SUNRISE IN JERUSALEM
By RABBI STEVEN BERG
Dear Aish Family,
One of the perks of my job is that when I am in Israel I am able to pray at the Kotel at sunrise. Sunrise is a special time. According to Jewish law, the first time that we can fulfill the special commandment of morning prayer is precisely at the moment that the sun appears on the horizon. Hundreds of Jews gather every morning to pray and when the moment of sunrise hits, there is total silence as everyone says the silent Shemonah Esrei, (the nineteen blessings).
As a result of Covid-19 and as an extra precaution, I have taken to praying on the Diener Family Terrace on the fifth floor of the Dan Family Aish HaTorah World Center. The view is spectacular and I can hear the prayers from below so I can join in. I started to notice that because I was much higher than usual I had a beautiful view of the sun as it ascended. I started to take pictures every day and post them on social media.
I was stunned by the responses I was getting. Jews all over the diaspora were desperate to see the pictures. Their hearts were broken as a result of not being able to travel to Israel; one of the painful side effects of the current world wide pandemic. It is hard to describe to the world at large the attachment a Jew has to Israel. It is more than just a country of Jews. It is our homeland. It is our destiny.
I started to send my pictures to so many people to lift their spirits. I was emailing with an acquaintance that I work with at the White House. I decided to send her a picture. She is not Jewish but she is incredibly pro-Israel. She was so moved by the scene and couldn’t thank me enough for the thoughtfulness of sending it to her.
We all need inspiration. We must all seek to uplift each other every day. Especially during this pandemic when so many are struggling. Just sending an inspiring thought or picture can change a persons whole day. We also all need to come to Israel. May the Almighty heal the world and open the borders speedily. Aish will be ready to open its doors wide for all of you. I look forward to praying with you at Aish and watching the sunrise together.
Rabbi Steven Burg, CEO, Aish Global
By RABBI DR. RAYMOND APPLE
Justice comes in two senses in this sidra. There must be judicial officials – judges and officers in our gates (Deut. 16:18) – and their constant aim must be to pursue justice (Deut. 16:20). Why the Torah speaks of pursuing justice is because no human being – but only G[-]d – can be relied upon to achieve and exercise true justice.
Human judges can only try (as hard as possible) to reach the goal. They can never be completely certain that they have attained it, which is why they must say to themselves, "I think I did quite well on this occasion but I will try and do even better next time".
Washing your hands is central to self‑hygiene. In a different sense, washing the hands before meals has long been required by Judaism (Ex. 30:19 is the source of the practice). However, the Torah reading this week tells us that there are times when there is another type of hand‑washing which raises an ethical question.
When the elders see a dead body they declare, "Our hands did not shed this blood" (Deut. 21:7‑8). They say with the Psalmist, "I wash my hands in innocence" (Psalm 26:6). The commentators ask, who would have accused the elders of bloodshed?
The answer is that if anything untoward happens whilst the elders are in office they cannot have carried out their tasks properly. Unfortunately, in our generation there are leaders whose innocence is only purported and they can be suspected of corruption and selfishness. They are not always paragons of moral virtue with "clean hands and a pure heart".
If they weep that things have gone wrong in society, it is only crocodile tears.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
It comes as a command, "You shall not remove your neighbour’s landmark" (Deut. 19:14), and as a curse, "Cursed be he who removes his neighbor’s landmark" (Deut. 27:17). In those days the boundaries around a person’s field were marked by a row of stones. It was easy for the person next door to shift the stones in order to annex extra land to his own property. Hence the Torah had to warn him sternly, "lo tassig g’vul re’acha" – "Do not move your neighbor’s landmark".
The problem must have arisen often in Biblical times; the warning is repeated by the prophet Hosea (5:1) and in the Book of Proverbs (22:28, 23:10). The Book of Job (24:2) identifies the main victims as the poor, the orphan and the widow; Isaiah (5:8) condemns the rich and greedy who "join house to house, field to field".
Though the law was originally meant to apply only to Israel, the sages were adamant that appropriating other people’s territory was unlawful wherever it happened (Bava Metzia 107b; Bava Batra 89a; Rambam, Hilchot G’nevah 7:11, 8:1‑3; Choshen Mishpat 376:1, 231:1).
"Hassagat g’vul", removing a landmark, came to have a much wider connotation as a general protection of the rights of others. It was applied to the rights of the poor to glean in the field and even to a scholar’s rights to his intellectual property and a printer’s rights to the works he publishes.
Despite the advantages of business competition, in time it became unlawful to infringe upon another’s means of livelihood, especially if the person concerned had special expertise and had invested considerable funds and effort in building up his business.
The halachic sources devote much attention to the question of a professional encroaching on another’s practice and endeavoring to attract his clients. A rabbi too must respect the rights of another rabbi. All in all, "hassagat g’vul" became a major ethical concept that said two things: mind your own business, and mind other people’s business from encroachment.
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