Volume 32 Number 32
                 Produced: Mon May 29  7:46:06 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Aliyah Excuses
         [Carl and Adina Sherer]
A New concept for aliyah discussion (2)
         [Bill Bernstein, Roger & Naomi Kingsley]
Obligatory vs Pious-Voluntary acts--What is the difference
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Carl and Adina Sherer <sherer@...>
Date: Wed, 10 May 2000 10:25:19 +0200
Subject: Aliyah Excuses

I am hoping that the lack of response to the post below is an indication
that people realize that the arguments it presents are specious, and not
chas v'shalom (G-d forbid) a sign of agreement.  Nevertheless, I thought
that it ought to be answered.

Russell Hendel writes:

> Eli Turkel in v31n93 writes
> >>>>
> The vast majority of Jews can make a reasonable living in Israel.  There
> is no mitzvah to have every luxury. As I once wrote R. Blau of the
> Neturei Karta lived in a hut while visiting the US so that he should at
> >>>>
> The Rambam is very explicit Law of Gifts to the Poor, Chapter 7:3
>         >Poverty is relative to a former life style
>         >If the poor person was used to a chariot and servants
>         >then THAT IS WHAT YOU GIVE HIM!!!

Let's put that entire Rambam on the table. The Rambam writes in 
Matnos Aniyim 7:3 [translation mine]:

"You are commanded to give to the poor person in accordance with 
what he is lacking. If he has no clothing, he must be clothed. If he 
has no housewares, housewares must be purchased for him. If he 
has no wife, he must be given a wife, or if a woman, she must be 
given a husband. Even if it was the way of this poor person to ride 
on a horse with a servant running in front of him, and he became 
poor and lost his property, they should purchase a horse upon 
which he can ride, and a servant to run before him. As it says, 
'enough to make up for what he is missing.' And you are 
commanded to complete what he is missing, and not to enrich 

But in order to reach the point where we are required to fill in the 
"dei machsoro asher yechsar lo" (enough to make up for what he is 
missing), a person must first become an ani (poor person). Russell 
assumes that anyone who leaves America for Israel will become an 
ani. The term ani has a definition in Halacha. Let us examine that 
definition, and see what the likelihood is that one who is wealthy in 
America will automatically become an ani by moving to Eretz 
Yisrael. Since Russell apparently has a preference for the 
Rambam, as opposed to other poskim, I will stick to the Rambam 
as much as possible.

The Rambam in Matnos Aniyim 9:1 describes a "kupa shel 
tzedaka" (the basket of tzedaka) from which mezonos (food) are 
distributed to aniyim (poor people) from week to week. The 
Rambam writes that the kupa is only for the aniyim of that city 
(Matnos Aniyim 9:6). The Rambam also writes that each city 
should have a "tamchuy" (a collection of food and money) that 
should be distributed to the poor each evening (Matnos Aniyim 
9:2). The tamchuy is for "aniyei olam" (the poor of the world), i.e. 
for those people who are passing through. The Rambam writes 
(Matnos Aniyim 9:13) that one who has food for two meals should 
not take from the tamchuy, and one who has food for fourteen 
meals should not take from the kupa. Until one reaches that 
subsistence level, one is not entitled to take tzedaka. Once one 
does reach that subsistence level, however, the command of dei 
machsoro (all that he is missing) kicks in. This is apparent from 
the continuation of Matnos Aniyim 9:13, where the Rambam writes 
(translation mine):

"If he has 200 zuz [a unit of currency - C.S.], although he does not 
do business with them, or if he has 50 zuz and he does business 
with them, he should not take from leket, shikcha and peah [the 
poor people's portions of the fields - C.S.] nor from the tithe for the 
poor. If he has even one dinar [a smaller unit of currency - C.S.] 
less than 200 zuz, then even if a thousand people are giving him at 
once, he is permitted to take. If he has money, but he owes that 
money to another or they are pledged [to pay] his wife's ksuva 
[marriage contract - C.S.] he is permitted to take."

Let's be serious folks - what are the chances of someone who is 
living in wealth in the US suddenly becoming *that poor* in Israel. 
Possible? Sure, but so are a lot of things. Likely? Hardly.

Furthermore, the Rambam does not absolve one from performing 
any mitzvos because he is poor! Where Russell got *that* concept 
from is simply beyond me!

It is also worth noting the Rambam in Matnos Aniyim 10:19 who 
writes (translation mine): 

"Anyone who does not need to take [tzedaka] and fools the people 
and takes, does not die in old age without needing to rely on 
others. And he is included in 'arur ha'gever asher yivtach ba'adam.' 
[cursed is the man who relies on people - C.S.].... And one who 
needs to take but holds himself back and pushed off taking and 
lived meagerly so that he would not be a burden on the public, 
does not die from old age until he is able to support others from his 
means, and on him and all others like him it says, 'baruch ha'gever 
asher yivtach ba'Hashem' [blessed is the man who relies on 
Hashem - C.S.]."

Until now, I have limited myself to the Rambam, although 
(obviously) there is much written on the topic of who is an ani and 
how we are obligated to support him in the Rishonim, the Achronim 
and the Poskim. I leave a review of those sources for another 

In closing, I would like to cite from Sha'alos u'Tshuvos Bnei Banim 
2:42, of Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin shlita, who I believe lurks on this 
list. Rav Henkin writes: "[B]ut one who refrains from settling Eretz 
Yisrael for pecuniary reasons... is a 'naval b'rshus HaTorah' [a 
person who is acting in a disgusting manner with the Torah's 
permission - cf. Ramban on this past week's parsha, VaYikra 19:2 
s"v Kdoshim Tihyu - C.S.], and woe is to him from the day of 
judgment, and at the time of anger he will be punished, and 
expanding on this is superfluous and will not help in all of our sins." 

Time to stop looking for excuses.

-- Carl M. Sherer
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son, Baruch Yosef
ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  Thank you very much.


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Mon, 01 May 2000 20:26:51 -0500
Subject: Re: A New concept for aliyah discussion

Roger Kingsley writes about aliya as follows:

> Surely it is much easier and more consistent with the line of halacha to
> say that there is a mitzvah to live in eretz Yisrael, but one who really
> cannot make a living there - or has other serious problems (often
> emotional ones) - may be onus - unable to do it - and so potur.  In that
> case, of course, such a person may reasonably be expected to benefit
> fromn such help, encouragement and advice as others can give him to help
> remove the onus - or to help him remove the onus.

I am amazed at the tenor of this discussion and what appears to be an
on-going confusion between a mitzva and a chiyyuv (obligation).  As far
as I can tell there is no chiyyuv to live in Eretz Yisroel, although
there may be a mitzva to do so.  It is an important distinction.  Aliyah
in this context makes the mitzva in the same category of shiluach haken
(chasing the bird away), schechita, or kisui dam (covering the blood):
if one has the opportunity to perform it, he does a mitzva; if not, he
hasn't done anything wrong.  No one here will argue that we must give up
our normal existence to fulfill these mitzvas.  As far as I can tell,
even according to those opinions who hold that aliya is a mitzva today,
it is still not a chiyyuv. Thus, potur and onus are irrelevant to the

From: Roger & Naomi Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Wed, 10 May 2000 17:23:37 +0300
Subject: Re: A New concept for aliyah discussion

Bill Bernstein wrote:

> ...  As far as I can tell there is no chiyyuv to live in Eretz
> Yisroel, although there may be a mitzva to do so.  It is an important
> distinction. ...

Oh dear, I do seem to have got into deep water here.  I really don't
think things are quite that clear-cut.

Firstly, let us be clear on one thing.  There is a considerable body of
halachic opinion that the mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael IS an
obligation.  The Ramban's language seems to be fairly clear on that.
For a more modern authority, you might try Rav Sha'ul Yisraeli z"l,
whose book Eretz Hemdah on this subject discusses, among other issues,
how large a monetary loss a Jew is obliged to incur so as to perform the
mitzvah of Aliyah.

This does leave open the question of whether a contrary view is
possible.  One of the points I made is that, so far, posters have not
quoted any halachic authorities to support it.  In any case, I think it
is important to be clear what characterising a mitzvah as "optional"
would imply.

The Rambam (Hilchos Berachos, 11, 2) says "There are mitvos which a
person is obligated to make an effort until he performs it, such as
tefillin, succah, lulav and shofar, and these are called an obligation,
because he is in any case obligated to do it.  And there is a (category
of) mitzvah which is not an obligation but like permissive (reshus) such
as mezuzah and a retaining fence, because a person is not obliged to
live in a house which requires a mezuzah so as to perform the mitzvah,
but if he wishes to live all his life in a tent or a ship he may..."

Now if we try to characterise these mitzvos which are optional, as far
as I have managed to see, they fall into one of three categories.  There
are mitzvos which are optional because they arise as a result of a
previous action - and become an obligation only if one has performed the
previous action.  This includes the case where the previous action is a
prohibiton (lav shenitak l'asseh) - examples of this are restoring
stolen property, and according to some opinions, sending away the mother
bird (shiluach haken)  -  and presumably also the poster's example of
kisui hadam - where the previous action is the shechitah.  There are
mitzvos which arise depending on one's circumstances - such as the
Rambam's example above of mezuzah, and tzitzis - if one has a house or
an appropriate garment, then and only then is one obligated. The third
category is where the mitzvah mandates a way of doing something if one
wishes to attain the object of the action - into this category would
come divorce, shechita, and (according to others) shiluach haken.  There
are lots of other examples in each of these categories.

Living in Eretz  Yisrael cannot easily fit into the third category,
because one would have to identify the object to be attained by this way
of doing the action - unless you wish to say that only if one settles
down, one should do so in Ertez Yisrael but a nomadic existence
elsewhere avoids the mitzvah.

There is a potential fourth category, in which I have only been able to
find two examples.  This refers to the mitzvah of matzah and succah
after the first day of the chag.  Everyone agrees that there is no
obligation in these cases.  There seems to be some division about the
nature of the mitzvah.  Some seem to categorise it as in the third
category above - that if he wants to eat a meal, he has to make it on
matzah or eat it in the succah - but some (Rav Zevin z"l in his book
Hamoadim b'Halacha mentions the Vilna Gaon as one as reported in Maaseh
Rav) definitely see it as a mitzvah to perform which is called r'shut
(permissible) only to distinguish it from an obligation.  I have not
been able to think of any other Torah mitzvot in this "pure r'shut"
category - can anyone else.  If not, I think one would be very wary of
attempting to assign others to it, especially as the position of matzah
and succah are the result of a special d'rash.

By the way - the concepts of potur and onus are as relevant to these
mitzvas as to any others - consider the concept of being potur from
succah on hol Hamoed as an example.

So one question is, if you wish to claim that living in Eretz Yisrael is
an optional mitzvah - what sort of optional mitzvah?  The only
possibility that I can theoretically contemplate is that it would be
conditional - in which case I suppose the previous condition would have
to be of being here.  This is flat against the language of the Ramban. 
It might find some support in the Rambam's declaration of a prohibition
to leave Eretz Yisrael - but the Rambam also says - as halacha - "In any
case (le'olam) a person should live in Eretz Yisrael ... and should not
live outside Eretz Yisrael".

I would be interested in hearing some clear authorities and explanations
of the real meaning of this statement on the other side.

However, I would respectfully suggest that - even if you can find
opinions that the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael is not obligatory -
and this will never be a universally accepted conclusion - if only
people who live in Chutz la'aretz were to attempt to treat this mitzvah
with a quarter of the enthusiasm and diligence which they bring to - say
- the optional mitzvah of succah (on hol hamoed), we would not be having
this discussion in such abrasive terms.

Composed on the day of celebration of the 52nd anniversary of Medinat
Yisrael, with thanks to Hashem who has enabled us to live in the land
which he promised to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov.

Roger Kingsley


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 21:57:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: RE: Obligatory vs Pious-Voluntary acts--What is the difference

Roger Kingsley in Volume 32 Number 17 makes some excellent comments
about my attempt to introduce the concept OBLIGATORY VS VOLUNTARY/PIOUS
into the discussion about going to Israel. However Roger refuted my
examples not my logic. Let me briefly summarize the argument, indicate
Rogers point and give new examples.

Some people had argued that it was OBLIGATORY TO GO TO ISRAEL by citing
sources to that effect. But many postings argued that SINCE it was good
to go to Israel and it had many benefits (eg increased atmosphere and
mitzvah performance) THEREFORE it was OBLIGATORY.

I countered by suggesting that the BENEFITS of going to Israel don't
justify it being classified as OBLIGATORY--rather perhaps it only
justifys classifying going to Israel as being a PIOUS/VOLUNTARY act.

I then (erroneously) tried to show that BENEFITS of an act can imply its
PIOUS BUT VOLUNTARY nature by citing acts that are QUANTITATIVE in
nature-- eg it is GOOD to study Torah all day, to give alot to charity,
to visit sick all day, to work for ones synagogue etc...but none of
these acts are OBLIGATORY. Roger correctly pointed out that I was
incorrectly generalizing from examples that were QUANTITATIVE in nature.

So I now restate my argument by bringing in examples of PIOUS BUT
VOLUNTARY that are QUALATATIVE (eg a) Rambam Monetary Torts 13:22 Pious
people use to burn their broken glass or bury them 9 inches so they
shouldn't accidentally damage people; b)it is PIOUS VOLUNTARY to return
a lost article (with a name on it) that was lost in a non jewish sector
(it is not obligatory because the owner gave up hope of finding it
(Robbery/Theft 11:7); c) It is PIOUS VOLUNTARY if someone put his
objects on my property (without my permission) to sell the objects and
hire a place to keep them till this person comes Hire 8:7).

I could go on---I think the crucial issue here is many acts have
benefits-- some of them are OBLIGATORY and some of them are
VOLUNTARY/PIOUS. Why?  Is the answer because 'they go beyond what is
strictly required'? But then 'increasing atmosphere' or 'increasing my
capacity to do Mitzvoth' which are the major benefits of going to Israel
should also be so classified.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; <RHendel@...>
Moderator Rashi is SImple


End of Volume 32 Issue 32