Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Many Splendid Thing: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Bamidbar, Yom Yerushalaiym and Shvuot 5775

Parashat Bamidbar, Yom Yerushalaiym and Shvuot 5775 
Rabbi Nachman Kahana


We have no way of understanding the ways of HaShem, much less His essence. However, HaShem appeared to the prophets through human characteristics to enable us to relate in some small way to the infinite and unimaginable. The prophets perceived the Infinite at times acting towards us with compassion, or courage, or anger, pride, or disappointment, and above all, love.
The parasha begins with HaShem’s command to Moshe to conduct a national census. Rashi adds that this was repeated several times during our sojourn in the desert, which conveyed to the nation the sublime love that HaShem felt for His people, as a man who repeatedly counts his valuable possessions.
In the evening prayer we say:
ברוך אתה ה’ אוהב עמו ישראל

Blessed are You HaShem who loves His nation Yisrael.

In the morning we say:
ברוך אתה ה’ הבוחר בעמו ישראל באהבה

Blessed are You HaShem who has chosen His nation Yisrael in love.

Overpowering Love

 In parashat Vayeitzay, Ya’akov arrives at the city of Ur Kasdim at the town’s meeting place – the city well, just at the time when several shepherds were lingering around. When Ya’akov questioned them about their seeming indolence at the middle of the workday, they replied (Beraishiet 29:8-11):
ויאמרו לא נוכל עד אשר יאספו כל העדרים וגללו את האבן מעל פי הבאר והשקינו הצאן:

“We cannot (water the sheep) until all the flocks are gathered and (all the shepherds) will roll the stone from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.”
And the Torah relates that while he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep. When Ya’akov saw Rachel, he approached the well, rolled the large stone away and watered the sheep. How could Ya’akov, the yeshiva bocher, roll away a huge stone that required the combined strength of many grown men?
I will return to this.

King Solomon wrote many things in his lifetime including Shir Ha’Shirim (Song of Songs). The illustrious Rabbi Akiva comments on this magnum opus of King Solomon in the Mishna (Ya’adim 3:5):
רּאמר ר’ עקיבא כל כתובים קדש ושיר השירים קודש קדשים

All scriptures are holy, but Shir Ha’Shirim is the holy of holies.

Rabbi Akiva’s soul was moved by Shlomo Ha’Melech’s description of HaShem’s love for the Jewish people (8:6-7):
שימני כחותם על לבך כחותם על זרועך כי עזה כמות אהבה קשה כשאול קנאה רשפיה רשפי אש שלהבתיה: מים רבים לא יוכלו לכבות את האהבה ונהרות לא ישטפוה וגו’.

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.

It is not surprising, that R. Akiva was the one who was so touched by Shlomo HaMelech’s description of love; because R. Akiva knew that true love was indeed “a many splendored thing”.
The Gemara (Ketubot 63a) relates that the young and beautiful Rachel, who was to become his wife, gave up her family, wealth and youth for love of Akiva, the shepherd. She believed that he could be a Torah giant in the generation of Torah giants, and struggled alone for 24 years so that her Akiva could learn Torah in Yerushalayim without interruption.
At the end of that period, Akiva the shepherd, who was now the world renowned Rabbi Akiva, returned home to be reunited with his beloved wife. The Gemara relates that he arrived with 24 thousand disciples. All the town’s people came out to honor the great Rabbi. Rachel approached her husband and bent down to kiss his feet. When the ushers pushed her back, R. Akiva brought the crowd to silence. And standing before the throng of thousands of his students and onlookers, he pointed to his beloved Rachel and declared: “My Torah and your Torah is all her Torah”.
What Shlomo Ha’Melech was saying, which was so well understood by R. Akiva, was that the love HaShem feels toward Am Yisrael moves the Creator to perform mighty acts not within the framework of the natural world He created; just as the love of a man for a woman can move him to perform remarkable deeds.
Ha’Shem, in his love for Am Yisrael, changed the natural order that He Himself created: The ten plagues, splitting of the Red Sea, the Manna and quail to support millions of people for forty years, the destruction of the Canaanite kingdoms and the uncountable miracles up to this very day.
As stated above the Torah relates that when Ya’akov saw Rachel, the sudden surge of overpowering love that Ya’akov felt  empowered him with the strength to roll the rock, as easily as one would pull up a cork from a bottle (Rashi).

Signs of True Love

What are the telltale signs of true love? They are: the desire to be close to the person one loves; the need to communicate, to be understood and to understand each other; the desire to give more and more without expecting anything in return; and to see only the good and forgive that which is less than good.
After listening to many religious leaders and their students from the galut, I can only conclude that although they learn Torah and keep mitzvot, they do not love being Jewish. Many have an acquaintance with Judaism, some even like Judaism, but most do not love being Jewish.
If they loved being Jewish, then in no way could they remain in the galut. To love being Jewish is to strive to be as close to HaShem as humanly possible. And to be close to HaShem means to live in the land of which the Torah states (Devarim 11:12):
ארץ אשר ה’ א-להיך דרש אתה תמיד עיני ה’ א-להיך בה מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה

A land the LORD your God longs for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

To love being Jewish means returning to the Holy Land without calculating its personal or professional expedience, just as a young couple very much in love throws expediency to the wind in order to fulfill their desires.
To love being Jewish means to know and to communicate with the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov in the holy language of HaShem. I would not be wrong in stating that the overwhelming majority of religious leaders in the galut cannot hold a Hebrew conversation on the level of a four year old Israeli child.
To love being Jewish is to remain home and prepare for the beautiful meaningful holiday of Pesach, and not to take flight to a hotel or resort in order to escape the ghosts of chametz.
To love being Jewish is to look forward, every week, to Shabbat and regard the kitchen preparations as a personal simcha for the great merit of being part of God’s chosen nation.
To love being Jewish is to be part of a daily minyan that imparts to the congregation a spiritual experience, not to seek out the fastest minyan in town in order to begin work early.
To love being Jewish is to behave in reverence and silence when present in a bet knesset, not to sit and talk; stopping only to partake in the “kiddush club”.
To love being Jewish is to be part of the defense of Eretz Yisrael as soldiers of Tzahal.
To love being Jewish is to notice the faults and shortcomings of the Israeli leadership and to join with Israelis in our efforts to redress the mistakes they commit.
To love being Jewish is to learn Torah in the special environment of the land where the Torah was intended by HaShem to be kept.
If your rabbi or rosh yeshiva in the galut does not encourage your aliya to Eretz Yisrael, it has nothing to do with the land or its people – it simply means that your mentor is acquainted with, or may even like being Jewish, but he does not love being Jewish and everything that Judaism demands.

Love is indeed a “many splendid thing”. It is a call from the depths of one’s soul to announce that it has been touched, and resonates to the mind and emotions. If one does not feel love for Judaism in its wholeness, then that person’s soul has not been touched.
Ya’akov’s soul was touched when he met Rachel, as was Shlomo Ha’Melech when he felt the love of HaShem for Am Yisrael, and the soul of Rabbi Akiva towards the woman who made him the scholar that he was.
We who have returned to the Land of Israel in love, are continuing to forge ahead in the authentic Jewish history that was so violently and cruelly disrupted 2000 years ago.
No obstacle will impede our determination to restore the former glory of Am Yisrael as God’s chosen people – neither gentile enemies from without, nor Jewish traitors from within.
As Shlomo Ha’Melech wrote: It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.
Love for complete (not piecemeal) Judaism is indeed a many splendid thing!
Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5775/2015 Nachman Kahana

Torah as Jewish Culture

By Moshe Feiglin

The Scroll of Ruth that we will be reading on the holiday of Shavuot this Sunday is the story of the Jewish People living their Torah culture in their Land. Boaz is not a yeshiva head or a famous rabbi. He is a Jew who works his land. The working people in the Scroll of Ruth remain in their Land despite the famine and abandonment by their leaders. They conduct themselves according to the cultural code of faith and loving kindness that they absorbed from the Torah and that is part of their lives.
That is also our goal; to turn our Torah into our culture. “You know,” said one of the senior managers of the Knesset channel after I finished an interview there, “all sorts of religious MK’s come through our studio. I am secular – I try to understand them, but I just can’t. You are the only person with a kippah on his head that I can understand.”
I do not think that he meant that the religious MKs are not expressing themselves with enough eloquence. I think that he sensed the connection that Manhigut Yehudit makes between Judaism and reality.
The Scroll of Ruth teaches us that this authentic connection bears the secret of redemption. Many we merit to bring it soon!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Shavuot

From Lot, via Ruth, to David the Anointed

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

King David was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite. As is known, “Moab” [lit., “selffather”] received that name due to the shameful deed of Lot’s daughter, who cohabited with her father while he was drunk, and thus bore Moab. She not only did that but she immortalized this terrible deed by calling her son “Moab.” 

All the same, from Moab emerged Ruth, who converted and entered under the wings of the Divine Presence. From her emerged King David, from whom will appear and be revealed the Messiah in the future. 

From here we learn that we must not mock or disdain any human being, even the most lowly. An example of such a person is Lot, a drunkard who became the symbol of a man who loses his Divine Image during his drunkenness. We thus use the expression “Drunk as Lot” to describe those drunkards who have lost their divine image. 

Today, we must learn from the stories of Ruth the Moabite, and from the chain of events leading from Lot to the Messiah, that we must not mock or dismiss any human being, even when he falls down low. We ask, “Who is like the L-rd our G-d, enthroned on high?” (Psalm 113:5). At the same time, however, we believe that the same G-d who is “enthroned on high,” also “looks far down to behold the things that are in heaven” (Ibid., v. 6). He also “raises up the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy out of the ashheep, that He may set them with nobles, with the nobles of His people” (v. 7). 

Wishing you a happy Shavuot and looking forwarded to complete salvation. 

A Bit of Reality from Sinai

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean, Zomet Institute
"This teaches you that scripture, the Mishna, halacha, tosefta, hagadda, and whatever a veteran scholar will teach in the future already exists, and it was all given as halacha to Moshe at Sinai" [Kohellet Rabba 1].
Seasoned Actuality
All year round in this column we deal with reality, including political issues. What could be more interesting than to comment on the establishment of a fledgling and faltering government in Israel, and/or the appointment of ministers with a minimum of national experience? I could also write about the historic accomplishments of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a sort of Kalev Ben Yefuneh of our generation, who we accompanied on his final journey on the day that I wrote this article. (Note that we might write "bal yefuneh," a hint of the fact that Rabbi Levinger strongly opposed abandoning any of the lands of Eretz Yisrael.) However, today, in honor of the day when the Torah was given, we will turn our gaze on halachic reality, about which it is written (in the quote from the Midrash above) that there is never anything novel – "Whatever a veteran scholar (who is this, anyway?) will teach... was given as the halacha to Moshe at Sinai." And there you have it: Mature Actuality...
But first a word "from our sponsor" - This week, as every year close to Jerusalem Day (the state) and Shavuot (Torah), we published a new volume of "Techumin," Number 35. This consists of about 500 pages of halachic reality on subjects related to Torah, society, and the state. Fifty-five articles have been added to about 1,800 that appeared in previous volumes, written by prominent Torah scholars (I feel that the title, "senior rabbi," which is used by the press, is a show of excess pride) of the first class, and by others who have not yet achieved prominence – all of them have managed to absorb something new from Mount Sinai and felt a desire to publish their findings in Techumin.
Recipes with Meat and Milk
In honor of the holiday, we have pieced together for you, from the newest volume, some juicy samples of dairy halachot, as is fitting for the holiday of Shavuot, in order to fulfill the verse, "Honey and milk are under your tongue" [Shir Hashirim 4:11]. We will capture your interest for halachic sophistication by offering you, from this new volume of Techumin, a serving of meat cooked in milk (yes, you read that right!). Compare this to Rav Nachman, who gave his wife an udder soaked in milk in order to satisfy her desire to taste a combination of milk and meat (Chulin 109b). And what is our enticing menu item that fits this requirement? See below...
(1) "Ben Pekua" – It is an accepted halacha (admittedly quite odd) that if a cow is slaughtered in the eighth month of her pregnancy and the calf is found to be alive, it is called a "Ben Pekua" and there is no need to slaughter it. It can be eaten in any manner, including even taking off a limb while it is still alive (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei'ah 13), even many years later, and there is no need to check if it has one of the faults that would render a normal animal unkosher. And now, here is the most surprising part: The offspring of a male and female "Ben Pekua" (both of the "parents must be of this type) will never require kosher slaughtering either, and this includes all subsequent generations. (However, if only one parent is a "Ben Pekua," the offspring cannot be made kosher, even by slaughtering!)
Rabbi Meir Rabi from Australia published a dramatic article where he claims that by definition a Ben Pekua is not cattle (but is rather the same as fish), and therefore not only is there no need to remove the veins in the hind quarter, one is even permitted to cook it and eat it together with milk! To come to this conclusion, the rabbi bases his ruling on a Torah insight by the Meshech Chochma, that our Patriarch Avraham served his guests, the angels, "a calf (literally, the son of cattle, or a ben pekua!) that was tender and good," from the womb of a pregnant cow, and he gave them " butter and milk, and the calf" [Bereishit 18:8]. Rabbi Rabi went further, and acted on his ruling. Using this method he created male and female "sheep" and grew flocks from them, and he now has a culinary and halachic declaration – these animals do not need to be slaughtered, their veins do not have to be removed, their fat is not prohibited - and the rabbi has a long list of other benefits.
However, modern rabbis do not accept this idea! In the new volume of Techumin, Rabbi Zev Vitman, the rabbi of Tenuvah (which sells milk, meat, and fish) vigorously opposes the novel ruling. Aside from the release from the requirement of ritual slaughtering (which is carried over from the mother or the grandmother of the calf), Rabbi Vitman disagrees with (almost) all the other conclusions. He finds no justification for defining the Ben Pekua as a "new and separate species." In addition, in volume 19 of Techumin, sixteen years ago, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doronrejected a similar proposal that was sent to him by meat farmers on the Golan, fearing that it would lead to serious problems. Other prominent rabbis, such as Rabbi Shmuel Vazner and Rabbi Asher Weiss, warned against getting involved in this sophisticated and complex halachic problem.
(2) We are thus left to search elsewhere for a combination of meat and milk: meat that has been cloned from stem cells! In a previous volume, Rev Tvi Reizman (a well-known businessman from Los Angeles who is also a Torah scholar well versed in matters of halacha and actuality) writes about an "artificial hamburger" which was created two years ago. This is produced from artificial meat made from stem cells of a cow which was not slaughtered or which was declared unkosher ("tereifa"). In principle, he concludes that clone meat is not real meat, and that it can therefore be cooked and eaten with milk! (The summary of the article includes many details which will not be repeated here. For example, the problem of appearances can be solved by proper packaging and declarations, as is done for soya milk.)
However, my friends, I doubt that you should rush out after the holiday to search for an "artificial hamburger," in order to season it with honey and dip it in milk. Rabbi Yaacov Ariel opposes the idea in the new volume of Techumin. He concludes that such artificial meat can only be produced from a kosher animal, and that then " it will be considered meat for all intents and purposes, including the matter of cooking with milk."
So, in the end we are left with the solution in the Talmud: Does anybody want some milk-saturated udders?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Money (and Slavery) Make the World Go Round

By Moshe Feiglin

In other words, the bank clerk is investigating how much the customer can be enslaved. If the customer is eighty years old, or if, Heaven forbid, terminally ill – he won’t be receiving the loan.
Just like in the slave markets. How much is an old or ill slave worth?
But if the customer is capable of returning the debt, he will receive the loan and exit the bank a happy man.
What happens next?
Hocus  pocus, a few swift movements on the keyboard and the money already appears in the modern slave’s account.  Where did it come from? Many will say that it came from the Central Bank or from deposits of other customers. But that is not correct. Most of the money simply comes from the fingertips of the bank clerk. Straight out of the air, the numbers appeared and entered the account of the happy slave.
That is how money is created in modern economies – through banks and loans.
But money has value. If it is nothing more than an invention of the bank clerk, what gives it its value? The State? The Central Bank?
In truth, money is not an invention. It is not simply faith in the state that gives money its value. There is something very real behind money: The enslavement of the customer. After all, we work hard to pay back our loans. Our work is very real, much more than a piece of paper or the touch of a keyboard. The work to which we are committed backs up those numbers; the money that has now entered the economy.
In other words, modern money primarily represents – slavery. Our slavery. Isn’t there a better system?

Video: Moshe Feiglin on his Past and Present Activisim

(with English subtitles)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Military option prevents war

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

The contention that there are only two options in dealing with the rogue Ayatollahs' regime – negotiation or military option, which supposedly amounts to war – defies reality. Such a contention is either mistaken or misleading.

The threat of a limited surgical naval or air force bombing of critical nuclear installations – with no ground troops - would not amount to a war, would deter the Ayatollahs, possibly moderating their nature, and – if activated - would permanently cripple their pursuit of nuclear capabilities, and could be repeated if necessary from US military bases in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Indian Ocean or from US aircraft carriers.

Recent precedents document that there are many military options, which are dramatically short of war, but are critical to moderate the nature of rogue regimes and prevent war.  On the other hand, the removal of a military option from the table – while negotiating with rogue regimes – whets their appetite and fuels war.

For example, on December 19, 2003, Libya's President Gaddafi announced a drastic moderation of his modus operandi: the dismantling of his chemical, nuclear and long range ballistic missiles capabilities.  Gaddafi's stunning decision was induced by the high visibility of the US military option.  He was traumatized by the December 13, 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, which upgraded the US posture of deterrence, convincing the Libyan tyrant that the US was determined to leverage the military option in its battle against additional rogue regimes. 

In fact, Iran's Ayatollahs suspended their nuclear program, in 2003, due to their fear of the US military option.  Alas, the Ayatollahs resumed, expanded and accelerated their nuclear program, upon realization that there was no threat of an imminent US military operation against them or against their ally, Syria's Assad. They were emboldened by President Bush's embrace of Secretary of State Colin Powell's May 3, 2003 statement that the military option against Syria "was not on the table.”

On July 20, 1988, following eight years of intransigence, Iran accepted a ceasefire agreement, ending its eight year war against Iraq – including full retreat from occupied Iraqi territory – in response to a surgical US attack on sensitive Iranian installations, and the unintentional downing of an Iran Air Airbus by the US Navy.

However, on July 25, 1990 – one week before the August 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – Secretary of State Jim Baker removed the US military option from the table, misleading Saddam Hussein into believing that he could get away with the murder of Kuwait, thus unintentionally paving the road to the First (1991) and Second (2003) Persian Gulf Wars. Secretary Baker instructed the US Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, to tell Saddam Hussein: "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.... Secretary of State Jim Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction [that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America].” 

Secretary Baker assumed that the overwhelming US military edge would deter Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait. He underestimated Saddam's megalomaniac ideology and the erosion of the US posture of deterrence. Currently, the US Administration applies similar assumptions towards the supremacist, Islamist, repressive, violently intolerant, megalomaniacal, expansionist, anti-US Ayatollahs.  Unlike Saddam, the Ayatollahs are apocalyptic, undeterred – but energized - by mutual assured destruction (MAD), the prospect of a nuclear confrontation. They are emboldened by the dramatic decline of the US power projection in the Middle East and beyond.

The removal of the military option from the table – when dealing with the Ayatollahs – would be similar to a police chief removing guns, tasers, rubber bullets and tear gas from policemen dealing with violent criminals. Intensified crime will follow.

The removal of the military option from the table projects the intent to ignore precedents, or to learn from precedents by repeating – rather than avoiding – devastating mistakes.

When dealing with the rogue Ayatollahs' regime, the stick/threat of military (not war) optionconstitutes a most effective, and humane, means to spare humanity the wrath of a global nuclear war. The absence of such an option brings the globe closer to an unprecedented tectonic chaos.

Friday, May 15, 2015

“G-d comforts Zion and Rebuilds Jerusalem.”

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Millions of Jews throughout the world, over thousands of years, have prayed and turned their faces and hearts to Jerusalem and to the Temple, as the Halachah states: “When someone prays, he should turn his face and direct his heart towards Eretz Yisrael, Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies” (Orach Chaim 94:1). Turning one’s face in that direction expresses one’s desire, longing and love for Jerusalem (Guide to the Perplexed 1:82). As for directing one’s heart, one should imagine that one is standing in the Jerusalem Temple in the Holy of Holies (Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chaim 94:1). When Jacob awoke from his sleep at that site, he said: “The L-rd is truly in this place.... It must be G-d’s Temple, and this is the gate to heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). 

When we imagine ourselves standing in that holy place, we must picture through our mind’s eye the prophetic vision of Isaiah 2:3: “Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Jacob. And He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem.” The nations will not mention “the G-d of Abraham and Isaac,” who respectively called the Temple Mount a mountain and a field. Rather, they will specifically mention Jacob, who called it a house (Pesachim 88a), “an inhabited place” (Rashi, Ibid.). The belief with certainty in the ingathering of the exiles, the settling of the Land of Israel and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, never ceased for a moment from the hearts of millions of Jews down through the generations. This found expression in their regularly recited prayer, “Blessed are You, O L-rd, who rebuilds Jerusalem.” This blessing is in the present tense. Even when we were in the exile, in the darkness, we knew, and we know now, that G-d is secretly rebuilding Jerusalem. How much more so are we aware of this in our own generation, when we are privileged to see the fulfillment of the dream, “When the L-rd brings back the captivity of Zion, we shall be like dreamers” (Psalm 126:1) 

Today, we are at the height of the war of the children of light against the children of darkness. The latter do not wish to resign themselves to the idea that the Jewish People are rising to rebirth in their land and rebuilding their home in Eretz Yisrael in general and in Jerusalem in particular. They think that the settling of Eretz Yisrael and the rebuilding of Jerusalem are not to their benefit. They view the Jewish People rising to rebirth as a danger to their national and religious existence, but the truth is really the opposite. 

If they opened up the Bible and accepted the words of the prophet prophesying to us and to them that in the future a king will arise from the house of David, who will “judge among the nations and decide among many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4), and then prophesying that “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation will not lift up its swords against nation, nor will they learn war any more” (Ibid.), the nations would then say, “House of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the L-rd” (v. 5, Rashi). 

Unfortunately, instead of thanking the Jewish People and honoring them for their exclusive contribution to mankind and for bequeathing the divine eternal values which shine a light for all mankind, they fight us and murder men, women and children. We, however, have the assurance of G-d’s oath in Deuteronomy 32:40-43: “I lift My hand to heaven and say, ‘As I live forever.... the nations will sing praise to His people, for He will avenge His servants’ blood.” Rashi comments: “The nations will praise His people’: They will say, ‘See, how praiseworthy is this people, that they have clung to G-d amidst all the troubles which have passed over them, and have not forsaken Him, for they had constantly experienced His goodness and His excellence.’ “‘He will render vengeance to His adversaries’: for all their robbery, violence and bloodshed. “‘And He will propitiate His land’: He will propitiate His land and His people for the miseries that have passed over them and for that which the enemy has caused them.... And whenever His people receives comfort, His land, too, receives comfort.” 

How fortunate we are that we have merited to see with our own eyes how G-d “comforts Zion and rebuilds Jerusalem” (from the Tisha B’Av Shemoneh Esreh). Rejoicing in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and looking forward to complete salvation.

Memories and Regrets

Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The Six Day War, an event that changed Israeli and Jewish in myriad ways. Those of us who lived through those fateful and fearsome days recall the foreboding and mental and emotional depression that gripped the Jewish world for the three weeks leading up to the war itself. The Arabs proclaimed that they would end the State of Israel and throw its Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. The Soviet Union backed the Arabs with its vicious propaganda machine as did the Leftist fellow travelers, many of them Jewish by birth, the world over. Those guys are still around in today’s world though their great patron and perfect society, the Soviet Union, is in the ash heap of history. The Soviet Union armed Egypt and Syria to the teeth and trained their armies while Britain did the same for Jordan. These three Arab countries united their military commands and confidently proclaimed their victory as being certain before the first shot was even fired. Abba Eban, the then Israeli Foreign Minister, circled the globe’s capitols seeking help for his beleaguered country but finding none. The ineptitude of the United Nations, the cynicism of the American State Department and the hollowness of the promises of the American President, the anti-Semitism of de Gaulle, all were now blatantly revealed. I was then a rabbi in Miami Beach and I visited a neighboring church near my synagogue to ask the pastor to sign an interfaith letter supporting Israel that was to be published the next day in the local newspaper. I was shocked and saddened by the vehemence in his voice as he refused to do so. I then realized how truly alone the Jewish people is when push comes to shove

Well, surprisingly Israel won the war in six days, reunited Jerusalem, acquired the Golan Heights and controlled the biblical land of Israel from the Jordan to the sea. The Jewish world was ecstatic, relieved but utterly confused. What was Israel to do with its victory and gains? The Arab world remained intransigently opposed to any type of recognition of or compromise with Israel. So Israel began a decades long process of negotiating with itself, slowly but surely frittering away any of the benefits that accrued to it during the war and its aftermath. Over the decades Israel gave back the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, much of the West Bank, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, recognized the establishment of a neighboring Palestinian state, fought many wars and endured continuing terrorist attacks, signed a number of meaningless agreements, all in a fruitless attempt to achieve a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties have never achieved a significant change of the mindset of the population of those countries towards Israel and its right to exist. Those peace treaties by themselves today hang by a thread and certainly cannot be reckoned as being secure and binding by any stretch of imagination.

The Six Day War brought to the Jewish world a sense of unity and solidarity that since then has never been matched. The stark divisions in the Jewish world have since then been magnified and intensified. The political parties in Israel have splintered and subdivided. The personal animosities and the pursuit of ideology – secular and religious – has overcome the realistic practicalities of life and nationhood. The leaders of Israel have been found wanting – corrupt, politically and morally, in a way that the original founders of the state would find hard to believe. The dream of Greater Israel has been smashed and the reality of lesser Israel offers little comfort and inspiration to many Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Yet, the Russian exile has returned home and the country is strong and relatively prosperous. I see Israel today as being paradoxically more Jewish, if not even more observant, than it was forty-five years ago. But the fire of idealism, of a great dream to be fulfilled is no longer present. We are weary of war and conflict and wary of false peace. We distrust all of our political leaders with equal disdain and doubt as to their motives and schemes. They betray us on a regular basis – just ask the dispossessed of Gush Katif and now of Beit El. Somehow the lessons of the Six Day War never were internalized by us so that the memories of that great moment in our history has turned from nostalgia to regret. History teaches us that when opportunity arises it must be seized. Rarely if ever does it reappear in the same form again.

Curse or Hidden Blessing?

By Moshe Feiglin

After the Torah chapter promising blessing if we keep G-d’s laws, another, longer chapter promises horrific curses if we do not conduct ourselves according to G-d’s directives. But there is one curse that conceals a blessing: “And I will bring the land into desolation:” Even when you are exiled from the Land of Israel, the Land will remain loyal to you and will not allow any foreign nation to flourish in it.
Just as promised, until the Jewish People returned to the Land of Israel a century and a half ago, no other nation successfully became established in the Land of Israel. Travelers to the Land over the centuries describe desolation and abandonment – until the lost children of the Holy Land awakened.
Politically, however, the wondrous fulfillment of “And I will bring the land into desolation” continues to this very day. There is no pebble in the entire world that is not claimed by a nation. Indian and Pakistani soldiers freeze to death to preserve the sovereignty of their respective countries on the frozen peaks of uninhabitable mountains. But here, in the fruitful heart of the Land of Israel, we have the “territories”. The Arabs covet them and some of the Jews despise them, never missing an opportunity to be rid of them, making every effort to ensure that they will be transferred to foreign sovereignty. The entire world has invested a fortune of money and endless energy for years to establish a “Palestinian” state in these “territories” – but it simply doesn’t happen.
Never has a group of people received so much international aid to establish a state for itself. But yet, nothing happens. Why not?
The answer to this riddle is in the “curses” in our Torah portion.
We have already experienced all the curses; we have already witnessed their reality. With G-d’s help, we will continue to see the fulfillment of our destiny through the prism of the blessings and we will actualize our sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel.
Shabbat Shalom

Corruption Staring Us in the Face

By Moshe Feiglin

But just as I have much criticism for the IDF, which does not contradict my understanding of the tremendous value in its very existence and my deep appreciation for those within the system who are worthy of Israel’s army, so I have criticism for the State Prosecution. It is specifically because both these mechanisms are so important to Israel’s existence that they have been taken over – which means that our fate has been taken over, as well.
And now for the point of this introduction: The corruption scandal in which a former Tel Aviv prosecutor is now being investigated is a very serious affair. But it is not the illness – just one of its symptoms. “Sin lies at the doorstep,” the Creator explains to Cain, who does not restrain himself and murders his brother, Abel. Sin lies in ambush for all of us –even for the most honest people. If it will be proven that Attorney Ruth David did not stand up to the temptation for easy money, it will not be the first time that a senior member of the justice system has stumbled.
That is bad, but rectifiable. Bad, because the power of the attorneys in the State Prosecution is much greater than the power of the judges. Those who decide whom to investigate and who will be left alone, upon which crimes to focus and upon which to gloss over wield tremendous power that is not dependent on an objective values system, but only on whatever values they have adopted. The State Prosecution is not a transparent, representative parliament that plods along with checks and balances. There are not (and cannot be) clear laws to guide it. Don’t even bother to suggest an external professional supervisory board to oversee their work.
Moreover, the media, for its own reasons, doesn’t disturb the Prosecution with questions like: Why Herzog (the NGO affair) was not investigated, while Lieberman is investigated all the time. Why not Attorney General Weinstein (who did not notice the illegal foreign worker employed in his home), not Ehud Barak (weapons deals), certainly not Shimon Peres (who became a millionaire before the end of his presidency) while on the other side of the political divide – a flood of investigations.
No, I am not claiming that there is no corruption among the Right or the religious. There is. And it is good that there are investigations and charges. But somehow, the State Prosecution and the entire justice system have managed to lose their credibility a long time ago.

“I have not yet seen a secular, Ashkenazi (white) child removed from his home by the social services,” a former judge who could no longer stand the phenomenon confided in me. “The crying mothers whose children were taken from them will always be from the ‘unenlightened’ part of society. It is not because the judges are evil. They are convinced that they are acting in the child’s best interests. They simply do not understand the world and values that they are supposed to be judging.”
The apparent ‘slip-up’ of Attorney Ruth David is not the problem, but rather, the symptom. If she will be convicted, she should be punished severely, all sorts of rules will be tightened, more opinions will be required on every case – and the real corruption will be swept under the rug. The inherent, truly terrible, un-rectifiable corruption, one thousand times worse than any private stealing of money – will be concealed.
What do I mean? The State Prosecutor, the man who serves at the top of this sensitive system, is appointed by the government of Israel. That is good and logical. The government is elected by the Knesset and is supposed to precisely represent the preferences of the public. While the result is generally far from satisfactory, we all prefer democracy to tyranny.
How was the current State Prosecutor, Attorney Shai Nitzan, chosen?
According to accepted procedure, the Finding Committee (headed by Attorney General Weinstein, of course) was convened in order to present candidates for the position to the government.
Of course. If the government (representatives of the people, correct?) is supposed to choose, then clearly, there must be more than one candidate. But wonder of wonders: Weinstein and his friends presented only one candidate to the government. Justice Minister Tzippy Livni hurriedly gave her blessing. The government ministers, none of whom are anxious to fall out of favor with “the rule of the law” and/or to suffer at the hands of the media, preferred to vote in favor of Nitzan. In his work in the State Prosecution offices, Nitzan has taken advantage of his position to persecute (and prosecute) people who do not adhere to his ideology. Uzi Landau – the only righteous minister in Sodom – saved some remnants of government honor by explaining that he was “voting against the procedure, not the person.”
The media, of course, did not ask uncomfortable questions and with the exception of a student radio station, I, as an MK, was practically not given any opportunity to voice my concern or to address the problematic nature of Nitzan’s appointment.
The official response to the criticism was no less amazing than the manner in which Nitzan was appointed: “We presented only one candidate to avoid making the appointment political…”
In other words, the representatives of the people – our elected Knesset Members – have to understand that the real power in this country is in the hands of a gang of people who constantly clone themselves. This is the essential, truly dangerous corruption. Ruth David may have stolen money. But the ‘Rule of Law’ gang has stolen the entire state!
The two forms of stealing are connected. Unlimited power, free of any supervision and unencumbered by elections – will necessarily become corrupt.
Please pay attention to the real corruption. No police investigation is needed in order to see it. Just open your eyes. The media will never do the job for you. Please open your eyes.

My Jerusalem

In Tehillim, the day that Jerusalem was destroyed is called "Jerusalem Day" – "One the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion... G-d, remember... Jerusalem Day, for those who say, 'Destroy it, destroy it, to its foundation." [137:1,7]. Today Jerusalem Day is one of our most important times of joy, as the day when we released it from its foreign conquest and unified it under our sovereignty, 48 years ago. Thus we were loyal to our eternal oath, "If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning, let my tongue cling to my palate if I do not remember you; if I do not lift up Jerusalem to my highest joy." [137:5]. The wise men of Babylon, who could only see Jerusalem in their imagination, said, "Ten measures of beauty descended to the world. Jerusalem took nine measures and one was left for the rest of the world. [Kiddushin 49b]. The wise men of Jerusalem, who were familiar with the city as it existed, said, "There are ten measures of suffering in the world, nine of them in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world" [Talmud Yerushalmi 3:6].
I was privileged to have been a member of the Paratrooper's Brigade under the command of Mota Gur, which freed the city in the Six Day War. I was in the 71st Battalion, commanded by Uzi Eilam, which first broke into the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. I was moderately injured in my leg, and ever since I have felt that I am bonded with the city by blood. I live there with my family and my children and grandchildren. I can see both of the above elements, the beauty and the suffering, and I feel the pain of every element of damage and erosion that occurs, in terms of values, culture, and political status, and every type of damage to the strength of the city.
Dangers from Within and from Without
The harm and the threats are both internal and external. The external elements stem from the Palestinians and the Arab world, the United Nations, and other nations which do not recognize the unification of the city and its status as the capital of our country. Our ability to withstand these threats depends mainly on having a broad national consensus with respect to the status of the city. The reality that we see in front of us is a reason for worry: Who celebrates Jerusalem Day except for religious Zionists and those who live in the city? It is not only the "State of Tel Aviv" which ignores this day, but also the elites from among the culture, academia, the press, and political powers. Aside from two government ceremonies – a festive meeting at the Knesset and a ceremony held at Ammunition Hill – there is no festive atmosphere in the country on this day. This is a disturbing sign of erosion in the recognition of the status of the city and in the ability to display a broad national consensus against the external threats against the city.
The Jerusalem Basic Law, which was relevant on the day that it was passed, does not provide a proper response today for the "Jerusalem down below." While it is true that the exit of educated youngsters has declined a bit, what is needed is a completely new revolutionary approach. This Basic Law must be amended to include benefits and extra privileges, and to encourage citizens of Israel and new Olim to live in Jerusalem, to work there, and to enjoy a level of municipal and national benefits which is substantially better than what is available in other parts of the country. As part of my previous public activities, I was witness to the tough struggles of the mayors and Jerusalem MK's in an effort to increase the national resources available to Jerusalem, but these struggles usually achieved only partial success. Jerusalem is in need of significant support in all walks of life: education, higher learning, science, promoting employment and investment, municipal services, housing, tourism, and more.
We must demand that the new government does not show any weakness against international pressure from the other countries in the world, including the United States and Europe. Our statements must be strong and not defensive, taking the initiative and not apologetic. The Christian world knows very well from its own religious sources about the close relationship between Judaism and Jerusalem, and that there is no such a relationship between Islam and the city - remember that Jerusalem is not mentioned at all in the Koran. A hesitant attitude and a policy of zigzagging will only increase international pressure on us to divide Jerusalem.
The Capital of the Jewish Nation
We must also take action with respect to "heavenly Jerusalem." In the past I proposed a law that would require the official name of the city to be not merely "the capital of the State of Israel" but rather "the capital of Israel and the Jewish Nation." This would be a proper expression of the central character of the city in Jewish life as a whole. It would also serve to internally strengthen the eternal value of Jerusalem.
Let us remember the successful struggle by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook against the British on the subject of prayer rights at the Western Wall, which appeared in his article, "Our Wall." He wrote: "This nation had a Temple which was exalted in its sanctity above and beyond all other temples all over the world. After it was robbed of its land and its proud Temple was destroyed, all that remained on this earth was the Western Wall. When the remnants of the descendants of this nation pour out their hearts in this place, any nation whose soul has a spark of humanity must stand trembling at the sanctity of the return of this nation, with great anticipation, in awe of the ancient nation." We will finish with Rav Kook's resounding cry: "Let Yisrael know what is happening to the remnant of its precious Temple! And let all cultured nations in the world, together with the League of Nations and especially the British nation which is in charge of the Mandate! Let them know to repair the evil that has been perpetrated... Let them be fully aware who it is that stands behind our wall."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Asaph saw: HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Bechuko’tei and Yom Yerushalayim 5775

Parashat Bechuko’tei and Yom Yerushalayim 5775
Eicha 4,11:
כלה ה’ את חמתו שפך חרון אפו ויצת אש בציון ותאכל יסודתיה
The Lord has given full vent to His wrath;
He has poured out His fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed its foundations.
Torah Temima on the words, ‘consumed its foundations”:
כתיב (תהלים ע”ט) מזמור לאסף אלהים באו גוים בנחלתך, אמרו ליה לאסף, הקדוש ברוך הוא החריב היכל ומקדש ואתה יושב ומזמר, אמר להם, מזמר אנכי ששפך חמתו על העצים ועל האבנים ולא על ישראל…
It is written (Tehilim 79), “A psalm authored by Asaph: O Lord, Gentiles have entered into Your domain (the holy Temple…) And they (the rabbis) said to Asaph, “The Lord has destroyed His palace and Temple and you sing a song of praise! (a psalm) And Asaph replied to them saying, “I praise the Lord for venting His wrath on trees and on stones (the building material of the Temple) but not on the people of Israel…
Asaph saw in the greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish nation in 500 years as the never ceasing compassion and fidelity of HaShem for His children Yisrael. That despite the fact that the quality of justice rightfully demanded the most severe punishment for the Jewish nation, Hashem vented his wrath on the physical Temple not on the Jewish population.
A motion picture is comprised of thousands of individual frames. So too is one’s life of 70 years or even a whole generation no more than a tiny frame in the larger picture of HaShem’s world plan.
And just as one cannot grasp the plot and sub-plots of a film by viewing it for one minute, one cannot grasp the plots and many sub-plots and directions in the history of mankind from the first day that Adam and Eve walked the earth even within a lifespan of 120 years.
In our 4000 year trek through time, Am Yisrael has experienced tragedies too many to enumerate and too complex to grade. Destruction of two holy Temples, exile of the ten tribes, exile to Bavel, the Shoah to mention a few. Only the Jewish people, because of our chosen status by HaShem, could have survived to this very day and even remained spiritually and intellectually vigorous and robust as we were thousands of years ago.
According to any standard, the tragedy of the Ten Martyred Rabbis in Roman times would take a front line position when dealing with human tragedy and its implications for the Jewish nation. Their death was set against the background of the 10 sons of Ya’akov, who betrayed their brother Yosef by selling him into slavery.
The Roman governor of Eretz Yisrael called together the 10 most illustrious rabbis of the time and sentenced them to death for the ancestral sin of selling Yosef.
We cry on Yom Kippur and on Tisha Be’av when reading the details of those rabbis and how they were murdered. Ghastly. Inhuman. But who can understand the ways of HaShem who sees the incidents of thousands of years ago as clearly as he sees the happenings of this moment as He weighs, calculates and then weaves their implications into the future fate of the Jewish nation.
The Torah relates that Yosef sought out his brothers in the city of Shechem, but was told by a man or angel that they had moved to Dotan, north of Shechem. When the brothers saw Yosef approaching, they threw him into a pit of serpents and scorpions, and then he was sold to Yishmaelites.
The murder of the Ten Martyred Rabbis was in lieu of the punishment that should have been enacted on Yosef’s ten brothers.
The Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini, spent the World War Two years in Berlin with his friend and mentor Hitler, where he organized Moslems in aiding the Nazis.
In 1942, the Mufti, with his German comrades, completed plans for an Auschwitz type extermination camp which would be used against the Jews of Eretz Yisrael when the Germans would conquer the Holy Land.
The place they chose for the camp was the Valley of Dotan, where unknown to the Mufti and his sinister friends, the sin of brothers selling their brother occurred.
General Rommel was defeated at Al Allemain in Egypt, and the Germans never entered the Land.
What we perceived for 2000 years as the tragedy of the Ten Martyred Rabbis who paid the atonement price for the selling of Yosef in the Valley of Dotan saved the Jews of Eretz Yisrael 2000 years later from the fate which befell our brothers in Europe.
The Germans and their willing allies in Europe are beyond forgiveness. The tragedy of the Shoah when over 7 million Jews – not 6 million – is so horrific that no rational person can even suggest why this befell the Jewish nation. (The evil of the Germans was so extreme that we all believed that they had reached the lowest depths that mankind can descend to, until we met the Arab and Moslem extremists. (There is to my knowledge no record of a German who willingly committed suicide in order to murder a Jew. The Arab and Moslem straps on a dynamite belt and blows himself up in a bus or restaurant just to kill a Jew).
But the ways of HaShem are so mysterious and always amazing. Undeniably, the unspeakable Shoah was the catalyst for the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, when two thirds of the member states of the United Nations felt a moment of compassion and voted for the Partition Plan in 1947. Since then, Germany has been one of Israel’s closest allies. When the US placed an arms embargo on the nascent State, Germany helped us double our population in the first years of the State.
Germany is the spokesman for Israel in the European Union, and our submarine fleet was constructed in and purchased from them.
Obviously, the Germans are doing it not because they have suddenly became lovers of Zion, but it has been their entrance ticket back into the family of enlightened nations.
In any event, the mysterious hand of HaShem is at work as He weaves the destiny of the Jewish nation.
The tragic destruction of the Bet Hamikdash saved the Jewish nation from destruction, and the tragic death of the Ten Martyrs prevented the unspeakable from being done here in the Valley of Dotan, and the Shoah shook the Jewish people out of our exile malaise to begin our return home.
In 1948, the Medina was a mere scribble on the map of the world. The dire threat of extinction was real when we were invaded by seven standing Arab armies; but this small splinter of a state defeated them all.
In the Six Day War, again the threat of destruction faced the people in Israel. But now HaShem turned Tzahal into a big stick expanding our borders three fold; and for the first time in over 2000 years, we were again sovereign over Yerushalayim.
In the Yom Kippur War, Tzahal became a powerful club, defeating the enemy comprised of Arab armies with their Soviet advisors and sophisticated weapons.
In this light, we need not fear the evil which currently surrounds us in Eretz Yisrael. The Iranians, the European Union, Russia and the soon to come betrayals of other “friends”.
HaShem has delivered the message again and again. Until today many people in the Land have finally deciphered what He means. That a great danger signals the oncoming of a far greater salvation.
That examples of the mysterious Hand of HaShem are too numerous to enumerate, but when historical events are viewed as a whole it is so clear that HaShem is holding the hand of His chosen nation and is accompanying us as He walks us across the rock strewn history of mankind.
So let us rejoice on this 48th anniversary of the reunification of Yerushalayim by HaShem’s agents – Tzahal and Medinat Yisrael. Let all who believe in HaShem as the loving Father of Am Yisrael recite the Hallel blessing, as we prepare for the next exhilarating advance in our trek to physical and spiritual redemption.
Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5775/2015 Nachman Kahana