From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “The rebirth of our people has to be complete. It has to encompass physical and spiritual rebirth, rebirth of the sacred and the secular. Indeed, the whole purpose of the secular rebirth is to bring us to spiritual rebirth, to the rebirth of the holy.” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, p. 336)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “G-d! May Your favor rest upon us.”
The moment of climax for which all the people were waiting after the Exodus and the receiving of the Torah was the moment when the Divine Presence was supposed to reveal itself at the end of the Tabernacle’s erection and the sacrifices of the eighth day of Installation. The longed-for moment arrived, but the Divine Presence did not descend nor reveal itself. The result was that Aaron was embarrassed and the Israelites were mortified, frustrated and sad. As Rashi comments (Leviticus 9:23):
“When Aaron saw that they had offered all the sacrifices, and all the rituals had been performed, and still the Divine Presence had not descended for Israel, he was pained, and thought, ‘I know that G-d is angry with me and it is because of me that the Divine Presence did not descend!’ He said to Moses: ‘Moses! Your efforts have resulted only in my entering the Tabernacle and being embarrassed!’ Moses immediately entered with him, and they begged for mercy, and the Divine Presence descended for Israel.”
And what was their blessing to the people (Leviticus 9:23)? They said, “G-d! May your favor rest upon us!” (Psalm 90:17), and, “May it be Your will to cause Your Divine Presence to rest on our handiwork.” Immediately, “G-d’s glory was revealed to all the people. Fire came forth from before G-d and consumed the burnt offering and the choice parts on the altar. When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise and threw themselves on their faces” (Leviticus 9:23-24). In other words, the people mood was transformed 180 degrees, and they rejoiced and praised G-d.
From here we may derive that it is not enough to erect the Tabernacle and to bring offerings. Rather, we must seek G-d’s mercy for His favor to rest upon us. This recalls the following story:
“Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha entered the Holy of Holies to burn incense and he saw “the L-rd of hosts sitting on His exalted throne. G-d said to him, ‘Yishmael, my son! Bless me!’ He answered, ‘May it be Your will that Your mercy should vanquish Your anger, and You should treat Your sons mercifully and go beyond the letter of the law for them.’ G-d then nodded in ascent.”
This source serves to teach that “we should not take a layman’s blessings lightly” (Berachot 7a).
Today, how fortunate we are and how good our lot that we have merited to be part of a generation in which the Jewish People are rising up to rebirth after two thousands years of exile. We see with our own eyes the ingathering of the exiles and the flourishing of our country. The Third Temple is being rebuilt before our very eyes. We are still at the very height of a process at the end of which most certainly the Divine Presence will descend and reveal itself to all Israel, just as it did at the Tabernacle’s erection on the eighth day of the Installment, and just as it did with the building of the First Temple in King Solomon’s day.
Until then we must recite the prayer of Moses, the man of G-d, “O G-d, may Your favor rest upon us! Establish for us the work of our hands, the work of our hands establish” (Psalm 90:17).
May the work of our hands be complete. Let it not – G-d forbid – cause mishap. And may the result be to have G-d’s favor upon us, G-d’s Presence and His consolation (see Rashi and Metzudat David, ibid.).
With blessings for a good summer for all of Israel,
Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“When I was a pupil in elementary school I failed my I.Q. tests miserably. I had a fear of tests, and seeing the psychologist come into the classroom to have us do a group I.Q. test sent me into an acute panic attack. By the time he announced, ‘Begin!’ I would already be incapable of answering almost any of the questions. I can still remember being in the first questions and hearing other students turning over page after page of the test. For me, the game was over before it began, and the results were always the same: I was the loser. You failed the test and lost the game, and the result was that you were branded a moron.”
“One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand the repercussions. No one has any expectations of a moron. In my first years of school, the teachers did not expect me to achieve anything. Like many other students, I, too, longed to please my teachers, so I fulfilled their expectations. I was a terrible student during the first three years of school. The teachers were not disappointed. They were pleased that I met their expectations. I was happy that they were happy. We were all happy. Yet I was the loser in the game of life…
“Still, I was lucky, more than many other students. In fourth grade, at age nine, my teacher was Miss Alexa. While my previous teachers were older and entrenched in their views as far as tests, Miss Alexa had finished school recently and was unacquainted with I.Q. tests, or perhaps uninterested in their results. She believed in my ability to achieve much more than I had been achieving, and she demanded it of me. She demanded even more than that – and she received it! Why? Because I really wanted to please her, even more than my previous teachers…
“Miss Alexa wasn’t surprised at all, but I was astounded when my achievements surpassed all the expectations of those previous teachers. I quickly became an excellent student, and that’s what I was from then on.”
The writer is Professor Robert Sternberg, one of the most prominent psychologists of our day, and chairman of the American Psychological Association. (Quoted from his book, “Successful Intelligence”, 1997, page 15.
He further writes, “In my second year at a community college, I sought the advice of the Deacon of Yale University regarding my future plans. I told him I was interested in continuing my psychological studies. He hinted that such plans seemed too ambitious for me. He thought I was a technician by nature, and that I should therefore choose a professional route suited to the intellectual abilities of a technician. I was insulted, and my response was, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I continued my psychological studies… Miss Alexa was a turning point in my life. Had I had another teacher in Fourth Grade, I would probably be cleaning the offices of the university and not presiding over them.” (ibid., page 18).
“In Fourth Grade they discovered that I was dyslexic, and since then I thought that I was a moron and almost didn’t learn a thing until my second year of post-high school yeshiva. Then I decided to learn Masechet Berachot from start to finish and to make an outline of it. To my surprise I was successful. It became clear to me that perhaps I wasn’t so dumb. Since then I have enjoyed learning Torah” (name withheld).
A candidate for officer training failed his preliminary testing. Generally that precludes one’s continuing in the course, but he didn’t give up. He got himself recommendations and tried again, but he again failed. Even so, he was stubborn. He took a breather, then he tried a third time – and failed. Yet the fourth time he passed, and in the course of time he became the I.D.F.’s “number 1 soldier” – the commander-in-chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Shaul Mofaz.
Ascending in holiness…
“I lay in bed and my parents thought I had already gone to sleep, and I heard my father tell my mother, ‘The teacher complained again that our son ran away from the Talmud Torah to play ball instead of learning. There’ll be no choice but for me to take him with me to work. At least he’ll serve some purpose.’ I jumped out of bed and I said to my parents, ‘Shall I remain an ignoramus my whole life? That cannot be! Mother! Father! I want to learn Torah! I promise that starting today I will learn seriously. Give me one more chance! I’ll prove that I mean what I say!” (related happily by the Netziv of Volozhin [Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin] at the end of his commentary “Ha’amek Davar” on the She’eltot).
The following is told about Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid, author of “Sefer HaChassidim”:
“When our master was about eighteen years old, he still didn’t know a thing, and he would engage in juvenile pranks. Then one time his saintly father, Rabbenu Shmuel was teaching his students Halachah, and our master, while throwing arrows, ran into his father’s house of study. The students became angry and asked their teacher, ‘You and your father and all your ancestors were great Torah luminaries. How can you raise your son to be wild man?’ Then Rabbenu Shmuel called his son and said to him, ‘Yehuda, would you like to learn?’ and his son answered yes.” (Story of Rabbenu Yehuda HaChassid, page 2, “Sefer HaChassidim”, Margoliyot Edition).
In the end he became a great Torah luminary.
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“An Unauthorized Fire, Not Commanded by G-d”
When we set out to deal with the death of Aaron’s sons we must remember that we are not dealing with simple people but with saints. As the Jerusalem Talmud states (Yoma 1:1):
“Why does the Torah mention the death of Aaron’s two sons on Yom Kippur? To teach you that just as Yom Kippur atones for Israel, so does the death of the saintly atone for Israel.”
Furthermore, regarding the verse, “It is there that I will commune with the Israelites, and it shall be sanctified through My glory” (Exodus 29:43), they added,
“This verse was said to Moses on Sinai, but remained unclear to him until Nadav and Avihu died. Moses said to Aaron, ‘Aaron, my brother, G-d told me that He would in the future commune with Israel and be sanctified through them in that sanctuary, by way of a great man. I thought either you or I would be that vehicle. Now your two sons have turned out to be more holy than us.’ When Aaron heard this and understand how intimate his sons were with G-d, he remained silent, and reaped a fine reward for his silence.”
Seemingly, the fire they offered was not a sin, for the Halachah states that “Although fire descends from Heaven, it is still a mitzvah for man to bring fire, as it says, ‘Aaron’s sons shall place fire on the altar’ (Leviticus 1:7)” (Yoma 21b). Indeed, according to the simple reading of the verse, their main sin was not their bringing fire, but their doing so without having been commanded: “an unauthorized fire, not commanded by G-d” (Leviticus 10:1). Our sages in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 20) reveal to us that beyond the sin explicit in the verse, there were additional reasons for the death of Aaron’s sons: “Aaron’s sons died only because they issued halachic rulings in the presence of their master Moses.” Our sages add:
“Aaron’s sons died for four reasons: for coming too close [i.e., into the holy of holies], for their offering [they brought an uncommanded offering], for their unauthorized fire and for not talking it over with each other.”
Others in that Midrash said:
“Aaron’s sons died for four reasons: because they were intoxicated, they lacked the priestly vestments, they entered the Tabernacle without washing their hands and feet, and they were each childless.”
Really there is no contradiction between the Torah text and the Midrash. The “unauthorized fire” was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but other sins had preceded it.
The sin of Nadav and Avihu did not begin on the eighth day of the Installation. Even beforehand, at the Sinai Revelation, they set their sights on attaining status they didn’t deserve, as the Talmud teaches (Sanhedrin 52): “Moses and Aaron were walking along, Nadav and Avihu were walking behind them, and all of Israel were behind them. Said Nadav to Avihu, ‘When will these two old men die so that you and I can lead the generation?’” The Midrash brings a different ending: “… so that we can exercise control over the public.” Truthfully, there is no contradiction between the two versions. The Talmud notes what they were saying for public consumption, whereas the Midrash reveals what they were thinking. It wasn’t leadership they wanted but control. Rashi therefore wrote, “They died because they were seeking authority and control.” The reason for the sin of Nadav and Avihu can be understood by way of the difference between them and between Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron were not looking for power. In fact, they sought not to harm one another. As the Midrash teaches (Tanchuma Shemot 24):
“You might think that Moses was afraid of taking on leadership, yet he really only wished to show Aaron honor. Moses said, ‘Before my emergence, Aaron was their prophet for eighty years in Egypt. Shall I now sadden him by trespassing on his domain?’ That is why Moses did not seek the position… G-d answered him, ‘Your brother Aaron won’t be sad over this, but happy. See here, he’s coming to meet you’: ‘He is setting out to meet you, and when he sees you, his heart will be glad’ (Exodus 4:14). ‘He won’t just say he is happy. He’ll really be happy. In fact, he’ll be happier than he says.”
Nadav and Avihu, by contast, offered a different model for leadership, in which selfish self-advancement was their main concern, even if it involved trampling anyone in their path. They could even walk behind their father and uncle and say, “When will these two old men die so that you and I can lead the generation?” When they looked back and saw all of Israel walking behind them, they arrogantly deceived themselves into thinking that the public was walking behind them because of them, to honor them. When they looked ahead and saw “the two old men” walking before them, it was clear to them that Moses and Aaron were simply impeding their advancement. They therefore were in a hurry to get rid of them. Yet whoever is unfaithful to his parents’ generation will ultimately betray his own brother as well, as it says, “‘Aaron’s son each took his firepan’ (Leviticusl 10:1): Each of his own accord. They didn’t talk it over with each other.” When the test came, each separated from the other and looked out only for himself. A leadership that thinks only about itself has no loyalty to its partners, and obviously will scorn its other commitments.