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E - Parashat Shelach 5774
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Announcing the Machon Meir 6th Annual National Conference for Strengthening the Jewish People – “Tshuvah M’Ahavah!”
This year a special concentration on the meaning of the destruction of the Aza settlements; Rabbi Zion Tawil of Netzarim will be a featured speaker.

Sunday, the 6th of Tishrei, 5766 (October 9, ’05) at Binyanei Hauma in Jerusalem

From 10:00am and into the night, lectures from Rabbis and personalities from the world of Torah Zionism, including former Chief Rabbi, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, HaRav Chaim Druckman, HaRav Shlomo Aviner…
For details and registration: 02-653-7924 or

From the World of Rabbi Kook
“Without thoughts of repentance, without the comfort and security it provides, no person could find solace, and spiritual life could not develop…” (Orot HaTeshuvah 5:6)

Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “G-d hears with mercy the sound of Israel’s shofar”

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the entire year. Rabbi Shneur Zalmen of Liadi explained that just as a person has a brain that influences and sustains the entire body, so is Rosh Hashanah like a brain influencing the entire year. And just as one’s head, brain and heart have to be pure and righteous, so must we on Rosh Hashanah purify ourselves by way of repentance and good deeds, good thoughts and good speech. In this way we influence the entire year, making it good and sweet. Especially important is the mitzvah of hearing the Shofar (whose very name recalls “improvement” [shipur]). The Shofar hints at how we must relate to the Day of Judgment. How so?

The shofar blasts fall into three categories, alluding to divine kindness, strict judgment, and mercy. The first blast, the teki’ah, alludes to kindness. It is a simple sound, and where kindness exists, all is simple. In the middle comes the teruah, consisting of broken blasts, the sound of sobbing and sighing. This alludes to strict judgment and to life’s hardships. In the end comes another tekiah, a simple blast alluding to mercy and love. The blasts are joined together so that we hear kindness within strict judgment, light within the darkness, sweet within the bitter. We get a sense of how G-d really is “good to all, with His mercy governing all His works” (Psalm 145:9). Listening to the sweet, remarkable shofar blasts arouses and strengthens within us the belief that despite everything, when all is said and done, “One higher than the high is watching over us” (Ecclesiastes 5:7), and there is no one else but Him. The L-rd G-d of Israel is King, and He rules over all. By such means, a Jew purifies his mind and heart on Rosh Hashanah, and this day shines over the entire year.

Today, let the old year and its curses end, and let a new year and its blessings begin. This year was hard and painful for the Jewish People. The sound of the “teruah”, the sound of weeping and sighing, was the lot of so many innocent Jews expelled from their homes. Pain and suffering, doubts and worries, were the lot of many other Jews as well, who felt the enormity of the events. On Rosh Hashanah, we must arouse ourselves and grow stronger through the shofar blasts. We must hear the teki’ot preceding and following the teruah. We must recognize that G-d, who hears our prayers, mercifully hears the sound of the teruah, as we say in the Rosh Hashanah prayers: “Blessed be G-d… who hears the sound of the teruah of His people Israel, with mercy.”

With blessings for a good, sweet year, for a year of complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom!

Machon Meir English Dept. classes are now being broadcast on our website: Click on this link to begin study at the Machon!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Revering Torah Scholars”

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, taught us to revere all Torah scholars. Once, one of his students disparaged Haredi rabbis and blamed them of being responsible for Jews dying in the Holocaust. Rav Tzvi Yehuda castigated him: “Before all else, you must learn the meaning of treating Torah scholars with respect!” He devoted several hours explaining this to him. Why go to such lengths? Because “Moses received the Torah from Sinai, handed it down to Joshua, Joshua to the elders and the elders to the prophets, and they in turn handed it down to the Men of the Great Assembly” (Avot 1:1). Without those who handed down the Torah, there is no Torah. Everything rests on the way we relate to those who learn Torah. “Torah scholars increase peace in the world” (Berachot 64a). That is their essence.

Consider how Rabbenu Tam honored Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. With enormous humility he wrote: “I am the servant of Avraham, and I prostrate myself before him.” And see the adoration with which Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra responded: “Is it proper for a knight of the People, mighty and thundering, to lower his head in a letter to a simple individual?”

If you say that the rabbis of our own generation are not as great as those of previous generations, you are not speaking from wisdom. Our sages taught us: “Gideon in his generation was like Moses in his generation, and Yiftach in his generation was like Samuel in his generation…” It says, ‘Approach the Kohanim and Levi’im and the judge who will be in your times’ (Deuteronomy 17:9).” (Rosh Hashanah 25b)

Do not cast aspersions on the rabbis of the generation if you find a shortcoming. A person is judged according to his overall deeds; a great rabbi’s shortcomings surely make up only a negligible minority of his total, less than a sixtieth, perhaps less than a thousandth. Our sages did not refrain from pointing out that even the greatest Jewish personalities had shortcomings, the patriarchs, the kings and the prophets. That does not mean, however, that we are allowed to criticize them. An irrevocable condition to criticizing them, says Rav Kook, is that we ourselves must be learned, saintly, pure, and free of all blemish (Ein Aya, Berachot 83, page 97, Ot 29).

Moreover, writes Radbaz, even if it is revealed that a great rabbi has expressed himself heretically, that is no reason to ridicule him. After all, even after Rabbi Hillel said that there shall be no Messiah to the Jewish People, the other rabbis continued to quote him (Responsa Radbaz IV:187). Also, Rav Kook wrote that if we set out to create a fence to protect Jewish law from harm, we mustn’t as a result cause even greater destruction by disgracing a Torah scholar (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 56).

Controversy between scholars is legitimate. It is good to ask the great rabbis of the generation, our spiritual leaders, questions. Having faith in the sages doesn’t mean playing the fool. It is permissible to ask. Yet it is forbidden to disgrace them! And anyway, it is impossible to follow all the sages at once. There are controversies amongst them. Therefore, one must “find a personal rabbi” (Avot 1:6), but one must honor all other rabbis.

The rule is this: Love and revere those who dedicate their lives to Torah day and night, for their devotion earns them divine assistance. The Rabbis said: Whoever loves Torah scholars will have a son who is a Torah scholar. Whoever is deferential to Torah scholars will have a son-in-law who is a Torah scholar. Whoever reveres Torah scholars will himself become a Torah scholar (Shabbat 23b).

We can learn from Yehoshafat, King of Judea. Whenever he saw a Torah scholar, he would rise from his throne and hug and kiss him and say to him, “Rebbe! Rebbe! Master! Master!” (Ketuvot 103b). Rabbi Zeira, when he needed a break from his studies, would sit at the entrance to the house of study in order to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of rising before Torah scholars (Berachot 28a; quoted in Mesilat Yesharim, Ch. 19; Eshkol Edition, page 94). How fortunate we are that we have Torah scholars! How fortunate we are that we love them, honor them and revere them!

Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)

Rabbi Elisha AvinerEducation Corner
“Nurturing Excellence”

One of the weighty questions that trouble the education system is the issue of nurturing excellence. Nurturing excellence challenges pupils, prodding them to do their best, but it addresses only the excellent, gifted students, pushing them forward. The result is that whoever is not counted among the “excellent” is left behind. Nurturing excellence creates gaps amongst children and youth. Over the years, those gaps increase, until they can no longer be bridged.

Does the state education system need to invest in nurturing excellence, or should it provide equal education to all, investing in all pupils equally, and giving no priority to those individual students who excel in a particular sphere? Without a doubt, in the eyes of western society, which is exceedingly competitive, the question does not even begin. Institutions of higher learning are built on nurturing excellence (with scholarships for excellent students, etc.), and they encourage the entire education system to follow in their footsteps. Western society is competitive in the realms of economics, science and armaments, starting with governments and ending with the citizenry. Whoever wins in this race is deemed happy, and whoever falls out of the race is considered to be doomed. The key word is excellence, thus nurturing excellence is a vital and admired tool in the war of life.

I am asking about nurturing excellence only as a question of morality and values: Is it seemly to discriminate between students? Does a student deserve additional nurturing just because of his talent? Is there no danger that this will increase the gaps within society? These questions stand at the center of the following midrash:

“A wealthy matron asked Rabbi Yossi bar Chalafta: What is the meaning of the verse, ‘He grants wisdom to the wise’ (Daniel 2:21)? Isn’t this superfluous? Shouldn’t it have said instead, ‘G-d grants wisdom to the unwise and knowledge to those who lack understanding’?
“He replied: Imagine two people coming to you for a loan. One is rich and the other is poor. To which would you rather make the loan – the rich man or the poor man?
“She replied, ‘The rich man.’
“He asked her why, and she replied, ‘If the rich man loses my money, he will have a way of paying it back, but if the poor man loses his money, how will he pay me back?’
“He then replied: Can’t you hear yourself talking? If G-d gave wisdom to fools, they would sit and ponder in the latrines and theaters and bathhouses. Instead, G-d gave wisdom to the wise, and they ponder in the synagogues and study houses. That is the meaning of ‘He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those that know understanding’ (Daniel 2:21).” (Kohelet Rabbah 1)

The Midrash determines that in our world equality does not reign, and we mustn’t fall prey to false thinking about illusory equality. Neither does G-d’s conduct of the world ignore man’s innate traits. It invests where there are basic data that promise correct, appropriate use of G-d’s investment.

What is the moral justification for this? The answer is hinted at in the Midrash – the assurance of a handsome return on G-d’s investment (loans being made exclusively to wealthy people who are able to return them). Thus, there is no moral blemish in nurturing excellence, in encouraging it and providing opportunities and tools for drawing out the full potential of innate talents.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Ein Aya, Berachot II:265), explains that two elements are necessary for acquiring wisdom – (1) studiousness; and (2) natural talent –and natural talent is the main element. Wisdom has no value unless it is bestowed on a wise man. Diligence is no replacement for talent. This point is well-known in regard to emotional branches of wisdom such as art and music, in which one’s emotional strengths are the core. Our sages’ novel point is that not only acquiring the emotional branches of wisdom depends on deep, inner talent, but also acquiring the other forms of wisdom as well.

Yet nurturing excellence is conditional on two factors; without them, it can be destructive:

1. Educating towards humility: The humble individual does not deny what is personally unique about him. He does not flee from his talents, neither does he ignore them. He recognizes them, is aware of them and even nurtures them. Yet he does not credit himself with them. Rather, he credits them to G-d’s kindness. Talents are a divine gift, and one must not boast about them. Rather, one should fulfill his mission and bring out his full potential. There can be no nurturing excellence without educating towards humility. The former without the latter is a recipe for tragedy.

2. It is forbidden to focus just on one sphere of excellence. There are many “excellences” in the world. Whoever wishes to take account of man’s innate talents cannot rank them, appreciating a few spheres while scorning others. There are many types of “wisdom”. It is this Professor Howard Gardner is trying to teach western society with his doctrine of “multiple intelligences”, albeit with limited success so far. Western society insists on investing in nurturing excellence only in a number of spheres, while ignoring the rest. This is the main cause of discrimination between pupils. There is no boy or girl who has not been blessed with a healthy dose of talent. G-d does not withhold the portion of anyone on earth. Yet talents are not identical. One person may be talented in one sphere while another will be talented in a different sphere. It is our duty to assist everyone to uncover his talents and wisdom. Yet that is not enough. If we discriminate amongst the various talents and value only some of them, we will end up perpetuating discrimination in human society.

We must say Yes to nurturing excellence, but only on condition that we nurture all types of excellence, and educate also towards humility.

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