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From the World of Rabbi Kook
“The secrets of the Torah, coming from a supreme source, the secret place in the soul, can penetrate all hearts, even those that have not achieved broad, profound Torah knowledge. (Orot HaTorah 10:5)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Seasons of Freedom, Torah, and Joy”
The three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot, are one chain linking the Jewish People to their past and their future. Pesach is the season of our freedom. The Jewish Nation was formed at that time, a unique, exclusive creation of G-d. As we find in scripture: “I created this people for Myself that they might tell My praise” (Isaiah 43:21). We were created and we emerged from slavery to eternal freedom, by means of miracles, signs and wonders, G-d’s handiwork for all to see. On Pesach the Jewish People are revealed as the firstborn son of the Master of All. They are the nation chosen from amongst all other nations, not just in the past, but also in the present and forever. As we recite daily in our prayers: “Blessed are You G-d, who lovingly chooses His people Israel.”
Shavuot is when we received the Torah. It was then that the main Torah blessing, “asher bachar banu,” was fulfilled. G-d “chose us from all nations and gave us His Torah.” Yet that blessing was not just fulfilled back then. It is perpetually fulfilled in the present as well, as we say at the end of that blessing: “Blessed are You, O L-rd, who gives us the Torah.” It shall be fulfilled forever as well: “As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says the L-rd: My spirit it is which shall be upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children’s children, says the L-rd, henceforth and forever” (Isaiah 59:21).
Succot is the season of our joy. The succah is a reminder of the exodus and a reminder of the clouds of glory with which G-d protected us during the exodus and in the desert (Orach Chaim 621:1). It thus says, “You saw what I did in Egypt, carrying you on eagles’ wings and bringing you to Me” (Exodus 19:4); as well as, “Like an eagle, arousing its nest, hovering over its young, He spread His wings and took them, carrying them on His pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:11). Not just in the past, but down through the generations, G-d has defended us. He did so starting with Abraham, from whom all of Israel emerged, and on through King David and the Messiah, who are the fruits of the Jewish People. Thus in the Shemoneh Esreh we call G-d “the Shield of Abraham,” and in the Haftara blessings we call Him “the Shield of David.”
On Succot, Israel’s ultimate destiny as a light unto the nations is revealed, hence the enormous joy associated with that holiday. As our sages said, “Whoever has not seen the joy of the Succot Water-Drawing Celebration has never seen joy his whole life” (Succah 51a).
Today, we must delve deeper and deeper into the historic roots of the Jewish People so that we can gaze ahead to the future that awaits us. Just as during Pesach we emerged from slavery to freedom, so did our own generation emerge from a 2000-year exile, from political slavery to freedom. Yet political freedom is not enough. We also need spiritual freedom, and as our sages said, the Torah provides that (Shemot Rabbah 51). And just as we received the Torah in the desert after leaving Egypt for freedom, so too, in our own generation, we pray that the Jewish People shall be receiving the Torah on a mass scale soon in our day. When that happens, we will reach the pinnacle of our joy, with the Messianic era and the building of the Third Temple. Then we will see with our own eyes the fulfillment of Isaiah 56:7: “I will bring them to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt-offerings and sacrifices shall be acceptable upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). With blessings for a joyous Succot, 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
You don’t listen to me when I talk! Even if you try to get out of it and say, “You’re wrong! I was listening! You said such-and-such,” only your ears were listening, not your eyes, not your facial expression and not your body language. You weren’t really paying attention. I can tell immediately when you aren’t listening, and then I am in a very bad way. Sometimes you do listen, and then things are wonderful. I am content and full of gratitude, but that’s so rare. You don’t listen. You look out the window. You click your pen. You constantly move around. Or you sit self-absorbed in the easy-chair with your hands folded. Sometimes you look away. You rock your feet. You sigh and look at your watch. When the phone rings you breathe a sigh of relief.
I feel frustrated, angry, paralyzed and stifled. I am at wit’s end. I feel like I am nothing. I am sad and alone. I lack self-confidence and I feel annoyed. Sometimes my heart pounds within me. I am suddenly aware that everything I say lacks context. I feel stupid, tired, apathetic. Everything is closed off to me. Sometimes I even feel hatred and scorn for myself. I feel both guilty and vindictive.
It would be so wonderful if you listened to me, with you sitting comfortably and looking me in the eye, and I looking you in the eye. If you could only be open, positive, radiating warmth, feeling good and facing me, nodding your head, responding. If you could only be PRESENT, not interrupting me, but just asking little questions to make sure you understood right. When it happens, I feel self-confidence and inner tranquility. I brim over with warmth, friendship, joy, strength. I am creative. I am wise. My self-confidence grows. I open up and exude trust, like a child. I feel hope and gratitude. I love you.
That’s how I want to feel every time I talk to you.
Yet when I start to pour out my heart to you, you send me messages that I talk too much, that I am a blabbermouth, that ten portions of speech descended to the world and I took eleven. Yet that’s because you have never listened to me. Never! I am just starving to be listened to. And when I start to talk, it bubbles over. Yet you don’t listen. I immediately see in your eyes that you are not listening. You buy me a lot of gifts and I thank you. Yet the gift that I want from you is this: for you to listen to me with your eyes. I am sending you an anonymous song that I found in English, entitled “Please listen!” and I have translated it:
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem, you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.
Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people - because God is mute,
and he doesn't give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.
So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn –
and I will listen to you.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner - Education Corner
“Rejoice, young man, in your youth”
Rejoice, young man, in your youth. Let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes. Yet be aware that for all these things G-d will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). What is this verse trying to teach us? The verse seems to be offering blanket permission to young people to spend their time having fun and doing whatever strikes their fancy. Did King Solomon, the author, really approve of young people behaving licentiously?
Indeed, the Midrash teaches that our sages sought to have the Book of Ecclesiastes hidden away because of this verse: “Rabbi Shmuel bar Rabbi Yitzchak said: Our sages sought to hide the book of Ecclesiastes because they found in it some things that tended towards heresy. They asked: Are the words ‘Rejoice, young man, in your youth’ the wisdom of Solomon? Moses said, ‘Do not stray after your heart and your eyes’ (Numbers 15:39), yet Solomon said, ‘Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes.’ Anarchy! There is no judge and no judgment! Yet when Solomon said, ‘Be aware that for all these things G-d will bring you into judgment,’ the sages responded, ‘Solomon spoke well.’”
We have to conclude that the beginning of the verse is not offering guidance but a warning. Whoever behaves in this manner will ultimately suffer a blow. The Midrash brings a number of parables to make clear the verse’s intent. For example: “A person was once running away from a policeman. People yelled after him, ‘If you keep running, you’ll just have farther to walk back when he catches you.” The more one “celebrates” in his youth, the more he follows the call of his heart and eyes, the greater a price he will pay when he arrives at his judgment day.
Rashi explained as follows: “It’s like a person who says to his slave or his son, ‘Go ahead! Sin! It’ll all be covered by the whipping I’ll give you.’ Here, too, Solomon said, ‘Rejoice, young man, in your youth. Follow your passions! Have fun! You will be judged for all of it.” Likewise, Ibn Ezra explained, “Solomon was saying, ‘Everything is vanity anyway! Go ahead! Rejoice in your youth!’ It’s like someone who says, ‘Do evil and see what happens to you.’”
The Talmud as well deals with this verse, quoting a controversy regarding its interpretation: “Rav Huna said: What is meant by the verse ‘Rejoice, young man’? The first part is the evil impulse talking. The end, however, about G-d’s judgment, is the good impulse talking. “Resh Lakish said: The first part is referring to Torah study. The second part is referring to good deeds” (Shabbat 63b). According to Rav Huna, the first part is the advice of the evil impulse seeking to draw the young person into sin. The second part is the advice of the good impulse, warning the youth not to be tempted by the advice of the evil impulse. This interpretation fits those I brought above.
Can we derive from all this that the joys of youth are inappropriate? The answer to this question may be derived from a sharp comment of the Kotzker Rebbe. He said that Solomon was expressing quite a novel thought: If we constantly remember that “for all these things G-d will bring us into judgment,” it will then be possible for us to rejoice and be cheerful in our youth without being corrupted. In other words, precisely our remaining aware that we shall face judgment for all our deeds will ensure that we preserve limits to our rejoicing.
Resh Lakish explains the verse differently. He saw the entire verse as the advice of the good impulse. “Rejoice, young man” was referring to Torah study. Rashi comments: “Rejoice in your study. Study with happiness and a glad heart. “‘Walk in the ways of your heart’: Understand your heart based on what you see. “‘Be aware that for all these things G-d will bring you into judgment’: For all of your learning you will be held accountable if you do not fulfill it.”
Joy and a glad heart play a major role in youth. One mustn’t stifle that urge. It has to find positive expression in the framework of Torah study. The joy of yeshiva students during their learning will attest to this. It is the joy of discovering new spiritual worlds. When one is studying Torah, there is even a place for “walking in the ways of your heart.” The kind of understanding required in Torah learning draws on one’s own psychological proclivities and style of thought. Each person must act in accordance with his perceptions and preferences.
Even so, warns, Solomon, one cannot suffice with the rapture from Torah learning. All learning has to be actualized through performance of Torah and mitzvoth within a Torah way of life. If that learning does not find expression in actual practice, the person will be called to account. This carries an allusion to what sometimes happens amongst yeshiva graduates. Sometimes one cannot tell from their behavior and lifestyle that only recently they were joyfully and diligently studying Torah. There is a short-circuit between their fruitful period of yeshiva learning and the period that follows. The joy of study is not translated into tangible behavior. It remains a passing episode in the student’s life. The study remains theoretical.
Be sure to catch Rabbi David Samson’s weekly Torah insight on “Israeli Salad” at www.israelnntv.com (produced in cooperation with Machon Meir).