From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “We demand of all our brethren who possess some sense of what holiness is…, that they should know their duty: They must make known to the public that as long as we allow our movement of rebirth to rest exclusively on secularist foundations, we are endangering its entire status. We are closing the door on its development, and decreasing its stature”
(Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, Degel Yerushalayim)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Return in Mercy to Your City, Jerusalem”
From the 5th of Iyar, Israeli Independence Day, we ascend in holiness to the 28th of Iyar, Jerusalem Day. And from “With love You led the people you redeemed” (Exodus 15:13), we arrive at the higher spiritual level of “With might, You led them to Your holy shrine” (ibid.) — Jerusalem, site of our Temple.
Jerusalem is the heart of Eretz Yisrael, the center of its life, and it is linked to all of Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, zt”l, who merited to be among the first to arrive at the Western Wall on the day of its liberation, was requested on that exciting historic occasion, to make a radio address, expressing a few words to the world. In his confident, roaring voice, he proclaimed: “Let it henceforth be known to the entire Jewish People, to the entire world and all who inhabit it once and for all, that on orders from the Creator of the universe, on orders of Him who knows all human history in advance, we have arrived and returned home, and we will never leave here!!!”
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt”l, with his deep and penetrating vision, foresaw the opposition — from within and from without — that would arise against Israel’s returning to the Kotel and the Temple Mount, and his cry has echoed from then until today.
Today, the war over Jerusalem has not ended. Our enemies have not resigned themselves to Jewish rule over Jerusalem, and they continue to fight us, with their struggle always taking different forms. Sometimes, it involves an all-out war, like the Yom Kippur war. Sometimes it involves an intifada, and sometimes, they stealthily employ a “peace attack”, like the wretched Oslo Accords, whose purpose was the destruction of the State of Israel.
Our enemy’s goal is to snuff out the light of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, and in Jerusalem specifically. The Rabbis said, “Jerusalem is the light of the universe,” and the war over Jerusalem is not just a physical war, but, first and foremost, a war over the revelation of G-d’s light in the world. Whoever settles in Jerusalem, building it and defending it, increases light and goodness in the world. The Jewish people and our political and military leadership need to and have an obligation to learn what Jerusalem is, and what value it has for the Jewish people and for the entire world. Moreover, they must learn what the essence of Jerusalem’s soul is. By such means, they will draw the strength and fortitude required to face up to the struggles and battles over Israel and over Jerusalem. On Jerusalem Day, we must learn and delve deeply into its meaning. We have to recognize and connect ourselves to it, and we had to go up to Jerusalem and to rejoice in its happiness. And may we be the living fulfillment of the prayer: “Return in mercy to Your city Jerusalem, and dwell in it as You have promised” (Shemoneh Esreh).
Have a joyous Jerusalem Day,
Looking forward to complete redemption
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Evildoer why Should you hit Your Wife?”
Unfortunately the phenomenon of husbands hitting and humiliating their wives is not new. It cuts across all communities, Jews and non-Jews, believers and nonbelievers, Haredim, religious and secular, adults and youths, simple people and the highly educated.
Therefore down through the ages our holy sages railed bitterly against this phenomenon. The first was Maharam MiRottenberg, whose words were recorded as law in the Shulchan Aruch, itself, by Rema:
“If a man hits his wife he has a sin, no less than hitting another man. And if he does so chronically, the court can punish him and excommunicate him and give him lashes, employing all sorts of coercion, and making him swear that he will not do it anymore. And if he does not obey the court, some say that following one or two warnings we force him to divorce his wife. Wife beating is not the Jewish way. It is the act of an idolater” (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 154:3, in Rema).
Be’er HaGolah adds:
“I found in the name of the old Responsa of Mahariyu that one’s punishment for hitting one’s wife is greater than one’s punishment for hitting one’s fellow man, for one has no obligation to treat his friends with honor, but one has an obligation to preserve the honor of his wife and to honor her more than himself. He can force her to move to Eretz Yisrael with him, but he cannot force her to leave Israel with him. She was given him to live with, and not to torment. His punishment for hitting her is greater than his punishment for hitting his friend, for she has placed her trust in him, and women cry easily.”
One might wonder, why Rambam did not rule that a husband is forbidden to hit his wife. The answer is simple. It is not Rambam’s way to bring laws that are not written explicitly in the Talmud. If so, the question returns full force: why is it not written in the Talmud? It is because our holy rabbis did not suffice with a husband not hitting or humiliating his wife. Rather, they demanded that he love and honor her, as in the Rambam’s ruling:
“The sages commanded that a man should honor his wife more than himself. Indeed he should love her as himself. And if he possesses much wealth, he should benefit her accordingly. He must not instill in her excessive fear. Rather he should speak to her softly. He should not speak to her in an aggravated or angry tone” (Hilchot Ishut 15:19).
All the same, the Shulchan Aruch adds a new idea, that hitting one’s wife is enough of a pretext for her to demand a divorce, and we then require the husband to give her one. From the Vilna Gaon there, we may derive that the reason for this is that the husband is “violating ‘dat’”, i.e., our faith. In other words, he is violating the Torah prohibition against hitting one’s fellow man.
Many Rabbinical courts have made use of this ruling by Shulchan Aruch (Rabbinic Rulings, I, page 77; III, page 346; VI, page 221; VII, page 65; VIII, page 104; VIII, page 216; VIII, page 303; IX, page 200; X, page 3; XI, page 327).
Yet those with a genius for evil found themselves an excuse to hit their wives based on the continuation of Rama:
“All this applies when he started it, but if she cursed him for no reason or mocked his parents, and he rebuked her for this but she didn’t pay any heed, some say that he is allowed to hit her. Some say that a husband cannot hit even an evil wife, and the first opinion is the main one.”
Obviously, there is nothing simpler for a husband than to decide that his wife is evil, and that he is as pure as the driven snow. Yet he cannot claim that without proving it, and the response to his words is in what follows in the Rama:
“If the court does not know who started the argument, the husband is not believed to say that his wife started, for all wives are presumed to be reputable. Other women are brought in to investigate who is at fault. If she is cursing him for no reason, she is divorced without [the monetary compensation of] the ketuvah.” (ibid.).
Such indeed is the Halachah, that a woman who curses her husband’s parents violates “dat yehudit” [Jewish faith], and is entitled to divorce her without her ketuvah (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 115:4). Yet we have to investigate well whether or not she is cursing him just like that, without his having done anything wrong, or whether his behavior towards her is responsible. As Be’er Hetev wrote in the name of the Re’em:
“…Only if she is cursing him for no reason, but if he hits her or causes her great anguish, we have a rule that people are not held accountable for what they do when they are in anguish.” (ibid., se’if katan 14).
After all, even if she curses his parents for no reason, we have to ask why he should be allowed to beat her. Perhaps Rabbi Akiva Eigar hints at an answer to this (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 154:3) when he quotes the Yam Shel Shlomo. Regarding the principle of a person being able to “take matters into his own hands,” a person is allowed to save his [stolen] money by hitting the thief when he has no other way. Obviously, however, a person should first clarify that the law is such in his case. Otherwise, he won’t be believed (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kama, Chapter 3, se’if 5). For example, if a man’s wife curses him, wishing in front of the children that a lion should consume her husband’s father (Ketuvot 72b), and her husband does not succeed in stopping her, he is then allowed to hit her.
And if the husband claims that this is exactly what is happening, we have to investigate whether or not he is speaking the truth. As Ramban wrote:
“A husband must not beat and afflict his wife, for she was given him to live with, and not to torment… and if he claimed that she curses him, the court must investigate, asking the neighbors who is at fault… what seems best to me is that if it is known that he chronically beats her, treating her differently than reputable Jewish women should be treated, he is then not believed to claim that she is at fault.” (Responsa associated with Ramban, 102, quoted by Rama, Even HaEzer 115:4).
In summary, “If someone chronically beats his wife, he is not believed to claim that she is at fault” (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, XI, page 327).
As far as a question I was asked, “it would be interesting to know what Halachah says about women actively defending themselves,” it is clear that she is entitled to hit him when he hits her, as the Halachah states:
“If two people came to blows, and one did more damage than the other, the less-wounded must pay the full cost of the difference. All this applies where both were equally at fault… but if one started it, the other is exempt, for the victim has the right to hit back to save himself” (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 421:13).
He is also entitled to respond spontaneously in line with the blood avenger’s being able to kill a murderer “in his hot anger” (Deuteronomy 19:6; see Rama on Choshen Mishpat, ibid.). Moreover, “a person is not expected to be an emotionless stone” (see Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 338).
All the same, in practical terms, hitting is not a good idea. It is better for the wife to approach the police, for her own good and the good of her children, so that they can grow up in a normal home, and for the good of her husband, so that he can repent. Even repentance out of fear of punishment counts as repentance.
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“The Land Must be Given a Rest Period, a Sabbath to G-d”
Parashat Behar encompasses the Torah, the Jewish People and Eretz Yisrael. It opens with “Mount Sinai”, where the Torah was received. It continues with the Sabbatical year, and it concludes with the economic distress of the Jew in the Land. Regarding the Torah and people of Israel, our sages debated which was created for which. Tanna Devei Eliyahu states:
“One time I was walking from place to place and a Jew met me and asked, ‘Master, there are two things in the world and I fully love them both: Torah and the Jewish People. Yet I do not know which of them comes first.’ I answered, ‘Son, people generally say the Torah comes first, but I say that the Jewish People come first.”
The same view is brought in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 1:9):
“Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai asked… ‘What the Torah created for Israel, or vice versa? The Torah was created for the sake of Israel. If the Torah, which was created for Israel, exists forever, all the more so that Israel, who were created in their own right, shall exist forever.”
As far as Eretz Yisrael, many people view it as just a means. Its entire virtue, in their eyes, is that it allows fulfillment of the mitzvoth dependent on it. Regarding this view, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz wrote (in his work Bet HaLevi):
“Many have thought that the virtue of Eretz Yisrael derives from the fact that many Jews live within it, and that when they are not there, the Land’s virtue disappears. They develop this idea because they think that the Land’s virtue derives only from the fact that Israel keep the mitzvoth there.”
Yet he rejects this view, saying, “They are mistaken. The truth is that the perfection of Eretz Yisrael is intrinsic to it, for the first spot of Creation is there… So special is it that the Patriarchs craved Eretz Yisrael even when it was full of idolatry.”
We find the same controversy regarding the “Heter Mechirah”, the sale of the lands in Eretz Yisrael to non-Jews to enable Jewish farmers to continue working their fields during the Sabbatical year. Thus, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, in his book “Shabbat Ha’aretz” quotes the argument of Ridbaz:
“How can we permit the mitzvah of Shevi’it [the Sabbatical year] to be removed by way of the sale of lands in Eretz Yisrael to a non-Jew? Surely, by way of the sale, we are removing the holiness of the Land, and having done that, no mitzvah remains to settle the Land!”
Rav Kook responds that such a view is based on the thinking that the entire virtue of Eretz Yisrael derives from its beings the means of our fulfilling the mitzvoth that depend on the Land. Yet, argues Rav Kook, such is not the case. The virtue of Eretz Yisrael is intrinsic to it, without any connection to the mitzvoth dependent on it.
Rav Kook enlists proof for his words from Eshtori HaParchi (author of “Kaftor Vaperach”) who proves this from our holy patriarchs:
“Jacob and Joseph, and our master Moses, who were all outside the Land, all longed to be buried in Eretz Yisrael. Such was the case even though the Land had not yet been conquered, and Israel had not yet incurred their obligation to keep the mitzvoth dependent on the Land. This proves that the holiness and virtue of the Land goes back to when it was given to the Patriarchs, and not just from when it was later conquered.”
To this can be added the words of Chatam Sofer in his Responsa (Yoreh Deah, Ot 235):
“Without a doubt, Eretz Yisrael is superior to the Diaspora in all times. We can tentatively understand that it is not because of the mitzvoth dependent on Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem that a husband can force his wife [or vice versa] to move to Eretz Yisrael, but because of the Land’s holiness itself… We are not dealing with whether or not particular mitzvoth are in force, or with whether or not an impure person is allowed to enter the Temple Mount. All that concerns us is Jerusalem’s supreme holiness and that fact that it is the gateway to Heaven from the dawn of time, even when the Jebusites dwelled in Jerusalem and the Canaanites and Perizzites were in the Land. The Divine Presence has not moved, nor will it move from the Western Wall, even when the Temple is destroyed.”
He concludes by saying:
“What emerges is that in any case, everyone agrees that the holiness of both Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem is eternal, going back to the beginning of the world. It has never changed and will never change.”