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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Anyone who has been following the progress of the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael can see clearly how from every step backward came an even greater development for the good, and out of every crisis came a step forward”                                       (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah: “Shuvu LeBitzaron)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva 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!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

Did you Raise a Hand Against a Soldier?!

At the beginning of the settlement enterprise, the settlers encountered opposition from the army, and they set up several tents, bringing themselves into conflict with the army. Our master Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook called on all of them to return. Prominent rabbis and professors sat in the Rav’s home, and expressed a unanimous opinion that they had to go back there.
Then Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s voice thundered: “Did anybody raise a hand against a soldier?” and everyone remained silent. They were frightened, and they did not respond. Rav Tzvi Yehuda repeated in a thunderous voice: “Did anybody raise a hand?” Once more, everyone remained silent. Still Rav Tzvi Yehuda did not relent, and he shouted, “Did they raise a hand against a soldier?” Then they admitted that they had, in fact, and Rav Tzvi Yehuda replied, “In that case, stay here. Don’t go back there.”
Rav Tzvi Yehuda didn’t let them go back there. Only after he had spoken to them on this topic at length, and they had committed themselves not to hit a soldier, did he approve their returning, and he then spoke very positively about the settlement drive and about the need to arouse the healthy forces everywhere. (I heard this story from Rabbi Ya’akov Levanon, and it may well be that I don’t recall all the details well).
Obviously, the truth must be stated that one is not just forbidden to hit soldiers, but to strike any Jew, and Rav Tzvi Yehuda made that point before the State’s establishment in his article, “I Am Seeking My Brethren” [Hebrew], where he lays out rules of behavior for public struggles: No hitting, no degradations, no hatred (LeNetivot Yisrael 1:106). This is an accepted halachic principle: One does not perform a mitzvah by way of a sin. One does not perform a mitzvah that brings a sin in its train. If it is possible to do the mitzvah without a sin, then we remained obligated to do it. Yet if it is impossible, then such performance of the mitzvah is not what G-d commanded us to do. The Jerusalem Talmud brings a parable of a person who brings the king as a gift an object that he himself stole from the king (Perek Lulav HaGazul).
Woe to the person whose defender becomes his prosecutor (see Mesillat Yesharim at the start of Chapter 11 about those who fulfill mitzvoth with the help of theft).
As stated, we have to avoid not just striking our fellow man, but also speaking or thinking evil of him. There’s a well-known saying in Hebrew: “What begins with thought, continues with speech and ends up with deeds.”
All the preceding applies regarding every Jew, let alone regarding soldiers. Don’t forget that this soldier endangers his life for you, and you lift a hand against him?! 99% of his time he is defending our people and our land. He is defending the great sanctification of G-d’s name. Yet sometimes he is forced, against his will, to do things that are enormously hard for him, and his heart cries within him. And you dare lift a hand against him?!
You’ve forgotten the main point. You’ve forgotten that the backbone of the entire enterprise of rebuilding the Land, of the return to Zion, of establishing the State, of Israel’s wars and settlement drives – is the love of Israel, the unity of Israel. That is what we need the most – to be friends.

Rabbi Ya’akov HaLevi Filber

With his strong stand and his love of Eretz Yisrael, the outlook and position of my master and teacher, Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook as far as the rights of non-Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, was that we must not deprive the Arab citizen of his rights as an individual, nor harm his property or his means of earning a living. It is true that at the same time he would stress that we have no obligation to the Arabs, on the national level, regarding sovereignty or government. Eretz Yisrael in its entirety belongs to G-d (“The entire Land is Mine” – Exodus 19:5), and He entrusted it to the Jewish People. This position withstood a practical test with the first Aliyah of the “Elon Moreh” settlement group, in which Rav Tzvi Yehuda himself participated. Immediately on his arrival at the settlement site, his first question was, “To whom does this land belong?” When I then asked him, “What difference does it make?” he responded, “If this land belongs to a private individual, we have no business being here.” Only after clarification that it was government land and did not belong to a private individual, did he put his mind at ease and agree to the aliyah.
This insistence on not depriving the non-Jew in Eretz Yisrael of his rights as a private individual, despite the Land’s belonging to us, we learn from our ancestors. This is what Abraham did, even though immediately on his arrival in the Land he was promised it by G-d: “I will give you this land” (Genesis 12:7). Moreover, the promise was reiterated after his return from Egypt: “This entire land that you see, I will give to you and to your seed forever” (13:15), along with a personal directive, “Rise, walk through the Land, to its length and its width, for I will give it to you” (13:17). That promise is again repeated with the command to Abraham to circumcise himself, “I shall give and your seed after you the entire land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.”
Despite all of these promises, Abraham does not take advantage of them to cause harm to others. Quite the contrary, “Abraham’s animal was always muzzled, while Lot’s was not. Lot’s shepherds would say to him: G-d told Abraham: ‘I will give you this land.’ Abraham is a sterile mule who will bear no seed. Tomorrow he will die, and Lot, his nephew will inherit him, and we are only consuming what is really our own.”
Abraham continued honoring the rights of others even after Sarah died. When he sought a burial place, he did not expropriate the Machpela Cave by force or even take it as a gift. Rather, he asked, “Let Ephron sell it to me for its full price, amongst you, for a burial possession” (Genesis 23:9). He did this even though previously the entire land had been promised to him by G-d.
One might argue that Abraham was not yet in control of Eretz Yisrael and lacked the ability to take the cave by force, but could only do so by monetary purchase. If so, however, why did Abraham muzzle his animals and why did he view the practice of Lot’s shepherds as theft, considering that all the land was his?
Abraham’s path was subscribed to by King David as well, as Redak explains (I Samuel 24):
“In King David’s day, Arnona’s threshing floor on Mount Moriah was considered to be in the territory of the Jebusites, who had been conquered by Israel and were paying a tribute to David.” Even so, David did not consider coming and banishing Arnona by force from his field and threshing floor. Rather, he asked Arnona, “Sell me your threshing floor and I will build an altar to G-d there. I will pay the full price for it” (I Chronicles 21:22). He was unwilling to accept it as a gift. He refused such an offer, saying, “No, let me buy it for the full price.”
Indeed, Isaiah makes the same point regarding the redemption: “Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and its returnees with righteousness” (Isaiah 1:27). In the future, when Eretz Yisrael is redeemed from those who had previously held it, it will have to be redeemed “with justice,” with fairness and integrity, and the masses of immigrants, its “returnees” will be successfully absorbed only if we increase our mutual aid, kindness and acts of righteousness.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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