“The best cure for political divisiveness is for the ruler to repent fully. This raises his stature back up and restores the foundation that was pulled out from under him. The people then cling to him affectionately once more, and the blessings of peace penetrate Israel.”
(Orot HaKodesh 4:495)
I have no other people.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Question: I’ve had it up to here with this country and this government! This government is carrying on a religious inquisition, committing ideological treason against Judaism, totally “disengaging” from faith, the Land and patriotism. Zionism is false nationalism. In his youth, Herzl wished to convert the Jewish People to Christianity and he failed, so he invented Zionism. Our national-religious public are being hit from all sides. We risk our lives from the army, and they place girls amongst our soldiers and want to disband the hesder units. We build lawfully authorized settlements, in which we live in physical danger, and they want to banish us. We engage in quiet demonstrations, getting beaten during the protest, and they dare to say that we are violent. We are maligned night and day, and they dare to say that we are inciters. In short, the National Religious public are blamed for all the country’s ills. All this being the case, you can have this anti-Semitic government, and you are welcome to it. I am granting a writ of divorce to this hostile country and I am leaving this army. Let them get along without me.
Answer: First of all, the Torah does not say, “Be National-Religious.” What it says is “Serve G-d.” It says “the Jewish People,” referring to the entire Jewish People. What concerns us is not what is good for the National-Religious public, but what is good for the entire Jewish People – what will help the Jewish People and what will increase the performance of G-d’s will.
The main point is this: you’ve certainly heard a hundred times that “the redemption comes gradually.” So we’ll repeat it a hundred-and-first time, and maybe this time it will sink in:
“Such is the redemption of Israel. At first it comes gradually. The further along it goes, the faster it moves. What verse signifies this? ‘Though I sit in darkness, the L-rd shall be a light unto me’ (Micha 7:8).
“Similarly, it first says, ‘Mordechai sat in the king’s gate’ (Esther 2:19); then, ‘Haman took the apparel and the horse’ (6:11); then, ‘Mordechai returned to the king’s gate’ (6:12); then, ‘Mordechai emerged from the king’s presence in royal apparel’ (8:15); and finally, ‘The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor’ (8:16).” (Jerusalem Talmud Berachot 1:1 4b).
It doesn’t all happen at once! Light and darkness mingle, and slowly the light conquers the darkness. Sometimes, the darkness even wins out for a while.
Here is what Rabbi Eliezer Azkari writes in his commentary (Sefer Charedim) on that source from Berachot: “It doesn’t mention the suffering in the middle, the darkness before the dawn. It only mentions the growing light.”
Amidst the light’s progression, there are also crises and setbacks. After Mordechai sat in the king’s gate, a terrible decree was issued to annihilate all the Jews, men, women and children. For eleven months the specter of death hovered over our heads, and Mordechai sat in sackcloth, fasting – and this was called “gradual redemption”! And we all persevered!
You are now spoiled. You received a Jewish state on a silver platter, and with every difficulty you cry out, “Oy vei!” You need to take things in proportion! You need perspective! Patience! True, you’ve built a little bit. Hats off to you! But you didn’t build everything. You are sensitive. You get insulted easily. You’ve forgotten that one has to strengthen himself all along the way.
Be happy that we have a nation, that we have a state. When we left Egypt we became a nation. And now we’ve become a nation once more. We’re a nation!
Don’t say, “We are the nation and they are not! They are the mixed multitude! Anti-Semites!” That isn’t so! We are all the Jewish nation.
There is a new light over Zion. We’re a nation! Everything we do we must do with our nation, with our country. Sure there are problems and suffering. Sure there are mishaps in the way religion and nationalism, education and Shabbat, kashrut and the laws of family purity function in this country. Those problems didn’t begin today. We remember the Yemenite children having their peyot cut off and we remember the Altalena, and there were other crises and breakdowns.
True, unfortunately some of our people are not yet close enough to the Torah and the Land, wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly. Yet this is our people, forever and ever, and together we shall persevere and be victorious.
Don’t malign our people! Remember that Elijah the Prophet was castigated for that, even though in his time the situation was infinitely harder and more complicated than ours is. Take another look at Rambam’s Igeret Kiddush Hashem on how Moses, Elijah and Isaiah were castigated for maligning the Jewish People.
In the last year of his life before he went up to Heaven, every Saturday night our great master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would talk about Moses descending from Mount Sinai and finding the Jewish People dancing around the Golden Calf. Yet Moses did not say that he was fed up with them. He didn’t despair. Rather, he prayed for the people and he said, “If You do not forgive their sin, You can blot me out of the book that You have written” (Exodus 32:32). Moses was offering to forego his heavenly portion.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda would say, “To do that, he needed nerves of steel!” His message to us was that the time would come when we too would need nerves of steel, nerves of steel for the Jewish People.
Thank G-d, the Jewish People have risen to rebirth. Don’t talk as though we are a small group. We are the entire Jewish People! Henceforth, every good thing that we do we are not doing for ourselves by ourselves but by way of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. It is true that the situation is difficult, but we need patience. Patience is not a concession! We are not conceding anything! We shall do our utmost for the sake of the entire land! The entire Torah! The Entire Jewish People!
All of us together!
Message for Today
An Arab state will never be!
The purpose of both the “Disengagement Plan” and the “Roadmap” is the establishment of an Arab state in the very heart of the land of our life’s blood. Regarding such a state I habitually write, “It will never be.” In response, one of the readers of this leaflet, a Jew named Avraham H. from Haifa, wrote, “Although you write that the Disengagement and an Arab state will never happen, I still have my fears that they will indeed happen. From where can we draw strength and encouragement? Can we stop the evil decree? What can we do? How should we react?
Out of a sense that the writer is expressing the feelings of many, I am responding with an open letter.
I believe with full faith that it will never be possible to disengage the People of Israel from the Land of Israel. It will never happen. As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wrote, “The Land of Israel is an independent entity tied by a living bond to the nation” (Orot 9). Just as Israel are the people of eternity, so is its bond with the Land of Israel eternal. We thus have G-d’s promise to Abraham, “On that day, the L-rd made a covenant with Abram saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land’” (Genesis 15:18). Rashi explains that G-d’s word is as good as done. The verb “to give” is therefore in the past tense. It is as though G-d had already given Abraham’s seed the Land, despite the fact that on that day G-d’s promise about Abraham having children and receiving the Land had not yet been fulfilled.
As far as an Arab state in Eretz Yisrael, that directly contradicts G-d’s oath to Abraham at the Binding of Isaac: “Your offspring shall inherit their enemies’ gate” (Genesis 22:17). It most certainly will never come to pass.
Now someone might argue: G-d’s oath and covenant belong to the distant past and they are irrelevant now. Surely we see with our own eyes how American President Bush, in cooperation with Prime Minister Sharon, is weaving together a plan to establish an Arab state in the very heart of Eretz Yisrael. Who is capable of standing up to these two powerful men, and just how would they do it?
Yet this argument reminds us of the spies’ claim in the Desert: “We cannot go forward against those people! They are too strong for us [Heb. ‘mimenu’]” (Numbers 13:31). Rashi, noting that “mimenu” can mean “us” or “him,” says, “So to speak, they were claiming that the Canaanites were stronger even than ‘Him,’ i.e., G-d.” The spies furthered slandered the Land by saying, “The land that we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants… We felt like tiny grasshoppers. That’s all that we were in their eyes” (13:32-33).
It’s almost like what we are hearing during these times from ignorant people whose faith and spirit have been weakened. Those people are looking for an outlet for their weakness by means of disengaging themselves from Eretz Yisrael and establishing an Arab state – it will never be! Quite the contrary, we need to draw strength and spirit from Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun, the great believers. True, they constituted a minority of two against ten, two against that whole generation, yet they declared with faith and fortitude: “We must go forth and occupy the Land. We can do it” (32:30). Ultimately they were right. We conquered the Land of Canaan while the spies and the Generation of the Desert were not privileged to go into the Land. Rather, they died in the Desert as punishment.
Today, Avraham H. of Haifa and many others are suffering, full of worry and doubt. They ask, “What will be? What can we do? From where shall we draw the strength and encouragement at this moment?”
We draw strength from faith, as Scripture teaches, “The righteous man shall live by his faith” (Chavakuk 2:4). We possess absolute, certain faith in the oath and covenant that G-d forged with Abraham and with us and with all generations. In that covenant He swore that Eretz Yisrael belongs exclusively to the Jewish People. Only that faith endures forever, and may it soon achieve magnificent fulfillment, speedily in our day.
By contrast, all the previous plans, and all the plans being cooked up now, are like a passing shadow, a drifting cloud, for “there are many thoughts in a man’s heart, but it is G-d’s counsel that shall endure” (Proverbs 19:21). As far as all of the statesmen in Israel and in the world who are busy with plans, accords and signings, their signings are worth less than a garlic peel, for they contradict a divine covenant and oath.
No Arab state will come into being. Such a state would be a seat of pandemonium, darkness, violence, hatred, wickedness, evil, terror and suffering for the Arabs themselves and for all of mankind. This is clear for all to see. Such a state will never rise up in the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, whose purpose and essence is to bring goodness and light to the world, to make the world upright, to unite the world and to make peace in the world, in accordance with the vision of all the prophets of Israel.
You Jews faithful to Eretz Yisrael are beloved in Heaven and on earth, and you in turn love your people and your land. Regarding all of you, especially the settlers of Judea, Samaria and Gush Katif, who risk their lives for the nation and for the land, and who increase G-d’s glory on earth, Scripture states, “These are destined for everlasting life…. the ones who bring merit to the masses, like the stars that give light forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3). And may through us be fulfilled Psalm 94:14: “The L-rd will not cast off His people; neither will he forsake His inheritance.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Early Childhood Education (II)
Education Corner / Rabbi Elisha Aviner
In our previous column on early childhood education we talked about “scientific education,” which starts with the infant’s birth. Scientific education begins with the infant seeing the world firsthand, without interpretation. It is a natural encounter without intermediary filters. Based on that simple, natural acquaintance, the child will later go on to apply his learning and understanding in encountering reality, including faith-based interpretation. We therefore have to help the child to encounter the surrounding reality in all its many facets in order to advance his “scientific education.”
Yet more than “scientific education” the child needs love and warmth. A child’s parents have to flood him with love, to envelop him with love. One might ask: What does love have to do with the topic at hand – early childhood education? Surely love is an emotion with which parents relate to their child, and it has no educational content. True, it is important. It gives the child a good feeling and helps him to grow up and to develop in a bright and pleasant environment. Yet what educational content does it provide the child?
The first answer is that educational environment is an integral part of education. This is true not just for early childhood, but for all ages, up until 120. The love that cushions the child’s arrival in this world assists him to absorb the educational lessons and values that his parents wish to teach him.
The second answer is that the love that parents give their infant and child educates him. How so? The infant who receives much love encounters a world of much love and good. His natural reaction to love is love: He will love the world that smiles benevolently at him. This is the foundation of developing an optimistic approach to life, a basic loving approach to the world and a joy of living. Later on, when the child comes to realize that there is a Creator, his love will be channeled also towards G-d, who created such a good and pleasant world. This is the foundation of strong faith in G-d.
The language of early childhood learning is not a language of understanding but of emotional experience, but it will influence the basic worldview of the child when he grows up and attains knowledge and understanding.
By contrast, if a child does not receive love, it is natural that he will not feel comfortable in a world that does not receive him with a smile. The negative experience will later on crystallize into a hostile worldview, a pessimistic approach to life. From here it is but a short way to anger at the Creator of the universe and to resentment against Him or estrangement from Him.
Some psychologists hold that the first months of life are the most significant, and that they influence a person’s whole life. One’s personality is then soft and flexible, like an empty sheet of paper. Hence every experience is engraved deeply on the personality. Even the lightest scratch leaves a mark.
We cannot know how the way infants are cared for in our generation will influence their worldview. Shortly after children are born, many mothers stop nursing them so that they can return to their work and their career. They hand their babies over to a babysitter. However devoted, sensitive and loving the babysitter may be, she is no substitute for a mother’s love. Thus the child loses out on precious doses of love. An entire generation of children is growing up on a low dosage of love. Who knows how this will affect them when they grow up? Who knows if this will not increase their cynicism, their lack of trust, their estrangement, or even their hatred for human society?
When parents are forced to hand their young children over to a caretaker, they must make sure that the child will still receive love. That is the main criterion in choosing a babysitter or caretaker. The caretaker’s expertise in teaching the child skills is important, but more important is the warmth that she radiates towards the children. The same applies to picking an early-childhood Talmud Torah.