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From the World of Rabbi 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)
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 Dov Begon – Founder and Head 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,
Be sure to catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at www.israelnntv.com (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Nine Responses to Insult”
My name is Yosef. I don’t like being insulted. When someone insults me, I don’t take it lying down. Rather, I pay him back on the spot. I understood that I am allowed to defend myself; that according to Jewish law if someone hits me, I am allowed to hit him back in order to save myself (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 421:13) – obviously, one shouldn’t go overboard. Likewise, if someone embarrasses me, I am allowed to embarrass them in return in order to defend myself (Rama, ibid.).
My name is Aaron. I would be happy not to react, but I do not succeed in controlling myself. I cannot hear insult and remain silent (Responsa Rivash 216). It’s a kind of compulsion. How can I be taken to task for my pain? (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kamma, Ch. HaMeniach). I know that there are people who allow themselves to be insulted without responding, yet not everyone can be like that. (Shitah Mekubetzet, Ketuvot 14a). I cannot be an imperturbable stone, and certainly the Torah did not command me to be a stone that remains silent to those that curse it (Chinuch 338). It goes against my nature (Chafetz Chaim, Preface to Negative Precepts 9).
— Then you take revenge!
— No. Revenge is food eaten cold, in other words, after the passage of time, and following planning. With me, it happens on the spot because I got excited.
— Yet when all is said and done, you’re insulting them back.
— The Torah only forbade being the one who started it, but if someone attacks you the Torah doesn’t obligate you to remain quiet (Chinuch, ibid.). By the way, if my parents insult me I do remain silent, although I admit it is hard for me. Yet that’s what G-d requires (Rambam, Mamrim 6:7).
My name is Moshe. Basically I agree that you are both right that according to Jewish law one is permitted to react. Yet I still don’t react, because I don’t want to sink to the level of my attacker. My dignity and refinement are more important to me than winning in verbal jousts with idiots (Igeret HaRambam to Rabbi Yosef Ibn Aknin). I therefore ignore insults, because my dignity is important to me and I won’t violate it (Sefer HaYashar, Sha’ar 6). Don’t get me wrong. I have a very sharp tongue and I have no trouble finishing someone off, yet I sense that in this game, “the winner loses” (Me’iri, Chibur HaTeshuvah, Meshiv Nefesh, Ma’amar 1, Ch. 5). True, someone who insults me sullies me, but I sense that if I respond I am sullying myself with my own tongue. Then I’m “like the person who cleans the dirt off his face with the dirt itself” (Gra on Mishlei, Nosafot Ch. 30).
My name is Ralph Nadir and I am a lawyer. In 1965 I wrote a book called “Dangerous at any Speed.” There I warn against American car companies that manufacture cars without investing in safety. By doing so, they are responsible for the injury and death of thousands of people per year. I especially came out against a particular model of a particular car that was concerned about its good name. They therefore hired private detectives to follow me around and find something wrong with me. Yet the exact opposite happened. I became famous as a consumer advocate. They just proved the old saw that “if you sling mud it just comes back on you.”
My name is Eliyahu. I, too, do not react to insult, but for a different reason entirely. Simply, I don’t feel insulted at all. I am not there. I learned this from Rabbi Eliyahu Di Vidal, who said, “If someone attaches himself to the Celestial Sphere, he won’t feel the shame of this world” (Reshit Chochmah, Humility 3).
My name is Tzvi Yehuda from the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva and I disagree with you. Our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook explains that it is natural for a person to feel insult, and the Torah does not set out to suppress normal emotions. If you were right, the Sages would have had to say that the saintly “do NOT get insulted and do not respond.” Yet what they said was, “They get insulted and do not respond.” They do feel the insult. When I am insulted, I do notice it, yet I do not respond precisely for that reason, in order not to hurt others. Our master Rav Kook taught that one has to love the Jewish People, including those who behave improperly towards you (Ein Aya on Shabbat, Ch. 9, Ot 83).
My name is Ephraim Fischel from Bnei Brak. “Rav Kook” you said? I saw precisely the same thing in the Chazon Ish! The Chazon Ish wrote that someone who longs to benefit others would never be insulted. His heart will be so full of love that he will be blind to all of their imperfections. He will be ready to suffer injury lovingly, and to treat others with respect, resigned to the fact that most people are not angels (Emunah U’Bitachon 1:11).
My name is Yisrael and I am a chassid. I do not equate insult with physical injury. Quite the contrary, I relate to it as to a sort of medicine that serves to atone for my sins. That’s what it said in the last will of a particular saint, a disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov: “A major principle is that one should seek to be humble. In all one does, one should strive to be abject. This in fact should be one’s main goal. He should tell himself, ‘I hope I am insulted and shamed so I can become an object of scorn to myself and others, thereby achieving atonement for my sins.’ Once a person internalizes this outlook, he won’t care if he is insulted. Quite the contrary, he will be happy, for it will be G-d’s will” (quoted in the sefer “Erech Apayim 3:8). I, myself, haven’t reached that level of seeking out insult, but when it comes, I accept it lovingly, because I believe that everything comes from G-d, and if G-d decreed it upon me, there’s a reason for it. The one who insults me is only G-d’s staff. Obviously this does not free me of responsibility, but I don’t have to shoot arrows back at him. King David behaved the same way when Shimi ben Gera cursed and stoned him and Avishai ben Tzeruyah wanted to punish Shimi ben Gera for this. David responded, “Let him curse me! G-d told him to do it” (II Samuel 16:11. See Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 241).
My name is Nachman, and I am a Breslov Chassid. I think it goes even further! Our master explains that a person needs the “bloodshed” of suffering humiliation. The seat of the evil impulse is in the blood of the left ventricle of the heart. Humiliation thus atones for his evil impulse. One has to transform his “dam” [blood] to “dom” [silence]. One should be amongst those who hear themselves shamed without responding. One mustn’t stoop to the level of his insulter. When he fulfills being silent for G-d, then G-d will strike numerous casualties on his behalf. As it says, “‘Resign yourself to the L-rd. Wait patiently [hitcholel] for Him’ (Psalm 37:7). If you do so, He will take casualties [chalalim] for you” (see Gittin 6). The same point is made by Psalm 109:22: “My heart is wounded [chalal] within me.” Through our suffering abuse, the blood in the left ventricle is diminished. It is as though we are slaughtering our evil impulse (Likutei Moharan 6).
My name is Mushik. I humbly submit that it suffices for me to be like my Maker. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero wrote about G-d’s “being an insulted monarch, suffering insult – even if we cannot comprehend this.” At the very time that a person is sinning against G-d, G-d continues to shower him with life and strength. The sinner thus uses that very vitality to insult His Creator. “For this reason the ministering angels call G-d an ‘insulted monarch.’” Rabbi Cordovero concludes that we too must follow in G-d’s pathways. “Patience is a trait that we must pursue. Even though G-d endures such a level of insult, He still does not deprive man of His benevolence” (Tomer Devorah, Ch. 1).
*** “Those who suffer insult without insulting in return, those who hear themselves shamed without responding, those who conduct themselves lovingly and rejoice in suffering are described by the verse: ‘Those who love G-d are as the sun when it goes forth in all its might’ (Judges 5:31).” (Yoma 23a; Shabbat 88b; Gittin 36b)
*** “My G-d, guard my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking falsehood. May my soul be silent to those who insult me. Be my soul lowly to all as the dust. Open my heart to Your Torah…” (Shemoneh Esreh)
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