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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
When a person diminishes himself and is filled with humility, he draws nearer to his essence and the crux of his soul is revealed to him in all its glory. From its reflection he sees all the heavenly majesty in the depths of his own infinitely great soul
Erpalei Tohar 125) 

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today: 

Israel and Ishmael

Before Ishmael is born, the angel tells Hagar, “You are pregnant and will give birth to a son. You must name him Ishmael, for God has heard your prayer. He will be a rebel. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him” (Genesis 16:11-12). Rashi comments, “‘His hand will be against everyone’: He will be a bandit. ‘Everyone’s hand will be against him’: Everyone will hate him and provoke him.” Sure enough, following his birth, Sarah discerned that he was a violent, dangerous boy: But Sarah saw the son that Hagar had born to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, ‘Drive away this slave together with her son. The son of this slave will not share the inheritance with my son Isaac’” (21:9-10).


He would argue with Isaac over the inheritance. They would go out into the field and he would take his bow and shoot arrows at Isaac (see Rashi, ibid.). Abraham heeded Sarah’s voice and sent Ishmael out of Eretz Yisrael during his own lifetime: “To the sons of the concubines that he had taken, Abraham [also] gave gifts. Then, while he was still alive, he sent them to the country of the East, away from his son Isaac…. Ishmael lived in the area from Havilah to Shur (which borders on Egypt), all the way to Assyria. He overran all his brethren” (25:6,18).


It is true that Ishmael ultimately repented at Abraham’s funeral, as it says, “His sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in Machpelah Cave” (verse 9). We see that here Ishmael “placed Isaac before him” (Rashi), i.e., he showed him respect. Yet following the funeral he slid back from his repentance. Verse 25:18 can be rendered, “Before all his brothers [i.e., after his father’s passing], he fell” (Rashi).


Today, Ishmael’s relationship to Israel since the times of the Patriarchs has not changed. He still has the same ambitions about stealthily and violently robbing Eretz Yisrael from the Jewish People, employing the false claim that this land, so to speak, belongs to Abraham’s two sons. Today, the Arabs do the same thing. Some of them say, “It is all ours.” Others, for tactical reasons, say “Part of it is ours.” To our great misfortune, we have amongst us people of little intellect and faith. The Ishmaelites have succeeded in convincing those people to believe their false claim that the land of our life’s blood belongs to the Arabs as well, G-d forbid.


The Christian world as well, headed by American Presidents, thinks that Eretz Yisrael belongs also to the Arabs. It is all because they lack the understanding and knowledge possessed by Sarah and Abraham, that Eretz Yisrael is the holiest place on earth. This is the land that G-d chose for bringing light and goodness to all mankind by way of the Jewish People. Israel are G-d’s Special People, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, chosen by G-d to be the heart of mankind, and a brain for the whole world (Kuzari 2). It is forbidden for a foreign people to rule over them, especially one who from creation are rebels, whose hand is against everyone and everyone’s hand is against them.


The meaning of establishing a state for the Arabs in Eretz Yisrael, G-d forbid, is to let murderous terror triumph. It is to encourage the violence and evil spirit from which mankind, and ourselves in particular, are suffering today. Quite the contrary, we believe that the Arabs have to repent, and we look forward to their doing so. They have to honor the Jewish People and the State of Israel, and they have to admire and be grateful for the goodness we bring them. They also have to recognize our exclusive right to Eretz Yisrael.  By such means we will be privileged to see with our own eyes the fulfillment of the prophetic vision, “They shall break their swords into plowshares…Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any longer” (Isaiah 2:4). Looking forward to complete redemption.


Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Bet El 

Twenty-one Questions about the Messiah

Q: 1. What will be the Messiah’s task before he becomes the Messiah?

A: He will be king (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim  (Laws of Kings) 11:1)

Q: 2. Will he really be king, or just in a symbolic, metaphoric sense, like a Torah scholar?

A: He will really be king – the king referred to in the ten chapters of Rambam’s Hilchot Melachim.

Q: 3. What will his job be?

A: To restore the David monarchy as of old (ibid., 11:1 elaborates).

Q: 4. How will we know who he is?

A: We need six yardsticks to be satisfied: (1) That he be a king; (2) from the Davidic line; (3) that he learn Torah; (4) that he keep mitzvoth; (5) that he compel the nation to keep mitzvoth; and (6) that he fight G-d’s wars (ibid., 11:4).

Q: 5. How will he compel mitzvah observance?

A: Like any king who passes laws and makes certain they are fulfilled.

Q: 6. What are “G-d’s wars”?

A: Real wars like King David fought: “The first Mashiach [anointed one], King David, saved Israel from their enemies. The last Mashiach, who will emerge from David’s descendants, will save Israel from Esau’s descendants” (ibid., 11:1).

Q: 7. Can you elaborate?

A: Rambam writes (ibid., 4:10): “The king’s intent and goal shall be to exalt the true religion, to fill the world with justice, to smash the power of the wicked and to fight G-d’s wars. For ideally, we do not crown anyone king unless he is prepared to pursue justice and war, as it says, “Our king will judge us, go forth before us and wage our wars” (I Samuel 8:20). Likewise, [David’s wife] Avigail said of David that he fought G-d’s wars (ibid., 25:28).

Q: 8. If someone fulfills these six conditions is he the true Messiah?

A: No, he is then the “presumed Messiah”. In other words, as he has fulfilled the six prerequisites, we relate to him as the Messiah until it becomes clear whether or not he really is (Hilchot Melachim 11:4).

Q:9. What conditions must be fulfilled for him to become the true Messiah?

A: There are four conditions: “If he (1) was successful and (2) he vanquished all the surrounding nations and (3) built the Temple and (4) gathered in the dispersed of Israel, then he is the Messiah for sure” (ibid.).

Q:10. And if he failed, is he then a false Messiah?

A: No. Whoever has fulfilled the six conditions is a reputable king (ibid.).

Q:11. Today, do we have a true Messiah?

A: No. No one has fulfilled these four conditions.

Q:12. Is there anyone who is the “presumed Messiah”?

A. No. Neither is there anyone who has fulfilled the six conditions of the presumed Messiah.

Q:13. When will the Messiah come?

A. We don’t know. “One should not calculate the end. Our sages said, ‘Blasted be those who calculate the end” (ibid., 12:2)

Q:14. How will the Messiah look and how will he operate?

A: No one knows exactly. “Regarding all such matters, no one will know how it will be until it happens” (ibid., 12:2).

Q:15. Won’t the Messiah bring the Jewish People to repentance?

A: He will lead the nation according to the Torah (ibid., 11:4). The one who will bring them to repentance is Elijah the Prophet (ibid., 12:2).

Q:16: What known figure is similar to the Messiah?

A. King David (ibid., 11:1).

Q:17: Is there another example?

A. Bar-Kochba, whom Rabbi Akiva and all the sages of his generation said was the Messianic King (ibid., 11:3).

Q:18. But he wasn’t?

A. He was the presumed Messiah, but not the true Messiah. When he unfortunately died, it became clear that he was not the Messiah (ibid.).

Q:19. Does the Messiah have to perform miracles?

A. No. One proof is that Bar Kochba was not asked to perform miracles. Otherwise, they would immediately have declared that he was not the Messiah (ibid.).

Q:20. What must we do to bring closer the Messiah’s advent?

A. We must become stronger in good traits —  kindness, the fear of G-d, Torah learning, observance of all the mitzvoth, between man and G-d, between man and man, those associated with agriculture in Eretz Yisrael and those associated with building the Land, Shabbat, kashrut, loving one’s fellow Jew and going to the army, study of Halachah and study of faith.

Q:21. Will this take time?

A. We don’t know. We await the Messiah whichever day he comes (Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith; see Hilchot Nezirut 4:11)

Rabbi Moti Herschkoff


The Torah’s clear, precise, detailed documentation regarding the purchase of Ma’arat HaMachpela constituted, both the past and present, a historic tool of enormous significance vis-à-vis the nations of the world, but chiefly vis-à-vis ourselves. Yet if we suffice with that, the Torah’s purpose in detailing all the stages of the offer and refusal that preceded the actual transaction remains unclear. What would have been missing had the Torah made due with the two verses that summarize this section and describe the transfer of so much money to Ephron, and the transfer of ownership to Abraham? It would seem that in detailing the stages of negotiations that precede the purchase, the Torah is trying to impart to us something of Abraham’s philosophy no less than describing the purchase itself.

In the section on the negotiations that precede the purchase, Abraham, that man of kindness and giving (Micha 7:20), is revealed to us as steadfast and uncompromising in everything having to do with his refusal to accept kindness from others. Unlike his rejection of the King of Sodom’s offer, where Abraham refused to accept property that was not originally his, his refusal this time was very expensive for him, costing him a great deal of the wealth that he had acquired through his own toil. The Torah takes pains to describe Ephron’s generous offer, and Abraham’s polite refusal, in accordance with all the rules of protocol extant in those times.

The profound difference between an unearned gift and acquisition by way of high-price purchase was clear to Abraham from the start. An unearned gift could be given to someone unilaterally, hence the receiver would have no real ownership over the gift, despite the fact that he had been given the possibility of benefiting from it. Abraham’s only connection to the Machpelah Cave, had he received it as a gift, would be the right of burial, per se.

By contrast, by way of purchase, the purchaser creates genuine ownership over the purchased object. He gives of himself, of the money he acquired through his efforts, for the object’s transfer to his own domain and ownership. Therefore, in the case of Ma’arat HaMachpela’s purchase, the issue is not just the act of burial, but the land’s becoming a “burial property” (Genesis 23:4), a genuine acquisition. Abraham, by his strong insistence on making a real purchase, bequeathed to us the secret of the Jewish People’s survival – the sense of commitment engendered through personal attachment.

Translation: R. Blumberg

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