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- - הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טּ֭וֹב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד - -
- - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity - -

Most Popular Articles

  • The Baseless Hatred Mystery Revealed

    by Shmuel Katanov

     Our Chachamim z"l tell us that the First Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of three sins: Avodah Zarah/Idolatry, Shefichat Damim/Murder, and Arayot/Adultery. The second Temple of only one sin - Sinat Chinam - Baseless Hatred.

    Each of the sins are bad in their own right, but it took three sins to bring down the First Temple and only one the Second. Why? Why only one, what is so destructive and bad about it?

    Let's dive into Sinat Chinam cause I believe the reasons for the destruction of the First Temple are pretty self explanatory.

    So what is Sinat Chinam? It is Baseless Hatred or simply Hate that is coming from a place of evil. It's a wish to see another's demise or failure and when you in that hating mode you observe and translate anything that person does to negative with no benefit of a doubt.

    When you hate you always pursue the harm of another. You speak of him in harmful way, you make up stories so you get more people on your side to believe the lies, so he can have enemies. You speak and spread lashon hara - an evil speech, because you want others to see him in a bad way. You may say things to his spouse, so the family will have no peace and eventually falls apart. You accuse him and his children, so it should effect their shidduchim/marriage prospects. You make sure his reputation is ruined in his community and places of business. You make sure your family and people around him show him a cold shoulder so he feels unwanted and unbelonged.

    All of this is done stealthily where few people involved in the community or many across many communities. In our times, all of the above can be accomplished with just few clicks of the computer or the phone.

    Because of this ugly behavior, of the few or the many, Hashem has destroyed the Second Temple. So if the Temple is destroyed and it may seem like nothing is at stake today, what do we have to lose this time around?

    Chachamim tell us, that when a new family is born, the chatan and kallah are on their way to build something enormously holy - their Own Bet Hamikdash, where each room of their house resembles the original Temple. The bedroom is like the Holy of Holies, the living room table is like a Mizbeach where we cater the guests and consume our earthly sacrifices. Kitchen is where it's all prepared to the strict laws of kashrut.

    Our houses and shules are small Batey haMikdashim. This is where Shechina rests, this is where the mitzvot are done and kedusha is kept.

    Hashem wants peace and unity between people in the community or between communities, where people help each other, happy for each other, where they see good in each other with no jealousy and hate towards each other. Where they want others to have better houses, cars, vacations, respect and accessories. This is what Hashem expects from his people.

    Second Temple was destroyed because of Hate, the most ugliest trait that consumes many communities and people no matter their religious backgrounds. The solution to it is Achavat Chinam - Baseless Love. Otherwise our small Batey haMikdashim are at stake.

    The Sages taught, "Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times" (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1a).

    Our job is to change for the better, to do good to others, more of baseless love and no hate and animosity towards others - be it in their own community or outside of it, better ourselves in our servitude to Hashem and earn the merit to see Moshiach and the Third Beit Hamikdash rebuilt in our days. Amen.

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  • Из-за Денег или Аз Баҳри Пул

    Шмуэль Катанов

    В Книге Деварим 21:1-2 говорится:
    וְיָצְא֥וּ זְקֵנֶ֖יךָ וְשֹׁפְטֶ֑יךָ וּמָדְדוּ֙ אֶל־הֶ֣עָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר סְבִיבֹ֥ת הֶחָלָֽל׃ כִּי־יִמָּצֵ֣א חָלָ֗ל בָּאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁר֩ הי אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ נֹתֵ֤ן לְךָ֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ נֹפֵ֖ל בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖ע מִ֥י הִכָּֽהוּ׃

    "На земле которую даст вам Г-сподь, если вы найдёте тело которое лежит в открытом поле, и вы не знаете кто убийца, то старейшины города должны выйти и определить к какому городу тело лежит ближе, и значит тот город является виноватым в убийстве этого человека."

    Почему Тора считает город виноватым в смерти этого человека?

    Чтоб ответить на этот вопрос, давайте посмотрим что произошло с этим человеком.

    Чужеземец пришел в город, и чтоб найти себе на пропитание пошёл на базар. Проходя по базару, прося милостыню у прохожих и заходя в лавки к торговцам, он не получил от них не единого гроша, куска хлеба или глотка воды.

    Уставший от скитаний, проголодавшись и утомлённый жаждой, он вспомнил что по дороге в этот город он проходил по полю которое находилось между двумя городами, и он решил собраться с последними силами и пойти в соседний город с надеждой получить там свой кусок хлеба.

    Как говорится в произведении Ильяс Малаева, песня исполненая Авраам Толмасовым - Бахри Пул:

    Пул набошад дар барат, ҳеч кас намедиҳад салом,
    На ки меҳмондўстию, на ҳурмату, на эҳтиром,
    На зиёфат, на муроъат, на ки чою на таом,
    Дойимо барпо шавад ҳар муддао аз баҳри пул.

    И вот он в пути в другой город за куском хлеба. Иссякая силами, уставший и голодный, еле еле он плетётся в другой город, но не дойдя до цели, он падает и умирает на пол-пути в поле.

    Тахтаю тобут пулу, гўру кафан ҳам пул, бидон,

    Мурдашўю сангу гўрков-пул, ба ғайри мункирон,
    Дар барат гар пул набошад вақти мурдан, ногаҳон,
    Мурдаат дар кўча монад бенигоҳ, аз баҳри пул.

    И вот его тело лежит в открытом поле одно без присмотра и его находит другой прохожий, проходивший мимо, зовёт старейшин чтоб те позаботились об умершем.

    Закон гласит - что старейшины должны измерить расстояние от тела до ближе лежащего к нему города. И тот город к которому тело ближе находится, старейшины должны оповестить его о том что они всецело виноваты и на них кровь этого человека. Тогда старейшины из которого вышел этот бедняк, приводят с собой молодого телёнка который в первом году жизни и которого хозяин ещё не эксплуатировал. Они ломают шею телёнка топором, моют над ним руки провозглашая - "Прости нас странник, что мы не знали что ты был в нашем городе, что ты нуждался, и хотел есть и пить, и прости нашу молодёжь которая была на рынке и к которой ты подошёл, но они не ответили на твой зов и не услышали твой крик о помощи и не помогли тебе. Если бы мы знали что ты в городе и видели бы тебя, то конечно мы помогли бы тебе, накормили и напоили бы тебя, и дали бы в дорогу денег. Пожалуйста прости нас, наших детей и всех жителей нашего города." Только проделав этот обряд, Тора говорит что душа умершего находит покой и это будет правильно в глазах Г-спода и этот акт уберёт вину от людей всего города, как сказано в Деварим 21:1-9.

    Господа - на нас лежит ответственность за наших стариков и тех семей нуждающихся в материальной помощи. Мудрецы уже дали нам самые оптимальные способы как это сделать. Человеку нужна работа - помогите ему устроиться на работу - сделав пару звонков и став его гарантом, кто-то хочет открыть своё дело но не имеет достаточно средств - станьте его партнёром и наставником в этом деле, семьям не хватает с пропитанием - помогите и там.

    Велика заслуга человека который денежно помогает но не знает кто получит его добро, а те в свою очередь принимают но не знают от кого оно. Этим сохраняя достоинство и не унижая честь человека которым необходима помощь. Любая оказанная помощь, возвращается дающему и его потомству многократно. И награда этой мицвы гарантированна самим Вс-вышним и Он призывает нас испытать Его в этом.

    Таърифи он шахси пулдор ки, саховатпеша шуд,
    Меҳри худ дар мардумон доду, худаш дилреша шуд,
    Маст нагашту, соҳиби хоксорию андеша шуд,
    Дон ки, ў гашт одами ақли расо аз баҳри пул.

    Дўсти ҷонӣ, дўсти пул ҳеч вақт нагардад дар ҷаҳон,
    Фарқи дўсту, фарқи пулро, аз ҳама афзал бидон,
    Сер шавад инсон, зи обе қатраю, як бурда нон,
    Баҳри ин, Илёс бигўяд:“Ҳар хато аз баҳри пул“

    Шаббат Шалом,

    Шмуэль Катанов

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  • A Stiff-Necked People

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    It is a moment of the very highest drama. The Israelites, a mere forty days after the greatest revelation in history, have made an idol: a Golden Calf. God threatens to destroy them. Moses, exemplifying to the fullest degree the character of Israel as one who “wrestles with God and man,” confronts both in turn. To God, he prays for mercy for the people. Coming down the mountain and facing Israel, he smashes the tablets, symbol of the covenant. He grinds the calf to dust, mixes it with water, and makes the Israelites drink it. He commands the Levites to punish the wrongdoers. Then he re-ascends the mountain in a prolonged attempt to repair the shattered relationship between God and the people.

    God accepts his request and tells Moses to carve two new tablets of stone. At this point, however, Moses makes a strange appeal:

    And Moses hurried and knelt to the ground and bowed, and he said, “If I have found favour in Your eyes, my Lord, may my Lord go among us, because [ki] it is a stiff-necked people, and forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” (Ex. 34:8–9)

    The difficulty in the verse is self-evident. Moses cites as a reason for God remaining with the Israelites the very attribute that God had previously given for wishing to abandon them:

    “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave Me alone so that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Ex. 32:9)

    How can Moses invoke the people’s obstinacy as the very reason for God to maintain His presence among them? What is the meaning of Moses’ “because” – “may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff- necked people”?

    The commentators offer a variety of interpretations. Rashi reads the word ki as “if ” – “If they are stiff-necked, then forgive them.”[1]
     Ibn Ezra[2] and Chizkuni[3] read it as “although” or “despite the fact that” (af al pi). Alternatively, suggests Ibn Ezra, the verse might be read, “[I admit that] it is a stiff-necked people – therefore forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”[4] These are straightforward readings, though they assign to the word ki a meaning it does not normally have.

    There is, however, another and far more striking line of interpretation that can be traced across the centuries. In the twentieth century, it was given expression by Rabbi Yitzchak Nissenbaum. The argument he attributed to Moses was this:

    Almighty God, look upon these people with favor, because what is now their greatest vice will one day be their most heroic virtue. They are indeed an obstinate people…But just as now they are stiff-necked in their disobedience, so one day they will be equally stiff-necked in their loyalty. Nations will call on them to assimilate, but they will refuse. Mightier religions will urge them to convert, but they will resist. They will suffer humiliation, persecution, even torture, and death because of the name they bear and the faith they profess, but they will stay true to the covenant their ancestors made with You. They will go to their deaths saying Ani ma’amin, “I believe.” This is a people awesome in its obstinacy – and though now it is their failing, there will be times far into the future when it will be their noblest strength.[5]

    The fact that Rabbi Nissenbaum lived and died in the Warsaw ghetto gives added poignancy to his words.[6]

    Many centuries earlier, a Midrash made essentially the same point:

    There are three things which are undaunted: the dog among beasts, the rooster among birds, and Israel among the nations. R. Isaac ben Redifa said in the name of R. Ami: You might think that this is a negative attribute, but in fact it is praiseworthy, for it means: “Either be a Jew or prepare to be hanged.”[7]

    Jews were stiff-necked, says Rabbi Ami, in the sense that they were ready to die for their faith. As Gersonides (Ralbag) explained in the fourteenth century, a stubborn people may be slow to acquire a faith, but once they have done so they never relinquish it.[8]

    We catch a glimpse of this extraordinary obstinacy in an episode narrated by Josephus, one of the first recorded incidents of mass non-violent civil disobedience. It took place during the reign of the Roman emperor Caligula (37–41 CE). He had proposed placing a statue of himself in the precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem and had sent the military leader Petronius to carry out the task, if necessary by force. This is how Josephus describes the encounter between Petronius and the Jewish population at Ptolemais (Acre):

    There came ten thousand Jews to Petronius at Ptolemais to offer their petitions to him that he would not compel them to violate the law of their forefathers. “But if,” they said, “you are wholly resolved to bring the statue and install it, then you must first kill us, and then do what you have resolved on. For while we are alive we cannot permit such things as are forbidden by our law…”

    Then Petronius came to them (at Tiberius): “Will you then make war with Caesar, regardless of his great preparations for war and your own weakness?” They replied, “We will not by any means make war with Caesar, but we will die before we see our laws transgressed.” Then they threw themselves down on their faces and stretched out their throats and said that they were ready to be slain…Thus they continued firm in their resolution and proposed themselves to die willingly rather than see the statue dedicated.”[9]

    Faced with such heroic defiance on so large a scale, Petronius gave way and wrote to Caligula urging him, in Josephus’ words, “not to drive so many ten thousand of these men to distraction; that if he were to slay these men, he would be publicly cursed for all future ages.”

    Nor was this a unique episode. The rabbinic literature, together with the chronicles of the Middle Ages, is full of stories of martyrdom, of Jews willing to die rather than convert. Indeed the very concept of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name, came to be associated in the halachic literature with the willingness “to die rather than transgress.” The rabbinic conclave at Lod (Lydda) in the second century CE, which laid down the laws of martyrdom (including the three sins about which it was said that “one must die rather than transgress”)[10]
     may have been an attempt to limit, rather than encourage, the phenomenon. Of these many episodes, one stands out for its theological audacity. It was recorded by the Jewish historian Shlomo ibn Verga (fifteenth to sixteenth centuries) and concerns the Spanish expulsion:

    One of the boats was infested with the plague, and the captain of the boat put the passengers ashore at some uninhabited place…There was one Jew among them who struggled on afoot together with his wife and two children. The wife grew faint and died… The husband carried his children along until both he and they fainted from hunger. When he regained consciousness, he found that his two children had died.

    In great grief, he rose to his feet and said: “O Lord of all the universe, You are doing a great deal that I might even desert my faith. But know You of a certainty that – even against the will of heaven – a Jew I am and a Jew I shall remain. And neither that which You have brought upon me nor that which You may yet bring upon me will be of any avail.”[11]

    One is awestruck by such faith – such obstinate faith. Almost certainly it was this idea that lies behind a famous Talmudic passage about the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai:

    And they stood under the mountain: R. Avdimi b. Chama b. Chasa said: This teaches that the Holy One blessed be He, overturned the mountain above them like a barrel and said, “If you accept the Torah, it will be well. If not, this will be your burial place.” Said Rava, Even so, they re-accepted the Torah in the days of Ahasuerus, for it is written, “the Jews confirmed and took upon them”, meaning, “they confirmed what they had accepted before.”[12]

    The meaning of this strange text seems to be this: at Sinai the Jewish people had no choice but to accept the covenant. They had just been rescued from Egypt. God had divided the sea for them; He had sent them manna from heaven and water from the rock. Acceptance of a covenant under such conditions cannot be called free. The real test of faith came when God was hidden. Rava’s quotation from the Book of Esther is pointed and precise. Megillat Esther does not contain the name of God. The rabbis suggested that the name Esther is an allusion to the phrase haster astir et panai, “I will surely hide My face.” The book relates the first warrant for genocide against the Jewish people. That Jews remained Jews under such conditions was proof positive that they did indeed reaffirm the covenant. Obstinate in their disbelief during much of the biblical era, they became obstinate in their belief ever afterward. Faced with God’s presence, they disobeyed Him. Confronted with His absence, they stayed faithful to Him. That is the paradox of the stiff-necked people.

    Not by accident does the main narrative of the Book of Esther begin with the words “And Mordechai would not bow down” (
    Esther 3:1). His refusal to make obeisance to Haman sets the story in motion. Mordechai too is obstinate – for there is one thing that is hard to do if you have a stiff neck, namely, bow down. At times, Jews found it hard to bow down to God – but they were certainly never willing to bow down to anything less. That is why, alone of all the many peoples who have entered the arena of history, Jews – even in exile, dispersed, and everywhere a minority – neither assimilated to the dominant culture nor converted to the majority faith.

    “Forgive them because they are a stiff-necked people,” said Moses, because the time will come when that stubbornness will be not a tragic failing but a noble and defiant loyalty. And so it came to be.

    Shabbat Shalom.
    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    [1] Rashi, commentary to Exodus 34:9.
    [2] In his “short” commentary to Exodus 34:9. In his long commentary he quotes this view in the name of R. Yonah ibn Yanah (R. Marinus, 990–1050).
    [3] Hezekiah ben Manoah, a French rabbi and exegete who lived during the thirteenth century.
    [4] Ibn Ezra, “long” commentary ad loc.
    [5] This is my paraphrase of the commentary cited in the name of R. Yitzhak Nissenbaum in Aaron Yaakov Greenberg, ed., Itturei Torah, Shemot (Tel Aviv, 1976), 269–70.
    [6] For R. Nissenbaum’s remarkable speech in the Warsaw Ghetto, see Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World (New York: Schocken, 1982), 223.
    [7] Beitza 25b; Shemot Rabbah 42:9.
    [8] Ralbag, commentary to Exodus 34:9.
    [9] Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 18, chap. 8. Cited in Milton Konvitz, “Conscience and Civil Disobedience in the Jewish Tradition,” in Contemporary Jewish Ethics, ed. Menachem Kellner (New York: Sanhedrin Press, 1978), 242–43.
    [10] Sanhedrin 74a. The three sins were murder, idolatry and incest. Martyrdom was a complex problem at various points in Jewish history. Jews found themselves torn between two conflicting ideals. On the one hand, self-sacrifice was the highest form of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name. On the other, Judaism has a marked preference for life and its preservation.
    [11] In Nahum Glatzer, A Jewish Reader (New York: Schocken, 1975), 204–5. It was this passage that inspired Zvi Kolitz’s famous Holocaust fiction about one man’s defiance of God in the name of God, Yossl Rakover Talks to God (New York: Vintage, 2000).
    [12] Shabbat 88a. See essay “Mount Sinai and the Birth of Freedom,” p. 149.

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Latest Articles

Most Popular

  • The Baseless Hatred Mystery Revealed
    by Shmuel KatanovOur Chachamim z"l tell us that the First Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of three sins: Avodah...
  • Из-за Денег или Аз Баҳри Пул
    Шмуэль КатановВ Книге Деварим 21:1-2 говорится: וְיָצְא֥וּ זְקֵנֶ֖יךָ וְשֹׁפְטֶ֑יךָ וּמָדְדוּ֙ אֶל־הֶ֣עָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר סְבִיבֹ֥ת...
  • A Stiff-Necked People
    Rabbi Jonathan SacksIt is a moment of the very highest drama. The Israelites, a mere forty days after the greatest revelation...
  • Loving the Stranger
    by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks There are commands that leap off the page by their sheer moral power. So it is in the case of the social...
  • The World is Waiting for You
    by Rabbi Jonathan SacksSomething remarkable happens in this week’s parsha, almost without our noticing it, that changed...