"You Shall Listen to Him"
"A prophet, like myself [Mosheh], Hashem will establish for you - you
shall listen to him." Mosheh promises the nation that there will never be
a lack of communication-lines between God and His people. There will
always be those who will teach the people the ways of Hashem and guide them
along the path of proper observance. Rabbeni Behaye, in his work, "Hovot
Halevavot" (in "Sha'ar Hateshuvah" ch. 6), writes that this promise is an
eternal one, and not a single generation exists without this guarantee.
Hazal say, "By the time Mosheh's light was extinguished, the light of his
student, Yehoshua, was ignited. By the time Eli's light was extinguished,
Shemuel's light was ignited. By the time Eliyahu's light was extinguished,
Elisha's light was ignited. On the day on which Rabbi Akiva died, Rabbi
Yehudah the Prince was born..." Similarly, the mantle of leadership is
held in every generation in every location - there will always be one who
calls to his God and His service, one who teaches His Torah.
We are guaranteed by the Almighty Himself that not only will there never
be a generation - or even a short period of time - with a lack of Torah
scholars with a clear view of the Torah's meaning, who bring the nation
closer to its Creator, and who rule on issues of halachah, but there will
be Torah leaders in every period and in every land. We see with our own
eyes, in our generation, that great Torah leaders have risen in every
Jewish community throughout the world, who lead and guide their
constituents along the path of the Torah. We are commanded, "You shall
listen to them," to follow the guidance of the leaders of each generation.
They are the emissaries of God, and He assists them in their leadership and
guidance of the nation. Let us heed their words and instruction, and thus
be worthy of the promise, "Whoever consults the elders - succeeds."
"Who are You, the One Who Fears?"
Two hundred and fifty-five years ago, the great Rabbi Hayyim Abualefia
zs"l, who reinstated the Jewish settlement in Tiberias, led a flourishing
community which was granted the protection of the sheik Daahir Al Emaar,
who fortified the walls of the community. His assistance and support for
the Jews was met with great displeasure by the governor of Damascus, who
feared the formation of a new independent force within the region of his
jurisdiction. He set out to Tiberias with a huge army, with the intention
of conquering it and destroying its fortification. The Jews of Damascus
frantically sent the message to the revered rabbi asking him to escape from
Tiberias with his community and their possessions, as they were guaranteed
protection by the authorities in Ssefat. The rabbi refused to abandon the
city, "...and he trusted in the God who wishes for the good of the Land of
Israel, that the merit of all the ssadikim, tannaim, and amoraim buried in
this country will protect the people and the entire land."
The siege began and the canons started pounding the region. The attackers
set upon the city "...to destroy, demolish, wreck, and sack, day and night.
But the wonders of Hashem were too numerous to be counted, for not a
single house was destroyed and not a single life was lost, despite the fact
that a single canon had the capacity to destroy several homes." Most of
them fell into the Kinneret, some landed on and were buried in the ground,
and still others exploded in the air. "And at the moment when the
attackers launched destructive stones, Rabbi Hayim Abualefia zs"l held in
his hand a staff upon which was written the holy names of God, and as he
pointed his staff toward the rockets they fell into the Kinneret Sea and
did no damage to anybody in Tiberias. And if two people traveled together,
the stones would pass in between their shoulders or their feet. And when
the gentiles in the city witnessed the Hand of God fighting on behalf of
Israel, they refused to listen to the general battling against Tiberias who
demanded that they destroy the wall and the tower, and he did not succeed."
After a long and frustrating siege, one which produced no result and
caused many fatalities, the governor gave up and returned to Damascus.
Great joy and celebration overtook the besieged people, they sang Hallel
and recited the prayer, "Nishmat kol hai..." The fourth of Kislev was
instituted as a day of festivities and celebration.
But the story does not end here. This mistake continued to haunt the
governor, and he soon became the laughing-stock of those around him.
People wondered, how did he lose? With all his artillery, large number of
soldiers, and sophisticated arsenal of weapons, how was he unable to defeat
a lone city under siege? He felt compelled to regain his pride, and he
swore to return to Tiberias and not return until the city was destroyed.
Once again, the rabbi was warned to escape, and, again, he refused.
In the month of Av, the general left Damascus with a huge army which
included the armies and weaponry of Aco. He ensured that the villages
surrounding Tiberias would not offer any military support to the sheik. He
then set up an embargo to siege the city from the sea. This time, he
thought, the siege would final and definitive. On Erev Shabbat of Parashat
Shoftim, the governor's army reached the village of Lubia, adjacent to
Tiberias, and on Shabbat they were to have begin building the siege around
the city itself.
On Friday night, after dinner, the community gathered around in the
rabbi's home with a sense of dread. His son sat at the table preparing the
next day's haftarah reading: "I [Hashem], I am the One who comforts you,
who are you, the one who fears from a human, who will die, and from a
person, who will be like grass." The next day, the rabbi spoke in the
synagogue as usual, and elaborated on the verse, "Listen, Israel, you are
coming today to do battle against your enemies. Let your hearts not
soften, do not fear, do not worry, and do not panic because of them. For
Hashem, your God, walks among you to fight for you against your enemies to
save you!" Passionately, he cried, "Who are you, the one who fears from a
human, who will die! Even if the enemy currently resides in Lubia - he
will not approach this city and will not build a siege around it. You have
my absolute guarantee!"
Shabbat was the fourth of Elul, as it is this year. On Sunday, the fifth
of Elul, the governor took ill. On Monday his condition worsened and on
Tuesday, the seventh of Elul, he died and the plans for the siege were
aborted. "Then, the people rejoiced heartily and the joy permeated
throughout the community. The rabbi spoke on that Shabbat of the miracle
and they recited Hallel as they had done originally, and they accepted upon
themselves to observe the seventh day of Elul as a day of joy and
celebration, for on this day the governor perished. So may all Your
enemies be destroyed, Hashem. So may You show us the great salvation with
the coming of the Moshiah speedily, and in our days, amen, and so may it be
Your will" (from the work, "Zimrat Ha'aress" which was composed in honor of
We are promised that these miracles will occur, if only we follow the
word of God as transmitted by His prophet, "I, I am the one who comforts
you! Who are you, the one who fears from a human who will die - and you
have forgotten Hashem who created you, who spreads forth the heavens and
establishes the land!"
If we do not forget Hashem - we are guaranteed that He will not forget us!
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
Based on the Rulings of Harav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a
Rice Eaten Together With Other Foods
When one has before him rice mixed with other foods (such as carrots),
the Rambam maintains that he recites the blessing on the other item with
fulfills his requirement for the rice. The Rif, however, distinguishes
between a case when the rice constitutes the majority of the dish, where
one would recite the blessing over the rice and thereby fulfill the
requirement for the other food, and a case where the other food is the
majority, where one should recite the berachah over the other food. The
Shulhan Aruch (208:7) rules in accordance with the Rif, so if the rice is
the majority, then one recites the blessing over the rice and thus fulfills
his obligation for the other foods.
In any event, this demonstrates the fact that although the blessing for
rice is mezonot, we do not afford to it the same importance as we do to the
five species of grain, regarding which one always recites mezonot, even if
they constitute the minority ingredient in a dish (so long as they
contribute taste to the dish).
If the rice is mixed with meat, we should, it seems, take into
consideration the two critical factors stipulated by the Mishnah Berurah
(212:1): 1) which ingredient constitutes the majority component, and 2)
which is the more significant ingredient. In our case, the meat is clearly
the more significant ingredient, and thus we would have come to the
conclusion that one should recite the blessing over the meat and thereby
fulfill his obligation for the rice, as well. However, the Rishon Lessiyon
Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a (in a responsum cited in "Yalkut Yosef" vol. 3 p.
535) quotes a comment by the Ritva in Hilchot Berachot (1:29) that although
rice does not fall under the category of "dagan," grain, nevertheless it
does contain a unique stature and importance, as it represents a
significant source of sustenance for many people. Therefore, one would
recite the blessing over the rice and thereby fulfill his obligation
regarding the meat.
However, it goes without saying that were the meat to constitute the
majority of the mixture, then one would have to recite the blessing for the
meat, and not for the rice, as the Shulhan Aruch (cited earlier) notes
explicitly, that no matter how unique a stature we afford to the rice, its
blessing does not take precedence when it is the minority ingredient. This
unique status comes into play when the rice is the majority, in which case
we rule that although the other ingredients may be of greater significance
than the rice, the blessing for the rice wins out.
According to this discussion, if one eats with meat food with rice
stuffing, he should recite a mezonot, as the rice is considered the main
In summary, if one eats rice mixed with carrots, if the carrots are the
majority then he should recite the blessing over the carrot and thereby
fulfill his obligation as far as the rice is concerned. If, however, the
rice is the majority, then he should recite the blessing over the rice.
The same applies if one eats rice together with meat.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Shalom Sseror zs"l of Algiers
In our parashah, we are commanded to appoint righteous and just
magistrates, judges who will be assisted and guided by the Almighty to rule
properly, in accordance with the halachah. Many years ago, in Algiers, a
man wished to divorce his wife but could not afford to pay her ketubah. He
therefore hired two false witnesses to testify that she had been
unfaithful, so that she would lose rights to her ketubah. The witnesses
came to the court and presented the case. As the court interrogated them,
they found no contradictions in their story. The poor woman cried and
denied the allegations, and, with tears running down her face, she swore
that the accusation is false. Whereas most of the court paid no attention,
Rabbi Shalom Sseror zs"l, head of the court, listened to her and thought to
himself, "She seems to be telling the truth." Despite the clear evidence
against the woman and lack of evidence to support her contention, the rabbi
said that he wanted to look into the matter further. Day after day, the
husband would come to court to ask them to pass the ruling against his
wife, but the rabbi refused each time. Finally, the husband put his
influence to work, and had the leaders of the community approach the rabbi
and express their wonder at his inaction. Still, the rabbi ignored them.
One day, a wealthy man from the city of Blaida came before the rabbi and
claimed that he had paid one of the residents of Algiers for some wool but
had not received the merchandise. He presented he contract to the rabbi,
and the rabbi noticed that the member of his community being brought to
trial was one of the witnesses against the woman. The rabbi examined the
contract carefully and noticed that the witness had signed the contract in
Blaida at the same time at which he had claimed to have witnessed the
woman's infidelity. The witness was immediately called to clarify the
issue of his sale of wool. The man explained that the authorities did not
allow him to take wool from the city. He verified the entire transaction,
including the location of the signing of the contract. The rabbi then
asked, "If, indeed, you were in Blaida at the time, how did you dare
testify against one of the daughters of Israel!?" The rabbi scolded him
harshly, the plot was disclosed, and the entire community saw that Hashem
resides among the judges of Israel!
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"You shall appoint judges and law-enforcers in all your gates"
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l notes that the previous parashah ends with
the missvah to travel to the Bet Hamikdash on Yom Tov, to visit the place
of the kohanim, the High Court, the high priest, and the leaders of the
nation. Then comes our parshah, which opens with the reminder that this is
not enough; competent authorities must be appointed in every locale.
This bears practical application for us. Despite the fact that we are
bound to our Torah leaders and visit them on occasion, a rabbi must be
present in every synagogue, to rule halachah, to teach a shiur, and to
provide the day-to-day connection to the Almighty.
"Do not turn judgment"
This expression requires some explanation. How does one "turn" judgment?
A person can turn to a different path, he can turn his body to one side,
but how does he turn a court ruling? Can one alter the truth? What's done
is done! The Hid"a explains that indeed, one can alter judgment. A judge
who has an inclination in a certain direction will alter his course of
thinking in the direction which will yield evidence for that claim, and
this evidence will get priority. The judges were therefore instructed to
retain their objectivity, the way Bet Hillel would open their arguments
with the rulings of Bet Shammai, in order to balance their perspective.
"You shall be whole-hearted with Hashem your God"
Rabbenu Efrayim zs"l notes that the words, "tamim tihyeh" ("you shall be
whole-hearted") has the same numerical value as "Tishrei." Meaning, we are
to ensure to do proper teshuvah during the month of Elul so that we are
"whole" - complete and free of blemish - by the time the month of Tishrei
- which features the Yamim Noraim - rolls around.
Some note that whereas a righteous person is "tam" (whole), a wicked
person is the reverse - "meit" (the result of the reversing the letters of
"tam") - dead. "Tam" begins with the last letter of the alphabet, and the
second (and last letter) is "mem" - the middle letter of the alphabet. The
righteous person always looks ahead to the future, always gives priority to
the "last letter," to what lies ahead for him in the future. He thus
operates accordingly in the present and avoids doing that which will lead
to trouble in the future. But the sinner concentrates on the present,
always seeks immediate gratification, and falls into his own trap later on
down the road.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The beaver is a rodent which lives in Europe as well as the American
Continent, in both water and dry land. We may very well consider the
beaver the best architect in the animal kingdom. It builds its nest in
rivers and lakes, from wood, small stones, and mud. After it completes the
construction of its house, it then creates a dam to raise the water around
nest. In this way it protects itself from its enemies and at the same time
allows for passageways underwater which do not freeze in sub-freezing
temperatures. The construction of the nest and the dam is not easy by any
means. To cut the wood the beaver uses its exceptionally sharp teeth, as
its front teeth never stop growing. If the beaver would not use its teeth
constantly to cut wood, the front teeth would grow slow long the beaver
would be unable to close its mouth. After the wood is cut - and the logs
can be as long as 3.5 meters - it is dragged into the water. For this
purpose, the beaver has to dig several long water channels to help them
carry beams. In America, channels 300 meters long were found. The beaver
feeds off the bark of the wood, and from the rest of the wood it builds its
homes and dams. One dam found in America was 600 meters long!
The beaver's work symbolizes consistency and diligence. We are to learn
from this great creature, that "So long as the candle is lit, we must
continue to build and fix."
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