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This week’s page is dedicated in loving memory of my mother,
Pearl Bluma bat Chaim Moshe on her ninth yahrzeit
29 Adar 5756
by Shmuel Buchwald and his family.
SHABBAT PARASHAT VA’YAKHEL 24 Adar A, 5765 March 5, ‘05
This Week’s Insights:
· A Thought from Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, zt”l
· Rabbi Dov Begon, Founder and Head of Machon Meir –
Message for Today: How to Choose a Leader
· Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Kohanim –
Learn To Communicate With Your Spouse
· Rabbi Elisha Aviner –
Education Corner: The Struggle Over Eretz Yisrael – Open Letters to Youth (Part I)
A Thought from Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, zt”l:
“We must use all the strengths stored within the people to arouse the rebirth of Israel… all their light must be extracted from its dormant potential and actualized as a vibrant force. Spiritual intuition senses the torch of Israel ascending. Everything is blossoming forth from Eretz Yisrael.” (Orot, Yisrael U’Techiyato, p. 45)
Rabbi Dov Begon, Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: How to Choose a Leader
Our sages describe how and why Betzalel ben Uri was selected to be a leader: “G-d said to Moses: ‘Do you find Betzalel reputable?’ Moses replied, ‘Master-of-the-Universe! You find him reputable, shall I not find him so?’ G-d then said, ‘Even so, go tell the people.’ Moses went and asked Israel, ‘Do you find Betzalel reputable?’ they replied, ‘If both you and G-d find him reputable, shall we not find him so?’” (Berachot 55).
Based on this text, Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook teaches us the traits needed for a good leader. First and foremost, he must have a pure heart. Also, he must be wise and know how to run a country. Popularity with the people comes only third. How so? G-d asked Moses, “Do you find Betzelel reputable?” Moses was a great sage; only a sage can tell whether someone else is a sage or not. Moses answered, “You, G-d, find Betzalel reputable, shall I not find him so?” By this Moses meant: “G-d, you discern whether or not a person has a pure heart and acts without private interests but only for the good of the people. I, Moses, declare that Betzalel is a wise sage and can serve as a leader.”
Yet G-d replied that this is not enough. Moses would have to get the people’s consent. Indeed, Moses asked the people whether they considered Betzalel reputable, and they replied that they did. A leader who lacks a pure heart and is moved by personal, private interests, even though he is wise and popular, he is liable to bring calamity upon his people (see Ein Aya on Berachot 55).
Today, we must examine the steps taken by Prime Minister Sharon who brought upon us the “Disengagement Plan” – which tears apart our country as it tears apart our hearts. We ask, “Is Sharon wise?” and the answer is yes. He is a great strategist. We then ask, “Is he popular?” In the elections, at least, he won a resounding victory. At last we must ask, “Does he have a pure heart?” Only G-d, who examines the heart, can know what is in Sharon’s heart. Yet we, the people, sense that he does not have a pure heart, that his leadership is influenced by private and family interests. We are therefore afraid he is going to bring calamity on the State of Israel, and we call upon him to clear his name and the name of his family before he carries out a process, which even for him – according to his announcement – was the hardest in his whole life. According to the opinion of great sages, and many Jews, it is the worst decision of his life, and the worst and most dangerous in the life of our nation.
Our sages said, “G-d cries about 3 things every day… one of these is the leader who behaves arrogantly towards the public” (Chagigah 5b). The Maharal of Prague explains that a leader who behaves arrogantly towards the public is a leader who rules coercively, with an iron hand (Netivot Olam, Netiv HaTorah 4). If G-d cries over a leader who uses strong-arm tactics and behaves arrogantly towards the public, how much more so must we cry as well.
With great expectation for complete salvation,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Kohanim
Learn To Communicate With Your Spouse
Men and women need to communicate with their spouses. If they don’t know how, their marriages will end up on the rocks. It is not profound differences of opinion that lead to crises. It is permissible for a couple to be different from each other, to think, want, and feel differently. The main thing is to know how to argue together. What determines a couple’s future is not the substance of their arguments, but how they argue. This is true also between friends, and applies even to the political dialogue in this country.
Researchers (Dr. James Marie of Washington University and others) have developed a mathematical formula according to which it is possible to predict a marriage’s chance of succeeding, or, G-d forbid, its chance of ending in divorce. They followed 700 couples over 13 years and achieved over 90% accuracy, a remarkable level of precision in psychological research. Each couple was videotaped having a discussion for 15 minutes, and each was given a grade.
Thus, a couple can argue, and they can have sharp differences of opinion. They can even argue often. The important thing is how they argue. Differences of opinion are all right, but a rift between their hearts is not. There must be an emotional connection.
Are one’s expressions and remarks positive or not? It is permitted to laugh, but not to taunt. Humor is good, but only when used wisely. It is a short path from a joyous smile to expressing disdain and rolling one’s eyes dismissively. Do you sigh in response to your spouse’s words, or do you reveal empathy by a supportive nod of the head? The rule is this: Before a person speaks or reacts, he must think about the result.
One might ask: Won’t this make me artificial and unnatural? The answer is yes! Better to be artificial but happy than to be natural and wretched. Wearing glasses that artificially improve our vision is better than natural, but short-sighted, vision. There is the consolation of knowing that artificial behavior can become natural. Hearts are influenced by deeds. Your inner personality will become more and more pure. Learn to honor the dreams of your fellow man, and with time you will feel an increasing inner purity.
It is certainly possible to express criticism, and we have to! But don’t express yourself negatively, saying things like, “You don’t devote enough time to me.” Rather, speak positively: “I feel alone without you, and I need you more during the course of the day.” Be happy. Don’t forget to thank G-d for each and every day. After all, “Finding a person’s spouse is as difficult for G-d as the splitting the Red Sea” (Sotah 2a). What a wonderful gift we have received from the Master-of-the-Universe! Emotion, and in our own case, sensitivity!
Rabbi Elisha Aviner,
Education Corner: The Struggle Over Eretz Yisrael –
Open Letters to Youth (Part I)
No one disagrees it is forbidden to resign ourselves to conceding portions of Eretz Yisrael and handing them over to enemies. No one disagrees it is forbidden to restrain ourselves over the banishment of loyal citizens, G-d fearing farmers and settlers, from their homes and lands. No one disagrees we have to protest, to demonstrate, to cry out, to scream. No one disagrees we have to hang on with our fingernails to the Holy Land, our ancestral heritage. No one disagrees there is no obligation to agree with every decision of the Knesset or the government, whether it relies on an illusory majority or a real majority. No one disagrees it is forbidden to remain silent, that we have to let a moral voice be heard – the voice of Torah, the voice of faith, the voice of Eretz Yisrael.
These are not just rights but obligations. “You must admonish your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:17). Our ancestors debated the question of whether or not there is a mitzvah to rebuke our fellow man even when there is no chance the rebuke will be accepted. Some say if there is no reasonable chance of benefit being derived from the rebuke, we are then exempt. Others say an obligation to rebuke exists in any case.
On what does this debate depend? Is the purpose of the rebuke to influence our fellow man (such that the chances of success determine the extent of the obligation), or is the purpose also to proclaim truth and to express a clear, determined position, without regard to results? According to both approaches, we have an obligation today to express our moral voice. We are obligated to publicize our faith-based truth, our Zionist outlook, our loyalty to Eretz Yisrael, and to condemn national weaknesses. Likewise, we have an obligation to try to influence the Jewish People. Even if we do not succeed in influencing everyone, we will succeed in influencing some. Regarding this, no one disagrees. But how do we express a clear, faith-based voice? What must the tone be? What should the content be?
Our starting point must be, “You must admonish your neighbor.” Your fellow Jew is your neighbor, your brother. Rules are different in an internal struggle between brothers from the rules of an external struggle with a foreign enemy. The style and content are different as well. As Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook taught (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, p. 452), “We distinguish between different wars.” We distinguish between war against an external enemy and an internal conflict. In the past, the Jewish People literally fought against one another; but our sages instructed us how to behave:
“Regarding wars in ancient times, when our people still lived full national lives, we read: ‘When you approach the place of battle, the priest shall step forward and speak to the people. He shall say to them: Listen, Israel. Today you wage war against your enemies’ (Deuteronomy 20:2-3). The Mishnah takes this up: ‘Against your enemies, not your brothers. Not Judah against Shimon and not Shimon against Binyamin.’ From this we derive that tactics of war against enemies differ from tactics of war against brothers. We must constantly be aware that even during the fever of battle, the emotion of brotherhood lives on.” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, Ibid.)
Today no real war is being waged between parts of the nation. Rather, a sharp, deep, and some say unbridgeable ideological controversy has arisen. The confrontation is not physical but spiritual. Even so, says Rabbi Kook, spiritual and cultural confrontations are types of war, and regarding them our sages’ instructions apply, requiring caution: “when all is said and done, we are not fighting against enemies, but against our brothers.”
That is the starting point: We are all brothers. Representatives of the government are our brothers, and so are the police. Rules of behavior are decreed accordingly, appropriate to a harsh, incisive debate between brothers:
1. It is forbidden to insult. A policeman who received an order to disperse a demonstration or a roadblock is not Satan. He is not evil. He is not a “troubler of Israel.” He does not deserve ugly insults. That is not how divided brothers talk to one another. All the more so, it is forbidden to raise a hand against any Jew. Let us not be the fulfillment of, “Evildoer! Why are beating your neighbor?” (Exodus 2:13).
2. Rioting. There is no benefit from rioting. We need to make heard a clear, national, spiritual voice. We have to make it heard in a loud voice, in a respectable manner. Rioting does not send an ethical message. It does not pass on truth to Israeli society, neither does it contribute to our influence. It is an outburst of anger and frustration. We are all angry and frustrated. All of us! Yet our response must reflect behavior that is acceptable amongst brothers, and not between foreign enemies. Moreover, rioting at intersections and demonstrations does not advance our interests, but harms them; it hurts our image and ruins our influence on public opinion. Thousands of hours of intensive work on a one-to-one basis goes up in smoke.
Enormous caution is called for. Professional rabble-rousers wander among us, inciting our youth to riot and getting them in trouble with the law. The youth and their parents are hurt, while the inciters themselves emerge unscathed. In the past, it was proved that some of these were provocateurs sent by corrupt forces in the police and the GSS to make our youth commit crimes. We mustn’t be tempted or participate in their activities. Their contribution to the Land and People of Israel is negative.
We mustn’t remain silent. We mustn’t lift up our hands in despair. We must struggle for our public program. Not just adults but youth as well. Remember that the struggle is between brothers, and let this fact set the rules for the struggle. (to be continued…)
Last Friday, Machon Meir’s English Department visited Na’ot Kedumim, and spent Shabbat at Kfar Etzion. Visits like these help the department’s students get better acquainted with the pulse of life in Israel. This project is generously supported by the Dorset Foundation.
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