From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“When the righteous believe in themselves, in their enormous resources and in the lofty holiness of their souls, they increase divine devotion… They bring holy vibrancy to the world, pleasure and contentment, good health and long days, the blessings of wealth and children. Then the light of repentance and the joy of mitzvah observance proliferate in the world” (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 150)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David
Joseph was the “dreamer” (Genesis 37:19), as well as the dream interpreter. It looked as though he lived in a world of dreams and imaginings, but really, as Pharaoh said (41:39), there was no one with as much wisdom and insight as he. Joseph was a complex personality. On the one hand his dreams accompanied him throughout his life and he knew full well that they would ultimately be fulfilled. On the other hand, he was “a very successful man” (39:2) who knew how to manage the Egyptian economy and to prepare Egypt, with his wisdom and insight, for the years of famine. He was well aware that all the situations he found himself in, whether he was in prison or viceroy, were all part of his dreams being fulfilled, at the climax of which was a dream about the Jewish People being born as tribal units in Egypt. His head was in his dreams, but his feet were set on the ground, in the complex, intricate reality he experienced in Pharaoh’s house and with his own family.
Today, “as G-d returns His people to Zion, we are as dreamers” (Psalm 126:1). Our sages viewed the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of a Jewish State as part of the fulfillment of the task of “Mashiach ben Yosef” [the Messianic descendant of Joseph] (see Kol HaTor by the disciples of the Vilna Gaon). In other words, just as Joseph was wise and insightful, and successful in everything he did, and just as he engaged in saving Egypt economically, so, too, our generation is one whose chief preoccupation is ensuring our survival and our economic welfare.
Yet this is just the first stage in Israel’s rebirth. The second stage is the appearance of Mashiach ben David, the Messianic descendant of King David, for “the ultimate purpose of the Jewish People is not just to be defined and set apart as a nation, but also the longing to unite all of mankind in one family, in which all proclaim G-d’s name” (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot 109). Our sages interpreted the words, “Bring us upright [komemiyut] to our land” (blessings before the Shema) as meaning that the ingathering will happen in two stages [komot]. First will come national rebirth, represented by Mashiach ben Yosef. From within that will come the universal rebirth of all mankind, represented by Mashiach ben David.
With blessings for a joyous Chanukah, and looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner- Chief Rabbi of Bet El
Chanukah: Chareidi or Secular?
-- Daddy, how did we beat the Greeks?
-- With the help of G-d, obviously.
-- And who was G-d helping?
-- The Hasmoneans, as is well known.
-- Who were they?
-- Al HaNissim calls them “Holy priests”. They were great saints.
-- Weren’t they soldiers?
-- Yes… They were soldiers…. Yes.
-- And they fought with weapons?
-- Yes…. With weapons.
-- So they were secular or National Religious?
-- Who says! They were Chareidim!
-- Chareidim went to the army?
-- So they went.
-- Why’d they go?
-- To save the Jewish People, obviously.
-- So why don’t we go?
-- No need. The Torah we learn protects us.
-- So we don’t need an army?
-- No! The Torah protects us.
-- And back then, the Torah DIDN’T protect us?
-- Certainly it protected us. That’s how they won – thanks to the Torah.
-- So why did they fight with weapons?
-- Because… thanks to the Torah… they won with weapons.
-- So why shouldn’t we go to the army and win thanks to the Torah?
-- No need. The secular and the National Religious go and they win thanks to our Torah.
-- So why didn’t the Hasmoneans sit and learn Torah, so that the secular and National Religious of those times could win, thanks to the Torah?
-- There were none. Back then, everyone was Chareidi.
-- The Hasmoneans weren’t National Religious?!
-- G-d forbid! Adding nationalism to Torah is a new invention.
-- What is nationalism?
-- A country, an army – things like that.
-- And the Hasmoneans didn’t fight in an army and didn’t establish a country?
-- Actually they did… Maybe they didn’t really want it… but there was no choice.
-- And now there is a choice? Now we don’t need an army? We’ve got enemies!
-- I told you. If we learn Torah, G-d will perform a miracle and destroy all our enemies.
-- So why didn’t G-d destroy all the enemies in the days of Chanukah? Maybe they didn’t learn Torah?
-- G-d forbid! It’s a fact that “the wicked Hellenic regime rose up against Your People Israel, to make them forget Your Torah and violate the laws of Your will” (Al HaNisim).
-- So if the Hasmoneans fought, they must have been National-Religious?
-- G-d forbid! G-d forbid! They were Chareidim… Entirely Chareidim….
-- Daddy, how did we beat the Greeks?
-- With the army, obviously.
-- We had an army back then?
-- No... The Hasmoneans organized one…
-- But why didn’t they organize it before? What happened?
-- The Greeks didn’t let the Jews keep the mitzvoth – Shabbat and things like that.
-- Things the religious do?
-- And over that we went to war?
-- Yes. The religious make an issue of everything. Demonstrations, wars…
-- So the Hasmoneans who fought the Greeks were religious?
-- No way! You know the religious don’t go to the army.
-- So maybe the Hasmoneans were National-Religious?
-- No way! Adding religion to nationalism is a new invention.
-- What’s wrong with that?
-- It’s wrong. It’s wrong. Religious confuses and weakens nationalism and militarism, which are good and healthy things.
-- But you said that the rebellion broke out because the Hasmoneans wanted to keep mitzvoth?
-- Yeah, so?
-- So if they went with religion, how did they win?
-- How should I know? G-d helped them…
-- Is there such a thing?
-- Of course not. I meant they THOUGHT G-d helped them, so they won…
-- But precisely those assimilated to Greek culture didn’t fight?
-- Obviously. They were in favor of the Greeks!
-- So they weren’t nationalists? And precisely the religious were the nationalists?
-- So what?
-- So why shouldn’t we be religious? Then we’d be more nationalist!
-- Now things are different. You’ve got to be a secular nationalist. That’s the healthiest.
-- But I understand that the Hasmoneans were National-Religious, right?
-- No way! They were secular… Maybe secularists of a different type… but still secular.
(based on an anonymous source sent me by a friend)
Rabbi Ze'ev Karov
Joseph’s brothers decided that they had to kill him, and ultimately “settled for” selling him. Without a doubt, the brothers had profound reasons for relating to Joseph as they did. We are not talking about common rabble or cutthroats, but about the founding tribes of Israel, who had come to the conclusion that this was the right thing to do.
The great difficulty was not in the sale itself, but in how they related to what they did. It seems as though they quite readily deceived their father and caused him great pain, and having sold Joseph, they forgot about him. Shouldn’t righteous Judah, the firstborn Reuven and all the other brothers have checked to see what happened to their brother?
Even more strange is their reaction to everything that happened to them in Egypt. The King of Egypt accused them of being spies, and he, himself, then invited them to eat a kosher meal with him. Did they not discern that something strange was happening to them? Did they suspect nothing?
Their difficulties in Egypt lead them to utter a statement like “We are guilty” (Genesis 42:21), but immediately afterwards they blame G-d: “What is this that G-d has done to us?” (42:28). They seem to be saying, “Perhaps we weren’t so fine, and G-d is punishing us.” Yet they do not recognize how terrible a mistake they made, and they certainly do not understand the close connection between the sale of Joseph and what is happening to them in Egypt.
The Talmud (Ta’anit) relates that Rabbi Yochanan found the young son of Resh Lakish reciting the verse, “The foolishness of man perverts his way, and he grows angry against the L-rd” (Proverbs 19:3). Rabbi Yochanan asked him, “Does this verse find support in the Torah?” and the boy answered that we derive it from Joseph’s brothers, for it says, “Their hearts sank. ‘What is this that G-d has done to us?’ they asked one another with trembling voices.” Maharsha comments, “Man’s foolishness perverts his ways and his deeds, and his heart grows angry against the L-rd – he questions G-d in matters of faith.”
People, in their foolishness, are capable of constructing imaginary worlds, thinking they are the truth. They are unable to look at reality and to see its truth, because they are captives to the conception of reality that they have invented.
In this situation, if the reality does not work out in accordance with their imaginings and their “foolishness,” they take pains to find the “real” guilty parties. First and foremost, all those who do not think like them are guilty. After that, still others are guilty, the settlers, the settlements, and obviously, G-d. They make due with the most minuscule self-blame, saying: We are not guilty. Rather, we are in the right. Even so, “we saw him suffering when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen” (Genesis 42:21). We were right, but we should have been a bit more merciful.
Even great individuals can fall in the trap of foolishness. If they have built up a worldview regarding a particular issue in accordance with their understanding, but without absolute faithfulness to the Torah and to divine direction, they will have trouble seeing their error. That is how it was with the brothers, with the spies in the desert, and so on.
Only when the brothers started to truly ponder what they had done did they suddenly understand the great pain they had caused their father. They had to recall and to confront the sale of Joseph once more, as when Judah has to describe to Joseph how “Benjamin’s brother had died” (Genesis 44:20). Then and only then did Joseph understand that the brothers would be able to face up to the truth and deal with it properly. Regarding the words, “The foolishness of man perverts his way,” Malbim comments:
“G-d equipped man to be able to walk in the path of goodness and life, by means of the wise laws He revealed to him. As long as a person believes in those laws, he will walk in the path of goodness and will not resent G-d. Only his foolishness and his doubts about the ways of wisdom pervert his ways.”
Human intelligence is limited and full of doubt. Foolishness consists of man’s attempt to decide life’s questions in accordance with human intelligence alone. People encounter a difficult, complicated reality and they fall into saying that the Torah, G-d’s wisdom, does not illuminate one’s path as far as such complex matter as this. Or they say that for the time being they can ignore the wisdom that G-d prepared for us. Sometimes even people steeped in Torah abandon G-d’s wisdom on particular issues. These are “the righteous who do not believe” (Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s expression, based on Bava Metzia 85b).
A person who constructs a worldview that is opposed to divine wisdom suffers from “foolishness that perverts his way.” Such a person will “grow angry against the L-rd.” He will be angry about the values that hinder him from building reality according to his foolishness, and he will blame G-d for having done this to the world.
The great lesson learned by the brothers is this: “It is not you who sent me here but G-d” (Genesis 45:8). Joseph teaches them to stop looking at reality through eyes of flesh-and-blood and instead to view it as part of a divine plan. One’s worldview must be based on divine wisdom. We must be faithful to that wisdom and we must ponder reality based on it. This, in fact, is what the Maccabees did when they went to war despite the “enlightened” people who warned them that they had nothing to gain and no chance of success. The following is from The Book of Maccabees:
“Judah answered and said, ‘Is it too hard for G-d to hand over the many in the hands of the few? Does anything stop Him from saving us that way? Salvation belongs to Him, and great armies afford no escape.’”
Translation: R. Blumberg
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