שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

A Vision of Greatness: Rabbi Yonason Eibeshitz

Rabbi Yonason Eibeshitz was born in the year 1690 (5450) to Rabbi Nosson Nota, descendent of the ‘Megaleh Amukos’ and Rav of the city of Eibeschitz. The precocious young boy was recognized at an early age to be a future luminary of Israel. He was blessed with a phenomenal memory and sharp wit.

Avi Lazer 13/09/2009 18:13
In the year 1705 (5465), at the age of fifteen, his father passed away and Rav Meir Eisenstadt (the Maharam Ash) adopted him as a son. By 1708 (5468), at the age of eighteen, his name was already well known throughout Europe and he was accepted as Rav of Bohemia. Three years later he moved to Prague, and from there to Hamburg where he founded a large Yeshiva. Throngs of students streamed to Hamburg, eager to drink from his sharp words of Torah. A short while later he returned to Prague, where he again stood at the helm of a prominent Yeshiva.

Aside for his intense preoccupation with the teaching of Torah to his many students, he was often enlisted to deliver words of Mussar (ethics) and Aggada before the wider community, and from then on he began to compile his works on Halacha and Mussar. He associated with nobles, cardinals and priests, frequently holding debates with them on issues of faith and philosophy. With his great wisdom he attempted to unravel the crookedness in their hearts, and thereby diminish the seething hatred that boiled beneath the surface. Using his influence in high places, he succeeded in securing a permit to print the Talmud in Prague – which until then had been forbidden by the Popes of previous times. On many an occasion he was able to use his ties with leading members of the Church, to save his brethren from evil and cancel harsh edicts and decrees.

He was most famous for his sharp-edged wisdom and piercing wit. Once he was walking in the street, and a royal officer met him. He asked – Rabbi, where are you going? Rabbi Yonason answered: I don’t know. The officer became angry at this response, and ordered that he be brought to the local prison. Rabbi Yonason said: You see, I really didn’t know where I was going! I wanted to go to the Beis haMedrash, and in the end I was brought to the prison… He was once asked why Jews always bribe gentile judges, and he answered pointedly that the gentile judge focuses on the gentile defendant and is naturally inclined towards him; the Jew gives the judge a bribe so that he should at least listen him out…

In one of his debates with a priest, the two parties were standing outside with a stone fence between them. The priest asked: what separates between a Jew and a pig? He answered: the fence. In another debate, the subject under dispute was whether it is possible to educate a cat in any matter. As the debate stretched on with no resolution in sight, the two sides decided to continue three days hence. In the meantime Rabbi Yonason returned home and began to study. Whilst learning he took out his snuff box, and before snapping it shut a small mouse jumped inside, unnoticed. Three days later found the scholars and the Sage facing each other again, with the triumphant scholars barely able to hide their glee. They presented Rabbi Yonason with an incredible parade of cats, each of whom had been taught to carry food and dishes on their backs. Whilst thinking of a suitable response, Rabbi Yonason took out his snuff box - and out leaped the tiny mouse. In an instant, the cats forgot about their new status as waiters, as they pounced on the mouse and the food and dishes scattered everywhere…

An interesting disagreement arose between Rabbi Yonason Eibeschitz and the ‘Chacham Tzvi’. It so happened that a young girl was dissecting a rooster after it had been slaughtered, and could not see a heart. She claimed that not for one moment did she avert her attention from the goose. The Chacham Tzvi ruled that the bird was Kosher, since it cannot be that a living being can exist without a heart. He claimed that a cat or other such creature must have come by unnoticed, and deftly snatched away the heart. Rabbi Yonason countered however, that whilst indeed a living being cannot exist without a heart, another organ in the body of the goose could have been doing the job of the heart. In that case, the rooster is indeed not Kosher as it does not have a heart.

 (It is interesting to point out that centuries later, the Chazon Ish agreed with Rabbi Yonason’s theory that another organ can act in lieu of the heart. However he claimed that this is a reason to say the bird is in fact Kosher: since the Torah does not specifically say that a goose must have a ‘heart’, but rather that there be an organ that does the job of the heart. If so, claims the Chazon Ish, what’s the difference if this organ is a ‘heart’, or a ‘substitute heart’?)

In the year 1741 (5501), when Rabbi Yonason Eibeschitz was fifty-one, he was chosen to serve as Rav in Metz, France. For nine years he presided in Metz, where he disseminated the teachings of Torah in its great Yeshiva. Finally in 1750 (5510), when the revered Sage was sixty years old, he was elected to serve as Rav of the ‘Kehilla Meshuleshes’ – the three-fold Kehilla: Altona, Hamburg and Vandsbeck. This position was considered the most prestigious and honourable in the entire Germany.

The city of Altona was home to another great Tzaddik, Rabbi Yaakov Emden (the ‘Yaavetz’, son of the ‘Chacham Tzvi’). A bitter dispute broke out between the two great leaders, and there were those who claimed in their small-mindedness that the saintly Yaavetz was envious of the prestigious position Rabbi Yonason had received. This was a most ridiculous speculation, since it was well known that the Yaavetz recited the blessing every day: ‘Shelo Asani Aved’ - Aved with an Alef, acronym for ‘Av Beis Din’ (head of the Jewish court of Law)… in which case, he was surely not envious of Rabbi Yonason for his position as he himself was accustomed to running away from honor.

During that year a severe plague hit the community, resulting in many fatalities – particularly amongst women during childbirth. During a short period, sixteen women died whilst giving birth, and every woman who was about to deliver her child was gripped with a deathly terror. Rabbi Yonason, who was known to be a Kabbalist and wonder-worker, distributed amulets that would ward off the evil plague. When one of Rabbi Yonason’s opponents opened an amulet, he found an alleged hint to the false Messiah, Shabsai Tzvi. The Yaavetz declared that the writer of this amulet is a supporter of Shabsai Tzvi, and thus began a great dispute that raged like fire in a cornfield, unabated. The flames were fanned by community leaders and simple Jews alike, and a great schism was formed that divided the Jewish communities of Europe into two camps. The presidents of the community in Altona were so incensed at the Yaavetz, that they forbade the townspeople to enter his Beis haMedrash, and even raised a ban on him requesting that he leave the town. Thereupon the Yaavetz called for help from several famous Rabbanim, amongst them the ‘Pnei Yehoshua’ – Rav Yehoshua Falk.

Rabbi Yonason meanwhile claimed in his defence that the words on the amulet which were purported to contain a hint to the name ‘Shabsai Tzvi’, were in actuality holy Kabbalistic names. Many of the great Kabbalists and Chachamim of the time testified that this was indeed so. The famous ‘Vaad Arba Aratzos’ (Committee of the Four Lands) also declared that Rabbi Yonason was innocent.

Rabbi Yonason authored the Sefer ‘Luchos haEidus’, where he compiled the letters of Rabanim who testified as to his honesty and piety. In retaliation, the Yaavetz published his ‘Shivrei Luchos’. It is told that two students of the two rivals made a pact between them, that the first one to die would appear in a dream to the other and tell him what the ultimate outcome of the dispute is in Heaven. When one of them passed away he indeed appeared in a dream to his friend, and reported that the two Tzaddikim were sitting in Gan Eden, crowns adorning their heads and basking in the radiance of the Shechina - - it was only the followers of the two great sages, who fanned the flames of the controversy, that were being judged in Gehinnom…

Rabbi Yonason’s relentless pursuers painstakingly combed through his entire Sefer ‘Kreisi U’Fleisi’, in an effort to find some fault with the Tzaddik’s teachings. They found only two errors, one of which was a clear typing error – the omission of one letter! The issue being discussed in that case was of a certain Rav, who travelled from one city to the next in Germany declaring that the ‘Gid haNasheh’ (sinew that is forbidden to eat) as one knew it until then was really a regular sinew that was permitted to eat, whereas another sinew is the true Gid haNasheh. No one knew how to respond to this claim, until Rabbi Yonason came and toppled his reasoning by pointing out that this new sinew appears only in male cows, whereas according to the ‘Smag’ (Sefer Mitzvos Gedolos) it is clear that the Gid haNasheh is found in both male and female cows. However a closer inspection into the words of the Smag revealed that the Smag was referring to the people to whom the Gid Hanasheh is forbidden – male people and female people, and is not referring to which animals have a Gid hanasheh and which don’t! The matter was finally resolved when it was discovered that a simple printing error had caused the word ‘Sahag’ (Sefer Halachos Gedolos) to appear as ‘Smag’, whilst it was really the ‘Sahag’ which Rabbi Yonason was quoting, and there it does indeed state that the Gid Hanasheh is found in male as well as female cows.

Rabbi Yonason Eibeschitz passed away at the age of seventy-four, on the twenty-first of Elul 5524 (1764). He left behind him a treasure-trove of Sefarim in Halacha and Aggada, most famous of which is the ‘Kreisi U’Fleisi’ on the Shluchan Aruch Yoreh Deah. This was the only Sefer that was printed during his lifetime. Subsequent works were published posthumously: ‘Urim Ve’tumim’, on the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat; ‘Bnei Ahuva’, on laws of atrimony in the Rambam. ‘Ye’aros D’vash’ is a compilation of various discourses and eulogies, ‘Tiferes Yonason’ - a commentary on the Torah, and ‘Ahavas Yonason’ is a commentary on the Haftorah.