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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“Then, one clear day, all those gone astray shall return…and clearly understand that even the negative roles…were always directed by G-d, who controls the generations from start to finish… Then all His children gone far away will return and holiness will be evident in all the work of our builders in the land of our glory, forever.” (Ma’amarei HaReiyah 185)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Be Strong and of Good Courage!”

We are at the height of a milchemet mitzvah, a compulsory war, as Rambam taught: “What is a milchemet mitzvah? It is a war to assist Israel against an enemy that has attacked them” (Hilchot Melachim 5:1). During such a war, the people’s morale must be strengthened. A kohen is therefore appointed to address the people during the war, and he is called the “Mashuach Milchamah” [the anointed for war]: “He stands on a high place with all the armed forced before him, and he says to them in Hebrew: Hear O Israel! Today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them. The L-rd your G-d is the One who is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will deliver you” (Rambam, ibid., quoting from Deuteronomy 20:3-4).

Rambam also says there: “When a person enters the thick of battle, he should place his hope in G-d, who saves Israel in time of trouble. He should be aware that he is waging war for the sake of G-d’s Oneness. He should muster his courage and have no fear… Whoever starts to think too much in battle, alarming himself, violates a Torah prohibition: ‘Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them.’ Moreover, the lives of all Israel depend on him. If he does not do all he can, with all his heart and soul, to be victorious in battle, it is as though he has shed blood, as it says, ‘Let him go home rather than have his cowardliness demoralize his brethren’ (Deuteronomy 20:8)… Whoever fights with all his heart, without fear, and his intent is solely to sanctify G-d’s name, can rest assured that he will not be harmed and no evil will befall him. He will build a strong family in Israel, bringing merit to himself and to his descendants for all time, and he will merit the World-to-Come.” (Rambam, ibid., 15)

Today, we are in the period between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av, when we recall the Destruction of the First and Second Temples. Together with that, we must look toward the future. We must learn, understand and gain awareness that we are at the beginning of the building of the Third Temple, which began with the ingathering of the exiles, the establishment of a sovereign Jewish entity, the State of Israel. All the prophets and sages who relate to the rebirth of the Jewish People in their land after the two thousand year long exile, note that the Third Temple will be built amidst wars, as our sages said, “In the seventh year there will be wars. At the end of that period the son of David will come.” The nations of the world have not resigned themselves to the idea that our people is rising to rebirth. They are striving to their utmost to extinguish the flame of Israel, that is burning brighter and brighter.

Thus, our wars are “milchemot mitzvah” – compulsory wars. The ideas aired in recent years by political leaders according to which we are fighting to achieve peace have no foothold in the cruel reality that we face. They are mistaken, and they are based on the unfortunate fantasies of dangerous diplomatic programs such as Oslo, the Separation, the Disengagement and the Convergence Program. To our enemies, all these programs send a message of surrender and weakness. Such programs that confuse the heads of the army and demoralize the troops are the result of an error in understanding reality.

At present, we must pray and call to the nation and to its leaders: Open your eyes! Know the enemy and his goals! Fight back hard! Smite the enemy and deter him! By such means G-d’s name will be sanctified on earth. We must be strong and courageous on behalf of our people and on behalf of the cities of our G-d. Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“He Who Destroyed Gush Katif Will Rebuild It”

Under the chuppah it is customary to place ashes on the head of the groom, in remembrance of the Temple’s destruction. I humbly use sand from Gush Katif. One time, the bride began to weep. I, too, weep inside.

At the same time, we who believe in G-d say, “We shall remember and we shall return.” Yet in order to cure the terrible breakdown, we must know its cause, as Rambam quotes, “Who is wise? He who knows the reason behind something.” Or, as our sages taught, “Who is wise? He who sees ahead” (Tamid 32a). The two sources make the same point, for if someone knows the reason behind something, he can plan for the future as well. Yet that is precisely the problem: Many reason have been suggested for Gush Katif’s fall, such that those who examine the issue are perplexed. Some say that it was all because of our aggressive prime minister; or the cabinet; or perhaps the entire Knesset; or because the media bewitched the public with its spell; or possibly because of the disingenuous legal system. Some say that the guilty party is the Left, which slowly built up a distorted awareness. Others mention the arrogant trampling of Democracy; or our not believing that it would never happen. Some say it was because we didn’t fight forcefully enough; others, that we did not repent. Still others say that we didn’t take our case to the people, that we didn’t engage in enough face-to-face dialogue. And these are just some of the reason offered!

We therefore arrive at the ultimate cause, the prime cause: the Master of the Universe! Certainly there are various laws of nature governing historic processes. Yet G-d stands above those laws and operates by way of them. Gush Katif and Northern Samaria were destroyed because so G-d decreed.

We might ask: G-d is good to all, and His mercy extends over all His works. How could He have decreed such an evil upon us? In response to this Isaiah long ago said, “G-d creates light and darkness, He makes peace and creates evil” (Isaiah 45:7). Everything comes from G-d, both good and evil. Over the former we bless G-d for “being good and benevolent,” and over the latter we say, “Blessed is the judge of truth.” G-d’s judgment in Gush Katif was harsh, but it was true. “The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect; for all His ways are just. He is a faithful G-d, never unfair. Righteous and moral is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Therefore, when we see something evil, we have to realize that it is for the best. It is evil in the present, but it is for the best in the future, even if we do not understand how. After all, G-d loves us always, as we say in our prayers, “You loved us with everlasting love,” and, “G-d loves His people Israel.”

Obviously, this does not remove responsibility from the evil. They are going to have to give an account of their evil deeds, for there is absolute free will. Otherwise, the entire Torah would collapse (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva, Ch. 5). At the same time, there is absolute divine providence, even if in the paucity of our intellect we cannot attach these disparate strands together (Rambam, ibid., end of Chapter 5; Orot HaTeshuvah 16:aleph:1).

It is only that G-d orchestrates punishment through guilty parties. (Shabbat 32b). He therefore punished Assyria, even though it was “the rod of His anger” (Isaiah 10:5), and Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, even though He was G-d’s “servant” (Jeremiah 25:9). G-d is the prime cause. His hand operates by way of intermediate causes. If someone chooses to be an intermediate cause of evil, evil will pursue him.

Likewise, our great belief in the hand of G-d being behind everything does not lead us, G-d forbid, to sit idly, indolent and fatalistic. After all, we say that G-d works through “teams,” orchestrating reward by way of the meritorious (Shabbat, ibid.). We are called upon to be those teams, and to work with G-d, with energy and enthusiasm. Everything we did for Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, it is good that we did, and we did it for the sake of G-d, even if we were unsuccessful. We did what we could, and the rest was in the hands of G-d, who decided to make our prime minister ill following the expulsion and not before it. Yet, as noted, we are not giving up. We are not engaging in recrimination against ourselves or others as far as the past. Rather, we are pushing on ahead to the future, with longing that is all that much greater. We say, “You, O L-rd, consumed it with fire, and with fire You will in the future rebuild it” (“Nachem” prayer). You will do this by way of Your faithful emissaries, Your people, the House of Israel.

Rabbi Ya’akov FilberGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Destruction and Exile”

G-d told Ezekiel, “Have I any pleasure that the wicked should die? Surely I prefer that they should repent and live!” (18:23). This utterance serves to teach us that divine punishment is not meant as revenge to cause man pain, but as an educational lesson to help man rectify his sins. This being the case, the question is asked: Why, of all the punishments at its disposal did Divine Providence choose the destruction of the Second Temple and the Jewish commonwealth, and the exile of Israel from their land? As we say in our prayers, “Because of our sins we were banished from our land, and we were distanced from our soil.” Seemingly G-d could have left Israel in their land and punished them there with such punishments as hunger, plague, the sword, etc. Why of all punishments were destruction and exile chosen?

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook in his “Ein Aya” commentary on Berachot (Chapter 9, Ot 118) explains that divine providence punished the Jewish Nation with the destruction of their national center (i.e., the Temple) and exile from their land. That was the only punishment that could heal what was broken in the Jewish People. Why so? Our sages informed us that the sin that caused the Second Temple’s destruction was groundless hatred. This sin struck deep roots and spread throughout the nation. Ultimately there was no other way to uproot it except for scattering Israel throughout the exile, and dissolving all the old frameworks until all of Israel evolved into individuals. Then, every individual Jew would be able to mend his deeds and pathways, and later on, with the ingathering of the exiles, a new center would be built out of the souls refined in the crucible of the exile. As long as the old frameworks continued to function, all the shortcomings of deed, character and evil outlook from the generation of the destruction would continue to exist.

According to this explanation, we have to view groundless hatred as a malignant tumor spreading through the entire nation and liable to bring catastrophe. Taking this view of the situation, we can say that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai’s request to the Roman emperor, “Give me Yavne and its sages,” was not a non-ideal request, after the fact. Rather, he was asking it as an ideal goal, just as we agree to undergo an operation to remove a malignant limb in order to save the entire body.

To Rav Kook’s explanation that the exile and destruction served to refine us of sin, we can further say that Divine Providence carried this out for lack of a better choice. G-d may have preferred to leave Israel in their land and punish them there, but He couldn’t do that for the following reason: Their sin, groundless hatred, was described by the Netziv in his introduction to Genesis as follows: “The Jews of the Second Temple Period were righteous and saintly and toiled in Torah learning, yet they had a distorted view of the world. They therefore harbored groundless hatred for one another in their hearts. When they saw anyone with religious customs different from their own way of thinking, they suspected that person of being a Sadducee or heretic, until the Temple was destroyed.”

When we examine the Netziv’s words, we will find that those they suspected were G-d-fearing people who led daily faith-based lives, albeit different from the way of thinking of their accusers. Because of these differences, they allowed themselves to hate them. Each group thought that only they had the truth, and all the rest had strayed and sinned.

Now, let us imagine that in such an atmosphere all the social frameworks had remained in place, and G-d had punished Israel there in their land, with hunger or plague, etc. Would such a punishment have rectified the sin of hatred? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite is the case. Such punishments would have worsened and deepened the hatred. After all, each group would point an accusing finger and say, “Because of YOU this evil has befallen us!” Thus, not only would the punishment not have provided rectification but would have made the sin worse. Thus, G-d had not choice but to disband all the old groups and to exile Israel from their land, so that the people could be built anew. As Rav Kook wrote, “Later on, with the ingathering of the exiles, a new center would be built out of the souls refined in the crucible of the exile.”

Here we can seemingly ask: “Of what benefit was the exile if even today we are sunken in strife?” Yet it may be that today’s hatred is far removed from the hatred that existed before the destruction. Perhaps our sages had this in mind when they said that redemption was possible even without repentance, once the deadline alluded to in Isaiah 60:22 was reached. This jibes with the words of Ezekiel 36: “I will gather you out of all the countries and bring you into your own land” (verse 24), and only then, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be cleansed of all your uncleannesses…. A new heart also will I give you” (verse 25-26). We pray that all of this will be fulfilled speedily in our day.

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