From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
(First Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) “Then, one clear day, all those gone astray shall return…and clearly understand that even the negative roles…were always directed by G-d, who controls the generations from start to finish… Then all His children gone far away will return and holiness will be evident in all the work of our builders in the land of our glory, forever”
(Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 185)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“New Challenges for the Ninth of Av”
“On the 9th of Av we are obligated to fast… because of the bad things that happened then” (Orach Chaim 549:1).
And what are those bad things? There was the terrible destruction of the First and Second Temples. Also, on this day, it was decreed that our ancestors in the desert would not enter the Land. Also, Beitar was conquered and tens of thousands of people there were killed. On the 9th of Av, the wicked Turnus Rufus ploughed the Temple sanctuary and its environs, to fulfill the verse, “Zion shall be plowed as a field” (Jeremiah 26:18). (Mishnah Berurah, ad loc.)
Since the decree upon the generation of the desert that they would not enter Eretz Yisrael due to the sin of the spies on that day, Israel have faced terrible calamities on that day down through the generations. This has included the day that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain was completed, and more. One of the expellees from Spain told what happened to his family:
“There was a ship full of Jews expelled from Spain. The owner of the ship cast the Jews out on dry land in a place where there was no human habitation, and most of them died of hunger… One Jew, with his wife and two sons, made an effort to walk, but the wife died. The man was carrying his sons, but he, too, fainted, and then his two sons died of hunger. When he awoke from his faint, he found his two sons dead, but he got up on his feet and said, “Master of the Universe! You are doing so much to make me abandon my faith. Be aware that despite what is being done to me by heaven, a Jew I am and a Jew I shall remain. Nothing You have done to me and nothing you shall do to me will help You!” (Ma’arechet…. Shefot Yehuda)
Just as in the past, the 9th of Av was a day on which terrible calamities befell the Jews, so today as well, to our great sorrow, in our own generation a decree was decreed, and on the 9th of Av Jews were expelled from Eretz Yisrael, from Gush Katif and from Northern Samaria. Just as in the past, the sin of the spies brought about destruction and exile, so, too, today, the sin of the spies is bringing terrible calamities upon Israel, including the expulsion of Jews from their land. And what is the sin of the spies? Lack of faith in our ability to conquer and to control Eretz Yisrael. As the Torah states, “In this matter, you had no faith in the L-rd your G-d” (Deuteronomy 1:32), regarding which Rashi comments, “G-d promised you that He would bring you into the Land, but you did not believe Him.”
The lack of faith, on the part of some of those holding the reins of leadership, in our right and our ability to control all of Eretz Yisrael, is leading them to a hallucinatory policy of “a new middle east”, one of longing to establish a terrorist state that endangers our existence, in the very heart of Eretz Yisrael. It is a policy that talks about dividing Jerusalem and handing it over to our enemies, a policy that views expelling Jews from their land as an ideal, a policy whose catchwords are “separation”, “disengagement” and “convergence”, and unfortunately, not just from Eretz Yisrael but also from the People and Torah of Israel.
The time has come for us to repent, for us to return to ourselves, to our land and to our holy Torah. With G-d’s help we can choose leaders who are men of faith, people of vision, people whose goal will be unity and togetherness.
And just as that Jew from the Spanish exile rose up and declared, despite all that had befallen him, “A Jew I am and a Jew I shall remain!” so too in our own generation, we must rise up and call out the words of Calev, son of Yefuneh: “We must go forth and occupy the land. We can do it!” (Numbers 13:30).
Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“An Argument for the Sake of Heaven?”
Rambam’s book, “Yad Ketanah”, suggests a novel thought: Arguments for the sake of heaven are forbidden! (Hilchot De’ot 10). This is puzzling. Surely, Pirkei Avot refers to the controversy between Hillel and Shammai as a controversy for the sake of heaven, singling it out for praise, and contrasting it with that of Korach and his assembly, which was not for the sake of heaven! Rambam explains: Everyone always claims that their controversy is for the sake of heaven! Have you ever seen an arguer say, “I’ve got to admit: This controversy is not for the sake of heaven”?
People always deceive themselves, and not just others, claiming that their controversy is for the sake of heaven. They are not conscious of their being motivated by self-interest.
After all, we’ve got to wonder how Korach, who was an exceedingly wise individual, as well as saintly and blessed with divine intuition, immersed himself in such an ugly controversy with two holy individuals, Moses and Aaron. Surely he was not the sort who pursues honor for himself.
“Yad HaKetanah” explains that Korach deceived himself, speaking about the glory of G-d and the glory of Israel, and he claimed, “All the people in the community are holy, and G-d is with them. Why are you setting yourselves above G-d’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3). Truthfully, however, a minuscule element of passion was present in Korach. It was so minute and concealed that he was not conscious of it, and this led him to become confused and to call evil good.
Moses knew full-well what the problem was, and he answered Korach:
“Listen to what I have to say, you sons of Levi. Isn’t it enough that the G-d of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel? He has brought you close to Him…. Although He gave this privilege to you and all your fellow Levites, you are now also demanding the priesthood!?” (verses 8-10).
Why does Moses use such an argument to reject Korach’s claim about the divine holiness that envelops the entire Jewish People? Rather, Moses was saying: If you are truly concerned about the specialness of Israel in the aggregate, and the idea that one should not set himself above them, then why didn’t you say so when you were chosen with your tribe? Rather, you have to understand that you have personal motives veiled in a lofty ideology.
Yet by then Korach’s conscience had already been dulled and he didn’t listen, and that is how he sank into perdition.
We thus learn that when someone gets enthusiastically involved in a controversy, so to speak “for the sake of heaven”, he must examine himself many times over, wondering whether or not extraneous considerations are involved.
As a humorous aside, there was once a Knesset member who would stop at nothing to hold on to his seat, yet he claimed that he was acting for the sake of heaven. People answered him, “Of course you are! Surely Isaiah said (66:1), ‘Heaven is My seat’”…
If so, the question remains: How, all the same, did our sages say of Hillel and Shammai that their controversy was for the sake of heaven? Yad Ketanah answers very simply: They were intimate friends, hence we can be certain that neither was interested in claiming victory over the other. They only wished to clarify the truth.
Likewise, Rabbi Yonatan Eibschutz in his book “Ye’arot Devash” explains that the gauge of a controversy being for the sake of heaven is whether or not the parties are friends.
In summary, divided opinions are all right, but divided hearts are not. Every one of us must flee a thousand miles from what seems like controversy, and must run like a gazelle towards friendship and camaraderie.
Rabbi Azriel Ariel– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Zion Shall be Redeemed With Justice”
Moses arose to prepare the people for their entrance into Eretz Yisrael: “Turn around and head toward the Amorite highlands… in the Aravah, the hill country, the lowlands, the Negev, the seashore… as far as the Euphrates River” (Deuteronomy 10:39). Yet something else was demanded along the way – that they establish a legal system: “captains of thousands, captains of hundreds, captains of fifties, captains of tens”, and simultaneously, “police for your tribes” (1:15).
Yet it wasn’t enough to establish a legal system. That system must also operate fairly and honestly: “Listen to every dispute among your brethren, and judge honestly between each man and his brother, even where a proselyte is concerned. Do not give anyone special consideration when rendering judgment. Listen to the great and small alike, and do not be impressed by any man, since judgment belongs to G-d” (1:16-17).
Only after the establishment of a properly running legal system did the long journey to Eretz Yisrael recommence.
The manner in which Moses tells of the legal system’s establishment, in the middle of the journey to Eretz Yisrael, is no coincidence, but a matter of principle. Also in Parashat Shoftim, which deals with the establishment of a legal system in Eretz Yisrael, the Torah repeats the same point: “Appoint yourselves judges and police for your tribes in all your settlements that G-d your Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:18). There as well we are commanded to be honest and fair: “Make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people. Do not bend justice and do not give anyone special consideration. Do not take bribes…” (ibid.). And the Torah concludes there, “Pursue perfect honesty, so that you will live and occupy the land” (16:20).
There is a close connection between fair justice and between inheriting the Land. Our sages focused on this point in Sifri, from which Rashi quotes: “The appointment of reputable judges has the power to sustain the Jewish People and to restore them to their land.”
Also the vision of Isaiah, who prophesied about the Temple’s destruction, depicts an intimate link between distortion of justice and the Land’s destruction. He cries out:
“Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). This leads him to exclaim: “How has the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers” (verse 21).
Two years ago at this time, a number of days after we read the present Torah portion and haftara, we stood in the central synagogue in Neve Dekalim, at the end of two terrible days of the settlement’s residents being expelled. People were in tears. How could it be? “How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow…. She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks. She has none to comfort her among all her lovers. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies” (Lamentations 1:1-2).
The settlement’s pathways were empty of people: “The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn assembly; all her gates are desolate, her priests sigh; her virgins are afflicted, and she herself is in bitterness” (1:4).
And the heart cried out, “Why? What for?” “Wherefore is the land perished and laid waste like a wilderness?” (Jeremiah 9:11).
From the heart a cry rose up to the mouth: “Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves. Every one loves bribes, and follows after rewards. They judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them!” (Isaiah 1:23).
Where was the fairness? Where was the justice? How was it possible to mistreat idealistic brothers in this way? How was it possible to uproot widows and orphans from their homes, and with them, their parents’ graves?
We have no answer. G-d’s ways are hidden from us: “Here is no more any prophet; neither is there among us any that knows how long” (Psalm 74:9).
We cannot explain what was. Yet we must look towards the future after learning from the past. In order to build Eretz Yisrael, it is not enough to build homes. It is not enough to plant trees. It is not enough to have flourishing agriculture and industry. One must also build a reputable society, not just in our own private homes, and not just wonderful communities, but in our entire national home as well. Eretz Yisrael cannot be built without a legal system that applies the word of G-d in the lives of our society. It is this that Isaiah was saying in his vision:
“I will turn My hand upon you, and purge away your dross as with lye, and will take away all your alloy. I will restore your judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and they that return of her with righteousness.” (Isaiah 1:25-27)
Translation: R. Blumberg