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PARASHAT LECH LECHA

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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The man who constantly frets over his own sins and those of the world should constantly forgive himself and the world. By doing so he will draw forth forgiveness and the light of kindness…and bring joy to G-d and man… And he will earn the blessing reserved for Abraham: “there is no generation without one like Abraham.” (Erpalei Tohar, 53-4)


Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “In the 7th year there will be wars. At the end of the 7th the Son of David will arrive”

The first war mentioned in the Torah is the war of the four kings against the five, in the days of Amrafel, who was Nimrod (Rashi on Genesis 14:1). This war took place between two coalitions of wicked kings. Heading the four kings was Nimrod, and heading the five kings was the King of Sodom. The outcome of the first stage of the war was that the four kings defeated the five. At a later stage, however, the Patriarch Abraham defeated the winners, as it says, “He divided [his men] against them at night, he and his servants, and he attacked them. He pursued them until Chovah, which is to the left of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). As a result of Abraham’s victory, the kings and leaders of his generation bestowed great honor upon him: “The King of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from defeating Kedarlaomer and the kings that were with him, to the Valley of Shaveh which is the King’s Valley” (14:17). Rashi comments, “It was a valley where all nations were in agreement and appointed Abraham over them as a prince of G-d and leader!” Our ancestors’ deeds presage our own!

Today, 3,000 years after Abraham’s time, his descendants are rising to rebirth in Eretz Yisrael. The rebirth of the Jewish People is taking place in a time of wars. As our sages said, “In the 7th year, there will be wars. At the end of the 7th, the Son of David will arrive” (Sanhedrin 97a). World Wars I and II are directly and indirectly connected to the rebirth of the Jewish People, and it is the same with our own wars, from the War of Independence to the present war over our control of Eretz Yisrael. According to the Prophets (Zechariah 14; Ezekiel 38-39), the climax of wars will be the war of Gog and Magog, when the nations of the world will seek to conquer Jerusalem. Today, the Christian and Muslim worlds both long to do that. In this regard King David said, “Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples mutter in vain?
The kings of the earth join ranks. The rulers take counsel together against the L-rd and against His anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2).

Yet the outcome will be resounding victory over all those who long to conquer Jerusalem and to drive us out of our land. As King David then says, “You will break them with a rod of iron. You will smash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (verse 9). And just as Abraham defeated the kings, so shall G-d’s great name be magnified and sanctified, as it says, “Thus will I magnify Myself and sanctify Myself. I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the L-rd” (Ezekiel 38:23). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!


Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“We’re headed in the right direction”

The Jewish People are going through some very hard times. Yet, as it says in Mesillat Yesharim (Ch. 19), the test comes precisely during such times. If a person loves G-d, but when things are hard his love cools down, that doesn’t mean he has no love for G-d, but his love is conditional. It is imperfect. At the start of Mesillat Yesharim as well (Ch. 1), it says that life is replete with crises and difficulties. Hence we mustn’t be alarmed by crises.

The definition of a crisis is this: Anything that comes along against our will. There are always such phenomena in life, yet that is no reason to stop. Rather, we must persevere. There are times when one should confront failure by moving on. For example, if one buys a pen for twenty-five cents and it doesn’t write, one shouldn’t waste hours fixing it. Throw it away and buy another. Yet there are times when it is forbidden to despair. Those involve the sorts of challenges where success does not come easily. We face such challenges constantly, hence we have to BECOME STRONGER through them: “Four entities require strengthening: Torah, good deeds, prayer and ‘worldliness’ [Derech Eretz]” (Berachot 32b).

1. Torah learning is hard: One studies a text. It is hard to understand it. One forgets what one learned. Yet one should not fret, “I have been struggling for so many years and I am still not a Torah scholar.” That is the wrong approach! One has to keep struggling and to be stubborn.
2. Prayer. We pray, but there are things we pray for that do not get fulfilled, and prayer is hard. First it says, “Place your hope in the L-rd” (Psalm 27:14). Sometimes that doesn’t work, so the verse continues, “Be strong, take courage and place your hope in the L-rd!”
3. Good deeds. People treat others benevolently and get slapped in the face in return. No matter! Persevere!
4. ‘Worldliness’ [derech eretz]. Rashi says this is referring to earning a living. Yet others sages argue that “derech eretz” is referring to attaining Eretz Yisrael, as it says, “Be strong and let us prove courageous for our people and for the cities of our G-d” (II Samuel 10:12). According to this, “derech eretz” means literally “the way of the Land,” the best means of proceeding with our Land. With all four elements we must be strong and persevere.

Yet even if we persevere with these elements, success is not guaranteed. For example, Judah Macabee fought a fierce battle of the few against the many. His soldiers asked him, “Is there a chance of our winning?” He answered, “Certainly!” They then asked, “Is it certain that we will win?” He answered, “No. We do what G-d commanded us, and G-d does as He sees fit.” Judah Macabee learned this from Yoav ben Tzeruyah, the commander of Israel’s army under King David. The verse quoted above said, “Be strong and let us prove courageous for our people and for the cities of our G-d, and G-d will do what seems good to Him.” It is G-d who decides if we will succeed or not.

We derive from this that we do not always succeed. Some argue: “We failed in the struggle over Gush Katif and Northern Samaria – a sign that our path is wrong.” Yet that is not so. We are on the right path, but it is a long one, and along the way there are sometimes failures. It’s like the French General who said, after his homeland was defeated by the Nazis (an infinitely harder misfortune than our own): “We have lost the battle but not the war.” We are headed in the right direction! The return to Zion; the rebuilding of the Land; the establishment of the State; the army; the rebirth of our people in its land; the renaissance of the Torah in its land. This is the right path, but it is a long road.

In all matters needing strengthening, the road is long. There are difficulties, crises and setbacks, but that is no reason to despair. Every hero is sometimes vanquished in battle. True, it is sad, painful and annoying, but that is no tragedy. It’s not the end of the world. The tragedy is to be beaten without a fight. Whoever is vanquished in battle will himself win the next battle. Even a good combat officer is sometimes defeated. Even excellent parents and educators sometimes fail. With the first couple on earth, one of their sons was murdered by the other. That is a terrible tragedy, but ultimately Adam recovered and bore Seth, from whom we are descended. Abraham had a son who became an Arab. A terrible misfortune! All the same, he persevered.

It happens that we fail. We have to know how to get up and continue, even to profit from setbacks, and to emerge from the tragedy with great wealth. True, it doesn’t happen immediately. First we walk around sad, angry and vindictive. When someone reacts in that way, it is a sign that he has a heart, feelings and a healthy psyche. Yet afterwards we make up for the loss, and we even see how we profited. Thus, we are on the right path. Some are saying: After a thing like the Disengagement, I am not going to enlist in the army.” Yet what is the alternative? That there should be no army? Then – G-d forbid – our enemies will destroy our entire people who dwell in Zion, and will steal our entire country. Three hundred million enemies surround us, and there are three million more from within, with several mighty superpowers standing by their side. The army is a great mitzvah, involving saving the people, saving the Land and sanctifying G-d’s name. When non-Jews come and murder Jews, that is a profanation of G-d’s name. When Jews defend themselves, when they fight, when a single Jew is in danger and a million Jews rise to help him, that is a sanctification of G-d’s name.

It is true that the army has various shortcomings – the awful Gaza expulsion, the introduction of female soldiers into male environments, the shallow cultural environment and the army’s insufficiently strong responses. Generally, however, the army is one great sanctification of G-d’s name. Consider how King David who kept Yoav ben Tzeruyah in his post even though his hands were dripping with blood during peaceful days, and he had incurred a death penalty. Why was he not taken out to be executed? It is because he was the best fighter, and all around him were enemies infinitely more dangerous than he. We cannot rectify everything in one shot. (See Rashba’s response V:238).

The great evildoer here is not the army. Rather, it is those who decided on the terrible expulsion plan, on uprooting a part of our country, on destroying settlements, houses, built with so much toil over generations, and on turning it all, within several hours, into mountains of rubble. It is those who decided people into the street, without a home and without work, without a community, a school, without a society! This is heinous wickedness that cannot be described.

Some say: “Things being this way, I am against the State.” Yet what is the alternative? A Turkish regime? British? Arabic?! The meaning of a Jewish state is that we are independent, without the gentiles ruling over us. This is the mitzvah of “occupying the Land” (Numbers 33:53), attaining NATIONAL OWNERSHIP of the Land. Or, as Ramban put it, “We mustn’t leave it in the hands of any other nation” (Ramban’s remarks on Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot 4). This land must remain in the hands of this people! A state is a great and holy thing. Shall the world cease to exist because of some fools? The Jewish state is a source of great contentment, and that contentment does not cease because of those who corrupt and contaminate.

A Jewish state is a good thing! A Jewish army is a good thing! We must continue to cleanse and purify them! We must restore them to their true purpose. We shall not despair! Not from the Jewish state, not from its army and not from Religious Zionism! Nothing has changed! Does the fact that a marvelous creation of Religious Zionism has been destroyed make Religious Zionism any less true? Does the fact that the nations burnt thousands of Talmudic tomes during the Crusades make the Talmud any less true?! The idea shall always remain true. Love of the Jewish People, love of the Land of Israel, self-sacrifice, industriousness, inner courage – this is the spirit of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, and it is always true. We shall work for this spirit to spread throughout the entire nation. May it be G-d’s will for our eyes to see it!


Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
Teenagers and Growing Up (Part I)

The teenage years present parents with a complex challenge. In the past, the teenage years were conventionally defined as a period characterized by an inner raging spirit, and outer rebelliousness. Indeed, during those years, our youth are stormy. Their reactions to events lack balance. Their behavior is inconsistent, attesting to their lack of inner stability. The researcher Anna Freud pointed out that “it is normal for the teen to behave inconsistently and unpredictably, to fight against his inner drives and come to terms with them, to love his parents and to hate them. He longs to emulate others and to identify with them, while he constantly seeks his own identity.” On the surface, the teen rebels. He is disobedient. He does not listen. He is antagonistic. Those who especially notice his rebellious behavior are his parents. That rebellion finds expression through countless battles within the house over matters of greater or lesser importance.

In the past, these definitions of the teenage years were so accepted that if a teen did not exhibit signs of rebelliousness and instability at this age, his mental health was suspect. It was customarily said that if a teen does not rebel when he is young, it will haunt him when he is older. The rebellion will ultimately come, and with all the more force. Today, a different understanding has been accepted. The rebellion and raging spirit are not the essence of those years, but only symptoms. Those symptoms are not uniform amongst all youths, neither is their intensity. Indeed, some teens do not exhibit these symptoms. Such a youth does not rebel. He is emotionally stable and pleasant to be with.

What then is actually happening at this age? Rapid changes are taking place inside the youth, both physiological, psychological and social. One change taking place is the passage from a family oriented identity to a personal identity. A small child is an integral part of his family, an extension of it. Our sages said, “A son is a limb of his father.” He is dependent on them, not just economically but also spiritually. He moves in a spiritual circle at the center of which are his parents. He imbibes the atmosphere of his home, and it is this exclusively which sustains him. Many factors influence him – his parents, friends, teachers, youth movement, the media, literature, etc. Yet HIS SPIRITUAL BACKBONE HE RECEIVES FROM HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY.

During the teen years, a person matures and seeks to define himself and to crystallize his identify. He gathers together everything he absorbed from his home and his surroundings, categorizes and digests it, rejecting some of it and accepting some of it, integrating all of the latter into a single, cohesive identity. This process can occur in a continuous, direct and pleasant manner. It can also involve crises and confusion. The youth struggles regarding what to accept and what to reject. Should he accept the family foundation and top it off with some of his own color, or should he create a new foundation based on what he encountered in his childhood and youth, and adorn it with bits and pieces from the home? This struggle creates a situation of instability. One day he is So-and-So. The next day he is someone else. Some days he is both. He is both an energetic idealist and an idler, both responsible and irresponsible, both courteous and refined, and coarse and brazen. Crystallizing his identity arouses within the youth inner resources and spurs him forward. At the same time, it wears him out. One day he gets up as mighty as a lion. The next day he “has no strength.” It’s hard work for him and tiring.

What determines what the youth will take and what he will reject? It is a combination of his inner makeup and the quality of the influences on him. In a Talmudic source dealing with the founding of the Jewish educational system, our sages describe teen rebellion: “The Rabbis at first ordained that there should be teachers in every region, and education would begin at age 16-17. When teachers angered these students, they would rebel and leave” (Bava Batra 21a). This is a characteristic description of teen rebellion. Teens rebelled against the educational authorities, so they got up and left.

What solution did the Rabbis find? Our sages report that Yehoshua ben Gamla moved up the age at which education began to age 6-7. With educating starting earlier, it was children who thus internalized the messages, and they became a part of them, less likely to be rejected later on. Obviously, early education is no guarantee that the teen will adopt everything he heard at home and in school, because crystallizing his identity depends on his internal makeup as well.

Some held that during the teen years when a youth is crystallizing his identity, he should be given total freedom. Hence no authority should be exercised over him. This, they hold, will enable him to develop independently, in accordance with his spirit and nature. That is the liberal approach. Over the years, it has been demonstrated that this approach does educational damage and harms the youth’s ability to develop his identity. More on that next time.


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