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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“Anyone who follows the progress of the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael will see clearly how from every step backward comes an even greater development for the good, and out of every crisis comes a step forward…” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah)

Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Patience is the key”

When Moses, the great lover and redeemer of Israel, saw how Pharaoh was increasing Israel’s burden, he came with a complaint to G-d, saying, “L-rd, why do you mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for those people” (Exodus 5:22-23).

G-d had a word with Moses about his harsh language: “G-d spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am Hashem’” (Exodus 6:2). He was telling Moses: Not in vain did I send you. I did it to fulfill My covenant with the Patriarchs of “giving them the Land of Canaan” (6:5). Do not desist from your mission! Realize that I shall be taking Israel out gradually, amidst temporary crises that will momentarily seem like steps backward. Take an example from the Patriarchs. I made promises to them without fulfilling them. Yet they still believed in Me under the most difficult circumstances. As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi said: “The Patriarchs had such a high degree of faith and such pure hearts that although they encountered only evil all their lives, their faith in G-d never weakened” (Kuzari 2:2).

G-d commanded Moses to describe to the Israelites, who were sunk in distress, the stages of redemption, with the goal of comforting them and cheering them up: “I will take you out… I will save you… I will redeem you… I will take you… — and ultimately – I will bring you to the Land” (6:6-8). Yet the people “did not heed Moses due to their impatience and harsh labor” (6:9), and they did not accept his words of comfort (Rashi, ibid.).

Today, not just in the redemption from Egypt were there moments of crisis that led to speech such as that of Moses, but through the generations and in our own times. We have experienced crises great and small, such as the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the two thousand years of harsh exile. Yet throughout those crises, the Jewish People did not despair. Rather, they clung to the traits of the Patriarchs, who believed under all circumstances in the redemption of Israel and the redemption of the world.

Even in our very own times we have faced terrible crises, such as the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. These crises, and everything that is happening in Hebron look like a step backward in the redemption process. Yet just as an athlete doing a long jump has to take a step back before commencing his leap, so it is with us too.

We shall persevere and be strong and advance with skips and jumps to the next stage of the redemption. We need “patience” instead of the “impatience” of the Israelites in Egypt. By such means we will advance forward on the upward winding path towards complete redemption.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Remember the essence!”

Isn’t everything the essence? Isn’t everything holy and divine? True, but when the ship is sinking, you still have to save the essence. When a person is at death’s door, you still have to distinguish between the vital organs and the rest of the body, as Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote in his article “HaIkarim” [The Main Tenets] (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 14). We see, that our great sages established main tenets. Even our own day is a time of revolution and vicissitudes, and we have to know what takes precedence.

This being the case, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught us that two elements come first: Ahavah [love] and Emunah [faith], both of which start with “alef”, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The foundation of all is to remember at all times that G-d rules the universe. It is true that recently we have been suffering difficulties. It is true that we are undergoing crises. The psychological definition of a crisis is an event that occurs against our will, and obviously, such things are always happening. Yet we have to look at things not from the media perspective. We mustn’t adopt the standpoint of the news, but of faith, the longer view of the past hundred years. We must see how we are being reborn, how we are being rebuilt in our flowering, blossoming land, where millions have gathered. We are free men in our country, and the Torah is returning to its natural abode. None of this is coincidence, G-d forbid. Rather, it is the hand of G-d, even if it occurred via complications and suffering, crises and weakness. “For they shall see, eye to eye, the L-rd returning to Zion” (Isaiah 52:8). When we train our eyes to look from a divine viewpoint, out of faith and fear of G-d, when “those that fear G-d see things through His eyes” (Psalm 33:8), then we merit “G-d’s return to Zion” (Isaiah 52:8). Therefore, even amidst terrible suffering and troubles, G-d leads us upright and restores His divine presence to Zion.

Take things in proportion and in perspective. Both good and evil are from G-d. Even evil ultimately leads to good. The evil and unseemly pass, and eternal Heaven is promised to our entire people. This is what it means to look forward to a future that is good. Then, even when there is a crisis and things do not go as we want, and it seems as though much toil was in vain, there is no despair and no depression. We do not become idle or lazy. We struggle and struggle. Yet when the reality contradicts our expectations, we do not sink into sadness, or into cursing and recriminations.

Learn from King David, who underwent such terrible hardships yet always maintained his faith, as it says in Sefer HaChinuch: “A person must be fully aware that everything that happens to him, good or bad, comes from G-d. Nothing that happens, whether from ‘the hand of man or even the hand of his own brother’ (Genesis 9:5), occurs without it being G-d’s will. Therefore, when someone causes one pain or misfortune, one must realize that his own sins caused it, and G-d decreed it for him. He shouldn’t consider taking revenge for the perpetrator was not the cause of the deed. Rather, the sin was the cause. As King David said [when Shimi ben Gera cursed him], ‘Let him curse me. The L-rd had him do it’ (II Samuel 16:11). David attributed the curse to his own sin.”

I don’t say what is happening to us now is a punishment. I only say we should not be vengeful. That is Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s second principle, ahava – love, which precedes the Torah and is the basis of the Torah. Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students, and all of them died between Pesach and Shavuot during the same period of preparation for the Receiving of the Torah, because they did not treat one another respectfully. It was then that Rabbi Akiva said: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ – that is a great tenet of the Torah.” It is the root of the entire Torah. If the foundation of love is lacking, then the Torah edifice ends up crooked. Only through “Love your neighbor as yourself” do we arrive at the words that follow, “I am the L-rd” (Leviticus 19:18).

This as well is one of the most difficult trials, to maintain one’s love in the face of those who rise up out of our midst to uproot the Torah, to uproot the nation, to uproot the Land. We do not know the future, and we shall continue to struggle. Yet we mustn’t curse Israel’s statesmen, soldiers and policemen, or any Jew who violates the Sabbath, eats non-kosher food or cheats on his wife, or for that matter, anyone who does not think the way we do. With a positive perspective, by increasing light, we shall bring salvation. This is why – said the Ari z”l – the wise son of the Pesach Haggadah is mentioned next to the evil son. It is to cure the evil son by means of the great light of the wise son. We mustn’t smite our fellow man and we mustn’t fan the flames. We must apply only love, love and more love.

We remember the red lines set by Rav Tzvi Yehuda as far as public struggles – we mustn’t lift a fist, we mustn’t humiliate anyone and we mustn’t hate (“Et achai anochi mevakesh”, LeNetivot Yisrael I:106). We must not harbor resentment and we must avoid violent deeds, speech and thought. We believe in the eternity of Israel, not like Christians, who following the Destruction decided that our hope as a nation was lost and that the chosenness of Israel had been blotted out.

We are undergoing harsh suffering and the cure is to increase love and faith. What do you do when you get up in the morning before you start to pray? You love! As the Ari ruled: “Before prayers, one should take upon himself the obligation to ‘love his neighbor as himself.’ He should have in mind to love every single Jew as himself. If G-d forbid there is divisiveness between Jews here on earth, then in Heaven as well there will be disunity. Yet physical unity between Jews here on earth causes the unification of their souls above. As a result their prayers unite. Then, with their prayers included together, they become desirable before G-d” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 12:2). Likewise, all of Israel are not only responsible [arevim] for one another, but their souls are enmeshed together (Rabbi Moshe Kordovero in Sefer Tomer Devorah). They also must be “arevim” [pleasant] to one another.

What do you say when you go to bed at night? “Master of the Universe, I forgive all those who angered me and sinned against me.” This is very hard. If you don’t want to say this, you don’t have to. But if you want to say it, you’ll feel enormous purity. This is one of the harsh battles that we face – not to lose our heads, not to lose our hearts, not to lose our faith and not to lose our love. Yet only in this way will we reach safe harbor. Remember, redemption was not given to individuals, even if they are honest and righteous, saintly and holy. Rather, it was given to the people, our entire people, with all its spiritual levels: “the assemblies of the tens of thousands of Your people” (Sabbath morning prayers). We move always with this people, forever! Despite everything! We stay with our people. If necessary, we will express ourselves harshly, but we will always remain together. Together! Always! In love, in faith, with an exalted spirit. For we are the servants of G-d and of Israel His people.

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

Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner

Numerous youths tend to allow their emotions to burst outwards, without restraining or filtering them. They give their emotions and sentiments external, public expression. For example, young people do not hesitate to dance at weddings in a manner that expresses their feelings, without taking those around them into account. When they get together with friends, they express their joy without restraint, and the same holds with prayer (as when they clap!) and with all service to G-d. They do not keep their emotions inside. They don’t know what self-restraint is. Rather, they let their emotions burst forth naturally as they are. In a word, they tend towards spontaneity.

Every character trait has associated traits that are similar. Spontaneity is enthusiasm’s bedfellow, and that is what is good about it. It is also associated with naturalness and authenticity, and that is praiseworthy as well. Yet it has other bedfellows that are less praiseworthy such as poor judgment and lack of moderation. The Talmud relates to the relationship between enthusiasm and spontaneity on the one hand, and good judgment on the other, in Berachot 20a. The Talmud relates that in the early generations the Jews’ prayers were answered almost immediately and they merited numerous miracles, even though they did not know the entire Mishnah. By contrast, later generations that knew the entire Mishnah would pray and fast without meriting any response from G-d.

Our sages explain that the advantage of the earlier generations was in their self-sacrifice for G-d’s holiness. As an example, they bring the story of Rabbi Ada bar Ahava. Rav Ada saw a woman in the marketplace who was dressed immodestly. She was not Jewish, but Rav Ada thought she was. He therefore confronted her and tore her clothing. After it became clear that she was not Jewish, he was required in court to compensate her with four hundred zuz. Rav Ada asked her what her name was, and she responded, “Matun” [a word which means both “moderation” and “two hundred”]. Rav Ada then said, “Matun! Matun! Four hudred zuz!” Rabbi Kook (Ein Aya) explains that the Talmud’s main point was to emphasize the relationship between self-sacrifice, enthusiasm and spontaneity on the one hand, and moderation and caution on the other.

The later generations stood out in their wisdom and moderation, their self-restraint and their cautious judgment, traits essential for acquiring Torah. Indeed, they became great scholars of the Torah. By contrast, the earlier generations did not reach such a high level of Torah knowledge, but they had holy fervor, self-sacrifice for holiness. As a result, their prayers raced skyward and were answered. True, enthusiasm and spontaneity are liable to cause mishaps, as occurred in the story of Rav Ada. He was not moderate but spontaneous, and it cost him 400 zuz. Our sages, in pointing out the cost of the compensation, wished to teach us that the loss was trivial compared to the gain. All in all, the damage amounted to some zuzim. Better we should have spontaneity in holiness despite the mishaps, than a way of life characterized by much moderation but little spirit, enthusiasm and self-sacrifice for the holy. The shortcomings suffered due to “cold-hearted calculations regarding everything lofty and good” are harsh and severe.

Shall we conclude based on this that all spontaneity is blessed? No. Our sages did not praise all spontaneity but only that which found its source in holiness and self-sacrifice for holiness, such as that of Rav Ada, who was an enormous Torah scholar, brimming over with Torah and the fear of G-d. Spontaneity per se has little value. In someone spiritually empty, spontaneity is a recipe for corruption and spiritual destruction. It creates numerous mishaps and trespasses boundaries. Spontaneity is the natural behavior of children. Children, not yet having learned self-control, respond with spontaneity. When they respond successfully, their spontaneity adds special charm. Often, however, their responses are inappropriate, and their spontaneity is not an advantage but a shortcoming. An adult learns to conquer his emotions and feelings, to regulate and direct them. Not every emotion has to burst outward immediately. Over-spontaneity in adults generally attests to childish behavior. Moreover, even spontaneity in holiness has limits. For example, fanaticism is a kind of spontaneity in holiness, yet the Torah does not encourage it except in rare cases.

The Torah does not reject naturalness. Its goal is not to suppress it or to turn man into a programmed robot. It is not interested in fashioning a cold person. Naturalness is an important trait. It is the force in us that pushes us forward in life. The Torah admires naturalness, but it demands that man take control of it, regulate and direct it. Man mustn’t allow emotional outbursts to take control of him.

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