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From The World of Rabbi Kook
“When the time comes for the ancient light to appear…spirits will be very low. Life will be stagnant. From the outside will come the sound of a reveling throng, coarse and wild…the suffering from such misfortune constitutes the pain of childbirth looming on the horizon. Vibrant lives are sparkling forth to return to their holy source, to renew the world with their glorious splendor…” (Orot HaKodesh I:153-4)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “A Return to the Wellsprings of Faith”
Following the disaster we suffered with the forced expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, the authorities have added insult to injury. The heroic refugees with their families are wandering around from town to town without finding any pity. It is precisely like our sages’ words regarding the footsteps of the Messiah, a time of rebirth of the Jewish People akin to our own era, when there will be a terrible crisis in values and morality within the nation, society, and family. Impudence will increase, cherished values will be abandoned, the family unit will be destroyed, a man’s enemies will come from his own household. There will be no one to rely on but our Father in Heaven (see Sotah 49b).
Today we must learn a lesson from what was and from what is, and reorient ourselves, as a nation, as a society, and as individuals, to face the challenges and dangers looming over the nation, the state and the Land. First of all, we must do everything to assuage the suffering of the refugees from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, and find solutions regarding housing, education and livelihood. This duty rests first and foremost on the government and the whole nation, but also on each individual Jew, whoever he may be, and immediately!
The fact that parts of the nation are unattached to the living wellsprings of faith and Torah from which the settler community drinks was what brought about the Disengagement Plan. The answer is to engage the public and bringing them closer to our Jewish sources, with love and faith. The disengagement from these sources was what brought about the Disengagement Plan. The call of the hour is to strengthen Jewish identity. Through studying and clarifying the identity and destiny of the Jewish People, we will strengthen the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
Machon Meir has undertaken this holy mission, and during this period established a new movement, “Israel, Nation for the World.” Its purpose is to strengthen the identity of the Jewish People as well as their awareness of their uniqueness and special mission. We hope and pray that this movement, however humble its beginnings, will bring about a spiritual change in our country, and that we will become the living fulfillment of the prophet’s words: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be cleansed. I will cleanse you of filth and all your idols. A new heart will I also give you, and a new spirit put within you. I will remove your stony heart, and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27). 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
“You call this an army?”
Question: If this is how the army acts, banishing entire families from parts of our land, then I don’t want to serve in it. I am disappointed to the depths of my being. An army that beats me is no longer my army. It’s a wretched army that for four years has not defended Jews from missile attacks. Now its hordes came to expel mothers and children with amputated limbs. For years we strove for our public to be part of the army. Now I say: no thanks. We risked our lives, but if this is how they treat us, then we should treat them the same way.
Answer: You don’t serve in the army for the sake of those you call “them,” but for the sake of the Jewish People. The Jewish People has done nothing wrong. How are they at fault? Why should they lose out on a good soldier or a good officer, which we need like the air we breathe? We have to remember we have 300 million enemies from without and about another 3 million from within. All of these have help from the great powers, and to counter them we need a strong, committed army. Otherwise, our enemies will murder us and steal our land from us in one day, G-d forbid.
The army does not engage only in accursed expulsions. Its main task is to defend our people and land. Most of the army’s work is good. Moreover, even during those dark days in which there is such a large, shameful draft in order to throw Jews into the street, the army is still on full alert. If the enemy attacks, in very little time the army will be in position. The fact is that our enemies did not take advantage of these moments to try to annihilate us. Such is the I.D.F.’s deterrent power. This power exists even when it is not actively engaged in warfare, but only in security maintenance. It exists even when the army is just on standby, and even when it is on practice field maneuvers. For this reason, a soldier killed during maneuvers is classed as one who “fell in the line of duty.”
Therefore, serving in the army is a great and a pure mitzvah. Even if our prime minister has sullied it, it remains fundamentally pure. G-d “dwells with them amidst their impurity” (Leviticus 16:16). The army is not an invention of our prime minister, one that we can consider joining or not. It is a holy mitzvah of G-d, into which corruptions have been introduced. The Greeks brought a statue of the goddess Aphrodite into a bathhouse in Acre. Rabban Gamliel continued bathing there. A Greek asked him, “It says in your Torah: ‘Let nothing taboo remain in your hands’ (Deuteronomy 13:18). Why then are you bathing in the bathhouse of Aphrodite?” Rabban Gamliel responded, “We don’t answer Torah questions in the bathhouse.” When he left he answered, “I did not come into Aphrodite’s bathhouse. She came into mine. You can’t say, ‘A bathhouse has been made for Aphrodite.’ Say instead, ‘Aphrodite has been made into an ornament in the bathhouse’” (Mishnah: Avodah Zarah 44b; see Rashi and Raavad).
We don’t say, “We shall establish an army of expulsion for Israel so that we can banish Jews.” Rather, it was our insane, wicked prime minister who said, “I will use the Israel Defense Forces to expel Jews.” He is the problem, not the army. The army is something positive! The army comprises three mitzvot together:
1. Saving the nation: defending the lives of the masses.
2. Saving the Land: the mitzvah of settling the Land and conquering the Land.
3. Sanctifying G-d’s name. Whenever any nation strikes Israel, that is a profanation of G-d’s name. Yet a million Jews will then rise up to defend a single Jew, as one man, with one heart.
It is true there are serious shortcomings to our army: its use for expulsion; the increased role of female soldiers; the vulgar atmosphere and the army’s insufficient military responses. Yet we have to be patient. King David tolerated Yoav ben Tzruyah in his army, of whom was written, “He shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war on the belt about his loins” (I Kings 2:5), King David tolerated him because Yoav, the head of David’s army, was essential in the fight against our enemies. Rashba, Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, explains that it is impossible to rectify everything at once: “Remember the matter of our master David, who ignored Yoav and Shimi even though they deserved death… Ignoring a sinner is sometimes a mitzvah. It all depends on the needs of the hour... We have to remove the easiest obstacles first. We don’t attack the whole problem all at once” (Responsa Rashba 5:238).
We don’t go to the army to create an external impression that our public is part of things, nor to garner respect. Rather, we do it for the very mitzvah itself, for the Jewish People, for the glory of G-d. Even now, we shall continue. It is very easy to abandon the army on the grounds that it is not entirely pure. Such is the concept of the “beautiful soul” who does not wish to be partner in an enterprise that is not entirely pure. The one who gains from this is the evildoer, who can run wild without anyone hindering him. In the short run, perhaps it is better to bang on the table and to walk out, but in the long run, one needs self-sacrifice to stay. Yes! The army is self-sacrifice – all sorts of self-sacrifice. And now such self-sacrifice is called for.
Believe me, soldiers felt like dishrags after following those orders issued by the country’s evildoers. It is not the soldier or the officer who is the evildoer, but the prime minister and the Knesset members who raised a finger, voting to destroy Jewish cities and families. Some talk of the rift in the nation, so you should be aware that deep inside the soldier there is now a terrible rift. Yet he continues to drag along this burden for the sake of his people. We shall continue going to the army, just as before; Nothing has changed. It will be harder now, that’s all. We are happy about the army’s might. We are pained that they used it for evil. We shall restore the army to goodness and blessing.
We shall proudly enlist in the army. We will follow in the path of our holy ancestors who were men of war – Abraham and Jacob, Moses and Joshua, David and Judah Maccabee. We shall wear the uniform of the Israeli army proudly, everywhere we go. We shall bring joy to the Jewish People and to the Master-of-the-Universe.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner - Education Corner
Open Letter to Our Youth: “I Have a Lot of Questions”
Following the expulsion of the residents of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, there is not one of us who is not asking himself penetrating questions – questions regarding G-d, regarding the State and the army, regarding our path and ideology, regarding our spiritual and political leadership. There are a lot of questions; there is much puzzlement, much surprise. There are questions about the past (“Why?”); there are questions about the present; and there are questions about the future (“What will be? What now?”).
And just as it is wise and prudent to raise questions, to discuss and clarify them in an unprejudiced manner, so is it unwise and imprudent to arrive immediately at revolutionary conclusions. The questions are weighty and serious, and we must consider the various answers deliberately and soberly, and not make our decisions in a rash, fickle manner. To struggle over the questions is permissible. Our sages describe a rabbi being asked a particular halachic question. The question was so difficult that he “first answered yes, then no, then something in between.” The challenges before us today are intricate and complex, hence we require much consideration in choosing the proper path.
There are those who have only just now returned home from months of long activity on behalf of Eretz Yisrael, and they are already suggesting that we change our whole direction and ideology. They are saying that we should change our methods of struggle and cast off our pro-State approach.
It is easy to cast off a way of life. It is easy to smash it cynically to bits. It is easy to question it and to find flaws with it. Yet it is hard to build an appropriate alternative, to fashion a strong, vibrant way of life. It is easy to destroy, and hard to build. We learned this recently. We saw how in a few short days a flourishing part of the country can be destroyed and its inhabitants banished. In little time, marvelous communities can be dismantled and strong edifices can be knocked down. Destroying is easy. All you need is a hammer. Building is a much harder mission. How long does it take until we succeed in settling a part of the Land, making the desert bloom and founding flourishing communities?
Some of the suggestions being aired right now amount to nothing more than despair. Let’s not enlist in the army… Let our girls not do community service… Let’s not pay taxes... Let’s not be part of the country... Let’s not celebrate Independence Day... Let’s not recite the Prayer for the State and the Prayer for Our Soldiers. These are cries of despair and not a real solution to the complex situation we have encountered.
Spitting at the Israeli flag doesn’t accomplish a thing. It won’t bring one Jew closer to G-d. It won’t add holiness to the State of Israel, nor will it prevent Israeli society from distancing itself from the values of holiness. True, we have to reassess our relationship to state institutions. We have to clarify how to integrate ourselves into the state networks and how to fit in to society. We may very well conclude that we have no reason to veer away from what we have been doing up until now. Or, it may become clear to us that we should make major or minor changes in order to increase our influence on society, so that our spiritual messages will permeate it. Whatever the case may be, we won’t solve profound and complicated questions by wonder cures or slogans.
Our point of origin is not despair but hope, built upon two foundations: 1. Faith in Israel’s chosenness. That chosenness finds prominent expression in generations of redemption (obviously, our faith in that chosenness is no guarantee against crises and setbacks along the way). 2. Faith in our own ability (= Religious Zionism) to assist in uncovering that chosenness hidden within Israeli society in general and within every Jew in particular. The Talmud states that “if all the seas were ink and all the lakes quills; the sky parchment and all mankind scribes, they wouldn’t manage to record the profundity of government” (Shabbat 11a). In other words, they wouldn’t succeed in understanding the full wisdom required for ruling a country.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (in Ein Aya) writes that societal conventions and the running of a country constitute a “great long chain” of interconnected details. It is very hard to encompass the whole picture. Therefore, warns Rabbi Kook, even when “numerous details are revealed that are out of synch with fairness and integrity,” it is forbidden “to rush out to destroy the workings of society,” even if one’s intent is to destroy in order to rebuild.” Over the course of the generations, many who intended to improve the workings of society ultimately made things even worse, because the operations of a country and a society are complex and involved. Therefore, we have to conduct ourselves with moderation and caution. “We should conduct ourselves calmly,” and not dismantle everything. Improvements take time. We won’t achieve them by means of destroying the object we wish to improve.
It is permissible and even desirable to ask questions, but it is forbidden to despair. Raising questions is a catalyst for clarification and understanding, deepened awareness and renewal; this is very desirable. Despair, by contrast, is a recipe for paralysis. Let us not quickly despair. Rather, let us clarify and elucidate, go into depth and seek renewal.