Shabbat ends in London at 4.46pm
|Parshat Vayishlach||Rabbi Dr Julian Shindler|
|Shabbat candles - when not at home||Rabbi Daniel Roselaar|
|Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak)||Rabbi Dr Michael Harris|
|18th of Kislev||Rabbi Yisroel Fine|
|Gamla Nature Reserve
|Riddle of the Week||Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis & Martin T. Birken|
"On the third day, when [the people] were in agony, two of Jacob's sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took, each man, his sword and came confidently upon the city and killed every male." (Bereishit 35:25)
Rashi, commenting on the Talmud (Nazir 29b) quotes this verse and claims that it is possible to prove that Levi was thirteen years old at that time and notes that this age is the youngest at which someone is referred to in the Torah by the term ish - a man. In Bemidbar 5:6 the Torah uses the same term ish in the context of responsibility/culpability for one's actions. The Rabbis thus deduced that thirteen is the age at which a boy becomes responsible for his actions and subject to the mitzvot - or Bar Mitzvah. [A girl achieves this status - Bat Mitzvah - at the age of twelve].
The Zohar (Shemot 128) explains the significance of the word ish as denoting someone who has reached the age where he is capable of subduing his [evil] inclination. In the same vein, we find that when Solomon, the son of King David, was approaching the age of thirteen, his father charged him to "be strong and be a man ish". The Talmud (Yoma 43a) defines ish as the stage at which one becomes a Bar Da'at - someone who has understanding and who thus has the capacity to exercise moral choice.
Elsewhere, (Avodah Zarah 3a) the Talmud states: - gadol m'tzuveh v`oseh - Greater is the person who performs a mitzvah because he is obliged to - (ie when is over the age of Bar Mitzvah) - mimi sh`ayno m`tzuveh v`oseh -than a person who does so even when he is not obliged to do so (eg a minor). Tosafot explain the logic behind this idea as follows: one who is obliged to keep the mitzvot is continually concerned to control his inclination and ensure that he performs the will of his Creator.
Rabbi Shmuel Rozowski further elucidates this point suggesting that the greatness of the m`tzuveh v'oseh lies in the extra effort needed, on a daily basis, to constantly struggle to avoid sin and to scrupulously observe the mitzvot. Since s/he has to work hard to meet this challenge, they are rewarded for this. Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger suggests that this exceptional level of spiritual attainment is thus only achieved when a person performs mitzvot with the intellectual appreciation that s/he is obliged to do so. This idea deepens our understanding of what it is to be a Bar Da'at.
Although attaining the age of (Jewish) majority is associated with the physical changes that accompany the onset of puberty, these changes are only external signs that signal a much deeper and subtle cognitive transformation in the development of the Jew.
A woman (or indeed a man) who is spending Shabbat as a house-guest in someone else's home is not required to light her own Shabbat candles, since she is regarded as part of the host or hostess's family. However, it is an almost universal practise that women light Shabbat candles even under these circumstances. Ideally they should light the candles in their bedroom, since this is an area of the house that can currently be regarded as their own home, but if this is not feasible they should light them in the dining room, together with the hostess's candles (though preferably before the hostess lights). Though the poskim wonder about the halachic justification for reciting a brachah when there is no proper requirement for a woman to light the candles, they endorse the practise on the grounds that by lighting additional candles the glory of Shabbat is enhanced.
One who is invited elsewhere for Friday night dinner and will return home after the meal should light the candles before leaving home and ensure that they are long enough to remain burning until their return. In instances where this is not practical, e.g. if they are leaving home a long time before Shabbat or if they are riding to their host's home before Shabbat, candles may be lit at their host's home and a brachah is recited. However, arrangements should be made to ensure that the electric lights are still on when they arrive home so that there should be adequate illumination in the house.
Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak)
Rabbi David Kimchi was born in Narbonne, in the Provence region of southern France, in 1160, and died in the same town in 1235.
He was only ten when his father, Rabbi Yosef Kimchi, died, and his elder brother Rabbi Moshe raised and educated him.
Radak's chief contribution to Torah scholarship was, apparently, a commentary on the whole Tanach, though only the commentary on parts of the Bible is now extant. Nevertheless, Radak's commentary is extremely popular among students of the Bible. He weaves together a clear explanation of the text, midrashic teachings, and a lucid analysis of germane grammatical points.
Radak included occasional polemics against Christianity in his commentary which were censored, but these were later published separately as Teshuvot HaNotzrim.
Radak wrote Sefer Michlol on Hebrew grammar. This later became a text used by non-Jews who wished to study Hebrew.
Radak strongly defended Rambam against critics of his philosophical works. When, in 1232, Rabbi Shlomo ben Avraham of Montpellier pronounced a sentence of excommunication on Rambam's Guide to the Perplexed and Sefer HaMada and those who studied them, Radak was sharply critical of the ban.
18th of Kislev
Rabbi Abraham Maimon Ha-Nagid (also known as Abraham Maimuni), son of Moses Maimonides, author of Milhamot Ha-Shem, died on this day on December 7th 1237.
The only son of Moses Maimonides, he was appointed Nagid (leader) of the Egyptian Jewish community almost immediately after the death of his father in 1204, an office which he held until his death. This position was held by the Maimonides family for four successive generations until the end of the 14th century.
He initially avoided entering the controversy over his father's writings. When he heard of the alleged burning of his father's books in Montpellier in 1235, he compiled a rigorous defence entitled Milchamot Ha-Shem which he addressed to the scholars of Provence.
Like his father, he was an accomplished Biblical and Rabbinic scholar and was proficient in philosophy and medicine.
It was in 1951 that the late Rabbi Soloman David Sassoon of Letchworth visited the Bodlean Library in Oxford and to his surprise and delight discovered the manuscripts of Rabbi Abraham's commentary to Bereishit and Shemot. He enlisted the help of the late Rabbi Efraim Weisenberg and in 1958 published the commentary in London. This was a difficult accomplishment as the commentary was written in Arabic as were nearly all his written works. He also prepared commentaries on parts of his father's Mishneh Torah and on various tractates of the Talmud.
'Watch the birdie' at the Gamla Nature Reserve
You don't have to be a 'twitcher' or even a 'birder' to find the birds of prey on view in the Gamla Nature Reserve well worth a visit. Many of you will know that the Griffon Vulture is mentioned 28 times in Tanach, making it the most Biblically mentioned bird of prey. There is a very good reason for this, as, with a wing span of up to 2.8 m (nearly 9 feet), you cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of these birds.
Far from being the feared avian of myth however, the vulture actually performs a very useful function. Cleaning up the remains of dead animals, they prevent diseases from spreading, maintaining the balance of the ecology in this beautiful and rugged part of Israel. It can truly be said that 'luncheon vultures' are of benefit to us all!
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority have set up an excellent and informative viewing platform on the reserve, within easy walk of the car park. They have set up television cameras trained on the nests so that visitors can get a close up view of the birds and their young at breeding time. Over the years, the vulture population reduced from hundreds of pairs to just 60 pairs today, of which two thirds can be found at Gamla. Poaching, electricity wires, aircraft and poisoning from the insecticides which were used in years past, all took their toll, but now there is an intensive effort to maintain these endangered species. Only when you have seen them, wheeling close to you on thermals in the valley, swooping low to find food or just flocking together, can you appreciate the majesty of Creation.
You can reach the reserve from Route 808, just north of its junction with Route 869, North East of Kinneret.
Last week's questions:
1) There are 12 English names of books of the Bible hidden in this text. They all read forwards and not backwards. Can you work them all out?
"Joe Levy has a most exciting job when formica happens to be chosen for those attics. Judges of his work say: Yes, there is, in truth, a striking similarity to numbers of other jobs. Meanwhile, perhaps alms to the poor will stop those lamentations."
2) EXTRA CHALLENGE set by Martin T. Birken of Willesden & Brondesbury.
Where in the Shacharit service (for both weekdays and Shabbat) do we find three consonants appearing consecutively in one word?
In the word "umimamlacha"(New Singers Page 37, Old Singers Page 18) .
This week's question:
1) Within the word "Kislev" there is an allusion to the candles we light on Chanukah. What is it?
2) EXTRA CHALLENGE
Explain how this is possible: There are two Shul procedures, one of which is performed within the other. Both require a minyan. In the absence of a minyan, however, one will be performed and the other will not.