From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The best cure for political divisiveness is for the ruler to repent fully. This restores his stature and restores the foundation that was pulled out from under him. The people then cling to him affectionately once more, and the blessings of peace penetrate Israel.”
(Orot HaKodesh 4:495)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“A Star Goes Forth From Jacob, and a Staff Shall Arise in Israel”
Wicked Bilaam, in his desire to curse Israel, was instead forced to bless them, in accordance with G-d’s will. His gaze encompassed the Jewish People from the start of time until the end of time. Of the start of time he said, “’I see [this nation] from mountain tops, and gaze on it from the heights. It is a nation dwelling alone at peace, not counting itself among other nations” (Numbers 23:9). Rashi commented, “I gaze at their inception, at their earliest roots, and I see that their Patriarchs and Matriarchs rendered them as strong and formidable as these mountains and hills… They shall not cease to exist with the rest of the nations, but shall live on eternal…”
In later generations, the Jewish People exits Egypt and conquers Canaan. Then, their might and valor are revealed: “G-d shall devour His enemy nations, grinding their bones and piercing them with His arrows. Israel crouches, lies like a lion, like an awesome lion, who will dare rouse him?” (24:8-9).
Finally, regarding the end of days, Bilaam states, “I will advise you about what this nation will do to your people in the final days…. I see it, but not now; I perceive it, but not in the near future. A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel, crushing all of Moab’s princes, and dominating all of Seth’s descendants…. but Israel shall be triumphant” (24:14,17-18).
In the end, Bilaam offers an illustration: “Alas! Who can survive G-d’s devastation? Warships shall come from the ports of the Kittim, and they will lay waste Assyria and Eber. But in the end they too shall be destroyed forever” (24:23-24). Rabbi Yochanan comments on this example:
“Woe to the nation that will be around when G-d redeems His children! Who would dare place his garment between the male and female lion when they are about to mate?” (Sanhedrin 106a). Woe to the nation that would ever consider delaying Israel during the ingathering of the exiles, when Israel and G-d are gathering together and uniting in Eretz Yisrael (see Rashi, ibid.).
Today, we are living in that very generation. The Jewish People have been gathering together into Eretz Yisrael over the past hundred years. We see clearly how Bilaam’s words are coming true, how G-d punishes all the nations that try to hold up Israel’s redemption, and those nations disappear from the stage of history. The Ottoman Empire, which at the beginning of our national rebirth schemed against the Jewish population, fell apart. The British Empire, which received a mandate to assist the Jewish People in establishing a state, and betrayed its mission, decreeing the White Paper against them and preventing them from coming to Israel to settle, fell apart. The Soviet Empire, which armed the Arab countries and helped them directly and indirectly to attack the State of Israel, fell apart.
In our own day as well, the countries of Europe and the United States have joined together to establish an Arab state in the very heart of our country, the land of our life’s blood, and that state would endanger our existence. Those countries will most certainly meet the same fate as those empires that disintegrated. The Arab countries and Iran, which do not stop for a moment their concrete military preparations to attack our country, will be the living fulfillment of Bilaam’s words: “A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel, crushing all of Moab’s princes, and dominating all of Seth’s descendants…”
Looking forward to complete redemption,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Angry Young Man
Question: My son is a rebel against the establishment. Nothing comes up clean under his harsh scrutiny, not the government and not the army, not the rabbis and not the schools. It’s a while since he was in school – he was thrown out of several – and he thinks he knows it all. He’s already gotten in trouble with the law several times due to his activities for the sake of Eretz Yisrael. He has been in the courts, in jail and under house arrest. We are trying to minimize the damage as much as we can. We appease the people whose property he vandalized in his political protests, and we pay them. The problem is that you can’t talk to him. He won’t listen to anybody, apart from his rabbis who encourage him to follow this path. Maybe the time has come for us to leave him be, and for him to experience the bitter taste of the results of his behavior and to learn the hard way. Perhaps what we haven’t succeeded in doing with our youth, the police will succeed in doing by way of some good, healthy zaps. We see our son’s hatred in his eyes, so perhaps we should respond to him in kind?
Answer: G-d forbid! A Jew once asked the Ba’al Shem Tov: “My son has gone off the track. What should I do?” (By the way, I don’t think your son has gone off the track.) The Ba’al Shem Tov responded, “Love him!” “But I DO love him!” argued the father. “Then love him all the more,” responded the Ba’al Shem Tov.
This is the key point. Love. True, your son shows his hatred in his eyes. The question is this: Where did this hatred begin? Was he thrown out of schools due to his hatred and his behavior, or could it be that because he wasn’t exactly like everyone else he was thrown out, and that made him start to hate? So which came first, the chicken or the egg? A good question. In the meantime, his own eggs are scrambled and he is dishing it out and getting it in return.
He is not guilty. He’s a wretch, the victim of the educational institutions that threw him out and did not understand that despite his rebelliousness, he possessed a fierce desire to belong to society, to the nation, to the collective.
Ideally, every school, every yeshiva high school, every girl’s dormitory school should have to take in, happily, a sizable percentage of students with problematic actions, character or views.
There’s a yeshiva that takes in precisely this sort of student, and its Rosh yeshiva once told me, “You know, there are students here that I really appreciate. When they come into the room I can barely stop myself from standing up for them.”
Yet truth be told, it’s a mark of shame for us that such a school should have had to be established. These students should be spread out through all the existing institutions.
As far as your son, he is actually a two-fold victim. First he was the victim of those who threw him out of the schools. Now he is the victim of those who are sending him on various partisan missions on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. They, themselves, don’t go out on these missions involving vandalism, but they take advantage of your son.
As for the hatred in his eyes, that didn’t start with him. It started with those who put that hatred there. Perhaps they talk loftily about their love of Israel, and that is very easy, but in actual fact they boycott X, won’t talk to Y, and refer to Z by slanderous names. And your son is the pure soul who suffers from all this.
Behind his façade of being a know-it-all who doesn’t listen to anyone, is a sensitive, gentle soul who lacks self-confidence. He therefore demonstrates the opposite and engages in activities he should be avoiding.
The law and the police are not what will help him. For us, they’re not the solution. It’s not “healthy zaps” that your son needs but love, love and belonging, despite everything. How much your poor, despairing son has suffered! His improper deeds are not the cause of the problem, but the result of the problem. A son like yours won’t learn the right path from zaps, but from people trusting him and communicating with him.
So, go on paying and propitiating your neighbors, and leave the police out of it. We’ve got a lot more to learn about the love of Israel. All of us! Not just those educators who ignited his hatred, and not just you and me. All of us.
Rabbi Eyal Vered
Israel’s Unconventional Routine
Quiet in the Israelite camp. Just another day, like those before and those that would follow. Still waiting to enter the Land. Just a bit more. Less than a year left.
And in the meantime, the routine existence of the camp. Gathering manna in the morning, studying Torah with Moses, the kohanim bringing offerings in the Tabernacle, each tribe encamped in its spot, women visiting friends who have just given birth. The desert routine.
And on the opposite cliff, two men stand watching, trying to their utmost to find some flaw, some small opening by which to pour out all the bile within them, a little hole through which the poison can seep and spread. Down in the valley, no one knows what great dangers awaits them from the wilderness. Had they known, they would certainly have gathered together for prayer. They would have declared a fast day and a mass rally. They would have gathered around Moses and asked him to pray on their behalf, that he not stop calling out to G-d at this difficult moment, perhaps the hardest they have faced so far.
Yet they don’t know, hence they continue the routine of their regular lives.
And on the adjacent cliff, two men are moving around. They build seven altars and sacrifice seven bulls. The natural universe receives its offerings. They are certain that it is only a matter of time, or of finding the right angle to watch from, and immediately the breach will be discovered, the solitary moment during the day when the father gets angry at his son, when the couple quarrel, when the argument turns to hatred and anger, accompanied by a bit of evil eye, that certainly must exist. Or, perhaps, a small envious peak into the neighbor’s courtyard, all things that mundane existence is full of. It’s only natural. And through that opening it may be possible to penetrate and to curse, to expand that moment and to transform it into a perpetual curse, a reality.
But there was nothing.
Forty years with Moses, with Torah, took a people whose routine was cursed slavery, and transformed them into a people whose daily life was flawless, “with no breach, nothing untoward, no outcry in their streets” (Psalm 144:14).
They didn’t even know that they were that way. They didn’t know that their routine was full of the love of G-d, with devotion to G-d, with noble conduct, with modesty and generosity. It seemed natural to them, and obviously the entrances to their homes were not aligned to enable spying on one another. Could one have expected anything else?
And since they didn’t know, they had to be informed. They had to be told the praises of their routine, its power and strength, and what a great defense this offered against all sorts of evil-eyed, wicked-hearted observers, plotting evil designs.
So Moses told them: “They hired Bilaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to curse you. Of course, G-d did not consent to listen to Bilaam, and the L-rd your G-d transformed the curse into a blessing for you, since He loves you” (Deuteronomy 23:5-6).
And the people must have thought, “THEY wanted to curse US? When?? Back then when we were over by the Moabite mountains? And they didn’t succeed? And G-d loves us so much that He didn’t get angry at all back then, and He turned the curses into blessings? Praised be His Name forever!”
But Moses knew the whole truth, and he recited to them Bilaam’s blessings one by one, as well has his original intentions. Bilaam’s lips were brimming with a curse. His right eye was closed shut and he could only see with the left [i.e., left symbolizing evil]. Yet before him lay the simple routine of the Israelite encampment, a routine of closely but modestly placed tents. No one was looking at what did not belong to him. No one was looking for the evil in his neighbor. The doorways were not aligned to allow one person to peep into his neighbor’s home. It was the routine of the desert. Faced with this routine, Bilaam melted and collapsed. His lips were no longer under his control. His tongue moved by itself, uttering whatever its Creator instructed it to say. It uttered praise and accolade and exaltation for the nation whose simple routine had vanquished the world-famous sorcerer with the evil eye.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
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