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“From the World of Rav Kook”
“Israel shall get up on their own two feet. They shall valiantly raise themselves up in the land of their delight. They shall utter the prophecy stored away in their soul. The dormant grains of divine life slumbering in the hearts of every man and every being shall awaken to rebirth, and every soul shall praise G-d!” (Orot HaTechiah, 99)
HELP SAVE GUSH KATIF!
www.savegushkatif.org : an excellent site for information about Gush Katif and the thousands of Jews living there, and what you can do to help. Visit the site; send a link to everyone you know!
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “You shall proclaim liberty for all the land’s inhabitants”
“You shall count seven sabbatical years, that is, seven times seven years. The period of the seven sabbatical cycles shall thus be forty-nine years. Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, you shall make a proclamation with the ram’s horn. This proclamation with the ram’s horn is thus to be made on Yom Kippur. You shall sanctify the fiftieth year, proclaiming liberty for all the land’s inhabitants. This is your jubilee year.” (Leviticus 25:8-10)
The fifty-year countdown to the jubilee year parallels the count from Pesach to Shavuot. And just as in that latter counting, we ascend spiritually step by step, from the exodus to the giving of the Torah, and from slavery to eternal freedom, so too, in the counting of the sabbatical years we ascend gradually through the seven cycles until we reach the level of “proclaiming liberty to all the land’s inhabitants.” At that point, former slaves “can live wherever they wish, no longing being the property of others” (Rashi).
The fiftieth year is called the “jubilee” year [Hebrew “Yovel”, meaning “shofar blast], because during that year, the shofar is blown (Ibid.). How did the shofar merit that the year was named for it? The word “shofar” provides a hint of what is special about this year, for “shofar” is from the same root as “shapir,” meaning “good.”
The purpose of the world’s creation is to reveal G-d’s goodness in the world, and this is the purpose of the weekly Sabbath as well. “You shall call the Sabbath a delight” (Isaiah 58:13). This is the purpose of our counting the omer each year, which concludes with our celebrating the giving of the Torah, and Torah can only connote goodness. And all this is done by the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael.
Today, how fortunate we are that we have been privileged to see G-d’s bringing the exiles back to Zion. We are becoming the living fulfillment of Lamentations 5:21: “Return us to You, and we shall return. Renew our days as of old.” It is true that the process of return involves difficulties and complications as in these times when black clouds are darkening our skies with the “Roadmap” and the “Disengagement Plan,” yet we know full-well that with G-d’s help, those clouds will speedily pass from the world. Then we will march upward along the winding path ascending to freedom and complete redemption. And just as all the slaves go free, so shall the Jewish People emerge from political and cultural subjugation and dependence on the nations, and through us will be fulfilled, “Proclaim liberty for all the land’s inhabitants.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
No Grief in Gush Katif
Question: Why aren’t you preparing for what awaits Gush Katif? Instead, you promise that with G-d’s help the evil decree will be nullified. You’ve developed a sort of defense mechanism of denial – yet when the eviction actually happens, people will collapse. Are you prophets? Why do you refuse to accept preventative psychological treatment? Instead you believe your imaginings that everything is going to be all right.
Answer: You have to repent for the sin of despair and weakness. You are planning a funeral for a patient who is supposedly terminally ill, when that patient is really the healthiest person in the country. He is certainly healthier than you. You must learn strength and valor from him. We know full-well that there is suffering in this world. Yet you can’t live in their shadow. We know that sometimes soldiers fall in battle, but the army doesn’t hold workshops regarding every tragedy that could every happen.
Listen to the sweet words of our great master, Rambam: “The Torah commands that any soldier who is afraid and faint-hearted should go home (Deuteronomy 20:8)… A soldier shouldn’t fear… Any soldier who begins to think fearful thoughts during battle, and frightens himself, violates a negative Torah precept, as it says, ‘Do not be faint-hearted, do not be afraid, do not panic and do not break ranks’ (Ibid., 20:3)” (Hilchot Melachim 7:15).
Certainly there are enemies. The question is this: are you brave or a coward? The spies in the Desert were afraid. “We felt like tiny grasshoppers! That’s all we were in their eyes!” (Numbers 13:33). Joshua and Calev replied, “Don’t be afraid of the people in the Land. They have lost their protection and shall be our prey! G-d is with us, so don’t be afraid!” (14:9). Psychology isn’t everything. There are also ideals, there is also devotion. There is also faith. Thus, there is no denial here. There is heroism!
Those who live in Gush Katif, as well, have heard about this wicked law, so devoid of human sentiment. They, too, have noticed that there are worried people in Gush Katif, there are children who are developing symptoms of anxiety and are waking up in the middle of the night in tears. They, too, have noticed that there are signs of tension between husband and wife. They have even noticed that they are living under conditions of uncertainty. Yet the question is: what does one do with all of these feelings? One can be afraid or one can grow stronger. One can despair or grow in one’s belief.
Rabbi Nachman said, “There is no despair in the world at all. Beneath the forty-nine rungs of impurity, the most dangerous rung, the cruelest rung, is the fiftieth: the gate of despair, which weakens a person like a malignant disease. Therefore, instead of dealing with pointless worries about the future, we will deal with the present. “[Salvation can come] today, if you heed His voice” (Psalm 95:7).
And if, G-d forbid, misfortune befalls us – surely we know that there is misfortune in life – we will know how to deal with it valiantly, for we have already experienced hardships in the past. We grappled with 5,000 mortar shells falling on us, each person in accordance with his inner fortitude. We will deal with it together. Our sense of togetherness will give us strength.
Certainly, if someone is in distress, we don’t ignore him. Certainly, if someone asks a question, we always answer him with love. Certainly if someone is tense, we empathetically help him to dispel his fears. Certainly, if someone is suffering, we deal with him personally and not on a communal level. On the communal level, we are full of courage and valor.
“We can assume with the Jewish People that if they are not prophets, they are the sons of prophets” (Pesachim 66a-b). It is true that we are not prophets, but we are believers and the sons of believers. We believe in the righteousness of our path. We believe in G-d. The question is not, “What will we do if it happens?” Rather, the question is, “What must we do so that it does not happen?” The point is not to prophesy the future but to create the future. The wise man is better than the prophet. The wise man sees what is ahead and creates what is ahead.
True, we don’t rely on miracles, but we believe in them. Open your eyes and see the miracle – the miracle of people who have transformed a wilderness into a garden of G-d, and many other miracles as well. By virtue of self-sacrifice there are miracles (Berachot 20a). Obviously, there is no mathematical connection here, yet there is a connection. The lives of some people are awash with miracles, and some geographical areas are as well.
Do you have any idea who you are talking about? You are talking about people who G-d loves and has saved from 5,000 mortar shells. Do you have any idea why G-d loves them? Because they themselves love one another, and offer one another encouragement. Gush Katif is a place without malevolence or crookedness. It’s a place of, “You shall eat the labor of your hands. Happy shall you be and it shall be well with you” (Psalm 128:2). It’s a place of, “Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.” These are people devoid of evil speech, hatred and resentment. They love even those who come to annoy them.
G-d loves those who love their fellow man. Open your eyes and see Gush Katif, awash with groundless love between all sorts of Jews, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Yemenites and Ethiopians, rightists and leftists, religious and irreligious, Haredim and Religious Zionists, new immigrants and long-time residents. They learn Torah and work the land. (We too should learn from them and unite together the three nationalist religious parties into one list).
All as one in the light of G-d’s countenance. A single community. A single family. Love and faith! Decide once and for all: Do you believe in G-d or don’t you? Do you place your hope in G-d or don’t you?! “Be courageous and let your heart be strong, all of you who place your hope in the L-rd” (Psalm 31:25).
Be sure to catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at www.israelnntv.com (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).
Rabbi Elisha Aviner – Education Corner
“They didn’t treat one another with respect”
The days of counting the Omer, from Pesach until Shavuot, are inherently joyous, because they are days of yearning and preparing for receiving the Torah. As Sefer HaChinuch explains, the counting is an expression of that yearning: “We are counting the days until that longed-for time arrives.” Hence, there are no days more joyous than these.
Yet, down through the generations, these joyous days were transformed into sad days, and in the awareness of the Jewish People, the counting period is a sad time when we may not wed. How did this transformation occur? It is well known that numerous communities were destroyed at this time of year in the course of the Crusades of 1096, and Torah institutions were destroyed. These days of ascent in Torah were turned into days of destruction of Torah. Therefore, the joy was cancelled.
Another crisis occurred during this time: Rabbi Akiva’s twenty-four thousand students died between Pesach and Shavuot because they did not treat one another with respect (Yevamot 62b). Many have asked why they died precisely then, during the joyful preparation for receiving the Torah. The answer they give is that while these students learned much Torah, they did not fulfill the basic precondition for receiving the Torah: mutual respect despite differences of opinion and outlook. The condition for receiving the Torah is that the people must be “as one man with one heart,” as Israel were at Sinai (Midrash on Exodus 19:2).
This expression, “as one man with one heart,” shouldn’t be taken literally. Each Jew did not receive the Torah in the same manner. Rather, each received it in accordance with his own strengths. As the Midrash says regarding the verse, “Has any other nation ever heard the voice of G-d [Elokim] speaking?” (Deuteronomy 4:33):
“Idolaters remarked to Rav Simlai, ‘Surely there are many deities in the world!’ He asked them, ‘Why do you say so?’ and they replied: It says, ‘Has any other nation ever heard the voice of the gods [plural elokim] speaking out of the fire?’ He answered, ‘The word for speaking is in the singular – medaber.’ His students asked him, ‘Rebbe! You pushed them off with a weak answer, but what answer do you have for us?’
“Rav Levi reinterpreted the above verse: If Psalm 29:4 had said, ‘The L-rd’s voice [expresses] HIS strength’ (Psalm 29:4), the world could not have survived. Instead, it says, ‘The L-rd’s voice [is absorbed] through strength’ – the strength of each individual, youths, the elderly and children.
“G-d said to Israel: Your having heard many loud voices at Sinai shouldn’t make you think that there are many deities in Heaven. Rather, you must realize that I am the L-rd your G-d, as it says, ‘I am the L-rd your G-d’ (Exodus 20:2).” (Shemot Rabbah, Parsha 29)
At the receiving of the Torah, the “voice of G-d” was heard. Everyone heard a different voice in accordance with his own strengths, until it seemed as though there were many deities and as though there was not one source to all of them. From here, it was only a short distance to splitting into groups, sects, streams and substreams, to rifts and divisiveness. Therefore, the Ten Commandments began with the declaration, “I am the L-rd your G-d.” The One and Only G-d was the source of all the different voices.
Even though many voices were heard, in accordance with the strength of each individual Jew, and the receiving of the Torah was not uniform, there was still one source to all the voices. To understand this, great preparation is needed. And what preparation is that? “As one man, with one heart” – our readiness to be as one man, with one heart, despite the differences between us. This readiness is demanded of us on two planes – the philosophical and the emotional plane.
The students of Rabbi Akiva failed in their fulfillment of “as one man, with one heart.” They did not treat one another with respect. Even if they did not utter disparaging comments towards one another, they still did not appreciate the opinion of their fellow man. They did not respect it, and finally, they did not treat the man behind that opinion respectfully. They did not treat one another with respect. Therefore, they died between Pesach and Shavuot, the days earmarked for preparing for the receiving of the Torah.
It is also possible to raise a hypothesis. The times in which Rabbi Akiva’s students lived were tempestuous. Bar Kochba’s revolt occurred then. There were major arguments within the Jewish People regarding how best to respond to the Roman conquest. People asked: Should we revolt against the Romans and join up with Bar Kochba? Such was the debate between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yochanan ben Torta. Later on, there was a debate on how to relate to the Roman regime. This was a debate between Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Yossi.
A difficult crisis within the Jewish People invited various answers and solutions. This was natural. Sometimes the suggestions for how to grapple with and improve the situation were polar opposites. Each person, in accordance with his own strengths, suggested what seemed right to him. Those stormy days in which the students of Rabbi Akiva lived caused various opinions to develop amongst those students, and perhaps amongst the great rabbis of the generation as well, in the realm of education, society and politics. Each of the students was entitled to cling to his own approach, and was even obligated to do so in order to be faithful to his path, and there was nothing wrong with that. The only failing was due to their “not treating one another with respect.”
In our own day as well, there are crises within the Jewish People, and there is no one solution acceptable to the entire Torah and spiritual leadership. For a light illness, there is generally a single, simple cure, but for a serious illness there is no one cure, but only various treatments. “G-d’s voice is through strength” – it is absorbed “in accordance with the strengths of each and every individual.” Yet if we do not conduct ourselves “as one man with one heart,” despite the great number of voices, it is liable to be a recipe for divisiveness in the camp, for a rift, for verbal sparring, for disparagement, for a repetition of the failure of Rabbi Akiva’s students, who did not treat one another with respect.
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