Legal Advisor to Torah Mitzion
Special attention to beauty was dedicated by the founders of the new neighborhoods of Jerusalem outside the city walls. In planning the new “Mea Shearim” neighborhood in 1889, its founders stipulated that:
“The houses shall be built around the field like a box on all four directions and each house shall have a yard as determined by the Board, and in the middle there shall remain an empty expanse jointly owned by all members of the Society, which shall never be sold, where the water cisterns and the Beit Knesset shall be situated when Hashem will enlarge our borders, and trees planted to bring a fresh breeze and pleasing aroma to the inhabitants of the houses.”
Planting Gardens and Orchards in Mea Shearim
One of the founders of the Mea Shearim neighborhood, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Baharan, comments on the final words of the above cited regulation, which permit the planting of trees in the neighborhood, that the area of Mea Shearim is situated within the sanctified area of Jerusalem; that the prohibition on planting gardens and orchards therefore applies to this area as well; and that “the desire to plant trees cannot therefore be realized”!
The renowned Rav Yechiel Michel Tukechnisky disagrees, arguing that Mea Shearim was always outside the sanctified area of Jerusalem, as is evidenced by the existence of ancient graves (which are not allowed within the sanctified area of the city) in the area between the Old City and the Mea Shearim neighborhood. Rav Tukechinsky concludes that the prohibition against planting trees derives from considerations of tumah, which do not apply in our time, and the law against planting gardens and orchards derives from the beauty due to the city, while “those things that were stated in connection with the beauty of the city applied at a time when our holy city was the splendor of the whole earth, and not at the time when its crown was removed” (cited in an encompassing and illuminating article published in Noam 21 (5739) by Rav Menachem Slay, on the subject of “Planting Gardens and Orchards Inside the City Walls In our Times”).
The return of Jewish sovereignty to the Old City in 1967 did not change the above analysis, concludes Rav Menachem Slay in his aforementioned article. This is because the prohibition on planting is connected, according to most Poskim, to the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash and the renewal of Aliyah La’Regel as in former times. However, even those who act stringently today in this regard need have no concern about planting in a flowerpot in their own homes because homeowners do not generally fertilize and bring into the vicinity of their homes foul smells.
The Beauty of the Beit HaMikdash
In our articles until now, we have analysed the progression in terms of the permit to beautify cities in Chutz La’Aretz, the obligation to beauty the cities of Eretz Yisrael, the beautification due to the Levitical Cities and the special duty to beautify the City of Jerusalem. However, there is a higher level of beautification – reserved for the Beit HaMikdash, the splendor and glory of Israel. “The choicest manner of performing the Mitzva is to fortify and raise the height of the building (the Bayit) as high as the community can afford, as the verse states: ‘and to exalt the house of our God’ (Ezra 9:9). The Mikdash should be made as beautiful as possible: if they are able to overlay it with gold… this is a Mitzva” (Rambam, Hil. Beit HaBechira 1:11).
Indeed, beauty lies at the very heart of the Beit HaMikdash. This can be seen from the fact that the verse which serves as the source for beautifying Mitzvot is the same verse that refers to the Mikdash itself: Ze Eili Ve’Anveihu – “This is my God, and I will beautify Him” (Shemot 15:2). But how does one beautify Hashem? Rabbi Yishmael explains: “I will beautify myself with Mitzvot: I will make a beautiful lulav, a beautiful sukkah, beautiful tzitzit, and beautiful tefillin” (Mechilta, Shemot 15: 1-2). In other words, to show our love for Hashem, we “dress up” and beautify His mitzvot – with silver etrog boxes, ornate mezuzah covers, fancy tefilin bags, etc! The Mechilta continues that Rabbi Yossi ben Dormaskit states: “I will make for Him a beautiful Beit Mikdash – the expression beauty refers only to the Beit Mikdash.” In other words, while the component of beautifying Mitzvot in general is an “added bonus” to the Mitzva, in the case of the Beit HaMikdash beauty is an integral part of the Mitzva itself!
Washing Dirty Linen in Public? – Not in the “Zichron Moshe” Regulations…
The neighborhood of “Zichron Moshe,” near the Mea Shearim neighborhood, was founded in the year 1905. It contains some very revealing regulations:
18. All the streets in the neighborhood must be properly paved and sloped so that rainwater does not remain on them; and on either side of the street there shall be stone pavements each with a minimum width of 1 meter.
19. Beneath the streets there shall be drains for sewage water, and underground pipes shall be installed to these drains, and the Company shall endeavor to connect these drains to the city drain, and where this is not possible the Company shall construct cisterns to collect the sewage and shall clean them whenever necessary, at its own expense.
21. On either side of the streets, the Company shall plant rows of trees and maintain them.
22. Laundered clothes shall not be hung out to dry and clothes lines shall not be put up in the public domain.
Building Regulations in “Mazkeret Moshe”
The basis for the prohibition against polluting the public domain and the establishment of sanctions against offenders, can be found in the regulations for the “Mazkeret Moshe” neighborhood, founded in the year 1882 with the assistance of the Sir Moses Montefiore Fund. The Fund published a public notice detailing the prohibitions transgressed by a person who fails to preserve the cleanliness of the neighborhood: he breaches the Torah, steals from the public, and transgresses the laws of the State and of the Company. Financial sanctions, which increase depending on the severity of the offense, are prescribed, and if the offender continues to transgress – he shall be expelled from the neighborhood.
Further regulations enacted for the neighborhood establish that houses may only be constructed provided they do not destroy the “appearance and order of the buildings” and that they cause no harm to the public, to the individual or to the drainage system. The regulations also determine that: “On both sides of the streets, trees pleasing to the eye shall be planted, and every member is duty bound to preserve them, as well as to irrigate those trees which adjoin his house and yard.”