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Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of the Machon
Message for Today: “And I Will Gather Them into Their Land”— and Not from Their Land

The current situation reminds us of the state of the People Israel in the desert—at the time of the sin of the spies. The spies—thinking of themselves as advocates of Realpolitik—argued that Eretz Yisrael “consumes its inhabitants” (G-d forbid) and that the nation is unable to take possession of it. By arguing this way, they expressed a despair and faithlessness that led the People Israel to a spiritual crisis of faith so severe that they wished to return to Egypt. “Why has Hashem delivered us to this land to fall by the sword?” they asked. “Our wives and children will become booty…Let us return to Egypt!” (Bamidbar 14:3).

Countering the spies—the sowers of weakness and despair—were Yehoshua Bin-Nun and Kalev Ben-Yefuneh, two men steeped in faith in G-d and His ability to help the People Israel; steeped in faith in the People Israel’s entitlement to Eretz Yisrael; steeped in faith in the specialness of Eretz Yisrael and the People Israel. They told “the entire Israelite community [that] the land that we have traversed and explored is a very, very good land. If Hashem is pleased with us and is bringing us to this land and will give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey, you must not rebel against Hashem. Have no fear the people of the land because they are our bread; their protection has fled them and Hashem is with us; do not fear them” (Bamidbar 14:7–9).

As we know, the spies and the desert generation, who let their faith weaken and despaired of taking possession of Eretz Yisrael, died in the desert. Whereas Yehoshua Bin-Nun and Kalev Ben-Yefuneh, along with the desert generation’s offspring, who repented in their attitude toward Eretz Yisrael, ascended to our land, took possession of it—and were privileged to witness the deliverance of the People Israel.

Today, too, the attitude toward Eretz Yisrael is being tested on the Israeli public stage. Some regard themselves as advocates of Realpolitik. In fact, however, they lack faith and vision; they are gripped with fatigue and despair. They treat the settlement and control of all of Eretz Yisrael as a “mission impossible,” arguing that the country “consumes its inhabitants”. They say the nation is tired, lacking the spirit and the strength to fight the violent despoilers of our land. Therefore, they advise, let us set up a terrorist state for them. They turn out schemes for withdrawal from our living land—and in their spurious imaginings they think this will solve the Jewish people’s problems. They have various names for these schemes: “separation,” “disengagement,” and “convergence.” In their weakness, however, they do not grasp what every child realizes: surrendering to the Arabs isn’t good for the Jews and that transferring parts of Eretz Yisrael to them, Heaven forbid, is worse than the sin of the spies!!

Others, however, are confronting them: a multitude of Jews loyal to their people, their land, and their Torah—steeped in faith and vision as were Yehoshua Bin-Nun and Kalev Ben-Yefuneh, who do not fear the violent, plundering enemy, and who realize that our victory in the war for the State of Israel within its biblical boundaries will deliver goodness and light to all humankind. One cannot possibly doubt that in a war between light and darkness—between the People Israel, clinging by a thread to Eretz Yisrael, and the eternal villains who seek to exterminate us, may it never some to pass—the Eternal People will be eternally victorious, as the prophet said: “I will reclaim Jacob and console the entire House of Israel in lovingkindness…I will assemble them from the lands of their enemies…and will gather them into their land…and will no longer hide My face from them” (Yehezkel 39).

Shabbat Shalom!

Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000 Butner, NC 27509 (USA)

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“Blessed is He for Having Made Me a Woman”

I’m not about to repudiate the wording in the prayerbook and change it. I pray regularly and am pleased with the phrase, “Who made me as He desired”—like my enlightened grandmother. I want to express what I feel: I’m pleased to be a woman! I lack for nothing as a woman. My grandmother didn’t lack for a thing, and neither do I.

I don’t envy men and don’t imitate men; if I did that, I’d become a rough-edged man instead of a woman who’s fully content with herself. I have no sense of being less important than men. I’m well aware that many men consider themselves more important than me. I don’t care. If it makes them feel good, let ‘em have it. I don’t need to feel more important. I’m me—and that’s just fine.

I don’t understand all these struggles by women for the attainment of all sorts of men’s jobs. I don’t need men’s clothing and a man’s occupation in order to contend with the competitive, success-driven male society. I need neither a man’s haircut nor a man’s makeup. I don’t understand what the British suffragettes, with their wide-rimmed hats and long dresses, were fighting for. What need do I have for the nuttiness of political life? I influence others in a different way, a more dignified way. My slogan is, “The dignity of the King’s daughter is wholly inner.” My power is inside me, feminine power. I feel the shekhina, G-d’s presence, inside me. After all, the Hebrew word shekhina carries the female inflection, doesn’t it?

I’m building a home, developing a spousal relationship, involving myself in education, and raising children. I’m building pleasantness that comes with commitment. My husband finds this a bit difficult; he snares himself in all sorts of definitions. For me, it flows naturally. I’ve got the ability to smile, to share, to love. My power is inner, hidden from the prying eye. I don’t flaunt it; I don’t wave it in your face. It’s all inside.

I don’t use male weapons, only female ones; yes, I’m a bit of a psychologist, a bit of a social worker. What a huge job I’ve undertaken: couplehood and childraising on three shifts, including Shabbat and without any sick leave. Sometimes my batteries run low. So I recharge them. Sometimes I credit this to Sarah, Rivka, Rahel, and Leah, about whom I’ve read a great deal. Sometimes it’s by the merit of my husband, or my women friends, or myself. Yes, I like to look at myself in the mirror and smile at myself. I used to wear makeup. Then I reached the conclusion that I have nothing to hide and nothing to flaunt. I have nothing against makeup and nothing for it, either. Even without it I’m beautiful and special—in my own eyes and not to find favor in the eyes of men. They don’t interest me. I do it for the way it makes me feel: nice clothes, nice kerchiefs. A restorative act…

When it’s hard for me to talk with my husband, I carry on an internal dialogue with myself and sometimes with women friends, face-to-face or on the phone. I have quite a few phone-mates. I can always open up to women friends; with them I can always feel like a woman. It’s not instead of my husband; it’s extra. The main thing for me is the house. I want to be loved and to love: to be beloved and a lover. I want to be a good, understanding mother. I didn’t learn it anywhere. Maybe I have what they call emotional intelligence. I feel the ability to be naturally creative at home.

I just have a really great time with women friends. The cultural world is built for men. It’s full of things that are strange to me. It’s not for me. I have evening singalongs with my friends. I need to sing. It expresses my soul. I feel natural when I go to these events. I also attend workshops. We talk about whatever we have inside. Not gossip about my husband and children, Heaven forbid: just about myself. What a great time I have with women. Sure, I belong to my husband and children, but I also belong to the world of women. We all belong to it irrespective of our age, family status, or occupation. We rejoice together and laugh together without restraint—a pure, perpetual laughter that rings like a bell.

I love myself. I feel that I have a healthy, illuminating intuition, that I have inborn wisdom, that I’m being born all the time. I believe in myself, in the enormous wisdom inside me. So I say with a triumphant shout: “Blessed is He for having made me a woman.”

Rabbi Itiel Ariel

The Maggid of Dubno told a typically marvelous parable to explain a verse in our Haftara: “And you have not worshiped me, Jacob, that you should have tired of me, Israel” (Yeshayahu 43:22). This verse, like other verses in the Haftara, uses the metaphors of yegiya, fatigue, and ‘avoda kasha, hard labor, to describe the sacrificial service in order to claim that G-d takes no pleasure in this “fatigue” unless its offerers’ motives are pure.

In his parable, the Maggid of Dubno speaks of a hauler who charged a customer too little for his services because he underestimated the weight of the goods that he had to haul. At day’s end, the hauler accuses the merchant of having misled him by describing the goods as light in weight. Not only did the merchant deny the accusation but he also offered a surprising argument of his own: “The goods that you carried on your back must not have been mine. After all, my goods really are light. Therefore, I owe you nothing whatsoever for your work.”

The Maggid interpreted the verse similarly. If your sacrificial services really make you tired, you must have come to the wrong address and your efforts aren’t being made in the service of G-d at all. If a person who engages in G-d’s exalted service considers it a source of fatigue, it can be only mean that he finds it hard to identify with the inner contents of G-d’s mitzva (commandment). This difficulty can only lead the person into a series of errors, each feeding the next, that lock him into a closed circuit from which escape is difficult.

The alienation that such a person feels toward the inner contents of G-d’s mitzva prompts him to busy himself with its external facets. He tries to fill his inner spiritual void by making the practical burden of the mitzvah artificially heavier. For example, the more alienated the offerer of a sacrifice feels toward the value of intimacy and forgoing, the more motivated he is to offer a large and expensive sacrifice in order to compensate for his distance from G-d. These desperate exertions, however, are doomed to failure and ultimately do more harm than good. This is because when a person works harder and harder to force himself into a state of spiritual excitation, he only becomes more and more frustrated. The harder he works, the less it “pays.”

The Torah goes out of its way to emphasize that it is not quantity but quality that counts. It does this for a good reason. The Torah spares no words in presenting a wide variety of animal and meal offerings, ranking them from the most expensive to the least. Its purpose is to teach us that “One offers profusely and another offers sparingly, but all that matters is that one aims one’s heart at Heaven.”

This idea is reflected in the commandment of seasoning every meal offering with salt (Vayikra 2:13). The nature of salt is that its flavor enhances food only when the chef makes sure to apply it sparingly. A profusion of salt ruins the entire dish. Rabbenu Bachya (ad loc.) made an additional point: the covenant with G-d is consecrated with salt because salt can sustain the world or destroy it. On the one hand, it is the most fundamental of the spices that make our food tasty and pleasing. On the other hand, too much salt may make fertile soil infertile.

One may, in a manner of speaking, liken the “flavor” of a mitzva to dipping one’s food in salt. Whenever the mitzva is the main object of identification and the flavor of the salt is subordinate to it, the salt is beneficial indeed. But when salt attempts to take over the main role, it ruins the entire dish as nothing else can. Such is the way of true service of G-d: one must find the right salt in the right dosage, in order to add flavor to the true value of the mitzva—“Taste and see that G-d is good” (Tehillim 34:9).

May it be Your will, dear G-d, that we soon merit the flavor of those who are truly free, whose custom it is to dip their food in salt….

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

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