From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “There is no parallel to Israel’s longings amongst any other nation or tongue. Human history knows of no other people that has sat in the exile for 2,000 years and still pines and longs for its homeland. This is a mystery to the world, and we know that it is the word of G-d, who sustains and keeps us alive” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, 257)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Restore Our Judges as at First”
Moses assembled the entire congregation of Israel by verbally summoning them (see Rashi on Leviticus 35:1). The ability to do so bespeaks the moral/spiritual authority he commanded, rather than any mundane or organizational authority that he could muster. Not only in that generation did Moses assemble all of Israel by employing speech, but throughout history the influence of Moses on the Jewish People has been recognizable. As our sages said:
“In our world, if a mortal prince enacts a decree, whether it will be fulfilled remains to be seen. Yet Moses decreed many decrees and passed many enactments and they continue to endure forever and ever.” (Shabbat 30a).
Moses’s speech and influence, which guide us to follow in G-d’s pathways in accordance with the holy Torah, are the strongest influence on the Jewish People’s conduct down through the generations.
Today, we must distinguish between leaders concerned only with the here and now, who are transient and temporary, and the eternal leadership of the Jewish People, which lives and endures forever.
A leadership that ascends to power by mundane means, i.e., by way of political organization of one form or another, has no power to influence and unite the nation in the long-term. Only a spiritual leadership that derives from the strength of our holy Torah, and that showers some of its spirit on the political, practical leadership of the nation will have the strength and ability to unite the Jewish People down through the generations.
The day is not far off when we will be privileged to see how the spiritual leadership and the political leadership will walk hand in hand, as was in the past, during the times of Kings David and Solomon. At that time, the daily request of our prayers will be fulfilled:
“Restore our judges as at the first, and our counselor s as at the beginning, and remove from us sorrow and sighing” (Shemoneh Esreh). This in turn will lead to, “Return in mercy to your city, Jerusalem, and dwell in it as You promised… and speedily establish in it the throne of David.” (ibid.)
Looking forward to complete salvation,
R’ Oren Halevy, Assistant Director of the Machon Meir English Department will be in the U.S. and Canada between March 18- 25th. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting with him in your community and learn more about opportunities at Machon Meir!
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“There is Life After Gush Katif”
With the expulsion from Gush Katif, we have been through the worst thing to happen since the State of Israel’s founding. Jews expelled other Jews from their homes, destroyed an area of Eretz Yisrael and handed it over to the enemy. Until this very day we are in shock from what happened.
Yet since we are steadfast believers, we know that G-d directs history, and both the good things and the bad belong to His scheme of things. Obviously, this in no way exempts from responsibility those who perpetrated this terrible crime, and to them applies the saying, “G-d causes bad things to happen through bad people.”
By contrast, to all those who fought for Gush Katif and Northern Samaria applies the saying, “G-d causes good things to happen through good people.”
At the same time, we mustn’t mourn forever. As G-d said to the Prophet Samuel: “How long shall you mourn over Saul?” (I Samuel 16:1). It’s like the sick person who people do all they can to save. All the same, if they do not succeed, they must accept G-d’s decree, mourn and move on.
That’s what we did with all the destructions we underwent – the destruction of the First Temple; the Second Temple; and other terrible suffering like the Crusader pogroms of 1096; the Spanish Inquisition; the pogroms of 1648-9, perpetrated by the wicked Chmelnitzky; and the terrible Holocaust, after which we rose up to rebirth.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, there were pious Jews who did not wish to eat any more meat or drink any more wine, for how could they eat meat if there were no more Temple offerings, and how could they drink wine if the wine libations had been cancelled? Rabbi Yehoshua then addressed them:
“My sons! Let me tell you something. We cannot avoid mourning entirely, because it’s been decreed that we must. Yet neither can we go too far, for we do not impose upon the public a decree that they cannot fulfill… Rather, here is what our sages said: When a person plasters his home, he should leave a small area, a square cubit, unplastered.” (Bava Batra 60b)
We must therefore place an emphasis on being happy, for that is what gives us strength. If we are unhappy, we cannot do anything. “The divine presence rests upon a person only when he performs mitzvoth joyfully… Such joy is likewise a precondition to success in rendering halachic rulings and to having happy dreams” (Shabbat 30b). To attain ruach hakodesh [divine intuition], truth in halachic rulings or a healthy imagination, one needs joy.
Many other struggles await us and we won’t be able to win them if we are depressed. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, wrote, “There is a major principle… If two people are wrestling and one of them is depressed, then even if he is stronger than the other, he will not be able to beat him. If fact, he will be easily defeated. One can only win if he has the enthusiasm resulting from joy and an open heart, free of all worldly cares and sadness” (Tanya 26).
So, let us be strong and courageous, and let us increase our fortitude and valor, continuing to build our land and to be built through it. Hashem our G-d is walking before us.
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Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Purim, Pesach and Yom Kippur”
Purim is behind us, but it’s part of a package. Our sages link it to two other holidays: Pesach and Yom Kippur. In Megillah 6b, the Talmud notes that in a Jewish leap year, when there are two months of Adar, Purim has to be held in the second Adar, adjacent to Nissan, the month in which Pesach falls out. The reason given is that “it is best to join two redemptions together,” which Rashi says refers to Purim and Pesach.
By contrast, the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Mishlei 9) ties Purim to Yom Kippur and says: “Just as Purim will never be eliminated, as it says, ‘these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed’ (Esther 9:28), so too Yom Kippur will never be eliminated, as it says, ‘All this shall be for you as a law for all time’ (Leviticus 16:34).
Maharal in his book Tiferet Yisrael (Ch. 36) explains the connection between Purim and Yom Kippur:
“As far as the question of why these two holidays (Purim and Yom Kippur) shall never be eliminated, it is in the context of the mitzvoth involved. Both mitzvoth involve rebirth. On Yom Kippur, the sinner, condemned to death, has his life restored to him. On Purim, the Jews were threatened by the sword, but G-d opened a lofty gate from which their lives were returned to them.”
Shla [Shnei Luchot HaBrit] (Yoma, Hilchot Teshuva) writes: “Purim and Yom Kippur will never be eliminated because they are the same – on Purim the forces of [the diabolic angel] Somuel are eliminated, and on Yom Kippur Somuel himself is eliminated.”
We have to ask whether or not there is any common link between the three holidays together. Berachot 28b relates that when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai fell ill, his disciples came to visit him. When he saw them he began to weep. His disciples asked him why he was weeping, and he responded, “Even if I were being brought before a mere mortal king I would weep, although his anger against you cannot last forever, and if he imprisons you it does not last forever, and if he kills you your death does not last forever…”
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai mentioned three conditions faced by men: anger, imprisonment and death. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook explains them in his book Ein Aya (ibid., Ch. 4, Ot 36): What is unique about these three conditions? Man’s perfection depends on all three: existence, freedom and love. Existing means being alive – without life one has no existence. Yet if someone leads a life of slavery, if he is not free to act as he wishes, then his life is no life either. Yet freedom isn’t everything either. Many people are free, yet their day-to-day conduct is disreputable, and there is justified anger against them, either from G-d or from man. Such people lack love. Such lives lack hope as long as a person is not fulfilling his purpose. Thus, only when one attains life, freedom and love does he achieve perfection.
Each of these three holidays is linked to one of these three aspects of perfection. On Purim, there was an attempt to deny us our very lives, through Haman’s decree “to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day” (Esther 3:13). Yet Heaven annulled his plan, and “it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them” (9:1). It follows that on Purim the Jews were granted life itself.
As far as Pesach, we were in the House of Bondage, our freedom being denied to us by the Egyptians. At that time, Egypt was one big prison, as the Midrash comments (Sechel Tov, Shemot 18):
“‘Praised be G-d, who liberated the people from Egypt’s power’ (Exodus 18:10): What is this teaching us? Hadn’t Jethro in the same verse just praised G-d who ‘rescued you from the power of Egypt and Pharaoh’? Rather, previously no slave could escape Egypt. Now, G-d had removed THE ENTIRE PEOPLE TOGETHER from the power of Egypt, and the Egyptians couldn’t protest.”
Another Midrash teaches (Shemot Rabbah 15):
“‘It shall be the first month of the year’ (Exodus 12:2): A king once removed his son from prison. He ordained: ‘Let that day be a holiday for all time, for on that day my son emerged from darkness to light, from an iron yoke to life, from slavery to freedom and from subjugation to redemption.’ In the same way, G-d removed Israel from prison, as it says, ‘He brings out the prisoners into prosperity’ (Psalm 68:7). G-d removed them from darkness, as it says, ‘He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death’ (Psalm 107:14), and He replaced an iron yoke with a Torah yoke. He brought them out of slavery to freedom, as it says, ‘You are sons to the L-rd your G-d’ (Deuteronomy 14:1), and from subjugation to redemption, as it says, ‘Their Redeemer is strong, the L-rd of hosts is His name’ (Jeremiah 50:34). G-d therefore ordained a celebration for them, because He had punished their enemies.”
This is the link between these three holidays. Each one completes one of the components of human perfection. Therefore, they must all accompany us throughout the entire year.