WHO HAS HEARD, WHO KNOWS?
In this week's edition of "The Golden Column" appear several excerpts from
the heart-wrenching letter of the bereaved father, Rabbi Don Hasdai
the rabbi of Saragosa, regarding the riots in Spain in 5151, one hundred
years before the Inquisition.
We ask our readers: how many of you had heard of these riots, during which
hundreds of thousands of people from our nation were lost?
Who has heard of the riots of Adris in Morocco, when tens of thousands of
Jews were murdered, three hundred years before the Crusades? Who has
of the Jewish colony at the edge of the Sahara Desert, and its destruction
at the hands of Moslems after the signing of a peace treaty? And what
the riots of the Almohads in Morocco, Algiers, Lov and Tunis, which
around the same time as the Crusades in Europe? And the murder of
of Jews in Fez, where only twenty were spared, the riots of Mulai
the riots of Buchabir, Muhammad Hafid, Alizid, the "Moroccan Haman" - and
all these amount to not even a drop in the ocean of the suffering of our
forefathers in the western countries. We have not even mentioned the
decrees and destruction in the east, from Aram Tsoba to Kurdistan, and in
the far south - who heard of the horrific exile from Yemen, and all the
years of stormy crises they suffered?
This question is asked as well to the Ministry of Education and all those
responsible for school curricula. Unquestionably, students must learn the
history of our nation, from the Crusades through the Chmelnitzki riots to
the awful, recent Holocaust. But why do all the studies seem to
on just on continent?
A BOW-SHOT AWAY
When engaging in negotiations of any kind, one must know full well who
at the other side of the table, whether or not he is reliable and willing
stand up for his end of the deal.
As we are currently involved in negotiations with the descendants of
Yishmael, let us examine our parashah and uncover the essence of Yishmael.
As he wandered in the desert with mother, their water supply had been
depleted, and he was on the verge of collapse. His mother placed him in
shade, under one of the shrubs in the desert, and moved back quite a
distance, "a bow-shot away." Rashi, noting the plural form "kimtahavei,"
explains that the distance was in fact two bow-shots away. Why did she
so far back from her son? Rabbi Ovadia Bartenura zs"l explains that
Yishmael was a skilled archer, and she was afraid to be within shooting
distance of his bow!
This is our partner in the peace talks. In his hands we entrust the peace
and security of Jewish settlements, him we trust to fulfill his end of the
bargain. Could it be that those conducting the negotiations don't learn
commentary of the Bartneura on the parashah?
Two people approached the rabbi for a "din Torah," a court case to be
decided according to Torah law. One bore an expression of confidence and
assurance, while the other walked in gingerly, the look of confusion
upon his face. The plaintiff presented his claim: "I have a gifted son,
with all the qualities in the world, and I arranged his engagement to this
one's daughter. At the time, we agreed how much each of us would give for
the expenses and decided upon a date for the wedding. I prepared my
but he wasn't ready. He requested a one-month delay, but that month
into two months. The wedding date came and passed, and his obligation
hasn't been fulfilled. So, either he pays up his side of the agreement,
the engagement will be declared null and void, and my son will be free to
marry who he wishes!"
The rabbi turned to the other litigant, sitting uncomfortably, and asked,
"So, what do you have to say?"
Embittered and in tears, he pleaded his case: "When I made the match for
daughter, I was a wealthy man, living in the lap of luxury. All the money
was ready and available in my pocket. In the meantime, however, I have
suffered a series of calamities one right after the other. A fire broke
in my store and destroyed all the merchandise, including my record book
which included all the debts owed to me. I was left with nothing. The
anguish brought my wife to illness and she died, leaving me alone. I
hard to try to rejuvenate the business - I bought merchandise on credit
took out many loans. As if all this wasn't enough, my daughter's
is about to be called off. What am I to do?" His shoulders trembled as
tried to contain his crying.
An eerie silence overcame the room until it was finally broken by the
rabbi's voice. "I see that the bride's father is making efforts to
his financial stability, and will soon be able to pay his part of the
agreement. I suggest that he sign here, in my presence, a series of
documents promising to pay his obligation in installments. Let us agree
a new date for the wedding, and everything will be settled once and for
The father's son consented, and the color was restored to the bride's
father. They wrote up the agreements and signed. The rabbi exclaimed,
"Mazal tov!" and asked that drinks be brought. He urged the proud parents
to drink "lehayyim!" and the bride's father was overjoyed. He took hold
a large cup, filled up to the brim, recited the berachah and downed the
entire cup in one shot. As his joy intensified, he went to fill up his
Seeing where things were headed, the rabbi quickly intervened. "I always
wondered," he said, "why drunkards are often referred to as, 'drunken like
Lot.' After all, Lot wasn't the first one in history to become
and lose control. Long before him, Noah took off his clothing and rolled
around in his tent. Why are we more forgiving towards him than to Lot?
"The answer," he continued, "has now become clear to me. Noah we can
understand - an elderly man, who had already married off all his children,
the entire world was now his, he felt happy and rejoiced. But you, Lot,
lost all your property, your wife died, and your daughters are still
unmarried. What are you getting drunk about?"
He stopped talking, and the bride's father stopped pouring.
Why do we bring this story here? Discussions are currently being held
regarding the possibility of establishing a government-sanctioned casino
Israel. If the Americans have their Las Vegas, and the Europeans have
theirs along the banks of the Riviera, then why should the Jewish State be
any worse-off? Why should it be considered backward and undeveloped, and
not import this drug, as well? But when we think about it, there is a
difference. What is possible for wealthy Americans and the opulent
residents of the Riviera isn't an option for a besieged nation, smitten
unemployment, dried up from recession, struggling with innumerable social
and existential problems!
But even more than we direct ourselves to the public plane, we speak with
regard to the personal introspection of each individual. The intoxication
we spoke of is but an allegory - there is no difference how one wastes his
time and uses it for inanity. A person comes home from a hard day at work
and spends the entire night reading the newspaper, sitting in front of the
screen, surfing the internet or hanging around outside of the home - it
really doesn't matter. It's his own, personal time - let him spend it as
wishes. But when there are small children or adolescents in the home who
look to their parents for direction, who need an emotional talk, when
interest in their studies is necessary for their academic progress, an
of learning together - then how great is the claim against those who waste
their evenings away! Aren't the children worthy of our free time?
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"And God tested Avraham"
Rabbi Mosheh Almoshenino zs"l, in the introduction to his work "Yedei
Mosheh," inquires regarding the greatness of the "akeidah" - haven't
millions of Jews given their lives for Name of God throughout the
He explains that the greatness of Avraham was manifest in the akeidah
through the enthusiasm and sacred, intense joy with which he observed
Hashem's command. Hazal teach us (Pesahim 117a) that prophecy requires a
state of joy. Thus, if Avraham had not experienced joy at the moment of
akeidah, the angel would not have appeared to him to tell him to withdraw
A most powerful lesson emerges from this idea. If Avraham had been in low
spirits, the revelation of the angel would not have come to stop the
from actually occurring, and then Avraham would have had reason for
distress. Since he rejoiced at the opportunity of fulfilling the will of
his Creator, he received prophecy, and his joy was intensified!
"And God tested Avraham"
The Hid"a zs"l, too, addressed the question of the significance and
greatness of the akeidah. Why is Avraham's sacrifice considered greater
than that of generations of Jews who were slaughtered "al kiddush Hashem"?
Furthermore, hadn't Avraham already been tested when he was thrown into
furnace in Ur Kasdim? He answers that without question, the greatness of
the sacrifice of all the generations cannot be underestimated, and no
or even angel can stand with them in their place in the Upper World. But,
after all, they were taken to their death by force. Similarly, Avraham
forcefully cast in the fiery furnace. To the akeidah, however, he and
Yisshak walked willingly with no one compelling them, other than the
command. This is the greatest test of all.
"And God tested Avraham"
The Abarbanel zs"l translates the term "nisah" not as "tested," but rather
as "raised," related to the word "ness," a banner or flag. Through the
akeidah, Hashem raised Avraham to the highest levels. He explained
that Adam instilled the evil inclination and physical desires within him
his posterity when he partook of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. These
desires continued to intensify until humanity was destroyed by the flood,
leaving just Noah and his family. The turn-around was brought about by
Avraham, who devoted his life to the dissemination of his faith and the
service of Hashem. The Almighty rewarded him with the miraculous birth of
Yisshak, born to him at an old age, and instructed him to offer his son as
sacrifice. Yisshak consented and submitted his very life for the Honor of
his Creator, thereby reinforcing the power of his spirit and eliminating
force of the physical. In this way, he corrected a substantial portion of
the sin of the forbidden tree. Thus, from this point on, it became easier
for his offspring to detach themselves from their desires and submit
themselves to their Creator, to be His nation and loyal flock. This is
eternal purpose of the akeidah.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Don Hasdai Kreskas zs"l
In the week in which we read of akeidat Yisshak, we recall the many
"akeidot" and sacrifices made by our forefathers for the Name of Hashem,
the merit of these martyrs shall work on our behalf and bring an end to
troubles and yield our complete redemption. This is the testimony of
Don Hasdai Kreskas zs"l, regarding the riots in Spain in the year 5151:
In the year 5151 Hashem poured His anger against the exile of Yerushalayim
in Spain. Fire went forth from Syvilia and consumed the stronghold of
Israel in the land of Spain. Some of them were killed, most notably Rav
Yisshak ben Sussin. Others killed themselves "al kiddush Hashem," among
them the Hacham Rav Yehudah ben Asher, a descendant of the Rosh, he, his
wife and mother-in-law, the wife of Rabbi Yaakov Ba'al Haturim. Hashem
the bows of the enemy against the populous communities of Syvilia, where
there lived six thousand families. They ignited fire in its gates and
killed masses of people. The fire went forth and consumed all the cedars
Lebanon, the sacred community of Kortova.Hashem's anger was then kindled
against the sacred city from where Torah and the Word of Hashem went
the community of Tolitula, and they killed in the sanctuary of Hashem
priests and prophets. Hashem's Name was sanctified through many of its
rabbis, including the pure, choice seed of Rabbi Asher zs"l, they, their
children and students.Not to mention the other communities in the region,
around seventy in number.Hashem devoured mercilessly in the communities of
Wallensia, where there lived around one thousand families. Those who died
for Hashem's Name numbered around two hundred and fifty, and the rest ran
away to the mountains and escaped.From there the plague extended to the
community Miorca, and around three hundred souls died for the
of Hashem's Name. Eight hundred people ran away to the fortress. The
Shabbat, Hashem kindled His anger like fire against the communities of
Barcelona which was destroyed on that day, and the number of victims
around two hundred and fifty. Many sanctified Hashem's Name, including my
only son, as a perfect sheep he was offered as a sacrifice. I accept upon
myself the divine judgment, and I am consoled by his good portion and
pleasant lot.In the end, there was not spared a single Jew in the kingdom
Wallensia, as was the case in the region of Catlonia."
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
Chapter 25: The Halachot of Tefillin
The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (14b-15a) cites the comment of Rabbi
Yohanan, "One who wants to completely accept upon himself the yoke of the
Kingdom of Heaven shall perform his bodily functions, wash his hands,
tefillin, read the shema and pray. And anyone who performs his bodily
functions, washes his hands, places tefillin, recites shema and prays is
considered as having built a mizbei'ah and offered a sacrifice upon it, as
it says (Tehillim 26:6), 'I will wash my hands clean and surround Your
Rava is cited (Shimusha Rabba) as remarking, "Whoever places tefillin,
wraps himself in a tallit, recites shema and prays is guaranteed a place
the World to Come." Abaye is then quoted as saying, "I guarantee him that
the fire of gehinnom will have no control over him," and Rav Papa
such a person that all his sins will be forgiven.
Hazal also commented (Zohar Hadash 77a, Tikkunei Zohar Hadash 101b),
"Whoever places tefillin and wraps himself in a tallit is considered as
having fulfilled all 613 missvot." The Geonim said that there is no
greater than wearing tefillin, as the entire Torah - both the written and
oral Torah - has been compared to tefillin, as the Torah says (Shemot
"in order that the Torah of Hashem shall be in your mouth."
The Gemara in Menahot (43b) says, "Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: whoever
has tefillin on his head and on his arm, ssissit on his garment and a
mezuzah on his door-post is guaranteed that he won't sin, as it says
(Kohelet 4:12), 'and the triple thread will never be torn,' and it also
(Tehillim 34:8), 'The angel of God encamps around those who fear Him and
The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (153a) says, "'At every moment your
shall be white' - this refers to the missvah of ssissit; 'and oil shall
never be lacking from your head' - this refers to the missvah of
The Rosh (Hilchot Tefillin, 28) writes based on the Gemara in Rosh
(17a) that if one's actions were exactly balanced - half sins and half
missvot - but included in his missvot is the missvah of tefillin, it
down the missvot in his favor. On the other hand, if Heaven forbid the
missvah of tefillin is not included among his missvot, the scales are
in the opposite direction.
The Rambam writes (Hilchot Tefillin 4:25), "The sanctity of tefillin is
very great, for so long as tefillin are on a person's head and arm he is
humble and God-fearing, and is not led after frivolity and vain talk, and
does not think evil thoughts; rather he concentrates his mind on words of
truth and justice."
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Attached to the hips are the legs, which bear the burden of the entire
body. For this reason they must be especially strong. The leg is built
from three parts: the thigh, the lower leg and the foot. The thigh is the
part of the leg connected to the waist. It consists of a single bone,
is the longest and strongest bone in the human body. The lower leg rests
beneath the thigh and consists of two bones. The join between the thigh
lower leg is called the knee. In the front section is found a small, flat
bone called the kneecap. It protects the knee when the individual falls
the thigh so that it doesn't bend inward. The leg has a total of 26
19 muscles, 33 joints and 107 sinews. The bones in the leg constitute a
quarter of all the bones in the human body. When walking, a person steps
the ground with two parts of the foot - the heel and front portion.
the arched area of the foot run nerves and arteries. Thanks to the arched
shape of the foot, one does not apply pressure to these nerves and
as he walks. The arch also decreases the agitation potentially caused by
walking. Some people have flat feet, and therefore experience pain when
their foot hits the ground as they walk, the result of pressure on the
nerves and arteries in the foot. The heel and front part of the foot bear
most of the weight of the human body. Given the fact that the legs are
used so excessively by a person, it is no wonder that they are among the
most frequently injured parts of the body.
To strengthen these critical limbs it is highly recommended to exercise,
walk barefoot on sand or soft earth, and pay attention to the quality of
one's shoes. Hazal have taught us that one should sell everything he owns
in order to purchase shoes for his feet. Once we're talking about Hazal,
must bring to mind their warning regarding missvot that are commonly
trampled upon with "the heel." This refers to missvot to which people
little attention and give little concentration. How can a person trample
upon a missvah with his foot? Try to think of a missvah that seems
particularly important and worth tremendous effort, and then consider a
missvah that appears to be of lesser significance, and it wouldn't be so
not to invest too much effort into its performance. Hazal teach us that
must invest the same amount into every missvah, since one never knows the
reward or value for any given missvah. One must be meticulous with regard
to "lighter" missvot just as he is regarding more severe missvot, and
himself diligently to their fulfillment. In this way, a person can reach
close as possible to perfection in the fulfillment of Hashem's Will.
The Faithful Student (3)
A Story From the Book "HaSaraf miBrisk,"
the Story of the Life of Mahari"l
Flashback: A young Jew was caught stealing right in front of the imposing
prison in Grodno, a penitentiary known for its harsh treatment of inmates.
The thief was Hayyim Simhah Soloveitchik from Mogilov, who claimed that he
had been arrested for stealing in his hometown and was banished from the
It was enough to glance for just a moment at the boy's face to see that he
was not a standard burglar by any means. He came from the family of the
rabbi of Volozhin, and was the younger brother of renowned scholar, the
Halevi" zs"l of Brisk, the uncle of the great Rabbi Hayyim zs"l of Brisk.
He himself was a talented scholar, brilliant, sharp and thorough in his
studies, his knowledge spanning the entire corpus of Torah knowledge. As
passed by the city of Lomza, he got to know its rabbi, the renowned
Diskin zs"l, who came to be known as the "Saraf" of Brisk, and was awed by
his greatness. Rather than continuing along his journey, he stayed to
from the great rabbi and draw from his fountains of wisdom and
The rabbi later moved to serve as rabbi in Kovna and Brisk and his
Rabbi Hayyim Simhah, moved to Mogilov to study under the Malbi"m. One day
as he walked through the streets engrossed in his studies, the Polish
underground, which struggled to free Poland from the Russian occupation,
executed a terror attack. The young scholar continued along, his mind
singly focused upon his learning, and did not notice the attack. He
see that the street had become empty until he was stopped by the troops.
One cannot blame them for not believing him when he claimed that he didn't
see or hear anything out of the ordinary. They arrested him and brought
in for investigation under torture and threats. Despite it all, they
not get out of him information that he did not possess. They eventually
exiled him from the city. Upon his release he was informed that his
rabbi, who was serving as the rabbi of Brisk, was arrested under false
charges and imprisoned in the penitentiary in Grodno. The authorities
willing to accuse him at any price and thus embark upon a campaign of
degradation against Torah scholars and leaders, working together with the
heads of the enlightenment movement.
His faithful student was dismayed at the news, and headed towards Grodno.
He was resolute in his decision to go to the prison and stay with his
during these difficult, trying times, and serve him as best he could. His
plan was now about to be completed. The officer that caught him took him
the arm and placed him in the cell adjacent to the prison office.
To be continued.