From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Then, one clear day, all those gone astray shall return…and clearly understand that even the negative roles…were always directed by G-d, who controls the generations from start to finish… Then all His children gone far away will return and holiness will be evident in all the work of our builders in the land of our glory, forever”
(Ma’amarei HaReiyah 185)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“Let Our Suffering Not Drive Us Mad”
The Rambam’s father wrote a letter to the Jews of Morocco, against whom the Muslims had issued harsh decrees. In his letter, he offers them consolation and encouragement, strengthening their faith and trust in G-d:
“Let our suffering not drive us mad. Let us recall that our covenant is eternal and irrevocable. Surely, He who made it is the G-d of the universe… who chose His people Israel. How can He then abandon them? Surely He gave our people a name the likes of which He gave to no other being that He created [Israel, containing G-d’s own name]… G-d will not abandon us, neither will we abandon him. He cannot hate us. Shall a father hate his own son? Surely we are sons to the L-rd G-d… Let us cast no doubt on His fulfilling His promises to us, just as we cast no doubts on His very existence. From time to time, the nations attacking us will overcome us, pursuing us in their hatred, but we will stand firm by means of our faith in G-d’s promises… Let us pour out our hearts… during days of distress, times of torment and tribulation, days in which sons and daughters are being lost, days of cruelty and despair…let us find much consolation and become stronger in our faith…let us be reassured of our eternity and see our enemies as a momentary phenomenon, and our future redemption as everlasting. G-d will bring us joy, as it says, ‘Gladden us in proportion to the days wherein You have afflicted us, the years wherein we have seen evil’ (verse 15). And one of G-d’s days equals a thousand years of joy.”
Today, Shabbat Chazon, and tomorrow, the 9th of Av, the Jewish People weep and lament the Destruction and the troubles that have befallen us. Previously, there was the destruction of the First and Second Temples; the generation who betrayed Eretz Yisrael and died in the Desert; there was Beitar, which was destroyed, and the Temple Mount which was plowed. There was the expulsion from Spain over five hundred years ago. In our day, we witnessed the expulsion of Jews – by Jews – from Gush Katif and Samaria. Woe to us over what has befallen us!
Even so, despite everything, we believe and are certain that our troubles are a momentary phenomenon and our redemption will last forever. Our suffering shall not rob us of our sanity or our faith. We trust in G-d’s oath to be fulfilled: “You and your ancestors will long endure on the land that G-d swore to your ancestors, promising that He would give it to them as long as the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21). Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
The Spirit of Gush Katif
On the day of the destruction, the 9th of Av, the Gush Katif Head of Security, Ami Shaked, told me, “Until now Gush Katif was matter. Henceforth it will be spirit.” I said to myself, “I can see it! I can see eternity!”
Obviously, this does not cancel out the terrible destruction. After all, we’ve got a mitzvah to settle the tangible Land of Israel, not to settle an ethereal land of the spirit. G-d’s mitzvoth have to be fulfilled down here on earth, all the more so the mitzvah of Eretz Yisrael. Yet even when matter collapses, spirit remains, that which has been called, “the spirit of Gush Katif”.
Truth be told, people left Gush Katif with heads held high. One of them even said, “Before I leave, I am making a dinner in gratitude for all the good years I lived here.”
To what may this be compared? To the destruction of Beitar, which was terrible indeed (Gittin 57). Bar Kochba’s entire rebellion went up in smoke on another Tisha B’Av (Rambam, Ta’anit 5:3). All the same, later on our sages enacted a special blessing in the Grace after Meals when the martyrs of Beitar were handed over for burial: “HaTov VeHaMeitiv” [G-d is good and benevolent]. We note G-d’s goodness in not allowing the corpses to deteriorate, and His benevolence in causing them to be handed over for burial (Berachot 48).
Indeed, spirit does not decompose.
Some hold that Bar Kochba erred. Yet our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook did not hold that. Bar Kochba was right! True, he said, Bar Kochba failed in his struggle, but the spirit of the struggle remains forever, and thanks to it we shall fight in the future and regain our independence (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 202-203).
The people of Gush Katif did not deteriorate. They were “handed over for burial”, and they shall rise to rebirth. They aroused Israeli nationalism through their clinging to the Land, and through their enormous faith.
None of them ran to claim compensations, and none left in order to receive them. They all said, “This is our place! This is our mitzvah! We’re not going anywhere!”
Only when they had no choice did they start packing up. Some started late. Others started even later. Still others didn’t pack at all. All of them gave their all, each in his own way. Some went even further. What they all had in common was that all were working for the sake of heaven! Their struggle remains eternal! That same faith in G-d and that same devotion and that same valor all remain eternal! What led in this struggle is the Torah, spirit and faith. They were people of Torah, spirit and faith, and they were led by Torah scholars.
Their towns were destroyed, but the power of their faith was not destroyed, nor did it weaken in the least. Materially they suffered. All of them scorned the compensations, and they accepted them only so they could rebuild elsewhere.
It is not easy to live under conditions of uncertainty, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. For that you need great faith.
But you need humility. G-d’s ways are hidden. We can prepare a large feast and G-d will sweep it out into the sea. Conversely, if man chooses to be destructive, G-d can patch things up.
The people of Gush Katif did their part. They fulfilled their duty and far beyond it, during the many years of settlement, and the year of destruction. And the Master-of-the-Universe did His part, whether we understand it or not.
Likewise, when Abraham arrived in the Land, there was immediately a famine there, and his son Isaac was banished from Gerar.
And in the Israeli War of Independence, when many soldiers and officers fell, the members of the Hagana said, “We have to keep fighting. If we let sorrow win, we won’t be able to fight.”
We shall continue to fight with valor, joy and faith, and the truth will shine its light.
Responsa With Love
Tested Supernatural Remedies
Q: Have you got a supernatural remedy for staying healthy?
A: Prayer, repentance and giving charity.
Q: Are we obligated to follow the custom of Chalakeh and wait until age three before giving our son a haircut?
A: There is no such obligation at all.
Q: As a soldier, when I come back from engaging in strenuous security operations all night, I am extremely tired and I have no strength to pray.
A: Pray a shortened prayer: Morning blessings, Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, Yishtabach to Shemoneh Esreh, and Ashrei.
Q: What is the minimum length that one’s earlocks have to be?
A: Five millimeters.
Parva in a Meat Pot
Q: Is one allowed to cook parva food in a meat pot and then to eat it at a milk meal?
A: According to the Sefardim it is permitted, and according to the Ashkenazim it is permitted as well as long as the pot has not been used with meat in the last twenty-four hours before its present use.
Q: Should a girl recite “Modeh Ani” in masculine language or feminine language?
A: Feminine Language
Rabbi Yaakov Filber
Destruction and Exile
G-d told Ezekiel, “Have I any pleasure that the wicked should die? Surely I prefer that they should repent and live!” (18:23). This utterance serves to teach us that divine punishment is not meant as revenge to cause man pain, but as an educational lesson to help man rectify his sins. This being the case, the question is asked: Why, of all the punishments at its disposal did Divine Providence choose the destruction of the Second Temple and the Jewish commonwealth, and the exile of Israel from their land? As we say in our prayers, “Because of our sins we were banished from our land, and we were distanced from our soil.” Seemingly G-d could have left Israel in their land and punished them there with such punishments as hunger, plague, the sword, etc. Why of all punishments were destruction and exile chosen?
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook in his “Ein Aya” commentary on Berachot (Chapter 9, Ot 118) explains that divine providence punished the Jewish Nation with the destruction of their national center (i.e., the Temple) and exile from their land. That was the only punishment that could heal what was broken in the Jewish People. Why so? Our sages informed us that the sin that caused the Second Temple’s destruction was groundless hatred. This sin struck deep roots and spread throughout the nation. Ultimately there was no other way to uproot it except for scattering Israel throughout the exile, and dissolving all the old frameworks until all of Israel evolved into individuals. Then, every individual Jew would be able to mend his deeds and pathways, and later on, with the ingathering of the exiles, a new center would be built out of the souls refined in the crucible of the exile. As long as the old frameworks continued to function, all the shortcomings of deed, character and evil outlook from the generation of the destruction would continue to exist.
According to this explanation, we have to view groundless hatred as a malignant tumor spreading through the entire nation and liable to bring catastrophe. Taking this view of the situation, we can say that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai’s request to the Roman emperor, “Give me Yavne and its sages,” was not a non-ideal request, after the fact. Rather, he was asking it as an ideal goal, just as we agree to undergo an operation to remove a malignant limb in order to save the entire body.
To Rav Kook’s explanation that the exile and destruction served to refine us of sin, we can further say that Divine Providence carried this out for lack of a better choice. G-d may have preferred to leave Israel in their land and punish them there, but He couldn’t do that for the following reason: Their sin, groundless hatred, was described by the Netziv in his introduction to Genesis as follows: “The Jews of the Second Temple Period were righteous and saintly and toiled in Torah learning, yet they had a distorted view of the world. They therefore harbored groundless hatred for one another in their hearts. When they saw anyone with religious customs different from their own way of thinking, they suspected that person of being a Sadducee or heretic, until the Temple was destroyed.”
When we examine the Netziv’s words, we will find that those they suspected were G-d-fearing people who led daily faith-based lives, albeit different from the way of thinking of their accusers. Because of these differences, they allowed themselves to hate them. Each group thought that only they had the truth, and all the rest had strayed and sinned.
Now, let us imagine that in such an atmosphere all the social frameworks had remained in place, and G-d had punished Israel there in their land, with hunger or plague, etc. Would such a punishment have rectified the sin of hatred? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite is the case. Such punishments would have worsened and deepened the hatred. After all, each group would point an accusing finger and say, “Because of YOU this evil has befallen us!” Thus, not only would the punishment not have provided rectification but would have made the sin worse. Thus, G-d had not choice but to disband all the old groups and to exile Israel from their land, so that the people could be built anew. As Rav Kook wrote, “Later on, with the ingathering of the exiles, a new center would be built out of the souls refined in the crucible of the exile.”
Here we can seemingly ask: “Of what benefit was the exile if even today we are sunken in strife?” Yet it may be that today’s hatred is far removed from the hatred that existed before the destruction. Perhaps our sages had this in mind when they said that redemption was possible even without repentance, once the deadline alluded to in Isaiah 60:22 was reached. This jibes with the words of Ezekiel 36: “I will gather you out of all the countries and bring you into your own land” (verse 24), and only then, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be cleansed of all your uncleannesses…. A new heart also will I give you” (verse 25-26). We pray that all of this will be fulfilled speedily in our day.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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