Likes Our Essays
Your front-page essays have long been one of my favorite parts of the paper. Week after week you come up with intelligent, well-written articles from a variety of writers on a wide range of subjects.
One week the subject is history, the next week it’s politics, the week after that it’s a personal rumination on history or education or a particular slice of Jewish life. And of course there are Yom Tov-themed and other Torah-related pieces. Keep up the great work.
Appreciation For Israel’s Christian Supporters
I’d like to express hakarot hatov to all the evangelical Christian supporters of Israel in the U.S. I recently heard a tape of a sermon by Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, and if anything my admiration for and appreciation of such committed champions of Israel grew even more.
I can say with confidence that Bible-believing Christians are more enthusiastically and reliably pro-Israel than most American Jews, the vast majority of whom have never visited Israel even once and who seem to regard Israel as something of an embarrassment – a subject they’d rather not discuss with their liberal friends and colleagues.
And evangelical Christians are so vocal and sincere in their belief that the creation of the state of Israel was an open miracle; contrast that with the feelings about Israel one encounters among all too many haredi Jews, both in the U.S. and here in Israel.
Returning Lost Objects
I was saddened and dismayed to discover that The Jewish Press, my favorite newspaper, has succumbed to the provincial and insulting attitude conveyed by Rabbi Fuchs’s Nov. 29 Lomdus column, “Returning a Non-Jew’s Lost Item.”
First of all, Rabbi Fuchs ignores the fact that our patriarch Jacob instructed his sons to return the money to Egypt, knowing full well that the money belonged to non-Jews. Second, Rabbi Fuchs claims the brothers spoke to Joseph and that he somehow instructed them that Jewish law does not require them to return the money. This is an egregious misquote of the text. The brothers spoke to the head of Joseph’s household, not Joseph. He stated that he received the money. There is no halachic lesson to be learned here.
Finally, whatever obscure ruling one may find about not returning a lost object to a non-Jew refers to pagan, idol-worshipping gentiles. Or it may refer to virulently anti-Semitic, pogrom-instigating non-Jews. It does not refer to the non-Jews who are our neighbors in America.
In a country where Jews enjoy equal rights, where our institutions are protected by the police, a country founded on Judeo-Christian values upheld by God-fearing, charitable Christians, Rabbi Fuchs’s message is insulting and parochial. Worse still, it is a Chillul Hashem.
Rabbi Gad Moshe Schwartz
Rabbi Fuchs Responds:
Pertaining to your first point, the question of the shevatim being permitted to return a lost item to a non-Jew was not mine; rather, the Chasam Sofer addressed it. I did not ignore the fact that Yaakov Avinu instructed his sons to return the money, as that is part of the question. Since we know Yaakov and his sons observed the Torah (Yuma 28b), why would they have transgressed this serious prohibition – as mentioned in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 76b) and codified by the Rambam (Hilchos Gezeilah V’aveidah 11:3) and the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 266)?
Regarding your second point, you are correct that it was not Yosef who spoke to the shevatim but rather the conversation was between the shevatim and the head of Yosef’s household. However, the Ohr HaChaim and others point out that the head of the household was Yosef’s son, Menashe, who knew his father would approve of his words. I do not believe this discrepancy has any bearing on my column or your main concern.
As mentioned, the explanation I quoted was from the Ohr HaChaim. He explains, as I wrote, that the shevatim were informed they could keep the money because “some other person must have placed the money in their sacks, and that Hashem gave it to them by means of yiush ba’alim (the owner relinquishing his ownership). He was also saying to them that bnei Noach are not commanded to return a lost object that they find.”
The ruling about not returning a non-Jew’s lost item is not at all obscure. It is very clear in several Gemaras (e.g. Sanhedrin 76b and Baba Metzia 24a), the Rambam and the aforementioned Shulchan Aruch. In fact the prohibition even applies to a Jew who performs aveiros lehachis (despite his Creator), as stated in the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 266:2).
The explanation for this halacha is contained in a drasha in the Talmud Yerushalmi concerning the word achicha (your brother), which is mentioned in the pasuk about returning a lost object.
As I wrote, there is a dispute among the Acharonim (see the Bach, Yoreh De’ah 266 and the Machaneh Efraim, Hilchos Gezeilah, siman 31) as to whether one who finds a non-Jew’s lost item will immediately gain ownership of it or whether the owner must first relinquish possession. However, there is no obligation to return it.
As I originally wrote, it is explicit in this halacha that if returning the lost object will result in a Kiddush Hashem – or not returning it will result in a Chillul Hashem – one should return it. I believe that, b’ezras Hashem, I have quoted the halacha properly, and it is my hope that as such there will be no resultant Chillul Hashem, chas v’shalom.
Chabad And The Pew Study
In his Nov. 22 front-page essay (“What Pew Means for Us”), Dr. Marvin Schick states that “Chabad…needs to [do some] self-examination… as to what is being achieved.”
The Pew Report underscores the growth of the Orthodox community. And we are all aware of the numbers of ba’alei teshuvah in our midst. So let’s do some “self-examination.”
My wife and I have led Bais Chabad of West Bloomfield, Michigan, for 38 years, drawn to Chabad by the approach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who made kiruv the foundation and cornerstone of his approach. Our Bais Chabad has, Baruch Hashem, brought hundreds of Jews to Yiddishkeit. Some have become Chabad and some have not, but they remain members and supporters of the larger frum community. This is a microcosm of the experiences of 4,000 Chabad shluchim around the world.
Most ba’alei teshuvah have been impacted at some point by Chabad. Thousands of people are now studying Daf Yomi or wearing sheitels because a Chabadnik once asked them, “Are you Jewish? Would you like to put on tefillin? Light Shabbos candles?”
The Pew Report finds that the Orthodox community has become more successful in retaining its youth. A big factor is Chabad on college campuses. Colleges used to be a graveyard for frumkeit; the peer pressure on Orthodox students was very difficult to withstand. At campus Chabad Houses there is now positive peer pressure to celebrate Shabbos and Yom Tov in a place of support and warmth, shiurim and minyanim.
The Rebbe started the shlichus initiative in the 1950s. Imagine the face of the frum world today had there been a concerted effort then by all streams of Torah Yiddishkeit to send emissaries throughout the world.
Pirkei Avos (2:16) teaches that it is not up to us to complete the task. The Rambam states (Hilchos Melachim 11:4) that Mashiach’s mission will be to finally influence all Jews to return to Yiddishkeit. But “eyn ata ben chorin lehipater mimenah,” we must do our best. Until Mashiach does come, the Rebbe’s shluchim – and all kiruv workers – will continue their holy mission.
Rabbi Elimelech Silberberg