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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“The heart yearns for the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael, the faith of Eretz Yisrael, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Where can we derive the joy of Eretz Yisrael, the inner tranquility of Eretz Yisrael, the devotion of Eretz Yisrael, the Truth of Eretz Yisrael?”
(Eretz Chefetz, 50)

Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:
“Israel as a Nation”

The Nation of Israel was born in Egypt. They went down to Egypt numbering seventy, and they left Egypt a nation. The first to discern their peoplehood was Pharaoh, of all people, who announced to Egypt: “The People of Israel are becoming too numerous and strong for us” (Exodus 1:9). Wicked Pharaoh, enemy of Israel, was the first to identify us as a nation with a special spirit that threatened both him and all of Egypt, sunk at the bottom of the forty-ninth rung of impurity. Pharaoh said, “We must deal wisely with them. Otherwise, they may increase so much that if there is war they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving us out of the land” (verse 10).

The fact that we did not then identify ourselves as a nation is no coincidence. Imagine a newborn infant. At first he does not know himself. He has no idea of his own worth or of the good soul within him. Only his parents and others from outside can see the infant’s good soul and rejoice over it. Only when the infant grows up does he identify himself, know his own talents and find his purpose in the world.
It was the same with the Jewish People. When they were first formed as a nation, they did not know themselves, or their worth or task. The hatred of Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel taught us the hard way that indeed Israel is a nation. The plagues, the exodus, the splitting of the sea and the Torah’s Revelation all taught Israel by positive means the difference between Israel and the nations. It showed them that G-d had lovingly chosen them and that they were a special people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation whose task it is to bestow light and goodness on the world.

Today we are living in the age of Holocaust and rebirth. In the Holocaust we learned in the hardest way imaginable that there is a Jewish People. The Nazis – may their name be blotted out – in their hatred for Jews, identified us, marked us and murdered us because we are Jews. And just as Pharaoh identified us first as a people and sought to kill us and our children, today, as well, unfortunately, anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews in general, and hatred of the State of Israel as a Jewish State are leading us against our will to recognize our special identity as a nation and as a unique people.

Yet the time has come for us to recognize the identity and role of the Jewish People by positive means. We must study and recognize our nation’s uniqueness and their historic destiny for the world as the people chosen by G-d. G-d continues to choose us from amongst all peoples so that we can bring good to the world.
The time has come for us to acknowledge our greatness and worth. After all, the reason the Arabs and the nations who support them fight against us is that they wish to extinguish the light of Israel which is growing brighter in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the entire world. Quite the contrary, we must recognize our identity, worth and destiny, and we must fight with fortitude and valor for our survival and independence and for the land that was safeguarded in our hands. If we recognize that we are fighting not just a national fight for our survival, but a war in which the black clouds of murderous terror are threatening all of mankind, then through strength and valor we will merit peace, for “The L-rd will grant strength to His people. He will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
A Friend Fell in Battle

A friend fell in battle.
My best friend on earth.
You couldn’t find one better.
We always marched together
Into life-and-death.
Into battle – like brothers
Through fire and water.
My best friend.

A bullet flew by.
It was meant for me.
But it was he who fell.
My best friend.
He offered me his hand.
But I, with my rifle,
Was returning murderous fire.
I took my friend’s revenge.
Then I took his hand,
And he said in a whisper:
“If you make it home,
Please sooth my Mom.
Ask her to forgive me.
Say we’ll meet again.
Pal, give me your hand!
Give me a smile!
Stay in my sight forever!”
Then he died.
And I wept.

I had a friend.
I’ll never smile again.
I’ll never laugh again.

He always faced danger
Bravely, fearlessly.
Some say he was a little crazy.
I’ve seen a hundred, a thousand,
A million who were like him.
But he was my friend.
My best friend on earth.
They don’t make them better.

He marched towards the unknown.
And with his eyes he told me:
“I’m ready!
“My friends went into battle
before me.
“And now it’s my turn.”

A friend fell in battle.
He believed in his path,
And he followed it.
He always volunteered
With all his heart.
For he said:
“What is life worth
If you don’t do something with it?”
Then he marched forward,
Quietly, humbly.

I am proud of him.
I am sad for him.
The time has come
For me to take the place
Of my friend –
Who was better than the rest!

True, he never learned Torah
He had no kippah.
But he “loved his neighbor as himself”.
He always helped others.
He didn’t help for the fun of it.
But because he had to.
One thing is certain.
He harbored no hatred.
And he enjoyed seeing his friend
Alive and happy.

He was my best friend.
He knew what a friend is.
Before he worried about himself,
He worried about others.
He worried about his nation.

He was the friend
That I loved the most.
Though he never learned Torah
And he had no kippah,
“Love your neighbor” was in his blood.
And for that mitzvah
He shed his own blood.

Therefore, G-d walked with him.
With my good friend.
The best in the world.
My friend.

Rabbi Azriel Ariel

The relationships between siblings throughout Genesis remain on a crisis footing to the point of tragedy. Again and again the ritual repeats itself in which the younger brother is chosen and pushes his older brother aside. The older brother, insulted to the core over his rejection, seeks to take revenge on the younger brother, and a harsh battle rages between them.

Sometimes the quarrel reaches the point of actual murder, as with the murder of Abel, the chosen, by his older brother Cain. Sometimes matter reach the point of an explicit death threat, as with Esau, who said, “The days of mourning for my father will be here soon. I will then be able to kill my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41). Sometimes matters reach the point of a veiled threat of murder, as with Yishmael, who plays with lethal arrows, seeking to slay his brother Yitzchak.

Worst was the struggle between Joseph and his brothers. There it seemed as though the younger brother sought to throw his older brothers out of the family, and the brothers’

reaction was a war of survival which led to their saying, “Now we have the chance! Let’s kill him…. Then let’s see what will become of his dreams” (37:20).

The relationships between brothers were not always so tragic. Amongst the three sons of Noah, precisely Yefeth was the oldest, while the chosen son was Shem. “May G-d expand Yefeth, but may He dwell in the tents of Shem” (9:27). Yet we did not hear about any resentment on Yefeth’s part over the selection of his younger brother. Also the firstborn Menashe was rejected before his younger brother, Efraim, and we did not hear any resentment from him either.

The most difficult trial of all was that faced by the Matriarch Rachel, who was forced to resign herself to the fact that her older sister, Leah, married her betrothed, Jacob. Not only that, but she was privileged to bear many sons from him before Rachel had any. She even gradually turned into Jacob’s main wife.

This trial was not easy for Rachel. It even says, “She was jealous of her sister” (30:1). Yet despite all the difficulties, Rachel was exceedingly careful not to insult her sister. According to our sages, she even handed over to Leah the identification marks that Jacob had given her to ensure that when he married her he would not be tricked. Rachel did this so that Leah would not be humiliated during the wedding when Laban’s trickery was exposed.

In Parashat Shemot as well, a tragedy was liable to occur. Aaron, Amram’s older son, and long a prophet, was forced to hand over the reins of leadership to Moses, his younger brother. Aaron had many reasons for being jealous of Moses. Even if he conquered his passions and avoided expressing his jealousy publicly, he was still Moses’s big brother. He had long been a prophet. It was he who had accompanied the people through dozens of years of suffering in Egypt, while Moses was enjoying the life of an Egyptian prince, or was off in distant Midian. Yet Aaron’s heart was free of jealousy.

The truth is that even Moses was afraid that Aaron would be jealous. When he said to G-d, “Please! Send someone more appropriate“ (Exodus 4:13), he was alluding to his brother Aaron, who was older than he, more talented, more experienced and more fit for the mission. Yet G-d allayed his fears, saying, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he knows how to speak! He is setting out to meet you, and when he sees you, his heart will be glad” (Exodus 4:14). Not only would Aaron cooperate publicly, coming out to greet Moses, but he would even be happy in his heart. And we, knowing the human mind in all its contorted passions, must ask ourselves: from where did Aaron draw this strength? To this there are several answers.

The first is Aaron’s easygoing nature. Aaron “loved peace and pursued it” (Avot 1:12). He loved peace, and was ready, so to speak, to forego attaining truth and justice. In order to reinstate peace between two people quarreling, he was ready to tell each side that the other side had expressed contrition even when it had not expressly done so. He would beseech each side not to insist on attaining its full rights, his sole interest being that peace should reign between them. And Aaron practiced what he preached. He did not just “make peace” but he “loved peace.” He truly loved it.

The second factor was Moses’s nature. If Moses was so sensitive to Aaron’s feelings that he was willing to forego the selection that he had merited, it should certainly have caused Aaron to respond accordingly. “As with pools of water touching one another, so too the hearts of men” (Proverbs 27:19).

The third factor was the auspicious hour. These were not normal times. The day of redemption was at hand. When the time comes to work for Israel’s redemption, the ego must step aside. The Torah says that the pit into which Joseph was thrown was “empty, without water” (Genesis 37:24) to which Rashi adds, “but snakes and scorpions it contained.” When the pit is full of the water of idealistic action, there is no room for the various “snakes and scorpions.” Just as the quarrel between the brothers was responsible for their descent to Egypt, so, too, peace between brothers will bring about the tidings of redemption.

Let us follow in our sages’ footsteps, and let us conclude with verses from the Book of Psalms 85:11-13: “Mercy and truth meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Truth springs forth out of the earth; righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the L-rd will give that which is good; and our land shall yield her produce.” “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). 

Translation: R. Blumberg

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