Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ehud Barak and Yom Kippur

By Tuvia Brodie

Before Yom Kippur, 5773 (which this year fell on September 26, 2012), Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak restated his proposal for a unilateral withdrawal of Jews from Judea-Samaria. As reported this time, his proposal would give tens of thousands of Jews who live in Judea-Samaria a choice: return to pre-1967 borders or remain as you are and live under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA); Jews who live in the communities of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion would remain outside the newly-formed PA-controlled area.  Barak made these statements just before Yom Kippur, he said, because Yom Kippur is a good time to look at the facts; the time has come, he suggested, to make decisions that recognize reality. He suggested that his proposal was based partly on a ‘concern’ for the PA, the EU and the US.
No doubt, many Religious Nationalists would reject such a proposal out of hand. They would reject Mr Barak’s reality. The lands of Judea and Samaria, they might claim, are ancestral Jewish homeland. They are not negotiable; and, they might argue, our reality certainly does not recognize any Arab claim that is based on what Nationalists say are lies about the Jewish people.
Nevertheless, Minister Barak is not just another Leftist looking to surrender with a Utopian’s optimism that this is the surrender that creates peace. He is a member of Israel’s government. He has power. He has the ear of the Prime Minister. We should listen to him.
On one level, Mr Barak is correct. Yom Kippur is indeed a time to reflect. It is a time to be concerned. It is the perfect day to look at reality and fact. But the reality of the Jewish Yom Kippur has nothing to do with the Arab, the EU or the US. The reality of Yom Kippur is not about appeasing those who would destroy us. True, if we were pagans, we would make sacrifices to appease the powerful because otherwise, unappeased, those powers would destroy us (sound familiar?): pagan gods are not forgiving.  But, Mr Barak, we are not pagan. Our Yom Kippur is not about gods who require sacrifices to mollify their anger. Our Yom Kippur is about the very personal relationship we have with a loving G-d who gives us a special day to activate our spiritual ‘refresh’ button. It is a day to reflect on how we relate to our Creator—not the Arab or the EU.
How do we know that this is the reality of our Yom Kippur? Read the Yom Kippur prayer-book. It's all there--and it's very clear (if you want to read more about this, see, The Koren Yom Kippur Mahzor, translation and commentary by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Jerusalem, 2012).
We do not become reflective on Yom Kippur, as Mr Barak suggests, because our destiny is tied to our relationship with the Arab. We do not have a special day of prayer to mollify the power of the US or UN. We may indeed bow on Yom Kippur. But we do not bow to brutal gods or foreign powers.
Our Yom Kippur is not about surrendering to those who hate us. The power we turn to on Yom Kippur is not one who lies about us and desires to butcher us. The Power we face loves and pardons us. The Power we face is One who gives us in love a day of atonement, a day of pardoning and forgiveness so that we can renew ourselves and start a new year with hope and pride. The Power we bow to gives us life and sustenance. He has the ability to remove evil from the world—and we pray to Him on this day to do that. The power that Mr Barak bows to would impose evil onto the world, not remove it. The others he would bow to appear to have no love whatsoever for us. They offer nothing. They are indifferent—or worse.
I don’t know about Mr Barak, but if I had to choose between a G-d who loves me and a god who hates me, I prefer the former, not the latter; and in case there’s any doubt about the gods that Mr Barak would serve, you should note that they rejected outright his surrender proposal even before the ink was dry on his full interview. Then, over the next thirty-six hours, the leaders of Egypt and Iran spoke before the United Nations. They restated how they feel about the Jewish people: they have no leniency, love or hope to offer us.
Meanwhile, as they spoke, our Yom Kippur prayers told us repeatedly that this was a day of pardon, love, hope and forgiveness—a day to renew.
I don’t know about you, Mr Barak. But I know which Yom Kippur I prefer. I know before whom I choose to bow. I know the difference between love and hate.
This is our Yom Kippur, Mr Barak, not theirs.

Remembering Where We Came From

By Moshe Feiglin

11 Tishrei, 5773
Sept. 16, '12

Translated from Ma'ariv's NRG website
Everybody is saying that this coming year will be momentous; that this will be the year when the decision on whether or not to attack Iran will be made; that this will be a decisive year in the political arena; that this year will be engraved in history; that it will be unforgettable.

I am not a prophet and it could be that this year will fit the bill as above, but I am not at all sure that that the predictions are accurate. In my opinion, the upheavals waiting to happen are not about military or political moves. They are part of a much broader strategic structure.

Personally, I do not believe that Netanyahu will order the army to carry out an open attack on Iran. I think that the time to have done so was when Ahmadinijad declared his intention to destroy Israel and began practical preparations to achieve his goal. From the moment that Israel chose the strategy of passing the buck to the nations of the world, the legitimacy of Israeli action against Iran was lost – both the world and the Israeli Left agree on that. Israel's repeated attempts to force the world to act are like trying to close the stable doors after the horses have run away. And if the US does define a "red line" for Iran, will it be worth more than President Eisenhower's guarantee?

When Israel retreated from Sinai after the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the Americans signed a written guarantee that they would not allow Egypt to blockade the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. When Naaser invaded the Sinai and blocked the straits, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol called President Lyndon Johnson and reminded him of the US guarantee; the unambiguous, signed "red line" that the Americans provided in exchange for Israel's retreat. "I can't find my copy," LBJ stonewalled over the phone. Now, Israel is pressuring Obama to give us another guarantee that will conveniently get "lost" when it is needed most.

I will be more than happy if my evaluation is wrong. No, I do not want to go to war. Not at all. But more than I fear war, I fear that Israel will slowly disintegrate, making war extraneous. I cannot see how Israel can exist and flourish in the long term in a nuclear Middle East under Iranian hegemony. More than I fear war, I fear that our enemies will not need it.

Will 5773 be an election year in Israel? I'm not sure of that, at all. Right now, the Likud is gearing up for elections. But events of the past few months have shown us that elections do not necessarily happen even when the date is set. And even after that, they may not happen, either. I am much less sure of myself on this than I am on Iran. But I would not be surprised if on Rosh Hashanah of next year, the elections will not yet have taken place.

More than we will be shaping reality in 5773, reality will shape us. We are living in extremely unstable times. The 2000 year old Western civilization has decided to commit suicide. With an average of one child per family and Moslem and Hispanic immigration, the end is simply a matter of time. To make do in Europe, our children will need to know Arabic – and Spanish in the US.

These cultural changes are currently expressed in an economic crisis that will make Western economies collapse. Islam will rear its head and the Middle East will return to its natural, pre-World War I state. The mask of modern nation-states will disintegrate and the expanse will once more be tribal. A country that is not Arab will claim hegemony: It will be either Turkey or Iran - if it achieves nuclear capabilities.

This is not prophecy. It is simply an educated evaluation based on the processes that are unfolding before our eyes. Events can play out in any number of ways, but we must prepare for reality to take this direction.

The questions that Israel must ask itself are much broader than the question of a nuclear Iran: Are we preparing the next generation for the new world or are we still committed to the old order? Are we equipping the next generation with a clear answer to the questions of identity and destiny? Are we building a culture of liberty that can overcome the enslavement that is engulfing the world?

Rosh Hashanah is the day that we crown the King of the world. We blow the shofar and declare that we accept His dominion. His dominion – and no other.
In the face of all the expected upheavals, it is important to remember where we came from, from where we draw our strength, what we represent and to what we aspire. As long as we remain connected to ourselves, no storm or crisis can overcome us.

Have a blessed 5773. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Forgive me for Disengaging

By Rafi Farber

I have a confession to make. I supported the Disengagement. Not only did I support it, I supported it fully. I even called those advocating refusal of orders dangerous traitors, Zecharyah ben Avkilas types who would send away Emperor Nero’s sacrifice because of a flaw rather than sacrifice it and save Jerusalem.

It is critical that you understand exactly why I felt this way.

There are two distinct goals for the Jewish People at this point in history. One goal is to build a giant defensive wall and use it to protect the Jewish People as much as possible against the next wave of destruction, and in the meantime just wait for the Jewish People to be redeemed somehow. This is a negative goal, and as such, essentially has no direction. It’s just a beautifully paved road to nowhere. The other goal, which is mutually exclusive, is to actually redeem the Jewish People. This is the only possible positive goal, the only one that leads somewhere real.

The theory of Disengagement is that you hunker down, gather the Jews, make sure they’re all on our side of the fence, build a giant fortress wall, and hide behind it for as long as possible. This is the quintessential defensive tactic that looks appealing to those who have no positive goals other than defending the Jewish People.

This is why I supported the disengagement. Because in an environment where there simply was no leader who had any positive goals, it seemed like the best option for defense. I didn't see any leader who was even trying to move along the process of redemption. So I wanted to separate populations, Jews and Arabs, put them on one side, put us on the other, build a giant wall - literally - and wait behind it for Moshiach. The Disengagement was one step towards that for me.

Oh how I cried when I realized what I had done. I cried not when the Disengagement happened. That was very painful – I remember watching it as it happened, but the tears of the people being torn from their homes could not inspire my own to flow. I cried, rather, when I saw that I had completely missed something essential. One night in late 2008 I read an article in the Jerusalem Post that some guy named Feiglin may get a Knesset seat on the Likud list and that Netanyahu was actually scared of this. I wondered what he could actually be scared of.

I got curious, and I went to Feiglin’s website. He had joined Likud because he actually wanted to lead the entire nation and declare victory on top of the Temple Mount. When I heard that, my soul, hardened by years of building defensive walls and buying time, began to melt. Feiglin wasn’t speaking to any Jewish sector at all, but to the entire Jewish nation. Something inside me cracked and I shed a tear. I understood. He wants to finish the process of Geulah. He has an actual positive goal.

Then the tears really came. I realized that what led me to support the bitter evil of the Disengagement was simply my desire to go on defense and just wait it out instead of move it forward. I cried because I understood I didn't have to think that way anymore, ever again. I could move forward. That's the Jewish concept of avoiding from evil and doing good. In order to avoid evil, you must do good, otherwise you get caught up in evil unwittingly, like I did. And those getting caught in the evil right now are all those stuck in the sectoral mentality.

Trying to unite the Religious Zionists is nothing but an insidious form of Disengagement. Less brutal, for sure, but insidious and wrong. Instead of disengaging from LAND and separating ARABS and Jews, those who even RECOGNIZE sectors are disengaging from the Jewish PEOPLE and separating JEWS and Jews.

You want to know why Religious Zionist parties keep shrinking? Because they’re boring. Because they lack any sort of positive goal. Because voters are tired of playing defense.

This is NOT a question of how we unite the Religious Zionists to build the next wall of defense. This is a question of what you think God really wants from the Jewish people. Does God want sector A to outvote sector B and then Moshiach comes? God wants us to simply buy enough time until His Divine egg timer goes off in the sky and it’s time for Moshiach to just show up by default? Is this just a silly game of chicken? Or does God want the Jews, all of us, to realize, together, as a nation, what the heck we're doing here in Israel and why?

I believe God wants the second option. In order for us to realize what we're doing here, we need a leader who speaks to every single Jew. If you’re in a sector, then talk and talk as much as you want about Jewish identity and any Jew out of your sector will simply ignore you, because you've disengaged yourself from them.

Manhigut Yehudit is not about defense, and it is not even about saving the settlements. Every Likud primary is about speaking to this stiff-necked people of ours, the Jewish People, who are confused and directionless, and telling them that we need to finish the process of Redemption and lead this world. No matter what the results are; whether Moshe Feiglin wins a victory or comes close or loses, one thing is absolutely certain. Every time he runs, Feiglin speaks, and Am Yisrael listens. Left and right, Dati Hiloni Haredi. EVERYONE hears him.

Would anyone care if Naftali Bennett came out supporting medical marijuana? No, because Bennett is disengaged from Am Yisrael. Nobody cares what he says. Just a fact. But when Moshe Feiglin supports medical marijuana, all of a sudden every station has to interview him immediately. That’s the nation listening.

Those in the “Jewish Home” - for the love of God, and I don't use that phrase lightly, stop your disengagement from the Jewish People. Talk to them. All of them. You can help us talk to them. Join Likud and TALK to them. You may not win a seat, but for God's sake they'll hear you.

Moshe Feiglin will win because he’s the only one with a goal. Everything else is meaningless chatter about how best to do nothing. The path is not glorious. It is not easy. It is full of ridicule and naysayers. It is full of dirty political tricks that will drive you mad. But if you want to bring Jewish history to its climax, we need everyone in on it. You can all help.

Moshe Feiglin will keep speaking. You can either make his voice that much louder and be a part of Jewish history, or you can, yet again, go in Galut defensive mode, disengage from the rest of the Jews, and fight the next prime minister from your defensive wall of Knesset seats. And then watch it be torn down to dust.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yearning for the Real Thing

By Moshe Feiglin

One of the high points of the Rosh Hashanah prayers is when we prostrate ourselves before the Creator, proclaiming that He is King. Like all other years, I bowed down this year, too, along with the other worshippers in the synagogue. I anticipated the feeling of spiritual elevation that comes from nullifying oneself before G-d. But all that I could think about was the feeling that enveloped me when I prostrated myself in G-d's courtyard on the Temple Mount. There, in the royal palace, there was no barrier between me and the Creator.

After that, the bowing down that has always been a high point for me on Rosh Hashanah has lost its essence. It is nothing more than a reminder of the real thing; the genuine service of G-d. All that we have to do is to reach out and touch it. If we want to.

May we merit this year to bow, en masse, in the courtyard of G-d's palace on the Temple Mount.

Shabbat Shalom

Medical Marijuana and Dr. Johnny

By Moshe Feiglin

5 Tishrei, 5773
Sept. 21, '12

Translated from Ma'ariv's NRG website
Toward the end of his life, my father suffered indescribable pain. He was at the stage at which the doctors in the oncology ward focus on other patients, and you run – helpless and harried – between doctors who don't know how to work outside the book. "Your father is finished, we've done all that we can," they would say, adding, "Johnny. Talk to Johnny."

The government has recently closed down Dr. Johnny Greenfield's pain clinic in the Tel Hashomer hospital. It was only from the media reports that I realized that Johnny is a highly respected neuro-oncologist. There, in the hospital, he would sit behind a tiny table in a tiny cubicle, helping his pain-wracked patients. In that tiny room, he was simply Johnny.

Johnny would talk to my father. He would calm him. He would explain that it is legitimate to want the pain to stop. My eyes fill with tears when I remember those searing moments. Johnny is one of those people who are really card-carrying angels.

And Johnny helped. A lot. More than the medicinal cannabis that he prescribed for my father, he helped with his love for others and his completely unorthodox approach. No "Do these tests and come back with the results," and the authorizations and all the running around that turns people suffering their most difficult moments into miserable mice running down unfamiliar halls, pushing and pressured between all the other equally miserable people. Anyone who has experienced this can understand what I am talking about.

Johnny wants the pain to stop. He is a professional and explains the exact implications of each drug, telling my father what part of his cognizance may be impaired, the consequences of every drug he offered – a true healer. For the first time in a long time, my father relaxed. The cruel world suddenly looked different. A world with a person like Johnny looks beautiful, nurturing and warm.

A few meetings later, I told Johnny that I had read that Israel is one of the leading countries in its use of medicinal cannabis. Johnny didn't have to hear more than that to pour his heart out. He spoke of all the miserable patients who could not get treatment. And how good cannabis and cannabis products would be for a vast array of illnesses. Perhaps, the economic interest of the drug companies has something to do with the obstacles that the State places in the path of those who wish to be treated by this amazing drug, brought to you by our Creator. "I believe that if G-d created it, he did it so that we can use it," I say to him.

Since my father died, I did not hear from Johnny. Suddenly, this man, considered an "angel" by so many, is publicly denounced.

Have a good, sweet year, Johnny. It makes no difference what they write. There are so many people who can smile a little bit at the end of their lives in your merit. They, their families and everybody who meets you know exactly who Johnny is. 

United Nation, NOT United Nations

By Shmuel Sackett

This article appeared in the September 14th edition of the Queens Jewish Link
While New York is a very diverse city, the Jewish community in which I was raised was actually not like that at all. My fellow Jews in school, camp and around the neighborhood were all of the same background. Even when I ventured into the world of NCSY, I still met people who were pretty much a carbon copy of me. Some were less observant, others unaffiliated but 99% were USA born and bred, Ashkenazic, westernized Jews. It wasn't until I made Aliyah in 1990 that I understood what Jews from "the four corner of the earth" truly meant.

My life in Israel began in the city of Netanya. My wife and I settled there for our first year and had a wonderful experience meeting fellow Yidden from all over the globe. Some people would have gone into "culture shock" but we looked at things differently. To us, meeting brothers and sisters (and that is who they are!) who spoke differently, had darker skin and ate foods that we would normally not touch with a 10-foot-pole was a taste of the "Kibbutz Galuyot" (ingathering of the exiles) that we pray for three times each day.
Our son started "KItta Aleph" (first grade) that year and among his 35 classmates there were 11 Russian Jews, 9 Ethiopian Jews, 7 Jews from Arabic countries (mainly Yemen and Morocco) 2 from Argentina and the last 6 were native born Israelis. He was the only kid born in Queens.

Our shul in Netanya had people who said things like "Cheery-oh" or "G'day mate" or "How's it?" I must admit that it was very weird at first to hear guys dovin like The Beatles and read the parsha like Prince Charles but then I realized that these people are my family, even though they sounded a bit funny (which is what they said about me!).

Since that year I have developed deep friendships with Jews who shared my dream of Aliyah but did not board the plane in JFK. They came home from Ireland, Ecuador, Brazil, New Zealand, Turkey, Denmark, Switzerland and even Fiji (how many Jews do YOU know from Fiji??) As a matter of fact, one of my daughters did her National IDF Service in a school in Ra'anana where students came from 22 different countries!

Think about it for a second. Jews coming home to Israel from 22 countries and doing it NOW. They didn't wait for Moshiach or for an eagle to swoop down and fly them here. They came home with their culture, their songs, their language, their dress code and their heavy accents to the one and only Jewish land. I have always told my children that my favorite time in Israel is when Jews from different countries break their teeth just to speak to each other in Hebrew. I am sure that a Hebrew grammar teacher would have a heart attack listening to that conversation, but who cares? Let 'em make 100 mistakes in grammar! The bottom line is that after 2,000 years we have returned home to speak OUR language! How awesome is THAT?

This is what I meant by the title of this article: United Nation not United Nations. We are one people, with one G-d, destined to live in one land. I admit that this is not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, in the entire "Shemona Esrei" prayer – when we beg Hashem for many things – only ONE of those requests contains the word "Ness" (miracle). It does not say that word when we ask for health, success, wisdom, forgiveness or even the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. The only time it says the word "miracle" is in the Bracha of "Kibbutz Galuyot" when we ask Hashem: "Ve'sah NESS l'Kabetz Galuyotenu" (and perform a MIRACLE to gather our exiles). This proves that coming home will truly be difficult, out of nature and in the realm of the supernatural - but doable! Millions have done it already and the excuses – in most cases – are lame and weak.

The time to join your brothers in Israel from Argentina and Australia is now! Fellow Jews from India and Greece await your embrace. Your family members from Ethiopia and Cuba want you to join them for Shabbat. We are a united nation. Come join us.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Va'yailaich 5773

Parashat Va’yailaich - Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 5773
Baal Shem Tov: "I was sent to the world to teach the Jewish people to distinguish between the essential and the trivial in life".
Three times in our parasha, pessimism pervades regarding the future behavior of the Jewish people, with the lowest point to be reached at the "end of days", as the pasuk states (Devarim 31:29)
... וקראת אתכם הרעה באחרית הימים כי תעשו את הרע בעיני ה להכעיסו במעשה ידיכם
And the bad will happen to you at the end of days when you will do bad in the eyes of Hashem, causing Him to anger at your actions.
It is generally accepted by our rabbis that we are now in ‘the end of days". Millions of our people have succeeded in surviving the heinous galut experience with Torah intact and love of HaShem in their hearts, and those who have fallen can justify their spiritual failings on historical considerations like the Shoah. So what is the unforgivable damning sin that could provoke HaShem’s anger, as depicted in the above verse?
I submit:
One day the Bet HaMikdash will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim, and the Mashaich - a man of flesh and blood from the House of David - will rule over the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael. But if things remain as they are today in American gentile society, there will be great numbers of Jews, including religious leaders, who will prefer to remain in Lawrence, Beverly Hills, and Williamsburgh, NY.
This is the cardinal sin referred to in the above pasuk - to cling to the flesh pots of the galut even when the dreams of our people have been realized.
I could never have entertained such an audacious thought were it not for the fact that a similar situation already occurred in our history.
It is brought in the Book of Zecharya (7:1-3)
ויהי בשנת ארבע לדריוש המלך היה דבר ה' אל זכריה בארבעה לחדש התשעי בכסלו:
וישלח בית אל שר אצר ורגם מלך ואנשיו לחלות את פניה':
לאמר אל הכהנים אשר לבית ה' צבאות ואל הנביאים לאמר האבכה בחדש החמשי הנזר כאשר עשיתי זה כמה שנים
In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.
The exiles in Bavel sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the Lord by asking the kohanim of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, ףShould I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?
This chapter relates the events which occurred after the Second Temple had been rebuilt.
The righteous among the exiles, who were scrupulous in their religious obligations, sent emissaries to Yerushalayim with a halachic question. Now that the Temple has been rebuilt and the sacrifices are again being offered, is there still an obligation upon us to fast of the 9th of Av to commemorate the tragic destruction of the First Temple?
Radak (Rav David Kimchi) comments:
כי עדיין לא היו מאמינים בבנין הבית מפני האויבים שהשביתו את המלאכה כמה שנים ועתה אף על פי ששמעו כי היו בונים היו קטני אמנה ולא היו רוצים לעלות מבבל כי לא היו מאמינים שישלם בנין הבית ויעמד מפני הצרים אותם ושאלו אם יצומו בתשעה באב כמו שעשו שבעים שנה:
The Jews of babylon were skeptical regarding the permanence of the Temple in view of the many enemies surrounding the Jewish State (the second Bet HaMikdash stood for 420 years, ten years longer than the Bet HaMikdash of King solomon). They therefore preferred to remain in the exile and deal with the question of fasting on the 9th of Av!
Their very question depicts the humiliatingly low spiritual level to which these "righteous" halacha observant communities had fallen. Basic to the question was the premise that they would not be returning to Eretz Yisrael and the rebuilt Bet Hamikdash and sacrificial service. What was uppermost in their minds was the Halachic ruling concerning the continued fasting on the 9th of Av.
Is this not a mirror of the contemporary religious communities in today’s United States, where the little trees block their view of the great expanse of the forest?
We are now in the days between Rosh HaShana, when HaShem passes judgment on our actions and motives of the past year, and Yom Kippur, the day of appeals to the highest court in existence for pity and exoneration.
Today. This minute. Now, is the time for Jews in the galut, who have Hashem in their heart, to begin liquidating their material possessions and take the necessary steps to come home in this year of 5773.
Any thought of teshuva for personal offenses becomes insignificant when one is living with the stain of the galut. When the gates of the holy land are open and mother Rachel beckons to her children to come home, as we read in the haftarah on the second day of Rosh haShana and so many Jews remain in galut. It is comparable to chazal’s example of one who immerses in a mikva while holding a source of tuma (spiritual impurity) in his hand.
Take advantage of this window of opportunity, it will not last much longer.
Gemar Chatima Tova
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5773-2012 Nachman Kahana

Days of Awe, 5773: Sing for Those Who Choose the Wrong Path

By Tuvia Brodie

Israel is a woman who appears to lean upon her two strongest children. One of these children curses G-d with an anti-religious fervour. The other serves G-d religiously with ultra-fervent denial. Israel fears for all her children but neither of these two respond because one hates the other and the other rejects the one. Israel would be completely bereft of comfort but for her younger children. These youngsters reach out to her. They love her. But they cannot comfort her because they are pushed away by their anti- and ultra- siblings. She is trapped between the hate of the anti- and the denial of the ultra-. She wanders, aimless.
Her misfortunes come in pairs. Two Temples destroyed. Two exiles.Two irreconcilable sons. But her comfort also comes in pairs: teshuva as return to faith and teshuva as return to mother-Israel; two self-defensive wars that have miraculously brought freedom and emancipation--the War of Independence and the Six-Day War; and two all-powerful parents, Heritage and Land.
Israel cries because she can see her Future but is powerless to move forward: her two strongest children restrain her and her younger children are not yet strong enough to help her.
Her two most powerful children imprison her. One imprisons through cursing; the other imprisons through denial. Captive, she hears the younger children. They call to her, ‘Awake, awake!  Do not weep!”
She tries to escape her imprisonment. She speaks: ‘I am Zion. My Future calls to me! My youngsters yearn for me!’
Her strongest children struggle to restrain her. One child, the most powerful—the anti-- has controlled her before. He wills to control her now; meanwhile, the other son—the ultra—refuses to speak; he offers no comfort; because his belief is denial, he will offer no help; because that faith is both strong and stubborn, and he refuses to let her move.
Her younger children become restless. They hear her speak. They hear her voice. They yearn for her.
Awake, Zion! Awake for your children’s sake!
Her parents, Heritage and Land, watch their family in sorrow. Their daughter is abused by her strongest children, the anti- and the ultra-, while the youngsters are treated by their elder siblings as unwanted orphans. The strongest grandchild, the one with the most responsibility, rebels by rejecting his entire past, both Heritage and Land, while the other strong grandchild rebels by denying Land, claiming that he descends only from Heritage.  Torah, he cries, is everything. It is the only thing.  Land today is at best neutral; at worst, it is the embodiment of wickedness: Land does not count.
Together, Heritage and Land mourn.  The anti-child hates, the ultra-child denies, and the younger children are spurned.
But Heritage and Land are wise. They can see what the grandchildren cannot. They can see the Future; and they see that only the youngsters, the most scorned, will inherit their Future with the fullest inheritance. It is they who cling to family. It is they who are loyal.
The Future will be theirs.
Today, Israel cries, her Future denied. She cannot move forward. She cannot defend herself. And yet, despite the pain caused by her rebellious older children, she hears her youngsters. Their voices call to her.
Yes, she is restrained. But through those younger voices--so persistent, so filled with hope and joy-- she stirs, reminded of Family, her Lineage. Through those joyous voices, she remembers who she is and instantly understands that her Future does not belong to those who refuse or deny.  Her future belongs to  those who embrace the Land-- and Sing.
Zion, Zion, awake, awake! If your anti-child would destroy and your ultra- would deny, they cannot help you. It is they who are helpless, not you!  Forgive them! Sing to them! Comfort them! If they cannot see how events lead to your Fulfilment, you must turn to them. Draw them near. They are your children. Do not let their refusal tarnish your hope. Awake, awake!
Help them heal; show them the way. Do not be silent!
Awaken closed hearts with Song. Sing with your younger ones. It is they who will lead. It is they who will inherit the fullest. Sing with them. They are your Future.
Your Legacy is Heritage and Land. Your strength is Heritage and Land.  Your past was Heritage and Land. Your Future will be Heritage and Land. Sing, Zion. Remember the Songs of your parents. Sing to teach your stronger children while you Sing for joy with your younger children.
Sing, Israel. Sing now of Heritage and Land so that those who choose the wrong path can return.
Sing before they turn against you forever.

Friday, September 14, 2012

As the Jewish Calender turns, the West turns on Israel

By Tuvia Brodie

Do not envy Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has to decide what to do about Iran. If he does nothing, Israel could get nuked. If he attacks, all Hell breaks out: Iran will fire missiles at Israel; Hizbullah and Hamas would declare Holy War; and Syria (or Hizbullah) could attack with chemical weapons. A war could cost Israel more than 167 billion shekel in direct cost and damages over five years, according to one estimate. Israel’s economy will suffer. The center of Israel, where 70 per cent of the population resides, could turn into a war zone, with thousands dead or wounded.

Those who attack Israel, meanwhile, could suffer an apocalypse.  One report recently described Israel as capable of pounding Syria and Lebanon back to pre-history. Iran has already put the West on notice that, if Israel attacks, Iran will take its revenge against the West. In a war against Israel, Syria and Lebanon might not be the only nations to return to the Stone Age.

How do Western powers handle this potential destruction? By pressuring Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is not amused.

He has good reason to be miffed. After Netanyahu made it clear to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that Israel has the right to protect itself, Britain and Germany made it equally clear that if Israel attacked Iran, they would not support Israel. Then, perhaps to make sure that Netanyahu got the West’s message, the highest ranking military officer in the US, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, echoed the British-German threat when he said that if Israel attacked, the US would also not assist Israel. According to a recent news analysis, Mr Netanyahu was so ‘impressed’ by the British and German ‘warnings’ that he changed his strategy. Instead of continuing an aggressive stance towards Iran, he backed off; he demanded only that the West set deadlines and ‘redlines’ for Iran, to pressure Iran.

But his effort to lower the heat had no effect. If anything, it might have suggested that Israel’s leadership would fold under pressure. Less than two weeks after reportedly making his change, Netanyahu supposedly ‘blew up’ in a meeting with the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro (Mr Shapiro denies this). Mr Netanyahu was angered by what he termed, ‘US stalling’ over Iran, and by continuing American pressure on Israel, not Iran.

He had asked for deadlines. He’s gotten nothing but threats--against Israel.

Now, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has formalized the US position on Israel’s call for deadlines. She announced (September 11, 2012), ‘we’re not setting deadlines,’ thereby capping a fortnight of messages that told Israel that the West was interested in supporting neither a military option or deadlines, Israel’s two most important strategic choices in its battle to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Likud MK Danny Danon called Mrs Clinton’s remarks, ‘a slap in Israel’s face.’

The day Clinton’s remarks were published, former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Zalman Shoval, offered the observation, ‘We need to get used to the fact that, as usual, we are alone.’

But we are not just alone.  What has happened is not simply, ‘usual’. The remarks by Mrs Clinton and US General Dempsey have changed Israel’s relationship with its most important ally: if Mr. Netanyahu wanted the West to draw a line in the sand, that’s exactly what he’s gotten—a line in the sand over which Israel  cannot step. President Obama, supposedly so careful to avoid disturbing American Jewish support for his re-election, has apparently pushed aside that concern to clarify his attitude towards Israel, and that clarification is decidedly unfriendly: Israel cannot attack; the West will neither attack Iran nor install deadlines to help Israel; Iran can continue to enrich uranium because only ‘negotiations’  are required and Israel has been put on notice that it must do nothing or suffer the consequences.

These are not gestures of an ally. They are the hallmarks of arrogant disregard for an ally. Clearly, Israel can attack. But the West’s hostility creates for Israel a nightmare scenario:  if she attacks she could be destroyed—because allies may refuse to assist her--and if she waits she could also be destroyed.  

Fortunately, this movie has not yet ended. Yes, as the Jewish New Year approaches, the heroine is being tied to the proverbial railroad track. The villain is Iran. But America ties the ropes, with the British and  Germans standing nearby cheering the Americans on while hissing at the heroine. To those who know their Tanach (our Jewish Bible) and its commentaries, this sounds a lot like the descendants of Edom preparing the dogs of war while Persia and Yishmael strain to strike the first blow against Zion.

This is going to be some movie: the enemies of Zion turn against Zion just as the G-d of Israel prepares to judge the world.

Happy New Year

Rosh Hashanah: A National (Not Personal) Holiday

By Moshe Feiglin

We are used to relating to Rosh Hashanah as a day of repentance and atonement; a day of judgement; the day when our fate for the coming year is determined. The Selichot prayers before and after Rosh Hashanah add to the sense of a personal day of judgment, which is obviously true.

But from a simple look at the prayers, we can see that the focal point of the day is in a completely different place. The main thing that we are supposed to be doing on Rosh Hashanah is coronating the Creator as King of the world. This is also the main reason for the central mitzvah of the day. The blowing of the shofar is first and foremost an announcement that the coronation is about to take place.

How did the focal point of Rosh Hashanah turn into something private? The answer is simple: "Due to our sins we have been exiled from our Land and we have become distant from our earth". Just as the entire Torah has transformed into a religion that hovers above reality, not really a part of it, so Rosh Hashanah no longer expresses our national aspirations. When we lost our sovereignty and we lost Jerusalem; when the royal palace on the Temple Mount was destroyed, the Nation of Israel also lost the possibility to actualize the purpose of its existence: to perfect the world in the Kingdom of Heaven. From a national holiday, Rosh Hashanah morphed into a personal holiday, just as Judaism as a whole became a system of personal reminders outside of reality.

Even now, after we have returned to our Land and after we received the Temple Mount in the Six Days of Miracles, we continue with our private – not national – Rosh Hashanah ritual.

We, however, who have declared our goal to perfect the world in the Kingdom of Heaven and are working toward that goal politically- from within reality – can make the coronation of the King of the world a palpable event.

May we perceive G-d's rule over the entire world and may we merit a year in which we are favored and loyal tools to make that happen.

Wishing you a sweet and blessed year.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Netzavim-Vayailech 5772

Parshiot Netzavim-Va’yailech 5772

Devarim 29:9-10

אתם נצבים היום כלכם לפני ה' א-להיכם ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושטריכם כל איש ישראל

You are all standing today in the presence of the Lord your God, the leaders of the tribes, your elders and law enforcement officials, and all the other men of Israel.

And Rashi explains:

החשוב חשוב קודם ואחר כך כל איש ישראל:

Moshe greeted those standing before him in order of (national) importance.

By indicating the different statuses of the people, Moshe was voicing a fundamental principle that no two people are created equal, neither physically nor in their stations in life, just as in a snow storm of tens of billions of snow flakes where no two are identical, even though each one has six points like a Magen David. The rungs of the ladder of importance are decided upon by the Creator Himself. The Gemara (Berachot 58a) states that even the lowly official who deals with the irrigation drains is appointed from heaven.

Midrash Tanchuma in parashat Bo states:

Until HaShem chose Eretz Yisrael, every land was potentially suitable for HaShem to reveal Himself to a prophet; but after HaShem chose Eretz Yisrael, all other lands became unfit for prophecy.

Until HaShem chose Yerushalayim, all Eretz Yisrael was suitable for the holy Shechina to dwell; but after HaShem chose Yerushalayim, all other places became unfit for the holy Shechina. Until HaShem chose the Bet Hamikdash, all Yerushalayim was suitable for the Shechina; but when the Bet Hamikdash was chosen, the rest of the city was no longer fit for the Shechina.

The Midrash continues with this thought with regard to the choosing of Aharon for the kehuna and David for the monarchy.

HaShem chooses people and places for reasons known to Him, and His choices are what distinguish good from bad, right from wrong and attraction from rejection.

The claim that all men are equal before the law is as untrue in this world as it is in the next. In this world, the wealthy retain more effective lawyers, and the powerful stand before a judge who considers the implications for himself before issuing his decision.

In the spiritual world, HaShem judges each person on the background of his potential. Two people who have committed the same offense can be judged by Hashem with very different outcomes depending on each person’s family, education, social status and many other factors.

Pirkei Avot chapter 3 states:

Man is endeared by HaShem since he was created in the image (of God, with the freedom to make choices). Yisrael is endeared by HaShem as testified by the fact that He calls them His banim (children) and revealed to them His beloved vessel, the Torah, through which He created the world.

The Midrash Tanchuma (parashat Re’ah chapter 8) states:

Eretz Yisrael is endeared because the Holy One Blessed Be He has chosen it. For when HaShem created the world He divided the earth among the nations but chose Eretz Yisrael as His own.

Indeed, how proud and yet humble we must be for being chosen by HaShem to live in His chosen land.

We are the vessels chosen by the Creator to bring about the redemption of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, and from us the redemption of all mankind.

The approaching new year of 5773 might bring unprecedented challenges to us in Eretz Yisrael and to the world as a whole. We might witness again episodes similar to those which led up to the dangers in the time of Purim and our salvation through HaShem’s intervention for His nation.

We will probably lose some international friends and allies, which would redirect much of our activities and thinking back to HaShem.

As we draw closer to the advent of the Mashiach, life will become mercurial and very erratic, and our faith will be tested.

The weak will leave.

The feeble and irresolute will not come.

The powerless will beg for compromise and the cowardly will offer surrender.

Those families who have stood the test of time will rise to the occasion, and with total faith in HaShem will overcome all obstacles.

After another year of writing these messages, when the Jewish population in Eretz Yisrael has reached (kain yirbu) six million, and while I have yet to make so much as a dent in the stiff-necked attitudes of religious leaders in the galut, who cling to their delusions that they will be forever safe there, I wish to offer to all my heartfelt blessings.

So to all my brothers and sisters - those for whom (in their words) Shabbat would not be the same without these weekly thought, as well as those who do not permit them in their homes for fear of upsetting the shalom bayit equilibrium between the religiously petrified parents and still, somewhat, ideologically prone children - to all I offer my heartfelt blessings for a ketivah and chatima tova.

May Hashem bless us all with the foresight and courage to sanctify, in life, His Holy Name through Torah and rebuilding of His Holy Land.

תשע"ג - תהא שנת עלייה גדולה

Shabbat Shalom,

Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5772-2012 Nachman Kahana


Are anti-religious Jews the Catalyst for our Redemption?

By Tuvia Brodie

The Jewish Redemption:  many talk about it. Like children in the back seat of your car during a trip, there’s an excitement: are we there yet?
Some say we’re close. Look at Tanach, they declare: we are almost there. Others say, look at Israel’s politics: the anti-religious harbour so much hate they appear ready to declare war against anyone religious. Is that Redemption?
Here’s a point to ponder: perhaps HaShem employs the anti-religious to energize the process; perhaps our Redemption begins through them.
Much that is important to modern Israel has occurred because of anti-religious input. Our declaration of Independence in 1948 might not have happened if anti-religious Jews had been kept off-stage. Does this reality suggest that the founding of our State is (as some argue) just the work of the wicked—or is that assessment misplaced?  The great Gaon of Vilna, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer (1720-1797), wrote that we will stand at the threshold of our Redemption when (among other criteria) Jews have ingathered and then settled Israel, established our claim to the land, built cities, and cultivated the land (see Kol HaTur: The Voice of the Turtledov, trans. Rabbi Yechiel Bar Lev and K. Skaist, distributed by M. Pomeranz Bookseller Ltd, no date, limited edition, Jerusalem, Israel).  All of these things have come true, thanks in large measure to efforts by anti-religious Jews. Yes, the Vilna Gaon identifies other criteria to mark the beginning of the Redemption process (seeKol HaTur, above). But he states repeatedly that ingathering and settlement are crucial for Redemption to begin; and he seems not to impose any religious requirements upon those who do this work. He does not appear to demand Torah-observance from these workers. His emphasis is on the work itself: the land must be populated and prepared; only then can the Redemptive process begin.
Naturally, there is more. Read Kol HaTur.   
The idea that anti-religious Jews play a role in bringing the Redemption is developed further by Y. S. Teichtal (Harav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, Eim Habanim Semeichah, Kol Mevaser Publications, Mevaseret Zion, Israel, 2000), who reminds us that the wicked Biblical king Omri was rewarded specifically because he added a city to Israel. So precious is Israel to G-d that He rewards even the wicked for city-building. This was true even though Omri did not build his city to honour G-d; and it is true even though few if any kings were as wicked as Omri.  Rav Teichtal argues that, because the modern anti-religious are no worse than the excessively wicked Omri, they, too, fulfill a G-dly mission when they work for Israel.
Is it possible that the unG-dly help the Redemptive process? Well, since G-d controls everything, if He had wanted the religious to play that role, that’s what would have happened; therefore, if the anti-religious have played such an important role in Israel’s modern history, there must be a G-dly reason for that.
How could the unG-dly help our Redemption? The recent uproar over drafting Haredi into the IDF might suggest an answer. Is the push by anti-religious politicians to pass a new law that demands drafting Haredi an example of religious hatred, or is it part of a Divine plan to pump  more religious Jews into the IDF in order to increase the number of future  leadership candidates who are Torah-focused?
Our Redemption story makes that connection. Can you?
A similar insight might be found in anti-religious efforts to surrender ancestral Jewish homeland. Are these efforts simply anti-Jewish Jews pushing us towards national suicide—or is there a Divine element at work here?
What’s the Divine element? Look in the Torah’s first Rashi commentary. On that Rashi, one teacher suggests that, until Jews stand up and declare to the world that this land is ours because G-d gave it to us, we will have trouble with the nations; perhaps, we can infer, G-d employs the anti-religious (who reject the land) to motivate the rest of us to ‘stand up’. 
It is possible that the unG-dly play a role in our Redemption because the religious have failed.  If the religious cannot unite to lead, then the anti-religious will fill the vacuum the religious themselves have created; the anti-religious will then eagerly use religion as a club against us. They will beat us with their hate. They will refuse to put ‘religion’ aside. It will obsess them.
Don’t discount the unG-dly. We need them. Their religious hate puts religion into the spotlight. If you have read your Tanach, you know that’s exactly where religion might need to be for Redemption to begin.
The unG-dly have settled the land, built it and now work against it. They put religion onto stage-centre. They challenge our faith in G-d and land. We should not ignore that challenge.
How we respond will determine our future.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Fair is in Town, but where is the Merchandise?

The color has returned to the cheeks of religious Zionism. If the fair is in town, then there must be merchandise.
Everyone is running around, convincing others and arguing, brandishing lists of rabbis who endorse one candidate or another. It's as if the Jewish Home party was governing Israel, or at least attempting to run the country. But the Jewish Home is a splinter party. An honest evaluation of the party will easily reveal that it has no merchandise. So why all the excitement?

First, we must explain why we did not react in any significant way to the mega-effort undertaken by the Jewish Home party to convince Manhigut Yehudit voters to leave the Likud and join up with them, instead. We thought that there was no reason to fight against this process. After all, it repeats itself every time there are elections. One time it is Effie Eitam's Achi party, and the next is the Unity of who knows what. Religious Zionists love to be a sector. The gene for national leadership seems to be nowhere in their sights. We simply have to get used to the seasonal damage.

After the elections, Religious Zionism will be in the same place from which it started. All the campaign posters will be in the trash bin, forgotten forever. But in the arena where the real decisions are made, the Religious Zionist votes will be sorely lacking. They will have no say in who will lead this country. There will be no fateful national decisions for the sector that made itself irrelevant.

If we truly want Jewish leadership for Israel, we must be in the Likud, taking on all the challenges it presents. They may cheat us, defame us and build obstacles everywhere. But as we persevere, we come closer and closer to triumph, as we see with each election. In the last elections, approximately one fourth of the Likud voters - most of who were not registered through Manhigut Yehudit – voted for Moshe Feiglin for head of the Likud. They preferred him to a popular incumbent prime minister who used all his power and enlisted the entire cabinet and party machine – using threats and extreme pressure on Likud activists - not to vote for Feiglin. This is overwhelming proof of the fact that we are always winning.

Religious Zionism is constantly fleeing its vision, rendering itself irrelevant. Then it blames it problems on the politician who the political commentators have called the most influential person in Israeli politics: Moshe Feiglin.

And one more important insight:
The very same leaders, rabbis and laymen – who encouraged the Religious Zionist public to circle Kfar Maimon, are once again encouraging the public to walk in circles. This time, between the political fences of the sector.

Israel Won't Attack

By Moshe Feiglin

25 Elul, 5772
Sept. 12, '12

Translated from Makor Rishon
"You chose disgrace instead of war, you got disgrace and war as well."

Winston Churchill after the Munich Accords

Somehow, the common question in Israel today is if the Prime Minister has the right to decide to attack Iran or not. "He has the chutzpah to think that he can decide," former Supreme Court justice Winograd more or less pontificated, capturing the headlines of all the major news outlets.

The world is upside down. There is only one person who has the right to decide on the Iran issue, and that is the Prime Minister. It makes no difference at all how he makes the decision: whether by consulting with ministers and advisors or the military top brass, or by plain intuition. The state exists to protect its citizens. Accordingly, the citizens vote for the person who will lead them. They deposit in his hands – and his hands only – that authority and responsibility.

The vacuous claims that undermine the Prime Minister's authority to make the decision for which he was elected by the sovereign – the nation – are reminiscent of other rounds of similar media intervention. Four mothers, or more specifically, one radio talk-show host named Shelly Yechimovitz, managed to undermine the authority of the Prime Minister when Israel was in Lebanon. Ultimately, Ehud Barak pulled the IDF out of Lebanon. When the missiles landed in Haifa and we paid a price more dear than all the victims of the IDF presence in Lebanon, nobody reminded us of Yechimovitz and her four mothers.

Nobody will remember Vinograd and the leftist IDF officers when Israel will be forced to deal with the new Islamic caliphate headed by the modern day Salah a Din, Ahmadinijad.

Don't worry, though. Israel will not attack Iran. For the past two years, I have repeatedly written, warned and met with senior ministers in an attempt to explain that the concept of a united international front against Iran is a strategic error. The greatest danger is not the nuclear bomb, but Iran's declared intention to destroy us. Even if it doesn't look like Israel has the technological capacity to overcome the nuclear threat, it must attack, nevertheless. If it doesn't attack, it reinforces the world's impression that once again, the Jew must pay for his right to breathe air on this globe. We are back to the thirties and Hitler's vicious speeches. The sands in the hourglass of our right to exist are running out. It is no coincidence that Israel's loss of legitimacy and Ahmadinijad's declarations parallel each other.

The time to deal with the breach in the dam is when the crack is detected – not when the water surges through. Now, with the question mark over our right to exist hovering over our heads, it is only a matter of history presenting the opportunity for the next diabolical despot – be it Ahmadinijad or any other leader – to carry out his nefarious plans. The principle that allowed the Holocaust to unfold in the early 1940s was determined in the speeches in the Reichstag in the early 1930s. The State of Israel was established to avoid a repeat of the same situation. Its lack of a practical response to Ahmadinijad's speeches is a betrayal of the purpose of its existence.

Initially, the world expected us to attack Iran immediately. After all, for the past sixty years we have been dragging every visiting diplomat to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem. It was a given that Israel would not sit idly by in the face of such blatant threats. But in no time, it turned out that all we were saying to the world was "Have mercy on us" "Accept us," and not "Be careful of us." When Israel made the US responsible for its well-being, the tables turned. Now, when we face a very tangible threat, the world is willing only to have pity on us.

The situation today is reminiscent of the buildup to the Six Day War. Then, as well, Prime Minister Eshkol expected US President Johnson to make good on America's commitment to Israel after it retreated from the Sinai, promising to intervene if the Straits of Tiran were blocked. Then there was no "red line." The line had already been delineated years before. "I can't find my copy of the document," Johnson said to Eshkol. Now, Netanyahu is trying to force the copy out of Obama. But he will never find it.

There is a huge difference between then and now. Eshkol had an army eager to fight. He had officers, not politicians in uniform. And he had a citizenry that hurried to dig trenches in the parks; it had not yet been brainwashed by the irresponsible, defeatist media.

As usual, Israel is attempting to solve its strategic problem with a media spin about super weapons that the Americans may be kind enough to give us – more as a ladder with which to climb down from the tree of declarations than as a true solution.

The international pressure strategy puts Israel in a hopeless situation in the world and against its own noisy left wing. The Leftists that smelled the lack of leadership in Israel, woke up and began protesting. In light of the current situation, the chances that this government will attack Iran are nearly zero. A different Israeli government will have to deal with both the war and the disgrace. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Pita that Revived Terror

By Moshe Feiglin

And all the nations will see that the Name of G-d is called upon you and they will fear you. (From this week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 28:10)

During the First Lebanon War, the IDF forced the PLO terrorists all the way to the Beirut port and from there to Tunisia. The PLO, which had lost its stronghold in Lebanon was shattered. Salach Taamri, the most senior and admired terrorist captured by the IDF, was imprisoned in the Ansar detention camp. He was a broken man.

Later, he was interviewed by Aharon Barnea, who also wrote a book about him, called "To be Captive."
In Barnea's book, Taamri describes the situation of the terror organization prior to Pesach, 28 years ago. "I concluded," said Taamri, "that we had no chance to overpower Israel's financial and military prowess, and that we should make do with the crumbs that they would throw us and fold up all our flags." Taamri, an intellectual and patriot, willingly cooperated with his captors. The other prisoners understood from their admired commander that the end had come and the war was lost. And then, Taamri continued, a surprising event took place that turned everything upside down.

"My hands were holding the cold bars and I was looking from inside my dark jail cell toward the hall, where an Israeli guard was walking. I saw him from far. He was walking slowly, holding something in his hand that he would constantly bring close to his mouth. He would bring it close and then distance it. When he was close to my cell, I called to him. I saw that he was eating a pita. He would bite, chew, bite and chew.

'You are a Jew,' I said to him. 'Why are you eating chametz on Pesach? Don't you know that it is forbidden for a Jew to eat chametz on this holiday?

'I am not committed to the things that happened to my People during the exodus from Egypt 2000 years ago. I have no connection to it,' said the Jewish prison guard.

I sat on the mattress in my cell and said to myself: A nation of people who do not have a connection with their past; who are willing to publicly desecrate the laws of their faith, is a nation that has cut off the roots from its land. We will be able to achieve our goals. On that night, my approach completely changed. I couldn't fall asleep. In all those hours of darkness, I replayed that scene with the Jewish prison guard.

The next morning I gathered the Palestinian leadership in the prison; all those who knew my opinion over the years. I told them about my experience and the conclusions that I reached. I clarified to everyone that from that morning, we were embarking on a new course: a war for everything. Not for a small percentage and not for crumbs that they would throw us. For opposing us was a nation that lacked the connection to its roots; a nation not interested in its past. Thus, its motivation was necessarily void of any will to struggle and fight.
Since then, I have told my story to tens of thousands. I convinced all of them that the approach must be changed and that we must struggle without compromise."

Taamri was elected to the Palestinian parliament and indeed convinced his friends, breathing new spirit into the war against Israel. The damage done by that pita eaten by the Israeli soldier on the holiday of Pesach cannot be exaggerated.

The question mark hovering over the right of the Jewish state to exist – and as a result, over its right to defend itself in the face of existential threat – is directly connected to the verse from this week's Torah portion above.

When the nations of the world see that G-d's Name is called upon us, when we know who we are, understand what we represent and are at peace with our destiny, the power of deterrence that the terrorist Taamri initially felt will be established. But when it turns out that we are not interested in G-d's Name being called upon us, the nations can openly plan to destroy us, with nuclear weapons or in any other way – with no fear.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, September 06, 2012

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Ki Tavo 5772


Parashat Ki Tavo 5772

Our parasha begins:

והיה כי תבוא אל הארץ אשרה' א-להיך נתן לך נחלה וירשתה וישבת בה

When you have entered the land the Lord your God gives you as a legacy and inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it

Or Hachaim explains:

והיה לשון שמחה, להעיר שאין לשמוח אלא בישיבת הארץ

The term Vehaya (which opens the parasha) refers to a joyful event, meaning that there is joy only when living in the Land of Eretz Yisrael.

But this is problematic in light of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai’s statement in Berachot 5a:

שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל, וכולן לא נתנן אלא על - ידי יסורין. אלו הן: תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא

Three good gifts were presented by God to the Jewish people and each was given only through great trials and tribulations: Torah study, Eretz Yisrael and the world-to-come.

Now, if Eretz Yisrael demands great sacrifice and anguish, how could the Or Chaim state that "there is joy only when living in the Land of Eretz Yisrael"?

I will return to this later, B"H.

Our parasha contains a simple, straightforward declaration by HaShem: When we abide by the Torah, even the rewards in this world will be abundant; but if we stray from the Torah, punishment will be relentlessly harsh.

The punishments are set down one-by-one. They, and many which are not recorded in the parasha, have all come to pass in our long and unhappy history.

It would appear from the immediate sequence of the verses that HaShem is peering at all our actions through a high-definition magnifying glass, just waiting for one false step to set the machinery of retribution into motion.

However, nothing is further from the truth.

HaShem, our King and Father, is "El rachum ve’chanun" - a God of mercy and compassion. His patience with the sinner is long and understanding. HaShem does not want the sinner to die, but – as we see from our history – He waits for him to return to the godly path of the Torah.

King Solomon completed the Holy Temple 480 years after the exodus from Egypt.

The nation glowed in religious enthusiasm, ardor, and ecstasy. Even the Creator was so "ecstatic" now that the two worlds He had created would be able to function as one that He permitted the Jewish people to feast on Yom Kippur.

However, from that pinnacle of religious fervor began the Jewish people’s descent into idolatry. There were even kings of the House of David who introduced and enforced idolatry by the sword, and even turned the Holy Temple into its service. Idolatry brought in its wake a lifestyle diametrically opposed to the Torah, including cruelty on the part of the elite towards the common man, callous injustice by the courts, and self-indulgence and desire for material benefits at all costs.

HaShem sent prophets to warn the evildoers concerning the personal and national implications of their actions, but to no avail. The course towards destruction and exile was set; the writing was clearly on the wall.

The horrors predicted by the prophets came about in the time of King Tzidkiyahu, in the year 3338 (587 B.C.E.) when Nevuchadnezzer, King of Babylon, destroyed the Temple and began the 70 years of the Babylonian exile.

The continuous descent into the abyss of sin from the time of Solomon’s Temple to Tzidkiyahu’s downfall took 410 years. This was the measure of HaShem’s patience with His children. It took 410 years of Jewish iniquity before HaShem’s Quality of Justice (midat hadin) overcame His Quality of Mercy (midat harachamim), bringing about the end of the first Temple and exile.

Seventy years later, the relatively small number of 42,000 Jews returned with Ezra and Nechemia to rebuild the second Temple. Once again, the nation descended from the religious fervor at the time of Ezra into patterns of life which did not conform to the Torah. Although this period in our history gave rise to the advent of the Tannaic generations and the Maccabeim victories over the Greeks, the civil wars and fraternal hatred brought about the end of the second Temple. Here too, it took 420 years for HaShem to gather His anger and send the Romans to destroy the Temple and exile His children to the four corners of the globe – this time for 2000 years!

Both Temple periods shared a common vector - a steady descent from a high religious fervor to unbridled iniquitous conduct.

Now, as the 2000-year exile comes to a close with the establishment of Medinat Yisrael populated by six million Jews, we are witnessing an unparalleled phenomenon in our historical vector – our modern-day society has been far from the Torah but is ascending in giant strides closer to HaShem.

For the most part, the people who reestablished the Medina were far from leading a Torah life. Instead of a return to the Holy Land led by great Torah scholars, the Jews who returned home were filled with ideologies gleaned from non-Jewish sources and openly negated the holy Torah’s way of life.

To illustrate what the situation was at the time of the Medina’s inception.

A friend of mine was a talmid (student) in the only yeshiva in Tel Aviv in the 1940s. There were 15 young men like him and 20 older men. There was one yeshiva in Petach Tikva, with only two or three others in Yerushalayim. The feeling at the time was that Torah study in Eretz Yisrael was ending and would not reappear until the time of the Mashiach.

Today, 64 years later, the land is blessed with thousands of batai knesset and yeshivot dotting the map from the northern border of the Golan Heights to the southern tip of Eilat . The number of people of all ages, who are involved in Torah study and in the implementation of Torah in all walks of life, is unprecedented in Jewish life.

The vector has diametrically turned from what it was at the time of King Solomon and Ezra the Scribe. Today, no one can deny the growing influence of Torah and Halacha in all walks of life in Eretz Yisrael.

On Sunday of this week, we were invited to the "swearing-in" ceremony of our grandson, Avraham Kahana, into the ranks of the Nachal Hachareidi (an infantry battalion established for young men of the chareidi sector but whose majority is currently made up of kippot-serugot young men). The requests to join the battalion are so overwhelming that plans are being made to enlarge the unit into a full brigade.

What sets the battalion apart is that there are no women soldiers on the base, the food is mehadrin, more time is allowed for davening (prayer), and standards of conduct from the soldiers and officers are what is expected of bnei Torah.

This in no way detracts from their efficiency as infantry soldiers. On the contrary, their motivation is among the highest in Tzahal, because they know the place of defending Eretz Yisrael in the hierarchy of Torah values.

The more than 200 soldiers at the ceremony had already served several weeks in basic training. They were brought to Yerushalayim from their training base to take part in the ceremony to affirm their loyalty to Tzahal.

They were sunburned, muscular, many with payot and almost all with visible tzitzit. Notwithstanding the fact that the officers and NCOs are all religious, they don’t "cut corners" for the soldiers, and in no way do they compromise the high standards of physical and mental prowess demanded of them. The sergeants and lieutenants are as tough as they come.

Here is one more example of how the Medina is changing for the better.

As grandparents, and as citizens who perceive the Medina as HaShem’s venue for bringing the Mashiach, we were proud to see our grandson among these holy troops. The commander, a lieutenant colonel, spoke of the ongoing tradition of Jewish bravery in our unflinching determination to restore the former glory of HaShem and Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.

The ceremony was highlighted by every soldier receiving his weapon and a copy of the Tanach. It closed with the singing of Hatikva, and the usually melancholy chords of Ani Ma’amin which were transformed by the soldiers into a song of courage and resolve.

The soldiers were then free for one hour to meet with their families, before returning to their training base. It was of particular interest, and even very surprising, to see the evident spirit of simcha (joy) among the families and soldiers. Keeping in mind that many were charedi families, you would assume that they would not be happy about their sons being in the army. Moreover, why would parents, anywhere in the world, exhibit joy at their sons’ induction into the military?

To understand this is to understand the seeming contradiction that was brought at the beginning of this message. How can one be joyous when entering Eretz Yisrael in the knowledge that this mitzva can be fulfilled only through great difficulties and self-sacrifice - even to the point of having to give up one’s life?

This contradiction can only be resolved by Jews who willingly enter the sublime covenant between HaShem and our father Avraham, when he was told to leave his past behind in order to lay the cornerstone for the Jewish nation in the Holy Land.

To live in HaShem’s chosen land comes with a price. The simcha (joy) is in one’s willingness to pay that price by carrying out HaShem’s command to bring the sanctity of the Torah to every corner of Eretz Yisrael.

Those who were at the ceremony were able to sense as if they were standing with the soldiers of David Ha’Melech (King David). The faces, the determination, the challenges.

Indeed, the vector of our return to Eretz Yisrael is tilting upward and will continue in that direction until the entire nation in Eretz Yisrael returns to HaShem.

My wife and I cannot adequately express our gratitude to HaShem for allowing us to have broken the bonds of exile and to come home; for granting us the privilege of bearing children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - all in Eretz Yisrael – and the insight never to leave this land that He presented to us.

The days of anguish and anger as they appear in the parasha are over. There will yet be storm clouds over the horizon, but Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael will face up to all the challenges and not falter or fail.

As in the words of Job 8:7

והיה ראשיתך מצער ואחריתך ישגה מאד:

Your beginning will be humble

but your future will be sublime

Shabbat Shalom

Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5772-2012 Nachman Kahana