From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Whoever in his purity is effused with the light of faith will love all men without exception. His entire goal will be their improvement and betterment, and the greater his faith, the more reflective of integrity will be his methods towards achieving his goal”
(Midot HaRe’iyah, Emunah)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
The Fatal Trap
G-d promises Israel that Eretz Yisrael will be conquered little by little, as it says, “I will not drive them out in a single year lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you to contend with. I will drive the inhabitants out little by little” (Exodus 23:29-30). This process will continue until the Jewish People increase and fill the Land, as it says, “Until you increase and fully occupy the land” (ibid.).
And what are the borders promised by G-d? ” I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river” (ibid., verse 31). Until we increase and occupy the entire land G-d severely prohibits us not to forge a covenant with the peoples dwelling in the land, as it says, “Do not make a treaty with [these nations] or with their gods” (ibid., verse 32). For if we do forge a covenant with them, it will be a “fatal trap” for us (verse 33).
Ramban rendered rulings along these lines in practical terms, writing:
“We were commanded to occupy the Land which G-d gave to our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We must not abandon it to any other nation, or to desolation… In the framework of this mitzvah, G-d gave us the precise details of the Land’s borders… and we are not allowed to relinquish the Land to the nations in any generation. We were commanded to come to the Land and to conquer and settle it. This command to us to conquer and settle the Land applies in all generations” (see Ramban, remarks on Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvah 4). Ramban’s ruling is well-known, and it was accepted by all Halachic authorities, early and later sages (see Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, Pit’chei Teshuva).
Today, how fortunate we are that in our generation we are privileged to fulfill the words of the Written Torah and Ramban’s ruling. In other words, we can move to Eretz Yisrael, conquer it and settle it. Through us is being fulfilled, “I will drive the inhabitants out little by little.”
When the Jewish State was established, the number of its Jews was 600,000, sixty myriad, like the number that left Egypt. The country’s size was small. Abba Eban was right when he called Israel’s old borders “the Auschwitz borders”.
Today, sixty years later, we are privileged to have about 5.5 million Jews living in our country, and each year that number increases by about 200,000, both from internal growth and from continuing Aliyah, sometimes in large streams and sometimes small.
The size of our country is growing as well, and it will continue to do so, so that we will be able to absorb the millions of Jews on the way. Yet until then we mustn’t forge any covenant or make any agreement with the Arabs, who are a “fatal trap” [Hebrew “mokesh”, which also means “landmine”] that can explode and cause us heavy losses. As G-d commanded us, ” Do not make a treaty with them… for it will be a “fatal trap” for us.”
The wretched, dangerous Oslo Accords unleashed upon us the intifadas and the recent wars, and we paid a heavy price involving many victims. Likewise, the “Roadmap”, whose purpose was to establish for the Arabs a terror state in the very heart of the Land, constitutes an even more fatal trap than Oslo. We must find a way to neutralize these “minefields” and to dismantle them. The way to do this is through a return to Jewishness, to Jewish roots and to our holy Torah. We must foment a cultural, spiritual and religious change in Israeli society. Every Jew should learn and become familiar with the fact that Eretz Yisrael belongs exclusively to the Jewish People. The link between the People, Land and Torah of Israel will bring light and goodness not only to the Jewish People but to the whole world. By such means, all the world’s inhabitants will come to realize that Hashem, the G-d of Israel is King, and his sovereignty is over all.
Looking forward to complete salvation.
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Be Careful not to Climb the Mountain, or Even to Touch its Edge” (Exodus 19:12)
The Temple Mount constitutes an unsolvable halachic problem. One is not allowed to enter the site of the Temple, and whoever enters there incurs “Karet” [divine “excommunication”], even today when the Temple stands in ruins.
We do not know where the Temple is located on the Temple Mount. Much research has been written, many sketches have been drawn, with numerous measurements taken. That itself is the source of the problem: If everything was so certain, it would be enough to make one measurement. Occasionally a new researcher emerges and nullifies all the previous calculations. The situation has not changed in a hundred years, when the great rabbis of Israel and of Jerusalem ruled that one must not go beyond the wall. Everything is still veiled in doubt.
Already in the past when the Jews returned to build the Second Temple, a prophet was needed to determine the location of the altar.
The truth has to be stated, that all this measuring was displeasing to Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and when they would bring him a brochure with such measurements, he would shunt it aside, hiding it under a pile of books. He classified making such calculations as “spitting on the Temple Mount” (Sichot Rabbenu 21, se’if 9).
He also mentioned that the mitzvah of Temple reverence does not just apply at the site of the Temple itself but on the entire Temple Mount (Sichot Rabbenu, ibid.).
After the Six Day War the great rabbis of Israel announced that it was forbidden to ascend onto the Temple Mount. Our master Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook and his son Rav Tzvi Yehuda forbade ascent. The great rabbis before that forbade ascent. The Chief Rabbis of Israel forbade ascent (including HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Goren in practical terms – see “Ma’alin BaKodesh”, Av 5763, page 149); and including HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu and HaGaon HaRav Avraham Shapira – and we are not greater sages than they, nor greater saints nor greater Zionists.
After the Six Day War, the Chief Rabbinate deliberated on the matter, and a proposal was raised that they would not decide but would leave it up to each rabbi vis-à-vis his own community. Yet that proposal was rejected. The Temple Mount is not the private mountain of any particular community but a mountain belonging to the entire Jewish People, and those in charge of deciding are the Chief Rabbinate.
In conclusion, not only is there no mitzvah amongst the 613 mitzvot of the Torah commanding us to ascend the Temple Mount, but there is a prohibition, and you cannot turn a prohibition into a mitzvah.
As far as the Arabs who go up there, that is not our responsibility. If they wish to be living fulfillment of “Any non-Levite who comes near shall die.” (Numbers 9:51), that is their affair.
Moreover, if halachically it is impossible to go there we understand that such is G-d’s will. We have no prophets who can inform us of G-d’s will. Yet also delay can attest to G-d’s will, whether what delays us is a practical constraint or derives from halachah, what is known as “a constraint with an inner motive”.
It is yet a long way to the Temple Mount. We have a lot of mitzvoth to do, a lot of kind deeds, a lot of Torah to learn, a lot of the Land to build, a lot of honor to show Torah scholars, a lot of love to show our fellow Jew, a lot teaching to do, a lot of solutions to find for the unemployed and for a lot of poor people, and for a lot of hungry people…
One might say: We are not ascending the Temple Mount as a mitzvah nor in search of holiness, but as part of conquering the Land of Israel.” My response to this is that there are all sorts of ways to conquer something. This is not the way to conquer the Temple Mount. The rest of Eretz Yisrael is to be conquered by the pioneer with his self-sacrifice and by the soldier with his weapon and by the settler with his faith – but the Temple Mount has to be conquered differently – by causing the Divine Presence to come to rest. Sometimes not everything can be approached the same way. Sometimes there are differences. See what our great master Rambam wrote in Hilchot Beit HaBechira (6:6), that the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is established through conquest, whereas the holiness of the site of the Temple by way of the Divine Presence.
And how do we cause the Divine Presence to come to rest? Through Torah and mitzvoth, through kindness and love. We say in our prayers, “G-d builds Jerusalem” (Shemoneh Esreh), and “Jerusalem” is referring to the Temple. Yet how does G-d “build” it? We don’t see anything happening right now. Surely we should instead say, “He WILL build it”? Rather, we do not see because we have the eyes of mortal man. The commentaries explained that every mitzvah of every Jew throughout the world and throughout the generations builds Jerusalem, and when a particular quantity is achieved, then the Temple will actually be constructed. Particularly important is groundless love, as in Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s famous words that the Third Temple will be built through groundless love (Orot HaKodesh III:324).
Even King David, when he wished to build the Temple, was told by G-d that the time had not arrived. G-d told him: Now is the time of wars. Now is the time of building up the kingdom. The time for building the Temple will come later – by way of your son Solomon.
The halachic delay tells us that the time has not yet arrived. We have a lot of work ahead of us. When the Six Day War ended and Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s class for his greatest students and scholars recommenced, he humbly asked, “What should we learn now?” One student suggested, “Perhaps the laws of the Temple?…” Our master warmly grasped that student’s hand and said to him, “Before we learn that we have a lot more to learn about the laws of kings and their wars.”
Yet a longing for the Temple and the Temple Mount has existed throughout history, and every prayer ends: “May it be G-d’s will that the Temple should be rebuilt speedily in our day.” From this fierce longing we derive strength and valor to add yet one more mitzvah, more Torah learning, more kindness and more holiness. Through all of them the Temple will be rebuilt.
Rabbi Zeev Karov
The Majority Does not Decide
Many people know enough to quote the verse, “Decide on the basis of the majority” (Exodus 23:2), but they forget other words from the same verse: “Do not follow the majority to do evil.”
Only a short time after the Exodus from Egypt we bore witness to instances in which the majority desired things that were bad for the Jewish People. Most of the people wanted their pot of flesh. Most did not wish to go to Eretz Yisrael. Most of the spies slandered the Land. There is no guarantee that the majority will be on the side of goodness or justice.
All people are to be judged equally, but they do not all have an equal right to be judges. All are equal before the law, but they do not have an equal right to determine the law. Why not?
Israel’s tidings to the world are, “Judgment belongs to G-d” (Deuteronomy 1:17). Israel has a novel idea to offer the world, namely that all of life’s strata can be illuminated by divine light. If, G-d forbid, we think that jurisprudence must remain solely in the realm of human thought, without direction from divine intelligence, then we are abandoning the world to the relativistic thinking of man. Human thinking changes each day and is influenced by personal interests of one sort or another. Our belief that the world has a Creator and that He runs the world bears the tidings that there is a G-d in the midst of the land, and that the world has not been abandoned to human caprice and limitations. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).
Torah jurisprudence is the law of G-d. It is founded on axiomatic, eternal instructions that came from On High and were especially given to Israel. The demand for justice between people is a demand originating with G-d. Jewish jurisprudence has its source in holiness, in the word of G-d. It consists of a network of absolute values, and not just an attempt to improve the lifestyle of the individual or society. Only someone who committed to the Torah’s absolute values and guidance can direct others in those values. Our sages down through time taught us how to apply the Torah’s foundations to our changing lives in every generation. Therefore, we are not “slaves” to our fellow man. The majority does not determine our life’s values or the laws that derive from those values.
It is no accident that the Torah predates every sphere of human jurisprudence by thousands of years. For example, more than three thousand years ago, the Torah determined what must be our relationship to the slave. A slave must receive social benefits and severance payments, but above all must enjoy humane treatment. Within the human justice system, man has not yet succeeded in properly organizing conditions of the salaried worker. We bear witness to chronic struggles and strikes on this background.
It is no surprise that man’s main moral guidelines have been taken from the Torah, from “Do not kill” to “Love for neighbor as yourself.” Man-made civil law has not proven itself to this very day. It has not led the world to behave in a more moral fashion. It does not prevent corruption, extortion or injustice, because it is human and relativistic. By contrast, our Mosaic law has brought the world to much greater morality and to more genuine justice.
This special Jewish jurisprudence is particularly linked to Eretz Yisrael. Only the Jewish People living in their entire land can lead moral lives to perfection and can bring the world G-d’s tidings regarding the law. Our Torah portion teaches that genuine Jewish jurisprudence can function in a societal framework only in Eretz Yisrael, and only if based on the word of G-d.
When Scripture states, “Zion shall be redeemed through justice” (Isaiah 1:27), one must not suppose that the “justice” being referred to is of human origin. As Moses said, “The people come to me TO SEEK G-D” (Exodus 18:15). Any justice based on relativistic, limited man, will not redeem the world from the darkness in which it is enveloped.
Therefore, the special emphasis in the parashah is on the grave prohibition against forging a covenant with the inhabitants of the Land and with their deities. “Do not make a treaty with these nations or with their gods. Do not allow them to reside in your land, since they may then make you sin to Me” (Exodus 23:32). The prohibition against serving other gods is not associated exclusively with Eretz Yisrael, but it is more severe in Eretz Yisrael. Living in the Land has to bring tidings of a new way of life – profounder, broader and more complete. It has to be a life in which the connection between man and the Creator of the Universe reaches new heights that cannot be reached anywhere else.
No plebiscite of one form or another can alter absolute values, any more than this or that majority is necessarily moral and fair. There will never be a plebiscite on murder, since the very plebiscite will indicate moral deterioration. By the same token, a plebiscite on any of the values of the Torah is illegitimate and indicates that one’s own values have been distorted.
Let us be strong in our recognition that “Judgment belongs to G-d.”
Translation: R. Blumberg
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