|Shabbat-B'Shabbato – Parshat Behar-Bechukotai
No 1472: 24 Iyar 5773 (4 May 2013)
AS SHABBAT APPROACHES
"And I will Destroy your Temples" - by Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne
The Rambam rules that the sanctity of both Jerusalem and the Temple itself will never be cancelled. "However, it is written, 'And I will make your Temples desolate' [Vayikra 26:31]. The sages explained that even when they are desolate they maintain their sanctity." [Hilchot Beit Habechira 6:16].
The book "Doresh Tzion" – a collection of sermons by the founders of the settlements in Eretz Yisrael who were disciples of the GRA – includes a sermon by Rabbi Yosef Hasofer from the year 5626 (1866). In his talk he links the counting of the Omer and the holiday of giving the Torah to the sanctity of Jerusalem.
The counting of the Omer begins right after Pesach, when Bnei Yisrael were extricated from forty-nine levels of impurity. Every day they left behind one impurity and in parallel they entered into a higher level of purity. On Shavuot they reached the fiftieth gate, at the highest level of purity. Thus mitzva of counting was given to the later generations because these days between Pesach and Shavuot are unique days in which impurity can be replaced by holiness. And that is the reason that we begin the days of the count with a sacrifice of barley, a food for animals, and end with wheat. "Go out and declare in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, This is what G-d said: I remember for you the kindness of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me in the desert..." [Yirmiyahu 2:2]. Jerusalem (above) followed G-d through the desert. And Jerusalem down below is in touch with Jerusalem above, "as a city which has been joined together" [Tehillim 122:3]. That explains why we say after the counting of the Omer every night that we want to be "purified and sanctified by a holiness from above" –the sanctity of Jerusalem in heaven.
(Experts in hidden meanings have counted the letters, and they find that the numerical values of "Knesset Yisrael," "Yerushalayim shel Maala," and "Sefirat Ha'Omer" are all the same, a value equal to 1071.)
Thus, the days of the counting of the Omer have a potential for a great uplifting, and for the highest level of holiness. However, they can also be a time of a great downfall, and this means that during this time a person must be very careful.
We note that there are two special days during the Omer which are not under the control of "evil shells" – these are the twentieth and the forty-second days of the Omer, and that this is well known by those with knowledge of mysticism. Because of this, when the disciples of the GRA began their activities in Eretz Yisrael and in settling in Jerusalem in the year 5572 (1812), they made sure to do their activities on those two days. What is even more amazing is that these two days correspond to the fifth of Iyar, the date of Yom Haatzmaut, and the twenty-seventh of Iyar, the day when the main capture of Jerusalem took place in the Six Day War.
Based on the concept noted above that Jerusalem accompanied Yisrael in the desert, Rabbi Neventzal developed a remarkable thought. In the war against Amalek, Moshe stood "on the top of the hill" [Shemot 17:10]. The use of the word "the" implies a specific identifiable hill. This refers to Jerusalem, as is written, "To the mountain of Mor and to the hill of Levona" [Shir Hashirim 4:6]. And "rosh hagiv'ah," the top of the hill, is the same in numerical value as Yerushalayim. We know that as long as Amalek continues to exist the Throne of G-d is not complete, as is written, "for there is a hand on the Throne of G-d" [Shemot 17:16], where the word "kess" is a throne, but is written without the letter aleph. The Throne of G-d is Jerusalem, as is written, "At that time Jerusalem will be called the Throne of G-d" [Yirmiyahu 3:17]. This explains why the war centered on Jerusalem. Rabbi Neventzal quotes from his teacher, Rabbi Perchovitz, who calculated that the day when Amalek attacked Bnei Yisrael in the desert was the twenty-eighth of Iyar. "The conclusion could not be more startling than this. The war of Bnei Yisrael against Amalek took place on Mount Moriah, on the twenty-eighth day of Iyar!"
POINT OF VIEW
Notes about the Election of the Chief Rabbis - by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute
The Chief Rabbis of Israel finished their ten-year terms of office shortly before the holiday of Pesach. Because of the elections to the Knesset, the process of choosing their replacements was delayed, and in a lightning passage of a new law their current positions were extended for four months. (By the way, has anybody else noticed that the new end of their terms is the day of Tisha B'Av? Is this a case where "difficult circumstances are moved to a day of difficulties"?)
The existing candidates have been put through a wringer by the media, and I will not attempt to discuss their personalities and skills. Rather, I want to address the issues of modifications of laws that have been proposed as part of this matter. Some four or five different proposals have been sent out in the political arena. Examples are: increasing the number of members in the election committee, while changing the composition of the committee and adding women to it; raising the maximum age of candidates from 70 to 75; allowing the current Chief Rabbis to run for a second consecutive term; a demand that all candidates have accreditation not only as city rabbis but also as rabbinical court judges; separating the jobs of Chief Rabbi and the Presidency of the High Rabbinical Courts; and an old proposal to have only one Chief Rabbi and not two.
Some of these proposals have merit on their own, and this leads me to my first note: At the present time, they have all been proposed as a way of advancing specific candidates, either directly or in some sort of indirect intrigue. This is a situation that is patently improper – especially in connection with "clean politics" and even more so in relation to the office of the Chief Rabbi of Israel. But even if we disregard this, the current timing, at the very last minute, might lead to a situation where for at least two years we will not have any Chief Rabbis at all – until the laws are written and passed and the opposing forces turn to the courts, and the laws in the end may or may not be approved by the Supreme Court. There are many cities in Israel where the position of Chief Rabbi has not been occupied for years as a result of disputes and the approach that "neither I nor you will have him" [Melachim I 3:26] (the declaration in the famous trial decided by King Shlomo. Just look at Jerusalem, where the two Chief Rabbis passed away ten years ago (Rabbis Shalom Mashash and Yitzchak Kulitz, in 5763 – 2003). And life goes on...
(2) Age and Deals
My next comment is more substantial, and it concerns age ("gil" in Hebrew) and making an agreement ("dil"). The proposal that is discussed most is to raise the age limit for a candidacy to 75 (in order to give Rabbi Yaacov Ariel a chance), and at the same time to allow the current Chief Rabbi to run for another term (with Rabbi Amar in mind). Raising the age limit is a worthy idea in view of the fact that all of the authoritative Torah personalities, in all the different sectors, are more than 70 years old. That is the way things have been in the past, the way they are now, and the way they will continue to be in the future. In the term now coming to an end, the two rabbis declared of their own accord that they will be "bound" to decisions of specific prominent rabbis. In itself, there is nothing wrong with this idea, but anybody who wants to enhance the prestige of the Chief Rabbinate and not purposely lower its stature must allow the highest level of personalities to serve in the post (although the truth is that I have my doubts whether the most prominent rabbis would accept such an offer or if I would recommend to them to accept it).
However, this proposed law was born as a result of a shady deal that was cooked up by the Bayit Yehudi and the Shas parties, to allow the elections of Rabbi Amar and Rabbi Ariel. With respect to Rabbi Ariel, I have several comments. First, Rabbi Ariel is indeed the most worthy candidate of all, head and shoulders above any other. But to the best of my knowledge he was coerced to run, and he does not want to be a candidate at all. If he would ask for my opinion, I would advise him not to get into this kettle of fish, which involves huge numbers of disputes and personality issues. And in any case, if any rabbi from the religious Zionist sector is elected, Rabbi Ariel will occupy the informal position of chief decision maker for halachic matters and the one who will set the government religious policies. This will certainly be the case if Rabbi David Stav, from the Tzohar organization is elected, since already today Rabbi Stav consults regularly with Rabbi Ariel.
With respect to the price of this tradeoff between age and a specific deal, I can only say that if there is no alternative we can accept a continuation of Rabbi Amar's term if it is presented as a decree that cannot be denied. But if this purports to be the best alternative, it brings up some thoughts in terms of "achievements" and "accomplishments" which we will not go into at length here. And we must not forget that this entire idea is based on an arrangement with the Shas Party, which might not have the best record in keeping to prior agreements.
(3) Mixing the Subjects of Rabbis and Judges
The proposed law to change the composition of the election committee has provided an opportunity to "sneak in" a provision that is tailored to specific rabbis: Amar, Stav, and Yisrael Lau. I am referring to a demand that the Chief Rabbi must have formal approval as a rabbinical court judge in addition to being an accredited city rabbi. This requirement sets a new threshold that will exclude such rabbis as Ariel, Igra, Shapiro, David Lau, Avraham Yosef, and Grossman (and, it seems to me, Yehuda Der'i). I do not know who thought up this crazy idea, which would lead to a terrible situation for the coming generation, but even in principle it does not have a leg to stand on. What should be considered instead is to completely separate the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel from that of the President of the High Rabbinical Court.
The role of a dayan, a rabbinical court judge, is a specific profession based on the laws in the Even Ha'ezer and the Choshen Mishpat (marriage and divorce, and financial disputes). This important knowledge, and also having a "judge's temperament," is not connected at all to a rabbinical-educational role or to setting halachic policies for most of the issues that come across the desk of the Chief Rabbinate. In addition, experience has shown that the influence of the President of the High Court on the decision-making process of the courts is low to nil. Another common mistake is that the subject of conversions, which is a "current issue," should be under the province of the rabbinical courts. This is simply not true! From the time that it was first established (which I did in 5755, 1995), the institution of conversion was under the control of the Chief Rabbi in his role of "Head of a Religious Community" and not as the head of the rabbinical courts. The system of conversions is not part of the system of rabbinical courts. It is true that the Chief Rabbi has a great deal of influence in this matter, but this is not related to his role as the President of the High Court. In fact, the matter does not really require any knowledge of the classic subjects of the rabbinical courts.
A WOMAN'S ANGLE
The Days between Pesach and Shavuot - by Yogli Roichman, Midreshet Aluma, Ariel
Next week we will celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. On this day, as a child, together with all the other residents of Kibbutz Shaalavim, I experienced a personal miracle of salvation, and I thank G-d for this every year. Both Yom Yerushalayim and Yom Haatzmaut occur during the days of counting the Omer. These two days of praise for G-d seem at first glance to contradict the customs of mourning that that are observed during the time of the counting of the Omer.
A Time of Uplifting that was Transformed into Mourning
The counting of the Omer is a time of anticipation and holiness in advance of receiving the Torah. It entails an expansion from the physical freedom of leaving Egypt to a spiritual freedom when the Torah was received. This is a rise to a higher stage that is symbolized by the transition from the Omer Sacrifice which consists of barley (animal food) to the sacrifice of the two loaves of bread, which are made from wheat (human food). This period of counting and waiting contains within it an element of tension about the future events. It is the same positive tension that is felt by a bride who counts the days until her wedding. "'G-d came from Sinai' [Devarim 33:2] – Like a groom comes to greet his bride" [Mechilta].
As history went on, the character of this time period was transformed in a negative way. In the wake of the deaths of the students of Rabbi Akiva, the days became a period of mourning, decreased happiness, and a time of self reckoning. It was at this time that the Crusades and pogroms of the Jews took place, and these events added to the feeling of mourning at this time.
The Nature of Eretz Yisrael
A different reason for this atmosphere during the counting of the Omer is related not to historic events but rather to the unique climate of Eretz Yisrael. In the time between Pesach and Shavuot the weather in our country is not stable and is constantly changing. Extreme variations from one day to the next - from harsh heat to severe cold - are not rare at all. Strong winds reach our lands, bringing alternating heat and cold waves. This year we saw a perfect example of this, when just two weeks ago, in the middle of Iyar, we had harsh winter weather, with cold, heavy rains, and even snow on the Chermon!
During this season a farmer does not feel at ease. He is worried about possible bad effects of the unstable weather on his crops. The Talmud teaches us about the harmful effects of different winds. "A north wind is good for wheat which has grown to one-third of its full size and bad for olives when they are budding. A south wind is bad for wheat grains which are one-third of full size, and good for olives when they are budding." [Yoma 21a]. Thus, the same wind can benefit some crops but cause irreversible damage to others. In the second paragraph of Shema, the Torah emphasizes how important it is for rain to fall at the right time. "And I will give the rain in your land at the proper time, the first and the last rains" [Devarim 11:14].
Yirmiyahu interprets the words of the Torah as referring to this season. He implies that our prayer to G-d is for Him to protect our crops at harvest time and that they should not be damaged by rain coming at the wrong time. "He who provides the rains of yoreh and malkosh at the proper time, let Him protect the weeks reserved for the harvest" [Yirmiyahu 5:24].
It is thus clear that the season of the Omer is a critical one for anybody whose livelihood is based on agriculture. This is a time of judgment, when the Holy One, Blessed be He, decides if the efforts of the farmer will yield fruits, or if they will all have been in vain because of damage caused by the weather. The farmer looks towards the heavens, in both the literal and the figurative sense, and he prays that G-d will help him and provide a good crop. The Mishna indeed sees this time period as a time of judgment. "The world is judged at four different times: At Pesach, on the grains; at Shavuot, on fruits of the trees; On Rosh Hashana all the creatures of the world pass before Him like sheep; and on Succot, we are judged about water." [Rosh Hashana 1:2]. Times of judgment are not happy days but rather times for repentance and stressful anticipation.
Days of Judgment and Salvation for the Nation
We have brought two completely different reasons for the lack of joy during the period of counting the Omer, one historical and the other agricultural. However, the two reasons can be linked together, since they both see the period as a time of judgment. At this time, when the world is judged, we are concerned both about the future profits of the farmer, which depend so strongly on his annual crop, and about the future of the entire nation of Yisrael. Will this be a "time of misfortune for Yaacov" [Yirmiyahu 30:7] or will it be a time of salvation, and "he will be rescued from it" [ibid]?
In the past our nation did indeed experience many harsh disasters during this time of year. But in our generation we have been privileged to live through many great events of salvation during the time of the Omer. One example is the declaration establishing the State of Israel, together with the many miracles of the War of Independence. Another miracle was the great salvation and the liberation of our holy sites in the Six Day War. Two new days of thanksgiving have been added in our generation, Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, when we thank G-d for all the good that he has done for us. We count the days of the Omer in anticipation of taking part in the final real "wedding" and seeing the full and complete redemption.
LET THE TEMPLE BE REBUILT SOON
"Jerusalem Day" – A Jubilee of Rejuvenation! - by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, Head of the Temple Institute
Almost a jubilee ago, in the week of the Torah portion of Bechukotai, the author of this article was privileged to directly experience the passages that appear in the portion. It happened on Yom Yerushalayim, forty-six years ago. My experience belongs to the entire nation of Yisrael, and I will share it with my readers, so that it will not be forgotten.
"I will Place My Sanctuary among You"
The Paratroopers Brigade burst onto the Temple Mount during the Six Day War. At one point I was given an order by the brigade command: Take a machine gun and stand guard at the entrance to the Dome of the Rock, and make sure that nobody goes inside! I stood at my post, very excited. Was this possible? Had we really returned to the site of the Temple itself? And the answer was yes! I could see it with my own eyes! Even the light of the sun seemed to shine in a new fashion!
While I stood there thinking and full of the anticipation that this site awakens in the heart of every Jew, knowing that this was the place where the High Priest would enter on Yom Kippur holding the burning incense, a verse popped into my head from the week's Torah portion. "If you follow my laws... I will place My Sanctuary among you!" [Vayikra 26:3,11]. The verse was coming true before our eyes! We were coming close to building the Third Temple and to the appearance of the Shechina in the Temple.
Time passed, and my heart still refused to believe. And now I was treated to another experience. In the open area of the Mount, a line of soldiers from the Jordanian Legion was slowly making its way between cannons that had been abandoned and piles of shells that had been taken by our soldiers. But instead of starched uniforms, they were wearing nothing else but – pajamas! And their hands were raised high in a gesture of surrender. At the very end of the line was a lone Israeli soldier in a very untidy uniform. With a wave of his hand, he motioned for them to sit down in front of the Dome of the Rock. There were about two thousand Jordanian soldiers there in all. And I could see their hands trembling out of fear! And here was another verse of the Torah portion that came true: "Five of you will pursue a hundred of them, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand" [Vayikra 26:8].
Indeed we saw this with our own eyes, it was not some stranger that saw it. This was a wondrous act of G-d. The nation of Yisrael was privileged to take part in one of the most remarkable miracles in all of its history – to burst forth in a few days from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Pelishtim, and from the Sinai Desert to Mount Chermon. The main thing, of course, was the privilege to return to the holy courtyards accompanied by a resounding blast of a shofar.
At this point the Jews should have done what was obvious – light a menorah at the holy site and sing the praises of G-d. This is what the Chashmona'im did, as is related in the "Al Hanissim" prayer: "And then Your children came to your Temple... and lit lamps in Your holy courtyards... to thank You and to praise Your great name."
We Weakened the Walls
But when we stood in the shadow of the heroism of the Army of G-d, in the shadow of the tremendous miracle – we acted like tiny midgets. The Israeli flag that was flying at the top of the Dome of the Rock - was removed! The mountain, which was captured in the heat of battle, was handed over as a gift to a defeated enemy who had no spirit left. "A nation with wisdom and understanding" [Devarim 4:6] acted in a foolish and stupid way, and the verse that took effect was, "We were in our own eyes like grasshoppers" [Bamidbar 13:33].
The Shechina has been waiting for its children for two thousand years, moaning like a pigeon, "Woe is to Me for My children, because of their sins I destroyed My house... And I exiled them among the nations" [Berachot 3a]. Now it burst out with a cry of joy when we breached the Mount. "Behold, the children have returned to their mother's bosom! I have been set free from captivity and prison!" But then, suddenly, the children turned their backs, abandoned their mother to sit behind bars, with a feeling of insult and betrayal.
The declaration in the Talmud Yerushalmi took place through us: "Our fathers destroyed the roof [of the Temple]... and we weakened the walls!" Yoma 1:1]. On the very day that the Holy One, Blessed be He, performed wondrous miracles to give us back the site of the Temple, so that we could rebuild it – on that very day, we destroyed the Temple once again, through our actions and with our own hands.
Let the Temple be Rebuilt Soon
There are those who calm themselves with the story as related in the Talmud Yerushalmi from the time of the destruction of the Temple about our wise men "who were walking in the Arbel Valley when they saw the dawn breaking. Rabbi Chiya said... In this way will the redemption of Yisrael come – at first very slowly, but the more it advances the brighter the light there becomes." [Yoma 3:2]. They use this legend in an attempt to extinguish the sun which shone as the bright afternoon on Yisrael, to dim the bright light, and to bring us back to the darkness of exile. They feel that it is a mitzva to put off the rebuilding of the Temple, and that the longer we wait the better it is. But this is contrary to the words of Nechemia, who declares: "You see ... that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates were put on fire. Come let us build the walls of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be a disgrace... The G-d of heaven will give us success, and we, His slaves, will rise up and build!" [Nechemia 2:17].
We must stand by the words of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai, who stood up as soon as the destruction had taken place, and declared: "Let the Temple be rebuilt soon!"
A FAMILY NAMED "YISRAELI"
What a Fantastic Day! - by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality
It was a wonderful morning. I jumped out of bed, and for a change, on this day I felt full of vim and vigor. The birds were singing a new morning song through the window, and they gave the room a charmed atmosphere. I hummed a bright tune while I was organizing my things, and this time everything fit neatly into its place. No notebook was missing, every book was exactly where it should have been, my pencil was sharp, and I managed to organize all of my things perfectly in just one or two minutes.
I combed my hair, and there was not even one single knot to delay me. All my hair fell neatly into place with a quick brushing, and in no more than a minute I was ready.
My younger brothers were ready to go very quickly, and it was amazing to see how early we all left the house. On the way to school every traffic light was green, and we did not have to wait at all to cross the street. Even those hurrying past us did not seem very nervous, but they all had a broad smile on their faces. And many of them wished us a "Good Morning!"
My lessons in school that day were one long and wonderful experience. Every lesson was fascinating. All the teachers succeeded in adding something interesting to the lessons, like a story or a game, along with challenging work that I thoroughly enjoyed and which gave me a good feeling.
As soon as I entered the classroom I felt an atmosphere of close friendship. All my friends called out to me with joy in their voice, "Good morning!" Even Dalia, who always had a sour face and often got on my nerves, was different today. She picked up my pencil when it fell, she didn't make any snide comments, and I think I even heard her say, "Be'vakasha" – here, take it back. This is not to be belittled. For Dalia to be polite is a very rare event!
At recess, I had no problem finding a friend to do me a favor and jump rope with me. Just the opposite – a large circle of my friends surrounded me, and everybody wanted to be near me. We talked and exchanged ideas for a while, and we didn't even notice how fast the recess passed by. For once I felt that I was at the center of all the action...
In art class, I made a drawing that was very good, so much so that the teacher could not stop praising my artistic talent. She showed my drawing to the principal, and he also admired it very much. He was so enthusiastic that he registered me at the school's expense for a prestigious extracurricular art class. He explained to Imma on the phone that he was sure this was necessary, "so that we will not miss out on the next generation's talents." She of course agreed.
When we got home, after a day filled with pleasant experiences, the table was ready with a very good meal. It had everything that I enjoy –"schnitzel" (fried chicken breasts) and French Fries, with a fresh salad. And there were huge amounts of food, without any limit. For some reason we even had Coca Cola, even though this is usually available only on Shabbat.
The afternoon was also very pleasant. I didn't have any homework, there were no tests scheduled any time soon, and I had lots of free time. I played with my friends, made some drawings, read a book, and played with my brothers. And I still had some time left over...
In the evening Abba amazed me some more. He came home carrying a very large cage. He and Imma had decided to respond to a long-standing request of ours, and to grow rabbits in our house. He had brought two very cute rabbits in the cage, along with everything needed for them – sawdust spread out on the bottom of the cage, a water trough, food, and even a nice toy for them to play with.
I jumped up and hugged Imma and Abba, and I thanked them very much for the rabbits. This was a very old dream of mine, and now it had come true! Who says that dreams never come true?
* * * * * *
"Naama, wake up! It's very late! What's wrong with you? Why don't you wake up on time?" Imma's voice managed to pry me out of my deep sleep. I yawned and pulled myself out of bed, but it wasn't at all easy.
And then I got up, to another normal day...
Just published: "Mashmiya Yeshua" – Children's Edition – about the life of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook (in Hebrew), by Yikhat Rozen. For details: 054-6340121.
(Note: The stories of the "Yisraeli" family are based on true events or on stories that could have been true.)
Reactions and suggestions for stories: firstname.lastname@example.org
HALACHA FROM THE SOURCE
(Today's responsa were written by Rabbi Shlomo Ishon, head of Machon Keter)
Question: Are we allowed to lend to or borrow from a company owned by Jews which has not implemented the halachic device of a "heter isskah"?
Answer: In the Torah portion of Behar, the Torah prohibits lending with interest in three separate negative mitzvot. "Do not take interest and an increase from him" [Vayikra 25:36]... "Do not give interest to him, and do not give your food as an increase" [25:37]. In other places in the Torah, three other specific prohibitions are given that are violated by one who lends money for interest. The prohibition of interest is valid both for the borrower and also for everybody else who is involved in the loan. (See Rambam, Hilchot Malveh V'Loveh 4:2.)
The severity of the sin on one hand and the needs of modern economics on the other hand brought about a need to create a halachic device, the "heter isskah," which transforms a loan with interest into a formal partnership where the lender participates in the borrower's business. As a result, any interest that is paid is considered the share of the lender in the profits of the business.
With the creation of limited corporations which are defined by law as separate legal entities, some rabbis have suggested that they can be involved in loans and are allowed to take or give interest, without any need for a heter isskah.
Some rabbis feel that the halacha accepts the legal status of companies as entities which own all of their possessions, and therefore the prohibition of taking or giving interest does not apply to them, because a company is not a "man" who is bound by the mitzvot (Responsa Tzofnat Paaneiach 184; Rabbi Rafael Katznelenbogen, Noam, 12). They suggest that this is similar to the status of money that has been dedicated for a holy purpose, for which the prohibition of interest does not apply (Bava Metzia 57b), or to money set aside for poor people, which can be loaned out for interest as defined by a rabbinical decree, since it does not have any known owners (Yoreh Dei'ah 160).
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein differentiates between lending to a company and borrowing from one (Igrot Moshe Yoreh Dei'ah 2:63). He feels that one is allowed to lend to a company with interest, since there is no specific person who is responsible to repay the money but it will rather be taken out of the corporate possessions, and this does not fit the definition of a loan for which interest is prohibited by the Torah. But he feels that taking a loan from a company for interest is prohibited.
However, many rabbis feel that in terms of the halacha it is not the company but the stockholders who are considered borrowers or lenders, which means that interest is prohibited when a company gives or takes a loan, just as for a private person.
One of those who prohibit this is Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who does not accept the comparison to money for poor people: "That is different because the owners of the money are not known, but if the poor people are known, including the specific portion that belongs to each person, it is forbidden. This is certainly true in this case, when the shares are linked to specific names... It is thus very clear that this action is prohibited." [Minchat Shlomo 1:28].
In conclusion, it is important to encourage and demand that companies sign a "heter Isskah" if possible.
Buying Shares in a Company that Desecrates Shabbat
Question: What is the level of responsibility of shareholders in a company for violations of Torah law committed by the company?
Answer: Owning shares in a company which violates Torah laws, such as desecrating Shabbat, interest, fraud against the customers, and so on, may be problematic from various different angles.
One of the problems is the prohibition, "Do not place a stumbling block in front of a blind person" [Vayikra 19:14]. Strictly speaking, this is only relevant in a case where the sinner would not have been able to do the act without outside help (Avoda Zara 6b). There would thus be a difference between a loan of a large sum without which the company would not be able to continue doing business and a relatively small investment which does not have such a great effect on the company.
However, even a small investment would be forbidden according to the opinion of the Mishna Lamelech (Hilchot Malveh V'Loveh 4:2). He feels that the fact that another Jew could have helped the sinner (and he would have violated the law of "a blind man") does not absolve the first Jew from his sin. Rabbi Yaacov Ariel wrote to us that the prohibition of "a blind man" might indeed be relevant in buying stocks of a company, because stocks can help it grow and broaden its scope. He added that evidently the mitzva to "remember the Shabbat and keep it holy" [Shemot 20:8] obligates every Jew to plan out his weekday business in such a way that no Shabbat desecration will occur.
Another possible problem with doing business with a company is the sin of "giving support to one who is committing a sin." As opposed to the sin of "a blind man," the sin of support does not depend on whether the sinner can do the sin without external help. The sin of support is a rabbinical decree that stems from the obligation of a Jew to prevent another Jew from sinning (Tosafot, Shabbat 3a].
Some rabbis feel that since every shareholder has the right to vote within a company, he or she is halachically considered a partner and is therefore responsible for any prohibitions violated by the company (Minchat Yitzchak volume 3, 1; this is also the approach of the Badatz today). On the other hand, some rabbis see a difference between a person who owns a small number of shares, who does theoretically have the right to vote, and one who owns a major portion of the shares, who really does have an influence on company policy and is therefore considered a partner (Igrot Moshe Even Ha'ezer 1:7).
Another issue that should be considered is deriving a benefit from Shabbat desecration. Thus, aside from the strict halacha, a person who is careful to buy stocks only from companies which are run according to the halacha gives them support and strengthens them, and this can have a positive effect on the image of the State of Israel. It is therefore good not to buy stocks of companies whose main activities (such as manufacturing and marketing) involve Shabbat desecration.
SOMETHING ABOUT BOOKS
A Collector of the Language used by the Wise Men - by Rabbi Yoseph Leichter, The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem
Rabbi Chaim Yehoshua Kosovsky, Jerusalem, fourth of Tevet 5633 – twenty-fifth of Iyar 5720 (1873-1960).
A World without "Google"
Simcha Raz writes the following about Rabbi Aryeh Levin: "He told me one time that when he used to visit those who were condemned to death he would end his meeting with them by saying, 'G-d's salvation can come in an instant.' He was asked where this saying appears, and he replied 'I do not know, but I am sure that it is from one of our sources.' The rabbi added to me, 'I returned home and looked for a source for this saying and I could not find one.'" Simcha Raz continues, "A few years later I happened to see a copy of the book 'A Collection of Sayings and Slogans,' by rabbi Moshe Sever, a man who had a phenomenal memory. I looked through the book and found that the source of the saying 'G-d's salvation can come in an instant' is a liturgical poem for the Days of Awe (quoted in the book 'Mincha L'Yehuda'). Immediately I wrote the rabbi about this source. But I was very surprised to receive a letter from him where he said that he had a dream early in the morning where he went away from me, saying, 'Simcha, G-d's salvation can come in an instant.' And a few hours later he received my letter with the source of the saying." ["Ish Tzadik Haya", pages 223-224).
Who among us does not find himself or herself wondering about the source of a common saying now and then? We can be very happy that today we have the services of "Rabbi Google," who knows everything. It is quite likely that with a few strokes on a keyboard we will find the correct answer to our question. It is with respect to such circumstances that it has been said, "An ignorant man is afraid of Shabbat" [Talmud Yerushalmi Demai 4:1]. During the week, even an ignorant man can show off his great knowledge by using a computer, but on Shabbat, when the computer is turned off, his true colors can be judged. We should really appreciate those who in the past put together by painstaking labor all the indexes and concordances that we used in the past, giving us pathways into the Torah and providing signposts for navigating the sea of the Talmud. One of the most prominent men of this group was Rabbi Chaim Yehoshua Kosovsky, the author of the Treasures of the Language of the Mishna, the Tosefta, and Onkeles, and also the Treasure of the Language of the Talmud.
A Mathematical Formula for a Concordance
Rabbi Kosovsky was born in the Old City of Jerusalem. His father was Rabbi Abraham Avli, who was a judge in the court of Rabbi Shmuel Salant. Rabbi Chaim studied in the Talmud Torah and the yeshiva Etz Chaim. As a youth he was given the title "Ilui" and he was allowed to study in the attic of the Churva Synagogue so that he would not be disturbed. From an early age, he insisted on talking Hebrew with his colleagues, and he is therefore recognized as one of the pioneers of Hebrew speech. He published Torah insights in his books "Sefer Hatushia" and "Mayanei Hayeshua." He assisted Avraham Moshe Luntz in writing a new commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. He also wrote "Yad Halashon," on Hebrew grammar, and "Torat Hacheshbon," a book for the teaching of mathematics.
A Torah scholar, a farmer who lived in Gedeira, by the name of Rabbi Yaacov Hakohen Shechvitz, spent many years to develop a Talmudic concordance. In spite of his great efforts he was not able to finish the project. He met Rabbi Kosovsky and convinced him to try to continue the work. Rabbi Kosovsky developed a mathematical formula which helped him organize the concordance in the proper sequence. Meanwhile, he experienced the hard times of the First World War, when he was drafted into the Turkish army. All the while he continued his own labors at night. In 5687 (1927), he started to print his book, "Otzar Lashon Hamishna," with the support of Rabbi Yonatan Binyamin Horowitz (5622-5700, 1862-1940), who was the manager of the organization "Administrators and Clerks."
A "Commendation" by Bialik
In spite of his limited resources, Rabbi Kosovsky continued his labors. In 5693 (1933), the first part of his book "Otzar Lashon Hatosephta" appeared. At the front of the book was a letter by Chaim Nachman Bialik, who wrote:
"Your tremendous enterprises, which follow one on the heels of the other, give rise to amazement and admiration. It is unbelievable that one single individual accomplished all of this. The wonder at seeing your first work, the complete concordance of the Mishna, has not yet waned, and behold the first volume of your concordance of the Tosefta has appeared... And while this comes out, another project is in the works – an index of the entire Babylonian Talmud, which you have almost completed... And meanwhile, between different enterprises, each one greater than the preceding one, there is a concordance of the translation by Onkeles that is near completion. One individual, even if he lived as long as Metushelach and had the strength of Shimshon, could not accomplish all of this alone if not for the kindness of G-d and His blessing. It is about you that it is written, 'Those who have hope in G-d will have great strength... They will run and not be tired, they will walk and not be weary' [Yeshayahu 40:31]."
Seventy Faces, and External Faces – by Rabbi Yoni Lavie, Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website
It happened three months ago. The Nineteenth Knesset began its term, with no less than forty-eight new MK's – an all-time record. In the best tradition, they were all invited to give their "maiden" speech to the Knesset. And who stole the show? Without a doubt, it was Ruth Kalderon from the Yesh Atid Party. She gave a heart-rending speech which was widely praised by all the different sides of the political spectrum. What happened? She did something that not even the most veteran members of the Knesset ever remembered as having happened before – she taught a passage in the Talmud. She spoke with enthusiasm and amazement about "the book that changed my life" and enriched the Knesset of Israel with the story of Rabbi Rachumi and his wife (Ketuvot 62), and she explained the lessons that this had taught her for her own life. This general sermon was put on the internet, and more than a quarter of a million people viewed it!
Kalderon is a small example of a much broader phenomenon. Without our noticing it, behind our backs, an entire world of "secular Batei Midrash" is developing (examples are Alma, Elul, Yeshiva Bina, and more). They are not ashamed to study Jewish sources – Tanach, the Midrash, Talmud, and even Kabbalah. They do not see themselves as bound by the dictates of halacha or obligated to put into practice what they have learned, and they feel free to interpret and analyze the written material in a way that is contrary to our traditions and to the commentaries of earlier generations.
Is it an Elixir of Life or a Deathly Poison?
At first glance, it seems that a wonderful phenomenon is taking place here. There is a thirst for Torah by groups of people who seemed to us to be far away. The Torah is being disseminated to many, many people. More and more people study, men and women, and they delve deeply into the Tanach and the words of the sages. Of course, the goal is not to become "religious," but there can be no doubt that there is a great positive value to strengthening the Jewish identity and linking to the Torah and the traditions. Who knows, perhaps "the light within will bring them back to the good path" [Midrash Eichah]?
However, there is another side to all of this. The wisest man who ever lived said that the Torah is "a tree of life for those who take hold of it" [Mishlei 3:18]. But is this wonderful statement true about all Torah study? Our sages explicitly told us that the answer is no. Some Torah study can be "deathly poison" [Yoma 72b]. Very harsh words were used to describe anybody who "studies not in order to do – it would have been best if his placenta had flipped over and he had not come out to the air of the world" [Vayikra Rabba 35:7]. How is this related to the phenomenon of secular Torah study? Here is another question whose answer is no less important to the religious community? Is every person really allowed to propose new interpretations of the verses and of the words of the sages, as he or she sees fit? Everybody knows to quote the declaration that "the Torah has seventy faces" [Bamidbar Rabba Nasso 13:16]. But does that mean that the Torah is a free-for-all, and every interpretation or whim is legitimate and even considered Torah study? Sure, there are "seventy faces," but could it be that there are "external faces" too? Where is the boundary?
Who should Learn from Whom?
A while ago I came across an interesting book by the name of, "My Heroes." It was written by a very special Jew, a gifted media personality, who today holds the job of Minister of the Treasury in one of the countries in the Middle East. The book is based on four lectures on the Tanach that the author gave in a synagogue named Beit Daniel. I note that the name of the book is exactly on the mark. "My Heroes." The author really feels that the people he writes about are his own. As such, he feels that he has the right to do with them whatever he fancies, including to ignore verses that do not fit his own agenda. He takes full advantage of the fact that the heroes are no longer with us and that they therefore cannot sue him for libel. In a review of the book it is written that it is a good thing that the author took on the Tanach as a hobby and not chemistry, because if he had done so the huge explosion that might have taken place would have caused tremendous damage. Something very interesting is revealed by this book. If in your innocence you thought until today that the Tanach is a creation that gives us inspiration, from which we can learn from our ancestors how we should behave, it turns out that just the opposite is true. This book reveals to us the truth – that the characters in the Tanach should have learned from us how to behave...
Expanding the availability of the Tanach to wider and new audiences and the new style of learning bring up important questions that must be answered: Who is qualified to interpret the Tanach and the words of the sages? Are there any established criteria for answering this question? Is this in any way similar to the question of who is qualified to make a medical or legal diagnosis? It is perfectly clear to us that a person who merely finished a basic first aid course cannot be allowed to perform operations, and one who is simply familiar with the Wikipedia entry on "Jewish law" cannot serve as a dayan, a judge in a rabbinical court. Well, then, is it possible that for Torah the limits are broader and we can allow more latitude in study and in interpretation? And here is another question: What is the status of novel commentaries which were never written before by our sages and the wise men of Yisrael, and sometimes might even be contrary to their accepted approach? What is the status of Torah study explicitly not in order to observe the material that is learned as simple halacha but rather out of a desire to remain connected to the vast Jewish literature, to the moral outlook of the prophets, and to the culture of our nation?
And here is a parting thought. When Bible criticism appeared more than a hundred and fifty years ago, it was a threat to the world of Torah and it led to the fall of many spiritual casualties. After the fact, in a view spanning several generations, it is clear that the challenge that was posed to the yeshiva-Talmud realm forced it to return to more direct involvement in the Tanach, to study it in depth, and to discover new viewpoints. Will the new challenge by the "secular" Batei Midrash to the world of Torah and tradition also succeed in making it bring forth new viewpoints?
INSIGHTS FOR THE SHABBAT TABLE
Who will Lead? - by Bar-on Dasberg
The word "Yovel" – jubilee – comes from the shofar (also called yovel), named after the ram (a yovel) whose horn is fashioned into a shofar and blown in the fiftieth year – the Yovel. The Ramban does not agree with this chain of reasoning. He feels that the word yovel means to take the lead, since this is the time when "every man shall return to his heritage" [Vayikra 25:13].
It can be shown that these two explanations are related. The time when every man will "return to his heritage" could be problematic for people who have moved to new places and settled down. On the other hand, perhaps in this fiftieth year, since no agricultural work is done, people will return to the mobile profession of tending sheep. Thus, the rams (yovel) might lead their owners to resettle former lands within Eretz Yisrael.
Following this reasoning, it is possible to see why at Mount Sinai G-d warned Moshe twice not to climb onto the mountain. Perhaps the first time was related to the cattle which wanted to graze on the pastures on the mountain. Later on, G-d is revealed in a fiery event, and the animals are naturally repelled. But the important people feel a need to climb up, and that is when Moshe gives the second warning. This might imply that the phrase "when the yovel sounds, they will rise up the mountain" [Shemot 19:13] is referring to the moment when the revelation and the flames end, and then the sheep will see what is happening, climb up the mountain, and lead the people after them.
G-d leads the people by making use of natural effects, all that is needed is to know how to listen to Him.
ALLEGORIES FOR SHABBAT
by Arel Segel Halevi, Tanach Expert – Computer Science Department, Bar Ilan University
"The lips of a king are charmed, in judgment his mouth will not deceive" [Mishlei 16:10].
What magic charm can be found on the lips of a king?
The common explanation in past generations was that the magic is an allegory for remarkable powers, beyond the normal strength of a human being. "With respect to the lips of the king, it will seem magical that the truth is always told, for nothing will be hidden from the king... for it is in his interest to be given a well organized kingdom by the Holy One, Blessed be He... Since the people want to find favor in his eyes he will always be able to find somebody who will tell him the truth." [Ralbag]. This is what happened to King Shlomo in his famous case with the two women.
The second part of the verse mentions "me'ila" which refers to using a holy object for personal benefit (Vayikra 5). The above verse tells the king that he should utilize the power that G-d gave him in his mouth only for finding out the truth in a judgment and not for personal gain.
In our generation the word magic can refer to the wonders of technology. Arthur C. Clarke wrote in his "Third Law" that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Sophisticated technology gives the government amazing powers to reveal the truth. Examples are a biometric data base and subdermal id tags. Can the authorities be trusted to use these capabilities for good purposes, and that their mouths will not deceive us?
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SHABBAT-ZOMET is an extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, a weekly bulletin
distributed free of charge in hundreds of synagogues in Israel. It is
published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel, under the auspices
of the National Religious Party.
Translated by: Moshe Goldberg
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