web analytics
November 26, 2015 / 14 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘halacha’

Are the Ultra Orthodox Incapable of Seeing God Fearing in National Religious Jews?

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Last Friday, Cross Currents published an essay by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein that I consider to be of seminal importance. It is illustrative of one of the biggest problems impeding the future of Judaism. It involves the way the Charedi world is educated and the reaction of at least one of their rabbinic leaders to it. It is almost as if he had an epiphany.

The article itself involves a Kiddush HaShem that was done by Akiva Finkelstein, an 18-year old Dati Leumi honors student in Israel, and in and of itself is not anything we haven’t seen before. From Cross Currents:

An honor student in a dati Leumi school, he trained for eight years, and became Israel’s welterweight champion, and representative at an international competition in Armenia. Scheduled to fight motza’ei Shabbos, a change in the rules demanded that he be weighed in on Shabbos itself. His father flew in to help argue the case for him, and convinced the powers that be that Akiva could not get on the scale, but it would be OK if the officials lifted him on to the scale. At the appointed hour, the overall boss balked at this in a monumental act of small-mindedness, and told Akiva that he would either step on the scale himself or be disqualified. The secular Israeli coach urged him to do it. Akiva refused; in a single instant, he sacrificed eight years of training.

It was indeed a tremendous sacrifice and a true Kiddush HaShem. Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Rabbi Adlerstein goes on to tell how an unnamed Torah personality contacted him about the reaction by some members of his own Charedi community. He was extremely upset by it. What upset him? Again – from Cross Currents:

These comments gave Akiva no credit for the decision, but denigrated the eight years of training. Think of all the Torah he could have learned in the time he spent outside the Bais Medrash! Akiva was a loser, and so were his parents.

If I were to say that this reaction sickened me and ask what is becoming of the Yeshiva world – I would be called a Charedi basher. That is in fact how I have reacted many times to this kind of thinking.

But it was not me reacting to it this time. That was precisely the reaction this Torah personality had. In fact if one goes on to read the rest of Rabbi Adlerstein’s description of that personality’s reaction it could have easily have been me saying it. Bottom line is that he asked Rabbi Adlerstein to write about it.

That is the silver lining of hope for change in Charedi education.

It was very revealing that what many if us have known for years about the attitude of some on the right, is apparently proven to be a fact. It is also gratifying to know that a Torah personality is now aware of it and is pained by it.

I have written extensively in the past about correcting this erroneous Hashkafa that Charedi students have somehow incorporated into their thinking. At least there are now Charedi leaders that see this too. And saying so. At least anonymously. But the fact that this leader refuses to both be identified or personally address the problem in his own words and instead asks that a surrogate do it for him is part of the problem too.

I can attempt a guess at who it might have been. I know two members of the Agudah Moetzes personally and one by reputation and all three could have had this reaction. But it could have been anyone – including those who are not on the Agudah Moetzes.

I’m glad that there are Charedi leaders on the same page with me on this. But the fact that they refuse to make their views public and put the power and prestige of their own names behind it is one reason the problem will no doubt be perpetuated. This silver lining therefore contains a cloud.

What will it take to make this Charedi Rabbinic leader come out of the closet on this? I would be willing to bet that he is not the only one among his peers that feels that way. Being pained is not enough. Even making it known in an anonymous way is not enough. If the pendulum is to swing back sooner rather than later on this it’s going to take a lot more than expressing pain anonymously.

I don’t know why he refused to be identified. My hope is that he reads my comments or others like it and reconsiders. It is only then that a community that views the concept of Daas Torah as embodied by their Gedolim as defacto infallible that things have any chance of changing.

A word about criticizing Charedi rabbinic leaders.

There are some people that will see this post as a jumping off point for bashing members of the Agudah Moetzes and other Charedi rabbinic leaders. That would be terribly wrong in my view. I know there is a lot of anger out there about the reactions of the right about issues affecting the Jewish people. Good and well-intentioned people are perplexed by it.

But just as there are reasons that good and sincere people are upset, does not make those they are upset at bad people, God forbid. Charedi rabbinic leaders like those on the Agudah Moetzes are sincere too. They too have integrity. I firmly believe that they are as truthful and devout as their reputations indicate. They firmly believe that everything they do and say in the public arena is in the best interest of the Jewish people. And they have a lot more Torah knowledge that most of us.

That they can and sometimes do make mistakes is because they are human. It is also true that differing Hashkafos will sometimes lead to different interpretations of what is seen as a mistake. It is therefore entirely wrong to denigrate them in any way. What we may do is respectfully disagree with them. Which is a standard I try and maintain when I do it. I ask that if people comment on this – that they do the same.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Whose Judaism is it Anyway?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: Every once in a while I will receive a request from one of my readers to publish an essay they have written. My response usually is to send it and if I like it, I will publish it. These essays do not necessarily have to agree with me lock stock and barrel. They can be opposition pieces to what my stated views are. But they cannot advocate positions that I am diametrically opposed to. More often than not, these submissions are rejected for a variety of reasons – among them: they may not measure up to my publishing standards; or they may not be appropriate subjects for my blog; or are so off the wall that they are embarrassing. But every once in a while a submission not only meets my minimum standards,they supersede them. Usually those submissions are from a professional writers who have either published books or articles before. But not always. Sometimes I receive a submission out of the blue that is quite exceptional in both style and content. Today’s guest post is by one such individual. He is all of 15 years old. Here in part is the bio he submitted:

My name is Michael Weiner, I am 15 years old, and currently live in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. I go to school at Kohelet Yeshiva High School. I moved here from Northern California just a few months ago, in order to go to a religious high school. I went to a Jewish community school from K-8, where I and my brother were 2 out of 3 religiously observant kids. It was, to say the least, quite an experience! I have gone to a Moshava summer camp for the past 4 years, and am currently involved in Bnei Akiva. I consider myself to be Modern Orthodox, and a Zionist, although I don’t hesitate to criticize Israel if I feel it’s necessary.

I am a huge admirer of the Rav, and his writings. Reading ‘The Lonely Man of Faith’ greatly changed the way I view God, Judaism, and life in general. Today, I am most likely going to go to YU, but secular college is not out of the window, because I believe that a secular collegiate experience has many important positive aspects.

However, regardless of one’s lifestyle choices, they must always remain a Jew above all else. This entails being Kovei’ah Zman Ittim, and infusing all that you do in your daily life with a perspective filtered by halacha and Jewish values (however you define that, be it Tikkun Olam or Talmud Torah).

One word. Wow! He also has his own blog. His post follows unedited in its entirety:

Whose Judaism is Anyways?

The title of this post is a question that has no one answer. The tragedy that we face today is that everyone thinks they are the sole possessors of the answer, and that their way of practicing Judaism is undoubtedly more meaningful, more traditional, and ultimately more authentic. This, in my opinion, is the greatest barrier to achdus in the frum community, and general Jewish community at large.

Simply stated, it’s an inability to recognize that Judaism is multi-faceted, halachah is not monolithic, and that for thousands of years, Jews have looked, ate, talked, and sometimes even behaved differently then each other. This is historical fact. During most of the current galus from Israel, we have been different. These differences however, are not the obstacle to unity. The obstacle to unity is the failure to recognize that these differences are normal, and trivial.

In the early years of the 20th century, Agudas Yisroel was formed. This was one of the very first organizations where Chassidim and Misnagdim worked together to find creative solutions to community problems. The Gedolei Yisrael, and laymen of that generation understood that the powerful Haskalah movement was a force that needed to be reckoned with. It presented dangers that made it necessary for a wide variety of Jews to come together and decide how best to respond to such a threat.

The Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Radzhiner Rebbe, and Rav Chaim Ozer Gradzinski decided that enough was enough. Achdus within the religious community was the only way to stand a chance against the roaring fire of modernity that was quickly consuming all of Europe, eventually reaching even the closeted Pale of Settlement, and other Jewish ghettoes.

Stop Citing Halachah

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

One can well imagine the “danger” facing a Rabbi walking into a room of very tired and overworked Jewish women just days before the onset of Pesach. And yet, perhaps in a moment of temporary amnesia, I agreed to a lecture on the topic of Chametz at that very moment.

Needless to say, the women in the room were not the greatest fans of Rabbis/Jewish Law that week. While listening attentively to the multitude of tasks these fine women were doing during the prior weeks, it was hard for me to find Jewish law as the cause of their justified fatigue and frustration. After hearing about the many windows cleaned, together with closets of clothing and bookshelves that were dusted, I felt compelled to state; “Ladies, you have been working very hard. I am sure that you have more on your list this coming week and I wish you luck to reach your objectives. But please, don’t blame Halacha. If you have decided to engage in Spring cleaning days before Pesach, don’t fault Jewish law that doesn’t obligate it. It’s not the accepted and established Halacha governing the abolishment of Chametz that is obligating the cleaning of windows and bookshelves, but rather your own agendas for your homes!”

While the statement above didn’t go very far at changing their cleaning plans, even after an entire lecture as to what exactly Jewish law demands of a home prior to Pesach, the distinction above between the dictates of Jewish law versus one’s personal or communal agenda seems to have been once again misused during these past few weeks.

Certain parties running for Knesset have stated that having women run on their ticket is “against Halacha.” Another organization recently stated that only men would be speaking  at their upcoming conference as “women speaking before men is against Halacha.” Going a step further, a prominent leader stated that forming more parties within the limited religious world “is against the Torah.”  From the above examples, all occurring within the recent short period of time, it seems that there are endless outright violations of Halacha that it would be a challenge to form a minyan of non-Sinners in a typical religious neighborhood!

Halacha” has colloquially been understood and utilized as the term that stands behind the obligations of what a Jew must do and those that a Jew must never do. When utilizing this term today, we should be speaking about those areas in Jewish law where there is no or hardly no controversy. Such obligations are those directly commanded by G-d, in addition to the many later enactments of the sages that Maimonides clams “Hiskimu Alehem kol Yisrael,” meaning “the entirety of the Jewish people have acquiesced to their obligation.” [See Rambam, Introduction to the Yad-Hachazaka.]

But the above examples are a far cry from the definition. No matter how important private or public policies and agendas G-d fearing Jews would like to see advanced, even those items that have certain bearings of Jewish law, they are far from being “the Halacha“! While halachik sources are, and sometimes should be quoted, when speaking of the character of the public thoroughfare, how can an opinion of what it should look like be the unequivocal Halacha?!

I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if one would state that, based on their understanding of Jewish law, or based on the Rabbinic leaders they adhere to, women should not be on a Knesset ticket. I would greatly respect those that buttress their respective point of view on sources from our Torah. But stating that this or that view of Jewish hashkafa (Jewish Thought) is the Halacha, is creating three drastic consequences in the Jewish community.

Firstly, it delegitimizes opposing views. While there is no dispute that eating meat and milk together is forbidden, and there will not be a controversy on the fact that the Sabbath day has restrictions, machloket (controversy or a difference of opinion) is almost synonymous with Jewish law in so many areas, and much more so when dealing with Jewish lore, thought and public policy. It would be virtually impossible to find one cohesive point of view within the Gemara on how our sages viewed working for a living, women, sexual relations and so much more. Sources exist various sides of the coin, and we should be prepared that a difference of opinion will exist within the legitimacy of adhering to Jewish law.

Moreover, using Halacha as the term to promote a point of view is placing all that don’t agree, relying on their own Rabbinic leaders, in a camp of those that don’t adhere to the dictates of Halacha. While I respect anyone that has a personal, communal or national agenda to promote, using the term Halacha places all those not in favor in an anti-Halacha camp. Aside from this being a false and destructive submission, this creates a terrible feeling amongst wonderfully, G-d fearing Jews that their point of view is against Jewish law, and thus they are, at best, second rate Jews!

When One Forgets To Say Vesein Tal U’matar

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Jews living outside Eretz Yisrael began reciting vesein tal u’matar in the Shemoneh Esrei this week. If one does not say vesein tal u’matar (instead continuing to say “vesein berachah”) and finishes the Shemoneh Esrei, he must repeat the Shemoneh Esrei. If one accidentally does not daven at all, he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis during the following tefillah. If one did not say vesein tal u’matar and finished davening and only remembers this fact at the time of the next tefillah, he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis at the next tefillah.

If one does not recite ya’aleh veyavo during Shacharis and only remembers to do so during Minchah, he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis during Minchah. Tosafos, in Berachos 26b, says that if one forgets to say ya’aleh veyavo at Minchah on Rosh Chodesh or on any other day that we recite ya’aleh veyavo, he does not repeat Shemoneh Esrei during Ma’ariv. This is because at Ma’ariv he can no longer say ya’aleh veyavo since Rosh Chodesh is over, and he already davened the 19 berachos of Shemoneh Esrei. As the only reason why he would repeat the Shemoneh Esrei would be to say ya’aleh veyavo, he should not repeat the Shemoneh Esrei at all since he cannot recite ya’aleh veyavo during Ma’ariv (which is the next day).

Reb Chaim Soloveitchik (stensils 1) says that the halacha of Tosafos does not apply to one who forgets to recite vesein tal u’matar on Friday by Minchah. For even though he will not be able to say vesein tal u’matar by Ma’ariv (since it is Shabbos), he must nevertheless repeat the Shemoneh Esrei. He explains that this is because when one fails to say vesein tal u’matar it is different than when one does not recite ya’aleh veyavo. Even if one forgets to say ya’aleh veyavo, he has fulfilled his obligation in davening – except that he lacks having recited an external prayer, namely ya’aleh veyavo.

On the other hand, when one fails to mention vesein tal u’matar he lacks having said the actual berachah of “bareich aleinu” and has therefore not fulfilled his obligation in davening. Vesein tal u’matar is not an external prayer that we insert into the Shemoneh Esrei; rather, it is part of the actual berachah. So when one does not say it he has not fulfilled his obligation in davening and it is as if he had not davened at all. As a result he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis at Ma’ariv on Shabbos, even though he will not be reciting vesein tal u’matar in those Shemoneh Esreis.

Many have asked the following question on Reb Chaim’s halacha: The Gemara in Berachos 29a says that if one does not mention vesein tal u’matar in its proper place (in “bareich aleinu…”) he can say it in “…shomeia tefillah.” The halacha follows this Gemara, as it is found in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 117:5. If vesein tal u’matar is indeed part of the actual berachah of “bareich aleinu,” how can one say it in a different berachah?

If one only remembers that he forgot to mention vesein tal u’matar after he has already passed the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” but before he has finished Shemoneh Esrei, there is a machlokes Rishonim as to where he must return to in the Shemoneh Esrei – “bareich aleinu” or “shomeia tefillah.” Tosafos, in Ta’anis 3b, says that one should return to the berachah of “shomeia tefillah.” The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 10:9) and the Shulchan Aruch say that one must return to the berachah of “bareich aleinu.”

It seems that the Rishonim who opine that one should return to the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” do not believe that vesein tal u’matar is part of the actual berachah of “bareich aleinu” They believe that it is an added request (bakashah) that can either be inserted in the berachah of “bareich aleinu” or “shomeia tefillah.” Therefore, when one realizes that he did not say vesein tal u’matar and has already passed “shomeia tefillah,” he should go back to the nearest berachah where he may recite this request.

The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, who both say that one should return all the way back to the berachah of “bareich aleinu,” seemingly hold that vesein tal u’matar is part of the berachah of “bareich aleinu” Hence they say that one should return to “bareich aleinu” even though the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” is closer. The reason why we allow one who forgot to say vesein tal u’matar in “bareich aleinu” to recite it in the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” (if he remembers before he gets there) is because the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” serves as a tashlumin for all the middle berachos of Shemoneh Esrei. Similarly, if one forgot to say any of the integral parts of any other middle berachah, he would be able to make it up in the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” (see Be’er Halacha 117:5 d”h im). But when one forgets to mention it even in the berachah of “shomeia tefillah,” the halacha of tashlumin no longer applies and he must return to the berachah of which it is a part – namely “bareich aleinu.”

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Words Of Thanks

I am a resident of Sea Gate and a victim of Sandy.

Our community was hit hard. No house was spared, and while some sustained more damage than others, all our basements were flooded and had to be completely demolished, with everything torn out and disposed of. The magnitude of this disaster cannot be fathomed unless you experienced it.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the New York City sanitation and police departments for their wonderful work. To Shomrim and Hatzolah and all the many individual volunteers who joined in the cleanup and recovery efforts: there are no words.

We are so grateful. May Hashem repay all of you.

Machi Spitzer
Brooklyn, NY

Two Very Special People (I)

Naomi Klass Mauer’s yahrzeit tribute to her mother, Irene Klass, and her husband, Dr. Ivan Mauer, was beautiful and moving (“Two Years Ago – Two Very Special People,” op-ed, Nov. 30).

I was privileged to know them both, and she captured their essence perfectly.

Barbara Gilor
(Via E-Mail)

Two Very Special People (II)

Naomi Klass Mauer’s article about her mother and husband was very touching.

Irene Klass was the embodiment of chesed and creating a Jewish household. Ivan Mauer was very smart and loved opening up a sefer or book, digesting it, and sharing it at the Shabbos table. Though his wit was sharp, his heart was soft.

Naftali Armon, Esq.
New York, NY

Halacha And Female Kosher Supervisors

There was something very crucial lacking from “The Mashgiach Wore a Dress: The Fight over Opening Kosher Supervision to Women” (news story, Nov. 30) – namely, what the halacha on this matter happens to be.

I would therefore like to note the opinion of Reb Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, who clearly writes in Igros Moshe (Yorah Deah 2:44, 45) that a woman may not serve as a mashgiach for kashrus. The prohibition has nothing to do with the idea being “new,” as Emunah chairwoman Liora Minka maintains, nor does it have anything to do with the halachos being beyond the comprehension of women.

Of course we should assume that the people involved are all working l’shem shamayim. However, I do not understand why Minka is ready to take her female kashrut supervisors case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court. If the Chief Rabbinate says it is not in accordance with halacha, why is she seeking government intervention? Does she honestly believe she knows better than the Chief Rabbinate or Reb Moshe? It seems there is another objective here

Max Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

U.S. Support For Israel

I was fascinated by Walter Russell Mead’s front-page essay last week (“Why Americans Support Israel”). Like many of my fellow Jews, I have always feared the existence of widespread latent anti-Semitism in America and especially its coming to the fore in times of economic crisis.

In some ways this fear was largely irrational inasmuch as there has never been a country as hospitable to Jews and their religious practices as the United States. Professor Mead seems to point to American traits of realism and fundamental honesty as underlying the broad support in this country for Israel.

Perhaps it takes European-style sophistication for Israel to always be perceived as wrong.

David Perlmutter
(Via E-Mail)

Polish Court’s Ruling On Shechita

I view the anti-ritual slaughter decision in Poland as an ominous sign (“Polish Court Rules Against Ritual Slaughter,” news brief, Nov. 30).

While it is true that the elected government sought to protect both Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter, and it was a court that disallowed it, I am afraid the prohibition will nevertheless gain traction throughout Poland. The court found that exempting religious slaughter from the general stunning requirement in order to accommodate religious practice was arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional.

Since stunning is usually a means of ensuring the humane treatment of animals during the slaughtering process by eliminating the possibility of pain, the court ruling effectively declared and underscored that religious tenets that prohibit stunning during animal slaughter are inhumane. That does not bode well for kosher slaughter.

Shimon Geller
Los Angeles, CA

Rice And Libya

Re “Some Questions for Ambassador Rice” (editorial, Nov. 30):

While I do think Ms. Rice is not really responsible for her misleading statements concerning the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, I also think she might be able to shed important light on how she herself was initially misled and whether there was a larger cover-up of the failure to provide protection to American personnel there.

A Generation In Need Of Rededication

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The strength and numbers of Orthodox Jews in America have never been greater, and yet those of us concerned with Judaism’s future must admit we confront a future no less frightening than the future that was evident to Hannah’s noble sons in Modi’in all those centuries ago.

Then, Jewish ritual and belief was crushed by a dominant Greek culture that had been imposed upon but – let’s be honest – gladly borne by the Jewish populace. As much as we might want to argue otherwise, we must wrestle with the understanding that the majority of the Jews of the Hasmonean Era embraced Greek culture.

While in America there is no military or cultural imposition that demands a compromise of Jewish values or practice, there is no less of an embrace of the larger, secular, non-Jewish culture. The sad fact is we are losing many of our children. To believe otherwise is to willfully place blinders upon our eyes and shackles on our hearts. Anyone who is honest and who works with Orthodox teens – even teens who have received a yeshiva education – knows that too many do not find meaning, fulfillment or purpose in Judaism. They do not feel the beauty of Judaism, or the power of the halachot.

Instead, they chafe against a “lifestyle” they feel is restrictive and complain that being religious simply is not “fun.”

Orthodox Union President Dr. Simcha Katz outlines some examples of the malaise affecting our young people in his Jewish Action (Winter 5773/2012) article, noting how they text on Shabbat and argue that the use of the ubiquitous technology is morally indistinguishable from adults speaking in shul. He identifies an “underground” teen Shabbat culture that even allows for Friday night parties in empty houses or basements; parties organized by text or Tweet and always unsupervised; parties that often involve music and, too often, drugs and alcohol.

Was the threat to Judaism any greater during the Hasmonean Era? Was the pain Judah Maccabee felt when he looked upon his Jewish brethren any more acute than the ache a caring rosh yeshiva feels today? Yet what army do we fight to save Judaism? Where is our enemy?

Our Jewish children seem lost – determinedly so. Rather than the warmth of a small minyan, they feel embraced by their hundreds of Facebook “friends,” seemingly unable to appreciate the power of what having a true friend actually means. Imagine – hundreds of friends. More than a thousand even!

I am nearing retirement age, having lived a good life, and yet I require just the fingers of one hand to count the number of my friends; friends I know, cherish, love and respect. Hundreds of friends? Ridiculous! These are not friends. They are faceless faces; ciphers on an iPad or a smartphone. The relationship is no deeper than the pixels found on the computer monitor. These “friends” offer but a shallow glimmer of what life and relationships should be.

Those pixels shine only outward, never inward. Yet this is what draws our children.

And therein lies the challenge we face if we want to redeem this generation and to bring about a genuine rededication. How do we help our children learn to shine their light inward as well as outward?

Tractate Shabbat teaches that, “It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah candles outside the door to one’s home, but in times of danger, it is sufficient to place the candles on one’s table [inside].” On its face, this text is a simple directive for a practical matter – the proper place for the menorah to be placed.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh – every Jew is responsible for the other. Judaism is, first and foremost, a communal expression. No Jew should live isolated from the rest of his community, nor should he be concerned only with his own existence and survival. Each Jew is obligated to reach out to his fellow Jews. In this regard, placing our menorot on the outside of our houses symbolizes this essential lesson. We bring our light to those who are still in the dark; we seek to enlighten those who have not as yet had the opportunity and privilege to be on the inside. Our light shines outward.

Symbol Of The Eternal Soul

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The festival of Chanukah celebrates two miracles – the military victory over the Syrian Greeks and that one small cruse of oil, good for one day, providing light for eight days. The miracle of the light, however, is the main focus and central theme of this festival.

Thus, according to halacha, when we light the candles in celebration of Chanukah we are prohibited from using their light for any tasks. We are commanded to simply look at the light. All year long we are looking at what we see in the light, but on Chanukah we are to focus solely on seeing the light itself.

What is so special about the light of Chanukah? What is the Chanukah menorah’s message for us in our personal lives? Why does the Rambam call Chanukah “the most beloved and precious mitzvah”?

The answer is that the Chanukah lights help us focus on who we really are. We are not our body suits but are part of God’s Endless Light. Chanukah lights are the symbol of the Divine spark of the human soul, as Shlomo HaMelech says in Mishlei, Ner Hashem nishmat adam – the candle of God is the soul of the human being.

The Mishnah in Avot teaches, “There are three crowns: The crown of Torah, the crown of Kehuna [priesthood] and the crown of Monarchy.” Corresponding to these three with which Israel was crowned, there were three crowns on the Temple vessels. The crown of Torah corresponds to the gold crown, which was set on the Ark of Testimony (containing the two Tablets). The crown of Kehuna corresponds to the incense altar, for only regarding the priests does it say, “They shall place incense in Your Presence, and consume sacrifices on Your altar” (Devarim 33:10). Finally, the crown of Monarchy corresponds to the table in the Sanctuary, for tables, which in biblical and later Hebrew can symbolize wealth and bounty (Psalm 23), may here be viewed as evoking the economic and political power of the state.

However, the Mishnah adds that there is yet another crown, “the crown of a good name,” which “surpasses them all.” This crown is not enumerated among the others. Rather, it is kept separate from them and stands on its own. To what does this crown correspond in the Temple?

The Maharal of Prague associates “the crown of a good name” with the fourth vessel of the Temple – the solid pure gold menorah. The menorah had no gold crown encompassing it. Neither was it made of acacia wood inlaid with gold like the three Temple vessels mentioned above. Rather, the whole menorah was like a pure gold crown, embellished with golden cups, knobs and flowers. The entire menorah itself is a crown.

It is the same with a person’s good name. It is not an external crown that is placed upon one’s head. A person’s good name touches on his very essence. A good name includes one’s entire personality in all its components. It is not an external image, fashioned by public relations professionals, photographers and newsmen. A person’s good name is the reputation he earns for himself through his life’s work, all his deeds and ventures. That is why the Mishnah says that the “crown of a good name surpasses all the others.”

A person’s good name does not find expression at the beginning of his life but is acquired through strenuous, daily toil. Shlomo HaMelech said “A good name is better than precious oil” (Kohelet 7:1). However good it may be, oil is applied externally to a person’s body while a good name is that person himself.

As we light the menorah on Chanukah, it is a time to focus and reflect on the light of God, which is our eternal soul.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/symbol-of-the-eternal-soul/2012/12/05/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: