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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Yitchak Kook (first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“The man who frets constantly over his own sins and those of the world should constantly forgive himself and the world. By doing so he will draw forth forgiveness and the light of kindness over the whole universe, and he will bring joy to G-d and man… And he will earn the blessing reserved for Abraham – there is no generation without one like Abraham in it.”   (Erpalei Tohar, 53-4)

Rabbi Dov BegonHead of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Abraham’s Victory — Our Ancestors’ Deeds Presage Our Own”

The first world war in the history of mankind was the war of the four kings against the five, during the days of Amraphel, a.k.a. Nimrod (see Rashi on Genesis 14:1). At that time, Amraphel, king of Shinar, Arioch, king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer, king of Elam and Tidal, king of Goyim — all of them wicked (Rashi) — waged war against Bera, king of Sodom, Birsha, kng of Gomorrah, Shinav, king of Admah, Shemever, king of Tzevoyim and the king of Bela, now Tzoar — all of them wicked as well. The results of that war, as we know, were that the four kings, led by Chedorlaomer, vanquished the five, led by Bera, king of wicked Sodom. Yet when Abraham heard that his nephew Lot had been taken captive, he pursued Chedorlaomer and the kings who had taken Lot captive, fought them and smote them, freeing Lot and his property.

As stated, Abraham’s motivation for going to war was the fact that his nephew Lot had been taken captive, even though Lot, by his behavior, had displeased Abraham, and Abraham had suggested that they part ways, which they did (Genesis 13:11). Lot had then gone to live in Sodom, a city of wicked, sinful inhabitants (13:13). All the same, Abraham, feeling paternal responsibility for his orphaned nephew, could not be complacent about Lot’s being taken captive. He therefore fought and saved him from the captivity. Abraham’s victory over Chedorlaomer and the kings with him brought the entire world to such great admiration and respect for Abraham that they all joined together and asked him to be their leader: (see Rashi on 14:17).

Today, world wars have never ceased from that first one until now. In recent generations we have experienced two world wars, wars that preceded Israel’s rebirth in their land. As is well-known, in the First World War, the nations confirmed our right to Biblical Eretz Yisrael, and after the Second World War we were privileged, with divine assistance, to establish the State of Israel.

In our own day as well, we live under the shadow and threat of a third world war. It would be between those nations President Bush called the “Axis of Evil”, and their supporters, and between the “Free World” — with the State of Israel being the main and immediate object of destruction by those heading the Axil of Evil. Today as well, we went forth to war because of our sons who fell captive. Unfortunately, however, we did not achieve our goal of freeing them. Had we succeeded as Abraham did with Lot, the esteem in which the nations hold us would have risen, as it did for Abraham. Yet we have not lost hope that our sons will speedily return from captivity.

The goal of the kidnappers was to humiliate the Jewish People and the Israeli Army. Their act was part of a comprehensive campaign, whose purpose, as stated, was the destruction of the State of Israel — it will never be! We must muster our resolve to follow in the path of Abraham, for our ancestors’ deeds presage our own, and we must wage all-out war against our enemies. Only by such means will Israel’s stature be raised up in the world, and our sons will return home. Then, through us will be fulfilled, “I will be magnified and sanctified, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the L-rd” (Ezekiel 38:23). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Have you heard about Jonathan?”

Perhaps you do not know that in an American prison there is a man who has been bleeding to death for twenty-one years. His name is Jonathan Pollard, and we have not yet gotten him out of there.

Perhaps you do not know that an American prison is not like an Israeli prison. Rather, it is a terrible place with terrible conditions and isolation. And for our brother Jonathan it is a double Hell, because his brothers abandoned him after he risked his life for them. Perhaps you are unaware that Jonathan sacrificed his life for the sake of the People of Israel, dwelling in Zion, and brought to our awareness vital information to save us. He warned us about the atomic, biological and chemical weapon threat, and the ongoing organization of bands of terrorists against us. Yet we conducted ourselves as though he does not exist. Only in 1998 was he recognized officially by our government as an Israeli agent who had worked on their behalf.

Yet you certainly don’t know that since then, nothing has changed, and the government is still acting as though he does not exist. They haven’t sought amnesty for him from the President of the United States. They didn’t even bother to mention his name at the opening of the Knesset session about a month ago. Do you not know that in the Torah there is a mitzvah, “Do not stand by when your neighbor’s life is in danger” (Leviticus 19:16)? There is also a mitzvah to redeem captives, and a mitzvah not to be ungrateful.

Perhaps you didn’t think that the struggle over our brother Jonathan is not just over his personal freedom, but over the very principles of brotherhood, mutual responsibility, gratitude, and the very principles of a Jewish State, a nation, the Torah. It is very strange that you didn’t know all this. Yet I shall give you the benefit of the doubt.

But now you do know! This being the case, now that you know, what do you intend to do?

First of all, come to the large demonstration that is going to take place by the Prime Minister’s house, and bring your friends and relatives. From then on, I hope you will know what to do for our great prisoner of Zion.

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 Ya’akov HaLevi FilberGuest lecturer at Machon Meir
“The Purpose of Abraham’s Trials”

“Abraham was tried with ten trials” (Avot 5:4). What purpose did these trials serve? Our sages (Bereshit Rabbah 54) illustrated by way of a parable the trials’ purpose: “Rabbi Yonatan said: A craftsman does not examine jugs if he knows that they are so flimsy that they will break if he bangs on them once. He only examines jugs that won’t break even if he bangs on them. In the same way, it is not the wicked who G-d tests, but the righteous, as it says, ‘G-d tries the righteous’ (Psalm 11:5).

“Rabbi Yossi ben Chanina said: When the flax worker knows that his flax is nice, the more he pounds it the finer it becomes. When it is of low quality, however, pounding it once is enough to ruin it. In the same way, G-d does not test the wicked, but only the righteous, as it says, ‘G-d tries the righteous.’

“Rabbi Lezer said: If someone has two oxen, one strong and the other weak, on which one will he place his burden? Surely on the strong one. In the same way, G-d only tests the righteous, as it says, ‘G-d tries the righteous.’ “Still another thought: The verse, ‘G-d tries the righteous’ refers to Abraham, as it says, ‘G-d tested Abraham’ (Genesis 22:1).”

According to this Midrash, there are several purposes to G-d’s testing the righteous person. These including strengthening him further (like pounding the flax) and publicizing his greatness (testing the jugs). These purposes applied in the case of Abraham as well. His tests served to strengthen him, as the Netziv wrote in his “Ha’amek Davar” (22:1): “A man, in his inner essence, is capable of lofty deeds. Yet, as long as he does not actualize his potential, it will not be rooted in him. G-d therefore causes man to be tested, thereby strengthening him and actualizing his potential. Then his potential becomes entrenched within him. Likewise, G-d elevated Abraham’s spiritual potential by way of the Binding of Isaac. Once this potential became entrenched within him, it remained a genetic Jewish quality for all time.

“Likewise, the test of his being commanded to go to Canaan served to publicize Abraham, as the Midrash teaches (Yalkut Shimoni, Lech Lecha, 62): “‘To what may Abraham be compared? To a plate of balsam oil sitting in the corner where its aroma does not permeate the room. Once it is moved, however, its aroma wafts forth. In the same way, G-d told Abraham, ‘Move yourself around from place to place, and your fame will be magnified throughout the world.’”

At the same time, the trials faced by Abraham served educational purposes as well. They served to set Abraham in the right place. For example, the trial of his being commanded to leave his home is customarily interpreted as revolving around the difficulty of leaving, of cutting oneself off from one’s father’s home, one’s social milieu, one’s relatives and friends, and of going to a strange, unknown land. Our sages, however, take it in a different direction. After all, many people on a lower level than Abraham, in the past and in our own times as well, face this trial, such as the newly religious, or new immigrants. As Scripture says of Ruth: “You left your father and mother and your birthplace, and you came to a people that you did not know before” (2:11). By contrast, when Abraham set out on his way, he was not alone. Rather, he was with family, and with the “souls that he had won over in Charan” (Genesis 12:5), which according to Rambam (Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1) comprised tens of thousands.

Our sages therefore explain that the trial of Abraham’s being told to leave his home was meant to teach him that one must remain obedient to G-d’s command, even if superficially it appears to contradict the ethical norms of mankind, and sometimes even verges on a “profanation of G-d’s name.” The Midrash thus teaches (Bereshit Rabbah 39): “Abraham was afraid, and he said: I will set out, and people will profane G-d’s name through me, saying, ‘Abraham abandoned his father in his old age.’ G-d therefore said to him, ‘Go! I am exempting you from honoring your father and mother, but I am not exempting anyone else.’”

Abraham knew the law at the beginning of the Shulchan Aruch: “One should not be embarrassed before those who mock him in his service of G-d.” After all, it was for this that he was called the “Ivri”. To explain this the Midrash teaches (Pesikta Rabbati 33): “What was meant by ‘ivri’? The whole world was on one side [Hebrew ‘ever’] and he was on the other, and he loved G-d and worshipped Him. That was why G-d called him the ‘ivri’.

Yet in this test there was a collision between two mitzvot, on the one hand, “honoring one’s father,” and on the other hand, G-d’s command to Abraham to leave Charan. Abraham feared lest in fulfilling the latter, he would cause G-d’s name to be profaned.

We very often encounter situations in which if we fulfill a particular mitzvah, it will impinge on “human dignity”. An example is when we refrain from shaking the hand of a woman who is holding out her hand to us. Here Abraham learned that under such circumstances one must fulfill his Creator’s command. One must conquer one’s emotions and cling even to deeds that seem to be contradicting the ideas and values that we preach.

The same applies with the trial of the circumcision. Abraham’s test did not involve the pain that circumcision causes a person. After all, here as well, people on a lower level than Abraham have themselves been circumcised at an advanced age (like the Russian immigrants). Rather, the mitzvah of circumcision engendered in Abraham the fear that if he were different from all the people around him, it would hinder his bringing them under the wings of the divine presence. He therefore went to get advice from his friend Mamre. (As Rashi comments (Genesis 18:1), it was Mamre who advised him to go ahead and circumcise himself.).

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook asks in his book “Midbar Shur”: How could Abraham have harbored doubts about G-d’s command such that he went to get advice about whether or not to fulfill it? Rather, Abraham wondered whether it was not a case of, “A time to act for G-d: Violate the Torah!” (our sages’ paraphrase of Psalm 119:126). His friend Mamre therefore told him, “Don’t try to be smarter than G-d. You do what G-d commands you, and leave worries about outreach to G-d.” From this as well we can learn a timeless lesson regarding how to relate to those far removed from Torah. With all of our desire to strengthen unity, we must preserve our uniqueness and not blur it.

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