“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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HOLY AND SECULAR A Dirty Trick

- by Rabbi Amichai Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School

"I used to have principles, But I have sold them all. This was a good deal for me, Perhaps for them too." [A song by Y. Rosenblit, "I Lie Down on my Back"]

* * * * * *

This coming Thursday the shortest ever school year will begin. The 5772 year has been shortened by one week. Why is this so? That is a good question.

* * * * * *

Iyar 5771: At the end of marathon discussions by a special committee, the Minister of Education announces an innovative plan – to shorten the summer vacation by one week. The plan does not mean that the number of days of study during the year will be increased. For every vacation day replaced by a day of study, there will be one less day of school during the year.

Many organizations declare their opposition to this plan. "It is a shame to add study days during the hot time of August and to add vacation days during the cool weather of Tishrei... If the study time before Succot will be decreased, when will the children learn about Succot?" In addition, some other types of criticism were voiced, "Such decisions cannot be made at the last minute..."

In response to these demands and others, the new plan was put off for one year. Was the reason for this delay really the need to organize the matter better? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no.

* * * * * *

As part of their acceptance of plans to change the structure of the educational system, the teachers' organizations were given a bribe, in the form of additional vacation days during the coming school year. The teachers accepted this idea for the 5773 school year, and five days of vacation were given to them in 5772, to start the process.

It goes without saying that this offer was not presented to the public as a bribe. The agreement was presented as a logical legal process. The reasoning went like this: The first week that is being added to the school year is actually part of the previous year (can somebody explain to me why this is so??). This is part of the small number of the vacation days to which every teacher is entitled, and it is therefore wrong to take them away from the teachers, to compensate for study days in the coming year. (Yes, this is accurate. It is not a claim made by a merchant in a market who is afraid that he will not get the goods that he is paying for, it is a claim made by the representative of a teachers' union. This shows something about our teachers in general.)

The teachers' unions have stopped looking at their students. What they look at is their salary slip and their social benefits. Would a physician dare to reduce the time spent with a patient by one hour in order to be able to make some organizational changes with respect to a different patient? Would an engineer agree to use less cement and metal bars on one bridge in order to make a change to another bridge?

That is exactly what the teachers' organization has done. They shortened the coming school year by one week as a condition to agreeing to organizational changes in the following year. The fact that there will be one week less of study in the coming year did not interest them very much. The main thing is that their salaries and benefits were not decreased.

All of the "practical" claims about better physical conditions in the cool days between Yom Kippur and Succot and about the need for intensive study about the holiday and its character – they no longer mattered. The newly added vacation days helped convince everybody what was best.

* * * * * *

It is important to clarify something and to limit what we have written so far. Most of the teachers do not act and do not think in the same way as their official representatives. For the vast majority of the teachers, the students are very important. These teachers try very hard not to harm the studies and the students even if they do not receive proper compensation for their jobs. The vast majority of the teachers try very hard to do a good job even though the society around them does not give them a proper reward for their efforts.

But even so, the shame of shortening the school year is a responsibility shared by all the teachers, whether they explicitly agreed to participating in this dirty trick or not. Every teacher who receives part of the bribe is sharing in this disgraceful behavior, whether he or she is interested in the deal or not.

I propose that the silent majority of teachers should reject the bribe. That is, I propose that the silent majority of the teachers should make it their business to teach during these specific days and thereby show respect for the length of the school year and for the status of the teachers in general. The point is not just the single week of study that the students will miss – rather, it is something that is much more fundamental. The point here is that the teachers should make it clear to themselves and to their students that the reason that they teach is not simply for their salaries (meager as they are...) but because of the values that they want to impart.

* * * * * *

As I wrote the above paragraphs, I saw in my mind's eye the words of our mentor, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein from about twenty years ago. On the eve of Purim, the rabbi stood up to give a warning to all of the students in the yeshiva. "Listen to me. Purim ends Thursday night. On Friday we have our regular class. I don't want anybody to think of taking an uncalled for vacation on Friday. Anybody who wants to use this day as a 'bridge' between Thursday and Shabbat might as well stay on the other side of the bridge for good..."

Rabbi Lichtenstein's personal example and his dedication to study had a much greater influence on us than we would have felt from any general discussions about the importance of study. If we want the students to understand how important every day of study is, we must give them a personal example in the way their teachers behave.

E-mail: benkodesh@gmail.com

INSIGHTS FOR THE SHABBAT TABLE

by Bar-on Dasberg

With whom should we Identify?

"When your G-d destroys the other nations... Beware, lest you follow their ways after they have been destroyed, lest you seek out their gods" [Devarim 12:29-30]. But we might ask: Even based on an idolatrous approach, why should a person identify with a god that lost the war? (This phenomenon appears with respect to Achaz, who made a copy of the altar of Aram after they were defeated.) It would seem that the Torah is warning us against the surprising tendency to identify with an enemy who has been defeated and conquered.

Was Shemitta Observed in Egypt?

What is the opposite of a miser? The answer is one who observes Shemitta – a miser closes his fist and refuses to give money to others, while a Shemitta observer opens his hand wide so that poor people can take money or so that one who borrows money can keep the promissory note without paying the loan back. That is why as part of the mitzva of Shemitta the Torah tells the lender, "Open up your hand" [Devarim 15:8]. This is evidently the reason for the laws of Shemitta with respect to the land. Instead of gathering the produce, the Torah commands us to distribute it freely.

The first person who behaved in this way was not in Eretz Yisrael. Rather, it was Yosef, in Egypt. "And during the seven years of plenty, the land produced grain by the handful" [Bereishit 41:47]. In this week's Torah portion, the subject of the Shemitta is introduced with the phrase, "At the end of seven years" [Devarim 15:1], and this is also relevant for what Yosef did at the end of seven years of plenty, "And Yosef opened up all that was available" [Bereishit 49:56].

TALK-BACKS

Brief Comments by Our Readers

* In the last issue Rabbi Shapira proposed a solution for the problem of the high age of marriage – making a payment to the matchmakers. The price that the rabbi suggested was quite high, so that it would serve as an incentive for the large effort of the matchmakers. It can be assumed that Rabbi Shapira is correct with respect to many cases where the couple "do not make it easy" for the matchmaker, to put it mildly. On the other hand, it seems to me that we should be wary of making this a standard practice, especially since in some parts of the nationalistic religious camp there is strong social pressure to marry at a very young age. If we also add to this the matchmaker's desire to "close a deal," the result may be hurried decisions by the young couple that are not a result of careful consideration. I suggest that Rabbi Shapira's proposal should be implemented only if one of the couple is at least twenty-five years old. (Yisrael Aharoni, Petach Tikva)

* Tirza Frankel sees the wave of protest in the country as a positive public awakening. I on the other hand can see nothing more in it than the middle class acting for its own personal gain. If the middle class demonstrators would have put as much energy as they did into worrying about the status of the lower classes we would be much better off! (Chaim Cohen, Be'er Sheva)

(Comments refer to last week's issue of Shabbat-B'Shabbato – they must be sent to Zomet Institute, in Hebrew, by Sunday morning at the latest.)

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHh

2 - MACHON MEIR

MACHON MEIR http://www.machonmeir.org.il/english/main_id.asp?leng=English&len_id=2

The Tears of the Oppressed

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Question: Many times I have encountered poor, suffering people, and my heart bleeds for them. I’m not talking here about those who suffer from injustices committed against them by evil people, but about those born with impediments that torment them. I am filled with resentment and anger over this. Why do these people deserve such suffering? I know I cannot receive an answer to this, but this is not my question. Rather I want to know if the very emotion I feel is legitimate. People have told me that it shows a lack of faith. After all, “G-d is good to all, and His mercy is over all His works” (Psalm 145:9). If so, how dare I complain! Rather, I should remain silent and resignedly accept everything.

I do not understand this argument. Is it natural for me to complacently observe my fellowman’s suffering without feeling any resentment? Have I no heart? Have I no feelings? Answer: Your feelings are justified and do not, G-d forbid, constitute heresy. Rather, they result from your honesty. King Solomon wrote long ago about the “tears of the oppressed” (Ecclesiastes 4:1), and in the Zohar commentary, “Saba DeMishpatim” (Shemot 113:1), a very weighty claim is advanced for various types of oppressed people. Obviously, “The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all His ways are just. He is a faithful God, never unfair” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Yet since we do not understand the secrets of His behavior – “For My plans are not your plans” (Isaiah 55:8) – it is permissible for those oppressed people to weep.

Following is the Zohar: “‘Behold, the tears of the oppressed’ – all of the oppressed pour out tears, stating their case before G-d.” The Zohar elaborates on various types of oppressed people: 1. A boy thirteen-years-old and one day, sentenced to death in Rabbinic court for his sins, despite his being considered an adult for only one day, making him like a one-day-old infant. Despite his newness as an adult, the court can theoretically execute him. We will not pause to analyze this example. Rather, let us suffice with the Zohar’s conclusion: “Here are the tears of those oppressed. They have no comforter.” 2. A person who is classed as a “mamzer”, the product of an incestuous relationship.

Such a person is outside the fold. He cannot wed, although he certainly is not guilty for his parents’ sin. He is poor and unfortunate. He pours out his tears before G-d and complains, “Master-of-the-Universe! If my parents sinned, what sin did I commit? Surely my own deeds are reputable.” Of him it says, “Here are the tears of the oppressed. They have no comforter.” In other words, there is no answer to his argument, and there is no comforter and there is no one who can say a word in response.

3. There are other oppressed people, and they are infants who died in their mothers’ arms, causing all mankind to shed tears for them. Moreover, there are no tears more heartfelt than those, for all mankind wonder to themselves, “G-d’s justice is the truth, and it follows the path of truth, and here you have these poor infants who didn’t sin. Why did they die? Where is the truth in G-d’s justice here? Certainly they have no comforter.” As noted, at first we know that G-d’s judgments are truth, but we don’t understand why, and we cannot sense why. Therefore, there is no comfort for our tears. In the future, however, we will understand, and we will have comfort.

The World-to-Come is not like this world. In this world, we say “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” over good news, and “Blessed is the true Judge” over bad news. In the World-to-Come, however, we will say “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” even about bad news (Pesachim 50a).

Yet in the meantime, we are in this world. We do not understand and we cannot intuit the truth. We have complaints about the tears of the oppressed, and we have no answer. And we believe in G-d, and we love Him and cling to Him.

Message for Today

“No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper”

Rabbi Dov Bigon

“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper. Every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn” (Isaiah 54:17).

For thousands of years unrelenting efforts have been made from within and without to engulf Israel in foreign cultures, each generation facing its own influences. In our own generation as well, we are exposed to the influence of Western culture, whose effects are recognizable in large segments of Israeli society.

Despite everything -- all the foreign cultures and all the languages that have set out to replace our own, the Holy Hebrew tongue -- those influences will not achieve long-term success. Quite the contrary, we see with our own eyes how Hebrew has been revived after thousands of years of its being the heritage of the few. We see clearly how the great spectacle of a return to Jewish tradition and to our Holy Torah is taking shape. This represents a tangible expression of the Prophet Isaiah’s vision that “no weapon fashioned against us -- i.e., non-Jewish culture -- shall prosper.” Right now, we are at the height of a remarkable process of the return of the People of Israel to the Land of Israel. At a later stage will come fulfillment of the words of Ezekiel 36:25: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean. From all your uncleannesses and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” The movement of return to Judaism which is growing stronger and stronger throughout all strata of our society is just the beginning of the process in which there will be “a famine in the land. Not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but for hearing the words of the L-rd” (Amos 8:11).

It is true that this process has different levels. There is personal repentance, repentance out of fear, repentance in which a person calculates that Judaism will be good for him, for his family, for his children’s future -- and indeed it is: “Observe that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse. The blessing will come if you obey the commandments of the Lrd your G-d, which I am prescribing for you today” (Deuteronomy 11:26-27). People do see in practical terms how religion and the Torah are beneficial for them and their families. Yet there is still a higher level than that -- repentance out of love, in which a person is brought to Judaism not just by calculations, but by recognition of the truth that there is a Master over everything and that His dominion extends over all. Hashem, the G-d of the world is the G-d of Israel and we are commanded to serve Him, to follow in His path and to cling to Him.

Through repentance out of love we will merit the great repentance that all of us are looking forward to and believe in -- repentance in which goodness and joy are truly revealed and magnified on earth. Then we will see how G-d is good to all, and how His mercy extends to all His creations. Through this, in turn, we will merit the vision of Isaiah 55:5: “Nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the L-rd your G-d, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.”

Longing forward to complete salvation,

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