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PARASHAT EMOR

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook 
The spiritual side of our national ascent depends on the spiritual betterment of every individual Jew.” 
(Orot Yisrael 158

Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir 

Message for Today: 

Bar Yochai – Happy is the Nation That Learn From You

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was privileged to have the day of his passing, which fell on Lag BaOmer, become a major celebration in which the Jewish People go outdoors and light bonfires in his honor. Those bonfires are like a memorial candle commemorating the lofty soul that merited to be amongst the elite – to see the countenance of the divine presence, to make personal, direct contact with G-d. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai merited this stature by virtue of self-sacrifice. He particularly felt the pain of the Jewish People and of Eretz Yisrael. He couldn’t bear to have a foreign nation, the Romans, ruling over the People and Land of Israel, and he spoke to the Roman’s detriment. As a result, the Romans pursued him and wished to kill him, and he was forced to hide in a cave for twelve years with his son.

         

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s self-sacrifice for the People and Land of Israel stemmed from his clear faith in and recognition of Israel’s essence and purpose, as well as of the meaning of Jewish rule over Eretz Yisrael for the Jewish People and for all mankind. Not only Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai understood and recognized the connection between the People and Land of Israel, but all the mystics who followed and who continue to follow in his path, such as Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, Ramban, the Arizal, Ramchal, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and of the Vilna Gaon, and others, who exhibited self-sacrifice for Eretz Yisrael, going there despite great dangers and hardships.

         

Today, as we sing the song, “Bar Yochai, how fortunate you are! Anointed with the oil of joy by your colleagues,” we have to recall that he merited what he did through his self-sacrifice for the People, Land and Torah of Israel. Not only Bar Yochai merited in this way, but all who have followed in his path down through the generations, especially in our own generation, the generation of rebirth and of the ingathering of the exiles, whether they are aware of it or not. The merit from self-sacrifice for the sake of the Jewish People, Torah and Land shall defend them, and through it they in turn bring merit to the entire generation and to all generations. The day is not far off when through us will be fulfilled, “Bar Yochai! Fortunate your forbears! Fortunate the nation that learns from you, fortunate those who dwell on your secret, enveloped in the breastplate of your Urim VeTumim!”  Looking forward to complete salvation,

 

Shabbat Shalom! 

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner– Chief Rabbi of Bet El 
I’m Chareidi Too 

I’m chareidi too. Certainly I am. After all, what is a chareidi? A person who trembles [chareid] at the word of G-d, who strives to keep the mitzvoth, to learn Torah, to improve his character, to avoid evil and to do good. Surely we were all commanded about these things, and we are all called upon to fulfill them. That’s what is on the mind of every chareidi: to be G-d-fearing. Indeed, this is the ideal of us all, that we “desire to fear Your name” (Nechemiah 1:11). I didn’t say that I am already G-d-fearing, but I am amongst those “who DESIRE to fear G-d’s name”.

Obviously, there are a lot of types of Jews who fear G-d, or want to fear Him, or are trying sincerely to fear His name. Yet the common denominator of them all is: fear of G-d. And that common point is infinitely greater than all the elements that divide us. Indeed, it is very essential that all the various types of G-d-fearing people should recognize and feel that commonality. This will lead them all to cooperate. As it says in Pirkei Avot 6:6: “Bearing the yoke with one’s fellow Jew” is one of the forty-eight ways by which the Torah is acquired. One may not agree with one’s fellow Jew. One may even have some criticism for him. Yet we should still cooperate with him for the majestic common goal of undertaking the yoke of heaven.

One time a new student arrived at the Mercaz HaRav heshiva. Our master, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, turned to him affectionately and said to him something along the following lines: “From now on you are a chareidi. From now on, you won’t be busy with hiking and going out to have fun at night, with work and hobbies. Henceforth you’ll be busy with Torah and mitzvoth. Henceforth you’re a chareidi!

What a wonderful world! This is a wonderful world that has sustained the Jewish People for thousands of years, and will continue to sustain them. This is a world that was built by the Men of the Great Assembly, who generated masses of Jews “who are set apart from the impurity of the nations of the lands” (Ezra 6; Nechemiah 10; Sefer Orot, page 110). And you can see the marvelous continuation to this very day of that same G-d-fearing, chareidi Jew. So much Torah! So much mitzvoth! So much sterling character! So much familial contentment! So little divorce – and thank G-d for that.

Don’t expect to find anything else amongst those marvelous people. That isn’t their expertise. It’s not their mission. Don’t expect to find amongst them the rebirth of our nation in its land, in the Jewish State and in the army. That isn’t their job. Each Jew has his own mission and task. Just as you won’t go looking for breakfast rolls in a hardware store. Among them, what you’ll look for is love and Torah and mitzvoth, and that you will find.

Our master Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook warns in his famous Letter 378, published before the appearance of Orot HaTeshuva: “One must be cautious to ensure that all the ideals of fortitude and valor, joy and rebirth, which claim so much relevance at present, not weaken our fear of G-d to the slightest degree. Quite the contrary, we need to have even more fear of G-d.”

Living together as a nation is infinitely more complicated than living as individuals. Thus, we have to have even more fear of G-d. G-d forbid that we should dispense with any of the fear of G-d of the chareidim. Quite the contrary, we ourselves have to be chareidim. We have to be more chareidi than the chareidim. We must build an additional level of marvelous piety. We need the piety of building the land, of the return to Zion, of the establishment of the State, and of Israel’s wars. Obviously, ours is not some new kind of piety, but an old type that was forgotten due to the exile, and now it has to be reawoken, in accordance with Megillah 3a which refers to principles that were “forgotten and then reinstated”.

Yet all this is in accordance with that same fine, blessed piety that has existed for two thousand years. What, after all, is piety? It is the first levels of the book Mesillat Yesharim – avoiding all sin, alacrity to fulfill all mitzvoth, being clean of the slightest hint of wrong-doing. All these are traits relevant to everyone. And the same applies to the higher levels: “purity” – acting with sincere intent; “separation” and “saintliness”, as we ascend further and further in holiness.

Fortunate the person who trembles at G-d’s word. Fortunate the person who fears G-d and walks in His pathways.

Rabbi Yaakov Filber

The Suffering of the Righteous and the Thriving of the Wicked


In our world some people suffer and others are happy. This phenomenon arouses no questions, for we know that there is reward and punishment to man for his deeds. As we say in our prayers, “He bestows kindness on a man according to his works. He pays the wicked man according to his wickedness” (“Yigdal”).

           

The difficulty arises when we see the evildoer who is thriving and the righteous man who is suffering. In this regard we ask, “Shall the whole world’s Judge not act justly?” (Genesis 18:25). This question was asked not just by Abraham, but also Moses beseeched of G-d, “Make known to me Your ways” (Exodus 33:13). His intent was explained by our sages (Berachot 7a): “This teaches that Moses sought to know why there are righteous people who suffer and wicked people who thrive.” Did Moses receive an answer to this question? Our sages differ on this question. According to the Midrash G-d answered him, “You wouldn’t be able to fathom divine justice.” In other words, no man, even if he be as wise as Moses, can understand with his partial, imprecise knowledge, the divine justice that reigns in our world. In this way does Rabbenu Yona explain the Mishnah (Avot 4:14), “Both the ease of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous are out of our hands.” He says, “We cannot fathom why it is so.”

           

On the other hand, some of our sages hold that suffering visits the righteous to purge them of their sins (for, as the Torah states, “There is no man on earth so righteous that he will just do good and never sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)) and to bring them to the World-to-Come. Likewise, the goodness enjoyed by the evil man in this world is meant to make him lose out on the World-to-Come, as it says, “He pays back His enemies to His face to destroy them” (Deuteronomy 7:10). Rashi comments, “In his lifetime G-d pays him the reward coming to him to make him forfeit the World-to-Come.” Of this the Midrash states (Tanchuma, Vayigash 8), “When an evildoer does a charitable deed, G-d rewards him right here on earth so as to make him forfeit the World-to-Come.”

           

Man arrives at conclusions from his partial vision of reality, and the Torah says of this, “The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Onkelos comments, “Mighty, when His deeds are complete.” Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian explains Onkelos’s intent by a parable: A man enters a tailor shop and sees the tailor take a large strip of expensive cloth and cut it up. He cries out, “Stop! You’re destroying it!” but the tailor answers, “Wait until I finish my work.” The man waits, and the tailor attaches one part to another until a beautiful garment emerges. That is what the Torah is saying here. When G-d’s deeds are complete, it will become clear that “all His ways are just. He is a faithful G-d, never unfair. Righteous and moral is He.”

           

My explanations so far have been based on the assumption that the evildoer is really an evildoer and the righteous man is really righteous. Yet some of our sages place this assumption in doubt. For example, Ibn Shu’ib in his Derashot (Devarim, “Mizmor Le’asaf”) quotes a midrash that explains the reasoning behind Moses’s question and G-d’s answer: “Mizmor Le’Asaf” – a psalm to Assaf. This psalm was authored by Assaf regarding mankind’s perplexity over the righteous suffering and the wicked enjoying reward. Assaf, the poet, wrote it in his own words, or used the language of the perplexed.

 

The prophets likewise spoke of this. Jeremiah said (12:1): “Right would You be, O L-rd, were I to contend with You, yet I will still reason with You: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are all they secure that deal treacherously?” King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:15) said, There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing.” He further said (ibid., 8:14), “There are righteous men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked. Then again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous.” Chavakuk said (1:4), “The wicked man does beset the righteous; therefore right goes forth perverted.”

           

Our sages said that Moses was struggling with this question when he asked G-d, “Make known to me Your ways.” He asked G-d, Why do the righteous suffer?…” The Midrash comments, “When Moses was on the mountain, he saw a man come to drink from a river, and when he was done drinking he accidentally left his money behind. Someone else came along to drink, found the money, took it and left. The owner then returned to the river and found yet a third man drinking. He said, “You took the money I forgot here!” The man replied, “I saw no money here!” and he took out his sword and killed the money’s owner.

           

When Moses saw all of this he was puzzled. He asked G-d, “Make known to me Your ways! Why was this man killed when he had done nothing wrong, and why was the thief spared?” G-d replied, “The money’s ‘owner’ had originally stolen the money from the one who now found it, without the present finder’s knowledge. The one who was now killed had killed the father of the one who now killed him, and the present killer hadn’t known who killed his father. And I, G-d, orchestrated all of this. So are all My ways. My ways are not like yours.” Likewise, Targum Yonatan renders Ezekiel 18:25 as, “The ways of G-d remain unexplained.” Indeed the entire book of Job is built upon this idea.

           

According to these explanations, we have to place four question marks on the phenomenon of the “righteous man who suffers, and the wicked man who thrives.” Who knows if the righteous man is really righteous? Who knows if his suffering is really bad for him? Who knows if the wicked man is really wicked? Who knows if what occurs to him is really good for him? After all, Solomon said, “There is wealth preserved for man’s downfall” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). Obviously, what I have written here is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the treatment that the topic deserves.

Translation: R. Blumberg 

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