Friday, July 31, 2020

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: Ruining Alone, Fixing with Help

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 12:30)

Gemara: [The idea that Hashem will tie a crown on one who returns from sinning] is support for that which Reish Lakish says: the pasuk “If for scoffers, he will scoff, and for humble people, He will give charm” (Mishlei 3:34) teaches that if one comes to defile himself, “the door” is opened for him, and if he comes to purify himself, he is assisted.

Ein Ayah: All of existence and all of life that flows within it comes from the source of lofty sanctity and purity. That is the reason that if one comes to defile himself, even though he has free choice to act, which raises a person to the level of absolute freedom, there is only an opening of the door, but without any assistance. After all, all of the universe, its spiritual and physical elements, and all of the rules upon which the world is based on all of its levels, are opposed to the foundation of impurity and its infiltration into the souls of people.

To the contrary, the direction of the world is to elevate purity, which is fitting for the source of life and the whole world (i.e., Hashem). For this reason, one who comes to defile himself only has the door opened and no more, because impurity is transient, as it will be stricken from the land. Therefore, all manifestations of impurity are only the work of scoffers, who do not keep any connection to the true and actual existence of the world. That is why the pasuk says: “If for scoffers, he (the scoffer) will scoff.” He will be awarded the opportunity so that he not be deprived of the opportunity to have free choice, which would detract from his human form in the area of freedom.

In contrast, when one comes to purify himself, he aligns his personal situation with that of the world as a whole, with all of its loftiness and depth. For that reason, he is deserving of assistance. The foundation of purity is the imprint of complete truth, which is the exact opposite of the falsehood and negation of the reality of impurity. That is why it is referred to as scoffing and falsehood.

The foundation of revealing the truth is indeed the light of humility, for what individual place does each creation have in the grand scheme of the world! Truth recognizes that everything belongs to Hashem, Who lives forever and is the source of all life and every element of existence. When one comes to purify himself, he enters within the sphere of the light of humility, which shines the glow of truth and seriousness to fit in with the existence of the world. This is the exact opposite of impurity which goes along with the scoffing and lack of seriousness of impurity. For those who are humble indeed have charm, for all of existence is there to strengthen them in their quest.

These ideas find expression in the parts of the letter kuf, the letter that represents the holiness of Hashem. The leg of the kuf, which represents the light of the base of the sanctity, is hanging, which shows that the door of the light of sanctity and all of its sources are full of life. From the midst of the depths, there is a pillar of strength that allows one to climb to the highest levels of sanctity. “Open up the gates and a righteous nation, which guards its reliability, will come” (Yeshayahu 26:2).

What Do We Know? Humble Words to Console

by Rabbi David Aaron

When we try to understand G-d, we face an inherent obstacle with the very process of knowing. When I attempt to know anything, I am the subject and the thing that I seek to know is the object. In addition, there must be some degree of distance and separation between the subject and the object. Your eye can see almost everything, but it cannot see itself. “Knowing” implies two separate entities: the knower and the known.

However, you cannot know G-d in this normative way, because G-d is the source of all knowing. G-d is the source of all consciousness. Your very ability to think comes from G-d, who is the source of all thinking. How can you think about the source of all thinking? How can your mind hope to comprehend the source and ground of all minds? Yet if you want to know G-d, then you must seek the source of all knowing. You must search for the source of all searching.

This is why we cannot come to actually know G-d by philosophical inquiry. The philosopher tries to make G-d into an object of his mind. He thinks that he is the subject and that he can understand G-d as the object of his inquiry. Even if the philosopher comes up with a brilliant thesis about G-d, he has gained an idea, but he has lost G-d. G-d is not an idea. G-d is the source of all ideas.

In general, you are the knowing subject and everything else is the object to be known. But with G-d the relationship is just the opposite. G-d is the subject and you are the object. G-d is the knower and you are the known.

In truth, G-d is like the thinker, and the entire universe is His thought. According to the Kabbalah, creation is an act of divine thought. We come into existence through G-d’s thinking of us, so to speak. We exist only as long as G-d continues to think of us. If at any point G-d forgot us, poof! We would have no existence.

Now take a moment and create in your mind a woman. Don’t think of someone that you know. Rather, create a totally new character. Where does that woman exist? In your mind. Therefore, you are the knowing subject and she is the known object. Now imagine this woman in your mind trying to find her creator—you. How is she going to do that? How would this woman who is the object of your mind make you the object of her mind? How could she possibly understand you?

This is the same problem we have in our search for G-d. Relative to anything that we seek to understand, we are the knower and it is the known. But when we turn our thoughts to G-d, He is the knower and we are the known. He is the subject and we are the object.

Each one of us is like a drop in the ocean trying to comprehend the ocean.

Imagine a sphere encircling you. If this sphere were to represent G-d, you would describe yourself as being encompassed by this embracing reality that is G-d. From your perspective, what would you see? You and G-d. From G-d’s perspective, what does G-d see? Just G-d.

From the perspective of the woman you have created in your mind, there is her and you. From your perspective, there’s just you.

When something painful happens to you, you may find yourself accusing G-d: “How could You do this to me?” But from G-d’s perspective, there is just G-d. No perpetrator and victim. Just G-d. From that perspective, your accusation appears as ludicrous as your stubbed toe shouting at you, “What are you doing to me?”

In the Book of Isaiah, G-d exclaims, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” This means that G-d’s perspective is totally different from our human perspective. Just as a theoretical being who lives in a two-dimensional reality cannot possibly conceive of the perspective of three-dimensional beings such as ourselves, so we cannot possibly conceive of G-d’s perspective.

This essentially is G-d’s answer to Job. Job suffers a series of tragedies: the death of all his children, illness, and material loss. He tries to fathom why G-d has done this to him, given that he is a good person who has only done good. His friends and his wife offer various perspectives, all of which Job rejects as lacking the ring of truth. Finally G-d speaks to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements, if you know?” G-d is telling Job that he simply does not have the cosmic perspective to understand what happens in this world. Job is left with not knowing the answer to human suffering, not because G-d refuses to tell him, but because there is no way a human being can understand reality from G-d’s perspective, which is ultimate truth.

The Sages say that when we get to the next world, we are going to look back at all of human history, and see everything as perfect. Even the most tragic events in history will look totally different. This means that in that future world, without the limitations of time and space, we will see everything from G-d’s perspective. But now, ensconced in this world of time and space, that perception is simply inaccessible to us. Human beings trying to fathom the Divine plan are like trying to run a Windows 2000 on a 286 computer. We simply do not have the hardware to understand G-d, Who is the ultimate all- inclusive reality.

The answer to all human suffering is:

I don’t know.

Picking Fruit in No Man's Land

by Rav Binny Freedman

Lebanon was a most unlikely place for a halachic discourse (a dialogue involving a complex legal question of Jewish tradition), but that had never stopped Dani before, and this was no exception.

Anyone who ever served in Lebanon, particularly in the springtime, would be familiar with the beautiful cherry orchards that dotted the countryside, and this was equally true for the area that Dani’s unit was patrolling. Ripe on the trees, no fruit ever tasted as sweet to me as the cherries you could pick and savor from the trees that dotted the area of Lebanese no-man’s land the IDF patrolled in the spring of 1984. During the long hours of patrol, the fruit offered a brief respite from the grueling duties Israeli soldiers had to shoulder day by day.

But to Dani, the readily available fruit presented an entirely different image, or rather, a challenge. Whose fruit were these? Where were the Arab owners who had planted and maintained these orchards in years past? Undeterred by his fellow soldier’s skeptical responses, Dani began to wonder whether this fruit which was so readily available was in fact permissible to be taken, given that the owners, albeit non-Jewish , might still own these orchards and may never have given up hope of harvesting the fruit despite their being situated in a war zone.

So, against all the odds, in an age before anyone had even considered the possibility of cell phones, Dani managed to get an army phone line, and, rather than use it to call his family in Jerusalem, instead tracked down his Rosh yeshiva (the Rabbinic head of his yeshiva, or institute for higher Jewish learning) Rav Amital, to ask him whether it was indeed permissible to partake of this fruit.

While I will always wonder what Rav Amital’s initial reaction was to such a question being asked by a soldier in Lebanon, (was he shocked? amazed? filled with pride?)his response was unequivocal: it was in fact forbidden to partake of such fruit as the owners might legitimately still retain ownership; eating that fruit, suggested Rav Amital, was indeed theft, pure and simple. After hearing Rav Amital’s response to his query, Dani then made it his mission to ensure that all of the soldiers in his unit knew that the cherries were ‘unkosher’ and that picking them was an act of theft, and from that day forward when his unit was on patrol, the cherries stayed on the trees.

Three days later, on the 19th of Adar ( in March 1984), Dani, whose pure virtue and intense love of Torah when we studied together in yeshiva had been both an inspiration and a beacon to me, was killed (Along with Dudi Cohen) at the Kasmieh bridge in Lebanon.

Putting aside how incredible it is that an entire army unit on patrol in Lebanon agreed not to pick fruit in no- man’s land simply because they might be stealing from unknown Arab owners, one wonders how a boy in such an unlikely environment as an army unit at war, would even concern himself with such seemingly mundane questions….

How indeed does one maintain a sense of ethics in such unlikely environments, and how important is the nature of one’s environment in the face of the ethical challenges we so often encounter in the day to day of life?

This week’s portion, Vaetchanan, always read on the Shabbat after Tisha B’av (the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples), may contain a most unlikely response to this question.

“Az yavdil Moshe shalosh arim be’ever ha’Yarden mizracha shamesh.”
“Then did Moshe set aside three cities east of the Jordan (river).” (Devarim (Deut.) 4:41)

Seemingly out of the blue, with no obvious connection to the events being discussed, Moshe suddenly decides to set aside three cities on the Eastern side of the Jordan River, in the lands of the tribes of Reuven and Gad (and eventually half of the tribe of Menashe).

These three cities, known as Arei Miklat, or cities of refuge, were in fact parallel to three additional cities of refuge that would eventually be set aside on the Western side of the Jordan River (in Israel proper) after the conquest of the Land of Israel in the time of Joshua.

The purpose of these cities as delineated by the subsequent verses here in our portion, were to afford a place of shelter to men guilty of manslaughter (accidental murder) fleeing from their victims’ blood relatives.

What purpose does the fulfillment of this mitzvah ,commanded by G-d as part of the settling of the land and the creation of a just society, have here in the midst of Moshe’s narrative to the Jewish people on the banks of the Jordan as they are about to enter the land of Israel?

Indeed, this puzzling insertion begs a response to a larger issue concerning the nature of Moshe’s long narrative that has occupied the entire previous four chapters (since the beginning of the book of Devarim).

Jewish tradition suggests that the purpose of Moshe’s long soliloquy to the second generation about to enter the land of Israel was to give them reprove (Tochacha, see our weekly byte , Devarim 02) on the mistakes they had made in the past perhaps in an effort to ensure they not be repeated in their new venture to create a just and ethical society (a “light unto the nations”) in the land of Israel.

Yet, it is interesting to note that this speech seems to be both lacking in content as well the fact that it is very much out of order!

For example, Moshe chooses to skip entirely (in these first four chapters of Devarim) some of the most significant events in the Jewish people’s short history, such as the giving of the Torah at Sinai as well as the sin of the Golden Calf, opting instead to include seemingly less significant events such as the appointing of judges and creation of a judicial system, the journey through the lands of Edom, Amon and Moav and the conquest of the lands of Og, king of the Bashan.

Why does the narrative skip such significant events which occurred in the first year after the Jewish people left Egypt (Sinai, and the Golden Calf) and jump to events which have only just recently occurred (i.e. the conquest of Og in the fortieth year as well as the dialogue with the tribes of Reuven and Gad who prefer to stay on the eastern side of the Jordan), only to return to some of the events (such as the sin of the Golden Calf) later on, in next week’s portion (Ekev) ?

Yet, some significant events, such as the sin of the spies, are very much a part of this earlier narrative!

Even stranger, is the connection all of this has with the opening of this week’s portion (implying it is a critical piece of the narrative): Moshe’s desperate pleas, left unanswered, to enter the land of Israel with his people (despite G-d’s promise he would not enter due to the mistake he made in dealing with the Jewish people during the episode of the bitter waters of Merivah…). Why is it so important, specifically now, for the Jewish people to hear of Moshe’s vain attempts to enter the land of Israel which were subsequently refused by G-d?

And, as if we are not yet confused enough, this is then followed by no less than a forty verse diatribe against the evils of idolatry only to be interrupted by the above mentioned decision to set aside three cities of refuge east of the Jordan River!? Aren’t the Jewish people sufficiently familiar with the prohibition of idolatry which features prominently in the Ten Commandments?

What indeed is the purpose of Moshe’s long narrative, and how might this help us to understand the nature of its discourse? And why did Moshe ‘suddenly’ decide to set aside these three cities of refuge?

It is worth noting that the use of the word “Az” as in “Az yavdil Moshe shalosh arim be’ever ha’Yarden …” ; “Then did Moshe set aside three cities east of the Jordan …” usually denotes an event that occurs as a result of the preceding narrative. For example, in the song Moshe sings after the splitting of the Red Sea (“Az yashir Moshe et hashirah hazot…” “Then did Moshe sing this song …” Shemot (Exodus) 15:1 ) the word “Az” (then) implies (see Rashi there) that when Moshe saw the great miracles of the splitting of the Sea his heart was filled with the desire to sing. What then was the immediate impetus for Moshe’s decision to set aside these cities?

Rav Avigdor Nevensahl in is Sichot le’sefer Devarim makes note of a fascinating comment in Rashi which may shed light on this entire discussion.

In the middle of his long speech, Moshe mentions the agreement he came to with the tribes of Reuven and Gad, whose desire to make their homes on the Eastern side of the Jordan River presented somewhat of a quandary for Moshe.

These tribes, recognizing the value of the lush, grazing lands on the eastern slopes of the Jordan river, were quite content to remain there in lieu of entering (and conquering) the rest of the land of Israel.

Just 39 years after the sin of the spies, yet another generation of Jews were apparently willing to forego entry into the Promised Land for (literally) greener pastures. Moshe eventually agrees to their request on the condition that they first leave their families and herds as the spearhead (“chalutzim” literally ‘the pioneers’…) of the army that would ultimately conquer the land. (See Bamidbar (Numbers) Chapter 32).

And now Moshe recalls this discussion, in the midst of his long speech:

“Va’etzav etchem ba’et ha’hi leimor: Hashem Elokeichem natan lachem et ha’aretz hazot le’rishta’; chalutzim ta’avru lifnei acheichem B’nei Yisrael…”

“And I commanded you at that time saying: G-d, your G- d has given you this land to inherit; you shall pass over as the spearhead (in front) before your brethren, the children of Israel….” (Devarim 3:18)

And Rashi points out in this verse, that Moshe here is actually speaking exclusively to the tribes of Reuven and Gad! Now this is strange; why, in the middle of a speech to the entire Jewish people would Moshe suddenly speak specifically to the tribes of Reuven and Gad? Unless this entire speech; the entire first four chapters of the book of Devarim, while meant for the entire Jewish people to hear, is actually directed specifically to the tribes of Reuven and Gad!

Maybe this entire speech is just one long chance, suggests Rav Nevensahl, to dissuade the tribes of Reuven and Gad from what Moshe still believes is essentially a bad idea! (After all, Rashi does not say Moshe is speaking to the tribes of Reuven and Gad now, but just that he is speaking to them!)

Think about it: Reuven and Gad, for all the wrong reasons, have decided to allow the Jordan river to separate them from the rest of the Jewish people, something which Pinchas points out (in Yehoshua (book of Joshua) 24:19) is a very bad idea, as the eastern side of the Jordan river is spiritually inferior to the land of Israel proper.

These tribes, after all, will remain more distant from the Temple and the centers of Torah learning in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem, as well as allowing the river to divide the Jewish people, something that does not seem to have been the original intent of the Jews’ journey from Egypt to the land of Israel. Indeed it may well be this very spiritual danger that leads to the erecting of an altar along the Jordan River (Yehoshua chapter 22) by the tribes.

Indeed, as Moshe points out, the Jewish people are prohibited from conquering their distant cousins, the children of Edom, Amon, and Moav, something which will inevitably result in a society (east of the Jordan) which exists in much closer proximity to (indeed surrounded by…) the idolatrous nations of the East. (Unlike Israel proper where all the Nations must either accept the Noachide laws which preclude idolatry, leave the land, or be destroyed.)

Hence Moshe, in his critique (reprove) of the Jewish people here specifically mentions Israel’s willingness to allow for more judges rather than retain a closer relationship with Moshe himself, something which Jewish tradition views as a willingness to compromise with a lower, and yet more convenient, spiritual level. This of course is precisely the issue of the tribes of Reuven and Gad, who are willing to settle for a lower spiritual environment on the Eastern banks of the Jordan, simply because the grazing land is better and the conquest is already complete.

This is why the sin of the spies which was all about the desire to remain comfortable (albeit spiritually) in the desert, is included in this speech, whereas the sin of the Golden Calf and receiving the Torah at Sinai are omitted at this point, because they represent a completely different issue.

And this is why Moshe spends so much time exhorting them as to the evils and pitfalls of idolatry, precisely because this is the main reason he feels they should relent and cross over the Jordan with everyone else.

Now we understand why Moshe’s burning desire to enter the land of Israel is part of this narrative: because that is the entire point! ‘Look’, says Moshe, ‘how much I longed to enter the land of Israel, and here you are able to go and yet choose to stay in the East!!’

It may even be the reason Moshe’s deal with these tribes is that at the very least they should be spearhead the army conquering the land.

This cannot be because the army ‘needs’ these tribes; after all, if it is Hashem’s will that the Jewish people conquer the land of Israel, then the land will be conquered with or without the tribes of Reuven and Gad! Clearly, they are made to agree to be a part of conquering the land because they need this for themselves! And while it may be that this condition is as much a message of Jewish unity, it may also be that by giving that much to something, these tribes may yet fall in love with the land and choose to remain! (After all, the more you give to something, the more you fall in love with it, and the tribes of Reuven and Gad end up fighting alongside their Jewish brethren for fourteen long years before they are able to cross back over to the eastern part of the Jordan valley….)

However, as much as Moshe tries, the tribes of Reuven and Gad do not respond as Moshe had hoped: there is no massive decision to leave the eastern lands they lust for and settle in Israel along with the rest of the Jewish people. And it is at this point, when Moshe realizes they will indeed settle these eastern lands that Moshe realizes there will need to be cities of refuge on the Eastern banks of the Jordan as well. Given that a mitzvah is best done immediately, he immediately fulfills this mitzvah by setting these cities aside even though they will not effectively be cities of refuge until the conquest of Israel proper allows the three western cities of refuge to be set up as well.

Perhaps these cities of refuge themselves are an allusion to the great dangers of idolatry, whose ultimate consequence is indeed exile….

Once this is all apparent, Moshe returns to speaking to the entire Jewish people and returns to those events that apply equally to all the tribes, such as the sin of the Golden Calf etc….

Ultimately, the land of Israel, and the Torah’s desire for us to be here, is all about creating the right environment. And if our mission to be a light unto the nations necessitates the creation of an ethical and holy society, then creating the right environment for that is essential to its ultimate success.

We are a blessed generation and we live in incredible times. After two millennium of suffering and wandering, Jews today enjoy unprecedented rights and one can find Jewish communities all over the world where Jews live happily and even safely amongst their non-Jewish neighbors with equal rights and protection under the law.

Just walk into the Beit Midrash (study hall) of Yeshiva University or Lakewood, or try and choose which kosher restaurant to visit in Manhattan, Miami or Los Angeles, never mind trying to decide which Jewish day school your children should attend and you cannot help appreciating how fortunate we truly are, just sixty years after our parents and grandparents were hunted in the sewers of Warsaw and Kovno….

But make no mistake about it: our home as a people is not in Teaneck or Woodmere, and as long as Jews live in a Christian society, in communities immersed in the spiritual desert that Western society seems to inevitably produce, we will never achieve all that the Jewish people has dreamed of for nigh on four thousand years.

Creating a spiritual and ethical environment which allows for Jewish ethics and spirituality to flourish is a lot of work. And while it certainly begins with the decisions each of us makes in our everyday lives to create moments of spiritual and ethical immersion wherever we are and whatever we are doing, (even on patrol in Lebanon), the ultimate goal of the Jewish journey remains here, in the alleyways of Jerusalem and the mountains and streams of Israel. And even though one can find plenty of ‘New York and Los Angeles’ walking down a street in Jerusalem Tel Aviv or Haifa (which just means we still have a lot of work to do…) there is something here, in the air, that a Jew cannot find anywhere else.

Perhaps this is why this portion is always read on the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av. After three weeks of mourning over what we lost two thousand years ago, maybe it is time, at last, as a people, to start thinking about how we rebuild it together, visitor by visitor, immigrant by immigrant, and maybe one day soon even community by community, here, at home, in the land of Israel.

Best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Ari Kahn: After the 9th of Av

Incident at Har Dov

On Monday there was a “security incident” on our northern border. I am not going to try to explain it, because I have no idea of what actually happened. First reports were that Hezbollah fighters had crossed the border in the Shebaa Farms area at the foot of Har Dov, and fired an antitank missile at a Merkava tank. The missile was said to have missed, and IDF soldiers returned fire, killing four of the enemy. Lebanese sources, on the other hand, said that that several Israelis were killed.

Then it was reported that none of the Hezbollah fighters had been hit, and that no missile was fired. The story was that they had infiltrated into Israel (apparently the border fence is not continuous in the area), were detected, and driven back by IDF fire. Artillery fire and Israeli aircraft, as well as explosions, were seen in the area.

There were credible reports that the IDF deliberately did not aim directly at the Hezbollah fighters, in order to drive them back without killing them.

Hezbollah claimed that they had not crossed the border and had not fired any missile.

The background is that a couple of weeks ago a Hezbollah operative was killed when Israel bombed an ammunition dump some 15 km. south of Damascus. Several Iranian and Syrian personnel were killed as well. Israel sent a message to Hassan Nasrallah saying that the Hezbollah operative’s killing was unintentional. But Nasrallah has promised that every Hezbollah casualty, wherever it occurs, will be avenged. So the IDF has been expecting and preparing for Hezbollah to retaliate.

Monday’s incident was supposed to be that retaliation. But Nasrallah has said no, the debt is still unpaid (though the mother of the man killed in Syria gave out sweets in honor of the operation).

Another similar incident happened on the border last August. Again Hezbollah owed the IDF a debt of violence after its personnel had been killed by an Israeli strike in Syria. Several antitank missiles were fired at an IDF APC, and troops were seen evacuating apparently wounded soldiers from it. But it turned out that the vehicle had been empty. Apparently the idea was to convince Hezbollah that they had succeeded in getting their revenge.

All this makes me uneasy. It seems as though we are trying to prevent escalation by exhibiting weakness, rather than strength. Think about the statement that the death of the Hezbollah fighter in Syria was “unintentional.” That ammunition dump was most likely bombed because it contained equipment being sent from Iran to Lebanon to enable Hezbollah to convert its tens of thousands of rockets to precision-guided munitions, able to strike within a few meters of a selected target. Everyone understands that such weapons are game-changers. The goal of Hezbollah’s buildup, financed and supplied from Iran, is to kill Jews and destroy our state. Does it make sense that we should in effect apologize for killing someone involved in that project?

The same strategy seems to be applied in Gaza. Hamas is allowed to fire barrages of hundreds of rockets at towns and cities in Israel; we try to knock them away (so far, pretty successfully) with our anti-missile systems. Then we punish Hamas by carefully targeting empty Hamas facilities in the Strip. If we killed anyone, then they would need to retaliate, and this way we prevent escalation while at the same time make them pay a price.

There is a problem on several levels here, which should be evident to anyone:

On the level of deterrence, the message we are sending is, “go ahead, try to hurt us, nothing much will happen if you fail.” And the natural result of this is that they are encouraged to keep trying.

On the psychological level, we are telling them – and ourselves – that we are targets. Shooting at Jews is acceptable. We have come to believe this ourselves. If we didn’t, we would respond more strongly.

Finally, on the level of honor, our failure to respond harshly to attempted murder is a sign that we are too weak to defend our own lives and property. In a Mideastern culture in which personal, family, clan, and national honor are almost tangible, someone who can’t defend what he has doesn’t deserve to keep it.

The appropriate response to maximize deterrence, self-respect, and honor is to always respond to attempts to hurt you with greater, even disproportionately greater, force. This is an elementary schoolyard lesson for dealing with bullies that kids of my generation learned quickly.

The youthful Ariel Sharon understood this when he commanded Unit 101. Today, our leaders seem to have forgotten.

The strategy our leaders have chosen is to avoid escalation at all costs, even when it damages deterrence. They continue to kick the can down the road, perhaps in the hopes that war can be avoided until Iran self-destructs and Hezbollah withers away. In any case, they hope that whatever bad things might happen, it will be after their term as PM or Chief of Staff is finished.

Unfortunately, the long term application of this strategy has left us in a situation in which we are deterred by Hezbollah, rather than the opposite. They have the initiative, and can turn the pressure on and off at will. We are demoralized, despite the fact that we are objectively stronger than our enemies. And as a nation without national honor, we are held in contempt by allies and enemies alike.

This is not an easy thing to turn around. Our enemies have been conditioned to expect certain behavior. We need to teach them otherwise, which won’t happen overnight. But we have to try. Miscalculations on either side might lead us into war; but continued weakness will almost certainly do so.

The Yishai Fleisher Show: The Pre-Redemption Pre-Party

How sad should we be about the destruction of Jerusalem - when we live in the time of a rebuilt Jerusalem? Malkah Fleisher joins Yishai to talk about all the stuff that broke during the 9 Days, the Aliyah Revolution CD, and your Imagination Vacation. Then, Rav Mike Feuer on the Decalogue on Israeli trucks with stickers that read: Ein Od Milvado!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tu Be’Av -- Day of Hope and Good Beginnings

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Why did our sages say, “There were never such good days for Israel as Tu Be’Av (the fifteenth of the month of Av) and Yom Kippur” (Ta’anit 26b)? Our sages explain that Yom Kippur contains the element of forgiveness, and it is the day on which Israel were given the second Tablets. Thus, on Yom Kippur we turn over a new leaf in our relations with G-d and with our fellow man. Such a day is a holiday and a day of joy for the community and for the individual (Ta’anit 30).

Tu Be’Av is the day of matchmaking and weddings. It is the day on which it was declared permissible for the tribes to intermarry, and for the tribe of Benjamin to intermarry with the other tribes. It was the day on which the Desert Generation ceased dying off, and G- d resumed speaking to Moses. It was the day on which the roadblocks, set up by Yeravam ben Nevat on the road to Jerusalem to keep the Kingdom of Israel from making pilgrimages to Jerusalem, were dismantled. It was the day on which the martyrs of Beitar were handed over for burial, and the blessing of “Hatov U’Meitiv” [G-d is good and bestows goodness] was established. It was the day on which the Temple custodians would cease cutting wood for the altar pyre. At that point the days began getting shorter and the nights longer [hence the sun had less strength to dry the wood]. Longer nights allowed for increased Torah study, thereby prolonging one’s life (Ta’anit 31, Rashi).

It follows that this day is one of good beginnings and great hope for the community and the individual. This is why these days were festivals and days of great rejoicing for Israel, and so shall they be in the future:

“G-d is going to have dancing for the righteous while He sits amongst them in Eden, and every one of them will point with his finger, as it says, ‘It shall be said on that day, lo, this is our G-d. We have waited for Him to save us. This is the L-rd. We have waited for Him. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:9).” (Ta’anit 31b)

Today, despite all the difficulties and complications, we must make an effort and strengthen ourselves, we must take counsel and persevere and constantly remember that in the highest heavens there is One who watches over us. Celebrations and days of rejoicing will once more come to Israel, as it says, “This is the L-rd. We have waited for Him, We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,

Rav Kook on Parashat VaEtchanan: The Mezuzah and Eretz Yisrael

The Torah commands us to affix mezuzot to the doors of our houses: וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל-מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ.

This mitzvah would not seem to have any particular connection to the Land of Israel. After all, the obligation applies equally anywhere in the world. Under certain conditions, even a boat on the high seas must have mezuzot!

The Talmud in Menachot 44a, however, does make a distinction when performing this mitzvah in or outside the Land of Land. While homeowners are obligated to affix mezuzot as soon as they move in, renters may wait thirty days. Yet this grace period of thirty days only applies outside the Land.1

Why is that?

The Talmud writes that a person renting a home in the Land must immediately put up a mezuzah because of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel.

Yishuv Eretz Yisrael
According to Rashi, the Sages wished to encourage people to live in the Land. If a person spends money on mezuzot - and the obligation to install mezuzot falls on the renter, not the owner - then he will be less likely to leave his residence in Israel. The renter has already put money in the apartment, and usually one is not allowed to remove mezuzot upon vacating the premises.

Additionally, even if the renter does leave, the apartment will be more attractive to other Jewish renters, as it is already outfitted with mezuzot.

Rav Kook had trouble accepting this explanation. Are mezuzot so expensive that this will determine where someone will choose to live?

Tosafot suggested that, on a Biblical level, only homeowners are obligated to affix mezuzot. As the verse says, “Write them on the doorposts of your houses and gates” (Deut. 6:9). The rabbis extended the obligation to renters, on condition that they live in the house for more than thirty days. Why thirty days?

Rabbeinu Manoach (cited by Beit Yosef, YD 286) wrote that only a true “dweller” is obligated to affix mezuzot. Until thirty days, the renter is still considered a “temporary dweller” - a traveler who may decide to leave for another location - and is exempt from observing the mitzvah.

But renting in the Land of Israel is different. A person fulfills the positive mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael with any type of dwelling in the Land - even renting. As the verse says, “וִישַׁבְתֶּם בָּהּ” (Num. 33:53). Rav Kook reasoned that since renting is deemed ‘dwelling’ in terms of the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, it is also considered ‘dwelling’ for the mitzvah of mezuzah.2

Children of Zion
Rav Kook called attention to this Halakhic ruling - that Jews living in Eretz Yisrael immediately acquire full residency - to the British High Commissioner.

Despite Britain’s promises to establish a national home for the Jewish people, the British government imposed strict limits on Jewish immigration. The authorities were deporting illegal immigrants, and Rav Kook requested that the deportations be halted.

The High Commissioner was surprised. “I know that you respect law and order,” he noted. “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 replied. “But these people are not new immigrants; they are returning citizens.

“Our Sages explained that a Jew 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 yearnings for Zion, these new arrivals took great 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 spent wandering in distant lands.”

(Adapted from Da’at Kohen 179; Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, pp. 517-518 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

Nachamu: Console, console My people," says your God

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Console, console My people," says your God.… (Yeshaya 40:1)

IN THE PAST when Shabbos Nachamu came around it felt right because it was great to be past Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks. We had done our time by reducing our pleasure, and had persevered the fasting and saying of Kinos. While the rest of the world was having a summer blast, we live restrained and withdrawn. It was now time to join the fun.

Granted, it did not lead to 100 percent abandon. After all, mourning or no mourning, the Temple had not returned. In fact, nothing had really changed about the Jewish people, so where was the consolation, really? Nevertheless, if the rabbis felt it was okay to sidestep the issue for the time being, who were we to argue and continue on with the sadness really due because of the lack of redemption?

The blessing of the previous years was the issue. The world had problems, but it still seemed relatively calm, basically normal. If wars were being fought, they were not ours. The economy still made it possible to make a living, and we went to work or school as we had for decades already. We were free to roam, locally or abroad, and we didn’t have to think twice about where we went or who we passed. People wore masks, but they were foreigners who we thought were paranoid about becoming ill from the environment. We never imagined having to do the same thing.

What a difference a year can make, or even just a couple of months. It’s no longer just the foreigners who wear the masks, but the locals as well. If we go to shul, it is to pray among plastic barriers that would have looked ridiculous just months earlier. The economy is struggling, and businesses are failing. Weddings are not the simcha they once were since there are far fewer attendees and the affair is far less fancy. It’s a different world.

For some, that is welcome news. People are revolting against the system with impunity. We see an increase in looting and crime without arrests. The conservative approach to life which seemed to dominate for so long is under attack and intimidated. Leftism and Liberalism have grown in power and seem to be taking over. For those on the right, the world is a scarier place.

Perhaps even scarier is how so many Jews have embraced the revolution. They seem to accept or overlook all the dangers of what is happening, and instead stand behind the changes. In the words of one rabbi, “I used to think a Holocaust could not happen in America. It terrifies me to say that given the direction of American society, and knowing history from the past, that has changed. And once again, no one else seems to see it!”

What does he see? Well, aside from the anarchy, changing laws. Until now, it has been the American Constitution that has protected the Jews there, allowing them to prosper. It is far from a perfect, but one of the best set of social rules the Western world has ever produced. While it ran the country, civility ran the country.

Racism exists, but not because of the Constitution. It has more to do with attitudes of people, both on the part of the white and black populations, and these won’t change because the laws do. What is going on in the States is not really in the name of equality. It is in the name of “hefkeres,” a far more open society unbridled by Torah-like values, and THAT always leads to anti-Semitism, somehow, down the road. Jews who support it today will end up running from it tomorrow. It’s a historical fact.

But try and tell them today. No way. Try and show people how history is repeating itself, and they laugh at you, call you a religious fanatic or something. You become an enemy of their state. You want to save them, but they accuse you of the opposite, leaving you with that sinking feeling of, “Those who forget are doomed to repeat,” God forbid.

This has certainly made it easy to feel the reality of Tisha B’Av like it hasn’t been so possible in recent years. But, it also makes it difficult to leave Tisha B’Av behind as we head into Shabbos Nachamu. Some will always be able to ignore the problems of the world as long as they don’t affect them personally. The rest of us can’t, as much as we’d really like to.

Maybe this will all blow over eventually. Not all revolutions lead to bad conclusions. Some have changed society for the better, though the transition was difficult. Maybe this time, the Jews of the Diaspora will not fare as poorly as they have so many times in the past, instead keeping their wealth and living in safety. Maybe the redemption will come peacefully, even if we don’t seem to deserve it.

That’s a lot of maybes. The only things we know for sure is that one day, all Jews have to end up in Eretz Yisroel. The Torah says so. The world has to stop moving away from God, and move towards God. The prophets said so. People have to stop oppressing people, and selfishness with all the other negative vices of man have to become things of the past. The Talmud says so. Right now, we are far away from all of this.

Where’s the consolation in THAT?

Where it has always been. It’s in the knowledge that, no matter how “hefker” the world seems to become, it is not, because God is in control and never relinquishes that control. And everything HE does He does for the GOOD, even if in the meantime it still looks pretty bad.

Just imagine how Moshe Rabbeinu felt. He hadn’t wanted to free the Jewish people in the first place, once he found out that they would go into other exiles later on. God made him do it anyhow. From that point onward, he put everything he had into the mission, despite the fact that he would not be able to complete it.

Even worse, he says in this week’s parsha:

When you have children and children's children, and you will be long established in the land, and you become corrupt and make a graven image, the likeness of anything, and do evil in the eyes of God your God, to provoke Him to anger… (Devarim 4:25)

That’s even worse than telling hard-working college students that yes, they will graduate, but no, they will not be able to find jobs after they do. “Yes, you will take and settle the land,“ Moshe told them on the east side of the Jordan, “but no, you will not keep it. You will blow it, and be exiled.”

But Moshe knew they would also be redeemed. True, they would be exiled again, but they will be redeemed from that exile too…only to go into another exile. But after that one, Moshe Rabbeinu knew, there would come one last final redemption, and would stay henceforth. It would take a lot of time, and a lot of suffering, but eventually his job would be done, and he would even reincarnate to complete it.

It would certainly be nice to be part of THAT generation, the one to be redeemed once and for all. The truth is, we are so close to the end that we may be. It would be wonderful to personally witness the fulfillment of the final prophecies for Jewish history and, in fact, we are witnessing them. The world may be out of control now, but there is something very controlling going on all the way through it. We just have to work hard to focus on it, and not all the distracting things happening around it.

To think that Moshiach is not only in the world right now, but just moments away from revealing himself maybe outside of the box for many today. But for those who can and for those who do, this is tremendous consolation, even as the sky remains gray for now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Spies, The Crisis, and Aliyah

Spain, Germany, America; where are Jews going to run to next, China?

Better to be a refugee in the Jewish State, than a prince in the Midbar HaAmim (Desert of the Nations).

Every Galut (place of exile), comes to an end. Egypt came to an end. Babylon/Persia came to an end. The Soviet Union came to an end. American will come to an end.

Every Galut comes to an end, and it’s never pretty...

Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1926), is known for his renowned works the, “Ohr Somayach,” a commentary on the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, and the “Meshech Chochma,” a commentary on the Torah.

Rabbi Meir Simcha was a strong supporter of the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, and greeted the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and later, the San Remo conference in 1920, with great enthusiasm. He saw them, that the nations recognized the rights of the Jews to Eretz Yisrael, as signs of the beginning of the Geulah, the redemption of the Jewish people.

In a famous, near-prophetic passage in his Meshech Chochma, written before 1926, he predicted the Holocaust. “If a Jew thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem...from there will come the storm winds that will uproot him by his trunk, a tempest will arise and spread its roaring waves, and swallow, and destroy, and flood forth without pity,” (Meshech Chochma, Leviticus 26:44).

Every Galut comes to an end, and it’s never pretty…

In this past week’s Torah Reading Devarim (Deuteronomy), Moses reminds the generation of children that grew up in the Sinai Desert (and are about to enter Eretz Yisrael), how their parent’s generation sinned.

“Then all of you [their parents] came to me and said: ‘Let’s send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we’re to take, and the towns we will come to.’ The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and explored it.”

“Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, ‘It’s a good land, that HaShem (the God of Israel), our God, is giving us.’ But you didn’t want ‘LaAlot’ (to make Aliyah, to go up); you rebelled against the word of HaShem, your God. You spoke slander in your tents and said, ‘HaShem hates us. He brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us,’” (Deuteronomy 1:22-27).

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato in his book, Mesillat Yesharim (The Path of the Just), chapter 11, discussing ‘The Lust for Honor’ states, “According to our sages of blessed memory, what caused the spies to utter evil speech on the Land, leading to their death and the death of an entire generation? They feared that others will take over their position when they enter Israel thereby diminishing their honor, namely that they will no longer be princes over Israel,” (Zohar on Numbers 13:3).

Rabbis, federation heads, presidents of major American Jewish organizations, lawyers, doctors, hedge fund guys and gals, millionaires, billionaires and Indian chiefs...They won’t be big machers (important people), in the community anymore, in Eretz Yisrael.

Better to be a refugee in the Jewish State, than a prince in the Midbar HaAmim (Desert of the Nations).

It Can’t Happen Here! Oh Yes It Can!
The CoronaVirus pandemic, out of control anti-Semitism from the far Left, far Right and Muslim Jihadists, and economic collapse in most of the countries of the Golah (exile) where Jews reside, is speeding up the inevitable, unfolding process of redemption of the Jewish people.

See my articles: “The God of Israel’s Hand in Nature and History,” and “BLM and Black Nazis are Evil Like White Nazis,” where I explain this in more detail.

The God of Israel is carrying out Kibbutz Galuyot (the ingathering of the exiles), just as He promised in the Book of Ezekiel, “...So says the Lord God: Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side, and I will bring them to their land,” (Ezekiel 36:21).

I listened to a recent podcast by Josh Wander ( entitled, “American Hasidim are Secretly Organizing to Make Aliyah!!!” The interviewee Yehuda Singer, spoke about groups of Hasidim (that he’s a part of), on WhatsApp, discussing Hashkafic (philosophical) issues related to Eretz Yisrael, the Redemption, the growing problems in America and practical steps to make Aliyah.

Massive waves of Jews, are planning to come on Aliyah, to Israel, in the next few years.

For example, Nefesh B’Nefesh, which assists in immigration to Israel from North America and the United Kingdom, announced at the end of June, that it had signed a contract with El AL Airlines for 14 “Group Aliyah Flights,” from New York to Tel Aviv, over the course of the next three months. Nefesh B’Nefesh reported that the number of applications in May 2020, was the highest since the organization’s founding in 2002.

In Parshat Haazinu, Moses sings/prophecies, “He found them [Israel] in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland...As an eagle awakens its nest, hovering over its fledglings, it spreads its wings, taking them and carrying them on its pinions. He made them ride upon the high places of the earth...” (Deuteronomy 32:10-11, 13).

Rashi explains “He made them ride [upon the high places],” [referring to] the Land of Israel, because it is higher [spiritually] than all other countries. — (Targum Onkelos, Sifrei 32:13).

The eagle carrying the Jewish people on his wings, is symbolic of the unfolding messianic process of redemption, the Kibbutz Galuyot promised by the prophets. In the Torah portion of Yitro (Exodus 19:4), HaShem also refers to the redemption from Egypt, as redemption, “on the wings of eagles.” Clearly, the eagle and his wings have messianic implications. The redemption of the Jewish people continues…

Better to be a refugee in the Jewish State, than a prince in the Midbar HaAmim (Desert of the Nations).

By the way, Israel isn’t a third world country anymore, if you haven’t noticed…

“The streets are paved with gold,” for those who can see, “Tovah HaAretz Meod Meod,” The Land is very, very good! (Numbers 14:7).

With the CoronaVirus Pandemic, Growing Anti-Semitism, Economic Collapse; What Will It Take To Become Jew-woke, And Move Back to the Homeland, To Israel?

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


by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Last week my wife and I made aliya after more than six decades of life in the United States. We are officially Israeli citizens, which affords me the right to criticize the Israeli government without being told to move here if I want to have a say, and the right to denounce American Jews for remaining in the fleshpots of the exile. But I’m going to hold off on both for the time being...

It would be easy to make Aliya if we were fleeing persecution but that is not the case, notwithstanding that rabbis have always been among the most persecuted Jews, and usually by other Jews. But that is not why. It would be easy to make Aliya if America had become unlivable, a place without a long-term Jewish future, and one can make a compelling argument that the handwriting is presently on the wall waiting to be read. Nonetheless, when I announced to the shul eighteen months ago that we would be making aliya in July 2020, the United States was peaceful and prosperous, President Trump was cruising to a (narrow) election victory, and pandemics, economic collapse and race riots were not even on the horizon. That we left amid all this turmoil in American life is a coincidence and not the proximate cause of our departure. In any event, “coerced Aliya” (running from something) is not as salutary or enjoyable as “voluntary Aliya” (running towards something). We are in the latter category in fulfillment of the verse in Shir Hashirim (1:4), “Moshcheini, acharecha narutza.” Pull me and I will run after You.

It would be easy to make Aliya if our children lived here – and two children already do, with grandchildren, but two still live in the US with grandchildren. We have experienced the range of emotions, of farewell and reunion, as can be expected. It would be easy to make Aliya if I was out of a job and had nowhere else to turn, but that would also be untrue. I could have stayed. It was a l’chatchila choice (ab initio, even granting the long time abroad), not a b’diavad (post facto).

Politically, it turns out to have been a lateral move. I went from one country (the USA) where leftists and anarchists are daily and violently protesting the government’s failure to deal effectively with the Coronavirus and where the media elites despise the head of government to another country (Israel) where leftists and anarchists are daily and violently protesting the government’s failure to deal effectively with the Coronavirus and where the media elites despise the head of government. Like I said, a lateral move.

So why make Aliya now? And the simple answer is: it was time. Personally, professionally, and ideologically, it was time to make the move that is the mandate and destiny of all Jews.

For one thing, the future of the Jewish people is in Israel rather than anywhere in the exile. If the events of the last few months (or century) have not demonstrated that, then nothing will ever be sufficiently convincing. The exile is drying up around us. More Jews live today in Israel than in the rest of the world combined. Moreover, after millennia of persecution, punitive measures, and harsh restrictions directed against Jews generally and specifically those who wanted to dwell in the land of Israel, today there is no Jew in the world living in a country from which he or she cannot freely emigrate and come live in the land of Israel. And if there are (Cuba?), there are just a relative handful. That is a divine gift.

It was time to be a player in the grand game of Jewish life rather than just a highly interested and vocal spectator. And I do not doubt that for all the dedication of rabbis, teachers and professional leaders in the Jewish world – and for all the vast investments in Jewish infrastructure that makes the United States such a hospitable and pleasurable exile – life in the exile is a holding pattern. We are trying to hold on to something – powerful in its own right and indispensable for almost two centuries – that cannot be sustained in perpetuity. We are not building as much as we are trying not to fall. We are walking on a ledge rather on solid footing. And now this is true not only spiritually but also physically and politically.

Few will deny that America has experienced two terrible traumas in the last five months, both unpredictable but both bearing an imprint that will leave a long term mark on American life. The Coronavirus pandemic exposed the greatest vulnerability in America today: the polarization that is itself an epidemic. The hatred of the President has reached self-destructive proportions, in which his legion of political and media enemies would rather see the country collapse further than recover even gradually. The tirades about Trump’s failures to halt the pandemic or economic dislocation are vociferous, and inversely proportionate to the suggestion of any alternative plan or approach. It is particularly unctuous, which is to say typical of politics at its worst, to criticize every policy without offering even a hint of how you would have done it differently or better. So they do what politicians love doing – printing money and claiming credit for distributing it to the voters, and trying to WIN at all costs.

What is most damaging to American society is the growing notion among the elites – not the mob of racists and anarchists – that America was conceived in sin, nurtured in criminality and has no redeeming value. In the turbulent 60’s, the elitist institutions protected themselves against the anarchists. Today, the corporations, media and universities join hands with anti-American anarchists to stifle liberties like freedom of speech, assembly and worship in the name of some higher dogma, and routinely purvey lies, untruths and distortions of reality – in order to both protect and encourage the anarchists and, it can’t be denied, win an election. “Systemic racism,” all the rage today, is an indictment without any possible defense (to defend against it is itself racist); it is a cudgel more than it is a complaint.

Opposing sides that no longer share common values, a definition of truth or reality or even rules of speech cannot interact. When one side of a debate is perceived by the other not just as wrong but as evil and immoral, public discourse ends and mob rule begins. That the mob now rules – anarchists destroying private or government property, assaulting innocent people in the streets, attacking the police, “canceling” those who disagree with them (the latter, woefully predicted by Orwell) – will only be tempered and then only momentarily if President Trump is defeated in November. And if he loses by a whisker, amid allegations of voter fraud abetted by mail-in ballots, harvested ballots, forged ballots, and on line voting in key swing states, then all bets are off and the hostility will no longer be unilateral. And if Trump wins, as is eminently possible given the lies people tell pollsters and the fear of expressing public support? There will be even more violence. Uneasy times are ahead.

Jews should especially take note of this because we are in the unenviable position of being perceived as part of the privileged white establishment by the minorities who are now protesting across the country but not by the privileged white establishment itself who see Jews as outsiders. Jews will have no natural allies in the coming struggle, which will come as a shock to liberal Jews who think their liberalism and historic support for civil rights inoculates them from the disruptions ahead. The liberal Jew of old –tolerant, open, respectful, and supportive of even anathematic views like the right of Nazis to march in Skokie – is a dinosaur, because that type of liberalism has disappeared. The Democrat party of old, the church (or synagogue) of most modern Jews, no longer exists. It too pays obeisance to the leftist mob, and is unsympathetic to Israel and to the Jewish ethos, not that most Jews realize it.

In the best sense, none of that is a reason to move to Israel, although it might be the tipping point in people’s otherwise positive decision. Jews have an unblemished record of staying in the exile a bit too long and paying a heavy price for it. But more importantly, we all recognize certain basic truths about Torah and Jewish life. The long prophesied “Kibbutz Galuyot” (ingathering of the exiles) has not only occurred but is actually entering its final stages. Jews from over 130 countries today live in Israel. The return to the land of Israel, itself a biblical prophecy, is something that we now take for granted. Most Jews alive today cannot envision a world without the Jewish state of Israel. Even in quarantine (where I now find myself, in escalating tedium, life on hold), I realize that centuries of Jews would have given their right arms to be able to quarantine in the land of Israel.

It is not without its problems. As I am sure I will note in the coming years, many of the afflictions of the more modern, leftist, faddish elements of Orthodoxy, and its neo-Conservative offspring, exist here as well, along with the clamor for a more malleable mesorah and elastic morality. There is much to do here, especially in warding off the displacement of Jewish morality by Western morality. But these are the problems of growth, of building the future, rather than trying to preserve the past.

I feel blessed that I am able to be here, as I feel blessed to have succeeded in my careers in the exile. Even as a rabbi, I never hid the fact that Aliya was both a Torah value and an imperative, even if it was against my interest in saying so. I certainly don’t disparage the USA or its people, or my Jewish brothers and sisters there. I was the beneficiary of prior generations who not only built the wonderful Jewish community of Teaneck but who constructed the edifice of American Jewish life that enabled survivors and refugees to rebuild Torah after the horrors of the Holocaust. For that, I will always be appreciative of America, its history, its aspirations and the haven it provided to Jews and others.

Nonetheless, we should not let our gratitude and nostalgia for the past cloud our vision of the present and future. With blessings from Israel!

Is Jeffrey Epstein’s Money Funding Leftist ‘Black Flag’ Riots in Israel?

(Editor's note. You better believe they are)
The anti-Israel protests are backed by a group funded by the world’s worst child rapist.

by Daniel Greenfield

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

Even as coronavirus cases rose sharply in Israel, radicals waving black flags, PLO terrorist flags, and Israeli flags defaced with black, continued their protests against Israel’s government.

While millions of Israelis were facing the prospect of returning to lockdown in their own homes, the radicals gathered in huge groups in Kings of Israel Square, hung black flags on historical sites, and clashed violently with police officers who were trying to stop these violent extremists.

Despite their lack of regard for public health, the radical rallies were praised by everyone from former prime minister Ehud Barak to the Israeli Communist Party: part of the Islamic Joint List.

Barak’s support for the rallies wasn’t surprising since a Channel 13 investigation found that the National Responsibility Association had allegedly spent 100,000 shekels (approximately $30,000) on equipment, publicity, and even potentially expenses incurred by the protesters.

The National Responsibility Association had been set up a few years ago by Oshi Elmaleh, Barak’s political adviser, and by his aides and his niece. At the time, Haaretz had described it as a platform for the left-wing politician to relaunch his career. These days the organization claims that it’s deeply interested in democracy and fighting the “far-right”.

But the Channel 13 investigation suggests that it’s actually playing a major role in the rallies.

Early on, Barak appeared to borrow the symbol of the front group in an op-ed titled, “A Sick Country and a Black Flag”, and praised the radicals who have been staging the protests.

While astroturf rallies and front groups are a common feature of left-wing Israeli politics, there is a much more troubling angle to the Black Flag movement and Barak’s alleged involvement.

"The Palestinian Authority flag at a left-wing protest organized by Ehud Barak, the partner of the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, yesterday outside the prime minister's house in Jerusalem. Shame and disgrace," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently tweeted.

Next day, protesters outside Barak’s house carried signs reading, “Black Flag protests – financed by money from the sex trafficking of minors”.

The accusations touched on one of the most sensitive issues in Israeli left-wing politics.

In one of the more shocking photos of the Epstein case, Barak was photographed hiding his face as he entered Epstein's Manhattan townhouse in 2016. The British tabloid noted that on the same day four young women had also entered the now infamous mansion.

One of the women was a Russian model whose father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Red Army, who had attended a university described as an incubator for the KGB, and whose non-profit advocating for diversity in STEM had been reportedly funded by Epstein.

Barak claimed that he was covering his face because of the cold and denied any wrongdoing.

“I was there, for lunch or chat, nothing else. So what?” the leftist politician claimed. “I never attended a party with him. I never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls,”

Barak then threatened to sue the Daily Mail for the “sordid institutions”. That was in 2019.

After the photos came to light, Barak tweeted, "I admit, I usually cover my face when it is cold. Not just in New York. Everywhere in the world. I did not know that this was newsworthy.”

January 2016 was actually New York City’s second warmest winter on record and locals enjoyed temperatures as high as 59° Fahrenheit

More relevant than whether Barak was hiding his face while paying a visit to the world’s most notorious pedophile because of the weather, was his business relationship with Epstein.

Barak claimed to have met Epstein at a party a year after having to leave office where, in his own words, "there were many famous and important people, including, if I recall, both Clintons."

The former prime minister owed his time in office to Bill Clinton, who had allegedly dispatched his advisers to intervene in the election between Netanyahu and Barak. Obama had made a similar effort to intervene in the Israeli elections against Netanyahu, but Clinton had succeeded.

Barak claimed to have been introduced to Epstein by his corrupt Labor Party predecessor, Shimon Peres, who had been defeated by Netanyahu, despite Clinton’s intervention.

"It would be fair to say that I tried to help Peres win the elections, and I tried to help him in such a way that I would not be openly involved," Bill Clinton later admitted in an interview with Israel's Channel 10.

In the interview, Clinton fumed that he was "embarrassed by the audacity" of Netanyahu.

His next choice, Barak, did succeed in taking down Netanyahu, aided by top Clinton advisers,

James Carville, Robert Shrum, and Stanley Greenberg. But then Netanyahu made a comeback.

"You should never underestimate him," Clinton commented on Netanyahu’s recent victory.

Back in 2001, Barak had lost badly to Sharon, and he was soon looking for career opportunities. A New York Times article noted Barak's role in global finance, lobbying for big investments from a union in America as a director of a fund run by an unrelated namesake of Winston Churchill.

During this period, he would later claim to have been earning over $1 million a year. Meanwhile he was engaging in business ventures around the world at firms whose names he kept secret.

In 2006, Barak deposited 38 million Japanese yen in a Cayman Islands bank. In 2007, he made a comeback in a unity government with Prime Minister Olmert, who was later convicted and imprisoned on bribery charges. The Olmert-Barak coalition was a disaster for Israeli security and Barak once again announced that he was leaving politics. He began by selling his 31st floor tower apartment, complete with gym, pool, and spa, for $7 million.

Four years later, Barak was touting a new app named Reporty. Two years later it was renamed Carbyne and was backed by $1 million in Barak's money and by Jeffrey Epstein's cash. While Barak was the chairman of Carbyne, Epstein had a stake of about 5% in a company valued at around $100 million.

But Epstein didn't just invest in Barak's company, he also invested in Barak's political ambitions.

When Barak’s associates launched the National Responsibility Association, money poured in from American businessmen. The biggest donation came from activist investor Bill Ackman, a top Democrat donor. Ackman, who is married to MIT’s Neri Oxman, had urged MIT to keep his wife's name out of the university's Epstein scandal, after Epstein donated $125,000 to her lab.

"I don't want to see her forced into a position where to protect her name she Is required to be transparent about everything that took place at MIT with Epstein," Ackman wrote to MIT Media Lab bosses about his wife.

A 44,000 shekel ($40,647) donation to the National Responsibility Association came from HBRK Associates. HBRK was Epstein’s secret non-profit.

Barak denied any wrongdoing. He protested that, "like many respectable people in the United States that we have heard about, I would have preferred in retrospect for this relationship to never have been formed.” But when he was visiting Epstein’s townhouse in 2016, the pedophile’s crimes were public knowledge. Epstein had been tried and sentenced in 2008.

“He’d served his sentence for soliciting prostitution, the indictment didn’t say she was a minor,” Barak protested to Channel 12, when asked about his Epstein ties.

Residents of a building owned by Epstein’s brother, which had been allegedly used to house underage girls sent to Epstein’s parties, frequently reported seeing Barak or his security people.

When asked about his visits, Barak claimed that he couldn't answer the question because of Israeli politics. “Despite the fact that there was no wrongdoing on my part, and that there is not even the faintest suspicion of wrongdoing on my part, I’m not going to address these questions."

Barak claimed to have met Epstein, "more than 10 times and much less than a hundred times, but I can’t tell you exactly how many" and admitted to visiting what had been dubbed, Pedophile Island, but claimed that it was, "years after the publications about sex parties or orgies there.”

It's not clear why Barak thought that would be a defense.

The National Responsibility Association promised to transfer Epstein’s donation to at-risk youth, meanwhile it seems to be using its money to fund radical protests targeting Netanyahu.

And it doesn’t end there.

Netanyahu allies have repeatedly raised the question of the $2.3 million that Barak received from the Wexner Foundation. Les Wexner, the Victoria's Secret billionaire, was the alleged source of much of Epstein's wealth.

Barak insisted, once again, that it was no one's business. "My services are in demand, and there are bodies prepared to pay me large sums for them.”

The Wexner Foundation claimed that it had paid Barak $2.3 million to write two papers. The second paper on the subject of leadership had never actually been written.

“We wish to put an end to ugly insinuations, speculations and rumors aimed at tarnishing the foundation’s name without justification,” the Wexner Foundation contended.

In July, Israel cut off ties to the Wexner Foundation over allegations that it was indoctrinating high-level participants in its activities with left-wing politics.

The Wexner Foundation partners with the Jim Joseph Fund, which funds the BDS-linked NIF.

A Netanyahu video asked, “What else has sex offender Epstein given to Barak?”

Barak has continued denying the Epstein allegations, angrily asserting last month that, "In the Netflix documentary that was very comprehensive, my name was not mentioned once.”

Meanwhile the hateful Black Flag protests continue to undermine and divide Israel.

Borrowing from the rhetoric of the antisemitic Black Lives Matter movement, Barak asserted that, “Netanyahu and his gang are sitting on the Knesset’s neck just as the white police officer did on the neck of George Floyd”. The Black Flag movement that the National Responsibility Association is funding uses the same white and red on black color scheme as BLM.

The color coordination and the branding strongly suggest that the Black Flag movement is yet another example of an Israeli astroturf group invented by American political consultants. A number of these “social movements” protesting for social justice have come and gone. Their protests were invariably in phase with some Israeli politician’s ambitions and his D.C. consultants, who were free and weren’t working on a Clinton or Obama campaign at the time.

But Epstein’s money adds a darker tone to the Black Flag campaign against corruption.

Netanyahu reminded Israelis that the protests by social justice activists are not only backed by one of the country’s shadiest politicians, but by an organization funded by a child rapist.

And as the Black Flag protests worsen Israel’s coronavirus crisis, Jeffrey Epstein’s money may not only be advancing left-wing politics, but wrecking Israel’s economy and even costing lives.

As Black Flag rioters block roads, throw things at police officers, and start fires, spreading hate and the virus, somewhere deep down, Jeffrey Epstein may be smiling.

The Temple Mount as the “Truma” of Eretz Yisrael

Parashat Va’et’chanan
Week of Tish’a Be’Av 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

This Wednesday night is the 9th of Menachem Av (the 9th day of the 11th month of our calendar year Menachem Av, counting from the previous month of Tishrei [Rosh HaShana]- that is our 9-11). For the 1950th time, we will mourn – in that exquisite unity that binds all Jews – the death of the 600,000 Jews in the desert who turned their backs on Eretz Yisrael and will feel the fresh anguish at the destruction of our two temples and subsequent expulsions into galut.

Notwithstanding the depths of our sorrow, there exists an ongoing reminder that the third Temple will be built and that HaShem will restore our nation to the grandeur that was once Am Yisrael. That reminder is Har Habayit – the Temple Mount – in Yerushalayim.

What makes Har Habayit the eternal repository of sanctity?

The Midrash (Devarim Raba 11,10) teaches that Moshe beseeched HaShem 515 times to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. This equals the gematria (number equivalent) of the word Va’et’chanan. Moshe did not request a homestead of lush rolling land, nor did he request a palatial home befitting the first king of Israel. He desired to enter the land for one sole purpose, as the Gemara (Sota 14a) says: “Was it to eat of its fruit or find pleasures of the Land that Moshe wished to enter? No! It was for one reason. Moshe prayed for the opportunity to keep mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael.”

It would appear that the Gemara is at odds with the Midrash in describing Moshe’s prayer to HaShem.

The Midrash relates that when HaShem denied Moshe the privilege of entering the Land, Moshe pleaded: “If I cannot enter in a living state, let my body be brought into the land.” HaShem’s answer was no! “Let me enter in the form of an animal so I can tread on the Land.” No! “Then let me enter as a bird without touching the Land.” No”!

Now, if according to the Gemara, Moshe wanted to enter the Land to keep its mitzvot, why would it satisfy him to enter as an animal or a bird?

We must, therefore, conclude that there is a spiritual experience that even an animal or a bird can experience – and that is fulfilling the mitzva of just being present in the land.

If the Land is so holy that even its air space is sanctified (the Zohar says that Eretz Yisrael is directly under the kisay ha’kavod – the Heavenly Throne – and the earthly Yerushalayim is directly under the heavenly Yerushalayim, influencing the spirit of all who are present there), the question arises: How can we live as “normal” human beings, doing the things people must do in order to maintain their personal and national lives? How do we get up in the morning and go to work, deal in commerce and industry, fix our cars when they break, eat, sleep, and attend to our bodily needs? The whole Land should be as the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies) of the Temple, if even an animal is stirred by the sanctity of the Land.

I suggest:

Newly grown crops of wheat, grapes, and olives in Eretz Yisrael are designated in the Torah as “tevel,” and no part may be eaten because of their sanctity (all other fruit and vegetables are “tevel” by rabbinic decree). The resultant punishment for this transgression is the termination of one’s life prior to the time allotted to him at birth. The prohibition is annulled by separating the required tithes as stated in the Torah. One of the tithes is “teruma gedola,” which is given to a kohen. The amount of teruma from the Torah is one grain of wheat (or grape or olive) from an entire crop. Not being a farmer, I would give a wild guess that there are millions of grains in a decent-sized wheat crop, which would make the teruma gedola totally insignificant in terms of quantity. Nevertheless, this tithe and the others are the factors determining one’s life expectancy.

We can conclude that this one single grain concentrates in itself the sanctity of the entire crop; because the spiritual world has a different set of physics and chemistry where size, space and numbers are irrelevant.

Thus, I suggest we live normally and function in Eretz Yisrael despite its inherent sanctity. This is feasible because HaShem has separated a piece of teruma that contains in it the necessary amount of kedusha, rendering the rest of the country kadosh – but less than the status of the Holy of Holies.

That “piece” of teruma is Har Habayit.

The Rambam states that, even in the period when the halachic status of Eretz Yisrael in terms of the agricultural laws was changed by the destruction of the first Temple, the halachic status of the Temple Mount was never altered since the time of King Solomon. Hence, we may offer up sacrifices even in our times (if we could overcome several halachic obstacles, such as the exact place of the altar and who is an authentic kohen).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in the Jewish world, and proof of this is what the great Ramban wrote to his son after arriving in Yerushalayim, “Whatever is more holy is more desecrated – Yehuda is more desecrated than the Galil, and Yerushalayim is the most desecrated of all.”

If you are shuddering at the thought of how many “karet” transgressions one performs when ascending the Mount, permit me to fill you in on a little halachic geography.

The Temple Mount is made up of two distinct areas. In the center is solid bedrock, which is surrounded by landfill made by Hordus (Herod) when he turned the Temple Mount from a square into a rectangle. His Bet Hamikdash was 100 amot high (50 meters) – equivalent to a 25-story building. Hordus built it with huge stones, like those in the Kotel. The sheer weight of the Bet Hamikdash was much too heavy to be held up by landfill. This means that even though we do not know where the exact site is, we do know where it is not; and, therefore, we tread only on the landfill. Indeed, the Kotel is no more than a supporting wall for the landfill to prevent slippage. The only area where karet is punishable is on bedrock in the area of the Temple. There is no punishment of karet for entering the surrounding Mount even for the most severe types of tuma.

[On a personal note: Were it in my power, I would close off the Kotel and hang a big sign on it saying, “All this because of sin’at chinam (unjustified hatred),” and then direct the people to Har Habayit.]

In the reality of our contemporary religious, geopolitical and military situation, whoever controls the Temple Mount controls Eretz Yisrael emotionally and religiously – and his G-d is victorious. It is clear that religious emotions are the dominant factors here in the Middle East.

On the human, practical level, the reality on the Temple Mount will be decided by numbers. If in the past very few Jews ascended the Mount in a year, the numbers are now in the tens of thousands. Things will change when the numbers will be in the hundreds of thousands. At that time, the pressure from the population will force the changes necessary to remove the abominations which are presently there.

The Haredi segment will join and even lead the great numbers, as they are beginning to see that the halachic decisions of the Dati-Leumi rabbis are the ones which are pertinent for our generation.

The most important mitzva in our time is the one that Jews “tread on with their heels” (Parashat Aikev) – to ascend the Temple Mount and declare that here we will build the third Bet Hamikdash.

It is enlightening to recall the words of our leaders at the time the second Bet Hamikdash was being built, as recorded in the book of Ezra chapter 4:

)א) וישמעו צרי יהודה ובנימן כי בני הגולה בונים היכל לה’ אלהי ישראל:

(ב) ויגשו אל זרבבל ואל ראשי האבות ויאמרו להם נבנה עמכם כי ככם נדרוש לאלהיכם ולא ולו אנחנו זבחים מימי אסר חדן מלך אשור המעלה אתנו פה:

(ג) ויאמר להם זרבבל וישוע ושאר ראשי האבות לישראל לא לכם ולנו לבנות בית לאלהינו כי אנחנו יחד נבנה לה’ אלהי ישראל כאשר צונו המלך כורש מלך פרס:

1: When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin (Samaritans and others) heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the G-d of Israel,

2: they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your G-d and have been sacrificing to Him since the time of Esarhaddon King of Assyria, who brought us here.”

3: But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the other heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our G-d. We alone will build it for the Lord, the G-d of Israel…

When the time comes (may it be soon) for us to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash, the nations will offer the Medina “foreign aid” to be partners in HaShem’s new world. And we shall say to them, as did our fathers, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our G-d. We alone will build it for the Lord, the G-d of Israel.”

This Tish’a be’Av will mark the 1950th year since the destruction of the Second Temple, by the cursed Romans in the year 70 C.E.

Look around. Do you see any descendants of the ancient Romans, or for that matter, a descendant of any of our long-lost enemies? And with just a little patience, we will not be able to find a descendant of any of our latter-day enemies.

So, for now, we will have to weep for what was and contend with our increasing anxieties stemming from the realities of our present-day challenges, but never taking our eyes off the three Bs:

B careful B healthy B here

…and its corollary JLMM – Jewish Lives Mean More

Have a meaningful fast and Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2020 Nachman Kahana