From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The vessel that holds the blessing that G-d desires is peace, and peace is indeed the world’s intended destiny. Peace exists when all the multitude of views and wills turn together towards one purpose, and all the efforts of mankind join together to bring about the revelation of the light of G-d’s glory in accordance with the ways that G-d laid out.”
(Olat Re’iyah 1:258)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Before his death, Moses petitions G-d with a request that he appoint for the Jewish People a worthy leader: “Let the Omnipotent G-d of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let God’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17).
Rashi elaborates on the traits of a good leader. First, he must be noble of spirit, and a complete enough person to encompass in his heart all of Israel:
“Moses addressed G-d: Master of the universe, the character of each person is revealed to you, and no two are alike. Appoint over them a leader who will tolerate each person according to his individual character.”
Second, he must be a leader who sets a personal example, takes responsibility and leads the camp, as it says, “Let him come and go before them”:
“Not like the kings of the gentile nations, who sit at home and send their armies to war, but as I did, for I fought Sihon and Og.”
Third, he should be righteous and meritorious enough to bring merit to the public through his righteousness. As it says, “Let him bring them forth and lead them” – through his merits.
Indeed, G-d responds to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hands on him…. Invest him with some of your splendor so that the entire Israelite community will obey him” (18-20).
Today, a leadership crisis has beset us. The feeling is that we have no leader, that Israel are like sheep without a shepherd. This situation requires us to make an effort to establish leadership of the sort that Moses sought, i.e., a noble, inspiring leader who can lead the nation despite the plethora of views and differences of opinion amongst them. After all, just as all men’s faces are different, so are their views different.
We need a leader who can set a personal example by his conduct, one who walks at the head of the camp and takes responsibility for what happens in our country. We need a righteous, meritorious leader whose righteousness can bring merit to the public, strengthen and elevate them. We need a leader like Joshua, son of Nun, who learned Torah and served Moses for many years, who stood at the head of an army and waged the wars of Israel, taking responsibility even when we were defeated in battle, at the Battle of Ai, and who fought corruption, apprehending Achan who had betrayed the taboo, and punishing him.
The day is not far off when the State of Israel will merit a leader with all the fine traits described.
Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Listen to Your Doctor!
Blessed be G-d, who has granted us life and sustenance and permitted us to reach this age of modern medicine, which is achieving unbelievable wonders. Yet in ancient times as well there were physicians, and while they certainly were not experts, the Torah still commanded us, “He shall provide for his complete cure” (Exodus 21:19), i.e., that physicians had a duty to cure people, and that patients had a duty to seek cures. As is well-known, seeking a cure even overrides prohibitions of various types within Halachah. This is not the place to be strict.
Regarding a sick person who needs to eat on Yom Kippur and wishes to be strict, the Torah states, “Only of the blood of your own lives will I demand an account” (Genesis 9:5. Orach Chaim 618, Mishnah Berurah 5). Any time reliable physicians tell someone not to perform a mitzvah or to commit a sin, the patient should do as they say and not seek ways around it (Responsa Minchat Yitzchak II:102:2). A person does not own his body. It belongs to G-d (LeOhr HaHalachah, Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin).
As is well-known, if someone strikes his fellowman and wounds him, he must pay his medical expenses, as it says, “He shall provide for his complete cure” (Bava Kamma 85b). Yet Ba’al HaTurim raises a new consideration: “This applies unless the patient violates the doctor’s orders.” In that case, the aggressor need not pay the additional expenses incurred through the patient’s negligence.
If someone takes risks against doctors’ orders, he violates a Torah prohibition of, “Watch yourselves very carefully” (Deuteronomy 4:15). Whoever does not follow medical principles of preventative medicine, health and hygiene, violates the positive precept of “Walk in His ways” (ibid., 28:9). As Rambam taught regarding good character traits:
“We are commanded to follow the middle course. That is the straight and upright path one should follow. As it says, ‘Walk in His ways.’” (Hilchot De’ot 1:5). He adds, “Keeping your body healthy and fit is amongst the pathways of G-d” (ibid., 4:1).
Consider how much our holy sages toiled in the Talmud to extract the best of medical knowledge from their day in order to preserve our health. Our great master Rambam, besides his numerous medical writings, devoted an entire chapter to this in his legal code (De’ot, Chapter 4). Yet he remarks (4:31), “All of the fine practices described above should only be followed by the healthy.”
The illustrious Rav Yechiel Michel Tukatzinsky wrote:“The physician is only the emissary of the Curer of All Flesh, who granted him permission to pursue his calling. Yet once the physician does his part, prescribing to the patient medicines, foods and behaviors, the patient must follow the doctor’s orders, not less and perhaps more than the laws of the Shulchan Aruch regarding permissible and forbidden foods, as the Torah commands, ‘Watch yourself very carefully’” (Gesher HaChaim I:1:2).
In what follows, all quotations are from the work, “Tenu’at HaMussar, by Rabbi Dov Katz, pp. 315-316:
The illustrious Rav Yisrael Salanter was exceedingly strict regarding all mitzvoth. “This likewise brought him to his fastidious caution regarding his health, under the aegis of one’s duty to ‘watch oneself very carefully’. True, such caution has not been codified as law, and few practice it, but Rav Yisrael was exceedingly puzzled by this and he would often say: A patient is exempt from all mitzvoth except for one, ‘Watch yourself very carefully,’ and the evil impulse incites us, casting scorn even on that one mitzvah.”
“A medical professor in Baden, Germany would customarily relate that of all the thousands of patients who came to him throughout his life he found only one who related with total seriousness to all his instructions, fulfilling them with 100% precision, and that was Rabbi Lipkin [i.e., Rabbi Yisrael Salanter] of Russia.”
“One time, when he was living in Halberstam, people came into his room and found him standing before an open German book, doing physical exercises with great precision according to the principles and illustrations in that book, as his physician had ordered him to do.”
Rav Yisrael viewed the command to “watch yourself very carefully” as constituting as much of a duty as any other mitzvah, and he treated the orders he received from his physician, the professor, as rulings of the Shulchan Aruch regarding permissible and forbidden foods, which must be fulfilled down to the last detail. One time he was seen standing at dusk staring up at the sky, determining how much time there was until dark. It turned out that his physicians had ordered him to rest three days from his Torah learning. Obviously, Rav Yisrael obeyed their orders, and when the third day was ending, he stood waiting for the precise moment of nightfall. He explained, “Just as the mitzvah of Talmud Torah makes it forbidden for one to delay one’s Torah learning for even a moment, so too, his obligation to ‘watch himself carefully’ made it forbidden for him to start learning even a moment early.”
Regarding the verse, “Man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7), the Rabbis taught, “As for the spirit that I placed within you, give it life!” (Ta’anit 22b).
Rabbi Yaakov Filber
Selecting a Leader for the People
Many crises have beset Israeli society in these times. The greatest one is the crisis of leadership. This crisis affects all spheres, and it may be that all other crises stem from it.
When the Jewish People suffer from inferior leadership, sometimes it is because they have foolishly chosen such leaders for themselves. Yet sometimes their bad leadership is a punishment from Heaven for the corrupt behavior of the public. As the Talmud states (Bava Kamma 52a), “A goat leads the flock. When the shepherd is angry at the flock he blinds the goat.” Rashi explains: “Blinding the goat makes it fall into pits, and the flock falls in after it. Likewise, when G-d wants to punish Israel, He appoints disreputable leaders for them.”
The blind goat is an example of a failure in leadership. Another example is the spies who were sent to spy out the Land.
When Moses sees that he is about to conclude his task, he understands that finding a good leader to replace himself cannot be taken for granted. Thus he does not rely on Israel to appoint themselves the continuing leadership. Yet at the same time he does not rely on himself either. Moreover, he does not do what Jacob did before his death, delineating for each of his sons that son’s specific role. Rather, he asks, “Let G-d appoint a man over the community” (Numbers 27:15). Why did Moses pass to G-d the task of choosing Moses’s own replacement? Our sages teach (Gittin 14a), ‘A person cannot truly grasp what the Torah says until he fails in its regard.” Such a failure Moses experienced when he chose the spies who went into the Land. Although Moses had chosen the finest leaders, in the final test of the result, he failed. Therefore, when he had to choose a new leader for the Jewish People, he asked G-d to do it: “Let the Ominipotent G-d of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let G-d’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:15).
The Midrash comments: “When Moses heard that he was going to die, he began to pray for G-d to show Israel mercy, that G-d should provide them with a shepherd who would have the personality to bear them. He said, ‘Master of the Universe! You know all the personalities of people, who is tolerant, who is ill-tempered. Appoint over Israel a leader who will go forth before them in the Desert, taking care of all their needs, leading them out quickly and aiding them with his prayers.”
Another example of the possibility of failure in choosing a leader for Israel we find when the Prophet Samuel is asked to find a replacement for Saul. Even though Samuel was himself totally devoted to the Jewish People, he erred when he saw David and his brothers, thinking that David’s older brother, the tall, handsome Eliav was the one chosen by G-d to be king. Here G-d apprised him of his error, saying, “Man can see with his eyes, but G-d sees into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
Today as well we need a leader such as Moses requested. However important such a request is in any other generation, in our own generation it is imperative, and we pray that G-d will provide such leadership speedily in our day.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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