“From the World of Rav Kook”
“Morality cannot endure without its source, and its source must be the infinite light…When morality is consigned to a person’s heart without its divine source, it decreases and fades away. Just as morality comes into the world by means of a divine conduit, so shall it always flourish through that conduit.”
(Erpalei Tohar 49)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Who is the man who desires life and loves each day?”
G-d’s Torah, encompasses mankind entirely. It guides him when he is in his normal, healthy state, and also in less healthy situations, in times of weakness. The prime source of all sin and illness is speech. When a man’s speech is unhealthy, it attracts all sorts of other illnesses and corruption. Man is revealed through speech. Speech expresses his thoughts and heart. Man, with the gift of speech, utters out loud what he thinks and feels about his fellow man and about society.
Through speech, the healthy, wholesome and complete person is revealed. Speech is linked to a person’s essence, to his human form, as it says, “G-d formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life. Man thus became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The words “man thus became a living creature” are rendered by the Targum, “Man was given the gift of speech.” As Rashi comments, the difference between man and animal is that man has intelligence and speech.
The skin disorder described in the Torah reveals that the smitten person’s spirituality is lacking and needs rectification. In our generation, that is achieved through guarding the tongue. One hundred years ago the brilliant, saintly and beloved Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen, zt”l), wrote books about guarding one’s tongue. Indeed, he got his name, “Chafetz Chaim”, from the following verses:
“Who is the man who desires life [chafetz chaim] and loves each day, that he may see good therein? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:12-14. What precedes is a summary of a talk by Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, from “HaTorah HaGo’elet II:134).
Pesach is approaching. Our sages expounded that Pesach is a holiday of “Pe Sach” [the mouth talking]. There is a special mitzvah to recount the exodus from Egypt, and the more so the better.
Parashat Metzora, which deals with measures intended to rectify and purify a person’s speech, is read this year on the Sabbath one day before Pesach. We hope we can thereby cleanse our hearts and thoughts, and our speech. After all, if a person merits it, he spreads the light of Torah, love and faith to his surroundings. Otherwise, G-d forbid, his house is smitten with the skin disorders of the Torah. Let us remember this as we do our cleaning in our individual homes, and let us remember it further in our national home as well, at a time when the struggle is going on to nullify the decree of “disengagement.” Through the merit of guarding our tongues, we will succeed. And may we see with our own eyes how “as in the days of our exiting Egypt, G-d will show us miracles” (Michah 7:15).
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Don’t Dictate to G-d”
Question: There is no more Zionism. We have begun an anti-Zionistic process leading to a bi-national state. There is no more motivation. There are no more ideals – just economics and security. The whole enterprise of the past thirty years has been destroyed. There are so many problems! This is not the redemption, nor the start of the redemption, nor the “beginning of the flowering of our redemption.” The rabbis were mistaken.
Answer: You’re making a fundamental error. G-d did not sign a contract with us relating to Israel’s redemption process. Neither did He sign any personal contract with you. In his “Guide to the Perplexed,” Rambam raises a profound question regarding why do the righteous suffer. He begins by saying that this question itself rests on our assuming that G-d, so to speak, is our servant, and when His service is unacceptable, we come to Him with complaints. That is not how it is, however! It is we who are G-d’s servants, and everything G-d gives us constitutes an act of pure kindness.
We are not idolaters who think we can subjugate our idols to our will. When a Jew spits at an idol, it signifies his rejection of that idol. It is not the same with the heathen, however. If he spits at his idol, it just means that he is angry at it due to unsatisfactory service. Yet he will continue to maintain contact with it.
You are starting with the assumption that our redemption has to occur miraculously, and obviously, with miracles there are no failures. This is why the Scroll of Esther is so important. It teaches us that redemption can occur non-miraculously as well. If you don’t realize this, you are liable to be blind to the redemption process occurring. For in non-miraculous redemption there are always crises. The definition of a crisis is whatever goes against our will. Indeed, life is full of things that go against our will. Life is fraught with crises.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught, “Don’t resign yourself to what there is, but don’t disparage it either.” We are happy we have a land and a country. At the same time, we are sad that much of our people do not have a full connection with their land. Since the Six Day War, almost forty years have passed, and Judea, Samaria and Gaza have not yet been annexed. Such is the non-miraculous process. Obviously, knowing that redemption is occurring by non-miraculous means does not exempt us from struggling for it. A children’s illness such as measles likewise occurs by non-miraculous means, but we still have to treat it.
You need a more generous nature. Light and darkness are in a state of coexistence right now like the dawn to which redemption is compared. Yet we, the disciples of our father Abraham, must still view the world with a generous nature (Avot 5:19). We know that together with the Messiah there are the birth pangs of the Messiah, and with childbirth come labor pains. A woman suffers in labor, yet knows something will result from her suffering and that comforts her.
The need for a generous nature is the key to everything. Our sages said, “Judge every person [kol ha’adam] favorably” (Avot 1:6), but this teaching can be taken literally to mean, “Judge THE WHOLE PERSON favorably.” When we judge the whole person, we arrive at a favorable conclusion. What we need now is a generous nature, so we can see all of the good. As for the evil, we must strive to rectify it, and regarding whatever we do not rectify, we must equip ourselves with patience. Whatever we do not succeed with today, we will succeed with tomorrow. Ultimately, all the prophecies will come true, for all the prophets’ words are true and just. Don’t worry. With G-d’s help we will triumph.
In Heaven there are many yeshivot, and one of them is the yeshiva of the Messiah. Yet that yeshiva has an entrance requirement: One has to know how to transform bitterness to sweetness, and darkness to light (Sefer HaZohar, page 4). Most important is the second, making light overcome darkness. The exile is a dark book, yet here and there, through G-d’s kindness, there are pages of light as well. The return to Zion over the last 120 years, and especially since the State’s establishment, has been a book awash with light, yet with lines or pages of darkness here and there.
To those who ask whether or not we have taken a wrong turn, we respond: we are headed in the right direction, yet a long way still remains, and all we can do is to continue devotedly. We shall continue to fight for Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. Nothing has changed. Things have only become harder. Yet nowhere is it written that things will be easy. We shall fight, not out of despair, but out of joy and love, without violence, scorn or hatred.
A Jew told Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, “I am going back to America because here there is so much sin.” Rav Kook responded, “How is that the fault of our holy land?”
We say the same thing: How is our State to blame? How is our army to blame? How is our wonderful People to blame? We must strive ahead, bearing in mind the poem written by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriah for Bnei Akiva: “Despite all obstacles, and all those lagging behind, we shall go forward!”
Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
Early Childhood Education (Part 4)
Question: In the morning, does one have to perform “netilat yadayim” [ritual hand-washing] on the hands of an infant or small child? If so, from what age?
Answer: Three reasons for the morning netilat yadayim are mentioned by our Rabbis:
1) According to the Rosh [Rabbenu Asher], the morning netilat yadayim is a preparation for the Shema and Shemoneh Esreh. While we sleep, our hands touch our body in unclean places, hence we need to clean our hands in the morning.
2) According to the Rashba [Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet], each morning it is as though we were newly created, as it says, “They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). We thank G-d for having created us in His honor, to serve Him and bless His name. Therefore, we wash our hands like the kohen who would sanctify his hands before his service in the Temple.
3) The Talmud, and most notably the Zohar, mention that at night, an evil spirit rests upon the hands, and netilat yadayim removes it. This third reason was the cause of many halachot being set in place; for example, the obligation to pour water three times on each hand (Orach Chaim 4:5); and the prohibition against touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes (4:3), or foods (4:5) before netilat yadayim.
The first two reasons relate to morning netilat yadayim as to every other mitzvah. Therefore, regarding educating small children, it is the same as all other mitzvot. When the child reaches the age of education to mitzvot, that is, when he is capable of fulfilling the task of netilat yadayim each morning, we teach him to do so. Education is gradual. It is a process that assumes progress and regression, until the child acquires the fixed habit of washing his hands ritually in the morning.
But do we also have to take into account the third reason – removing the evil spirit from the hands? Does such a spirit rest even on an infant’s hands? Do his parents have an obligation to wash his hands ritually before he touches food? At what age would this begin?
Our greatest halachic authorities dealt with this issue. Here is how Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer VII:2) begins his treatment:
“I have been asked whether there is an obligation to wash a small child’s hands ritually in the morning. Do they contaminate foods if they touch them with their hands without netilat yadayim? How great is this obligation? Some parents, fearing the contamination of foods, get very agitated over this issue, and their small children often become alarmed and cry when their parents forcibly take them to the sink to wash their hands.”
The obligation to wash small children’s hands is mentioned by Pri Megadim and is brought as the law in Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chaim 4, ot 10): “We also have to be careful that small children should wash their hands ritually in the morning, because they touch food.” In light of Pri Megadim’s ruling, a few halachic authorities have criticized parents who are not careful to wash their children’s hands each morning (HaGaon Rav Chaim Falaji; Chidah and others).
As far as age is concerned, Rabbi Ya’akov Emden wrote in his siddur: “Regarding children touching things, it has been customary to be lenient before the age of education to mitzvot. It is better to be strict even from the day of a child’s circumcision. Some say that it is legally prohibited. Therefore one should be careful to wash their hands ritually in the morning.”
According to the Tzitz Eliezer, there is a widespread custom to be lenient, hence one should not sharply attack those who are lenient. Yet it is best to fulfill the stricter opinion already from the day of a child’s circumcision.
Yet Rabbi Shneor Zalman of Liadi writes (in his Shulchan Aruch) that at night, the evil spirit only rests where holiness has been. “For that reason, it is customary to be lenient regarding small children before the age of education. This is because the final entry of a holy spirituality into a person occurs only at age thirteen and one day in a male, and at age twelve in a female. That is why children incur the obligation to fulfill mitzvot of the Torah and become punishable for sin at that age. As for when holy spirituality begins its entry, that occurs when children are educated to Torah and mitzvot as our sages required.”
He adds, “The mitzvah of circumcision [contributes to one’s holy spirit as well]. Therefore one who is careful about what an infant touches from circumcision on is to be highly praised.”
According to the principle laid down by Rav Shlomo Zalman of Liadi that the evil spirit rests only on someone whose holy soul has departed, he concludes that there are three periods: A full evil spirit rests only on the twelve/thirteen year old, for then the full soul, creating the obligation to fulfill mitzvot, resides in a person.
Nonetheless, once we begin to educate a child in Torah and mitzvot, i.e., once the child reaches the age of such education, the holy spirit begins to enter him as well. Therefore, already then he should be careful to do netilat yadayim. Beforehand, there is no obligation to wash one’s hands ritually, but if someone does wash even a one-day-old infant’s hands, he is worthy of praise.
Some clarify (see Tzitz Eliezer, Ibid.) that the main reason for washing the infant’s hands is to raise him in holiness and purity (rather than because of the evil spirit or his touching food). Ben Ish Chai, however, mentioned two reasons: the evil spirit that rests on his hands and raising the child in holiness and purity.
I shall end with a quotation from HaGaon Rav Waldenberg:
“Our halachic conclusion is the following: From the essence of the law there is room to say that only people who have reached the age of bar or bat mitzvah have an obligation to wash netilat yadayim in the morning. Yet quite a number of great halachic authorities hold that an obligation exists once the child reaches the age of education to mitzvot, and we must certainly take the strict view in this. In any event, for a child that age to wash netilat yadayim is part of the mitzvah of educating him. Until that age, there is no obligation at all in terms of the essence of the law. There is, however, an aspect of the law being glorified when one washes a small child’s hands ritually. This is chiefly as part of accustoming the child to holiness and purity as he or she grows up, and not for fear of any food that the child will touch.
“Yet small children get alarmed when they are grabbed against their will to have their hands washed, and one mustn’t frighten them in this way. Rather, one must behave judiciously and speak pleasantly. No problems are caused if until the child becomes accustomed to netilat yadayim his hands do not get washed ritually every time. If they don’t wash, and then they touch food, it doesn’t contaminate the food at all. That is obvious.”
“From the World of Rav Kook”
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