What’s so bad about Chametz?!מה כל כך רע בחמץ?!

What’s so bad about Chametz?!

In this week’s parsha, Tzav, the Torah commands: “Any meal offering that you offer to God shall not be prepared leavened, for you shall not cause to go up in smoke on the Altar any leavening or fruit-honey as a fire-offering to Hashem” (see Vayikra 2:11). Leavened bread (and honey) are thus disqualified for all mincha offerings.

The Argument For Chametz

Why, then, does the Torah command, in Vayikra 23:17, that the Two Loaves (Shtei Ha’Lechem) brought on Shavuot MUST be “baked leavened”?!

Ramban (Nachmanides) addresses this anomaly. He explains that the Torah commands that the Two Loaves should be leavened, because they are a thanksgiving to God for having kept for us the appointed time of the harvest – and a thanksgiving offering (korban toda) always comes with leavened bread (see Vayikra 7:13).

The Argument Against Chametz

Generally speaking, however, leavened products may not be brought as an offering. Perhaps this is because, Ramban conjectures, “leaven alludes to the attribute of strict justice, for it is called chametz [leaven], just as wine which sours is called (Bamidbar 6:3) chometz yayin v’chometz sheichar [vinegar of wine or vinegar of strong drink], the word [chametz] being derived from the expression: “the unrighteous (v’chomeitz) [and ruthless man]” (Tehillim 71:4), for [vinegar of wine and vinegar of strong drink] are drinks whose original taste has been “robbed” from them, and they are therefore not suitable for [normal] drinking.”

Sweet and Sour

The Ramban continues: “Since the offerings are brought to be acceptable before the Glorious Name, they are therefore not to be brought from objects which possess a strong power to change natural properties of other things [such as leaven], and similarly they are not to be brought from things which are completely sweet such as honey. [Instead, they are to come] only from things that are blended of different qualities, just as the Rabbis have said with reference to the creation of the world: He combined the attribute of mercy with the attribute of justice, and created the world.”

The common denominator of leaven and honey is that they are both extremes. Extremes are almost always bad. A person should not be overly sour (chametz), but should likewise not be overly sweet (honey). He should be sweet and sour!

In the words of the Rambam (Maimonides), in Hilchot De’iot (the Laws of Personal Development 1:4): “A person should not be wrathful, easily angered; nor be like the dead, without feeling, rather he should [adopt] an intermediate course; i.e., he should display anger only when the matter is serious enough to warrant it, in order to prevent the matter from recurring… He should not be overly stingy nor spread his money about, but he should give charity according to his capacity and lend to the needy as is fitting. He should not be overly elated and laugh [excessively], nor be sad and depressed in spirit. Rather, he should be quietly happy at all times, with a friendly countenance. The same applies with regard to his other traits. This path is the path of the wise. Every man whose traits are intermediate and equally balanced can be called a “wise man.”

One should not be too miserly, but likewise not overly wasteful. Not easy to anger, but not indifferent either. Not too self-possessed, but not without any pride. After all, the Torah was given on a mountain – albeit the smallest and humblest of mountains, but not in a valley…

Extremes Can be Beneficial – in Extreme Cases,

Yet, at times, to change a negative character trait, we need to veer to the opposite extreme. In the Rambam’s words (ibid 2:2), “What is the remedy for the morally ill? The man who is full of pride should cause himself to experience much disgrace. He should sit in the lowliest of places, dress in tattered rags which shame the wearer, and the like, until the arrogance is uprooted from his heart and he returns to the middle path, which is the proper path. When he returns to this middle path, he should walk in it the rest of his life. One should take a similar course with each of the other traits. A person who swayed in the direction of one of the extremes should move in the direction of the opposite extreme, and accustom himself to that for a long time, until he has returned to the proper path, which is the midpoint for each and every temperament.”

A Blend of Chametz and Matza

To appreciate a life of Chametz, and to counteract its physically fulfilling but often spiritually distracting tendencies, we need to go to the opposite extreme – of Matza. In general, the halacha is that where a prohibited substance falls into a permitted substance (e.g. non-kosher food that falls into a pot of kosher food, or a slice of cheesy pizza falls into a cauldron of chicken soup), the mixture can still be eaten, provided the volume of the permitted item is 60 times greater than the volume of the prohibited item. The taste of the prohibited item is considered no longer detectable and the mixture therefore remains kosher. However, with Chametz, the slightest quantity renders the entire mixture inedible! (In a similar vein, an idol, or anything used in the service of idolatry, including wine, is incapable of annulment.)

Matza is simply a mixture of flour and water. Bread is made of the same ingredients; however, when left without supervision, it miraculously expands and inflates, thus bringing out its full potential! Is this a bad thing? Of course not! To the contrary, it is the Torah’s ideal, evidenced by the fact that on Shavuot, the culmination of the redemptive process begun on Pesach, we use specifically leavened bread in the Temple service.

The Torah seems to be teaching us that to grow, one needs guidance and direction. Left unbridled, the process of growth and development can be destructive and dangerous – precisely because it is so powerful. To be truly free, the first step is not to give vent to all one’s repressed urges and tendencies. On slaying the Egyptian firstborn, Hashem commands us: “but as for you, you may not leave the entrance of the house until morning.” The Torah wants us to avoid the tendency of slaves to avenge themselves, by releasing all their pent-up anger and baser instincts against their former overlords. This is the message of Matza – it reminds us of the need for simplicity, to enable us gradually to reach the goal of complexity.

Shabbat shalom and Chag sameach!

Tip 3 of 10 of “Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel”: If the vast majority of my assets have been moved to Israel, need I still make a separate Will abroad?


Tip 3 of 10 of “Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel”: If the vast majority of my assets have been moved to Israel, need I still make a separate Will abroad?


In our last tip, we advised making separate Wills for each separate jurisdiction in which you have assets. However, there may be occasions when you don’t need to make a separate Will abroad at all.

For example, if you own a bank account abroad, you can simply complete a “nominated beneficiary” form, through which you designate one or more family members or other beneficiaries to receive the proceeds of your account once you die. In this manner, your few overseas assets will pass independently of any Will that you have drafted, thus preventing them being frozen upon your death until such time as the relevant Will is probated or a succession order is made in case of intestacy.

For further advice and assistance in making an Israeli or UK Will, feel free to contact Simon: 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374 / [email protected]


Last Will and TestamentTip 3 of 10 of “Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel”: If the vast majority of my assets have been moved to Israel, need I still make a separate Will abroad?

In our last tip, we advised making separate Wills for each separate jurisdiction in which you have assets. However, there may be occasions when you don’t need to make a separate Will abroad at all. For example, if you own a bank account abroad, you can simply complete a “nominated beneficiary” form, through which you designate one or more family members or other beneficiaries to receive the proceeds of your account once you die. In this manner, your few overseas assets will pass independently of any Will that you have drafted, thus preventing them being frozen upon your death until such time as the relevant Will is probated or a succession order is made in case of intestacy.

For further advice and assistance in making an Israeli or UK Will, feel free to contact Simon: 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374 / [email protected]

Tip 2 of 10 of “Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel”: I made Aliyah but still have assets abroad. Can I cover all of my assets with one Will made in Israel?


Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel (Tip#2/10): I made Aliyah but still have assets abroad. Can I cover all of my assets with one Will made in Israel?



Technically, yes, although on reaching the age of 120 your Israeli Will would then need to be probated in more than one jurisdiction, which can be a costly and bureaucratic procedure.

As a general rule, a person who owns assets in different countries or jurisdictions, is therefore advised to prepare a separate legal Will in each jurisdiction, in order to avoid unnecessary tax and other complications in the future. So, if my wife and I own assets in Israel but we still own assets in England and America, between us we should sign three separate wills: one in Israel and in the UK for me, and one in Israel and the US for my wife.

For further advice and assistance in making an Israeli or UK Will, feel free to contact Simon: 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374 / [email protected]


Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel (Tip#2/10): I made Aliyah but still have assets abroad. Can I cover all of my assets with one Will made in Israel?


Technically, yes, although on reaching the age of 120 your Israeli Will would then need to be probated in more than one jurisdiction, which can be a costly and bureaucratic procedure.

As a general rule, a person who owns assets in different countries or jurisdictions, is therefore advised to prepare a separate legal Will in each jurisdiction, in order to avoid unnecessary tax and other complications in the future. So, if my wife and I own assets in Israel but we still own assets in England and America, between us we should sign three separate wills: one in Israel and in the UK for me, and one in Israel and the US for my wife.

For further advice and assistance in making an Israeli or UK Will, feel free to contact Simon: 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374 / [email protected]

Insights on Psalm 104, “Barechi Nafshi” (in honor of Rosh Chodesh)הרהורים בתהילים ק”ד - “ברכי נפשי” - לכבוד ראש חודש

http://rabbiarthursegal.blogspot.co.il

Insights on Psalm 104, “Barechi Nafshi” (in honor of Rosh Chodesh)

Psalm 104 is a poem which describes, in the most majestic and graphic terms, the wondrous world that God has created, as well as the ongoing act of His continuously bringing the world into existence. The psalm is so beautiful – it is one of the supreme celebrations of creation in the entire Bible – that a German philosopher once remarked, “It is worth studying the Hebrew language for ten years in order to read Psalm 104 in the original” (it is reproduced in full, in English, below; the titles and paragraph division have been added by me).

The Psalmist, King David, emphasizes the beauty and grandeur of creation. He depicts God’s unmistakable hand in nature. God is described as attired with majesty and beauty, enwrapping Himself with light like a garment, extending the heavens like a curtain, roofing His upper chambers with water, making clouds His chariot, making winds His messengers. He founded the earth on strong foundations, covered the deep as with a garment. The waters ascended mountains and descended, at God’s bidding, into valleys and streams, first so as not to return to cover the earth, and secondly in order to water every beast of the field, to enable the wild donkeys to quench their thirst… Nearby, the birds chirp and sing His praises. God provides for all his creatures, great and small, creating grass for cattle, and bread and meat (the Hebrew word, lechem, can mean both), wine and oil for man’s sustenance and enjoyment. The birds nest in the tall cedars that He has planted. At first glance, the remote and barren mountains appear to serve no purpose. In fact, however, they were created to provide a habitat for the wild mountain goats (v. 18). All of creation has a purpose.

It is a psalm of opposites: the heaven and the earth; the dry land and the sea; the underwater springs and the rain from above; the grass provided by God for the animals to eat, in contrast to wheat for mankind, which he is required to process in order to produce bread (v. 14); the deadening sound of thunder (v. 7) and the sweet chirping of the birds (v. 12); night-time, in which the beasts of the forest reign supreme (v. 20) and the day-time (when the wild animals disappear to their lairs and man goes out to his work (v. 23). This last contrast indicates that both man and animal have the right to dwell in the world – and are allocated equal time to pursue their goals. Further opposites include: the mammoth leviathan fish with which God sports, and the ships, the symbol of man’s attempt to control the world (v. 26); and death and famine (v. 29) and rebirth and plenty (v. 30).

From both the beginning and the end of the psalm (“My soul, bless the Lord”), there emerges the sense of the Psalmist that, despite the vastness of the universe and the infinity of its Creator (vs. 2-9), God is close to man. He hears his prayers and attends to the human voice: “I shall sing to the Lord while I am alive; I shall sing praises to my God as long as I exist” (v. 33).

God’s creations can attest to His greatness in a number of ways. They can reflect His lovingkindness, His tender mercies which extend to all His creatures, great and small (see the Ashrei prayer, Psalm No. 145: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in lovingkindness; God is good to all and His compassion extends to all His works; You open Your hand and satisfy every living thing with Your favour”).

Alternatively, they can evidence the Almighty’s terrible awesomeness (see chapters 38-41 of the book of Job, when God lectures to Job from out of the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell, if you know understanding! Who set its dimensions?… Into what are its bases sunken?… When He dammed in the sea with bolted doors as its flow emerged from the womb, when I … constrained it with My limits… and said: Until here shall you go, and no further!… Have you penetrated the hidden depths of the sea, or gone to plumb the deep?… Have you contemplated up to the wide expanses of the world? Tell me, if you know it all!…”)

But there is another aspect revealed by God’s creations in our Psalm: His wisdom: “How great are Your works, O Lord! You have made them all with wisdom; the earth is full of Your possessions!” (v. 24). Each creature has a place in God’s Grand Scheme. There is room for all, and God created the world in such a way that mankind, the animal kingdom and the entire natural world can live side by side. This is demonstrated especially on Shabbat, when Man refrains from demonstrating his control over Nature and intervention in the natural world, by resting from his work.

Yet, at the very end of the grand natural symphony in Psalm 104, a chord of dissonance is sounded: “May my speech be pleasing to Him; I shall rejoice with the Lord. Sinners will be destroyed from the earth and the wicked will be no more; my soul, bless the Lord. Halleluyah!” One might ask what place sinners and the wicked have in a song of perfection, harmony, tranquillity and peace?! What an incongruous juxtaposition?! The answer would appear to be that nature abhors not only a physical vacuum, but a spiritual void too: Nature itself – God’s creations – cannot tolerate the existence of sinners and evil in the world!

On the first day of the month of Nissan, As Pesach and the Spring approach, may we all merit to appreciate the beauty of God’s creations. Chag sameach!

Tehillim – Psalms – Chapter 104


Heavens

1. My soul, bless the Lord. My God, You are very great, You are attired with majesty and beauty.

2. [You] enwrap Yourself with light like a garment; [You] extend the heavens like a curtain.

3. Who roofs His upper chambers with water; Who makes clouds His chariot, which goes on the wings of the wind.

4. He makes winds His messengers, burning fire His ministers.

Earth

5. He founded the earth on its foundations that it not falter to eternity.

6. You covered the deep as [with] a garment; the waters stand on the mountains.

7. From Your rebuke they fled; from the sound of Your thunder they hastened away.

8. They ascended mountains, they descended into valleys to this place, which You had founded for them.

9. You set a boundary that they should not cross, that they should not return to cover the earth.

Sea

10. He sends the springs into the streams; they go between the mountains.

11. They water every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

12. Beside them the fowl of the heavens dwell; from between the branches they let out their voices.

Water, Vegetation, Trees, Animal Kingdom

13. He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; from the fruit of Your works the earth is sated.

14. He causes grass to sprout for the animals and vegetation for the work of man, to bring forth bread from the earth.

15. And wine, which cheers man’s heart, to make the face shine from oil, and bread, which sustains man’s heart.

16. The Lord’s trees are sated, the cedars of Lebanon, which He planted.

17. Where birds nest; as for the stork-the high junipers are its home.

18. The lofty mountains for the ibexes; the rocks a shelter for the hyraxes.

Planetarium, Night Life, Man

19. He made the moon for the appointed seasons; the sun knows its setting.

20. You make darkness and it is night, in which every beast of the forest moves about.

21. The young lions roar for prey and to beg their food from God.

22. When the sun rises they gather in and couch in their dens.

23. Man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.

The Greatness of God, His Wisdom

24. How great are Your works, O Lord! You have made them all with wisdom; the earth is full of Your possessions!

25. This sea-great and wide; there are creeping things and innumerable beasts, both small and large.

26. There the ships go; You formed this leviathan with which to sport.

27. They all look to You with hope, to give their food in its time.

28. You give them that they may gather; You open Your hand that they may be sated with goodness.

29. You hide Your countenance and they are frightened; You gather in their spirit and they perish and return to their dust.

30. You will send forth Your spirit and they will be created, and You will renew the surface of the ground.

31. The glory of the Lord will be forever; the Lord will rejoice with His works.

32. He Who looks at the earth and it quakes; He touches the mountains and they emit smoke.

33. I shall sing to the Lord while I am alive; I shall sing praises to my God as long as I exist.

34. May my speech be pleasing to Him; I shall rejoice with the Lord.

35. Sinners will be destroyed from the earth and the wicked will be no more; my soul, bless the Lord. Halleluyah!

10 Tips and Tricks on Making a Will in Israel (Part 1 of 10)

Tip#1: Why should I bother making a Will?

Making a Will, which is usually a very simple and relatively inexpensive document in Israel, can be a very simple expedient for avoiding intra-family conflict, squabbles and misunderstandings amongst your heirs. In addition, probating a Will, when the time comes, involves much less expense, time and bureaucracy than that required in order to obtain a Succession Order. Moreover, the latter may well distribute your estate in a manner which is less than ideal – for example, it may grant your widow only half of your estate, with the other half being distributed outright amongst your children. Your Will can also appoint named guardians to look after your children should you and your spouse die while they are still young or are incapable of managing their own affairs.

A Will can thus deal clearly and straightforwardly with issues such as:

  • whether you would like your spouse to take possession of all your assets after you die, or whether you would prefer to distribute your assets in a different manner, e.g. half to your spouse and the other half to your children, or to children from a former marriage;
  • whether any of your children have special needs, which may justify an unequal division of your assets;
  • whether your grandchildren should inherit the share of your estate that their parent would have inherited had s/he been alive on the date of your death;
  • whether a trust ought to be established to preserve the assets of your estate after your demise, in order to allow for their distribution only after the beneficiaries have reached a certain age (usually 21 years of age in the case of Israeli beneficiaries, after Army service);
  • whether you would like to make any special bequests of any items of monetary or sentimental value to ensure their use for one or more generations to come;
  • whether you would like to include a long-stop provision to cover the possibility that, God forbid, your entire family (children and grandchildren included) might die in a plane or car accident, etc.
  • the appointment of named guardians over your children, should you die before any of them reach the age of 18 or 21.

For further advice and assistance in making an Israeli or UK Will, feel free to contact Simon: 0737-40-60-40 / 0545-742-374 / [email protected]

Parshat Vayakhel - The Connection Between Johann Sebastian Bach and the Mishkan (Tabernacle)פרשת ויקהל - הקשר בין יוהן סבסטיאן באך לבין המשכן

Bach - The Learned Musician

The Mathematics of the Tabernacle & Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

(Adapted from a fascinating article written by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo in March 2011, on the relationship between formality versus spontaneity; and total commitment to the letter of the law versus unprecedented emotional outbursts of religious devotion)

Since the Torah is normally very parsimonious with its words, nothing is more surprising in Parashat Vayakhel and Pekudei than the great amount of detail and repetition in the divine instructions relating to the building and the architecture of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Not the smallest nuance is excluded, and nothing is left to human imagination. Preciseness stands out, and every pin and string is mentioned.

This seems to stand in total opposition to the spiritual condition and devotion that was required of every Israelite when busy building or helping to erect the Mishkan. It called for personal input, creativity and a great amount of inspiration which could only come from the depths of the human heart. Such an endeavor can never be restricted by rules and precise measurements, which contradict the very purpose of this structure. It was designed, as was the Temple later, to be the central place of divine worship and a source of ongoing inspiration. It was meant to fill men with a spirit of religious devotion in which the human heart and its emotions would overflow. In fact, it functioned as a place that, once man visited it, caused a total transformation in his or her personality.

Hundreds of times we are informed that man should be “urged by his heart” to build the Mishkan, to spontaneously contribute to the upkeep of the building and its vessels, and to feel reborn upon entering it.

How do we reconcile these contradictions: formality versus spontaneity; total commitment to the letter of the law versus unprecedented emotional outbursts of religious devotion? Are such notions not mutually exclusive, and irreconcilable?

It is here that music becomes of vital interest and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), probably the greatest musical genius to have ever lived, may provide an answer. In his music we find a pattern in which distinct rules of composition had to be followed with great precision and detail, yet Bach simultaneously gave birth to a phenomenal outburst of creativity. With Bach, more than with any other composer, we find abundant repetition as well as a strict, nearly mathematical pattern combined with almost limitless creativity. From the point of view of musical composition, we enter a world of unparalleled genius.

Martin van Amerongen, Dutch author and music critic, writes in his book His Lightening, His Thunder :About the St. Matthew Passion: When one hears Bach’s music, it feels as if he has been struck by an uppercut under the chin, remaining unconscious for the rest of the day.” “Bach is the man of the iron fist, of controlled emotions, who, notwithstanding this, shows great personal passion.” When Bach played the clavecin (harpsichord), he was able to keep an eye on seven diverse musical patterns simultaneously, correct them, and write variations on them without ever violating the rules of the traditional music of his day.

It is the unyielding commitment to detail, accuracy and skill that stands out. True, there is the danger that one may fall into a routine and lose out on the real music behind every note when one just plays it by rote. Indeed, this is the major concern of every conductor and orchestra.

But what Bach did was to go back to the original text and its score. He then discovered new perspectives, recreating the whole composition without changing one iota.

We would suggest that the reason for this wonderful talent is the mathematical preciseness, which does not allow for any expansion; the composer or musician, then, is forced to use his creative talents to deepen what he has already given. Instead of remaining on the surface and broadening only the musical spectrum, the composer is duty bound to venture into the depths, search for all possibilities inherent to the grundnorm, and bring them to the surface. Like the archeologist, he searches for every little item; but unlike the former, he infuses new life into it.

This, we maintain, was the approach to the building of the Mishkan, and this understanding solves the paradox of its architectural preciseness and repetition of detail, combined with the need for genuine religious passion.

The Torah’s specifications of its architecture and emphasis on detail in a way that left nothing to the imagination is like the case of Bach’s “iron fist” that forced him to delve deeper and search for various approaches that otherwise would have remained unnoticed.

When listening to the nearly endless repetitions of musical patterns in Bach’s composition, his genius is revealed by his capacity to add one more note, or one more instrument, or even to make a small change in vibration causing the same musical patterns to sound totally different.

It is this that was offered to the worshipper in the Mishkan. It was not the quantity of religious notes but their quality that was to be found in every pin and string in the Mishkan. And this is what would lift the spirits of the worshipper. As in the case of Bach, each repetition added another dimension depending on the context in which it appeared and the slight variations that accompanied it.(2)

Just as every keen listener of Bach’s compositions is indeed knocked unconscious, so every visitor to the Tabernacle would undergo a radical transformation when looking at the depths of its components and feeling their religious vibrations.

As Goethe would say, “In limitations he shows himself as the master/And the law can only bring us freedom.”

****************

(1) On the subject of Bach’s versatility, Rabbi Cardozo cites Douglas R. Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, New York: Basic Books, 1980, pages 392-3:

Achilles: You mean, the composer was Bach and these were the so-called “Goldberg Variations?”

Tortoise: Do I ever! Actually, the work was entitled Aria with Diverse Variations of which there are thirty. Do you know how Bach structured these magnificent variations?

Achilles: Do tell!

Tortoise: All the pieces – except the final one – are based on a single theme which he called an aria….every third variation is a canon. First, a canon in which the two canonizing voices enter on the same note. Second, a canon in which one of the canonizing voices enters one note higher….Third, one voice enters two notes higher than the other. And so on….

Achilles: Wait a moment. Don’t I recall reading somewhere or other about fourteen recently discovered Goldberg canons…? A fellow called Wolff – a musicologist – heard about a special copy… in Strasbourg….and to his surprise, on the back page…he found these fourteen new canons, all based on the first eight notes of the theme of the “Goldberg Variations”. So now it is known that there are in reality forty-four Goldberg variations, not thirty.

Tortoise: That is…unless some other musicologist discovers yet another batch of them….it may never stop.

Achilles: That is a peculiar idea….we shall expect this kind of thing. At that point, the name “Goldberg Variations” may slightly change in meaning, to include not only the known ones but also any others which might eventually turn up. Their number – call it ‘g’- is certain to be finite, wouldn’t you agree? But merely knowing that g is finite isn’t the same as knowing how big g is…(1)

(2) For a full understanding of the religious and inspirational meaning of all the items in the Mishkan, see the commentaries of Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) on Vayikra (Leviticus).