From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “Those who truly love and fear G-d, …when they face trials, suffering great pain and insult from every direction, must stand ready against all those forces that would destroy G-d’s inheritance and cause a rift in the nation that is united and one in all worlds”
(Erpalei Tohar 102)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Guard Your Tongue From Evil”
At the end of morning prayers it is customary to recall several of the most important episodes from Jewish history, and their ramifications for our own day. Examples include the Exodus, the Sinai revelation, Amalek’s attack with intent to destroy us, and the duty to wipe out their memory. We also recall how we angered G-d in the desert with the sin of the Golden Calf, the sin of the spies, etc.
Standing in a class of its own is the following: “Remember what Hashem your G-d did to Miriam on your way out of Egypt” (Numbers 24:9). Seemingly, Miriam’s sin was a private matter. When all is said and done, she spoke evil about her brother Moses, and all within the family. Even so, for thousands of years we have been commanded to remember that sin and its punishment, as it says, “Miriam was white with leprosy… She was quarantined outside the camp for seven days” (Numbers 12:10). The Torah is seeking to teach us how severe is the sin of Lashon Hara, evil speech. It matters not whether the people speaking it are important leaders of Israel, such as Miriam the Prophetess.
It likewise teaches us that most Lashon Hara is spoken within the family, brother to brother, spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to parent, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law and vice versa, etc. And just as Miriam was punished despite her status and prominence, and despite her having spoken it within the family, we, too, must take into account the great, profound punishment for speaking Lashon Hara, about ourselves, our families or about the Jewish People. Every Jew must remember these things all the time, everywhere. We therefore daily recall what happened to Miriam – to learn a lesson and to purify our hearts and our speech.
Today, we are privileged that in our generation G-d planted a beneficent, luminary soul in our midst, that of Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen, who, amongst his other writings, rewarded Israel with his well known book, “Chafetz Chaim” with its halachic and homiletic expositions on guarding the tongue. Whoever learns and strives to guard his tongue in accordance with what is written in that book, purifying his thoughts and rectifying his speech, will find his quality of life improved, in the realm of his personal life, his family, society and nation. Fortunate is he who establishes fixed times to study these laws. He will be the living fulfillment of the words of the sweet singer of Israel, King David:
“Come, children, hearken to me. I will teach you the fear of the L-rd. Who is the man who desires life, and loves days, that he may see good therein? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:12-15)
Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Drafting Girls is Absolutely Forbidden!”
In 1960, eleventh graders from Shevet “Chalutzim” of Bnei Akiva, approached a number of great Torah luminaries regarding the question of girls being drafted into the Israeli army.
The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, HaGaon Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank told them that halachically speaking, girls were forbidden to enlist, hence they were obligated to choose the religious exemption. They asked him, “And what if the required declaration is not made sincerely, for example, when it is the result of parental pressure? After all, the formula requires one to declare that one is seeking the exemption ‘for reasons of religion and conscience’. Seemingly in some cases this would be a false declaration.” HaGaon Rav Frank answered, “One is allowed to make the declaration, and it is even a mitzvah, in fulfillment of ‘Honor your father and your mother’, especially considering that it is for her own good.”
Our master Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook answered the same way, adding, “When her father pressures her, he is simply guiding her in the halachic path. The girl is not steeped in Talmud and halachic sources, and she does not know all the various laws regarding going to the army. Rather, she just has a passion for enlisting. It is therefore a mitzvah for her to heed her parents’ voice, and her declaration will be the truth, both in terms of the word ‘religion’ and in terms of the word ‘conscience’.”
When they asked HaGaon Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, he told them to look in his book, “Le’or Hahalachah”, which states that women are forbidden to take part in war (page 27). He added, “Our military circles have done research and concluded that drafting girls does not bring any tangible benefit. As far as the work and assistance that the female soldiers do provide, it would be provided more efficiently, and with a much smaller budget, by salaried civilian clerks.”
They asked him, “What about girls making an insincere declaration, based on self-interest?” and he answered, “If the girl is truly religious, she can make the declaration, even though she is making it for other reasons as well.”
By the way, it was Rabbi Dr. Zerach Warhaftig who insisted that to the expression “for reasons of religion” be added the words “and conscience”, which leaves an opening to irreligious girls as well.
After they heard what the great rabbis had said, the young people concluded that it was forbidden for girls to enlist, and in the Movement’s magazine they addressed all girls asking that they declare their desire for an exemption, and hopefully sincerely. They added that by doing so, the girls would be helping themselves and the country. (“Halutzim” Magazine, No. 3, 1960).
Our master Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook further said, “Drafting girls involves a risk that they will decline spiritually. Some say a girl can’t be in the army without declining. Others say she can, in fact, and it depends on the girl. Presumably, some will be affected more than others, but generally speaking, spiritual deterioration does occur.”
Yet it is obvious that where modesty is concerned, a person’s spiritual rise or fall is not to be assessed by what the person himself imagines, but by the guidelines laid down by G-d and by our sages. Rav Tzvi Yehuda therefore wrote that girls should apply to “the National Service alternative, taking into account our sages’ fear and reverence as far as avoiding immodesty, as described and depicted at the end of Masechet Kiddushin” (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, “Ish VeIsha, page 44; quoted in the book “Bat Melech”).
He therefore declared, “Someone who really wants to know, has to ask ‘the priest officiating at that time’ (Deuteronomy 26:3), the Chief Rabbis of Israel, who are likewise familiar with all of these deliberations, and who also possess divine assistance in their decision making. Therefore, one must rely on them in every matter” (ibid., page 43).
Indeed, at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, Israel’s Chief Rabbis ruled (1951): “Drafting women in a military framework, in any form whatsoever, is absolutely forbidden!”
Certainly fighting compulsory wars is a great mitzvah, but as is well-known, we don’t do a mitzvah by way of a sin. A mitzvah that comes about by way of a sin is itself a sin. National Service positions authorized by rabbis are a great mitzvah, involving no sin. Even if it is less exciting, that doesn’t matter. It often happens that the evil impulse is more exciting than the good impulse, but the good impulse is holy.
Moreover, a girl who does not go to the army, strengthens the army, for thanks to her action, G-d is with us in the army camp. “The L-rd your G-d makes His presence known in your camp, so as to deliver you and grant you victory over your enemy. Your camp must therefore be holy. Let Him not see anything lascivious among you, and turn away from you” (Deuteronomy 23:15). It’s our choice who we want in the army: girls or the Master of the Universe.
Therefore, there were no girls in the army of Moses nor in the army of Joshua, nor in the army of Saul or of David, nor in the army of the Hasmoneans or of Bar-Kochba.
Precious Jewish daughter! Be strong and courageous! Remember: National Service is the right path. That is the true way to serve the nation.
Rabbi Uri Sharki– Lecturer at Machon Meir
“G-d’s Goals for Israel – both Nationalistic and Spiritual”
Moses presented himself before the Israelites as having been sent by G-d to fulfill G-d’s promise to the Patriarchs to bring them to Eretz Yisrael to inherit it. When Moses fulfilled the first part of the promise, smiting Egypt and splitting the sea, Israel believed in him: “They believed in G-d and in Moses His servant” (Exodus 14:31). They understood that he was really the one about whom it had been said, “G-d will grant you special providence” (Exodus 13:19).
Accordingly, their stay at Mount Sinai was perceived simply as a way-station on the way to Eretz Yisrael, and not as preparation for receiving the Torah, regarding which they had no oral tradition from their ancestors. G-d’s announcement, “When you take the people out of Egypt, you shall serve the L-rd on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12) had been given to Moses, alone, whereas to the people G-d had promised, “I shall bring you to the Land” (Exodus 6:8).
Likewise, the announcement, “So shall you say to the House of Jacob… You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), expressing a religious-universal role for the Jewish nation was an unexpected surprise for Israel. It required that they engage in renewed clarification in order to examine Moses’s reliability in relation to this mission, which “hadn’t been included in the plan.”
It is therefore no surprise that the people responded with incredulity, saying, “Everything G-d said, we shall do” (Exodus 19:8). In other words, “we will do what G-d promised our ancestors, not what you are saying to us now.” Rashi comments: “One who hears from the king’s emissary is not like one who heard from the king himself. We want to see our king!” (see precisely the same interpretation in Rambam’s Yesodei HaTorah 8:1; and in Kuzari 1:49).
In order to remove the doubts from the people’s hearts, a direct, public revelation was required: “I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that all the people will hear when I speak to you. They will then believe in you forever” (Exodus 19:9). The content of that revelation was: “I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of the Land of Egypt and the House of Bondage” (Exodus 20:2). Seemingly we cannot understand how this sentence serves to verify Moses’s role as emissary in giving the Torah. Rashi therefore explains, “On the sea G-d had been revealed as the Hero of the war, and here, as a merciful Elder.” In other words, at the splitting of the sea, G-d evinced that He possessed nationalistic goals, and here at Sinai, He was like the head of a yeshiva, teaching Torah. Rashi adds, “Don’t say there are many deities.” We mustn’t think that the nationalistic purpose for which G-d sent Moses was different from the Torah-related goal. Rather, as Rashi concludes, G-d said, “It is I who was revealed both in Egypt and on the sea.”
What emerges is that the Sinai Revelation served chiefly to clarify the intrinsic connection between the Torah and the conquest of the Land.