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The Akeidah: Setting the Stage for the Akeidah

Excerpted from The Akeidah: The Epic Confrontation of Din and Rachamim by Michael Kaiser; co-published by OU Press and Ktav Publishing House

Setting the Stage for the Akeidah

וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וְהָאֱלקִֹים נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם וַיּאֹמֶר אֵלָיו אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי (בראשית כב:א)

In a nutshell, the Akeidah is the dialectical tension between the majestic forces of Din and Rachamim. This tension originates in the very first three words of the Torah – בראשית ברא אלקים – as Rashi there explains:

.(ברא אלקים – ולא נאמר י״י, שבתחלה עלה במחשבה לבראותו במדת הדין, ראה שאין יכול להתקיים, הקדים מדת רחמים ושתפה למדת הדין. היינו דכתיב: ביום עשות י״י אלקים ארץ ושמים (בראשית ב׳:ד׳

To encompass the colossal and far-reaching implications of this “partnership” between Din and Rachamim, the Torah coined a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-used-again expression: וַיעֲַּקֹד. Neither the word ויַעֲַּקדֹ nor any derivation of it appears ever again in Tanach, which confirms its significance. The simple translation of עקד – bound – fails to capture its full import.

After establishing that the opening backdrop to the Akeidah story is Middas HaDin, we can resolve one of our first questions in this book: Rashi (21:33 ד״ה ויקרא) states that at every meal Avraham hosted, he strived to promote the idea of the Creator to his guests. Yet Rashi (22:1 ד״ה אחר) quotes the Satan’s accusation that Avraham ignored God’s presence by neglecting to make a sacrificial offering whenever he partook of a meal. How can we reconcile these two conflicting viewpoints stated by Rashi?

The solution to this problem lies in understanding the difference between perek 21 and perek 22, between Avraham who reached the pinnacle of Chesed and Avraham who now faced a final test at the height of Din. The end of perek 21 finds Avraham at the successful completion of nine nisyonos, ensconced at the apex of the Chesed pyramid. He is an undoubtedly a superstar in the realm of Chesed. But the Middas HaDin, in its realm, is unimpressed. The Middas HaDin contends that generosity with one’s possessions presents no challenge for some individuals. He demands that God intensely ratchet up the stakes to test Avraham’s faith; thus, the Satan’s charge: כל הנסיונות שנסית לאברהם היו בממונו. נסהו בגופו, יקריב לפניך בנו.

In Chapter 21, Rashi is discussing Avraham’s achievements in the realm of Chesed, represented by serving his guests and introducing them to the true Source of Chesed. But the Satan was after something else. And so begins the grand finale, the Akeidah, where Avraham must transform himself yet again, now under the auspices of Middas HaDin, to pass the tenth nisayon and finally prove his mettle.

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Bridging Traditions: 40 Days of Selihot

Excerpted from Rabbi Haim Jachter’s Bridging Traditions: Demystifying Differences Between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books

Forty Days of Seliĥot

One of the most well-known differences between Sephardic minhag and Ashkenazic minhag relates to when the recitation of Seliĥot begins. The Sephardic practice is to recite Seliĥot beginning the day after Rosh Ĥodesh Elul. The Ashkenazic practice, in contrast, is to start saying Seliĥot from the Sunday before Rosh Hashana, unless Rosh Hashana falls out on Monday or Tuesday, in which case Ashkenazim begin Seliĥot two Sundays before Rosh Hashana. What is the basis for the differing practices?

Geonim, Rishonim, Shulĥan Aruch, and Rama
The practice of reciting Seliĥot is not mentioned in the Talmud.1 The Rosh (Rosh Hashana 4:14) records that a number of Geonim had the minhag of reciting Seliĥot during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, while others said them from Rosh Ĥodesh Elul because that is when Moshe Rabbenu was on Har Sinai receiving the second luĥot (see Rashi, Devarim 9:18). Although the Rambam (Hilchot Teshuva 3:4) follows the minhag of the Geonim, the Shulĥan Aruch (Oraĥ Ĥayim 581:1) writes that the Sephardic minhag is to say Seliĥot from Rosh Ĥodesh Elul. The Rama records that the Ashkenazic practice is to start saying Seliĥot from the Sunday before Rosh Hashana, unless Rosh Hashana falls on Monday or Tuesday.

The Classic Explanations for the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Customs
The Mishna Berura (581:6) explains that the reason for the Ashkenazic custom is that some had the custom to fast for ten days prior to Yom Kippur. However, since it is not permissible to fast on the two days of Rosh Hashana, Shabbat Shuva, and Erev Yom Kippur, to fulfill this custom, one begins Seliĥot four days prior to Rosh Hashana. The Mishna Berura offers another reason based on the halacha that four days are required to inspect a korban (sacrifice) for blemishes (Pesaĥim 96a). Since on Rosh Hashana we offer ourselves to Hashem as a metaphoric korban, we should “inspect” ourselves with the recitation of Seliĥot for a minimum of four days before Rosh Hashana.

The Vilna Gaon (Bi’ur HaGra, Oraĥ Ĥayim 581:1) notes an explanation presented by the Ran (Rosh Hashana 3a in the Rif ’s pages, s.v. b’Rosh Hashana): Although human beings were created on Rosh Hashana (according to the view of Rabbi Eliezer, cited in the Pesikta, piska 23), the world was created on the twenty-fifth of Elul. Therefore, Ashkenazim begin Seliĥot near this date.

The Vilna Gaon cites the Rosh’s explanation of the Sephardic practice to begin reciting Seliĥot on the second day of Elul as a reenactment of Moshe Rabbenu’s forty days of praying for forgiveness for the ĥet ha’egel. This is a most compelling reason, since Yom Kippur (as Rashi notes, Devarim 9:18) is the date upon which Moshe Rabbenu descended with the second luĥot, signaling that Hashem granted us atonement for this grievous sin.

A New Explanation for the Sephardic Practice
I would suggest another reason for the Sephardic practice based on Yona’s call to Nineveh, “In forty days Nineveh will be overturned” (Yona 3:4). Rashi (ad loc.) explains that the word overturned (nehepachet) has two potential meanings – it means that the city will either be destroyed or improved for the better. Yona is essentially communicating that if the residents of Nineveh do not change their ways, they will be destroyed.

I suggest that the Sephardic practice reflects this warning: Either we improve during the forty days between Rosh Ĥodesh Elul and Yom Kippur or Hashem will decree upon us an unpleasant future. Indeed, the Sephardic Seliĥot service begins by echoing the words of the captain of the ship upon which Yona sailed: “Ben Adam, mah lecha nirdam?!” (Yona 1:6). How can you be sleeping in the middle of a storm?! Wake up and cry out to your God! This liturgical poem also warns us, “ufĥad me’asonim,” to fear catastrophes that might (Heaven forfend) strike if we do not improve. Thus, the Yona motif certainly fits with the themes of Sephardic Seliĥot.

Why the Number Forty?
Why is the number forty chosen as the amount of time for the people of Nineveh – and for us – to do teshuva? Perhaps it is because the number forty evokes thoughts of the forty days of destruction during the Mabul and the forty years in the Midbar when the older generation was eliminated. The number forty is associated with total destruction and elimination, regarding which we are forewarned to repent and avoid.

Rav Zvi Grumet argues that the number forty in Torah literature expresses an opportunity for rebirth:

In the Bible, Moses is on the mountain for forty days and emerges as a man reborn with a radiant face. The spies enter the land as princes and forty days later return with the self-image of grasshoppers. The Israelite nation spends forty years in the desert and is transformed from a fractured nation of refugees into a unified nation of conquerors… In Rabbinic literature, there are forty minus one categories of prohibited (creative) work on Shabbat, a child is considered to be “alive” in the womb after forty days, and pregnancy lasts for forty weeks.2

We may add to this list that grape juice ferments into wine forty days after it is squeezed from the grape (Eduyot 6:1), and bet din administers “forty minus one” malkot, as they are intended to spur the emergence of a new personality after the traumatic experience. Similarly, the goal of Seliĥot is to emerge as a new and improved person by Yom Kippur.

The number forty conveys a similar message as the double-entendre word nehepachet: It can refer to utter destruction or rebirth. From Rosh Ĥodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, every Jew – like the people of Ninveh – is faced with the same stark choice as to which path we will choose – falling into the abyss or redeeming ourselves and restarting our lives.

  1. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik explains that although the Talmud does not mention this practice, this does not necessarily mean that Seliĥot were not recited in the time of the Talmud. It is possible that the Geonim did not institute Seliĥot, but rather recorded a practice that was existence already since the Talmudic era. Rav Soloveitchik argues that the fact that the Rambam (Hilchot Teshuva 3:4) mentions that all Jews maintain this practice indicates that this was practiced from Talmudic times. The Rambam (in his introduction to his Mishneh Torah) mentions that only the Talmudic sages enjoy unquestioned authority (in contrast to the Geonim), since the Amoraic sages were accepted by all of Israel, whereas the Geonim were not. Rav Soloveitchik asserted that whenever the Rambam uses the term “all of Israel,” the practice to which he refers dates back to the Talmudic era, when all of Israel was concentrated in a relatively limited geographic area and consented to the authority of the Talmudic sages.
  2. Genesis ( Jerusalem: Maggid Books, 2017), pp. 86–87.
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Tisha B’Av: When We Try to Keep God in His Place

Excerpted from Rabbi Dr. Norman J. Lamm’s Festivals of Faith: Reflections on the Jewish Holidays 

When We Try to Keep God in His Place

If there is one word which symbolizes and characterizes this day of Tish‘ah be-Av—set aside for woe and anguish from the time of the Israelites’ obstreperousness toward Moses in the desert, through the destruction of the two Temples, and from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 to Hitler’s extermination order in 1942 against Polish Jewry, all of which came on the ninth of Av, the Black Day of the Jewish calendar—that word is eikhah. It is a simple word, which means “how.” But the peculiar poetic construction of the word eikhah, instead of the more usual ekh, has a connotation of woe, of gloom and moroseness. It is the word with which Moses in today’s sidrah expresses his exasperation: eikhah essa levaddi? (Deut. 1:12), “how can I bear them alone?” Isaiah in today’s haftarah chooses this word to bemoan the sad fate of Jerusalem: eikhah, “how is the faithful city become as a harlot?” (Is. 1:21). And, of course, it is the refrain of Jeremiah’s dirges, his Lamentations, known in Hebrew as the Megillah of Eikhah.

The Rabbis of the Midrash were intrigued by the word, and what they say throws light not only upon the word itself but upon the broader concept which informs this day and the historic events it commemorates. Indeed, they see eikhah as part of a structure which expands Tish‘ah be-Av from a day of national mourning into a symbol of the most crucial universal significance. They tell us: Kol mah she-ira le-Adam ira le-Yisra’el, “everything that happened to Adam happened to Israel” (Yalkut Shim‘oni, Eikhah, 1001). Adam was placed by God in the Garden of Eden; Israel was brought by the Lord to Eretz Yisra’el, a Paradise in its own right. Adam was given a commandment; Israel was given 613 commandments. Adam sinned; Israel sinned. Adam was sent away and expelled; Israel was sent away and expelled into a long and bitter exile. What the Rabbis intend by this parallelism is the teaching that Israel’s exile issues from a human failing rather than a specifically Jewish weakness. By pointing to the identical pattern in the life of Adam and of Israel, they underscore the universal dimensions of Tish‘ah be-Av.

And the final example of the parallel developments that the Sages of the Midrash offer is the climax of each of the two epics. In the case of Adam, the Almighty konen alav ayyekkah, wails over Adam, calling out ayyekkah, “where art thou?” And in the case of Israel, konen alav eikhah; He wails over Israel’s fate, Eikhah, how could all this have come to pass? Both words, ayyekkah and eikhah, are essentially the same. Without the vowel signs, they are spelt the same way. God’s query to Adam, ayyekkah, “where art thou?” bears an intimate relationship to the prophet’s lamentation, Eikhah, “how has this come to pass?” For indeed, the hurban ha-Bayit, the destruction of the Temple, recapitulates the tragedy of man in the face of God. Adam, having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge and supposedly grown more sophisticated, now flees to the cluster of trees in the midst of the Garden—and attempts to hide from God! His illegitimate grasp for knowledge has gained for him the idiotic illusion that he can set boundaries for God, keeping Him away from his own areas, and that he can erect impenetrable barriers between the domains of God and man. Adam thus invites the response of the Almighty, in syllables of searing sarcasm, “Ayyekkah— where art thou?” Adam, where do you think you are that you can hide from Me? What makes you think that you can declare any place in the world out of bounds for God?

Was not the Temple destroyed for the same reason? Our tradition enumerates some of the moral causes of the tragedy visited upon the Sanctuary. But all of them add up to one basic idea: the people imagined that God’s presence dwells only in the Temple; elsewhere, one may do as he pleases. A man may hate his brother, so long as he prays in the Beit ha-Mikdash. He may exploit the worker and drive his slaves; does he not bring his sacrifices regularly to Jerusalem? This was the blasphemy of which the generation of the hurban was guilty; they conceived of God as imprisoned in His reverent House, and imagined that as long as one appeased Him there, He would not interfere elsewhere. But that whole philosophy is pagan, unholy, and unwholesome. That is why Isaiah, in the haftarah we read this morning, pours out his bitterness against those who  so piously corrupt the whole vision of Torah: Mi bikkesh zot mi-yedkhem remos hatzerai? (Is. 1:12), “who asked this of you [to visit the Temple]? You are but trampling My courtyard underfoot!” When you restrict God only to the synagogue, then He refuses to dwell even in the synagogue. When this is how you undermine the meaning of a Temple, then as a sign of divine displeasure, that very Temple, symbol of your profane misunderstanding, must be destroyed! For God, whether man likes it or not, peers into man’s “exclusive” preserves— his office and home, his bank and theater, his marketplace and hotel—and acidly asks, ayyekkah, where do you think you are? You have failed to look for Me, and so I shall seek you out. And when the Almighty grimly poses the ayyekkah, then man must whimper in return, Eikhah.

Modern man repeats the same syndrome—with even more tragic results. We have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge like no generation before us—and we have found the fruits bitter; for such is the taste of radioactive ash. We have developed science and technology at an incredible pace. Yet we have become what in Jewish literature is known as hakham le-hareia, “wise for our own hurt.” Our genius has proved an evil genius. With our increase in knowledge has come a shrinkage of wisdom; with the conquest of the universe, we have discovered that we have let our own lives lie fallow; learning to make a living, we have forgotten how to live; exploring outer space, we have ignored the thunderous silence of our inner space and inner void.

For what has all this learning and sophistication led us to? To an ever stricter seclusion of God from life. Like Adam and like our ancestors two thousand years ago and more, we have determined to incarcerate God in His reverent jail and we have declared the rest of the world forbidden to Him. What is to God is to God, but all the rest is to Caesar.

What is the name of this ideology which “respects” religion so long as it does not venture out of its prescribed sphere? It is the theory and practice of secularism. Secularism is not atheism. It is something else, though equally as
bad. It agrees to the practice of religion, provided that the limits are set and that beyond them life and experience are hermetically sealed off from the influence of faith. Secularism characterizes the overwhelming majority of religions and religionists today. It accepts God—but equally as much accepts that one can hide from Him, that in some little clump of trees one can surround himself with cool shade and be free from the searing gaze of the Deity who has clumsily been permitted to escape from His House of Worship. Modern secularist man gets even with God; once He expelled us from Paradise, now we shall build ourselves a little Paradise and keep Him out!

But God won’t go away. He won’t abide by the rules that secularism has put down for the game of religion. God’s a poor sport. He doesn’t like to be locked up and is annoyed with those who test His claustrophobia. To the self-important secularist—the Jew who worships God in the synagogue but rejects His judgment (Halakhah) elsewhere, the man who opts only for “ritual” but  ignores ethics and morality, or vice versa—God appears in all His awesome might and poses His devastating question: Ayyekkah, where art thou that thou thinkest to exclude Me? And when that happens, Man can but answer, from the shambles of his supermodern Paradise-playground, Eikhah.

The Temple is the Beit ha-Mikdash, the House of Holiness. And the opposite of kedushah, or holiness, is hol, the profane. The antonym of kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of God’s Name, is hillul Hashem, the profanation of the Name. Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin once explained the origin of hillul: the word derives from halal, a void, empty space. For when man acts as if God were elsewhere, not here; when his demeanor and conduct are such as to indicate his inner belief that right here and now is a halal, a void where God’s omnipresence is countered and entrance denied Him; when man believes, or his deeds bespeak the belief, that there are places where God is and places where He is not—that is the vilest and basest profanation of His Name. It is the hillul Hashem, the spiritual obscenity of secularism. That is why the Beit ha-Mikdash must be destroyed if men distort its purpose and abuse it in the service of hillul rather than kiddush.

This then is the relevant message of Tish‘ah be-Av and Eikhah: we must learn to avoid the mistakes of the past and the present and to acknowledge God in all existence—personal, national, and international. Even as the Temple was destroyed by hillul, we must rebuild it through kiddush.

Then, in place of Eikhah, will come the pirkei nehamah, the chapters of consolation. For instead of hiding from God and inviting His ayyekkah, our generation will seek Him out: zeh dor doreshav. And the divine answer will be: Anokhi anokhi hu menahemkhem, “I, yea I, will be your Consoler” (Is. 51:12).

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Day One: 17 Tammuz – Fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz

Excerpted from In the Narrow Places: Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks by Dr. Erica Brown, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books

Seeking God

Do we achieve holiness, kedusha, through seeking God or through finding God? To answer this question, we turn to one of our sacred texts. The haftara for Minĥa, the afternoon service, on a fast day is an excerpt from Isaiah 55. It begins mid-chapter, at verse six and closes in the next chapter, verse eight. It contains some of the most religiously inspiring language in all of prophetic literature.

“Seek God where He can be found. Call to Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Isaiah offers wise, spiritual advice that is no less applicable to God than it is to all of our relationships. Reach out to God in a place where holiness can be found, when God feels near. Use the fast day as a mechanism for the contraction of the material and physical to create a greater space for the Shekhina, the Divine Presence. The tone of the day invites greater awareness of God. But Isaiah did not utter these words for a fast day; its incorporation into the service was a later adaptation
of a text to enhance the day’s emotional demands.

What did the prophet mean when he pronounced these words? Perhaps Isaiah spoke from his awareness that God’s presence was not always apparent during the average working day of an Israelite. Busy with harvesting fields, winnowing on the threshing floor or finding a fertile place to graze sheep, our ancestors could have spent their days preoccupied with the demands of family and making a living, not making a place for God. If this was a challenge for those who worked outside in nature every day, imagine how much greater an obstacle today’s work environment
presents to those of us who sit in offices all day. Without creating a clearing for God, a time and place for thinking above and beyond life’s prosaic cares, how can we expect to find Him? If we are not searching, then that which we do not look for can hardly be expected to make itself known. It is like playing hide-and-seek and then not looking. The Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern (1787–1859) once poignantly remarked, “God is where you let Him in.”

Isaiah continues to exhort his listeners, offering them both a reason that God may seem hidden and some sound advice about creating room for God:

Let the wicked give up his ways, the sinful man his plans. Let him turn back to the Lord, and he will pardon him to our God, for He freely forgives. For My plans are not your plans, nor are My ways your ways – declares the Lord. But as the heavens are high above the earth, so are My ways high above your ways and My plans above your plans. (Isaiah 55:7–9)

God is not like human beings – “My plans are not your plans” – in that God grants true forgiveness. If we genuinely make room for God, God will make room for us.

Human relationships do not always offer that degree of reciprocity. They are more like the gazelles of the Song of Songs. When one is ready to mate, the other cannot be found. One appears at the door to find the other asleep. When the sleeping one wakes, the other is already gone. This back-and-forth game of emotional hide-and-seek can prove exceptionally frustrating. Our own willingness to start afresh, to forgive, to seek forgiveness, may or may not be matched in the mind and heart of someone else. God, on the other hand, is poised and waiting for us when – and only when – we finally make room for God in our lives; when we are compassionate, forgiving, thoughtful people.

Among commentators, there is a division between those who regard seeking God as a challenge of time and those who consider it a challenge of space. Either certain times create the possibility of holiness, or certain places do. Rashi, citing a midrash, identifies a moment in time that is ripe for relationship with God: “Before the verdict takes place, when He still says to you, ‘Seek Me.’” Seek God before life gets difficult, when God is reaching out to you, do not wait till things go wrong. There are always moments of tenderness in a relationship that should be enlarged, leveraged, expanded. Respond to those moments. Sometimes we let go too soon. We had the chance to say something that needed to be said, and the moment presented itself, but we let it go. There was a kind word or a compliment that should have been uttered, but wasn’t. It’s true in sacred times with others and also with God. There was a word of praise or gratitude we could have said in our tefillot, prayers, that we let slip away, or an apology that might have brought us closer to God, but we weren’t seeking and so we lost it. If you’re not looking then you won’t find God.

The second-century Aramaic translation of the text, Targum Yonatan, embellishes this reading in its paraphrase: “Pray to God while you are still alive.” Repent while you can, not when it is too late to fix what is broken. And so much is broken.

In an interesting Talmudic interpretation, King Manasseh, who ruled in Isaiah’s day, challenged this prophecy, saying that it contradicted something that Moses himself taught. In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people that God responds whenever people call to Him. Should we seek God where God is or does God respond to us where we are? The Talmud reconciles this contradiction by saying that Moses was referring to communal repentance which is always accepted, whereas Isaiah’s pleas are for individual repentance, which has greater effectiveness during the ten days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. There are specific times in the calendar year that nurture repentance. Seek God during those times, when the very air seems ready for transformation. But if you are part of a community then any time works since the power of seeking God in community is stronger.

The readings above interpret “where He is found” as a reference to time, but there are also readings that relate the search to place. According to the great medieval commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra, the verse refers to a changed historical reality: Once Isaiah predicted salvation from Babylon and the removal of the bonds of exile, the people could finally imagine finding God back in the land of Israel. Exile wears us down, leaving little time or mental space to engage in spiritual pursuits. Israel becomes the place to search for God.

The Jerusalem Talmud, in contrast, sees the place-of-finding as referring to synagogues and study halls. There are spaces that are specifically designated for spiritual behaviors and rituals, and these locations stir us to seek God. In the kinetic energy of a room full of genuine religious feeling or of people exchanging ideas, you can find God more easily. In between the pews of a synagogue, among people immersed in prayer, in the lofty sanctuaries that we build, we can make more room for God. Imagine being in a synagogue at night when all the people are gone and only the eternal light – the ner tamid – is alight. There is something holy about that place: the small flame in the big space, the darkness that removes visual distractions, the weight of silence – all of it signals transcendence.

It is not easy to predict where God is to be found, so sometimes we can fulfill Isaiah’s demand by identifying where God is not in our lives. We know that there are specific times when we feel too anxious to pray or too preoccupied with mundane chores and the needs of others to seek God. There are also places where it seems impossible to focus. There is too much going on, or too many people talking, or too much havoc for us to find God. Seek God in places not only where God is likely to be found but also where you are most receptive to God’s presence. Receptivity can happen in the least likely of places. An open heart helps the spiritual seeker keep all possibilities present and ready. We may never find God, but the search brings us closer.

Kavana for the Day
Seeking is about discovery. Isaiah tells us to seek God where God is to be found. Think about where you might find God. People have a custom to pray and study in a “makom kavua,” a fixed location or place, every day. The idea is that we create spaces that are receptive to spiritual activities, where we have all that we need: the right light, the right balance of privacy and companionship, the right amount of noise or silence to induce spiritual behaviors. Think hard. Where does God seem most apparent in your life? What times and places seem more open and receptive to spiritual seeking and finding? Recreate those times and spaces and make your own makom kavua.

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Foundation of Faith: Chapter 5, Verse 1

Excerpted from Foundation of Faith: A Tapestry of Insights and Illumination on Pirkei Avot based on the Thought and Writings of Rabbi Norman Lamm, The Gibber Edition, edited by Rabbi Mark Dratch, co-published with Ktav Publishing

Chapter 5

The world was created with ten utterances. What does this teach us? Certainly, it could have been created with a single utterance. However, this is in order to make the wicked accountable for destroying a world that was created with ten utterances, and to reward the righteous for sustaining a world that was created with ten utterances.

This positive value of confrontation has been expressed in a beautiful symbolic manner by a great sage of modern times. Our rabbis of the Talmud categorized the entire period from Creation to Sinai, the revelation of the Torah, as tohu, chaos. What they meant was that the world as created by God was only physically complete but had not actualized its moral potential. It came of age morally only with the giving of Torah at Sinai. Now, what is the catalyst that helped in this transformation? What is it that helped the world overcome its amoral character and rise to the level of Sinai? The great Gerer Rebbe identifies this catalyst as the Ten Plagues of which we read today. In epigrammatic fashion, he tells us that the transition from asarah ma’amarot to aseret hadibrot was effected by eser makkot. The world was created through Ten “Words” of God, such as “Let there be light,” etc. Creation is therefore symbolized by the Ten Words, and its moral maturity by the Ten Commandments. But it was the Ten Plagues that made this possible. The confrontation of Moses with Egypt succeeded in uprooting the corruption of Egypt, exposing the vacuousness of its nefarious paganism, and therefore allowing Israel to emerge from within it and receive the Torah. Without the Ten Plagues, the Ten Words would never have become the Ten Commandments.

Ten Words
Furthermore, we must be not only discriminating in our words, but sparse as well. Our words must be few and scarce. In all of Judaism, the principle of Kedushah is protected from the danger of over-familiarity. When people have too much free access to an object or a place, they gradually lose respect and awe for it. That is why the reader of the Torah will use a yad, a silver pointer. That is not used for decorative purposes. It is because of the Halakhah that kitvei kodesh metamin et hayadayim – that we are forbidden to touch the inner part of the Torah scroll. The reason for this is a profound insight of the Torah into human nature: if we are permitted to touch it freely and often, we will lose our reverence for it. The less we are permitted to contact it, the greater our respect for it. Similarly, the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem was preserved in its sanctity by our tradition when it forbade any person other than the high priest to enter its sacred precincts; and even he might not do so except for one time during the year – on the Day of Atonement.

And so it is with words. The more we use, the less they mean. When our rabbis investigated the first portion of Genesis, they discovered that the world was created by asarah ma’amarot, ten “words.” Only ten words to create an entire universe! And yet our rabbis were not satisfied. And so they asked, “Could not the world have been created with only one word?” Why waste nine precious words? Indeed, for with words, quantity is in inverse relationship to quality. If there are so many words that you cannot count them, then no individual word counts for very much.

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With Liberty and Justice: Day 36

Excerpted from With Liberty and Justice: The Fifty-Day Journey from Egypt to Sinai by Senator Joe Lieberman with Rabbi Ari D. Kahn, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books

Day 36 “Reward and Punishment”

The biblical laws are not merely precatory invocations for good behavior. They include a system of rewards and punishments that lend internal force to the specific laws and commandments. The Ten Commandments themselves contain several mentions of rewards and punishments, including the broad promise of the Second Commandment that God will show kindness to thousands of generations of those who love and obey Him. This indeed is a strong incentive to live according to the Law.

This concept of reward and punishment established a standard for all systems of law that followed. Both biblical and secular laws since then include specific penalties to dissuade people from violating them.

But when it comes to rewards for obeying the laws, the biblical and secular systems are very different. The rewards for not violating secular laws are indirect: you avoid the penalties that result from illegal behavior, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing. In the biblical legal system, there are significant rewards for following the commandments and the law. They range from the earthly and agricultural to the messianic and eternal.

These rewards are enumerated in the Bible, with some repeated in our daily prayers. For example, twice daily, we follow the recitation of the Shema Yisrael declaration of monotheism from Deuteronomy chapter 6, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (v. 4), with a paragraph from Deuteronomy chapter 11, which delineates the biblical rewards for following the law and living by the values of the commandments:

If you indeed heed My commandments with which I charge you today, to love the Lord your God and worship Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give you rain in your land in its season…and you shall gather in your grain, wine, and oil. I will give grass in your field for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied. (Vv. 13–15)

The most basic rewards for loving God and heeding His commandments are agricultural. From the time the Torah was given through the period of the two Temples in Jerusalem (and again today in modern Israel), agricultural blessings were existential blessings.

The Shema continues with the penalty for failing to obey God’s commandments:

Be careful lest your heart be tempted and you go astray and worship other gods…then the Lord’s anger will flare against you and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain…and you will perish [or, be banished] from the good land that the Lord is giving you. (Vv. 16–17)

But the Torah, and the Keriat Shema which quotes it, also teach how to avoid this terrible fate: by instilling the word of God in our hearts and souls, binding them on our arms and foreheads (tefillin), teaching them to our children, and writing them on our doorposts (mezuzot). The general reward for upholding God’s laws in these ways is “that you and your children may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, for as long as the heavens are above the earth” (Deut. 11:21).

The prophets describe additional otherworldly rewards for following the commandments. These are embedded in the traditional prayer service in the prayer “U’Va LeTziyon Go’el,” “A Redeemer Will Come to Zion,” recited both in the daily service and on the Sabbath and holidays:

Blessed is our God who gave us the Torah of truth, planting within us eternal life. May it be Your will that we keep Your laws in this world, and thus be worthy to live, and inherit goodness and blessing in the Messianic Age, and in the life of the World to Come.

This uplifting vision of the rewards that will accrue to the followers of God’s Law compellingly speaks to some of our most profound and perplexing questions: How should I behave? Does anyone care? What are the consequences of good and bad behavior? Is there anything after life on earth?

This dream of heavenly and eternal blessing is the Jewish people’s destiny, toward which the entire Bible narrative is directed. Realizing it, however, depends on the way we behave. The kabbalists suggested that the etymology of the word “mitzva,” usually translated as “commandment,” is actually from the word betzavta, which means “together.” The secret of the commandments is having a relationship with God, of walking together with God, by observing His law and doing good deeds.

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Bridging Traditions: Lag Ba’Omer – Haircut Day

Excerpted from Rabbi Haim Jachter’s Bridging Traditions: Demystifying Differences Between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books

Haircut Day

For many Jews, Lag B’Omer is the day we’ve all been waiting for! Finally, men can shave and take a haircut! Why, then, do my Sephardic male neighbors wait until the next day, the thirty-fourth day in the omer to have their hair cut?1

Day 33 vs. Day 34
The difference in practice is due to differing rulings of Maran Rav Yosef Karo and the Rama. Rav Karo rules (Shulĥan Aruch, Oraĥ Ĥayim 493:2) that haircuts are permitted only on the thirty-fourth day of the omer, whereas the Rama permits taking a haircut on Lag B’Omer itself. Rav Ovadia Yosef insists that Sephardic Jews adhere to the ruling of Maran and refrain from weddings and haircutting until the thirty-fourth of the omer (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 3: Oraĥ Ĥayim 26; Teshuvot Yeĥaveh Da’at 4:32), and Rav Ovadia Hadaya (Teshuvot Yaskil Avdi 6: Oraĥ Ĥayim 6) arrives at the same conclusion.

The Mishna Berura (493:8, citing the Vilna Gaon) explains that the dispute hinges upon a debate as to the date of the last death among Rabbi Akiva’s twenty-four thousand talmidim.

The variety in customs is presented in the Sefer HaManhig, a classic twelfth century compilation of the halachic practices of France, Provence, and Spain, which records: “There is a minhag in France and Provence to begin marrying from Lag B’Omer and onwards.” This is the basis of the Ashkenazic practice. The Manhig continues:

And I heard in the name of Rav Zeraĥia of Gerona, who found an old manuscript from Sepharad [that notes that the students of Rabbi Akiva] died “from Pesaĥ until P’ros HaAtzeret.”What is P’ros? Half of a month – fifteen days before Shavuot.2 This is Lag Ba’Omer.

Since fifteen days before Shavuot is the thirty-fourth day of the omer, Maran Rav Yosef Karo rules that one should continue practicing minhagei avelut through the morning of the thirty-fourth day.

The Practice of the Ari Z”l

The Sha’arei Teshuva (493:8) cites the Ari z”l, who advances a much different approach. The Ari z”l views the entire omer period as a period of judgment and as a type of “Ĥol HaMo’ed” between the festivals of Pesaĥ and Shavuot.3 He therefore holds that one may not cut his hair or shave throughout the entire omer period, until Erev Shavuot. The Yalkut Yosef (493:16), however, rules that only those special individuals who always follow kabbalistic practices adopt this practice. Most Sephardic Jews take haircuts beginning from the thirty-fourth day of the omer.4

Moroccan Jews

Rav Mordechai Lebhar (Magen Avot, Oraĥ Ĥayim 493) records that many Jews from North Africa take haircuts on Lag B’Omer, despite this being contrary to the ruling of the Shulĥan Aruch. Rav Lebhar defends this practice in part based on a comment of the great Sephardic posek the Peri Ĥadash (Oraĥ Ĥayim 493:2). The Peri Ĥadash notes the incongruity of refraining from Taĥanun and celebrating on Lag B’Omer on the one hand and continuing to mourn the loss of Rabbi Akiva’s students until the thirty-fourth day of the omer on the other.

It is notable that only the Rama, and not Maran Rav Yosef Karo, records that Taĥanun is omitted due to the celebration that occurs on Lag B’Omer. One could argue that once Sephardic Jews adopted the kabbalistic practice to celebrate Lag B’Omer, they terminate the mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s talmidim on that date as well.5 This would be one of a number of kabbalistic practices that Sephardic Jews have embraced despite their being contrary to the ruling of the Shulĥan Auch.6

Rav Ovadia Yosef might respond that the two matters are not related to one another. The mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s talmidim continues until the thirty-fourth of the omer, while the celebration of the great contributions of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yoĥai occurs on the thirty-third day of the omer.7


As usual, the practices regarding the date on which haircutting is permitted are diverse. At Shaarei Orah, I advise men to wait until the thirty-fourth day of the omer to take a haircut, except if they originate from North Africa. I advise men whose family stems from North Africa to consult their parents as to their family custom.

1. Sephardic women are permitted to cut their hair during the omer (Yalkut Yosef, Oraĥ Ĥayim 493:18). They are permitted to do so even during sheloshim after the death of a relative (Shulĥan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 390:5).
2. The phrase “P’ros HaAtzeret” appears in the mishna (Shekalim 3:1; Bechorot 9:5) and means fifteen days before Shavuot.
3. A similar idea is expressed by the Ramban in his commentary to the Torah (Vayikra 23:36).
4. The practice of some Ashkenazic Jews (especially German Jews) to refrain from haircutting from Rosh Ĥodesh Iyar until three days before Shavuot is recorded by the Rama but is not practiced by Sephardic Jews. This practice stems from combining mourning for the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students with mourning for the Jews slaughtered in Germany during the Crusades. This practice did not reach Sephardic Jewry, since this tragic event did not transpire in Sephardic lands.

The historical circumstances also explain why Ashkenazic Jews recite Av HaRaĥamim before Musaf, while Sephardic Jews do not; this prayer mourns the tragic losses experienced by French and German Jewry during the Crusades. Similarly, on Tisha B’Av, Sephardic Jews do not recite Kinot relating to the Crusades. In turn, there are Kinot in the Sephardic liturgy that mourn the Spanish Inquisition, which, not surprisingly, are not recited by Ashkenazic Jews.
5. Similarly, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, Oraĥ Ĥayim 1:159) presumes that Sephardic Jews cut their hair on Lag B’Omer based on the celebrations in which Sephardic engage on Lag B’Omer.
6. Another example is Sephardic enthusiastic embrace of the kaparot custom of Erev Yom Kippur. Compare the Shulĥan Aruch’s rejection of kaparot (Oraĥ Ĥayim 605:1) with the embrace of this practice by the Ari z”l (cited in Ba’er Hetev 605:1). The Yalkut Yosef (Oraĥ Ĥayim 605) devotes a full discussion of the halachot surrounding kaparot, fully endorsing the practice.
7. Not coincidentally, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai was one of the five students taught by  Rabbi Akiva after the last of his original 24,000 talmidim perished (Yevamot 62b).

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Foundation of Faith: Chapter 1, Verse 1

Excerpted from Foundation of Faith: A Tapestry of Insights and Illumination on Pirkei Avot based on the Thought and Writings of Rabbi Norman Lamm, The Gibber Edition, edited by Rabbi Mark Dratch, co-published with Ktav Publishing

Chapter 1

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence around the Torah.

Why did the Sages choose this particular tractate as the one to introduce the chain of Tradition?

The answer offered by R. Ovadiah Bartenora, and others, is that the other tractates are all halakhic, legal. This tractate is fundamentally that of musar, morals and ethics. Now, it is obvious – if one does not delude oneself, and despite the futile efforts to do so by certain movements in Jewish life – that Halakhah is meaningful only if it is rooted intradition, in divine authority.  For the Halakhah to survive 2,000 years of Jewish exile, when we had no police force and very few means of coercion, it had to be subscribed to on the basis of its authority, the authority of Sinai. Otherwise, it would be like playing a game where you make up your own rules as you go on.

However, Avot is all musar. It is constituted largely of private dicta, such as “hu hayah omer, he used to say,” and one might therefore assume that it is highly individualistic, it is all subjective and a product of personal imagination, sentiments, and ideas, that Halakhah is “hard” and musar is “soft.”

Hence, we begin this particular tractate with the account of the origin of tradition, Moshe kibel Torah miSinai. Ethics, like law, derives from a divine sanction; morality, no less than Halakhah, is firm, fixed, not subject to human whim. Both musar and Halakhah have their roots in mesorah.

The word musar is not grammatically related to mesorah, but the fact that they sound alike points to a conceptual continuity between them: Musar too has a sacred mesorah, tradition: it derives from Moshe kibel Torah miSinai umesarah leYehoshua.

Torah min Hashamayim

Torah is not only God-given; it is also Godly. The divine word is not only uttered by God, it is also an aspect of God Himself. All of the Torah – its ideas, its laws, its narratives, its aspirations for the human community – lives and breathes godliness. Hillel Zeitlin described the Ḥasidic interpretation of revelation (actually it was even more true of their opponents, the Mitnagdim, and ultimately derived from a common Kabbalistic source) as not only Torah min hashamayim (Torah from Heaven) but Torah shehi shamayim (Torah that is Heaven). It is in Torah that God is most immediately immanent and accessible, and the study of Torah is therefore not only a religious commandment per se, but the most exquisite and the most characteristically Jewish form of religious experience and communion. For the
same reason, Torah is not only legislation, Halakhah, but in broadest meaning, Torah – teaching, a term that includes the full spectrum of spiritual edification: theological and ethical, mystical and rhapsodic.

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The Hidden Light: Parashat Tetzaveh – A Critical Ingredient of Jewish Leadership

Excerpted from Jerry Hochbaum’s The Hidden Light: Biblical Paradigms for Leadership, co-published by OU Press and Ktav Publishers

A Critical Ingredient of Jewish Leadership

Parashat Tetzaveh is unique in one very unusual respect: Moshe’s name is omitted from its entire text. Everywhere else in the Torah we read, “Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe,” God calls out to Moshe to do something or say something. A vital ingredient of Moshe’s leadership is revealed by this omission in Tetzaveh.

The commentaries provide a multitude of explanations concerning this matter. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, for example, offers a creative insight that touches on one of the major qualities required of leaders, especially Jewish religious ones. At Sinai, God reveals the Torah to the Jewish people. Moshe, His emissary in this enterprise, is instructed to transmit that revelation to the Jewish people completely intact, exactly as it has been revealed to him. Moshe is the messenger, not the message in any form or manner. He may not convey the Torah in any other fashion – “oisgeticht un oisgebessert,” as they say in Yiddish – not reformulated, reinterpreted, or better presented than the original transmission. A sliver of ego here can either dilute or even deconstruct both the message and the messenger’s mission. Ego among leaders, however subtle, unless kept under strict control, can lead to self-aggrandizement at the cost of distorting the message.

Moshe fully recognizes his own special capacities and genius, as great men usually do. But the Torah lauds him solely for his modesty, his greatest attribute as leader of the Jewish people. It is spiritual accomplishments, not public kudos, to which great moral leaders aspire. Those accomplishments, even if not immediately visible or attributed to them, reward them with true  fulfillment.

In Parashat Pekudei, the Torah describes the completion of the construction of the Tabernacle. “Vatekhel kol avodat Mishkan Ohel Mo’ed,” all the work of the Mishkan has now been completed. This sentence describes its completion in the most passive manner. It has been completed as if by itself in some miraculous manner. But the Torah quickly adds, to offset Moshe’s invisibility in Parashat Tetzaveh, that it happens because “k’khol asher tzivah Hashem et Moshe ken asu,” Moshe acts as he was instructed, without engaging in or promoting his own person. That is one of the major requisites of great leadership.

Here is a second pertinent example: the Torah relates that after the akeidah, the final and most demanding test Avraham confronted, “v’Avraham shav limkomo,” Avraham returned to his former place, with no press conference, TV appearances, or magazine articles lauding his and his son’s courage and devotion. The action completed, Avraham moves along to the next challenge in the continual evolution of his patriarchy of the Jewish people.

Another story illustrates this quality even in our time, in a much less exalted situation. When the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island was completed, a massive celebration was organized in Brooklyn. All the important political and communal leaders of New York City and the state were invited. The bridge was a major engineering feat and an outstanding accomplishment aesthetically. All the politicians who spoke there elaborated in great detail their role in making it happen.

The only one not invited to speak was the leading engineer who had conceived and supervised its construction. A reporter noted this, and queried him about how he felt about his failure to be recognized. The engineer responded in a most straightforward fashion. He said that every time he viewed the bridge, he looked up at it with great admiration. He, of course, knew who built it, despite what the politicians were saying. And that was enough for him.

May this contemporary reflection of the quality of the leadership of our greatest leader, Moshe, go from that engineer’s mouth to the ears of some of the current crop of the lesser leaders of both our American society and the Jewish community.

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Bridging Traditions: Warming Food on Shabbat Sephardic-Style

Excerpted from Rabbi Haim Jachter’s Bridging Traditions: Demystifying Differences Between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books

Warming Food on Shabbat Sephardic-Style

Imagine the following scene: An Ashkenazic family is visiting a Sephardic family for Shabbat. On Shabbat morning, the Sephardic hostess removes chicken in sauce from the refrigerator and places it straight on the Shabbat tin (what Ashkenazic Jews refer to as a blech). The Ashkenazic family is shocked; they would never place cold food on the tin on Shabbat, even if it were solid and completely cooked! The Ashkenazim wonder if they are permitted to eat food that was reheated in this manner. Luckily, they are able to consult their Rav, who informs them that their Sephardic hosts are simply following the approach of Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:45).

Eno Derech Bishul
The Shulĥan Aruch (Oraĥ Ĥayim 253:5) rules that on Shabbat, one may place fully-cooked solid food on top of a pot filled with food cooking on the fire “because this is not the way of cooking,” “eno derech bishul.” This permitted method of haĥazara (returning food to the fire) is referred to as “kedera al gabei kedera.” Since people do not cook food this way, this obviates any concern for meĥzei k’mevashel, the appearance of cooking. It does not appear like cooking, and the fact that one is reheating the food in this unusual manner demonstrates that he is not interested in stirring the coals (or adjusting the flame).

Ashkenazic authorities debate whether a non-adjustable hot-plate or warming table constitutes a permissible method for reheating food on Shabbat. Those who adopt the lenient approach argue that since people do not cook on a hot-plate or warming table, it is a permissible method to reheat food, similar to the kedera al gabei kedera method. Rav Mordechai Willig (The Laws of Cooking and Warming Food on Shabbat, pp. 145–148) rules leniently, whereas the Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata (1:25) rules strictly.

Rav Ovadia Yosef wholeheartedly endorses the lenient opinion, arguing that a non-adjustable hot-plate successfully avoids concern for adjusting the flame and the appearance of cooking. Moreover, he argues that even simply placing a tin over the fire successfully obviates these concerns. Ashkenazic authorities do not accept this last point, since the Be’ur Halacha (253:3, s.v. v’yizaher) rules in accordance with the Peri Megadim, who argues that kedera al gabei kedeira does not appear as cooking only if the bottom pot is filled with food. Rav Ovadia, on the other hand, follows the view of the Maĥatzit HaShekel, who permits kedera al gabei kedera even if the bottom pot does not contain food.

Reheating a Solid with Much Liquid
The above discussion relates to reheating fully-cooked solid food. The Rama rules (Oraĥ Ĥayim 318:15) that one may not reheat a liquid that has completely cooled down, and according to the Shulĥan Aruch, a liquid may not be reheated if it has cooled down to a temperature of less than yad soledet bo.*

The question of reheating solid food that has some liquid in it has been debated by the Aĥaronim for centuries. Some Aĥaronim (the Baĥ, Vilna Gaon, and Mishna Berura 318:32, 104) maintain that a food must be entirely free of liquid to qualify as a solid. This approach argues that there  is no difference whether one is heating a small or large amount of liquid; just as heating the large amount of liquid is forbidden, as both the Rama and Shulĥan Aruch state, so too is heating a small amount of liquid in a solid food.

Other Aĥaronim (including the Taz, Peri Megadim, and the Kaf HaĤayim, Oraĥ Ĥayim 318:62) maintain that if the majority of a food is solid, it is classified as a solid. The logic of this approach is that the minority of liquid is “batel,” nullified to the majority of solid food.

Rav Yosef Adler cites the view of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik as offering a practical guideline: If the food is eaten with a fork, it is a solid; if it is eaten with a spoon, it is a liquid. On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe 4:74:Bishul:7) rules in accordance with the strict view, except perhaps in a case of great need. Rav Shimon Eider (Halachos of Shabbos, p. 259, n. 114) presents a cogent defense of the lenient view based on an idea of Rav Tzvi Pesaĥ Frank. Most Ashkenazic Jews, however, follow the strict opinion of Rav Moshe.

Rav Ovadia follows the view of the Minĥat Kohen, who rules that one may follow the lenient approach and place cold, fully-cooked solid food that has some liquid in it on the tin on Shabbat morning. Two great contemporaries of Rav Ovadia, Rav Ben Tzion Abba Sha’ul (Teshuvot Ohr L’Tzion 2:30:13) and Rav Shalom Messas (Teshuvot Tevu’ot Shemesh, Oraĥ Ĥayim 66), strongly challenged Rav Ovadia’s ruling. Nevertheless, Rav Ovadia stood firm, confirming his original position in his elder years without any reservation, especially since he marshals evidence that this is the Minhag Yerushalayim (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 7: Oraĥ Ĥayim 42:6; Teshuvot Yabia Omer 9: Oraĥ Ĥayim 108:169).

May Ashkenazim eat food on Shabbat that was reheated by Sephardic Jews in accordance with Rav Ovadia’s ruling? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Although it is forbidden to benefit from work performed in a forbidden manner on Shabbat, this is only a Rabbinic prohibition. The Mishna Berura (318:2, citing the Peri Megadim) and Yalkut Yosef (Oraĥ Ĥayim 253:11) permit eating food cooked in accordance with a legitimate opinion that one does not follow, since we may rule leniently about Rabbinic matters. Thus, even though Ashkenazic Jews refrain from reheating food in this manner due to a possible violation of Halacha, once the food has been prepared, an Ashkenazic Jew may rely on the lenient view and enjoy the food. Accordingly, the Ashkenazic family in our hypothetical example may enjoy without reservations the food reheated by their Sephardic hosts, even if the Sephardim follow a more lenient approach than the Ashkenazim.


*Rav Zecharia Ben-Shlomo (Orot HaHalacha, p. 335) notes that many Yemenite  Jews follow the ruling of the Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 22:8) that one may reheat a fully-cooked liquid even if it has completely cooled. Rav Eliezer Melamed ( and the Yalkut Yosef (Oraĥ Ĥayim 253:11) note that it is permissible for all Jews to eat hot soup served at a home of a Yemenite Jew who follows this ancestral practice.