From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Whoever is effused with the light of faith will love all men without exception. His entire goal will be their improvement and betterment; the greater his faith, the more reflective of integrity will be his methods towards achieving his goal”
(Midot HaRe’iyah, Emunah)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Good Has to Win Out
“Have them bring Me an offering. Take My offering from everyone whose heart impels him [yidvenu libo] to give” (Exodus 25:2). Rashi comments, “‘Yidvenu libo’ has the same root as ‘nedava’ – a donation. It is a term meaning ‘good-will’.” The Tabernacle was built through the contributions of the Jewish People, which were given with good-will. Just as the Tabernacle was founded on good-will, so is the entire universe founded on the good-will of G-d. As Rav Kook said (Orot HaKodesh III:43), “Good-will is the seed out of which all else sprouts.”
Good-will is the soul of the Jewish People, as Rav Kook wrote: “The source of Israel’s showing unlimited benevolence to all, regardless of the spiritual level of the beneficiaries, is found in the inner essence of their soul. This is Israel’s inheritance, their ancestral heritage. Israel, in their very being, crave fulfillment of the divine will, G-d’s desire to “be good to all and merciful to all His creatures” (Psalm 145:9). This goodness is the foundation of the redemption that will necessarily follow. Goodness shall necessarily defeat all else.”
The purpose of the Tabernacle was to reveal G-d’s good-will in the world. The inception and construction of the Tabernacle came about through Israel’s good-will, which in turn found expression through their contributing the half-shekel and the concomitant voluntary contributions.
The purpose of the Tabernacle and the Temple was for the “revelation of the Divine Presence”, which means the revelation of divine goodness in our world. In the same way, the lives of every single Jew have the purpose of revealing goodness. As our sages said regarding the righteous (Chagigah 12), “‘Goodness’ can only refer to the righteous, as it says, ‘Say of the righteous: he is good’ (Isaiah 3:10).” This goodness is revealed through learning and fulfilling the Torah, for there is no good but Torah, as it says, “For I give you good doctrine; forsake not my Torah” (Proverbs 4:2; Berachot 5).
Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael is especially precious. As our sages said of Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael, “‘The gold of that land was good’ (Genesis 2:12) – this refers to the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.” How fortunate we are and how good our lot that we have merited to see the Jewish People, the good nation, returning to Eretz Yisrael, the good Land, and studying Torah, which was described as “good”. The union of all three “goods” in one will bring about the complete redemption, constituting the revelation of G-d’s goodness in the world. As Rav Kook said, “Goodness will necessarily defeat all else.” Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
I Sacrifice Myself for the Land
The Land of Israel cannot be acquired without self-sacrifice. Three things are acquired through suffering. I have decided that for myself, these will not be idle words, but words I will put to practice: genuine self-sacrifice, on a daily basis. I am no saint. I am even weak in my observance. I swing back and forth. Yet with one mitzvah there’s no room for doubts. Without self-sacrifice, forget it!
Some sacrifice themselves for Torah, day and night. I don’t make light of them – G-d forbid. Yet that isn’t really part of the real world. I am ready to risk my life for the Land. I don’t understand all this pilpul about what’s more important, the people or the land. If I risk my life so that the Land remains in our hands, then I am also doing the People a favor. How can people not understand that?
Sure I am full of love of the Jewish People, Israel. What I do constitutes love of Israel. Yes! I am full of love of Israel! What I do sanctifies G-d’s name. Abandoning parts of our land is a profanation of G-d’s name. For that we waited two thousand years?! I’m no saint, but for my land, I am ready to risk my life, even if it involves a sacrifice; even though it’s hard.
Recently it has been very hard for me to face what is happening with the army, which I used to admire so much. It expelled Jews and turned them into unemployed refugees. As for the police who dealt murderous blows, I don’t want to talk about them right now. Precisely because I worry about Eretz Yisrael, I am angry at the army, and also because I love the Jewish People. We are certainly aware that the soldiers defend the Jewish People every minute, suffering freezing cold during guard duty and endangering their lives. Many of them have been killed and murdered protecting us all. Certainly, calling the Israeli Army the “Expulsion Army” represents ingratitude, yet it is still very hard for me.
So I am slandered from left and right, insulted, humiliated and called all sorts of names. But I don’t care. I know that I am right, that I am following the right path, the path of my teachers, my teachers in this generation and in all preceding generations, the path of Abraham and Moses. I am proud – obviously not personally, for there are many like me. What a marvelous generation! We deserve a lot of credit!
On the street people identify us, the ones who sacrifice ourselves for our land, by our clothing. I know that clothes are not what is important, but here it’s a special case, because I wear a soldier’s uniform – I am a soldier, a soldier of G-d, a soldier in the I.D.F., the Israel Defense Forces, the army defending our people and our land, the army defending us against three hundred million external enemies and three million internal enemies. Therefore, I must be a good soldier, the best I can. In my wallet I’ve got a document that says “Fighter.” Yes, I am a fighter. I am definitely angry at the army, but I grit my teeth and bear it because this army is us. Over my yarmulke I’ve got a beret, and over my tzitzit I’ve got an olive-drab shirt. Because I am a fighter. I risk my life to be a good fighter. For your sake. For our sake. For the sake of our people. For the sake of our land.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner
The One Side Cannot Understand The Other Side’s Language
The following lines are taken from an article describing the sharp communication gaps that have developed in Israeli society:
“The eyes wander here and there in the hope of perhaps finding some ray of light, some consoling spark that might provide light and warmth, heralding the flame of holy fire. Yet nothing can be found. [The one group] are alarmed and in despair. [The other group] are full of wrath. The one side cannot understand the other side’s language. Everyone closes himself off with his own personal problems. Everyone points an accusing finger at his fellow man, laying the blame only on others. Yet there is no one seeking to restore the hearts of one to the other, let alone joining hands in the important, all-encompassing work.”
“The one side cannot understand the other side’s language.” This phrase hits the mark for describing the faulty communication between us and Israeli society. We do not understand them, and they do not understand us. They do not understand why we insist on building our homes on forsaken hills amongst the Arabs, why we take hold of clods of conquered earth, why we confront the army and the police, why we are “there” (beyond the separation fence), rather than “here” within the expanses of the Sovereign State of Israel.
We do not understand why they have abandoned us, why they do not recognize our contribution to the building of the country, why they are betraying us, why they have grown weary of us. “Everyone closes himself off with his own personal problems.” We are busy with our own problems, with the Gush Katif expellees, with defending our homes that they would like to uproot, with attempts at ensuring the survival of our educational institutions, with efforts at rehabilitating ourselves and making ourselves stand more erect.
They, too, are busy with their own problems – economic gaps, personal security, governmental corruption, the separation fence, foreign workers, single motherhood, and more. “Everyone points an accusing finger at his fellow man, laying the blame only on others.” We blame them for abandoning the security of the State of Israel, for systematic withdrawals, for surrendering to Israel’s enemies, for the gradual erosion of the country’s Jewish identity. We blame them for the loss of thousands of lives. And they blame us for all the troubles of the State of Israel, relating both to security and economics.”
The above quote describes precisely the communication gap between large sections of Israeli society. Surprisingly, however, these sentences were written exactly a hundred years ago, in 1906! They are taken from the preface to the article, “The Generation,” written by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook. A hundred years later, the description of the internal conflict has not changed. Only the players have changed. In that article, the parties who cannot understand each others’ language are the “parents” and the “children.” The “parents” are the members of the Old Yishuv [settlement] in Eretz Yisrael, and the faithful Judaism of the Diaspora. The “children” are the members of the New Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael, and the youth who had joined the Socialist and Communist movements in the Diaspora. Neither side understood the other, and each blamed the other for the lowly status of the Jewish People. “The parents are alarmed and in despair, and the children are full of wrath” – Those bearing the banner of the Torah were alarmed by the secular behavior of the children, and tended to despair over them. The children were full of anger and wrath over the conservatism of the parents, and over their clinging to old-fashioned values. A hundred years have passed, and the heirs of the “parents” are no longer in a head-on confrontation with the heirs of the “children.” They have parted ways, and each group has adapted to the break, to the lack of communication. Neither side has any expectations of the other side, hence there can be no disappointment. The alarm has decreased as well, as have the anger and wrath.
Now, however, the sharp confrontation has been renewed, with all the symptoms described by Rav Kook. Only the participants have changed. There are new players who are alarmed and in despair, and there are new players who are angry and wrathful. On the one hand are the people of faith and vision, who are fighting for the unity of Eretz Yisrael. On the other side are those who advocate a social, civil agenda.
The topic of the confrontation has changed as well. A hundred years ago, loyalty to Torah and mitzvoth was the issue. Now it is loyalty to Eretz Yisrael, the meaning of Jewish nationalism, and other issues. It is very sad that our public finds itself in a situation identical to that which reigned a hundred years ago, but the reality cannot be denied. The communication gap is so significant that sizable portions of Israeli society are showing apathy towards our fate. That is the explanation of the apathy and silence of Israeli society in the face of the psychological and physical blows we bore at the expulsion from Gush Katif and at the destruction of the homes in Amonah.
In his article, “The Generation,” Rav Kook argued that the “children’s abandonment of the Torah did not derive from their surrender to base passions, but rather to their disappointing encounter with a shallow Judaism. This was the root of their anger and wrath against the Torah and against the “parents,” the Torah’s representatives. Therefore, Rav Kook argued, excommunicating and frightening the “children” would not bring them closer to the Torah. Scare tactics could be beneficial against passions, but not against lack of understanding. The solution, he said, was to offer profound explanations, in order to change their appreciation of the Torah.
The preceding were the main points of the article, “The Generation.” Regarding the article’s applicability, a debate has been raging for over two decades. Do the roots of the crisis regarding the Torah, as explained by Rav Kook, exist in their original form even today, or have they changed? Does the above description faithfully reflect the relationship between the religious and secular in our decade? While we were deliberating on the past, Rav Kook’s article, “The Generation” took on new life and became relevant to the present. A new communication gap was created in the media, in which neither side understands the other side’s language, and once more this gap is tearing apart Israeli society. The new topic of crisis is Eretz Yisrael and Israeli nationalism. One needn’t be a gifted researcher to discover that the roots of the crisis are the same as they were: Israeli society does not understand the meaning of the Land of Israel. They understand the meaning of the State of Israel. They know the rules of the Democratic game, and they are ready to accept them even with their imperfections. They even identify with the idea of a State that defines itself as Jewish. Yet, they ask, “What is ‘Eretz Yisrael’? What is ‘our ancestral inheritance’?” This they do not know. They see it as a form of nostalgic release (along the lines of “Jewish Folklore”) that greatly hampers our future. In light of their lack of understanding, nothing can be gained in the long run from scare tactics or excommunications. The only solution is providing deep explanations.
Rabbi Kook writes: “There is no one seeking to restore the hearts of one to the other, let alone joining hands in this important, all-encompassing work.” Our first task must be to restore the hearts of the one to the other. It is hard to break down the barriers of estrangement and hostility, but there is no alternative. The second stage is to join hands for the all-encompassing task of building the State and settling the Land. The challenges that face the State of Israel are enormous in all spheres: spiritual and cultural, economic and security-related. One group alone cannot provide a solution to all our needs. Only through “joining hands”, i.e., through all the forces working together, is there a chance that we will succeed, G-d willing.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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