“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu




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בס"ד

B PARASHAT HASHAVUA B

PARASHA : Behar

Date :12 Iyaar 5768, 17/5/2008

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)

Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori

Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l

Please respect the Holiness of these pages

These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word format. Anyone who is interested in receiving them, can subscribe via the Parasha web site: http://parasha.sde.org.il/eparasha - Arieh.

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhH

1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)

Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel; http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html

STARTING POINT: Yovel and Yom Kippur

- by Rabbi Amnon Bazak, Yeshivat Har Etzion

The Torah instructs us to start the Yovel year on Yom Kippur. "And you shall send out the blast of a shofar in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month. On Yom Kippur you shall send out a shofar throughout your land. And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants. Let it be a year of Yovel for you." [Vayikra 25:9-10]. This leaves us wondering: Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to begin the Yovel at the beginning of the seventh month, which is a "day of a truah blast" [Bamidbar 29:1] in any case? Or, as an alternative, wouldn't the holiday of Succot be appropriate, since it occurs "at the end of the year" [Shemot 23:16] from the agricultural point of view, serving as a bridge between one season of the year and another?

Evidently there is a strong relationship between Yom Kippur and the year of Yovel. This link can be seen from the wording of the texts, with language in this week's Torah portion about the Yovel similar to what appeared in last week's portion with respect to Yom Kippur, specifically about prohibition of labor. We are commanded the following about Yovel: "The fiftieth year shall be Yovel for you, do not plant and do not harvest its spontaneous growth, and do not reap its grapes. For it is Yovel, let it be holy for you. You shall eat its produce from the fields." [Vayikra 25:11-12]. And the following is written about Yom Kippur: "It is Yom Kippur, let it be called holy for you... Do not perform any labor in the middle of this day, for it is Yom Kippur, meant for your atonement before your G-d." [23:27-28]. We can also see that in spite of the similar wording for Shemitta ("Do not harvest the spontaneous growth and do not reap your grapes" [25:5]) and Yovel ("Do not harvest the spontaneous growth and do not reap its grapes" [25:11]), the prohibitions are for completely different reasons. The prohibition of Shemitta stems from the fact that this year is a time of rest – "Shabbat shabbaton" [25:4], similarly to the day of Shabbat, because of the need to remember the days of the creation when the Almighty rested from all of his labors. However, in Yovel the prohibition is due to the fact that the year is "holy" – similar to the sanctity of Yom Kippur, when no weekday activity can be performed.

In addition, the similarity between Yovel and Yom Kippur evidently stems from the similar essence of the two concepts. The main significance of Yovel is the fact that a person returns to his heritage and to his family, as is emphasized in the passage: "Let it be Yovel for you, and let every man return to his heritage, let every man return to his family" [25:10; see also 25:13]. Yovel is a time of return to natural status, both for man and for the land, with respect to the element of ownership. Yom Kippur also has an element of a return to nature, where man returns to his natural state in spiritual terms. "For it is Yom Kippur, to atone for you before your G-d" [23:28]. This has been expanded in the Oral Torah, emphasizing the subject of repentance on the day of Yom Kippur. Thus, the conceptual link between Yovel and Yom Kippur is the reason that the holy year begins on the holiest of days, Yom Kippur.

POINT OF VIEW: Judicial Imperialism in the Rabbinical High Court

- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute

"Let a convert and a resident live with you" [Vayikra 25:35].

Erasing Judaism with a Stroke of a Pen

As is well known, the Supreme Court of Israel has adopted a policy of judicial activism, following the lead of a domineering Chief Justice. The consequences have not been long in coming: A sharp decline in the public respect for the court, with proposed new laws to limit its powers. The Rabbinical High Court is evidently trying to follow in the Supreme Court's footsteps. We have just heard the "news" of an imperious ruling which casts doubt on tens of thousands of conversions that were performed under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. I predict that the status of the High Court will suddenly decline, not only in terms of image and in media reports but also in terms of legal moves or more (what about the idea of establishing an alternative institution?).

Just in case some of my readers have not heard, or have forgotten the details in view of the constant legal tumult in the country: the Rabbinical High Court – or at least its Ashkenazi part – has been taken over by the strict "Lita'i" sector, especially since the retirement (or was it forced retirement?) of the "token man of reason" who was until now a member of the court, Rabbi Shlomo Daichovsky. His colleague, Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who is faithful to the "Lita'i great man of the generation," had held off publicizing a decision made years ago which allows a conversion to be annulled (or at least to cast doubt on the validity) even many years after it has been finalized. According to the decision, it is quite simple to retroactively rescind the Jewish status of a woman and her children, even if she has valid approval from a conversion court and from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Timed together with the retirement of Rabbi Daichovsky, a man who towers head and shoulders over most other current rabbis, the old decision was dusted off and appended to a current court case. The High Court, made up of three rabbis from the Lita'i sector, put its stamp of approval on a decision by the regional court in Ashdod, and revoked the conversion of a woman and her three children after they had considered themselves Jewish for fifteen years! In the interests of accuracy: the case was returned to the Ashdod regional court, with broad hints about the proper decision, in addition to (pseudo-)halachic considerations which cast doubt on tens of thousands of converts and their children from the last decade.

"Lita" Takes Precedence over the Whole World

The regular readers of this column are familiar with my position, that there is a concept of "halachic policy" which is influenced by the approach of one who makes a decision and by his relationship with the surrounding society. About twenty-five conversion court judges (and I am one of them) are imbued with a halachic point of view that wants to ease the way for people who are interested in converting to Judaism, not only by greeting them in a friendly way but also by taking into account lenient and "reasonable" halachic interpretations, too numerous to list in detail here. The Ashkenazi-Lita'i members of the Rabbinical High Court, who put the Jewish status of thousands of people into doubt, are also influenced by their own "halachic policy" approach, and they are firmly against the outlook of a "living Torah." They remain suspicious, not searching for ways to be considerate, as is typical of the well-known concept, "Let the law level any mountains in its way." What we have before us is thus "one system against another" [Shmuel I 17:21] with respect to the question of the conversion policy in Israel, here and now.

If any of my readers are skeptical about the concept of "halachic policy" and insist that halachic rulings can be mathematically calculated, let them take a good look at the broad range of halachic rulings throughout all history. In our times, just look at other rabbis, not members of the Lita'i sector: For example, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, and all of the Sephardi wise men taught by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, together with a range of rabbis from such sectors as the Chassidim, "Chardal" (stringent religious Zionists), and "Jerusalem" or neutral rabbis. There is no room in this short article to of into more detail about this matter.

In their intransigent decision, the judges pointed the regional rabbinical courts to a steep slope which was not outside the bounds of the case before them: the Ashdod court "volunteered" to check the Jewish status of the woman in the case in spite of the fact that her papers were in perfect order, taking advantage of a divorce proceeding (note that the husband did not claim that she was not Jewish). This in itself is a halachic scandal. What gave you the right to delve into this matter as a byproduct of a divorce case, if not your own desire to force your halachic approach on everybody else? And in addition, what gave you the right to force your halachic policy on the entire nation of Yisrael as the exclusive approach to halacha?

We are wary of approving conversions and marriage matters by Reform rabbis because of a fear of dividing the nation, leading to various parts of the nation refusing to marry people from other sectors. The Chareidi sector knows very well how to raise the specter of this fear for its own purposes. Well, this Lita'i court divided the nation with its own hands, defining a new group of people as being unsuited (or doubtful) for marriage! The court made harsh use of its monopolistic control of the halacha to shatter a consensus that has been accepted from the day that the State of Israel came into existence: One Orthodox sector does not protest or undermine decisions of another sector with respect to family issues.

A Rabbinical Court Bypass Law

And now we come to my immediate proposal, beyond the complex issue of establishing alternate courts: A law must be passed that prevents a rabbinical court from discussing the validity of the Jewish status of a person if it was approved by a formal rabbinic institution. This would be forbidden even as a secondary issue in some other case before the court. Let us leave the question of retroactive approval to the Prophet Eliyahu. "Rabbi Yehoshua said, I have it on authority from Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai who heard this from his rabbi, passed down from his rabbi's rabbi before him: It is halacha handed down to Moshe that the only reason Eliyahu will come... is to push away those who have joined our people by force and to bring close those who have been pushed away by force" [Mishna, Eiduyot 8:7]. This messianic role stems from the prophecy in the last chapter of the prophets: "For he is as a refining flame and as cleansing soap... Behold, I am sending Eliyahu the Prophet to you before the great and awesome day of G-d arrives." [Malachi 3:2,23].

TO SEE G-D'S GOODNESS: What is Holiness?

- by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rosh Yeshivat Ramat Gan

Question: Before we fulfill a mitzva, we recite a blessing with the phrase, "He who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us..." What is the simple meaning of the concept of holiness? In what way do we become holy when we fulfill a Divine mitzva?

Answer: The link between humanity and the Creator always consists of two elements – love and fear. As our sages have said, a bird has two wings, and without them both it cannot fly properly. These two elements are intertwined and always appear together, and each one complements and balances the other. The need for balance stems from the contradiction that faces us because of the complex relationship between us and the Almighty.

On one hand, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not Mine" [Yeshayahu 55:8]. In the Zohar it is written that "Thought cannot grasp Him" – Human knowledge and understanding cannot begin to understand the greatness of His actions, and certainly not the essence of His being. There is no way to grasp, to think about, to understand, or to form a link to something that is innately beyond the concepts and definitions of humanity. And this is the reason that the presence of G-d brings great fear to an understanding and sensitive soul. On the other hand, since G-d truly loves us, and since He wants to do good for all the creatures, He approaches very close to us and is available to us whenever we need Him – "G-d is close to anybody who calls out to Him" [Tehillim 145:18].

The same idea is true of the concept of holiness. Love and fear complement each other. From the point of view of fear, sanctity is seen as an action of separation and division: "'For I am holy' [Vayikra 21:8] – My holiness is greater than yours" [Vayikra Rabba 24]. But on the other hand, "You shall be holy, for I am holy" [19:2] implies that the Almighty's holiness is relevant for the service performed by man, and He calls out for man to be attached to Him and to act like He does.

The first rabbi of Chabad, the author of the Tanya, explains the text of the blessings for a mitzva as follows: He who sanctified us with His mitzvot – this can be compared to a man who marries a woman, saying to her, "You are sanctified to me," meaning to be attached, uniquely linked, and in close contact. (Compare "kidushin" of the marriage ceremony to "kid'shanu," You have made us holy, in the text of the blessings.) Every mitzva plays the same role as a wedding ring by which the Almighty brings our souls closer to Him and lets us enter "the innermost room, where no slave or minister is allowed." And even though the body is linked to this true unity, it is only in such a way that man maintains the ultimate choice. In truth, with every mitzva a person becomes attached to the Almighty in a way that is different from any other link in this world. Even the link between a man and a woman doesn't represent this ultimate attachment, which explains why Shir Hashirim remains a mere parable of the close link with the Almighty.

Our sages have taught us that there is no real reward for performing a mitzva in this world. The Chassidim explain this as follows: If we put on one side of a balance all the pleasures and desires of this world, both physical and spiritual, even including the achievements of all the righteous people since the day of creation until this very day – this will not be sufficient to pay the reward for observing a single mitzva as it will be performed in the world to come. This wonderful future joy will stem from being truly joined together with the Almighty, as it were being drawn into the "body of the king."

However, there are two sides to this coin, and they both appear at the same time. Together with the supreme feeling of close attachment to the Almighty there is an understanding - as part of a feeling of deep sanctity - of the great qualitative difference between man and the Creator. The closer we come to Him, the more sharply do we become aware that the very possibility of becoming attached to a being who is beyond every human limit is a true wonder in itself.

Thus, to be holy is to experience an approach to G-d that cannot be matched by any other feeling. It refers to a person whose soul perceives its life in this world through the spiritual joy that stems from performing the mitzvot. But at the same time, the soul recoils from its great distance to Divine heights and perfection as compared to the lowly and lacking earthly reality. Those who sanctify G-d's name can reconcile the fact that the Almighty is at one and the same time infinitely far above us and also infinitesimally close to us.

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