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“From the World of Rabbi Kook”
“The Land of Israel is an independent entity tied by a living bond to the nation, and steeped in inherent spiritual virtues.” (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 1)
Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “The People Grew Discouraged Along the Way”
After thirty-eight years in which the People of Israel walked in the desert, when they were on the verge of entering the Land they grew weary, as it says, “The Israelites moved on from Hor Mountain, going by way of the South Sea, so as to skirt the territory of Edom. The people grew discouraged [vatiktzor nefesh] along the way” (Numbers 21:4). Rashi comments, “Because of the difficulties of the journey.” The expression “kitzur nefesh” is used to refer to anything that is hard for people. It envisions a person who encounters a difficulty and cannot bear it, having no room for it in his heart.
Imagine someone running a forty-kilometer marathon. On the thirty-eighth kilometer his spirit weakens and he has no strength to complete the last two kilometers, so he stops. That is how it was with the Israelites towards the end of their trek through the desert. They grew discouraged and complained. As it says, “The people spoke out against G-d and Moses, ‘Why did you take us out of Egypt to die in the desert?’” (Numbers 21:5).
As punishment, “G-d sent poisonous snakes against the people, and when they began biting the people, a number of Israelites died” (verse 6). Moses, the faithful shepherd who loved his people, prayed and sought mercy (verse 7). He fashioned a copper snake as G-d commanded him: “Moses made a copper snake and placed it on a high pole. Whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze at the copper snake and live” (verse 9). Rashi asks: “Was it the snake that killed or gave life? Rather, as long as Israel gazed heavenward and subjugated their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they would be cured. Otherwise, they were harmed.” The Nefesh HaChaim comments, “They poured out their entreaty over the great suffering they caused G-d in Heaven through their own suffering on being punished for their sins” (Sha’ar 2:11). When Israel suffer punishment and are sorry over it, they are then cured, for then, so to speak, there is suffering in Heaven.
Today, Prime Minister Sharon has grown discouraged towards the end of the long trek of thousands of years from Egypt to Jerusalem. He announced for all to hear, “We had a dream of a Jewish State in all parts of Eretz Yisrael, yet we lack the ability to fulfill that dream. I have therefore initiated the Disengagement Plan” (June 28, 2005). When a private individual loses his dream or his spirit, he despairs and gets depressed. When a prime minister says, “We had a dream,” when he stops dreaming about our beloved country, he weakens the spirit of the nation. Where there is no dream, there is no vision. And where there is no vision, the people pay for it.
Sharon has grown discouraged. Rather than uniting the people, he is dividing them. Instead of preserving Eretz Yisrael he longs to establish a state for the Arabs in the very heart of our land. Instead of exalting our country, he abases it in the eyes of the nations and our enemies. Instead of raising the banner of the pioneer settlers who sacrifice themselves for the sake of their people and their land, out of his great “love” for them he is transforming them into enemies. And he is doing all of this because his spirit has been extinguished, with his ceasing to dream.
Yet the Jewish People have been living for thousands of years by the light of the great dream of the return to Zion: “When the Lord brings the exiles back to Zion, we shall be like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1). Mr. Sharon, you have ceased to dream. Your spirit has been extinguished and your good spirit has departed from you. Yet that does not mean that the nation has stopped dreaming and believing and coming to the Land to settle all parts of it. The Jewish People possess great patience and great faith. “We shall surely go up and conquer it. We can do it!” (Numbers 13:30). The black cloud that you have brought upon us will speedily disperse. Let us be strong and courageous and look forward to complete salvation,
Be sure to catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at www.israelnntv.com (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“The Man Who is Not a Man”
I blame our prime minister for not being a man. I do not blame him for not being religious, a believer, a Zionist or nationalist, but simply for not being a man. I also blame the government and the Knesset for letting themselves be dragged along by him, as though they have no responsibility, but chiefly I blame him. If he would cease his pursuit of this matter, it is obvious that the government and the Knesset would immediately place the matter before the people, and everyone knows what the result would be.
In order to move the Safari of Ramat Gan, a five year break was required in order to plant trees and to wait for them to grow, and to prepare waters sources and a lighting system, so that the kangaroo could remain in its natural habitat. If someone throws people into the street without ready alternative housing, he is not a human being. In order to move an Eilat fish farm for ecological reasons, two years were spent preparing an alternative. Yet here, entire families are to be thrown out of their homes, men, women and children, and placed in caravans in Nitzanit or paid money insufficient to rent an apartment in Ashkelon. This is inhuman.
If someone disbands hi-tech enterprises worth millions of dollars in broad daylight, without compensating the owners, without evaluating their true worth, without any standard liquidation process, he is not human. If someone throws boys and girls out of their schools without offering any alternative, he is not human. After the destruction of Yamit families fell apart and people committed suicide. If someone now cuts off poverty-stricken families from the communities that are supporting them and trying to save them from divorce and from their children’s descent into lives of crime, then I ask, is that a human act?!
Yet I am warning you in advance that our prime minister, together with the captains of the disengagement, will respond to you that everything is perfectly ready. If everything is being delayed – they say – it is due to the terrible criminal stubbornness of the residents, who for some unclear reason want to remain in their homes. You have to realize that those few families who did seek an alternative and did approach the authorities retracted when they saw that it was all a lie. Of course, right now I didn’t want to talk about the southern towns bordering Gaza that will be exposed not just to the danger of mortar shells but also to infiltration by terrorists moving above ground or via underground tunnels. No defense network has been prepared for them. Yet regarding this as well we can say, Woe to the nation that is headed by an inhuman leader!
A story is told about the veteran Jerusalemite surgeon Dr. Nachum Kook, who remained on the job throughout the Six Day War, day and night, almost without a break. He worked in the operating room of Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital and he toiled to save those wounded in battle during the fighting. Throughout that period, he explained unremittingly to his assistants, “It is forbidden to amputate limbs! We must do all we can to save the patient without amputating a hand or foot.” Sometimes things looked bad, almost on the brink of despair. Yet Dr. Nachum Kook did not compromise. During that time, all of his rich medical experience was placed on trial and he struggled to save the patients’ limbs. He literally enjoyed Heavenly assistance. In most instances he succeeded in saving the limbs of the wounded and prevented their becoming lifelong cripples.
After he recuperated from the enormous physical and emotional effort, he explained how he arrived at his idea about avoiding amputations. It cam from his uncle, his father’s brother, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, from whom he often heard, “We are not allowed to despair even over a limb hanging from the body by a thread. Rather, we must do all we can regarding such a limb to reattach it to the body and to restore it to life. As long as it has not been entirely severed, we mustn’t give up hope over it.” It is true that Rabbi Kook was speaking of limbs of a different sort. He had in mind those Jews far removed from Torah. Yet the rule he formulated was relevant also regarding physical limbs of the body. His nephew therefore toiled to save the limbs of the liberators of Jerusalem’s Old City, always working to avoid amputations (Rabbi Pinchas Miller, Ma’aseh Shehaya, Midot VeHalichot Gedolei Yisrael, pages 112-113).
By the same token, we are opposed to amputating part of our land, part of our Torah, part of our people, or part of our army. “Who is like you, O Israel, one nation in the land” (I Chronicles 17:21).
Join our English Dept. live on our website for a vibrant discussion on Halacha each Thursday at 2:25pm www.machonmeir.org.il
Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
Open Letters to Youth: “Nerves of Steel”
Recently, many people have been quoting the words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, z”l, that in these times we need nerves of steel. What he had in mind was our ability to stand up to the difficult phenomena that accompany the process of the return to Zion. We are all exposed to social and political processes that arouse wrath, consternation and despair. Without nerves of steel, we are liable to go crazy. Whoever looks around him will identify a deep regression from Zionism, pioneering, the national spirit, social justice, national unity, Torah values, and from the religious and Jewish public fabric of the State. This is liable to bring one to an overall loss of faith in the State, and ultimately to make him despair of it. Only someone with nerves of steel is capable of observing all of these negative phenomena and showing restraint and not losing his sanity.
“Nerves of steel” are a prerequisite for anyone who takes part in activities on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. This blessed work brings us into contact with the public at large, in all its variety, young and old. Some of the work involves close contact with the security forces – the police and the army. The encounter with citizens who do not identify with our beliefs and our path, and with the police and army, is liable to lead to friction and even to confrontations. Are we interested in that?
The goal of our activities is to spread light and to exalt the spirit of the Jewish People; to arouse their extinguished Jewish spark and their slumbering love of Eretz Yisrael. In halachic terms, our work is a subset of the mitzvah of “tochachah,” “admonishing your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:17). The main purpose of that mitzvah is to restore one’s fellow to the upright path. “Your neighbor” [amitecha] refers both to the individual and to society, the Jewish People in the aggregate. The prophets fulfilled this mitzvah not just vis-à-vis the individual but especially vis-à-vis the Jewish People and their leadership. They admonished them for their inferior leadership, both as regards the way those leaders related to G-d, and as regards the way they related to man. This is the goal of our public work – our door-to-door public relations work, our anti-disengagement films, our protests and demonstrations.
The mitzvah of “tochachah” has clear halachic and educational definitions:
1) The Torah states, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. You must admonish your neighbor.” The juxtaposition of these two themes in the Torah informs us that one of the goals of tochachah is to rid us of the hatred hidden in our hearts. We mustn’t nurse that hatred. Rather we must talk to our fellow Jew. We must converse with him. We must open a dialogue with him. The tochachah is meant to break down the hatred and to replace it with clear and open communication. If it does not lessen the hatred between us but only magnifies it, if it arouses strife and disagreement, then it isn’t the desired tochachah. It is working in the opposite direction. It is therefore worthless.
2) The purpose of tochachah is not to humiliate and to insult our fellow man, but to influence him to change his ways for the better. Therefore, our tochachah is not judged by how sharply and rudely we speak, or by how vociferous our rebuke, but by the extent to which our words penetrate the heart. The Vilna Gaon writes: “Some people rebuke harshly, humiliating the people they are addressing. Their words are therefore not heeded. The wise person, however, chooses benevolent words and brings his listener closer to the Torah, as our sages said of Aaron the Kohen [who ‘loved his fellow men and brought them close to the Torah’ (Avot 1:12)].”
Therefore, only someone with “nerves of steel,” i.e., self-control and restraint, is entitled to engage in activities that may lead to interpersonal friction. Whoever is uncertain of his self-restraint should choose different activities involving no friction. We must remember that many of the soldiers and police never learned Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s book “Mesillat Yesharim” in depth, neither did they study the writings of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. They haven’t acquired the traits of patience and temperance. The law allows them to employ violence only when it is essential. Some of them, however, hold that violence is a virtue, and they exaggerate in their use of it.
We need “nerves of steel” in order to maintain our own composure and not to react to the unjustified violence of police and soldiers. Whoever lacks “nerves of steel” and is incapable of controlling himself is exempt from participating in such activities. It is recommended that he choose a different activity for the sake of Eretz Yisrael.
We have to remember that the “disengagement” is just a symptom of the profound spiritual weakness within Israeli society. The main treatment of it has to be directed towards the root of the sickness, and not towards its external signs. Treating the symptom will not cure the illness. The illness will just flair up again in a more severe manner. Some ask: Why should we invest any efforts at all in treating symptoms? Let’s focus on the root of the problem!” This question can be answered by way of a parable: A dangerous crack developed along the side of a large dam. The dam was in urgent need of major repairs to keep it from collapsing entirely. This involved a large engineering project that would go on for months. Only systematic work carried out patiently could prevent the dam from collapsing. Yet, if even a small hole developed within the crack, it would need to be closed up immediately before it could expand with enormous speed along the length of the crack.
The crack in the dam is the spiritual weakness from which Israeli society suffers. This is a weakness whose length is as long as the entire society. To deal with that weakness, all-encompassing spiritual work in the realms of education and the teaching of values is required. Now, suddenly, a hole has developed in the crack. That is the “Disengagement plan”, that is liable to drag the whole nation after it and to bring it to total collapse. One disengagement will bring more in its wake, and the hole will expand and lengthen. Therefore, we have to work immediately to nullify the disengagement. Even so, throughout all of our activities, we have to keep a long-range perspective. We have to look towards the final destination – the more profound improvement of Israeli society and restoring its original living spirit to its midst.
HELP SAVE GUSH KATIF!
www.savegushkatif.org : an excellent site for information about Gush Katif and the thousands of Jews living there, and what you can do to help. Visit the site; send a link to everyone you know!
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