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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

“G-d blesses Israel, making their leadership devoted to their people. He imbues that leadership with the same love that they feel for their own families. Yet their love for their people becomes even stronger, just as the entire nation’s welfare transcends the welfare of the individual family.” (Olat Re’iyah II:287)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

“Rejoice in all the Good”

The trait of gratitude finds expression when we bring the first fruits:
“When you come to the land that the L-rd your G-d is giving you as a heritage, occupying and settling it, you shall take the first of every fruit of the ground produced by the land that the L-rd your G-d is giving you. You must place it in a basket, and go to the site that G-d will choose as the place associated with His name. There you shall go to the priest officiating at the time, and say to him, ‘Today I am affirming to the L-rd your G-d that I have come to the land that G-d swore to our fathers to give us.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-3)

Rashi explains that what you will “say to him” (verse 3) is that you “are not ungrateful”. In other words, the person bringing first fruits must thank G-d and rejoice over the fact that he has merited to live in Eretz Yisrael and to bring them, as it says, “You… shall thus rejoice in all the good that G-d your Lord has granted you and your family” (verse 11).

Yet a danger also exists that a person who enjoys great bounty will become prideful and scorn the service of G-d, not recognizing G-d’s kindness to him, as it says in the Tochachah [the Rebuke Section] of Deuteronomy: “When you had plenty of everything, you would not serve the L-rd your G-d with happiness and a glad heart” (28:47).

Today, how truly fortunate we are that we are meriting to come to the land that G-d has given us as a heritage, and that we can say, “I have come to the land that G-d swore to our fathers to give us.”

It is true that we are still at the height of the process of the ingathering of the exiles, and we have not yet reached our final destination. Signs of the crises of the pre-Messianic era with its associated increase in impudence and lack of leadership are visible to the eyes of mortal man (see the end of Tractate Sota). Yet we must open the eyes of our soul as well, and we must see for ourselves the great kindness and goodness that G-d bestows on us in the land of our life’s blood.
When a person brings the first fruits he says, “An Aramaean [Laban] tried to destroy my father” (Deuteronomy 26:5, see Rashi), citing G-d’s kindness in saving Jacob when Laban tried to destroy the Jewish People by pursuing Jacob. It is the same in our generation, the generation of Holocaust and rebirth. We must remember what a terrible crisis we experienced, in which six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis – may their name be obliterated – their aim having been to obliterate the Jewish People. Moreover, we must thank G-d for having given us the privilege of rising to rebirth in the Land.
Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El

“Do Not Hate”

Do not hate any man. Do not harbor resentment forever. It isn’t good, it isn’t healthy, even if you are right in your hatred and certainly if you are wrong.
Emotion is not like intellect. Intellect has an infinite capacity. It is even capable of absorbing contradictory contents without being disturbed.

Not so, emotion. Emotion cannot contain opposite worlds, lest it be torn to smithereens. It has to focus. Either you are a happy person, or you are sad. Either you are optimistic or pessimistic. Either you are a hero or a coward. Likewise, either you are a loving person or a hateful person. When a person has the nature of a hater, his personality is smashed to bits. He becomes a resentful person, a person who pours salt on his own wounds. Even if he is right, even if his harsh emotions are justified by the truth, morality or by Jewish law, he is only hurting himself. Not only did others torment him and cause him pain, but he now is continuing to cause himself suffering, shooting himself in the foot. He gains nothing.

It is certainly probable that that person or group of people in question deserves his hatred, but we are not worrying about them. Rather, it is just a shame that the hater should tailspin down a cruel slope of self-destruction. This is true all the more so if the hatred is not justified, as when someone has, indeed, done one bad thing to you, but has also done ten good things for you. One mustn’t lose proportions, nor let oneself be sucked into the maelstrom. One must remain calm. One mustn’t lose one’s head. The person who hurt you may be no angel, but neither are you. If you care about yourself, your happiness, your uprightness, flee from hatred.

The problem is that this is easy to say, but hard to do. One’s impulse to hate has a deep imprint on man. Therefore, one must undertake a complex strategy consisting of three stages:
1. First, one must concede that he does harbor hatred. One mustn’t avoid this or whitewash his own feelings. One mustn’t find gentle, euphemistic labels for his feeling. Admit the truth: You hate! You hate your parents/children/spouse/neighbors/friends/people of a different political or spiritual persuasion.
2. Second, admit that hatred is something bad, a poison, a crime. There are hatred-based ideologies that place hatred on a pedestal, or at least justify it. By contrast, we, the disciples of Abraham and Moses, are not men of hatred. We do not nurse hatred forever.

You can be saved from hatred. True, it constitutes a powerful impulse, yet we have an impulse that is even stronger. We possess a pure soul, powerful and divine. Therefore, don’t give up. Go wage battle and you will win.

It is true that the impulse to hatred, violence and murder is strong in man. People sometimes ask: Is there truth to the theory that man is descended from animals? Perhaps some of the verses of Genesis should be interpreted not literally but as a metaphor? The answer is that we do not know because we weren’t there. Yet even if it were so, one doesn’t mention to a newly penitent person his previous deeds, nor to a convert his origins.
But anyway, what should bother us is not whether or not man is descended from animals, but whether or not man has yet reached the level of man. Unfortunately, he has not yet reached that point. True, he has progressed greatly, but the beast within man is still strong.

Whoever observes the animal kingdom will see so much cruelty amongst them,with every animal attacking the next. So did G-d decree for His world. Yet man was created in the image of G-d, and he must overcome the animal within him. That involves constant toil: A person must engage in daily soul searching and must cleanse himself of the buds of hatred liable to burst forth without his noticing it, like weeds in a field. Then he will become a totally loving person.

Rabbi Yoram EliyahuGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir

“Serve G-d With Joy”

The Days of Repentance at the height of which we find ourselves, are accompanied by a certain difficulty. The need to reflect more and to pay attention to our words, deeds and thoughts causes something of a halt in the normal flow of life and this can cause pain and even bring us to sadness.
To this is joined another worry: Will my repentance be accepted by G-d? So many times I have promised that I would change and I didn’t keep my word. Why precisely now should I succeed? Why should my repentance be accepted?

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, in his marvelous book “Orot HaTeshuva” teaches us that “Our underlying assumption has to be the general belief that we can trust in repentance. Every person whose soul is illuminated by repentance has to be enveloped in tranquility and joy.”
Yet that joy is not a joy based on frivolity or licentiousness. Rather, it is accompanied also by fear of sin: “At the same time, one must understand that this true joy and holy, blissful light in no way must undo our fear of sin.” (Introduction to Orot HaTeshuva).

Rav Kook likewise said, “Repentance does not serve to embitter life but to make it more pleasant” (ibid., 16:6). The very fact that you are busily involved in a process of repentance, of return to the source, and that you are suffering pain and contrition over your evil deeds, already shows that you are fully penitent, and you can have no greater source of joy than that. (see Orot HaTeshuva 14:23).

This joy has to accompany us in all aspects of our life, as we serve G-d, and we derive this from our parasha. Rambam writes at the end of Hilchot Lulav:
“The joy that belongs to a person when he does a mitzvah, or when he loves G-d who commanded the mitzvoth, constitutes enormous divine worship, and whoever denies himself that joy deserves punishment for that, as it says, ‘When you had plenty of everything, you would not serve God your Lord with happiness and a glad heart’ (Deuteronomy 28:47).”

This verse, which appears amongst the curses of our parasha, teaches us that the lack of joy in serving G-d is the cause of the entire spiritual decline that brings these curses. The question is then asked: How can it be that a person who fulfills all the mitzvah could be causing severe punishment to befall himself, only because he did not interweave joy in his worship? Surely that joy is just one element of the larger mitzvah.

Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl answers this question:
“Whoever fulfills the Torah joyfully is guaranteed that he will always want to add more and more mitzvoth to what he does. A person’s serving G-d joyfully attests to his inner identification with the mitzvoth, and it proves that he understands their enormous value. Yet if someone fulfills the mitzvoth with a feeling that he is being coerced to do it, that is a sign that he lacks that inner understanding. Actually, that person wants to be freed from the yoke around his neck. Thus, even if he should continue to fulfill those sterile mitzvoth, still his sons or his students will absorb the lack of life within him and they will fulfill his hidden desire to be freed from them. Thus, joy is not just one detail in mitzvah fulfillment. Rather, it provides the answer to the definitive question: Will this person remain a fulfiller of the mitzvoth? Will his sons or students continue the service of this house or this study hall? Or, will the chain be broken?” (Sichot LeRosh Hashanah).

We are thus commanded take a deeper look and to serve G-d joyfully. We must attach joy to our repentance, and by such means we will merit repentance out of love, which transforms even intentional sin to merit.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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