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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Every moment that we increase the light in our soul, we should remember that we are influencing not just ourselves but the perfection and vibrancy of the whole universe, all of G-d’s works….”
(Orot HaKodsh 4:565)

Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

Two Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests)

The names of the tribes of Israel were engraved on two ornaments amongst the apparel of the Kohen Gadol [High Priest]. One ornament consisted of the two avnei shoham [onyx stones], one on each of the Kohen Gadol’s shoulders: “Take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of Israel’s sons. There shall be six names on one stone, and the remaining six names on the second stone inscribed in the order of their birth” (Exodus 28:9-10).
The second ornament was on the Kohen Gadol’s heart, the Choshen Mishpat [decision breast plate]: “Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel’s sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God” (verse 29).
The avnei shoham on the the Kohen Gadol’s shoulders, and the Choshen Mishpat on his heart, served as a reminder for G-d, as it says: “Place the two stones on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones for Israel’s sons. Aaron shall bear their names before the L-rd on his two shoulders as a remembrance” (28:12). Rashi interpreted “remembrance” to mean: “G-d should see the tribes inscribed before Him, and He should remember their righteousness.”
The Kohen Gadol’s benevolent heart encompassed within it the entire Jewish People, in all their tribes and all their variety, as alluded to by the avnei shoham. After all, he was commanded to bless G-d’s people lovingly, and the intent was that he should bless the ENTIRE Jewish People. If, G-d forbid, a Kohen hates someone from the congregation, he is not entitled to bless them.
Yet it is not enough to love the Jewish People. One also has to take responsibility for them and defend the entire generation, as Isaiah said (3:10), “Say of the righteous, that it shall be well with him, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.” As Mesillat Yesharim (Chapter 19) comments, “The entire generation benefits from those fruits.”
Shoulders are a symbol of taking responsibility (perhaps this is why army officers, who bear heavy responsibility, have their ranks on their shoulders).
Today, our generation, the generation of Israel’s rebirth, has merited the appearance of those two Kohanim Gedolim, father and son, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, zt”l, and his only son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, zt”l, who continued in his father’s path. It is equally true of both of them, that the entire Jewish People was in their heart constantly, just as Aaron the Kohen Gadol bore the names of the sons of Israel on the Choshen Mishpat when he entered the sanctuary, as a constant remembrance before G-d (Exodus 28:29).
Yet the Jewish People, in all their tribes and variety were not just in their hearts, as symbolized by the Decision Breastplate, but also “on their shoulders”. In other words, Rav Kook, both father and son, took responsibility for the Jewish People to bring merit to their generation and to the entire world. It was akin to the way that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Eliezer brought merit to the entire world, requesting of G-d that He exempt the world from the yardstick of strict justice (Succah 45b). Moreover, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto writes that a saint directs all his deeds towards the good of his generation, to bring them merit and to defend them (Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 19).
On the 14th of Adar, twenty-eight years ago, the pure, enlightening soul of our master and teacher Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, zt”l ascended to the celestial realm, after being privileged to establish a generation of Torah scholars who illuminate the soul of the nation by way of the light of Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s father, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen, zt”l. During these dark times, the nation is in such great need of this light. This light shall continue to illuminate the path of the Jewish People and the entire world, down through the generations until the arrival of our righteous Messiah, speedily in our day, Amen. With blessings for a joyous Purim,

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El
“I am Depressed”
Question: I am depressed, and I am depressed by the fact that I am depressed. Shall I ever get out of it? People tell me, “Move on! Get a grip! Take control! Stop babying yourself! You can break out of it if you want.” And this depresses me all the more. Is it really enough for me to WANT to get out of it for me to succeed? I am suffering so much. My mood is so terrible. I am sunken in despair. Nothing interests me. Nothing is fun for me. I feel worthless. I feel like no one loves me, like no one wants me near them. I’ve become a rag, depressed and in pain. Can I get out of this? Will I ever see the light of day? Will my smile ever return?
Answer: You’ve got a lot of reasons to be optimistic. There’s no reason to suffer, and mental anguish is no less real than physical pain. Most of the time, the problem can be solved or alleviated. You’ll break out of it, because you haven’t resigned yourself to your plight. You want light. That’s a sign that inside you are strong. Within an ocean of pain there is a powerful island of health, that can slowly be expanded.
But first of all, don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. The causes of your depression are complex: chemical changes in the brain, heredity, a response to difficult occurrences from childhood or from the recent past, severe economic crises, a broken home and low social status.
You are not guilty. You are not interested in being depressed. You do not enjoy being depressed. You would pay all the money in the world to break out of it.
Hush up the people who chastise you, and don’t chastise yourself. Don’t fall into deep ruminations, prying too deeply into yourself. You’re not alone with this problem. 5.5% of this country is like you, consisting of 7% of all women and 4% of all men. Obviously, other people’s suffering is no consolation to you, but you should still be aware that you’ve got many people in the same boat, and they’re not guilty either.
Not everyone is the same. Depression finds expression in many different forms: having no appetite, or too much appetite, sleeping too little or too much, losing or gaining weight, diarrhea or constipation, aggressiveness or passiveness, anger or sadness, low self-image and self-hatred, loss of ability to concentrate and memory loss, negatively judging others and being overly self-critical, and a lost list of many other forms of pain and suffering. What they all have in common is that the people with these problems are not guilty.
I do believe you that you have tried everything to get out of it, and that you are still trying by your own efforts, just you haven’t succeeded. People don’t always succeed at this on their own, so go for professional help. Don’t be embarrassed. You didn’t choose this for yourself, and you’re allowed to get help. Afterwards you’ll get better and you’ll help others. Tell the professional everything that is happening to you, even if it seems stupid to you. He won’t make fun of you. He won’t castigate you. He certainly won’t behave like the Puritans in America who placed hard work on a high pedestal – which was obviously justified – and severely punished the depressed people for the crime of sloth, as the most severe crime.
First go to a family doctor skilled at providing depressed individuals with their initial treatment, so he can locate physical causes and diagnose physical symptoms. Then go to a clinical psychologist, and even if that doesn’t help, go to a psychiatrist so he can prescribe medications. Don’t be embarrassed to take medications. They don’t stigmatize you as being insane. When there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, anti-depressants restore that balance. Today there are really excellent medicines, wonder drugs that reveal the divine image within science. There is no reason to fear side effects. Obviously, don’t take these medications on your own without a doctor’s recommending them. By the way, even a family physician is entitled to prescribe anti-depressants, or a psychiatric social worker.
Don’t be afraid of psychologists, either. The cognitive approach helps you to think positively, to melt away your depressed thoughts logically, to get used to seeing the present and the future in an optimistic light, and to stop blaming yourself for your failings.
You might wonder: “What do I need a psychologist for? All this thinking I can do on my own!” Indeed, even working with a psychologist you do it by yourself. He only helps you to do it by yourself, his being experienced and objective. By the way, alternative treatments have not proven effective in psychological research. Yet bio-feedback treatment, despite its sounding “alternative”, is totally scientific and produces good results in numerous psychological realms.
Moreover, if you see that your friend is sunken in depression or anxiety, please be so kind as to convince him to go for professional treatment. As stated, however, don’t chastise him, but provide him with support, love and friendship. That’s what friends are for.
We rabbis are not doctors, psychologists or social workers. All the same, we can give you some advice on good things to do that don’t require professional knowledge.
1. Activities. Stay busy with as many activities as possible. That way you’ll take your mind off you situation.
a. Physical activity. Obviously, this is good for one’s physical health, but it also causes the release of endorphins, which kill pain and improve one’s mood. Run, swim, ride a bicycle.
b. Creativity. Draw and write. Churchill, which suffered from depression even though he seemed the opposite, began drawing towards the end of his life when he withdrew from politics.
c. Volunteer. Help others who suffer from depression or other problems. When you concentrate on the problems of others, you will forget your own problems. You will also have self-satisfaction from doing good, and you will feel content.
In his medical writings (translated from the Arabic by Dr. Sussman Muntar), Rambam writes to the King of Egypt regarding his son, the prince, who was deep in depression, that he should study moral treatises and fulfill what they said.
2. Sociality. Spend time with friends. Once more, don’t spend time with friends who chastise you, but friends who offer you support and love and encouragement. That way you’ll break out of your loneliness, which, itself, can put a person into depression. And if you can’t find friends, then adopt the sort of pet that becomes friendly with people, like a dog or cat.
3. Happiness. Rambam writes that depressed people should sing, play musical instruments and go on trips to beautiful places (Shemoneh Perakim, Chapter 5). As is known, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that one should do anything one can to chase away black depression, even engage in silly talk.
4. Soothing activities. There’s no need to go to India for this. One can find all one needs by regular activities much more cheaply.
5. Sleep. Try to get regular sleep. That regulates life.
6. Study. Read up on depression. Sometimes that itself is depressing, but there are people who find solace in the very act of knowing.

This was some advice. Everyone should pick whatever is appropriate for him. As for you, dear reader, if you have any things that you’ve tried yourself, please write me.
You might now ask: “Maybe with the help of all this advice I’ll get out of my depression by myself and not need professional help?” It’s possible. But with professional help, it will go faster. As we say in our prayers, “Cure us SPEEDILY”.
But you will break out of it. Yes you will.

Rabbi Yaakov Filber 

When Esther sent the sages her request, “Write my story for future generations” (Megillah 6a), they responded, “You are arousing jealousy
between us and the nations.” Seemingly, their response is puzzling. Since when do we censor Scripture because of what the nations will say? A point in Rambam’s Igeret Teiman invites the same question:
“‘What nation is so great that they have such righteous rules and laws?’ (Deuteronomy 4:8). G-d’s setting us apart through His laws and commandments, thus highlighting our superiority over the nations, made all the idolaters enormously jealous of us.”
Would we ever consider erasing or hiding our Torah-based superiority so as not to arouse jealousy amongst the nations? Assuming we wouldn’t, what was the argument between Esther and the sages?
We can understand the sages’ response on the background of their times. When they lived, new works were still being added to Scriptures, and Esther was asking the sages that her scroll, as well, should be included in the Bible. Our sages had their own yardstick for what should or should not be included in the Bible. As they said (Megillah 14a), “Many prophets arose in Israel, twice as many as the number of Jews who left Egypt. Yet, prophecies needed for future generations were included, and those not
needed were excluded.” The argument between Esther and the Sages was: Is or is not the content of Megillat Esther relevant to future generations?
According to our sages (whose wisdom was based on past experience), the Purim story could not be classed as “needed for future generations”, because until Haman’s appearance, there was no precedent of genocide. Hence, the Purim story seemed to be a one-time event such that no one could ever imagine it recurring. It is true that the Jewish people had previously known trials and tribulations, for example Esau and Laban, or Pharaoh in Egypt, who decreed, “Every boy who is born must be cast into the Nile” (Exodus 1:22). After that there was Amalek in the desert, and all the other enemies of Israel from the period of the Judges and the Kings. Yet such an “insane” decree as this one, “to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day” (Esther 3:13), the Jews of Mordechai and Esther’s day had never known. The Rabbis, based on their empirical experience, viewed this genocidal plot as an extraordinary, one-time event that would never repeat itself. They therefore concluded that the Bible should not include such a transient event. For them it was a prophecy irrelevant to future generations.
Esther, by contrast, was one of seven prophetesses who prophesied to Israel. Prophecy is not the product of past experience. Rather, it looks forward, transcending the limits of time and place. Esther in her prophecy looked towards the future of the Jewish People, and with her ruach hakodesh [spiritual intuition] she knew that the Purim story was not a one-time event, but rather, one that unfortunately would repeat itself many times throughout the future history of the Jewish People. Through her prophecy she knew that a prolonged exile awaited the Jewish People in the desert of nations, an exile whose end could not be seen on the horizon. It was an exile in which the Jewish People would face harsh trials. They would view themselves as a person drowning in an endless sea, in need of a life-raft, even if he does not know where the stream of troubled times is dragging him.
Such a life-raft – in Esther’s view – was Megillat Esther, for it taught the Jewish People that even if Israel in exile reached a situation of total annihilation, of a Holocaust, and even if the light could not be seen at the end of the exilic tunnel, even then they should not despair, because a decree could sometimes be transformed overnight. Indeed, “venahafoch hu” [the overturning of expectations – Esther 9:1] was the lesson of the Megillah, and throughout Jewish history there was never a prophecy so needed for future generations as that of Megillat Esther. In fact, the Rabbis ultimately accepted her view, and Megillat Esther was included in the Bible. 

Translation: R. Blumberg

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