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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mitzvah’

Mountains Hanging On Hairs

Friday, November 30th, 2012

You arrive home after shul on Friday night. All the dishes washed before Shabbat are locked in the dishwasher. You have no other eating utensils and you want to retrieve them for the Friday night meal. In order to take them out you have to unlock the door by turning the lever lock to the left. The action of the lever to unlock the door automatically turns off the panel indicator lights that advise you the dishwashing cycle is complete. So you cannot open the door without turning off the lights. What do you do?

Clearly, the act of retrieving the dishes from the dishwasher is, in itself, a permissible act on Shabbat. The problem is that it inevitably causes the melachah of switching off the indicator lights. This melachah is the inevitable and unintended result of retrieving the dishes, though it is of no use to its performer. An inevitable melachah that is of no use to its performer and that arises out of a permitted act is known in halachic terminology as psik reishe de lo neecha leh. We shall refer to it as the “inevitable, unwanted melachah.”

If one performed an inevitable, unwanted melachah, one is patur, which means exempt from any biblical liability. The question is whether one is allowed under rabbinical law to deliberately perform an inevitable, unwanted melachah such as, for example, turning the indicator lights off in order to retrieve the dishes.

The answer to this question depends on the classification of the inevitable, unwanted melachah and the existence or absence of any mitigating circumstances. If the inevitable, unwanted melachah is biblically prohibited, then according to the majority of halachic opinions one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes it. There is a minority opinion – that of the Aruch – that permits it, but the halacha does not adopt this minority opinion.

Accordingly, one may not, for example, wash one’s hands over a public lawn because even though washing one’s hands is permitted on Shabbat, it causes the inevitable, unwanted result of watering the grass. And watering the grass on Shabbat is classified under the biblical melachah of plowing and sowing.

Similarly, one may not open a door to the street on a windy day when the inevitable, unwanted result of the permitted act will be that lighted candles placed next to the door blow out.

What if the inevitable, unwanted melachah is not biblically prohibited but only rabbinically prohibited? Still, according to the majority of opinions, one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the rabbinical melachah, except in a limited number of mitigating circumstances. Physical pain or discomfort or the performance of a mitzvah are examples of mitigating circumstances that might permit one to deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah.

For example, trapping a bird inside one’s home is rabbinically prohibited. Yet if a wild bird flew into one’s house in winter, one would be allowed to close the windows to avoid the cold. This act is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah of trapping.

If the red berries on the hadas, the myrtle branch, are more numerous than the myrtle leaves, the hadas is invalid for arba minim. Yet if a friend of the hadas owner picks off the berries on Yom Tov for food, the owner of the hadas would be permitted to use it for the mitzvah of arba minim. Picking the berries in this way is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted melachah of fixing something for use – makeh bepatish – because it enables the performance of a mitzvah.

Is the inevitable, unwanted melachah of turning off the dishwasher indicator lights a biblical melachah or a rabbinical melachah? The biblical melachah of extinguishing fire was performed in the Sanctuary to produce glowing embers needed to smelt metal. Extinguishing fire for any other purpose not used in the Sanctuary is called a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa. Although biblically exempt from liability once performed, a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa is rabbinically prohibited and should not be deliberately performed. The majority of modern poskim agree that turning off an electric light involves the act of extinguishing fire and is therefore prohibited under the category of melachah she’eina tericah legufa. It is further accepted that the rabbis are less lenient with the melachah of extinguishing fire than with other rabbinical melachot.

Raphael Grunfeld

Q & A: The Sandak (Part V)

Thursday, November 29th, 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.

Last week, we returned to the original question about the dispute over who would serve as sandak. Proverbs (3:17) states, “Deracheha darkei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” A mitzvah should bring about pleasantness and peace; if it doesn’t, it has not been fulfilled properly. Therefore, strife over the sandika’ot detracts from the full fulfillment of that mitzvah. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to sandika’ot as an actual mitzvah that one should actively pursue.

The Mechaber (supra, Yoreh De’ah 260:1) states that the right to bestow any honor or segment of the mitzvah of brit belongs to the father alone. Thus, a grandfather may not “grab” this honor for himself if it goes against the father’s wishes. Even the mitzvah of kibud av has limits, and a parent is prohibited from insisting on specific honors from his child.

* * * * *

Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav zt”l, discusses a similar situation where the mitzvah of kibbud av v’em and the mitzvah of sandika’ot came into conflict (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1; 60:9). The case concerned an individual who was ready to accept an offer to serve as sandak, but his father protested in the strongest terms that he did not want him to. Rabbi Stern was asked if the son must listen to his father.

In his response, Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35), who was asked the same question. The Knesset Yechezkel answered that the son need not listen to his father and cited Kidushin 32a as his source. In that Gemara, Elezar b. Masya states: “If my father requests, ‘Get me a drink’ and there is another [passing] mitzvah to be done, I will put aside my father’s honor and perform that other mitzvah because both my father and I are obligated in that mitzvah.” Isi b. Yehuda says, “If the [passing] mitzvah can be done by others, then let them do it and I will do my father’s honor.”

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Operation Pillar Of Defense Becomes A Cloudy Pillar

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

As I write this, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has just announced, during a televised press conference, his decision not to run in the coming elections and to leave politics.

There is jubilation in Gaza, as Hamas is selling the idea that Israel’s defense minister admitted defeat.

And there is jubilation on the right side of the Israeli political spectrum, with Minister Yuli Edelstein, a resident of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion, expressing his joy at the departure of a man who recently suggested a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

My daughter Sara and her husband, and all the residents of Bat Ayin Bet, certainly breathed a sigh of relief. Her house was destroyed one night during Netanyahu’s building freeze. (Her husband, a builder, put up two houses in its place.)

With this as a preface, let us analyze the outcome of the eight-day military campaign dubbed “Pillar of a Cloud,” based on a biblical image but mistranslated into English as “Pillar of Defense.”

We must ask: How did Pillar of a Cloud end up a very cloudy pillar?

The Hamas terrorists have been given credibility by achieving a cease-fire with Israel, through the efforts of the new president of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate and anti Israel activist Mohamed Morsi.

In other words, Hamas is now a recognized political entity – one that will never rest until Israel is erased from the map. We have turned them into a pillar – a cloudy pillar, but a pillar just the same. This after Netanyahu had been so outspoken before the last election calling for the dismantling of Hamastan in Gaza.

And Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, had said, upon joining the government, that one of Israel’s goals must be the end of Hamas rule in Gaza.

So what went wrong?

I think the choice of a holy name like Ahmud Anan, Pillar of a Cloud, demanded a ferocious biblical response to the years of constant rocket fire inflicted on the people of Israel.

God spoke to us from a pillar of a cloud (Tehillim 99). He appeared in a pillar of a cloud to Aaron to rebuke him for speaking badly about our teacher Moshe (Bamidbar 12:5).

The very first time we read of this pillar of a cloud, it guided the Jews as they left Egypt.

But our Pillar of a Cloud military campaign led Israel right back to Egypt because our leaders agreed that they must go to Cairo to complain about any violations of the cease-fire.

Once we dared put a Torah name to this campaign, we should have followed through to keep two rabbinically taught mitzvos. If someone comes to kill you, arise and kill him first. And when the opportunity comes to do a mitzvah, take immediate action. (We need to be quick in matzah-baking lest the matzah become chametz; Rav Osheya taught: replace the word matzah with mitzvah. Respond quickly.)

In the early stages of Pillar of a Cloud, Israel neutralized the chief of the Hamas military wing. The IAF bombed strategic sites, destroying most of the M75 long-range missiles in an initial blow. Reserve soldiers were called into action on the third day and were ready to start the ground battle – just when the Egyptian president demanded the opportunity to draw up a cease-fire agreement.

But the sudden tragic death of his sister caused him to become preoccupied with family matters, and that was our opportunity to quickly send in the troops and carry out the two above-mentioned mitzvos.

Benny Ganz, the IDF chief of staff, said his “solders are motivated, they are ready. It’ll be dangerous to leave them waiting at the border; they’re sitting ducks.”

Whose decision was it? The prime minister’s? He’s not the commander in chief. Lieberman’s? He’s only the foreign Minister. Ehud Barak is the defense minister, so it was his call, but he’s a man ready for unilateral withdrawals.

So in the first eight days of the month of Chanukah – when, for eight days and eight candles we celebrate the greatest ground battle in Jewish history, the victory of the Maccabees – we allowed ourselves to be pushed into a cease-fire that solves nothing and allows Hamas to rearm.

Dov Shurin

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tefillah-lshlom-medinat-yisrael-a-plea-for-prayer/2012/11/21/

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