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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The spiritual side of our national ascent depends on the spiritual betterment of every individual Jew.” (Orot Yisrael 158)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Bar Yochai – Happy is the Nation That Learns 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,
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 Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Lest the Land be Filled With Perversion”
Question: There’s a professor who claims Jewish Law allows a man to have a concubine, i.e., a man is allowed to live with a woman outside of marriage on condition that she immerse beforehand in mikvah; this would solve the problem of unmarried men and woman who have no other way to satisfy their needs. He further claims that rabbis have been hiding this allowance.
Answer: First of all, rabbis haven’t been hiding anything. All the books are open. A little boy learns in Bible class that the kings were allowed to have concubines. He also learns the episode of the Concubine at Geva, and that this involves a prohibition and a sin and promiscuity, only that in those days, even non-kings conducted themselves this way, because everyone did whatever he saw fit (see the Responsa of Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam, siman 201).
How is it possible to say that rabbis have been hiding this? This professor knows about it from our sages’ words! Thus they didn’t hide it. Although truth be told, if they wished to hide it, they would be allowed to do so, because there are situations when “G-d’s glory requires hiding things” (Proverbs 25:2). This professor thinks he has invented the wheel, but actually this topic is found in the large tomes in everyone’s library, such as Rambam and its commentaries, and Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries. Whoever looks there will see that our sages deliberate on this topic, and that the decision of the Halachic authorities is to prohibit it based on the verse, “There must not be any prostitutes amongst Israelite girls” (Deuteronomy 23:18), i.e., the prohibition against prostitution.
It is true that one of the recent sages, HaGaon Rabbi Ya’akov Emden, ruled that it is permissible (Responsa She’elat Ya’avetz 2:15), but his is an isolated opinion. Moreover, he himself inserted several objections. First of all, there is a rule that if something was permissible but everyone treated it as forbidden, that thing becomes forbidden. Surely it is known that everyone treats such an act as forbidden. Another objection is this: It has to be forbidden if it seems liable to constitute a stumbling block. There is no need to elaborate on the sort of terrible stumbling blocks of corruption liable to emerge from this.
In particular, he concluded, “All the same, I do not wish anyone to rely on me in this regard, unless they have the approbation of the greatest rabbis of the generation.” The greatest rabbis of the generation did not agree with him then, and 200 years have gone by since, and they still do not agree. Only in extraordinary circumstances does anyone permit this. For example, there was a man whose wife disappeared abroad for many years, and he did not succeed in divorcing her. Responsa “Ta’alumot Lev” allowed the man a concubine (III:32), yet that Responsa did not agree to his response being taken for a blanket absolution (ibid., I:5).
Surely we are aware of the reality in which, unfortunately, numerous people lead lives of abandon, and now some religious Jews come along and want to follow in their path and to increase impurity as if in the name of the Torah. Quite the contrary, the more Torah a person learns, the more purity and holiness he must add. Henceforth every religious Jew will be able, G-d forbid, to lead promiscuous lives, and to claim, “This is my concubine!” As Maharshal wrote, “The land will be filled with perversion!” (see Leviticus 19:29).
What happens to the dignity of Jewish girls with this disgusting proposal? What girl will agree to the dishonorable title of “concubine”? After a low-quality “marriage”, she will remain low-quality, used merchandise, with a terrible stain on her soul, once she gets thrown out like a squeezed lemon.
As for the argument that unmarried men and women have passions, we’ve noticed. This is no new problem. That is how G-d created man. That is what G-d said to Israel: “My children, I created the evil impulse and I created Torah as its antidote” (Kiddushin 30b). It is G-d’s wish that man overcome his evil impulse, and that is his task on this earth. It is G-d’s will that man should fashion a home in holiness. It is no coincidence that the wedding ring ceremony is called “Kiddushin” [holiness]. G-d said, “You shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
Rabbi Ya’akov HaLevi Filber – Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“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.
Catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at www.israelnntv.com (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).
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