From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“On this holy festival, the time of our freedom, the beacon of freedom will shine forth in its very purity, distinguishing between slavery and freedom, between pure freedom which is the freedom of truth, and false freedom which bears the deep imprint of slavery.”
(Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 164)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“We were born in Egypt and we are growing to adulthood in Jerusalem”
On the seder night, the myriad of Israel sit together in families, joyously retelling the story of the exodus, the story of the birth of the Jewish People and of their being set apart. It is a story that discretely reveals a small share of G-d’s great love and affection for His people Israel, His firstborn son, whom He saved from slavery and took for a people. Thank G-d, in our day we can tell those present at the seder that G-d likewise brought us into the Land that He swore to our ancestors to give to us as an inheritance. We must remember that not only at the exodus did G-d love us, but that He loves us every day and every second.
When a baby is born, a fine new soul appears in the world, for man’s should is G-d’s candle. Yet the joyous parents have their eyes trained on the future as well. They ask: What will be with that fine soul when it grows up and matures? How will it be privileged to spread its good, sweet light? We do not suffice with the birth. Thus, our eyes were always looking towards the future. It was that way at the exodus as well. We were born and set apart and redeemed in Egypt. Yet our eyes are lifted towards the future redemption, the redemption towards which our nation and all mankind are heading.
The Jewish People have come a long way over thousands of years since the Exodus. Finally, with G-d’s help, we are meriting to come home to Jerusalem. The Jewish People, with their good soul, were born in Egypt, but the revelation of their benevolent soul for all mankind is at Jerusalem, the light source of the world. That is where the redemption of Israel and the world, which began with Israel’s appearance on the stage of history in Egypt, will take place.
The thoughts and plans of some of those holding the reins of leadership about handing over parts of Jerusalem to our enemies are chametz that they and we must burn out of our midst. By doing so we will merit to continue marching upward along the long path from Egypt to rebuilt Jerusalem, and we will be privileged to see the rebuilding of the Temple. Through us will be fulfilled, “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:4).
With blessings for a kosher and joyous Pesach!
Hundreds of hours of free Torah videos! – www.machonmeir.net
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner- Chief Rabbi of Bet El
“Rabbi Kook’s Approach VS Focus on the Individual”
Question: Perhaps, with our generation being so focused on the individual, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s approach, which focused on the good of the group at large, has become outdated? Perhaps he’s no longer so relevant and Chabad or Breslav are better? The fact is that those two groups are winning over the youth.
Answer: Your analysis is correct except for one detail: It applies not just in this generation but throughout all the generations. People have always been more interested in themselves. They’ve always had an exaggerated self-love, and they’ve always had an evil impulse which said, “Me! Me!” I am not against self-love. After all it says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). That’s a sign that you’ve got to love yourself, too. Yet I’m talking about exaggerated self-love.
What has changed, however, is that this proclivity has become a central ideal, replacing the ideal of extricating oneself from egocentrism. Indeed, during the past 200-300 years, the individualist bent has been becoming stronger in the West, and we are being dragged along, like a tail, as we proclaim, “I set MYSELF before me always.” We forget that there is only One Being who can truly say “I”, and that is G-d, and we are supposed to respond to Him, “Here we are!”
Obviously, it isn’t so that Rav Kook only focused on the group. Only people who haven’t learned his writings say this. Rav Kook was not just interested in the group, and not just interested in the individual, but in the Torah, which is concerned with them both, for each needs the other. Or, more precisely, as Rav Kook’s son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda put it, “the individual, from within the group and for the sake of the group”. See Mesillat Yesharim at the end of Chapter 19.
Individualistic worship of a divinity existed before Abraham. Idolatry is likewise individualistic, and similar to the contemporary language of the New Age, flowing out of the pagan Far East, which makes reference to “the god within me”. Abraham represents the focus on the group. His
worship constitutes an enormous step upward. Slowly we ascended from the private alters to
the universal Beit HaMikdash. Whoever talks now about individualism in worship is regressing to the primitivism of before Abraham.
The truth is that the Exile involved a focus on the individual as well. Mine is mine and yours is yours. Even its spirituality was private, with people thinking, “My place in Heaven is mine alone (see Rav Kook’s Orot 111). My worship is mine alone. My emotions are mine alone.” Yet that approach represents sickness, not health, a band-aid, not an ideal approach. The Master-of-the-Universe decided that we should be returning to the concern with the aggregate. Out of that concern, we have done many things: building up the Land, the return to Zion, the establishment of a Jewish State, and especially our army, the epitome of concern for the public good. When there is the brotherhood of fighters, the one is ready to die for the other.
We are becoming more and more concerned with the general fate. Some explain our sages’ utterance that “the son of David will not come until money disappears from pockets” (Sanhedrin 97a) as meaning, “until focus on the individual ceases. How very fortunate we are that we have come back to the concern for the individual!
How forlorn the western world – and those amongst us who ape it – for being so focused on the individual. Things there are so bad that people don’t get married, let alone stay married. Marriage is likewise man’s main way of extricating himself from focus on the individual.
Indeed, it is seemingly a pleasant thing to be focused on oneself. The ancient Greeks have a legend about a fellow named Narcissus who stared at his reflection in the water, and he was so enchanted by it that he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Ultimately he put down roots and became a flower – the narcissus. Freud created from this an emotional prototype, the narcissist, who finds all his satisfaction from preoccupation with himself. By contrast, our holy sages told about a boy who came to fill a pitcher of water from a spring. His evil impulse took hold of him and showed him his beautiful hair, seeking to deprive him of the World-to-Come. He immediately took on the vow of a Nazir so that at the end of the month he would cut all his hair off (Nedarim 9b).
Indeed, focusing on the public good is harder than focusing on one’s own needs, as Rav Kook taught, “True, public-welfare-oriented Torah observance is much harder than individual-focused observance” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 174). Yet such is the unique divine service of the Jewish People. Therefore, “a person must constantly extricate himself from his individualistic mindset which fills his whole being, rendering him totally preoccupied with his individual fate. Such is the opposite of the way of G-d, imprinted on the Assembly of Israel… When a person focuses constantly and totally on
his own interests and welfare, that counts as ‘following the ways of the Amorites’. It is not Jewish, and we are better off viewing it as something forbidden and out of bounds ” (Ein Aya, Shabbat II, 127-128).
“When we were in our Land, and the Temple stood, it was our center, our place of unity, hence private altars were forbidden, even though they could have served as a means of Jews uniting in smaller groups. Yet that desire by a small group would bring separation from the larger center, and the nation’s unity would be nullified. Only from that national unity can G-d’s ultimate will be realized.” (Ein Aya, Berachot I, 76).
Rabbi Azriel Ariel – Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Tell your son – a Night of Education”
The Torah contains no explicit mitzvah to educate our children towards faith in G-d and mitzvah observance. Yet there is one mitzvah that stands as an exception, simultaneously indicating something about the rest, namely, “hagada”, the mitzvah of recounting to our children the Pesach story on the Seder night: “Tell your son on that day saying, For the sake of this, G-d acted on My behalf when I went forth from Egypt'” (Exodus 13:8). Fulfillment of this mitzvah is replete with educational instruction that can be employed in other spheres as well.
Our sages derive the halacha that the mitzvah of hagada applies precisely on the night of the 15th of Nissan from the expression “For the sake of this”, meaning- “When you have matza and maror lying before you.” A story’s value depends on its being accompanied by concrete demonstrations. The matza and maror should be “lying before you”. There shouldn’t be just a frontal presentation, but something that you can taste with your mouth, “matza and marror”.
Even though the wording of the Hagada has been fixed from time immemorial, the form of the telling changes from situation to situation (and we are all familiar with the various answers to the four sons). Rambam writes (Hilchot Chametz U’Matza 7:2). “The father must teach his son in accordance with the son’s mindset. How so? If the son is young or unintelligent, his father says,
‘Son, we were all slaves in Egypt, just like the slaves you know about, and this very night, G-d
redeemed us and took us out to freedom.’ And if the son is older or wise, his father informs him of what occurred to us in Egypt, and the miracles performed for us by Moses. It all depends on the son.”
The story told to the older son must be adapted to his ability to absorb abstract concepts, whereas the story told to the younger son must be accompanied by concrete demonstrations taken from the world he is familiar with. In our own generation, when there are no slaves, it would be possible and appropriate to tell ourselves and our children about the conditions suffered by our brother Jonathan Pollard, as well as to describe the bitter fate of a foreign worker whose employer treats him cruelly, as a sort of modern slavery.
This principle, of providing concrete demonstrations, finds expression in the special wording of Rambam (Ibid., 7:6): “In every generation, a person must DEMONSTRATE TO himself as though he himself has just now emerged from Egyptian slavery.” This is not the conventional wording of the hagada, which usually says a person “must SEE himself”. Rather, he said “must demonstrate to himself”. This is the source of the widespread custom in many Jewish communities, whereby the parents put on a show of the Exodus for their children, in order to spell it out for them. Moreover, the story must be afforded a dimension of relevance: “as though he himself has just now emerged”.
A central component of the hagada is the question. A plain story, even if accompanied by attractive, concrete demonstrations, is not the same as one that comes as a sought-for response to a troubling question. Rambam therefore writes (ibid., 7:3): “This night one must make a change in order that the children will see it and ask questions, so that they say, ‘Why is this night different from all others?’ The father can then respond to them and tell them, ‘Such-and-such happened and such-and-such occurred.’ And what changes should the father make? For example, he should distribute roast wheat and nuts; the tables should be pulled away before they eat and participants should steal the matzot from one another.”
Rambam’s goal is not to have the children learn to recite the four questions, but to create a unique, out-of-the-ordinary situation, that makes the children’s questions rise to the surface, even if they do not ask them explicitly. Truthfully, how IS this night different from all other nights? The value of a question is so great that it should be used even when only adults are sitting together: “If he has no son, his wife asks. If he has no wife, the participants ask one another: ‘How is this night different?’ and even if all present are wise. If he is alone, he asks himself the question.”
The question has two purposes. The first is to create genuine interest. When someone takes an interest, he will probably start listening, understanding, internalizing and remembering. The second, no less important, is to keep the participants awake. Mishnah Berura writes: “By such means they will be aroused to note all the differences and the customs of this night, and they will ask questions relating to the idea of ‘Why is this different?’ The Talmud explains, ‘It’s so that they won’t sleep, but will ask.’ The children must be aroused so that they don’t sleep until after, ‘We were slaves in Egypt to Pharaoh’, so that the children learn about the exodus. The main mitzvah is the answer to the children’s question…” (And not like what people do… that after the “Ma nishtana” they are allowed to go to sleep, and they do not know any answer to their question).
Further profit to be gained from having the children ask is the option this provides to us to direct our answer to the precise point that interests the child personally, and to avoid a situation in which fine, lofty words are said which are irrelevant at this moment to the particular children sitting before us.
Another pedagogical principle of Rambam is this (Rambam, ibid., 7:4): “We must start with the negative and move on to the positive. How so? One begins by saying, ‘In the beginning, our ancestors in Terach’s day and beforehand were heretics, pursuing vanities and idolatry.’ One concludes with the true faith, telling how G-d brought us close to Him, setting us apart from the errant and bringing us close to His Oneness. Likewise, one begins by acknowledging that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and by describing all the evil he brought upon us, and one concludes with the miracles and wonders performed for us, and with the story of our liberation.”
Understanding is facilitated by a comparison between changing situations. At the same time, it is essential to end on a positive, encouraging and joyous note. And obviously, we must not forget to call for the immediate release of our brother Jonathan Pollard from slavery to freedom, by placing an empty chair for him at the seder table. This was a cursory introduction to a Jewish approach to education. For the rest, go and learn it by yourself…
Translation: R. Blumberg
Tax deductible contributions may be made out to
American Friends of Machon Meir
and sent in North America to:
American Friends of Machon Meir
c/o Ms. Chava Shulman
1327 45th st.
And in Israel:
2 Hameiri Ave. Jerusalem, Israel 91340
PARASHAT ACHAREI MOT
From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
Want to be a partner in spreading Torah Videos? Choose an amount!
Ammount of donation
(ILS) New Shekels