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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The gradualness of progress in the universe, the limitations on nature and its ostensible slovenliness, the limitations on spiritual ascent, the transience of miracles – all these elements strengthen the foundation of the unceasing spiritual ascent which is the inner foundation of the universe.” (Erpalei Tohar 121)

Rabbi Dov BegonFounder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “We Must go Forth and Occupy the Land” – “Forgive the Sin of This People”

The Desert Generation did not wish to go into the Land, to fight and to conquer it, and accepted the spies’ report that conquering the Land was an impossible, irrational mission, as it says: “‘We cannot go forward against those people!’ replied the men who had gone with him. ‘They are too strong for us.’ They began to speak badly about the land they had explored. They told the Israelites, ‘The land we crossed to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants’” (13:31-32).

Indeed, the people were convinced by the spies’ words, and they brought harsh arguments against G-d, Moses and Aaron, even wishing to replace them with different leaders: “‘Why is God bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will be captives! It would be best to go back to Egypt.’ The people started saying to one another, ‘Let’s appoint a [new] leader and go back to Egypt.’” (14:3-4).

The Desert Generation did not wish to accept the word of Joshua and Calev, who said, “We must go forth and occupy the land! We can do it!” (13:30); and “The land through which we passed in our explorations is a very, very good land!” (14:7). Joshua and Calev understood that the generation’s weakness stemmed from the weakness of their faith in G-d and in His unlimited ability, and they told the people: “If G-d is satisfied with us and brings us to this land, He can give it to us – a land flowing with milk and honey. But don’t rebel against G-d! 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!” (14:8-9).

The people, instead of accepting the words of Joshua and Calev, wanted to stone them. Moses, a great lover of Israel and a faithful leader, heard G-d say that He wanted to wipe them out: “I will kill them with a plague and annihilate them. Then I will make you into a greater, more powerful nation then they” (14:12). In response, Moses came out in defense of Israel, arguing that if G-d destroyed Israel, the nations would say, “G-d was not able to bring this nation to the land that He swore to them, so He slaughtered them in the desert” (14:15-16). By such means, G-d’s name would be profaned on earth. Moses therefore asked that G-d forgive them (14:19).

The spies’ negative talk about the Land made the Jewish People sink to a level of such weakness of spirit and faith that they wanted to retract on their original longing to go there, conquer it and to settle it. Instead they wished to return to Egypt. Today, similar arguments are unfortunately being heard from recent prime ministers. Out of their great weakness of faith in Israel’s ability to occupy the Land and to settle all of it, they have dreamt up dangerous, hallucinatory programs, calling them by various names – Disengagement… Convergence… Realignment – yet they are all the same thing, just dressed up differently. All of these plans weaken the spirit of the nation, pulling the rug out from under our just claim that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. They weaken the State of Israel and endanger its existence as a sovereign state, and they provide moral support to our enemies, giving them hopes of being able to destroy the State of Israel.

We very much need spiritual and political leaders who can breathe a different spirit into the Jewish People, unify them and strengthen their faith. We need leaders like Calev ben Yefuneh who said, “We must go forth and occupy the land! We can do it!” and like Moses, who beseeched G-d, saying, “Forgive the sin of this people!” Looking forward to complete salvation,

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 Ya’akov FilberGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“The Spiritual Essence”

I begin with a story. The author of the sefer “Chidushei HaRim” told his grandson: “When a person becomes a spiritual leader, he needs to have everything ready, a study hall and rooms, tables and benches, and the same applies whatever task one undertakes, shammas or gabbai in the synagogue, etc.. And what do you think Satan is doing during that time? Is he sitting and relaxing? Certainly not! He sneaks in and steals the spiritual essence, leaving all the rest in place. And the wheels continue to turn, and only the spiritual essence is lacking.” Here the Rebbe raised his voice: “But G-d help us! We have to stop this!”

Fifty years ago, the Religious Zionist Camp began to establish a Torah world for itself, ex nihilo. In the beginning it had only a handful of yeshivot, yet through devotion, stubbornness and determination, a marvelous generation arose of tens of thousands of yeshiva and Ulpana graduates, pre-army yeshiva preparatory programs, seminars, rabbis and Torah scholars.

Today, this enormous enterprise lacks glue and backbone. Its youth are frustrated and confused, and in Israeli public affairs, we have become irrelevant. The group that fomented the Torah revolution at the very beginning, starting with the “Shevet Etanim” age group of Bnei Akiva, by way of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, was no more talented than the generations that followed, but they had “siyata dishmaya,” divine assistance, hence they succeeded. The secret of their success was their spiritual essence, which we lack today. Here we must ask, “What was that spiritual essence of the Torah revolution?

Worse than any other sin that led to destruction on a national level within the Jewish People, is the sin of hatred. In the case of Joseph and his brothers, in which one brother brought evil reports about his brothers to his father, and they in turn hated him and could not talk to him peaceably, it was hatred that brought Israel to the Egyptian Exile.

When Israel were in Egypt they enjoyed all worldly glory. They were partners in the government (“Joseph was the ruler over the land” (Genesis 42:6)), and they saved the Egyptian economy (“He was the provider to the entire Egyptian people” (ibid.)).

Yet suddenly the government stopped taking them into account. They became irrelevant – there was new king “who didn’t know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), regarding which Rashi comments, “He made himself AS THOUGH he didn’t know him.” The Egyptians stopped giving them a role in government and began to persecute them. (This reminds us of the situation of Religious Zionism today).

Moses saw all of this and he asked, “Why”, or in our sages wording, “How did Israel sin more than all the nations such that they were persecuted?” His asking this question is puzzling. At that moment – according to Rambam in his “Igeret Kiddush Hashem” – Israel had lost their way, neglecting to circumcise their children (except for the tribe of Levi), sinning sexually, and according to our sages, worshipping idols and sinking to the forty-ninth level of impurity. Were not all of these sufficient cause for their situation?

Yet Moses discovered the real secret. After he smote an Egyptian and an Israelite asked him, “Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14), he said, “So! The matter is known” (ibid.). It wasn’t idolatry, nor being on a low spiritual level, nor neglect of circumcision nor sexual sin, but that “evil gossip reigned amongst them.” In other words, even in their hardest hour, when they were being persecuted, they didn’t know how to live together in unity. Then Moses understood and asked, “How shall they be worthy of redemption?”

This failure of the nation repeats itself at the end of the Second Temple Period, even if the situation then was the opposite. The Jews of that period were righteous and saintly, toiling in Torah learning and scrupulously observant. Yet none of these virtues prevented the Destruction. Here as well our sages ask “Why?” “Why was the Temple destroyed?” And they answer, “It was because of their groundless hatred.” And what did that hatred consist of? The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, explains in his preface to Genesis, “They suspected anyone who had a different approach than they did to the fear of G-d of being a Saducee and a heretic.” The Netziv continues: “G-d cannot bear tzaddikim who treat their fellow man disrespectfully, even if they do so for the sake of heaven. Such behavior brings about the destruction of creation and of civilization.”

The same phenomenon was repeated with the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, who died “because they did not treat one another with respect,” and because “they viewed one another’s Torah learning suspiciously.” Without a doubt, there too they acted for the sake of heaven, but G-d does not want such Torah or such Torah scholars. Therefore, they died.

It is no secret that there is a debate going on in our camp over how to relate to those individuals and governmental institutions that destroyed not only the inanimate settlements where matter and spirit flourished, but also destroyed the lives of hundreds of families, relinquishing parts of our homeland to the worst of our enemies.

At the same time, we have to gravely examine whether the words of Rav Kook, that he wrote about “our distant brothers,” that we must “wage war against them, defensive or even aggressive,” apply also to our distant brothers in our own day. Rav Kook wrote there as follows: “In any event, we must be careful to treat them with respect and courtesy, and to fight evil and sin, not the evildoers and sinners… Perhaps they sin unintentionally, out of coercion or because they have been misled. Perhaps within the depths of their darkness and evil there are also kernels of light and goodness, and by means of our pleasant ways and our peaceable, respectful approach, we will be able to improve and save much more than by way of hatred and condemnation.”

Yet causing peace to reign is a trait that is lacking in our camp, not only between those close to G-d and those far removed, but also within our camp itself. As Rav Kook further explained, “The light of kindness has left our hearts, and all of our faces are livid, angry, aggressive, harsh and morose. That is why everything is collapsing.”

We must remove the internal partitions within our camp. At the end of Ta’anit we find: “In the future G-d will have the saintly dance in a circle, and He will sit in the middle of them in the Garden of Eden. Each and every one of them will point with his index finger and say, “This is our G-d for whom we waited, that He might save us. This is the L-rd, for whom we waited. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).

The Chafetz Chaim commented: Every point in the circle is equidistant from the middle. In the same way, there are many approaches to serving G-d. Today, however, every righteous person thinks that only he, from his standpoint, is close to G-d. In the future, however, G-d will open the eyes of the righteous, and they shall see that if they truthfully and with a perfect heart seek out and long for G-d, then all the pathways are equidistant. This is what the source from Ta’anit means. The righteous are all equidistant from G-d, even if they stand at different angles, on condition that they all pointing towards G-d with their finger, saying, “This is our G-d.”

The students of Mercaz Harav are today spread throughout Israel, yet they are split apart and do not properly honor one another. Only if we know how to restore the spiritual essence of brotherhood, the unity that existed in our camp; only if we all join hands and enable each individual to advance by his own means the enterprise of bringing the divine presence to rest upon Israel, then G-d will send a blessing upon our deeds, and a redeemer shall come to Zion.

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

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“I’m Going to be a Professor”

(In memory of a woman who educated a generation of women, Rabbanit Chanah Tau)

Yes, I’m going to be a professor! My husband is finishing a doctorate in Physics. I am not jealous of him, but I, too, am going to be a professor. I sense that I have the talents for this. I want degrees and a career. I am going to be a professor. I will succeed, and my students will appreciate me. I want equality. This is not my recommendation. It is G-d’s, who created man and woman equal. We were both created in the image of G-d. I have a pure soul, and I believe in myself. Certainly, I am different from my husband, but not inferior to him.

I shall be a professor. That is a dream I have been harboring since my Ulpena High School days. I am set on this, and I even know what I want to be a professor of. I want to be a professor of education, a professor of THE EDUCATION OF MY CHILDREN, with lots of degrees, degrees in femininity, in marriage and in motherhood. Why are you smiling? It’s no joke. My husband fashions electronic components for some important device, and I shall fashion children. I shall fashion souls. So why are you laughing? Is this any less important? No, it’s a lot more important. I shall be a professor of my children’s education.

Certainly I love all the children in the world, but my own children come first. At present I am a homeroom teacher, and I am good at it, and dedicated. I love this work and am happy about it. Yet the moment my first infant is born, G-d willing, I will stop. I belong solely to my children. If I have to work to support my family, I will do the minimum I can. Obviously, I will work faithfully, but only as much as is needed, or if I feel the need to “get out a little.”

So who will fill my important role as a teacher? My neighbor, who stopped work as a teacher when her first infant was born, and now that her children are grown is returning to the workplace. Motherhood is a professorship, and holy work as well. It’s an enormous mission. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter said, I believe, “The carpenter treads on sawdust, the glassblower on glass shards, and the educator on souls.” Indeed, it’s an enormous responsibility, but I feel I’ve got the resources to handle it.

And my ruling domain is my home. I shall be the professor in my home, a home serving three functions, as Maharal said (Derech Chaim on Avot 1:4-5): 1) a material haven against sun, rain and all other seasonal threats; 2) an emotional haven in which a person feels good; and 3) a spiritual haven, in which everyone can grow up in with faith and good character.
1. I want a pleasant home in which the dishes are washed, the towels are clean, the trash container is emptied out, delicious food is waiting, and the table is set and beckons us at mealtime. I want laundry that gets washed and ironed, and I want shirts with all the buttons sewed on. I want a home with flourishing houseplants, and I want my child to be bathed and their teeth to be brushed. This little home will be a miniature Eden.
2. Yet the most important thing is that there should be a pleasant, warm atmosphere in my home both for my children and for my husband as well, who greatly needs this as well. There should be an atmosphere of trust in my children. They will grow up happy, calm and emotionally healthy. Obviously, they won’t grow up spoiled, but I won’t forget for a moment that like the air we breath, they need to feel loved.
This I know from our master, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who taught us that the beginning of a child’s education is when he is nursed. At first I didn’t understand what he was saying, but when he explained that education means having a connection, I understood. It was like a bolt of lightning for me. Education doesn’t mean just bequeathing knowledge, but warmth and love and hugs. Nursing an infant is one expression of love that make one grow up to be a person of integrity. For my children and my husband, my home is not going to be another battlefront of life, but a pleasant place in which they are accepted as they are. Then they will go out and do remarkable things. Even doing homework together with my children will be a pleasant experience.
3. My home will be a place where Torah and faith, reverence and good character are nurtured, since before all else, I myself will be like that.

So you see that you have nothing to laugh about. You see that this is a professorship with many degrees in all sorts of fields. You see that this is holy work, which I learned from the saintly women of Egypt. And where will I be in all of this? When shall I worry about my own needs as well? The point is that the things described above precisely constitute my own happiness and welfare. When I, morning until evening, say to my children and my husband, “I love you and I believe in you,” and I see them placid and calm, laughing happily, nothing can make me happier than that.

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