Monday, August 31, 2020

By the Numbers

by Jason Gold

So let’s look at the numbers shall we? I hope all you good people realize that as of the CDC report over the weekend, and the uh, reclassification of the covid-19 numbers, the US went from a flu-like fatality rate of 0.04%, which is based on 170,000 actual COVID deaths (many of which we know were juiced) in a population of 330,000,000, to a fatality rate of less than 0.003% based on actual COVID deaths without the co-morbid medical problems or extreme old age (or less than 10,000 out of 330,000,000) which is a tenth of that. For those of you that need pictures and graphs to confirm that this scamdemic/plandemic is over, you can see below and go here. I’m sure the mainstream media and all the little leftist fact-checkers on Facebook and Twitter will do their best to suppress or deny these facts. 

So what’s the bottom line?
  • For this lives, including Jewish lives, were destroyed.
  • For this, businesses were destroyed and people driven to poverty.
  • For this, we allowed petty dictator wannabes, some of whom were mass elder killers, to take control of our lives and allow infringement on our freedoms including our right to worship freely.
  • For this we allowed thousands to die because Anthony Fauci et al owned royalties in remdesivir and along with the media and big pharma actively suppressed and denigrated live-saving information on hydroxychloroquine.
  • For this, we allowed the fear generated by the initial blow to the Hareidi/Yeshivish community and high profile Modern Orthodox communities to dictate our behavior.
  • For this we were told that unproven lockdowns, social distancing (enforced isolation) and masks (depersonalization instruments) were necessary.

Will certain Jewish "thinkers" and “leaders” even acknowledge this as they worship at the CDC alter?

I know it’s difficult to admit you’ve been played/manipulated but have you had enough yet?

Fortunately, it appears that the one man standing between the US and anarchy has had enough and he’s got a new plan.

My new plan? Like the song says, “give me that old time religion”. 

Mask Meme of the day, 8/31/2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Lavan, the Prototype of Anti-Semitism

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"Arami oved avi" ("An Aramean tried to destroy my forefather"). (Devarim 26:5) Based on this verse, the authors of the Passover Haggadah formulated the text: "Go and learn what Lavan, the Aramean, wanted to do to Yaakov Avinu. Pharaoh decreed only against the males, whereas Lavan sought to uproot everything, as it says, 'Arami oved avi.'"

Why, of all the anti-Semites, did Chazal see fit to single out Lavan the Aramean? The Maharal, in his explanation of the Haggadah, addresses this (Gevurot Hashem, ch. 54):

In this passage, [Chazal] revealed very many things. Israel had adversaries, unlike other adversaries who came for some reason, but Israel had haters and enemies with no cause. The ones who opposed Israel most and without reason, were Lavan and Pharaoh ... The reason of Lavan was also without cause, because Yaakov did for him only great goodness, and [Lavan] chased after him ... Not so Esav who wanted to kill Yaakov - this was for a reason, because [Yaakov] took his birthright ... When you comprehend this, you will find the reason of hatred ... which is something very hidden.

Lavan is the classic prototypical example of anti-Semites throughout the ages, who hate Israel without reason.

Nonetheless, the question remains: Why do the nations of the world hate Israel for no reason?

"You are My witnesses, the word of Hashem, and I am G-d." (Yeshaya 43:12) Israel testify as to G-d's existence in the world. Chazal say: "When you are My witnesses, I am G-d, and when you are not My witnesses, it is as if I am not G-d." (Yalkut Shimoni) Knesset Yisrael "cloaks the Divinity that is revealed in the world at large." (Orot p. 149) Therefore, G-d is so bound with Am Yisrael, "That if the enemies cut off our name, "Your [trouble] is greater than ours,' for if we are not here, [it is as if He] is not here." (Ramban Shemot 29:46)

The war of nations of the world is focused on the war against G-d. However, it is not possible to fight Him, and therefore they fight against the one who represents him in the world. "Why do nations gather ... against Hashem and against his anointed." (Tehillim 2:1-2) The Rambam writes in Iggeret Teiman: "Because the Creator designated us with His mitzvot and His laws ... and our worth over others became apparent ... all the heathens were greatly jealous of us because of our religion ... and they want to fight against Hashem and to do battle with him, but He is G-d and who can fight against Him?" The Ramban similarly writes in Parshat Ha'azinu: "'We were killed on Your account all the day,' and therefore on account of their hatred of G-d they do all these evils to us. They are His opponents and enemies, and it is up to Him to take vengeance from them." This is what the Torah says, "'I shall return vengeance upon My enemies and upon those that hate Me shall I bring retribution.'" (Devarim 32:41)

"Idolatry recognized in Israel, in Judaism, its greatest enemy ... and great instinctive hatred to Israel arose from all the nations." (Orot Hatechiya ch. 2)

This is the intention of the Maharal when he writes that the hatred is for no reason, i.e., no apparent reason. The hatred is internal, subconscious, which is not understood externally, but simmers subconsciously.

Verification of this we experienced, unfortunately, in recent generations, in the words of the crazy German, who said about the Jews: "The Tablets of Mt. Sinai lost their value. Conscience is merely a Jewish innovation." "Fate sent me to be the great emancipator of mankind. I free people from the bonds of spirit, but the submitting tortures of false vision, called conscience and ethics." "There cannot be peace between these two forces." "See how we will succeed through the force of was alone to turn during a short time the concepts in the entire world, but this is just he beginning. The battle over control of the world is fought just between us; the war of the Germans against the Jews. Everything else is just a false mirage."

"For they take counsel together unanimously, they strike a covenant against you." (Tehillim 83:6)

You will Go Mad from the Sight of your Eyes

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg 
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

We say every day before Shema: "Enlighten our eyes in your Torah." Rabbi Akiva Eiger once asked: How can every Jew request this? After all, there are many ignorant Jews who do not know even the first thing about Torah?! He explained, therefore, that the "eyes of the congregation" that are mentioned in the Torah refer to the great Torah scholars. The request of every Jew is that Hashem should enlighten the eyes of the leaders and the great scholars in Torah, so that they will lead the nation along a true path according to the Torah. This is the request "Enlighten our eyes – the nation's leaders – in your Torah"

Rabbi Akiva Eiger concludes that this is the reason our parsha writes: "You will go mad from the sight of your eyes." (Devarim 27:34) It means that you will panic from the image of the misguided leaders who mislead the community. (From a letter in the book of Rabbi Akiva Eiger on the Torah)

Rav Kook zt"l also addresses the image of a leader in his commentary, Ein Ayah, to the Gemara (Brachot 55a): "A leader is not appointed over the community unless the community is consulted as it says, 'See, Hashem has proclaimed by name Betzalel etc'. Hashem said to Moshe: "Moshe, is Bezalel accepted by you' etc. He said to him: "Even so go consult Am Yisrael, etc." Rav Kook taught there are three fundamental requirements for a leader:

1. Inner virtues and holy character traits, which are revealed to Hashem alone.

2. Wisdom and the ability to lead the public.

3. Perfection in the eyes of the masses, a man of physical stature and oratory skills, who projects a presence and draw an audience with his words.

The value of these requirements lies in their being possessed in the proper order. The main requirement is perfection in the eyes of Hashem; afterwards comes excess wisdom, and finally comes the outward appearance. Therefore, the initial acknowledgement of the leader must come from Hashem, because when it concerns inner matters only Hashem can see the heart. Afterwards, Moshe was asked to give his opinion, since he could tell if Betzalel possessed wisdom. Finally, Am Yisrael were consulted on his ability to relate to the masses, which is something that anyone can evaluate. However, if the final requirement is viewed by the public as equal to the first and decisive one, and they don't pay attention to the first and second virtues – this person is not worthy of being a leader of Am Yisrael.

Some people interpret this pasuk, "You will go mad from the sight of your eyes," about Klal Yisrael, that you shall become enamored with everything you see. This is the desire to imitate everything that they see in the nations of the world, without checking first whether it is something that is appropriate for Am Yisrael. We forget our uniqueness and our destiny. However, it says about Am Yisrael that they are "A nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations." (Bamidbar 23:9) The Netziv writes that Am Yisrael's uniqueness lies in its solitude: "It is a nation that will dwell in solitude." However, if we betray ourselves and aspire to become like the rest of the world then they won't take us into consideration and expel us from among them, despite our attempts to integrate with them. Am Yisrael will then "not be reckoned among the nations" – in their eyes we are not even reckoned as human.

This idea is expressed in Masechet Sanhedrin (104a): "I said that Yisrael will dwell in safety in solitude, the eye of Yaakov. Now – alas she sits in solitude." Hashem is saying that His desire is that Am Yisrael will remain solitary and not mix with the nations of the world, and then they will be safe. Now that their desire was to be equal to the rest of the world – they have been isolated by them; no nation values them enough to intervene on their behalf. Similarly, on the pasuk, "Scattered among the nations; they desire closeness," the Gemara (Pesachim 104a) teaches: "What caused Am Yisrael to become scattered among the nations? The closeness that they craved from them." In Shemot Rabbah it says that when Am Yisrael was exiled among the Egyptians, they avoided circumcision. They said: "Let us be like the Egyptians." What did Hashem do? He turned their hearts so that they would hate His nation. The Netziv expands on this idea.

In a similar manner, the Ibn Ezra comments on the verses in our parsha: "There you will work for the gods of others – of wood and stone. You will be a source of astonishment, a parable, and a conversation piece." (Devarim 28:36-37) He writes: "There you will work – and it will not avail you. You will only be a source of astonishment and all those who see you will be astonished."

Am Yisrael exchange their dignity in gentile lands so that they will be liked by the nations, but all their groveling will not help them and they will be "a parable, and a conversation piece."

There is only one path for Am Yisrael: "I am a wall and my breasts are like towers, then I am in his eyes like one who found peace." (Shir Hashirim 8:10) The Midrash explains the metaphor, that to the question: "We have a little sister etc'. What shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken of?" I.e., where will her strength lie on the day that she will have to deal with the nations of the world? Knesset Yisrael answers: "I am a wall" – this is the Torah, "My breasts are like towers" – these are Torah scholars. [Alternatively,] "I am a wall" – this is Knesset Yisrael, "My breasts are like towers" – these are synagogues and study halls. Only then – when fortified with the strength of Torah, Jewish values, and prayer – "I am in his eyes like one who found peace."

Be Happy

by Rav Chanan Morrison
Rav, Mitzpeh Yericho

The Torah portion opens and closes with the same theme: simchah (joy). It begins with the mitzvah of offering bikurim (first-fruits) in the Temple, an exercise in appreciating what God has given us, as it says, "You shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has granted you and your family" (Deut. 26:11).

Afterwards, the Torah describes the terrible trials that will befall the Jewish people if they are unfaithful to the Torah's teachings. This section concludes with the root cause for these punishments:

"Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy (simchah) and contentment ("tuv leivav")." (Deut. 28:47)

Not only does God expect us to keep the mitzvot, but we are to perform them with joy and contentment. What is the difference between these two emotions?

Joy and Contentment
Simchah and "tuv leivav" are two distinct levels of happiness. Interestingly, they are the result of contradictory perceptions.

What is the source of tuv leivav? This is a sense of satisfaction that we feel good about our service of God. We pray, study Torah, and perform mitzvot out of a feeling that we are doing what we were created to do. As one of God's creations, it is natural for us to serve Him. We are grateful to have been blessed with the intellectual and spiritual capabilities needed to worship Him through Torah study and mitzvot.

Simchah, on the other hand, comes from the perception that some unexpected boon has befallen us. We feel joy in serving God when we are aware of the tremendous privilege in being able to connect to God — a gift far beyond our true level. Awareness of this amazing gift, while at the same time feeling that our service is appropriate and suitable, allows us to feel both simchah and tuv leivav.

Cultivating Joy
How does one attain this simchah in serving God? The secret to developing and enhancing our sense of joy is to reflect on two thoughts:

Appreciating the significance and wonder of every medium - such as Torah study and mitzvot — that allows us to connect with the Master of the universe.

Recognizing the divine source of our soul and its inherent holiness, even though it may have become soiled through contact with the material world.

We experience genuine joy in serving God when we are able to thoroughly internalize these two insights.

Rabbi Chanan Morrison of Mitzpeh Yericho runs, a website dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, to the English-speaking community.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 332-333. Adapted from Mussar Avicha, p. 32)

First Fruit Next to the Altar

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l
Rosh HaYeshiva, Mercaz HaRav
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda
Chaver, Beit Din HaGadol Yerushalaim

There is a special mitzva with special conditions – to bring bikkurim (the first fruit of the crop) to the Beit Hamikdash and make a declaration of thanks to Hashem for the fruit and the plot of land within the Land He gave us (see Devarim 26:2-4). If one does not have complete ownership of the land from which the fruit was nourished, the mitzva does not apply to its fruit.

The kohen is to take the fruit and place them next to the "altar of Hashem." How different is Hashem’s altar from those used by idol worshippers. No metal is to be used in forming the altar, as this reminder of violence spoils it (Devarim 27:5). This is in contrast to the altars of others, which are built on the spilling of human blood. It is before such an altar of Hashem, pure from anything objectionable, that the fruit are to be placed. The fruit must also be free of sin, starting with the sin of thinking that one’s success is due to his own resourcefulness. It must be free of manipulations, trickery, and arguments with the neighbors about the cultivation of his produce. It must be pure of even a hint of theft. The declaration over the first fruit must also be pure from anything false or even seems false. If the land used to grow the produce is not totally his, one can not say that the land is his. There is no sanctity without purity.

The Torah instructs to bring the fruit "to the kohen who will be in those days" (ibid. 3). Rashi picks up on the stress of "those days," saying that one is to make due with whoever the kohen is at that time. There is a similar derivation in regard to going for resolution of doubts on matters of Torah law to the kohen of the time. The latter derivation is more expected, as for Torah knowledge, one would think that we need an objective expert. However, why would one think that an available kohen would not be able to receive the first fruit? Based on what we have seen, the matter can be understood. A person needs a determination as to the completeness of his rights to the fruit and the land, and it is plausible that only an expert kohen could be trusted to decide for him. One might say that he would have accepted the verdict of the experts of yesteryear, but who are the people of his time to decide for him?

The Torah says that this is a wrong outlook. The main element needed to come to the right halachic decision is Divine Assistance (see Sanhedrin 93b), and the place one is located plays a role. When one brings his fruit to "the place that Hashem has chosen," the kohen who is charged to function there is to be trusted. In general, Hashem grants the necessary wisdom to the Torah leaders that He elevated to their roles. Do not stray from their decisions. The Torah sets out a straight path. It is the nature of the individual to stray to a given side and claim that the Torah is to the left or to the right of its proper position (see Devarim 17:1). In truth, it is the individual’s responsibility to straighten himself to conform to the Torah.

Preserve the Torah

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

This week’s parsha describes the two very different situations in Jewish life that have been present throughout our long history as a people. One situation is when we inhabited and controlled our own land – the Land of Israel. That is clearly indicated in the opening words of the parsha – ki tavo – when you will come into your land. The second much more difficult situation is outlined again in the parsha in the bitter, lengthy and detailed description of the lot of the Jewish people in exile, scattered among hostile nations and violent hatreds.

Over the many millennia of the Jewish story, we have been in exile far longer than we were at home in the Land of Israel. It is significant that the recounting of the troubles and persecutions of the exile of Israel from its land occupies greater space (and perhaps even greater notice) in the parsha than does the section relating to our living in the Land of Israel.

The Land of Israel carried with it special commandments and rituals as described in the parsha such as various types of ‘Maaser’ – tithing – and ‘Bikurim’ – the first fruits of the agricultural year. The description of the exile posed problems of demographic extinction and continued tension, fear and a constant state of uncertainty. In the words of the parsha itself, the conditions of the exile were capable of driving people into insanity and fostered hopelessness.

Yet the strange, almost unfathomable result was that the Jewish people survived, created and at times even thrived under the conditions of the exile, while our record as a national entity living in our own country was much spottier. Jews are a special people but our behavior is oftentimes strange and counterproductive. We don’t seem to deal too well with success and stability.

By the grace of God we are once again back in our lands. After seeing the words of the parsha, in all of its terror fulfilled, literally, seventy years ago, we have nevertheless restored our national sovereignty, built a wonderful country and an intriguing society, and are engaged in facing great challenges as to our future development here in the Land of Israel.

We would indeed be wise to remember why we failed in the past in our nation building and why, paradoxically, we succeeded in achieving major successes while in exile and under very negative circumstances. Straying from the path of Torah and tradition has always brought us to harm. Adopting foreign cultures and fads that are temporarily popular and extolled is not the way to fulfillment of our national interest and purpose.

Our historical experiences both in the Land of Israel and in the exile have taught us this clear lesson. It would be foolhardy in the extreme to repeat these errors once more. Coming into our land carries with it the challenges of living in holiness and having a special relationship with our Creator. Our efforts should be concentrated in strengthening and broadening that relationship. It may be wise for us to discard the bath water of the exile now that we have returned home. But we must preserve at all costs the baby - the Torah and its values – that has brought us home to the land that the Lord has promised to us.

Tithes Confession – Confession for Good Things?!

by Rav Yossef Tzvi Ramon

In our portion we learn about the commandment to remove tithes and the commandment to confess tithes.

In Deuteronomy 14 (28-29) we find the commandment of removing the tithes, which teaches us that we have to complete all our tithe debts left from the previous three years (a type of end of tax- year).

Another commandment is the Tithe Confession Commandment, which is the recital of verses found at the beginning of our portion, Parshat Ki Tavo, which testify that we did all that is required regarding separating terumot (priestly tithe on produce) and tithes.

Within the Tithe Confession Commandment the Tithe Removal Commandment is mentioned (Deuteronomy 26: 12-15):

(12) When you have finished tithing every tithe of your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, and they shall eat in your cities and be satisfied:

(13) Then you shall say before Hashem, your G-d, "I have removed the holy things from the house, and I have also given it to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, according to all the commandment the You commanded me; I have not transgressed any of Your commandments, and I have not forgotten:

(14) I have not eaten of it in my intense mourning, I did not consume it in a state of contamination, and I did not give of it for the needs of the dead; I have hearkened to the voice of Hashem, my G-d; I have acted according to everything You commanded me:

(15) Gaze down from Your holy abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground that You gave us, as You swore to our forefathers, a Land flowing with milk and honey."

Our Sages called this commandment – Tithe Confession. Seemingly, the wording of "confession" does not fit here, as it is not speaking about a person who behaved improperly.

What is the significance of confession?

The simple meaning of confession is that a person has to recognize his sins, which is the first step in correcting them. According to some opinions, a person has to define his sins (a dispute in Yoma 86B, whether a person needs to list his sins). The confession, which is said verbally (according to most opinions the main part of the confession is the verbalization), helps a man define his inner thoughts. The confession assists in exposing inner things in order to make them easier to correct.

Confession is desired the whole year, but it is especially desired on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance. Possibly, besides the special need to confess on Yom Kippur, there is also a special ability on this day to confess sincerely. On Yom Kippur man becomes elevated and gives his soul freedom. The soul intrinsically strives for truth and integrity, and therefore on this day it is possible to confess more honestly than during the rest of the year.

However, as stated, it is difficult to understand the concept "Tithe Confession" for it is not speaking about a person who acted improperly.

The author of "Minchat Chinuch" (437, SV and I thought to say) introduces a novel idea, that it could be that the confession is only said by someone who held onto his tithes and didn’t give them on time, and is now correcting what he distorted. This explanation is very novel. From the Torah’s simple meaning is sounds like it is speaking about a person who acted properly – " when you have finished tithing …I have acted according to everything You commanded me ". Furthermore, our Sages in Sota (32B) call the Tithe Confession "man’s praise".

The "Minchat Chinuch" (437) explains, that since speech is a significant thing, G-d wants us "to testify for ourselves with our mouths in the Holy Temple that we have not lied with them and we didn’t prevent anything from them, in order that we should be very careful in this regard". In other words, the future declaration with which tithes are delivered causes man to take this commandment seriously.

Rav Kook (Ain AY"H, Brachot pg. 405) explains wonderfully:

"The Torah comments that man also needs to rejoice at times by verbally expressing a good deed that he has done…

In other words, just as man confesses his sins, he also at times has to confess before G-d his good deeds, in order to be happy with himself and the good things he has done."

According to Rav Kook, the confession has a two-fold purpose: on the one hand, the person needs to confess before G-d all his sins. On the other hand, a person sometimes merits to also confess before G-d his good deeds. How do these two conflicting actions integrate in the same word?

At times, the evil urge incites a person to think of himself as inherently evil with no chance of correcting his sins. The Chassidim say that at times the Evil Urge’s goal is not the sin itself, but rather the feelings of lack of ability, despair and spiritual descent that is caused by the sin.

Through the confession we completely reject this thought process. We confess our sins, but through the confession we know that the strengths which caused the sin are not inherently evil, and those same strengths can lead us to repentance. The sin doesn’t bring us to despair, but just the opposite, it brings us to the knowledge that we have in us the strengths to overcome the sin. Our sins and good deeds are included in the same word: confession.

Confession also has a third significance. Rav Kook ((Ain AY"H, Brachot pg. 253) says that thanksgiving comes from the word confession. And it’s possible to also say the opposite: confession is from the word thanksgiving. A person confesses his sins and gives thanks and praise to G-d Who gave him the ability to recognize his sins and confess them; thanks to G-d Who gave him the strengths to correct; thanks for the good deeds he will yet do, and for which he will give thanks and confess before G-d in the future.

Let us search our sins and transgressions, cry over them with a broken heart, understand that G-d wants our repentance and gives us the strengths to repent. When contemplating our sins let us also contemplate our good deeds, gain strengths, recognize our abilities, and through them draw strengths to continue and achieve, to correct the past and to empower ourselves for the future. In the confession let us see the opening for correction, and the essence of the confession will be the start of the improvement.

May he Who dwells on high let me hear "I forgive", to save a poor and destitute nation, when we call out to You, Awesome One, answer us, G-d be a help for us.

Failure to Show Appreciation

by HaRav Yossef Carmel
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda Dayanut

Our parasha begins with the mitzva to bring bikurim (first fruit) to the Beit Hamikdash and make a declaration of thanksgiving to Hashem (Devarim 26: 5-10). Included in that declaration is a recount of Bnei Yisrael’s travails in Egypt and the subsequent exodus, a section which serves as the basis for much of the Pesach seder. An illusive phrase in that text is "vayarei’u otanu hamitzrim." The simple translation would seem to be that they did bad things to us. However, "to us" is normally written as "lanu," whereas "otanu" is usually used as a direct object, as if to say that they made us bad.

The Midrash (P’sikta Zutrata, Tavo 46a) connects our pasuk to the pasuk, "Let us be wise, lest they multiply [and it shall be if a war will occur, they will join our enemies...]" (Shemot 1:10). How does the second pasuk help us understand the first? Indeed the commentaries differ as to the possible meaning of the phrase, in light of this cryptic Midrashic statement.

The Shibalei Haleket (13th century Rome) in Seder Pesach 218 explains that the Egyptian plot to harm us was extremely conniving and evil. This is the connection between doing bad to us and being wise. Others explain (the Ramban, ad loc., may allude to it) that the Egyptians indeed made us bad, as the great pressure to which the Egyptians subjugated us robbed us of the opportunity to act based on the principles of justice and refined behavior.

The Netziv paved a new path in his commentary, which "raises the bar" as far as our expected behavior. Indeed they "made us bad" but not by making our moral standards lower, for they did not succeed in that despite our subjugation. Rather, they made us out to be bad. Recall that the pasuk that the Midrash brings deals with Egypt’s concern that the emerging Nation of Israel, who were refugees in Egypt, might betray the trust of their hosts and join their enemies in battle. Just the thought that our forefathers would have betrayed the Egyptian nation, who had welcomed them in Yosef’s time, was a terrible affront to us as a nation. After all, Bnei Yisrael were to leave Egypt as a community/nation dedicated to teaching humanity the values of morality and justice through its actions. How could they treat us as a horde of people who were incapable of showing proper appreciation for a past favor? Lack of appreciation (k’fiyut tova) is one of the lowliest characteristics, from which we as a nation must separate ourselves to the fullest extent possible.

It is appropriate that the Torah teaches the historic lesson of our nation’s dedication to showing appreciation where it does. The mitzva of bikurim and its connected declaration are a yearly practice of showing our appreciation to Hashem for the good that He bestowed upon our forefathers and us. It teaches us that we should act in such a way that no one would imagine that we would not show our appreciation to those who helped us.

Rav Kook’s Essay “HaDor” (“The Generation”)

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The essay “HaDor” (“The Generation”) in the book “Ikvei HaTzon” is undoubtedly one of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook’s most fundamental essays, in which he analyzes the special character of the generation, and outlines a path for its repentance and perfection. Rav Kook explains that Jews who abandoned the Torah in the previous generations were usually light-minded and immoral, whereas nowadays, high-quality people with beliefs and moral ambitions are leaving the Torah. They are searching for an absolute and lofty truth that carries a message of tikun (perfection) for Israel and the entire world. From what they have heard and studied about Judaism, it seems to them that the Torah deals with personal questions about kashrut and the like, but is unable to offer a way to address the significant questions of man, nation, and humanity. “Our generation is wonderful… it is extremely difficult to find an example [similar to it] in all our chronicles. It is composed of various upheavals, darkness and light serving in disorder. It is low and dejected, but also lofty and exalted. It is completely guilty and [at the same time] completely innocent” (pg. 108).

How to Address the Generation
The threat of punishment in this world or the World to Come does not affect them. “It cannot, even if it desires, be subordinated and bowed down… it cannot repent out of fear, however, it is very capable of repenting from love” (pg. 111).

The generation must be spoken to with grand ideas. “The less significant and simpler ideas, although filled with truth and integrity, will not suffice [the generation]” (pg. 112).

“We will not rob them [the generation] from all the light and good, all the radiance and intensity it has obtained, but rather increase and shed light upon them, from the light of Life, the light of Truth, illuminating from the Source of the Israel’s soul. Our sons will behold Him, and glow” (pg.109).

“To them, we must teach the living Torah, from the Source of Life, ethical ways filled with light and rejoicing, words of pleasantness and good wisdom, refined and purified… from the treasure of Life, of the living Torah.” “We do not desire to suppress them under our feet; we do not wish to place the young and fresh forces which rush forward and uplift, in shackles. Rather, we will illuminate the path before them; we will walk before them in a pillar of fire of Torah and Holy knowledge, and enormous power of the heart” (pg.115).

Is the Essay “HaDor” Relevant to our Times?
Many people who learn the essay “HaDor” believe it refers to the pioneers who immigrated to Israel with utter devotion, drained its swamp-lands, made its desert bloom by establishing communities, fought for the establishment of a Jewish State, and reared a young generation of pioneers and fighters. A question then arises: nearly 120 years after the essay “HaDor” was written, are the analyses and conclusions of our teacher, Rav Kook, still applicable today?

There are differing approaches to this question, and I will attempt to summarize them briefly.

The Pioneering Spirit Still Exists – It is Simply Veiled
Some people believe that the words of Rav Kook ztz”l are valid and binding. Even today, there are many people who love the Land of Israel and are willing to sacrifice their lives for her by settling the country and serving in the army. There are still kibbutzim and settlements, and even if their status has weakened, in practice, they are settling the Land, and have successors in the form of the settlers. And even if outwardly it seems that the majority of the population today is not concerned about the Land and its development, deep-down everyone is connected through mesirut nefesh (utter devotion) for the Nation and the Land. Likewise, soldiers who work night and day and risk their lives for the security of the State, represent the spirit of the generation that Rav Kook spoke of to a great degre.

Our Generation is Petty, Materialistic, and Needs Reproof
In contrast, some say: Nowadays, the public at large does not care about any ideals. The Land and the Nation don’t matter to them. They are secular because they are ignorant. They are content in their ways, and also think that in this way they will be able to satisfy their desires. In order to bring them closer, all the nakedness of the world they live in must be exposed. They must be shown how the pursuit of money and luxuries does not lead to true happiness. Sexual permissiveness, broken families, and public and personal corruption must be sharply criticized. The punishment of the wicked in this world and the next should be explicitly described. At the same time, they should be shown the beauty of Judaism: the tranquil Shabbat table, the well-behaved children honoring their parents, the beautiful candles lit by the faithful wife, and the husband who sets times for Torah study. To support their beliefs, they offer as proof the numerous baalei teshuva (repentant sinners) who love hearing simple mussar and have no connection whatsoever to Clal Yisrael ideas.

Our Generation Seeks the Meaning of Life (New Age)
Others say that today, people no longer believe in general ideals. Settlement of the Land does not interest them. Economic and social questions do not concern them either. Life is so complicated, complex and burdensome that people are content to seek meaning in their own personal lives. They are searching for meaning in life – a way to deal with all the confusing and burdening prosperity. The teachings of Hasidism, which delves deep into the individual soul and evokes emotion, speaks to them. The individualistic ideas in Rav Kook’s words also touch their hearts, but not the general ideas.

The Post-Modernists
Others say: today, people do not believe in absolute principles. There are no longer any idealists willing to give their lives for principles. The generation has matured and adopted a complex world-outlook, according to which truth does not belong to any one group, nor to any particular Torah perspective. If presented with the vision of tikun olam in the Torah, they will not be impressed or drawn closer, rather quite the opposite – they will loathe the over-confidence of the believers. They are wary of overly-idealistic movements. The students of Rav Kook, with all their “messianism,” also frighten them. This passion might have been siutable during the times of the First Aliyah to Israel and the draining of the swamps, but today, it is irrelevant. People nowadays are looking for a reasonable, decent and comfortable life.

In order to draw the generation closer, the foundations of the Torah and halakha must be integrated with modern-day life. The tension between Judaism and liberal democracy, between the claim to the absolute truth in the Torah and pluralism, should be reduced as much as possible.

The Essay “HaDor” Relates to the Entire Nation
Although there is a certain amount of truth in each one of the approaches mentioned, the full scope of the essay “HaDor” was misconstrued. Rabbi Kook refers not only to the pioneers who immigrated to Israel, but rather to the entire generation. The essay was published in the year 5666 (1906), two years after Rabbi Kook immigrated to Eretz Yisrael. In those times, less than 100,000 Jews lived in Israel, whereas in the Diaspora, there were approximately 12 million Jews – over 10 million of them living in Europe and America. When Rabbi Kook wrote his essay “HaDor” he had this enormous population in mind.

At that time, tremendous unrest took place amongst this large Jewish population. Many of them invested their talents and skills in the development of the various sciences and arts and promoting social ideas – and all this, with the belief that by doing so, they could repair the world. In regards to them, Rav Kook writes that “darkness and light serve them in disorder.” They have great aspirations, however, without Torah they will not achieve a real tikun.

“HaDor” is the Modern Era
The essay “HaDor” speaks of modern times in which man began to believe that in the power of thought, creation, research, planning and initiative, he would be able to solve all problems and change the world for the better. Modernity began around two hundred and fifty years ago in Western Europe, then spread to Eastern Europe and the capital cities of Arab countries, and continues to this day. Rav Kook addresses the ‘young’ forces, even though in practice, some of them were already adults, but in a historical perspective, they expressed the new, youthful trend.

Although many of the early thinkers and scholars believed in God, the growing notion that man could take responsibility for his own destiny and future caused many to turn away from religion, which emphasized man’s minuteness and dependance. Many even argued that religion harms and inhibits the development of humanity, and instead of obeying the laws of religion, an effort should be made in social change, scientific research and technological development, thus redeeming man from poverty and deprivation, and allowing him to express his full potential.

In his essay “HaDor,” Rav Kook spoke about all the talented Jews who were active in the various movements for the sake of humanity. Some led social revolutions for liberalism and socialism, and many others led the development of science and art. One of the movements belonging to the modern era was the Zionist movement. Unfortunately, in terms of quantity, fewer Jews participated in it, and in terms of quality as well, its activists were generally less talented. The genius minds in science, economics and society gave their strengths to foreigners.

The Relevance of “HaDor” for Our Generation
Indeed it is true that today there is disappointment in ideological movements. Many dreams were dashed against the rocks of a grim reality. Scientific and cultural development in Germany did not prevent the Holocaust. The Communist revolution did not benefit humanity. Even the democratic and liberal values that have benefited humanity, are far from fulfilling the great expectations that were placed in them.

Despite all this, the vast majority of the public still believes that with the power of thought and planning, the world can be improved and corrected. This is the “totally intellectual movement” (pg. 110). In face of such a movement, which is the leading one to this day, a vision must be presented.

True, many people are unconcerned with general ideas about tikun olam and the world’s realistic redemption, rather, deal with personal questions concerning their lives and that of their community alone. Even if they have ingenious talents, they are not the ones leading the social processes in the world. They are trailing behind. And when involved in Torah, they are content to establish a religious ghetto on the fringes of society, and claim that the generation is petty and lustful, or looking for religious feelings, or comfortable compromises, to which they try to give answers.

However, those who determine the spirit of the generation are people who think of tikun olam for the entire world. To this end, they deal in philosophy, law, morality, science, society, economics, psychology, literature and art. Ultimately, the masses follow them, and even those in the ghetto are inevitably affected by them.

The great novelty in the words of Rav Kook is that despite the darkening shadows, he saw the point of truth and goodness in them, and determined it to be the main point. He taught us to appreciate all these movements, and called us to delve into the Torah in greatness, to draw from it enlightenment to all the forces revealed in the generation, in order to guide and elevate them for the tikun of the world and its redemption.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: Purgatory – Hands Off!

(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 12:43-44)

Gemara: [We continue with lessons learned from pairs and then groups of three letters.] “YaM kol” – the officer of gehinom (purgatory) said to Hashem: “Master of the Universe, everyone should come to the sea” (the great pool into which most souls enter- Rashi). Hashem responded: “Achas betah gif” – I have mercy on them because they kicked (in disgust) promiscuity.

Ein Ayah: All creations were created not in their complete form, in which they will be in the future when the whole world will be morally repaired and all will be prepared for the feast (see Avot 3:16). For this reason, in the beginning of existence, there is a point of breaking, and worlds that were previously destroyed, because Hashem was not pleased with them, needed to be recreated. Finally, a world in which Hashem is pleased was created.

However, even this improved world will also be turned into a new world, as the pasuk says: “The new heavens and the new earth that I am making” (Yeshayahu 66:22). Certainly, even in this world of ours, which our Creator wants to continue, still all creations, whether the spiritual ones or the physical ones, are slated to receive a new form, which is grander, more complete, and more illuminating. The completion of the process will come by turning that which was missing into something new.

Gehinom is the smelting cauldron of souls and spirits, who, due to their sins, left the physical world in a blemished state. Gehimon is that which will create the new and improved creation. The impurities will be “burnt out of the pure silver” of the former living beings and all that is connected to them. That is why this power of destruction that is connected to gehinom has such a powerful desire to bring everyone into its realm and have its power of destruction act on them so that they can emerge more complete. The officer thus asks Hashem to bring all into the “great sea,” which inundates its inhabitants who came in with different forms. For that reason, despite all of the pain involved, the process is still one of completing matters.

The following is behind Hashem’s refusal to send everyone through the process of gehinom. The foundation of spiritually completing man’s form is that he should turn the depths of his life to the lofty goal of sanctification, which is what keeps all generations standing. In man’s higher spirit, there is an inclination toward keeping the species going through a means that embraces all of the inclinations of life. When the concentration of inclinations is done in a pure and ideal manner, it turns out that the foundation of sanctity, including removing spiritual filth from his inclination of procreation, is set in the center of the soul. Then the whole character of the person is completed in a manner that does not require it to be elevated by being broken, which can only be done by the fearsome fire of gehinom.

Within the holy lineage of Israel, to whose males Hashem attached a sign of the covenant in their flesh, this inclination is controlled in a manner that the purity can be intrinsic. This allows the soul to remain as it was. It can then be elevated even further after death without the need for destruction and being turned into a certain nothingness, as the fire of gehinom is able to do. Therefore, because Israel kicks away promiscuity, they do not need gehinom.

Israel’s PM and Government Should Resign Today

I’m not looking forward to writing this, or to reading the responses that I will surely get from various quarters. But here it is.

The Breslov Hasidim venerate Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), a kabbalist, scholar, and founder of a movement that stresses joy and the personal closeness of a Jew to Hashem. Israelis are familiar with the Breslov trucks that drive around playing loud, rousing music, sometimes stopping for the passengers to get out and dance in the street with passers-by. Some see their approach as a welcome infusion of life and spirituality into what can be a dry and forbidding faith; others see their attitude toward Rabbi Nachman as avoda zara (worship of something or someone other than Hashem).

The Breslov Hasidim have developed a tradition in recent decades of visiting Uman (in Ukraine) where he died and where his grave is located, on Rosh Hashana. This pilgrimage has included tens of thousands of Israelis and others over the years. While for most of the pilgrims the goal of the trip is increased spirituality, there is also an element that treats it like the American college students’ Spring break, lubricated by alcohol and spiced up by prostitution.

The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic has (maybe) put a damper on the phenomenon. Israel’s numbers of serious cases and daily deaths from Corona are about as high as they have ever been, and its total number of cases per million population is 19th in the world (out of 213). Ukraine is also suffering an increasing number of new cases, although it ranks only 87th in cases per million. Last month, Ukraine decided to bar Israelis from the pilgrimage after the EU placed Israel on its “red list” of countries unsafe to visit.

Since then, pressure has been applied to authorities in Israel and Ukraine, both for and against the event. As one can imagine, tens of thousands of visitors mean a huge amount of income for the relatively small town of Uman. On the other hand, the danger of spreading Covid-19 at this kind of happening, where there will be large crowds and little social distancing, is very great. As Prof. Roni Gamzu, the Corona coordinator of Israel’s Health Ministry, recently pointed out, travelers to Uman will have to be placed in quarantine when they return home. A few thousand could be placed in hotels, but there is no way to quarantine and keep track of tens of thousands. Gamzu wants the government to forbid Israelis from flying to Uman. He also communicated his feelings to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In response, former Health Minister and present Housing and Construction Minister Ya’akov Litzman, himself a member of a (different) Hasidic sect, was infuriated and called for Gamzu’s resignation. The most recent development has the Ukranian President announcing that the pilgrimage would be “significantly restrict[ed]” although no precise details were given. Zelensky said that he was responding to a request made by PM Binyamin Netanyahu, but the PM’s office denied that he had made such a request, and said only that travelers should follow health instructions (proving yet again that at least in the case of Bibi, physical courage in youth doesn’t necessarily translate into moral courage in maturity).

I don’t know what will come out of this for Gamzu, who recently implied that he would resign if “not given the tools to bring down morbidity.” Gamzu, who has been properly trying to balance the medical demands of the epidemic with the need to protect the economy, has been stymied at almost every turn by politicians.

Why is an advanced, small country like Israel doing so poorly in managing the epidemic? There are several reasons. One is the fact that government decisions are being made on the basis of political interests, and not from medical or economic considerations. The pilgrimage to Uman is only one example. Another is that the Haredi and Arab sectors, where the virus has spread the most, institutionally resist authority, and ignore the rules. And finally, last but definitely not least, is the lack of leadership from the one person that should pull everything together, the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is more concerned with keeping the support of Litzman’s Haredi faction to keep him in power and out of jail, than with the threat of a major outbreak of the virus and concomitant economic disaster. Netanyahu has systematically kept his rival Naftali Bennett on the political margins. Bennett is one of the few politicians who has demonstrated real creativity in dealing with the present crisis, but he was forced out of the Likud by Bibi, reportedly because Mrs. Netanyahu dislikes him.

Recently the government managed to avoid falling and precipitating yet another election when it negotiated an internal compromise to delay voting on a budget. This is the best thing this pitiful government is capable of accomplishing: saving itself by not doing something essential.

Thanks to the irresponsibility of our politicians, people are dying of the virus. And the ones who don’t die are out of work.

After three elections in one year, Israelis have no appetite (or half a billion shekels) for another one. But the people have had it. We are sick of the endless crises of their own making, while the country misses opportunities like the application of sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, while the southern part of the country absorbs blow after blow from Hamas (yesterday their incendiary balloons started 30 fires), and while the number of seriously ill increase daily as the politicians dither.

Recently the entire government of Lebanon resigned, after an ongoing economic meltdown was followed by a massive explosion that destroyed large chunk of their capital. I don’t envy the Lebanese their economy or their explosion, but our government should follow their example.

Why do they hate us so much?

by Rav Binny Freedman

A Jew defining (and dressing) himself as Ultra-orthodox goes on a stabbing rampage at the LGBT pride parade in Jerusalem, murdering a 16 year old girl and seriously wounding five others.

Iranian leaders, while smiling for the cameras, lead marches declaring death to America, and promise to destroy the State of Israel and every last Jew on Earth, reminiscent of another Persian’s attempt to do just that some 2500 years ago, in the story of Purim.

A suicide (homicide) bomber walks into a crowded Pizzeria in Jerusalem on a beautiful August afternoon in 2001 and detonates his bomb murdering 15 people and injuring scores more…..

What do all these events share in common?

This week, while standing on our rooftop in the Old City overlooking the Temple Mount above the Kotel, a few of us had the chance to watch and listen to a group of dozens of Muslim (Mourabitat) women, covered from head to toe in their religious garb, screaming and hurling epithets at a group of what appeared to be Western and Jewish tourists who were visiting the Temple Mount.

And what do all of these people seem to share in common? Hate; pure, unabashed, unbridled and unmitigated hatred; for others; who are different; simply because they are different….

Some would say these women were simply exercising their freedom of speech and that such passionate belief and adherence to principal is admirable. But to me, it is simply another manifestation of hatred.

And one wonders: why do they hate us so much? Why is a Country like Iran w 10,000 people for every Jew so dedicated to our annihilation? Why is Hamas’ charter dedicated to the eradication of Jews everywhere?

I remember spending time as a young soldier in Lebanon; it is such a beautiful country; yet it remains devastated and constantly on the verge of conflict, largely because the Hezbollah cannot make peace with the fact that there is now a State with a Jewish majority on its borders. Hatred has blinded them to what life could be.

Historians and philosophers have written countless books and articles debating what caused Germany and so many countries to be so dedicated to the destruction of the Jews that they murdered close to seven million people including 1 and a half million children.

Some say it was economics, but if it were just economics the Jews should have been part of the solution. If economics were the root cause of Anti-Semitism then Hamas, the PLO and Lebanon would long ago have figured out it makes much more sense economically to make peace with Israel than to exacerbate a war which has been ongoing for nigh on a hundred years.

Others suggest it is because we are so different, but that would not explain why hundreds of thousands of fully assimilated Jews including those who had converted to Catholicism, were sent to the Ovens along with everyone else.

No, it is what it has always been: it’s just plain old fashioned hatred, which actually does not have to be logical.

So what does Judaism have to say about hatred?

This week’s portion of Ki Teitzeh which deals with some of the laws of conflict and how Jews are meant to behave in battle contains a fascinating mitzvah:

“… Do not despise an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land. “

(Devarim (Deuteronomy) 23:8)

Incredibly, we are forbidden to despise the nation we might be most expected to hate!

Egypt enslaved us for over two hundred years, using babies for bricks and mortar and came in Jewish tradition to represent cruelty par excellence. And all this despite the fact that it was a Jew (Joseph) who saved the entire country from famine (Genesis 41) and transformed it into a regional and then a world power. So why are we enjoined from hating them?

Why shouldn’t we hate Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah, neo-Nazis and Nazi murderers who still live, having escaped Justice after such heinous crimes? Do they really deserve any better? Don’t BDS activists who never let the facts get in the way of their own hatred and lies deserve our hatred?

Some say that even after all of our suffering in Egypt, we still owe the Egyptians a debt of gratitude for taking the family of Yaakov in when there was a devastating famine in the land, not to mention the fact that Moshe was raised by no less than the daughter of Pharaoh. This line of reasoning in the Midrash would posit that this mitzvah not to hate Egyptians is all about gratitude. But perhaps it goes even deeper.

Who really suffers from our anger? Actually, we do. The Rambam (Maimonides Hilchot Deot (Laws of character development) chap. 6) implies that the reason we are not meant to hate is because hatred eats up our souls. And if we are not allowed to hate Egyptians, then obviously we are not meant to hate anyone.

Hatred comes when others do not see things the way we do, and when we expect that the way we see the world is the way everyone should see it (See Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netziv)’s introduction to the book of Bereishit …).

We can certainly disagree with another person’s perspective, but only if we first respect the person. And hatred occurs when we lose sight of the value of the person that lies behind the perspective, different as it may be.

Hatred has a way of poisoning the soul, causing us to lose reason and perspective, with catastrophic results. We owe it to ourselves to be sure we do not allow the hatred around us, to cause us to become hateful as well. In fact, a person who is full of hatred is truly enslaved and it was only in our ability to let go of that hatred, when we got out of Egypt, that we were truly free.

It would be easy to mobilize people by stoking the flames of hatred; that was what Adolph Hitler did, and that is what leaders are doing in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, the Gaza strip and the Palestinian Authority.

We have to be better; Three thousand years ago, on the banks of the Jordan River, Moshe exhorts us to judge evil actions, but not evil people. We can hate the sin, without hating the sinner; in whatever form he or she takes ….

May Hashem bless us with a year full of peace and tolerance and love, alongside the willingness to fight the battles that need to be fought.

Shabbat Shalom and K’tivah ve’chatimah Tovah

Best wishes for a sweet happy and healthy new year.

Getting From the Real to the Ideal: The Journey of Personal Transformation

by Rabbi David Aaron

When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the Lord your G-d has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive, And you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her, and take her for a wife – Then you shall bring her home to your house… … and she remain in your house and weep for her father and mother for a month, and after that …. she shall be your wife. And if you do not want her, you shall send her out on her own; you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not treat her as a slave, because you “violated” her. (Deut. 21:10-14)

The Torah permits this only as a compromise to the yetzer ha-ra (evil urge). (Talmud Kiddushin 21b)

‘And you shall take her unto you as a wife’ – the Torah only permits this in the context of the yetzer ha-ra (evil urge), for if G-d would not permit her to him, he would marry her anyway despite the prohibition…. (Rashi Deut. 12:10)

Torah does not advocate complete suppression of our negative urges rather it gives us outlets to sublimate them while guiding us to gradually overcome them. Therefore, sometime when we crave, we must satisfy the craving in some way while working towards kicking the habit.

Take a drug addict, for example. There are two approaches to treating the addiction. One method is cold turkey—just stay off the stuff and go through an excruciating period of withdrawal. The other approach is measured withdrawal, which looks like hospital-sanctioned drug abuse but is really medical intelligence. To wean the addict, the doctors slowly administer, each day, decreasing amounts of the drug until the addiction is gone. If a person who did not know anything about this method walked into the hospital, from his limited perspective he would conclude that this place promotes drug abuse as an ideal.

In the same way, there are Torah laws that do not express the ideals of Torah but exist as a way to reach those ideals. In the case of the captive woman the Torah temporarily concedes and allows us to do it in the interest of helping us eventually overcome the urge.

How Ideal is the Law?
Although the Torah spells out for us the goals of life and the way to get there, we cannot assume that all the laws written in the Torah represent the ideals of Judaism. Sometimes a Torah law expresses only the way to reach an ideal, rather than stating the ideal itself. There are some laws that even contradict the very ideal that in actuality they are helping us to achieve.

The Torah is a system of values arranged in a specific hierarchy, according to their priority for the present in consideration for reaching an ideal in the future. Certain authentic Torah values might be temporarily conceded for the good of the future, even though they may seem to be valuable for the present. Only G-d can decide which values temporarily overrule other values for the purpose of getting us to where we must go. Only G-d can see the beginning, the end, and the middle of the ethical and spiritual evolution of humanity.

The Talmud states: “G-d says, ‘I created the evil inclination and I created Torah as its antidote.’” The Torah is an antidote to our negative and destructive inclinations. Therefore, the Torah may sometimes appear to be sanctioning some type of amoral behaviour, but in fact, it is simply employing a realistic approach in order to empower people to stop doing what they otherwise may not have had the power to overcome on their own.

The Torah is directing the moral and spiritual evolution of humanity. It therefore considers not only where we need to get to in the future but also where we are at in the present. When we read the Torah some of its laws may disturb our moral sensitivities. When this happens we must remind ourselves of the purpose of the Torah. Not all the laws of Torah represent its ideals. Some of them may even seem to contradict the very ideal that they are serving to empower us to achieve. Torah asks us to trust the Creator and Master of time. G-d knows our souls and sets our goals and gives us the guidance to get there.

Demonstrations Yes, Prayer No

by Col (Res.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: While public gatherings for the sake of communal prayer have been severely restricted in the name of public safety during the coronavirus pandemic, no such restrictions have been placed on public demonstrations. The right to demonstrate is apparently a sacred cow that cannot be interfered with under any circumstances, unlike the right to pray in the manner of one’s tradition.

The Yishai Fleisher Show: The Subtle Art of Returning Lost Objects

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Kiteitze: An Imperfect World

Palestinian Claim of Continuity

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Have Arabs been in the area west of the Jordan River from time immemorial?

In 1881, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, a leading British cartographer and Dean of Westminster Abbey, reported that "in Judea it is hardly an exaggeration to say that for miles and miles there was no appearance of life or habitation" (Sinai and Palestine in Connection with Their History, New York 1895, pp. 184-186).

The Egyptian immigration
According to Arieh Avneri, a ground-breaking historian of Arab and Jewish migration to Palestine (The Claim of Dispossession, 1980), during the Egyptian conquest (1831-1840), "there was a limited influx of some thousands of [Egyptian] immigrants, whom Ibrahim Pasha [the ruler of Egypt] brought in to settle the empty stretches of the country. Before them, a goodly number of Egyptians had fled Egypt, seeking to evade the military draft…. They sought sanctuary with the governor of Acre, who granted it readily."

The French-Egyptian scholar, Muhammad Sabry [The Egyptian Empire under Mohammed Ali and the question of the Orient, 1930], confirmed that "the Governor of Acre encouraged the migration of fellaheen [peasants] from Egypt and gave them shelter…. In 1831, more than 6,000 fellaheen crossed the Egyptian border…. After he conquered Palestine, not only did Mohammed Ali [Ibrahim Pasha's father] refrain from sending back the draft evaders to Egypt, but he sent new settlers to consolidate his rule…. The Egyptian ruler also brought the Bedouin slave-tribe, Arab ed-Damair…."

Avneri highlights (ibid.) many documents published by the British Palestine Exploration Fund. For instance: "Most of Jaffa was made up of Egyptian-populated districts…. Philip Baldensperger [a renowned anthropologist] stated that in 1893, the inhabitants of many villages in the southern part of the country [between Gaza and Tulkarem] were of Egyptian origin…. The dwellers of some parts of the south were originally brought to Palestine from Libya…. Hundreds of families of Egyptian origin accompanied the conquering forces of Ibrahim Pasha…. Similarly, in the cities of Samaria and Judea there are hundreds of families which, to this day, are named Masri [the Egyptian]…. Before WW1, Egyptian laborers worked on the reclamation of the swamp-lands…. Egyptians participated in the laying of the railroad tracks from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and thereafter remained in the country….

"According to Baldensperger, the existing population in Jaffa contained at least twenty-five different nationalities [mostly Egyptians, but also Syrians, Yemenites, Persians, Afghanis, Hindus and Baluchis]….

Additional Arab/Moslem migrants
Avneri adds (ibid.) that "in 1856, the French [conquerors of Algeria] permitted Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini [the leader of the anti-French rebellion] to leave Algeria together with some followers. Some went to Syria and others to Palestine…. These immigrants were called Mughrabis [originating in the Maghreb, North Africa]. They founded four villages in the Lower Galilee…. Quite a number of Mughrabis settled in Safed, and probably in Tiberias….

"In 1914, Masterman [British Palestine Exploration Fund] described the Moslem population of Safed as being of mixed origin. One of the neighborhoods was called Hareth el-Karad, which denotes a population of Kurdish origin…. Half of the Moslem population of Safed were Mughrabis…. Other Moslem Arabs were immigrants from Damascus and Bedouins from the Jordan Valley…. In 1893, Baldensperger wrote [British Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly] about the Mughrabis of Jaffa…. The Persians, Afghans, Hindus and Baluchis were engaged in commerce….

"In 1878, the Ottoman Sultan, Abd el-Hamid took under his protection Circassian refugees who had fled the Christian-Russian rule in the Caucasus. Many settled in Jordan. Others settled west of the Jordan River in Kafer Kamma, Sarona and Reihaniya. Some Moslems from Bosnia also found refuge in Palestine and settled near Caesarea… Laurence Oliphant [a British traveler, author and diplomat] wrote about one of the Turkoman tribes that pitched their black tents near a Circassian village, arriving from the mountains of Iraq…. In 1908, a group of Arabs arrived in Jaffa from Yemen and settled there….

"In 1878, Claude Reignier Conder [British Palestine Exploration Fund] reported that the large Jezreel Valley was the refuge of the Bedouins whenever war or famine threatened their existence in Jordan…. In 1870, only a sixth of the lands were ploughed, because the valley was occupied by Bedouins…. The same phenomenon occurred in the southern part of the country [e.g., from the Hebron area and southward]….

Infrastructure projects enticed Arab immigration
Avneri adds (ibid.): "The building of the Jerusalem-Jaffa railroad [inaugurated in 1892] employed many local and outside labor. The Belgian company that built the railroad imported Egyptian laborers, many of whom remained in the country. At the start of the 20th century, work on the railway track between Haifa and Dera'a [in southwestern Syria] began. At the outbreak of WW1, the Haifa-Nablus railroad was launched…. Many workers were imported from neighboring countries....

"In 1880, Haifa was a small town of 6,000 souls. In 1910 it tripled to 18,000 inhabitants, of whom 15,000 were Moslem and Christian Arabs. Many of the newcomers were from Lebanon and Syria…. Jaffa developed as a port city… through which passed pilgrims…. Some of them remained in Jaffa. Jaffa's population doubled during 1890-1910, numbering 43,000 of whom 30,000 were Moslem and Christian Arabs. Also, a large number of pilgrims from North Africa settled in Jerusalem amidst their countrymen, who arrived in earlier times….

"The rapid population growth in Jaffa and Haifa (following the British victory in WW1) was, in large part, due to the influx of many Egyptian laborers, policemen, contractors, foremen and businessmen, who accompanied the advance of the British Army…. The building of the railroad to Qantara on the Egyptian border employed thousands of Egyptians, many of whom preferred to settle in Haifa….

"The British authorities preferred Egyptian, Syrian or other foreign Arab laborers [ e.g., Sudan] – over Jewish immigrants – when it came to erecting military bases, operating quarries, paving roads and the construction of the port of Haifa…. During 1919-1922, the Arab-Moslem population grew from 515,000 to 590,000, largely, due to Arab immigration….

"The years 1932-1936 were marked by unprecedented economic prosperity… and a considerable influx of Arab immigrants….

"The outbreak of violence that occurred from time to time [against Jews and intra-Arab], especially during 1936-1938, drew thousands of Arab mercenaries from the neighboring countries…. Many mercenaries remained in the country…."

"In 1942, during WW2, there was a severe labor shortage in Palestine…. The British Mandate issues emergency regulations permitting the British Army to bring laborers from Arab countries….

In conclusion

Prof. Efraim Karsh of the Bar Ilan University and London King's College, features a report by the British Peel Commission (Palestine Betrayed, 2010): "during 1922-1931, the increase of Arab population in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem was 86%, 62% and 37% respectively."

As a result of the 1880-1947 waves of Arab immigration, the Arab population of Jaffa, Haifa and Ramla grew 17, 12 and 5 times respectively.

Thus, contrary to Palestinian claims, Arab residents west of the Jordan River (Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel) are not descendants of the Canaanites, but of recent Arab migrants.

Moreover, in defiance of a myth advanced by the Palestinian Authority, Palestine has not been Arab/Moslem from time immemorial.

In fact, since the Greek Empire era (5th century BCE), the term Palestine (Palaistine) referred to the Land of Israel, directly linked to the People of Israel.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Secret to Defeating the Enemy

Parashat Ki Taitzai 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Devarim 23:

(י) כי תצא מחנה על איביך ונשמרת מכל דבר רע… (טו) כי ה’ א-להיך מתהלך בקרב מחנך להצילך ולתת איביך לפניך והיה מחניך קדוש ולא יראה בך ערות דבר ושב מאחריך

9) When you are encamped against your enemies, distance yourselves from all impurities… 15) For the Lord your God is present in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that He will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.

The following are quotes said by great men of Am Yisrael before going out to battle. Can you make the association?


…הצילני נא… כי ירא אנכי אתו פן יבוא והכני אם על בנים…

Save me, I pray… for I am afraid he will kill me and the mothers with their children


אלה ברכב ואלה בסוסים ואנחנו בשם ה’ אלהינו נזכיר:
המה כרעו ונפלו ואנחנו קמנו ונתעודד:
ה’ הושיעה המלך יעננו ביום קראנו:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
HaShem, give victory. The king will answer us when we call!


אתה בא אלי בחרב ובחנית ובכידון ואנכי בא אליך בשם ה’ צבאות אלהי מערכות ישראל אשר חרפת
היום הזה יסגרך ה’ בידי והכיתך והסרתי את ראשך מעליך ונתתי פגר מחנה פלשתים היום הזה לעוף השמים ולחית הארץ וידעו כל הארץ כי יש אלהים לישראל:
(מז) וידעו כל הקהל הזה כי לא בחרב ובחנית יהושיע ה’ כי לה’ המלחמה ונתן אתכם בידנו:

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled.
This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I shall behead you and will give the carcasses of the … army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel


ויאמר … אל הנער נשא כליו לכה ונעברה אל מצב הערלים האלה אולי יעשה ה’ לנו כי אין לה’ מעצור להושיע ברב או במעט:

And … said to his young armor-bearer, let us go to the positions of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps HaShem will act in our behalf. For nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether from many or from few.


חזק ונתחזק בעד עמנו ובעד ערי אלהינו וה’ יעשה הטוב בעיניו:

Let us be brave and for the sake of our nation and the cities of Hashem our Lord and HaShem will do that which is right in His eyes


“שמע ישראל אתם הקרבי היום למחמה על אויבכם על ירך לבבכם אל תיראו ואל תחפזו ועל תערצו מפניהם, כי ה’ א-לוהיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויבכם להושיע אתכם” -ד‘

Listen Yisrael. Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God will accompany you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.


.ואין מעצור לפני שמים להושיע ברבים או במעטים. כי לא ברב חיל ניצחון המלחמה ומן השמים הגבורה”

There is no constraint before HaShem in Heaven to save the many or the few for victory does not depend on the numbers of combatants, but on the heavenly decree


“ה’ תן בי ענווה תן גבורה ותן בי את חכמת הלב על מנת שאדע להוביל את האנשים הללו באתגרים הניצבים בפנינו“.

HaShem grant me humility, grant me courage and wisdom of the heart so that I shall know how to lead these men in the challenges that await us.


1 Our father Ya’akov when preparing for battle against Aisav

2 King David

3 David before killing Golyat

4 Yehonatan son of King Shaul before attacking the Philistine army

5 Yoav ben Tze’ruya before his battle against Amon

6 The Kohen appointed for War

7 Yehuda Hamacabee

8 Brigadier General Ofer Vinter two weeks ago on his appointment as commanding officer of the Aish division.

The above Jewish greats were not contemporaries and the names of their enemies were different, but they shared a common understanding that victory is not guaranteed by the number of troops or tanks, but by the courage of the soldiers and the will of HaShem who shall be victorious.

In this matter Brigadier General Ofer Vinter stands shoulder to shoulder with our father Ya’akov and the others. Indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Tzahal for whom fear of the enemy does not exist because in their hearts is the fear of Hashem.

IDF soldiers pray at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day, which marks when the IDF reunified Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. From left to right, the soldiers belong to: Kfir Brigade, Golani Brigade, Paratroops Brigade, Givati Brigade, Nahal Brigade.

Precursor of the Mashiach
I write this now because of what I believe is the change awaiting the Medina as the precursor of the Mashiach.

The Creator is forever deliberate, purposeful, and intentional; where every blade of grass, grain of sand, and every entity in the universe has a useful purpose. So, for what purpose is the present pandemic serving the people in Eretz Yisrael?

The coronavirus is creating a chaotic situation in the political arena which is filtering down to all walks of life: economy, education, tourism, Torah institutions, etc. And the call for a fourth national election in a year and a half is never far away.

Our secular democratic system of government, as all others, is based on the premise that the source of authority and morality is Man himself. He is the “tree” in the middle of Man’s Garden of Eden. The Knesset is empowered to legislate Shabbat, kashrut, define what is marriage, who can marry and who is a Jew. In fact, every matter of life can be controlled by the 15 members of the Israeli Supreme court, and all but three of the Justices are secular. The time has come for a basic change which will bring us closer to displacing mortal Man and restoring HaShem and His Torah to the center of the “Garden”.

The chaos will by necessity force the military to seize the helm of power in order to restore some semblance of stability to the Medina.

The leverage that the religious segment in the country has over governmental decisions is minimal, whereas the ever-growing number of religious soldiers has a greater influence in the army. In a military government Torah principles will be a more pervasive force in the life of the Medina.

This is the overall schematic plan, in my view:

► Pandemic

► Political paralysis

► Power struggle

► Suspension of democratic institutions

► Charismatic military-religious personality

► Restoration of Halacha as the binding law of the land

► Restoration of the Monarchy and the Sanhedrin

► Yerushalayim and the Bet Hamikdash.

The time frame – ten to twenty years be”h, if not sooner.

Be careful, Be healthy, Be Here!
and for the Jews in America remember: JLMM Jewish lives Matter More

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2020 Nachman Kahana

The Yafas Toar and Dieting Tips

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

If you go out to war against your enemies, and God, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives… (Devarim 21:10)

RECENTLY I NOTICED someone who lost weight, and asked him about it. I knew that he had tried to diet many times in the past, unsuccessfully. I thought he might have had a stomach operation, which isn’t so uncommon these days. “Nope,” he told me. “I have lost weight by dieting only.”

“It’s not the first time you have tried,” I reminded him. “What worked this time?”

“You’re right,” he said, and then began to mention all kinds of tips about dieting that he had taken for granted in the past. “One of them,” he said, “a really important one, is actually in the Torah itself.”


“In Parashas Ki Seitzei,” he told me, “right at the beginning in the mitzvah of the Yafas Toar.”

The mitzvah of the Yafas Toar is the Torah’s response to a Jewish soldier’s “fatal” attraction to a gentile captive. There is a Torah mitzvah to not marry outside the faith. But as has happened so many times throughout Jewish history, especially during wartime when people are emotionally vulnerable, the soldier’s attraction to a beautiful enemy interfered with the keeping of that mitzvah. The wartime circumstance requires a separate mitzvah that basically is “damage control.”

That’s just the way life is these days. Once upon a time, the entire Jewish nation lived on one land, in Eretz Yisroel, and there was no need to be exposed to foreign nations in any intimate way. It made avoiding intermarriage easier, and the mitzvah of Yafas Toar, irrelevant.

But we do not yet live in the Messianic Era, and that has meant many wars. Even worse, we have been exiled from our land and deposited among the nations. Though very often THEY did not want to fraternize with the Jews, it often happened. Unwittingly, relationships developed between Jews and non-Jews, and this became religiously dangerous. This is why the rabbis, fully aware of the risks of such relationships, made laws to limit such interaction.

If this was true while Jews still adhered to Torah law, how much more so has it been true with Jews who aren’t even familiar with the source of such laws, the Torah. Hence, one of the main things Ezra had to do after the story of Purim, was examine many of the marriages that had occurred during exile. He had to determine their halachic outcome. Moshiach, we can see, will have to do the same.

The parsha, however, is talking about a Torah Jew who lost himself during war. Overcome with infatuation, he has set his mind on a female captive with a plan to marry her. Telling him no at that point, the Torah says, will be fruitless, and therefore a different tact becomes necessary.

So the Torah, instead, says yes, with conditions. First, hold off for a month before marrying her. Give her some time to mourn over her disconnect from her family and past, which means letting her appearance worsen. If at the end of the month, the Torah says, he still wants to marry this woman, then she has to halachically convert before becoming his wife.

It is psychological warfare against the man’s yetzer hara. Passion for the wrong thing is most intense at the moment, and can surprisingly dissipate with time. It is the plan of the Torah to give this man’s yetzer hara the impression that it has won, so that it will back down somewhat. The Torah is in fact giving the man’s yetzer tov some time, by stretching out the moment of passion until it weakens and possibly fades.

Rav Shlomo Brevda, zt”l, once gave a talk to my Bais Midrash back around 1982. He was making a similar point, and brought a real-life example to show its power. Years earlier, he had given a shiur to some young men about Yosef’s resistance to the advances of Potiphar’s wife in Parashas Vayaishev. He told them how Yosef withstood his incredible test by repeating to himself, “Just one more second, one more portion in the World-to-Come!” He didn’t stop until his moment of passion passed, at which time he fled for his spiritual life.

Some time after that talk, Rav Brevda related that he received a long distance phone call from one of the students who had been in that shiur. “Your words saved my life,” the student told his rebi, who then proceeded to tell his own Yosef-life story of test and resistance.

This “bochur” had been flying back to America to visit his family during one of the yeshivah breaks. Though he must have looked the part of a religious Jew, still one of the stewardesses took a liking to him. She even asked about his plans once they landed. Apparently he struggled to do what he knew was the Torah’s only viable course of action, and felt overwhelmed.

That’s when he remembered the story of Yosef, and began to employ Yosef’s strategy. “Just one more moment,” he quietly told himself, “one more portion in the World-to-Come.” He also repeated this mantra until his passion passed, and he was able to refuse the stewardess’ advances. Eventually he was able to deplane with a clear conscious…and a lot more of the World-to-Come.

Today many call this “mindfulness,” which basically amounts to bypassing your initial automatic response to situations and using a more thoughtful one. A person’s initial and automatic response is usually instinctual, and can be inappropriate for the situation. The brain is quick, but not always accurate without some kind of thought process preceding its decision.

It takes but a couple of moments to examine a situation and assess whether to go with the auto response or to act differently. Then a person can avoid a catastrophe that would have probably resulted from a costly mistaken response. In many cases, a few more seconds would have avoided the undoing of countless years of success.

This approach to ta’ava—desire, my dieting friend told me, was what was making the difference on his current diet. In the past when he was overcome with a desire to eat something, even if it was healthy or at least “not that fattening,” he succumbed. Of course, he would regret it afterwards, promising that he would exercise it off, and eat less later.

Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn’t. All he knew was that he either gained weight or didn’t lose it. You can fool yourself most of the time, but you cannot fool the scale any of the time. “I would convince myself that I was compensating for my capitulation, but then I would go onto the scale and it would yell at me, ‘LIAR!’”

“I even convinced myself for a while,” he explained, “that it wasn’t me, but my metabolism. I would tell myself (and others who told me to diet) that my metabolism had slowed down with age, and that I was no longer able to burn off calories as I once had done, even with exercise.”

“But since I got honest with myself and my scale,” he said with a knowing smile on his face, “I saw that my metabolism, though slower with age, was still working just fine, thank God…if I didn’t burden it with unnecessarily calories to burn off. I was like someone who sinned and then told someone else to fix it for me!”

On one level, what my friend told me wasn’t new. The Torah is quite clear, and the Talmud makes its strategy even clearer. But sometimes it takes a good personal success story to drive the point home emotionally as well. That’s when it becomes real to a person, like it did to the bochur in Rav Brevda’s story. I heard that story almost 40 years ago, but I can still see and hear Rav Brevda telling it.

Everyone has a “yafas toar” in their life at some time or another, in one way or another. It’s what everyone’s yetzer hara does best. Therefore, the Torah’s strategy is not just for the soldier of physical war. It is for the “soldier” of every spiritual war, and that applies to anyone trying to live a moral life.