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PARASHAT VAERA

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

“Anyone who follows the progress of the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael will see clearly how from every step backward comes an even greater development for the good, and out of every crisis comes a step forward…”

(Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

“I Will Bring you to the Land”

When Moses was sent the first time to take the Israelites out of Egypt, not only did he not deliver them, but quite the contrary, Pharaoh made their burden heavier. Moses, in his great pain and angst, addressed G-d, asking, “Why do You mistreat this people? Why have You sent me?” (Exodus 5:22). In response, G-d spoke to him severely: “Elokim [a name of G-d connoting His use of Strict Justice] spoke to Moses, and He said to him, ‘I am Hashem'” (Exodus 6:2). Rashi comments, “He addressed Moses severely for Moses himself had spoken harshly, saying, “Why do You mistreat this nation?'”

Moses should have learned from the Patriarchs. G-d promised them Canaan but did not fulfill His promise during their lifetimes. Even so, their faith and trust that G-d would fulfill His promise never weakened. The Patriarchs had the very greatest possible faith. Even if all their lives they had experienced only evil, their faith in G-d and in His promises would not have weakened. (see Kuzari, Ma’amar Sheni 2)

Instead of giving up on the mission, G-d commands Moses to comfort Israel and to strengthen their spirit, giving them the four promises of redemption:
“Therefore say to the Israelites [in My name], ‘I am the L-rd. I will take you away from your forced labor in Egypt and free you from their slavery. I will liberate you with a demonstration of My power, and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to Myself as a nation, and I will be to you as a G-d. You will know that I am the L-rd your G-d, the One who is bringing you out from under the Egyptian subjugation'” (Exodus 6:6-7). Yet the Israelites of that generation “would not listen to Moses due to their disappointment and hard labor” (verse 9).

Israel, however, for thousands of years, down through the generations have read the Hagadah at the Pesach Seder, taking comfort from the four promises of redemption. Even under the harshest circumstances in the exile and during the Holocaust, they never ceased to read the Hagadah, becoming stronger in their spirit and faith, as they completed it with the words, “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.”

Today, even in our generation, the generation of national rebirth and the ingathering of the exiles, there are severe complications which at face value seem like a retreat in the redemption process, just as occurred in Egypt. Examples include the spiritual and moral crisis befalling some of the public and the country’s political leadership, a crisis leading to the social and security-related weakening of the State of Israel. This weakening led to the Jews’ expulsion from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, and the creation of exceedingly dangerous plans to divide Eretz Yisrael and to establish an Arab state, G-d forbid. That state will certainly serve as a terror base for attacking our country.

Let us not capitulate and give up on our mission, saying, “Why have You mistreated this people?” We must be patient and full of faith as we watch with our own eyes the fulfillment of the divine promise, “I will bring you to the land regarding which I raised My hand, [swearing] that I would give it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am the L-rd” (verse 9). “G-d will not cast off His people, neither will He abandon His inheritance” (Psalm 94:14).



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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El

Silence Does not Constitute Admission

Buddy, I recommend that you not respond to all the lies and defamation against yourself, even if according to Jewish law you are entitled to.
Sefer HaChinuch explains that the prohibition against insulting someone applies if you attack him with insults and invectives just like that, but if someone is attacked, he is allowed to respond, both in order to defend himself and because he is not required to be mute like stone (Mitzvah 338). Yet I recommend that you place yourself amongst those who “are insulted without insulting in return, who hear ridicule without responding… Of them Scripture states, ‘Those that love Him are like the sun at its height’ (Judges 5:31).” (Shabbat 88b)

Even though you have much to say in response, it is better that you remain silent and not inflame the public. Some have explained our sages’ repetition, “insulted without insulting in return, hearing ridicule without responding” as being significant: In the second clause, the insulted person has heard a lot of disgraceful things ABOUT THE INSULTER and he could pay him back double, yet he still remains silent (Kitzur Shla). My advice is therefore this: Remain silent, and grant glory to Hashem, the G-d of Israel.

One time there was a convention for the strengthening of religion in Jerusalem, at which the illustrious Rabbi Zerach Braverman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Meah She’arim, was present. One of those present began to attack him with shouts and accusations, mockery and ridicule. All of that time, Rabbi Braverman stood on the side and didn’t say a word. Everyone present was certain that the attacker was right, because, as our sages said, “Silence constitutes admission.” Following the convention, they approached Rabbi Braverman and asked him why he had remained silent and allowed himself to be humiliated, a profanation of the Torah’s glory, and why he had not revealed the truth that he was not guilty of the accusations. Rav Zerach replied, “Had I revealed the truth that what occurred wasn’t my fault, everyone would have immediately understood whose fault it really was, and that would have constituted that person’s being shamed in public. Our sages taught us, ‘Better one should throw himself into a fiery furnace than to shame someone else in public’ (Berachot 43b). (Rabbi Stern, “Gedolei HaDorot” [Hebrew], page 977).

Another story involves Rabbi Chaim Chizkiyahu Medini, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and author of the sefer “S’dei Chemdah”. When Rabbi Medini was a young kollel student he learned in a kollel in Bucharia. He was enormously diligent. He would arrive early in the morning before everyone else and go home late at night, after everyone else. Therefore, the wealthy man who maintained the kollel in his own home especially drew Rav Medini close to him. Another student was jealous of him and his wisdom, and arranged a “Potiphar’s Wife” intrigue. He paid the kollel’s cleaning lady, who would come early while the S’dei Chemed was learning alone in the Beit Midrash, to try to incriminate him. Sure enough, she burst out of the kollel shouting that the S’dei Chemed had attacked her. The plotter was waiting for her. He riled everyone up and he, too, began shouting that this “corrupt” kollelnik should be thrown out of the Beit Midrash. A major commotion resulted. The wealthy man arrived, and everyone came running to him, demanding that he throw that kollel student out. The wealthy man, an expert in the ways of the world and very clever, quieted everyone down. He asked them all to go back into the Beit Midrash. There, the commotion continued, yet the S’dei Chemed did not say a word. He just silently went on with his learning. For half an hour the patron pondered the S’dei Chemed. Finally, he banged on his table and announced, “This man is holy! Anyone who opens his mouth and says a word against him will be thrown out of the kollel!” On the spot he fired the cleaning lady.

Everyone was silent, because the patron was both righteous and clever. Even so, doubt continued to plague the hearts of many people, for they thought that when all was said and done, there was no proof in the S’dei Chemed’s favor, and there is no smoke without fire.

Yet some time later the cleaning woman came to the S’dei Chemed weeping, and she told him that the money she had received was now gone and she was now left without a livelihood. She therefore wished to confess publicly and to tell the entire story. The S’dei Chemed was very happy that finally the truth would come to light. Yet quickly he thought, “Who will gain from this? I will gain and G-d will lose. My respect will be restored but a terrible profanation of G-d’s name will result. It is true that a kollelnik propositioning a cleaning lady involves a grave sin, but a kollelnik fabricating a story out of thin air along the lines of the wife-of-Potiphar story is a profanation of G-d’s name infinitely worse. G-d’s glory will not be increased as a result.”

He therefore told the cleaning lady to remains silent and he would deal with the matter. He approached the patron and convinced him to accept the cleaning woman back. Obviously, she was thrilled over the news. As for the man who framed the S’dei Chemed, he died a number of days later and went to the grave with his secret. Yet when the S’dei Chemed left his meeting with the patron, he suddenly felt that his mind had opened up and that he was receiving the entire Torah as a gift.

Indeed, it is impossible to believe that a single, solitary person could have managed to create so large an encyclopedia like his work, the S’dei Chemed. He merited this because he conceded on his own dignity, remaining in a state of humiliation, for the sake of G-d’s glory (She’al Avicha VeyaGedcha, Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Shwadron I:257, Gedolei HaDorot, Rav Stern, page 870).

On a more sublime level, consider what Rambam wrote to his student Mor Yosef Ibn Jabar: “Regarding what I have been apprised of – and it may or may not be true – that in your city there is someone in your city who speaks evil of me, and he seeks to be glorified at my expense, expressing himself inappropriate regarding my work [Mishnah Torah]. I have heard that you are protesting and expressing your objections, but please don’t. I forgive anyone who out of foolishness speaks evil of me, let alone someone who does so because he can benefit in some manner without my being hurt. Jewish courts can force a person not to take advantage of legal rights that will give him unfair advantage. Here, one party will benefit while the other will not lose out. All the more so here where everyone will benefit:
“The person making the accusations will benefit because those around him will be impressed by him and will think he is righteous and sagacious, making people view him as someone worthy of following, especially since they will be following him as a wise, spiritual figure. Hence here in this world he will benefit greatly. I, too, will benefit both in this world and in the World-to-Come. The benefit in the World-to-Come has been explained. As for the benefit to me in this world, if someone seeks to hide what G-d revealed to him, G-d will add on to His revelations. As for yourself, if you protest, you will just bring unnecessary evil and controversy upon yourself.
“I ask assistance from no man. Let us leave each person with what he wants for himself.” (Igarot HaRambam, Rav Shilat Edition, page 417)


Translation: R. Blumberg


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