Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Tamid and the Wood

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Our parsha opens with the korban tamid, which has a special mitzvah: "The priest shall kindle wood upon it every morning." (Vayikra 6:5)

The Gemara (Yoma 26b) derives from the pesukim that the morning tamid requires two blocks of wood in the hands of one kohen, whereas the evening tamid requires two blocks of wood in the hands of two kohanim. The Gemara does not explain, though, the distinction between the morning tamid and that of the evening.

There is another difference between the two temidim. In Yechezkel it says: "You shall prepare a sheep ... as a daily burnt-offering for Hashem; you shall make it every morning." (46:13) Radak notes that the evening tamid is not mentioned there, and writes that in the future the tamid will only be offered in the morning and not in the evening.

I heard from Rav Shlomo Fisher shlita a wonderful explanation of this.

Chazal disclosed that the morning offering comes to remind the merit of akeidat Yitzchak. It says in the Mishna Tamid (ch. 4): "They would not tie the lamb, but rather bind [its fore and back legs]," and the Gemara explains, "like the binding of Yitzchak, son of Avraham." It further says in Parshat Tzav, "he shall prepare the burnt-offering upon it, and burn the fats of the peace-offering on it." This teaches that the morning tamid precedes all the other sacrifices; i.e., all of the sacrifices should follow the morning tamid, in order to mention the merit of Yitzchak in all of them.

The evening tamid, on the other hand, comes to atone for the sin of the golden calf. Therefore, its time is from six hours (midday) and on, just as it says about the golden calf, "The people saw that Moshe delayed (boshesh) in coming," (Shemot 32:34) as Chazal comment: "boshesh – ba shesh," the sixth hour came and Moshe did not arrive. In every generation there is something of the sin of the egel, as Chazal explain the verse: "On the day of My reckoning, I will reckon." (Shemot 32:34) Thus, in the future, the sin of the golden calf will be atoned for, and there will no longer be a need for the evening tamid.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (102a) says that until the time of Yerovam, Bnei Yisrael "nursed" from one calf, and from Yerovam's time and on they "nursed" from two or three calves. Rashi explains that at first they were punished for the sin of one calf, and from Yerovam and on they were punished for three calves, i.e., also for the two that Yerovam made.

Yerovam's calves are something not understandable, one of G-d's secrets. When Rechavam King of Yehuda came to fight against Yerovam, and to reunite the kingdom, the prophet Shemaya says to him: "Thus says Hashem: "Do not go up and do not battle your brethren Bnei Yisrael. Return each man to his house, for this matter was from Me." (Melachim I 12: 24) Immediately afterwards, Yerovam makes the two golden calves. This was revealed and known to G-d, and even so He told Rechavam that he should not go fight against Yerovam. This must also have been included in, "this matter was from Me," and apparently this was part of the punishment of the golden calf.

Based on this, Rav Fisher explained why the morning tamid was offered with two blocks of wood in the hand of one priest, whereas the evening tamid was offered with two blocks in the hands of two priests. The division of the kingdom is alluded to by the two pieces of wood, as it says in Yechezkel: "Take for yourself one piece of wood and write upon it, 'for Judah' ... and take one piece of wood and write upon it, 'For Joseph' ... Then bring them close to yourself, one to the other ... and they will become united in your hands." (37:16-17) Thus, for the morning tamid, which indicates the perfected world of the future, one priest unites the two pieces of wood. The evening tamid, on the other hand – which comes to atone for the sin of the golden calf – alludes to the imperfect state, that the two pieces of wood are separate, and therefore two priests bring the two pieces of wood.

In the future, the sin of the golden calf will be rectified, and unity will return to Am Yisrael. No longer will the evening tamid be offered, but only the morning one, in which the two blocks of wood will be unified in the hands of one kohen. Yechezkel's prophecy about the unity of the tribes will be fulfilled.

Special Rules Regarding the Kohanim

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The Torah emphasizes in this week’s parsha a basic truism regarding religious leadership. Since there are no perfect people in the world and all humans commit some wrong at one time or another in one’s lifetime - naturally, the magnitude of that wrong will vary by its very nature and by the position and public perception of the individual involved - and this feature can be very disheartening to the religious purist who seeks only perfection from others, the Torah comes to teach us special rules regarding the kohanim - the priests of Israel who minister, so to speak, between God and humans. The kohen was not a free agent to improvise the service, to make it more currently popular or meaningful. The service in the Temple was what it was and was not to be tampered with or improved upon. The kohen was held to a standard of behavior and a discipline of participation in the Temple service. He was meant to be holy but there were provisions made for his own sin offerings as the occasion warranted. Apparently holiness is still not perfection. The kohen could fulfill his duties only by following the instructions exactly as proscribed in the Torah itself. This was not meant to stifle creativity or originality of the individual. It was meant however to standardize the Temple service, to make certain that everyone who participated in the services there was treated equally and that the kohanim did not discriminate, play favorites or otherwise indicate behavior not in keeping with their station and service requirements.

The kohanim went through an installation ceremony described in this week’s parsha. There were many lessons to be learned before one actually took up the duties of being a kohen. One of the lessons was to discipline one’s self in performing the service in the Temple. In next week’s parsha we will read of the tragedy that befell the oldest two sons of Aharon when they disregarded this iron rule of Temple service discipline and improvised their own "strange fire" into the service. Apparently the week’s training that preceded the actual opening of the Mishkan for sacrifices and services was insufficient in their case to impress upon them the severity of deviating from God’s instructions, no matter how noble and innovative they thought this deviation might be. Over the long history of the Jewish people many have come to improve and be overly innovative, to tamper with God’s instructions and "improve" the services of worship. None of these innovations has been able to stand the test of time and vicissitudes. Prayer services, houses of worship and study must conform to a tradition of discipline and continuity. This is the key to Jewish survival and longevity. Though neither Mishkan nor Temple is present currently in our world, the synagogue, its rituals, orders and services, have served as the substitute Temple for Jews for almost two millennia. Those who administer and care for the synagogue are today’s kohanim, so to speak. All of us would do well to heed the clear messages of this week’s parsha.

The Olah Offering and Prophecy

by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

The ultimate objective of the Temple service is hashra'at Shechinah, bringing the Divine Presence into our physical world. This goal is clearly connected to the unique phenomena of divine inspiration and prophecy. God's Presence in the Temple parallels on the national level the dwelling of prophecy in the mind of the prophet.

In particular, the Olah offering, completely burnt on the altar, corresponds to the highest level of communication between us and God, a sublime level in which the material world is of no consequence. Just as the altar fire utterly consumed the physical aspect of the offering, so too, this type of spiritual encounter completely transcends our physical existence. By examining the Olah service, we can gain insight into the prophetic experience.

Beyond the Physical Realm
The daily Tamid offering was completely consumed by fire on the altar during the night. What was done with the ashes? The following day, a kohen placed one shovelful of ashes next to the altar. To dispose of the rest, he changed into less important clothes and transported the ashes to a ritually clean spot outside the camp.

Thus, we see that the Olah service involved three different locations, with descending sanctity:
The fire on top of the altar.
Next to the altar, where a shovelful of ashes was placed.
A ritually clean place outside the camp for the remaining ashes.

Three Stages
The prophetic experience is a blaze of sacred flames inside the human soul, a divine interaction that transcends ordinary life. This extraordinary event corresponds to the first stage, the nighttime burning of the offering in the fire of the holy altar.

However, the prophet wants to extend the impact of this lofty experience so that it can make its mark on his character traits and inner life. This effort corresponds to the placement of some of the ashes, transformed by the altar's flames, next to the altar. This is a secondary level of holiness, analogous to those aspects of life that are close to the holy itself, where impressions of the sacred vision may be stored in a pure state.

The lowest expression of the prophetic vision is in its public revelation. Informing the people of the content of God's message, and thereby infusing life and human morality with divine light — this takes place at a more peripheral level. Outside the inner camp, bordering on the domain of secular life, the kohen publicly brings out the remaining ashes. Even this area, however, must be ritually pure, so that the penetrating influence of the holy service can make its impact. For the sake of his public message, the kohen-prophet needs to descend somewhat from his former state of holiness, and change into lesser clothes. In the metaphoric language of the Sages, "The clothes worn by a servant while cooking for his master should not be used when serving his master wine" (Shabbat 114a).

The Constant Altar Fire
The Torah concludes its description of the Olah service by warning that the altar fire should be kept burning continuously: "The kohen will kindle wood on it each morning" (Lev. 6:5). Why mention this now?

Precisely at this juncture, after the kohen-prophet has left the inner nucleus of holiness in order to attend to life’s temporal affairs, he must be aware of the constant fire on the altar. Despite his involvement with the practical and mundane aspects of life, the holy fire continues to burn inside the heart. This is the unique characteristic of the altar fire: from afar, it can warm and uplift every soul of the Jewish people. This sacred fire is a powerful, holy love that cannot be extinguished, as it says, "Mighty waters cannot extinguish the love; neither can rivers wash it away" (Song of Songs 8:7).

Yet, it is not enough for the holy fire to burn only in the inner depths of the heart. How can we ensure that its flames reach all aspects of life, and survive the "mighty waters" of mundane life?

The Torah's concluding instructions present the solution to this problem: "The kohen will kindle wood on it each morning." What is the purpose of this daily arrangement of kindling wood? New logs of wood nourish the altar's holy flames. We find a similar expression of daily spiritual replenishment in Isaiah 50:4: "Each morning He awakens my ear to hear according to the teachings." Just as renewal of the altar's hearth each day revives the holy fire, so too, daily contemplation of God’s wonders and renewed study of His Torah rejuvenates the soul. This renewal energizes the soul, giving strength for new deeds and aspirations, and awakening a new spirit of life from the soul's inner fire.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 182-184. Adapted from Olat Re'iyah vol. I, pp. 122-124.)

The Secret of Saviors

by HaRav Yossef Carmel
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda Dayanut

Chazal have taught us in several interesting ways how the story of the warrior/judge, Gidon, is parallel to the story of the seder.

The navi (Shoftim 6:2-12) tells us that the Midianites were oppressively dominating Israel, who called out to Hashem for help. Gidon was, at the time his involvement began, dealing with the wheat in the field, when an angel appeared to him and called to him, "Hashem is with you, man of valor." Gidon replied: "Hashem is with us?! Why did all of these events happen to us? Where are all of His miracles that our fathers told us about, when they told us that Hashem took us out of Egypt, but now He has forsaken us and given us over to the hands of Midian?" The angel responded: "Go with this strength and save Israel from the hands of Midian, for I have sent you."

It is possible to look at Gidon’s words as chutzpa toward Hashem. However, Rashi does not look at it that way. He explains that it was Pesach, and Gidon said: "Last night, my father read for me the Hallel and I heard him say, ‘When Israel left Egypt …’ but now we are forsaken. If our forefathers were righteous, save us in their merit. If they were wicked, save us just as You did miracles for them [without merit]." Gidon’s reasoning changes the apparent complaints into a prayer to Hashem that He should save Israel. The midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Shoftim 62) explains: "Since he spoke up in defense of Israel, Hashem decided to reveal Himself to Gidon and tell him that he should take this strength of defending Israel and save Israel with the merit of that trait."

Chazal found another element of the story that is related to Pesach. Gidon snuck up on the enemy camp to hear what people were saying, as Hashem had suggested. He heard one telling of his dream, wherein a loaf of barley bread was rolling through the camp of Midian and overturning it (Shoftim 7:13). The midrash says, on one hand, that Bnei Yisrael were bereft of righteous people. On the other hand, this loaf was referring to the mitzva of omer, which was a meal-offering of barley brought on the second day of Pesach. This mitzva had stood up as merit for the people. Note that barley is usually the food of animals, not people. Rav Kook explained that the korban omer represents the simplicity and natural belief that Bnei Yisrael possessed as ‘believers the sons of believers.’

The two midrashim are two sides of the same coin. Even when there are no righteous people, one still has to defend Israel. Only one who can do this has the characteristics to be their savior.

Let us internalize this idea on the night of the seder. The path to liberation runs through the ability to find that which is good and speak up on behalf of Hashem’s dear children.

The Haredi Disconnect

by Victor Rosenthal

About 12% of Israel’s population are Haredim, often referred to as “ultra-orthodox,” an expression which they strongly dislike. The Haredi population is growing rapidly with a birthrate of about 7 children per woman, and if this growth rate continues, Haredim will be 32% of the population in 2065 (this estimate, however, is high because it does not take into account “dropouts” from the Haredi lifestyle). Their religious ideology varies, including Chasidim, Sefaradim, and Misnagdim (sometimes also inaccurately called “Lithuanians”). Among these major groupings there are numerous groups and sects, with strong differences in their beliefs, politics, and ways of life. It would be a mistake to generalize about “those guys in the black hats.”

On the other hand, some things are true in general, and they are not good things for the future of the state of Israel. Haredi schools mostly teach secular subjects like English, the sciences, and mathematics very poorly or not at all. The native language of many Haredi communities is Yiddish, not Hebrew. Most Haredi young men do not serve in the military, and prefer to study Torah in yeshivot than to work at a secular job. These facts make the expected increase in the percentage of the population that is Haredi extremely problematic for the future economy of the state.

These are closed communities, which sometime allow social pathologies like sexual abuse to continue, especially when the perpetrator is an important person in the community. The external society and its police, social workers, and others are only (if ever) invited to intervene in truly horrific situations.

There is a current of contempt for the (perceived as secular) state and its laws in Haredi society. This is encouraged by the Haredi parties in the Knesset, who have taken advantage of their ability to hold the balance of power between the Right and the Left. Their critical position in most recent governments makes it possible for them to demand concessions that they would not otherwise get, like money for their schools and exemption from national requirements to prepare students for 21st century life, and avoidance of military or non-military national service. The Haredi parties have ensured that it is possible for a non-working “scholar” to have 10 children and be supported to a great extent by government child care allowances (often the women work too).

I think many Haredim feel that they can ignore the rules and laws of the state because they are loyal to a higher law. Some believe that Torah study is a more efficacious way to defend the Jewish people from the various threats facing it than the IDF and the police. And they think that congregating in large groups for prayer or other observances is a better response to the Coronavirus than following the recommendations for social distancing that come from the apikorsim (secularly educated, Jewishly ignorant Hellenists) in the government.

This is the kind of reasoning that led the Hungarian Belzer Rebbe to tell his flock that they didn’t need to worry about the Nazis, that Hashem would take care of them. He was tragically wrong. My personal view is that Hashem sometimes does miracles for the Jewish people, but he uses normal physics and biology to do them, and he expects the Jewish people to do their part as well. So in 1967 Hashem made use of the IAF, the military planners who developed the attack on our enemies’ air forces, and the brave pilots who carried it out, to save the Jews of Israel from another Holocaust. Of course I don’t understand Hashem’s intentions today, but perhaps he is working through our Ministry of Health, and yes, even our flawed Prime Minister, to save us from the virus (after all, the Minister of Health is a Gerer Chassid).

Many Haredim see the state as anti-Jewish, no different from any of the diaspora regimes under which they mostly suffered and rarely thrived. The fact that the rulers here happen to be Jews doesn’t change the adversarial nature of the relationship. To them, Netanyahu is indistinguishable from the Tsar. Like the Arabs, the Haredim have their well-developed narratives through which they perceive reality.

Criticism of Haredim is often muted because of a feeling that it is anti-Jewish (of course, in some parts of the Israeli political spectrum that is considered a plus). The Haredim themselves often call critics “antisemites” or even “Nazis.” Most Israelis take a live and let live attitude, which is only upset when Haredi extremists like the so-called “Jerusalem faction” riot and block roads in support of someone jailed for refusing to register for the draft and receive his exemption as a Haredi Yeshiva student.

Recently, however, the extremists – and I have no idea of how representative they are of the wider Haredi culture, just as I don’t know how many Arab citizens of Israel actually agree with the anti-Zionism of their elected MKs – have taken their attitude more than a little too far. Their disregard for the rules established to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus are endangering them, their communities, and everyone else in the country.

In the beginning, it was said that because of their isolation, they didn’t understand the dangers. But it is no longer possible to believe that they don’t know. PM Netanyahu met with Haredi leaders last week to try to convince them to close schools and synagogues. Some did, and some didn’t. Last night there was a funeral of a “Jerusalem Faction” rabbi in Bnai Brak, at which hundreds of mourners crowded the streets. Police, who now have the ability to levy fines on violators of the rule that no more than 10 people may congregate in one place, were present but did not issue any fines. But the authorities are considering quarantining whole cities, like Bnai Brak and Beit Shemesh, as well as particular neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Will fear of Coronavirus do what years of negotiations and attempts at compromise have not, and make the Haredim cooperate with the state? I doubt it, not for those who believe that the pandemic is caused by women wearing wigs made from non-Jewish hair.

No, I think the way to get them to follow the social distancing rules will be widespread fines and arrests for violators. If they think the State of Israel is the Russian Empire of the 19th century, then we’ll just have to start acting like it.

The larger task of integrating all the Haredi communities into wider Israeli society seems to me impossible. There are exceptions, but generally Haredi attitudes toward male-female interactions are not compatible with the rest of the country, even with the religious-but-not-Haredi community.

There is an Israeli TV series about a dystopian future in which Haredim have established an autonomous area in Jerusalem, a “separation” not unlike what has been considered for the Palestinian areas. It’s horrifying, but I am certain there are those among the Haredim who would welcome it. And maybe it will come to pass.

Opportunities in Days of Seclusion

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

These days when lifestyles are changing against our will, it is an opportunity to examine our habits and arrange life properly according to Torah principles * On these Sabbaths, when we are not praying in public, and are at home for long periods of time, it is proper to be more careful than usual to dedicate time to Torah study * For those who are unemployed these days, it is appropriate to study Torah even during weekdays, thus, utilize their time and even strengthen their spirit * There is no justification for canceling women going to the mikveh these days, as long as preparations are done at home – but cancelling minyans is justified and even preferable

The days of seclusion forced upon us are an opportunity for each one of us to clarify for ourselves, the truths we have become accustomed to by rote. Now that lifestyle is changing, habits are inadequate; we must return to the foundations of Torah and mitzvot, and organize and arrange life in accordance with them. At the same time, we can dispense of unnecessary and bad habits, and adopt better ones. For example, evaluating the state of our children and their studies, seeing they are praying and studying properly, supplementing school work, and finding new learning challenges that will inspire them. As a result, when the days of seclusion are over, we will be able to continue growing wonderfully. Shabbat is one of the important foundations we have an opportunity to strengthen.

Preparations for Shabbat
It is a mitzvah to prepare on Friday for Shabbat, so that we can properly honor and take delight in it (oneg Shabbat), as it is written: “But on the sixth day, they prepare what they have brought in” [Shemot 16:5] (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 2:2).

It is a mitzvah to honor Shabbat, as it is written: “Call Shabbat ‘delight,’ the Lord’s holy [day] ‘honored’” (Yeshayahu 58:13). Part of honoring Shabbat is making sure that one does not dress on Shabbat as he would during the week (Shabbat 113a). Some authorities write in the name of Arizal that it is best not to wear anything on Shabbat that one has worn during the week. One who is spending Shabbat alone, and all the more so when in the intimacy of family, should still dress up, no less than any other Shabbat, because the clothes are not meant to honor the people who see them, but to honor Shabbat (Peninei Halakha, ibid., 2:4).

One should try to eat lunch on Friday before midday, and when necessary, up until three hours before Shabbat, in order to arrive at the Shabbat evening meal with an appetite. At the same time, we can also discard the habit of eating cakes or other tasty foods before Shabbat enters, thus causing harm to the honor of Shabbat, and the oneg of the meals. Even if it is helps children to concentrate on prayer and does not impair the Shabbat meal, for adults it is a negative and harmful practice.

Festive Meals and Prayers on these Shabbatot
On these Shabbatot more than others, it is appropriate to delight in Shabbat with delicious meals, however, without over-eating. It is also fitting to embellish Shabbat by singing zemirot (Shabbat songs), to complement tunes we have missed from tefilah b’tzibbur (public prayers).

This Shabbat, it would be good for all members of the household who are able to pray together, and in the Shacharit prayer, to read the Parshat HaShavua (weekly Torah portion) together from a Chumash (Pentateuch).

Torah Study on Shabbat
It is a mitzvah to study a great deal of Torah on Shabbat. Our Sages stated: “Shabbat and Yom Tov were given solely to study Torah on them” (Yerushalmi Shabbat 15c). In practice, our Sages said that half of our waking hours on Shabbat should be devoted to Torah and prayer. Practically speaking, half of our waking hours comes to approximately nine hours, and precisely on this Shabbat when we are confined to our homes, we should be more meticulous about this, for the virtue of Torah from which life and blessing stems, exceeds all the mitzvoth and is the deepest cure for all ills. May it be God’s will that out of the strengthening of Torah study this Shabbat, individually and in the intimacy of family, we will be able afterwards to increase Torah study on all coming Shabbatot, for good and long years.

Torah Study for the Unemployed during the Seclusion
For all the unemployed, it is great and important mitzvah to set a meaningful amount of time to Torah study during the days of seclusion. Our Sages said that the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is the equivalent of all the commandments (Pe’ah 1:1), and it is a mitzvah for all Jews to learn Torah day and night, as it is written: “Keep this book of Torah always on your lips; meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1: 8). Also, anyone able to engage in the study of the Torah but fails to do so, has despised the word of God (Sanhedrin 99a). However, during the weekdays, when busy making a livelihood, it is impossible to learn a great deal, nevertheless, one is obligated to set times for Torah day and night (Rambam, ibid. 1: 8; 3: 13). However, on days when one is free from work, such as Shabbatot and holidays, or when one is on pension leave, the mitzvah of Talmud Torah returns in full force. This is especially important for the unemployed, whose mental state is liable to deteriorate, and if they utilize these days to grow in the ‘Torah of Life’ instead of being depressed, their lives will be enhanced, and in the process, they will gain strength in their jobs, for the glory of the Nation and the Land. Even teenagers need to take advantage of the considerable amount of time now available for significant learning.

On the Yeshiva Har Bracha website, there is a study program in ‘Peninei Halakha’ with exams, which can help students.

Incidentally, I was asked by men who are first-born, and concerned they will not be able to participate in a siyyum of a tractate on Erev Pesach, and are unable to finish one on their own. They asked if it was possible to finish a book of ‘Peninei Halakha’ and make a siyyum on it, and I replied that they may do so, since this involves the joy of finishing Torah study (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 13: 5).

Mikveh for Women Should not be Canceled
Q: Is there room in this time of concern about the Corona epidemic to postpone the mikveh of a woman for her purification, because of the fear she will contract the virus while tovelling (immersing) in the mikveh?

A: As a general rule, it is a mitzvah to tovell as soon as possible and not to postpone the tevila, even for a day, because by means of tevila, the mitzvah of ‘simchat ona’ (the joy of marital sexual relations) is fulfilled, which is a great mitzvah from the Torah, and is the concise expression of the mitzvah ‘ve’ahavta l’reicha c’mocha’, (love your neighbor as yourself), of which Rabbi Akiva said, it is a great general rule of the Torah (Peninei Halakha: Simchat Ha’Bayit 1:1).

Women should not be concerned of danger as long as those responsible for public health at the Ministry of Health have not prohibited it. And although it seems there is a certain risk of Corona infection in tovelling in a mikveh, we are not talking about a danger in which such a great mitzvah should be cancelled. Specifically, we encounter dangers throughout our lives, but as long as the chances of them occurring are very low, they are not to be taken into consideration. For instance, we travel by car for outings and visiting friends, although there is a concern that an accident may occur. And we do not obligate each and every person going down stairs to firmly hold on to the railing lest he fall and get injured. And we do not prohibit close relatives from visiting patients in a hospital for fear the visitor will contract one of the diseases.

We do not know enough about the danger of the Corona virus, so when it comes to acts of ‘reshut‘ and ‘chol‘ (permitted and non-binding acts) one may be machmir (act stringently), but when it comes to such a great mitzvah, those responsible for public health, who, according to their current instructions, operate the mikveh’s for women’s tovelling – however, instructing women to complete all preparations at home, and simply tovel in the mikveh – should be relied upon. According to their rules, in this manner, there is no danger for women to tovel in a mikveh.

My wife inquired and checked, and it turned out that in these days in our community of Har Bracha, the number of women who tovelled did not decrease at all. This fact is very gratifying, for it is evidence of the dwelling of the Shechina in the homes of our wonderful, holy families, whose lives are full of love, joy, and peace.

Cancellation of Prayers in a Minyan
Some people asked: If mitzvot should not be cancelled when those responsible for public health do not prohibit it, why on Motzei Shabbat Parshat ‘Ki Tisa’ did I write that the mehadrin (those who embellish the mitzvah) should pray b’yachid (individually) and not in a minyan, and just two days later, I wrote that it is correct for all to do so – even though public health officials did not prohibit it?

There are two main reasons for this: First, the mitzvah of minyan is from Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance), and in times of need, or when it is difficult – one is exempt from praying in a minyan. This is not the case with tevilat nashim (women’s immersion in a mikveh) which is associated with the mitzvah of ‘simchat ona’, a great mitzvah from the Torah, by means of which, couples fulfill the mitzvah of ‘ve’ahavta l’reicha c’mocha’, and is equivalent to all the mitzvot.

Secondly, although the instructions of the public health authorities were that minyans could be held with some caution, nevertheless, in my estimation, since most minyans normally consist of various people, there was room to gauge these rules would be difficult to abide, and therefore I thought it was preferable to cancel minyans.

Thirdly, I feared Chilul Hashem (desecration of God), as I had previously written: “If today, God forbid, because of religious practices the virus is more widespread, it will be a Chilul Hashem, and we will have to undergo a serious reckoning – because God gave us the Torah so its light and guidance would add life and blessing to us, and not the other way around.”

Nevertheless, I did not write that it was forbidden to pray in a minyan, seeing as the value of liberty is important, and as long as it is not prohibited by the instructions of those responsible – it should not be prohibited. However, the gaba’im (sextons) can decide to close the synagogue, not as a halachic obligation, rather, as public representatives.

Men’s Mikvehs
Q: Why do men’s mikvehs have to be closed, whereas women’s mikvehs are open?

A: There is no comparison between them, for two reasons. 1) Tevilat nashim is a great mitzvah from the Torah, whereas the minhag of tevila for men is not even a mitzvah of Divrei Chachamim, but a Minhag Hassidut which the majority of observant Jews do not practice. 2) Women’s mikvehs are much cleaner than men’s mikvehs, both because women need to prepare for going to the mikveh beforehand, and also because in communities where men tovel, the number of men doing so, is one hundred times the number of women, consequently it is obvious that the difficulty in maintaining the rules of hygiene in the men’s mikveh is one hundred times that of the women’s mikveh.

An Additional Question
Q: Our Sages said (Ta’anit 11a): “A man may not have marital relations during years of famine.” This is also codified in the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 240:12). Perhaps these tense times can also be considered ‘years of famine’?

A: The meaning of ‘years of famine’ is a time when people die of starvation, and even those left alive suffer from hunger, and for that reason, one must not separate himself from the public and rejoice. At this time, however, we are only wary of an epidemic that may spread, but Baruch Hashem, the number of dead has not exceed the usual in the past (see, Peninei Halakha: Simchat HaBayit 2:14). Moreover, maintaining one’s health also depends on the joy of life, and therefore, as long as it is not a truly difficult time, it is a mitzvah to fulfill all the mitzvot of joy b’hidur. Let alone someone not working, for whom the joy of the mitzvah these days is greater (see, Peninei Halakha: Simchat HaBayit 2:7).

Friday, March 27, 2020

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

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 10:8)

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

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

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

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

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

Israel: Maybe the Dog Will Talk

Editorial of The New York Sun | March 27, 2020

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

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

“Why not?” demands the cossack.

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

The cossack gapes in amazement.

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

“Yes, if you give me a year.”

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

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

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

“Like what?” his wife says.

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

“And the third?” his wife keens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are living a new Reality

by Rav Binny Freedman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These three mitzvoth actually represent a much larger idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soul-utions to Pain

by Rabbi David Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Short Political History of Israel

by Victor Rosenthal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus Delivers Another Devastating Blow to the Iranian Regime

by Yaakov Lappin

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

Continue to full article ->

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Paradise Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shamrak Report: Fake Unity - Bad Government!

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