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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The supreme wonder of the Torah is that even in terms of its inner specialness, the mystery of its having been given to us, which in turn depends on our having been chosen from amongst all nations, it constantly showers the inner core of our soul with a living, self-regenerating beacon of light, every moment of our lives.”  (Olat Re’iyah 1:61)

Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Our Leaders Must be Capable, G-d Fearing, Truthful Men Who Hate Injustice”

Yitro recommended to Moses to appoint judges over Israel, moral individuals with refined character. He said “seek out from among all the people, capable, G-d-fearing men – men of truth, who hate injustice” (Exodus 18:21). Rashi comments: “’Capable’: Men of wealth who do not need to ingratiate themselves nor to show favoritism. ‘Men of truth’: Men who command confidence, who deserve that their words be relied on, and therefore their words will be listened to. ‘Who hate gain’: i.e. they “despise” their own property; i.e., they pay their debts, and there is no need to force payment through litigation.” Yet how is it possible to discern that these people are truly ethical, upright and honest, rather than liars, pursuers of gain and bribe takers?

Rashi responds, “‘You must seek out [techeze]’: through the prophetic intuition that is upon you.” Hebrew “techeze” comes from the same root as “chazon” [prophetic vision]. We have to know the candidates and their level of morality and values if we are to appoint them judges and leaders. Therefore, those who appoint the judges must themselves be people of truth and morality. Appointing judges has bearing not just on establishing justice between fellow Jews, but also influences the nation’s strength, as it says, “Pursue perfect honesty, so that you will live and occupy the land that God your Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:20). The appointment of reputable judges provides sufficient merit to bring Israel back to life and to restore them to their land (see Rashi, ibid.). And as Isaiah said (1:27), “Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and they that return of her with righteousness.”
Today, not just judges need to be men of truth who hate gain. All political leaders need to provide an example through their conduct, morality and their relationship to the Jewish nation and individual. As we all know, if the leadership is corrupt, then the leaders will be unable to see the truth, and they will not speak the truth, for “bribery blinds the wise and distorts the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 17:19). Those leaders are then liable to make serious, dangerous mistakes in the political, military, economic and social sphere – as we see today.
Therefore, as we set out to select the political leadership that will run our country, first and foremost we must choose moral people, lest G-d forbid the words of Isaiah are fulfilled through us: “Your princes are rebellious; companions of thieves. Every one loves bribes, and follows after rewards” (Isaiah 1:23). And by virtue of our meriting leadership by “capable, truthful men who hate injustice,” may there be fulfilled through us Isaiah’s words (ibid., v. 26), “I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Looking forward to complete salvation,

Shabbat Shalom!

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“I am Married For The Third Time”

“My name is Dr. Bob Shapiro, a marriage counselor, and I have been through some experiences of my own; a number of years ago I married for the third time. You are certainly wondering to yourselves, “Are you the man who is going to preach to us about married life?!”

Yes. I owe you an explanation. When I married Jill, she was young and charming, and I was very happy. Yet over the years, I found her less and less charming, and after twenty years of marriage, I noticed that she was not the woman I had married, and I underwent a sort of crisis. Yet I cheered myself up and learned how to appreciate my wife Jill anew. I married her a second time, and I was very happy. I was now marrying a forty-year-old woman intentionally, and not by default. I discovered her anew, with traits that she did not have when she was twenty. One can carry on interesting conversations with her, and one can learn a great deal from her: sensitivity, seriousness, how to approach teen-age children. She is less bashful and more assertive. She understands me better, and I started to perceive things within myself that she loved in me. Thanks to her I learned to like myself. Things I saw in my wife, I saw in myself. I delved into herself-myself.

When I was twenty, I was caught up with the superficial, with externals. Now I found an inner beauty – tranquility, wisdom, femininity, motherhood, and love of one’s fellow man. Jill taught me patience. What a marvelous woman!

Yet after another twenty years, I found myself with a slightly elderly woman, and I felt a tinge of disappointment. Yet I worked on myself and wedded her still again. Once more I discovered her anew. I am now new and I see her as a new person. Her wrinkles do not bother me. Life has filled them with hard work and profound wisdom. Her white hair does not bother me. Softness shines forth from her. I finally understand how the Matriarch Sarah, at age 100, was as beautiful as at age 7. I worked on myself and discovered my wife anew.

Now you understand. Having married the same woman three times, I am allowed to talk. You must certainly be curious to know how I succeeded in doing this. It was simple, and very hard. When we met before getting married, Jill asked me if I was willing to take responsibility. I didn’t understand. “The fact that you don’t understand my question worries me,” said Jill. “Many of my friends have married husbands who take no responsibility for the house, the marriage, the children. Instead, they feel like tourists.” “I will take responsibility, Jill. I promise,” I said. Yet Jill did not relent. “And what do you plan to do in that regard?” she asked. I thought a bit and then I answered, “I will make an investment! Yes. I will invest a great deal!” Jill’s eyes shined. “O.K.! Let’s go.” Under the wedding canopy, after I said, “You are betrothed to me with this ring,…” I whispered in her ear, “This is my first investment…” She broke out laughing. Since then I have been investing every day. Jill invests as well.

We both invest and invest and it never ends. One time I heard from my rabbi, Rabbi Brown, that finding a match for a person is as hard for G-d as splitting the sea. Another time he said that the sea did not split from one end to the other, but only right in front of us wherever we walked. I asked him, “Is marriage the same?” and he answered, “Of course! Of course!”

Don’t think everything went easy with our marriage. Almost every day, we argued over everything, because we are both temperamental people and we both stubbornly stuck to our guns. Yet we didn’t give up, and day after day we talked to each other. We wouldn’t go to sleep until we had ironed everything out. It took a long time, but we were ready in advance. Rabbi Brown taught us, “It says, ‘When a man takes a new bride… he must remain free for his family for one year’ (Deuteronomy 24:5). The first year, a couple have to be together a lot.” “And after that?” I asked. He answered, “If you keep it up, you will eventually be able to lower the dosage.” Yet I internalized well the idea that marriage is not just fun. It’s an investment. If something is precious to me, I invest. My psychological studies were precious to me, so I invested. Obviously my Torah learning was precious to me, so I invested. Now Eretz Yisrael is precious to me, so I invest. My Jill is precious to me, so I invest!

Yet I have to admit that despite all of my investing, we collapsed under the weight of so many arguments, and then I came to the conclusion that one cannot try to achieve too much. Rather, I had to limit myself to what is really important. So I said to my wife, “Listen Jill, there are four things that are really important to me. If you meet me half way on those, I will meet you half way on what is important to you. Most critical is the fact that I am a hot-tempered person. Please show me kindness in this regard, and if you do, I will promise you the world.” She too presented me with a list of expectations. Where our two sets of expectations were mutually exclusive, we compromised.

You are certainly wondering how it takes me, the psychologist, so long to understand things. Here you’ve hit on the main point. Understanding is easy for me. I understand quickly. Yet changing is hard. You see, it’s not enough to understand. You have to change too. I have a strong personality, and I couldn’t change it overnight. Character improvement takes time. I’ve learned to compromise and I’ve learned to demand. I’ve learned to listen and I’ve learned to speak. I’ve learned to say I’m sorry and I’ve learned to forgive. I’ve learned to be flexible and I’ve learned to help my wife to be flexible. The profit I’ve gained has been double. I not only got a happy marriage, but I also improved my character. Maybe that is why G-d commanded us to wed, so that we would be forced to improve our character. If we do not improve, our marriage would be on the rocks, and we would have gotten divorced, or emotionally been as good as divorced, which is not ideal either.

I’ll tell you the truth. The romantic love we felt on our honeymoon has very often waned, but we’ve always succeeded in reviving it. Indeed, for me to be disappointed with my wife because she has grown older is a sign of bad character. Altogether, good character is a prerequisite to getting married. Obviously, one isn’t expected to be perfect. One can start out on the road and organize oneself along the way, like in the army, helping each other towards character improvement. Yet there is also an initial minimum. A soldier cannot go into battle without his gun, without shoes or his helmet, without knowing how to shoot – and still hope to get organized along the way. Yet one shouldn’t be extreme in the other direction either.

Yes, I am proud of myself. I succeeded in refining my character in numerous spheres. That is how I merited to marry three times! Actually, every day I invest toil, energy and effort, and every day I marry anew. Mazal tov!

Rabbi Elisha AvinerEducation Corner
“After Amona: An Educational Perspective (Part 1)

Without a doubt, what occurred in Amona was not easy for our youth, whether or not they were present at the event. The harsh images are liable to leave an open wound in their psyche. Youths emerged from Gush Katif with the feeling that the government is belittling their most deeply held beliefs, and this broke their spirit. By the way the expulsion was carried out, and by the manner in which the expellees are cared for, the government sent a message that it also views disparagingly their psychological needs and material welfare. Now, having been victims of violence and sexual abuse at Amona, the impression has been created that even their bodies are worthless in the government’s eyes. Among many youths, something very basic was broken.

1. Psychological Support – If it is hard for an adult to digest scenes of violence, all the more so for youth. The encounter with violence and injustice on such a large scale arouses feelings of frustration, anger and vengefulness. These feelings are destructive to the psyche and can only hurt it. Therefore, our first task is to support and encourage our youth. Hundreds of young people were exposed to violence without having done anything wrong, and they need a warm, caressing hand, empathy and support. They all need to hear from us that we are with them, and that we are going to set out with a strong public struggle against those who mistreated them. Even if someone has criticism about the bellicose spirit that reigned at Amona amongst a few groups of youth, he must address his criticism to the adults, those who recently adopted an aggressive tone, confusing and misleading the youths with their slogans.

2. Refinement and Purification – Our youth have had a taste of an aggressive struggle. Even if many of them had no such prior intentions, and only went there to protest and show their identification, matters progressed and some youths responded with force against the force exercised against them. Our youth are gentle by nature and abhor violence, but the confrontation at Amona naturally broke down barriers. Every broken barrier leaves a breach open to penetration by evil. Therefore, we must stop it up immediately. Even a struggle for the sake of heaven leaves some stain on the psyche, which must later be cleansed. As the Netziv taught us, Pinchas needed the divine blessing of peace in order to cleanse the impression left on him by his act of revenge. Although Pinchas’s motives were holy and pure, his zealotry left an impression on his psyche. That zealotry was imperative and we cannot denounce it, but after the fact, it made treatment necessary.

Whoever believes the struggle over Gush Katif left no problematic impression on our youth is mistaken. Here are two examples: Educators are reporting about youths who participated in the struggle and are now lying a lot. During the struggle, they were allowed to lie for the struggle’s sake, and since then they have come to view lying as permissible. The barrier against falsehood has been breached, and has not yet been closed up again. Another example: in the heat of the debate over how to carry out the struggle, harsh words were heard against certain rabbis. From then until today, such talk is only getting worse (a brief glance at the “Besheva” and Maariv-NRG Internet sites will reveal hundreds of blunt attacks by web-surfers, amongst them youths, against rabbis). The conclusion is not to sit with hands folded and avoid taking any action lest it harm our youths’ psyche or character. Rather, after the fact we have to close up the breaches, refine the dross, soften and smooth out, regulate and balance.

3. Ideological Clarification – Hard facts cannot be denied (they were documented in numerous films). Neither can one argue over personal feelings. We can, however, debate regarding conclusions. This is the job of the educator (parents, rabbis, teachers, counselors). We have to help our youth sort out their confused thoughts. In numerous talks with youth, I have heard a mixture of contradictory thoughts: legitimization of force in communal struggles, together with a fierce desire to show a smiling countenance to Israeli society; agreement on starting a civil war in order to save Eretz Yisrael, together with genuine love for the Jewish People; determined resolution to lead Israeli society, coupled with absolute despair over the ability to influence them; full confidence regarding their strength together with a feeling of persecution. The impression is that in recent months our youth despaired of being able to have a deep influence on Israeli society. Their faith in the ability to decide public struggles by force is increasing. Without a doubt, our youth take note of the opinions of the adults around them. They read what those adults write, they hear the tone and they take it all one step further.

Whoever loses faith in long-term action will naturally be drawn towards sharp action in the present. Therefore, we must restore to our youth the faith in our collective ability to influence Israeli society. This is not an easy task at a time when we can all feel the waves of hatred against us. Yet whoever does not believe in the possibility of influencing Israeli society, is prophesying a very gloomy future for the State of Israel – the loss of its Jewish identity and massive spiritual assimilation – in a word, total collapse.

The main message must be that we are not in despair. We do not delude ourselves into believing that we are going to lead the entire Jewish People tomorrow morning, but believe that influencing the consciousness of Israeli society is not a mission impossible if we invest in it the appropriate resources.

We mustn’t leave our youth with the belief that the only effective solution is force. Not only because we know that the effectiveness of force is limited, but also because we expect our youth to be present and future partners with us in the task of changing the consciousness of Israeli society. We need entire armies of youth, full of spiritual resources and strong belief, and capable of communicating with Israeli society in order to exalt it from its low level.   (to be continued…)

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

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