Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Water-Drawing Celebration

by Rav Chanan Morrison
Rav, Mitzpeh Yericho

During the evenings of the Succoth holiday, there was music, dancing, and even juggling in the holy Temple. This joyous activity was called the Simchat Beit-HaSho'eivah, the Water-Drawing Celebration. While usually wine was used in libation ceremonies, during the holiday of Succoth the kohanim poured water — drawn the previous night from Jerusalem's Shiloach spring - next to the altar. This water-offering alludes to the Heavenly judgment for rain that takes place on Succoth.

Yet the nature of these evening celebrations is peculiar. They are called Simchat Beit-HaSho'eivah, from the word sho'eivah meaning 'to draw water.' This term indicates that the celebrations were not in honor of the actual mitzvah of pouring water on the Temple altar, but rather for the preparatory act of drawing out water from the spring. This appears quite illogical. Why did the people dance and rejoice during the nighttime preparations, and not during the actual Temple service that took place the following day?

Means and Ends
In fact, the Water-Drawing Celebration teaches us an important lesson. Generally speaking, we can divide up life's activities into two categories: means and ends. We naturally distinguish between their relative importance, and look upon means as merely a prerequisite to attain a desired goal, but lacking any intrinsic value.

This divide between means and ends goes back to the very beginnings of creation. God commanded the earth to produce "fruit trees that make fruit" (Gen. 1:11). Not only were the trees to produce fruit, but they themselves were to be 'fruit trees' — the trees themselves were meant to taste like their fruit. However, the earth failed to bring forth "fruit trees that make fruit" ; it only produced "trees that make fruit" — trees that bear fruit, but lack any taste of their own.

Why does it matter that our fruit trees are tasteless?
This Midrash refers to this failure as the 'Sin of the Earth,' and it reflects a basic defect in the universe. The original ideal was that even within the means (the 'tree') one would be able to sense the same level of purpose and importance as the final goal (the 'fruit'). Unfortunately, this ideal was beyond the world's limited reality. The earth could only bring forth trees that bear fruit, but the trees themselves lack the flavor of their fruit.

Elevating the Means
While our current reality makes a sharp distinction between means and ends, nonetheless this original ideal was not completely lost to us. When we sanctify our actions and perform them altruistically, with a pure motive to fulfill God's will, then even that which only facilitates a mitzvah is elevated to the level of the final goal. At this level of intent, even our preparations have a 'taste' of the sweetness and meaningfulness of the mitzvah itself. So it was with the Simchat Beit-HaSho'eivah celebrations: even in the preparatory act of drawing the water one could sense the joy and holiness of the actual mitzvah of offering the water on the Temple altar.

Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah p. 110. See also Orot HaTeshuvah 6:7 (adapted in Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 21-22).)

A Succa of Faith

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

It is quite pleasant here in Israel to live in a succah for a week during this time of the year. The intense heat of our summer months has lessened and the rains and chill of our relatively mild winter have yet to arrive. Though the commandments and requirements of Succot are meant to be observed by Jews wherever in the world they may find themselves, it is clear that the holidays of the Jewish calendar year were tailor made to fit with the climate and natural beauty of the Land of Israel.

Yet, since they are to be observed globally, not everyone can enjoy the climate and seasons of the year as we do here in Israel. I remember bitter cold and snow on the on top of the succah in Chicago and later in Monsey. I also remember the stifling heat and dripping humidity that accompanied sitting in our succah in Miami Beach. Even though the halacha provides for and excuses those who are not able to sit in the succah because of extreme physical discomfort, Jews throughout the ages and in very difficult physical circumstances have always tenaciously clung to this observance, no matter what.

The commandment of succah is so dear to us that we are not easily dissuaded from its observance by the relatively minor discomforts of cold and heat. For just as the succot of old in the desert of Sinai negated all climate discomfort, so too did that memory invest Jewish succot wherever they were located with that same feeling of Divine protection and spiritual comfort.

The truth be said, the Jewish people have been dwelling, in a figurative sense, in succot for all of our national existence. Always a minority, always the iconoclast nation and culture, subject to discrimination and persecution, the Jewish people have continually found refuge and shelter in their protective spiritual succah.

That succah was built of Torah and tradition, family and community. There was and still is plenty of inclement weather and hostile climate surrounding our succah. And there are Jews who are so ignorant and alienated from their core Jewishness that they are completely unaware of the existence of that protective succah. Yet somehow, here in Israel and throughout the Diaspora, there are thousands upon thousands of real succot erected in honor of the holiday.

There is also the national awareness of the inexplicable existence of that overall feeling that we are all dwelling in the great succah of Davidic origin and Divine protection. We have always lived in a flimsy succah and been exposed to wild forces that threaten our very existence. Yet our succah, though it might sometimes cause physical discomfort and even danger, never has betrayed us as a whole. It totters but does not fall, it shakes but it does not collapse. It has become the symbol of Jewish continuity and resilience, of optimism and unbounded accomplishment.

The Talmud records for us a description of that great and tragic sage of Israel, Nachum ish Gamzu. After the failure of the Bar Kochba rebellion, the Roman emperor Hadrian instituted a reign of terror against the sages of Israel. Nachum was mutilated and his limbs cut off. He lived in horrible squalor in a house that was rickety and exposed to the elements. Winds shook the house continually and the disciples of Nachum feared for his life, lest the house collapse upon him in his helpless state of being.

They arranged that a different, more sturdy and respectable structure would serve as his new home. They arrived at his bedside prepared to transfer him to this new home. They told him that after moving him they would return to the house to remove his belongings and other items, which they then would move to the new dwelling. He cautioned them saying: "No, my children. First remove all of the belongings that you wish to remove from the house and leave me here. Later you will return and then remove me. For know you well, that as long as I am in this house, the house will never collapse."

As long as the spirit and teachings of Nachum ish Gamzu remain in our house and succah, the house and succah will never collapse. That is the basic lesson of all of Jewish history and should serve as the guidepost to understanding and assessing our present society. And that is really the core message of the holiday of Succot to us and to our generations.

Sukkot: The Connection between Am Yisrael and Jerusalem

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

The holiday Sukkot expresses our deep connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. However, this idea does not coincide well with the present political process of relinquishing parts of Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem. A handful among the religious population also follows this path of giving away the land in order to acquire peace. They believe that the time is not ripe for demanding our rights to all of the land. For now, they say, it is incumbent upon us to concede parts of Israel for the sake of pikuach nefesh (saving an endangered life) and with the arrival of the complete redemption everything will change and all will recognize our divine right to our homeland. An even smaller G-d-fearing minority believe that we must give up the land not only because of pikuach nefesh, but also because we are commanded by the Torah to be moral and humanitarian. They also agree that in the future, when the full redemption comes, Hashem will return to us our whole country, including Jerusalem and the Temple. At that time, if Hashem guides us through his true and righteous prophet, then we will conquer the country, expel our enemies, rebuild the Temple and fulfill the word of Hashem just as our wise sages and prophets have promised. Until then, they say, Hashem directs us to concede and compromise the land.

An intelligent person would understand, however, that such an agreement to give up the land is not correct or truthful. It is only a temporary situation. At the same time that these agreements to compromise and hand over our holy land are being considered, those who believe in such concessions offer prayers to Hashem requesting a quick redemption-soon, in our days. And it is expected that Hashem will immediately answer these prayers and bring on the redemption. It is hard to believe that a non-Jew who understands the deep, true desires of our people to thrive within our whole land- be it in the present or in the future, will respect our agreement to give him parts of the land. He will see that in our hearts we do not really believe in compromising Israel or Jerusalem or the Temple Mount. It is improbable that he will understand our explanations that the redemption we speak of is on a different, higher and loftier plain, in the distant future, when everything will be different.

More likely the non Jew will disbelief and distrust our declarations as not being straightforward. For at the same time these concessions are being discussed those who agree to give up the land are celebrating the holiday of Sukkot, upon which we hold the lulav in memory of our destroyed Temple and in hopes of seeing it rebuilt in the near future as Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai instructed us. On Sukkot we also celebrate simchat bet hashova in memory of the Beit Mikdash and its future return to us. And on Sukkot the masses go up to Jerusalem and to the Western Wall to pray for the speedy rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash and our ability to worship there. All these celebrations are not nostalgic adventures connecting us to our distant past, rather they are preparation for the future. They are deep and strong expectations for the renewal of our days as they were once.

Where is the value in all this talk about giving away the land in order to acquire peace? Even the promises of the left wingers, who do not follow the Torah and have left their traditions, cannot be depended on in this regard. Many of them return to the Torah and over time the number of those who are newly religious is multiplying and soon will be the majority. Then situation will change. The non-Jews are correct in their misgivings, because this is what truthfully will happen. Am Yisrael will return to their roots (with Hashem's help) and rebuild the Temple. Thus, there is no value to all the talk of agreements and compromises that contradict the truth and the true desires that are in the hearts and the souls of the Jewish people. Therefore, it is preferable to be straightforward and frank and to say with a full heart that this is our country and we have no permission or right to give it away. We have no desire or willingness to part with it. The only possible peace is, therefore, peace without concessions of our homeland.

Thoughts on Sukkot

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The mitzvah (commandment) of sitting in the Sukkah (temporary booth in which Jews are commanded to dwell during the holiday of Tabernacles) is unique in sanctifying man’s daily routines. The eating and drinking, chatting, and sleeping which we do in the Sukkah are elevated and sanctified to the point where they are deemed mitzvoth.

It is specifically on Sukkot that we merit this, because Sukkot is Chag Ha'asif (the holiday of ingathering). This is when both the physical and spiritual ingathering of the year are completed – the ingathering of grain and fruit, as well as the ingathering of all our Torah study and all of our good deeds. Thanks to the repentance and atonement that we undergo during the month of Elul and Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the Ten Days of Repentance), this ingathering is innocent and pure, and we can thoroughly enjoy it.

Sukkah and the Land of Israel
In this sense, the mitzvah to live in the Sukkah and the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel are similar (Vilna Ga’on, cited in Kol HaTor 1:7). Both of these mitzvoth envelop us, and we immerse ourselves in their atmosphere of holiness. By doing so, even our mundane activities become sanctified.

By settling the Land, the Jewish people show the world that when life is illuminated by faith and Torah, everything becomes sanctified: eating, drinking, and sleeping; family life and interpersonal relationships; work and craft; business and scientific research.

The Sukkah of Peace
If we gather together all the different types and degrees of goodness, even those which seem to contradict each other, God spreads His Sukkah of peace over us, and the Jewish people stand united in solidarity. If each positive quality stands alone, there is no unity.

But on the holiday of "ingathering", when all positive qualities are gathered together, unity appears. Thus our Sages state: "It is appropriate for all Jews to sit in one Sukkah" (Sukkah 27b). Similarly, taking the four species together hints at the variety of Jews who join together on Sukkot.

The Land of Israel unites the entire Jewish people, including all its groups and subgroups; the redemption depends upon this. Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that all the evil in the world has risen up against the Jewish people, which has returned to rebuild its homeland in accordance with God’s word as conveyed by His servants the prophets.

Israel and the Nations of the World
Since Sukkot reveals the sanctity of all spheres of life, the holiday is relevant to non-Jews (who are traditionally referred to as the seventy nations of the world). Accordingly, our Sages state that the seventy bulls which we offered in the Temple over the course of Sukkot were offered on behalf of the seventy nations. (See Peninei Halakha: Laws of Sukkot 1:13.)

Our relationship with non-Jews is complex. Throughout our long history, they often viciously abused us; nevertheless, our basic attitude towards them is positive.

The following two quotes from the Sages illustrate this attitude. The Talmud states, "Woe to the non-Jews, who lost something but do not know what they lost. When the Temple stood, the altar atoned for them; now who atones for them?!" (Sukkah 55b).

According to the Midrash, "The Jews said, ‘Master of the Universe, we offer seventy bulls [for the non-Jews]; they should love us, but they hate us.’ Thus we read in Tehillim (Psalms) 109:4: ‘They answer my love with accusation, but I am all prayer’" (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:24).

Sukkot in the Future
Because Sukkot is the holiday which expresses the connection between Jews and non-Jews, in the future it will be the litmus test for the nations of the world. All who ascend to Jerusalem on Sukkot after the Redemption, to bow before God and to celebrate together with the Jewish people, will merit great blessing. This is in accordance with what Zachariah says about non-Jews:

"All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a yearly pilgrimage to bow to the King, Lord of Hosts, and to observe the holiday of Sukkot. Any of the earth’s communities that do not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow to the King, Lord of Hosts, shall receive no rain. . . It shall be afflicted by the same plague with which the Lord will strike the other nations that do not come up to observe the holiday of Sukkot" (Zechariah 14:16-18).

Attitude towards Philo-Semitic Christians
In modern times, we have witnessed increased support for Israel among evangelical Christians. Lord Balfour is probably the best-known among them. Thanks to his belief in the Bible, he spearheaded the British decision to establish a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the numbers of Philo-Semitic evangelicals have increased. They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel.

However, Jews must deal with the question of how to relate to friendly Christians. For close to two thousand years, Christians have persecuted the Jewish people – murdering, debasing, expelling, or forcibly converting them. How is it that suddenly Christians love us?

Furthermore, how do we deal with the Rambam’s declaration that Christianity is idolatry?

The Attitude towards the Jews and the Torah Is the Litmus Test
It would seem that everything depends on their attitude towards the Jewish people and the Torah. The most serious problem we have with Christianity is its denial of God’s choice of the Jewish people and of the eternal relevance of the Torah. Christians have traditionally believed in supersessionism, maintaining that they have replaced the Jews and that the Torah and its commandments are no longer binding.

Because of these beliefs, they caused us a tremendous amount of suffering. Additionally, they did as much as they possibly could to convert Jews to Christianity.

As Rav Kook expressed it: "The primary poison contained in belief systems which deviate from the Torah, such as Christianity and Islam, is not in their concepts of God, even though they differ from what is correct according to the fundamental light of the Torah. Rather, [the poison] is in what results from them –abrogating the practical mitzvoth and extinguishing the [Jewish] nation’s hope regarding its complete renaissance" (Shemonah Kevatzim, Kovetz 1, #32).

Elsewhere, in discussing Jewish attitudes towards different religions, Rav Kook states that our goal is not to replace or nullify them, but rather to gradually elevate and correct them, so their dross will disappear. This will inevitably lead [the religions] to return to their Jewish source (Igrot HaRa’ayah, Vol. 1, p. 142).
It seems that Christian Philo-Semites are undergoing a very impressive process of elevation never previously experienced by Christianity. Therefore, with the appropriate caution, we are spiritually and ethically obligated to relate to this process very positively.

Sukkot - Commemorating What?

by HaRav Yossef Carmel
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda Dayanut

"They shall live in the sukkot for seven days; every citizen in Israel shall live in the sukkot. So that your generations will know that in the sukkot I had Bnei Yisrael live when I took them out of the Land of Egypt; I am Hashem, your G-d" (Vayikra 23:42-43).

In the midrash (Sifra, Emor 12) we find three explanations for this mitzva. There is an opinion that the sukka is to be made from the four species which are waved on Sukkot, which implies that it is essentially part of one unit with the mitzva of the four species. It is difficult, though, to divorce the mitzva from the historical context to which the p’sukim refer explicitly.

Rabbi Eliezer says that it commemorates the actual booths in which Bnei Yisrael lived in the desert after leaving Egypt. We relive the experience by going into similar booths. One difficulty with this is that the holiday should, then, ostensibly have been in Nisan, when Bnei Yisrael started to occupy such sukkot. (Many answers have been given for this question.)

Rabbi Akiva says that the sukkot in which Bnei Yisrael lived after leaving Egypt were divine clouds. These clouds also began upon leaving Egypt (see Shemot 13:20-23), and so the same question of why they are commemorated in Tishrei is pertinent. We will suggest an explanation within the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, which will also answer this question.

After the sin of the Golden Calf and the resulting great spiritual fall, the question of the relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael came to the fore. Was the "proposal of marriage" and "joint life under one roof" still intact, as it had been before the sin? The answer to this question was given 80 days after the sin. After Moshe’s third stint of 40 days on Sinai, he was able to inform Bnei Yisrael that Hashem had forgiven them. Then Hashem invited Moshe to stand on a rock, while Hashem covered him with "His hand" until He passed (Shemot 33:21-22). The word for covering is "sakkoti," which is etymologically closely related to "sukka." Similarly, David spoke about being hidden in Hashem’s sukka on a bad day and being uplifted at a rock (Tehillim 27:5). When Moshe entered that sukka of sorts, it symbolized forgiveness and a return to His graces and the reappearance of the divine clouds.

All of this happened on Yom Kippur. Therefore, it is appropriate that we celebrate the return to the special historical sukka at the time of year that they returned, right after Yom Kippur. This is one more way in which Sukkot is a continuation of the days of mercy and forgiveness of Yom Kippur.

Let us pray that we will merit hearing the tiding "I have forgiven" and return to find a safe place in the shade of the Divine Presence. This is the deep significance of the cloud that the sukka represents according to Rabbi Akiva.

Torah – The Voice of Hashem

Sukkot 5781
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Pirkei Avot 5:1:
בעשרה מאמרות נברא העולם

By ten divine utterances [ma’amarot] was the world created.

The expression “utterances/ma’amarot” implies that HaShem made His voice heard. How does HaShem’s voice sound?

The Prophet Eliyahu heard a “still, small voice” (I Melachim 19:11-12):

(יא) ויאמר צא ועמדת בהר לפני ה’ והנה ה’ עבר ורוח גדולה וחזק מפרק הרים ומשבר סלעים לפני ה’ לא ברוח ה’ ואחר הרוח רעש לא ברעש ה’:

(יב) ואחר הרעש אש לא באש ה’ ואחר האש קול דממה דקה:

Come out,” HaShem called, “and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And lo, the Lord passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still, small voice.

Likewise, Rabbi Amnon wrote in his Unetane Tokef prayer:

…Then there is a blast on the great Shofar and a still, small voice is heard. The angels hasten to and fro and are seized with trembling and dread so that they say: “Behold! It is the day of judgment and the Host on high is to be considered in judgment,” for they have no merit in Your eyes in judgment.

By contrast, Moshe in the Mishkan and King David in Yerushalayim heard HaShem’s voice with an enormous intensity that sent shockwaves through the seven heavens, as King David wrote:

קול ה’ בכח קול ה’ בהדר:

“The voice of HaShem is power! The voice of HaShem is majesty!” (Tehillim 29:4).

I submit: The magnitude of HaShem’s voice is perceived in accordance with the spiritual intensity of the respective place and situation.

Moshe and David heard HaShem’s voice with enormous intensity due to the holy surroundings of the Mishkan and Yerushalayim. Eliyahu heard it as a still, small voice because such was the level of holiness of Mount Sinai after the Revelation. Rabbi Amnon, living outside the Land of Israel, likewise heard HaShem’s voice as small and still.

Each year, in the month of Tishrei, the Jewish People completes a prolonged period of prayers, requests and entreaties, starting with the “Selichot” of Elul, continuing with the Days of Awe and the seven days of Succot and the eighth day of Shemini Atzeret.

Countless words uttered! Countless voices heard!

The prayers of the nation dwelling in Zion soar up to the Throne of Glory, in accordance with the location of the worshippers.

By contrast, for the Jewish communities in the exile the total of all their prayers amounts to a small still voice, because the source of the calls is the impurity of the galut lands. There is no prophecy outside the Land of Yisrael, because of the impurity of the galut. Only in the Holy Land can the Word of the Living God find expression.

An allegory for Succot
Reb Yisrael and his sons erected their sukkah adjacent to the kitchen door of their palatial home in one of the Five Towns, as they had done for many years in the past.

But this year was different. Reb Yisrael had just learned from his rabbi that one of the reasons for residing temporarily in a sukkah is in case one’s destiny was decided on Rosh HaShana to be expulsion into galut, the departure from the comforts of home into the sukkah could be considered to be that galut.

Reb Yisrael, his wife, and children left the warm comforts of their beautiful home and entered the sukkah with the knowledge that by taking up temporary residence therein, they would be absolved of any galut-related sins.

As the family continued to reside in the sukkah, they got so used to the pleasant smell of the schach (branches used to roof the sukkah) and the pretty pictures on the walls and the overhanging decorations, that they decided to remain there even after the chag! Even though they were able to peer into their permanent home with its luxurious amenities, electrical gadgets, and state-of-the-art under-floor heating units, thick hanging drapes, lush carpets and much more, they showed no interest in returning there.

As odd as it may seem, the family became accustomed to the crowded, cold interior of the sukkah. Their relatives and neighbors tried to point out the irrationality of what they were doing, but the very idea that this was galut did little to encourage the family to return home.

When their rabbi came to visit, it was surprising that he encouraged them to remain in the sukkah rather than to return home; because it was in the sukkah that the family felt comfortable and closely knit.

In the meantime, several strangers noticed that the previously brightly-lit home was vacant, and they decided to move in as if it was indeed their own!

Reb Yisrael and his wife and children saw the strangers living in the house; but in veneration for the sukkah, they stubbornly bonded with the thin walls and dried-out schach and refused to leave.

The whole thing was so absurd. To leave such a beautiful home for the feeble, fallible construction of the sukkah, despite the fact that their beautiful home was beckoning them to return, was beyond the understanding of any rational person.

Then came the stones thrown by the local anti-Semites who wanted to rid the neighborhood of this sukkah eyesore. Reb Yisrael and his family dodged them one by one and steadfastly remained in their fragile dwelling, rationalizing these acts as irrelevant nuisances.

Then came the terrible night when one-third of the sukkah was torched by the local bullies. Reb Yisrael and his family were aware of what was happening, but their minds had become so warped that no amount of reasoning could move them. To them the sukkah was home and their home was galut.

Eventually the sukkah came crashing down, killing Reb Yisrael and his entire family – in their beloved galut!

Chag Samayach

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JLMM – Jewish Lives Matter More

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5781/2020 Nachman Kahana

Sunday, September 27, 2020

And the Idols Will Be Utterly Exterminated

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The purpose of teshuva (repentance) is to free us from the various idols of desire that bind us throughout the year * Surrender to the various idols diminishes man, whereas belief in God strengthens one’s character and abilities * The blowing of the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur calls to mind the blowing of the shofar in the Jubilee year, symbolizing the freeing of man from his servitude

It is customary in the world that a person is drawn after his evil instincts, after lust and pride, anger and jealousy, laziness and honor, because they offer him quick gratifications. But after one is drawn to these evil instincts, he becomes enslaved to them. Although inwardly, he still longs for truth and good, nevertheless, it is difficult for him to put his good will into practice, because he has already become addicted to the satisfaction of his passions, and his soul is bound and tormented by its bonds.

By way of teshuva (repentance), a person is released to herut (freedom), and reveals his true desire. His neshama (soul) is freed from the shackles of the yetzer (inclination), begins to illuminate his path, and the life forces within him are intensified. This is what our Sages said (Avot 6: 2): “Man is never freer than when he occupies himself with the study of Torah.” This is because the Torah guides man on the path of truth and goodness, by means of which he can fulfill all his good aspirations – the Divine ideals to which his neshama longs.

The Foundation of Teshuva – Accepting the Kingdom of Hashem
Accepting Malchut Hashem (the Kingdom of God) is the foundation of teshuva and tikkun (rectification), and therefore, is the central matter of Aseret Yemey Teshuva (The Ten Days of Repentance), because sins are attributable to people accepting upon themselves idols that rule over them, and prevent them from listening to their neshama and expressing their good aspirations. By accepting Malchut Hashem, which is the system of laws and values ​​of proper life Hashem has given to Israel in his Torah, man is able to reveal all the capacities within his soul, which correspond to the Divine values, for indeed, he was created be’tzelem Elokim (in the image of God). Thus, in accepting Malchut Hashem, man is unbound from the bondage to idols and passions, and merits teshuva.

Do Not Have Any Gods before Me
The acceptance of Malchut Hashem is contingent on the mitzvah to deny idols, for idolaters personified their faith in God to worship the forces of nature and turn them into idols, and it is a mitzvah not to believe in them.

The idols governing man are not only expressed by external the forces of nature, but also by internal idols, which rule over the soul of man, and prevent him from adhering to Torah and mitzvot. Hashem created one corresponding to the other – just as there is a system of Divine ideals to which man’s yetzer tov (good inclination) yearns for, similarly, man has a system of desires and lusts, that if he does not restrain and subject to the Divine values, his yetzer ha’ra (evil inclination) will conquer him, and enslave him to them.

The crowning of Hashem during the Ten Days of Repentance is emancipation from bondage to the foreign idols that rule over man. For example, there is an idol of the lust to eat, and those enslaved to it, invest their energies in over-eating, and drinking alcohol. And there is an idol for the lust of drugs, and an idol for the lust of forbidden sexual relations. Some people worship their idols in utter addiction to the point of total ruin, such as those addicted to alcohol, drugs, or uncontrolled eating, until they die on their idols’ alter. Others are enslaved to several lusts all at once, in which case their idolatry is more restrained, but nevertheless, out of enslavement to their physical desires, they neglect their studies and work, and sink into a life of decay and become old before their time.

And then there is a ruthless idol of anger, and when it conquers someone, it pushes all the other idols aside, causes one to lose his mind, and makes him behave terrifyingly, and at times, even to murder.

The Idol of Money
Some accept upon themselves the kingdom of the god of money, and in order to please him, they strive to accumulate additional wealth and material goods, never resting for a moment, because they always want more wealth – a more expensive apartment, a car, and more luxurious clothing. For the sake of worshipping their idol, they are willing to deceive their friends and betray their partners, because for them, money is ‘kadosh’ (sacred) and above all. And even if they curb their desire for the sacrament of wealth and do not cheat for it – because they are enslaved to it, and for its sake neglect their family and prefer to work at jobs that pay more but contribute little to society, over jobs that pay a bit less, but bring greater blessing to society.

The Idol of Pride and Honor
Some people accept upon themselves the yoke of the idol of ga’avah (pride); he tyrannizes them to the point where they are never satisfied, because their minds are always preoccupied with the question of whether they have been reverenced sufficiently, and how to receive additional honor.

And some have found a more sophisticated way of worshiping the idol of kavod (honor). Instead of pursuing personal accomplishments, they accept upon themselves to idolize various personalities, such as leaders, actors, or famous singers. And whenever their idol is honored, they also feel they have gained fame along with him. What’s their “religious” ritual? They speak in his praise, are interested in the details of his life, and if someone has the audacity to speak disreputably about their idol – even a little – at best, they’ll stand up and extol his praise, or at worst, physically attack him – as befits one who dares to ‘desecrate the holy’.

Belief in Hashem is Empowering
In contrast, accepting Malchut Hashem allows a person to express all of his potential, since the purpose of Hashem, Creator of the World, is to benefit man, to empower him and his ability of choice, so that he can pave for himself his own good path. To this end, Hashem has given us His Torah and mitzvot, by which we can empower our lives, and be privileged to be partners with Him in tikkun olam (perfection of the world) and its refinement. The mitzvot lo ta’aseh (negative commandments) are good advice meant to warn us against ways that corrupt our powers, and the mitzvot aseh (positive commandments) are good advice meant to strengthen our powers for good.

The Revelation of His Kingdom by Israel
Malchut Hashem is revealed through the Nation of Israel in its land, consequently, during the Yamim Nora’im (The Days of Awe) we pray:

“And so may Your name be sanctified, Lord our God, regarding Your people Israel, regarding Your city Jerusalem, regarding Zion, the dwelling place of Your glory, regarding the royal house of David, Your anointed, and regarding Your place and sanctuary…

Every creature will revere You, and all of creation will bow before You, and they will be bound together to carry out Your will with an undivided heart…

All wickedness will dissipate like smoke when You remove wanton governance from the earth. And You will reign – You, Lord our God, alone – over all that You made, on Mount Zion, the dwelling place of Your glory, and in Jerusalem, Your sacred city.”

Ostensibly, one could ask: Isn’t it fitting for God to rule over the whole world equally? However, the revelation of emunah (faith) is a profound, supreme, and extremely sensitive matter, which can easily be exploited and diverted in foreign ways, such as avodah zara (idolatry), or individual dominance. In order to guard emunah in its purity, as beneficial and adding blessing, Israel was chosen to serve as kohanim (priests) to the nations of the world. And this is what is special about the faith of Israel and its Torah, whose aim is to empower all peoples, with their various talents. For Israel is like the heart of the nations, destined to infuse life to all of them, and from the Land of Israel a blessing should spread to all countries. Consequently, the prayer for the restoration of the honor of Israel, is a prayer for the restoration of honor, life, and blessing to all nations of the world, and to all humanity.

The Idol of Routine
Another idol exists – the idol of habit and routine, and many people accept its yoke. Its kingdom appears seemingly modest and quiet, yet it is stubborn and domineering, and it is extremely difficult to break free from the yoke of its rule. Accepting the yoke of Heaven also requires freeing oneself from the rule of habit and routine, which do not allow a person to regenerate and progress. Therefore, in the opening of Yom Kippur we annul all vows, for even if they contain positive aspects, they are liable to bind us. After release from them, we can accept the yoke of Heaven, do teshuva, and free the neshama (soul).

Remembering to Mention ‘HaMelech HaKadosh‘ in Prayer
Since the foundation of teshuva depends on accepting the yoke Malchut Hashem, the main change in the Aseret Yemey Teshuva prayers is that instead of concluding with ‘HaKel HaKadosh’, we conclude with the words, ‘HaMelech HaKadosh.’ This matter is so severe that if one mistakenly says ‘HaKel HaKadosh’ in the third berachah and does not correct himself as he recites it (toch k’dei dibur), he must return to the beginning of the Amidah. And even if he finished the Amidah, since he did not conclude with ‘HaKel HaKadosh,’ it is as if he had not prayed, and must repeat all his prayers once again, while making sure to say ‘HaKel HaKadosh’.

Teshuva and Herut (Freedom)
The source of the idea that Yom Kippur and teshuva are connected to herut (freedom) is in the mitzvah of Yovel (Jubilee Year), which is intended to initiate a process of teshuva and herut, unparalleled in the world. Routinely, due to laziness and lust, or because of other troubles, people are sometimes forced to sell their fields. And in times of famine, were sometimes forced to sell themselves into slavery. The Torah though, guides us to be diligent and not to be dragged after our yetzer and become enslaved to debts; nevertheless, there are people whose yetzer overcomes them and they mortgage their future for the fleeting moment, to the point where they finally sell their fields and their own selves into slavery. Hashem spared them – mainly, their families – and determined for us the mitzvah of Yovel in the fiftieth year, in which all slaves are freed, and all the fields return to their owners, as written (Leviticus 25: 9-13): ” Then, on the 10th day of the seventh month (Tishrei), you shall make a proclamation with the ram’s horn. This proclamation with the ram’s horn is thus to be made on Yom Kippur. You shall sanctify the fiftieth year, declaring emancipation [of slaves] for the land and all who live on it. This is your jubilee year, when each man shall return to his hereditary property and to his family… every man shall return to his hereditary property.”

This was the order of the release of slaves: “From Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur, servants would not be released to their homes, nor would they be subjugated to their masters, nor would the fields return to their [original] owners. Instead, the servants would eat, drink, and rejoice, with crowns on their heads. When Yom Kippur arrives and the shofar is sounded in the court, the servants are released to their homes and the fields are returned to their owners” (Rambam, Laws of Shemita and Yovel 10:14). Thus, Aseret Yemey Teshuva, the days upon which Israel accepts the yoke of Malchut Hashem, are the days when slaves would celebrate and prepare for their release to freedom, which would occur on Yom Kippur.

Blowing the Shofar at the Conclusion of Yom Kippur
In memory of the shofar blast of Yovel, Israel’s custom is to blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur (Rabbi Hai Gaon). This is because every Yom Kippur, Israel merits freedom, akin to Yovel. Freedom from bondage to sinful desires resembles the emancipation of the slaves released to freedom. And the return of the body to the soul, is akin to the field returned to its owner. For when a person is allured after his passions, the body detaches itself from the neshama, is enslaved to foreign desires, and gives its powers to them by way of sinning. However, through the teshuva of Yom Kippur, the body returns to the neshama, rejoicing with it in the joy of a mitzvah, and in the revelation of the word of Hashem in the world. And by means of this, man merits a good and blessed life.

What American Jews Can Learn from AOC

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may not be the sharpest thorn in the bush, but she has taught an important lesson for American Jews. Whether they learned it is doubtful.

The congresswoman, who once admitted that she was “not an expert on the geopolitics” of the region (translation: knows absolutely nothing about it), was invited by Americans for Peace Now (APN) to an event commemorating Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his assassination. But after an anti-Israel reporter tweeted to her that Rabin had brutally suppressed the First Intifada and that the Oslo Accords that Rabin signed “gave Israel cover to build more settlements,” she responded that she would rethink the invitation. And shortly thereafter, her office announced that she would not participate.

APN is a sister-group of the European-funded Israeli NGO Peace Now. Its focus is on “ending the occupation” and implementing a two-state solution. Its president, former J Street functionary Hadar Susskind, is too smart to explicitly oppose the recent normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, but he makes it clear that he believes “Israel’s existential problem [is] its conflict with the Palestinians and the occupation that does so much damage,” and adds that “Normalization with the Arab world is welcome, but not as a tool to normalize the occupation and the conflict with the Palestinians.” Not explicitly misozionist like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) or IfNotNow, APN nevertheless calls for policies that if implemented would imperil the security of the state.

The Israeli left, its cooperative media, and organizations like APN have pushed the narrative that Rabin was a peacemaker who favored a sovereign Palestinian state and a withdrawal from most of the areas liberated in 1967. They tell us that he courageously signed the Oslo agreements in 1993-4, and would have seen the process through to a successful completion if his life had not been cut short by a right-wing extremist in 1995. This is far from the truth.

Yitzhak Rabin was a dedicated Zionist who devoted his life to public service, and while he was closely associated with the socialist founders of the state, he was anything but a “peacenik.” Arguably he went into the Oslo process with great misgivings, after Shimon Peres and the other “architects of Oslo” presented him with a fait accompli. He did not favor a sovereign Palestinian state, only “something less,” and he wanted to hold on to key strategic territory in the Jordan Valley and the high ground of Judea and Samaria. He wanted a unified Jerusalem under Jewish control. Nevertheless, I think that if the Palestinians had held up their end of the bargain, he would have been prepared to compromise with them. But as everyone knows, they returned terrorism for every concession.

Rabin was succeeded as PM by a real peacenik, Shimon Peres. But Israeli voters replaced him with Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996, because sharply escalating terrorism quickly convinced them that concessions to the Palestinians were not the way to obtain security. In 1999, Netanyahu gave way to Ehud Barak, whose attempts to implement a two-state-solution were met with the bloody Second Intifada. That seems to have been enough for most Israelis, but Peace Now and its American counterpart continue to complain that if only Israel would give in to Palestinian demands, peace would be at hand.

Rabin’s image among liberal American Jews has been that of the heroic peacemaker. But recently a more extreme current of misozionist sentiment has pushed traditional Jewish liberalism aside, with groups that support BDS and one state, like JVP, IfNotNow, and even Students for Justice in Palestine, capturing the attention of younger Jews in place of J Street and APN. Their explicitly anti-Israel positions are shared by intersectional groups like BLM.

The online journalist who sent the tweet that caused Ocasio-Cortez to drop out of the Rabin event, Alex B. Kane, represents this stream. He was at one point an editor at Mondoweiss, a site that is a sewer of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish writing. Kane is now a contributing writer to Jewish Currents (edited by Peter Beinart), the new flagship publication of the misozionist movement among American Jews.

Ocasio-Cortez simply made a mistake when she agreed to appear at the APN Rabin affair. Her Jewish supporters are clearly in the progressive, intersectionalist camp with Kane and Beinart, IfNotNow and JVP, and not with the liberals of APN or J Street (the geriatric boomers of AIPAC are not even in the running). When her mistake was pointed out to her, she jumped to where she – a leader of the progressive Left – knew that she belonged.

I have often criticized the “liberal” groups on the grounds that their proposed two-state solution is not compatible with Israel’s security. But many of their supporters do believe in a Jewish state and disagree with me about the intentions of the Palestinian leadership, the possible effectiveness of technical safeguards, the demographic threat from the Arab population, and so on. I think they are wrong, but not all of them are anti-Israel. On the other hand, most of the progressive groups and individuals are not even trying to hide their desire to see the Jewish state replaced by an Arab state.

I said before that AOC taught a lesson that American Jews should learn, and it’s this:

The progressive Left is not on your side, even if you are a died-in-the-wool two-stater, even if you dislike our Prime Minister, or even if you hate “settlements.” These people do not want to end the conflict; they would not be satisfied if Netanyahu quit, and a two-state division along the Green Line wouldn’t be enough for them. They want to see the PLO/Hamas win and the Jews lose.

This would be terrible for the 7 million Jews of Israel, who would face death or dispersal if the objectives of these people were achieved. But even if you can’t get excited by that, do you want a world where you, personally, as a Jew, have no place to go?

A few years ago the idea that American Jews might need a place of refuge was ludicrous. Is it still so unlikely?

Friday, September 25, 2020

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: Every Possible Negative Thought to Curse and (Somewhat) Innocent Brothers

Every Possible Negative Thought to Curse
(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 12:58)

Gemara: Rav Acha bar Yaakov said: The curse [of Shimi ben Geira to David] which was described as nimretzet (powerful) is notrikon (an acronym) for [the following accusations of David]: He is an adulterer, a Moavite, a murderer, an enemy, and an abomination.

Ein Ayah: Notrikon includes uncovering people’s secret thoughts; one word can express many of them. Shimi, in his hatred, wanted his curse to cover all of his disregard for David.

Shimi called David an adulterer (as indicated by the nun of nimretzet) because of his relations with Bat Sheva, even though David did not commit adultery, since Uriya gave Bat Sheva a get like all who fought in David’s wars. Although a ruling was already given that David’s lineage was not of a Moavite, because Ruth was female, Shimi labeled him according to the view that David held that disqualification (the letter mem). Although Uriya was guilty of rebelling against the king’s authority, and therefore David was not a murderer for arranging Uriya’s death, Shimi called him a murderer, as hinted by the reish.

The establishment of the House of David as kings was the greatest possible good for the nation. It was Shaul who was unable to raise the nation to the characteristics needed for Mashiach. Yet, Shimi declared that David was a tzorer, i.e., that he caused tragedy in Israel (based on the tzaddi). The whole goal of David’s dynasty was to raise up the honor and sanctity of Israel for the whole world to see. Nevertheless, Shimi denigrated him in his heart and said that he brought on only abomination (tav of nimretzet).

We are interested in the internal feelings of a person, even when they are not verbalized. Chazal saw all of the elements of the aspersions Shimi cast on David when cursing him.

(Somewhat) Innocent Brothers

(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 12:59)

Gemara: Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: Notrikon is learned from here (Bereishit 44:16): “What can we say, how can we justify ourselves (nitztadak)?” – we are honest, we are righteous, we are pure, we are pristine, we are holy.

Ein Ayah: Notrikon emphasizes all of the imaginable thoughts, in this case, by Yaakov’s sons, as they tried to understand how they got in such a difficult predicament [as occurred when the goblet of the disguised Yosef was found in Binyamin’s pack]. They considered all of the ways they could have been held guilty for their actions and came to the following conclusions, whether those known to the person (Yosef) arranging their harrowing experience or those that were not. The possible indictments overtook their hearts and heightened their emotional torment, as identified by the notrikon.

Regarding Yosef’s claim that they were spies, they said, “We are honest.” Regarding their tormenting thought that they were guilty for selling Yosef, they said: “We are righteous.” Despite all of the sin involved, they rationalized that they had held a court case on the matter and found him guilty and deserving of what he received. Thus, they could claim to have done the right thing.

Regarding Yosef’s claim against them (before he had been sold) that they were impure in that they had looked lewdly toward the women of the land, they thought and decided that they were free of wrongdoing on the matter (pure) and Yosef had made a mistake in that regard. Regarding Yosef’s old claim that Leah’s sons belittled the sons of the maid servants, they looked into their hearts and said that they were pristine. Since none of the possible indictments was true, they remained in a state of holiness. These indictments were all rejected by the word nitztadak.

Getting the Forgiveness You Want and Need

by Rabbi David Aaron
Yom Kippur is all about love and forgiveness. It’s about how we are always inseparably close to G-d. On Yom Kippur we get a glimpse of ourselves, our choices and our relationship to G-d from another perspective–G-d’s perspective. This is the transformational power of Yom Kippur that makes it into a Day of Atonement and forgiveness.

There is a cryptic verse in the Book of Psalms (139:16), which, the Sages say, refers to Yom Kippur: The days were formed, and one of them is His.

Every day of the year we see the world from our perspective but there is one day — G-d’s day — when we get a glimpse of the way the world looks from His perspective and everything changes in light of that perspective. On Yom Kippur we see it all from the perspective of the World to Come where you get to see the whole picture.

The Talmud teaches that in this world when something good happens to us, we praise G-d –“Blessed is He who is good and does good.” When something bad happens, we must say– “Blessed is He who is a true Judge.” However in the future we will say – “Blessed is He who is good and does good,” even about the misfortunes in our lives.

In other words, when we will look back and see the whole picture, we will realize that every bad act we chose and every dark event that happened to us contributed to G-d’s plan which is to bring upon us ultimate goodness.

On one hand we have the free choice to do other than G-d’s will and yet G-d is always in control. Therefore, although we can do other than G-d’s will we cannot oppose His will or undermine His plan. Therefore, when we have done wrong and are sorry for that, we must realize that no matter what we have done it can all be recycled back into G-d’s plan and contribute to the ultimate good.

Of course, this does not mean that we can just go ahead and do wrong. The path of transgression removes us from G-d. This distance causes us feelings of alienation and spiritual anguish which may even become manifest as physical ailment.

However it is important to remember that if you sincerely regret your negative acts, resolve never to do them again and fix whatever damage you are able to fix, then you are forgiven and your past will be recycled and put towards future good.

Yom Kippur is an amazing day of transformation where your darkest deeds from the past turn into light. This is because the light of the World to Come, so to speak, is shining into our world on this day. You can receive this light and be transformed by it if you plug yourself into the expanded consciousness of Yom Kippur through the proper acts, prayers and thoughts prescribed for the day.

What does it mean to set goals?

by Rav Binny Freedman
The thundering sounds of artillery fire echoed through the valleys beneath the Golan Heights and across the Sea of Galilee. All across the Northern border with Syria, civilians were huddled in their bunkers and bomb shelters, wondering when this latest round of violence would abate.

On the face of it, this was nothing new; for nineteen years the Israeli citizens of the north had endured an almost daily barrage of shellfire from the Syrian guns perched in the Heights above. In fact, an average of one thousand shells a dayfell on the Kibbutzim, towns, and villages within range of the Golan, when the Syrian army had control of the Heights.

But this time it was different. It was June of 1967, and Israel had finally decided enough was enough.

For five weeks, Israel, in response to the Arab armies massed on her borders, had mobilized her reserves, and the economy had ground to a halt; it was a situation Israel could not hope to maintain.

For months now, the radio waves all across the Arab Middle East had been filled with calls for Israel’s destruction, and Egypt’s President Nasser vowed daily that the Arab armies would finally push Israel into the Sea; the entire country was waiting for war.

And so, on June 6, 1967, the six-day war finally began, with Israel’s lightning strike against the Egyptian air force. Catching over eighty percent of the Egyptian air force on the ground, the war was practically won in the first few hours of fighting, as Israel took uncontested control of the skies.

On the third day of the war, a delegation of citizens from the North came to see the Israeli Prime minister, Levi Eshkol. They demanded a solution once and for all, to the constant, unprovoked Syrian artillery barrages stemming almost daily from atop the Golan Heights. Things had gotten so bad, parents didn’t even bother putting children to sleep in their own beds, preferring to tuck them into beds in the bomb shelters, rather than wake them up in the middle of the night when the sirens went off.

Farmers went to the fields in armored tractors, and the fishermen on the lake plowed the waters in armored boats.

Which was why this time the artillery howling down off the Golan was different; it was no longer unprovoked. The Israelis had done the unthinkable; they had decided to take the Golan Heights. Gambling that the Syrians would never expect a surprise attack on such strategically superior positions, the Israelis were climbing the hills in an attempt to remove, once and for all, the Syrian guns terrorizing the citizens of the North.

The battle was not just about a piece of real estate; at stake was Israel’s right to live in peace, and her responsibility to protect her citizens from aggression. Finally, after nineteen years of unremitting terror, Israel had an opportunity to set the north free; there might never be a second chance.

In the northern thrust, the elite Golani brigade was in trouble. Apparently, aerial reconnaissance photos, which had been misinterpreted as pathways across the mountain terraces capable of supporting tanks, proved to be an illusion. The lines were really the marks separating the terraces up the side of the mountain, and were completely impassable to armor, so the infantry found themselves all alone.

Everything came to a head on the slopes beneath the Syrian fortifications at Tel Facher.

The Syrians had spent an inordinate amount of time building this defensive position, as it was clear that this was the gateway to the entire Golan Heights.

The Israelis, caught in an impossibly exposed position, with no armor support, and with quarters too close for real artillery and air support, were being forced into almost single file up the mountain path, as they encountered intense defensive positions including mines and barbed wire.

Tel Facher was dangerously close to becoming the turning point of the war, and the advance up the mountain ground to a halt.

The Syrian artillery was now concentrating on a single three-foot wide stretch of dirt where the Israelis were stuck on the barbed wire, within range of the Syrian machine-gun nests above. The boys from Golani were being cut to pieces.

Enter one David Shirazi. Not even a sergeant, he had already been wounded in the fighting but refused to let the platoon medic evacuate him, insisting on staying with his unit moving their way up the hill. He had spent the better part of three years with these men, and they were more than just members of his unit; they were his brothers.

They say he looked up that hill, and knew there was no way he would make it to the top; the climb was too steep, his wounds were too great, and the merciless hammering of the artillery and machine gun fire meant there was nowhere to go.

The rows of barbed wire, normally such a simple obstacle, were, because of the terrain, proving to be the undoing of the entire Golani brigade. The narrow approach meant only one man at a time could approach the wire, which gave the Syrian machine gunners more than enough time to cut the Israelis apart, one by one.

There is a powerful teaching in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the fathers):

“Be’makom She’Ein Ish, Hishtadel Le’hiyot Ish.”
“In a place where there is no man, try to be that man.”

Someone had to do something, and in that place at that moment, with the Golan and the entire seventh brigade hanging in the balance, Shirazzi was that man.

Shouting out one word, “Alai” (“On me”) over and over again, he leapt forward and threw himself on top of the barbed wire transforming himself into a human bridge over which the men could run across and storm the Syrian positions. With tears in their eyes as they trampled over his body, the men of Golani took heart from Shirazi’s example, and reclaimed the Golan Heights.

Only three men eventually reached the top of Tel Facher, but it was enough. On June 12, 1967, the Syrian guns on the Golan Heights finally went silent. Two thousand years after the Roman legions had exiled them, the Jewish people had finally come home to the ancient mountaintops of the Bashan.

One wonders what gives a man the strength to pursue something he knows he will not finish. David Shirazzi, who is memorialized for eternity in the Golani museum at Tsomet Golani, had no illusions that he would ever reach the top of the Golan, yet he kept moving up that hill to get as far as he could, clinging to the belief that he could still make a difference.

This Shabbat, as we do every year on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will read the portion of Ha’azinu. The song of Ha’azinu is actually Moshe’s swan song. And while Moshe shares Judaism’s vision of the future with the second generation ready to enter at long last the land of Israel, Moshe himself will not be going with them.

Having appointed Joshua (at G-d’s command) as his successor, Moshe is getting ready to say goodbye.

It is not an accident that this song is always read on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat preceding Yom Kippur, whose theme is the challenge of ‘return’: the opportunity to go back and become the ‘me’ I always meant to be.

The song of Ha’azinu as well, has as its theme the idea that as a people, no matter what mistakes we make, we can always go back and become the people we are meant to be.

One wonders what gave Moshe, perhaps the most tragic figure in the bible, the strength to go on, knowing he would never get to finish what he had started.

Even more challenging is the fact that next week we will read the Torah’s last portion (Ve’zot HaBeracha), and the Torah will end before the Jewish people even enter the land of Israel.

The Torah speaks so often of “Ki Tavo’u El Ha’Aretz”, “When you will come to the land”, and seems to have as its goal the return of the nation Israel to its homeland, which it had left as the family of Yaakov nearly three hundred years earlier. So why does it end now? Why isn’t the book of Joshua, which sees the Jewish people cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Israel, included in the Torah?

How can we spend so much time preparing for the realization of the dream to be a nation in our own land, and then stop short of seeing it come true?

In truth, Jewish tradition is replete with instances of individuals who do not see their dreams through to fruition, as well as tasks begun but not completed.

Joshua, Moshe’s successor, is given the mission of both conquering the land of Israel (whose borders are defined not by committee but by G-d,) and dividing the land amongst the tribes. But most of the land is neither conquered nor apportioned in his lifetime. In fact, some portions of the land of Israel as defined in the Bible were never conquered!

The Jewish people, prior to entering the land are given the mission of building a Mikdash, a permanent edifice as G-d’s sanctuary, something that does not happen for nearly four hundred years, and King David himself, who dreamed of building this Temple, does not live to see it happen, just as Abraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov do not live to see the birth of the nation of Israel.

And this pattern continues, as with Eliahu (Elijah) the prophet, whose mission to reform the nation of Israel and rid her of idolatry is not only never realized, but may well be described as an abysmal failure, at least within the context of the plain text.

All of which must challenge us to consider the very nature of setting goals in the first place. What does it mean to set goals?

We find ourselves at the beginning of a new Jewish year, with the power of resolutions, goals, and objectives very much on our minds. It has become an accepted truism in our society, that in order to accomplish things one needs to set goals and objectives. But what is the nature of these goals? How does one arrive at goals that are realistic, and is there a system for ensuring that such goals are achieved? And, of course, if one cannot or does not achieve some or all of those goals, does that necessarily imply failure?

There is a fascinating statement in Ethics of the fathers (Avot 2:21) that may shed light on this topic:

“Lo Alecha HaMelacha Ligmor, Velo’ Atah ben Chorin Le’Hibatel Mimenah’”
“It is neither incumbent upon you to finish the task, nor are you free to desist from it.”

Apparently, the Mishnah is suggesting here, that while I cannot ignore projects, challenges, perhaps even mitzvoth that come my way, I am not responsible at all to see such items through to their satisfactory completion.

Which begs the question: why not? Why am I not responsible to complete any and every project that comes my way, especially once I have taken on such responsibilities?

Indeed, what value is there to the enterprise if there is no obligation to attain the goals that have been set?

Perhaps the issue at stake here is not whether we complete our goals and tasks, but rather how we achieve them.

The idea that I can complete something, anything, on my own, stems from the illusion that in this world we are ever really alone.

Imagine setting the goal of climbing Mount Everest this year. Could such a goal ever really be yours to complete alone? So much thought, effort and work goes into the planning for such an expedition. And so many different people have to commit to do so many different things, to see such a project through to its natural conclusion. In fact, perhaps this Mishnah (teaching) in Ethics of the Fathers is suggesting just how valuable a habit it would be to recognize this truth in everything we do.

And of course, when this idea begins to permeate my thought consciousness on a constant basis, it changes the way I look at the world, and everything and everyone in it.

Anyone who has ever built a company will agree, that any successful business venture depends on teamwork. The attitude that the company is ‘mine’ is not just unhealthy, it also isn’t true. And the best way to inspire the people who work withyou, is to do away with the illusion that they work for you. The successful surgeon recognizes that all alone in an operating room, he could never be all that he was meant to be. It is only with the nurses and interns, the anesthesiologists and technicians upon whom he or she absolutely depends, that the operation can be a complete success. And however skilled his or her hands are, they too, are in the end, a gift from the ultimate One upon whom we all depend; the only true One.

What an incredible world this could be, if only we could all inculcate this idea. The absurdity of war would be akin to my hand fighting with my foot as to who is really in charge. In the end, if my hands and feet were fighting with each other, I would never be able to get out the door, much less get anything done.

Perhaps this is at the root of the way in which the Torah ends.

When one man accomplishes so much, it is easy to forget how much he still needs to be perceived as part of the team. Moshe, of all the individuals that ever walked the earth, reached a level, according to Jewish tradition, that most people never come close to even comprehending. Moshe somehow achieves the ultimate ‘I-Thou’ relationship, speaking to G-d face to face, whatever that means. And when you get that high, it is easy to forget that you don’t get there on your own.

So the Torah ends before we get into the land of Israel, making the point that for all his greatness, he didn’t do it all; he merely set the stage. Moshe gets the Jewish people out of Egypt, and through forty years in the desert with all the challenges that entails. But in the end, even he can’t do it all, he has simply prepared the way for Joshua to bring the Jewish people home. Moshe alone, without Joshua, would be teaching Torah to a Jewish people still languishing in the desert. The book of Yehoshua, coming as it does after the five books of Moses are completed, sends a powerful message that we are always part of a larger picture.

And in the beginning of this week’s portion, Ha’azinu, we see this idea very clearly.

“Ha’azinu Hashamayim Va’adabera, Ve’Tishma Ha’Aretz Imrei Phi.”
“Hearken heavens, and I will speak, and let the land hear the words of my mouth.”(Devarim 32:1)
The heavens and the earth are a balance, between all that we can do here on earth, and the fact that we on earth, are ultimately in a partnership with heaven. And if we think that we of the earth are doing it all, then ultimately we will not be doing it at all.

“Ya’arof Ka’Matar Likchi, Tizal KaTal Imrati….”
“Let my sayings slice down like the rain, and let my words flow like the dew.” (32:2)
Rainfall is the ultimate reminder that we are not alone. However much we plan, however hard we work in cultivating our fields, in the end, it will depend on the rainfall, which is completely out of our control.

And of course, this is true for all the ‘fields’ we cultivate: Our businesses and projects, our homes and our families; ultimately they are all ‘rain’ from heaven.

“Ki Shem Hashem Ekra, Havu’ Godel Le’Elokeinu.”
“For I will call out the name of G-d; bring greatness to G-d.”(32:3)

Greatest of all, Hashem allows us, even wants us to be His partners, allowing His greatness to be dependent on us.

Our goals this year will become valuable not by virtue of what they are, but rather by virtue of how they are. If my goals for this year are not just about me, but about all of us, and if even those goals that are about me, are really about the ‘me’ that wants to be there for all of us, then those goals are not just mine; they have the potential to be everyone’s. And what an incredible year that would bring.

For David Shirazi it was never about whether he made it up that hill, and I suspect it wasn’t even about his entire unit, or even his brigade. On that terrible afternoon at Tel Facher, David Shirazi was carrying the entire Jewish people on his shoulders. And while some of us might consider that a burden too heavy to bear, I suspect for Shirazzi it just made it clear that he was not alone. He was leaning on the wellspring of the entire nation of Israel.

Wishing you all a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year, full of Joy and blessing for us all,

Ketivah ve’Chatimah Tovah,

Why Do the Arabs Hate the Palestinians?

by Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: For many reasons, the Arab world is not at all interested in giving the Palestinian Arabs a state. The Palestinian Arabs don’t really want one either, because why kill the “refugee” goose that lays the golden eggs?

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Israel’s Corona Disaster

by Victor Rosenthal

Wednesday, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that in the past 24 hours there were 6,861 new cases of Covid-19 detected in 59,169 tests, an 11.5% positive ratio. This ratio has been steadily increasing, which is an indication of the explosive spread of the disease.

This is the worst ever for Israel, which has had the greatest average number of new cases per day per million population in the world for several weeks now. The Health Ministry’s “point man” on Corona, Dr. Ronni Gamzu, predicted that within a week the number of serious cases that require hospitalization will exceed the capacity of the system. When that happens, the system will stretch a bit. One hospital converted a parking garage into a Corona facility in a remarkably short time; the IDF is setting up field hospitals. But if the numbers continue to increase, soon there will be no more flexibility. Doctors will have to decide whom to treat and whom not. People will die who could have been saved.

Last week Israel began a second partial lockdown. Its effect will not be felt for another week, but it’s doubtful – based on the various loopholes left in it for political reasons and a general lack of observance of the rules – that it will be enough to reduce the spread of the disease significantly.

There is a lack of good information available about how to reduce the number of infections, but it seems clear that crowds are bad, crowds indoors are worse, and masks – if properly worn – help, especially if both the infectious person and the one at risk wear them. It also seems that the amount of virus that a person picks up can affect whether they will be infected and how seriously; so the amount of time spent in a dangerous situation is important.

The strategy (as it appears today) of the Health Ministry is to apply restrictions to reduce the daily number of new cases to the point that it will be possible to track the contacts of each infected person, test them, and quarantine anyone who is positive or who has had direct contact with someone who tests positive. That is called “breaking the chain of infection.” But that can only happen if the number of new cases is manageable. Once that is achieved, it should be possible to gradually release the restrictions and return the society to normal without causing a new spike in infections. Estimates of how low it must go vary widely, between 100 and 1000 new cases per day.

The objective in applying restrictions is to restrict those behaviors that facilitate the spread of the virus as much as possible, while doing the smallest possible damage to the economy. And here we run into the problems of politics and attitudes.

Yesterday and today the “Corona Cabinet” – a committee of government ministers from relevant ministries – has been discussing the tightening of restrictions that will be needed. One of the biggest conflicts concerns two activities which involve large crowds, including numerous people without masks who do not observe “social distancing,” and which have zero impact on the economy. It would seem obvious that these would be the first to be restricted.

But the activities we are talking about are the weekly raucous, theatrical, and sometimes obscene demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, and his home in Caesarea; and the coming synagogue services on Yom Kippur.

The Left believes that there is nothing more sacred than the right to demonstrate. An attempt to shut down or even limit the numbers of demonstrators is met with fury on the street and from opposition politicians. It’s claimed that would “destroy democracy.” The Attorney General, who in Israel is more a functionary of the legal establishment and the Supreme Court than of the government, says that the government would have to get the Knesset to pass a special law if it wants to stop demonstrations.

Observant Jewish Israelis, of course, insist that it is unacceptable to forbid Jewish prayer in a Jewish state. And both sides are right, but they are both wrong in their insistence that they get their way in the face of the fact that both demonstrations and packed synagogues are known to effectively spread the virus.

The tracking mechanism of the Internal Security Service (Shabak) that is being used to track exposure and locate people violating quarantine is ineffective in these cases, since both demonstrators – just for that reason – and synagogue-goers leave their cellphones at home.

The government could not stand against the pressure, so it punted and appointed a “professional” committee to come up with limitations on demonstrations and public prayer that would allow both to continue. Unfortunately, these rules will be broken, because a large segment of each group does not respect any rules that come from the government. The police are outnumbered, and even though they can impose fines, have a hard time enforcing rules – and the more complicated they are, the harder it is.

Much of the Haredi educational system is operating, including schools for children and yeshivot and kollelim for adults, despite the closings decreed in “red zones.” Limits on the number of congregants in synagogues were widely broken during Rosh Hashana. Dozens of anti-Bibi and anti-lockdown protestors set up tables in front of the PM’s residence and had a festive meal. Over the weekend, a large group held what was essentially a beach party, allegedly under the rules permitting “demonstrations.”

In the Arab towns on both sides of the Green Line, the problem has been massive weddings, which sometimes go on for several days with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of participants. Mayors of Israeli Arab towns imposed nighttime curfews, which may have helped, although weddings are then sometimes held during the day.

In anything less than a Chinese-style totalitarian system, laws are upheld primarily by the willingness of citizens to obey them, with enforcement only needed for egregious violators. That mechanism is breaking down in Israel. A recent survey showed that 68% did not trust PM Netanyahu to manage the response to the virus, and 41% did not trust Dr. Gamzu. And Israelis tend to ignore people and rules that they don’t respect.

This is literally a question of life and death, both for Israelis and for their economy. A two-or-three week lockdown is bad enough, but two or three months would be intolerable. Either we get a handle on this epidemic, or we will be facing the choice between economic disaster or hundreds of deaths every day (today there were 31). Or if we are indecisive enough, maybe we’ll get both.

What needs to happen is that the government has to make simple rules, stick to them, and enforce them with severe penalties. No demonstrations, period. Close the synagogues, period. No weddings, period. In a few weeks, we can break the back of the epidemic, and then return to something closer to normalcy.

Continuing to take two steps forward and three steps back as we’ve been doing will only earn us a bunch of funerals – and no economy, either.

The Palestinians Have Been Lying For Years. Can They Still Get Away With It?

by Prof. Hillel Frisch

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Palestinians have been lying in all directions for far too long. A gullible liberal public might buy into their lies for a while, but not forever. The UAE and Bahrain are no longer swallowing Palestinian lies, and other Arab states might join them.

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Rabbi Ari Kahn on Ten Days of Holiness


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

"He Will Reconcile His People to His Land”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

The Song of Ha’azinu concludes with the revenge and reconciliation that will be in the future, as it says, “Let the tribes of His nation sing praise, for He will avenge His servants' blood. He will bring vengeance upon His foes, and reconcile His people to His land” (Deuteronomy 32:43). Rashi comments: “In the future the nations will praise Israel, saying, ‘Consider how praiseworthy this nation is! They remained devoted to G-d throughout all the suffering they experienced, and they never abandoned Him. They were aware of His goodness and virtue.’

And why should the nations praise them? ‘For He will avenge His servants' blood. He will bring vengeance upon His foes,’ for the blood of Israel that was spilt like water and for the evil and massacres and the theft and pillaging by the nations from the beginning of history until today, as it says, “The enemy's first punishment will be the blood of the slain and wounded” (32:42. Rashi).

Following G-d’s revenge on Israel’s foes, will come great reconciliation and appeasement between us and our Father in Heaven, as it says, “He will reconcile [vekiper] His people to His land.” Rashi explains that G-d will appease His land and His people for the suffering they underwent, caused by the enemy. Rashi, treats the word “vekiper”, which normally means “atone,” as meaning “reconcile”. Why does it say “vekiper admato”, literally “G-d will reconcile His land”, when it is His people that He will reconcile? Rashi thus explains that “admato”, literally, “His land”, here means “His people.” When the Jewish People are consoled, G-d’s land is consoled. It likewise says, “G-d, You have propitiated Your land” (Psalm 85:2).

Yom Kippur is our day of appeasement, the day of reconciliation between men, and between man and G-d. Yet this is not just so on the personal level, but also on a national level, as it says, “He will reconcile His people to His land.” G-d will appease His land and His people for the suffering they experienced, and which was carried out by the enemy, and all this He will do by way of the revenge that He will return to His enemies (see Rashi, ibid.).

When the Jewish People rise to rebirth in their land, and vanquish their enemies who are fiercely attacking them, G-d’s name will be sanctified in the world, and the nations will praise us, recognizing that our uniqueness is our profundity of spirit. In every generation, the nations rise up to destroy us. In the present generation, the Arabs and Muslims are rising up against us, led by the dictators of Iran with help from the Europeans and the Chinese. And just as G-d saved us from all our enemies and took revenge on them, so too in our day He will take revenge on our enemies, as it says, “For He will avenge His servants' blood. He will bring vengeance upon His foes.” By such means, “He will reconcile His people to His land” will be fulfilled speedily in our day, Amen.

Looking forward to salvation and redemption,
May you be signed and sealed for a good year,
Shabbat Shalom.

What is HaShem planning for His people in Eretz Yisrael?

The Days of Awe (Yamim Nora’im) 5781
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

With every new year we draw closer to the final redemption of our nation as we return to our holy land, as promised by our prophets.

The Torah states (Devarim 22:1-2):

לא תראה את שור אחיך או את שיו נדחים והתעלמת מהם השב תשיבם לאחיך:

ואם לא קרוב אחיך אליך ולא ידעתו ואספתו אל תוך ביתך והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו והשבתו לו

If you see your brother’s (fellow Jew) ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but return it to its owner. If your brother (the owner) is not close to you or if you do not know who owns it, take it into your home to be with you until your brother seeks it out, then return it (after receiving convincing signs of description).

What is HaShem planning for His people in Eretz Yisrael?
In our unpredictable, erratic world one immutable principle has stood the test of millennia, with no sign that it will ever change – that nothing of significance has ever evolved or will evolve without implicit or covert implications for the Jewish people!

Empires rose and fell, and will rise and fall, because of the Jewish nation. If we can’t always discern the historical connections of all great historic events with the Jewish people, it is due to our intellectual limitations or lack of information. But the principle is intact – humanity and its march in time revolves around HaShem’s chosen nation, as the planets orbit the sun. And just as each planet revolves in its predetermined orbit contingent on the gravitational energy exerted on it by the sun, so too do the nations of the world develop in relation to the direct or indirect Jewish influence on them.

The descendants of Aisav and Yishmael have always been closely involved with the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. Hence, their development is more sophisticated than cultures which were less involved with the knowledge of HaShem as passed on through the Jewish people.

Numerous studies have been made into the genealogy of major European leaders and found that Jewish blood – from mother or father or a grandparent – flowed freely in their veins.

Aisav and Yishmael as individuals, had a love-hate relationship with their Jewish brothers – Yitzchak and Ya’akov – that passed on to their descendants. The Christian and Moslem peoples have so much to be indebted to the Jewish nation and our teachings, but the scratch in their brains makes it impossible for them to live with us or to live without us. When we are in the galut, they rant “Go back to Eretz Yisrael”; and now that we have returned to Eretz Yisrael they rant “You do not belong there”.

I wish to point out three nations in particular: England in Western Europe, Turkey with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, and Iran (Persia) deep in Asia. There is no apparent connection between them, save for one – that aside from the Arabs, these three are the most anti-Israel nations in the world today.

England is the seat of intellectual anti-Israel feeling. Their universities boycott ours, and every Israeli is in danger of being arrested, which prevents ranking army officers and cabinet ministers from going there. Turkey is regressing into Islamic darkness, with the initiation fee being the severing of its ties with the Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Iran is Shi’ite, removing them from the thought processes of rational people.

But why just these three nations? I suggest:

They have a common historic experience. At some time in their history, each was an empire with colonial holdings which included Eretz Yisrael, until HaShem’s stopwatch of history sounded and the Holy Land expelled them. Their insatiable jealousy at losing the fulcrum of human activity leaves them little room for rationality.

And one more common feature. Their anti-Eretz Yisrael policies will in time be the cause of their destruction as national entities.

The prophets predicted the fall of the great empires of their times: Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Phoenicia. Would they be alive today, the prophets would speak of the downfall of all the nations that prevent the fulfillment of our God given obligation to return and rebuild the holy land.

To return to the question of where is HaShem taking us?

With every passing day, anti-Semitism disguised as anti the State of Israel is becoming more bold and aggressive. Many Jews in the United States – orthodox and otherwise – are fearful of their frail status as accepted equals and compete with the worst of our enemies in mudslinging at our holy Medina.

The prophecy of what will be our destiny in the generation of the Mashiach was delivered by HaShem through the foul mouth of the evil Bil’am, when he said (Bamidbar 23,9):

כי מראש צרים אראנו ומגבעות אשורנו הן עם לבדד ישכן ובגוים לא יתחשב:

From the highest plateau I will view him (the Jewish people) and from the high places I will acknowledge him. A people that shall dwell in isolation and will not regard the (gentile) nations

Herein lies the master plan of the Creator.

As we in Eretz Yisrael are increasingly excluded from international forums designed to de-legitimize the Jewish state, despite the seeming warming of relations with some gulf states, we will draw ever closer to the God of Israel.

The evil Bil’am saw the future return of the Jewish nation to HaShem and the Torah. It will be brought about by our non-reliance on foreign “friends”, coupled with HaShem’s miraculous intervention in unprecedented military victories.

RaMBaM (hilchot Melachim) states that the Mashiach will lead us in our final wars, that is to say the Mashiach will have a military background, that puts an entirely new perspective on who to expect to be HaShem’s messenger to redeem His people.

The future demography of Eretz Yisrael
The wide expanse of the Golan is waiting for millions of Jews to settle there and infuse the area with Torah life. Yehuda, Shomron, the Negev and Galil, as well as the areas of Biblical Eretz Yisrael waiting to be returned to us, will be settled by tens if not hundreds of millions of Jews returning home.

From where will all these Jews come? For this we have to think “outside of the box”.

They will not come from the Jewish community in the United States which is quickly dwindling through inter-marriage, coupled with apathy and antagonism of most orthodox Jews towards God’s greatest miracle of the last 2000 years. The Jews of Western Europe and South America are following suit. The 70+ years of opportunity for the Jews in the West is rapidly ending, for the timetable of HaShem waits for no man.

The big numbers will come from the hundreds of millions of Jewish descendants of the Ten Tribes and Anusim, who will awaken one day to their Jewish heritage. They are the Jewish nation of the future, as prophesied by Yechezkel (11:17)

לכן אמר כה אמר א-דני ה’ וקבצתי אתכם מן העמים ואספתי אתכם מן הארצות אשר נפצותם בהם ונתתי לכם את אדמת ישראל:

Therefore say: ‘This is what the LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’

As the Malbim explains this verse:

שלעתיד יאסוף את עשרת השבטים שהם בארצות רחוקות ולא שבו בבית שני, ונתתי לכם את אדמת ישראל לא כמו שאמרו לנו נתנה הארץ למורשה

“In the future HaShem will gather the Ten Tribes from faraway lands, those who did not return at the time of the second Temple, and I will give them the land of Israel”

With this in mind, I would like to suggest an additional understanding of the verses quoted at the beginning of this message:

לא תראה את שור אחיך או את שיו נדחים והתעלמת מהם השב תשיבם לאחיך:

ואם לא קרוב אחיך אליך ולא ידעתו ואספתו אל תוך ביתך והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו והשבתו לו

The first verse deals with lost articles that belong to your brother Jew. I suggest that the second verse deals with your Jewish brother who is seemingly lost to his people, as follows.

ואם לא קרוב אחיך אליך ולא ידעתו ואספתו אל תוך ביתך והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו והשבתו לו

If your brother Jew is far from you (in the spiritual sense), to the extent that you can no longer recognize any Jewish features in his life. Bring him into your home (Eretz Yisrael) until his heart is opened and he begins to seek out his Jewish roots. Then be prepared to return him to those roots.

This is what will be in the near future, when HaShem will awaken the millions of our brothers so distant from their roots and return them miraculously to us in Eretz Yisrael.

Gemar Chatima Tova
אבינו מלכנו מנע מגפה מנחלתך
Nachman Kahana
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