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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The heart yearns for the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael, the faith of Eretz Yisrael, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Where can we derive the joy of Eretz Yisrael, the inner tranquility of Eretz Yisrael, the devotion of Eretz Yisrael, the Truth of Eretz Yisrael?” (Eretz Chefetz, 50)

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Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Israel as a Nation”

The Nation of Israel was born in Egypt. They went down to Egypt numbering seventy, and they left Egypt a nation. The first to discern their peoplehood was Pharaoh, of all people, who announced to Egypt: “The People of Israel are becoming too numerous and strong for us” (Exodus 1:9). Wicked Pharaoh, enemy of Israel, was the first to identify us as a nation with a special spirit that threatened both him and all of Egypt, sunk at the bottom of the forty-ninth rung of impurity. Pharaoh said, “We must deal wisely with them. Otherwise, they may increase so much that if there is war they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving us out of the land” (verse 10).

The fact that we did not then identify ourselves as a nation is no coincidence. Imagine a newborn infant. At first he does not know himself. He has no idea of his own worth or of the good soul within him. Only his parents and others from outside can see the infant’s good soul and rejoice over it. Only when the infant grows up does he identify himself, know his own talents and find his purpose in the world.

It was the same with the Jewish People. When they were first formed as a nation, they did not know themselves, or their worth or task. The hatred of Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel taught us the hard way that indeed Israel is a nation. The plagues, the exodus, the splitting of the sea and the Torah’s Revelation all taught Israel by positive means the difference between Israel and the nations. It showed them that G-d had lovingly chosen them and that they were a special people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation whose task it is to bestow light and goodness on the world.

Today we are living in the age of Holocaust and rebirth. In the Holocaust we learned in the hardest way imaginable that there is a Jewish People. The Nazis – may their name be blotted out – in their hatred for Jews, identified us, marked us and murdered us because we are Jews. And just as Pharaoh identified us first as a people and sought to kill us and our children, today, as well, unfortunately, anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews in general, and hatred of the State of Israel as a Jewish State are leading us against our will to recognize our special identity as a nation and as a unique people.

Yet the time has come for us to recognize the identity and role of the Jewish People by positive means. We must study and recognize our nation’s uniqueness and their historic destiny for the world as the people chosen by G-d. G-d continues to choose us from amongst all peoples so that we can bring good to the world.

The time has come for us to acknowledge our greatness and worth. After all, the reason the Arabs and the nations who support them fight against us is that they wish to extinguish the light of Israel which is growing brighter in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the entire world. Quite the contrary, we must recognize our identity, worth and destiny, and we must fight with fortitude and valor for our survival and independence and for the land that was safeguarded in our hands. If we recognize that we are fighting not just a national fight for our survival, but a war in which the black clouds of murderous terror are threatening all of mankind, then through strength and valor we will merit peace, for “The L-rd will grant strength to His people. He will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Don’t Despair – We’ll be Back”

Question: I am consumed with despair. What’s going to be with the Jewish People? What’s going to be with us?

Answer: You’ve hit the nail on the head. The main problem is what you said it is: despair. The Seer from Lublin said that Satan’s main activity is not making us sin, but leading us to despair by way of repeated sins, and ensnaring wretched souls in the web of the sin of despair. After all, our sadness over sin impedes our serving G-d more than sin itself. As Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook wrote, in the wake of the Holocaust: “Just as ‘sinful thought is worse than sin itself’ (Yoma 29a), so are the fear of suffering and its concomitant trauma worse for the Jewish People than the suffering itself” (LiNetivot Yisrael 1:63).

How fortunate we are that we have “Eretz Yisrael youth” who have not despaired. On Chanuka they established twenty-four outposts. And all that followed the establishment of an outpost just after Succot, when those youth bore curses, beatings and foul language. This gentle youth approached that first encounter without any violent intentions. They had only singing and dancing in mind, and a decision that should the authorities come to remove them, they would leave by themselves. Indeed, they provided no provocations and didn’t raise a hand. Even so, they were treated like criminals and enemies. They were brutally beaten. Girls were pulled by the hair or dragged by their legs over rocks and thorns. The authorities used fists to hit them in the face, the eyes, the nose, the teeth. The youth were thrown to the ground, cruelly kicked, arms were twisted and they were shoved like animals. And what did that youth have to say after that first experience? “We shall return!” And they returned!

Indeed, such is the nature of reality, that we do not always succeed. After all, we are not alone in this country. There are those who do not think like us. Hence it is impossible to hope that everything will always go according to our expectations. Here is an example. In the terrible episode of the concubine murdered at Giva (Judges 20), four hundred thousand from all of Israel gathered together against twenty-six thousand from the tribe of Binyamin. Seemingly, victory by the former was guaranteed. Yet they asked, employing the Urim VaTumim, who should attack first, and the answer they received was “Judah first.” In the battle that followed, twenty-two thousand Israelites fell. They mustered their forces to fight again, weeping before G-d, and this time they asked, “Shall we continue the battle?” The answer received was, “Go up against him.” Yet on the second day, once more, eighteen thousand fell. So they wept and fasted and asked the Ark of the Covenant of G-d whether they should go forth in battle, and the answer they received was, “Go forth, for tomorrow I shall deliver them into your hand.” This time, they won.
We have to ask: The first two times, was G-d giving them a misleading answer? No, explains Rabbi Yonatan Eibschutz. It was all one war, composed of several battles, and every battle weakened the enemy, even if it itself did not prove successful (Ye’arot Devash, Drush 4). Such is the nature of the world, that a war is composed of many battles, and the main thing is not to tire. And from whence shall we draw the strength not to tire? From G-d. “Did you not know? Have you not heard that Everlasting G-d, the L-rd, Creator of the ends of the earth is never faint nor weary? He is untiring in His wisdom” (Isaiah 40:28).

Certainly, if G-d created the world and everything in it, heaven and earth and all their hosts, He must never tire. After all, according to astronomical assessments, there are a hundred billion galaxies, and in every galaxy there are a hundred billion stars. Thus G-d certainly never tires. Moreover, “He grants strength to the weary, and to the impotent He increases might” (ibid., verse 29). It was in accordance with this verse that the morning blessing to G-d who “grants strength to the weary” was ordained.

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (verse 30). Unfortunately there are youths who despite their hot-bloodedness are already weary types.
By contrast, “They that wait for the L-rd shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (verse 31). Even older people who believe in G-d are full of fortitude and constant valor. The background behind the famous words of comfort from Isaiah 40 is that the people had hoped that King Chizkiyahu would be the Messiah, yet it didn’t come to pass (Sanhedrin 94a). In response, Isaiah teaches us that this is no reason to despair. It is only a temporary delay. We must be strong and courageous, young and old, and then we will surely persevere in accordance with the command of Hashem, G-d and Redeemer of Israel.

Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
“Teenagers and Growing Up”
(Part 4)

The onset and conclusion of adolescence change over the course of time. In recent generations two significant changes have transpired. The first has to do with the appearance of physiological signs of maturation. These appear earlier than in the past (for example, the monthly cycle among girls). Researchers tend to explain that the cause for this is the change in eating habits (we eat more and better food. The proof is that in populations suffering from malnutrition the physiological signs appear later. Obviously, the early appearance of physiological signs (and of increased hormonal activity) has numerous psychological and behavioral ramifications.

The second change has to do with the age range of adolescence. During the adolescent years the teen consolidates his personal identity. He determines who he is, what are his ambitions and his life’s goals, and with which figures he identifies. He crystallizes his opinion on fundamental spiritual issues. At the end of the clarification period, he emerges with a cohesive psychological and spiritual identity. In the past, this entire process took no more than a few years. In recent generations, it is taking longer and longer. It no longer ends at age eighteen, nor at age twenty-one, but at around twenty-five and sometimes later.

During adolescence the teen moves from a familial identity (in which he is an integral part of his family and his identity is determined by them), to a new identity that is both personal and independent. Before adolescence he was subsumed within the family. He imbibed from it and was a reflection of it. He had a clear identity, as part of his family. In adolescence he ceases his dependence on his family and consolidates an independent identity, built of layers taken from the family identity and of new layers that he has produced from within himself or has absorbed from his surroundings. In the not-too-distant past, this transition period was relatively short, as well as continuous. The new identity replaced the old one. In the transition from the old identity to the new one, there was overlap. Even when the transition created a confused twilight period, there was no vacuum.

Today the process is very long, and it is not continuous. The teen casts off his old identity, but he does not adopt a well-defined new one. He does not express any will to consolidate a well-defined personal identity. Rather, he prefers to make no commitment. He does not wish to commit himself to his past, the way of life in which he was raised, nor to his future. He has no long-range plans, and sometimes no short-range plans either. For example, in recent years, the number of twelfth graders who do not know where they are going at the end of the school year has grown. Month by month they push off the decision – army? Pre-military yeshiva? Yeshiva? Which yeshiva? When they complete their army service, years go by until they choose a course of study and a profession. Along the way they switch from one track to another. Amongst the girls as well, the decision-making process stretches out over years – National Service (one year or two), seminary, professional studies, choosing a career. There are an infinite number of decisions to make, and the young people wander from place to place.

The new breed of teen is not interested in adopting a clear personal identity. He is not committed to a particular path, doctrine or stable worldview. He enjoys the uncertainty, the vagueness. A not insignificant percentage of teens (even amongst the religious) who fit the above the description find their way to frameworks that require no commitment. Some people have labeled this “extended” or “ongoing” adolescence.

Obviously, this entire period is characterized by instability. This includes instability in the realm of values (finding expression in extreme shifts in religious level), as well as in the psychological and emotional realm. The teen senses that he is in a transition period. His decisions are spontaneous and reflect little commitment. Uncertainty and fickleness become the teen’s long-term emotional legacy. Trips to the Far-East are a natural addition during this period. Far from his oppressive surroundings, he can enjoy a total lack of commitment. There, the pressure is off. The backpack trip likewise exacerbates matters, because it further pushes off the decision-making process.

This phenomenon is world-wide. It finds special expression in Israeli society, and special expression in religious society. What is the root of the phenomenon? Some hold that it is rooted in the luxury and indulgence of Western Society. That society demands nothing of teens. It allows them to live for a number of years without taking account of themselves. It also enables them socially and economically not to make any commitments. No one is pressuring them to speed up the processes of consolidating their identities. Hence they have time. Some hold that the source of the phenomenon lies in the later marriage age. In the distant past, people wed earlier. At a relatively young age, young people were faced with responsibility for a family and earning a living. They were required to make quick mental preparations for all this, and they passed the test.

Moreover, an essential prerequisite for building a home and consolidating one’s married life is defining one’s identity. If someone has not yet done this, how will he succeed in forging a relationship with a spouse? All this pushed young people to consolidate their identities quickly. Today, with young people marrying later, there is nothing pushing them. Some argue, counter to the last theory, that it is hard to determine what comes first, the “chicken” or the “egg”. Are late marriages the root of the phenomenon of extended adolescence, or are they the result of extended adolescence which delays consolidating one’s identity, itself a prerequisite for choosing one’s spouse and building a stable family. One way or the other, there is clearly a connection between the two. (to be continued…)

Catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).

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