Friday, June 24, 2022

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya: Connecting Disciplines in Torah Study #103 – part IV

part IV

Date and Place: 21 Tevet 5668 (1908), Yafo

Recipient: Rav Yitzchak Aizik Halevi, the author of a monumental history of rabbinic scholarship, Dorot Harishonim. See Rav Kook’s letter to him (#99).

Body: [Rav Kook continues to deal with the place of prophecy and Divine Spirit in decision-making in halacha and in the difference between the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi, the latter being briefer and more in touch with spiritual insight. A large portion of the rest of the letter touches on specific halachic discussions as examples of the concept, and we will largely skip that.]

On a matter in which there is no question what the halacha is, based on Torah logic, all agree that we say “It is not in the Heaven,” i.e., prophecy and miracles cannot overrule the findings of halachic authorities. In contrast, when investigation of the roots of the Torah, whether based on the Written Law or oral traditions, leaves room for doubt, we do not say “It is not in the Heaven.”

[The gemara (Temura 16a) says that during the days of mourning for Moshe, 1700 laws were forgotten, and Otniel ben K’naz recovered them with powers of halachic analysis. [The p’sukim to which the gemara refers tell that Otniel ben K’naz captured a place called Kiryat Sefer, lit. The City of the Book.] We must say that these halachot were forgotten totally, and therefore it was necessary to use intellectual prowess, not Divine Spirit. Furthermore, it is likely that Otniel did not have to arrive at a final decision. Rather once he was able to identify the logic for each side in the question, it was theoretically possible to decide between the approaches based on prophecy or Yehoshua’s or Pinchas’ Divine Spirit. However, it was the will of Hashem in the beginning of the age of the Oral Law to strengthen the position of the scholars in using intellect that emerges from the rigorous analysis of the Torah. Therefore, Otniel had the merit of finishing, reaching the resolution of the matter with analysis. Otniel was rewarded for his “conquest” by receiving the upper and lower well springs (see Shoftim 1:13-15). This is a hint at the two elements of clarification: that which applies to the intellect of the land (i.e., human existence) and that which relates to the upper intellect, which is impacted by prophecy and Divine Spirit. The p’sukim use the terms of smiting and capturing [for what Otniel did in Kiryat Sefer], for he did not suffice with involvement in battle (parallel to raising the logic of the approaches) but to conquest (parallel to arriving at a conclusion).

In a similar manner, there is intellectual depth that emanates from the analysis of the simple logic as it reaches the higher-level ideas. This cannot be spelled out in the Talmud, and it is reserved for great scholars who understand matters on a higher level. The Yerushalmi makes use of such hints because of its scholars’ advantages of living in a land whose air increases wisdom. The Bavli does this as well, but in fewer cases. [Now Rav Kook gives a few examples in the Bavli of hints of a hidden, upper-level understanding.]

… I have written these few ideas very hastily due to various tiresome matters that preoccupy me. I apologize if they are not written in a refined, organized manner, as would befit writing to someone of your great honor. I pray that Hashem will give you strength and that you will complete that which you set out to do. Namely, may you elevate the crown of the Torah, return its students to the glorious level of the past, and unify the holiness of the Rabbis with the source of the sanctity, which flows from the Torah of truth. Then our brethren will no longer be attracted by the lies, unwisely presented, of the lowly people who claim that our past is false.

Our Mistakes begin with our Desires

by Rav Binny Freedman

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of training to be a Rabbi and a teacher is to have spent time in the presence of great Torah scholars; it allows you to appreciate how little you really know.

Having had the privilege of pursuing rabbinical studies in a place where geniuses ‘grew on trees’ and where classes were given by some of the greatest Torah scholars of the generation, the prospect of ‘graduating’ as a rabbi became somewhat of a daunting prospect. How does one reach the point where they feel ready to assume rabbinical studies? Especially after being exposed on a daily basis to what a Torah-scholar and a rabbi can be?

I recall a friend very close to me who was, confronted with this very challenge: How do you know when you are ready to leave the greenhouse of the Yeshiva world and put the knowledge you have accrued to serve the community? Torah, after all, is an endless pursuit; do you ever arrive at a point where you feel you have learned enough to begin to teach? And yet, if you wait until you feel you are ready, you might enter the field at the age of ninety!

Struggling with this question, and trying to decide whether to stay on longer and learn, or go out into the Jewish community to begin teaching, he finally approached Rav Yehuda Amital, the head of the Yeshiva and one of today’s great Torah scholars.

Rav Amital, sitting in the study hall poring over his books, leaned back in his chair to consider the question, then, with a smile, simply said two words:

“Atah Tzodek”. “You are absolutely right.”

The student, not quite understanding, must have had a puzzled expression on his face, so Rav Amital put his hand on the boy’s arm, and again, this time with a smile, repeated: “Atah Tzodek”. “You are absolutely right.”

I have always wondered exactly what Rav Amital meant. Perhaps his point was that you are never really ready, but as long as you know that, and remember it always, then you are ready….

This week’s portion, Shelach, contains one of the most challenging stories in the entire Torah: the story of the spies.

“Sh’lach Lecha’ Anashim Ve’Yaturu …” “Send out spies for yourselves…” (Bamidbar 13:1)

In an incredible moment in Jewish history, the Jewish people are ready to achieve their mission. With the fleshpots and pyramids of Egypt behind them, having come through the Red Sea and having received the Torah at Sinai, the Jewish people, on the banks of the Jordan River, are now ready to come home. More than two hundred years after the children of Joseph and his brothers became enslaved in Egypt, the centuries old dream of the Jewish people is finally about to be realized. G-d has told them they are now ready to enter the land. In fact, the same verse that contains the mission to spy out the land contains as well the promise that G-d will give it to them.

“Sh’lach Lecha’ Anashim Ve’Yaturu Et Eretz Canaan, Asher Ani Noten Le’Be’nei Yisrael…”
“Send out spies for yourselves, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel …” (13:1)

So one wonders, if G-d is already promising to give them the land, why is there any need at all to send out spies? Perhaps this is where things begin to go off course: If the Jewish people truly believed in G- d, they would certainly have no need of spies.

Indeed, as soon as the spies return, the journey that began with such promise ends in disaster.

Hearing their report, the people sense that the spies, men of great stature, doubt whether they can conquer the land, and this apparent lack of faith results in an entire generation losing the opportunity to enter the land of Israel, dying off instead in the desert, until the next generation, born free of the slave mentality of Egyptian bondage can finally come home at last….

Yet the idea of sending out the spies here seems to emanate from G-d, as the verse says: “Sh’lach Lecha’ Anashim” “Send out spies for yourselves”.

In truth, 38 years later, in repeating this story to the second generation about to finally enter the land, Moshe clarifies what the story was really about:

“Va’Tikrevun Elai’ Kulchem, Va’Tomru’ Nishle’chah Anashium Lefaneinu, Ve’yachperu lanu Et Ha’Aretz…”

“And you all approached me, and said: let us send out men to explore the land for us…” (Devarim 1:22)

Tradition thus suggests that the idea originated with the Jewish people and may well have represented a lack of faith on their part, however, G-d, seeing this what was the people wanted, acquiesced to their demand and ordered Moshe to allow them to send the spies.

Of course, this raises the obvious question: how can the people be held responsible for the mistakes that resulted from sending the spies, when G-d allowed them to do it?

This in and of itself is an important lesson: As the Midrash suggests:
“Molichin Et Ha’Adam Le’an She’rotzeh Leileich”
“A person is led in the direction he wishes to go.”

If you want to do something that is mistaken, don’t blame G-d for allowing you to do it. How often do we say to ourselves: ‘If G-d didn’t want me to eat cheeseburgers, he wouldn’t have made me so hungry just as I was passing MacDonald’s…!’ or the like.

Ultimately, our mistakes begin with our desires, and it is up to us to decide what we really want in this world. So if the Jewish people really wanted to send out spies, implying a lack of faith on their part, the fact that G-d acquiesced does not relieve them of assuming responsibility for the consequences of that mistake.

However, this still does not arrive at the root of the problem, as the principle of sending scouts ahead to spy out territory prior to conquest is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, Moshe himself, before conquering Ya’azer, sends out spies (Bamidbar 21:3), and so does Yehoshua, (see Yehoshua 21:32), relying heavily on the information his two spies bring back before beginning the conquest of the land.

And even if the issue is not the actual decision or even request to send spies, but rather the motivation behind it, the Torah does not make that clear at all, implying the real issue though already in the air once the spies are sent, is only realized upon their return. Indeed Moshe himself readily admits in re-telling the story (Devarim 1:23) that:

“Va’Yitav Be’Enai HaDavar”
“The idea (of sending spies) seemed a good one in my eyes…”

The Torah makes the point of suggesting that the mistake the people made occurs only upon the return and report of the spies:

“Ve’Lo Avitem La’a lot, Va’Tamru Et Pi’ Hashem Elokeichem, VaTeragnu’ Be’Ohaleichem…”
“And you did not want to go up (to the land of Israel), and you rebelled against the word of G-d, and murmured in your tents…” (Devarim 1: 26-27)

All of which leaves us with a number of puzzling questions:

First off, how could the people doubt G-d’s ability to bring them into the land of Israel? The same people that actually witnessed the Ten Plagues, and the splitting of the Sea which saw the entire Egyptian army vanquished and the very same nations of Canaan terrified, (See the song of the sea in Exodus 15: 14-16: “…Then all the nations of Canaan were filled with trembling…”. Clearly the Jews knew the Canaanites were terrified…) were doubtful as to G-d’s ability to conquer the land?

And while it is true that once the Jewish people entered the land of Israel, the overt miracles of the desert, including the manna from heaven and miraculous clouds of glory that accompanied them up to that point, ceased, and the Jews now had to fight and fend for themselves, this does not explain the problem of the people here. For one thing, G-d clearly tells them they will succeed in conquering the land, and for another, they have already had a taste of their ability to fight and be victorious against a strong enemy in the battle against Amalek, where Joshua and the elite of the army have to fight an all- day battle to repel the enemy.

Obviously, there is something else going on here, and a closer look at the text of our story reveals even more challenging questions.

The most glaring challenge to the afore-mentioned theories associating the sin here with the report the spies bring back is clearly dispelled when reviewing what they actually said.

It is the spies who actually coin the phrase “A land of milk and honey” (Bamidbar 13: 27)! Much of their report is actually quite positive. And even the second half of their message, containing many challenges regarding the impending battle to conquer the land, is certainly within their purview as spies. The goal of spying out the land, clearly delineated by Moshe in charging them with their mission, is to give a complete report on what they see, which they do. No one would expect spies to come back and paint a rose-colored picture of the challenges they have seen. The people need to know what to expect.

And while it has been suggested by some of the commentaries that the spies’ mistake was in sharing this information with the entire people, instead of just with Moshe; it is too difficult to imagine that this mistake is what causes the entire Jewish people to remain in the desert for another thirty nine years, preventing an entire generation from being worthy of entering the land of Israel, doomed instead by the wrath of G-d to die in the desert.

And where is Moshe, and for that matter Aaron, in this entire story? Why are they not able to convey to the people that there is no need to doubt G-d’s ability to lead them into the land of Israel?

“Va’yipol Moshe Ve’Aaron Al Peneihem…”!
“And Moshe and Aaron fall to the ground”

literally “on their faces”! Are they simply overwhelmed by the events unfolding around them, unable to think of anything to say? Is Moshe, capable of arguing with G-d himself at the debacle of the Golden Calf, unable here of finding anything convincing to say?

Even more troubling is the reaction of Calev. If ever there was a moment of pure potential it is in the speech of Calev:

“Va’Yahas Calev Et Ha’Am El Moshe, Va’Yomer Aloh Na’aleh Ve’Yarashnu’ Otah, Ki Yachol Nuchal Lah”
And Calev silenced the people towards Moshe, and said: ‘We can surely go up (to the land) and inherit it because we just CAN… ” (Bamidbar 13: 30)

Imagine the scene: The entire Jewish people are encamped in the desert, ready to finally enter the land of Israel. Upon hearing the report of the spies, they are apparently terrified.

‘How can we do this?’

‘The people are giants, the land is filled with fortified cities and armies of trained warriors; how can we, barely a year out of slavery in Egypt, hope to conquer this entire country?’

Calev, perhaps seeing that Moshe and Aaron have nothing to say, jumps up on a rock, as it were, and shouts (poetic license here) ‘Enough!!” and everyone is shocked into silence! You could probably hear a pin drop, even on the sand, and Calev has a moment, an incredible opportunity, to say the right thing, to bring the people back to their senses and save the day. What would you have said at that moment?

There seems to be a glaring omission in Calev’s brief speech: why does he not mention all of the great miracles G-d has performed? Why not shout out loud: ‘what of the splitting of the Sea? The vanquishing of Egypt? How can you all be so short sighted?’ Yet Calev does not even mention these things, simply saying ‘come on, people, we can do it! We can go up and conquer the land!’

Well, it is no wonder the people paid little attention to this short and obviously ineffectual speech. And of course, the moment is lost…. How could Calev, and for that matter, Moshe, miss this obvious response to the people’s concerns? (And a closer look at Moshe’s recounting of this moment in Deuteronomy, Chapter 1 reveals this question to an even greater degree…)

What a loss that moment represents. What a different world we might be in if only Calev had found the words….

One is reminded of the vain attempts by Vladimir Jabotinsky in the period preceding the Holocaust to convince the Jewish communities of Germany and Poland that it was time to go home, to the land of Israel. Although he, like Calev, saw the writing on the wall, he was not able to seize the moment and sway people’s opinions. Alas, if only the words had been there. But in Calev’s case, it seems, they were. Why did he not mention the obvious?

‘Look around you! Cannot He who split the Sea, and rains bread down from heaven every day, vanquish our enemies before us?’ Why are none of these miracles even mentioned?

Lastly, consider who the spies really were: they were the princes of the Tribes, men of great stature, chosen as the leaders of the people, “Roshei B’nei Yisrael Hemah”: “They were the great men of Israel”. (Numbers 13:3)

It is difficult to imagine therefore, how such men could suddenly, in the midst of an experience where G-d was everywhere, and where miracles were a daily event, doubt G-d?

Obviously, there is something else at the root of this painful episode.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, in his Likutei Sichot, suggests an idea, which may respond to all of our questions. Perhaps the reason Calev does not mention the great miracles Hashem had performed was because these same miracles were the root of the problem.

You see, the question was not why the people and for that matter the princes, did not believe in G-d, the question was whether they believed in G-d too much.

The people understood that part of the process of entering the land of Israel, was that G-d would necessarily withdraw. In the desert, Hashem was everywhere, providing manna from heaven, water from the magical well of Miriam, even protection from the elements by way of the clouds of glory. And that is clearly not the goal in Judaism; because when G-d is everywhere then where are we? Much like parents, who need to get out of the way so their children can grow, entering the land of Israel represented that period in the growth of the Jewish people where they would come into their own.

G-d did not create us in order to do everything for us. Hashem wants us to be partners with Him in perfecting an imperfect world. Only in this manner can we become all we are meant to be, and create the world as it is meant to be.

The people understood that it was for this new reality that they were being readied. The problem was, how do you leave the world where G-d is everywhere, to the world where He is so hidden? The spies weren’t afraid of a physical defeat, they were afraid of a spiritual defeat. What happens to a people accustomed to meditating on G-d twenty-four hours a day, when they have to actually serve in the army, work in the fields, and earn a living? It is no big deal to have a deep spiritual relationship with G-d, in the Yeshiva that was the desert; but can you maintain that level in the office, or on the tractor?

I remember one of the guys I was in Yeshiva with, trying to convince me not to sign up for Officer’s course. I would be forced to spend an additional two years in the army, without any spiritual environment to safeguard my religious ideals. “Atah titkalkel”, he said, ‘you will be corrupted’….

Indeed, this is one of the issues in modern Israeli society, which threatens to rip apart the social fabric of the country. There are many in the ‘religious’ camp (whatever that means…) who believe that those capable of sitting and learning Torah should not go into the army.

After all, for two thousand years of exile we did not have a land, our only connection to our Jewish heritage was the study of our Torah, which allowed us to maintain our identity and survive as a people. And make no mistake about it, I watched a lot of guys go into the army with a Kippah on their heads and a pair of tefillin in their bags and gradually lose their connection to Jewish ritual and Jewish tradition. Hard as it is for some to imagine, it is very easy to lose your Jewish identity in the ‘field’, even in the only Jewish army in the world….

When you have to get up an hour early on so little sleep, when you are the only one on Shabbat not watching television and hanging with all the guys in the base’s TV room, when you are up in Lebanon, and the only one who won’t eat the fresh roasted lamb brought to you by the local Sheikh, or when, in officer’s course, all the guys spend Saturday afternoon preparing for the grueling Sunday morning exams, and you can only begin studying when Shabbat and the Saturday night run are over at 11 PM, believe me, it wears you down.

I remember one weekend of R & R in Netanya, when we were down from Lebanon (after one of the most intense and stressful months I had ever experienced). Saturday afternoon (Shabbat) we were free and were told we would have the evening off as well. So all the guys cleared out to go to the beach, and head into town. For me, though, it was Shabbat, so I stayed behind in Beit Goldmintz, the R&R center we were bivouacked in for the week. There was one other boy who was from a religious home, who was clearly torn about what to do. Later, when everyone had gone, I realized I was alone; I never asked him what he had decided or where he had gone…. The army really does wear you down.

And so, I understand the position of those Jews who are opposed to yeshiva students doing the army.

This week’s story, however, is the Torah’s response to this position. You can only disagree with someone when you first understand and even respect where they are coming from. So, having considered that point of view, I respectfully disagree.

This was, you see, precisely the mistake of the spies in the desert three thousand years ago. ‘How can we leave the perfect spiritual environment of the desert, for life in the trenches and the fields?’ ‘How will we be able to maintain our level of Torah when we need to harvest the crops, and man the guard posts?’

‘We are not ready’, the princes of the Tribes must have felt; little more than a year out of Egyptian servitude, the Jews are still complaining and doubting G-d; they need more time in “Yeshiva”, as it were.

‘When we get to Israel, there will be no time to learn all day; we need to spend more time in the presence of G-d, in order to be on the spiritual level that will allow us to survive out there in the harsh reality of the world.’

Israel will be an “Eretz Ochelet Yoshveha’”, “A land that consumes its inhabitants”, say the spies (13:32), which means us – The people will be consumed by their physical pursuits; who will have time to study Torah after a long hard day working in the fields?

That is why the miracles were not mentioned by Calev; they weren’t the answer to the claim of the spies, they were the reason the spies felt they should not yet go in! And that is why Moshe and Aaron have nothing to say; because the entire contention of the spies is how can we leave the world where we can hear Torah from Moshe and Aaron every day? So anything Moshe and Aaron might say would only further prove the spies’ point! And this, indeed, is exactly what Calev is saying:

“… Aloh Na’aleh Ve’Yarashnu’ Otah, Ki Yachol Nuchal Lah”
“… We can surely go up (to the land) and inherit it because we CAN” (Bamidbar 13: 30)

Calev’s point may well have been that even in the difficult physical pursuits of entering, conquering, and working the land; we can continue to ‘go up’. We can grow spiritually in the world outside the Yeshiva….

The spies you see, were wrong, because the purpose of a life lived in Torah is not elevation of the soul; that is only a vehicle to sanctify the world. The real goal is to find G-d in the world, not to see Him by leaving the world behind.

The miracles of the desert were simply the preparation for entering the world. Instead of being lowered to where the real world drags us down, Judaism believes we can serve to raise the entire world to where we all should be.

If being in the world is clearly the will of G-d, (witness all of the mitzvoth one can fulfill in the army, and especially tilling the soil in the land of Israel…), then our challenge is to make that experience of the physical world a spiritual uplifting in and of itself. For in so doing, we truly become partners with G-d, by bringing G-d into the world we are both creating anew every day.

The perspective of the yeshiva student afraid to enter the challenges of the army, itself a mitzvah, in defense of the Jewish people, limits G-d to the domain of the spiritual environment. But Judaism suggests that Hashem is everywhere, and we can find G-d and a relationship with Him, even in the most physical of experiences.

One wonders (though it is certainly not for us to judge…), whether this was the tragic mistake of the leaders of our generation, indeed the princes of Torah and great leaders of the Yeshiva world more than sixty years ago, who almost en masse, resisted the opportunity to leave the spiritual desert (even paradise) of the Yeshivot in Europe, for fear of the spiritual corruption life in the barren desert of the land of Israel would have entailed.

Imagine what a different Jewish world we would live in today, if the state of Israel had been built by the yeshiva students of the Mir and Belz, Volozhin and Radin….

Indeed, one might argue, though we cannot be sure, that there is something very self- centered about a perspective that keeps me in the desert where I can grow spiritually. After all, as long as I am in Yeshiva, learning and growing, I am not yet contributing all that I can to the world, making it a better place to be. All of which is fine, as long as the reason I am being selfish for the moment is in order to better serve the community later on.

When students are studying to be doctors, they do not really serve patients while in medical school; they first need to learn enough to serve at all. Only later are they ready to begin to serve the community. So it is reasonable to ask the question we began with: How do I know when I am ready?

Make no mistake about it; this is not a question for the Yeshiva student alone; every Jew knows the seclusion of the desert, along with the challenge of ‘conquering the land’, and the spiritual tension that exists between them.

We begin our day with a brief retreat into the spiritual desert; an opportunity to pray and/or take some time to study Torah, before the pressures of daily life engulf us.

Early in the morning, when the kids are still asleep and the phone is quiet, one has a little time to re- experience the desert; to explore once again a closer relationship with life and living, and the source of it all…

But then we emerge into the ‘land’ with all the stirrings of doubt that of necessity come with the world of business, labor, and even the practical mitzvoth of building a better world.

And how often do we feel that the ‘land’ is ‘consuming’ us? That even while we are still in the desert learning or praying, we cannot help but watch our minds wander off to the land and all its concerns….

Our challenge, however, is to see Hashem everywhere, and to bring that desert with us into the land every day, and everywhere we go…

One wonders whether this is at the root of world Jewry’s reluctance even now, to take that challenging step, and enter the land of Israel.

For those who pay lip service every day, even three times a day, to ‘returning home to Jerusalem’, and have been on ‘missions’ spying out the land, not once but many times, perhaps the challenge of entering the land and leaving behind a ‘desert’ where kosher food and magnificent Yeshiva day school educations are a phone-call away, is too challenging. Maybe there is much we can all learn from the mistake of the spies three thousand years ago….

So, how do we know we are ready to enter the world? Perhaps as long as the question still bothers us, we are ready. As long as we feel the tug to return to the desert, and as long as we still yearn for the spiritual heights of Sinai and the splitting of the Red Sea, we can at least bring that experience with us into the world every day.

And if the question is no longer there, maybe that is when we need to take some time, retreat a little and discover a little desert in our lives, so that we can again bring it with us back into the world….

Today, more than ever, we need as a people, to find this balance.

May Hashem bless us all to experience both the desert and the land, soon, in the Land we all dream of, the land we call home.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Shelach: For the Love of God

The Iranian octopus predator at the US' backyard

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Iran's Ayatollahs – a clear and present danger to the US
The Saudi ArabNews reported that "the presence of Hezbollah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Latin America is considered important by Iran, since it provides a base from which it could strike against American targets… Iran has infiltrated not only Argentina, but also Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Guyana, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Colombia…. In Foz do Iguacu, Brazil there is the largest Muslim community in the Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil Tri Border Area. Iran is able to infiltrate and manipulate that community…. Iran's agents are potentially able to enter the US through legitimate border crossings, or among convoys of illegal immigrants….. Meanwhile Hezbollah continues its efforts to expand its terrorist activities [in Latin America]….

"[The Iranian proxy] Houthi militants transport weapons from Brazil to Yemen…. Hezbollah is involved in the illegal arms trade in Brazil, maintaining contacts with Brazil's PCC (the most powerful criminal organization in Latin America)…. Brazil's Forjas Taurus, the largest arms manufacturer in Latin America, is involved in sales of weapons to [pro-Iran] Yemeni arms dealer…."

According to the British E-International Relations, "Iran may well be the most important, and at the same time the most complex and the most volatile, of all the foreign policy problems with which the US must deal…. Iran continues to infiltrate [the US'] backyard….

"Iran’s foreign policy toward Latin America can be seen not only as antagonistic toward the U.S. and its national security interests. It fulfills Iran’s attempt to establish a greater presence in the US’ own backyard….

"Iran’s Latin American partners are part of the so-called 'Pink Tide' that came to power between the years of 1998 and 2009…. Despite the fact that the “Pink Tide” did not have a clear-cut ideology, they were united in opposition to Washington…."

Iran's Ayatollahs leverage the "Pink Tide" to hit the US
The "Pink Tide" has been a left-leaning, pro-Iran wave among Latin American countries, moving away from the US. Some are anti-US. Recently, it has gained momentum in Mexico (2018), Argentina (2019), Bolivia (2020), Chile, Honduras and Peru (2021) and Colombia (2022), joining Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, which have been anti-US and strategically-aligned with Iran. Argentina has leaned leftward, while former pro-Iran Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, is comfortably leading the polls for the October, 2022 presidential election.

On May 29, 2022, the first-ever left-leaning, pro-Iran and pro-Venezuela President (Gustavo Petro) was elected in Colombia – the third most populous Latin American country – which was the closest ally of the US in the battle against drug cartels, terror organizations and Venezuela anti-US conduct.

Florida International University's Western Hemisphere Security Analysis Center reported that Iran's Ayatollahs have bolstered their ties with Latin American countries, which are endowed with nuclear weapon-related natural resources, such as the significant uranium deposits in Guyana along the border with Venezuela. A 2010 Guyana-Iran accord includes initiatives to map Guyana's mineral resources, mostly uranium.

E-International Relations adds that "Venezuela helps Iran develop nuclear technology, obtain uranium, evade UN sanctions, smuggle arms and munitions and carry out a host of other shadowy deals…. Bolivia and Iran have signed a series of cooperation agreements, making Iran a partner in the mining and exploitation of Bolivia’s lithium, a key strategic mineral with application for nuclear weapons [and ballistic] development…. Iran appears to be eyeing Ecuador’s uranium deposits…. Iran has supported terrorist organizations operating in Latin America, such as [the Shiite] Hezbollah and the Sunni Hamas. Both have been operating in the Tri-Border Area, featuring Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil…. Iran is developing its own cyber security capabilities with the intent to use them to launch [anti-US] Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, launching attacks of malicious code, electronic warfare, debilitation of communications and advanced exploitation [hostile] techniques. In fact, most DoS attacks are carried out in conjunction with transnational organized crime organizations for the purpose of extortion. The Iranian government is investing heavily in cyber capabilities and may well turn to their proxies (the Bolivarian Revolution nations) as an [anti-US] force multiplier…."

According to the UK-based IranWire, Iran's close ties with Peru reflect Tehran's awareness that Peru sits on uranium reserves, and is located at the Chile-Peru-Bolivia Tri-Border-Area, which has been lawless for decades, and has therefore attracted terror organizations, drug and human traffickers, money launderers and arms dealers.

"As in Venezuela and Bolivia, there exists a convergence in Peru between Iranian cells and longer-standing revolutionary socialist groups – a fertile ground for proselytization to Shiite Islam. Therefore, in 2012, the Ayatollahs and Hezbollah established in Peru the Islamic Center of Peru, Inkarri Islam, which has served as an intelligence, recruitment, indoctrination and proselytization center. The leader of the center has been Edwar Husain Quiroga Vargas, a Shiite Muslim convert, who is one of Peru's President Pedro Castillo’s closest activists.

Iran’s Al Mustafa International University, a religious seminar based in Iran’s city of Qom that opened its doors in 2007 with the specific mission of proselytizing the non-Shiite, non-Muslim world and catering to converts in their native language…. Al Mustafa is one of Iran’s main vectors to export its revolutionary brand of Shiite Islam.

The bottom line
*Since February 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini seized control of Iran, the US has employed the diplomatic/negotiation option in its dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran, waiving the regime-change and military options.

*Since February 1979, Iran's Ayatollahs have leveraged the diplomatic option, dramatically intensifying their anti-US activities in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America all the way to the US-Mexico border.

*Since February 1979, Iran's Ayatollahs have viewed Latin America – the soft underbelly of the US – as a top priority, bolstering strategic cooperation with all anti-US governments, leading drug cartels, money launderers and terror organizations

*Since February 1979, the diplomatic option has yielded to the Ayatollahs billions of dollars, which have bolstered Iran as an epicenter of global anti-US subversion, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and proliferation of ballistic missiles and other lethal systems.

*While the US has approached Tehran diplomatically, the Ayatollahs have re-entrenched their lethal presence at the backyard of the US.

*As expected when dealing with a rogue, apocalyptic and anti-US regime – which is driven by a 1,400 year old fanatic vision to bring the "apostate" Sunnis and the "infidel" West to submission - the diplomatic/negotiation option has advanced the fortunes of Iran's Ayatollahs, while severely undermining the national and homeland security of the US.

*The enhancement of US interests is preconditioned upon the triumph of reality-driven Iran policy over wishful-thinking, which requires the suspension of the self-destruct diplomatic option, while featuring credible regime-change and military options.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Biblical Flower Power: The Yishai Fleisher Israel Podcast

SEASON 2022 EPISODE 25: Yishai Fleisher learns from Amsterdam the power of flowers to make peace - like in the Biblical story of Aaron's staff. Malkah Fleisher on Israeli Knesset coalition collapse and coping with school teacher strike. And special guest Leah Fleisher on young decision making and graduating grade school.

Yeshivat Machon Meir - Parashat Korach: Does the public support Moshe or not (video)

The Causes of Korach’s Controversy

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

It says, “Korach took” (Bamidbar 16:1). Rashi explains, “He betook himself to one side with the view of separating himself from the community so that he might raise a protest regarding the priesthood.” This controversy was so severe that our Father Jacob begged for mercy that his name should not be mentioned in the context of the argument, as it says, “Let my name not unite with their meeting” (Bereisheet 49:5).

What caused the controversy were Korach’s envy, lust, and craving for the honor. Korach was envious of the appointment of Elitzafan ben Uziel (Rashi, Bamidbar 16:1).

Our sages, in setting out to delve into the reason for Korach’s envy, introduce Korach’s wife who in her great foolishness compelled Korach to contend with Moshe:

The Talmud says (Sanhedrin 110a), “‘The wisdom of women builds her house (Mishlei 14:1): This refers to the wife of Ohn ben Pelet.” Ohn ben Pelet’s wife saved her husband from the controversy of Korach, and through her wisdom and insight, she distanced the agitators from her home and persuaded her husband that no benefit would spring forth from the controversy.

By contrast, regarding Korach’s wife, the Talmud (Ibid.) quotes from the same verse: “The foolish woman destroys it with her hands.” Korach’s wife, an envious woman who pursued honor and wealth, destroyed her home by propelling it into the controversy.

As is characteristic of contentious people, Korach’s arguments against the leadership of Moses, that “all the people in the community are holy, and G-d is with them. Why are you setting yourselves above G-d’s congregation?” (Bamidbar 16:3), are half-truths. It is true that all of Israel is holy, but Korach does not mention that within Israel there are different levels. There are Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim. Whoever blurs the gradations within the aggregate brings about anarchy and total confusion, and acts against the order decreed by G-d. The result is unavoidable. That person’s argument will not prevail, and he and his allies will be punished severely. Right now especially, we must avoid the flames of controversy, which begin with foolish words of envy and pursuit of honor and wealth.

It is the way of a fire that it begins with a small flame and then spreads until it becomes a great conflagration. Precisely in our own generation, one in which materialism and pursuit of honor and wealth have lifted their heads, we must be seventy times as careful to avoid the flames of controversy. We must increase love and faith; respect for our fellow man, humility, and the extent to which we make do with little. After all, what person is truly wealthy? The one who is happy with his lot.

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

Korach, The Holy Ark and Our Torah Scrolls

Parashat Korach 5782
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Korach, the central figure in this week’s parasha, was one of the four Levites chosen to hold the Holy Ark each time the encampment moved on to a different site. So, let’s discuss the holy ark and other essential elements in the Mishkan.

The basic structural design of the four Mishkanot (Tabernacles) and three Batei Mikdash (Temples) was similar: a Kodesh Kedoshim (inner sanctum, Holy of Holies which contained the Holy Ark); the Kodesh (an area directly in front of the Kodesh Kedoshim which contained the Menorah), the incense Mizbaiach (Altar), and the table for the Lechem Ha’panim (Show Bread), and at a distance away from the Kodesh Kedoshim the large Mizbaiach (Altar).

After the destruction of the Second Temple, it became customary to construct batei knesset (synagogues) according to the basic design of the Temple – the Aron HaKodesh housing the Torah scrolls parallels the Kodesh Kedoshim that housed the Holy Ark containing the broken pieces of the first Tablets, the second whole Tablets and – in the opinion of Rabbi Meir – also contained a small Torah scroll. The bet knesset has an area where the Torah is read and placed a distance from the ark of the Torah symbolizing the outer Altar which was at a distance from the Kodesh Kedoshim.

We revere our Torah scrolls and adorn the ark that houses them with esthetic and artistic accessories, because they are sanctified entities and the closest objects that we have today to the Bet Hamikdash and the Holy Ark.

60th Aliya Anniversary
On Thursday of this week (24 Sivan), my wife and I will B”H celebrate 60 years since our aliya to Eretz Yisrael. While discussing with our extended family the various possibilities of how to celebrate (including Shabbat in a hotel), my wife and I decided to donate the money to a meaningful charity in the name of every family member and with those yet to be born to be added to the list.

Were it feasible, I would erect an imposing bet knesset on the Temple Mount. However, even if the government would support such a plan, the next Bet Hamikdash will have already descended from heaven during the time needed to pass all the Israeli bureaucracy.

While pondering the situation, our youngest daughter Shulamit’s husband Uri came up with a suggestion that opened new vistas of possibilities.

A word about Uri. He is the head of the Oz Ve’Hadar (strength and glory) project which inspects, evaluates, and corrects every Torah scroll donated to the army and to the Ministry of Defense for their many needs.

He took us to the headquarters of the military rabbinate near the city of Ramle. It was an overwhelming experience. We were met by Major Ronen Aharon, commander of the unit that deals with technology in the military rabbinate. What could possibly be technology in the rabbinate? We were taken into a very large room housing hundreds of Torah scrolls. The scrolls are being prepared to be sent to the numerous military units from the northern border to the Sinai desert where we received the Torah.

There is a section of fully kosher and untouched scrolls (the officer did not reveal how many) that are distributed immediately to every reserve unit called up to active duty. Moreover, the number of religious soldiers is increasing as the army expands; and in accordance with military law, every unit must receive a Torah scroll. This wing of the Rabbinate is a beehive of activity not found in any army in the world, except perhaps as part of the future army of the Mashiach.

Our tour continued on to the laboratory, which uses top-of-the-line technology to inspect every mezuzah and pair of tefillin purchased by or donated to the army. The soldiers in this unit are former yeshiva students, all in uniform and working day and night to keep up with the needs. Every mezuzah and the inner parchments of tefillin are photographed and enlarged to make the inspection quicker and more thorough. It is a marvel that an organization designated for war is aware that, in a Jewish army, the spiritual weapons of Torah and tefillin must also accompany the soldiers.

Each of the hundreds of Torah scrolls is numbered and its history recorded in a bullet-shaped metal case containing a chip that is imbedded in one of the wooden handles of the scroll. The chip permits the officer in charge to know where the Torah is at any given moment, even on the borders of Egypt and in a submarine.

Major Aharon informed us of the plan to turn this large room and its holy contents into the world’s largest Aron Kodesh, where anyone who enters will feel that he is indeed in an Aron Kodesh. It is now in the planning stages and will include artistic woodwork and a grand parochet (curtain or tapestry).

The renovation is expensive, but it doesn’t matter, because living in HaShem’s “sacred precinct” for 60 years has made us billionaires in mitzvot. This is the meaningful project that we decided to fund – this unique transformation from warehouse to Aron Kodesh.

This is not a request for contributions since this project is in the name of the immediate and extended Kahana family. It is a project that expresses the way we perceive and observe our Judaism – Torah study, mitzvot observance, together with the return of our nation to Eretz Yisrael and the mitzva of defending our people and the Holy Land.

We are indebted to Uri for bringing this project to our attention.

As I wrote above, Uri is the founder and head of the Oz Ve’Hadar (strength and glory) project which inspects, evaluates, and corrects Torah scrolls donated to the army and to the Ministry of Defense.

The army does not provide a budget for this service, which in some way is a good thing, because it provides an opportunity for individuals to get involved by supplying the military with Torah scrolls. The donor purchases the Torah scroll; and after it is cleared halachically, it is placed in a unit according to the discretion of the army and the rabbinate. The Torah scroll is presented to the unit in a beautiful and moving ceremony with the donor as guest of honor. These Torah scrolls have been placed in air force bases, submarine units and even in “sensitive” units where the donor (including Uri) is blindfolded until reaching the bet knesset. It was, indeed, an unforgettable experience.

If you wish to see the whole story of Oz Ve’Hadar and its fascinating and essential work, link on to

Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5782/2022 Nachman Kahana

A Dose of Reality

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

What is celebrated as “Pride” Month should not be allowed to pass without injecting a small dose of reality into the bacchanalia. Despite the merriment, the relentless adoration of the media, the parades and the provocations, the conduct of the “Pride” community remains forbidden according to the Torah, defies traditional norms that have sustained civilization since antiquity and threatens to undermine the family, which is the bedrock of civil society.

Let us give credit where credit is due. In the most successful marketing campaign in history, within a span of just a few decades, advocates went from a situation in which their preferred private conduct was a crime to where same sex marriage is legal in much of the world. What began as a quest for equality and tolerance has metamorphosed into a vehement demand for the silencing of all critics, a denial of their rights and liberties, and ongoing attempts to cancel and destroy them. In the United States, from a request two decades ago that same sex partners be granted visitation rights in hospitals, we have now reached the stage in which seemingly intelligent people who possess advanced academic degrees and prestigious titles become tongue-tied and incoherent when asked to define the nature of a woman. That is a marketing success.

It was engendered first by co-opting language. Traditionalists were automatically deemed “phobic,” as if our commitment to moral norms makes us “afraid” of those who do not share those commitments. That is preposterous. Delightful words like “gay” or “pride,” and stirring ideas like “tolerance” and “freedom” were kidnapped by advocates for an agenda long rejected as inimical to society. Take, for example, the incomprehensible use of the term “pride.” Pride, as I understand it, is an internal feeling generated by a sense of accomplishment or achievement. As the dictionary would have it, it is the “pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself.” One feels pride in completing the Daf Yomi, winning the Nobel Prize or the World Series, or finding the cure for cancer. These are considerations that are external to the self.

It is true that I take pride in being a Jew, in the sense that I feel blessed to be part of a nation divinely chosen to represent God’s morality on earth (however flawed we might be in executing that task) and entrusted with the Torah and the land of Israel to achieve that goal. But do I feel pride in being a tall, white, green-eyed male heterosexual? That would be absurd. I did nothing to attain any of that. A desire to copulate with the same sex is not an accomplishment – for that matter, nor is the same desire towards the opposite sex an accomplishment. Yet, we are incessantly lectured that this condition is innate, whether or not that is true. If so, what is the attainment that should evoke this pride? It is both linguistically and psychologically misplaced – but it is effective.

The campaign has also been successful because it is always on the offensive. Most rabbis – especially in America – have been intimidated into silence stemming from fear and compassion (in varying degrees for each person). People are threatened, jobs are lost, personal attacks are normative, and social media campaigns are ruthless and unyielding. They only cease when good people just ignore them. For many people, it is not worth the effort to address the issue. “Pride” advocates have become intolerant bullies who cannot even hear another view, even if that view is divine and rooted in the Torah’s morality. So good, moral people are forced to be silent, swallow their opinions in the public domain, and try to salvage some semblance of morality in their private lives and families. There are three problems with this.

Firstly, the Torah becomes mangled and distorted. Yeshivot today, especially in the Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist worlds, struggle with moral instruction on what is a fundamental Torah concern. They are coerced into avoiding or tap-dancing around the issue. Rebbeim are instructed to eschew talking about it for fear of offending someone, somewhere. Profiles in courage, it is not.

Secondly, the effect on the family is devastating. Families dealing with this issue need compassion and support; what they don’t need is to be lied to or to coerce others to join in their charade. It is increasingly common in the Modern Orthodox world to invite friends and relatives to same-sex weddings, essentially forcing others to violate Torah principles in order to make the parents feel better about their situation. That is unequivocally wrong. Modern Orthodoxy is especially under siege today – and fighting for its viability – because the gap between “modern” and “Orthodoxy” is a yawning chasm that cannot be navigated. It wasn’t like that fifty, not even twenty, years ago. It is like that today. Within the movement, it is undeniable that for a variety of reasons, when these challenges arise, “modern” always trumps “orthodoxy.”

Thirdly, advocates have intimidated the legal and political establishments in banning (in many jurisdictions) what is intentionally and misleadingly called “conversion therapy.” Same sex attraction has become the only psychological concern on planet earth that cannot be dealt with therapeutically. It was done by highlighting rare cases of bizarre therapies – more a problem of the therapist than the therapy – and completely vitiates behavioral modification therapy which has been known to work for same-sex attraction as for other maladies. It is peculiar, indeed it is actually evil, to tell a person who wants help in overcoming a particular proclivity that the law prohibits any change. Even assuming that it doesn’t always work and that no one should be forced to undergo such therapy, it is immoral to tell people that they cannot change or better their lives if they so desire. It is pure malevolence to tell those individuals that they are not allowed to change their orientations – but encouraging young children to mutilate their bodies to change their sexes is somehow reasonable, even laudable. It is an insane, dangerous and harmful world.

There is a playbook that advocates follow in order to stifle dissenting opinions. It has several elements. First, traditionalists are told that their objections will “kill people” and “instigate violence.” Cause and effect are never demonstrated. Obviously, any such violence, however limited, is condemnable. But in today’s cruel world, whites, blacks, Hispanics, heterosexuals, Jews, Christians, Muslims, doctors, lawyers and accountants, are all victims of violence. Homosexuals have no monopoly on victimhood. There is no inherent or rational reason why opposition to the “pride” agenda should provoke violence. This is fear-mongering, promoted by provocative bullies. (It is ironic that much thought went into changing the route of the Yerushalayim flag march so as not to provoke the Arabs, while no thought went into changing the route of the “pride” parade – a blatant provocation to the sensibilities of the majority religious population in the Holy City.)

Second, traditionalists are told that their objections will lead to suicides, which is all the more reason why therapy is warranted for those who live in this predicament. Ironically, a recent Heritage Foundation showed that there is a much higher suicide rate among teens who are medically transitioning than among those who struggle with sexual confusion but are not medically transitioning.

Third, traditionalists are called names – “bigot” or “hate-monger” being the most common epithets. Traditionalists are lectured that they are being cruel, insensitive and intolerant. These lectures are proffered by those who, without even the slightest bit of self-awareness, have become cruel, insensitive and intolerant to those who disagree with them. “Live and let live” has become “Live and I will force you to agree with me or you shall die.” Name-calling, as always, is a poor substitute for reasoned argument but it makes for good placards and sound bites. Good people who hear the name-calling should yawn and tune out. it is meant to intimidate, not to persuade.

Fourth, traditionalists are told that they cannot “impose their morality” on others. Indeed, public coercion is lamentable and ineffective. But should the bullies have the privilege of imposing their immorality on others? Who would have thought that a quest for “equality” and “freedom” would become a macabre circus in which dissenting views are suppressed, dissenters are persecuted and business people – photographers, bakers, florists, caterers, hall owners and others – would be coerced into violating their own religious beliefs or be sued into submission.

The United States Supreme Court has, to date, upheld the religious liberties of dissenters, at least in some limited cases but as yet without a clear forceful statement of individual rights. Israel lags behind in protecting religious freedom. A catering hall owner in Beersheva who refused to host a same sex wedding paid a settlement of 80,000 NIS. The Rav of the Technion was assailed for criticizing the decadence of a drag party. An Israeli organization that supports the traditional family is basically construed as a hate group. A lower court in New York City ordered Yeshiva University to open a “pride” club, as its denial violated the City’s human rights law and ruling that YU is not a “religious institution.” YU will appeal, and even if they lose in the State’s appellate courts, a federal lawsuit is warranted. The US Supreme Court has become the leading legal defenders of religious liberty. Nevertheless, the well funded bullies are still winning, religious freedom remains under attack and traditionalists are castigated and canceled. They are pilloried on social media and their employers are harassed into firing them. Advocates must learn to accept that people are entitled to disagree with them on moral and religious grounds, and they should be tolerant of that.

Finally, the playbook suggests that traditionalists be badgered that if the “pride” agenda is not accepted, then the advocates will go “off the derech.” They will leave Orthodoxy. If parents do not celebrate their marriages, and invite their friends, they will “cut off all relations.” There is certainly merit to the argument that even if they sin in this area, they should still try to perform all the other mitzvot. Yet, we must distinguish between people who succumb to sin – all of us – and people who celebrate sin and demand others celebrate with them. That is no longer a personal violation but a rejection of the system. In a real sense, they have already rejected Orthodoxy, tradition, the Torah and their families. Besides, blackmail is unbecoming, and a moral argument that is founded on blackmail is both hollow and unappealing.

What is the way forward? Traditional Jews are not abandoning or reforming the Torah. The pride agenda should be countered, with love and joy. We should declare May or July to be “Traditional Family Month” with parades and floats, and an orange flag that is emblazoned with the blue images of father and mother, son and daughter. We should speak –yes, with pride – about the delights of the traditional family, the core of the Jewish home and the Jewish state. We should acknowledge that this movement is a driving force of the execrable modern craving to publicize even the most private aspects of one’s life; that alone must be reversed in all its dimensions. We should be unafraid to articulate the values of the Torah, without any rancor, hatred, mockery or condescension but with an abundance of love and compassion. My guess is that most people feel sorry for those suffering in this plight rather than feel any rage or antagonism.

And we should be candid and forthright. Sometimes the truth can sound insensitive, which doesn’t make it any less true. The Torah is not changing. Homosexual conduct is and will remain forbidden, and no number of parades or floats will change that. Traditionalists will not celebrate it, which doesn’t mean they love their children any less. Those who face challenges in this area and neither succumb or celebrate are Jewish heroes. Rabbis who unabashedly preach the Torah morality should be extolled and defended. The Torah was given to us, and the Jewish state exists, not to parrot the debauched morals of the nations but to be a beacon of light as to what is best for mankind. That is why the Torah is always countercultural, in every generation.

Most people would be content with live and let live, with keeping private conduct private, and with restoring some semblance of decency and propriety in public life. Tolerance is a two-way street. Advocates must abandon the power high that convinces them they are entitled to tell people what they are allowed feel, think, say, do and legislate. No, thank you! For that, good Jews have the Torah. And that is another dose of reality whose acceptance by all would calm these turbulent waters and make us all better people.

Arabs to Biden: Shut Down Iran's 'Expansionist Project'

by Khaled Abu Toameh
  • Ahead of Biden's visit, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in a clear message to the US administration and other Western powers, affirmed that any nuclear agreement or future negotiations with Iran must address the Iranians' "destabilizing behavior in the region, their support for terrorist militias, and their missile program."
  • "Western countries prefer to talk about upcoming measures, preparing us for their failure to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the truth is that we are in a race against time, and it is still possible to force Iran to abandon its secret plans to acquire nuclear weapons. The problem is that the entire international community does not seem serious and resolute in dealing with this issue and deterring Iran." — Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, founder and chairman of the Gulf Research Center,, June 14, 2022.
  • Iran thinks with the "mentality of an empire" and that is why it is continuing its efforts to extend its control to several Arab countries. — Dr. Abdulaziz Sager,, June 14, 2022
  • Washington's Arab allies have repeatedly warned that the US against complacency with the Iranian threat, "specifically after the instructions of the administration of former President Barack Obama to build a partnership with the Tehran regime under the roof of the nuclear agreement that contributed to Iran's pervasiveness, and gave it free rein, allowing it to increase its hostile activities against the countries of the region without being held accountable for the consequences of its reckless policies." — Khaled Al-Yemany, former foreign minister of Yemen,, January 26, 2022.
  • [T]he Arab countries have always preferred dialogue with Iran, but this was seen by the mullahs as a sign of weakness. — Khaled Al-Yemany,, January 26, 2022.
  • Tehran is using negotiation diplomacy to achieve more military gains and develop its arsenal in the nuclear and missile fields and missile technology," he said. "The reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirm that Iran is far from the commitments it made in the nuclear agreement, and it is progressing to build a nuclear bomb. A nuclear Iran, its expansionist project that destabilizes regional and international security and stability will be more ferocious and its ambitions will transcend all borders, and it must be deterred before it is too late." — Khaled Al-Yemany,, January 26, 2022.
  • [T]he Arab and Western media have remained silent about the Iranian people's protests against the corruption of the regime, which spent its wealth to destroy four Arab countries (Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq). — Abdul Jalil Al-Saeid, Syrian author,, June 7, 2022.
  • The Arabs are saying that they expect the Biden administration to reverse its stance on the mullahs and act in accordance with reality: that Tehran poses a catastrophic threat to America's allies – all of its allies, Arab and Israeli alike – in the Middle East.

Ahead of President Joe Biden's visit to the Middle East, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in a clear message to the US administration and other Western powers, affirmed that any nuclear agreement or future negotiations with Iran must address the Iranians' "destabilizing behavior in the region, their support for terrorist militias, and their missile program." Pictured: Foreign ministers of Gulf states at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1, 2022. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images)

As US President Joe Biden prepares to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel in mid-July, Arabs are sending him a number of messages regarding the need to deal with the threat that Iran's mullahs pose to their security and stability.

The Arabs, especially those living in the Gulf states, continue to express deep concern over the Iranian regime's ongoing efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

The Arabs also say they are worried about Tehran's intervention in the internal affairs of some Arab countries, as well as its financial and military aid to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and Iraqi militias.

Some Arabs are repeating their appeal to the Biden administration to stop the policy of appeasement towards the mullahs and to take into consideration the concerns of Washington's long-time Arab allies and friends in the Middle East.

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Ukraine War Blows Up EU's Superpower Delusion

by Soeren Kern
  • As the war has dragged on, European unity has collapsed and efforts to transform the European Union into a European superstate — a United States of Europe — have been exposed for what they are: delusions of grandeur.
  • The EU's largest member states — France and Germany — have sought to appease Putin at the expense of Ukrainian sovereignty. French President Emmanuel Macron, the strongest backer of European strategic autonomy, insists that Putin should not be "humiliated" and has even called on Ukraine to make territorial concessions to help the Russian dictator save face.
  • "Calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives." — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
  • "Did anyone talk to Adolf Hitler like that during WWII? Did someone say Adolf Hitler had to save face? That we should proceed in such a way that it is not humiliating for Adolf Hitler?" — Polish President Andrzej Duda, Bild, June 9, 2022
  • "The end of French exceptionalism. Once you claim your main role to be a mediator between right and wrong, days of grandeur are over. 'Saving face' is a weak diplomatic aim; Putin can take personal responsibility for his face." — John Chipman, Director General, International Institute for Strategic Studies.
  • "Peace at any cost is what we have done for 20 years with Putin. Peace at any cost means Putin wins. We end up losing." — Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, Politico, May 30, 2022.
  • "The west has two goals in the war in Ukraine: to uphold Ukrainian sovereignty and to deter Russia from any similar assaults on European countries in the future.... If another round of European diplomacy leaves Russia once again sitting on its military gains in Ukraine, then Putin will regain political strength at home and feel empowered to launch new military adventures in the future." — John Sawers, former head, MI6, Financial Times, June 8, 2022.
  • "The lesson of current experience is that only the United States is capable of holding Russia in check. The vehicle for this remains NATO, which has not outlived itself, but is more important as the security policy core of a free West than it has been for decades." — Ulrich Speck, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 8, 2022.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has exposed efforts to transform the European Union into a European superstate — a United States of Europe — for what they are: delusions of grandeur. (Image source: iStock)

The leaders of France, Germany and Italy have jointly visited Ukraine in an attempt to present a unified European front regarding the Russia-Ukraine war. The one-day visit was long on rhetoric but short on substance: European unity remains elusive.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the European Union responded the following day with a package of unprecedented economic sanctions aimed at isolating Russia.

The EU, which was praised for displaying "determination, unity and speed" in its response to Putin, was said to be facing a "transformative moment" that would allow the bloc to become a "geostrategic actor" on the global stage. An observer claimed that the EU had become "a top geopolitical protagonist" and that Europe "discovered that it's a superpower."

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Just like the Spies

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Friday Night
I WONDER HOW Tzipporah, Moshe’s wife, felt after Miriam was sent out of the camp and the Jewish people were held up in the desert for a week. She’s not mentioned anywhere in the incident, but as Rashi explains, she was the cause of it all.

When Moshe Rabbeinu requested from God for others to share Moshe’s authority, God complied by telling him to choose 70 men from the 12 tribes to form the new Sanhedrin. He did this by lottery, because 12 does not go evenly into 70, which meant that some tribe would end up with less than two members on the Sanhedrin. That left it to Hashgochah Pratis to decide who was in and who was out.

In any case, the prophecy the 70 received spilled over onto Eldad and Meidad, who had not considered themselves worthy of it. Furthermore, though the prophecy the 70 members received was temporary to give them the knowledge they needed to be on the Sanhedrin, Eldad and Meidad prophesied for the ages. One predicted that Moshe Rabbeinu would not enter Eretz Yisroel, and the other, the future War of Gog and Magog.

Needless to say, they instantly made the headlines. This is why we find that Yehoshua was so insistent that Moshe put an end to their prophecy. He didn’t want to hear that his rebi wasn’t going to lead them the full distance to the real golden medinah, Eretz Yisroel.

That’s when Tzipporah entered the picture. When she heard about Eldad and Meidad, she publicly pitied their wives. From that Miriam understood that Moshe had moved out, leaving Tzipporah virtually a widow, so that he could ever be on the ready to receive prophecy. Miriam took her complaint to her brother and fellow prophet Aharon, and the rest is the parsha.

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes we can do something seemingly insignificant, and it remains that way, and other times it causes catastrophic results?

All because a little bug went kerchoo!

That’s the title of a children’s book about the cause-and-effect results of a little bug that sneezed and, in the end, sunk a ship. The point of the book is that a person has to think about what they say and do because, the long-term impact can be disastrous. Who is a wise person? The one who sees what is being born (Tamid 32a), that is they ask themselves, “What good or bad could possibly later come from this seemingly insignificant act or statement?” Because sometimes, even against great odds, such things do happen, especially when God wants to teach a person to be more careful about what they do, like in the case of Tzipporah.

Shabbos Day
SO WHEN RASHI says, at the beginning of this week’s parsha, that the spies were evil people for not having learned a lesson from last week’s parsha, it includes more than refraining from speaking loshon hara. Besides, until this parsha, who would have thought that speaking badly about a land could even constitute loshon hara?

But the other lesson they should have learned, but didn’t is this. If they had known how dramatic and long term their impact would have been, would they have spoken the loshon hara about Eretz Yisroel? Nope, because we see later that once they found out their impact, they immediately tried to backtrack. Perhaps they might not have even gone to spy the land, wisely preferring to wait until God showed it to them on His terms.

It is interesting that the parsha begins with the word shlach—send. Some learn from the word that God was telling Moshe to send the spies if he wanted to, but God Himself was not doing it. “You send them,” He told Moshe, “because I certainly see no reason to.”

This may mean nothing, but the letters of shlach—Shin-Lamed-Ches—can be rearranged to form two other relevant words, chalash—weak, and lachash—silent. The mission was doomed to fail because the spies were too spiritually weak to go on their own in the first place and return with a favorable report. And, after they returned, silence would have served them better, which is what Caleiv tried to impose upon them.

The question is, does Rashi say that they were reshayim—evil people—because they spoke loshon hara on Eretz Yisroel, which is quite the judgment. Or, because they didn’t take the mussar, the lesson from the story of Miriam, which is even more incredible?

After seeing the historic damage the spies did with their loshon hara, we can understand why they are called evil. But if everyone who doesn’t take mussar to heart is a rasha, where does that put most of us? There isn’t a day that most of us do not ignore one moral lesson or another, which is pretty bad. But evil?

If by ignoring the mussar we might end up causing some terrible damage, God forbid, then that certainly can be considered quite evil. But most of the time that is not the case, but it is evil anyhow?

Can be. If you realize that everything we get exposed to help us become better people is a function of Hashgochah Pratis, then we aren’t just ignoring the message. We’re ignoring God.

Over the years I have developed a rule by which my wife and I basically now live. We learned it the hard way. If something crosses our minds, we deal with it. It doesn’t matter how unnecessary it may seem at the time, or how trivial. If it is something that, if left undealt with, can lead to something negative, we nip the problem in the bud. It’s just that too many times something negative we thought would never happen did, or something important we thought would happen didn’t, leaving us regretting that we did not take the situation more seriously when we could have.

For example, I have said to myself, “I should probably move that glass farther from the edge of the table before someone knocks it off by accident.” I didn’t do it because another voice of laziness countered with, “Naaaa, the chances that someone will do it from there are are very slim.” Five minutes, CRASH!

Or I have walked by some obstacle on the ground and thought, “I should move that before someone bumps into it and hurts themself.” While I deliberated going back, deciding not to out of insufficient concern, I all of a sudden heard, “OUCH!” Someone did exactly that, and I went home feeling responsible.

There are lots of things in life that escape our attention. Perhaps they shouldn’t. But you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. But the rule of life is, if God cares about something, you should care about it too. That care should be enough to help you overcome any inertia or personal agenda you might have when it comes to fixing things in life.

As the Midrash says, all God will say on a person’s final day of judgment is, “I am God.” It means that God will reveal to each person every time He tried to give them mussar, but they failed to recognize it as coming from Him. It is one thing to deal with a very difficult situation and fail. It is a lot, lot worse for a person to ignore what seemed too trivial to deal with at the time, but later caused a significant problem.

Just ask the spies.

Shalosh Seudot
GOD DID NOT approve of the mission, though He did not block it either. But as Rashi says, He did say that He would give them room to err, which seems underhanded and vindictive, which of course is never the case with God. Everything God does, He does for our good, because that is the entire purpose of Creation. So what is Rashi saying? How was that for their good?

The posuk says:

Who is wise and will understand these, discerning and will know them. For the ways of God are straight, and the righteous will walk in them, and the rebellious will stumble in them. (Hoshea 14:10)

There’s no sense in trying to make a right or left turn on a straightaway. That’s just begging to have a crash. But that’s what people do everyday when they deviate from the way of God.

Unlike a physical road, it is not so easy to notice. And unlike a physical road, it is not so easy to see what crashing looks like. In this week’s parsha it was easy to see in the end that they had crashed. That’s because God was right there and responded to the problem in an immediate and dramatic way. The nation knew rather quickly it had crashed.

If the Jewish people had taken the straight approach to Eretz Yisroel, God would have been straight with them. He was already straight with them, as the posuk says. It was their deviation that tripped them up. God doesn’t have to go out of His way to get a person to err. He was just pointing out that by taking the spiritually circuitous route to Eretz Yisroel, they were bound to crash.

Before the giving of Torah, it was to be expected. How could the Jewish people become l’Shem Shamayim right out of slavery? So, as it says in Parashas Beshallach, God did not take them the direct route because they were not ready for it.

But this was after the giving of Torah, and an entire year later. Bad habits are hard to break, but they had been given the tools to break them. They knew. They knew Who God was. They knew what Torah was. And they knew what was expected of them. If they could not stick to the straight-and-narrow on their own, they should have avoided walking it, or at least asked for help to walk it. The fact that they didn’t do that, meant that when they left they already had the intention to deviate, and for that reason they are called reshayim—evil people.

The story of the spies was not an isolated event. It has continued on since their time, even into today, especially today. In this generation, you don’t have to physically go to Eretz Yisroel to spy it and return with a damaging report. You can do it from the comfort of your own living, in the Diaspora and even in Eretz Yisroel.

But as it is with respect to any loshon hara, you have to be sure that what you say is halachically necessary. How much more so is this the case with Eretz Yisroel, where belittling it can hold up the entire redemption, and has for some time now.

Melave Malkah: Ain Od Milvado, Part 5
WE GET EASILY fooled because of an assumption. The assumption is that God is good and only does good. He has professed His disdain for evil in numerous places. He has wiped out evil countless times in history. So the assumption is that evil, which seems to go to war against God, has nothing to do with Him.

Once we assume that, we then give evil its own will and power, which is the same as idol worship. God would never allow a Holocaust to happen, let alone make it happen, so the Holocaust has nothing to do with Him. Evil rose up, as it often does in a spiritual vacuum, took power, as it has so many times before, and wreaked havoc, as it is wont to do, until it ran out of fuel and God decided to do something about it.

Of course, Ain Od Milvado says just the opposite. It says that it is impossible for a Holocaust to occur until God has decreed it. It says that Nazis don’t take power unless God hands it to them, and that a housepainter/beer brawler does not become leader of a socially-advanced society unless God makes him their leader.

But what about the fact that God only does good? Nothing has changed. He still only does good, and will always only do good. Not only this, but as Derech Hashem points out, when God does good, it has to be the greatest good that His handiwork can experience. Somehow, the Holocaust, and all the countless exiles and pogroms over three millennia of Jewish history, has to fit into that as well. One day we will see how.

Even the Angel of Death, otherwise known as the Sitra Achra, gets his marching orders from God. And should one of his messengers take the soul of the wrong person prematurely, as happened in the Gemora (Chagigah 4b), that too has to be according to the will of God.

The Gemora, while discussing danger vis-à-vis hashgochah pratis, concludes that colds and fevers fall outside this category. The implication is that they are natural and not really a function of any divine judgment. But if everything is a function of divine providence, then how can this be true?

It means that since our health is so naturally impacted by our environment, it does not take any special providence to make a person sick. On the contrary, it may take several miracles to prevent them from becoming ill when there are so many natural causes around them.

So, if a person does the best they can to protect their health, within halachic reason, then they can merit such miracles to stay healthy. If they are negligent with their health (which includes saying the brochah after the bathroom without any real sincerity), then God might just increase their chances of becoming ill to teach them otherwise.

But a word of caution. It is one thing to be afraid of God, meaning that a person is real with the idea that God sees all and cares about everything they do. They are afraid to fall short of what God expects from them. It is something very different to just be afraid of things going bad, and taking every medication they can and saying every segulah (something that can be said or done to mystically ward of bad happenings) known to mankind to counteract it. That too can become a form of idol worship. The Midrash says that one of the reasons why the Temple was destroyed was because segulos became more important to the people than mitzvos themselves.

I’ve seen it. I’ve watched people rush Shemonah Esrai, which is a mitzvah, because they ran out of time after saying all their segulos. Or they have dovened after sunset, which is not the ideal halachah, to make sure they say or do their segulah before sunset. That’s not asking for divine help. That’s asking for divine trouble.

Ain Od Milvado. It’s the greatest mitzvah to master, and the greatest segulah to perform at the same time.

Rav Kook on Parashat Shlach: Repairing the Sin of the Spies

One of the greatest tragedies in the long history of the Jewish people occurred when the spies sent by Moshe returned with a frightening report about the Land of Israel. Their dire warnings of fierce giants and a “land that consumes its inhabitants” convinced the people that they would be better off returning to Egypt.

Unlike other incidents in which the Israelites rebelled against God, on this occasion, Moshe was unable to annul God’s decree. The entire generation died in the desert, never reaching the Promised Land. The best Moshe was able to do was delay the punishment for forty years.

Rav Kook wrote that even today we still suffer the consequences of this catastrophic error. The root cause for the exiles and humiliations of the Jewish people, throughout the generations, is due to our failure to correct the sin of the spies.

How can we rectify the sin of the spies?

To repair this national failure, a teshuvat hamishkal is needed, a penance commensurate with the sin which will “balance the scales.” The spies defamed the Land of Israel, as it says, “They despised the desirable land” (Tehilim 106:24). We must do the opposite and show our unwavering love for the Land.

“[We must] declare to the entire world [the Land’s] magnificence and beauty, its holiness and grandeur. If only we could express (with what may appear to us to be greatly exaggerated) even a ten-thousandth of the desirability of the beloved Land, the splendorous light of its Torah, and the superior light of its wisdom and prophecy!

The quality of wonderful holiness that Torah scholars seeking holiness may find in the Land of Israel does not exist at all outside the Land. I myself can attest to this unique quality, to a degree commensurate with my meager worth.”
(Igrot HaRe’iyah, vol. I, pp. 112-113)

For Rav Kook, this recommendation on how to address the sin of the spies was not just a nice homily. Stories abound of his burning love for the Land of Israel and his indefatigable attempts to encourage fellow Jews to move to Eretz Yisrael.

Kissing the Rocks of Acre
The Talmud in Ketubot 112a records that Rebbe Abba would demonstrate his great love for the Land of Israel by kissing the rocks of Acre as he returned to Israel. What was so special about these rocks?

Rav Kook explained that if Rebbe Abba had bent down and kissed the soil of Eretz Yisrael, we would understand that his love for the Land was based on the special mitzvot that are fulfilled with its fruit — tithes, first fruits, the Sabbatical year, and so on. The soil, which produces fruit, signifies the importance and holiness of the Land through the mitzvot hateluyot ba’aretz.

But Rebbe Abba’s love for the Land was not dependent on any external factors — not even the Land’s special mitzvot (see Avot 5:16; Orot, p. 9). Rabbi Abba cherished the intrinsic holiness of Eretz Yisrael. He recognized that the special qualities of the Land of Israel, such as its receptivity to prophecy and enlightenment, go far beyond those mitzvot connected to agriculture. Therefore, he made a point of kissing its barren rocks and stones.

'God Willing'
During a 1924 fundraising mission in America, Rav Kook tried to convince a wealthy Jew to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. The man gave various reasons why he could not yet leave America, but concluded, “God willing, I too will soon make Aliyah to Israel.”

Rav Kook responded: “God is certainly willing. After all, settling EretzYisrael is one of His commandments. But you must also be willing...”

Without Calculations
Once, a Jewish tourist visited Rav Kook in Jerusalem, seeking advice as to the possibility of living in Eretz Yisrael. During the discussion, the visitor calculated the pros and cons of moving to Israel; and in the end, he decided that it was not worthwhile.

Rav Kook told the man:
“Before B'nei Yisrael entered the Land in the time of Moshe, they first needed to kill Sichon, the king of Heshbon. This teaches us that one should come to the Land of Israel bli heshbon — without making calculations.”

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam, pp. 221, 222, 237 by Rav Chanan Morrison.)

In Praise of Eretz Yisrael

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Parshat Shelach is the parsha of Eretz Yisrael. In these days, when the media reports seem to lead to the conclusion that the vision of a "complete Eretz Yisrael" is totally lost, and the nation has turned its back to its source, there is a special need to emphasize the connection of our parsha to all generations.

Maran Beit Yosef, in his book "Magid Meisharim" (in which he wrote the words of his heavenly "Magid"), deals with the contradiction between Parshat Shelach and Parshat Devarim. In our Parsha, it says that G-d commanded Moshe to send the spies, whereas in Parshat Devarim it says, "All of you [Bnei Yisrael] approached me." (Devarim 1:22) Furthermore, why was there a need to check if the land was fertile or lean, since Hashem had already promised them that it is good and spacious?

The Magid explained to him that Bnei Yisrael in that generation were not worthy of entering the land after all the trials that they tested G-d. Yet, G-d, in His mercy, planted in their minds to ask to send spies so that they would appreciate it and tell its praise, and that would be the merit that would allow them to enter the land. The two parshas are, thus, two sides of the same coin: G-d caused them to ask to send spies, and, in fact, Yisrael did ask. However, the princes of the tribes did not stand up to the test, and didn't tell its praise.

From that time, it is incumbent upon the leaders of Yisrael to tell the praise of Eretz Yisrael, to rectify in this way that which they sinned when they disgraced it.

In Midrash Eichah (1:23) it says on the pasuk, "The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night" (Bamidbar 14:1), that the Hebrew word "raised up" (va'tisa) has the connotation of a debt; that is, a bad debt that they will have to repay throughout the generations, as it says, "When you make your fellow a loan (tasheh)." (Devarim 24:10) "The entire assembly raised up," the entire assembly became obligated to pay this debt.

The sefer "Eim Habanim Semeichah" writes about this:

In vain we pray in all the synagogues and batei midrash, "Our Father, our King, erase in Your great mercy all of our notes of indebtedness," so long as the debt of despising the coveted land still exists on us ... How can we pray that He erase this debt from us, since we are obligated to pay and we have the ability to rectify this?!

We find in the history of our nation that there was severe punishment for our foreign attitude towards the land. In the Sefer Rokeach (by R. Eliezer of Worms) it says:

Ezra the scribe sent letters to all the cities of the Diaspora that they should go up to Eretz Yisrael. This letter also came to the country of Ashkenaz (Germany) to the city of Worms, and they responded to him, "You live in the big Yerushalayim; we will live in the little Yerushalayim," because they were very important in the eyes of the officers and the non-Jews, and were very rich and dwelled there in peace and tranquility, Therefore great and harsh decrees are more frequent in the land of Ashkenaz than in other communities."

We, more than any other generation, feel to what extent these words were fulfilled!

Only through strengthening the love and yearning for Eretz Yisrael can we rectify the sin of the spies, as R. Yehuda Halevi writes in the conclusion of the Kuzari: Yerushalayim will, indeed, be built [only] when Bnei Yisrael will desire it with the greatest desire until they cherish its stones and dirt!