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:
“Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai loves Our People, Land and Torah”
The bonfires that the myriad of our people Israel light throughout Israel and the world on Lag BaOmer are a sort of memorial candle for the noble spirit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who ascended to the highest heavens on Lag Ba’Omer. No personage in Jewish history has merited a memorial day in which the entire Jewish People takes part, from the entire social spectrum and from all the steams of the Jewish People, observant and nonobservant, right wing and left, from all the communities. Not one of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Aaron or King David, and not one of the illustrious rabbis of our people has ever merited that the entire nation should recall their name and make a ‘hilula’, a memorial celebration, on the anniversary of their passing.
How did Rashbi merit this great honor? Some say it is because he wrote the holy Zohar, which illuminates the souls of those who delve into Jewish mysticism and the secrets of the Jewish People. That is our inner wisdom, the “Kabbalah”.
Yet we must ask in turn how Rashbi was so privileged to have the holy Zohar revealed to him. Indeed, when we study and ponder the story of Rashbi’s life, we discover that he displayed self-sacrifice on behalf of the People, Land and Torah of Israel, as our sages taught us:
One time Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yossi and Rashbi were seated together, and Yehuda ben Gerim was sitting with them. Said Rabbi Yehuda, “How fine the deeds of this nation [the Romans]! They installed marketplaces, bridges and bathhouses!” Rabbi Yossi remained silent. Rashbi responded, “They did nothing that didn’t serve their own interests. They installed marketplaces to house harlots there; bathhouses so they could pamper themselves, and bridges as a means of collecting royal tolls.” Yehuda ben Gerim went and reported their words to the Romans…” (Shabbat 33b).
The results are well-known. Rashbi was persecuted and forced to flee with his son, and to hide in a cave for twelve years. His unwillingness to flatter the Romans and resign himself to their ruling over Eretz Yisrael stemmed from great love and faith in our People, Torah and Land. By such means he merited to discover Jewish mysticism, recorded in his Holy Zohar.
Today as well, those who carry on the spirit of Rashbi and his mentor Rabbi Akiva are the ones who truly love the People, Torah and Land of Israel. These Jews risk their lives for the glory of Israel and G-d, which is more and more being revealed through Israel’s rebirth in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, the greatest kabbalists down through the generations were lovers of Eretz Yisrael and came to live there. These include Ramban, the Arizal, Ramchal, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and of the Vilna Gaon. And in recent times we have seen that master of the light of Torah, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l, together with his disciples and his disciple’s disciples, totally devoted to settling Eretz Yisrael and to learning the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. By doing so, they increase the Torah’s light, the light of love and faith, and they carry on in the path of Rashbi.
How fortunate we are and how good our portion that we are meriting in large numbers to gather and commune together around the bonfires of Lag BaOmer, which are a sort of memorial candle for Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Looking forward to complete salvation. Shabbat Shalom!
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
“One’s Duty to Report Child Abuse Immediately, At All Costs”
When children are battered, whether sexually or “just” physically, anyone who knows about it has to report it to the authorities. The child, after all, is helpless and has no defenses. According to Jewish law, the primary loyalty of anyone who knows what is happening must be to the battered child, and this duty is absolute. Allow me to add that from a legal standpoint, if the person who knows about it is a professional in an associated field, for example a social worker or psychologist, and he does not report it, he is liable to go to prison for half a year.
Cruelly hitting children is alien to the world of Jewish law. Our halachic authorities viewed the matter so gravely that Chareidi rabbis in the U.S. ruled that in the case of a battered child, one must assist the authorities to remove him from his home – even if the child will be moved to a non-Jewish family. The reason is that such treatment could threaten the child’s life.
The desire not to report it in order to spare the perpetrator may derive from sincere motives, but one must first take pity on the helpless child. His fate comes before all else. In the Crisis Center for Religious Women, it is reported that there are more children who suffer from beatings and sexual abuse among the religious public than among the secular public. This is not because the religious are more violent, but because more often the religious public avoids reporting such incidents, and they make reports only
when the matter go to extremes. Until then, the battered child suffers terrible harm.
It is important to note that there is only one situation in which one is exempt from reporting. If the perpetrator is aware of his problem, is willing to go for appropriate treatment, steadfastly shows up for treatment sessions, and the responsible authorities supervise this process, then the perpetrator is doing what he would be ordered to do anyway. In all other instances, without exception, there is an obligation to report abuse, and quickly. The child’s fate depends on us.
I recall a story in which I was personally involved. Someone saw his neighbor kick his small daughter in the head when she was lying on the floor. The man hesitated about whether or not to report what had occurred, when it was clear that he would pay for his deed with a fight with the neighbor. I ruled that he was obligated to report it, and immediately. During the talk it became clear to me that the person asking the question was a social worker. I had trouble believing this and I asked him, “How can it be that you, as a social worker, would ask me such a question?”
He did report what he had seen, and as he feared, he got into a fight with his neighbor, as well as with much of the neighborhood in which he lived, since the violent father incited them against him. I heard about that and I talked to him. I told him, “It will all be worth it. Think about the fact that you saved a Jewish life.”
Rabbi Azriel Ariel– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“For the Sin of Abandoning the Sabbatical Laws…”
In times of calamity, whether of the individual or the entire Jewish People, there is a widespread tendency to engage in soul-searching and to ask: “What is this that G-d has done to us?” (Genesis 42:28). Rambam likewise mentions this as part of the mitzvah of crying out to G-d in times of trouble (Hilchot Ta’aniyot 1:1-2). In the Talmud as well, at the end of Shabbat, Chapter 2, a long list of calamities is enumerated, public and private, alongside the sins that cause them. One of the sins that bring punishment is making light of Shemittah [Sabbatical Year] observance. The Talmud states:
“For the sin of abandoning the laws of the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee Year, exile comes to the world. The perpetrators are exiled and others come and live in their place.”
The source for this is Parashat BeChukotai: “Then, as long as the land is desolate and you are in your enemies’ land, the land will enjoy its sabbaths. The land will rest and enjoy its sabbatical years. Thus, as long as it is desolate, the land will enjoy the sabbatical rest that you would not give it when you lived there…. For the land will have been left behind by them, and will have enjoyed its sabbath’s while it lay in desolation without them. The sin they had committed by denigrating My laws and growing tired of My decrees, will also have been expiated.” (Leviticus 26:34-35,43)
With this in mind, we see various figures publicly suggesting a connection between the way Shemittah [the Sabbatical year] is observed today, and various tragedies. This is nothing new. In the 1910 controversy over the Sabbatical year, the Rabbi of Tzfat, Rav Yaakov David Wilovsky [Ridvaz], testified that the farmers of Zichron Yaakov, who had ploughed and planted their lands during the seventh year, had not seen any blessing from their toil, and their fields had been blighted. While they had indeed made use of the “heter mechirah” [the sale license, in which fields were sold to non-Jews and all Torah-prescribed labor was performed by non-Jews], he, who rejected the license, laid the blame on their blight to the sin of abandoning Shemittah.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l responded to him at great length in a series of letters, while emphasizing the correct principles to be focused upon in discussing this painful issue:
· He said, “G-d does not turn his Torah into a fraud…. G-d is not suspected of operating unfairly.” Therefore, it could not be that a punishment will befall someone who followed a lenient Rabbinic ruling with a solid base in Halachah and Rabbinic jurisprudence.
· The farmers in question were relying on their rabbis. Even if there was room for the claim that their authorities who had ruled in favor of “heter mechirah” were mistaken, surely someone who relied on them was only an unintentional sinner.
· Shemittah in our day is Rabbinic law and not Torah law, and the heter mechirah relates only to types of work forbidden by the Rabbis. Someone who inadvertently violated a Rabbinic prohibition does not require atonement.
· Even if those farmers had worked during Shemittah without any license to do so, it is hard to imagine a harsh punishment for violating a Rabbinic prohibition.
· There are other prohibitions to which many fall prey, and regarding whose status there is no halachic doubt. Better we should demand of ourselves to rectify those sins: “We have no greater sin than groundless hatred, and we are unfortunately wallowing in it. Moreover, the Evil Impulse has found a home for this sin amongst the G-d fearing and the Torah scholars more than amongst any other Jews, and in Eretz Yisrael more than anywhere else….”
It is both wrong and inappropriate to carry on a debate about weighty issues by taking sources that deal with the First Temple’s destruction and then casting them onto entirely different events taking place during the process of the building of the Third Temple. True, there is room for an internal clarification process, a person’s individual soul-searching within himself, or that of community leaders in a closed session, which can bring someone to a personal conclusion regarding what is demanded of him for him to rectify his personal life. Yet when instead, the issue is whether A can publicly beat the chest of B, that involves the sin of verbal abuse, as our sages ruled in Bava Metzia:
“If someone falls sick or he buries his sons, one shouldn’t say to him, the way Job’s friends said to Job, ‘Is not your fear of G-d your confidence, and your hope the integrity of your ways? Remember, please: Who has ever perished, being innocent?’ (Job 4:6-7).” Simply put, one shouldn’t say to someone whose dead is lying before him that his suffering attests to his sins.
The soul searching required is personal. Someone who has been victim to tragedy must do his own personal soul searching and ask himself what he learns from what G-d has brought upon him. All of Parashat Bechukotai is a warning to us: “If you are indifferent to Me [arguing that everything is chance, and that we have nothing to learn from what happened]…. then I will also be indifferent to you, but I will again increase the punishment for your sins sevenfold” (Leviticus 26:21,24). And even if no one has the power to tell me in what direction I must focus my soul searching, I must still demand it of myself!
Indeed, it seems if as the most prominent values of Shemittah are loudly calling to us with a message that is relevant for the situation in which we find ourselves at present – as suggestions for thought and examination:
· Eretz Yisrael is not just a tool for earning a living (or for achieving security or quality of life). Living in Eretz Yisrael has spiritual significance of the first order, while gaining our livelihood from its produce is a secondary outcome. Eretz Yisrael is a holy land, and living in it bears with it obligations no less than affording rights.
· Eretz Yisrael doesn’t belong to us. G-d said, “The Land is Mine” (Leviticus 25:23). Our connection to the Land does not operate on a human plane the way any other people’s connection to their land does. Rather, it operates on a divine plane. “You are foreigners and resident aliens as far as I am concerned” (ibid.).
· It is our duty to live as a society based on the values of kindness, love and concern for our fellow man – inconsistent with unbridled, predatory economic competition.
· A person’s livelihood and success do not depend only on his human endeavors, but on G-d’s blessing resting on his deeds.
In light of the preceding, we must ask ourselves: Are we capable of deriving something from all this such that it can somehow change our personal or national lives?
Translation: R. Blumberg
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