From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “Return, brothers, return! / to our pure nationalism, to excellent Zion / Leave the fields of others. Cease alien vineyards / They are as a hollow reed….” (from Rav Kook’s song, “Sovu Tziyon, Vehikifuha”)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Despite Everything – the State of Israel, Foundation of G-d’s Throne on Earth”
A hundred years ago, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l wrote about the difference between the State of Israel (which at the time was still just a vision) and the rest of the nations of the world:
“A normal country is like a large insurance company. It is not the source of its citizen’s supreme joy. Ideals, which are the crowning glory of mankind, hover above a country and do not touch it.
“Not so a country founded on ideals and inherently based on the most lofty message. Such countries truly constitute their citizen’s greatest joy. Therefore, the State of Israel is truly the most supreme on the scale of joy, and it constitutes the foundation of G-d’s throne on earth. Its entire purpose is that G-d should be one and His name one, truly the greatest source of joy.” (see Orot 160)
Indeed, we daily conclude our prayers with the words, “The L-rd shall be King over all the earth. On that day shall the L-rd be One and His name one” (Zechariah 14:9). In the future, people will be so happy that even in response to strict divine justice [i.e., bad tidings], for which we presently recite, “Blessed is the Judge of Truth” – they will recite, “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent” [presently recited in response to good tidings]. (See Pesachim 50a). And all this will be when the State of Israel appears and is revealed in all its greatness and glory.
Today, Rav Kook’s vision of the State of Israel which has to serve as a light to the nations, and in which a person has to find his supreme joy, is seemingly crumbling before our eyes, as we witness the spiritual and moral deterioration occurring amongst the governmental authorities and some of its leaders. True, we rejoice on the fifty-ninth birthday of our beloved country, and we rejoice over the millions of Jews who are being gathered in from the world over to the land of our life’s blood.
We rejoice over the enormous economic development. Yet we ask ourselves, seeing the nadir to which we have fallen: Shall we ever emerge from the moral and spiritual crisis visiting our country, and if so, how? We know with full certainty that all this is a descent for the sake of ascent, as Rav Kook said:
“All those building up the nation will arrive at the depths of this truth, that our nation will be build and consolidated, and will be restored to its strength, to all the foundations of its life by way of its faith and its fear of G-d, its hallowed noble content spreading and becoming stronger and more developed. Then, with a voice full of valor and might they will proclaim with a loud cry, ‘Come, let us return to G-d!’” (Orot HaTeshuva 15:11)
Quite the contrary, the present crisis will quickly lead to a great movement of return to ourselves, our Torah, our roots, our Father in Heaven. Through this, we will merit to see not only the physical building of our country, but also the revealed benevolent soul of our nation which will shine on the entire world. As Rav Kook said, “The State of Israel is the foundation of G-d’s throne on earth.” And as the prophets of Israel said, “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:4). Speedily in our day, Amen!
With blessings for a joyous Independence Day,
Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Who wants to live?”
Would you like a magic potion to live a good, long life? Would you like to add ten years to your life, and increase your quality of life? It’s very simple! Just strengthen the marvelous machine that G-d gave us in His kindness – the body! Obviously, the main thing is the soul, but you need a healthy soul in a healthy body. Besides proper nutrition, one of the prerequisites to achieving health is physical activity. If you are a farmer or a physical laborer, then thank G-d, you are active all day. Otherwise, your body can deteriorate. As our great master, Rambam, writes:
“Another major principle of health is this: As long as a person toils and greatly exerts himself… he won’t get sick, and he will get stronger… Yet whoever leads a sedentary life and doesn’t toil… will suffer pain and weakness all his life.” (De’ot 4:14-15)
He further writes:
“If someone treated himself the way he treats the beast on which he rides, he would be saved from many pernicious illnesses. This is because you’ll never see anyone over-feed his beast. Rather, he rations its intake so that it never unthinkingly overeats. People likewise make sure that their animal moves around and toils so that it remains healthy and never gets sick. Yet they don’t do the same for themselves. They pay no mind to physical exercise, which is the most important element maintaining good health and in pushing off most illnesses.” (Rambam, Medical Writings, Zissman Montner Edition I, page 32)
See the circular of the Director General of the Health Ministry (29 Nissan, 5765) which calls for physical activity and enlists findings from the World Health Organization, stating that a lack of physical activity leads to mortality and illness: heart attacks; cancer; diabetes; high blood pressure; obesity; etc. Physical activity also decreases stress and depression, prevents tiredness, increases work productivity, improves mental functioning and slows aging.
To summarize: Physical activity adds an average of ten years to one’s life.
It is written about Hezekiah, King of Judea, that he repented, and then G-d added fifteen years to his life (II Kings 20; see Yevamot 50a). You should repent as well. Obviously, repentance is a spiritual matter, yet there is also “natural, physical repentance”, as Rav Kook taught us regarding “sins against the laws of nature”. He writes, “All improper behavior leads to sickness and pain. Individuals and societies suffer greatly from this… in terms of their sins that destroy their bodies and sap their strength.” (Orot HaTeshuvah, Chapter 1).
So please! Engage seriously in your favorite physical activity: aerobic activities that exercise the heart, blood and lungs; running; running in place; fast walking; swimming; bicycle riding; exercise; ball games; dance; etc.
It’s important! It’s essential! Rabbi Eliezer Papo warns in his sefer “Pele Yoetz” about “self-love”. Are there people who do not love themselves? Unfortunately there are, due to the “insane spirit” that possesses them, making them “knowingly destroy themselves,” ruining their bodies. Therefore, “whoever has a brain in his head should consider well that a person should love himself, body and soul.” He should “love his body more than his wealth”, and he should “be benevolent to his body and show kindness to his spirit”.
Some say that one should devote between at least 15 minutes and a half hour to physical activity. Some say it should be twice a week, others say three times, or even daily. The more the better, be it an hour or more.
One might say: “It’s bittul Torah! Time that could be spent learning Torah!” Yet is sleeping not bittul Torah? Yet it’s essential, and this is too. Moreover, you’ll get that time back, with high interest, and years will be added to your life, as well as quality of life. You’ll better be able to withstand physical stress, numerous illnesses and psychological pressure.
Also, this is itself Torah. Surely Rambam classifies good practices as fulfillment of a mitzvah: “Follow in His pathways” (Deuteronomy 28:9; see Hilchot De’ot 1:5). This includes preserving one’s health (ibid., 4:1).
Obviously, one must do only as much as one needs, and not exaggerate. We certainly are not talking about watching professional sports, which is a big waste. Rather, we are talking about the exercise people do themselves: men and women, boys and girls, young and old.
You will certainly say, “But I am middle-aged… I am old… How can I start now?… Isn’t it dangerous?” Indeed, exaggerated activity is dangerous. One must ask his physician and acquire instructional brochures from a health fund. Certainly one must work gradually as well, moving from the easy to the hard, and slowly increase the difficulty. One must also drink water during the activity. One should also take advantage of every opportunity to work his body: One shouldn’t use an elevator but should climb stairs. One shouldn’t use transportation if one’s destination isn’t far. One should walk. Park far away, or get off the bus a stop early. You make the effort and G-d will send you a blessing. The Prophet Isaiah (Chapter 58) enumerates blessings. Of one of them, Rabbi Eliezer said, “This is the most supreme blessing.” He was referring to 58:11: “The L-rd will make your bones strong.” (Yevamot 102b).
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“In the Land You Inherit” (Leviticus 14:34)
(Wishing a complete recovery to Professor Yosef Ben Shlomo)
The three components comprising Jewishness are the People, Torah and Land of Israel. The people are the human component of the People of Israel, the Torah constitutes the moral-spiritual content of the people, and Eretz Yisrael is the piece of land, and the only place, where the Jewish People can fulfill their complete destiny.
From the Temple’s destruction until today, we have not yet merited the complete unity of these three components. When they are totally and completely united, then will come the complete redemption of the Jewish People. In our day, we are in the midst of a process on the way to an encounter with this triumvirate. We call this process “Atchalta DeGeula” [the start of redemption]. It is a stage that Israel has reached after suffering much evil in our long exilic journey.
Since Israel’s emergence on the stage of history, the nations have tried to harm each of these three components, discerning in their blindness that these constitute the secret to Jewish survival. We have seen their attempt to destroy us physically since the days when Abraham was thrown into the fiery furnace by wicked Nimrod. Then came Esau, who sought to smite Jacob, with his children. In his heart he wanted to uproot everything. Then there was Pharaoh, who killed the males, and Amalek, who attacked the weak as Israel were leaving Egypt. So did it go on from then until now, as we say in the Pesach Haggadah: “In every generation, they rise up to destroy us.”
Another way to harm and to destroy the Jewish People was to harm their spiritual stamina by imposing decrees to make them abandon their religion. Regarding these two attempts Isaiah said (54:17), “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment thou shall condemn.” Rambam in Igeret Teiman interpreted this verse the same way.
The attempt at physical and spiritual annihilation was chiefly the lot of our people in exile. Since our people’s return to their land 100 years ago, a new front has been started by the nations in their hatred of Israel, chiefly focusing on their opposition to recognizing the right of the Jewish People to Eretz Yisrael, land of their forefathers.
There were two beacons of light that shined up our people regarding Eretz Yisrael. The first was the Balfour Declaration, which recognized the right of the Jewish People to the two sides of the Jordan. In time, however, nothing remained of that declaration. The second was the decision of the U.N. to partition the half that remained from Eretz Yisrael. Yet even the limited decision regarding the partition borders encountered the opposition of all the Arab countries, which began a war against us to drive us out of our homeland. Here as well, G-d did not abandon His people, granting us victory over our enemies. Through G-d’s kindness, we established the State of Israel, albeit on a small part of our land. Regarding this victory, we mustn’t belittle our own contribution either, our human effort. In fact I heard this idea from Rav Abramsky (after the I.D.F.’s victory in the Six Day War (see my book “Ayelet HaShachar”, page 231). Rav Abramsky said that our victory in the Six Day War was by virtue of the self-sacrifice of the I.D.F.’s soldiers. We can say the same thing about the Israeli War of Independence as well, that the solid faith in the rightness of their path that beat in the people’s heart, and the profound recognition of our right to this land were what gave Israeli society, which was small in quantity, the staying power and the devotion to confront the large numbers that rose up against us to destroy us.
Yet our national memory has been weakened, precisely now, after our becoming consolidated in the Land. Perhaps due to the higher standard of living of Israel’s citizens, a weakening in the connection to Jewish sources has occurred, and an erosion in their belief in the rightness of our path. The weakest amongst us deny our right to our ancestral land. It is interesting that these deniers do not concentrate on just one component. Rather, they try to harm each of these three components making up the completeness of the Jewish nation. They try to diminish the Torah, to hurt the Jewish People by distorting the concept of “Who is a Jew?”, and they fight to disengage from sections of our homeland that have come into our hands, and to uproot Jewish settlements from there and to hand them over to foreigners. The Jewish People are waging a two-pronged battle, a war against the Ishmaelites from without and a war against our denying brothers from within. Truthfully, the erosion from within poses the greater danger for us. That is the true threat that endangers our staying power more than the threat from the external enemy, as it says, “Your destroyers and annihilators shall go forth from you” (Isaiah 49:17). Using all the tools available to us, we must increase our work to influence public opinion. We must place at the top of our agenda “the rightness of our path”. Moreover, we must help our generation, in particular the young, to encounter our sources that deal with the historic, eternal covenant of the Jewish People with Eretz Yisrael, starting with Torah sources, on through historical and literary sources, and including poetry, art, and even games, songs of Eretz Yisrael, etc. We must make use of every educational means we can to introduce into the awareness of the citizens of Israel the supreme value of Eretz Yisrael for the Jewish People.