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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Only in a person rich in the love of man can the love of the nation flourish, abetted by that person’s nobility and his greatness in spirit and deed”
(Orot HaKodesh 4:405)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
Love Peace and Truth

From the Seventeenth of Tamuz until the Ninth of Av, the House of Israel practices mourning customs in remembrance of the suffering and destruction that befell the Jewish People. The purpose of these fasts and mourning customs is: “To arouse the hearts to take charge of repentance. It is meant to remind us of our evil deeds and the deeds of our ancestors which were like our own deeds now, until they caused both them and us the same suffering. By remembering these things, we can return to the good path. Therefore, every person must take all this to heart during those days, and he must examine his deeds and repent for them…. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, five calamities occurred: the tablets were broken when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, the “Tamid” daily offering was cancelled during the First Temple period, the walls around Jerusalem were breeched during the Second Temple Period, Epistemos burnt the Torah and placed an idol in the Sanctuary.” (Orach Chaim 549, Mishnah Berurah)

Today, the manifold causes of the suffering that beset us in the past still exist in our own generation, and we must repent for them. That is, we must rectify them both on the national level and on the personal level.

Moses’s breaking the tablets occurred because of the sin of the Golden Calf. Every generation has its own Golden Calf, our own included. Today, the “Golden Calf” means the worship of money, materialism and hedonism, for some view these things as the purpose of everything. This leads people to forget their values, ideals and ethics, and also leads to their distancing themselves and cutting themselves off from Jewish tradition, from the Jewish People and from Eretz Yisrael. We have to nullify the present-day Golden Calf by returning to ourselves, returning to our roots and to Jewish tradition. By such means we will become reconnected to ourselves, our people and our land.

The “Tamid” daily offering, a communal offering, alludes to our drawing near as one man, with one heart, to our Father in Heaven. In our generation as well, we have to find a way to unite all of Israel and to bring Israel, all together, closer to G-d, through increasing the love and faith so needed in our generation.

The Wall of Jerusalem – Jerusalem is the tangible expression of the Assembly of Israel, of Jewish unity. Jerusalem’s walls serve to defend Jerusalem and Israel. Unfortunately, in our day the walls of Jerusalem are being breeched by way of all restrictions being breeched, all values being trampled and morality being nullified. So far have we deteriorated that there is a yearly “Gay Pride” march– or calumny – in the very heart of the Eternal City. The lack of an identity and the absence of roots has brought those people to confusion and destructive personal decline and the collapse of the family unit. By returning to our essential, human and Jewish identity, we will buttress the walls of Jerusalem.

The burning of the Torah in the past is unfortunately recurring today before our very eyes, through the children and adults of Israel being distanced from Torah study. We must once more learn and teach our holy Torah with love and faith.

The Idol in the Sanctuary – As is well-known, a man’s heart is likened to his own Temple. The idol in the sanctuary in the heart of a man of our generation consists of his anger, lusts and drives, and his evil thoughts. We must “purify the sanctuary,” our heart, removing the idol from it. By carrying out these improvements, we will be privileged to see the fulfillment of the prophet’s words: “Thus said the L-rd of hosts: The fasts of the fourth month, fifth month, seventh month and eighth month shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons. Therefore love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19)

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El

Jerusalem – Link Between Two Worlds

The Master of the Universe, in His abundant compassion, is raising us up to rebirth, and it didn’t start today. Rabbi Yehuda Loew, Maharal, at the start of his work, Netzach Yisrael, explains that a nation can exist in one of two states, natural or supernatural. There are three conditions to a nation’s leading a natural existence: that it live in its land, that it be independent, and that the nation live together. All our rebirth is thanks to our unity which is slowly unfolding.
Rabbi Moshe Neriah said in his time that the reason why in Israel’s War of Independence we did not succeed in conquering Jerusalem is that we had three armies at the time, and each army would have said, “I liberated Jerusalem”, and that G-d does not like. In the Six Day War, however, we had one, consolidated force, as one man with one heart, which passed through the Lion’s Gate with the valor of lions.
Indeed, groundless hatred split us apart and led to our national destruction, and by contrast, it is groundless love that links us together and is raising us up to rebirth in our land. And what is groundless hatred? It means hating those who do not think like us on national issues. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, the “Netziv”, explains this mentality in the preface to his Torah commentary: “If someone is different from me, he constitutes a danger to the nation, hence I hate him, slander him and perpetrate every possible evil against him, ostensibly for the sake of heaven.”
And what is groundless love? It means loving every Jew for the very reason that he is Jewish, even if he hates me, even if I have serious claims against him. As Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, “Ramchal”, writes in Mesillat Yesharim, regarding the energy with which the evil impulse finds excuses to hate: “That’s wrong! The Torah made a general, all-inclusive rule, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) – like yourself, without any differences, without any tricks or plotting, literally like yourself.” (Chapter 11).
How fortunate we are that groundless love has returned to us. The proof of this is the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Land, the establishment of the Jewish State, and especially the establishment of the army. After all, if even one Jew is in danger, a million Jews rise up to save him. That is the nature of the Israeli army – one for all and all for one.
Yet much more work awaits us before we achieve complete groundless love; much shared dialogue, out of mutual respect.
Netziv wrote that Eretz Yisrael is the central bolt that links the Jewish People together from one end of the nation to the other. Thanks to the Land, we are one. “And who is like your people Israel, one nation in the Land!” (II Samuel 7:23). The Zohar teaches that without Eretz Yisrael we are not one nation, and only in Eretz Yisrael are we one.
And just as in Egypt G-d placed us in the iron crucible of servitude and affliction in order to make us one nation, so, now, G-d is bringing us into the iron crucible of our land, our country and our army, in order to make us once more a single people, to bring together the tree of Judah and the tree of Ephraim so that they can be a single tree.
On still a higher level of holiness is “Jerusalem, built as a city joined in harmony” (Psalm 122:3), which renders all Israel “chaverim”, friends (Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 3:6).
As is well known, for our sages, the word “chaver” can also mean a Torah scholar. All year long, there is a sort of split between Torah scholars and the ignorant, because Torah scholars do not rely on them so much in kashrut matters. Yet when Israel make the festival pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the law changes and even the ignorant have the status of “chaverim” regarding certain aspects of kashrut, and then, all Israel are chaverim.
So, if Eretz Yisrael is the central bolt, holding the ends together, Jerusalem is the upper bolt, unifying the nation, their spiritual stitching from above. That divine spirit flows through us. Even if we do not see it, an ethereal flame burns in the soul of every Jew.
The better we understand this, the more we will progress in building our land.

Rabbi Yaakov Filber

Selecting a Leader for the People

Many crises have beset Israeli society in these times. The greatest one is the crisis of leadership. This crisis affects all spheres, and it may be that all other crises stem from it.

When the Jewish People suffer from inferior leadership, sometimes it is because they have foolishly chosen such leaders for themselves. Yet sometimes their bad leadership is a punishment from Heaven for the corrupt behavior of the public. As the Talmud states (Bava Kamma 52a), “A goat leads the flock. When the shepherd is angry at the flock he blinds the goat.” Rashi explains: “Blinding the goat makes it fall into pits, and the flock falls in after it. Likewise, when G-d wants to punish Israel, He appoints disreputable leaders for them.”

The blind goat is an example of a failure in leadership. Another example is the spies who were sent to spy out the Land.

When Moses sees that he is about to conclude his task, he understands that finding a good leader to replace himself cannot be taken for granted. Thus he does not rely on Israel to appoint themselves the continuing leadership. Yet at the same time he does not rely on himself either. Moreover, he does not do what Jacob did before his death, delineating for each of his sons that son’s specific role. Rather, he asks, “Let G-d appoint a man over the community” (Numbers 27:15). Why did Moses pass to G-d the task of choosing Moses’s own replacement? Our sages teach (Gittin 14a), ‘A person cannot truly grasp what the Torah says until he fails in its regard.” Such a failure Moses experienced when he chose the spies who went into the Land. Although Moses had chosen the finest leaders, in the final test of the result, he failed. Therefore, when he had to choose a new leader for the Jewish People, he asked G-d to do it: “Let the Ominipotent G-d of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let G-d’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:15).

The Midrash comments: “When Moses heard that he was going to die, he began to pray for G-d to show Israel mercy, that G-d should provide them with a shepherd who would have the personality to bear them. He said, ‘Master of the Universe! You know all the personalities of people, who is tolerant, who is ill-tempered. Appoint over Israel a leader who will go forth before them in the Desert, taking care of all their needs, leading them out quickly and aiding them with his prayers.”

Another example of the possibility of failure in choosing a leader for Israel we find when the Prophet Samuel is asked to find a replacement for Saul. Even though Samuel was himself totally devoted to the Jewish People, he erred when he saw David and his brothers, thinking that David’s older brother, the tall, handsome Eliav was the one chosen by G-d to be king. Here G-d apprised him of his error, saying, “Man can see with his eyes, but G-d sees into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

Today as well we need a leader such as Moses requested. However important such a request is in any other generation, in our own generation it is imperative, and we pray that G-d will provide such leadership speedily in our day.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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