From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Without the impudence of the pre-Messianic era, it would be impossible to clarify the mysteries of the Torah in a totally straightforward manner. Only the coarsening of our emotions through impudence enables us to absorb intellectual enlightenment from a very lofty source, such that ultimately everything will return to its perfect state” (Erpalei Tohar, 42)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“Gladden us in Accordance with Your Having Afflicted us”
Adam and Eve’s punishment for their sin was anguish, as it says: “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly increase your anguish and your pregnancy. With anguish you will give birth to children…’ To Adam He said, ‘You listened to your wife, and ate from the tree regarding which I specifically gave you orders, saying, ‘Do not eat from it.’ The ground will therefore be cursed because of you. You will derive food from it with anguish all the days of your life. It will bring forth thorns and thistles for you’” (Genesis 3:16-18).
Noah relieved some of that anguish. That is why he was named Noah, which means “relief”: “[His father] named him Noah, saying, ‘This one will bring us relief from our work and the anguish of our hands, from the soil that God has cursed’” (5:29). Rashi comments: “‘He will give us rest from the toil of our hands’: Prior to Noah they had no plow and he invented it for them. The earth had been producing thorns and thistles when wheat was sown as a result of Adam’s curse and this ceased in the days of Noah.”
The invention of an animal-driven plow made man’s life easier. Previously, agricultural work had been difficult and frustrating. Farmers would sow wheat and come up with thorns. Yet joy did not yet return to him. Noah himself would drink wine as a way of fleeing the difficult reality in which he lived: “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank some of the wine, making himself drunk, and uncovered himself in the tent” (9:21).
Yet Abraham, G-d’s intimate and elect, was kindness personified. Only within him were restored the joy and laughter of Adam in Eden before the sin. As it says, “Abraham fell on his face and laughed [va’yitzchak]” (17:17). Targum comments, “The word ‘yitzchak’ here refers [not to disbelief at the angels’ report that Sarah would bear a son, but] to joy. In fact, G-d commanded him to call his son Yitzchak [Isaac] (17:19).”
Through Abraham and his seed after him came rectification for Adam’s sin, the sin that brought anguish to the world. With Abraham we move from the 2,000 years of chaos and anguish to 2,000 years of Torah. That, in turn, stands in preparation for the 2,000 years of the Messiah, at the height of which joy will return to the Jewish People and to the entire world. As it says, “Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads” (Isaiah 35:10. See Shabbat 88a). This idea is hinted at by the Hebrew letters of the word “Mashiach” [Messiah], which are the same letters as in the word “simchah” [joy].
Today, mankind’s goal is to emerge from the anguish that has hung over it since the days of Adam, to the enormous joy that will characterize the human race in general, and Israel, the eternal People, in particular, in the end of days. As it says, “The ransomed of the L-rd shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
In our own generation as well, as in Adam’s generation, we bear witness to enormous technological development that ostensibly makes man’s life easier, as in Noah’s day. Yet however advanced and sophisticated the world may be, that does not suffice to fill man’s heart with true joy. For joy to return to the human race and to every individual, we have to rectify the sin of Adam, who followed his passions and evil impulse. Man has to return to himself as a man, from a moral and values-oriented standpoint. He must follow in G-d’s pathways and do charity and justice, as it says of Abraham: “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. God will then bring about for Abraham everything He promised” (Genesis 18:19). As a result, “Abraham is will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and through him all the nations of the world will be blessed” (verse 18).
All those anguished years in which G-d concealed His face from us will be transformed to joy, as it says, “Gladden us in accordance with Your having afflicted us, in accordance with the years in which we saw evil” (Psalm 90:15). Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Open Letter to the Honorable President of the United States Regarding Pollard
Dear President Bush,
I hope this letter finds you well as you successfully complete your second term as President.
First of all, we would like to say to you that we, the nation that dwells in Zion, greatly admire the manifold efforts you made on behalf of our security over the years. Your good works, in assisting Israel, the nation that exists forever, shall be to your eternal credit and shall bring you everlasting blessing.
Your record of good work renders us certain that you understand the motives of Jonathan Pollard when he acted on behalf of our security, passing on to us information about unconventional Arab weapons against us and about preparations for Arab terror activities against us – information that saved many lives in Israel.
It is true that through his actions he committed crimes against the United States, but he received his punishment, serving twenty-three years of prison under very difficult conditions. Jonathan Pollard is the only man in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for passing on intelligence information to a friendly U.S. ally, with the maximum punishment for such a crime being ten years, and the average time served being between two and four years.
And indeed, the President of the United States is entitled to grant a pardon without providing any explanation, although in this case, certainly, there is a logical basis for doing so.
Moreover, His Honor is certainly aware that top-echelon figures in the United States, who previously were opposed to Pollard’s release, now support a pardon. For example, during the winter of 2006, James Woolsey, a former head of the C.I.A., stated at the Herzliya Conference on Iran and the Second World War:
“When I was in the American Government, we examined Pollard’s whole file. At the time I was against his early release, because he really did steal secret materials from the American Government, and in defense of the privileged information of the American People, I thought such a person should be punished. Now, after he has spent twenty years in prison, my opinion, which I already expressed in the Jerusalem Post, is that twenty years is more than enough. We have to consider U.S.-Israel relations.”
Therefore, we are therefore turning to your exalted self, entreating you not to conduct yourself with strictness, but with mercy and forgiveness towards a man who has already paid twenty-three years, with great suffering, and who is suffering from very poor health. Please bring this episode to a humanitarian close. In reward for this G-d will bless you and will bless America.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Rabbi Ya’akov Filber
From Adam’s sin, ten generations went by until Noah was born. At first, Noah was the hope of mankind. His father predicted: “This one will bring us relief from our work and the anguish of our hands, from the soil that the L-rd has cursed” (Genesis 5:29). Noah, in his righteousness, sought to walk with G-d and to find a way of life by which to avoid the shortcomings of his forbears. True be told, in his relationship with G-d, Noah succeeded in rectifying the failure of the generation of Enosh, as it says, “Noah walked with G-d” (6:9). The Torah attests to this, saying, “I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation” (7:1). As far as himself, Noah rectified the failure of Adam, who according to Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook “was estranged from himself.” Noah therefore set before himself as his main life’s challenge personal perfection, as Ohr HaChaim explains regarding the verse, “These are the accomplishments of Noah: Noah…” (6:9), “Noah’s accomplishments were Noah alone.”
It is true that in his interpersonal relations, Noah avoided the failure of Cain and Abel, who each were jealous of the other. Noah was careful not to disturb or insult his fellow man. Yet neither did he make any special effort to have a positive influence on his fellow man. Noah by himself fulfilled the principle, “Live and let live!” as if to say, “I won’t interfere with your life and don’t you get in my way either.” As Ohr HaChaim explains, “Noah’s chronicles were Noah alone, and none besides him, because he was of no help to his contemporaries.”
Therefore, when G-d informed Noah that a flood was destined to destroy the world, he made no effort to go out among the people of his generation and to try to save them and to turn them back from their evil path to a path of goodess. Rather, he built himself an ark in which to save himself and his family. Noah sought to save himself, but his failure at the end shed light on his beginnings. When a person worries only about himself, in the end, even he himself is harmed.
By such means does Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explain in his work “Meshech Chochmah” the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 36): “Moses was more dear to G-d than Noah. Noah was first called ‘righteous’, and later on ‘a man of the soil’. Moses was first called ‘an Egyptian’, and later on ‘a man of G-d’.” Meshech Chochma explains: “There are two approaches to serving G-d. The first way is that of the person who sets himself apart for serving G-d and solitary reflection. The second is that of the person who involves himself in the needs of the community, neglecting his own needs for their sake, to the point of abandoning his personal lives for them.
“Now according to the way it seems to mortal man, if someone isolates himself and concentrates totally on self-perfection, he will rise higher and higher, whereas if he busies himself with the community’s needs he will fall from his spiritual level, as we learn in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 7:14) regarding Ecclesiastes 7:7, ‘Surely oppression makes a wise man mad’: ‘Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi forgot eighty laws because he occupied himself with communal needs.’
“Yet experience shows differently. Noah, who isolated himself and did not rebuke his generation, ultimately deteriorated spiritually, from being a ‘righteous man’, to one called ‘a man of the soil’. Moses, by contrast, when he started out was called ‘an Egyptian man’ (Exodus 2:19) when he was forced into exile after risking his life for Israel by killing the Egyptian. He, who dedicated his life to leading the Jewish People, was ultimately called ‘the man of G-d’ (Deuteronomy 33:1). He reached the pinnacle of perfection of what a person can achieve.”
Noah is compared to yet another Biblical figure, namely the Prophet Samuel: “Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘Compared to his own generation Noah was righteous, but had he lived in the generation of Samuel he would not have been considered so.’” How did Noah differ from Samuel? Here as well the difference is his effort to save the community. The Midrash relates (Tanchuma): “When G-d told Noah, ‘Make yourself an ark of cypress wood’ (Genesis 6:14), Noah went and planted cedars, harvested and cut them up and made from them an ark. The people of his generation would ask him, ‘What are these cedars for? What is this ark for?’ and Noah would answer, ‘G-d wants to bring a flood to the world, and he told me to make an ark so that I and my family can be spared.’ The people would then laugh at him and make fun of what he had said.”
According to this Midrash, Noah as well informed his contemporaries of the danger awaiting them, yet he sat at home and did not trouble himself to go from city to city and from village to village influencing, persuading and warning them. He did not go forth to the people of his generation. Therefore, even when he came to them and he told them about the flood, they did not relate seriously to his words, but instead mocked them.
By contrast, the Prophet Samuel did not close himself off in his home, waiting for them to come to him. Rather, he would take the trouble to go from city to city, and everywhere he went he would judge Israel in their towns. He did not trouble them to come to him. Thus it says, “Each year he traveled all around Bet-El, Gilgal and Mitzpeh, and judged Israel in all those places” (I Samuel 7:16). Only a leader who goes out to the people can succeed in influencing them.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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