Thursday, December 31, 2020

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya

Departure of an Uncle to Eretz Yisrael – Vol. I, #1 , p. 1-2 – part I
Date and Place: Monday of Parashat R’ei 5688 (1888), Zaumel

Recipient: The True Gaon, the Prince of Torah, the great tzaddik,
Rav Mordechai Gimpel, the Chief Rabbi of Rozhinai (Rav Kook’s great uncle)

Greeting: May your path be before Hashem, and may He look at you from His window (Shir Hashirim 2:9), to bring you in joy to the place of rest (Jerusalem), the blessed, holy city. May you be praised in the land of life (Tehillim 41:3), and soon see the comforting of Zion and Jerusalem, and raise your voice in praise of Hashem and prayer at the gateway of the heaven (Bereisheet 28:17) on behalf of the remnant that is found in the Diaspora with longing eyes. Among them, may you also mention for grace and mercy the one (speaking of himself with humility) with weak wisdom and hands that are too short to be effective, a lowly servant who aspires for and desires the day when the tidings-bearing messenger will be on the hilltops (Yeshayahu 52:7) to say “Hashem has liberated His nation, He has consoled Zion and Jerusalem” (ibid. 9).

Body: This past Friday I received a letter from my illustrious father-in-law, the chief rabbi of Ponovitz (Rav Avraham David Rabinowitz Teomim = the Aderet) shlita who was then in Warsaw. In the letter I saw a clear light that met my surprised eyes, the form of the holy handwriting of your illustrious son-in-law, the Chief Rabbi of Kapola (Rav Tzvi Hirsch Volk), whom I met a little bit as a youngster. I had been thirsty to hear more from him and I stopped my activities to facilitate this but I did not know his address. Your illustrious son-in-law wrote to me first, and I was embarrassed that I had not written to him first.

In his letter, he informed me with happiness and exaltation, intermingled with a bit of dissatisfaction, that on this coming Rosh Chodesh Elul, with the blessed Hashem’s proper grace, that my master, my great uncle shlita (Rav Gimpel) will raise up his legs in sanctity to go to the Land about which Hashem inquires (Devarim 11:12).

My heart was excited and broadened by the good news. Our Holy Land will rejoice when it sees the return of a loyal son, in whom it will find glory, and with the grandeur of your greatness and the sanctity of your piety, you will be a leader with honor and glory. You will be returning to the Land from a distant land to desire its stones and find satisfaction in its ground (Tehillim 102:15).

My true happiness banished the idle idea that had infiltrated me, to be sad because our land will miss such a great man when you move your home of honor to the Desired Land, and your aura and grandeur will have left (Rashi, Bereisheet 28:10).

But when I thought about it, I had my mind speak to my heart: Whose is all that is desirable in Israel (Shmuel I, 9:20) if not the Holy Land? It is only she who is our glory and the glorified of all of Hashem’s nation. In the Holy Land we should have our generation’s most illustrious leaders, who lighten our eyes with the light of Hashem.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Vayechi: And the winner is....


To Pray the Jewish Way

by Rabbi David Aaron

At first glance prayer seems to be about whining and begging G-d, “Please heal this person … please bring me my soul-mate … please help my business, etc.” One could mistakenly think that G-d is holding out on us and gets pleasure watching us grovel.

When we are faced with some very serious problems, it is customary to ask others to join together in our prayers. What is that all about? It seems as if we hope to move G-d through force: “G-d, if you don’t respond to my prayers, then I will recruit through the e-mail thousands of others to pray.”

Do we think these strategies really work? What are we actually doing here? If G-d is all knowing then why am I telling Him my problems? He already knows them. If G-d is good then why am I asking for Him to change my situation? Obviously whatever happens to me is for my best and I should just trust

To appreciate what we are actually doing when we pray, we have to examine what prayer really means. First, we have to understand that in Judaism we do not pray. Prayer is an English word. What Jews do is l’hispallel.

L’hispallel is a unique experience, but as with most Jewish things today, this holy word has been changed into an English word with a western connotation. The word “prayer” actually comes from the Latin word meaning “to beg” — exactly what most people feel prayer is. They imagine a big king in the sky who is getting a big ego boost from watching his subjects beg. This is a terrible image of our selves and of G-d.

L’hispallel has nothing to do with begging G-d to change His mind. L’hitpallel is a reflexive verb and it means to do something to your self, not to G-d. When you are praying, your question should not be, “Is G-d listening to my prayers?” For sure he is. What you should really ask yourself is, “Am I listening to my prayers? Does what I say impact me? Have I changed?”

If you are under the impression that praying is communicating to G-d information that He does not already know, then the whole prayer experience becomes ridiculous. G-d knows that your business is falling apart. G-d knows that you desperately want your soul-mate. G-d knows exactly what is going on in your life. L’hispallel is not about G-d hearing your prayer. It is about you hearing your prayers. You need to say these things to G-d not because He need to hear them but because you need to hear yourself saying them to G-d.

L’hispallel means to do something to your self. Exactly what you are doing is palleling yourself. And what exactly is that? We see the word palel in the story of Jacob and Joseph. When Joseph learns that his father Jacob is nearing his death, he goes to his father for a blessing for his two children. Jacob says, “I never palel-ti that I would ever see your face again, and G-d has granted me to even see the face of your children.” What do you think the term means here? I never hoped…? I never imagined…? I never dreamed…? I never anticipated?

The great 11th century Torah commentator Rashi explains the verse to mean, “I never would have filled my heart to think the thought that I would ever see your face again.” Therefore, when we l’hispallel, we are actively, intentionally trying to fill our hearts, to think the thoughts, to dream the dreams of what it is that we want to see and do in this world and then change ourselves in order to make these things happen. It is not G-d whom we are trying to change. It is ourselves and our relationship to G-d we are trying to change through prayer. If we change ourselves, we change our whole situation.

Please do not misunderstand this important principle. L’hispallel does not mean to meditate and talk to yourself as if you could ever make things happen for your self without G-d. Of course, G-d listens to our prayers and answers but we are not trying to change G-d’s mind we are trying to change ourselves.

If you pray in order to change G-d’s mind, then, please for G-d’s sake, don’t pray. We don’t want to change G-d’s mind. And thank G-d we can’t change G-d’s mind because G-d has made up His mind long time ago. G-d only and always loves us and seeks to give us the greatest good. As Psalmist praised, “His compassion (unconditional love) is upon all His creatures.”

Of course, G-d hears our prayers and answers but He is waiting for us to hear our prayers and mean them. Prayer is not passive, it is proactive. Through prayer we must inspire ourselves to take action and make changes within ourselves, our community and the world. When we change ourselves for the good we let G-d’s never-changing love for us and His abundant blessings become manifest in our lives. The more we praise G-d and acknowledge that He is the source of all blessings and truly want those blessings in our lives the more G-d’s blessings flow into our lives.

Prayer is not about changing G-d’s mind. G-d’s mind is steadfast. He only and always loves us and wants to shower us with His blessings. Prayer is about changing our selves. Prayer is about attuning our will to G-d’s will and making our selves receptive to receive His loving presence and blessings into our lives. G-d is waiting to hear from us and invite Him into our lives.

What does it matter where the Body is buried?

by Rav Binny Freedman

Of all the unexpected visitors I have ever received, none even come close to the surprise I got in the summer of 94′.

I was teaching a course on Jewish values deep in the mountains of Pennsylvania, at a camp called Moshava, near Indian Orchard. We were in the middle of an intense discussion on Jewish ethics, when I noticed three fellows standing at the entrance to the lodge. Their features were far- eastern; Chinese, it seemed, and they were standing patiently at the door, taking it all in.

You must understand, we were really in the middle of nowhere. The group of teenagers sitting before me was part of a very special group of kids who had been chosen to join a Jewish experience away from all the hustle of computers and cell- phones, television and stereos. I couldn’t imagine how these three fellows had ended up here, especially as they looked like tourists.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“We come from Tibet, though we are living in Nepal right now”.

But what really shocked me was their next question:

“Are you Rabbi Freedman?” I was amazed. They were actually looking for me, in the wilderness, having arrived all the way from Tibet!

It transpired that they were followers of the Dalai Lama, who, along with 80,000 followers, had been forced to flee Tibet in the early 1950’s, when the Chinese had taken over their country and destroyed the infrastructure of their Tibetan religion.

Recently, they had begun coming to terms with a new challenge. Having lived in exile for nearly fifty years, a new generation was now coming of age, who had grown up in India, and never even seen the ‘old country’ of Tibet. So they were trying to figure out how to keep the dream of Tibet alive, in the hearts of their children who had never seen, much less experienced, the homeland they still longed for.

So the Dalai Lama decided to consult the experts. Who better to explain how to stay connected to a land in exile, than a people that had managed to retain a dream over 2000 years, finally realizing their goal and coming home after nearly fifty generations?

The Dalai Lama had then sent over 300 students all over the world, to every major Jewish Organization, particularly targeting Zionist youth camps, to ask for help in learning how to respond to this dilemma. Somehow, after hearing about Camp Moshava, they had been given my name, and had sought out our discussion group, literally in the middle of nowhere.

I was stunned by their question, and didn’t have the heart to tell them that I really had no idea how we had survived for so long, against so many obstacles, to finally come home. After a long discussion, I told them I hoped they would not have to wait as long as we did.

Seventy-two years ago, against all the odds, and so beyond statistical probability as to be off the charts, the State of Israel was born. After 2000 years of dreaming and wandering, the Jewish people were finally coming home. Never in history had an ancient language been reborn as a modern, spoken vernacular. Yet, today, three-year olds in the sunny streets of Tel Aviv are speaking the same language as their ancestors did, over four thousand years ago.

So unlikely an event as this was, it shocked the world. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, with nearly seven million Jewish dead, and the major institutions of Judaism across Europe destroyed, the world- famous historian, Arnold Toynbee wrote an article, entitled “The fossil”, explaining how the Jews, so long an aberration to all normal historical patterns, were finally falling prey to the normal course of human events. Throughout history, whenever a nation was conquered, it gradually disappeared as a separate entity, assimilating instead into the culture of the conquerors, or destroyed entirely against an unbending and mighty foe. Only the Jews, hounded and targeted by every major power in the history of the western world, refused to go quietly into the night…

Five years later, after the end of the War of Independence in Israel, Chaim Herzog, who would later become the President of the State of Israel, wrote a response entitled: “ The Fossil Lives“. Toynbee, to be fair, was not wrong. If you had told a Jew in the barracks of Buchenwald in 1945 that three years later he would be dancing in the streets of a new State of Israel he would have said you were mad. But there we were, dancing…

What is, in the end, the secret of our survival? How is it, after so long, that we can walk once again the ancient cobblestones of the Old City of Jerusalem, or climb the fortress of Masada, still hearing the echoes of prayers offered so long ago, while the Roman Empire has been dust for fifteen centuries?

And is this secret still crucial today, even with a State of Israel?

There is an exchange in this week’s portion Va’Yechi, which is as powerful as it is puzzling, and which may contain the secret of Jewish survival.

“Vayikre’vu Yemei Yisrael La’mut” ,
‘Yisrael (Yaakov)’s days were numbered, and he begins his preparations for death.’

Interestingly, this is the first instance we have in the Torah, of someone sensing they are near death. (Yitzchak merely knows he is old, and clearly does not know when he will die as is made clear in Genesis 27:2).

And what is Yaakov’s wish prior to his death? He wants a promise from his beloved son Joseph, that he will not be buried in Egypt, but rather, that his body will be returned for burial in the land of his fathers.

For thousands of years, Jews have attached enormous significance to the place of their burial, viewing interment in the land of Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, as the highest merit. Even when Jews could not be buried in Israel, they often managed to have a small bag of dirt, from Israel, placed with them, or under their heads when they were buried. Why this fascination with burial?

If the essence in Judaism is not the body, but the soul, what does it matter where the body is buried when it is, in the end, only temporary, and survived by the spirit?

This request of Yaakov is so important that he forces Joseph to actually swear that he will indeed fulfill this promise. And it makes such an impression on Joseph that he too in the final words of the book of Genesis (50:24), swears his brothers to perform the same kindness for him, and to one day not forget his bones in Egypt when they return home… Why this pre-occupation with death and burial? And why is this so important that it is actually the concluding topic of the entire book of Genesis?

What really, is burial? And why must burial be in the ground, in the land itself?

Indeed, all the way back in the beginning of everything (Genesis 3:19), the last words G-d tells Adam before exiling him from the Garden of Eden, are:

“Me’Afar Atah, Ve’El Afar Tashuv”;
‘You are from the earth, and you will return to the earth’

Why this pre-occupation with earth? With land?

Perhaps it is not surprising, our connection to the land; after all, the first challenge G-d ever gives a Jew is his words to Abraham: ‘Go… to the Land that I will show you…‘(12:1) Why, in order for Abraham to achieve his mission, did it matter where he was? One would have expected that what was really important was who he was?

And indeed, not long after Abraham fulfills his end of the bargain, he loses his only heir, his nephew Lot, to the lures of Sedom, and so G-d makes him a promise:

“All of the land that you see will I give to you and your offspring, forever. And I will make your seed like the dirt of the land…” (13:15-16)

What a strange blessing! Your children will be like dirt? If you had an audience, say, with Rabbi Akiva, and had the opportunity to ask him to bless your children, is this the request that would be foremost on your mind? One might ask for wisdom, or strength, or even happiness, but to be like dirt? What is this pre-occupation with dirt? And why does the land become so important now, at the end of Yaakov’s life?

The Jewish story really does begin with Abraham. Four thousand years ago, one man, alone in a morass of pagan idolatry, believed it could be different. Life didn’t have to be idols and child sacrifice, and the worship of the cruelty of nature. The world could learn to change. And it could begin with one man and one dream. The beginning of a society based on an objective ethic, that might did not necessarily make right. Perhaps one person could teach the world, not by preaching, but by example.

Judaism has never been about telling everyone, indeed telling anyone, what to do. In his entire life, Abraham never tells anyone else how to behave. Even prior to his death, and after Sarah’s, he never tells Yitzchak how he is meant to be. Abraham is the example par excellence’ of teaching by what you do, and not by what you say.

G-d tells Abraham that if he wants to be His partner, to be a model for what the world could be like, he needs to let go of where he is. If “through you will be blessed all the families on the face of the earth”, then you need to be separate.

People have often misunderstood the essence of what Judaism is all about, because although Judaism is a religion, it is also a nation. And to be a nation, you need to have a home. To be a role model, you need to be seen, to be visible. Judaism dreams of creating an entire society based on ethics and love; based on Torah. And that can only begin in our own land. Only in our own place can we stand apart enough so that we can be seen.

I remember how difficult it was, as an officer, to walk that fine line between being your men’s best friend and being their commander. One of the most beautiful things in the Israeli army is that once basic training is over, your commanders are always on a first name basis. I was never ‘Sir’ to my men, I was always Binny. Yet, we always had separate officer’s barracks, because the men still needed to see you as separate, so they could learn from you…

And being apart isn’t just about how the world sees us; it is also about how we see ourselves. When you are in a separate place, it forces you to consider who you really are.

Further, Yaakov wants to be buried in the land of his Fathers, because if I don’t know where I am from, I don’t really know who I am. Abraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel & Leah, are not just part of my past; they are a part of who I am today.

For the last fifty years, the Jewish people, especially in the land of Israel, have been going through an identity crisis. Who are we? Are we a Jewish people, or are we Israelis?

Joseph, in these last few portions, represents the first Jew to experience exile, in a strange land, constantly reminded that he is not really home.

His children, Menashe & Ephraim, are the first Jewish children born in exile. And this may be what is behind the strange episode of the blessings Yaakov gives to these two grandchildren.(Genesis 48: 5-22).

“Shenei banecha hanoladim Le’cha be’Eretz Mitzraim… Li Hem…” ‘These two boys, born to you in Egypt…they will for me…’

Ephraim & Menashe have never seen the land of Israel. They have grown up in Egypt, as Egyptians. Do they know their heritage? Do they understand their great legacy? That they are the great-great grandchildren of Abraham? That a dream the world so desperately needs will ultimately depend on them? Are they, in the end, Egyptian Jews, or Jewish Egyptians? And perhaps Joseph, who looks the part of the viceroy of Egypt, needs a gentle reminder as well.

When I was a boy, my grandmother z.l. would always end her letters to us (she lived in England) with the enjoinder: “remember who you are”.

When Yaakov commands Joseph, indeed swears him, to take him home to the land of Israel, he is making a statement not of where we are, but of who we are. Our place, in the end, is at home, in the land of Israel.

And what does it mean to be buried in the earth? Earth, suggests Jewish tradition, represents potential. Left alone, it is a barren field, where only weeds will grow. But when sown and ploughed, reaped, threshed and winnowed, it will feed the world, and become a vehicle for our partnership with G-d. We come from the earth and will ultimately return to the earth; the question is only whether we succeed in making a difference in-between.

The blessing of being ‘like the dirt’, given to Abraham, reflects the fact that no matter what one does to the earth, it can never be destroyed. Earth, in the end, is eternal, and our desire to be interred in that earth, reflects our belief that life is eternal, and does not end with the physical.

Ernest Beckett, in his award-winning book ‘The Denial Of Death’, suggests that we cannot discover real joy in all the physical pleasures of the world, because they are temporary, and ultimately remind us that we too, are only temporary. The thought that we will one day disappear leaves a bitter taste, ruining the pleasures we seek in the physical world. Our ultimate desire, he claims, is the search for immortality.

Judaism agrees that life in this world does not last, but eternity does.

Burial represents the belief in eternity; where I choose to be buried represents where I really want to be, and therefore who I really am.

At the end of the book of Genesis, the family of Yaakov is about to become the nation of Israel. Becoming more and more entangled in the culture and land of Egypt, Yaakov, and then Joseph, reminds them that one day they will return home. And that will depend not on where their bodies are enslaved, but where their hearts and souls freely yearn to be.

For two thousand years, at every wedding and every funeral, at the entrance to every home, and after every meal, we dreamed of Jerusalem. You learn a lot about a person from what their dreams are, and the same holds true for a people. Our bodies were in exile, but our hearts never left home.

How sad today, that while we live in a land where our bodies are free to go home any time we want, our hearts, it seems, have become enslaved.

In pre-Covid days, $1000 and an El Al plane could allow you to walk in Jerusalem or climb the Golan Heights tomorrow afternoon. Yet we are still here. We pray about Jerusalem, but do we really dream of being there? The story of Joseph, which began with the dreams of one individual, who could make a difference, ends with the challenge of what a difference a people, dreaming those same dreams of Abraham could make to the whole world.

Next week we begin the story of the book of Exodus, which starts by showing what happened to us when as a people, we lost sight of our dreams…

May Hashem bless us all to stop sighing and begin dreaming, and may our hearts be freed to go to where we really need to be; home.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yishai Fleisher: The End of the Beginning - Vaccines, Pollard, Genesis, and the New Year


Jonathan Pollard for President of Israel

About a month ago, five years to the day, after Jonathan Pollard was paroled (with severe restrictions) from the federal penitentiary, the US Parole Commission issued a certificate terminating parole and removing the restrictions that were imposed on him. He had served an excessive thirty years, of his injust life sentence, for transmitting classified information to Israel (convicted of Espionage, not Treason), in helping a friendly state.

Now he and his wife Esther, have come to Israel.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Omer Yankelevich, tweeted Tuesday night: “Jonathan, how good it is that you’ve come home.”

It’s been claimed that Pollard only turned over to the Israelis, intelligence information that the Americans were obligated to pass on to Israel, under their security and defense cooperation agreements, but were holding back. Therefore, embarrassing the Americans.

Details of his case, and the campaign to free Pollard, can be found at Justice for Johnathan Pollard.

But even with his release, the Americans and Israelis still have some Teshuva (repentance) to do, more on that later...

Many public officials and personalities expressed gratitude, the day parole termination had finally come. Some had even raised the issue of the cruel treatment, by the Americans, and betrayal by Israeli officials in the past.

The Women in Green movement, which struggled for Pollard’s release for years, welcomed the American decision not to extend Pollard’s restrictions.

Movement leaders, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, emphasized that the decision marks long years of injustice imposed on Pollard by the American legal system. “Every day that Pollard was imprisoned or confined was a day of grave injustice...The day Pollard comes to Israel will be a holiday for the entire Jewish people.”

“The entire State of Israel owes him a lot and it is doubtful whether it will be able to return to him a little of what it received from him, but it is its duty to do everything to give him all the best it has, they stated.”

That’s why I propose nominating Pollard for President of Israel. Elections by the Knesset members will be held in July 2021. What better way to celebrate his homecoming.

Katsover and Matar also said, “The State of Israel accepts Jonathan with great love...this slightly reduces the moral flaw, that clung to it, when it abandoned him and closed its gates to him.”

Former Defense Minister and Yamina Party Chairman Naftali Bennett welcomed the removal of restrictions on Jonathan Pollard at the time saying, “V’Shavu Banim L’gvulam, ‘and the sons return to their borders.’ The State of Israel owes a deep debt to Jonathan Pollard who gave us over 30 years of his life, and we are waiting to welcome him and embrace him here, in the land of Israel which is his home, as soon as possible.”

So, now that pollard has landed in Israel, I assume that Bennett would back a movement to draft Pollard for President of Israel.

Yamina Knesset Faction Chairwoman MK Ayelet Shaked also spoke out when Pollard’s parole was terminated, “In the 19th Knesset, I served as Chairwoman of the lobby for the return of Pollard and as Justice Minister, I continued my activities until his release and thereafter. I sincerely hope that in the near future he and Esther will establish their home in Israel.”

zPetach Tikva’s mayor, Rami Greenberg, quickly promised last month, to name a square in the city center, “Jonathan Pollard Square.” Greenberg also expressed gratitude to the Trump administration, for terminating the limitations of Pollard’s parole.

Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who visited Jonathan Pollard in prison in the United States over the years, told Kan Moreshet last month, “I think that American Jewry should perhaps ask him for forgiveness. In an attempt to be considered kosher Americans, they simply ignored him. They forget that we are each other’s guardians and it’s not possible that they would turn their backs on someone who gave so much of himself for the people of Israel, what a waste.”

It’s true, organized American Jewry, fearful of the duel-loyalty accusation, pretty much hid their heads in the sand, while Pollard rotted in prison.

Rabbi Eliyahu then added, “If it were not for the people in Israel who sold him to the Americans, he would not have sat in prison. All the evidence that indicted him and put him in prison for so many years, was given by people in Israel. I heard these things directly from him when I was with him...There are people who were ministers in the government, two of them, who committed this crime, which is why Pollard was in prison. He did everything he did for the people of Israel, for the State of Israel. We should have lain on the fence for him but people preferred to save their skin and sell him out, which is a very serious matter...I did not name names, we are now in a happy time, but there were two people who could have saved him and they did not,” he added.

I’m sure that Shaked and Rabbi Eliyahu would support a movement to make Jonathan Pollard, President of Israel. That would be the real Teshuva, the State of Israel could do for him.

Asher Mivzari, an activist prominent in the movement to free Jonathan Pollard, also blamed the Americans, “On the one hand, there is great joy and we are thankful to God that he survived all these thirty difficult years in prison, and another five years under restrictions. On the other hand, it’s late, because he should have been released long ago, even in terms of simple justice. For what he did in the US, you usually get five years in prison, but here there was such a severe punishment, that was out of all proportion. Even American officials [including those involved with his case] have stated that he should have been released long ago in terms of American justice,” Mivzari pointed out.

That’s why I say America still has a day of reckoning to come...

Mivzari also noted, the frequent visits of the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu to Pollard, “The rabbi visited Pollard ten times and this is something that gave him a lot of strength to hold on and survive throughout all those years. All these years he also did not think only of himself, he was very concerned for the people of Israel, for the State of Israel, for people who were hurt, injured in terrorist attacks and other things. His thoughts were not only about himself. He knew the problems and failures that had happened, but mostly his thoughts were on how to help the people of Israel and the State of Israel and his dream was to come and join the people of Israel and contribute all he can with the rest of his strength and do everything he can.”

What a fine concerned and selfless example to young Israelis, Pollard would be, as President of Israel. But not everyone is even happy that Pollard was finally released from all restrictions.

Former PM Ehud Olmert blasted the US government’s decision to nullify Jonathan Pollard’s parole restrictions. He argued, “With all due respect, I would prefer that he not move to Israel. We don’t owe him anything. He was a spy who worked for a lot of money. He was not a Zionist volunteer who came and sacrificed his life.”

Olmert is one to talk about taking money, the jailbird.

He continued, Pollard “was an American who loved Israel and worked for a lot of money, spying for Israel. His spying was beneficial [to Israel], but when taking a full account, the damage caused to Israel’s interests, as a result of revealing his involvement, was the harshest in the history of US-Israel relations.”

“The danger of increasing this damage has not ended. If the prime minister will act like he does and have a festive welcoming ceremony for Pollard, we will pay a heavy price when there will soon be a new administration in America, worried Olmert.”

This is a non sequitur, because an incoming Biden administration already is planning a tough time for Israel. Just take a peak at the likely appointments Biden’s going to make, many of them Clinton operatives. A moderate-Left Democrat administration, will return Israel to the tone of the Obama years, with new problems. For example, the Trump Plan’s vision of a Palestinian state was encapsulated in policy for the first time, and for the first time, was formally agreed to, by the current Israeli government.

Yisrael Beitenu leader, Avigdor Liberman, has also criticized Pollard, in an interview with KAN Radio. He said that Israel should not have drafted Pollard as a spy, and that his moving to Israel should not be celebrated.

What has Lieberman ever done to promote Israeli security?

How far Lieberman has fallen, from his Hebrew University student days, as a campus activist for Rabbi Meir Kahane’s far-right pro-Jewish Kach Movement.

And, idiot, pardon my English accent, Yedioth Ahronoth columnist, Nahum Barnea, who seems to have learned nothing since the Oslo War (Second Intifada), even with losing a son in the war; wrote, “Pollard does not have the heroism of the Nili organization, not even that of Eli Cohen. Have some proportion.” He, also opposes making Pollard a “national hero.”

Well, I don’t agree with Olmert, Lieberman, and Barnea, so much so, that I believe Pollard should be elected President of Israel.

Recently in an interview with 103 Radio FM, former PM Ehud Barak commented on the possibility of Netanyahu trying to get elected as the country’s president, to avoid facing criminal charges, calling it a “black day in Israel’s democracy.” This idea has been bandied about for awhile already. Barak also accused Netanyahu of tending to his personal affairs, while the country found itself mired in the “worst crisis in its history.”

I can agree with Barak, that Netanyahu should step aside from the race. Netanyahu’s often been accused of being Machiavellian, and politically very self-serving, this is his chance to go beyond that. I suggest to Netanyahu, since he’s claimed for years, that he’s done all he could to free Jonathan Pollard, he take the bold and courageous step, to throw his weight behind Pollard for President of Israel.

The position is largely ceremonial, as head of state, Pollard would represent Israel at conferences, state festivities, etc. The most significant action the president can take, is to grant pardons to prisoners, similar to the American president. Its the perfect “non-partisan” position for him, within the Israeli political constellation.

Who could best empathize with the pain of prisoners and their families, to give them a fair shake, and possibly overturn an injustice, than someone who sat in prison unjustly for thirty years, for the security of the Jewish people, and State of Israel?

Jonathan Pollard for President of Israel.

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.

(c) 2020/5781 Pasko

Jonathan Pollard is a Litmus Test. But for What?

The arrival of Jonathan Pollard in Israel 35 years after his arrest for espionage on Israel’s behalf has made me think about the position of the Jew in the diaspora, particularly in America.

There are facts about Pollard’s case that are shrouded in mystery (for example, the still-secret Caspar Weinberger memo that in part convinced the judge in his case, Aubrey Robinson, to abrogate his plea bargain and sentence him to life imprisonment).

There is very little impartial material written about his case. Did he do what he did out of Zionist motives or did he do it for the money (or both)? Was Judge Robinson influenced by accusations that Pollard had aided the apartheid South African regime? These questions are discussed here (from a pro-Pollard perspective). Was the sentence outrageously unfair or, as some say, was it too light? Was his sentence, like the one given to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, intended as a warning to disloyal ‘cosmopolitan’ Jews? It is possible to find documentation of various degrees of trustworthiness to support disparate narratives.

It is certain that Pollard provided a great deal of useful information to Israel about her regional enemies that had been withheld by the US. It is also certain that Pollard was abandoned by Israel, expelled from the embassy in Washington where he sought asylum, into the arms of the FBI. And it is certain that he received the harshest sentence by far ever handed down to someone for spying for an American ally, harsher yet than what some who spied for the Soviets received.

Early Wednesday morning, Pollard was met at the airport by PM Netanyahu, who said the shehecheyanu with him and personally handed him his Israeli identity document. This of course immediately made him a political football in Israel, to the extent that he wasn’t already. But that’s not what I want to discuss.

What interests me today is the attitudes of American Jews toward Pollard, and what that tells us about how they see themselves and their position as diaspora Jews.

The diaspora has generally not been a friendly place for Jews since their expulsion from Judea after the defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt by the Romans on Tisha b’Av, 135 CE. Always outsiders, they were often exploited, expelled, oppressed, and even exterminated by their hosts. But – especially between the end of WWII and the beginning of the 21st century – the USA has been different. Although there are examples of anti-Jewish riots and lynchings, and discrimination in employment, education, and residence, the position of Jews in America for a long period has probably been as good as or better than anywhere else in the diaspora.

Like Homer Simpson, an American Jew has two tiny creatures that sit on his or her shoulders and whisper. One says, “you are an American like other Americans, even if you are Jewish. This is your home. You have rights here.” And the other says, “never forget that you are a Jew. Your existence is precarious. Keep your suitcase packed.” I think that American Jewish attitudes toward Pollard are derived from the interaction of these voices.

On one occasion, a friend told me that “Pollard should have been executed, like the Rosenbergs.” This from a liberal American Jew who, I’m certain, opposes capital punishment in general. “America was good to him and he spit in its face,” he continued. “He was a traitor both to his country and to other Jews, who will always be suspected of having dual loyalties.”

This particular Jew is more knowledgeable than most Americans about Israel, a strong Zionist and supporter of causes related to Israel. But at the same time he was one of the approximately 69% of American Jews who voted for Barack Obama’s second term, when it should have been obvious to anyone that he was far from a friend of Israel (unlike his opponent, Mitt Romney). Needless to say, President Trump’s remarkably strong pro-Israel stance doesn’t sway my friend from his strong antagonism to the president.

When I listen to him, I hear both voices. My friend is proud of being American and takes what he sees as patriotic American positions. His center of gravity is in the US. But at the same time, there is that other small voice, the one that reminds him that as a Jew, he is less than entirely secure in America. He worries that Pollard’s actions might cause an increase in antisemitism among non-Jewish Americans. And maybe sometimes at 3 AM, he wonders if he shouldn’t have a packed suitcase under his bed.

So it is very important for him to let everyone know that American Jews in general, and he in particular, are good Americans. Maybe better Americans than some non-Jews.

This is a position fraught with cognitive dissonance.

There are American Jews that strongly support Pollard. Some (unlike my friend) are Orthodox Jews, like Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the former head of the National Council of Young Israel, an organization of Orthodox synagogues. Lerner visited Pollard in prison countless times, and helped obtain financial support for him after his release when he was unable to work. Pollard “got religion” in prison, and that may be part of it. But I have also heard some Orthodox Jews strongly denounce Pollard in words like my friend’s. And, on the other side, the Reform Movement passed a resolution to ask President Clinton to commute Pollard’s sentence in 1993; its president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs (whom I usually love to criticize), visited him in prison along with representatives of the Conservative movement.

Pollard is a litmus test of some sort, but it is not either one for Right vs. Left or Orthodox vs. (religiously) liberal. It’s something else. I know that my grandmother, who lost siblings in the Holocaust and from whom I inherited much of my sensibility, would have instinctively stuck up for Pollard, despite the fact that she was very proud of the paper that said she was an American citizen.

I think it’s related to what I called “center of gravity” above. If your center of gravity is in the diaspora you have to worry that someday you will be uprooted. If it’s located with the Jewish people, you may be less comfortable in the diaspora, but you have fewer illusions.

Where is your center of gravity?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Many Faces of Kriat Shema

Parashat Va’ye’chi 5781
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

“She’ma Yisrael” is the most quoted verse in the Torah, having been recited hundreds of million times since its revelation at Mount Sinai. There are many ways to understand these six words:

שמע ישראל ה’ א-לקינו ה’ אחד
Listen (hearken, be attentive) Yisrael, the Lord our God the Lord is one.

I would like to deal with two meanings: one of which has to do with our parasha – Vayechi.

The basic formula (nusach) of a bracha (blessing), as formulated by the Anshei Knesset Hagedola (120 rabbis who led the Jewish people during the Babylonian exile and in the initial years of our return to rebuild the Second Temple) is comprised of three phrases:

ברוך אתה אד’ – א-לוקינו – מלך העולם …


“BLESSED ARE YOU ADO…” – expresses one’s acknowledgment of the existence of an Infinite Being who created all that exists.

“OUR LORD” – expresses our realization that this infinite entity has a unique relationship with the Jewish nation, not to be found with any other group of humanity.

“KING OF THE UNIVERSE” – notwithstanding our singular, intimate connection with HaShem, He is creator and master of all that exists.

However, the phrase “KING OF THE UNIVERSE” which appears in every bracha is omitted in She’ma Yisrael! So instead of “Listen (hearken, be attentive) Yisrael / the Lord / our God / King of the universe / the Lord is one”, we say “Listen (hearken, be attentive) Yisrael / the Lord / Our God / the Lord is one”, without the phrase KING OF THE UNIVERSE.

The reason for this intended omission is that a bracha which introduces a mitzva act, the phrase “king of the universe” relates to the fact that the act has implications not only for the doer and for Am Yisrael, but also for the universe at large. Whereas the statement She’ma Yisrael is the affirmation that the purpose of Creation is to bring into reality the Jewish nation which will bind the spiritual heaven and material earth by our mitzvot and the intimate bond with HaShem.

One could legitimately ask, how can the Almighty God have such a close relationship with the Jewish nation, who after all are mere mortals? However, this itself is proof that HaShem instilled in our bodies an eminently sanctified soul worthy of HaShem’s love, as projected in the one pasuk of “She’ma Yisrael”.

That this pasuk is the affirmation of HaShem’s love for His nation Yisrael is evident from the two introductory blessings of “She’ma”. Before the morning She’ma we say:

ברוך אתה ה’ הבוחר בעמו ישראל באהבה
Blessed is HaShem who chooses His nation Yisrael in love

And before the evening She’ma we say:

ברוך אתה ה’ אוהב עמו ישראל
Blessed is HaShem who loves His Nation Yisrael

Rashi, in our parasha, alludes to the Gemara (Pesachim 56a) which describes the final hours of Yaakov’s physical existence in this world, when he gathered his 12 sons to reveal to them what lay ahead in store for the Jewish nation at the “end of days”.

However, at the precise moment when their hearts and minds were at their peak attentiveness, HaShem withdrew His Shechina (Divine spirit) from Yaakov and the revelations became obscured. The Gemara continues to relate that Yaakov feared that HaShem’s withdrawal might be due to one or more of his sons being heretics. For just as his grandfather Avraham had begot the sinful Yishmael and his own father Yitzchak begot the evil Esav, he too might be cursed with a wayward son.

The brothers then turned to their father and without prior concurrence recited in unison:

שמע ישראל ה’ א-לקינו ה’ אחד
“Hearken Yisrael (our father), the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”

Yaakov then replied:

ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד
“Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever”

Question: How could the single statement voiced by the sons, “Shema Yisrael” diffuse Yaakov’s deep-seated suspicion of heresy? Why did Yaakov not consider the possibility that the “heretical sons” (if there were) were lying?

I suggest:
The brothers waited impatiently to hear of the future geula. When Yaakov realized that HaShem did not want the details to be disclosed, he turned to his sons with suspicion that they might be the cause. At that moment, HaShem placed His holy Shechina on the brothers and they announced in unison:

שמע ישראל ה’ א-לוקינו ה’ אחד

Yaakov was stunned, because this statement was the essence of the prophecy that he had intended to reveal to his sons. Instead, it was taken from him and given to them, proving that they were tzadikim.

And what is the prophecy for the future Am Yisrael?

The prophecy states that just as the “Shema” consists of three phrases:

1) Shema Yisrael — Hearken Yisrael

2) HaShem Elokeinu — the Lord is our God

3) HaShem Echad — the Lord is One

So too will the future redemption of the Jewish people evolve in three stages:

1) In the initial phrase of “Shema Yisrael“, the name of Am Yisrael is mentioned without HaShem’s name. This refers to the initial stage of redemption with the ingathering of Bnei Yisrael from the far corners of the globe to Eretz Yisrael. They would return for a variety of reasons, not necessarily religious ones. Most will come to escape anti-Semitism, or totalitarian regimes, or to build a state based on secular socialist Zionist values.

2) Phase two “HaShem Elokeinu” includes two names of HaShem: the ineffable (unutterable) YH… representing HaShem’s quality of compassion, and the name “Elokeinu” representing HaShem’s quality of harsh justice.

This second stage of redemption would be characterized by a bitter conflict between Torah leaders on how to view the Medina. Religious-Zionist rabbanim will see the Medina as the expression of HaShem’s quality of compassion for His people Yisrael. The Medina is HaShem’s declaration that the Shoah was the last major test in the 2000-year period of anger and galut (exile), and the beginning of a new period of our renaissance leading to the fulfillment of all our prophets’ visions. Millions of Jews have returned, our sovereignty over Yerushalayim and the Temple Mount and the extraordinary military victories are undeniable signs that the geula is at hand.

In contrast, other Torah scholars will claim that the period of “Elokeinu” – harsh judgment – is still in effect, with the Medina merely a stage in the natural development of political societies.

3) Phase three “HaShem Echad”, is when HaShem’s quality of compassion will reign alone and all rabbinic leaders will unite in the reality that the Medina is HaShem’s avenue for the advent of Mashiach and our final redemption.

Yaakov, upon hearing the revelations voiced by his sons, added a fourth stage: “Baruch shem kevod malchuto le’olam va’ed” – blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for the entire world – signaling the universal acceptance of HaShem’s total mastery as Creator and Preserver of all things.

Today, with a near majority of the world’s halachic Jews in the holy land, we are in the midst of the second stage of HaShem Elokeinu where most of the Chareidi rabbinic leadership do not hear the footsteps of the Mashiach in Medinat Yisrael.

The third stage of total unity will come about when we witness the miraculous demise of our enemies, as stated at the end of the first chapter of Tractate Berachot, that we will witness miracles far surpassing those of the exodus from Egypt.

We are not far from a religious awakening among the people in the Medina, unparalleled since the time of Ezra Ha’Sofer. HaShem will “shine His countenance” upon all those who are here to receive it.

May HaShem grant our gallant soldiers victory over the forces of evil, for the final redemption of our people will come about in the merit of the mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) of His loyal children residing in Eretz Yisrael.

Remember the three Bs B careful B healthy B here
JLMM – Jewish Lives Matter More
Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5781/2020 Nachman Kahana

The Little Event that had a Historic Ramification

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

But his father refused, and he said, “I know, my son, I know; he too will become a people, and he too will be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his children will fill the nations.” (Bereishis 48:19)

ALL’S WELL THAT ends well. The situation had looked very dim and the family had become desperate, but that was only because they had thought Yosef was an Egyptian viceroy out to get them. Then, all of a sudden and with just a couple of words, their antagonist became their protagonist, and the crazy made perfect sense. Mourning turned to joy and desperation became celebration.

Years have passed since the reunion in last week’s parsha. Yosef was still busy being viceroy of Egypt, and his family had settled into Goshen and was expanding. Ya’akov was reaching his final day in this world. It was time to turn his attention to blessing his sons, and making sure the legacy begun by his grandfather would endure after his departure.

But even something as straightforward as blessing his children was not straightforward. It too provided a little drama:

But Yisroel stretched out his right hand and placed [it] on Ephraim’s head, although he was the younger, and his left hand [he placed] on Menashe’s head. He guided his hands deliberately, for Menashe was the firstborn…And Yosef said to his father, “Not so, father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” (Bereishis 48:14, 18)

It’s famous now, but it wasn’t at the time. Every cheder child learns about how Ya’akov crossed his hands and blessed the younger son Ephraim before his older brother Menashe. Apparently, Yosef thought that his father was merely mistaken and tried to correct him, which is interesting because if his father was prophetic enough to know the future of each child, wouldn’t he have been prophetic enough to know which child he was blessing first?

But Ya’akov corrected his son, telling him that he was fully aware of which grandson was which. He continued to bless them including words that parents still use to bless their sons until this very day:

May God make you like Ephraim and like Menashe. (Bereishis 48:20)

And though seemingly the Torah moves on from this incident, it turns out that history did not. On the contrary, this little event has had a historic ramification and teaches us a very interesting idea that even touches on the subject of lighting the Chanukah menorah.

In fact, during Chanukah we read from the Torah each day about the gifts that were brought during the first dedication of the altar, after the Mishkan was assembled permanently on the first day of Nissan, 2449. Each day, the prince of a different tribe brought the exact same offering on behalf of his entire tribe. On the seventh day, it was the turn of the tribe of Ephraim:

On the seventh day, the chief was of the sons of Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud. (Bamidbar 7:48)

What about the tribe of Menashe? He brought his offering on the next day, the eighth day of the offerings:

On the eighth day, the chieftain was of the sons of Menashe, Gamliel the son of Pedazhur. (Bamidbar 7:54)

Thus Ya’akov Avinu’s initiative of switching the order of Ephraim and Menashe was accepted and implemented in Heaven. This is because God complies with the decrees of the “Zekeinim,” that is, the Torah elders. Therefore, says the Midrash, a person should never say that they do not need to light a menorah during Chanukah, since it was only established by the Zekeinim, and not the Torah. Even God lights a menorah for Chanukah, the Zohar says.

This turns the tables a bit regarding the mitzvah of Emunas Chachamim, having faith in Torah leaders. Most people probably think that it means that we follow our Chachamim because they have an inside track to know what God is thinking. The rest of us can only guess, and often with disastrous results.

Though true, there is another dimension to it. It doesn’t have to be that the Chachamim are privy to God’s will, as if they can read His mind, so-to-speak. They don’t have to, because God listens to what they say, and then follows their words just as we are supposed to. Torah Chachamim that kind of authority, and doing what they say is tantamount to doing what God says.

Does it mean that following the directions of the Gedolim will guarantee a person a safe life? No, the Holocaust showed us this. It means that if a bad result occurs from living by the words of our greatest Torah leaders in any given generation, it was not because of what they said. Rather, it was a decree from Heaven, and all those who followed the direction of the Gedolim at least died having fulfilled one of the greatest mitzvos we have, upon which Torah transmission is based and built.

But if there is no decree against the Jewish people at the time, and a person follows the advice of their Torah leaders, they do become worthy of extra Divine (read: supernatural) protection. It’s even worthwhile to have in mind when performing the act that you are doing it, that it is for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of Emunas Chachamim. It may be the exact same act that everyone else is performing, but a person’s providence is dramatically enhanced when the act is performed as a function of trusting in our Torah leadership.

This idea is always relevant, but there are times when it is extremely relevant. We are entering such a period now, thanks to COVID-19 and the vaccine being administered around the world to halt its spread and impact. Though some people are rushing to get the shots and end their life of masks and social distancing, some are wary at the speed at which it was produced and tested. They worry about being “guinea pigs” for at least the first couple of years. “Who knows what the longer term effects will be?” they argue, and therefore they prefer to wait a while before taking the risk.

Understandably so, given the impact of previous experimental medicines that killed enough people to be recalled…after pharmaceutical companies already made billions of dollars in profit. Any fines they have had to pay were just small business “expenses” to produce something that turned out to be dangerous but also very profitable.

At least in the Torah world we have our Gedolim, people who live to serve God and help others do the same. They have great fear of God and though they need not worry about monetary fines, they worry tremendously about answering to their Creator for having mislead His people, if indeed they ever would. They have no ulterior motives, like getting rich off other people’s ignorance or paranoia.

Therefore, once the Gedolim enter the picture and make a clear-cut decision as to how to deal with a medical issue, it becomes less of an issue of health and one of listening to God’s representatives on earth. Though there is a Torah mitzvah to mind your health, there is also one of loyally listening to our Torah leaders, to have faith in their decisions and leadership, a fundamental of Torah life.

Thus, though it may be hard to be clear about what is good for our health, especially since the scientific community lacks the requisite prophecy to know the long-term effects of their products, it is less hard to be clear about what the Gedolim advise us to do. And it wouldn’t be called “Emunas Chachamim—Faith in the Wisemen,” if it didn’t mean following their directives specifically in the areas of life that we have doubts and concerns about what to do. No one needs faith when they are personally sure about their course of action.

The great thing about this, is that someone who gets the vaccine against COVID-19 for health reasons alone only fulfills the mitzvah of “v’nishmartem meod l’nafshoseichem” (Devarim 4:15), the mitzvah to protect your health. Someone who takes the vaccine because the Gedolim have said to do so, also fulfills the all-important mitzvah of listening to Torah leaders, and following Da’as Torah. In the first case, there is no guarantee that the person will be protected against the potential harmful effects of the vaccine. In the second scenario, there is a greater likelihood that they will be protected since “tzaddikim decree and God fulfills” (Bamidbar Rabbah 14:3).

“But what if they’re wrong?” people ask. “What if the Gedolim have been fed false information, and therefore only think they are making the right decision when, in fact they are making a ‘bad’ decision?”

It’s a question you can ask about yourself, or your friend, or even your local rabbi who does not yet qualify to be a Gadol HaDor. You can certainly ask it about your doctor, who may not have personally done the research and is only telling you what he thinks based upon what he has been told. We all get some measure of Heavenly help, but most of us do not get enough to avoid making costly mistakes.

This is not the case with Gedolim. A foundation of Torah belief is that God wants Torah to survive, and the Jewish people with it. To this end God helps direct those responsible for both, and the more responsible they are, the more He helps them. This belief is the underlying basis of Emunas Chachamim.

“But what about the Holocaust? Didn’t Torah leaders advise people to stay put and not to leave Europe, resulting in their dying in the camps instead? People had Emunas Chachamim then, and they were not protected!”

What the person who asks this question doesn’t realize is that it does not mean the Gedolim were wrong per se. It means that there was already a Divine decree against the Jewish people, and it was God Who decided to keep the people in Europe to fulfill it. As the Maharsha says (Gittin 56b), the Heavenly help extended to Torah leaders also takes into account the worthiness of the nation to be saved.

So, at the end of the day, there is no alternative to following the decisions of our accepted Gedolei Torah. But whether or not that will guarantee us safe passage to the next period of history depends largely on our own worthiness, and whether or not there already exists, God forbid, a Heavenly decree against the nation. And that will depend upon whether we simply adapted to the problems created by the Coronavirus, or made some serious spiritual improvements because of it.

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYechi: Revealing the End of Days

“Yaakov called for his sons. He said: ‘Gather together, and I will tell you what will happen at the End of Days.'” (Gen. 49:1)

In fact, Yaakov never revealed to his sons when the final redemption would take place. According to the Midrash, this secret — the time of redemption — was hidden from Yaakov. The Midrash uses the following parable to explain what transpired between Jacob and his sons at Yaakov’s death bed.

The Parable of the Devoted Servant
“This is like the case of a devoted servant whom the king trusted with all that he possessed. When the servant realized his end was near, he assembled his sons in order to set them free and inform them where their will and deed were located.

The king, however, discovered [this plan] and stood over his servant. When the servant saw the king, he backtracked from what he had planned to tell his sons. He began to entreat his sons, ‘Please, remain servants of the king! Honor him just as I have honored him all of my days.’

So, too, Yaakov gathered his sons to reveal to them the End of Days. But the Holy One revealed Himself to Yaakov  ‘You summoned your sons, but not Me?'... When Yaakov saw God, he began to entreat his sons, ‘Please, honor the Holy One just as my fathers and I have honored Him.’

The Holy One then informed [Yaakov]: ‘It honors God to conceal the matter’ (Proverbs 25:2). This attribute does not belong to you." 
(Midrash Tanchuma VaYechi 8)

This Midrash raises many questions. Why did Yaakov want to reveal to his sons when the final exile would end? Why was he prevented from doing so? Also, there are discrepancies between the parable and the referent. It was God who concealed the end of days from Yaakov thus in the parable, it should have been the king who hid the deed from the servant, not the servant who hid the deed from his sons. Furthermore, the servant wanted his sons to be free — would Yaakov have wanted his sons to abandon the yoke of Heaven? And why did God reprimand Yaakov for not calling Him?

The Reason for the Lengthy Exile
We first need to examine why the exile has lasted so long. It is written that the people of Israel “were punished twice for all their sins” (Isaiah 40:2). How could God, the compassionate Father, punish the Jewish people more severely than they deserved to be punished?

The key to understanding this matter lies in the verse:
“I have only known you from all of the families of the earth. Therefore, I visit upon you all of your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

If the Jewish people were like all other peoples, then the destruction of the Temple would have sufficed to atone for their sins. However, the Jewish people are destined to acquire a true, intimate love of God, permanently fixed in their hearts, as indicated by the phrase “I have only known you,” which implies a unique relationship between God and the Jewish people. In order to achieve this level of unfailing, constant love, they need to undergo an intensive purification to purge all moral and spiritual failings. If not corrected, these dormant faults could be reawakened and induce moral relapses in future generations.

For this reason, the Sages wrote that the people of Israel sinned doubly, were punished doubly, and will be consoled doubly (Pesikta deRav Kahana, Nachamu). Their sin was twofold: besides the gravity of the sin itself, it led to their estrangement from God. They were also punished doubly: in order to cleanse them from the sin and to purify their hearts to love God. And they will also be consoled doubly: not only will their transgressions be forgiven, they will also merit a special closeness to God.

Calculating the End of Days
The second issue that must be clarified is: is it possible to know when the End of Days will come? The Sages interpreted the verse, “A day of retribution is in My heart” (Isaiah 63:4) as follows: “to My heart I have revealed it, but not to My limbs” (Sanhedrin 97a). The term “My limbs” is a metaphor for the angels. How could Yaakov have access to information which was hidden even from the angels?

Theoretically, if we were to know the spiritual level the Jewish people need to attain, the errors that future generations will commit, and the time needed to rectify those errors, then we would be able to calculate when the End of Days will occur. However, even this complex calculation is not so straightforward. Perhaps God will not wait until the Jewish people are worthy of redemption based on their own merits? Perhaps God will not delay the redemption until their sins have been fully expiated through exile, but will hasten the end, elevating Israel even before the people have properly prepared themselves to be redeemed?

In fact, this is precisely how Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, a dream foretelling “what will be at the End of Days.” In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw that “a stone, broken off not by [human] hands, struck the statue” (Daniel 2:34). This great statue, wrought from four different metals, symbolized the four great empires — commonly understood to be Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome — and the corresponding exiles of the Jewish people. The stone, the Divine instrument for destroying the statue and terminating the exile, was “broken off not by human hands,” indicating that the final redemption will not be achieved solely through the efforts of the Jewish people. God desires that Israel will work toward rectifying its sins and moral deficiencies; but ultimately, it will be granted eternal spiritual greatness by God Himself (See Zohar, Pekudei 240).

Spiritual Growth versus Submission
The righteous who walk before God always try to attain spiritual perfection on their own, without ‘burdening’ Heaven and expecting Divine assistance. Yaakov wanted his family to acquire the final objective of constant love for God through their own efforts. By revealing the End of Days to them, Yaakov intended to indicate the objective that they should strive for, so that they could attain this level through their own actions.

God, however, had different plans. Humanity was given free will so that they should not need to rely on nehama dekisufa, the “bread of shame.” The necessity to labor and make correct choices in life gives us the satisfaction of earning our reward. Yet there is a drawback to attaining perfection through our own efforts. While the ultimate goal is to attain love of God, we also need to feel a sense of awe and submission before God. In truth, for all of our remarkable potential, we do not deserve to be called “God’s servants.” The Midrash teaches that God held Mount Sinai over the Israelites like a bucket, forcing them to accept the Torah (Shabbat 88a). This demonstrated that the Jewish people must also acknowledge their subservience to God.

Similarly, in the end of days, God will not wait until the people of Israel have perfected themselves, for then they would only have the merit of loving God, and would lack the necessary awe and servitude to Him. God will redeem the Jewish people before they are ready; the redemption will arrive like “a stone that was not broken off by [our own] hands.” It is impossible to calculate the hour of redemption, for it will not occur when the Jewish people are ready, but when God deems it time. Thus Isaiah’s prophecy indicates that the date is only revealed to “My heart” — i.e., only God knows.

Explaining the Parable
Now we may understand the parable. The king’s servant wanted to free his sons from subservience to the king so that they would be able to serve the king purely out of love. When the king stood above him, however, the servant recognized that the majesty of the king is so great, that the highest level is in fact to be the king’s servant. That is why God rebuked Yaakov when he summoned his sons without Him. God was questioning Yaakov  Do you want the redemption to be achieved only through your own efforts? Do you want it to be exclusively based on the quality of love for God?

Complete adherence to God’s will, however, could only take place after the Torah was given at Sinai. Thus the Midrash concludes with God’s rejoinder to Yaakov  “This matter is not for you.” True subservience to God will only be possible after the revelation of the Torah and its mitzvot.

When the faithful servant saw the king in all his majesty standing over him, he backtracked from his original plan of freeing his sons. Similarly, after God revealed Himself, Yaakov recognized God’s infinitely exalted nature. He realized that, even in the End of Days, the true goal is to combine love with submission and awe. Therefore, Yaakov abandoned his plan to reveal the level of pure love of God that the Jewish people need to attain in the End of Days. Instead, Yaakov admonished his sons to honor and fear God, just as he and his fathers had done.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 273-280 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

The Shamrak Report: Remove anti-Zionist Legal Stooges and more..

From Israel National News
"The Supreme Court derives its authority from the Knesset, not the reverse."
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) has sent a letter to the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Esther Hayut, in advance of the Court s hearing, due to commence today, of petitions against the Nationality Law. In his letter, Levin warns against judicial interference with basic legislation that he says would be invalid. The Knesset is the legislative body & the Supreme Court derives its authority from the Knesset and not the reverse, he writes.

The very fact that a hearing is taking place in the Supreme Court on matters of basic laws is a contravention of the most basic democratic principles of the sovereign power of the people and the separation between powers, he adds.

Levin went further and informed Hayut that the Knesset would not accept the Court s intervention on the matter. Any decision reached by the Court that constitutes intervention in the workings of the Knesset will lack all authority and all validity. This is an attempt to impose the worldview of the Supreme Court Justices as if they were the ones running the country.

The Attorney-General, Avichai Mandelblit, has already expressed a strong opinion against the Supreme Court's intervention on the Nationality Law...

Mandelblit has also noted that, The Nationality Law enshrines the basic components of the national identity of the State of Israel in law, which constitutes a very significant constitutional message. It gives a legal interpretation of the vision of the State as the nation-state of the Jewish People, without detracting from the individual rights held by each and every person in the State of Israel, regardless of their religion or national origin.

(Why does it take so long to establish basic rule of law and democracy in Israel? People and their elected representatives are creating future of Israel and Jewish nation - not traitorous judges!)

Israelis do not Trust High Court Judges
Only 6.1% of Israelis have full confidence in the judges of the High Court of Justice in Israel. Almost half of the public, 42.6%, say that their level of confidence in the High Court is low or non-existent. The survey also shows that 49.2% of Israelis oppose High Court decisions banning the demolition of the homes of terrorists who murdered IDF soldiers, a ruling which is contrary to the position of the state and the Ministry of Defense. Regarding the question of the High Court ruling in favor of Member of Knesset Hiba Yazbek from the Arab Balad party in the 2020 elections, 50.3% of respondents answered that they opposed the decision. Yazbek had successfully appealed her disqualification from serving in the Knesset due to her support for armed struggle against Israel. Only 10.1% supported the ruling.

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
Jews are nation and religion combined in a people. Any Jew, who left Judaism, is able to return at any time, even at the moment of the death - but not later! Christian proselytizers have been trying to do with the words what the Holy Inquisition and Nazis could not do by force - destruction of Jewish people by attacking Jewish souls, just to prove validity of the Christianity, as a successor of Judaism! My message to all those fake Christian friends of Israel - find something useful to do and leave as alone!

Rockets Fired from Gaza
Two rockets were fired from Gaza towards southern Israel and were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Last month, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Ashkelon area. The rocket hit a factory and caused damage. (When will it be enough? Do we really have to wait till Jews are killed?)

Israeli Government Discriminates Against Jews!
The current government discriminates between Jewish and non-Jewish settlement across the country. Almost 200,000 illegal Arab housing units authorized in last two years. In 2020, for instance, 60,000 illegal housing units had their status regularized; in 2019, the number was double that, at 120,000 housing units. All these housing units are located in Arab towns and villages. (It is time for Netanyahu to step down and retire! Because of him people are leaving Likud!)

Time to Deal with Hezbollah
The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah Nasrallah said that his group now has twice as many precision-guided missiles as it had a year ago saying that Israel's efforts to prevent it from acquiring them has failed.

US Democrats Hide Aid to Enemies of Israel
Congress passed a $2.3 trillion piece of coronavirus relief legislation that spanned over 5,500 pages and it includes $250 million for Palestinians! The act also creates a so-called Joint Investment for Peace Initiative that would fund projects that contribute to the development of the Palestinian private sector economy in Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. Under the legislation, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and any Palestinian terror groups, such as Hamas, cannot receive earmarked funds. (Who else would benefit from this aid if not the PA, PLO and Hamas?)

Israel and UAE Working to Terminate UNRWA
Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are working together to terminate UNRWA, the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees . UNRWA has relied on oil-rich Gulf kingdoms after the US, which was previously UNRWA's largest contributor, cut a full $300 million in funding to the agency in 2018. The UAE has not transferred any funds yet this year.

Quote of the Week:
"Scapegoating, antisemitism and isolating Israel have led to destructive behaviour that has held the world back for far too long. I urge the world, as it goes forward, to take the time to understand Israel s perspective and to ask yourself if you would make the compromises that Israel has been asked to make if you were in the prime minister's shoes." - Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser.
The land that is called Palestine is Jewish land. Time to end its occupation by the enemies and re-unite it again !

Who are Fake Palestinians?
Extracts from: Bosnia - Motherland of "Palestinians" by Manfred R. Lehmann and Palestinians Peoplehood Based on a Big Lie by Eli E. Hertz.

Arab Palestinian nationality (which was officially forged in 1964) is an entity defined by its opposition to Zionism (the Jewish national liberation movement) and not by its national aspirations.

Like a mantra, Arabs repeatedly claim that the Palestinians are a native people of Israel. The concept of a Stateless Palestinian people is not based on fact. It is a fabrication! The following is a chronology of an ethnic make up of so-called Palestinians and their origin.

During the Ottoman Empire.
Until the Jews began returning to the Land of Israel in increasing numbers from the late 19th century, the area called Palestine was a God-forsaken backwash that was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.

1880-84 Turkish government settles Muslim Circassians refugees in the Golan to ward off Bedouin robbers. Other settlers in the area include Sudanese, Algerians, Kurds...

In 1878, an Ottoman law granted lands in Palestine to the Moslem refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Carmel region, in the Galilee and in the Plain of Sharon and in Caesarea. The refugees were further attracted by l2-year tax exemptions and exemption from military service.

The same colonization policy was also directed toward Moslem refugees from Russia - particularly from the Crimea and the Caucasus. They were Circassians and Turkmenians - leading to their settling in Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights. Refugees from Algeria and Egypt were also settled in Jaffa, Gaza, Jericho and the Golan.

British Mandate: 1917-1947
1923 Having discovered the Golan lacks oil but that the Mosul area in northern Syria is rich in oil, the British cede the Golan to France in exchange for Mosul. At the same time the Trans-Jordan was ceded from the Palestinian mandate as well and Egypt was given control of Sinai, British and France gain control of Suetz Canal. (82% of Jewish land was sacrificed in the process!)

In 1934 alone, 30,000 Syrian Arabs from the Hauran moved across the northern frontier into Mandate Palestine, attracted by work in and around the newly built British port and the construction of other infrastructure projects. They even dubbed Haifa Um el-Amal ( the city of work ).

The Ottoman Turks census (1882) recorded only 141,000 Muslims in the Palestine. The British census in 1922 reported 650,000 Muslims.

"How do we select a good leader for Israel?"

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

The Talmud teaches (Berachot 25a), “Three require mercy: a good king, a good year, and a good dream. A good king, as it says, ‘Like watercourses is the king’s heart in the L-rd’s hand; He directs it wherever He wishes’ (Proverbs 21:1).” Just as a farmer controls water flow, irrigating whichever field he wishes, so too, a king’s heart is at G-d’s disposal to direct however He wishes. It follows that we must beseech G-d to show mercy and turn the hearts of our leaders in the right direction, and all the more so, to send His people good leaders who will lead them in the right direction.

Our sages declared that “we do not appoint a leader over the community without the community’s prior approval.” In other words, the community must select its leaders. The question is, therefore, asked: What makes a good leader, and what must his characteristics be? Rav Kook explains:
“There are three virtues associated with a good leader. The first is holiness -- possession of a pristine soul and a pure heart. This trait is associated with the idealistic person who acts exclusively on behalf of the public good, without any vested interest. The second is that he must be very wise so that he can lead his community sagaciously. The third is that he must be a man of formidable appearance, with an eloquent tongue that captures the heart of the masses. In other words, he must be popular. Our priorities must be as follows: First comes the purity of heart, then wisdom, and only then popularity. Yet when the order is reversed and popularity takes precedence over the essence, purity of heart, then that leadership goes awry and the nation suffers.” (Ein Aya, Berachot, page 262)

Let us all beseech G-d that we should merit to select the best leadership to lead the Jewish People in the good land, along the twisted, winding road leading up to Complete Redemption.

Looking forward to complete redemption,
With Love of Israel,
Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, December 28, 2020

“He Crossed His Hands”

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

When Yaakov blessed his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, it says, "Yisrael extended his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and his left hand on Menashe’s head. He crossed his hands, because Menashe was the firstborn.” (Bereisheet 48:14) An obvious question arises here. Since by crossing his hands Yaakov negated the natural order, it should have said, “He crossed his hands, even though Menashe was the firstborn.”

Furthermore, the Netziv comments that it would have been more appropriate for Yaakov to switch the way the two lads stood, to place Ephraim opposite his right hand, and Menashe on his left side. Why did he leave them in position, and cross his hands instead?

The Netziv explains that Yaakov did not intend to negate Menashe’s status entirely, since he was the firstborn. Rather, Menashe’s primacy is expressed mainly in the material realm, whereas Ephraim excelled in the spiritual and Torah realm. Therefore, in the arrangement of the camps in the desert, which was patterned after the arrangement of the heavenly chariot, Ephraim came before Menashe, since he leads in the spiritual realm.

The hand serves the head, and belongs to the spiritual, lofty, aspect of man. In contrast, the foot serves the body, and acts unconsciously, instinctively. Therefore, Chazal say, “A son is the leg of his father.” The father’s qualities are expressed in the son as the father’s leg, i.e., in a natural manner without conscious thought.

Yaakov did not want to change the way in which the two lads stood, since then it would seem that Menashe's status of firstborn was entirely revoked. Instead, he stood them so that Menashe was opposite Yaakov’s right leg, and Ephraim was opposite the left leg, since this is their standing in the natural realm. Menashe has the primacy in the physical world, corresponding to the foot, whereas Ephraim was opposite Yaakov’s right hand, since he has the primacy in the spiritual world. Therefore Yaakov crossed his hands, placing his right hand on Ephraim's head and his left hand on Menashe’s, instead of switching the way they stood – “because Menashe is the firstborn.”

With this he also explains the change in the order of the census in the desert. In the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar, Ephraim appears first, whereas at the end of Bamidbar, in the second count, Menashe is first. This is because in the desert Israel lived in a miraculous fashion, and there Ephraim leads. However, as they are about to enter the Land of Israel, the manner of Divine guidance changed; the miracles ceased, and everything occurred in a natural manner. There, Menashe leads.

The Netziv correctly points out a slight variation in Parshat Bamidbar (2:18-20): “The banner of the camp of Ephraim according to their legions shall be to the west ... Upon him is the tribe of Menashe.” On the other hand, regarding the other tribes it says, “Those encamping near him are...” The latter phrase has the connotation of a little one who is dependent on the great one, so that the entire surrounding camp leans on him, on the center. On the other hand, the expression, “Upon him,” has the opposite connotation, that the second one is above, and looks after the little ones. Thus, "Upon him is the tribe of Menashe," means that Menashe is the greater one and worries about the needs of the little one, Ephraim. Even though Ephraim is the head of the camp, still, in regards to all that pertains to the natural course, Menashe is the leader, and he takes care of Ephraim.

King David – Almost Like a Forefather

by HaRav Yossef Carmel
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda Dayanut

In Parashat Vayechi, we learn about Yaakov’s "spiritual will" – prophecies and instructions to his sons. In the haftara, we see a similar farewell address of King David to his son Shlomo. We will try to uncover part of this deep connection between the parasha and its haftara.

A famous midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereisheet 41) connects David Hamelech to Adam. Hashem showed Adam the spiritual greats of each generation. When it came to David’s generation, he saw in David a great soul who had three hours allotted to his life. Adam, who was troubled with the world missing out on David, "donated" 70 years of his life so that David could live long enough to contribute significantly.

The Kedushat Levi (on our parasha) connects David’s life to the forefathers in the following manner. Avraham was "supposed to" live 180 years, as Yitzchak did. The five years that he did not live (he died at 175) were donated to David. While Yitzchak lived his full allotment, Yaakov lived only 147, and not the 175 that he should have lived, like his grandfather Avraham. Thus, he gave 28 years. Yosef was allotted 147 years like his father, but lived only 110, and thus he gave 37 years. 5 + 28 + 37 equals the 70 years that David lived.

We will now look at another connection between David and the forefathers. David asked Hashem why in davening we refer to Hashem as the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and not "the G-d of David." Hashem answered that the forefathers were tested and David was not tested, to which David responded that he wanted to be tested to deserve the distinction (Sanhedrin 107a). David realized he was in a bind. If he would pass the test, he would have ka’v’yachol beaten Hashem. If he would fail the test, he could end losing much more than he reckoned for. At the end, the test had to do with the episode with Bat Sheva, and it ended in failure. While he could have lost his special status, he maintained most of it by employing teshuva in a complete manner.

At first glance, David did not merit getting what he wanted – mention in Shemoneh Esrei of the "G-d of David." However, further investigation reveals that Shemoneh Esrei is introduced with the pasuk, "Hashem, open my mouth so that my mouth will speak Your praises" (Tehillim 51:17), which David himself wrote. In fact, he composed the pasuk as part of the mizmor that deals with his repentance from the sin involving Bat Sheva (ibid.:2). David is also the only other person from Tanach whose name is mentioned in Shemoneh Esrei ("prepare the throne of David in the midst of Jerusalem" and "the blossoming of your servant David …"

We see, then, that on many levels there are connections between the characters in the parasha (primarily, Yaakov) and those from the haftara (David). May we merit having leaders in our generation who can be considered students of the forefathers and David.