From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The baser a person, the harder for him to distinguish hatred of evil from hatred for people who do evil… The exalted trait of people with lofty souls is their ability to make this distinction. Their hatred of evil is trained solely on the evil itself… and thus the light of loving kindness illuminates their wisdom” (Orot HaKodesh 4:497)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Your Name Will No Longer be Jacob, But Israel
Jacob [Ya’akov] was given two names. Jacob, the first name, was given to him because “his hand was grasping the heal [ekev] of Esau” (Genesis 25:26). Esau as well related to that name when he said, “Is he not rightly called Ya’akov? He has deceived me twice; he took my birthright, and now he has taken my blessing” (27:36). Later on, when Jacob struggled with Esau’s angelic prince and vanquished him, that angel said, “No longer will your name be spoken of as Ya’akov, but as Yisrael, for you contended with G-d[ly beings] and with men, and you won” (32:29). Rashi comments: “it will no longer be said that the blessings came to you through deceit and trickery, but, rather, with nobility and openness, and, in the end, G-d will reveal Himself to you in Bet El and change your name, and there He will bless you and I, too, will be there and will concede them to you.”
Indeed, when Jacob arrives in Bet El, G-d appears to him and blesses him, saying, “G-d said to him. ‘Your name is Ya’akov. No longer will your name be Ya’akov, but Yisrael will be your name;’ and He named him Yisrael” (35:10), which Rashi defines as “a word denoting a prince and a leader.” There are two aspects to the Jewish People, the aspect of Jacob and the aspect of Israel. When we are in the exile, humiliated, with the specialness and destiny of Israel not visible for all to see, we are called Ya’akov, from the root “ekev” meaning heal. Yet when we are redeemed and return to the Land, we then have the aspect of “Yisrael.”
Today, our country is called “the State of Israel.” Our sages said, “‘No longer will your name be Ya’akov, but Yisrael will be your name’: It is not that the name Jacob has been erased. Rather, Israel is the main name and Jacob is secondary” (Berachot 13a). In this regard we say in our morning prayers, “We are the community of Jacob, Your firstborn, whom You did name Israel and Yeshurun because of Your love for him and Your delight in him.”
Today, “how fortunate we are, how good our portion, how pleasant our lot, how fine our inheritance” that we are privileged to be living in a country called Israel, as G-d promised us, “No longer will your name be Ya’akov, but Yisrael will be your name.” As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook said, “The State of Israel is the foundation of G-d’s throne on earth” (Orot 106. Rav Kook passed away over a decade before the State’s creation). Through the Jewish state, G-d’s kingdom is more and more being revealed in the world, and it will continued to be so until all mankind recognize that Hashem, the G-d of Israel, is King, and His kingdom rules over all.
We are emerging from an exile in which we had the aspect of an “ekev,” a heal, and we are standing erect, head held high, with the aspect of “Yisrael” whose letters form the acronym “Li Rosh” – “Me at the head”. Yet we are not yet standing fully erect. In the State of Israel, a clarification process is still going on, and a struggle over the fabric of the state. Some people have a worldview that says that the Jewish People should be like all other peoples and the State of Israel should be like all other nations. They therefore long to be culturally like all the nations, in education and regarding the governmental and legal realm. Yet the result is a blurring of Jewish identity and a distancing from their roots and from tradition. This in turn leads to a moral decline, and a lowering of the nation’s stature and its worth in both our own eyes and the eyes of the nations and the world and our Arab neighbors. We have become the U.S.A, an Unidentified State among the Arabs. With no identity, there is no purpose, and with no purpose, there is no vision, and “where there is no vision the people cast off restraint…” (Proverbs 29:18).
We have to recognize and explain what our historic national vision is. That vision was previously expressed to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation, and you shall be for a blessing. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). It was expressed to Jacob: “All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you and through your seed” (28:14). It was expressed to Moses, “Now if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be My special treasure among all nations, even though all the world is Mine. You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to me” (Exodus 19:5-6). We must recognize that Israel are not like all the nations. Israel are a light unto the nations, as we say in our holiday prayers: “You chose us from amongst all nations, You loved us and wanted us.”
We have to learn what is the special value of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. If we know our identify and our task, then the nations as well, including our immediate neighbors, will know our identity and our task and will make peace with us. The State of Israel is not just a refuge for the Jewish People but a light house that serves to shower light upon the nations of the world. The day is not far off when the words of the Prophet will be fulfilled: “Many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come! Let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Looking forward to complete salvation,
Hundreds of hours of free Torah videos! – www.machonmeir.net
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Many Jews have the daily custom of reciting six specific verses after morning services (Sefer Charedim, Chapter 4). One of them is, “Remember what Hashem your G-d did to Miriam” (Deuteronomy 24:9). This refers to when Miriam was punished for speaking negatively to Aaron about Moses’s having separated from his wife (Rashi).
Yet one might ask: Q1: Surely Miriam was speaking the truth! Didn’t Moses in fact separate from his wife?
That approach is a mistake. Lashon Hara, negative speech, even if true, is forbidden. If it’s false, it’s called “Motzi Shem Ra”, libel, which is even more severe.
Q2: And how about the fact that Miriam didn’t speak publicly, but only told one person?
That involves a second fallacy. Even to tell just one person is forbidden. If one tells a lot of people, the sin is multiplied in accordance with the number of listeners.
Q3: And what about the fact that she was talking to Aaron, a holy man who knew how to guard his tongue?
That involves a third mistake. One is forbidden to tell even a righteous man, let alone a sinner who will spread the gossip.
Q4: And how about Aaron’s being part of the family?
There’s a fourth fallacy. One cannot even tell family, let alone hanging out the dirty laundry.
Q5: But didn’t Miriam love Moses like her own self? Wasn’t his very birth due to her having convinced her parents to remarry, and didn’t he remain alive because she saved him in the river?
That’s a fifth mistake. Even if someone owes you a lot, that gives you no right to speak evil of him.
Q6: But how could Miriam know that G-d had commanded Moses not to return to his wife? After all, both Miriam and Aaron were prophets and after the Revelation, G-d commanded all of Israel, and them themselves, “Return to your tents” (Deuteronomy 5:26). How could Miriam know that by contrast, G-d had commanded Moses, “You stay here with Me” (verse 27)?
A sixth mistake. When one doesn’t know something, he shouldn’t talk as though he does know. Rather, first he should investigate and ask questions.
Indeed, Moses was not like all the other prophets. In Numbers 12:6-7, G-d explains how all the other prophets operated, and then He concludes, “My servant Moses is not that way.” Rambam (Guide to the Perplexed, II:35) explains that actually, Moses was not a prophet, but much loftier than that. Yet we lack the words in human language to describe what he was, hence we call him, as well, a prophet. Miriam and Aaron viewed Moses from an exalted vantage point, not the vantage point of regular people but from that of prophets, and this led to lashon hara.
Q7: Miriam was a holy, meritorious woman. Why was she punished for a small sin?
This involves a seventh mistake. Even a holy person is forbidden to speak lashon hara.
It also involves a seventh mistake: Lashon hara is not a small sin.
Q8: But Moses was very humble and he didn’t take it to heart, as it says, “Moses, however, was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).
Here is the eighth mistake. One is even forbidden to speak lashon hara against a humble person who forgives you. True, Moses forgave, but G-d did not. (see Rambam, Hilchot Tum’at Tzora’at 16:10; Ramban on Numbers 12:3, and Ramban in Sefer HaMitzvot 7).
If so, then a question still remains: How can we solve the problem? Should we remain silent when we seen things that seem to us improper?
The answer is: Certainly not. Yet one should speak to the person himself. One should not speak about him, but to him. Had Miriam asked Moses directly, he would have immediately explained matters to her and the episode would never have been revealed. Of course, there are some people whom it is impossible to talk to, and there are others who do not listen. But Moses was not that way. He was humble. He was not protected by servants and secretaries. Rather, anyone could approach him, let alone his sister.
Dear reader, if you don’t know everything written above, then you have a serious problem, and you require emergency treatment. You should immediately start studying the works “Chafetz Chaim” and “Shemirat HaLashon”. The first one will teach you the laws, and the second one will build up your personality making you incapable of speaking lashon hara. You will naturally be disgusted and averse to speaking it. One shouldn’t just learn these works, but one should review them many times.
In the meantime, jump into the fast lane, by following the Talmudic rule: “What is hateful to you, do not do to others.” And just as you don’t like it when others speak about you, don’t speak about others either.
While this does not solve all the problems, it does solve many of them.
Then, we will be the living fulfillment of, “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking falsehood. Shun evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14-15).
Translation: R. Blumberg
Tax deductible contributions may be made out to
American Friends of Machon Meir
and sent in North America to:
American Friends of Machon Meir
c/o Ms. Chava Shulman
1327 45th st.
And in Israel:
2 Hameiri Ave. Jerusalem, Israel 91340