“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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5 -PROJECT GENESIS (torah.org)

The Jewish Learning Network http://www.torah.org/

A). RAV FRAND (Rabbi Yissocher Frand)

RavFrand, Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.

The Tree Hugger

They're here! ALL NEW Commuter's Chavrusa Devorim 24 is available, on tape or CD, to enlighten, inspire and perhaps amuse you with such fascinating topics as:

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SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE FOR RABBI FRAND'S CURRENT WEEKLY SHIUR ON MP3 IS NOW AVAILABLE. SEE OUR WEBSITE WWW.YADYECHIEL.ORG A ND CLICK ON THE "NEVER MISS SUBSCRIPTION" BUTTON FOR DETAILS.

For complete listings of all the new offerings, log onto our secure site at http://www.yadyechiel.org and select the "Timely Offers" button, or send e-mail to tapes@yadyechiel.org , or call us at 410-358-0416.

And while you're there, don't forget that the entire Yad Yechiel Tape Library, featuring the complete collection of Rav Frand's shiurim, is also available for viewing online. At http://www.yadyechiel.org, you can browse through a comprehensive listing of 23 years of weekly shiurim, view Parsha Perceptions, Halacha Tapes, Hashkafa Tapes and Theme Sets. Plus, you'll find order information on this easy-to-navigate site.

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"At the end of seven years, you shall institute a sabbatical year." (15:1)

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter related that during a shemittah (sabbatical) year, the Ponevezher Rav zt”l once walked over to a tree, gave it a hug and a kiss, and said, "Good Shabbos to you."

Using his dynamic style, the Ponevezher Rav taught us the amazing concept of shemittah. For an entire year, all the fields and orchards in Eretz Yisrael experience a Shabbos similar to the Shabbos we experience once a week. If we are fortunate enough to be in Eretz Yisrael during shemittah we should feel the holiness descend onto the Land just as we feel the holiness of Shabbos.

There is another aspect to shemittah that bears mention here. Physical objects generally do not contain holiness. A person has to consecrate an object in order to bring holiness to it. During shemittah, however, all fruits and vegetables grown in Eretz Yisrael are automatically sanctified simply because they grew from the holy land. As you drive through the country, every orange, esrog, and cucumber you see growing contains holiness.

I find a need to stress the extraordinary holiness of Eretz Yisrael because the secularist governments leading the State of Israel for nearly 60 years have made concerted efforts to eradicate any holiness associated with the Land, and unfortunately they have been highly successful in doing so. A visitor to modern-day Israel is likely to miss the kedushah of the Land, unless he or she makes a concerted effort to experience the holiness therein.

Following the signing of the Oslo Accords, National Public Radio broadcast a report about Israel. The report focused on the contrast between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. One of the people interviewed said, "Tel Aviv is a normal city, unencumbered by history. Tel Aviv is like Miami!"

To prove the point of the interviewee, the reporter visited Tel Aviv on a Friday afternoon and recorded the sounds one can hear on a typical Tel Aviv street. Indeed, when you close your eyes and listen to the recording, you can easily mistake it for downtown Baltimore, or any other city in the United States. They played a few moments of rap "music" — if you can call it music — blaring from the boom box of a group of teenagers hanging out on the street. "This is so normal," the reporter declares.

They went on to describe Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon. "Orthodox Jews, many of them dressed in broad-brimmed hats and long caftans, scurry through the streets preparing for the upcoming Sabbath."

Jerusalem, the report implies, is not normal. Jerusalem is a city that must carry the weight of thousands of years of history and theology on its shoulders.< br> Tel Aviv is a modern city. Tel Aviv is a "normal" city. Jerusalem is not.

Truthfully, attaining "normalcy" was the stated goal of secular Zionism. Early Zionist leaders considered the verse, "We will be like all the other nations" (I Shmuel 8:20), their mantra. They developed the country through the blood, sweat, and tears of the Kibbutz movement, but all the while envisioned a country whose cities would look like all the "normal" cities in the world.

What they did not realize was that if Tel Aviv would look like Miami, their descendants might decide that it is not worth living in Tel Aviv if they could just as well move to Miami. And that is exactly what happened.

A reporter once traced the descendants of several of the founders of the Zionist state — names like Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky, and others — and found that over seventy-five percent — seventy-five percent! — of their descendants live outside Israel.

To paraphrase Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, former Rav of Atlanta, Georgia, who now spends most of the year in Eretz Yisrael:

They abandoned the kibbutz in droves, physically and spiritually, for the less austere life — and ultimately the greater comforts and material opportunity — of Canada and the United States. The most sacred tenet of the secular Zionist canon — settling in Israel — is utterly ignored. As the secularists painfully realize, Yerida (emigration) from Israel is primarily a secular phenomenon, while Aliyah (immigration) to Israel is primarily Orthodox.

Realistic estimates show that there are close to half-a-million Israeli expatriates now living in the West. Those raised on a religion-less diet abandon Israel for the West, but those raised on mitzvah observance apparently do not find it difficult to abandon the luxuries of the West for a less-comfortable life in Israel.

This trend results in an interesting juxtaposition: You can hear Hebrew spoken in electronics stores on 42nd Street in New York or on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, while English is spoken in Israeli yeshivos such as Brisk and Kerem B’Yavneh.

The Orthodox in Israel today ask a troubling question of the secularists: Who are the real Chovevei Zion? Who really loves Zion?

Only those who observe Torah and mitzvos want to live in Israel. Only they are willing to live in the "abnormal" land.

Eretz Yisrael is not normal. It is not "normal" to have to consider fruit holy simply because it grew in a certain year. But that is what Eretz Yisrael is all about. Moreover, that is what being a Jew is all about. A Jew is encumbered by history. A Jew is encumbered by theology. It is not surprising that those who don't realize the significance of being Jews are not interested in living in a country that was, is, and will always be, encumbered by history and theology.

Ironically, the segment of society that secularists consider "abnormal" is willing to live in Israel , the abnormal country.

An article in The New York Times documented the secular reaction to American olim (immigrants) to Israel. The spirit of the article was that secular Israelis could not understand how a sane individual who was living in the United States, had a livelihood in the United States, and owned a house in the United States, could come to the ridiculous conclusion that is worthwhile to pack up all his belongings and move to Israel.

In the eyes of secular Israelis, people who make aliyah from North America nowadays must be out of their minds, the article concluded.

In a sense, the secular Israelis are correct. People who are willing to give up living in the lap of luxury in favor of a land with far less material opportunity simply because it is a mitzvah to do so are not normal. But only abnormal people can live in an abnormal land.

It might have seemed strange to see the great Ponevezher Rav hugging a tree. The Ponevezher Rav was not involved in Green Peace or any other “save the earth” movement. He had a message to impart with his unconventional behavior. Eretz Yisrael is a land governed by abnormal standards, and it can only be inhabited by people who are equally “abnormal.”

It is that abnormality we should all admire and for which we should all strive.

B).Parsha Parables (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)

Copy Cat Killers

As the Almighty prepares his children concerning what they may face upon entering the Land of Canaan, He warns them: "Take heed to yourselves that you be not ensnared to follow them (the Canaanites) after that they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying: 'How did these nations serve their gods and I will do likewise. You shall not do so unto Hashem your G-d; for every abomination to Hashem, which He hates, they have done unto their gods, for even their sons and their daughters do they burn in the fire to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:31).

The commentaries explain that these verses are not a warning against an attempt to serve idols, but rather the Torah is warning us not to use the Canaanite methods to serve Hashem.

And I wonder, why not? Why can't we take the good customs and ideas and discard the bad? If it seemingly makes sense, then why not try the Canaanite approach in our own service. True, they sacrifice their children. We won't do that; we will just copy their song and dance the rock and the roll! Why shouldn't we?

The Story

Years before the outbreak of World War II when Rav Yitzchak Hutner of blessed memory, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, was a student of the Slobodka Yeshiva, he was talking to the Mashgiach of the yeshiva, my great uncle, Rabbi Avraham Grodzinsky of blessed memory.

In walked another student who had spent a while in Germany and had just returned. He was welcomed warmly by the Mashgiach who asked him about his experiences in the foreign country.

"Ah! You think here in Slobodka we work on our character?" exclaimed the student. "The German people have such sterling character that it is worth learning from them!"

"How so?" asked Rabbi Hutner.

"They say 'please' and 'thank you' for everything and in fact, they are so humble, that they answer a question, but end with an expression of humility! The other day I asked for directions and the policeman who gave them to me told me to take a right at the end of the street. He then ended his directive, with the self-effacing suffix, 'nicht vaar (is that not so)'? They are so humble they would not even give a definitive answer! Even their instructions end with a diffident remark!"

Rav Hutner recounted that though at the time he was quite impressed, the Slobodka Mashgiach was not impressed at all. In fact, the Mashgiach's reaction was quite unimpressed.

He told the visitor in an annoyed tone, "I am sad to say that it is a veneer! There are deep-rooted animalistic tendencies in that people and the veneer of etiquette is something that is done by rote. They have no humility, and they have no concern for other individuals!"

Rav Hutner was quite surprised at the Mashgiach's caustic comments. He took in the conversation in silence, not making a judgment.

Years went by. The Nazi inferno burned the Slobodka Yeshiva to the ground and killed most of the remaining students. The Mashgiach, Reb Avraham, was himself butchered by the purveyors of politeness, and most of his family was killed with him.

Rav Hutner was spared. A few years before the Nazi invasion of Poland, he had arrived on American soil where he was appointed the Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin. The yeshiva grew and hundreds of talmidim and visitors would gather each Yom Tov to hear the great sage teach Torah and say divrei machshava - a ma'amar as it was known.

During one Simchas Yom Tov, a visitor walked up to Rav Hutner and asked, "Do you remember me?"

Rav Hutner shook his head. He did not.

"I was the man who had the argument with Reb Avraham about German etiquette."

Rav Hutner nodded. It came back clear as a bell.

"I'd like to show you something. He waved his hand in front of Rav Hutner. It was missing two fingers.

"The Nazis chopped off my fingers," said the man. "But that's no chidush; they did a lot worse to a lot more people. What is interesting is that as the ax came down, the Nazi officer intoned quite politely, 'Es toot vey! It hurts!' And then he added, as if he was programmed, 'nicht vaar?'"

The Message

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal about a fellow that brought a sefer to a certain Rosh Yeshiva for an approbation. The sage perused the tome and stopped at a particular erudition that made absolutely no sense.

He turned to the author and said, "I am sorry, but I can't approve of this book. This page is utterly off base." The fellow protested, saying "But you have not found anything wrong with the rest of the book!"

The Rabbi smiled and asked, "If a man climbs up each morning to the roof of his house and crows like a rooster, is he insane?"

The author nodded his head in consent.

"And let's say the rest of the day he acts normal, is he still not insane?"

The Torah is telling us to avoid any of the services that are performed for idolatry. True, some of them may seem quite normal, even relevant and honorable, but the Torah chides us as to where this is all coming from.

The seemingly normal service is coming from the same fellows who practice the service of sacrificing children to their gods! If they can perform such a debase form of service then anything that they do must be considered as bizarre and unacceptable. Keep away!

So often we like to glean the good from dubious sources, but we tend to forget that there may be so much trouble intertwined within the seemingly altruistic or wholesome services we would like emulate.

All too often I look at certain products made in Germany and imagine a bright yellow label pasted on the container, "New! From the makers of Zyklon-B!"

The Torah warns us to be careful in admiring acts we believe are commendable and worthy of copying, since they also bear the label, "New! From the people who brought you child sacrifice!"

We needn't search for new forms of service from those who service is wrought with depravity. We may be trying to be copycats, but we may in essence be copycatting killers.

C).WEEKLY HALACHA (Rabbi Doniel Neustadt)

How Long Must the Tzitzis Strings Be?

Question: How long should the tzitzis strings (on a tallis gadol or katan) be? Is a tallis kosher if one or more strings tears either partially or completely?

Discussion: Once the tzitzis strings are looped through the hole on the corner of the garment and knotted, the length of the strings — from the top of the first knot to the end of the string[1] — should be no less than 11.4 inches[2]. The first third, approximately, is the gedil, the top segment which is composed of wound and knotted strings, and the lower two thirds, where the strings hang loose, is the anaf[3]. But the strings need to be no less than 11.4 inches in length only when they are attached initially to the garment. Attaching strings that are shorter than the prescribed length onto the garment renders the tallis pasul. If, however, the strings were the proper length when attached to the garment but only later were cut or shrunk, the tallis is still kosher as long as the anaf is at least 1.9 inches[4] long. See tomorrow’s Discussion for the details. The following rules apply to tzitzis strings that fall short of the original requirement:

  • If one — but not more — of the eight strings snaps off completely and loses its anaf entirely, the tallis remains kosher l’chatchilah and the proper berachah is recited when it is donned[5].

  • If more than one of the eight strings snaps off completely, or even if more than one string is less than 1.9 inches long, the tallis should no longer be worn[6].

  • If one or two of the eight strings shrank but is still at least 1.9 inches long, the tallis remains kosher l’chatchilah and the proper berachah is recited over it.

  • If three or more (or even all eight) strings shrank but are still at least 1.9 inches long, the tallis remains kosher, but it should be replaced or repaired. If, however, this is the only tallis available, it may be worn and a berachah may be recited over it[7].

  • Note: Our discussion pertains to strings that were cut, got torn or shrank in the anaf portion of the string. However, if even one string was severed at the point where the tzitzis are attached to the garment (until after the first knot), the tallis is pasul[8].

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