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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“One should not think that by working on the betterment of others one will do less for himself than if he had worked on his own betterment, for that is not the case. The two forms of betterment unite, and the inner spirit of the betterment of others acts to achieve the betterment of the individual who is part of the group, such that it is worth as much or indeed more than if he had worked on his own betterment… One thinks that one is doing a good turn for others, when one’s efforts actually add up to one’s own self-betterment”
(Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, 447)

Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
You are called “Adam”

“G-d saw all that He had made and behold, it was very good [tov me’od]” (Genesis 1:31). The words “tov me’od” refer us to the purpose of the Creation act: “Me’od” [very] has the same letters as “Adam” [man]. Hence the purpose of the Creation act was the appearance of Man, through whom G-d’s goodness is revealed in His world. Indeed, our sages define the righteous man, saying, “‘Good’ can only connote a righteous man, as it says, ‘Say of the righteous that they are good’ (Isaiah 3:10)” (Chagigah 12a). Of the Torah our sages said, “‘Good’ can only connote Torah, as it says, ‘I give you a good doctrine. Forsake not My Torah’ (Proverbs 4:2)” (Berachot 5a).
It thus follows that the purpose of Creation is the revelation of divine good on earth through man’s following G-d’s ways. Of Israel the Rabbis said, “You are called ‘Adam’” (Bava Metzia 114b). By “Adam” they did not just mean “man,” but a being whose purpose it is illuminate the world with divine goodness. As it says, “This people have I formed for Myself that they might tell My praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
Today, when the world finds itself in a war between good and evil, and between light and darkness, the forces of darkness in the world view the State and People of Israel as their greatest enemy, for it is the nature of light to banish darkness. We can rest assured, however, that at the end of that war, light will overcome darkness and Israel will emerge victorious. All wickedness shall be consumed like smoke, and all who have breath in their nostrils will know and recognize that the L-rd G-d of Israel is King, and His kingdom rules over all.
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El

Is This the Same Country?

Question: Since the Gush Katif expulsion, I’ve got a terrible wound over my heart that to this day has not healed. Quite the contrary, I’ve changed my relationship to the State of Israel. For me, it’s no longer the “first flowering of our redemption”. When I see a film in which our soldiers forcibly evict mothers, fathers and children, from their homes, in which synagogues are destroyed and graves are moved, I say, “It’s not the same country. It’s not the same army.”
Answer: Why not mention Sabbath desecration, breaches in kashrut, sexual immodesty, the warped legal system, poor education, graft and corruption? Indeed much of the Jewish population living in Zion have lost their faith in the government’s struggle against public corruption, and they believe that the public sector is very corrupt. Indeed, the situation is problematic.
Yet even when we arrived in the Land after the redemption from Egypt we had troubles immeasurably worse than those today, and it was the same in Ezra and Nechemia’s time. And before that, just when Jacob’s family began to grow strong, Joseph was sold by his brothers.
And when you get down to it, after Adam was created, Adam sinned and Cain killed Abel. Don’t you know that life is complicated? Life only looks simple to the drunkard (Yoma 75). “When one casts his glance on the cup, all looks smooth” (Proverbs 23:31). Life looks simple to him, but he only sees the surface.
Haven’t you read Chapter 1 of Mesilat Yesharim? Haven’t you learned that man faces a two-front battle? Haven’t you learned that man has a good impulse and an evil impulse? Haven’t you heard of Noah’s flood and the Generation of the Dispersion? Of the destruction of the First and Second Temples?
One way the evil impulse tempts us is towards hatred, and we’re not allowed to feed that temptation. Jewish law states that one is forbidden to read a book that provokes the evil impulse (Orach Chaim 307:16), let alone to see movies that increase our desire to hate. Neither may we feed our evil impulse to despair.
The evil impulse works alone. It needs no help. By contrast, the good impulse need much strengthening. See Mesilat Yesharim, which states that one has to look for the ways and means to build it up, and that one has to take precautionary measures against those deleterious elements that would erode our good traits.
True, there have been many crises since the start of the return to Zion. They didn’t start with the expulsion from Gush Katif, and there will be many more crises to come. The definition of a crisis is something that goes against our will.
But open your eyes and see all the kindnesses that G-d performs for us. This land was empty and now it houses millions. It was in the hands of the Turks and the British, and now it is in our hands. It was spiritually desolate and now it is full of Torah. The Jewish People were under the control of the world’s evildoers, and now we have an army that defends us.
Apparently G-d did you a kindness by letting you be born in the right time and place, so you don’t know how lucky you are. As for myself, I was born in the wrong time and place, and as an infant I had to be hidden lest I end up in the concentration camps.
Thank G-d that infant was never sent there, but six million others were. Those sent to the camps would have paid a million dollars to be protected by that army you say is “not the same army”.

Rabbi Yaakov Filber
Adam, the First Man

“When G-d created Adam, He took him and showed him all the trees of Eden, and He said to him, ‘Observe how fine My works are! Everything that I created I made for your sake. Make certain you do not ruin or destroy My world” (Kohelet Rabbah 7).
Adam, that man who was in Eden, was on a much higher spiritual level than man is now. Adam’s status is described by Ramchal [Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto] in several of his works. In his book “Da’at Tevunot” he writes:
“Adam, before his sin, was crowned with so very many holy, precious crowns that the ministering angels wished to proclaim ‘Holy’ before him. He had knowledge and holiness and every fine trait in great degree. This is because he was G-d’s handiwork. His deeds certainly created a tumult throughout the universe.”
As an example of the difference between Adam then and man’s situation today, Ramchal writes:
“Adam’s physical side before his sin was approximately like his spiritual side after his sin. Consider then how his spiritual side must have been before the sin.”
In his work “Derech HaChaim,” Ramchal devotes a whole chapter to the human race in general and to Adam in particular. There (Part I, Ch. 3) he writes that when Adam was created, he was half good and half evil, so that he would be able to achieve perfection through his own efforts. At that time, his soul had the ability to purify his body and substance, and to elevate it step by step until the body would be worthy to accompany the soul. All of that goodness, however, Adam forfeited through his sin. What is the long term lesson to be derived from these facts?
In Iyar 5665 (1905) Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was asked by his student Dr. Moshe Seidel about the views being presented by new scientific studies, most of which contradicted a simple understanding of the Torah text.
Rabbi Kook responded that even if no truth can be recognized in the new views, we are not obligated to deny and oppose them. This is because the Torah does not serve to tell us simple facts and stories. Rather, the essence is the content, the deeper explanations of that which is written in the Torah.
Hence, the Torah can be explained according to both theories, the one theory that the world began with a golden reality in which man enjoys vast material and spiritual bounties, and the other theory that Existence began from the bottom up, starting with the very lowest level of existence, and leading up towards the heights, ascending more and more. Even so, we prefer the first theory, not because we are compelled to, but because it contains within it a profound educational truth. The theory that the beginning of the world constituted a perfect existence teaches us that no matter how much man ascends, however much glory and pleasure he achieves, his future is not assured unless he knows how to preserve his morality. If man becomes corrupt, he will lose everything he has, and he risks harming himself and his descendants for very many generations. This lesson we derive from the fact that in Eden Adam enjoyed every bounty, yet after he sinned, he was banished from there.
From Rabbi Kook’s words we can learn a timeless lesson. The main thing in life is not man’s achievements either in the material or the spiritual realm. Rather, what is most important is man’s ability to preserve what he has right now, and to behave wisely lest he forfeit the happiness that he has. He can then build upon that and add on to what he has. All this applies in the individual realm, in family life, and in man’s involvement with society and with his nation.
It is based on these lessons that we do not wish to accept the conclusions of the new researchers among the nations and those who follow them within our own people. Those Jews who follow them treat the Bible according to the Christian explanation which views the world as a prison which was initially born in sin and which must be related to as such in this way. By the same token, the approach which views the world as having started its development from the bottom, without having any glorious past, is frightening. Perhaps man will never reach perfection. Perhaps he will remain along the middle of the road or will even regress backwards. We lack the self-confidence to say that happiness is a permanent part of man’s nature, especially in mortal man, who is body and soul together. Therefore, only man’s existence in Eden, with man having been perfect there, can guarantee us everlasting light.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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