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A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

The Halachot of a Keli Sheni

A "keli sheni" is a utensil into which food is poured from its original utensil in which it was cooked. A keli sheni is not considered by halachah to have the capacity to cook, even if its heat exceeds the temperature of "yad soledet bo" (where one's hand would instinctively recoil on contact). One may therefore soak raw food in water in a keli sheni. Nevertheless, one may not soak in a keli sheni soft or very easily-cooked foods (such as tea leaves), as these can be cooked even in a keli sheni.

According to the custom of the Ashkenazim, one should not soak in a keli sheni food that has not been previously cooked before Shabbat, if the temperature is at or above the level of "yad soledet bo." Ashkenazim similarly forbid soaking in a keli sheni at this temperature items that have been previously baked or roasted before Shabbat. Therefore, they do not put roasted coffee powder into a cup into which boiling water from a keli rishon has been poured. They likewise refrain from soaking crackers and other baked goods in a cup of coffee or tea if the cup is a keli sheni. The Sefaradim, however, permit soaking in a keli sheni even food items that have not been cooked at all before Shabbat, even if the temperature in the keli sheni exceeds the level of "yad soledet bo," not to mention items that have been baked or roasted before Shabbat.

Some authorities maintain that even though a keli sheni does not have the capacity to cook, this applies only to liquids, as the walls of the utensil cool that which is poured into it. A dry food, however, which has no liquid whatsoever, can cook even in a keli sheni. Therefore, one may not soak a raw item in a keli sheni containing a dry food at or above a temperature of "yad soledet bo." Others, however, hold that a keli sheni cannot cook at all, even a dry food. The halachah follows this second, lenient position. Nevertheless, one who is stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing. All this applies to soaking something that has not been cooked. Regarding a previously cooked item, even a liquid that has since cooled off, there is no room for stringency whatsoever.

In light of what we have seen, one may pour cold soup onto a hot food at or above the temperature of "yad soledet bo" situated in a keli sheni, even if that food is completely dry without any liquid. One may similarly pour water that had been boiled before Shabbat onto a very hot food in a keli sheni, even if the water has completely cooled.

One may place mint leaves into a hot drink in a keli sheni. One may likewise place a piece of lemon or squeeze a lemon into a hot beverage in a keli sheni.

One may place pieces of onion into a hot food in a keli sheni, though one who is stringent in this regard is deserving of blessing.

Amen! Amen!

Rabbi Yossi Bar Yehudah says: Two ministering angels accompany a person on Erev Shabbat from the Bet Kenesset to his home, one good and one evil. If, when he comes to his home, he finds the candle lit, the table set, and the couches arranged, the good angel says, "May it be His will that it should be this way next Shabbat." The evil angel answers "amen" against his will. But if not, then the evil angel says, "May it be His will that it should be this way next Shabbat," and the good angel answers "amen" against his will. (Masechet Shabbat 119)


A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Halachot of Kaddish and Keri'at Shema

The importance of kaddish supersedes that of kedushah. Therefore, if a person find himself in a place where several minyanim are in progress simultaneously, and he hears kaddish from one minyan and kedushah from another, he should answer the kaddish rather than the kedushah. The response of "Amen, yehei Shemeih rabbah" is particularly significant, so much so that Hazal say, "Whoever answers 'yehei Shemeih rabbah mevarach' with all his might [meaning, with utmost concentration] - the decree against him is revoked… " (Shabbat 119b). The proper text of "yehei Shemeih rabbah" reads, "… mevarach le'alam u'l'olmei…," rather than "l'olmei"; meaning, it should be recited with the added "u." This is the proper text as it appears in the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon and of Rav Sa'adia Gaon, as well as in the Rambam's version of kaddish, and this is the ruling of the Bet Yossef. The Kabbalists maintain that the response of "yehei Shemeih rabbah" must consist of twenty-eight words, and they therefore responded by reciting all the way through the words "da'amiran be'alma." Others, however, hold that one recites only until "almaya." Our practice, based on the Mahari Abuhav, cited by the Bet Yossef, is to recite until "da'amiran be'alma" as long as one is at a place in tefilah where no prohibition of interrupting applies. If, however, one must interrupt keri'at shema to respond to kaddish, he should recite only until "almaya."

The one reciting kaddish must be an adult; if only a child needs to recite kaddish, an adult should recite it with him.

One must take three steps back when reciting "Oseh shalom" at the end of any kaddish. This applies both to a shaliah sibur and others.

Many people have the practice after the recitation of "Oseh shalom" concluding the Amidah to recite the yehi rasson prayer for the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash. This practice is based on a Midrash Tanhuma (Parashat Ki Tisa, 5), which describes how the Babylonian emperor took three steps to bring back his messenger who had gone to dispatch the emperor's message to King Hizkiyahu. The emperor brought him back in order to revise the letter in such a way that it would give greater respect to the Al-mighty. In reward, the Midrash says, Hashem granted world dominion to three of his descendants, including Nevuchadnessar, who destroyed the first Bet Hamikdash. After we take our three steps back upon the conclusion of the Amidah, we ask Hashem to restore the Bet Hamikdash in the merit of our three steps which we take in His honor.

There is a misvah from the Torah to recite keri'at shema every evening and every morning. The time for the morning recitation extends until the end of three "hours." Halachah defines hours in this regard as one-twelfth of the period of daylight. Thus, the time for shema extends until the end of a quarter of the daylight period. The authorities debate when this period begins. The Terumat Hadeshen and others maintain that the period begins at daybreak and ends at nightfall; according to the Levush and others, the period begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. One should preferably follow the stringent view of the Terumat Hadeshen, though those who follow the lenient position need not be reprimanded, as they have authorities on whom to rely.

One who hears kaddish or kedushah in the middle of the pasuk "Shema Yisrael" or in the middle of "Baruch Shem kevod" should not respond; this applies even if he is in between these two pesukim.


Dear Brothers,

Yaakov Avinu leaves Haran. With Lavan, "the Aramean who sought to destroy my father," who wanted to destroy everything, he had already made peace and signed a treaty. What remains is to make peace with his brother Esav. On the one hand, his mother sent her nursemaid, Devorah, to inform him that his brother no longer harbors ill will towards him. On the other hand, Esav marches ahead of four hundred men; even if his anger has subsided, he isn't much of a friend. What should be done? Should the struggle and hostility continue forever, or is there a chance for reconciliation? An effort towards peace must be made. Yaakov sends a gift, conveying a message of reconciliation and appeasement. He also tells the messengers precisely what to say. What would we expect to hear? Esav is angry at Yaakov for his having seized the birthright, claiming that he did so dishonestly. He does not acknowledge that Yaakov took the berachot in accordance with Rivkah's prophecy she received through ru'ah hakodesh. How can he be appeased? Presumably, with an apology, an expression of remorse. But this is not what we hear from Yaakov; he speaks not a single word of apology. Instead, he reviews his personal life over the last period of time: "I have lived with Lavan and have tarried until now. I acquired donkeys, oxen, sheep, slaves and maidservants, and I have sent to tell this to my master, to find favor in your eyes." If we had become angry with someone, to the point where we are fuming with rage and desiring revenge, feeling that he cheated and tricked us, and then we heard him report of how he has been doing over the last few years, what would we say? "Who cares?!"

But Yaakov Avinu was smarter than we. He was very wise and understood human nature very, very well. When a person feels angry towards another, he transforms him in his mind to a monster, to a threatening, superhuman force. The moment he comes along and tells about his life, the other one says to himself, "Wait a second; he is just a person, like me. He left his hometown, stayed away for a while, saved money, acquired a fortune… Suddenly, the entire perspective changes, everything looks different. The person becomes a person, and no longer seems like a wolf.

Yaakov Avinu reveals to us this secret, and the Ralbag zs"l exposes it for us. As the Torah is a "living Torah," we are commanded to inculcate its lessons and apply them. To what do we refer?

We all look aghast at how in Eress Yisrael two nations are forming, two distinct educational systems, two very different value systems. They distinguish themselves from one another in dress, eating habits, leisurely activities, culture, speech, in innumerable ways. Two different worlds. This is indeed frightening for we are, after all, brothers. This is indeed frightening for we are, after all, Jews.

They deepen the division between us by creating for themselves a satanic image of us as primitives, parasites, manipulators, and greedy people. We cannot have any complaints against them; they do not do this with an evil spirit. Those who degrade us are simply the result of the system, the fruits of ongoing incitement; they are trapped by the fear of us.

But we, we know the beauty of our camp, that we are correct, we know of Hashem and His sacred Torah. We are aware of the eternal promise that all Jews will return. We must make an effort to bring them close, to assuage their fears, to melt the ice, to calm the suspicions.

How do we do this? Let us remember the call issued by Rabbenu Ovadia Yossef shlit"a three years ago, that every family adopt a secular family or bring closer a traditional family. We do this with pleasantness, with genuine interest, with warmth and sensitivity. This is what Yaakov Avinu taught us, this is how he responded to Esav Harasha. We must eliminate the divisions between us and our brethren, they must be shown that we are not frightening, we are not threatening. They must see a family united in happiness, they must be invited to see the beauty of Shabbat, they must join us for an inspiring Torah class. They must connect to us as people to people, friend to friend, Jew to Jew - "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together."

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


Shedding Skin

When we speak about creatures who shed their skin, we generally draw an immediate association in our minds to snakes. In truth, however, many other creatures also shed their skin. In fact, most reptiles and amphibians shed their skin much as snakes do, and many other creatures shed their skin differently. This most interesting phenomenon of an animal divesting himself of his skin results from the skin's constant exposure to the elements, which requires it to renew itself regularly. The outermost layer of the skin wears and is ultimately substituted by layers that grow deeper down. In many instances, the outer layer is more or less stiff and rigid; this can happen regardless of whether it is made of cells or of other matter, such as is the case with invertebrates. In these cases, thanks to various processes that take place, the outermost layer falls in a single block or in relatively large pieces of skin layers. It is interesting to note in this context that in most reptiles and amphibians, the shedding process begins in the lips. After this initial stage, the snake crawls in and out of the outer layer which gradually turns inside-out over it, just as a child's shirtsleeve turns inside-out when he takes off quickly. In the end, the outer layer remains fully intact, only inside-out. Many amphibians and several species of lizards, particularly geckos, customarily "peel" the outer layer of skin and eat it. Therefore, one will not find fallen skin in cages or aquariums, and one who wasn't watching at precisely the right moment will never even know that the creature has shed.

When we speak of exchanging skin in the human realm, we are reminded of the pasuk, "Will a black man change his skin?" Meaning, is it possible for one to change his nature or innate qualities imbedded within him from birth? In truth, however, the Al-mighty, in His infinite compassion, has allowed man even to change his "skin," a change related to man's free choice which we Jews call "avodat ha'middot" - working on one's character. Changing character traits such as anger, arrogance, stinginess and so on to positive ones, is a far more significant change than an external transformation, since it involves one's essence. Through this internal, essential transformation, a person becomes "agreeable to the Al-mighty and agreeable to people."


The Deal of a Lifetime (1)

Nahum was a wealthy Jew who earned a comfortable livelihood from his business in forests. He would sit on his porch in the late afternoon, absentmindedly reading through a book and thoughtlessly thrusting his hand into the plate of cookies and mug of coffee in front of him. He loved the majestic, late afternoon hour, his hour of rest in between his grueling daytime work, when he earned his living, and the nighttime period he spent in the Bet Midrash, participating in the minhah service and study of mishnayot, followed by arbit and the Gemara session. His relaxation was disrupted by the arrival of Yaakov, a simple Jew who tried earning a living as a business agent. Usually, his ideas were preposterous, his suggestions far-fetched and wild. Five minutes in his company were five minutes of sheer entertainment. But ten minutes already became a nuisance. Now, too, Nahum hoped that this visit would end soon. "This time I will not give in," Yaakov already disappointed, right in his very first sentence. "This time I have come to offer you the deal of a lifetime!" Nahum tried remembering how many times Yaakov had used this same expression in the past, and realized, much to his surprise, that never before had Yaakov described his suggestion in such terms. It would be interesting to see what he has brought with him this time. Will he once again recommend bidding for collection rights at the toll bridge, or to rent the old mill?

"Listen, Nahum," Yaakov whispered, as if divulging a secret. "An estate-owner has run into trouble and desperately needs cash. He is prepared to sell his forest at a bargain price!" "Where is the forest?" Nahum indifferently asked, attempting to fulfill his duty to respond. "How big is it, and how far is it from the river?" After the lumber is cut down, it must be brought to the river to be loaded onto the rafts.

The agent's eyes sparkled with joy. "Quiet - my hand on my mouth, I will tell you nothing now. Tomorrow, after the tefilah, we will travel together to see it."

"I can't go tomorrow; my schedule is full," Nahum answered, realizing he has fallen into the trap.

"Then the next day," Yaakov excitedly replied. "It's a deal - in two days after tefilah." He immediately got up and disappeared, before Nahum could even express any objection. He closed his book with a sigh and recited berachah aharonah. "The truth is," he thought, "I deserve a vacation, a nice trip through the fresh air of a green forest, enveloped by the intoxicating smell of pines." Feeling a little better, he put on his coat and hat and headed towards the synagogue for minhah.

As expected, Yaakov the agent disappeared and was nowhere to be found, not that evening and not the following day. Even if Nahum wanted to change his mind, he had no one to tell. Then, as expected, he prayed with him during shaharit on the following day. He reminded Nahum that he scheduled an appointment with the landowner and spoke with the forester. He also permitted himself to rent a carriage. Immediately after breakfast they would go together. The weather was pleasant, and the carriage arrived. Nahum decided to enjoy the trip as best he could.

"We're here," Yaakov announced, as the carriage pulled up near the guard's booth. The guard came out and greeted the agent as if he were some old acquaintance.

"I will guide you," he said, "and I will answer any question you have."

Nahum briefly inquired as to the perimeter of the forest and was astonished by its size. It turned out that it spread all the way until the river. He gave a nod of satisfaction and began walking silently, surveying the trees with his critical and knowledgeable eye.

To be continued


A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

The Missvah of Lighting Hannukah Candles

What is Hanukah?

During the time of the second Bet Hamikdash, the Greek government issued decrees against Yisrael, rising against them to lead them to forget the misvot of the Torah and eliminate their religion. They did not permit them to involve themselves in Torah and misvot. They also entered the Sanctuary [of the Mikdash] and defiled it. Yisrael suffered great distress on their account until the Al-mighty had compassion on them and saved them from their hands. The sons of the Hashmonaim, the kohanim gedolim, overcame them and killed them, saving Yisrael from their hands, and they appointed a king from among the kohanim. When the Hashmonaim overcame the Greeks, they entered the Mikdash and sought to light the sacred menorah. However, they could find only one jug of pure oil that contained enough oil to light the menorah for just a single day. But a miracle occurred and they lit from this jug for eight days, until they were able to press olives and manufacture pure oil from them. That day on which the jug of oil was discovered was the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev. The Sages of that generation therefore instituted that a festival of praise and joy be observed during these eight days, starting from the 25th of Kislev. We light candles each night during this period in order to publicize the miracle. These days are called Hannukah.

Meticulousness in the Observance of This Missvah

One must be very meticulous in the misvah of lighting Hannukah candles, as this misvah is very beloved, to publicize the miracle by thanking Hashem. Hazal say (Masechet Shabbat 23b) that one who fulfills this misvah properly merits sons who are Torah scholars, as it says (Mishlei 6:23), "For misvot are a candle, and Torah is light."

The Obligation of a Poor Person

Even a poor person who lives off charitable donations must borrow or sell his clothing in order to purchase oil for lighting at least one candle each night. He must similarly hire himself out as a worker in order that he can purchase oil for lighting at least one candle each night. Those in charge of charities must therefore ensure that the poor are supplied with oil for the lighting of Hannukah candles, that they have at least enough for one candle every night.

How Many Candles to Light

How many candles must one light on Hanukah? Strictly speaking, a single candle is enough for each home, regardless of how many people live in the home. But Am Yisrael has taken upon itself the custom to perform the misvah at the highest standard, and add a candle every night. Thus, on the first night we light one candle, two on the second night, three on the third, and so on, until on the eighth night we light eight candles. The practice among the Sefaradim and Eastern communities, who have accepted the rulings of the Shulhan Aruch, is for one person in the household to light and thereby fulfill the obligation on behalf of the rest of the family, regardless of how many people they are. The Ashkenazim, however, have the practice that every member of the household lights Hanukkah candles.


"I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth"

The Gemara (Shabbat 32a) tells that Rabbi Yannai would check the sturdiness of a boat before crossing the river on it. He would say, "A person should never put himself in a dangerous situation under the assumption that a miracle will be performed for him, lest a miracle is not performed for him. And if a miracle is performed for him, it is deducted from his merits." Rabbi Hanin cited as the source for this halachah the pasuk from this parashah: "I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth." Rashi explains: "My merits have been decreased and depleted because of the kindness that You have performed for me."

"I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth"

The Gemara in Masechet Ta'anit (20b) tells that there was a shaky bridge in Nehardea. Rav and Shemuel would walk all the way around rather than cross the bridge, despite the fact that it had stood that way for thirteen years without falling. Once they were joined by Rav Ada Bar Ahavah. Shemuel suggested to Rav that they walk around as they usually would. Rav replied, "Now we have no need, because since Rav Ada Bar Ahavah's merit is so great, I am not afraid." The Gemara goes on to tell that Rav Huna had wine stored in a shaky cellar. He wanted to move the wine but feared that the ceiling would collapse in the process. He went to speak with Rav Ada Bar Ahavah in matters Torah, and over the course of their discussion he walked with him down to the cellar and instructed his workers to move the barrels of wine. When the process was completed, they left the cellar and afterwards the ceiling caved in. Rav Ada Bar Ahavah realized what Rav Huna did and was angry. He was angry because of Rabbi Yannai's ruling: "A person should never put himself in a dangerous situation under the assumption that a miracle will be performed for him, lest a miracle is not performed for him. And if a miracle is performed for him, it is deducted from his merits, as it says, 'I am too small for all the kindness'."

"I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth"

Rabbenu Bahya Ibn Pekuda zs"l, the Sefaradic judge, in his work "Hovot Halevavot" (Sha'ar Avodat Ha'Elokim, 6), explains why a person suffers a deduction from his merits when a miracle occurs to him. A person bears the obligation to serve his Creator, and this obligation intensifies in accordance with G-d's kindness towards him. So long as Hashem deals with him through strictly natural means, his level of avodat Hashem suffices. But when a miracle is performed for him, an additional level of avodat Hashem is demanded. If he does not live up to these new expectations, he will, G-d forbid, be punished.

"I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth"

Rabbenu Yonah Girondi zs"l points out a misvah of the Torah included in this pasuk. He writes (Sha'arei Teshuvah 3:29): "Do not say to yourselves when Hashem your G-d has thrust them from your path, 'Hashem has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues' (Devarim 9:4) - we are warned here not to attribute our successes in our minds to our righteousness and goodness of heart; we must rather believe and realize with our heart that our success results from divine kindness and His immense goodness, as Yaakov Avinu a"h said, 'I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth'."

"I am too small for all the kindness and all the truth"

The Hid"a zs"l interprets this pasuk as an allusion. The Midrash says that teshuvah, sedakah and Torah can erase a harsh decree. This is alluded to in the pasuk, "Assat Hashem hi takum" ("The decision of Hashem will be sustained"). The word "assat" may be seen as an acronym of the words "inuy" (self-affliction, or fasting), sedakah and Torah. Yaakov similarly alluded to these three in this pasuk: "I am too small" refers to his having become physically frail from fasting and repentance; "for all the kindness" refers to sedakah; and "and all the truth" refers to Torah, which is referred to as "truth" (Berachot 5b), for indeed the Torah protects and saves.


The Bet Yossef zs"l

When the Bet Yossef zs"l lived in the city of Nikopol in Northern Bulgaria, he exerted himself tirelessly in Torah and avodat Hashem. However, without flour, there is no Torah. A merchant who took note of his diligence and his fear of Hashem, which took precedence to his wisdom, figured that if he took him as a partner in his business, he will certainly see success. The Bet Yossef agreed but on one condition - that he comes to the office only after his tefilah and shiurim are completed. The merchant gave him one-half of his profits, but noticed that his profits had not doubled. If he would have been a bit more patient, he would have earned an enormous fortune. But because he did not have the patience, he gave the Bet Yossef half of the past month's profits and told him that he is breaking up the partnership.

The Bet Yossef said to him, "A person's livelihood is determined on Rosh Hashanah, and nobody interferes with what is assigned to his fellow."

As time went on, the Bet Yossef's wife said to him, "You might as well go to the market and start some venture before all our money runs out." He took his money to the marketplace, but his legs brought him to the Bet Midrash. He sat there all day engrossed in his studies, and in the evening he told his wife that he simply forgot to go to the market. He promised that the next day he will make some investment with the money. Sure enough, the next day he came to the market and someone offered to sell him an old, filthy, copper mortar for just a few pennies. The Bet Yossef purchased the mortar and brought it home.

He said to his wife, "While I am in the Bet Midrash, scrape and clean the mortar, and we will make some money off it." She began cleaning it and was astonished by its shine when she was finished. She took it to the smith who confirmed that it was made of pure gold. Stunned, she thought to herself, "If so, then the entire sale is null and void, since the seller did not realize that this gold. We must return the mortar to its rightful owner." When the Bet Yossef returned home, he said to his wife, "The mortar that I brought - it is made of pure gold!"

"How did you know?" she asked in bewilderment.

He answered, "I had a revelation from the heavens that we have earned good fortune in this manner. I was informed that I should sell it and move to the Holy Land. With this money we will support ourselves comfortably, and it will allow me to publish my works." If only that businessman had had just a little patience, he would have shared this enormous treasure!


In our parashah, Esav reconciles with Yaakov and offers to escort him. "How good and pleasant it is, when brothers sit together." Yaakov refuses the offer, politely but resolutely: I will go my way, he says, at my pace, and you go ahead at your pace. Eventually, towards the end of the parashah, Esav takes his family and possessions and leaves the land, leaving it to his brother, Yaakov.

The Torah is eternal, as are its messages. We do not despise Esav; we always look to him as a brother (Bemidbar 20:14). We are commanded never to initiate hostilities with them (Devarim 2:4). However, as the Imrei Hayyim zs"l commented, "One must be good to everyone, but not with everyone." The gentiles should be happy and healthy in their lands; what business do they have here? Did we leave their countries in order to meet them again here?

The Tosefta (Berachot 6:4) writes: "One who sees idolatry in Eress Yisrael says, 'Blessed is the patient One.' One who sees a place from where idolatry has been eliminated says, 'Blessed is the One who eliminated idolatry from our land. May it be the will before Hashem that idolatry shall be uprooted from all locations in Israel." Today, with blindness and shortsightedness, idolatry is brought into our land. Churches are established, foreign culture is preserved, stores are opened selling abominable foods. Does anyone think that these people have come out of Zionistic motives, to express Judaism? Isn't it abundantly clear that as soon as trouble strikes they will leave, just as Esav did? If so, then why are they brought here? Does anyone have an answer?


We find in the Midrash Tanhuma on our parashah a most striking criticism against the "choicest" of the patriarchs, Yaakov Avinu: "Yaakov slept, and the Al-mighty and the angels protected him, as it says, 'Behold, angels of God ascended and descended it. And behold, Hashem stood over him… ' And he now sends gifts and begs, 'So shall you say to my master, Esav'! In other words, 'Like a muddied spring, a ruined fountain, is a righteous man fallen before a wicked one' (Mishlei 25:26)."

We have no concept of even our great rabbis, the Rishonim, who resembled angels, not to mention of the Amora'im and Tanna'im, all the more so the prophets, and obviously our sacred patriarchs and the choicest of all three. But the Torah is eternal, and the actions of our forefathers serve as a sign for their children in every generation, particularly the actions of Yaakov Avinu, for "Yaakov Avinu never died," he lives in the heart of every Jew among his offspring. Every Jew must say to himself with pride: the Al-mighty and the angels protect me, and I surrender to Esav?!

We recall in this context an event told in Sefer Melachim II (chapter 6). The army of Aram set a trap and waited in ambush for the army of Yisrael. The prophet Elisha warned the king every day of this ambush. The king of Aram wondered how the information was conveyed to the enemy and ordered an investigation to find the spy who divulged his military secrets. One of his servants said to him, "No, my lord king. Elisha, the prophet of Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom." Nothing is concealed from him. The king of Aram decided to take the prophet captive. He discovered that he was living in Dotam, so he sent there horses, chariots and a huge infantry, surrounding the town and besieging it. In the morning, the prophet's servant arose and saw that the town was surrounded. Petrified, he called to Elisha and said, "Ah! My master, what shall we do?" Elisha replied, "Do not fear, for we have more with us than they have with them!"

The pasuk there says, "Elisha prayed: 'Hashem, open his eyes and let him see.' Hashem opened the servant's eyes and he saw the hills all around Elisha covered with horses and chariots of fire." The Malbim explains: "Open his eyes to see that Hashem's angel encamps around those who fear Him, and legions of angels surround the man of G-d to protect him. The angels who were prepared now to save him came in the form of chariots of fire and horses of fire, corresponding to the chariots and horses of the army of Aram."

We have always been "a single sheep among seventy wolves." Even now, and perhaps especially now, we are preoccupied with our enemies nearby - may Hashem soon destroy them - and our minds are distracted from the enemies behind them - may Hashem save us. How strong are we, just a small island in the heart of a stormy, hostile ocean, whose missiles cover our entire territory? Only the awareness that "we have more with us than they have with them," that Hashem protects us and His angels form a shield all around us. And where do these angels come from? "One who performs one misvah acquires for himself one defense angel" (Avot 4:11). Every misvah creates an angel. Through the recitation of shema, the laying of tefillin, observing Shabbat, kashrut, family purity - one surrounds himself with a defensive shield!

All this applies on both the national and personal planes. "A misvah protects and saves" (Sukkah 21a). "The angel of Hashem camps around those who fear Him and rescues them" (Tehillim 34:8).

But we have here yet another lesson, as well, one no less important than the first. Esav comes with four hundred men, a large, powerful army, imposing, threatening, and frightening. Yaakov Avinu sends him a gift and commands his messengers to tell him, "So says your servant Yaakov… " Herein lies the basis of the criticism referred to by Hazal: Hashem is with you, angels surround you, and you degrade yourself before him…

To what do we refer? To our attitude towards what we call "western" culture. True, we stand in awe before the technological achievements and remarkable discoveries, in the spirit of, "If someone tells you there is wisdom among the nations - believe." Why not? To the contrary, let us take full advantage and make use of it; let us make our lives easier and enjoy the new advances. But one thing we will not do, not under any circumstances: we will not prostrate ourselves before it, we will not degrade ourselves. Technology, with all its great advantages, is but "external wisdom," it enriches our external living conditions. By contrast, our sacred Torah enriches us internally, it brings one's personality together and loads it with spiritual treasures. It dwarfs everything else and nullifies its significance. Let them be jealous of us, let them come and join us!

Senyar Bat Mazal and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah

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