From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “The person who suffers constantly for his sins and the sins of the world must constantly forgive himself and the entire world. By doing so, he draws forgiveness, light and kindness upon the entire universe, bringing joy to both G-d and man…”
(Erpalei Tohar 53)
(This weeks parasha is dedicated in loving memory of R’ Yosef Ben Asher Zelig Dickman z’l)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“One should love his fellow man and bring him near to Torah”
It’s a mitzvah for the kohanim to “lovingly to bless the Jewish People”, as it says:
“God spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: ‘This is how you must bless the Israelites. Say to them…’”
“The blessings has to be in a loud voice so that everyone hears it, and it has to be recited with full concentration and wholeheartedly” (ibid., Rashi).
Sefer HaChinuch (378) comments:
“The reasoning behind the mitzvah is that G-d, in His great goodness, wishes to bless His people by way of the kohanim… And through the merit of those kohanim, a blessing applies to G-d’s people, all their deeds are blessed, and G-d’s pleasantness rests upon them…. G-d chose us from all peoples and He wanted us to merit His goodness. He admonished and commanded us to hallow our bodies and perfect our deeds through His mitzvoth, thereby rendering ourselves worthy of His bounty. In His great goodness, He also commanded us to seek blessing of Him, and to ask for it by way of the kohanim, His pristine servants. All this will bring merit to our souls, and we will thereby merit G-d’s bounty.”
Today, our generation, the generation of redemption, is in great need of the priestly trait of increasing love, as Hillel the Elder said: “Be amongst the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing it, loving your fellow man and bringing him nearer to the Torah” (Avot 1:12). Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook would teach that “loving your fellow man” does not mean only loving Torah scholars or only loving Jews. Rather, it should be taken at face value, that we must love all mankind. He would bring proof of this from Ravi Chaim Vital’s work “Sha’arei Kedusha”, that we must love every person even if he isn’t Jewish, for someone who loves the Creator must truly love His creations as well.
This love has to be one that is not dependent on anything. In other words, we mustn’t love our fellowman on condition that he comes closer to Torah. Rav Tzvi Yehuda would deduce from the fact that it says, “loving your fellow man AND bringing him nearer to the Torah,” rather than “loving your fellow man IN ORDER TO bring him nearer to the Torah.” Loving your fellow man is a mitzvah in and of itself, and so is bringing your fellow man closer to Torah.
There were two “kohanim gedolim” [high priests], who followed in the path of Aaron, the High Priest, bestowing their benevolent spirit on their own generation and on ours. One was Rav Yisrael Meir HaKohen, zt”l, the “Chafetz Chaim”, whose nom de plum came from Psalm 34:13: “Who is the man who desires life [chafetz chaim] and loves days, that he may see good therein? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile.”
The second was Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, zt”l, whose enormous love for G-d, His People, Torah and land spreads a beacon of love and faith on our generation and on generations to come, until the arrival of our righteous Messiah, speedily in our day, Amen.
Looking forward to complete salvation, and to G-d’s loving, tripartite blessing.
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Ode to the Israeli Officer”
Question: I am an officer in the Israeli army but I am hesitating about whether or not to sign up for a term in the regular standing army. I sacrifice myself for others, but what do I get in return? Slaps in the face! The first was: “Go expel Jews from their homes in Israel!” The second was: “You lost in Lebanon!” I am attacked in the press: “You’re responsible for everything that happened. You failed.”
Whatever I do, I’m no good. Whether I expel Jews or not, I suffer. Whether I fight this way or that, I suffer. You know what? I’m going home to my wife and children, whom I miss. I can’t live without them! Everybody else, make due without me! Good-bye.
Answer. Buddy, you’re insulted? Of course you are, and you have a perfect right to be. All the same, the army doesn’t stop or start in accordance with your personal plans, but in accordance with the needs of the Jewish People. After all, you’re a fighter, so I ask you: Will there be a war or not? There will be! So who will fight? People who chase after money and honor, or you, who possess devotion?
Let me ask you something else. We waged the last war in enemy territory and we chose whether to go in there or not. Is it possible that in the next war we won’t have that luxury? It’s possible! So do we need officers with motivation, with ideals, or don’t we?
You’re insulted? So let me ask you again: Who knows better whether you’re worth something or not? You, or the media? You! You know that you’re an excellent soldier, an excellent officer, so why are you letting the media get you all upset? Being insulted is a luxury we can’t allow ourselves in these times.
After all, during the last Lebanese War, there was no clear, well-defined mission. The political echelon hesitated, muzzled you and pushed you into a pointless battle, pointless wounded, and pointless criticism. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to define victory. That is an obvious problem.
So I am telling you that you are excellent. I am telling you that within all of this military chaos, you won. General De Gaul said, after the Nazis conquered France, “We lost the battle but we haven’t lost the war.” And I say to you, “You didn’t lose the battle either, but you certainly won the war.”
Because I am afraid that in the future as well there will be military messes such as this one. So pal, it’s good that you went through this schooling. You had a chance to grow and to ascend, and you did it. In the future we will need officers like you with a strong, majestic spirit.
You are doing a great mitzvah. You are defending the people. You are defending the Land. You are defending the glory of the Jewish State. If our country has something that’s first rate – it’s you.
Dear Rav Aviner,
Thank G-d, in another several weeks I am switching my status from that widow to wife, after a number of years of widowhood.
I would like to cry out in the name of all the widows who live in Jewish communities that pride themselves on showing kindness to those around them. I would be grateful to you if you could publicize this letter in your weekly column, in the hope that perhaps a few people will wake up and pay attention to the divine commandment: “Do not mistreat a widow or an orphan” (Leviticus 22:21).
Very unfortunately, the number of widows amongst our public is on the rise due to wars, traffic accidents and illness. In recent years there are many young widows, mothers of children of all ages, and we fear that the public does not know what to make of us. On the one hand, thank G-d, we support ourselves. We give to others. Our children look good, are clean and neat; our homes are well-organized, and society sees us and is impressed. “How do you manage so well?” people ask. On the other hand, on Friday nights we sit, make kiddush, weep, and not a single neighbor comes in say, “Shabbat Shalom! How are you doing? How was your week?”
When do people remember that we exist? When a neighbor needs bread, milk, eggs, then she knows how to knock on our door, but she usually won’t ask, “How are things going? Do you need help?”
We have children of various ages who are going through school without the guiding hand of a man, without someone to learn Tanach [Bible] or Gemara with them. Why can’t the community arrange for someone to learn with them, to show them where the chazzan is in davening? When they reach the critical teenage years when the guiding hand of a male is needed and they don’t have it, they start trying to find themselves. They grow their hair long, or they smoke, and society makes remarks like, “What’s with you? Look how you look!” Then they say things like, “It’s no wonder! He has no father!”
I call upon every man and woman in every community to pay attention to the family living across the way. Ask yourselves: Can you invite them for a meal? Can you help the mother at bedtime? Do you have any idea what happens to such a family at holiday time? During vacations? Does anyone ever invite them to make a joint excursion, to take a trip together, or just for a meal? I feel that our public does great and lofty things vis-à-vis the outside world. We run to conquer one more hill and one more outpost. We go back to Chomesh (not to make light of this – Eretz Yisrael is very important to me as well). Yet what about “the poor of your own city come first?”
Why on the inside of our communities is it so hard for us to do kind deeds? Why must we look for the poor person from the city nearby and not relate to the orphan across the street?
Everything written here is written with a lot of tears after long talks with other widows in all sorts of places, religious neighborhoods in the city, settlements in Judea and Samaria, etc.
Obviously, in every community, in every society, there are exceptional people who know how to share a smile, to lend a hand, yet unfortunately there could be more!
I pray that when I am married once more, I won’t forget my widowed friends, and I will remember where I came from.
In hope of better days,
Rabbi Yaakov Halevy Filber– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“His Inadvertent Sin against the Spirit”
There is a major debate between our sages down through the generations regarding the proper attitude to asceticism, in general, and to nezirut [the condition of being a “nazirite” (Numbers 6) in particular. This debate begins with the beraita quoted in Ta’anit 11a):
“Rabbi Eliezer HaKapar son of Rebbe [Rabbi Yehuda the Exilarch] said: What do we learn from Numbers 6:11: ‘He shall atone for inadvertently sinning against the spirit.’ How did he ‘sin against the spirit’? His sin was depriving himself of wine. It stands to reason that if someone only deprives himself of wine he is called a sinner, he is certainly called a sinner if he deprives himself of all good things.
“Rabbi Elazar said: He is called holy, as it says, ‘He is holy. The hair on his head remains uncut’ (Numbers 6:5). He is called holy and he only deprived himself of one thing. All the more so that someone is holy if he deprives himself of all things.”
According to one view, the Nazirite is called “holy”, and according to the other view he is called a “sinner”. Rabbi Elazar, himself, who holds that the Nazirite is called “holy”, does not say this in every situation. Rather, he distinguishes between a situation in which “he might be hurting himself” and one in which “he won’t be hurting himself”. In other words, if fasting causes him harm and disrupts his worship of G-d and his mitzvah observance, then he is forbidden to fast, as well as to be a Nazirite. Yet if it doesn’t hurt or disturb him, then the Nazirite, and even the faster, is called “holy”. Rabbi Elazar HaKapar differs with this and holds that whoever fasts is called a sinner.
In order to understand this matter more deeply, we must distinguish between different approaches to fasting. There are two approaches to the world and to life – one optimistic and one pessimistic. The pessimistic approach argues that the world is evil, and that the man who lives in it is inherently evil. According to this outlook, the pleasures of the world are intrinsically illegitimate, and a person’s desire to enjoy life is intrinsically illegitimate – nothing but an expression of coarse egotism.
The opposite view is the optimistic outlook, which states that G-d’s world is intrinsically good. “G-d saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Even man, who was created in G-d’s image, is intrinsically good. Hence there is no doctrinaire blemish in a person’s wishing to enjoy his life. True, there is evil in the world, “the inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21), and sometimes “it is worthwhile to fast in order to weaken the force of evil within matter” (Rav Kook, Orot HaTeshuvah, Chapter 13). Yet this is the exception and not the rule. Asceticism that derives from self-hatred has no place.
Conversely, there is room for fasting only when it fills a person with satisfaction and contentment, through the exaltation of the spirit felt at that moment. This is the approach of Rabbi Elazar HaKapar, son of Rebbe, who examines the case from a philosophical standpoint.
By contrast, Rabbi Elazar relates to the case from the practical standpoint: Will fasting, or nezirut, ultimately bring benefit, or does it do more harm than good? This depends on an individual’s situation at a given moment.
The commentaries deal with the same question. Some say that the phrase “He shall atone for inadvertently sinning against the spirit” relates to a Nazirite who has inadvertently come in contact with the dead, thus being contaminated. In their view, the Nazirite’s sin derives from his not being careful enough to avoid the impurity of contact with the dead, or that his merit was insufficient to save all those close to him from death. Others explain that the need for atonement even for contamination that is not the Nazirite’s fault at all attests to the fact that the offering is not being brought in response to the impurity, but in response to the nezirut that preceded it. In response to this view the question immediately arises: If the atonement is called for over the nezirut itself, why is it required only of the Nazirite who becomes impure? The Netziv, Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin responds:
“It is worthwhile for the Nazirite to deny himself the physical pleasure in order to attain the spiritual pleasure of clinging to G-d. Yet if such a mishap occurred to a Nazirite, it is a sign that he was unworthy of nezirut. It follows that he deprived himself of wine for nothing, seeking something beyond his worth.”
Fasting and nezirut that lead one to exaltation of the spirit, filling his life with joy, are positive, and whoever engages in such practices is called “holy”. Yet asceticism that derives from self-hatred is very evil. Rabbi David Kohen, “the Nazir”, made this point in one of the notes he wrote to himself at the end of the Holocaust:
“[The wrong ascetism] constitutes cruel morality. It can begin altruistically, with self-deprevation, but in the end, it will consistently lead to his mistreating others, showing them no mercy or kindness. He will neither be good nor benevolent to others. If one doesn’t enjoy, he can’t give joy to others. Goodness requires pleasure, joy, contentment, both for oneself, and for the entire world.”
If someone practices nezirut out of a love for himself and his Creator, his nezirut will bring him to greater love of his fellow man. Yet whoever treats himself cruelly will ultimately treat others cruelly.
To our dear friend Professor Moshe Dickman and the entire family
We share in your sorrow and mourning on the passing of your beloved father, grandfather and great grandfather
R’ Yosef ben Asher Zelig Dickman z’l
May you be comforted together with the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem
Rabbi Dov Begon and the staff at Machon Meir