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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The gradualness of progress in the universe, the limitations on nature and its ostensible slovenliness, the limitations on spiritual ascent, the transience of miracles – all these elements strengthen the foundation of the unceasing spiritual ascent which is the inner foundation of the universe.”
(Erpalei Tohar 121)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
“We Must go Forth and Occupy the Land”

The Desert Generation did not wish to go into the Land, to fight and to conquer it, and accepted the spies’ report that conquering the Land was an impossible, irrational mission, as it says: “‘We cannot go forward against those people!’ replied the men who had gone with him. ‘They are too strong for us.’ They began to speak badly about the land they had explored. They told the Israelites, ‘The land we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants’” (13:31-32).

Indeed, the people were convinced by the spies’ words, and they brought harsh arguments against G-d, Moses and Aaron, even wishing to replace them with different leaders: “‘Why is God bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will be captives! It would be best to go back to Egypt.’ The people started saying to one another, ‘Let’s appoint a [new] leader and go back to Egypt.’” (14:3-4).

The Desert Generation did not wish to accept the word of Joshua and Calev, who said, “We must go forth and occupy the land! We can do it!” (13:30); and “The land through which we passed in our explorations is a very, very good land!” (14:7). Joshua and Calev understood that the generation’s weakness stemmed from the weakness of their faith in G-d and in His unlimited ability, and they told the people: “If G-d is satisfied with us and brings us to this land, He can give it to us – a land flowing with milk and honey. But don’t rebel against G-d! Don’t be afraid of the people in the land! They have lost their protection and shall be our prey! G-d is with us, so don’t be afraid!” (14:8-9).

The people, instead of accepting the words of Joshua and Calev, wanted to stone them. Moses, a great lover of Israel and a faithful leader, heard G-d say that He wanted to wipe them out: “I will kill them with a plague and annihilate them. Then I will make you into a greater, more powerful nation then they” (14:12). In response, Moses came out in defense of Israel, arguing that if G-d destroyed Israel, the nations would say, “G-d was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert” (14:15-16). By such means, G-d’s name would be profaned on earth. Moses therefore asked that G-d forgive them (14:19).

The spies’ negative talk about the Land made the Jewish People sink to a level of such weakness of spirit and faith that they wanted to retract on their original longing to go there, conquer it and to settle it. Instead they wished to return to Egypt. Today, similar arguments are unfortunately being heard from recent prime ministers. Out of their great weakness of faith in Israel’s ability to occupy the Land and to settle all of it, they have dreamt up dangerous, hallucinatory programs, calling them by various names – Disengagement… Convergence… Realignment – yet they are all the same thing, just dressed up differently. All of these plans weaken the spirit of the nation, pulling the rug out from under our just claim that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. They weaken the State of Israel and endanger its existence as a sovereign state, and they provide moral support to our enemies, giving them hopes of being able to destroy the State of Israel.

We very much need spiritual and political leaders who can breathe a different spirit into the Jewish People, unify them and strengthen their faith. We need leaders like Calev ben Yefuneh who said, “We must go forth and occupy the land! We can do it!” and like Moses, who beseeched G-d, saying, “Forgive the sin of this people!” Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

We Will Not Win by Force

Question: How should we be struggling against all the evil plans involving the abandonment of Judea, Samaria, and even Jerusalem, to the enemy? Should we use force?
Answer: History operates along two types of axes: external and internal. External axes include politics, the military, economics, power and organization. Internal axes include faith, ideals and longings.
There is a major debate amongst philosophers of history regarding which is the more central factor. Clearly, both are at work, but which prevails?
For example, why did the Russians beat Napoleon? Was it that their army was stronger or that their faith was stronger? You might suggest that sometimes it is the one and sometimes the other. Certainly, history is not mathematics. All the same, which is the main factor? Some claim that the practical elements prevail. History is not a beit midrash, a house of study. Even within the Jewish People, what determines policy is which group is stronger, with money, with the number of people, with use of the media, with control over the judiciary. Some say that the determining factor is what people believe, are convinced of and long for.
Certainly we have to fight on two fronts. All the same, we have to know what prevails in case of a frontal conflict.
Here is a parable about individuals. If a boy does not wish to go to shul, and he receives a slap, he will certainly head off for the synagogue, but probably, later on he will stop going. If Judaism is faith, this slap was a mistake. If Judaism is religious behavior, then this slap is very fine. We all understand that religiosity is founded on faith. A little boy can be motivated by slaps, because he has no choice, but when he grows up he will rebel.
In previous generations, this approach worked, for the Torah states, “He who does work on the Sabbath day shall surely die” (Exodus 31:15). Yet it is not so in our day. Quite the contrary, if a Sabbath violator is killed, all the other Sabbath violators will risk their lives and will rise up to kill their killers.
It is the same in political matters. A group may win because they are stronger, yet it is not certain that they will prevail for a long time.
This is the argument between historic materialism which holds the practical factors like economics and security are what regulate history, and historic idealism which holds that thoughts, beliefs, ideas and outlooks are the determining factor. And we say that it is idealism, which prevails. Napoleon’s army was stronger, but the Russians won because they believed that Russia was their country, and they were right about that.
What prevails in history is thoughts and ideas. Obviously, not immediately. As we said, history is not mathematics. There are ups and downs.
Which had more culture, Athens or Sparta? The people of Athens were scholars. The people of Sparta were fighters. Yet Sparta won, or did they? In the end, all of Greece became Athens.
Which was more scholarly, Rome or Greece? Greece was. Yet the Romans won, or did they? In the end, the Romans became Hellenized.
And how did Communism prevail in Russia? Was it because of the revolution? Not exactly. Rather, in every city they established a small cell, which they built up, talking about Communism. Thus they continue doing until they took control.
At the risk of comparison, it is the same in Eretz Yisrael. Today, the main problem is not a problematic prime minister, government or even Knesset, for all of these depend on the people.
Thus, the problem is the evil ideas that prevail amongst the nation. As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote:
“It is not just that people need perfection, but their very thought processes. The thoughts that circulate are what afford to people their status and determine what they did in life. Thus, as long as thoughts… are in opposition to all that is holy and true, the people who relate to those thoughts will necessarily be influenced by them in their activities.” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 85)
Evil thoughts beget evil deeds, and good thoughts beget good deeds. When we are deeply convinced that an idea is fine and good and holy, we act devotedly towards its fulfillment. Thus, the supreme cure is in our hands – to increase Torah and faith.
We have to be well aware that we shall not win by force. It is tempting to employ force, because, so to speak, immediate results are ensured. Yet it is a false charm. Even if there are achievements, they are temporal. A reality created by force can also be voided by force. Let us also not forget that using force is dangerous. A more genuine process is deep, fundamental, prolonged. How do we explain the great miracle of Israel’s eternity and Israel’s enormous influence on the entire world? Did it occur by force? Certainly not! Rather, it occurred through truthfulness, stubbornness, faith and the fear of G-d.
Now, as well, our struggle over Eretz Yisrael is not fundamentally a political act, but a faith-based act. We are therefore optimistic, because we have faith. Only, it has to become the heritage of the entire nation. Remember, we ran a major campaign over Gush Katif, wisely and with great self-sacrifice. A large public was involved, all the streams of the knitted yarmulkes. Yet the Jewish People in the aggregate was not there. The Chareidim weren’t there, nor were the secular.
Without the Jewish People, it isn’t going to work. The Jewish People without a breadth of outlooks isn’t going to work. Towards that end we must employ our supreme cure: increasing knowledge.

Rabbi Azriel Ariel
Libations of the Native Born Israelite and of the Stranger

The section of Parashat Shlach dealing with the libations is unclear – fine flour blended with oil, and wine as a libation. It’s hard to fathom the significance. Still more hard to understand is the context. It follows immediately the episode of the spies, and is itself followed by the proper approach we must have to the stranger who lives amongst us.
The commentaries focus on the fact that section dealing with the libations immediately follows the punishment decreed on Israel following the sin of the spies. The purpose is to console the people, that they should not despair of ultimately entering the Land. Yet the actual connection between the libations and Israel’s entering the Land is unclear. Indeed, the laws deriving from this chapter are caught up in controversies involving the sages of the Mishna.
Even more unclear is the connection between the section on libations and our relationship to strangers. Why should it occur to us to deprive the stranger precisely in regards to this mitzvah, libations? And why does the Torah set out precisely here to emphasize that “there shall be one law for you and for the stranger who dwells in the Land”? (Numbers 9:14)
The beginning of the answer is to be found in a verse that comes in the middle of the section: “In order to present a fire offering that is an appeasing fragrance to G-d, every native born Israelite [Hebrew: ezrach] must present it in this manner” (Numbers 15:13). The expression “ezrach” serves to exclude someone, and that intended someone is the non-Jew. True, a non-Jew as well can bring a burnt offering in the Temple, but he cannot bring the libation offering with it. This does not mean that the non-Jew’s offering comes without a libation, but that as opposed to a Jew, who brings the libation from his own funds, the non-Jew’s libations are brought from the public coffers. This teaches us that the libations belong specifically to the Jewish People. We might have thought that the libation is required precisely of those “coming to their homeland” (15:2) and receiving an inheritance there, i.e., Jews from birth and not converts. The Torah therefore has to emphasize that the convert is just like a native-born Jew: “When the convert lives with you… precisely what you do he must do” (15:15).
And here is the place to delve into a point that is deeper still (based on Rav Kook’s Olat Re’iyah as well as on Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s commentary). Different parts of an offering serve to exalt different portions of a person’s personality. An animal sacrifice represents the person’s spirit, his most basic life-force, containing both the emotions and the will. The more elevated spiritual forces within man, especially wisdom, are exalted by means of the candelabra lit in the Temple, and by means of the burning of the incense. The elevation of the lower life-forces in man finds expression by way of the libation offering, which comes from plants: fine flour, oil and wine. Their ability to ascend spiritually finds expression through the ingredients of the libation. The fine flour, expressing the physical, is blended with olive oil, which expresses joy. The ruling that only a Jew can bring libations expresses the idea that the holiness of the body was given only to the Jewish People. This finds stark expression through the covenant of circumcision, which expresses the Jews’ connection to G-d’s covenant on the coarsest biological level, on the one hand, and by the bringing of the libation offering from plants, on the other. A non-Jew can ascend as well, but not by way of the forces of his physical body, but only by way of his spiritual forces.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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