Jachter's Halacha Files
(and other Halachic compositions)
A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Bereishit 27 Tishrei 5762 October 13, 2001 Vol.11 No.5
How We Can Help Medinat Yisrael Now
by Rabbi Howard Jachter
The Jewish People have been under attack since this past Erev Rosh Hashana. I have heard this year three excellent and diverse presentations of how Jews living in the United States can help their brethren living in Israel during this difficult time. The three programs presented very different approaches. One program was a videotape produced by the Chofetz Chaim Foundation for viewing on Tisha Baav, another was a joint Yom Yerushalyim program conducted by three Bergen County Yeshiva High Schools, and the third was a speech that Rav Aharon Lichtenstein delivered at the 5761 Rabbinical Council of America convention. I believe that a combination of all three approaches constitutes the best way to contribute to our people at this time. In this essay, we shall present some of the highlights of each program. We should note at the outset that although this has been a trying year for us, countless miracles have occurred this year in Eretz Yisrael. The toll of the Palestinian terror would have been many times greater had Hashem not produced these miracles. For this we must express our profound gratitude and appreciation to Hashem.
The Chafetz Chaim Foundation – Rav Shmuel
Kaminetzsky, Rabbi Jonathan Riatti, and Rabbi Yissachar Frand – Eliminating
Internal Jewish Strife
The Chafetz Chaim Foundation produced an outstanding film for Tisha Baav featuring Rav Shmuel Kaminetzsky (Rosh Yeshiva of the Philadelphia Yeshiva and son of the great Rav Yaakov), Rabbi Jonathan Riatti of Monsey, and Rabbi Yissachar Frand of Baltimore. The focus of the film was the very difficult year of 5761 for the Jewish People. The Rambam (Hilchot Taaniot 1:1-3) teaches that when difficulties befall the Jewish People we are obligated to acknowledge that Hashem has sent us these difficulties because of our sins. In response, says the Rambam, we must engage in Teshuva. The Rambam emphasizes that if we fail to do Teshuva, Hashem will send us more intense difficulties. Thus, the Rambam writes, one who ascribes the difficulties to random chance acts cruelly. Apathy constitutes cruelty because it leads to more suffering.
Rav Shmuel Kaminetzsky asserted that Hashem has plagued us with the Palestinian Arabs war, because of internal strife and bickering among the Jewish People. He asserted that the violence would stop when we make peace with each other. He specifically urged that we follow the example of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai who eagerly greeted all people that he met on the street (Berachot 17a). We see the importance of being friendly with every decent human being, despite our cultural and ideological differences. In fact, it is related that Rav Yaakov Kaminetzsky every day cheerfully greeted a nun who lived on his street in Monsey.
Rabbi Riatti focused on strategies to avoid strife and bickering among family members. First, he noted that the root of the Hebrew word for strife, Machloket, is the word Chelek, part. He argued that strife derives from perceiving only part of the picture. The root of the word Shalom, he noted, is Shalem, full. There is peace when we grasp the background to a situation. We are much more tolerant when we understand the background of an individual. Thus, we may find someone’s difficult behavior tolerable when we know that he is experiencing a medical problem. When we are unaware of what underlies someone’s difficult behavior, we should judge him Lekaf Zechut (favorably) and act tolerantly.
Rabbi Riatti noted that we find difficulty in tolerating those who are different than we are. We express anger at others in an attempt to change their behavior. Rabbi Riatti argued that Hashem arranges for us to encounter a wide variety of people to challenge and broaden us. Instead of trying to change others, we should improve our personalities and cultivate a spirit of tolerance.
Rabbi Yissachar Frand also focused on strategies to reduce Machloket. He noted the enormous cost of strife. He cited the Rashi to Bemidbar 16:27, who explains why the children of Korach and his group of rebels were swallowed alive by the split open ground, along with the rebellious adults. Rashi writes, “Come and see the horrific nature of Machloket; the heavenly Bait Din does not punish people below the age of 20 and the earthly Bait Din does not punish someone below the age of 13. Yet here [in the Korach rebellion] even suckling babies were lost”. Rabbi Frand cited a story from the Chafetz Chaim that illustrates this point. An individual who lived near the Chafetz Chaim was embroiled in a severe dispute. In the course of his dispute, two of his children died. The Chafetz Chaim visited him and urged him to desist from the fighting. The combatant responded, “I will bury all of my children, but I shall prevail in this fight”.
This anecdote illustrates an assertion of the Meiri in his Chibur Hateshuva. The Meiri urges avoidance of Machloket “because the winner of the dispute becomes the loser.” We waste so much precious resources – time, energy, and money – when we engage in Machloket. The “victory” one achieves in a fight is illusory, because one has expended so many resources achieving “success”.
We engage in strife, though, because it is so seductive. Machloket is all consuming and has the potential to thoroughly disrupt one’s life and his family’s life.
We must develop strategies to avoid Machloket. The first strategy is to put an end to Machloket when it begins. We should seek to extinguish the fire, rather than fan the flames of strife. Moshe Rabbeinu serves as an excellent of example of this mode of behavior. When confronted by the arrogant and strident insults hurled by Datan and Aviram, Moshe Rabbeinu (Bemidbar 16:12) reached out to them in an attempt to make peace. Rashi comments “We learn from this that one should not persist in a Machloket”. Rabbi Frand noted that Moshe Rabbeinu was 100% correct and Datan and Aviram were 100% wrong. Nevertheless, Moshe Rabbeinu “went the extra mile” to quiet the dispute. Avraham Avinu exhibited the same behavior in the context of the conflict between his shepherds and Lot’s shepherds (Bereishit 13:8).
Rabbi Frand added that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Chazal (Gittin 36b) describe restraint as a reaction to an insult as heroic. The Gemara (Gittin 57b) extols Hashem’s restraint in the face of the Roman Emperor Titus terrible provocation. After conquering the Beit Hamikdash, Titus thrusted a sword into the Parochet and blood miraculously emerged from the Parochet. Titus blasphemed Hashem, but Hashem remained silent. Rabbi Frand noted that the prevailing American ethos abhors “wimpy” behavior. He who does not respond to a personal attack possesses no honor and is not a “real man.” This is not the Torah way. The Torah glorifies one who knows when to ignore a provocation and avoid Machloket.
Yerushalayim 5761- Rabbi Shmuel Goldin and Rabbi Avi Weiss – Effective
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Englewood and Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale were among the many excellent speakers at the joint Frisch, Maayanot, and the Torah Academy of Bergen County celebration of Yom Yerushalayim 5761. The speakers emphasized the gratitude we must express to Hashem for the establishment of Medinat Yisrael and our sovereign control over Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh. Rabbi Goldin emphasized the need for pro-Israel activism in such organizations such as AIPAC and NORPAC. Rabbi Goldin urged the audience to protest incidents of anti-Israel bias in the media. Joining CAMERA (www.camera.org) and www.HonestReporting.com is an effective way to collectively protest anti-Israel media bias that occurs throughout the world. He urged support of the Israeli economy by donating generously to Israeli causes and purchasing Israeli products whenever possible. Rabbi Weiss stressed the importance of visiting Israel, despite the danger. He called for bravery and heroism in these times of difficulty. He noted the bravery of the Israeli people and issued a call for us to join them in their struggle by frequently visiting Israel. Rabbi Goldin and Rabbi Weiss urged the students to strongly consider “doing better” than their rabbis and parents by moving to Israel.
5761 RCA Convention – Rav Aharon Lichtenstein – A Call for a Sea Change in
Attitude towards Eretz Yisrael
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein in an address to the Rabbinical Council of America stressed the need for a fundamental change in our attitude to Eretz Yisrael. He noted that many Bnai Torah fail to appreciate the centrality of Eretz Yisrael in Jewish thought. Rav Aharon thinks that the cause of this failure is the influence of secular Post-Zionism. Rav Lichtenstein delivered an address where he demonstrated the essential role of Eretz Yisrael in Torah life. I hope to summarize this talk in a later edition of Kol Torah.
Rav Aharon urged emulation of Moshe Rabbeinu in two respects. When Am Yisrael went to war against Amalek, Moshe Rabbeinu sat on a rock (Shemot 17:12). Rashi comments “[Moshe Rabbeinu] remarked ‘the Jewish people are suffering; I will suffer together with them’.” Rav Lichtenstein deplored the fact that Jews in Israel today are suffering and Jews in America conduct their lives as usual. He felt the sense of “I am with them in their suffering” is sorely lacking in our communities and needs immediate correction.
Rav Lichtenstein noted that it is understandable why some American Jews do not move to Eretz Yisrael. He even noted that there are two models of relationship to Eretz Yisrael in the Chumash. Avraham is the model of a Jew privileged to make Aliyah. Moshe Rabbeinu is a model of someone denied the privilege of Aliyah. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, pined to enter Eretz Yisrael and was profoundly pained by his denial of entry into Eretz Yisrael. Rav Aharon observed that this attitude is sorely missing among American Jews. We do not pine for Eretz Yisrael nor do we feel particularly perturbed about living outside of Israel. We do not appreciate our spiritual deficiencies caused by the absence of experience of Kedushat Makom. American Jews need to experience a sea change in our attitudes toward Eretz Yisrael. Rav Aharon cited the story of Rav Yaakov Kaminetzsky instructing his students not to wear their Talitot above their clothes outside their homes and Shuls in Monsey. Rav Yaakov stated that we should do that only in our home, Eretz Yisrael. We should not feel so comfortable in Chutz Laaretz. Rav Hershel Schachter similarly criticized those who sing loudly in the streets of Brooklyn when they accompany a Chatan to his Aufruf early Shabbat morning. He insists that they have no Halachic right to arouse their non-Jewish neighbors who wish to sleep late on Saturday morning. Those who sing loudly forget that we are not in our home. The Ashkenazi practice to omit Nesiat Kapayim in Chutz Laaretz except for Yom Tov because we are not joyful in Chutz Laaretz is an example of the recognition of what we lack while living outside of Israel.
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s comments serve as a foundation for a personal plan to help Israel in the upcoming year. When our connection to Israel is deep and profound, helping Israel flows naturally. Just as one gives endlessly and selflessly to a loved one, one who loves Eretz Yisrael cannot do enough for Eretz Yisrael despite a very hectic schedule and lifestyle. We need to change our attitude and make time in our lives to follow the many ways presented above to help Eretz Yisrael. Change of attitude to Israel, eliminating internal Jewish strife, and effective pro-Israel action are the call of the hour for every Jew. Let history record how American Jews in 5762 proudly and vigorously supported the Jews of Eretz Yisrael, and were not silent as American Jewry was (for the most part) during World War II.
I wish to conclude by echoing a call made by Rabbi Yissachar Frand in a Shiur he delivered in Baltimore. Rabbi Frand urged that one not let a day pass without helping Eretz Yisrael in some meaningful way. I would add that we could accomplish this through Tefillah and Tehillim, lobbying Congressmen and Senators, protesting anti-Israel bias in the media, or planning a trip to Israel. Of course, the best way for one to support Israel is to follow the example set by Rabbi Zvi Grumet; move to Israel and serve as a highly productive citizen.
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