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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“Anyone who has been following the progress of the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael can see clearly how from every step backward came an even greater development for the good, and out of every crisis came a step forward.” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah: “Shuvu LeBitzaron”)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “The son of this slave will not share the inheritance with my son Isaac!”
“Sarah saw the son that Hagar had born to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, ‘Drive away this slave together with her son. The son of this slave will not share the inheritance with my son Isaac!’” (Genesis 21:9-10). Rashi comments, “From Sarah’s response that Ishmael would not inherit with Isaac, we derive Ishmael had been quarreling with Isaac over the inheritance, saying, ‘I am the firstborn and I shall take my double portion.’ They would go out into the fields and Ishmael would take up his bow and shoot arrows at Isaac.”
For Abraham, who was also Ishmael’s father, Sarah’s demand was difficult, as it says, “This matter involving his son troubled Abraham very much” (verse 11). Rashi comments, “He was troubled that Sarah has told him to banish his son.” Yet G-d said to Abraham, “Do not be troubled because of the boy and your slave. Do everything that Sarah tells you. It is through Isaac that you will gain posterity” (verse12). Indeed, the Torah tells us that Ishmael become a “rebel” (16:12) and an “expert archer” (21:20). He lived in the desert, and he would rob passersby. His hand was against everyone and everyone’s hand was against him. After all, “he was a bandit, and everyone hated him and provoked him” (Rashi).
Today, our ancestors’ deeds presage our own. It is true that thousands of years have passed since Ishmael would shoot arrows at Isaac with the goal of driving him out of Eretz Yisrael, yet unfortunately the Arabs, Ishmael’s descendants, have not ceased to fight us, with the goal of driving out from the land of our life’s blood. Only, they have replaced their arrows with missiles, their stones with rifles and other modern tools of destruction.
And just as Abraham found it hard to part with Ishmael – yet he was still commanded by G-d to heed Sarah, who said, “Drive away this slave, together with her son” – so too in our own generation. We must follow in the path of Abraham, and separate ourselves from the Arabs by sending them away into the desert. We must encourage them to emigrate to Arabic countries, just as Abraham, that man of kindness, who took bread and a flask of water and gave it to Hagar to sustain her son Ishmael. Yet if the Arabs continue to threaten our survival and they wish to make good on their plans to liquidate the State of Israel, the Jewish State, we shall have no choice but to go according to the principle that “if someone sets out to kill you, kill him first.” We will then be forced to banish the Arabs, just as Ben Gurion banished hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Eretz Yisrael in the War of Independence, and – not to mention the two in the same breath – Sharon and his peons banished thousands of Jews from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria.
And through such means, the day will not be far off when through us will be fulfilled the divine oath to Abraham: “God declared: I have sworn by My own Essence…. I will bless you greatly, and increase your offspring like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring shall inherit their enemies’ gate. All the nations of the world shall be blessed through your descendants – all because you obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:16-18). Looking forward to complete salvation,
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 Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Accept only safe rides”
Don’t get into a car to hitchhike unless you’re entirely sure that the driver is Jewish. After all, murderers have disguised themselves several times as Jews. Check that you know the driver personally, or that he has an absolutely full-proof sign of being Jewish. Otherwise, it’s dangerous. For years already I’ve been saying to be careful, and unfortunately there have been kidnappings, all the more so now that the murderers openly proclaim that they intend to kidnap Jews, be they soldiers or civilians.
Question: Is this not an expression of fear?
Answer: No. It’s not fear but caution. See Mesilat Yesharim at the end of Chapter 9 on the difference between the two. It’s not fear of murderers, but fear of G-d, who commanded, “Watch yourself very carefully” (Deuteronomy 4:15). Surely in the army for a long time already there have been harsh rules forbidding soldiers from hitching a ride. They cannot even take a ride in a military vehicle, because there are murderers in stolen cars, disguised as soldiers. A soldier who violates these rules is tried and punished. We certainly can’t say that the Israeli army is afraid of murderers.
Question: There are a lot of dangerous things in life. This is no more dangerous than other things classed as “not commonly harmful”.
Answer: This is a harsh military ruling not to risk kidnapping. Kidnappings place the entire State of Israel in a maelstrom, drawing internal and external pressure to release murderers. They cause other soldiers to risk their lives to save the kidnapped one. The I.D.F. employs “Hannibal’s Practice”. If a soldier is kidnapped, the army will shoot at the kidnappers even if this puts at risk the life of the kidnapped soldier, because a kidnapped soldier is worse than a killed soldier.
Question: Do the media take advantage of advertising the need for caution in hitching in order to blame settlers?
Answer: That’s nonsense. People read too much into some things.
Question: Are there some people who don’t take such instructions seriously in any case?
Answer: Sure. No one is being forced to listen. Even so, many people do take the instructions seriously. The truth has to be stated, and it penetrates slowly.
Question: Buses cost money!
Answer: Mitzvot always cost money. And if we’re talking about our youth — quite the contrary — the parents beg their children to accept money from them and to travel by bus. Not hitching is a way of honoring one’s parents. Even though a son is not obligated to be identical to his parents in everything he does, our sages still recommended that he go beyond the letter of the law and concede to his parents, except in matters of earthshaking importance. After all, parents, as well, did and continue to do for their children a great deal that goes beyond the letter of the law.
And while we are on this topic, picking up hitchhikers can be dangerous, as well, and one has to be certain that they are Jews. Likewise, one should only stand at a safe hitching station, according to instructions from the security forces in the area.
As far as women and girls, it is not enough to know that the driver is Jewish. They also have to be certain that he is a reputable person. And please let’s not have men and women sitting crowded together in the back seat. It’s also best to avoid having women sit next to the driver.
Last question: Why must we be so careful and not risk our lives for our land?
Answer: Certainly we have to risk our lives for Eretz Yisrael, but the mitzvah of settling the land does not include the mitzvah of traveling by hitchhiking. Quite the contrary, in numerous situations — not always, as in isolated settlements — hitching per se is a bad practice. In other words, you are taking advantage of someone else, asking him to serve you, when you really can get by on your own. Let’s risk our lives for things that are really essential for settling our land.
Rabbi Ya’akov Filber – Guest lecturer at Machon Meir
“The Limits of Openness”
The slogan of “openness”, when it comes without red lines, is fraught with danger. It provides a blank check to the blurring of values and the loosening up of principles. Abraham’s faith developed through his searching and wondering. As Rambam wrote (Hilchot Avodah Zarah 1:2): “Abraham’s thoughts began to soar when he was a small boy. Day and night he would think.”
Through curiosity and reflection he came to recognize his Creator: “When he was forty years old, Abraham knew his Creator. Once he knew and recognized Him, he began to answer questions…. He began to inform the people that it is inappropriate to serve any but the G-d of the Universe…. He began to rise up and to proclaim in a loud voice to the entire world, and to inform them that there is one G-d to the entire universe, and Him it is appropriate to worship. He would go around and call upon the people, gathering them from city to city and from country to country… until thousands and tens of thousands had gathered to him, and these are the people of Abraham’s household.” (ibid., 3).
Abraham’s outreach project did not just consist of faith seminars. Rather, it involved a financial investment and efforts to draw near to the distant population and to bring them close by way of love and friendship. As the Midrash teaches (Shir HaShirim Chapter 1): “‘All the people they won over in Charan’ (Genesis 12:5): This teaches that Abraham would bring them into his home, give them food and drink, endear them, bring them close to him and convert them, drawing them under the wings of the divine presence.” The Talmud (Sotah 12) teaches: “Abraham caused G-d’s name to be called on the lips of every passerby. How? After they had eaten and drunk and were about to thank him, he would say, ‘Was it my food you ate? You ate the food of the G-d of the Universe! Praise and give thanks to the One whose word brought the world into existence!” Curiosity and social involvement require of a person openness, and this trait was certainly present in Abraham, but Abraham knew how to set red lines such that the togetherness he was trying to foster should not come at the expense of separateness he was representing.
Regarding the verse, “Abraham said to his lads, ‘Sit here with the donkey, and I and the boy will walk on further and prostrate ourselves. Then we will return to you’ (Genesis 25:5), Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik asks, “If Abraham did not wish the two lads to be present at the binding of Isaac, why did he bring them along at all? Moreover, why did he command them to wait for him?” He answers, “I believe that Abraham’s command encompasses an entire worldview regarding our relationship to Jews who are not mitzvah observant.” On the one hand, there is no complete separation. The way to Mount Moriah is long and full of serpents and wild Canaanites. Yet in order that Abraham should be able to reach it safely, dedicating the mountain as the site where “G-d shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14), he needed the help of the lads, who did not identify with his holy faith and did not understand the self-sacrifice with which Abraham served G-d. Yet knowingly or not, they cooperated with Abraham and accompanied him to Mount Moriah.
Had Abraham, at the start of his path, chosen the approach of setting himself apart, and set out alone, who knows whether he would have reached “the place that G-d told him”. Abraham did not subscribe to the approach of separateness, yet complete unity was impossible so long as the two lads were unwilling to bow down to G-d. Abraham and the lads walked a long distance together. Yet at some point along the way to Mount Moriah, the group split up. Abraham parted with the two lads and told them, “Sit here with the donkey” — beyond here you cannot accompany us. True, I understand that a day will come when you will understand me totally, and we will all be one group, and “we will return to you.” Apart from economic, political and military interests, Abraham and Isaac also had other ambitions. It is quite imaginable that the lads were insulted, and that they accused Abraham and Isaac of divisiveness. Yet a person has to have the courage to say, “Sit here with the donkey.”
Rav Soloveitchik continues: We, as well, in building up the State of Israel today, march forward with all the political parties because we believe that the State of Israel is the path leading to Mount Moriah. It is clear to us that on our own our traveling on this route will not succeed. Yet does this mean that we must “take everyone along to Mount Moriah”? Must we be willing to allow the two lads to profane the holiness of Mount Moriah and to bow down to all the idols? No! When it comes to “Mount Moriah”, to the laws of marriage, to education, Sabbath observance, non-kosher foods, to the Rabbinate and halachic rulings, to the “Who is a Jews” question, we must declare unabashedly to “the two lads”, whoever they may be in our coalition, “Sit here with the donkey and I and the lad shall go further on and prostrate ourselves.” The holiness of Mount Moriah has to be fully maintained. We shall cooperate with you in all spheres, yet there shall be no compromise regarding “the place that G-d mentioned to him”, as far as the final destination of our 2,000-year-long journey back to Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Eran Tamir – Senior Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Can you see twenty-twenty?”
Many of us certainly remember our kindergarten lesson about the saintliness of Abraham, sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. It was the third day following his circumcision, when the pain is greatest. He was sitting there, waiting for guests, so he could bring them into his home. Suddenly in the distance he saw three people, and he ran to them and brought them back. So heartily did he worry about their needs that he was compelled to tell G-d, who had revealed Himself to Abraham, that G-d must wait until he finished taking care of all of his guests’ needs. He took this approach because, as our sages say, “Showing hospitality is more important than greeting the divine presence.”
Yet if we ponder Genesis 18:2 we will discover that Abraham saw his guests twice, as it says, “Abraham lifted up his eyes and HE SAW: Behold, three men were standing there. HE SAW, and he ran to them from the door of his tent, and he prostrated himself.” Immediately we can ask what he saw the second time. Why did Abraham have to see them a second time before running to them? What was missing in his first glance? This question was already asked by Rashi, and his answer was brief but of cardinal importance: “Why does it say, ‘He saw’ twice? The first one may be taken at face value. The second one connotes understanding. He saw that they were standing in place, and he understood that they did not wish to trouble him. He then ran out to them.”
Thus, Abraham “saw” twice. The first time involved external, sensory vision. The second time was the main “seeing”. This time he looked deep inside them, employing his intellect, faith and spiritual intuition. From this we derive two lessons. Firstly, intellectual, faith-based vision is the root and source of sensory vision. At the same time, we mustn’t make light of sensory vision, because it, too, is a vehicle that G-d gave us and that we are supposed to use.
There’s a lesson in this for the modern day. Our lives are full of “sensory vision”. We see, hear, read, etc., all the time. There is a flood of events. One incident crowds out another. We haven’t yet finished “seeing” the first and the second “barges in” to our lives. The sensory flood pulls us from place to place, from topic to topic, such that we can’t always really “see” what it is we are seeing. We do not manage to understand whether there is a connection between the events. We don’t have time to ask: Are there underlying causes, positive or negative, to the various phenomena being revealed before our eyes? And most important: How can we truly deal with all these issues at their source?
We have become used to seeing the news as it is presented, and not looking for what lies behind it. People say: What connection could there be between the destruction of Gush Katif; political corruption; the Kasams in the South; poverty and unemployment; the state of education; the abomination parade in Jerusalem; the Arabs taking control of Acre; the Lebanese War with all its connotations; car accidents; the mushrooming of Malls; the lack of respect for the worker, and his lack of rights; Jonathan Pollard’s being in jail for twenty-two years; etc.?
The proper approach to all this can be learned from Abraham in our parashah. We must not only look with eyes of flesh-and-blood, but with our intellect and faith. We must understand that all the events and phenomena that we see and experience are symptomatic of deeper, inner processes which are sometimes the total opposite of what can be seen from the outside. It is precisely like adolescence, when a youth loses his “absolute obedience” to parents and teachers. Sometimes this process takes a very negative form on the outside, while precisely beneath the surface an independent, profound personality is flowering forth, building itself not as the result of coercion, but through free choice and deep identification which are destined to appear later on in an appropriate form. That is how it is in the life of the individual, all the more so in the life of the nation. As Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook said (Orot HaTechiyah 32): “The nature of the approaching redemption, whose first steps we feel and sense, is already present deep within the Jewish People. Our nation is developing with its strengths, and magnifying its spirit, nature and essence. It does not recognize the depths of that supreme element which is the entire basis of its rebirth. Its eyes are to the earth. It is not yet looking up at the heavens.”
Obviously, this perspective does not contradict in any way the need to deal practically with things going wrong on the surface so as to prevent damage that can be prevented. Yet the underlying foundation must be our deeper perspective, through which, “Abraham saw and ran to them…”
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