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Posts Tagged ‘Deuteronomy’

The Evils Of Evil Speech

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

It was the Septuagint, the early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, that translated tzara’at, the condition whose identification and cleansing occupies much of Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora as lepra, giving rise to a long tradition identifying it with leprosy.

That tradition is now widely acknowledged to be incorrect. First, the condition described in the Torah simply does not fit the symptoms of leprosy. Second, the Torah applies it not only to various skin conditions but also to mildew on clothes and the walls of houses, which certainly rules out any known disease. The Rambam puts it best: “Tzara’at is a comprehensive term covering a number of dissimilar conditions. Thus whiteness in a person’s skin is called tzara’at. The falling off of some of his hair on the head or the chin is called tzara’at. A change of color in garments or in houses is called tzara’at” (Hilchot Tumat Tzara’at 16:10).

Seeking to identify the nature of the phenomenon, the Sages sought for clues elsewhere in the Torah and found them readily available. Miriam was smitten by tzara’at for speaking badly about her brother Moses (Numbers 12:10). The Torah later gives special emphasis to this event, seeing in it a warning for all generations: “Be careful with regard to the plague of tzara’at … Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam along the way after you came out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 24:8-9).

It was, in other words, no normal phenomenon but a specific divine punishment for lashon hara, evil speech. The rabbis drew attention to the verbal similarity between metzora, a person afflicted by the condition, and motzi shem ra, someone guilty of slander.

Rambam, on the basis of rabbinic traditions, gives a brilliant account of why tzara’at afflicted both inanimate objects like walls and clothes, and human beings:

It [tzara’at] was a sign and wonder among the Israelites to warn them against slanderous speaking. For if a man uttered slander, the walls of his house would suffer a change. If he repented, the house would again become clean. But if he continued in his wickedness until the house was torn down, leather objects in his house on which he sat or lay would suffer a change. If he repented they would again become clean. But if he continued in his wickedness until they were burned, the garments that he wore would suffer a change. If he repented they would again become clean. But if he continued in his wickedness until they were burned, his skin would suffer a change and he would become infected by tzara’at and be set apart and alone until he no more engaged in the conversation of the wicked, which is scoffing and slander (Hilchot Tumat Tzara’at 16:10).

The most compelling illustration of what the tradition is speaking about when it talks of the gravity of motsi shem ra (slander) and lashon hara (evil speech) is Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. Iago, a high-ranking soldier, is bitterly resentful of Othello, a Moorish general in the army of Venice. Othello has promoted a younger man, Cassio, over the more experienced Iago, who is determined to take revenge. He does so in a prolonged and vicious campaign, which involves, among other things, tricking Othello into the suspicion that his wife, Desdemona, is having an adulterous affair with Cassio. Othello asks Iago to kill Cassio, and he himself kills Desdemona, smothering her in her bed. Emilia, Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s attendant, discovers her mistress dead and as Othello explains why he has killed her, realizes the nature of her husband’s plot and exposes it. Othello, in guilt and grief, commits suicide, while Iago is arrested and taken to be tortured and possibly executed.

It is a play entirely about the evil of slander and suspicion, and portrays literally what the sages said figuratively, that “Evil speech kills three people: the one who says it, the one who listens to it, and the one about whom it is said” (Arachin 15b).

Shakespeare’s tragedy makes it painfully clear how much evil speech lives in the dark corners of suspicion. Had the others known what Iago was saying to stir up fear and distrust, the facts might have become known and the tragedy averted. As it was, he was able to mislead the various characters, playing on their emotional weaknesses and envy, getting each to believe the worst about one another. It ends in serial bloodshed and disaster.

Hence the poetic justice Jewish tradition attributes to one of the least poetic of biblical passages, the laws relating to skin diseases and mildew. The slanderer spreads his lies in private, but his evil is exposed in public. First the walls of his house proclaim his sin, then the leather objects on which he sits, then his clothes, and eventually his skin itself. He is condemned to the humiliation of isolation:

“Unclean! Unclean!” he must call out … Since he is unclean, he must remain alone, and his place shall be outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46). Said the rabbis: Because his words separated husband from wife and brother from brother, his punishment is that he is separated from human contact and made an outcast from society (Arachin 16b).

At its highest, WikiLeaks aims at being today’s functional equivalent of the law of the metzora: an attempt to make public the discreditable things people do and say in private. The Sages said about evil speech that it was as bad as idolatry, incest and murder combined, and it was Shakespeare’s genius to show us one dramatic way in which it can contaminate human relationships, turning people against one another with tragic consequences.

Holy Mission Carried Out in Hermon Closed Military Zone

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Seven men – including 4 rabbis – happened upon by an Israeli paratrooper in a closed military zone on the Hermon mountains on Monday, were on a mission of their own – to safeguard the sanctity of the Jews of the city of Metulla.

The Jewish Press’s Yishai Fleisher was on patrol during reserve duty with his paratrooper battalion on the snow-topped Hermon mountains when he happened upon an unexpected group of men. “As I was patrolling, I saw a group of people who were clearly Hareidi Jews using pitchforks on the snow, and approached them to ask what they were doing.”

As it turns out, the men – all of whom had military clearance to be in the area – were representatives of Israel’s National Center for Family Purity, and had made the trek to the Hermon to gather snow for a mikvah (ritual bath).

“The men informed me that they had clearance to be in the closed military zone for the purpose of collecting the snow for the people of Metulla,” Fleisher said.

Scraping the snow

It all began when the water of the mikvah of Metulla became dirty and had to be emptied.  The local religious authorities hoped that the water would be refilled by a late spring rain, but that rain never came.  Not knowing how to solve the problem, and wanting to provide the 1,500 residents of Metulla the ability to sanctify themselves in the ritual waters, as laid out in Jewish law and practice, the Rabbi of Metulla called Rabbi Shaya Pfoyfer of the Family Purity Center.

With a team of 3 additional rabbis and 3 workers, Rabbi Pfoyfer made arrangements to come to the Hermon, to collect snow for the mikvah.  Jewish law requires that mikvah water be “living” – rain or snow.  However, the means by which this water can be collected are laden with legal requirements and technicalities, necessitating supervision by religious authorities.

Rabbis collecting snow for the Metulla mikvah

Because the snow cannot be carried in vats or other closed containers, which would render it “non-living”, or drawn, huge construction materials sacks were marred by a series of rips in the bottom, to allow the snow to be collected in an incomplete vessel, and retain its “living” status.  The snow was not shoveled into the bags – which would have yet again compromised its “living” nature, but rather knocked off of snow drifts into the bags with pitchforks.

After 2 hours, 1500 liters of snow were collected in about 15 huge, ripped sacks, which rested on wooden palates.  The palates were forklifted onto a waiting refrigerated truck and transported to Metulla for the mikvah.

A sack of snow collected for the Metullah mikvah

 

“I took a few pictures of them, and I asked if I could join in and help fill a few bags, so that I could take part in this beautiful mitzvah,” Fleisher said.  “The Hermon is a beautiful place, but taking part in this mitzvah made it all the more meaningful.  Thank God for this year’s snowfall, which continues to be important for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Yishai Fleisher

The Hermon mountains are mentioned a few places in the Tanach, but the first mention is in Devarim (Deuteronomy), Chapter 3, Verse 8-9: “At that time we took the land from the hand of the two kings of the Amorite that were on the other side of the Jordan, from Arnon Brook to Mount Hermon – Sidonians would refer to Hermon as Sirion, and the Amorites would call it Senir”. Rashi, the great Torah commentator, notes in these passages that the names given to the Hermon by other nations were relevant because four nations contended for control of the Hermon, each giving the peaks a different name.  The Torah notes this, according to Rashi, to show how desired the Land was.

The Twelve Tribes At The Bialystoker Home

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

A quiet monument to the courage and determination of hundreds of thousands of Jews sits vulnerable on the Lower East Side of New York City at 228 East Broadway. This location was the former home of the Bialystoker Center, built in 1931. For many years it was primarily operated as the Bialystoker Home for the Aged that finally closed in November 2011. In its heyday it was one of the most important Jewish benevolent societies, a landsmanschaftenfor generations of immigrants from Bialystok. A groundswell of protest has arisen over the proposed sale of the building to a luxury residential developer with the possibility of its demolition. They are harnessing support to appeal to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to save the historic façade that boasts an Art Deco gem, roundels representing the 12 Tribes of Israel under the proud Bialystoker name.

Bialystoker Center Building Façade (1931); Henry Hurwit, architect

While initially easy to miss, especially since it is now partially covered with scaffolding, the façade leads to significance in two different directions. First it testifies to an enormously important aspect of Jewish immigrant history and secondly reflects the complex relationship between tradition and modernity, still playing itself out in the 21st century.

New York City, and specifically the Lower East Side, was in 1910 the largest Jewish city in the world. Moreover, the Lower East Side was arguably the most densely populated place on the planet. These facts alone set the stage for a momentous transformation of the downtown Jewish population. The predominately Jewish Bialystok suffered terrible depravations and violence during the Russian Revolution, World War I and subsequent upheavals. Therefore a mass emigration occurred both before and after WWI that resulted in a diaspora of Bialystoker Jews in Chicago, Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Tel Aviv.

The first Bialystoker landsmanschaften was established in 1886 and the Bialystoker Center in 1919. The current building opened to great celebration in 1931 with the Forward declaring, “Bialystok is now on East Broadway.” As the Bialystoker Jews banded together they offered services and collected money – not only to help their brethren here in New York – but also to help rebuild Bialystok in what is now Poland. This strong sense of identity, “forever a Bialystoker,” entered the complex immigrant mix in 1920’s – 1930’s Lower East Side. Many Jews resisted American values and assimilation and did not even become citizens or learn to speak English. They dug in and lived as if they had never left home, while others attempted to adjust to modernity, sometimes even completely abandoning Jewish life. It was complex and bewildering for thousands of immigrants and their descendants and the Bialystoker Center was at the center of much of it.

Bialystoker Center Doorway with 12 Tribes Roundels. Henry Hurwit, architect

The façade of the Bialystoker Center expresses much of this complexity. The grand doorway boldly proclaims “Bialystoker” in Hebreicized English lettering. The pride of Judaic-Polish ancestry is proclaimed simultaneously as the English language, and all it implies, is asserted. Above the entrance doorway the stone façade is capped by a grand balcony. Art Deco stylized reliefs ascend between the three central windows for the eight floors of golden brick. In its time it was one of the tallest and grandest buildings on the Lower East Side. It is clear the architect Henry Hurwit wanted to send as inclusive a visual message as possible.

The recessed doorway is concise, assertive and revealing. The 12 Tribal symbols flank the doorway: 4 on the right, 4 on the soffit above and 4 on the left. The images are ensconced in roundels that approximate a Hebraic formulation (right to left) of Jacob’s “blessings” found at the end of Genesis. They start on the right with the first born, Reuben, travel up, cross the transept and down the left side to the final child, Benjamin.

Bialystoker Doorway Soffit. Henry Hurwit, architect

The exact order and most of the images actually follows the Midrash Rabbah on Numbers 2:2 that expands on the arrangement of the tribes around the Tent of Meeting in the wilderness; “The Children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their fathers’ household.” This midrash codifies the information from Jacob’s blessings (Genesis 49) and Moses’ blessings (Deuteronomy 33) into a blueprint for the color and image for each tribe’s flag or symbol.

At the base of each side panel there are stylized representations of the Temple Menorah superimposed over a Star of David/pyramid design anchored by schematic sunrises. These images link this building on East Broadway with both the ancient Temple and the growing Zionist movement in Palestine. Reuben’s mandrakes, a gift of fertility for both his mother and Rachel, effectively sidesteps Jacob’s stinging castigation. Simon is represented by a massive city gate, alluding to the city of Shechem, while Levi gets off scot-free with a depiction of the High Priest’s breastplate, the Choshen HaMishpat that contained the Urim and Tumin. The right side panel is then completed with the Lion of Judah confirming Jacob’s blessing of kingship to his fourth born son.

Hebrew Bible From Lisbon At The MET

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Lisbon’s Hebrew Bible: Medieval Jewish Art in Context

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Exhibited from Nov. 22, 2011–Jan. 16, 2012

http://metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2011/cervera-bible

 

Within Shakespeare’s worldview, an assassination like Macbeth’s of King Duncan upset the so-called Great Chain of Being, or the cosmological organizational chart, in which power structures that were clearly articulated could only be disrupted at a cost. Immediately after Macbeth and Lady Macbeth conspire in the murder of Duncan, there is a report from Lennox, a lord, that nature itself seems to be suffering the repercussions of the assassination (though Lennox doesn’t yet know that Duncan has been killed).

: Joseph the Frenchman, artist; Samuel ben Abraham ibn Nathan, scribe. Hebrew Bible. Concluding page of the book of Deuteronomy. Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment. Painted and written 1299–1300 in Spain.

“The night has been unruly. Where we lay, Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say, Lamentings heard i’ th’ air, strange screams of death, And prophesying with accents terrible

Of dire combustion and confused events New hatched to the woeful time. The obscure bird

Clamored the livelong night. Some say the Earth Was feverous and did shake,” Lennox testifies.

To which Macbeth responds, no doubt troubled, “’Twas a rough night.” Lennox adds passionately, “My young remembrance cannot parallel A fellow to it.”

The natural consequences of the disruption of the divinely-ordained order aren’t unlike biblical accounts—as in Leviticus 18:25—of the defiled land of Canaan “vomiting out” the sinners. It’s almost as if the holy land is physically allergic to sin, and the response is biological rather than spiritual. It is perhaps within this larger kind of framework that Joseph the Frenchman (Yosef ha-Tzorfati) illuminated the final paragraphs of the book of Deuteronomy, which details the death of Moses.

Joseph the Frenchman, artist; Samuel ben Abraham ibn Nathan, scribe. Hebrew Bible. Signature Page. Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment. Painted and written 1299–1300 in Spain.

The late 13th century manuscript, the Cervera Bible, a designated National Treasure from the National Library of Portugal in Lisbon, which was on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, shows two monsters (“grotesques”) flanking the last lines of the text. In fact, the triangular regions occupied by the monsters become mountains—albeit mountains with floral peaks—that invade the textual region of the page. It’s almost as if the art is trying to slow the text down to keep Moses alive (at least textually) as long as possible. Or, since Moses’ death is recorded on the first line of the column, the scribe and the artist might have wanted to draw out the accolades of the prophet’s life as long as possible.

Beside the text is a lion, which the Metropolitan Museum show describes as sleeping in a tower. The label is correct when it points out that lions were “a favored device in both Jewish and Christian art” and that in Jewish art “they often served as a symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah.” I wonder why the lion is sleeping, though, if its head seems to be lifted and its eyes are open. Lions of course could also be symbols of the tribe of Dan (which has an image of a lion whelp in one of its blessings) and of Samson, who wrestled a lion to death.

Joseph the Frenchman, artist; Samuel ben Abraham ibn Nathan, scribe. Hebrew Bible. Text on Hebrew Grammar. Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment. Painted and written 1299–1300 in Spain.

In this instance, one wonders if the reference in the text to Joshua, who would succeed Moses as the leader and prophet, is paralleled by the lion, which might allude to Joshua’s partner, Caleb. While most of their contemporaries were killed for trusting the ill report of the spies, Caleb and Joshua opposed the evil spies and were thus spared. Perhaps the illuminator and scribe wanted, here, to show the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua, Caleb, and others. The curtain behind the lion might also be significant if it refers to the curtain (parochet) in the Tabernacle or Temple, which separated the Holy region from the Holy of Holies. In that case, the lion might either symbolize the divine, or someone communicating with the divine, who is hidden on the other side of the curtain.

On another page of the Bible, the artist Joseph the Frenchman devotes significant real estate to signing his work. As the Metropolitan Museum label points out, artists rarely identified themselves in medieval manuscripts, let alone using an entire (costly) page for their signature. But here Joseph writes—in playful grotesques arranged in the form of Hebrew letters: “I, Yosef ha-Tzorfati, this book [have] I drawn and completed.” In the Stars of David on the right page, the artist circumscribed a lion and a castle, the symbols of the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, where, the Metropolitan Museum curators speculate, the patron may have lived. It’s worth noting that the castle and the lion are also the symbols of the tribes of Simeon and Judah.

Tapping Into Your Spiritual DNA

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

In my Nov. 26 op-ed article, “The Clarifying Truths of Chanukah,” I explored how clarity, purity and joy bring us close to God and to living a meaningful life. If they are so essential, their potential must exist within our spiritual DNA. I suggest it does; we inherited that potential from our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Abraham, the first person to independently discover God, embodied clarity. He also taught us the importance of kindness (Micah 7:20). Clarity together with kindness forms a potent synergy. For example, we are naturally more compassionate to those who we know went through tough times. With clarity comes the realization that we all have struggles; that we all deserve attention, consideration and love.

In addition, when we attain clarity, we focus our lives on fulfilling God’s reason for having created us – to come close to Him through Divine service and acts of kindness. Everything in life can be viewed in terms of whether or not it helps us reach our potential in these areas.

When confronted with a moral dilemma, ask yourself, “Which choice brings me closer to my Father and His children?”

Finally, when we perceive through the clear eyes of the Creator’s Torah, we view each person as one of His children (Deuteronomy 14:1). We are then filled with joy at every opportunity to show our love for God’s family.

Isaac embodied purity through his moral strength – his prime trait according to our sages. To live with purity is to live mindfully, making adjustments as needed. One lesson I’ve learned from writing is that unless you review your work multiple times and ask others for guidance, your writing is suboptimal.

Likewise, if you don’t review your life regularly and ask others for guidance, your life is suboptimal; no better than a rough draft.

Imagine the shame of handing in to your Creator a rough draft of your life, full of errors and omissions. Life’s goal is to hand in to God your masterpiece – the one you were meant to live.

Jacob embodied joy and distilled the essence of gratitude, which is not to take anything for granted (Genesis 32:11). Another one of his attributes was truth (Micah 7:20). Integrity is the foundation for lasting joy; a dishonest person’s happiness in this world is compromised by fear of being caught and pangs of guilt. In the world to come that person’s bliss will also be limited; ill-gotten gains, unless returned, create an eternal blemish. In contrast, honesty leads to joy, both in the world to come – eternal reward – and in this world – the contentment of enjoying the fruits of hard-earned work.

Underlying clarity, purity and joy is the recognition that we are children of the Almighty. When was the last time you felt, as a visceral experience, that God is your Father? To do that, try a technique I call Feeling Affirmations. Read out loud the following indented section. After each sentence, think – how does that feel? After accessing the feeling, as best you can, go on to the next sentence.

I am God’s child. He loves me. He only does what brings me goodness and wholeness. He is always by my side. I am a child of Royalty. My Father is the all powerful and infinitely wise King of the world. Nothing happens without His permission.

If you don’t feel like a billion bucks and your heart isn’t soaring, you’re not there yet; over time you will get better at tapping into the feeling. This practice will help give you the clarity to act with purity, befitting your Divine and Royal lineage. These thoughts will fill you with joy and lift you up when you need encouragement.

This exercise can also lead to feeling more calm and confident; to reaching a mindset where you know that come what may, you will be able to handle the situation and you will benefit from the challenge.

Next time you feel anxiety, reconnect with the empowering feeling that God is your Father. While you do what you can to address the issue causing anxiety, repeat the indented section in a soothing voice, using the Feeling Affirmations technique.

I’m doing my part. This is from my Father for my ultimate benefit. As His son/daughter, I can handle whatever He gives me. I rely on His infinite wisdom. I let go of insisting on a particular outcome. I let go of anxiety [on the exhale, feel anxiety draining out]. I relax into my Father’s embrace [on the exhale, feel any muscle tension draining out].

Even if our worst fears come true – death for example – we still can rest assured that the close of our physical life, whenever it occurs, will be for the highest good of our souls and something we can handle. “Even when I walk in a valley of the shadow of death, I do not fear evil, for You are with me ” (Psalms 23:4).

Protesting Israel’s Participation In The Olympics

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

A week ago Wednesday, about 50 people protested outside the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv against Israel’s participation in the Olympics. The following is a translation of my speech at the protest:


Most of Israel’s population is concentrated within a radius of 15 kilometers from where we stand. Israel is so small, and many people wonder how or why we should take on the immense nation of China. Who are we to raise the flag of opposition against this Olympics of oppression? Who are we to protest when the U.S., France and England are all participating in this event?


In truth, we are not small at all. We are the nation that was redeemed from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. We are the nation that brought the concept of liberty to the world. We are the nation whose Bible is the basis of all human civilization. We are the nation that the entire world sees as a moral example – whether we recognize that fact or not. And whether we like it or not, the State of Israel is the representative of the Jewish nation. When the Israeli delegation marches under the flag of the bloodstained Chinese regime, it lends moral legitimacy to the horrors being perpetrated there.


Whoever claims that the Olympics are merely a sporting event and that there is no reason to mix sports with politics should remember the Berlin Olympics. There, the entire world marched under the flag of the Nazi regime, lending it much-needed legitimacy. Those Olympic Games were the harbinger of the Second World War and the Holocaust.


The Jew – and the moral message that his very existence projects – is the ultimate foe of any totalitarian regime. Every totalitarian that strives to conquer the world must, by definition, see the Jew as his absolute enemy and seek to destroy him. A Jew who supports this type of regime ultimately threatens his own existence.


Calibrating Our Moral Compass


“You are a holy nation unto God. God has chosen you to be His treasured nation, more than all the nations on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)


The nations of the world understand this perfectly. They look on as we send our Olympics delegation to the bloodstained city of Beijing. There, on the ruins of the homes of one million Chinese citizens, the Olympics are taking place.


But the direct destruction is not the whole picture at all. There in Beijing, the nation that is supposed to be the moral compass of the world is giving moral legitimacy to unbelievable horrors.


“Why are you so upset about the Chinese?” my rightist and religious friends ask. “We don’t have enough home-grown outrages? Why get involved with Chinese battles?”


We are not fighting for the Chinese. We are simply attempting to fulfill our Jewish destiny. Without our destiny, we are irrelevant. That is why our entire existence as a nation seems to be melting away. The state of the Jews must have a much broader goal than the simple preservation of Jewish existence. Judaism is a culture with a universal message – a message of liberty.

 

“I am God, your God, who has taken you out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”  (Deuteronomy 5:6)


If we truly desire to create a Jewish state, we had better begin with some Judaism. After all, if our entire purpose for living in Israel is to preserve our security, we have made an awful deal. In New Zealand or Uganda, we could have realized our security goal with much greater ease.


Israel’s Olympic delegation represents Israel. Israel represents the Jews, and the Jews represent divine morality. When Israel sends its delegation to the largest labor camp in the world, lending legitimacy to the horrors being perpetrated by the Chinese regime, it denies its Jewish destiny and shakes the foundations of the existence of the State of Israel.


We are not opposed to Israel’s participation in the Olympics only because of our concern for the Chinese. First and foremost, we are concerned for Israel.


Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit, the largest faction inside the Likud party. Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) strives to restore Jewish values, pride and integrity to the State of Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, The War of Dreams, visit www.jewishisrael.org.

Q & A: Meat And Milk Issues (Conclusion)

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004
QUESTION: I am presently nursing. I would like to know until what age it is permissible to nurse my child soon after feeding him chicken. In general, how long do we wait between eating meat and dairy?
A Concerned Mother
New York City
ANSWER: The prohibition against eating meat and milk together, “…Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo…,” is stated three times in the Torah: Exodus 23:19 and 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21. Three warnings are learned from the repetition, one against eating basar bechalav, one against deriving benefit therefrom, and one against cooking the mixture (Chullin 115b). Other exegeses were also derived from this unusual repetition. The types of meat included in basar bechalav were extended by the Rabbis to include fowl and non-domesticated animals’ flesh as well (Chullin 103b).We discussed the Gemara in Ketubbot (60a) that serves as a source for allowing mother’s milk (for babies), as presented by Rambam (Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 3:2) and the fact that it is considered pareve (Yoreh De’ah 87:4). Issues of mar’it ayin apply to mother’s milk with regard to cooking meat, but where this does not apply, as with a nursing infant, there is no need for concern.

We continued with an examination of the necessary waiting time between consuming meat and milk. We also addressed the question of the necessary waiting time between the consumption of dairy foods (milk, as well as soft or hard cheeses) and meat. There are various opinions, but one common requirement is that the hands be washed and the mouth rinsed after dairy.

We then proceeded with a discussion regarding the age at which a child is required to wait the full time between meat and milk, as an adult does. Whereas the set age for the obligation to fulfill mitzvot is 12 years and a day for girls, and 13 years and a day for boys, there are various subjective definitions as to when a child can be considered capable of understanding, and therefore parents have to be meticulous in training the child in the fulfillment of mitzvot.

* * *

We find a more precise definition in this regard in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 245:5), where R. Yosef Caro states, “From when [at what age] must one begin to teach his son [Torah]” From the time he starts to talk. He then begins to teach him the verse in Parashat VeZot HaBeracha (Deuteronomy 33:4), ‘Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha kehillat Yaakov – The Torah that Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob,’ and the first verse of the Shema recital as found in Parashat VaEt’chanan (Deuteronomy 6:4), ‘Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad – Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one.’”

He continues, “And later on [as he attains more understanding] he teaches him more, until the child reaches six or seven years of age, and then he sends him to the melamdei tinokot – the teachers for young children.”

He reiterates further (245:8), “We bring the young children [to the school] to be taught when they a full five years of age, but they are not to be brought earlier than that. And if the child is delicate, we bring him [there] when he is a full six years of age.”

The Vilna Gaon explains that this halacha is not inconsistent with R. Yosef Caro’s earlier ruling (245:5) because the numbers are essentially the same, for “age five” is understood to mean up to the sixth birthday…

R. Caro’s source is the Gemara in perek “Lo yachpor” (Bava Batra 21a), where it is concluded that when a child reaches six years of age, or seven if he is delicate, we are to begin instructing him in Torah, and thus his chinuch (education) commences.

The Gemara (ad loc.) adds the instructions of Rav to R. Samuel b. Shilat, who was a teacher of young children: “Do not accept children before the age of six; from that age you can accept them, and stuff them with Torah like [one feeds] an ox.”

Obviously, Rav’s opinion is that a child before that age is not ready to learn, and teaching him at that time will be counterproductive.

Kashrut matters are also an area of study that we engage in all our lives, considering how often we eat meals – three times a day, seven days a week. We wish to ensure that what we eat and how we eat it is fully in accord with Halacha. Thus, there must be an age when we start the kashrut education of our young children.

We find the view of the Gaon R. Moshe Stern, zt”l (Responsa Ba’er Moshe Vol. 3:36), who deals with this question specifically: “Starting at what age do we wait before we feed a young child milk after he ate meat? We only begin at age three. Before that time one feeds a child milk even immediately [after meat]. The only requirement is that one wash out the child’s mouth so that there is no residue of meat therein. After three years of age we begin to train the child [to wait] one hour, and then subsequently two and three hours, until the child reaches six years of age, because they [the halachic authorities] did not set a requirement of six hours [for such a young child]. For a child who is delicate, or who will not drink any other beverage before going to sleep, or in other similar situations, the [halachic authorities] were more lenient up to age nine but suggested waiting three hours whenever possible. However, even regarding a healthy child they were not very meticulous in this matter, that is, to wait beyond three hours. After age nine - that is when they are stricter…”

In Responsa Teshuvot VeHanhagot (Vol. 1:435) we learn that the Gaon R. Moshe Sternbuch rules similarly in a related case. There we read, “It would seem that as soon as [the child] understands the prohibition of milk after meat, even at age two, it is proper to educate (chinuch) him as we do with all other mitzvot in regard to violations [of Halacha], as we note from the halachic authorities (Orach Chayyim 343; Mishna Berura 343:3) who state, ‘…and it is proper to wait one hour (after the child’s mouth has been washed and the teeth brushed).’ One hour is the essential waiting period of the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 89). However, when the child reaches age five or six, which is the age when we begin the education for mitzvot, we have to start teaching him to wait three hours before drinking milk after eating meat. (Ed.: But, note Mishna Berura and Orach Chayyim 70:6 and 70:1.) At age nine or ten, we teach the child to wait the full required time.

“The Chochmat Adam (40:13) is lenient regarding an ailing person, whom he permits to consume milk as soon as one hour after eating meat, and the rule for a minor child would be the same.”

However, R. Sternbuch advises that [even with the very young] there should be some sort of chinuch in this matter. It is thus proper that as soon as feasible, a young child should be trained to wait six hours. He adds that he has not found this matter extensively discussed in the works of the poskim. Nevertheless, the concept is that the young child should be educated, the goal being the regular observance of mitzvot when the age of obligation is attained.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-meat-and-milk-issues-conclusion/2004/08/04/

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