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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “The cause of the exile and lowliness so rampant is that we Jews do not proclaim the value and wisdom of Eretz Yisrael. We do not rectify the sin of the spies, who libeled the Land. The appropriate improvement would be to announce throughout the entire world the glory and majesty, holiness and splendor of Eretz Yisrael…”

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

“We Must Go Forth and Occupy the Land. We Can Do It!”

At first, the spies were important people, as it says, “All the men were leaders of the Israelites” (Numbers 13:3). Yet when Moses sent them to spy out the Land, they were transformed, as it says, “They departed and they came back” (13:26) – just as their arrival had been with bad intentions, so too, their departure (Rashi). From men who were supposed to exude a lofty spirit and strong faith in our right to Eretz Yisrael and our ability to conquer it, they became another type of people, people who only see the negative, libelers of Eretz Yisrael:

‘We cannot go forward against those people!’ replied the men who had gone with him. ‘They are too strong for us!’ They began to speak badly about the land that they had explored. They told the Israelites, ‘The land that we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants. All the men we saw there were huge! While we were there, we saw the titans. They were sons of the giant, who descended from the original titans. We felt like tiny grasshoppers! That’s all that we were in their eyes.” (13:31-33).

Only Joshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefune were steeped in faith and trust in G-d, and although they were in the minority, they ultimately succeeded in leading the Jewish People to the conquest of the Land and its settlement.
The spies “changed their skins,” altering their views as far as Eretz Yisrael. Rather than strengthening and encouraging the people, they frightened and demoralized them. Just so, in our own day, some of our prime ministers who have taken up the reins of leadership, have changed, altering their political world view despite their having been elected on the basis of their promise to the voters that they would be faithful to Eretz Yisrael and to settling every part of it.

When they were asked for an explanation of their extreme turnaround, they would answer, “What you see from here you don’t see from there.” Yet actually that is just an excuse. They followed the path of the spies, whose faith in our right to Eretz Yisrael and in our ability to rule over it and to settle all of it dwindled to nothing.

This weakness stems from a lack of faith, a lack of spirit, and from moral deterioration. These in turn derive from their having distanced themselves from Jewish tradition, and their having never imbibed from our Jewish sources. It is from those sources that from time immemorial we have drawn our faith and trust in the Eternal One of Israel, and in our right to all of Eretz Yisrael. We believe in G-d’s having a goal of fulfilling the destiny of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael, towards the enlightenment and betterment of all mankind.

Our leaders suffer a lack of self-confidence, and an inability to provide security to the citizens of our country. They hesitate, agonize and zigzag, and the price is paid by our country’s citizens. We saw this both with the recent Lebanese war, and daily in Sderot and the adjoining settlements.

The call of the hour is to change the leadership of our beloved country, to elect leaders full of faith and trust in G-d, people with a vision and great, benevolent spirit. We need people of integrity who set an example by their own lives. We need brave people, who are truly faithful to the people, Torah and land of Israel, such as Joshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefune.

By such means, we will see the speedy fulfillment of Calev’s words: “We must go forth and occupy the land. We can do it!” (Numbers 13:30). Amen.
Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom


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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Don’t Make G-d Angry”

Don’t make G-d angry! What angers him the most is lashon hara, evil speech. How do we know this? Because as a result of this the Second Temple was destroyed and we were banished from our land (groundless hatred is lashon hara, as Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan proved in the preface to his work “Chafetz Chaim”).

After all, everyone has faults, and one can always find something negative to say about a person. Therefore, please, don’t disparage anyone. Use your flair for criticism on yourself, not as part of “the committee for finding faults in others.”

Even in ancient Rome, whoever spoke evil gossip was punished with expulsion and forced labor – not because they were concerned about keeping their speech holy and pure, but because they understood that it destroys society.
And all this applies even if you are speaking the truth. If it is not the truth, it’s called “hotza’at shem ra”, libel, which is even more severe. Therefore, you should accustom yourself to a blessed, scientific practice: Do not accept anything as true before first checking it out totally.

Flee! Flee from lashon hara! In order to free someone from Rabbenu Gershom’s ban on bigamy, one needs “permission from a hundred rabbis.” Run away from loopholes allowing one to speak lashon hara in certain circumstances. Run away from a hundred avenues allowing it in order to avoid the one avenue forbidding it.

Don’t listen to lashon hara. If you accidentally hear it, don’t believe it. The Chafetz Chaim wrote: “How can you believe someone who violates the laws of lashon hara while hurting the person who is presumed reputable?” (Shemirat HaLashon, Sha’ar HaZechirah, Chapter 12).

Don’t say: “I have to speak it and to spread it in order to save the world, the nation, the country, the Torah.” Don’t presume to improve things by means of a way that angers G-d. Use your power of speech for the good. By such means you will bring your Creator joy.

Those interested in additional articles by the above author will find them at

Prayer for Guarding the Tongue
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Based on the Chafetz Chaim’s Prayer
(from “Chovat HaShemirah”)

Master of the Universe! May it be Your will, O merciful, kind G-d, to enable me today, and every day, to guard my tongue and lips from evil speech and gossip.
Let me avoid speaking even about individuals, let alone about all or part of the Jewish People. Let me avoid speaking words of falsehood, flattery, divisiveness, anger, arrogance, abuse, insult, irreverence, meaningless chatter, or any other negative speech, and may all my speech be for the sake of heaven.
Please, merciful G-d, enable me today and every day to guard my ears and eyes from reading or hearing things contrary to Your will – evil speech and gossip, divisive or worthless speech, or any other forbidden speech.
As far as all the things that I heard or read, contrary to your will, help me so that I forget them. Help me that even unintentionally or accidentally I won’t hear or read anything inappropriate. And may my ears and eyes be sanctified, not to hear or see anything but what is good.

Rabbi Azriel ArielGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir

“I Will Grant Forgiveness as you Requested”

Israel sinned. Moses stood and entreated G-d: “With Your great love, forgive the sin of this nation” (Numbers 14:19), and G-d, indeed, answered his request: “Hashem said, ‘I will grant forgiveness [salachti] as you requested” (verse 20). Yet before even one more verse goes by, just the opposite occurs.
“But as I live, and as God’s glory fills all the world, all the people… who tried to test Me these ten times by not obeying Me, will therefore not see the land that I swore to their ancestors. All those who blasphemed against Me will not see it.” (verses 21-23).

We read this and we are puzzled. If G-d forgave His people, why does He immediately announce their receiving a severe punishment? Why does He call those whom He forgave by the sharp label “blasphemers”? [mena’atzai]. We have to say that the Hebrew word “selicha” refers to a kind of forgiveness that does not blot out the sin entirely. All it does is alleviate the severity of the punishment. Ibn Ezra, for example, offers such an interpretation:
“Once we find that G-d says that the ‘blasphemers’ will not see the land, when He has just said ‘salachti’ [I will grant forgiveness], we derive that the word ‘selicha’ only means ‘arichut af’, softening anger.”

In his view, even pushing off a punishment is called “selicha”. Ramban, as well follows in the same direction of “selicha” referring to G-d’s lightening up in His relationship to a sin, yet he explains in a slightly different manner:
‘Selicha’ involves the punishment being allayed… G-d said ‘I will grant forgiveness as you requested’ to the people in the aggregate, meaning that He would not smite them with a plague and annihilate them, making Moses a great nation… Rather, He would forgive them, such that their children would still inherit the Land, and would not die in a plague. Yet G-d decreed that the desert generation would die in the desert, each one on his appointed day.”

Thus, “selicha” only refers to alleviation of a punishment, and not to the absolute, immediate blotting out of a sin. According to this, the latter would be referred to, not as “selicha”, but as “mechila” [fuller forgiveness], “kapara” [atonement] or “tahara” [purification].

A different approach is that of Akeidat Yitzchak. In his view, “selicha” does indeed connote the total blotting out of sin. Here, however, was a special case, from two perspectives. The simple perspective is that Moses, himself, was not seeking total selicha but only partial selicha, which is called “nesiat avon” [the bearing of sin]. Moses knew that they had committed a terrible sin, hence he did not invoke all the thirteen attributes of G-d, mentioned to him on Mount Sinai. Rather he said, “God is slow to anger, great in love, and forgiving of sin and rebellion. He does not clear those who do not repent…” (14:18).

Therefore, although Moses did ask, “With Your great love, forgive the sin of this nation” (verse 19), he did not seek full forgiveness, but rather, “Just as You have born their sin from the time they left Egypt until now” (ibid.). The “bearing of sin” is partial forgiveness. G-d, as well, answered him in accordance with his request. He did not say, “I will grant forgiveness,” connoting full forgiveness, but “I will grant forgiveness as you have requested,” in the sense of partial forgiveness – just what Moses had requested. The Akeidat Yitzchak injects a deeper element as well:
“While G-d will grant total forgiveness to the Jewish People in the aggregate, in accordance with His love, as far as individual Jews he will only bear sin.”

Moses’s argument about the profanation of G-d’s name that could be expected if a severe punishment were meted out to the entire people was only sufficient to save the people. Yet he had no argument to ward off punishments to individual Jews, hence individuals were punished. Yet the matter was accomplished in a way that did not involve the annihilation of the entire people.

Rectification of a sin is a complex process. If G-d doesn’t forgive a sinner, He wants the sinner to undergo punishment. Yet that is not all. The relationship between G-d and the sinner is no longer as it was. G-d also wants the sin to oppress the sinner’s conscience. The type of forgiveness known as “selicha”, as we saw in the commentaries here, chiefly deals with the realm of foregoing the need for punishment. Yet that is not enough. Full rectification of a sin demands also that the relations be rectified. Here, as long as Israel were in the desert, they were the objects of G-d’s reproach. Those relations were rectified only with the death of the last of the desert generation. As far as the burden of the conscience, that remained even afterwards. Therefore, that night, the Ninth of Av, was established as an annual night of weeping, to this very day.

It is not enough for us to have “selicha”, nor enough to have “mechila” or even “kapara”. It is “tahara” [purification] that we need, total purification. That is what will rectify the sin of the spies and restore the Jewish People totally to their land, as Ezekiel prophesied:
“I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean…. On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. The land that was desolate shall be tilled, whereas it was a desolation in the sight of all that passed by.” (Ezekiel 36:24-25;33)

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