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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“Only in a person rich in the love of man can the love of the nation flourish, abetted by that person’s nobility and his greatness in spirit and deed.” (Orot HaKodesh 4:405)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Love Peace and Truth”
From the Seventeenth of Tamuz until the Ninth of Av, the House of Israel practices mourning customs in remembrance of the suffering and destruction that befell the Jewish People. The purpose of these fasts and mourning customs is: “To arouse the hearts to take charge of repentance. It is meant to remind us of our evil deeds and the deeds of our ancestors which were like our own deeds now, until they caused both them and us the same suffering. By remembering these things, we can return to the good path. Therefore, every person must take all this to heart during those days, and he must examine his deeds and repent for them…. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, five calamities occurred: the tablets were broken when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, the “Tamid” daily offering was cancelled during the First Temple period, the walls around Jerusalem were breeched during the Second Temple Period, Epistemos burnt the Torah and placed an idol in the Sanctuary.” (Orach Chaim 549, Mishnah Berurah)
Today, the manifold causes of the suffering that beset us in the past still exist in our own generation, and we must repent for them. That is, we must rectify them both on the national level and on the personal level.
Moses’s breaking the tablets occurred because of the sin of the Golden Calf. Every generation has its own Golden Calf, our own included. Today, the “Golden Calf” means the worship of money, materialism and hedonism, for some view these things as the purpose of everything. This leads people to forget their values, ideals and ethics, and also leads to their distancing themselves and cutting themselves off from Jewish tradition, from the Jewish People and from Eretz Yisrael. We have to nullify the present-day Golden Calf by returning to ourselves, returning to our roots and to Jewish tradition. By such means we will become reconnected to ourselves, our people and our land.
The “Tamid” daily offering, a communal offering, alludes to our drawing near as one man, with one heart, to our Father in Heaven. In our generation as well, we have to find a way to unite all of Israel and to bring Israel, all together, closer to G-d, through increasing the love and faith so needed in our generation.
The Wall of Jerusalem – Jerusalem is the tangible expression of the Assembly of Israel, of Jewish unity. Jerusalem’s walls serve to defend Jerusalem and Israel. Unfortunately, in our day the walls of Jerusalem are being breeched by way of all restrictions being breeched, all values being trampled and morality being nullified. So far have we deteriorated that there is going to be a march of “Gay Pride” – or calumny – in the very heart of the Eternal City. The lack of an identity and the absence of roots has brought those people to confusion and destructive personal decline and the collapse of the family unit. By returning to our essential, human and Jewish identity, we will buttress the walls of Jerusalem.
The burning of the Torah in the past is unfortunately recurring today before our very eyes, through the children and adults of Israel being distanced from Torah study. We must once more learn and teach our holy Torah with love and faith.
The Idol in the Sanctuary – As is well-known, a man’s heart is likened to his own Temple. The idol in the sanctuary in the heart of a man of our generation, consists of his anger, lusts and drives, and his evil thoughts. We must “purify the sanctuary,” our heart, removing the idol from it. By carrying out these improvements, we will be privileged to see the fulfillment of the prophet’s words: “Thus said the L-rd of hosts: The fasts of the fourth month, fifth month, seventh month and eighth month shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons. Therefore love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19)
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“The External and Internal Edifice”
In every serious mission, personal and national, we need both an external edifice and an internal edifice. If there is only an external edifice, that is like a body without a soul, which will ultimately collapse. Yet even an internal edifice by itself hovers in the air, a sort of ghost, a soul without a body. Also in the struggle over Judea and Samaria which burns within us, we need an external edifice together with the internal edifice.
What do I mean by an “external edifice”? Wisdom, awareness, Torah learning. What do I mean by an “internal edifice”? Reverence, prayer, worship of G-d, good will (Orot HaKodesh III:88). Even Torah learning per se is part of the “external edifice,” if it constitutes superficial awareness that does not penetrate within, like Do’eg Ha’Edomi whose Torah learning was just lip service. We toil so that Torah learning will also create an internal edifice of exalted will.
Other examples of the “external edifice” include Aliyah to Israel, settling the Land, establishing a Jewish State, sovereignty over the Land, establishing settlements, activism on behalf of Judea and Samaria. Other examples of the “internal edifice” include humility, modesty and freedom from lust and envy.
At this time, what is the “external edifice” on behalf of Judea and Samaria and on behalf of our land? Many people know the answer, although there are differences of opinion amongst them as with everything. This is natural. And altogether, the differences are not great.
Yet at present, I would like to talk about the internal edifice. Through that as well we shall cure our people and our land.
If so, we must repent, every day, every hour and every moment. Obviously, by doing so, we shall also influence others to repent, yet first we ourselves must do so.
We must become stronger in our faith in G-d, and we must distance ourselves from despair, from tension and from depression. We must believe that we have a Master-of-the-Universe, and we must believe in divine providence.
We, both men and women, must increase our modesty, both in our dress and in our actions, both in our speech and in our outlooks, both in our thinking and in our wishes.
We must be gentle, super gentle, without a drop of violence, including verbal violence, both towards those far removed from G-d and towards those close.
We mustn’t speak during prayers nor during the Torah reading, including between readings, not even words of Torah. From the start of the service until the end, we mustn’t say a word. The “Tosafot Yom Tov” even blamed the terrible pogroms of 1648 and 1649 on talking during the service, and he authored a special “misheberach” blessing those who didn’t talk then.
We mustn’t shout every day, “Evildoers!” against part of our brethren. Rather, we must fight against the evildoer within us. We mustn’t gossip and speak evil of them. Rather, we must speak positively of them, calling them “infants who were taken captive” [and thus left ignorant against their will], both as regards Torah and as regards the Land. We must love them. To love by our actions, is not easy. To love in speech is hard. To love in our thought is still harder. So we need valor. To be purified of hatred involves great valor, supreme valor. Thus we must struggle to increase mutual understanding.
We must purify our lips. We must purify our hearts. We must be especially careful to avoid gossip and evil speech. Oy! How awful they are!
We all know: That which you find hateful do not do your fellow man. That which you wouldn’t want others to say of you, do not say about your fellow man. We all know it, but we also have to practice it.
We mustn’t steal. We mustn’t cheat in business. We mustn’t cheat on income taxes. We must work honestly. When we are at work, we mustn’t engage in our personal affairs, not even in mitzvot. Mitzvot we should do on our own time, not through theft.
We mustn’t insult anyone. Even if we need to fulfill the mitzvah of rebuking our fellow man, we must do it with enormous caution so as not to offend.
We must honor our parents and our children. We must honor our teachers and our pupils. We must honor Torah scholars, obviously of all streams. We must honor the elderly. We must honor every man.
We must hate no one. That isn’t easy. For the ministering angels it is easy. For us it is not. Indeed, such us the internal edifice.
We must cleanse ourselves of arrogance, from the pursuit of honor, from anger, jealousy and lust. We must cleanse ourselves more and more.
If we behave so, we will not only save Judea and Samaria, but the nation from sexual sin, violence, the profanation of G-d’s name, and from the destruction of the family.
We must learn the book “Mesilat Yesharim” [the Path of the Upright] a hundred times, and we make our utmost effort to follow in its path.
Rabbi Itiel Ariel – Rabbi of Ramat Bet Shemesh B
“An Equal Inheritance to All”
The Torah commentaries had a difficult time clarifying the criteria established for dividing up the tribal portions of Eretz Yisrael: “To a larger group you shall give a larger inheritance while to a smaller group you shall give a smaller inheritance… However, hereditary property shall be granted to paternal families through a lottery system” (Numbers 26:54). Here are several puzzles that they raised:
1. How could they divide up the Land by lots between the tribes, and within each tribe, if ultimately the parts were not equal?
2. How could they preserve the principle of equality if the number of inheritors was fixed during Moses’s time and the actual division took place fourteen years later in Joshua’s day, when the population ratios had changed?
3. Why was it fair to divide up the entire land amongst the tribes and families when parts of the Land were not conquered for hundreds of years, and the owners of those lands received no compensation for their wait?
4. Did the division take into account the qualitative gap between the various lands of Eretz Yisrael? If so, by what criteria? Was it in terms of agricultural potential or the land’s worth as real estate for homes?
5. How did our sages view the fact that the land ratio was determined in accordance with Israel’s population two generations previous? (Bava Batra 118)
6. Even a cursory glance at the tribal inheritance map arouses questions about the extent to which the principle of equality could be applied, whatever criteria might be used.
These are just some of the questions the commentaries raised. Chief respondents amongst them were Rashi and Ramban, who debated whether the lots system was meant to divide up the land between tribes or only for the internal division between families within each tribe.
The truth is, however, that there was no practical way to apply the principle of equality fully. By its very essence, a one-time partition that established hereditary portions for all time necessarily should have led to a distorted situation in the future. Certainly demographic, geographic and political changes would take place over time, and there could be no human criteria that would provide a response to changing needs. With our own eyes we bear witness to waves of migration of millions of people throughout the world, who cannot find their place in their traditional ancestral inheritance. The demand for a renewed division of the inheritance constantly is on the rise. It seems like we have to adopt a different approach to understanding this section.
The “Sefat Emet” emphasizes that the root of the tribal division of the Land is the portion that every Jew has IN THE TORAH. Thus, the mundane expression of the lofty ideal that “Israel are all righteous” (Isaiah 60:21) is “They shall inherit the Land forever” (ibid.). The educational goal of the Torah in this section is that every single Jew should recognize his own special portion in the Torah, both as regards the deeper meaning of his “owning his own letter” in the Torah, as well as regarding the more mundane idea of his having a hereditary portion of the Land. That is why the inheritance was determined according to the deceased ancestors of two generations previous. It was through their ancestors that Israel could lay claim to their portion in the Torah and the Land. Thus both the Torah (Deuteronomy 33:4) and the Land (Exodus 6:8) are described as Israel’s “morashah” [heritage]. Sefat Emet points out the difference between a “yerushah” and a “morashah”, both of which ostensibly mean “inheritance.” He explains that a “morashah” puts the focus on our ancestors actively passing on to us a heritage, whereas “yerushah” focuses on the passive receipt of an inheritance by descendants. Here, the essence of Israel’s inheriting the Torah and the Land depends on the connection between these and their source.
The longing for equal opportunity is a blessed thing, as long as it is not a value in and of itself, but only a tool enabling every Jew to discover his own special letter of the Torah. Each Jew’s “letter” is the equal of every other Jew’s letter.
Rabbi Ya’akov Filber – Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Selecting a Leader for the People”
Many crises have beset Israeli society in these times. The greatest one is the crisis of leadership. This crisis affects all spheres, and it may be that all other crises stem from it.
When the Jewish People suffer from inferior leadership, sometimes it is because they have foolishly chosen such leaders for themselves. Yet sometimes their bad leadership is a punishment from Heaven for the corrupt behavior of the public. As the Talmud states (Bava Kamma 52a), “A goat leads the flock. When the shepherd is angry at the flock he blinds the goat.” Rashi explains: “Blinding the goat makes it fall into pits, and the flock falls in after it. Likewise, when G-d wants to punish Israel, He appoints disreputable leaders for them.”
The blind goat is an example of a failure in leadership. Another example is the spies who were sent to spy out the Land.
When Moses sees that he is about to conclude his task, he understands that finding a good leader to replace himself cannot be taken for granted. Thus he does not rely on Israel to appoint themselves the continuing leadership. Yet at the same time he does not rely on himself either. Moreover, he does not do what Jacob did before his death, delineating for each of his sons that son’s specific role. Rather, he asks, “Let G-d appoint a man over the community” (Numbers 27:15). Why did Moses pass to G-d the task of choosing Moses’s own replacement? Our sages teach (Gittin 14a), ‘A person cannot truly grasp what the Torah says until he fails in its regard.” Such a failure Moses experienced when he chose the spies who went into the Land. Although Moses had chosen the finest leaders, in the final test of the result, he failed. Therefore, when he had to choose a new leader for the Jewish People, he asked G-d to do it: “Let the Ominipotent G-d of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let G-d’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:15).
The Midrash comments: “When Moses heard that he was going to die, he began to pray for G-d to show Israel mercy, that G-d should provide them with a shepherd who would have the personality to bear them. He said, ‘Master of the Universe! You know all the personalities of people, who is tolerant, who is ill-tempered. Appoint over Israel a leader who will go forth before them in the Desert, taking care of all their needs, leading them out quickly and aiding them with his prayers.”
Another example of the possibility of failure in choosing a leader for Israel we find when the Prophet Samuel is asked to find a replacement for Saul. Even though Samuel was himself totally devoted to the Jewish People, he erred when he saw David and his brothers, thinking that David’s older brother, the tall, handsome Eliav was the one chosen by G-d to be king. Here G-d apprised him of his error, saying, “Man can see with his eyes, but G-d sees into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
Today as well we need a leader such as Moses requested. However important such a request is in any other generation, in our own generation it is imperative, and we pray that G-d will provide such leadership speedily in our day.
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)
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