From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Just as we have the strength to spread divine light and holiness over all our works, so do we possess the strength to produce holy light within all languages and within all spheres of wisdom on earth. The great saints have to pray that G-d’s light will spread over all languages and all spheres of wisdom, such that G-d’s glory will appear everywhere” (Orot HaTechiyah 16)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“G-d Will be With you, and Bring you Back to Your Ancestral Land”
Jacob, in setting out to bless Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, “crossed his hands” (Genesis 48:14), placing his right hand, reserved for the older, on the head of the younger one, Ephraim, and his left hand on the head of Menashe. Joseph tried to change this: “He said, ‘That’s not the way it should be done, Father. The other one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ His father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know. The older one will also become a nation. He too will attain greatness. But his younger brother will become even greater, and his descendants will become full-fledged nations.’” (18-19)
Rashi explains why Jacob gave Ephraim precedence. From Ephraim would emerge Joshua the son of Nun, who would partition the Land and would teach Israel Torah. The entire world would be filled with faith through the reputation Joshua would earn for making the sun stop in Givon and the moon in the Valley of Ayalon. From Menashe would emerge Gideon, through whom G-d would perform a miracle, but his deeds would equal Joshua’s, who would both conquer the Land and teach Torah.
Today, we are part of a generation that arrived in the Land after two thousand years of exile, which may be likened to the Desert. Our generation parallels that of Joshua, who went up and conquered the Land after the Egyptian exile and forty years in the Desert. Just as Joshua conquered the Land and taught Torah to Israel, and even the sun and the moon were enlisted for this holy mission through their standing still at Givon and in the Valley of Ayalon, so, too, the Jewish People in their return to Eretz Yisrael. This process influences all of mankind and all of Creation in both an open and a concealed manner. All of mankind senses that everything that happens in Eretz Yisrael affects all mankind, for “Israel are like the heart of the nations” (Kuzari, Ma’amar 2), and the heart influences everything.
Yet not just the conquest of the Land and the establishment of the State of Israel influence the world, but also Torah study in general, and Torah study in Eretz Yisrael in particular. As our sages said: “‘And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth [hashishi] day’: What do we derive from the inclusion of ‘ha’ in the word ‘hashishi’? It teaches that G-d made a condition with Creation and said to it, ‘If Israel undertake fulfillment of the Torah, you shall endure. Otherwise, I shall return you to chaos.’” How fortunate we are to see with our own eyes how we are returning to our land and to our Torah. Through us is being fulfilled Jacob’s utterance, “G-d will be with you, and He will bring you back to your ancestral land” (Genesis 48:21). Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Talks with Army Vets
The following are excerpts from interviews with kibbutz members following the Six Day War. The interviews were processed into easy Hebrew by the Diaspora Torah Education Department of the Jewish Agency:
“A whole country goes to war, quiet and serious, with the feeling that it is ready for anything.”
“We had the feeling that the best way for us to perform our duty would also be the best way to fulfill the Zionist idea.”
“I was eating supper with someone and he asked, ‘What will be?’ and I answered, ‘Everything will be all right.’
“He then said, ‘What? Do you really believe that?’, and I answered, ‘I really do.’”
“We felt like we were going to fight for a just cause. We all showed up for service with the feeling that we’re going to defend the country.”
“There were a lot of older reservists in our unit, people with families, parents to children. These people must certainly have been thinking about the price they would be paying for this war.”
“I’m sure we’ll win, because we have no choice.”
“I knew that as long as I as at the front, I was in good company and I had nothing to worry about.”
“What we felt was that when you’re fighting for something, something that is bigger than yourself, larger than life, no force on earth can stand in the way.”
“Generally you’re afraid until the first conquest. After that, you’re so involved in the fighting you have no time to think.”
“What does it mean to overcome fear? It means not getting hysterical. It means being able to think calmly even under fire. For me as an officer, there were a lot of worries. I needed to worry about my soldiers. My worrying and my responsibilities force me to forget my fear and to do what I have to.”
“When I read tales of heroism in the newpaper now, I think that in our unit, as well, there were heroes, but we didn’t think it was anything special.”
“We won because the officers went up front. How can you tell a soldier to go ahead of you?”
“The soldiers believe in me. They believe that I will lead them into battle, in such a way with the least casualties.”
“I had to leave the cover first and to run in open territory, full of mines… Running in front is a wee bit less pleasant than running behind… and the fire was terrible.”
“Yet not for a moment did anyone think about turning back. I’m no big hero, and I’m not brave. But if you’ve got to do it, you do it, and that’s it!”
“Many of our company were shot dealing with the wounded or evacuating the dead.”
“Simple soldiers performed great deeds and behaved in an exemplary manner.”
“Many soldiers related that one of the things that gave them confidence was the quiet voice with which the officers gave their orders during battle, even under the heaviest fire.”
“I couldn’t put my head down when I saw the brigade commander standing erect in his half-track… This gave me the courage run between the vehicles, exposed to enemy fire.”
“Army buddies are more special than your friends back home. It’s more than friendship. It’s more than a brother. I know that if I go out into battle and something happens to me, my buddies standing alongside me will be ready to give on my behalf exactly what I am ready to give on their behalf…. Everything. That’s the best feeling you can have in the army. A soldier knows that next to him are people who are ready to give their lives.”
“You meet the same people every year. They’re family men, parents to children… It makes the whole army experience much more human.”
“We are not an army of conquest. With us, the army is actually the people. Everyone in the army has national responsibility. Our soldier cannot say, ‘They sent me,’ or, ‘They told me to do this.’”
The main point is that this is war, and in war you have to kill and to destroy the enemy. All the other things, that gnaw at everyone’s soul, are a result of the war.”
It starts with the Zionist idea, the return of the Jewish People to its land… Had we decided not to do this, we would have to continue living in the exile, until they would slaughter us there, and when we were slaughtered, no one would rise up to defend us. It’s forbidden for us to forget that.”
“We were fighting for our lives. When a person is fighting for his life, he does whatever he can.”
“When we were in Gaza, and I saw that we were winning the war, I sat down my entire platoon and I told one of the boys to read out loud from the Joshua the chapter about Achan. If anything could influence our platoon not to take booty, it was that chapter.”
“Our platoon had a religious commander. When he saw that soldiers had gathered up carpets and other items from the village, he assembled the entire company and began to recite verses from the Bible… After that, no one from the company touched any booty.”
“In this war, we, the parent generation, gave more than ourselves. It’s easy to give yourself… We gave the most precious thing, not just because these are our sons, but also because we had all our hope placed in them: They are the continuation of our life’s work.”
Rabbi Ze’ev Karov
“I look forward to Your Deliverance, O L-rd”
When times are hard and there is no solution in sight, there is a tendency to say: “I look forward to Your deliverance, O L-rd” (Genesis 49:18), or “We have no one to rely on other than our Father in Heaven.” Such words can express two spiritual positions that are opposites of each other:
For some people, the idea being expressed is despair over the whole situation. Such a person does not believe that he or any other human being has the power to bring deliverance. He also does not believe that G-d is going to help him to get out of the situation. As far as he is concerned, he has tried and exerted himself enough, and salvation has not arrived. If salvation comes now, it will from G-d alone. The Creator will work a miracle and save the situation. The common phrase, “We have no one to rely on other than our Father in Heaven,” has been corrupted in such a way as to make people passive. Then, rather than working with G-d, they “allow” G-d to show His might. People sit on the armchair and wait for G-d’s deeds.
This phrase can also be the result of a person’s recognizing that he has previously given too much weight to human might. He saw a mighty warrior fight and win, or he witnessed a powerful, sophisticated army, and his amazement was so great that he thought that human might was independent of G-d. When he returns to sanity, and to the recognition that human might owes its strength solely to divine deliverance, the cry of, “I look forward to Your deliverance, O L-rd,” bursts forth from him.
Many of the commentaries explain that the words, “I look forward to Your deliverance, O L-rd” are uttered by Jacob when he sees the Tribe of Dan and the end of the period of the Judges:
“When Jacob saw Samson’s might [Samson being a judge from the Tribe of Dan], he said, ‘Even though this is a victorious hero, it is wrong to boast of that might.’ We see that Samson did boast: ‘With the jawbone of an ass have I smitten a thousand men’ (Judges 15:16). Immediately [he was punished]: ‘He grew very thirsty’ (15:18). This led him to confess, ‘You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant’ (Ibid.). He thus confessed that his might was only from G-d. Thus it says, ‘Let Dan be a snake on the road, a viper on the path’ (Genesis 49:17). Even so, heroism and victory belong to G-d, as it says, ‘I look forward to Your deliverance, O L-rd.’ (Da’at Zekenim MiBa’alei HaTosafot)
It is no accident that the period of the Judges ends with Samson. Of all the judges, none was as heroic as he. Despite that, he is the only one who fell into the hands of the enemy. Our faith does not teach us to sit idle. A person has great resources with which to act and to influence reality. One must not rely on miracles, for man has the power to act. Neither should one sit idle. Ours is not a Torah of the lazy. It is G-d’s will that we should operate within nature.
Yet there is the other side as well, which requires us to understand fully the concept of nature and the source of human strengths. Our worldview is far from that of modern materialism and equally far from that of Muslim fatalism. Nature is important but it is not the most important thing. It is G-d who controls nature and gives man the strength to build and to create.
“I look forward to Your deliverance, O L-rd” serves to teach two things. First of all, that one must not despair. One should know that G-d is in total control, and even when on the surface things do not appear that way, that is just G-d concealing Himself. Second of all, one must believe that G-d will give him the strength so that salvation can come. In our deeds and activities, upon whom must we rely? Upon the Master-of-the-Universe. This involves neither passivity, indolence or despair. Rather, such is the approach of trust in G-d, as expressed by Da’at Zekenim, that when Jacob sees Samson’s might, he is not blinded by it. Rather, he knows to whom belong might and salvation.
Israel’s return to their land, their victories in battle, their successes in industrial development and their impressive construction have led some to view human strength as a ruling force, independent of G-d. Such a feeling necessarily leads to crisis. For some, the crisis brings them to despair, while for others, it brings them to an honest call of, “I look forward to Your deliverance, O L-rd.”
On the one hand, “it is appropriate for man to love the nature and order which allow him to be active rather than passive. This perfection is precious to man. He should truly desire to be active… Miracles make man passive” (Rabbi Kook, Ein Aya on Shabbat).
Thus, when a miracle is performed for someone, part of his merit is consumed. Sitting passively and waiting for G-d to do everything for us likewise causes our merit to be consumed.
On the other hand, a person has to know from whence he derives that power to act. Whoever knows that it is G-d who grants him those resources will never despair nor look forward to others doing the work for him.
The Book of Genesis, from start to finish, teaches this complexity. G-d gave us the power to act, to control and to change things. Yet “if G-d does not build the house, its builders toil in vain” (Psalm 127:1). G-d has not abandoned the earth. He is not abandoning it, and He will not abandon it.
This week’s Parsha sheet is dedicated in the memory of David Ben Shmuel Leib Buchwald on his Yartzeit, the 19th of Tevet
Translation: R. Blumberg
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