Thursday, August 1, 2013


 In the Tora it is written: (vayiqra 19:36) "Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah  and an honest hin ; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt." Epha and hin are Biblical units of measurements (like pounds or ounces). The Tora instructs the seller to keep his commercial scales well adjusted and clean. So there is no dishonesty in trade and business transactions. Otherwise, even a little dirt on the scale will affect the final weight. And the buyer will get less than what he or she is paying for.  

Our Rabbis extended the scope of this Mitzva. To remember this rule they explained that the word hin --a liquid measure unit-- is similar to the word hen which in ancient Aramaic means YES.  They said:  in the same way we must have an honest scale (hin) we need say an honest "yes" (hen). In a business transaction our YES has to be always an honest YES.    

Illustration: A client is willing to buy a car from me right now if I assure him that I will deliver the car at the end of the week.  I know that I will not get the car by the end of the week. But I say to myself: 'I will close the deal now, and tomorrow or the next day I just tell him that there was an unexpected delay'. So I say YES and we close the deal. That would be an example of a dishonest YES.   I should have told the truth to my customer.  Even when I know that by saying NO he might go somewhere else to buy his car. If I lie to my customer and I say a dishonest YES I'm transgressing the Mitzvah of keeping a right YES, and a right NO. 
Rabbi Eliezer Papo (1785-1828) in his book Pele Yo'etz assures that although in the short term the seller might lose a good deal, in the long term, the honest YES and the honest NO is not just the right thing to do but the smartest business decision as well. Because, he explains, there is no bigger asset for a seller than his good name and a good reputation. 
by Mrs Lori Palatnik, from

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

SEPHARDIC RABBI: Rabbi Ya'akob Hajez (1620-1674)

Rabbi Ya'aqob Hajez (aka Hagiz) was born in Fez, Morocco in 1620. In 1657 and after living in Livorno (Italy) for a few years, Rabbi Hajez settled in Jerusalem as the head of a new Bet haMidrash (=Yeshiba) founded and supported by the Vega brothers, two Jewish philanthropist from Livorno who supported the Jews living in Jerusalem.  The name of this Bet Midrash was Bet Ya'aqob but it was also known as "Yeshibat haHesger" (=the enclosed Yeshiba) because its Rabbis and students would never leave the premises of the Yeshiba unnecessarily. In that Yeshiba the students also learned foreign languages, mathematics, engineering and other secular studies.  

Rabbi Hajez  was known for his bright mind and critical thinking. He was one of the main (and few) strong opponents to Shabbatai Zevi, the false prophet.  Shabbatai Zevi came to Yerushalayim in 1665 and the rabbis of the city, led by Rabbi Hagiz, excommunicated him until he was forced to leave Jerusalem.  

Rabbi Hajez  was a very prolific writer.  Among his works we can mention:

Etz haHayim: A commentary on all treatises of the Mishna

Halakhot Qetanot: A book on Rabbinical response dealing with multiple subjects.  See for example his responsa on the kashrut of the "Scincus scincus" a reptile/fish creature (Hebrew). 

Tehilat Hokhma: A book on the methodology of the Talmud. 

Orah Mishor: A very short book on the appropriate conduct of Rabbis and Torah Scholars. In the introduction he mentions that he writes this book as a reaction to comments made by people complaining about the unethical behavior of certain Torah Scholars.  Instead of denying the accusations, rabbi Hajez  wrote this treatise demanding from those who dedicate their lives to study Torah to raise their standard of behavior (=noblesse oblige). He explains that Torah scholars are exposed to a higher degree of accountability: "talmid-hakhamim, shegagot na'asot lo kizdonot",  a mistake made by a Torah Scholar or a Rabbi is considered negligence or even a willful offense.  

To Download the books of Rabbi Ya'aqob Hajez go to (יעקב חאגיז)

To download "Orah Mishor" click  here

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Maimonides on how did Abraham Abinu find God?

Maimonides (MT, 'abodat kokhabim, 1:3) explains that since his early childhood and while everyone else was adoring human-looking idols, Abraham began to think out of the box.  His questions were practical questions:  Everything moves --the sun, the moon, the stars-- but Who is moving everything?  Most people, then and today, live their lives without this type of inquiries. They just follow and do what everyone else follows and does.  But Abraham was different.  He had reasonable doubts out of his own intellectual quest. When he was forty years old he arrived to the conclusion that there is a God, a Creator and ruler (manhig) of the universe. Abraham also realized that God is one. And furthermore, he was also able to conceive an idea unthinkable in those days for everyone else: that God is invisible!  He had not teacher, no mentor and no partners in these ideas.  He was surrounded by idol worshipers, including his own family. No one was curious like him to search the ultimate cause of the world's constant dynamics, etc.    

There was one more extraordinary thing about Abraham: he was not satisfied with knowing the truth. He had to get the word out! Maimonides explains that Abraham held public debates with the people of Ur Kasdim. He advocated for his revolutionary ideas in front of his neighbors and family members. And became the first iconoclast (=destroyer of images and idols).  The Mesopotamian king, Nimrod, viewed Abraham as a dangerous instigator. Let us not forget that the kings considered themselves gods. The new ideas of Abraham were a threat to Nimrod's divine status and to his unquestionable authority.  Nimrod condemned Abraham to death. Maimonides mentions that miraculously Abraham escaped Nimrod's sentence and run away to Haran. Reaching eventually the land of Kena'an (Israel) where he dedicated the rest of his life to publicize his ideas about God.  

Cuando El Rey Nimrod - Canción sefardí
Cuando El Rey Nimrod
by Yehoram Gaon­

Monday, July 29, 2013

TEHILLIM: Psalms 1:3. Happy like a tree

We already examined the first two verses of  Psalm 1 (see this). David haMelekh, the author of this Psalm, explains that the Jewish pursue of happiness begins by knowing that we should avoid the company of bad or shallow people . Why? Because consciously or not they will influence negatively in our lives driving us away from the path to happiness.  For a Jew, true happiness consists in following the lead of HaShem our God. And this is done by studying His Tora. 

The third verse says that the man who follows the path of HaShem: 

"...will be like a tree planted on streams of water, bearing fruit each season. Its leaves will never wither. And he will prosper in all he will do"

"A tree planted on streams of water"
David haMelekh compares this happy man with a tree. Why? Because both grow. There is probably no bigger frustration than realizing our own stagnation, when we see that we are in the same spot year after year. Happiness is the effect of realizing that we progress. When we study Tora, King David says, we are constantly growing. Emotionally; in our wisdom and in perfecting our character. This tree/man will be "planted" in watered ground. The water/Tora will be constantly feeding its roots and stimukating its development. 

This tree will bring forth its fruits and will have strong leaves. "Fruits" are the rewards for a man's life of virtue. The fruits are his children, those who will continue the lead of HaShem.  Contrary to the feeling of stagnation, a man that has fruits sees that his example will continue even after he is gone.  

Unlike fruits which are beneficial to the tree itself, the leaves, the shadow that they create, is enjoyed by others. This man's happiness will consists not just in seeing the fruits of his actions but also by seeing that what he does is productive for others.  Charity, good deeds, helping others, teaching Tora, etc. these are the type of actions represented by the leaves/shadow of this tree.

King David asserts that what a Jew must do to pursue happiness  is to keep away from bad influences and to follow the lead of HaShem, i.e., His Tora. Then "He will prosper in everything he does".    

Dedicated to Rivkah and Jacob Bitton for the birth of their baby boy. 

Who Else Is Being Injured by the Vilification of Israel?