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PARASHAT SHMOT

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“We mustn’t work against the independent soul when it is revealing itself, and that revelation is a perpetual process. Even in times when thick clouds conceal its sheen, it still illuminates with full intensity, bearing the world and man towards their happiness, more lofty than any other goal” (Orot HaKodesh 1:173)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
The Birth of the Jewish Nation


The Nation of Israel was born in Egypt. They went down to Egypt numbering seventy, and they left Egypt a nation. The first to discern their peoplehood was Pharaoh, of all people, who announced to Egypt: “The People of Israel are becoming too numerous and strong for us” (Exodus 1:9). Wicked Pharaoh, enemy of Israel, was the first to identify us as a nation with a special spirit that threatened both him and all of Egypt, sunk at the bottom of the forty-ninth rung of impurity. Pharaoh said, “We must deal wisely with them. Otherwise, they may increase so much that if there is war they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving us out of the land” (verse 10).

The fact that we did not then identify ourselves as a nation is no coincidence. Imagine a newborn infant. At first he does not know himself. He has no idea of his own worth or of the good soul within him. Only his parents and others from outside can see the infant’s good soul and rejoice over it. Only when the infant grows up does he identify himself, know his own talents and find his purpose in the world.

It was the same with the Jewish People. When they were first formed as a nation, they did not know themselves, or their worth or task. The hatred of Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel taught us the hard way that indeed Israel is a nation. The plagues, the exodus, the splitting of the sea and the Torah’s Revelation all taught Israel by positive means the difference between Israel and the nations. It showed them that G-d had lovingly chosen them and that they were a special people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation whose task it is to bestow light and goodness on the world.

Today we are living in the age of Holocaust and rebirth. In the Holocaust we learned in the hardest way imaginable that there is a Jewish People. The Nazis – may their name be blotted out – in their hatred for Jews, identified us, marked us and murdered us because we are Jews. And just as Pharaoh identified us first as a people and sought to kill us and our children, today, as well, unfortunately, anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews in general, and hatred of the State of Israel as a Jewish State are leading us against our will to recognize our special identity as a nation and as a unique people.

Yet the time has come for us to recognize the identity and role of the Jewish People by positive means. We must study and recognize our nation’s uniqueness and their historic destiny for the world as the people chosen by G-d. G-d continues to choose us from amongst all peoples so that we can bring good to the world.

The time has come for us to acknowledge our greatness and worth. After all, the reason the Arabs and the nations who support them fight against us is that they wish to extinguish the light of Israel which is growing brighter in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the entire world. Quite the contrary, we must recognize our identity, worth and destiny, and we must fight with fortitude and valor for our survival and independence and for the land that was safeguarded in our hands. If we recognize that we are fighting not just a national fight for our survival, but a war in which the black clouds of murderous terror are threatening all of mankind, then through strength and valor we will merit peace, for “The L-rd will grant strength to His people. He will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!


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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

Letter to a Soldier’s Wife


This letter is addressed to the soldier’s wife, the officer’s wife, to the woman who guards the home, who educates the children, who misses her husband.
Your husband is facing the fire of battle. He is not mentally free to worry. He has no time to fear.
So you fear enough for the two of you together! But you have to realize that G-d will not abandon His people. He never did in the past, and He never will in the future, especially in these times, when He has decided to bring salvation to His people, through the rebuilding of the Land, the return to Zion, the establishment of the state and the wars of Israel.
“Listen, Israel, today you are about to wage war against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break ranks before them. The L-rd your G-d is the One who is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will deliver you” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4). We are not alone. This is no war of conquest of a foreign power, but a war of defense, a war that is a mitzvah, a war of G-d.
Whoever does a mitzvah enjoys G-d’s protection. And what greater mitzvah is there than to save the Jewish People, to save the Land and to sanctify G-d’s great Name? Performing such a mitzvah is a recipe for a long life.
We believe in divine providence. The Master-of-the-Universe is the One who decides on every detail of a person’s life, let alone his very existence. We therefore go off to war with joy, strength and valor. And the same lot of him who goes off to war is shared by his wife who sits at home (see I Samuel 30:24). That spiritual strength leads to national fortitude, and that national fortitude to military valor. Military valor is for men, but spiritual strength and national fortitude belong to women as well, such as the Prophetess Devorah, who imbued the nation with strength and valor.
The military front defends the rear and draws strength from it. We are a stiff-necked people, chiefly in a positive sense of unswerving devotion to the truth, as the Maharal writes in Netzach Yisrael.
Our army is strong and mighty, it must claim victory, and it will.
In every home there is a little Prophetess Devorah, whose husband tells her, [as the General Barak said to Devorah], “If you go with me I will go, and if you don’t, I won’t” (Judges 4:8). And you accompany your husband all along the way.
An American soldier wears a steel helmet, with a soft scarf under it, containing his wife’s perfume. You don’t need that. Your gentle fragrance accompanies your husband everywhere. You say to him, “This is the day on which G-d has place Sisera in your hand” (ibid., verse 14). Regarding the words, “When breaches are made in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly, bless the Lord” (5:2), Metzudat David comments that it is due to this combination, the wickedness of our enemies’ making breaches in Israel, coupled with our soldiers’ volunteering, that we enjoy G-d’s blessing. “The L-rd dominated the strong for me” (5:13). It is G-d who grants strength. And you, the soldier’s wife, “come to G-d’s aid” (ibid., verse 23). You are a partner in G-d’s handiwork.
Therefore, “So may perish all Your enemies, O L-rd; but His beloved shall be as the sun when it goes forth in its might” (verse 31). This refers to the love between G-d and us, and the love between you and your husband. That love is fiercer than all the wickedness of Gaza’s demons of death (see Song of Songs 8:6).



Rabbi Azriel Ariel

Siblings in the Torah

The relationships between siblings throughout Genesis remain on a crisis footing to the point of tragedy. Again and again the ritual repeats itself in which the younger brother is chosen and pushes his older brother aside. The older brother, insulted to the core over his rejection, seeks to take revenge on the younger brother, and a harsh battle rages between them.

Sometimes the quarrel reaches the point of actual murder, as with the murder of Abel, the chosen, by his older brother Cain. Sometimes matter reach the point of an explicit death threat, as with Esau, who said, “The days of mourning for my father will be here soon. I will then be able to kill my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41). Sometimes matters reach the point of a veiled threat of murder, as with Yishmael, who plays with lethal arrows, seeking to slay his brother Yitzchak.

Worst was the struggle between Joseph and his brothers. There it seemed as though the younger brother sought to throw his older brothers out of the family, and the brothers’ reaction was a war of survival which led to their saying, “Now we have the chance! Let’s kill him…. Then let’s see what will become of his dreams” (37:20).

The relationships between brothers were not always so tragic. Amongst the three sons of Noah, precisely Yefeth was the oldest, while the chosen son was Shem. “May G-d expand Yefeth, but may He dwell in the tents of Shem” (9:27). Yet we did not hear about any resentment on Yefeth’s part over the selection of his younger brother. Also the firstborn Menashe was rejected before his younger brother, Efraim, and we did not hear any resentment from him either.

The most difficult trial of all was that faced by the Matriarch Rachel, who was forced to resign herself to the fact that her older sister, Leah, married her betrothed, Jacob. Not only that, but she was privileged to bear many sons from him before Rachel had any. She even gradually turned into Jacob’s main wife.

This trial was not easy for Rachel. It even says, “She was jealous of her sister” (30:1). Yet despite all the difficulties, Rachel was exceedingly careful not to insult her sister. According to our sages, she even handed over to Leah the identification marks that Jacob had given her to ensure that when he married her he would not be tricked. Rachel did this so that Leah would not be humiliated during the wedding when Laban’s trickery was exposed.

In Parashat Shemot as well, a tragedy was liable to occur. Aaron, Amram’s older son, and long a prophet, was forced to hand over the reins of leadership to Moses, his younger brother. Aaron had many reasons for being jealous of Moses. Even if he conquered his passions and avoided expressing his jealousy publicly, he was still Moses’s big brother. He had long been a prophet. It was he who had accompanied the people through dozens of years of suffering in Egypt, while Moses was enjoying the life of an Egyptian prince, or was off in distant Midian. Yet Aaron’s heart was free of jealousy.

The truth is that even Moses was afraid that Aaron would be jealous. When he said to G-d, “Please! Send someone more appropriate“ (Exodus 4:13), he was alluding to his brother Aaron, who was older than he, more talented, more experienced and more fit for the mission. Yet G-d allayed his fears, saying, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he knows how to speak! He is setting out to meet you, and when he sees you, his heart will be glad” (Exodus 4:14). Not only would Aaron cooperate publicly, coming out to greet Moses, but he would even be happy in his heart. And we, knowing the human mind in all its contorted passions, must ask ourselves: from where did Aaron draw this strength? To this there are several answers.

The first is Aaron’s easygoing nature. Aaron “loved peace and pursued it” (Avot 1:12). He loved peace, and was ready, so to speak, to forego attaining truth and justice. In order to reinstate peace between two people quarreling, he was ready to tell each side that the other side had expressed contrition even when it had not expressly done so. He would beseech each side not to insist on attaining its full rights, his sole interest being that peace should reign between them. And Aaron practiced what he preached. He did not just “make peace” but he “loved peace.” He truly loved it.

The second factor was Moses’s nature. If Moses was so sensitive to Aaron’s feelings that he was willing to forego the selection that he had merited, it should certainly have caused Aaron to respond accordingly. “As with pools of water touching one another, so too the hearts of men” (Proverbs 27:19).

The third factor was the auspicious hour. These were not normal times. The day of redemption was at hand. When the time comes to work for Israel’s redemption, the ego must step aside. The Torah says that the pit into which Joseph was thrown was “empty, without water” (Genesis 37:24) to which Rashi adds, “but snakes and scorpions it contained.” When the pit is full of the water of idealistic action, there is no room for the various “snakes and scorpions.” Just as the quarrel between the brothers was responsible for their descent to Egypt, so, too, peace between brothers will bring about the tidings of redemption.

Let us follow in our sages’ footsteps, and let us conclude with verses from the Book of Psalms 85:11-13: “Mercy and truth meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Truth springs forth out of the earth; righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the L-rd will give that which is good; and our land shall yield her produce.” “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).


Translation: R. Blumberg


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