From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“G-d’s word endures forever. The holiness of the Land of Israel, and G-d’s love for it, has not changed neither will it change…all its desolation and destruction could not overcome this…It is the merciful love for an unfortunate mother, coupled with the glorious, majestic love for a royal queen”
(Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, p. 324)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“On Pesach we were redeemed and set apart”
Every holiday has its accomplishment and the light unique to it, light that is akin to the first light that was showered on Israel. Through fulfilling the mitzvoth commanded to us, “reminding us of the Exodus”, that light shines upon us, like the light that shined on us at the start when we triumphantly left Egypt.
The mitzvoth involving chametz and matza serve to remind us and to teach us that until the Exodus from Egypt, Israel were mixed among the rest of the nations, like “one nation out of another” (Deuteronomy 4:34). It was at the Exodus that we were redeemed and set apart. How so? The chametz, the regular bread that we eat all year long, is suited to man’s nature. It is easily digestible and tastes good. Our sages compare chametz to man’s evil impulse. Yet there is something special, the Pesach holiday, in which Israel were commanded to entirely avoid seeing or housing chametz in our possession. By eating matza we diminish the power of the evil impulse and our tendency towards the material, and we increase our affinity for the spiritual, for our Father in Heaven. Matza is our bread of faith. By such means we merit that same light and bounty unique to Pesach, time of our freedom, in which we were redeemed and set apart (see Ramchal, Derech Hashem, IV:8).
In every generation a person must see himself as though he, himself left the slavery of Egypt. It was in this regard that G-d commanded us, “Remember that you were a slave” (Deuteronomy 5:14). As Rambam puts it, “As though you, yourself, were a slave who went free and was redeemed” (Hilchot Chametz U’Matza 7:5). In our generation, the generation of national rebirth and of the ingathering of the exiles, we can see with our own eyes the emergence from exile to redemption, from darkness to light, and it is relatively easy for us to view ourselves as though we, ourselves, just left exile for redemption. Yet as stated, at the Exodus we were not just redeemed but set apart from all the nations. We recognized our identity, which makes us unique and sets us apart from the Egyptians and from the nations, that G-d chose us from all the nations and He loves us, as we daily say, “G-d chooses His people Israel, with love” (blessings of the Shema).
Especially on the first night of Pesach, but in general as well, we must not only remember the redemption but also the separation between us and the nations. By such means we will merit, before G-d, whose word created the universe, to sing a new song, with enormous joy:
“When Israel went out of Egypt, Jacob’s household from a people of strange speech, Judah became G-d’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion” (Hallel).
With blessings for a kosher and joyous holiday, Looking forward to complete redemption!
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
“Go teach in the army!”
Go teach in the army! The I.D.F. is our army. The army is the Jewish People. So go teach there. Volunteer once a week. For you it will be a small investment, but for the soldiers it’s a lot. You’ve got to realize that there’s an enormous thirst there for Jewishness, both amongst the officers and the rank and file. There is thirst, because they are Jews with a Jewish soul. And their thirst is even stronger because they are soldiers.
To win, weapons aren’t enough. It’s not enough to have practice maneuvers. You need motivation. You need a strong attachment to Judaism, Jewish history and the Jewish People. Obviously, we teach Torah for the sake of teaching Torah, for the sake of Heaven, yet we can also gain the enormous profit of a national spirit.
I am telling you: They are very thirsty for Jewishness. Not for religious coercion, not for insults and curses, but for Jewishness. So go teach! The Army Rabbinate are waiting for you to volunteer, each person in accordance with what most interests him, his proclivities, talents and ability: seminars, lectures, workshops, study partnerships, guided tours, family evenings for married couples, inviting soldiers to yeshiva, daf yomi on bases and at military posts. Adopt the base closest to you. And if you’re a writer, they need you to produce written and electronic material of all sorts.
Go teach. Teach the religious, the traditional, and those called secular. I say “called” secular, because really there’s no such thing as a secular Jew. Every Jew has a holy soul, and the fact is that he thirsts for Torah. Give Torah lectures, tell stories, sing songs! Everything is an option!
If you are a big Torah scholar, go there! If you are a small Torah scholar, go there! If you are just a plain Jew, go as well. If you are just a plain Jew who doesn’t know anything, how humble you are! I like you! Go!
Teach the standing army. Teach the reserves. Teach far away. Teach close to home.
And if you’re a woman, married or single, volunteer as well. Because the army has female soldiers, and the appropriateness of this is not the issue right now. The female soldier is there, and she too is a person. So please volunteer.
Call the Army Rabbinate right now, at 02-5012563, fax: 02-5012630. They’re waiting for you. Obviously, it’s all official. It’s all legal. It’s all with authorization.
This is the cure for all our problems, all our suffering, all our distress, all our weakness. Increase light! An enormous dissemination of light throughout the army! Therefore. Don’t stand at attention. Don’t stand at ease. Forward!
The priest shall then order that for the person undergoing purification there be taken two live kosher birds, a piece of cedar, some crimson [wool], and a hyssop branch” (Leviticus 14:4).
Rabbi Azriel Ariel – Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Cedar Wood, Some Hyssip and some Crimson”
It is hard for us to understand the way a metzora [Biblical leper] achieves purification. Very hard indeed! Why must we take “two birds… a piece of cedar, some crimson [wool], and a hyssop branch” (Leviticus 14:4)? And we encounter this same troika regarding the Red Heifer: “The kohen shall take a piece of cedar wood, some hyssop, and some crimson [wool], and throw it into the burning cow” (Numbers 19:6).
Regarding the Red Heifer, there is an additional element, the sprinkling of purification water. This water as well, which consists of “living waters”, i.e., from a flowing brook, is combined precisely with hyssop. We likewise find a similarity to the Pesach offering brought in Jerusalem: “Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it into the blood that will be placed in a basin. Touch the beam over the door and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin” (Exodus 12:22). What then is the connection between the metzora and the Red Heifer? And what connection is there between sprinkling of the purification water and Pesach in Egypt? And what does all of this say about the significance of the cedar, hyssop and the crimson wool? One who dealt with all this was Ibn Ezra, with a few oblique comments:
“‘Cedar and hyssop’: These are the largest and smallest of plants… The metzora and the blighted house and the impurity of death are all related. And they, in turn, are similar to the Pesach offering of Egypt.”
That is all he said, without explaining, but he placed the key in our hands, namely, the hyssop of Pesach in Egypt. And he added a second clue – that the cedar symbolizes largeness and the hyssop symbolizes smallness. Following Ibn Ezra’s lead, let us take a look at Maharal in his exposition for Shabbat HaGadol:
“There is nothing smaller than the hyssop…. And it is by virtue of Israel’s smallness, their similarity to the exceedingly small hyssop, that they are worthy of being exalted… By virtue of their lowliness, G-d raises them up to the level of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Through them, Israel become the people of G-d… Therefore, this section states (Exodus 12:22): ‘Touch the beam over the door’, to link the humble with the high.”
Taking the hyssop expresses the awareness of lowliness. Raising up the blood by way of the hyssop serves to strengthen the awareness of exaltedness. If so, it is by such means that we must understand as well the hyssop by which the sprinkling of the purification water takes place. The person rendered impure through contact with the dead is at a low point. The close contact with dead has lowered him. Hence the kohen must take hyssop, lowly and small, and by means of it raise up the living water – the opposite of death – to the body of the person contaminated by the dead, thereby elevating him from the lowliness of his impurity.
Now let us return to the metzora. The metzora, or the blighted house, is not sprinkled only by way of hyssop, but with three items together: cedar, hyssop and crimson wool [Hebrew shemi tola’at, where “tola’at” can also mean “worm”], the same elements we encounter at the burning of the Red Heifer. There, they are burnt, and the living water, mixed with their ash are sprinkled, by way of the hyssop. Here, with metzora, they are left intact, and with their help the living water, mixed with bird blood, is sprinkled on the metzora. These elements also belong to the same theme of highness and lowness, but from the opposite direction. As Rashi explains:
“‘Cedar wood’ – since these plague spots come about through pride – ‘and crimson wool and hyssop’. What is the metzora’s means of being cured? He should humble himself like the crimson wool [sheni tola’at] and the hyssop.” According to this, we should expect to see that we had been commanded to take the cedar and to sprinkle with it. Why should the sprinkling be carried out with hyssop and sheni tola’at as well? And why in the burning of the Red Heifer must we place these three elements together?
It follows that we are mistaken if we think that the use of these types expresses a one-way movement of personality traits from pride to lowliness, in the case of the metzora, and from depression to exaltation in the case of the person who had physical contact with the dead. True, pride is the source of gossip’s sin. Yet the solution is not to take that pride and to slaughter it and to pour out its blood on the earth or on the metzora’s body. Likewise, it is wrong to entirely blot out the traumatic encounter with death by way of the living waters. Alongside the slaughtered bird there is a living bird. With the blood of the bird there is living water. Likewise, the waters of purification are mixed with the Heifer ash, the ultimate expression of the life force transformed to nothingness.
There is positive value to the encounter with death. The process of being raised up from trauma will come precisely by way of properly grappling with it, and not by escape from it. Proper contact with death comes from a complex place, in which the sense of nothingness of the Heifer ash is combined with existential experience of the water, and the feeling of smallness that accompanies the hyssop and the crimson wool is linked to the feeling of grandeur associated with the cedar. The mixture of all this together leads precisely, by way of the lowly hyssop, to the renewed exaltation.
It is the same with the metzora. It is wrong to “smash” human pride. Rather, it should be directed and balanced. Man’s power of speech should not be paralyzed, but rather diverted to a positive channel. On the one hand, a strong feeling of healthy self-worth which derives from a recognition of the power of the divine forces within man; and on the other hand, a powerful sense of humility deriving from one’s recognition of man’s smallness per se. As King David said, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people” (Psalm 22:7). A proper combination of these two traits is what will bring a person to appreciate himself and his fellowman such that he will not feel any need to raise himself up by putting down anyone else. All the forces of life together will raise a person up the great ladder set on the earth, with its head reaching to the heavens.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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