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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The supreme wonder of the Torah is that even in terms of its inner specialness, the mystery of its having been given to us, which in turn depends on our having been chosen from amongst all nations, it constantly showers the inner core of our soul with a living, self-regenerating beacon of light, every moment of our lives” (Olat Re’iyah 1:61)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
The Torah’s Prescription for Leadership
“But you must seek out from among all the people men of substance, G-d-fearing men – men of truth, who hate monetary gain” (Exodus 18:21). Yitro, in seeking to advise Moses on how to makes life easier for himself and for the people, advises him to bestow authority on others, as it says, “What you are doing is not good. You are going to wear yourself out, along with this nation that is with you. Your responsibility is too great. You cannot do it all alone…. You must then appoint them over the people as leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens. Let them administer justice to the people on a regular basis” (verse 17,21-22).
Yet organizational advice is not enough. There is also a need that the people being chosen should be exemplary, ethical individuals of pristine character: “But you must also seek out from among all the people capable, G-d-fearing men – men of truth, who hate monetary gain.” Rashi comments:
“‘Capable men’: Men who do not have to flatter or show favoritism, even when the person being judged is wealthy and respected. ‘G-d fearing men, men of truth’: People who keep their promises, people upon whose word one may rely. ‘Men who hate monetary gain’: Men who are not avaricious profit seekers’.”
It is not so simple to find such people. Yitro therefore tells Moses, “You must seek out,” employing the word “techeze”, a root associated with prophecy. He should employ his prophetic abilities to find men worthy to be judges and leaders.
The official reason for the upcoming elections in Israel is that there was corruption in the government. Hence, Yitro’s advice to Moses that those selected should be exemplary individuals of high moral character applies for all future generations, including our own.
It is true that in our generation, the generation of the ingathering of the exiles, when the people are in the process of being crystallized as a nation, some of Israel’s elected leaders have not yet reached the spiritual and moral state of “capable, G-d-fearing men – men of truth, who hate monetary gain”. Quite the contrary, recent years have witnessed a deterioration of morality and ethics amongst some of our elected leaders and judges.
Yet the day is not far off when the nation will produce from within it a moral, spiritual leadership of exemplary conduct that will sanctify G-d’s name. After all, the Jewish People are G-d’s special nation, a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), and such a nation deserves an appropriate leadership. It is this we pray for daily, when we recite, “Restore our judges as at the beginning, and our counselors as at the start, and remove from us all sorrow and sighing…” (Shemoneh Esreh). By such means we will merit fulfillment of what comes later in that prayer: “Return in mercy to Your city Jerusalem, and dwell in it as You have promised. Rebuild it soon, in our days, as an everlasting structure, and speedily establish in it the throne of David.”
Looking forward to complete salvation.
Shabbat Shalom.

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

“I am Married For The Third Time”

“My name is Dr. Bob Shapiro, a marriage counselor, and I have been through some experiences of my own; a number of years ago I married for the third time. You are certainly wondering to yourselves, “Are you the man who is going to preach to us about married life?!”

Yes. I owe you an explanation. When I married Jill, she was young and charming, and I was very happy. Yet over the years, I found her less and less charming, and after twenty years of marriage, I noticed that she was not the woman I had married, and I underwent a sort of crisis. Yet I cheered myself up and learned how to appreciate my wife Jill anew. I married her a second time, and I was very happy. I was now marrying a forty-year-old woman intentionally, and not by default. I discovered her anew, with traits that she did not have when she was twenty. One can carry on interesting conversations with her, and one can learn a great deal from her: sensitivity, seriousness, how to approach teen-age children. She is less bashful and more assertive. She understands me better, and I started to perceive things within myself that she loved in me. Thanks to her I learned to like myself. Things I saw in my wife, I saw in myself. I delved into herself-myself.

When I was twenty, I was caught up with the superficial, with externals. Now I found an inner beauty – tranquility, wisdom, femininity, motherhood, and love of one’s fellow man. Jill taught me patience. What a marvelous woman!

Yet after another twenty years, I found myself with a slightly elderly woman, and I felt a tinge of disappointment. Yet I worked on myself and wedded her still again. Once more I discovered her anew. I am now new and I see her as a new person. Her wrinkles do not bother me. Life has filled them with hard work and profound wisdom. Her white hair does not bother me. Softness shines forth from her. I finally understand how the Matriarch Sarah, at age 100, was as beautiful as at age 7. I worked on myself and discovered my wife anew.

Now you understand. Having married the same woman three times, I am allowed to talk. You must certainly be curious to know how I succeeded in doing this. It was simple, and very hard. When we met before getting married, Jill asked me if I was willing to take responsibility. I didn’t understand. “The fact that you don’t understand my question worries me,” said Jill. “Many of my friends have married husbands who take no responsibility for the house, the marriage, the children. Instead, they feel like tourists.” “I will take responsibility, Jill. I promise,” I said. Yet Jill did not relent. “And what do you plan to do in that regard?” she asked. I thought a bit and then I answered, “I will make an investment! Yes. I will invest a great deal!” Jill’s eyes shined. “O.K.! Let’s go.” Under the wedding canopy, after I said, “You are betrothed to me with this ring,…” I whispered in her ear, “This is my first investment…” She broke out laughing. Since then I have been investing every day. Jill invests as well.

We both invest and invest and it never ends. One time I heard from my rabbi, Rabbi Brown, that finding a match for a person is as hard for G-d as splitting the sea. Another time he said that the sea did not split from one end to the other, but only right in front of us wherever we walked. I asked him, “Is marriage the same?” and he answered, “Of course! Of course!”

Don’t think everything went easy with our marriage. Almost every day, we argued over everything, because we are both temperamental people and we both stubbornly stuck to our guns. Yet we didn’t give up, and day after day we talked to each other. We wouldn’t go to sleep until we had ironed everything out. It took a long time, but we were ready in advance. Rabbi Brown taught us, “It says, ‘When a man takes a new bride… he must remain free for his family for one year’ (Deuteronomy 24:5). The first year, a couple have to be together a lot.” “And after that?” I asked. He answered, “If you keep it up, you will eventually be able to lower the dosage.” Yet I internalized well the idea that marriage is not just fun. It’s an investment. If something is precious to me, I invest. My psychological studies were precious to me, so I invested. Obviously my Torah learning was precious to me, so I invested. Now Eretz Yisrael is precious to me, so I invest. My Jill is precious to me, so I invest!

Yet I have to admit that despite all of my investing, we collapsed under the weight of so many arguments, and then I came to the conclusion that one cannot try to achieve too much. Rather, I had to limit myself to what is really important. So I said to my wife, “Listen Jill, there are four things that are really important to me. If you meet me half way on those, I will meet you half way on what is important to you. Most critical is the fact that I am a hot-tempered person. Please show me kindness in this regard, and if you do, I will promise you the world.” She too presented me with a list of expectations. Where our two sets of expectations were mutually exclusive, we compromised.

You are certainly wondering how it takes me, the psychologist, so long to understand things. Here you’ve hit on the main point. Understanding is easy for me. I understand quickly. Yet changing is hard. You see, it’s not enough to understand. You have to change too. I have a strong personality, and I couldn’t change it overnight. Character improvement takes time. I’ve learned to compromise and I’ve learned to demand. I’ve learned to listen and I’ve learned to speak. I’ve learned to say I’m sorry and I’ve learned to forgive. I’ve learned to be flexible and I’ve learned to help my wife to be flexible. The profit I’ve gained has been double. I not only got a happy marriage, but I also improved my character. Maybe that is why G-d commanded us to wed, so that we would be forced to improve our character. If we do not improve, our marriage would be on the rocks, and we would have gotten divorced, or emotionally been as good as divorced, which is not ideal either.

I’ll tell you the truth. The romantic love we felt on our honeymoon has very often waned, but we’ve always succeeded in reviving it. Indeed, for me to be disappointed with my wife because she has grown older is a sign of bad character. Altogether, good character is a prerequisite to getting married. Obviously, one isn’t expected to be perfect. One can start out on the road and organize oneself along the way, like in the army, helping each other towards character improvement. Yet there is also an initial minimum. A soldier cannot go into battle without his gun, without shoes or his helmet, without knowing how to shoot – and still hope to get organized along the way. Yet one shouldn’t be extreme in the other direction either.

Yes, I am proud of myself. I succeeded in refining my character in numerous spheres. That is how I merited to marry three times! Actually, every day I invest toil, energy and effort, and every day I marry anew. Mazal tov!

Rabbi Lior Engelman

Come Rain! Come!

As we wait for rain, we raise our eyes to Heaven and discover that there are two “watering systems” by which G-d chose to satisfy the world’s thirst – dew and rain.
Dew falls upon the world unceasingly, every day. It is not dependent upon the seasons. It falls quietly, without thunder or lightning, and goes almost unnoticed. Dew is a constant gift that G-d deigns to award the world. It is not dependent upon man’s deeds. Whether man is righteous or wicked, G-d showers the world with dew from His treasure house. Dew symbolizes G-d’s constant enterprise, hence the Torah is likened to dew, “It is like the dew of Mount Hermon, that comes down upon the hills of Zion” (Psalm 133:3). According to the Midrash, it is by way of dew that G-d, in the future, will restore the dead to life.
Rain, by contrast, does not appear regularly. Rather, it appears during specific seasons, and when the rains fall, everyone notices it. It is not to be classed as a “hidden gift” from G-d, because it serves us as a mirror of our own deeds as people. The Torah states, “If you are careful to pay heed to My commandments…. Then I will grant the fall and spring rains in your land at their proper time…. Be careful that your heart not be tempted to go astray…. G-d’s anger will then be directed against you, and He will lock up the skies so that there will not be any rain” (Deuteronomy 11:13-17).
Rain is a stormy, open gift and one cannot remain aloof to its appearance. It’s absence is felt immediately as well. We cannot ignore our country’s drought. Our country is watching as our water reserves are running out.
Now, since the rains serve us as a mirror, also by denying us rain G-d seeks to offer us a mirror as a gift – the gift of recognizing our true state. During a drought, G-d, so to speak, is saying to us, “Don’t just look at Me! Take a good look at yourselves! Taking a good look will lead to a change, and a true, sincere change will bring with it abundant rain.

The High Priest, as part of his short prayer in the outer section of the Temple on Yom Kippur (Yoma 53b), would pray, “Pay no heed to (anti-rain) prayers of travelers.” There is nothing surprising about the High Priest’s prayer including a plea for rain. Yet what is certainly surprising is that he had to make a special request that G-d not take into account the prayers of travelers for rain not to fall. Why would anyone think that G-d would prefer an individual’s prayer over that of the entire public? Why should there be any weight at all to the prayer of an individual seeking to remain dry when his prayer translates into a world suffering from drought?
In my humble opinion, rainfall is not a neutral gauge of man’s deeds, good or bad. Apparently, rain is a mirror of the question of whether or not the Jewish People are united, tied to one another, and responsible for one another. The High Priest recites his prayer on Yom Kippur, when he is serving as an emissary of the Jewish People for the atonement of their sins. All of Israel raising their eyes to him and his service creates true unity that justifies rain.
Prayers for rain, more than any other sort of prayers, demand unity. Sometimes the rain is not good for one individual or another, because that person is traveling, hanging up laundry, or anything else that rain can ruin. Israel’s prayers for rain are a barometer of what is truly bothering us. Do our personal, individual concerns take precedent of those of the public at large, or do those of the public take precedent?
When the High Priest prays that the traveler’s prayer not be heeded, he is really praying that the traveler’s wish for no rain not be from deep in his heart, but only a superficial, passing thought, the sort that will not be heeded in Heaven anyway. The High Priest prays for rain, but no less, he prays that true unity should reign amongst us, for that is the necessary prerequisite to rain falling.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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