5th of Nisan 5767 24/03/07
From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “The insolence of the pre-Messianic era comes about because the world has been readied enough to demand an understanding of how all the details are connected to the general principle. No single detail, in isolation, can put them at rest. “If everyone would learn Torah with these questions in mind, our collective soul would be magnified until all recognized the true connection between the details and the general spiritual principles. The result would then be repentance and overall spiritual ascent.” (Arpalei Tohar)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Love peace and pursue it. Love people and bring them closer to Torah.”
“…We must also arouse repentance for the sake of our nation’s survival” (Rav Kook, Orot HaTeshuvah 12:11).
Who is the luminary who is going to increase the light of Israel? How do we bring near those who have become far removed from Torah and Jewish tradition? Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen’s torchbearer, his son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, ztz”l, answered this question as follows:
“The light source that is going to increase the light of Israel is already there in the holy writings of Rav Kook, ztz”l, and in the original instructions deriving from it. Here is the ‘Urim VeTumim’ sent by G-d and revealed to us for our great and holy age. Ponder it more and more, for it contains all. Spiritual luminaries must continue to draw on this source, and they will thus succeed in directing our people.”
What are the proper ways for influencing the Jewish People, for bringing them enlightenment and arousing them to repent? Rav Tzvi Yehuda answers this as well:
1. “We must possess a deep spiritual and practical love of Israel, and deep faith in Israel’s holiness. The two, in fact, are connected.
2. “We must have faith in our generation’s ability to advance the redemption and to arouse Divine Providence to reveal itself.
3. “We must improve ourselves and provide a virtuous example in both our private and public lives before striving to influence, improve and direct others” (from a letter by Rav Tzvi Yehuda, Sivan 1948).
Today, the spiritual weakness and moral deterioration of the individual, society and government are a result of their distancing themselves from our roots, our Torah and Jewish tradition, which constitute the Tree of Life for both the individual and society. As we set out to spread light, to return to our own selves, to our roots, our Torah and our tradition, Rav Kook’s words must serve as a lamp unto our feet.
We have to learn and teach the writings of Rav Kook, ztz”l and to follow his spiritual, educational and practical instructions. Indeed, disciples of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and disciples of disciples, have risen up, amongst them great Torah luminaries, rabbis and heads of yeshivot, who have studied the writings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, and who spread his energy and Torah to tens of thousands of Jews.
Yet that does not suffice. We have to influence the masses as well. The precondition for succeeding in this is improving ourselves and providing a virtuous example in both our private and our public lives. We must improve our character, behave with humility, with the fear of G-d, and the love of Torah, the people and the Land.
We must particularly strive to instill peace between our fellow men, and to engender unity and harmony amongst those bearing the torch of Rav Kook, ztz”l. In this regard Hillel the Elder used to say: “Be amongst the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing it; loving people and bringing them closer to Torah” (Avot 1:12).
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 email@example.com 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
“Ode to the “Searching Single”
In the State of Israel there are 600,000 unmarried males and females over age nineteen. I’m not saying you should get married at age nineteen, but that is the statistical data. By the way, there are more unmarried males than females. Bachelorhood is not an insignificant detail in life, but a major issue. Whoever remains without a wife, remains without blessing, without joy, without Torah, etc.…” (Yevamot 63).
This is a problem of the individual, that the entire Jewish People must take pains to solve, just like other problems such as health, poverty, security and education. I am not joking when I say that it would be appropriate to appoint a minister in charge of this problem, with a lavish budget, as they did in Singapore. There, they thought it was a national tragedy, and by such means they solved the problem. Yet in the meantime, we all need to enlist. It’s true that efforts are already being made, by parents, matchmakers, rabbis and their wives, yet even more of an effort is called for.
Here, then, is the solution: Let us suppose that you are a married couple. How fortunate you are! Yes, how fortunate! So during the course of your lives, try to make two matches. If every couple does so, not one single will remain. Just two! You’ll have to devote a lot of time, energy and money to this (and it can be considered your one-tenth tithe as well, for the unmarried can be considered poor. Moreover, some people have invented the idea of “ma’aser zman” [the tithing of a tenth of one’s time] towards charitable ends, and certainly, making matches fits that category. We can say something new: Whoever has no money for monetary tithing, can exchange it for ma’aser zman with this in mind.)
We must work devotedly in this direction. Don’t forget how things were for you before you wed, when you tasted sadness and loneliness. Please take up this cause! Obviously, you should give priority to marrying off your relatives, and then your friends. Be persistent even if the unmarried individual responds bitterly. A person cannot be held accountable for his actions when he is suffering. Even after he meets your proposed female, stay involved. Listen to him, help him to distinguish between what is of primary importance and what is secondary. Help him to round out his corners.
To you, the young single, male or female, who goes to his or her friend’s weddings with mixed feelings of joy and sadness and jealousy, I say this: Don’t despair! Don’t lose hope! Many people have gotten married at twenty-five, thirty, thirty five or more, and they are leading happy lives. Don’t say, “I’m no longer in the marriage picture.” Be optimistic. Optimism isn’t just an empty word, an oblique emotion. Optimism is something logical and intellectual, rooted in life experience.
I didn’t say it was easy. I just said that it is possible, and you have to be stubborn. We didn’t just now discover that it is as hard for a person to find his mate as it was for G-d to split the sea (Sota 2a). It’s hard! By the way, even after you wed, you have to continue striving and investing so that your marriage does not fall apart. See Mesillat Yesharim, which teaches that acquiring the trait of benevolence requires toil, but that holding on to that trait requires even more toil. Don’t count on your bride or groom falling out of the sky. Sometimes, through G-d’s kindness, it happens, but we don’t rely on miracles. Just be persistent. Be stubborn! It’s worth it.
Don’t say, “I’ve already tried a hundred times. I guess I just have bad luck. I’m spooked! I’m not normal. I’m a born loser. A real nothing.” You’re normal. Everything is normal. Just sometimes it’s hard. So be even more persistent. Just one thing is clear: If you broadcast despair, no girl will want you.
You must concede regarding insignificant matters, and you mustn’t start World War III. Yet regarding important matters, one does not concede. Our sages enlist a folk saying: “The duck walks with its head down, but its eyes wander above” (Bava Kamma 92b). The duck is a humble creature, yet it looks determinedly every which way to find food for its household. Rashi explains that a person has to be stubborn regarding essential matters such as earning a living, Torah learning or marriage. We learn this from Avigayil, who, obviously, was very humble, for she was a prophetess, and prophecy rests only on the very humble. All the same, she mustered her courage and proposed marriage to King David, saying, “Remember your maidservant” (ibid.).
Another modest bit of advice: Don’t be too choosy. Don’t be too insistent regarding externals. I didn’t say that your mate shouldn’t be pleasing to you. Certain he or she must be. Yet don’t be spoiled. External appearance is a secondary matter. The main thing is the soul. The physical is important, but secondary. The end of “Adom Olam” thus refers to the “body, attached to the soul”. Don’t say, “I can’t succeed in loving her because she isn’t pretty enough.” In another ten, twenty or thirty years, she will develop wrinkles. What will you do then? Will you become depressed? Will you replace her?!
Don’t say, “I love her because she is beautiful.” Rather, say, “Because I love her, she is the most beautiful on earth” (see Maharal, Netivot Olam, Netiv HaEmet, on Ketuvot 17). It is the soul you should love.
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Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber- Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
Pesach requires advance preparation. As our sages said in Pesachim 6a, “We ask and expound regarding the laws of Pesach thirty days in advance.” Everyone has to view himself as though he came out of Egypt. Pesach is the “time of our freedom”, the month in which we emerged from slavery to freedom, and we must clarify for ourselves what freedom is.
In his introduction to the Pesach Hagaddah, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook writes:
“The difference between a slave and a free man is not just a difference in status, in which one happens to be a slave and the other does not. We can find an intellectual slave whose spirit is free, and, by contrast, a free man with a slave mentality. Meaningful freedom is that elevated spirit through which an individual, or the entire nation, is raised up to be true to his inner essence, to the divine image within him.”
What does Rav Kook mean? Everyone is part of three circles: G-dliness, the world and man. In parallel, the 613 mitzvot encircle the three: mitzvot between man and G-d; between man and man; and between man and himself (see Maharal “Derech HaChaim” on Pirkei Avot 1:2; Maharsha on Bava Kamma 30). Man, marching forward in life towards his spiritual perfection, ponders which path will bring him to his goal. Those around him discern only his externals, but beyond the cloak of words and deeds, are hidden thoughts and wishes, character and personality traits, and all of them a person is obligated to elevate to the highest level of goodness and integrity he can. As Rav Kook wrote, “The foundation of happiness is the love of truth and the intellect, the love of integrity in life, the love of emotional beauty and the love of goodness of deed.” (Chochmat HaKodesh 91).
Here a person stands, confused, pondering how he, with his limited resources, can achieve this exalted perfection. Is this not beyond man’s ability? This argument would be true were perfection outside man, and he had to bring it from afar. Yet that is not how it is. Perfection is embedded in his soul. As Rav Kook wrote, “It is in man’s nature to follow the upright path.” Integrity is an integral part of man. As it says (Ecclesiastes 7:29), “G-d made man upright.” Hence, man has no need to seek his perfection from afar. What he must do is to expose and uncover the integrity there within him. It is this the Torah had in mind when it wrote: “It is not in heaven, such that you should say, ‘Who shall go up to heaven and bring it to us so that we can hear it and keep it?’ It is not over the sea so that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea and get if for us, so that we will be able to hear it and keep it?’ It is something very close to you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can keep it.” (Deuteronomy 30:7).
On the basis of these things, Rav Kook wrote (Orot HaTorah 11:2), “The upright person must have faith in himself. That is, he must have faith that his essential nature and proclivities deep within him are good and upright, and will lead him down the upright path.” And should you ask, “If so, what need is there of the Torah?” Rav Kook answers, “The Torah has to be a light unto our feet. Through it we can see the wrong path where the soul is sometimes liable to stray. Yet our starting point must be to have faith in ourselves.”
The trait of freedom, explains Rav Kook, is a person’s feeling that his life has its own purpose to it that affords it worth. By contrast, the trait of slavery is a person’s not living his own life, but rather doing what is fine and good in the eyes of someone else who has official or moral control over him. Then that person does not lead his own life but that of someone else. It is this Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi had in mind in his poem, “Avdei HaZman” [transient slaves], where he wrote, “Transient slaves are slaves of slaves / Only the servant of G-d is free.” After all, the entire material world of man was only created to serve man, to assist him to achieve perfection. Thus, the entire transient world is a slave, serving man. Yet if man devotes his time and energy not to advancing himself spiritually but to accumulating property and luxuries, to buying a lavish apartment and an expensive car, to being counted as one of the wealthiest members of society, etc., things that provide no help to man’s essence, when a person lives with such pursuit, then his lust will certainly never be satisfied, as the Vilna Gaon wrote:
“Man in this world is like a person who drinks salt water. He thinks he is quenching his thirst, but he is really becoming all the more thirsty. No one ever dies having fulfilled more than half of his cravings.”
Yet even with what a person does attain he becomes a slave to things that should have been slaves to him. In this he turns into a “slave to slaves”. By contrast, “only the servant of G-d is free,” for a servant of G-d does not waste his time and energy on things outside himself. Rather, he invests his efforts in developing his personality and in uncovering the divine image within him. Rav Kook therefore concludes:
“Genuine freedom means being free of all outside influence, of any master who would bend the image of G-d within man to any force that would lower its worth, majesty, greatness and splendor. Such freedom can only be acquired through the freeing of the soul, freedom of the spirit from anything that would bend it from its straight and narrow path, imprinted on his inner essence.”
Everything we said about the freedom of the individual equally applies to the freedom of the nation. Not all political independence is accompanied by national freedom. It is true that sovereignty is the basis for fulfillment of our nation’s historic mission. As Isaiah said (43:22), “I created this people for Myself so that they would tell My praise.” All the same, this is only true as long as the nation makes use of its national talents and resources for the fulfillment of its mission. Then, the nation serves itself in fulfilling its goals.
If, however, the nation seeks to find replacements for the original culture of Israel, in its attempt to ape the culture of others, the European culture or the American culture, they will be transforming the nation into a “slave” of the culture of another nation, even if they lead independent political lives in their homeland. Thus, physical and political independence are not the ultimate goal of national liberation. They can only be viewed as the basis for fulfilling the historic mission of that nation.
This is how Rav Kook views the purpose of the State of Israel’s establishment. As he wrote (Mussar HaKodesh 191):
“The ideological State of Israel is the ‘foundation of G-d’s throne in the world. The entire purpose of that state is to make Hashem One and His name One. That truly is the greatest joy there is.”
True national freedom only becomes possible if the nation dedicates its national resources to rooting and developing the original Jewish culture that we inherited at Sinai, to fulfilling, through its life, the pathways of Torah and mitzvot, and to spreading, throughout the world, the light of G-d and His morality.