Wednesday, January 30, 2019

“Increase and fully occupy the Land.”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

In this week’s parashah G-d promises Israel that they will conquer the Land, but that the process of conquest will be gradual:

“ I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you to contend with. I will drive the inhabitants out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and fully occupy the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land's inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you” (Exodus 23:29-31).

Indeed, Joshua bin Nun conquered the Land but not all of it. He left foreign peoples in it, who caused the Jewish People countless problems during the period of the Judges. This went on until the time of King David, who conquered the entire land from the foreigners living in it. Only in the time of his son Solomon were we privileged to rest from our wars, each person sitting under his grave arbor or fig tree.

Today, our own generation is similar and parallel to that of Joshua bin Nun who came up out of the desert to conquer the Land. Our generation as well emerged out of the desert of nations after 2,000 years of exile, to conquer and settle Eretz Yisrael. And just as in Joshua’s generation they did not drive out all the residents of the Land, such that “I will drive out the inhabitants little by little” was fulfilled, so too in our own generation a foreign people still remains in the land of our life’s blood. And just as in the days of the judges, the foreign nations made great trouble for Israel, today as well the Arabs are causing us great problems, threatening the State of Israel’s existence. And just as in the days of the Judges leaders arose who fought Israel’s wars and infused the people with a spirit of valor, such as Gideon, Yiftach, Shimshon and others, in our own day as well we need leaders who can strengthen the nation’s spirit and fight with might and fortitude against our enemies with their evil designs against us. And just as G-d makes our conquering the Land conditional on our first increasing in number, so, too, in our own day, the call of the hour is to increase and multiply, from within and from without. From within, we must have natural population growth. It is well known that families that preserve Jewish tradition often have large families. Thank G-d we have been privileged to see more and more people returning to their roots and to tradition. The day is not far off when the entire Jewish People will return to their roots, and the result will be great internal natural growth.

We must increase from without as well, by way of much aliyah. There are still millions of Jews in the exile, and the State of Israel must invest enormous effort and large sums of money to encourage aliyah, both in educating towards aliyah and in absorbing new immigrants. By way of this internal growth and a large aliyah we will fill our country with Jews. By such means we will be privileged to be the living fulfillment of the divine promise: “I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river.”

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom,
Chodesh Tov.

Moshe Feiglin: We have a platform and we will advance it as far as possible (vid. Eng subs)

The Far/Near God

by Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. -Empedocles

After the Revelation at Mount Sinai, the instruction and communication between God, Moses and the People of Israel continues at the foot of the desert mountain. At one point the Jews are instructed that they will “bow down from afar.”

The Berdichever takes the opportunity to explore the meanings of a “far” God versus a God that is “near.”

The aspect of God being “far” is the belief that God’s infinite light precedes all existence and that there is nothing in all of creation that is capable of understanding God, not even the ministering angels. That is the concept of a “far” God – that He’s incomprehensible. Understanding Him is infinitely far from our capabilities.

The aspect of God being “near” is the belief that there is no place in all of creation that doesn’t have God. God is everywhere. He fills, and surrounds, and sustains reality. He is right here, next to me, with me, in me. It doesn’t get closer than that.

It is the obligation of a Jew to believe in both aspects of God. He’s “far” – infinitely incomprehensible to our minds, and He’s “near” – right here with us, around us, sustaining our beings and existence.

That is an explanation of the verse: “Peace upon the far and the near, said God.”

Another dimension to God being “far” and “near” are the feelings of awe on one side and love on the other, which we need to have of God. “Far” correlates to both the awe of God and the related distance we feel from the mind of God. “Near” correlates to the love and the nearness we feel, to the love and constant attention and care from God.

Hence, when the Jews are instructed to “bow down from afar,” it specifically relates to awe. You bow down to a being that you are in awe of, that you have some distance from.

But where there is love and nearness, we can embrace.

May we feel both close and distant from God, as the situation dictates.
Shabbat Shalom.

Jerusalem Post: Maverick Ex-Shas MK Amsalem Joining Feiglin’s Party

by Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post

“Integrity in politics is a rare thing, and I see Feiglin as someone with integrity,” said Rabbi Haim Amsalem.

One rebel MK joined another on Monday, when Rabbi Haim Amsalem, formerly of Shas, announced he would be running in the Zehut Party, led by ex-Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin.

The party said that Amsalem would be in a high spot on its list, but would not specify which.

“Integrity in politics is a rare thing, and I see Feiglin as someone with integrity,” Amsalem said. “Together with the Zehut Party, we will change the face of religious services in the State of Israel.”

Amsalem had a falling-out with Shas in 2010 over his relatively-moderate views on religion and state compared to the party, especially on issues relating to conversion, in which he sought to ease the process for people with Jewish ancestry who the rabbinate does not consider Jewish. He formed his own party ahead of the 2013 election, called Am Shalem, which did not make it over the electoral threshold. He then entered talks to join Bayit Yehudi, but ended up joining Likud in 2014 – criticizing Bayit Yehudi for taking a hardline stance on conversion. But in 2016, he joined Bayit Yehudi and said he planned to run in its primary.

Zehut’s platform calls to abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over religious services in Israel and allow people to choose who would provide those services.

Upon joining the party, Amsalem said that “there is a vacuum on the issues of religious and state, and the decline of religious parties shows that the party is desperate for an alternative, in a different spirit that has disappeared from our lives.”

He expressed hope that Zehut would “free the public from its dependence on the way of the existing religious parties.”

“The time has come for moderate Judaism for all those looking for a Jewish identity,” Amsalem said.

Zehut will hold an open primary on Tuesday, in which any Israeli can vote via the party website without joining the party.

The Shamrak Report: The Jewish National Goal and more...

by Steven Shamrak
Many Jewish groups, organizations and individuals are actively involved in signing petitions, writing letters and monitoring anti-Semitism worldwide. These are very important activities, but they all are missing direction.
Jews must unite behind the most important objective - the Jewish National goal: "Jewish people have the right to live in peace on all the Jewish ancestral land". Only by uniting behind the National Goal Jews will have the chance to survive the modern, internationally orchestrated, anti-Jewish onslaught!
This is the only goal that is worthwhile to pursue. It is the right of the Jewish people and must be pursued regardless of a political affiliation and external factors such as the Arab intentions to destroy Israel, and International anti-Semitism! It is the National right that Jewish people have dreamed about for 2000 years! Therefore, regardless of the political affiliation of any Jewish group, political party or individual, communist or capitalist; Orthodox, Secular or Atheist - all of them can support and be united behind this goal. And, it would not contradict their ideology.
It is imposable to achieve anything without setting an objective. We need to revive, re-ignite and be clear about the Jewish National Goal and aspirations. We can’t afford to waste time anymore. Our enemies declared their intention clearly, recently and in the past. Our ambiguity is just inflaming their hate!
Jewish national aspirations are not against Arabs or Muslims. It is about the identity and rights of Jewish people. The International community has done everything possible to deny Jewish people the achievement of our destiny. The time has come to take control of our own destiny!
The useless internal political bickering must be stopped. The Jewish National Goal has to be the main priority and motivation for all Israeli politicians, Jewish people and organizations around the world. The personal ego has to be put aside. This idea is the only one that can unite Jewish people.
History is full of examples of a great number of people who became idealistic and enthusiastic when they were lead to the achievement of seemingly, unattainable goals. They were unstoppable and pursued worthwhile goals with zeal.
Jews have this goal embedded in the Jewish soul. It would be more natural and easier for Jews to support the creation of the Jewish state on all Jewish lands. On the contrary, it is unnatural and self-destructive to impose on Israel the agenda of our enemies and the duplicity of their supporters!
My interview with a Jewish Australian Community TV program
Subject: "Population Transfer" – to Watch it, Click Here
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
Many Jews are still advocating the two-state solution – creating another Arab/Muslim terror state, “Palestine”, which has never existed, to accommodate the recently forged people on the Jewish lands Judea, Samaria and Gaza! Liberal Jews forgot, actually do not care, that in August 2005 8,500 Jews were removed from Gaza forcefully to end accusations of occupation made against Israel. Several years later, over 10,000 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, and they are still coming! It is time for those misguided Jews, who have compulsion to prove that they are ‘good Jews’, to wake up from their delusion and face reality. They will not be accepted by international anti-Semites as equal anyway, and are treated, as always. as jesters and traitors with contempt!
Please, read and distribute!
The IDF said that 10,000 rioters gathered at a number of locations along the border fence, throwing grenades and rocks at IDF soldiers and at the fence. In addition, two grenades were thrown at an army vehicle in northern Gaza. There were repeated attempts to smash through the border to infiltrate Israel. (How many useless ceasefires are needed to realise that there are “innocent victims” in Gaza? Its entire population is an Israel-hating terrorist den, which must be removed from the Jewish land!)
Churches and other religious structures belonging to just one Christian denomination in Nigeria since the terrorist group launched an uprising in 2009. (Many Christians have been killed in Muslim countries, but anti-Semites of the Church are only critical of Israel's self defense against Palestinian terror!)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu authorized the transfer of Qatar’s January instalment of $15m to the Gaza Strip. The money is the third instalment of a series of payments aimed at keeping Gaza from collapsing. A short time later, Hamas official Khalil al-Haya said that the Qatari remittance was refused. Qatari ambassador Muhammed al-Amadi left the Gaza Strip with the allocation still in hand and returned to Israel. (Have some self-respect - Hamas has it! Stop sustaining enemies - remove themTake the money and pay all the victims of Hamas’ terrorism. Any group paying Hamas should be subject to being sued by Jews hurt by Hamas.)
In May 2018, while the Palestinian president, Abbas, was suffering from pneumonia at a Ramallah hospital and his doctors feared a complete system shutdown, Israel sent a specialist to help treat him. After two days of intensive care, the Palestinian leader got better, and a week later he was discharged from the hospital. (There is no political will toterminate enemy occupation of the Jewish land and end the conflict!)
In addition to rocket fire and airborne incendiary devices, residents of Israeli communities bordering Gaza are now battling putrid smell of giant landfills and sewage from the strip, that is polluting Israel's groundwater. Polluted sewage is being pumped from Gaza into the Israeli side of the border!
The Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2018 spent NIS 502 million ($137 M.) on salaries and other payments to imprisoned terrorists and those who have been released. The PA allocated an additional NIS 687 million ($187 M.) to the families of dead terrorists. This expensive pay system is funded in part by Western donor countries. In July 2018, the Knesset passed legislation to financially penalize the PA for its payments to terrorists and their families.
Israel’s government cabinet approved again the transfer of $15 million in Qatari cash to Gaza’s Hamas-run government. The money comprises the third tranche of a Qatari grant that was originally to be delivered to the enclave three weeks ago, but was delayed due to the ongoing violence led by Hamas.(The violence has not stopped! Why does Israel 'feed' the terrorist regime?)
The European Union has given over €5 million in grants in 2017-2018 to ten Palestinian and European organizations that promote boycotts against Israel, despite assurances by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini such groups do not receive EU funding.
The majority of Israelis don’t support non-Jewish immigration to the country, even when the immigrants are highly trained or have advanced degrees. The country has the highest percentage of (Jewish) immigrants with higher education among the countries surveyed, when including Jewish immigration. Almost half, or 49% of foreign-born adults over age 25 in Israel have a graduate degree, compared to just 35% of the native-born population. (If Israel allows non-Jewish immigration to the Jewish state pretty soon Jews will have to find other country to migrate to!)
Quote of the Week:
”And (mention, O Muhammad), when Moses said to his people, "O my people, remember the favor of Allah upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah (G-d) has assigned to you and do not turn back (from fighting in Allah's cause) and (thus) become losers. They said, "O Moses, indeed within it is a people of tyrannical strength, and indeed, we will never enter it until they leave it; but if they leave it, then we will enter." – Quran, 5:20-22 – Jews have entered the Holy Land. Therefore, even according to Quran, Muslims must recognise the unique Jewish ownership of the Land of Israel! Jews have always had lived in Eretz-Israel - in spite of Roman, Christian and Muslim persecution. That mean, presence of Muslims on Jewish land is disrespectful to Quran. If they are true Muslims and followers of the words of prophet Mohamed, they must obey writings in their holy book and leave Eretz-Israel – the land G-d had given to Jews - otherwise, they are just another bunch of anti-Semitic, Jew-hating religious hypocrites like the one that came before Islam!
The War on Terror - the Containment Plan
by Steven Shamrak. (20/10/2006)
We hear quite often that it is the fault of the West that the Muslim world hates us so much. They claim that it is Western demands for implementation of democracy, perceived as arrogance by Muslims, that are responsible for the escalation of Muslim terrorism worldwide. They say that Muslims feel disrespected and insulted by Western superiority and the life style, which the West tries to impose on the Muslim world. The message of hate toward the West is loud and clear!
I am totally sympathetic with their concerns and agree that we, Western countries, must not impose our values on our Muslim neighbours. We must completely refrain from interference in their way of life!
If the governments of Muslim countries and their population do not want to live by and obey the rules of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence with other nations, cultures and religions, we must let them live the way they desire! Therefore, total isolation must be imposed upon them and we have to let them live in complete and total disengagement from us.
They want to live in accordance with and under Sharia Law, a genuine Muslim life style and in an environment of malignant terror and hate. Let them enjoy it in complete self-containment! The wishes of the countries and peoples who hate us so much should be respected by Western society. We must allow them to maintain their ignorant life style and let them impose terror and hate on themselves only. This is the Containment Plan:
1.      Start active development and implementation of alternative sources of energy, with complete dedication of financial and human resources.
The benefits: It will make a cleaner environment; political and economic independence from Arab oil; Remove a tool of Arab blackmail; Reduce financing of terror; Engender a positive and healthy economical balance and quality of life.
2.      Intensify the war against drug trafficking from Muslim countries.
The benefits: It will improve public health; reduce the drugs for arms terror trade.
3.      Suspend immigration from Muslim countries and deport the radical and criminal Islamic elements to the countries of their or their parent's origin.
The benefits: It will prevent the deliberate Muslimisation process of Western society; Stop the spread of locally grown Islamic terrorism; Allow freedom of expression in the Western Muslim communities.
4.      Stop the sale of advanced arms and technology to Muslim countries.
The benefits: It will prevent the escalation of terror and transfer of advanced technology to the hands of terror fostering Muslim states; reduce the chance of development of WMD.
5.      Reduce political, cultural and trade contacts. So far, those contacts have not encouraged Muslim societies to build democracy. Quite the opposite, hostility toward the West has increased.
The benefits: It will reduce cultural pollution of Western and Muslim societies.
6.      If nothing else works stop all trade, cultural and political contacts with the worst offenders, like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Impose blockades.
The benefits: If their hatred of the West is so great and the West is so bad, they must not enjoy the produce of "evil"!

Parents and Children

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

And one who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. (Shemos 21:7)

OF THE MANY mitzvos found in this week’s parsha, one of them is to not curse one’s parents. The mitzvah to honor one’s father and mother is not only included in the Ten Commandments, it is on the side of the mitzvos considered to be between God and man. Honoring and fearing one’s parents is considered to be the preparation for honoring and fearing God.

Yet it is true that it is a lot easier to fulfill this central mitzvah when parents make themselves worthy of our honor and fear. Nevertheless, that is not a prerequisite, which is good, because children do not yet possess the ability to appreciate their parents for who they are and what they have become. It can be decades, or take the starting of their own families, before children reach that level of understanding.

Parents have their own mitzvah to be good examples for their children. If ever the principle, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” applied, it is while raising children. A lesson many parents learn only too late is just how damaging to their children the things they did or didn’t do were while raising them.

“By the time they grow up, they’ll forget all about it,” many a not-so-good parent has said. Maybe consciously, but not unconsciously, where it counts the most. By the time their children have grown up, their bad parenting will have already become part-and-parcel of their children’s approach to life, for better or for worse, and usually the latter.

As I have said in the past, raising children “properly” is 75 help from Heaven, and 25 percent help from Heaven. That’s right, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT Heavenly help. You basically have to be a prophet to know how best to respond to your child’s nuances, which constantly change and develop form year-to-year.

What is good for them?

What is bad for them?

What is good for them in the short run, but not in the long run?

What is bad for them in the short run, and but ultimately the best thing for them?

Without prophecy, how can anyone know any of these answers with certainty?

And there is another complication to an already complicated situation. How many parents are no longer children themselves once the kids start coming? How many parents ever really grow up, at least in time to give their children the benefit of that growth? In so many situations, it’s kids raising kids, and not always clear which kid is raising which kid.

To raise a responsible child, you have to already be a responsible adult. I don’t only mean that you go to work every day and earn a living to support your family, or make sure they’re all eating right. All that is important, VERY important, but not the overall important trait to have in life. It’s something bigger than all of that.

In fact, it’s called the “Big Picture.” It’s a pretty common term that is used in many ways, and it always means the same thing. It says that the short term goals of anything are only meaningful within the context of the long term goal, which means you have to know what that is. When it comes to the really important things in life, like raising children, there is no such thing as “just winging it.”

I heard a story recently about a rabbi whose son had to make his own Kiddush on a Friday night, because he was late coming home from shul. He was late from shul because he dovened at a different shul than his father did. He had to doven at the other shul because he was late getting to shul in the first place.

“Don’t you think it bothered me that my son could not be included in my Kiddush like the rest of my family (which was quite large), or that he did not doven in my shul with me as he usually does?” he later asked his guest, to whom he told this story.

“Of course it bothered me!” he said, answering his own question.

“And do you know what I told him?”

By this time, the guest in whom the rabbi was confiding felt rather uncomfortable. “Why was he being made privy to some personal family information?” he wondered to himself.

The answer was even MORE unexpected.

“Nothing,” he told his guest. “I told him NOTHING.”

As the guest absorbed the surprise answer, the rabbi honed in on his point.

“And do you know WHY I told him NOTHING?”

The guest shook his head back and forth.

“Because, if I told him SOMETHING, then my son would have had to show me that my comments didn’t affect him, which he would have done by behaving the exact same way next week. By saying NOTHING instead, I left my son room to not make a big deal out of it, and fix the problem next week.”

I don’t know if such advice is acceptable to everyone, or would work with most children. I don’t even know if it even worked with the rabbi’s son. I just know that this rabbi was a father who was in touch with the BIGGER picture in life, and in raising children. His long term clarity instructed him how to react in the short term reality and probably helped his progeny to grow up as responsible adults.

It’s what every GOOD parent lives to do.

It’s what EVERY child needs in order to become one.

HaRav Nachman Kahana: My Extraordinary Aunt and Uncle

Parashat Mishpatim 5779
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

I have an extraordinary, prominent uncle and an equally great or possibly even greater aunt, who happens to also be the aunt of my prestigious uncle!

They lived in very different times and environments with about a 350-year separation; nevertheless, both had very similar ideals, values and similar unhappy fates.

My uncle was Moshe Rabbeinu, because I am a descendant of Moshe’s bother Aharon, the first Kohen Gadol, and since I am from the tribe of Levi, I am a descendant of Leah, Ya’akov’s first wife and sister of my Aunt Rachel. The same applies to Moshe, who was from the tribe of Levi, making Rachel his aunt.

As stated above, both my illustrious uncle and aunt shared common values, the preeminent of which was for the Jewish nation – everyone without exception, to be here in Eretz Yisrael, not in the galut.

Moshe’s love of the holy land came to the fore when he pleaded 515 times with HaShem to enter the land. The Midrash relates that in one of the conversations after Moshe’s request was denied, Moshe offered the almighty a compromise – that he be permitted to enter Israel if only for burial, or in the form of an animal or a bird just to fly within the air space of Eretz Yisrael, which is under the holy throne of HaShem.

But HaShem for reasons known only to Him denied even these requests. Moshe would remain outside the holy land until the time for techi’at hamaytim (resurrection of the dead).

Rachel’s love for the land is expressed in the book of Yirmiyahu chapter 31,14-16:

(יד) כה אמר ה’ קול ברמה נשמע נהי בכי תמרורים רחל מבכה על בניה מאנה להנחם על בניה כי איננו

(טו) כה אמר ה’ מנעי קולך מבכי ועיניך מדמעה כי יש שכר לפעלתך נאם ה’ ושבו מארץ אויב:

(טז) ויש תקוה לאחריתך נאם ה’ ושבו בנים לגבולם

14: Thus says HaShem:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are not here.

15: Thus says HaShem:

“Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded, declares the Lord. They will return from the land of the enemy.

16: There is hope for your descendants, declares HaShem, your children will return to their borders

Rachel weeps for the Jews who wish to come home, but are unable to do so, and for those who can come but consciously refuse to do so.

Moshe and Rachel shared another common fate. Each died just as they concluded their historic missions. The four wives of Yaakov were destined to give birth to twelve sons who would establish the 12 tribes of Am Yisrael. This historic mission was concluded by Rachel when at her dying breath she gave birth to the twelfth son, Binyamin.

Moshe too had concluded his historic mission of leading the nation out of Egypt, revealing to them HaShem’s holy Torah, and then bringing them to the banks of the River Jordan. At this point Moshe is led to Mount Nevo on the eastern bank of the river where he laid down and released his holy soul with the godly kiss of death.

Love of HaShem’s holy land and the inability to experience the dramatic beginnings of a new historic era in the history of the nation has been the experience of this generation, just as was with Moshe and Rachel.

For two thousand years the faithful of Am Yisrael, those who did not bow to the Satan of assimilation, maintained their faith that one day HaShem would return His people home. But just on the eve of our attaining statehood and a free open entrance to the holy land, millions of Jews were taken away by the descendants of Amalek and Yishmael and did not have the merit to exalt in the fruit of this 2000-year effort. Again, for reasons known only to the Almighty.

However, we, living in this generation in Eretz Yisrael are drinking from the same cup of loyalty that satiated the desires of Moshe and Rachel, in our love and desire to restore the Shechina to the holy land.

We were granted the merit to pass over the Rubicon in order to experience the fruit of our fathers’ and mothers’ labors as we strive every day to reach the pinnacle of our history; to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash and repair the broken link between HaShem and his chosen people, here in Eretz Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5779/2019 Nachman Kahana

Rav Kook on Parashat Mishpatim: Tablets of Stone

In the Torah reading of Mishpatim, the Torah makes an abrupt switch. The previous parashah of Yitro deals with great, universal topics: the Revelation at Sinai and the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments.

From the heights of these lofty themes, the Torah descends into the nitty gritty of everyday life. Mishpatim deals with servants, thieves, and kidnappers. We read about personal injury, damages, and negligence, and laws for lending money and borrowing articles.

In short: Judaism is not just about fundamental beliefs and principles. The Torah’s ideals must permeate all aspects of life.

Lest one think that the two Torah portions are unrelated, the end of Mishpatim returns to the saga of Sinai, completing the account started in Yitro. At Sinai, God told Moses:

“Come up to Me, to the mountain, and remain there. I will give you the stone tablets, the Torah and the mitzvah, that I have written for the people’s instruction.” (Ex. 24:12)

What exactly are “the Torah and the mitzvah” that God promised to give Moses?

All from Sinai

Third-century scholar Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explained that each term in the verse refers to a different component of Torah:

“The stone tablets” refers to the Aseret HaDibrot.
“The Torah” is the Five Books of Moses.
“The mitzvah” is the Mishnah.
“That I have written” refers to the Ketuvim (the ‘Writings,’ the third section of Tanakh).
“For the people’s instruction” is the Talmud.
“This teaches that all of these were transmitted to Moses at Sinai.” (Berakhot 5a)

Clearly, Rabbi Shimon did not mean that everything was explicitly revealed to Moses. The Talmud in Menachot 29b relates that God showed Moses a vision of Rabbi Akiva, the renowned second-century scholar, lecturing to his students. Moses became distressed when he realized that he could not follow the lesson. Then one of the students asked Rabbi Akiva, “Our master, what is the source for this law?” The great scholar replied, “It is a law given to Moses at Sinai.” Upon hearing this, Moses was immediately relieved.

The specific case was unfamiliar to Moses. But Rabbi Akiva affirmed that its true, ultimate source was Mount Sinai.

The point of Rabbi Shimon’s exegesis is that the Oral Law - the Mishnah and the Talmud - are faithful applications of Sinaitic Law to the realities of life in second-century Eretz Yisrael and fifth-century Babylon. Not adjustments to the Torah to accommodate new times, but careful application of the guidelines set down at Sinai.

Tablets of Sapphire Stone

Rav Kook asked an interesting question: why were the Ten Commandments engraved on stone tablets? Why was it significant to mention the raw material used to make the tablets?

One might think that it is only necessary to be faithful to the spirit of the Torah - that is the essence of Judaism. The details, the specific rules of conduct, however, depend on the current culture and norms of society. They must be adapted to fit the needs of the day. In other words, we need not be overly concerned with the detailed legal code of Mishpatim. What is important is following the general spirit of Yitro.

Therefore, the Torah relates that the tablets were made of stone. According to the Midrash, it was not just any stone, but sapphire. This material was so tough that a hammer swung against them would be smashed to pieces. God used tablets made of unbreakable sapphire to emphasize that even the Torah’s physical manifestation - i.e., its day-to-day practical laws - may not be changed.

The concept of the Torah’s immutability, even in the details of everyday life, is particularly relevant to this verse. Sometimes the oral tradition appears to contradict the simple meaning of the written Torah. One might mistakenly think that the Talmudic sages adjusted Torah law to conform to the norms of their time. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish taught that there are no changes in the Torah. The Mishnah and Talmud are rooted in oral traditions that go back to Mount Sinai. “All of these were transmitted to Moses at Sinai.”

(Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 14)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I Will Restore Your Judges as They Were Initially

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them." (Shemot 21:1) The Mechilta comments, in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, "'And these' adds to the earlier ones [the Ten Commandments]. Just as the earlier ones are from Sinai, so too these are from Sinai." This statement stands in antithesis to the famous saying in the New Testament, from the teaching of Rome, "What is God's is God's; what is the Emperor's is the Emperor's."

That outlook says that there is a complete separation between religion and state, between the Divine ideal and the societal ideal. In contrast, Judaism teaches that the entire societal and political order has to be based on the Divine ideal, and not on human, societal norms. Righteous and pious individuals exist in every nation. The unique claim of Judaism is to form a nation that lives in its state, while all the orders of society and government -- not only that which is between man and God -- are Divine.

God says about Avraham, "I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice." (Bereishit 18:19) It does not say, "they keep the way of Hashem and do charity and justice," which would mean that there are two realms: the way of Hashem (between man and God), and charity and justice (between man and his fellow). Rather, it says, "the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice" -- in other words, doing charity and justice is the way of Hashem.

Similarly, Moshe tells Yitro, "The people come to me to seek God." (Shemot 18:15) What is the nature of this seeking of God? "When they have a matter, one comes to me, and I judge between a man and his fellow." (18:16)

The approach which sets aside for God the spiritual realm alone, and removes Him from the socio-political realm, is an invalid approach, and is the basis of Chazal's opposition to one who goes to be judged before the secular courts. "Even for a case that they judge the same as the laws of Israel, and even if both litigants agreed to argue before them [the secular courts] -- it is prohibited. Anyone who comes to litigate before them is wicked, and it is as if he cursed and blasphemed and raised his hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu a"h." (Shulchan Aruch C.M. 26:1) "Secular courts" does not only mean a non-Jewish court, but rather any legal system that is not based on Torah law, even if its leaders are Jewish, since going before them implies admission that Divine justice is unable to deal with and to offer solutions to problems that are beyond the 613 mitzvot.

Secular justice comes only to ensure a proper societal order, so that society will function properly, but it does not intend to educate and to elevate society. In contrast, the purpose of Divine justice is not only to ensure proper functioning of society, but, as the Ran writes in his Drashot, "So that the Divine Influence will dwell on our nation and stick with us." Therefore, God is called the "King of Justice," and the judge is called elohim, "for the judgment is God's."

Rav Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote: "I do not agree to appoint judges who will judge based on their own inclination, all the more so based on laws and practices that are not from our sacred Torah. This is simply rebellion against the Torah on the part of the community and the government in Eretz Yisrael. As for our Torah from Heaven -- what will be of it? There is no embarrassment for the Torah and internal destruction greater than this."

At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel he wrote:

Our desire, our goal, is that the State should be democratic in the original spirit of Israel, in the spirit of "Love your neighbor as yourself;" of "Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue." Our intention is not that our democracy should be a mere imitation, subjugated in its spirit to the democracy of the nations. But now ... what system of justice [is there] -- a mixture of Turkish and English law! "Then I will restore your judges as at first ... Zion will be redeemed through justice." (Yeshaya 1:26) "On account of the justice that will be done in it, she will be redeemed from the nations." (Metzudat David) These are the nations that did not rise to the level of civilized nations until thousands of years after we stood at Har Sinai. In truth, the wisdom of their laws is like a monkey compared to a person relative to our laws ... and the one speaking to you is a person who is well versed in both Roman and English law.

God and His Laws

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

A God Who Prays?
In illuminating the opening words of this week's Torah portion - "And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them" - the Midrash brings a verse from the book of Tehillim :

"He relates His Word to Jacob..." - this refers to the commandments, "His laws and His judgements to Israel." - this refers to the ordinances. The ways of the Almighty are not like those of man. Man makes a practice of telling others to act, while he himself does absolutely nothing; yet, whatever God does, he tells the Jews to do and to guard.

The above can be understood in two different ways. According to the more plain understanding, what we have here is advice on how to go about teaching and educating the masses. Only when a leader or educator has perfected his own behavior, only when he himself performs perfectly that which he demands of others, will his words be accepted. From this rule we can gain fundamental insight concerning the proper way to bring estranged Jews closer to the study of Torah and the performance of Mitzvoth . Only when we ourselves have perfected our character traits to the point that nothing can stand in our way, will our words be heard and welcomed by the greater public.

Yet, it appears that in this Midrash the sages are attempting to make us aware of an even deeper concept. From the verse, "He relates His Word to Jacob, His laws and His ordinances to Israel," the sages deduce that the laws and ordinances which the Almighty related to Israel, to the Jews, are in fact the laws and ordinances of the Almighty Himself. The commandments are an expression, as it were, of the Divine essence. Judaism's 613 Mitzvoth correspond to the man's 248 limbs and his 365 veins. They - the Mitzvoth - fill man's entire existence with deep spiritual meaning. Man was created in God's image, and so, even in the Divine arena there exists an enumeration of "limbs and veins". Therefore, the Almighty Himself performs the Mitzvoth that he commanded Israel to perform.

This, then, is the central and complex message being conveyed in the words of the Midrash. It is for this reason that the sages did not say, "What God tells the Jews to do, He Himself does," rather, "Whatever God does, he tells the Jews to do and to guard."

The first Mitzvah which is mentioned in the Torah is the Mitzvah of Sabbath: "And on the seventh day He rested and relaxed." We find that the first to observe this commandment was God Himself. In addition, we find, according to the Talmud, that God prays. His prayer is that: "My mercy should conquer My anger." There are special prayers for God, and before Moses God appeared, crowned in Tefillin and wrapped in a Tallit.

The Mitzvoth, then, are the will of God not only because God wants the Jews to behave in this particular manner, but because they - the Mitzvoth - are His real and actual will, the revelation of the Divine essence in the world. The task of Israel is to make their own will like His will, to be similar to God, and, as such, to bring about the appearance of the Divine element in our worldly existence.

Initially, the world was created through the attribute of Divine judgement. This attribute is characterized by order, structure, and a clear plan for the existence of the world in accordance with the values of Divine justice and righteousness, for "judgement belongs to God" (Deuteronomy 1:17). Therefore, the sages have taught that each judge who performs upright judgement becomes a partner with God in the creation of the world; the attribute of judgement is the attribute tied to the creation of the world, and the performance of fair judgement serves to provide continued existence and protection to the desired Divine order in the world - the order which was implanted in the world since its very creation. God places the responsibility for the continued existence of creation's world order on the nation of Israel: "And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them"

Law and Order
Our Torah portion deals primarily with the topic of civil law. Concerning such dealings the sages have taught: "One who wishes to attain wisdom, [is advised to] occupy himself with civil law." In dealing with these laws the human intellect enjoys plenty of space in which to distinguish itself. Because the importance of logical argument is so great here, one who wishes to sharpen his intellect and to increase his wisdom is advised to "occupy himself with civil law."

From the Scriptural passage, "Whoever has a problem can go to them," the Talmud attempts to derive the well-known rule that one who lays claim to an object in another person's possession must first bring proof of ownership. Yet, in the end, such a derivation is discarded on the grounds that, "What do we need Scriptural proofs for when logic itself dictates such a rule: The one who is in pain, he goes to the doctor." With these words the sages teach a great and important lesson: The value of pure human logic is equal to that of a verse from the Torah, and such logic establishes laws which are themselves considered Torah.

In the Midrash to our portion the sages teach:
Moses demonstrated self-sacrificed for three things which were, in turn, named after him: the nation of Israel, the Torah, and the laws. The nation of Israel - how much he suffered on their behalf! - were named after him, as it is written, "Then, he remembered the past, Moses, and his people;" the Torah, as it is written, "Remember the Torah of Moses, my servant;" and the laws, as it says, "And these are the laws that you shall place before them."

One might ask: "Are not the laws themselves part of the Torah? If so, why does the Midrash make a distinction between the laws and the Torah? In light of the above, though, we now understand that the laws enjoy a special status of their own due to the fact that they constitute a Torah which stems from the intrinsic human vitality of the nation. In order to attain the laws, along with their special status, for the people of Israel, Moses sacrificed himself greatly, just as he sacrificed himself in order to guarantee the presence of the Torah amongst the people and the existence of the Nation itself.

Nonetheless, civil laws were included in the Torah. This was done in order to teach us that even in civil law there are Divine guidelines which are above and beyond human reasoning. Rabbi Nisim ben Reuven Gerondi, the Ran , explains that the difference between the laws of Israel and those of the other nations is that the purpose of the laws of the nations is to establish law and order, thus assuring the continued existence of civilization, because, "were it not for the fear of the kingdom men would swallow each other alive." Yet, the purpose of the laws of the Jews is to cause the dwelling of the Divine Presence in Israel. The laws of the Torah have been given to us by God, and, even in those cases where they are dictated by human reasoning, their foundation is in Divine logic. 

From Inspiration to the Detailed Laws

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The Torah follows its exhilarating and inspirational description of the revelation at Mount Sinai with a rather dry and detailed set of various laws that are to be followed by the people of Israel. It is one thing to be inspired and thus acquire great ideals. It is another thing completely to be able to transfer those ideals and inspiration into everyday life on a regular basis. We are all aware that the devil is always in the details. It is natural to agree that one should not steal or murder. But what is really the definition of stealing? Is taking something that originally did not belong to you always considered stealing? How about grabbing my neighbor’s rope and using it to save a drowning person? Is that also stealing? Is self-defense murder? Are court imposed death penalties murder? How are we to deal in facing such complex moral issues? This is really the crux of all halacha and this week’s parsha serves as our introduction to the concepts of Jewish law and halacha. Without such an understanding of the practice of halacha the great ideals and inspiration of the Torah are almost rendered meaningless and unachievable. The Torah concentrates not only on great ideas but on small details as well. From these small details spring forth the realization of the great ideals and the ability to make them of practical value and use in everyday life. Hence the intimate connection between this week’s parsha and the revelation at Mount Sinai discussed in last week’s parsha. There is a natural and necessary continuity in the narrative flow of these two parshiyot of the Torah.

I think that this idea is borne out by the famous statement of the Jewish people when asked if they wished to accept the Torah. In this week’s parsha their answer is recorded as "we will do and we will listen." All commentators and the Talmud comment upon the apparently reverse order of this statement. People usually listen for instructions before they "do." But the simple answer is that the people of Israel realized that listening alone will be insufficient. The great and holy generalities of the Torah are valid only if they are clearly defined, detailed and placed into everyday life activities. We have to "do" in order to be able to "listen" and understand the Torah’s guidance and wishes fully. The Talmud records that a non-Jew once told a rabbi that the Jews were a "hasty and impulsive people" in accepting the Torah without first checking out its contents. But in reality that holy hastiness of Israel was a considered and mature understanding that a Torah of ideas and inspiration alone without a practical guide to life would not last over the centuries of Jewish history. Only those who are willing to "do" and who know what to "do" will eventually appreciate intellectually and emotionally the greatness of Torah. Only then will they be able to truly "listen" and appreciate the great gift that the Lord has bestowed upon Israel - the eternal and holy Torah.

Friedman’s Lens and Sisyphean Mud

by Victor Rosenthal

Matti Friedman explains what should be obvious when he says that there is no Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think, and this perception gap is worth spelling out. It has nothing to do with being right-wing or left-wing in the American sense. To borrow a term from the world of photography, the problem is one of zoom. Simply put, outsiders are zoomed in, and people here in Israel are zoomed out. Understanding this will make events here easier to grasp.

Zoom out and you will see, Friedman explains, that only a minority of Israel’s enemies, historically and currently, are Palestinian Arabs. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and even Yemen joined with the Palestinians in an attempt to snuff out the newly-declared State of Israel in 1948. Today Iran and her Shiite proxies – Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Iraqi militias entrenching themselves in Syria are Israel’s most formidable enemies, with Hamas, the Qatari-financed offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, playing a secondary role.

Compared to the Palestinians, Israel looks strong, Goliath to their David. But in the context of the overall Muslim Middle East, Israel, with its relatively small population and lack of strategic depth, is threatened.

And this, says Friedman, is why the peace processors don’t get it. Clinton, Bush, and Obama were all “Zoomed in” on Israel and the Palestinians, while not understanding the broader context. Although we haven’t heard Trump’s proposal yet, it will likely have the same defect.

Friedman is right, as far as he goes. He doesn’t mention the reason that five Arab armies invaded the new state of Israel in 1948, or the reason the “peace” agreements with Egypt and Jordan are cold, pragmatic deals that greatly benefit the autocratic regimes of those countries, while not moving a centimeter in the direction of the normalization of everyday relations between the nations that was supposed to follow. It certainly isn’t because these countries care about the welfare of Palestinians. The invaders of 1948 did not turn over the areas that they controlled to Palestinian Arabs, and indeed treated them quite cruelly. It was Israel, not Jordan, that created the autonomous Palestinian Authority, and it was Israel, not Egypt, that turned over control of Gaza to the Palestinians.

Of course there are the usual geopolitical explanations for the broader conflict, but they are not sufficient to explain its persistence or its virulence. While it’s clear that Iran is hostile toward Israel for geopolitical reasons – Israel is seen as an outpost of American power in the region that Iran wishes to dominate – there is also a special degree of hatred that is reserved for Israel above other Iranian opponents. Iran does not threaten to destroy Saudi Arabia, a closer and more immediate rival. Iranian demonstrators rarely if ever chant “death to Saudia.”

I believe that the ultimate source of this enmity is the principle – literally an “article of faith” in the Muslim Middle East – that a sovereign Jewish state in the region is an abomination to Allah, and it is their religious duty to destroy it. This religious/racial principle is sometimes expressed verbally by saying “Israel is a cancer” that must be excised from the Middle East, a sentiment expressed both by the Iranian regime and in Palestinian Authority media. This is Muslim rejectionism.

But I think even this analysis doesn’t go far enough. Resentment and hatred of Jews, deeply ensconced in Christian tradition, is found throughout post-Christian Europe. While in most of Europe the moral principles of Christianity have been transmuted into a kind of universalist humanism (much like Reform Judaism), the visceral hatred of the Jew that “killed their God” hasn’t disappeared; it’s just been turned toward the Jewish state, today the bearer of the guilt of Judas, with the suffering Palestinians taking on the role of the crucified Savior. Of course the irony in this is that the Muslims that are besieging Europe today are as almost as hostile to non-Muslim sovereignty there as they are against the Jewish variety in the Middle East (ordinary Europeans are beginning to understand this, although many of their leaders don’t seem to get it yet).

I suggest that to really understand the conflicts surrounding Israel since its coming into being, one needs to zoom out even further than Friedman does. One needs to take into account that not only Arabs and Muslims are viscerally opposed to the concept of Jewish sovereignty, many Europeans and even some circles in America are too. Although they might not go as far as to compare Israel to a malignant tumor, they are quite comfortable saying that the creation of Israel was a mistake. Friedman’s lens must be widened to include not just the greater Middle East, but much of the Western world.

And this enables us to understand why the “peace” proposals based on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians keep coming, despite the fact that they have repeatedly been shown incapable of ameliorating the real problem, Muslim rejectionism of Jewish sovereignty. Even those in the West who do not completely reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in a sovereign state, adhere to a milder form of rejectionism: they may accept the idea of a Jewish state, but they firmly believe that the conflict surrounding it is a result of its being an alien element that doesn’t belong in its neighborhood. Therefore the solutions they choose always involve Israel adapting herself to the region and not the opposite. And this always means Israel meeting the demands of her neighbors. Of course, those demands will never end until there is no more Israel.

I can’t leave Friedman’s article without noting one jarring paragraph, possibly written as it was at the request of his NY Times editor:

When I look at the West Bank as an Israeli, I see 2.5 million Palestinian civilians living under military rule, with all the misery that entails. I’m seeing the many grave errors our governments have made in handling the territory and its residents, the construction of civilian settlements chief among them.

Suddenly we are back to “settlements” and “military rule” (actually, this is incorrect, since around 95% of the Palestinians in Judea/Samaria live in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority). Friedman, who has shown himself capable of understanding the strategic imperatives of Israel’s military control of the land, is nevertheless still stuck in the Sisyphean mud of the “2-state solution” (just like my fictitious Uncle Max two Passovers ago). Is Friedman himself guilty of the mild rejectionism that demands that Israel should pay the price for her neighbors’ violent racism?

Despite this – the obligatory mea culpa of every Jewish liberal or centrist writer on the subject – we should take Friedman’s advice and zoom out to see the conflict in its true, worldwide and historical context. And stay out of the mud.

Alcohol – Between the Joy of Mitzvah, and Moshav Leitzim

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The Gezeira on Wine in the Past and Present

In the last two columns, I asked a question: As a continuation of the gezerot (decrees) our Sages decreed against drinking alcohol with non-Jews, would it be fitting to forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages in clubs and pubs whose character is secular, or to emphasize the educational aspect of alcohol consumption outside the framework of a mitzvah? I received many thoughtful responses. I will mention an additional response, and then continue to clarify the issue.

“Rabbi, I am a graduate of a Hesder Yeshiva. During the past two months I have been on educational shlichut … before going abroad, I studied with good halachic advisors … however, Rabbi, nothing was written about the prohibition on drinking alcohol with non-Jews as you wrote in your column. In fact, until now I didn’t even know the prohibition existed! … Regarding the question … One ex-Orthodox traveler who saw how far I went out of my way to obtain kosher wine for Kiddush, asked me if I agree with the prohibition of drinking wine that a non-Jew touched. Rabbi, I think even you would agree that the prohibition of stam yainum (wine which might have been poured for an idolatrous service, but we did not see it happen), which heavily influences governing kashrut, is irrelevant in its current, sweeping form. I answered him that, beyond my general obligation to halakha, I see no reason to forbid buying wine for Kiddush from non-Jews. On another occasion, when chiloni (secular) travelers asked me about the prohibition on wines, I replied that it was forbidden for historical reasons. As the words came out of my mouth, my stomach turned. What are ‘historical’ reasons?! I want the Torah to be a Torah of life, not a museum! On the other hand, I am aware of the difficulty of permitting decrees of our Sages when there is no Sanhedrin, etc.

But in my humble opinion, as long as rabbis are unable to permit decrees that are no longer relevant, it is inappropriate to add new decrees that are not explicitly mentioned in the Gemara and poskim. You cannot hold the rope by both ends! In my opinion, the public (many of whom are aware of the difficulties of the halakhic system I pointed out) will “vote with their feet”, and may not only ignore the new prohibition, but also the old ones, God forbid. Instead, I would focus on strengthening and emphasizing the prohibited aspects of going to clubs, such as the prohibition of mixed dancing, immodesty, etc. Thus, it will be easier to eliminate the bad phenomena from its roots, more successfully.”

Another person wrote it would be proper to elaborate on the various prohibitions of drinking in pubs and clubs that everyone agrees with, for example, playing secular music along with alcoholic beverages, and the dangers of drunkenness.

The Prohibition of Stam Yainum

Before I elaborate on our Sages instructions concerning the drinking of alcohol, I must explain that our Sages decree on “stam yainum” is not for historical reasons, but rather a principled position, according to which Jews should separate themselves from the foods of non-Jews, in order to isolate themselves from too close a relationship that could lead to assimilation. Therefore, they prohibited the wine, bread, and cooked food of non-Jews. True, the prohibition of hana’ah (receiving all types of benefit) from stam yainum has a historical reason, namely, that the gentiles were accustomed to perform libations with wine in order to please their idols, and therefore our Sages ruled that any wine that was touched by them would be forbidden even b’hana’ah. If the non-Jew is not an oved avodah zarah (idol worshipper), his wine is forbidden to drink, but permitted b’hana’ah, for example, to sell it to another non-Jew (Geonim, Rambam, and Rashba). Some say that even if he is an idol worshipper, if offering wine is not part of his custom, the wine he touches is forbidden to drink and permitted b’hana’ah (Rashi, Rashbam and Ri’van).

Frivolous Drinking

And now I will address the educational aspect: our Sages instructed that alcohol should not be drunk lightheartedly or among frivolous people, because alcohol has an immense effect, and consequently, one must be very careful about it. As we have learned in the Torah that even as great a man as Noah, when he was not careful with wine, stumbled and fell into the abyss of shame and disgrace. Also Lot, a relative of Avraham Avinu, as a result of drinking, committed adultery with his daughters (Genesis Rabbah 36: 4). And Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron Ha’Kohen, who were righteous as their father and intended to inherit his position, since they were not careful about wine and entered the tabernacle drunk, they were punished and died (Leviticus Rabbah 12: 1). Our Sages also said: “Nothing else but wine brings woe to man” (Sanhedrin 70a). They said as well that wine is liable to cause a person to sin and commit adultery, and therefore anyone who fears his yetzer (evil inclination) will overcome him, should refrain from wine (Nazir 2a). When our Sages spoke of wine, they meant the alcohol contained in it, since in their times, drinking wine was the way most alcohol was consumed.

Drinking and the Joy of a Mitzvah
Nevertheless, wine also has a positive side, namely, its ability to give expression to true joy, as stated in the section of ‘Thanksgiving to Hashem’ in Tehillim, that in all the good things Hashem gave to man, he also gave wine: “Bless Hashem, O my soul! O Hashem, my God, you are very great… and wine to gladden the heart of man”(Psalms 104: 1, 15). And our Sages said: “A song of praise is sung only over wine” (Berakhot 35a). Therefore, they instituted reciting Kiddush over a glass of wine on Shabbat and Yom Tov, at weddings, and at the Brit Milah (circumcision) ceremony. As written in the Zohar: “There is no sanctity but in wine, and no blessing but in wine” (Vol.3, 189: 2).

The difference, therefore, is between the joy and drinking for the purpose of a mitzvah, and the joy and drinking for frivolous purposes, or as our Sages said (Shabbat 30b), the proper joy is the joy of a mitzvah, as it is written: “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad” (Ecclesiastes 8:15). But one must be careful of joy that is not a mitzvah, as it is said: “Of laughter, I said, “[It is] mingled”; and concerning joy, what does this accomplish?” (ibid. 2: 2), and Rashi explained: ‘Of laughter, I said, “[It is] mingled”, i.e., mixed with weeping and sighs. ‘And concerning joy, what good does it accomplish’: behold, its end is grief.

Frivolous Drinking Accompanied by Music
When drinking alcohol in a group of people along with music, the fear that a person will become rowdy, forget his purpose in life, and be dragged after his desires greatly increases, as our Sages said that several troubles, including exile, come upon Israel as a result of this (Sotah 40a). And as it is written, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, pipes and timbrels and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of Hashem, no respect for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger, and the common people will be parched with thirst (in place of the wine that they drank). Therefore Death expands its jaws, opening wide its mouth; into it will descend their nobles and masses with all their brawlers and revelers. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled” (Isaiah 5: 11-15).

The Cancellation of Singing since the Annulment of the Sanhedrin
We also find our Sages instructed halachically that it is forbidden to sing or play musical instruments while drinking alcohol, unless it is for the joy of a mitzvah (S.A., O.C. 560: 3). The source of the Sages’ words is from the Mishnah: “When the Sanhedrin ceased to function, song ceased from the places of feasting, as stated in the prophecy of calamity in Isaiah, “They shall not drink wine with a song, etc.” (Sotah 38a). In the Talmud (Gittin 7a), Mar Ukva also instructed that zimra, i.e. singing, was also forbidden while drinking wine, as it is stated (Hoshea 9: 1): “Do not rejoice Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations” (Gittin 7a). The Yerushalmi explains: “At first, when the Sanhedrin was functioning, it was able to impose discipline and prevent the introduction of inappropriate content in song. When the Sanhedrin ceased to function, it could no longer impose discipline and people would introduce corrupt lyrics into music” (Sotah 9:12).

In other words, it is clear that even before the destruction of the Temple it was forbidden to sing vulgar and corrupt words over wine, as we learned in the Prophet, that because they were not careful of this, they were punished with destruction and exile, however, singing secular songs over wine was permitted. But after the destruction and the annulment of the Sanhedrin, wine was also forbidden over “songs of love and friendship, and praise of man’s beauty,” as Rav Hai Gaon wrote (Teshuvot HaGeonim, Harkabi 60), and quoted by Rif (Berachot, beginning of chapter 5) and Tosephot HaRosh (Gittin 7a).

But service and praise to Hashem is permitted while drinking wine, and it is even a mitzvah to do so at a joyous mitzvah occasion, such as a wedding.

‘Moshav Leitzim’
Mundane drinking in a group of frivolous people along with laughter is considered moshav leitzim (idiomatically, ‘in the company of fools’),” as it is stated: “Wine is a maligner; alcohol leads to brawls. And whoever is deceived by either will never be wise” (Proverbs 20: 1). Rabbeinu Yonah explained: “Drinking leads to three bad things: First, it causes you to malign. Second, it makes you rowdy and talkative, and as our Sages said: “Speaking a lot encourages sin”(Avot 1:17). And third, whoever is deceived by it will never be wise” (Sha’arei Teshuva 3: 177).

Therefore, one should not drink in clubs and parties with friends as is customary in secular society, while the entire goal is to get “wasted” and to “unwind” from the bonds of morality, thus leading to great danger, because someone dragged after this is liable to distance himself from Torah and mitzvoth, and eventually sin. This is what our Sages meant: “Distance yourself from an evil neighbor, and do not befriend the wicked one” (Avot 1: 7). However, sometimes people who frivolously drink in clubs, in other areas of life act righteously, and then it is proper to form relations and friendships. However, when they drink frivolously, the bad sides of disbanding Torah and mitzvot come to fruition, and at that time they are considered bad friends who are liable to distance themselves and others from Torah and mitzvot. This is the meaning of the verse: “Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand on the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalms 1: 1). Our Sages interpreted that a person should not say, “I will go only once to the feast of scoffers”, for if he goes, subsequently, he stands with them, and if he stands, he will at the end sit with them, and if he does sit, he will also come to scorn (Avodah Zarah 18b).

Sometimes a person is invited to a secular event that takes place in a frivolous atmosphere in the company in which he works, and it seems that if possible, it is preferable to refrain from participating in such an event. And if one cannot avoid it, he should at least be careful not to drink alcoholic beverages.

Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric

by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The anti-Semitism that is so integral to European culture developed in a dominating hostile Christian environment over more than a millennium. This provided much of the cultural infrastructure of the Holocaust, which was executed by Germans with the help of many allies. During the Enlightenment and thereafter, many leading European thinkers expressed hatred towards Jews. In recent decades, the hatred towards Jews found in European societies mutated partly into anti-Israelism, which targets the Jewish state.

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