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PARASHAT MASEI

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The anticipation of the building of the Temple and the Temple service is the most noble, lofty longing that any gentle spirit or poetic soul could envision.”
(Erpalei Tohar 10)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
“Whoever Mourns for Jerusalem Shall Merit Seeing it’s Rejoicing”

In the Plains of Moab, on the Jordan River at Jericho, G-d commanded the Israelites, by way of Moses, the laws of statutes regarding inheriting the Land, pledges and the murderer (Ibn Ezra, Numbers 36:13). There, facing Moab, Israel prepared to enter the Land and conquer it, and in that setting, Moses, and later on Joshua, gave them their operational orders. Those orders consisted of the following: “When you cross the Jordan into the Land of Canaan, you must drive out the land’s inhabitants ahead of you… Clear out the land and live in it, since it is to you that I am giving the land to occupy” (Numbers 33:51-53).
Simultaneously, Israel was warned that unless they fulfilled the mitzvah of conquering the Land and banishing the foreign peoples in it, they would suffer compound troubles: “If you do not drive out the land’s inhabitants before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the land that you settle. I will then do to you what I originally planned to do to them” (verses 55-56). Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that even if Israel left the foreign nations in place happily and willingly, those enemies would still plague them with troubles. If Israel considered compromising with them over the Land, i.e., dividing it with them permanently, those nations would not make peace. Rather, they would behave hostilely towards Israel regarding the portion that Israel remained in, saying, “Up and out with you!”
Indeed, Joshua stressed the mitzvah of banishing all the Land’s inhabitants in his comments before the people prior to their crossing the Jordan. As the Talmud teaches: “While they were still at the Jordan, Joshua said to them: Realize why you are crossing the Jordan: It is in order to drive out all the Land’s inhabitants before you, as it says: ‘Drive out the Land’s inhabitants ahead of you.’ If you do so, well and good. Otherwise, water will come and flood you [oteichem] out.’ Why the odd form ‘oteichem’ for you? It means ‘oti’ [‘Me’, i.e., G-d] and you.” (Sotah 34a). In other words, the purpose of conquering the Land was to conquer it all and not just parts of it.
It is no coincidence that Rabbi Chaim Atar was called “Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh” – “the holy living light”, for he was like his name. In his commentaries, he envisioned the future of the Jewish People. He understood that it would not help Israel to leave foreign nations in the Land, and that those nations would bring compound troubles upon Israel. They would never resign themselves to the State of Israel, and they would fight it constantly, with the goal of destroying it. The punishment for our failure to banish the land’s inhabitants is that “G-d will then do to us what He originally planned to do to them.”
Looking forward to complete redemption.
Shabbat Shalom.

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El


Will we Return to Gush Katif?


Certainly, we will return to every settlement. That’s more certain than anything, because we are now in an age of rebirth. We are returning to our land, to its entire expanse, and even if there are setbacks, we shall prevail.
This is the most marvelous period of our history during the past two thousand years. Just as the birth of an infant is wonderful, so is the pregnancy, the birth process and the infant itself.
We were already born once in Egypt, and now we are being born again. We survived the exile, and that, too, was a miracle. And now we are rising to rebirth.
Obviously, it isn’t easy. Birth isn’t easy either. It’s worth it, however. Even the national vision of the dry bones presents a gradual process: the rebuilding of the Land, the ingathering of the exiles, the State, the army, the Torah. Yet everything is progressing. It’s moving forward!
Sometimes you’ve got to go slow, as our forefather Jacob said, “I will move along slowly [Hebrew ‘le’iti’]” (Genesis 33:14), which Rashi interprets to mean, “‘at my slow pace’, a term denoting gentleness” (Rashi). Don’t reject something just because it goes slowly: “This people has rejected the waters of the Shiloah that flow gently, but rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah” (Isaiah 8:6). Rezin was the King of Aram, and Pekah ben Remaliah was the King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who committed a heinous deed, joyfully forging a covenant with our enemy, Aram, in order to attack his brethren from the Southern Kingdom of Judah (see Sanhedrin 94b). That is what happens when people want quick fixes.
Patience, my friend. There won’t be any third destruction. Crises, however, are possible. Don’t be broken and don’t despair. Remember that a person grows by developing his ability to adapt to harsh, changing conditions.
In Ecclesiastes, Chapter Three, appears the famous poem about appropriate times. You can’t always choose the time that is convenient for you. Sometimes it chooses you. You do whatever you can, because everything is in G-d’s hands, and good things happen through good people and bad things through bad people. Learn to conduct yourself and to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, and to be a vessel for G-d’s mission in all circumstances.
Whatever you can change, change. Whatever you cannot change, accept as is, and know how to distinguish between them.
Don’t get bogged down in anger and despair, bitterness and frustration. Don’t destroy yourself. Don’t destroy others. Don’t destroy the young generation waiting in line. Don’t put ideas into their heads which will prevent them from taking the lead when the time comes. True, Darwin argued that in a cruel world such as ours, the fittest survive. Yet he did not know how to explain how the gentle birds are still here. Later on some came up with an answer: even if the individual disappears, the aggregate survives. At least in the long term, gentleness wins out. So be cured of your lameness and don’t scratch painful sores. Don’t hate – not even for the sake of heaven.
We are the nation that knows how to wait and not to despair. At the Pesach Seder we proclaim, “Next year – in Jerusalem!” “Next year – we shall be free!” Other peoples did not know how to wait, and they perished. We are the nation of patience and faith, “shining ever brighter until the day is full” (Proverbs 4:18).
Don’t be a zealot. True, Pinchas was zealous for G-d, but he didn’t burst forward of his own accord without first asking Moses, who sent him (Sanhedrin 82a). When all was said and done, Pinchas was a man of peace who received a covenant of peace, and the grandson of Aaron the Kohen Gadol, who loved peace and pursued it.
Even spiritual titans like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Eliezer were castigated. G-d said to them, “Have you left your cave [after twelve years] to destroy My world? Go back inside!” (Shabbat 33b, see Ein Aya there). You have to realize that despite all the setbacks, we are still living on miracles – open miracles.
The first miracle is this: 150 years ago this land was desolate. Today it is functioning, green and flourishing, a land flowing with milk and honey.
The second miracle: 150 years ago, there were 12,000 thousand Jews here. In 1948 there were 600,000, and now there are five million, like the sand of the sea and the stars of the heavens.
The third miracle: For 2,000 years we were subjugated to the nations, and now we are free. We possess political independence, a strong state with a fine economy, scientific know-how and an advanced society.
The fourth miracle: In the exile, the nations rose up against us to destroy us, and now we have the I.D.F., the Israel Defense Force, which brings us miraculous victories. Our wars are hard, like all wars, but they are miraculous all the same. True, not everything is perfect, but let us not forget that over the course of 150 years, the same number of Jews died in war and terror as died in one day of the Holocaust. Things aren’t 100 % perfect, only 99, and regarding the one percent remaining, we’ll have to make an effort.
The fifth miracle: the Torah is returning to its abode, and to various degrees, to the entire nation. “A new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 36:26) is taking up residence amongst us, without publicity or fanfare.
We are marching forward! True, there are crises, but we must avoid the psychological shock that would result from pushing the process forward. Observe the godly wind blowing through the Land. Observe Zionism, with its holy content, even if its language is secular. Accustom yourself to talking the language of the people (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah 46).
Don’t say, “Everyone hates settlers.” That’s nothing more than a pointless persecution complex. Don’t say, “They’re not Zionists”. That’s just a lack of humility on your part. And don’t say, “They’re Bolsheviks!” Sharansky warned, “I know what Bolsheviks are. You don’t!” Don’t shout “Nazi!” If you do you’re dangerously deluded. Don’t say, “We”. You’re forgetting that you’re a minority, or, more precisely, you’re forgetting that you’re part of the Jewish People. All the miracles and wonders that have occurred in our country were performed by the people and not by a small group.
The main thing is – stop fighting with everybody. Be humble! You are a precious, important part of things, but you aren’t everything. You’re allowed to argue with others, and sometimes it’s a mitzvah for you to argue, but all must be based on love. Remember the words of the Sfat Emet:
“There is certainly room for the differences of opinion that exist within the Jewish People. As our sages said, ‘Just as their faces are not the same, neither are their views.’
“The underlying principle was explained by my mentor, my grandfather, of blessed memory regarding the Mishnah, ‘If I am not for myself’ (Avot 1:14):
“Every individual is created to rectify some specific point that no one else can rectify, and at every moment, a different rectification is called for. All the same, ‘If I am only for myself, what am I?’ Everyone must nullify his private interest for the sake of the aggregate.”
“It is true that arguments are necessary so that everyone can express his view, but full unity must result, as it says, ‘In the end, love’ [our sages’ rendering of Numbers 21:14]. Such is the sincere battle for the sake of heaven, starting with division but ending with unity. Then is fulfilled ‘He makes peace in His heights’ (Job 25:2).” (Sfat Emet, Korach, Year: 5647 (1887).


Rabbi Ya’akov HaLevi Filber
“They didn’t Recite the Torah Blessings First”



Scripture states, “Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the L-rd has spoken, that he may declare it? Why was the Land lost…. The L-rd answered, ‘It is because they have forsaken My Law, which I set before them, and have not hearkened to My voice, nor walked by it” (Jeremiah 9:11-12).
The Talmud asks (Nedarim 81a), “What difference is there between not hearkening to G-d’s voice and not walking by it?” and it responds, “The verse is teaching that they didn’t recite the Torah blessings before learning Torah.”
The Talmud adds that the question, “Why was the Land lost?” was posed to the sages and prophets, and they didn’t explain it, until G-d explained it Himself.
Without a doubt, it was indeed spelled out in the Prophets and in our sages’ writings that Israel were guilty of other sins, including some severe ones like idolatry, sexual sin and bloodshed. Maharal, in his introduction to his work “Tiferet Yisrael”, therefore asks:
“It is puzzling to think that the Land was destroyed because the Jews didn’t recite the Torah blessings rather than due to the idolatry, sexual sin and bloodshed of the First Temple Period.”
What is it about “not reciting the Torah blessings” that could have caused the loss of the Land? Maharal explains that G-d’s complaint about the Jewish People was not that they didn’t learn Torah. Quite the contrary, they learned it, just they didn’t recite the blessing that precedes it. Moreover, Maharal writes there that they even DID recite the blessings beforehand, but that they were reciting it insincerely.
The essence of a blessing is its attaching an object to G-d, and their Torah learning was cut off from G-d. And even though they loved learning Torah, their learning was not an expression of love for G-d. Such learning has no roots.
In yeshiva we would hear our master and teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, provide still another explanation: The blessing preceding Torah learning mentions G-d’s having “chosen us from amongst all the nations and given us His Torah.” This blessing links the Torah to the selection of the Jewish People. And just as according to Maharal, if someone learns Torah without G-d, then his Torah is without roots, so it is when we learn Torah divorced from any connection to the Jewish People’s chosenness. Such learning leads to destruction.
As far as the question, “How does Torah learning divorced from Israel’s chosenness constitute Torah that is cut off from G-d?” the Midrash explains (Kohelet Rabbah 1):
“Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught, ‘Like the days of the tree are the days of My people’ (Isaiah 65:22), and ‘tree’ can only connote Torah, as it says, ‘It is a tree of life for those who grasp it’ (Proverbs 3:18). Yet which was created for which? The Torah for Israel or Israel for the Torah? The Torah was created for Israel. And just as the Torah, created for Israel, shall exist forever and ever, how much more so Israel, created through their own merit.”
We likewise learn from the Tanna Devei Eliyahu 14:
“One time I was passing from one place to another and someone met me… and asked, ‘Master, there are two things in the world and love both of them with all my heart: Torah and the Jewish People. Yet I do not know which of them comes first.’ I answered him, ‘My son, people usually say that the Torah comes first, but I say that Israel comes first.’”
According to these sources, the Torah’s entire existence is for Israel’s sake. When the Torah is cut off from Israel, it is flawed.



Translation: R. Blumberg

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