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Beit Midrash Family and Society Israel and the Nations

At the Shabbat Table

Dead Sea Treatment

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Leon looked up from the road for a moment, to look fondly at his dear son, Jonas. "That boy deserves this," Leon thought. Jonas had really been keeping up his grades and helping out at home, and this trip to Israel was just what both of them needed. True, it might be a bit tricky to find their way around, off of their native German soil, but both of them felt up for the challenge.
"You have reached your destination" chirped a mechanical voice. Leon turned off the car, and he and Jonas headed for their first vacation spot: the Dead Sea!
Jonas and Leon were delighted to find that the Dead Sea mud was everything they had imagined it would be. Slimy, salty and soothing! After immersing themselves in that sensory experience for the better part of an hour, the two decided that it was time to head for their hotel. They got up and went to look for their car.
Jonas had a fairly decent sense of direction, which is why he was a little surprised that the car wasn’t were he thought he had left it. After ten minutes of looking in increasingly greater concentric circles around the spot where he was sure he had parked the car, Jonas came to the painful conclusion that their rental car had been stolen! And it wasn’t just the car. Their change of clothing, passports, food, wallets – everything was in there.
Some Israelis noticed the hapless tourists, and inquired as to what had happened. The tourists eagerly shared their story. It didn’t take long for the Israelis to take action. They brought the tourists to the nearest police station, and assisted them in reporting the theft.
The police got right to work, and ordered pizza for the unfortunate tourists. A social worker, who became involved in the case, publicized the situation. In a short time, the owners of a hotel in Arad offered hospitality to the father and son, free of charge. The two had barely entered the hotel, when they were barraged by a steady stream of Arad residents, who brought money, food, treats, and whatever else they thought the stranded tourists might appreciate. Leon and Jonas were overwhelmed by the kindness that they experienced, and were shocked that such good people exist in the world.
Was it, in fact, proper, for Jews to bestow such kindness on German people, considering that, scarcely eighty years ago, people from that very nation killed millions of Jews?
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
The residents of Arad definitely did a great mitzva, and kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name). The question of our relationship with Germans is, in fact, an emotional question, and not a halachic (Jewish law-based) one.
Rabbi Meshulam Roth, zt"l (who himself was a Holocaust survivor) was asked, a number of years after the Holocaust, whether it was proper to decree that Jews should never walk on German soil. Rabbi Roth answered that, while it was proper to make such a decree, on philosophical and political grounds, halachically, there was no basis to make this ruling. (Responsa Kol Mevaser, siman 13)
It is not clear that the Germans of today are anti-Semites, any more so than any other nation. Similarly, the Germans today are not the same individuals who murdered Jews during the Holocaust, and, therefore, it is difficult to determine what, precisely, our relationship with them should be. Personally, ideally, I do not buy German made products. However, this is not a matter of Jewish law, but, rather, a matter of emotion. However, in our situation, in which there were people who were in need of help, it was proper to not make any calculations, and to simply help the people who were in need.
I will add that there is no prohibition of "lo tichanem" (not to give free gifts to non-Jews) in this case because this was a matter of helping people who were left with nothing, and, as Maimonides wrote (Hilchot Melachim 10, 12) even regarding idol worshippers, our sages commanded us to visit their sick, to bury their dead with the dead of the Jews and to provide their poor with a living together with the poor of the Jews, due to the ways of peace, as it says "G-d is good to all and his mercy is on all of His creations" and it says "its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."
In summary: The people of Arad did a good thing, in helping the German tourists, and, in doing so, they sanctified G-d’s name.
Translated by Avigail Kirsch

Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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