From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“When the time comes for the ancient light to appear…spirits will be very low. Life will be stagnant. From outside will come the sound of a reveling throng, coarse and wild…the suffering from such misfortune constitutes the pain of childbirth looming on the horizon. Vibrant lives are sparkling forth to return to their holy source, to renew the world with their glorious splendor”
(Orot HaKodesh I:153-4)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Generalities and Specifics
“‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 9:18) – Rabbi Akiva commented, ‘This is a major principle of the Torah.’”
Our sages, in setting out to delineate this mitzvah, bring the story of the non-Jew who, wishing to convert, approached Hillel the Elder to have him teach him the entire Torah on one foot. Said Hillel, “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the entire Torah. Go learn the rest” (Shabbat 31a).
As Rashi explains, all the mitzvoth mentioned in the Torah are included in this. Moreover, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his Mesillat Yesharim says of the saintly person who loves G-d, and whose entire interest is to bring contentment to his Maker, that he can accomplish this “by always doing good to one’s fellow men and not doing them harm, physically, monetarily or psychologically. Physically this means always striving to help them however one can, and to lighten their burdens… Monetarily it means helping out one’s fellow man as much as one can afford, and saving him from harm. Psychologically it means striving to bring him as much contentment as possible. This includes doing whatever one can to see that one’s friend receives respect, and certainly includes not distressing him in any way, and it also includes seeking to encourage harmony between people.” (Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 19).
Indeed, Hillel’s advise to “love your neighbor as yourself” was not just a private matter. It did not just concern that particular convert’s receiving instruction from Hillel that the entire goal of the Torah and of Jewishness is to make one a good person. Rather, the idea of goodness in the world, as revealed in the human being as an individual, is also a matter for the Jewish People in the aggregate. What distinguishes our people down through the generations, what sanctifies G-d’s name in the world, is our being a great and holy nation with a unique soul, as Rav Kook taught:
“The essence of being benevolent to all, without any earthly limit, whether in the quantity of those benefiting or in the quality of the benevolence, constitutes the inner kernel of the soul of the Jewish People. This is Israel’s inheritance, and their ancestral legacy.” (Orot 139)
The further along we march on the upward path towards national rebirth, the more we will uncover the soul and the light of Israel. All mankind will then recognize and appreciate and respect the Jewish People, whose entire raison d’etre is to spread G-d’s light through the world, as torchbearers of the father of our people Abraham, who proclaimed G-d’s name in the world – a proclamation that continues on forever.
Looking forward to complete salvation.
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
The Laws of Mixed Society
(On having a boyfriend/girlfriend)
Question: Why don’t our rabbis codify the laws of having a boyfriend/girlfriend? It happens anyway, so there’s no point in ignoring it. I’m not looking for loopholes, but if it exists, what are the halachot so that the connection will be kosher and pure? Speaking more broadly, mixed society is a reality as well, and it won’t help to prohibit it or deny it exists. The rabbis should define the laws so that such society is kosher and clean.
Answer: This is a really good idea, so let me quote from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of the illustrious Rav Shlomo Ganzfried (152:8-11). Yet the same laws can be found in the Shulchan Aruch itself (Orach Chaim 21) and Rambam (Issurei Biah 21).
1. Distancing Oneself: “One must distance oneself from women very very much.”
2. Signs of Friendship: “A man is forbidden to gesture to a woman with his hands or feet, or with his eyes.”
3. Levity: “One is forbidden to laugh with a woman or to be frivolous with her.”
4. Staring: “One is forbidden to gaze at her beauty.” “If one stares at a woman, even at her pinky finger, with intent to derive pleasure, his sin is very great.” “One is forbidden to gaze at her hair.”
5. Perfume: “One is forbidden to sniff an individual woman’s perfume, let alone when she is holding it in her hand or it is hanging from her.”
6. Clothing: “If a man knows a woman, he is forbidden to gaze at her colored clothing, even if she is not wearing them.”
7. Walking: “If one encounters a woman in the marketplace, one is forbidden to walk behind her. Rather he should run forward so that she remains to his side or behind him.”
8. Singing: “One is forbidden to hear a woman’s singing.”
9. Saying hi: “One doesn’t say hi to a woman at all. Even through her husband one is forbidden to send her regards. Therefore, when one writes a letter to one’s friend, one is forbidden to write, ‘Regards to the wife’. But one is allowed to ask her husband or someone else how she is doing. One is likewise allowed to write his friend, ‘Tell me how your wife is doing.’”
10. A Husband and Wife’s Comportment in Public (not related to our topic, but good to mention at this opportunity): “One should show no woman, not even his own wife, any affection, in the presence of others.”
If we keep all these laws, we will establish a good, reputable society, and we will even be privileged to establish happy, reputable, Jewish homes.
Rabbi Ze’ev Karov
A Jewish State in the Land of Israel
“You must keep My decrees and laws and not become involved in any of these disgusting perversions…. The people who lived in the land before you did all these disgusting perversions and defiled the land. But you shall not cause the land to vomit you out when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was there before you…. Keep My charge and do not follow any of the perverted customs that were kept before you arrived, so that you not be defiled by them. I am the L-rd your G-d.” (Leviticus 18:26-28,30)
It seems strange that the Torah emphasizes how those disgusting perversions contaminate the Land. The Torah likewise explains the severe prohibition against murder in the same way. Yet the prohibitions against sexual sin and murder are cardinal sins that we must avoid even at the cost of our lives. Are they not grave enough on their own? Must they be explained in terms of their effect on the location where they are committed?
The Torah is revealing to us the special connection between Torah morality and Eretz Yisrael. Moral perversion contaminates the Land. Those non-Jews who lived in the Land before the Israelites were vomited out due to their corruption. There is a profound lesson here that cutting ourselves off from Torah morality ultimately leads to cutting ourselves off from Eretz Yisrael.
The Creator is testifying that He created the “Holyland” as a place that cannot bear moral corruption. The “Land of Life” reacts to corruption, vomiting out whoever cuts himself off from Jewish ethics.
Israel’s destiny is to reveal that that is not a moment of life that is not illuminated and influenced by divine morality. Eretz Yisrael is the Land where this destiny is to be fulfilled.
Eretz Yisrael is not just another geographic location. It is a land possessing vibrant forces that influence the lives of its inhabitants. Enormous energies are required for one to live according to the moral yardstick of the Torah. These energies, which were given to Israel, G-d’s special people, can only be brought to perfection and actualization in this land.
“The special trait first comes to the people who are G-d’s treasure and core, and afterwards the Land as well attains a portion in this trait.” (Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi)
“When Israel’s kings and princes are amongst the nations, there is no Torah.” In other words, in the exile, there is no possibility of our living according to our special, living moral Torah.
The whole function of Eretz Yisrael and its holiness is to influence the moral lives of the Jewish People. There is a vibrant, mutual connection between the Land and the moral lives of the people.
Therefore, it is clear that not only when the Jewish People abandon their unique moral existence does it lead to their abandoning the Land, but also when they abandon their connection to Eretz Yisrael it ultimately leads to their abandoning moral lives.
In our own day, we can see just how true these facts are “on the ground.” When the people show weakness regarding settling Eretz Yisrael that also weakens the values of family life, the work ethic, the very value of life (note the traffic death toll, drug use, etc), and increases ignorance in everything having to do with Jewish tradition. In the early years of the State it seemed as though it was possible to hold on to Jewish ethics without a Jewish State, and vice versa. Yet the more time passes, the more we see that it’s really “all or nothing.” This the “Law of Connected Vessels” from Physics, as it applies to the soul of the Jewish People and their land.
“The State of Israel is the foundation of G-d’s throne on earth.” So said Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook in his book Orot. Therefore, just as G-d is One, so must all strata of the life of the Jewish State operate consistently and harmoniously in accordance with divine ethics.
Most of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel want a Jewish state. Yet when we ask them what is the content of that “Jewish State,” we hardly receive any answer. It is hard to understand how the desire for a Jewish state can go together with one’s agreeing to mixed marriages and civil marriages, with hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, with disdain for family life, with the banishing of Jews from their homes, with forcing stores to open on the Sabbath in the Ben-Gurion 2000 Airport project, with enormous ignorance in everything regarding our Jewish heritage.
We are joyful and thankful for what there is, and for the potential embodied in our new lives as a nation after two thousand years. We are full of gratitude for the Jewish sovereignty, for the ingathering of the exiles, our victories in wars, for the flowering of the desert, the establishment of yeshivot, etc. Yet our task is to strengthen and deepen the connection to Jewish moral values and Eretz Yisrael, in order to fulfill G-d’s command to “live by them” (Leviticus 18:5) in the Land of the Living, in the full, true meaning of the phrase.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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