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PARASHAT SHEMOT

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

“The heart yearns for the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael, the faith of Eretz Yisrael, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Where can we derive the joy of Eretz Yisrael, the inner tranquility of Eretz Yisrael, the devotion of Eretz Yisrael, the Truth of Eretz Yisrael?”

(Eretz Chefetz, 50)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

The Jewish Birthrate


The demographic threat greatly preoccupied Pharaoh. He saw how the Israelites “were fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7). As Rashi explains, they proliferated supernaturally. Women would bear six infants at once. Pharaoh’s solution for quashing Israel’s growth was to subjugate and persecute them, as it says, “The Egyptians appointed conscription officers over the Israelites to crush their spirits with hard labor” (verse 11). Yet the result was the opposite: “The more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites proliferated and spread” (verse 12).

Pharaoh’s decrees about killing the male infants likewise failed. This was by virtue of the self-sacrifice of the midwives Shifra and Pu’a, who were G-d-fearing. “They did not do as the Egyptian king had ordered them. They allowed the infant boys to live” (verse 17). Despite the warnings and afflictions, “the people increased and became very numerous” (verse 20). Ultimately, the seventy souls who went down to Egypt exited Egypt triumphantly as a nation of six hundred thousand.

Even in our own day, we have to strengthen and encourage increasing the Jewish birthrate in Israel. As we know, in accordance with Jewish tradition, every traditional and religious family longs to have many children, eight, ten or more. Through the return to our roots and to the Jewish tradition of the Jewish masses, the population of the Jewish People in modern Israel will increase as well, just as we literally see this in the religious, traditional and Hareidi communities. Israel, the country, and the Israeli government, need to encourage a return to Jewish tradition, and additionally, the government must provide assistance to families with many children, just as is the accepted practice in numerous countries that wish to increase their populations.

Likewise, we have to increase and strengthen the Aliyah of millions of Jews who are still in the Diaspora, and not just by way of economic incentives but chiefly by way of a spiritual and cultural change that will strengthen their Jewish identify and their connection to the State of Israel. Assimilation in the Exile is eating away at our people. Only by a return to Judaism and Eretz Yisrael will it be possible to put a halt the assimilation process, as we indeed see at Machon Meir among the young men and women who arrive in our country and return to Judaism with love and faith, establishing beautiful, Jewish homes.

We are worried about the proliferation of the Arabs living in our country. The solution to this problem is for the Jews to proliferate in their land. The stand taken by our heads of state, that the solution is to partition our country into two countries, is just wrong. They are making a terrible mistake, for by such means they will be enabling millions of Arabs who claim the “right of return” to stream into our country, thereby endangering the security and the very survival of the State of Israel.

The solution to the demographic problem is thus by way of Jews increasing and proliferating. And if the Israelites in Egypt, at the nadir of their cultural existence, were able to proliferate in this manner, all the more so that we should be able to proliferate and spread in Eretz Yisrael, the land of the life’s blood. By such means we will merit to be the living fulfillment of Tzefaniah (3:20): “At that time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you to be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I turn your captivity before your eyes – the word of G-d.”
Looking forward to complete redemption




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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El

The “Knitted Yarmulkes” are Getting Stronger

Question: We, the National Religious, are being battered on all fronts, Gush Katif, the Hesder yeshivot, the army, etc.
I find it depressing. Worse, our communal leadership has no sense that anything is wrong. Everything is continuing as per usual, and there is no change in outlook or direction. What have we learned? What is the lesson? I’ve got the feeling that something has happened and everything is unraveling, but in our world – it’s business as usual. It’s depressing me more and more.
Answer: Dear friend, you’re making a three-fold error:
First, you’re making a mistake because you’re interested only in the National Religious public and not in the entire Jewish People. You see everything through the prism of one small group within the great and holy Jewish People. Let me therefore remind you that the Master-of-the-Universe chose the entire Jewish People, and He is bringing the entire Jewish People to rebirth, not just the small National Religious public. G-d loves the entire Jewish People. He has chosen it all. He chose us from amongst all the nations – all of us. What is happening now is happening to the entire Jewish People: the rebuilding of the Land; the return to Zion; the establishment of the State; the consolidation of the army; the Torah’s return to its home. Please, don’t be so stubborn in your parochialism. Consider the larger picture.

Your second mistake is the fact that you are depressed and sad right now. We have to always be happy. It’s forbidden for us to be mournful even for a single moment. We musn’t despair for even one second. Some in the world would like to see us broken and depressed. But no! We shall not be without happiness for one second! We are here in our land in a glass house, and the entire world is looking in on us.

I once said that I will never tear my shirt on seeing a place in Israel under the recognized control of the Arabs. Let them tear their shirts over everything that we have built. We are in the midst of a battle and in mid-battle one doesn’t weep. Anyway, this battle didn’t start at Gush Katif or at Amona. Rather, it has been going on for more than 100 years, with everything at stake: the land, Zionism, the Torah, education, and everything having to do with the rebirth of holiness in the holy land. We must struggle all the time. We have no time to feel sorry for ourselves and to mourn. Your weepiness is a sickness of the exile. We believe in ourselves, in our nation and in our country. We don’t put on airs in relation to others, but neither are we smitten with feeling sorry for ourselves or with false modesty. We won’t let any aspect of weakness penetrate our nation.

The third error is as follows. Simply put, it isn’t so that we are in decline. Quite the contrary, we are always on the rise. We are only ten percent, but our influence is much greater than that. We put on no airs. We do not arrogantly claim that we are the entire Jewish People. Yet the reality is that we are accumulating power on all fronts. Almost everywhere in Israel we have planted points of light: with yeshivot, kollels, pilot Torah communities, schools, Talmud Torahs, girls’ Torah high schools, etc., etc. Thank G-d, people are thirsting for Torah. It is therefore a mistake for us to frighten ourselves like that new soldier thrown onto the battlefield who thinks that all the bullets flying through the air are aimed specifically at him. Even when something happens that we do not like, it is not because anyone has anything purposely against us, but simply because the reality is complex.

And let me tell you a secret: Just as you are afraid of others, so are others afraid of you and of what you represent, and you’re both wrong.

There’s a story about a wealthy land owner who got drunk in an inn and promised all those present that he would wager a bet on a bear fight against the landowner of the next village. When he returned to his estate and sobered up, he remembered that he had no trained bear for bear fighting, so he ordered his Jewish servant to purchase a bear outfit and to himself serve as the bear for the bear fight. Moreover, he said, if the Jew refused, he and his family would be expelled.
With no choice the poor Jew disguised himself as a bear and stood in the inn, trembling with fear, facing a frightening-looking bear who stood before him. The Jew froze in place, but the gamblers pushed him against his will towards the other bear which was marching towards him. When he came near, the Jew understood that his last moments had arrived, and he cried out “Hear, O Israel!” Suddenly to his utter surprise he heard the other “bear” respond, “Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is one!”

In any event, we are growing stronger and stronger. Yet I will admit that it is possible for us to grow stronger still. Obviously, I say this not out of a lust for power, but because we have in our hands the key to bringing illumination to both ourselves and the entire nation. We have the key to the holy rebirth of the holy people in the Holy Land! But how? A prominent professor, an expert in social processes, explained that we can indeed have an enormous influence, but on two conditions.
First, we must be united and not divisive and accusatory, with every subgroup blowing its own little horn. Second, we must stop talking in a threatening, unintelligible style that frightens everyone.
He is certainly right.
Yet first and foremost we must dispense with a misconception: Success does not mean being successful all the time. That’s a compulsive, childish view of things. Success must be viewed over the long haul. A woman’s pregnancy lasts a long time, and it is sometimes difficult. Yet a woman carries her baby with self-sacrifice and valor, and her joy over the future sweetens the pain. She sees the entire process from start to finish and does not sink in depression.
After all, I said we’re in mid-battle. You don’t go into mourning in mid-battle. And if you must sit shiva, it’s for seven days and not 77 or 777…

Yes, once and for all: We are not sad sacks. Quite the contrary, we are strong. We are moving from one success to the next, and we are operating out of faith and love. Moreover, what we do is not for ourselves but for the entire Jewish People, together with them.



Professor Yisrael Eldad  

An Introduction to the Book of Shemot

We leave Bereishit and enter Shemot, as one leaves the home of parents where even arguments were warm and heartening… No more whistling of flocks, but rather whistling of masters’ whips. Not one person’s prayer, but rather the crying of a multitude. Not one single dream, but a difficult and bitter reality. A people drowning in water, an entire people yelling in thirst in the desert ‘Bring us water’. Not a son who buys a blessing from his father, but freedom from their Divine Father while demanding to be returned to the fleshpots.

From a singular Lech-Lecha to the Lech-Lecha of a People. When you close your eyes, how wonderful to remember the good Book of Bereishit; when you open them again, you see the book of Shemot; hear screams of bondage and feel the scorch of desert. See how easy was the work of Creation, how easy for the Creator to make light and order out of chaos, to form life from material; but how hard it is to form a nation out of the children of Israel.

Translation: R. Blumberg


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