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Parashat Pekudei

SHABBAT PARASHAT PIKUDEI 1 Adar B, 5765 March 12, ‘05

This Week’s Insights:
· A Thought from Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, zt”l
· Rabbi Dov Begon, Founder and Head of Machon Meir –
Message for Today: To My Brothers, Renowned Heroes
· Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Kohanim –
Why Are You Tearing the Nation Apart?
· Rabbi Elisha Aviner –
Education Corner: Our Country – Open Letters to Youth (Part II)

A Thought from Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, zt”l:
“Eretz Yisrael is an independent entity tied by a living bond to the Jewish Nation and steeped in inherent spiritual virtues.”
(Orot, Eretz Yisrael: 1)

Rabbi Dov Begon, Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: To My Brothers, Renowned Heroes

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, in his article “Catharsis” (from “Five Drashot”), distinguishes between two traits, koach and gevura. In English both words mean “strength”, but in Hebrew, “koach” connotes physical strength, while “gevura” connotes spiritual valor. A “gibor” is someone who possesses spiritual valor. Who is the gibor?, the Rabbis ask. He who conquers his evil impulse. The physically strong person needs no gevura when he fights those weaker than himself. By contrast, when a physically weak person fights someone stronger than himself, he demonstrates gevura.
Gevura means to fight even when the chances are slim, when logic says to surrender. Gevura means doing the impossible. On Chanuka and Purim we bless G-d “for the miracles, for the redemption, for the gevurot and the triumphs, for the battles which You performed for our ancestors in those days at this season” (Al HaNissim). The miracle was that gevura overcame koach.
Rabbi Soloveitchik adds: “If you ask me who is a Jew, I will say: he who leads a valorous life. A Jew is willing to be a hero, to be in the minority, to be ready to fight. Part of what makes a Jew special is living a heroic life… sometimes fighting alone on a dark night, as when Jacob “was left alone and struggled with a man until dawn” (Genesis 32:25). This represents the inner content of the Jew… Jewish life means leading a life of valor.”
Rabbi Yosef Karo begins the Shulchan Aruch law code with this concept of gevura: “A person should show the valor [yitgaber] of a lion, getting up in the morning to serve G-d.”
Today, the inhabitants of Gush Katif and Shomron, the settlers wherever they live, those who love Eretz Yisrael and are faithful to it, are the heroes of our generation. You, the settlers, stand fearless against Prime Minister Sharon in his efforts to trample us. Power is in his hands – the army, the police, the “law,” the country’s wealth. He is using strong-arm tactics against the settlers, people who are devoted and faithful to their People, Torah and Land.
They are fearless, for the Arabs have shed their blood like water, and many died martyrs’ deaths, sanctifying G-d’s name. Many left behind entire families of widows and orphans who continue to hold on out of faith and love for the land of our life’s blood: in Kfar Darom, Netzarim, Netzer Chazani, Gan Ohr, Neve Dekalim, Itamar, Chevron, Yitzhar, Har Berachah, Pesagot, Beit El, Ofra, and dozens of other settlements. These citizens, widows and orphans holding on by their fingernails, possess valor, love and faith. No force in the world will be able to break their spirit and their faith.
Victory will go to those who possess faith, as little David, the believer, beat brutal Goliath. For thousands of years, no one succeeded in breaking the faith and valor of the Jewish People and our living connection to Eretz Yisrael.
All the residents of Gush Katif, Yehuda and Shomron! How fortunate you are and how good is your lot! Be strong and courageous, my brothers, renowned heroes!!
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Kohanim
Why Are You Tearing the Nation Apart?

Mr. Prime Minister, Why are you tearing the nation apart?
You keep tearing; we keep sewing and sewing. Don’t worry. We won’t run out of thread and won’t run out of needles. But you are tearing faster than we can sew and we don’t have thimbles, so our fingers are dripping blood.
Don’t you know you are creating a rift among the people? Evil tensions and divisiveness? Don’t you know the fabric of our People is delicate? There are religious Jews who want a holy state, irreligious Jews who want a secular state, rightists who want the entire Land of Israel and leftists who want only half of the Land of Israel. Through great toil, over the course of one hundred years, we have been sewn together. Yet sometimes the threads are only fit for basting, and are not durable enough; you are tearing apart the delicate fibers of national brotherhood and unity.
Are you aware of this, or are you, yourself, disengaging from us? Even if you fear problems in the international arena, if you tear apart the nation, what is it all worth?
There will be no civil war! We, thank G-d, are a responsible people. Yet a war of insults is also catastrophic. All of us, all the streams and all the approaches, all the segments and all the parties, are like parents of our beloved people. If parents beat each other, that is destruction for the children. If they insult each other, that is tragic. Only if parents are good friends do happy children emerge.
So why are you trampling us in this way? Forgive me for expressing myself in this manner, but your greatest supporters admit this. The head of the nation is supposed to unite, and you are causing us to crumble. Moreover, by sending soldiers on an impossible mission from a social standpoint, you are causing us to crumble.
Why do you fear a referendum? Do you think that this is just some trick to gain time? No! It’s something very serious, and very responsible.
It is inappropriate for you to behave this way. In my eyes you are the national hero who saved us during the Yom Kippur War. You have been good at crushing terror. And your role in establishing the settlements of Judea and Samaria. What happened to you? You know the people in Gush Katif. They didn’t go there for money. They are not extremists. They are gentle people who study and work. They are regular people, like us.
Suddenly they are being libeled, crushed and turned into enemies of the people. They say, “We were tricked. The one we loved, the one we relied upon, has betrayed us. We suffered for the nation’s sake, and now we are being thrown to the dogs.”
At the first evacuation of the Elon Moreh group, thirty years ago, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook wept and said, “I am crying because Jews are being uprooted from Eretz Yisrael, and I am crying because Jews are being forced to argue with one another.”
That’s exactly what you are doing. You are turning moderate people into extremists. You are catalyzing centrifugal forces that are forcing people from all camps to the extremes. Because of you, people have a dreadful fear of civil war. I do not fear this, but do fear the polarization that might destroy our delicate unity.
Mr. Prime Minister! You won’t win by force! And if you win, it will be a pyrrhic victory, in which the victors will destroy themselves. If, G-d forbid, you uproot the settlers, you will uproot bodies and homes. Yet you will also uproot your own souls, for you will have trampled ethics, justice and brotherhood.
You’ve done harm to your brothers! And how shall you be rehabilitated? How will you be able to look yourself in the mirror? Those who suffer physical blows will be rehabilitated, but what about those who trample “people’s dignity and freedom”? Those who throw out brothers, leaving them without home and work, like refugees? He who engages the army in evacuating brothers instead of in waging war against enemies, and as a result, terror incidents and murder victims multiply? One day you will look at yourself, like the book, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and will see how ugly you’ve become, G-d forbid, you and everyone with you.
Yet we shall always be remaking ourselves into something better and better, for the Eternal One of Israel shall never lie or renege on His promises. We shall forever grow, and forever rejoice.
Stop it all! Maybe stopping the withdrawal will make things harder with our enemies, but things will be better amongst us. Don’t you think so? The truth is, through love and brotherhood, peace and friendship, we shall overcome our enemies, and this is one thing everyone agrees you are good at. So let’s give our money to the poor, and our brains to educating boys and girls, and our energies to making the unfortunate rejoice. Then it will be good for us all.

Rabbi Elisha Aviner,
Education Corner: Our Country – Open Letters to Youth (Part II)

Among the voices of affection and love for Eretz Yisrael and the cries of protest over the intention of handing over portions of the Land to our enemies, voices of disengagement have infiltrated as well – disengagement from the country. “If the country disengages from Gush Katif, then I am disengaging from the country. This is not my country, and it is not my army either.” Such talk, if uttered as part of an emotional outburst, is somewhat worrisome. Yet if it is uttered dispassionately, it is very very worrisome.
To disengage from the country!? We do not disengage from the country. We do not cease to recite the prayer for its welfare, and we do not grant a writ of divorce to the army. This is our country and our army. Today, the State of Israel is the greatest expression of the Jewish People. It has pluses and minuses, just like the Jewish People. The word “tzibbur,” meaning “community,” is short for “tzaddikim” [saints], “benonim” [average people] and “resha’im” [evildoers].
Sometimes, the Jewish People are in ascent, and sometimes in decline. Such is our nature. The State of Israel is the organizational common denominator of all the millions of Jews who live in Eretz Yisrael. It unites them under a common roof. If not for the Jewish State, every group within our country would go off on its own path and distance itself from others. The State binds us all together. Therefore, cutting oneself off from the State is cutting oneself off from the Jewish People.
G-d brings trials to the world and He makes a person’s individual trial fit according to his spiritual level. What is the trial of those who love G-d, of those faithful to the Torah, of those who hate sin and abhor spiritual weakness? Sometimes G-d tests the extent of such people’s devotion to Torah and mitzvot, making their existence difficult to see if they will continue to maintain that devotion. Sometimes G-d tests the extent of their love for the Jewish People. Will their fierce hatred for sin, spiritual weakness and falling prey to temptation distance them from the Jewish People who suffer from such weaknesses? When the Jewish People display weakness, will love of the righteous for Torah distance them from the Jewish People?
When Israel sinned with the Golden Calf, and Moses was still standing on Mount Sinai, G-d turned to Moses, saying, “The people are an unbending group. Now do not try to stop Me when I unleash My wrath against them to destroy them. I will then make you into a great nation” (Exodus 32:9). Moses was partner to G-d’s wrath: “Moses displayed anger, and threw down the tablets that were in his hand, shattering them at the foot of the mountain” (32:19).
Sforno explains that when Moses saw the people’s joy over the sin that they had committed, he despaired of being able to rectify what had occurred, of helping “to restore them to their perfection so that they might be worthy of those same tablets.” Despite that, when G-d made His generous offer to him, of foregoing the Jewish People and starting over fresh with Moses, Moses vociferously refused and prayed before G-d not to rid Himself of the Jewish People. Why? Because under no circumstance do we disengage from the Jewish People. The next day, Moses turned to G-d a second time and prayed on Israel’s behalf: “If You do not forgive their sin, You can blot me out of the book that You have written” (32:32). Ramban explains that Moses agreed to accept punishment in their stead. Why? Because under no circumstance do we disengage from the Jewish People.
This is our test today. Our camp passed the test of love for the Land of Israel with excellence. Our devotion to Eretz Yisrael ascends to the very seat of G-d’s throne. Now the time has come for the test of our love for the People and State of Israel. Just as we cannot forego a single square meter of Eretz Yisrael, so can we not forego a single soul of the Jewish People. We do not disengage from the Land of Israel, or from the People and State of Israel.
The Jewish State represents the first attempt, after two thousand years, to organize the Jewish People under a single roof in Eretz Yisrael. This is a very young country. Only the day before yesterday was it born. Its father was the Jewish People! When the Jewish State smiles and progresses, we rejoice. When it acts foolishly, we are sad. Yet regardless of circumstance, it is our son. When a small child acts foolishly, his father is allowed to be angry at him, and it is even desirable that he should rebuke his son. Yet he mustn’t cut himself off from his son. He mustn’t throw him out of the house. Even if he commits the most foolish deeds imaginable, he remains that man’s son. The State of Israel is our son.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook supported the Zionist Movement in his time, despite all its problems, because he saw within it a great soul destined to appear. The infant will grow to adulthood, and his soul will be revealed. The State will mature and grow. We need patience.
Our sages call the present era “the birth pangs of the Messiah.” Some sages so feared this era that they said, “Let the Messiah come and let me not see it; I am willing to pass up the privilege of being present during that period.” Why? Because of the birth pangs. This period is reminiscent of a woman in labor suffering from pain. That is how the Jewish people suffer their pain.
What is the cure for these birth pangs? Patience. Patience until the infant emerges. The cure for Messianic birth pangs is patience. Not idleness, but patience. Not despair; not severing the rope that links everyone together; not disengaging from the State, even when itseems as though weakness is taking control and having the final say. We must continue in our path, continue to muster resolve, to increase light and faith in the very midst of the Jewish State and the army. We must not withdraw.

Be sure to watch Rabbi David Samson’s Weekly Torah Insight On “Israeli Salad”, (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).

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