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Shabbat-B'Shabbato – Parshat Shoftim

No 1438: 7 Elul 5772 (25 August 2012)

"Man is Like a Tree in the Field" [Devarim 20:19] - by Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne

Beyond the straightforward interpretation of the above passage in the Torah, involving the prohibition of wanton destruction ("bal tashchit"), there is a very deep significance in the comparison of mankind to trees. The name of man ("adam") is derived from the earth ("adamah"). However, one may wonder: Were not all the living creatures created from the earth? As is written, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures" [Bereishit 1:24]. Why is mankind alone named for the earth?
The Maharal of Prague explains that the name of man does not stem from the fact that he was created from the earth but rather because he has the trait of the earth, namely the power to fulfill all of his innate potential. When a seed is planted in the earth it can draw from within all of the potential hidden inside it. In the same way the soul was planted in man, and he must turn the potential into reality. "Man is born as a wild donkey" [Iyov 11:12], and he must transform himself into a man. One who neglects his potential and does not bring his soul to its fullest capacity is like a tree that has no fruit, and there was no reason to create him. And that is why somebody who is not involved in Torah study is called a "boor", like land that is left fallow, which is called "admat boor."
An animal, on the other hand, has no hidden powers. It was created in its final form, and "a one-day-old deer is called a deer" [Bava Kama 65b]. Therefore man who has the properties of the earth is named for the earth, while animals are called "behaima" ("ba ma" – what does it have?). That is, the animals possess what they have and nothing more. However, a man is like a tree in the field, which is expected to bear fruit – the mitzvot and good deeds. As is written, "Tell a righteous man that he is good, for they will eat the fruits of their endeavors" [Yeshayahu 3:10]... and, "He who yields his fruit at the proper time" [Tehillim 1:3]. At the end of the Torah portion the sages noted with respect to the beheaded calf, "Let the calf which bore no fruit come to atone for the murder of this man, who was interrupted before he could have his own fruits" [Rashi, Devarim 21:4]. The Talmud comes to the conclusion that the murdered man was not given a chance to observe the Torah and the mitzvot to the fullest.
However, there are some basic differences between mankind and a tree:

(1) A tree grows it fruit as part of nature, while a man must activate his free choice.

(2) The roots of the tree are underneath it, and it draws its sustenance from the physical earth. Man is an upside-down tree, with roots on top from which he must draw.
Teshuva, repentance, is a return to the Divine source, and this is a process without any end. Therefore both the Maharal and Rav Kook wrote that the concept of perfection does not apply to mankind but only to the Holy One, Blessed be He. Perfection for a man involves a constant advance, a desire and a yearning to be perfect. Therefore it is said that repentance is not only for evil people but also for righteous people, since it does not refer to a bad person becoming good but to rising up from a low level to a higher one, from a minute status to a larger one.
Another point of similarity is related to the winter season. Even though a tree appears dead in the winter, we must not despair, since we can be sure that in the spring it will come to life.
As the month of Elul begins, we read the verse, "Man is like a tree," to remind us of our obligation to further our own development as the new year approaches.

Anti-Patriotic Jabber - by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute

"Listen, Yisrael: Today you are close to a war against your enemies. Do not be faint in the heart, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break down." [Devarim 20:3].
The Tempest about Attacking Iran
The communications media are filled with tempestuous disputes, analyses, intimidation, and interviews on the subject of an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear capabilities. Every "important figure," whether currently in the news or from the past, and certainly every legal expert, has what to say and advise on this subject, and they are especially good at estimating our chances of victory and the dangers involved. Almost all of this jabbering consists of declarations based on imagined truths or the result of self thought and putting on an air of having some inside knowledge. It can be assumed that some of the statements are purposefully misleading, a way of spreading sophisticated misinformation and waging psychological warfare against the enemy. In any case, most of the learned pronunciations are not objective but are tainted by a prior world viewpoint in such matters as left or right politics, security, and peace. This outlook provides the basic source for the weighty proclamations about the availability of American aid, the ballistic front in the missile fights, the expected European reaction, and the price that we will pay for our actions. And everything is spiced with the latest political gravy.
As is well known, the media consumes tons of current data each and every day in order to survive, and it is best for them if the information is dripping in blood and drama. Therefore, they fill their bellies (and their pockets!) with stories and scoops about the "Iranian nuclear devices," and they are overjoyed about every story with information about the lack of preparation of the home front: about public shelters full of mold, about gaps in the distribution of gas masks, about a lack of sufficient beds in hospitals, about the way the price of fuel will reach record highs, and more.
Well, that is the way of the media, and it is also its role and its main challenge: to be involved in what matters to the public, and to raise in the newspapers and on the screens, the airwaves and the internet – all the subjects that are on the agenda of current events and that most interest the people.
Patriotic or Frightening Seasoning
However – and this is my main point today – with respect to subjects that are clearly related to national security, I expect the media to show a patriotic approach. The concept of patriotism is not an ugly word even in our era of universality, globalism, and individual rights. The criterion for patriotic media is whether it enhances the national morale or spreads fear and cowardice. It is possible to write a full investigation piece about the home guard, including reports of failures and missing elements, but to do it in a way that improves national morale. It is also possible to write about the very same subject in a way that spreads panic and fear. It is possible to write about what might happen "if and when" Israel attacks in shades of black and dark grey, while it is also possible to emphasize such aspects as volunteer activities, dedication, courage, and so on.
And that illustrates the difference between media having a good influence or a bad one.

* * * * * *

The Torah Violation of Being an "Alarmist"
Sowing a national feeling of fear, especially in the face of an enemy, is an explicit Torah prohibition. Here is what the Rambam wrote with reference to the verse in this week's Torah portion about "one who is afraid and faint in heart" [Devarim 20:8]:
"Anybody who begins to think while at war and frightens himself is violating a negative commandment, as is written, 'Do not be faint in your hearts, do not be afraid, do not panic, do not break down because of them.' [Devarim 20:3]. (As quoted at the beginning of this article.) Not only this, but all the blood of Yisrael hangs around his neck. If one does not fight and does not wage war with all his heart and all his soul, he can be compared to one who spilled the blood of all the others, as is written, 'Let him not melt the hearts of his brothers like his own heart' [20:8]." [Hilchot Melachim 7:15].
Whoever is sensitive can hear in the words of the Rambam that the essence of the prohibition is to refrain from fear. The key phrase is that "one who frightens himself is violating a negative commandment." It is natural to be afraid, and it is often something that cannot be controlled. But for one to "frighten himself" is another matter. This means to agitate the fears and to enhance them by returning to think about them again and again. "What will be? ... What will happen? ... What good can come of it? ... What is the price of such action?"
And I will take this opportunity to add a note of Midrashic interpretation. I suggest that the phrase "to frighten himself" should be viewed in light of the phrase that precedes it: "Anybody who begins to think while at war and frightens himself..." That is, there is no prohibition to think, and in fact we cannot escape having thoughts. But thinking can be done in such a way that it fans the flames into "self frightening." And that is where the prohibition comes. The reason for this prohibition is explicitly given in this week's Torah portion which is quoted at the end of the above halacha: "Let him not melt the hearts of his brothers like his own heart." Personal self-inflicted panic has a way of infecting others and then becoming a public phenomenon.
What is the conclusion? See how serious it is to have the media spend day and night on causing fright and spreading panic.
* * * * * *
So far we have been discussing the communications media, which serves the public by providing discussions and information about current topics. But we cannot leave this subject without pointing an angry finger at the national treason of figures from the political left, who for some reason are called "academic intellectuals." In a public letter, they called for pilots from the Air Force to refuse any command to strike at Iran. It is a shame to waste words on these people, suffice it to quote the verse, "Let the name of the wicked rot away" [Mishlei 10:7].

Words of Dispute at your Gates - by Rabbi Shlomo Levy, Rosh Yeshivat Hesder Rishon Letzion and Head of the Torah Garin

The following appears in the Zohar Hachadash with reference to the verse, "Evil ones dug pits for me, against Your Torah" [Tehillim 119:85]:
"The angels asked the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the World, You wrote in Your Torah, 'Let its blood be spilled and you shall cover it with dust' [Vayikra 17:13], but here it is written, 'They spilled their blood like water' [Tehillim 79:3]. It is written in Your Torah, "Do not slaughter him and his son in one day' [Vayikra 22:28], but here it is written, 'The sons are slaughtered...'. In Your Torah You wrote, 'The Kohen will give a command and the house will be emptied' [Vayikra 14:36], but here it is written, 'And they burned the House of G-d and destroyed all of its treasures' [Divrei Hayamim II 36:19]."
Indeed, there are difficult questions about how G-d guides the world in a fashion that seems to be contrary to principles in the Torah. How does G-d respond to these claims?
"The Holy One, Blessed be He, replied: Is there any peace in the world? If there is no peace, there is nothing."
In Yalkutei Torah, the ARI explains that the source of this Midrash is in this week's portion. Here is what he writes:
"Here is where the Torah hints to us, in the verse, 'If a matter of judgment is beyond you, between blood and blood' – that is, spilled blood – 'between judgment and judgment – hinting at a father and a son – 'and between one blemish and another' – that is, the Kohen will give a command. The response to all of this is, 'words of dispute at your gates' [Devarim 17:8]. All of these problems are the result of disputes and a lack of peace among the people. The end of the verse is, 'Rise up to the place which your G-d will choose' – to Jerusalem. In the city everybody gathers and the Torah joins them together and brings peace."
The mitzvot mentioned above – covering the blood of a slaughtered animal, not slaughtering a father and a son on the same day, and the possibility of clearing out a house before declaring it impure – are an expression of mercy. But at a time of disagreements, when there are disputes at your gates, these mitzvot reverse their meaning and they become an expression of harsh judgment in all its power.
A Dispute Destroys Everything
Take a look at the phenomenon described in the Midrash, blood being spilled like water. This is a desecration of the honor of man and the image of G-d that he represents. The phenomenon of fathers and sons who are slaughtered together represents a complete breakdown of society, with nothing left behind. Burning the houses together with their contents symbolizes complete destruction of the physical possessions.
Thus, we see that arguments lead to unusual punishment, not in the normal sense of the word but rather general destruction. Why is this so?
The answer to this question is related to the characteristics of a dispute. An argument is never a sin by a single person. By its very nature, it is a sin by the community as a whole, something which destroys the fiber of social life. Therefore, in measure for measure, the heavenly punishment is destruction of society, including the family structure and all the physical property.
How is this done? "The blood is spilled like water. Just as an argument is an expression of disparagement and a decrease of the honor of mankind and acts to forget that a human being was created in the image of G-d, so the destruction takes on a form that eradicates the human image of G-d.
"There were no Gossipers among Them"
As opposed to the above, the good trait of peace can protect and guard over the structure of society. Here is what the sages wrote:
"Rabbi Yehoshua of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: The babies in the time of David, before they had begun to taste the flavor of sin, knew how to interpret the Torah, with forty-nine ways to declare something impure and forty-nine ways to declare it pure. And David prayed for them, saying, 'You, G-d, guard over them, save each one from such a generation' [Tehillim 12:8]. But after all of this praise, when they went to war some of them fell, because there were gossipers among them. That is what David said: 'My soul is among lions' – this refers to Avner and Amsha, who were lions in Torah – 'I lie between men who are on fire' – these are Doeg and Achitofel, who were excited about slander – 'their tongue is a sharp sword' [57:5] – these are the Zifim, as is written, 'when the Zifim came and told Shaul' [54:2]. At that moment, David said, 'G-d, rise up to the heavens' [57:12] – remove the Shechina from among them. However, in the generation of Achav all the people worshipped idols, but since there were no gossipers among them they would go to war and be victorious."
Thus we can see the wonderful benefit of the trait of peace. Even those who worshipped idols would be victorious in war because they lived in peace with each other.

Just Don't Touch the Bread! - by Molly Green, Author and Journalist, Beitar

At five in the morning, she is already awake and standing on her feet, stretching out her laborer's hands to accept yesterday's bread from the bakery which is willing to donate it to her. She is a mother of ten who wakes up once a week at four in the morning and travels far away to the bakery in order to gather the remains of bread from the previous day. By six o'clock dozens of people crowd around the entrance of the building where she lives, and there she gives them the bread.
No, she is not a member of the top percentile, which would give her extra time for philanthropic activities. She is a simple woman who works hard for her living, but she manages to find time and a warm corner in her heart to perform this kind act for the needy people.
"It breaks my heart to see all these people come to take yesterday's stale bread," she confides to me. "These are mainly people who work for their livelihood. They are not unemployed or homeless."
Last Friday I went to help her with the distribution, and I was amazed to see how right she was. "I am a security guard at a shopping center, and I barely make the minimum wage. I have three children who need to eat, but where will I get the money?" ... "I work in the administration of local schools," a single mother whose husband disappeared and left her without any child support said to me, "I do not have any bread for my own daughter!"
* * * * * *
I returned home after the distribution, shocked by what I had seen, and then I heard the news: The price of bread has increased! What an example of terrible timing! Just before the return to school, just before it will be necessary to make piles of sandwiches, such a basic food item becomes more expensive.
It is hard to believe, or at least many people do not want to believe, but there are families where bread is the item that is used to counteract their basic hunger. The salary is not enough to buy dairy products, and bread is the basic food used to settle the feeling of hunger at every meal. They eat bread with more bread.
Muli, the security guard, asks, "Where are the old days, when we would go into a grocery store and fill our bags at reasonable prices. We were secure from a financial point of view." And the single mother says sadly, "For a hundred Shekels you could feed a whole family. Today a hundred Shekels will not last more than half an hour."
If you do a survey among your family and friends, in the families that have "only" two or three children, you will find that a large fraction of their salaries goes to buy food. Dairy snacks such as puddings cost as much as fancy sweets, and many families cannot even dream about buying them.
I can still hear the cry of the security guard echoing in my head: "Why don't they at least let us go back to the era of bread and margarine? What we need is to have a basic set of ten foods that will not be touched. They should be subsidized and under price control. Their price should never be allowed to rise."
* * * * * *
I am reminded of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Here is what I learned from Wikipedia:
The Theory of Need was developed by the psychologist Abraham Maslow. It concerns the basic needs of a person. It has consequences for many realms of living, including the motivation for working.
The lowest level includes physiological needs, such as breathing, food, and drink.
There is no need for long-lasting research projects. It is enough to just look around and understand the need for these basic elements. The most basic level needed for success, motivation at work, and a healthy culture is the need for food. Only after the biological needs are fulfilled can an organism turn to other higher-level needs.
What can you say to a child whose parents tell him or her on Wednesday and Thursday that there is no bread, and that it is necessary to wait until Friday morning to get the bread that is distributed free? What can you say to a hungry child who asks for another slice of bread but whose parents do not have any more bread to give him? As a society, we must set priorities. I would like to adopt the suggestion of the security guard. A set of basic foods should be set aside as something that is never touched! No matter what!
Don't touch the bread! And now, just as I reach the end of this article, I hear that as the holidays approach somebody up there in the government is preparing a "holiday gift" for us - a rise in the price of dairy products, eggs, and vegetables. And for dessert, the Value Added Tax will also increase.
Is there anybody who is capable of looking the "bread children" straight in the eyes?

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

Mahari and his father went into the small cottage in their village in Ethiopia to eat lunch. His mother gave them "injera" (a type of Ethiopian bread) with a tasty sauce and poured them small glasses of "talah" (a common homemade drink). Mahari ate the injera happily and dipped it into the sauce. But when he started to drink he took a taste and immediately turned is face away in disgust.
"Momma! I don't like the taste!" he cried out.
"Drink it, my dear," his mother tried to convince him. "It is delicious! I worked very hard to make this drink according to the recipe that I learned from my mother, who was taught by her mother and her grandmother. It has been the same for many generations. Drink it down. As to the taste, you will get used to it."
But Mahari did not want to become used to it. He wanted the drink to taste good now, but the talah was not tasty at all.
And then Mahari's father got involved too. He waited a bit until Mahari finished eating, and he said, "Mahari, do you remember that I promised to take you into the forest with me one day? Well, I am on my way there now. Come with me, and we will chop some wood."
Mahari jumped for joy. "The forest! I always wanted to go down to the forest! And now I am grown up too, and I can help you chop down the trees!"
Mahari's father took his ax and Mahari took ropes with which to tie the wood, and the two went on their way.
Father and son went down to the bottom of the hill, close to the forest. It was very hot, and they were happy to be doing their work in the shade of the trees. It was not easy work. The father had to lift his ax high up over and over again, chopping away at the thick branches, and then to trim the wood into smaller pieces. His son helped him by gathering the wood into neat piles and tying them together with the rope.
The sun was very hot, and the two of them were very thirsty. But they had not brought any water with them, and they were forced to wait until they returned home.
When they finished their labor they put heavy piles of wood on their backs and began to climb the hill, on their way home. After a few hours of hard work in the sun and a climb up the hill, the two of them reached their home, tired and weary – but mainly very thirsty.
Mahari went to the pitcher of talah, and this time he did not have any second thoughts. He did not remember that he did not like the taste of this drink. Just the opposite – he filled his cup and eagerly drank it down, in one gulp. And then he filled a second cup and thoroughly enjoyed the drink.
Mahari's father asked: "What happened, did the Talah suddenly become tasty?" And Mahari said quietly, "Yes! Now I can see how good it really tastes. I don't know why I didn't like it before."
His father explained to him. "Know, my son, I purposely didn't take any water with us, in order to teach you an important lesson in life. When you are thirsty every drink tastes good, when you are hungry every food is delicious, and when you are tired every bed is comfortable... That is human nature – sometimes we must feel that something is lacking in order to appreciate all that we have. It is true that not everything in life is perfect, but when you feel what you lack, then whatever is not exactly the way you want it becomes unimportant, and everything begins to look fantastic... All we have to do is to remember this even when we do not feel that we are lacking anything..."
(Source: My friend, Rabbi Shlomo Sahalu)

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What is the Blessing for "Mezonot" Rolls? (Part 2) - by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion

In the previous article we saw that according to the Shulchan Aruch even a mildly sweet taste is enough to transform "bread" so that its blessing is "Mezonot," while according to the RAMA the baked goods must be very sweet in order to change the blessing from "Hamotzi" to Mezonot.
We also saw that there is a dispute about the criterion of "very sweet" according to the RAMA. The TAZ understands (168:7) that the RAMA requires the taste of the honey to be the strongest flavor in the food, and that it is in fact the main flavor, but he does not insist that the honey should be the major ingredient.
On the other hand, according to Shulchan Aruch of the Rav (of Chabad) (168:11), the important criterion is not the sweet taste but the actual amount. If more fruit juice is used than water in making the dough, the blessing will be Mezonot (evidently even if the taste is not strong). The same opinion appears in "Da'at Torah of the Maharsham" (168:7).
We might then conclude that according to the Maharsham and Shulchan Aruch of the Rav the blessing for "mezonot rolls" is Mezonot, while according to the TAZ the blessing will be Hamotzi.
However, things are not that simple:
(1) It is written in Responsa Menachem Yitzchak (9:17) that those who accept the opinion of the Maharsham and view the main ingredient as the important factor (even though "the taste of the bread is almost the same as that of regular bread") can do this only if real fruit juice is used as a sweetener. But if a mixture of syrup and water is used, the mixture is not considered "juice" but only the syrup. Thus, the dough does not have a status of a majority of fruit juice unless real juice is used – and this would be very expensive and usually not a real option. (However, wine can be diluted by a factor of one to six without losing its status as "juice".)
(2) If the major ingredient is the criterion, the question may be asked if the corresponding ingredient to measure is the water (which is usually a relatively small amount) or the flour. The BACH writes that the measure is compared to the flour (Magen Avraham also seems to imply this, 16). Igrot Moshe agrees (Orach Chaim 3:33) that the important factor in determining the major ingredient is the flour. According to the BACH, even if there is no water at all in the dough and only fruit juice, the blessing is still Hamotzi if there is more flour than juice. However, the Maharsham, Shulchan Aruch of the Rav, and the Shelah write that the measure of a major amount of honey is in comparison to the water (which is less than the flour).
(3) There is another major problem with the above discussion: At first glance it is not reasonable to depend on a factor of a "major" ingredient. As we have seen, what really counts is whether this "bread" is commonly used to establish the fact that a meal is being eaten (as opposed to a snack). But then the defining factor should be the taste (or perhaps the appearance) of the final product, and the proportions of ingredients should not matter at all!
It is in fact possible that the Maharsham does not use the major ingredient as a criterion but rather the taste. We have seen that according to Rashi what is important is the flavor ("only a small amount is eaten"), and that is the basis of the RAMA's approach, based on Rashi. A careful analysis of the words of the Maharsham shows that his opinion is based on that of the Shulchan Aruch. This might mean that the doubt with respect to fruit juice as the major ingredient is only according to the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch because such a minor change is enough for the Shulchan Aruch, but not according to the RAMA, who demands that the change be a major one for the food to be considered cake and not bread. Thus, the fact that there is more juice than water might not matter, and the taste must be strongly influenced to transform the baked product from bread into cake.
Indeed, even according to the Shulchan Aruch we can reasonably argue that the taste is an important factor and not just the amount. We suggested above that the change in taste must be so strong that most people will not eat a large amount of the food (this is implied by Kessef Mishna 3:9, but we will not expand on this here).
However, both Responsa Menachem Yitzchak (9:17) and Responsa Shevet Halevi (9:44) understood that the Maharsham uses the liquid amount as a criterion even if there is no strong taste. This also appears in "Vezot Habracha" (Birurum, 2). However, the simple interpretation requires some taste of fruit juice in all cases for the food not to be considered a factor which imparts the status of a meal.
The Mishna Berura (168:33-32; Biur Halacha) rules according to the TAZthat what matters is the flavor. This clearly implies that from the point of view of the halacha the proper blessing for "Mezonot rolls" is Hamotzi, for several reasons:
First of all, they do not have a distinctive taste. In addition, even if they would have a different taste, they have been made in order to impart the status of a meal, and this is part of the definition of bread. This is not only certainly true according to the RAMA but also in the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, since it can be assumed that the author defines as Mezonot only food which is not used to impart the status of a meal, as can be seen in the Beit Yosef. (See Birchat Hashem 2:2, note 148. This can also be seen in rulings by the Tosafot and the Shulchan Aruch.)
Thus, we conclude that it is generally agreed that the blessing for "Mezonot Rolls" is "Hamotzi" (the blessing for bread), even if fruit juice is the major liquid ingredient (this is especially true if the rolls are eaten as part of a meal).
* * * * * *
*** NOTE: Donate to Jobkatif, directed by Rabbi Rimon, helping to find jobs for the expelled residents of Gush Katif. Phone: 02-5409468. Web:

Pitchei Teshuva - by Rabbi Yoseph Leichter, The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem

Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Eisenstat: 5572 to the third of Elul 5628 (1812-1868)
The literature of the responsa is a large and broad branch of halachic writing. The earliest of these writings were replies sent by the Geonim to all areas in the Diaspora, and this practice has continued to this very day, with responsa sent by surface mail and through the use of modern electronic media. Many attempts have been made throughout past generations to gather together and organize the tens of thousands of responsa that were written. This effort is based on the assumption that questions that have already been answered might appear once again. Many rabbis appended their responsa to books that they wrote. Rabbi Yosef Karo collected responsa by the Gaonim and the early commentators in his book Beit Yosef.
In the time after the appearance of the Beit Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch other books of collected responsa appeared. Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Margaliot (5540-5583, 1780-1823) started to collect the new responsa related to the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch, and he called his book "Sha'arei Teshuva." The work was complested by his brother, Rabbi Efraim Zalman Margaliot (5521-5588, 1760-1828). Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Eisenstat took on the task of adding the other sections of the Shulchan Aruch: Yoreh Dei'ah, Even Ha'ezer, and Choshen Mishpat.
The "Four Amot" of Halacha
Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Eisenstat, a descendent of Rabbi Meir Eisenstat (5430-5504, 1670-1744), the author of the book "Panim Me'irot," was born in 5572 (1812). His father, Rabbi Yaacov, was a Torah scholar and teacher in Bialystok. In the introduction to Pitchei Teshuva, on the Even Ha'ezer, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi writes:
"From the time that I became self aware I despised the pleasures of the world, I withdrew from vain pastimes, I kept to the four Amot of halacha, and I maintained my desire and sat within the shadow of wisdom."
Rabbi Avraham Tzvi married Yentel Reizel, the daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hakohen, one of the wealthy men of Grodno. His wife opened a store for paper goods and office supplies from which the couple made a living. Rabbi Avraham Tzvi spent his time with his studies. In Grodno he discovered a manuscript of "Chamudei Daniel," written by Rabbi Daniel Ben Rabbi Yaacov of Grodno (who passed away in 5567, 1807), who was the rabbi in Grodno for forty years. Rabbi Avraham Tzvi included Rabbi Daniel's rulings in his book on the Yoreh Dei'ah:
"In a way similar to the book Sha'arei Teshuva on Orach Chaim (Dubno, 5580-5585), started by Rabbi Chaim of Dubno and finished by his brother Rabbi Efraim Zalman Margaliot, I have decided to do the same for the Shulchan Aruch."
He adds a note about his sources:
"The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei'ah, from my mother's father Rabbi Naftali Hertz, Ben Rabbi Chanoch Henich (Chief Justice in Zalku), with several notes and hand-written novelties. And G-d provided me with a manuscript of the book Chamudei Daniel by Rabbi Daniel Ben Yaacov, who was a teacher in Grodno... I copied their halachic rulings at various places in my book."
At the young age of eighteen, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi began to work on the Yoreh Dei'ah, and it took four years to complete the task. He hesitated whether he should publish a book at such a young age, but he became ill and almost died, so he decided to defeat death by quickly publishing the book. He was appointed rabbi of the city Brestovitch in the area of Grodno, where he wrote his book on the Even Ha'ezer (Pitchei Teshuva). In 5616 (1856), he took on the position of rabbi of Otian, which is close to Vilkomir. In this small town he took advantage of the calm atmosphere and continued writing his next book, on the Choshen Mishpat. He refused to move to the city of Ponevezh even though he was offered a much bigger salary, because of his great modesty and in order to continue working in his books in peace. He had a reputation as a pious tazdik, and many people asked him to pray for them.
One time he met a group of merchants who had hitched their wagon to a horse and an ox together. The rabbi scolded them for violating a prohibition of the Torah. The merchants, who did not know who he was, ignored him. Within a short time, the ox fell down, dead. The merchants realized that they had hurt an important tzadik and they went to him to ask to be forgiven. The rabbi said: I will forgive you if you observe two conditions: Never hitch a horse and an ox together in the future, and don't mock Torah scholars.
In the winter of 5628 Rabbi Avraham Tzvi became ill. He journeyed to Konigsberg, where he hoped to find physicians who could treat him. The Jewish community in Konigsberg gave him a warm welcome, but in spite of the efforts of the doctors he passed away on the third of Elul. He was buried near the grave of Rabbi Yaacov Tzvi Mecklenburg, the author of "Haketav V'Hakaballah."

The Decision that was not Kept - by Rabbi Amichai Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School

Kiryat Gat, the thirteenth of Shevat 5761 (2001): The election campaign for Prime Minister is in its final stage. The candidates are the incumbent Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the opposition leader Ariel Sharon. Barak has just returned from a meeting in Camp David. He was quite nervous to be up against the "father of the settlements," Ariel Sharon.
Many of the residents of Yehuda and the Shomron worked to defeat Barak. A group called the "Mordechai Staff" was organized for this purpose. People from my town were asked to help out in Kiryat Gat. A few dozen people came, including a professor, high-tech experts, Torah students, and laborers. We were quite active. We called, we drove people around, we tried to convince the people. We worked very hard.
The Likud activists sat in their headquarters, reminding me of dozing cats. They were totally passive. They rose from their stupor only twice. The first time was when MK Limor Livnat came, and their dedication was revealed. They went with her around all the streets of the city, they showed her the high level of activity in the city. The second time was when MK Meir Sheetrit came.
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For many of us, the expulsion from Gush Katif turned our world upside down. For me personally it also exposed the true face of politics. I made a firm decision never to trust a politician and never to participate in political activities.
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The poll of the "Bayit Yehudi Party" has given many people some hope, and that also includes me. We have a hope for a party of values and not for a party based on a narrow sector. A party that will work to advance values and not narrow interests is a very attractive concept to the public.
The fact that the voting public can directly choose its own representatives can mean that the MK's will no longer depend on various powerful local leaders. It can mean that the MK's will be free to work for ideals in which they believe and not only for the benefit of specific people on the Central Committee of the party.
There are some who want to keep the number of people who vote in the poll as low as possible. They want to maintain their relative strength in the party. This is their right. But they are opposed by many others, who seem to be successful in their efforts to increase the number of voters. They feel that the more voters there are the better the party will be. They are convinced that an uncorrupted party that is motivated by ideals will gain the trust of a broad sector of the public. They are convinced that our sector is just as capable of establishing an attractive party as was the "Pensioners" Party of Rafi Eitan or the "Tzomet" Party of Raful.
They think that many people in our nation yearn for a clean party, a party based on values. They think it is possible to establish a party which speaks out its inner thoughts – a party that labors to create a better country and not only to advance personal interests or the needs of a specific sector. They are working very hard for this principle. And that is why I changed my mind and I have decided not to keep my promise.
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I registered for the poll. This was not easy, it even caused me harsh pains in the stomach. It is not at all exciting to register for a specific party. It is much easier to sit on the sidelines. It was very difficult for me to reverse my original very wise decision of eleven years ago. I also had to overcome a strong dose of aversion.
I still have serious doubts about politics, but I think that we must take advantage of our opportunity. Therefore, I registered.
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The hope for something new and different is not simply a dream. It depends on two factors. It depends on growing enthusiasm for the act of registering and on having more and more people participate. And it depends on which representatives will be chosen.
Many people have already registered, and many others have not. Every person who registers decreases the power of local organized leaders and releases MK's from pressure, allowing them to act according to their conscience and not follow the dictates of the Central Committee. Every person who votes in a free way and is not managed from the outside will enhance the possibility that the result will be clean and based on values.
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There is also a second important factor at work. It all depends on which representatives are chosen. We ask you, please. We have suffered enough. We have found ourselves eating straw more than once. Do not disappoint us. There are so many people who are coming out of their shells because of this ray of hope. Do not squander the opportunity that is being given to you. Be clean in whatever you do. Act in accordance with values. Don't disappoint us. Thank you in advance.
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NOTE: The message in the above article is very simple. Register. In no way have I given any hint of support for one candidate or another. There are many good candidates. Alon Shevut, where I live, is not a proper place for making such recommendations.

When should Chareidim be given a Release from Army Service? - by Bar-on Dasberg

In this week's Torah portion, the Kohen first gives potential soldiers a "pep-talk" and then sends home people who are builders, newly betrothed, planters, and faint-hearted (or, as Gidon put it, "afraid"). However, in the Baraita quoted in the Talmud, the sequence is reversed: "He speaks to them twice, once on the border and once during the war. What does he say? 'Listen to the way the battle will be organized.' And what does he say in the war? 'Do not be weak in the heart, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break down.' [Devarim 20:3]." [Sotta 42a].
I did not find a source for this Baraita, but it could certainly be based on two historical precedents and on tactical logic.
Gidon released those who were afraid ("chreidim") when he was on the border, at Ein Charod (Shoftim 7:1). Only the next day, before the attack on Midyan, does he try to strengthen the feelings of the men, "G-d has given the camp of Midyan into your hands" [7:15]. The same is true of Yehuda Hamkabi before the Battle of Emmaus (Makabim 1:3,54-59), before he sent home the builders, the planters, the newly betrothed, and the faint-hearted. Only after these people have left does Yehuda give a talk about bravery and faith to the remaining soldiers.
The tactical approach is that freeing those who are afraid in the middle of a battle can lead to a reaction of fear within the camp, and it is therefore best to free them beforehand. Then the pep-talk of the anointed Kohen will be heard only by people who are secure in their faith and not those who were left behind.

Brief Comments by Our Readers

* The month of Elul – known as the Month of Mercy and Selichot – is already here. This gives us an opportunity to do a self reckoning about the past year and to prepare for the new year and the Days of Awe with which it begins.

Our sources teach us that a person can be forgiven for sins between man and G-d, but that G-d will not forgive a person for sins by one man against another. We therefore forgive each other, since true and honest forgiveness is our way of moving forward without carrying along the burdens of the previous year.

The source of the prohibition of "lashon hara" – slander – is in the Torah, "Do not spread gossip among your nation" [Vayikra 19:16]. This commandment is deeper than it appears at first glance in that it is relevant to all levels of our lives. It is not in vain that it is written, "Who is the man who wants to live, who loves days when he can see the good? Block your tongue from evil and your lips from fraud." [Tehillim 34:13-14].

We are all tainted with this sin, whether innocently or not, whether on a small scale or a large scale.

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

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SHABBAT-ZOMET is an extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, a weekly bulletin

distributed free of charge in hundreds of synagogues in Israel. It is

published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel, under the auspices

of the National Religious Party.

Translated by: Moshe Goldberg

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Visit the Zomet Institute web site:

Contact Zomet with comments about this bulletin or questions on the

link between modern technology and halacha at:

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