Sunday, August 20, 2006

Inspiring Mesirut Nefesh in Lebanon

[My wife, a graduate of Bnai Aqiva, received this e-mail today. It speaks for itself.]

From: World Bnei Akiva
Subject: From W. Bnei Akiva. Article about Shabbat Nachamu in Lebanon
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 12:39:36 +0200

Hilchos Shabbos During The War

The Manager of the Bnei Akiva Hachshara program, Rav Rafy Ostroff, spent the last week in Lebanon fighting the war against Yishmael, whose only desire is to obliterate the Jewish people. They were in a town in Lebanon called Maroon Aras and spent Shabbos in a bombed out house, which acted as some sort of shelter. Mortars and missiles whizzed non stop all around them and amidst the battle they set the Shabbos table. Everyone enthusiastically joined in the Shabbos preparations, including soldiers with non-religious backgrounds. They ALL joined in kabolas Shabbos and davening and sang z’miros Shabbos, accompanied by the shrieking missiles and shelling.

The day after Shabbos his unit was sent back into Israel for one day’s leave at a border village called Avivim, in order to shower and do some of the things we take for granted every day. There he sat down and wrote the following questions he and his troops had had to deal with.
To show that amidst all the havoc, Am Yisrael chai v’kayam, we present the following.

1) We were not provided with candles for Shabbos so we improvised.
The lid of a large tin can was bent into the shape of a container into which we poured tuna fish oil for fuel. For wicks we used utah (flax-like material). Our problem was that the Mishna and halacha
says that one may not use fish oil for Shabbos candles, but upon closer inspection we saw that the fish oil that is prohibited is made from fish intestines.
The Mishna Berura writes
that oil extracted from fish flesh may be used and is categorized with other oils that are permitted for Shabbos light.

2) We did not know whether to accept Shabbos early or not.
The problem was that we did not have any light and eating the Shabbos meal at the regular time would mean eating in the dark. Our option was to accept Shabbos early, which is not really a problem under the circumstances, only that we were ‘violating’ Shabbos for pikuach nefesh - operating the 2-way radio and other devices.
Halacha says it is preferable to eat with light than have wine for kiddush,
which was the decisive factor for us in accepting Shabbos early.
For clarity sake, we davened mincha before p’lag hamincha (an hour and a quarter before sunset) and ma’ariv after p’lag and made kiddush right after ma’ariv.
In retrospect, I suppose we could have organized more candle light and accept Shabbos at the regular time.

3) We were in a quandary as for the prayer “magen avos” cited in ma’ariv.
The Shulchan Aruch says
that ‘magen avos’ is not recited in a house where people gather to celebrate a wedding or in a house of mourning. The reason this tefilla is recited is because in the time of the gemora, shuls were outside town, and since davening is brief, people might remain alone in shul and be in danger. Chazal therefore added this brief prayer to give time for everyone to conclude davening. Consequently this rule only applies to permanent minyanim, not sporadic places of prayer.
The wedding entourage is not permanent, nor is the mourner’s, which negates the need for this extra prayer.
Our brief sojourn in Maroon Aras is B”H not permanent either, thereby discharging us from this tefilla.
It is noteworthy that some Sephardim have the custom to always recite this tefilla.

4) We did not posses any cups and didn’t have a clue how to make kiddush.
Some of us suggested cutting a plastic coke bottle in half and filling it with grape juice. Firstly, cutting it on Shabbos probably involves a melacha d’oraisso of making a k’li. We see that one may not make a hole in a barrel on Shabbos, even in a semi-permanent k’li.
So obviously we would cut it before Shabbos.
The second problem is that our new container is hardly a worthy k’li, surely one not fit l’chatchila for making kiddush. Under the circumstances it is also kosher, but we wanted to be stringent and do the best possible. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes
that one should not use a disposable cup for kiddush. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was not so adamant and says that since distinguished people use them at important functions, one need not be too particular if nothing else is available. Again, we tried to be machmir.
The best solution would have been to make kiddush on the grape juice bottle itself, or perhaps to fill one of our water canteens. l’chatchila the vessel needs to be fill to the top, so we would have filled the bottle with grape juice from another bottle. Maybe next time – should there be one.

5) We had a unique Shabbos table – a door ripped from its hinges and placed on bricks. The bare concrete floor was our throne.
We were not sure whether it is permitted to place the board on the bricks on Shabbos. For our fantastic Shabbos meal (consisting of fried meat loaf, instead of festive roast chicken, corn salad instead of coleslaw) we needed a table so the door seemed the best solution. Prying it from its hinges on Shabbos is ossur on account of s’tira – demolishing, so that was done before Shabbos, but we only erected it on Shabbos and the issue of ohel – making a tent arose.

The halacha is that one may erect a table tennis table on Shabbos in the regular manner, i.e. positioning the legs and placing the board on top, because one does not use the underside. A bed may not be made in the same fashion because one uses the underside to store shoes.
Accordingly, the table could be erected on Shabbos.

6) The entire floor was full of rubble and stones and we were at a loss how to move them because of muktze.
Although we could designate large bricks (blokkim) for the table and perhaps benches, we could not designate stones and pebbles to make them a k’li, which without doing so they remain muktze.
Imagine lying down on the floor in your sleeping bag and stones are poking at your sides and head. Our option was to move the stones with one’s foot etc. which is permitted according to the Mishna Berura.

7) Rav Eliashiv was asked the following. Soldiers were relieved of fighting 2 a.m. on Friday night, with the possibility of going home until after Shabbos. The soldiers had not been home since the beginning of the war and going home to be with their families would boost moral, ultimately enabling them to continue fighting with renewed energy. This was a real necessity, considering the circumstances.
His reply was that in any case they could not remain where they were, being it a m’kom sakana – a dangerous environment and had to relocate southwards.
The problem remains because once they reach safe quarters they should be permitted to continue south to their families. Perhaps a gentile could drive them, but then there’s the issue of traveling 12 mil outside the perimeter.
Some suggested implementing the halacha that soldiers may return to their town.
In any case – it’s not an easy question!!

May Hashem answer our prayers and bring our captives and soldiers home safely.

[NOTE: Keep in mind that this was while our soldiers were operating under inexcusable conditions, as pointed out today by Lenny ben David.]

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