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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (first chief rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“Man’s desire to be good constitutes the divine spirit of Eden blowing in the soul and filling it with infinite bliss, until even the Hell-fire of deep pain is transformed to a river of delight.”   (Orot HaTeshuvah 16:3)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “G-d shall be at war with Amalek for all generations”

It is a mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us, as it says, “Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 25:17). And what did they do? “When they encountered you [Hebrew ‘karcha’] on the way, and you were tired and exhausted, they cut off those lagging to your rear, and they did not fear G-d” (ibid., 18). Rashi expounds: “‘Karcha’ connotes ‘cold’ [kar], as opposed to heat. They cooled you, moderated you to tepidness from seething heat. For all the nations were afraid of waging war against you, until Amalek started, paving the way for others. This is compared with a boiling bath into which no creature could enter. One villain came and leaped into it. Although he was scalded, he cooled it for the others.”

Facing Amalek at Refidim stood Moses, and he appointed Joshua as his commander-in-chief, telling him, “Choose men for us, and prepare for battle against Amalek” (Exodus 17:9). Here Rashi comments, “Men who are both mighty and G-d fearing, so that their merit will assist us.”

Moses, Aaron and Miriam’s son Chur, Israel’s spiritual and political leadership, ascended to the top of a hill, and “as long as Moses held his hands up, Israel would be winning…. His hands remained steady until sunset” (ibid., 17:11-12). Indeed, Joshua was victorious, as it says, “Joshua was able to break the ranks of Amalek and their allies with the sword” (verse 13). Our sages ask, “Was it Moses’s hands that made or broke the war? Rather, Scripture’s point is that as long as Israel gazed upward and subjugated their hearts to their Father in heaven, they were victorious. Otherwise, they were vanquished” (Rosh Hashanah 29a). When Moses would raise his hands towards Heaven, it was a hint to Israel that they were fighting against the profanation of the name of G-d, whose name was part of their own name (Yisrael). When they recognized that they were fighting G-d’s battles, they were victorious (see Nefesh HaChaim 2:21).

Today, Hizbullah has attacked the soldiers and civilians of the State of Israel. Its purpose was that of Amalek, to show the world and all of Israel’s enemies that it is possible to fight the State of Israel and the unbeaten I.D.F. Hizbullah wished to explode our image in the eyes of the world, which looks on with astonishment at the rebirth of the Jewish People in their land, fulfillment of the vision of the prophets of Israel – and sees clearly that Israel is the eternal people.

Behind Hizbullah stand the head of Iran and others, whose stated purpose it is to annihilate the State of Israel, precisely the way Haman, Amalek’s descendant, did in that same land 2,500 years ago. Faced with Iran, Hizbullah and all the haters of Israel, we must appoint a political and spiritual leader like Moses, whose “hands were steady.” Moses knew how to direct Israel’s hearts to their Father in Heaven. Our people and army must know and recognize that this war concerns the sanctification of G-d’s name, and the survival and eternity of the eternal people. They must realize that it is a war against “Amalekites” and “Modern Day Hamans,” a war of the sons of light against the sons of darkness. We must remember and not forget what that German Amalekite did, may his name and memory be blotted out, in the last generation. We must remember and not forget that “G-d shall be at war with Amalek for all generations” (Exodus 17:16). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El

It’s said that Ben-Gurion once asked us, “Where are the religious people in the military cemeteries?” This is truly biting, painful criticism. Certainly we religious had losses, but from those who boast idealism even more self-sacrifice was expected. After all, we talk about self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot, and that is certainly all well and good — it’s our duty on earth. Yet let us not forget that above all else there is literal “self-sacrifice”, risking one’s life. Thus the Talmud states, “How fortunate he who arrives in the World-to-Come with his Talmud learning in hand,” but above him are “those executed by the [Roman] kingdom,” “whose place in the World-to-Come no one else can reach.” This refers to “the martyrs of Lod” (Pesachim 50a) — two brothers who were not Torah scholars but they gave up their lives for the Jewish People (Rashi, ibid.).

Yet since Ben-Gurion ages have gone by, and we can well say that we have had our share of tears. In every B’nei Akiva branch hangs a memorial list of movement graduates who fell in Israel’s wars. Our marital bond to our land has been tightened, and we are betrothed to it by our blood.

Yet a major precondition exists regarding self-sacrifice and all other divine service, that one mustn’t be arrogant and certainly one mustn’t denigrate others. We mustn’t say, “We are the fighters. We are the cream of the crop.” We are still skim milk. It wasn’t we who did everything. Rather, it was us together with all the Jewish People, and now we are all slowly repenting.

As for my humble self, I am a former kibbutznik, and I am still a kibbutznik with all my heart and soul. In my love and admiration for the Religious Kibbutz Movement and for the Kibbutz Movement in general, it always hurt me to hear arrogant utterances such as, “At one time there was idealism, but now there is no longer anything, only careerism.” But now, with this war (since it is a war still without a name, I call it “this war”), we have heard that high percentages of religious and kibbutz soldiers fell in battle. Therefore, whoever shows conceit regarding the kibbutzniks should please go over to the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery and ask the forgiveness of all the kibbutznik soldiers whose blood was shed.

And once and for all, please make a commitment not to be arrogant or to put on airs. Realize that besides the religious and the kibbutznikim, there are a lot of other idealists who fought in this war with self-sacrifice, religious and non-religious, from both the left and the right.
I heard of an incident that occurred in this war, regarding someone who was once the company commander of an elite unite, and now he is already a bit older. Yet when he heard that his old unit was entering Lebanon, he didn’t think twice. He put on his uniform and went north. “What are you doing here?” they asked when he arrived. “We’re the regular army, not the reserves.” “I came and I’m staying!” he answered. “But we don’t have any insurance for you,” they told him. “I don’t care. I can be the company commander’s attaché,” he insisted, and they couldn’t get rid of him. During the battle the company commander was put out of action, and this man led the unit. And what does he do in civilian life? He runs a pub.

Have you ever seen the famous cartoon from after the Yom Kippur War, drawn by the Israeli caricaturist “Dosh”, of a living Srulik tearfully holding out a hand to a Srulik in heaven? So now that the religious and the kibbutznikim in heaven are holding out their hands to one another, the time has come for us to hold out the hand of truth, here on earth, right here in our own country.

Rabbi Eran TamirSenior Lecturer at Machon Meir
“For or Against the Evil Impulse?”

The Torah’s allowing soldiers to marry a non-Jewish female captive following victory in war, even if she is already married, is exceedingly puzzling. Our sages’ explanation, quoted by Rashi, just adds to the puzzlement: “The Torah was only working against the evil impulse. If G-d did not allow such a marriage, the soldier would marry her in sin.” Does this permission work “against” the evil impulse? Surely nothing could be more in favor of the evil impulse than this! Could a man’s base impulses be so overpowering that even the Torah would surrender before them? What then is the reason for this “strange” permission, the likes of which we seemingly find nowhere else in the entire Torah?

Meshech Chochmah (Genesis 9:2) explains in this regard a major principle associated with the entire Torah, and with the nature of the connection between the Torah and man: “G-d’s laws and His ways are pleasant, and all the Torah’s paths are peace. The Torah did not burden a Jew with what he physically cannot bear. With everything forbidden to him, the Torah did not deprive him of some permissible alternative (Chulin 109b – it forbade eating blood, but it permitted eating liver; it forbade eating pork but it permitted carp, whose taste is similar, etc.). For this reason, we find no mitzvah to afflict ourselves except for one day a year [Yom Kippur] and on the day preceding, the Torah warns and obligates us to eat. Likewise, the Torah did not deprive any creature of sexual intercourse, except for Moses… Moreover, in battle, when victory comes, and the great inner warmth and the feeling of release, the Omniscient G-d knew that at that moment it is impossible to stop a man’s passion for a beautiful woman, hence the Torah allowed the married female captive to the Jewish soldier. As our sages said, ‘The Torah was only working against the evil impulse.’”

Thus, the Torah does not block the evil impulse and does not fight it. All of the Torah’s commands are attuned to the evil impulse, and all of man’s natural energies are within the evil impulse and are dependent upon it, with their task being to direct, route and guide the evil impulse to its proper, realistic place in building the world.

Yet it goes still further. In extreme cases such as our own, following victory in war, when the fighters are released from all the pressures and tensions that afflicted them during the fighting, and their spirits break free, together with all of their human, natural life-forces which want to find fulfillment and satisfaction, G-d “knows” that it is impossible and forbidden to stop the awakening of those natural forces. Hence He permitted (obviously according to the Torah’s stipulations) the soldier to wed even the beautiful captive wife.

This phenomenon is an individual detail that attests to the general rule. G-d says, “I created the evil impulse and I created the Torah as its spice.” The task of Torah and mitzvoth is to act as a “spice,” to provide the appropriate flavor to the evil impulse and to all the natural life-forces in man, not to weaken them or, G-d forbid, to nullify them. Following this principle, Meshech Chochmah there explains numerous laws, such as the reason for a woman’s being exempt from the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply: Pregnancy and childbirth involve pain and danger to the point of risk to life. Who would want, a priori, to place himself in such pain and danger? The Torah therefore exempted women from this mitzvah, placing the responsibility for this mitzvah on man alone. Obviously a woman is partner to the mitzvah, yet she is not classed as being commanded to fulfill it.

May we merit to “spice” our “food,” i.e., the evil impulse, and may we merit fulfillment of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s words in this context (Orot HaTorah): “The Torah has to permeate all walks of life… When they are illuminated with the light of Torah, the Torah is then greatly blessed, and the evil impulse itself ascends, is sanctified and is transformed into something good. The prosecutor itself becomes the defender, and the object by which one is smitten becomes the cure… ‘I created the evil impulse and I created the Torah as its spice.”

by Yehuda HaKohen –
Founder of “Am Segula”

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree or on the ground – young birds or eggs – and the mother is roosting on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and you will prolong your days.” (DEVARIM 22:6-7)

It is learned from the statement at the end of these verses, “you will prolong your days”, that adherence to this commandment is one that will cause a Jew to enjoy long life. In his Guide to the Perplexed (3:48), the Rambam explains that it would be cruel to slaughter a mother with its young. Animals instinctively love their offspring and would suffer by watching them killed or taken away. The Ramban adds that this directive is meant to infuse compassion in people. He then makes a reference to the Talmud where it states: “If one says, `Your mercy rests upon the bird’s nest,’… we silence him.” (Berachot 33b) The Talmud comments, “It is because he attributes G-D’s conduct to mercy, when it consists only of decrees.” It is interesting that the Talmud says to silence a person for praising G-D. The commandment to send away the mother bird obviously demonstrates HaShem’s great mercy. Still, the Sages are teaching a valuable lesson. One who fulfills G-D’s commandments because he finds “mercifulness” agreeable transforms HaShem’s decrees into something dependent on man’s approval. By such means, he attempts to cancel out the entire rationale for accepting the Torah.

Israel’s Torah is not a man-made “religion”. Nor is it merely a series of rigid precepts. The Torah is the Divine Ideal for Creation lowered into this world by the Master of the Universe. It is the blueprint and instruction manual on how Israel, as a holy Nation, must elevate mankind and bring G-D’s blessing to flow through existence. Every mitzvah is like a faucet that when opened, sends Divine content into the world and exalts Creation to levels beyond where it previously existed. These faucets, however, must be connected to the correct plumbing in order for them to achieve their lofty function. Each mitzvah must be performed at the proper time, place and appropriate situation. A person who performs the mitzvah of shaking a lulav in the springtime does not bring any Divine content into the world. A lulav must be waved on Sukkot (which occurs in the fall). Shaking a lulav in the spring is like turning on a faucet with no pipe behind it. Nothing comes out. The physical act was completed, but not according to the Torah’s instruction. So too with a Jew who observes mitzvot outside of Eretz Yisrael. He is performing the actions but not enhancing the world on a spiritual plane. There are no pipes behind his mitzvot because they are meant to be fulfilled in a specific geographic location. This is why so many of the great Torah luminaries call mitzvot outside the Land of Israel mere practice (to guarantee that Israel does not forget them during the exile). Their full expression is only realized when performed inside the Land of Israel as nearly the entire Book of DEVARIM instructs.

An important function of HaShem’s commandments is that they work to fetter man’s ego. If today a Jew fulfills a decree because he intellectually agrees with it, what will he do tomorrow when he encounters one that is hard for him to digest? Will he still obey a mitzvah he does not agree with if he is used to doing mitzvot only because he finds them acceptable? While mitzvot like charity, mercy to animals and respecting one’s parents might be agreeable to most people today, what would a person do when confronted with the commandment of packing up his life and moving to Eretz Yisrael? What about mizvot like revenge against Israel’s enemies or destroying churches in the Holy Land? Will a person be able to fulfill such decrees if he finds them offensive or difficult to understand? It was for this reason that the Sages instruct Israel to silence a person who praises the mercy of G-D’s Torah. The precepts are not dependent on man’s personal approval, nor are they dependent on the approval of Western civilization. Israel must do what is right from a love of G-D and a knowledge that His decrees are eternally correct. This sacred Truth should always be one’s primary consideration in life. Israel must pursue peace and justice by virtuously accepting the yoke of HaShem’s Torah and submitting all personal egos to the Creator. Through this submission Israel should merit complete Redemption and the full expression of G-D’s Name in this world through the glory of His Kingdom from the Nile to the Euphrates.

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