Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

Shemittah and this blog


This blog is dedicated to learning more about what Shemittah is all about in our time. Shemittah and Eretz Yisroel are so intertwined that one can not separate one from the other. The Shemittah year is basically one that can be best described as a socialist commune. All agriculture produce is collectively owned. Actually, it is owned by our Creater who commands us to share it. All debts are to be concelled at the end of the year thereby cancelling any feeling of ownership. The idea of Shemittah which is synonomous with the number 7 and Shabbat all point to the Creator of the World as the ultimate King. We, the Nation of Israel are His loyal subjects. Many posts here relate to how tragic recent events have given way to a Shemittah like lifestyle. There are posts referring to the importance of keeping the Commandments, Shemittah included, which gives us the right to the Land of Israel. Shemittah, like learning Torah, like Shabbat is basically a Mitzvah that is Keneged (equal) to all the other Mitzvoth. It is Shemittah and Shabbat that gives us a better understanding of the importance of keeping all the Mitzvoth of the Torah
Please read all the posts including the original posts written in September if you wish to hear a very personal yet powerful experience regarding the Shemittah year in recent years that is unlike the typical Shemittah current experience which includes Pruzbul and Heter Mechirah and buying produce from non Jewish sources.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sefer Yehoshua - Conquest of Yericho


I know I should be preparing for the Bas Mitzva but I can't seem to stop blogging...

Neighbors on my block (Brooklyn) have started learning Sefer Yehoshua. Learning Sefer Yehoshua has really been wonderful. We've been getting material from Meam Loez and has wonderful material on Sefer Yehoshua, pasuk by pasuk. Each week the group meets at a different house on my block (we are around 9 participating women and kids play nearby). The hostess prepares a Perek in Yehoshua (as well as nosh of course). I prepared Perek Vav this week. This week was about the conquering of Yericho. There were 7 Shofars with 7 Kohanim in front of the Aron and for 7 days each day the warriors of the 12 tribes surrounded Yericho. Then they circled it 1 time each day. On the 7th day however, they circled Yericho 7 times. The Seventh day was Shabbat. There's something special about the number 7 and Eretz Yisroel. (There are parallels of encircling Yericho to the Hakofot on Sukkot in the time of the Beis Hamikdash. Please enlighten me about the Minhag in Yerushalyim nowadays. In shuls on Sukkot, we circle around the Bima each day and on Hoshana Rabba 7 times. I understand there are very significant kabbalistic meanings of this practice that complement the significance of Am Yisroel encircling Yericho)

In the procession of Yehoshua, the Shofars proclaimed Hashem King. The Shofar proclaims Hashem as King on Rosh Hashana as well. The conquest of Yericho was primarily to demonstrate the Kingship of Hashem. The city was conquered via a blatent miracle from Hashem. When the Tekia sounded and the people shouted, the walls sunk. As Yericho was the first conquest in Eretz Canaan, it was especially important that there be a proclamation that G-d is King and He created the world and decides who to give the Land of Israel. He showed via miracles that He is giving it to Am Yisroel. The entire city was cherem LaHashem. (Appropriate that on Shabbos one should not enjoy any benefit from Chillul Shabbat, even though Shabbat was precisely when Hashem wanted Yehoshua to conquer Yericho) The metals, gold, silver, copper brass were cherem for the treasurehouse of the Mishkan and the rest of the city was totally destroyed. Men, women, children, young, old were slain by the sword except for Rahav and her house. The idolatry was so terrible that what was done to them compares to what is to be done with Amalek so that the evil ways of the people would not adversely affect Am Yisroel. Rahav's possessions were saved with her even though the rest of the items in the city destroyed completely, so that she shouldn't be left homeless. She and members of her family turned over a new leaf and accepted to be part of Am Yisroel and married the elite of Am Yisroel The city was burnt and Yehoshua swore that it should never to be rebuilt so that the world is witness to the power of Hashem and His decision to give the Land to Am Yisroel. Yehoshua wrote Aleinu, proclaiming G-d as King and recited it backwards and frontwards during the conquest. This was then put into the Rosh Hashana davening.

At the group meeting, I noted the email from Rachel Saperstein (Operation Bandaid) and the email from Dr. Temkin about the airlift. I also brought up the teenager still in prison.

Lester and Jeannette Goldsmith from my shul (in laws of Chaim Richman) came back from Israel this week. He was at the funerals of the disenterred from Gush Katif at Har Hazeitim. He said that 12 of the bodies did not decompose. A sign that these were truly tzadikim.

He described a scene where he was on the bus in Bet El and one of the people on the bus was a refugee of Gush Katif a former farmer of 30 years and he was crying that he had a house, a farm and now he didn't even know where to get off...

There are those that believe, myself included that the time has come to be like the warriors in the time of Yehoshua who were willing to defend the right of the Land of Israel. We are Bnei Brisecho, the Children of the Covenant. The State of Israel may not see the need to defend our claim to the Land. Let those warriors (age 20 and up) that wish to defend our claim to the Land come forth and unite and may Hashem be with us.

As I was performing Kaporot Erev Yom Kippur designating the money for Operation Bandaid, I received a phone call telling me about a young women age 42 who passed away suddenly a week ago Friday night I thought to myself, now I know why I'm doing Kapparot. On Yom Kippur when we were all walking to shul in our rubber sandels and slippers in the drenching rain, my thoughts were on the people of Gush Katif and their open sandels...

It's tragic...
Shavua Tov!

Im taamin sheefshar lekalkel taamin sheefshar letaken. (Rabbi Nachman of Breslev) If you believe, that one can destroy believe one can repair.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Seal for Life the People of Your Covenant


A thought after Yom Kippur.

Are we the Children of the Covenant?

At Neila we cry out "Uchsom LeChaim Tovim Kol Bnei Brisecha". Seal for Life the Children of Your Covenant.

Let us focus on the Covenant!

Eretz Yisroel is promised as an inheritance to the seed of our forefathers. This has to be proclaimed loud and clear for all to hear. The Nation of Israel are obligated to keep the Mitzvoth specific to the Land.

Mitzvoth such as Shemittah, Maaser Rishon , Maaser Sheni, Bikurim etc those Mitzvoth that are read during Hakhel (see blog on Hakhel) should be a subject of intense discussion and review to see whether we have indeed been the People of the Covenant.

May that day be eminent and may we all be zocheh to Moshiach speedily in our days.

Shabbat Shalom!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Succot Memory

This isn't the most pleasant memory of the kotel, but it's a true story.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Expect no new posts till after Succoth from Robin


Because of the upcoming Simcha of my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, I will be putting a hold on blogging till the week after Succoth.

Wishing you all an easy fast, may we all be zocheh to be sealed in the Book of Life! Chag Sameach! A very joyous Succoth to all!

Al Na Tastir Paneicha Mimeni, Beyom Tzar Li


This was the song sung by the people of Gush Katif as the expulsion was taking place in Neve Dekalim. The people gathered in the Shul and parts of the service from Yom Kippur davening were recited by the Rav. There was the declaration of Shma Yisroel and Hashem Hu Haelokim seven times. This service was then followed by the Bracha of a mourner, Baruch Dayan Haemes. This was followed by Kria (the tearing of the garment of a mourner). After Kria there was a heartrending painful crying out to Hashem not to hide His face - Al Na Tastir Paneicha Mimeni, Beyom Tzar Li - Please don't conceal Your Face on the day of my suffering!

In Parshat Vayelech it describes a painfully similar scenario. In Devarim Perek 31 Pasukim 17-18 it says "My anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them; and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey, and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day 'Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?' But I will surely have concealed My face on that day because of all the evil that it did, for it had turned to gods of others.

In the Stone Chumash commentary it says "These two verses begin with G-d's wrath and the concealment of His countenance because of Israel's sins. Then, after Israel acknowledges that its suffering was caused because G-d removed Himself from their midst - which would seem to be the sort of repentance that should inspire G-d's mercy - strangely, G-d says again that He will conceal Himself from them. In fact Rashi (Isaiah 8:17) says that this is the harshest of all prophecies; it is softened only by verse 21, which promises that, no matter what, the Torah will not be forgotten by Israel.

The question remains however: Why will G-d continue to conceal Himself after Israel has repented? Ramban explains that Israel's declaration of verse 17 falls short of genuine repentance, because even though they acknowledge their guilt, they are not ready to confess and repent wholeheartedly. Nevertheless, G-d will respond favorably, because verse 18 does not speak of new suffering; however, He will conceal Himself in the sense that He will not reveal the impending redemption, and Israel will have to have strong faith that G-d will never reject them entirely (see Leviticus 26:44) The complete redemption must await confession and complete repentance, as in 30:2.

On Rosh Hashana in shul we said in the Zichronos Vayikra 26 Pasuk (42) "Vezacharti as Brisi Yaakov, Veaf as Brisi Yitzchok, Veaf es Brisi Avraham Ezkor, Vehaaretz Ezkor". I will remember My Covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My Covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land. "

If you look in the Chumash in Vayikra following this Pasuk it says:
(43)The Land will be bereft of them; and it will be appeased for its sabbaticals having become desolate of them; and they must gain appeasement for their iniquity, because they were revolted by My ordinances and because their spirit rejected My decrees.

What was the covenant promised individually to each of our Forefathers? The Covenant of Yaakov is in Breishis Perek 28 Pasukim 13-16.

"And behold! Hashem was standing over him, and He said, "I am Hashem, G-d of Abraham your father and G-d of Isaac; the ground upon which you are lying, to you will I give it and to your descendants. Your offspring shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out powerfully westward, eastward, northward and southward; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and by your offspring. Behold. I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go, and I will return you to this soil; for I will not forsake you until I will have done what I have spoken about you."

The Covenant to Yitzchok is Breishis Perek 26 Pesukim 2-6.

"Hashem appeared to him and said, "Do not descend to Egypt; dwell in the land that I shall indicate to you. Sojourn in this land I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your offspring will I give all these lands, and establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father; I will increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens; and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring. Because Abraham obeyed My voice, and observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and my Torahs.

The Covenant with Avraham is Breishis Perek 15 Pesukim 18-21.

On that day Hashem made a covenant with Abram saying; "To your descendants have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River, the Kennite, the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, and the Rephaim; the Amorite, the Cananite, the Girgashite and the Jebusite"

Then again in Parshas Lech Lecha before Hashem commands Avraham and his household to do Bris Mila (circumcision) Hashem says Perek 17, Pasuk 2 "I will set My covenant between Me and you and I will increase you most exceedingly". After Hashem changes Avrams name to Avraham He says Pasuk 7 "I will ratify My covenant between Me and you and between your offspring after you, throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant, to be a G-d to you and to your offspring after you, and I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns - the whole of the land of Canaan -as an everlasting possession; and I shall be a G-d to them." Then Hashem describes the covenant that Avraham should keep - the Bris Milah. Pasuk 13 "Thus, My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."

In Parshas Vayera when Hashem decides to inform Avraham of his decision to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, Perek 18 Pasuk 18 "And Hashem said, 'Shall I conceal from Abraham what I do, now that Abraham is surely to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? For I have loved him, because he commands his children and the household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice, in order that Hashem might then bring upon Abraham that which He had spoken of him."

Following the Akeida in Breishis 22 Pasuk 15 it says "The angel of Hashem called to Abraham, a second time from heaven. And he said, "By Myself I swear - the word of Hashem - that because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only one, that I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."

The Covenants and promises to the forefathers share some of the following points.
  1. Land is promised to them and to their children afterwards
  2. They will multiply as the dust or sand of the earth and as the stars
  3. The Nations of the world are blessed through them
  4. The children must keep the commandments in order to be worthy of the Land.

The Torah in Nitzavim Perek 29 Pasuk 23 says And all the nations will say, "For what reason did Hashem do so to this Land; why this wrathfulness of great anger?" (24)And they will say, "Because they forsook the Covenant of Hashem, the G-d of their forefathers, that He sealed with them when He took them out of the Land of Egypt, and they went and served the gods of others and prostrated themselves to them, gods that they knew not and He did not apportion to them. So G-d's anger flared against that Land to bring upon the entire curse that is written in this Book; and Hashem removed them from upon their soil with anger, with wrath, and with fury and He cast them to another land as this very day! The hidden[sins] are for Hashem, our G-d but the revealed [sins] are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah.

B"h we were not expelled by a foreign country. We were expelled in Gush Katif by our loving brothers. (Tears were flowing on both sides) We are not yet expelled out of our entire Land. We still have a chance of Teshuva. A chance to reclaim our Land. Let us delve into studying the Mitzvoth and may Hashem do as He promises at the end of this Parsha Perek 30 Pasukim 7-10
"Hashem, your G-d will place all these imprecations upon your enemies and those who hate you, who pursued you. You shall return and listen to the voice of Hashem, and perform all His commandments that I command you today. Hashem will make you abundant in all your handiwork - in the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your animals, and the fruit of your Land - for good, when Hashem will return to rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your forefathers, when you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d, to observe His commandments and His decrees, that are written in this Book of the Torah, when you shall return to Hashem your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul.

The first step is to declare that Eretz Yisroel is promised as an inheritance to the seed of our forefathers. Let us lobby each and every Rav Chareidi, CHasidish, in Eretz Yisroel and in the Diaspora to proclaim the right of our inheritance. That must be a given. That is our Covenant. Without that given every other argument does not have a base to stand on. Was this done? This can be done. Lo Bashamayim Hi!

The second step is to emphasize that the Nations of the world will bless themselves through the Nation of Israel.

The third and most difficult step is to focus on the Mitzvoth such as Shemittah, Maaser Rishon , Maaser Sheni, Bikurim etc those Mitzvoth that are read during Hakhel (see blog on Hakhel).

May that day be eminent and may we all be zocheh to Moshiach speedily in our days.
Gmar Chasima Tova!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ketiva Vechatima Tova!


Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very Kesiva Vechasima Tova. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life! Thank you for blogging in.


A Pessimistic Outlook for Am Yisroel? Chas Veshalom!


Reading the second part of Parshat Vayelech was somewhat depressing.

First Hashem tells Moshe, Perek 31 Pesukim 16-19. "Hashem said to Moses, "Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will rise up and stray after the gods of the foreigners of the Land, in whose midst it is coming, and it will forsake Me and annul My covenant that I have sealed with it. May anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them, and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey, and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day, Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me? But I will surely have concealed My face on that day because of all the evil that it did, for it had turned to gods of others."

Here is the last talk Moshe gave the people before his death.

"So it was that when Moses finished writing the works of this Torah into a book, until their conclusion. Moses commanded the Levites, the bearers of the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem, your G-d and it shall be there for you as a witness. For I know your rebelliousness and your stiff neck, Behold while I am still alive, with you today, you have been rebels, against Hashem - and surely after my death. Gather to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers and I shall speak these words in to their ears and call heaven and earth to bear witness against them. For I know that after my death, you will surely act corruptly, and you will stray from the path that I have commanded you, and evil shall befall you at the end of days . If you do what is evil in the eyes of Hashem to anger him through your handiwork."

The heavens and earth are called upon as witnesses. Perek 32 pasuk 1. "Haazinu Hashamayim VeAdabera, Vesishma Haretz Imrai Fi". Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.

Perek 31 Pasukim 19-21. Heaven and earth are witnesses to the fact that G-d brought us to the Land promised to our forefathers and heaven and earth are witnesses when we have annulled the Covenant.

May G-d save us from natural disasters. Can we prove Moshe wrong? Please G-d, You are a righteous judge. It's not really fair if our rebelliousness is pre ordained. Let us really focus on the Mitzvoth and let these lessons come via the Mitzvoth such as Shemittah and Maaser and not through curses. Curses are in fact also for our ultimate good. The whole picture is hidden to us. We don't see the silver lining. We bless G-d for the good and for the bad. Curses however, are very painful. For an example on how we learn lessons by keeping Shemittah that is equivalent to lessons learned from a "curse" such as the expulsion of Gush Katif, please read previous blog on the Mitzvah of Hakhel and the blog about how pooling our resources to help the people of Gush Katif is similar to the Shemittah year.

G-d is a fair judge and gives us free choice. He asks us to choose life. We have had a taste of the curse from the expulsion of Gush Katif. That's enough. Let us focus on the Mitzvoth and reap the blessings!

Vayelech - Mitzva of Hakhel


This weeks parsha talks about the Mitzvah of Hakhel.

Devarim Perek 31 Pasuk 9

"Moses wrote this Torah and gave it to all the Kohanim, the sons of Levi, the bearers of the Ark of the covenant of Hashem, and to all the elders of Israel.

Moses commanded them saying, "At the end of seven years, at the time of the Sabbatical year, during the Succos festival, when all Israel comes to appear before Hashem, your G-d, in the place that He will choose, you shall read this Torah before all Israel, in their ears, Gather together the people - the men, the women, and the small children, and your stranger who is in your cities - so that they will hear and so that they will learn, and they shall fear Hashem, your G-d, and be careful to perform all the words of this Torah. And their children who do not know - they shall hear and they shall learn to fear Hashem, your G-d, all the days that you live on the land to which you are crossing the Jordan, to possess it."

The Rambam [Hilchos Chagiga 3:3] lists the sequence of the chapters in Devorim that were read at Hakhel: Read "From the beginning of the book of Devorim until the end of the parsha of 'Shma' [Hear Oh Israel]. Then read 'V-haya im Shamoa' [And it will be if you will listen], followed by 'aser t- aser' [You shall surely tithe]. Then, continue in sequence until the end of the 'Blessings and Curses' until the words 'besides the Covenant which He entered into with them at Chorev' and then stop (u'posek).

Once every seven years - on the first day of Chol HaMoed of Succos that followed the Sabbatical Year - the entire nation was commanded to come together at the Temple to listen to the king read to them from Deuteronomy. He read from the beginning of the Book to the end of the first paragraph of the Shema (6:9), the second paragraph of the Shema (11:13-21), and 14:22-28:69.

Many ask the question "Why davka after the Shemittah year are these passages read?" I can tell you my own personal revelation. During the Shemittah year, many of the Mitzvoth of the Torah were suspended. There is no Maaser, there is no Maaser Sheni or Maaser Ani. There is no Bikurim. There is no Leket Shikcha and Peah. In the Shemittah year we are all equal and the the fields are open for all to take. All fruits are hefker. It is a year where all our established givens of property, mine vs yours are suspended because all belongs to Hashem. For a year it was great. It was fun. But frankly after a year we've had enough. We appreciate the Mitzvoth of mine and yours and setting aside for the Leviim a tithe. These passages that the king reads are precisely the passages that relate to private ownership of those that own property and those that don't. These are the laws of tithes and gifts to the Cohaninim, Leviim, converts, widow and orphans. The Torah takes on a whole new meaning because we now have first hand knowledge of what it's like when all property rights are in limbo and fused under everything belonging ultimately to the Rebbono Shel Olam. These Mitzvoth of the Torah are not relevant in the Shemittah year. Our appreciation of the Torah is now magnified many times over because we've experienced living life without these Mitzvoth. We are like a Baal Teshuva whose love of Torah is so great because he/she knows what it's like to live without certain Mitzvoth and the chaos that results. We are born again at Har Sinai and are mekabel the Torah again with love. When we keep Shemittah properly G-d would not have to send the Goyim to force us to assimilate only to perhaps generations later make us alive once again as a Baal Teshuva. Being a Baal Teshuva is a direct consequence of keeping Shemitta.

Why are all men, women and children told to come? My experience gave me the understanding that all men, women and children experienced life without certain Mitzvoth.

My father A"h used to say "You'll learn the hard way".

So don't clean your knapsack. You'll see what happens. Sometimes it takes a really, really messy knapsack to appreciate an orderly one. G-d kivyachol gives us a year reprieve to have that messy knapsack to the point when we will crave for the orderly one. And that ultra neat kid who is obsessed with an orderly knapsack will find true freedom to simply let loose and for the sake of the Mitzva loosen up. Now that's freedom as well. It's a topsy turvy year. There will be first hand knowledge of Torah by even very small children who were allowed to pick fruits without asking permission. Now they will need to relearn the correct way to live when it's not a shemittah year.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Shannah Tovah

I'd like to wish all of you a wonderful year, lots better than the last one. Read about the last days of mine.

Gmar Chatima Tovah!