As after the Holocaust, also after the massacre, we must pray that we understand our role in a better world, and that families will bring many children into the world * Jewish law arbiters debated whether there is an obligation to immerse electric appliances that may get damaged if made wet, and one should act leniently, and use them even without immersion * A Jew is forbidden to make a wax figure in human form, but if a non-Jew made it for him, he is permitted to benefit from it, and even keep it in his home.
The Torah tells us that even after the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites and embittered their lives with hard labor, mortar and bricks and with crushing work, instead of the suffering leading to despair and reduced births, the Israelites continued to be fruitful and multiply – “But the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out.” When the Egyptians saw that despite the servitude the Hebrews continued multiplying, they intensified the labor from dawn until dusk, so that they would be forced to sleep in the fields and not be able to have marital relations, and family life. The Egyptians’ goal was twofold: to exploit their labor, and in the process, make them despair, and annihilate them.
But the Torah teaches that when the foundation of life is firm, suffering – despite all the pain and distress – does not break life, but ultimately, strengthens it. When the power of life is weak, the reaction is to withdraw from life, and diminish. But when the power of life is strong, and breeds faith that good will defeat evil, the reaction is to be fruitful and multiply.
The Promise to Jacob Our Forefather
Jacob our forefather was also very worried before going down to Egypt that perhaps his offspring would be lost among the nations, whether through destruction, or through assimilation. Therefore, God appeared to him, as the Torah says:
“And God said to Israel in a vision by night…Do not fear going down to Egypt, for I Myself will make you a great nation there! I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself, will also bring you back” (Genesis 46:2-4).
And thus, we also learned the purpose of the Egyptian exile, from which we left with great wealth, as the family of seventy souls became a great nation with material possessions, the fruits of their labor.
The Maharal of Prague explained (Gevurot Hashem, Chapter 3) that the number of 600,000 men of military age, is the basic number for the existence of a nation. Therefore, only after reaching this number, did God take Israel out of Egypt, and give them the Torah.
Today As Well
Today too, we pray that out of the suffering and mourning for all the murdered settlers and holy soldiers who sacrificed themselves to protect the Nation and Land – we will be strengthened in faith, and understand our role better. The life forces within us will prevail – singles will marry and more children will be born, thus continuing the heritage of the holy ones who sacrificed themselves for the strengthening of life.
Even today, despite the Holocaust, the State of Israel is the only scientifically and economically advanced country with a high birth rate – approximately three children per Jewish woman. In other developed countries, the birth rate is less than two children on average. The high number of children is not only because of the Haredi and religious population, but in all populations the birth rate is significantly higher compared to their counterparts in developed countries. In other words, even those called “secular” in Israel, are much more traditional than secular people in Western countries, and correspondingly, marry more, and give birth more.
Therefore, the hope that we will find comfort after the war through many children is a realistic hope, since family values and the commandment to be fruitful and multiply are honored among Jews, and on this basis, we can hope for added blessing. Just as it is said about wisdom, that one who is already wise can receive a blessing for more wisdom (Daniel 2:21), and one who is already mighty, can receive a blessing for more might. So too, a community that already looks favorably upon a family with children, can merit having more children.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
In her book “Yisrael – Eretz Ketana, Sippur Gadol” (‘Israel – Small Country, Big Story’), Sophie Shulman writes that Israel leads the world in fertility treatments. Of around six million people born from fertility treatments worldwide, 100,000 are Israelis. All this, is thanks to the special attitude towards the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, which leads to enormous financial investment in helping women who have difficulty conceiving.
Israel is the only country in the world that funds fertility treatments for women up to age 45 as part of national health insurance, and even a woman who already has one child is entitled to treatment to give birth to a second child. Most supplemental insurances provided by health clinics also fund treatments for a third child. The next country after us in number of treatments per capita is Denmark, and there, public health insurance covers only three rounds of fertility treatment, for one child only, and for women up to age 40. In Israel, even after age 45, it is possible to get assistance for fertility treatments with an egg donation.
Incidentally, overseas it is rare for homosexual men to father children, whereas in Israel, due to the influence of faith and tradition, even homosexual men make great efforts and invest huge sums in order to have children.
Is There an Obligation to Immerse an Electric Kettle?
After discussing weighty matters, I will continue with particular questions I have been asked, which to some extent, also express optimism and faith.
Q: We bought an electric kettle that was manufactured overseas. Is there an obligation to immerse it in a mikveh, when immersion may damage it? Someone told us that to prevent damage, we need to wait three days after immersion until it dries out completely. But we are still worried that immersion may damage the kettle.
A: First, the mitzvah to immerse eating vessels that belonged to non-Jews is from the Torah (Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 31:1). Its purpose is to effect a kind of “conversion” on the vessel, to elevate it from a level of a vessel intended for mundane eating, accompanied by desires and human weaknesses, to a level of a vessel intended for preparing foods through which Jews can connect to the values of the Torah.
The poskim (Jewish law arbiters) debated whether electric appliances require immersion.
The Strict Opinion
Some poskim rule strictly, holding that electric appliances have the same law as all eating vessels, that if purchased from a non-Jew, they must be immersed in a mikveh (Minchat Yitzchak 2:82; Shevet Halevi 2:57, 3; Mishnah Halachot 9:162; Risha responsa 1:3).
If there is concern that the appliance may be damaged, and one does not rely on the advice to dry it out for several days, one can avoid immersion by giving the appliance as a gift to a non-Jew, and asking him to lend it back, with no set end-date. Since the appliance belongs to the non-Jew, and the Jew does not want to purchase it, it can be used indefinitely without immersion (see Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 31:10).
In the past, poskim who ruled strictly, suggested dismantling the appliance and reassembling it, so that it would be considered made by a Jew, and not require immersion. Indeed, if the appliance can be fully dismantled such that it is no longer considered a vessel, it would not require immersion. But today, most appliances are molded and cannot be dismantled, so this suggestion is no longer practical. It should be noted that disconnecting the electric cord does not help, since it is external to the appliance.
The Lenient Opinion That Electric Appliances Do Not Require Immersion
On the other hand, some poskim say electric appliances are exempt from immersion, because they are operated by being plugged into a wall socket to receive electricity. There is a principle that anything attached to the ground is not considered a vessel and does not become impure, so it does not require immersion. Even if they are sometimes operated by batteries, we follow their primary use which is while plugged in. Furthermore, electric appliances are considered machines. For example, an electric kettle is a machine for heating water, and a toaster is a machine for toasting bread. The mitzvah is to immerse eating vessels, not machines (Chelkat Yaakov YD 61:43; Beit Avi 1:104; Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul; Tefila L’Moshe 5:25; Sicha Nachum 49:5; Rav Ganzel, Techumin 27).
It can also be argued that the Torah would not command immersing an appliance that may be damaged by water, since the purpose of the mitzvah is to render the vessel fit for a Jew to use, not to destroy it.
Therefore, in practice, it appears electric appliances do not require immersion.
The Wax Museum
Q: Is it permitted to make the wax figures in a wax museum? And is it permitted to visit a wax museum?
A: It is forbidden for a Jew to make the figures in a wax museum, since it is forbidden for a Jew to make a full statue of a person. But purchasing it from a non-Jew is permitted, since the prohibition against keeping a statue in one’s home applies only when there is concern it may be worshipped.
If a Jew made the figures, some poskim say one should be stringent and not visit the museum, so as not to support transgressors, or benefit from their deeds (Avnei Yeshpeh 1:151). Others permit visiting, since once made, there is no prohibition to keep them (Asei Lecha Rav, vol. 5, short responsa 72). Today, in practice, the figures are made by non-Jews, overseas.
However, according to most Rishonim (early authorities), it is forbidden for a Jew to request non-Jews to make human figures for him, since in their opinion, the rabbinic prohibition of shvut (asking a non-Jew to perform forbidden labor), applies to all Torah prohibitions, just as on Shabbat (see Peninei Halakha: Shevi’it 5:9). But if a Jew transgressed and requested this of a non-Jew, he is permitted to benefit from what the non-Jew made, since some Rishonim hold there is no prohibition of shvut in other prohibited matters, and therefore, there was no prohibition in the non-Jew’s actions.
“Let Them All be Killed, Rather than Hand over a Single Person”
Q: In light of the war and discussions about the self-sacrifice required from the public to save an individual, why does Jewish law rule that if a group of people are threatened to hand over one of their number to be killed – they should all be killed, and not hand over a single person to be killed (Tosefta Terumot 7:23)? Wouldn’t it be better if one were killed, and not many?
Similarly, regarding incest, why did our Sages say: “Women whom non-Jews told: ‘Give us one of you, and we will defile her (rape her), and if not, we will defile all of you’ – they should all be defiled, rather than hand over to them one soul from Israel” (Terumot 8:12)?
A: The prohibition of murder is an absolute prohibition that may never be violated, therefore, even to save many, it is forbidden to transgress the prohibition against murder. However, if one of them volunteers to sacrifice himself in order to save his fellows – he is called kadosh (holy).
They Demanded Women to Hand One of Them Over for Rape
The same applies to the prohibition against incest, which is like bloodshed, and “one life may not be pushed aside to save another.” In other words, one may not be sacrificed to save others. Even when they are all married, and one is single, the single woman should not be handed over (Knesset HaGedolah, Hagaot Beit Yosef 157:28). A woman who sinned and committed adultery multiple times should also not be handed over, because rape would affect her more. Additionally, perhaps she reconsidered and repented, in which case the harm to her would be much severer (Rashba, Kesef Mishneh Yesodei HaTorah 5:5).
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated