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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“Faith, in its most sublime function, provides man with a level of courage that he could not otherwise achieve.” (Midot HaRe’iyah, Emunah)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Look Back on Abraham Your Father”

Our fortitude as a nation and our hold on Eretz Yisrael are closely bound to learning our holy Torah and to fulfilling its mitzvoth, as it says: “Safeguard the entire mandate that I am prescribing to you today, so that you will be strong and come to occupy the land which you are crossing to occupy. You will then long endure on the land that God swore to your fathers that He would give to them and their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 11:8-9).

Furthermore, the way to strengthen the nation begins with education in general, but specifically with educating children very early on: “Teach them to your sons and speak about them, when you sit in your home and when you go on your way, when you lie down and when you get up” (6:7). Rashi comments, “As soon as a child knows how to speak, teach him, ‘Moses taught us the Torah’ (33:4). Let this be his speech training.”

Our sages accordingly taught that when a child is learning to speak, his father should speak to him in Hebrew and teach him Torah, as it says, “Teach them to your sons and speak about them, when you sit in your home and when you go on your way, when you lie down and when you get up…. If you do this,] you and your children will long endure on the land that God swore to your ancestors, [promising that] He would give it to them as long as the heavens are above the earth” (6:7; 11:21). If they do so, they will long endure. Otherwise, they will not! Not only will G-d lengthen our lives in the land of our life’s blood, but our enemies will fear us and will fall before us: “G-d will drive out all these nations before you. You will expel nations that are greater and stronger than you are. Every area upon which your feet tread shall belong to you. Your boundaries shall extend from the desert to the Lebanon, from a tributary of the Euphrates River as far as the Mediterranean Sea. No man will stand up before you. G-d your Lord will place the fear and dread of you upon the entire area you tread, just as He promised you. (11:23-25)

Today, our national strength and fortitude, and our ability to vanquish our cruel enemies who long to destroy the State of Israel, do not depend solely on having a large, strong army. Rather, we must also infuse our nation, our army and its officers with a profound spirit and a strong faith in our right to exist and to live in Eretz Yisrael as a people rising to rebirth in their land. We are here not only to eat and to drink and to rest from the suffering of the exile, but to fulfill the great vision of the prophets of Israel and to become what Abraham, father of our people, was promised we would become: “I will make you a great nation… you shall be for a blessing…. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12).

We have to return to our roots; we must look back on the patriarchs and learn from them. We must learn the holy Torah which strengthens the nation and their hold on the Land, as Isaiah said: “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bore you; for when he was but one I called him, and I blessed him, and made him many” (Isaiah 51:2). And through this may we merit the great solace of the verse that follows: “For G-d has comforted Zion; He hath comforted all her waste places, and has made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the L-rd. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Don’t Insult”

Don’t insult anyone. That’s not a legal stricture. It’s outright, severe, Torah law: “Do not abuse one another. Fear your G-d, since it is I who am the L-rd your G-d” (Leviticus 25:17). The Talmud comments, “The verse is talking about verbal abuse” (Bava Metzia 58b). This is as severe as Shabbat and kashrut, family purity and Eretz Yisrael. “If someone was a penitent, don’t say to him, ‘Remember your early deeds” (ibid.). After all, he has repented. His deeds have been erased. It’s as though they never existed. Don’t keep his police file open forever. Don’t hold up his meeting girls for marital purposes.

“If someone was the son of converts, don’t say to him, ‘Remember your parents’ deeds.’ If he was a convert and he came to learn Torah, don’t say, ‘Shall the mouth that ate non-kosher food learn Torah?’” (ibid.). Right now he is already a Jew, an excellent Jew. In our Shemoneh Esreh we recite the words, “May Your compassion… be aroused over the righteous and over the godly; over the leaders of Your people, the House of Israel, and over the remnant of their sages; and over the true proselytes.” After this list of saintly persons, the prayer adds, “and over us,” referring to the simple Jews.

“If suffering befell him, if sickness struck him, if he buried his sons; let him not say what Job’s friends told Job: ‘Is not your fear of G-d your confidence, and your hope the integrity of your ways? Remember, I pray you, who ever perished, being innocent?’” (Job 4:6-7). Surely you are no prophet. You lack ruach hakodesh [divine intuition]. You do not know the secrets of the Creator, so don’t invent interpretations and reasons for why things are bad for him, especially since there is also the phenomenon of the “righteous man who suffers” (Berachot 7). It isn’t bad enough that he suffers, but you rub salt on his wounds instead of comforting, strengthening and encouraging him. It’s really awful! “If donkey drivers ask you for grain, don’t tell them, ‘Go to So-and-So and he will sell you grain’ when you know he has never sold grain before in his life” (ibid.). This is not a topic for a joke. We are not against jokes if the dosage is low and the content is kosher (Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin, “Tzidkat Hatzadik”). Yet jokes mustn’t be at the expense of others. We don’t laugh at people.

And certainly one shouldn’t insult one’s own wife. That comes before all else. “One must be ever cautious not to abuse one’s wife verbally. Since her tears are not far off, her insult is not far off” (ibid., 59a). The conventional interpretation of this is that wives are emotional, so they are easily insulted, but Maharal’s interpretation is this: If someone else insults her, she won’t cry. Only if her husband insults her will she cry. From someone else she has no expectations. Anyone else doesn’t owe her anything. Yet she married you, she relies on you, and if you insult her, it constitutes terrible betrayal. Obviously, wives should not insult their husbands either. It’s the same thing. Husbands who beat their wives unfortunately exist. Women who beat their husbands are rare. Wives who insult their husbands unfortunately exist.

Don’t insult your children. Remember that their parents are their entire universe, their entire support in a difficult world, full of problems and uncertainties. If you insult them, their world is destroyed. They sink into a dark chasm. That is terrible. Certainly we have to educate them. Certainly we sometimes have to rebuke them. Yet we mustn’t insult them. We mustn’t cut off their life line. And if, by accident, you do insult them, since you are human and sometimes fail, then please rectify your error and tell them that you love them greatly.

Don’t insult your parents. True, sometimes you may find them irksome, but G-d commanded, “A person should revere his mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3), regarding which our sages commented: “How far must reverence go? Even if someone was wearing his nicest clothing and sitting at the head before a throng, and his father and mother came and tore his clothing, beat him on the head and spat in his face, he must not insult them. Rather, he should remain silent and be in fear of G-d, the Supreme King of kings who commanded him to do so.” (Rambam, Mamrim 6:7). By the way, you, too, aggravated them plenty during your childhood and youth, and they bore it. So it won’t hurt you to act the same.

Likewise, don’t insult your students. Establish boundaries, yes! Insults, no! And don’t insult your teachers. Certainly don’t insult rabbis, whether they are from your own political camp or from another, because all of them belong to the camp of the divine presence. Insulting a Torah scholar is terrible, and whoever humiliates a Torah scholar is classed as a heretic who has no portion in the World-to-Come (Sanhedrin 99b). Certainly you are insulting him, while thinking that you are thereby saving the Torah or the generation, when you are really destroying them. Our sages say that this is like a dome made of stones. As soon as one of the stones is loosened, all the stones are loosened as well (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10a). Whoever insults rabbis is making light of Torah scholars. He is abandoning the glory of Torah and putting the entire Torah edifice into question. Therefore, do follow your own rabbi but do not insult the rabbis of others.

You might wonder: With so many people that it is forbidden to insult, how will I be able to speak freely any more? The answer is, That’s exactly right! It takes self-sacrifice. “Better a person should throw himself into a fiery furnace than insult his friend publicly” (Bava Metzia 59a). Some commentaries take this source at face value, as saying that one should die rather than violate this sin (Tosafot Sotah 10b: entry: “Noach”). Others say it is just meant as flowery language (Me’iri). Yet what is this flowery language serving to teach us? That the act is exceedingly severe. So, “Make it a practice always to speak all your words softly to every man at all times” (Igeret HaRamban).

Rabbi Ya’akov FilberGuest Lecture at Machon Meir
“There can be no Perfection Without Helping our Fellow Man”

Three verses in our parasha share a common point but also differ. The first is, “Safeguard the commandments of the L-rd your G-d, so that you will walk in His ways and revere Him” (8:10). The second is, “And now, Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d want of you? Only that you revere Him, so that you will walk in all His ways and love Him” (10:12). The third is, “Love the L-rd your G-d, walk in all His ways, and cling to Him” (11:22).

What all three verses have in common is the expression, “walk in His ways”. To these are added reverence, loving G-d and clinging to Him, albeit each time in a different order: In the first verse, walking in His ways precedes reverence. In the second verse, it follows reverence. In the third verse, walking in His ways follows love and precedes clinging to Him.

We must first clarify what it means to walk in G-d’s ways. Regarding the verse, “Walk after the L-rd your G-d” (13:5) the Talmud asks (Sotah 14a): “Is it possible for someone to actually walk after the Divine Presence? Surely it says, ‘The L-rd your G-d is a consuming fire” (4:24). Rather, the verse is referring to emulating G-d’s traits. Just as He clothes the naked, so must we. Just as G-d visited the sick, so must we. Just as G-d comforted mourners, so must we. G-d attended to burying the dead and so must we.”

The Midrash interprets 13:5 as referring to the pathways of G-d: “Just as He is gracious and compassionate, so must we be. Just as He bestows lovingkindness, so must we.” It turns out that “walking in G-d’s ways” means fulfilling all the mitzvoth of kindness and helping others. Yet what is the connection between a person’s showing kindness to his fellow man and his revering, loving and clinging to G-d? The Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, explains this connection in his preface to his work “Ahavat Chessed” (page 12), where he says that there are three levels to serving G-d: The first is revering Him. Above that is loving Him, and above both of these levels is clinging to Him. The difference between loving G-d and clinging to Him is that love is considered to exist even when it arises only occasionally. By contrast, “clinging to G-d” refers to where one’s love is a permanent fixture in one’s heart, and through it, one’s soul clings to G-d.

In light of this introduction, we can explain the differences in the aforementioned verses. The Torah is seeking to teach us that man cannot attain any spiritual level in his service of G-d until he first accustoms himself to emulating G-d’s goodness, to being merciful, gracious and kind. Therefore, in the first verse, the Torah places emulating G-d’s ways before reverence, to teach us that if someone wishes to attain the spiritual level of reverence, he must first do kind deeds. Afterwards, in the second verse, the Torah reveals to us that even after someone achieves reverence, he cannot cut himself off from society in hopes of being able, undisturbed, to ponders matters of reverence and G-d’s exaltedness, to learn Torah and to ignore all other matters. In this regard the Torah brings the second verse: “Revere the L-rd your G-d, so that you will walk in all His ways and love Him.” This teaches that even if one achieved reverence, and he wishes to ascend to a higher level, love, he must be aware that if he is cut from worldly matters, he will be unable to achieve love of G-d until he first fulfills through his own efforts walking in G-d’s pathways.

Yet there is still a need for the third verse as well, showing that the pathway from love to clinging to G-d passes by way of following in G-d’s path. One shouldn’t think that if he achieved love of G-d, he can set himself entirely apart from worldly matters and ponder only Torah and G-d’s greatness in order to achieve a state of clinging perpetually to G-d. He shouldn’t say, “I shouldn’t ‘waste’ my time doing favors for people.” Therefore, in response to such thinking, the verse teaches that even after one has achieved love of G-d, he must still first “walk in G-d’s pathways”, and be kind, gracious and merciful. Only then can he reach the level of clinging to G-d.

The question is asked: Why, in order to achieve reverence and love of G-d, and in order to cling to Him, must one help other people? Seemingly one should distance himself from helping others, from visiting the sick and participating in joyous affairs, or from going to funerals. Shouldn’t he instead focus on his own spiritual development? Seemingly, the chance of his achieving love and reverence for G-d and of his clinging to G-d would then be greater.

The Chafetz Chaim answers indirectly, when he says, “By virtue of the kind deeds that a person does, G-d will show him kindness, assisting him to cling perpetually to G-d.” His point is that man through his own human resources would not be able to achieve these virtues, and he can achieve them only with help from G-d. G-d treats man in accordance with how he himself acts. If a person looks out only for himself, and doesn’t help others, then G-d, as well, will not help him, and will leave him with the human resources he has. If, however, someone thinks about others and forgoes his own advancement for their sake, G-d, as well, will meet him half way, and he will achieve more than what was coming to him.

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