Volume 10 Number 50
                       Produced: Wed Dec  8 12:00:26 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dvar Torah for Chanukah
         [Shaya Karlinsky]
Mitzvah of Aliyah
         [Morris Podolak]
Religious Zionism
         [Allen Elias]


From: Shaya Karlinsky <HCUWK@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1993 23:35 IST
Subject: Dvar Torah for Chanukah

     Lighting Chanukah candles.  We take it so much for granted, yet its
structure is unique among all the Mitzvot that we perform, whether
Biblical or Rabbinic.  And we seem to sense that its significance goes
far beyond the little flames we kindle.
     The Gemara in Shabbat (21b) says: "The Mitzvah of Chanukah is one
candle for a person and his household.  Those who upgrade their
performance (mehadrin) light one candle for each member of the
household.  And those who want to upgrade the upgrade (mehadrin min
hamehadrin)...light one candle the first night, and from then on add one
more each night."  There is no other Mitzvah that contains within the
original legislation discreet levels of observance.  Why do we find this
on Chanukah?
     The Rambam calls the Chanukah lights "an _extremely_ beloved
mitzvah," (Mitzvahs ner Chanukah mitzvah chaviva ad meo'd) (Chapter 4,
Laws of Chanukah, Halacha 12).  What is unique about this Mitzvah that
gives it a more endearing status than any other Mitzvah?
     The culture of the Greeks was one based on the observable and the
external: Nature, strength, majority rules, the elevation of the
physical body.  Judaism always recognized the existence of an inner
dimension to all reality.  It is in this inner dimension that the Divine
resided, and the Jew was constantly striving to connect with that inner
dimension and reveal it to the outside world.  In Torah study, this
inner dimension exists in the Torah Shebal Peh, the study and
implementation of the Oral Torah.  The fact that this part of Torah is
dependent on the individual's own understanding is what makes every
Jew's relationship to Torah unique.
     We are all required to observe the same Mitzvot, put on the same
Tefillin, keep Shabbat on the same day of the week by refraining from
precisely defined creative activity, keep the identical laws of Kashrut
and family purity.  It doesn't matter whether we are an elder Torah
scholar or a teenager the day after Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  Our actions are
all bound by the same Halacha.  At first glance, it is a very conformist
system, ignoring any aspect of our individuality.
     But true individuality resides in the inner dimension of our
selves, not in the external side we show the outside world.  The key to
expressing this individuality through our Mitzvot and our meticulous
observance of Halacha is by imbuing our actions with _personalized
meaning and understanding_.  The source for this personalization resides
in the Oral Torah, the unique way we, as human beings, _understand_ the
Divine Torah we study and practice.  We shouldn't fool ourselves.
Accessing this dimension requires much effort and integrity.  But it is
this dimension that has made our Torah eternal, staying with us through
every situation and in every place the nation has found itself.
     One of the conflicts between the Greeks and the Jews was whether
such an inner dimension exists.  They translated the written Torah,
while denying anything beyond that.  The Chanukah victory and miracle
was an affirmation of the inner dimension, a dimension where true
individuality lies.
     The Rabbis structured the Mitzvah of Chanukah lights, the Mitzvah
which represents the light of the Oral Torah, with discreet levels of
observance to concretize the individuality embodied specifically in the
Oral Torah, the inner dimension of the Torah given over through the
individual's study and understanding.  It is this individuality which
makes every Jew unique, especially beloved by G-d specifically for his
or her uniqueness.  Chanukah lights, revealing the inner dimension where
this individuality resides, is an _extremely_ beloved mitzvah.


From: Morris Podolak <morris@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 93 06:47:27 -0500
Subject: Re: Mitzvah of Aliyah

Jamie Leiba writes:
> My friend asked me to post this reponse on his behalf to Morris Podolak's 
> comments:
> Morris Podolak said,
> > I would just like to point out, for those on the net who are not 
> > familiar with the literature, that the above quote is NOT a          
> > translation of the Gemara, but rather an interpretation, and not to
> > be seen as more than that.
> I'll quote the Gemara directly (Kesubos 110b - at the very bottom),
> translating as literally as possible.
> "Rabbi Yehuda says: any one who goes up from Babylonia to Eretz Yisroel,
> transgresses a positive commandment, as it says 'To Babylonia they will
> be brought, and there they will be until the day I redeem them, says the
> Lord.'"

This is indeed a correct translation (except that it should read Rav Yehuda,
not Rabbi Yehuda), but an unfair one, since it takes 
the statement out of its original context.  The Gemara states that Rabbi
Zeira avoided visiting his teacher, Rav Yehuda, because Rabbi Zeira wanted
to make aliyah, but knew that Rav Yehuda opposed this.  Here the Gemara
gives the statement quoted above.  Two things: first, we see that the
issue is not clear cut.  Rav Yehuda indeed opposes aliyah, but Rabbi 
Zeira is for it.  Indeed Rabbi Zeira did come to Israel.  The second point
is the continuation of the Gemara.  They ask what Rabbi Zeira bases himself
on that he disagrees with the verse cited by Rav Yehuda, and answer that that
verse refers to the implements used in the Beit Hamikdash, and not to people.
Again, we see that there is a question of interpretation.  Indeed, the 
Gemara implies that Rav Yehuda agreed that the verse referred to objects,
not to people since they bring another argument for Rav Yehuda, that of the
three vows.  Here there is a definite issue of interpretation which I 
won't get into.  I will just refer the interested reader to "Kol Dodi 
Dofek" by Rav Soloveichik z"l

> Tosafos there ("Bavela") says: "Even though this verse is speaking about
> the first exile, there is to say that the Torah forbids (aliya) even
> from the second exile."

This Tosafot is simply explaining the argument of Rav Yehuda, not giving
a halachic "bottom line".  Incidentally, the verse refers specifically
to aliyah from Bavel to Israel.  There are some who say that Bavel is
somehow special.  But once you have left Bavel and are living elsewhere
anyway, then there is no prohibition, even according to Rav Yehuda.

> A previous Tosafos (110b "Hu omar...") adds: "Says Rabbeinu Chaim: 'now
> there is no mitzva to live in Eretz Yisroel.'"  ...Notice the word "to
> live" (l'dor) - nothing specific about aliya, but living in general...
> I'm not sure where the interpretation lies - it all seems pretty
> straightforward to me.

Sorry, but it is not at all straightforward.  In the first place,
Tosafot is talking about the law that says that if one spouse wants to
go to Israel then they can force the other spouse to either come along,
or dissolve the marriage.  This is what Tosafot is referring to when he
says "this is no longer the custom today".  He then goes on to explain
that this is because travel to Israel was dangerous in his day.  Tosafot
then bring Rabbeinu Chaim who says that there is no mitzvah to live in
Israel today because of the difficulty of keeping those special mitzvot
that apply to the land.  There are a great many difficulties with these
words of Rabbenu Chaim.  To the extent that the Maharit, a contemporary
of Rabbi Yosef Karo states (Responsa Maharit 28) that Tosafot never said
that, and it is something that was added later by a student.  These
difficulties are apparently dealt with by Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l in his
drashot on the Gemara (which I admit I have not seen) and I will comment
more on that below.  As a side point, I want to assure everyone that
today travel to Israel is quite safe (probably safer than traveling
through some neighborhoods in New York or Los Angeles), and there are at
least 150 cities and towns in Israel where one can be sure that all the
laws relating to the land are strictly kept, so that neither of
Tosafot's two reasons seem relevant any longer.

>And as to R' Moshe Feinstein
> > Rav Moshe talked about the obligation to make aliya, not about  
> > those who already live in Israel.
> I'll quote that also (Igros Moshe, Even Hoezer 1, 102 - at the end of
> the tshuva) "And in the matter of which you asked, whether there is a
> mitzva to live (l'dor) in Eretz Yisroel...there is no mitzva today..."
> Again, no distinction between aliya and those who already live in
> Israel.

Again, this is unfairly taken out of context.  Rav Moshe was asked if
there is a mitzvah of living in Israel.  He answered, in part, that
"most poskim hold that it is a mitzvah".  He then pointed out that you
have to understand what this means.  You cannot interpret it to mean
that you must live in Israel in the sense that if you don't then you are
committing a sin.  This he proves from the wording of the Rambam, among
other things.  He then talks about a "mitzvah chiuvit" which is that you
have to get up and do it.  Living in Israel, according to Rav Moshe, is
not a mitzvah chiuvit.  This is what was quoted above.  But why did you
leave out the rest which goes like this:

"The positive mitzvah is not chiuvit but when one lives there one is
performing a mitzvah.  And since it is not a mitzvah chiuvit then one
should certainly consider the concern raised by Rabbeinu Chaim in
Tosafot as to whether one can be sufficiently careful regarding the
mitzvot that are related to the land."

It seems clear enough to me that Rav Moshe considered living in Israel a
mitzvah.  He only pointed out that one is not required to go out of his
way to keep it by making aliya, and should consider whether he will be
able to live under the additional restrictions (which as I pointed out
above is no longer relevant).  He never said it is not a mitzvah to live
there as the above quote shows.  In fact he said the opposite!  I had
not really intended to get into the discussion of living in Israel
because 1. it has already been discussed at length, and because 2. it is
something I feel very strongly about.  Still, because the issue is so
close to my heart, I could not allow it to be so misrepresented.



From: Allen Elias <100274.346@...>
Date: 03 Dec 93 08:01:08 EST
Subject: Religious Zionism

>From: Jamie Leiba <leiba@...>

>I'll quote the Gemara directly (Kesubos 110b - at the very bottom),
>translating as literally as possible.

>"Rabbi Yehuda says: any one who goes up from Babylonia to Eretz Yisroel,
>transgresses a positive commandment, as it says 'To Babylonia they will
>be brought, and there they will be until the day I redeem them, says the

>Tosafos there ("Bavela") says: "Even though this verse is speaking about
>the first exile, there is to say that the Torah forbids (aliya) even
>from the second exile."

This Gemara concerns the oaths which Israel made when it went into
Golus, one of which was not to make a massive aliya. The Maharal of
Prague z"l wrote in Netzach Israel ch.24 these oaths depend on the oath
the nations made not to oppress Israel. Since the nations did not keep
their end of the deal we are no longer obligated by these oaths.
Furthermore, Rav Chaim Vital in the introduction to Eitz Chaim says
these oaths were made for one thousand years. Because more than 1000
years have passed since the Golus we are no longer bound.

>A previous Tosafos (110b "Hu omar...") adds: "Says Rabbeinu Chaim: 'now
>there is no mitzva to live in Eretz Yisroel.'"  ...Notice the word "to
>live" (l'dor) - nothing specific about aliya, but living in general...
>I'm not sure where the interpretation lies - it all seems pretty
>straightforward to me.

The beginning of the Tosafos says there is no mitzveh because of the
danger in travelling to Eretz Israel. Nowadays the danger in travelling
is much less than in Tosafos's time so maybe there is a mitzveh.

The rest of that Tosafos says there is no mitzveh to live in Israel
because of the difficulty in keeping the mitzvos of Eretz Israel. But if
one is able to keep them why should he not fulfil the mitzveh of going
to Eretz Israel?

Jaimie Leiba also quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l. Rav Moshe z"l saw fit
to have himself buried in Eretz Israel. I would say if it is a mitzveh
to bring those in the other world to Eretz Israel then kal v'chomer it
is a bigger mitzveh for those in this world to live there.


End of Volume 10 Issue 50