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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mitzvot’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Seven: ‘Get Thee Forth to the Land’

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Because of her treatment, or in spite of it, Tzeitl seemed to improve. She sat up in bed, color returned to her cheeks, and her fever subsided. But Tevye still worried about the rattling cough deep in her chest. The doctor said he could offer no more assistance. Fresh air and the approaching summer sun were the best things for her now. He didn’t know if a voyage to the Land of Israel would harm her. In fact, the ocean breeze might do her good. And Palestine’s mild, Mediterranean climate was certainly a healthier environment than Russia’s drastically changing seasons, he said.

When ten days passed and no word arrived from Odessa, they decided to continue their journey, as it says, “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn away and take up your journey.” Tevye chided himself with having trusted Ben Zion with a large chunk of his savings. Fortunately, Hillel and Shmuelik had agreed to journey on with the Zionists to make sure that the money didn’t get lost. Tzeitl was still too weak to walk on her own, so her sisters helped her into the wagon. Nachman sat alongside Tevye, and the giant, Alexander Goliath, walked behind on the road, as if to make sure that the children didn’t fall out on the way.

“What about Hevedke?” asked Hava.

“What about him?” Tevye said.

“Aren’t we going to wait for him to come back from the market?”

“Why should we? It is a blessing to be rid of him.”

“How can you say that after all he did for Tzeitl?” Ruchela asked.

“He isn’t a part of this enterprise,” Tevye said. “My horse has done a great deal for me too, but I am going to part from him in Odessa. As Solomon says, There is a time to find, and a time to lose.”

“I think he has proven himself,” Tzeitl said. “I think you should give him a chance.”

Tevye was happy to see his daughter’s spirit returning, but his answer was no.

“Tell him, Nachman,” Ruchela said. “Tell my stubborn old Father that a gentile can convert.”

Nachman didn’t want to enter the family quarrel. “Halachically,” he said, “Jewish law makes it possible, but it isn’t a simple matter. Besides a brit milah, and immersion in a ritual mikvah, a long period of learning is required.”

“How long?” Hava asked.

“At least a year,” the young rabbi said. “And during that time, the prospective convert certainly isn’t allowed to be in the company of a Jewish woman with whom he has been intimate in the past.”

Hava blushed and fell silent.

“There!” Tevye said. “The rabbi has decided. You heard it from his mouth yourselves.”

“I’ll wait a year,” Hava said. “I’ll wait ten years.”

“Agreed,” Tevye answered. “After ten years, I will reconsider my decision. In the meantime, it’s final, and I don’t want to hear anymore.”

“I don’t blame Hava for loving Hevedke,” Bat Sheva said. “Jewish men are awful.”

They were the first words she had spoken for days. When word hadn’t arrived from Ben Zion, she had fallen into a lovesick depression. He had seduced her, betrayed her, and made her feel like a fool. All of his promises had been nothing but lies. He had wounded her heart, tarnished her purity, and worse than all, damaged her feminine pride. Though she had only succumbed to two kisses, she felt compromised beyond all repair.

The days turned beautiful, as if God had answered Tevye’s prayers for good weather. The sun melted all of the snow on the ground, and the Russian landscape seemed to sparkle with the promise of renewal which comes with the spring. Tzeitl’s spirits were characteristically cheerful. She seemed to feel better each day, but her cough clung to her like a shroud. Each time Tevye heard it, he felt a dagger pierce through his heart. Then, when they were only a half day’s journey from Odessa, a different kind of danger appeared on their path. Two highwaymen on horseback galloped out of the woods in front of the wagon and ordered them to halt. They both brandished rifles and their faces were covered with masks.

“Hand over your money and no one needs to get hurt,” one of them said.

Homosexuality and Going OTD

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/homosexuality-and-going-otd_3460.html

There is yet another article (published in The Times of Israel) that is sympathetic to Orthodox Jews who are homosexual. Asher Zeiger laments the fact that these Jews are so often shunned by the mainstream Orthodox institutions that many of them end up going OTD.

Mr. Zeiger wonders why it is that Orthodox Jews have such a hard time accepting gay Jews into their community while other sinners are easily accepted. Here is how he puts it:

Yes, the Torah forbids homosexuality. But there is far more biblical text devoted to Sabbath observance, business dealings, unleavened bread on Passover, and a litany of sexual improprieties, than the couple of verses that discuss homosexuality. Nobody’s relationship with God should be defined by the mitzvot that they do not keep.

Those who do not keep many other mitzvot are (hopefully) accepted as equal members of the Jewish community — with a handful of exceptions made for those whose violations have seriously harmed other people. So why can we not see and accept homosexuals in the same way that we see and accept Jews who do not observe the Shabbat and festivals, or do not eat strictly kosher food?

He suggests a possible explanation:

Maybe the problem lies in the inability of most heterosexuals to understand homosexuality in the same way that we can relate to the attraction of, say, driving to the beach on Shabbat, or eating whatever and wherever we wish. And don’t get me started on the appeal of just giving in to our basest natural sexual urges.

But we don’t “get” homosexuality in the same way, and all too often, the natural reaction to what people cannot understand is to attack, belittle and invalidate. It is as though by delegitimizing it, people are absolved from having to understand, let alone accept it.

I’m not sure this really explains it. Although there are people who are not repulsed by homosexual behavior there are probably many more people who are. These are not bad people. They just have a natural revulsion to such behavior. No matter how open-minded one is about this subject they just cannot get past it.

Why is this sin different from other sins – including other sins in the Torah labeled a Toevah (abomination)? From the article:

To eat any of the animals, fish and birds listed as unkosher (Deuteronomy 14) is considered a to’eva, as are dishonest business practices (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

These sins are also called Toevah and yet they do not seem to really repulse most people – even though they probably should.

It is therefore easy to see why there is so much depression among homosexuals. Sometimes even leading to suicide. Despite the current social and political pressure to normalize homosexuality there still seems to be an undercurrent of popular resistance to it. Mr Zeiger observes (correctly in my view) that we still live in “a largely gay-unfriendly world” and that “homosexuality is the target of the kind of hatred and vitriol otherwise reserved for only the sleaziest of pedophiles and the fans of arch-rival sports teams.”

It is no small wonder than why many formerly Orthodox Gay Jews go OTD.

That is indeed sad.

I can’t do anything about innate negative feelings. But I think it behooves those of us who may have them to overcome them and treat fellow human beings who have same sex attractions no less honorably than we do people guilty of other Toevos. As Mr. Zeiger puts it. We all sin. But not all of us sin the same way. By being so repulsed we end up turning these people away leaving them with a feeling of abandonment and being hated by their fellow Jews. Jews who are otherwise decent people.

When decent society rejects you… how are you supposed to feel?!

Shouldn’t we be bringing them close to us instead of pushing them away? Like we would with any Jew? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to observe as many Mitzvos as they can? Of what value is it to turn away from them with the obvious revulsion so often expressed by an anti-gay zealot like this Levin character (pictured above)? What does he accomplish other than causing people to go OTD?

The Messiah Ain’t JeZeus, That’s for Sure!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

In response to yesterday’s blog about Mashiach, I received a few questions about Jezeus, the heralded Xtian messiah, so before continuing with our discussion about the true Jewish Mashiach, I will try to shatter this terrible Xtian myth that has plunged mankind into darkness for the last 2000 years. Hopefully, this knowledge will give you the ammunition you need should you encounter one of the Jews for Jezeus missionaries who are crawling like cockroaches all over the globe in search of hapless Jewish victims.

It is explained in the Talmud that the first missionary, the “one from Nazereth,” was a student of Rabbi Yehushua ben Prachia, one of the great Sages of the time and leader of the Great Assembly. Traveling together on a journey, they stopped at a lodge along the way. After a lady innkeeper attended to their needs in a diligent fashion, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia praised her for honoring Torah scholars in the appropriate manner. Pure and saintly as he was, he remarked in an innocent fashion, “How pleasant this innkeeper is.” The commentator Rashi explains his remark as referring to, “her deeds.” However, the “Nazereth” jumped up and exclaimed, “But her eyes aren’t pretty!”

When Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia heard his student say this, he proclaimed, “Evil person! You are preoccupied with this!?” meaning looking at women. And he drove him away in the most severe manner, as the Talmud records, “He thrust the Nazereth away with both hands” (Sotah, 47A).

In his lectures about the Mashiach at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained that the Sages of the Talmud deliberately stated that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia “thrust the Nazereth away with both hands,” as opposed to pushing him away with the left hand and drawing him close with the right, in the usual educational manner. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia reacted in this emphatic way in thrusting the “Nazereth” away to show that he was clearly not the Mashiach.

The task of the Mashiach (or the Messiah, as he is known in English) is to save the Jews from its enemies and rebuild the Nation of Israel, yet the followers of Jezeus have slaughtered millions and millions of Jews and done everything in their power to keep Israel lowly and weak. Referring to Christianity’s renegade founder, the great Jewish Torah Sage, the Rambam (also known to the English-speaking world as Maimonides), writes:

“Can there be a greater stumbling block than this one? All of the Prophets spoke of the Mashiach as the redeemer of Israel, and as its savior, who would gather their dispersed, and strengthen their observance of the commandments, while this one caused the annihilation of Israel by the sword, and caused their remnants to be scattered and scorned. He caused the Torah to be altered, and brought the majority of the world to err, and to serve a god other than the Lord” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:4, see the uncensored edition of Mossad HaRav Kook Publications).

Thus, if you come across a missionary for Jezeus, you have permission from the Talmud and from the Rambam to thrust him away with both hands.

The prohibition against idol worship tops the list of the Ten Commandments. No one is allowed to make or worship a graven image. As the Rambam explains, “The essential principle concerning idolatry is that people are not to worship anything created – neither angel, planet, star, the elements, or something derived from them” (Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship, Ch.9).

This includes great golden Buddhas, Hindu monkey gods, totem poles, statues of Jezeus, and the like. I would post a few photos in illustration, but it is even forbidden to gaze upon the picture of an idolatrous figure, as it says, “Turn not after their idols” (Vayikra, 19:4. See Rambam, 2:2, loc. cited).

In his writings on Christianity, which he calls, “Minut,” Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook explains that it began as a breakaway sect of Judaism which grew in influence and ultimately led the world astray with its doctrines. He categorizes it as idol worship, and says that its founder brought the majority of the world to err by serving a god other than the Almighty. By abandoning the mitzvot, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While imitating many of Judaism’s values and beliefs, Christianity actually led the world away from the true service of God.

First Of The Land

Friday, June 29th, 2012

There are 613 mitzvoth – we all know that. We also all know it is impossible for one person to perform all 613. Twenty-five mitzvot can only be performed in the Land of Israel, which leaves many Jews out in the cold, shall we say. After all, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are inextricably intertwined; they are in fact dependent on one another for survival. But Judaism has a solution or as a modern Israeli would say, a “patent.” Mitzvot can be performed by proxy; by taking a part in a mitzvah one merits a share in the whole.

For example, let’s say you want a share in the mitzvah of reshit hagez, the first wool of the first sheep shearing that is brought to the Kohen. No problem, you just contact, Reshit Ha’aretz, a farm established in Beit El, a community that also fortuitously has a stellar Yeshiva. They sheer the sheep on the farm and bring the first wool to the rabbis who are also Kohanim in the yeshiva there.

Reshit Haaretz, now in its fourth year was established for the precise purpose of performing the mitzvot that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. And the cooperative also offers you the opportunity of performing these mitzvahs virtually. It’s an opportunity Moshe Rabbeinu would have treasured.

“We thought that we were really missing out because so many important mitzvot, obligatory me’de’oraita, are so very distant from every Jew, and we began to think of a practical way to enable every Jew to participate in their performance,” explains Rabbi Ronen Zer, 46, the founder of the Reshit Ha’aretz farm. Zer means bouquet, so it appears his agricultural calling was predestined.

“After receiving blessings and approval of the endeavor from the most prominent rabbis, I left Tzfat together with my family and settled in Bet El. Here in the region designated for the tribe of Binyamin, we decided to establish the Reshit Ha’aretz farm.”

The farm enables any Jew, no matter where in the world he resides, to be a partner in the purchase of the farm and the performance of the 25 land-related mitzvot. The farm spans an area of several dunams and contains fields of crops, vineyards and olive groves, enclosures for animals and livestock and a winery where the biblical mitzvot are performed using the fruits and produce of the farm. For example- setting aside terumot and maasrot (tithes), neta revai (the eating of fourth year produce in Jerusalem), peah, leket, shichecha and others. And the holy animals of Israel are also not neglected. For example, The rarely performed mitzvoth of Peter Chamor, the aforementioned reshit hagez, and the gifts of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva to the Kohen among others. During a Shemittah year, of course all the laws are stringently observed and the fruit orchards are open for the public at large, who are free to help themselves. The fruit is hefker, after all.

“With the establishment of the farm, we intended to grant merits to the residents of Israel living in cities and urban areas, who wouldn’t have an actual opportunity to perform these important mitzvot personally,” explains Rabbi Zer, as he plants a new vineyard on one of the farm’s slopes. “Afterwards, we thought that if we can grant merits to Jews in Israel, why not also grant the same privilege of these mitzvot to our brothers and sisters overseas, as well? We approached Torah leaders and they gave us their blessing for this holy enterprise. The Institute Machon HaTorah VeHa’Aretz cooperated with us and we composed a monetary contract that is halachically binding and a means by which our brothers and sisters abroad can also become partners in the farm.”

A few weeks ago a festival celebrating reshit hagez was held at the farm, as well as the mitzvot of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva, with the participation of rabbanim and an appreciative crowd of participants. The wool of an entire of flock of sheep was sheared, the parts of the animals undergoing ritual slaughter were presented to the Kohen amid a festive atmosphere, and the celebration also included hands-on activities and creative workshops for children, music, and a food market. It was a grand festival celebrating the performance of mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz, reinforcing our attachment to and ownership of the land of Israel and our joyful adherence to its mitzvot.”

Tzitzit, Tefillin, And Women

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Question: Why don’t women wear tzitzit and tefillin?

Answer: In general, tradition has it that women are not obligated to observe mitzvot dependent upon a specific period of time. Thus, for example, they are exempt from hearing shofar on Rosh Hashanah and shaking lulav on Sukkot.

Yet women commonly observe the mitzvot of shofar and lulav. Why, then, can they not also observe the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin?

The Aruch HaShulchan discusses this issue. He explains that tzitzit is different than shofar and lulav. First, tzitzit is a constant mitzvah while shofar and lulav are restricted to a couple of minutes a year. Second, wearing tzitzit is not technically required by biblical law unless one is wearing a four-cornered garment. Men, nowadays, voluntarily wear four-cornered garments constantly so that they will be obligated to perform the mitzvah of tzitzit. Women were never granted authority to similarly volunteer and recite a berachah on this mitzvah like men. The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 17:1-3) even uses the term “ein me’nichim” – we do not allow women to wear tzitzit. (See also Mishnah Berurah, O.C. 17:5.)

As far as tefillin are concerned: This mitzvah mandates cleanliness and proper thoughts (Shabbat 49a). Men are presumed able to control themselves during tefillah and maintain the necessary level of cleanliness. Due to physiological differences, however, matters are not as simple for women, and they therefore should not wear tefillin.

The Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 38:6) notes that the Talmud (Eruvin 96a) states that King Saul’s daughter, Michal, wore tefillin and the sages did not protest. However, the Aruch HaShulchan writes, this anecdote does not contradict his conclusion. Michal was a well-known pious woman who knew how to protect and preserve the sanctity of tefillin. She was an exception and we should not extrapolate anything from her example.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of seven sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Shabbat The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

An Almost Successful Baal Teshuvah

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Question: Someone tried to observe Shabbat but could not hold out from violating its laws in the latter part of the day. Does he receive a reward for the amount of Shabbat he observed? Or is reward based on the principle of “all or nothing”? In other words, does Shabbat observance require a total commitment such that partial observance is comparable to not observing Shabbat altogether?

Answer: The following is cited in the name of HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l: The Torah extols the efforts of Calev ben Yefuna to persuade klal yisrael to ignore the 10 Spies who argued that the Jews would not be able to defeat the Canaanites in battle. Yet, Calev did not succeed. While he may have swayed the people for a short period of time, his efforts were ultimately to no avail. The people sided with the 10 spies, not Calev. Why then does the Torah praise him and why did Hashem reward him?

Rav Moshe argued that this story teaches us that even if one does not succeed in performing a mitzvah, one still receives a great reward for one’s effort. Just as the Talmud (Yoma 85a) contends that one may violate Shabbat for to save a person who may only live for a short period of time, so too with performing mitzvot – even temporary success is deemed important. (See Sefer Kol Ram, Chelek Rishon by Rabbi Avraham Fisheles, Parshat Shelach.)

Although a person may not be fully Shomer Shabbat, his efforts are not wasted and still deem him worthy of reward.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has written several works on Jewish law. His latest, Jewish Prayer The Right Way (Urim publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Celebrating A Bar Mitzvah

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Question: Why do we celebrate when a boy becomes bar mitzvah?

Answer: The Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) states that Rav Yosef, who was blind, found himself troubled at the thought that blind men are exempt from performing mitzvot. He therefore declared that if anyone could tell him that we don’t pasken like Rabbi Yehudah – who ruled that blind men are indeed exempt – he would make a “yom tov” for the rabbis. (Rashi interprets “yom tov” to mean a “banquet.”)

The Maharshal, Rav Shlomo Luria (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kamma, M’ruba), argues that this Gemara demonstrates that one should celebrate when one first learns of one’s obligation to perform mitzvot. He argues further that this Gemara is the source for celebrating one’s bar mitzvah. We celebrate this day just as Rav Yosef planned on celebrating the day he learned that he was obligated to observe mitzvot.

In our prayers, we say, “Lishmo’a, lilmod, u’l’lameid, lishmor v’la’asot et kol divrei talmud Toratecha b’ahavah.” It is a prayer for God to imbue love of Torah and mitzvot within us. The purpose of a bar mitzvah celebration is to manifest our love and joy in observing the Torah. That’s why we give gifts to a bar mitzvah boy. We thereby demonstrate how overjoyed we are at his new status. The youngster who receives these gifts, in turn, learns of the importance of loving Torah and mitzvot.

Giving gifts is a form of chinuch in ahavat haTorah, which every Jew is obligated to instill in children. By giving a present, one fulfills a chiyuv mitzvah.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of seven sefarim on Jewish Law. His latest, “Shabbat the Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/celebrating-a-bar-mitzvah/2012/06/07/

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