The assistant director of the Machon Meir English Department, R’ Oren HaLevi, will be in North America from May 9th – May 23rd to recruit new students. Contact us at email@example.com if you or someone you know is interested in studying at the Machon.
R’ HaLevi, a resident of Gush Katif, will be glad to speak in your community about learning at Machon Meir and the situation in Gush Katif, as well.
“From the World of Rav Kook”
“It is our duty not only to be holy as individuals, but, in fact, especially to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and to aspire to a hallowed, royal foundation.” (Orot HaRe’iyah, p 174)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “You shall be holy”
“G-d spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to the entire Israelite community and say to them, ‘You shall be holy’” (Leviticus 19:1-2). Rashi comments, “Verse 1 indicates that this parashah was taught with all of Israel assembled together. After all, most of the main elements of the Torah depend on it.” This comment can be understood at face value as saying that since Parashat Kedoshim includes most of the main elements of the Torah, especially prohibitions against forbidden intercourse, it therefore was proclaimed before the entire assemblage. Yet it can also be understood to be saying that “You shall be holy” is not just a command but a blessing and a statement of fact, that all of Israel – men, women and children – are holy.
In fact, we say such a thing each day in the Shemoneh Esreh. Referring to the Jewish People, we say, “Holy beings praise You daily.” Moreover, Moses was commanded to tell us before the Sinai Revelation, “You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6. See “Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook” on Leviticus, page 181).
The knowledge and faith that the Jewish People are a great and holy nation has to be the heritage of all Jews. It is the great key to Torah study and to mitzvah performance, as in our daily Torah blessing, when we note that G-d “chose us from amongst all nations and gave us His Torah.” Accordingly, we have a special duty to study the Sefer HaKuzari. The Vilna Gaon, in fact, wrote that one has to study the Kuzari, for it is “holy and pure, and the main tenets of Jewish faith depend on it” (Tosafot Ma’aseh Rav).
Today, in this age of holocaust and rebirth, fifty-seven years have passed since the establishment of our Jewish State. That state represents the onset of our redemption and the redemption of all mankind. At this time, we must study, understand and recognize, educate and explain to ourselves and to the entire world what the Jewish People is. We have to realize that “You shall be holy” is not just a command to distance ourselves from sexual sin and from wrongdoing, but a tangible divine fact, stamped upon us. That is how we were created, as Scripture says, “I have created this people for Myself that they might tell My praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
It is true that the terrible Holocaust taught us in the hardest and cruelest fashion that our people, Israel, is a special people. Yet at the same time the Holocaust also confused and distanced us from studying and knowing what is special about us – the element of G-d’s having chosen us. Now that we have been privileged, with G-d’s help, to establish an independent state in the land of our life’s breath, the time has come to clarify the identity and mission of the Jewish People for ourselves and for our generation, and by such means for the entire world. We must realize that we are a nation for the world, a great and a holy nation, whose global mission is to illuminate the whole world with the light of unity, peace and brotherhood, justice and fairness and love and faith. It is for this that we were created, and for this that we were chosen.
By such means may we become the living fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s words, “Cry aloud and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst” (Isaiah 12:6).
With blessings for a joyous Independence Day and looking forward to complete salvation,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“I recite the prayer for the State”
When between Shacharit and Mussaf the chazzan recites the prayer for the State, that’s my happiest moment of the week.
When I hear, “Father in Heaven; Rock and Redeemer of Israel,” I jump up like a spring, and I don’t change a single word.
All the proof in the world makes no difference to me.
The more they make fun the more I’ll say this prayer.
I’d like to get up and tell the chazzan, “Say it again and again!”
I’d like to get up and kiss him.
Even when the country and the government desecrate the holiness of the Sabbath, I persist in this prayer for their welfare.
Even when they desecrate the holiness of the land,
I persist as well, and I won’t stop.
Because this is my country. I have no other.
And I love it the way it is.
This is my government. Yes! Mine.
And I’ll repeat it a thousand times.
I have harsh criticism for it. I suffer terrible sorrow over it.
But it’s my government.
When it gets replaced by one better, I will be very happy.
But in the meantime, it’s mine,
And I shall continue to pray for it with all my heart.
And when it’s replaced, I’ll pray for the next one.
And I’ll say, “This is my government.”
And I’ll say proudly before the whole world:
“I’m no longer a downtrodden people controlled by a foreign government. “I’ve got my own government.
“Do you hear, nations of the world?
“I’ve got my own government, and I’m proud of it.”
Governments come and governments go, yet the pride forever remains.
And if someone prints a sticker that says:
“I recite the prayer for the State,” I will attach it proudly.
Pride is a loathsome trait, but this pride is pure
Like a newly-opened flower.
And if, G-d forbid, this state and this government
Enact laws against our Torah, I will cry a lot, obviously.
I will tell everyone that these laws are void like the dust
But I will continue to recite the prayer for the State, joyfully!
Some see only the shadows, but some also see the light.
After all, if there are shadows, it’s a sign that there is light.
And that light is so sweet!
So I recite the prayer for the State.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
“Who despises the day of small things?”
Dozens if not hundreds of times, we heard our master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook quote the verse from Zechariah 4:10: “Who despises the day of small things?” and our sages’ comment:
“What shall cause the table of the righteous to be squandered in the future? Their smallness of faith, for they don’t believe in G-d” (Sotah 48b). The verse was dealing with the relationship of Zechariah’s contemporaries to the Second Temple, but our sages expanded it to relate also to “the future,” i.e., our own age.
There are two spiritual instructions being provided here, one in the verse, and the other in our sages’ exposition.
1. “Who despises the day of small things?” The generation that recalled the First Temple in all its glory despised the Second Temple. They saw it as small and meager. Their belittling the Second Temple reflected their scorn for the return to Zion during the Second Temple period. That is the “day of small things” that the Jews exiled to Babylonia showed scorn for. Therefore, very few went up to Eretz Yisrael, while most remained in Babylonia. The prophet was expressing his resentment over this.
It is the same in “the future,” i.e., our own times. The redemption seems small-scale, and it arouses scorn. People rant: This you call redemption? This you call divine salvation?! Where is the divine revelation to illuminate the skies of the Holy Land? Where is the light of Torah? Where are the open miracles that the prophets promised? Where is the great repentance that will transform hearts of stone to hearts of flesh? Where is the offspring of Your servant David? Where is the king of the house of David who studies Torah and performs mitzvoth like his ancestor David? (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 11:4)
In response to our nation’s rebirth in its land during our times, religious Jewry have split into two camps. One camp scorns redemption, because the entire redemption process, from its start until our day, seems to them “small.” Therefore, they deny that redemption is occurring.
The second camp does not scorn the return to Zion despite its smallness, and they believe in redemption. The return to Zion, the ingathering of the exiles, the nation’s rebirth, the establishment of the Jewish State – all these are great enough to arouse in them admiration and excitement. This camp complains to the first camp: “Why do you scorn the ‘day of smallness’? Anyway, it’s not really a ‘day of smallness’ but a ‘day of greatness’. We must praise this period and not scorn it. We must praise G-d for it!” The first camp accentuates the smallness and the shortcomings, and scorns it. The second camp accentuates its greatness and its virtues and does not scorn but praises the “day of greatness.”
Now, however, days have arrived when even those who in the past sensed the greatness are harboring feelings of a “day of smallness,” because an atmosphere of smallness reigns in this country. Ideals have shrunk, our leadership has shrunk, Israeli society is stooped over, Jewishness has been dwarfed in our country, Zionism and pioneering have become small. All the greatness has faltered and collapsed. The limited activism in the social sphere (e.g., the activities of social organizations, most of which revolves around discussion of rights) cannot cover up the deterioration of values. There really is a “day of smallness” now, and the scorn has sprung forth from this. The feeling of a “day of smallness” is an individual feeling, and not all feel it at the same time.
In this regard the prophet cries out, “Who despises the day of small things?” Our sages add that the prophet’s cry is addressed to our own time as well. Don’t despise and don’t mock, even if it seems insignificant to you. There is great redemption and there is small redemption, but it is still redemption in any case. There are great kingdoms and minor kingdoms, but they are still kingdoms. The State of Israel can be great or small, but it is still the State of Israel. In this sense we can refer to the verse, “The smallest shall become a thousand” (Isaiah 60:22). Within the smallest lies great potential.
2. The second instruction appears in our sages’ exposition: “What shall cause the table of the righteous to be squandered in the future? Their smallness of faith, for they don’t believe in G-d.” What is the smallness of the faith of the righteous? What is their “table”?
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook commented that the “smallness of faith” refers to the error in faith that led the righteous to scorn the process of the return to Zion. It is this smallness of faith that causes the squandering of the table of the righteous in the future. In other words, the stature of the Torah and of the Torah leadership is at its nadir in the State of Israel. The righteous standing off on the side and even opposing the Zionist Movement caused their loss of influence on the return to Zion and aroused a relationship of general scorn to their positions.
From here we derive an important instruction. Whoever scorns the day of smallness, whoever expresses sweeping reservations about the Jewish State and removes himself from active involvement in that state due to its weaknesses and shortcomings, thereby causes his “table” [i.e., his stature within that state] to be scorned. In other words, he becomes irrelevant.
Precisely in our day, with the winds of “smallness” blowing, a dual responsibility rests upon us. We must recognize the troubling fact that there is no one to raise the spirits but us, those faithful to both the Torah and Zion. No one can magnify the redemption if not us, who cling to faith and redemption! It is forbidden that humility should silence us from fulfilling our national responsibility. Thus, it is not the time to scorn the “day of smallness.” It is not the time to turn our backs on the Jewish State. It is not the time to abhor Israeli society. Let us not cause our table to be scorned. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda would customarily quote a verse from the Book of Nechemiah 8:6: “Ezra blessed the great L-rd G-d.” The appropriate response to the “day of smallness” is to proclaim G-d’s great name, i.e., to magnify and broaden faith. In response to the smallness we must present enormous faith.
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