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Parashat Vayishlah


Saving lives overrides all misvot of the Torah, except for the three cardinal sins. As Yaakov confronted Esav, he sent him gifts to appease him. According to Rashi (32:14), he even sent precious jewels and gems. He bowed before him seven times. As the entire Torah is a book of guidance and direction, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi would review this section before he would meet with gentile government officials. Sometimes, we must make concessions.

However, some parts of the nation try to assume a change of values, as well. They assume that the enemies of yesterday suddenly turned into our allies; those who yesterday waved axes, who just the other day prepared knives for murder, those who danced on the rooftops as missiles descended upon us, who proudly had there pictures taken with body parts - that they are now our good friends.

Truth be told, this issue is dealt with in our parashah, as well. Esav expressed his anger towards Yaakov thirty-six years earlier. At his mother's insistence Yaakov fled, spending fourteen years in yeshivah and twenty years in Haran, "until your brother's anger is turned away from you," until the level of fury has subsided. At this point, Rivkah sent for Yaakov (Rashi, 35:8). Just as Yaakov came down from the mountains of Haran, Esav greets him with four hundred men, with every intention to kill and annihilate.

Yaakov calms his brother's fury through his gifts and bows. "Esav ran to greet him, he hugged him, fell on his shoulders, and cried." The Midrash (Beresheet Rabbah 78:9) writes, "Why are there dots in the Torah scroll over the word, 'he kissed him'? To teach us that he did not come to kiss him but rather to bite him, but Yaakov's neck was miraculously turned to marble, and this 'rasha' (Esav) knocked his teeth against them. So what are we taught by the 'and he cried?' Yaakov cried for his neck, and Esav cried for his teeth."

Very often, the enemy gladly accepts our gift, but eagerly awaits for us to turn our necks to him. Even thirty-six years did not do away with the hostile sentiments.


The Gemara tells a story reminiscent of another story, both of which remind us of a sad reality.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 25b) teaches us that one who is traveling and confronted by gangsters, if they ask him where he is headed, he should tell them a destination farther than to where he is actually headed. This way, they will plot to attack him at that spot, while he leaves the road at his true destination safe from harm. This ploy was used by Yaakov, who told Esav, "...until I come to my master in Se'ir," but, in the end, Yaakov continued along his previously planned route, while Esav waited for him in Se'ir.

The Gemara continues with a story of Rav Menasheh who was confronted on the road by a group of gangsters. When asked about his destination, he told them Pumbedita, which was further than his planned destination. They waited for him there, while he got off the road in Bet Turta.

They asked him, "Where did you learn this tactic?" He responded, "From my rebbi, Rav Yehudah." "Ha!" they said, "from him you learned this trick!"

Amazing! They approach a wayfarer, a respected rabbi, planning to rob him. He escapes from their plot, and suddenly they become kind-hearted and respectful of his behavior.

This reminds us of the well known episode of a poverty-stricken villager who said to his wife, "Let me go to the big city. Perhaps I'll find a job and be able to save up some money." He found work as a baker's apprentice. There he found bread to eat and a warm place to stay. He learned the trade and saved a considerable amount of money. The time came when he said good bye to his workplace, took his pouch of money and headed back to his village. He had saved enough money to pay off his debts and even open a small bakery which could bring him a comfortable income. His hopes were jarred by a sharp command: "Stop!"

From the woods along the side of the road came a bandit holding a gun. "Your money or your life!"

One does not argue with a loaded weapon, and a person will gladly forgo on all he has in exchange for his life. But this villager did present one request: "Look, this money I have saved over the course of two years which I spent away from my family. My wife is hungry, and I worked very hard. If I come home with no money, she will think that I wasted my time in the city while she withered away from hunger. Take the money, but do me a favor. I will take off my coat, like so, and hang it on the tree. You will shoot a bullet into my coat so that she will believe my story that I was ambushed on the road."

The robber agreed and shot at the coat. "Another bullet," the man insisted. The bandit shot again. Now shoot at my hat. He placed the hat on top of the tree, and his assailant shot. "Another bullet," he asked. "I'm sorry," said the robber, "I have no more bullets left."

"If so," declared the man, "then I have no reason to be afraid of you!" He attacked the thief, delivered a blow, knocked him to the ground, and took his money.

As he made his way further along the road he heard the attacker's voice crying behind him, "Thief! Robber! Not only did you punch me, but you took my money!"

Indeed, this has always been the practice of criminals. Esav sold his birthright in exchange for lentil soup and scorned his privileges as firstborn. Then he scorned Yaakov for pulling off the clever scheme of purchasing these rights with soup. Their father calls Esav, the firstborn in his eyes, to give him the special blessings. Will Esav reveal the truth, that he does not deserve the blessings as he sold them to his brother? No, certainly not. But when Yaakov comes along and takes the blessings which are rightfully his, Esav cries bitterly - "What double trickery! He took both the birthright and the blessings!"

This has always been their approach. There is a law requiring education in Israel. It is supposed to look after the people's educational needs. Magnificent edifices have been built for the general schools, with plenty of room and beauty. They are equipped with computers, laboratories, and special program rooms. But none of this substitutes for values. It has not curbed the tide of violence and drug addiction. Parents who are genuinely concerned about their children's education, who disapprove of the rampant permissiveness of society, improper speech, rebellion against parental authority, rejection of all that is sacred - parents who want true education choose the beautiful Torah educational systems. But whenever they exert any pressure for the enhancement of their programs and schools, such an uproar is generated! Such a storm erupts! How dare the victims dare to fight back...


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a

The Obligation of "Me'en Shalosh" in Israel and the Diaspora

The Gemara (Berachot 44a) says that with regard to the blessing of "me'en shalosh" there exists an important distinction between Israel and the Diaspora. When reciting "me'en shalosh" for fruits in Israel, the berachah concludes, "al ha'aress ve'al peroteha" ("...for the land and its fruits") whereas outside of Israel the proper conclusion is, "al ha'aress ve'al haperot" ("...for the land and the fruits"). The later commentaries explain that when we say the phrase "for the land" we thank Hashem for giving us the Land of Israel, and the expression "and its fruits" constitutes praise to the Al-mighty for giving us the fruits of the country just mentioned, i.e., Israel. Thus, outside of Israel, where one eats fruits which did not grow in the land just mentioned (Israel), he cannot say the words, "for ITS fruit," for he did not partake of the fruits of the country just mentioned. Therefore, he must use the more generic term, "and the fruits."

The earlier authorities are in dispute regarding one who eats Israeli-grown fruits while in the Diaspora. Is the determining factor the location of the one eating the fruits, and thus in such a situation he would recite "for the fruits" ("ve'al haperot"), or does the issue depend upon the place in which the fruits were grown, and thus in our case one would have to recite "for its fruits" ("ve'al peroteha")? Rabbenu Yonah raises this question and writes that one should recite the blessing that he would normally recite in his location; since he is in the Diaspora and most fruits he encounters were grown outside Israel, he should recite "ve'al haperot." The Rashba, however, assumes as obvious that the place where the fruits grow is the determining factor. And thus, since these fruits in such a case were grown in Israel, the proper conclusion to the blessing is "ve'al peroteha." The Shulhan Aruch (208:10) rules in accordance with the Rashba, that the determining factor is the where the fruits were grown, and the proper blessing is therefore "al peroteha" even when eating these fruits outside of Israel.

However, the later authorities disagree regarding the halachah for fruits grown in the Diaspora and imported to Israel. Some reason that since these fruits were gathered in Israel, they attain the status of Israeli fruits, as the mishnah states, that fruits imported into Israel and the final stages of production (i.e., the collection of the fruits into organized heaps of produce) were done in Israel, require the separation of "terumah" and "maaser," like all Israeli fruits (as cited by the Shulhan Aruch Yoreh Dei'ah 331:12). However, other authorities draw a distinction between the requirement of "terumah" and that of the proper berachah aharonah. Namely, that "terumah" is a decree of the Torah, which determined that the final stages of processing in Israel generate the obligation to separate "terumah." Regarding our discussion, however, if one recites "al peroteha" ("its fruits") over fruits grown outside of Israel he is, in effect, lying, as these fruits were grown in the Diaspora. As for the final "pesak," Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a rules that in such an instance one recites, "al haperot" ("for the fruits"), and this is, in fact, the prevalent custom.

In summary , one who eats a "kezayit" of Israeli fruits must recite a berachah aharonah with the conclusion "al ha'asress ve'al peroteha." However, one who eats fruits grown in the Diaspora concludes his blessing with, "al ha'aress ve'al haperot." One who is outside of Israel and eats Israeli-grown fruit concludes his blessing "ve'al peiroteha," and, by the same token, one who eats foreign produce in Israel concludes "ve'al hapeirot."

Rabbi Yehezkel Kohen zs"l

While still a young orphan, Rabbi Yehezkel Kohen zs"l moved from Persia to Jerusalem. He studied and grew within the walls of the yeshivah "Porat Yosef," under the tutelage of Rabbi Yaakov Meir zs"l and Rabbi Ovadia Hedayeh zs"l who formally ordained him as a halachic authority. He drew water of knowledge also from the fountains of the "Saba Kadisha" Maharsh"a Alefandri zs"l, who was very close with the young student and invited him to join his "seder" at his home. He taught Torah for many years in Jerusalem, held public gatherings, and gave "shiurim" in the Old City of Jerusalem as well as other locales. He established groups for the recitation of Tehillim and brought many souls closer to Torah and misvot. After much insistence, he finally agreed to the request of Rabbi Bensiyon Meir Hai Uziel zs"l to assume the position of Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Rehovot. Immediately, he proceeded to institute public Torah classes. He would personally travel from one synagogue to another to deliver clear and enjoyable Torah classes, demonstrating his great mastery of Torah and proficiency in halachah.

After his long day of intensive work in teaching Torah, serving on a court as an arbiter between conflicting parties, bringing peace and harmony between litigants, and writing halachic rulings, he would sit in his chair at home at night studying Torah, sleeping only a little bit here and there. He fulfilled the very literal meaning of the verse, "and you shall involve yourself with it [the Torah] day and night." Few people were aware of his proficiency in Kabbalah, and he would concentrate during prayers on all the sacred allusions in the prayers taught by the Ar"I zs"l. Two weeks prior to his death he was informed that he had been selected as Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Bet El, a yeshivah of mystical studies, in Jerusalem. Trembling, he responded, "Me?! Who am I to accept such an exalted position?"

The city of Rehovot was privileged to have this angelic figure in its midst, a man whose legacy continues to this very day.

"He [Yaakov] purchased the plot of land"

Why did the Torah specify that Yaakov purchased a plot of land near Shechem for one hundred gold coins? The Ramban zs"l writes that Yaakov wanted that his residence on the land would be like a true owner, and not like a guest or foreigner. Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l writes, "The text mentioned this to tell us that the Land of Israel possesses a special quality, and one who has a part in it is considered to have a part in the World to Come." However, this alone does not suffice, as Yaakov built an altar to Hashem. The true special quality of Israel is only when its inhabitants worship Hashem!

"He purchased the plot of the field"

The text notes that Yaakov bought the field because it had mentioned that he built an altar to Hashem, and, writes Rabbi Ovadyah Seforno zs"l, "How can we sing the song of Hashem on foreign soil?" Rabbi Hayim Vital zs"l adds that at the end of the book of Shemuel, King David is instructed to build an altar to Hashem in the granary of Aravnah, on the Temple Mount, in order to stop the ravages of a plague. Aravnah was prepared to give the field to the Jewish king for free, but David refused: "I will not offer sacrifices to Hashem for free." From here the Zohar derives the one should purchase misvot for their proper price.

"He purchased the plot of the field"

The Hid"a zs"l writes in the name of the "Nimukei Ri"d": "Since Yaakov was dwelling there only temporarily, why did he have to purchase a piece of land? Would he buy land wherever he went? The answer is that since he had built and altar, he did not want the inhabitants to destroy it. Therefore, he purchased the area."

From here we may learn that the synagogues and study halls which our ancestor built and cultivated over the course of generations should be protected that they are not destroyed.


Last week we learned of the existence of no fewer than 30,000 different types of fish. Many of them share common characteristics. These characteristics are shared even by the smallest of fish as well as the largest sharks in the ocean who grow as large as eighteen meters. One of the indications of the "kashrut" of a fish is its scales. The function of the scales is to help reduce the resistance of the water. They are pointed backwards, and the skin secretes a smooth emission which further reduces this resistance.

The actual movement of the fish is conducted with the help of the fins of the tail. The swinging of the tail pushes a given quantity of water back and, in this way, the fish swims forward. The sea horse is an interesting fish whose head tilts forward and resembles the form of a horse. It uses its curved tail to take hold of the vegetation of the sea. An amazing phenomenon with which Hashem equipped fish is a special "air balloon" which helps the fish float. This balloon gets filled according to the need at any given moment. The fish can determine at which sea level it will float, depending on whether he wants to ascend or descend.

How great are Your works, Hashem!


The Severed Hand (7)

Flashback: The rebels against the Sultan gathered in the home of Mustafa Halil Aga, who had benefited from the generosity of the Sultan towards him and his son. Their anger was triggered by the granting of equal rights to all people in the Empire, which, they feared, would threaten their stature. They forced the Sultan's Jewish doctor to poison the Sultan at the threat of death if he refused. He agreed, but with one stipulation:

"If you do want me to poison the Sultan, you must write me an explicit declaration, signed by all of you, that I will be protected," said Dr. Shepisser. His request was granted. He drew up the text of the document, and the one hundred and twenty rebels - under the leadership of the prince Abad Al Aziz, the Sultan's brother, who was to assume the Sultan's place after the assassination - signed the declaration. They then formally swore him in as a member of their revolution and the gathering dispersed. The plan was to join forces in twenty-one days, at which time the doctor would poison the Sultan and receive his compensation.

The doctor left and walked about in a daze. The writ stung at his side like a burn. How can he take someone's life, when his physician's oath obligated him to cure and heal, to save people's lives? He is commanded, as a Jew, to honor the sanctity of human life! Especially given the fact that the Sultan had always treated him very favorably, bringing him from his country of birth for a huge salary, and brought him closer than even the seven physicians serving in the king's court.

On the other hand, the rebels' strength was considerable, as the bitter feelings against the Sultan's policies grew stronger and more widespread. These feelings were being continuously fueled by the religious leaders. At that meeting he saw officials about whose loyalty he had been certain, and even they had joined forces with the rebels. There were officers and generals who owed all their success to the Sultan, very high-ranking officials, not to mention the religious leaders at the meeting. Even if he refuses to obey their order, the revolution would almost certainly occur, and the rebels would take revenge against the doctor and his family. What should he do?

Soon enough, he was given a good indication as to how widespread the revolution really was...

to be continued


"The True Honor of a Princess is Inside"

A frightening event takes place in our parashah. An event so terrifying even if it would occur to the lowest family in Israel, and how much more unsettling it is when such a tragedy befalls the choicest of the three patriarchs, all of whose children grew to be righteous leaders of the tribes of our people. We refer, of course, to the incident of Dinah. For what reason did such a terrible thing happen? Hazal found a measure of guilt on the part of Yaakov, the slightest oversight, and sadikim are punished by Hashem for even the slightest errors. What was his mistake? That he did not immediately fulfill the terms of his oath which he swore in Bet El, to build an altar (Rashi, 35:1). But, beyond this mistake, the incident of Dinah was brought about by a more immediate cause: "Dinah went out to see the girls of the land." Of course, she did not go to spend time with the boys, Heaven forbid. Rather, she heard the sounds of maidens, and she wanted to go take a look. "Shechem, the son of Hamor, saw her...and took her." His action brought about immeasurable shame and distress to her and her entire family, untold anguish to Yaakov, and, ultimately, devastation to himself and the entire city. If only she would have gone together with her brothers!

As the Torah is a book of guidance, there are lessons to be learned from each and every episode. The Zohar writes, "May the spirit leave one who says that the stories in the Torah are just stories. They are only the exterior for the inner soul within them." We must look deeper to find the message latent in each section of the Torah.

Here, the message is clear: If Yaakov had instructed Dinah to remain home, not to go out when she wasn't supposed to - he would have spared himself all the ensuing misery, all the anguish which he subsequently suffered.

True, Dinah might have complained, "What's wrong with going outside, to get some fresh air, to rinse my eyes a bit, to see what the other girls are doing?" Of course, such activity is permissible. She would have certainly asked, "What's going to happen to me?" Nothing, of course.

But when the Attribute of Justice is, Heaven forbid, in force, when there is a prosecutor overhead working against us, then it waits for any opportunity, any free moment. And then, even an innocent trip can become an excuse, and lead to unspeakable horror.

We must pay attention, especially in such difficult times such as ours.

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Menucha for pursuit of da'at (part I)

Aaron: Alas that we do not possess Shelomo's words on this subject. They would have inspired us greatly.

Mr. Goodfriend: His words had an immense effect, as can be expected from such a study, especially when taught by a Sage of such dimension. "They came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Shelomo" (ibid., 5:14). But the Creator has granted us a form of compensation. Because men's minds became stultified and are now less capable of discerning G-d's wisdom and His kindliness in all things, He has sent in modern times a vast abundance of additional knowledge of nature, in order to stir the minds and to facilitate the recognition of the kindly plan-and-purpose in the Universe. Today, countless marvels of biology and chemistry and physics have been demonstrated; and anyone who is willing is now able to perceive the miracles of Creation spread out in a manifold panorama before his eyes.

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