All summaries below are done to the best of my abilities and are for the purpose of informing and not paskening. In all cases, a posek should be consulted.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Raisinets and Tape Recorders - Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 3:31

In a brief teshuva, Rav Moshe Feinstein tackles two unrelated issues. The first is the question of what bracha to make on chocolate covered raisins, insofar as both components are independently desirable and delicious. As such, Rav Moshe rules that one should make both a שהכל and a בורא פרי העץ. Since it is generally not possible to eat the raisin part independent of the chocolate, a person should have in mind not to include the raisin when he makes the bracha on the chocolate, or should make a בורא פרי העץ on some other fruit first.

The second issue dealt with is whether there is a problem of erasing Hashem's name when one erases a tape recoding that mentions the name. Since the name of Hashem is not actually written on the tape, there is no actual prohibition, but Rav Moshe cautions that others may think that we are taking a cavalier attitude towards God's name. However, if one can erase it in a more indirect manner [perhaps by taping over it?] then that would be preferable.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Medinat Yisrael and Kedushat HaAretz - HaRav Shlomo Yosef Zevin

In this article written in Hatzofeh in December/January 1947-8, a few months before the establishment of the State of Israel (and reprinted in Techumin volume 10 with new material added), Rav Zevin reviews the history of קדושת הארץ and possible ramifications of a renewal of significant Jewish settlement in the Land.

On one level, the Land has independent kedusha, as reflected in various statements in the Gemara and Midrashim about God's concern for the Land and how one who lives in Israel has a God, while one who lives outside of Israel is as if he has no God. This kedusha is eternal, and is not connected to where Jews are living at a given moment.

Rav Zevin then discusses the kedusha that accompanies Jewish settlement in the Land, and differentiates between the kedusha that came about at the time of Yehoshua's entry to the Land and that which devolved at the time of Ezra's leading the Jews back from the Babylonian exile. The kedusha from the time of Yehoshua was created via conquest and perhaps via the building of the Beit HaMikdash, and most commentaries hold that this kedusha was nullified when the first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and the people were exiled.

By contrast, the Jews who returned to build the second Beit HaMikdash did not conquer the Land, but merely built up settlements, and thus the kedusha at that time was created via their seizing of the Land. However, there is a debate as to whether this kedusha was full-force, or whether it only created a d'Rabbanan-level obligation for מצוות התלויות בארץ such as giving תרומות ומעשרות. According to Rambam, the obligation was only d'Rabbanan, since we require ביאת כולכם - everyone coming to the Land in order to restore the full kedusha. As with the kedusha from the time of Yehoshua, there is a debate as to whether or not this second kedusha was nullfied when the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed.

Based on these considerations, Rav Zevin discusses several issues that may now become relevant as Jews were about to return after two thousand years to their Land:

1) The Negev - the southern part of Israel falls outside of the borders that were conquered by the Jews at the time of Yehoshua, but well within the area promised to the forefathers. As such, it is possible that while crops grown there may not be subject to an obligation to give תרומות ומעשרות דאורייתא, there may nevertheless be a fulfillment of מצות ישוב הארץ for one who lives there.

2) The overall kedusha of the Land - if those who returned from Babylon could put kedusha back into effect by settling the Land, is it possible that the same could happen with those who are now returning. And, if so, can they re-create the kedusha in a way that it could spread to regions that had not previously been settled?

3) If a majority of Jews return to the Land, will we reach a situation of ביאת כולכם that would make fulfilling the mitzvot of the Land into מצוות דאורייתא? This was debated by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and his student Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer [interesting trivia - Rav Chaim's great granddaughter is Rabbanit Tova Lichtenstein and Rav Isser Zalman's granddaughter is Rabbanit Miriam Amital]. Rav Chaim held that ביאת כולכם was tied to a historical moment and could only happen during the days of Ezra, while Rav Isser Zalman felt that it could happen at any time. Beyond that debate, there is the question of whether ביאת כולכם means literally all Jews or if we could invoke the well-known dictum of רובו ככולו and only require a majority of world Jewry to move to Israel in order to have a higher level of kedusha kick in. Rav Zevin sides with the view that we can invoke רובו ככולו [ed. note - we are getting very close to this point right now].

4) The mitzva of settling the Land - Rav Zevin concludes by noting that according to Ramban, one of the 613 mitzvot is to settle the Land, which the Marcheshet rules includes living in the Land and acquiring land in Israel. As we now have our own State, we finally have, for the first time in two millenia, the opportunity to fulfill this mitzva in all of its aspects.

May we merit to see the continual flowering of the גאולה and may we do our part in helping Hashem to fulfill וקבצנו יחד מארבע כנפות הארץ.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Soldiers refusing orders - Rav Yaakov Ariel - Techumin 4

In this article written in 1983, Rav Ariel deals with the question of whether or not soldiers are allowed to refuse orders. Specifically, he grapples with the issue of refusing the order to clear out Yamit and to invade Beirut. He also discusses following an order to begin a siege on Shabbat, as well as doling out collective punishment to Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron. The common denominator of all of these cases is the presence of a religious, halachic, or national consideration that stood in opposition to the official military order.

Rav Ariel's first approach is to consider a military order in the context of being a גזירת המלך. Rambam, based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin says that one may disobey a military assignment if it contradicts a mitvza, since דברי הרב ודברי התלמיד דברי מי שומעין - we obviously listen to God over listening to any of His subjects if the two are in contradiction to one another. In this vein, he cites a teshuva of the Chacham Tzvi who compares listening to a royal decree to the mitzva of כבוד אב ואם, specifically with regard to the fact that in neither case may one violate another mitzva in order to obey or respect another human. However, there are Rishonim who qualify this. The Meiri in Moed Katan writes that one may set learning Torah in order to do a mitzva that cannot be done by someone else, such as respecting one's parents, and in Sanhedrin he writes that a royal edict cannot override the public study of Torah, but it can override study by an individual.

Rav Ariel then distinguishes between כבוד and מורא, between respecting one's parents and fearing them, noting that in the former case one can set aside a mitzva, but not in the latter. As such, when it comes to following a royal order, since we are only commanded to fear a king, we can ignore the order we are doing so in order to perform a mitzva. Extending this line of thinking to our cases, Rav Ariel rules that refusing orders for a subjective לשם שמים purpose would not constitute a rebellious act.

From there, Rav Ariel considers a view of the Netziv that refusing an order contains an element of פקוח נפש, to the possible extent that someone who refuses an order is considered to be a rodef insofar as he is potentially endangering others while he remains safe at home (based on the story in Bamidbar of Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven). However, Rav Ariel also considers the spiritual peril that is brought about by an order that demands that someone violate halacha. As such, he advises soldiers to determine whether an order is objectionable from a subjective or an objective perspective, and to take counsel with a posek if they are not capable of making such a determination. Furthermore, he concludes that if it is too close to call, then the danger posed by refusing an order outranks the danger of fulfilling an order that seems to violate a halachic position, and in such a case the soldier should fulfill the order given to him.

In the conclusion, Rav Ariel deals with the specific cases that were brought to him:

1) With regard to a siege in the Sinai that was to begin on Shabbat, apparently this particular order was not an emergency situation, and thus Rav Ariel felt that one could refuse such an order. However, he noted that in general one can violate Shabbat for a military mission under emergency conditions.

2) With regard to evacuating the Yamit settlement, Rav Ariel ruled that soldiers were obligated to follow orders, based on the reasoning that the governmental decision to give over Yamit may have been a mistake in judgement, but was not intended to harm the Jewish people or the State of Israel. (See the statement by Mori V'Rabi HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein on the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 for more on this issue.)

3) With regard to soldiers who did not want to go to Beirut, Rav Ariel ruled that they are required to go, as refusing an order in a wartime situation is a particularly egregious act. Since one cannot prove objectively that the war is wrong and any arguments on that issue are based on one's political worldview, there is little room to allow for someone to be a conscientious objector.

4) With regard to soldiers asked to adminsiter collective punishment to Arab residents of Yehuda and Shomron, Rav Ariel permitted them to refuse the order assuming that the order was objectively in error. He felt that most of the Arabs living there were not actively at war with Israel and thus we nee to consider the idea of maintaining דרכי שלום with our non-Jewish neighbors.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Soldiers volunteering for dangerous missions - Rav Shlomo Min HaHar - Techumin 22

In honor of Yom Hazikaron, which falls out today but is being observed on Monday, a teshuva from the author of דיני צבא ומלחמה, a major halachic work for Israeli soldiers.

Rav Min HaHar was asked if one can volunteer for a military operation that is potentially life-threatening, if the option is to allow others to volunteer while the observant soldier stays behind and engages in Torah learning. The questioner also worried that perhaps failure to volunteer would result in a חילול השם. Finally, he asked whether or not the extra experience should be a factor?

Rav Min HaHar responded that there is ample evidence from Tanach of individuals volunteering for military service (soldiers fighting with Devora and Barak, Yonatan ben Shaul, and others), and many of these individuals clearly could have been staying behind and learning instead. However, Rav Min HaHar does not think that potential חילול השם should be a factor in the decision.

In terms of considering the fact that being involved in this mission will give the soldier more experience, which will be valuable in the future, Rav Min HaHar does not consider that sufficient reason to volunteer for a mission that would involved חילול שבת (since we do not allow medical students should work on cadavers on Shabbat based on similar logic), however it may be reason enough to allow someone to volunteer for a potentially dangerous mission.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pesach in the Ghetto - Mima'amakim 1:17

Rav Oshry was asked two questions before Pesach concerning coping with the lack of food while at the same time trying to keep the various eating restrictions that come with the holiday.

The first question was whether people would be allowed to eat kitniyot if they became available, despite the general custom not to eat them. Rav Oshry ruled, based on the Chatam Sofer, that in a שעת הדחק one would be allowed to consume kitniyot, provided that he washed them to ensure that there was no grain mixed in with them.

The second question was more complex. Some of the Jews who worked in the forced labor camps had found potato skins and wanted to mix them with some flour in order to produce matzah. Since fruit juices mixed with flour do not produce chametz, this theoretically could have worked. However, since the skins were dirty they wanted to first clean them, and they were concerned that by introducing water into the mix that would actually reverse the situation, whereby the water and flour would mix and the juices of the potato skins would serve to speed up the fermentation process and thus the mix would definitely become chametz. Rav Oshry advised, based on the ruling of Rav Avraham Dovbear Kahana Shapiro, that they wipe the skins clean with a cloth and then bake matzot from them, thus avoiding the introduction of water.

מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ

לז"נ קדושי עמך ישראל שמסרו נפשם על קדושם השם