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July 30, 2016 / 24 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mitzvah’

Petter Chamor In L.A.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

More than 1,200 members of the Los Angeles Jewish community gathered recently to witness the observance of the mitzvah of petter chamor. Organized and led by Rabbi Yehuda Lebovics, a Los Angeles mohel, the event was held in the immense outdoor courtyard of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu.

Rabbi Lebovics explained the mitzvah of petter chamor, which dates back to the time of yetzias Mitzrayim. As a reward for helping Bnei Yisrael carry their belongings out of Egypt, the donkey is rewarded with a mitzvah of its own; it is the only non-kosher animal whose firstborn is considered to be sacred.

Redeeming a firstborn donkey is first mentioned in Shemos 13:13. A Jew must take his firstborn donkey to a kohen and offer a lamb to the kohen as a redemption, or ransom. One of the basic ideas behind petter chamor is to show hakaras hatov by recognizing the roles that donkeys played during yetzias Mitzrayim. Most kohanim have never performed this ceremony during their lives, and most rabbanim have never had the opportunity to participate in this mitzvah.

Barry Weiss recited the berachah of “…al mitzvas petter chamor” and Rabbi Doron Jacobius, representing the Kornwasser and Hager families, recited the berachah of “…shehechiyanu.” Heshy Jacobs was the honored kohen who accepted the seh for the petter chamor. He then formally acknowledged acceptance of the lamb.

Singing and dancing followed the ceremony. As one person said: “I just had to come. Participating in such a rare mitzvah inspired me, and I’m sure many others, to come.”

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

The Doll’s Tale

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dear Readers:

The following short story is fictitious, but the situation of Jewish children during the Holocaust being raised by gentile families or in Catholic convents and orphanages is not. While some were re-united with family members who survived the death camps – many were not, and remain lost both physically and religiously. This story is in memory of all the lost children. May they be reunited with their families with the coming of Moshiach.

The Doll’s Tale

Nine-year-old Ruchi was not at all upset when her brother and cousins nicknamed her “Ricki.” She liked the sound of it and it certainly suited her – had it been up to her, she would have been a boy. Boys had more fun and never had to wear dresses and other girly clothes. Her brother Dovi got to wear pants, giving him the freedom to hang upside down on the monkey bars in the park, and to turn cartwheels – while she was prohibited from doing such fun things – because hanging upside down while wearing a skirt was not tznuisdik. After all, she wasn’t three anymore!

And then there was the matter of the ridiculous gifts she got on her birthday or from out of town guests. Dovi would always get a fun toy like a truck, while she, without fail, would be given a useless doll with a smile plastered on its plastic face. Ruchi’s only consolation was that forthwith, the dolls would become perfect targets for Dovi’s water guns or darts. Often they would play “barber” delighting at the pale, pink head that would surface, the outcome of the doll’s “haircut.”

Yet Ruchi was to gain a deeper appreciation for these plastic entities than she would ever had imagined.

The 180-degree change in her attitude took place when she and her family traveled to Israel for the bar mitzvah of the grandson of Bubbi’s older half-sister, Malka. Malka was a rare entity, a child survivor of the Holocaust. She had been born in Poland – unlike Bubbi, who had been born in Israel several years after the war had ended.

Sadly, Malka had passed away three years earlier, at the young age of 65, just months after her and Bubbi’s father. Malka had had a massive stroke, brought on, it was said, by her extreme distress upon losing her father.

Erev Shabbos, Ruchi watched in wide-eyed astonishment as the bar mitzvah boy’s mother lit the candles, hugging a very ragged, ripped up cloth doll. After her tefillah, she kissed it, as did her children.

“What was that all about,” she asked her 11-year-old cousin, Chana, as they lay in their beds that evening. “Why did your mom do that – is that a family minhag? It’s weird!”

It was then Chana told her the story that would forever change Ruchi’s view on dolls.

It was 1942, in Nazi-occupied Poland, and their great-grandfather, Shimon, was beside himself. It was only a matter of days before he, his wife and daughter would be taken out of the c transported to the camps. A former employee of Shimon’s dry-goods store, a Polish girl who appreciated her kind and generous boss, had sent word that her aunt, a highly-placed nun at the convent on the outskirts of town, would hide his child.

Shimon was torn between his desperate desire to save his child’s life, and the horrible thought of placing her in this completely foreign environment.

Two days before a mass deportation, Shimon surrendered his three year old, blond haired daughter, Malka, into the waiting arms of a nun. He and his wife had left her crying inconsolably, fiercely clutching a Raggedy Ann doll – a gift from a relative in America and her constant companion.

Three years later, a gaunt and battered Shimon returned to his town, alone; his beloved wife Zisel had starved to death. While he was incarcerated in Auschwitz, thoughts of finding his little Malka were what kept him alive.

Shimon had been hearing horror stories of Polish families that had been entrusted with Jewish children deliberately disappearing with them. Sometimes, even if the child was found, he, or she, refused to leave the only home he knew, denying any connection with the walking scarecrows who showed up claiming to be kin. The child would make the sign of the cross to protect himself from the sickly looking vagabonds who belonged to the people who had killed the beloved savior.

Cheryl Kupfer

Q & A: The Sandak (Part IV)

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter.

M. Renkin
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to someone more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that a person may not serve as sandak more than once. Rather, he should not serve as sandak for more than one boy per family.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

We quoted Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of sandika’ot in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani. He writes that serving as a sandak enriches one with material wealth, as well as long life full of spiritual wealth. Rabbi Enkin cites several authorities who argue that a person may serve as sandak twice; he states that the custom not to do so certainly does not apply to relatives. In fact, a father shouldn’t hesitate to serve as sandak for all of his children should he so desire. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak for all children.

Rabbi Enkin concludes his discussion by pointing out that the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud, and therefore is not truly binding.

* * * * *

Let’s address your original question regarding a dispute between a father and grandfather over who should serve as sandak.

The Gemara (Sukkah 32a), in seeking to determine if we may use something other than the traditional palm for a lulav, discusses the possibility of using flowered palms. Abaye rejects this idea because flowered palms are prickly to the touch and Proverbs 3:17 states, “Deracheha darchei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” The Metzudas David explains: “In no way or manner is it possible for a mishap to come from one’s observance of Torah dictates.”

This rule applies to all mitzvot. Performing a mitzvah is supposed to bring both pleasantness and peace. If there is strife involved, then the entire act is marred. For example, one who steals a lulav cannot properly fulfill the mitzvah since a mitzvah that is performed through a sinful act is tainted (Sukkah 29b).

The same is true of sandika’ot. The brit milah itself is of course valid no matter how bitterly a father and grandfather may fight over who should serve as sandak. But the sandika’ot – which the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to as a mitzvah that one should actively pursue – will not have been properly fulfilled because of the strife; pleasantness and peace did not surround it.

The grandfather in your scenario acted wrongly because the right to bestow any honor associated with the brit milah belongs to the father, as the Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah 260:1) notes. Thus, neither the grandfather nor anyone else may “grab” this honor if the father wishes otherwise.

What about the mitzvah of kibud av, of honoring one’s father? Naturally, all sons have this obligation, but the Mechaber (Y.D. 240:19) is emphatic that parents are prohibited from weighing down heavily on their children and being exacting on the honor due them so that they not create a stumbling block for their children (i.e., tempting them to disobey by making excessive demands).

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael: A Plea For Prayer

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

But in the middle of Kabbalat Shabbat I found myself taking cover, together with other members of my community, near the stairwell of our shul. When the tefillah resumed, the tone was intense. Before Ma’ariv we recited Tehillim, a prayer for the IDF, and the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael (the Prayer for the Welfare and Security of the State of Israel).

Overnight, members of our kehillah were called up for reserve duty. And when we said the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael again Shabbat morning, it was with more kavanah than is usually the case.

After Shabbat we learned that rockets had fallen near Mevaseret and Gush Etzion, just miles from the heart of Jerusalem. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt – but that is not the case elsewhere in the country. And while we can’t possibly imagine what our brothers and sisters in the South are going through, the feeling that no one is immune persists.

How can it be, I wondered over Shabbat, that some communities here in Israel and abroad do not recite the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael?

The text of the prayer first appeared in the religious newspaper HaTzofe on September 20, 1948, less than half a year after a nascent nation declared its independence. Written by Chief Rabbis Herzog and Uziel, together with author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, it was adopted by many congregations in Israel and abroad. Even the famed rabbinic journal HaPardes (October 1948) published it and encouraged readers to adopt it.

Praying on behalf of the government is not a new practice. The prophet Yirmiyahu instructs the Jewish people, “Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you” (Jer. 29:7). And throughout Jewish history, we have. Halachic works from Kol Bo to Abudraham to Magen Avraham to Aruch HaShulchan codify the practice of praying for the king. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that it is an obligation and mitzvah to express gratitude for the place where we live, and to pray for it.

We Jews have composed texts on behalf of everyone from the king of Spain to Napoleon. Sometimes, depending on how a ruler treated the Jews, the prayer took an ironic turn, asking for protection from the king. (As when the rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof” asks God to “Bless and keep the czar – far away from us!”)

The Mishnah (Avot 3:2) stresses the importance of praying on behalf of the government: “Rabbi Hanina, deputy high priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for fear of it, people would swallow one another alive.”

So why doesn’t everyone recite the prayer for the state of Israel?

Some object to the fact that the prayer calls the state the “first flowering of our redemption.” They are uncomfortable with the notion that a secular government, founded by secular Zionists, can be part of the redemptive process. But a little research reveals the truths of history: In the early years, following the founding of the state, many rabbis (not all of them Zionists) indeed believed that the state of Israel was the “first flowering” of redemption.

A letter titled “Da’at Torah,” later published in Rabbi M.M. Kasher’s HaTekufah HaGedolah (pp. 424-429), begins, “We thank Hashem for what we have merited, because of His abundant mercy and kindness, to see the first buds [nitzanim] of the beginning of redemption [atchalta d’geulah], with the founding of the state of Israel.”

This letter, encouraging participation in elections for the first Knesset, was signed by the leading gedolim of Eretz Yisrael, among them Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In fact, as David Tamar noted in a Jan. 2, 1998 article in HaTzofe, Rav Shlomo Zalman would stand during the recitation of the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael.

The Prayer for the State of Israel was not composed strictly for the Religious Zionist camp – it was composed for all Jews to recite. Perhaps it was written during a simpler time in history, when Jews of every stripe and political or religious affiliation fought for an independent Jewish state. They did not have the luxury of sitting back and being sectarian. How things have changed.

Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty: Zichron Ya’acov

Friday, November 16th, 2012

With the birth of Hodel’s baby, the time had come for Tevye to journey onward. Family was a matter of tantamount importance, but a Jew had an even higher allegiance to God. Had not the Almighty warned that life in the Holy Land must be lived according to the commandments of the Torah? That meant observing the laws of the Sabbath and the holidays, eating kosher food, donning tallit and tefillin, guarding the treasures of marital purity, and observing all of the six-hundred and thirteen commandments – most of which were flagrantly ignored by the young pioneers on the kibbutz. True, they were good, idealistic souls, risking their lives, and giving up material comforts to build a refuge in Israel for the Jews all over the world. Their dedication to making the barren Land bloom was in itself an act of great religious faith, but, to Tevye’s way of thinking, faith in working the Land wasn’t enough. Ultimately, a Jew had to live by the Torah. It was enough of a tragedy that his daughter, Hodel, had been led astray by her husband – Tevye now had to think of Moishe and Hannie, who were bound to be influenced by the other children on the kibbutz. And it was wise, Tevye felt, to whisk Bat Sheva away before she fell victim once again to her passions and grow enamored with some other free-spirited hero.

After Ben Zion’s funeral, the heartbroken girl plunged into a gloomy silence. Tevye also felt troubled. The cold-blooded killing weighed on his mind like an omen. He wondered what would be with the Arabs. True, in his travels through the country, Arab villages were few and far between. Occasional caravans would pass along the road, and Bedouin shepherds would appear now and then in the landscape. But as picturesque as they were to Perchik, Tevye had learned that, like snakes in the roadside, their bites could prove fatal.

Driving his wagon along the trail through the mountains toward Zichron Yaacov, where Shmuelik and Hillel were living, Tevye found himself engaged in deep thought. He even imagined that the Baron Rothschild had invited him into his palatial office to discuss the dilemma of establishing a large Jewish population in the midst of hostile neighbors.

“Well, my respected Reb Tevye, how do you propose we deal with the Arab situation?” the Baron asked in his daydream.

Tevye stood by the large globe of the world in the center of the Baron’s wood-paneled study. Gently spinning the orb, his fingers slid over continents as he pondered his response. Tevye’s footprints, muddied from the barn, had left dark stains in the carpet, but the Baron hadn’t seemed to notice. Why should he? With a staff of round-the-clock servants, why should the dirt of an honest, hard-working milkman disturb him?

“I must confess that I am not a political analyst, but only a simple laborer,” Tevye responded.

“Even a simple laborer has opinions,” the Baron said. “And I respect the opinions of every man.”

“My opinions are the teachings of our Sages, and the pearls of wisdom which I have learned from the Torah.”

“And what does the Torah say on this matter?” the Baron inquired.

Before Tevye could answer, the famous philanthropist held out a mahogany humidor filled with fragrant cigars. Tevye took one and allowed the Baron to graciously light it.

“The Torah says that the Arabs are to dwell in the lands of the Arabs, and the Jews are to dwell in the Land of the Jews.”

“The Torah was written a long time ago. Perhaps political equations have changed.”

“The word of the Lord is forever,” Tevye answered. “The sons of Ishmael have been blessed with lands of their own. The Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.”

“Your faith has strengthened me, Tevye,” the Baron said. “Your faith has strengthened me indeed.”

Of course, daydreams are daydreams, and life is life. True, Tevye generally had mud on his boots, but if Baron Edmond de Rothschild ever summoned him to a chat, his secretary forgot to deliver the message. In fact, the Baron was not to be found in Zichron Yaacov at all. He ruled over his Palestine colonies from his castles in France. “Av HaYishuv,” the settlers called him. “Father of the Settlement.” Others called him “HaNadiv,” meaning, “The Benefactor,” after his beneficent ways. Still others called him less pleasant names. His dignified portrait hung in the JCA office, above the heads of the officials who carried out his commands. Under the dark Homberg hat in the picture was a hawkish profile, patriarchal whiskers, a benevolent smile, and a fur-collared coat. Tevye, who fancied himself a fair judge of character, understood right away that the Baron was a unique individual, deserving great respect. As for the bald-headed Frederick Naborsky, Director of the Jewish Colony Association in Palestine, Tevye was less convinced of the sterling nature of his personality.

Tzvi Fishman

Melachot And Intent

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The juxtaposition in the Torah of the laws of Shabbat and the Mishkan, the Sanctuary, not only serves to identify the 39 melachot prohibited on Shabbat but also determines the conditions that must exist before one can be held liable for performing a melachah. One of these conditions is intent.

Like the Mishkan, melachah requires “carefully planned work” – melechet machashevet. There are various states of mind that may lack the intent necessary to perform a melachah. In some cases, such a state of mind results in one being biblically exempt from the consequences of one’s act although the act remains rabbinically prohibited. In other cases, the lack of requisite intent means the act is permissible on Shabbat in the first place.

A person who is aware of the act he is performing but forgot that today is Shabbat or that the act is prohibited on Shabbat is called a shogeg. In the Temple era, the shogeg had to bring a sin offering, a chatat, to atone for the act. A person who intended to perform a permitted act, such as retrieving a knife out of a shrub, and in so doing unwittingly performed a different act which is a melachah, such as cutting the shrub when lifting out the knife, is called a mitasek. The mitasek, unlike the shogeg, had no intention of performing the melachah and is therefore entirely exempt.

An act that is permissible in itself on Shabbat but which may – possibly but not inevitably – cause an unintended melachah to occur is called a davar she’ein mitkaven. For example, dragging a garden chair across the lawn, an act permissible in itself on Shabbat, may cause grooves to form in the earth that, if performed intentionally, would constitute the melachah of plowing. Or simply walking on the grass, which is permissible on Shabbat, may result in the uprooting or tearing of grass, which, if performed intentionally, would constitute the melachah of reaping.

Whether or not a davar she’ein mitkaven is permitted constitutes a Tannaic dispute between Rabbi Shimon, who permits it in the first place, and Rabbi Yehuda, who prohibits it. The halacha adopts the more lenient view of Rabbi Shimon. A person cannot, however, claim davar she’ein mitkaven where the melachah was an inevitable result of the permitted act.

For example, if the chair is so heavy that it must form a groove in the earth, or if one washes one’s hands (in itself a permitted act) over one’s own lawn, causing its inevitable watering (constituting the melachah of planting), one cannot claim he did not intend the melachah. This is because the result is so inevitable as to impute to one the intent to perform the melachah in the first place. Such an inevitable result is called psik reishe.

Note, however, that if the inevitable melachah arising from the permitted act is of no use to its performer, such as where one washes one’s hands over a stranger’s lawn, the act is permitted in the first place and is called a psik reishe d’lo neecha lei. Such an act, though biblically permitted, would, according to most opinions, be rabbinically prohibited, unless certain extenuating circumstances exist. Such circumstances are the threat of severe financial loss or when the performance of a mitzvah is involved.

Based on the above principals, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein permits one to open the door of a thermostat-controlled lit oven on Shabbat, even though the resulting intake of air may cause the thermostat to kick in and turn up the flame. Rav Feinstein’s reasoning is that one’s intent is merely to open the oven door. This will not inevitably result in the thermostat kicking in, and it is, therefore not in the category of psik reishe but rather a davar she’ein mitkaven. As such, it is permitted in the first place.

Raphael Grunfeld

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Nineteen: A Trail of Tomatoes

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

The indefatigable woodchopper, Goliath, provided the posts and slats for the fence which the settlers began erecting around the kibbutz. Ben Zion adamantly opposed the idea, claiming a fence would turn the settlement into a ghetto and curtail any further expansion.

“If the fence is intended to keep our enemies out, I have a better way,” Ben Zion declared, holding up his rifle. “And if the fence is intended to keep us inside its borders, we left the ghettos of Europe and Russia behind us. Fences are for frightened people. If we want to build a proud and brave nation, we have to start acting like one.”

While even the philosopher, Gordon, said that Ben Zion was right, Perchik insisted on honoring the agreement, arguing that they could purchase additional land when their economic situation improved. To keep Shoshana’s end of the bargain, he arranged for a loan from the older, more established Degania kibbutz on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Several days later, the goodwill money was paid to the Arabs.

As it turned out, peace was achieved on another front as well. Miraculously, Tevye did not have to go to war with Bat Sheva. She apologized on her own. She confessed that she loved Ben Zion, but she was not going to run after him like a chicken without a head. Until he was ready to marry her, she did not want to see him again.

“Hodel is right,” she said. “Ben Zion is so in love with himself, he doesn’t have room in his heart for anyone else.”

So that’s what caused the turnaround, Tevye thought. Thank the good Lord. Bat Sheva had been speaking with her sister. That was a smart thing to do. As King Solomon said, “Wisdom comes from increased advice.” The girl had some intelligence and sechel after all. What a pity that Hodel herself had not confided in someone before running off with her own egotistical shpritzer.

“He will never have any respect for me if I don’t first have respect for myself,” Bat Sheva said.

Tevye was pleased to hear his little girl speak with such common sense. If he had uttered the very same words, Bat Sheva would have protested and bolted angrily from the house. In retrospect, Tevye realized that he should have been more patient with his other daughters. With a little more tolerance and trust on his part, they might have been less rebellious.

It seemed that any day now Hodel would have to give birth. Her belly was so swollen, when she walked, she waddled back and forth like a duck. If she sat down in a chair, she needed help getting up. With a feeling of great expectation, Tevye drove his wagon out to the fields for another morning’s work. Who could tell? Perhaps his Hodel would give birth to a boy. A year ago in Anatevka, who would have dreamed of celebrating a brit milah in the very Land where the covenant of circumcision between God and the Jewish people had been forged?

The day’s chore was to harvest the tomatoes which had been planted in a rocky field at an edge of the settlement. Because there was no private ownership on the kibbutz, Tevye’s wagon had been appropriated to serve the needs of the community. He had reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation that he be the only driver. And he made it clear to the appropriations committee that if he were to leave the kibbutz, the wagon would depart with him.

As usual, the kibbutzniks riding in his wagon sang happy songs about Zion and about the glory of working the Land. Spirits were especially high in expectation of the harvest ahead. What greater joy for a farmer than gathering the fruits of his labor? Imagine everyone’s shock upon reaching the field of tomatoes and finding every vine bare! The tomatoes had already been picked! Not a vegetable remained on a stalk. The shattered fence and fresh wagon tracks leading north toward the Arab camp were clues any blind man could read. During the night, while the Jews of Shoshana were sleeping, the Arabs had come and harvested the entire crop.

Tzvi Fishman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/tevye-in-the-promised-land-books/tevye-in-the-promised-land-chapter-nineteen-a-trail-of-tomatoes/2012/11/10/

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