From the World of Rav Kook:
“The shocks we are experiencing we will help us know we possess a lofty national spirit that we have forgotten. That spirit…is full of strength and has the power…to renew our lives and to enable us to withstand all the Amalekites who so greatly desire to cut off those lagging in the rear.”
(Ma’amarei HaReiyah, page 156)
Rabbi Dov Begon, Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “From Disengagement to Reengagement “
In 1912, Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, in a letter to the rabbis of the Jewish People, addresses the possibility of civil war, G-d forbid, and discusses how to avoiding it. He writes:
“If we do not make sure, while there is still time, to buttress the status of religion and faith so they remain the property of the entire Jewish People, our national situation will be absolutely terrible. The scandals and complications owing to hatred between brothers will necessarily become worse and worse…if we establish a sovereign state, are we not liable to face fierce confrontations in light of the diametrically opposed views, and the corresponding deeds, different as night and day?
“When the central beam that supports the nation is missing, its spiritual and religious foundation, then such quarrels can destroy even the strongest nation by means of civil war, G-d forbid…Surely we know the power of hatred between brothers and quarrels within families. The way to prevent all this in the future is through a national effort to buttress the status of religion and faith…
“For the sake of our people and the cities of our G-d, for the sake of our status as a nation and for the sake of Zion, the object of our collective yearning, we have a request to make of all our Jewish brethren…Let them strengthen faith and exalt the status of our religion. Let them work towards restoring our entire people to tangible, practical fulfillment of our Torah. From this will result great blessing…Then, the internal animosity hidden within the hearts of so many, and their vigorous opposition, will weaken and disappear totally.” (Zichron HaRe’iyah 11)
Rabbi Kook’s words bear witness to enormous foresight. He wrote these words after the Zionist Movement declared, “We have nothing to do with religion.” Rabbi Kook came out scathingly against this pronouncement, saying: “For Zionism to succeed and increase its strength down through the generations, our nation in the aggregate will have to maintain a steadfast link to our living Torah. If they abandon the Torah, there is no hope.” (Igarot HaRe’iyah 497).
Rabbi Kook saw the awful crisis awaiting us in the event that the nation would not see the connection between State and Torah, faith and religion as a matter of utmost importance. Unfortunately, there are political parties and leaders who advocate separating religion and state and transforming the State of Israel into a “country of all its citizens,” G-d forbid. Such talk poses an enormous danger to the continued survival of the State of Israel.
In the face of disengagement from the values of religion, faith, the People and the Land, we have to establish a movement of large-scale reengagement that will encompass the nation, a movement that will work a change in our country. We have to raise up the banner upon which will be engraved in large letters, “The State of Israel is irrevocably bound to faith, religion, the People and the Land!” We have to pass on this idea, lovingly, to the entire Jewish People, without fear. The nation shall rise up and proudly and joyously follow the banner of reengagement with love. And with G-d’s help, love will win out.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim
“Pride over What?”
“How has the faithful city become a den of prostitution?” (Isaiah 1:21). How could anyone imagine holding a parade in Jerusalem, our holy city, in honor of people with cross-gender sexual preferences? Surely homosexuality is classed as prostitution (see Ibn Ezra on Exodus 20:13). The Torah declares, “If a man has intercourse with another man in the same manner as with a woman, both of them have committed a disgusting perversion. They shall be put to death by stoning” (Leviticus 20:13).
I don’t understand why they call this abomination the “Gay Pride Parade”. What are they proud of? Of a sin? Quite the contrary, for a sin one must feel shame and repent; one must fight his evil impulse.
What do they have to be proud of? What do they have to make a parade about? Because they have succumbed to their evil impulse? Everyone has an evil impulse, and everyone has his own passions to combat. Yet a person has free choice. That is the foundation of the whole Torah (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva 5:3). It is true that sometimes it is hard to overcome one’s evil impulse, but it is always possible.
Not only does a person have control over his actions, but over his attributes. After all, we were commanded by G-d to improve our traits, to improve our character. As it says, “Walk in His paths” (Deuteronomy 28:9; Rambam De’ot 1:5). This is harder work than improving our deeds (Mesilat Yesharim 11), yet it imbues us with enormous optimism. After all, simply to stifle one’s nature is certainly hard (Rambam, Shemoneh Perakim), but if one improves his nature for the better, and then follows his nature, how good he will feel! G-d is informing us: People can control their deeds, and when they do so, it is glorious. Yet they can change their natures as well, and that is glorious all the more.
If G-d forbids something upon us and calls it “disgusting,” that is a sign it is unnatural. The Torah does not set out to destroy man and his nature, but to grant him life. “Keep My decrees and laws, since it is only by keeping them that a person can truly live. I am the L-rd” (Leviticus 18:5). This verse precedes the Torah’s sexual prohibitions, so that a person should not say that these prohibitions rob him of his life. Quite the contrary, they afford him real life.
Therefore, it makes no difference if the source of cross-gender sexual preference is genetic or psycho-social, as authoritative case studies have proven (see www.atzat-nefesh.org, which provides free, anonymous phone counseling on various topics, this one included, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, between eight and eleven). The fact is we have not seen hereditary homosexuality. Rambam explains that some traits are inherited, while others are acquired (De’ot 1:2). Yet a person must improve his traits and follow in G-d’s pathways. As noted above, this is liable to demand much toil, yet “man is born for toil” (Job 5:7).
Therefore, the “Gay Pride Parade” in Jerusalem constitutes an insult to man’s free will. Free will is the ultimate glory of the image of G-d. It is an insult to our belief that man is capable of change, a belief in which is stored all the marvelous optimism of the human race. It is an insult to the natural, wholesome family.
In our times, the tendency is to favor “naturalness.” Clearly, the most natural way is for “man to cling to his wife” (Genesis 2:24), “and not to another man” (Sanhedrin 58a). By such means the human race is built up. Man’s survival depends entirely on his being fruitful and multiplying. Even people with cross-gender sexual preferences, both men and women, were themselves born from a father and mother. A conventional couple are both physically and psychologically different from one another. Were the woman identical to the man, what would be gained? (Ibid., Abarbanel, Sforno).
We have seen many people with cross-gender sexual preferences who have changed. They marry and lead happy lives – obviously on the condition that they truly desired to change. Cross-gender sexual preferences can themselves undergo refining and sublimation, and be transformed into a precious social asset.
Obviously, in saying there can be no legitimizing cross-gender sexual preferences, I am not saying that such people are not Jewish. A Jew, even if he sins, remains a Jew. We are obligated to love all Jews.
Yet what are they proud of? Of violating a Torah prohibition that incurs a death penalty? And why are they called “Gay”? What are they so happy about? Their sin? It is goodness that we must be happy about. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright of heart” (Psalm 97:11). Neither the pride nor the “gaiety” here are appropriate. Of such phenomena the Prophet Zephaniah said, “I shall remove from your midst them that rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty on My holy mountain” (3:11). May we soon rejoice in the pure pleasure of G-d’s name being sanctified.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner / Education Corner
Open Letters to Youth (Part IV) “A Band of Messianists”
When the politicians opposed to our path make accusations against us and call us names, they like to conclude with a particularly biting term that is supposed to brand us as entirely evil and totally marginalize us. They say, “You are a band of Messianists!” On hearing this term, some feel the need to protest, apologize and rationalize that they are not Messianists. Yet, let’s admit the truth: We really ARE a “band of Messianists,” and we should be proud of it. We are not ashamed of our Messianism; we do not hide it under the rug, and we do not deny it. We can take pride.
The word “Messianist” has become a derogatory term in Israeli society. It signifies a person cut-off from the present and sunk in unrealistic dreams. Yet in the not-too-distant past, “Messianist” was a compliment, because Zionism was a Messianic movement. It dreamt unrealistic dreams about the Jewish People’s return to their land after two thousand years of exile.
Herzl, before his first meetings with the leaders of the Jewish world, presented a blueprint of his plan to the physician and journalist, Friedrich Schiff, in order to test the plan on a Jewish intellectual. Schiff listened intently to Herzl’s speech and told him that his plan was the result of a nervous breakdown. He said Herzl was in urgent need of rest and medical care. He even warned him against repeating his plan in public, lest he be taken for a lunatic. Herzl’s lunacy turned out to be the beginning of the fulfillment of the vision of the prophets, as well as a practical, strong political step.
We are Messianists. We set high, distant ideals for ourselves, strive towards perfection, and do not surrender to the weaknesses of the moment. Some people say, “The whole Zionist vision is fulfilled. We resumed being a normal nation like all the nations; that is enough for us.”
This is not our position. We are Messianists, and we want much more – we want Torah observance to be perfect; we want the nation to be perfect; we want the Land to be complete. This has led to the vision of “Greater Eretz Yisrael” to which we cling, the great vision we are trying to bring to fruition. This has led to the settlement of Judea and Samaria and all of Eretz Yisrael.
Some people say, “Your vision has failed. The nation is not going along with you, and that proves that you erred.” Our answer is that it has not yet been proven we have failed. They prematurely celebrate our demise. Time will tell who has failed.
Even if it turns out we failed, we haven’t erred in the path we chose, and we do not regret anything we have done. We are trying to pull the Messiah’s wagon forward, in the hope that many in Israeli society will jump aboard. We invite them to join us. We have no certainty they will respond positively. We have no guarantee they will be swept up by idealistic fervor. We are aware of the possibility of nationalist weaknesses, of weariness and of a crisis amongst the people. Even so, we are not exempt from trying and we shall continue in the future as well.
The Messiah is called “bar nafli” [the faller]. Many falls accompany the process of his appearing, yet of this it says, “The righteous man falls seven times and rises up again” (Proverbs 24:16). It is the Messiah’s ultimate destiny to rise up. He will rise up by dint of all his attempts that failed. In spirituality, no effort goes to waste.
When a farmer plants seeds, they disappear in the earth. Have they gone to waste? No, they will sprout when the time comes. It is the same with all efforts on behalf of Eretz Yisrael, and with all of our enthusiasm on behalf of the completeness of the Land, that we have sunk into the Jewish People. That whole spiritual investment was not in vain. The proof of this comes from Chanukah. Each year on Chanukah, we celebrate our victory over the Greeks, and the restoration of the Jewish kingdom to its place, and the renewal of the Temple service.
The question is asked: All of these marvelous “achievements” were nullified with the destruction of the Second Temple when we lost our independence. So why do we celebrate Chanukah?! From this we have proof that every spiritual achievement, even when it seems temporary, has value and significance for all times.
The most serious mistake we can make today is to regret our “Messianist” path and to question our previous efforts. If we have not yet succeeded in causing the Messianist spirit to penetrate the people, and it has not yet become the inheritance of the entire nation, then a two-fold responsibility rests upon us to continue waving the Messianic banner of spirituality in Israeli society: We must exalt the vision of the return to Zion, and bring it nearer to the vision of the prophets. We must arouse lofty ideals without embarrassment or hesitation, and talk about perfection – in the nation, in the Torah and in the Land. Not just in one, but in all three together.
Those responsible for bearing the Messianic torch in the next generation are our youth. Let them not take to heart those who spout eulogies over our approach, nor have regrets over our previous efforts. We must continue to cling to the Messianic spirit. If anyone plans to call us “a band of Messianists,” we can thank them in advance for the nice compliment.