Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Bones of Yosef


"The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil"

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

On Tu Bishvat, many Jews have a custom of planting trees throughout our beloved land. We find an allusion to this custom in our sages’ words:
“From the beginning of the world’s creation, G-d dealt first with planting, as it says, ‘G-d planted a garden in Eden’ (Genesis 2:8). You, as well, when you enter the Land, must first engage in planting, as it says, ‘When you come to the Land, plant trees bearing fruit’ (Leviticus 19:23).” (Vayikra Rabbah 25:3)

From here our sages learn that we have to follow in G-d’s pathways. Just as G-d planted a garden in Eden, so must we plant trees in Eretz Yisrael, which corresponds to the garden planted in Eden.

Even so, it is not enough to plant. We must also tend what we planted. Just as G-d left a man in Eden to work and preserve what he planted, so are we commanded to work and preserve our public and private lives here. Otherwise, we are liable to ruin the Garden of Eden in which we live. As our sages said:
“When G-d created Adam, He took him around and showed him all the trees in Eden, and He said to him, “Observe how fine is My handiwork. Everything I created, I created for you. Be careful not to ruin and destroy My world!” (Kohelet Rabbah 7)

Also regarding eating the fruits of the Garden of Eden, Adam was commanded not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating from that Tree of Knowledge brought shame and sadness to Adam and to all mankind. Whoever would eat from that tree would imagine to himself that only he knows what is good and what is evil, and he would ignore Divine Instruction that teaches us what is really good and what is really evil. As our holy Torah tells us, the Torah is a “tree of life for those who take hold of it.”

Today, how fortunate we are that we are returning to Eretz Yisrael, planting trees there and eating their fruits. With our own eyes, we are seeing the clear end of days. As Ezekiel said, “But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come” (36:8) (see Sanhedrin 98a).

Yet together with this we must work and preserve the planting in our holy, beloved land. We must work it – we must develop our land and settle it throughout its length and breadth. And we must preserve it – from those whose entire goal is to destroy the State of Israel. Above all else, we must be careful not to “eat the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. In other words, we mustn’t think that good and evil in our private and public lives depend only on our own judgment. And those who hold the reins of government must be especially careful to avoid this mistake. They must come to realize that good and evil, as far as our hold on Eretz Yisrael, are learned from our holy Torah. That is the moral basis for us and for the nations of the world as far as whether or not we are justified in holding on to the Land of our Life’s blood. As Rashi explains at the start of the Torah, should the nations come and call us thieves for having conquered Eretz Yisrael, we must answer them, “G-d told His people of His might, giving them the inheritance of nations” (Psalm 101:6).

Looking forward to complete redemption,
With Love of Israel,
Tu Bishvat Sameach,
Shabbat Shalom.

The Shamrak Report: Back to the Old Lame Game

US President Joe Biden's choice to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken told Senate recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will remain and embassy to stay in the city, adds that administration will return to nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance and will seek a more comprehensive agreement.

Antony Blinken threw his support behind a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians but doubted prospects for such a deal.

"The only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution," Blinken said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But he added: "I think realistically it's hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that."

Regarding the embassy and the outgoing president's recognition of the city as Israel's capital, Blinken said Biden will keep both decisions in place.

He also said that the new administration will come back into a nuclear accord with Iran if it returns to compliance, and Washington will eventually seek a stronger deal of greater duration. A new agreement could address Iran's "destabilizing activities" in the region as well as its missiles. "Having said that, I think we're a long way from there," Blinken said, adding that he would watch for Iran's next steps. (Any procrastination dealing with the Iranian nuclear program decisively will only bring closer the creation of an Iranian A-bomb, and rapid destabilisation of the region!)

Donald Trump staunchly supported Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinian leadership, giving support only for a limited, demilitarized state. ( It would be a better solution is to move them all to Sinai!)

The Palestinian Authority refused contact with Trump, saying he showed bias toward Israel with major steps such as moving the US embassy to contested Jerusalem. ( They prefer the usual anti-Israel bias from the administration in the White House!)

Betraying of Israel has Already Begun!
The US Embassy in Israel briefly changed its Twitter account name to include the West Bank and Gaza. The @USAmbIsrael account s name changed to US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza around noon in DC (7 p.m. in Israel), when Biden was sworn in as president and David Friedman, a political appointee of former president Donald Trump, officially stepped down from the post.

Food for Thought
by Steven Shamrak
Fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Israel prejudice in media is a noble task. But no war has been won by defensive action only - Israel/Jews must set a clear national objective and pursue it, disregarding protests and opinions of the enemies and so-called friends!

Arabs Warming up to Israel
Arab social media witnessed a 20% decline in negative attitudes towards normalization with Israel during the past four months. (Anything is achievable with the will and good spin !)

Let Anti-Semites Fume!
EU fumes as Israel pushes back at Biden with over 2,000 settler homes! Israel announced tenders for 2,572 settler units and Jewish homes in east Jerusalem as European officials met with the Foreign Ministry in protest. "reiterated their grave concern about announcements regarding new settlement units in the occupied West Bank and called to permanently halt the tendering procedure for Givat Hamatos." (It is Jewish land - Judea and Samaria - not "occupied West Bank", Jew-hating idiots!)

PA Calls for International Pressure on Israel
Abbas spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, calls for a firm international stance and a shift from condemnation to effective pressure on the Israeli government. "The Palestinian people are capable of opposing this occupation policy and they will not allow their land to be stolen and exploited as part of the Israeli election campaign for Netanyahu or any other element," he stated. (It did not take long - just one day after President Trump left office! And, since when has it been their land? He quoted UN Security Council Resolution 2334 - the last betrayal of Israel by Obama, which expressed useless grave concern in the usual anti-Israel bashing by Ugly Nazi !)

Self-Haters Must be Banned from Israel!
B Tselem director-general Hagai El-Ad spoke at the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa last week, despite a ban on B Tselem lectures ordered by Education Minister, Yoav Gallant. Gallant issued the ban to block the entry of groups that contradict the goals of the education system, including calling Israel false disparaging names; opposing Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state; discouraging meaningful service in the IDF; or acting to harm or degrade IDF soldiers during or after their service, (As usual, the group is not punished and continues to operate in Israel, thanks to generous financing by international anti-Semites and gutless Israeli politicians!)

UAE and US Signed Agreement on Sale of F-35 Jets
The United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with the United States to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones just before Trump left office. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently announced that Israel would not oppose a US sale of advanced weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates.

'Ugly Nazi' is Barking at Israel Again
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged Israel to "halt and reverse" its decision last week to build hundreds of new settler homes in Judea and Samaria, one day after Israel approved the construction of 780 homes. The move has also been condemned by the European Union and the United Kingdom. ( Ugliness of international anti-Semitism is reprehensible!)

Quote of the Week:
Our Palestinian land is from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) sea. I dare any Palestinian, any senior Palestinian official, or any Palestinian leader to reduce the Palestinian map to the West Bank and Gaza ! - Tawfiq Tirawi, a senior Fatah member. The same was said many times by Yasser Arafat and many other leaders of fake Palestinians! They did not and will not accept any peace plan!

Make Israel Proud Sovereign Nation!
by Steven Shamrak

Israel must stop looking for approval from international anti-Semites and so-called friends. It will never get it! Since 1948 they have been undermining Israel s independence and even its existence. Only by exercising self-respect and determination to remove enemy terror threats and reunite Jewish ancestral land will the Jewish people be able to live peacefully in Eretz-Israel!

Why is Israel constantly seeking approval and searching for unattainable high moral ground? No matter how hard Jews have been trying to get it - this is a futile exercise; we have never received any respect, understanding and appreciation of our aspirations and humane efforts in dealing with enemies from international anti-Semites.

Contraire, Israel is denigrated by the endless successive resolutions eagerly adopted by the vicious attacks from numerous anti-Israel organisations, as well as by Arab appeasing states - like the EU and BDS supporters, Oxfam, Amnesty International, the Red Cross and innumerable others!

Why does Israel have to prove its "right to exist"? No other country has this pathological need this is a strategy for losers!

Always on the defence, Israel behaves as if it has done something wrong, by allowing others to accuse it of crimes it has never committed. Israel s leadership is persistently unable to make a psychological transition from the historic scars of anti-Semitic persecution. It needs to shake off the shtetl mentality and start acting as a proud nation!

The Jewish leadership is unwilling and incapable of recognizing that Israel is a modern, highly developed sovereign state with a powerful and capable military. Does Israel have an overriding sense of a viable political and military strategy or clearly defined direction for deal with its adversaries? This absence of clearly articulated and identified national goals and lack of self-respect has robbed Israel of decisive victory in its last five conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza.

While engaging in endless military conflicts, Israel proudly announced that it trucks supplies to the enemy during the conflicts aiding and abetting the enemy! Israeli military gave advance notice to enemies in Gaza of its next military action, and even provides details about imminent targets. It is irrational behaviour no army in the world acts like this during a military conflict!

Israel provides medical treatment to the enemy population, including the extended families of Abbas, and Khalid Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, all of whom have openly declared their genocidal intent towards Israel and Jews. This behaviour also deifies any rational logic and comprehension!

Wars are not won by winning the high moral ground, which international anti-Semites will not allow Israel to attain anyway - they are won on the ground, by decisively defeating enemies and not having to replicate the same conflict over and over, and over! It is well known that Israel s enemies, Arab and Muslim states, respect only strength and have contempt for display of weakness that how they perceive Israel s behaviour!

The most insane of all, was bringing the exiled PLO terrorists into our backyard, legitimizing them and laying the foundation for yet another Arab State on Jewish ancestral land.

By giving up Sinai, three times, ceding the Temple Mount, unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, and most catastrophically signing the Oslo Accords for a delusion of peace, and many more so-called confidence-building gestures Israel validates Albert Einstein s famous quote: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By these bizarre displays of weakness, Israel only gives its enemies the hope and expectations that they will eventually be triumphant in destroying the Jewish state. This behaviour only encourages their perpetuating aggressions against Israel.

Jews are considered, even by their enemies, as smart people this is not intelligent behaviour that one expects of an advanced military and industrial state! Jews need to change our shtetl mentality and stand as a proud nation and get rid of this incessant need for approval from others!

We are meant to live Supernaturally

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Shabbos Night
CLEARLY GOD had been messing with Pharaoh, big time. First, He gave Pharaoh the impression that the Jewish people were only going to take a three-day leave of absence, when in fact they were leaving for good. Why Pharaoh didn’t expect otherwise after 10 plagues is a mystery, but not one of the bigger ones.

Next, God had the Jewish people backtrack to the shore of the sea, to give Pharaoh the impression that they were lost and confused. Pharaoh took the bait and chased after them, setting up the final stage of the downfall of Egypt. All Pharaoh could do was watch in horror as the last of his army drowned in the sea, while the Jewish people again walked to freedom…b’yad ramah, with an “exalted hand.”

There are a couple of reasons for all of this, because clearly it was not merely to free the Jewish people. A single plague that wiped out the Egyptians would have done that, minus all the fanfare and chess moves. Clearly God was making a point, to the Jewish people for sure, and the rest of the world as well.

The main message to the Jewish people, the Leshem explains, is that we are meant to live supernaturally. Everything about the Jewish people, from our origin to our future destiny is supposed to be beyond the realm of the natural…if we merit it. It was only those who separated themselves from Egyptian culture, and made a clean break from Egypt who got that far. Four-fifths of the nation died in the Plague of Darkness, because they wouldn’t make that break.

As for the rest of the world, the message was different. It said, “If you are thinking about hurting the Jewish people, you might want to reconsider. Certainly don’t assume that your perception of Jewish weakness is your ideal opportunity to implement your plan against them. Maybe God is only messing with you too, in order to set up your downfall, if not today, then tomorrow.”

This is what the Haggadah says, that many have risen up against us, only to fall in the end in one manner or another. And many will rise up against us, and they too will fall, one way or another, if not today, then tomorrow.

One such enemy of the Jewish people was quoted as saying something to this effect: “When I considered the history of this small nation, and considered how they have survived despite the many efforts to destroy them, I can’t help but wonder if Providence indeed does favor them. But in case it is not true, I will try again…” And so Adolf Hitler, ysv”z, did try, and met with the same fate as all of his predecessors…Pharaoh…Nebuchadnetzar…Haman…Antiochus…Titus, etc.

“But,” a person may argue, “though they may have gone down in the end, they did considerable damage to the Jewish people and the world before that happened. What consolation was that for all those people, whom their evil hands did murder or maimed? What assurance is that for any of us wondering about the current rise in anti-Semitism, and what it might lead to, God forbid, in our generation?”

Shabbos Day
RECALL WHAT Yosef told his brothers back in Parashas Vayechi. They had worried that Yosef would take his revenge against them now that their father had died, and so they lied to preempt such action before Yosef had a chance. Then Yosef reminded them:

“Don't be afraid, for am I instead of God?” (Bereishis 50:19)

If I wanted to harm you, would I be able? Did not all of you plan evil against me? The Holy One, Blessed Is He, however, designed it for good. So how can I alone harm you? (Rashi)

No one dies without God’s approval, or in a way of which He does not permit. When a person dies may be a mystery to us, and the way in which they die may give rise to questions, but it doesn’t change the rule. Even statements to the contrary, some of which are in the Talmud itself, must in the end fit with this rule. If they don’t, the problem is not the rule, it is our limited understanding of it.

One of the limitations of being human is that we are limited. The term “collateral damage” means that no matter how hard we try to avoid unintended targets, we can’t. As smart as we are, we can’t think of everything, and the more elaborate a plan is, the more likely we are to overlook something. We are not prophets, which means there are future consequences of our current actions we just cannot foresee. There are just too many unknowns in life, and not enough “knowns” to anticipate them.

But, as God’s ineffable four-letter Name declares, it is different for Him. “He was, He is, and He will be” all at once. All that exists and all that occurs is a function of His will, and nothing else. And every moment of every day He orchestrates all of it PERFECTLY to the very last detail and minutiae, no matter how imperfect any of it may seem to us.

He’s the One with the perfect vision, not us.

He’s the One with perfect control, not man.

Thus, there is no such thing as “collateral damage” by God. If it happens, it was meant to happen. If it doesn’t, it was not meant to be. If a person is affected by something for either good or bad, that was decided by God. If they are not affected, then that too was decided by God. Everyone else involved and all that occurred was just the part of the means He designed to implement His decisions. This is what Yosef told his brothers, and what the Torah is telling all of us, for the rest of history.

Putting all of the above together, we have the promise from God that any enemy of the Jewish people will eventually be stopped, and destroyed. In fact, it will be their own arrogance and anti-Semitic behavior that will, more often than not, lead to their destruction. It’s just a matter of time until it does.

And, we have to know, anyone who suffers because of them until their downfall, is not an unwitting victim. They are not just an innocent bystander, who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As circumstantial as their involvement and suffering may seem to them, and us, it is not. It was planned and orchestrated by God, as mysterious as it may seem to be. The evil people were just God’s messengers of destruction until their time was up.

Seudas Shlishis
WHERE DOES that leave us? What input, if any, do we have into this equation? Where it always leaves us. We have a Torah. We have halachah. We have Gedolei HaDor to decide the halachah in new circumstances never addressed before. It is the one constant in every generation until, God forbid, we lose that too, like in the Holocaust, for example.

This is the way a person keeps in God’s good books. This is never a guarantee for protection from bad, because our judgments take into account far more than just our current lives. Tikun is for all of our reincarnations until the very last one. But it certainly is much better than being in God’s bad books for being careless about the will of God and living by it.

The Talmud in Rosh Hashanah gives some good advice about “guaranteeing” a favorable judgment on Rosh Hashanah, especially if one might be in doubt if it is otherwise forthcoming. It says that one should obligate themself to the community, so that the merit of the community works in their favor. If the person’s personal merits are not enough to “win” another year of life, then the merits of the community they intend to serve after Rosh Hashanah will tip the scales in their favor.

Does a person outsmart the heavenly Bais Din by doing this? No. Rather, it applauds the person. Perhaps they should have to come to do this on their own without the fear of a bad judgment, but it is still a good thing to have done because of the fear of judgment.

Does a person have to wait until Elul to make such commitments to earn favor from God? Certainly not. Nor should they. We see, especially now, how vulnerable we are all year round, how Divine judgment can visit a person at any time. Even the Talmud in Rosh Hashanah says that judgment is going on every hour all year round.

Therefore, it is not enough to simply go about your life oblivious to the judgment going on. In Egypt, when the angel was sent by God to kill Egyptians, the Jews had to stay indoors to avoid being included in the decree, even the righteous ones. During times of plague, everyone is at risk, and we have already lost many tzaddikim.

No one can be given any guarantees against being affected by what is going on, but there are some things we can do to increase our merits for shemirah—Divine protection. Follow the Talmud’s advice and make yourself less dispensable to history by committing yourself to something important to God.

You’re not pulling the wool over God’s eyes.

You’re just allowing the situation to elevate you to a higher level of Torah commitment, which is exactly what God wants from us, at all times.

Melave Malkah
THIS BRINGS us to Amalek, who attacks the Jewish people at the end of the parsha. We begin the parsha by destroying one very deadly enemy, and end it by being attacked by another. What a giant step back from the splitting of the sea and the mann from Heaven!

Yet, as Rashi explains, we were not innocent bystanders. On the contrary, we created Amalek and drew his attack by asking:

Is God among us or not? (Shemos 17:7)

This verse happens to be quite kabbalistic, but the bottom line is that the Jewish people expressed doubt in God’s Providence. Despite all the incredible miracles God had performed for the Jewish people until that time, a temporary lack of water jolted the nation to doubt God’s commitment to their well-being. That brought on Amalek, whose very name alludes to such doubt.

This is the most important thing a person can work on in their life, absolute trust in God. This basically means two things. The first is the recognition that everything is from the hand of God, bar none. Nothing happens, no matter how mysterious or how seemingly diabolical, without God. Anything else involved is just the means to carry out His will.

The second thing is that all God does He does for the good, also bar none. We don’t like it? We’re afraid of it? It’s the opposite of what we think a “good” God would do? Perhaps. But that doesn’t change the rule. We can try to get around it, but that always just backfires in the end in one way or another. We’re dealing with Omnipotent and Omniscient, you know.

All of this becomes easier when we stop trying to have our cake and eat it too, and stop trying to make our lives as materially and emotionally comfortable as they can be. If a person is focused on personal rectification and maximizing their merit for the World-to-Come, then they will live according to Torah to the best of their ability. They will accept whatever Hashgochah Pratis that comes their way as from God, and good.

Most of what we go through is to this end anyhow. So, if a person works on this in the quiet and safe moments in life, they won’t need to learn them through the noisy and dangerous ones. May we all merit to reach such levels and be safe from all of our enemies, in whatever form they take.

Rav Kook on Parashat Beshalach: Two Levels of Love

When the Israelites saw that they had been rescued from Pharaoh’s army at the sea, they sang out with gratitude:

זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי וַאֲרֹמְמֶנְהוּ.

“This is my God, and I will enshrine Him;
My father’s God, I will exalt Him.”
(Exodus 15:2)

Is the repetition in this line from Shirat Hayam - the “Song at the Sea” - merely poetic? Or is there a deeper significance to the two halves of the verse?

Although not apparent in translation, the verse uses two different names of God. The first half of the verse uses the name El, while the second half uses Elokim. What is the significance of each name? How do they specifically relate to the desire to “enshrine” and “exalt” God?

Natural and Contemplative Love
The song, Rav Kook explained, refers to two types of love for God. The first is a natural appreciation for God as our Creator and Provider. God, the Source of all life, sustains us every moment of our lives. All things are inherently drawn to their source, and this love for God comes naturally, like our innate feelings of love and respect for our parents.

This natural love of God corresponds to the Divine name El. The word El is in the singular, reflecting an appreciation for God as the only true power and the ultimate reality of the universe.

A second, higher form of love for God is acquired by reflecting on God’s rule of the universe. As we uncover God’s guiding hand in history, and we recognize the underlying Divine providence in the world, we experience a higher love of God. This love corresponds to the name Elokim - in the plural - referring to the myriad causes and forces that God utilizes to govern the universe.

Enshrine and Exalt
These two types of love differ in their constancy. Our natural love of God as our Creator should be constant and unwavering, like our love and respect for our parents. But the higher love, the product of contemplation and introspection, is nearly impossible to sustain continually due to life’s distractions.

Regarding the innate love of God, the verse speaks of “enshrining” God. With this natural emotion, we can create a permanent place - a shrine of reverence and love for God - in our hearts. “This is my God, and I will enshrine Him.”

The higher, contemplative love, on the other hand, does not benefit from this level of constancy. We should always strive for an ever-deeper appreciation and reverence for God. This is a spiritual goal, attained through our intellectual faculties. Regarding this aspect of love, it is appropriate to speak about “exalting” God. This indicates a love that is the product of concentrated effort. “My father’s God, I will exalt Him.”

(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 235 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Temples on Earth and in Heaven

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Rashi writes on the pasuk, "The Temple, my Lord, that Your hands established" (Shemot 15:17):

The Temple is cherished, since the world was created with one hand, as it says: "Also My Hand has laid the foundation of the earth" (Yeshaya 48:13), while the Temple with two hands. When will it be built with two hands? When "Hashem shall reign for all eternity" (Shemot 15:18) – in the future, when all the kingdoms are His.

Rashi is not very clear, though, about whose two hands will build the Temple in the future? However, it is evident that he is referring to the Gemara in Ketubot 5a:

Bar Kapara taught: The deeds of the righteous are greater than the making of heaven and earth. For with the making of heaven and earth it says: "Also my hand has laid the foundation of the earth," while with the deeds if the righteous it says: "The foundation of Your dwelling place that You, Hashem have made – the Temple, my L-rd, that Your hands established."

Rashi writes there: "The Temple – is a construction of the righteous." However this stands in contrast to what Rashi and Tosfot write in Succah 41a that the future Temple will be built by G-d. They learn this from the pasuk: "The Temple, my Lord, that Your hands established."

There are many who resolve this difficulty by explaining that we will first build the Temple, and then a Temple will descend from above and unite with the lower Temple.

This is a major tenet in Jewish thought. It is against those who think that nothing should be done regarding the redemption of Am Yisrael, because when the time comes Hashem will act of his own initiative. Therefore, we should mention the opinions of some of the great commentators on the subject:

§ On the pasuk, "You, Shlomo can have your thousand" (Shir Hashirim 8:12), the Ramban writes: "The beginning of the future redemption will be through the permission of the kingdoms and there will be a small ingathering, and then Hashem will add His Hand once again."

§ The Radak similarly writes in Tehillim (146:3): " The salvation is dependent on Hashem alone, but He will bring it about through people, the way he brought the salvation of the Babylonian exile through Koresh. Similarly, in the future, Hashem will bring about the redemption of Am Yisrael through the gentile kings, by stirring their spirit to send them [free]."

§ Rabeinu Bechayei also writes in Parshat Shemini (Vayikra 11:4-7): "Why is this kingdom (Edom) compared to a pig? ... Yet, the Third Temple is destined to be built by this nation. This is what Chazal say, that [Edom] is destined to restore the glory to what it was – because it destroyed it."

§ Earlier, Rav Sa'adia Gaon writes in his book "Emunot V'Deiot" (8:5), that the Temple will be built initially with the permission of the kings of Edom, and this will serve as preparation for the Temple above.

The Shalah Hakadosh writes the reason for this in Parshat Tetzaveh:

Hashem's devotion to us and ours to Him is well-known. We cause the great devotion that He has towards us through the strength of human initiative, and then a great bounty initiates from above. This explains what Rashi writes on the pasuk, "To bring you to the place that I have made ready." (Shemot 23:20): "My place is already known corresponding to [the Temple]. This is one of the verses that say that the Temple above corresponds to the Temple below."

This phraseology is difficult, though, as the lesser Temple should have been tied to the greater one! Rashi should have written: "The Temple below corresponds to the Temple above." Furthermore, Rashi writes: "My place is already known," i.e., the Temple above was built first.

However, as was previously stated, the Temple above is waiting for the Temple below to be built by man. When there will be anticipation and initiative from below, then the Temple above will descend. Chazal hint to this in their statement: "Even though fire descends from heaven, it is [still] a mitzvah to bring from the layman." (Yoma 21b)

This is how R. Shlomo Kluger explains the words of the prayer on the holidays: "Build Your House as at first, and establish Your Temple on its basis. Show us its building, and make us happy with its repair." This appears redundant. Also, what does: "as at first" mean, since it will not be like it was in the beginning? Rather, first it will be built by our hands below, and only then by fire. Thus, we ask: "Build Your House as at first " – by men, and then: "establish Your Temple on its basis" – by Hashem. In the meantime, Chazal write that Hashem is crying over the destruction of the Temple, but does nothing until there is an initiative from below.

Is it a Still a “Free Country?”

I didn’t want to write about the USA anymore. People keep telling me that I don’t know anything about events there, that it’s a different country than when I lived there, and that I don’t get how Donald Trump almost engineered a fascist coup of my former home. I am told that I am blinded by the good things he did for Israel, and that he didn’t really mean them anyway, because everything he does (by definition!) is done for selfish political reasons.

But maybe my not being personally involved (although it’s hard for anyone on the planet to be entirely uninvolved in what happens in 800-pound gorilla America) makes it possible for me to see some things more clearly. And what I see is that in the last few years the combination of changes in the media, the educational system, and popular culture, as well as the explosion of social media have given rise to some really dangerous trends, in the direction of less freedom of expression.

Trump is blamed by many for damaging democracy. But I think far more damage has been and is being done by the reaction to Donald Trump. Trump and his movement are being used as an excuse to push the country down a path toward less free expression and less free thought. A path toward a totally different kind of country than the one I grew up in, the one in which every kid’s response to being told to shut up was to say “it’s a free country.” Is it still a “free country?”

What prompted me to write about this was this recent announcement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki of a federal initiative to fight “domestic violent extremism”:

The January 6th assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat.

The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve. We are committed to developing policies and strategies based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis, and on a respect for constitutionally protected free speech and political activities.

Our initial work on DVE will broadly fall into three areas. The first is a tasking from President Biden sent to the ODNI today requesting a comprehensive threat assessment, coordinated with the FBI and DHS, on domestic violent extremism. This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations. …

The second will be the building of an NSC capability to focus on countering domestic violent extremism. As a part of this, the NSC will undertake a policy review effort to determine how the government can share information better about this threat, support efforts to prevent radicalization, disrupt violent extremist networks, and more. …

The third will be coordinating relevant parts of the federal government to enhance and accelerate efforts to address DVE. This considered, an NSC-convened process will focus on addressing evolving threats, radicalization, the role of social media, opportunities to improve information sharing, operational responses, and more.

The first red flag is the use of the Capitol incident as a justification for this project. Most of the participants in the Trump rally at the Ellipse in Washington believed that the election had not been fair, and that Trump should have become the President-Elect, not Biden. Some of these demonstrators moved to the Capitol, where a small number of them (“several hundred”) invaded the building, fought with Capitol police, committed acts of vandalism, and even murdered one police officer. A woman was fatally shot by police, and several others died in unclear circumstances. Not all those that entered the building committed vandalism or violent crimes. Some behaved like tourists.

This was not an insurrection or a coup attempt. Given that some of the people in the crowd had (legal) weapons, it could have turned into a shootout with police. But it didn’t. Because it was the US Capitol, the incident had great emotional resonance. But objectively it was not a big deal. There was only a relatively small number of “violent extremists” involved. And if normal security precautions had been taken – why they were not is a rather interesting question, given that the FBI and other agencies had prior intelligence that something was planned – nothing at all would have happened. Most of those involved have by now been identified and arrested.

The administration is citing this event as the justification for a federal crackdown on “domestic violent extremism” which even has an official abbreviation already, DVE. There has certainly been a lot of DVE in the US over the past year, but most of it took place in the context of anti-police demonstrations, looting, mass vandalism, and violent takeovers of multiple city blocks. One might hope that the administration also had these events in mind, but the fact is that Psaki studiously did not mention them. She only mentioned the Capitol break-in.

In the past decade there have been numerous other incidents that could be called DVE, some of them very serious mass-casualty events, like the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and the 2015 San Bernardino jihadist attack, but she didn’t mention these either, although it would have made sense.

Indeed, an elaborate multi-agency initiative such as this would normally be justified on as wide a basis as possible – unless its announcement is part of a campaign to impugn a particular ideology that is held to be responsible for the Capitol break-in.

Trump was blamed for inflaming the crowd, and was impeached in record time and with almost no concern for procedure. Now he is about to be tried in the (newly Democrat-controlled) Senate, after he has left office, in a possibly unconstitutional and unnecessary proceeding.

There is only one possible way to understand these things, and that is that the new administration is mounting an aggressive campaign to discredit Trump’s movement, as well as to destroy it, by prosecuting outspoken Trumpists for inciting or conspiring to commit DVE.

Another red flag is Psaki’s mention of federal cooperation with “nongovernmental organizations” in assessing the threat. Such organizations might include the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a corrupt organization that is notoriously blind to Islamic or left-wing hate groups, and the ADL, which, while more respectable than the SPLC, has in recent years become quite close to the Democratic Party and also has difficulty perceiving hate from the Left. This suggests that the threat will be (surprise!) found to be primarily right-wing extremism or white nationalism. It is very unlikely that groups like BLM, Students for Justice in Palestine, or Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam will be found to be dangerous extremists.

A third red flag is the discussion of “information sharing” between agencies, which suggests that dossiers will be compiled on “extremists” and “extremist groups” and made available to other agencies. Left-leaning non-governmental groups will help in this. “Extremists” will then become targets either for prosecution, blacklisting, or the various forms of harassment with which anyone who has studied repressive governments is familiar.

Finally there is the mention of social media. Will government intervene in social media? How can that be consistent with the stated intention to “respect constitutionally protected free speech and political activities?” If they are not planning to censor expression, what exactly are they planning to do with respect to social media?

Every day we see different groups making lists, and saying that those who worked in Trump’s administration or campaigns, or even supported him, must be “held accountable.” Sometimes it means that people lose their jobs or their businesses are boycotted. Or perhaps nothing they write can be published.

In an era where many have started to turn against free speech – just try to speak freely if you are a university professor or student and see what happens – the government needs to defend the constitutional guarantee of free expression even more strongly.

Instead, it looks like the new administration is gearing up to use its law enforcement and intelligence agencies to stamp out the political opposition.

The ‘Seven Clean Days’ In Our Times

by HaRav Eliezer Melamd
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

While the Beit HaMikdash existed, ruach ha’kodesh dwelled among Israel, ritual purity was practiced, and our Sages refrained from imposing additional restrictions on the prohibition of niddah. However, after people lost heart, they decided to enact decrees to distance people from transgressing * A deeper reason for adding prohibitions: since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash sexual pleasure lost its reason, and the root of the mitzvah of ona was harmed * Nowadays, there are those who seek to repeal the takkanah of Rebbi regarding sheva niki’im, and although their reasoning seems logical, we do not have the power to repeal earlier decrees

The prohibition of having marital relations and avoiding physical contact, as well as the prohibition of entering the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) and eating tohorot (foods requiring ritual purity), apply to both niddah and zavah, but regarding the number of days of impurity from the Torah, there is a difference between them. Niddah is a woman who discerns menstrual blood, and from the Torah she is teme’ah (ritually impure) for only seven days. Namely, from the day she began to see the menstrual blood, she begins to count seven days, and whether she sees blood during these days for one day or seven days, if by the evening of the end of the seventh day, she finds that she has stopped bleeding – she immerses in a mikveh, and is purified. Zavah is a woman who, within an eleven-day window of the completion of her base seven-day niddah period (and immersion in the mikveh) notices an abnormal blood discharge. If the next day another discharge is noticed, followed by yet another discharge on the third consecutive day, she is deemed a “zavah gedolah”. She is then required to count seven clean days, immerse in a mikveh on the seventh day, and when the Beit HaMikdash existed, bring two turtle-doves, or two young pigeons as a sacrifice on the eighth day (this is not the place to explain the law of a zavah ketana).

Rebbi’s Takkanah
Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (Rebbi), the editor of the Mishnah, saw that some women made a mistake between counting the days needed for the purity of a niddah, and counting the days needed for zavah. And some women mistakenly considered dam tahor (pure blood) as dam tameh (impure blood), and consequently, when they see dam tahor a number of days before the onset of menstruation, they begin counting the seven days of niddah from seeing the dam tahor, while in fact, they should start counting afterwards, from the beginning of seeing dam tameh. He therefore enacted a takkanah (rabbinic enactment) that every woman should be concerned about both niddah and zavah, that if she saw blood for a day or two, she must count six clean days, and after that, immerse in a mikveh. And if she sees blood for three days or more, she must count seven clean days, and after that, immerse in a mikveh (Niddah 66a).

The Minhag (Custom) of B’not Yisrael (The Daughters of Israel)
Over time, the minhag of B’not Yisrael was to be machmir (stringent), and always count shiva niki’im (seven clean days). In other words, even when they saw blood for only one or two days, they counted seven clean days instead of six days that Rebbi enacted, and our Sages accepted their custom as binding law and halakha pesukah (a halakhah about which there is / should be no further discussion or debate), and as Rabbi Zeira stated: “The daughters of Israel have imposed upon themselves the restriction that even if they observe a drop of blood of the size of a mustard seed they wait on account of it seven clean days” (Niddah 66a; Berachot 31a; SA, YD 1833:1).

Many people are mistaken, thinking that the ikar (essence) of the chumra stems from the minhag of B’not Yisrael, but in effect, their chumra only added one day in rare cases of short-term bleeding of a day or two – in substance, only about one or two percent compared to Rebbi’s takkanah.

The Meaning of the Rabbinical Sayagim (‘Fences’)
In all the mitzvot in the Torah, the Torah commanded on the ikar of the isur (prohibition), but surrounding the absolute isur there is a gray area that is not totally prohibited, and therefore the Torah did not forbid it, but it encompasses problems and complications, seeing as those within the gray area may reach the prohibition. However, the Torah commanded the Chachmei Yisrael (Sages of Israel) to delve into the gray area bordering Torah prohibitions and set sayagim (“fences”, or halachic stringencies) in it, so that by means of them, the Jewish nation could fulfill the mitzvot of the Torah (see, Likutei Halachot to R. Natan Hilchot Taarovot 1:8).

This is what the Torah says: “‘Keep My charge” (Leviticus 18: 30) – make a charge to my charge” – literally, ‘add restrictive measures to safeguard my original precept’ (Yevamot 21a). In other words, Hashem’s mitzvot appear in two levels of Torah she’bichtav (Written Torah) and Torah she’ba’al’peh (Oral Torah). The words of the Written Torah express the supreme, Heavenly idea that defines the principle of the mitzvah, and the words of our Sages in the Oral Torah determine the nature and framework in which the mitzvah will actually appear in the olam ha’ma’aseh (the actual world).

The Days of the First and Second Temples
When the First Temple stood and the Shechina (Holy Presence) dwelled amongst the Nation of Israel, and the word of Hashem was revealed through His prophetic servants and they set fewer sayagim to the Torah, and relied more on the revelation of kedusha (holiness) and nevuah (prophecy) to prevent Israel from sinning. However, after the destruction of the First Holy Temple and the departure of prophecy, during the early days of the Second Holy Temple it was agreed by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (Members of the Great Assembly), among them the last of the prophets, that in order to fortify the Torah and mitzvot, there was a need to add and enact sayagim to the Torah (Avot 1:1). Thus began the period of the Sages, who established the Torah in the nation of Israel, and thanks to them, even during all the exiles, Am Yisrael continued to adhere to the Torah, keep the mitzvot, and look forward to redemption (Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 11:6).

The Sayagim on Hilchot Niddah were Determined after the Destruction of the Holy Temple
Apparently, in relation to the prohibition of niddah, as long as the Second Holy Temple existed, and tohorot was practiced, our Sages refrained from setting sayagim that added days of prohibition between spouses, as they had done in other prohibitions, because adding days of prohibition would disrupt laws of Torah regarding tohorot and korbanot (sacrifices). Moreover, the addition of days of impurity also reduced a woman’s ability to go up to the Mikdash, and eat tohorot. And in many houses where tahara was meticulously observed, a woman in the days of her impurity had to retire to the back of her house, and not touch the food and liquids of the rest of the household, and wear impure clothes and utensils reserved for these days (see, Ramban, Vayikra 12: 4). Therefore, Rabbi Meir Simcha from Dvinsk wrote (Meshech Chochma, Shmot 12:22) that when speedily in our days the Beit HaMikdash is built, Rebbi’s takkanah that equated the laws of niddah to the laws of zava, will be repealed.

After the Second Temple was destroyed, and many Jews were exiled from their land and tohorot was cancelled, people lost heart, traditions were forgotten, and some people made mistakes between impure and pure days, and between impure and pure blood. Thus, our Sages, in a gradual process, set the sayagim that added days of prohibition.

A Deeper Reason for Determining Sayagim after the Destruction
A question arises about the sayagim of the prohibition of niddah: how can restrictions that add days of prohibition and nullify Jews from fulfilling two great mitzvot from the Torah, the mitzvah of ona (marital relations) and the mitzvah of puru u’revuru (procreation)? However, after the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and Israel were exiled from their Land, all joy was forsaken, and even the mitzvah of ona was weakened, and therefore our Sages did not refrain from setting restrictions even on the prohibition of niddah as they had set for all prohibitions in the Torah.

We have also learned that the source of the dwelling of the Shechinah between a husband and wife in the joy of ona is rooted in the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies) in the Beit HaMikdash (Peninei Halakha: Simchat HaBayit ve’Birchato 1:6). We also find that the shape of the Keruvim (Cherubs) placed in the Kodesh HaKodashim on the Aron HaBrit (Ark of the Covenant) was in the form of a man and woman fulfilling the mitzvah of ona (Yoma 54a). And when Israel ceased to do the will of Hashem, the Keruvim parted, and turned their faces away from one another (Baba Batra 99a). Likewise, our Sages also said “Since the destruction of the Temple, sexual pleasure has been taken from those who practice it lawfully, and given to sinners” (Sanhedrin 75a).

In a similar vein, we learned from the words of the Tanna Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha (Baba Batra 60b), who was the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, and was ultimately executed by the wicked kingdom (i.e., Rome). “It has been taught: Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha said: Since the day of the destruction of the Temple, by right, we should decree upon ourselves not to eat meat nor drink wine… we ought to, by right, decree upon ourselves not to marry and beget children, and the descendants of Abraham our forefather will cease to exist on their own. However, let Israel go their way: it is better that they should err in ignorance than presumptuously.”

Thus, we have learned that as a result of the destruction and exile, the root of the mitzvah of ona and its joy was impaired, and consequently, there was room to set sayagim to the prohibitions of niddah and zavah as our Sages had established in all the mitzvot.

This idea has halakhic meaning, for some poskim wrote that this is the reason why after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the mitzvah of puru u’revuru is not coerced (Hagahot Maimuniot, Mordechai, Beit Shmuel EH, 1:6). Thus, they did not enact wearing colored underwear to prevent stains (Chatam Sofer, YD 161). Similarly, we have found in many congregations abroad that due to the sorrow of the exile, the Torah commandment of Birkat Kohanim was cancelled, and only in the Mussaf Prayers of Chagim, during times of rejoicing, was it observed (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, Bamidbar, p. 67).

Extra Distancing to Preserve Love
Despite the destruction and exile and the addition of restrictions and days of prohibition, during the time of purity, the mitzvah of ona remains in full force, as it is a mitzvah for a man to bring pleasure and joy to his wife as best he can, and a mitzvah for a woman to make her husband as happy as possible. Not only that, but in the fulfillment of the mitzvah of ona and puru u’revuru there is a certain tikun (rectification) to sin and exile.

Sheva Niki’im Nowadays
Some people ask, maybe nowadays it is possible to cancel the takkanah to count sheva niki’im (‘seven clean days’) for niddah. There are two sides to the question. One, perhaps after having returned to Eretz Yisrael, there is room to embellish the mitzvah of ona and reduce restrictions, as was the practice while Am Yisrael previously lived in their Land. The second, that temptations and obstacles have increased, and the longer the prohibited time lasts, the more difficult it is to abide by. However, although the claims of the questioners are convincing, we do not have the authority to discuss the repeal of a takkanah enacted by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who was the head of the Sanhedrin. Nor do we have the authority to repeal a minhag that has been accepted as halakha pesukah by the Sages of the Talmud, and consequently, the takkanah is binding in full force. Thus, even though we were privileged to return to the Land and build it, we have not yet been privileged to build the Torah properly, and consequently, the takkanah corresponds to the state of spiritual destruction. And for this we pray: “Restore our judges as before, and our counselors as at first, remove from us sorrow and sighing.”

Nevertheless, in everything possible to be lenient in the laws of niddah, al pi din (according to the letter of the law) it is correct to be lenient, since the chumrah in this prevents a mitzvah from the Torah, and is liable to lead to obstacles. In addition, the mitzvah of simchat ona should be embellished as much as possible on the permitted days.

One might say that since one of the reasons for the prohibition of niddah is that out of a couple’s distancing seven days each month “in order that she shall be beloved by her husband as at the time of her first entry into the bridal chamber,” after the destruction of the Mikdash and exile, the joy of marriage was impaired, and a need to add days of prohibition was created. Thus, with each passing month the longings increase, and a husband and wife can take pleasure with joy in their renewed connection, and their love is preserved and renewed (Peninei Halakha: Simchat HaBayit ve’Birchato 3:15).

The Importance of Amalek

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

"Amalek came and battled with Israel in Refidim" (Shemot 17:8). The midrash says that the word Refidim hints at the fact that Isarel had weakened their hands from involvement in Torah (Tanchuma 25). The next section of the Torah is that they left Refidim and traveled to Sinai (Shemot 19:2), where they, of course, prepared themselves for receiving the Torah. As Rashi (ad loc.) comments, "Just as they came to the Sinai Desert with repentance, so did they leave Refidim with repentance."

One of the strongest questions we would seem to have on the Creator of the Universe is why he needed to create Amalek, a nation so corrupt that it cannot be salvaged through improvement but must be destroyed. In historical hindsight the answer is clear. Both the original acceptance of the Torah and the reacceptance of the Torah at the time of Mordechai and Esther came in proximity to an encounter with Amalek. "Just as praise of Hashem emanates from the righteous in Gan Eden, so does it emanate from the wicked in Gehinom" (Shemot Rabba 7:4). By wiping out Amalek, there is as much sanctification of the Divine Name as by elevating the righteous, and the two elements actually complete one another.

The universalistic side of the Jewish People causes us to sometimes blur the boundaries. We love people, and, therefore, we try to not give ourselves credit for being unique. The first promulgators of erasing nationalities were Jews. The first fighters for civil rights were Jews. Jews are at the forefront of universalism. These aspirations cause these Jews to try to deny who we are. We find it so difficult these days to hate other nations, even when a child would be able to see why it is appropriate to do so.

We make a mistake. One can feel unity without erasing distinctions. Humanity can be like one organism and still have different tasks assigned for different "parts of the body." If each part of the body is doing the same thing, then the organism is missing functions. It is, therefore, important at times to remind the Jewish People that we are unique and different from the nations. If, after a certain quiet period, we might think that we can bridge over the differences, Amalek comes to remind us that we cannot. "This is whom you wanted to join with?" After this wakeup call, we are ready to accept the Torah once again.

And this is happening these days. After we thought there is nothing unique and separate about the Jewish People, we have found our modern-day Amalek. Who knows what form the new acceptance of the Torah will be after Amalek is conquered?

Letdowns after Triumphs

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Victories and triumphs inevitably are followed by letdowns, frustrations and sometimes even disappointments. The high point of the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt is recorded in this week’s parsha with the eternal song of Moshe and Israel at the Reed Sea.

The exultation of Israel at seeing its hated oppressors destroyed at its feet knew no bounds. It is as though its wildest dreams of success and achievement were now fulfilled and realized. However, almost immediatel the people of Israel, faced with the problems of the real world which seemingly never disappear no matter how great the previous euphoria may have been, turn sullen and rebellious.

Food, water, shelter all are lacking. And even when Moshe provides for them the necessary miracles that are required for minimum sustenance in the desert of Sinai, their mood of foreboding and pessimism is not easily dispelled.

And this mood is heightened by the sudden unprovoked attack of Amalek against the people of Israel. Again, Amalek is defeated by Yehoshua and Moshe but the mere fact that such an attack occurred so soon after the events of the Exodus has a disheartening effect upon the people.

The moment of absolute physical triumph is not to be repeated again in the story of Israel in the Sinai desert. But physically speaking, the experience of the desert of Sinai will hardly be a thrilling one for Israel. So it is with all human and national victories. Once the euphoria settles down, the problems and frustrations begin.

In relating the miracle of the sweetening of the waters at Marah, the Torah teaches us that "there did the Lord place before them laws and justice and there did He test them." There are many interpretations in Midrash, Talmud and rabbinic literature as to what those "laws and justice" actually were.

But it is certainly correct to say that the main "laws and justice" that were taught to Israel at Marah was that the problems of life go on even after miraculous victories and great achievements. Victories bring high if sometimes unrealistic expectations. Measured realistic response and realistic assessments are necessary in order to harvest the fruits of such victories.

The less grandiose our expectations are the less painful our disappointments become. The generation of the descendants of those who left Egypt, who were now accustomed to the grueling challenges of the desert and who had not shared in the euphoria of the destruction of the Egyptian oppressor, were much better equipped to deal with the realities entailed in conquering the Land of Israel and establishing Jewish sovereignty and society there.

Our times have also witnessed great and unforeseen accomplishments here in Israel. But because of that very success, we are often given over to disappointment and frustration at the current unsolved problems that still face us. We would all wish to sing a great song of exultation and triumph over our enemies and problems.

With God’s help we may yet be able to do so. Yet until then we would be wise to attempt to deal with our realities and problems in a moderate, practical and wise fashion.

The Source of All Troubles

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

"And when Pharaoh drew near, the Children of Israel lifted their eyes, and, behold! The Egyptians were marching after them, and they were terrified, and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord." 1

Ba’al Hatoldot learns a unique lesson from this pasuk. He says, "Sometimes after people have already gotten into trouble they try to run away from it as if it doesn’t exist in the place they're escaping to. To explain how wrong this act is, he says it's like a pregnant woman suffering from pain and running somewhere as if the pain has any connection to the place where she's standing, misunderstanding that the pain is inside her body and stays with her wherever she goes.

This pasuk gives us a better solution. The people of Israel had already left Egypt. However, they got to the Red Sea, looked backwards, and guess who was there? The Egyptians! Suddenly the People of Israel started to feel as if they weren’t able to get rid of the Egyptians who were chasing them everywhere. Then they realized that the right solution was to pray to God so that he will remove the threat, and not for them to keep running away from it without success

And many evils and troubles shall come upon them; so that they will say in that day: Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? 2

The Ba’al Hatoldot brings this pasuk and then he explains: "It has to be clear to everyone that God is among them. When a person gets to a point where he asks himself if God is with him, the trouble starts. How does it work? It's simple. If you believe, and live your life feeling that God is with you, He takes part in your trouble and then you are never alone. If someone is sharing it with you, and it is God, it then becomes his problem too and he will find the solution.

This is exactly what we see at the end of our weekly portion:

[7] And the name of the place was called Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the children of Israel, and because they tried the Lord, saying: 'Is the Lord among us, or not? [8] Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Refidim. 3

^ 1. Shemot 14, 10
^ 2. Devarim 31, 17
^ 3. Shemot 17

Friday, January 22, 2021

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya: The Aderet’s Disputed Rabbinic Move

Vol. I, #4, p. 6-7

Date and Place: Sunday night of Parashat Chayei Sarah 5654 (1893), Zaumel

Recipient: Rav Shlomo Zalman HaKohen Kook, Rav Kook’s father

Greeting: Shalom and Hashem’s blessing [shall be] on the head of my honorable master, my father and the “crown of my head,” the desire of my heart and my soul, the rabbi who is outstanding in Torah and fear of Hashem, a pleasant repository full of advice and wisdom, the name of his grandeur [being]: Our master, Rav Shlomo Zalman shlita HaKohen. Hashem should bless you (Ed. Note – it is actually written in third person) and from His place of holiness send His assistance, to bring you success everywhere you turn and to lead you to peaceful waters.

Body: The dear and pleasant work of the right [hand] of my master/father, the crown of my head, arrived on Erev Shabbat, which brought joy to my heart and soul. Thank God, we are fine, may Hashem continue to give life. My young son, may he live and be well, is doing fine and already knows some of the letters. We pray that he will develop wisdom and good sense and will be recognized for his deeds. May Hashem give us merit to raise him to Torah and service of Hashem as I desire with my heart and soul.

That which my master, my father, inquired about my illustrious father-in-law (Rav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz Teomim, “the Aderet”), the matter is hanging in the balance as it was before. He wants to keep his word, as he accepted the position to become the rabbi of Mir. However, the members of the community of Ponovitz (his, then, present rabbinate) object, as happens when no one has complaints about or hatred toward the rabbi. When they heard that he was leaving, the love strengthened, as is the nature of holy Jews, who love those who are learned in the way of Hashem.

Already on Parashat Ki Tavo, before Rosh Hashana, we had come, based on his letter which said that by Rosh Hashana he would be in Mir, at the opportune time. So I and my brother-in-law, may he live and be well (Rav Yaakov Rabinowitz, the rabbi of Ragola), and other of his relatives, came to bless and be blessed. He also gave a major address and parted with the town with words of blessing and rebuke, as is appropriate. However, the people of the city forcefully prevented him from leaving. He could not find anyone who would move his belongings to the train or find a wagon to take him, and he was forced to stay.

He did not promise them anything, but just kept to the policy that only if the people of Mir gave up their rights that he keep to his appointment, or there would be a din Torah that decided that the people of Ponovitz were right, would he stay in Ponovitz. But the people of Mir wrote enraged letters saying that he should come to Mir, and it appears that he will be going. However, the days are going by, and it is unclear when we will know what will happen. It should be at least a few months until something will be set.

My illustrious father-in-law went out on a limb with me, a mere youngster, because of his great love for me. When he was giving his farewell address on Shabbat and many people were there, actually almost the whole city (I was not there at the time), he presented to them as advice and an open request, that they should have me, the youngster of a low level, sit on his seat of dignity when he would soon leave. We will know how things will work out in the coming days, for this uncertainty cannot last forever, and Hashem will do what is good.

I beg of my master/my father to think of me with regular letters, bringing good tidings and blessings to make me happy. Please let me know how your trip (fundraising for the Volozhin yeshiva) is going and how things are in general. Please do me a kindness and include in your pure prayers that I should have strength in Torah. I do not have time to write at length, and therefore I will be brief.

Sign Off: I end with a blessing to the spirit of my exalted master/father from the kindred spirit of his son/servant who wishes him well, and sign with honor and awe while waiting for your next pleasant letter.

Turning Night into Day

by Rav Binny Freedman

It had been a really long day, at the end of a really long week. We were in the middle of Infantry officers’ training course and we had spent the entire week learning and practicing military maneuvers in the field. Physically and emotionally exhausted, at some points it had seemed the week would never end. But time marches on and Thursday had finally come and gone.

The sun was setting and as we were getting out for Shabbat we knew the routine by now; soon we would be called to assemble in a large U shaped formation with all our gear on our backs and trucks would come to take us back to the main base camp where we could finally get a hot shower and prepare for the weekend pass in the morning …. I could taste freedom even as the sun set that Thursday night.

Sure enough, our commanders told us to assemble and you could feel as much as see the smiles on all the cadets’ faces. Until we heard those dreaded two words: “Shnei Turim!’; “Line up! “ This meant we were meant to form into two parallel lines which could only mean one thing: We were not getting on trucks or buses; we were about to start a trek; we would be walking. As it turned out, we would actually be running. I will never forget the feeling of despair and depression that threatened to engulf me as we entered what would be one of the longer nights of my life: an all-night trek and stretcher run through the mountains of the Negev, Israel’s southern desert. After about ten kilometers we were commanded to open up stretchers and we had to take turns carrying the heaviest cadets they could find.

As the night became longer and longer, and the dreams of home cooking and a Shabbat at home in a warm dry bed got further and further away, I actually remember the moment that everything turned around for me. There was a fellow named Ofer on whom I had been taking pity all night long. He was not in my squad but as this run was with the entire company it was the first time I was with him in an exercise. He was short and stocky with short stubby legs, and I remember thinking how much harder this must be for him as he had to run almost two steps for every one everyone else took.

As we were taking turns carrying the stretcher (After a few minutes of the handle digging into your shoulder blade we had learned to switch each other every kilometer or so…) it was his turn to take one side of the front end of the stretcher, but as he was quite short this meant the stretcher would tilt dangerously to the side and make it more difficult for everyone involved. So as I saw him push to take his place under the stretcher I decided I would just take his place very quickly. But he would have none of that; he simply pushed both of the guys in front out of the way, taking both sides of the front of the stretcher on both of his broad shoulders, and began to jog! And he did this, without letting anyone switch him, for about ten kilometers! None of us had ever seen anything like this. (I later found out he had spent almost a year in the Sea Commandoes until falling out for some medical reason related to being underwater…). Watching him, we could not help but be inspired; it was a demonstration of pure raw unmitigated will, and it set us all on fire.

I do not know how far we ran that night; only that we finally got back to base at around ten in the morning and did manage to get on to buses that took us home for the weekend about an hour later. Rumor was we trekked and ran about 60 kilometers, but I will never forget how in the middle of one of the darkest nights of my life one individual’s raw display of pure motivation at least for me, turned night into day ….

There is a fascinating detail often overlooked in this week’s portion of Bo. This Shabbat we will read at last, of the Exodus of the Jewish people from two hundred years of Egyptian servitude. But before we could be freed, G-d would bring one last plague upon the Egyptians: the killing of the firstborn. And the commentaries take note that G-d tells Moshe to communicate to Pharaoh the first born will die exactly at the stroke of midnight (“Bechatzot”). But when Moshe repeats this message to Pharaoh and his advisors, he says it will happen “ke’chatzot”: around midnight, which Rashi explains is based on Moshe’s assumption that the Egyptians will not be able to calculate the exact time of midnight and will mistakenly assume G-d’s timing to be ‘off’.

Seriously? With every first born in Egypt dead and dying at the same time in the middle of the night, whilst all the Jews are having a lamb bar BQ safe in their homes, Egypt will be pointing out that its already 12:01! In fact, why the need for an exact time at all? None of the other plagues are given an exact time, so why is this important?

There is an interesting discussion at the beginning of the first tractate of the Talmud (Brachot 3a) in which the rabbis note that if a Kohein (priest) becomes tameh (impure), even though he has immersed in the mikveh (the ritual bath) he cannot eat of the tithes (which are holy and can only be eaten in a state of purity) until night falls. And he can only resume his service in the Temple once he has brought his offering the next day.

Rav Kook, in his Ein Ayah, suggests that this is symbolic of the fact that there are different stages to redemption and repentance. When a person errs and falls from the level he is on (akin to tumah which comes as a result of contact with death) there are three stages to his journey back, known as the process of teshuva or repentance.

First, he must recognize he has made a mistake (hakarat hachet)

Then he must regret it (charata).

And lastly, he must make the decision in his heart to change the future.

If he is successful this will lead to the fourth stage: he will change and become the person he was always meant to be, surpassing even the level he was on before his mistake (chet).

There is a point in this process, when a person decides to change; he or she has begun the journey back; they are determined to become better and cast off the error of their ways. On the one hand, they are still on a much lower level than where they were before their ‘sin’. And yet, they have changed direction and decided to ‘get back on track’; so everything has changed.

Imagine a person deciding he has to lose weight and get back in shape. Perhaps it’s a look or comment from a loved one or seeing the photos from the Bar Mitzvah and wondering how it got so bad, but he realizes he is seriously overweight and something has to change.

Well in order to achieve real change, you have to know where you are, figure out where you want to get to (what is your goal), and decide how to get there.

So let’s say the person weighs himself and discovers he is 215 lbs. and he knows his ideal weight is 165 lbs., so he has to lose fifty pounds. And let’s say he decides he is going to lose a pound a week to arrive at his ideal weight a year later. (I’m a big believer in gradual change as being much healthier…)

So he changes his diet, decides to start exercising three times a week and weighs himself after a few days discovering he has lost his first pound. On the one hand, he is still 214 lbs. quite overweight, and no-one around him even knows he has lost any weight, so not much has changed. He is still deep in his state of ‘impurity’ with a long way to go.

And yet, everything has changed, because he knows he has lost a pound; he is no longer in the same place because he has changed direction; he is now headed towards a purer better life.

When the Kohein immerses himself in the mikveh and night falls (representing the partnership between what we are challenged to do, and the help Hashem. G-d, will give us…) he is still far from being ready to enter the Temple; he has not yet acquired the level or state of purity he was on before his mistake, but he has started his journey home ; he can eat his tithes because the process of purification has begun and that itself achieves a certain level of purity .

Deep in the night of the darkest evil they had ever known, with death all around them, the Jewish people take the blood of no less than the god of ancient Egypt, the lamb, and paint it on their door posts, as if to say ‘into this home, the gods of Egypt are no longer welcome’ . It is to commemorate this moment that we celebrate with the Seder night every year. Technically the Jews were still in Egypt, but spiritually, they had begun their journey home to freedom. And this moment happens specifically at midnight, when the night is darkest and the dawn seems so far away.

When hundreds of thousands of Jews are being shipped to the extermination centers at Auschwitz and Sobibor, yet small groups of Jews in Warsaw and Vilna and Lodz dare to rebel against the Nazi beasts, then a light is lit in the middle of the night. And when Jews being marched to their deaths in the gas chambers begin to sing ‘Ani ma’amin’, declaring their faith that one day we will come home and live in the Jewish State of Israel, then hope is born in the midst of despair and that is one part of why, after two thousand years of dreaming, we have finally come home.

And for me, running through that dark seemingly endless night in the Desert Mountains of officer’s course one boy named Ofer lit a fire that still burns, so many years later.

The headlines constantly shout out that we live in such dark times, with innocents murdered all over the world, from Paris to San Bernardino and on. Here in Israel on our Northern borders Iran is busy preparing nuclear weapons and aiding Hezbollah to open a front in Syria and stockpile missiles in Lebanon, and Hamas and Muslim brotherhood and their minions are constantly attempting to spread their terror on our southern borders. And the world seems so dark. But after two thousand years of exile, the Jewish people have come home to create a State filled with the light of Jewish study, scientific and medical innovation, and democratic and Torah values. We have turned the corner, and although we have a long way to go, we are headed in the right direction, and that is all the difference.

To Serve with Joy: Is your life ‘out of service’?

by Rabbi David Aaron

“And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh; and he said unto them: ‘Go, serve the LORD your G-d; but who are they that shall go?’

And Moses said: ‘We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds we will go; because the holiday of G-d is for us.’”
— Exodus 10:8-9

The King of Egypt must have been quite surprised by Moses answer. To serve G-d is not like serving you. It is not about degrading back-breaking slavery rather a joyful celebration for the whole family. To serve G-d is a holiday for us.

The Secret to Service
Most people think that a mitzvah is a “demand” meant to deprive or diminish our godly self worth. But that is incorrect. A mitzvah is a “command” enabling us to co- operate, associate, identify and thereby consciously bond with G-d and experience His love. This is the meaning of the blessing said prior to doing a mitzvah: “That you have made us holy through your commandments.” As it says in the Torah: “You shall be holy for I am holy.” [1] In other words, when we bond with G-d, the Holy One, we too become holy.

The Midrash [2] states:

“For what great nation is there, that has G-d so close to them?” [3] Hence the popular saying: “The King’s servant is a king; cleave to heat and it will warm you.”

Each day we are challenged with feelings of our nothingness. When we see ourselves relative to this enormous and overwhelming universe, we realize that we are not even the size of a speck of dust. And yet, even though everything from without seems to tell us that we are nothing, something within stubbornly insists that we are something. It is the very nature of humanity to try and overcome this threat of nothingness. We all do it. But the question is: can we really transcend the limitations of our beings? Can we beat our mortality and eventual return to dust?

It is human nature to want to identify with greatness in order to experience and partake of it. This is the psychology of patriotism; through commitment and devotion to my country, which I perceive as great, I will go beyond myself and my limitations, to partake in the great, sharing its glory and its eternity. Human beings often seek to be servants of the greater, whether it is a king, country or cause. In fact, this devotion may even lead to an individual giving his or her life for some important principle. This might sound like a gross nullification of self. However, it is this kind of commitment and self-sacrifice that gives people unusual strength and an even greater sense of self- worth. These benefits are all achieved through our devoted service to and identification with something which transcends our limited selves. All the hard work and personal sacrifice inspired by our passionate devotion actually leads to the ultimate in self- gratification. All is gained when you give of yourself to the beyond yourself.

When you serve your country or selflessly dedicate yourself to a great cause you do not feel self-effaced, nor do you experience your service as a degrading and depriving form of slavery. You actually feel just the opposite. Through service, you go beyond yourself, identifying and bonding with larger forces, eternal values and ideals. You become one with the great and share in its splendor. A mitzvah is G-d’s gift to humanity, the opportunity to serve and bond with G-d; Who is the Greatest. Our humble service to G-d through the mitzvahs actually empowers us. We achieve greatness and transcendence when we identify and bond with G-d and thereby partake of His splendor and eternity.

Mitzvah – Redemption from Nothingness
The very concept of mitzvah is truly marvelous. How is it that G-d has any expectations of us at all? What can we do for G-d, who is almighty and complete? Am I so important that He would want my service? This question is expressed eloquently in the Psalms: [4]

When I behold Your heavens, the works of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him? The son of a man that You appoint him? And yet, You have made him just a little less than EL OHIM. You crown him with glory and honor.

The fact that I can do something for G-d is truly wondrous, because it redeems me from my apparent nothingness. When I live selfishly, caring only about myself, that’s when I really feel like nothing. Only through serving G-d and devoting myself to the Divine values and ideals, accomplished through mitzvahs, can I truly redeem myself of my nothingness. King Solomon’s dismal introduction to Ecclesiastes is the inevitable truth of life lived without mitzvahs: “Futility of futilities said Kohellet, futility of futilities, all is futile.” [5]

The entire book of Ecclesiastes questions the significance of man and his few days on earth:

“What profit has man of all his labor under the sun? … One generation passes away and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. There is nothing new under the sun. There is no remembrance of the earlier generations, nor will there be remembrance of the later generations by those who come after them.”

King Solomon however concludes:

“In sum, after all has been heard, revere EL OHIM and keep His commandments; for this is the all of humanity.” [6]

The fear that mitzvahs rob humanity of our independent worth and power, is totally unwarranted. Rather, mitzvahs are Divine gifts that empower us and lead us to ultimate worth. mitzvahs only challenge our illusions of existing as a self-contained unit, independent of G-d’s oneness. Although mitzvahs challenge our sense of independence in one way, they also offer a real path to self-fulfillment. We achieve a genuine and eternal being through service to, and identification with, G-d. [7]

The mitzvahs are not an expression of G-d’s desire to diminish us or make us subservient to Him, rather they are expressions of G-d’s love and His desire to elevate us by offering us ways to consciously bond with Him. The mitzvahs offer us the opportunity to realize G-d’s all-embracing oneness through doing for G-d and experiencing love.

Mitzvahs and Love
When you give of yourself to another person, investing time and effort in him or her, you bond with that person and thereby feel love. The ecstasy of love is experiencing the bond and identification you forge with another person by giving of yourself to him or her in action.

Parents feel a profound and intimate connection with, and love for, their children through all their hard work in providing and caring for them. However, the children do not always reciprocate that same intense identification; they do not always feel love for their parent because of all that they have received. Why is that? Because the act of giving leads to a far greater identification and love than that accomplished through the act of receiving.

According to Judaism there is no greater happiness or joy other than doing a mitzvah. Each mitzvah is a taste of the eternal. Each mitzvah is a rung in the ladder of human ascension to godliness. Every time you do amitzvah, you provide the ultimate service to G- d, which is to crown Him as the King. Through doing a mitzvah you bond with G-d and enjoy the ecstasy of loving G-d. The Talmud teaches that the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah — the reward of love is love. A transgression, however, severs us from G-d. To sin means to break our bond with G-d and betray the love. The real punishment for a transgression is the transgression. We punish ourselves by alienating ourselves from the ground, root and context of our lives — G-d. We punish ourselves by forfeiting the opportunity to experience being in love.

When we follow the mitzvahs and serve G-d, we bond with G-d and enjoy the ultimate in self-worth and personal fulfillment. However, when we transgress the will of G-d, seeking to only fulfill our desires and serve ourselves, then we feel like nothing. We have severed ourselves from G-d, Who is the only true source of eternal being and self-worth.

The choice of love and life is whether we choose to serve or to sever. The mitzvahs are an opportunity to serve G-d. They are G-d’s gift to us. They are the gift of giving ourselves to G-d, becoming godly and feeling and expressing love. To serve is joyful celebration for the whole family.
[1] Leviticus 19:1
[2] Bereishis Rabba 16:3
[3] Deuteronomy 4:17
[4] Psalms 8:4
[5] Ecclesiastes 1:2
[6] Ecclesiastes 12:13
[7] This is what is written in Proverbs (8:21): “To inherit to My beloved substance.”

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Bo: It's about the children


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bipartisan Support of Israel – Quo Vadis?

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

According to the March 2020 annual Gallup poll of country favorability, Israel benefits from a 74% favorability (90% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats), compared to a 23% favorability of the Palestinian Authority (9% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats).

With the dawn of the Biden Administration, Israel enjoys bipartisan support among most US voters and, therefore, among members of the US House of Representatives and Senate. However, one should not ignore the gradual – and recently accelerated - erosion of this support.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Israel's national security policy – and especially its confrontational opposition to the 2015 Iran accord (JCPOA) – is responsible for the erosion of the bipartisan support.

However, US-Israel relations have experienced a number of raucous confrontations between US presidents and Israeli prime ministers – some of them harsher than the Obama-Netanyahu "Iran showdown" – but that did not fracture bipartisan support of Israel.

For example, in 1948-49, during and following Israel's War of Independence against a military invasion by five Arab countries, Prime Minister Ben Gurion confronted a most brutal pressure by the White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA to refrain from the application of Israel's law to "occupied" West Jerusalem and parts of the Galilee, the coastal plain and the Negev. The US Administration claimed that Israel's "intransigence" would severely undermine US-Arab relations, threaten the supply of Arab oil, serve Soviet interests and further destabilize the Middle East (all of which were resoundingly repudiated by reality).

Yet, in defiance of the Truman Administration, Ben Gurion expanded the area of the Jewish State by 35%. He was aware of bipartisan support for the renewed Jewish Commonwealth in the Land of Israel, which reflected the worldview of US voters and their representatives on Capitol Hill. This worldview was consistent with the legacy of the Early Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers - the framers of the Federalist Papers, the Federalist system, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights - and the abolitionist movement, all inspired by the Biblical Exodus and Mosaic values.

For example, in 1891, over 400 prominent Americans, including House and Senate leaders, the Chief Justice and other Supreme Court Justices, governors, mayors and leading businessmen signed the Blackstone Memorial, which called for the restoration of the Jewish State in the Jewish Homeland.

Also, in 1922, the Henry Cabot Lodge (Senate) and Hamilton Fish (House) bicameral and bipartisan Joint Resolution was unanimously approved and signed by President Harding – despite the harsh opposition by the State Department and the New York Times - endorsing the reestablishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

Furthermore, 1981 featured the major rift between President Reagan and Prime Minister Begin over the Israeli destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor, the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights and Israel's war on PLO terror headquarters in Lebanon. These confrontations triggered a suspension of the delivery of F-16 aircraft to Israel and the suspension of a major US-Israel strategic pact and arms deals. Yet, bipartisan support persisted and the mutually-beneficial defense relations were renewed, reflecting US awareness of the historical and cultural common denominator between the US and the Jewish State, which has emerged – since 1967 – as the most effective, reliable and democratic force-multiplier for the US.

1989-1992 featured a ruthless campaign conducted by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker to discredit Prime Minister Shamir, who was more hawkish and steadfast than Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, US national security and technological challenges in the increasingly stormy world and Middle East – against the backdrop of a vacillating Europe and vulnerable pro-US Arab regimes – highlighted Israel's unique military and technological capabilities and its contribution to the national security and economy of the US.

This reality overshadowed the bitter Bush-Shamir friction, generating bipartisan congressional initiatives, which uniquely expanded US-Israel defense and commercial cooperation.

Bipartisan support threatened

As indicated, bipartisan support of Israel has been a derivative of US history, values and civic experience, which are shared and cherished by most Americans (Democrats and Republicans alike), dating back to the 1620 ten-week Mayflower's "modern-day parting of the sea," followed by the legacy of the Founding Fathers. The latter catapulted the US to the leadership of the Free World, economically, educationally, scientifically, technologically, agriculturally, militarily and democratically - a global role model of liberty.

The stronger the affinity of the American people to the legacy of the Founding Fathers, the more enduring is their identification with – and support of – the Jewish State.

This bipartisan support of Israel was buttressed following the Holocaust of WW2.

Bipartisan support gained further momentum with the emergence of Israel as the largest US aircraft carrier," which requires not a single American on board, deployed in the most critical junction between Europe, Asia and Africa, the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.

However, the time factor (245 years since the American Revolutionary War) has scaled down the overall attachment to the legacy of the Founding Fathers.

This trend has been intensified by the dramatic demographic and ideological changes of the last few decades, which have been accompanied by bitter and growing political and social polarization. The latter has also infected bipartisan support of Israel.

These developments have provided a tailwind to those who have attempted to belittle, and even discredit, the legacy of the Founding Fathers, as well as the special US-Israel ties.

The more tenuous the connection of Americans to US history, in general, and the legacy of the Founding Fathers, in particular, the more uncertain their historical and geo-strategic support of the Jewish State.

Moreover, the diminished stature of the legacy of the Founding Fathers has reduced the common-denominator between Democrats and Republicans; thus, eroding bipartisan collaboration, in general, and bipartisan support of Israel, in particular.

Stopping the erosion of – and reinforcing - bipartisan support requires addressing US concerns, in general, and the major cause of the erosion, in particular: the changing US society, culture and order of priorities.

Thus, Israel and Israel's friends in the US should shift the focus from "What's in it for Israel" to "What's in it for the USA" - from Israeli to US concerns.

For instance:

*The annual $3.8bn is not foreign aid to - but investment in – Israel, yielding the US taxpayer a few hundred percent annual rate-of-return;
*1620-2021: The 400 year old American roots of the US-Israel bond;
*Iran's Ayatollahs are a mutual threat to both the US and Israel;
*Israel in the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria advances US interests;
*The impact of the proposed Palestinian state on US interests;

Notwithstanding the progressive erosion of bipartisan support of Israel, support for Israel still epitomizes the majority of the US constituency and members of the House and the Senate, who are aware of the shared values, history, threats and challenges, which bind the US and its unabashed, unconditional, effective, reliable and democratic ally, Israel.

Just like the unique giant Sequoia redwood tree, the unique tree of bipartisan support of Israel is 400 years old, reveals deep roots, a strong trunk and a fire-resisting bark, which have made it possible to grow impressively, while fending off a multitude of assaults, including the recent erosion.