From The World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“Length of days results from perfecting one’s life in every sense, and especially in the sense of developing and deepening one’s ethical sensibilities in all possible directions.” (Orot HaKodesh II:382)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Increase and Fully Occupy the Land”
In this week’s parashah G-d promises Israel that they will conquer the Land, but that the process of conquest will be gradual: “I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you to contend with. I will drive the inhabitants out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and fully occupy the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you” (Exodus 23:29-31).
Indeed, Joshua bin Nun conquered the Land but not all of it. He left foreign peoples in it, who caused the Jewish People countless problems during the period of the Judges. This went on until the time of King David, who conquered the entire land from the foreigners living in it. Only in the time of his son Solomon were we privileged to rest from our wars, each person sitting under his grave arbor or fig tree.
Today, our own generation is similar and parallel to that of Joshua bin Nun who came up out of the desert to conquer the Land. Our generation as well emerged out of the desert of nations after 2,000 years of exile, to conquer and settle Eretz Yisrael. And just as in Joshua’s generation they did not drive out all the residents of the Land, such that “I will drive out the inhabitants little by little” was fulfilled, so too in our own generation a foreign people still remains in the land of our life’s blood. And just as in the days of the judges, the foreign nations made great trouble for Israel, today as well the Arabs are causing us great problems, threatening the State of Israel’s existence. And just as in the days of the Judges leaders arose who fought Israel’s wars and infused the people with a spirit of valor, such as Gideon, Yiftach, Shimshon and others, in our own day as well we need leaders who can strengthen the nation’s spirit and fight with might and fortitude against our enemies with their evil designs against us. And just as G-d makes our conquering the Land conditional on our first increasing in number, so, too, in our own day, the call of the hour is to increase and multiply, from within and from without. From within, we must have natural population growth. It is well known that families that preserve Jewish tradition often have large families. Thank G-d, we have been privileged to see more and more people returning to their roots and to tradition. The day is not far off when the entire Jewish People will return to their roots, and the result will be great internal natural growth.
We must increase from without as well, by way of much aliyah. There are still millions of Jews in the exile, and the State of Israel must invest enormous effort and large sums of money to encourage aliyah, both in educating towards aliyah and in absorbing new immigrants. By way of this internal growth and a large aliyah we will fill our country with Jews. By such means we will be privileged to be the living fulfillment of the divine promise: “I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river.” Looking forward to complete salvation,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Go only to a Rabbinical Court”
Regarding the verse, “These are the laws that you shall set before them” (Exodus 21:1), Rashi comments, “Before them, and not before the gentiles. Even if you know, regarding a particular law, that the gentiles rule the same was as in Rabbinic courts, do not bring the case before their courts. For whoever brings Jewish cases before the non-Jews profanes G-d’s name and lends prestige to idolatry.”
Moreover, the Talmud (Gittin 88b) comments, “Before them [Rabbinic courts], and not before non-Rabbinic courts. And Rambam comments: “If someone brings a case before the non-Jews and their courts, then even if their laws are like Jewish law, that person is an evil-doer. It is as though he blasphemed, lifting a hand against the Torah of Moses, as it says, ‘These are the laws that you shall set before them – and not before the gentiles.” (Hilchot Sanhedrin 26:7 – Rambam Frankel)
“G-d forbid that we should conduct ourselves according to non-Jewish law, even if the two sides agree to it. After all, it was about this that the Torah was warning us when it said, ‘These are the laws that you shall set before them – and not before the gentiles.’ Whoever relies on being able to say that this is permissible because we hold that the law of the government is the law is mistaken, and he is a thief. Heaven forbid that the holy people should follow in the pathways of the non-Jews and their laws. Whoever does so causes the collapse of Torah law. Now, if they sin even more, uprooting our holy Torah’s laws of inheritance and relying on this hollow reed using this claim, it is then as if they are uprooting all the laws of our perfect Torah. It is as though they are saying, ‘What need have we of the holy Mishnah compiled by the holy Rebbe, Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi, and then by our Talmudic masters Ravina and Rav Ashi?’ They will then teach their children the laws of the non-Jews, building altars in the sanctuaries of the idolaters. G-d forbid that such a thing should come to pass in Israel, lest the Torah sit in mourning and sack cloth over them.” (Responsa of Rashba, quoted in Beit Yosef on Choshen Mishpat 26, and exerpted in Yechave Da’at).
Rav Moshe Isserlis (Rema) commented, “If you don’t react this way, you are nullifying the laws of Israel” (Darkei Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 369), and in his “Hagahot” [remarks] on 369:11 he said, “If someone judges according to non-Jewish law, he is nullifying all the laws of Israel.”
Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog wrote: “…Obviously, it would never occur to a truly religious Jew that the Jewish State would abandon its source of living waters, its holy Torah, instead digging out cisterns of ignorance, the laws of another people. Such a thing would constitute a terrible revolution from within, and a heinous profanation of G-d’s name from without. It would be like giving a ‘get’, a divorce document, to the Torah of Israel… And even if that entire corpus of law were wonderful, to follow it would be invalid from a nationalistic perspective, and especially from a religious one. After all, the sages of our people cried out bitterly against going to be judged in non-Jewish courts, even if the laws are the same, let alone when they are different.
“In my opinion, it is bad enough when an individual or group of individuals or community turns to non-Jewish courts, but it is a thousand times worse when the Jewish People in their land, as such, conducts its courts according to non-Jewish law. Is there no G-d in Israel?” (HaTorah VeHaMedinah VII:9-10).
And it makes no difference whether a Jew to be judged before non-Jews, or whether Jews conduct their own courts by fabricated laws. It is all the worse that they have given up Torah law in favor of a worthless alternative. If residents in a city agree to be judged this way, their agreement is not in force. If they force each other to go, the resulting court decision constitutes theft and extortion, and a raising of one’s hand against the Torah of Moses.” (Chazon Ish, Sanhedrin, Siman 15, end of se’if 2)
“We do not flatter the heretics, G-d forbid. Within the State of Israel there are painful phenomena that greatly profane G-d’s name, particularly involving two terrible problems. The first is the Israeli State Legal System, which uses a combination of Roman, Ottoman and British law – it might as well be that of the Hottentots! As for real Jewish law based on Choshen Mishpat, they do not rely on it or grant it authority…” (Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, speaking at a Rabbinic Conference, “LeNetivot Olam 2:160).
Asked whether the Jewishness of Israel’s judges alleviates the problem, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef responded, “Quite the contrary, it makes matters worse. The judges are Jewish, forsworn at Mount Sinai to judge according to the Torah… yet they have abandoned the source of living waters, the Talmud and halachic sources, in order to dig out broken cisterns that can hold no water, and they rule according to the laws of the nations, their judges and their laws books. Surely this is seventy times worse than to submit to judgment before non-Jewish judges who were never commanded to judge according to our Torah.” (Responsa Yechave Da’at IV:65. See also Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel, Techumin I:319; Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Techumin III:239; Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Techumin III:244; Rabbi Zalmen Nechemiah Goldberg IV:342; Rabbi Shochetman, Techumin XIII:337). (Only if someone being sued in a Rabbinic court refuses to go there to be judged can one receive permission to sue in a secular court).
“These are the laws that you shall set before them.”
Rabbi Dov Begon
“A Tzaddik has been lost from the Land”
Rabbi Ya’ir Uriel, zt”l, with his pure, radiant soul, alighted to the celestial realm on Erev Shabbat, Parashat Yitro.
Like his own name, his entire being was the light of Torah, kindness, humility, love and reverence. As our sages said of the tzaddik, “When he dies, people say of him, ‘How humble he was! How saintly! A true disciple of Abraham!”
Rav Uriel was a disciple of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, zt”l. He very very close to him, and he served him for many years, absorbing vast treasures of Torah, faith, reverence and love. He was like a coated cistern that doesn’t lose a drop, and he became a wellspring of living waters, from which numerous students drank, as he drew them nearer to our holy Torah. Among them were many converts whom he brought under the wings of the divine presence – like Abraham who the Torah says “brought many souls to the Torah” (Genesis 12:5).
Rav Ya’ir was a “walking Mesillat Yesharim”. He not only learned and taught Mesillat Yesharim, but lived it. In his deeds and his way of life he provided a living example for students and for any person he met, sanctifying G-d’s name everywhere, in his special way, especially where humility was concerned. He had no sense of self-importance, but he treated all others as important, honoring them and showing them a smile, quietly performing kind deeds. He would strive not to burden anyone, let alone cause anyone sadness. From his lips emerged only good words that offered encouragement to all.
Rav Ya’ir, his wife and children – may they live a long life – were privileged to be among the pioneers and heroes who settled Hebron, City of the Patriarchs, with great self-sacrifice, amidst genuine danger, and he did all this with great faith and love for Eretz Yisrael in general, and for Hebron in particular. Through the merit of this he was privileged to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in Hebron, near the resting place of the Patriarchs.
His lustrous, benevolent soul will be greatly missed by the Jewish People, Eretz Yisrael, his family and the whole Machon Meir family. May we be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, together with his dear family.
From The World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
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