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PARASHAT HA’AZINU

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Normally, one’s country is not the source of ultimate contentment…However, in the case of a country ideological to the core, that is engraved in its very being with the most exalted ideological content; such a country indeed provides one with his greatest source of contentment” (Orot Yisrael, p. 160)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
“Praise G-d, all the Nations… For His Mercy is Great Towards us”



The three Pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot, teach us not only about the yearly cycle, but about the course of the generations from the start of time until the end of days.
How so?
Pesach is the time of our freedom. We left Egypt and the Jewish People were born. After coming down to Egypt as seventy individuals, our nation took shape like a fetus in its mother’s womb, and we multiplied until we emerged as a nation of six hundred thousand men.
Shavuot is when we received our Torah. Just as G-d blew life into Adam, so did He give us the Torah from Heaven at the Sinai Revelation, the same Torah that is the soul of the Jewish People down through the generations.
Succot is the time of our rejoicing. We rejoice by dwelling in the succah, taking up the four species and reliving the Temple Water-drawing festival. Simchat Torah is a tangible culmination of the process that began with the Exodus, continued with Sinai and with the revelation of the divine presence that dwells within us, that has shielded and protected us down through the ages. On Succot we invite into our succah the seven Ushpizin, or honored guests. They, too, signify a process that goes back to the beginning of time. It started with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it continued with Joseph, Moses and Aaron in the middle, and it culminated with David, King of Israel. Through King David and through the Jewish People whom he leads, G-d’s kingdom is revealed to the world, and to all mankind.
With such an all-encompassing perspective on the Jewish People down through the generations, from our glorious past to our majestic future, we sit in our succahs and rejoice, as we say in our prayers, “Those who keep the Sabbath and call it a delight shall rejoice in Your kingdom.” These are the people who sanctify G-d’s name.
In recent years, as we celebrate Succot, millions of Jews have been privileged to celebrate in Eretz Yisrael and in Jerusalem, capital of Israel, multiplying our joy many times over. Ours is not just a private joy, but a national rejoicing. As we know, On Succot the Torah commands us to bring seventy bulls in the Temple as offerings, corresponding to the nations of the world, making Succot a holiday that already contains a universal thread. As the prophet said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Isaiah 56:7).
The State of Israel already today holds an honored place in the family of nations and constitutes a player with world-wide influence. While today this influence is only in the political, economic and security realms, the day is not far off when all mankind will know and recognize that the Jewish People, living in the State of Israel that is rising to rebirth, are the light of the world. Israel’s influence will be recognized for all to see not just because of things written in the past in the Bible, which other nations have copied from us, but because we are a nation that lives and breathes the Torah of G-d in our national and individual lives. We will be a people that sanctifies G-d’s name before all the nations, a people through whom the divine presence is revealed to the entire world. We will be the living fulfillment of King David’s words:
“O praise the L-rd, all you nations. Laud Him, all you peoples. For His mercy is great toward us; and the truth of the L-rd endures forever. Haleluka. (Psalm 117)


Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

Yes You Will Succeed!

Question: I’m not going to succeed in repenting. Why should I try if I’m doomed to failure? Repentance is too hard for me. Being pure and holy is not for me. I know myself. I’ll never succeed! I’m wallowing in a sea of pitfalls and obstacles. As I said, it’s too hard for me. Maybe I’ll have some small success here or there, but what is that worth? It won’t help me. It’s a drop in the bucket. A waste of effort. Let me just stay like I am. Maybe that’s best.
Answer: You WILL succeed! Everything G-d commanded us to do is possible. It’s within our power. Consider the way the Torah allowed Jewish soldiers to marry the beautiful war-captive (Deuteronomy 21:10-14), despite this being an unsavory deed. The Torah understood that the soldier could not withstand this temptation. From this we derive that all the rest that the Torah did not permit is presumably within our ability to avoid. Even the Philsopher Kant said that if G-d obligated us in something, that signifies that we are capable of fulfilling that obligation.
Don’t say that some Torah obligation is too great for you, for you, yourself, are great. You are in the image of G-d! You have a divine spirit – part of G-d above! You are a giant! Only try. Only try and you will see that you have wings to soar up to the heavens.
I didn’t say it would be easy. It will be hard, but worthwhile – the most worthwhile thing on earth. And if you wish, it won’t even be hard. Just move slowly.
There’s a story of a chassid who approached his rebbe and said, “I’m full of sin! I’m drowning in a sea of sins!”
The rebbe replied, “Don’t talk too much. Make a written list.” The chassid made a list.
“Now,” said the Rebbe, “order the list from the lightest sin to the heaviest.” The chassid did so.
“Now,” he added, “divide up the lightest sins into four groups.” He did so.
The Rebbe said, “The most insignificant quarter is your task for the coming week.”
“And what about the rest?” asked the chassid.
“That’s for later weeks!” answered the rebbe.
“But this quarter is too insignificant…”
“Don’t say it’s too insignificant!” the rebbe replied. “With a lot of pennies you can amass a fortune.”
Indeed, every crumb of repentance is infinitely precious.
How fortunate you are to be having penitent thoughts. Your whole comment about being in despair, actually signifies faith, fortitude and courage. It says that you have not resigned yourself to your situation. You say you have, in an effort to convince yourself that you’re best off in your lowly state. Yet in vain. Your soul is great, and it will never agree. “The soul is never sated” (Kohelet 6:7). This verse is associated with a parable of a princess who married a wealthy commoner who gave her every gift, but nothing could satisfy her because she missed the palace of her father the king. In the same way, the soul is the king’s daughter, and all the treasures of this world cannot satisfy her. “The soul is never sated.”
Have courage. Repent as much as you can, taking the minor with the major, and you will see that you will succeed in climbing higher and higher.


Rabbi Elisha Aviner

The move from Yom Kippur to Succot is sharp and sudden. The Yom Kippur service is characterized by a serious, weighty mood involving confession and repentance, fasting and affliction. A person puts all his energies in abeyance. He resembles an angel. This is a day that is self-restraint. By contrast, Succot is a holiday of joy, of doing many mitzvoth. Even eating becomes a mitzvah. Thus, the move from Yom Kippur to Succot is like a jump from one spiritual world to another.

Many of the sages of Israel have commented that the adjacency of Succot to Yom Kippur is no coincidence. Succot serves to fill in what we are lacking from Yom Kippur, and perhaps even to cure the burning sensation in our heart from that day. As Rabbi Eliezer Papo said in his book “Pele Yo’etz”, G-d “provided us with good counsel. He provided us with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which to atone for our sins. G-d, like a father, felt love and compassion for His beloved son. He wished to gladden us from the pain and sorrow of our days of repentance, so He immediately gave us Succot, commanding us to rejoice. He further assigned a good reward for our joy. Could anything be sweeter than that?” The joy of Succot serves to console us for the pain of repentance.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (Orot HaTeshuva) mentions a similar idea. The abundant work involved in repentance, “in the days earmarked for it” [the High Holy Days] purges the soul, refines the spirit and purifies one’s deeds. All the same, “it necessarily will absorb with it some of the weakness. Even the strongest of the strong will be unable to escape this.” Repentance fights against the evil in man. It blocks off man’s desire to do evil. Yet it is liable as well “to cause one’s good inclination to get smaller,” and to sap one’s life force. It is like the mentally ill person who does not control his deeds and behaves in a wild manner that imperils his health and his environment. One method of treatment is depressants that weaken the evil in him, but harm also the good – the healthy part of his personality. In Rabbi Kook’s own words, “When a mentally ill patient is cured by means of a strong electric shock, while it does banish his illness, it also weakens the healthy, vital force within him.”
Thus, Succot serves to strengthen a person’s good inclination by increasing his performance of good deeds, increasing his positive activities, “stirring up his good inclination and his wholesome life force. That makes his repentance complete.” Completing the repentance process comes about precisely through channeling all those forces in the direction of intensive, positive action.

From this we can likewise derive a major principle in educating children. We are often forced to restrain children, to forbid a particular activity because parts of it are undesirable. Sometimes, we punish children in a manner intended to paralyze the evil. Nonetheless, great caution is called for. Placing limitations, preventing activities and meting out punishments are liable to paralyze the child and to anesthetize the good in him as well. In educating children, one cannot avoid placing limitations. There is no escape from assigning punishments (educational ones!!). One cannot permit everything. One cannot educate without rejecting evil and without giving practical expression to such rejection. Yet it is forbidden to base education solely on prevention, limitations and rejecting evil. An educational approach whose only content is teaching restraint will fail. One cannot educate solely by subjugating evil. Subjugating the evil impulse generally harms its neighbor as well, the good impulse. Alongside rejecting evil and teaching restraint, one must also educate towards increasing the good, towards doing and creating. We have to provide an entire range of practical ways to express the good and to increase happiness.

Throughout the year, eating is a permissible activity. There is no prohibition against it, yet neither is there any obligation. On Yom Kippur, all eating is a sin. On Succot, all eating in the Succah is a mitzvah. This teaches us that a period of placing restraints has to be followed by a period of positive activity.

This counsel is appropriate also in teaching children. Each time we place limits or give a punishment, it is appropriate immediately to show a practical, positive way to encourage, strengthen and increase motivation towards the good. After every punishment we have to find a way to bring the child happiness through a values-based activity that can arouse that happiness.




Translation: R. Blumberg


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