|Shabbat-B'Shabbato – Yom Kippur
No 1544: 10 Tishrei 5775 (4 October 2014)
AS SHABBAT APPROACHES
Who is the Intermediate? - by Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne
The Talmud teaches us that two books are opened on Rosh Hashanah. Righteous people are immediately inscribed for continued life and evil people are inscribed for death. People who are intermediate remain unsettled between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. If they have merit they are then inscribed for life, and if they do not have merit they are written down for death. (Rosh Hashanah 16b.)
The Rambam quotes this passage but he changed the ending. "If the person repents he is inscribed for life, but if not he is inscribed for death" [Hilchot Teshuva 3:3].
Reb Itzele, the disciple of Rabbi Yisrael from Salant, asks in his book "Kochavei Or" why the Rambam changed the text from the way it was written in the Talmud. After all, a righteous person is one who has done a majority of mitzvot and an evil person has done a majority of sins. Thus, intermediate one has done half mitzvot and half sins. Then, during the Ten Days of Awe, let the intermediate person perform one mitzva and turn the balance in his favor. Why must he or she perform an act of repentance in order to merit life?
Reb Itzele's answer to this question is that the obligation to repent at this time of the year is very great because at this time it is very easy to do so. The sages teach us that the verse "Call out to Him when He is nearby" [Yeshayahu 55:6] is referring to the Ten Days of Awe. Chassidism describes this as a time when "the King" is in the fields and readily available to everybody, when no special preparations are needed to meet Him. Thus, to refrain from repenting at that time is a great sin, and therefore good deeds will not suffice since the obligation to repent takes precedence over all else. The Rambam made it clear that the heavenly decision is not based on a simple count but on the importance of each mitzva and sin in the balance – that one merit can have greater weight than many sins and one sin can outweigh many good deeds. Thus, if a person does not repent he will not benefit by doing good deeds.
However, Rabbi Hutner is not happy with this explanation (Pachad Yitzchak, Rosh Hashanah 19), since it implies that a person's status is unstable and can change from one moment to the next – if he happens to encounter a number of serious failures he might lose the status of having "a majority of merits" and vice versa. He feels that this is not reasonable.
Rabbi Hutner therefore suggests a novel interpretation – that "a majority of merits" does not depend on good deeds that the person performs but is rather a characteristic of the soul, an inherent trait of a person. Somebody whose soul tends towards good has a majority of merits. Even if he has failed and sinned this does not change his character. For example, a person who has developed a trait of patience will not lose this characteristic if in a specific case he becomes angry. There is a great difference between a patient person who shows anger once and a person who is habitually angry.
Thus, the intermediate person is not one whose sins and merits are equal but one whose soul has not yet developed an affinity for good or evil. Such a person's status will not change if he performs a few more mitzvot or sins. Therefore the way for him to change his status and to be inscribed for life is for him to change his character and become a better person. And that is why the Rambam wrote that he should repent – he should improve his character and not try to perform a number of mitzvot. Only repentance can bring him to a status of "a majority of merits," and then he can immediately be inscribed for a good life.
POINT OF VIEW
What did the iPhone Teach me about Faith? - by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute
"Know what is above you: An eye that sees and an ear that hears, and all your actions are recorded in a book" [Avot 2:1].
"I Learned Three Things"
Masters of ethics (mussar) and Chassidut were able to draw deep insights from everything in the world around them. An example is what is written, "If the Torah had not been given we would have learned about modesty from the cat, robbery from the ant, and incest from the dove" [Eiruvin 100b]. Another example is the following statement by Reb Moshe-Leib from Sassov (others attribute this to Rebbi Zusha from Napoli): I learned three things from a baby – (1) He is never idle, not for an instant, he is always busy. (2) When he misses something he immediately starts to cry, without feeling any shame. (3) When his demand is satisfied he is happy and no longer sad and bitter. The discerning eye of the Masters of Chassidut did not even avoid using a thief as an object for lessons. The Maggid of Mezerich learned proper behavior from the traits of a thief: (1) He does not rest at night, and what he did not accomplish one night he puts off to the next one. (2) He is faithful to his colleagues and will not break their trust. (3) He is willing to put himself in danger in order to accomplish his goal, even if it does not have any great significance.
I remember hearing a similar statement about lessons to be learned from getting into a car. (1) It is necessary to bend down, it cannot be done with the head held high. (2) One must remove his high hat, as a symbol of submissiveness and capitulation. (3) Anybody who wants to make himself very comfortable will always take away something from the others. There are also lessons to be learned from a train: (1) Man is confined within time and is not beyond the time. (2) Whoever doesn't pay will be forced to leave the train. (3) It is okay to be early for a train, but one is not allowed to be late...
The source for this format of listing three elements in a lesson can be seen in the Talmud, "At that point I learned three things from him. I learned that one should not enter a ruin, I learned that one can pray while on a journey, and I learned that on a journey one should pray a short prayer." [Berachot 3a]. In Eiruvin (see above, learning modesty from a cat, etc), this approach was derived from the verse, "Who gives us more knowledge than the beasts or is wiser than the birds in the sky?" [Iyov 35:11].
In this vein, and in the spirit of Yom Kippur, when mankind stands before the Creator, let us look at three things that I have learned from the realm of electronic communications media – the iPhone, the internet, and the computer, with everything surrounding them. As is quoted above, "An eye that sees and an ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in a book."
An Eye that Sees
The question of the Holy One, Blessed be He, "Where are you?" [Bereishit 3:9], a reference to physical position, seems at first glance to have been solved in our modern era. No person is free to hide from the "Big Brother" or from the intelligence gathering services of the 8200 Unit in the IDF, and certainly not from the Holy One, Blessed be He. A person can be found far beyond the dark mountains and in the intricate wilds of the jungle. He leaves behind a digital trace, and using the chip beating away in his pocket he gives out the news: "Here I am!" (In the next generation it will probably also be possible to receive position signals from a living heart.) "If a man hides, can I not see him, G-d asks" [Yirmiyahu 23:24]. "There is no hiding from its heat" [Tehillim 19:7].
And I would like to suggest an idea for a startup that will help limit surfing in sites that would be included in the prohibition, "Do not follow your eyes" [Bamidbar 15:39]. A program (which will be installed voluntarily) which will allow human oversight of the computer screens from a distance, with the ability to break in with a "STOP" sign (perhaps accompanied by a siren). There is no need for legions of secret watchers who will broadcast the warnings continuously. It will be enough that a random possibility for such interruptions exists...
An Ear that Hears
The heading above this paragraph represents the positive side of the media. Even a person who lives in solitude or is confined to a sick bed can communicate with the outside world – family, friends, radio broadcasters, or assorted advisors. The "listening ear" is also characteristic of an interactive address that is available on internet media, one that is open for two-way interaction. By taking advantage of the communications keys and a keyboard any person – in a city, in the desert, in prison, in an old age home, in a military foxhole, on top of or underneath a table – can express his views. "Will my voice be heard??" You bet it will!
Actions Recorded in a Book
From my earliest memories I was always amazed and impressed by wondering how the Holy One, Blessed be He, can know at one and the same time every "action of a man and all his wants" and "remember everything that has been forgotten" [from the High Holy Day prayers]. "'He tells a person what he has said' [Amos 4:13] – at the time of death, even extraneous conversations between a man and his wife are repeated to him" [Chagiga 5b]. Is there no limit to the capacity of knowledge? To the capacity of recording? Of memory? And then, what about interpretation? And what about retrieval? But now the internet "cloud" has come to the rescue. And if man-made computer servers can have an infinite capacity (as it were), together with a fantastic ability to retrieve and interpret – then certainly the Holy One, Blessed be He, who gave mankind the ability of understanding, has no limits to His powers.
* * * * * *
The Mishna quoted above about eyes and ears begins with the statement, "Know what is above you." That is, pay attention, think about the higher level reality that is above you. Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk, the brilliant Rebbe, hears in this statement another emphasis: "Know what is above!" If you want to know what is happening in the upper worlds, know that the answer lies "with you!" Man in his behavior and his abilities establishes what happens there, high above... It all stems "from you!"
A WOMAN'S ANGLE
What will Unite Us this Year? - by Terza Frankael, a teacher in "Tehilla" – Evilena de Rothschild, Jerusalem
In civics class last week I reminded my students about the former "Prisoner of Zion," the current head of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky. I was shocked to discover that not one of the girls in the class knew who he was or anything about his great courage. Instead of a civics lesson about "the right to fair treatment" (which Sharansky did not get), I gave a lesson about Zionism and Jewish heroism. Among other things, I described the great nationwide excitement that we all felt when Sharansky arrived here in 1986. I emphasized that we in the land were united in our support of the stubborn struggle by Avital Sharansky to have her husband released.
I have a feeling that our children serve as a mirror for us. If my students had never heard of the courageous actions of Natan Sharansky, perhaps it is because we never told them about him. It might be that somehow or other this story never made it into our national heritage, as part of the assets which unify us and make us all partners in sum total of the events of all our generations.
Try the following exercise for a brief moment: What are the most significant foundational events that took place in the State of Israel, as far as you are concerned? Now, ask some people who are 20 years younger than you (or who are older than you) to make their own list. I assume that you will see very quickly what I discovered – the list of foundational experiences is different from one generation to the next, not only in the dates but in content. Memories of partnerships and unity for the purpose of mutual and universally justified goals are appreciated by the older generation. Younger people will not see such events as important. They will remember the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead, the expulsion from Gush Katif, the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, and other events. While the older generation grew up with a mythos consisting of the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Entebbe rescue, the Aliyah of the Prisoners of Zion, and rebuilding and renewal in general, the younger generation has lived in a country full of controversy, divisiveness, tension, and internal strife.
However, this past summer the trend was reversed. The kidnapping of the three boys, Operation "Bring the Boys Home," and then Operation Protective Edge, brought our national unity back. We once again had a feeling of unity, of brothers sharing our troubles, of a nation which was alone in the world, unified in order to protect our home. We had missed this heady feeling so much, the calm that comes from a lack of controversy, the feeling that we were all united again. But that is what we felt this year, perhaps because of the painful circumstances, but also perhaps because we have had our fill of large measures of internal strife and self-hatred.
What now? I must admit that I was very much afraid that the day after the war an unlimited campaign of internal dissent would begin. But to my great happiness, this has not happened. Perhaps we all really do want a change of heart. But now we must think ahead. Not only do we not want to unite only around the threats of the sword, we must recognize that this is our reality. Aside from our war to continue our existence, there is another life out there for us to live. We have beautiful cities and unique towns, fantastic universities and excellent research facilities, a prosperous and amazing start-up industry, art and artists who have international reputations, a full religious Jewish life such as it cannot be accomplished in any other place in the world, creative and advanced agriculture among the best in the world. We have a land flowing with milk and honey which we created here, with G-d's help, almost out of nothing in desert conditions - after experiencing an unprecedented Holocaust, within the short time span of sixty-six years. Based on all of this, the time has come for us to find a way to live in unity and harmony.
Okay, so what will unite us during the coming year? I will pray on Yom Kippur that the war will not return, that we will not lose any more of our best friends, sons, and loved ones, and perhaps that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will show us greater understanding between us and our neighbors. I also hope that we will be privileged to get to know new outstanding figures within our nation, men of Torah and spirit combined with Derech Eretz (a natural lifestyle), men of vision and the right leadership for our society and for our country. And then I will pray and ask that we will know how to find what is common between us and unites us, that we will understand the true meaning of our living in this land of ours, and that we will achieve the goals which will make us all worthy of living here, together.
I wish everybody a "ketiva va'chatima tova."
THE PLACE OF THE WORLD
"Beit Hachofshit" - The Last Days of Uziyahu and his Burial - by Rabbi Yitzchak Levy, Yeshivat Har Etzion
The Last Days of Uziyahu
We are told, "And as he became strong his heart became haughty and he became destructive, and he betrayed his G-d – he went into the Sanctuary to burn incense on the Altar of Incense" [Divrei Hayamim II 26:16]. As a result of his action, "King Uziyahu became a leper until the day of his death, and he remained in the House of Asylum as a leper, for he was expelled from the Temple of G-d, and his son Yotam ruled the Palace of the King and judged the people of the land" [26:21].
King Uziyahu wanted to perform the actions of a priest. It is often suggested that after the king entered the Temple to offer the incense there was a great earthquake. This is mentioned by various prophets. For example, "Here are the words of Amos, who was at Nokdim, from Tekoa, who prophesied about Yisrael in the days of Uziyahu King of Yehuda, and in the days of Yeravam Bne Yoash, King of Yisrael, two years before the earthquake" [Amos 1:1]. And Zecharia, at the beginning of the return to Zion, describes a dramatic event in his vision about the future of Jerusalem, when the Mount of Olives will split, and as a result, "You will flee to the valley of the mountains, because the valley of the mountains will reach Atzal, and you will flee from the earthquake as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uziyahu King of Yehuda. And my G-d will come, together with all His holy ones." [Zecharia 14:5]. The flight in the wake of the splitting of the Mount of Olives will be similar to the flight that took place during the reign of Uziyahu. The fact that an earthquake took place shows how serious an act it was for the king to burn incense in the Sanctuary.
The verse does not give details about the site of the "Beit Hachofshit," where Uziyahu was held from the time he entered the Sanctuary until he died. According to the halacha, a leper must be kept out of all three holy camps – that is, the place must have been outside the limits of the ancient wall of Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yisrael Zev Halevi Horowitz writes in his book "Jerusalem in our Literature" that we can assume that Uziyahu was not sent very far from his palace, south of Mount Moriah. He also writes that "the meaning of Chofshit is: separated, abandoned, out of contact with people, as in the verse, 'among the dead, who are free' [Tehillim 88:6]. This means that he was held between the dead and the living, since death separates a person from the land of the living. The sages said, 'when a person dies he is free (chofshi) of all the mitzvot' [Shabbat 30a]."
He therefore proposed that the site was the same as the "Beit Hamerchak," a distant house, where David fled during the revolt of Avshalom: "And the King and all the people went on foot and stayed at Beit Hamerchak" [Shmuel II 15:17]. Later on, David passes through the Kidron Riverbed.
Another reason for this choice is that a leper was required to sit on the side of the road and cry out that he was impure, "Tamei, Tamei" – either so that the passersby would pity him and pray for him or so that they would give him charity. Perhaps Uziyahu was sent to sit near the ancient Jerusalem-Jericho road. Rabbi Horowitz noted that when he wrote his book there was a home for lepers in the southern part of the village Silwan, in the Kidron riverbed.
According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, Uziyahu built himself a house in the cemetery. There are therefore some who suggest that the Beit Hachofshit was in the Bnei Chazir cave, in the Kidron riverbed, between Yad Avshalom and the grave of Zecharia.
In summary, according to both of the above opinions, Beit Hachofshit was situated in the area of the Kidron, to the east and south of the City of David.
Where was Uziyahu Buried?
It is written, "And Azariah lay down with his forefathers, and he was buried with his forefathers in the City of David, and his son Yotam ruled in his place" [Melachim II 15:7]. That is, according to this verse Uziyahu was buried in the graves of the kings of the House of David. However, another verse gives a different description: "And Uziyahu lay down with his forefathers, and he was buried with his forefathers in the burial field of the kings, for they said, he is a leper, and his son Yotam ruled in his place" [Divrei Hayamim II 23:26]. According to this, "the burial field of the kings" seems to imply a site near the burial place of the kings but not in the cemetery itself.
The sin of Uziyahu is described in Divrei Hayamim but not in Melachim. Thus it may well be that he was buried not in the royal area itself in the City of David but nearby.
Among the collection of ancient artifacts found near the Russian Church on the Mount of Olives, Prof Soknik published an inscription that was engraved on a clear and hard piece of stone, with four lines in Aramaic: "Here were brought the bones of Uziyah King of Yehuda, do not open." This is testimony from the time of the Second Temple that the bones of Uziyahu were removed from their original site and moved someplace else. Yosefus Flavius claims that Uziyahu was buried alone in his garden, perhaps close to the Garden of the King and the Shiloach Pool. Perhaps this can be seen as corresponding to the Tosefta, "All graves are emptied out except for a grave of a king and a grave of a prophet. Rabbi Akiva says, even the graves of a king and prophet are emptied. They said to him: The graves of the House of David and the grave of the Prophetess Chulda were in Jerusalem and they were never touched? He said to them: This is not a proof. There was an opening there so that the ritual impurity was passed over into the Kidron riverbed." [Bava Batra 1:11].
Perhaps since as is noted in Divrei Hayamim Uziyahu was not buried in the graves of the Kings of the House of David his bones could be moved, in view of Rabbi Akiva's opinion. Or it may be that the dispute of the Tana'im in the above Tosefta was in direct reference to the bones of Uziyahu.
It is exciting to see what may well be an archeological proof that confirms what is written in the Tosefta, showing that in the time of the Second Temple bones of the dead were removed from their original burial site so that Jerusalem would remain ritually pure.
FROM THE TREASURY OF CHASSIDIC STORIES
The Mediator - by Zev Kitzis, Kibbutz Hadati Yeshiva and Bar Ilan University
We have written in the past about the figure of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak from Berdichev, the great leader of prayers of the Chassidic community. For Yom Kippur, I will add another story of a discussion that Rabbi Yitzchak had with G-d.
Reb Levi Yitzchak – the "defender" and the national lawyer in discussions with the Judge of the Universe – organized his prayers as a way of self-sacrifice. He saw himself as an Olah, which is burned completely as a "sacrifice to G-d." That is: "The flame of enthusiasm... which was not far removed from the Holy One, Blessed be He... But which also entailed love and clinging together. Everything is included, and not for any anticipated reward." [Kedushat Levy, for the Torah portion of Pinchas].
Reb Levi described his total dedication to the experience of prayer in many lectures. He said that one who prays must be like a messenger of the community who gives away his life in prayer without thinking about himself but only about the good of the other. This trait, Reb Levi said, can be learned from the Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself. The verse, "And G-d passed in front of him and called out" [Shemot 34:6], where G-d teaches Moshe the Thirteen Traits, is interpreted by Rabbi Yochanan in the Talmud as referring to "passing by in front of the Ark." Rabbi Yochanan understands that "As it were, the Holy One, Blessed be He, wrapped Himself in a tallit as a chazzan and showed Moshe how to pray" [Rosh Hashanah 17b]. In other words: Prayer means dedication, an all-encompassing public mission where the person gives himself up to excitement and exhilaration – "to fall into the prayer for the good of those who need salvation." And these are the thirteen "traits of mercy" which can rectify an evil decree.
A description of the stormy prayers by Reb Levi Yitzchak appears in the only document which can be viewed as an external historic text about Reb Levi Yitzchak. This is a letter written by Rabbi Avraham Katznelenbogen, a famous Lithuanian scholar who was opposed to Chassidut. In an open letter to Reb Levi Yitzchak he comments on the fact that "he raises his voice in his prayer... enough to make noise in the entire world." He also describes other strange actions of Reb Levi Yitzchak during his prayers. "My soul would like to know what this is... that he repeats the holy name two or three times... and why does he look behind him... and he looks around on all sides. And I was also told that before the Shema he took his shoes off..." [Mordechai Vilensky, Chassdim U'Mitnagdim].
However, Reb Levi Yitzchak paid no attention to constant criticism from many different directions. He remained true to his mission, and that is what caused him to "raise his voice," to argue with his Maker in conversations full of "love and clinging together, not for any anticipated reward."
The same is true of the following story. A young agent who felt that he did not receive a large enough portion from the results of a successful business venture brought a case before Reb Levi Yitzchak against the rich merchant from whom he demanded more money. Here is what the Rebbe told them:
* * * * * *
Well, I am also engaged in mediating – between Yisrael and their Father in Heaven. I bring the merits of Yisrael to heaven, and I bring down to the world an abundance of good. And I do it all through pleasant words and mediation, in the way of the mediators, who try to convince the seller and the buyer, until the deal succeeds.
But one time I saw that the merchandise of Yisrael was not good, and it was made up of three types of sin – chet, avon, and pesha. And the three types of forgiveness in the heavens were also merchandise that is not needed there – selicha, mechilla, and kaparah. Why do they need this in heaven if they never sin?
I therefore decided to engage in mediation. Let the two places exchange their merchandise. G-d will provide the three types of forgiveness, and He will take away the three types of sin.
I was very sorry to see that it was not easy to convince the two sides to agree to the deal. Yisrael was not willing to give up the three elements into which they had put so much time and effort, including money, hard work, and annoyance. It was also not easy for them to put their faith in the merchandise that was offered to them in exchange... I was forced to promise that the Holy One, Blessed be He, would add another type of merchandise, and He agreed to this in the end. As it happens, we also need an abundance of good in matters of family, health, and livelihood. This is also not needed in heaven, and it occurred to me to ask the Holy One, Blessed be He, to add these items to the deal. I spread my hands out in prayer, and I can give thanks to G-d that I was able to consummate the deal, and He acceded to this request too.
[Mendel Citrin, Shivchei Tzadikim, Warsaw, 5643, pages 12-16. Also: Gedalia Nigal, Reb Levi Yitzchak from Berdichev – Stories, pages 99-105].
* * * * * *
This sophisticated discussion, with a humorous exchange between two sides about "merchandize that they do not need," shows not only the intimacy between Rab Levi Yitzchak and his Master, but also the great importance of prayer to Reb Levi, as a medium for mediation and compromise. In other talks we see Reb Levi make strong claims and even raise his voice to G-d. His only interest is to develop love and a desire for clinging between two sides which have grown apart. We learn from Reb Levi Yitzchak about dedication in prayer, without any desire for a reward. We are all worthy of being a chazzan, a messenger of the community which needs prayer, mercy, and love.
HALACHA FROM THE SOURCE
Make an Effort to Save Lives! - by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Director of the Center for Teaching and Halacha, Yeshivat Har Etzion
The Hebrew word for an accident is "te'unah." This is a bit misleading. What is the root of the word? The source is in the Torah: "If a person strikes another one who dies, he shall be put to death. And for one who did not plan it, but G-d caused it to happen to him, I will make a place of sanctity where he can flee." [Shemot 21:12-13]. The word used is "ina," aleph-nun-heh, which has been expanded into the modern word, te'unah.
First the Torah discusses murder, which is punishable by death. It then goes over to an accidental killing. This is therefore described by the term, "G-d caused it to happen," referring to an accidental death. (See another verse, "And the iron flew away from the wooden handle" [Devarim 19:5].) Since this is not on purpose, the killer is not punished by death but is sent into exile. But it is still murder.
Not every death can be viewed as accidental killing (it might be murder, it might be the result of a fire, it might have be caused by gramma – indirect action). It all depends on the details of the event. However, we must take care not to belittle the significance of an accident. It should never be viewed in a forgiving way, as merely "an accident."
A similar issue was raised in the Responsa of the ROSH (101:5). It was the custom at the time for the friends and relatives of the groom to go out of the city together after a wedding, some of them riding on horses and mules. One time one of the horses ran into the groom's horse and the groom was badly injured. (As an aside: today we must be very careful at weddings and happy affairs. Sometimes very dangerous acts are performed, such as when brides and grooms have fallen from table tops on which they were lifted, or similar "acrobatics.")
The rider of the horse claimed that the injured man (the groom) should have taken better care of himself, since they were both in a public place, where everybody is allowed to move around and to run. The ROSH rejected the claim, because a person is not allowed to ride a horse in a careless way, since he might not be able to stop him when he wants to. The ROSH defines the rider of the horse as one who caused damage with his own body directly, as if he had harmed him using his hands or a sword: "He is one who did damage with his body. Since he was riding on an animal and caused damage with the body of the animal or with the saddle, he can be compared to one who did damage with his own body..."
We can conclude that a traffic accident can also be considered a case of murder, using the hand of the driver directly, since the car is moving under his control.
We are not trying, heaven forbid, to automatically convict every driver who injured somebody in an accident. This must be the result of careful consideration, taking all the details into account. (And a driver who injured somebody by accident should not get into a depression that stops him from future activity. Rather, he or she must know that from that time on he has an extra measure of responsibility towards the person he injured, and he should learn from this to improve his actions towards society and the world.) However, this is an attempt to characterize for each and every one of us (including the present author) how serious a matter this is and how important it is to be careful. We must repeat over and over: One who is driving a car holds a weapon in his hands; one who holds the wheel of a car might just as well wield a rifle in his hand!
Let us try to be as careful as we can, to drive properly and carefully, and to obey the traffic safety rules. Let us pray that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will protect us from any mishaps and difficulties that come upon the world.
We suggest that the following be printed out and recited at the time of "Tefilah Zakah" – before Kol Nidrei.
* * * * * *
Guidelines for Careful Driving
Yom Kippur 5775
With the start of the year 5775, I choose life and I accept upon myself to improve in at least some of the matters listed below, in practical terms (the page was prepared in memory of Achiya Y., Of Blessed Memory, and of all the others whose life was cut off in traffic accidents).
Read the following questions and respond to them on your own! Afterwards, choose at least one element where you decide to make an improvement during the coming year.
Let us pray for a good year, full of joy and health.
Yosef Tzvi Rimon, in the name of the Gush Zahav Forum (for Road Safety).
Look at the following and answer in your heart as honestly as you can.
* Do you often drive above the speed limit?
* During the past month, did you ever burst into an intersection and interfere with passing cars?
* During the past month, did you drive for short or long distances without wearing a seat belt?
* Did you speak on a cellphone without using a speaker during the last month, even for a very short time?
* Did you ride during the last month with a child or an adult in the back seat who did not have a seat belt?
* Did you send or read a text message in a cellphone while driving during the last month?
* Did you drive during the last month at a time when you were weary, close to falling asleep?
* Did you start out late to work or for another purpose and therefore ignore some of the traffic laws?
* During the last month, did you pass another car even though there was a solid white line or when your field of vision was blocked?
* During the last month, did you turn towards the back seat while driving, in order to calm the children down, to talk, or for some other purpose?
* In the last month, did you fail to slow down in order to allow another car to join the traffic flow?
* During the last month, did you ever give your car to your child without a license, or without the presence of an accompanying experienced driver?
* In the last month, did you drive without giving proper consideration to pedestrians (stopping before a crosswalk, slowing down before a puddle in order not to splash people, and more)?
We want to save lives!
* * * * * *
NATURE AND THE TORAH PORTION
Pollination - by Dr. Moshe Raanan, Herzog College and the Jerusalem College for Women
"And you shall observe my laws and my rules, which a man must perform and by which he shall live, I am G-d. Let no man approach his relatives to uncover nakedness, I am G-d." [Vayikra 18:5-6].
Many reasons have been proposed in past generations for the prohibitions of incest, including some suggestions that are related to physical and mental health of people. It is interesting to note that even in the animal kingdom "incest" can lead to genetic disorders, and that there are mechanisms that prevent such events. In this article I will go as far as the plant world, in an effort to show how plants guarantee that their offspring will be results of crossbreeding between individuals which are far removed in a genetic sense. Since we are discussing plants, we will have to become acquainted with some basic concepts that are parallel to processes that take place in the animal world but that have different names in the plant world.
The Process of Pollination
Just as in animals, so too in plants there is a "male" and a "female," but usually the individual plants are not divided according to sexes, and most flowers have reproductive organs of both genders (male and female). In the flowers of such plants, which are called hermaphrodites, we differentiate between the gynoecium (ovary) which contains the ovules, the style, and the stigma, which comprise the female organ and the stamen which contains the grains of pollen, which is the parallel of the male organ.
In plants, the process of fertilization consists of placing the pollen on the stigma and the passage of the nucleus (the organelle which contains the genetic content) through the style and its reaching the ovules which are in the ovary. The fusion of the nuclei of the pollen grains with the ovules is parallel to the process of fertilization in animals, and it leads to the creation of seeds, from which the offspring of the plant will germinate. The process of the transfer of the pollen from the stamen to the style is called pollination, and it may take place in two different ways. Pollination can take place within a single flower between the male section (the stamen) and the female section (the gynoecium, the style, and the stigma) which is called self-pollination, or between different flowers, called cross- pollination. This may be helped by wind, but more often it is carried out by living creatures, typically insects.
Mechanisms to Inhibit Self-Pollination
There are many mechanisms in plants which serve to enhance the level of cross-pollination (that is, they tend to prevent "marriage of relatives" or "incest"). The advantage of cross-pollination entails not only prevention of genetic faults but also includes increasing the genetic variability, which can contribute to the ability of the plant (and animals too) to cope with environmental problems. The most prominent mechanism is a phenomenon called dichogamy, where there is a time gap between the vitality of the female and the male sections of the flower. Dichogamy limits or completely prevents any possibility of self-pollination. In 97% of the plants the male section becomes active at an earlier stage, a phenomenon that is called protandry. The opposite phenomenon is called protogyny, and it is quite interesting to understand the reasons for this to take place.
Another phenomenon is single-sex, which means that the flowers do not have bisexual sections but only one of them – the flowers are either male or female. The different flowers might be on the same plant or on separate plants. A prominent example of single-sex plant is the date palm, where the male and female trees are separate. In order for the fruits to develop, the pollen from the male trees must reach the flowers in the female trees. In order to enhance the efficiency of the pollination, those who grow the dates pollinate the trees artificially. This mechanism guarantees that pollination will be between different individuals and not within the same flower. Other examples of the same phenomenon are the carob and the kiwi.
Another phenomenon that is well-known to anybody who grows fruit trees is that some trees become barren when other similar trees do not exist nearby, or sometimes when there are other types which belong to the same species. This is called self-incompatibility, and it prevents fertilization when the pollen and the ovules are genetically identical. This phenomenon occurs with olive trees, where an individual tree will not bear fruit. In the case of cherries and plums, it can happen that only different types will pollinate with each other.
In many plants, the lengths of the stamen and the style are different. When the flowers are pointed upwards, the stamen is shorter than the stigma, and therefore the pollen falls down to the base of the flower and no self-pollination takes place. For flowers that are pointed downwards the opposite is true, and the stamen is longer. Another method that prevents self-pollination is for one of the parts of the flower to wither, forcing it to receive pollen from different individual plants.
The large number of mechanisms for preventing self-pollination, only some of which have been described here, shows that cross-pollination is advantageous for the plants. Perhaps this advantage is one of the reasons for the command, "Let no man approach his relatives to uncover nakedness." This reminds us of the words of the Zohar, about the Holy One, Blessed be He –"He looked at the Torah as a blueprint for creating the world."
(Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Which is the Real Israel? – by Rabbi Yoni Lavie, Manager, "Chaverim Makshivim" Website
Newspaper editors have an ancient tradition of filling their Rosh Hashanah editions with holiday articles. This includes outstanding people of the year, the ten most exciting/funniest/embarrassing/holiest moments of the past year, the most popular men and women of the year – in short, anything that will help the Chosen People get through the two days of the holiday peacefully.
This year we were treated to a very special jewel by the "leading news site in Israel," which broke into its regular stories with the following message: "Religion and State 5744: The Citizens of Israel are Nonreligious and Liberal." A few hours before the beginning of the holiday, shortly before a million and a half Israelis dressed in white and visited the local synagogues for prayers and then to listen to the shofar blasts in the morning, we were told that all of this is mere slight of the hand. The truth, we are told, is as a matter of course secular, living under protest, and estranged from traditional Judaism.
The colorful story was based on research by the "Chidush" organization (for religious freedom and equality), and it enthusiastically reported about the desire of the Israelis to separate between religion and the state, to recognize conversion by non-Orthodox sectors (even including "secular" conversion), to open shopping centers on Shabbat, to give kashrut approval to enterprises that violate the laws of Shabbat, and much more.
The innocent reader might well be taken in by the colored graphs and the one-sided numbers, without realizing that the person at the head of the above organization is a Reform rabbi who is known for his constant struggles against the rabbinical authorities, and that the results of the survey could have been predicted without bothering to hire surveyors to waste their time actually asking questions. This type of "scientific" survey is an expression of the desires of the illustrious rabbi who paid for it much more than a real summary of the position of the community in Israel. What we expect is for the readers to be given the latest fascinating survey organized next by the Hamas in Azza, which clearly shows that the vast majority of the population view last year, 5774, as a time of economic prosperity, peace, and growth (for some reason, the responses of those who did not agree are not available). In short: if fraud is still considered a sin in Israel, this news site has yet another item to add to its list of sins this year.
"The Synagogue is not for Me"
My purpose here is not to disagree with some survey or another. Anybody who is really interested in the position of the citizens of Israel with respect to faith and religion can look for the comprehensive and in-depth survey of the Gutman Institute, which has conclusions diametrically opposed to the above study. I simply want to share one small experience which can shed some light on the link between the nation of Yisrael and their G-d and to the traditions of their fathers.
For the last few years, I have not prayed in a synagogue on Yom Kippur. Rather, I have been privileged to participate in a wonderful project named, "Praying Together," which takes place every year at about 300 sites all over the country. It turns out that there are secular people who will not even come to a synagogue on Yom Kippur! Why is this so? It is because "It is a place for the religious people... There will not be any room for me... I will not know how to manage there..." And there are many other similar reasons.
The Tzohar organization has developed a different concept. It takes a place which is much more friendly and familiar to the nonreligious person – a local clubhouse or cultural center, where the prayers are guided and explained in detail even to those who do not visit the local synagogue regularly. For me, this is a very challenging time. It is hard to say that I manage to pray very much. My task is to run the prayers. We stop every few minutes to make sure that everybody is on the right page, we explain what prayer we are about to say and what it means for us. We offer a kippa or a siddur to anybody who just arrived, we welcome with a smile anybody who is standing at the entrance with an embarrassed look.
Peeling away the Shells
The results of our efforts are more amazing every year. The sign over the door proclaims, "Limited to 400 people." But when the heart opens up, it turns out that seven hundred men, women, and children can fit in easily. This is a long day of a living and exhilarating encounter with souls who are searching for a way to contact the Almighty, and it ends at the peak moment when the entire crowd stands up and follows the chazzan in the chant: "Shema Yisrael, our G-d is One G-d... Hashem is G-d" And I blend in with all the others, lifted up on the waves of enthusiasm, filled with a blast of energy that we religious people don't often see, shining with a blinding light.
At that magic moment there are some harsh questions that rise up in my mind: Who is it that dares to decide that the nation of Yisrael is "nonreligious" and "apostate" at the same time? Who is it that has decided that what makes a difference is routine behavior in "grey" mundane days? Perhaps the element that can push the scales in one direction is the moment of truth, small in time but huge and exalted in quality, when all the impure shells fall away and it becomes plain for all to see what truly lies in the hearts of the people? Can it be that the common stereotype which divides as with a sharp knife between those who have a piece of cloth on their heads and those who do not is partial and erroneous, and that there are other measures, more delicate and internal, that characterize the true relationship between the nation of Yisrael and their Father in Heaven? Can it be that there are truths and insights that will never under any circumstances appear in a newspaper headline, but not because they are not valid? Rather, they belong to a dimension of life and significance that is so high that the "newspaper site of the country" will never get close enough to see them!
For reactions, added material, and to join an e-mail list: milatova.org.il
WHAT IS THAT PHRASE?
The First Prime Minister? – by Yaacov Etzion
There is a clear difference between the holiday prayers of the Ashkenazi sector and those of the Sephardim. The Ashkenazi version of the repetition of the Amidah prayer is replete with liturgical poems that have been inserted into the prayer, while the Sephardim have moved most of the liturgical additions out of the Amidah and recite them separately.
However, even for the Sephardim some liturgy remains in its original place. One example is the poem "G-d, to whom can I compare You?" This was written by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi for the Mussaf prayer on Yom Kippur. This long poem is signed with an acrostic, "Yehuda Ben Shmuel Halevi, who admits his sins and who thanks his Master on Yom Kippurim." Using exalted language, it describes the reign of the Holy One, Blessed be He, over His creation and His creatures.
The line that starts with the letter "resh" is as follows: "Rosh hamemshalah harishona" – evidently, this refers to the first head of government. It then refers to the angels and their minions, and the entire army of the heavens, and their arms-bearers. Based on this quote, modern dictionaries note that this is an early source for the term "Rosh Memshalah" – Prime Minister – in the Middle Ages. However, a careful reading of the text makes it clear that Rabbi Yehuda Halevi had no intent of coining a phrase, Rosh Memshalah. Rather, he is writing about the first ones, starting with "the government" and so on. The "first government" is a quote that Rabbi Yehuda took from a prophecy: "And the first government will come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem" [Micha 4:8]. In the poem, he means to say that from the three sections of government mentioned in the poem, the government of the angels comes first.
As time went on, the phrase "Rosh Hamemshalah" took on a meaning of its own as a phrase, and perhaps this eventually led to its use in the modern meaning, a Prime Minister.
RIDDLE OF THE WEEK
by Yoav Shelosberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
What do the following have in common?
A fish, a worm, wind, and a "kikayon."
Answers for last week, Rosh Hashanah:
It is good, but don't exaggerate.
It is part of the food of a king who is fleeing.
The wife of a king brought a bottle of it to a prophet.
The son of a king almost paid with his life in the process.
A prophet ate and the scroll was pleasant to him.
The answer is: honey. This is one of the prominent items used as a symbol of our wishes for Rosh Hashanah.
- Honey is good to eat: "Eat honey, my son, for it is good" [Mishlei 24:13]. However, "To eat too much honey is not good" [25:27]. "If you find honey eat what is enough for you, lest you become satiated and vomit it out" [25:16].
- Honey was one of the things served to David when he fled from Avshalom: "Honey and butter... were served to David" [Shmuel II 17:29].
- The wife of Yeravam gave a bottle of honey to Achiya, the prophet, when she came to pray for her sick son (Melachim I 14:3).
- Shaul wanted to kill Yehonatan after he ate from some honey that he found in the forest (Shmuel I 14:26). The people redeemed Yehonatan because he had led them to victory in the war (14:44-45).
- Yechezkel ate the scroll: "And in my mouth it was as sweet as honey" [3:3].
* * * * * *
Do you have a bar/bat mitzva coming up? Are you looking for a special quiz?
To order: www.hidonim.com
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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
To subscribe: http://www.zomet.org.il/eng/?pg=subscribe&CategoryID=165
Visit the Zomet Institute web site: http://www.zomet.org.il
Contact Zomet with comments about this bulletin or questions on the
link between modern technology and halacha at: email@example.com
Or: Phone: +972-2-9931442; FAX: +972-2-9931889 (Attention: Dan Marans)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *