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Shimini (Parashat Parah)

From the World of Rav Kook

“To love your fellow Jews and think well of them as individuals and as a People, does not only involve emotional effort. It also constitutes a sizable section of the Torah, involving broad, profound wisdom.”
(Orot p.148)

Rabbi Dov Begon, Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “May G-d’s favor rest upon us”

There were two crises on the eighth day of dedication of the Tabernacle. The first was when the Divine Presence was not revealed, even though Aaron had raised his hands to the people and blessed them. It says a second time, “Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle, and when they came out, they blessed the people” (Leviticus 9:23), and only then does it say, “The L-rd’s glory was revealed to all the people. Fire came forth…. When the people saw this, they raised their voices in praise, and threw themselves on their faces” (23-24).
Rashi explains: “When Aaron perceived that all the sacrifices had been offered and all the rites performed, and yet the Divine Presence had not descended for Israel, since the heavenly fire had not fallen to consume the sacrifice, he was uneasy and he said, ‘I am certain G-d is angry with me and it is on my account that the Divine Presence has not descended for Israel.’ He therefore said to Moses, ‘Brother Moses! What have you done to me? You know that I entered into this matter at your bidding and yet I have been put to shame.’ Moses at once entered the tent with him and they prayed. The Divine Presence then descended for Israel.
“‘And they came out and blessed the people’: They uttered the conclusion of Psalm 90: ‘May G-d’s favor rest upon us’ – i.e., May it be G-d’s will that the Divine Presence should rest upon the work of your hands.”
The second crisis was the death of Nadav and Avihu. Aaron’s reaction to this personal crisis was that he “remained silent” (Leviticus 10:3). For his silence, he was rewarded with G-d’s addressing him alone (Rashi).
As for the more general crisis, when the Divine Presence did not reveal itself to the Jewish People, there Aaron did not remain silent. Quite the contrary, he came with a complaint to Moses: “What have you done to me… I have been put to shame.” Yet with his personal crisis, the death of his two sons, he remained silent, and he even viewed this as a sanctification of G-d’s name.
Today, we have to distinguish between personal crises and those affecting the Jewish People, and know how to react to each. With personal crises, however painful, we have to accept them the way Aaron accepted the death of his sons, remaining silent. We mustn’t castigate G-d. We must accept divine justice.
With more general crises, however, when the Divine Presence does not reveal itself to the Jewish People, as with the Tabernacle’s erection, we mustn’t resign ourselves and remain silent. We must rise up and act: We must pray and ask mercy, and we must bless the Jewish People the way Moses and Aaron did. We must carry on with renewed strength, and with faith that the crisis is not coincidental. Rather, it comes about in order for us to discover within ourselves enormous strengths stored away in the soul of the nation. By such means we will continue on the upward path towards complete redemption and salvation, and we will merit to “have G-d’s favor rest upon us, and may G-d consolidate for us the works of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).
Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner: Chief Rabbi of Beit El

Question: Rabbi, I am really trying to love everyone, both those that agree with me and those that do not, the right and the left together. Yet I am caught in the crossfire from both directions. One group tells me: “Lunatic! Messianic rightist! Settler! Primitive occupier taking control of another people! Destroyer of Democracy! Fanatic! You’re off your rocker…etc.”
At the other extreme are those who tell me, “Idiot! Naïve exile Jew, trying to appease the leftist landowner! Spineless wimp, putting spokes in the wheels of the effort against the forces of evil with your inept, misguided love. You don’t understand that only going on the offense will help against the forces of darkness. Flatterer with your ‘groundless love’ of the predatory prime minister! Don’t you understand that the positive strategy of “reengagement” has gone bankrupt? Your ambition of “settling in the hearts” has brought us to the brink of destruction. Weakling! Coward!…etc.”
Rabbi, excuse me for having gone on at such length; I am already tired. I listen patiently to everyone, answer that we have love and it’s going to win, that Jerusalem was destroyed over groundless hatred and it shall be rebuilt through groundless love – and this just makes them all the more angry. They attack me with irrelevant arguments, and for no reason at all.
Answer: I got the point! Don’t take it to heart. A sharp odor of violence is permeating the air. It’s a tempting odor, intoxicating and addicting. Thank G-d, the violent people are an exception, a few percentiles of the population. They don’t represent anyone but themselves. They are the exception that proves the rule that we are a loving nation.
Be careful, every group has its extremists. Yet all of them are our brothers, even if they humiliate us. All the attacks, irrelevant insults, and incitement against us are good signs. It shows that they have nothing relevant to say. How fortunate you are to be taken to task for your Torah-true love of the nation. Such is the fate of those who take the middle path: they draw crossfire from both sides. Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook wrote, “I am always caught between the paths” (Orach Mishpat, page 254). The whole thing is a lover’s quarrel. Pay no heed. When they get tired, they will stop. Keep talking sensibly with love and faith.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslav’s disciplines reported to him, “There are self-styled wise men spouting nonsense.” He responded, “Soon it will all be over for them, for in the blink of an eye they will have nothing to say.” Rabbi Nachman of Breslav then told an apt parable about a person walking along the road when he encountered a bandit who stole all his money. When the heist was complete, victim said to bandit, “How can I go home without money? I’ve been roaming hear and there, amassing money, and how can I go home now empty-handed? I therefore ask you to shoot your rifle at my hat so that everyone can tell that I was robbed.” The bandit did as requested. The victim then asked that the bandit shoot at other spots in his clothing, and the bandit did so, until he finally said, “I’ve run out of bullets.” When the bandit answered that, the victim grabbed him by the neck, overcame him and took back his money. The parable was clear to those who heard it (from the book “Chayei Moharan).
You, as well, my friend, mustn’t take these attacks to heart. Don’t fight fire with fire. Wait for them to run out of ammunition. Then they will stop, and the love and unity will resume. Thank G-d, we are a marvelous people, full of great, mutual love. No one will succeed in destroying it. Quite the contrary, from these difficulties we will emerge with even greater love.

Rabbi Elisha Aviner / Education Corner
Open Letters to Youth: “The Task of Our Youth”

Many of our youth ask, “What is our task at this fateful time?” The answer is simple: There is no difference between the task of our youth and that of adults. All are called upon to step forward and fulfill the same missions. The Torah imposed upon all people over age thirteen to fulfill the entire Torah, thereby teaching us that anyone over thirteen is capable of fulfilling the tasks imposed upon adults. The emphasis is on the word “capable,” since there are some youths who choose to act like children, immaturely and irresponsibly. Generally speaking, however, our youth can be relied upon. Therefore, the call to action in matters regarding Eretz Yisrael is addressed to youths and adults alike.
There are different levels of quality in our activities on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. It is not just a matter of the type of activity, but also of the level of identification with the activity. In other words, the quality of our action will depend on the level of our awareness and understanding. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook used to say, “The more awareness and understanding, the greater our love” (play on words based on Avot 3:17). Therefore, it does not suffice to demonstrate, to stand at intersections, to give out stickers, to go house to house, to be there when called. Rather, one also has to understand, to learn, to delve deep.
In light of the shallow, superficial connection between broad sectors of Israeli society and Eretz Yisrael, we must offer a radical, profound alternative. A central part of the present crisis is not political but cultural and spiritual. Therefore, the rectification has to be spiritual.
The beginning of the rectification is deep within us, in accordance with the rule, “First improve yourself, then improve others” (Bava Metzia 107b). The improvement required right now is for us to understand our national purpose and the place of Eretz Yisrael in that scheme. Not just intuition, not just feelings, but an orderly Torah-based worldview. Therefore, every boy and girl who wishes to contribute in a meaningful way to strengthening the bond between the Jewish People and Eretz Yisrael must also devote much time to studying the essence of Eretz Yisrael, its purpose, the return to Zion, the redemption process, and the role of crises during the redemption period.
We have to learn who we are, and what is the mission of the Jewish People amongst the nations, as well as what are our long-term and our short-term aspirations. None of this has to come at the expense of practical activity on behalf of Eretz Yisrael, nor take away from it. Rather, it must be combined together with it in order to make it less shallow.
Question: Is it permissible to go out to activities on behalf of Eretz Yisrael against the will of one’s parents?
This question has to be examined carefully from a halachic standpoint. It involves numerous questions and also depends on circumstances. Yet, there is a further aspect, no less important, and that is the perspective of the family. It is forbidden that one’s love of the Land should create a quarrel with one’s parents. One mustn’t break up the family, or even make a crack in it, over activities on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, one must discuss these matters with one’s parents. One must present before them what one plans on doing and one must attain their consent. One mustn’t create facts against their position. It is very probable that in order to attain their consent and blessing, a compromise will be required. Yet getting the blessing of one’s parents is important. Warm ties with one’s parents are a vital need of every young person. Therefore, even though compromise involves giving in, it is better than quarrel and strife with one’s parents.
For twenty-two years Ya’akov did not see his son Yosef, who was in Egypt. Our sages say (Midrash Tanchuma) this is commensurate with the twenty-two years Ya’akov was outside the Land and did not serve his father Yitzchak. We derive from this the importance of maintaining ties with one’s parents. Even though Ya’akov was forced to flee his home for fear of Esau, and even though he left with his parents’ consent, our sages still hold that a flawed situation was created. Being cut off from one’s home, even if the circumstances justify it, is inappropriate. Therefore, even when a young person wishes to take part in activities on behalf of Eretz Yisrael, and even if he is certain of the justness of his path, and he believes in it, he is forbidden to fight with them about this. Generally, through dialogue one can reach a compromise acceptable to both sides.
Engaging in communal activities places a person in complicated situations, and brings about embarrassing encounters, on the edge of being fights. Therefore, whoever joins such activities has to remember his purpose: the rebuilding of the nation and the rebuilding of the Land. In other words, our goal must be to increase the good, to increase light, to increase the positive, on both the material and spiritual plane, to strengthen the Jewish People.
Some err in this regard, because some of our activities take the form of public protest. They therefore think that our main purpose is to make war and to destroy. Not so! Positive action has more influence than does negative action (Yoma 76a). We have to increase the former and decrease the latter. Our goal is improvement, and the rebuilding of our nation. With G-d’s help, we shall all be the living fulfillment of, “May G-d reward all those who faithfully occupy themselves with the needs of the community” (Yakum Purkan). We have to occupy ourselves with the community’s needs “faithfully,” in the sense of both integrity and of remaining hopeful.

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