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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“The Greeks could not contaminate that little flask of oil bearing the High Priest’s seal. No physical might can uproot Israel’s deep spiritual connection to Hashem, their G-d. ‘Abundant waters cannot quench the love, neither can floods drown it’ (Song of Songs 8:7).” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, Pach HaShemen)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Chanukah and Torah”
On the Eighth day of Chanukah we read the section beginning, “This is the dedication” (Numbers 7:84), thus linking the word Chanukah [dedication] to the word “zot” [this]. Yet our Torah, as well, is called “this”, as our sages taught: “‘Zot’ can only connote Torah, as it says, ‘This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Israelites’ (Deuteronomy 4:44; see Avodah Zarah 2b).
As is well-known, the number “eight” alludes to the dimension of eternity, for it symbolizes the transcending of time. By contrast, the number “seven” alludes to finite time – the seven-day week. The Hebrew word for “eight” [shemoneh] has the same letters as the Hebrew word for “soul” [neshamah]. Hence the eighth day of Chanukah is its soul and essence. Moreover, Torah, linked to Chanukah by “zot”, is likewise the soul of the nation, of Israel, the people of eternity. On Chanukah we publicize the miracles that G-d performed for our ancestors in those days, at this time of year.
Now the Torah is compared to light, as it says, “A mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). Just as in those days the Jewish People, beloved by G-d, clung to our holy Torah despite the Greeks’ attempts to extinguish the light of Torah, in our own day as well we see how the Jewish People is clinging to our holy Torah and is returning to it despite the alien influences of Western Culture, synonymous with Greek Culture – the same person in a different dress. And just as a person’s soul is likened to a candle, as it says, “G-d’s lamp is the soul of man” (Proverbs 20:27), so too, the nation’s soul is like a lamp shedding G-d’s light upon the world. Despite all of their efforts, the nations have not succeeded, nor will they succeed, in extinguishing the light of Israel, “for You swore to him in Your name that his light will never go out” (Haftara Blessings). With blessings for a joyous Chanukah and 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
“Herzl – Divine Emissary?”
Question: How could Herzl have been a divine emissary? He was irreligious! Worse, all his children became Christians. Didn’t he, himself, plan to convert, and didn’t he set up a plan whereby the entire Jewish People would be converted by the Pope?
Answer: It isn’t true that all his children became Christians. It is true that the story of his personal life is a great tragedy. His older daughter died of a drug overdose. His son went insane and did, in fact, convert. Later on he returned to the synagogue, but such was his mental state that he was not responsible for his action. His younger daughter was killed in a concentration camp, and her son committed suicide at age twenty-five. Herzl, himself, died of heart disease as a result of his overwork and self-sacrifice. His cardiologist warned him, “If you keep it up, you might as well call the undertaker now,” but he kept going.
Herzl never intended to become a Christian. He describes in his diary difficult periods of self-doubt and crisis due to his terrible anguish over the Jewish problem. In his enormous candor he writes, already on the first page, “There may, perhaps, have been moments when I would have been happy to flee to Christianity or to anywhere else.” Yet he immediately adds, “Yet those were merely obscure longings stemming from the weakness of youth. Rest assured that I have never thought about converting or about changing my name. On that last point, I can attest to a precise fact from my first words penned as a writer. I brought a manuscript to my newspaper and the editor suggested that I select a pen name not so Jewish-sounding. I adamantly rejected that thought and informed him of my determination to carry on with my father’s name, even if as a result the newspaper would refuse to print my words.” (Diary, 1885).
During this period, Herzl was deeply troubled by the danger of anti-Semitism. Later still, he lived in terrible distress for fear of a holocaust, and he gave free rein to his imagination to find solutions for how to nullify anti-Semitism, each suggestion more fantastic than its predecessor.
Amongst his ideas, in 1883 [when he was just twenty-three years old], he became obsessed with the idea of approaching the Pope and convincing him to lead the struggle against anti-Semitism. In exchange, he would concede to the Pope the group conversion of all the Jews of Vienna. Obviously, he did not include himself in this, nor all the Jews faithful to the religion of their ancestors. “I shall remain a Jew,” he said. Yet the youth, he said, could be converted to good Christians, rather than converting clandestinely at a later age out of fear and weakness. The ceremony would be carried out in the light of day, with dignity, for all to see. As a good, dramatic writer, he describes the ceremony in all its details.
Yet we have to realize that Herzl never actually went ahead with this plan. If not for his diary, we wouldn’t know about it at all. Rather, Herzl, out of his moral integrity, saw a need not to conceal this insane idea that he mentions over the course of several lines at the start of his diary. (see the new book by Herzl’s researcher, Dr. Yitzchak Weiss, which will soon be translated to Hebrew). It is disingenuous to judge a person based on one excerpt out of thousands, taken out of context, written at the start of his career, when he was a lost, confused soul, and to hold him accountable when he is only reacting to his enormous sorrow over the suffering of the Jewish People (see Bava Metzia 58).
Moreover, it is forbidden to mention to a person his early trespasses from which he has already repented. After all, throughout Herzl’s life, we do not find the slightest hint of any plan or thought in that direction. To mention such things violates the Torah prohibition against abuse (ibid, Leviticus 25:17). Moreover, he himself mentioned these things only due to his own humility.
Yet none of this has bearing on the crux of the issue, for who can tell G-d who He should select as an emissary? G-d can do His bidding by way of a Jew, a non-Jew, a righteous Jew or a wicked Jew. After all, G-d performed great works for Israel by way of Cyrus, a pagan king. In the end he became corrupt and missed his opportunity (Rosh Hashanah 3b-4a). Of him it says, “So said G-d to His emissary, to Cyrus” (Isaiah 45:1). Obviously, he was not the Messiah, yet he contained within him a Messianic spark. As Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook said, “The Messianic light shined in secret places” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 171, see also pages 250, 251, 304, 308).
Herzl, likewise, “raised up the banner of our nation’s rebirth” (Igarot HaRe’iyah, Igeret 294. “Through his spirit he raised up our nation’s banner” (8:296). He “contained a Messianic spark” (HaMisped BiYerushalayim, Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 94-99). It is not for us to decide on G-d’s behalf how to save His children. Regarding such matters, “we will not know how they will be until they occur” (Rambam, Melachim 12:2). We cannot decide in advance how the redeemer will look (see the Netziv, Ha’amek Davar on Exodus 4:1; Kovetz Shivat Tzion 81). Rather, we must be happy and thank G-d for all the good He has bestowed upon us.
Rabbi Azriel Ariel
“But we Deserve to be Punished”
Twenty-two years had passed since the sale of Joseph. No one knew what had transpired in the hearts of the brothers who had sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces. Were they contrite? Had their father’s heavy mourning brought them to second thoughts? The answer is yes. When the brothers went down to Egypt, it does not say, “Jacob’s sons went down,” but “Joseph’s brothers went down” (Genesis 42:3). Rashi focused on this difference: “This teaches that they regretted having sold him, and they resolved to treat him as a brother and to redeem him for any sum demanded.”
Yet the brothers’ repentance was still far from complete. A long, hard, obstacle-ridden path lay before them before Joseph would reveal himself to them. After all, it is not enough for someone who hurts his fellow man to restore matters henceforth to their previous state. The harsh past had left behind a lot of fall-out, and everything had to be rectified at the source. They had to eradicate their hatred, suspicion and jealousy and their inability to envision their little brother in all his greatness, with his dreams fulfilled. Joseph’s trampled dignity had to be restored to him, as well as his own faith in his siblings. A warm, proper relationship had to be reestablished. Thus, the brothers’ willingness to redeem Joseph from his captivity did not suffice (let alone with them surreptitiously saying to themselves, “Let’s see what becomes of his dreams…” (Genesis 37:20).
The brothers justified their harming Joseph by way of their suspicion that he was seeking to rule over them. Now they stood before Joseph, with him the ruler over all, and with his having the ability to “frame” them in any bizarre way he wished, or even to incarcerate them. By such means Joseph proved to them that their suspicions that he would harm them were unwarranted. (In fact, the end of the story proves that their suspicions did not cease. After Jacob’s passing, the brothers raised their fear that “Joseph was still holding a grudge against them and was likely to pay them back for all the evil they had done to him” (50:15).
Yet this did not suffice. In order to facilitate their being forgiven, it was required of the brothers that they show contrition over the past. It is not easy for someone who has committed such a severe act to recognize his error and to regret it totally. Joseph demanded of the brothers that they turn over to him one of them, thereby placing them in a situation similar to the one faced at the time of his sale. Indeed, the reconstruction of the event did its job. “They said to one another, ‘But we deserve to be punished because of what we did to our brother. We saw him suffering when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That’s why this great misfortune has come upon us now” (42:21).
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch aptly interprets this: “The word ‘but’ always contradicts a previous assumption, making unclear what until now was accepted to be clear and absolute… Until now they hadn’t viewed themselves as deserving punishment. Even now they only accuse themselves of cruelty and rigidity.”
Whoever was at Gush Katif during the expulsion and saw the security forces wearing dark sunglasses that prevented their having eye contact with the expellees, can well understand Joseph’s feelings at that moment. Whoever stood and heard the residents hopelessly trying to start up a conversation with the expellers and to touch their hearts, yet being answered with laconic slogans and callous visages, can understand the words, “We saw him suffering when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen.”
Joseph’s informing his brothers that “one of them would be held hostage in the same building where they were kept under arrest” (42:19), thus requiring them to harm one of their own at a time when they were feeling mutual brotherhood, reminded them of what they hadn’t done twenty-two years previous. Also their understanding that punishment does not fall from heaven just like that, but expresses Divine Providence, forced them to admit that something special was happening.
Yet it was not enough for them to take responsibility for their callousness. Neither did it suffice that they recognized their guilt in having shown insensitivity twenty-two years before. What was needed was contrition for the deed itself, and this hadn’t happened yet. A family from Gush Katif, whose brutal, traumatic expulsion from their homes I bore witness to, told me that the officer who commanded the expulsion force came to them in their hotel to ask their forgiveness for the manner in which he had acted. Yet since he was unwilling to recognize the sin inherent in the very expulsion itself, they turned him away empty-handed.
This lack Reuven served to atone for: “Reuven interrupted them. ‘Didn’t I tell you not to commit a crime against the boy?’ he said. ‘You wouldn’t listen. Now a divine accounting is being demanded for his blood’” (Genesis 42:22). Reuven was not present at Joseph’s sale. He therefore could not criticize the manner in which the sale was carried out. He was demanding that they take FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SALE ITSELF. He was saying, “I told you not to do it! Don’t say you were innocent because you couldn’t imagine that a sin was involved. You were warned. Secondly, he was just a boy. Your entire warped, suspicious approach to him was unjustified. You have to acknowledge your guilt without evading anything.” For them to achieve complete repentance and forgiveness, they still had a long way before them. It was a process they had to start immediately. “Had we not waited so long, we could have gone back [repented…] twice by now” (43:10).