From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Faith is pure when it is full of inner emotion without self-deception, and without alien intrusions… All the same, whoever is graced with intelligence cannot function without intellectual logic. For him, innocent faith cannot surface unless it is forged with the light of knowledge”
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Come and Listen, Sons of Jacob
Before his death, Jacob gathers together his sons with the purpose of telling them what is going to happen to them in the end of days, as it says, “Jacob called for his sons. [When they came,] he said, ‘Come together, and I will tell you what will happen in the course of time” (Genesis 49:1). Rashi comments, “He wanted to reveal the end of days to them, but the divine presence [and with it, Jacob’s prophetic intuition] left him, so and he began to say other things.” What were those other things? He said, “Come and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel” (verse 2).
At first he wished to reveal to them all the difficulties and complications and wars that they would face in the end of days, but then the divine presence left him (see Pesachim 56a; Rashi). Instead, he began to talk with them about the salvations and comfort that would be theirs in the end of days, with the ingathering of the exiles and the increased stature of the Israel, alluded to by verse 2.
Our sages, in relating to the divine presence having left Jacob, attribute this to Jacob’s having wondered whether there was a flaw in his offspring, the way there was a flaw in sons of Abraham, such that Ishmael emerged from him, and Isaac, such that Esau emerged from him. His sons responded, “Listen, O Israel! Hashem is our G-d, and Hashem is One.” Just as in your heart there is only the One, we too believe that Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One.” Jacob breathed a sigh of relief and he said, “Blessed is G-d’s glorious, sovereign Name forever and ever.”
Jacob believed in G-d’s Oneness. He possessed a faith that all the complications and difficulties he faced in his lifetime could not undermine. In every time and under all circumstances, he believed in the existence of G-d, whose sovereignty is over all, and whose entire will is to bestow benevolence on us, and he believed that we must cling to G-d’s will. He feared lest this faith had not attached itself to his sons. Then, however, they answered him, “Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our fathers – is One.”
From then until today, Israel have been proclaiming morning and evening this dialogue between Jacob’s sons, who cried out “Hear O Israel,” and between the father who joyfully responds, “Blessed is G-d’s glorious, sovereign Name forever.” We are to continue with the command and promise, “You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, soul and might.” We are to love G-d whatever measure he sends us.
Today, how fortunate we are that we are privileged to see with our own eyes the revealed end of days. We are seeing the ingathering of the exiles taking place before us. We are seeing the children continuing to follow in the path of Jacob, returning in their masses to Jewish tradition, and proclaiming morning and evening, “Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is one.” The day is not far off when also Rambam’s words shall be fulfilled:
The Messianic King is going to rise and restore the kingdom of David to its former glory. He will rebuild the Temple and gather in all the dispersed of Israel.” (Hilchot Melachim 11:1).
Looking forward to complete redemption
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
Avoid the Forces of Evil
Question: In your leaflet of Vayechi, 5767, you wrote about soldiers who are castigated for the very fact of their being soldiers in the I.D.F.
As for myself, during my squad commander’s course, we were asked to take part in workshops in advance of the upcoming Gush Katif evacuation. Since I refused to take part in simulations of the real event, I was put on trial before the base commander and evicted from the course. I went back to my regiment and carried out military actions with all my comrades. We set ambushes around settlements, blocked roads outside Arab villages, landed via helicopter to carry out military actions, carried out arrests and performed a wide range of activities involving great danger. One day, when I was standing waiting for a ride that would take me in the direction of my base where I serve, a car stopped for me, and the driver said the following sentence to me: “I am heading towards settlement X (right next to my base). I only take civilian hitchhikers and not soldiers.”
Obviously I was in uniform with a gun.
I asked him, “Why?” and he answered, “Figure it out yourself.” I said to him, “I don’t understand,” so he said, “Think some more. And if you don’t understand, think still more. And if you still don’t understand, that’s pretty bad.”
People who were standing with me on the road were embarrassed for me. They were in absolute shock. “How can such a thing be? How can he do such a thing? It would be one thing if he asked you if you took part in the expulsion, but not to give you a ride just like that?” I exercised restraint. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that apparently he was in a great rush, and I waited for another ride.
Yet I would like to have answered him as follows:
I, who almost every night lie outside your settlement to ambush terrorists, in order to preserve your life and the life of your wife and children —
I, who spent my last Rosh Hashanah in an ambush, lying at an observation point to protect your settlement, making Kiddush over wine that we brought with us in our gun pouch, using challah and honey that we brought with us from the base, while thinking about my own home, my yeshiva, and about an entire range of other things that Rosh Hashanah reminds me of –
I, who in the pouring rain lie in ambush, freezing from cold, wet down to the bone, only so that you can sleep in your warm, pleasant home, safe and calm –
I, who with my platoon spent a rainy night carrying out an arrest in one of the local villages, arresting a terrorist who was planning on committing a terror act in one of the area settlements,
I, who gave up on my dreams of being an officer in the army for the sake of the ideals that you and I both believe in –
Are we brothers, or was that just a dream?
Rav Aviner: Yes, we are brothers, and we have to do all we can to preserve that brotherhood.
Rabbi Yoram Eliyahu – Lecturer at Machon Meir
“May G-d Make you Like Ephraim and Menashe”
In our parasha it says, “On that day Jacob blessed them. He said, ‘[In time to come] Israel will use you as a blessing. They will say, ‘May G-d make you like Ephraim and Manasseh'” (Genesis 48:20). Indeed, there is a Jewish custom for parents to bless their children with this blessing on Friday nights, saying: “May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” The question is asked: why does Jacob skip over an entire generation and not find among all his sons one who is worthy to be a conduit of blessing?
Some explain that Jacob’s sons had grown up in Eretz Yisrael around the tent and beit midrash of Jacob their father. In such an incubator it is no surprise that righteous people of this sort would emerge. Yet Ephraim and Menashe grew up in Egypt, in the home of the Egyptian viceroy. In such an environment it was easy to veer off the path. Yet they both still withstood these tests and emerged righteous. Jacob therefore blessed his sons as follows: even if you find yourselves in difficult situations, facing trials of one sort and another, may you merit to remain righteous like Ephraim and Menashe.
Some explain that from the start of the book of Genesis we find quarrels between brothers, especially when the younger one surpasses the older one in greatness. That is how it was with Cain and Abel, with Isaac and Ishmael, and with Jacob and Esau. Even amongst Jacob’s sons brotherhood did not reign between them in their early years. Now Jacob had given precedence to Ephraim over Menashe the firstborn when he blessed them, yet we find no quarrel or rivalry between them. Jacob therefore blessed his sons, saying, “Even if one of you surpasses the rest of his brothers in greatness, let there be no jealousy and hatred between you, but love and brotherhood, as between Ephraim and Menashe.”
Why Ephraim Was Given Precedence over Menashe:
When Joseph sees his father place his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he tries to lift it up and put it on Menashe’s head. Yet the Torah says, “His father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know.” (verse 48:19). The word “refused” [vayima’en] is rare in the Torah, and it recalls the same word’s appearance in Parashat Vayeshev. There, when Potiphar’s wife approaches Joseph asking that he sin with her, it says, “He refused, and he said to his master’s wife” (Genesis 39:8). Is there a direct connection between these two refusals?
In Torah Shleimah, by Rabbi Kasher, we find a quotation from the Zohar – as follows:
“He refused: G-d said to Joseph, ‘You refused her advances. I therefore swear that there will be another refusal in the future and your sons will be blessed through it.’ Therefore it says, ‘His father refused, and said: I know my son, I know.'”
Why Was Joseph’s Refusal Responsible for Ephraim Being Given Precedence?
I believe that we can answer this question by way of the Netziv, Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, in his work “Ha’amek Davar” who asks regarding the verse, “Jacob deliberately crossed his hands” (Genesis 48:14): why didn’t Jacob switch Ephraim and Menashe, placing Ephraim to his right and Menashe to his left? Why did he prefer to switch his hands? The Netziv answers that all the precedence given to Ephraim over Menashe was only “in spiritual matters transcending the laws of nature”. Yet in mundane affairs, in practical matters, Menashe still came first and was still greater than Ephraim. The hand, symbolizing the spiritual side, “serves the brain and the mind, and the foot serves our mundane affairs.”
Therefore, from the point of view of the foot – the non-miraculous world – the world of action, Menashe was the greater one, hence he remained on the right side, by Jacob’s right foot,. Yet with everything having to do with the hands, the spiritual world, the right hand was linked specifically to Ephraim, for in this he was greater and took precedence. He therefore merited the blessing with the right hand.
In accordance with this we can explain as follows. It is well known that man has physical drives and cravings and sometimes these have exclusive control over him. Joseph, who overcame temptation and did not sin with Potiphar’s wife, made it clear that the spiritual side in men is dominant, and that by way of Torah and mitzvoth man can overcome these physical drives. As Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife, “How could I do such a great wrong? It would be a sin before G-d!” (Genesis 39:8). G-d therefore says to Joseph, “I swear that by virtue of your refusal, your overcoming your passions and your making your spiritual forces guide your life, you will merit another refusal, that Jacob will give precedence to the spiritual Ephraim who dominates and shows leadership in spiritual matters, and Jacob will place him over Menashe.
It turns out that Ephraim’s being given precedence over Menashe teaches us a major principle. The spiritual side in us has to lead and control in our daily lives. Making it take control will bring a person to proper conduct even in his practical and mundane affairs, and he will merit G-d’s blessing in everything he does.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
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