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Listen to the female hostages! Print E-mail
Friday, 12 April 2024

The concept of women being taken hostage is sadly not new and goes back to the days of the Tanach. In fact, we encounter such a case in the Haftara for Parshat Tazria, Melachim II 4:42-5:19.

In Melachim II 5:2 we read:

Aram had gone out in “gdudim,” raiding parties and had captured a young girl from Eretz Yisrael, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, My master’s prayers should be directed to the prophet who is in the Shomron; then he will heal him from his tzaraat.” So Naaman went and told his master, saying, “Such and such spoke the girl from Eretz Yisrael.”

What is the meaning of the word “gdudim”?

According to Rashi, gdudim were raiding parties where groups of 100 or 200 people from Aram went roving on their own initiative to rob and loot in the Land of Israel.

Israel and Aram were in a state of peace, there was no organized war between Israel and Aram yet wars of attrition still took place.

Radak explains that the girl was one of the hostages that were taken from Israel and brought back to Aram.

Daat Mikra adds that she was originally taken captive as a young girl and now she is a young woman.

When Naaman spoke to the king of Aram, he made it very clear that this girl was taken captive from Eretz Yisrael.

Daat Mikra points out that there may have been hostages from a lot of different lands so Naaman wanted to emphasize that she was from Eretz Yisrael and therefore she knew firsthand what is needed in order for him to be healed.

Naaman as well as his wife and the king of Aram all thought that it was a good idea to listen to this captured girl who was now working as a servant since she had insider information. Naaman went to the prophet Elisha who ended up helping intervene on his behalf to heal him.

Unfortunately, we are living the nightmare of war and captivity again today. Before October 7, we were not at war. Suddenly thousands of terrorists broke into Israel. Some were part of Hamas’ plan but many others just joined in. Men and women, boys and girls of all ages were murdered, raped, mutilated, burned and taken hostage.

It is unthinkable that something like this can happen in our day and age and that the world thinks that this is normal behaviour.

Even as the freed hostages go out to speak to groups all over the world and the media, most people are unfazed.

How can this be?

Even in Biblical days it was understood that a simple young female captive has important information to contribute which will benefit society as a whole.

This is the perfect week to take a good look at the Haftara and get the word out to the world that we must listen to the released female hostages and work on bringing back everyone else as well as make sure that something like October 7 never happens again.

A few months ago when I visited Tel HaShomer hospital, I met many soldiers who are going through the process of rehabilitation. Right before I left, I met a young woman in a wheelchair with a clear cast on her leg. When I asked if I can pray for her recovery, she gave me her name, Maya, and then she asked me to pray for her friend Omer who is a captive. This young woman was a released hostage herself, Maya Regev.

Soon after I met her, Maya began to walk again. She recently told the Knesset that every woman in captivity is experiencing sexual harassment and if she could, she would release the hostages herself.

Maya as well as the other female released hostages were there. They know what is happening in captivity in Gaza. We have to listen to them.

May all of the hostages return home.

Will there be sacrifices in the Third Temple? Print E-mail
Monday, 17 April 2023

For the past month, we have been reading Sefer Vayikra which describes the sacrifices which are brought on different occasions, first to the Mishkan, the temporary Tabernacle and later to the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem.

After the Temples were destroyed, we were not permitted to offer sacrifices anywhere else and prayer was instituted in place of the sacrifices.

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3: 32:6 explains how we have slowly been moving away from sacrifices:

Offering sacrifices, although the sacrifices are offered to the name of God, has not been made obligatory for us to the same extent as it had been before. We were not commanded to sacrifice in every place, and in every time, or to build a temple in every place, or to permit anyone who desires to become a kohen and to sacrifice. On the contrary, all this is prohibited unto us. Only one temple has been appointed, “in the place which the Lord shall choose” (Devarim 12:26); in no other place is it allowed to sacrifice:  “Beware for yourself, lest you bring up your burnt-offerings in every place that you see” (Devarim 12:13); and only the members of a particular family were allowed to officiate as kohanim. All these restrictions served to limit this kind of worship, and keep it within those bounds within which God did not think it necessary to abolish sacrificial service altogether.

Rambam continues: But prayer and supplication can be offered everywhere and by every person. The same is the case with the mitzvot of tẓiẓit, mezuzah and tefillin.

What will happen when the Third Temple is built? Will we go back to bringing sacrifices?

Rabbi J. David Bleich points out in Contemporary Halachic Problems (Volume 1, Part 1):

It is popularly assumed that the synagogue emerged as a communal institution only subsequent to the destruction of the Temple. It is quite true that the synagogue is often referred to as a mikdash me'at, a miniature Temple, but such reference does not connote that the synagogue is merely a replica of, or a replacement for, the Temple which once stood in Jerusalem. Prayer does, indeed, serve as a substitute for the sacrificial order—"Let our lips compensate for bullocks" (Hoshea 14:3)—and the formal order of prayer followed today is patterned after the sacrificial ritual. However, prayer constitutes a mizvah in and of itself, regardless of whether or not sacrifices are concomitantly offered in the Temple.


According to Rabbi Bleich, now that we have organized prayer, we will not have to give it up as it serves a purpose in its own rite.


However, the question still stands- will the sacrifices be back and if so, which kind?


According to Midrash Tanchuma, Buber Emor 19:1: only the Thanksgivings will never cease, meaning the Thanksgiving sacrifice (Korban Todah) and the Thanksgiving prayer which are voluntary will not be cancelled out but there will not be any obligatory sacrifices.


Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook in Olat Re’iya explains what it will be like at the time of Acharit HaYamin, The End of Days:


By the end of time the knowledge of the Lord will extend to the animals, also, as stated by Yishayahu (11:9): "They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord" whereupon this offering, the vegetarian mincha "will be pleasant to the Lord, as in the days of old and as in the former years."


Rav Kook’s view is that eventually we will only bring the Korban Mincha, the vegetarian offering.


We see from here that since we have already moving away from sacrifices, there is a good chance that we will only return to the Korban Todah, a voluntary sacrifice or the Korban Mincha which is vegetarian.


However, we will only know for sure once the Third Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt speedily in our days.
Why Nisan? Print E-mail
Friday, 01 April 2022

In Parshat HaChodesh, we learn that what is known today as the month of Nisan is the first month on the Biblical calendar. The first Pesach and the Exodus from Egypt take place in Nisan, the month that B’nai Yisrael officially became freed from Egyptian slavery.

Why did God decide that the Exodus should take place at this time of year?

Why were B’nai Yisrael only commanded for the first Pesach to take a lamb into their homes on the tenth of the month when they would only be slaughtering it on the fourteenth at twilight?

Ramban (Shmot 12:3) explains:

The reason for this commandment is that the constellation of Aries (the Ram) is at the height of its power during the month of Nisan, it being the sign of the zodiac which ascends the heavens. Therefore, He commanded us to slaughter the sheep and to eat it in order to inform us that it was not by the power of that constellation that we went out from Egypt, but by decree of the Supreme One. And according to the opinion of our rabbis that the Egyptians worshipped it as a deity, He has all the more informed us through this that He subdued their gods and their great powers at the height of their ascendancy.

Therefore the rabbis have said in Shmot Rabba16:2: Take your lambs and slaughter” the gods of Egypt.

Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chayim 429:2 answers the question of why Nisan was specifically chosen:

The reason is because Egypt worshiped the lamb, which is the first of the astrological signs [Aries] in the celestial band, and this sign functions during the month of Nisan. Pharaoh relied on this sign in addition to his own power to bring him success. This explains his behavior, which appeared quite humbled after the plague of hail, where he exclaims (Shmot 9:27) "The L-rd is righteous, and I and my nation are sinners!" only to change markedly after the locusts, where he (Shmot 10:11) "expelled them [Moshe and Aaron from before him]" and culminating in his harsh words to Moshe after the plague of darkness (Shmot 10:28) - "You will see my face no more!" The reason for all this is that as Nisan approached Pharaoh felt increasingly secure since the time of this astrological sign's ascendancy was approaching.

This then is the meaning of God's statement to Moshe (Shmot 12:2): "This month should be for you the head of the months...", meaning to say "This month that Pharaoh was waiting for - it will be the first of your months, because through it the belief in astrological powers was shown to be false, and only (Dvarim 4:39) "God - He is the Lord - in the heavens above and the earth below, there is none other" - and Yisrael is his treasure. Therefore this month was fitting to be made the first of the months.

We see from here that by taking in the lamb on the tenth of Nisan, B’nai Yisrael were showing the Egyptians that our God is stronger than their god and that we have nothing to fear. Once we were out of Egypt, the step of bringing the lamb into our homes four days early would no longer be necessary.

We also learn that Pharaoh should not have put his faith in the zodiac as God is in control of those powers as well.

Birth of a New Baby: A Time to Show Sensitivity to Fertility Challenged Couples Print E-mail
Friday, 05 April 2019

Sponsored by Rachel and Simcha Gluck

Commemorating the yahrzeit of Rafael Lev z”l, 27 Adar

This Shabbat, Parshat Tazria, we read about the birth of a baby boy or girl, the procedures of purification after birth and the commandment to give the baby boy a brit mila, a ritual circumcision.


The brit mila ceremony for a baby boy and the simchat bat celebration for a baby girl are momentous occasions for the parents of the new baby, yet they can be very difficult ceremonies to attend for couples suffering from infertility.


There is a custom at a brit mila to delegate the honors of Kvatter and Kvatterin (a man and a woman who are given the honor to bring the baby boy in the door of the room where the brit mila will take place) to a couple who is seeking to have a child. This is based on a Midrash in Bamidbar Raba.


There are a few possibilities for the origins of the words Kvatter and Kvatterin:


Kvatter and kvatterin are a Yiddish combination of the words kavod (honor) and tier (door) since a man and a woman bring a baby boy in the door and take the baby out after the ceremony.


Rabbi Asher Anshil Grunwald in his book Zocher HaBrit derives “kvattar” from “gevattar,” the German word for intimate friend.


The Talmud Kritot 6b teaches that the ktoret (incense) is described as koter v’oleh, burning and ascending to heaven. Those involved with the brit are compared to the Kohen who performed the incense burning in the Beit HaMikdash. Over time, the word koter was mispronounced and became kvatter.


Was being a Kvatter and Kvatterin always considered a segula for a couple with fertility issues?


The Aruch HaShulchan mentions many women being involved in passing the baby but does not mention the idea of it specifically being a segula for a childless couple, rather an honor and a mitzvah.


Concerns for specifically inviting a fertility-challenged couple to be the kvatter/kvatterin:

They may be uncomfortable attending the brit.

They may feel put on the spot when asked and feel obligated to say yes.

They may feel like everyone’s eyes are upon them/ feeling sorry for them.

A woman in niddah may be uncomfortable, as she may be concerned about passing the baby to her husband.

The couple may be going through medical treatments that require them to be at the doctor/ hospital or may not feel up to waking up so early in order to attend.


Some people connect to segulot while others do not and everyone should be respected for their belief.


The minhag was not originally about inviting a couple without children, it was about giving friends the opportunity to participate in the mitzvah. For the integrity of the minhag, it is important to include friends who have children as well and not turn it into a stigma for childless couples.



Only ask a couple to serve as Kvatter and Kvatterin if you are sure that they would feel comfortable being invited (ex: very close friend or relative) and leave an opening for them to turn down the honor if they are not interested.

The time of the brit milah is looked at as an et ratzon (auspicious time), a time when all of those present have the opportunity to pray for what they need. In the book Aderet Eliyahu, Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher explains that the time that the baby cries at the brit is an “et ratzon.”


Rabbi Shlomo Efraim, author of the Kli Yakar wrote in his book Olelot Efraim that Mizmor 6 of Tehillim, La’menatzeach beneginot al HaShminit Mizmor L’David is an appropriate Psalm to recite at the brit.


We must keep in mind that couples who are experiencing fertility challenges have different ways of coping with attending friends’ life cycle events, especially a brit milah or simchat bat. We must be sensitive to their needs and leave the door open for them to choose if they want to attend at all, take part in the ceremony if they do attend, or quietly say a Psalm or their own private individual prayers.


Yesh Tikva Infertility Awareness Shabbat

This Shabbat, Keren Gefen Mind-Body Fertility Organization and Midreshet Nishmat are pleased to partner with Yesh Tikva’s Annual Infertility Awareness Shabbat which will be taking place in over 300 Synagogues in the USA, Canada and Israel.  The goal of this Shabbat is to enhance communal understanding and facilitate empathy for those who have not yet been blessed with children or who are struggling to expand their families. On Shabbat morning, April 6, 2019, Rosh Hodesh Nisan, over 300 Synagogues in the USA and Israel will share a message or D’var Torah that helps enhance communal understanding and facilitate empathy for those who have not yet been blessed with children or who are struggling to expand their families.

Are women considered part of the covenant? Print E-mail
Friday, 28 April 2017

In Honor of Josh Halickman’s Birthday

Are women considered part of the covenant?

In Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) we recite the words “ve’al britcha shechatamta bivsarenu”, “and for your covenant which you have sealed in our flesh.” These words refer to Brit Mila, ritual circumcision, a mitzvah which was first given to Avraham and his descendents in Breisheet 17:10-12 and is reiterated in Parshat Tazria, Vayikra 12:3.

In the Talmud, Brachot 48b, Nachum HaZaken taught: One must mention the covenant of circumcision in the blessing of the Land (node lecha, the second blessing of Birkat HaMazon). The reason according to Rashi is that the Land of Israel was promised to Avraham as part of the covenant of circumcision, as it says in Breisheet 17:8, “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns.”

Since women are not subject to the commandment of Brit Mila, should they still say “ve’al britcha shechatamta bivsarenu”, “and for your covenant which you have sealed in our flesh?”

You can ask the same question about the words “Ve’al Toratcha she’limadetanu”, “for your Torah which you have taught us”, as women do not have a formal obligation to study Torah. The question can also be asked about the words “al she’hinchalta la’avoteinu”, “that you have given a heritage to our forefathers”, as women are not the inheritors of the Land of Israel.

According to Magen Avraham, women are in fact required to recite these verses in Birkat HaMazon.

For the verse about Torah study, since women are obligated to study the parts of the Torah that pertain to them, they still have an obligation in Torah study even if it is differs from a man’s.

For the verse about inheriting the Land of Israel, the inheritance of the Land is based on the tribe and is passed down from father to son, yet we know that there are exceptions as in the story of the daughters of Tzelophchad where the father died and there were no sons so the daughters did in fact inherit.

As far as Brit Mila, although women don’t have the physical imprint, the mitzvah was given to the entire nation of Israel, so every Jewish person is considered part of the covenant. Although some mitzvot are only observed by men, others only by women, others only by Kohanim and others only by Livi’im etc. together we form the Jewish nation as one unit.

Shopping for Pesach in Israel- Non-Kitniyot Products Labeled as Kitniyot Print E-mail
Friday, 08 April 2016

In the Maftir for Parshat HaChodesh, we read about the first Pesach that was to be celebrated in Egypt and the subsequent holiday to remember the Exodus that would be celebrated annually. There is an explicit commandment not to eat Chametz, yet we see no Biblical prohibition not to eat kitniyot.


What are kitniyot?


The Shulchan Aruch describes kitniyot as products that can be cooked or baked in a fashion similar to the five chametz grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye) yet are not chametz.


Where did the tradition for Ashkenazim not to eat kitniyot come from?


The Sefer Mitzvot Katan by Rabbi Yitzchak of Courville (France 1210-1280) mentions that some communities do not eat kitniyot on Pesach. This minhag was observed as well in the community of the Maharil (Rhineland, Germany, 1365-1427). The custom eventually spread to all Ashkenasic communities.


The earlier poskim (Beit Yosef, Rema, Mishna Brura) consider the following to be kitniyot: rice, buckwheat/kasha, millet, beans, lentils, sesame seeds, peas and mustard (even though mustard is not officially kitniyot it just grows like kitniyot).


Over time, more “kitniyot” have been added to the list. There is now a list which includes over 55 legumes that are considered to be kitniyot!


Rav Moshe Feinstein argues that only foods that were specifically included in the original minhag are forbidden. Therefore, potatoes are not a problem as they were only introduced in Europe in the 16th century (imagine if we couldn’t have potatoes on Pesach!). Peanuts were also not around at the time of the chumra and were eaten on Pesach in Lithuania and in the United States (yet many Ashkenasim have taken the stricter view and don’t eat them). Quinoa, a relatively new discovery certainly was not part of the chumra and should not be considered kitniyot (yet it is still labeled as kitniyot in Israel).


Corn, which was certainly unknown in Europe at the time of the chumra somehow became added to the list.


Rav Dov Lior does not consider soy to be kitniyot as it only reached Europe 100 years ago. He also says that string beans and fava beans in their pods are not kitniyot as in that state they are considered vegetables.


There are also leniencies for kitniyot derivatives. Maharsham (1835-1911) permitted oils of kitniyot as did Rav Kook. Rav Melamed points out that soybean, cottonseed and canola (rapeseed) oils are not included in the prohibition and we may be lenient (yet they will still be marked as kitniyot due to the fact that they have a stricter hashgacha). Chocolate that contains lecithin (rapeseed) is also not a problem yet it is still be marked kitniyot or it will say “liftit.”


What we learn from here is that when shopping for Pesach, if a product is labeled Kosher for Pesach-contains kitniyot, those who don’t eat kitniyot must read the ingredients on the label to see if the product is in fact kitniyot or if it is being certified in a stricter manner than the psak from the rabbis that they follow.


If there is a product with a derivative of soy or corn, that does not make the entire product kitnoyot. Even if you say that the corn or soy derivatives are kitniyot they would be batel berov (the small amount of kitniyot would be canceled out due to the fact that most of the food is non-kitniyot).


In Israel there are more options to have access to foods that some rabbis consider kitniyot while others do not as there is a large Sephardic population. All of these products must have a Kosher for Pesach Hashgacha to ensure that no other grains were mixed in.


What surprises me is that the US Hashgachot which are very strict in most areas and will not certify most of the products above (except for the potatoes) are lenient in certifying MSG, aspartame and xanthan gum which are a derivative of kitniyot which has changed form.


What we see from here is that we can keep the minhag of not eating the original kitniyot without adding more and more stringencies every year. The key is to be able to stand in the supermarket and read the Hebrew label on almost every product that you are buying.

We don’t always have to be in Synch Print E-mail
Friday, 17 April 2015

This Shabbat in Israel we will read the double parsha of Tazria-Metzora while in Chutz La’aretz (outside of Israel) Parshat Shmini will be read.


How did this happen? Why are we reading different Parshiot?


Since Israel’s last day of Pesach was on Friday, last Shabbat we read Parshat Shmini in Israel. Outside of Israel, Shabbat was the last day of Pesach (Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyot) so the Torah reading for the eighth day of Pesach was read.


Can we synchronize the parshiot so that those in Israel and those abroad can all be reading the same parsha?


We will eventually be able to synchronize the parshiot but it will take us six weeks for everyone in the world to be reading the same parsha on the same Shabbat.


Why will it take so long?


Rabbi Issachar Susan in his book Tikkun Issachar (1549) explains that there were two minhagim:


The Musta’arabim in Israel (Jews who never left Israel from the destruction of the Second temple in 70 CE through the First Aliya in 1881) separated the parshiot of Behar and Bechukotai (the last opportunity to get in synch with the rest of the world) so that Parshat Bamidbar would be read by everyone on the Shabbat prior to Shavuot.


The Sephardim (Jews who came to Israel after they were expelled from Spain) would separate Tazria and Metzora (the first opportunity to get in synch with the rest of the world).


The Magen Avraham in the Shulchan Aruch Or HaChayim 428:6 codified the minhag of waiting to make the separation until the week of Behar and Bechukotai and this has remained our minhag until today.


It was a tradition in the Land of Israel to keep Tazria & Metzora and Acharei Mot & Kedoshim as double parshiot and therefore we keep that tradition and wait to separate the parshiot when we get to Parshat Behar even if for six weeks we are not in synch with the rest of the world.


There are many other minhagim as well that are observed differently in the Land of Israel. Let’s take Brit Milah (circumcision) for example. There are different verses stated at the beginning of the ceremony in Israel including Tehilim 137:5-6 “If I forget thee O Jerusalem…” and “Shma Yisrael”. Following the Rambam, In Israel the father makes the bracha of Shehechiyanu. This bracha is omitted abroad.


These minhagim remind us that the Land of Israel is a very unique place which isn’t always in synch with the rest of the world!

The Most Important Holiday of Them All Print E-mail
Friday, 01 April 2011

What is the most important holiday- Pesach…Shavuot…Sukkot…Rosh Chodesh?


Believe it or not it is Rosh Chodesh!


The Maftir which is read this Shabbat “Hachodesh” comes from Shmot 12:1-20 and states in sentence 2: “This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.”


The first commandment that B’nai Yisrael received as a nation was the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh.


Rashi brings the Mechilta which states that God showed Moshe the new moon and told him that each time the moon renews itself we will celebrate Rosh Chodesh.


The simple meaning of the text is taught in the Gemara, Masechet Shabbat 63a:  The month that we know of today as Nisan will be the first month of the year, Iyar will be the second month, Sivan will be the third month etc.


Even though humans were created on Rosh HaShana, the first of Tishrei, the Torah starts counting the months from Nisan so that we are reminded of the Exodus from Egypt on a regular basis.


If it is so important to be reminded of the Exodus from Egypt, then why do we go by Nisan, Iyar, Sivan etc. today?


Ramban explains that the names of the months that are used today are Babylonian names which remind us that although we were exiled to Babylonia after the First Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, God redeemed us again and we were able to build the Second Beit HaMikdash.


Why is Rosh Chodesh so important that it is given as the first mitzvah?


Without Rosh Chodesh there would be no calendar and without a calendar there wouldn’t be any other holidays.


Many of the Jewish holidays fall in the middle of the month. When we enter our Sukkot there is a full moon, when we begin our Pesach seder there is a full moon and in Jerusalem where we celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar there is a full moon when we go out to hear the megilla. Thanks to the moon, it is very clear that we are celebrating these holidays at the proper time.


On Rosh Chodesh (as well as on Rosh HaShana), the moon is so small that we can’t even see it. It reminds us of the power of “Teshuva”, repentance and the fact that each month we have an opportunity to begin anew.


The month of Nisan is the month where we relive the Exodus. Why wait until Pesach? Let’s take this upcoming Rosh Chodesh and try to make it a little more spiritual and meaningful. I plan to walk to the Kotel for Shacharit with the Midreshet Devora students. Where will you be?


Thanks to all those who participated in

Torat Reva Yerushalayim’s

Mishloach Manot/Matanot L’Evyonim Program.

Thanks to your help we were able to deliver 82 packages on Shushan Purim to seniors in two nursing homes in Jerusalem who would otherwise not have had any visitors or gifts.




Gratitude for Hashem’s Gifts Print E-mail
Friday, 16 April 2010

 By Rachel S. Rolnick, a student at Midreshet Devora

In Parshat Tazria 12:6, the Torah states: “Upon the completion of the days of her purity for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a sheep within its first year for an elevation offering…to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the Kohen.”

In Vayikra Raba- Tazria 14 Rabbi Levi used a Midrash to explain, in greater detail, why a woman must bring a korban olah, an elevation offering.

There once was a man who lent another man some silver; when the borrower repaid the loaner he repaid him in gold. The loaner was repaid with a greater amount than he had been given. Rabbi Levi compared this to a child. A child comes from a tiny drop of semen, but that tiny drop of nothingness will grow up and become a person. That “nothing” can have one of the greatest impacts on the world, either for good or bad.

This past week we remembered the impact that one man made on the Jewish people. On Yom HaShoah we remember the evil perpetuated by Hitler. He murdered six million Jews. One third of our people were slaughtered because they were Jewish.
The Jewish people however can never be eliminated. We have Hashem’s eternal promise. Next week we celebrate the miracle that occurred because of a few people with one dream: the dream to reestablish the Jewish homeland. On Yom HaAtzmaut, we received our own state and we went from being the wondering Jew, to a nation with a homeland.

We as Jews are commanded to thank God for the miracle of bringing life into this world. Hashem miraculously gave us the State of Israel. Seven nations surrounded us yet we defeated them. We won the war with God’s help. How can we now deny the gift that Hashem gave us of our miraculous homeland, by giving it away to others?      

Just as we must thank Hashem on the birth of one child, so too we must thank Him for giving us a homeland to keep us, our children, and our future generations safe. We move forward from the sorrow of Yom HaShoah to the golden glee of Yom HaAtzmaut. May we as a nation continue to live and prosper in the Holy Land that Hashem has miraculously put into our hands. Let us proudly proclaim to those that would seek to destroy us, Am Yisrael Chai!

Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim!

Rachel Rolnick, 18 is a student at Midreshet Devora (www.midreshetdevora.org). Rachel is from Houston , Texas . She is the daughter of Drs. Richard and Ruth Rolnick and a graduate of the Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston , Texas . Rachel plans to attend Stern College for Women next year in New York City . She is having the most spectacular year in Israel and especially enjoys teaching Torah in Spanish at a nursing home in Jerusalem.

Torat Reva Yerushalayim is still accepting applications for Midreshet Devora (www.midreshetdevora.org) , a post high school midrasha in Jerusalem as well as for The Torat Reva Post College Fellowship for women 21-26 (www.toratreva.org).


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Labor Pains Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2008

After a woman gives birth and completes her ritual purification process, she is instructed (Vayikra 12:6) to bring two korbanot, a burnt offering (olah) and a sin offering (chatat).

Why would a woman who just gave birth be required to bring a sin offering?

Ramban quoting the Gemara in Masechet Niddah 31b explains that as the woman bends down to give birth she rashly swears (because of the pains of childbirth): “I will no longer have relationships with my husband” (so as not to conceive again).  Since she only swears on account of her pain and the oath will not be fulfilled, the Torah wants her to atone for that which came into her mind (and therefore commanded her to bring these offerings).

According to Shem MiShmuel, the korbanot are also brought to atone for the sin of Chava who listened to the snake, ate of the tree of knowledge and was cursed with the punishment “b’etzev teldi banim”, women will have a painful childbirth. Chava’s sin was twofold, she listened to the snake instead of listening to God and she actually ate the fruit. The woman therefore brings two korbanot, olah- atonement for her thoughts and chatat- atonement for her actions.

Despite the pain that childbirth entails, the majority of women in Jerusalem continue to have many children and the labor and delivery wards are always full. We are also living in a post Chava society where women have opportunities to deal with and ease the labor pains in different ways including having a doula, massage, different types of medications etc.

It also helps some women to have their husband by their side instead of handing out cigars in the waiting room!

The Spiritual Significance of Brit Milah (Circumcision) Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 April 2006

In Parshat Tazria, Vayikra 12:3, we learn about the mitzvah of brit milah, circumcision: "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised."

Why is the Torah repeating the mitzvah of brit milah here when it has already been commanded to Avraham in Parshat Lech Lech, Breisheet 17:9-14? In Breisheet 17:10 God commanded Avraham: "This is my brit (covenant), which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you. Every baby boy shall be circumcised".

According to Radak, it is clear that the commandment to Avraham included Yitzchak and Yaakov and the future generations as well.

Nechama Lebowitz quotes the Or HaChaim in stating that the reason why the commandment of brit milah is reiterated in our parsha is to teach that brit milah is done on the eighth day, even if it is Shabbat. Why wasn't this included in the commandment to Avraham? Or HaChaim answers that since Avraham was not commanded in the mitzvah of Shabbat, it wouldn't have made sense to include the obligation to perform a brit milah even on Shabbat.

The wicked Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva why the baby boys aren't already born circumcised. Rabbi Akiva answered that God gave us the commandments in order to refine our character through them.

What does the mitzvah of brit milah emphasize? According to Sefer HaChinuch, brit milah draws attention to the fact that God did not create men in a perfect state from the womb. God wanted to teach us that just as perfection of man's physical form is by man's own hand, so does it lie in his hand within his means and power to complete his spiritual form by the worthiness of his actions.

We learn from the mitzvah of brit milah that through our actions we have the opportunity to perfect ourselves and the entire world both physically and spiritually.