From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Just as a person must adapt himself to the physical forces of nature, training his steps and deeds in accordance with the general laws that rule the universe… all the more so must he adapt himself to the spiritual laws of nature, which have even greater ascendancy over reality.”
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
“Do not Make a Treaty With Them…it Will be a Fatal Trap”
While we were yet in the desert, G-d informed Israel about the process of conquering the Land, where would be the borders and how we must conduct ourselves and relate to the nations dwelling in the Land: “I will drive the inhabitants out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and fully occupy the land” (Exodus 23:30). We would not conquer the Land all at once, but gradually, until we had a chance to increase from a people of 600,000 to one of millions. Indeed, from the time of Joshua until the completed conquest of the land, in the days of King David and King Solomon, hundreds of years would pass.
What will the Land’s boundaries be? “I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river” (verse 23:31).
As far as our relationship to the Canaanites dwelling in the Land, G-d commanded us: “I will give the Land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you” (ibid.). Until they are conquered, Scripture states: “Do not make a treaty with these nations or with their gods. Do not allow them to reside in your land, since they may then make you sin to Me… it will be a fatal trap for you” (Exodus 23:32-33).
Today, the conquest and settling of the Land in our generation resembles the very same processes in the past. G-d is “driving the inhabitants out little by little.” Israel’s redemption in our generation is occurring gradually. Over a hundred years ago, when the process of national rebirth began, there were tens of thousands of Jews in the Land. When the State was established, there were about 600,000 (like the number that left Egypt). Today, we are privileged to be approaching six millions Jews in our country. We are the living fulfillment of, “Giving you a chance to increase and fully occupy the land.” True, the increase in the number of Arabs is worrisome (the “demographic problem”), yet it can be dealt with in two ways: 1) by way of great natural increase. This will occur, with G-d’s help, when the nation returns to Jewish tradition, as was promised by Ezekiel 36: “I will sprinkle pure water on you…” As is well-known, traditional Jewish families have many children. It can also happen by way of massive aliyah of the remnants of the Dispora, as in our Shemoneh Esreh prayer, “Gather us together speedily from the four corners of the earth.” 2) It can also be dealt with by the possibility of the Arabs fleeing from the Land, as they did during the War of Independence and the Six Day War. Through them was fulfilled, “Through their very plots, He rose above them” (Exodus 18:11). The Egyptians imagined destroying us through water, yet they themselves were destroyed in water (see Rashi, ibid.).
Nowadays as well, the Arabs, robbers of our land, would like to destroy us, and they proclaim their ambition before the entire world. What occurred in the past is what will occur now. With G-d’s help, “everything will be overturned.” G-d promised us the Land with its borders, which are to be the permanent borders of the State of Israel. True, we have not yet achieved those borders, yet we were already not far from achieving them when the Arabs forced a war upon us and we were 100 kilometers from Cairo, and we also reached Beirut.
Unfortunately, the Arabs continue to fight us with the goal of liquidating the State of Israel – it will never happen. Quite the contrary, with G-d’s help, the result will be that we will achieve the permanent Biblical borders even against our will.
Today, the State of Israel need a leader who will unite the nation, strengthen its spirit and its faith, restore to it erect stature and defend Eretz Yisrael. We need a moral leader with values, who is strong in his faith, in his recognition of what is the Jewish People, what is their identity, what is their historic purpose. We need a leader who understands that our war over our existence in the length and breadth of our land is not just our war but the war of the sons of light against the sons of darkness, against the axis of evil. He must understand and recognize that treaties and agreements with our enemies only weaken us, just as the wretched Oslo Accords brought us much death and suffering, strengthening those who would steal our land from us. As our parashah states, ““Do not make a treaty with them…It will be a fatal trap for you.”
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Question: What are the laws of a ta’anit dibbur? [literally, “a fast from speech” – undertaking not to speak words unrelated to Torah, for a particular amount of time]
Answer: This is a new practice not mentioned in the Torah, the Mishnah, the Talmud or the Rishonim [medieval sages], but only amongst several of the Acharonim [more recent sages]. Therefore, it is impossible to determine halachot in its regard, and everyone can do whatever he wishes. This custom was spread by Rabbi Yitzchak Alfia, author of the “Kuntres HaYechieli”, and there several practices are elaborated upon, as they are at the end of the “Ish Matzliach” edition of Psalms, for example, completing the Book of Psalms three times.
Yet the main thing is to be careful with one’s speech and to avoid lashon hara, gossip and other forbidden speech. One can talk, but one shouldn’t say forbidden things. The Vilna Gaon wrote:
“Until the day of one’s death, one must chastise oneself, not by fasting and self-torture, but by restricting his mouth and his cravings. That is repentance, and that is all the fruits of the World-to-Come, as it says, ‘For mitzvoth are a candle and the Torah is light’ (Proverbs 6:23), but ‘reproofs of instruction are the way of life’ (ibid.). This is greater than all the fasts and self-torture in the world… Scripture states (Psalm 34:13), ‘Who is the man who desires life and who loves days… It is one who guards his tongue from evil.’ By such means one can atone for any sin and be saved from hell. As it says (Proverbs 21:23), ‘Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue, keeps his soul from troubles,’ and, ‘Life and death are in the hands of the tongue’ (18:21). Woe to him who kills himself for the sake of one comment. What advantage is there to the gossip?” (Alim LiTrufa)
Therefore, there is room for holding a ta’anit dibbur as an interim means of learning to distance oneself from gossip, backbiting and insult. As in the well-known words of Rambam, in order to be cured of an evil trait, one must temporarily move to the opposite extreme (Hilchot De’ot 2:1-3).
Mishnah Berurah likewise writes:
“I saw written in one sefer that when a person wishes to conduct a voluntary fast day, better that he should undertake a fast from speech than from food, for avoiding speech will do one no harm, either to his body or to his soul, nor will it weaken him” (Orach Chaim 571, M.B. 2; and the same idea may be found in Shemirat HaLashon, Sha’ar HaTevunah, Chapter 2).
Obviously, however, all this refers to where one thereby does no harm to his wife or his children who wish to speak with him, or to anyone else who needs him. It is more important to speak kind words than to remain silent. There’s a story of a bus driver who engaged in a verbal fast and did not want to help his passengers who were asking him where to get off.
Surely our sages said, regarding Psalm 58:2, “Is it true [he’omnam] that you were silent [elem] about the righteousness that you should have spoken [tzedek tedaberun], the fairness with which you should have judged the children of men?”:
“What should man’s trade [omanut] be in this world? He should make himself mute [ilem]. I might think this applies even to Torah learning? It therefore says, Tzedek tedaberun”, ‘Speak righteousness’ (Chulin 89a).
Thus, silence is not appropriate across the board. Rather, it is an “omanut”, an “art” or a “trade”. It involves much wisdom, skill and sensitivity to know when to be silent and when to talk. When it comes to Torah and charity, you should talk. Here is our great master Rambam:
“One should remain silent often and not speak except to utter Torah wisdom or to say something that he needs to sustain his physical self. It was said of Rav, a disciple of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, that he never throughout his life engaged in vain chatter, which is the talk of most people. Even for one’s physical needs one should not speak much. In this regard our sages commanded, ‘Whoever talks much invites sin.’ They said further, ‘I have found nothing better for the body than silence’ (Hilchot De’ot 2:4).
Sometimes there is also a need to engage in kind words to one’s fellow man, to encourage him, strengthen him or gladden him. And sometimes, obviously, we do him a kindness by listening to him.
The rule is this: Sefer HaKuzari calls man “the Speaker”. That is his virtue, that he can think and talk (Rashi on Genesis 2:7). He must therefore use this supreme virtue for good, and be very responsible for every word he says.
Wedding Q & A with Rabbi Aviner
PRAYERS BY THE BRIDE:
Question: If a bride prays for five or ten minutes and the assembled wait for her, why is such a short period of time considered “tircha de’tzibura” – a burden on the public?
Answer: “Tircha de’tzibura” is not a matter of quantity, but of attitude. The bride has all day to pray. Why should she do it when everyone is standing around her waiting for her? There is a time for weddings and a time for prayer.
WORDS OF TORAH UNDER THE CHUPPAH:
Question: Our sages said, “The reward of a wedding consists of the words,” which Rashi explains to mean, “Words that bring joy to the bride and groom.” Why then shouldn’t one say words of Torah under the Chuppah?
Answer: The main thing is to gladden the groom by such utterances as, “She’s a lovely and pious bride,” and the same goes regarding gladdening the bride. The point is this: Certainly one should utter many words of Torah during the wedding, but not necessarily under the chuppah. There is a time for a chuppah and a time for Torah learning. Yet we should leave this decision up to the officiating rabbi.
“GUIDED TOURS”: Question: Why shouldn’t the rabbi do a “guided tour” of the ceremony under the chuppah so that people can understand what’s going on?
Answer: Very good, but not just then. There’s a time for a chuppah and a time for a guided tour.
UNDER THE TALIT: A talit being placed over the head of the bride and groom is an ancient, holy Sephardic custom (Leaflet 436). I should add that it is also an ancient and holy custom of many Ashkenazic communities, and everyone should follow his own custom. The main thing is to conduct oneself modestly as I wrote there.
THE BRIDE’S HEAD-COVERING: As far as head coverings following the ceremony, for Sephardim who do not go into seclusion in a “Yichud Room,” some Halachic authorities have ruled that even after just “Kiddushin” [the placing of the ring on the finger], the bride must cover her head (see “Sova Semachot, HaGaon Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef, page 175). Others have ruled that the ceremony itself, and the blessings recited the chuppah, mark the completion of “nissu’in” [full marriage, hence the bride must cover her head]. (see Sova Semachot, page 52, Note 7, and page 132). Yet even for those who take the lenient view, the Rishon LeTzion, HaGaon Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef wrote, “According to the main letter of the law, the bride is entitled to remain throughout the wedding feast in the head-covering of the wedding ceremony.” The head covering suffices, but she cannot appear without anything on her head.
THE YICHUD [seclusion] ROOM: As for what I wrote that there are rabbis who say that twenty minutes in the yichud room is enough (Leaflets 434 and 436), obviously this is just meant to provide a general guideline. That specific number is not something from Moses at Sinai. The main thing is not to exaggerate and to turn the yichud room into an extended vacation.
THE PROPER AGENDA: Our sages assigned a particular character to the wedding ceremony down through the generations, each community in accordance with its customs. There are many other fine activities that can be performed in life, but they needn’t be pushed into the wedding ceremony.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
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