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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “In the footsteps of the Messiah, whoever connects himself, by way of the affinity of his heart, to the salvation of Israel, has the soul of a lofty saint. Such a person cannot be measured by the average scale….”

(Erpalei Tohar, 27)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today: “Abraham’s Generous Nature”

“Whoever possesses the following three qualities is of the disciples of our father Abraham; whoever possesses the opposite three qualities is of the disciples of the wicked Bilaam. Those in the former group possess a generous nature, a modest demeanor and a lowly spirit. Those in the latter group possess an evil eye, an immodest demeanor and a haughty spirit.” (Avot 5:19)

Among the distinguishing characteristics of Jews are a generous nature and mercy. As our sages said, “Whenever we see someone show mercy to his fellow man, we can know that he is descended from Abraham” (Beitza 32b).
Abraham was total kindness. He would show guests hospitality, adopt orphans and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even the wicked people of Sodom. His generous nature stemmed from his great love for G-d. If someone loves G-d, then we know that he will love his fellow man. By contrast, wicked Bilaam possessed an ungenerous nature.

Abraham was total blessing, as it says, “You shall be for a blessing… all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12). Bilaam, by contrast, was all curse. He knew the moment in which G-d is angry, and he took advantage of this for evil, to curse G-d’s creatures. Bilaam transformed a moment of anger into a reality that is all anger. Abraham, by contrast, recognized G-d’s goodness which is truly “divine kindness all day” (Psalm 54:3), and he recognized that “the world is built out of kindness” (ibid., 89:3). He followed in G-d’s pathways, as it says, “G-d is good to all, and His mercy is over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).

Today, how fortunate we are and how good our portion that we are among the descendants of Abraham. Abraham’s generous nature is our inheritance. It is our soul. G-d brought us to Eretz Yisrael, the land which was called “the good land” (Deuteronomy 3:25), the land in which goodness and G-d’s kindness are revealed by way of the Jewish People rising to rebirth after two thousand years of darkness in the exile. And if today there is a moment of G-d’s concealing His countenance, a moment of divine anger and wrath, we mustn’t make that moment last forever, G-d forbid, the way Bilaam did. Quite the contrary, we have to increase faith, love and patience. And by such means we will merit more and more to see a new light over Zion, and to see the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Abraham: “You shall be for a blessing. All the families of the land shall be blessed through you.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Sexual Immodesty Is Not For Us”

How fortunate we are that through G-d’s kindness we have returned to our land. We are going to stay here forever and ever, so we must make the effort to cease those sins that were the cause of our being exiled from our land and distanced from our soil.

Everyone knows that the First Temple was destroyed because of idolatry, “gilui arayot” and bloodshed (Yoma 9b). Yet not everyone knows what “gilui arayot” [literally: “revealing nakedness”] really entails. Indeed, this is not explicit in the Written Torah, but is only clarified in the Oral Torah.

The Talmud states: “The three cardinal sins include gilui arayot, as it says, ‘The L-rd said: “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet’ (Isaiah 3:16).” Yoma, ibid.). Thus, the Rabbis were not talking about explicit sexual sin, but about the immodesty of the daughters of Zion. That, too, is classed as gilui arayot. The Talmud continues:
‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty’: Tall girls would walk alongside short girls.” They did this to accentuate their height all the more.
‘And they walk with stretched-forth necks’: They walk arrogantly erect.”
‘And wanton eyes’: They would paint their eyes with blue mascara,” i.e., to make their eyes look big like a child’s.
‘Walking and mincing as they go’: They would walk toe to heel,’ i.e., taking small steps like a small child, to make an impression.
‘Making a tinkling with their feet’… They would bring myrrh and persimmon spice and place it on their shoes, and as they approached the Jewish boys they would kick the spices, splashing it on them, filling them with a passion like snake poison.” (Yoma 9b)

Pay heed! The issue is not clothing that is too short, but anything that draws attention, anything that draws a glance.
Yet how sophisticated the evil impulse of sexual sin is! How hard it toils to renew itself! It is a truly creative impulse.
One time it appears as a skirt that isn’t long, another time as a shirtsleeve above the elbow. One time it appears as sequined clothing, another time as too much make-up. One time it appears as an attractive wig, another time as a shirt unbuttoned at the top. The tricks of the evil impulse are without end.

The latest ruse of the evil impulse is tight clothing that clings to the body in a frightening, disgusting manner. This is no less severe than bare skin. (see Kuntres Malbushei Nashim by HaGaon HaRav Binyamin Zilber; and see Responsa Radbaz 770).

How awful are these impudent fashions, which torment the natural modesty of the soul. Fortunate is the modest person who preserves his eyes, restricting them from seeing this ugly, heinous garb.
And fortunate are the modest, humble Jewish girls who do not try to make an impression or to draw attention. Rather, all they want is to serve their Creator and to purify their people.

Rabbi Yoram EliyahuLecturer at Machon Meir
“Walk Modestly With Your G-d”

Three times Bilaam tries to curse Israel. Towards that end he musters all his talents and brilliance for wickedness, yet he discovers that G-d is not angry at that time, such that he must conclude, “What curse can I pronounce if G-d will not grant curse? What divine wrath can I conjure if G-d will not be angry?” (Numbers 23:8); and, G-d does not look at wrongdoing in Jacob, and He sees no vice in Israel” (verse 21). Quite the contrary, G-d turns Bilaam’s curse into a blessing. We were therefore commanded to remember G-d’s kindness, as the haftara that we shall read this Shabbat states: “O My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Bilaam the son of Beor answered him; from Shittim unto Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the L-rd” (Michah 6:5). In the Sephardic liturgy, this remembering is brought as one of ten things that we must remember each day.

Yet at the end of our parasha all of this merit does not prove sufficient, and Bilaam succeeds in hurting us terribly. 24,000 Israelites die because of Bilaam’s advice to Balak to make Israel sin by way of the daughters of Moab:
“Bilaam said to Balak, ‘The G-d of these hates sexual sin. Bring your daughters to make them sin and you will have control over them” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10:2).

From here we may derive how grave is sexual sin. All the merit that Israel had in those days, that led to G-d’s not being angry at them and to His seeing no vice, was cancelled out the moment Israel fell prey to sexual sin and promiscuity, and we suffered the most heinous punishment. That is why we were later on commanded regarding the need to remember what Bilaam advised Balak.

Michah (6:8) likewise said, “What does the L-rd require of you? Only that you do justly and love mercy, and walk modestly with your G-d.” Pesikta Rabbati 46 states, “There is nothing so dear to G-d as modesty, as it says, ‘Walk modestly with your G-d.’” Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught:
“Purity and modesty are the precise opposite of the immodesty and arrogance associated with the impurity of the nations. The special traits uniquely associated with Jews are modesty, refinement and bashfulness… It is true that [sexual] modesty is defined by many laws, but first comes the basic personality trait of Jewish modesty, the opposite of the impurity of the nations… Jewish refinement is the total opposite of arrogance, coarseness and promiscuity… Modesty belongs to the Jewish essence.” (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, Vayikra, page 174)

With the summer at its height and with vacation time starting, let us all become stronger in preserving our modesty at home and outside. We have to realize that by virtue of this we will truly merit the complete fulfillment of Bilaam’s blessings: “Israel crouches; it lies like a lion, like an awesome lion. Who will dare rouse him? Those who bless you are blessed, and those who curse you are cursed” (Numbers 24:9). Soon in our day!

Rabbi Eran TamirLecturer at Machon Meir
“When Will the Wars End?”

The prophetic passages of Bilaam must be studied in depth. Our commentaries understand them to be dealing with the history of the Jewish People and with their struggles against the nations of the world, from the time of Abraham until the end of the Messianic era. The Netziv, Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin comments on Numbers 24:8-9:
“Since G-d brought them out of Egypt, they are like His highest expression of strength. G-d shall devour His enemy nations, grinding their bones and piercing them with His arrows. Israel crouches, lies like a lion, like an awesome lion. Who will dare rouse him? Those who bless you are blessed, and those who curse you are cursed.”

The Netziv explains that these verses are describing King David’s time and the nature of his rule as opposed to that of Saul. In this context, the Netziv asks a grave question. Scripture describes Saul’s success in his wars against his enemies:
“Saul took the kingdom over, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines; and wherever he turned, he did evil [Hebrew yarshia]. And he did valiantly, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that despoiled them.” (I Samuel 14:47-48)

There is something puzzling here. What is meant by “Wherever he turned he did evil?” Why doesn’t it say, “Wherever he turned he was successful?” How can it be that Saul’s victories were evil?
The Netziv explains that there was a fundamental difference between Saul’s conduct in battle and that of David. Yes, a victory on the battlefield can be evil. When Saul went forth to war he had one goal – to vanquish his enemy, to beat them in battle. Yet unlike David, he did not establish his rule in the place where he beat his enemies. Thus, he was only weakening them temporarily. Later on they would once more “raise their heads” and fight him again. His battles thus amounted to evil, in fact, the evil was compounded: 1) It was evil vis-à-vis his enemies, for it gave them the feeling that they can rise up a second time and fight, and perhaps even win; 2) worse, it was evil vis-à-vis Israel, for their momentary victories created the illusion that they had won, that everything was all right, that finally there would be a bit of quiet and tranquility, security and economic growth. Later on this feeling would blow up in their faces when the next war came, causing frustration and despair amongst Israel, themselves.

By contrast, David did not suffice with victory over his enemies, but conquered the place the set up his own regime there. He did not allow the enemy to go forth to battle a second time.

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