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PARASHAT BEHAR

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The longing for the building of the Temple and for the sacrificial service is the most noble, lofty ambition that any sensitive spirit or lyrical soul could imagine. It will lead to the practical elevation of life, the spiritual ascent of the universe, and to all of life achieving contact with the light of Eternal G-d.”
(Erpalei Tohar, 10)



Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir


Message for Today:
“You Shall Proclaim Liberty for All the Land’s Inhabitants”

“You shall count seven sabbatical years, that is, seven times seven years. The period of the seven sabbatical cycles shall thus be forty-nine years. Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, you shall make a proclamation with the ram’s horn. This proclamation with the ram’s horn is thus to be made on Yom Kippur. You shall sanctify the fiftieth year, proclaiming liberty for all the land’s inhabitants. This is your jubilee year.” (Leviticus 25:8-10)
The fifty-year countdown to the jubilee year parallels the count from Pesach to Shavuot. And just as in that latter counting, we ascend spiritually step by step, from the exodus to the giving of the Torah, and from slavery to eternal freedom, so too, in the counting of the sabbatical years we ascend gradually through the seven cycles until we reach the level of “proclaiming liberty to all the land’s inhabitants.” At that point, former slaves “can live wherever they wish, no longing being the property of others” (Rashi).
The fiftieth year is called the “jubilee” year [Hebrew “Yovel”, meaning “shofar blast”], because during that year, the shofar is blown (Ibid.). How did the shofar merit that the year was named for it? The word “shofar” provides a hint of what is special about this year, for “shofar” is from the same root as “shapir,” meaning “good.”
The purpose of the world’s creation is to reveal G-d’s goodness in the world, and this is the purpose of the weekly Sabbath as well. “You shall call the Sabbath a delight” (Isaiah 58:13). This is the purpose of our counting the omer each year, which concludes with our celebrating the giving of the Torah, and Torah can only connote goodness. And all this is done by the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael.
Today, how fortunate we are that we have been privileged to see G-d’s bringing the exiles back to Zion. We are becoming the living fulfillment of Lamentations 5:21: “Return us to You, and we shall return. Renew our days as of old.” It is true that the process of return involves difficulties and complications, yet we know full-well that with G-d’s help, those clouds will speedily pass from the world. Then we will march upward along the winding path ascending to freedom and complete redemption. And just as all the slaves go free, so shall the Jewish People emerge from political and cultural subjugation and dependence on the nations, and through us will be fulfilled, “Proclaim liberty for all the land’s inhabitants.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom!




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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El

Don’t let the Army go Crazy


Thank G-d, we’ve now heard that a commission has been established, headed by a colonel, to investigate the integration of women into the I.D.F. After many years, they have finally woken up. In the Israeli army, nothing could be more inappropriate than this integration. Moreover, if someone had a plan for destroying the army from within, there could be no better idea than to integrate girls into combat units. Even in non-combat units this creates numerous problems, but in combat units it verges on irresponsibility regarding the results of the battle. In order to understand this, you don’t need a commission, just a little common sense.

Riddle: How many countries on earth have compulsory service for women? Answer: Zero.
Riddle: How many women volunteer for foreign armies? Answer: Almost none.
Riddle: And how many of them volunteer for combat units? Answer: Almost none.

Women are not built physically or psychologically to be fighters, any more than they are built to be garage workers or semi-trailer drivers. In the same context it has been pointed out in the media that in the Olympics, we don’t find even one competitive sport in which men and women compete together, nor in the European Soccer Cup. After all, someone’s got to win…

Certainly, men and women are equal, and both were created in the image of G-d. But you’ve got to be serious and not a space-cadet. Zionism is serious business. A country is serious business. An army is serious business. To vanquish enemies, it’s not enough to have been created in G-d’s image. You need strength and endurance. Don’t you know that women have 59% of the physical strength of men in their upper torso, and 35% of their physical strength in the lower torso?

The print media have reported at length about the serious physiological problems of women soldiers in training and military operations.
So let’s be serious. Basic training has been made easier. The walking pace has been slowed down. Less is being carried. The girls can complete the same tests “like a man”, just in more time, carrying less gun magazines, and with a bench placed against the wall to help them to climb over it. The whole level of training has been lowered! Is this an army or a summer camp? The rule was always: “The harder the training, the easier the battle.” Shall the rule now be, “The easier the training, the harder the battle?!” Is this going to help us fight and win?

Obviously the women are suffering from this as well. The newspapers have reported that when the girls complete basic training they are anemic. To push the girls to go through that constitutes counterfeit feminism. Real feminism means protecting women! Women in the army suffer from various orthopedic disorders due to the relative weakness of the female skeleton, and from serious back problems. Hence a very large percentage suffer from fractures due to overexertion (up to five times more than men!). Such fractures are likely to harm the woman’s pelvis in the future. Such feminism really is counterfeit.

Then there are the reports about “sexual harassment” (an unfortunately coarse expression). Women in the army suffer from this twice as much as in any other framework. Is that surprising? In the large naval vessels of America and France, the navies have entirely separated men’s and women’s quarters, and there are no women at all in small boats, the way there are here. Must I explain that the very mixing of the genders itself harms military readiness? “Problems of competition and jealousy, of the desire to make an impression or a special desire to be protective, are liable to ruin the unit’s ability to function” (from a brochure of the Israel Democracy Institute, 2006).

Is there any need to explain how a coeducational stint of guard duty looks? How does an ambush look? Are we being serious?
We must view the reality with open eyes. Under the veil of counterfeit feminism and equality and nonsensical emotion, our army has gone crazy.
Obviously, we are not despairing. Yet we must explain to the Religious-Zionist girls the meaning of “Let your camp be holy” (Deuteronomy 23:15), as well as the damage to the army and to the women as a result of the integration.

In the meantime, we’ve got an army in which feminine modesty, individual modesty, human dignity and the country’s defense have been compromised. As I said, however, we mustn’t despair. We’ve had worse problems than this one, and we overcame them.
We have to be strong and courageous, and we’ve got to pray. I have attached here “The Soldier’s Prayer”:

The Soldier’s Prayer
Master-of-the-Universe, I thank You for allowing me to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. I thank You for allowing me to defend the Jewish People, the Land of Israel, and the holiness of Your Great Name.
May it be G-d’s will that I should fulfill my task steadfastly, stand at my post alertly, and fight with all my heart and soul, devotedly.
May I always be full of strength and valor for the sake of my people and my G-d.
May I always fulfill in my speech, thought and actions, “Let your camp be holy,” such that G-d will walk within our camp, and He will accompany us to fight our wars.
May I always have the fortitude to strive for my camp to be holy, wherever I am stationed. May I know to ask for a male instructor and not a female one, and may I not serve in the same units with females. May I not have to run behind female sports instructors, nor train with female weapons instructors or other female instructors. And may there be a partition between our residences and the girls’ residences.
“Hear, O Israel! Today you are setting out to war…. Hashem, your G-d shall go with you to fight on your behalf against your enemies, to deliver you.” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4)
And may we be the living fulfillment of Psalm 18:38: “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them. Neither did I turn back till they were consumed.”

 

Rabbi Azriel Ariel– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir

Numerous social philosophers viewed the mitzvah of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year, as the expression of a social value. Debts are cancelled out, crops are free for all, commerce is forbidden. All of this points to a longing to nullify private property and to create a cooperative, egalitarian society. “[What grows while] the land is resting may be eaten by you, by your male and female slaves, and by the employees and resident hands who live with you” (Leviticus 25:26).
Yet whoever examines Parashat Behar will find that the values of Behar are “religious values”, and not necessarily social values. The Torah says, “When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land must be given a rest period, a sabbath to G-d” (25:2). It is not a sabbath for society, but for G-d.
Indeed, Shemittah does involve negating private property. True, “for six years you may plant YOUR fields and prune YOUR vineyards” (verse 3), but “the seventh year is a sabbath of sabbaths for the land (because at this moment it is not YOUR land). It is G-d’s Sabbath” – for the sake of G-d –. Therefore, “you may not plant YOUR fields, nor prune YOUR vineyards. Do not harvest crops that grow on their own and do not gather the grapes on YOUR unpruned vines.”

Neither does the command to distribute the seventh year crop to everyone create economic equality between people. Rather, it creates a sharp awareness that ownership has been removed. Therefore, the seventh year fruits, on the most basic level, are intended not just for “you, your male and female slaves, and the employees and resident hands who live with you” (verse 6), but also for “the domestic and wild animals that are in your land” (verse 7).

It is hard to view the Sabbatical year as a sort of “Socialist Paradise”. The Shemittah year has more similarity to a “Communist Hell”, along the lines of Russia or China. It does contain a measure of equality, but everyone suffers from want.

We have to conclude from this that the Shemittah year does not serve to offer a solution to social-economic woes, but to foster the farmer’s awareness that he is like a guest, living on G-d’s land. “Since the land is Mine, no land shall be sold permanently. You are foreigners and resident aliens as far as I am concerned” (verse 23). A guest is not entitled to feel ownership of the ground he is walking on, hence he will not work its soil for his livelihood. “We shall not plant or harvest crops” (verse 20). Beyond that, however, he must place his hopes in his host to worry about all his needs: ” I will direct My blessing to you in the sixth year, and the land will produce enough crops for three years” (verse 21).

All the same, Shemittah does possess a clear social message. Nonetheless, that message is not direct, but indirect. For a whole year, the farmer feels like the soil he usually works is G-d’s and not his. During that year, the banker feels like his money is on deposit with him from G-d. “Mine is the silver and mine the gold, says the L-rd of hosts” (Chaggai 9:8). Everyone feels a great lack of food, and during that year, even the wealthy occasionally feel what the poor feel every day. The intensive economic activity slows down. The intense economic competition wanes, and perhaps even ceases.

The person who become accustomed to the idea that his ownership of the means of production (lands or wealth) is not an unassailable right, learns to see his ownership as a sort of responsibility – both vis-à-vis himself and his family, and vis-à-vis the poor. A person who, for one year, becomes accustomed to being equal to his fellow man when they are standing in the field, that both can pick from its crops freely, and that even what he takes for himself is not for himself for commerce or storage, but for the use of his family, will presumably learn some lesson from this to be applied during the next six years. A person who over a year’s time becomes accustomed to G-d’s taking responsibility for his having food to eat, will have a calmer attitude to his property during the years to come. One year in which people become accustomed to the fact that life holds values that are much more lofty than accumulating wealth and storing away food, has an influence on the social environment during all the years that follow. The shared experience of the entire people during the Sabbatical year crystallizes them to become one nation, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. As a result, it is only natural that the feeling of mutual responsibility should increase more and more and find expression in mundane life.
Indeed, the Shemittah year is imperative for our nation and our land.

Translation: R. Blumberg


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