From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The ascendance of lofty spirituality strengthens practical action and increases interest in the world, in life and in all it contains… The more those practical elements expand and are consolidated, the greater the influence of spirituality, in all its holiness and truth, upon the world and upon life. The light of Israel then illuminates the world with its consummate beauty”
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Month of Mercy
We are now in Elul, the month of repentance and mercy. What is this mercy that we are in such great need of in general, and especially at this time? Ramchal [Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto] explains in his work Mesillat Yesharim:
“G-d rules over His world with Strict Judgment, responding measure for measure to our deeds. However a person conducts himself, that is how G-d treats him. G-d watches over everything, large or small, and rewards a person according to his works: ‘G-d declares to man what is his speech’ (Amos 3:13). Even a man’s light conversation with his wife is declared to him at his judgment. ‘For G-d shall bring every work into the judgment concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or evil’ (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
“‘Strict judgment’ means that G-d judges everything, and that He punishes for every sin, and we cannot escape. If G-d is strict regarding every sin, what then is ‘mercy’? ‘Mercy’ refers to the continued existence of the universe, for without mercy, the universe could not continue to exist. This trait represents G-d going beyond the letter of the law with us.
“With strict judgment, it would be appropriate for a sinner to be punished immediately upon sinning. Moreover, the punishment would be divine wrath appropriate for someone who rebels against G-d, and it would be impossible for him to ever rectify his sin. After all, once someone has sinned, once he has murdered or committed adultery, how can he make amends? Seemingly, it is impossible to remove something from existence.
“Thus the trait of mercy provides the opposite result of that obtained from Strict Judgment. First of all, it provides the sinner with time, such that he is not punished immediately. Also, the punishment itself is not carried out with overwhelming wrath. The person’s rectification, i.e., his repentance, is treated with complete kindness. That is, if someone fully regrets his act and takes upon himself not to repeat it, his uprooting his will that brought him to sin is then treated as though he had uprooted the deed from existence. It is the same as when one nullifies a vow, where the vow is uprooted from existence. As the prophet said (Isaiah 6:7), ‘Your iniquity shall be taken away and your sin expiated.’ The sin is removed from existence. This represents total kindness beyond the letter of the law.” (Mesillat Yesharim Ch. 4).
G-d treats His creatures mercifully, i.e., patiently, allowing them an opportunity to make amends, and going beyond the letter of the law. We as well must follow G-d’s ways. Just as G-d is merciful, so must we be merciful. Just as He is kind, so must we be kind. We must make a great effort to make peace with our fellow man. We must make peace within the family, husbands with wives, and children with parents. We must find a way to achieve peace within our nation, without conceding the least bit on the truth of Torah and our belief that Eretz Yisrael belongs only to the Jewish People. Valor and wisdom in life consist of living together despite disagreements. That is how it is in the individual family, and that is how it is within the Jewish People. Through this, may we merit G-d’s mercy in judgment, and may through us be fulfilled the words of the prayer: “Rule over us speedily, O G-d, alone, in kindness and mercy.” Let the year and its curses end and let the new year and its blessings begin. Looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Mysticism – Indolence – Fraud
Question: People avail themselves of all sorts of mystical channels to solve their problems: astrology, praying at the graves of the righteous, reading tea leaves, mystics and miracle workers, energy transfer, battling the evil eye, etc. Is there any truth to these things? People claim that mysticism can solve all your ills, and the fact is that it works! What is certain is that many people are attracted to these things. After all, mystical Torah secrets exist in this world! Not everything is rational in life!
Answer: Our master, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook said that not everything people say is true, and that only the fool believes everything. At the same time, you can’t deny everything. Some of it is true. One thing is certain: the spread of such things does enormous damage to mankind (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, Bereshit, pps. 310-313).
Indeed, the result is great harm, involving man’s becoming accustomed to indolence and idleness, fantasies and illusions, and to distancing himself from hard work.
Our sages taught us the way of the Torah, that “Man is born for toil” (Job 5:7), as Ramchal explains in Mesillat Yesharim (Chapter 9). Everything is toil. Even prayer is toil, and not sensory reverie. Even spiritual elevation is toil, and not a free gift of pleasure from a charismatic personality….
In a word, people have created an alternative Torah-bypass route, devoid of toil.
There are several ways to tell a fraud, and one way is monetary. A true healer does not seek money from the unfortunate. Rather, his goal is to be benevolent. Quite the contrary, he distributes money to them. You can tell false mysticism when they demand money for holy water, standing bank orders in exchange for rectification of the soul, and even your political vote in exchange for all the blessings of this world and the next.
They’re big experts in “Kabbalah” [Hebrew: “receiving”] and what they receive is money, and usually they hand out no tax receipt, and many of them have been sued by the tax authorities.
Wisdom is generally lacking as well. There’s nothing holy about them, and they carry no approbation from the great halachic authorities. Undoubtedly, people are attracted to this out of curiosity, idleness, or disappointment with science.
Obviously, I’m not talking here about blessed scientific curiosity, but about unhealthy curiosity. Magic is always captivating.
Without a doubt, science occasionally disappoints us. Certainly, it doesn’t have answers for everything, and there are cracks in its surface. Yet we mustn’t make it out to be worse than it is.
One can have no claims against the child for having a childish mentality, for believing in magic. Yet people have to get over that. They have to grow up and shake off that mentality. Alas the flight from common sense cuts across national and sectarian boundaries.
Does mysticism work? Certainly! This is because 80% of illnesses cure themselves spontaneously. A third of pains disappear with the help of sugar-pills and placebos. To verify the efficacy of a treatment, you need a controlled, random study, being carried out identically in two different places.
Certainly the mystical secrets of the Torah really exist, yet none of the things described above fit that category. The secrets of the Torah constitute profound wisdom which deals with the most profound questions: G-d’s rule over the world, the meaning of life, reward and punishment, etc.
By contrast, all of this nonsense and fraud is enormously superficial. The problem is not that the practitioners in question are not rational. Certainly there are things that transcend the intellect. Yet none of the things described above are secrets of the Torah. They simply are not Torah, but another pathway of an alternative religion.
Instead of serving God, instead of mitzvoth, they invent things that are not part of the Torah, and that sometimes diverge from the Torah.
Certainly our sages mentioned paying visits to the graves of the righteous, yet even the dead admit that this is not the main thing in the Torah. The evil eye is mentioned as well, but not in the shallow meaning that people attribute to it (see Ein Aya, Berachot 20).
Certainly Ruach HaKodesh, divine intuition, exists, but it does not easily rest upon a person, but only following the protracted journey described in Mesillat Yesharim, consisting of achieving nine distinct spiritual levels, each one higher than the one preceding it: caution, alacrity, wholesomeness, separation from sin, purity, saintliness, humility, the fear of sin, and holiness.
It is well-known that many people believe in astrology, the evil eye and reading tea leaves. Yet we, disciples of Abraham and disciples of Moses, say, “Have complete faith in Hashem, your G-d” (Deuteronomy 18:13), and gradually, the Torah’s light will spread.
Rabbi Eran Tamir
For or Against the Evil Impulse?
The Torah’s allowing soldiers to marry a non-Jewish female captive following victory in war, even if she is already married, is exceedingly puzzling. Our sages’ explanation, quoted by Rashi, just adds to the puzzlement: “The Torah was only working against the evil impulse. If G-d did not allow such a marriage, the soldier would marry her in sin.” Does this permission work “against” the evil impulse? Surely nothing could be more in favor of the evil impulse than this! Could a man’s base impulses be so overpowering that even the Torah would surrender before them? What then is the reason for this “strange” permission, the likes of which we seemingly find nowhere else in the entire Torah?
Meshech Chochmah (Genesis 9:2) explains in this regard a major principle associated with the entire Torah, and with the nature of the connection between the Torah and man: “G-d’s laws and His ways are pleasant, and all the Torah’s paths are peace. The Torah did not burden a Jew with what he physically cannot bear. With everything forbidden to him, the Torah did not deprive him of some permissible alternative (Chulin 109b – it forbade eating blood, but it permitted eating liver; it forbade eating pork but it permitted carp, whose taste is similar, etc.). For this reason, we find no mitzvah to afflict ourselves except for one day a year [Yom Kippur] and on the day preceding, the Torah warns and obligates us to eat. Likewise, the Torah did not deprive any creature of sexual intercourse, except for Moses… Moreover, in battle, when victory comes, and the great inner warmth and the feeling of release, the Omniscient G-d knew that at that moment it is impossible to stop a man’s passion for a beautiful woman, hence the Torah allowed the married female captive to the Jewish soldier. As our sages said, ‘The Torah was only working against the evil impulse.’”
Thus, the Torah does not block the evil impulse and does not fight it. All of the Torah’s commands are attuned to the evil impulse, and all of man’s natural energies are within the evil impulse and are dependent upon it, with their task being to direct, route and guide the evil impulse to its proper, realistic place in building the world.
Yet it goes still further. In extreme cases such as our own, following victory in war, when the fighters are released from all the pressures and tensions that afflicted them during the fighting, and their spirits break free, together with all of their human, natural life-forces which want to find fulfillment and satisfaction, G-d “knows” that it is impossible and forbidden to stop the awakening of those natural forces. Hence He permitted (obviously according to the Torah’s stipulations) the soldier to wed even the beautiful captive wife.
This phenomenon is an individual detail that attests to the general rule. G-d says, “I created the evil impulse and I created the Torah as its spice.” The task of Torah and mitzvoth is to act as a “spice,” to provide the appropriate flavor to the evil impulse and to all the natural life-forces in man, not to weaken them or, G-d forbid, to nullify them. Following this principle, Meshech Chochmah there explains numerous laws, such as the reason for a woman’s being exempt from the mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply: Pregnancy and childbirth involve pain and danger to the point of risk to life. Who would want, a priori, to place himself in such pain and danger? The Torah therefore exempted women from this mitzvah, placing the responsibility for this mitzvah on man alone. Obviously a woman is partner to the mitzvah, yet she is not classed as being commanded to fulfill it.
May we merit to “spice” our “food,” i.e., the evil impulse, and may we merit fulfillment of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s words in this context (Orot HaTorah): “The Torah has to permeate all walks of life… When they are illuminated with the light of Torah, the Torah is then greatly blessed, and the evil impulse itself ascends, is sanctified and is transformed into something good. The prosecutor itself becomes the defender, and the object by which one is smitten becomes the cure… ‘I created the evil impulse and I created the Torah as its spice.”
Translation: R. Blumberg
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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
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