From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “Our love of our fellow man has to be in our heart and soul. We have to love every person individually, and all the nations as well… Hatred has to be directed only at the wickedness and filth in the world…”
(Midot HaRe’iyah, Ahavah)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “A redeemer shall come to Zion and those in Jacob who turn from transgression”
Many sins require rectification, but none more than theft and sexual sin, for a person “craves” these two sins (Makot 23b). They not only can destroy the private individual and his family, but they can also harm the entire nation, as occurred during Joshua’s time. When Achan benefited from the taboo booty at Jericho, we then lost in the first battle against Ai, and the result was, “The hearts of the people melted, and became as water” (Joshua 7:5).
As far as sexual sin it says, “The people who lived in the land before you did all these disgusting perversions and defiled the land. Do not cause the land to vomit you out when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was there before you” (Leviticus 18:27-28). Rectifying these sins rests on the educational and legal system, as it says, “Keep My charge, and do not follow any of the perverted customs that were kept before you arrived, so that you not be defiled by them” (ibid., 18:30).
Today, it is true that we are meriting to see with our own eyes the fulfillment of the Prophet Amos’s prophecy: “I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof. They shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them – the word of the L-rd, Your G-d” (Amos 9:14-15).
Yet at the same time an obligation and a duty rests on us to purify and rectify what has been corrupted, especially regarding theft and sexual sin. Those who commit these sins destroy themselves and their families and harm the entire nation. The way to rectify our deeds and character is to return to our holy Torah. As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l, wrote:
“Moral blemishes finding their root in people straying from innate morality become total when people turn away from divine morality by withdrawing from religion. Abandoning and rebelling against G-d’s mitzvot constitutes terrible moral decline. This only occurs in a person when he starts to wallow in coarse materialism.
“There is the possibility that for some period of time a generation, all or some of it, will become so entangled in such moral blindness that they cannot at all discern the moral decline inherent in abandoning G-d’s laws… Yet repentance always has to come and to be revealed, for the disease of forgetting G-d’s world cannot take up a solid place in man’s nature. Man’s nature is like a muddied stream, which eventually becomes clear once more.” (Orot HaTeshuvah 6:4).
The day is not far off when we will be privileged to see with our own eyes the great repentance that will encompass the entire nation. The result will be that “a redeemer shall come to Zion and those in Jacob who turn from transgression” (Isaiah 59:20).
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Hundreds of hours of free Torah videos! – www.machonmeir.net
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“A Simple Story”
It all started with a cry for help on the Internet. I wrote that I was fed up and that I had nothing to live for. An anonymous respondent offered me encouragement, and during a year and half of correspondence he taught me to value myself. He restored to me my taste for life and turned me from being a broken vessel into a stable, happy person. I no longer have Internet, but I had it then.
Many times I expressed my fear that I was harassing him daily with my minor problems, but he responded with such great warmth that I felt no inhibitions about continuing.
My benefactor did not suffice with kind, encouraging words. Whenever I needed a loan, he was always willing, even though these loans became gifts. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not a spendthrift. Still, I come from a poor family, and medical treatment and schooling costs a lot of money. It says, “He who hates gifts will live,” and I was really embarrassed about accepting gifts, but they were given to me in such a charming manner that I couldn’t refuse. He said, “Look, I’m rich, and I have nothing else to do with all my money. G-d didn’t give it to me for me to horde it like a dragon, but to help others.” My love for this person grew from day to day. Just one thing bothered me. I didn’t know the name of my redeeming angel. I asked him to reveal is identity, but he always refused. “You don’t need to know me. It’s a great joy for me to help you. What difference does it make who I am?”
Yet I couldn’t live like that, without knowing who my benefactor is, to whom I owe everything. At last he gave in to my repeated entreaties. Then it turned out that it wasn’t a man but a woman, a girl my age, who belongs to my own cultural world. Suddenly my world turned upside down, and my love took on a new hue. Without a doubt, this was my intended from heaven! I immediately started making phone calls to learn more about her, and from everyone I received confirmation of what I already knew: a wonderful girl! True, I did feel some hesitation, something being held back, but when all is said and done, they all had the highest praise.
Yet when I dared to suggest, gently, that perhaps we might pursue the possibility of getting married, I received an outright rejection. “It wouldn’t work out.” She wrote me decisively, “I shall continue happily to assist you. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I am with you to help you against anything bad happening. Yet what you suggested is impossible.”
I didn’t despair. Time has its own momentum. Days went by, weeks of her wise, comforting words glittering on my computer console. Day in, day out. Each day with its joy, and an answer to all my troubles.
I became more and more smitten with her until I dared to ask: “We write each other. Perhaps the time has come for us to talk on the telephone. Please let me hear your voice!”
“No. Please let up. I am afraid of frightening you.”
Yet I didn’t relent. I asked more and more. “Let me hear your voice!” In the end she gave in, and she gave me her number.
When she answered, I heard a terrible, frightening sound. Her voice was a rasping, hoarse screech. She had a voice like a witch! I recoiled. Her voice was terrible but the content was wise and gentle, sweet and profound. I quickly recovered and answered her without any confusion being revealed in my voice.
We thus continued having telephone conversations. I became accustomed to her voice. What did it matter that her voice cords had been damaged in a terrible accident. I didn’t hear her voice but the pleasant content, and that content, coming from the heart, went into my heart.
I was dreaming of marrying her, but she kept putting me off. Yet I could tell that her opposition was less determined. I was optimistic, hoping that the passage of time would bring a change. Indeed, the bond between us grew deeper and deeper.
Now I had another request: “Please let me see how you look.” Yet over and over she refused and expressed fear. Still, I didn’t let up. I said, “A man isn’t allowed to get engaged until he sees his bride.” Yet she kept repeating, “All the magic will be destroyed.” And I kept up my requests: “Let me see you!” I cried.
In the end she gave in. “At 10:00 AM I will walk by the supermarket across the street, wearing a light-blue dress. If after you see me you find me loathsome and don’t want to marry me, just tell me and that will be the end of it. I won’t be insulted and I will continue helping you.”
I sat with pounding heart on the bench across the street. When she briefly passed by and disappeared, I shuddered, blanched and almost fainted. In all my life I had never seen such an awful, frightening sight. Her body and her face were distorted and all wrenched out of shape, like a demon out of Hell, a creature from another world. She discerned my alarm, covered her face and moved on. I sat in shock on the bench, all alone. My world was destroyed. I sat for hours, unmoving. Those were the worst moments of my entire life. Sure, “Favor is false and beauty is vain, and a woman who fears the L-rd – she shall be praised,” but this was a monster. To wed her would be beyond human endurance. I’m just a man. I couldn’t solve her problem. It wasn’t my fault that she had had a terrifying accident…
Yet how was she to blame? Had she changed her personality? What had happened to my love? Where was my heart, my conscience, my morality, my gratitude, my humanity?
For five hours I sat on the bench suffering. My head was going to explode. When I was in distress, it was always she who helped me. Yet now I was alone with myself. It was almost midnight, and I was sitting on the bench, covered with dew, near insanity.
At 1:00 AM I called her. She answered immediately, waiting for my words.
n Is it you?
n I’m sorry I was startled. I won’t be startled any more. Whatever you look like, I won’t leave you.
Then the days of bliss began for us. I no longer saw her distorted appearance but her good heart. We sat on the bench, across from the supermarket, planning what color we would paint the room, and what names we would give our children. Passersby would look at us, and their faces would register shock, anger, jealousy or shame, but we didn’t care.
Then came the first hurdle – the meeting with my parents. When they saw her, their faces turned to stone, and they didn’t say a word. She looked at me and I smiled at her all the time. After I accompanied her home, my parents attacked me with heavy artillery. “Are you insane?! You would marry a monster?! What will the family say? What will our friends say? Believe us! We’re only concerned for your welfare. You won’t be able to bear it.”
Still I stood my ground. “She saved my life. She built up my happiness. I owe her everything. If I leave her, I’m not human.” When they didn’t let up, I let go a sentence that I shouldn’t have said: “She was by my side, when you were not.” They slammed the door in anger. “With us, you’re through!” Yet I remained steadfast, and we held an engagement party.
All along the way I successfully repelled all the attacks of various relatives and friends. I became a seasoned combat veteran, answering people with, “What’s important? The inside or the outside?” They had no answer to this. When I had vanquished all my enemies, I remained alone with my worst enemy – my inner doubts and suffering. Yet I continued forward. We set up a date to go to the Rabbinate and to register to be married. Her face lit up, but a cloud darkened her brow. “If you don’t show up, I’ll die… Other men broke up at the last minute three times already.” “I’ll certainly be there,” I said.
I didn’t go… I simply forgot. My father was sick. I had tests at school. My motor scooter broke down. When I remembered, I raced to the Rabbinate. “Yes, a girl was here. She waited two hours for you. She fainted and was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room.” I raced to the hospital like a lunatic. She lay there with no signs of life.
I spoke to her, but she didn’t respond. I got down on my knees and cried, “I promise you! There was a mishap!” Then her eyes opened. She spoke in a weak voice. I promised her and myself that it wouldn’t happen again.
Yet my inner demon continued to bombard me with uncertainty, this way and that. Wars between externals and internals, between body and soul, between morality and pleasure. I would waken from nightmares in which we were married and I loath her. I would also dream that a good fairy broke the spell and suddenly she was beautiful and without blemish. I would awaken with enormous frustration that in real life there are no such miracles.
On our wedding day, my inner enemy concentrated all his firepower on me, but I hunkered down to bear it. What luck! Under the Chuppah, her face was covered with two layers of lace. Suddenly she slipped me a small picture – it was her before the accident. So remarkable! I stared at the picture, hypnotized by its beauty, unable to remove my eyes from it.
My father hugged me and whispered in my ear, “That’s how she’ll be in the next reincarnation…”
I lifted my eyes and smiled at her. I am truly happy!
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“G-d Remains With the Israelites Even When They are Impure”
When the Torah says of G-d that He “remains with the Israelites even when they are impure” (Leviticus 16:16), it is telling us two things. Not only does this express the eternal relationship of G-d to Israel, expressed by, “The L-rd will never abandon His people” (Psalm 94:14), but also tells us that when we are sinful, G-d doesn’t “stop being friends” with us. Rather, He continues to love us even if we are unworthy.
This statement is exceedingly important in our age. It is especially so considering that because a large pioneering community were recently thrown out of their homes and transformed into refugees without a place to call their own, many, especially young members of the Religious Zionist population, have decided to take a reserved attitude to the State institutions that committed an injustice against innocent citizens, to “stop being friends” with the Jewish State and even to stop praying for its welfare. One of the mitzvoth of the Torah commands us to “walk in G-d’s path” (Deuteronomy 28:9). Rambam comments, “We must emulate G-d’s good and upright ways.”
In Hilchot De’ot 1:6, Rambam adds: “What is our sages’ exposition regarding this mitzvah? Just as G-d is called ‘kind,’ so must you be kind. Just as He is called ‘merciful,’ so must you be merciful. Just as He is called ‘holy’, so must you be holy.” This mitzvah was derived from Pesikta (Devarim, Re’eh): “‘Follow the L-rd your G-d’ (Deuteronomy 13:5): Just as He is kind and gracious, so must you be. Just as He is kind, so must you be.”
It is true that from our sages words we learn that a person must be kind and merciful like G-d, but the source does not make clear whether we must show mercy only to those who do G-d’s will or whether even the wicked are the objects of G-d’s mercy. This question finds an answer in Eliyahu Rabbah (Ish Shalom), Chapter: “Bedarkei Shamayim”: “Just as G-d is kind and merciful to the wicked, accepting their repentance, so must we be merciful to one another.”
All the same, this kind of mercy seems to contradict the Talmud’s words (Bava Kamma 50a: “Whoever says that G-d concedes regarding sin will concede his life, as it says, ‘The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect. All His ways are just’ (Deuteronomy 32:4).” Rashi comments: “The person who speaks this way will lose his life because he leads people to sin.”
The Talmud answers the question when it asks, “What does the Torah mean by using the expression “‘erech apayim’ [‘slow to anger’, with the word ‘apayim’ [anger] expressed in a plural]. Why not use the singular?” The Talmud answers, “There is one anger for the righteous and another for the wicked.” In other words, the account books are not closed. A person is destined to give a full account of his deeds, to be rewarded for his good deeds and to be punished for his evil deeds. At the same time, however, even if a person did evil, he is still allowed to repent, to recognize his sins and to be contrite over them. If his evil deed was towards his fellow man, contrition will not suffice. Rather, he will have to propitiate the victim, to restore to him the object he stole, or to right whatever wrong he committed. In any event, however, a person must be given the opportunity to rectify his misdeeds. We learn this from the verse, “G-d remains with them even when they are unclean.” Even when they are impure, the Divine Presence remains with them.
This contradiction between Strict Divine Justice and Divine Mercy can be resolved in another way as well, by distinguishing between G-d’s conduct towards the individual and towards the entire Jewish People. Sin is found in the individual, who is liable to sin through his free will. He is liable through his sin even to cut off his soul, as it says, “That soul shall be cut off from its people” (Exodus 31:14).
By contrast, regarding Israel in the aggregate it says, “G-d does not look at wrongdoing in Jacob. He sees no vice in Israel” (Numbers 23:21). In terms of the Jewish individual’s connection to the Jewish People our sages said, “A Jew, even if he sins, is still a Jew.” Thus, the basic Jewish essence, which is a divine quality, no Jew can forfeit. Therefore, even if he sins individually through his free will, he still continues to be a Jew.
This distinction between the evil component in man and the divine quality within him we find in the Sefer “Tanya” (Chapter 32), which states that even regarding those who have not repented from their sins, “whom we are commanded to hate, we are commanded also to love. Both commands are true. We must hate them for the evil in them and love for the good hidden within them. That good is the divine spark within them, which sustains their divine spirit.” Even after one achieves hatred for the evil side within the wicked, the Tanya writes, “One must arouse mercy in one’s heart regarding the evil of the wicked, for it is as though the Satanic forces that overcome the wicked have taken them into exile. Our mercy then nullifies our hatred and arouses our love.”
There have always been wicked people and evildoers amongst the Jewish People. It is true that we mustn’t ignore or minimize the severity of their deeds. At the same time, however, we must remember that they are our brothers and we must have mercy on them. We must work not to distance them but to bring them near to the righteous path.