Monday, December 05, 2022

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYishlach: The Conflict Between Yaakov and Eisav

The central theme of VaYishlach is Yaakov's struggle for his unique path, especially vis-a-vis his brother Eisav. This was not just a family feud. The Sages saw in Esau a metaphor for Rome, and in general, a non-Jewish worldview, one alien to the Torah’s outlook. The high point of the narrative unfolds as Yaakov battles in the dark with a mysterious stranger, identified by the Sages as Eisav's guardian angel.

“ Yaakov remained alone. A stranger wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he could not defeat him, he touched the upper joint of [Yaakov's] thigh. Yaakov's hip joint became dislocated as he wrestled with the stranger.” (Ber. 32:25-26)

What is the significance of this unusual wrestling match? Why did Eisav's angel decide to injure Yaakov's thigh, and not some other part of his body?

Eisav's World of Hedonism
Many years earlier, Eisav chose to reject his birthright, selling it for bowl of lentil stew. “I am going to die!” he exclaimed. “What good is a birthright to me?” (Ber. 25:32) Why did Eisav sell his birthright?

We must understand the significance of this birthright. It was a legacy from their father Yitzchak, a charge to live a life dedicated to serving God. For Eisav, holiness was completely divorced from living a normal life. He saw the birthright as a death sentence, threatening the very foundations of his hedonistic way of life. It was because of his birthright that Eisav felt that he was going to die.

Eisav's viewpoint is expressed a second time during his reunion with Yaakov. When Eisav saw Yaakov's family, he was amazed. “Who are these to you?” (Ber. 33:5) You, Yaakov, who chose our father’s birthright and its otherworldly holiness — what connection can you have to a normal life? How can you have wives and children?

Eisav was unable to reconcile his image of a holy life of Divine service with establishing a family and raising children.

Eisav's guardian angel, in his nocturnal struggle with Yaakov, embodied this outlook. Where did the angel attack Yaakov? He went for Jacob’s thigh, dislocating it. His message was clear: if you wish to dedicate yourself to holiness and God, you must divorce yourself from family and all other aspects of a normal life. Your thigh, from where your children issue, must be detached from you. 

Illustration image: ‘Jacob Wrestling with the Angel’ by Rembrandt (1659)

Yaakov's Elevated Torah
Yaakov did not accept Eisav's views on living a holy life. Yaakov exemplified, in both outlook and life, the harmony of nature with holiness. And Yaakov's Torah was revealed in the natural world.

The Midrash states that “The Holy One looked inside the Torah and created the universe” (Bereisheet Rabbah 1:1). In other words, the universe is a direct result of God’s contemplation of Torah. If we examine the world carefully, we should be able to uncover the foundations of the Torah. Had Adam not sinned, there would have been no need for a written Torah. Life itself would be ordered according to the Torah’s principles.

The Avot sought to repair Adam’s sin. Their Torah and mitzvot belonged to the era before the Torah needed to be written down. For them, the Torah was naturally revealed in the universe. This is also the Torah of the angels, whose sole function is to fulfill the mission of their Creator in the world. “Bless God, His angels, mighty in strength, who fulfill His word” (Tehilim 103:20; see Shabbat 88a).

Who were the messengers that Yaakov sent to inform Eisav of his arrival? The Midrash teaches that Yaakov sent angels (Bereisheet Rabbah 72:4). A messenger takes the place of the sender; it is as if the sender himself accomplished the mission. Thus, the sender and the messenger must be connected on some basic level (see Kiddushin 41b).

By utilizing these unusual emissaries, Yaakov was sending a powerful message to Eisav. You, Eisav, claim that holiness and physical life are fundamentally contradictory. But my Torah is the Torah of the angels. For me, there is no division between holiness and the natural world. God Himself is revealed within His creation.

(Adapted from Shemuot HaRe’iyah 9, VaYishlach 5630 (1929), by Rav Chanan Morrison)

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." (Bereisheet 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, Bet 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 Sora'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...

Not Leaving the Fathers by Themselves

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l
Rosh HaYeshiva, Mercaz HaRav
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemdat
Chaver, Beit Din HaGadol Yerushalayim

[These words are part of an address, within a rabbinical conference held at K’far Haroeh in 5705 (1944), commemorating the Yeshiva of Volozhin.]

With a trembling of happiness and pain, we open this conference with the words of Yaakov Avinu from this week’s parasha – "I am small in relation to all of the kindnesses … now I make up two encampments" (Bereisheet 32:11). The small group of members who came to a barren location and started weeding out the wild grass did not dream that in such a small amount of time, this place would turn into a center to which people look. We are now two encampments – an agricultural village and a yeshiva.

However, we remember the factor that brought this whole group here [to commemorate], for there has not passed a special amount of time from the close of Volozhin. What is new is that until now, the continuation of Volozhin was living in the form of various yeshivot in Israel and in the Diaspora. But now, when we are missing all of those yeshivot (in the midst of the Holocaust), we feel a need to recall and eternalize the memory of that great house, which gave us so much.

We read in the parasha: "Yaakov was left alone, and a man struggled with him until the break of dawn" (ibid. 25). On the verge of entering Eretz Yisrael, there was an unavoidable encounter between opposing forces, Yaakov and Eisav. As much as Yaakov tried to avoid it, taking a circuitous route and side roads, the time of the meeting came. The encounter was between the tzaddik, who was always ready to compromise and allowed himself to be pushed to the side, and between the haughty rasha, who acted with spite and animosity. The struggle was necessary for both of them, as only through it did the angel of Eisav arrive at the goal of his life: "Let me go, for dawn has broken," which Chazal say meant that this was the first time that he was called to sing praises to Hashem (Chulin 91b). Similarly, it is only at this encounter that Yaakov Avinu received his name, which our nation has adopted, Yisrael. In Hashem’s secret world plan, there is a task for evil to perform, with all of its disgustingness and haughtiness, to agitate goodness and turn it into a fighter, even a vengeance-seeking power, brazen in its opposition to evil.

It is so tragic that specifically at this critical moment in time, for which Yaakov was preparing his whole life, after having trained his sons, and especially his closest son, Yosef the Tzaddik, who was uniquely empowered to fight the negative spiritual side of Eisav, that Yaakov was left alone without the help of his children. He was involved in retrieving small vessels that were left behind. On the one hand, the righteous can be proud of their material possessions, as they are all things that were obtained without theft (Psikta Zutrata 32:33), but they are still things that look trivial at a moment of eternal importance. Indeed, that is why Yaakov had to come out of this encounter limping.

In regard to the competition between powerful forces at the era leading up to the coming of Mashiach, the intention of the Yeshiva of Volozhin was to prepare the forces for this critical time. Its goal was to strengthen the young generation so that the old generation would not have to stand alone in its struggle against evil. Rather, the sons would also be able to add their part to the battle.

The Two Battles of Yaakov: Jews and the West of the world

by Rabbi Dov Berel Wein

Many commentators over the ages have seen in the two confrontations between Yaakov and Eisav – first the struggle with Eisav’s angel and then the meeting with Eisav in the flesh –the two-front war that Judaism and the Jewish people have been forced to fight over millennia in order to simply survive.

The struggle with Eisav’s angel, as described in the parsha, represents a spiritual and intellectual fight, a contest of ideas, beliefs and debate. The meeting with the physical Eisav in turn represents the struggle of the Jewish people to simply stay alive in a bigoted, cruel, and nearly fatal environment.

Yaakov does not escape unscathed from either confrontation. He is crippled physically and somewhat impoverished financially. Eisav’s "evil eye" gazes upon his children and Yaakov is relieved to escape alive, even if damaged in body and purse, separating himself from Eisav physically and from his civilization and worldview.

The scenario is pretty much set for the long dance of Jewish history, with the Jews always attempting to survive in a constantly challenging and brutal society governed by Eisav. The rabbis of Midrash discussed the possibilities of coexistence and even cooperation with Eisav.

Though this debate did not result in any permanent or convincing conclusion, the opinion of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai that Eisav’s hatred of Yaakov is completely irrational and implacable seems to be borne out by history, past and present.The anti-Semitism in today’s seemingly enlightened world is so pervasive as to be frightening. And we seem to be powerless to do anything about it.

As is painfully obvious to all, these struggles for continued Jewish existence are ongoing and seemingly unending. All of the foreign ideas and current fads of Western society stand almost unanimously opposed to Torah values and traditional lifestyle. The angel of Eisav changes his program from time to time, but he is always opposed to Torah and moral behavior.

He wavers from totalitarian extreme conservatism to wild liberalism but always is able to wound the Jewish psyche and body no matter what philosophy or culture he now advocates. We limp today from this attack on Jewish values and Torah study and practice.

Jewish parents in America sue school boards for anti-Semitic attitudes, policies and behavior. Yet they would not dream of sending their children to a Jewish school or giving them an intensive Jewish education. The lawsuit is the indicator of the limp inflicted upon us by Eisav’s cultural angel.

All agree that Europe is currently a lost continent as far as Jews are concerned. The question most asked of travel agents by Jews today is "Can I wear a kippah on the street there?" Billions of dollars of Jewish treasure pillaged during World War II and immediately thereafter still lie in the hands of Eisav.

And yet we certainly would be satisfied if the world just let us alone but that seems to be a forlorn hope. So our struggle continues but the Lord’s promise to us that we will somehow prevail remains valid and true. And that is our hope for continuing on as loyal and steadfast Jews.

Rejecting a Divine Invitation

Parashat Vayaitzai-Vayishlach 5783
By HaRav Nachman Kahana

Four historical episodes occurred, apart in time and place, but very similar:

1) The “day of freedom” was designated by HaShem to be the 15th of Nisan, when millions of Am Yisrael would leave Egypt, thereby terminating 210 years of debilitating slavery. The future of Am Yisrael was sealed forever to be the Creator’s chosen nation. However, 80% of the Jews refused to venture into the treacherous desert and died during the week-long plague of darkness.

An unprecedented invitation by HaShem had been rejected by most of His people.

2) When Rechav’am, son of King Solomon, ascended the throne, Yeravam ben Navat led the northern tribes in seceding from the united kingdom of David and Shlomo. In order to solidify the secession, Yeravam created a surrogate Bet Hamikdashim in the cities of Bet El and Dan and prohibited the people of the north from going up to Yerushalayim.

The Mishna in Tractate Ta’anit states that the 15th of Av was one of the two happiest days in the Jewish calendar, with the other being Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Gemara explains that on this day, Hoshea ben Ela, the last king of the ten northern tribes, rescinded the 200-year-old prohibition enacted by Yeravam ben Navat, and permitted the people of the northern tribes to go up to Yerushalayim.

If Hoshea was such a great man, asks Rav Kahana in the Yerushalmi Ta’anit, why during his reign was Shalmanetzer, King of Assyria, permitted to conquer and exile all the Jews of the northern tribes whose whereabouts are unknown to this day?

The Talmud answers that Hoshea ben Ela opened the way to Yerushalayim – BUT NO ONE CAME.

Hoshea ben Ela was personally held accountable for not imposing his authority by forcing people to renew their covenant with the holy city and for the sin of the people not reuniting with Yerushalayim.

Another invitation by HaShem had been rejected by His people!

3) The second of November is the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. In 1917, a letter was sent from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It begins: “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object…”

The British permitted unlimited immigration until the mid-1920s. In 1919, the number of Jews who came was 1,806; in 1923 it rose to 8,175; and from the Balfour Declaration until 1939, the number of olim was less than 300,000! By then, the Holocaust had descended upon the Jewish people.

Yet another invitation by HaShem had been rejected by His people.

4) In 1967, HaShem invited Am Yisrael to return home, when in the aftermath of our miraculous military victories, He restored Yerushalayim, Yehuda, Shomron and the Golan to Jewish sovereignty. There should have been mass aliya of millions of Jews to settle these lands. However, the number of olim was dismal.

The fourth rejection of Am Yisrael of a generous invitation by HaShem!

And the result is a devastating holocaust. Not one of bloodshed, because the Jewish nation cannot bear another Shoah. This ongoing holocaust is assimilation, where 70-80% of non-orthodox Jews in the U.S. and other parts of the world are marrying gentiles. We can’t see smoke and ash rising from crematoria, but the result is the same, the loss of future generations of Jews!

As profound as the essence of Judaism is, it can be stated succinctly as follows: HaShem chose the Jewish nation and commanded us to perform His mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael.

Any deviation from this formula is a perversion of the Torah.

Ya’akov’s Dreams
In parashat Vayeitzei, our father Ya’akov experienced two dreams. In the first, he saw HaShem’s angels ascending to heaven and descending to this world. In the second, he saw how he could increase the number of animals in his herd.

The vast difference between the dreams is that the first of ascending and descending angels occurred when Ya’akov was in Eretz Yisrael, but when in chutz la’aretz even the great Ya’akov dreamed of increasing his herd of animals.

Divine Justice
At this time in our history, HaShem has placed before His children of Israel the historic challenge of restoring our national independence within the borders of Eretz Yisrael in preparation for the next stage of world history. This stage will witness the execution of Divine justice upon those nations who dealt so cruelly with Am Yisrael, while the Jewish people will be under HaShem’s protective wing in Eretz Yisrael.

But confusion is king. Not much different from the time of Chanukah, which we will be celebrating this month. Then, as now, Am Yisrael was faced with an existential threat. A large percentage of our people were drawn to Hellenism and discarded the Torah. Each Jew was faced with the personal challenge to the depths of his faith: to join with the Maccabim at the risk of his life or to be a bystander in the life-and-death struggle for the soul of Am Yisrael.

Through the sacrifices of the strong and courageous, HaShem awarded us independence from foreign rule for over 200 years. And it is because of the mesirat nefesh of those holy people that we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah.

At this juncture in our history, each Jew is again faced with the choice of whether to be Ya’akov or Aisav: to pick up the gauntlet of the strong and courageous or to back off from the responsibility of a bechor (firstborn).

The choice is to join in the struggle to rebuild our nation in Eretz Yisrael or to cringe in the corner of chutz la’aretz behind the apron strings of one’s fears.

It is not easy to be a “Ya’akov” in a world surrounded by Aisavs, but it is the Ya’akovs who will survive and guarantee the eternal existence of Am Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5783/2022 Nachman Kahana

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya: How to React to Academia’s Version of Tanach Events


Date and Place: 5 Iyar 5668 (1908), Yafo 

Recipient: Moshe Zeidel, a close disciple of Rav Kook from his time in Europe. In a postscript, Rav Kook’s son apologizes in his father’s name, that he had lacked the presence of mind to write clearly.

Body: I feel obligated to awaken your pure spirit regarding the opinions that abound in the new research, which often contradict the simple reading of matters in the Torah. My opinion is that anyone whose has a straight mindset should know that although this research’s veracity is unclear, we still have no need to resolutely contradict and oppose them. That is because it is not a principle of the Torah that it needs to tell simple historical facts. The main thing is the essence and internal explanation of the matters. These actually are further elevated whenever something stands up against it, which we need to overcome.

This basic idea appears in the Moreh Nevuchim (I:71), and now we are able to broaden what was written there. It makes no difference to us if there really was an ideal time and place in which Adam enjoyed great physicality and spirituality, or whether the world actually progressed from man being more lowly and developed toward an increasingly higher level.

What we need to know is that there is a real possibility that even if a person reaches a high level and is ready to receive great honor and pleasure, he could lose it all by destroying his path in life. He can ruin things for himself and his offspring for many generations. This lesson comes to us from the account of Adam in the Garden of Eden, his sin, and his banishment. The Master of All Souls knows the importance of a clear imprint on a person’s heart to beware of sin. Because of the depth of this idea, the Torah of truth writes of it at great length. When we understand that, we no longer need to fight against the matters presented by new researchers. When we then do not have an interest in what is the true account, we can judge things honestly, and then we can dismiss their theses in tranquility if that is what the truth shows us.

The main grandeur of our lives is truth, which is the highest form of unity and eternal glory, along with inseparable eternal justice. This is the Torah’s soul, through which we can gaze at the Torah and its cloaks. The theory of gradual evolution is in the beginning of its development. Certainly, the theories will change. They will find areas that can only be seen as jumps in the world’s development, which help make the world what it is. Then the light of Israel will be clear and radiant.

This is opposite what the gentile researchers and their Jewish followers think, that Tanach is to be understood as Christians do – that the world is one great prison. In truth, the Torah is full of light and happiness, as the past indicates, that man was originally very happy until sin ruined things. Obviously, this stumbling block will be fixed, and man will return forever to his level. In contrast, the idea of development without help from the past is scary, as something can get in one’s way or cause him to retreat. According to this approach, we have no reason to conclude that good things are the natural form. Therefore, specifically the fact that man was in the Garden of Eden keeps the light of the world going. Thus, it makes more sense to view it as a historical event, although it is not important to us that this is the case.

There is a major principle in the war of opinions. We do not need to immediately contradict every school of thought that comes to contradict the Torah. We can build the palace of the Torah above it. Then the idea can even be elevated and can help us reveal truths. When the idea does not pressure us, we can fight it later with full confidence. There are a few examples of this, but it is difficult for me to write at length. Brevity is enough for someone like you, and you will know how to prevail in Hashem’s Name.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Vayeitze: Family (video)

The Yishai Fleisher Israel Podcast: The Future of Our History

SEASON 2022 EPISODE 47: Yishai and Malkah Fleisher discuss the battles for Hebron - from Chayei Sarah, to the media, to the provocatuerism of the radical Left. Then, Yishai's guest appearance on the renowned Behind The Bima Program with Rabbi Efrem Goldberg and Rabbi Josh Broide, taking about the Ben Gvir phenomenon and the question of American Jewish Aliyah.

What we aspire to, and what we dream of

by Rav Binny Freedman

The Chassidic Rebbe of Hornostipol had a devoted attendant by the name of Reb’ Dan, who served the Rebbe faithfully for over fifty years. After the Rebbe’s death, the Rabbi in the village, Rav Yankel, announced that the coveted burial plot next to the Rebbe was due him inasmuch as he was the Rabbi of the town.

Reb Dan protested, saying that just as he had never left the Rebbe’s side in life, he deserved to not be separated from him in death.

The dispute was brought before the Rebbe’s son (Rav Avraham Twersky’s grandfather), who ruled that the decision should be made by G-d, and that whoever died first was to be buried next to the Rebbe.

From that time, whenever Rav Yankel would take ill, Reb Dan would panic, and would insist that the very best specialists be brought in to treat him. He would also go to all the synagogues urging everyone to pray for Rav Yankel’s speedy recovery. The thought that Rav Yankel would die first and thus win the coveted burial spot gave him no rest. And if Reb Dan took sick, Rav Yankel behaved in exactly the same way.

I heard this story from Rav Avraham Twersky, who noted that what people aspire to, and even what they envy, speaks volumes about their character.

These two men would gladly have given up years of their lives, to be buried near their Rebbe. There has and always will be envy. But what we envy says a lot about who we really are.

This week’s portion, Vayetze, has a lot to do with what we aspire to, and what we dream of.

Escaping from the wrath of his brother Eisav, Yaakov flees the land of Israel and his home, to make a new life in the far-off empire of Charan (Mesopotamia). He meets the love of his life, Rachel, ultimately marrying and settling in the home of his father-in-law Lavan.

Lavan, recognizing Yaakov’s talent as a herdsman, strikes what he considers to be a clever deal. If Yaakov will manage the ‘sheep-business’, Lavan will give him all the newborn speckled & mottled sheep, as a reward for his efforts, keeping ‘only’ the regular non-speckled sheep.

Of course, every-one knows how rare mutated sheep births are, except perhaps a rather naive tent- dwelling cousin from far away….

The joke, however, is on Lavan; G-d causes all the sheep to be born with mutations, and for twenty-two years, Yaakov becomes wealthy at his father-in- law’s expense.

And then one night, Yaakov has a dream. He dreams about flocks of speckled & mottled sheep filling the hills as far as his eyes can see. And then an angel comes to him from amidst the flocks, with a message:

“I have seen all that Lavan has done to you (referring to all the sheep); I am G-d, to whom you swore faith so long ago, when you left your home. Get up; it is time to go home… Return to the land of your birth.” (Ber. 31:10-13)

What is the meaning of this strange dream? Why are angels suddenly appearing from amidst the flocks? And why the sudden command to go home? This angelic message from G-d seems to appear completely out of no-where, and with little or no relationship to the narrative. What is this dream, and its accompanying message?

To understand the message of this dream one need only recall the beginning of Yaakov’s journey, at the beginning of our portion.

Yaakov, running from home, stops for the night. All alone, with no possessions, having just left everything behind for an uncertain future, Yaakov dreams of ladders and angels, and G-d appears to him in his dream, and promises him he will one day return to the land of Israel to father a great nation. (Ber. 28: 11-22)

Perhaps this is precisely the point the angel is making in Yaakov’s dream twenty-two years later:

‘Twenty-two years ago, you were dreaming of angels and heaven, and G-d Himself was talking to you. And now? Now you are dreaming of sheep; and when your dreams are all about sheep, its time to go home.‘

Notice that in Yaakov’s first dream, it is G-d himself that speaks with Yaakov. But twenty-two years later, he hears G-d’s voice through an angel. Whenever an angel appears to an individual in the Torah, it is because somehow that individual has become somewhat distanced from G-d.

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the story of the binding of Yitzchak in Ber. 22. At the end of the story it is an angel that speaks with Avraham, perhaps because however well intentioned Avraham was, if you can lift up a knife over your son, it affects you, and distances you from G-d.

Indeed, this may be why the angel says, ‘see what Lavan has done for you’. This comment is not referring to what Yaakov’s newly acquired wealth has done for him, (wealth, after all, is from G-d, not from Lavan.) rather, the angel may be referring to what the wealth has done to Yaakov. And if Yaakov is now dreaming of sheep instead of ladders to heaven, then it is time to go home.

Rav Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin points out in his Tzidkat Hatzaddik, that you can learn a lot about a person from his dreams. What we dream is a reflection of who we are. It is the measure of our aspirations and goals, and of those values we hold dear and place above all else.

This, in fact, is the essence of prayer in Judaism. Did you ever wonder why our custom when we pray is to ask G-d for so many things? Doesn’t G-d know what we want? Why do we need to remind Him? And what is the purpose of the Jewish custom of saying these same prayers three times a day? Did G-d already forget what I asked for just this morning?

Rav Abraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook points out in his Olat HaRe’iyah (his commentary on the Siddur), that when we pray, we are actually accessing our desires.

People make the mistake of thinking that the question I must ask myself at the end of prayers is ‘did G-d hear my prayers?’ Of course, that is ridiculous. G-d hears everything, and in fact knows our prayers before we do. The real question is did I hear my prayers?

Do I hear what I really want? In fact, this is the reason the Jewish custom is to say the prayers (the shemoneh esrei) loud enough so that I can hear my own words: precisely because I need to hear what I really want. Then I can ask myself: is this what I really want? Am I happy with what I really want? Do I really want peace? If I did, it would be on my mind all day long. Do I really care that there are so many people in the world who are sick? If so, how can my afternoon pass without even thinking about them?

The expression ‘it’s just a thought’ could not be further from the truth. Thoughts are actually the building blocks of creation. Every aspect of civilization, indeed everything we will build in this world, will be the direct result of someone having thought it; dreamed it. And what we dream is very much a reflection of who we are, and who we really want to be.

Do we really dream of peace? Do we dream of creating an ethical world? Or are our dreams lost in the ticker tapes of stock quotes, Thanksgiving Day sales, and vacations on sandy beaches?

There was a time when we as a people had a dream. In a world lost in pagan idolatry and cruelty, we dreamed of light and brotherhood, and a world that could be better.

Perhaps, our dreams have become clouded. Maybe it really is time to go home.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: The Function of Each of the Tefilot

Gemara: Rebbe Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna: one should always be careful about the prayer of Mincha, as Eliyahu was answered only at the time of the prayer of Mincha, as the pasuk says: “And it was at the time of the afternoon offering that Eliyahu approached and said, ‘answer me, Hashem, answer me.’” Rebbe Yochanan says: even at the prayer of Arvit (Ma’ariv), as the pasuk says: “May my prayer be accepted like incense before You, the gift of my hand as the offering of the evening.” Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says: even at the prayer of Shacharit, as the pasuk says: “Hashem, hear my voice in the morning.” (Brachot 60a)

Ein Ayah: This seems difficult, as the gemara seems to attribute special prominence to Mincha. Since afterward it says that the same is true of the other prayers, what is special about Mincha? The gemara’s language implies that it is not coming just to stress prayer’s value in general.

Let us compare the prayers to parts of the body. There are parts of the body that share a function with another organ. Thus, there is a backup in case one does not work or the presence of another organ improves the functioning. However, the function can be provided even if one organ is not working. There are other organs which, in their absence, no other organ can take their place. We might think that the three prayers are primarily duplicates, whereby, out of the three, at least one proper tefilla (prayer) will be a proper one. Therefore, our Rabbis informed us that each one has its own unique value, in whose absence, another tefilla cannot replace it.

It appears that three matters unique to the ethical activity of prayer are hinted at here. One is that a person’s evil inclination can overcome him, with wildness and silliness that a bad environment fosters, as one is involved in the day’s activities with those who throw off ethics and forget Hashem. Tefilla can return one’s lost spirituality by “spilling forth” his speech to Hashem, thereby elevating his pure conceptions of knowledge of Hashem, pushing off the plaster of falsehood and corruption of the thoughts. That is the special place of Mincha, which comes up in the middle of the day of activity and interaction with many types of people. The proof to the efficacy in this area is Eliyahu, whose prayer at Mincha time was answered as he strove to remove the bad thoughts from the heart of the masses who were worshipping the Ba’al.

The evening prayer’s special function is to elevate man’s spirit so that he not lower his soul with evil and sinful thoughts that go against the Torah and ethics. That is why they bring the pasuk that compares tefilla to incense, as incense atones on the thoughts of the heart (Yoma 44a), which is concealed. Granted, another gemara (Zevachim 88b) says that incense atones private lashon hara, but this also stems from the thoughts of the heart, as the pasuk says: “A person shall not think in his heart of the evil of his heart” (Zecharia 8:17). Alas, all of people’s faults come only from the swelling of their self-love, which breaks ethical fences. Incense comes to arouse the desire to fix one’s ways in his inner chambers, in the realm of concealed matters, which is the foundation of the persistence of the ethical standing.

In the morning, although the spiritual powers are not yet armed with evil, they are still lacking completeness, as sleep was dominant overnight. The powers need to be awakened and arranged in a holy setting so that they will be prepared to think elevating thoughts, in justice and straightness, in fear and love of Hashem. This is Shacharit’s special function, as the pasuk says: “Hashem, hear my voice in the morning; in the morning, I will arrange before you.” I will arrange my spirit and look forward that You will be with me to strengthen me, for he who strives to purify himself is helped (Yoma 38b).

Yeshivat Machon Meir: Parshat Vayeitzei - The two objectives of Yaakov (video)

The Fulfillment of Yaakov's Dream

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Yaakov was facing difficult times. Relentlessly pursued by Eisav, who wished to kill him, he left his parents’ home in Be’er Sheva for the exile of Charan, alone and bereft of possessions. Along the way, he had a good dream. In his dream, he saw “G-d standing over him” (Ber. 28:13), “to protect him” (Rashi). G-d promised him, “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying” (Ber 28:13). G-d folded the whole Land of Israel under him, hinting that it would be as easy to conquer as four cubits. (Rashi, Ibid.). And G-d further promised, “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (v. 14).

Regarding Yaakov's bleak situation just then, G-d said, “I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil” (v. 15).

Yaakov's remarkable dream is the dream of the Jewish People which has accompanied us throughout all the generations, even in the darkest and most difficult periods of our bitter and gloomy exile. In times of destruction, pogroms, and the Holocaust, Jews never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream.

There indeed were, and continue to be, some who try to blot out the dream. They think that by doing so they stop the Jews from continuing their goal of returning to their land and fulfilling their destiny -- which is to bring light and goodness to the world. All the same, “many are the thoughts in man’s heart, but it is the council of G-d that will come to pass” (Mishlei 19:21).

Right now, “with G-d bringing back the return of Zion, we are like dreamers” (Tehilim 126:1). Our generation is privileged to see the ingathering of the exiles. We are already living Yaakov's dream in a wakeful state, as in G-d’s promise, “I will bring you back to this soil” (Ber 28:15). It is no dream. It is already a reality. The day is not far off when we will see as well the promise made to both Avraham and Yaakov: “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants” (v. 14).

Looking forward to salvation,
With the Love of Israel,
Shabbat Shalom.

You really call that Tamim?

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Friday Night
THE JOURNEY WAS going to be a long one, 36 years when all said and done. Some people go out east for a year or two trying to find themselves. Ya’akov would spend three decades out east in search of himself.

Himself? Didn’t he go in search of wives, while at the same time trying to go off Eisav’s grid?

Ya, that was all true, but more a cover story than anything else. Yitzchak didn’t have to go anywhere to find his soul mate, who was delivered right to his front door by Eliezer. If Ya’akov had to travel all that distance to start his family, it had to have been good for his development too. Eisav was just Gods modus operandi to get Ya’akov out of his tent and on the road.

His journey had many parts. His first stop was the yeshivah of Shem and Eiver to learn for 14 years. As the rabbis say, Ya’akov never went to sleep. He just kept learning until sleep came to him. Then he would wake up and do it all over again…for 14 consecutive years.

Those 14 years of uninterrupted Torah study were crucial preparation for the next 22 years with Lavan. Just going to Chutz L’Aretz was challenge enough, and even for a short while. Living with Lavan was like living in the Chutz L’Aretz of Chutz L’Aretz for 22 years! Who wouldn’t lose themself spiritually after such exposure to anti-Torah values?

It was definitely on Ya’akov’s mind:

And if I return in peace to my father’s house, and God will be my God… (Bereishis 28:21)

In peace: Perfect from sin, that I will not learn from the ways of Lavan. (Rashi)

Lavan the crook. Lavan the mobster. Lavan the cheat. Ya’akov who knew who he was about to deal with, and he wanted no part of him. Ya’akov was tamim, and Lavan was the opposite. Or was he?

Ya’akov told Rachel that he was her father’s brother. (Bereishis 29:12).

Was he her father’s brother? But wasn’t he the son of her father’s sister?

Rather, he said to her: “Will you marry me?”

She said to him: “Yes, but my father is a swindler, and you will not be able to [outwit] him.”

He answered her, “I am his brother in deception.”

She asked him: “But is it permitted for the righteous to be involved in deception?”

He told her: “Yes, ‘With the pure you will show yourself pure, and with the perverse you will show yourself subtle’” (II Shmuel 22:27)… (Megillah 13b)

You really call that tamim?

Shabbos Day
JEWISH HISTORY IS convoluted, I’ve said that many times. So many things have occurred in very questionable ways. And so many of the good things have happened in mysterious ways, or in ways we haven’t been able to see or appreciate. And sometimes it has seemed that we have just made it by the skin of our teeth, giving many the impression that it was more luck than divine providence.

But that has more to do with the way we look at reality than how God creates it. It reminds me of a certain kind of joke. The punchline of most jokes seems to have emerged naturally from the joke itself, as if the “author” said, “What’s a funny way to end this story?” But some jokes you can tell they started with a funny idea and the joke was then built around it. One of my favorites?

Question: Why don’t seagulls fly over the bay?

Answer: Because then they would be bagels (bay-gulls).

I don’t know how that joke came to be, but it sounds to me like someone was sitting in a bagel shop and while munching on their bagel suddenly realized that “bagels” sounds like “bay-gulls,” and quickly realized that there was a joke about seagulls in there. Alternatively, they ordered a dozen bagels and was surprised to be handed 12 birds in a bag and found humor in that.

That’s the way God wrote history. As we say every Friday night during Kabbalas Shabbos, “Last in deed but first in thought.” It means that even though Shabbos was the last creation of Ma’aseh Bereishis, God already had it in mind before He started created anything. The same thing is true of all of history.

Since we do not know the future or fully understand the final game plan of God, history seems to meander through time, and be completely a function of cause and effect. Causes lead to effects which lead to other causes, which lead to other effects, and so on thousands of years later. Things happen that we did not anticipate, sometimes to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment. Fires occur and we do the best we can to put them out or at least minimize damage because, from our time-locked perspective, life is an evolving “joke” still in search of its punchline.

Not for God though. He can work backwards from the punchline, and everything that happens in history was not only anticipated by God, it was designed and implemented by Him. If we could see history from His perspective, and one day we will, not one event in all of history will be questionable or out of place. The grande finale will prove that it all made sense. Jewish history will no longer appear convoluted. It will appear like the most logical and straightest path between two points, the beginning of Jewish history and the end of it.

This is the fundamental difference between the knowledge of the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Aitz HaChaim, the Tree of Life. The knowledge of the Tree of Life is God’s vision for history, the punchline if you will, and it puts all of history into godly perspective. The knowledge of the Aitz HaDa’as is a view of life from the other direction, which is what makes life so surprising and exasperating at times for those who “eat” only from it.

This was also the fundamental difference between inside Ya’akov’s tent of Torah study where he began, and outside of it. Inside Ya’akov lived on the level of the Aitz HaChaim, the level of Olam HaBa to whatever extent it is possible while still in this world. Outside the “tent” he had to contend with a world that was built solely on the level of the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra.

Shalosh Seudot
WHAT THIS MEANS is that, to be Lavan’s brother in trickery as a fellow Aitz HaDa’as person would have made Ya’akov a crook just like Lavan. To match his trickery while coming from an Aitz HaChaim point of view was, in the words of Yeshaya HaNavi, “with the perverse you will show yourself subtle.” Not all ends justify the means, but they do when they come from God.

When they come from God, they are not just a person’s idea of God, or their personal interpretation of what God has said. Before someone declares that their controversial act is in the name of God, they have to make sure that God agrees with them. They can’t ruin God’s plan, no matter how much it may look like they have, but they can certainly run their life and destroy their portion in the World to Come.

The truth is that without prophecy, it is really quite impossible to have such a God point of view. Prophets only had it to whatever extent they had it, because God shared it with them. An exception perhaps was Eliyahu HaNavi at Mt. Carmel to show up the worshippers of Ba’al. The law already in place was to not build an altar to God outside the Temple grounds, which Har Carmel was. But Eliyahu did it anyhow.

Any chachamim since then who have reached such a level without being prophets have usually not done anything outside of the Torah box. The Arizal, for example, was worried that doing such things could negatively altar history, and refrained, and that was hundreds of years ago. Today, even the greatest of rabbis won’t go outside the guidelines of Torah for any reason.

But Ya’akov Avinu was very different from everyone else. Remember the names of the three types of sheep he had, Akudim, Nekudim, and Berudim? Those are names of pre-Creation phases that he perceived that we can only talk about. He wasn’t called E”l, a name of God for no reason.

The bottom line? Lavan was a cheat because that is how he coped with the world he found himself in. Ya’akov “cheated” back when it was the truth according to the Ultimate Truth, God Himself. They may not have seemed much different to the untrained eye, but they were as different as the darkest night and the brightest day.

Ain Od Milvado, Part 28
DO YOU PRAY to God or do you pray at God? What is the difference? Someone who prays at God basically says the prayers into the air and hopes, if they even care, that God hears them and answers them. At the very least, they hope that they have fulfilled their obligation to pray, regardless of being heard or answered.

People who don’t appreciate how much they need God to survive usually have this approach to prayer, and Judaism in general. It’s like the Gemora says, prayer is one those things that stands at the heights of the world but people walk all over. Those are the people who do not believe that prayer actually makes much of a difference to the outcome in their lives.

Until they need to. Those are the times they are scared of the future and everything they usually rely upon to save them has either failed or offers no hope. Then, all of a sudden, the uncertainty of prayer works in the other direction, providing a glimmer of hope where there otherwise is none.

Praying to God is different. It’s not like talking into a phone with no one on the other end. It’s like sitting across from someone and having a sincere conversation, the goal of which is a closer connection to the other side. The words are just the means to improve that connection.

Ya’akov Avinu had already reached Charan when he realized he had missed the opportunity to pray to God on the future Temple Mount. Many people wouldn’t go back a mile for a minyan, but Ya’akov turned around and went all the way back to Eretz Yisroel just to doven Ma’ariv by himself. That’s how much he wanted and appreciated that connection to God.

That’s another aspect of od ain Milvado. It’s not enough just to believe that there is none other than God. You have to also believe that God is everywhere at all times, including right in front of you when you pray. You may be praying at Him, but He is right there waiting for you to pray to Him.

Why then did Ya’akov Avinu turn around and head back to Har HaMoriah to pray if God is everywhere? To maximize the experience. Once God has already identified places where He can be most felt, it is a shame to meet up with Him in lesser places, like the Diaspora. That’s why Ya’akov did the next best thing going to Mesopotamia. He took a part of Eretz Yisroel with him…something that only works when God sends and keeps you outside His holy land.

The Shamrak Report: People Voted for True Zionist Government and more..

People Voted for True Zionist Government
by Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar

As is typical in days following elections, these days, too, are rife with spins, rumours, accusations and arm wrestling. That is why we must take every report, every tweet, and every news item with a grain of salt and with the utmost caution.

A large majority of the people of Israel voted for a different policy - A return to the values of Judaism, Zionism, sovereignty and governance.

All the parties of the next coalition are obligated to take action to implement the will of the people. This is the clearest most basic democratic principle of all.

Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu has repeatedly proclaimed his desire to promote Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, to lead the resolute struggle against Arab takeover of State lands in Judea and Samaria, and to block in any way possible the advancement of the idea of establishing an enemy state in our country s heartland, which, until now, he has succeeded in blocking.

Likewise, he declared his intent to establish a government powerful enough to stand up to the United States, our great friend, and say no to the administration s demands when they compromise Israel's sovereignty, independence and security. It was those declarations that excited the multitudes of voters and brought them to the polls in the hope of replacing the outgoing government as soon as possible.

His promises to apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and thereby determine Israel's eastern border based on a broad national consensus are also remembered. His statements about the indivisible unity of Jerusalem, in contrast to the dangerous positions of the Left, are similarly remembered.

This is precisely what the people of Israel voted for. For all these reasons, the negotiation teams must remember the essence of the people's choice: the full-fledged Right is the fulfillment of the vision of sovereignty and the urgency of governance.

Food for Thought
by Steven Shamrak

In the past, Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the West Bank. It was nothing but a cynical pre-election ploy, which he has no intention to keep! After so many years of his spineless leadership, the regularity of rocket attacks from Gaza and terror attacks in Judea and Samaria has become normal facts of life in Israel. No other self-respecting country would tolerate this! The political cowardness of Netanyahu and his unwillingness to make tough decisions in order to reunite Jewish land - by relocating enemy population from Judea, Samaria and Gaza prior to their annexation has become intolerable. He must step down and let the Likud party to return to its Zionist values.

Netanyahu Broken Coalition Promises to Shas
Shas leader Aryeh Deri reportedly raised his voice in a shouting match with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and threatened to only support the government from the outside. We responded to your requests and gave up the Treasury ...if you don t fulfill your obligations, we will give up on the portfolios and support the government from the outside.

IDF Provoked by Palestinians and Jewish Traitors
Two soldiers were suspended by the IDF on Friday after they were filmed hitting and taunting two left-wing activists in Hebron. The visit of a delegation of Israeli left-wing activists was organized by Issa Amro, a 42-year-old Palestinian from Hebron who is a prominent personality in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. Amro said that the incident and video are part of a media protest campaign, which is being planned by Palestinian, Israeli and international protest organizations against the Israeli government.

Another Simulation of Striking Iran
This week, both the United States and Israel will hold one of their largest air drills in years to simulate striking Iran's nuclear program. Drills will take place over the Mediterranean Sea and Israel, exercises consisting of fighter jets from both forces and refuelling aircraft for long-range flights. (Over the year, too many exercises have already been done - the strike is long overdue)

Repeal Disengagement Law
The Samaria Regional Council is launching a campaign calling on the new Netanyahu government to repeal the 2005 Disengagement Law which makes it illegal for Jews to live in northern Samaria.

Israel Haters do not Report This:

Palestinian Children have Heart Operation in Israel
Some 3,000 children from the PA controlled territories to undergo such surgery in Israel as part of an Israeli NGO s program. Save a Child s Heart, since its foundation in 1995, has helped more than 6,000 children travel from abroad with their families for the critical operations.

LGBT Palestinians Fleeing to Israel
Forced to flee their homes for fear of being killed over their sinfulness, dozens of gay Palestinians have sought the relative safety of Israel. Gay Palestinians speak of savage beatings, forced isolation, murder attempts at the hands of family.

Orthodox Women Help Develop IDF Drone
Some 200 Haredi women software engineers from the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak will take part in developing unmanned aerial vehicles used by the Israeli military. The Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle, made by Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems, is used to gather intelligence and conduct strikes on enemy targets.

Quote of the Week:
We of the right-wing (Zionists), we had enough of promises from Bibi Netanyahu. He s promising everything but he's doing nothing. With Bibi he gave Hebron, he gave Jericho [to the PA]. He supported the transfer of Jews from the north of Samaria. He didn't allow for building in East Jerusalem in the last 10 years. He froze the building for Jews in East Jerusalem. He didn't build E1 between Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem. He didn't touch the illegal buildings of Arabs in Judea and Samaria. He allowed the Bedouins in the Negev to do whatever they wanted." - Aryeh King, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor.

Truth about the Negotiations Likud Lies
by David Israel
We generally believe that it is right to conduct negotiations in the room and not in the media. But the Likud, unfortunately, decided to schedule negotiation meetings with us barely once every three days, and in between to brief and spin to discredit and diminish us, and send legions of tweeters and commentators to lie and curse us in the most vulgar manner, said Bezalel Smotrich s spokesman.

Netanyahu has been trying to rip away whole sections of Smotrich's and ben Gvir's offices while reneging on every single promise he had made to them. And so, Smotrich et al have taken the warpath. This is what they sent out:

We asked for the security, education, and religious services portfolios.

Netanyahu asked us to leave security alone and take finance including responsibility for the settlements and the civil administration we agreed.

He asked us to do a rotation with Deri, finance in exchange for interior and transportation we agreed.

He asked us to give up education and settle for responsibility for religious education we agreed.

We asked for religious services, they asked us to give it up and reach an agreement with Deri we agreed.

And then he (Netanyahu) reneged on all the agreements.

No full responsibility for the civil administration.

No rotation with the transportation portfolio.

No responsibility for religious education.

No division of religious services based on the agreements.

So, who here wants to form a government and gives up and is being pragmatic, and who aims to trample, humiliate and diminish Religious Zionism?!

The folks at Religious Zionism are not wrong. Netanyahu's lackeys are everywhere nowadays, on radio talk shows, mainstream news channels, and even right-leaning television and YouTube channels.

Biden Rewards Palestinians for Terrorism, Incitement

by Bassam Tawil 
  • The Biden administration's recent decision to upgrade its relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) is yet another sign of how the US is rewarding the Palestinians, as they are the Iranian regime, for their ongoing toxic incitement and terrorism against Israel.
  • It is the first time the US has created a position at the State Department that is solely responsible for Palestinian affairs.
  • The decision coincided with two bomb attacks in Jerusalem, in which a 16-year-old Jewish boy was killed and 14 other people wounded.
  • The Palestinian Authority, in fact, offers stipends to the terrorists and their families as part of its "Pay-for-Slay" program -- which serves as an incentive, especially in an area that is not wealthy, for its citizens to continue their violence.
  • Several Palestinian groups issued separate statements lauding the Jerusalem bombings as "heroic operations" and calling for the murder of more Jews.
  • Abbas has never called on the terror groups to halt their attacks.
  • One would have expected the Biden administration to demand that the Palestinian leadership dismantle the terror groups operating under its auspices in the West Bank.
  • One would have expected the Biden administration to demand that the Palestinian Authority halt the monthly payments for terrorism to the terrorists and their families.
  • One would have expected the Biden administration to pressure the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel and abandon their long-time policy of rejecting all offers without even proposing a counteroffer.
  • The Biden administration, which resumed financial aid to the Palestinians -- without any conditions attached -- has chosen to ignore the Palestinian leadership's role in encouraging violence, hate and efforts to eliminate Israel, and to erect, in its place, yet another Islamic state.
  • The payments to the terrorists and their families successfully encourage many Palestinians to carry out attacks against Israelis: they know that they or their families will be added to the Palestinian Authority's payroll.
  • The Biden administration is dead wrong if it thinks that upgrading its relations with the Palestinian Authority will have a moderating effect on the Palestinians or prompt them to improve their policies toward Israel. On the contrary, the move is likely to increase the Palestinian leaders' intransigence because now they feel that the US is on their side, notwithstanding their incitement and support for terrorism.
  • By upgrading US-Palestinian relations, the Biden administration is also sending a message to these Arab countries that it stands behind the Palestinians' rejection of normalization and peace between the Arabs and Israel.
  • The Biden administration has anyway done nothing to support the Abraham Accords or try to get more Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, on board. Instead, the Biden administration has done everything in its power to antagonize America's traditional allies in the Arab world, first and foremost Saudi Arabia. The Biden administration's policy of appeasement of the mullahs in Iran has already alienated some Arabs, especially the Gulf states.

The Biden administration's recent decision to upgrade its relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) is yet another sign of how the US is rewarding the Palestinians, as they are the Iranian regime, for their ongoing toxic incitement and terrorism against Israel. Pictured: US President Joe Biden meets with PA President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration's recent decision to upgrade its relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) is yet another sign of how the US is rewarding the Palestinians, as they are the Iranian regime, for their ongoing toxic incitement and terrorism against Israel.

The decision sends a message to the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, that the Biden administration does not care if the Palestinians continue to glorify and embrace terrorists who murder and wound Jews and others.

A senior US State Department official was quoted as saying the Biden administration notified Congress that it has appointed Hady Amr as a new "special representative for Palestinian affairs."

The move is an upgrade in US-Palestinian relations. It is the first time the US has created a position at the State Department that is solely responsible for Palestinian affairs.

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Monday, November 28, 2022

Rav Kook on Parashat Vayeitzei: The Rivalry between Rachel and Leah

Yaakov did not have an easy life. He loved Rachel, but was tricked into marrying her sister Leah. And when he finally married Rachel, his home suffered from rivalry between the two sisters.

This strife was not limited to Jacob’s household. It continued on in future generations: in the struggle between Rachel’s son Yosef and Leah’s sons; and in the conflict between King Shaul, a descendant of Rachel, and Dovid, a descendant of Leah. Why did Yaakov need to endure so many obstacles when setting up his family — complications that would have such a long-term impact on future generations of the Jewish people?

The Present versus the Future
We live in a divided reality. We continuously deliberate: how much should we live for the moment, and how much should we work for the future? We must constantly balance between the here-and-now and the yet-to-come. This dilemma exists across all levels of life: individual, familial, communal, and national.

God’s original design for the world was that the entire tree, even the bark, would taste as sweet as its fruit (Ber. 1:11). In other words, even during the intermediate stages of working toward a goal, we should be able to sense and enjoy the final fruits of our labor. When the world is functioning properly, the present is revealed in all of its glory and serves as a suitable guide toward a loftier future. In such a perfect world, our current desires and wishes do not impinge upon our future aspirations.

But the physical universe is fundamentally flawed. The earth failed to produce trees that taste like their fruit. We endure constant conflict between the present and the future, the temporal and the eternal. As individuals and as a nation, we often need to disregard the sensibilities of the present since they will not lead us toward our destined path.

Rachel and Leah
Yaakov's marriage to two sisters, and the ongoing rivalry between them, is a metaphor for this duality in our lives.

Like all things in our world, Yaakov's home suffered from a lack of clarity. Yaakov should have been able to establish his family on the basis of an uplifted present, blessed with integrity and goodness. He should have been able to marry and set up his home without making calculations with an eye to the future. The natural purity and simple emotions of his holy soul should have sufficed.

Rachel, whom Yaakov immediately loved for the beautiful qualities of her soul, is a metaphor for the simple and natural love we feel for the revealed present. Yaakov felt that Rachel’s external beauty was also in harmony with the unknown realm of the distant future.

But God’s counsel decreed that the future destiny of the people of Israel belonged not to Rachel, but to Leah. 1 Leah would be the principal matriarch of the Jewish people. Yet this future was so profoundly hidden, that its current state — in Leah — was hidden from Yaakov.

This concealed quality of Leah is embedded in the very foundations of the Jewish people. Because of the legacy of Leah, we can raise our sights afar, skipping over the present circumstances, in order to aspire toward a lofty future. Just as Yaakov found himself unexpectedly wed to Leah, so too, the path of the Jewish people throughout history does not always proceed in an orderly fashion. The future often projects its way into the present so that the present time may be elevated and sanctified.

Two Kings and Two Messiahs
The rivalry between Rachel and Leah, the conflict between the beautiful present and the visionary future, also found expression in the monarchy of Israel. The temporary reign of Shaul, a descendant of Rachel, struggled with the eternal dynasty of Dovid, a descendant of Leah. 2

Even in the Messianic Era, the divide between Rachel and Leah will continue, with two Messianic leaders: the precursive redeemer, Mashiach ben Yosef, a descendant of Rachel, and the final redeemer, Mashiach ben Dovid, a descendant of Leah.

Nonetheless, we aspire for the simpler state in which the present is uplifting, and by means of its light, the future acquires its greatness. For this reason, Rachel was always honored as Jacob’s primary wife. Even Leah’s descendants in Bethlehem conceded: “Like Rachel and Leah who both built the house of Israel” (Ruth 4:11), honoring Rachel before Leah.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV, pp. 44-46 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

1 Six of the twelve tribes of Israel, including those designated for spiritual and political leadership (Levi and Yehuda), were born to Leah.

2 Shaul, who is described as “the most handsome young man in Israel, head and shoulders above the people” (Shmuel Aleph 16:2), was a natural choice for king. And yet God chose to appoint Dovid — a simple shepherd boy whose leadership qualities even his own father failed to see — as the true king of the Jewish people. As God explained to the perplexed Shmuel HaNavi: “Look not upon his appearance, or the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For it is not as man sees [that which is visible] to the eyes; the Lord sees into the heart” (Shmuel Aleph 16:7).]

Escaping Exile and Aliya to Eretz Yisrael

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva and went toward Charan." (Bereisheet 28:10) What would be lacking had the verse simply said, "Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva toward Charan?" Clearly, if he left Be'er Sheva he went to some other place!

When a person leaves one place and goes to another, there can be two motives for going. Sometimes he wants to leave his current place, and sometimes his goal is the place towards which he is going.

"They traveled from the mountain of Hashem" (Bamidbar 10:33) Chazal comment: "Like a child who is running away from school." Where did they know this from? The pasuk emphasizes, "They traveled from the mountain of Hashem," and does not identify where their destination was. Chazal understood that it made no difference to them where they go - they just wanted to travel from the mountain of Hashem.

Yaakov was commanded by both his parents to go to Charan, but each one had his own reason. Rivka said to him: "So now, my son, heed my voice and arise; flee to my brother Lavan, to Charan ... until your brother's wrath subsides ... Why should I be bereaved of both of you on the same day?" (Bereisheet 27:43-45) Her main concern was that Esav intended to kill Yaakov, and therefore it was important for her that Yaakov should leave. On the other hand, his father Yitzchak said to him: "Do not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Betual your mother's father, and take a wife from there from the daughters of Lavan your mother's brother." (28:1-2) His main goal was that Yaakov should go to Padan and marry there.

Yaakov obeyed both of them; "Yaakov listened to his father and his mother." (28:7) This means, to his father who told him to go to Padan, and to his mother who told him to escape from Eretz Canaan. This is what the pasuk says: "Yaakov departed from Be'er Sheva" – as Rivka commanded; "and went toward Charan" – as per Yitzchak's command.

This idea is true also in regards to the relationship of Jews to Eretz Yisrael. There are those who go to Israel in order to escape persecution in their dwelling place out of Israel. There are others who understand the special quality of Israel – that it is "the land of the living," and that there is the "Sanctuary of Hashem," as the Ramban writes – and leave exile in order to reach Israel.

This explains the verses in the beginning of Parshat Masei. "These are the journeys of Bnei Yisrael, who went forth from the land of Egypt ... Moshe wrote their departures according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their departures." (Bamidbar 33:1-2) Why is the concluding phrase repeated in reverse order? Some of Bnei Yisrael did not go out willingly, but were chased out forcibly, and had no interest in going to Eretz Yisrael. Others knew its value and looked forward to going to the Land and understood that Israel's redemption depended on this. Therefore, Moshe wrote their departures according to their journeys – their departure was for the purpose of the journey to Eretz Yisrael, and this was the true purpose of the Exodus. However, "These were their journeys according to their departures" – many traveled only to depart from Egypt, or were chased out from there.

This is statement of Yechezkel, "I will separate from among you those who rebel and those who transgress against me; I will take them out of their sojourning, but they will not come to the soil of Israel." (Yechezkel 20:38) Israel will become so low during the time of the exile, that even if their persecutors will chase them out and they will be forced to leave – going to Israel will not be primary in their eyes, but rather the escape from the lands of persecution. Therefore, Yechezkel concludes, "but they will not come to the soil of Israel."

In this same vein Rav Kook zt"l explains the verse, "Who are these, who fly like a cloud, like doves to the cote-windows?" (Yeshaya 60:8) The clouds are driven by the wind from place to place, without a specific destination, but the doves return to their home, to their cote-windows. So, too, there are Jews who are led against their will like clouds from place to place, and by chance reach Eretz Yisrael, and others know that coming to Israel is returning home.

Similarly, in Yirmiya, G-d comforts Rachel: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment ... and they will return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future ... and your children will return to their border." (31:15-16) There are Jews who reach Israel as a result of escaping the enemy's land, from a land of persecution, where they cannot live as Jews. However, there are those who understand that aliya to Eretz Yisrael is not escaping from another place, but rather the return of children to their original home, "your children will return to their border."

Ya'akov's Home

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Bet El

(Adapted from the dvar Torah delivered by the Rav to a gathering of residents and guests at "Shabbat Bet El")

"How awesome is this place. This is surely the House of God, and the Gate to Heaven."

Welcome to Bet El. This holy, awesome place perhaps best epitomizes Ya'akov Avinu, the prime figure among the Avot, our forefathers. Ya'akov reaches the highest level of holiness of all of the patriarchs, and his place is here - in Bet El. This spot is the top of Ya'akov's "ladder," - which, according to some opinions, is spiritually "parallel" to the geographical location of Bet El.

From here, one is able to view the greatest "heights," get a glimpse of the "Gate to Heaven." It's crucial to know where the Gate to Heaven is, since the entry to Heaven is only by way of that gate.

This concept - that there is a specific path to come closer to God - is apparent in the verse in Tehilim (118:19) that reads: "Open for me the Gates of Righteousness, I will enter them, and give thanks to God. This is the gate to God, Righteous people are permitted to enter it." The Torah is a spiritual passageway, and Bet El is its material, earthly, point of entry. It is here, in Bet El, that, with the help of Hashem, Ya'akov discovers the Gate to Heaven.

Rabbi Yossi once said: "Anyone who makes his Shabbat pleasurable is rewarded with a boundless inheritance, as it says in the book of Yeshaya: 'Then you shall derive pleasure from Hashem; He will, in response, lift you up to the highest places in the land, and feed you the inheritance of your father Ya'akov.'" The rabbis elaborate: "Not like Avraham, with regards to whom it was said: 'Rise up, and tour the land, its length and breadth.' [The Torah here describes Avraham's relationship to the land as being limited to certain boundaries] Not like Yitzchak, with regards to whom it was said: 'To you and your seed I am giving all of these lands...' But like Ya'akov, with regards to whom it was said: 'And you shall spread out to the west, east, north and south...'"

"You shall spread out to the west" is a modern-day reference to our very own Arutz Sheva radio station, whose ship is still at sea; it is anchored some 20 kilometers off the coast of Israel, and 67 kilometers from where we are now, Bet El. God-willing, we will eventually move eastwards, and then further north and south...

In the Masechta of Pesachim, our sages quote Rabbi Elazar, who asks "What does the verse in Yeshaya refer to, when it says: 'Many nations will (in Messianic times) say, Let us go up to Hashem's mountain, to the home of the God of Ya’akov.' Is Hashem the God of Ya'akov and not the God of Avraham and Yitzchak? No! Rather, the verse seeks to distinguish between Avraham, who is identified with a mountain: 'As it will be said, on the Mountain of God he will appear,' and not like Yitzchak, who is associated with a field, as it says: 'Yitzchak went out to pray in the field.' Rather, like Ya'akov, who is associated with a home, as it says, 'And Ya'akov called the name of that place Bet (House of) El (God)...'"

Earlier, we cited a verse that predicted that many of the world's nations will ultimately declare, "Let us go up to the Hashem's mountain." In the future, the world's nations will not simply be drawn towards God, (Who dwells on this mountain) - they will seek out the House of the God of Ya'akov. The non-Jewish nations will not be drawn by Yitzchak, who is identified with a field, a wide-open field that could potentially accomodate host thousands...They will be attracted - by the home symbolized by Ya’akov. A home is a framework, a place that serves as a dwelling, gives a structure to, contains within it, the infinite Divine bounty present within a Jewish family. When the Jewish people reaches its potential, returns to itself, ties into its unique internal essence, then the nations of the world will be attracted, will be driven to ascend the Mountain of God, to reach the house of the God of Ya'akov.

There are times when we must look inward, and by way of an insular approach, later influence others... This is reflected in the commandment to Ya'akov: "And you should spread out to the west, east, north and south." The approach of Ya’akov Avinu is dual: He first turns inward, builds his private home; he then reaches out, moving in all directions - with an eye to positively influencing even distant corners of the land and of the globe...

I would like to say a few things about the situation in which we find ourselves at present. We are all busy struggling with how to respond to the events that have befallen us, how to perceive them. What does God want from us?

I think that what is happening now is akin to that which our teacher and master, Rav Kook, said during that awful period known as the Holocaust, although obviously not on the same scale as the Shoah. He said that the Holocaust marked the destruction of the "Galut," of the exile... In other words, the Shoah was a painful, awful period, but it was like a surgical procedure - a type of surgery of transition, in which God transplanted us from the diaspora to the Land of Israel. He uprooted us in a very painful fashion but - did so, so that he could bring us here.

I think that we can even look in the same way at our present crisis, our current suffering, at the weakness of spirit that has overtaken the country, its leaders and decision-makers. We are witnessing the crisis of secular Zionism. It is disintegrating. True, it is a very painful, even overwhelming proces - a literal "Hurban," or destruction; the process is bringing about many serious rifts both in the Land and in the nation. What is happening here, however, is not an overall, wholesale destruction of Jewish life, but the destruction of the particular, superficial secular path that has guided modern Israel until now. This is destruction for the sake of rebuilding. It is bound to bring about the crystallizing of the inner, spiritual, essence of our nation.

Of late, several new concepts have been broached in response to the crisis, like "a leadership of faith," "Jewish leadership," and the like. These are positive developments, but any such movement must be careful to view the Jewish experience broadly, not narrowly. A religious leader is not simply someone who dons a kippa on his head. True Jewish leadership means leadership built upon the solid foundation of Torah. An internal, spiritual strength must be its message; it must reflect the deeply-rooted beliefs of Jewish sources; it must be moved by a desire and ability to elevate the nation.

Our country's present political actors - a leadership not guided by the great ideals of Torah - is crumbling, and this disintegration is surely affecting us, too...

Nevertheless, we must see in the latest events - the peeling away of an external, superficial approach that has fulfilled its previous mission. The time has now come for a great spiritual revolution. We have to already see in this crisis the groundwork for the next phase of our growth, of the blazing of a new, spiritual trail within our nation. A revitalized nation will be led by a true Torah-true leadership, a leadership of people of faith, a leadership that actualizes all of those God-given powers within us...

On behalf of the entire community, I wish to thank all the guests who have come here for "Shabbat Bet El." All of you are flesh of our flesh, our brothers. Many of you have relatives who live here. Yet it is not only the people who live here in Bet El, but many many people all over the land who are connected to us here, and who hear, from here, the resounding voice of Ya'akov Avinu. Today, we saw the ladder standing firm on the ground, with its head reaching heaven. Let us all jointly climb that ladder and ascend to even greater heights. If we do so, we will surely soon merit the building of our Bet Elohim - God's Home - the Bet Hamikdash - in all of its splendor and glory, in our Holy City of Jerusalem, speedily in our days...