From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “The Torah is embedded in the Jewish spirit. The abstract spirit of Israel encompasses everything, the light of G-d, the purpose of existence, the spiritual life-source. When the Torah gains a stronger foothold, when its knowledge spreads, when its light shines forth, when its sentiments strike deep roots within every soul, the divine light permeates still more throughout the world, rising in grandeur, and the entire world ascends spiritually”
(Orot HaTorah, 12)
(This weeks portion is dedicated in loving memory of R’ Chaim Katz z’l)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Let us Fulfill Gladly all the Torah’s Teachings!”
It is a Jewish custom that when a child reaches the age of speech, his father accustoms him to saying, “Moses prescribed the Torah to us, an eternal heritage for the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Already from earliest childhood, a child hears that the Torah is an inheritance, and that it belongs to the entire Jewish people. The Torah does not belong just to this individual or that, or to this movement or that. Rather, it belongs to the entire Jewish people till the end of time.
Before the Sinai Revelation, the Jewish people repented, abandoning their divisiveness and uniting, as it says, “They had departed from Rephidim and had arrived in the Sinai Desert, camping in the wilderness. Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Rashi comments, “As one man, with one heart.” From their receiving of the Torah, about 3000 years ago, until today, the Jewish people have never ceased to learn, teach, and fulfill our holy Torah. The Torah is a book of life. As it says, “It is a tree of life for those who take hold of it” (Proverbs 3:18).
Today, our generation, the generation of the rebirth and of ingathering of the exiles, is facing spiritual, social and political crises, as we sense today. The means of rectifying this complex situation is to foment a change in culture and education, and to establish Torah learning as a national value of the first order. All Jewish children, and adults as well, should be learning Torah, as was the situation during the time of King Hezekiah, who passed a compulsory education law. If during the dark exile, Torah learning illuminated the Jewish souls, ensuring their survival, all the more so in the Land of Israel and State of Israel, that the Torah learning of myriad Jews should strengthen the spirit of the nation.
Our holy Torah belongs to the entire Jewish people, and to every individual Jew. We shall certainly be the living fulfillment of the blessing, “Our Father! Merciful Father! You, who are ever compassionate! Have pity on us and inspire us to understand and discern, to perceive, learn and teach, to observe, do and fulfill gladly all the teachings of Your Torah” (Blessings of the Shema).
With blessings for a joyous Shavuot holiday,
Looking forward to complete salvation.
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“He Looked for Justice, but Behold, Disease”
Question: In recent years, we bear witness to distorted rulings by the courts. How should we relate to those rulings and to the courts themselves?
Answer: The distorted rulings of the courts constitute isolated problems stemming from one general problem, namely, that the law practiced in our country is not Jewish law but foreign law. “He looked for justice, but behold disease [mispach]” (Isaiah 5:7). Hebrew “mispach” connotes a leprous skin disease, a bizarre, foreign blotch that develops on a person’s body. Each nation has its own law. The Romans had Roman law. The French had Napoleonic code. The British have British law and the Jews have Jewish law. The fact that we wander in foreign fields in the legal realm is a profanation of G-d’s name and an insult to our national honor. Our master, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook said:
“There are painful aspects to the State of Israel that involve a great profanation of G-d’s name. Especially noteworthy are two terrible troubles: the State’s legal system, which employs Roman, Ottoman and British law – and it may as well be Hottentot Law – whereas real Jewish law from the Choshen Mishpat is not authorized nor agreed to” (LeNetivot Olam 1:160)
Are laws that people made up out of their own heads more precious than an entire Torah which we received from Heaven, and which has grown more and more within the Jewish people throughout the generations? Our great master Rambam writes:
“Whoever avails himself of the law of the nations in a court case, even if their laws are the same as Jewish law, is an evildoer, and it is as though he has blasphemed and raised a hand against the Torah of Moses. As it says, ‘These are the laws that you shall place before them’ (Exodus 21:1): Before them, and not before the nations, before them, and not before layman.” (Hilchot Sanhedrin 26:7). It is precisely Torah law that we must use, and not laws that the nations invented out of their heads, or that the Jews learned from the nations.
“Even if their laws are the same as Jewish law!” If the laws are not identical then whichever side receives more money than they deserve is guilty of theft. Yet it is still forbidden even if the law is identical. Why is this the case? Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook explains that the inner working of the law is different. There can be two philosophies of law:
“The first is based on miserliness, the belief that no one else should benefit from what is mine or touch what is mine, based on my belief that I am immeasurably more important than anyone else.” All these laws “imbibe from an evil source” (Erpalei Tohar 43). Truthfully, in this approach, “Man is a wolf to man”, as Hobbes said. Life is war of the one against everyone else, and law is nothing but a system of concessions and demands that ultimately serve the welfare of the individual. This is the utilitarian ethic of the British utilitarian philosophers, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Smith and Mille, or the “social contract” of the French philosopher Rousseau.
Alternatively, “There is a law that stems from a recognition that it is forbidden to do injustice, and that one who does injustice should be punished so that this positive recognition should be strengthened.” This is the “divine source” approach to law. “All divine justice has no connection to evil, for all of it derives from a positive source of truth and uprightness per se.” That “coarse selfishness upon which the political society of mankind is built” imbibes from “the source of wickedness”. Its form of justice comes… “from wickedness and miserliness against one’s fellow man who is not the owner of the same property.” This approach “cannot purify the filth” of the soul. The purpose of the laws of Israel is “to increase the illumination from G-d, which demands the foundation of the law from its positive source.” (Erpalei Tohar, ibid.)
Obviously, after the establishment of the State, it was impossible in one day to close down all the courts operating on the foundation of non-Jewish law, lest the Land be filled with anarchy and violence. A long period was needed before Israel’s judges could master Chosen Mishpat. Therefore, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook suggested an introductory clause to be included in a constitution, stating, “The Knesset recognizes Torah law, and wants it to be the law in practice in Israel, but, until the laws can be worded in a manner understandable to all, temporary laws and statues will be enacted.”
Unfortunately, this approach has yet to be adopted. This, too, is part of the suffering that we are undergoing on the way to redemption. Redemption proceeds bit by bit, and includes periods of light and darkness, matter and spirit. We have overcome greater problems in our history and we shall overcome now as well. We only need patience and faith.
Therefore, turn to the Rabbinic court where you live, which also serves as a monetary court, or to “Gazit”, the Organization of Rabbinic Courts for Monetary Matters, at 077-2158215; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Internet: www.gazit.org.il
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“The Lessons of the Desert Stories”
The Torah is replete with mitzvoth that are eternal, and were written for all times. It also contains stories, and the question is whether they describe a situation that only occurred in the past, or also contain a lesson for the future. Regarding the stories of Creation, Rashi brings the exposition of Rabbi Yitzchak, who explains that the stories were recorded in order to provide an answer to the arguments of the nations against our right to the Land of Israel. Regarding the entire book of Genesis our sages said, “Our ancestors’ deeds presage our own.” The stories about the Patriarchs were written not just to describe their own times, but teach us how to lead our lives in the future.
The same applies regarding the book of Exodus, which according to Ramban is “the book of the exile and the deliverance from it”. In this regard, the prophet Micah said (7:16), “As in the days of your coming forth out of Egypt, I will show him marvelous things.” This serves to teach us that everything that happened to our ancestors during the redemption from Egypt will repeat itself in the future redemption.
Following the Exodus, our ancestors trekked through the desert. Did those desert stories just serve to describe past events, or do they also have something to say to future generations. Morover, if they do, what can we learn from them about our future lives? In the covenant between the pieces, G-d sketched out the route from Exile to redemption as it says:
“Your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years. They will be enslaved and oppressed. But I will finally bring judgment against the nation who enslaves them…. The fourth generation will return here” (Genesis 15:13-16).
This route of exodus from the exile and entrance into the Land repeats itself also with G-d’s revealing Himself to Moses at the burning bush. There, G-d outlines the route of Israel’s redemption, as it says:
“I shall come down to rescue them from Egypt’s power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites” (Exodus 3:8). Israel’s desert sojourn occurred between these two events. What can we learn from the stories of the desert?
The interim period between the Exodus and our entry into the Land was supposed to last just a short time, yet it lasted for 40 years. The stories that happened during this period teach us that the redemption process from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael was no bed of roses. There were unrelenting attempts made to disrupt or delay this process, from two directions: one was from the nations of the world, and the second was from parts of the Jewish people. Already in the first week that we left Egypt, Pharaoh regretted releasing Israel and he said, “What have we done? How could we have released Israel from doing our work?” (Exodus 14:5). With his army’ he tried to return Israel to Egypt. The attempt did not succeed, and in the end they drowned in the sea.
After Egypt came Amalek, unprovoked, to fight against Israel, and they too were ultimately smitten by the sword. That is how it was at the beginning of their trek, and at the end as well. Near their entry into the land, Sichon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan tried to fight Israel, and they too were smitten and defeated. To these must be added the attempt by Balak and Bilaam to curse Israel and to expel them from the Land. That attempt, as well, failed.
Paralleling the attempt to harm Israel from without, we see that also from within the Jewish people attempts were made to jeopardize the redemption process, even within the Israelite camp. Not everything went smoothly. From time to time, there arose amongst the Jewish people impatient grumblers who worked to disrupt the redemption process. Already in the travels in the desert we see an interesting phenomenon: The attempt of the nations to liquidate Israel does not succeed, whereas attempts from within, even if they lack the power to nullify the redemption process, still are able to delay and disrupt the process.
The most outstanding example of this is the sin of the spies. Had Israel not expressed abhorrence for, and slandered, the delightful land, they would have entered the Land in a short time. Now, by not wishing to enter the land, not only did they hold up the redemption by forty years, but they were punished that the generation that left Egypt would not enter the land at all.
From the stories of the desert we learn that the attempts by the nations of the world to postpone or disrupt the redemption process are less dangerous than the obstacles and disturbances coming from within. The latter, after all, succeeded in obstructing and delaying the redemption process. This lesson is not just for that generation but for all time.
The same phenomenon repeats itself during the Second Temple period. It wasn’t the external threat from Haman nor from Antiochus which led to the Temple’s destruction. Quite the contrary, those stories ended in great salvation for Israel. It was the groundless hatred within the Israelite camp that ultimately led to the loss of sovereignty, the Temple’s destruction and Israel’s exile from their Land.
This lesson of the desert stories repeats itself in our own day as well. Here as well, since Israel’s return to their land, attempts by the nations to destroy the Jewish population of the Land of Israel have never ceased. This includes the riots during the pre-state period, the ‘48 war, when the State was established, all the other wars, and the terror since the Six Day War. All of those wars, thanks to G-d’s kindness and to the self-sacrifice of our soldiers, ended in our enemies’ defeat. If, since then, there has been an erosion in the redemption process, it is the fruit of the deeds of the weak-minded, impatient people in our midst. Thus, the lessons of the stories of the desert are lessons for our own times as well: that the true danger posed to the continuation of our redemption process is more from the effete and estranged people in our midst than from those on the outside who seek to harm us, as it says, “Your destroyers and they that lay you waste shall go forth from you” (Isaiah 49:17).
To our dear friend Mrs. Esther (Frances) Arnhem and the entire family
We share in your mourning on the passing of your dear father, grandfather, and great grandfather
R’ Chaim Katz z’l
Who was laid to rest in Bet Shemesh, Israel
On Friday the 16th of Iyar
May you be comforted amongst all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem
Rabbi Dov Bigon & the Staff of Machon Meir