Monday, July 22, 2019

The Moon and the Jews

by Rabbi Steve Pruzansky
(Published as an op-ed in the Jewish Press, July 19, 2019)

Fifty years ago this past week man first walked on the moon, something fantasized about by human beings since ancient times. It was a triumph of human ingenuity that united all of mankind for a brief moment, and that, in the summer of 1969, brought a brief respite from the turmoil that tormented American life – a summer noted for mayhem (the Manson murders), music (the Woodstock retreat) and endless marches against the Vietnam War.

I missed all of that, spending my first summer in Israel and not yet Bar Mitzvah. I recall standing on July 20, 1969, with many others, on a street corner in Netanya looking at the grainy black-and-white television images of the first steps on the moon. The excitement was palpable. Earth’s moon was our gateway to space and the universe beyond. And then, oddly, the attraction of landing men on the moon faded quickly. No person has touched the moon’s surface since 1972. What happened? And is there a Jewish perspective on this accomplishment?

The scope of the moon program and its ancillary achievements were astonishing. More than 400,000 people worked for NASA on the space program and the inventions that were largely unknown byproducts of the drive to land a man on the moon transformed our world - everything from scratch-resistant lenses and anti-icing equipment to the first widespread use of Velcro, microchips, MRI’s, and the gravity-defying space pen (before the space pen, the astronauts used… pencils).

The drive to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth came about for the most prosaic reason: a desire to supersede the Soviet Union whose space program was then more advanced and successful. And it was fraught with danger that, in that era of stoic and understated heroes, was downplayed. But a fire aboard Apollo 1 during a launch pad test killed three astronauts in 1967. Less than a year after the successful landing, Apollo 13’s flight to the moon was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded on board; that crew returned safely. We have witnessed two space shuttle explosions in the ensuing decades.

The Apollo 11 astronauts were flying into uncharted territory. All precautions were taken but the slightest mishap – as happened other times – would have taken their lives. President Nixon had a failure speech prepared in case Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were stranded on the moon, lauding their courage and inspiration. Indeed, it was not known for many years that while exiting the Eagle moon landing craft, one of the astronaut’s backpacks had broken the switch on the computer that armed the engine! Fortunately, Buzz Aldrin inserted a simple pen that he brought with him – and the system worked (Newsmax, July 2019).

Strange as it sounds, Jews have always had a special relationship with the moon. We count our months according to the moon’s cycle (Masechet Sukka 29a) and as a nation are compared to the moon (Midrash Tehillim 22). The moon was singled out for creation on the fourth day, and it is the only aspect of creation that perceptibly changes shape every day before our eyes, waxing and waning every month and thereby meriting its own beracha upon its monthly reappearance. It seemed so close and yet so unreachable that the text of the accompanying tefilot characterized the moon as “aini yachol lingoa bach,” I cannot touch you. And yet touch it we did. One rabbi quickly opined that we should no longer recite that phrase; he was overruled. For all but twelve men, the moon remained untouchable, part of our world but literally beyond our grasp.

Poskim debated whether or not there was an obligation to observe mitzvot on the moon, with some claiming that mitzvot were mandated only “on the earth” (Devarim 12:1). That proposal never got off the ground. A joke circulated about the Jewish astronaut who reported on the difficulty of his mission orbiting the earth: “It was amazing, except for every 70 minutes – Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv, Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv…” In reality, there have been more than a dozen Jewish astronauts – Americans, Israelis and one Soviet Jew, Boris Volynov, who in January 1969 became the first Jew in space.

For all the exhilaration of the moment, the next moon landing just four months later drew much less attention. By 1972, missions were being canceled due to budget cuts. The late Eugene Cernan remains the last human to have walked on the moon, on December 17, 1972. Almost as quickly as man arrived, he determined that there was no reason to return.

Great moments of joy are often followed by emotional deflation. The feat, once achieved, no longer energizes. We remember the first person to do something, much less the second, and not at all the tenth. The space program stumbled in this essentially human way, the sense of “been there, done that, now what?” The mystique and enchantment of the moon landing fell victim to cost-benefit analyses and financial constraints. A fantasy fulfilled simply begets another and different fantasy.

And perhaps this as well: The American culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s eroded the nation’s moral core, and government failures – ethical, military, diplomatic and economic – sapped the people’s trust in the traditional institutions of American life. The contrast between the harmony in the heavens and the chaos on earth was too glaring – wars, massacres, human suffering and misery, and the emergence of new challenges and adversaries, all on earth – to justify spending resources on space without any immediate benefit. And Americans, now caught up in the throes of a consumerist and increasingly libertine society, prioritized pursuit of pleasure in the present over adventure in the great beyond. Man’s intellectual and technological achievements often carry a whiff of “my power and the might of my hand have accomplished all of this” (Devarim 8:17). Success feeds the ego in a potentially destructive way but also leaves man looking for new hills to climb and different hurdles to overcome.

Of course, there was and is another way to approach this, and why the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing evokes such nostalgia and good feeling. It is because the grandeur of the universe also reminds us of the smallness of mankind, underscoring our humility in the face of the Creator and His creation. “When I see Your heavens, the works of Your hands, the stars and the moon that You brought into existence. What is a human that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You remember him? Yet You made him slightly less than the angels and crowned him with glory and splendor” (Tehillim 8:4-6).

From this great distance, the astronauts reported, the earth looks so small and peaceful. If only we embraced that perspective, then our humility, ingenuity and commonality would impel us to imbue this planet with G-d’s presence and an eagerness to obey His will. For one fleeting moment fifty years ago, that perspective became possible – an eternal tribute to those whose courage revealed for all the extraordinary frontiers of human potential.

Pinchas on Jewish Leadership: Do the Right Thing, No Matter What!

“Without vision, the people run wild...” (Proverbs 29:18) 

King Solomon could have been living in modern Israel.

In the last several years, do to poor leadership, “Palestine” has became “Hamastan,” and rockets have rained down on Israelis regularly. Social problems have grown in Israel, like the decline in family values, which has mimicked what’s been happening in the liberal West. Yet, with elections coming up, almost no one running seems to have a clue what to do.

Rav Tzvi Tau, head of the Har HaMor Yeshiva, seeing the problem, recently started a new political party “Noam,” whose slogan is “L’Hiyot Am Normali...” to be a normal nation, to fight for family values and against LGBT pressure on society.

Rav Rafi Peretz (leader of the Jewish Home party and Education Minister), recently spoke in favor of Conversion Therapy, and then promptly got jumped upon by the liberal-left media, politicians, and LGBT groups, calling for him to be fired.

Several other Rabbis backed Peretz up, such as the head of the Bnei Akiva youth movement and yeshiva system, Rav Chaim Druckman, and Chief Rabbi of Safed, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu. So did pro-family groups like The “Bochrim B’Mishpacha” (Choosing the Family) movement.

Rav Eliyahu called on the public to “support normality, common sense” and “families consisting of a mother and a father.” “If you want to live in a normal country where expressing a sane opinion is allowed, you have to strengthen the education minister’s hand,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. Rav Eliyahu, a prominent figure in the religious Zionist movement, continued, “If you want to live in a country of freedom and brotherhood instead of violence and intimidation, write posts supporting the education minister.”

Although I agree with the gist of what the Rabbis are saying, the Jewish people’s mission isn’t to be an “Am Normali,” a normal nation, but an “Am Kadosh, a holy nation.”

As it says in the Torah, “You shall be for Me, a kingdom of priests [teachers] and a holy nation...” (Exodus 19:6).

Within a couple days, stepping on the toes of those who supported him, Peretz backtracked. In a letter to Tel Aviv school principals, Peretz wrote, “I know that conversion treatments are unacceptable and severe, and I understand that this is an invasive treatment that is incompatible with the human psyche, causing patients more suffering than relief...”

But that didn’t stop Ehud Barak, from taking a page out of America’s far-left playbook, in their smear campaign against Trump. Electioneering, Barak attacked Netanyahu, “He deliberately puts in power messianic Kahanists, racists who want, as Netanyahu’s education minister has made clear, a halachic messianic state, where women are unacceptable to be leaders, LGBTs will be oppressed, Arab citizens will be discriminated against, and Palestinians will be victims of state apartheid in Judea and Samaria.”

“Without a vision, the people cast off restraint; but those that implement the Torah [vision], they will rejoice!” (Proverbs 29:18)

True Jewish Leadership means having a vision of where you want to lead the flock. True Jewish Leadership means taking unpopular positions when you know that you’re right, making decisions, and setting an example for others, and taking the heat that goes along with that. True Jewish Leadership means always positioning yourself on the side of God, on the side of Torah and Mitzvot, and on the side of the Jewish people (even when they don’t yet understand that, and want to attack you).

Look at Pinchas, at the end of Parshat Balak, in last week’s Torah reading, we find that Balaam having unsuccessfully cursed the Israelites (blessing them instead, as God wanted) advises Balak the king of Moab, to send in his Moabite dancing girls to start an orgy with the Jewish men in the camp.

Knowing that the God of Israel detests sexual immorality, Balaam suggests to Balak that the debauchery and idolatry will bring the wrath of God down on the Jews. Midianite women (including upper class girls), were sent in to tempt the Jewish leaders.

The story ends with the prince of the tribe of Shimon fornicating with a Midianite woman. So enraged is Pinchas (Aaron’s grandson), that he kills both of them, ending the plague that had broken out in the camp and had already killed 24,000 (Numbers 25:1-7, see also Sanhedrin 106a).

But, instead of applauding him, the masses accused him of wanton murder, protesting, “This grandson of someone who had fattened calves to be sacrificed to idols [Jethro], had the chutzpah to kill a prince in Israel,” (Rashi on Numbers 25:11).

But Pinchas knew what was right, acted on it, and succeeded in saving the Jews.

Then, in this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Pinchas, we read, “HaShem said to Moses, Pinchas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Children of Israel. Since he took vengence for my honor among them, therefore I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore, tell him I am making my “Covenant of Peace” with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of eternal priesthood [priestly leadership], because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Children of Israel,” (Numbers 25:10-13).

Similar to Pinchas’ fight against Balaam, Balak, the Moabites, Midianites, and their Jewish stooges, like Zimri, the prince of Shimon; True Jewish Leaders have to directly confront today’s current enemies, and the Jews helping them, who endanger and bring dishonor to the good name of the Jewish people and the God of Israel, as Pinchas did in his time!

As we can see, True Jewish Leadership leads to the blessing of Peace, for the leader and his flock...

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.

(c) 2019/5779 Pasko

I See Dead People

Posted on July 19, 2019

When I watch the marchers in Charlottesville, VA chant “Jews will not replace us,” I see the marches of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

When I see the president of the United States say “you didn’t build that“, I see the words of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf debasing Jews that they are manipulators who profit off the work of others.

When I watch the United Nations passing resolutions with America’s approval, that Jews living in the eastern part of their homeland is illegal, I think of the ghettos limiting where Jews were allowed to live.

When I hear of countries in Europe pushing to ban kosher meat and circumcision, I think of the Greek-Syrian laws in the Jewish holy land 2200 years ago, pressuring to destroy the spirit and religious practices of the Jewish people.

When the world cannot utter a word about Palestinian laws calling for the death penalty for any Arab selling land to a Jew and about the leadership which calls for a Jew-free state, I think of the pogroms throughout the centuries in Russia and Europe, and the concealed mass Jewish graves which fill the Euopean forests.

When I watch universities in the United States passing resolutions targeting a boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) of the only Jewish State, I think of the Nazis boycotting Jewish stores.

An den Fenstern j¸discher Gesch‰fte werden von National sozialisten Plakate mit der Aufforderung “Deutsche, wehrt euch, kauft nicht bei Juden” angebracht.

When I watch European and United Nations leaders encouraging Hamas and trying to merge it into a Palestinian unity government, I think of British leader Neville Chamberlain meeting with Hitler in 1938.

When I hear members of the U.S. Congress say that Jews are buying off politicians because they support Israel more than they care about America, I think about leading industrialist Henry Ford republishing the forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion to foment widespread Jew-hatred.

When I see European countries labeling products made in Israel and Israeli territories, I see Nazis forcing Jews to wear yellow Jewish stars on their clothing.

When I see the United Nations stand by as terrorists use their schools to store and launch rockets into Israel, I think of the U.N. pulling its troops out of the Sinai in 1967 as Israelis dug mass graves in the center of Jerusalem as they prepared to be attacked.

When I read about Jewish groups actively lobbying to dismantle U.S. support for Israel, I think of the zealots of 2,000 years ago who helped destroy the Second Jewish Temple.

When I hear the Democratic candidates for president embrace vile anti-Semites like Linda Sarsour and Louis Farrakhan, I think about the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke’s run for the presidency.

When I see “intellectuals” addressing the United Nations that Jews are trying to take over the entire “Muslim” Middle East, I am reminded of Christian blood libels.

When I read the leading liberal paper of the United States demonize Israel as racist and deserving of Arab ire, I think about Joseph Goebells and his Nazi propaganda machine.

When I hear the leader of the United Nations say that Palestinian reaction to the occupation is “natural,” I see the five faces of the Fogel family, slaughtered in their sleep.

When I hear the president of the United States call for a member of congress to go back where she came from and then watch as a crowd chants “send her back” to her country which is in shambles, I think of leading White House reporter Helen Thomas telling Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” to return to the countries which had slaughtered them.

When the United States turns away refugees and asylum seekers, and the press will not discuss the British White Paper which cost over 100,000 European Jews their lives, I note their preference that only certain havens are considered acceptable, and the Jewish homeland isn’t one of them.

When I watch 58 members of the United States Congress walk out on the address of the Israeli Prime Minister who was alarmed at the advancement of a deal which would enable a country which had called for its destruction to have a legal pathway to nuclear weapons, I see something frighteningly new: I see the active arming of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

When I hear the echoes of hatred as loud and as clear as the original voices, I see dead people.

Fighting BDS, Part I

The Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has not been an effective economic weapon. It has had few victories and numerous defeats. I think that’s probably because market forces are stronger than ideological ones, at least among the populations that make decisions with economic impact.

Some people think that BDS is a nonviolent way to pressure an intransigent Israeli government to stop “oppressing the Palestinians.” That this is not the case is clear from the conditions that the BDS movement has set for the removal of its boycott. They are:

  1. Withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967 and removal of the security barrier.
  2. Giving “full equality” to Arab citizens of Israel.
  3. Recognizing a right of return for the descendants of Arab refugees.
The first is inconsistent with Israel’s survival from a security standpoint, and the last is inconsistent with it from a demographic one. The second condition is interesting, since Arab citizens already have full civil rights; so the demand is for national rights, which would mean that Israel (or whatever it would be called) would no longer be a Jewish state, but a state of all its citizens.

Accepting these conditions would imply the replacement of the Jewish state by an Arab-majority state. Practically speaking, this could not occur non-violently, and would certainly result in civil war and, if the Arabs were successful, expulsion and/or genocide for Israel’s Jews.

Israel will never agree to these demands. It would literally be national suicide, and everyone, Jews and Arabs, knows that. But the demands of BDS are not intended to be acceptable. They are intended to make it possible for the BDS movement to continue for as long as its leaders wish it to.

If BDS does not damage Israel’s economy – and Israel’s success since the initiation of the movement in the early 2000s shows that it doesn’t – and if its demands are so extreme that they will never be met, then what is its true objective?

The answer is that it is a tool for delegitimizing and demonizing Israel. It is a way to start ideological fires around the world, to create controversies that will enable its advocates to call Israel an apartheid state, to say that Israel is like pre-Mandela South Africa, to accuse Israel of all manner of crimes against humanity, including genocide, and to equate it with Nazi Germany.

These accusations are ridiculous, but as former US President Lyndon Johnson once explained after telling an aide to spread a rumor that his opponent was guilty of bestiality, they want to see and hear us deny them – on TV.

Several states in the US have expanded laws initially passed to protect Israel from the Arab boycott that began in 1948 on the basis that the boycott constituted unfair discrimination, to apply to BDS. A federal law to this effect was also proposed in the US Senate in 2017, but hasn’t been voted on. Such laws essentially say that government agencies are not allowed to do business with organizations that refuse to trade with Israel for political reasons. Opponents of such measures say that they are unconstitutional limitations on speech; proponents say that they don’t prohibit speech or expression, only specific actions.

I am not going to discuss the legal arguments, which are ably handled here by Eugene Kontorovich. My opinion is that since BDS is a tool of cognitive warfare, it should be met with cognitive countermeasures. While an anti-boycott law might be an effective and practical tool against economic warfare – as in the case of the original Arab boycott of Israel – it will have little effect on BDS, which as we’ve seen, is not intended to do economic damage.

Indeed, since the constitutional arguments are not well-understood by the public, attempts to pass anti-boycott laws simply provide yet another opportunity for BDS-niks to generate public discussion into which they can insert false accusations of apartheid, oppression, racism, war crimes, and so on. It gives them an opportunity to make false analogies between the “plight” of the Palestinians – actually the point of the spear of the Muslim majorities in the region – and the situation of minorities in the US. Worst of all, it permits them to argue that a powerful Jewish conspiracy is trying to use the law to “silence” the courageous voices of those on the side of the oppressed Palestinian minority-of-color, who only want their human rights.

The debate that is created by anti-boycott laws and resolutions thus plays directly into the hands of Israel’s enemies. Every time there is a publicized struggle in a university, church, or labor union over BDS, they achieve their goal, whether the resolution passes or not. Just now, the extremely smart, dangerous, and despicable Ilhan Omar has introduced a resolution in the US Congress which would support the “right to boycott” as a free-speech issue. There is a great deal of opposition and at least now it seems that it is unlikely to pass (and even if it did, it would have no legal weight). But Omar has already attained her objective, as should be clear from her words in support of the resolution.

Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad including … boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust…

Of course she does not explicitly say that Israel is like Nazi Germany, and in fact the pro-boycott resolution doesn’t even mention Israel. But cognitive warfare is all about subtly, almost subliminally, introducing the connections you want to make. The targeted brain does the rest.

Omar likes win-win propositions, like the controversies surrounding her borderline antisemitic remarks (“it’s all about the Benjamins,” etc.) and the dueling resolutions pro and con BDS. She is keeping the pot boiling by announcing a trip to Israel along with fellow anti-Israel Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. Israel recently passed a law that gives the Foreign Ministry the authority to ban BDS supporters from entering the country, and if she were banned, she would doubtless claim it as evidence of Israel’s racism and intent to silence critics. Our government (reportedly the decision was made by the PM himself) decided that it would be less damaging to let her in and accept the inevitable exaggerated reports of ill-treatment of Palestinian Arabs that will ensue.

The demonization and delegitimization of Israel that is the objective of BDS has a purpose; our enemies aren’t doing it just to make themselves feel good. It is done in order to prepare the target population – both the “street” in democratic countries and important decision-makers – to stand by and not oppose, or even encourage, very violent actions against Israel and her people. Terrorism against Israel is tolerated during “peacetime” and weapons are embargoed in time of war, disadvantageous diplomatic “solutions” are forced on us, and we are never allowed to achieve decisive victory over our enemies – all because the cognitive groundwork has been laid beforehand, by the operatives of the BDS movement and politicians like Ilhan Omar.

The BDS movement was created by psychological warfare experts, the successors of the ones who gave us the PLO in the 1960s as the “national liberation movement of the Palestinian people,” and cast Israel in the role of the “European colonialists” that were oppressing them. Until now, we seem to have relied on ad-hoc defensive measures that, like the attempts to find legal remedies in the US, only play into the hands of our enemies.

Israel’s doctrine for traditional warfare calls for us to always be on the offensive and to take the war into enemy territory. Shouldn’t we fight the cognitive war in the same way? We’ll discuss that in part II.

Israel’s Economic Surge

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

1. The valid concern about Israel’s growing budget deficit, in 2019, should be assessed against the backdrop of Israel’s overall economic track record, as presented by Dr. Adam Reuter, the Chairman and Founder of Financial Immunities, Israel’s largest financial-risk management firm and the co-author of Israel – Island of Success:
Population size4.4 MN8.95 MN103%
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)$37 BN$365 BN886%
US aid as a percentage of GDP7%1%-86%
Gross Domestic Product per capita$8,000$41,000413%
Government debt as percent of GDP155%61%-61%
Defense expenditures as percent of GDP17%5%-71%
Foreign  currency reserves$6 BN$115 BN1816%
Annual exports$10 BN$110 BN1000%
Energy from own independent sources4%73%1725%
Water from desalinated sources3%52%1633%
Employment of women36%60%67%
Number of students70,000316,000351%
Life expectancy75 years82 years9%
Tax burden45%30%-33%
Number of vehicles per thousand residents175398127%
Average rooms per capita0.951.2633%
Inflation has been another indicator of Israel’s enhanced economic performance: 445% annual inflation in 1984, 16.4% in 1988 and 1.2% in 2018.

2. According to a July 18, 2019 Forbes Magazine article (Amir Mizroch): “Israel rises as an industrial technology power…. For a country that doesn’t make cars, Israel has one of the world’s hottest automotive technology industries, with globally recognized names like Mobileye (bought by Intel for $15.3BN), WAZE (acquired by Google for $966MN), Moovit (with over 480 million users), as well as up-and-coming companies like Argus and Innoviz. Almost every single global carmaker has an innovation center and research and development facility in Israel to engage with the sector’s +400 Israeli companies….

“Now entrepreneurs from another tech sector in Israel, that isn’t based on any meaningful physical manufacturing – Industrial IoT [the 4th Industrial Revolution enabled by cybersecurity, cloud computing, edge computing, mobile technologies, 3D printing, advance robotics, cognitive computing, etc.] – are hoping to replicate the success of their auto-tech compatriots….

“Venture-backed financing into Israel’s I4 industry [the 4th industrial revolution] grew 223% in four years, from $113MN in 2014 to $365MN in 2018. The 2018 financing figure accounts for 5% of global VC-backed financing into the I4 industry, according to Pitchbook. This might be a small percentage, but only the US and China are ahead of Israel, a nation of just 9 million people….

3. “Israel’s on course of further growth” was the title of a September, 2018 report on Israel by Pitchbook, a Seattle-based global leader of financial and marketing assessment: “The private market ecosystem in Israel has been maturing rapidly over the past few years, underscored by several big deals and the emergence of a technology cluster known as the Silicon Wadi. Despite its relatively small size and a population of around 8.9 million, Israel has become one of the most technologically influential hubs in the world due, in part, to a young and well-educated workforce and a favorable entrepreneurial environment….

“Israel has developed into a real draw for foreign investors. Its expertise in IT and cybersecurity, combined with its focus of healthcare-related trends, has been an integral part of building and maturing its evolving ecosystem. While there are undoubtedly headwinds ahead – be they geopolitical or stemming from a slowdown of the global economy – it is no stretch to see Israel’s private markets overall growth trajectory continuing.”

Terrorists in Suits Report - The Most Dangerous Threat to the BDS Movement

Salah Khawaja, member of the BDS National Council and a “retired” terrorist, confesses that the “Terrorist in Suits” report, issued by the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is the most dangerous threat to the BDS international movement.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Jewish State of the Mashiach

Parashat Pinchas 5779
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

In 1948, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel published its official prayer for the State of Israel. To this day, it is said on Shabbat and holidays in synagogues the world over, by people who recognize the “hand” of HaShem in our return to Eretz Yisrael. However, there is a big story behind the prayer, as related to me by an individual who was privy to the events.

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, turned to the Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog z”l to recommend a prayer for the Medina which would be accepted by the Israeli government as its official text.

Rav Herzog turned to Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who would eventually receive a Nobel prize for Hebrew literature, to submit a version of the prayer. After reviewing the proposal, the Chief Rabbi passed it on to the Prime Minister who rejected it off hand. The point of contention was the concluding line that Rav Herzog himself had added, which read – עד ביאת המשיח (until the advent of the Mashiach), intimating that the political, social and religious aspects of the present Medina – as enormous and miraculous as they were – were only a stage in the final redemption of the Jewish nation but not its final destiny.

The secular Ben Gurion denied the existence of any mashiach. He believed that the secular, socialist State was the culmination of the 2000-year aspirations and prayers of the Jewish people. Because the Chief Rabbi refused to omit the final sentence, there is still no official prayer passed by any government. For some strange reason, the official file of these events is stamped with the word Shamur (restricted).

This issue is relevant because, in my view, it lies at the heart of what is now transpiring in Israel’s political system.

Despite the many discordant outlooks among the religious factions, we all agree on the basics including: Shabbat, the 613 mitzvot from Mount Sinai, and certainly on the eventual appearance of the Mashiach as stipulated by Rambam in his Thirteen Cardinal Principles of Faith and many other sources.

The eventual Jewish State of the Mashiach is vastly different than today’s liberal, democratic, progressive society whose fundamental tenet is equality among all its citizens and prohibiting discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, color, race and political leanings.

Our political representatives are elected by popular vote, and the judges who sit on the Supreme Court are appointed by their peers and make their decisions based on their own personal views of morality and social justice.

Shabbat can be observed or desecrated in the public domain according to the majority vote in the Knesset where non-Jews participate. Same-sex marriages can be deemed legal or not based on the vote of the Knesset and without considering the 3000-year-old halachic ruling of the Jewish nation. The underpinnings of Israeli law are Ottoman and British based, while the underlying legal principles of the Torah’s jurisprudence in civil matters are largely ignored.

There is no denying that today’s Medina has progressed by giant steps. However, ethical and moral outlooks will have to change, and a new direction taken in order to prepare us for the final stage of our redemption.

In the classic Torah society, equality among different peoples is not priority. On the contrary, Jews are dominant in all segments of life. A non-Jew can live here only by fulfilling certain conditions and attaining the status of ger toshav (a resident alien) through a bet din (religious court). In times of military threat, yeshiva students are not eligible for deferment, and the Gemara becomes an essential piece of equipment when jumping out of a plane, and so much more.

Approximately two months remain before the second round of elections, the first having ended without being able to form a viable government. This second round could possibly end deadlocked, forcing another round of elections, ad nauseam.

Could this be the turning point at which HaShem will usher in a new era leading up to the long-awaited final redemption of our nation?

If the upcoming election is again inconclusive, could the resulting political chaos encourage our enemies to seize the moment of our weakness? A political vacuum cannot maintain itself for very long. As a consequence, is it reasonable to envision the army replacing a civilian government and all parameters of rule changing?

But changing into what?

The changes will not be initiated by rational decisions of learned ministers seeking resolutions to problems. They will be the inevitable outcome of new realities in our lives.

I see a militarization of our society caused by the necessity to cope with the violence and hatred of enemies within and without. Islam is fueling the religious fanaticism of our Arab population through the ongoing messages of hate being fed to them in schools and mosques and their media.

Military draft will be replaced with a law stipulating that every Jewish male citizen who has reached the age of 18 will automatically be a soldier in the IDF and serve according to the military’s needs. Those who refuse to fulfill the call to duty will be severely punished, including permanent expulsion from the country or imprisonment.

All Arab towns and neighborhoods will be under military rule.

All our educational institutions will be under the authority of the IDF with emphasis placed on pre-military training and patriotism. The Tanach will be the basis of the new-old patriotism.

Many people will choose to leave the country rather than commit to a more Jewish way of life. Aliya will increase dramatically as it becomes impossible for Jews to live in Europe and other places, and Arab towns will be expropriated for the purpose of housing the new olim.

In its first 70 years, the State of Israel strived to be Athens. The time will come for us to become Sparta.

Rambam (Hilchot Melachim) describes the actions that will determine who is the Mashiach.

He will be a Torah scholar but also knowledgeable in military strategy and tactics. He will lead the nation in miraculous military victories. He will be a charismatic individual who will return the Jews to the Torah and rebuild the Bet HaMikdash. Rambam is obviously describing a time when radical changes will occur in Eretz Yisrael.

And what will the world at large look like? What changes will humanity have to go through? What will happen to the Jewish communities in the galut?

These are all huge issues open to speculation. However, what interests me is the future of the Jewish people who have, with the help of HaShem, returned home, because only in Eretz Yisrael will the fate of the Jewish people – as well as the fate of all humanity – be decided.

In our parasha, the restrained and scholarly Pinchas saved the nation from unbridled heavenly punishment not by standing at a podium and expounding a learned drasha – which was in the realm of Moshe and Aharon – but by using a spear to end the desecration of HaShem’s name. Our tradition states that Pinchas is Eliyahu the prophet who will pave the way for the Mashiach.

Is this the message for our generation that the geula (final redemption) will be in the spirit of Pinchas-Eliyahu? I believe so! Will it be soon? Yes! but not soon enough!

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5779/2019 Nachman Kahana

"Zealously avenging Me among Them…

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon the kohen has turned My anger away from the Children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them… (Bamidbar 25:11)

NO MATTER HOW many times I try to have my name spelled on official Israeli documents WITH a Yud (Peh-YUD-Nun-Ches-Samech) they spell it WITHOUT the Yud. It’s just not the way most people spell “Pinchas,” even though for the original Pinchas, the Yud meant so much. It certainly means a lot to me.

Of course, it doesn’t change the pronunciation of the name at all. The Yud was always there in sound, represented instead by a Chirik vowel under the Peh instead. But as a result of Pinchas’ great heroic act of zealousness, God decided to make the Yud prominent in his name, and it was spelled that way henceforth.

What difference does it really make, besides a little extra ink? Well, it certainly made a big difference to Yehoshua’s name, actually changing it. As Rashi points out, Moshe Rabbeinu added the Yud in advance of the mission of the spies. It was to protect Hoshea from falling into the advice of the 10 bad spies.

And it wasn’t just any Yud that Hoshea received. His Yud came from another very important name, Sarai. It had been taken from her name and swapped with a Heh to make her name “Sarah,” to indicate her changed status. She was the princess of EVERYONE, not just God.

According to the Midrash, the Yud didn’t like that. Why should it have? It had been part of the name of one of the most important people in world history, and now it was orphaned. However, the Yud was pacified when God told it that it would have a different mission in the future, when Hoshea had to become Yehoshua, to be protected from the deceit of the spies.

Is it just a grammatical thing, just something symbolic, or a lot more?

Judging from the Talmud, it seems that the Yud is the basis of a lot more than just an extra letter in a name, or a transformative one in another. According to the Talmud, the Yud is the very letter God used to make the World-to-Come, the place that life in this world is supposed to lead to (Menachos 29b). What does THAT mean?

To explain that, we have the Maharal.

The Maharal says that the letter Yud is the only one from the Aleph-Bais that is not a composite of other letters. As such, it represents the sublime spiritual simplicity of the World-to-Come. Adding a Yud to a person’s name, at least in biblical times, meant adding the element of Olam HaBa—the World-to-Come to the reality of a person.

What does that mean, and how does it happen?

It’s like sap inside of a tree. It’s already there, though you can’t see it or use it. To access it, you have to stick some kind of spigot into the side of the tree that accesses the sap, and then allows it to flow to the outside.

The same thing is true of the World-to-Come. It is already inside of us, because our souls are made of the same “material.” Every soul is not just a “package” of divine light, it is a portion of the World-to-Come inside of each person. It’s usually just hidden away and inaccessible.

Until, that is, a person sticks a spiritual spigot into themself, and accesses their soul. There are a few ways to do this, but they all amount to the same thing, the reality of the letter of Yud. That’s what Pinchas did when he rose to the occasion and stopped the evil in its track, stopping the plague at the same time.

That’s why it was so important to make the Yud visible in his name. Everyone knew it was always there, like all souls, hidden from eyesight. You can “hear” it every time a person is self-sacrificing for a higher cause. But you can also lose it when it gets smothered by the demands of the body, and for many people, that is MOST of the time.

Every time a person reaches deep into themsef to go against that other voice that would rather do the less “noble” thing, they tap into the soul and bring it to the surface for all to see. It’s the only way to do the right thing, especially in a society that promotes just the opposite in one way or another.

After all, it is no coincidence that it is harder to do the wrong thing in, let’s say, a synagogue. That’s a spiritual environment that talks to the soul, and makes it easier for the soul to surface. In a less spiritual environment, like a shopping mall for example, the soul has less of a say in a person’s behavior.

Pinchas was probably somebody who ALWAYS listened to his soul, but out of eyeshot of everyone else. He was a virtual nobody, a kohen who had missed the cut for the priesthood because he had been born too early. It was his heroic act of zealousness that catapulted him into the public eye.

But though God knows the motivations of a person, people do not. They wanted to string Pinchas up for his killing of a prince of the Jewish people. Even though he had performed the law as required, they still probably suspected he had acted for himself, as a lot of would-be zealots do…in the Name of God, of course.

Therefore, God brought the Yud of his name—a Yud that exists in ALL of our names, if not grammatically, then certainly conceptually—out into the open for all to see. It was God’s way of revealing to the angry public what had driven Pinchas to act as he did. It put all misgivings about Pinchas’ act out of business.

After that, Pinchas went from being rejected to being followed. He became the leader of the people who went into battle against Midian for their role in the disaster. Later he evolved into Eliyahu HaNavi, heralder of the Final Redemption, and the very symbol of Godly zealousness.

We all have it in us, that Yud, because we all have a soul. Great is the person who taps into and accesses their personal portion of eternity, and injects their Yud into their everyday actions. It transforms everything, especially the person who does it.

The Path to Receiving Torah

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated in honor of Tehila Chana daughter of Adina Chaya Ita

It is impossible to whole-heartedly take upon oneself the yoke of Torah if one is not open-minded and willing to forego his own personal opinions. By the same token, it is impossible to sincerely embrace the Torah if one possesses strong desires and is thus unable to make his will subservient to that of the Almighty.

In order to receive the yoke of Torah, an individual must free himself of all previously held opinions and accept the words of the Torah for what they are. Rather than interpreting the Torah in accordance with one's personal leanings, one must tailor his personal leanings to fit the Divine Law. It is not uncommon for man's baser impulses to sway his thinking, like a bribe which blinds the wise and warps the judgment of the righteous to the point where they do not even sense their partiality.

One of the chief sources of both idolatry and heresy is man's evil inclination and physical appetite, especially in the arena of sexual promiscuity. Man's evil impulse struggles to free itself from the restrictive chains of religious obligation and attempts to convince the heart to abandon the Torah. The Sages of Talmud tell us that Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav that the Jews knew all along that idolatry was a bunch of nonsense; the only reason they practiced idolatry was in order to make sexual promiscuity openly permissible. Driven by their evil inclination, they said: "Let's throw off the yoke of Torah so that we no longer be reprimanded regarding incest.'"

When a person manages to overcome his baser leanings and take control of himself so that he not be swept up by his physical appetites, he removes a serious obstacle from his path, and, along with securing a gained capacity for objective appraisal, becomes fit to receive both the yoke of Heaven and the yoke of Torah.

Another necessary preamble to embracing the Torah is a willingness to labor and to exert oneself - for the Torah is huge. It is deep and wide, and it can only be acquired through the investment of much energy. In order for an entire nation to receive Torah, unity is necessary; if unity is lacking there is a risk of the Torah itself splitting up.

What is needed, then, in order to receive the Torah, is liberation from physical appetites, a readiness to exert oneself, and the sort of absolute objectivity which is tantamount to humility and unity. This is what the nation of Israel possessed when they arrived at Mount Sinai, as the verses states, "In the third month after the Children of Israel went out of the land of Egypt, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they departed from Rephidim and came to the wilderness of Sinai they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount" (Exodus 19:1,2). "They departed from Rephidim..." i.e., they left the weaknesses ("Rephayon") of Rephidim behind. They left their physical appetites behind and distanced themselves from laziness, for it is impossible to acquire Torah without serious effort; "...and came to the wilderness of Sinai..." i.e., they became as open and humble as the desolate wilderness; "...and there Israel encamped ("VaYachen") before the mount;" the word for encamped, "VaYachen," is written in the singular form, for the entire nation of Israel was like single united body.

A determination to overcome physical appetites, willingness to labor, open-mindedness, humility, and unity - these are the ingredients needed for the renewed acceptance of the yoke of Torah on both the individual and national level.

The Parameters of Pinchas' Zealotry

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham Ben David

Beyond Intellect and Emotion
Our portion opens with the Torah's praise for the "jealousy" - or more appropriately - "zealotry" - of Pinchas: "Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aharon the Cohen turned back My anger from the Children of Israel; I am therefore awarding him with My Covenant of Peace." What's the meaning of this zealotry, what is its source, and why is Pinchas deserving of such an exceptional Divine reward?

One's intellect is the source of his moral character: and personality. Only after one appreciates that that which is good is truly good, does he begin to yearn for it - and as a result act towards achieving that end. Human intellect is beyond emotion; in fact, it actually guides and even directs emotion. An act of "jealousy" on behalf of God, however, does not stem from the intellect. Man possesses a quality even higher than the intellect: it exists on the subconscious level, in the depths of one's spirit; it constantly strives to reveal itself and to appear via the intellect and emotion. The role of intellect and emotion is to neutralize those factors that block the manifestation of zealotry. [This model is used by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (of blessed memory) to explain the phenomenon of Emunah , or faith. He stresses that emunah exists on a plane above and beyond intellect and emotion].

It is from these depths that jealousy must spring; this jealousy - or zealotry - reveals itself once one puts aside all factors that inhibit the manifestation of his inner cleaving to the Creator of the Universe. This zealotry responds to any even slight manifestation of Hillul Hashem , or desecration of God's name. Zealotry that has its roots in an understanding of the Divine - inspires the "zealot" to reach a state of completion - or Sheleimut : "Behold, I am giving him My covenant of Peace (Shalom)."

In Tractate Sanhedrin, our sages enumerate the deeds, which, if done by a Jew, warrant "Zealots smiting him." For example, "One who steals a vessel for use in the Temple... one who has relations with a Gentile woman..." and - even a Cohen who serves in the Temple while in a state of ritual impurity - are legitimately attacked and killed by zealots. The reason for Torah-sanctioned vigilance in these kinds of cases? The direct offense committed by the transgressor, who himself has stricken at the heart of the bond between the Children of Israel and the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Our sages explain that true zealotry may be defined as a situation in which the zealot does not inquire of a scholar how to act in the case at hand; in fact, should he make such an inquiry, a scholar would be bound not to instruct him to take action. Why? The very question as to how to respond indicates that the person has not internalized the level of zealotry required to permit his unilateral action. True zealotry flows naturally, from an inability of the person to tolerate the desecration of God’s name. A well-known Torah dictum states that in situations of desecration to God’s name, one does not allot honor even to a Rabbi."

A Dearth of Halachot
The Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, does not detail the laws associated with Torah-approved zealotry. Author of the work "Chelkat Michokek" questions the reason for this omission. A possible approach to this question: it is inappropriate to write down such halachot, since after all, the laws of zealotry - though they are compulsory - do not serve as the basis of actual halachic rulings. Thus, though Pinchas’ zealotry is aptly discussed in the Beit Midrash (study hall) - it is inappropriate to engage in it in the framework of normative halachic codes.

Of Torah or Rabbinic Origin?
What is the source of the halacha that "zealots strike at offenders"? The great medieval sage, Rabbeinu Nissim ("Ran") maintains that it is a "Halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai" - namely, an oral tradition dating back to the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His insistence that it is not rabbinic in origin stems from his view that the Sages do not have the power to initiate rabbinic death penalties outside of one-time emergency situations; they do not, says Ran; have the right to rule in this manner for generations to come.

A support for Ran’s approach appears in the midrash: Pinchas approaches Moshe and says to him: "This is what you told us when you descended from atop Mt. Sinai: ‘One who has relations with a Gentile woman is justifiably attacked by zealots’".

In his book of responsa, the great rabbi known as "Radbaz" argues that the permissibility of unilateral acts of zealotry is rooted in rabbinic law. Ran’s point doesn’t faze Radbaz, since, according to the latter, the Sages did not rule that one should kill an offender outside of the framework of the law; rather, they ruled that one should not punish a zealot who takes unilateral action and kills an offender outside of the framework of the law .

Why? Our sages understood that a person filled with love of Hashem to the point at which, out of zealotry, he kills another Jew guilty of desecrating God’s name - is simply unable to conquer the holy emotions within him. It is thus improper to punish him.

Zimri's Right to Self-Defense
Our sages, writing in the Talmudic tractate of Sanhedrin, maintain that if Zimri had turned on Pinchas and killed him, he (Zimri) would have been exempt from punishment. This statement seems to clash with another halachic principle:namely, that one may kill a person whom he sees in pursuit of another person; here, it is permissible, and even a mitzvah, to kill the rodef (pursuer) since one "should not idly stand by the blood of his neighbor." Nevertheless, if the rodef turns around and kills the one who is trying to kill him, he (the rodef) is deserving of death. The obvious reason for this ruling: one who is on the verge of killing a " rodef " is about to fulfill a mitzvah; thus, the " rodef " himself has no permission to kill the one pursuing him.

How should we resolve the above principle with the rabbis' observation that, had Zimri killed Pinchas, Zimri would have been exempt from the death penalty? It must be that Pinchas, as the one who killed Zimri, was not fulfilling a mitzvah! For if killing Zimri were to have been a mitzvah, Zimri would not have had permission to defend himself.

A Lesson Learned
From this discussion, the Mishneh L’Melech on the Rambam, offers another observation: It is known that a relative of a manslaughter victim, may halachically kill that manslaughterer should the latter leave his "city of refuge".

What would be the ruling if the (accidental) murderer turned around and killed the vengeful relative? Mishneh L’Melech maintains that the halacha in this instance may be learned from Zimri: It is not a positive mitzvah to kill one who committed manslaughter; the latter's punishment is exile to a city of refuge, and not death. However, the Torah understood the heart and mindset of the grieving relative, and ruled that it is improper to punish him for killing the person who killed his relative.

Since, then, the relative is not fulfilling a mitzvah in his killing of the murderer, he, the relative, is a " rodef ". Thus, the pursued murderer is permitted to defend himself by killing his "pursuer".

A zealous person such as Pinchas is a type of "blood avenger" - not on behalf of a dead relative - but on behalf of God. He is so identified with God, that he is unable to suffer any affront, so to speak, to Hashem. This is why he stands up and acts out of his zeal. The fact that the zeal is not obligatory, but only permissible, does not detract from its value. Just the opposite is true: the value of this "jealousy" is so great, that it is impossible to mandate every person to reach his level...

Proper and Improper Zealotry

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

There is a type of zealotry that comes from limited perspective – one sees only himself, due to egoism. Such a person cannot recognize that others have the ability to think logically and yet arrive at a different conclusion from his own. Such a zealot is offended when someone thinks differently than he, for he assumes that he alone is capable. This is what the people who criticized Pinchas for his zealotry accused him of: "Did you see the son of one who brought fat calves for idolatry?" (Sanhedrin 82b).

However, there is also a totally different type of zealotry, which is focused on the community. He does not react to damage done to him but looks at the negative act’s full effect on a larger community of which both the zealot and the one to whose actions he objects are just passing episodes. When the Heavenly Name is desecrated by an immoral action done publicly, it lowers the whole community from its spiritual state. Those who were inspired with love of Hashem are cooled off, cynicism penetrates. When poison is inserted into the Jewish nation, the individual loses value.

Pinchas endangered himself to be killed (Sanhedrin 82a) as an attempted murderer, and he could have had the stigma of having blood on his hands when he succeeded. He could have been unpopular and ostracized (see Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 9:7). It is impossible to know for sure that an act of zealotry was idealistic unless he is ready to be ostracized. In the case of Pinchas, his action saved the nation.

However, zealotry is dangerous. There are halachic guidelines. It is permitted only if the action actually removes chillul Hashem. It is only if the reaction will return the honor of Hashem by hitting evil at its root and causing others to open their eyes. However, if the immoral activity continues after the zealotry, then the zealotry itself will just increase the desecration of Hashem’s Name. If the criticism of Pinchas had remained, then his action would have had a negative effect instead of opening the eyes of all to the disgusting things being done. Had it been misunderstood, it would have caused negative criticism.

Pinchas is Eliyahu (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 46). Nevertheless, some of Eliyahu’s ways were not appreciated by Hashem. Hashem told Eliyahu: "Hashem is not in the loud noise…" or "the fire," … (Melachim I, 19:11-12). Zealotry can work against a one-time desecration, as it can serve to "clean the air." However, when there is a systematic deterioration, it is possible to rectify the matter only with a step-by-step clarification. Even an effective one-time event, such as Eliyahu carried out on Mt. Carmel, causing the people to call out enthusiastically, "Hashem is the Lord," did not ensure success. After all, Izevel forced him and others to run for their lives. The voices were silenced. The noise and the fire had to be internalized and be replaced by a voice of a gentle silence. If the inspirer takes measured steps and acts pleasantly, he can sanctify Hashem’s name by example. It may not seem as effective, and there will not be a crowd of people cheering, but the impact will be more certain, fundamental, and effective.

Pinchas: Peace, Nobility and Eternal Greatness

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

In the midst of the sadness and angst that envelops us yet here in Israel and throughout the entire Jewish world, the story of Pinchas, the righteous zealot, rewarded by Heaven for his act of zealotry and violence, intrudes. We reel from the killings, the fires, the rockets and losses that we have suffered. So, what are we to make of this most puzzling incident recorded for us in our holy Torah?

The Talmud teaches us that it was only through miraculous Heavenly interventions that Pinchas was able to slay the Midianite princess and the Leader of the tribe of Shimon and escape with his own life still intact. And the fact that the Lord, so to speak, extends His Divine hand of friendship, priesthood, peace and position to Pinchas, certainly shows God’s acquiescence to Pinchas’ act.

Yet the Talmud and Jewish tradition are of the opinion that only Pinchas’ act of zealotry is to be admired. All other acts of unilateral zealotry in Jewish society in later generations are to be shunned. The prophet Elijah, who in Jewish tradition is identified somehow with Pinchas, is chastised by Heaven to moderate his zealotry and despair regarding the acknowledged evils of Jewish behavior in his time. Instead, he is assigned to be present at all circumcision ceremonies, Pesach sedorim and to be the prophet of Jewish redemption and reconciliation.

He becomes the witness to Jewish loyalty and continuity. In effect, his zealotry is to be rechanneled into positive energy and eternal goodness. Elijah becomes thereby the fulfillment of God’s commitment to Pinchas of peace, nobility and eternal greatness. It is this redirection of zealous energy to positive force that lies at the heart of God’s commitment to Pinchas.

The Talmud teaches us that we cannot exist as human beings in this world by attempting to eliminate completely our negative instincts – our yetzer hara. Our task, rather, is to redirect those instincts and forces that define us as human beings into positive and productive activities and behavior.

One of the fundamental weaknesses of other faiths has been their attempt to completely negate the natural impulses that are part of all human nature. Celibacy and long states of meditation are not the tools of lasting spiritual enhancement and human continuity. Engaging our instincts and energy and channeling them into positive projects and holy endeavors is the wish of the Torah.

The zealotry of Pinchas and Elijah should be exploited for good causes – the priesthood and public service, compassion for others and a sense of Jewish unity, eternity and holy mission. It is the transformation of Pinchas from the man of violence to the man of peace that is the message of the Torah in this week’s parsha. The story of Pinchas is recorded for us in the Torah to teach us that such transformations are possible and indeed necessary for the ultimate good of the Jewish people and humanity generally. The Jewish story is that Pinchas becomes Elijah and Elijah becomes the harbinger of Jewish redemption and eternity.


by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Many people today speak of and pursue "self-fulfillment," which means actualizing each person's unique potential. Some apply it on the material plane and some on the spiritual plane. Clearly this is a positive and vital thing. However, the purpose of this self-fulfillment must be clearly recognized.

The Sefat Emet beautifully explains the Mishna in Avot: "If I am not for me – then who is for me? When I am for myself – what am I?" – in the following way. Just as people look different, so, too, they think differently. Each person has a special role to fulfill, and no one can serve in his place. Therefore, "If I am not for me – then who is for me?" But, "When I am to myself" – i.e., when my entire purpose is for myself – "What am I." The purpose of self-fulfillment has to be for the entire nation. There are many different parts to the nation, just like the human body is made up of various parts, and together they comprise the unified body of the nation. I strengthen myself so that I will be able to serve as an important and powerful part of the entire body.

Pinchas's zealotry was positive because he was not acting out of personal interests; he was acting to save the nation.

Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook zt"l once wrote in his father's name that zealotry should be employed only in four cases: the desecration of Hashem's Name, and the honor of the Torah, the honor of the nation and Eretz Yisrael. The latter three are the foundation of the nation: Torah, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, as the Kuzari writes. (See his well-known parable to a vineyard.)

In the past few decades, some have attempted to remove Torah from the three elements. The State's founders thought that it was possible to make do with a nationality that was comprised out of only two of the three – land and people. As a consequence they spoke only of history, culture, tradition, literature and the language.

Rav Kook zt"l wrote about this a hundred years ago:

The mighty hand that is armed with unrestraint and gentile practices, without memory of the real holiness of Israel; that covers it's shards with ... false nationality, with kernels of history and love of language; that clothes life with an external Israeli shape while the entire inside is not Jewish at all; it is about to become a monster and destroyer and will inevitably lead towards hatred to the Land of Israel and the nation of Israel, as we have learned from experience.

It seems that today there is no need to prove this statement. When we remove religion from nationality – nothing remains, not even land or language. It is very painful to witness children from the Nation of the Book who cannot read or write, whereas in previous generations every child was taught to read.

Back then zealotry was the province of the tribe of Levi. Today it is up to the young people of Israel to guard the nation's values. The Rambam writes in Sefer Hamitzvot (#9), that the mitzvah of sanctifying Hashem's name is to spread faith and not be afraid. This is the exact opposite of what happened during the time of Nevuchadnezzar, when everyone bowed down to the idol. It was a great disgrace to Israel that no one was willing to sanctify Hashem's name. However, the prophet Yeshayahu predicted that there will be young men at that difficult time who will not be scared by death, and they will forego their lives, and publicize the faith, and sanctify the Name in public, as he promised when saying, "Yaakov will no longer be shamed, and now his face will not turn pale, for when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst who will sanctify My Name..." (Yeshaya 29:22-23)

The Sifra states: "On this condition I took you out from the land of Egypt, so that you will sanctify My name in public."

The Yeshiva is the only place that educates towards this kind of perfection of land, nation and Torah. We are the only ones who connect the many links from the Revelation at Sinai to the days of the Mashiach.

This is a great responsibility that is placed upon every young Jewish man and woman in Israel, to develop and fulfill himself in order to strengthen the national body.

When Rav Kook zt"l was asked what occupation to choose to study in university, he responded: linguistics or agriculture. He did not suggest a career occupation that delivers lots of money; instead he suggested what Am Yisrael needed at the time.

A Labor Party member once commented at a symposium: Once we all rode in the same train. We (the irreligious Zionists) were in the locomotive and you functioned in the remaining cars as Kashrut inspectors. You were in charge of kosher food, Halachic marriages, etc. That was acceptable to us. Now, though, the roles are reversed – we are being led in the cars and you are leading in the locomotive. This is intolerable.

However, this is our role today: to lead, to spread faith, and to maintain the integrity of the land, nation and Torah.

The education for this kind of self-fulfillment has produced glorious fruit like the Hesder Yeshiva student who died in Jenin. There was a letter in his pocket that he wrote to his fiancé. We will conclude with some words from his letter:

I feel, on the one hand, that the thing I want most is to establish a house and family together with you. Yet, on the other hand, I feel that the thing I want most is to embark on this mission, and hit those villains so hard so that they will never ever think about perpetrating another terrorist attack ... We will be willing to pay the price and I will be willing to pay this price. Don't be angry with me, but in moments like these the feeling of belonging to all of Israel is supposed to guide you. You have to strike wickedness with all your force, as if you do not possess a private life.