In this week's parashah, we continue to read about G-d's special
relationship with Avraham Avinu. We also read about the birth of Yitzchak
and the beginning of his development. R' Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz z'l
(the Chazon Ish; passed away on this date in 5714 / 1953) writes about
this early period in our history:
"Adam was created possessing the greatest perfection that a human being
can possess, and, through the power of prophecy, he heard Hashem speak
concerning all of his affairs. Kayin, too, although he dirtied his hands
with the blood of his brother Hevel, did not lose so much of the purity of
his soul that he would have become incapable of hearing G-d's voice from
on high. Rather, he did hear, "Where is your brother Hevel?" In contrast,
the succeeding ten generations, until Noach, were in a lowly state until
the [spiritual] sun once again shown on the earth in the days of Noach.
Man, the pinnacle and purpose of creation, who was created to recognize
his Maker, fell backwards and ran after falsehood for ten generations.
However, the tzaddik tamim / perfect, righteous one [Noach] strengthened
himself to rise from the depths, his soul bound-up with knowledge if the G-
d who saved him from all troubles.
"Then, Noach's generation passed, and the generations that followed lacked
understanding and became like animals. They did not fulfill the purpose
of their creation, and the world became like an empty vessel for which G-d
had no desire until our patriarch, Avraham, came on the scene. He washed
the generation with cleanliness [a play on Tehilim 26:6 or 73:13], removed
the brambles from the face of the generation and made it beautiful until
they all recognized that they were made in Hashem's image.
"From that time, Torah study never ceased among the Jewish People. Avraham
passed it on to Yitzchak, who passed it on to Yaakov, and he to his sons.
Eventually, they went down to Egypt, where, our Sages say, the Shechinah
went with them. This means that [even in its exile] Yisrael merited the
revelation of the Shechinah to uplift it." (Emunah U'bitachon, Ch.6)
"For I have loved him [Avraham], because he commands his children and
his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity
and justice . . ." (Bereishit 18:19)
R' Kolonimus Kalman Shapiro z"l (chassidic rebbe of Piasnecze, Poland;
killed in the Holocaust) addresses parents and teachers in strong language
in the introduction to his classic work on chinuch / Jewish education as
follows: "We are accustomed to looking at today's youth who have thrown
off the yoke of Torah as if they alone are responsible for their sorry
spiritual state. However, the above verse teaches that it is not so.
Every generation is a link in a chain that began with Avraham Avinu. Each
generation derives its emunah / faith, Torah, and yir'ah / fear of G-d
from the preceding generation. Are our youth not descendants of Avraham,
Yitzchak and Yaakov? Do they not possess holy souls? Let us not fool
ourselves about who is responsible for the failures of our youth! Picture
today's rebellious youth in a prior generation; would they not have been
tzaddikim, or at least G d-fearing men and women? And why? Because their
parents would have been more G-d-fearing than we are. Those generations
would not have accepted the situation that we accept. They would never
have shrugged their shoulders and neglected their duties. What excuses
will we offer on the Day of Judgment?" R' Shapiro asks.
He continues: What causes youth to reject the ways of their parents? The
primary cause is that they see themselves as mature adults when, in fact,
they are still children. A young person who has such feelings cannot be
taught to live a Torah life by being lectured about mitzvah observance.
Habit, also, will not keep such a young person on the path of mitzvah-
observance. Rather, it is necessary to appeal to the youth's feeling of
self-importance. He must be convinced that he is a sapling that G-d
Himself planted in the orchard that we call "the Jewish People." Only if
the youth is made to feel that G-d truly cares about his success can there
Some teachers see their job as lecturing children about their mitzvah -
obligations. Some parents see their task as helping children develop good
habits. Neither of these practices is "chinuch," declares R' Shapiro.
Yes, they are tools of chinuch, but they are not the essence of chinuch.
A related mistake that many teachers and parents make, writes R' Shapiro,
is to focus their efforts on raising good children. The true goal of
parents and teachers should be to raise good adults. The job of teachers
and parents is to help the flower within each child blossom, i.e., to give
each child the tools he or she will need so that the child's holy neshamah
will reach its full potential when the child does become an adult. This
requires discovering the unique potential within each soul and
facilitating its development. That is the essence of chinuch, and that is
the true meaning of King Shlomo's famous dictum (Mishlei 22:6), "Train the
youth according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not swerve
from it." (Chovat Ha'talmidim)
This week we continue to discuss the "Hetter Mechirah" / the sale of the
land to a gentile for the duration of the shemittah year. R' Yitzchak
Isaac Halevi Herzog z"l (Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel; died 1959)
writes that our ability to act leniently and permit the Hetter Mechirah
rests on three principles in combination:
1. It is widely accepted that, in our era, shemittah is "only" a
mitzvah d'rabbanan / a rabbinically ordained mitzvah. [Therefore, as
discussed at length last week, it can be set aside in order to further the
Torah-obligation of settling the Land.]
2. According a small minority of Rishonim / rabbinic authorities
of the 11th-13th centuries, there is no mitzvah of shemittah at all when
the majority of the Jewish People live outside of Eretz Yisrael. (R'
Herzog notes that according to R' Yosef Engel z"l, one of the leading
supporters of the Hetter Mechirah, this is the strongest argument in favor
of ruling leniently vis-à-vis shemittah observance.)
3. Although there is now a consensus about when shemittah should
be observed in practice, we are not absolutely certain that our count is
historically correct. This is itself a matter of dispute among the
Rishonim. (She'eilot U'teshuvot B'mitzvot Ha'teluyot B'aretz No. 49)
As noted in prior issues, the authority most closely associated with the
Hetter Mechirah was R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l (1865 - 1935;
first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael). Significantly, R' Kook
himself emphasized that the leniency should be relied on only as
absolutely necessary. He wrote, for example:
"I have already said many times that there can be no doubt whatsoever
about the validity of the Hetter [Mechirah]. Nevertheless, this does not
exempt us from seeking all possible solutions that Hashem will help us
discover so that our brethren, Bnei Yisrael who are living in the Holy
Land, will fulfill shemittah properly without seeking ways to avoid it or
leniencies. Every little corner of Eretz Yisrael that is under the control
of Jews and in which the mitzvah of Shemittah is observed in accordance
with law should cause us to rejoice as if we had found a great treasure.
However, G-d forbid that we should speak disparagingly about Jews. The
Hetter Mechirah may not be the way of the pious, and our spirit cringes
within us at the lowly state of our nation and the terrible [economic]
conditions of the nation of G-d that resides on the Holy Land that needs
to rely on this leniency. However, even [a halachic leniency] arrived at
out of necessity has the status of Torah, and all gedolei Yisrael / great
rabbis of the Jewish People should be comforting the broken hearts of
those who need to rely on this leniency so that they will not be wicked in
their own eyes. G-d forbid that one thinks that, when the holy
descendants [of the Patriarchs] are acting in accordance with the ruling
of sages, G-d will be angry with them. Such is not my view. We should be
promoting the proper performance of the mitzvah [of shemittah] by
promoting love of G-d and of His commandments, which are sweeter than
honey, not by promoting fear of G-d's wrath." (Mishpat Kohen No. 63)
R' Yaakov Beruchin z"l
R' Yaakov ben R' Aharon was born in 5548 (1787/8). He and his brother, R'
Yitzchak (author of the Talmud commentary Keren Orah) were among the
leading students of R' Chaim of Volozhin. It is said that R' Chaim
sometimes asked R' Yaakov to lecture in the yeshiva.
R' Yaakov was rabbi of Karlin and was recognized as one of the leading
sages of his generation. He is best known today for his halachic work
R' Yaakov is credited with "discovering" R' Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, who
would be the leading Lithuanian posek / halachic authority of the second
half of the 19th century. (As previously discussed, R' Yitzchak Elchanan
is considered to be the posek who originally authorized the Hetter
Mechirah for the shemittah year of 5649.) R' Yaakov's "discovery"
occurred after R' Yitzchak Elchanan lost all of his wedding presents in a
business venture and came to seek R' Yaakov's advice. Finding R' Yaakov
immersed in a Talmudic problem, R' Yitzchak Elchanan volunteered that the
question was answered in a certain work. R' Yaakov was so impressed with
the young scholar that he recommended R' Yitzchak Elchanan for his first
rabbinical position. (He also gave the young scholar 40 rubles.)
R' Yaakov died in 5605 (1844/5). In his last minutes, he asked his son to
read to him from Ramban's Torah commentary because he was very fond of
that work. The tombstone which R' Yaakov shares with his brother reads in
On the death of the two sons of Aharon - The staff of Aharon gave forth a
blossom and a flower and it was to the congregation of Israel a miracle
and a wonder. The honor of Hashem shone on the house of Aharon. These two
sons of his were a wonder; they were known as the genius of Yaakov and
Yitzchak, and they raised a banner and a mast on the sea of Torah. They
were known to their nation for their [written] works Kehillot and
Mishkenot Yaakov and Keren Orah. Woe! The cedars of G-d in the land; they
studied the Torah of Hashem the entire day. Who will teach our nation?
Who will close the breach?
(Readers may recognize the many biblical allusions in the above text.)
(Sources: Gedolei Torah p. 571-572; Avi Ha'yeshivot p.416)
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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