From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The light of redemption being revealed in our times comes in many stages, as all the facets of holiness hidden in the essence of our national rebirth – cloaked in secular garb – are revealed. Yet its holy light remains sealed and hidden, a ‘locked garden, a sealed-off fountain’. We have an enormous duty to break the seal on the fountain, and then the living waters will emerge from Jerusalem…” (Ma’amarei HaReiyah, Ne’edar BaKodesh 3)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Comfort my People – for G-d’s Word Will Endure Forever”
The Prophet Isaiah (Chapter 4) addresses the prophets and sages in every generation and asks, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people! Bid Jerusalem take heart” (verse 1). And what is the consolation Isaiah offers? “Proclaim unto her that her time of service is accomplished, that her guilt is paid off; that she hath received of the L-rd’s hand double for all her sins” (verse 2). In other words, the time earmarked for her in the exile has passed. The end of the exile has arrived, for she has received twice the punishment coming to her in the Babylonian exile and in the 2,000 year long exile. The atonement for her sin has been completed.
In the stage of actual redemption Isaiah addresses them and says: “O you who tell good tidings to Zion – get you up into the high mountain. O you who tell good tidings to Jerusalem – lift up our voice with strength. Lift it up! Be not afraid. Say unto the cities of Judah: ‘Behold your God! Behold, the L-rd G-d will come as a Mighty One” (verses 9-10). Those nations that will see fit to fight us will be like a drop in the bucket, like dust on a scale, as it says, “Behold, the nations are as a drop in the bucket, as the small dust of the balance. Behold the isles are as a mote in weight. Lebanon is not sufficient fuel, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for burnt-offerings. All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are accounted by Him as things of nought, and vanity” (verses 15-17).
Lebanon is here compared to a forest of trees all aflame. Isaiah addresses the skeptics, those weak in their faith, and he says: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the L-rd; my right is passed over from my G-d’? Did you not know? Have you not heard that the everlasting G-d, the L-rd, Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, nor is weary? His discernment is unfathomable. He gives power to the faint; and to him that has no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait for the L-rd shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (27-31)
Today, with our own eyes we see Isaiah’s words being fulfilled in our day. After two thousand years of exile, after our having undergone the calamitous Holocaust, we are rising to rebirth in the land of our life’s blood. Millions of Jews are being gathered homeword, as Isaiah said, “Even as a shepherd who feeds his flock, who gathers the lambs into his arm, carrying them in his bosom, gently leading nurslings” (verse11). We can see with our own eyes how the land is developing with great strides. Roads and train tracks are being laid out, and the Isaiah’s words are being fulfilled: “‘Hark!’ one calls: ‘Clear in the wilderness the way of the L-rd, make plain in the desert a highway for our G-d.’ Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the rugged shall be made level, and the rough places a plain” (verses 3-4).
The nations are rising up against us to fight us, and these nations are likened to grass: “The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the L-rd blows upon it – Surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our G-d shall endure forever” (7-8). Looking forward to complete salvation,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“A Time of Trouble or of Valor?”
Some are saying, “It is a time of trouble for Jacob.” Quite the contrary, better we should say it is a time of valor! The expression “a time of trouble” should be reserved for describing the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel during the First and Second Temple periods. It should be reserved for the Spanish expulsion and the Holocaust. It should be reserved for the first days of the Yom Kippur War, when we didn’t know how we would stop the Egyptian Army, when some of our weaponry ran out, when we prepared missiles with nuclear war heads as a last eventuality.
Yet as long as we are hitting the enemy full force, that is not “a time of trouble of Jacob,” but a time of valor. After all, we’ve got to view reality with open eyes, and not to spread illusions: We have numerous opponents and enemies. A day will certainly come when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). Yet in the meantime, while we are fighting, this is what our sages defined as “atchalta digeula,” “the beginning of the redemption” (Megillah 17). When we are unable to defend ourselves, or when we are so afraid that that we do not wish to defend ourselves, that is a time of trouble for Jacob, but not now.
Obviously, if a Jew is killed, we cry, whether he is a soldier or a civilian. It’s terrible when any Jew is killed. True, it is the nature of war that soldiers fall in battle, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible. And obviously, even if someone is killed in a traffic accident, of which there are 1.5 fatalities in Israel per day, or if someone dies from tobacco smoke – of which there are thirty deaths per day, including five from “passive smoking,” we weep. That is all the more sad, for we ask ourselves, “Why? What for?” Indeed, a Jew’s death is a terrible tragedy, but this is a personal tragedy. If you don’t make such a distinction, then every day will be a national time of trouble. Yet for the nation, this is a time of valor. The government is valorous, as is the army. The residents of the north are valorous. And all of them, as one man, with one heart, in uniform consensus, are fighting against that same cruel, immoral and wicked threat.
Therefore, let them not criticize us about the need for peace. There is no people more in love with peace than our own gentle people. Yet sometimes, we get so sophisticated that we forget the simple things: that if they strike us, we have to pay them back immediately in cash, and take no credit. In the exile we were a lamb amongst seventy wolves. Since the establishment of the state, we have gone back to being a lion. We are returning to our valor. We are amazed at our strong army, and the Master-of-the-Universe walks before us.
Rabbi Ya’akov Filber – Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Who’s Afraid of Mashiach?”
The modern Jew (even if he is counted amongst the Modern Orthodox who call themselves the “sane Religious Zionism”) is afraid of Mashiach [the Messiah] and considers “Messianism” a dirty word. He ignores the fact that if not for “Messianism”, the Jewish People would not have returned to their land, nor would the State of Israel have been established. Even David Ben Gurion understood this truth, when he wrote (quoted in “Mikra’ot Yisrael” 7, page 36): “Without the Messianic longing that went on for hundreds of years, even if ostensibly it had no real, practical chance, the remarkable pioneering trait, which knew the secret of practical action, would never have appeared. It was hidden away for generations in the nation’s soul, without anyone noticing its existence, until it sprung out of its box and transformed the face of the people and the land.”
Similar words were written by Ben Gurion’s friend Berl Catznelson (Arachim Genuzim, page 125): “The Eretz Yisrael Labor Movement is a Messianic movement. It is forcing the end of days. It views Zionism as part of the redemption of mankind.” He further wrote, “When a movement longs for Messianism and becomes aware that the Messiah is rapidly approaching, it is no surprise when it becomes caught up in the vision with all its heart and soul.”
The crisis of Zionism in our generation stems from its having ceased to be Messianic. Rather, it has confined itself to a limited scope of realism that rejects any vision of the future, in the sense of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die” (Isaiah 22:13). Mashiach’s arrival is one of the thirteen principles of Judaism according to Rambam. Therefore, in these times, when we are in need of consolation, it is good that we should review the tenets of faith in the coming of Mashiach.
An ancient tradition tells us that on the day the Temple was destroyed, the Machiach was born. As the Jerusalem Talmud teaches (Berachot 2:4): “A Jew was plowing his field. His cow lowed. An Arab passed by and heard its voice and said to the Jew, ‘Jew! Jew! Unshackle your cow! Unshackle your plow! The Temple has been destroyed!’ The cow lowed a second time and the Arab said, ‘Jew! Jew! Shackle your cow and shackle your plow! The Messianic king has been born!’”
It is just that from then until today almost two thousand years have gone by, and the Mashiach has not yet arrived. Indeed, when Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi met the Mashiach (Sanhedrin 98a) and asked him, ‘When are you coming?’ the Mashiach responded, “Today!” What he meant was: “Today – if you heed G-d’s voice” (Psalm 95:7). According to this answer, the Mashiach can, indeed, arrive on any day, but only after Israel repent and heed G-d’s voice.
Such, in fact, was the view of several sages of Israel, as we find in Midrash Tanchuma (Bechukotai 3): “Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘If Israel do not repent, they will not be redeemed.” Likewise, Zohar Chadash (Parashat Noach) teaches: “Rabbi Eliezer says, ‘The final redemption has no deadline. It all depends on repentance.” Yet according to this approach there is a problem. Our sages said (Berachot 33b), “Everything is in G-d’s hands except for the fear of G-d.” Repentance involves the fear of G-d, and theoretically Israel could refrain from repenting, such that the Mashiach might never come. This possibility apparently troubled Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi after he heard the Mashiach’s words, and he began to seek an answer to this question from our holy writ, until he found an answer within several contradictory verses: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi brought a contradiction: It says that redemption will come ‘in its proper time’ (Isaiah 60:22), but also that G-d will ‘speed up’ its arrival (ibid)! Rather, if Israel merit it, G-d will speed it up. Otherwise, it will come in its proper time” (Sanhedrin 98a).
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi arrived at a similar conclusion from resolving the following contradiction: “One verse says, ‘He’ll arrive as a man with the clouds’ (i.e., hastily (Rashi). Daniel 7:13), and another verse says, ‘Poor, and riding a donkey’ (i.e., indolently (Rashi). Zechariah 9:9).” Here as well, the answer was, “If they merit it, redemption will come with the clouds. Otherwise, it will come with the poor man riding the donkey.” In the latter process, redemption will not come through Israel’s merit, but through Heavenly mercy. At its start, this will involve material redemption, and only at the end will the spiritual redemption come with arousal from on high. Ezekiel prophesied (Chapter 36) regarding such a process, and in accordance with the following order:
Israel were exiled from their land due to their sins. Their presence in the exile is a profanation of G-d’s name (“The nations say of them, ‘These are the L-rd’s people, and they have left His land” (36:20). Divine Providence cannot come to terms with this situation, and G-d takes pity on His name, profaned among the nations, and He redeems Israel. Redemption is then not for their sake, but rather for the sake of His profaned name.
The first step of the redemption will thus be, “I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land” (36:24). Israel will return to their land when they are still sunken in impurity, and they will settle their land. The prophet does not reveal to us how much time this process will take.
After the first step comes the second step, the spiritual step, which itself has two parts. The first is the stage of purification: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean. From all your impurity and all your idols will I cleanse you” (36:25). After that will come spiritual redemption: “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you…. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them” (36:26-27). This description parallels our sages’ utterance about redemption coming “gradually” [“kima kima”]. The end of this process will be Israel’s complete redemption, when Israel arrive at their final destination: “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers” (36:28).
A similar exilic process ending with redemption not dependent on repentance is sketched by Rabbi Chaim ben Atar in his commentary, “Ohr HaChaim” on the Torah (Leviticus 25:25). There as well the process begins with destruction and exile, with several possibilities of redemption open. The first possibility is for redemption to come by way of the saint, who will arouse the hearts of men: “He will say to them, ‘Is it good for you that you are dwelling outside, in exile from your Father’s table?’” Yet the saints will not be successful in meeting this challenge: “For this, all the masters of the land, the great sages of Israel, are destined to be called to account. G-d will call them to task for the insult to Israel’s abject house.”
Then will come the second possibility, which is exilic suffering, “for suffering and exile are the means to the nation’s rectification and preparation.” It is true, that suffering worked to erase some of the nation’s debts, yet still other sins remained unpaid. When G-d sees “that the people lack the strength to bear more blows and suffering, and their debt is over their heads,” then the third redemption possibility will come, and that is the fixed time earmarked by G-d for the exile, which is called “redemption “in its time”. When that deadline arrives, redemption will come, even if Israel are unworthy of it, “for the end of the exile will come even if Israel are totally wicked, G-d forbid.”
PARASHAT VAETCHANAN – SHABBAT NACHAMU
From the World of Rabbi Kook
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