Sunday, February 28, 2021
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
The question of why Moshe broke the luchot was the basis for many drashot over the generations. Indeed, Moshe certainly would not have dared to shatter the luchot engraved by Hashem Himself if the benefit of doing so did not outweigh the cost. The Meshech Chochma wrote about this question at length and emphasized that Moshe’s actions reflect an important principle of Judaism.
On the pasuk, “And my Mikdash you shall fear” (Vayikra19:30), the midrash comments: “It is not the Mikdash that you fear, but rather the One who warns about the Mikdash.” The principle reflected in this drasha is that there is no object in this world that is inherently holy. All things that we consider to be holy are objects that are used to fulfill the will of Hashem; that is the only meaning of santity. It is only the mitzva performed with the item that grants it the status of kadosh. The Mikdash is a holy place because Hashem wanted to have a “residence” in this world – “And I will dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8). When Bnei Yisrael sinned and the Shechina departed, the place itself no longer possessed any sanctity. At that point, Titus was able to enter the Kodesh HaKodoshim with a harlot without being harmed; the building of the Mikdash was then only a structure of wood and stone, nothing more.
Bnei Yisrael erred in thinking that Moshe possessed inherent kedusha, and it was for that reason that they were so concerned when he appeared to be delayed in returning. Hashem told Moshe: “Go down, for your nation has sinned.” What was there sin? “That you took out of the land of Egypt” (Shemot 32:7) – they attributed divinity to Moshe and thought that he was the one who had taken them out of Egypt.
The Pelishtim made the same mistake when the aron was brought to their camp, leading to devastation: “Who will save us from the hand of this mighty god?” (Shmuel I 3:8). And this was the mistake of Bnei Yisrael when they created the egel; they thought that there are physical things that have divine powers. Moshe realized that if he were to give them the luchot, they would think that they were inherently holy and divine. They would then simply replace the egel with the luchot. In order to clearly uproot this mistaken belief, Moshe shattered the luchot, demonstrating that even objects that are imprinted by divine action – “And the writing was the writing of God” (Shemot 32:7) – have no inherent value. Hashem concurred with Moshe’s shattering of the luchot; in the words of Chazal, He told Moshe, “Yasher koach sheshibarta,” “ Yasher Koach for breaking them!”
The aron contained both the complete set of luchot, as well as the shattered set of luchot. This was a constant reminder that the first set, the luchot made by Hashem Himself, were the ones that were now broken, while it was specifically the luchot made by Moshe that were shattered.
The nevi’im reiterated this message in warning Bnei Yisrael not to rely on the Mikdash and korbanot to save them “when their mouths and tongues deceive Him, and their hearts are not complete with Him.” As Yirmiyahu states (7:3-11): “So says Hashem Tzevakot, the God of Yisrael: Improve your ways and your deeds, and I shall dwell with you in this place. Do not rely on the words of falsehood, saying, ‘The sanctuary of Hashem, the sanctuary of Hashem, the sanctuary of Hashem are these.’… He steals, murders, and commits adultery… and you come and you stand before Me in this house, upon which my name is called, and you say, ‘We are saved’… Is this house then a den of thieves?”
The converse is also true; objects used for sin are not inherently profane. “The corpse does not defile and water does not purify; rather, Hashem said: I have made a law, I have made a decree…” Certain foods were not forbidden because they are inherently bad, but rather “because they are not appropriate for man according to the order instated by Hashem.” As the Maharal writes, “All of the mitzvot reflect divine wisdom. Therefore, man, who possesses a divine soul but who is entrenched in physicality, cleaves to Him through his divine traits.”
Rosh HaYeshiva, Mercaz HaRav
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda
Chaver, Beit Din HaGadol Yerushalaim
There are many basic questions to consider when analyzing the sin of the Golden Calf. How is it that Bnei Yisrael changed their approach so quickly when Moshe came down from the mountain? After all, when Chur rebuked the people, they killed him (Sanhedrin 7a), and here Moshe destroyed their idol and enlisted the Tribe of Levi to fight the sinners without opposition!
Another difficulty: why did Moshe break the Tablets? While the Rabbis tell us that Bnei Yisrael were like apostates (Yevamot 62a), this is hard to understand considering their statements that only the Eirev Rav (Mixed Multitude) actually sinned in making the Golden Calf. Why did the rest of the people not deserve having the Tablets? It is even harder to understand why there was a thought of destroying the rest of the nation and starting again with Moshe (see Shemot 32:10)!
It appears that even those who made the Golden Calf were disappointed with it. They demanded a "god that would walk before us" (ibid. 1) – an ideal which would give purpose and leadership and take them into the Promised Land. After they made the Calf, they realized that they had nothing more than something to "play before" (ibid. 1), inspiring idol worship, adultery, and murder (Rashi ad loc.). That was a letdown, considering their dreams. So when Moshe wanted to destroy the Calf, there was not opposition. There was not much left of the dream and the ideal.
On the other hand, Moshe was highly disappointed with the rest of the people – the believers in Hashem. Where were they before? Why did they close their eyes instead of standing up against the dangerous plan? Where was the enthusiasm of "we shall do and hear"?
It appears that they had a letdown too. They had a goal of "I will take you out … and I will bring you to the Land" (Shemot 6:6-8), and that had not yet materialized. The Torah connects the Ten Commandments to the nitty-gritty laws of Mishpatim. They are made for a normal nation. There are discussion about servants and non-Jews, damages and oxen. The divine ideal is for a religious way of life that integrates everything, which sanctifies the mundane by dedicating physical life to Hashem.
Mishpatim tells us that the leadership is responsible to uphold the law (see Rashi, Shemot 21:1). But the people were in "desert mode," where they would sit back and eat the manna that was given to them and pull out the social weeds before they started to take over. That is the reason that the more righteous Israelites did not involve themselves in the lives of the Eirev Rav. The Israelites did not realize it would make a difference if the Eirev Rav had dangerous desires, ranging from a physical god to the need to immediately enter their own land. The "righteous" considered these to be foreign ideas with which they did not need to struggle. "Let the strangers remain with their own problems."
That is why Hashem’s fury extended to everyone – both the sinners and the apparent "adherents." The aloof adherents did not deserve the Tablets either! They should not be allowed to think it is possible to build a nation without "your friend’s home, his ox, and his donkey."
At first glance the messages of Parshat Zachor - the parasha of two weeks ago - and Parashat Parah - this week’s parsha - seem to be unconnected. Parashat Zachor deals with the age old enemy of the Jewish people, Amalek. In every generation Amalek assumes different guises but he is always there threatening the very existence of Israel and the Jewish people. His threat is real and palpable and very threatening. Amalek minces no words in declaring his goal - the annihilation of Jews. Parshat Parah deals with a completely esoteric spiritual matter - the laws and rituals of the purification of people who became tamei - ritually impure and are therefore restricted in participating in certain human activities and Temple worship and sacrifices. Now these two subjects, Amalek and ritual purification seemingly have no real connection one to another. They are merely part of the preparation for Purim in the case of Parashat Zachor and the preparation for Pesach as far as Parashat Parah is concerned. But people must be aware that there are no mere coincidences in Jewish life and lore. The Torah itself and Jewish tradition and custom are so multilayered that everything contained therein requires study, analysis and additional insight. Studying the Torah makes one realize that every subject and custom is truly interlinked one with another at its deepest level. Superficial understanding of Torah and Judaism is dangerous. It leads to wrong conclusions and false theories about the Torah and Jewish values. Just as in modern medicine the physician relies upon CT scans and MRI images to make a correct diagnosis so too does the Jew have to search for the underlying principles that unite the Torah and Jewish life and make it an indivisible whole.
I think that the common thread between Parashat Zachor and Parashat Parah lies in the irrationality of the elements of both parashiyot. The hatred of Israel by Amalek over the millennia defies any rational explanation. Why should Norway and Sweden hate Israel so? Why until recently, did some of the Arab countries not see peace as being to their advantage and a chance to bring a better life to their millions? Why the hatred and incitement and the refusal to see things as they are and not as they somehow would wish them to be? It is by now clear that all of the peace making efforts here in the Middle East over the past many decades have made one basic error. These efforts are founded on the basis of rationality and practicality. They deal with a reality that can be rationally explained and thus confronted, compromised and eventually solved. But the Amalek conundrum is an irrational one. It is not given to explanation or reasoning. From the first unprovoked and unnecessary and costly attack of Amalek on the Jews in the desert of Sinai through the Holocaust and now the terrible threats and words of Ahminejad it is all simply insanity and irrationality. But that is the reality of an irrational world. And the Torah wishes us to realize that there are many things that are beyond our rational abilities to control. And the Torah tells us to remember this lesson at all times.
Parashat Parah is also based upon an irrationality. The Talmud pointed out that the ritual laws regarding purity and impurity, the power of the ashes of the red heifer to contaminate the pure and purify the impure at one and the same time, are all irrational. We have no explanation for them. They are the exception to the otherwise generally rational and well reasoned structure of Torah life and ritual. The Torah purposely introduces into the structure of Judaism an element that is beyond ordinary human comprehension. It does with the intent to impress us with the fact that Torah and its attendant halachic principles are not always capable of being fully comprehended by human minds and opinions. There is always in faith an area that is beyond our reach and understanding. The Torah points out here our human limitations and that the finite can never quite reach an understanding of the Infinite. Rationality is as it must be the basis for human actions and behavior. However part of rationality is the realization that there is much that exists beyond our powers of rational thought. And the Torah emphasizes this by teaching us Parashat Parah. It also does so by linking Parashat Parah to Parashat Zachor which preceded it as examples of the underlying irrationalities that govern our world, society and even our faith and beliefs. Thus do these disparate parshiyot become linked in purpose and thought.
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El
OPPOSITE THE TENT
Each time we read this week's special Haftara, "Parshat Para," my Master and teacher, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook (of Blessed Memory) would make a point of stressing the significance of the location in which the Red Heifer is to be burned. The Torah states: "You shall take it (the Heifer) outside of the camp, and slaughter it ... Then, Elazar the High Priest should take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle that blood opposite the Tent of the Meeting; he should do this seven times." (Bamidbar 19)
The entire procedure must take place opposite the opening of "Ohel Mo'ed" - the Tent of the Meeting. The Beit Hamikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem, must also be built in a manner that permits its entrance to be viewed from the Mount of Olives, so that Red Heifer ritual can be performed across from the Temple entrance.
What is the significance of this halacha? Rav Tzvi Yehuda explained that any purification from ritual impurity (the product of contact with a dead body) must totally uproot the source of that impurity. This can only be done by connecting the impure person, who temporarily finds himself living separately from the main camp, with the holiness radiating from the Holy of Holies. Our sages teach us that "it is not the serpent that kills, but sin that kills." Purification from "Tum'ah" - ritual impurity - is achieved only by way of binding the "Tameh" person with the actual source of holiness. This process is not merely a negating of the subject's halachic status as someone who is "Tameh" - it is a means by which Torah guarantees the total uprooting of that impurity.
Furthermore, the very connecting of the entirety of the Jewish people, pure and impure alike, to the Tent of the Meeting, itself generates purity. In the merit of "Klal Yisrael" to whom the afflicted person cleaves, he purifies and sanctifies himself. Death and mortality - the halachic source of his impurity - only exist on the individual level; only individuals are mortal. The concept of "death," however, is inapplicable to the community, since the "Klal" - the people - is eternal.
COMMUNAL VS. INDIVIDUAL PRAYER
There is a well-known debate in the Talmud surrounding the issue of when God judges man. One view maintains that we are judged on a moment-by-moment basis - as it says in the verse, "You (God) test us by the moment." The accepted view is, however, that man is judged only on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. If so, asks Tosfot, why do we pray every day? His answer: When the Jew joins communal prayer, and uses the terminology, "Bless Us, Heal Us, etc," then his personal prayer, his otherwise "private" tefillah, is truly communal in nature, the type of prayer that our sages tell us never goes unanswered. This theme is reflected in the verse: "[He answers] us whenever we call to Him." Indeed, the individual is judged once a year, but the community's status is assessed by God every hour, every minute; as such, the concept of communal tefillah is not time-bound, either. This is because the community transcends time, unencumbered by mortality. It follows, therefore, that in order for one to purify himself from the impurity generated by contact with death, he must connect himself to the entirety of the Jewish people - to "Klal Yisrael" - a spiritual entity transcending time and narrow mortal constraints.
COMMUNAL VS. INDIVIDUAL TORAH
The complete indwelling of the Divine Presence, the Shechina, and the proper receipt of the Torah can only truly take place when we are, as a nation, united, when we put aside our narrow, particularistic interests. In this vein, a Talmid Chacham (Torah Scholar) who has connected himself to the national fate of the Jewish people learns a different kind of Torah than his counterpart who has not. People may say, "Such-and-such a scholar may not have such a sense of belonging to the entirety of the people, but he still has tremendous analytical learning abilities and unique perspectives on Torah." It could be true that a given scholar is quite sharp, but, if he does not understand his Torah he learns against the backdrop of his membership in the People, his learning may very well remain external, superficial. The lifeblood of an authentic Torah approach is the learner's connectedness to "Klal Yisrael." Only through living out the value of "Asher Bachar Banu Mi'kol Ha'amim" - "Who Chose us from Among the Other Nations" - can we be assured that "Natan Lanu Et Torato" - "He gave us His Torah."
In introducing his work, "Shabbat Ha'aretz," Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook (of Blessed Memory) discusses at length how a Talmid Chacham who ties his fate to that of Klal Yisrael has the power to gain new insights into Torah, understandings that directly derive from his linkage to our national essence. Rav Kook notes that there are some insights into Torah for which the normal analytical tools of an individual Talmid Chacham are insufficient. Our path, then, is the path of the "holistic scholar." Our task is to contribute to Torah study by unifying the various sectors of our nation, and by promoting an inclusivistic vision of our present, and of our ultimate destiny as a nation.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Date and Place: 18 Marcheshvan 5665 (1904), the Holy City of Yafo
Recipient: In honor of my friend, the rabbi who is exceptional in Torah and fear of Hashem, our master Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Zinger (the rabbi of Rishon L’Tzion).
Greeting: Peace and blessing!
Body: I have heard a rumor that recently a man was found, whose name is Ch. H., who married a woman from Kishinev, whom he claims is a widow. This woman has come from a great distance with the claim of being a widow, and as such requires certification by a beit din. Heaven forbid, Heaven forbid, that the world should run as without any sense of order, whereby whoever wants to get involved in such serious matters (allowing a formerly married woman to remarry without proving that she is now single) can come forward and do so.
I have heard that the officiating rabbi at the wedding was a certain man whose name is T., and that he is a worker at the winery. He is deserving of a punishment of a monetary penalty, as is fitting for him for his brazenness, that he had the chutzpa to officiate a wedding without authority and without permission from a beit din. Such discipline would be appropriate even if things had been done in a proper manner. All the more so that he is fit for the punishment to be increased for misappropriating a matter to which it is not feasible for him to justify getting involved. This simpleton is fit to receive a scolding and great castigation.
I hope afterwards that I will be able to investigate the matter closely. In the meantime, I request of your honor to let me know what is happening regarding the case. But first of all, you shall send a warning in my name, that this couple should present an authorization from a beit din to allow them to get married, and then send them to me, or they themselves should come directly to me so that I can look into their ability to get married. Until it will be clarified that they are permitted to marry, they are forbidden to live together.
I am certain, based on the fear of God that you, my friend, may you live, have, that you will make the best efforts in this matter and inform me what has transpired as soon as is possible. I look to Hashem, may He be blessed, that He will help me arrive at the right conclusion and not leave Hashem’s portion (religious matters at the fabric of society) to be trampled by the feet of all the lightheaded people in the world.
Sign Off: May this be a time of peace and blessing, and may there be closeness between your dear spirit and the spirit of your true friend who cares about the welfare of a person of your stature of Torah.
Joe Biden has been in office for about a month. I have my doubts about the degree to which Joe himself is running things, but because he has always bent pragmatically to the winds of political (and perhaps personal) advantage, it’s not really important. Someone is making policy, in particular policy that concerns Israel. The course set by the Biden Administration appears to be almost 180 degrees from that taken by Donald Trump, and promises to bring back the sharp disagreements between the two nations that characterized the Obama period. He has already brought back most of the same people.
There are two main areas with which Israel must be concerned: the Palestinian and Iranian arenas. The Palestinian question seems to be on the back burner now, perhaps because everyone realizes that no solution is likely. But the Iranian desk is buzzing with activity. Obama’s people had four years to lick their wounds and plan for a rematch. Now their time has come, and they are moving swiftly.
Indeed, it has recently been revealed that during the Trump Administration, John Kerry and Robert Malley met with Iranian and EU officials and advised them to ignore overtures from President Trump’s people to fix the defects in the deal, and wait for their team to return with the expected Democratic victory. Seeing no alternative, Trump took the US out of the deal in 2018 (several European nations remain in it with Iran).
Biden’s declared Iran policy seems to be more or less the same as Obama’s, and it will be implemented by the same people: Malley, Jake Sullivan, Wendy Sherman, and Anthony Blinken. Before his appointment, Malley’s “International Crisis Group” prepared a report that recommended that the new administration should “move swiftly to revive the nuclear agreement on its existing terms.”
This is the deal that provided for an inspection regime with holes big enough to drive a truck through, which had sunset clauses that in effect guaranteed that after a certain point Iran’s weapons development would be legitimate, which revoked UN prohibitions on missile development, and which suffered from numerous other flaws – to the point that Binyamin Netanyahu risked an open break with the US, its essential ally and prime supplier of critical military equipment, in order to oppose it.
The new administration has already begun to make concessions to Iran in order to initiate a process of mutual moves to restart the deal. It removed the designation of Iran’s proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorists, and announced that it would no longer support Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against them. Biden also reversed Trump’s “snapback” to honoring pre-2015 UN sanctions on Iran.
Iran, for its part, has said that it wants to see all sanctions lifted and the deal reinstated at the point Trump left it. It’s not clear what the Iranians would do with the prohibited high-enriched uranium and even uranium metal that they have produced in violation of it since then.
Biden’s policies, from Israel’s point of view, are extremely dangerous. And the political situation in Biden’s Democratic Party is becoming more and more anti-Israel, as it moves to the left. There is little to restrain the administration, and there are forces pushing it to take positions even more disadvantageous to Israel.
The evaluation in Israel is that we cannot simply leave it to the US and trust that everything will be fine. A return to the deal without significant changes – which nobody thinks the American negotiators can, or even want to, obtain – will ultimately result in a nuclear Iran. On the other hand, direct opposition to the US could leave Israel in trouble, a result of the excessive dependence of the IDF on American aid. Israel is locked into extremely complex weapons systems that in many cases are integrated with our own systems, and switching to (for example) Russian systems, or even trying to develop our own, would be a very long, difficult process.
Caroline Glick thinks that Israel can maintain good relations with the US while working to decrease dependence, and establish relationships various political factions in the US as well as with other allies who are not happy with the prospect of Iranian nuclear hegemony.
I am afraid this is wishful thinking. Everything she suggests about developing our allies, and so forth, is worth doing, but there is no way Israel can avoid direct conflict with the American administration if it will not “concede either its sovereignty or its core interests to satisfy an administration committed to policies that harm both,” as Glick puts it. In my opinion, a confrontation is unavoidable, even if our PM does not travel to the US and speak to a joint session of Congress, as Netanyahu did in 2015.
I can see one way out of the dilemma. That is to present the Americans with a fait accompli that will at the same time send an unmistakable message that Israel cannot accept a nuclear Iran, and that will significantly set back the Iranian project. I mean, of course, military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. And the sooner – before the US becomes fully enmeshed in negotiations with Iran – the better.
Although there is no doubt it will anger those in the American administration who are more anti-Israel than worried about Iran’s expansionism, it will speak to those who have a realistic attitude and understand that the primary goal is to keep Iran from going nuclear. The Rob Malleys will not approve. The Tony Blinkens might. You may recall the condemnation of Israel that followed her destruction of Saddam’s reactor in 1981; ultimately, almost everyone agreed that it was a good thing.
This time the job is much more difficult. Is it possible to carry it out without too much damage from the certain retaliation? Is there a way to neutralize Iran’s ability to retaliate? What are the probabilities?
These are questions that I can’t answer. They are questions for our Chief of Staff, and I believe the Prime Minister has already asked them.
First, Yishai's daughter Leah Bat Tzion joins in for a young person's perspective on the message of Purim in Israel. Then, Rav Mike Feuer on the search for the source of Jewish joy and the ethical questions of Covid restrictions. Then, Rabbi Yishai debates Vision Magazine's Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen on the next stage of Jewish liberation.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Let’s compare Trump’s salutations with those of prior presidents as they left office and bid farewell to the nation.
As it turns out, Jimmy Carter in his White House farewell speech in 1981 made no mention at all of Ronald Reagan, calling him just “President-elect,” and Carter, like Trump, served one term and had to hand over power to the opponent who defeated him. But Dwight Eisenhower, turning the reins over to a Democratic president in 1961, who had beaten Ike’s own Vice-President (also a dubious election), made no explicit reference to John F. Kennedy, just terming him “the new president.” He wished JFK “God speed.” Carter wished the nameless successor “success” in addition to Godspeed (“speed” here meaning “prosper”).
By contrast, Harry Truman in 1953 mentioned Ike five times, each time calling him “General Eisenhower.” That, too, represented the transference of power to the other party, as happened as well in 1969. In Lyndon Johnson’s farewell, LBJ mentioned Richard Nixon thrice and was quite extravagant in his wishes. In the context of a State of the Union address delivered in Congress, LBJ said:
“President-elect Nixon, in the days ahead, is going to need your understanding, just as I did. And he is entitled to have it. I hope every Member will remember that the burdens he will bear as our President, will be borne for all of us. Each of us should try not to increase these burdens for the sake of narrow personal or partisan advantage.” He didn’t wish Nixon well.
Richard Nixon had a singular farewell address that preceded his resignation but Gerald Ford (in 1977) mentioned Jimmy Carter just once, and almost cavalierly, combining his congratulations to Congress, especially its new members, “as I did President-elect Carter.” That’s it.
In 1989, Ronald Reagan, in a beautifully reflective speech about America, noted towards the end of it that “if we’re to finish the job, Reagan’s regiments will have to become the Bush brigades. Soon he’ll be the chief, and he’ll need you every bit as much as I did.” That’s it. No other reference, and that was the friendliest transfer in the last 90 years.
Certainly, both the Bush presidents were known for their graciousness and Southern manners. Nevertheless, George H.W. Bush, delivering his farewell address at West Point in 1993, also mentioned Bill Clinton somewhat offhandedly, remarking that ,“ I am proud to pass on to my successor, President-elect Clinton, a military second to none.” The focus was on the military – not on the newcomer who had defeated him.
Eight years later, in 2001, Bill Clinton, in 2001, after the hotly contested election of 2000, became the first (and to date only) president to actually use his successor’s full name, “wishing our very best to the next president, George W. Bush.” George W. Bush in 2009 stated that “I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama.” But in none of these cases was anything else addressed directly to their predecessors; their focus was on their administration and their aspirations for America.
In 2017, Barack Obama omitted what had become the customary good or best “wishes” merely noting – to a crowd in Chicago that was jeering – that “I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.” That was it. It is a shame that Obama neglected to mention to the FBI his desire for a smooth transition.
In any event, the standard farewell address includes expressions of gratitude for members of one’s own administration, staff and family, with an account of successes, and usually a reflection about where America is and should be going. Most presidents listed at least some of what they perceived as their accomplishments; LBJ went further, and urged Nixon to adopt some of his policies. Trump’s three blessings to the new but unnamed administration exceed those of all his predecessors.
Of course, President Trump broke with tradition in a number of ways, not the best look all in all. He is shunning the inauguration, which is not that shocking given the hostility towards him on Capitol Hill. The presence of former presidents does signal the peaceful transition of power and the stability of American democracy. It also attests to the great skill of politicians who can sit and smile at people they despise even as their eyes shoot daggers. Whether Trump honorably refuses to play the political hypocrite or is just a sore loser probably depends on your politics.
On the other hand, it would have been proper to call Joe Biden or invite him to the White House for a meeting, anytime in the last two weeks, if not two months. This is not for practical reasons – the bureaucracies are cooperating and Trump never had control over the FBI so Biden need not fear that – but for reasons of decorum and good taste. It need not have been televised but it is appropriate to signify somehow a peaceful change in administrations. Alas it was not to be. In a week or two, none of this will matter but since at least part of Trump’s immediate future rests in Biden’s hands, it would have been worthwhile to meet discreetly and exchange thoughts about the future. About the past, they will never agree.
None of the presidents in their speeches went overboard on graciousness. That is surprising, until we realize the anguish they must feel in going instantaneously from being the center of attention and the most powerful man in the free world to being a historical sideshow. That is certainly not meant as a rationalization, as graciousness in public life should be a minimum expectation of our leaders. But the content of these orations make it clear that for one last brief and shining moment, they want the spotlight all to themselves.
Interestingly, the amicability of the transitions appears to be unrelated to the verbiage used toward one’s successor in these farewell addresses. As Trump himself noted, he is the first non-politician (or ex-general) ever elected to the presidency. He came with none of the feigned sincerity, the practiced smiles or the phony geniality that good politicians project. That was his strength as well a weakness, among other strengths and weaknesses that the years to come will surely chronicle.
by HaRav Nachman Kahana
Did it ever cross your mind that we Jews, the most gifted and clever people on earth, abide by a code of laws which no one understands? We know when to keep the respective mitzvot and how to keep them to the most minute detail, but even the greatest rabbi cannot explain the spiritual essence of any mitzva.
Countless numbers of Jews from time immemorial have sacrificed their lives in defense of their right to keep the Torah, yet not one of them knew why shrimp is prohibited, or why a mikveh drives away tuma, or why leavened bread causes the dire punishment of karet on Pesach.
In order to understand why the Creator demands such non-intellectual adherence to the Torah while at the same time, decreeing that the study of the legal details is of utmost importance, we have to turn to the Midrash Tanchuma (parasha Eikev, chap. 11.). The Midrash relates that when the people sinned with the golden calf, HaShem informed Moshe that He was revoking His decision to give the Torah to Am Yisrael.
Luchot. There then transpired a colossal tug-of-war. Each luach (stone tablet) was six tefachim long (a little more than half a meter) and three tefachim wide. Hashem held the top two tefachim in an attempt to keep the luchot to Himself, while Moshe held the bottom two tefachim, struggling to bring them to earth, and between them the luchot shattered.
What is the meaning of this Midrash?
Here lies the essence of the Torah we received at Sinai, and the answer to our questions regarding the absence of understanding of mitzvot.
Initially, it was Hashem’s intention to give the Torah with full understanding of the mitzvot, and of their spiritual consequences in this world and in the next; but in the wake of the episode of the golden calf, Hashem told Moshe of His decision not to give the Torah to Am Yisrael.
Moshe refused to accept this reversal of world history and thus began the inconceivable struggle between finite man and the infinite Creator. This is characterized in the Midrash with HaShem grasping the top part of the luchot and Moshe, the bottom.
The breaking of the stone tablets symbolizes the compromise agreed upon between the two sides – Am Yisrael would receive the Torah, but without understanding of the profound spiritual nature of the mitzvot. Hence to this day, we keep the mitzvot and yet have no idea what they mean, and what their consequences are beyond the superficial reasons laid forth for them. Kashrut, para aduma, tuma and tahara, etc., are all mysteries enveloped in an enigma.
Of all the mysteries surrounding the Jews and Judaism, the reason for our tragic history, and the question of when will HaShem finally bring about the final redemption of our nation leads the list.
It is interesting to note that the Mishna Berurah, in the section called “bay’ur halacha” chapter 427, discusses the veracity of calendars as they appear in certain halachic books, and he adds that by the year 5708 there will, most likely, no longer be a need to rely on calendars because by then the final redemption will have already come about, and we will declare the new months according to the traditional manner of relying on witnesses. How fascinating that the author, the Chafetz Chaim, chose the year 5708 as the one which, in his holy mind, has relevance to the geula. Because 5708 corresponds to the general year of 1948, the year of the establishment of Medinat Yisrael.
The final redemption did not occur in 1948, although in that year HaShem brought Am Yisrael a giant step closer to our future redemption.
Predicting the future is always a precarious business; but even more so with regard to predicting the future of Am Yisrael, as many prophesiers have found out. But as we draw closer to the “end” the chances of success become greater. I would like to try my hand at predicting the signs of the redemption and the time frame in which it will happen; and in doing so, uncover the camouflaged intentions of chazal.
The Gemara in Megillah 14:a states that Esther argued before the rabbis that the episode of Purim deserved to be recorded in the Tanach. The rabbis initially denied her request, relying on a verse in Mishlei 24,20:
הלא כתבתי לך שלישים במועצת ודעת
Have I not written three sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge?
Which was understood to mean that victory over Amalek is to be mentioned only three times in the Tanach, which are: parashat Beshalach, in the book of Shemot, parashat Ki Ta’tzei in Devarim and in the Book of Shmuel; so the addition of the Purim story would bring it to four times. Subsequently, Esther’s position was vindicated when the rabbis agreed that the two times Amalek is mentioned in the Torah – Beshalach and Ki Ta’tzei are to be considered as one, the Book of Shmuel the second, and Megillat Esther, the third time.
Question: The rabbis were undecided as to the number of times that victory over Amalek already appears in the Tanach – two or three, however, they all accepted King Shlomo’s dictate that it may not appear a fourth time. Why not destroy Amalek 10 or 20 times in the Tanach?
I suggest that by the verse in Mishlei, which limits the number of times the victory over Amalek may be mentioned in the Tanach to three, Shlomo Hamelech is telling us that the final redemption of the Jewish people will come about in a limited period of time (let’s say 100 years) when Amalek is defeated the same number of times that their defeat is mentioned in the Tanach – three. But Esther’s request that the Megillah be included in the Tanach meant that a fourth defeat of Amalek had to be accomplished within that one period. This, King Shlomo was telling future generations, would place an unnecessary burden upon history and delay the redemption of Am Yisrael. However, Esther convinced the rabbis that the addition of the Megillah to the Tanach would be the third mention of Amalek not the fourth, which is in accordance with King Shlomo’s guideline.
The Jewish people have a long record of defeating enemies, beginning with the ancient Egyptians, and continuing with the Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc. But not even two defeats of our enemies ever occurred within 100 years, much less three times.
But there is one generation in which the potential for this to happen exists – our generation! In 1945 we witnessed the destruction of Nazi Germany and 46 years later in 1991 the dissolution of the Soviet Union; two deserving candidates for the infamous status of Amalek. These two nations could be considered in the larger picture as one, because of their ethnic and racial connections as Europeans, which therefore will require two more defeats of Amalek – or they are considered as two unrelated defeats, which will invite only one more.
In the time frame of 100 years beginning with 1945, the end date will be the year 2045. Before then we can expect to see the downfall of Amalek Christianity and/or Amalek Islam. A major candidate for the infamous badge of evil is Iran/Persia.
Be that as it is, all Jews living in any of those countries would do well to leave as soon as possible.
There are additional signs of our long-awaited geula (redemption). The prophet Yechezkel in 36,8 offers as a sign: the reappearance of Eretz Yisrael as a blooming garden of agricultural produce after being a fallow desert. Just go into the marketplace in any town in the country and become engulfed in the variety of colors and types of our produce.
In my view, a most heartening sign of the geula are the young men and woman of the land, who by their Torah study and adherence to its mitzvot, are ridding themselves of the scars of 2000 years of galut as they dedicate their lives to renewing our holy bond with HaShem by defending and rebuilding the land and its people and our unshakeable loyalty to the Torah.
May we all witness the enormous miracles which will accompany the grand finale of this stage of world history, and usher in a new era of world peace which will be centered on the city of Yerushalayim and the Bet HaMikdash.
JLMM Jewish Lives Matter More
Chag Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Copyright © 5781/2021 Nachman Kahana
The European Union is funding an anti-Israel smear campaign organized by Palestinian and international NGOs to accuse the IDF of abusing Palestinian children in order to level international sanctions against Israel, the watchdog group NGO Monitor said in a report.
Palestinian and international NGOs funded by European governments and working in tandem with UNICEF s West Bank and Gaza branch have built an extensive campaign, using false charges of abuse of Palestinian children in the effort to trigger sanctions against Israel, the report said.
In reality, they are financing advocacy campaigns that fuel the conflict including some led by organizations with ties to the PFLP pushing for sanctions and other forms of BDS against Israel, the group said, referring to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian group that the EU itself designated as a terror group...
According to the report, those claims can then be taken to the International Criminal Court to prosecute IDF officers for alleged war crimes against children and also try to get international sanctions against Israel.
The consortium of groups working with UNICEF to blacklist Israel over the alleged child abuse includes at least 13 organizations, several of which openly promote the BDS agenda and other forms of political warfare against Israel, and a number are closely linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is also designated a terror group by the US and Canada.
According to the report, UNICEF wanted $3.35 million in funding for human rights mechanisms & to hold Israel accountable for its obligations under international law. That language is used by anti-Israel groups as a means of pushing for sanctions against Israel.
In total, since 2018, the campaign has received at least ¬3.2 million from the EU and $6.7 million from other European countries and UN frameworks.
Food for Thought
The European anti-Semitic elite can't rest while Jews are still alive! They failed to kill all Jews during the Holocaust in Europe! They used Arab/Muslim states to commit the second Holocaust during the War of Independence in 1947, and failed again. Since then, they have been relentlessly undermining Israel s right to exist, by discrediting its legitimacy in pursuit of the destruction of the only Jewish state by all means possible!
Trump Factor - Equatorial Guinea Moving Embassy
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Mbasogo informed Netanyahu that he would be transferring Equatorial Guinea s embassy to Jerusalem. Equatorial Guinea President Mbasogo responded that all of Africa is welcoming Israel with open arms. (Time will tell if it is a genuine friendship or if they want something from Israel or the US!)
The Central Elections Committee (CEC) decided Wednesday to bar Labor candidate Ibtisam Mara ana from running for Knesset banned after calling for Jewish State s destruction and support for Israel s enemies. (To paraphrase a saying: "Tell me who is your political representative, and I'll know who you are!")
Why is the US Arming Fake Friend of Israel?
US President Joe Biden's administration approved the sale of 168 tactical missiles to Egypt. The $197 million sale of Rolling Airframe Missiles comes even as the Biden administration froze the sale of F-35s to the UAE. (What country does Egypt need to use tactical missiles against? This is another 'Israel friendly' step made by President Biden!)
Israel Buys Vaccines for Syria
Israeli media are reporting that Israel has paid Russia $1.2 million to provide the Syrian government with coronavirus vaccine doses, as part of a deal to secure the release of an Israeli woman held captive in Damascus. The terms of the clandestine trade-off orchestrated by Moscow between the two enemy nations remain murky. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that not one Israeli vaccine was involved in the deal, but did not answer the question about whether Israel paid for Russian vaccines. (Not reported by Israel-friendly press!)
No More Snap Nuclear Inspections by IAEA in Iran
"Iran informed the IAEA on Feb 15 that the country will stop implementing voluntary transparency measures under the JCPOA as of Feb 23, including the Additional Protocol (allows IAEA inspectors to visit undeclared sites in Iran at short notice)," said the UN s nuclear watchdog in a statement. Current President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to return to the 2015 agreement but has stressed he would return to the 2015 agreement if Iran returned to compliance with it. Iran has repeatedly made clear that it will not renegotiate the original agreement. (This is a road map for Iran developing a nuclear weapon!)
IAF Answer to Hizballah Threats
In a surprise three-day exercise, the Israeli Air Force demonstrated its ability in a full-scale war to target Hezbollah s entire missile arsenal in one day. The exercise simulated strike by hundreds of Israeli aircraft of 3,000 Hezbollah targets in 24 hours, dwarfing the 4,000 targets hit in all three weeks of the 2006 war with Lebanon. Hezbollah s leader Hassan Nasrallah said: Israel s home front needs to know that if there is a war with Hezbollah, it will see things it has not seen since the establishment of Israel. He is clearly banking on 1,000 precise ballistic missiles Hezbollah has received from Iran! (Neutralising Hezbollah must be an integral part of an operation against Iranian threat! I do not think that Lebanon or even Syria will object.)
Quote of the Week:
We think that if the United States returns to the same accord that it already withdrew from, all its leverage will be lost. We will not be able to be part of such a process if the new administration returns to that deal. - Ambassador Gilad Erdan told Israel s Army Radio The only option for Israel will remain: Neutralizing Iranian nuclear program and facilitating regime change in Iran with the help of Arab friends!
Self-imposed Limitation is the Cause
by Steven Shamrak
The UN, USA, EU and even Arab states are not to be blamed for Israel's problems. They have always been disparaging of Jews. We will never be able to please them or change their nature. Disunity, self-hate and lack of direction are the main problems of the Jewish people.
The International pressure on Israel and the despair of Jewish people have been steadily increasing since the creation of Israel. The present level of disunity and even hate among Jews is appalling in Israel and in the Diaspora! These are direct results of the continuation of gutless, self-disrespectful and divisive policies that have been conducted by most Israeli governments and many community leaders.
Many Jewish communities have been hiding behind nice and politically correct activities which have not resulted in any true accomplishment! There are thousands of Jewish organisations, publications, websites and active individuals. Most of them are acting with a good intention for the common good. Many of them are even getting positive results in their niche. But there is a lack of the common vision, leadership and direction.
For centuries our enemies have been exploiting Jewish disunity with considerable success. After living in an anti-Semitic atmosphere for so long the Jewish people misplaced their national pride: the pride that made us unique among the nations! This was the pride that compelled Jews to fight both Greek and Roman occupations. The pride that made us succeed against all odds in business, science, medicine, music, art etc.
Unfortunately, Jews started to believe our 'inadequate' enemies' slander. Even in our own country, we are living under the imaginary 'Glass lid' - self-imposed limitations - and are unwilling to leave our self-imprisonment and realise our destiny.
We need Jewish leaders, bankers, educators and radicals united by the one Jewish National Goal now! Where are they? There is no time for useless debates anymore. Political affiliations must not interfere with the right of the Jewish people to live on all Jewish land as a sovereign nation. The time for action has arrived!
We must remember the words of Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
Purim is different from all the other holidays. While with all the other holidays, the Jewish People unite and celebrate on the same day, on Purim we split up the holiday. During normal years, we split it into two parts: Purim of unwalled towns occurs on the fourteenth of Adar, and Shushan Purim on the fifteenth.
This year we are privileged to have a three-way split in Purim. On the fourteenth, a Friday, we recite the Megillah and give gifts to the poor, even in Jerusalem, which has a wall going back to the days of Joshua. On the Sabbath, in walled cities, we recite “Al HaNissim” in both the Shemoneh Esreh and in Grace after Meals. On Sunday, we fulfill the mitzvot of sending food parcels to our fellow man, and the “Purim Seudah,” the festive Purim meal.
This splitting up of Purim serves to remind us that we have to publicize for two days the miracle that was performed for us in those days at this time. The first day is for all of the provinces of Ahasueres’s kingdom, and the second day is for Shushan the Capital. For the sake of the Land of Israel’s glory, the Rabbis decreed that cities that were walled in Joshua’s time should read the Megillah on the same day as in Shushan, namely the fifteenth of Adar, “Shushan Purim” (Orach Chaim 688:1, Mishnah Berurah).
Making the miracle and the holiday last longer by spreading them out over several days serves also as an allusion to us about Israel’s plight in exile. As in the words of Wicked Haman: “There is one people, scattered and dispersed among the nations” (Esther 3:8). True, they are one people, yet they are scattered and dispersed. This by itself is a miracle. Despite their being scattered and dispersed, they remain one people.
Today, we are in the remarkable era of the ingathering of exiles. We are gathering together in our land, like dry bones growing skin, flesh, and sinews. Speedily, it will be revealed to all that we are, indeed, one nation in the land, solitary and special, just as G-d is solitary and special. According to the Midrash, G-d says to Israel, “You have proclaimed Me unique in the world, and I shall make you unique in the world.” May we, through coming to know our uniqueness and identity, also come to know our task and mission in our land, and in the whole world.
“The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor” (Esther 8:16).
With Love of Israel,
With blessings for a joyous Purim,
Looking forward to complete redemption,
MOST OF the Jewish world will celebrate Purim on Erev Shabbos, the 14th of Adar. Shabbos itself however will be Purim for Jews living in cities that were walled back at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. They won’t celebrate Purim on Shabbos only because the rabbis didn’t want people carrying their Megillas Esther on Shabbos in places lacking an eiruv.
So, instead, the people of Jerusalem will read the Megillah at the same time everyone else does, on Thursday night and Friday morning. They will also give their Matanos L’Evyonim on Friday, because as the Talmud says, it is connected to the reading of the Megillah. But that is all the Purim they will celebrate before Shabbos, on which they will add “Al HaNissim” in their bentching since it is technically Purim for them.
On Sunday, they will finally have their “Mishteh,” before which they will have to fulfill their obligation of Mishloach Manos. They will not say “Al HaNissim” however in their prayers or bentching because it will already be the 16th of Adar, and no longer Purim. Hence the name “Purim Meshulash,” which basically means “Purim in three parts.”
So, for all intents-and-purposes, Shabbos is normal. In Jerusalem, they will read “And Amalek came” for Maftir, and the Haftarah of Parashas Zachor again. But non-walled cities will actually get to read the regular Haftarah of Tetzaveh, which only happens every couple of years.
Nevertheless, there is a connection to Purim in the parsha as well. A central part of the parsha deals with the clothing of the Kohen Gadol, and that shows up here in the story of Purim as well:
“When he showed the riches of his glorious— kevod—kingdom and the honor of his majestic—tifferes—greatness” (Esther 1:4).
Rebi Yosi bar Chanina said: “This teaches that [Achashveros] wore the priestly clothing. [Proof is how the same terms are written with regard to the priestly vestments, as] it is written here: “The riches of his glorious—kevod—kingdom and the honor of his majestic—tifferes—greatness.” And it is written there [regarding the priestly clothing]: “For glory—kavod—and for majesty—tifferes” (Shemos 28:2). (Megillah 12a)
Was Achashveros just being a despotic boor by taunting a downtrodden people whose loyalty he needed? Or was something else more profound going on, and tied to this week’s parsha, that even he didn’t realize or understand?
CLOTHES MAKE the man, or so the expression goes. But when it comes to the bigdei kehunah, it was a lot more than that. The clothing itself was part of the service of the Kohen Gadol, part of the process of interceding on behalf of Klal Yisroel, as the Talmud explains:
Why was the section [in the Torah that discusses] offerings juxtaposed to the section [that discusses the] priestly clothing? To tell you that just as offerings effect atonement, so too, priestly vestments effect atonement. The kesones—tunic—atones for bloodshed…The michnsayim—trousers—atone for forbidden sexual relations…The mitznefes—mitre—atones for the arrogant…The avneit—belt—atones for thought of the heart…The choshen—breastplate—of the High Priest atones for improper judgments…The ephod of the High Priest atones for idol worship…The me’il—robe—of the High Priest atones for malicious speech…The tzitz—diadem—of the High Priest atones for brazenness… (Zevachim 88b)
Thus, even though the clothing of the Kohen Gadol was made to honor his office, it was also made to allow the Kohen Gadol to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people. While the Kohen Gadol wore his unique and holy clothing, atonement occurred for the Jewish people on an hour-to-hour basis. It wasn’t something to rely upon when committing a sin, but it was something to fall back on if sin happened to occur.
But that was only while a worthy Kohen Gadol wore them. The clothing itself was ineffective if worn by an unworthy kohen, and how much more so by a boorish gentile king.
But then again, was this not the message that the king was in fact sending to his Jewish constituents? “Eat, drink, and be merry!” Achashveros insisted, “since you’ve lost your special status, and can no longer atone for your sins, like the rest of us! So blend in and become part of the Persian family!”
It’s a good thing that Achashveros didn’t learn Talmud, especially Tractate Megillah. That’s where it says:
Regarding Avraham it is written: “And he said, ‘God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?’” (Bereishis 15:8). Avraham said before The Holy One, Blessed Is He: “Master of the Universe! Perhaps, God forbid, the Jewish people will sin before You, and You will do to them as You did to the generation of the Flood, and as You did to the generation of the Dispersion”
God told him: “No, I will not do that.”
Avraham then said before Him: “Master of the Universe! How will I know this?”
God told him: “Take Me a heifer of three years old (Bereishis 15:9).”
With this, God intimated to Avraham that even if his descendants will sin, they will be able to achieve atonement through sacrificing offerings.
Avraham said before Him: “Master of the Universe! This works out well when the Temple is standing, and offerings can be brought to achieve atonement. But when the Temple will no longer be standing, what will become of them?”
God answered him: “I have already established for them the order of offerings. Whenever they read those portions, I will deem it as if they sacrificed an offering before Me, and I will pardon them for all of their iniquities.” (Megil-lah 31b)
It was God’s failsafe plan for the Jewish people, effective anywhere in the world and in every generation. It’s the reason why we’re still here, and Achashveros is not. The Torah wasn’t kidding when it referred to the entire Jewish people as “a nation of kohanim.”
PERHAPS THIS is the most important message of the story of Purim, and the clothing of the Kohen Gadol. It was also what drove Mordechai to put everything on the line, and take the incredible chances he did to spark the redemption.
It is the lack of understanding of this message that is responsible for the general spiritual malaise of the Jewish people today, and why so few people are driven today to do what Mordechai did back then. It doesn’t matter that it was a different period of history, and that prophets still remained then and not today.
He’s the same God He has always been, running His world by the same Torah He always has, and we are the same people He chose back at the beginning, over three millennia ago. Not as much has changed as we think it has, just how distant our minds have become from our hearts.
If our hearts were closer to our minds, then we’d feel how God is right there, despite the hester panim. We’d believe that, though our world seems to have drifted so far away from a Torah one, that God took this into account when He first gave Torah to the Jewish people. Just as the mitzvos are as relevant today as ever, so is the Torah’s narrative, of which we also are a part.
And not only is our period of history, with all of its modern insanities, part of the Torah narrative for redemption, it is the end of it. The redemption it predicted millennia ago is in our time. When the prophets, thousands of years ago, made predictions about the End-of-Days, they saw us. The only question they may have had was how many of us will see Him…Him behind the politics, Him behind the crises, and Him behind the successes and “natural” miracles.
Wherever the Jewish people go, God goes with them. Whenever they are ready to do teshuva, He is ready to receive it. Whenever we need to atone, the means always exist. We just have to recall this, believe it, and then take advantage of it.
ONE OF the most heart-wrenching pictures I ever saw was of a curtain of shul Aron HaKodesh over the door of a gas chamber. It was the Nazi’s way of mocking the Jewish people one last time as they passed under it on their way to certain death.
Was this a cruel joke by God, or His way of telling His people that their deaths were to Him like a Sefer Torah being returned to its Aron HaKodesh? Did God use the Nazi’s obsessive desire to degrade Jews to express His “obsessive” love of His people, and the eternal reward He had prepared for them? Unquestionably the latter.
Similarly, when the very unholy Achashveros donned the very holy vestments of the Kohen Gadol, he had his own message in mind. But THE King just took advantage of that to send His own message to the Jewish people: You may not see Me, but I am here with you. You may not believe in Me, but I still believe in you. When you’re ready to come home, I will be waiting for you.
Perhaps this is another reason for the absence of Moshe’s name in this week’s parsha. In fact, Moshe Rabbeinu probably had no problem writing himself out of it, because it put the entire spotlight on God and His relationship with His people…without any intermediary. On the surface of it, Parashas Tetzaveh and Purim may seem worlds apart. But below that surface, they teach and encourage the very same message about God and His people.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
- BDS tells its supporters that it is "an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia". That is a lie.
- BDS has also succeeded in making life worse for Palestinian Arabs, the very people they falsely claim to help. This includes backing and strengthening the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas....
- Vast international funds provided to assist them have been systematically embezzled by their leaders for their own enrichment.... This month, the UK's Jewish News revealed that $145 million of British taxpayers' money has been spent on incitement in Palestinian schools since 2016 alone.
- Young and impressionable men and women, whose main attention is on studying for their degrees, have been duped by Barghouti's BDS rabble-rousers into thinking they were demonstrating in support of a two-state solution to be achieved by peaceful means.
- Using words chillingly resonant of the Third Reich, Mahmoud Abbas said during a speech in Egypt: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands". He meant Jews. Israeli Arabs would be welcomed.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he and President Biden are "resolutely opposed" to BDS because it "unfairly and inappropriately singles out Israel and creates a double standard". The US administration should take up the plans... to target organisations that engage with or otherwise support BDS, such as Amnesty International, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch, and cut off government funding. British and European governments should follow suit....
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The joy overflowed in the Rav’s house during the Purim holiday. Breslov hassidim, who throughout the year were warmly received by Rav Kook, on Purim became the head merry-makers. Reb Meir Anshin and his friends would dance on the table, and the sounds of song and laughter drew many people to the Rav’s house.
Between songs and dances, Rav Kook spoke about the holiday, making frequent interruptions to drink a l'chaim. Any question or comment received an immediate rejoinder, with the Rav finding a direct connection to the holiday.
Reb Moshe’s Question
At one point, Reb Moshe Betzalel Todrosovich, a wealthy Jaffa merchant and philanthropist who was instrumental in bringing Rav Kook to Jaffa, entered the Rav’s house. Reb Moshe had already finished his Purim meal at home, and being somewhat inebriated, requested that the Rav expound upon a verse that had no obvious connection to the holiday.
“Rebbe, please explain to us the verse, ‘And Lotan’s sister was Timna’ (Gen. 36:22).”
Rav Kook looked up and fixed his gaze on the questioner. “Why, Reb Moshe, that verse is integrally connected to Purim,“ he replied with a wide smile. “In fact, the whole story of Purim begins from there!”
Reb Moshe was astounded. “Really? What does Lotan’s sister have to do with Purim?”
The Reason for Amalek’s Hatred
As punishment for rejecting Timna, the Jewish people were cursed with the eternal enmity of Timna’s son - Amalek.
This of course is the connection to the story of Purim, for Haman, the enemy of the Jews, was a descendant of Amalek. Haman’s hatred of the Jews and his decree to destroy them in fact originated in the failure to convert his great-grandmother Timna. But this error was redressed in the time of Mordechai and Esther, when “Many of the peoples of the land became Jews” (Esther 8:17).
Rav Kook continued to expound on this topic for two hours, drawing from both Halachic and Aggadic sources, quoting the Zohar and Maimonides, his words shining with brilliance and erudition. When he finally concluded, Reb Moshe jumped up, grabbed the Rav and hugged him, crying, “Rebbe, I love you!”
(Silver from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback), pp, 143-144. Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah , pp. 248-249 by Rav Chanan Morrison.)
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerm B'Yavneh
"You shall command Bnei Yisrael that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil." (Shemot 27:20) The placement of this topic here is strange; it should have been written earlier in Parshat Teruma, adjacent to the instruction of the Menorah!
Furthermore, what is the connection to Moshe of this specific mitzvah: "You shall command," "they shall take for you"?
The Netziv explains this based on the Midrash Rabbah on the Parsha:
"Bring near to yourself." (28:1) This is what it says, "Had your Torah not been my preoccupation, then I would have perished in my affliction." (Tehillim 119:92) When G-d said to Moshe, "Bring near to yourself Aharon, your brother," he was upset. [G-d] said to him, "I gave you the Torah. Without it I would not have created my world."
In many places in his commentary to the Torah, the Netziv addresses two styles of learning towards the correct Halacha. One is the method of comparing one case to another, and the other if called "pilpul" of Torah," which means clarifying the Halacha based on the methodologies through which the Torah is expounded. The Netziv generally writes against the method of learning through pilpul, and he degrades it, because the commonplace manner of differentiations and pilpul not for the sake of Torah do not bring to clarifying the truth. However, here we are dealing with "the laws that are the rules of the Torah," and this is leads to the climax of learning which is called "Torah lishma." [He calls this "pilpul of Torah," to exclude the disrespect of the maskilim who objected to involvement in theoretical issues.]
These two styles of learning have legitimate place in Am Yisrael, and they have paradigms, Moshe and Aharon.
In Nedarim (38a) it says: "The Torah was given only to Moshe and his descendents." The conclusion of the Gemara is that this refers to "pilpul." According to the Netziv, this was Moshe's strength, to reach a conclusion based on the rules through which the Torah is expounded. In contrast, it says about Aharon, "to instruct Bnei Yisrael," i.e., Aharon's strength was through comparing cases through logic. In one instance, he outreasoned Moshe on the issue of the goat sin-offering. There it says, "Moshe heard, and he approved." (Vayikra 10:20)
With this, he explains a fascinating point in the matter of the mekoshesh at the end of Parshat Shelach. After he desecrated the Shabbat, and "it had not been clarified what should be done to him," they "brought him to Moshe and Aharon, and to the entire assembly." (Bamidbar 15:33-34) However, Moshe and Aharon were relatives, so how could the two sit together on a case? Rather, the two of them were heads of different Sanhedrim, each one in his own way. When they were uncertain of the law of the mekoshesh, they brought the case before Moshe, perhaps he would rule through investigating the methods by which the Torah is expounded, and also to Aharon, perhaps he would clarify it through logic.
This is what it says, "If a matter of judgment is hidden from you ... you shall come to the Kohanim, the Levites, and to the judge who will be in those days." (Devarim 17:8-9) The kohen rules though the method of logic, whereas the judge through the method of "pilpul."
There are two vessels that indicate this in the Mikdash, the Ark and the Menorah. The Ark contains the two Tablets, which are the written Torah and represent comparing one to another. However, the Menorah is the "pilpul" of Torah. This is indicated by the seven candles, which correspond to the seven wisdoms, which are the kaphtorim and flowers of the Menorah. Therefore, when a talmid chacham would say something nice his colleagues would say "kaphtor vaferach." Therefore, in the times of the second Temple, when there were many Yeshivot and many students, they merited the miracle of the Menorah. One who sees olive oil in his dream, should expect the light of Torah.
Thus, we understand the placement of the portion here, and not in Parshat Teruma. Immediately after the commandment to Moshe, it says, "Bring near to yourself Aharon your brother," and the Midrash says that Moshe was upset. Therefore, G-d prefaced by saying to Moshe that his share in Torah in chiddush and pilpul is greater than Aharon's share. Thus, the making of oil applies especially to Moshe, and the Torah says, "You shall command," "they shall take for you" - for yourself. Therefore, the Midrash says, "Had your Torah not been my preoccupation" - by delving in deeply and analyzing it, and this is the joy of learning in a manner of pilpul!
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El
The Kohanic Vestments
God commands Moshe: "Make holy vestments for your brother Aharon which are both dignified and beautiful." Later we bear witness to the great attention which the Torah pays to the clothing of the high priest, Aharon. We find much care being taken when it comes to the style of the vestments - they are to be beautiful and embroidered with precious jewels. They are to be knit with exquisite threads: gold, sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and linen - the work of an artist.
Truthfully, the great attention given to the clothing of Aharon comes as quite a surprise. We are accustomed to thinking of pious people as remarkable in their inner, spiritual side, and not the sorts to stand out with beautiful clothes. Preoccupation with exterior beauty is foreign to them. What's more, we find the sages of the Talmud voicing criticism of the Babylonian rabbis because they were noted for their fine clothing. Why, then, does God trouble Himself to assure the outer beauty of none other than the high priest?
The chapter of the priestly vestments intends to drive home the essential point that everything must be anchored in sanctity. Beauty, gracefulness, splendor, and glory must all flow from the wellspring of holiness. The Holy Temple is the splendor of the world, for it is the source of the world's beauty. The high priest is obligated to receive a hair-cut each week. He is obligated to appear before God in the height of his beauty.
In the case of the high priest, beauty stems from holiness and purity. This sort of beauty can only appear in the height of its perfection; one must be careful that absolutely nothing is lacking. All of existence evolves from the source of holiness, and when our physical world is connected to its source it must appear in flawless beauty, in glory, and in splendor.
When, though, there is a severance between the physical world and its holy source, beauty becomes like a "gold ring in the nose of a pig, a beautiful woman lacking purpose." Without purpose beauty possesses no value. Indeed, it constitutes a deficiency. Therefore, because we, the Jewish people, chased after the world's external beauty, and neglected the inner bond to the true source of beauty, we were exiled from our land and distanced from normal, natural life. We ascended to an inner, spiritual, abstract life, completely detached from the outer, natural aspects of existence. For the sake of purification, we were forced to confine ourselves to "the four cubits of the Law."
Yet we long for perfection. Our eyes are to the great future which awaits us, in which we will merit a complete and perfect union with the source of holiness, the source of all existence. Then there will be a complete appearance of life in all its glory and beauty, in all its splendor. Then the holy light will shine in all fullness, illuminating all of existence.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, zt"l
(Parshat Tetzaveh is generally read on the Sabbath before Purim, the anniversary of the death of Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, zt"l. Therefore, on Sabbath Parshat Tetzaveh Rav Melamed makes a practice of recalling Rav Tzvi Yehuda's approach to Torah, community leadership, and the education of his many students.)
We find ourselves once again faced with the question, how is it possible to educate others concerning the importance of the completeness of the Land of Israel, while at the same time stressing the importance of the complete unity of the People of Israel? On the face of things it would appear that the stubborn and extremist stance which expresses a lack of willingness to give up even an inch of the Land of Israel is the very factor responsible for the rift in the nation.
In addition, we ask ourselves, how is it possible to educate the masses towards the complete and unyielding fulfillment of all Mitzvoth , even the most seemingly insignificant, and at the same time educate towards the love of all Jews, even those who are estranged from the Torah and Mitzvoth? Does not this sort of guidance contain something of an inconsistency?
And on top of all this, how, we painfully ask, can we continue to show respect for the State of Israel and view it as the "first burgeoning of our Redemption," the foundation of God's throne in the world? Why, not only is it made up of many who are distant from the Torah, it is lead and its direction determined by Jews who have abandoned the Torah all together.
Indeed, it was towards this seemingly impossible end that Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook educated. Rav Tzvi Yehuda proved that not only is it possible to educate towards all of these values together - it is the only way to educate. He taught us, his students, that the Torah, the Nation of Israel, and the Land of Israel are completely interdependent. The Nation of Israel cannot exist without the Torah and the Torah cannot exist without the Nation of Israel. Similarly, the Nation of Israel and the Torah cannot exist without the Land of Israel, and there can be no Land of Israel without the Nation of Israel and the Torah. The completeness of the Torah depends on the completeness of the Nation and the Land.
Our master's love of the Land was beyond compromise; Rav Tzvi Yehuda stood opposed to even the slightest forfeiture of land. This extreme love of his stemmed from a clear understanding that the relinquishment of portions of the Land of Israel constitutes, in fact, a relinquishment of both the Torah and the Nation of Israel; the Land, the Nation and the Torah are one, and therefore a blow to one of these entities constitutes a blow to all of them.
This approach did not stem from a pragmatic, political, diplomatic, or security-orientated outlook. It stemmed from deep Jewish faith that the Land of Israel is the Land of God, the Land of life for the Jewish people, and that any division or separation of the Nation of Israel from its land is like separation from God Himself - a veritable death blow, Heaven forbid.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda's love for both Torah-observant and estranged Jews did not stem from humanistic kind-heartedness alone; neither was it the expression of a superficial nationalistic outlook. It flowed forth from the depths of faith and Torah. It stemmed from an acute awareness that each Jew, even the Jew who has altogether abandoned the Torah, possesses a pure and Divine soul. This soul, constituting as it does the Jew's true basic nature, is destined to overcome all transient outer weaknesses.
Our beloved Rabbi's affection for the entire nation stemmed from a recognition that the Jewish people are like one living body; though one part of the body is infected and diseased, it remains a part of us, our own flesh and blood. Even if that element denies the fact that it is part of the all-encompassing nation of God, the act denial itself is part of our shared sickness. It is impossible, taught the Rabbi, to sever the limbs of a living and united body.
Rav Tzvi Yehuda taught us that the State of Israel is not merely a formal, technical apparatus guaranteeing existence of the nation, an apparatus with no intrinsic value. Rather, the mere existence of the State of Israel has Divine meaning. He educated us not to err, thinking that the worth of the state can be gauged and measured according to the actions of the government; not to err, thinking that when the government acts as it should, the State has value, yet when it does not act as it should, it does not have value. The mere existence of the state possesses spiritual, Divine value, for it constitutes a meaningful stage in the ongoing materialization of the prophetic vision of our Redemption.
The ingathering of exiles, the settlement of the Land, the liberation the Land from foreign hands together with its return to the sanctity of Israel, and the freeing of the Jews from the yoke of the nations, are all stages in the Divine Redemption, for they belong to the essential aim of the State of Israel. The return of the Nation of Israel to its land and its independence is bringing, and will continue to bring about the return of the Nation of Israel to its Torah and to its God.
Because of his great love for the State of Israel, and because of his recognition of its Divine value, the Rav was shaken to the depths of his soul by the appearance of a minority government in Israel which relied on the votes non-Jews. At that time Rav Tzvi Yehuda spoke out vehemently, saying that such an act constitutes an "incomparable desecration of God's Name." He called the episode a "comic-tragedy of humiliation towards our people and our state... a great crime which will be remembered forever as an abomination in the history of the People of Israel, the eternal people."
Rav Tzvi Yehuda's extreme criticism of the government, though, did not effect in the least his recognition of the value of the state. The Rav made a clear distinction between our regard for the government - a body which is indeed measured according to its actions - and our relation to the state, which is Holy. Governments come and governments go. "We," the Rav used to say, "are commanded by the Torah - not the government. The Torah comes before the government. The Torah is eternal and the present disloyal government will pass on and disappear."
Finally, the Rav was not bewildered by obstacles standing in the way of the Redemption. He viewed hindrances as part of the process of redemption - a process which includes crises along the way. He educated us to maintain faith and to recognize God's salvation, to discern the acts of the Almighty, and to be active together with God, as Rav Yirmiya in the Jerusalem Talmud said, "...In the future a heavenly voice will erupt in the tents of the righteous, saying, 'All those who worked together with God, come and accept your rewards!'"
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El
Dedicated in honor of Adina Chaya Ita daughter of Erika
When we read the Torah portions dealing with the construction of the Tabernacle, we receive a lesson in the Torah's approach to art, splendor, and beauty. We are made aware of the fact that the Torah demonstrates aesthetic appreciation of forms of art such as drawing and weaving. The priestly garments must be made with incredible perfection, right down to their buttons and flowers. The same goes for the Ark and the Cherubim thereupon.
The Torah portions dealing with the Tabernacle dispel the mistaken impression that the Torah instructs man to confine himself to an abstract spiritual world and that the entire goal of the Jew should be to occupy himself with the Torah and the commandments without entering into other exterior realms, without developing deep natural talents, like art, beauty, imagination, and aesthetics.
This, though, is not the case. To the contrary, the Torah tells us to deepen all of our natural facets, to develop all of our talents, not to relinquish even one capacity, but to adopt and perfect it. For only through all of the existing channels can a person serve God. "This is my God, and I will glorify Him." - "Adorn yourself before Him in Mitzvoth" (the Sages on Exodus 14:2).
Here, in the most holy of places, the location of the resting of the Divine Presence among Israel, in the Holy Temple's Holy of Holies, here is where the height of artistic talent must be employed in order to build the entire Temple and its vessels in all of their beauty and magnificence.
The Holy Temple is referred to as the "Splendor of the World." The Almighty is not satisfied with the general commandment to construct a beautiful Holy Temple, magnificent, and flawless, but gives a detailed plan of how to make each and every vessel, and how everything ought to appear together. The Holy Temple is supposed to possess lofty and Divine beauty. Everything in the Temple must be in accordance with what Moses was shown on Mount Sinai. "And see that you make according to the pattern which is being shown to you on the mountain" (Exodus 25:40); And you shall construct the Tabernacle in accordance with that which was shown to you on the mountain" (Ibid. 26:30).
From here one may conclude that when Moses ascended to the heights of Mount Sinai, the Almighty showed him the heavenly Holy Temple and commanded him to build a similar earthly Holy Temple. The beauty, perfection, splendor, and magnificence of the Holy Temple, then, stem from the greatest of heights.
"Yet," one might ask oneself, "Should not we be concerned that the emphasis upon superficial beauty will damage spiritual concepts and cause a person to take a shallow approach; instead of delving into the lofty significance of the Holy Temple in which the Divine Presence rests, one is liable to become caught up in superficial and external appearance; instead of discerning the face of the Divine in the Temple, one is liable to become caught up in the beautiful and impressive vessels.
Such questions arise only because we have become distanced from our land and from the days of the Holy Temple's glory, for when the Holy Temple stood and the Divine Presence rested therein, faith would fill the entire heart. The dwelling of the Divine Presence in the Temple was felt in all of the spiritual senses, and there was no conflict between a person's outer and inner senses, between the "lights" and the "vessels." Rather, there was perfect harmony between all of the spiritual facets, and it was impossible for it to be otherwise, for the greatness of the Divine Presence appeared in the complete magnificence of the vessels. Only after the Destruction, in the Exile, was a contradiction between the content and the vessels themselves born, and only then did a conflict between the external and the internal make itself felt. Such is the sick nature of exile. This is not the case, though, when the Holy Temple is standing and the nation is healthy.
This is what we are anxiously awaiting - the speedy reconstruction of the Temple, in which, and through which, all of the facets will unite in perfect harmony, such that the Divine Presence once again reveal itself in the House of God, the "Splendor of the World."