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This edition is dedicated in loving memory of Dovid ben Shmuel Leib, z”l, on
his 25th Yahrzeit, י”ט בטבת תשמ”א , by Shaina and Shmuel Buchwald.

From the World of Rabbi Kook
“Perfecting the world demands looking forward to salvation from the celestial wellsprings of salvation. Israel’s eternally hoping for the light of the Messiah constitutes the world’s foundation… and Messianism per se is a special trait of Israel.” (Orot HaKodesh 1:37)

R’ Oren Halevy, asst. dir. of the Machon’s English Program, will be in
England and North America between Jan. 15th and Feb. 2nd. Contact us at to schedule a meeting with him in your community and learn more about opportunities at Machon Meir!

Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “G-d Will be With you, and Bring you Back to Your Ancestral Land”

Jacob, in setting out to bless Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, “crossed his hands” (Genesis 48:14), placing his right hand, reserved for the older, on the head of the younger one, Ephraim, and his left hand on the head of Menashe. Joseph tried to change this: “He said, ‘That’s not the way it should be done, Father. The other one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ His father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. The older one will also become a nation. He too will attain greatness. But his younger brother will become even greater, and his descendants will become full-fledged nations.’” (18-19)

Rashi explains why Jacob gave Ephraim precedence. From Ephraim would emerge Joshua the son of Nun, who would partition the Land and would teach Israel Torah. The entire world would be filled with faith through the reputation Joshua would earn for making the sun stop in Givon and the moon in the Valley of Ayalon. From Menashe would emerge Gideon, through whom G-d would perform a miracle, but his deeds would equal Joshua’s, who would both conquer the Land and teach Torah.

Today, we are part of a generation that arrived in the Land after two thousand years of exile, which may be likened to the Desert. Our generation parallels that of Joshua, who went up and conquered the Land after the Egyptian exile and forty years in the Desert. Just as Joshua conquered the Land and taught Torah to Israel, and even the sun and the moon were enlisted for this holy mission through their standing still at Givon and in the Valley of Ayalon, so, too, the Jewish People in their return to Eretz Yisrael. This process influences all of mankind and all of Creation in both an open and a concealed manner. All of mankind senses that everything that happens in Eretz Yisrael affects all mankind, for “Israel are like the heart of the nations” (Kuzari, Ma’amar 2), and the heart influences everything.

Yet not just the conquest of the Land and the establishment of the State of Israel influence the world, but also Torah study in general, and Torah study in Eretz Yisrael in particular. As our sages said: “‘And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth [hashishi] day’: What do we derive from the inclusion of ‘ha’ in the word ‘hashishi’? It teaches that G-d made a condition with Creation and said to it, ‘If Israel undertake fulfillment of the Torah, you shall endure. Otherwise, I shall return you to chaos.’” How fortunate we are to see with our own eyes how we are returning to our land and to our Torah. Through us is being fulfilled Jacob’s utterance, “G-d will be with you, and He will bring you back to your ancestral land” (Genesis 48:21). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Sticking to the High Moral Ground”

First Story:
“I am an officer in the standing army. I stopped a car to get a ride but the driver told me, “Please change shirts.”
“I have no other,” I replied.
-Then take it off. What are you wearing under it?
“Under the shirt I am wearing tzitzit, and under the tzitzit is a Jew.”
-I have a problem with giving you a ride because of the shirt of the Expulsion Army.
“I wasn’t there! I serve in the Hebron area and I myself live in a settlement.”
-Fine, so I’ll give you my shirt.
At this point I told him “No thanks. Drive on.” Another driver who heard the conversation told me angrily, “Why don’t you shoot him?”

Second Story:
“I am a sergeant and was invited to the wedding of one of my soldiers. When I entered the hall, a family member approached and asked me to remove my uniform; to their credit, they had prepared in advance white shirts for the soldiers. Since I am not embarrassed by my uniform, I just sat down at a table. After several minutes, two people approached me and began persuading me to take off my uniform. At this point, I told them that I was not interested in arguing with them. I approached the groom, told him that I had to leave, and I left.”

Third Story:
“Thank G-d, we have a lot of children, they are all married, and they all love each other greatly, or, more precisely, they did until the expulsion. Since then they are angry with one another due to their differences of opinion. They cannot sit together around the same table. Therefore we invite them separately for Shabbat, one by one.”

Question: What’s going to be?

1. The settler population is high in quality but low in numbers, so we have to be united. The same applies with the religious population at large, and that population has to be united as well. Altogether, the entire Jewish People are high in quality but low in numbers, so they must remain united as well.

2. We are idealistic people, thank G-d, but we have to be careful not to be extremist. We should be tolerant of those who do not think the way we do. We mustn’t conduct ourselves only according to the strict letter of the law, but according to strict law combined with kindness.

3. Without taking anything away from the enormous merit and self-sacrifice of part of the army, even if we decide that other parts are being dragged in a corrupt and unsavory direction, this requires us all the more not only to enlist in the army but to produce excellent, idealistic soldiers and officers.

4. We must recall what Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught: We must always see the hand of G-d acting within our midst, both in the bright sun of G-d’s “morning kindness” and in complicated situations of His faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92).

5. We must remember that with all the shortcomings of our political lives, we are rising up to rebirth, and nothing can stop the word of G-d, who spoke well of Israel.

6. We must rise above hateful thoughts in favor of unbounded love for all Jews. We must recall the blessings before the Shema, which note that G-d “has lovingly chosen His people Israel” and that He “loves Israel”, and the Shema itself, which states, “Hear O Israel: Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is one.”

Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)

Rabbi Elisha AvinerEducation Corner
“Halachic Adulthood” (Part 2)

In the previous column we began to deal with how Halachah determines the onset of adulthood. Two factors together determine adulthood: biological signs and age (12/13). An in-depth investigation reveals that halachic adulthood chiefly depends on biological adulthood. “Simanim” [physiological signs] and age together attest to the onset of adulthood.

Even so, from other Rabbinic sources it would appear that the criterion for adulthood is “da’at,” understanding. A minor is exempt from mitzvoth because he lacks da’at. A minor is someone without understanding whereas an adult is someone who has understanding. Understanding is the main factor! We find clear expression of this in a Mishnaic controversy (Nidah 45b). Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi [“Rebbe”] holds to the conventional view that girls undertake the yoke of mitzvoth before boys. By contrast, Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said that the order is the opposite: boys precede girls. Rabbi Chisda explains the reasoning behind the two approaches. Rebbe said that the girl comes first because “G-d gave females greater understanding than males.” Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said that males come first because “since the boy is receiving a school education, he gains shrewdness first.”

Indeed, it turns out that halachic adulthood is not only a function of biological maturation but also of intellectual maturation. The personal duty to undertake spiritual missions, such as mitzvah observance, certainly depends on emotional preparedness, on spiritual ability and intellectual development. Moreover, there is no duty without acceptance of responsibility. Accepting responsibility is precisely the point that distinguishes between the adult and the minor. Our sages say that a minor “has no da’at [understanding].” What does this mean? What “da’at” is he lacking? Does an eleven year old not understand? Surely he is already studying Talmud and mathematics! The answer is that da’at is a combination of in-depth understanding, seriousness and responsibility. Da’at includes logical skills and emotional skills (not just an I.Q., but an E.Q. as well). Because a minor displays less responsibility, mitzvah observance cannot imposed upon him as a duty.

We can conclude that age not only contributes to biological maturation but also to intellectual and emotional maturation, in other words, “da’at.” It would seem likely as well that da’at is the main factor, although generally there is a correlation between biological maturation and mature understanding. Even though we are talking about two distinct processes, they occur simultaneously. The “signs” and age attest to a youth’s attaining understanding.

We shall now return to Rabbi Chisda’s explanation regarding the controversy between Rebbe and Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar over whose adulthood comes first, that of the male or the female. According to Rebbe, that of the female comes first, because G-d gave “greater understanding to the female than to the male.” Ritva explains, “She gains understanding earlier.” According to Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar, the male’s adulthood comes first, “because since he is receiving a school education, he gains shrewdness first.” Rosh explains that even when the boy is not actually receiving an education, he still “gains shrewdness first” because he is “used to going out and seeing people, and he wisens up faster. And even if he is not used to doing so at all, he genetic proclivities will not differ from those of his forbears back through time.”

Rebbe focuses on a female’s understanding, Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar on a male’s shrewdness. The difference between them stands out. They are referring to two different sorts of “da’at.” The boy’s “shrewdness” is an acquired skill. The act of studying with a teacher, the acquisition of knowledge, or even just social involvement, can spur the boy’s intellectual development. The girl’s superior understanding is not an acquired talent but intuitive wisdom. It turns out that Rebbe and Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar are not arguing over the facts – this is no disagreement over the reality – but over which sort of “da’at” is more essential for Torah observance, for entering the world of adults: Is it intuitive understanding or acquired knowledge? Obviously, the age range regarding which the controversy between Rebbe and Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar applies is small: between twelve and thirteen. After that, everything evens out.

There is another age with halachic significance: age twenty. For various matters, adulthood only comes at that age. The Torah mentions twenty as the age when the military draft begins, when the service of the Levites begins, and when the debt is incurred for the yearly half shekel contribution to the Temple fund. Moreover, the punishment in the desert for the spies’ sin applied only to those over twenty. In business matters as well, a son who inherited possessions from his father is not allowed to sell them before he reaches twenty, “because he is overly preoccupied with attaining the money and he has not gained maturity regarding the ways of the world” (Rambam, Hilchot Mechirah 29:13).

Rabbi Shlomo Goren (in his book Mishnat HaMedinah, p. 98), explains that there are two stages to maturation. The first stage is age thirteen. The thirteen-year-old is considered “to have da’at.” He is considered responsible for his deeds, but that is only regarding his personality and his needs. In other words, at age thirteen starts individual responsibility. The thirteen-year-old is considered independent of his parents. For that reason, he incurs the obligation to perform mitzvoth, and his deeds have legal significance (in terms of personal status). His undertaking communal-national responsibility takes place only at age twenty. Then he is considered a full-fledged member of the Jewish People and he bears communal responsibility as well. Emotional maturation does not end at age thirteen. Age thirteen is the ground floor. Between thirteen and twenty, the maturation process continues, and it reaches its climax at age twenty. Maturation is a gradual process that continues over years. After age thirteen, biological development continues as well as emotional development [“da’at”]. These afford the teen the ability to show communal and national responsibility.

Catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).

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