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A Shabbat Dedicated to Jonathan Pollard

“There is no mitzvah as great as that of redeeming captives. A captive is presumed to be both hungry and bare, and in danger for his life. Whoever ignores his plight violates ‘Do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother’ (Deuteronomy 15:7), as well as, ‘Do not stand by when your neighbor’s life is in danger’ (Leviticus 19:16); and ‘Do not let his master dominate him so as to break his spirit’ (25:53). He likewise neglects the positive precept of, ‘Open your hand generously’ (Deuteronomy 15:8); ‘Let your brother live alongside you’ (Leviticus 25:36); ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (19:18); ‘Deliver them that are drawn unto death’ (Proverbs 24:11); and many other such verses. There is no mitzvah so great as redeeming captives.” (Rambam, Matanot Aniyim, 8:10).

Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Abraham’s Generous, Loving Nature”

When G-d decides to punish and destroy Sodom, He says: “Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham is indeed to become a great and mighty nation, and through him shall be blessed all the nations of the world” (Genesis 18:17). Rashi comments: “It would not be right for Me to do this thing without letting him know…I renamed him Abraham, which denotes a father of a multitude of nations. Can I, then, destroy the children without informing the father who loves Me?”

It is true that the people of Sodom sinned heavily, and ostensibly Abraham could have ignored them and cut himself off from them. Yet Abraham had a generous nature. He had love for the Creator and His creations – even those who had distanced themselves far from Him. Therefore, as is our way with those we love, Abraham strove to speak up in their defense, as when he asked G-d, “Will you actually wipe out the innocent with the guilty?” (18:23). Suppose there are fifty innocent people in the city…. Shall the whole world’s judge not act justly?” (18:23-24). Only when he had finished defending them does it say, “When He finished speaking with Abraham, God left [him]. Abraham then returned home” (18:35). Rashi comments, “When the defender leaves, the prosecutor accuses.”

Today, we, the Jewish People, are Abraham’s descendants. The traits that characterize Abraham are imprinted within the soul of the nation, and the soul of each individual Jew. Foremost amongst those traits is the “good eye” (Avot 5:17), i.e., the generous nature that looks for the good and the positive in everything; the approach that views G-d’s creatures sympathetically, after the manner of Aaron the Kohen, who “loved his fellow man” (Avot 1:12).

Yet it is not enough to be born with good, noble traits. Rather, one has to bring out his full potential through proper education, the way Abraham did with his own children, as it says: “I have given him special attention so that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep God’s way, doing charity and justice”(Genesis 18:19). The identity and purpose of the Jewish People down through the ages start with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and with G-d’s having chosen Abraham, as it says, “You are the L-rd, our G-d, who chose Abraham and brought him forth out of Ur Kasdim and gave him the name of Abraham; and found his heart faithful before You” (Nechemiah 9:8).

And just as G-d chose Abraham, He also chooses the Jewish People, as in the blessing that we recite to “G-d who chose us from all the peoples” (Birkat HaTorah), and as in the blessings recited before the Shema, praising G-d who “lovingly selects His people Israel.” Our duty and task is to learn to educate and to explain what are the identity and purpose of the Jewish People, from the perspective of the Nation’s roots. We must look back at the rock from which we were hewn. By such means we will continue with confidence and joy, marching along the upward path towards complete redemption…while looking forward to salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Heard of Honoring Your Parents?”

You have certainly heard of the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael. That mitzvah is famous. Honoring one’s parents, however, has been pushed off to the side. It’s a mitzvah that has no luck. As for Eretz Yisrael, that’s an important and a pressing mitzvah. For that mitzvah, people enlist without a second thought. So I’ve got a refreshing new idea: Honoring one’s parents is likewise good for Eretz Yisrael. Pay attention to the end of the verse, “Honor your father and mother. You will then live long on the land that the L-rd your G-d is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Thus, honoring one’s parents is certainly a national-religious mitzvah.

I am not talking about your behavior when you were a child and you yelled and behaved insolently. I am talking about your situation today, when you already have children of your own. I would expect you by now to understand your parents’ mentality. After all, you are a serious, intelligent, G-d fearing person, scrupulous about mitzvah performance and Torah observance. So why don’t you visit your parents? Why don’t you invite them? Why is it that when they try to invite themselves over to you, or invite you over to them, you always have a different excuse: “This Shabbat isn’t easy,” etc., until it is already unpleasant for them to ask.

I well understand that Grandma and Grandpa are sometimes a burden. They make comments. They criticize. They are argumentative. They get under your skin. But have you never heard of gratitude? Even if you spend your whole life returning to them what they gave you, you won’t finish. So, be happy that you’ve got the opportunity to pay back a little. Ingratitude starts with the way one relates to his parents, but it ends with how he relates to G-d (see Ramban, Sefer HaChinuch). After all, there are three partners in man’s creation. Gratitude is the foundation of all, says Rabbenu Bechaye in his work “Chovot HaLevavot.”

Really, did you receive NOTHING from your parents? Did you learn nothing? Do you owe them nothing? Is everything their fault? Maybe you can find SOMETHING good about them, both past and present? Maybe you can think differently? When you reject them, you are not looking at the composite picture, but only at a small, aggravating part of them. If you could see everything about them, their whole story, all their suffering, all their bad luck, all their dreams and all their efforts, you would behave differently. If you reject them, you have to realize that your children after you will pay you back the same way, for that is what they learned from you.

Yet even in the present, you weaken yourself if you reject them. You destroy your joie de vivre, your good mood. If you are negative towards your parents, then in a certain sense you are negative towards yourself, and you can never be happy. After all, your parents you won’t be able to change. So please change yourself. Change your approach. Think differently, and that will make you act differently. What you decide is what you will see. When you relate to them positively, you will be happy. Indeed, the dividends from honoring one’s parents are reaped in this world.

It’s a challenge! As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote, “The impulse to honor’s one’s parents is very strong in people, and often it works to soften hard hearts. Where does this emotion come from? Only from the impulse of gratitude that is deep in the heart” (Ein Aya, Shabbat 21, ot 14). It is a challenge! You will feel purity. You will feel elevation.

Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
Teens and Growing Up (Part II)

Over the course of the teen years the adolescent crystallizes his independent identity. This has brought many to think that during this period it is right to avoid exercising any kind of parental authority upon the teen, in order to allow him the space to develop independently. What this means is parents not intervening in their children’s behavior. According to this approach, parents shouldn’t fix limits, let alone enforce such limits upon their teenagers. By such means, it is hoped that the teen will succeed more in crystallizing his identity, in defining who he is and what he is, and in planning his future. Parental involvement is liable to ruin the teen’s natural development. Therefore, the argument goes, it is better to give the teen a free hand to act as he wishes, unhindered. Such is the liberal approach.

It should be pointed out that some parents conduct themselves this way not because they are convinced of the rightness of the liberal approach, but because they have given up on the possibility of enforcing their authority on their teenagers. After a series of failed attempts to set clear limits, and after an infinite number of arguments in the home, the parents give up, withdraw and concede on the right to educate their teenage children. “Let him do what he wants. We no longer have the strength to intervene.”

There are other parents whose liberalism does not derive from a solid ideology but from neglect. Those parents are busy with their professional advancement, with night life and with social events, and they don’t have the time to educate their children. They neglect their children and allow them freedom and independence. In order to rationalize this, they wave the flag of liberalism.

Let us return to the liberal approach to teenagers. It was attempted and it has proven disappointing. Numerous studies devoted to it have proven with certainty that it does not produce desirable results. Not only is its success no greater than their authoritative approach, but its success is even less. Youth raised in homes that advocated the liberal approach did not succeed as much in crystallizing their identities as youths raised by authoritative parents. It turned out that too much freedom and independence does not help a youth to crystallize his identity, but only makes him fail in this. Why? Because crystallizing one’s identity is carried out by comparing oneself to others and confronting a different lifestyle. That is the function of limits. They reflect a clear, stable way of life. They define what is desirable and what is undesirable. The limits set by parents for their teenage children help those children to organize their personalities and to define themselves. Even if the teen defines his identity in a unique manner that does not characterize his parents, even if he chooses a lifestyle different from theirs, the limits they set during his teen years still help him to define who he is. A teen given the freedom to do whatever he feels like, will squander his resources in every direction, in an unfocused, confused manner. He will get lost in the myriad of emotional and ideological possibilities, and will not succeed in finding himself.

Our sages (Kiddushin 30a) relate to adolescence and recommend to parents to continue invoking authority at this time: “When your hand is on his neck, from sixteen until twenty-two.” Rashi comments, “When you still have some authority over your son, be careful to chastise him. What is the age range? From age sixteen until twenty-two.” Rashi adds, “Before sixteen, the youth lacks the mindset to accept rebuke.” As far as after twenty-two, “we have fear that he will rebel.” The Talmud brings yet another opinion, that the age is from eighteen until twenty-four.

Me’iri explains similarly: “One should take constant care to supervise his sons and chastise them, whether they are young or grown. In any event, the appropriate age for striving all the way with rebuke is from when a child’s mind is flowering, until it bears fruit,” referring to age sixteen to twenty-four. On the other hand, TOO MUCH authority hurts the teen’s development as well. A domineering approach stifles and depresses him and does not allow him to develop his personality. If parents relate to the teen like a small child who has to listen blindly to all of their instructions, without taking into account his affinities, emotions and wishes, he is liable to rebel and to reject his parents. Alternatively, he is liable to surrender to them and to blot out his own personality. Neither possibility is desirable.

What is the desirable approach vis-à-vis the adolescent? It is an authoritative approach that sets limits and desirable rules of conduct, albeit with flexibility, consideration and acceptance. By “acceptance” I mean recognizing the uniqueness and individuality of one’s son. We mustn’t fear light confrontations. Such firmness contributes to the teen’s development. He learns to deal with problems and to stand on his own two feet. He learns to argue. He also learns to admit the truth. Better that the school of confrontation and independence should be inside the house and not outside of it, and that the teen should go through this process accompanied by his parents and their support. Thus, light confrontations are not the end of the world.

By contrast, sharp confrontations are harmful, because they unravel the desirable connection between the teen and his parents. It follows that one of the criteria for appropriate authority is the level of the confrontation. If the confrontations are so sharp as to cause mutual or unilateral cutting off of contact, that is a sign that the parents are exercising their authority in an undesirable manner. (to be continued…)

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