- True Torah Leaders
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Should we follow Torah leaders who do not display a zealous
attitude towards Torah adherence? If such leaders are compromising
in their fulfillment of our clearly defined laws as outlined
in our Shulchan Aruch, should they be accepted as true Torah
- How do we define a true Torah leader? King David said in
Psalms, (19:12)"And also your servants are zealous in them
(the commands)..." Both Rashi and Metsudas Dovid explain
this to refer to one fulfilling God's commands with the utmost
diligence. A Rabbi pointed out the tractate on "Proper Behavior
- Abridged", (Mesechet Derech Eretz Zutah), Chapter IX,
says, "One must be zealous in Kryas Shema and in Tefilah
(Prayer) so he may be saved from the decree of Gehenom (punishment)."
Certainly this refers to reciting both the Shema and Tefilah
in their proper times. Mesechet Derech Eretz Zutah underlines
the importance of this specific command of reciting the Shema.
These two statements teach the proper attitude. Righteous individuals
are not lax in performing God's commands. They have the true
appreciation for the Source of these commandments.
God designed man, and assembled the Torah system so man may achieve
true perfection and happiness. For this reason the righteous
followed God's perfect system with zeal and care. The Torah says,
(Deut. 6:24) "And God commanded us to perform all these
statutes to fear Hashem our God for our own good all the days,
to sustain our lives as this day." (Deut. 10:13) "To
guard the commands of God and His statutes that I command you
this day for your own good."
- We don't follow the Torah "for God". Nothing is
further from the truth. Man cannot do anything "for God."
The Creator has no needs. Needs and dependency are human shortcomings
- they are God's creations, and not reflective of God. God cannot
'need' anything, including man's praises. He commanded man in
laws, for man's perfection, as an act of kindness. The system
of the Torah addresses all facets of man's existence. Man's psychological,
philosophical, moral, and intelligent natures are designed by
God. God knows how to best direct man in a lifestyle guided by
ideas which will result in man's most harmonious state in the
pursuit of his true goal; the appreciation of God's wisdom.
- Having learned from King David and Mesechet Derech Eretz
that the righteous adhere meticulously to God's commands, what
are the proper times for reciting Shema and its blessings? In
his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides teaches (Laws of Reading the Shema,
1:11), "And what is its (the Shema's) time in the day? Its
command is that you should commence before sunrise, in order
that you should complete its reading and bless its latter blessing
with sunrise"....."and if one delays and reads the
reading of Shema after sunrise, he fulfills his obligation, for
its time extends until the end of the third hour, for one
who passed and delayed." This means that on the Equinox
- a day with 12 hours of sunlight - one would violate the time
for Shema if recited after 9:00 am (using 6am for sunrise for
example). Maimonides teaches that one has until the third hour,
and no later.
- The Mishneh Brura, (Shulchan Aruch 58:1) quoting the Jerusalem
Talmud says, "L'chatchila (to initially act) it is prohibited
to wait until the third hour." In accordance with Maimonides'
ruling, this means one must not use the "after-the-fact"
ruling as his primary ruling. If one erred somehow, he is allotted
extra time to recite his Shema. But he cannot use this extension
in a situation where it is unwarranted. One must not start morning
prayers at such a time that Shema would be recited after the
- If a Torah leader would initially schedule a morning minyan
(morning prayers) to commence after the end of the third hour,
he has already violated Maimonides' law and the Shulchan Aruch's
law which is derived from the Talmud's conclusory ruling of Rabbi
Yehoshua. Shema and its blessings are certainly violated as they
will not be recited until approximately one half hour later than
that already expired time.
- It is interesting to note the Scriptural source for concluding
the Shema with sunrise. It is taken from none other than King
David (Psalms, 72:5), "They should fear You with the sun,
and before the moon for every generation." Rashi states
that man should accept God's kingship at the time when they fear
God, and this is at sunrise. But what does sunrise have to do
with accepting God's kingship?
- The event of the giant, heavenly luminary rising over the
horizon has a great effect on man. Sunrise has many features:
The sun is an enormous object. It is so far, yet we feel its
heat. Its rise turns darkness into a full sky of light, filling
our complete field of vision with its effects. Sunrise occurs
with such precision, reflecting a Designer Who Himself, disproportionately
outweighs the magnitude such a event, as He created it. Sunrise
emphasizes God's greatness by example, and properly enhances
one's acceptance of God as the King of the universe, our Maker.
- King David identified the inspiring, heavenly phenomena that
helps man appreciate the scope of God's grandeur. King David
properly detected and directed man's need for physical substantiation.
Man's appreciation for the Creator is enhanced when he aligns
his Shema with sunrise. King David's statement, "They should
fear You with the sun..." teaches this lesson. God's commandments
may be fulfilled in varying degrees. Regarding the Shema - the
purpose of which is to accept God's reign - is enhanced by aligning
the Shema with sunrise. Witnessing this quintessential solar
event while reciting the Shema, we arrive at the best possible
acceptance of God as our Master.
- Those leaders who fail to adhere to the Talmud's rulings
on a core principle as the fear and love of God, are not leading
us as exemplified by King David, Maimonides and Rabbi Yehoshua.
Certainly we must not follow those who endorse prayer times to
commence after its time has expired.
Rashi teaches that the length of time man should fear God, should
be paralleled to the duration of the sun and moon. In other words,
man must fear God always. What is the necessity of King David's
statement? By definition, Rashi says one must not only apprehend
the concept that God must be feared, but if one lacks the idea
that God's reign is eternal, he lacks a fundamental in this command.
Our appreciation of God must include the fact that God's "absolute
reign" traverses all time. The prophet Isaiah mentions of
this essential concept many times, "I am the First and I
am the Last...". (41:4, 44:6, 48:12)