30 September 2016

"Leave it Up to the King"

27 Elul 5776
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

Leave it Up to the King
Elul / Rosh Hashanah

Posted on September 15, 2004 (5764) By Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann

One of the anomalies pointed out by the commentators regarding Rosh Hashana is that no where in the Torah is Rosh Hashana ever mentioned in connection with Yom Ha-din/A Day of Judgement; Scripture speaks only of a Yom Teruah/Day of Blowing the Shofar. It is only through the oral tradition of our Sages that we know that on the Universe’s anniversary, its Creator takes stock and makes His allocations and allotments for the coming year. Why does the Torah seemingly go out of its way to conceal the concept of Judgement? And why is it specifically the theme of the Shofar that receives the overwhelming focus in the Torah’s description of this day, when in fact the sounding of the Shofar is but a small, if very important, ingredient in the overall scheme of Rosh Hashana?

In the book of Nehemiah (8) we find a description of an ancient Rosh Hashana:

Then all the people gathered together as one man at the plaza before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Torah scroll of Moshe, which Hashem had commanded Israel. So Ezra the Kohen brought the Torah before the congregation… on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it… from first light until midday, and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Torah scroll. They read in the scroll, in G-d’s Torah, clearly, appreciating the wisdom; they helped the people understand the reading. Then Nechemia, Ezra the scribe, and the Levi’im who were helping the people understand, said to all the people – who were weeping as they heard the words of the Torah – “Today is sacred to Hashem, your G-d; do not mourn and do not weep. Go eat rich foods, and drink sweet beverages, and send portions to those who have not prepared – for today is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad – Hashem’s pleasure is your strength!”

When the people listened to the Hashem’s word being read to them, they were overwhelmed by feelings of remorse and inadequacy, and began to weep. At first glance, this would seem to be most appropriate and praiseworthy – something we might all strive for on the most serious and introspective of days. Yet they are rebuffed. Rather, they are told to go eat lavish meals, because “Hashem’s pleasure is their strength.” We are left wondering what indeed is Hashem’s pleasure – from which they are to derive strength – if not their sincere reaction to hearing the Torah?

The Tur (Orach Chaim 581) describes a Jew’s preparation for the Day of Judgement:

Normally, a person who knows he is to be judged, dons black clothing, lets his beard grow unkempt, and doesn’t cut his nails. [He does so because he is overcome with anxiety] over not knowing the outcome of his judgement. Yet [before Rosh Hashana] we don’t do so. We don white clothing, trim our hair, and cut our nails. On Rosh Hashana, we eat, drink, and are happy, for we know that the Almighty will perform miracles with us…

Why shouldn’t we stand in trepidation before the mighty Yom Ha-din – instead of running around getting haircuts and preparing luxurious meals? What is the source of our assuredness that we will merit a good verdict – all the more so if we approach the Day of Judgement with such seeming nonchalance?

The holy Zohar (see Tikkunei Zohar 22a regarding Yom Kippur) criticizes those who cry out on the Days of Judgement, pleading for their needs. “Give! Give!” they cry, “like a dog begging for food.” What is so wrong if, recognizing the seriousness and imminence of the day’s judgement, we plead for our needs?

Perhaps we can understand the correct approach to Rosh Hashana with a parable:

A great and mighty king let it be known that on a given day, he would be passing through a certain city. During his stay, he would grace the inhabitants with an audience, during which he would deliver a royal address. He would then entertain requests and supplications from his subjects. Those who wished were to prepare their requests on the highest quality parchment, upon which they should write what it is they were asking of the king, and why they felt the magnanimous king should grant their wishes. They could ask for up to three things.

The city’s inhabitants busily went about preparing a royal welcome. Of course there was also much excitement about the prospect of a private audience, and the possibility of one’s most-longed-for dreams being granted by the king himself. The king arrived amidst much pomp and circumstance, and was duly impressed by the extravagant preparations made on his behalf. After delivering his royal address, a huge line formed in front of him. Each person held in his hand a carefully written parchment to present to the king, with the hope that his dreams would be granted.

The king was indeed magnanimous, and graced his subjects by granting any and all reasonable requests. One by one the people had their turn and made leave of the king’s presence, all with the satisfied looks of one whose dreams have come true.

The entire time, the king had been observing that one lone maidservant stood at the back of the palace, modestly observing the goings-on, yet never approaching the line. Even now as the line was already empty, she still did not approach. Intrigued, the king had her called before him.

“Tell me,” he said, “why is it that you stand there quietly, while all your townsmen come and go, each of them having their wishes granted in a most generous manner? Do you not trust that I have the ability to grant your desires?”

“Oh no,” she said sharply to the king. “It’s just that – well – I simply didn’t have the time to prepare a parchment with my requests. You see, when I heard the king would be visiting, I immediately became preoccupied with making sure everything would be ready to receive the king. Draperies needed to be sewn, rugs weaved, floors cleaned, swept, and polished… There was so much to do to make sure the city was ready for the king’s arrival, and I so busy, that I simply never got around to preparing my wish-list. Today, as I stood before the king, I realized it was already too late. Instead, I chose to spend by time in the presence of your highness, as he graciously dealt with his subjects.”

The king’s face now glowed with a radiance that awed the simple maidservant. “My dearest maiden,” the king said, “if there is anyone who is truly deserving of having their wishes granted, it must surely be you, who have put my honour before all else. I will not trouble you to ask, for in your modesty your requests would likely be simple ones. Rather, I will grant you the blessings of my hand – the royal hand. I have no doubt they will satisfy you beyond your wildest dreams.”

In the weeks and days before Rosh Hashana, Jews are busy cleaning up (teshuva cleanses sins), and preparing ourselves to receive the King of Kings. Although of course Hashem is our King all year long, on Rosh Hashana His dominion is underscored by the fact that it is then that He sits upon the Throne of Judgement and judges the world. It is on Rosh Hashana that Hashem says, “Call out before Me with the blast of the Shofar – to demonstrate your acceptance of Me as your King (Mishna Rosh Hashana 4:5),” like the king who enters the palace amidst trumpet blasts.

The Torah stresses the theme of Rosh Hashana as being a day of Shofar blasts, and down-plays the aspect of judgement, in order to keep us focused. The nature of a man being judged is to become self-absorbed; his mind is consumed with thoughts of what he can do to assure himself a favourable verdict. Or, if he feels there is no hope, he falls into self- pity and stops caring. Either way, all he’s thinking about is himself, and that misses the whole point of the day. Our focus on Rosh Hashana should not be on “what’s in it for us” and “how’s this going to turn out for me” but rather on accepting Hashem as our King, and being the best servants we can.

That’s why, when the people began mourning and crying, they were told to stop. It’s good that they were aroused by the reading of the Torah, but the Navi (Prophet) guided them to take that arousal and use it to celebrate the day that Hashem brought the world into being, thereby becoming its King, and on which He renews its lease each year.

With what will they merit a good judgement? Why are we so self-assured that we will be judged favourably that we get dressed up in our finest clothing, and, as the Zohar suggests, we spend the day celebrating rather than grovelling before Hashem to forgive our sins and grant our wishes? It’s not because we arrogantly believe we deserve it, but because of what we’re doing instead. As Hashem sits upon His throne to judge the world, He finds us in the synagogues, listening to the Shofar and reciting the prayers whose focus is that we accept Hashem as our King, and pray that one day the entire world will also recognize His dominion. We’re too “busy” to even take the time to contemplate where we fit in the picture, and what Hashem has in store for us.

Seeing this, Hashem’s countenance glows, and no doubt He inscribes all His faithful servants in the Book of Life and the Righteous, that they may indeed merit another year of health and prosperity. And He bestows upon them blessings far more numerous and generous than they ever could have thought to ask for.

28 September 2016

Can Gentiles Repent (Part 4)

26 Elul 5776

Shimon Peres Joins Rabin and Arafat

25 Elul 5776

He was there at the beginning of the Erev Rav regime. We can only hope that his passing indicates the end of the Erev Rav regime.

Among the international VIPs expected to attend the levaya are US President Barak Obama, Pope Francis, French President Francois Hollande, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, and British Prime Minister Theresa May. (Source)

Here are some excerpts from past blog posts:

Peres suggests holy sites in J'lem be declared 'world capital'

...His plan calls for declaring a holy area of sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem's old walled city as a "world capital", with the UN Secretary-General serving as mayor, Peres' spokesman Yoram Dori said.

Pres. Peres Calls for 100,000 Yesha Jews to Migrate to the Negev

President Shimon Peres called on Jews from Judea and Samaria last week to send a cohort with their strength and skills to settle the Negev.

Addressing an event to mark the 70th anniversary of Kibbutz Revivim – located deep in the Negev – Peres noted that at present, there are only 6,500 residents in the Ramat Hanegev region.

Even if half the Jews living in Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron) lived in the Negev, Peres said, the regions would look different. 

We Need a United Nations of World Religions

...Globalization made it so the social and economic fates of the world's major powers were tied together. The U.N. and similar international organizations have played a key role.... 

If such an alliance can be used to unite independent states, could a similar model work for world religions? This was an idea proposed last year by former Israeli president Shimon Peres. He suggested that an organization called "the United Religions" could bring together leaders from various worldwide religions with the goal of promoting interfaith peace and understanding. In Peres' eyes, Pope Francis himself would head up this "UN for religions" because he is universally respected and could spearhead efforts to broker peace in the Middle East. 

Israel's Peres pitches "UN of Religions" to pope

Retired Israeli President Shimon Peres has proposed a new global peace initiative to Pope Francis: A "United Nations of Religions," given that most wars today have religious, not nationalistic, undercurrents.

The Vatican said Peres pitched the initiative during a 45-minute audience Thursday in the Apostolic Palace. The two men last met when Francis invited the then-Israeli president and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to pray for peace together in the Vatican gardens on June 8.

See also: The Indomitable Shimon Peres, The Most Evil Man in IsraelThree strikes! You're out, Mr. President!!The Most Despicable Person in IsraelA Leader and a Statesman

27 September 2016

"The Twenty-Fifth of Elul"

25 Elul 5776

From The Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov:

The twenty-fifth of Elul is the day on which the world was created - according to R. Eliezer, whose opinion we follow as concerns the calculation of the calendar. That day, on which Heaven and earth were created, preceded the creation of Adam by six days, for Adam was created on Rosh Hashanah.

In some communities it is customary, between the twenty-fifth of Elul and Rosh Hashanah, to read the verses in Bereshit that recount the days of Creation.

On the twenty-fifth of Elul, Nechemiyah completed construction of the wall surounding the city of Jerusalem, as the verse states: (Nechemyah 6:15) "And the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul."

26 September 2016

"The Six Obstacles to Teshuvah"

24 Elul 5776

Why Is It So Hard to Change? The Six Obstacles to Teshuvah
by Abraham J. Twerski | September 19, 2012 

“Of course a person should do teshuvah, but I am a bit puzzled. I observe Shabbos, I keep kosher and taharas hamishpachah. I daven every day, I attend a Daf Yomi shiur and I am honest in my business dealings. What exactly should I do teshuvah for?”

People may not actually say this, but some certainly think this way. Yet King Solomon said, “For there is no man so fully righteous that he always does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Even the greatest tzaddik is not free of sin. How, then, can a person who is quite far from being a perfect tzaddik not feel a need to do teshuvah?

Several psychological defense mechanisms tend to discourage an individual from changing, from doing teshuvah. The obstacles to teshuvah are denial, rationalization, trivializing, projection, habituation and ego.

1) Denial
Throughout Tanach, the prophets repeatedly exhorted the Jewish people to abandon their errant behavior, but as is evident from the Scriptures, they were not very successful. Isaiah explains why. “Surely you hear, but you fail to comprehend; and surely you see, but you fail to know. This people is fattening its heart, hardening its ears and sealing its eyes, lest it see with its eyes and hear with its ears and understand with its heart, so that it will repent and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10). No psychology text can improve on Isaiah’s description of denial. Because people are intent on doing whatever they wish, they resort to denial, one of the best-known defense mechanisms so that they are unaffected by the reality of what they see and hear.

We are creatures of habit, and we are comfortable when we can do things without the need to exert much effort. Change is uncomfortable, and in order to avoid this discomfort, our minds block out those realizations that would call for change. The natural state of all matter—including human beings—is inertia, but one must force himself to overcome inertia in order to grow and change.

2) Rationalization
Denial enables a person to maintain the status quo. When reality threatens to overcome denial, the mind employs other defense mechanisms to reinforce the denial—such as rationalization. One of the themes in Proverbs is the tendency to rationalize. Ramchal says, “If a person is confronted with one’s laziness, one will doubtless come back with many quotations culled from the sages and the Scriptures and with intellectual arguments, all supporting, according to his misguided mind, his leniency with himself” (Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 6).

Denial is not always possible, so the mind is very clever in rationalizing; in other words, justifying one’s actions by giving logical-sounding reasons for them. The Torah stresses the gravity of speaking lashon hara, for example, which requires both teshuvah vis-à-vis Hashem and forgiveness from the victim. Oftentimes one who speaks lashon hara may attempt to justify his behavior by claiming “But it’s the truth!” Defamatory speech is lashon hara, even if it is true.

3) Habituation
The Talmud says that when a person does a forbidden act several times, it loses its opprobrium. Habituation enables one to think that these transgressions are permissible. His conscience is lulled into thinking, It’s really not so terrible. Thus, even though the morning minyan begins promptly at 6:30 am and ends at 7:05, there are some minyannaires who habitually show up at 6:45 and leave before everyone else. They are so accustomed to arriving late and davening at breakneck speed, they see nothing wrong with it.

4) Projection
One who projects onto another will not be able to do genuine teshuvah. Sins committed against another person are not forgiven on Yom Kippur unless one has obtained forgiveness from the offended individual. The defense mechanism of projection turns things around: I did not offend him. He offended me. He should really be apologizing to me.

5) Trivializing
The tendency to trivialize halachah is another impediment in the road to teshuvah. I missed Minchah, but I was so busy at the office. Anyway, it’s not a big deal. Or, I chatted with my friend during the Reading of the Torah, but doesn’t everybody? (This is the only sin for which the Shulchan Aruch says, “There is no forgiveness.”)

6) Ego
Inasmuch as teshuvah for an offense against another person requires that one make amends and ask forgiveness, there is ego resistance to humbling oneself, apologizing and making restitution where required.

One of the axioms of human behavior is that a person will always choose to do that which is most comfortable for him. We find that an addict will not agree to change until he hits “rock-bottom,” i.e., that the pain incident to the addiction is greater than the pleasure it provides. This is equally true of the non-addict. Therefore, oftentimes individuals only agree to change when they have reached rock-bottom.

But what can constitute rock-bottom for the non-addict? A person who contemplates his life goals and sees that his behavior is jeopardizing his reaching those goals may reach rock-bottom. But this requires giving serious thought to defining one’s goals and purpose in life. Confronting death can usually lead to such introspection. I recently attended the funeral of a great talmid chacham. A man next to me said somewhat somberly, “Reb Z. is taking along with him much Torah and mitzvos. What will I be taking along?”

The first chapter in Mesillas Yesharim is entitled “A Person’s Obligation in His World.” The theme of Mesillas Yesharim is the refinement of one’s character. Changing one’s character traits is a major challenge and is usually met with great resistance. Many times real change won’t happen until one realizes that unless one does so, his life is meaningless.

Uncompromised honesty is necessary to see through the psychological defenses that are a barrier to teshuvah. Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Penitence and Yom Kippur are days in which one should be inspired to evaluate the meaning of one’s life. Only when we are aware that we need “fixing” will we do teshuvah.

The founder and medical director emeritus of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Rabbi Abraham Twerski, MD, is one of the country’s leading experts on drug and alcohol rehabilitation. He is the author of numerous books and his column is regularly featured in Jewish Action.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Fall 2012.

Rambam on Teshuvah

23 Elul 5776

Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, Chapter 1, Halachah 1:

If a person transgresses any of the mitzvot of the Torah, whether a positive command or a negative command - whether willingly or inadvertently - when he repents, and returns from his sin, he must confess before God, blessed be He, as [Numbrs 5:6-7] states: "If a man or woman commit any of the sins of man... they must confess the sin that they committed."

This referes to a verbal confession. This confession is a positive command.

How does one confess: He states: "I implore You, God, I sinned, I transgressed, I committed inquity before You by doing the following. Behold, I regret and am embarrassed for my deeds. I promise never to repeat this act again."

These are the essential elements of the confessional prayer. Whoever confesses profusely and elaborates on these matters is worthy of praise.

Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, Chapter 1, Halachah 3:

...Teshuvah atones for all sins. Even a person who was wicked his whole life and repented in his final moments will not be reminded of any aspect of his wickedness as [Ezekiel 33:12] states: "The wickedness of the evil one will not cause him to stumble on the day he repents his wickedness."

Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, Chapter 2, Halachah 1:

[Who has reached] complete teshuvah? A person who confronts the same situation in which he sinned when he has the potential to commit [the sin again], and nevertheless, abstains and does not commit it because of his teshuvah alone and not because of fear or lack of strength.

Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah, Chapter 2, Halachah 2:

What constitutes teshuvah? That a sinner should abandon his sins and remove them from his thoughts, resolving in his heart, never to commit them again as [Isaiah 55:7] states: "May the wicked abandon his ways...." Similarly, he must regret the past as [Jeremiah 31:1] states: "After I returned, I regretted."

[He must reach the level where] He who knows the hidden will testify concerning him that he will never return to this sin again as [Hoshea 14:4] states: "We will no longer say to the work of our hands: 'You are our gods.'"

He must verbally confess and state these matters which he resolved in his heart.

24 September 2016

"Productive Teshuvah"

22 Elul 5776

In this last week before Rosh Hashanah, now that we've looked at some of the things we need to do teshuvah for, I'd like to turn the focus to the process of teshuvah itself.

Hatzlachah rabah to all of us!

Productive Teshuva (Repentance) Rosh Ha-Shana 2016

23 September 2016

Parashat Ki Tavo 5776

19 Elul 5776

Google had a cute little graphic with falling leaves yesterday telling me that it was the first day of autumn. It immediately brought to mind the colorful fall foliage of my youth in the old country. And as I thought about that, I wondered to myself - what are my visual cues now that we are leaving summer behind and heading into cooler fall weather? Of course, ripening pomegranates in the garden and ripe dates hanging from the trees lining the roads!

"When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name.

You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before the LORD your God that I have entered the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to assign us.”

~Shabbat Shalom~

22 September 2016

Has Man Become His Own God?

20 Elul 5776

For what it's worth, I think the "signs" connected to the Freedom Tower are harbingers of judgment. Look out New York!

Is It Really True That "They Are Either For Us or Against Us?"

19 Elul 5776

I just heard a very profound statement: "It looks as if the world is divided between those who are for us and those who are against us, but in reality, the whole world is against us."

And we don't even have a clue just how virulent the hatred really is.

(h/t Mystical Paths) Some pertinent excerpts:


...[In] September 2010 [Sandy Berger] sent Ms. Clinton ideas on how to pressure Israel to make concessions for peace. Mr. Berger acknowledged “how fragile Abbas’ political position [is],” and how “Palestinians are in disarray” and that “[f]ailure is a real possibility.” Mr. Berger was well aware, and informed Ms. Clinton, of the very real possibility that Israel would be placing its national security at grave risk in a deal that would very likely fail and lead to a Hamas takeover. But Mr. Berger felt the risks to Israeli lives were worth it. He advised making Mr. Netanyahu feel “uneasy about incurring our displeasure.”. . .

Anne Marie Slaughter, Clinton’s director of policy planning from 2009 to 2011,...wrote Ms. Clinton in September 2010, devising a scheme to encourage wealthy philanthropists to pledge millions to the Palestinians (which no doubt would have been embezzled by Abbas and his cronies, as were other funds). Ms. Slaughter writes, “This may be a crazy idea… Suppose we launched a ‘Pledge for Palestine’ campaign… Such a campaign among billionaires/multimillionaires around the world would reflect a strong vote of confidence in the building of a Palestinian state.”

She adds, “There would also be a certain shaming effect re Israelis, who would be building settlements in the face of a pledge for peace.”

Here’s how Clinton responded to this call for aiding “Palestine” and “shaming Israelis”: “I am very interested-pls flesh out. Thx.”

[Thomas] Pickering wrote Ms. Clinton on December 18, 2011, suggesting a secret plan to stir up major Palestinian protests in an attempt to force the Israeli government into peace negotiations. He stated that the protests “must be all and only women. Why? On the Palestinian side the male culture is to use force.”

Mr. Pickering’s goal was to ignite protests that would engulf the West Bank, “just like Tahrir Square.” He adds that the Palestinian “leadership has shied away from this idea because they can’t control it,” and they are “afraid of being replaced.”. . .

The idea was as dangerous for the Palestinians as it was for Israel. As Mr. Pickering admits, widespread protests could overthrow Abbas’ government, and if Palestinian men joined in, widespread violence would inevitably break out.

It would obviously be impossible to prevent men from participating in these demonstrations, yet Mr. Pickering felt this extreme risk was worth taking, even if it meant the replacement of Abbas with another Hamas-styled government—even if it meant violence breaking out across the West Bank, leading to a third intifada and the murder of countless Jews. He emphasized the need to hide all U.S. involvement in this plot. Ms. Clinton forwarded the email to Monica Hanley and asked her to “pls print.”

Clandestinely stirring up potentially violent protests in an attempt to force Israel to go against its best interests? Advice like this was par for the course when it came to Ms. Clinton’s advisers.

...These emails make it clear that, as Boteach says, key Clinton advisers were looking for ways, including manifestly irresponsible ones, to coerce Israel into making dangerous concessions to the Palestinians in exchange (from all that appears) for nothing.

These folks wouldn’t have sent such ideas to Clinton if they didn’t understand that she was looking for ways to accomplish the same goal.

21 September 2016

War Talk

19 Elul 5776

Four Flash Points That Could Trigger World War III: “We Have Not Been This Close To Nuclear War In A Long Time”

As can readily be seen by the current events, the world has not been this close to a nuclear war and World War 3 in a long time. There are four major flashpoints right now that could easily escalate and ignite a powder keg, transforming from a regional conflict or conflicts into a world war: Syria, the South China Sea, Ukraine, and North and South Korea. The “reconstruction” of a Cold War-type faceoff, initiated by the U.S. and NATO building up forces in Eastern Europe and facing off against Russia.

A nuclear war will be initiated by an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) detonation over the continental U.S., followed by a nuclear exchange and a war with conventional forces.

As of this writing, the U.S. has “mistakenly” bombed Syrian governmental military forces, causing at least 60 deaths with more than 100 others wounded. The Russian government is sizzling, especially with the response by (of all people) Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN....

See the rest here.

See related: U.S. bombers fly over South Korea for second time since North's nuclear test

Pentagon Chief: US Troops Poised To ‘Fight Tonight’ Against North Korea

Is North Korea Preparing for a Long-Range Nuclear Missile Launch?

It Doesn't Get Any Clearer Than This

18 Elul 5776

Just so we have things straight in our own minds (me included)...

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamoteihem (The Laws of Kings and Their Wars), Chapter 10, Halachah 9:
"A gentile who studies Torah is liable to the death penalty. They should be involved in the study of their Seven Mitzvot only."
(Commentary: A gentile who studies Torah - Other than the Seven Mitzvot
is liable to the death penalty - At the hand of God. Sanhedrin 59a comments: Deuteronomy 33:4 states: "The Torah which Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Children of Israel." "It is our heritage and not theirs." The passage continues, noting the connection between the words מורשה and מאורסה, "betrothed", and explains that a gentile's study of Torah is equivalent to adultery.)
"Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is liable to the death penalty. Needless to say, [he is liable for that punishment] if he creates a festival for himself.
The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the Mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding to [or] detracting from them.
If [a gentile] studies Torah, makes a Sabbath, or creates a [religious] practice, a [Jewish court] should beat him, punish him, and inform him that he is liable to the death penalty. However, he is not to be executed."
The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamoteihem (The Laws of Kings and Their Wars), Chapter 10, Halachah 10:
"We should not prevent a gentile (Ben-Noach) who desires to perform one of the Torah's Mitzvot in order to receive reward, from doing so, [provided] he performs it as required."
Commentary: We should not prevent a gentile who desires to perform one of the Torah's Mitzvot - i.e. one of the 613 Mitzvot commanded to the Jews aside from Torah study and the Sabbath.
in order to receive reward - A person who is not commanded to fulfill a mitzvah receives less reward for its observance than one who is commanded. Nevertheless, even in the latter instance, God acknowledges the person's deeds and grants him blessing.
A gentile may only fulfill mitzvot for the sake of reward. He is forbidden to accept them as obligations incumbent upon him. Thus, his intent must be the very opposite of that of a Jew who serves God for His sake and not for his own.
...[provided he perform it as required - He must perform the mitzvah in all of its particulars as required by Jewish law. The Radbaz explains that mitzvot which require holiness and purity, as for example, tefillin and mezuzah, should be withheld from gentiles.

The following comes from Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim at the Mesora.org website:

Gentiles and Torah Study:
Maimonides’ Subtle Lesson

Reader: I read your posts on gentiles studying Torah. I disagree [that Noachides are prohibited].
Everything I have read regarding restrictions on Torah study only applies to “idolaters”...not Noachides. The Talmud and Rambam refer to Star Worshippers (Ovade Kochavim). I know that this term was a result of the Christian censors, however, I also know that in the Temani manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah the term is “AKuM” (Star Worshipper). These manuscripts are free of the many errors of the Vilna edition. The Rambam makes a point to distinguish between a “Noachide” and an “idolater”. See his Laws of Sabbath 29:25, and Laws of Blessings 9:9 (7), Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:5 (8 in Vilna versions), and Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:2 (4). It is in Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:8 that the Rambam takes special pains to point out that unless he clarifies the term Star Worshipper it is used to refer to an idolater: “And every place that says ‘Star Worshipper’ unqualified, behold, this is a servant of idolatry.”

As far as I can tell this is very clear. Please correct me if I am wrong, but please quote sources so that I can study the issue, and so I can tell others the correct teaching. Thank you for your time.

A Noachide

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: You quote Maimonides Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:8: “And every place that says ‘Star Worshipper’ unqualified, behold, this is a servant of idolatry.” Your intent was to suggest that Maimonides maintains there exists two distinct individuals: a Star Worshipper, and a Noachide. From that first step, you wished to deduce that since Maimonides says (in Laws of Kings) that only a “Star Worshiper” is prohibited in Torah study, this is limited to a Star Worshipper, and thereby permits a Noachide to study. But you did not read the opening words of that law (Forbidden Foods 11:8) where Maimonides makes clear that his definitions are for “that” section of Laws of Forbidden Foods alone. Therefore, you cannot transpose his use of terminology onto other areas, since he openly limits his terms to that section.

Furthermore, if your position is correct that the prohibition of Torah study applies exclusively to idolaters, and not to Noachides, why do we find no laws concerning “Noachide” Torah study? The answer is because the prohibition of Torah study applied to “idolaters” in fact refers to ALL non-Jews, Noachides included. (I explained before that the reason behind this law is to maintain the Jew as the sole authority of Torah. Since the Jew alone is required to practice all of Torah, he is best suited to teach it, as his obligatory practice enforces greater attention to the Torah’s demands. This is not a racist law, but a practical law, which aims at insuring Torah for all people).

Now, a proof for my argument is derived from Talmud Sanhedrin 59a. It states there that an idolater who studies Torah is culpable of death. But that very Talmudic portion then asks, “Why is this prohibition not an eighth ‘Noachide’ law?” Consider carefully: this Talmudic question cannot be asked, if this portion were not including Noachides in the general term “Star Worshipper”. The Talmud is clearly referring to all Gentiles including Noachides, with its general reference of “idolater”.

The Talmud continues, “A Star Worshipper who studies Torah is akin to a Jewish High Priest; but this is no contradiction to the former threat of death for his Torah study: this latter praise applies to his study of his 7 Noachide laws.” Thus, the Talmud first condemns the Star Worshipper for Torah study, and then praises him for Torah study. The apparent contradiction is removed: the condemnation applies to one who studies more than his 7 Noachide Laws, and the praise applies to one who studies only his 7 laws. We thereby prove that the Talmud’s use of Star Worshipper is synonymous with Noachide, in this case.

In other areas you mentioned such as Laws of Forbidden Foods, Maimonides uses the terms Star Worshipper and Noachide differently, referring to two exclusive individuals. However, in his Laws of Kings he uses these two terms as referring to one single person; not separate individuals, but two “statuses” within that person! I will explain.

Regarding a Jew benefiting from idolatrous wine outlined in Laws of Forbidden Foods, there is a difference between a Star Worshipper’s wine, and the wine belonging to a Noachide. The Star Worshipper’s wine has greater prohibitions, understandably. Here, Star Worshipper and Noachide refer to two distinct people.

This distinction, you have carried over to all areas, but in error. You feel that the Talmud and Maimonides’ prohibition on Torah study is on Star Worshipers “alone”. I have disproved your position from Maimonides’ opening statement in Forbidden Foods 11:8, and from Talmud Sanhedrin…but there is more to learn here.

While researching your question, I realized an in interesting pattern in Maimonides’ classification. In his Laws of Kings (Chap. 10) Maimonides switches off between referring to a “Noachide” and a “Star Worshipper”. In that section when discussing any of the 7 Noachide Laws, he refers to the Gentile as “Noachide”. And when he discusses laws pertaining to anything other than the Noachide Laws, he uses the term “Star Worshipper”. On the surface, this might seem to support your theory, but I believe he switches his term for another lesson, which is quite insightful, and novel.

The 7 Noachide Laws include murder, stealing, cursing God, and others. When Maimonides outlined these 7 laws, he refers to the Gentile as “Noachide.” But there exists other laws for every Gentile.

A Gentile cannot study most Torah sections, he cannot observe the Sabbath, and he cannot smite a Jew. When Maimonides discusses these laws, which are not subsumed under the 7 Noachide Laws, but are equally binding, Maimonides refers to the Gentile as a “Star Worshipper”. The question is why Maimonides switches his term? Why is he not consistent in his terminology? The fact that he is referring to the same individual is proved from Laws of Kings 10:9: “A Star Worshipper who is engaged in Torah study is culpable of death, and he should only engage in his 7 Laws.” The words “his 7 laws” proves that in this section, unlike his Laws of Forbidden Foods, Maimonides refers to “one” person as both a Noachide, and a Star Worshipper. He is intent on distinguishing roles within one person.

The reason for this distinction I believe is as follows. Maimonides intends to educate the reader as to what “status” in Gentiles generates certain laws. In as much as one desires a right-to-life, he must observe a minimal set of laws, 7 Noachide Laws. If any one of these laws of broken, the person is punished with death. Even if this Gentile steals a penny, he is killed, whereas a Jew would not be. Why is this so? What is the justice? The reasoning is as we said; these 7 laws are a minimal system, which earns the observer a right to continued existence. If one cannot observe at a minimum, these 7 laws, then he has fallen below the threshold of God’s minimum standard of human life. He must be killed. But if a Jew stole a penny, he has not fallen below the threshold, since he has 612 others to keep him inline. God would be as lenient with this Gentile, if he chose to observe the 613 Commandments. God is equally just to all humans. This explains why Maimonides uses the term Noachide when addressing the 7 laws, since it is with these 7 that a Gentile earns his right-to-life; exactly what the Noachide Laws target.

But when discussing the Gentile’s prohibition of observing the Sabbath, Torah study and smiting the Jew, Maimonides switches his term to “Star Worshipper”. Why is that?

The reasoning is that here, Maimonides is no longer addressing laws regulating a Gentiles “right-to-life”, but other laws; laws that “obscure the boundary of Jew and non-Jew”. If a Gentile observes Sabbath, and studies Torah, he in fact renders himself to an onlooker ostensibly as a Jew: he acts like a Jew resting on the seventh day, and he partakes of the Jew’s unique role as Torah educator with his study of more than his 7 Noachide Laws. This is not a lack in fulfilling his Noachide role, since the Gentile is in fact doing ‘more’ with these two commands. No…the violation committed here with Sabbath observance and Torah study is regarding his role as Star Worshipper. His status as Noachide does not enter the picture, but the other status does: i.e., his status of “non-Jew”, or “Star Worshiper”, which was the original classification that offset the first Jew who was monotheistic.

Maimonides is exact. He uses the term Star Worshipper when addressing a Gentile’s violation in Sabbath observance and Torah study, since with these infractions, the Gentile is not failing in his “Noachide” role, but in his “Star Worshipper” role…a role which is diametrically opposite to the role of Jew. Just as a Star Worshipper opposes monotheism, so too, a Gentile who wishes to dilute the uniqueness of the Jew by copying his Sabbath ad Torah, equally destroys the Jew’s role, and monotheism. Similarly, Maimonides uses the term Star Worshipper when addressing the laws about a Gentile smiting a Jew, for the same reason.

The Jewish “ideology” must be preserved by the Gentile’s refrain from mimicking our primary commands of Sabbath, and Torah study. And the Jewish “body” is preserved by the Gentiles’ refrain from physically assaulting a Jew. And when a Gentile does not take care to preserve the Jew, that Gentile is failing due to his attachment to a “Star Worshipper” inclination. Appropriately, Maimonides calls that person a Star Worshipper, since these three laws address the preservation of the Jew so as to help the world oppose polytheism. Maimonides’ intent is to underscore the capacity in the Gentile that generates this violation. The Gentile who observes Sabbath destroys the Jew by obscuring the Jew’s role. Since this Gentile is not abandoning any of his 7 Noachide Laws, his violation is not in terms of his right-to-life “Noachide” status. Therefore, Maimonides does not address him as a Noachide. That status plays no role.

But when a Gentile fails to uphold all 7 Noachide laws, Maimonides now refers to him as a Noachide, that is, one who should have observed these 7 laws at a minimum. Here, he fails to uphold such a minimal system; he is referred to as a “Noachide who failed.” Failing to observe the law of stealing for example is not due to Star Worship tendencies, but to a Noachide right-to-life issue.

We now realize that Maimonides, in one section, will use the terms Star Worshipper and Noachide as referring to two individuals; and in Laws of Kings, he uses the same terms to refer to two statuses in a “single” person. This explains why there is no discussion about a Noachide studying Torah, since he is the identical person described in the prohibition of Torah study by “Star Worshippers” . Maimonides and the Talmud refer to a Gentile with a few references, thereby teaching the additional insight that certain sins are blameful due to certain roles for which we shirk responsibility.

When a teen fails to accurately compute geometry basics, we blame him for being a poor “student”, since it is his studies that we address. And when the same person does not visit his father who is sick in bed, the parent would be incorrect to say, “What a poor student you are”. For in this capacity, the blame addresses his role as a “child”. The appropriate blame would be “you are not a good son”.

So too here, Maimonides teaches us by changing a reference to the same Gentile, indicating his “capacity” or status that is to blame for his infraction.

Why Is it That What Should Be Self-Evident Rarely Is?

18 Elul 5776

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamoteihem (The Laws of Kings and Their Wars), Chapter 10, Halachah 10:

"...if an idolater gives chaity, we should accept it from him and give it to the gentile poor."

Commentary: Two reasons are given as to why charity should not be accepted from gentiles:
  • The merit of their generosity will prolong their rule over the Jews (Bava Batra 10b).
  • The fact that Jews feel it necesary to receive charity from gentiles causes chillul HaShem, the desecration of God's name, (Rashi, Sanhedrin 26b).

20 September 2016

Even Obama Sees We're in the Midst of Birur

18 Elul 5776

Barak Obama reportedly said in his speech at the UN today: "...there appears to be a growing contest between authoritarianism and liberalism right now."

In other words, between Law and Order (Hashem's) and chaos/anything-goes (NWO).He's right! In one word - birur.

"Do Everything You Can To Bring Mashiach"

17 Elul 5776

That's like saying "Do everything you can to bring Shabbat." We don't spend the week figuring out how to bring Shabbat. It's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it or make it come one day earlier.

What you can do is get ready for it. You can build the anticipation for it by buying or preparing something "likvod Shabbat kodesh" each and every day leading up to it. But, of course, the big push is on, beginning on the afternoon of Yom HaShishi (Friday), because the sun is already on the downward slide and when it goes, so goes any chance of doing anything else before Shabbat enters. Once the sun sets (or you light candles), whatever condition you are in at that time, whatever preparations you have made up til then, will just have to suffice because Shabbat has arrived.

It's the same way with redemption. Redemption-in-its-Time comes no matter what we do. All we can hope for is to be ready for it when it does.


Because of some questions int he comments, I ahve attempted to clarify a bit the remarks above. I hope this helps.

...I only meant by this post to point out that we don't "bring" Mashiach, HKB"H sends him. If we are deserving, he comes early, if we are not, still he will come, but at the end; however, even in that case, it comes earlier than the absolute end. And just like Shabbat comes at the end of the week without regard to what we do during the week, so the geulah is guaranteed to come no matter what and no one can stop it.

However, Mashiach is the conduit for the geulah, not us. We can't get tired of waiting for it to come and think we must then go out and make it happen, because this is exactly what led to the building of the golden calf. And there are many very questionable activities being carried out by Jews today in the mistaken idea that WE have to BRING the redemption. And it is distracting many good Jews from being busy doing the very thing that can actually hasten it in its time: Torah, mitzvot, and gemilut chasadim!

Maybe some think I am nitpicking the language here, but I don't think so. I think this is a very important point and distinction.

19 September 2016

What Many Don't Know...

17 Elul 5776

Every antisemite who thinks US foreign aid to Israel is a flat-out gift should see this video.

(h/t A.C, courtesy of Israel Beyond)

This, Too, Is Birthpangs of Mashiach

17 Elul 5776

This is the struggle to give birth. Am Yisrael is readying herself to receive her Mashiach. She has made her choice as to where she stands. The forces of evil are trying to prevent it, but they won't succeed. The Holy One Blessed Be He has so promised.

Some Fed Up Ashdod Residents Have Decided To ‘Get In The Face’ Of Frum Residents

Life between the chareidi and secular residents in Ashdod was uneventful for the most part, at least until last year when the Big shopping center began operating on the holy day. This led to protests by chareidim as well as threats of a boycott against the shopping center during the week by chareidim.

Now, tensions are increasing in some areas between the frum and the non-religious with both sides accusing the other of breaking the religious status-quo.

This follows a recent initiative to disrupt Shabbos in Bnei Brak, part of a Facebook campaign against the frum community in the Torah city, reportedly in retaliation for chareidi efforts to prevent Israel Railways’ from carrying out construction on Shabbos. Railway officials explain the work is ‘pikuach nefesh’ and if conducted on weekdays, the delays and interruptions of service would be huge in addition to incurring significant financial loss. That event was met with many secularists opposing the idea, feeling it was not an appropriate response. The event was to have taken place this past Shabbos and there are no reports that it did.

An initiative to hold a similar Shabbos party event in Ashdod has 334 persons agreeing to attend in Ashdod. Some respondents point out that in the “Zayin” area of the city, the chareidim have shut everything down on Shabbos “and it has become like a ghetto”.

“Every week it is the same thing – shouts of ‘Shabbos’. We are tired of it” another writes, a resident of area Gimmel, who states “for years we lived side-by-side and now this has changed”.

During the summer months, tensions increased as secular residents filled area parks on Shabbos and some expressed opposition to chareidim walking around in those areas on Shabbos. They explain that despite it being public areas, they were bothered by the chareidi presence.

18 September 2016

Whom Does Am Yisrael Serve?

16 Elul 5776

Someone sent me the following...
"...[One rabbi says] that Israel as a nation of Priests of HaShem, Jews are to serve the peoples of the world as the priesthood served the nation of Israel. ...[And another rabbi says] Israel is to be a light to the nations. He said we are 'to disiminate the teachings of the Torah to the whole world'...."
The only thing that counts is what the Torah says. Who does the Torah say Am Yisrael serves - HASHEM or the nations?
Exodus 19:5-6
“And now, if you listen well to Me and observe My covenant, you will be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples, for Mine is the entire world. You shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.”
Rashi: And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes: Heb., מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהִנִים, princes, as it is said: “and David’s sons were chief officers (כֹּהִנִים)” (II Sam. 8:18). -[from Mechilta]
Even if you want to take the word "Cohanim" out of its context and make it mean Cohanim as in the priets serving in the Temple, you can't make it into serving the nations because Hashem plainly said "to Me" and when the Cohanim were serving Hashem in the Temple, they were not teaching the nations.
Devarim 6:12-13, 21-25
Beware for yourself lest you forget Hashem Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. Hashem, your God, shall you fear, Him shall you serve,....
You shall say to your child, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong hand. …And he took us out of there in order to bring us, to give us the Land that He swore to our forefathers. Hashem commanded us to perform all these decrees, to fear Hashem, our God, for our good, all the days, to give us life, as this very day. And it will be a merit for us if we are careful to perform this entire commandment before Hashem, our God, as He commanded us.
In the prophets, it says at least eleven times (Isaiah 43:10, 44:1, 44:2, 44:21, 45:4, 49:3, 45:4, 49:3, Ezekiel 28:25, Jeremiah 30:10, 46:27-28) and possibly more: "Jacob, My servant..."

But, before you say well, the Jews serve Hashem by teaching the nations. According to the Ramchal, there are three ways in which the Jews serve Hashem: 1) the learning of Torah, 2) the performance of mitzvot, and 3) prayer. 

If taking the Torah to the nations were our ultimate goal or mission in this world, you'd think that one of these references in the Torah or the Prophets would state so clearly, however it does not. The only reference to this phrase "light to the nations" was addressed to Isaiah himself and nowhere is it ever stated that this is an obligation - a commandment - for Am Yisrael. In fact, it does not appear on any list of the 613 commandments. However, look how many commandments tell us to beware coming close to Idolatry:
  • To entertain no thought that there is any other god except the blessed God.
  • To make no idol to worship.
  • Not to make any idol to be worshipped [by himself or by anyone else], even for a heathen.
  • Not to bow down and prostrate oneself to an idol.
  • Not to worship an idol in the way that it is usually venerated.
  • Not to swear in the name of an idol.
  • Not to lead a town in Israel astray to worship in idolatry
  • To eat or drink nothing from an offering to an idol.
  • Not to turn one’s attention to idolatry
  • To have no benefit from an idol, from its offering or it attendants, or anything done on its behalf. 
  • Not to intermarry with a non-Jewish person. (Interesting juxtaposition)
  • To have no mercy on idol-worshippers.
  • Not to follow the fixed customs of the heathen.
  • Not to pay heed to a person prophesying in the name of an idol. 
  • To entice no one in Jewry to worship an idol.
  • For the enticed person to bear no affection for the enticer.
  • For the enticed person no to relinquish his hatred for the enticer.
  • Not to rescue the enticer if one sees him in danger of death.
  • Not to prophesy in the name of an idol.
  • To make no gashes and incisions in one’s flesh in idol-worship…
  • Not to settle idol-worshippers in our [holy] land.
(With what's going on in the vineyards of the Shomron today, the bolded ones are borderline being broken already.) And I will remind the reader yet again of the Rambam's position in his Mishneh Torah:
The Rambam in Hilchot Avodah Zarah, Chapter 7, Halachah 1:
It is a positive commandment to destroy false deities, all their accessories, and everything that is made for their purposes, as [Devarim 12:2] states: "You shall surely destroy all the places [where the gentiles... served their gods]" and, as [implied by Devarim 7:5]: "Rather, what you should do to them is tear down their altars."
In Eretz Yisrael, the mitzvah requires us to hunt after idol worship until it is eradicated from our entire landIn the diaspora, however, we are not required to hunt after it. Rather, whenever we conquer a place, we must destroy all the false deities contained within.
[The source for this distinction is Devarim 12:3, which] states: "And you shall destroy their name from this place," [implying that] you are obligated to hunt false deities in Eretz Yisrael, but you are not obligated to do so in the diaspora.
From the commentary: On we are not required to hunt after it. - since these lands are not holy, we are not obligated to eradicate idol worship from them. (Kinat Eliyahu)
Here is yet another rabbi's take on this subject...

In case the video does not display for you, it can be viewed here.

Various gedolei hador have ruled that christianity is avodah zarah. In 1964, Rav Soleveichik zt"l ruled that, despite Vatican II, it was still forbidden to teach Torah to christians. He further forbade teaching them how to learn Torah or even to teach them lashon hakodesh. As it is prohibitted to teach idolators Torah, This can only mean that he considered them ovdei avodah zara: there is not other reasonable explanation.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l ruled at least twice that christians were idolators: he ruled that if one is in the middle of a shiur and a christian walks in, even though it is forbidden to teach them Torah, it is not neccessary to interrupt the shiur. As above, the only reason it would be forbidden to teach christians Torah would be if they were idolators; he also wrote a teshuva to a shailah whether it was permitted to teach a class to a group of reform children (since some of them would obviously be gentiles) that it was permitted because since those children attended a reform "temple" it was unlikely that they were idolators and that the need to teach Jewish children the Emess outweighed the (in this case) unlikely violation of the prohibition against teaching idolators. I can't imagine that Reb Moshe was concerned about an Indianapolis "temple" being overrun by, say, buddhist or hindu children. Clearly he considered christians to be ovdei avodah zara.

More recently, within the past few years, Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv zt"l has ruled on at least two seperate occasions, in very clear language, that christianity is avodah zara: A Jew planning a trip to Israel was asked by a christain bussiness associate if he would pray for him in Jeruslam. He wrote a shailah to Rav Eliyashiv to ask if this was permitted. Rav Eliyashiv respponded with one sentence: it is prohibiited to pray for an idolator. He also ruled that it was forbidden for Mosdos to accept money from the "International Fellowship of christians and Jews" (an organization almost entirely funded by christian churches) under the prohibition of accepting tzedaka from idolators. (Source: Rabbi Yaron Reuven)