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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Without thoughts of repentance, without the comfort and security it provides, no person could find solace, and spiritual life could not develop”
(Orot HaTeshuvah 5:6)

Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
Mutual Responsibility

“Hidden things may pertain to the L-rd our G-d, but that which has been revealed applies to us and our children, forever. We must therefore keep all the words of this Torah” (Deuteronomy 29:28). Rashi comments, “I [Moshe] do not punish you for ‘hidden things,’ i.e., what is hidden in your heart. That pertains to G-d.” It is G-d who will punish that individual about whom it says, “Today, there must not be among you any man, woman, family or tribe, whose heart strays from G-d, and who goes and worships the gods of those nations” (verse 17).

As for “what is revealed,” that applies to us and our children. We must destroy the evil from our midst. If we do not execute judgment against sinners, the masses will be punished by G-d. And even regarding that which is revealed, G-d did not punish the masses until Israel had crossed the Jordan and undertaken the oath at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval, by which all of Israel because one another’s guarantors (see Rashi there). Indeed, when they crossed the Jordan and Achan violated the taboo, the entire nation was punished, suffering defeat at the War of Ai, which melted the hearts of the people like water (Joshua 7:5). Only after judgment was executed against Achan, whose sin brought suffering upon the entire nation, did Israel achieve a great victory in the second war on Ai.

Today, a covenant of mutual responsibility has been renewed in our generation with the establishment of the State of Israel. The immoral behavior and corruption of the individual is not the private business of this person or that. It affects the entire nation and influences the plight of society, security and the economy. Upon all of us rests the responsibility to educate ourselves and others to integrity and morality, good character and fine deeds, and we must help others to return to Jewish sources and roots, for it was from there that the Jewish People have drawn life from time immemorial. “It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it” (Proverbs 3:18).

At the same time, we have to take to task those corrupt individuals, especially if they hold the reins of leadership, whose immoral and irresponsible behavior have a negative influence on the entire nation. During this season, the time of Selichot and judgment, we must search our souls, as individuals and as a nation, eradicating evil and rectifying whatever needs improvement. By such means, we shall march forward on the path winding upward towards complete redemption and repentance. And may we merit salvation and great consolation. With blessings for a good, sweet year, and looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El

Why Eretz Yisrael?

Question: Why is Eretz Yisrael the only thing that interests you people? You’re fixated on it! Certainly it’s important, but there are other important things: Torah study and mitzvah observance, education and our country’s social problems.
Answer: Indeed, this claim has provided a ready excuse for complaining over the years, and there are two answers to it. First, why be inaccurate? Why mislead and trick people? It isn’t true. We’re involved in Eretz Yisrael, but also in Torah learning and mitzvah observance and education and social issues. “Everything G-d said, we will do and obey” (Exodus 24:27). And precisely because the battlefront is so long, we have to work on ourselves in every one of these spheres, and G-d will come to our aid.
Second of all, are we properly devoted to Eretz Yisrael? It should only be so! Surely you can’t suspect Moses of not being devoted to Torah and mitzvoth, education and society, yet he still begged to enter Eretz Yisrael: “I beseeched G-d at that time saying, ‘Let me pass through and see the good land…’” (Deuteronomy 3:23-25). G-d finally said to him, “You’ve said enough!” (verse 26). Don’t ask anymore. “Let people not say, ‘How unfair the master! How stubborn and incalcitrant the disciple!” (Rashi). That shows how vociferously Moses begged. “Here is one of three places where Moses told G-d, ‘I won’t relent until You tell me if You’re going to fulfill my request or not” (Rashi, verse 23). Yet surely Moses had a reason for doing so. Eretz Yisrael has profound importance, the very most profound importance of all. It was only for a matter of such profundity that Moses begged G-d in this manner.
And Eretz Yisrael involves not just one profound matter, but 252 profound matters. Rav Natan Shapiro, the Chief Rabbi of Cracow, born in 1591, was one of the greatest mekubalim [mystics] of Poland in his day. His entire book “Megaleh Amukot” is devoted to those same 252 arguments used by Moses to explain why he craved to enter the Land. He did not invent them all. Rather, they are taken from the works of Rabbi Menachem Racanati, the “Rokeach”, from the Arizal, from Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Pano, from Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and from Rambam’s Guide to the Perplexed. (see the work, “Kol HaNevu’a”, by Rabbi David HaKohen, “the Nazir”, page 269). For example, number four is this: “If someone possesses the merit from Eretz Yisrael, he can rid the world of its craving for idolatry.” Also, Eretz Yisrael is a key to “attaining the secret of wisdom… because the air of Eretz Yisrael makes one wise.” Certainly Moses was full of divine wisdom, yet he still craved to enter Eretz Yisrael to add on more.
Principle 170 is this: Eretz Yisrael is the key to fulfilling “The humble shall inherit the Land” (Psalms 37:11), for the culmination of all character traits is humility.”Certainly Moses was the most humble man on earth. Even so, he longed to enter the Land to become more so.
Principle 187: “Eretz Yisrael is the key to bringing all the nations under the wings of the Divine Presence. That’s why Moses beseeched Hashem. He was acting for the sake of Heaven, with the intent of helping all mankind to serve G-d.”
Indeed, Eretz Yisrael is a very profound matter. And may we merit to become more closely attached to Eretz Yisrael and to delve more deeply in the topic of Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Eyal Vered
“Let Me Hear Your Voice” – “The Shofar”

The central mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the Shofar. Although this mitzvah is decreed by the Torah (Leviticus 23:24), Rambam offered a further allusion, saying, “Awaken, sleepers from your sleep, and slumberers from your slumber! Improve [shifru] your deeds!” We, as well, shall follow in his footsteps and try to find in the details regarding shofar, allusions to man’s service on Rosh Hashanah.

As is well-known, there is no mitzvah to blow a shofar, but only to hear it. On the Day of Judgment, a man is required to LISTEN. All year long the mouth doesn’t stop talking, until we sometimes forget, through so much talk, that man’s main task is to listen – active listening, constructive listening, the sort that enables one to absorb exalted matters and to internalize them. Reality has its own voice. We need only listen. We need only open up to the voice of G-d knocking on the door of man’s heart and calling on him to return to his life and to the life of his soul.

The origin of sin involves man being frightened by G-d’s voice instead of letting it give him life: “Adam said, ‘I heard your voice in the Garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). Hence, in order not to hear this voice which demands of man the primal question, “Where are you?” man creates an unceasing babble of noise throughout the year. We therefore have this day, in which the shofar blast creates listening: “He shall blow the great shofar and the delicate sound of silence shall be heard” (Rosh Hashanah prayers). Here it becomes clear that only by way of silence can G-d be heard. The shofar helps us to understand that our chief task is to listen to G-d’s word and to the divine reality that is revealed to us, in our souls, in space and in time.

The Bent Shofar
Jewish law requires that the shofar be bent, an allusion to us that we must bend our hearts in submission. A person arrives at the day of judgment loaded down with an entire year of arrogance. He is proud of how much he has accomplished during the past year, and he credits himself for it. Yet one cannot approach the King in such a state, for such a person cannot accept anyone else as master. Arrogance is a curtain that cuts us off from G-d, as our sages said, “If someone is arrogant, G-d and he cannot coexist together.” To coexist with G-d we must bend ourselves to submit… “Bending the heart” means developing great humility, thereby making clear to us that we are not setting out to ask G-d for something in exchange for this or that deed which we accomplished. Quite the contrary, we approach G-d as paupers, citing only our descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Full of abject humility, we understand that it is a free gift that we are seeking.

The Simple Tekiah Blast
The basic unprocessed sound that emerges from the inner depths of man is simple and uncomplicated. It expresses man’s simple longing to be close to G-d, to be upright and good in his actions, without calculations of profit and honor, with closeness to G-d being the most appropriate thing for man, and his greatest source of joy.
Before the other sounds of the shofar complicates matters, the shevarim and teruah with their emotional crises, one must remember what the starting point is. The foundation is simplicity. From there it all begins and to there it all returns. We therefore start with the tekiah.

Now comes the time to take a look at our present situation and to see just how fragmented it is. The result is not a simple sound, but a broken one, representing crisis. Life is divided up into different segments. We pray, we eat, we study Torah, we engage in mundane affairs, and generally we do not see the connection between these elements.
Yet life is actually simple and contiguous. Holiness is not confined to one corner or another, but bursts forth from everything man does. This is our primary level, and to that level we shall return. G-d says, “In the past I gave you Torah, and in the future I shall give you life.” Yet in the meantime, we are in a situation of fracture, of discontinuity, of dissonance between matter and spirit, the soul and the body. Each of these pulls in its own direction, and we have to create peace between the warring parties.
This is an illness over which we should be moaning, just as a sick person moans from deep in his heart over his plight. We should moan over the simplicity lost to us, over the sophistication and superficial luster that inundate our lives, over our terrible breakdown when we all chose to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, the tree of complex awareness, when we followed the advice of the serpent, so sly that he offered us illusory sophistication. We should instead have kept eating from the Tree of Life, from life itself, which sings out G-d’s glory in so simple and clear a manner, without any need of clever explanations.

The word “teruah” carries an allusion to the words, “Awaken [uru] sleepers, from your sleep.” The five Hebrew letters of “teruah” also spell out “erut Hashem” – “awakening by G-d”. In Parashat Bereshit we learn that G-d placed Adam in a deep sleep. NOWHERE DOES IT SAY THAT HE AWOKE. We are asleep, and we have a duty to awaken. The main lesson to be learned is that it is possible to awaken! What sometimes seems like such deep sleep can be transformed into a great awakening. We are the “people familiar with the teruah” (Psalm 89:16). We know the secret of awakening. “I am asleep but my heart is awake” (Song of Songs 5:2). The teruah serves to teach us: “You have it in your power to limit the gaps, to bring them closer together, to turn your lives into a contiguous, uniform whole, almost perfect like the tekiah with which we started. Do not despair! Awaken! Rejoice! Rediscover the light of G-d that fills up all the universes and sustains them. Crown G-d King over yourselves and over the entire world! Make it known to all that the world is not pandemonium, that the Divine Presence shall one day be revealed once more. Awaken and sing! G-d’s glory is to you revealed!

The Tekiah after Each Group
This second tekiah is entirely addressed to the great future that awaits us. We have not despaired of hoping for it. We stand at Rosh Hashanah and we proclaim that the end of this process will come when we once more hear the contiguous, rather than broken, shofar blast, the sound of the great shofar that will be blown and that will restore all to its original state; that will reconcile sons to their fathers and fathers to their sons; that will return sons to their borders, and the Divine Presence to its abode: “On that day, a great horn shall be blown; and all those lost in Assyria and dispersed in Egypt shall come; and they shall worship the L-rd on the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13). All the various dispersed Jews in the various Egypts will emerge to eternal freedom. The world will become, once more, a world of spiritual listening. Hearing will be the chief thing, and not speech. Then even the King will be happy to hear us, saying, “Let Me hear your voice, for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is comely” (Song of Songs 2:14).

Translation: R. Blumberg

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