro, Eliyahu, Lior, and Ariel – sees as its objective to raise the spiritual level of Yisrael to new heights, both in observance of the laws of Shemitta and in increasing contact within the nation, specifically between food producer and consumer. The greater the number of consumers who are willing to observe the laws of Shemitta, the more farmers will be privileged to observe Shemitta and its laws. The result will be ever greater amounts of fruits and vegetables that have the sanctity of Shemitta. It is a mitzva to eat produce that has Shemitta sanctity. There are those who wash their hands before eating fruit from Eretz Yisrael, and during Shemitta there is an additional element of added holiness. We should make an effort to reveal the sanctity of the fruits of Eretz Yisrael.

The public is encouraged to support the farmers by signing up to the "Otzar Haaretz." Details are available by phone, at: 1-700-703-177


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Was it a Piece of Glass or a Precious Jewel? - by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Merkaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi ( /Yikhat RozenIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , A Lesson for The Children )


Rabbi Kahane, a prominent rabbi of the Amora'im in the time of the Talmud, wanted his son Salik to study Torah. He was five years old, and the time had come to take Salik to the home of a tutor. Rabbi Kahane searched for a suitable tutor and finally found one. He made an agreement: "If you continue to teach my son for twenty-five years, you will receive one thousand golden coins!" The teacher agreed, and he began to teach Salik. He moved into Rabbi Kahane's house, where all his needs were taken care of, and he sat every day to teach Salik.

Years passed, and little Salik grew and had become a scholar, studying Torah day and night. During the entire time, he did not leave the house, and he did not learn the ways of people. He was deeply involved in the world of Torah, far away from worldly matters.

Twenty-five years passed. The tutor finished his task, as had been agreed in advance. He tearfully parted from his dear student, received the promised salary, and went on his way. And Salik, who was thirty years old, decided to go out and see the market. At one point he felt very thirsty. He heard the shout of a peddler, "Water! Water! A bottle for a kasskass (a small coin)!" Salik approached him and asked, "Can you give me some water? I am a Torah scholar, studying day and night, and I do not have any money with me. Please, give me something to drink."

"A Torah scholar!" the peddler mocked him. "So what? Your task is to study Torah, and mine is to sell water! Give me a kasskass, and I will give you water."

Salik was upset, and he returned home in an angry mood. He tore off his garment, the clothing of a wise man, and threw it before his father and mother. He called out, "What kind of a world is this? What people! Isn't everything that I have learned for the last two decades worth even one kasskass? If that is the case, I will go and find another profession!"

His father was astounded by this outburst, but he held back and did not show how he felt. He turned to Salik and said, "If you really want to find yourself another path, I will help you. First go up to the attic, find the box that is hidden in the corner, and bring me the silver box that is wrapped in a sheet." Salik brought the box, and his father took from it a sparkling red jewel. He said to his son, "Go, and sell this jewel. I will keep half the money for my old age, and you can take the rest to start your new life. But heed my advice: First go to the dealers in glass trinkets, and then to the dealers in precious jewels. Even then don't sell the jewel right away. Ask its value in at least ten different places, and then sell it to the one who offers the highest price."

Salik went away and returned a short time later. "You will not believe this, Father, but the dealers in glass barely looked at the jewel. They were only willing to pay one Sela (a large coin). There were also big differences among the jewel merchants. In the end, someone paid me twenty-five thousand coins for the jewel!"

And his father replied: "Now do you understand why the water peddler would not give you any water to drink? He does not recognize the worth of the Torah! He does not think it is worth any more than a trinket made of glass. Go to the wise men, my son. Do not search for honor, they will recognize your true value. And you will have the privilege of spreading your wisdom around the world."

Salik indeed went to the wise men, and very quickly his greatness in Torah and wisdom was recognized. He spent the rest of his life studying, teaching, and observing the Torah.

(Source: Tel Aviv Batei Midrashot, "The Story of Rabbi Kahane and His Son Salik")


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Excerpts of the Talmud - by Rabbi Uri Dasberg, Machon Zomet ( /uri dasbergIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , People of the book )


On the eve of Shavuot, many people will recite the "Tikun," a selection of excerpts from the Torah, the Mishna, and the Talmud. When the Maggid of Dubne saw the GRA – the Gaon of Vilna – studying the Tikun, while the Maggid himself would study a complete section of the Talmud, he explained the difference between himself and his rabbi based on a parable. A store window which displays a sample of the wares in the store (the GRA) is different from a store where the window displays all that the store has to offer (the Maggid). On the other hand, Shimshon Meltzer wrote an "Ode to Rashi," where he complains that "My oldest son is already six years old, and he knows the stories of Bereishit... Soon he will be promoted to the next grade, where he will study 'the stories of the Bible'... But how can this be? He will not study the Chumash with the commentary of Rashi."

Shalom Cohen writes in his book "Siyach Achim" about a former MK, Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, who was taught in the "Alumah" school by Dr. Binyamin Menasheh Levin, the author of "Otzar Hageonim," a selection of passages written by the Geonim. The teacher gathered select passages from the tractates Bava Kama and Bava Metzia, and when his grandfather Rabbi Shor asked the child Menachem what he was studying, he proudly replied, "The Tractate of Laborers." Rabbi Shor, a learned man, wondered exactly what this was, and he looked at the selection. He advised his grandson, "When they ask you what you are studying, do not say The Tractate of Laborers, say Bava Metzia." In reality, the grandfather was quite satisfied with the extracted sources.

This represents a common dilemma of students and teachers alike. Is it best to teach from a complete text ("The Torah of G-d is whole, it placates the soul" [Tehillim 19:8] – when it is whole and complete, it has the power to placate the soul) or to prefer an extract that will present an overall picture. This phenomenon is especially acute in study of the Talmud, since this is a large and exalted subject, and not everybody is able to complete its study. On the other hand, is it sufficient to concentrate on only one tractate? But then, what about the other important issues in the Talmud? This has led to various attempts to publish an extract of sections of the Talmud. One of them was "Leket HaTalmud," with extracts from the tractates of Berachot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yoma, gathered by Chaim Tshernowitz in Berlin, in the year 5580 (1920). This can serve as yet another storefront, which we can hope to fill with all the goods in the store behind it.


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Between East and West - by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rosh Yeshivat Ramat Gan ( /Rabbi Yehoshua ShapiraIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , Too See G-D's Goodness )


Question: A few decades ago, the people of the western world discovered the charms of the eastern cultures. The intensity of the contact led to a strong cultural swing, bringing a large flow of young visitors to India and other eastern lands. What is the secret of this attraction, and what is the attitude of Judaism towards it?

Answer: The three cultures –the east, the west, and Judaism – can be analyzed from various different points of view. In this article, we will look at one aspect that differentiates between them. Even though this will be partial and very general, I feel that it has a lot to teach us about the depths of the cultural differences of the three approaches.

In our world we see both happiness and suffering, light and darkness are intermingled. Many of our days are characterized by anguish and difficult problems. Each of the cultural approaches is concerned with the reasons for life and tries to help mankind overcome the difficult and sad times, while increasing what is good and pleasant.

Western culture expends all of its resources in alleviating the difficulties of life. It constantly attempts to override darkness with light, focusing on the pleasures that this world can offer us. The signs of its activity can be seen everywhere: technological innovations that make life easier, health care at a standard much higher than was known in earlier generations, well organized and comfortable living quarters, perfectly planned transportation, and other elements.

What have been the consequences of western culture? Has it succeeded in helping mankind avoid the evil in the world and bring him to a better place? We all know that the truthful answer to his question is: No! There is no hope in trying to flee from the deep problems of life. Every sweet thing that is available on this world will in the end turn to bitterness. In order to mask this bitterness, it is necessary to add more and more sweetness. As this trend continues, it leads to alcoholism, hard drugs, and various levels of depression for as much as 80% of the population (according to research). There is no doubt that western culture also includes many beneficial things, including some whose objective is to solve the problems indicated above. But it does not have the power to hold back the deluge, because it is pushed on by its own sense of values.

And this leads us to the other half of the world. Eastern culture is the exact negative of western culture, and it "predicts" the fall of the west.
Buddhism, the main religion in the east, has a basic assumption: "the world is made up of suffering." This provides a starting point for a way of life that tries to flee from the reality which makes us suffer so, a reality whose most pleasant aspects are really bitter in the end. The main goal of eastern happiness is Nirvana, peace and calm that comes from success in quieting the tumult and pain in the "illusion" of reality. The exotic contrast with all that is so well known to our youth is what draws them to search for a different style of life on eastern shores. It is true that this possibility also includes the dark abyss of hard drugs, and sometimes the youth return from their journeys in very difficult situations (including the worst sin of all, idol worship). But the inner depth of this culture strives for peace and calm – the calm of one who leaves this world behind and is thus freed from all obligations to it.

The position of Judaism is similar to its geographic position – in the middle between east and west. We accept neither the first approach nor the second one. Popular trends of meditation, which unthinkingly give root to the assumption that the world is pure suffering, do not correspond to the divinely healthy way in which Judaism looks at the world. Our basic assumption is that while the sweetness of the world can lead in the end to bitterness, it provides an opening to a different sweetness that is not followed by any bitterness. There is a world that is completely good, and it lights up the difficulties of our own world, showing the way to those who are bewildered by its complex twists and turns. We will of course refuse to become slaves to the lusts of this world, but we also do not see it only as a place of suffering and evil. Darkness contrasts with light, night gives birth to the day. We begin every week with a blessing that differentiates between darkness and light, and we end it by sanctifying the secular world and lifting it up to holiness. We are constantly aiming towards an era which will be a permanent Shabbat, giving us a taste of the world to come.

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Convert the "Strangers" in Our Midst - by Mrs. Emunah Elon, Beit El ( /Mrs. Emunah elonIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , A Woman's Outlook )


The holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah is an appropriate time to renew the acceptance of the Torah. It is a time to free ourselves from conceptual fixations which each and every one of us develops about the rest of the world, about life, and about our own selves, and to accept the entire Torah as if it were completely new.

As an example, take the case of Rabbi Akiva, that spiritual giant who saw "things that were not revealed to Moshe at Sinai" [Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshayahu 42]. Many of us have a fixed image, ever since an early age somewhere in kindergarten, of Rabbi Akiva as an ignorant shepherd forty years old, who simply "had not had an opportunity to study Torah," or even the alphabet, until Rachel, the daughter of the wealthy Kalba Savua, fell in love with him and sent him to the Beit Midrash. Only a more mature study reveals to us what should be obvious: Before Akiva met Rachel he was already a prominent man, a deep thinker, a man of principle. And one of those principles, the result of deep thought, was a strong opposition to studying Torah. That is, the forty year old Rabbi Akiva was not ignorant because he did not know where the yeshiva was or because he was too busy playing his flute for the sheep and goats, but because he chose to serve G-d in his own different way.

A declaration of the shepherd Akiva, which he himself quoted many years later, shows how strongly he felt in his early life that he should refrain from studying Torah as a matter of principle. "When I was an ignorant man, I would say: Who will give me a Torah scholar, so that I can bite him like a donkey?" [Pesachim 49]. (Note that the bite of a donkey is more severe than that of a dog.) That is how strong his hatred of Torah scholars was, and it shows how much refraining from Torah study was part of the essence of his being.

But this is the same Rabbi Akiva who years later became the ultimate representative of the principle that the oral Torah is a direct continuation of the written Torah. This was Rabbi Akiva who knew how to learn information from the crowns on the letters of the Torah, so that Moshe himself declared, "Master of the Universe, you have such a man – why are you giving the Torah through me?" [Menachot 29]. This is Rabbi Akiva, who died as one of the ten rabbis executed by the authorities, because he taught Torah in public. Twenty four thousand of his students perished during the period of the Omer, leaving behind a multitude of other disciples to continue their work.

How many fixations was the shepherd Akiva required to leave behind in order to rethink his life and become Rabbi Akiva? How many fixations must we leave behind, in order to understand a small iota of his true image? And the most difficult question of all: How many fixations of our own must we uproot completely in order to rethink how we see our own lives, and to become a model of progress and improvement, as compared to the selves we have known up to now?

Converts, who are related to the holiday of Shavuot through Ruth, the perfect model for their lives, can also help free us from our fixations. It is not an accident that Rabbi Akiva was a descendent of converts and that King David too was a descendent of Ruth. Great strength of character is needed in order to be able to leave behind nation, family, and a way of thought, and to say, "Your nation is my nation, and your G-d is my G-d" [Ruth 1:16]. And great strength of character is also needed by "veteran Jews" in order to accept a convert fully, to view him or her as a new vibrant and integral member of this ancient nation.

It is easy to accept somebody whom we know, or somebody who is like us – somebody whom we can accept, consciously or not, as being a reflection of how we know ourselves, or how we would like to be. It is much harder to accept a stranger, one who is different, one who shows us unrecognized parts of our personality, perhaps parts that we would rather not know existed. And this is what leads to hatred of the stranger, the hatred which we Jews have directly experience so often.

With respect to the Jews, as opposed to the Gentiles, there is a possibility not only to accept strangers but even to love them. We can view a descendent of converts as one who is the equal of Moshe in his ability to receive the Torah. We can crown the descendent of a convert as our ideal and permanent king. In such a way, we can "convert" with love and acceptance "strange" parts of our own personality, before we stand once again at the foot of Mount Sinai, in order to receive the Torah and to rejuvenate ourselves.

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Heating Food on Shabbat in an Oven - by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a ( /Rabbi Yosef Zvi RimonIssue No. 31 פרשת במדבר , halachic reasoning )


Until now, we have discussed heating food on a hot surface or a flame. We have seen that before Shabbat food may be placed on a heat source if it is covered. With respect to partially cooked food (according to the criterion of Ben Derusai), Ashkenazim and some Sephardim even permit putting it on an open flame. (In addition, in principle completely raw food can be put on an open flame before Shabbat.)

What is the halacha with respect to putting food in an oven before Shabbat? In the Mishna we are told that with an oven one must be more stringent than with a burner or a flame (Shabbat 38b). Even if there is no fear of stirring the burning embers (such as if the heat was created by burning straw), food should not be placed in an oven, even if the coals have been removed. This is because an oven becomes extremely hot.

Modern ovens: According to the RAMA, ovens can be treated leniently (in his day, when electric ovens had not yet been invented), since they are not so hot (253:1). Is this also true for an electric oven? According to Igrot Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:74), they are the same as an open flame, since there is a limit to the amount of heat (which is regulated by a thermostat).

How is an oven given a characteristic equivalent to being swept clean of embers (which is the requirement for putting food on a flame on Shabbat)? In Igrot Moshe, it is written that one may place a metal container in the oven and put the food inside (Orach Chaim 4:74; Cooking 27). In Responsa "Az Nidberu" (8:16) it is written that one may be lenient and place an empty baking tray on the bottom of the oven (but see Minchat Yitzchak 3:28).

There is in fact a simpler solution, based on what we have seen in the past, in that an oven "covered by mud" has the status of being swept clean, since it is not possible to change its level of heat. This implies that an oven can be used if the control knobs are covered or removed before Shabbat. If the food is partially cooked (by the Ben Derusai criterion) Ashkenazim and some Sephardim will be allowed to put it in the oven even if the knobs are not covered. (However, it is good practice to cover the knobs in any case.)

The thermostat: There is another problem in modern ovens. Since there is usually a thermostat, opening the door of the oven can cause the heat to be turned on more quickly than it would otherwise. This problem does not exist in ovens which have a "Shabbat status" switch, which replaces the thermostat with a timer or a weak heating element. (Of course, it is necessary to make sure that the Shabbat setting has been selected!)

If there is no Shabbat switch on the oven, it is possible to set a timer to turn the oven off before the food is needed, so that it can be removed after the oven has been turned off.

Summary: One who wants to put food in an oven before Shabbat begins can do so, under the following conditions: (1) If the food is at least partially cooked, according to the Ben Derusai condition (for Ashkenazim and some Sephardim); (2) If the food is raw, the control knobs should be covered or removed. In addition, the oven should be switched to "Shabbat status," which overrides the action of the thermostat, or should be turned off by a timer before the food is removed.

(In a case of great need, the food should be removed from the oven while the heat is on, or alternatively when the heat is about to be turned on by the thermostat – and in this case the door should be opened "beshinui" – in an unusual way. For an oven with electronic control, it is important to make sure that opening the door does not directly open or close an electric circuit.)

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