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From The World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“We mustn’t work against the independent soul when it is revealing itself, and that revelation is a perpetual process. Even in times when thick clouds conceal its sheen, it still illuminates with full intensity, bearing the world and man towards their happiness, more lofty than any other goal.” (Orot HaKodesh 1:173)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Good Leadership”

Moses was the first leader of the Jewish People. His shining benevolence, good-heartedness and sensitivity were already evident at birth, and during his childhood, as it says, “The woman conceived and gave birth to a son, and she saw that he was good” (Exodus 2:2). When Moses was born, the entire house was filled with light (Rashi). Already as an infant one could tell from his crying that he was mature beyond his years, as it says “Opening [the box] she saw the boy. The lad began to cry” (2:6). As Rashi comments, his voice, in infancy, was already like that of a youth. The difference between the crying of an infant and that of a youth is that an infant cries because of some physical lack — hunger, thirst, cold or pain, etc. By contrast, a youth cries over some psychological lack.

Indeed, when Moses grew up he went out to his brethren to see their suffering, and he committed himself to taking up their cause. He was incapable of seeing Hebrews beaten and Jewish honor insulted. So, “he smote the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:12). Seeing his people humiliated affected him deeply, and he set out to defend them, risking his life and jeopardizing his exalted status in Pharaoh’s palace.

Throughout the generations, the Jewish People had various sorts of leaders, some better and some worse. During the First Temple period, King David was first-class. He fought Goliath with self-sacrifice, endangering his own life, because he could not bear to see Israel humiliated. By contrast, there were other leaders who displayed weakness, both in their relationship to their fellow Jews and to the outside world. Some, like Yeravam ben Nevat, who both sinned and led the masses to sin, made their own betterment and glorification their top priority.

During the Second Temple period as well, there were leaders who could not bear the degradation of Israel. An example was Matityahu the High Priest, who together with his sons fought the Greeks who came to humiliate the Jewish People. By contrast, there were leaders who groveled before the nations, like Herod and others. These leaders pursued the gentile culture and viewed their own self-interest as what was most important in their lives.

Today as well, in the generation of national rebirth, the beginning of the establishment of the Third Temple, we have had leaders who fought Israel’s battles and who showed self-sacrifice for the establishment of the Jewish State. Examples of such leaders are those who headed the underground movements before the State’s establishment. These men fought Israel’s battles and led our beloved country forward as it was starting out, going from success to success.

In these times, we have a great need of leaders like Moses, leaders with a shining, benevolent soul, men of integrity, who view before them only the nation’s welfare. We need leaders who feel the nation’s pain, who suffer over its humiliation by cruel enemies who hold its sons captive, who sacrifice their lives for the Jewish People, without any vested interest.

With G-d’s help, the day is not far off when we will be privileged to see this sort of leader with our own eyes. As we say in our daily prayers, “Restore our judges as at first, and our counselors as at the beginning. Remove from us sorrow and sighing.” And through this may we merit fulfillment of, “Return in mercy to Your city, Jerusalem…. And speedily establish in it the throne of David…. For we hope for Your deliverance all day” (Shemoneh Esreh). Looking forward to complete redemption,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Thank You Very Much!”

Thank you very much!
Thank you for the book you sent me for my bar mitzvah! I started reading, and it is really interesting.
Thank you for coming to our wedding! You brought us great joy.
Thank you for the lovely wedding present you gave us! It will help us greatly.
Thank you for the lovely dress you bought our new baby girl! We thank you in her name!
Thank you, Rabbi, for the shiur you gave. Your words were very important for me.

You’ve certainly noticed that we’ve decided to say “thank you” from now on –

Thank you, Mom, for the meal.
Thank you, Dad, for the help.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything you do for me every day.
Thank you, I.D.F. soldiers, that you protect our people and land.
Thank you, police force, that you protect our security.
Thank you, doctor. Thank you too, nurse.
Thank you, dear wife. I owe you so much!
Thank you, dear husband, for saying thank you!
Thank you, teacher, for having taught me.
Thank you, Master of the Universe, for restoring me my soul, and for giving me a soul in the first place, and for giving me a body. Thank you for giving me the sun and the moon; for giving me Torah; for giving me a land and a country; an army and redemption.
Thank you, friend. When I was down you listened to me. Thank you for trying to help me even though you didn’t succeed. I very much appreciate your efforts.
Thank you! In times of trouble I can always turn to you! You’re always there.
Thank you! When everyone was giving me sour looks, you still smiled at me.
Thank you for saying thank you! That’s very rare. It’s so exciting to see!

Thank you very much!

(For more on supernatural powers, see the pictures from the British Television show that exposes the trick of bending the spoon. Type skepticreport uri in Google, and click on the first link.)

Rabbi Azriel Ariel
“Siblings in the Torah”

The relationships between siblings throughout Genesis remain on a crisis footing to the point of tragedy. Again and again the ritual repeats itself in which the younger brother is chosen and pushes his older brother aside. The older brother, insulted to the core over his rejection, seeks to take revenge on the younger brother, and a harsh battle rages between them.

Sometimes the quarrel reaches the point of actual murder, as with the murder of Abel, the chosen, by his older brother Cain. Sometimes matter reach the point of an explicit death threat, as with Esau, who said, “The days of mourning for my father will be here soon. I will then be able to kill my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41). Sometimes matters reach the point of a veiled threat of murder, as with Yishmael, who plays with lethal arrows, seeking to slay his brother Yitzchak.

Worst was the struggle between Joseph and his brothers. There it seemed as though the younger brother sought to throw his older brothers out of the family, and the brothers’ reaction was a war of survival which led to their saying, “Now we have the chance! Let’s kill him…. Then let’s see what will become of his dreams” (37:20).

The relationships between brothers were not always so tragic. Amongst the three sons of Noah, precisely Yefeth was the oldest, while the chosen son was Shem. “May G-d expand Yefeth, but may He dwell in the tents of Shem” (9:27). Yet we did not hear about any resentment on Yefeth’s part over the selection of his younger brother. Also the firstborn Menashe was rejected before his younger brother, Efraim, and we did not hear any resentment from him either.

The most difficult trial of all was that faced by the Matriarch Rachel, who was forced to resign herself to the fact that her older sister, Leah, married her betrothed, Jacob. Not only that, but she was privileged to bear many sons from him before Rachel had any. She even gradually turned into Jacob’s main wife.

This trial was not easy for Rachel. It even says, “She was jealous of her sister” (30:1). Yet despite all the difficulties, Rachel was exceedingly careful not to insult her sister. According to our sages, she even handed over to Leah the identification marks that Jacob had given her to ensure that when he married her he would not be tricked. Rachel did this so that Leah would not be humiliated during the wedding when Laban’s trickery was exposed.

In Parashat Shemot as well, a tragedy was liable to occur. Aaron, Amram’s older son, and long a prophet, was forced to hand over the reins of leadership to Moses, his younger brother. Aaron had many reasons for being jealous of Moses. Even if he conquered his passions and avoided expressing his jealousy publicly, he was still Moses’s big brother. He had long been a prophet. It was he who had accompanied the people through dozens of years of suffering in Egypt, while Moses was enjoying the life of an Egyptian prince, or was off in distant Midian. Yet Aaron’s heart was free of jealousy.

The truth is that even Moses was afraid that Aaron would be jealous. When he said to G-d, “Please! Send someone more appropriate“ (Exodus 4:13), he was alluding to his brother Aaron, who was older than he, more talented, more experienced and more fit for the mission. Yet G-d allayed his fears, saying, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he knows how to speak! He is setting out to meet you, and when he sees you, his heart will be glad” (Exodus 4:14). Not only would Aaron cooperate publicly, coming out to greet Moses, but he would even be happy in his heart. And we, knowing the human mind in all its contorted passions, must ask ourselves: from where did Aaron draw this strength? To this there are several answers.

The first is Aaron’s easygoing nature. Aaron “loved peace and pursued it” (Avot 1:12). He loved peace, and was ready, so to speak, to forego attaining truth and justice. In order to reinstate peace between two people quarreling, he was ready to tell each side that the other side had expressed contrition even when it had not expressly done so. He would beseech each side not to insist on attaining its full rights, his sole interest being that peace should reign between them. And Aaron practiced what he preached. He did not just “make peace” but he “loved peace.” He truly loved it.

The second factor was Moses’s nature. If Moses was so sensitive to Aaron’s feelings that he was willing to forego the selection that he had merited, it should certainly have caused Aaron to respond accordingly. “As with pools of water touching one another, so too the hearts of men” (Proverbs 27:19).

The third factor was the auspicious hour. These were not normal times. The day of redemption was at hand. When the time comes to work for Israel’s redemption, the ego must step aside. The Torah says that the pit into which Joseph was thrown was “empty, without water” (Genesis 37:24) to which Rashi adds, “but snakes and scorpions it contained.” When the pit is full of the water of idealistic action, there is no room for the various “snakes and scorpions.” Just as the quarrel between the brothers was responsible for their descent to Egypt, so, too, peace between brothers will bring about the tidings of redemption.

Let us follow in our sages’ footsteps, and let us conclude with verses from the Book of Psalms 85:11-13: “Mercy and truth meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Truth springs forth out of the earth; righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the L-rd will give that which is good; and our land shall yield her produce.” “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

Professor Yisrael Eldad
“An Introduction to the Book of Shemot”

We leave Bereishit and enter Shemot, as one leaves the home of parents where even arguments were warm and heartening… No more whistling of flocks, but rather whistling of masters’ whips. Not one person’s prayer, but rather the crying of a multitude. Not one single dream, but a difficult and bitter reality. A people drowning in water, an entire people yelling in thirst in the desert ‘Bring us water’. Not a son who buys a blessing from his father, but freedom from their Divine Father while demanding to be returned to the fleshpots.

From a singular Lech-Lecha to the Lech-Lecha of a People. When you close your eyes, how wonderful to remember the good Book of Bereishit; when you open them again, you see the book of Shemot; hear screams of bondage and feel the scorch of desert. See how easy was the work of Creation, how easy for the Creator to make light and order out of chaos, to form life from material; but how hard it is to form a nation out of the children of Israel.

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