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From the World of Rabbi Kook

“I am full of love for G-d! I know that my love and yearning has no name. How can a feeling that surpasses everything: all goodness, all essence, all existence, be given a name?” (Orot HaKodesh 4:400)

Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “The Clash Between Esau and Jacob – Then and Now”

It says of Jacob and Esau: “The boys grew up. Esau became a skilled trapper, a man of the field. Jacob was a scholarly man who remained with the tents” (Genesis 25:27). Rashi comments: “As long as they were little they were indistinguishable by their deeds and no one could know their exact character. Once they turned thirteen, one [Yaakov] went his way to houses of study and the other went his way to worshipping idols. One became a ‘skilled trapper.’ In other words, he would deceive people, trapping them with his mouth…. He had no occupation. He used his bow to trap animals and birds. By contrast, Jacob was a scholarly man who remained with the tents. He was one in word and thought. He was not a deceiver. Rather, he sat in the tents of Torah.”

It is true that Rebecca sensed the difference between the two already during her pregnancy, as it says, “The children clashed inside her” (verse 22). When she passed the study houses of Shem and Ever, Jacob would clamor to exit. When she passed houses of idolatry, Esau would clamor to exit. When they were born, they proved physically different as well. Esau “had a reddish complexion, covered completely with what was like a hairy robe” (verse 25), a “sign that he would be a murderer” (Rashi). Jacob, by contrast, was “smooth” (27:11).

Yet Isaac, before his death, ostensibly wished to bless Esau. He saw in him a man of action, busy with material affairs, the matters of this world, hence Esau seemingly deserved both the birthright and the blessing. Only through Rebecca’s wisdom did the blessing pass to Jacob, the scholarly man who remained with the tents, who in her opinion deserved the birthright and the blessing. Ultimately, Isaac agreed, saying, “I blessed him. The blessing will remain his” (27:33). “Lest one say that if Jacob hadn’t tricked his father, he would not have received the blessings, Isaac therefore affirmed his deed and now knowingly blessed him” (Rashi).

The clash between Esau and Jacob continues to this very day. Even in these times, on the eve of elections, there is a clash within Israeli society between two agendas. On the one side is the “Esau” agenda, which views the material and political aspect as all, and wants peace here and now. In exchange for promises from the Arabs and the nations, they have handed over parts of Eretz Yisrael, our Land, and are ready to hand over more. In doing so, they have trampled values, ideals and ethics upon which the Jewish State was established, such as pioneering, settlement and humanism. They have further trampled the “birthright,” i.e., our right to Eretz Yisrael, in exchange for “a mess of pottage” in the form of promises, exactly the way that Esau sold his birthright in exchange for stew.

In response there is the “Jacob” agenda, that of the “scholar in the tents of Torah.” It is the agenda of those who consistently devote themselves to Jacob’s path. Such people view morality as a supreme value, they reject bribes and do not concede regarding truth and justice, even when they lives with Laban the deceiver. Rather, such people are full of love and faith, values and ideals, national responsibility and self-sacrifice for the Torah and the Land. In the struggle between the two perceptions, the material and the spiritual, it seems at first as though the materialist perception has the upper hand, just as Esau was originally the firstborn. In the end, however, Jacob merited both the blessing and the birthright. Rabbi Avraham HaKohen Kook wrote regarding our own age: “We have a tradition according to which there will be spiritual rebellion in Eretz Yisrael amongst the Jewish People during the time of the nation’s renaissance. The material tranquility that will obtain for part of the nation will cause their spirituality to decrease. A time will come when the longing for lofty, holy values will cease, and spirituality will hit a low. At last a storm will arrive and foment a revolution. Then, it will be clearly seen that Israel’s strength lies in the holy and eternal, G-d’s light and His Torah, and the longing for that spiritual light.” (Orot 84)

We hope and pray that with the approach of the upcoming elections, all those forces advocating the path of Jacob will unite, and the beginning of that revolution foreseen by Rabbi Kook will be revealed. At that time, those forces will receive both the birthright and the blessing, that is, the leadership of the State of Israel, along the way towards the fulfillment of the vision of the prophets of Israel: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of G-d out of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Be sure to catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
A New “LeShem Yichud”

Jewish mystics distinguish between what they call “berurim” and “yichudim.” We simple people have no business dabbling with such things, but we know that “berurim”, literally “clarifications”, refer to distinguishing between good and evil, whereas “yichudim”, literally “training one’s thoughts”, refers to a higher understanding of how everything draws nourishment from the Supreme Source. Obviously, people who think in these terms have the same Torah and the same mitzvoth that we do, but their intent and their understanding are on a higher plane. Regarding simpler intent there are different levels as well, such as “lishma”, performing a mitzvah for the sake of Heaven, and “lo lishma,” performing it with an ulterior motive. There is worship serving human needs and worship serving divine needs (see Mesilat Yesharim at the end of Ch. 19). In any event, “yichudim” belong to the lofty confines of the mystics.

In recent times, however, a new “leshem yichud” has been discovered, one that has been permitted to all to train their thoughts on. It is an old-new yichud, exceedingly old, yet at the same time modern – an old yichud in a new container. It is this: “Leshem yichud Kudsha-Berich-Hu VeYisrael” – for the sake of the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He and Israel” (see “Sifran shel Yechidim” by Hillel Zeitlin, page 11). And that same “leshem yichud” is also expressed as “Leshem Kudsha-Berich-Hu U’shechintei” – for the sake of the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He and His Shechina”. The Shechina [Divine Presence] is the divine light resting within the Congregation of Israel. “The Light of the Shechina is the Congregation of Israel” (Orot Yisrael, 1:400).

When an individual directs his prayer towards this end, it remains the prayer of an individual, only that it is now for the sake of the aggregate. Hence to prepare for it one requires much more intensity and precision and purity and sanctity in one’s Torah and mitzvoth. Along the same lines, when King David went off to battle, he would first have to master the spiritual level called “nekiyut” to an exemplary degree (Mesilat Yesharim, end of Ch. 10). Since such an act involves the individual building a second story of divine worship, his first story has to be strong.

We are now returning to focusing on the aggregate. In the First Temple, the focus was on the aggregate. In the Second Temple, the focus was on the individual. Now, as we near the time of the Third Temple, the focus is on the aggregate, the individual and the aggregate once more (a theme elaborated on in Rav Kook’s “Orot”). And if there is still sectarianism, if hearts are still divided, if there are still cries calling for insularity, it is a sign that we have not yet arrived. If there is no fear and trembling before the concept of the Jewish People, notwithstanding the breaches on all sides, and if we feel no humility before that concept, it is a sign that we have not yet arrived.

There were already times in the past when saintly, G-d-fearing Jews cut themselves off from the Jewish People because they saw that they were not following the Torah path – such were the first Christians – and the results are well-known: From them emerged heretics and informers and apostates and cruel evildoers and enemies of the Jewish People. Fortunate is he who distances himself very far from that citadel of evil.

There were already times in which in which saints full of Torah rejected anyone who did not follow precisely in their path. They banished from the nation anyone who did not follow the Torah, as the Netziv explains in the introduction to his Torah commentary. The result was groundless hatred and destruction. Rabbi Shmuel Maltzan, one of the disciples of the Vilna Gaon, wrote: “None of the sins of the Second Temple Period involved evil performed out in the open. Rather, they were more like the case of Bar Kamtza, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem. The host who refused to let Bar Kamtza participate in his party was not committing an obvious sin. That is why the rabbis present did not protest. According to the strict letter of the law, every householder has the right to take charge of his own home and to do there whatever he wants, and no one can tell him to do differently.

“This provides a resolution between two texts of our sages. In Bava Metzia we find, “Jerusalem was destroyed only because they based their decisions on strict Torah law” (30b). This contradicts Yoma 9b, which states that it was destroyed because of groundless hatred (see Tosafot on Bava Metzia). Yet the point is that because of their hatred, they based their decisions on strict Torah law. Through this, the Temple was destroyed.” (Emunah VeHashgacha, Ot 15, hagaha)

If we study Torah but skip over the Jewish People, we will arrive at destruction. If we arrive at Torah by way of the Jewish People, whose soul is the soul of Torah, that is a sign that we have already arrived. Let me emphasize, however: The Jewish People means the ENTIRE Jewish People, THIS entire Jewish People, this entire Jewish People that is before us right now, with all its pluses and minuses, this entire Jewish People whom we respect and love, the entire Jewish People, whom G-d loves every day, as we say before reciting the Shema, blessing G-d who “lovingly chooses His people Israel,” and who “loves His People Israel.” Only by way of this preface can we arrive at “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is One” (see Olat HaRe’iyah, ibid.; Orot HaTechiyah 21).

Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)

Rabbi Elisha AvinerEducation Corner
“Teens and Growing Up” (Part III)

The teenage years are a transition period. As with every transition period, those years constitute a mesh of childhood and adulthood. One day the teen behaves like an adult, evincing responsibility and good judgment. The next day he returns to childhood, runs wild like a small child, disappoints us in terms of personal responsibility, and is no different from his younger siblings. Still another day he asks us to treat him like an adult capable of taking personal responsibility (for example going on an excursion with others his age). He philosophizes like one of the elders of Athens, and pontificates like one of the statesmen of ancient Rome. At the same time, he acts like a cave man. One day he is a little man, the next day a big baby. These sharp transitions confuse his parents. They do not know how to relate to him, when to rely on him, and when not to. They are proud of his demonstrations of maturity, are impressed by him and relate to him as a full-fledged adult, and they are disappointed each time he reverts to childishness.

Such is the nature of the transition period, in which the two types of behavior mix together. Parents have to recognize this fact. They mustn’t go overboard over his demonstrations of seriousness, neither must they be disappointed by his childish behavior. They have to show him tolerance and forgiveness. It is a mistake to view his first expressions of seriousness as a full sign of maturity, and to view the immature behavior that follows as a sign of regression. The admiration in the first case is exaggerated and erroneous, hence the disappointment that follows is unjustified. The maturation process is slow and complicated, with ups and downs. Parents have to bolster and encourage their child’s mature, responsible behavior. They must recognize it and they must express their appreciation of it. At the same time, they must avoid scorning him for his childish behavior.

The teen’s behavior is very often a source of tension for his parents. He seeks of them the rights of an adult, but is only ready to fulfill the duties of a child. Our educational goal must be to achieve balance – there are no automatic rights and duties. It is therefore proper to require the teen to fulfill duties in return for rights, yet we must remember that during the teen years the whole personality does not always develop evenly. Sometimes even the body does not develop symmetrically. One leg might grow faster than the other. Hence exacting insistence on symmetry between rights and duties is not also appropriate either. Here as well patience and tolerance are required.

An additional source of tension between parents and teens is their differing perceptions regarding the nature of maturity and growing up, and regarding life all-together. Parents demand responsibility of their son, and towards that end they seek to contribute to him some of their rich experience. Through great toil parents acquire life experience, and they are interested in imparting it to their son so that he can enter into life’s fray equipped with important tools and aids. Yet many teens are more than happy to dispense with the wise advice of their parents. They prefer their own experiences to their parents’. They want to try things out for themselves, to test and to be tested, while running the risk of failure. That is the source for the tension and confrontations. The parents are forced to watch impotently as their children run unsuccessful, even harmful experiments, and there is nothing they can do to save them. Parents view this as irresponsible behavior. The children view it as an expression of maturity and independence.

One of the most well-known examples is the question of teens being allowed to hitchhike. Parents rich in experience demand that their teenager use public transportation. Such travel is safer, and usually faster. Yet the teen refuses to use such old-fashioned, bourgeois modes of travel, and insists on hitching. He justifies his decision based on a thousand strange and unusual explanations, and does not take his parents’ advice into account. He longs to experiment, and hitching brings him new, free and fascinating vistas of experimentation. In the long run, hitchhiking takes him five hours longer. Yet he arrives home happy and content, crowned in victory, and he expects his parents to recognize his enormous success in facing up to this complex challenge, and to admire and praise him for it. The key expression is personal experimentation. The teen seeks to tests matters out by himself, and that is his way of freeing himself from depending on his parents, and of building an independent world.

The parents’ reaction in this case is very significant. If they express admiration for his effort, his experiment, his partial success, and at the same time offer their wise advice a second time, they will strengthen their son and also direct him towards the right path. If, however, they make fun of him for his failed attempts, they will hamper his personality development. He is trying to stand up on his own two feet, and they are knocking him down. During adolescence, a boy or girl needs words of encouragement and support in order to strengthen his self-confidence. He doesn’t need cold water thrown in his face. (to be continued…)

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