From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Israel’s unique freedom is that exalted spirit whereby the individual Jew, and the Jewish People in the aggregate, achieve sublime faith in their inner essence: the image of G-d within them. With such a trait they can appreciate life’s value”
(Olat Re’iyah 2:245)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
The Exodus Narrative – a Love Story
Pesach [Passover] derives its name from G-d’s great love and compassion for the Jewish People, in His passing over their homes as He smote the Egyptian firstborn. As it says, “I will then pass over you and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to plague you…. When your children ask you, ‘What is this service of yours?’ You shall say, ‘It is the Pesach-offering to G-d, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and saved our homes.’ The people then bowed and prostrated themselves’ (Exodus 12:23-27). Rashi relates to the Israelites’ having bowed: “Why did they prostrate themselves and bow? It was in thankfulness for their being told that they would be redeemed, would come into the Land and would bear children.”
Their love, faith and trust in G-d’s love for them were so great that they thanked Him by bowing while they were still slaves in Egypt before being redeemed. Such is the way of people who love one another. Distress and suffering does not stop that love (see Mesillat Yesharim, Chelkei HaChassidut). Indeed, the exodus narrative is the story of the great love that abides between G-d and Israel, as in our daily prayers, where we bless G-d, who “has lovingly selected His people Israel.” We likewise recite in the Shema, “You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, soul and might,” and as is known, this is not just a command but a promise. Indeed, we customarily complete the Seder Night by reciting Song of Songs, King Solomon’s marvelous, profound poem celebrating the love between G-d and the Assembly of Israel.
That story of the great love between G-d and Israel is retold in the Pesach Haggadah from generation to generation, father to son, as we recline as free men on the first night of the holiday. In the past, however, we have faced unimaginably harsh conditions such as when we were pursued to death by the Spanish Inquisition, or when Jews were being burned to death in the furnaces of Auschwitz and elsewhere in Europe. Throughout those times as well, Jews never ceased to recite, in secret, that great love story. Reciting the Haggadah during our most difficult hours reveals our great love for G-d. As with all who truly love one another, we love G-d under all conditions and in all situations,
The Haggadah begins with the words, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” and it concludes, “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.” This is a story going back thousands of years, but it is replete with love. How fortunate we are and how fortunate our generation that we are privileged to live in Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, and to see with our own eyes the fulfillment of G-d’s promise, made to our ancestors in Egypt. “We therefore are obligated to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, extol and adore Him who performed for our fathers and for us all of these wonders… Therefore, let us recite a new song before Him.” (Lefichach)
With blessings for happy and kosher Pesach and looking forward to complete salvation,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner- Chief Rabbi of Bet El
In the Darkness After the Elections
What’s going to be with the Land of Israel following the elections? We’ll carry on! Nothing has changed. It’s just harder. G-d has decided that the end of days is coming. We’ll persevere. All of the problems only postpone the happy ending, but it will surely come. It’s just a matter of time. True, we are experiencing some grave suffering, but we are not surprised. We know from the first chapter of the work “Mesillat Yesharim” that this world is a world of troubles and suffering. Not in vain did Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai teach us that Eretz Yisrael is acquired through suffering. For quite a while we have noticed the blight that plagues dry nationalism.
Yet there is one thing of which we must be aware: the sun of salvation is shining over Zion. If there is a solar eclipse, the sun will soon return. We just need faith. We mustn’t be alarmed. We mustn’t lose our heads. Absence precedes presence. Chaos precedes the primal light. The rot in man’s core prepares for his strong growth. Body comes before soul. Hearty souls preoccupied with material matters of economics and security precede noble souls dealing with ideal of Torah, the People and the Land. The unholy kingdom precedes the holy kingdom.
Therefore, there is no despair! There is no stopping! There is no weakness! We must move ever forward with devotion and toil! There is no short battle. Forward! There is no sadness! There is no nervousness! There is no pressure!
There will be more elections and still more. We have to gather strength to face them. We can do this through internal unity amongst us, through hope, through acquiring the trust of the broader public with the help of positive media. Be happy with what there is. Be happy that we’ve got our own country and government, and are not under the Turks or the British. Thank G-d that we have the problems of an independent people in their own land, rather than of a castoff, exiled nation.
Every two weeks, don’t write the same article with the same recycled material of hatred for the wicked, hatred of traitors, hatred of the mixed multitude, hatred, hatred and more hatred. You can count on the evil impulse doing its work steadfastly and not needing any help. Actually, to the contrary, all of these articles are a good omen: If we need to work so hard to arouse hatred, it’s a sign that there is strong love that cannot be uprooted or shaken. Good for us! Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook wrote: “Although we must wage a fierce battle against the secular Zionists, the ‘Jews without Judaism’… we must still continue being very careful not to sever the thread of unity and brotherhood existing between the workers and the Old Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. We are well-experienced in what a civil war can do to us, especially as we set out on our path to settling the Land and we remain weak and few in numbers, surrounded by external enemies from all sides.” (Igarot HaRe’iyah 2:63). Rav Kook is certainly right. Our enemy is not us, but all our enemies from without.
One time in an American war college a general gave a lecture on threats facing the United States and on appropriate strategies. An officer asked, “Will we have to fight World War Three?” “That’s how it seems,” the general replied. “And who will be our enemy, General?” the officer continued. “Apparently it will be China,” said the general. Said the officer, “We are 300 million and they are 1.2 billion. How will be able to beat them?” The general answered, “In modern times, quantity is not the determining factor, but quality. In the Middle East, there are a million Jews fighting 300 million Arabs, and they always win.” “But general,” said the officer, “Do we have enough Jews?”…
So you see that G-d is with us. G-d has not abandoned us, even if His deeds are incomprehensible to us. It will all become clear later on. Our history is long, and the Eternal One of Israel does not lie. We knew in advance that ideologies would collapse (Orot HaTechiyah 44). We knew in advance that very materialistic people would appear who would form the basis for the lofty spiritual steps to follow (ibid., 45).
Consider what Dr. Herzl wrote at the end of his fictional book, “Old New Land,” which turned out not to be fictional at all: “…The conversation was serious and lofty. In this mood, Friedrich Lowenberg asked the following question: ‘We see here a new form of human society, one promising greater happiness than the preceding forms. What created it?’
Old Mr. Littwak said, “Distress!” The architech Steineck said, “The people reuniting!”
Kingscourt said, “New forms of transportation!” Dr. Marcus said, “Knowledge!”
Joe Levi said, “The will!” Professor Steineck said, “The forces of Nature!”
The British priest Hopkins said, “Mutual tolerance!” Reschid Bey said, “Self-confidence!”
David Littwak said, “Love and suffering!”
Yet old Rabbi Shmuel Mohliver stood up feebly and said, “The Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He!”
Rabbi Yaakov Filber
I am writing before the elections, but what I am writing will appear after the elections, whatever the results will be. In any case, we cannot let those results incapacitate us. Rather, we must continue with the spiritual and national missions that rest upon us.
After the brothers sell Joseph the Torah states, “At that time, Joseph descended from amongst his brothers” (Genesis 38:1). He went off to find himself a wife. The Midrash comments (Bereshit Rabbah 85): “‘I know the thoughts I am thinking about you… to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11). Jacob’s sons were busy with the sale of Joseph. Joseph and Reuven were busy with their sackcloth and fasting. Judah was busy seeking a wife, and G-d was busy creating the light of the Messianic king.”
In the commentary “Ramatayim Tzofim” on the work “Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah” (Ch. 5), one of the disciples of Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa quotes him, explaining the previous midrash as follows: Every one of Jacob’s sons was busy repenting, because each thought it was his own fault that Joseph had been torn away from his father. Judah, as well, saw himself as guilty of selling Joseph. He, Judah, was their king, and had he told them to leave Joseph alone, they certainly would have heeded him. He thus could have exonerated Joseph and returned him to his father. He therefore thought his own sin so severe that no repentance would help him (nor would he himself be able to rectify what had occurred). He therefore went off to find a wife in the hopes that his children would complete what he himself had missed out on in his life.
When this interpretation was told to Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk, in the name of his own Rebbe, Rav Simcha Bunim, his reaction was, “G-d forbid that the holy lips of my master should express such a view.” He then explained his Rebbe’s true intent: When Judah saw what had been done, and when he saw that the sale of Joseph had been caused largely through this counsel, he almost died of bitterness and despair. He decided that he had certainly lost all the merit he had gained since birth. Finally he calmed down and he gained back his courage, resolving not to fall into despair, but to begin to fulfill the Torah anew. He decided to prepare himself henceforth to serve G-d like a newborn (having forfeited all his previous good deeds). He then began anew his divine service with the first mitzvah of the Torah, to be fruitful and multiply. This resolution not to despair even if he had to start all over, was so precious before G-d, who knows our hearts and minds, that G-d created from it the light of the Messiah.
Why did the thoughts expressed by that disciple so trouble the Kotzker Rebbe that he determined that they could not possibly have come from his master from Peshischa? Even without regard for the light of the Messiah, it is impossible to accept that disciple’s understanding of Judah’s leadership, for under no circumstances is one permitted to raise his hands in despair, to resign himself to failure, to stop trying, even if one has to start all over again. It was therefore an invalid approach to treat Judah as though he had quit and was so hopeless that henceforth he was just looking forward to his sons after him fulfilling what he believed he had missed out on in his own lifetime. Such thoughts, indeed, are inappropriate for anyone, all the more so that from such thoughts the light of the Messiah cannot be created. Why so? The Messianic era, as described to us by our sages, will be such difficult times that our sages said (Sanhedrin 98b), “Let the Messiah come and let me not see him!” They knew that before the Messiah’s advent would come “Messianic birthpangs.” Only Rav Yosef said (ibid.), “Let him come, and let me see him, and let me merit to sit in the shade of his donkey’s droppings.”
Rav Kook explains these words at the end of his article, “HaMisped BiYerushalayim.” The donkey [chamor] represents materialism [chomriyut], and the droppings represent man’s proclivity for coarseness, man’s shameful aspect. This proclivity creates a shadow that dims the light emerging from the Torah. All of these shortcomings, represented by the droppings, the shade and the donkey, so frightened our sages that they asked not to be around during that time.
Rav Yosef, however, drew strength and realized that all these shortcomings would ultimately surrender to the light of Torah and the knowledge of G-d. He therefore preferred to sit in the shade of the Messiah’s donkey’s droppings. There, in the dimness created by that shadow, he would cause the light of Torah and mitzvoth to shine, and a bit of light would push off much darkness. Evil would turn to good and curse to blessing.
Rav Kook in fact writes there, that such was the Zohar’s intent when it said that the head of the Messiah’s yeshiva said, “Whoever cannot transform bitterness to sweetness and darkness to light should not come here.” Rav Kook concludes: “This is the foundation of readying the Messiah’s generation: They must know how to utilize all forces, even the coarsest, for the sake of the special goodness and holiness with which Israel are adorned.”
From all this we can derive the following: However idealistic we are, however much we love Eretz Yisrael and fight for it, if after every crisis, light or severe, we fall into depression and despair and stop trying to transform Israeli society from bitter to sweet and from darkness to light, we will not prove acceptable disciples of the Messianic king. This is why Judah, even when he thought that all was lost, did not despair and did not shunt off his missions on others. Rather, he recovered and decided to start anew. And it was precisely from Judah that G-d created the light of the Messiah.
Translation: R. Blumberg
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