Thursday, January 31, 2013

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Yitro and Be'shalach 5773

Be'shalach and Yitro 5773
A synopsis of parshat Beshalach and its haftara might read, "Two gratuitous victories, one difficult battle and two songs of exaltation".
1- The parasha describes the gratuitous obliteration of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, followed by Moshe and the Jewish people singing God’s praises for His salvation, in "Shirat Hayam" (Song of the Sea).
Gratuitous because we were observers of the victory, not military participants, as HaShem tells Moshe (Shemot 14,14)

ה' ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון

HaShem will do battle for you, and you will be silent (passive)

2- The haftara is taken from the book of Shoftim (Judges) and describes the gratuitous annihilation of the army of Yavin, King of the northern city-state of Chatzor, by the roaring waters of the Kidron river, when we were again spectators rather than participants. For this victory, the prophetess, Devora, composed her "Shirat Devora" - Song of Devora.
3- The parasha tells of the first Amalike war, when the Jewish army - led by Yehoshua Bin Nun - fought and traumatized the enemy but did not destroy them. Here we do not find a song of praise, because Moshe and Yehoshua knew that it was HaShem’s plan that at every juncture on our trek along the road of history, we would have to meet Amalek. It will only be well into the future, when we destroy them that we will sing praise to HaShem. Perhaps that is why Shirat Hayam, which begins in the future tense ("az yashir"), which can be understood to mean that after the Egyptian demise in the Sea, Moshe sang to HaShem, but it also means that in future times Moshe will return to life and again sing over the destruction of Amalek. In fact, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 91b) understands from the future tense of Moshe’s song an intimation of techiyat hamaytim - resurrection of the dead.
In these very days, the Jewish State is facing cruel and fanatical enemies who correspond to the three enemies in parashat beshalach and its haftara: Egypt to our south and west, Syria and Hizbollah to our north, paralleling Chatzor the powerful city-state in the north and the anti-Semitic Amalek peoples of Islam and Christianity.
The Jewish army is now ready and poised for all eventualities. At any moment, hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers can be called up to defeat the enemies of HaShem. However, as it appears today, HaShem is again involved in doing battle for His chosen people, while the warriors of Tzahal are in spectator status.

ה' ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון
HaShem will do battle for you, and you will be silent (passive)

In Egypt, the people are at each others’ throats, on the verge of civil war. The Islamics (Moslem Brotherhood) vs. the more secular population are sharpening their teeth, and we, with the help of HaShem, will be willing spectators; because both sides of Egyptian society cannot agree on any issue, except for one - hatred of Jews.
In Syria, the entire society is being torn apart in civil war. The two major adversaries of our Medina are Egypt and Syria. They initiated the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, with Jordan a willing participant. The chaos will spread to Jordan and to all our enemies, and not one hair on the head of a holy Jewish soldier will be harmed.
We cannot see the future beyond the next moment, but Amalek’s turn will arrive; and Am Yisrael will then complete the trilogy of songs of praise - Shirat Hayam, Shirat Devora and the future Shir of Moshe Rabbeinu, be’ezrat HaShem.

B: The Ten Commandments
In our parasha, the Torah repeats the relationship between Moshe and his father-in-law Yitro thirteen times and once more in the Book of Bamidbar – not a usual occurrence in the Torah whose every letter is significant.
Yitro arrives at the Jewish camp, bringing with him his daughter Tzipora (Moshe’s wife) and their two sons, in an act of family reunification as befitting the senior member of the family.
After examining the daily routine of Moshe as chief and indeed the only judge of the nation, Yitro, who was an experienced administrator in the court of Paro in pre-slavery days, presents Moshe with a proposal to establish a judicial system.

In Bamidbar chapter 10, Yitro voices his intention to return to Midyan, despite Moshe’s plea that he remain - והּיּיּתּ לּנּוּ לּיּנּיּ "And you shall be for us as eyes."

What is really happening in the parasha?
We know Moshe as the lawgiver.
We know Moshe as the prophet who spoke to HaShem "peh el peh" (mouth to mouth) as no other prophet would ever again do.
We know Moshe as "protector of the faith", when he exacted severe punishment from wrongdoers, Jew and Gentile alike.
But what about Moshe the "man", the husband, the father - the man who so loved his people that he refused HaShem’s offer to reject the Jewish People and to choose Moshe and his offspring as the legitimate "Chosen Nation"?
I submit:
In parshat Shemot, Moshe Rabbeinu bursts onto the stage of Jewish history from out of "nowhere".
Moshe is correct in his assessment at the burning bush that the Jewish leadership and people would have no reason to believe that he was sent by HaShem to free them, because he was unknown - a total stranger. On the face of it, Moshe did not go to cheder with the others of his age, nor did he carry on his back 100 kilo stones. Instead, he was firmly entrenched in the palace of Paro, enjoying royal life with the nobility of Egypt.
Furthermore, in the forty years between Moshe’s arrival and his death on Mount Nevo, he continued to remain "unknown". When appearing before the people, he wore a mask to cover the rays of light which radiated from his face. He moved his tent outside the area of the general camp and even divorced his wife.
Moshe was not your "friendly" pulpit rabbi; but as stated in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 6b) and in contrast to his brother Aharon, he was a man of the law, who opposed compromise among litigants, preferring the strict decisions of halacha.
Yitro, as a former advisor to Paro, was aware of Moshe’s background and education as the Prince of Egypt; which created a royal aloofness from the common people. Yitro knew Moshe very well, as a father knows a son, from the years they had lived together in Midyan.
Yitro believed that to lead the special Jewish nation one could not be aloof, but must be intimately involved with the nation. It was to this end that Yitro journeyed to join Moshe in the Israelite camp in the desert.
One must be involved on the family level to be part of the nation and to feel its pulse, and that is why Yitro brought Moshe’s wife and children to him. The repetitive title of "choten" (father-in-law) emphasizes the close relationship Yitro sought to develop with the leader of God’s Chosen Nation.
His advice to Moshe to establish a judicial system was not meant to distance Moshe from the daily events of life, but just the opposite. The appointment of judges was a show of confidence in the people. Moshe would always remain in the picture as chief judge, but to be the sole judge is to cast doubt on the individual Jew, and in turn exacerbate the feeling of aloofness.
In time, Yitro realized that this was not going to happen. The essence of Moshe as "eved HaShem" (the servant of God) was spirituality. Yitro erred in his assessment that Moshe could be a "man of the people", as required of ordinary leaders. Even in his death, Moshe dis alone and his place of burial is unknown to this day.
There never was, nor will ever be again, a leader like Moshe Rabbeinu – a stranger in his lifetime but so much a part of everyone of us today.
This circumstance was distinctly that of Moshe. However, in all subsequent generations, the closeness of the local rabbi to his congregants was crucial in determining their degree of observance and Torah erudition.
We, in Eretz Yisrael today, are living in a time when, as a whole, there exists a great degree of aloofness between the rabbinic leadership and the nation, as a whole. Each rosh yeshiva is ensconced in his private world. The Charaydee representatives in the Knesset are very active in funding for their constituents, but go no further than that.
There are many problems we face due to our laxity in keeping the Torah. Despite the fact that between 70-80% of the population regard themselves as either "dati" (religious) or "mesorati" (traditional), there are still too many who are far from total Torah observance.
The rabbis must come to the people. The majority of the nation is looking for Jewish moral leadership.
This leadership will be composed of rabbis who regard the medina not as a mere political entity, but as a stage in the final geula.
The time has come to establish a political party whose platform is unashamedly for a Torah state, and which will implement the "Ten Political Commandments":
1- Redefine democracy based on Torah principles, and make Torah the law of the land and and will be coercive, as all law is.
2- Implement massive construction in Yehuda, Shomron and the Golan with the aim of settling a million Jews there within ten years. And never forget the Biblical boundaries of God’s holy land and our obligation to liberate those lands.
3- A massive effort to bring millions of olim, including the research of the many millions of people who are descendants of the Anusim (Maronos) and the Ten Lost Tribes, for the purpose of uniting them with the Jewish nation
4- All able-bodied men will undergo basic military training, regardless of how many pages of Talmud they know. And all soldiers will be taught the rudiments of Judaism. All female soldier will be released from military service.

5- Shabbat will be the law of the land. There will be no desecration of the Shabbat in public areas, including non Jews. Kashrut will be strictly observed as will the limits of modesty - tzniut.

6- Amend the Law of Return that only halachic Jews will be able to attain citizenship and serve in the Knesset (after completing a minimum requirement of Torah studies and general knowledge).
7- An ultimatum will be given to the residents of Gaza, that within 24 hours all weapons are to be deposited in the city stadium. After this time if anything which can be construed as a weapon is found, the entire city will be immediately destroyed.

8- The Gazans are to immediately clear out the area called "Gush Katif" in preparation for its rebuilding, bet knesset by bet knesset, home by home, on an area three times larger then previously.
9- Architectural plans for the Bet Ha’Mikdash to be ready for implementation at the appropriate time.
10- Rav Lau will be despatched to make a statement to the General Assembly of the UN; that Medinat Yisrael is the realization of God’s promise to return His nation to His land, and Israel will establish a United Religions in Yericho, to unite all the gentiles in the world around the seven Noachide laws.

The last election clearly indicates that the people are frustrated and ready to return to Torah values, with many ready to lead an halachic life.
The question is where are the rabbis who are prepared to lead?

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5773-2013 Nachman Kahana


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moshe Feiglin's Three Big Challenges

By Shmuel Sackett

Now that the elections are over and, Baruch Hashem, Moshe Feiglin has secured a spot as a Likud Member of Knesset, three major challenges face him. Trust me on this one; I have been with Moshe since day #1 and started this journey – at his side – from the stage of an "idea" to "reality". Together, we have had our ups and downs. We have had our failures and have learned from each and every one. Baruch Hashem, we have also had many successes – the greatest being the fact that the term "Jewish Leadership" is now real and clearly understood.Twelve years ago when Moshe and I started talking about leading Israel as a strong and proud Jewish State, when we said that Israel's leaders need to be focused on authentic Jewish values and concepts, when we pointed out the need to concentrate more on Jewish education and family values, people stared at us like we were aliens from Mars. However, after twelve long and hard years and thousands of written words of ideology and vision by Moshe, people across the country are listening. In this recent election, the media interviewed Moshe more than any other candidate, even though he was not the head of the party (at least not yet!). Newspapers and magazines asked Moshe to explain his vision for Israel's future and he gladly did this in all areas of Israeli life including security, the court system, housing, aliyah, international relations and even the transportation system. Baruch Hashem, the clear and optimistic future that Moshe Feiglin sees for the Jewish nation is being explained and more importantly: being understood by masses of Jews worldwide.

And now for the three challenges: All three of these will hit Moshe immediately and he needs to pass these tests and overcome these challenges with flying colors:

Challenge #1) Honesty 
Now that Moshe is an MK, many "under-the-table" opportunities will arise. People from all walks of life will cross his path in an effort to persuade him to do different things and advance various causes. In all of these cases, Moshe will need to have a spine of steel and reject the gold at the end of the rainbow. Yes, he will help as many people as possible but this must be done out of a genuine love for Am Yisrael and not out of payback or support.

My favorite story that illustrates this point is the one about the Rabbi and his three students. The Rabbi asked them the following question: "You are walking down the street and you find a purse full of gold coins. What do you do?"
The first student said; "I immediately announce my find and look for the owner."
The Rabbi answered; "You are a fool."
The second student said; "I look around, make sure nobody saw me, then keep the gold."
The Rabbi answered; "You are a rasha (wicked)."
The third student said, "I don't know what I would do, since I have never been in that situation before. I hope to be able to do the right thing and find the owner but I have never faced a challenge like this, so I really don't know."
To that, the Rabbi replied: "You are a Tzaddik (righteous)."

This story comes to mind because it is easy to say; "Of course we will reject any corrupt deal. How dare you even ask me such a question?" But in reality, we need to pray to Hashem that He strengthen Moshe's heart, mind and spine so that he has not only the desire, but also the ability to do the right thing and remain honest.

Many great men and women have failed this test and Moshe always quotes the famous words of Hillel in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2, Mishna 4): "Do not be sure of yourself until the day of your death". Even the great Yochanan Kohen Gadol (High Priest), who served in this position for 80 years failed towards the end of his life by becoming a Sadducee and rejecting the Oral Law!
Therefore, as Moshe begins the next step in this journey as an MK, we beg that Hashem keep him honest. Our holy books teach us that "Truth" is the seal of Hashem and we need to make certain that this is the only seal Moshe uses to stamp and sign his name.

Challenge #2) Loyalty
What makes Moshe Feiglin so different from everyone around him is the fact that he is on a course. He has a game plan that hasn't changed from the day he started. In Israeli politics, this is actually an incredible accomplishment. If you don't believe me, visitMoshe's website and read what he wrote 8, 10 and even 12 years ago. The plan that is coming to fruition right now has all been written and recorded and we are proceeding exactly as planned.

Now that he has become an MK, many new challenges will be thrust in front of him. How should he vote on critical issues in the Knesset? What will those votes do to his standing in Likud? How will his fellow MK's view him? Maybe it is better to "keep quiet" on some issues in order to advance politically? Or worse: Maybe it is better to vote against certain issues – which we supported in the past – in order to advance others?

The challenge of remaining loyal to the ideology of Manhigut Yehudit will be enormously difficult in the months ahead. I remember once asking a senior minister in the Likud government why he voted for the Gaza Expulsion Plan, when I knew that personally, he was very much opposed to it! He told me that Prime Minister Sharon had more than enough votes to pass the law so his opposition would mean nothing and then he would be fired as a minister! On the other hand, if he voted for it, he would remain in Sharon's good graces, remain a minister and would be able to fight against further expulsions – which he did! This senior minister recently approved the construction of new roads in Yehuda and Shomron and just built new roads in Hebron. As a matter of fact, when he visits Hebron, he gets such a "hero's welcome", you would think the King of Israel walked into town!

The world of politics is indeed very confusing but even more challenging. Unlike other MK's, who tend to make things up as they go along, Moshe is proceeding in a certain direction on a well-focused ideological path. He is not interested in his personal career but dedicated, instead, to an idea whose time has not yet arrived. That idea is growing like a little baby who still requires a tremendous amount of energy, resources and attention. Moshe needs to remain loyal to that baby and see him mature into an independent adult.

Challenge #3: The realization that everything comes from Hashem
I remember the early days of Manhigut Yehudit. Moshe would set up a parlor meeting, travel 2 hours to get there, then speak to the 3 people who actually showed up. Articles would be sent to the newspaper only to find that "there wasn't any room in the paper for your wonderful article – maybe next time." Interviews on TV were from weird guys with even weirder cable TV shows, our email list had 300 subscribers and fundraising wasn't even covering the gas in Moshe's car.

Baruch Hashem, all that has changed. Over the years, people started listening and in the last month alone – Moshe has appeared on every Israeli news/talk television and radio program. Newspapers, magazines and websites – from all over the world - are running after Moshe to interview him. He is the featured speaker at many conferences and thousands cheer his words. He has written 2 books and sold thousands of copies. His websites – in Hebrew, English, Russian and French – are among the most popular in Israeli politics. His YouTube videos are watched by tens of thousands (without a marketing campaign) and Moshe's fundraising is covering expenses for both the educational movement as well as the political operation.

It is very easy to say; "What a star I have become!" yet the Torah warns against this. "Be careful that you do not forget Hashem. You may eat and be satisfied building fine houses. You may amass much silver and gold. But your heart may grow haughty and you may forget Hashem, saying it was my strength and personal power that brought me all this prosperity." (Devarim 8:11-17)

How careful must we be to avoid this! We must never forget how everything is from our Father in Heaven! Before elections, in an effort to sway religious voters, many Israeli politicians started using words like "Baruch Hashem" and posted pictures on their websites from the few times in life they wore a kippa. This is all phony but we must make sure to be 100% real. Moshe must publicly thank Hashem for everything and continue to do so while he rises in the political world.

Many years ago, the following incident happened. After what seemed like a hundred calls to a certain major philanthropist, we finally secured a meeting with this top financial prospect who was visiting Israel. We met him in the King David hotel and were – finally – talking about Moshe's dreams and aspirations when, all of a sudden, Moshe popped up and excused himself to doven Mincha with a minyan in the hotel. I must state that Moshe was not saying "kaddish" at the time and could have easily dovenned by himself a bit later. I have to admit that I almost fell out of my chair when Moshe walked away and I was a bit embarrassed and ashamed.

About 5 minutes later the donor looked at me and said, "Now I realize that everything I heard about this guy Feiglin is true. People kill to sit with me for a few minutes and here – in the middle of the meeting – he gets up and leaves to doven Mincha. That is a true Jewish leader and one who I will support to the best of my ability!" When Moshe returned after Mincha, the donor sat with him for a long time, listened to his every word and smiled throughout the meeting. This fellow has become one of our biggest financial supporters, all because Moshe put the service of Hashem first and foremost.

This must continue, especially now when Moshe will be on the world stage. People need to understand that while Moshe is not a Jewish-Taliban-religious-fanatic, he is one who puts our King at the top of everything he does. Just like the law which states that a Jewish king must wear a Sefer Torah at all times so he remembers who is really the King, Moshe will be challenged to remember – and acknowledge – that Hashem is the One pulling the strings.

These three challenges will not be easy. For Moshe to remain honest, loyal to the vision and constantly aware that he is doing the service of Hashem he will need strength, determination and persistent effort. He will also need prayers from Am Yisrael and I humbly request that you say Tefillot for him every day. Moshe's success will be good for our entire nation and we need to do what we can to make that become a reality. Please doven for: Moshe Zalman ben Esther that our Father and King help him succeed in Sanctifying the great Name of Hashem throughout the world. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Feiglin: Likud Shot Itself in the Foot (from INN)

Arutz Sheva News
Shevat 13, 5773, 24/01/13 07:47
Feiglin: Likud Shot Itself in the Foot

Likud MK-elect says negative campaign against the Bayit Yehudi was "catastrophic."
Gil Ronen
Knesset Member-elect Moshe Feiglin (Likud) had sharp words Thursday for his party's leaders, over the election campaign that focused on attacking the Bayit Yehudi as male-chauvinistic, homophobic and warmongering.

"The campaign of mudslinging was catastrophic, and a very grave act," Feiglin told Channel 2 News. "It hurt us, too. In the past weeks there were polls showing that Bayit Yehudi would receive 18 or 19 seats. The mudslinging drove the votes away from Bennett, but not to Likud – rather, to Yair Lapid."

"Likud shot itself in the foot and changed the relative size of the blocs," said Feiglin, and estimated that Likud lost five Knesset seats with its campaign. "We struck a blow against religious Zionism, which is our natural partner. We and the Bayit Yehudi will work shoulder to shoulder."

Feiglin said that he was forced to keep quiet during the election – presumably, by the higher-ups in Likud. "The leftist parties hid their ideological identity because they felt that the public moved sweepingly to the right. This public searched for meaning with us, in the Likud, but instead – we hid our basic DNA."

"If you want to be meaningless, there are parties where this meaninglessness is intrinsic", he added.

Post-Election Interview with Moshe Feiglin

A translation of Moshe Feiglin interviewed by Yael Dan on Israel Radio, Wednesday, 12 Shvat, 5773 / Jan. 23, '13.

YD: The fact that the Likud asked you to remain silent during the election campaign may have actually helped the Likud not to lose more votes to the center.

MF: The exact opposite is true. Israelis long for meaning in their lives. Even the Left admitted that Israeli society has turned rightward. For this reason, Shelly Yechimovitz and others on the Left did not talk about their political plans.

Israeli society wants more patriotism and more Jewish identity. Ultimately, these wishes were not expressed by a massive vote for the Likud. This is because the Likud hid its ideology during the campaign. Some of those votes went to Lapid.

Please clarify where Netanyahu is at fault.

I don't want to blame Netanyahu or anyone else. What is important to understand today is that there is nobody else capable of being prime minister. I expect Netanyahu to quickly put together a broad, responsible government. Yair Lapid is singing a tune that is very sweet to the ear. I think he is a natural partner for the Likud.

Really? His sweet tune demands the resumption of negotiations with the Arabs. Would you be willing to accept that condition?

I listened to all the things that Yaakov Peri (on the Yesh Atid list) enumerated as part of Lapid's conditions. I must say that I completely agree with his demand to downsize the government and ministerial positions. Ben Gurion, as I remember, made due with seven or eight ministers. I don't understand why we need more. This and other conditions are very positive.

About negotiations with the Arabs: Yaakov Peri talked about a mutually agreed divorce, a concept that I heard for the first time from him. I like that idea very much. I have also been proposing a similar move.

So you are willing to negotiate with Yair Lapid on the conditions for resuming peace talks as a condition for his entry into the coalition. 

I completely agree with the idea that we must achieve a mutually agreed divorce from the Arabs. I obviously differ with him on the way to get there. The Yesh Atid party thinks that we have to return to the failed Oslo paradigm, with endless negotiations. I think that they are mistaken on this point. But we can definitely achieve a mutually agreed divorce from the Arabs in a way that is contingent on us.

What about Lapid's ultimatum on the Haredi draft issue?

I absolutely agree. In other words, there is definitely a wide range of possibilities here for partnership. Here you are, talking to Moshe Feiglin, who is portrayed as representing a problematic stand, but I am sure that we can reach agreement. I can expound upon my ideas for solving the draft problem, but I am not sure that there is time.

Who else would you like to see in the coalition? Shas? 

Any party that is motivated by its Jewish identity, and that believes that first and foremost, we are Jews in a Jewish state: A party that does not try to undermine the Jewish state that we established here after 2000 years is relevant as part of a broad nationalist government.

Are you excited about entering the Knesset?

I am not excited. For years now, everyone thinks that I am a Knesset member anyway. But what I do feel is a strong sense of responsibility. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Be’shalach and Tu Be’shvat 5773

Parashat Be’shalach and Tu Be’shvat 5773

In our parasha, Am Yisrael marches out of Egypt as free men. After 210 years of galut, which included the tragic slavery experience, our ancestors breathed the air of emancipation, as they made their way to the greatest future of any nation.
Free men? Emancipated? Indeed!?

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers chapter 6) quotes the verse (Shemot 32,16)

והלחת מעשה אלהים המה והמכתב מכתב אלהים הוא חרות על הלחת
The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

and explains the duel reading of the word .חרות It can be read "charut" meaning engraved (on the tablets) or "chairut" meaning freedom, and explains:

אל תקרא חרות אלא חירות שאין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה
Do not read the word to mean only ‘engraved’ because it can be understood to mean ‘ freedom’ - for no man is free but he who indulges in the study of Torah

The Jews left Egypt prior to receiving the Torah and as such were not yet freemen according to the teachings of Pirkei Avot. So what was their halachic judicial status in the 49 days between the exodus and Sinai, slaves or freemen?
I suggest:
One who is physically shackled but is still in control of his thoughts, has lost his freedom; however, one who is physically free but has been brainwashed to the extent that his thought processes are controlled, distorted and perverted has lost his humanity.
Our parasha relates that when the Jews saw the Egyptians in pursuit of them, the newly "freed" people demanded of Moshe to return to Egypt, even if it meant return to slavery. When the Jews left Egypt they were physically free, but their humanity had not yet been restored; their slave mentality still controlled them.
It took the momentous experience of receiving the Torah at Sinai to fully emancipate the people. But even then, there were still individuals who remained slaves in spirit, as demonstrated by their repeated demands to return to Egypt whenever faced with a challenging situation.
The exodus from Egypt restored our physical freedom; the Torah restored our humanity.
To be continued:

The 70 individuals who entered Egypt as the Jewish family, exited Egypt after 210 years of physical and mental subjugation, millions strong, as the Jewish nation.
Why did the Jewish nation have to go through the "slave" experience?

The answer lies in the last parasha of the Book of Beraishiet - Va'ye'chi.

Yaakov, in his final words to his twelve sons, deals very harshly with Shimon and Levi. Since the particular qualities of every one of Yaakov's sons were transmitted genetically to the future descendants of a particular tribe, our grandfather Yaakov is in effect criticizing the fundamental nature of the Kohanic and Levitic families. This is a matter which cannot be taken lightly.

There are glaring difficulties in Ya’akov's farewell to his children:
1) The most caustic words were uttered to Shimon and Levi. Ya'akov castigates them for their anger which brought about the death of one man; as it says, "Ki Be'apam har'gu iesh" - in their anger they killed a man. Rashi, based on the midrash, points out that Shimon and Levi killed not only one man, they decimated the entire city of Sh'chem. So why did Ya'akov say they killed "a man"? Rashi explains that in Ya'akov's mind the entire population of Sh'chem was valued as no more than "one man". If Yaakov had such low esteem of the people of Sh'chem, why was he so angry at Shimon and Levi?
2) The most complimentary blessing was given to Yosef. However, Yosef had an illustrious descendant, Yehoshua Bin Nun, who killed not one man, not one city, but all the Canaanites in the land who opposed the fulfillment of God's promise that the Holy Land belongs solely to Am Yisrael. HaShem commanded Yehoshua, "Lo te'chaye kol neshama" (do not let any of the enemy live). Yaakov does not relate to what this descendant of Yosef would do, so why does he castigate Shimon and Levi for killing one Sh'chemite?
3) When one is diagnosed to be suffering from a contagious disease, the first medical act is to isolate the carrier. Yaakov exposes the character faults of zealousness and anger of Shimon and Levi, so why does he say to them (chapter 49,7): "A'chal'kem be'Yaakov ve'a'fee'tzem be'Yisrael" - "I shall divide them among the children of Yaakov, and disperse them among the children of Israel".
Rashi quotes the Gemara which says that the major function of the tribe of Shimon was to teach the children of Yisrael, and the tribe of Levi was delegated to serve in the Holy Temple. Now if their faults were so notorious, why did Yaakov make them the molders of young minds, and why did he elevate the tribe of Levi to such an exalted position?

I believe, when Dina was assaulted in Sh'chem, nine brothers barely reacted, whereas Shimon and Levi went through the town killing all its people. Yaakov said that in light of the other brothers' passivity the punishment of Sh'chem appears as the work of a "lunatic" rightist fringe group which does not represent the mainstream ideology of Judaism, and invites dangerous reactions from the world at large. Shimon and Levi were correct in their belief that Judaism states that any hand raised against a Jew will be severed, however the brothers’ passivity created a perception that Shimon and Levi did not represent Torah thought. Yaakov blessed Shimon and Levi that they should disseminate the ideal among the entire nation that malice done to any Jew will not go unpunished. When this becomes the norm of the nation, the "world" will perceive this conduct as part of the Jewish national character and will respect it. To this end Shimon becomes the teachers of the future generations and Levi its spiritual leaders.

Yaakov is not angered at Yehoshua Bin Nun, the descendant of Yosef. Quite the opposite, because in Yehoshua's time the lessons of Jewish pride had already taken hold in the hearts of the nation; that anyone who stood in the way of our Jewish historical destiny would be crushed under the steamroller of the Jewish national destiny.
The "slavery" experience in Egypt was necessary to inculcate the lessons of Shimon and Levi. That we must never again be "guests" in the lands of others, but free people in Eretz Yisrael where we would have the power and national will to destroy any adversary who would rise up against us.
Unfortunately the lessons of Shimon and Levi, with the agreement of Yaakov, were lost in the two thousand year "slavery" in galut, except for the few who cherish the concept of Jewish pride, and devote their lives to sanctifying Hashem's name in the world.

Today, Tuesday the 11th of Shvat (January 22, 2013) is election day in the Medina. We are presented with a super-market of parties and candidates, which makes it difficult to decide for whom to vote due to the subtle differences between many of them.
In contrast to the blurred and foggy alternatives of Tuesday, clearer choices were placed before the Israeli public on Sunday, regarding two Jews who represent extremely divergent world outlooks.
On Sunday, Ron Nachman, the illustrious mayor of Ariel, the capital of the Shomron, was put to rest on a hillside overlooking the city of over 20,000 residents he so much loved. Ron Nachman dedicated his life to building a city in Eretz Yisrael, while having to overcome Arab terror, United States opposition, and Israeli bureaucracy.
On that same day, the Medina was host to a very problematic visitor - the Satmar Rebbe, R. Zalman Leib Teitlebaum, who after a less than brotherly confrontation divided the Satmar dynasty between him and his brother R. Aharon Teitlebaum, with R. Zalman Leib taking control over the Williamsburg wing and R. Aharon acquiring the Kiryat Yoel area in upstate New York. This is his first visit to Medinat Yisrael since his appointment as Rebbe in Williamsburg.
According to informed sources, the Rebbe arrived in Israel ostensibly on the occasion of his granddaughter's wedding which will take place on Wednesday.
After arriving on a Turkish Airliner (El Al? never!) and landing at the international airport named for our first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion (no choice), the Rebbe participated in an anti-Israel, anti-voting rally in Shabbat Square near the hareidi Mea Shearim neighborhood.
While looking at the photos of the many thousands (some say tens of thousands) of "devotees", I marvelled at the patience of the Israeli justice system that tolerates such a large segment of people who wish the destruction of the State; and all in the name of the Jewish God. In any rational country, a group that wishes the destruction of the State would be branded a fifth column, and punished as prescribed by law.
So, here are your choices: Ron Nachman who lies caressed by the warm, holy earth of Eretz Yisrael he so much loved and sacrificed for, vs. the Satmar Rebbe who cringes at the very mention of Medinat Yisrael.
However, it is apparent to me and to many others, including the legal authorities that the throng in Shabbat Square is not ideologically motivated. They were once freemen, but now they are restored to the status of slaves. Not slaves to Paro, but slaves to those who have numbed their mind and free will through the tens of millions of dollars allocated to them by the Satmar empire to oppose the Medina in a manner which would bring satisfaction to the Arab League. Their ability to think independently has been commandeered like that of a slave whose freedom to think and decide has been taken from him. And the "slavery" experience in Egypt so necessary to inculcate the lessons of Shimon and Levi that we must be free people in Eretz Yisrael where we would rebuild our religious-national home and have the power and national will to destroy any adversary, has been taken from them.
Fortunately, the process is reversible. Stop the flow of Satmar money and these people will eventually return to normalcy and see the blessings HaShem provides us at every moment in this holy Medina.

For Tu Bi’Shvat

The phrase כי האדם עץ השדה (For man is like a tree in the field; Devarim 20,19) has been the subject of most commentators on the Torah. Why is man likened to a tree in the field?

The Gaon of Vilna is quoted in the book Be’sod ha’Kaitz ha’meguleh (The Secrets of the Visible Redemption) as saying, "May HaShem merit me to plant with my own hands fruit trees around Yerushalayim, to fulfill the verse (Vayikra 19,23) "When you come to the Land, you shall plant fruit trees".
This verse, which commands us to plant fruit trees in Eretz Yisrael, assumes a greater degree of importance in view of the Midrash (Vayikra chapter 25):

אלא מתחילת ברייתו שלעולם לא נתעסק אלא במטע תחילה, הה"ד ויטע ה'י א-להים גן בעדן (בראשית ב, ח), אף אתם כשאתם נכנסין לארץ ישראל לא תתעסקון אלא במטע תחילה
At the beginning of the world’s creation, HaShem planted fruit trees, as is stated (Beraishiet 2,8) ‘And HaShem planted a garden in Eden’. Therefore you (the Children of Israel) when you enter the land indulge first in the planting of fruit trees".

Why is the planting of fruit trees so important in the life of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael?

I submit:
The Jewish nation had just completed 40 years of wandering in the desert. At that time, the desert was ownerless property, and the Jews’ relationship to the ground they stood on was impersonal. Added to this was the temporary stay at every station in the desert, when at any moment HaShem’s clouds of glory could begin to move, signaling the nation to uproot their belongings and move on to another unknown station. In addition, their feelings of transiency were intensified by the fact that the very food which sustained them every day for 40 years, the Manna, was provided on a day by day basis, and there was no guarantee that the nation would have food beyond one day.
HaShem’s intention was to convey to the Jewish nation the impermanence, interim, momentary and unstable essence of the galut, as opposed to the enduring, everlasting, immutable, indestructible, invariable, perpetual relationship between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.
The immutable connection between nation and land is created through the planting of fruit trees, like the olive tree, which can last for hundreds of years, binding the generation of the planter with the generations of the future.

In addition, the proliferation of fruit trees is a critical and determining sign of the redemption of Am Yisrael, as stated in Tractate Sanhedrin 98a based on the prophet Yechezkel (36,8):
ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבוא:
But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.

ואמר רבי אבא: אין לך קץ מגולה מזה
And Rabbi Abba says, "There is no more obvious sign (of the redemption) than this

In the musaf prayer of Shabbat and holidays we ask of HaShem

שתעלנו בשמחה לארצנו ותטענו בגבולינו

May You bring us up in joy to our land and implant us in our borders

We beseech HaShem to bring us up to Eretz Yisrael. But that is not sufficient, because one can be here but not be part of the life of the people, like those who never become citizens, always living on the periphery of society. Therefore we add "and implant us in our borders". Make us like the trees of the land whose roots are implanted deep, for future generations. Grant us in our lifetime to see children, grandchildren and more, born in this land, tanned by its sun, speaking its holy language, all well versed in the holy Torah and ready and able to defend the Holy Land against any adversary.

Indeed, may HaShem make us like the trees in the field, who roots are in the earth but whose branches reach up to the heavens.

Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5773-2013 Nachman Kahana


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Is Naftali Bennet a Titanic for the Right?

By Tuvia Brodie

As Israel 2013 election day begins, some on the Right seem ready to celebrate. Almost everywhere they look, they see reports that suggest the Right will be this election’s biggest winner.
Based on polls that too often understate what is real and overstate what is desired, expectations run high. Many believe we are about to see historic change. We will see a new ruling coalition that will finally be Right-of-center. We will no longer see Jewish homes in Judea-Samaria demolished. We will see Jews in Israel protected. We will no longer see Jews promote false peace plans that threaten Israel.
Most exciting of all, political newcomer Naftali Bennet of Bayit HaYehudi will be strong enough (according to polls) to become part of the government. He’s a new face with strong ideas; he will pull the government to the Right.
Before the election season began, no one had heard of Bennet. Now, suddenly, this unknown new-comer will change the government!
Is that possible? Can someone with no public political track-record become the hero who empowers the Right?
Is Naftali Bennet a political unknown who will save the Right or is he a political Titanic who will sink the Right?
Do we know?
In Bennet, we find a political player at stage center who has little on his political resume. To paraphrase an old American football coach, voting for that kind of politician could turn out to be like throwing a forward pass: only three things can happen—and two of them are bad.
The one good possibility of a Bennet vote is that, if Bennet is what we think he is—staunchly pro-Israel—he will be a strong voice in the Knesset.
But the two bad things about Bennet begin with that same Knesset voice. First, if Bennet is in fact strongly pro-Israel, he probably will not be in any coalition. He will be just another MK (Member of the Knesset). He will not have a direct influence on government policy. Why? Because Netanyahu has already said that he does not want hawks in his coalition. If that is true, a win for Bennet is a loss for the Right: he does little good for the Right sitting outside the ruling coalition.
He’ll change nothing.
If Bennet is to help the Right, he needs to get a seat in the government. How can he do that if he’s such a hawk? Netanyahu is said to want a ‘centerist’ coalition, something he can easily do without Bennet. But if Bennet is actually a protege of Netanyahu, he can get that seat.
That’s the second bad thing a vote for Bennet could get you.
Remember, Bennet is a political unknown. We have not seen his political views defended in the public limelight. We don’t know which beliefs he’s ready to fight for--and which 'beliefs' are only campaign slogans.
It is not that outrageous to think that Bennet could be a Netanyahu protégé. As a political cipher, we don’t know much about him. He runs for national leadership with absolutely no visible political track record. But we do know this about him: he has been Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff. He has worked closely with Netanyahu. Very closely. Is it possible that, despite their supposed falling out, a former Chief of Staff shares the same ideology as his ex-boss?
A Chief of Staff does not hold views opposed by his boss. Life doesn’t work that way; neither does Netanyahu. A Chief of Staff mirrors and anticipates his boss. He doesn’t oppose him.
As a former Chief of Staff, it’s more than possible that Bennet shares Netanyahu’s political views—and his approach to political campaign strategy (speak Rightish, lean Leftish). Can you imagine a coalition that has perhaps 37 seats with Netanyahu plus 17 seats with Bennet (what the‘ideal’ polls now show)—with both men sharing the same ideology?
If these two men are ideological mirror-images of each other, they could cobble together a coalition with Haredi Parties. The result would not be a Rightist ruling government. It would not be the pro-Israel government the Right wants. It would be something the Right rejects. It would be ‘Netanyahu’.
If Bennet shares Netanyahu’s views, their coalition would mean that Netanyahu has clear sailing. No one, least of all his former Chief of Staff, would oppose him.
How would the Right feel about that scenario?
Our problem is, we do not know enough about Bennet to argue that this scenario is wrong; that’s why voting for him is such a risk.
Look, Bennet is attractive. His message resonates. But for national leadership, he’s too risky. The Right could be safer with a coalition made up of Netanyahu with 37 seats, the Haredi with 17 and another not-entirely-Right Party completing the coalition structure. That would give Netanyahu almost as much discretion to do what he wants as a Netanyahu-Bennet combination—with one difference: a stronger, more visible Moshe Feiglin in Likud (many of the Right candidates on this election's Likud list are Feiglin supporters).
Don’t discount Moshe Feiglin. He heads the largest faction in Likud. The Right would have more influence on government policy with a non-Bennet coalition—containing a strong Feiglin-- than with a weakened Feiglin and an empowered neo-Netanyahu called Bennet.
In Israel's election process, using the 'surplus vote agreement' rule, Netanyahu could leverage a strong showing by Bennet to weaken Feiglin's Likud power. If Bennet is a Netanyahu protege, he will get into the new government-- and Feiglin's power base could be gutted.
Feiglin is a known, proven veteran. Bennet, despite his appeal, is still unknown. For example, how did you feel when Bennet said he would seek a conscience objection if, as a soldier, he were faced with removing Jews from their homes? How did you then feel when he back-pedaled on that question, once the pressure hit?
How did you feel when Bennet spoke strongly about ‘protecting Israel’? How did you then feel when he said that he would agree with tearing down homes built on ‘private’Arab land?
Do these words sound like a staunch Rightist--or a Netanyahu echo?
You should worry about his real positions, how staunchly he will defend those positions—and how closely his political ideology matches up with his former boss.
As painful as this might seem to you, you might be better off voting for a known (a Likud with Feiglin) than an unknown (Bennet, the former Netanyahu Chief of Staff).
The Titanic was beautiful. It caused people to gasp with pleasure. It was filled with promise—just like Bennet. But the Titanic’s performance was an unknown. We all know what happened to that Titanic. Is Bennet the Israeli political version of that beautiful promise?
As you choose new national leadership, do you really take the risk of voting for someone you know so little about?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why it is Important to Vote Likud

By Moshe Feiglin

After the protests led by Zo Artzeinu, we understood that the denial of our connection to the Land of Israel is actually a denial of our Jewish identity and destiny. We concluded then that a true change for Israel can only be accomplished with leadership that is guided by faith. The only political tool that enables the national camp to integrate and to set its sights on leadership for the entire nation is the Likud. That is why we joined the ruling party. One of our basic goals was to erase the divide between the national public and the observant public.

Since then and for the past 13 years, we have slowly but surely been extricating the "knitted kippah" public from the confines of its sector and integrating it into the ruling party. When we joined the Likud, there was not one knitted kippah representative on its Knesset list. Now, in the last parliaments, the Likud members have elected a roster that includes many Religious Zionists and others who have exemplified boundless loyalty to the Land of Israel and other nationalist issues. 

True, we still have a long and obstacle-laden way to go. Alongside the Netanyahu government's many achievements in running matters of state; alongside the Likud's serious support of settlements in the last few years – support testified to by all the local council heads – there are also many grievances, some of them justified. The Oslo train is still speeding on, and the fear of new, tragic political plans still leaves us feeling uneasy.

But the most deep and fundamental reason to vote for the Likud is not on the tactical plane at all. Ultimately, our votes in the upcoming elections will have very little influence on our national agenda. As long as we have not yet completely realized our goal and our national leadership is not yet motivated by faith, Israel's agenda will continue to be dictated by the Left. As we originally understood – a strategic change will only come about from the position of national leadership. We vote Likud because we are aiming to lead our nation. 

The Likud is not just another party. The Likud is an arena – the arena of national leadership. Your vote for the Knesset is actually your decision: Will you stand firmly in the arena? Or will you withdraw?

My own seat in the Knesset is apparently assured. But is your place in our vision assured? A vote for the Likud in the upcoming elections is much more than your opportunity to strengthen the faith-based, ideological forces within the party. It is a clear statement that we are capable of leading; that we are capable of competing on the ruling party's arena – and that we do not simply create illusions from within the confines of a sectarian party. When we vote Likud as a faith-based alternative, we strengthen our connection to the ruling party and weigh in on the only strategic move that can create faith-based leadership for Israel, preventing the Oslo locomotive from crushing yet another generation. 

There are those who deceive themselves into thinking that they can eat their cake and have it, too. After all, the Likud is projected to win the elections. So why not strengthen it from the Right with a party that is exactly like us?

But that is wishful thinking, sectoral temptation that has nothing to do with reality. That type of party – no matter how many seats it wins – will always be the 'spare tire.' When the strategic decisions are made, it can always be replaced with a center or leftist party.

The classic National Religious Party approach that does not strive to change reality will necessarily find itself surrendering to it: 

An example of this is the political plan of the new NRP. On a practical plane, this plan adopts the idea of a two state solution. If so, why are we complaining about Netanyahu?

This plan was followed by the quick retreat on the conscientious objection issue, and the call to obey any army order to expel Jews from their homes.

Now – even before the elections, the new NRP has given its silent nod to the inclusion of the two-state solution in the new government's guidelines, as long as it will retain its own freedom to vote as it pleases.

When you don't really mean to lead – to change reality – you pay any price to bask in the shadows of the existing leadership. 

On the other hand, from within the Likud; from the place from which we strive for leadership and real change, we have proven that we can remain firm to our principles. From within the Likud, we are also creating a new consciousness and conversation in Israeli society. We have made it clear to all that we will be there – in the next contest for leadership of the party. 

Instead of going along with the idea of partitioning the Land, we publicly introduced our proposal to encourage Arab emigration from Israel and proved its viability. This proposal dovetails with the Likud charter that calls for the declaration of sovereignty over all areas of the Land of Israel. This is the only answer for the idea of a two state partition of our Land. We will work with all our energies against the inclusion of the two-state proposal in the new government's guidelines.

We remained firm in our obligation to listen to our conscience – to the voice of G-d that calls to man from the depths of his heart, to listen to the Torah of Israel.

We will not always succeed. Large, strong forces will continue to battle us. After all, that is the nature of a true arena. But in the end we will win. We will win because we are right and because we are on the right arena. A correct perspective on reality shows that actually, we are winning all the time!
And what about you?

Dear friends, I call upon you to remember what we have already accomplished. After all, our competitors speak to you in the language that we coined (even though their actions are the exact opposite.)

I call upon you to join us and vote Likud, with the clear knowledge that you are positioned on the leadership arena, building for your children a Jewish state with leadership that believes in your vision. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Clearing Up Election Confusion

By Shmuel Sackett

Dear Shmuel,

I've lived in Israel for 3.5 years since moving from the US. This election is my first in Israel. I'm very confused by the poll reports and the candidate statements.

How does a person decide how to vote? There is no way to really know how to make your voice heard. It's totally confusing. The only one who seems to be consistent is Moshe Feiglin. But he doesn't agree with Netanyahu, so will he be able to affect Bibi? I like Mr. Feiglin because he's been consistent and clear in how he views the future of Israel.

The other thing I don't understand about Israel's electoral system is that we might not get who we vote for. This coalition confusion is too weird to understand. So Bibi is saying vote for him, because voting for the parities to the right might give the left a coalition, whereas it's really up to the different party heads what they decide to do. The day after the election when most voters go right, the left might be able to make a coalition so we get left. This can make a person go crazy

So here we are, only a short while from voting and I don't know what to do. Please clarify things for me.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.

Dear D.

Your questions are good ones and, even though I have been living in Israel for 22 years, I still have many of them myself!
We all want a strong and proud Jewish state.
We want to stop bowing before the world and we want to stop the weakness and ridiculous policies of surrender.
Above all, we want to stop the flowing of Jewish blood. But will these elections give us the answers we are looking for?

Probably not.

The current system of voting for parties – as opposed to people – is totally ridiculous.
On top of that, no political party in the HISTORY of Israel has ever formed a government without a coalition of smaller parties.
This gives the small parties much more power than they deserve.
All of this makes me nuts since my beautiful country is always being held "hostage" by some small, minority party that the public overwhelmingly REJECTED!!
Yet, somehow, this small party – and sometimes it is a few parties – wind up controlling the direction this country heads.

My question is simple: How do we CHANGE that??? Are we doomed to this crazy system forever or can we actually STOP it and make things better?

The answer is: We CAN change it, but it won't be easy. We need to take the reigns of leadership away from those who are destroying the country and once we have done that, we can – and WILL – change the system! The ONLY way to change things in the political world is via Likud. This is why Moshe Feiglin and I started Manhigut Yehudit and why we entered into Likud to get things done.

Things are not easy there but real changes are never easy.
We need to uproot the evil and rise to serious positions of power inside Israel.

Therefore, we ask that you stick with us in this long and difficult battle.
Do not look just at the short term.
We have a long fight on our hands and with your help we will get the job done.
Vote Likud. A strong Likud is a strong Feiglin and THAT is how we get things done!

With Love of Israel,