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Response to a reader regarding Qabala and the Zohar PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rav Bar-Hayim   
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 00:00


Response to a reader's letter.


Shalom Rav

There are points on which we agree. Briefly:

1. We are in agreement regarding the period of time the Second Miqdash stood. You are perturbed by the fact that Hazal were mistaken about certain historical facts and the overall chronology of Bayith Sheni. Hazal were indeed mistaken with regards to certain historical events, but this need not concern us. Hazal were not historians; they did not have the wherewithal to know of certain things. In general they were unfamiliar with the entire Persian period. Indeed, to this day our knowledge of that period is very sketchy. By the same token, Hazalic statements pertaining to physical and scientific issues based on the flawed knowledge of their time need not concern us; Hazal were not scientists. Science in the modern sense did not exist at that time; it was all a matter of speculation and opinion, or received wisdom which was not infrequently spurious. To the extent that certain Halakhoth are based on such misinformation, or that matters that could not be verified in the past can today be readily ascertained in minutes – such as determining if a widow or divorcee is pregnant or not in order to permit her remarriage – it is my view that such matters should be re-examined. Hazal were the students and disciples of the Prophets; their expertise was Tora and its implementation in the real world.

2. We are in agreement that many of the statements of certain medieval Jewish philosophers are contrived and clearly the result of attempting to force the Tora to conform to preconceived notions, principally the tenets of the Aristotelian school. As a result many of their arguments are unsatisfactory. Some of their claims and "proofs" are simply based on the flawed pseudo-science of their day. Regarding this last point, the same can and must be said regarding the Zoharic literature and most M'qubalim. Having said this, there are many profound insights in these very same works of philosophy and Qabala. The m'lekheth mahsheveth is to distinguish between the grain and the chaff.

3. There were other Jewish philosophers who, while fully recognizing the great value of the writings of philosophers such as RaSaG and Rambam, were nevertheless aware of their intellectual and spiritual inconsistencies and shortcomings, and therefore adopted a very different but equally rational approach based on the plain meaning of the Tora together with rigorous logic, common sense and enlightened intuition. I refer to Hakhamim such as R. Y’hudah HaLewi, R. Yisshaq Abarbanel, R. Yoseph Elbo and R. Hisdai Crescas. You may not identify with or approve of their views, but their philosophical systems are immune to most, if not all, the criticism that may legitimately be directed at Rambam’s system. To my mind, they present philosophical-theological-ideological systems more compelling than those offered by the various schools of the M’qubalim. It is no coincidence that R. Yisshaq Abarbanel disproves certain chronological claims of Hazal in Sedher 'Olam Raba (e.g. see Abarbanel to Sh'muel I, 8:1 regarding the age of Sh'muel HaNavi at the time of his death). According to Abarbanel and like-minded Hakhamim who accepted Hazal’s authority and fully recognised their profound wisdom, we can never ignore the plain meaning of the T’nakh, nor may we switch off our faculty of critical thought. We do not find a similarly rational and objective approach in the works of the M’qubalim.

4. In modern times, we have been blessed with the writings of several great philosophers: Rav Hirsch, Rav Kook, Rav Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik and Shabtai Ben-Dov, to name a few. It is true that Rav Kook was a great Qabalist; it is equally true that one can subscribe to almost everything he writes, or reach similar conclusions, without accepting any system of Qabala. As for the others, none were Qabalistically inclined. I do not feel that any one of these great thinkers produced a system which is complete and perfect in and of itself; each one tended to deal with different aspects of Jewish existence and thought. I would add that I consider the poetry and other writings of Uri Ssvi Grinberg to be much, much more than poetry; in my eyes he was a great artist and thinker. I most certainly do perceive the need for a Tora-based philosophy and ideology for the Jewish nation and the Jewish individual of the present and future generations. To my mind such a philosophy would be a synthesis of the systems of these and other great minds. I hope one day to commit to writing some thoughts regarding such a philosophy.

5. Just as you admit that there things that you cannot satisfactorily explain, I too admit to the same. The difference is the nature of the unexplained matter. If I am unable to explain the Tora's instructions regarding Ssara'ath, I simply admit that there are misswoth that I do not fully understand (even where some partial explanation is possible). This does not invalidate the entire Tora, just as the entire corpus of physics is not invalidated by phenomena that are currently beyond explanation.

6. We agree that "Popular acceptance or not of any particular work is irrelevant to whether its teachings are true or false."

I do not, however, agree with many of your arguments and claims. For example:

1. I reject your claims regarding the redaction of the Talmud, the conclusions at which you arrive, and the connection you somehow perceive between these issues and the authorship and validity of the Zohar. I do not follow your argumentation. I endeavoured to explain my position, but you think otherwise. To my mind, the questions you raise do not invalidate my position; to your mind they do. We do not and shall not see eye to eye on these issues.

2. Regarding issues pertaining to historical chronologies: I have already stated that Hazal were not historians and that it seems plain that they were sometimes mistaken. In addition, it is well-known that in the T'nakh the genealogy for the same person appears in one place in long form and in another in short form (with certain generations left out). I consider it quite possible that this phenomenon exists in Hazalic texts as well. In general, when Hazal did not have firm facts, they tended to contract the time frame by linking and often juxtaposing two known facts or events. Such contractions are common in Seder 'Olam Raba; the aim was to avoid untidy gaps. (I might mention here that I know a certain brilliant mathematician, originally from Russia and a ba'al t'shuva, who has developed the most ludicrous set of ideas based on bogus interpretations of the T'nakh and his capacity for mathematical reckoning. One of his rules of thumb is that where one event is related in the Tora on the heels of another, and the text does not make it plain that it took place years later, we are to understand that it transpired immediately. This somehow bolsters his strange understanding of and belief in Tora and Hazal. His conclusions are inane. Nevertheless, his methodology is occasionally reminiscent of Hazal's contractions; both are attempting to plot a comprehensive and precise time line where this is impossible due to insufficient data.)

3. One more thing regarding historical chronology. We cannot state with certainty who Shim'on HaSsadiq was and when he lived. There are two possible candidates, and some and perhaps all of the issues you mention can be explained on this basis. All this, however, has nothing to do with the question of the authenticity of the Zohar. This, at least, is my view.

4. You wrote: "The fact that the Zohar appeared in the 1200s is irrelevant." I disagree. Anything that suddenly appears ex nihilo is suspect. When, upon examination, it becomes evident that it is a forgery, and a rather sloppy one at that, it's an open and shut case.

5. I disagree with your estimation of R. Ya'aqov Emden. So does everyone else I've ever heard of.

6. The RaMaQ's statements in Or Yaqar regarding T'kheleth speak for themselves. Your attempt to change the subject by suggesting that a) I have not studied RaMaQ's other works (untrue, and something which you cannot possibly know), and b) that RaMaQ's statement in Or Yaqar cannot be understood by anyone less expert than yourself in Qabala, do not constitute an argument and do not change the facts.

7. Regarding Rav Kook z'l: there are many examples in his writings of contradictory statements. Sometimes he simply changed his mind. Not infrequently Rav Kook explains one facet of an issue in one place, and elsewhere elucidates another facet. That is life, that is reality, and that is Rav Kook. This matter is deserving of an in-depth discussion.

8. You feel that Qabala almost magically explains many misswoth and Hazalic statements, and that this serves to prove its essential truth. I do not know if you heard this line of argument from Rav Zilberman z'l, but I know that I did. About 20 years ago I attended a shiur where Rav Zilberman claimed that the best proof of the essential truth of Qabala is the fact that it succeeds in explaining many disparate statements of Hazal which are otherwise inexplicable. He likened it to a magical master key which opens all locks, and stated that no human being could have invented such a master key. I am unconvinced by this argument. Firstly, many of these "magical" explanations are simply not credible and strike me as contrived. Secondly, and despite the foregoing, Qabala is indeed like a master key – a key that has been created from the locks which it is designed to open. Qabala is holistic, intuitive, vague and elusive, and yet sometimes profoundly insightful. This does not prove that it is the authentic and sole underpinning of Tora as you claim; it is indicative of the fact that it is the result of many great Tora-inspired minds working together and separately, over many centuries, a fact reflected in the many profound truths that it expresses. Over time this evolved into an immensely complicated system described by a very versatile terminology. The resulting system is so fluid and elastic that it can be made to say and mean almost anything. Thus Qabala can be explained in such a way as to support both the teachings and actions of Shabtai Ssvi sr'y, as explained in great detail by the brilliant Nathan of Gaza, or be employed by those who opposed everything Shabtai Ssvi stood for. It therefore lends itself to exegetical endeavour more than any other philosophical system.

9. For you, Qabala is a great illumination, a shedding of light on matters hidden. There is an element of truth in this perception. The Spanish school of Qabala was essentially a response to the works of Rav Sa'adhya Gaon and Rambam which were rooted largely in Aristotelian philosophy. R. Y'hudha HaLewi's Kuzari was also a response to Rav Sa'adhya Gaon. Many found the Aristotlelian approach unsatisfactory. This dissatisfaction begat a great wave of creative thought. When creative and perceptive minds strive, they are eventually rewarded with insight. This process is ongoing; we continue down the river of enlightenment which flows from the Tora. Every historical period and system adds to our understanding.

10. There is another side to Qabala which you choose to ignore. I am completing this letter on the night of Lagh Ba'Omer. As I type bonfires are burning all over the country, polluting the nation's air, keeping up children of all ages till the small hours. Result: Schools will not open tomorrow. 100,000 Jews are in Meron to celebrate the supposed passing of R. Shim'on Ben Yohai on this day, despite the lack of any indication, let alone proof, that this is so (see Ben Ish Hai’s Da’ath UThvuna p.4). And if it were true, would this somehow explain the madness? What are they doing there? What does any of this achieve? Does anyone behave in this way on Moshe Rabenu’s yahrzeit?

My point is that extreme and unhinged behaviour is intrinsic to the Qabalistic perspective on life, and its real world impact is generally negative. Time and again we see that so-called mysticism conduces to irrational and unhealthy behaviours. For example: Would people who cannot properly provide for their children somehow find the money to fly to Uman one, two and three times a year were it not for the Qabalistic significance that they attach to such a trip? Another example: Inserts included in newspapers for the last two weeks have been encouraging people to phone up and order their very own, personal Holy Qabala Candle. "Just send us a donation, and light this candle on Lagh Ba'Omer and pray to Rashbi for whatever you like….the mystical powers are incredible. Your life will change." Avodha Zara, pure and simple. I have the inserts on my desk, and I'm keeping them in case someone doesn't believe me. In the name of Qabala, Judaism has, for many, been turned into a circus, an orgy of primitive superstitions. And did I mention Shabtai Ssvi? The followers of Shabtai Ssvi were known as "Zoharisten" because they claimed their heresies and abominations were based on the Zohar. Anyone wishing to discuss Qabala must first be able and willing to look the reality of Qabala in the eye. It's not pretty.

11. For a very select few, capable of conceiving of sophisticated constructs and analogies, Qabala can engender enlightenment. For most Jews, however, and for the historical collective of K'lal Yisrael, it has led to much that is pernicious. The most glaring example is the criminal passivity and delusional attitude towards Redemption that is evident wherever Qabala thrives. In this sense, Qabala and Zionism are diametrically opposed, and to the extent that Judaism in general was influenced by such thinking, particularly over the last 5 centuries, Zionism justifiably viewed itself as the antithesis of Judaism. And this is an immense tragedy, because the healthy aspects of Zionism – namely, that we are required to create G'ula by our own real-world actions as prescribed by the Tora – have always been part and parcel of authentic Tora Judaism.

12. I firmly believe in the spiritual life, in the reality of spiritual and mystical experience. None of the foregoing should be misconstrued to suggest otherwise. We are not, however, required to believe in every claim, pseudo-science or text presented to us.

While I am willing to discuss nearly anything with you, it is apparent that we must agree to disagree on certain matters.


Rabbi David Bar-Hayim


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Hewing Tablets: Shavuoth & The Geulah PDF Print E-mail
Written by Yehudah B. Ilan   
Sunday, 20 May 2012 00:00



Published 2012-05-20

by Yehudah B. Ilan

Rise & Fall

As we come to the end of S'phirath HaOmer and are rapidly approaching Shavuoth, we are no doubt reminded of the popular midrash that in the Galuth Missrayim our people had descended to the 49th out of 50th levels of impurity and that over the seven weeks from Pesah to Shavuoth the B’nei Yisrael were daily purified from one level of impurity until, at the end of 49 days, we merited to receive the Torah at Sinai in purity (Zohar Hadash, Parashath Yithro - cf. Yehezqel 20:1-12 and Sh'moth 6:2-13). However, we quickly descended into the depths of impurity at Sinai with the worship of the golden calf.

Mosheh Rabenu, informed by HaShem about the idolatrous betrayal being perpetrated below at the base of the mountain, descended with the tablets on which the Torah had been inscribed "by the finger of God" - a phrase which is understood by the Rambam in the Moreh Nevukhim (1:66) as referring to a miracle of the Asereth HaDibroth "naturally" occurring somehow in the face of the stones. And it is at this moment – upon seeing for himself the calf and the dancing – that he commits an act of rage that was sanctioned by God Himself (b.Bava Bathra 14b): he throws down the tablets, shattering them on the ground. This act possesses great symbolism: the point to which we had risen just days prior we had now fallen from. The g’ulah just performed had been undone (as is evidenced by HaShem's expressed will to Mosheh that in return for our wickedness He would have liked to destroy us - Sh'moth 32:10) and the covenant of the Torah had also been undone. Our people stood once again in a helpless place of galuth and impurity.

So what was the solution? How did we move on from that point in our national history? The Torah tells us that God told Moshe, “Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones and ascend to me up the mountain, and make for yourself an ark of wood (p'sal lekha shnei luhoth avanim karishonim wa-aleh elai ha-hara, wa-asitha lekha aron ess)” (Devarim 10:1). Then He says further in the following pasuq, “And I will write upon the tablets the statements which were on the first tablets which you broke, and place them within the ark (wa-ekhtov al ha-luhoth eth ha-d'varim asher hayu al ha-luhoth ha-rishonim asher shibarta, wa-samtam ba-aron)” (Ibid. 10:2). These two pasuqim show us that the national relationship between us and HaQadosh Barukh Hu took on new form and that the dramatic interaction between Mosheh and the Sh'khinah at Har Sinai is meant to illustrate this new reality to us.

Before & After

While many aspects of the relationship remained the same even after the second giving of the Torah, some things changed:

In the first giving of the Torah it says that God "descended" to us (Sh’moth 19:11,18) in the second giving of the Torah Mosheh was told to ascend the mountain to God (Devarim 10:1). [Mosheh was certainly commanded to ascend Har Sinai before this (Sh’moth 19:20,24), but it that case it was to receive the tablets and to confirm the brith with HaShem. In the second instance, Mosheh was not only bringing tablets he had made, but was also going to present the case of the people to HaShem in order to obtain divine mercy (Sh’moth 32:30-34; Devarim 9:25-29, 10:1-5)]

The first tablets were carved and inscribed by God Himself (Sh’moth 31:18, 32:16), the second set were the work of Mosheh - with only the original Asereth HaDibroth being replaced by HaShem (Devarim 10:1,3). Mosheh was also instructed to build a wooden ark in which to keep the tablets he had made (Devarim 10:1) – a requirement not previously stipulated.

Additionally, the process of g’ulah also changed.

Whereas when the B’nei Yisrael were taken out of Missrayim, many signs and explicit miracles (nissim niglaim) were performed openly on our behalf, but when we entered Erets Yisrael the divine assistance that the B’nei Yisrael received was in the form of Divine Providence (hashgahah pratith) and hidden (or, implicit) miracles (nissim nistarim). We fought our own wars, the Mana ceased and we began to engage in agriculture, the well from which we and our animals drank ceased, and the responsibility for dispossessing the non-Jewish nations in the land was placed firmly in our hands (which we failed to do, as the repeated accounts of assimilation recorded in Sepher Shoftim demonstrate).

So what is the lesson? The events of the exodus from Missrayim, the giving of the Torah, and the sin of the golden calf teach us that a g’ulah that is gained through Divine fiat without any effort from us results in a g’ulah that does not last. As we learn from basic common sense that what a person gains with little or no personal effort he does not care for or appreciate the same way as that which he gains through hard work and personal determination, so also a national redemption that is freely given and is not accomplished in large part by us will not endure - "Wealth from thin air will decrease, but that which is gathered by hand will increase" (Mishlei 13,11).

Start & Finish

So why, then, were we brought out of Missrayim, purified, brought to the foot of Har Sinai, and gifted with the holy Torah? Knowing that it would not last because it was not earned, why would HaQadosh Barukh Hu do all of this freely on our behalf? So that when we did eventually fall, we would know what perfection is like and so that we would know that such a state is possible. Thus, having tasted of the spiritual delights of paradise, we would be driven to whatever is necessary to return to where we once were and to regain the precious blessings that were lost.

Ezra HaSofer, Nehemyah, and the rest of the Men of the Great Assembly understood the path of true redemption very well. They returned from the Galuth Bavel to Erets Yisrael, strove to return our people to the land of their inheritance, built up the walls of Yerushalayim, rebuilt the Beth HaMiqdash, instituted a plan of systematic learning and teaching of Torah, and resurrected a semblance of the Davidic monarchy - all while enduring incredible opposition from the non-Jewish nations around us - "With one hand doing the work and one hand grasping a weapon" (Nehemiah 4:11, see also y.Shevi’ith 42b-43a). These men certainly experienced nissim nistarim and hashgahah pratith throughout the process, but the efforts exerted and the measures taken were their own, and they understood that this was the method that Heaven intended.

However, it was never intended that our people would finish the process of redemption, only that we would go through the process of striving toward that end. In fact, it is impossible that we could do so. Rather, when we return to the Torah as a Nation, HaShem promises to bring about the ultimate stage of redemption (Bamidbar Rabah 7:10 on Devarim 30:1-6). This is why we are told to “Circumcise yourselves to HaShem and remove [from yourselves] the orlah of your heart” (Yermiyah 4,4; Devarim 10,16) and in the age to come it is promised “And HaShem your God will circumcise your heart” (Devarim 30:6).

Also, just as Mosheh Rabenu was told to place the tablets into the ark, so we are also commanded to place the words of Torah “upon your heart” (Devarim 6:6; see also Shir HaShirim 8:6) and “in your mouth” (Y'hoshua 1:8) - through our efforts – but in the future, God will “place [His] Torah within them, and upon their hearts [He] will write it” (Yermiyah 31:32; Yeshayah 59:21). Thus we see that although HaShem will ultimately perfect our efforts, we are nevertheless expected strive for it in practical ways until that time (cf. Pirkei Avoth 2:15-16).

Then & Now

Currently, there are three basic approaches to the concept of g’ulah: Secular Zionist, Religious Zionist (Dati-Leumi), and Haredi. Each of these three approaches can be evaluated in light of Mosheh Rabenu's symbolic and prophetic actions of hewing the second set of tablets mentioned above.

Secular Zionism understood well that the Jewish people are required to exert effort in order to obtain the redemption that was promised, however they did not understand that although they fashioned the tablets, they are not the law-givers. Rather, the Torah only and always comes from HaShem. Thus, they dispensed with the majority of Torah and halakhah, failing to place the tablets within the "ark" of their hearts, minds, and lives. Ultimately, their plans for a g’ulah without Torah failed to come to fruition.

The Haredi world, on the other hand, understands well that the Torah only and always comes from HaShem, and they understand that in the end HaShem will perfect us, but they are apparently unaware of (or are simply unwilling to acknowledge) what is practically required of them as members of the Jewish nation. Instead they act as if everything will miraculously transpire as it did when we left Missrayim, with no national effort made toward the redemption. Thus, they continue to wait and to do nothing; failing before they have begun.

Religious Zionism (at least in theory) is the practical implementation of the entire concept. We understand that we must practically work toward the g’ulah, that the Torah and halakhah are from HaShem, and that ultimately God will bring our efforts to their intended perfection. Thus, the Dati-Leumi world seeks to uphold the truth of Torah while working practically toward the redemption, and praying daily for our final success and perfection to come.

In & Out

Today, the majority of the Jewish people lives in Erets Yisrael and thousands more arrive every year. And while we are certainly in the process of g’ulah, overall we are still walking the path of a Judaism that is decidedly focused on the galuth and its corresponding realities. We have to go beyond those misswoth that apply outside of the land and make a concerted effort for excellence in halakhoth outside of Orah Hayim. It is upon us to revive and return to the misswoth and their accompanying minhagim that apply specifically to Erets Yisrael as recorded in our Torah sources. The misswoth that apply even outside of Erets Yisrael have become entrenched in customs that correspond to a galuth reality and that reality is merely being transplanted to the land. When our people makes a national effort to live as Jews in Erets Yisrael, following the ancient customs and shedding the developments, labels, and innovations of the countries where we once resided, then all of our misswoth will become, as it were, “specific” to the land and they will provide the zekhuth to effect greater levels of g’ulah. However, the change must first take place on the level of the mind.

Removing the intellectual and emotional barriers that have formed in the minds of the Jewish people is no small task, but it is lies at the very foundation of nation’s future. It is a change that requires an effect in many areas and many aspects of Jewish life. From a return to the purity of the Hebrew language and its proper pronunciation to a practical study and implementation of the t’philloth, berakhoth, and minhagim which are found in the Talmudh Yerushalmi (which were in use before there were such divisions as “Ashkenazi,” “Sepharadi,” or “Teimani”) to an awareness that setting up a nation-state, a Sanhedrin, and building a Beth HaMiqdash are misswoth aseh min ha-Torah and the halakhic responsibility for their construction lies squarely with us, the Jewish people. It means admitting that we are no longer who we used to be or where we used to be. It means looking into our souls and envisioning the spiritual levels that have been lost and practically striving for them with all of our strength.

“Thus says HaShem, Stand on the ways and see, and ask for the eternal paths (i.e. the paths of righteousness walked by our ancestors – RaDaQ), where the good way is, and walk on it. In doing so you will find serenity for your souls” (Yermiyah 6:16).

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The Laws of Nida - Basic Concepts and Requirements PDF Print E-mail
Written by harav   
Thursday, 03 January 2013 21:02


Hilkhoth Nida – Basic Concepts and Requirements in Brief

Yom 5, 21-10-65 — 21 Teveth 5773 — 03-01-2013


1. This is a very frustrating mitzvah for me!  Although we do keep it fully.  I'm so confused about many things regarding Taharat Mishpacha.  Isn't it true that when a woman is Niddah (or a Zava?), the first seven days are d'oreita, and the seven clean days are actually a machloket?  Why is it that women can forgo the first seven days but never the second?  The seven clean days seems so excessive to me!

2. In your view, must a woman wait 4 or 5 days before doing a hefsek tahara?

3. Is a moch dachuk necessary?  I learned that it was a chumrah and never did them, personally.

4. I realize some of these things are "Sephardi v. Ashkenazi" and I'd like to know where you stand.

5. I also tend to have issues with staining and have trouble getting clean bedikot the first few days of the seven, so I'm always seeking out 'leniencies.'



1. Very good news…

2. Regarding your other questions: Min HaTora, a menstruating woman (i.e. at the usual time for her menstrual cycle) is ttame for 7 days, whether she saw blood for 1 day or up to and including 7 days. She must then peform a b’dhiqa, and at night, i.e. the beginning of the 8th day, she goes to the miqwe. Those 7 days are known as Y’me Nida. Where the bleeding continued beyond the initial 7 days, see below no.3.

3. If, however, blood is seen during the 11 days following those first 7 days (which occurred at the time of her usual menstrual cycle), it becomes more complicated. If she saw blood for 1 or 2 days, she must wait one clean day for every day of bleeding, and then go to the miqwe after performing a b’dhiqa. If she saw blood for 3 consecutive days, she must wait for the bleeding to cease, perform a b’dhiqa, and count 7 Clean Days before going to the miqwe on the night of the 8th day. Min HaTora, it is only in this case that a woman must count 7 Clean Days. These 11 days are known as Y’me Ziva, because only during these days can a woman become a Zava. After those 11 Y’me Ziva, i.e. after 18 days from the beginning of the usual menstrual cycle, any bleeding is considered Nida and not Ziva. (This is the view of all Rishonim. The view often attributed to Rambam is based on a corrupt text (as found, for example, in the very inaccurate Vilna edition) and is quite impossible. For the correct text, see MT Hilkhoth Isure Biya 6:5).

4. All of the above is min HaTora. Due to the possibility of confusion, the Hakhamim decreed that all bleeding be considered to have occurred during the 11 Y’me Ziva, which means that normal, menstrual bleeding that lasts 3 or more days must be followed by 7 clean days.

5. In addition, the Talmud informs us that Jewish women took upon themselves the added stringency of always counting 7 Clean Days after seeing even a drop of blood and no matter for how long the bleeding lasted (TB B'rakhoth 31a, M'ghila 28b and Nida 66a). See Rambam's MT Hilkhoth Isure Biya 11:4,

6. These humroth (strictures) are understood by many today to be problematic. The humroth mentioned above can frequently result in ‘Halakhic infertility’, i.e. the woman missing her window of opportunity for conception due to ovulation occuring during the Seven Clean Days. This is a very serious issue on a number of levels, not the least of which is the demographic future of the Jewish people. On a different note, I have heard serious, God-fearing Jews state that the lengthy abstinence (usually 12 days or more) from marital relations can have a negative impact on the marriage. These issues cannot be swept under the carpet. I assume that when a critical mass within ‘Am Yisrael wake up and establish a Beth Din Gadhol, as is our duty according to the Tora (see Rambam’s MT Hilkhoth Sanhedrin 1:4), these issues will feature prominently on the agenda.

7. It is not necessary to wait 4 or 5 days before performing an Hephseq Tahara and starting to count the 7 Clean Days. If the menstrual bleeding lasted only 1-3 days and a b’diqa is performed and found to be clean, one may begin counting the 7 Clean Days immediately. See Rambam’s MT Isure Biya 11:13 and Hilkhoth Nida of Ra’ah 1:2.   

8. A Mokh Dahuq (see Shulhan ‘Arukh YD 196:1) – a humra based on the recommendation of the Rashba (but not a requirement) and not mentioned by Hazal or other Rishonim – is unnecessary. (This is one more example of R. Yoseph Karo z’l not following the rules that he himself laid down in the introduction to his Beth Yoseph commentary on the Tur, in which he states that he will follow the unanimous or majority opinion of three Rishonim: Riph, Rambam and Rosh. None of these Rishonim require a Mokh Dahuq.)

May HASHEM bless you in all things

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim
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Homosexuality and the Tora PDF Print E-mail
Written by HaRav   
Thursday, 06 December 2012 17:55


Yom 5, 22-12-65 — 22 Kislew 5773 — 06-12-2012


Shalom Rav Bar-Hayim,

I have a question based on this article I wrote a few months ago: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/11728#.UIAWpmfAHmc.

My understanding is that mishkav zachur (sodomy) is also prohibited for gentiles under the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach. If so, what is the scope of enforcement for gentile governments? Specifically, are they obligated to criminalize private acts of homosexuality as well as public manifestations thereof like homosexually-themed bars and such?

I ask the question in these terms because I had occasion to discuss my article with a Chabad rabbi soon after it appeared. He described Michael Oren's promotion of homosexual tourism to Israel as a "Maisa Satan," but the rabbi compared "going into people's bedrooms" by criminalizing homosexuality to the mayor of New York City's campaign against large sodas—that is, wrongful use of state power. Likewise, in a book published in 2002, Rabbi Yosef Reinman from Lakewood notes that “The Torah forbids homosexuality, period,” subsequently writing: "I do not advocate laws against homosexuals. I do not believe secular governments should regulate sexual morality." In a related vein, a rabbi affiliated with Yeshiva University stated at the end of a recent talk on homosexual marriage: "It's a complicated discussion. Again, I'm not here to say we should or should not [oppose homosexual marriage], but I think there's a range of possibilities of how one can look at it."

While this resonates with my own classical liberal inclinations and belief in constrained political authority, I'm not sure that classical liberalism and Sheva Mitzvot enforcement duties are compatible in this case. Trying to apply the latter through the former seems to produce what might be called a hashqaphic sha'atnez.

Kol Tuv,



  1. I commend you on the article excoriating Michael Oren for his comments endorsing homosexuality. It is indeed a disgrace and a Hilul HASHEM that a man bereft of any moral compass such as he should be appointed an ambassador of Israel to the world.
  2. You are correct in thinking that homosexual relations are forbidden by the Tora for all human beings. See TB Sanhedrin 58a and Rambam’s MT Isure Biya 14:10 and M’lakhim UMilhamoth 9:7.
  3. Rambam (M’lakhim UMilhamoth 9:17) goes on to explain that non-Jewish societies “are required to appoint judges and courts to try” all matters pertaining to the Seven Noahide Laws “and to inform and warn the people” regarding these laws. It is, therefore, the duty of the government and its institutions to educate the public about the Seven Noahide Laws, including the prohibition regarding homosexuality, and to treat those who transgress any of the Noahide laws as criminals.
  4. A criminal act is a criminal act whether it is done in public or in private. Until recent times, most civilized (and many uncivilized) countries considered sodomy a criminal offence. (Sodomy refers to homosexual intercourse, known in Halakhic literature as Mishkav Zakhur. It is this the Tora (Wayiqra 18:22 and 20:13) refers to as To’eva (abomination). Heterosexual anal intercourse is permitted (see Rambam’s uncensored MT Isure Biya 21:10; uncensored version of Rosh Y’vamoth 3:9 (see Venice edition, or BaH’s annotation no. 6); uncensored version of Tur OH 240 and Even Ha’Ezer 25)).
  5. No government is required or allowed to invade people’s privacy without extremely good cause (e.g. fighting terrorism). However, as you correctly point out, flaunting one’s perversion in public is another matter. It goes without saying that no-one has the right to advocate and defend a criminal practice. According to the Tora, so-called ‘gay’ bars, advocacy groups and organizations furthering the LGBT agenda are engaged in a pernicious form of criminality which subverts healthy human society.
  6. All of the above should be self-evident to any Tora Jew, let alone a rabbi….or so one would think. Many today have been so bamboozled by ‘liberal’ (read: ‘amoral and confused’) thinking in general and the LGBT lobby in particular that they unconsciously distort the Tora to fit their predilections. (With regards to the Lakewood rabbi who wrote: "I do not advocate laws against homosexuals. I do not believe secular governments should regulate sexual morality", I note that he speaks of secular governments. Perhaps he feels that a government and society which makes no pretence regarding its adherence to a Bible-based moral code has no right to legislate on such matters. He has a point; this is why more and more countries and states are decriminalizing homosexual relations. As Tora Jews, however, it is our duty to proclaim the truth of the Tora unambiguously.)
  7. A female former Conservative rabbi, Dr. 'Enath Rimon (or Ramon?) stated in a recent article/interview in Maqor Rishon's D'yuqan magazine (19-10-2012, no. 793, p. 21) that at one point she realized that granting the "homo-lesbian community" recognition – such as the Conservative movement's decision six years ago to sanction rabbinical ordination for homosexuals and lesbians, or legalizing same-sex marriages – inexorably led to LGBT indoctrination. She mentioned the example of a Massachusetts judge forcing kindergartens to include in their curriculum stories about a prince marrying a prince. Her conclusion: the religious freedom of those who wish to bring their children up believing that only heterosexuality is normal and healthy has been sacrificed on the altar of "liberalism". She went on to say that such recognition has led to "homo-lesbian terror", citing the original decision of the Conservative movement's Halakha Committee to grant autonomy to each community and institution regarding the question of appointing a homo-lesbian rabbi. In practice, she states, one cannot be appointed a dean in any academic institution of the movement if one opposes homo-lesbian rabbis, and some communities will not accept a rabbi who refuses to perform same-sex marriages. She goes on to predict that before long no rabbi opposed to homo-lesbian rabbis will be suffered.
  8. The LGBT lobby's agenda is evil; it is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Tora. There is a reason why sodomy is called sodomy; it is always an accepted practice in Sodom-like societies (see B'reshith 19:5). A society wishing to live and prosper is duty-bound to criminalize such behaviour and those who advocate it.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Enunciating Words During T’phila and Other B'rakhoth PDF Print E-mail
Written by harav   
Thursday, 07 February 2013 17:38
Enunciating Words During T’phila and Other B'rakhoth

Yom 5, 27-11-65 —27 Sh'vatt 5773 — 07-02-2013


Shalom, Rav
When davening, how much should I pronounce the words? Is it enough to, as the Rambam suggests, say them in my mind? Should I, like the Shulchan Aruch says, form them with my lips? Or do I need to at a minimum whisper them so I can hear?



1. I assume that your question relates, in the first place, to T’phila, i.e. Sh’mone ‘Esre. Rambam does not suggest that one should recite the T’phila silently, i.e. in one’s head. In Hilkhoth T’phila 5:10 Rambam states the opposite , namely that while one should not daven aloud, one must enunciate the words with one’s lips and whisper to oneself. Rambam goes on to say that if one is ill, or unable to concentrate without reciting the T’phila out loud, one may do so in private but not in a minyan so as not to disturb others. This is also the view of the Shulhan ‘Arukh Orah Hayim 101:2 who quotes Rambam nearly word for word.

2. The source for all this is in the Talmud Y’rushalmi B’rakhoth 4:1 and Talmud Bavli B’rakhoth 31a.

3. The difference between T'phila and other B'rakhoth is that during T'phila one should whisper, whereas other B'rakhoth should be said aloud. See Rambam's MT Hilkhoth B'rakhoth 1:7.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2013 17:39
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