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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The fundamental righteousness of a saint consists of his soul’s constant, ongoing effort to cling…to G-d, source of all life and all existence.” (Midot HaRe’iyah, Tzidkut)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva and Head of the Machon
Message for Today: “A Nation that Rises like the King of Beasts”

Regarding, “Balak son of Tzippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites” (Numbers 22:2), Rashi comments: “Balak reasoned, ‘These two kings, Sichon, King of Emori and Og King of Bashan, whom we were certain could beat Israel, could not withstand them. All the more so that we will not be able to.’ Therefore, ‘The Moabites became deathly afraid because the Israelites were so numerous. They dreaded the Israelites’ (22:3). They so feared Israel that they were disgusted with life. It drove them to make peace with nations that they had always hated.

Israel’s resounding victory over Sichon and Og brought fear and dread upon Moab and the Canaanites, as Rachav told the spies: “Your terror has fallen upon us. All the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. We heard how the L-rd dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan, Sichon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, neither did there remain any more spirit in any man, because of you. The L-rd your G-d, is G-d in heaven above, and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11)

In the past, Israel’s victory melted the hearts of our enemies, the Moabites and Canaanites, and they lacked the spirit to make a stand against us. In our own day as well, only if we thoroughly vanquish our enemies will we make the Arabs recognize our right to live in our country, Eretz Yisrael, to which we returned after two thousand years, in peace and quiet. Yet in order to beat the Arabs, we must first unite as one man with one heart.

On the eve of the Six Day War, our prime minister, Levi Eshkol z”l, had the wisdom to bring Menachem Begin z”l into a unity government, and being unified, we had divine assistance and we beat those who rose up against us. The same should be done in our own day as well, as we seek to deter our enemies and to thwart the tangible danger that threatens our country, from within and without, including the threat of the Iranians and the rest of the Arab countries. We must first establish a national unity government. Once we do, we will have the divine assistance to ward off the dangers that threaten our existence. Through us will be fulfilled, “This is a nation that rises like the king of beasts, and lifts itself like a lion…. [Israel] crouches, lies like a lion, like an awesome lion, who will dare rouse him?” (Numbers (23:24; 24:9) Looking forward to complete salvation…

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Ya’akov FilberGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“I See It, But Not Now”

It is true that Balak asked Bilaam to curse Israel and to assist him to save himself here and now from the threat that he felt from the Israelites. Yet Bilaam knew that a confrontation with Israel would not be limited to one generation or to one leader. Rather, the Jewish People constituted a historic phenomenon. Therefore, he knew that he had to sabotage the historic path of the Jewish People: “From the blessings of that evildoer we derive how he had intended to curse them” (Rashi). We thus find that Bilaam’s blessings relate to the historic process of the Jewish People, all the way from the Patriarchs to the Messianic era.

Bilaam testifies about himself that he is a prophet: “This is the word of the one who hears G-d’s sayings and knows the Highest One’s will” (Numbers 24:16). In Joshua 13:22, however, he is described as a “magician.” Whether he was prophet or magician, one thing is clear – that he possessed supernatural powers and that he knew how to forecast the end of days from afar. It is in this light that Ramban explains Bilaam’s four visions regarding Israel. In these visions, Bilaam surveys Jewish history from start to finish.

According to Ramban, in the first vision (23:7-10), Bilaam relates to Israel’s selection. As Ramban says, “First Bilaam stresses that they are G-d’s portion and inheritance.” In the second vision (23:18-24), “Bilaam introduces the conquest of the Land and the slaying of its kings.” This refers to the period of conquest and settlement in Joshua’s day. In the third vision (24:3-9), “Bilaam observes their settling the Land and their being fruitful and multiplying there; G-d’s appointment of a king [Saul] and his defeat of Amalek; as well as the kingdom’s continued ascent, with David being exalted on high.” In the fourth vision (24:15-24), “Bilaam envisions the Messianic era.” Bilaam therefore describes those future days as being distant: “I see it, but not now; I perceive it, but not in the near future. A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel” (verse 17).

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kagan, son of the Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, relates in his book, “Michtevei Chafetz Chaim,” page 28: “When the British Government made the Balfour Declaration, the Chafetz Chaim was very happy about it, and he said that he viewed this as a divinely initiated push towards redemption. He quoted the ‘Ohr HaChaim’ on the verse, ‘A staff shall arise in Israel,’ yet he said that he was afraid lest free-thinkers might harm the redemption process, G-d forbid, after they arrive there. He very often said, ‘There have already been times of divine grace, but previous generations ruined them.’”

What is there in the Ohr HaChaim that made the Chafetz Chaim link it to the Balfour Declaration, which recognized our right to a national home for the Jewish People? Ohr HaChaim explains that when Bilaam says, “I see it, but not now, I perceive it, but not in the near future,” as well as, “A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel,” these are prophesies relating to the Messiah. He further explains Bilaam’s words according to our sages’ distinction in Sanhedrin 98a regarding the verse in Isaiah 60:22, “‘I am the L-rd. I shall hasten it in its own good time’: If they merit it, I shall hasten it. Otherwise, redemption shall come in its own good time.”

Bilaam’s words parallel this exposition. Regarding the possibility that redemption will come because Israel “merit it,” Bilaam said, “I see it.” True, he said it would be “not now,” but it would still be in the not too distant future. After all, our sages said that if Israel duly repented, they would be redeemed immediately, even if that meant their only spending a single day in the exile, as it says, “The L-rd will answer you on your DAY of trouble” (Psalm 20:2).

By contrast, we have the possibility of redemption coming “in its own good time,” in the far distant future. In relation to that, Bilaam said, “I perceive it, but not in the near future,” like a person gazing towards the distance. If the end of days comes “in its own good time,” that takes a very long time, due to our sins.

These words of Bilaam are likewise linked to what follows: “A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel.” This verse as well alludes to two redemption processes. If redemption comes about through Israel’s merit, it will be supernatural. Redemption will be revealed by Heaven amidst signs and wonders. The Zohar thus teaches: “ ‘A star shall go forth from Jacob’: A redeemer will shine forth from heaven.”

If, however, a different redemption process occurs, one involving a final deadline, and it occurs without Israel being worthy of it on their own, then the process will occur differently. Of this it says that the redeemer will be “a pauper riding a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). That is, it will occur gradually and non-miraculously. Of such a redemption it says, “A staff shall arise in Israel.” A staff shall arise, non-miraculously. Along these lines we find in Daniel 4:14: “G-d will appoint the lowliest of men.” A pauper riding a donkey will come and he will rise up and rule and accomplish.

From Chafetz Chaim’s words we learn two things: first, that redemption will be revealed even by non-miraculous means, and second, that the events occurring in our times are linked to the non-miraculous type of redemption referred to by the Ohr HaChaim, and linked to the Balfour Declaration by the Chafetz Chaim.

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