Thursday, April 30, 2020

“You shall be holy!

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

The phrase “You shall be holy” (Leviticus 19:2) has two meanings. The first is a commandment to be holy, that is, we are commanded to separate ourselves from sexual immodesty and from other sins (Rashi, Ibid.). In the second meaning, the Torah is stating a necessary reality (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, zatzal, Acharei Mot- Kedoshim). G-d is promising us that we are a holy nation whose purpose it is to be a light unto the nations, as was said to Abraham, “All the nations of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).

Indeed, we must learn and remember and recognize the fact that we are a holy people, a special people, a unique creation in the universe. “I have created this people for Myself that they might tell My praise” (Isaiah 43:21); “Blessed be the L-rd... who has chosen us from among the nations and given us His Torah” (morning Torah blessings).

Today, in this generation, the most important issue that we have to learn and recognize is our uniqueness as a nation whose whole purpose is to bring light to humanity.

“When we reject our superiority and cease to recognize our chosenness, our greatness and excellence which surpass that of all other nations, this constitutes a fundamental error. If we forget our greatness, we are forgetting our essence.... Only when we forget our essence do we remain insignificant and inferior. By forgetting that essence, we forget our greatness” (Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Orot HaTechiyah, 5, page 55).

Our national and political weakness are the result of this forgetfulness, lack of knowledge and lack of recognition of what we are and what our lives signify. We must educate ourselves and others to recognize the identity and unique essence of the Jewish People, chosen from among all nations to bring goodness to the world. We must realize that it is for this that we have been fighting throughout all of history, especially during the last hundred years, including the present war, which is a war between the people of light and the people of darkness.

The knowledge and belief that we are holy and that we possess a special soul that is revealed precisely in Eretz Yisrael -- and it is for this revelation that we are fighting -- will give us the strength and valor to emerge victorious in all the battles confronting us. Looking forward to complete salvation,

"after the death of Aharon's two sons"

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

And God spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon's two sons, when they drew near before God, and they died. (Vayikra 13:26)

MANY PEOPLE ARE disappointed that this Pesach did not result in the final Redemption, meaning Moshiach did not reveal himself, evil was not destroyed, and the Jewish people remain in exile and affected by the ills of the world, such as the coronavirus. It is, basically, business as usual, the same after Pesach as it was before Pesach. Not only this, but there is even talk of improvement, and the easing up of restrictions, seemingly indicating that if the pandemic was meant to be a harbinger of redemption, it failed.

Here is something to keep in mind, though, in the coming weeks. As we learn from the redemption in Egypt, which the final one is supposed to resemble, redemption came in stages. Not everyone “gets it” right away. Moshe Rabbeinu only impressed a few party faithful in the beginning, having to perform increasingly greater miracles to bring holdouts onside over the course of many months. In the end, he only convinced one-fifth of the overall Jewish population of that time that redemption was imminent, losing the other four-fifths—12,000,000 Jews in total!—to the Plague of Darkness.

Judging by how many people have changed for the better as a result of THIS plague, we’ve only just begun.

Furthermore, it should be recalled, that each of the first nine plagues lasted a month. But that month consisted of THREE weeks of warning and only ONE week of plague (the death of the firstborn only lasted one night). That meant that all of the water was blood for only a week, after which it reverted back to water again. This was followed by three weeks of warning about an epidemic of frogs, but no more blood. The Egyptians were probably so relieved to have water back that they never really considered what the same thing looked like with frogs. The same thing after the frogs, and the lice, etc.

Yes, the coronavirus may be subsiding, but was it THE thing, or just the thing on the way to THE thing. Who KNOWS what is coming next, other than God Himself? A financial meltdown that has yet to sink in? A mutation of the first virus? Social anarchy? We don’t have prophets, PERIOD. We don’t know the future, PERIOD. Everything WE think or say about the future is completely projection and mostly speculation. If we had even a penny for every time the experts have been wrong, we’d be multimillionaires by now, at least.

And one more thing to consider, for NOW. Creation is about a lot of things to US, but it is about only ONE thing to GOD: bechirah, that is, free will. Judaism 101 stresses that this world is but a corridor to the next one, which is eternal and perfect. Free will, which we’re supposed to use to pursue the good and reject the evil on a moment-to-moment basis, is the means by which we earn the right to go there.

We are right to focus on all the GOOD things that will happen once Moshiach reveals himself and brings order to the chaos that is modern society. But we should not forget that one of the good things to end at that time will be free will. Moshiach’s arrival is synonymous with the end of ALL evil, and therefore, free will. It’s “forced retirement” for everyone, meaning what you earned until that time will be all you will ever have henceforth to go “shopping” for eternal bliss in the World-to-Come.

Right now, for most of us, those are only words. It seems that most people do not even appreciate the free will they currently have, what it is, and how they should use it. We’d be surprised, more likely SHOCKED, to find out how few free will decisions we make during the course of an average day. We’ll BE shocked how much eternity we could have earned throughout the course of our many lifetimes, but just didn’t.

Fortunately for us, God has our backs. HE values our free will and knows how sad WE will be once we lose it. (According to the Talmud, we’ll even mourn the death of the yetzer hara.) There’s nothing like the loss of something valuable to teach you just how valuable it is—was. There’s no sense giving $100 to a baby who will only drool on it and maybe even eat it. We’re kind of like that when it comes to free will.

So, yes, redemption IS overdue. But not because history hasn’t arrived at its destination. It HAS, and DID some time ago. It’s the “passengers” who refuse to pay the meter and get out. We act as if we still have a way to go when we’re actually right where we NEED to be. And we’d just stop talking on our phones or whatever to be in the moment long enough, we’d notice that too.

So if you happen to be one of the fortunate few who are ALREADY on the same page as God and His plan for impending redemption, be a bit more patient. And, more importantly, make some GREAT free will decisions in the meantime, while you still can, which is NOT for much longer. Others still have to catch up, and that will take a little more time.

But just a LITTLE more, though. For, as the ninth plague in Egypt taught us and the Talmud reiterates, God does not wait forever. The “music” WILL stop at some point. And if that means a LOT of people do not make the final cut, well, let’s just say that the numbers do not intimidate God from doing what He deems necessary.

What does all of this have to do with this week’s parshios?


This week’s parsha starts with the Yom Kippur service, which is to atone for free will abuse. The abuse of free will is the greatest sin about sinning. That’s why the sin changes status based upon a person’s will. If they WILLED to sin, they are called “meizid,” and had to bring one kind of sacrifice, and if they did it accidentally, they are called “shogeg,” and brought a lesser sacrifice, because the net effect on Creation was less.

This is also why Nadav and Avihu were killed the way they were, on the inside while their bodies remained intact. Their sin was executed in the physical world, but it was punishment on the inside one (their souls were “burned” out from within them). Their act may have been correct, but their intentions were not…their wills had been off the mark.

Hence Moshe Rabbeinu told Aharon back in Parashas Shemini that Nadav and Avihu had been greater than the two of them? BUT THEY DIED BY THE HAND OF GOD! HOW IS THAT GREATER? Because they had become so inspired to serve God and connect to Him on such an ultimate level that it drove them to take the risk they did. That part of what they did had inspired Moshe Rabbeinu.

But God had already prescribed how He wanted things to run in the Mishkan. Rules were in place, upon which thousands of years of Jewish history were going to be based. Any “free-styling” in the service of God from that point onward had to be within the guidelines of halachah, not above them, as the act of Nadav and Avihu had been.

Some people believe that a Torah lifestyle limits free will because it limits what you can do and how. But that’s just the yetzer hara talking, which likes to do what it feels like doing more than what our souls want to do. Everyone knows that it takes more free will to live within a system than beyond one, especially when that system goes against the yetzer hara, as Torah is meant to do.

We need to remain cognizant of this, especially at this time in history. The rest of the world is distracted by the pandemic and its attendant problems while furiously trying to come up with a vaccine. It’s all important stuff, but the most important thing for a Jew is to make sure that we use this opportunity to maximize our use of free will.

That means taking a look at your life, especially your “service of God,” and asking yourself, “What can I do better?” or “Where I can do more?” If it’s a sin we’re talking about, then the question would be, “How can I do it less?” Either way it takes free will, and that is the whole reason for Creation…for every moment of conscious life. So we might as well heighten our consciousness of it, and use it the way God intended.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut 5780

Yom Ha’Atzmaut 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

I was born on Shabbat the 13th of Iyar, which coincided in that year with May 14th – two very auspicious dates.

For my 10th birthday on May 14th, 1948 HaShem presented me with a one-time unique gift – Medinat Yisrael. It was the day when the British mandate expired and the Medina was declared.

On Shabbat the 13th of Iyar 5758 (1998) our daughter-in-law Chagit (wife of Brigadier General [ret.] Mordechai Kahana) gave birth to twin boys; so we are exactly 60 years apart – the same day of the week, Shabbat and same day of the month 13th of Iyar.

Where are the twins today?

After years in yeshiva they are now in the IDF. The younger brother is an officer in the parachute corps. and the older is serving in a unit that “doesn’t exit” – if you know what I mean.

The following is an incident in their lives that tells it all, as far as I am concerned.

The younger had just completed a parachute course and we were invited to attend the ceremony when the soldiers receive their parachute pins.

It was, as always, electrifying to see these young, handsome and strong Jewish boys taking their turn in Jewish history to defend HaShem’s chosen people in Eretz Yisrael. After the ceremony, several families came together to eat lunch and I was asked to say a few words.

I told the families of the tragic death of Rabbi Chananya Ben Tradyon (Avoda Zara 18a) at the hands of the now extinct Roman empire. The rabbi was arrested for teaching Torah. He was sentenced to die by fire while wrapped in the Sefer Torah that he was teaching in full view of his students. When the fires began to consume the Rav his students asked, “What do you see at this moment?” He replied, “I see the parchments burning and the letters ascending on high”.

And the question is: We know that in our world what goes up has to come down, so where are these Torah letters today?

Then I told the families: if you ever saw a plane releasing our paratrooper sons and grandsons as they float down to earth, you have witnessed the return of the holy Torah letters to Eretz Yisrael.

The older twin also parachuted, but we were not invited to any ceremony since the unit does not exist so how can it have a ceremony?!

Mazal tov Am Yisrael on the 72nd year of Medinat Yisrael!

Today we celebrate two occasions: one, the birthday of the Medina; two, HaShem’s gift to us to be able to participate in and appreciate the miracle we are living.

There are large numbers of observant Jews who shudder at the thought of saying Hallel on this holy day. They are the ones who cannot utter a prayer for the Medina nor for the soldiers who are protecting them. But we acknowledge the gift that HaShem presents to us every day to love, defend and feel pride for our Medina. Medinat Yisrael which marks the closing of 2000 years of galut as promised to us through our prophets.

But this is only the beginning of the new world order described by the prophets; a world whose spiritual center will be Yerushalayim, as stated by the prophet Yeshayahu (56,6-7):

ובני הנכר הנלוים על ה’ לשרתו ולאהבה את שם ה’ להיות לו לעבדים כל שמר שבת מחללו ומחזיקים בבריתי:

והביאותים אל הר קדשי ושמחתים בבית תפלתי עולתיהם וזבחיהם לרצון על מזבחי כי ביתי בית תפלה יקרא לכל העמים:

And those of the nations who bind themselves to HaShem to minister to Him, to love the name of HaShem, and to be His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to My covenant these I will bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2020 Nachman Kahana

Mourning for Terrorists

In Israel, Memorial Day (yom hazikaron) is the day before Independence Day (yom ha’atzmaut). It makes sense: you can’t think about the miracle of our Jewish state without remembering the 23,816 soldiers, police, and other security people who lost their lives so we could get it and keep it, or the 4,166 civilians who were murdered by terrorists who want to take it from us.

Israel is a small country. An equivalent number, adjusted for population, would be over 1 million Americans. Every Israeli knows someone who has lost at least one family member to war or terror.

When I cook or putter in my little workshop, I listen to the radio, to reshet bet, the news and talk channel of Israel’s public broadcast corporation. My favorite radio personality is a guy called Yigal Guetta. Guetta was born in the northern development town of Kiryat Shmona in 1966 to a family that immigrated to Israel from Morocco. He wears a black kipa and served in the Knesset on behalf of the Sephardic Haredi Shas party in 2016-7, but was forced to resign by his party after he revealed in an interview that he had attended the gay wedding of his nephew. He didn’t dispute the rabbis who demanded that he quit. He was and is a traditionally observant Jew. But family is family. Some years before that he was fired from a job as CEO of a small city when he accused the mayor of corruption. Like me, he likes to cook and sometimes describes traditional Moroccan recipes on the air. This is who he is.

But yesterday, I learned something about him that I did not know. He talked about one day when he was 8 years old, April 11, 1974. That was when Palestinian Arab terrorists (PFLP-GC) infiltrated Kiryat Shmona from Lebanon, and murdered 18 people, including 8 children. The terrorists first entered a school building, but it was closed for the Passover holiday. Then they moved on to a residential building, shooting everyone they saw and throwing grenades. The army was late to arrive, and Guetta’s brother and sister-in-law were among the victims.

He described how his parents were never the same after that. I can’t come close to imagining how it was for them.

You would think things would have changed since 1974, but because of our failure to take a consistently severe stand against our enemies – in Jabotinksy’s phrase, our failure to build an “iron wall” – Palestinian Arab terrorism continues. Just yesterday, maybe while Yigal Guetta was describing 1974’s events in Kiryat Shmona, a 62-year old woman was stabbed seven times, in the street in Kfar Saba. Fortunately she will recover, but less fortunately the terrorist, who was shot by a civilian security guard, will also live. Israelis all know the drill – he will get the best medical care available in the Middle East, spend a few years in probably the most comfortable prison regime in the world outside of the Scandinavian countries, and receive a handsome salary from the PA, funded by generous donations from the EU.

Terrorism won’t end until Israel finds the gumption to eradicate the Palestinian Authority that sponsors, funds, and promotes it. Indeed, the PA’s official media recently praised the terrorists that killed Guetta’s relatives as “martyrs” and “heroes.”

But you haven’t heard the worst part. The psychopathological post-Zionist contingent in Israel, combined with various American leftist groups and supported by the New Israel Fund, holds an annual “Alternative Yom haZikaron ceremony” which “mourns the loss of all those who fell in the context of the conflict – both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Do you understand? The PFLP-GC terrorists, the great “martyrs” and “heroes” of the Palestinian movement, who murdered 18 people in cold blood, including 8 children, including Yigal Guetta’s brother and sister-in-law, are mourned by some of their Jewish targets.

And not only them. The terrorist that exploded his bomb in the Sbarro Pizza restaurant in 2001, killing 15, including 7 children. The ones that hijacked the bus on Israel’s coastal highway in 1978, and killed 38, including 13 children. These Jews pray for them.

I simply cannot wrap my mind around this. I cannot understand why an Israeli Jew or indeed any Jew would mourn for those who met their ends when they murdered or attempted to murder us. Do Americans hold ceremonies to mourn the 9/11 terrorists? Do Russians cry for Hitler? The only word that adequately describes this is “insanity.”

It isn’t surprising that extremist anti-Israel groups like If Not Now and J Street would participate in this lunacy. But the largest Jewish organization in North America, the Union for Reform Judaism, is one of the event’s cosponsors. They even retweeted an announcement by the organizers of this event, and added their own words, asking people to “… Join us and thousands of others from all over the world as we join together in peace.”

One of the feelings invoked in me by yom ha’atzmaut is that the re-establishment and survival of a sovereign Jewish state in our historic homeland is a highly unique and remarkable event. If I were a religious person, I would say it is miraculous. Surely it was accomplished at great cost, and it continues to exact a cost in blood. We owe so much to the families who have lost their sons and daughters in the struggle against an implacable enemy, that to mourn the very ones that ripped the hearts out of those families is an obscenity.

The long struggle has been too much for some of us, and there are those who have descended into a syndrome of madness, who choose to draw close to their murderers by adopting their point of view. They hope, perhaps, that by sacrificing their own people they will purify themselves from the evil they have come to believe is inherent in their nation-state, and if truth be told, in themselves as Jews.

By forcing themselves to empathize with those who are capable of shooting Jewish children, they believe that they will be better humans, and therefore find a way to communicate with the Other so as to bring peace.

But at the end of the day, this strategy always fails; and they find themselves alone, estranged from their people, while still despised by their enemies.

The Shamrak Report: Sovereignty Must Always be up to Israel and more...

by Itamar Eichner
(It is easier to deal with enemies than a patronizing friend!)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was an Israeli decision whether to annex parts of the West Bank and that the United States will offer its views on this to the new Israeli government in private. (Isn't it still political, economic and military co-operation blackmailAlthough, not so bad, but not perfect, from current US government.)
Pompeo also said he was happy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and centrist rival Benny Gantz signed a deal on Monday to form a national emergency government, saying he did not think a fourth consecutive election was in Israel's interest. (Wasn't this deal made under "private" US pressure?)
The coalition agreement states that while the new government will strive for peace and regional stability, plans to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the West Bank could be promoted.
The move would mean a de-facto annexation of territory that Israel seized in the Six-Day War in 1967 and that is presently under Israeli military control. It would have to be greenlighted by the United States... (WhyIsn't Israel an independent country?)
The Palestinians and many countries consider settlements to be ill egal under the Geneva Conventions that bar settling on land captured in war. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical, and political connections to the land. (The enemies of Israel never wanted peace with Jews, but destruction of IsraelInternational anti-Semitic bigots do not care about true violators of the International law: China - Tibet, Turkey - northern Cyprus, Russia - Crimea&)
Last January, US President Donald Trump presented a peace plan proposal, cited as "The Deal of the Century", at the White House in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White Chairman Benny Gantz. (The plan is another delusion, as all previous peace initiatives between Israel and fake Palestinians!)
Netanyahu's surroundings claimed annexation was closer than ever. However, such a move is yet to be approved by the government since, and U.S. officials have made it clear that they will oppose its execution before a new Israeli government is formed... (Oh yes, no public pressure at all!)
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
International archeology is an intricate part of international anti-Semitic bigotry! A Jewish ancient presence on G-d given Jewish land is under-reported, at best, or completely omitted from a few documentaries, which have accidently appeared on TV. Jewishness of Nabatean kingdom is hidden and is unknown by public (there are no images of idols in Petra - uncharacteristic for the pagan Arab tribes of the time, who were not stonemasons; and graves have Hebrew writings on stones). No archeological reports have been coming out of and often diggings are not allowed by law in South Lebanon, Sinai and Northern Saudi Arabia to hide Jewish presence on the Jewish land!
Welcome to Shamrak Report!
This independent editorial presents Jewish points of view on Arab-Israel conflict, promotes Jewish unity and ideals of true
Zionism - Jewish National independence movement!
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Presented by:                   Please read:  Sinai Option
PA chairman says agreements with Israel and the US will be "absolutely null" if Israel annexes any part of Judea and Samaria. "We informed all the concerned international parties, including both Israel and the US, that we will not stay handcuffed if Israel annexes any part of our territory" Abbas said. ( The PA has Never Respected agreements with IsraelHe meant all Arab and Muslim states, as well as other international anti-Semites, including the Ugly Nazi', to support their terror attack on Jews in Israel! They have been doing it anyway!)
Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister , on Thursday praised EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell who had warned Israel against applying sovereignty over portions of Judea and Samaria. He also expressed satisfaction with the EU's statement that Israeli annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria is a dangerous violation of international law. (The enemies of Israel are pleased with anti-Israel posturing of European anti-SemitesThey never state what international law Israel would specifically violate. For the recordPLO and Arab states rejected Resolution 242, which did not even mention non-existing Palestinians.)
Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz allowed the tabling of legislation meant to block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government in future elections because of his indictment last year on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. (Why was he negotiating with Netanyahu to form the governmentIt was always negotiation with the threat of legal blackmail!)
The suspension of law enforcement in guarding Israel s national treasures in Judea and Samaria due to the coronavirus outbreak is giving Arab robbers of antiquities an opportunity to pursue illegal excavations undeterred. Bennett could divert some of the 600 Border Patrol and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories officers he s been sending to evict the Jewish settlers.
During an online memorial in honour of the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Berlin, BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activists interrupted a Zoom chat with survivors by posting pornography, Nazi images and shouting anti-Semitic slogans.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled on Friday that the Palestinian Authority must pay NIS 500 million ($142 million) to the families of those killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks, mostly during the Second Intifada (2000-2005). While some of the attacks also involved Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the court is holding the P.A. liable based on its statements taking credit for all Second Intifada terrorist attacks and its support for the groups carrying out the attacks. (Good news! Why did it take so long? Will it be implemented or dragged on for 20 more years by Israel's political and legal bureaucracy is another questionHopefully, many more decisions like this are coming to bankrupt the PA!)
Quote of the Week:
All the shady characters of the world are at work against us. Rich, servile Jews, dark, fanatic Jewish obscurantists, in combination with the Vatican, with Arab assassins, English imperialist antisemitic reactionaries - in short, all the dogs are howling - Weizmann - Anti-Semitic bigots, of any shade, and self-hating Jews just love hating Israel. There is nothing new under the sun!
by Peter Baum, member of the Board of Deputies for British Jews.
Israel s occupation of the Palestinian territories (the West bank and the Gaza Strip) since 1967 is the subject of frequent debate in your newspaper, but much of that input is driven by emotion rather than detailed, factual knowledge.
Israel s borders are defined in a number of international treaties, the most relevant of which are the League of Nations Treaty of July 24, 1922 (includes the San Remo Resolution April 25th, 1920), and the Treaty of Sevres, Section VI1, Article 95, which was inserted into the Mandate for Palestine and further ratified and endorsed by the Treaty of Lausanne, on July 24, 1923.
The United Nations, in its Charter (specifically Article 80), was legally obligated to continue where the League of Nations finished and, indeed, the international, legally binding principles of estoppel and acquired rights further endorse these obligations. Acquired rights cannot take away from a nation what has been given and estoppel cannot allow any giving nation to take away what has been given, under international law.
According to the League of Nations resolution for the establishment of the Mandate for Palestine, the areas of Judea and Shomron - that is, the West Bank - were recognised as cestui sue trust for the Jewish homeland (The boundaries of the allocated Jewish homeland also included trans-Jordan - that is the Eretz-Israel!)
The defined legal borders of the state of Israel include the geographical areas currently called the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, and also Gaza) . These territories were illegally conquered, and occupied, by Jordan from 1948 to 1967 (during this time no offer to establish an independent state of Palestine was made to the residents) . The territory had been unlawfully annexed and the former Jewish residents had been ethnically cleansed.
Article 42 of the fourth Hague Convention of October 18, 1907, respecting the laws and customs of war on land annexed, states that ..territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army and the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised .
The paradox is that the current Israeli settlers are the legal occupants and the Palestinians the illegal settlers, as a direct consequence of Trans Jordan s occupation. Breaking the Geneva Convention does not apply to the government of Israel, but to Trans Jordan and also the other five Arab countries that, simultaneously, ethnically cleansed their Jewish civilians.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Rav Kook on Yom HaAtzmaut: Children of Zion

“וּלְצִיּוֹן יֵאָמַר, אִישׁ וְאִישׁ יֻלַּד-בָּהּ”
“And of Zion, it will be said: this person and the one who was born in her.”
(Psalms 87:5)

Rav Kook once requested an urgent audience with the British High Commissioner. Despite England’s promises to establish a national home for the Jewish people, the British government had imposed strict limits on Jewish immigration to the country. The authorities were arranging to deport illegal immigrants, and Rav Kook asked that the deportations be halted.

The Commissioner was surprised. “I know that you respect law and order,” he replied. “After all, the Talmud teaches “dina d'malkhuta dina” - one must obey the law of the land. These people have violated the law by entering the country illegally. How can you argue in their favor?”

“The law refers to new immigrants,” Rav Kook said. “But these people are not new immigrants; they are returning citizens.”

The Commissioner was flabbergasted. “Why do you say that? They are not native to the country!”

“Since you quoted the words of our Sages regarding “dina d'malkhuta dina,” I am confident you will also heed other statements of theirs. In the Book of Psalms - which you hold in high esteem - it says, “And of Zion, it will be said: this person, as well as the one who was born in her.” What do you think this means? Who are these children of Zion?”

At a loss for an answer, the Commissioner merely shook his head.

“Our Sages explained,” Rav Kook continued, “that the one who was born in Zion, as well as one who looks forward to seeing her, are both considered to be children of Zion. ‘אחד הנולד בה ואחד המצפה לראותה’ (Ketubot 75a). In other words, a person who was born outside the country, yet yearns to see Zion and Jerusalem - he or she is also a child of Zion!

“Spurred by great love and yearnings for Zion, these new arrivals took significant risks and traveled by circuitous routes to come here. As the rabbis wrote, these Jews are children of Zion. They are not new immigrants, but returning citizens.”

Rav Kook concluded warmly, “Our country should receive them with open arms, like an overjoyed mother welcoming home children who return after long years of wandering in distant lands.”

(Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, pp. 517-518 by Rabbi Chanan Morrison)

CoronaBlues, The Metzora, and Prayer

In this past week’s Torah Reading, Tazria-Metzora, we found the descriptions of Tzaarat, a spiritual-moral affliction that manifests itself through physical symptoms. We also found the Metzora, one who is afflicted with Tzaarat, and the procedure the Kohen (priest) uses, to “cure” him.

“And the person with Tzaarat, in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, his hair left uncut, he shall put a covering up to his lips [a mask] and he shall cry out, contaminated, contaminated. All the days that the affliction is upon him he is contaminated, he is Tameh [spiritually unclean and spiritually contagious]. He shall dwell alone [in self-isolation] outside the camp [through social distancing], (Leviticus 13:45-46).

That sounds a lot like what’s been taking place these days throughout the world… The CoronaBlues.

We are told that the sin of Loshon HaRa (slander) against others, causing division and hatred between people, is the reason that this “invisible enemy” has come upon him. Because he separated wives from their husbands and friend from friend, with his evil speech, he is now isolated from society, (Talmud Arakhin 16B).

The Dubno Magid, Rabbi Yakov Krantz, explained that many people say negative things and aren’t aware of the power of their speech. They rationalize, “I only said...” The Metzora is taught a lesson about the power of even a single word. Going to the Kohen, to be diagnosed, as to whether he’s a Metzora or not, by one word, Tameh, the Kohen decides his future, and he can be sent away from society, into isolation. (Ohel Yakov, Metzora).

“...And he shall cry out, contaminated, contaminated.”

The Talmud, in Sotah 32B, states that the Metzora does this to let others know of his affliction, so that people will pray for his recovery. The Talmud adds that anyone suffering, should inform the public, and they will pray to God to have mercy on him. From here we learn, that when you hear of someone’s troubles, sickness, or suffering from a tragedy, you should pray for them, even though you were not directly asked to do so.

So, I hope everybody reading this, has been increasing their Ahavat Yisrael, the last few months; praying for those stricken with the Corona plague, those unemployed, and all who are suffering from this pandemic.

We’ve all heard of roof-top or Merpasot (balcony) Minyans, neighbors in buildings next to, or within earshot of each other, participating in a community minyan, while the Batei Knesset (synagogues) have been closed, do to the lock-down. But not everybody has been lucky to do that. Many many people, have been Davening (praying) alone, at home.

Israelis are fluent in Hebrew (unlike many of their brethren (even the orthodox) in Chutz L’Aretz (outside the Land), and many Israeli Minyans move along quite quickly during prayers. But I’ve always wondered, just how much Kavanah (thoughtful intention/mindfulness) and emotional outpouring of the soul to God, can one have when praying that fast.

As the prophets and psalmist said over and over and over again, chastising a sinning Israel, “I don’t want your sacrifices, I want your love; I don’t want your offerings, I want you to know me,” (Hosea 6:6).

With the destruction of the second temple, the rabbis put more emphasis on prayer. The Talmud in Berachot 26b teaches that, “R. Joshua ben Levi said, ‘The prayers were instituted to replace the daily sacrifices.’” Offerings of the mind, heart, and lips, were now equated with the offerings of burnt flesh.

Midrash Tehillim 39:3 teaches, “A prayer on the tongue is better than any sacrifice. As its written, ‘I will praise the name of God with a song, I will exalt him with thanksgiving and it shall please God better than bulls,’ Psalms 69:31-32.”

But are quick, zippy minyans, conducive to thoughtful, heartful prayer and connection to the Holy One, Blessed Be He?

Interestingly, the Zohar3:228a (Raya Mehemna), makes the connection between prayer, the Kashrut of sacrifices, and lung damage (disease). “If prayer becomes stuck and is expressed with difficulty, then it is torn away (Treif). This is because an adhesion in the lung renders something torn away.” Thus invalidating the offering.

Well, guess what God seems to have said for nearly two months, “I’m not interested in your meaningless minyans in synagogue, just like your former sacrifices, so, I’ll close them down too!”

In this time of mass synagogue closures because of the CoronaVirus, it presents people with a new opportunity to really work on one’s prayer in the quiet and comfort of their own home, without concern of what others will think or say, to learn to truly pour out their hearts to their creator.

Let’s take a look at some things that can be done to “spice up,” daily prayers, and make them more meaningful.

1. Try learning some new Perushim (explanations/commentaries) on the prayers, or particular Psalms or Pasukim (verses).

2. Spend some time before you start to pray, contemplating that the Master of the Universe is right there with you. The Mishnah in Berakhot 5:1, teaches that the Chasidim Rishonim (pious men of old) would contemplate/meditate an entire hour, in preparation for prayer, that they might direct their thoughts to God. So, at least take a few moments.

3. Try singing Pasukim (verses) instead of just saying the words. When you get to a Pasuk that you know a tune to, sing it out, repeat it a few times, get into it, connect to it, its meaning, and to God.

“There are gates on high that can only be opened with song,” (Tikkunei Zohar 11 – 26b).

The Talmud in Arakhin 11a teaches, “It is written, ‘You did not serve God with joy and gladness of heart’ (Deuteronomy 28:47). What worship includes joy and gladness? This is song.”

“When you pray, do so with a melody that is sweet and pleasant in your ears. The melody will cause you to pray with feeling, since it leads your heart to follow the words,” (Sefer Chasidim 158).

4. Try raising your hands to heaven, above your head, its very liberating.

Exodus 17:11 says, “So it came about when Moses held his hands up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hands down, Amalek prevailed.” We all are struggling with that inner Amalek, our Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination) of anxiety these days, that tries to distract us during prayer from anything meaningful.

“Do Moses’ hands make or break war? Rather, this teaches: Whenever Israel would look upward and direct their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they prevailed...” (Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 3:8).

As it says in Psalms 88:10, “Everyday I call out to You, God, I spread out my hands to You.”

“Raising one’s hands alludes to the fact that the Shekhina (God’s indwelling presence) is transmitting sustenance from on high,” (Pardes Rimonim 15:3).

“Its a great Ma’alah (merit/virtue) to stretch out your hands during prayer, or when giving thanks or praise to the Boreh Yitbarach Shmo (the Creator, Blessed be His Name),” (Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah, Gate 3 – Song, Chapter 1).

5. In the Yeshiva that I often Daven at, for Shabbat, during parts of Kabbalat Shabbat, they break out a few times into dance, while singing repetitively the verse. They also dance, often during parts of Hallel and in other places of the prayers. So, even when I’ve been praying at home I’ve kept up the “tradition.” Try dancing while singing verses, its good exercise, and it will open up your lungs and heart to God. A lot is said in sources about movement during prayer, this just takes it to the next level.

6. Say the Amida (Shmoneh Esrei – silent prayer) very slowly, even better if you can do it from memory rather than reading from the Siddur (prayer book). Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his book, “Jewish Meditation” pg. 105, refers to the Chasidim Rishonim, who after collecting their thoughts for an hour, said the Amida for another hour.

He says that the Amida was used as a meditative device. Rabbi Kaplan points out that the Amida has about 500 words, and if said for an hour (3,600 seconds), that is a pace of about one word every seven seconds. Saying the Amida at this pace is a highly advanced form of meditation. And, although most of us aren’t there yet, maintaining this pace for the first Bracha (paragraph), which contains only 42 words, is within reach. One word every seven seconds would take just under five minutes, a reasonable amount of time, and yet long enough to put one into a deep meditative state.

“Every word of prayer is a complete concept. You must therefore place all your feelings into it. If you don’t, it remains incomplete,” (Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, Tzavaat HaRivash).

“Our main link to God is through words – words of Torah and prayer. Every single letter in these words has an inner spiritual essence. You must attach your thoughts and innermost being to this essence… When you draw out a word and don’t want to let it go, you are in a state of Devekut, attachment to God,” (Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, Keter Shem Tov 44).

My challenge to all who have been forced to pray at home, instead of their local synagogue these days, is to use the situation for growth. Even better, when finally liberated from this viral Mitzraim, bring back to the Beit Knesset, what you have achieved. Talk to others, compare notes.

Happy to return to synagogue; make Davening really something special. Bring life and joy back to prayer, even during the weekdays.

As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was fond of saying, “Simcha (joy) brings Refuah (healing). Just another way, to kill off the CoronaBlues.

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) 2020/5780 Pasko

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Atonement of Yom Kippur and Eretz Yisrael

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

The parsha opens with the holiness of Yom Kippur and the atonement of the two goats, and finishes with the passage of the forbidden relationships, which is also connected to the subject of Eretz Yisrael, as it says: "The practice of the land of Egypt ... and the practice of the land of Canaan to which I bring you do not perform.'" (Vayikra 18:3) It also ends: "Do not become contaminated through any of these; for through all of these the nations that I expel before you became contaminated. The land became contaminated and I recalled its iniquity upon it; and the land disgorged its inhabitants." (18:24-25) And, later on: "Let not the land disgorge you for having contaminated it as it disgorged the nation that was before you." (18:28)

The Yom Kippur atonement is rooted in the distinction between Am Yisrael and the rest of the nations of the world. "The foundation of Jewish thought is the awareness of the Divine value of the nation's soul." (Nechamat Yisrael, by Rav Kook zt"l) Due to this, the perspective on sin is different.

If the inner content is G-dly, then the evil deeds are external and do not cling to the soul. "But you who cling to Hashem your G-d." (Devarim 4:4) Chazal ask: "But it says, 'who were attached to Baal Peor?'" They answer: "'Who were attached to Baal Peor' – as a bracelet is attached to a woman's hand; 'But you who cling' – really cling." (Sanhedrin 64a) Even the sin of idol worship is viewed as something external that does not reflect the inner reality. Therefore, wiping clean and atonement are possible.

This is not the case with the rest of the nations of the world, whose external actions are compatible with their inner content and are derived from it. Therefore, when Hashem wished to give them the Torah, they asked to know what was written in it and then refused to accept it. The descendants of Esav refused the Torah because it says: "You shall not murder." Yishmael's descendants refused because it says: "You shall not steal." Amon and Moav refused because it says: "You shall not commit adultery." Only Am Yisrael said: "We will do and we will obey," since the Torah's dictates are compatible with their inner selves.

Chazal provide a beautiful parable on the pasuk: "Do not view me with contempt, despite my swarthiness (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:6):

Once there was a noblewoman who had a Negro maid that went to draw water from the well, she and her friend. [The maid] told her friend: "Tomorrow, my master will divorce his wife and marry me." [Her friend] said: "Why?" [The maid answered:] "Because her hands were black with dirt." [Her friend] said to her: '"Oh, great fool, let your ears hear what your mouth is saying! If his wife, whom he loves very much – you said that because her hands were black with dirt for the moment he wanted to divorce her; you, who are dirty and black from your mother's womb your entire life – how much more so!"

Thus, since the nations of the world taunt Israel and say: This nation exchanged its Glory, as it says "They exchanged their glory" – Am Yisrael say to them: "If for [worshipping the golden calf for] the moment, we were liable thus, you [are liable] all the more so!"

The Maharal explains that the hands are busy with external things, so that even if they become dirty it is possible to wipe them off. The same is true for is idol worship among Israel. They are "attached" like a bracelet to a woman's arm, that can be worn and removed. This is not the case with the nations of the world, who are black from the womb and from birth and there is no possibility of removing the blackness.

Yom Kippur is the day where Am Yisrael's Godly virtue is revealed. They are above the natural order, and therefore abstain from the five corporeal activities:

Man is on the level of angel. His sin must be removed until he is like an angel ... Therefore, He commanded [man] to afflict himself. All this to remove and minimize the body until it becomes as holy as an angel." (Drashot Maharal for Shabbat Shuva)

Therefore, all the deeds of Yom Kippur come to teach the value of Am Yisrael and their devotion to Hashem. This is why the Kohen Gadol enters the innermost sanctum, and sprinkles eight times, one upwards and seven downwards to show Am Yisrael's connection to the supernatural world that is signified by the number eight. Seven represents the natural world, and eight is above nature, and from this comes the atonement.

This is the sacrificial goat that is sent to the wilderness, because the goat symbolizes Esav and the evil inclination, as the word "sa'ir" (goat) has the same numerical value as the word "hayetzer hara" (evil inclination).

We have already said that Yaakov is pure and holy by his own merit, just that the sins come from outside to Yaakov, from the evil inclination, and therefore he gives the sins to Esav his brother...

The sins of Israel are not inherent, only from the outside do they come, i.e., from the evil inclination, and something that comes from the outside – it is possible to send away from him. (ibid.)

Now we come to the end of the parsha: "Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled." The Egyptian self is attached to prostitution and everything that is despised, and therefore they are naturally drawn to prostitution and despicable actions. Israel, however, their self is faithful, holy and separate from all illicit relationships, as it says: "The tribes of Y-H, a testimony for Israel." G-d testified with His name that they are the sons of their fathers ... Thus, Israel is the opposite of Egypt; the Egyptians are attached to prostitution, whereas Israel is separated from nakedness and adultery. (Maharal Gevurot Hashem Chapter 4)

Eretz Yisrael is the "Sanctuary of Hashem," the land that is "before Hashem." The Ramban writes at the end of the parsha: "The land that is Hashem's respected estate will disgorge anyone who contaminates it, and will not suffer idol worshipers and illicit relations." (He writes many beautiful things there about the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael).

The Maharal writes (Gevurot Hashem chapter 8):

The land that Hashem gave to Avraham is a holy land that is different from the rest of the earth. Therefore, when Hashem promised about giving [it], [Avraham] wanted to know through what merit would they inherit the holy land. (This is what Avraham asked "By what shall I know that I am to inherit it" – inheritance, implying through a natural relationship). [G-d] answered him that on this account they will inherit the land, in the merit of atonement. As you understand the deeper meaning of the atonement that Hashem gave to Israel, which indicates that Israel are holy in their essence, separate from any lowliness. If it were not for this, then when they would add to the lowliness, atonement would be impossible for them. Now that they inherently are separate from any lowliness, they are worthy of atonement, since sin is not associated with them, and their inherent self is without sin, and therefore they are worthy of atonement ... just as the holy land does not tolerate any sin due to its holiness, as it says: "Let not the land disgorge you, etc.'' Therefore, the land relates to Israel in this matter, because the land is holy in its virtue that is separated from lowliness and repugnance, and so are Israel...

It is similar to someone who is inherently pure and handsome, so if he were to become dirty by mud – he immediately reverts to his purity because he himself is pure. However, someone who is polluted and loathed, the dirt never leaves him, for dirt is just added on to dirt. Therefore, in this merit they will inherit the holy land, because according to the appropriateness – man has a place. Thus, when Hashem gave the holy land to Israel, certainly it was because they were worthy of it. So, too, to each and every nation He gave a land according to whom they are, and everything has a place according to its nature and worthiness. Thus, according to the worthiness of Israel who have a separate holy virtue – they also have a holy land. This is the outcome of the virtue that is evident on Yom Kippur: the connection to Eretz Yisrael on the one hand, and, on the other hand the disgorgement from it for sins like illicit relationships, even though they are not dependant on the ground.

Holiness As a Formula

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
Among the many commandments and values that are represented in this week’s double parsha special attention seems to being paid to the intimate and marital relationships between people. The Torah lists for us those relationships which are considered to be incestuous, immoral and forbidden. There is perhaps no area of human behavior so sensitive and yet so dissolute and dangerously self-destructive as these liaisons and relationships are. According to the popularization of Freudian psychology it is the sexual drive more than anything else that is the energy source for human behavior. The Torah looks not to deny this basic drive, it never preaches celibacy, but rather it looks to channel and control this activity, turning it from something potentially illicit and harmful to something that is holy and creative. In order to accomplish this, the Torah imposes a set of limitations, inhibitions and rules to govern and sanctify such human behavior. In effect the Torah teaches us that our sexual drive is a neutral commodity. It is rather the circumstances and structure that surround the use of this drive that determine its probity, correctness and holiness. That is the key idea that lies behind all of the commandments that appear in these parshiyot - discipline, sensitivity, correctness of behavior and a sense of positive purpose. Be holy and sanctified the Torah tells us - that is our goal. How to arrive there is what the commandments, individually and collectively, come to teach us. And the road is paved with self-discipline, self-control and a devotion to duty and responsibility.

The parshiyot also emphasize to us the Torah’s view regarding the treatment of other human beings. The Torah bids us to love others, to respect others, to tolerate others, and to therefore become a holier person. Piety in matters that are so to speak between man and God are of prime importance in Jewish life. But of equal importance is the correct relationship between humans and their fellow human beings. One cannot be a holy person through ritual piety and scholarship alone. Ramban advances the idea that the possibility of being obnoxious and disgusting even within the confines of the Torah, so to speak, exists. How we deal with other human beings is a crucial part of being a holy person. It is far easier to deal with an unseen and inscrutable Divinity than to have to deal with a real human being standing face to face before us. Other people differ with us, oftentimes are not cognizant of our needs and desires, and can prove to be annoying and difficult. How are we to deal with such people? The Torah prescribes the same formula for dealing with others as it did for dealing with our innate drives as described above - patience, sensitivity, self-discipline and retention of the goal of being holy. An awareness of circumstances and situations that govern all of the commandments of the Torah also govern our interpersonal behavior one with another. The Torah is always to be viewed as a unity, as something whole and inseparable. That is the way to embark on the road to holiness.

The Ox and the Goat

by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

There are many unique aspects to the Temple service on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. One special feature of Yom Kippur concerns the chatat sin-offerings. On all other holidays, a single sin- offering was brought, from a goat. On Yom Kippur, however, there were two sin-offerings: an ox and a goat.

What is the significance of these two animals, the ox and the goat?

Forgiveness for All Actions
The ox is a symbol of great strength. Oxen were traditionally used for construction and cultivating land. The ox's strength was harnessed to till the earth, to transport goods, and other constructive purposes.

The goat is also a symbol of power — but of a corrosive, destructive nature. The Hebrew word for goat (sa'ir) means to storm and rage. The foraging goat devours the very roots of the plants. Overgrazing by goats leads to land-erosion and destruction of pasture.

Both of these forms of power — constructive and destructive — may be used for positive goals, and both may be utilized for evil purposes. Each has its proper place and time. We use constructive forces to build and advance, and we need destructive forces when dismantling existing structures in order to rebuild and improve. Both types of forces, however, may be abused, causing much sorrow and grief.
The most common need for atonement is when we accidentally hurt or damage. For this reason, the standard chatat offering is the goat, a symbol of blight and destruction.

On Yom Kippur, however, we seek forgiveness for the misuse of all forms of power. Therefore, we offer a second chatat from an ox, the classic beast of labor. With this offering, we express our regret if, inadvertently, our constructive deeds may have been inappropriate or harmful.

“Be Holy” – Regarding Workers Rights, Too

by HaRav Yossef Carmel
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda Dayanut

In the beginning of Parashat Kedoshim, the Torah warns: "Do not cheat your friend and do not steal; do not leave overnight by you the pay of a worker" (Vayikra 19:13). The Torah repeats in Sefer Devarim: "Do not cheat the wages of a poor person … on its day pay his wages …" (Devarim 24:14-15). Chazal saw an employer’s obligation toward a worker as a very serious matter and derived that an employer who is not careful about payment can violate up to five negative commandments (Bava Metzia 111a). While Rashi claims that some of the commandments apply to all workers and some only to poor workers, the Zohar on our parasha stresses the severity of these matters even in regard to rich workers.

Following is a rough translation of the Zohar’s strong statement. Whoever shortchanges the payment of a worker is like one who takes the soul of the worker and the members of his family. He harmed the soul of the workers; Hashem will shorten his life and take away from his Life to Come. The Rabbis said that the above is true for rich workers and all the more so for poor ones. This is how Rav Hamnuna would act: at the moment his worker would complete the job, he would say, "Take you soul," and he would pay him right away. Even if the worker said that Rav Hamnuna could hold on to the money because he did not need it yet, he would not agree. Rav Hamnuna would say that just as he could not be master over his worker’s body, so too he could not be master over his soul. This is something that is reserved for Hashem, as the pasuk says: "In Your hand I entrust my spirit."

This is among the sources that illustrate the extent to which the Torah was careful that we not detract from a worker’s rights. The matter is all the more so when the worker’s economic status is low and he makes no more than minimum wage. This applies not only to the wages of waiters and supermarket cashiers. This applies also to workers in educational institutions, including Torah education institutions. Not always do they receive all the benefits that are coming to them according to the law of the State, whether it be various social benefits or timely payment. Our parasha teaches that it is not enough to be careful about the kashrut of the food that the institutions feed their students and about modesty in dress and in action. They should be even more careful not to cheat workers out of what they deserve, whoever and wherever they work.

We hope that the "Torah world" will serve as a model for proper treatment of workers, just as it should be a model in a variety of Torah-mandated areas of behavior. This is included in the title and opening of our second parasha: "Be Holy."

At the Core of Ritual Purity and Impurity

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

Understanding all the secrets of purity and impurity in this week’s Torah portion is beyond our reach, nevertheless, we can still find deep meanings in them * Most of the practical implications of purity and impurity do not apply without the Beit HaMikdash; only in Jewish homes, in the love between husband and wife, is the sanctity of the Beit HaMikdash revealed to a certain extent * In the aftermath of the first man’s sin, the world fell from its high level; consequently, all joy is accompanied by pain and sorrow, and love is liable to fade * The days of abstention between husband and wife purify, strengthen, and enhance the love between them * When Tikun Olam is completed, there will be no need for crises as a lever to uplift us, and impurity will be done away with

Taharah (Ritual Purity) and Tumah (Ritual Impurity) in Married Life
With the kindness of God, during these days of isolation I began writing the laws of Taharat HaMishpacha (family purity), and since the end of this week’s Torah portion Metzora deals with the mitzvot of tumat and taharat nida (impurity and purification of a menstruating woman) and ziva (an unnatural emission from the genitals), and the beginning of the Torah portion Tazria deals with the tumat and taharat of a yoledet (a woman who gave birth), it is worth studying the meaning of these mitzvot.

This type of tumah has two aspects: one – the prohibition of marital relations and intimacy, the other – about the laws of the Mikdash and its sanctity, namely, that it is forbidden for someone who is tameh to enter Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) and eat the meat of the korbanot (animal sacrifices). In addition, throughout the country the Kohanim (priests) had to eat the terumot (tithes) and challah (a portion of bread) given to them by their fellow Israelites in purity, and those who separated the tithes, had to make sure not to defile them. Since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the possibility of being purified of tumat met (impurity due to “contact” with the dead) by means of efer parah adumah (ashes of the Red Heifer) was annulled, as well as Kohanim eating terumot and challah in purity. Only within Jewish homes, in the love between husband and wife, is the sanctity of the Beit HaMikdash revealed to a certain extent in the laws of tumah and taharah pertaining to the laws of marital relations and intimacy – in order to direct, uplift, and sanctify the couple’s love.

Understanding Taharah and Tumah
The root of the mitzvah of taharah and tumah lies in the heights of the secret place of the Most High, in the Divine idea beyond our attainment, and therefore we will never be able to fully understand the significance of these mitzvot. Nevertheless, out of our emunah (faith) of knowing that God has given us all the mitzvot to sanctify us, and to grant us favor and blessing, as the Torah says, “God commanded us to keep all these rules, so that we would remain in awe of God for all time, so that we would survive, even as we are today” (Deuteronomy 6:24). And although we cannot explain the reason why God gave us these mitzvot, we can grasp from them deep meanings.

In general, taharah is associated with life, and tumah with death. The more highly developed a life form is, the greater the level of death is in its loss, and consequently, the greater the tumah as well. Therefore, man, who reveals the highest level of developed life, the tumah of his death is the most severe. A less severe degree of tumah is tumat nevelah (the uncleanness of an animal that died as a result of any process other than valid ritual slaughter) or sheretz (vermin). Plant life is less developed, thus, there is no tumah in its end, however, if man made from the plant life utensils or clothing, or grew from the plant fruits or vegetables – they can receive tumah.

The Womb – The Source of Life
The womb is the source of life and taharah of all human beings, and thus in contrast, it is also a source of tumah. Tumat nidah is when the egg that could have developed in the uterus into an embryo was not fertilized, lost and died, and came out in the menstrual bleeding along with the mucosa that was intended to help create life. The tumah of shichvat zera (spilling of seed) is also an expression of this – this sperm could have given birth to life, but was lost and died; albeit, its tumah is of a lower degree of impurity (Kuzari 2: 60-62). Incidentally, the womb is occasionally called by our Sages kever (a grave), for example, in the case where a fetus died, and an abortion was performed (Nida 21a).

Since the Sin of Adam Rishon
In the aftermath of the sin of Adam Rishon (the first man), the entire world fell from its high level, and death and tumah appeared in the world. Man was punished in that his livelihood entails sadness and sorrow, till the day he dies and returns to the earth. Even family life, marital relations, and births entail sadness and sorrow, as it is written: “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly increase your anguish and your pregnancy. It will be with anguish that you will give birth to children. Your passion will be to your husband, and he will dominate you’ (Genesis 3:16). Our Sages interpreted: “‘I will greatly increase your anguish and your pregnancy’ – this refers to the two drops of blood, one being that of menstruation and the other that of virginity, to the pain of bringing up children, and the pain of conception” (Eruvin 100b). In other words, tumat nidah and ziva perpetuated from the sin of a Chava (Eve)… because before the sin, all women were deserving not to see veset nidah (menstruation) and ziva, rather, were taharot without blood” (Tzror Hamor, Torat Chatat 69).

The Tikun in the Mitzvot of Tumah and Taharah
In the aftermath of the sin, the world was shattered and filled with flaws and shortcomings. As a result, along with the joy of all the good in the world, everything is accompanied with sorrow and sadness. No man can fill his mouth with laughter in this world, and there is no joy without crises and pain. If a person tries to ignore the pain and shortcomings, he will fall, and crash with greater pain. Thus, human awareness of the punishment Adam and Chava received for their sin, and the pain and sorrow that accompany life, are the key to driving the process whereby they are able to gradually repair the fracture, until they finally reach a higher level than at first. This is because the virtue of baalei teshuva (those who repent) is greater than that of tzadikim gemorim (the completely righteous), because out of knowledge of the world’s peaks and abysses, they choose the good. The mitzvot of tumah and taharah give expression to the shortcomings, and pave the way for their repair.

The Renewal of Love, and the Internalization of Marital Values
The decline that occurred in the world in the aftermath of the sin also impaired a couple’s ability to express their love limitlessly, and maintain its vitality from fading and dying. That is why so many couples get divorced, or are left without love. The physical manifestation of the crisis and sadness accompanying life and love is the blood of nidah and birth, and ultimately death. By fulfilling the halakhot of tumah and taharah, we give the sadness that accompanies our lives an appropriate place and learn to deal with it, and thereby give room for love to grow and develop gradually, until the completion of the tikun in Olam HaBa (the World to Come). As such, Rabbi Meir explained: “Why did the Torah ordain that the uncleanness of menstruation should continue for seven days? Because being in constant contact with his wife, a husband might develop a loathing towards her. The Torah, therefore, ordained: Let her be unclean for seven days in order that she will be beloved by her husband as at the time of her first entry into the bridal chamber” (Nidah 31b).

The Mitzvah’s Ability
Any wise and honest person will agree that a fixed period of abstention is the most successful way to keep the fire of love between a couple burning. But without the mitzvot of the Torah, a man is powerless to meet this difficult task. We are unable to claim that this is the explanation for the mitzvah because the full meaning of the Divine mitzvot are beyond our comprehension; but since we know that all the mitzvot are for our benefit in this world, and the World to Come – it is incumbent upon us to reflect on the good we receive by way of the mitzvot. As well as the longing that renews love, during the days of abstention and longing, a husband and wife can also discard with the bad character trait of lack of appreciation – taking the good things in their lives for granted – and out of recognizing the good, they learn to be truly generous towards one another.

Permissible Days
Thus, from month to month, the days of abstention purify, strengthen, and enhance the love between a couple, until they reach middle age – then menstruation ceases, and their love becomes deeper and more binding, and they no longer have need for tumat ha’nidah to enhance their relationship. In the future, with the completion of the tikun, as we learn to ascend from one level to the next, and reveal in the Torah and the neshama (soul) endless new meanings, youth will be renewed, and life enhanced. Then crises will no longer be needed as a lever for uplifting, and the curse of death and its tumah will be eradicated. To a certain extent, this is what happens during the days of pregnancy and nursing, which, thanks to the upsurge of life created by them, their love also receives profound vitality that intensifies free of abstention.

Impurity of Childbirth and Its Purification
At the beginning of the Torah portion Tzaria, we learn that at the time of the birth, a woman becomes unclean. If she gave birth to a male child, she is unclean for seven days, and at the end, even if she continues seeing blood, she immerses herself in a mikveh, and is purified. Thus she remains ritually clean to her husband despite continuing to see blood until the end of forty days from birth, for all the blood that flows from her body until the end of the fortieth day is blood of purity. And after the fortieth day, she returns to her usual state, namely, if she sees blood, she is unclean. And if she gave birth to a female, her impurity and purification are double – her impurity lasts for two weeks, and after that, she is ritually pure until the end of the eightieth day from birth. During all these days, it was forbidden for a woman who gave birth to enter the Beit HaMikdash, and upon her completion, she would bring a korban olah (burnt offering) to give thanks for the birth, and a korban chatat (sin offering) for the shortcomings embraced in her birth. In this manner she may enter the Mikdash.

The Meaning of Impurity of Childbirth
In every lofty idea that descends to this world, there is a certain aspect of falling and death. The same holds true for every birth – the hopes leading up to the birth are endless. One’s heart is inclined to believe that after the miracle of birth, the entire world will change for the better – the new child will be perfect, wonderful and happy, wise and healthy, and in his day, the Redeemer will come. In reality, after birth we fall into the routine of life – the pain, and the exhaustion. The baby will also have to face challenges and crisis like all humans. The mother’s body feels it as well, and this is the depression that sometimes accompanies maternity in the postpartum period. The tumah related to birth expresses the sorrow for the hopes and dreams that will not come to fruition, but the blood of the birth itself is not impure, since it is blood that emerges with the birth of a new life. In the first stage, the tumah is more severe. It expresses the mother’s emptying of her dreams, and the fall of the fetus from the wonderful world in its mother’s womb, into this world, with all its sorrow and tears. In the second stage of blood of purity, the tumah is less severe, and it expresses the middle stage, in which life intensifies along with the recognition that they are accompanied by difficulties and crises, which only through coping with them, can progress be made towards the fulfillment of all dreams. Therefore at this stage, from the din (law) of Torah, a woman is not forbidden to her husband, but she is forbidden to touch sacrificial flesh or enter the Mikdash. And according to Jewish custom, since marital relations are also sacred, all prohibitions are practiced in this stage as well.

The Difference between the Birth of a Male and a Female
It can be said that the difference between giving birth to a male and a female, is that the tumah and tikun of the male is more evident – the tumah is expressed in the orlah (foreskin), and the tikun in Brit Milah (circumcision), and the whole process is shorter. In contrast, in the birth of a female, the tumah and taharah are hidden and deeper, and consequently, last twice as long. And just as the tumah expresses a more difficult fall, correspondingly, the tikun is also greater.