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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Devarim’

Chief of Staff’s Mom: I Wish He Had Been a Rabbi

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Esther Eizenkott, mother of the next IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott, says she would have preferred that her son be a rabbi, but, “If God wants him to Chief of Staff, so it should be.”

In a conversation with the Kikar Shabbat Haredi website, Esther Eizenkott revealed that the next Chief of Staff often consults a rabbi in Jerusalem.


Can you already hear the secularists screaming, “Oy? What happens if he returns to Judaism while he is Chief of Staff? That would violate the sanctity of separating God from the army.

A rabbi?

“Is the IDF dependent on God?”

Try reading Devarim (Deuteronomy), Chapter 8:

11. Beware that you do not forget the Lord, your God, by not keeping His commandments, His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command you this day,
12. lest you eat and be sated, and build good houses and dwell therein,
13. and your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold increase, and all that you have increases, 
14. and your heart grows haughty, and you forget the Lord, your God, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,
15. Who led you through that great and awesome desert, [in which were] snakes, vipers and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought water for you out of solid rock,
16. Who fed you with manna in the desert, which your forefathers did not know, in order to afflict you and in order to test you, to benefit you in your end,
17. and you will say to yourself, “My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me.”
18. But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant which He swore to your forefathers, as it is this day.
19. And it will be, if you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, and worship them, and prostrate yourself before them, I bear witness against you this day, that you will surely perish.
20. As the nations that the Lord destroys before you, so will you perish; since you will not obey the Lord your God.

Yes, even the IDF is dependent on God.

Eizenkott left observance while growing up with his family, which moved from his native to Tiberias to Eilat while he was a boy.

“Of course, I would have preferred that he be a rabbi, but if God wants him to be Chief of Staff, so it should be,” she told Kikar Shabbat.” We are a family of rabbis.”

She learned of the appointment shortly before she lit candles before Shabbat and could not speak on the phone to anyone during Shabbat, which she observes.

Esther Eizenkott, whose husband died 18years ago, also revealed that when she was in her seventh month of pregnancy before Gadi was born she went to the grave of the famous Rabbi Meir Ba’al Ha Nes. She said she told her father she dreamed of the rabbi and “did not see his face but only his back.” Her father told her, “This is a sign you will have a boy and he will not be religious, but he will be wise.”

Don’t ask how he figured that out from the dream. Leave that for the kabbalists.

More important is that after his appointment was officially announced Saturday night, virtually everyone shared one word that describes Eizenkott – modest.

When he was approached four years to consider the post, he said he thought that Benny Gantz, whom he will replace, “was more suitable.”

Parsha Devarim: What Does it Mean to Have Faith?

Friday, August 1st, 2014
In this week’s parsha, Moshe accuses the nation of Israel of not having faith. What? The people know firsthand about all the miracles God has done for them, how could they not have faith? Drawing on the Maharal, Rabbi Fohrman gives us a novel approach to faith, and challenges us to rise to this level of intimacy with God and with each other.
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A History of National Responsibility

Thursday, July 31st, 2014
The Book of Devarim opens with: “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.” Many of the nine places don’t seem to exist and if they did it seems extremely unlikely that Moshe would be speaking in all of them at once.
Perhaps we can understand by looking at these words not as place names, but as attributes. Borrowing the roots of the words, we can read: “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel across the Jordan, in the desert, in the place towards the crossing, at the mila (circumcision) of the end, between the distinguished and the lacking in effort, pure, with open space and enough gold.” In other words, Moshe is speaking to a people who are across the Jordan, in the desert, about to cross into the land and thus complete the end of their journey like brit mila (‘circumcision’) completes the creation of life. It is like the creation of the nation is completed by the people just as the creation of a Jewish boy is completed by the mankind. And the people he’s speaking to are all pure, have open space and have enough gold.
The people are blessed and they are on the edge of history. The only variation among them is between those who lack effort and those who, because they do not lack effort, are distinguished.
Moshe’s speech would seem to be aimed at addressing this particular shortcoming.
The first part of the speech, this portion, delivers its lesson through a history of the growth of our national responsibility. It starts with recounting of the people choosing their judges. This act was required because the people needed to carry some of their own burden. This initial act of responsibility moved the people one step past slavery. It was followed immediately by the giving of the Torah.
Moshe continues with the story of the spies. In this version, the people are in their tents claiming Hashem hates them. This claim leads to devastation. But this act isn’t in the original telling. Here, it illustrates the importance of not blaming others for our shortcomings.
The history continues with a mystery. Moshe describes us circling the mountain of Seir until Hashem commands us to go through Edom. But Edom contains the mountain of Seir. If we were circling it, why did we need to go through it? As a literal word, seir is used to reference barley or hairiness or even goats. It implies something low and very physical. Seir is not our inheritance. But, in order to take our birthright, we must move from Kadesh (holiness) to a mountain of physicality. We must move from restful holiness to national action. We can see this necessary transition even in the modern nation of Israel.
This is followed by a history of lands and their assignment by Hashem. This gives us national context. We must fit into the divine plan.
In the sixth and seventh readings, we have a celebration of our national growth. Sihon, is described as having his heart hardened and is thus directly compared to Pharoah. But where Hashem crushes Pharoah and we are merely observers, here we take action upon the command of Hashem. And then our conquests continue and we begin to earn our lands.
But then parsha ends on an unusual note. In the Book of Bamidbar, the two and a half tribes ask to live across the Jordan. In accepting their request, Moshe doesn’t even consult Hashem.
Here, Hashem seems to gift them their lands without any request. In fact, it seems to be part of the original design.
By force of their vow, the two and a half tribes seem to have created a divine edict.
I can’t help but compare their action to Hashem’s request of Avraham. Hashem said to Avraham, “Walk before me and be tamim (‘perfect or unblemished’).”
On the cusp of entering the land, all tremendous national failures, that command seems to hold.
The two and a half tribes can walk in front of Hashem. They can take responsibility for our choices and seemingly change the plans of Hashem.
They can redefine the future.
And we can too. But when we do so, we must not forget the second part of Hashem’s statement to Avraham.
Unlike the two and a half tribes, when we walk in front of G-d, we must be perfect in our motivation.
There is a national progression in responsibility. We go from carrying our own burden, to not blaming others for our shortcomings, to taking national action, to remembering our place in Hashem’s plan and to fighting for ourselves. After all of that, we can walk in front of Hashem, but we must be unblemished in doing so.
This progression marks the steps necessary to becoming a nation. These are the initial steps in learning to become nationally distinguished, rather than being undermined by a lack of effort.
These steps apply as much today as they did when Moshe delivered them.
Indeed, they seem to describe the birth of our modern nation.

Na’anuim: Moving Together As One People

Friday, October 5th, 2012

We are all familiar with the famous midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 30, 12) that compares the four species we take on the holiday of Sukkos to the four different types of Jews: the esrog, which has both smell and taste, corresponds to those who learn Torah and perform good deeds; the lulav, which has taste but no smell, corresponds to those who learn Torah but do not perform good deeds; the hadasim, which have a pleasant smell but no taste, correspond to those who perform good deeds but do not learn Torah; and finally, the aravos, which have neither smell nor taste, correspond to those who have neither Torah nor good deeds.

The midrash notes that Hashem declared that all the species should be tied together into one bundle (“agudah achas”) so that each should effect atonement for the other (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 651:1). The message is clear: in order for our prayers to be fully accepted, we must unite with all Jews, and not exclude anyone, even those lacking in Torah and mitzvos.

The same message resonates with the Yom Kippur service. We cannot even begin the service until such time as we have been granted permission – in the convocation of the beis din above and the beis din below – to pray together with the “avaryanim” – with those who are clearly labeled as transgressors. Only when the entirety of the people is included in our service, can be we confident that our prayers will yield a favorable response from Above. It is for this reason we pray on Yom Kippur, “ve’yausu khulam agudah achas” – that we be combined into one “eged” (bunch) like the four minim of the lulav, “la’asos retzoncha be’levav shalem” – to do your will with a “complete heart.” The reference to a “complete heart” can be understood as a hearkening to when we all stood as one united people at Har Sinaikeish echad be’lev echad” – “as one organic being, with a united heart” (Rashi, Shmos 19:2).

In this vein, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian (Lev Eliyahu 4:339) provides a similar perspective to explain an apparent paradox. On the one hand, the month of Elul is a time of supreme trepidation, as indicated by the verse in Amos (3:6) – “if a shofar is blown in the city, how can the inhabitants not tremble?” And yet, the Tur points out (Orach Chaim, 581) that unlike most prisoners who are brought into court for their day of judgment in a state of disheveled despair, we are to wash, adorn and regally dress ourselves in preparation for Rosh Hashanah because we are so cheerfully confident of a positive verdict. Rabbi Lopian explains that both perspectives are indeed correct. From the standpoint of the individual, Rosh Hashanah is a terrifying day of judgment, as indicated in the words recited in the tear-inducing prayer “Unesaneh Tokef” – “a trembling and fright will seize them [the angels].” However, our confidence in approaching Rosh Hashanah is premised upon our knowledge that in our capacity as members of the entirety of the Jewish people, we will not be turned away.

But how do we truly internalize this powerful message? Outside of mouthing the words on Yom Kippur and combining the four minim of the lulav together on Sukkos, are we in fact uniting with all Jews, including them in our thoughts, prayers and deeds? Do we view ourselves as part of a larger Klal Yisroel that transcends our immediate communities, schools and synagogues?

In recent decades, we have witnessed a resurgence of the Orthodox Jewish community. The growth of families and communities is a wonderful sign of communal success. We should all express our tremendous gratitude for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, rebuilding from the ashes of the Holocaust, and creating new life for the multitudes of Jewish families that suffered devastation and destruction. I remember feeling the powerful sensation at the recent Siyum HaShas of capturing just a small glimpse – an “echad b’shishim” (one-sixtieth measure), as one of the speakers essentially put it – of the grandeur and splendor of what we lost. The presence of Rav Yisroel Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor, as a keynote speaker at the event, only underscored this overwhelming emotion.

The Meanings Of Shema

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

It would be reasonable to assume that a language that contains the verb “to command” must also contain the verb “to obey.” The one implies the other, just as the concept of a question implies the possibility of an answer. We would, however, be wrong. There are 613 commandments in the Torah, but there is no word in biblical Hebrew that means “to obey.” When Hebrew was revived as a language of everyday speech in the nineteenth century, a word, letsayet, had to be borrowed from Aramaic. Until then there was no Hebrew word for “to obey.”

This is an astonishing fact and not everyone was aware of it. It led some Christians (and secularists) to misunderstand the nature of Judaism: very few Christian thinkers fully appreciated the concept of mitzvah and the idea that God might choose to reveal Himself in the form of laws. It also led some Jews to think about mitzvot in a way more appropriate to Islam (the word “Islam” means “submitting” to God’s law) than to Judaism. What word does the Torah use as the appropriate response to a mitzvah? Shema.

The root “sh-m-a” is a keyword in the book of Deuteronomy, where it occurs 92 times, usually in the sense of what God wants from us in response to the commandments. But the verb “sh-m-a” means many things. Here are some of the meanings it has in Genesis:

1) “To hear,” as in “Abram heard that his relative [Lot] had been taken captive” (14:14).

2) “To listen, pay attention, heed,” as in “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree” (3:17) and “Then Rachel said: ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son’ ” (30:7).

3) “To understand,” as in “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (11:7). This is how tradition understood the later phrase, “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7) to mean, “First we will do, then understand.”

4) “To be willing to obey,” as in the angel’s words to Abraham after the binding of Isaac: “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you were willing to obey me” (22:18). Abraham was about to obey God’s command but at the last moment an angel said, “Stop.”

5) “To respond in deed, to do what someone else wants” as in “Do whatever Sarah tells you” (shema bekolah, 21:12). It is in this last sense that it comes closest in meaning to “obey.”

The fact that sh-m-a means all these things suggests that in the Torah there is no concept of blind obedience. In general, a commander orders and a soldier obeys. A slave-owner orders and the slave obeys. There is no active thought process involved. The connection between the word of the commander and the deed of the commanded is one of action-and-reaction, stimulus-and-response. For practical purposes, the soldier or slave has no mind of his own. As Tennyson described the attitude of the soldiers before the Charge of the Light Brigade: “Ours not to reason why; ours but to do or die.”

That is not how the Torah conceives the relationship between God and us. God, who created us in His image, giving us freedom and the power to think, wants us to understand His commands. Ralbag (Gersonides, 1288-1344) argues that it is precisely this that makes the Torah different:

Behold our Torah is unique among all the other doctrines and religions that other nations have had, in that our Torah contains nothing that does not originate in equity and reason. Therefore this Divine Law attracts people in virtue of its essence, so that they behave in accordance with it. The laws and religions of other nations are not like this. They do not conform to equity and wisdom, but are foreign to the nature of man, and people obey them because of compulsion, out of fear of the threat of punishment but not because of their essence.”

Along similar lines the modern scholar David Weiss Halivni speaks of “the Jewish predilection for justified law,” and contrasts this with other cultures in the ancient world:

Ancient law in general is apodictic, without justification and without persuasion. Its style is categorical, demanding, and commanding … Ancient Near Eastern law in particular is devoid of any trace of desire to convince or to win hearts. It enjoins, prescribes, and orders, expecting to be heeded solely on the strength of being an official decree. It solicits no consent (through justification) from those to whom it is directed.

The Torah uses at least three devices to show that Jewish law is not arbitrary, a mere decree. First, especially evident throughout the book of Devarim, is the giving of reasons for the commands. Often, though not always, the reason has to do with the experience of the Israelites in Egypt. They know what it feels like to be oppressed, to be a stranger, an outsider. I want you to create a different kind of society, says God through Moses, where slavery is more limited, where everyone is free one day a week, where the poor do not go hungry, and the powerless are not denied justice.

Divorce And Monetary Documents

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The pasuk from which most of the halachos of gittin (divorce) are derived is in this week’s parshah. The pasuk says: “Ki yikach ish isha… vechasav lah sefer kerisus v’nasan b’yadah veshilchah mi’beiso – If a man marries a woman … and he wrote her a bill of divorce and placed it in her hand and sent her from his house” (Devarim 24:1).

Generally, the divorce process is when a husband writes a document of divorce and gives it to his wife. One halacha that results from this pasuk is that the husband or his agent must put the get in the hand (or possession) of his wife in order for the get to be valid. But this is problematic, for the rabbanan decreed that everything that a married woman acquires belongs to her husband. How then could the husband put the get into her possession if wherever he places it will acquire for him what he already owns? Even directly placing the get in her hands will be considered as if he gave it to himself, as she essentially has no property that belongs to her. Even property that she owned prior to their marriage is considered as belonging to her husband.

The Gemara in Gittin 77b answers that there is a concept called “gitta veyada ba’im k’echad – her get and her hand come together.” This means that since, if the get would be valid, she would have a hand of her own to receive the get, we thus credit her with already having her hand in this transaction – and the get is as valid as if he put it in her hand. The Gemara says that this rule also applies in a scenario whereby the husband places the get in her property. This is so since if the transaction would materialize, the property would belong to her, and we grant the property to her in order to facilitate the transaction.

The Ketzos Hachoshen (200:5) speculates as to whether we can apply this concept to monetary transactions as well. For example, if Reuven wants to give property to Shimon as a gift, one of the ways that property is acquired is by writing a shtar (document) and giving it to the buyer or to his property – similar to a get. Could Reuven place the gift document in the property and tell Shimon that he has given him the property? Would we say or not say that his property and his gift are combined? Since in order to acquire the property, Shimon needs to own the property that contains the document. And if he would own the property (the document would be in his possession) and therefore have the property acquired for him, perhaps it is a valid transaction – just as it is by a get.

The Ketzos Hachoshen then rules that this concept does not apply to monetary transactions. He explains that it can only be applicable to the scenario of a get. This is because there is a fundamental difference between the situations when a husband must “give” his wife a get and when a monetary document must change hands in order to activate a transaction. Regarding a real estate transaction, it is not sufficient to merely give the document to the buyer; rather, the buyer must acquire the document. Regarding a get, the woman need not acquire the get document; rather, the husband must merely place it in her hand or on her property. Since she does not need to acquire the get, the Gemara says that we can apply the concept of gitta veyada ba’im k’echad. The idea is that since she does not have to acquire the document and it only has to be considered on her property, we say that it is already considered to be her property – since we grant the fact that it will become her property. However, in a scenario whereby one must acquire the document in order for the transaction to take place, we cannot advance the property together with the transaction.

From the halacha that one may write a get on something from which it is forbidden to gain benefit, the Ketzos Hachoshen proves that a woman does not have to acquire her get in order for the divorce to be valid. The Rashba’s view is that anything that is forbidden to derive benefit from is not acquirable. If a woman is indeed required to acquire her get, how can it be valid when it is written on something that is not acquirable? Additionally, a man may force his wife to receive a get min haTorah. There is no acquisition that can take place against one’s will. The Ketzos draws from here that in fact a woman does not need to acquire her get; therefore the concept of gitta veyada ba’im k’echad only applies to a get and not to monetary transactions.

Harmony And Unity

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The Gaon, Rav Yisrael Hopstein, known as the Maggid of Koznice, was the prototype of Aharon HaKohen. He loved peace. When the dispute arose between the Chassidim and the Misnagdim he refused to participate in it. When asked to help the cause of the Chassidim, he replied: “Not through quarrels or excommunications can Chassidim hope to win, but only through showing their strength in the study of Torah, prayers, observing mitzvos and doing the work of Hashem.”

He would also say, “It is better to have an insincere peace than a sincere quarrel.” “If all Israel made peace with each other,” he said, “and if they gave a hand to each other and helped each other in true, sincere love, their strength would be so powerful that it would reach to the very throne of Hashem.”

No Separate Minyan

In one of the congregations near Koznice, a dispute arose between the Chassidim and the other members of the shul. Out of anger, the Chassidim, who were in the minority, decided to resign from the congregation and establish their own shul. When Rav Yisrael heard of this he became very aggravated and he summoned them to his home. He urged them to reconsider and return to their former congregation.

“There are terrible sins which the Torah warns against, such as idolatry, murder, and adultery,” said Rav Yisrael. “The Torah itemizes the various punishments that will accrue to one who commits these sins. But nowhere does the Torah specifically state that we should separate ourselves from these sins. Except in one place where it describes the dispute of Korach who quarreled with Moshe. There the Torah says (Devarim 16:21): ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation that I may consume them…’ Thus we learn that quarreling is more dangerous than any other sin and we should avoid any person who quarrels.”

Thus did the Gaon try with all his power to keep the peace in his community.

The Forgotten People

Once a poor woman came to Rav Yisrael and cried, “Holy rav, please help me. My husband hates me and he doesn’t want to live with me anymore. He thinks I am ugly and a boor and now in my old age where can I go? Who will support me?”

“When he married me many years ago, he raved about my beauty and he whispered beautiful things in my ear. All through the years I worked very hard for him, I cooked, washed his clothes and raised his children and now as my reward he want to divorce me because he thinks I am old and ugly.”

Rav Yisrael summoned the husband to his study and asked him, “Is it true what your wife tells me?”

“It is true,” he answered, “what can I do if she disgusts me?”

Rav Yisrael said, “The din is with your wife. You cannot divorce her and you are required to support her all of her days.

Then turning to the heavens he cried out, “Lord of the Universe! Our lot is similar to this woman. We also come before You with an argument, for a din Torah.

“When You took us out of Mitzrayim and we stood at Har Sinai, we became Your chosen people. When You wed us at Har Sinai and we became Your beloved, You promised us everything – this world and the next world. We followed You for over two thousand years in fire and water. We gave up our lives for Your Holy Name – al Kiddush Hashem. The names of our ancestors are inscribed in blood in every generation.

“And now that we have grown old as a nation and as a people, You have forgotten us and want to throw us out. You turn us over to a terrible people to kill and murder us. You have no pity on us. Is that right?

“Therefore, O G-d, Lord of the Universe, just as I have awarded this case to this woman, please award us with Your kindness and return us again to Your good grace and show us Your loving kindness as or yore.”

The husband was so overawed with these powerful words uttered by the Rav Yisrael that he turned to his wife and embraced her and asked for her forgiveness.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/tales-of-the-gaonim/harmony-and-unity/2012/08/10/

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