HaMizrachi | Pesach 5782

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UK EDITION VOL 4 • NO 10 | PESACH 5782

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‫ַה ִּמ ְז ָר ִחי‬

1902

120 YEARS OF RELIGIOUS ZIONISM

WITH GRATEFUL THANKS TO THE FOUNDING SPONSORS OF HAMIZRACHI THE LAMM FAMILY OF MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Feature Interview: Miriam Peretz page 12

The First Religious Zionist Girls School in Israel page 18

From Boca Raton to City Hall in Mitzpe Yericho page 24

The Jerusalem Women Making Waves in High-Tech page 28

Religious Zionist Women

Building the Future of Israel

Dedicated in loving memory of Julia Koschitzky z”l, ‫יהודית בת משה ושמחה נחמה‬. A queen amongst women, treating everyone she encountered with sensitivity, respect and dignity. A leader par excellence with selfless dedication to Klal Yisrael who challenged all around her to be proactive leaders.


INSIDE Est.

1902

120 YEARS OF RELIGIOUS ZIONISM

www.mizrachi.org www.mizrachi.tv office@mizrachi.org +972 (0)2 620 9000

CHAIRMAN

Mr. Harvey Blitz

“We are in need of people who do not send money, but bring it with them to the land!”

EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN

Rabbi Doron Perez DEPUTY CEO

Rabbi Danny Mirvis E D U C AT I O N A L D I R E C TO R S

Rabbi Reuven Taragin Rabbanit Shani Taragin

Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan’s Opening Speech at the Sixth US Mizrachi Convention in 1919 PAGES 48–51

World Mizrachi is the global Religious Zionist movement, spreading Torat Eretz Yisrael across the world and strengthening the bond between the State of Israel and Jewish communities around the world. Based in Jerusalem and with branches across the globe, Mizrachi – an acronym for merkaz ruchani (spiritual center) – was founded in 1902 by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines, and is led today by Rabbi Doron Perez. Mizrachi’s role was then and remains with vigor today, to be a proactive partner and to take personal responsibility in contributing to the collective destiny of Klal Yisrael through a commitment to Torah, the Land of Israel and the People of Israel.

MIRIAM PERETZ P12 RABBANIT SHANI TARAGIN P17 ● MICHAL WALDIGER P22 ALIZA PILICHOWSKI P24 ● SIVAN RAHAV-MEIR P26 ALLIE FEUERSTEIN P28 ● RABBANIT SHARON RIMON P30

THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF ARUGOT FARM PAGES 32–35 www.mizrachi.org.uk uk@mizrachi.org 020 8004 1948

JEWS with VIEWS

PRESIDENT

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

PAGES 38–39

CHAIR OF TRUSTEES

Steven Blumgart CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Rabbi Andrew Shaw BOARD

Michelle Bauernfreund Matti Fruhman Andrew Harris Grant Kurland Sean Melnick David Morris

R EG U L A R S 4 Rabbi Doron Perez

44 Rabbi Reuven Taragin

53 Crossword

41 Rabbi Hershel Schachter

52 Aliyah Diaries

54 Hallel and Shammai

EDITOR

Rabbi Elie Mischel editor@mizrachi.org | A S S O C I A T E E D I T O R Rabbi Aron White Leah Rubin | P R O O F R E A D E R Daniel Cohen

C R E AT I V E D I R E C TO R PUBLISHED BY WORLD MIZRACHI IN JERUSALEM

To dedicate an issue of HaMizrachi in memory of a loved one or in celebration of a simcha, please email uk@mizrachi.org

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HaMizrachi is available to read online at mizrachi.org/hamizrachi

HaMizrachi seeks to spread Torat Eretz Yisrael throughout the world. HaMizrachi also contains articles, opinion pieces and advertisements that represent the diversity of views and interests in our communities. These do not necessarily reflect any official position of Mizrachi or its branches. If you don't want to keep HaMizrachi, you can double-wrap it before disposal, or place it directly into genizah (sheimos).


FROM THE

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ast November, just three months after we made Aliyah, a well-meaning friend in New Jersey asked me: “Have your kids adjusted yet?” Taken aback, I was reminded of the regular feature in MAD magazine called “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” What I wanted to answer was: “Adjusted? Are you insane? I just brought my high school and middle school daughters across the ocean on Aliyah. It’s a miracle they don’t hate me every day!” Of course, what I actually said was: “Adjusted yet? Umm… not exactly. It’s a process.” Adolescence anywhere can be challenging, and Aliyah has a way of intensifying those challenges. New schools, trying to make new friends, all while sitting through class after class in rapid-fire Hebrew – it’s enough to drive an adult crazy, let alone teenage girls still searching for their own identities. The Rabbis say that the Land of Israel is a gift that is only acquired through suffering; clearly, they also tried to learn geometry in Hebrew!

right words to order an iced coffee (the slushy kind, obviously) in Hebrew. We celebrate those moments!

But the longer we live here, the more I realize that there is another source of strength and inspiration available to my daughters. For they are part of a nation that is blessed with incredible role models of strength and courage, with women who teach the rest of us how to overcome – women like Miriam Peretz. We all know of her sacrifice; how could we not? Two of her sons, Uriel and Eliraz, gave their lives to protect us; her husband, Eliezer, died of a broken heart. And yet, somehow, she continues to live, lead and inspire our nation. “Our spirit is strong, and even if I hurt and cry over the deaths of my sons and my husband Eliezer, I am not broken. You can’t break a spirit. It grows stronger and takes on new forms of giving and dedication, of connection to this land and our heritage. Out of the darkness that visited our family and many other families in Israel, every day I choose to spread light.” (Miriam’s Song, p.335)

aren’t just ordinary thorns – they’re thorns from the Land of Israel, and whoever lives in this country must know how to accept these thorns with love.” (Ibid., p.340) As we navigate the mundane travails of Aliyah, the awesome sacrifice and strength of the Peretz family reminds me – and my daughters – that we are far stronger than we realize. If Miriam can laugh, if Miriam can overcome, if Miriam can make room in her heart for others, so can we. This Pesach, may we merit to see the final redemption that will, once and for all, heal our broken hearts, wipe away our tears and reunite us with all those we love – in joy!

Elie Mischel Rabbi Elie Mischel Editor

Miriam’s sons possessed her spirit. After Uriel was killed in 1998, she found a note in his drawer. Uriel wrote, “With all the thorns and barbs that have scratched my body, you could put together a three-foot hedge. But these

(PHOTO: DOV KRAM)

Fortunately, there are also plenty of small victories. My older daughter’s joy in learning to take the bus to Jerusalem and the freedom that comes with it, her confidence after doing well on her first Bagrut (Matriculation) test, and that time her sister found the

Editor

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Revolution through Evolution

Rabbi Doron Perez

Redemption, Women Leaders, and the Nature of Spiritual Renaissance

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t the core of Judaism is a revolutionary spirit: the inability to accept things as they are and the desire to continuously change ourselves and the world for the better. In many ways, Judaism is a protest against how things are in favor of what they ought to be. In fact, our history was wrought through revolution. Avraham was a revolutionary, an iconoclast who smashed the idols of his father’s house and society at large. Moshe, too, was a revolutionary leader. Hand-picked by Hashem, he led millions of slaves to an extraordinary redemption, unparalleled in the annals of human history. Like all phenomena of life, revolution is a double-edged sword. A revolution is unique in its ability to effect change extraordinarily quickly. But that haste requires skipping stages of development that are essential for lasting change. It’s no surprise that many revolutions are short-lived, leaving a wake of destruction in their path. It is for this very reason that the fastpaced redemption from Egypt, ‫ּ ֶפ ַסח‬ ‫מ ְצ ַריִ ם‬,ִ is not the paradigm for ‫פ ַסח דּ וֹ רוֹ ת‬,ֶ ּ our annual Pesach celebration – and it is certainly not the paradigm for the future redemption. In fact, the way we celebrate Pesach is, in many ways, the antithesis of how the redemption actually occurred. The redemption from Egypt occurred ‫ב ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬, ּ ְ in a hurry. It is this word that describes the rushed way the Korban

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Pesach was eaten in Egypt and it is also why we ate unleavened bread, matzah, as there was no time for the dough to rise because we were rushing to leave Egypt.1 Even the name Pesach, “to skip over,” implies that Hashem Himself was in a rush, skipping over the homes of the children of Israel.2

Sustainable change may begin with revolution, but is made lasting through evolution. By contrast, our annual Pesach Seder is the antithesis of ‫ח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬.ִ 3 There is nothing fast about the Seder; the name itself means order and structure. Broken into 15 orderly stages, each step builds upon the ones before it. In the manner of nobility, we eat food slowly while reclining. We eat the Afikoman at the end of the meal, the way the Korban Pesach was eaten in Temple times – while full and satiated, not like fleeing slaves. Interestingly, it is forbidden to drink the four cups of wine consecutively, one after the other,4 highlighting the importance of the process of redemption. They must be drunk in their allotted time as part of the order of the Seder. Each cup fulfills a different part of the process of redemption; the process is paramount. The same is true of the future redemption, as the prophet Yeshayahu

states: ‫כי ל ֹא ְב ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן ֵּת ֵצא ּו ו ִּב ְמנו ָּסה ל ֹא ֵת ֵלכוּן‬,ּ ִ “for you will not leave in haste and will not go in a rush.”5 The future redemption cannot be rushed, but must be a slow, incremental process. Why is there such a sharp discrepancy between the original redemption from Egypt and its annual celebration? And why must the final redemption occur slowly? Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlap, the great student of Rav Kook, explains that because the original redemption happened quickly, it was not internally transformative. The people of Israel were physically redeemed but remained psychologically unchanged, and so it is no surprise that many Israelites longed to return to Egypt. The redemption from Egypt was not permanent; sadly, many exiles would follow in the generations ahead. The final redemption, however, will be everlasting, and so it must occur slowly and thoroughly, without skipping any steps. The message is clear: sustainable change may begin with revolution, but is made lasting through evolution. As our annual Pesach Seder makes clear, sustainable change can only occur through a systematic process of incremental change. The revolutionary redemption from Egypt was short-lived. A mere three months after the Exodus, the people descended into idolatry and worshipped the golden calf, followed soon afterwards by the tragic sin of


the spies, resulting in the tragic death of the entire generation. Given the consequences, why did Hashem choose to redeem us from Egypt in haste? Our Sages explain that during the years of slavery our people had sunk to the 49th level of spiritual impurity. We were at the precipice of oblivion; had Hashem not redeemed us immediately, it may have spelled the end. 6 In extreme circumstances, where there is no other choice, revolution may be necessary. But revolution, on its own, does not lead to lasting change. This may be why Avraham’s idolbashing revolution is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, but found only in the Midrash. The Torah, in fact, describes Avraham’s warm relationships with his idolatrous neighbors, treating them with kindness and respect. How can we reconcile the simple reading of the text with the Sages’ portrayal of Avraham as a revolutionary? Our Sages are highlighting Avraham’s revolutionary spirit; all Jews, and certainly our founding father, must be intolerant of injustice and possess a burning desire to improve the world. At the same time, the Torah highlights the other side of the coin: that if a revolutionary spirit is not coupled with genuine respect for people and an understanding that sustainable change takes time, destructive consequences will ensue.7 At the same time, change through evolution alone can take millions of years. In many cases, stagnancy and rote adherence to social norms can prevent necessary change from taking place. And so the evolutionary process desperately needs the revolutionary spirit. It is only by combining the two that successful and sustainable change can occur; we must have it both ways. It is this spirit of revolution through evolution that we so deeply believe in at Mizrachi. Our Torah is both inherently timeless and relevant

to every generation. Through the genius of the Oral Torah, our Sages demonstrate that Torah speaks to all epochs and aspects of life, balancing the need for revolutionary change with a deep respect for the process, mesorah and integrity of halachah. Jewish living must simultaneously be both forwardthinking and conservative, pushing boundaries but never beyond the pale.

Jewish living must simultaneously be both forward-thinking and conservative, pushing boundaries but never beyond the pale. The same principles form the basis of our views on women’s leadership, Torah scholarship and empowerment. There is so much room within halachah, as guided by our great rabbinic authorities, to explore every possible vista of expression and progress in these areas. At the same time, revolutionary changes must take place in an evolutionary way that uplifts the whole system in a constructive, sustainable and transformative way. The redemptions of Purim and Pesach were, in large part, thanks to the innovative and courageous leadership roles of Jewish women like Esther, Yocheved, Miriam, Shifrah and Puah.8 In this spirit, Mizrachi is proud to feature the extraordinary impact that Religious Zionist women are making on our national and spiritual life. I write these words having just returned from the funeral of a remarkable leader of our generation – Julia Koschitzky z”l. I was absolutely blown away by what her children and grandchildren shared about her; so much of what they said touched me deeply. Every one of her many grandchildren was convinced that he or she was her favorite. Her deep care and sensitivity for everyone

she encountered, from kings and queens to simple people; no one was more or less important in her eyes. Her deep faith in Hashem, the Shema that was constantly on her lips and the gratitude in her heart. The endless causes she dedicated her life to with grace and self-sacrifice, while always prioritizing her family. She was a leader par excellence who challenged her children and grandchildren to “be leaders, not followers. Take personal responsibility to make a difference for Klal Yisrael, wherever you find yourself.” We dedicate this edition of HaMizrachi, highlighting the contributions of Religious Zionist women leaders, to her life and legacy of leadership. May her memory be for a blessing.

1. Shemot 12:11,39; Devarim 16:3. 2. Rashi, Shemot 12:11. 3. Mishnah Pesachim 9:5 cites ‫ ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬as difference between ‫ ּ ֶפ ַסח ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם‬and ‫פ ַסח דּ וֹ רוֹ ת‬.ֶ ּ 4. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 472:8. 5. Yeshayahu 52:11. 6. Siddur of the Ari z”l on the Haggadah; Or HaChayim, Shemot 3:8. 7. Classic examples include the French Revolution, which began in idealism and ended with the Reign of Terror and the guillotine, and the October Revolution of 1917, which led to the evils of the Soviet Union and the death of millions. 8. Although these festivals are time-bound, women are fully obligated in the mitzvot on both festivals, for they too were part of the redemption. Rashi and Rashbam explain this to mean that women played an indispensable leadership role in bringing about the redemption.

Rabbi Doron Perez is the Executive Chairman of World Mizrachi.

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Rabbi Andrew Shaw

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Jewish Women!

W

e all know the story. Pharaoh realises the people of Israel are becoming too numerous and could pose a threat to Egypt: “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we are. Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and depart from the land.” (Shemot 1:9–10) Pharaoh’s initial strategy for weakening our people was to subject them to back-breaking labour. But it didn’t work: “But as much as they would afflict them, so did they multiply and so did they gain strength, and they were disgusted because of the children of Israel.” (Shemot 1:12) And so Pharaoh adopts the new and shocking strategy of infanticide: “When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you see on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, she may live.” (Shemot 1:15) What was Pharaoh’s reasoning in issuing this decree? If you want to curb a population, murdering the boys is not a great solution. As one of our greatest enemies would later point out: “Haman said: Pharaoh must have been mad to say ‘Every son who is born you shall cast into the Nile, and every daughter you shall allow to live’ (Shemot 1:22). Did he not understand

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that the women would somehow find themselves a male and reproduce?” (Vayikra Rabbah 27:11) What was Pharaoh thinking? Surely there must have been a method to his madness! According to many commentators, Pharaoh and the Egyptians never seriously contemplated genocide. It wasn’t the individual Israelites, in and of themselves, that they feared, but rather the nation of Israel. The Egyptians were willing to absorb unassertive individuals who desired to assimilate, but they would not tolerate a foreign people with its own distinctive character and identity in their midst, for such a people might rise up and rebel. Ancient Egypt was a patriarchal society that didn’t fear women. Egyptians assumed that after destroying the male population of Israel, the women would passively assimilate into Egyptian society. “Pharaoh was only insistent on destroying the males, for his astrologers warned him of the future birth of one who would liberate Israel.” (Rashi, Shemot 1:16) Pharaoh was so convinced that Jewish women were weak and posed no threat that he tried to make them his co-conspirators in his plan to murder the baby boys of Israel! “Now the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one who was named Shifrah, and the second, who was named Puah.’ (Shemot 1:16)

We know, of course, that he got it all wrong. Moshe may have been the leader of Israel, but it was the bravery and fortitude of the women of Israel who made redemption possible. Whereas Amram and the men of Israel gave up hope, the women refused to go along with Pharaoh’s plan. The midwives rebelled against his decree and allowed the baby boys to live. And it was Miriam, Moshe’s sister, who brought her parents back together, leading to the birth of Moshe. The defiance of the women initiated the road to redemption. As you will see in this edition of HaMizrachi magazine, we are expanding our Weekend of Inspiration to inspire more communities and to help support ShabbatUK. We are bringing ten incredible female educators to our community – Rabbaniot, doctors, lawyers and media personalities – who are all proud Religious Zionists and whom we salute in this edition of HaMizrachi. Unlike Pharaoh, we will never make the mistake of underestimating the power and abilities of Jewish women! Wishing you all a Chag Kasher v’Sameach and looking forward to seeing you at the very special Weekend of Inspiration in May.

Rabbi Andrew Shaw is the Chief Executive of Mizrachi UK.


An Update from the Ukrainian Front

Roi Abecassis

Moldova, near the Ukrainian Border, March 12 This was truly a Shabbat Zachor – a Shabbat we will never forget! We returned to the hotel after the Friday night Shabbat meal, knowing that at 8am the next day, a group of forty elderly and handicapped refugees would arrive at the northern Moldova-Ukraine border. It was our mission to bring these people to safety in Moldova, and to do so on Shabbat itself. Pikuach nefesh, saving lives, overrides Shabbat. We left at 4am on Shabbat morning in a bus equipped with a stretcher and a wheelchair. Arriving at the border, we davened quickly, made Kiddush and ate a hasty Shabbat meal. We left our bus in Moldova, as the only way to cross the border in this area was by foot. Shortly afterwards, the exhausted elderly refugees arrived after a grueling 24-hour journey from the ravaged city of Kharkov. It was painful to see these elderly in such a state; several were disabled and lying on stretchers. One by one, we helped each refugee cross the border to Moldova, where a Hatzalah medical crew was waiting to receive them. When they boarded the bus, I saw no joy nor relief on their faces. We all sat on the bus in absolute silence, thinking of the challenges ahead of them. I was shaken from my thoughts when the person in charge of the bus asked each of the refugees where they intended to go. One said Germany, another Bucharest. To our delight, more than half of the refugees hoped to move to Israel. Our mission complete, the spirit of Shabbat returned. As we sang the Shabbat Zemirot, the words came to life as they never have for me before:

‫ – ְפּרֹק י ָת עָנ ָך ְ ִמ ֻפּם ַארְיָוָתָא‬save Your flock from the lion’s mouth ‫ – ו ְַא ֵפּק י ָת ַע ָמּך ְ מִּגֹו ג ָ ּלּותָא‬and take them out of exile ‫ – ַע ָמּא דִי בְ ַח ְר ְּת ִמכ ָ ּל ֻא ַמּיָּא‬Your nation which You have chosen from all the nations May we soon see the safe and joyous return of all our people to our Holy Land!

Roi Abecassis is the Head of the World Zionist Organization’s Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora and World Mizrachi’s representative in the National Institutions.

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T H U R S D AY 1 2 M AY EVENING LAUNCH EVENTS F R I D AY 1 3 M AY YOM IYUN ACROSS JEWISH SCHOOLS S H A B B AT 1 3 / 1 4 M AY 32 SPEAKERS ACROSS 64 COMMUNITIES S U N D AY 1 5 M AY DAY O F I N S P I R AT I O N I N LO N D O N AND MANCHESTER M O N D AY 1 6 M AY RABBINICAL CONFERENCE B O O K F O R T H E S U N D AY AT

www.mizrachi.org.uk/woi


Miriam Peretz speaking to outgoing Religious Zionist shlichim in August 2017.

Rabbanit Shani Taragin completing Seder Moed in Daf Yomi at a recent Mizrachi dinner.

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Through the long and painful years of slavery in Egypt, our people teettered on the edge of despair. When Pharaoh decreed that all baby boys must be put to death, our forefathers reached their breaking point. Amram the Levite, leader of the generation, separated from his wife; why bother bringing children into the world if Pharaoh would immediately murder them? The future of Am Yisrael appeared bleak, to say the least. Fortunately, the women of Israel refused to give up hope, defying Pharaoh’s decree and saving the lives of the baby boys. Miriam rebuked her father: “Your decree is harsher than Pharaoh’s! Whereas Pharaoh issued a decree only against the males, you issued a decree against the females as well [for none will be born]!” (Rashi, Shemot 2:1) Encouraged by his daughter, Amram returned to his wife Yocheved, leading directly to the birth of Moshe, the redeemer of Israel! “In the merit of righteous women, our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11b). Led by Miriam, it was the women of Israel who most steadfastly believed in the coming redemption. In the aftermath of the splitting of the sea, both the men and women of Israel sang songs of praise to G-d, but only the women played musical instruments. The Rabbis explain that the righteous women of that generation were so certain that G-d would perform miracles on their behalf that they took timbrels out of Egypt (Rashi, Shemot 15:20). As we draw ever closer to the final redemption, Jewish women are once again rising up to lead and to strengthen our nation. Religious women are taking leading roles in many fields that were once exclusively dominated by men – as Torah scholars, CEOs, tour guides, reporters, and Members of Knesset. Women like Miriam Peretz, and so many others highlighted in this edition of HaMizrachi, inspire our people not only with their unique talents and abilities, but with their strength, joy and optimism. The Arizal teaches that the souls of the final generations before redemption are reincarnations of the souls of the generation of the Exodus (Shaar Hagilgulim, Hakdamah 20). Just as the faith and fortitude of the women of Israel ensured we would be redeemed from the slavery of Egypt, may the righteous women of our own time lead us all the way to the final redemption!

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Woman of Valor

An Interview with Miriam Peretz

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In 2018, Miriam Peretz was awarded the Israel Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Israeli Society. Her story of faith, resilience and hope in the face of losing two sons in the IDF, as well as her husband, has captured the hearts of Israelis of all backgrounds. At the award ceremony on Israel’s 70th Yom HaAtzmaut, she addressed the people of Israel on national television. In the words of one journalist, “her speech formulated for many what it means to be an Israeli”, and within a few weeks it was announced that her speech would be incorporated into the educational curriculum at Israeli schools. Rabbi Aron White had the privilege to speak with Miriam Peretz in her home in Givat Ze’ev to learn about her life, her story and her hopes for the future.

You are known today as Miriam Peretz, a presidential candidate and the winner of the Israel Prize. But your life story begins as Miriam Ochayon, in Casablanca, Morocco. What do you remember from your childhood home, and what aspects of your upbringing stay with you to this day?

my father cooked and took care of the children, and my mother would go out and work!

I am so glad that you asked! People so often focus on the last few years, and forget that I, like every other person, have roots. My roots are in Morocco, even though my dreams have always been in Eretz Yisrael.

We moved to a ma’abarah, an immigrant transit camp, located in Be’er Sheva. This was the sixties, when much of Israel was developed, but in the ma’abarah we didn’t have a refrigerator or central gas!

My parents were simple Jews from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. They could not read or write, but maintained a pure faith that had been passed down through generations. My mother did not know how to pray from a siddur, but she knew how to pray from her heart. Every morning, my mother would stand by the mezuzah and pray for twenty minutes. I learned something from her that Rav Kook writes a lot about: the importance of focusing on the klal (community). My mother would pray for the whole world, for Am Yisrael, and only then for herself. To this day, I have my time every day when I stand by the mezuzah and remind G-d of the prayer of my mother. I feel very grateful that I grew up in a home that was filled with such an emotional type of faith, rather than a more rational faith. If I only had rational explanations for G-d, I don’t know if it would have sufficed for what I went through later. My parents taught me a simple, pure faith; my father taught me that everything is bid d’Allah, “in the hands of Hashem.” Their faith was planted deeply in my heart. From the mountains, my parents moved to Casablanca, where I lived with my parents, grandfather and four siblings. Our house had one room: we had no tables, no chairs, no cupboards. We had mattresses, which we used for sitting, eating, and sleeping – everything! We had no running water, but would fill up a barrel which we called the baño, in order to wash ourselves once a week. We were incredibly poor, but this poverty taught me how to value every little thing. I had one pen – so I knew how to take good care of it! One of the most important aspects of my home was that

In 1964, you made Aliyah from Morocco to Israel. What was your experience of making Aliyah like?

One of the greatest challenges we faced when we made Aliyah was the language barrier. I was a ten-year-old girl and struggled to learn Hebrew, but my parents found it even harder, and so I had to become their spokesperson and advocate. We would go to the social services with my parents, and as a little girl I would be the one telling the government official “we don’t have a blanket, we need this or that.” Even once we left the ma’abarah and moved to the city, there would often be a line outside my house, as I would write letters for people who didn’t know how to write themselves. A second challenge was getting used to the Israeli mentality. In Morocco, we grew up with a tremendous sense of respect for parents and teachers. In Israel, I went to school and heard a child shouting at his mother – I was shocked! It wasn’t easy getting used to the sabra mentality. The third challenge for our family was making a living. My father worked as a street cleaner and my mother would bake bread for other people in the camp. She set up an oven in our house, and I remember that on Fridays people would line up in front of our house beginning at 4 a.m. My mother would bake bread all day, standing next to the fire – and this was in Be’er Sheva in the desert! But she never complained. She was happy that she could help others, and that they would give her a little bit of food which helped us out. But you know what? We were the happiest people in the world. There are people who sink and drown in the challenges that they face, but we were so happy to be in Eretz Yisrael! We got by, even with the cultural and financial challenges, and being in Israel made everything worth it.

(PHOTO ON LEFT PAGE: SHIMSHON SELIGSON)

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The terrible losses you and your family have suffered forever altered the trajectory of your life. Your son Uriel was killed while serving in the IDF in 1998. A few years later your husband Eliezer died, and then in 2010 your son Eliraz was also killed during his army service. How did you have the strength to carry on after these moments? When I was informed about Uriel’s death, my first reaction was shock. I just couldn’t process it – how can it be that I spoke to my son yesterday, and today he isn’t here anymore? I was not ready for his death; I had not prepared for it. After the shiva, do you know what the first challenge I faced was? To make a sandwich for my daughter in third grade. Do you know how much strength that took? Who wants to carry on normal life? Who wants to eat? I just wanted Uriel’s grave to open up and swallow me up. I also had to be the support for my whole household. Each member of the family processed the loss differently. One child started asking, “Where is G-d, how could He have done something like this?” My husband became physically sick – on Uriel’s first yahrzeit he suffered a heart attack. I knew I was the backbone of the family. As a woman, I had a deep desire to make sure my house wouldn’t fall apart, and this made me find the strength to be the rock of the house. It was very difficult, but I knew what my goal was. In addition to the effort just to keep my household going, there were also the questions of faith. When we lived in the Sinai Desert, Eliezer set up a one-man kiruv program with a shul and beit midrash in Sharm El Sheikh. “This is Torah, and this is its reward?” (Menachot 29b). There is the line often quoted from Iyov, “Hashem has given life, and has taken life, may Hashem’s name be blessed” (Iyov 1:21). I had a very hard time with that line, and am jealous of those who are able to really feel that. I am not an angel, I am a mother. I just want my son to hug him, to speak with him, to feel him. I turned to Hashem, and demanded from Him that He give me my son! But then a conversation began, a dialogue with G-d. I would talk to Him, as if He was right next to me, and say, “This isn’t fair, why are You doing this?” And a tango began between us. Sometimes we would be close, sometimes he would throw me away, we would move closer, move further; but the dance began. I began to be able to see the good I still had in my life, to be appreciative, and to focus on life rather than on death. Then, five years after Uriel was killed, my husband Eliezer died. I was alone, a widow, with five children. You might not believe it, but some of my lowest moments were in seemingly simple situations. I remember that I had to replace a lightbulb. It was dark in the house, no one else was around, and I was scared to get up on the chair in case I fell. At that point I shouted, “Eliezer, where are you?!” The challenges are in living daily life with a sense of pressure that everything is on me – to buy things, to fix things, to keep life going – everything is on me. But I had already taught myself how to cope in certain ways. I knew that I had to try and focus on the good, such as my first grandchildren being born. And then, a few years later Eliraz was killed in action. This time it was different, because I knew what death was. Having experienced it before, I already knew what I was going to go through again. However, there were new aspects that I hadn’t had before. I was now a grandmother, and had to support my grandchildren who no longer had their father. I had to support my daughter-in-law, who was only 32 years old and was now a widow with four young children. Once again, I had to deal with the question of faith. Eliraz was a real ben Torah. He made an agreement with his wife that when he returned home from the army, he would first go to the beit midrash. He had such a deep love of Hashem! When they came to inform me of Eliraz’s death, I closed the door on them, and turned to the photo of Eliezer on the wall and said “Eliezer, what did you do in Heaven? How did you let G-d do this?!” I also closed the door on them, because I knew what I was going to hear. I

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wanted another minute, another two minutes, as if my son was still alive for that time, before hearing the dreadful news. I remember closing the doors, and being conscious of every second, every moment that Eliraz was still alive for me. When they told me the news, I said to the soldiers that there’s someone else you need to inform. They didn’t understand – my husband was dead, my children were in the house, who else was there to inform? I said to them, “Go out into the courtyard, look up at the heavens, and tell G-d that His son Eliraz has been killed.”

I turned to Hashem, and I said, “Hashem, I will never understand how You run the world. Please teach me to love You even without all the answers! Please teach me how to love You despite all that has happened to me!” At this point, I realized how thankful I was to have grown up in a home with such emotional faith. In certain homes people would start asking questions: “what does this Rabbi say”, “this is Rabbi so-and-so’s approach to suffering.” But fortunately I had rock-solid faith in my heart. I turned to Hashem, and I said, “Hashem, I will never understand how You run the world. Please teach me to love You even without all the answers! Please teach me how to love You despite all that has happened to me!” When I turned back and entered the house, and when I saw my children, I saw the beginning of a path of hope. I suddenly said to myself: “I have more children! Thank You, Hashem!” Imagine what I would have felt if I had no more children! On the same day that they told me my son had been killed, I was able to see not only what I was lacking, but also what I have. And from that day, I really feel so close to Hashem that I can’t even put it into words. I see Him in every small thing. If I trip while walking and am able to catch myself, I say “Hashem, thank You for helping me.” If I am looking for my glasses at home and I find them, I say thank You to Hashem! I don’t need Hashem to split the sea for me; there are miracles every day. A child born healthy, marrying off children, getting through a pandemic.

Above: Bar Mitzvah celebration hosted by World Mizrachi for Miriam’s oldest grandson. Facing page, from top to bottom: Uriel Peretz z”l; Eliraz Peretz z”l; a drawing of Uriel; a quote of Uriel that has become famous, speaking of his love of Eretz Yisrael.

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Even when I was alone for Shabbatot and chagim during Corona – I had food, I had a table, I had people leaving packages outside my door! I am thankful for everything I have. Every morning I stand by the mezuzah, and after praying for everything that I pray for, I say thank You for giving me strength to stand, to drink my coffee. Eliraz’s daughter was a few months old when he was killed, and now she is going to become a Bat Mitzvah. His son was six years old, and now he is about to join the IDF, to serve in Golani just as his father and uncle did. Thank You, Hashem! I also said to Hashem: “I didn’t choose Your decree, but I did choose to grapple with it. I chose to cleave to life – please help me fill my life with meaning and purpose!” I know the value of every minute, and pray that I can use all my time on this earth for good. When I speak to IDF groups or abroad, all of my lectures are on a voluntary basis – this is the minimum I could do for my people and my country! You also had a remarkable chapter of your life that took place in the Sinai Desert. As we are approaching Pesach, can you tell us about that period in your life? When Eliezer and I got married, he was working in Sharm El Sheikh, four hours south of Eilat. Israel controlled the Sinai Desert at that time, and we moved there. We were the only religious family there, and we made a shul and a beit midrash. It was regularly over 120 degrees Fahrenheit there, so at the entrance to the shul there were not only kippot but shirts too! In 1982, Israel decided to return the Sinai Desert to the Egyptians. I had spent 6 years building my family there, teaching Tanach and Jewish history in the local school, and suddenly our community was going to be uprooted. We protested against the decision, but I learned then the value of treating the authorities with respect. Ultimately, we respected the decision even though it was difficult. The last Pesach we spent in Sharm El Sheikh was a truly surreal experience. We were reading the haggadah, about how Hashem took us out of Egypt, and here I was, about to leave my house and return it to the Egyptians! I was also faced with a significant question. What would I tell my children? Should I tell my children that the State of Israel has lost its way? That we should no longer serve in the IDF? It is at moments like this that mothers have a unique role, and that is to plant hope. This is something I learned from Miriam in the Torah. When Bnei Yisrael left Egypt she took a tambourine with her. Of all the things in the house, the most important thing to take in that commotion of leaving Egypt was a tambourine? She foresaw that there would come a moment when the Jews would celebrate, when they would sing! We must never lose this perspective, and that is why I told my children: “We are going to build a new home in Eretz Yisrael,” and we moved to Givat Ze’ev in Yerushalayim. We are a people of hope, and we know that ultimately Hashem is ‫הנּ וֹ ֵתן ַל ָ ּי ֵעף כּ ַֹח‬,ַ “The One Who gives strength to those who need it.” n

Right, from top to bottom: Peretz family portrait; images of Uriel and Eliraz from the Peretz Home; Miriam and Rabbi Aron White; Miriam at a World Mizrachi event in 2017.

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Mirrors and Apples:

Women’s Leadership on the Seder Plate

Sinks and ‘selfies’

I

nterestingly, ​Sefer Shemot opens with many anonymous characters, predominantly women, who all share character traits of “seeing,” “fearing,” and saving innocent Hebrew infants. The Rabbis explain that just as the midwives, Shifrah and Puah, risked their lives to spare the baby boys from Pharaoh’s decree of infanticide, numerous righteous women planted seeds of redemption through determination and optimism amidst the darkness of oppression. Rashi (Shemot 38:8) explains that the copper mirrors donated by the women to the Mishkan reflect their earlier contributions to building Jewish nationhood in Egypt: “[Hashem said to Moshe:] ‘Accept [these mirrors]; they are dearer to Me than all the other contributions, because through them the women reared those multitudes in Egypt!’ For when their husbands were exhausted by the crushing labor they would bring them food and drink and induce them to eat. Then they would take the mirrors, and each gazed at herself in her mirror together with her husband, saying endearingly to him, ‘See, I am more attractive than you!’ Thus they awakened their husbands’ affection and subsequently became the mothers of many children, as it is said, ‘I awakened your love under the apple tree’ (Shir Hashirim 8:5).” The righteous women used these copper mirrors as ancient ‘selfies,’ not for self-beautification, but to reflect with their spouses on their mutual love for one another, hoping their past beauty would arouse love in the present. The women understood that by reflecting on the past they could overcome the adverse conditions of the present, and continue to increase and

multiply for the future! Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz, the Shelah Hakadosh, explains that women are consistently leaders of redemption because, like the moon, they understand and embrace the nature of mirrors and reflective light. Women appreciate that what is seen in the present is in fact light reflected from its source, refracted and reversed while projected upon a new surface. They don’t just see the present picture but appreciate the past and future as well. With this deeper perspective, the women used their mirrors to reflect the light of redemption and bring the sweetness of the apple tree to our people amidst the suffering of Egypt.

The apple on the Seder plate “Rav Avira taught: In the merit of the righteous women that were in that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt.” (Sotah 11b) The imagery of the apple trees under which the women conceived and gave birth to the multitudes of Israel is an appropriate metaphor from Shir Hashirim, in which the male persona is depicted as an apple tree (2:3,5). The sweetness and seeds of the apple convey romantic love and underscore symbols of demographic growth provided by the women. The sages of the Mishnah debate whether eating charoset on Seder night is a religious requirement or not. Supporting Rabbi Eliezer’s position that it is a mitzvah to eat charoset, the Rabbis offer two explanations: “Why is it a religious requirement? R. Levi said: In memory of the apple tree. R. Yochanan said: In memory of the clay. Abaye observed: Therefore one must make it acrid and then thicken it. We make it acrid in memory of the apple tree, and thicken it in memory

Rabbanit Shani Taragin

of the clay” (Pesachim 116b). Rashbam explains that the symbolic presence of the apple in the charoset reminds us of the women who gave birth under the apple trees without despair, so that the Egyptians would not discern the births as stated, “under the apple tree I awakened you” (Shir Hashirim 8:5). Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Yochanan are debating whether the charoset symbolizes the spirit of the ‘apple’ in Egypt, i.e. the women who used their mirrors to build the future of our people under apple trees, or the spirit of the men who were ‘stuck’ in the clay, i.e. the mortar and suffering of the present. If the emphasis is on the women’s optimism, one should prepare the charoset tart with more apples; if the memory of our suffering is primary, the charoset should be thicker to resemble the clay. On Seder night we dip the bitter maror into the sweet charoset, simultaneously remembering the bitter oppressions of the past and present and the joy of the apple tree – the optimism of the women to procreate and plant seeds, creating and catalyzing salvation, ‫ב ָ ּי ִמים ַה ֵהם ו ַּב ְּז ַמן ַה ֶּזה‬, ּ ַ in those days and in our own time!

Rabbanit Shani Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and the Director of the Mizrachi-TVA Lapidot Educators’ Program.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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Answering the Call: Nechama Leibowitz and the Mizrachi Girls School of Jerusalem

O

n October 17, 1933 (27 Tishrei 5694), the Mizrachi Girls School of Jerusalem began providing education and vocational training to religious girls between the ages of fifteen and seventeen who were born in the Land of Israel. The girls, who had primary school diplomas, were initially admitted for a month-long trial period; only after proving themselves in their studies did they go on to spend two years at the school. The historical events of the early 1930s brought change to the institution’s mission. With Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the need arose to help Jewish teenagers leave Europe, make their way to the Land of Israel, and integrate there. For these teenagers, the Jewish Agency established a program called Youth Aliyah, the brainchild and creation of Recha Frier (a German Zionist leader, poet, and author). Youth Aliyah was managed by Henrietta Szold, an educator and Zionist activist originally from the United States and one of the founders of the Zionist women’s organization Hadassah. Through Youth Aliyah, children arrived in the Land of Israel without their parents and were absorbed by kibbutzim in small groups. However, the religious kibbutzim of those days were small in number and unable to take in all of the religious children. And so the Mizrachi Girls School stepped in to absorb religious girls who had arrived alone from Germany through Youth Aliyah.

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in the Land of Israel in the spirit of pioneering Zionism. Nearly one-third came from religious homes and demanded religious education and a religious environment. “However, at that juncture it was scarcely possible to find kibbutzim or institutions where these youths might be absorbed. “Amid these circumstances, we saw fit to place the new institution at the service of Religious Youth Aliyah as a vocational education center. Accordingly, eligibility for admission was broadened and the curriculum was slightly changed. Two hundred and fifty girls who arrived through Youth Aliyah went through the Girls School, where they studied gardening, sewing, and various disciplines. Concurrently, they received instruction from teachers of note in Hebrew, Tanach, and history.”

Nechama Leibowitz: bringing Judaism and Zionism to life

Answering the call of the hour: taking in girls from Germany

One of the best-known teachers to work at the school was Nechama Leibowitz, a biblical commentator who would go on to become a professor of Tanach and an Israel Prize laureate in education. Born in Latvia, she received her doctorate from the University of Marburg in Germany. She immigrated in 1930 to the Land of Israel, where she lived with her husband in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood and worked at the Mizrachi Girls School and later the Mizrachi Teachers’ Seminary, where she taught literature, Tanach, and Jewish history.

In 1938, there were sixty-five boarding students at the Mizrachi Girls School of Jerusalem, from Germany, Palestine, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. The grounds of the institution extended over an area of one acre, on which were a vegetable and flower garden, a nursery, and a chicken coop. The building’s main floor included a cafeteria, kitchen, sewing hall, library, club room, and office. On the two upper floors there were dormitories, and on the roof was an “electric laundry”, then considered a state-of-the-art amenity.

In her book Nechama, Chayuta Deutsch writes: “In 1938, Mrs. Lotte Pinczower, director of the Mizrachi Girls School of Jerusalem, asked Nechama Leibowitz to join the school’s instructional staff. The Mizrachi Girls School then was a vocational high school for girls, most of them new immigrants from Germany without family. The encounter with these girls was a true challenge for Nechama Leibowitz. Nechama’s knowledge of German helped her form a connection with them and enabled her to help them interpret and understand Hebrew words.”

Bessie Gotsfeld recalled the early years of the school in an article published in HaTzofeh on October 12, 1943: “A short time after the opening of the Mizrachi Girls School of Jerusalem, the initial Youth Aliyah groups began arriving in the Land of Israel. Young men and women in their adolescent years were taken from Germany to be educated

In a 1947 article by Professor Leibowitz, she describes the girls who arrived at the institution in its early days, during the years that preceded the Second World War: “Every suitcase, every bag, every pressed collar, every leather belt matched to the color of the dress attested to the parents’ care.” Professor Leibowitz added that the girls who came in


Mizrachi Girls School, Jerusalem 1950

those years with attractive clothing from their comfortable homes in Germany knew not a word of Hebrew when they arrived in the country. Professor Leibowitz lamented the fact that a large part of the two years they were afforded to study at the institution was dedicated to learning rudimentary Hebrew vocabulary instead of engaging in study that would enrich the intellect and the soul. Upon completing their studies, the girls were assimilated in the workforce in various places in the country. Some joined the kibbutzim of Tirat Tzvi, Ein HaNatziv, Yavneh, and those of Gush Etzion. The goal was to train them as pioneers who would help build new religious communities.

After the war In the same HaTzofeh article, Professor Nechama Leibowitz described how different the students who arrived from Europe in the two years after the war were from those who had come in the early days of the school. The girls who came after the Holocaust knew Hebrew better and were thirsty for knowledge, despite the atrocities they had endured. “You might have thought that girls who had spent five or six years – one-third of their lives! – in such horrific surroundings, in places where every trapping of humanity had failed, where every moral law had been annulled, where all values had been trampled, would not be able to receive the words of the living G-d; that the Torah and the Prophets would no longer find inroads to their hearts due to apathy or cynicism. “You stand there in wonder and amazement… because the very same reactions we saw from the best of the youth all through the years… the same discussions, the same joy from a newly introduced idea, from a beautiful and stirring

literary expression, you find among these girls as well… Apparently such is the soul of a young man or woman of Israel: its purity withstands the gates of defilement and is unmarred. Fortunate is the home that takes in such youth to educate them, to guide them, to teach them Torah. How great is its task, and how grave its responsibility!” (Nechama Leibowitz, HaTzofeh, “The Immigrant Girls”, October 21, 1947)

Expansion of the Mizrachi Girls School of Jerusalem In 1945, a cornerstone was laid on the grounds of the school for the construction of an additional building that would house Holocaust survivors of elementary school age. The assumption was that the girls attending the high school would be able to help the younger children and assist the existing staff while gaining experience in childcare. Construction ended in June 1946, and the institution then opened its doors. In August 1951, a cornerstone was laid on the grounds for the construction of the Esther Shapiro Vocational High School, named after a member of Mizrachi Women of America. Present at the cornerstone laying ceremony was Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, who noted in his remarks that “many daughters have done great things”, but the Mizrachi Women of America have surpassed them all by founding establishments dedicated to the glory of education.

 Originally published in Hebrew at ReshetAmit.org.il

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Chaya Sara Oppenheim

Doña Gracia Nasi: a 16th Century Religious Zionist

At the age of eighteen, Beatrice de Luna married her uncle, Francisco Mendes-Benveniste – the most prominent merchant in Lisbon and the undercover rabbi of the converso community. But the marriage between Beatrice and Francisco was short lived. Francisco died in 1535, leaving Beatrice and their young daughter, Ana, behind. According to Francisco’s will, he divided his fortune between Beatrice and his brother, Diogo Mendes. Overnight, Beatrice Mendes became one of the wealthiest women in the world. At the age of 25, it became her responsibility to take over the commercial pursuits and covert religious responsibilities of her deceased husband.

(PHOTO: BRONZINO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

B

y the mid-1500s, most of the world knew her name: Doña Gracia Nasi, a veritable Woman of Valor and an unapologetic Jew who utilized her vast wealth on behalf of her nation. As a businesswoman, she managed an enormous company of trading ships that sailed across the globe, carrying spices, silver, and Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Doña Gracia defied expectations by living openly as a Jew while dressed at the height of contemporary fashion, confronting kings, emperors, popes, and sultans to advance the causes of the Jewish people. Doña Gracia Nasi was born Beatrice de Luna in about 1510 in Lisbon, Portugal to a family of affluent crypto-Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition. However, even in Portugal, the family was forced to convert to Catholicism along with many others in 1497. As conversos, her family maintained an outward Catholic façade while secretly practicing Jewish tradition. Conversos generally possessed two sets of names: their Christian names (which were given after baptism) and their Jewish names (if they maintained that identity in private). At home, Beatrice was known as Gracia, the Iberian equivalent of the Hebrew name Chana.

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Diogo Mendes relocated to Antwerp, the leading financial center in Europe, where Beatrice, Ana, and Beatrice’s sister Brianda soon joined him. As Antwerp was under the jurisdiction of Spain, Beatrice and her family were still forced to live as crypto-Jews for fear of being caught by the Inquisition. Nevertheless, she began to use her resources to design an underground network that helped hundreds of crypto-Jews flee Spain and Portugal. The Mendes family business owned trading ships that traveled between Lisbon and Antwerp, and soon enough these ships were carrying Jewish fugitives in addition to spices and bullion. Once the crypto-Jews arrived in Antwerp, Beatrice provided instructions and money to cross the treacherous range of the Alps to the port city of Venice. From there, transportation was arranged to bring them to the Ottoman Empire – including the holy land of Israel. Beatrice, the steward of immense wealth, was now a target. Claims of Judaizing were brought against her dead husband Francisco Mendes in the hopes of draining Beatrice of her money, and she was forced to pay a large bribe to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Considering the many suitors, who, with an eye to the family’s affluence, aggressively sought to marry Ana, Beatrice decided to relocate to Venice in 1544. The family did not live in the Jewish ghetto, and instead maintained a Catholic pretense while living among the upper class along the Grand Canal. Beatrice relocated to Ferrara in 1549 where the ruler, Ercole II, Duke of Este, hoped to bring the commercial assets of the Mendes family to his city. Ferrara was home to a large Sefardic community that consisted of many ex-conversos from the Iberian Peninsula. For the first time, Beatrice and her family could live openly as Jews. In Ferrara, Beatrice assumed her Jewish name: Doña Gracia Nasi. Doña is a Spanish honorific reserved for nobility, Gracia is the Spanish equivalent of Chana, and her new surname, Nasi, alluded to the biblical title that connoted royalty and political leadership. A nasi, or prince, represents the Jewish people


organized the boycott of the popular trading port Anacona in 1556 after the papal mistreatment of Portuguese Jews living there – two dozen of whom were burned at the stake. In her own home, she hosted meals that served nearly a hundred hungry people every day.

A map of Ferrara, c.1600. (PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

in communal, legal, financial, and political aspects of life, and Doña Gracia Nasi was the only woman for whom there is evidence that this title was used. In keeping with this title, even after openly reclaiming her Judaism, Doña Gracia did not submit to the sumptuary laws that restricted the clothing Jews were allowed to wear, and continued to dress fashionably in the high style of living to which she was accustomed. An active patron of the literary and printing endeavors of Ferrara’s Jewish community, both the Ferrara Bible, a vernacular Spanish translation of the Hebrew Bible, and historian Samuel Usuqe’s Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel – published in Ferrara in 1553 – were dedicated to Doña Gracia Nasi. In the spring of 1553, Gracia Nasi moved from Venice to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. She continued to aid refugees fleeing Iberia, redeemed Jewish slaves captured by pirates, and established a yeshivah colloquially called “the academy of the giveret” and a synagogue named “the synagogue of the Señora.” She

Her heart, however, was always focused on the Land of Israel. In the 1560s, Gracia Nasi and her nephew, Joseph Nasi, who served in the sultan’s court, sought to establish a settlement in Tiberias with the goal of creating a place of refuge for Jews. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent granted Joseph Nasi permission to settle Tiberias, and by 1566, a thriving community of Jews were living there. Doña Gracia Nasi even reinterred the remains of her deceased parents and husband from Portugal to Israel. Though the settlement she helped to build in Tiberias dwindled to only a few remaining families, she made an indelible mark in the effort to bring Jews back to the Land of Israel. Today the Doña Gracia hotel and museum is located in Tiberias, welcoming visitors to the land to which she yearned to return. Doña Gracia Nasi died in 1569. After her passing, the famous poet Sa’adiah Longo wrote an ode to commemorate her called “Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi,” comparing the pain of her loss to the pain felt for the destruction of the Temples on Tisha B’Av. Revered as a champion for the Jewish people, Doña Gracia was a woman who chose to act at a time when many Jews were burned alive at the stake. Her unabashed allegiance to the Jewish nation made Doña Gracia the embodiment of perseverance in exile, reminding our people that they would one day return as free and proud Jews to the Holy Land.

Chaya Sara Oppenheim holds a B.A. from Barnard College where she studied English and history.

The city of Tiberias

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Get to Know…

(PHOTO: BARUCH GREENBERG/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

MICHAL WALDIGER Social activist, leader and current Member of Knesset By Berale Crombie

HER FATHER My father, Eliezer Yaakov, was born to a rabbinic family. His father was Rabbi Reuven Trop, who founded Yeshivat HaYishuv HeChadash, and his father, my great-grandfather, was Rabbi Naftali Trop, head of the Yeshivah of Radin. His mother, my grandmother, was a member of the noted Winograd family. My father lost his father at a young age and grew up in the home of his grandfather, Rabbi Ze’ev Yeshayahu Winograd, head of Yeshivat Etz Chayim, right by Machane Yehudah. Twelve years ago, I was fortunate to have my parents move to be near us in Givat Shmuel.

HER MOTHER My mother, Rivka, is a teacher in every fiber of her being. I’m privileged to have two parents who are totally dedicated to their family and children, and today, thank G-d, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. My mother comes from a Chassidic background. Her father was an Alexander Chassid, and her mother was a Gerrer Chassid. They were grandparents who never stopped caring for us until their dying day.

HER OTHER HALF My husband, Uri, works at TAG (an organization helping the Jewish community navigate the complex digital landscape). He is the man at my side, without whom nothing would happen. Whatever the field, he knows it all. I’m so lucky. He was born in Germany to a father who survived the Holocaust and a native Israeli mother, with two older siblings, and when he was ten, the whole family made Aliyah.

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His grandfather, his father’s father, was the founder and leader of the Breslov community in Krakow and perished in the Holocaust. We met at a young age at Bnei Akiva. A dear friend of mine, Dasi Shapira (née Kamil), who passed away just recently, indirectly played the matchmaker. We both attended Ulpanat Tel Aviv, and I went to her for a Shabbat. That weekend, I met Uri at the local Bnei Akiva, and the rest is history. We got married when we were 20, and today we have five children, a granddaughter, and a grandson, kein yirbu!

FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been a doer. I did well in school, but other things kept me busy. When I was a girl, it was important to me to be on the student council, to fix, to facilitate, to do. I was chosen as Rabbanit Purim, and of course, naturally, a Bnei Akiva counselor. You could say that as a teenager, I spent most days at the local Bnei Akiva. When I grew up, in addition to working as an attorney, I did a lot of volunteering, especially with at-risk youth.

MENTAL HEALTH The civic side of things always mattered to me, and as an adult, I made an effort to be a part of associations and initiatives that help the weak and invisible people in society. Injustices gave me no peace. About fifteen years ago, a relative of mine – a totally normal kid – succumbed to drugs. Since then, I’ve gotten to know that painful and challenging world. I discovered a world that was psychologically, therapeutically, and medically deficient. After he became addicted, he also suffered from mental illness, and then I


encountered a whole world of discrimination on the basis of illness, stigma, and prejudice, both in the community and society, and even among professionals. Most of all, I discovered a world full of pain and neglect, not only of families and victims, but also of the system. You expect the government to deal with these things, but then you discover that even the system suffers from a stigma. The case we had in our family was incredibly painful. If they’d treated my cousin in time and taken care of him, if there hadn’t been a stigma and the boy had gotten treatment, if there had been enough therapists and services available, he could have grown up while dealing with his addiction and lived a good, meaningful life. Since it wasn’t treated as it should have been early on, he disappeared from our lives, and his illness grew worse and worse. I decided that helping others with addiction and mental health struggles would be my mission in life.

THE KNESSET I think it’s an important place where we make decisions and determine the character of the State of Israel. It’s not easy work. It’s not just how many times you were in the plenum or the different committees, but all the work around the clock that comes with the job.

A PUBLIC SERVANT Shabbat is an ingenious invention. I disconnect from everything and focus on goodness. When I pray every morning, every day, I turn to G-d; I remind myself not to become arrogant, and to remain true to my values. When I encounter complicated and difficult situations, it’s not simple or easy, but I deal with my frustration and disappointment by keeping the larger public in mind and remembering that at the end of the day, I’m just a shlichah (messenger).

GIVAT SHMUEL

As of now, I don’t regret choosing this path.

After I was asked to run, I was elected to the Givat Shmuel city council. I held the city’s welfare portfolio, and I was chairwoman of the Committee on Drugs and Alcohol for five years. It was very meaningful work.

WHO IS MICHAL WALDIGER?

BAT AMI About five years ago, I was invited to serve as chairwoman of Bat Ami (an organization that places religious Israeli young women in sherut leumi, Israel’s national volunteer service). I happily agreed, and I did it for four years with a lot of love. The young men and women in sherut leumi are Israel’s civic vanguard. They contribute a lot to the country, and unfortunately they don’t get enough credit. There’s a lot to do with sherut leumi, and I hope to make progress in that important area too. While I was at Bat Ami, I continued dealing with mental health. I mentored families, I took part in discussions, and I didn’t let up for a second. I also founded Emunatecha, an organization that mentors families with multiple illnesses, because those people don’t receive the treatment they should and they get thrown around from one place to another and from one ministry to another like a hot potato.

I love people. I’m self aware; I know my strengths and weaknesses and I am learning to come to terms with them. My creed is: “The work is not up to you to finish, yet you are not free to shirk it” (Pirkei Avot 2:21). We must work as if everything depends upon us – but at the same time, we must know that nothing depends on us, that we are ultimately not in control.

 Originally published in Hebrew in Giluy Da’at, a weekly Israeli

newspaper, October 22, 2021.

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Just Go For It! Aliza Pilichowski:

The American Olah who became Mayor of Mitzpe Yericho Upon making Aliyah with her family from Florida in 2014, Aliza Pilichowski moved to Mitzpe Yericho, a growing yishuv of 450 families overlooking both Yericho and the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert. Four years later, Aliza became the mayor of Mitzpe Yericho. We spoke with her to learn about her amazing journey.

Tell us about your background, and what brought you to Israel. I grew up in small towns throughout the United States, but my parents’ dream was always to move to Israel. Wherever we lived, my parents created a home of chessed. My parents had an “FHB” policy, which meant “family hold back”, a code my mom used when unexpected guests showed up at our home to signal to the children that we shouldn’t take food at the table right away, ensuring the guests would have enough to eat. We spent many Shabbatot and chagim at nursing homes where my parents led Shabbat for the residents. With these values and dreams in my ‘backpack’, my husband Uri and I built our home. We decided we would help Klal Yisrael wherever it may take us – but ideally we hoped to be in Israel. Before making Aliyah, we were blessed to live in Mevaseret Zion, Beverly Hills, and Boca Raton, where we had the privilege of working with Rabbis Steven Weil and Efrem Goldberg. When presented with the opportunity to return to Israel, we jumped! We are blessed to host thousands of guests in our home every year, with whom we share the beauty of Mitzpe Yericho and the Judean Desert. What drew you to Mitzpe Yericho? We were looking to live in close proximity to Yerushalayim and wanted to buy a single family home. Most importantly, we were looking for an opportunity to be a part of building a community. Nefesh B’Nefesh has a fantastic website that helps people find their homes. After researching and visiting the yishuv, we realized it would be an ideal community for us, and we have been very happy here. We welcome tens of new families each year from all over Israel and the Diaspora into our community.

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Aliza and her husband, Uri.

How does an olah from Florida become the mayor of an Israeli town? What drove you to take on this position? When the yishuv interviewed us, they asked us why we wanted to move to Mitzpe Yericho. I told them that I wanted to be a chalutzah, a pioneer. The interviewers chuckled and explained how the founders who first came to Mitzpe Yericho were forced to live without basic amenities like electricity and running water. As the yishuv fortunately no longer has such struggles, I modified my goal to become a “pioneer of today” and we began our journey in Mitzpe Yericho. I was invited to run for the city council together with a group of dynamic people and I was excited to be a part of the growth of the community and Eretz Yisrael. Together with the other dedicated leaders of the city council and many strategic partners, we built dozens of new projects, including 100 new homes, a pool and four parks, and we are raising funds for a new youth center.


How do you balance being the mayor with your career as a chaplain and your family responsibilities?

What advice can you offer to new olim who want to be a part of broader Israeli society?

The values of my job, my community, and my family all overlap. I am dedicated to all of these roles as each is an expression of my values. That being said, it is always a challenge to balance my day-to-day responsibilities, and I hope and pray that I can hold it all together! Recently, I was invited to a conference on aging from the municipality and this presented another opportunity for me to synthesize my entire life as a mother, daughter, chaplain, and mayor. The many roles that I play inform each other and enlighten all of my work.

Go for it! You will be offered opportunities every day. Join committees in your synagogue, city, and your children’s schools, and dive into the joys of communal work. Instead of feeling self-conscious about your accent, remember that a broad smile can compensate for your lack of vocabulary! We are all in the same boat – most Jews in Israel are either immigrants themselves or the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Bring your unique identity and wealth of knowledge and share it with Medinat Yisrael! n

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Sivan Rahav-Meir:

A Remarkable Journey In the summer of 2019, World Mizrachi announced that Sivan Rahav-Meir and her husband Yedidya would be moving to the United States to be shlichim for a year, beginning a new chapter in her remarkable career. Sivan’s journey – from a secular home in Herzliya to becoming a leading voice of Israel’s Religious Zionist community – is both remarkable and inspirational.

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orn to a secular Israeli family in 1982, Sivan moved with her family from Ramat HaSharon to Herzliya when she was six years old. By age 8, she was identified as a gifted child and began an advanced educational track, ultimately graduating high school and completing a degree in Political Science and Management from Tel Aviv University before she turned 18. From a young age, she also took an interest in journalism. “I wrote my first piece for a children’s newspaper at the age of six, and in elementary school I would interview my friends. As I moved through school, I began to get great opportunities as a youth journalist – I interviewed Yitzchak Rabin,

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Shimon Peres, and even the Power Rangers when they visited Israel!”

keep the Torah we received at Mount Sinai rests with everyone, including me.”

During her degree studies, Sivan took courses in Jewish thought. Though these courses lit a spark in her, they were not the only impetus for her religious journey. “If you ask me how it all began, I can give you an intellectual answer, about the powerful experience of learning Nechama Leibowitz, Rav Kook and Rav Soloveitchik. But the simple truth is that a few girls my age invited me to their house to experience a Shabbat, and then another and another, and this made me want to bring that magic into my own life. I began to keep Shabbat. At a very slow pace – some might say too slow – I realized that the responsibility to

Nechama Leibowitz z”l became her role model. “As a 15-year-old girl, she helped me understand that the Torah is about much more than Bagruyot tests (high school matriculation exams in Israel) on Tanach. Reading her books, I began to understand that asking questions is more important than reaching answers, and that making Torah accessible to every farmer and new immigrant is more important than sitting and studying in an ivory tower.” Sivan joined the army and served in Galei Tzahal, the army radio station. After that she joined Channel 2, Israel’s preeminent TV station, where she served in a number


of roles, most prominently as an anchor on an early morning show. “It wasn’t easy to get up at 4am for the show, but in retrospect it is a lot harder to get all my kids ready for school each morning!” One of her most prominent roles came when she became the anchor of the 6pm news show and began conducting high profile interviews with figures ranging from Sarah Netanyahu to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to businessmen like Lev Leviev. Sivan is married to Yedidya Meir, a journalist, radio broadcaster and columnist for B’Sheva. “Yedidya and I met each other thanks to Shabbat. An event that was supposed to take place on Friday night was postponed at my request until Saturday night. It turns out that Yedidya had also requested that the event be postponed to Saturday night. We stood at the entrance to the event, and the organizer said to me: ‘I want you to meet the other religious nudnik who got us to postpone this whole event!’ We started talking, and Baruch Hashem, we haven’t stopped talking ever since!”

I began to understand that asking questions is more important than reaching answers, and that making Torah accessible to every farmer and new immigrant is more important than sitting and studying in an ivory tower. About six years ago something changed. In parallel with her work at News 12, writing a weekly column in Yediot Acharonot and presenting a weekly program on Galei Tzahal, she began giving a weekly Torah class to singles living in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem. “The class took place every Wednesday at nine in the evening at Heichal Shlomo, with new content each time.” Hundreds of people came to the class every week, which was broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube, and is now produced for Channel 12 in their studios and broadcast every Friday. “The goal is for the parasha to be part of the cultural pulse, part of the Israeli DNA.” Following the success of the weekly class, Sivan began lecturing in Israel and around the world. “It’s fun to share this Torah with different communities, both at Ramle Prison

and with the General Staff Forum of the IDF. I won’t reveal which audience paid better attention!” Sivan also began a wildly successful volunteer project called ‫ה ֵח ֶלק ַה ּיוֹ ִמי‬,ַ a short daily article on the parasha of the week and current events that reaches tens of thousands of subscribers around the world via WhatsApp. Sivan writes the piece in Hebrew, and a team of volunteers translates it into 18 different languages and sends it out. “I owe so much to this team, who have really given this project life. They are constantly thinking about how to spread Torah to more people, using technology in every way possible.” In recent years, Sivan was voted Israel’s most popular female media personality in a Globes Newspaper poll and listed as one of the most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post. “It’s flattering and exciting. I try to remember that the Globes poll is not just about me personally, but is also meant as a protest against a media that is too uniform and too provocative, a media that does not respect the values ​​of a significant portion of its consumers.” A mother of five, Sivan’s day begins at 6:30am. “I try to daven Shacharit before I wake up the children. I get them ready in the morning, and when Yedidya finishes his morning show on Kol Chai radio he does a round of drop-offs at several schools. The daily schedule is fluid. There are days at home and days filled with speeches and work – everything is very flexible.” She tries to get to sleep before midnight, but rarely succeeds. What is Sivan’s dream for the future? “Rebbe Nachman once said that we must stop being poor; we must return to the treasure within us. All of us – as individuals and together as a people – have treasures within us that we must bring to the world! And one more thing – I hope one day I’ll learn how to cook!”  A version of this article orig-

inally appeared in Hebrew www.IsraelNationalNews.com.

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From top to bottom: Sivan with her husband Yedidya; With Natan and Avital Sharansky; With her family and Rabbi Doron Perez as they depart for shlichut in the USA; With Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l.

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Making Waves in High-Tech: A Young Religious Mom Moves her Career Forward with a Little Help from Friends FemForward is an innovative program designed to help women working in Jerusalem-based tech companies advance their careers and advance to managerial and senior positions, offering lectures, a mentorship program and networking opportunities. The program addresses the ‘broken rung’ trend, in which women in entry-level positions are less likely than men to be promoted to first-level managerial positions. We spoke with Allie Feuerstein, Director of International New Business at OurCrowd and a participant in FemForward’s first cohort, to learn more.

Tell us a little bit about your Aliyah story as a religious olah from New Jersey, and how you began your exciting career in high-tech in Israel. Growing up, I never thought I would make Aliyah; it wasn’t on my radar. But when I came to Israel to study at Midreshet Moriah, I fell in love with the country. My parents really wanted me to come back to the US for college, so I went to the University of Pennsylvania and then made Aliyah a few weeks after graduation. While still in America, I started dating my husband, and we soon realized that we had booked the same Aliyah flight! It felt like G-d was patting me on the back and saying, “Allie, you’re doing the right thing by making Aliyah. Here is a husband for you!” My first job in Israel was working as a research assistant for Daniel Gordis on a book that he was writing called Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn. For the last chapter of the book, we interviewed the authors of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, and I was incredibly inspired – I wanted to play a meaningful role in building a company. I had some friends who were working for OurCrowd, an investment platform for investing in startups based in Jerusalem. I got an interview there, and the rest is history.

I had been working at OurCrowd for two years when Rachel Wagner Rosenzweig, a friend of mine who runs the FemForward course, told me about it and encouraged me to join.

yourself and make the case to your manager for why you deserve a promotion. At the time I participated in FemForward, OurCrowd was growing rapidly, and people who started at the company at the same time I did were being promoted. So I went to my manager, an Orthodox guy, and said to him that I felt I was ready for the next step in my career and that I think I could manage a part of the team. He said to me, “Wow, are you sure? I assumed that since you’re a young mom you just wanted to take it easy at work.” That’s when I realized that there needs to be a real cultural shift within our religious community. Yes, I love my kids and will always be there for them, but that doesn’t mean I can’t grow my career at the same time.

A key lesson I learned early on in the course is that if you want to advance in your career, you can’t wait for a promotion to fall into your lap. You have to promote

I spoke about the situation with Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, my mentor at FemForward, who suggested I speak with my manager’s manager – which is exactly what I did. I

What brought you to FemForward, and how did it impact your career?

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Allie and her husband.


FemForward’s first cohort (PHOTO: FEMFORWARD)

pitched him on why I believed I was the right person to lead our new team in Europe and Asia. I also went to the Chief Growth Officer and made a presentation. They were both very pleased, and I got the promotion a week later, which was very exciting. I finished the FemForward course about a year ago, and I’ve shifted from being an individual contributor to now managing a team of eight people and have more than doubled my previous salary. It’s fair to say that the program worked exactly as it was designed to! It’s incredible that your mentor at FemForward was none other than Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem in charge of foreign relations, international economic development and tourism – and a fellow olah. What was it like to bond with Fleur and learn from her? Having one-on-one time with Fleur was incredible. Fleur is a well-known figure in Jerusalem and so I’d known about her for some time. She is so confident, very direct and she can hold her own in a room full of high-powered men; she knows what to do so that her voice is heard. OurCrowd is a very male-dominated company on the management level, and Fleur gave me a lot of tips on how to present myself and make sure my voice would be heard with a very male culture. We’re still in touch and go out for coffee once in a while. She’s someone I really look up to; she has a beautiful family, she’s a mom of four kids, and also has an incredible career.

Allie and her mentor, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.

Israeli high-tech in order to get your foot in the door. Just start with something, and it should lead to opportunities. There are so many high-tech companies in Israel who are looking to grow extremely rapidly; there are companies hiring a hundred people in one year. There are many opportunities for growth and professional development, so if you really want to grow your career, high-tech in Israel is a great place to do it. n

What advice would you give to other young women making Aliyah who are interested in working in tech? Have an open mind. If you were working in a different field in the Diaspora, you may have to start at a lower level in

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One on One with Rabbanit Sharon Rimon

Rabbanit Sharon Rimon is a highly accomplished educator, the editor of the innovative website hatanakh.com, a frequent contributor to HaMizrachi magazine and the author of Prisms: Perspectives on the Parasha. A mother of eight, she is married to Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and one of Israel’s leading rabbis.

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ou recently published a twovolume commentary on the weekly Torah portion titled Prisms: Perspectives on the Parasha. Who is this book written for, and what makes it unique? The book is written for anyone interested in studying topics from the weekly parasha in depth. Each topic in the book is dealt with at length and takes the reader through an orderly process of learning. I begin with the peshat (the simple understanding), pose questions on the text, review the different answers offered by the commentators, and culminate with a synthesis of the various opinions and a meaningful lesson for the reader. Each parasha also provides a summary that

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allows the reader to review the main idea easily and quickly, if they prefer to skip the lengthy study. What do you find most interesting in your role as the editor of hatanakh.com? My work as an editor of a website is interesting and diverse. It’s exciting to learn a wide variety of ideas and opinions about each chapter in Tanach, and to then make those ideas accessible to the general public by accurately sorting them by chapters and topics and by shortening and summarizing the articles into short and clear ideas. Most of all, I enjoy working with fascinating people who love Tanach!

You balance an incredibly busy life as an educator, mother and community leader. What advice would you offer to young women aspiring to become leaders in the Religious Zionist community? I have no advice for other people… I never had any ambitions to become a Religious Zionist leader! It just happened; it came to us. Every woman simply needs to be herself. First and foremost, to take care of her family, because the family is the foundation of everything. Beyond that, to open her eyes to what is happening around her, to be sensitive to other people and their needs, and to do what is possible to help them within her capabilities, with love. n


BOOK REVIEW

The Dawn of Redemption by Rabbi Yaakov HaLevi Filber Translated by Rabbi Moshe Lichtman

Goel Jasper

ToraTzion, 2022

When I cracked open Rabbi Moshe Lichtman’s new translation of Rabbi Yaakov Filber’s Ayelet HaShachar, translated loosely as The Dawn of Redemption, I was sure it would be another collection of comments, so to speak, about Aliyah. And it is – but it’s also so much more. It is a book that can only have been written for our generation.

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or anyone who is a student of Aliyah – and I consider myself one – the book titles of note are well-known.

It all begins, of course, with the Tanach. As a friend of mine once said, “If you aren’t clear on the imperative of Aliyah, you haven’t paid attention to Sefer Devarim.” It continues with the Mishnah and Gemara, of course, both of which describe the many mitzvot that can only be fulfilled in the Land. And then we have the medieval authorities like Rambam and Ramban, who debate the status of Aliyah and whether it is a positive commandment or an “uber-mitzvah” upon which many other mitzvot depend. Later on, the Vilna Gaon and many others had much to say about the need for our people to return to the Land. Modern Aliyah literature falls into two categories. The first group consists of books designed to inspire people to make the big move (such as To Dwell in the Palace, It’s Time to Come Home or Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah: The Centrality of the Land of Israel in the Torah), while the second category seeks to demonstrate, through a thorough reading of classical sources, that G-d is calling us to return to the Land (think Eim Habanim Semeichah or MeAfar Kumi).

Rabbi Yaakov HaLevi Filber, a student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook and founder of Yeshivat Yerushalayim L’Tzeirim (YashLatz), wrote this book over the course of 35 years. Originally written in 1966 as a pamphlet entitled “Kochvei Ohr,” it was expanded several times: following the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War, after the Yamit evacuation and the Lebanon War, and finally, for the last time, after the ingathering of Soviet Jewry to Israel. Written in five sections – The Land of Israel; The Eternal Nation; Loving All Jews; The Third Return to Zion; and Dawn Has Broken – the entire book is filled with teachings from the Sages on Aliyah and redemption, each section punctuated by the beautiful words of Rav Kook. In Rabbi Filber’s treatment of The Eternal Nation, he cites Rav Kook on the need to be clear about our people’s unique role in this world: “If we know our greatness, we know our (true) selves; but if we forget our greatness, we forget ourselves. And a nation that forgets its essence is certainly small and lowly. Only by way of forgetting ourselves do we remain small and lowly, and forgetting ourselves is forgetting our greatness…” While reading these words, I grasped the purpose of this book. It was not written to inspire anyone nor to prove anything, but as a guidebook

for the generation – our generation – that Rabbi Filber clearly believes is responsible for completing the process of geulah (redemption). As I continued to read, page after page, topics like “Love and Rebuke”, “Rebuilding the Nation Through Baseless Love”, and “A Nation that Dwells Alone”, I began to understand what each of us must do to play our individual and collective roles in completing the redemption. The Dawn of Redemption is a must-have for every Jewish home. One final note: I and many others owe a tremendous debt to Rabbi Lichtman for all of his hard work in bringing critical Israel-related texts, including Ayelet HaShachar, to the English-speaking world. His Eim Habanim Semeichah, An Angel Among Men, A Question of Redemption, What’s the Purpose? and Rise From the Dust, all of which are Rabbi Lichtman’s translations of Hebrew-language classics, play a uniquely important role in strengthening the Englishspeaking community during this time of redemption. May he continue his holy work as the ingathering of the exiles continues! Rabbi Lichtman’s books are available at toratzion.com

Goel Jasper lives in Beit Shemesh and is the host of the Return Again podcast.

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Ari Abramowitz

Arugot Farm: R E DE MP TION ON T H E J U DE A N F RONTI ER the mountain is our castle-like retreat center which, although only half completed, is already a destination which people from all over the world come to experience.

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his is my home.

I live on a mountaintop on the southeastern tip of the Judean Frontier. I could try to describe it to you in words, but I’ve come to believe that’s impossible; it would be like showing you a sheet of musical notes instead of taking you to a philharmonic orchestra.

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Along with my three pioneering partners and their families, we transformed these previously inaccessible mountains from a barren desolation of rocks, thorns, and tumbleweeds into a Garden of Eden-like oasis unlike anything in the Land of Israel. From a distance, our farm appears on the horizon like an ancient Judean Kingdom. I’ve heard the word “Camelot” thrown around as well. Rising from the center of

On the summit of the highest mountain on our property we built our beit tefillah, which is unparalleled in its mystical beauty. It is already regularly booked with a wide array of spiritual concerts and experiential programs such as hitbodedut, hishtokekut, and other types of ancient meditation techniques that are once again coming to life in the Land of Israel. A short walk away one can find an ancient cave, untouched for millennia, which could undoubtedly tell great stories of our history from King David and the Maccabees, to Bar Kochba and the battles for Judea. In the southern valley surrounding our mountain are the organic vineyards we planted five years ago which have just recently yielded our very first bottles of wine. Ascending the mountain, you’d trek through our


nearly four thousand blossoming fruit trees, an innovative ecological freshwater oasis, a horse flanked by a flock of sheep, and intoxicating views of the Dead Sea, Masada, Jerusalem, and the Judean Desert. These mountains were designated by the Israeli government for agriculture and tourism, and if our goal was merely to fulfill that mandate, we could have simply built functional structures and completed construction long ago. But we all felt that what we could bring to life in these mountains would be leTiferet Yisrael, a source of pride and splendor for the nation of Israel. A place of indescribable beauty, our goal was to transform these barren mountains into nothing short of a jewel in the crown of Judea. Although we are far from completion, I am deeply grateful that our farm is already considered among the most beautiful destinations in Israel. I say these words with humility. We recognize that what we have accomplished here far transcends anything we could have accomplished with our own skills and strength. If not for Hashem’s help and often thinly-veiled miracles, there is no way that we could have possibly manifested this vision. The only thing we could possibly take credit for is saying hineni, “here I am”. The head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council first sent us to these mountains because settling them would be, in his words, “the most strategic and geopolitically important endeavor in Gush Etzion.” But it didn’t take long for me to realize that strategy and geopolitics were not the real reasons we were settling these mountains. The real reason we are here is because we are Jews, and this is our natural home, where we can flourish and grow. Before I moved here, I felt like a fish out of water, flopping around on the river bank gasping for air. The fish has a short memory; it thinks that the natural state of a fish must be to gasp for air and slowly

die. But then the fish flops its way back into the river and, revitalized, finally realizes, “Oh, this is what it is to be a fish!” This is how I felt when I planted my roots here in Judea. I was filled with a new sense of life, vitality, joy, and mission. “Oh, this is what it is to be a Jew!”

A taste of redemption Judea is not merely a geographical location on a map or a destination you type into Waze. Judea is a return to our identity; a journey of self-actualization and selfdiscovery. Judea is a taste of redemption. We are approaching the holiday of Pesach, the chag hageulah, the “holiday of redemption”. Before I moved here, “redemption” was just a word, a theological concept I mentioned three times a day in my tefillot since grade school. But since coming to Arugot Farm, I have experienced moments, however fleeting, when redemption became more than just an idea. Ramban explains why he calls the book of Exodus the Sefer HaGeulah, the “Book of Redemption”, even though only the first twelve of its forty chapters recount the Exodus from Egypt. Redemption, he explains, is not just freedom from slavery, or freedom from anything for that matter. Redemption is self-realization, actualizing our potential and fulfilling our mission in the world. Only after receiving the Torah at Sinai, building the mishkan within which G-d’s presence would dwell and becoming a priestly people and holy nation – only then would we be truly redeemed. Much like the redemption from Egypt, the redemption I experienced here in Judea has been an unfolding journey as well. It, too, came in moments. One such moment struck me on a Shabbat afternoon as I davened Mincha on a mountaintop surrounded by our sheep. While smiling at the absurdity of having transformed myself from a media guy into

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a shepherd, I found myself reflecting on the unexpected story of our sheep. Though sheep provide us with meat and wool, we invested in our flock of sheep primarily because of the critical role that sheep traditionally play in securing property in Judea – a law of the mountains respected by the Arabs and Bedouin in our area. While we have very positive and productive relationships with all of our neighbors, having a flock of sheep is a necessary prerequisite to being a recognized presence in our neck of the woods. Early on, due to an unexpected series of events, we ran out of funds as we were building our retreat center. Having already signed a contract with the builder, we told him that, for reasons out of our hands, we couldn’t pay him what we owed him. Needing the money, he suggested that we pay him with our sheep, a reasonable request which we agreed to honor. While herding the vast majority of our sheep onto his wagons, it struck me that there is something intuitively natural about a Jew, living in Judea, paying with sheep. As we built up our flock again, we began receiving calls from local Judean youth who dreamed of becoming shepherds and wanted to shepherd our flock. And just like that, we had a team of young barefoot shepherds and shepherdesses to tend our flock, take them out to pasture and milk them on schedule.

(PHOTO: YAKOV AFLALO)

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Soon afterwards, an expert cheesemaker came to teach our young shepherds the art of making halloumi, feta, and yogurts (to name just a few) and what was once an empty room in our retreat center became a cheese factory.

Long before law, accounting and medicine became the Jewish professions of choice, King David shepherded his flock of sheep in these very mountains. And just as our forefathers, when asked about their occupation by the mighty Pharoah, responded, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our forefathers”, the time has come when we, their children, are proudly assuming that role as well.

I’ll never forget the moment when I witnessed our Arab workers, descendants of Yishmael, harmoniously working together with our German volunteers, descendants of Esav, to build a Beit Knesset for Jews in Judea. Then there was the day that the Germans arrived. They told us that they were artisans and craftsmen, many of them children and grandchildren of Nazis. They had come, in their own words, to do teshuvah. While their forebears had brought curses and destruction upon the Jewish people, their goal was to bring blessings and to build. When I asked why they chose Arugot Farm from all the other settlements and mountaintops, they explained that we are the furthest settlement in Judea – where the world stands most against us. And if this is where the world stands against us, they explained, then this is where they wanted to stand with us.


I’ll never forget the moment when I witnessed our Arab workers, descendants of Yishmael, harmoniously working together with our German volunteers, descendants of Esav, to build a Beit Knesset for Jews in Judea. That was a moment in which a great evil of our history became a great blessing. That, too, was a moment of redemption.

Transformative mountains For too long, young Jews from around the world have flocked to ashrams in India seeking an authentic spiritual encounter – not knowing that the deepest, richest, and most profound spiritual legacy is right here in the heart of their own homeland, in the ancient hills of Judea. Over the years I have witnessed the extraordinary power of these mountains to pierce the most calloused hearts, shattering the barriers of cynicism that so many of us harbor. I have seen yeshivah students realize that we are not just the people of the book but also the people of the land – and that they, too, can play a central role in carrying the story of the Jewish people forward. And I have seen left-wing activists who realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may never be solved, but that it can be transcended. The power of these

mountains to challenge and inspire is nothing short of divine. It was from these mountains that King David, while fleeing from King Saul, composed Tehillim and taught the world to pray. It was from these mountains that the prophets of Israel shared their message of love, prayer, and hope. And with Hashem’s help, it will be from these mountains that we will fulfill our mission of restoring Judea to its rightful place as a global destination for spirituality and transcendence. Rav Kook explains that now, in our times, when we say the words VeTechezena Eineinu Beshuvcha LeTzion BeRachamim, “May our eyes see Your return to Zion in mercy”, in the Amidah, we are not asking G-d to let us one day see the future redemption. We are asking Him to give us the eyes to see that it is happening now! Because it is. But don’t take my word for it – come out to the Judean frontier and experience it for yourself. Whether you live in Israel or abroad, it would be our honor to host you at Arugot Farm and introduce you to the holiness and beauty of Judea – to your very own taste of redemption. Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel, along with their partners Roni Moshe and Yossi Leavitt, are co-founders of the Arugot Farm and retreat center in Southeastern Judea. Learn more about Arugot Farm at www. ArugotFarm.co.il

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oel sper

One on One with Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg

One of the world’s greatest experts in Jewish medical ethics, Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg is the author of the seven volume Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics, for which he was awarded the Israel Prize. A senior pediatric neurologist and medical ethicist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, he is also the Director of Yad HaRav Herzog and the head of the editorial board of the Talmudic Encyclopedia, a monumental project begun in 1942 which aims to summarize the halachic topics of the Talmud in alphabetical order. The encyclopedia is due to be completed in 2024. Rabbi Aron White recently spoke with Rabbi Steinberg about the significance of the Talmudic Encyclopedia.

T

he Jewish people are known as the “People of the Book”; throughout the generations, our people have written many libraries of books on the Talmud and Jewish law. Why did Rabbis Meir Bar-Ilan and Shlomo Yosef Zevin believe that it was necessary to write the Talmudic Encyclopedia? There were two primary motivations behind the creation of the Talmudic Encyclopedia. Throughout history, periods of creative halachic output have been followed by the need to gather and organize that material; Maimonides’

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Mishneh Torah and Rabbi Yosef Karo’s Shulchan Aruch are prime examples of sefarim that consolidate and organize halachic literature. Rabbis Kook and Herzog, the first two Chief Rabbis in Eretz Yisrael, both believed that after many generations in which rabbis wrote books, commentaries and teshuvot, their generation needed to gather that material together. No one can possibly learn all that has been written, and so the idea of the Talmudic Encyclopedia was born. The goal of the encyclopedia was incredibly ambitious, aiming to summarize all halachic literature, from

the Chumash through the Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim, in a clear system, organized by topic. The second major impetus for the project was the tragic destruction of Torah during World War II. When Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, one of the leading Mizrachi figures in the 20th century, heard what was happening in Europe, he realized that it was not only the Jews that were being destroyed, but the Torah itself as well. He wanted to ensure that the Torah would be preserved and protected, and it was this that drew him


to join Chief Rabbi Herzog in beginning the project. As well as beginning a Talmudic Encyclopedia for halacha, they considered doing the same thing for aggadah, but it didn’t work as well; it’s much more complicated to come up with a comprehensive and organized list of all topics in aggadah! Chief Rabbi Herzog appointed Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin to lead the project, who had the remarkable ability to write in a way that is short and clear, a talent no one has been able to replicate since. I joined the project in 2006 when we were in dire financial straits, so the project went very slowly. Dov Friedberg of Keren Toronto got in touch with us, and he offered his support for the project, provided that we finish it quickly. Since he began his support, we have been working much faster. Of the 2,500 total entries, we have 300 left to complete. As we complete about 100 entries a year, we should finish the writing by the end of 2024. We have incredible appreciation to Dov Friedberg and Keren Toronto, to the Rohr family, Mr. Zvika Ryzman, Israel’s Ministry of Culture and many others for their support of the project. At the end of 2021, we held an event to celebrate the publication of Volume 48 at the President’s residence with President Herzog, who feels a great connection to the project because of his grandfather Chief Rabbi Herzog’s involvement. We were also honored to be joined by Rabbi Hershel Schachter from Yeshiva University. From its inception, the project was supported and funded by Mizrachi, but the editors and writers of the Encyclopedia have represented a broad spectrum of rabbis and Jewish scholars: Rashei Yeshivah from Chevron and Merkaz HaRav, rabbanim associated with Chabad and professors from Bar-Ilan University. How have you been able to work on a Torah project with a team of such varying backgrounds and world views? One of the beautiful things about the project is that we are an island of sanity in the middle of the Torah world! For our project, it makes no difference which kippah you wear or whether you are Sefardi or Ashkenazi. We have only two requirements for our writers: they must be high-level Torah scholars, and they must know how to write. In both the Religious Zionist and Chareidi circles, it is easy to find knowledgeable Talmidei Chachamim, but there is a great

shortage of Talmidei Chachamim who can write well! We provide seminars in writing for some of our new recruits to improve their skills. We are very proud that our Beit Midrash is a model of coordination between religious Torah scholars of all types, without politics or hashkafic arguments getting in the way. How has technology and the internet changed the Talmudic Encyclopedia project? Is it now easier to create something like this, or has the ability to access Torah through Otzar HaChochmah or Google made this project superfluous? It is true that new technologies have given us incredible resources, but the Talmudic Encyclopedia still provides something unique to those learning Torah. Let’s say you want to learn the topics of chazak and migu, and you enter those into Otzar HaChochmah. You will receive 20,000 entries, which is too much information to sift through. You also could search on Google and read lots of articles, but you don’t know what is reliable and what isn’t. Our researchers and writers have taken all of this information and summarized it, including only what is most important and most reliable. These resources are helpful, as we no longer need to employ people specifically to find material, because it is all at our fingertips. But the craft of organizing, summarizing and deciding what to include and what to leave out is still an effort requiring great skill.

Your own personal Torah output is truly astounding. You have written over 40 books, 280 published articles and 4,000 court briefings as well as your own encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Medical Halacha, for which you won the Israel Prize. What inspires you to keep writing and teaching more? Do you have any words of advice for busy, working people who are trying to increase and strengthen their Torah study? I think that every busy person has to find an area of Torah that interests them. There is something to be said for programs like Daf Yomi, which provide consistency as well as a social outlet. But one who wants to deepen their knowledge, and do something new must learn something they find interesting. I was practicing as a doctor, so I focused on medical halachah, which became my passion and core area of learning. For a businessman, it makes sense to focus on halachic topics such as ribbit (lending with interest), ona’ah (monetary deception) and mekach u’memkar (business transactions). This is practically helpful, and if you find a topic you love and really study it deeply, you are also more likely to produce new insights and possibly write books and articles that can be meaningful to others. Don’t try learning everything at once – find a topic you find interesting, and start from there! n

We are also planning to make the whole encyclopedia available digitally, both on USB and on our website. The full set will be 80 volumes, which is too large for the average person to buy.

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JEWS with VIEWS We asked five accomplished Jews from around the world for their top tips for engaging people of all ages at the Seder

Rabbi Judah

Yael

A

Q

Mischel ll around us there’s a proliferation of amazing Torah content: another insightful haggadah, a new sefer, countless hours of shiurim online. As wonderful as all the information, vortlach and commentaries are, the goal of Seder night is not to present as many explanations and insights as possible. In fact, this could distract us from the visceral experience of redemption that Chazal insist on: “seeing ourselves” as redeemed. Pesach enables us to draw close to Hashem in the most joyful and personal of ways. When we approach Pesach with simple faith, our experience will be natural and personal, and we will feel less pressure to give over a list of new ideas, explanations – and answers. Actually, the Seder invites us to immerse in open-ended questions, triggers for conversation, inner exploration and self-revelation. The haggadah might seem fixed and scripted; even the questioning can feel predetermined, such as when it says “And here, the child asks...” Nevertheless, the flow of the Seder is meant to be dynamic and alive; it’s our time to experience Yiddishkeit in its immediacy by celebrating the main question: “What is this avodah (service) to me?” Encourage conversation and personal questions. Listen to others. Don’t be afraid to allow meaningful discussion to float ‘off-script’, beyond the pages of the holy text. Bechol dor va-dor chayav adam lirot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatzah miMitzrayim – “In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as going out of Mitzrayim.” This Pesach, let’s strive for contact over content.

Rabbi Judah Mischel is Executive Director of Camp HASC, Mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuvah.

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Lebowitz uestions aren’t as exciting as they once were. Once upon a time, if you asked a good question, it would engage the people around you, engender a sense of curiosity. It would get people thinking, and talking, and debating. Today, we walk around with hand-held computers and have access to the aggregate of all human knowledge. Every question we have can be answered within milliseconds. Some of the magic embedded in the experience of asking questions has been lost. And so perhaps this year, rather than rushing to answer the questions asked at the Seder, let’s encourage those around our table to come up with questions, and then sit with those questions for a bit. Swirl them around in our minds. Feel the discomfort of not knowing. Let’s encourage children to pose questions to their tech-unsavvy grandparents and watch as those children learn the subtle distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Let’s encourage the adults around our table to wait patiently as the youngest at the table articulates what he or she is thinking – and watch as those adults remember what it feels like to wonder. This year let’s replace data with dialogue, algorithms with affection; let’s replace the metaverse with the process of our mesorah.

Yael Leibowitz teaches at Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Learning and is a frequent lecturer in North America and the United Kingdom. For more of Yael’s writing, visit yaelleibowitz.com


Rabbi David

Rifka

Rabbi Heshie

P

W

F

Block

rops, treats, and Seder “schtick” can be effective ways of making the Seder fun (even for adults!), but here are 3 tips to help make our Sedarim meaningfully engaging – adaptable for any age and background. 1. Every participant (host, guest, child, adult) should be asked to prepare – not (only) a presentation and not (only) a D’var Torah – but a question. A good, complex, thoughtful question about Pesach or Yetziat Mitzrayim that is born out of true curiosity. No need to have an answer. Share the question at the Seder, and open it up for discussion. The research – and my personal experience – shows that having a forum in which we can ask tough, important questions that matter to us helps us form a stronger religious identity and makes observance more meaningful. It’s where true learning occurs. But there’s a catch – and that brings us to the next point. 2. Let’s focus less on the (important!) details around recounting the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim and more on the story itself. That means spending less time on why we wash during urchatz, why we eat karpas, and how long the meal in Bnei Brak actually lasted, and more time on what the night is about: The story of salvation, and how that salvation continues to replicate itself in our own lives today. The questions we prepare should focus on that. 3. Print out the Ramban’s commentary on Shemot 13:16 (‫ – )וְ עַ ָּתה אוֹמֵ ר לְ ָך‬in any language – and learn it at the Seder together. Then, ask everyone at the Seder: Where and why is it difficult to see Hashem in our everyday life? Beginning now, what can we do to try to see Hashem more often?

Rabbi David Block is Head of School at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, California.

Sonenberg Billet hen my parents realized their dream of Aliyah and stopped hosting our broader family Seder (in Toronto, anyway), we started a new tradition – the nuclear family Seder. We moved the entire Seder to the living room, covering the couches with sheets and adorning the coffee table with the Seder plate. All the leaning is a lot more comfortable on a couch, of course; but, more importantly, it breaks us out of the subconscious patterns of weekly meals at the dining room table. It is palpably different. The round-robin reading of the haggadah – with an emphasis on frequent translations to ensure those with still-developing Hebrew and Aramaic skills are able to follow – allows for more conversation during the natural breaks in the flow. We return to the dining room table for the meal, but then it’s back to the couches for afikoman, the rest of Hallel and the final songs. Big Sedarim that include people from different generations and different backgrounds reflect the inclusive spirit of the Seder and allow us to pass on the tradition in a natural way. The small Sedarim we’ve recently had reflect the vital focus on the questions and needs of the next generation. They have allowed us to have conversations with our children that didn’t happen when we accommodated other generations’ and other families’ timelines and attention spans. Both environments create formative, engaging experiences of ‫וְ ִהּג ְַד ָּת לְ בִ נְ ָך‬, “and you shall tell your children,” which is the essence of the Seder.

Rifka Sonenberg is the Yoetzet Halacha and Director of the Canadian Yoatzot Initiative, based in Toronto, Canada. She teaches and provides academic support at Ulpanat Orot.

inding ways to engage children on Seder night is an age-old challenge. As demonstrated by the four questions asked at the beginning of the haggadah – in our home the questions were asked in Hebrew, English, French, Yiddish, and Russian (when we had a Russian guest) – questions and answers are a time tested method of drawing children into the Seder. Several Talmudic sources tell us of the importance of strategies to engage children at the Seder: 1. The Tosefta (Pesachim 10:9) speaks of “stealing” matzot to keep the children awake, while the Talmud (Pesachim 109a) reveals that Rabbi Akiva, who never canceled yeshiva studies, did so on the eve of Pesach so that the children should stay awake. Do whatever it takes! At our Seder we dress up as Pharaoh, Moshe and Miriam and use toy frogs to engage our children and grandchildren. 2. Rashbam and Rabbeinu Chananel add that the purpose of many aspects of the Seder is to arouse the curiosity of the children to ask questions. We also find other ideas like giving out nuts to the children to be beneficial.

3. The “four sons” at the Seder teaches the idea of inclusion. Not only the wise, but also the simple, the ignorant, and the wicked children participate. When describing the commandment of “telling your child,” Maimonides makes the point of saying “and here the child asks.” (Chametz and Matzah, Chapter 7) If our children don’t play an active role at the Seder, we do not fulfill the command!

Rabbi Heshie Billet is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Woodmere.

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The Fifth Cup Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon

O

n Seder night, we mention the four verbs of redemption – “I will take you out… I will save you… I will redeem you… I will take you” – and drink four glasses of wine corresponding to them. However, in the verses of the Torah there are actually five verbs of redemption: Therefore, tell the children of Israel that I am G-d, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to Me as a people, and… I will bring you to the land… (Shemot 6:6–8) The significance of the fifth verb is found in Sifri (Devarim 301), which interprets the last verse as referring to the Temple and the Land of Israel: “He brought us to this place” – this refers to the Temple; “He gave us this land” – this refers to the Land of Israel. Why did it mention the Temple before the Land of Israel? To teach us that as a reward for coming to this place He gave us this Land.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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Indeed, there is a dispute among the Rishonim whether there are five verbs of redemption or only four. According to Ra’avad (Temim De’im 30), there are five, and we should therefore drink a fifth glass of wine, corresponding to “I will bring you” (nowadays, the fifth glass of wine is poured but not drunk, and it is generally referred to as “the glass of Eliyahu”). However, if that is the case, why don’t we also mention the fifth verb of “I will bring you” in the haggadah?

There are a number of explanations for this. One logical explanation is to say that the haggadah only deals with matters that already occurred in the past, leaving Egypt and entering under the wings of the Divine Presence, to the exclusion of future events. Also, though it is true that G-d brought us to the Land of Israel, we ultimately were sent into exile, and so this verb is not mentioned. According to this, there is reason in our days to thank G-d for our present reality, as we have been given the privilege of returning to our Land due to G-d’s great kindness to us. The verse of “I will bring you into the Land’’ has been fulfilled! However, it is also possible that as the verse also refers to the Temple, we should not mention the fifth verse until the Temple itself is rebuilt. As mentioned, there are those who hold that there are only four verbs, and according to them we understand why this verse is not added. Netziv explains that there are indeed five verbs of redemption, but the fifth one is not “I will bring you”, but “you you will know that I am the L-rd” (Shemot 6:7). This knowledge has nothing to do with actions of G-d, but with the knowledge of the Nation of Israel, and that may be the reason it is not expounded in the haggadah. Despite this, there are those who argue that today in the Land of Israel one must drink five glasses of wine, to correspond to all five expressions, including “I will bring you”. This was the view of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher: In our times, when we have been privileged to see G-d’s kindness and His rescue of us… and the fulfillment of the promise of “I will bring

you to the Land”, it is appropriate to perform the most admirable commandment of drinking a fifth glass of wine, and to recite the Great Hallel over it, “Who remembered us in our lowliness… and delivered us from our oppressors”, and to thank G-d for all the miracles and wonders. (Haggadat Pesach Eretz Yisraelit, p.179 and thereafter) In practice, the fifth cup is generally not drunk, but it is only poured. So too, most people do not recite the fifth verse, though one who wishes to say it may do so. Either way, we have reason to thank G-d, not only for the Exodus from Egypt, and not only because we survived our exile, but also for all the good that G-d has heaped upon us in the Land of Israel, the beginning of the flowering of our redemption, and in the process to hope and pray that the redemption will be completed speedily, in our days.  This essay was originally printed in

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon’s Shirat Miriam: Haggadah Mimekorah.

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He serves as the Rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and is the Founder and Chairman of Sulamot.


Yizkor – A Deeper Form of Joy

M

any believe that the custom to recite yizkor during the holidays represents a solemn few moments of sadness in the midst of our joy. It is also commonly believed that those whose parents are still alive leave the sanctuary before yizkor in order to avoid “opening one’s mouth to the Satan” (al tiftach peh lasatan). As the recitation of yizkor is an act of mourning, those whose parents are alive should not be present during yizkor, as it would imply, G-d forbid, that they too are in mourning. Finally, many believe that the reason many shuls have the custom to make a “yizkor appeal” on behalf of a charity is because many more people show up for yizkor than on other days of the year, providing a large and captive audience, and a better opportunity for a successful fundraiser. Though widespread, all three of these assumptions are incorrect! We always recite yizkor on yom tov, when there is a mitzvah of simchah – an obligation to be joyous! Mourning and joy are mutually exclusive, and so it is forbidden to observe any forms of mourning on yom tov. Why, then, did the custom develop to recite yizkor on yom tov? In the times of the Tosafists, when the yizkor prayer was originally instituted, the same number of people would attend shul on the weekdays as on Shabbat and yom tov.1 The yizkor appeal was not instituted “after the fact”, because so many people were reciting the yizkor prayer. Rather, the yizkor appeal was established as an expression of the “joy of yom tov” (simchat yom tov), a way to bring joy to the poor on yamim tovim.

Maimonides writes: “When a person eats and drinks [in celebration of a holiday], he is obligated to feed converts, orphans, widows, and others who are destitute and poor. In contrast, a person who locks the gates of his courtyard and eats and drinks with his children and his wife, without feeding the poor and the embittered, is [not indulging in] rejoicing associated with a mitzvah, but rather the rejoicing of his stomach.” (Laws of Yom Tov 6:18)

Mourning and joy are mutually exclusive, and so it is forbidden to observe any forms of mourning on yom tov. Why, then, did the custom develop to recite yizkor on yom tov? The Torah defines true simchah as one who brings joy to others who are less fortunate, such as orphans, widows, and converts. And so the yom tov appeal was established to support and bring joy to the poor and needy, to fulfill the mitzvah of simchah on yom tov. Only later on was the yizkor prayer introduced; once people were already giving charity, it was proper to do so as a merit for their parents, who had raised them to be kind and giving people who fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah. Why do those whose parents are alive walk out of the sanctuary during yizkor? The Talmud explains that it doesn’t look right when everyone in shul is praying and one individual abstains, as it suggests the individual does not believe in the efficacy of prayer.2

Rabbi Hershel Schachter

Only last month we celebrated Purim, when we fulfilled the special mitzvot of mishloach manot and matanot l’evyonim. Maimonides writes that if one can afford to go above and beyond the basic obligation of these two mitzvot, “it is preferable for a person to be more liberal with his donations to the poor than to be lavish in his preparation of the Purim feast or in sending portions to his friends. For there is no greater form of simchah than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts. One who brings happiness to the hearts of these unfortunate individuals resembles G-d himself…” (Laws of Megillah 2:17) In recent years, some have started a new and most meaningful custom: when spending a lot of money on their family bar mitzvah or wedding, they enhance the simchah by sponsoring a bar mitzvah or wedding on behalf of those who can not afford to make one on their own. This is the most glorious way to experience simchah. Chag sameach! 1. This fact even affected observance of halachah. See Tosafot Gittin 59b s.v. aval. 2. Berachot 20b. See Nefesh HaRav, 153.

 A version of this essay was originally published at TorahWeb.org.

Rabbi Hershel Schachter is Rosh Yeshivah and Rosh Kollel at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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Not Just a

Reuven abbiRabbi Hershel Brand hachter

Spoonful of Sugar P

esach is an important time to ask ourselves why. The text of the haggadah formulates a series of familiar “why” questions: Why do we eat matzah and maror? Why do we lean while drinking four cups of wine? Though we ask these questions at the Seder, we already know their answers. As we prepare for this singular night, we have an opportunity to ask a deeper question: Why are we having a Seder in the first place? This is not the general question of why the Seder exists. It is the personal question of why am I choosing to conduct a Seder? Why am I choosing to observe the mitzvot of Seder night? Why are we committed to a life of Torah and mitzvot generally? The Seder is a microcosm of Jewish life. It is an evening of faith, mitzvot, Torah learning, celebration, family and tradition. Our goal is to convey all of this to the next generation, and we are equipped with the Seder – an integrated experiential project that engages the mind, heart and palate. The Rabbis structured the Seder so we may engage our children in its lessons by asking questions, telling stories and by providing treats and incentives. Maimonides (Chametz U’Matzah 7:3) teaches that we should give children treats to keep them involved in the Seder – although his suggestion of nuts as an attractive motivator may need to be updated for our time. Our children

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first engage with the Seder because it’s fun, sweet and instantly rewarding.

than treats, money or honor, but an incentive nonetheless.

The prominent role of incentives for children on Seder night mirrors the place of incentives in our broader educational and spiritual approach to life. We encourage people to lean in to Judaism with a variety of “carrots” that the Rabbis categorize as ‫ׁ ֶשלּ ֹא‬ ‫ל ׁ ְש ָמ ּה‬,ִ “motivated by other reasons”, with the hope that it will ultimately lead to an inspired and committed life of ‫ל ׁ ְש ָמ ּה‬,ִ of being “motivated by the right reasons”. Accordingly, Maimonides delineates various stages of incentives that parallel a person’s development: we reward children with candy, adolescents with clothing and adults with honor (Commentary on the Mishnah, Sanhedrin, Perek Cheilek).

We must recognize that these incentive-based approaches to Torah life have drawbacks and even dangers. When we create extrinsic incentives emphasizing ‫מ ּתוֹ ְך ׁ ֶשלּ ֹא ִל ׁ ְש ָמ ּה ָ ּבא ִל ׁ ְש ָמ ּה‬,ִ “from a different motivation we will come to the right motivation”, we demonstrate the value of the activity by investing in it. But at the very same time, we also run the risk of devaluing the practice we are trying to reinforce.

Though they are not the most noble reason to perform mitzvot, incentives are acceptable and even encouraged. Why should we choose to do mitzvot? Because we receive an attractive reward. This is understandable. If, as the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot teaches, this world is like an entry hall and the world to come is the main stage, we earn our place in olam haba through our performance of mitzvot in this life. It would follow, then, that what we do matters more than why we do it; the goal is to accrue merits. In this vein, we often incentivize observance with the promise of olam haba, a more noble and lofty reward

My childhood Disney memories illustrate this well. In the iconic Mary Poppins song, A Spoonful of Sugar, Michael and Jane, two boisterous British youth, clean their nursery to this fabled tune. Mary Poppins uses extrinsic rewards to motivate the children to clean the nursery. Though incentives like these are effective and appropriate for housework, the application of this model to our Torah lives is problematic. It implies that a life of Torah observance is akin to eating cod oil: burdensome, unpleasant and requiring something enticing to motivate us to comply. Why should we embrace an observant life of Torah and mitzvot? Rewards and incentives – even the reward of olam haba – are a shallow answer to this question and can leave us feeling empty. Additionally, what happens when the “spoonful of sugar” we offer as a reward for mitzvot is less appealing


than the alluring pleasures of the modern, secular world? When rewards and incentives are the primary motivations for living a Torah life, we risk losing people who find the incentives of the broader world more enticing than our own. Will we lose these people from Torah life entirely? Although incentives surely have a place in our overall religious experience, there is a far more compelling reason to make a Seder, observe Pesach and live the life of an engaged and inspired Torah Jew – a reason found in the Seder itself. Authentic happiness in life can only be achieved, appreciated and felt when we live a deeply spiritual existence. The core message of the Seder is that each of us lives in an ongoing relationship with Hashem, the Creative Force of the universe. Though we appreciate periodic moments of fun and excitement, it is our daily awareness of Hashem’s presence with us in the everyday details of life that fills our lives with meaning and happiness.

the physical world to the freedom of connection with transcendence: our relationship with Hashem.

Authentic happiness in life can only be achieved, appreciated and felt when we live a deeply spiritual existence. Incentives are a wonderful way to create moments of fun and excitement within Judaism on Pesach and throughout the year. But the primary education we provide our children is through modeling a joyous Torah life of connection with Hashem. If our children see us truly enjoying our Torah lives and our relationship with Hashem, it can inspire them.

If our Seder table not only features plastic frogs and preschool projects but also an authentic sense of personal connection with Hashem, it can fulfill its primary purpose of passing our greatest gift and source of joy – our spiritual heritage – to future generations. Why do we celebrate the Seder? Because the Seder brings together so many aspects of Jewish life all centered around the greatest reward of all: a life of connection with Hashem Himself. Rabbi Reuven Brand is the Rosh Kollel of the YU Torah MiTzion Kollel, a community Torah institution with a vibrant Beit Midrash, array of creative learning opportunities, unique women’s initiative and diverse outreach programming. He lives in Skokie, Illinois with his wife, Nechama, and their five children.

Our emunah, our spiritual awareness, is the source of our self-worth and inner fulfillment. It nourishes our confidence and supports us during times of loneliness and disappointment. Our mitzvot connect us with Hashem, the Source of life, which is why the true reward for a mitzvah is another mitzvah – another opportunity to connect with the deepest part of ourselves. One definition of the word Pesach is “to grasp”. On Seder night we feel Hashem holding us tightly just as he held on to and protected each Jewish home in Egypt. This closeness, the way we can feel the Divine Presence within us at our Seder table, brings us so much joy that we break out in song (Hallel). The words of the haggadah help us progress in our personal journey. We move from feeling enslaved to the limitations of

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B’Simchah Rabbah:

Why We Celebrate the Last Day of Pesach Rabbi Reuven Taragin

O

n the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate and celebrate the splitting of the sea by reading about the miracle in Parashat Beshalach (Megillah 30b). What aspect of Kri’at Yam Suf are we celebrating?

The miracle – geulah and cherut The simplest explanation is that the seventh day commemorates the miracle of Kri’at Yam Suf. The seventh day parallels the first day of Pesach, with each day commemorating a miraculous stage of the Exodus: the first day, the beginning, and the seventh, the completion. Kri’at Yam Suf completed two aspects of the Exodus. The first aspect was the redemption itself. The Yerushalmi (Pesachim 71:1) explains that Bnei Yisrael did not sing shirah when they first left Mitzrayim, because it was only the beginning of the redemption. The Ohr HaChayim (Shemot 12:15) explains that the redemption was only completed with Kri’at Yam Suf. The centrality of the splitting of the sea is evident from the text of the geulah beracha recited before Scan here to join Shemoneh Esreh. The blessing mentions Rabbi Taragin’s the Exodus only briefly, focusing instead daily Divrei Torah on Kri’at Yam Suf. WhatsApp group

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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Kri’at Yam Suf also completed the process of cherut (freedom). The Torah twice mentions that the name of the place near the sea where the Jews camped was Pi HaChirot, “the mouth of freedom.” (Shemot 14:2, 14:9) Rashi cites the Mechilta, explaining that the Jews only became truly free through Kri’at Yam Suf. The Talmud learns from the story of the Exodus that one should sing shirah when freed from slavery. Rashi explains that this “Exodus song” is the one the Jews sang at the sea. Though the people had left Egypt a week before, they only achieved true freedom at the sea, and so that is where they sang.

Why were these processes completed only at the sea and not through the initial Exodus? The commentators1 explain that even after they left Egypt, the people continued to see the Egyptians as their owners and taskmasters. Only once the Egyptians perished at the sea did the Jews feel completely redeemed and truly free.

The shirah and simchah Rashi2 understood the significance of the seventh day differently. He explains that our commemoration and celebration are not due to the miracle, but to the people’s response – their singing of shirah. The Sforno (Vayikra 23:36) uses this idea to explain the Torah’s usage of the term atzeret (gathering) to describe the yom tov status of the seventh day of Pesach. The seventh day celebrates the fact that the Jewish people gathered together to sing shirah. The Torah emphasizes this point because, had they not done so, the seventh day would not be a yom tov. The miracle of Kri’at Yam Suf alone would not have been enough basis for a yom tov. Only the shirah gives us reason to celebrate. This explains the opinion quoted by the Maharil3 that instead of calling the seventh day zman cheruteinu, “the time of our freedom,” we should describe it as zman simchateinu, “the time of our joy.” This description is surprising. Pesach is the only holiday regarding which the Torah does not mention simchah. Why does the Maharil argue that simchah is the central characteristic of the seventh day? Shirah is rooted in feelings of simchah. The Gemara (Arachin 11a) links the Levi’im’s shirah in the Temple to a verse that mentions the importance of serving Hashem with simchah and goodness of heart (Devarim 28:47), explaining that shirah is the expression of serving Hashem with simchah. Rashi adds that

we only sing when we are happy and in good spirits. Song is a unique expression of happiness; though many things generate happiness, song is the way we express happiness. (Tzon Kedoshim) Kri’at Yam Suf was more than “just” another miracle on behalf of our people. It was the moment we were finally relieved and happy enough to express our thanks in song to Hashem, and it is this song that we commemorate and celebrate on the seventh day. According to Maharil, their happiness is the essence of what the day should be for us as well.

Bayamim haheim bazman hazeh Let’s use the seventh day of Pesach to appreciate, celebrate and sing about the gift of true freedom Hashem gave us – bayamim haheim and bazman hazeh! 1. Rabbeinu Bechayei (Shemot 6:7) writes this about the geulah, the Sforno (Shemot 14:30) writes it about the cherut, and the Ohr HaChayim (Shemot 14:30) writes it about the yeshu’ah (salvation). 2. Megillah 31a 3. Sefer Maharil (Minhagim) Seder Tefillot Shel Pesach

 Dedicated to Miriam HaNevi’ah, one of our first female leaders, who led the Jewish women in song in response to the miracle of the splitting of the sea.  Transcribed by Adina Lev.

Rabbi Reuven Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and Dean of the Yeshivat Hakotel Overseas Program.


Spiritual Liberation from Material Enslavement

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

I

srael and Egypt are diametrically opposed. Egypt was an extremely materialistic society with a pagan worldview. Israel, on the other hand, is unique with its spiritual and abstract worldview. Thus, only Israel was able to accept the abstract belief in one incorporeal and non-physical G-d. Consequently, Israel’s relationship to the material world is also pure and refined, and Jews are thus naturally modest and circumscribed in their sexual mores. The Egyptians, on the other hand, due to their emphasis on the physical and their materialistic worldview, were strongly attracted to promiscuity and sexual transgression. The Torah thus commands: “You shall not do like the deeds of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelt” (Vayikra 18:3). The Sages interpreted this to mean that no nation committed deeds more abominable than the Egyptians did (Torat Kohanim ad loc.), especially the last generation that enslaved Israel (based on Maharal’s Gevurot Hashem ch.4). Egypt of that period indeed accomplished some amazing material and administrative feats by creating a stable regime, an advanced irrigation system, and a sophisticated economy (in part due to the help of Yosef, Ya’akov’s son). However, these material accomplishments were disconnected from the spiritual world and even opposed to it. Their worldview was extremely idolatrous. They did not believe in the existence of an independent, spiritual soul, but thought that the soul is contingent on and subservient to the existence of the physical body. The Egyptians went to great lengths to embalm corpses because they thought that one’s existence hinges solely on his physical substance, even in death, when one was no longer able to move or speak but continued to exist in every other

respect. Accordingly, they invested enormous effort in building pyramids, which are glorified cemeteries for the body.

shall graze, together their young shall lie down. The lion shall eat straw like cattle… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-rd, as the waters cover the sea. (Yeshayahu 11:4–9)

There is beauty and wisdom reflected in the amazing regularity of the laws of nature, but they do not possess morality.

Thus, the Exodus from Egypt was not merely the emancipation of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. Rather, it was the liberation of all mankind from the chains of materialism. This is why it is so important to delve into the Exodus, to the extent that we are commanded to see ourselves, every year on the Seder night, as though we ourselves left Egypt. We have also been commanded to remember the Exodus every day and every night. To a certain extent, Shabbat and all holidays were established to commemorate the Exodus, for at the Exodus the spirit of man was freed from the bonds of material existence. Since we have not finished liberating ourselves from the bonds of the material world – the chains of the evil impulse and its lusts – from a spiritual perspective, we still need to continue leaving Egypt. Hence, it is a mitzvah to delve into the Exodus.

To be sure, the material world has an important place in Judaism as well. However, a worldview based solely on physical existence will necessarily be idolatrous and amoral. This is because all of the paradigms provided by nature are amoral. There is beauty and wisdom reflected in the amazing regularity of the laws of nature, but they do not possess morality. The strong prey on the weak just as the powerful enslave the poor. The pagan worldview, instead of striving toward a higher level, sanctifies material existence with all its brutality and injustice. In contrast, a faith-based and spiritual worldview is characterized by constant striving toward improving the world, fighting evil, and empowering justice. This is how the prophet Yeshayahu described the ultimate redemption and the Mashiach’s leadership: But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the land; He shall smite the land with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of His waist, and faithfulness the girdle of His loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid… the cow and the bear

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed is one of the leading Religious Zionist rabbis in Israel. He is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Bracha and author of Peninei Halachah, one of the most influential halachic works of our generation.

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Rabbi Yechiel Wasserman

For in Haste did you Leave the Land of Egypt

T

he word ‫ח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬,ִ “haste”, is one of the key words associated with Pesach. “And this is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you ְּ shall eat it in haste (‫)ב ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬...” (Shemot 12:11). The word is also used regarding the prohibition of eating chametz on Pesach: “You shall not eat leaven with it; for seven days you shall eat with it matzot, the bread of affliction, for in ּ ְ you went out of the land haste (‫)ב ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬ of Egypt…” (Devarim 16:3). Rashi explains that ‫ ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬denotes haste and speed, when you do something quickly while under pressure, in contrast to when you do something calmly and in a calculated way. Why did the children of Israel leave Egypt in haste? “Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya says: What is meant by ‘haste’? The haste of the Egyptians. Rabbi Akiva says: It is the haste of Israel” (Berachot 9a). Rabbi Elazar says that the Egyptians hastened to urge the people of Israel to leave Egypt. For many months, Pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel leave, only relenting after the plague of the firstborn, when there was a great outcry in Egypt. Pharaoh called Moshe and Aharon and hurried to send the people away in the middle of the night. The Egyptians feared that the plague of the firstborn would spread to the entire nation – that they would all die! “So the Egyptians took hold of the people to hasten to send them out of the land, for they said, ‘We are all dead’” (Shemot 12:33). The Egyptians understood that the Hand of G-d was among them, and so they hurried to banish the children of Israel. By contrast, Rabbi Akiva argues that it was the people of Israel who hastened. For months they had seen the Egyptians give them permission

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to leave Egypt, only to change their minds and harden their hearts. When Pharaoh finally agreed to let them leave, the people could not miss out on the opportunity – they fled as quickly as possible! The Mechilta offers a third explanation: “Abba Chanan says: What is meant by haste? The haste of the Shechinah (G-d’s Presence).” What is the meaning of G-d’s haste? “It came to pass at the end of four hundred and thirty years, and it came to pass on that very day, that all the legions of the L-rd went out of the land of Egypt” (Shemot 12:41. Rashi explains that “as soon as the end [of this period] arrived, G-d did not keep them [in Egypt even] as long as the blink of an eye.”

Just as the mother in the moment of birth finds the strength to hold her baby, so G-d in the moment of redemption longed for us and took us to Him. During our nation’s time in Egypt, we were like a fetus in the womb of its mother. Just as an expectant mother waits anxiously for the moment of birth, so G-d waited for the 430 years of slavery foretold in the brit bein habetarim to be completed, until the 15th of Nissan. And when the exact time came, on that very day, the joyous moment of birth arrived, and the people of Israel were born. Just as the mother in the moment of birth finds the strength to hold her baby, so G-d in the moment of redemption longed for us and took us to Him. The word ‫ ִח ּ ָפזוֹ ן‬is also found in Yishayahu’s prophecies about the future redemption: “For not with

haste shall you go forth and not in a flurry of flight shall you go, for the L-rd goes before you, and your rear guard is the G-d of Israel” (Yishayahu 52:12). Unlike the redemption from Egypt, the final redemption will come slowly and steadily. Why will the final redemption be different? The Maharal explains: “The redemption from Egypt was not a permanent redemption; it was a temporary redemption that was later followed by other times of bondage. This is why it occurred in haste, for it was not permanent, and the people feared the opportunity would be missed. But the final redemption will be an eternal redemption, a redemption that… need not be rushed.” (Netzach Yisrael) The redemption we yearn for every day is a long and difficult process; we do not know G-d’s plan. Our people are experiencing internal crises and external dangers, and we must do everything in our power to overcome them. A believing Jew must hope for the redemption, for every day may bring the redemption for which we long: “and even though he delays, every day I will wait for him to come.”

Rabbi Yechiel Wasserman is Co-President of World Mizrachi.


YO M H A S H OA H

And the Bush Was Not Consumed

M

any years ago, I was walking on Beit HaKerem Street in Jerusalem with my wife Efrat. We walked by two elderly women who were sitting together on a bench. Suddenly, I noticed something and said to Efrat, “I need to stop for a moment.” I walked back a few steps, and saw a large number with five digits on one of the women’s arms: 26801. While I wondered and stared, I noticed that the other woman also had a number on her arm. We turned to them and began to talk. “Shabbat Shalom… we just saw, we were intrigued… would it be ok to ask?” And then I realized that the inverted numbers on their folded arms were consecutive numbers. The number on the second woman’s arm was 26802.

It means that in Auschwitz, when they were on the selection line, when they got off the train – then, too, they stood together, one behind the other. I felt goosebumps. How is it possible to explain the significance of this image? Then, two young girls, at the entrance of a death camp, smoke. Today, a bench in Jerusalem, Shabbat, peace. Still together, even now. Perhaps we saw a little bit of the bush that burned, but was not consumed… After I composed a song to the verse ‫ה ְּסנֶ ה בּ ֵֹער ָ ּב ֵא ׁש וְ ַה ְּסנֶ ה ֵאינֶ נּ ּו ֻא ָ ּכל‬,ַ “The bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed” (Shemot 3:2), the verse which represents the eternity of Am Yisrael but also hints to the burning and long exile that our nation

Aaron Razel

would have to experience before the redeemer comes – my Savta Fanny would say to me: “You sing ‘the bush was not consumed’. But I was one of the few who survived, out of so many. Am I allowed to say that the bush was consumed, a little bit?” I said to her, “I’m not going to argue with you, Savta.” At that time, my grandmother had eleven grandchildren; the greatgrandchildren had not yet arrived. Eighteen years later, we celebrated her 95th birthday. More than forty greatgrandchildren sat at her feet, and we all were there, surrounding her. She was weak at that point, wheelchairbound, but sharper than ever. She motioned to me with her finger to come over to her. I went closer and bent my head to hear her. She whispered to me: “Do you remember when I said that the bush was a little bit consumed? I have something important to tell you. I was wrong. I want to take it back. The bush burned, but it was not consumed!”

Aaron Razel is a writer, composer and artist. His twelve albums include songs like “Ha’Sneh Bo’er” (The Burning Bush) and “Zman Ha’Geulah” (The Time of Redemption) that have become part of the broader cultural landscape of Israel. He lives in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem with his wife and children. This essay was originally published in Hebrew in his book “HaChayim k’Niggun” (Life as a Niggun).

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iela Davis

n here to join la’s Inspiring rei Torah atsApp group

DON’T SEND MONEY: Bring it with You to the Land! Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan’s Opening Speech at the Sixth US Mizrachi Convention in 1919

(PHOTO: BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

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If Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines was the founder and visionary of the Mizrachi movement, Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan was the powerful engine that brought so many of those dreams to fulfillment. The son of the great Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (the Netziv), he joined the Mizrachi movement as a young man and later Hebraicized his last name. Representing Mizrachi at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905, he voted against the Uganda plan, convinced that Eretz Yisrael was the only possible homeland for the Jewish people. It is from this point on that Bar-Ilan began to devote his entire life and activities to the development of the Mizrachi party in the Diaspora and Eretz Yisrael. Appointed secretary of the Mizrachi World Movement, he moved to the United States in 1915 where he served as President of the U.S. Mizrachi. He coined the Mizrachi slogan ‫ּתֹורת יִ ְׂש ָר ֵאל‬ ַ ‫א ֶרץ יִ ְׂש ָר ֵאל ְל ַעם יִ ְׂש ָר ֵאל ַעל ִּפי‬, ֶ “The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel.” A passionate activist, he understood that the spiritual composition of the Jewish State must be decided not through ideas and advice, nor through promises or decisions made from afar, but rather through the participation of the religious community in building the land itself. Moving to Israel in 1926, he was a leading opponent of the Palestine partition plan in 1937 and of the British White Paper of 1939 and advocated civil disobedience and complete noncooperation of the Jewish population with the British authorities. Along with Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, he also played a leading role in the founding of the Talmudic Encyclopedia. Before his death, Rabbi Bar-Ilan saw the realization of his dream – the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. In the last year of his life, the first of the new State, he fought hard to have Jerusalem declared the capital of Eretz Yisrael. His name has been memorialized in various places in Israel, such as Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, and Moshav Beit Meir near Jerusalem. The sixth Mizrachi convention in the United States was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, from May 23–27, 1919. Over 250 delegates, including sixty rabbis, were in attendance, and Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan gave the keynote speech. The following is a translation of his powerful words, first printed in Hebrew in the Warsaw edition of HaMizrachi in the summer of 1919 and now translated to English in honor of his 73rd yahrzeit, on the 18th of Nissan.

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The political situation concerning the Land of Israel can be condensed in the following brief words: The gates have opened before us, and we need only go to the land, build it, and establish a hold on it. We must move quickly and go to the land while the gates are open, we must act promptly and go to the land while no change has yet been made to it. The only way is to increase the number of those entering the land, to ensure immigration continues nonstop, to the point where locking the gates will be impossible. Of course, we must be wary of entering in a panic, of mass immigration, but we must increase our numbers in the land and substantively expand our influence. And upon entering the land, we must “affix a mezuzah to our doorway”; we must imprint our lives with the stamp of authentic Judaism! “All the nations of the earth shall see that You are called by the name of Hashem, and they shall venerate You.” (Devarim 28:10) This is not an empty verse. Even the great statesman Balfour emphasizes that the creation of a Hebrew homeland with a religious character has an important place in politics overall. Further, before we go to the land, we must make plain our demands and assert the grounds on which we stand: that we want the land to be the Land of Israel, the land of the Jews and of Judaism... Here it must be said that perplexity still prevails in the minds of many with regard to the approach of Mizrachi toward the Zionist Organization following the schism. Mizrachi of America, as a chapter of World Mizrachi, is part of the World Zionist Organization and not of the Zionist Organization of America. Mizrachi comes not to divide, but to unite, and the only place where it is possible to unite all denominations and parties is the Zionist Organization. If another national institution that serves as the representative of the nation is created, Mizrachi will assume a place there too. For the moment, we have no national institution other than the Zionist Organization, and in order not to divide the unitary national body, Mizrachi is not leaving the Zionist Organization, whether it agrees with the opinions of its leaders or does

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An early Mizrachi USA convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. (PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

not. However, it cannot forgo its individuality, its principles. Indeed, from its very inception, Mizrachi was created so that the Orthodox in all places would become a discrete force, a conspicuous and visible force, that is not overwhelmed by the [secular] majority. Mizrachi is not an individual entity within a collective, but a collective that encompasses individuals. Owing to this doctrine, the question of education in the Land of Israel posed a challenging problem for us. On one hand, we recognized the need for a single leadership, for a single authority. Yet conversely, we cannot yield on matters of education even one iota. After lengthy consideration, we arrived at the decision that there is no solution other than that there will be two education committees in the Land of Israel, and each of these committees will be independent and autonomous. Not one committee for Judaic studies and another committee for secular studies. We want all studies, secular studies among them, to be learned in our spirit [of Torah]. Though we cannot force our opinions on others, it is also not our wish that others force their opinions on us. Therefore, we decided that our education committee would be independent and the Orthodox schools would be under our supervision and administration, and it would have the same standing as the other education committee. This decision was accepted by our colleagues in the Land of Israel, who are familiar with conditions there, and

our demand was fulfilled at the Zionist Congress in London. We demanded as well that Mizrachi be granted representation on all of the workers’ committees, and we could not concede this demand either. We do not want merely to be “supervisors of kashrut”, to stand at a distance and see others work. On the contrary, we want to work, to act, and to do. As a party, we must draw up a complete plan concerning all aspects of future life in our land, make our demands clear to ourselves, and defend them resolutely. Thus, for instance, we must demand that the spirit of the Torah and of tradition hold sway in public life, that the laws be laws of Israel, that the statutes of gittin and kiddushin be decisive in family matters. Our Torah is not merely a Torah of observances, but a Torah of life. These demands were uppermost in our minds at the Zionist Congress in London. Members of Mizrachi participated in all the various committees and expressed their views everywhere, the view of Mizrachi, and defended it. On a few questions, the view of the Mizrachi delegates was the deciding view. Thus, for instance, Mizrachi decided the question of nationalizing land. Those advocating for nationalizing land demanded that no individual have permission to purchase land in any place in the Land of Israel, and that all land instead be national property. The members of Mizrachi agreed with the principle of nationalizing land, but recognized that it is implausible to preclude individuals


from redeeming land from foreigners. Therefore, they proposed that land be bought with public funds and be national property, but individuals too have permission to redeem tracts of land and to purchase them from foreigners, and this proposal was accepted at the Congress. After we returned from London clearly aware that Mizrachi can be a major force among our people, Mizrachi began developing with quick strides in America as well. Members were added, chapters were founded, and the organization continually grew from day to day. I do not know the actual reason for the rapid development of Mizrachi in recent months. It is possible that the disputes between Mizrachi and the General Zionists caused many to take note of the character, views, and stances of Mizrachi. The motto of Mizrachi seems already to have gained repute, to the point that others are coming and mimicking it. Not only did Mizrachi create the motto “The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel” on paper, but it strives to bring it to life, and if others come and mimic it in that respect too – may they be blessed! Work is executed not by a program, but by workers and doers. We must publicize the character, goals, and ambitions of Mizrachi not only with words, but also with deeds, through industrious and faithful workers. Our organization has grown greatly this year. We have been joined by new forces who until now stood at a distance from our movement and were distant from any work in the Land of Israel. Many have answered our call and given hundreds and thousands. But this is not how the Land of Israel will be built. A relationship must be created between the donor and the Land of Israel, such that the donor will know that he is receiving. We must draw the Jews of the synagogues and the study halls close to working the land, thereby bringing them into the Mizrachi Organization. As long as Zionism was merely a matter of fashion, it had no place in the synagogues and study halls. However, now that it has

become a vital question, now that it concerns building the nation and the land in practice, it has relevance to the Jews of the synagogues and study halls. Of course, they must embrace whole and complete Zionism: Mizrachi Zionism! The members of the synagogues must accept the Mizrachi program and join Mizrachi not only as individuals, but as groups. This is what Agudath HaRabbonim did at its recent convention, resolving to join Mizrachi as an association. This is what real rabbis do. Numerous synagogues in New York and country towns are continually joining Mizrachi. In financial matters as well, our organization has emerged from its limited circle. We were compelled to announce an Eretz Yisrael Fund to the amount of half a million dollars. Even without a significant fundraising campaign, about one hundred and ten thousand dollars, including forty thousand in cash, has been brought in thus far for the fund. Yet this amount is quite small relative to what is needed. We must expand our work in the Land of Israel, particularly in Jerusalem. “One who tears [in mourning] over Jerusalem is exempt from tearing over the other cities of Judea” – and the same goes for rebuilding our holy city! Jerusalem has great political value, because it is there that the backbone of the Yishuv resides. We must create in Jerusalem a healthy community that will not require support, that will stand on its own and will sustain itself: a united community that is not divided and partitioned into Sefardim and Ashkenazim, Yemenites and Bukharans. This partition is an outcome of the exile, and we must eradicate it.

and our homeland, and if only we so desire, we can build it. We have wealthy individuals and statesmen in greater numbers than others think. We must purchase real estate in the Land of Israel, must redeem the land from foreigners, and so we shall have the dust of the Land of Israel not after death, but in life! Mizrachi must disseminate its spirit in every possible place. The teachers’ training college too was founded for the dissemination of this spirit. This college is in need of development, it remains a fragile sapling that requires cultivation and care. Yet it is to be hoped that this institution will develop and attain its exalted purpose: to rear expert teachers loyal to Judaism and to tradition. We must provide the people and the money for great and unceasing work in the exile and in the Land of Israel. A great hour is upon us, and we must be prepared with forces mustered and means at the ready.

Mizrachi must muster our forces and send pioneers to the Land of Israel who will literally participate in building the land. If Mizrachi were not to build the land, then others all the more so! We are in need of people who do not send money, but bring it with them to the land! Let the merchants among us, the accomplished individuals, come and invest their resources in the Land of Israel for business and for profit. We must answer the call of the Land of Israel, of our country

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A L I YA H D I A R I E S

Olim Schools: An Anglo Bubble or Your Ticket to a Successful Aliyah?

Ariela Davis

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on’t make Aliyah with teenagers. It’s a constant refrain that families entertaining the crazy but idealistic fulfillment of their Aliyah dreams hear from just about everyone. Throw young kids into the Israeli system and they’ll be rattling off Hebrew within a year, making fun of your woefully American accent and climbing over fences with their Israeli classmates. But to uproot teens from their friends and everything that provides them with stability, identity and comfort when they are already struggling at that prickly age? Bad idea. Whether it’s due to new opportunities to work remotely or the loss of faith in the future of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, many families are now making the ‘insane’ decision to make Aliyah with teens. As the principal of Ulpanat Orly, a girls’ high school designed for olim, I speak to many such families each week.

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The fears of making Aliyah with teens are not groundless. Though simply dropping kids into the deep end of the pool in the hopes of speeding their integration is often successful, throwing teens into anything does not work the same way. By nature, teens yearn for independence and autonomy, while moving with your family across the ocean demands significant buy-in and adaptability. Even if a teen is on board with the move, their adolescent insecurity can make everything feel more challenging. Learning math and science in Hebrew in order to take the bagrut (Israel’s matriculation exams) requires far different vocabulary and fluency than their day-school Hebrew has prepared them for. Many former straight-A students experience a loss of identity as they sit, disoriented, in a Hebrew-speaking classroom while earning grades far lower than

they used to. It is daunting for even the most socially-adjusted kids to break into existing social cliques while fearing the embarrassment of making mistakes in Hebrew. While many teen olim adapt and succeed in mainstream Israeli schools, others struggle. I’ve met many students who lose their motivation to learn Hebrew, refuse to go to school and make plans to return to their country of origin as soon as possible – even when living in communities with considerable Anglo populations. But we’ve also seen many teens experience incredible success at schools designed to help them acclimate and integrate into the country at a pace that meets their academic and social needs. At schools like Ulpanat Orly in Beit Shemesh, devoted staff ease students into learning Hebrew in an environment where students can ask questions in their own language and can practice their Hebrew without being selfconscious about their accent – because everyone else has one too. Eventually, students do learn the language – but at their own pace, without pressure. Many of these schools also make a special effort to inspire a love for Israel and the Land, helping teens understand why it was worth giving up

the comfort of their old life to embark on this new adventure. While most parents are initially hesitant to enroll their teens in an ‘Anglo-bubble’ school, many of those same parents are later deeply grateful that their kids are happy and learning again. Schools designed for olim may not offer the immediate integration in Israeli society that we all want for our kids, but they might just be your ticket to a successful Aliyah!

Ariela Davis is the Principal of Ulpanat Orly in Beit Shemesh and a former Rebbetzin and Director of Judaics/Interim Principal in Charleston, SC, from where her family made Aliyah in the summer of 2020.


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