Thursday, December 03, 2020

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah - Light or Darkness: Worthwhile Discomfort?

Light or Darkness
(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 14:6)

[We continue with Karna and Rav’s discussion when Rav came to Bavel from Eretz Yisrael. Rav sensed Karna was expressing disapproval of his move and reacted to the criticism.]

Gemara: Rav asked: “What is your name?” “Karna.” He said: “May it be His will that a keren will come in your eyes.”

Ein Ayah: The word keren can mean a ray of light – that is dignified and spiritual. It can also mean a horn, which is very different, a coarse material matter.

Rav wanted to remove the complaint that his coming to Bavel from Eretz Yisrael would lower the eternal connection between the nation and the Land and its sanctity. He was insulted that it was not realized that his goal was only to enlighten the eyes of the Babylonian exile and connect them to the light of Torah. This could purify and elevate all of the spiritual feelings from the impurities that polluted them due to their having left the Torah. If people could improve, they would be prepared for the liberation and return to the Land of the Forefathers, to build it and be built up in it in spiritual grandeur.

Rav used Karna’s name as a mashal – if he will be a beam of light, then when put in his eye, he will act in a clear and pleasant manner. If he will follow the material keren, if put in the eye, it will take away his light and impair his vision.

In a similar vein, Rav needed to leave to the diaspora, as the Babylonian community had become ignorant and forsook the Torah, in regard to study and observance. It was necessary to build up the holy national emotions, which are connected to the material world, the world of the land, and elevate them with light and spirituality. Only then would they be ready for liberation, to leave the land of darkness for the place of light, the Holy Land.

Worthwhile Discomfort?
(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 14:7)

Gemara: Then they brought Rav to Shmuel’s house. He fed him barley bread and fish brine and had him drink whiskey, and he did not show him where the bathroom was so that he would suffer from his loose stomach. Rav cursed: “He who caused us pain should not have children,” and this is what occurred.

Ein Ayah: Rav, came to Bavel for Israel’s benefit to calm them in their exile, since he saw in divine inspiration that they would be forced to be in the diaspora for a long time. Exile serves as a smelting pot for the nation, preparing and purifying them, so they will be ready at the end of days to return to the Land in honor. Rav wanted Bavel to be like Eretz Yisrael until the time of liberation. He did not believe the nation’s Torah connection could be sustained without improving the diaspora’s spiritual and physical situation, and he looked for ways to accomplish this.

Shmuel and many other scholars thought that it was appropriate to move up the end of days by making the ongoing exile impossible. They saw exile as medicine that causes great suffering. Even if in the end it heals, it comes with severe suffering. The hint at this was Rav’s situation of digestive infirmity – he needed to suffer to get better. This is what the Babylonian scholars thought was necessary, and thus they had not yet improved Bavel to rival Eretz Yisrael, which happened after Rav arrived (Gittin 6b). Rav disagreed and believed the nation could not survive in such a lowly state. He conveyed this by saying that one who caused such pain would not have children. Rav continued his improvements, preparing the people for the eventual liberation.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Vayishlach: The Three Confrontations


Real Love Means Embracing Conflict: The Secret of Jacob

by Rabbi David Aaron

The Torah (Bible) teaches us that Jacob went to the house Laban, his uncle, and dwelt there for many years. He married Rachel and Leah, Laban’s daughters, and had eleven sons there. After years of struggling with Laban constantly deceiving him he finally left to return home and face Esau who hated him. In the middle of the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two handmaids and his eleven sons, and sent them across the Jabbok River shallows. After he had taken them and sent them across, he also sent across his possessions. Jacob alone remained on the other side of the river. It was there that the famous “stranger” appeared and wrestled with him until just before daybreak:

When the stranger saw that he could not defeat him, he touched the upper joint of Jacob’s thigh. Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with him.

“Let me leave!” said the stranger. “Dawn is breaking.”

And he (Jacob) said: “I will not let you leave until you have blessed me.”

“What is your name?”


“Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob, but Israel: for you have wrestled with ELOKIM and man and you have won.”

Who was this mysterious stranger? According to the Oral Tradition the stranger was the angel of Esau – Samael – the angel of evil.

Clearly, this was no mere wrestling match, but a holy struggle. The Talmud states that the dust they kicked up, while fighting, ascended to the Holy Throne.

In other words, Jacob was willing to wrestle with the forces of evil, knowing that the struggle itself is a Divine mission meant to augment his love for G-d and reveal G-d’s oneness. Although it entailed having to roll around in the dust of the earth, soiling himself with the dirt of this world and risking casualties, Jacob knew that ultimately he was kicking up the dust for the sake of the Holy Throne.

Although Jacob defeated the forces of evil, he did not escape unharmed. The angel dislocated Jacob’s hip in the course of his struggle, but this was a price he was willing to pay for the ultimate victory. His injury teaches us that engaging in war with evil indeed causes damages, but the final victory of love makes the battle worth fighting.

The Kabbalah teaches that evil is really working for the G-d. Its job is to try and seduce us, but it purpose is only to help us reach an even greater awareness of our inseparable love for G-d. The purpose of evil is to awaken within in us a greater consciousness of our loving bond with G-d by tempting us to stray from G-d. Only by struggling with that temptation do we truly appreciate the profound connection and love we share with G-d. Jacob could have remained pure and uncomplicated. He could have sat in his tent unblemished by the struggles of the outside world.

However, Jacob accepted the challenge as an integral part of serving and loving G-d. He knew that the risk of sin is the price of serving G-d with love. Angels cannot sin, since they have no urge to do wrong and, therefore, no free choice. But we can violate G-d’s will, and, therefore, we can also experience fulfilling G-d’s will with love. Love is a choice and in order for there to be a choice there has to be a challenge. Love for G-d is the greatest of all love but it can only come with the greatest of challenges. Jacob was truly unique —for the sake of the ultimate love of G-d he was willing to wrestle with evil and embrace the challenges living in the material world.

The angels said, “Let me leave —dawn is breaking!” The Talmud explains the angel’s strange comment about the time of day:

He said, “I am an angel, and from the day that I was created, my time to sing praise to G-d did not arrive until this moment.”

Jacob, in effect, enabled the angel of evil force to join the chorus line of all the other good angels and partake in singing praise to G-d. This had been the angel’s purpose all along and yet it had never happened before. Jacob was the first person in the world to accept the struggle with the evil with love for G-d as part of his selfless service to G-d. Therefore, the angel was actually happy when Jacob embraced the challenge, understanding that the struggle with evil is a gift of love from G-d. Jacob acknowledged that the evil angel also sings G-d’s praises.

This is a profound lesson of love. Real love will always have challenges. And the challenges are precisely what preserve the freshness and potency of the love. Often people get married and try to avoid problems, conflict, and confrontation. However, if there is no possibility for fights then there is also no possibility for love. In fact, many lovers will admit that when they make up after a good fight, they actually feel even closer to each other than before the fight. Jacob understood that love is revitalized through conflict; in the name of love he embraced conflict.

The Pain of our Enemies

by Rav Binny Freedman

A small mutzav (fortified position) on the Qasmsiyeh Bridge deep in the IDF security zone in Lebanon and far from the border and Hezbollah, until the IDF as part of a gradual withdrawal, pulled back below the Awali River.

Overnight, this unit of Hesdernikim (boys who combine their army service with yeshiva study committing to five years of service rather than the normal three years) found themselves on the front lines and things started heating up. Firefights, midnight ambushes, and roadside bombs became the norm, and morning roll calls and pre-mission briefings took on a whole new meaning. On March 19, 1985, Hezbollah terrorists opened up on one of the patrols as they crossed the Qasmsiyeh Bridge and Dani Moshitz and David Cohen ob”m, were both killed.

Just a few days earlier, as part of their efforts to stay one step ahead of the enemy who clearly had a ‘home court’ advantage, they tried to change up their patrol routes and avoid any planned ambushes. Their new patrol route took them through a melon field. Dani was determined to make sure the soldiers all took care not to step on the melons. “When all this is over” he said, “Some poor Arab farmer will have to harvest his melons; he is not our enemy, and there is no justification for destroying his crops…”

Incredible; in the midst of a war zone, an Israeli soldier, whose every moment might be his last, is worried about Arab melons?

Flash forward almost five years: 1990, and I am on a reserve duty patrol attempting to catch Palestinians who are heaving heavy rocks, bottles and even metal bars onto an IDF lookout in Hebron. Coming down a path the spotter on the radio alerts me to a masked terrorist and coming around a corner I see him quite clearly, holding a Palestinian flag in one hand and swinging a mace (spiked iron ball on a chain; a vicious and life threatening weapon) around in the air. Upon hearing me shout “wakif” (“stop”) he turns, sees me aiming my rifle, throws down his weapon and takes off like an Olympic runner. The simplest solution would be to shoot him, but as my life was no longer in imminent danger and he had thrown down his weapon, that was obviously against regulations.

Just last year I heard from a soldier who had participated in Operation Tzuk Eitan (Strong Cliff) in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, that in civilian areas (which is pretty much everywhere Hamas fights) it is now illegal for IDF forces to spray machine gun fire unless they can actually see the enemy they are firing at, even if trying to hold Hamas forces at bay, and feeling endangered. (Note that this regulation is unique to the IDF; no other army in the world has this regulation….)

How far does ethics in warfare take us? And where did this concept start?

This week’s portion Vayishlach, contains a fascinating detail, hidden in the larger than life story of Yaakov’s encounter with Esau.

Yaakov is finally returning home to Israel and he is about to meet up with Esau, the brother who swore to kill him 22 years earlier after Yaakov tricked him out of the blessings. The messengers Yaakov sends to greet Esau (and gauge his mood?) return saying Esau is coming their way with 400 fighting men; an enormous army in those days. (Avraham conquered an entire empire, in the battle of the Kings, with only three hundred men….).

And the Torah tells us:

“Va’Yira Yaakov me’od, vayetzer lo’.”

“…Yaakov was very afraid and he was distressed.” (Bereishit (Genesis) 32:8)

The Torah does not waste words, so the obvious question is: what is the difference between fear and distress? What does it mean that not only was Yaakov afraid, he was also distressed?

Rashi (quoting the Midrash Tanhuma) suggests that he was afraid he might be killed, and he was distressed lest he be forced to kill others. One might think this the Yaakov who was the ‘dweller of tents’ and as a more passive individual, afraid of violence. But as the story unfolds it becomes clear, as Yaakov does battle into the night, that he is not averse to violence if need be.

The Siftei Chachamim (Rav Shabsai Bass; Amsterdam 1680) posits that Yaakov was actually afraid he or his men might accidentally kill innocent bystanders, or Esau’s men who might not need to be killed. Referencing the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 74a; and see Shulkhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat, 421:13) he points out that even when saving the life of someone being pursued by a Rodef (someone intent on taking revenge for his accidentally killed relative), if one can stop the pursuer by simply maiming him, one is actually not allowed to kill him and would be liable to capital punishment in the event! (Interestingly, the Siftei Chachamim suffered the death of his own parents, who were victims of the persecutions at Kalisz in 1655….)

What is fascinating about this entire question, is that technically, since Yaakov was afraid Esau was coming to kill him, Judaism is quite clear (Sanhedrin 72a) that “When someone is coming to kill you, you can kill him first”, and yet Yaakov is still trying to avoid unnecessary force!

It follows that the dilemma here is not strategic, nor is it merely fear and anxiety; rather, Yaakov is struggling with an ethical dilemma. And even if legally (halachically) one might be ‘covered’ in killing the enemy (or even the enemy civilian), Yaakov is looking for the moral high ground.

There are essentially two principals at play here. Self-defense on the one hand, meaning one actually has a responsibility to protect oneself (and in this case, one’s loved ones), which might mean killing someone (Esau, and perhaps some or all of his men…). And ‘Thou shalt not murder’ on the other, expressing the inviolate sanctity of human life and the imperative not to take another human being’s life. But to uphold this principle and as a pacifist refuse to kill would mean violating the principle of the sanctity of one’s own life.

And while Judaism and the Torah will tell us what choice to make in such circumstances, perhaps Yaakov is teaching us that we should struggle with the resulting decision. I have vivid memories of the hours we spent in officer’s course considering the dilemma of facing ‘RPG kids’ and the like (seven and eight year old kids trained by the PLO to fire anti-tank missiles…). And I recall the base commander himself (Shaul Mofaz, who would later become the IDF Chief of staff) sitting with us late into the night until every last cadet agreed in principle that, faced with such a horrible scenario, and assuming no other choice, the correct thing to do was to fire on the child to protect and save one’s men. And intellectually, until this day I have no problem justifying such actions. But that does not mean it should come easy. In fact, if a soldier forced to act in such circumstances does not struggle, something is seriously wrong.

Perhaps this is why Yaakov, specifically in the course of this narrative, finally assumes the name Yisrael; because even when doing something entirely correct, he still struggled with the results. The name Yisrael, after all, means to struggle (ibid. 32:29):

“.. For you have struggled with … men and overcome…”

And we are, as Jews, meant to struggle, not only with what is right, but every bit as much, with the impact of what that right course of action might mean.

One of the most difficult battles of the Yom Kippur war took place in the valley just East of Kibbutz El Rom, in the Golan Heights. That valley has become known as ‘Emek Habacha’: the Valley of Tears. Incredibly, it is so named specifically for the cries of anguish of the Syrian tank crews abandoned on the battlefield wounded and dying all night long.

Incredibly we were so moved… by the pain of our enemies. Perhaps this struggle will one day lead us to build a world where such struggles are no longer necessary. And in the meantime, blessed are we who feel that pain; that is truly what a Jewish army, and the Jewish people is meant to be.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

Wokeism, Jew-hatred, and Misoziony

by Victor Rosenthal

You hear about it, but you don’t really believe it.

What is happening in American universities to Jewish students, and particularly those who support Israel even to a small degree, is appalling, and it hasn’t diminished as courses have moved online during the pandemic. Misoziony, “new antisemitism,” and plain old Jew-hatred that doesn’t even try to disguise itself have become part of the everyday experience of Jewish students in a way that would have been unimaginable for me or for my children when we were students. Read Blake Flayton’s article at the link above. You can say that it’s just a collection of anecdotes, but they are characteristic of the atmosphere at most universities.

One of the more distressing aspects of it is that it is not just coming from other students, but often from faculty and administrators. The adult authority that is expected to protect students goes missing when the victims are Jewish. Administrators that are exquisitely sensitive to reports of microaggressions against “people of color” or sex/gender minorities, often act as though Jewish students do not deserve protection, because after all they are the most privileged of the privileged. In the event that they are not properly anti-Israel – they don’t even have to identify as Zionists – they are vilified and discriminated against in multiple ways for supporting a “racist apartheid state” that can only be repaired by allowing its enemies to overrun it. Those staff members that do sympathize with Jewish concerns or Israel are often afraid that they will be targeted if they don’t stay quiet (see here, here, here, here, etc.)

Campuses are pervaded by a postmodern ideology, which permits free speech only for those that support it, and a postcolonial one that institutionalizes racist attitudes against “whites,” by which they mean (somewhat incoherently) anyone that does not belong to one of a variable collection of “oppressed” groups. Jews, despite a history of millennia of pogroms, expulsions, and genocides, are never included.

Unfortunately, the postmodern/postcolonial ideology (“wokeism”) is not limited to the universities anymore. The so-called “cancel culture” that pervades progressive media is derived from postmodern ideas like truth being a social construct while feelings are a priori valid. The willingness of both the Left and the Right to simply invent “facts” – because the irrefutable “truth” of their narrative overrides any possible falsification by reality – comes from the same place. The ideology has spread to k-12 education, too. And, surprisingly, even the corporate world is becoming suffused with it, as shown by the obsession with various forms of sensitivity training and “anti-racism education.”

This is not surprising, because the woke penetration in the universities has been going on for at least two decades, and graduates now work for the biggest corporations, media, law firms, ad agencies, local and national government, and public and private education. One misses the 19th century robber barons who were interested primarily in money, and didn’t have social objectives like the management of Google or Twitter.

Elements in the black community also seem to find wokeism congenial, because the idea that they are a colonized population makes it possible to argue that all the problems that they face in the larger American society are due to the structural racism inherent in it. That implies that they are owed something in addition to equality of opportunity, because of what was taken from their ancestors by slavery and continues to be taken from them by institutional racism. Unfortunately, the anti-Jewish aspects of woke culture fit in with the historical antisemitic bias of the black community, which was introduced by the Nation of Islam as early as the 1930s, and today is represented by Louis Farrakhan. The racial disturbances and controversies of the 1960s (like the New York teachers’ strike) sharpened the differences between blacks and Jews in urban areas.

Other groups in American society, such as the non-Evangelical Protestant Churches have also adopted a great deal of the woke ideology. Evangelicals, with their belief in absolute biblical truth, and traditional Catholics and Orthodox Jews who also reject the idea of the relativity of truth, have rejected it.

The woke generation adopts various causes that they believe oppose injustice. They are somewhat arbitrary in their choices: although they devote a lot of attention to racism against black people in the US, they almost entirely ignore the phenomenon of black slavery in Muslim countries, which seems to primarily interest conservatives. Of course one of the most prominent causes – far more prominent than is justified by the number of “victims” of oppression and the degree to which they are oppressed – is the Palestinian one.

I would argue that the Palestinian cause, which might better be called “the anti-Jewish sovereignty movement,” actually favors injustice, as its pretense of promoting Palestinian self-determination is easily shown to be a smokescreen for ending Jewish autonomy. Such things as the violence of the Palestinian side compared to the defensive actions of the Jewish side; the vicious racism and religious prejudice of the Palestinians; their poor treatment of women and LGBT people; economic inequality; cruelty to animals; neglect of the environment; oppressive, undemocratic government; and other characteristics that are normally anathema to the woke are completely acceptable when the perpetrators are Palestinian.

One reason for the popularity of their cause is the large number of Arab and Palestinian students in American universities. Google “scholarships for Palestinian students in the USA” and you get a surprising number of results. There are numerous organizations (including the US State Department) that offer them, and some like the FMEP and AMIDEAST, which would be expected to seek out political activists. Many of these students are activists, and they tend to be highly focused on their goals. Many lead chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and similar groups.

Since the 1970s, Arab countries pumped millions into American universities to establish departments and endow chairs of Middle East Studies – by which they meant Arab/Muslim studies – which often became centers for political activism.

Devotees of the Palestinian cause are found throughout American society, among the woke population as well as more traditional liberal segments. The degree of misinformation that these people have absorbed can be stunning. Recently, liberal/progressive icon Barack Obama published a book in which he presented a short discussion of the Israeli-Arab conflict and its history. It was remarkable for the number of falsehoods and biased statements it contained, clearly aimed to justify aggression against Israel and to damage the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Did he honestly believe this tissue of lies for the eight years that he was President of the US? Or did he simply write them into his book to justify his anti-Israel policies and to influence his successors? I’m not sure it matters.

American Jews are in a difficult position today. The traditional violent Jew-hatred that was mostly expressed by uneducated people is still there, and social media has given it a new life, resulting in several murderous incidents. At the same time, the misoziony of the overeducated class, which is trickling down to the average American, often spills over into antisemitism. Jews in urban areas (that’s most of them) also have to face hostility from many of their black neighbors as well.

Finally, Israelis need to realize that the pendulum of public opinion in the US, especially among the decision-making class, is swinging against the Jewish state. The Arab and Iranian strategy of introducing money and activists into Western universities has been hugely effective in changing the national perception of Israel for the worse. The change took some years, but with the help of other social and political trends, is now rapidly accelerating.

We had a brief respite with the Trump Administration, which strongly opposed wokeism and also was truly pro-Israel in a way that few previous ones were. But that was an anomaly. In the past, an anti-Israel president had to contend with a generally pro-Israel public, and a Congress that reflected that view.

The future will be different.

Iran's Mullahs Want the "Nuclear Deal", So Does Biden

by Majid Rafizadeh
  • Iran's mullahs love the nuclear deal because of its fundamental flaws, especially the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal expires soon. The nuclear deal, rather than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as it was falsely touted to do, in fact paves the way for Tehran to become a legitimized nuclear state.
  • With the nuclear deal, the regime would gain global legitimacy, making it even more difficult to hold Iran's leaders accountable for any malign behavior or terror activity across the world.
  • Finally, Iran's ruling clerics want immediately to rejoin the nuclear deal because it would again alienate other governments in the Middle East and inevitably lead to a worsening of relations between the US and its traditional allies, especially Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
  • This flawed deal, in favor of Iran, failed to recognize the rightful concerns of other countries in the region about Iran's potential nuclear capability, missile proliferation or funding of violent proxies -- both within and next door to their territories.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has advised presumptive US President-Elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran's mullahs love the nuclear deal because of its fundamental flaws, especially the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal expires soon. Pictured: Zarif (center) shares some laughs with his delegation during nuclear deal negotiations with then US State Secretary John Kerry in Vienna, Austria, on June 30, 2015. (Photo credit should read Carlos Barria/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran's ruling mullahs, who are celebrating presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden's possible presidency in 2021, are already calling on him to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, which, incidentally, Iran never signed.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani -- already urging the next US administration, which he hopes is the Biden administration -- also pointed out, according to the state-run IRNA agency:

"Now, an opportunity has come up for the next U.S. administration to compensate for past mistakes and return to the path of complying with international agreements through respect of international norms."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also advised Biden on Twitter to abandon President Trump's Iran policy of maximum pressure and rejoin the nuclear deal.

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The Yishai Fleisher Show - Wrestling the Angels Within

Is Israel going to a fourth round of elections? Malkah Fleisher joins Yishai to figure it out! Get ready for Hannukkah and a potential lockdown, rejecting Esav's kiss, and reading listener emails! Then, Rabbi Yishai and Rav Mike Feuer tackle the the inner struggle between Jacob and Israel and the tension between Exile and Redemption as they talk about the Torah portion of VaYishlach.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

"Gifts, Prayer, and War"

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

As of Now, Jacob prepares well for his meeting with Esau. He is set to give gifts, to pray, and to wage war (Genesis 32:9; Rashi).

He is set to bring gifts: Perhaps he will be able to appease Esau in that way. He, therefore, sends a minchah, a tribute (32:14).

He prays: “O G-d of my father Abraham and G-d of my father Isaac... Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother -- from the hand of Esau” (32:10,12).

He is set for war: “The other camp will survive” (32:9). Rashi comments, “The other camp will necessarily survive and be saved, for I will fight over it.”

Jacob is full of faith in Hashem the G-d of Israel and in the eternity of the Jewish People. At the same time, he does not sit idle. When danger looms he takes all the necessary steps to thwart that danger. First, he takes the path of conciliation. Then he prays to G-d to help him. Likewise, he prepares for the worst scenario of all -- war.

Right now the State of Israel is in a situation similar to that of Jacob. Even though now that not all of Israel’s enemies who have attacked her since the State’s establishment, numerous times, with intent to destroy us, are intent on war, there are those implacable enemies that still have the intent to destroy us. They build armies of terrorist soldiers and equip themselves with various types of destructive weaponry. We have tried to appease them through agreements involving handing over portions of our beloved land as a tribute -- G-d forbid, no longer! Simultaneously, many Jews pray and weep many tears before G-d over over the weakness and the social and spiritual difficulties from within, over the dangers and threats of our implacable enemies, and over the current health crisis.

All the same, we must prepare for war by strengthening the Israeli army, and by strengthening the nation’s spirit and its unity -- in order that we should be able to withstand the difficulties of war. All this we do out of faith “that the Lord will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake his inheritance” (Psalms 94:14).

Looking forward to salvation and complete redemption,
Shabbat Shalom.

Beautiful Songs in the World

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

“So shall you say to my master to Eisav, ‘Thus said your servant Ya’akov, “I have sojourned with Lavan, and I have tarried until now. And I have acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, manservants, and maidservants, and I have sent to tell [this] to my master, to find favor in your eyes.”’” (Bereishis 32:5-6)

THERE ARE MANY beautiful songs in the world, and some really beautiful ones in the Jewish world specifically. But, in my opinion, one of the most heart-warming songs I have ever heard, and sung, is also a short Shabbos zemirah that was composed by Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1787), the author of the famous work, “Noam Elimelech.”

The music itself is beautiful, but the words are straight from the soul to the soul:

God, rather, instill in our hearts the ability to see the positive attributes of our friends and not their faults. Let every person address his neighbor in a manner that is proper and desired by You. Let us not, God forbid, bear any hatred toward another individual. Strengthen us in our love towards You, as is apparent and known to You. God, let everything be pleasing before You. Amen, let it be Your will.

I don’t know how many billions of songs have been composed since man first left the Garden of Eden, but I have never seen or heard one that has ever addressed the issue of “shalom bayis” from this perspective. Too many people are too insecure to look at others in the way described above, either raising them up too much in their own eyes or bringing them down. The Rebbe of Lizhensk clearly saw the problem and wanted help from God to fix it.

The rabbis have said that “sinnus chinum—baseless hatred” destroyed the Second Temple, and it will require “ahavas chinum—unqualified love” to rebuild it. The Talmud adds to this that a generation in which the Temple has not been rebuilt is considered to be one in which it was destroyed, i.e., guilty of continuing on the deadly legacy of baseless hatred.

This needs to be fixed. It seems that if we don’t work on the problem, then Divine Providence does. The Holocaust did not distinguish between religious and secular Jews, between one group of Orthodox Jews and another. On the contrary, all the external differences that made one sect seem and feel different from others, were forcibly removed until we all wore the same striped prison uniforms, and carried the same tattoos on our arms.

A big part of the problem is that Torah promotes spiritual excellence. It praises adherence to its ways and chastises those who leave them, or just do not take them seriously enough. There is even a Torah mitzvah to care about the mistakes that others make, and to point them out so the “sinner” can make amends and clean up his or her act. “To each his own” is not really a Torah way of looking at the rest of the community.

This is why Yosef’s brothers sold him. They were great people whose only concern was the direction of the future Jewish people. They saw how Yosef behaved and projected his approach onto the future nation. They did not like what they saw, and predicted it would eventually lead to golden calves, which it did far in the future in the days of Yeravam, a descendant of Yosef.

Apparently, though their solution to the perceived problem was wrong, they misread Yosef and what God thought about him. It cost them a lot of anguish in the end, having to live with an inconsolable father, and a mistaken vantage point for 22 years. In the end, shalom bayis was achieved, although not on their terms, but on Yosef’s.

When you mix insecurity into the picture, it gets even worse. At least the brothers were l’shem Shemayim—altruistic (though the Torah does speak about feelings of jealousy and even hatred). How many people can honestly say that their criticism of others, or even their disgust, is coming from a good place? Yes, they may find some Torah reason for what they think and say, but the question is, is it truly God and Torah they are defending, or are they merely hiding behind them to rationalize their anti-shalom bayis behavior?

The Talmud says that the yetzer hara gets up each day to kill a person, and that without God’s help, the person could not prevail. (Kiddushin 30b). But before a person raises their hand and calls out, “I seem to be surviving just fine, and I don’t get help from God,” they should know two things. Firstly, as my Rosh Yeshivah used to say, death has many forms. He called wasting time partial suicide, and who doesn’t do that?

Kabbalah explains that just dropping down spiritual levels is also called “death.” For example, when the Torah says that Moshe died, it means that he handed over the reins of leadership to Yehoshua, and no longer spoke to God as he once had. According to some, he doesn’t actually die until he personally finishes writing the last word of Torah.

Likewise, Rachel told Ya’akov that if she continued to go childless, she would be like a dead person. The Talmud cites that reason, among others, for a living person to be considered dead on some level. So, before a person thinks they have held off their yetzer hara from “killing” them, they should reconsider how many times they act like a dead person, thanks to their yetzer hara.

The second thing to know is that any success we may have against the “murderous” tendencies of the yetzer hara may be the result of Divine help that we failed to ask for, but received anyhow. The mistake, many have found, is to ascribe spiritual greatness to their own efforts. It takes but one time for God to hold back His help for a person to find out how easily and quickly they can fall prey to their yetzer hara’s machinations. A lot of great people have done so, and never realized it until right before death itself.

So, ask for God’s help. That’s what Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk did in his song. He recognized how strong the yetzer hara is, especially when it comes to disparaging other people. He did not rely upon his own spiritual greatness to win that battle. He turned to God for help, and the record shows, he got it. His kindness to others is legendary.

One thing is for certain, jealousy is a major obstacle to peace with others. It was Eisav’s jealousy that drove Ya’akov away from home for 36 years in total. As the Pri Tzaddik points out in several places, jealousy is one of the three main klipos, negative spiritual traits. The other two are ta’avah, desire for material comforts, and ga’avah, or arrogance.

These three traits are characterized by three different animals, the shor—ox (jealousy), the chamor—donkey (desire), and the kelev—dog (arrogance), which, historically, have been embodied by three different peoples respectively: Eisav, Yishmael, and Amalek. The first letters of the three traits are: Ches-Shin-Chof, which spells “choshech,” or “darkness.”

While Ya’akov was returning home he confronted Eisav, and sent him the following message in advance of their meeting:

“So shall you say to my master to Eisav, ‘Thus said your servant Ya’akov, “I have sojourned with Lavan, and I have tarried until now. And I have acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, manservants, and maidservants, and I have sent to tell [this] to my master, to find favor in your eyes.”’” (Bereishis 32:5-6)

The rabbis have already pointed out that the words, “im Lavan garti—I have sojourned with Lavan,” allude to the fact that he kept all 613 mitzvos even while living with such an evil individual, in such a spiritually non-conducive environment. Ya’akov wanted to hint to Eisav that God was still on his side, since he had remained loyal to Him even in such a difficult place.

What about the words, “and I have acquired oxen and donkeys”? Was he telling Eisav anything with that, or at least us? Yes. He was indicating that he had also mastered those two tendencies of the yetzer hara, ta’avah and kinah—desire and jealousy. The only question is, what good does it do to tell someone else who hasn’t mastered them? Eisav could have answered, “Big deal! I still have jealousy and desires…so pardon me while I take revenge against you though you be spiritually perfect!”

But that’s exactly the point. As the Talmud teaches, God works for measure-for-measure (Sanhedrin 90a), meaning that you get back what you give out. Even scientists are showing that the energy we generate has a lot do with the energy we experience from the outside. Positive people get back positivity, and negative people, negativity. It’s the way the universe seems to work.

At least that is how some people like to explain it. We call it, or rather Him, God. As Dovid HaMelech wrote in Tehillim, God “shadows” a person; just as a shadow responds in kind to the movements of the person, God likewise responds to us according to the way we act. It’s part of the divine educational method, to help a person make better use of their time in this world.

Therefore, just as people like to say, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!” you can also say, “Be careful how you respond to reality because it will probably become yours!” If you’re going to allow yourself to become jealous of others, then you’ll find others will become jealous of you, and that is not always the compliment people make it out to be.

It has to do with the concept of ayin hara—evil eye, but not the way most people think of it. It is not like some jinx people put onto others, deserved or not deserved. It has more to do with divine judgment. Because every time we make someone jealous of us, we are the ones who are judged to determine our own worthiness for gain or loss. You can’t cause someone else pain without catching God’s attention, and being judged because of it.

On the other hand, the jealousy of another cannot harm you if you are not the source of it, meaning you did nothing out of the normal to cause that jealousy. Some people are, tragically, just jealous people, like Eisav. But, if like Ya’akov, jealousy is not in your character, then God will make sure that the jealousy of others cannot harm you.

Our Sages Established this Principle: Love of Israel First

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

I have no idea where the rumors came from, but I do not intend to run for the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel in any way * Other than feeling my teaching and writing tasks are a more important role, my tendency not to hide my views does not reconcile with the diplomatic skills required of a Chief Rabbi * The position of Chief Rabbi is worthy of a Talmid Chacham who knows how to deal with the character of all the different segments of the public, and not someone who engages with “baalei machloket” (pursuers of disputes) * My meetings with Reform rabbis were not for the purpose of having them do teshuva, or getting anything from them, but for the sake of the point itself – love of humanity

Q: Is it true, Rabbi, that you are not interested in running for the position of Chief Rabbi?

A: From the start, I never thought I would need to answer the question, just as there is no need to answer the question of whether I intend to run for the presidency of Venezuela or North Korea.

However, when increasingly more people asked, and the baalei machloket (pursuers of disputes) began to operate, I needed to respond. By no means am I interested. First of all, to my understanding, I am involved in a more important role, namely, the writing of the ‘Peninei Halakha’ series of books, which contributes to the building of Torah for generations, both in the methodology of analyzing an issue deeply and as a whole from its root to its branches, and from the Torah’s original intention to the details of minhag (custom). For example, with God’s help, I am working on the halakhot of taharat ha’mishpacha (laws of family purity), and after that, with God’s help, I will continue to the halakhot between Israel and non-Jews and the laws of non-Jews, and then there’s much more work to do in the halakhot of bein adam le-chavero ve-mishpachto (laws between man and his fellow man and family), etc. etc. Moreover, a Chief Rabbi is required to answer numerous and varied questions on the spot, whereas it takes me a considerable amount of time to clarify each question, and I cannot respond quickly enough needed for such a leadership role.

Apart from these two important reasons, there is another one. In conjunction with the decline of the status of the Chief Rabbinate, the number of quarrels, disputes and wars over jobs, money and opinions have also increased. Consequently, in order to fulfill the role reasonably, diplomatic talent is essential, whereas I find it difficult to conceal my positions, which can lead to difficult arguments. At present, the Chief Rabbinate requires a leader with a moderate temperament, and the ability to deal composedly with various people and political pressures from all directions.

Whom to Choose
Still, having been forced against my will into the maelstrom, I feel obliged to express my opinion publicly: we need to act resolutely against the election of a rabbi who tends to be a “baal machloket,” and all the more so, strongly oppose the election of a rabbi associated with a group of “baalei machloket“. It is important to emphasize this because at first thought, members of the National-Religious public think the most important thing is that one of the Chief Rabbis be a graduate of the Zionist yeshivas, which in principle, are more virtuous. In practice, however, since the Haredi politicians have a major influence on the electoral body, there is grave concern that they may be willing to “compromise” on a rabbi who indeed recites ‘Hallel’ on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day, considered a sign of Religious Zionism, ed.), but in all other matters, will cooperate with them in defaming members of the National-Religious public and its rabbis, and insulting the good people who epitomize in their lives and actions the vision of the prophets and the Torah of Israel.

Indeed, it is possible that many of these good people could dedicate more of their time to Torah study, and perfecting their individual mitzvoth. Still, a large number of them meticulously fulfill the great mitzvot in the Torah – loving humanity, dealing honestly in business, engaging in yishuvo shel olam (developing the world constructively), risking their lives in defense of the nation and the land and devoting themselves to its development, participating in the advancement of science and the economy, and from within their ranks, produce true and honest Talmidei Chachamim on whom, the future of the Torah world for generations depends. Consequently, before everything else, it is important the Chief Rabbi-elect does not do damage to all of this. Therefore, it is proper to choose the Chief Rabbi by a benchmark of good virtues, integrity, and diplomatic skills of avoiding conflicts and insulting remarks towards groups and individuals from Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, and in the Diaspora.

In Favor of Meetings
Following my ‘Zoom’ encounter with the female clergywoman Delphine Horvilleur, there were those who attacked me: after all, all the Gedolei Torah forbade meeting with Conservative and Reform rabbis! And that any rabbi who meets with them is poretz gader (one who transgresses a rabbinical decree)! And all at once, it became clear to the general public that this propaganda was based on a lie. Almost all of our rabbis had met with Conservative and Reform rabbis. Then the critics claimed that they, the honored rabbis, had met with them to bring them back on teshuva (repentance), or in order to rebuke them for not keeping the Torah, or, for lack of choice, for “sacred” purposes such as support in elections, funding, or asking for donations. Whereas I did not preach to do teshuva, nor did I rebuke, nor did I ask for favors – so what did I meet for? Moreover, the critics argued, all the rabbis who had met with them, did so because they had no choice, out of various constraints, whereas I, what impelled me to do so – what was I thinking to meet them aimlessly, without being forced to do so?!

Indeed, yes, I met them in order to meet! Because ahavat ha’briot (love of humanity) has self-worth, in particular, between two Jews. A meeting that is not for the sake of pleasure, or due to coercion, is the pure expression of the connection between the people and communities. For thousands of years we have gone through so many events together, days of humiliation and greatness, building and destruction. All the torments our grandparents survived with endless heroism and suffering, so that our people could continue to exist, and be the beating heart of tikkun olam b’malchut Shadai (perfection of the world in the kingdom of God). And we, their children, shall not be connected to one another?! Not to dream about it together?! Only after fulfilling the absolute, self-worth value of ahavat ha’briot, can the desire to draw closer to Torah be expressed.

The Words of Rav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook
Countless times, we were privileged to hear from our teacher and rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l, the Mishnah: “Hillel used to say: be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving mankind, and drawing them close to the Torah” (Avot 1:12). He taught us that these are two interdependent matters. “The Mishnah does not say: ‘Love mankind in order to draw them close to the Torah’. That is fake love. Love of humanity has self-worth, and out of this, comes drawing close to the Torah. Who are the briot the Mishnah is talking about? Certainly those far away from Torah, for they are the ones we need to draw close, and it is a mitzvah to love them as well”(Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, Vayikra p. 30). “Ahavat ha’briot – has self-worth! It is absolute! It is true! It is natural! It is normal! It is Divine! – and out of this – draw them close to the Torah.” “First of all, Jews need to get used to fulfilling the mitzvah ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. This is a mitzvah from the Torah! One has to get used to fulfilling it for a very long time. This mitzvah is the foundation of everything. Our Sages say that ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is the entire Torah. The foundation of everything, the root of everything. Afterwards, it can be explained ‘how’ and ‘in what way’ (to draw close those far away from Torah).” “We must cleanse ourselves from the impurity of hatred, and from the impurity of the hatred of such Talmidei Chachamim, and such Roshei yeshivot (heads of yeshivas), who desecrate Hashem and profess in the name of the Torah, to bring into the world the hatred of mankind, God have mercy on us, God save us!” (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, ‘Midot’, pg. 35; Am Yisrael, pg. 212).

“There are some Jews who ‘grasp’ the verse from Tehilin (Psalms): ‘Hashem, You know I hate those who hate You,’ and there are educational approaches that emphasize this above all, as being a foundation in education. They place the value of sinat ha’briot (hatred of humanity) as a foundation, arguing this is how they protect themselves. Interesting, that we have never heard of a tzadik (righteous person) and a gadol be’Yisrael (eminent rabbi) designated as the “Sonei Yisrael” (Hater of Israel). On the other hand, we have heard of special individuals who have been nicknamed: “The Tzadik, Gaon, and Kadosh, Ohev Yisrael (Lover of Israel)” (From ‘HaTorah HaGoelet’, Vol.4, pg. 160).

A True Talmid Chacham Loves Humanity
Rav Kook further taught us: “Avraham Avinu is called ‘Avraham my friend’. He is entirely ‘ohev et ha’briot’. Only based on Avraham Avinu do we come to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah comes to us from ‘Moshe received Torah from Sinai’, but our midot (virtues) are from Avraham Avinu. Moshe Rabbeinu is the grandson of Avraham Avinu: one is worthy of Torah only based on the pure virtues, sensitivity, and merit of Avraham Avinu. The more of a lamdan (scholar) a Talmid Chacham is, the more suitable he is to the definition of Talmid Chacham, who is termed ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ – the more he must be full of ahavat ha’briot“(Sichot Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, ‘Midot’, pg. 13).

If that is the case, we learn from the words of Rabbi Kook ztz”l that it is necessary to precede the value of ahavat ha’briot to the value of the Torah. Because the purpose of Torah is to bring blessing to an individual, therefore a person should always be a person first, reveal his character, and from this, rise in the guidance of Torah. Without this, the Torah is liable to turn into a sam ha’mavet (death potion) for him, making him a baal ayin ra (possessor of an ‘evil eye’, i.e., a grudging nature) and a baal machloket (pursuer of disputes). Hashem loves his creatures, while this one, in his wickedness and as if by power of the Torah, hates anyone who does not surrender to his opinion, which he, mistakenly, considers to be daat Torah (the opinion of the Torah).

Starting Every Year from Bereisheet
Therefore, every year anew we start again from Bereisheet (Genesis), and learn about Avraham Avinu, who opened his tent to all passers-by, regardless of race or religion. Our Sages said that that day was the third day after Avraham Avinu’s circumcision, and Hashem took the sun out of its sheath so as not to trouble him with wayfarers; Avraham Avinu was in great pain, and due to his illness, could have exempted himself from the mitzvah. Especially after he ascended spiritually in the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision) and was sanctified in the holiness of Israel — why should he humble himself in hosting Gentile idol worshipers, who prostrate themselves to the dust of their feet. However, precisely in the merit of the brit (covenant) which expresses segulat Yisrael (the virtue of Israel), he strengthened himself in his love of humanity and desire to sanctify Hashem, and ran to welcome and honor them with fine food. There and then, from out of their lowliness, it was revealed they were actually angels, and informed him of the birth of his son Yitzchak.

Love Work
Every year anew we learn about Yitzchak Avinu, who continued in the ways of his father, and settled the land by sowing and digging wells, in order to add more food and water to the world, and preserve the lives of many. Every year anew we learn of Yaacov Avinu, who despite Lavan’s deception, would faithfully shepherd his flock, on hot summer days, and frozen winter nights, because there is self-worth to work for the sake of yishuvo shel olam (developing the world constructively), and the revelation of blessing out of curse.

Thanks to this, he was rescued from Lavan the Aramaean who sought to kill him, as it is written: “If the God of my fathers – the God of Abraham and the Dread of Isaac – had not been with me, you would have sent me away empty handed! But God saw my plight and the work of my hands. He reprimanded you last night!” (Genesis 31:42). Our Sages inferred a wonderful thing from this verse (Bereisheet Rabbah 74:12): Work is cherished more than zechut avot (ancestral merit), because in the merit of Yaacov’s dedicated work – Hashem saved his life, and in the merit of his ancestors – saved his property. Ultimately, very existence is in the merit of diligence at work, and all other merits are beneficial for the improvement and expansion of life.

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYishlach: Reuben's Sin

In an enigmatic passage after the death of Rachel, the Torah harshly condemns Reuben: “Reuben went and lay down with Bilhah, his father’s concubine” (Gen. 35:22).

According to Talmudic tradition, what actually transpired was far less shocking. Reuben was in fact protecting his mother’s honor and place in the family. When Rachel was alive, Jacob kept his bed in Rachel’s tent. After she died, Jacob moved his bed to the tent of Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah.

But Reuben, Leah’s first-born, was upset. Perhaps his aunt Rachel could displace his mother as Jacob’s primary wife; after all, Rachel had been the woman that Jacob intended to marry. But surely Rachel’s handmaid held a lower position in the household than his mother Leah! So Reuben removed his father’s bed from Bilhah’s tent and placed it in the tent of his own mother, Leah.

The Talmud in Shabbat 55b explains that we should not think that Reuben literally slept with Bilhah; rather, he “disturbed Bilhah’s sleeping arrangements.” The Sages could not accept the idea that one of Jacob’s sons was guilty of incest. Furthermore, the verse immediately continues, “Jacob had twelve sons.” Surely we know this already! The Torah is emphasizing that, even after this disruption in Jacob’s household, all twelve were still sons of the tzaddik Jacob; all twelve were equally righteous.

Still, we need to understand. If the incident in Jacob’s house occurred the way the Sages described, why did the Torah not write it that way? Why does the Torah ‘mislead’ us into thinking that Reuben had performed such a serious offense?

Two Perspectives on One Event
Rav Kook wrote that the Torah describes events in a particular way so that they will make a certain desired impression. Every detail in the Torah is carefully measured, so that the narrative will suitably affect us.

Sometimes a story, when written in a straightforward fashion, cannot be properly appreciated by those reading it, especially if they are greatly removed from the incident in time and place. From afar, we may not be properly sensitive to the moral outrage that took place. In such instances, divine wisdom dictates the precise fashion with which to clothe the story, in order that it should make the appropriate impression on the reader.

Together, the two Torahs, the Oral and the Written, paint a complete picture of what occurred. The Written Torah gives a simpler account, providing the emotional impact to which we are accustomed from our youth. The Oral Torah adds to the written account a more insightful understanding that is acquired through careful examination.

The activities of the Patriarchs deeply influenced, and continue to influence, the Jewish people. The spirit of Jacob’s house lives with us to this day; the light of his family will forever illuminate our hearts. Any dimming of that light, any inner strife or moral imperfection, will also be felt by us. In fact, even more so: any minor eclipse of light from that time will reach us from afar as a serious and deeply disturbing darkness.

For us, the true extent of Reuben’s offense - upsetting the delicate balance in his father’s household and eroding Jacob’s authority in his own home - is as if Reuben had actually committed incest with Bilhah. The literal account of the written Torah corresponds to our natural feelings of hurt and indignation.

But if we wish to accurately evaluate this offense in terms of Reuben’s moral level, we must return to the Talmudic version of this event. Here the Midrashic insight reveals the event as it actually occurred: Reuben disturbed the sleeping arrangements in his father’s house, in order to protect his mother’s honor.

(Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback), pp. 75-77. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV, by Rav Chanan Morrison pp. 43-44)

The Shamrak Report: End of Ayatollahs Regime Coming?

US Aircraft Carrier Deployment to Gulf as Iran Makes Threats

The aircraft carrier Nimitz and its strike group have returned to the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions with Iran over the killing of a top nuclear scientist.

The deployment of the Nimitz "ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction" in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Pentagon officials.

US Sends Heavy Bombers to Middle East

The United States rapidly deployed several heavy bombers to the Middle East in an apparent threat to Iran, amid swirling speculation that US President Donald Trump plans to take military action against Tehran before President-elect Joe Biden enters office.

In a highly irregular move, the B-52H Stratofortress planes were seen flying toward Israeli airspace on route to the base where they will be stationed, likely in Qatar.

It was the third time in the past year and a half that B-52 bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and other powerful munitions, have been deployed to the region in tacit threats to Iran.

The planes were ordered on short notice to fly to the Middle East nonstop from their home base in North Dakota, refuelling along the way in mid-air. The bombers were accompanied on the mission by F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, as well as KC-10 and KC-135 refuelling planes.

Food for Thought
by Steven Shamrak

Too much tolerance has been exercised toward Iranian threats, aggression and support of terrorist organizations, and for too long. The elimination of Ayatollahs regime and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen is long overdue!

Iran Accuses Israel of Killing Nuclear Scientist

Iran s president accused Israel of killing a prominent Iranian scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, long suspected by the West of masterminding a secret nuclear bomb programme, state TV reported. He was believed to have headed a coordinated nuclear weapons programme in Iran, which the Islamic republic said it shelved in 2003.

Reclaiming Jewish Land

The Jerusalem District Court ordered the eviction of eight Arab families living in the Shiloah village in eastern Jerusalem, after it was proven that 100 years ago the land belonged to a Jewish charity that took care of the Yemenite poor of Jerusalem.

Get Iran out of Syria

The United Nations Security Council must demand Iran's ouster from Syria and condemn attacks by its proxies against Israel from that neighbouring territory, Israel s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said. Israel calls upon the Security Council to condemn these recurring dangerous acts, and demands a total rollback of Iran and its proxies from Syria and the removal of Iranian military infrastructure from Syrian territory. (Members of 'Ugly Nazi' love to condemn Israel - but do nothing about the aggression of its enemies!)

Quote of the Week:
Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil. - Thomas Mann

Sinai Option Road to Permanent Peace!
by Steven Shamrak.

Not long ago, most parts of the Middle East, including Palestine and the entire Sinai Peninsula, were desolate, arid landmasses, not belonging to any country. It was a no man's land with which Jews had an unbroken spiritual and historical bond for 2000 years!

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War 1, the League of Nations created a Mandate system, appointing new masters, Britain and France. This laid the foundations of the current Arab-Israel conflict!

Trans-Jordan was the part of the Palestinian Mandate which was allocated for the creation of a Jewish state in 1922, in accordance with the Balfour Declaration. Its separation from the Mandate was an illegal act! Unfortunately, the dominant imperial powers, Britain and France, who controlled the League of Nations, used it to rubber-stamp their shady deals at the time.

As a result of the deal, Britain secured financial interests in the Suez Canal; Sinai was illegally given to Egypt by the British with the permission of King Hussein of Hejaz and Nejd, now Saudi Arabia. In return, Britain transferred control of the land east of the river Jordan to Abdullah, son of Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca. Control of the Golan Heights was ceded to the French-run Syrian Mandate. In exchange, the United Kingdom got control of newly discovered oil fields in Kirkuk.

The creation of a united Arab kingdom, Caliphate, and the Jewish state was proposed and accepted by both Arab and Jewish leaders over 100 years ago! This would bring permanent peace to Jews and Arabs, who could then live with dignity in their own countries.

Britain, France, and the League of Nations have deliberately sabotaged, ignored, and disallowed this. The United Nations has been artificially keeping this ugly status quo!

Since its independence, Israel has fought many wars with its Arab neighbours; signed numerous cease-fires (so-called Hudnas - temporary "calm" or "quiet"), and even peace agreements. All those efforts have not brought about any permanent solution to the endless terror Israeli/Jewish society has been enduring daily.

The Sinai option the transfer of all the so-called Palestinians from the land that used to be called the Palestinian Mandate to the Sinai Peninsula is the Road to Permanent Peace!

The Sinai option will separate the two entirely incompatible communities, and will create an environment conducive to the development of a new nation totally independent of Israel.

1. The Sinai Peninsula is a contiguous land which is comparable by size with the entire Palestinian Mandate: Israel, Gaza, Judea, Samaria, Golan Heights, and Jordan!

2. It will provide so-called Palestinians with a contiguous landmass. Isn t that what the PA demanding?

3. It will give Arabs full territorial, financial, military, political, and religious control over the land and its natural resources, as well as population. There will be no dependency on Israel!

4. The new entity will be accountable for its actions in accordance with international law.

5. Israel will be able to securely control its border with the new state, and keep it accountable for any terror activity.

6. All anti-Israel terrorist organisations and supporting population will be removed from the Jewish lands.

This plan is also relatively easy to implement.

Several years ago, during the breakout of violence on the Sinai border with Egypt, almost half of Gaza s population went to Sinai and came back in just two days. This is proof that the Sinai Option can be swiftly implemented by Israel when an opportunity presents itself!

1. There are only around 250,000 people living in Sinai today, predominantly Bedouins.

2. The SINAI OPTION will resolve the so-called Palestinian refugee question, as they can be easily re-settled in the Sinai. (Note: Over 70% of Jordan s population is so-called Palestinians others are decedents of the refuges from Saudi Arabia.)

3. Every year the International community has been wasting/spending billions of dollars on the maintenance of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The SINAI OPTION offers the opportunity for investment in the permanent resolution of the conflict. Those billions of dollars can be productively used to establish a homeland for so-called Palestinian refugees and will be available to alleviate the suffering of many real refugees over the world!

4. Population transfers were successfully implemented before and after the adoption of the Fourth Geneva Convention resolution, 1949. In fact, Israel is the only country this resolution is targeting - to prevent the transfer of the fake Palestinian population from Jewish land after the War of Independence!

5. It will create investment opportunities and would be of great benefit to Egypt, as well as a financial bonanza for those Palestinians who are currently living in Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and Jordan.

6. It will improve the lifestyle, living conditions; bring peace, stability, and prosperity not just to Palestinians, but to the entire Middle East region including Arabs states and the people of Israel!

This will be the beginning of the process of ending the occupation of Jewish land by enemies, and establishing true and permanent peace in Israel - free of terror! The new entity can be either part of Egypt or become another independent state.

The plan can be implemented humanely and gradually under the supervision of the International community or Israel can execute it unilaterally by force when the Arab enemies of the Jewish state start the next war or commit a hideous act of terror against the Israeli population. Israel must be ready to implement the SINAI OPTION at any time!

This is the only way toward permanent peace in the region and fulfilment of the 2000-year-old commandment and inspiration of Jewish people the return to the G-d given land of our ancestors!

The International community, Arab and Muslim countries insist that they want peace in the Middle East! Why don't they even want to hear about this alternative plan?

The Parsha and Current Events: Surviving Evil

Parashat Vayishlach 5781
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

The weekly Torah readings are approaching the end of the patriarchal and matriarchal period, the founding fathers and mothers of our nation who are very much with us, due to the pivotal role they played in the future direction of the Jewish nation and world history.

The Gemara states (Tractate Berachot 16,b):

אין קורין אבות אלא לשלשה, ואין קורין אמהות אלא לארבע.
Only three (Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov) are considered Avot (founding fathers) and only four (Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah) are considered Imahot (founding mothers).

And on the dream of Paro’s Chief Butler (Bereishiet 40:10):

ובגפן שלשה שריגם והיא כפרחת עלתה נצה הבשילו אשכלתיה ענבים
and in the vine were three branches: and it budded into blossoms and the clusters brought forth ripe grapes

The Gemara (Chulin 92,a) explains:

רבי אליעזר אומר ‘גפן’ – זה העולם, ‘שלשה שריגים’ – זה אברהם יצחק ויעקב, ‘והיא כפורחת עלתה נצה’ – אלו האמהות, ‘הבשילו אשכלותיה ענבים’ – אלו השבטים
The vine represents the world, the three branches – Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov, its blossoms shot forth – Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah, and the clusters brought forth ripe grapes – the twelve tribes.

What made the Avot and Imahot unique?

As explained in volume 1B of “With All Your Might” (parashat Kedoshim 5768) the strange number of 613 mitzvot (HaShem’s commandments to the Jewish nation) are the result of the life’s work of the Avot – Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. The kedusha (holiness) of these three men was so elevated that, through their actions, they penetrated into the highest domain of the spiritual world and, by doing so, revealed the mitzvot (actions) which unite our world and the Shamayim. Had the Avot been greater, we today would have 614 mitzvot or 1000. Had they been less holy, we would have today 612 or less.

Rava, the great Babylonian Amora confirms this (Sota 17:a):

דריש רבא: בשכר שאמר אברהם אבינו ואנכי עפר ואפר זכו בניו לב’ מצות: אפר פרה, ועפר סוטה. דרש רבא: בשכר שאמר אברהם אבינו בראשית יד אם מחוט ועד שרוך נעל, זכו בניו לב’ מצות: חוט של תכלת, ורצועה של תפלין
In the merit of Avraham’s humility where he refers to himself as ashes and dust, we have the mitzvot of ashes of the red heifer and the dust of the sota; and in the merit of rejecting the offer of a reward for saving the people of Sodom by saying, “I will not take from a string to a shoe thong,” we have the mitzvot of techelet in tzitzit and the leather straps on the tefillin.

The three Avot achieved the pinnacle of human kedusha that enabled them to contact the spiritual roots of mitzvot.

Now, if the Avot were essential in constituting the character of the Jewish nation in the elevated spirituality that connects us to the Creator, the contributions of the Imahot dominated the very real “hands on, day-to-day” involvement and survival of the Jewish nation in the jungle we call olam hazeh (this world).

Our mother Sarah perceived the unbridgeable, contrasting souls of the holy, God-fearing Yitzchak as opposed to the pereh adam (wild, untamable) Yishmael. Yishmael’s corrupt, depraved, heinous, immoral, impious and profane basic nature would bring untold human suffering through his pagan beliefs, and eventually through Islam, which are all the absolute antithesis of the basic nature of the future Jewish nation.

Our mother Sarah, with HaShem’s approval, “molded in concrete” the future conflict between Yitzchak and Yishmael by urging Avraham to send Hagar and Yishmael away. Sarah’s words, “The son of this maidservant will not be heir with my son Yitzchak” would be the guiding factors in who would be the sole heirs to Avraham’s spiritual bond with HaShem, as would be indicated by HaShem’s gift of Eretz Yisrael to the descendants of the three Avot.

The second of our great Matriarchs was Rivka, to whom I will return shortly.

The third and fourth of our matriarchs – Rachel and Leah, who, unknown to their husband Ya’akov were forced by their father Lavan to exchange places on the wedding night, had a prodigious influence in all of Jewish history. It laid the groundwork for the centuries long contention and rivalry between the House of David from Leah, and the House of Yosef born to Rachel.

The House of Yosef claimed that the monarchy was their legitimate heritage, since their mother Rachel was intended to be the wife of Ya’akov, first in number and in emotions. The House of David claimed that the monarchy was de facto given to Yehuda, son of Leah, and through him to David.

Ultimately, the rivalry brought about the secession of the ten northern tribes under Yeravam ben Navat, with the city of Shechem, the burial place of Yosef, as the breakaway capital, and the exile of the ten tribes under King Hoshea ben Elah by the Assyrians.

But this is not the end of the story of the ten lost tribes. They will eventually return to the Jewish nation in the most miraculous way, very soon.

Let’s return now to Rivka, wife of Yitzchak and mother of Ya’akov and Esav.

Our parasha states (Bereishiet 35:8)

ותמת דברה מינקת רבקה ותקבר מתחת לבית אל תחת האלון ויקרא שמו אלון בכות
And Devorah, Rivka’s nurse died, and she was buried below (in the vicinity of) Beth-el under the oak; and the name of it was Allon-bacuth.

Rashi comments that when Ya’akov left home to go to the house of Lavan, Rivka promised to send for him when Esav’s anger would wane. After 20 years, Rivka sends Devorah to inform Ya’akov that he could now return home. When Esav learned that Ya’akov was returning home, he went out to meet Ya’akov with a military force of 400 men, all intent to kill Ya’akov and close the book on the future Jewish nation. Under these circumstances, why did Rivka send for Ya’akov to return?

I submit:

After 20 years of hateful planning by Esav, Rivka realized that Esav’s animosity towards Ya’akov would never dissipate. She sent her lifelong, loyal mentor and companion, Devorah, to inform Ya’akov that his brother’s hatred would be carried on from father to son, from nation to nation until the end of history. So, the time had come for Ya’akov to return to Eretz Yisrael and stand up to Esav in defense of God’s values of good against evil, without fear or trepidation; and HaShem would be at Ya’akov’s side.

In our parasha, the two brothers meet. The Torah relates that Esav ran towards Ya’akov with the intent to kill him, but instead of the “kiss of death” Esav kisses his brother in a dramatic turn of events!

What happened?

As Esav was advancing towards the Jewish family, an exceptional unexpected scene unfolded before his eyes. Ya’akov with his four wives, sons and daughters had fallen to the ground in an act of total submission.

Esav felt that the thrill of the ongoing degrading, debasing, demeaning, disgracing, dishonoring, and dehumanizing of his brother was far more pleasurable, entertaining, gratifying, and satisfying than the one instant surge of euphoria of murdering him would be.

Esav says to himself, “Let Ya’akov and the Jews live on. After the Crusades, the pogroms, the auto-da-fé, and the exiles, my children’s children will emaciate Ya’akov’s children in ghettos, then herd them into cattle cars on the way to the gas chambers and crematoria of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Indeed, let Ya’akov live on”.

Ya’akov, for his part, returned home to compete with Esav, as he was told by Rivka. But Ya’akov when seeing Esav’s 400 bloodthirsty men as opposed to the few of his family, realized that the time had not yet arrived for him to defeat Esav. It was the will of HaShem to permit evil a free hand in history, with the eventual outcome that evil would devour itself, as has proven to be the case in human history. But in the interim Ya’akov and the Jewish nation would have to be satisfied with mere survival within the evil that surrounds them.

Until when????

The answer is in this week’s haftara from the prophecy of Ovadia:

עובדיה פרק א

כי קרוב יום ה’ על כל הגוים כאשר עשית יעשה לך גמלך ישוב בראשך:
ובהר ציון תהיה פליטה והיה קדש וירשו בית יעקב את מורשיהם:
והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש ודלקו בהם ואכלום ולא יהיה שריד לבית עשו כי ה’ דבר:
וירשו הנגב את הר עשו והשפלה את פלשתים וירשו את שדה אפרים ואת שדה שמרון ובנימן את הגלעד:
ועלו מושעים בהר ציון לשפט את הר עשו והיתה לה’ המלוכה:

For the day of God is near upon all the nations: as they did to you, it shall be done to them…
But in mount Zion there shall be refuge for you, and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.

And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall burn among them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining to the house of Esau; for God has spoken.
And they of the South shall possess the mount of Esau, and they of the lowland the Philistines; and they shall possess the field of Ephraim, and the field of Samaria; and Benjamin shall possess Gilead… And liberators shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be of HaShem.

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Monday, November 30, 2020

A Man Wrestled with Him

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

This parsha contains "a message for generations, for everything that occurred to our patriarch with his brother, Esav, will always occur to us with the descendents of Esav." (Ramban) All of Jewish history is encapsulated in that long night: "Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." (Bereisheet 32:25) This "man" (Esav's angel) is Yaakov's eternal opponent, as Chazal say, "It is an accepted tradition, it is known that Esav hates Yaakov."

What is the basis of this eternal hatred?

The Rambam writes in Iggeret Teiman:

Because the Creator designated us with his commandments and his laws, and our greater worth over others is clear ... all the heathens were jealous of us (hated us) greatly because of our religion ... Their desire to is battle against G-d and to fight with Him, but He is G-d, so who can fight Him?

Therefore, the nations of the world fight against the nation that represents G-d in the world, as Yeshaya says, "You are my witnesses – the word of Hashem – and I am G-d." (43:12) Chazal comment: "It you are My witnesses, I am G-d, but if you are not My witnesses, I am, as it were, not G-d."

The Rambam's assertion that the war of the nations against Israel is, in truth, a war against G-d, is explicit in numerous verses. For example, in the end of Parshat Ha'azinu, it says: "I shall return vengeance upon My enemies, and upon those who hate Me I shall bring retribution." (Devarim 32:41) The Ramban comments on this: "Out of their hatred of G-d they do all these bad things to us, and they are His enemies and His haters." Sefer Tehillim similarly begins: "Why do nations gather, and regimes talk in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the princes conspire secretly, aginst Hashem and against His anointed." What do they want? "Let us cut off their cords and let us cast off their ropes from ourselves." (Tehillim 2:1-3) The Divine ideal that the Jewish People represent in the world is something that burdens the nations, and they aspire to free themselves from the moral yoke that Israel places upon them. Hitler said to the German author Hermann Rauschning: "Providence destined me to be the great liberator of mankind ... I am liberating mankind from the moral bonds of Judaism."

This is not to say that every non-Jew is cognizant of this viewpoint, but subconciously they protect themselves from Judaism through this hatred. Rav Kook zt"l writes (Orot p. 49):

The idolatrous view recognized in Israel, in Judaism, its greatest enemy, the force that, in proportion to its spreading, it [the idolatrous viewpoint] will be constrained in the world, and a great, instinctive, hatred of Israel came forth from all the nations.

In greater detail, Rav Kook writes (Orot p. 157):

Until the time of the ultimate redemption we have bestowed upon the world only teachings of obligations; morals and justice which emanate from the Divine Truth. However, the world does not want to accept obligations, and, if it does accept, hatred remains in the heart towards the primary advocate for the knowledge of the obligation, which does not allow the barbaric spirit to expand to its full desire. However, when the time will come for the light of the world to be revealed, the world will recognize that we are bestowing upon the world the ways of life of true pleasure ... and pleasure and happines is something relevant to all, at least to desire, and the beneficing source of satisfaction and pleasure is honored and cherished. Therefore, "Ten men, of all the [different] languages of the nations, will take hold ... of the corner of the garment of a Jewish man." (Zechariah 8:23)

The end of the struggle is hidden in the completion of that night: "When he percieved that he could not overcome him ... He said, 'Let me go, for dawn has broken.'" (Bereisheet 32:26-27) The struggle is possible only during the night, while the darkness still covers the earth, but when the morning breaks the truth is revealed. The angel of Esav seeks to disengage and stop the struggle, but Yaakov is not prepared to do so. He demands Esav's admission, since without this – the struggle cannot conclude and it will renew in the future in various issues. Yaakov said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me'" – when you admit that not only is Israel not a reason for hatred, but rather a source of blessing.

Already in the trial of the akeidah Hashem said to Avraham, "I shall surely bless you ...and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. All the nations of the earth shll bless themslves by your offspring." (Bereishit 23:16-17) Avraham was blessed with two blessings. One is his strength and eternity, that this nation will never be overcome and that it will always inherit its enemies. The second is the spiritaul blessing that testifies as to its destiny – "All the families of the earth shll bless themslves by you." (28:14) All the nations will ultimately recognize the special quality and worth of Am Yisrael, and that it brings blessing to the world.

Indeed, Esav's angel accepted this – "He blessed him there." He conceded to him about the blessings and the birthright. This is a sign for the descendents that in the end of days all will come and say: (Yeshaya 2:2-3)

"Let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the G-d of Yaakov, and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in His paths." For from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim.

Ya'akov's Messengers

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

"And Ya'akov sent malachim to his brother Esav to the land of Se'ir in the field of Edom." Our sages deliberated on the question of who these "malachim" exactly were: One view is that they were indeed human agents - namely, messengers, of Ya'akov Avinu. Another view is that they were actual angels. "Rav Hama Bar Chanina said: Hagar was our matriarch Sara's maidservant, and angels appeared to her; is it not all the more logical that angels would appear to Ya'akov, who was the beloved of [God's] house?"

We should, however, take note of a key distinction between the revelation of angels to Hagar, to Eliezer (Avraham's servant), to Yosef, in comparison to their contact with Ya'akov. In the latter case, if we are to read the term malachim literally, from the verse we learn that Ya'akov actually sends the angels on a mission! They adhere to his orders! This type of relationship defies all that we know to be true about what is within man's capabilities, since it is clear that humans are on a lower spiritual level than the celestial angels; if so, how could he order them to carry out his wishes? We have no choice but to conclude that the Torah is telling us that Ya'akov Avinu was on a higher level than the angels! He is able not only to meet them, as did other Biblical personalities, but he was also able to commission them to fulfill his wishes.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook (of blessed memory) notes that, in Jewish law, an agent must share his sender's level of obligation to perform Torah mitzvot (commandments) Thus, in Jewish law, a non-Jew is an invalid agent. (This means, for example, that a Jew cannot appoint a non-Jew to light his - the Jew's - Chanukah candles, since a non-Jew is not obligated to observe the holiday.) This criterion is rooted in the principle that an agent stands in the place of the one who sends him: "A person's agent is like himself."

Question: How is it therefore possible that angels could function as the agents of a human being? Angels are not "Children of the covenant!" in any sense of the word! Rav Kook's answer: Angels fulfill the Divine will naturally, without having to be commanded. In a similar fashion, our forefathers fulfilled the Torah not because they were commanded to do so, but because the fulfillment of mitzvot emanated from the depth of their very being.

The forefathers thus share something in common with angels - in the sense that both beings are fulfillers of the Divine will; though Ya'akov is human and the angels are not, his nature, too, prompts him, in an angel-like fashion, to perform God's will. This perspective helps us understand how Ya'akov could appoint angels as agents to act on his behalf.

Looking at things this way, we can come to appreciate the spiritual loftiness of the fathers of our nation - people who existed somewhere between the physical and spiritual worlds, out of a complete and natural connection with the word of God, a connection that led them to experience ongoing encounters with the word of God and with his ministering angels.

In this world - as illustrated on numerous occasions in the Torah and Talmud - we find that God gives power to righteous people to resemble their Creator: to stop rains, to revive the dead, etc. Yet, there is a reality that is loftier than that of the world as we know it, a reality that the world will enter in future days, when the world reaches its ultimate state of perfection, when it becomes "filled with the splendor of God." At that time, it will become apparent that the entirety of the physical world is insignificant compared to the reality of God's existence. This is what our tradition means when it says that, on that day, "God will remain alone."

Our sages add that at that time, it will also become apparent that Ya'akov Avinu had a lion's share of this Divine quality. Ya'akov succeeded in raising himself to a level at which the entirety of existence was, so to speak, as naught, relative to him. In other words, Ya'akov strove for and reached the pinnacle of what a person must try to become. The entire world exists by his merit, he therefore possesses the quality of "Ein Od Milvado" -"There is none except for him" - a phrase normally reserved for God Himself.

In the book "Nefesh haRav," Rav Yosef Soleveitchik is quoted as saying that just as it is incumbent on a person to cleave to the ways of the Creator and His attributes ("Just as He is compassionate, so should you be compassionate, just as He is merciful, so should you be, etc) similarly, just as God is the One and only unique existence, so should man try to cleave to this quality, and to strive to reach his own personal potential. Every person has unique qualities, a special synthesis of his physical and spiritual self - not present in any other person. Man is obliged to develop the unique side of who he is as an individual, and not to simply defer to others.

An illustration of this concept can be found in a statement of the Vilna Gaon, who taught that after the sealing of the Babylonian Talmud, every "Talmid Chacham," (Torah scholar) has permission to study the Talmud to his heart's content, and should not, in the course of his Torah study, defer to other scholars that preceded him, who lived after the canonization of the Talmud. Thus, according to the Gaon, if a Torah scholar whose learning has led him to a halachic conclusion against that arrived at by the Shulchan Aruch, - and he (the Torah scholar) nevertheless rules in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch on that very issue - he has transgressed a Torah prohibition!

Ya'akov Avinu possesses the quality of "Levado," of being alone - he has a unique personality unlike that of anyone else in the world. We find that the each of our forefathers possessed unique qualities. Avraham specialized in Chesed, in the performance of kind acts towards others; Yitzchak was the master of "Din" - of self-restraint; Ya'akov Avinu was known for his adherence to, and love of truth.

On the other hand, we find a certain inclusivist quality in the patriarchs, of a willingness to negate their own personal egos in their efforts toward building of the Jewish nation, and of perfecting the world as a whole. In fact, our sages point out that of the three patriarchs, Ya'akov is the most inclusivist, most all encompassing of all. If so, then, there is no contradiction between developing one's unique personality and maintaining one's connection and commitment to the nation as a whole. The opposite is in fact, true: the ideal Jew finds his own fulfillment in his ongoing concern for his fellow Jews. One's own unique personality is cultivated and enriched by his concern for others...