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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“There are two elements to humility: The first involves recognizing G-d’s exaltedness until one’s own will is of no count before that of G-d. The second involves perceiving fully that without G-d’s existence nothing else exists, neither can any will exist without G-d.” (Mussar Avicha, 2:5)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Jacob and Israel”


Jacob and Israel, the two names of our beloved people, evoke two aspects: Jacob [Ya’akov] recalls the “ekev”, the heel, or the bottom part of the foot. Israel [Yisrael], containing the letters of “rosh li” [my head], recall the head, beginnings, and the most supreme part of man. As our sages taught, “The word ‘reshit’ [beginning], can only connote Israel.”

Following the struggle between Jacob and the angelic prince of Esau, Esau’s angelic prince calls Jacob “Israel”, as it says, “Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob but Israel. You have struggled with G-d and with man, and you have won” (Genesis 32:29). Rashi comments, “‘With man’: With Esau and Lavan, and you won. They couldn’t beat you.” The “Israel” aspect of Jacob is revealed when the enemies of the Jewish People cannot beat them and Israel wins. G-d therefore calls Jacob “Israel”. “G-d said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but your name will not be only Jacob. You will also have Israel as a name” (35:10). As Rashi comments, “‘Israel’ connotes being prince [sar] and ruler.”

For thousands of years, the Jewish People have been facing struggles, just as Jacob struggled with Esau and Laban. Throughout all of these struggles, Israel has survived, and its enemies have been unable to vanquish it, neither will they ever be able to in the future. Yet as long as we were in the exile, we had the aspect of Jacob, being under the other nations’ heel.

Now at last, with G-d’s help, we are meriting to see with our own eyes the rebirth of Israel. We are ascending from the status of “heel” to that of “head”, and it is no coincidence that our country is called the State of Israel. Through us, our sages’ exposition is being fulfilled: “‘Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob but Israel’: It is not that the name ‘Jacob’ will be eliminated, but that it will become secondary to Israel” (Berachot 12b). The further we move along the ascending path, the more familiarity we will have with our unique identity as a chosen people, a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. We will then recognize the destiny of the Jewish People, which is to crown G-d King of the world, and to shower light and goodness on all mankind. By such means all the people on earth will come to know that Hashem, the G-d of Israel is King, and His kingdom rules over all. Amen. Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!


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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“The Kibbutz Today”


Question: Is the kibbutz ideal appropriate even for today, or perhaps only for the future, or perhaps not at all?

Answer: The Torah doesn’t say “kibbutz” and it doesn’t say “not kibbutz”. What it says is: Do kind deeds for people, love them and help them. Everyone must calculate what is the best way for him to do lots of kind deeds.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook was asked by “HaPoel HaMizrachi”, the Religious Zionist Labor Organization, what regime the Torah wants for the Jewish State. After all, “HaPoel HaMizrachi” had socialistic leanings. What characterizes a capitalistic regime is its freedom and liberalism. Everyone does whatever he likes, and economic life achieves a balance amidst the struggle of market forces. In a socialistic regime, the government intervenes. It has control over the means of production and over the size of salaries.

Rav Kook responded: Without getting into the question of what the Torah wants, it is clear that a regime of private property is undesirable if we are to fulfill everything written in the Torah (Igarot Gedolei Yisrael, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Shragai).

Indeed, if someone helps the poor in accordance with his duty, nothing will be left for him for himself. We have an important principal that one’s own life takes precedence over the life of his fellow man (Bava Metzia 62), yet one’s luxuries do not take precedence over the life of one’s fellow man. The same appears in the letters at the end of the Sefer HaTanya, and as well as in Aruch HaShulchan 251; the Chafetz Chaim’s Ahavat Chessed; and Rav Kook’s Responsa Orach Mishpat.

The source is in the Talmud (Nedarim 80), which states that it cannot be that one person can be doing his wash if another lacks drinking water. It is true that there is an opinion that one is allowed under such circumstances to do one’s wash, because dirty clothing can breed sickness. Let us therefore say simply, it cannot be that you will water your garden and your fellowman will have no water to drink. It cannot be that you will eat ice cream and your fellowman will have no food. It cannot be that you will have a video and your fellow Jew won’t have a bed, etc.

According to Halachah, you must give your fellowman everything he needs, in accordance with your ability. You are not obligated to make him wealthy, but you must provide him with his essential needs. How does one gauge “essential needs”? That is a complicated business, but it is clear that you cannot live in luxury while your fellow lacks the minimum.

At the end of his work “Ahavat Chessed,” Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, the “Chafetz Chaim”, explains that at one time people were poor, but now times have come when we are relatively rich. Obviously, he is not talking about countries like China, in which a laborer earns twenty-five cents a day, and if he is a skilled laborer, a dollar a day, and they are content that they’ve got something to eat. Nor is he talking about India, where a worker earns twelve cents a day.

Yet the State of Israel is a wealthy country, amongst the twenty wealthiest countries on earth. Our lives are full of luxury, from telephones to tape recorders to nice furniture. The Chafetz Chaim says this about his own times, and it applies all the more regarding our times, thus reinforcing our duty to supply the poor with their needs, in accordance with our ability.

It is true that our sages set a fixed rate of “ma’aser”, how much we must give to the poor, namely a tenth. The Torah did not stipulate such an obligation. It only said said we must give in accordance with the poor man’s needs and our own ability. It was our sages who assessed that our ability is ten percent. Yet the Chafetz Chaim in Ahavat Chessed explains that this is referring to medium-income people. The poor should give less. They cannot give ten percent when they are in bad overdraft already at the start of the month. Likewise, the rich man can give much more than a tenth of his profits. For example, if someone earns a million dollars a month, and in this country there are many like that, even if he gives 99% of his profits, he will still be left with ten thousand dollars to live on, and he will be able to live in luxury.

The time has come to give. To give!


Rabbi Ya’akov FilberGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“The Book of Brothers and Sisters”


The Book of Genesis has several characteristics. Our sages called it “Sefer HaYashar” [The Book of the Upright], as it says: “‘Surely it is written in the Book of the Upright’ (Joshua 10:13): What is ‘the Book of the Upright’? Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, ‘This is the book of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were called upright, as in Numbers 23:10: Let me die the death of the upright.'”

The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, in his introduction to Genesis, explains the integrity of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs, he says, were upright, and they sought the welfare of all people, both good and bad. Obviously, Genesis is the book of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, regarding whom a Jew says, “When shall my deeds be on a par with those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”

Yet Genesis is also the book of the brothers and sisters, of Cain and Abel, Noah’s three sons, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Leah and Rachel, the twelve sons of Jacob, and finally, Ephraim and Menashe.

The relationship between brothers in Genesis is rife with quarrels. The first one is that of Cain and Abel. Our sages ask in the Midrash: “What were they arguing over?” and several explanations are offered: “They said, ‘Let’s divide up the world.’ One took the land and the other took the movable objects. The first then said, ‘The land you’re standing on is mine,’ and the other replied, ‘What you’re wearing is mine.’ The one said, ‘Take off your clothes,’ and the other replied, ‘Fly!’ What resulted was Cain’s rising up against Abel to kill him. “Rabbi Yehoshua of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: Both took land and both took movable property, so what were they arguing over? One said, ‘The Temple will be built within MY domain,’ and the other said, ‘No, in mine!’ As it says, ‘And it was when they were in the field’ (Genesis 4:8), and ‘field’ can only connote the Temple, as it says, ‘Zion shall be plowed like a field’ (Jeremiah 26:18). Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘They were arguing over the first Eve’ (Bereshit Rabbah 22).

“Rabbi Avahu asked, the first Eve had returned to the dust already, and what were they arguing over?’ Rav Huna said, ‘Over a female twin born with Abel. Cain said, ‘I am taking her because I am the first born,’ and Abel said, ‘I am taking her because she was born with me.’ This quarrel led to Cain’s deed” (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereshit 38).

Our sages enumerate three causes of strife in the world. The first is economics (“Let’s divide up the world”); the second is religious strife (the Temple); and the third is sexual rivalry (the first Eve). Each is presented as leading to murder. The lesson from the quarrel between Cain and Abel was learned by Abraham, and he told Lot, “Let there be no quarrel between us. We are brothers” (Genesis 13:8). The question is asked: And if Abraham and Lot were not brothers would it have been all right for them to quarrel? The answer is that quarrels between brothers are most destructive. Nothing could be worse. Abraham therefore suggests that they separate.

Strife broke out between Ishmael and Isaac as well, and there as well there was danger of bloodshed resulting. Our sages expounded: “‘Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian woman, born to Abraham, mocking’ (21:9): ‘Mocking’ [metzachek] can only connote Ishmael’s intending to kill Isaac, as it says, ‘Let the young men rise and play [visachaku] before us’ (II Samuel 2:14. Bloodshed followed.)” (Tanchuma, Shemot 24). Here as well, Sarah was working on a separation of forces. The strife between brothers does not end there, however. Esau hated Jacob as well, and sought to kill him, and the same was so with the hatred of Jacob’s sons for Joseph, as it says, “They hated him” (37:4).

The hatred between brothers was boundless, devoid of compassion or consideration. Leah and Rachel also had all the pretexts for strife and hatred. Leah thought Rachel had taken her husband. Rachel knew that Jacob loved her and had worked for her father to attain her, and in the end Leah had come in instead of her. Here, however, not only did they not harm one another, but quite the contrary, each was ready to concede for her sister’s benefit. It is told of Rachel (Eichah Rabbah, Petichot 24) that she said to G-d: “It is known before You that Jacob your servant loves me greatly, and he worked for my father for seven years to attain me. When those seven years passed, and it came time for me to marry my husband, my father planned to replace me with my sister. This was very hard for me, for I knew of his plan. I let my husband know, and I gave him a sign for him to distinguish between me and my sister so that my father would not be able to switch us. Afterwards I thought better of it, and I bore my longing and took pity on my sister lest she be humiliated. The evening of the wedding, I was replaced with my sister, and I handed over to her all the signs I had given my husband so that he would think she was Rachel. Additionally, I hid under the bed where Jacob was lying with my sister. When Jacob spoke to her, she remained silent and I answered him in every case, so that he wouldn’t recognize my sister’s voice. I did this act of kindness for her. I was not jealous of her, neither did I condemn her to humiliation.”

In the same way, Leah, later on, did not take advantage of her greater fruitfulness. She was magnanimously prepared to concede a seventh child in favor of Rachel, just so Rachel should not be hurt. As the Talmud teaches (Berachot 60a), “Leah [in her last pregnancy] reasoned as follows: Twelve tribes are destined to emerge from Jacob. Six have already emerged from me and four from the handmaidens, making ten. If the baby I am carrying is male, leaving Rachel one, my sister Rachel won’t even have as many children as the handmaidens have!’ The fetus immediately was transformed into a female, whom at birth she called ‘Dina’ (30:21). Leah and Rachel are an object lesson in how brotherly relations can be maintained between siblings. How meaningful then the blessing of all the people to Boaz on his marriage to Ruth: “May the L-rd make the woman that is come into your house like Rachel and Leah, which two did build the house of Israel” (Ruth 4:11).

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