Friday, March 27, 2020

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: Ready in All Ways to “Host” Hashem

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 10:8)

Gemara: The Divine Presence (shechina) dwells only on someone who is bright, powerful, wealthy, and tall [like Moshe].

Ein Ayah: The dwelling of the shechina is a higher level than any display of intellectual sanctity. It is a divine revelation from the source of all life in the universe for the most ideal purpose that Hashem desired in the universe. The Divine Presence meets the light of a person’s soul, not at a point of the person’s individual being, but in an all-encompassing way that prepares a wonderful high level. In this way, Hashem prepares every element necessary to bring the divine goal to its highest level of preparation. Before having His shechina dwell on a person, Hashem prepares him with all the abilities and characteristics appropriate for this distinction. This includes practical skills and the ability to influence the public, so that the divine light he receives will be revealed to everyone and elevate them all through him.

The light of Hashem is greater than any wisdom and logic, but all the warehouses of wisdom serve that light. The images that wisdom creates are the basis for accepting the light. Therefore, in order to be one who receives the radiance of the shechina, that person must be bright. It is not enough to have the characteristic of understanding when one seeks to come in contact with Hashem, Who acts to make all of existence function.

Therefore, such a person needs to have power to act concretely as a condition to being able to connect to Hashem. It is necessary to remove all that holds back the great divine steps to fix and improve all of creation through strong actions. That is the reason that the host of the shechina must be powerful. Such a person must also not act for his own improvement alone or seclude himself among like-minded people. He must appear before society as a whole with the glory of the light he received from Hashem. Therefore, he should be a wealthy person. Every tool used for impact on others should be available to him in order to realize the desires of sanctity that churn in his divinely touched soul. That is why he needs to be rich. All of these ideal qualities, which strengthen the inner goal of a person’s spirituality, need to exist in the one who is chosen to host the shechina to not contradict the loftiness of his soul but rather help it and expand its boundaries. Therefore, his body must also expand in a manner that corresponds to his wonderful soul.

The lofty light should find expression in physical size, so that he is a tall person whose body mirrors his spiritual greatness. That way, the divine light exists and is revealed through the person’s unique personality in a manner that he can stand as a symbol and a source of life and inspiration for generations to come. In summary, the choice creation, who is fit to appear as a representative of the concept of the kingdom of sanctity in the world with all its glory, should be bright, powerful, wealthy, and tall.

Israel: Maybe the Dog Will Talk

Editorial of The New York Sun | March 27, 2020

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s astonishing emergence with an agreement to remain the prime minister in a national unity government of Israel reminds us of the yarn about the rabbi, the cossack, and the cossack’s dog. It seems the rabbi is out for a walk when he encounters a cossack officer and his dog. The cossack draws his weapon, points it at the rabbi, and pulls back the hammer.

“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the rabbi cries, throwing up his arms.

“Why not?” demands the cossack.

“Because,” the rabbi exclaims, “if you give me a year, I will teach your dog to talk.”

The cossack gapes in amazement.

“You can teach a dog to talk?” he says.

“Yes, if you give me a year.”

“It’s a deal,” the cossack declares. “You have three hundred and sixty five days. If the dog doesn’t talk, your life is mine.”

When the rabbi arrives home, the rebbetzin weeps and wails.

“Don’t worry, my rebbetzin,” the rabbi tells her. “A least three things could happen in a year.”

“Like what?” his wife says.

“Well,” the rabbi replies, “one thing is that the cossack could die. Another is that I could die.”

“And the third?” his wife keens.

“Well,” the rabbi says, “there’s always the possibility that the dog will talk.”

That, it seems from a distance, is the kind of calculation Prime Minister Netanyahu has made in agreeing to limit his time as premier in the new government to 18 months. After that, he has to turn over the top job to General Gantz, whose party, known as Blue & White, won the second biggest bloc of seats in the Knesset behind Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud. It must seem like the beginning of the end for Israel’s longest serving premier.

And yet, a lot can happen in a year and a half. Mr. Netanyahu, after all, is said to have given Mr. Gantz a binding commitment of some sort that he will step down in a year-and-a-half. It’s unclear, though, what the binding factor is or that the Knesset could endow such an pact with legislative status. A signed private agreement, then, like that between two litigants? That would be very odd in a political situation.

Supposedly this will become clearer in a day or two, but it isn’t now. In theory, Mr. Gantz doesn’t have to worry. If Mr. Netanyahu betrays the deal, Mr. Gantz could pull out of the coalition with him, rejoin the 61-vote anti-Netanyahu faction, and bring Mr. Netanyahu down in a vote of confidence. Yet who knows what the political constellation will be by then, or whether all of Mr. Gantz’s 15-man faction, many of whom would by then be enjoying ministerial status, would pull out with him?

Then again, too, if Mr. Netanyahu sticks to his promise, Mr. Gantz will be in a bizarre position. He, the very recent leader of a party that was the Likud’s main and bitter competitor, will now be governing as, in essence, a Likud prime minister while much of his former party will now be the opposition to him. How this would play out is impossible to foresee, but it’s hard to imagine Mr. Gantz could govern effectively in such a case.

Which brings us back to the furshlugginer dog. Imagine that it’s October 2021. Mr. Gantz has been prime minister for a month. He’s in an impossible situation. The Likud that is his now mainstay doesn’t really like or trust him and wishes Mr. Netanyahu were back in power. Mr. Netanyahu himself has, by virtue of his agreement with Mr. Gantz, avoided any legislation that would prevent a criminally indicted politician from being prime minister. His court case, though, is dragging on (it won’t be over until 2024 or ’25).

Mr. Gantz’s former Blue-and-White allies now hate him as much as they hate Mr. Netanyahu; and in a vote of no confidence, his government falls after a brief month in power. There are new elections. Whom does the Likud choose to head its list if not Mr. Netanyahu, who, having successfully led the country through the corona crisis, wins a sweeping victory? In other words, it’s entirely possible that the confounded dog will learn to talk.

We are living a new Reality

by Rav Binny Freedman

What do you do when you can’t do what you want to do and what you have to do, you really don’t want to do?

Sound confusing? That is actually our reality these days as the world turns upside down and we all find ourselves suddenly, in an entirely new reality.

It reminds me of the story of my cousin, Aryeh Yakont z”l, who was a Holocaust survivor. His family lived in Antwerp and he and his brother Ephraim were just boys when the Nazis occupied Belgium. Very quickly, things went from bad to worse, their father Betzalel was taken away by the Gestapo, and their mother Shoshana (my Aunt) went into hiding with her two small boys in the house of a kind Christian neighbor. Eventually, as things got worse, they had to stay hidden and quiet, all day, in a tiny hidden room the size of a closet, with no windows, for two years before they were eventually liberated.

The family reunited and came to Israel after the war and Aryeh ended up as Chabad Chassid living in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem. One Shabbat at his Shabbat table, I asked him how he survived such a horrific experience; how do you stay sane as a ten-year-old boy, in a closet, for two years? He said he had seen other families carted off by the Gestapo, and had heard stories about what happened to Jewish children held by the Nazis; so, he knew how lucky he was …

There is an interesting occurrence in this week’s portion of Vayikra, which is rather unique and actually occurs only three times in the entire Torah:

“If (‘Eem”) you offer a meal offering of your first fruits to Hashem (G-d)…” (Vayikra (Leviticus) 2:14)

Rashi notes that the word ‘if’ does not really make sense as this is referring to the Omer offering of Barley which was actually an obligation. Rather, this is one of the three places in the Torah where the word Eem actually does not mean ‘if’; it means when; when you offer up the Omer offering of barley…

Of course, this begs the question: if the Torah intends this as an obligation, why is the word normally implying volunteerism used? Why does the language seem to imply that the offering is something I might choose to do rather than an obligation?

The other two instances of this strange anomaly are in the book of Exodus (Shemot).

“If you will build an altar…” (In the Temple) it cannot be of hewn stone (Shemot 20:22) which really means when you (are obligated to) build an altar…

And “If you will lend money…” (To your fellow Jew; ibid. 22:24) which really means, as Rashi again points out, whenyou lend money as this mitzvah too is an obligation.

So if these three mitzvoth: To build an altar in the Temple, to lend money to one another , and to offer up the Omer sacrifice on the second day of the Pesach holiday, are all obligations, why are they presented in a language implying they are voluntary?

Perhaps the goal is to see an obligation as something we actually want to do? Think about the difference in the way we perform our obligations, and the way we engage in the activities we really want to be doing.

What husband or parent or close friend doesn’t feel obligated to acknowledge the birthdays of their loved ones? But whether we see finding a birthday present as a burden or a blessing is what makes all the difference.

These three mitzvoth actually represent a much larger idea.

The altar we are obligated to build represents the relationship we have with Hashem (G-d) as it is the vehicle whereby we offer sacrifices, representing what we give back to G-d. Clearly, we are obligated in mitzvoth that frame our relationship with Hashem: to keep kosher, to fast on Yom Kippur and the like. Do we see these as a burden, or do we rise to the challenge of allowing them to enhance our lives?

The money we are obligated to lend our fellow human beings in need represents our relationship with our fellow human beings. To visit the sick, care for the needy and take care not to cause suffering to the unfortunate, such as widows and orphans. Again, do we see these as obligations? Or do we challenge ourselves to revel in the opportunities they afford us to make the world a better place?

Lastly, in this week’s portion, the mitzvah of offering up the Omer of barley actually represents our relationship with our selves. Barley is animal food and this offering represents our ability to overcome the animal that rages within all of us; to become better. It was meant to be offered on the second day of the Pesach (Passover) festival; the day after we commemorate getting out of Egypt. It is essentially the first day we woke up to a new reality: the reality of freedom. All of a sudden no-one else was telling us what to do, we were given the opportunity to choose to hear a greater voice, to use our time wisely, and challenge ourselves to become the best that we can be.

Indeed, this is actually how the entire book of Vayikra begins. Take a look at a Torah Scroll (reproduced in many Chumashim or bibles) and you will notice that the letter aleph in the word Vayikra, (literally: “and He called…”) is written smaller than the rest of the word. Without the aleph it would only spell the word va’yaker which means ‘and He happened upon…’

Everything that happens in this world can be seen as a calling, or as a coincidence; the choice is up to us. How do we choose to see the world we live in? Is life a series of random occurrences leaving us with no choice but to react to each event as it unfolds, or is life a calling, challenging us to find ways to rise to the moment, every moment?

If a ten-year-old boy, essentially locked in a closet with his brother for two years, can live through that with a positive attitude towards life, then we owe it to ourselves and everyone around, to aspire to the same.

We are living a new reality; the question is, will the world become the better for it? That ultimately, will be up to us.

Shabbat Shalom from the mountains of Gush Etzion, near Jerusalem.

Soul-utions to Pain

by Rabbi David Aaron

The archetypical story about pain is recorded in the book of Job, who experiences horrible tribulations. Job’s friends try to give him answers to explain his pain, but Job is not satisfied with any of their answers. In the end, G-d Himself speaks to Job and gives him resolve.

Job’s friends tell him that there is no such thing as pain without justice. This means that when a person goes through pain it is simply the fulfillment of justice. Pain is not haphazard or accidental. In some way-even if we cannot possibly fathom why-we have deserved our pain. But Job does not accept this answer.

Maimonides, the great Torah sage known as the Rambam, says that this answer is actually the true position of Jewish tradition. In fact, when the Rambam discusses the meaning of “pain” or “suffering,” he quotes the verse in the book of Job recording the answer of Job’s friend who said that there is no pain without justice. How could the Rambam teach that the reason for pain is justice, and yet Job did not accept this approach? And when G-d finally appears to Job to reveal the meaning of his pain, He gives him a completely different answer. Are we to understand from this contradiction that G-d has a different answer regarding pain than the Torah does?

I recently heard a brilliant answer to this problem. According to Jewish tradition there are two approaches to pain: One is a philosophical approach, and one is an experiential approach, both of which are valid depending on the circumstance.

There are times when we are simply exploring the philosophical meaning of pain. And then there are times when we are personally in pain are struggling to understand why. When we are merely discussing pain then we can find a philosophical understanding of pain. But when we are in pain, we must accept the there really are no satisfactory answers.

I recently attended a lecture by a rabbi, who has a PhD in philosophy, speaking about responses to the Holocaust. At the end of the class a man with a thick Yiddish accent said, “Rabbi, I cannot accept anything that you have said. I was in Auschwitz!”

The rabbi responded, “Listen, I am a philosopher, I am talking about pain from a philosophical point of view. I am in no way proposing that what I have to say could comfort you in your pain.”

If you are in pain, no philosopher can give you an answer.

If you are in pain there are no answers, but there is a soul-ution.

To understand the difference, let’s imagine what would have happened if Job accepted his friend’s answer. Would G-d have appeared to Job? No. Would Job have had a revelation, a personal, experiential encounter with G-d? No.

In light of this, it is a good thing that Job didn’t accept his friends answer. If he had accepted the answer, he would have never met G-d.

When we are in pain, not only will the philosophical approach not give us an answer, we really don’t want answers.

I understand this point well. When I am in pain, I never want answers. Have you ever had that experience, when you were in pain and you spoke to a friend who gave you reasons for your pain or advice how to overcome it? “Maybe this is why it is happening..Maybe you should do this.. Maybe this is how you could solve it. .” And you get annoyed and perhaps even a bit angry.

Well, what do we want from them? We share our problems and our pain with them, and they simply try to help by giving us answers. The truth is, when we are in pain we are rarely interested in philosophical answers or psychological guidance. What we first want and need is comfort and empathy; warmth and compassion.

When my son scrapes his knee and runs home crying, I have two ways to respond. I could say, “It’s okay, we’ll just put a bandage on it. It’s really a small little thing. It will go away.” But the more logical I am, the more my son will cry, “You don’t understand!” Kids in pain don’t want logic; and neither do we. When my son scrapes his knee, he wants me to say, “Oye, oye, oye .” When he gets empathy and compassion he quickly responds with, “It’s not so bad, Daddy, it’s not so bad.” He is looking for love not answers. When we are in pain then it is the personal connection that solves the pain, not logical answers.

If Job would have given up and said to his friend, “You’re right. That answer makes sense,” he would have forfeited the opportunity to find G-d in his pain and experience G-d’s comforting presence.

A Short Political History of Israel

by Victor Rosenthal

(Ed. note: Edelstein stood tall and took down B/W plans to form a government with the Arabs. Gantz realized he was being played and did the right thing. The Lapid press conference after was great. He almost cried. Epic.)

In the pre-state period, the socialist Left dominated the yishuv. They created the institutions that would form the basis of the state, and ran them according to their ideology. The Histadrut labor federation dominated the economy; its closely allied kibbutz movement was the primary producer of agricultural products, the Solel Boneh construction company built roads and buildings, and the Kupat Holim Clalit health fund was everyone’s healthcare provider. The Zim shipping line and the ports, the Tnuva dairy cooperative – most of the essential pieces of the economy were fully or partly controlled by the Histadrut, which was the heart of the Labor Party.

When Labor Party leader David Ben-Gurion declared the state of Israel and became its first Prime Minister, naturally his people ended up in key places in government and business. The government supported arts and culture, and naturally the artists who received grants were the right kind (I should say, the left kind) of people. Music on the state radio stations was primarily written and performed by ideologically correct artists. The Mizrachi Jews that came here after the War of Independence and through the 1960s were treated as second-class citizens by the Labor establishment, which tried to keep them out of the political and cultural life of the country (this was the case for many years – when I tried to buy music by Mizrachi artists in the early 1980s, it was still mostly found on cassettes produced by back-porch entrepreneurs).

The right-wing political opposition was kept as far away from power as possible. Efforts were made to delegitimize the Herut party, led by Menachem Begin, and even to “remove [it] from any recollection or participation in [remembrance of war dead].” The contributions of the right-wing military organizations, Etzel and Lehi, to the achievement of independence were minimized or erased from official histories. Ben Gurion would not even mention Menachem Begin’s name in the Knesset, or speak directly to him. Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of the Etzel and the inspiration for much of the Israeli Right, died in 1940; Ben Gurion did not allow him to be buried in Israel and it was not until he left power that Jabotinsky’s remains were finally brought to Mount Herzl.

But in 1977, the world (well, at least Medinat Yisrael) turned upside down. In 1973, the Labor government had blown it big time. Regardless of the debate about precisely who was responsible for the debacle that almost ended the State of Israel, it was clear that it was time for new leadership. At the same time, Mizrachim had had enough of the paternalistic condescension and discrimination that characterized the establishment that was running the government. The people of Israel gave Begin’s Likud 43 seats, despite the fact that Begin himself had recently suffered a heart attack and did not participate in the campaign.

Since then, Israel has had right-wing leadership – or at least purportedly right-wing leadership – with the exception of a period between 1984-86 when Shimon Peres was PM in a rotation agreement as part of a unity government, 1992-96 when Yitzhak Rabin was PM, followed by Peres after his assassination; and then in 1999-2001, the term of the execrable Ehud Barak.

The Labor Party and the various small parties to its left have shrunk radically, as the Israeli public lost confidence in them following Oslo and then the Second Intifada. But to a great extent the leftish establishment in the media, the arts, academia, and the legal profession has remained dominant in those areas. And it has become more and more frantic in its desire to regain its former control of the country. In particular, it sees Binyamin Netanyahu, who has surpassed Ben Gurion as the longest-serving Prime Minister, as the personification of the enemy, a fascist enemy of democracy. But that is unfair. Netanyahu has problems, but he is not an enemy of democracy. He has become PM by winning democratic elections, or at least by putting together coalitions, something the opposition cannot do.

The Blue and White party was created by this establishment for one reason only: to remove Netanyahu. Benny Gantz was chosen as a neutral figure, somebody that would be respected as a former Chief of Staff, a person who has little baggage. His campaign was notable for its concentration on Netanyahu’s indictments and its almost total lack of other content. The party leadership does not share an ideology, and I suspect that 99% of those who voted for it understood that they were voting to depose Netanyahu – and the rest would have to take care of itself.

What has happened now, as I write, is that Blue and White did not come close to being able to obtain the needed 61 mandates to form a government, so they violated their pre-election promise to not try to form a minority government supported from the outside by votes from the anti-Zionist Arab parties. But then it turned out that they did not have the votes to do even that. So while they negotiated with the Likud to form a unity government in which Netanyahu and Gantz would take turns being PM, they planned to get the Knesset to pass several bills that would prevent Bibi from serving due to his indictments.

In order to do this, the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, would have to let it happen, and Likudnik Edelstein wasn’t moving. B&W demanded that the Knesset vote to replace Edelstein with a more pliant candidate, but Edelstein refused to schedule that vote. So they turned to the Supreme Court, which issued a ruling that Edelstein must schedule the vote to replace him. Edelstein responded by resigning his position as Speaker, and in a particularly moving statement, said,

The High Court of Justice’s decision is not based on the language of the law, but on a unilateral and extreme interpretation. The decision of the High Court destroys the work of the Knesset. The High Court decision constitutes a gross and arrogant intervention of the judiciary in the affairs of the elected legislature. The High Court decision infringes on the sovereignty of the Knesset. …

As someone who has paid a heavy personal cost of years of imprisonment and hard labor for the right to live as a citizen of the State of Israel, no explanation is needed as to how much I love the State of Israel and the people of Israel. Therefore, as a democrat, as a Jewish-Zionist, as a person fighting against dark regimes, and as chair of this House, I will not allow Israel to deteriorate into anarchy. I will not lend a hand to civil war. I will act in the spirit of Menachem Begin who in June 1948, during the Altalena days, prevented civil war.

Members of Knesset, citizens of Israel, these days our people need unity, need a unity government. These days, when an epidemic threatens us from the outside and the cleavage rips us from the inside, we must all act as human beings, we must all transcend. We must all unite.

Therefore, for the State of Israel and in order to renew the state spirit in Israel, I hereby resign from my position as Speaker of the Knesset. We will pray, and even act, for better days

The Knesset’s legal advisor warned Edelstein that he would be liable to a charge of contempt of court if he didn't not allow a vote to be called immediately. He did not change his mind.

I see the whole process that began with the investigations into Netanyahu more than three years ago, with all of the improprieties involved – the continuous media leaks from the police and prosecution, the abuse of witnesses, the recent last-minute attempts to change the law so that Netanyahu could not be even a part-time PM, the intervention of the Court – as a continuation of the struggle to subvert the will of Israeli voters, and bring the discredited Left back to power.

But the world has changed. The Labor Party and the Histadrut can’t pick the prime minister from among their activists anymore, as they did until 1977. Ben Gurion isn’t coming back. Gantz woke up, realized he was being used by Lapid and Yaalon and formed a unity government with Bibi.

The Yishai Fleisher Show: Startup Nation or Hibernation in the Era of Coronavirus

There's a new month, a new book of the Torah, a new global pandemic, potentially a new Israeli government - and maybe a new world waiting to be formed! Rabbi Yishai is joined first by Rav Mike Feuer to find a Biblical precedent for this crisis. Then Leah Fleisher on a young person's perspective on being housebound. And finally, Malkah Fleisher on staying positive and connected to God when things want to get you down.

Coronavirus Delivers Another Devastating Blow to the Iranian Regime

by Yaakov Lappin

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The coronavirus pandemic has hit Iran hard, and not only on the health front. The virus is the latest in a succession of blows to the Iranian regime’s domestic status, fractured economy, and already low credibility level at home. The virus also appears to be slowing down the regime’s malign activities across the Middle East.

Continue to full article ->

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

“Love peace and pursue it. Love people and bring them closer to Torah.”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

“Love peace and pursue it. Love people and bring them closer to Torah.”
“...We must also arouse repentance for the sake of our nation’s survival” (Rav Kook, Orot HaTeshuvah 12:11).

Who is the luminary who is going to increase the light of Israel? How do we bring near those who have become far removed from Torah and Jewish tradition? Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen’s torchbearer, his son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, ztz”l, answered this question as follows:

“The light source that is going to increase the light of Israel is already there in the holy writings of Rav Kook, ztz”l, and in the original instructions deriving from it. Here is the ‘Urim VeTumim’ sent by G-d and revealed to us for our great and holy age. Ponder it more and more, for it contains all. Spiritual luminaries must continue to draw on this source, and they will thus succeed in directing our people.”

What are the proper ways for influencing the Jewish People, for bringing them enlightenment and arousing them to repent? Rav Tzvi Yehuda answers this as well:

“We must possess a deep spiritual and practical love of Israel, and deep faith in Israel’s holiness. The two, in fact, are connected.

“We must have faith in our generation’s ability to advance the redemption and to arouse divine providence to reveal itself.

"We must improve ourselves and provide a virtuous example in both our private and public lives before striving to influence, improve and direct others”
(from a letter by Rav Tzvi Yehuda, Sivan 1948).

Today, the spiritual weakness and moral deterioration of the individual, society and government are a result of their distancing themselves from our roots, our Torah and Jewish tradition, which constitute the Tree of Life for both the individual and society and bringing suffering upon us and upon the world as we are seeing in the current plague. As we set out to spread light, to return to our own selves, to our roots, our Torah and our tradition, Rav Kook’s words must serve as a lamp unto our feet.

We have to learn and teach the writings of Rav Kook, ztz”l and to follow his spiritual, educational and practical instructions. Indeed, disciples of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and disciples of disciples, have risen up, amongst them great Torah luminaries, rabbis and heads of yeshivot, who have studied the writings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, and who spread his energy and Torah to tens of thousands of Jews.

Yet that does not suffice. We have to influence the masses as well. The precondition for succeeding in this is improving ourselves and providing a virtuous example in both our private and our public lives. We must improve our character, behave with humility, with the fear of G-d, and the love of Torah, the people and the Land.

We must particularly strive to instill peace between our fellow men, and to engender unity and harmony amongst those bearing the torch of Rav Kook, ztz”l. In this regard Hillel the Elder used to say: “Be amongst the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing it; loving people and bringing them closer to Torah” (Avot 1:12).

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Paradise Lost

The book of Vayikra, Parashat Vayikra 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Life in a modern Gan Eden. High-end restaurants, sport arenas, ski trips to Bulgaria, shiny new cars, upgraded hotels, glatt kosher of course. Pesach in Thailand, no gebrochts, and nothing less than matza shmurah the whole holiday, going to the mall to get rid of excess money, a trip to Israel to say “hello and goodbye” to the Kotel, financial plans with total expectations that they will be fulfilled, weddings to impress. PARADISE LOST.

Tehillim (Psalms) 92:6-7:
ו( מה גדלו מעשיך ה’ מאד עמקו מחשבתיך:
ז( איש בער לא ידע וכסיל לא יבין את זאת:

How great are Your works, Lord, how profound Your thoughts!
The ignoramus cannot know, and the fool cannot understand,

King David, the Psalmist, proclaims the ultimate greatness of HaShem; and to prove his point he adds that not even an ignoramus or a fool can fathom it. Indeed! — An ignoramus and a fool cannot understand even the most basic ideas, much less the infinite greatness of the Creator!

But David is putting forth an important message. He was referring to the greatest human minds, who leave their microscopes and math equations in order to apply themselves to unraveling the secrets of the Creator. They quickly realize that they are ignorant and fools in the shadow of the omniscient, ultimate Creator. Or as stated by Alexander Pope in his 1711 poem An Essay on Criticism, “For fools rush in where angels (wise men) fear to tread”.

So, despite the pitfalls that King David stated in Tehillim regarding men who would seek to understand the profundity of HaShem, I hesitantly put forward my feelings on what mankind did to bring about this calamitous pandemic.

What do we have to work with now:
  • Covid-19 is a pandemic reaching the far corners of our world.
  • The eyes of the world are upon the research labs to bring a solution. However, Covid-19 is baffling the greatest scientific minds in thousands of laboratories the world over.
The first place to seek direction is the Torah; based on the words of King Shlomo who states in Kohelet: “And there is nothing new under the sun”.

The first universal catastrophe occurred within the first 3 hours in the lives of Adam and Chava, who were given humaneness at 3 in the afternoon – and were expelled from Gan Eden by 6!

In Bereishiet 3:22 HaShem asserts the reason for the expulsion, which surprisingly was not a punishment for eating from the prohibited Tree of Knowledge:

כב) ויאמר ה’ אלהים הן האדם היה כאחד ממנו לדעת טוב ורע ועתה פן ישלח ידו ולקח גם מעץ החיים ואכל וחי לעלם

And HaShem E-lokim said, “Man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever”.

HaShem did not prohibit Adam from eating from the Tree of Life, but only from the Tree of Knowledge. Yet the reason for the expulsion was the probability that one day man would attempt to intrude on the private intimate realm that characterized the creator: the secret of life itself, the Tree of Life. The reason is that man could never draw close to the Tree of Life without highly developed knowledge, which was contained in the Tree of Knowledge. So, it was sufficient for HaShem to prohibit eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

We are living in a time where man’s scientific knowledge has brought us to the point of intruding on HaShem’s private fiefdom of the Tree of Life, and indeed in ways which might be considered perverted and unnatural, such as:
  1. In vitro fertilization.
  2. Gestational surrogates, where the embryo is placed in the uterus of a gestational surrogate creating a halachic question as to who the mother is – the egg donor or the surrogate who carries the baby until birth. If the surrogate mother is a gentile, the child will have to undergo giyur (conversion) besafek (because of the halachic doubt).
  3. Sperm donations from one male to several women, creating a possible situation where brothers and sisters marry without knowing that they have a common father.
  4. Sperm banks where fertilization can be done even after the death of the donor.
  5. Doctors who mix the sperm of various donors.
  6. Then there is the other side: artificial life support.
  7. Genetic engineering: which is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genes using biotechnology to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.
And the list goes on.

All of these are intrusions on HaShem’s monopoly on bringing forth life and taking it away at His chosen time.

It would be naive or worse – foolish, to suggest that any or all of the above are the reasons for Covid-19, since HaShem is at the same time the ultimate oneness. But His directives regarding human beings are infuriatingly complex.

How long will it last, and how many will yet die? Who knows? However, as concealed as the present is, we, of God’s chosen people, know that it is directed for our ultimate good and welfare.

In the interim, let every Jewish man and woman make their personal accounting of failures and successes, and draw conclusions which will bring HaShem closer to their thought and actions…

Shabbat Shalom,
Chodesh Nissan Nifla
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2020 Nachman Kahana

The Shamrak Report: Fake Unity - Bad Government!

by Yuval Karni
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday revealed details of the negotiations for a unity government with Blue & White but has not convinced his opponent to agree.
Netanyahu claimed agreements have already been reached on a government that will serve for three years, led for the first 18 months by Netanyahu with a Likud Finance Minister while Blue and White will receive the Foreign and Defense ministries, and in September of 2021 the roles will be changed and Benny Gantz will become prime minister and a member of his party will lead the Finance Ministry, while the Defense and Foreign Ministries will be given over to the Likud.
Netanyahu also said the two factions would hold an equal number of portfolios to ensure that no one faction has a majority over the other in government votes.
But Blue and White has thus far not accepted the prime minister's offer and is continuing on its declared path to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with one of their members, a move that will position them in an advantage over Likud and enable them to legislate laws that will block Netanyahu from becoming a candidate for PM while criminal charges against him still stand... (Better no-deal than a bad one - Decisive victory of Zionist parties is needed!)
The 120 politicians forming the 23rd Knesset were sworn in as Members of Knesset. With 120 seats in the Knesset, the 61 Members of Knesset (MKs) expressed their support for Gantz. A total of 58 MKs recommended Netanyahu for the task and one abstained. ( Now is the time for decent members of the Jewish Left, 3 or 4 of them, to put aside their personal ambition and leave traitors and move to the Zionist side!)
Officials in the Likud and Blue and White parties said that the main dispute in the talks on an emergency government has been resolved, and that a few other minor points of contention remain. (There is no trust or common objectivesAgreement will only keep 'boys' in power a bit longer!)
A new poll showed that if elections were held today, the Likud would be the largest party in the Knesset, winning 40 seats. Blue and White party would gain 30 seats, the poll showed. The Joint Arab List would remain stable at 15 seats. The poll gives the right-wing bloc 62 Knesset seats. ( How much treachery committed by 'Blue and White' party is needed to convince Jews in Israel to stop supporting itBibi is not the best Zionist, but until he steps down, he is the best option available at the moment!)
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
Recently, I have found a term for what I do - "Transformational Therapy"! I knew that there is a term for changing people's mind-set, not only in relation to resolving personal problems, but also to global issues, like the right of Jews to live in peace on Jewish ancestral land!
Hamas said that talks had been held with Egyptian and Qatari negotiators in recent days to monitor the difficult economic situation in Gaza in light of the coronavirus crisis. They claimed that if the economic situation were to deteriorate, "the (situation) with Israel will get to the point that terrorist organizations in Gaza will force half of the Israeli public into (bomb) shelters." (Time to end this charade and remove the enemies from the Jewish land!)
MK Yazbak (Joint Arab List) said she wants to preserve Arabs' 'national identity' while divesting Israel of its Jewish identity and eliminating Zionism. "This plan opposes and fights the country's Zionism and prides itself of divesting the country of its Jewish and Zionist existence, and at the same time preserves our national identity, without sacrificing full citizenship..." (Israel s internal e nemies love benefits of living in the Jewish state but hate it at the same time. This is who Blue and White relies on to form an Israeli government!)
Politicians from Netanyahu s Likud party have filed a private member s bill that would immediately apply sovereignty to all Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. The bill s advancement will depend on whether or not the 23rd Knesset succeeds in its formation. However, if the Knesset can continue with business as usual, there will likely be enough support to pass the bill. (Let s hope that finally they have the 'balls' to do this ! The righteous shall inherit the land, and abide forever in it. Psalm 37:29)
Despite facing one of the world s worst coronavirus outbreaks, Iran appears to be continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons, increasing its uranium stockpile, which now stands at more than 1,000 kilograms, and is also using a greater number of advanced centrifuges for enrichment. Experts believe that Iran s breakout time to produce a nuclear weapon may have now been reduced to just a matter of months.
IDF soldiers were trading with civilians in thousands of bullets and gun parts that were being transferred to the Palestinian Authority. A joint operation by Israel s combined security services subsequently led to the arrest of 21 soldiers and civilians. The investigation revealed the soldiers stole a large amount of ammunition from the army, as well as standard military gun parts which they replaced with counterfeit parts. ( This is not the first timeSome politically correct idiots still advocate that Arab-Israelis should serve in IDF.)
Mahmoud Abbas has heavily influenced Israel s democratic process and has pressured the anti-Zionist Joint Arab List faction in the Knesset to recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form the next government. Balad is one the parties of which comprises the Joint Arab List. It is considered the most anti-Zionist of the three parties.
Quote of the Week:
Your time is limited; don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. - Steve Jobs
Why Left or Right?
by Steven Shamrak.
One of the major distinctions between humans and animals is that we have analytical intellect. At the same time. we base most of our ideas and form opinions on our emotions, beliefs and assumptions, not on facts. Blinded by personal psycho-emotional history, people dismiss logic of the facts and create assumptions to fit and support their own belief structure.
Completely opposite ideologies: Leftists, Fascists and Islamic expansionists/terrorists find themselves united on one issue only Hate toward Jews. Quite often, I receive mail from them. Those messages are mainly just rhetoric based on preconceived ideas and psycho -emotional cocktail.
I have never received letters that would contradict the historical facts about the right of Jewish people to their homeland Palestine . The history of aggression and terror created by Arab: History of UN bias against Israel.
I have been accused of being:
Anti-Arab or Muslim  - As a member of the Jewish tribe, with thousands of years being the victims in history of persecution and discrimination, I can assure you that my views are not anti-something. I just express a pro-Jewish point of view based on facts, not legends. At the same time, I do respect the freedom and rights of any religion and political point of view, even the fascist one, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.
Too emotional  - Arab leaders and clerics are often seen on TV, fumigating when they talk about Israel. Communists and Fascists are so passionate when they scream anti-Israel/anti-Semitic slogans. This is apparently acceptable. However, when a Jew logically presents facts in support of the Jewish state, suddenly, it is wrong to be emotional.
Too Right wing  - I do not consider myself Right or Left wing. I base my ideas and views on facts not emotions. There are too many people (including many Jews) who are very eager to promote, self-destructive, Left- wing views. Actually, I can't understand why, in relation to Israel s right to exist, there are Right or Left wing political points of view. Isn't it supposed to be a point of view based on historical facts and the right of the Jewish people to live on the land of their ancestors?
The bottom line is, Zionism is the Jewish independence movement! It is not a Left or Right political ideology of the Socialist or Capitalist systems! Jewish people have the rights of to live in peace on our ancestral land, and we must stop being apologetic about it our enemies do not want our land, they want to see destruction of Israel and kill Jews!

Rav Kook on Parashat Vayikra: The Inner Light of Destruction

Flooding, wars, earthquakes, plagues - every day we are bombarded with news of catastrophe and disaster. Is this how God envisioned His world? How can we relate to the many destructive forces in the world?

The offering of a korban in the Temple culminated in the ritual of zerikat ha-dam, as the kohen sprinkled the animal’s blood - its life-force - around the Altar.

“He will slaughter [the offering] near the Altar’s base, on the north side before God. The kohanim, descendants of Aaron, will then dash its blood all around the Altar.” (Lev. 1:11)

What is the significance of the offering being slaughtered on the northern side of the Temple compound? Why does the verse note that the kohanim are “descendants of Aaron” - is that not well-known? And why does it say the blood was dashed all around the Altar, when in fact it was just sprinkled twice, on the two diagonally opposite corners of the Altar?

Concealed Before God
Slaughter is an act of severe judgment. When performed on an offering, it serves to connect all the terrible decrees, disasters, and destruction that take place in the world to the hidden Divine rule of the universe. Everything emanates from the secret ways of the merciful God. All is ultimately good, leading to blessing and kindness.

From our limited perspective, slaughtering is held in low regard. It is thus performed near the base of the Altar. But it conceals a hidden light of kindness. The offering was slaughtered tzafonah lifnei Hashem. Literally, this means “on the northern side, before God.” But the word tzafon also means ‘hidden,’ so the verse may be translated as “concealed - before God alone.”

The task of revealing the inner light in the forces of destruction was given to the kohanim, the descendants of Aaron. Why the emphasis on Aaron’s lineage? Aaron was renowned for his compassion and kindness. “Be a disciple of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace; love people, and draw them to Torah” (Avot 1:12). Aaron’s descendants inherited the special qualities necessary to uncover this hidden light.

The Temple service teaches us that destruction of life has a place even in the holiest of services. It is precisely due to their connection to the highest level - the most all-encompassing perspective of reality - that phenomena which appear inexplicable and destructive from our limited outlook may be seen as contributing to the world. Our physical perception can discern only a sliver of reality; it is severely limited in terms of time, space, and true understanding of events. We lack knowledge of the overall context, and are unable to see the full picture.

The method the kohanim used to dash the blood is a fitting metaphor for our superficial perception. The physical eye only sees a partial reality, broken and disconnected. It sees the kohen dashing blood on two opposite corners. But on a higher plane, the vision is continuous and complete. The sprinkling encompasses the entire Altar.

Thus the compassionate children of Aaron, as they performed the service of zerikat ha-dam around the Altar, provided a glimpse of the hidden source of good and kindness in the universe.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 134 by Rabbi Chanan Morrison)

Cleaving to God protects us from the Virus trying to cleave to us

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

And He called to Moshe… (Vayikra 1:1)

LIFE IS EXTREMELY complicated and so phenomenally complex. And yet, it all comes does to only ONE thing, one’s relationship with God. Is it good? Is it bad? Are you close to or distant from Him. Anything and everything else is secondary to these questions.

The Torah says this in many places, but hints to it as well right at the beginning of this week’s parsha. The first word is “vayikra—and He called,” except that the final letter of the word, an aleph, is written smaller than the first four letters of the word. As Rashi explains, it is to indicate God’s love and respect for those who are close to Him, and just the opposite regarding those who annoy Him.

A lot of details pertaining to sacrifices will follow in the upcoming parshios. There are many different kinds of sacrifices, and each one has its own set of instructions to be followed so that it will remain a fitting offering. In some cases, details are similar from one sacrifice to another. In other cases, there are differences, and making a mistake can result in the rejection of the sacrifice, necessitating a replacement.

Yet Dovid HaMelech wrote very clearly:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart. (Tehillim 51:19)

A broken spirit sounds rather harsh, even sadistic. What’s wrong with feeling good about yourself? What’s wrong with walking with a bounce in your step? Why isn’t it better to serve God with a WHOLE spirit, rather than with a BROKEN one?

Nothing. On the contrary, we’re told to serve God with joy! If so, what’s with the broken spirit?

The key word is “sacrifice.” The broken spirit is not the way of life, but it is the way of sacrifices. In fact, that is what a sacrifice was supposed to cause, especially a sin offering. There was the purchasing of the animal, and the shlepping of it to the Bais HaMikdosh. The one who brought it had to place his hands on it, as if to pass his sins over to the animal…which was about to lose its life because of the person’s sin.

Even if the person was not an animal lover, the whole process had to humble them. When WE sin today, we just have to worry about making it to Yom Kippur to atone for it, and then start again. Life and death, and therefore the value of life, is not nearly as real to us as it became to the sinner who had an animal slaughtered on his behalf!

Today we do not have a Temple, and therefore we cannot perform the Temple service. We still do slaughter animals, but mostly just to eat them. We barbecue steaks, dress up hamburgers, and eat juicy hotdogs. Rather than use animals to atone for our sins these days, they can often be the cause of some of them, including overeating or a lack of sensitivity to the life that was lost to provide the food.

In fact, life has become so convenient in so many ways. Recently I traveled to the States, and in one city there must have been at least ten kosher restaurants and food shops in two blocks. I had a great time in two days…but something didn’t seem quite right. And though it is less so where I live, still many families have learned to enjoy the “good life,” especially when it comes to homes, cars, etc.

Judaism is clearly not anti-materialism, as Shabbos and Yom Tov prove. But as long as we have a yetzer hara the question will always be, “How much?” and “At what cost?” As the Talmud states, few people get to eat from both “tables” in this world, the spiritual one and the material one. If you’re enjoying one, it will undoubtedly be at the cost of the other. The extent to which one enjoys one table or the other is the person’s own free will choice, for which they will either be rewarded or punished on their personal day of judgment.

Before Moshe Rabbeinu died, he warned the Jewish people that their success on the land would make them forget about God, which it did. They began to take Torah less seriously, and some began to sin. At that point, God would send in a neighboring nation whose attack would wake the Jewish nation up, and make them do teshuvah. It would break their haughty spirit, opening the door for Divine mercy and military victory…until the cycle repeated itself again.

And again.

And again, etc.

One might get the impression that God made this world for man to do as he pleases, within certain boundaries. He has rules for man, but beyond them, people might think, man can go about his business and barely ever think about or thank God. For the most part, that is the way mankind has lived for thousands of years, and many Jews for at least the last 100 years.

God made the world for one reason and one reason only, to give man a chance to have a relationship with Him, the closer the better. Imagine it. Everything in the known and unknown universe was created JUST to facilitate that relationship. It may be unfathomable, but it is true. How does some black hole help man come closer to God? Somehow and in some way. And that sun that went supernova long ago? That too is for the sake of man’s relationship with God. How? I can only guess.

And all of this is alluded to by that little Aleph at the end of “vayikra.” Perhaps that is why it is so small. It is hinting to us that our relationship to God is something that should be impossible to overlook and yet IS overlooked by so many. For them, it’s as if the Aleph barely exists because they do not work on closeness to God, and that’s a BIG problem.

The rest of the word tells us that. “Vayikar” means that a person’s relationship with God gets relegated to the back burner, in their mind first and in God’s mind, so-to-speak, next. God says, “You may believe in Me and even learn Torah and perform mitzvos. But if you basically deal with ME as if I am only ‘nature,’ then I will deal with YOU as if I am only nature.”

That may work fine when history isn’t doing or expecting much, like about two months ago. That’s when people got up and went to minyan as they always do, and went to learn or work as they were used to doing. It’s when taking public transportation was not an issue, and flying abroad was commonplace. The only time a person was homebound, was if they caught the flu or just a cold and WANTED to stay home to nurse it.

That’s when going shopping was an everyday occurrence you never had to think twice about (just how you were going to pay for everything). Two months ago, Chasans and Kallahs fulfilled their dreams by making the Chasanah of their planning, and making a bris or a siyum was easy to arrange. It all seemed to happen…well…just so NATURALLY.

Not today. In a relatively short time, the world has shut down, and if hasn’t shut down, then it has slowed down considerably. Even my prayer has slowed down considerably. At shul, I had to keep pace, and deal with the distractions of a minyan. I felt rushed, and frustrated when I lost my train of thought, or had to repeat words that didn’t get the chance to come out of my mouth just right.

At home there is quiet. There is no minyan to keep pace with. I can go slow enough to not only get each of the words right, but I can actually think about them as they pass through my brain. And remarkably, just that change alone has allowed me to feel them, and more importantly, feel GOD more than ever before. It has allowed me to work on my “Aleph” and change “vayikar” into “vayikra.”

Viruses come and go, some quickly, some slowly. Some are only dangerous but others are deadly. Either way they slow life down, which in our super fast paced world, is quite an accomplishment…a GODLY accomplishment. We need to fight against it, because the Torah tell us to. But we need to work with it too, because when the Torah tells us to choose life, it is talking closeness to God. As it says:

But you who cleave to God your God are alive, all of you, this day. (Devarim 4:4)

Not ironically, the word for “infectious” is from the same root as the one used for cleaving to God, “davuk.” Let our cleaving to God protect us from the virus trying to “cleave” to us.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Rationale of Sacrifices

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

After Sefer Shemot concludes with the construction of the mishkan and the dwelling of the Divine Presence in it, Sefer Vayikra opens with the sacrificial service in the mishkan. The Rishonim dispute the rationale of sacrifices:

The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, explains that the sacrificial service comes to draw man away from idolatry. The Torah took man's nature into account, and since common practice then was to sacrifice on altars to the gods, the Torah did not want to detach Israel entirely from this service. "That would have been as if a prophet were to come in our time, who would call for the service of Hashem and say: "G-d commanded you not to pray to him, not to fast, and not to ask his salvation in times of trouble." Therefore, the Divine wisdom retained the form of service that they were accustomed to, and moved it to the service of G-d.

The Rambam brings proof to this from the pasuk in Parshat Beshalach, "G-d did not lead them by the way of the Philistines ... for G-d said, 'Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war and they will return to Egypt.'" (Shemot 13:17) G-d was concerned there that Bnei Yisrael were not yet accustomed to act as free men. Here, too, he did not forbid them from offering sacrifices, until they would be detached entirely from idolatry. In short: There is no inherent value to the sacrificial service, but rather it is a means to distance the people from idolatry. Thus, we find in many of the Prophets that there is no inherent purpose in sacrifices, but instead they say: "Does Hashem delight in elevation-offerings and feast-offerings as in obedience to the voice of Hashem?" (Shmuel I 15:22) "'Why do I need your numerous sacrifices?' says Hashem." (Yeshaya 1:11)

The Ramban objects strongly to the Rambam's view, since according to him the entire idea of sacrifices is only, "to counter the wicked and foolish [people] of the world," whereas the Torah says that they have a "pleasing fragrance." He also asks from the sacrifices that Hevel and Noach offered, even before there was idolatry in the world. Rather, the Ramban writes that it is more logical that all the actions in a sacrifice indicate that man deserves to have all of these actions done to him:

He sinned to his G-d with his body and soul, and he deserves that his blood be spilled and his body be burned, were it not for the mercy of the Creator who took from him a substitute. This sacrifice atones, so that its blood should be in lieu of his blood, a soul in lieu of a soul, etc.

However, the Ramban concludes that while this fits well in an Aggadic manner, in the Kabalistic approach, "there is a hidden secret to sacrifices" The Meshech Chochmah, in his introduction to Sefer Vayikra explains that "it is to draw close all the forces of the worlds. It is something electric, spiritual, which, through the actions of the priest, do wonders in the various worlds."

The Meshech Chochmah further explains that, in fact, there is no dispute between the Ramban and the Rambam. The Rambam talks about sacrifices on an altar, which are truly to wean from idolatry, while the Ramban talks about sacrifices in the Temple, which have inherent worth, and about them it says that they have a "pleasing fragrance." These are the sacrifices that Noach and Hevel offered, and even the Rambam agrees to this. He explains with this the reason why it is forbidden to offer on an altar after the destruction of the Temple. This is because then the desire for idolatry no longer exists, and therefore there is no reason to sacrifice on an altar.

Perhaps we can bring proof to his suggestion that the Rambam does not negate the Ramban's words that there is inherent rationale for sacrifices. The Rambam writes in Hil. Me'ilah (8:8) as follows: "All of the sacrifices are in the class of chukim (decrees). Chazal said that the world exists for the service of sacrifices."

Why Do Children Start With Vayikra?

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

For many generations there has been a custom to begin a child’s learning of Chumash with Sefer Vayikra, which Chazal call Torat Kohanim. The explanation is found as far back as the midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Tzav 479): "Why do young children start with Torat Kohanim? Let them start with Bereishit? Since the korbanot (sacrifices) are pure and the children are pure, let the pure come and deal with the pure."

Vayikra is not a book whose purpose is just to provide practical instructions on the way to bring sacrifices. Rather, it deals, on a fundamental basis, with Bnei Yisrael as a mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh (kingdom of priests and a holy nation). There is no more appropriate time to inculcate these values into children as when they have the freshness and purity of young age.

The bringing of korbanot is the essence of avoda (service of Hashem), which along with Torah and gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness) are the pillars that keep the world standing (Avot 1:2). The Torah represents the thought-related element of Judaism; gemilut chasadim is the active part between man and his fellow man. However, these two are insufficient without avoda, the active part of our proper connection with Hashem, which also must exist in order that the proper behavior between man and man will have its full meaning. We need to use the hand (action) and the heart (thought) in making our relationship with Hashem complete. The avoda must come from within a person, as korbanot should not be offered as some sort of external donation but as a gift from one’s essence The prophets (see Yeshaya 43:23, for one example) spoke very strongly against the phenomenon of people offering korbanot without the correct frame of mind or actions, which Hashem said He has no interest in.

On the other hand, we must reject that which some say that since the main thing is what is in a person’s heart, it is enough to serve Hashem with one’s heart. This reminds us of the gemara (Yevamot 109b) that says that whoever says that he has only Torah does not even have Torah. The heart does not have real value if it is in a manner that is disconnected from action.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said that the pasuk, "This is the Torah of the olah sacrifice" refers to the atonement for the thoughts to sin (Vayikra Rabba 7:3). This is because the heart itself needs protection. Therefore, actions are needed to protect the heart from going into morally dangerous thoughts. On one hand, the korbanot are given as if from our very essence, by means of the thought process. In practice, though, they are brought from the cattle and the flock of sheep.

This matter of avoda has to be learned well and from an expert teacher. That is why Moshe, who thought he had finished his leadership role after the Exodus and the giving of the Torah, was told that he had a greater role still ahead of him: to teach Israel the laws of purity and of korbanot (Tanchuma, Vayikra 4).

His Partners

by Rav Meir Goldvicht
Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva University

Dedicated to the memory of Yaakov Ben Behora

Parashat VaYikra opens with Hashem commanding Moshe Rabbeinu to tell B’nei Yisrael, "A man, when he sacrifices from you (adam ki yakriv mikem) an offering to Hashem, from the animals, from the cattle and from the flock shall you bring your offering." This passuk could have been written more succinctly as follows: "When you bring a sacrifice to Hashem...," leaving out the superfluous words "adam, a man," and "mikem, from you." Why does the Torah add these words?

Rashi explains that the word "adam" teaches us that, like Adam HaRishon, who sacrificed animals belonging to him, we must not bring sacrifices from stolen animals. Rashi does not, however, address the superfluousness of "mikem." What is the reason behind the Torah’s uncharacteristic verbosity here at the beginning of VaYikra?

Additionally, in next week’s parasha, Tzav, the Torah discusses the daily service of the kohen, beginning with the siluk hadeshen (removal of the ashes and leftovers of the korbanot), as it says, "And he shall separate the ash (deshen) of what the fire consumed" (VaYikra 6:3). The question that must be asked is why the daily service of the kohen doesn’t begin in an active, positive way, such as sacrificing a korban or lighting the Menorah. Why does the daily service of the kohen begin with the removal of the deshen?

To answer these two questions, it is helpful to understand the following: After we eat a k’zayit of bread, we recite Birkat HaMazon, consisting of four brachot. After eating any one of the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is praised (grapes, figs, pomegranates, etc.), we say only one bracha, the bracha achat me’ein shalosh. Why the difference? R’ Soloveichik explains that bread represents a partnership with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We actively participate in the "creation" of bread, planting, plowing, harvesting, etc. This enables us to recognize our Partner that much more, and our gratitude is therefore much greater. For fruit, on the other hand, our input is much less significant. We plant the tree and HaKadosh Baruch Hu basically does the rest. Our partnership is much less recognizable and therefore so is our gratitude.

If we develop the Rav’s reasoning a bit further, it becomes clear that HaKadosh Baruch Hu wants us to be His partners in all acts of creation. This is perhaps the reason why the first mitzvah a Jew does is brit milah - through this act, HaKadosh Baruch Hu allows us to complete ourselves, so to speak, thereby completing our own creation.

But in order to truly be partnered with Hashem, we must make room for Him in our lives. This is why the first part of the daily service in the Beit HaMikdash was the siluk hadeshen, making room both literally and figuratively.

This may explain why the Torah says, "Adam ki yakriv mikem korban laShem, A person, when he sacrifices from you an offering to Hashem." Everyone must sacrifice of himself, a part of himself, to make more room for HaKadosh Baruch Hu in his life.

This is why the midrash homiletically derives from the word "mikem," which totals 100 in gematria, that one who recites 100 brachot per day is as if he offered a sacrifice. The Tur explains in Orach Chaim that in the time of David HaMelech there was a terrible plague during which 100 people died mysteriously on a daily basis. David didn’t know how to end the plague, until it was revealed to him through ruach hakodesh that the plague would end if he instituted the practice of saying 100 brachot per day. The Tur’s explanation poses some difficulty, however, because the gemara in Menachot (43b) suggests that this practice was already instituted in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu. What did David HaMelech add? The answer is that in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, every person would make 100 brachot of his choosing. David HaMelech instituted a specific set of 100 brachot to be recited over the course of the day, realizing that the brachot would then "escort" a person from the moment he woke up until he went back to sleep that night, protecting him from danger and granting him long life.

Chazal say on the words "lech lecha," again totaling 100 in gematria, that when a neshama descends to this world, HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells it to remember one thing: I give you 100 "keys of brachot," with which you must open doors for Me to make room for Me in the world. This is how our lives begin.

The first to harness the power of the 100 brachot was Avraham Avinu, who opened doors for the Creator in places His Name had never been. Therefore "Hashem blessed Avraham with everything (bakol)" - bet kol, twice kol, again totaling 100. The reason why the recitation of this passuk after Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is a segulah for longevity is now quite clear.

One who recites 100 brachot per day is as if he offered a sacrifice because through the 100 brachot, this person realizes that his task in this world is to increase the glory of Hashem and to make more room for Him, even if this requires sacrificing of himself. This is the very idea that lies behind bringing a korban in the Beit HaMikdash.

This is also the meaning of the gemara in Sanhedrin (7a): "When the love between my wife and I was strong, we were able to lie together on the blade of a sword." In other words, neither of us took up space, each of us giving space to the other. "But when our love was weak, there was not enough room for us to lie together even in a bed of 60 amot." The more we let HaKadosh Baruch Hu into our lives, into our world, the more room we will have with which to continue to sanctify His Name in all of our actions.

Listening To God

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

With the beginning of the reading of the book of Vayikra this Shabat in the synagogue services the title of the book itself calls out to us for understanding what is meant when the Torah tells us that God called out to Moshe. Moshe experiences a special and unique method of Godly revelation. The Torah itself testifies to this by describing that God so to speak talks to Moshe 'face to face.' The prophets of Israel received Godly communuication while in a dreamlike trance state. But the thrust of Jewish tradition is that even though there is no longer any type of Godly prophecy present in our world and society God still communicates with humans. But He does so in very subtle means, in reflections of human behavior and world events themselves. Free will allows humans to behave as they will, yet there is visible to those who wish to see it a guiding heavenly hand in world affairs. A few decades ago two scientists won a Nobel Prize for being able to hear yet the echo of the sounds of the original birth of the universe at the moment of its creation. We all know that human hearing is possible only within a limited range of hearing wave frequencies. Judaism preaches that good deeds and moral behavior, Torah observance and loyalty to traditional Jewish values help attune and expand our hearing ability to now listen to heavenly sound frequencies which were originally blocked to us. And that is the auxiliary message of Vayikra - that God called out to Moshe and Moshe's hearing is so perfectly attuned to heavenly communication he is always 'face to face' with his Creator. That is the true indication of the greatness of Moshe, it is what makes him the most unique of all the world's prophets, teachers and leaders.

The word Vayikra as written in the Torah contains a miniature letter 'aleph.' This indicates to us that God's message to us is subtle, quiet, easy to ignore temporarily but nevertheless persistent and ongoing. As the Lord told the prophet Elijah 'I do not appear in the great wind or in earthquakes or other terrifying natural phenomena but rather in a small, still voice.' Listening to a still, small voice requires good hearing acumen and intense concentration. Casual hearing will never do it anymore. Therefore in our times the small 'alef' requires us to really listen and pay attention to what transpires in our personal and national lives. Oftentimes we, like the prophet Yonah, attempt to flee from the still small voice that continually echoes within us. But it remains persistently within us and it patiently awaits our ability to improve our hearing to the extent that it truly is listened to in our everyday lives.The Bible teaches us that Shimshon began his career as the savior and Judge of Israel when he was able to hear the spirit of the Lord beating within his heart and person. In our busy and noisy lives, with so much incessant sound exploding all around us constantly, we really have little time or ability to listen to our true selves that are always speaking to us. That inner voice of ourselves is the medium that Judaism teaches us that the Lord uses to speak to us, to call out for our attention and to give us moral guidance and courageous guidance. But it can only be of value to us if we listen to that inner voice and that requires concentration, thought and committment.

A great sage once remarked that when a Jew prays to God he or she is talking to God. But when a Jew studies Torah than God so to speak is talking to him or her. That is one of the reasons that Judaism places such a great emphasis on Torah study. As the Talmud puts it: 'The study of Torah outweighs all other commandments.' It is the proven method for the attuning of the spiritual frequencies of our hearing to enable the sound of our Creator that beats within us to be heard by us. We should make every effort to improve our hearing and enable ourselves to listen to iour Creatoe Who constantly calls out to us.