Sunday, December 1, 2013

Can you Date The Following Quote

For history buffs - can you identify which public figure said the following quote, and when:

"We have a historic opportunity for peace and we must do all we can to seize it," 
A. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, May 1, 1987
B. Israeli prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 17 December, 2004
C. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 12 November, 2007
D. President GW Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, 1 September, 2008
E. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, 19 June, 2009
F. Israeli prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, 27 September, 2010
G. King Abdullah of Jordan, 5 October 5 2010
H. Head of Israeli Labo(u)r Party, Isaac Herzog, to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, 1 December, 2013
I. All of the above

The Correct answer is - you guessed it -  "I - All of the above"

Herzog's first month as head of Labour he has already determined that NOW is the Historic Opportunity for Peace - I really hope that we don't miss this historic opportunity - it might be weeks before another such opportunity presents itself. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy כ"ט בנובמבר

Don't forget that as well as being Chanuka and American Thanksgiving, today is also כ"ט בנובמבר, which I believe is the only Israeli Government-recognized holiday with a date based on the non-Jewish Calendar.

November 29 is certainly a day for Thanks giving and to לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל

Happy כ"ט בנובמבר everyone.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Song about Rav Ovadia

A lot has been said about Rav Ovadia over the past 6 weeks since he ascended to the Heavenly Beit Midrash.
How he tried to change the way the Torah World approaches halacha and to return to a halachic system based on Shulchan Aruch and Gmara, and not on mysticism and Chumra.
They even said from "מיוסף (קארו) ליוסף לא קם כיוסף", that his impact on Halacha was as great as the most famous Halachist of the past thousand years - Rabbi Yosef Karo.

On the Shloshim of Rav Ovadia, his son, Rav Yizthak Yosef spoke at my son's Yeshiva. He spoke about the importance of learning Halacha - not so that we can know what is forbidden, but so that we know what is permitted. Just like a rav (or any Torah observant Jew) needs to know when to say "no you can't do this" he also needs to know when to say "yes - this is allowed".

In this day and age when people are trying to find a Halachic approach that is "לכל הדעות", permissible by every single opinion - it is important to remember that each of us belong to a Halachic tradition that favoured certain opinions over others, and we have clear guidelines of what is permitted and what is forbidden - and just like we should avoid anything forbidden, if an action is permitted, we should not be afraid to do it.

This does not mean we should go and look for leniencies; we shouldn't shop for a Rabbi to give his approval for anything we want to do. But we also shouldn't shop for stringencies. If an action is permitted by Halacha and was accepted in our tradition in previous generations, we should not be "frummer" than the Rabbis of previous generations.

The song below is a little bit kitsch - but the image of an empty chair in a room full of books is a wonderful metaphor for our generation.

כוכב מאיר I עוזיה צדוק Kochav Meir I Uziya Tzadok

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interesting post on the problems of "Health Ed" in US schools

Just saw this interesting response to a letter about "Abstinence" - well worth a read....

From my inbox, an email from a high school student named Jeremy:
“Dear Matt, ...
I read something you wrote about dating once and it seemed like you were saying that people should wait for marriage [to have sex]. What do you think about what my teacher said? Am I weird for not really wanting to go out and hook up with girls and stuff and instead wait for marriage?”

Dear Jeremy,
Yes, it’s weird for you to want to wait until marriage.

In spite of the hyper-sexualization of our culture; in spite of society’s decaying moral sensibility; in spite of all of the messages that bombard you every day through every available medium; in spite of the pressure from your classmates; in spite of the bullying from that fool of a “health teacher,” you STILL stand tall and resolve to save yourself for your future wife.
Read the rest of the response here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Give a Get

I recently started attending a weekly Shiur in Missechet Gittin by Rabbi Lau. One of the unique aspects of the shiur is that in his capacity as Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Lau is personally involved in many complex cases involving divorce and is able to talk about some of the extremes that some husbands will go to in order to avoid granting their wives a get. This includes being prepared to sit in prison rather than signing a piece of paper to free a wife they have not been in contact with for several years.
(If you live in Modi'in, I highly recommend this shiur on Friday mornings in Beit Kneset Titura)

Like many people, I have been following the case of Gital Dodelson whose husband, Avrohom Weiss, has refused to grant her a get for several years. (You've probably already seen this article from the New York Post).
(To add insult to injury, Avrohom Weiss is a great-grandosn of Rov Moshe who was the champion of Agunot after the Churban of Europe)

If you are wondering how you can help, the Set Gital Free site recommends writing to Artscroll who are employing Avrohom's father and Uncle who are supporting him financially and emotionally. You should write to Artscoll to express your disappointment that an organization that claims to support Torah Values is employing people who are wilfully abusing a woman in the community.

Following is a letter that I just sent to Artscroll:

To:     Meir Zlotowitz -
    Nosson Scherman -


It greatly saddened me to read that employees of an organization like Artscroll are actively involved in withholding a get from Gital Dodelson.

As an Torah-based organization like Artscroll is no-doubt aware, withholding a get is a terrible perversion of halacha, and goes against many values that we in the Torah community hold dear.

By keeping employees who are encouraging a family member to refuse an Order from Beit Din, and prolonging the unnecessary suffering of a Jewish wife and her child, Artscroll gives the impression that it is not interested in promoting Jewish values, and does not represent the values in the books that it prints.

If Artscroll believes in the values of Torah, I think that you need to show this by suspending Yosaif Asher Weiss and Yisroel Weiss without pay until Avrohom Weiss grants Gital a get without any pre-conditions. Until that time, I will refrain from buying any Artscroll books and will encourage my friends to also avoid Artscroll.

I hope that with your assistance, Gital will be quickly granted her get and will be able to rebuild a life as a member of the Jewish community.



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spot the Jew

The WJC has an interesting article on a statement from the Pope praising the Jews for maintaining faith after the Shoah.
I thought that the Pope's comments were very interesting, especially the way that he refers to Vatican 2.
I Just finished re-reading Elie Wiesel Legend's of our Time (highly recommended reading) in which he indirectly addresses the issue of faith after the Holocaust. 

What also struck me as ironic was that the accompanying picture shows the Pope and other Catholic leaders meeting the leadership of the World Jewish Congress, but the only people in the room with kipot on were the Catholics; none of the Jewish leaders have their heads covered in the picture.
Doubly ironic in the context of an article in which the Pope praises the Jews for maintaining their faith.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekly ideas for the Shabbat Table

I just added a blog to my Blog Role - Rabbi Walk's Walk Through The Parsha.
This blog, by a former teacher of mine has a short weekly thought on the parsha which is gives you something to say over the Shabbat table. There is also the option to subscribe and receive the vort via email.

If you enjoy Rabbi Walk's ideas, you can order a book with a thought for every Shabbat of the year from Create Space. (I also got a mention in the book's acknowledgements, which I guess is the closest I'll get to my 15 minutes of fame - unless you count this video from 1985).

Also, on a different note, I was just informed of a new service running all over Israel to set up phone learning partners, chavrutot,  free of charge  on any Jewish topic. For more information, contact  Dovid and Racheli  at 025808867 or

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Name of the Moshiach

Today's Daf (Pessachim 54) says that the name of Mashiach was created before the world:

תניא שבעה דברים נבראו קודם שנברא העולם ואלו הן תורה ותשובה וגן עדן וגיהנם וכסא הכבוד ובית המקדש ושמו של משיח
(Beraisa): Seven things were created before the world - Torah, repentance, Gan Eden, Gehinom, the Kisei ha'Kavod, the Beis ha'Mikdash, and the name of Mashi'ach;
(Translation from
Well, now thanks to a judge in Cocke Count, we know what that name was, and in case you thought it was Menachem, the correct answer is in fact Martin.

US judge changes baby's name from Messiah to Martin
The judge in Cocke County said the name Messiah could cause the boy difficulties if he grew up in a predominantly Christian area.
"It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is," Judge Ballew said.
Instead the judge ruled that the baby was to be named Martin DeShawn McCullough, which includes both parents' last name.
"The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," she said.
Hat Tip: Life in Israel)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why do Orthodox Jews refuse to serve in IDF?

For the past several months, I have been trying to understand the Charedi objection to the draft. I don't want to believe that they really believe that their Blood is redder than mine and while my son should risk his life (in addition to learning Torah), their son should just learn Torah.

Why should my son be forced out of the Beit Midrash to fulfill his national obligation while Charedi students - who may or may not be better at learning than my son - feel that have an automatic right to be exempt.

However all explanations I have seen from Charedi spokespeople are based on outright lies, and are insulting to anyone who disagrees with them.

The video below repeats the common claim that the only reason that the "Zionists" want to draft Charedim is to assimilate them.
They can't conceive of a possibility that Israelis see something unfair about putting their son's lives at risk while other's don't.
They can't imagine that the army can't automatically reduce the potential pool of soldiers by 30%.

Like other Charedi spokespeople, he (mis-)quotes early Zionist leaders as saying the objective of Zionism is to change the Charedim, and the only reason to draft them is so that the army can indoctrinate them in views that are contrary to traditional Judaism (without specifying exactly what values the army is pushing that they object to).
He didn't quote any contemporary politicians, only Jabotinsky who died before the IDF was created. Are there any contemporary politicians who want to use the army to "indoctrinate" the Charedim, if so, why doesn't he quote any of them?

He says further that even if the army was to adopt Halachic requirements, this wouldn't change the army's "indoctrination" objectives, without explaining what he means by this.

He can't even conceive of any reason to draft the Charedim other than the fact that all Zionists Hate Torah.

The video is extremely offensive, comparing "The Zionists" (including religious Zionists) to the Greeks, Romans, and other enemies of the Jewish people, and claim that the draft wants to take Yeshiva Students like Sheep to the Slaughter. Possibly the most offensive line is that he claims that All observant Jews, without exception, are against the draft - i.e. cutting off about half of the religious Jews in Israel.

But the most illogical argument I have ever heard is "Their [The Zionist's] Jewish heroes are our our [Charedi] Jewish villains" - for the Zionists Bar Kochba was a hero, but the Chredim call him Bar Koziva - the fraud.
So he claims that Rabbi Akiva who supported Bar Kochba was a Zionist, as was the RaMBaM who brings down Rabbi Akiva's opinion of Bar Kochba to form his definition of Moshiach.
Meanwhile the Charedim are aligned with the Romans and early Christians who opposed Bar Kochba.

I am still waiting for a real argument why there should be a blanket exemption for all Charedim.
If the army is unable to provide an environment that conforms the the Charedi lifestyle, I understand and even support the charedi objection to the draft. 
However, the law which passed its first reading yesterday allows for 1800 illuim (scholars)  to continue their learning without interruption, and the army is looking for ways to accommodate the Charedim without compromising their values - i.e., separation between men and women, higher standards of kashrut, time for learning and Tfilla. If the army is able to continue to provide such an environment for Charedi soldiers (as it does now in Nachal Charedi and other programs), what is the objection to the Chredi draft?

(Interesting that Wikipedia says that a synonym for "Villain" is "Black Hat", which I guess means that Bar Kochba couldn't have been a villain - he never wore a black hat)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Earthquake in Wellington - building near Shul damaged

News reports are coming in about a 6.5 earthquake centered in the Cook Strait. is reporting that the Mercure Hotel on the Corner of Webb Street and Willis street was evacuated because of structural damage. This hotel is about 100 meters from the shul. There are no reports of death or serious injury, I hope that everyone is OK, and that the shul building wasn't damaged.

As an aside, the 2011 Earthquake in Christchurch (which killed 185 people including 5 Israelis) destroyed the Beit Chabad, which was never rebuilt.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Where's Moshiach this Tisha B'Av

As Tisha B'Av approaches, instead of focussing on Ahavat Chinam and learning to love one another, the religious community is again filled with accusations and insults against those who dress or think differently.
Not just around the Shabbos table, but in public speeches, letters to the editors, and even violent attacks against other Jews, the religious community (and I mean all parts of the religious community, including all different types of dress and ideologies) has managed to guarantee that we will have to fast again on this Tisha B'av.

Tonight as we sit on the floor and cry for events that happened almost 2000 years ago. We should look around the shul and around the Jewish world and remember that all over the world Jews are sitting on the floor crying and listening to the words of Yerimiyahu. If we manage to unite at least in our tears, maybe, just maybe, next year we will be able to unite in joy.

Below is a poem by Rabbi Yitzchok Feigenbaum that you've probably seen this before. It was originally titled "Ode To Purim", but I think that it is more suitable for Tisha B'Av than Purim.

May we all have an easy and meaningful fast.

"כשם שחרבנו, וחרב העולם עמנו, בשנאת חינם; כך ניבנה, וייבנה העולם עמנו, באהבת חינם."
(הראי"ה קוק, אורות הקודש)


"yeshno am echod m'Foozar umi'forud"
To all of "us", from one of "them".
By Rabbi Yitzchok Feigenbaum


T'was the night of the geulah,
and in every single shteibel,
sounds of Torah could be heard,
coming from every kind of Yeidel.

This one in English,
some in Hebrew, some in Yiddish,
some saying pshat,
and some saying chiddush.

And up in shomayim,
the Aibishter decreed,
"The time has come
for My children to be freed.

Rouse the Mashiach
from his heavenly berth,
have him get in his chariot
and head down to Earth."

The Moshiach got dressed,
and with a heart full of glee,
went down to the Earth, and entered
the first shteibel he did see.

"I'm the Moshiach,
Hashem has heard your plea,
your geulah has come,
it is time to go free!"

They all stopped their learning,
this was quite a surprise,
And they looked at him carefully
with piercing sharp eyes.

"He's not the Mashiach!"
said one with a grin,
"Just look at his hat,
at the pinches and brim!"

"That's right!", cried another
with a grimace and a frown,
"Whoever heard of Mashiach
with a brim that is down?!"

"Well", thought Mashiach,
"If that is the rule,
I'll turn my brim up
before I go to the next shule!"

So he walked on right over
to the next shule in town,
confident to be accepted
since his brim was no longer down.

"I'm the Mashiach!", he cried
as he began to enter.
But the Jews there wanted to know first,
if he was left, right, or center.

"Your clothes are so black!"
they cried out in a fright.
"You can't be Mashiach --
you're much too far right!

If you want to be Mashiach,
you must be properly outfitted."
So they replaced his black hat
with a kipa that was knitted.

Wearing his new kipa,
Mashiach went out and he said,
"No difference to me
what I wear on my head."

So he went to the next shule,
for his mission was dear,
But he was getting a bit frustrated
with the Yidden down here.

"I'm the Mashiach!" he cried,
and they all stopped to stare.
And a complete eerie stillness
filled up the air.

"You're the Mashiach?!
Just imagine that.
Whoever heard of Mashiach
without a black hat?!"

"But I do have a hat!"
the Mashiach then said.
So he pulled it right out
and plunked it down on his head.

Then the Shule started laughing,
and one said, "Where's your kop?
You can't have Mashiach
with a brim that is up!

If you want to be Mashiach,
and be accepted in this town,
put some pinches in your hat,
and turn that brim down!"

Mashiach walked out and said,
"I guess my time hasn't really come,
I'll just have to return
to where I came from.

So he went to his chariot,
but as he began to enter,
all sorts of Jews appeared,
from left, right, and center.

"Please wait, do not leave,
it's all THEIR fault!" they said
And they pointed to each other,
and to what was on each other's head.

Mashiach just looked sad,
and said, "You don't understand."
And then started up his chariot
to get out of this land.

"Yes, it's very wonderful,
that all of you learn Torah,
But you seem to have forgotten,
a crucial part of our mesorah."

"What does he mean?
What's he talking about?"
And they all looked bewildered,
and all began to shout.

Mashiach looked back and answered,
"The first place to start,
is to shut up your mouths,
and open up your heart.

To each of you, certain Yidden
seem too frum or too frei
but ALL Yidden are beloved,
in the Aibeshter's eye."

And on his way up he shouted,
"If you want me to come,
try working a little harder
on some ahavas chinam."

(c) YZF Toronto 1992. This may be freely reproduced and
distributed under the following conditions: 1) That it is
reproduced EXACTLY as it appears here, including the heading on
side one, ALL 30 stanzas, and this note; 2) it is distributed
free of charge; 3) it is not used by ANY organization or
promotional purposes. Any breach of these conditions shall
constitute gezel and a breach of the copyright.

LI'N Yikuse'el Zussman B"R Yitzchok Z"L and Pesha B"R Avrohom
Halevi Z"L

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mr President

The media is full of stories in honour of President Peres' 90th Birthday.

Shimon Peres is truly a great statesman. An old-school Labour Zionist who played a big part in the establishment of the state, and has been involved in almost all key events in the history of our country. From his youth in Poland (where he allegedly met the Chafetz Chaim), to the Britsih mandate, through the wars of 48, 56, 67, and 73 and most of all, to the Oslo accords, Shimon Peres has been a part of history.

This morning on the radio, one of the speakers talked about how Shimon Peres can teach us all about Emuna (Belief). For decades, Mr Peres has believed in a vision, and his belief has remain steadfast no matter how popular the current political trends were for or against his vision. Nothing has been able to shake Shimon Peres' faith in a better future.

So in honour of his birthday, and 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords which was possibly Shimon Peres' most significant contribution to the state, here is the song "אנחנו הילדים של אוסלו" - "We are the children of Oslo", written in honour of the children born in 1993 together with the Oslo Accords. (Lyrics and my translation below)


We are children of Oslo, [born in] the year ‘93

You sold us on the [White House] lawn in exchange for promises.
You were tired men who wanted a Nobel Peace Prize.
You were young women and that wanted to mix realty with a dream.
So we got a lot of complements and you made an half thought-out deal,
What is it possible to do with us – no problem, follow us to the flood.

You promised a dove and olive branch.
We got a Kassam rocket on our house.
You promised peace and happiness, we got exile and explosions.
You promised a dove….

We are the children of Oslo, the year ’93.
We grew up now with the army and weapons, and helmet on our head.
We’re from Kfar Saba, Haifa, Gush Katif – I’m from Sderot/
Look after your Nobel Prize, that it doesn’t get dirty from shrapnel or blood and tears.
You never asked us, what each of us think.
For a long time ago we learned that promises don’t have to be kept.
To shatter the dream, Ashkelon, Itamar, and from our heart we wanted to whisper,
We are the children of Oslo, that you had in mind.
You promised a dove, olive branch, we got a Kassam rocket on our house.

Only 2 people killed each day is a great deal for peace.
Keep singing about our heritage.
We got a [call up] order over the network and don’t have time to talk.
That’s OK, we don’t need an apology…
You promised us a dove and olive branch…..

אנחנו הילדים של אוסלו שנת 93

מכרתם אותנו בדשא תמורת הבטחות.
הייתם גברים עייפים שרצו פרס נובל לשלום.
הייתם נשים צעירות שרצו לערבב מציאות בחלום.
אז קיבלתם המון מחמאות ועשיתם הסכם חצי תעלול,
שאפשר לעשות עלינו- לא נורא אחריכם המבול.

הבטחתם יונה עלה של זית.
קיבלנו קאסם על הבית.
הבטחתם שלווה ושמחות , קיבלנו רק גרוש והפצצות.
הבטחתם יונה ...........

אנחנו הילדים של אוסלו שנת 93.
גדלנו עכשיו בצבא עם הנשק- כסדה על הראש.
אני מכפר-סבא, חיפה, גוש קטיף, אני משדרות.
שימרו על הנובל, שלא יתלכלך מרסיסים או מדם ודמעות .
עליכם לא נלחץ לא נשאל כל אחד מה עוד הוא זומם.
כי מזמן למדנו הבטחות לא צריך לקיים.
לבטל החולים, אשקלון , איתמר ובקרב- רק רצינו ללחוש ,
אנחנו הילדים של האוסלו ההוא מה עבר לכם בראש .
הבטחתם יונה , עלה של זית , קיבלנו קאסם על הבית .

רק שני הרוגים בכול יום זה אכלה דיל עבור השלום.
תמשיכו לשיר על מורשת.
קיבלנו פקודה ברשת ואין לנו זמן לשיחה.
זה בסדר מוותרים על סליחה.
הבטחתם יונה עלה של זית ......

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A reminder why we need to look after ourselves

Proponents of the "Two State Solution" often poo-poo Israel's security concerns claiming that once we have peace, security won't be an issue (after all, we have "Peace"), and in any case, we could have a UN controlled peace-keeping force keeping the peace, in the unlikely event that anything would go wrong.

Given the instability of all the states surrounding Israel (with the possible exception of Jordan), the first argument is silly - just because we signed a Peace Pact with the current Palestinian Administration, there is no guarantee that they would keep it, and it is unlikely that they would stay in power (see Gaza where Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority within months of Israeli disengagement).

Ah-ha - peace proponents say, that's why would get security guarantees from a third party like the UN or the US. These proponents have obviously never  heard of the 1956, 1967, or 1973 wars when UN peace keepers left as soon as there was a serious threat of war.
"But surely that is ancient history" I hear you say; things have changed now ... except that today Austria announced that they are removing their peacekeepers from the Golan Heights - after all, it could get dangerous there. I guess relying on peace keepers in the region only makes sense if we knew that there would never be the threat of was (in which case, why do we need the peace keepers?).

Bottom line is, if we ever sign a peace agreement, it must include the ability for Israel to defend itself without relying on the partner signing the agreement or a third party.

Am I against the concept of a Palestinian State? Not at all, the concept sounds like a fair just solution. I'm against the reality of a Palestinian State.
Right now, I cannot conceive of an independent Palestinian State that would not lead to missiles being fired at my home.

My vision of peace does not include missiles being fired at me and my children. If not wanting missiles fired at my home makes me ant-peace, so be it.
If someone can suggest a Peace Plan that would not lead to missiles being fired at my home (or the homes of other Israelis), I'm in favour. I just haven't heard of such a proposal yet.

And if you're wondering what I think we should be doing to encourage peace, I am a big believer in interaction between Jews and Arabs; the more that we interact with each other on a personal level, the more likely that our children will be able to live together in harmony. (I wrote about it a few years ago).
The concept of a Palestinian State is exactly the opposite - it discourages personal interaction between Israelis and Palestinians, in fact it often makes it illegal (it is currently against the law for Israelis to enter many Palestinian territories).

Given that right now, there is no serious realistic peace plan on the table, and no serious partner on the other side, I guess Secretary of State Kerry got it right -
People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity.”

Makes good sense to me. Lets hope that our sense of security, accomplishment, and prosperity continue to increase - and people pushing for a diplomatic process that directly puts my life in danger will continue to be ignored.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to make a Chilul HaShem, and then compound it

While I was on shlichut for Bnei Akiva, I often had to travel to events with large groups of teenagers. We were always very aware of how our group was perceived by outsiders. What would bus drivers or event operators who watched a group of 30 or more visibly religious Jewish teenagers think of us.

I was always proud of the way the group behaved, and several times I received comments like "I have never had such a well behaved group on my boat before, I hope that my kids grow up to be like them". This good behaviour was in spite of, or maybe because of the fact that there was little or no adult supervision. I was the only person over the age of 22, and I wasn't present on every bus or at every event.

Hearing praise of the way the kids behaved reminded me of the Yerushalmi (Bava Mezia 2:5):
“The elder Rabbis bought one measure of Barley from the Roman soldiers. They found in it a bundle of money. Now you have to understand that in these times Jews and Roman soldiers were not on exactly good terms with each other. But they gave it back to the Roman soldiers and they said “Blessed is the God of the Jews”.
(Source: Talmud Yerushalmi Institute)

Unfortunately not all Jewish groups act in a way that inspires others to emulate us.
Media outlets are reporting that a group of 100 students from the Yeshiva of Flatbush were removed from a flight for not listening to the flight crew's safety instructions.
The response of the school principal was as follows:
Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director at Yeshiva of Flatbush, said that administrators are continuing to look into the matter, but that so far he believed adults on the trip who said the students weren't behaving that badly.

At least one of the students reported to the media that he thought that they were thrown off because of anti-Semitism.

I wasn't there, and I have no idea whether the kids were behaving "that badly". I am reasonably certain that it was no more than a small minority of the kids that were disruptive.
I also have no way to judge whether the airline was justified in throwing the passengers off the plane, or whether they could have taken a less drastic action like removing only the students who were the most disruptive, or getting the adults accompanying the group to discipline the kids.

HOWEVER, I am certain that a US airline crew were not acting based on anti-Semitism, and I am sure that throwing more than 100 passengers off a flight of 137 passengers is a decision that costs the airline time and money, and they would not take such a decision without a good reason.
According to all reports, the kids were given several warning, including from the pilot himself.

This is the essence of Chilul Hashem. I am sure that there are people watching the report who say "If that's what Orthodox Judaism is all about - I'm glad I'm not Jewish (or not Orthodox)"

The fact that the reports include accusations of mistreatment from the students and school staff, but no word of apology, even to the other passengers who were inconvenienced, does not make them look any better.

I just checked the website of the school, and didn't see a response. I sincerely hope that the Yeshiva publicly apologizes to those inconvenienced by the incident, and make a clear statement that the behaviour of some of the students was not in any way justifiable and is not typical of Jewish behaviours, and disciplinary measures have been taken against those responsible.

This should also be a reminder to all of us who are visibly Jewish that whether we like it or not, we represent certain values, and every person that we meet will base his opinion of the Jewish people based partially on how we behave.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

People often use meaningless statistics to try and strengthen a (weak) argument.

At university, I remember a tutor using the following example of a statistic:

90% of patients who took this medication fully recovered.

The tutor pointed out that this statistic has zero meaning without additional information, such as:
  • What percentage of people who did not take the medication fully recovered?
  • What happened to the 10% that did not fully recover (for example did they die unexpected horrible deaths?)

Yated Neman has a column by By Rabbi Moshe Boylan which is a wonderful example of how to cherry-pick quotes and to quote meaningless statistics. Rabbi Slifikin of Rational Judaism has some good examples of how the column selectively quotes the Emek Davar and the Netziv to mis-represent their opinions, and if you look at the comments on Rational Judaism you'll see some great examples of how Rabbi Boylan mis-represented the Status-Quo agreement on which he basis a lot of the column.

But one of the best mis-uses of statistics is this gem:
In a recent article, Yonason Rosenblum quoted Rabbi Melamed, a religious leader in the Dati Leumi community, as saying that 25% of the Dati Leumi people who enter the Israeli army ultimately become chilonim.
I have no idea whether the quote is accurate or the statistic is realistic (it is also hearsay - I heard someone say that someone else said that he heard that...) , but even if it is true that "25% of the Dati Leumi people who enter the Israeli army ultimately become chilonim", this tells me NOTHING AT ALL about the Israeli army.

For the statistic to become meaningful, we would need additional information such as:
  • What percent of Dati Leumi people who do not enter the army become chilonim? (For example what percentage of Modern Orthodox youth in the US become less observant at the age of 18-25).
  • What percentage of Chredim become non-observant, either with or without army service?
  • Of the 75% of Dati leumi solders who do not "ultimately become chiloni", what percentage have their religious observance strengthened by their army service?
  • What percentage of non-religious soldiers become observant as a result of their exposure to Mitzvot like Kashrut and Shabbat in the army (not to mention their interaction with religious solders)?
  • What does "ultimately become chilonim" mean? If a man in his 30s gives up religion 15 years after leaving the army, is this connected to his army service?
  • In what framework do the soldiers who become less observant serve? Are they with religious units such as Hesder or Nachal HaCharedi, are there differnet statistics for those units?
  • How observant were these 25% of soldiers before they went into the army? The term "Dati leumi" encompasses a  large spectrum of religious observance - from Charedi Leumi (such as Merkaz) through to people who are nominally religious, but are lax in the observance of many halachot. There are also many teenagers from religious families who become less observant well before they are drafted into the army, although it may be more visible when they are in the army as this is often the first time that they are outside their parent's house and are free to express themselves.
The question of why/how Dati leumi people give up their religious observance is an important discussion, and if there is an indication that it is connected to army service, that is certainly an issue that should be addressed. Although based on my limited time served in the army I would think that army service often strengthens peoples religious observance - but that could be a topic for a different post.

There may be good reasons for Cheredim not to serve in the army, unfortunately putting a series of mis-quotes and meaningless statistics together as Rabbi Boylan does in Yated has done does not strengthen their argument, it just gives the Chredi camp the appearance of having no legitimate sources for their argument and makes rational discussion that much more difficult.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Sefer Torah is How Old‽

I have always found old Jewish stuff fascinating, physically praying in a building or holding a book or religious item that was used by earlier generations is a tangible connection to our past and a reminder that Judaism didn't start with the invention of the Fedora, just over a century ago.

I remember the first time I visited the Abuhav Synagogue in Tzfat which claims to house a Sefer Torah written by Rabbi Abuhav himself, which would make the Sefer more than 500 years old (and still Kosher and in use, although only used 3 times a year).
That Sefer ignites  the imagination - it saw the end of Mamaluk rule in Eretz Yisrael and the rise of the Ottoman empire. Rav Yosef Kairo, the Ari, and Rav Shlomo Alkabetz (who composed Lecha Dodi) all probably read from that Sefer. The Sefer saw Talmedei Ha Gra and the Besht make Aliya followed by the Rise of Zionism, the War of Independence, and the return of Jewish Rule to Eretz Yisrael.

If that Sefer could talk, I'm sure that it would have some amazing stories.

Well the BBC is reporting that the University of Bologna in Italy has identified a Sefer Torah in its possession as more than 850 years old.

If you look carefully at the picture on the BBC site, (additional picture at  IBT) you can see that the lettering looks more Sfardi than Ashkenazi (although I don't know what is used in Italy today - the Italian minhagim have elements of both Sfardi and Ashkenaz communities).

The press release described the Safer as follows:
The antiquity of “Scroll 2″ had not been recognized by Leonello Modona, a Jew, native of Cento, who worked for years as a librarian at BUB, and who was the first to catalog the BUB-Hebrew-manuscript-collections, in 1889. Modona did in fact date the scroll back to the 17th century and described its Hebrew letters as “an Italian script, rather clumsy-looking, in which certain letters, as well as the usual crowns and strokes show uncommon and strange appendices.” Professor Perani, on the contrary, examining the scroll for the new catalog, noticed that its early square, oriental script of Babylonian tradition was very elegant and finely written and the graphical and textual structure were totally atypical and had to be much older than 17th -century. The text of the scroll does in fact not take into account and respect the rules, fixed by Maimonides (dead in 1204), who established in a definitive way the whole rabbinic regulation about copying the Pentateuch. The BUB-Torah-scroll actually shows many graphical features and scribal devices, absolutely forbidden to copyists after the Maimonidean codification.

It would be interesting to see differences between this Sefer Torah and the standardized text in use today. We know that in the middle ages there were slight variations in some words (such as extra vavs or yuds), for example, there are several places where Rashi comments on letters that seem to be present in his Torah and are not in ours.
As the BBC article points our, this Sefer pre-dates Rambam's standardization of the text and the script of Sifrei Torah all over the world. The Sefer also pre-dates the first printed Hebrew texts which also had an enormous impact on the standardization of the text of the Torah.

It seems that the history of the Sefer Torah is still unknown, not even clear how it came to be in the possession of the University of Bologna (Although possibly dating back to Napoleon), although I'm sure researches are looking into it now.

But if only this Sefer could talk - I'm sue it would have some interesting stories to say....

 Hat Tip: Mostly Kosher

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What is keeping Moshiach away?

Can someone help me - I'm not sure which of the following is a Chillul Hashem and/or keeping Moshiach away:

A. Inviting and Orthodox Rabbi to speak as Scholar in Residence at an Orthodox Shul in North America.

- or - 

B. Publicly expressing outrage over the choice of speaker in an Orthodox Shul in a different city, refusing to refer to the speaker as "Rabbi", and describing him (without any effort to back up the claim) as "someone who has publicly stated his disdain for the leaders of our generation and for those who toil in Torah".

Background - one of the biggest shuls in North America, BAYT has invited Rabbi Dov Lipman to come as Scholar in Residence for a Shabbat.
For people not familiar with Rabbi Lipman, he is an Orthodox (Haredi) Rabbi who has been active for many years against religious extremism, particularly in Beit Shemesh, and he recently was elected to the Knesset as a part of Yair Lapid "Yesh Atid Party"

As someone who has rallied against religious extremism, and actively encourages Haredim to get at least a minimal secular education so that they can become part of the work force (something which is standard practice in most Haredi communities outside of Israel) he has received a lot of criticism from people in the Haredi camp.

But when BAYT invited him to speak, T Fink of Matzav felt obligated to publicly express "outrage" and fill a column with pure hatred and Loshan Hara.and then finishes his column with the following gem:
My prayer is that this plague of recognizing those who publicly defame and put down our gedolei Yisroel will come to an end, and together may we all merit to greet Moshiach soon bekedushah v’taharah.
I don't pretend to know how we can bring Moshiach sooner, but I'm reasonably sure that an Internet column full of Sinach Chinam is not a step in the right direction.

My prayer is that this plague of publicly encouraging hatred and putting down our fellow Jews in the name of gedolei Yisroel will come to an end, and together may we all merit to greet Moshiach soon bekedushah v’taharah.

In the mean time, if you are in Thornhill or Toronto on Parshat Pinchas, may I recommend an interesting speaker at BAYT.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Shavuot in Modi'in with Rabbi Lau

The Modi'in Dati list just published Rabbi Lau's Shavuot Schedule.

שיעורי הרב דוד לאו, רב העיר, בליל שבועות:
בין מנחה לערבית – בית הכנסת ברעות
22:15 – יקיר אפרים (נחל צין)
23:15 – מנורת אבנר (אולפנא, נחל צלמון)
00:15 – אדיר במרום (דן/שמעון)
01:15 – חושן מודיעין (אבני חושן/בדולח)
02:00 – תפארת חן (אבני חושן)
02:30 – השמשוני (דוד אלעזר)
03:30 – הצופים הדתיים (עמק יזרעאל)
04:00 – בני עקיבא (נחל צלמון)
04:20 – אודיה (נחל זוהר)
18:00: - מוריה (אסתר המלכה)
19:15 – לב אחים/שבטי ישראל (ראובן)

Every year it is amazing how he manages to get to so many places in the city within a 24 hour period.

For those trying to follow his path - here is is on a map:
(Click here to view most of the shuls in Google Maps)

Wow - just "wow"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

מצות ישוב ארץ ישראל

In honour of Yom Haatzmaut next week, I am giving a shiur today on Mitzva Yishuv Eeretz Yisrael - The Mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael.
Below are my sources - you can read them and draw your own conclusions :)
Sorry that it is not formatted properly - blame Blogger. If you would like a copy in Word or PDF format, please contact me directly or leave a comment (include contact email address in the comment - I will remove the address from the comment after I have sent the file.

1.      במדבר פרק ל"ג

[נ] וַיְדַבֵּר ה' אֶל-משֶׁה בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב עַל-יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחוֹ לֵאמֹר: [נא] דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן אֶל-אֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן: [נב] וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-ישְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ מִפְּנֵיכֶם וְאִבַּדְתֶּם אֵת כָּל-מַשְׂכִּיֹּתָם וְאֵת כָּל-צַלְמֵי מַסֵּכֹתָם תְּאַבֵּדוּ וְאֵת כָּל-בָּמוֹתָם תַּשְׁמִידוּ: [נג] וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ וִישַׁבְתֶּם-בָּהּ כִּי לָכֶם נָתַתִּי אֶת-הָאָרֶץ לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ: [נד] וְהִתְנַחַלְתֶּם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ בְּגוֹרָל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתֵיכֶם לָרַב תַּרְבּוּ אֶת-נַחֲלָתוֹ וְלַמְעַט תַּמְעִיט אֶת-נַחֲלָתוֹ אֶל אֲשֶׁר-יֵצֵא לוֹ שָׁמָּה הַגּוֹרָל לוֹ יִהְיֶה לְמַטּוֹת אֲבֹתֵיכֶם תִּתְנֶחָלוּ: [נה] וְאִם-לֹא תוֹרִישׁוּ אֶת-ישְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ מִפְּנֵיכֶם וְהָיָה אֲשֶׁר תּוֹתִירוּ מֵהֶם לְשִׂכִּים בְּעֵינֵיכֶם וְלִצְנִינִם בְּצִדֵּיכֶם וְצָרֲרוּ אֶתְכֶם עַל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם ישְׁבִים בָּהּ: [נו] וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּמִּיתִי לַעֲשׂוֹת לָהֶם אֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם:

2.      רש"י

[נ"ג] והורשתם את הארץ: והורשתם אותה מיושביה ואז וישבתם בה, תוכלו להתקיים בה, ואם לאו לא תוכלו להתקיים בה:

3.      רמב"ן

[נג] והורשתם את הארץ וישבתם בה כי לכם נתתי את הארץ לרשת אתה - על דעתי זו מצוות עשה היא, יצווה אותם שישבו בארץ ויירשו אותה כי הוא נתנה להם, ולא ימאסו בנחלת ה'. ואלו יעלה על דעתם ללכת ולכבוש ארץ שנער או ארץ אשור וזולתן ולהתיישב שם, יעברו על מצוות ה'. ומה שהפליגו רבותינו (כתובות קי ב): במצוות הישיבה בארץ ישראל ושאסור לצאת ממנה, וידונו כמורדת האשה שאינה רוצה לעלות עם בעלה לארץ ישראל, וכן האיש, בכאן נצטווינו במצווה הזו, כי הכתוב הזה היא מצוות עשה. ויחזיר המצווה הזו במקומות רבים, באו ורשו את הארץ (דברים א ח) אבל רש"י פירש:  והורשתם את הארץ, והורשתם אותה מיושביה, אז וישבתם בה, תוכלו להתקיים בה, ואם לאו לא תוכלו להתקיים בה. ומה שפירשנו הוא העיקר:

4.      ספר המצות – מצות שכח אותן הרב ממצות עשה לדעת הרמב"ן

מצוה ד שנצטוינו לרשת הארץ אשר נתן הא-ל יתברך לאבותינו לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב ולא נעזבה ביד זולתנו מן האומות או לשממה. והוא אמרו להם והורשתם את הארץ וישבתם בה כי לכם נתתי אח הארז לרשת אותה....

5.      מגילת אסתר (רבי יצחק די ליון, מגדולי מפרשי ספר המצוות),

ר' יצחק די לאון תלמיד חכם ומקובל. נולד בעיר לאון בצפון ספרד. שימש כרבה של טולדו. היה מאחרוני רבני קסטיליה. נפטר שנים מעטות לפני גירוש ספרד כשהוא בן למעלה מגיל שבעים. תלמידו של רבי יצחק קנפנטון, עסק רבות בקבלה ובתורת הנסתר ומיוחסים לו מעשי ניסים. זכה לכבוד רב מרבי יוסף קארו אשר כינהו 'רבינו הגדול מוהר"ר יצחק די ליאון'. רבי דוד קונפורטי, בספרו הביבליוגרפי "קורא הדורות", ייחס לו את כתיבת ספר "מגילת אסתר" אשר עוסק בתשובות להשגות הרמב"ן על ספר המצוות של הרמב"ם.
(מצוה ד) נראה לי כי מה שלא מנאה הרב הוא לפי שמצות ירושת הארץ וישיבתה לא נהגה רק בימי משה ויהושע ודוד וכל זמן שלא גלו מארצם אבל אחר שגלו מעל אדמתם אין מצוה זו נוהגת לדורות עד עת בוא המשיח, כי אדרבא נצטוינו לפי מה שאמרו בסוף כתובוח (דף ק"א) שלא נמרוד באומות ללכת לכבוש את הארץ בחזקה והוכיחו מפסוק השבעתי אתכם בנוח ירושלים וגו׳ ודרשו בו שלא יעלו ישראל בחומה. ומה שאמר הרמב״ן  שהחכמים אמרו כי כבוש הארן היא מלחמת מצוה, זהו כאשר לא נהיה משועבדים לאומות. ומה שאמר עוד שהחכמים הפליגו בשבח דירת הארץ, זה דוקא בזמן שבית המקדש קיים אבל עכשיו אין מצוה לדור בה, וכן פ׳ התוס׳ שם גבי הוא אמר לעלות, ועוד ראיה שאין בו מצוה ממה שאמרו ג״כ החם (שם) כל העולה מבבל לא״י עובר בעשה שנאמר בבלה יובאו ושמה יהיו, ואם היה מצוה בדירת א״י בכל הזמנים איך יבא נביא אחר משה לסתור דבריו והא אין נביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה וכיש לסתור.

6.      תלמוד בבלי - כתובות ק"י:

מתני' הכל מעלין לארץ ישראל ואין הכל מוציאין הכל מעלין לירושלים ואין הכל מוציאין אחד האנשים ואחד הנשים נשא אשה בא"י וגרשה בארץ ישראל נותן לה ממעות ארץ ישראל נשא אשה בא"י וגרשה בקפוטקיא נותן לה ממעות ארץ ישראל נשא אשה בקפוטקיא וגרשה בארץ ישראל נותן לה ממעות ארץ ישראל רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר נותן לה ממעות קפוטקיא נשא אשה בקפוטקיא וגרשה בקפוטקיא נותן לה ממעות קפוטקיא:

7.      תוספות

אומר לעלות כו'. אינו נוהג בזמן הזה דאיכא סכנת דרכים והיה אומר רבינו חיים דעכשיו אינו מצוה לדור בא"י כי יש כמה מצות התלויות בארץ וכמה עונשין דאין אנו יכולין ליזהר בהם ולעמוד עליהם:

8.      רמב"ם הלכות אישות פרק י"ג

וכן לא יוציאה ממקום שרובו ישראל, למקום שרובו גויים; ובכל מקום, מוציאין ממקום שרובו גויים, למקום שרובו ישראל.
[יט] במה דברים אמורים, מחוצה לארץ לחוצה לארץ, או מארץ ישראל לארץ ישראל.  אבל מחוצה לארץ לארץ ישראל--כופין לעלות, אפילו מנווה יפה לנווה רע; ואפילו ממקום שרובו ישראל, למקום שרובו גויים--מעלין.  ואין מוציאין מארץ ישראל לחוצה לארץ, ואפילו מנווה רע שרובו גויים לנווה היפה שרובו ישראל.
[כ] אמר האיש לעלות לארץ ישראל, והיא אינה רוצה--תצא שלא בכתובה; אמרה היא לעלות, והוא אינו רוצה--יוציא וייתן כתובה; והוא הדין לכל מקום מארץ ישראל, עם ירושלים:  שהכול מעלין לארץ ישראל, ואין הכול מוציאין משם; והכול מעלין לירושלים, ואין הכול מוציאין משם.

9.      רמב"ם הלכות מלכים פרק ה הלכות ט-יב

אסור לצאת מארץ ישראל לחוצה לארץ לעולם אלא ללמוד תורה או לישא אשה או להציל מן העכו"ם ויחזור לארץ. וכן יוצא הוא לסחורה. אבל לשכון בחוצה לארץ אסור אלא-אם כן חזק שם הרעב עד שנעשה שווה דינר חטין בשני דינרין.
במה דברים אמורים? כשהיו המעות מצויות והפירות ביוקר. אבל אם הפירות בזול ולא ימצא מעות ולא במה ישתכר ואבדה פרוטה מן הכיס, ייצא לכל מקום שימצא בו ריווח.
ואף-על-פי שמותר לצאת, אינה מידת חסידות שהרי מחלון וכליון שני גדולי הדור היו ומפני צרה גדולה יצאו ונתחייבו כלייה למקום.
גדולי החכמים היו מנשקין על תחומי ארץ ישראל ומנשקין אבניה ומתגלגלין על עפרה. וכן הוא אומר (תהילים קב טו): כי רצו עבדיך את אבניה ואת עפרה יחוננו. אמרו חכמים: כל השוכן בארץ ישראל עוונותיו מחולין, שנאמר (ישעהו לג כד): וּבַל יֹאמַר שָׁכֵן חָלִיתִי העָם הַיֹּשֵׁב בָּהּ נְשֻׂא עָוֹן. אפילו הלך בה ארבע אמות, זוכה לחיי העולם הבא. וכן הקבור בה נתכפר לו, וכאילו המקום שהוא בו מזבח כפרה, שנאמר (דברים לב מג): וְכִפֶּר אַדְמָתו עַמּוֹ. ובפורענות הוא אומר (עמוס ז יז): על אדמה טמאה תמות.
לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל אפילו בעיר שרובה עכו"ם. ואל ידור בחוצה לארץ, ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל, שכל היוצא לחוצה לארץ כאילו עובד עבודה זרה, שנאמר (שמואל א כו יט): כִּי גֵרְשׁוּנִי הַיּוֹם מֵהִסְתַּפֵּח בְּנַחֲלַת ה' לֵאמֹר לֵך עֲבֹד אֱלהִים אֲחֵרִים. ובפורעניות הוא אומר (יחזקאל יג ט): וְאֶל אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל לא יָבֹאוּ. כשם שאסור לצאת מהארץ לחוצה לארץ, כך אסור לצאת מבבל לשאר הארצות, שנאמר (יחזקאל כז כב): בָּבֶלָה יוּבָאוּ וְשָׁמָּה יִהְיוּ עַד יוֹם פָּקְדִי אֹתָם נְאֻם ה' וְהַעֲלִיתִים וַהֲשִׁיבֹתִים אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה.

10. דברים יא יח – רש"י

וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֶת דְּבָרַי אֵלֶּה עַל לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל נַפְשְׁכֶם וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל יֶדְכֶם וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם.
רש"י: "ושמתם את דברי" (ספרי) אף לאחר שתגלו היו מצויינים במצות: הניחו תפילין, עשו מזוזות, כדי שלא יהיו לכם חדשים כשתחזרו. וכן הוא אומר(ירמיהו לא כ) "הַצִּיבִי לָךְ צִיֻּנִים".

11. אגרות משה (אבן העזר חלק א סוף סימן קב)

בדבר שאלתך אם יש מצווה עכשיו לדור בארץ ישראל כהרמב"ן או כהר' חיים (תוספות כתובות דף קי ע"ב ד"ה הוא אומר) דאינה מצוה בזמן הזה
הנה רוב הפוסקים סברי דהוא מצווה. אבל פשוט שאין זה בזמן הזה מצווה חיובית שעל הגוף, דאם-כן היה ממילא נמצא שאסור לדור בחוץ לארץ משום שעובר על "עשה" כמו מי שילבש בגד של ארבעה כנפות בלא ציצית שיש איסור ללבוש כדי שלא יעבור על "עשה"  דציצית. ולא הוזכר איסור אלא על הדר בארץ ישראל שאסור לצאת על-מנת לשכון בחוץ לארץ (רמב"ם פ"ה ממלכים הלכה ט) וגם-כן הא ודאי אינו "איסור לאו".  ואם היה איסור גם לאנשי חוץ לארץ, היה לו לרמב"ם לומר סתם: "אסור לשכון בחוץ לארץ אלא-אם-כן חזק בארץ ישראל הרעב".  משמע דרק ליושבי ארץ ישראל יש איסור שאסרו חכמים. אבל מצד ה"עשה" אינה חיובית, אלא כשדר שם מקיים מצוה.
וכיון שאינה מצווה חיובית, יש וודאי להתחשב בהחשש של רבינו חיים אם יוכל ליזהר במצוות התלויות בארץ.

12. פניני הלכה, פרק ג: מצוות ישוב הארץ הרב אליעזר מלמד

א - מצווה לאומית
מצוות ישוב הארץ מורכבת משני חלקים, מצווה כללית ומצווה פרטית. המצווה הכללית מוטלת על כלל ישראל, ועניינה: כיבוש הארץ ויישובה על ידי עם ישראל. והמצווה הפרטית מחייבת כל יחיד ויחיד מישראל לגור בארץ ולהשתתף בישובה. תחילה נעסוק בחלק הראשון, היינו במצווה המוטלת על כלל האומה, לכבוש את הארץ, לשלוט בה ולהתיישב בה. וכך כתב הרמב"ן (השמטות לספר המצוות מצווה ד): "נצטווינו לרשת את הארץ אשר נתן הא-ל יתעלה לאבותינו לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב, ולא נעזבנה ביד זולתנו מן האומות או לשממה, וזהו שנאמר (במדבר לג, נג-נד): וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּם אֶת הָאָרֶץ וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּהּ כִּי לָכֶם נָתַתִּי אֶת הָאָרֶץ לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ. וְהִתְנַחַלְתֶּם אֶת הָאָרֶץ"
כשנדייק בדבריו נמצא, שישנם שני צדדים במצווה הכללית של ישוב הארץ. האחד שהארץ תהיה תחת שלטון ישראל ולא תחת שלטון זר. אולם בכיבוש הארץ לבד עדיין המצווה לא נשלמת, וצריך להוסיף את הצד השני, שהוא ליישב את כל הארץ בפועל, באופן שלא תישאר שממה. וברור שאין די בהתיישבות עירונית ובבניית בתים בלבד, הואיל וכך ישארו בארץ חלקים שוממים, אלא המצווה היא להפריח את כל שיממות הארץ. וכל זמן שישנם מקומות בארץ שנותרו שוממים, עדיין מוטלת עלינו מצווה לטעת בארץ עוד עצים ולבנות עוד בתים.
ומדגיש הרמב"ן שמצווה זו נוהגת בכל הדורות, שבכל הדורות מצווים ישראל לרשת את הארץ וליישבה ולא רק בעת כיבוש הארץ אחר יציאת מצרים. אלא שבמשך דורות רבים היינו במצב של אונס, שהיינו בגלות בגוף ובנפש, ולא יכולנו לקיים את המצווה. בחסדי ה', בדורות האחרונים, החל ה' להצמיח את ישועתנו, ומצבנו השתנה ואנו יכולים לקיים את המצווה
ב – שותפות היחיד במצווה הכללית
מדרגות מדרגות ישנן בשותפות של כל יחיד ויחיד במצוות ישוב הארץ הכללית. כל יהודי שגר בארץ ישראל הוא שותף במצוות ישוב הארץ, שעל ידי ישיבתו, אחיזתו של עם ישראל בארצו מתחזקת. ומי שהולך לגור במקומות שוממים יחסית, כנגב וכערבה, יש לו חלק גדול יותר במצוות ישוב הארץ, שעל ידי ישיבתו הארץ מתיישבת ואינה נעזבת לשממה.
ומי שמתיישב ביהודה ושומרון, מקיים בישיבתו מצווה גדולה יותר, מפני שבישיבתו יש תרומה כפולה: ראשית, למען הגברת שלטון ישראל במקומות שהערבים רוצים לגזול מאתנו. שנית, למען הפרחת השממה. וככל שמדובר בישוב הנמצא במקום שומם יותר מיהודים, ושונאינו מתאמצים יותר לכובשו, כך המצווה של הגרים בו גדולה יותר. וכבר אמרו חז"ל (ברכות ה, א): ארץ ישראל נקנית בייסורים, ולפי גודל הצער גודל השכר (אבות ה, כג).
מיוחדת במינה מצוות ישוב הארץ, שבעצם זה שיהודי מתגורר במקום בעל ערך התיישבותי הוא מקיים מצווה. שבכל שאר המצוות צריך לעשות מעשה כדי לקיימן, למשל: להניח תפילין, לתת צדקה, להתפלל, אולם במצוות ישוב הארץ עצם המגורים – מצווה. נמצא שכל מי שזוכה לגור בארץ ישראל ועוד יותר ביישובי יש"ע, חיי השגרה שלו, כאכילה, שינה ואף כל נשימה ונשימה, הופכים למציאות של מצווה.
אף המתגוררים בחוץ לארץ ותורמים כספים למען ההתיישבות בארץ ישראל שותפים במידה מסוימת במצוות ישוב הארץ הכללית, אלא שהם שותפים במצווה בממונם ואינם מקיימים את המצווה בגופם. וכן תושבי הארץ שתומכים ביישובי יש"ע שותפים במצווה הכללית של יישוב אותם המקומות המקודשים, ולפי מידת תמיכתם כך גודל מצוותם.
ג – מצוות ישיבתה לפרט
בנוסף למצווה הכללית, שהארץ תהיה בריבונות ישראל, יש מצווה על כל יהודי ויהודי שיגור בארץ ישראל. לפיכך, גם בזמן שהארץ תהיה כולה ביד ישראל והמוני יהודים ימלאוה, מנהר מצרים ועד נהר פרת, עדיין תהיה מצווה על כל יהודי לגור בארץ.
ואפילו בזמן שגויים שלטו בארץ, ונראה היה לכאורה שאין סיכוי שיהודי נוסף שיגור בארץ יועיל למצווה הכללית, מכל מקום היתה מצווה פרטית על כל יהודי שיגור בארץ. וכפי שאמרו חכמים (כתובות קי, ב): "לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל אפילו בעיר שרובה עובדי כוכבים ואל ידור בחוצה לארץ ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל, שכל הדר בארץ ישראל דומה כמי שיש לו א-לוה וכל הדר בחוצה לארץ דומה כמי שאין לו א-לוה, שנאמר: לתת לכם את ארץ כנען להיות לכם לאלוהים". וכן אמרו בתוספתא (ע"ז ה, ב). וכן פסק הרמב"ם (הלכות מלכים ה, יב): "לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל, אפילו בעיר שרובה גויים, ואל ידור בחוץ לארץ ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל. שכל היוצא לחוצה לארץ כאילו עובד עבודה זרה".
וכן מובא במדרש תנאים (ספרי ראה נג), שבתקופה שלאחר חורבן בית המקדש השני, עת אשר שלטו הרומאים בארץ ביד קשה ואכזרית, ורבים מבני העם עזבו את הארץ מפני הרעב והחרב, היו כמה תנאים שרצו לצאת לחוץ לארץ. וכך מסופר: מעשה ברבי יהודה בן בתירא ורבי מתיא בן חרש ורבי חנניה בן אחי רבי יהושע ורבי נתן, שהיו יוצאים לחוץ לארץ, והגיעו לפלטיא, וזכרו את ארץ ישראל, זקפו עיניהם וזלגו דמעותיהם וקרעו בגדיהם, וקראו את המקרא הזה (דברים יא, לא-לב): "וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֹתָהּ וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּהּ. וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים". אמרו: "ישיבת ארץ ישראל שקולה כנגד כל המצוות שבתורה", וחזרו ובאו להם לארץ ישראל.
ואף שבעת שהיה שלטון נכרי בארץ לא זכינו לקיים את המצווה הכללית, ש"הארץ תהיה בידינו ולא ביד אומה אחרת", מכל מקום כל יהודי שהתגורר בארץ באותם הזמנים קיים במידה מסוימת גם את המצווה הכללית, מפני שעצם ישיבתו בארץ סייעה לשמירת הזיקה שבין ישראל לארצו במשך שנות הגלות הארוכות. בנוסף לכך, ישיבתו בארץ שימשה בסיס להרחבת ההתיישבות לקראת ריבונות ישראלית. ואם עשה ופעל בצורה מכוונת למען מטרה זו, כמו שעשו תלמידי הגר"א שעלו לארץ במסירות נפש ובנו את חורבותיה כדי לקרב את הגאולה, נעשה שותף ממש במצווה הכללית.