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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“G-d blesses Israel, making their leadership devoted to their people. He imbues that leadership with the same love that they feel for their own families. Yet their love for their people becomes even stronger, just as the entire nation’s welfare transcends the welfare of the individual family.” (Olat Re’iyah II:287)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
Gratitude – Then and Now

“When you come to the land that the L-rd your G-d is giving you as a heritage…. you shall go to the site that God will choose as the place associated with His name. There you shall go to the priest officiating at the time, and say to him, ‘Today I am affirming to the L-rd your G-d that I have come to the land that G-d swore to our fathers to give us.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-3). Rashi comments: “You shall say to him that you are not ungrateful.” Ingratitude is when you deny the good that has been done for you. Gratitude is part of the essence of man, in general, and of the Jewish People in particular. The Jewish People are therefore called “Yehudim”, after Leah’s fourth son, Yehuda, who received that name because when he was born Leah said, “This time let me thank [odeh] G-d” (Genesis 29:35).

The first thing a Jew says when he gets up in the morning is, “I render thanks to You, everlasting King, who has mercifully restored my soul within me. Your faithfulness is great.” A Jew must thank G-d sincerely for the good things G-d does for him. In the same way, one who brings the first fruits when he comes to the Temple announces that he is not ungrateful. Quite the contrary, he recognizes the kindness and bounty that G-d showers upon him, and he expresses his thanks for them.

Today, not just the person who brings first fruits to the Temple must announce that he is not ungrateful, but each and every one of us must recognize the kindness and goodness that others do for us, and we must thank G-d for all of that goodness. This applies not just to what individuals do for us, but to the kindness we enjoy from our family, our society and our country. Especially during these times, the period of forgiveness and mercy, we must search our souls as individuals and as a nation and we must repent, asking ourselves if we are not ungrateful.

The greatest ingratitude of recent years is the relationship of the government and its leadership to the settlers of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in general, and to those of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria in particular. The settlers’ entire intent in settling Eretz Yisrael was to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the Land, and thereby to strengthen the nation, and to defend the country against its Arab enemies, and all this through genuine self-sacrifice. Instead of being raised up in the air and thanked for the good they do for the nation and state of Israel, they met with terrible ingratitude in the form of their being expelled by force from their homes, when they had done nothing wrong.

The entire public must repent and ask forgiveness. How did they allow such injustice and ingratitude? Quite the contrary, we must raise up the settlers on our shoulders, especially those of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, and we must ask their forgiveness. We must propitiate them and appease them. By such means we will truly unite as one man with one heart, and we will be privileged that next year will be a year of forgiveness. That will be the day we have been waiting for — we will sing and rejoice on it! With blessings for a good, sweet year,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

Tzedaka [charity] will Save you From Death

“Be very careful that you not have an irresponsible idea and say to yourself, ‘The seventh year is approaching, and it will be the remission year.’ You may then look unkindly at your impoverished brother, and not give him anything. If he then complains to G-d about you, you will have a sin. Therefore, make every effort to give him, and do not feel bad about giving it” (Deuteronomy 15:9-10).
One might ask, “Why should I forfeit my money on Rosh Hashanah night? It’s my money, isn’t it?” The truth is, it isn’t really yours. “Mine is the silver, and Mine the gold – the word of the L-rd of hosts” (Chagai 2:8).
All the great Mussar [morality] giants have said: Man is only the treasurer. How fortunate you are to have merited this exalted post. Yet you certainly would never consider betraying your task and taking all the money for yourself!
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook was asked by HaPoel HaMizrachi, the Religious Zionist Labor organization, what, according to the Torah, is the proper economic system, and he replied: Without deciding on this question, certainly a system based entirely on private ownership is impossible and unprofitable if one is to fulfill the entire Torah lawfully. After all, the Torah commands us to take care of our poor brethren and to give them “everything they are lacking” (Deuteronomy 15:8; see Rambam, Matanot LaEvyonim 7:3).
And how much is he lacking? How do we define it? It means his vital needs, in accordance with the time and the place. The Torah does not demand of us a socialist system of equal division of all profits, but rather profit-based capitalism with taking care of the needy.
A fine, and important project has been initiated by Machon HaTorah VeHa’aretz, Nedivei Aretz and the Chessed Organization “Pa’amonim”. The idea is to give a loan (up to 26 Elul / September 26) and not to demand its return by way of Pruzbul. Thus, the money will go to tzedaka, and one will be fulfilling two mitzvoth at once – the Sabbatical remission of loans, and giving tzedaka.
Pa’amonim is a reliable organization – which cannot be said about every single charity organization. With some of them, their staff salaries and expenses top eighty percent of the money people give them. Some rabbis demand that this sum not top 49 %. By the way, according to Israeli law, non-profit charitable organizations are not allowed to have the figure top 20%. It is therefore fitting that the sum shouldn’t surpass ten percent.
All of this is without talking about people claiming falsely to be poor. According to rabbis’ estimates, 90% of beggars are charlatans. According to police estimates, a beggar at the Western Wall collects about NIS 7,000 per day, and some of them show up for “work” in luxury cars. The police are well acquainted with them all. Yet in the matter at hand, thank G-d, I am talking about honest, reliable organizations.
Still, one might ask, “How will I be able to afford to forego the money owed me? I, myself, am not wealthy, and I have no money reserves!”
The answer is simple: Decrease your luxuries. Your life comes before the life of your fellow man, but YOUR LUXURIES DO NOT COME BEFORE THE LIFE OF YOUR FELLOW MAN. Such is the ruling of the Ba’al HaTanya (Igeret Kodesh 16 at the end of the Tanya); the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 251:5); the Chafetz Chaim (at the end of his “Ahavat Chessed”), and Rav Kook, who wrote, “Be careful regarding tzedaka! One must realize that according to our holy Torah, the poor man’s life precedes all your own luxuries” (Responsa Orach Mishpat 188:54).
This has a source in the Talmud: If there is a spring in my city, my drinking from it takes precedence of people from other cities drinking from it. Yet using the water for my laundry does not supersede my fellow man’s having drinking water (Nedarim 80b). (Others hold that laundry is essential due to avoiding disease.)
It doesn’t bother us that there are rich people. It doesn’t bother us that some people live lives of luxury. No one has to cut himself off from luxury. To do so is to fulfill the trait of “perishut”, abstinence, which is not for everyone (Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 13).
Yet the existence of people who lack vital necessities is scandalous. Day and night people look for all sorts of segulot, spiritual remedies. Every day all sorts of new ones are invented, and people even spend a fortune on them, forgetting the main point, what the Torah commanded, a segulah greater than any other.
The story is told of Rabbi Akiva’s daughter, who was told that she would die on the day of her wedding. She still got married, and she did not die. The next morning, however, she pulled a pin out of a hole in the wall, that she had stuck into the wall the night before, drawing out a dead, poisonous snake that had been stabbed in its eye by the pin and had died.
Her father asked her, “What mitzvah did you do [that saved your life]?” and she answered, “At the wedding, a poor man was standing at the door and no one noticed him, so I got up and gave him my plate of food.” Rabbi Akiva responded, “You performed a mitzvah!” and he expounded, “Tzedaka shall save from death” (Proverbs 10:2; Shabbat 156b).

Translation: R. Blumberg

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