From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The more those who seek out G-d strive for truth and purity in all matters relating to religious faith, the more the stature of the wicked will decline. Ultimately, as their usefulness diminishes, ‘they will disappear like smoke, and vice shall close its mouth” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, Gargarim Hegyoniyim)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“We Have no one to Rely on but our Father in Heaven”
We have no one to rely on but our Father in Heaven. The four expressions of redemption that G-d asks Moses to relate to the Israelites are, “I will take you out… I will save you… I will redeem you…. I will take you…” (Exodus 6:6-7). These four expressions allude not only to the exodus from Egypt, but also to Israel’s exodus from subjugation to the four nations that overcame them: Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Edom. This is in line with Ba’al HaTurim, who explains “I will take you” as referring to Edom, the worst exile of all. It therefore uses the verb “to take”, like a person who takes something by force.
It is well known that our own 2,000-year-long exile is called the Exile of Edom, and it is the harshest of all the exiles. Indeed, in our exit from this last exile, we experienced the terrible Holocaust, the worst thing to happen in the history of our beloved nation. One third of all Jews were murdered by the Nazis – may their name and memory be blotted out. Yet immediately following the Holocaust the State of Israel came into being with G-d’s help, and through is being fulfilled the fifth expression of redemption, “I will bring you to the land regarding which I raised My hand, swearing that I would give it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am the L-rd” (Exodus 6:8).
Today, how fortunate we are that our generation is privileged to see with its own eyes G-d’s return to Zion, and the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to “bring us to the Land and to give it to us as an inheritance”. We have merited much light. Yet there are still not a few shadows. Therefore, let us not be like the People of Israel in Egypt, who “did not listen to Moses, owing to their disappointment and hard work” (6:9). Indeed, we see how those signs of the “Ikveta DeMeshicha” [the Footsteps of the Messiah], that our sages describe are being fulfilled today. They said that in the generation of the Messiah, “Impudence will increase; the government will become heretical and there will be no rebuke them; the border population will go around from city to city and will be shown no kindness (as happened to the idealistic settlers expelled from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria); the truth will disappear.”
Not only will there by moral rebellion and governmental corruption, but also crises in the family and on the personal level: “Youths will insult their elders… sons will revile their fathers; daughters will rise up against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law.
A man’s enemies will be the members of his household. The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog.” (Some expound that “the face of the generation” refers to the generation and to its leaders.)
Yet we mustn’t fall into despair! Quite the contrary, we have to believe that “the One higher than the high watches over us” (Ecclesiastes 5:7). Our sages therefore conclude: “Who do we have to rely on? Our Father in Heaven.” (see Sotah 49b). With G-d’s help, we shall continue to march onward and upward, with love and faith, on the winding path to complete redemption and consolation. Soon in our day, Amen!
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
First Be a Person
I have to improve in many realms, and I can’t fight on all fronts at the same time. If you try for two much, you end up with nothing. So every year I pick an area to concentrate on. This year I’ve decided not to add Shabbat, Kashrut or proper concentration in prayer, but to be a person, in other words, more ethical.
Each morning we recite the words, “Always be a person who fears G-d in private and in public.” First comes, “Always be a person.” That takes precedence. Only then, “Fear G-d in private and in public.” And there as well, fearing G-d in private comes before fearing Him in public. We shouldn’t just be putting on a show. Both morality and holiness are divine, but morality comes first. You enter the lobby before you enter the palace.
I want very much to draw closer to G-d. I want very much to draw close to the verse, “O Lord, who will sojourn in Your tent, who will dwell upon Your holy mount?” (Psalm 15:1). The answer follows, in verses 2-5:
“He who walks uprightly and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He did not slander with his tongue; he did his neighbor no harm, neither did he take up reproach upon his kinsman. A base person is despised in his eyes, and he honors the G-d-fearing; he swears to his own hurt and does not retract. He did not give his money with interest, nor did he accept a bribe against the innocent; he who does these shall not falter forever.”
One time I heard a great rabbi from America who said, “Before glatt kosher [perfect kashrut], one has to have glatt yosher [perfect integrity].” When I hear about religious people who cheated on income tax and were involved in all sorts of other dark monetary episodes, I am so embarrassed. When I hear about G-d-fearing people who are sunken in gossip, hatred, falsehood, base controversies, hypocrisy, insult, I just want to hide under the floor boards. I cannot say, “Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d. Hashem is One,” before I first mention G-d who “loves His people Israel,” or who “lovingly chooses His people Israel.”
And anyway, the Arizal ruled that one should not start praying until he says, “I undertake to fulfill, ‘Love your neighbor has yourself.’”
There’s a story about a Jew who ran to catch a prayer service. Afterwards Rabbi Yisrael Salanter told him, “While you were running, perhaps you stepped on somebody’s toes? Was it worth it?
I know of a very respectable settlement in which the greatest number of traffic accidents occur during the minutes before mincha. That’s worse!
There’s another story about Rav Yisrael Salanter. It was his father’s yahrzeit, but he passed on leading the prayers in favor of a Jew who was having a yahrzeit for his daughter. They asked him, “What about honoring your father?” and he answered, “Doing what I did is the greatest honor I could show him!”
I have therefore decided, “Friends come first.”
By such means I shall reach holiness.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Heading into Gaza
A slow line enters Gaza.
The brigade commander has a factory.
The regiment commander is an engineer.
The company commander is a science teacher.
The platoon commander is in the standing army.
The company sergeant sells holy books.
The sergeant is something of a carpenter.
The squad commander is presently unemployed.
The private is a retiree.
But they’re all excellent soldiers
Marching in a slow line, in the tranquil night.
Entering enemy territory
To fight for their nation
Like their parents did for them.
The brigade commander has a back-ache.
The regiment commander has high cholesterol.
The company commander has indigestion.
The platoon commander just doesn’t look good.
The company sergeant has eye problems.
The sergeant has insomnia.
The squad commander has the itchies.
The private has warts on his foot.
But they’re all excellent soldiers.
Sneaking through the gloom in a slow line.
Entering enemy territory.
Forgetting that they are spoiled and sensitive.
Bombarded each day with drops, creams and tablets.
Suddenly they’re healthy.
The same people who fear medical shots and dentists.
Are suddenly brave.
They know longer fear anything.
They just do what they have to.
For the sake of the Jewish People.
Because what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to do.
They’re no longer thinking about themselves.
But about the national mission.
Because we’ve shown more than enough restraint.
And this is just round one.
The brigade commander is a Leftist who opposes settlements.
The regiment commander is a settler who favors settlements.
The company commander votes for a centrist party.
The platoon commander is national religious –
Torn between two and a half parties.
The company sergeant is very Ultra-orthodox.
The sergeant is a socialist.
The squad commander has voted for everyone.
The private can never decide.
But they’re all excellent soldiers.
Marching in silence, in the dark of night.
Under the smiling moon.
With tense fortitude.
Those same people
Who on politics and religion
Can never agree on a single thing
Suddenly become brothers
Comrade de Guerre, war buddies.
Devoted to each other
With all their heart.
Suddenly all agree
That the best thing we have
Is our country
And our Defense Forces.
And they’re all ready
To smite the enemy hard
Once and for all
To leave us in peace.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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