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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“‘A man without a land is not a man’ (Yevamot 43). This can be expanded to say, ‘A people without a land is not a people.’… The return to our land is the return to our natural home, the place earmarked for Israel from the beginning of Creation… Our sages view ‘planting’ as a symbolic reference to following in G-d’s path. Just as G-d planted trees in Eden as an expression of His connection to the mundane world, so were Israel commanded, upon entering the Land, to begin planting, as a first step, expressing their foothold in the Land.” (Be’er Megged Yerechim, Rabbi Uzi Kalchaim, p. 49)

Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Either Way, You Are Sons of The L-rd”

In Egypt there was harsh violence – the violence of Egyptians against Jews, as it says, “When Moses was grown, he began to go out to his own people, and he saw their hard labor. [One day] he saw an Egyptian kill one of his fellow Hebrews” (Exodus 2:11). The Egyptian taskmasters beat the Israelite policemen, as it says, “The Israelite foremen, whom Pharaoh’s administrators had appointed, were flogged” (Exodus 5:14). And even Jews hit Jews: “he saw two Hebrew men fighting. ‘Why are you beating your brother?’ he demanded of the evildoer” (2:13). Rashi comments, “Even though he did not really hit him, he was called an evildoer for raising his hand.”

This terrible situation of violence, gossip and defamation between Jews brought Moses, the faithful shepherd and great lover of Israel, to considerable worry about whether Israel might not be worthy of redemption (see Rashi on Exodus 2:14). Indeed, when G-d asked Moses at the burning bush to take the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses answered, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should remove the Israelites from Egypt?” (3:11). As Rashi comments, Moses was asking himself, “How have the Israelites merited that G-d should perform a miracle for them and that I should take them out of Egypt?” “They won’t believe me and they won’t listen to my voice” (4:1). In response, G-d hints to him that he has spoken evil of Israel. The staff in his hand turns into a snake, for Moses has taken up the craft of snakes, then snake having been the first creature to speak evil. Moreover, his hand was turned snow-white with leprosy, a further allusion to his having gossiped against Israel. The Rabbis said that one who harbors suspicions of those above suspicion will be physically smitten. Israel, despite their low spiritual level and their poor behavior, could not be accused of lacking faith. Faith was imprinted in their souls. The Rabbis called them “believers and the sons of believers” (Shabbat 97a). They inherited this faith generation to generation, and Moses should not have cast aspersions on them.

The Israelites’ verbal and physical violence in Egypt led Moses to suspect them of being unworthy of redemption. For suspecting those above suspicion he was smitten and punished. As stated, the Jewish People are believers and the sons of believers.

Even today, however, to our great chagrin, violence is raising its head. Violence has become our country’s blight, with Jews hitting one another in their anger. Verbal and physical violence can be seen everywhere, in school, on the street, in nightclubs, in sports, within the family, behind closed doors, among the simple people and the elite. Violence is a symptom of a terrible ill – the lack of both patience and tolerance, the lack of love and understanding, and the inability to listen to one’s fellow man. Violence is the result of anger accumulating between people, but all this can be rectified, and it will. We mustn’t give up on the Jewish People despite the terrible, painful situation. This is the same people, with the benevolent soul, that G-d chose – G-d’s special people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We even say this each morning: “My G-d, the soul You gave me is pure.” At the moment we say this, we should think not only about the pure soul that G-d gave us personally, but the soul that He gives every Jew, whoever he may be: “‘You are sons to the L-rd your G-d’ (Deuteronomy 14:1): Whatever you do – even when you are corrupt, you are still called sons of the Living G-d” (Kiddushin 36). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“What’s Going To Be?”

Question: With all our recent troubles, it’s hard for me to concentrate on anything I do. I am exceedingly worried about the future of our entire land. I am also worried by the state of the Torah in our land. Is there a solution?

Answer: Of course there is a solution, besides the obvious political track. Since we are a country, certainly the political leadership has a big say in matters, but we are not politicians. Even so, we have a main artery for influencing our national lives. The solution is to be found in the brief utterance of our holy sages: “Let a man first take upon himself the yoke of Heaven and after that the yoke of mitzvoth” (Berachot 2:2). Faith precedes observance, and it is the foundation of observance. If I believe in something, I will practice it, and if I believe in the divine holiness of the mitzvoth, I will fulfill them with holy reverence and in joy. If I believe in the deep familial connection between myself and my wife, then I will invest greatly to preserve and strengthen it. And if I believe in the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, I will devote myself to the work. Therefore, the best counsel regarding a solution to the problem of Eretz Yisrael is to fill our people with great faith that this is our land, this is the land of our delight, our holy land. It is this faith which must inform all our actions.

A British philosopher once said, “There is nothing more practical than theory” (G. K. Chesterton). One time, two Israeli generals were talking. One said, “Even the French ultimately had to evacuate Algeria.” The other responded, “You compare our relationship to Judea and Samaria to the relationship of the French to Occupied Algeria!?” “Yes, I do!” he replied. “If so,” said the other, “There is nothing for us to discuss.”

Indeed, this is the ultimate question: Do we believe that Judea and Samaria are ours or not. If not, that’s important for me to know, for every so often I go abroad to speak to the hearts and minds of Jews to convince them to move to Israel. I hate leaving the country, but for such a mitzvah one needs devotion. From now on my work will be easier, much closer to home. I will only have to convince the Jews of Beit El, Ofra and Pesagot – to move to Israel… The truth is that it all depends on faith, for fulfilling the mitzvah of settling the Land constitutes fulfillment of all the mitzvoth.

One time Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, the “Chafetz Chaim” was asked: How does it happen that sometimes a person learns many years in yeshiva and then on the day he leaves he throws away his yarmulke? How can one explain such a sudden crisis? He answered with the parable about the Cossack. There was one Cossack who was the epitome of military discipline. At the end of his service, he received a high pension and started spending all his time in pubs, getting drunk. Ultimately one night he was arrested by the police, and spent the night in the lock-up. How did that disciplined soldier become a drunkard? The answer is that even when he was serving, his heart was already in the pub. In the same way, that yeshiva student indeed learned much Torah, but his mind was elsewhere, his heart was elsewhere. His deeds were praiseworthy, but his faith was lacking. He didn’t undergo any crisis. His faith had already been flawed for a long time.

He drew a further parallel to two classes in a school. One was marked by superb orderliness, royal silence, clean notebooks and homework that was always ready. Only one thing was missing: the inner desire to learn and to know. In the adjacent classroom, there was noise and chaos, but the teacher succeeded in igniting in the students the love of knowledge, such that they were poised to go from success to success in their studies, throughout their lives.

In still another parable, two patients arrived at a hospital emergency room, and were examined by the physician on duty. The first patient was covered with blood; the second one was clean and had a normal appearance. Yet precisely for the second patient the physician called in all his entire staff, while sending the second patient to wash himself up with soap and water and to wait until he was free to help him. How could this be? The answer is that a physician is unimpressed by blood flowing out of external wounds. The second patient was on the verge of a heart attack. On the outside he looked healthy, but on the inside he was about to fall apart. In this parable, the patient’s heart represents faith.

In light of all the preceding, we are optimistic. We have a cure for the sickness of the generation. It is a guaranteed cure, but not a wonder cure. It is not a wonder cure to solve such complex problems in a minute. Yet it is a guaranteed cure to increase faith, courage and joy. Despite all the severe shortcomings we are encountering in our lives, we can still see that we are rising to rebirth. We are being infused with a powerful spirit: “The winds of the Messiah are blowing in, coming towards us. We are rising and awakening, seeking out a new life, the renewal of days of old” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah 10).

Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
“The Educational Instruction of the ‘Tiferet Yisrael’” (Part 2)

The present column, as well, shall be devoted to the educational instructions of Rabbi Yisrael Lipschitz, author of the “Tiferet Yisrael” commentary on Mishnah. The present instructions have been culled from his commentary on Avot.

Learning from a Teacher: In his commentary on two mishnayot he relates to learning from a teacher. The first Mishnah states, “Who is wise? He who learns from all men” (Avot 4:1). This mishnah deals with the essence of wisdom, valor, wealth and honor, because there is no one who does not long to be wise, valorous, wealthy and honored. That is man’s nature, and he longs and strives constantly to achieve this. Even so, argues the Tiferet Yisrael, many people err on the way to achieving these things, and “their striving leads to the opposite results.” For example, many wish to become wealthy in order to have fun. Yet in order to attain wealth, they work and toil day and night, even risking their lives to amass wealth,” and then where is the pleasure that they were supposed to be attaining through their wealth?”

It is the same with wisdom. Many would like to be called “wise” or to merit the title of “sage”, yet they think that towards that end it is forbidden for them to learn from their fellow man. They do not want to learn from anyone else, thinking that they have already merited the virtue of wisdom. Or, they fear lest people, seeing them learning from others, will stop relating them as sages. That is a mistake. “Who is wise? He who learns from all men.” Learning from others is a prerequisite to attaining wisdom. There are two sources to wisdom: 1) what a person learns from his teachers, and 2) what a person learns from himself through “self-study, whereby through his own intellect he builds on those things he learned from others.” Self-study without one’s first learning from others is generally poor and superficial. This rule is true not just as far as Torah, which is based on a tradition from generation to generation, but also as far as human wisdom.

The second mishnah states, “He who does not increase his knowledge decreases his days” (Avot 1:13). This mishnah deals with one who refuses to continue studying Torah from his masters. And why does he refuse to study and to increase wisdom? Either he thinks he knows enough, or he relates scornfully to all those worthy of learning from them, or he fears that his teacher “will see how foolish he really is.” His punishment is that he will “decrease his days.” He will live a shorter life, because the purpose of a man’s life is to increase perfection, “and if someone imagines that he has already perfected himself as much as he needs, why should he need more life?”

This brings us to the teacher’s relationship to his student. According to Tiferet Yisrael, Hillel is addressing this when he says, “Be a disciple of Aaron… Love your fellow man [beriyot] and bring him near to the Torah” (1:12). Why does Hillel refer to students as “beriyot,” a term literally meaning “creatures” and referring also to animals? It is because a teacher is required to love all his students, “even those unworthy of being called “Adam” [man] due to their low intelligence, even those who might be considered on a par with other creatures.” “Beriyot” is a term alluding to those who have not merited the title of “Adam”. The teacher must love even those, and must benefit them both “materially and spiritually.” And when he rebukes them, he must respect their dignity, and rebuke them “without anger, but with charm and kindness and with appeasing words, like a merciful father rebuking his son.” Only by such means will the teacher succeed in bringing them near to the Torah, because “no one listens to the advice of an enemy.” As we learn in Avot 2:5, “The quick-tempered cannot teach.” As for our sages’ instruction from Ketuvot 103b, “Spill your bile on your students,” a reference to anger, which seems to contradict Hillel’s instruction that we one should treat his students with charm and kindness, Tiferet Yisrael interprets that as a special instruction intended only for lazy students, but not for students who have difficulties with their studies. “Love your fellow man and bring him near to the Torah.” This is what Hillel himself did with the convert and all the other people who tried to provoke him. He didn’t throw them out. Rather, he addressed them with gentleness and affection, bringing them close to the Torah.

Tiferet Yisrael states that academic success depends on three factors:
1) diligence and perseverance, regarding which it says, “Be diligent in Torah study” (Avot 2:14);
2) In-depth analysis, regarding which it says, “And know what to respond to an heretic” (ibid.). In other words, it is not enough for one to ask questions and clarify the matter as is appropriate and permissible for a reputable Jew to do. Rather, one must try to raise all the questions that would be asked by a heretic, “one who is not satisfied with our faithful tradition, but accepts only what the human intellect will bear,” and one must try to answer them as well. The point is this: Sometimes, amongst G-d-fearing students of the Torah, people with deep-rooted faith in the holiness of the Written and the Oral Torah, they develop a fear of asking penetrating questions about the Torah. Thus, there is a type of question that does not come up while one is studying. Precisely adopting an outsider’s perspective, that of the heretic, lacking reverence for our Holy Writ, facilitates more critical analysis and more precise examination. Also regarding questions arising amongst heretics about the Holy Scripture it is proper for us to know how to answer, so that we can go deeper into that Scripture. Such is the Mishnah’s intent: “Know what to answer to the heretic.”
3) Freeing oneself of worry is likewise a precondition to success in study. It therefore says, “Know before whom you toil” (Avot 2:14), referring to when one is studying Torah. If one knows before Whom he is studying, he will not dare let his mind wander to other matters during his Torah study, and he will succeed in concentrating solely on the Torah.

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

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