From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Let us distance ourselves from all resentment. Let us rise above all pettiness of mind and heart. Let us transcend all hatred and vexation. We must absorb vital love from its primeval source, and affix the branches of kindness onto the roots of knowledge.” (Orot 76)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
May He dwell in the Tents of Shem
Of Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Yefeth, came the human race and the cultures characterizing it from then until our own times. As it says, “These three were Noah’s sons, and from them, the whole world was repopulated” (Genesis 9:19). From the way the sons related to Noah when he was drunk, we learn about their personalities and cultures. Of Ham it says, “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked, and he told it to his two brothers outside” (verse 22). Rashi comments that he castrated his father. In other words, not only did he not honor him, but he hurt and embarrassed him. Indeed, from Ham were born the Canaanites and Egyptians, who were sunken in depravity.
By contrast, it says of Shem and Yefeth that they honored their father and covered his nakedness: “Shem and Yefeth took a cloak and placed it on both their shoulders. Walking backwards, they then covered their father’s nakedness. They faced away from him and did not see their father naked” (verse 23). From the verse we can derive that Shem strove to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his father more than did Yefeth. The verse reads “Vayikach Shem Vayefeth”, with “vayikach” [He took] in the singular (see Rashi). Shem therefore merited that in the course of time the divine presence would be revealed through him, within his descendants the Jewish People.
From Yefeth came the culture of beauty and aesthetics, as in Noah’s blessing to his sons: “May G-d show beauty to Yefeth, but may He dwell in the tents of Shem” (verse 27). Rashi comments, “G-d will make His presence rest in Israel. By contrast, Yefeth shall be like his own name, [which means beauty]. From Yefeth will emerge the Greek culture, and after that, western culture, which places an emphasis on beauty and externals.
From Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Yefeth have developed the three cultural foci of the human race today:
From Ham has come the base culture whose end-all is permissiveness, letting one’s passions have free rein. Its concrete expressions include depravity, sexual sin, addiction to alcohol and drugs, and unfortunately this lowly culture has a foothold in literature, the arts and the mass media, which influence the public.
From Yefeth emerged Greece, and from Greece emerged western culture, which places an emphasis on external beauty, science, sports, theater, film, and more. In response to this our sages said, “Three things expand a person’s mind: a lovely home, a lovely wife and lovely furniture.” A person’s thoughts are the main thing and beauty and other external elements only expand his mind, but are not instead of his mind. In this regard it says, ““May G-d show beauty to Yefeth, but may He dwell in the tents of Shem” (verse 27).
From Shem emerged the culture of the Divine Presence, which is unique to the Jewish People. This refers to revealing the Kingdom of G-d in the world, and revealing His good will to His creatures, who follow in His path. And just as Shem strove to honor his father Noah, and merited that the Divine Presence should be revealed in his tent, how fortunate we are that the Jewish People are meriting to carry on the good deeds of Shem, who honored his father, such that G-d’s presence is being revealed through them. Through us, the entire world is meriting to see G-d’s light and Oneness, as it says, “G-d shall be King over the whole Earth. On that day, G-d shall be One and His name One” (Zechariah 14:9).
Looking forward to complete redemtion,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
We Are One!
Question: Thank G-d, I serve Hashem, study Torah, keep the mitzvoth, try to improve my character traits and to repent. Unfortunately there are evildoers in the Jewish People, but how am I to blame for that…
Answer: If so, then you are serving G-d in the old-fashioned way, the way from 4,000 years ago, and you are turning us back to Noah. You serve G-d like Noah did. The Torah states, “Noah was a righteous man, faultless in his generation. Noah walked with G-d” (Genesis 6:9). He was “righteous” in that he did good and not evil. He was “faultless” [tamim] in that he had good character traits, good intentions and inner wholesomeness. He “walked with G-d” out of his close attachment to Him, and his thirst for G-d’s word. G-d therefore loved him greatly and saved him (based on the “Zichronot” section of the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf).
Yet he did not show such great interest in others (Zohar I:50). For 120 years he built the ark, people asked questions and expressed interest, yet all the same they remained in their previous state. Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk therefore called Noah a “tzaddik in peltz”, referring to the sort of person who, when it is cold, wraps himself in fur [peltz] instead of lighting a fire that might warm up everyone.
Afterwards there appeared Abraham, representing the ideal worship of G-d by a people. In the year 2000 or 2018 following Creation, G-d told him, “I will make you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Since then, we have been a people, and we serve G-d as a people. Every one of us serves G-d within the Jewish People, and out of the midst of the Jewish People. We walk together always. As solitary individuals we are impoverished and empty, but together with the nation we are exalted to the supreme height of our forefathers.
This is the idea behind the verse, “I dwell within my own people” (II Kings 4:13). The Zohar explains this as meaning: I do not wish to be recorded in Heaven on my own. Rather, I prefer to be in the same group with the great saints, and not to be outside their group.
In the same way, a person should include himself with the great saints and not go off alone. This way, he won’t be examined so carefully and his deficits will not be recalled (Zohar I:69b). If you go off by yourself and not with the Jewish People, you will be judged for your sins, and your end will be evil and bitter. If you are included amongst the people, you are protected under the enormous umbrella of the great saints of our people.
You are separating yourself from the Jewish People because you don’t like being included with sinners. You think you will gain from this, but really, you will be the loser. So wrote Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Vitebsk, who led the disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov who moved to Israel:
“My aim is to admonish you against violating a Torah prohibition… One mustn’t scoff against Jews who have abandoned the Torah. That involves a grave prohibition… And it is obvious to me… that this is the cause of our spiritual descent and lowliness. The reason is that ‘the Jewish People are called G-d’s children even if they sin’ (Kiddushin 36a). A person who scoffs in this manner is setting himself apart from the group, putting himself alone. All G-d’s bounty is reserved for Israel in the aggregate, and he has no share in it. This is the meaning of ‘I dwell within my own people,’ as the Zohar explained.” (Pri HaEtz, Igeret 8)
Do not make light of sinners. Do not think that you can drive them out. If you try, you are only driving yourself out, and forfeiting the heavenly bounty reserved for the Jewish People. Those Jews who have abandoned the Torah are G-d’s children no less than yourself.
Remember! Everything you have comes from the Jewish People. Therefore, you must restore everything you have to the Jewish People.
Do not think you left Egypt because of your personal merit. That is not the case! We were sunken down to the 49th level of impurity (Zohar). Our faith, taught to us by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was almost wiped out. So why then did G-d redeem us? “Because He loved us and because He was keeping His oath to Abraham” (Rambam, Avodah Zarah, end of Chapter 1). It was not due to G-d’s loving them personally, but His loving Israel in the aggregate, as being the continuation of Abraham.
Do not make light of the wicked! Hebrew “reshaim” [wicked] is an inappropriate term altogether. In actual fact there are no reshaim, except for rare exceptions. There are “infants who were taken captive by the nations” (Rambam, Mamrim 3:3), or “confused people”, to use the term of our master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. We, too, are guilty for the fact that there are secular Jews, for the behavior of many religious Jews – the arguments, controversies, evil gossip, quarrels, vengefulness, etc. – really does not make it tempting to join us. Therefore, before you set out to help others to repent, first repent yourself. In the end, that, too, will help others to return. One must especially repent the sin of hatred, both hatred against other groups within our nation, as well as hatred against subcategories within one’s own group.
Likewise, the mitzvah to “love your neighbor as yourself” was not meant to refer only to loving good, friendly people. For them I don’t need a command. Such love flows by itself. Rather, the mitzvah was meant to refer to loving the irksome, the distant, people whose views we consider different and harmful.
This includes the prohibition against speaking lashon hara, evil gossip. Rav Tzvi Yehuda devoted his life to educating towards guarding the tongue. He did not advocate forcing students to follow a particular curriculum, with one exception: for a half hour before Minchah, all had to learn works about guarding the tongue. When he saw that this fundamental duty was being treated lightly, he cancelled all his lectures, locked himself in his room and began to fast.
I remember my first day at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. I arrived at lunch time. I sat down, young and new as I was, at a table with three veteran students. One began to tell his friend something, and his friend, with a broad smile, hushed him up, saying, “I don’t want to hear lashon hara”. The first student tried again, and the second student, against with a warm smile, once more hushed him, saying, “Don’t force me to hear lashon hara!” This happened several times. That was my first lesson, and that first teacher was HaRav HaGaon Dov Begon, the head of Machon Meir.
He certainly learned this from our master Rav Tzvi Yehuda, who did not wish to hear lashon hara, and would silence anyone who spoke badly of the Jewish People. Whenever anyone brought various arguments from various sources claiming it was possible to hate Jews, to call them “reshaim” or other derogatory names, Rav Tzvi Yehuda would vehemently reject such arguments, asking, “Is the explicit Torah verse, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ less important than all your arguments?!”
Loving the Jewish People is the true, correct approach in every generation, yet all the more so in our own generation, when after the exile and the dispersion we are gathering together once more to be one nation in the Land. We are once more recalling that we are a nation. Our strength derives from within our people, and it is reserved for the people. As the saintly Ramchal [Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto] wrote, a saint is a saint not for himself, but before the entire Jewish People (Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 13).
When the Gerrer Rebbe visited Israel he asked our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitchak HaKohen Kook, “By us, the Chassidim, we eat the Rebbe’s shirayim [leftovers, the Chassid’s way of expressing self-abnegation before his Rebbe]. And what do you do?”
Rav Kook answered, “We are the shirayim of the Assembly of Israel (see Orot 76). We are swallowed up within the Jewish People. The nation’s soul is our Rebbe. It is our life-source. The Jewish People are our life.”
Rav Kook also wrote that even the greatest saint does not reach the ankles of Knesset Yisrael [the Assembly of Israel] (ibid., 176). Take note of what you say in the Sabbath prayers: “By the mouth of the upright You are praised. By the speech of the righteous You are blessed. By the tongue of the saintly You are extolled. Inside the holy You are sanctified.” Here are four spiritual levels, one above the other: the upright, the righteous, the saintly and the holy. Yet above them all is what follows: “In the assemblies of the tens of thousands of Your people.” Therefore, when the Master of the Universe informed Moses that He wished to destroy the Jewish People, and that as far as His promise to Abraham to make him a great nation, He would fulfill it by making Moses a great nation, Moses refused, preferring to be together with the Jewish People, whatever their shortcomings may be.
So, don’t make light of any person, especially since that person may be better than you in other spheres. Yet the main point is that you and that Jew both belong together to the Jewish People, from whom you imbibe all that is yours. As for your being you, that is not through your own merit, but through the merit of the Jewish People. Let’s see how far you would get today if you were born as part of the wide world rather than within the bosom of the Jewish People. You certainly would not achieve the spiritual level of Noah.
From the Jewish People you received the Torah. From the Jewish People you received a soul. Therefore, in all spheres we must work together. We recite the Shemoneh Esreh in the plural, but we recite the “Vidui” confessional in the singular.
Now are we are recommencing our togetherness. We are returning to our love of Israel, and the height of the love of Israel is the army. That involves twofold love: 1) the brotherhood of fighters, without which an army cannot exist, with each soldier being ready to die for his fellow, and, 2) love for the sake of the Jewish People, and readiness to die for the sake of defending the people and the Land. How fortunate we are that we have merited that infinite fortress of love.
Indeed, the divine presence rests upon the Jewish People, amongst our brethren, the entire House of Israel.
Translation: R. Blumberg