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Date :27 Av 5770 7/8/2010

“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

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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.



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


by Bar-on Dasberg

An Acoustic Solution

G-d commands Yisrael, "And it will be when He brings you to the land... You shall deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Eival" [Devarim 11:29]. In view of the difference in height and the large distance between the two mountains and the difficulty of hearing anything while standing at the top of a mountain, it is not easy to see how anybody on the mountains will be able to hear the blessings and the curses.

Yehoshua finds the solution to this problem. He arranges the people "half of them facing Mount Gerizim and half of them facing Mount Eival" [8:33]. That is, all the people stood in the valley (a place with excellent acoustics). One half faced one mountain and the other half faced the other one, while Yehoshua stood in the middle. Just in case we might suspect that by doing this Yehoshua was deviating from the original mitzva, we are taught, "just as Moshe the servant of G-d commanded, to bless the nation of Yisrael first" [ibid].

"Give Maaser in order to Become Rich"

The Talmud comments on the verse, "Give a tenth of all the grain from your seeds" [Devarim 14:22], as follows: "Give maaser in order to become rich" [Taanit 9a]. We could understand this better if the Talmud had written, "Give maaser to the poor, and you will in the end become rich." But is the goal of giving maaser to become rich?

This can be understood in view of the Mishna, "Who is rich? It is one who is satisfied with his lot" [Avot 4:1]. One who gives a tenth of his profits to poor people will see how much greater his profit is than what they have, and he will therefore be satisfied with his own situation. Thus, the statement in the Talmud means, "Give a tenth so that you will learn to be happy with your own lot."

The author of the Sefer Hachinuch also does not concentrate on the poor person but rather on the benefit to the one who gives. "G-d wants His creatures to become accustomed to the practice of charity and kindness, because this is praiseworthy behavior. Since their bodies will learn to behave in a good way, they will be worthy of achieving a good reward."

The Common Denominator

This week's Torah portion has a collection of various types of mitzvot which at first glance are not connected in any way. For example, what connection is there between the monetary laws of Shemitta, visiting Jerusalem on the holidays, the prohibition of eating meat and milk together, and the laws of a false prophet?

It is interesting to note that most of the mitzvot in the portion are almost exactly the same as the list of mitzvot in the covenant that G-d made with Bnei Yisrael after the sin of the Golden Calf (See Shemot 34). Perhaps after the sin Moshe kept the details of the covenant with G-d to himself ("Guard - for yourself - what I have commanded you today" [Shemot 34:11]). He then revealed the details to the nation in this week's portion, forty years later. In the following year Yehoshua repeats the same covenant at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival.

Perhaps the common denominator of most of these mitzvot is that they help prevent a repetition of sins that are like the Golden Calf. Idol worship might well be caused in part by false prophets and by a person who incites the others to sin. There are also indirect commands, like the visit to Jerusalem – when Yeravam repeated the sin of the Golden Calf he first canceled the mitzva of visiting Jerusalem.

POINT OF VIEW: Disengagement Disgrace

- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute

"And you will dwell in the land which your G-d gives you as a heritage, and He will leave you undisturbed by all your enemies around you, and you will live in security" [Devarim 12:10]."A heritage will never be interrupted" [Rosh Hashana 12b].

Five Years

Five full years have passed since the "Disengagement" and the uprooting of the settlements in the area of Azza. And the wound continues to bleed, and the expulsion still rages in our minds.

"The State of Israel failed in its treatment of those who were evacuated" – this is the conclusion of retired Supreme Court Judge Eliyahu Matza, who headed the national investigation commission which studied this subject. The conclusions were published about two months ago. Twenty-six settlements were evacuated. About 2000 families and 10,000 people were uprooted from their homes. "After almost five years, most of the evacuees are still living in temporary prefab sites, the construction of the permanent homes has not yet begun, and the labor of rehabilitating the evacuees is far from complete." The commission made the following accusation: "The country failed to assimilate the idea that the rehabilitation of the evacuees is an urgent national mission, and it neglected the work of rehabilitation of the communities."

For almost six years (!) I have been waiting for a similar governmental investigation commission which will study the political and security aspects of these events, including the decision-making process, and overt background motives. Then, and I firmly believe that only then, will the soul of Ariel Sharon be able to rest, and the rage of the "Disengagement" will settle down. As long as these issues remain in the dark, I firmly believe that the "Minister of History," the King of All Kings, is giving us a hint about these events through the fate of the one man whose name is most strongly linked to the "Disengagement," the one and only person who is being blamed! However, even if the famous "bulldozer" really had the power at the time to force his ministers to comply with his wishes, his power is minor compared to that of the "Minister of History." The revelation of the Almighty in the calamity in Azza carries a strong hint of the principle that "disasters occur on a day that is destined for trouble." I am reminded of the five disasters that our sages listed as having taken place on Tisha B'Av (see Mishna Taanit 4:6). Many tragic events took place near the same date during our long exile, including during the time of the Holocaust. And now, in addition to the expulsion from Spain, on the ninth of Av 5252 (1492), the expulsion from Azza took place on the same date in 5765 (2005).

Chain of Withdrawals

Do not misunderstand what I am trying to say. The fateful calamity of the expulsion from Azza is not what is written in the Matza Commission report, it is not the failure "to assimilate the idea that the rehabilitation of the evacuees is an urgent national mission." The calamity is the withdrawal of Zionism and the collapse of our position in terms of international relations and security. The withdrawal from Sinai and the Yamit area in 5742 (1982), no matter how controversial it was (and remains to this day), at least led to a "cold peace" with Egypt, and this cannot be ignored in spite of its high price. The withdrawal from Azza did not provide relative improvement of any kind with our enemies, neither Fatah nor Hamas. The declaration that after we leave Azza we will be able to respond with "a shell for every Kassam missile they fire, and the world will understand," was revealed to be empty words. A future investigation commission will reveal the basis for the fraud. But the main failure was in our effort to improve our international relationships, which was touted as the main reason for the withdrawal. But the opposite has happened: From the moment of the withdrawal we have been subjected to ever stronger international pressures, since "you admitted that you are occupying territory belonging to others."

The last phrase in the above paragraph, our admission that we have conquered lands of others, is the most serious aspect of these events as far as I am concerned, and it carries along with it a hint of strong danger for the future. These words constitute the dividing line between left and right in Israeli society, between the settlers with their silent supporters and the radical left which is close to the line of national treason (in my opinion).

Where do We Go from Here?

You who are reading this must be asking: What next?

I expect the government of Israel to remind everybody day by day of how prosperous settlements were destroyed! Yes! This would be aimed at the world and also at Yisrael dwelling in our land. Aggressive declarations should be made about all the lies of the events in Azza, about the sand dunes which are covering towns and hothouses, and about the storm of missiles and shells which continues to rain down, bringing destruction. Yes! We must reiterate our daily right to the formula, "a shell for every Kassam." I anticipate that Jewish and non-Jewish organizations will join us in preparing an exhibition on the subject of "Evacuation of Azza and the lessons to be learned." I anticipate that we will see opinion pieces flooding the internet with lists of "all the lies of Azza."

Even if the "world" will continue to be against us, perhaps the Israeli left will change its viewpoint somewhat with respect to the one-sided withdrawal from Azza and its dire consequences. Even if this does not happen, there is still hope that it can do some good to counter evil thoughts and false hopes about what to do in Yehuda and the Shomron...

* * * * * *

It will be worthwhile to review the words of the Ramban on the verse, "Take possession of it and dwell on it" [Devarim 11:31], as strong support for the mitzva of making aliya, living in the land, establishing a Jewish country, and the vision of settling the length and breadth of the land. Here is what he writes:

"We have been commanded to take possession of the land... and not to leave it in the hands of other nations, or to let it become desolate. This stems from the verse, 'Take possession of the land and dwell on it'... This mitzva has been repeated in other places... and the mitzva (has been given in detail) with all of the relevant boundaries, as is written, 'Come to the mountain of the Emorite and all of its close neighbors – in the Arava, in the mountain, the plains, the Negev, and the coast' [Devarim 1:7]. No place of the land should be left alone." [Additions to Sefer Hamitzvot 4).

See the original for many details about this mitzva.

SOMETHING FOR THE SOUL: User Friendly versus Focusing on a Goal

- by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rosh Yeshivat Ramat Gan

It is said that Microsoft won the war of giant companies for domination of computer operating systems not because of the high quality of the system that it developed – which was inferior to that of its main competitor Apple – but because of another element which entered into the picture and in the end determined the outcome. This factor was "user-friendliness." At the time, this was remarkable and novel: the quality of the software was not the "name of game" anymore, and it was replaced by convenience and the immediate needs of the users.

The victory of user-friendliness over direct quality was part of a deep and significant revolution that is taking place at the present time. The effects of this revolution can be felt in many different areas. Dictatorships are slowly being replaced in most of the world by the "friendlier" democracies. The relationship between a buyer and a seller sees service to the customer as the essence and has brought about a view that "the customer is always right." In schools we no longer encounter the figure of an authoritative teacher who has the right to punish the students and even to strike them with a belt, this has been replaced by sensitive methods which give more emphasis on the difficulties and the needs of every individual student. The atmosphere in the home has also changed, including relationships between parents and children and between a man and his wife.

The service of G-d has also undergone a similar change. The absolute and demanding goal of Torah labor is making way for a friendlier type of Divine service, based on study that is more pleasant and delightful. An entire branch of literature has developed whose goal is to present the wonderful but hard to understand works of our sages in a simpler way. Statements by the rabbis which emphasize the need for total dedication, "like an ox with a yoke and a donkey carrying a burden," are being replaced by emphasizing that "a person will not be able to study Torah unless it is in a place where his heart desires."

However, just as in the realm of software, the same is true for other areas – it is impossible to ignore the heavy price of preferring user friendliness to strict quality. Perhaps the clearest area where everybody admits that there is such a price to pay is in the realm of the relationship between teachers and students. We can all clearly see the crisis in values and the difficulties that arise at a rapidly increasing pace as a result of the shortcomings of "friendly" education. First and foremost is the dire lack of any limits.

In the middle of the last century, during the years known as the "sixties," many parents had hopes of raising a new generation of children who would grow up to be rich and innovative, maintain a high standard, and be full of good deeds – all because no limits would curtail their spirits and block their development. However, in practice, not only were these dreams not realized, some researchers were surprised to discover that the "free" children grew up to be disturbed, with a marked lack of self confidence. The truth is that this is not surprising at all. The friendly attitude which put the child at the center of the universe ignored the natural need of every person to proceed along a path that has a defined objective. It threw many of the young children into a vacuum where they often lost not only their way but even their very identity.

However, in spite of the gloomy experience, it seems that some sparks of a solution to the problems can be sensed in the future. The sweat of the brow with which Adam was cursed in the Garden of Eden seems to be dissipating in all walks of life, with respect to physical bread as well as with respect to spiritual bread – the labors of the Torah and the service of G-d. But knowing this also forces us to recognize that we must in the end strike a balance between two factors – friendliness and quality – or perhaps we should say friendliness as opposed to a defined goal. It is not possible to ignore the existence of an objective or to deny the great importance of the existing path needed to obtain it. Anybody who tries to do so will discover that the remarkable concept of friendliness has become a false messiah that will only lead to a greater vacuum and a loss of direction.

The great privilege that is part of our fate in this generation, even though it sometimes feels like a very heavy burden, is to learn how to develop user-friendliness from within a high quality value. We must guard the limits, as is necessary for all human creatures who are developing along the true path, we must love the good and passionately hate the bad. On the other hand we must sweeten our path with the light of the inner desire and the deep taste which brings the news of the coming redemption and the revelation of the Torah of the Mashiach – the mystic secrets of the Torah which are pleasant for everybody to hear.

ONE ON ONE – Interview of the Week

Beautiful Vessels

- by Nachum Avniel

If you had met Yarel Yair (39) ten years ago, you would have thought you were seeing yet another young man with a Jewish mind who had the talent to invent new ideas. But after he studied commercial design in Hadassah College and in Betzalel School of the Arts, Yair learned to combine his commercial-oriented hands with an ecological and a Jewish viewpoint. And the result is "sustainable design."

Yarel is full of stories, one coming right after another. He tells me about his studio, which is next to his house in Nokdim, where he occupies himself with "finding solutions" – people come to him with ideas, and he is then responsible for applying them and making the design work. "This is sort of a psychological therapy that keeps the idea at the top," he says.

Q: Let us start first of all with your name. This is the first unusual thing about you that most people see.

A: The question does not surprise Yarel at all. "I am a fourth-generation firstborn," he says in a happy mood. "My father was a firstborn, as was my grandfather and his father before him. When I was born my father wanted to take note of this special fact by giving me a unique name. He therefore picked a name that indicates a fear of G-d (the letters of his name indeed spell out 'fear of G-d') and is also an acronym of the phrase, 'Let G-d grant us good.' It is interesting to note that my wife Yifat is also a firstborn, at least for the last four generations."

Q: Where did you pick up your unusual desire to design things?

A: "In my formative years I lived in Jerusalem, where I studied in Netiv Meir. Then I served in the paratrooper brigade in the IDF. There I found that in addition to being a kid from Netiv Meir I could also work with physical materials, improving them and repairing things. I became thoroughly attached to a screw driver, a chisel, and pliers. When I left the army some of my friends went into the building trade, and when they ran into technical problems they would come to me. They had a recurring problem with an extension cord that would become disconnected whenever somebody pulled it. So I invented a special gadget that keeps the plug tightly inserted into the socket. I then improved on the idea, and took out a patent."

Yair's talent ("It's a gift from the Almighty, why shouldn't I use it?") became a profession when he began to study commercial design in Hadassah College. But after he finished his studies he still felt that something was missing.

Q: What was your problem? After all, you were working at something that you liked, and things were good.

A: "My wife Yifat saw that I was troubled. The more jobs I finished the more my customers were satisfied, but I was not happy. She got me to admit that I was accomplishing a lot but that it was not the maximum that I could do. Something was not completely fulfilling. At the age of thirty-six I went to Betzalel, the art school, for extension studies. In the school, they were very surprised to see me. I was religious, a settler, and I had many children. They explained to me that the regular students worked through Shabbat, that they are not married, and that the time schedule was very tight. Bit I was stubborn, and the Almighty helped me. Problems in my creations that at first seemed not to have any solution at all would work themselves out overnight. In Betzalel, they knew how to draw out from me piles and piles of creativity."

Perhaps his stint at Betzalel, a bastion of the nonreligious sector, helped Yarel decide to take on a subject that was not a top priority in the world of art: Judaica.

Q: Why specifically Judaica? This would most naturally lead to thoughts of your grandmother's heavy silver candlesticks.

A: "What interests me is not so much tradition but new and novel designs. Every religious person is familiar with the Shabbat hotplate and the hot water urn. These are immutable objects. A person might put together a designer kitchen for tens of thousands of Shekels, but these two objects – with burn stains on the hotplate and with the stainless cylinder of the urn – will be stuck there right in the middle of the meticulous design. I took this on as a challenge, and I said: I want to sit with my guests, serving coffee and cake, with the urn as an attraction at the center and not hidden away in another room. I made a design, I polished the device, and I built it by myself – a designer urn. And I have made a hotplate with special ceramic tiles, with drawings on them, which distribute the heat evenly and which can be used as a base for bringing the food to the table. This is how to combine beauty and esthetics with practical solutions."

Q: Why don't you set up a factory in China and sell thousands of these devices?

A: "I want to maintain the respect that was once afforded to utensils. We are talking about commercial design, but we still want to have something that is private and personal. Objects must have their own soul. Sometimes I am asked to sign my creations with a personal dedication. This transforms the object into something that is part of the person."

Q: What about ecology?

A: "Ever since I was little I never threw things out, I would fix them. Or I take two broken things and combine them into something new. Sustainable design is a way of life. We try to make our objects with as little excess as possible, using few machines and using recycled material. A while ago we made a bench out of old beams from a building, which still had some cement on them. The cement gave the bench a novel appearance, with an unusual texture and shape. If we pay attention to our environment and to constraints due to recycling, the result will be a gain for us, because our creativity leads us to make something fresh and novel."

Q: What's next for you?

A: "There are always new entrepreneurs and investors. We are planning a Jewish technological "hothouse," combining Jewish products with the new spirit of protecting the environment. Everything that is made there will be sustainable and local, so that our work will not involve moving people and materials from place to place, saving the need for fuel. I hope to be joined by people with ideas for unique products that fit in with our Jewish-ecological vision."

E-mail: zenachum@gmail.com

A LESSON FOR THE CHILDREN: An Emergency Operation (Part 2)

- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Director of the Or Etzion Institute – Publishing Torah Books of Quality

Summary of Part 1: It was discovered that little Yossie had a very serious case of cancer in his liver, and the only possible way to save him was to send him to Belgium for an emergency transplant operation. On the advice of several rabbis, Yossie and his parents flew to Belgium on Shabbat. But it all seemed to be in vain. Thirteen other patients were ahead of him in line for a transplant. They were all waiting for somebody to die whose relatives would donate his organs to save a life. Would Yossie live until a fourteenth donor was found?

With no other alternative, Yossie's parents took a room in a hotel near the hospital and waited to see how things would develop.

And then, a day or two later, it happened. A Belgian was killed in an accident and his relatives agreed to donate his organs. The man's liver was found to be suitable for a transplant. The hospital turned to the first person on their list, a very sick man who lived in Spain. He was overjoyed to hear that there might be a way to save him. He wanted to take the first plane that he could, but when he started to make arrangements he discovered that there were no flights from Spain to Belgium for at least the next few days! The man was forced to notify the hospital that he would not be able to arrive in time for the operation and that they should turn to the next patient on their list. The second man, from France, also tried to get to Belgium. He was willing to pay any price in order to get to the hospital as fast as possible. But he also found that the way was blocked. And then the same thing happened to the third and fourth people on the list.

What was going on? Two or three days before all of this happened there was a very unusual event on a remote island in Iceland. Until that week, most people had never heard of this island, which had a very small population. And then, catastrophe struck – suddenly the earth split and a volcano erupted right in the middle of the island. Huge flames rose to great heights in the sky. The earth itself opened up and gorged out thousands of tons of burning lava together with huge clouds of dust, ashes, and heavy smoke. The eruption of the volcano was very strong, and it continued for a long time. A huge grey cloud filled the sky, and the wind began to blow it across all of Europe. There was so much smoke that it interfered with airplane traffic. The grey fog and dust hid the ground from the pilots and caused great damage and danger. More than a hundred thousand flights were canceled because of the cloud. For several days, the airlines cancelled almost all of their flights in Europe!

And the end was that when the hospital contacted all the people on their list, all over Europe, and told them to come for an operation that could save their lives, they found that they had no way to get to the hospital. But the boy in our story, Yossie, had arrived on Shabbat, before the huge cloud had caused the flights to be cancelled. Yossie was in a hotel very close to the hospital. His parents were completely amazed when the phone rang in their room and a clerk in the hospital told them to come for the operation as soon as possible.

And so it happened that Yossie bypassed all the others who were in line, thanks to the volcano in Iceland. The operation took a very long time, and it was very complicated. The best physicians in the world stood around the operating table and gave Yossie the very best treatment. The sick liver was removed from his body and replaced by a healthy one. The operation was a success, and Yossie was saved.

The ways of the Almighty are indeed wondrous!

(Source: Thanks to Rabbi Tuvia Litzman for sharing this story with us)

Reactions and suggestions for stories: yikhat1@smile.net.il

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