Friday, April 30, 2021

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya – The Limits of Free Thought, part III

#20, p. 19-21 – part III

Date and Place: 10 Sivan 5665, the holy city of Yafo

Recipient: R. Dr. Moshe Zeidel (a close disciple of Rav Kook, from their time in Boisk. Dr. Zeidel was a philologist and philosopher, who asked Rav Kook many philosophical questions.)

Summary of previous parts: There must be a limit to the propriety of free thought because it affects one’s actions and thus also his surroundings. The “location” of the “boundary” depends on the nature of different nations. For Israel, whose task it is to inform the world about Hashem, this requires stricter adherence to philosophical truths. Yet, at times, Hashem is not interested in us being able to carry out our task easily, and we are unable to keep discipline within the nation.

Body: This explains what I wrote [in the open letter]. Now we move on to deal with [how to handle an imperfect situation].

Even though it is fully forbidden and a bad disease to even be unsure or to think with doubts about matters that warrant full belief, we still find Chazal attaching a status of an apikorus (roughly, heretic) only to a denier, i.e., one who decides the opposite of the proper belief. It is only possible to find one in Israel to adopt the opposite of the true beliefs if he is a totally evil person and purposely lies. The greatest evil can only cause doubt for those who possess weak minds.

Therefore, one who is brazen enough to say that he clearly rejects a tenet must be a totally evil person. Then it is proper to rule upon him all of the explicit laws, and he cannot claim that his heart forced him into those decisions. If there were any honesty to the denial of proper belief in our generation, it would only cause one to raise doubts, and it would be easy to explain the answers. In contrast, heretics willfully claim to be definitely right, whereas even the weakest minds would only get to doubts, but they are involved in the evil of pursuing [a false agenda]. Therefore, he is subject to all of the laws, those administered by man and those administered by Hashem, according to the degree of the stumbling block [for others] that he caused. The details of these laws need to be presented at great length in many books.

It is clear that whoever understands how all heresy in relation to Israel is only a claim of a weak doubt, which comes about through lack of knowledge, lack of feeling, and lack of morality, would immediately become complete in true belief and fear of Hashem. The more one would connect himself to Torah scholars, who seek out Hashem in truth, the more he would elevate himself step by step and would be full of belief of the strength of knowledge and wisdom. “Any instrument that would be created to harm you will not succeed, and any tongue that would rise up against you in legal dispute will be vilified. This is the portion of the servants of Hashem and their righteousness from Me, said Hashem” (Yeshayahu 54:17).

It's all about Time

by Rav Binny Freedman

An open road, on a beautiful day, with your kids in the back seat, maybe even a picnic lunch; what could be more perfect? What thoughts go through your mind at such times? Is your mind focused on all the challenges tomorrow always seems to bring, or do you take the time to appreciate the moment? Are you listening to the news about the ever-looming threat of terrorism, or do you take the time to appreciate the gift of the moment?

I will always wonder what Tali Hatuel, eight months pregnant, with her four daughters Hila, Roni, Hadar and Meirav, aged 11 to 2 in the back seat, was thinking in those last moments. Was she considering what she and her husband David would name their soon- to-be-born child? Was she wondering how Meirav, their two-year-old, would accept the newest addition to the Hatuel family? Or was she just appreciating the pure joy of the open road, with the dunes of the beach in the distance, and her growing family with her in the car?

And what went through her mind; their minds, as the sounds of gunfire filled the air and bullets tore through the car? What does a mother think as armed terrorists walk calmly over to a car lying on the side of the road, and one by one, shoot each of her children while she lies helplessly watching? Is she still capable of seeing the future, and dreaming of a day when the guns will finally be melted down into plowshares?

Seventeen years ago, on a road near Gush Katif, south of Ashkelon and Ashdod along Israel’s coastline, the beautiful sounds of a family drive gave way to the horrible silence that follows gunfire when terrorists opened fire on the Hatuel family and murdered Tali Hatuel and her four children and unborn baby.

So how do you fill that silence? What words can break the barrier of such a tragedy?

A few days later, a heartrending meeting took place as Boaz Shabo, who lost his wife and three of his children in a terrorist attack in Itamar two years earlier, came to comfort David Hatuel. He struggled to find the words, but of course, there are no words.

During their meeting, David Hatuel asked Boaz Shabo the unanswerable question:

“Boaz, how, how am I supposed to get up in the morning?”

And Boaz responded: “You get up in the morning, and you get up – to no one. But …Tali [your wife] is looking at you from above, spurring you on to continue.”

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, has much to say on both the challenge and the nature of this question.

In general, every weekly portion contains a theme to which all the topics of that portion are connected. This week, however, the divergence of the topics leaves us wondering what common thread could bind these different ideas together as a thematically connected portion.

Emor opens with an exhortation to the Kohanim not to come into contact with a dead body:

“And G-d said to Moshe: ‘Say to the Kohanim, sons of Aharon, and tell them: he (each Kohen) may not become Tameh to a (dead) person amongst his people.” (Vayikra 21:1)

Then, after fifty some odd verses (chapters 21 and 23 of Vayikra) specifically addressed to the Kohanim, the portion then switches (in chapter 23) to a review of all the Jewish festivals: Pesach (Passover), the counting of the Omer (during the seven weeks following Pesach), Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, and the festival of Shemini Atzeret.

What is the common theme that binds these seemingly incongruous topics of Priesthood, death, and the festivals?

Perhaps one detail will help us to shed light on this entire topic: in describing the mitzvah of counting the days and weeks from the offering of the Omer sacrifice leading up to Shavuot, the Torah tells us:

“And you shall count for yourselves, from the day after Shabbat, from the day you bring the waved Omer offering, seven complete weeks…” (Vayikra 23:15)

It is interesting to note that the day we bring (and wave before the altar) the Omer sacrifice is called here “Macharat HaShabbat”, “the day after Shabbat”. Our oral tradition teaches, however, that Shabbat here refers not to the seventh day of the week, but rather to the first day of Pesach, also called Shabbat.

This is an important point, which was the source of great controversy in Jewish history. Over two thousand years ago, a sect of Jews who believed only in the literal translation of the Bible, known as the Sadducees, understood this verse to mean that the counting of the Omer always began on the first Sunday after Pesach, a point bitterly contested by the Rabbis of the time.

So if this wording became the source of such controversy, one wonders why the Torah chose to use such ambiguous terminology. Why not just say that the counting of the Omer begins on the day after Passover? Alternatively, as is done with each of the other festivals listed here in our portion, it could simply have said that the counting begins on the sixteenth day of the first month (of Nissan), which would have left no doubt as to the day specified.

Obviously there must be some connection between this mitzvah of the Omer and the theme of Shabbat. So what does Shabbat have to do with the Omer, and for that matter with Pesach?

Further, a closer look at the portion begins to uncover other allusions to Shabbat: In discussing the mitzvah of blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the Torah tells us:

“…In the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall have a rest day (Shabbaton), a remembrance of Shofar, a holy calling.”

The Talmud in tractate Rosh Hashanah (fourth chapter) explains that this ‘remembrance’ of the Shofar refers to the fact that when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, the Shofar is not blown, and only remembered. Why, in the midst of teaching us both the mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah itself, as well as the central mitzvah of the day (blowing the Shofar), does the Torah feel a need to allude to the mitzvah of Shabbat?

The truth is, it makes a lot of sense that there are so many references to Shabbat in this week’s portion, because the theme of this entire Parsha is time, and Shabbat, just like the festivals, is all about time.

When the Jewish people left Egypt, the greatest gift Hashem gave them, was the gift of time. In fact, the very first mitzvah given to the Jewish people, while they were still in Egypt, was the counting of the months, and the fact that:

“This month (Nissan, when the Jews left Egypt) will be for you the first of the months…” (Exodus 12:2)

A slave, you see, has no time, because his time is not his own, it is his master’s. A slave doesn’t spend much time thinking about what he wants to do, because his master decides that for him, every day. Even when he thinks he has a little time, he is ever-conscious of the fact that in an instant, his master can decide, often on the spur of a moment, that he wants his slaves to do something else. There is no thought given to building a future, because the slave has no future, he lives only in the present, which is really part of the future and the present of someone else.

And then one day, the Jewish people were suddenly free, with no one else deciding for them what they had to do every hour and every minute of the day. On the one hand, this must have been an intoxicating experience, much like the student who graduates and can suddenly decide to sleep in, the Jews had the ability to get up in the morning not to satisfy the desires of someone else, but to live for themselves.

At the same time, however, it must have been somewhat frightening, because now they had to decide what they were going to do. There is a certain security and comfort in the knowledge that someone else is worrying about where tomorrow’s food will come from, and even how the day will be filled. A slave has no budget to balance, no bills to pay, no worries about whether the crop will come in; it’s all in the hands of the master.

And this was the challenge facing the Jewish people as they journeyed forth towards the land of Israel, knowing the miracles of the desert would soon be behind them, and a land needed to be conquered; its fields plowed and planted.

Indeed, a slave, with no time, also has very little purpose, he lives from day to day, and his purpose is wrapped up in the daily struggle for a piece of bread or a drink of water, a few hours of sleep, or even a comforting word.

The Jews became a nation only when they left Egypt, because now they had a mission and a purpose: to be a “Mamlechet Kohanim Ve’Goy Kadosh”, a “Kingdom of Kohanim and a holy Nation” (Exodus 19:6).

Could a people that had been focused solely on the challenge of the moment, become a nation looking towards and building the future? Indeed, this very same challenge faced the Jewish people three thousand years later after the Holocaust and after the Israeli war of Independence. After years of living in the camps, and struggling to survive, could this people become a nation, building a future, which would make a lasting contribution to the entire world?

Perhaps that is why this portion begins with the Kohanim: Because the concept of the Kohanim is really meant to be a model for the Jewish people. The Kohanim are our educators, who lead by example, and their lives are wrapped up in the service of a higher purpose, the challenge of bringing G-d into the world and into our lives.

Too often, we have difficulty finding the balance between the present, and the future. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in the moment, in the car accident, the spilled milk, or the news on CNN, we lose sight of what life is really all about, and how meaningful it can be when we are imbued with a sense of purpose, and a connection to something higher than the dividends on the stocks, or getting the kids to school in the carpool.

Yet, at the same time, sometimes we become so enthralled and excited with the grand mission and the purpose, we may lose touch with the need to sanctify every given moment.

And that is what Shabbat is all about: Shabbat teaches us to step off the ride and take stock of where we are headed and why we are doing all that we spend so much time doing. At the same time, sometimes, we become so caught up in the objective, determined to achieve whatever goals we may have set for ourselves, be they noble or otherwise, we lose track of the beauty of every given moment.

And this too, is the essence of Shabbat: can I learn to live in every moment and appreciate its beauty and power and the gifts that exist alongside its challenges.

And this, of course, is why Pesach here is called ‘Shabbat’, and the counting of the Omer is begun on the day after ‘Shabbat’, because the Omer is all about appreciating each day of each week as we move from Pesach and the Exodus from Egypt, towards Shavuot and the giving of the Torah. On the one hand, we count each day, to appreciate its gifts amidst all the little and sometimes very large challenges that may come our way, while never losing sight of the goal, represented by Shavuot, when we receive the Torah and with it our mission and purpose as a people.

And this is at the heart of all of the festivals, which are also all about appreciating each moment of each season, and each stage in our journey as a people, while never losing sight of the fact that each season and step in the journey is also part of a larger reality, with a starting point of embarkation, and a destination.

And this is also at the root of the beginning of the portion: the defilement by contact with death.

Death is the ultimate reminder that we are all here today and gone tomorrow. It tends to suggest to us that we are merely physical beings, and that we should live only for the here and now, and so the Kohen especially, whose mission is to remind the Jewish people that there always has to be a higher purpose, avoids contact with death wherever possible.

Nearly sixty years ago, as a people, we made a decision to build a future and not get stuck in the moment. If there was ever a people with the right to escape the challenges of the future, or get stuck in the moment, it was the Jewish people of 1945.

Yet, driven by the passion of a three-thousand-year journey, we accepted a partnership with G-d in building a homeland, against seemingly insurmountable and often undeniably cruel and unfair odds.

Seventy years later, we still have a long way to go, as a nation, and as a people. It is hard for us to imagine how David Hatuel managed to get beyond his present and move forward into an uncertain future. But he did eventually remarry and build a new family.

And somehow, perhaps the knowledge that we as a people continue to embrace the future amidst all the struggles of the present, will give strength and hope to us all.

Shabbat Shalom, from Jerusalem.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Emor: The Perfect Merger

Israel's Covid-19 Economic Trends

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Foreign investment in Israel's high-tech companies surged to new heights in the 1st quarter of 2021 - $5.7bn in 172 deals – which is up 89% over the impressive 4th quarter of 2020 and double the volume of the 1st quarter of 2020.

2020 was the first year of surpassing $10bn in capital raised by the Israeli high-tech sector from investors in the US, Asia and Europe, who trust the maturity of Israel's brain power. Investments in Israeli companies more than tripled in six years, reflecting the effective response by Israeli startups to the technological, medical, pharmaceutical, educational, social and digital challenges posed by Covid-19.

Israel's economic performance in defiance of Covid-19 is presented by Dr. Adam Reuter, the Chairman and Founder of “Financial Immunities,” Israel’s largest financial-risk management firm, and the co-author of Israel – Island of Success:

1. Israel has led the globe in the rapid administration of Covid-19 vaccinations due to effective negotiations with Pfizer and an efficient, country-wide medical infrastructure.

2. Israel is the second lowest among OECD countries in the number of Covid-19 deaths per number of Covid-19 cases: 0.7% compared to the 2.3% OECD average. Israel features a young population (median age of 30 compared to the OECD's 42) and an effective country-wide medical infrastructure, including top level HMOs and hospitals.

3. Israel is ranked 12th from the bottom among the 37 OECD countries in the number of deaths per million inhabitants: 645 compared to 1,145 OECD average.

4. The International Monetary Fund's 2025 GDP growth forecast for OECD countries: Israel – 4%, OECD average – 2.2%, US – 1.8%, Australia – 2.5%, Ireland – 2.6%, France and Canada – 1.7%, the UK – 1.6%, Germany – 1.2%, etc.

5. Israel's 2020 GDP was reduced by 2.5%, compared to the OECD average reduction of 4.1%, South Korea – 1%, Norway – 0.8%, Australia – 2.6%, US – 3.5%, Japan – 4.8%, Germany – 5%, France – 8%, the UK – 10% reduction, etc. GDP growth was recorded in New Zealand – 2.4% and Ireland – 3.5%.

6. In 2020, Israel was ranked 20th among the 37 members of the OECD in terms of GDP per capita, featuring $43,000 (GDP - $408bn), ahead of Japan, Italy and Spain, and very close behind the UK ($44,000) and France ($45,000).

7. Israel's debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 60% in 2019 to 72% in 2020, compared to the OECD's average increase from 66% to 82%. The 2020's debt-to-GDP ratio was 266% in Japan, Italy – 161%, the US - 131%, Germany – 73%, etc.

8. Israel's foreign exchange reserves-to-GDP ratio of 41% (3rd among the OECD countries) attests to its financial stability, and Israel's capability to raise foreign credit promptly in a cost-effective manner. Israel's foreign exchange reserves in March 2021 - $186bn.

9. During the past decade, Standard and Poor (S&P) accorded Israel a positive credit rating trend, unlike the negative trend for the G-7 countries. In 2020, notwithstanding Covid-19, Israel's credit rating (S&P) remained at AA.

The Yishai Fleisher Show - The Tik Tok Intifada and Shavuot Cheesecake

First, Malkah Fleisher joins Yishai to reveal her secret recipe for Shavuot Cheesecake and tell the story of her grandfather's refusal to convert away from his faith during the Shoah. Then, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King on how to curb the Ramadan riots at the Shechem Gate of the Old City. And finally, Rav Mike Feuer on the secret Torah of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and why blasphemers are losers.

Our Enemies Deploy the Cognitive Bomb

by Victor Rosenthal

The first thing you need to know about the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that was released on 27 April accusing Israel of “apartheid” is that the accusation has nothing to do with apartheid as most people understand it, the racially-based system of oppression that was in place in South Africa before roughly 1991.

HRW is accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” which are defined by a treaty called the “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid,” based on a UN General Assembly resolution passed in 1973, and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

It should be noted that neither Israel nor the USA are parties to either treaty. The 1973 convention was signed by 109 countries, which do not include Israel, the USA, Canada, Australia, or any of the developed countries of Western Europe.

Here is the definition of the crime of apartheid as understood by HRW:
  1. An intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another.
  2. A context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group.
  3. Inhumane acts.
The “inhumane acts” referred to by the definition include such things as murder, torture, “arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment,” forced labor, “deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part,” all on the basis of race or ethnicity. While Palestinians often claim such mistreatment, their claims – often amplified and lent authority (the “halo effect”) by HRW and similar NGOs – are overwhelmingly false, exaggerated, or lacking in context (e.g., the claim is commonly made that a Palestinian was “executed” when he was shot in the act of stabbing a Jew or running one down with a car).

HRW also adds that:

The reference to a racial group is understood today to address not only treatment on the basis of genetic traits but also treatment on the basis of descent and national or ethnic origin, as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Human Rights Watch applies this broader understanding of race.

In other words, apartheid doesn’t have to involve “race.” Any alleged discrimination against a national group can be considered apartheid. And given that “Palestinians” have diverse origins, including Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and even the same Canaanite tribes as the forbears of the Jewish people, they don’t even fit this broader definition.

When I hear “apartheid” I think of white, black, and colored beaches and restrooms, laws against interracial marriage or even sexual relationships, laws establishing segregated housing, employment, and public transportation, denial of the right to vote or hold office, and so forth. I think of official classification of people by color. It is not an exaggeration to say that such a system, brutally imposed by force (as it was in South Africa), is a crime against humanity.

And that, of course, is why HRW, an organization that has changed over the years from a legitimate human rights watchdog into part of the well-oiled (and thickly greased with dollars and euros) machine for the delegitimization and demonization of Israel, wishes to accuse the Jewish state of apartheid, a crime that today evokes revulsion throughout the world – and which, following the precedent set by the treatment of the Republic of South Africa, justifies the boycotting, sanctioning, and total expulsion from the international order of Israel.

As the Kohelet Forum notes in its response to the report, no country other than South Africa has ever been deemed an “apartheid state” by a majority of the international community, including China, Sudan, and others that have engaged in massive systematic oppression of minorities.

None of the characteristics of South African apartheid can reasonably be applied to Israel. Everyone who knows anything about apartheid South Africa and Israel knows that. There is simply no resemblance, and HRW’s abstraction of the crime of apartheid and application of the word to Israel is dishonest and is part of the cognitive war that is being waged against her as a prelude to her hoped for physical destruction.

But never mind. Israel is being accused of seriously mistreating Palestinian Arabs, both its Arab citizens and the residents of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, simply because they are Palestinians. If that is true, it is certainly reprehensible. So we should consider if the report even succeeds in making that case.

The report is 213 pages long, so it is impossible for me to critique it in detail in a short blog. But here are some things that I noticed in the first few pages (see the Kohelet response to HRW for more):

The report says that:

From 1967 until the present, [Israel] has militarily ruled over Palestinians in the OPT, excluding East Jerusalem. By contrast, it has since its founding governed all Jewish Israelis, including settlers in the OPT since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, under its more rights-respecting civil law.

This is untrue. There is no military government in Gaza – there is zero Israeli presence there at all – and areas A and B of Judea and Samaria are ruled by the PA. There is a military administration of Area C, the territory that is under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords, but that administration governs both Israeli communities and Palestinian ones. There is no “separate law” for the two populations.

In general, the report ignores the existence of the PA and the Hamas government of Gaza. It’s true that Israel controls the borders and airspace between the river and the sea (with the exception of the border between Gaza and Egypt). But it does not control the daily lives of all of the residents of those areas as the report asserts.

HRW criticizes Israel for not allowing free movement of Palestinian Arabs from the territories into pre-1967 Israel, and for not allowing those Arabs outside of Israel recognized by the UN as “Palestinian refugees” to enter the territories or pre-1967 Israel. It dismisses Israeli explanations that this is a consequence of the amply-demonstrated Palestinian propensity to commit murderous terrorist acts against Israelis, saying “[e]ven when security forms part of the motivation, it no more justifies apartheid and persecution than it would excessive force or torture.” Tell it to those thousands of Israelis who have lost friends and family members to Palestinian terrorists.

There is almost no mention of Palestinian terrorism throughout the full report, even though most restrictions placed on Palestinian movement, such as the Judea/Samaria security barrier, were instituted after the murderous Second Intifada, in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered by terrorists. The selective blockade of Gaza is criticized without reference to the thousands of rockets that have been fired into Israeli towns, or the numerous tunnels intended to infiltrate terrorists into Israel. There is no mention of the 2015-2018 “stabbing intifada” which took the lives of dozens of Israelis.

The report claims that within pre-1967 Israel, “Palestinian [sic] citizens [have] a status inferior to Jewish citizens by law” as a result of the Nation-State Law, which in fact does not restrict them in any way, and which is similar to constitutional provisions in other ethnic nation-states, including the proposed constitution for the State of Palestine. It also invents or misrepresents other laws, including those concerning citizenship and residence.

The report will probably be a prime exhibit in the upcoming “Durban IV” conference on racism which will be held this September at the UN in New York, on the 20th anniversary of the first Durban conference, which devolved into an “anti-Israel hate-fest.”

Accusations of apartheid and persecution are tremendously powerful, especially in the US in today’s climate of racial antagonisms. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually a national/political one, and not a racial one (although antisemitism plays an important role). It has little in common with pre-1991 South Africa or the racial problems of the USA. It is also a small part of a much larger project by a group of nations, international institutions, NGOs, and others to eliminate the Jewish state. These antagonists are motivated by geopolitics, religion, ideology, antisemitism, or all of these. By focusing only on the Palestinians, the HRW report has the effect of hiding this broader context.

Israel’s domestic political paralysis, which has been ongoing for at least two years, makes it hard enough to respond to the military challenges it faces from its enemies. But it is impossible for an essentially leaderless nation to properly fight a cognitive war. Fixing this has to be Israel’s top priority today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Yeshivat Machon Meir: Modern and Ancient - Emor (video)

"How fortunate, Bar Yochai!”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai merited that the vast majority of the people memorialize him on the anniversary of his death, Lag BaOmer, by lighting bonfires. These bonfires serve as a memorial candle for his noble soul, which to this day has always illuminated the soul of the nation with Torah, in general, and more specifically with the Zohar which he authored. As is known, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a disciple of Rabbi Akiva. The two of them, master and disciple, both felt the pain of the nation, which in those days was under Roman control. The Romans enacted decrees against the Jewish people, with the goal of humiliating them, subjugating them, and weakening them, especially by their decree against Torah study. They knew that nothing so strengthens the Jewish people, giving them the fortitude to withstand the grave crisis following the destruction of the Temple, more than the study of our holy Torah.

Indeed, Rabbi Akiva would gather large crowds and teach Torah. He had no fear of the Romans. Ultimately, however, he was arrested, imprisoned, and taken out to be cruelly executed. The Romans combed his flesh with iron combs. Yet, in his great love for God, he took upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and his soul departed as he finished reciting the first line of the Shema.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai followed in the path of his master, Rabbi Akiva (see Berachot 61b) and he spoke negatively against the Romans, despite the danger. Ultimately he was compelled to flee from them and to hide for twelve years in a cave, together with his son. Neither Rabbi Akiva nor Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai could bear the humiliation of the Jewish People – the nation that God chose from all others – and they sacrificed themselves for the glory of their people.

Today, after thousands of years of exile in which the glory of Israel was trampled to the dust, how fortunate we are and how good our portion that we are returning to our land, and that the glory of the Jewish people is being reinstated. The Torah is returning to its abode. The decrees of the Romans and of all of Israel’s enemies down through the exile to prevent Jews from learning the Torah did not succeed. The self-sacrifice of Rabbi Akiva and of all the Jews over Torah learning did not go to waste. Today, thank God, the State of Israel is the world center of Torah learning. Also, the sacrifice of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai for the glory of Israel is defending us, and on Lag BaOmer the Jewish masses honor the day of his passing with an enormous celebration at Meiron, and with bonfires throughout the country.

More and more, we are seeing revealed the great thirst of our nation to learn about the light of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, which is increasing from generation to generation and from day today. That light is hastening our own redemption and the redemption of the world. In that spirit, we sing, “How fortunate, Bar Yochai! Anointed by your colleagues with the oil of joy!”

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

What is Kabbalah?

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Shabbos Night
LAG B’OMER IS finally here, b”H. Four weeks have gone by since the Seder, and we can finally get haircuts and listen to music, perhaps while making huge bonfires and eating barbecued food. Doesn’t sound very kabbalistic for a day that celebrates the revelation of Kabbalah, does it?

Besides mysticism, what is Kabbalah? Why is it so important? IS it so important? Why make a big deal out of the revelation of a level of Torah that most people do not learn and some people still don’t believe in? We don’t celebrate the completion of the Talmud, except by individuals who have completed a section of it. So, why do we celebrate what amounted to the basis of the holy Zohar?

How about a little Kabbalah 101?

Mysticism is a broad term that seems to imply to most people something supernatural. So when people think about Kabbalah, they imagine people who learn it being able to do supernatural things, somewhat like what the superheroes they are used to watching are able to “do” courtesy of the Special Effects crews of Hollywood.

What does the word “supernatural” even mean? Obviously it means “above nature,” or beyond it. But, objectively speaking, does nature even exist? Apparently, according to Rebi Chanina ben Dosa in the Talmud, it depends:

Once on a Friday night he (Rebi Chanina) noticed that his daughter was sad and he said to her, “My daughter, why are you sad?”

She answered, “My oil container got mixed up with my vinegar container and I kindled Shabbos candles with it.”

He told her, “My daughter, why should this trouble you? He Who had commanded the oil to burn will also command the vinegar to burn!” (Ta’anis 25a)

It is a principle of Torah that God created everything and continues to maintain all of it everyday. It is a principle of Kabbalah that He does this every single moment of the day, every day of the year, and every year of history. Creation is completely a function of the will of God and can only exist as long as He wills it. Should God take His mind off anything for but a single moment, it will cease to exist completely in that moment.

This was the basis of Rebi Chanina’s answer to his daughter. He was telling her, “Don’t be fooled by the consistency of Creation. The only difference between something being combustible and not being combustible is what God decides at the moment.” Hence, the Temple, made from stone, burned as if it was made from wood. When God wills it, the usually incombustible burns just as fiercely as the usually combustible.

In fact, that is perhaps one of the greatest advantages of learning Kabbalah. It is a peek beyond the “veil of nature” that has so many people fooled and limited. Life is not about being able to perform spectacular supernatural feats. It is about learning how to perform spectacular “natural” feats. These can only be accomplished after first understanding how the world actually works, and how we interact with it. That is Kabbalah 101.

Shabbos Day
THE NEXT THING to understand is that everything exists as function of Divine light. If that makes sense, then think again. It shouldn’t, at least until you have learned some Kabbalah. The temporal world is quite physical. Divine light is completely spiritual. How can the latter result in the former?

Many scientists simply eliminate the question. They reject the idea of a spiritual world and keep their search for the origin of Creation in the physical realm. The Greeks grappled with it and simply called “Creation Ex Nihilo,” Creation from nothing. Many scientists are also talking about the role of “nothing” in Creation, though they’re not sure just what “nothing” is, other than, well, nothing.

It is not an issue for Kabbalah. We call it “Yaish M’Ayin,” which also literally means “something from nothing.” But here is where Kabbalah parts ways with the rest of the world on the idea. Yes, “ayin” means “nothing,” but not nothing in the everyday sense of the word. In this case, it refers to something very specific, something that is more than the “Theory of Everything.” It is the FACT of everything.

A very important part of learning Kabbalah is the idea of relativity, though not the one Einstein spoke about. His idea of relativity was confined to behavior within the physical world. This version of the idea incorporates everything in Creation, the physical and the spiritual. For example, something spiritual relative to something physical can be as if it doesn’t exist at all.

It’s like someone who is a nobody among higher-ups and the most important person in the room among lower-downs. In this case, certain levels of light are so high up and spiritual that, compared to lights lower down and so much less spiritual, it is if they do not exist. So they, and in particular one level, are called “Ayin.”

Which level is Ayin specifically?

Imagine a world in which there isn’t one. In other words, nothing but nothing has yet to be created. All that exists is a “reality” of God that is so far beyond our ability to grasp, that we don’t even bother trying. It is especially so since trying can alone can result in an incorrect perception, that could easily be called blasphemous. Finite minds are very limited when it comes to understanding the infinite, at least in non-finite terms. It may be easy to call something “endless,” but a lot more difficult to imagine what it “looks” like.

So instead, we admit intellectual defeat by referring to the light in terms of what it isn’t, rather than by what it is. Kabbalah calls it “Ohr Ain Sof,” literally “Light Without End,” but is also quick to point out that even this level of light is not the essence of God. Rather the Ohr Ain Sof is but a projection of light on its way to eventually make Creation where it can be revealed somewhat to man, the reason for it all.

This is the entire point of everything God has decided to do: revelation. A fundamental of Torah thought is that God is perfect and needs nothing. But for reasons known only to Him, but completely to our benefit, He wishes to give good to beings. The greatest good we can enjoy is a revelation of His reality on some level. Everything else that has ever been created, much of which is discussed in elaborate and exquisite detail by Kabbalah, is just to support this Divine mandatet.

Shalosh Seudot
TECHNOLOGY HAS REALLY helped us to better explain kabbalistic ideas. Take the idea of an energy surge, which has been known to cause all kinds of damage to electrical wiring and equipment, especially computers. If you make something to be able to handle a certain amount of electricity, and it has to deal with more, then the result can be destructive and even dangerous.

The same thing is true of Divine light. It is not physical light, but it can be far more destructive than anything physical. This is why one has to be careful about their exposure to Divine light, which only becomes more intense from level-to-level. A person may seem to lose their mind from over-exposure, like what occurred to Ben Zoma (Chagigah 14b), but what really happened was an overloading of his mental “circuits.”

For electricity, we developed a system that takes its nature into account in order to “filter” its intensity and make it usable. Friction is used to slow down electrons and weaken their impact, so that by the time they reach our homes and offices, they are safe to use. (But, I found out as child, it is still unwise to stick something into a plug that does not belong in there…unless you like being shocked and sent into recoil.)

Long before we developed copper wire and transformers to manage electrical flows, God had created something called “Sefiros” and “Partzufim.” The word “sefirah” usually means “counting,” as in “Sefiras Ha’omer,” the “Counting of the Omer.” This occurs over the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuos, and of which Lag B’omer is the 33rd day. A partzuf is a face, but it is not necessary for now to understand its connection to the sefiros.

In any case, the sefiros, which are completely spiritual, are the system employed by God to deliver His light to Creation on an ongoing basis. They are also the system He uses to regulate that flow, increasing the light, vis-a-vis the sefiros, when and where necessary, and reducing it as per the needs of Creation and history.

Being so, the sefiros are also the way that God allows His light to be revealed to man. Just as physical light can be fractured into all the colors of the spectrum, each with its own name and purpose, the sefiros act as a way to reveal different aspects of the light of God, something called “middos—traits.” This way God can communicate to man Who He is, or at least how He wants to be known. This makes possible the goal of Creation, a relationship between man and his Creator.

In general, there are 10 sefiros: Keser, or Crown, Chochmah, or Wisdom, Binah, or Understanding, Chesed, or Kindness, Gevurah, or Strength, Tifferes, or Harmony, Netzach, or Dominance, Hod, or Glory, Yesod, or Foundation, and finally, Malchus, or Kingdom. There is even a sefirah called “Da’as—Knowledge,” but that is a discussion for another time. Each sefirah is the “label” and description of the characteristic of God’s light on that level.

Melave Malkah
THERE ARE 118 known elements in the Periodic Table as of today. It’s a lot, but not that much really when you consider that they are responsible for the zillions of things that exist in the entire universe. How can so few things be responsible for the creation of so much?

We can ask the same question about the sefiros, which God has used to create everything and continues to use to maintain all that exists. And at least the elements of the Periodic Table start off being physical. The light that flows through the sefiros is completely spiritual, and yet ends up creating everything, spiritual and physical. How do the sefiros help the light go from ayin to yaish, and to create so much of it?

It’s like water. Water is everywhere, though it is not always visible. For example, the air we breath has about one percent water vapor, and even more on a humid day. And even though you can “feel” it, the vapor only begins to turn into actual water if the temperature drops significantly. That’s when you begin to see water droplets form on windows and stream downwards.

If the temperature continues to cool even more, the water will begin to freeze. On the side of a roof, icicles might form as water runs down the side of a newly formed icicle, freezing as it does and increasing its size. What began as something quite invisible has become, because of cooler temperatures, quite apparent.

It’s not cooler temperatures that transform the light of God from ayin to yaish, but distance. The further the light “travels” away from its Source, Ayin itself, the less intense it becomes, and therefore, less spiritual. At a certain distance it will reach “condensation point,” that is, the point at which the spiritual makes the leap to the physical and, voila! something physical results.

That actual point occurs between the sefirah of Chochmah and Binah, or between the partzufim of Atzilus and Beriyah. But that is already Kabbalah 201.

The Shamrack Report: Rockets Rain on Israel

1. A factory in Ashalim, a small community in the Negev desert, 35km south of Beersheba, was hit Thursday morning by a Syrian SA-5 ground to air missile fired from southern Damascus toward the Dimona nuclear reactor.

A captain of a Syrian air defense battery was killed overnight during an Israeli airstrike which was undertaken after the missile was launched from Syria, which landed in Israel s southern Negev, near Dimona. Four additional Syrian soldiers were also reportedly wounded.

2. Palestinian terrorists fired at least 36 rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities overnight Friday, in one of the worst rounds of cross-border violence in months. At least 36 rockets were fired at regular intervals from 11pm to 6am.

The rocket sirens blared throughout the night in the Eshkol, Sha'ar Hanegev, Sdot Negev and Hof Ashkelon regionals; and on Saturday morning they sounded in the city of Ashkelon as well.

The IDF said its aircraft and tanks retaliated by striking multiple targets belonging to Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, including at rocket launchers, unspecified underground infrastructure, and a military base.

A small paramilitary group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it fired some of the projectiles.

Food for Thought
by Steven Shamrak
Our enemies are talking openly about the destruction of Israel and creating another Muslim state on Jewish land, free from Jews. It is time for Israel to remove this hostile population and reunite all Jewish land Eretz-Israel.

Biden Surrenders to Iran
The Biden administration has indicated its willingness to ease or remove sanctions imposed on Iran for terrorism and other sectors in order to entice Iran to stop violating the 2015 nuclear deal. A senior State Department official said that the US provided Iran with examples of sanctions Washington would negotiate in order to secure a deal. I think they have a pretty clear sense at this point about our view about the sanctions that we re going to have to lift and those that we would not lift, the official said. (Desperate to show any success Biden is ready to make concessions to Iran, disregarding security of Israel.)

Transfer the Temple Mount to Jewish Authority
Several clips recently posted on social media sites showing Muslims playing ball games on the Temple Mount have prompted an Israeli organization to demand the prosecution of the offenders and the transfer of control of the holy site from the Muslim Waqf to a Jewish authority. The Temple Mount Organizations Administration noted that according to High Court rulings, football games are banned on the Temple Mount. (Israeli political elite is gutless! Why is the holiest Jewish site still controlled by enemies?)

Any Excuse to Cancel Election
The Palestinian Authority is very likely to postpone the Palestinian elections in wake of Israel s failure to respond to the Palestinians request to hold the vote in Jerusalem, Nabil Sha ath, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced. ( Apparently, 15 years of undemocratic rule is not enough they need more time to stash more billions in their private bank accounts, generously given by international anti-Semites!)

Anti-Zionism of Labor Party
Labor party chairwoman Merav Michaeli and MK Gilad Kariv sent a letter on behalf of their party to the Jewish National Fund urging the organization not to purchase land in Judea and Samaria. MK Gilad Kariv, who served until his election to the Knesset as a member of the World Zionist Organization, added that "the right-wing leadership in the JNF is carrying out an underhanded act that will severely damage the foundation's position in the Jewish world and could jeopardize Israel's political and diplomatic interests. The attempt to turn the Jewish National Fund into another arm of the settlement expansion project stands in stark contrast to the JNF memorandum and to the designation of the national institutions as a meeting place for all Zionist movements and organizations." ( JNF was created to help Jews to fulfill their Zionist aspiration return and reunite Jewish ancestral land!)

Trump Factor - Sudan
Sudan officially abolished a decades-old law on boycotting Israel as part of efforts to establish normal ties with the Jewish state. A bill was approved at a joint meeting of Sudan's ruling Sovereign Council and Cabinet that annuls the 1958 law forbidding diplomatic and economic ties with Israel.

New ME - Message to Turkey
Greece, Israel, Cyprus and the UAE said they would seek to deepen their cooperation in fields ranging from energy to fighting COVID, saying budding ties could change the face of a region more synonymous with conflict. At the meeting, the four foreign ministers discussed the energy sector, the importance of the EastMed Gas Pipeline. Among other issues, the four FMs exchanged views on areas of common concern such as developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Greece signed $1,65bn defense procurement deal. (With no leadership from the White House, new trends are emerging in the Middle East!)

Duplicity of Arab Friends
Saudis and the UAE asked Israel to hit an Iranian spy ship, but concealed talks with Iran. Three days after Israel's commandos allegedly raided the Iranian spy ship on the Red Sea, Saudi and Iranian officials were quietly holding their first talks in five years to patch up their quarrel, without Israel's knowledge.

Biden is Undermining Israel National Security
Washington has informed Jerusalem of its displeasure over recent attacks against Iranian targets attributed to Israel. The talks, which are being held in Vienna, involve the major world powers trying to salvage the agreement abandoned by then-U.S. president Donald Trump three years ago. (It is well-known that Iran is using the talks as a delay tactic to facilitate development of a nuclear weapon. Israel must put its own national interests first!)

No PA Elections Again?
Palestinian civil society activists warned the Palestinian leadership against using the issue of Jerusalem as an excuse to delay or even cancel the elections, as several Palestinian factions, including the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, announced that there will be no Palestinian elections without Jerusalem. (Why not include Jordan? Almost 60% of Jordan s population are so-called Palestinians! Any excuse to keep corrupt leadership in power will do!)

Likud Voters Say Netanyahu Should Step Aside
A poll found that if Prime Minister Netanyahu is unable to form a coalition by the end of his mandate, he should step aside and let another candidate from the Likud try to form a government. A majority of Likud voters (54%) say in this scenario, Netanyahu should allow another member of the Likud to try to form a government, with just 28% opposing such an arrangement.

Lebanon Claims more Maritime Area
Two senior Lebanese cabinet ministers on Monday signed a document expanding Lebanon's claims in a row with Israel over their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

The amendment would add around 1,400 square km (540 square miles) to the exclusive economic zone claimed by Lebanon. ( As soon as Israel found gas in Mediterranean Sea, suddenly, the maritime border with Israel became very important to Lebanon.)

Quote of the Week:
"Iran's relentless attempts to acquire military nuclear capabilities, its terrorist proxies that continue to destabilize the region and its grave human rights violations remain the most substantial threat to peace and security in the Middle East. Yet, this council does not take the steps necessary to stop Iran. It continues to ignore the most pressing matter in the Middle East and instead, wastes these debates recycling useless discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the fact that the Abraham Accords have clearly proven this is not the issue Iran is". - Gilad Erdan, Israel's Ambassador to the United States and United Nations.

Education does not Cure anti-Semitism!
The best way to get everyone to live in harmony with everyone else, we are told, is higher education. Maybe not.

For decades, we were taught to believe that hatred is linked to primitiveness endemic, we thought, to blue-collar workers, ditch diggers, and rural folk.

Tolerance was a by-product of deeper, more refined thinking and noblesse oblige. Education was the shortest route to the higher moral ground.

Jews and their non-Jewish allies banked on this knowledge in formulating how to combat anti-Semitism. Scientific survey after survey confirmed that more years of education meant less hostility to Jews.

A recent study by three professors, reported in Tablet magazine shows, however, that more education may lead to greater and not lesser Jew-hatred.

For example, one question involved the legitimacy of Israel s describing itself as a Jewish state, with a similar query about Denmark s declaration that the Evangelical Lutheran Church was the official church of the country, to be supported by the Danish government.

Another dealt with whether academic boycotts were appropriate against countries accused of human rights violations. Some subjects received the question about China, others about Israel.

If there were no bias against Israel, the responses should have been similar. Instead, they showed more respondents critical of Israel than of non-Jewish states.

A classic double standard was at work. Moreover, the effect was stronger among those with more education than among the less educated...

Tragically, sometimes (in the case of Jews all the time) the well-educated use their intellectual acumen to justify serving evil causes. The highly educated can do what lesser people cannot: churn out ideology. A mob can produce mayhem; and ideology can help industrialize mass murder and systematize genocide, as it did during the Holocaust. (Surprising admission made by a Left-leaning publication

Rav Kook on Parashat Emor: Kohanim and the Illusion of Death

“God told Moshe, ‘Speak to the kohanim, the descendants of Aharon. Let no [kohen] defile himself [by contact] with a dead soul among his people.” (Lev. 21:1)

Why are kohanim not allowed to come in contact with a dead body? Why does the Torah refer to the dead person as a “dead soul"? After all, it is the body that dies, not the soul!

The Parable of Twin Brothers
In his book on mourning practices, Gesher Hachaim, Rav Tukachinsky used the following parable to explain the Jewish view on life after death:

Twin brothers, fetuses in their mother’s womb, enjoyed a carefree life. Their world was dark and warm and protected. These twins were alike in all aspects but one. One brother was a ‘believer': he believed in an afterlife, in a future reality much different from their current, miniature universe.

The second brother, however, was a skeptic. All he knew was the familiar world of the womb. Anything besides what he could feel and sense was only an illusion. The skeptic tried to talk some sense into his brother. He warned him to be realistic, but to no avail. His naive brother insisted on believing in an extraordinary world that exists after life in the womb, a world so immense and fantastic that it transcends their wildest dreams.

The months passed, and the fatal moment arrived. Labor began. The fetuses became aware of tremendous contractions and shifting in their little world. 

The freethinker recognized that “this is it.” His short but pleasant life was about to end. He felt the forces pressuring him to go down, but fought against them. He knew that outside the womb, a cruel death awaited, with no protective sack and no umbilical cord. Suddenly, he realized that his naive brother was giving in to the forces around them. His brother was sinking lower!

“Don’t give up!” he cried, but his twin took no heed. “Where are you, my dear brother?”

He shuddered as he heard the screams from outside the womb. His poor brother had met his cruel fate. How naive he had been, with his foolish belief in a bigger, better world!

Then the skeptic felt the uterine muscles pushing him out, against his will, into the abyss. He screamed out ...

“Mazal Tov!” called out the doctor. “Two healthy baby boys!”

The Illusion of Death
Rav Kook wrote:
“Death is a false illusion; its defilement is due to its deceptive nature. What people call ‘death’ is in fact the intensification of life. Because man wallows in pettiness, he pictures this increase of life in a pained, black fashion, which he calls ‘death.'”

The kohanim in their holiness are able to rise above this falsehood. Yet, falsehood and deception rule over the world. In order to overcome the illusion of death, the kohanim must limit their exposure to death. They need to protect themselves from those images that impress the soul with deceiving messages.

The word “soul” in the verse does not refer to soul of the dead person. It refers to the soul of the kohen. This is how the verse should be understood: “For the sake of the soul, the kohen shall not defile himself among his people” — for the sake of the kohen’s soul, he must distance and protect himself from death and its illusions.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 207-209. Adapted from Orot HaKodesh vol. II, p. 380, by Rav Chanan Morrison.)

How can both be right?

Parashat Emor 5781
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

A disputing couple came to a rav for help. After hearing the narratives of the two, the rav said, “It appears that the husband is right, but the wife is also right”. The rebbetzin then chimed in, “How can both be right?” And the rav replied, “You too are right”.

We read last Shabbat concerning the two goats brought before the Kohen Gadol who would determine the fate of each animal. Halacha states that both must be identical in appearance, in height and in monetary value. Yet only one will be sacrificed to HaShem while the other will experience a far different fate.

One lesson to be gleaned from this is that two entities, two ideas or two opinions can appear to be correct to the same degree but, in fact, only one is true.

Last week, I received two messages: one from a dear friend of close to 70 years. I am beholden to him for his and his family’s friendship over these many years, and for all he has done for Talmudic Commentaries Foundation. In his message he “rakes me over the coals,” as they say, because of the articles I write that point out the failures of the rabbis in galut to encourage aliyah, while some spiritual leaders even negate coming home until some unspecific time in our history.

The other message is from a family who I do not know personally and will be coming on aliyah this summer in no small measure due to the ideas I put forward in these weekly articles.

The messages represent polar differences, but each is a legitimate opinion and carry a degree of truth. But, dear reader, you might ask, how can they both be legitimate and truthful when they are so different? You too are right!

But, in fact, despite what is true to the person endorsing his own ideas, there is only one absolute truth over which we are wrestling to prove.

The critical message:

“It is a chillul Hashem to denigrate the members of the clergy who are working hard to hold their congregations together during these difficult times. It is time to stop! It’s time to take a look at your own back yard and what’s going on and make sure that the Holy Land does not have any blemishes before you start looking at the problems that are elsewhere in the world. It is disgusting to Bash Americans and America. It is the hand that has fed you. It is the country that has supported Israel. Without the US Israel would have barely survived. So, from henceforth it’s time to look at Israel’s problems and write about them and how you can heal them, stop looking elsewhere until you are perfect! And as you said, there is no perfection in this world.”

The encouraging message:


Hope you are well.

We’ve never met, but my wife and I have read your weekly divrei Torah for the last 5 years. Our family has finally decided to make Aliyah, something we have always dreamt of, but never thought would really materialize. We have spent many years growing up in the system which talks about the value and importance of Israel, yet we were not on the track to making the move…

There are many factors that lined up and led to this special move.

One of the most consistent factors has been receiving your weekly emails, which to be honest invokes many mixed feelings and emotions, many of which leave us motivated and inspired. There are only so many years we can read about the exodus and the “cleansing” process of chamushim (1/5th), or about the lady at the Pesach seder who started crying at l’shana haba… because she would miss the chandelier… The list goes on…

There was a point in time, maybe at the onset of covid, where you made reference to having received too much negative feedback, and people feeling judged…

We wanted to write this email to you, with tremendous gratitude for the constant work, effort, and chizzuk you give so many readers.

We are awaiting our papers, which should be ready shortly bh, and have a planned date of motzei Tisha B’Av.

Look forward to one day meeting you in person,

If we can ever help you in any way please let us know,”

So, in order to determine the path that I should be taking between refraining from hurting the feelings of some spiritual leaders in the galut or speaking my mind after experiencing galut life for 24 years, and 59 years (so far) in our Medina in Eretz Yisrael, I turned to the prophet Yechezkel for enlightenment.

Yechezkel 36,18-22:

יח) ואשפך חמתי עליהם על הדם אשר שפכו על הארץ ובגלוליהם טמאוה:

יט) ואפיץ אתם בגוים ויזרו בארצות כדרכם וכעלילותם שפטתים:

כ) ויבוא אל הגוים אשר באו שם ויחללו את שם קדשי באמר להם עם ה’ אלה ומארצו יצאו:

כא) ואחמל על שם קדשי אשר חללוהו בית ישראל בגוים אשר באו שמה:

כב) לכן אמר לבית ישראל כה אמר אדני ה’ לא למענכם אני עשה בית ישראל כי אם לשם קדשי אשר חללתם בגוים אשר באתם שם:

18 So I poured out My wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned My holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave His land’. 21 I had concern for My holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. 22 Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone’.

The navi is telling us that the very presence of Jews in the galut is a desecration of Hashem’s holy name. And the Gemara in four places (Brachot 19b; ibid 28b; Airuvin 63b and Sanhedrin 82a) states that in the process of halting a chillul HaShem, one must not be impeded by the personal feelings of any individual, be it as it may. So, I will go with the prophet Yechezkel, while attempting to relate to all religious leaders in the galut with derech eretz.

Prohibition regarding Kohanim and a Corpse
The parasha begins with an admonition to Kohanim not to touch any human corpse nor to be present under the same roof with the corpse of a Jew (the accepted view is that of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that a Kohen may be under the same roof with the corpse of a non-Jew).

The prohibition on Kohanim is in effect even before death sets in, when the ill party enters into a state of gesisa (death throes). There is an earlier state when a Kohen may be in close contact with one who will shortly die, when the individual has been declared to be terminally ill, but not yet gosais.

Life signs of a near death human can be extended artificially by feeding tubes, parenteral nutrition, mechanical ventilation, dialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, defibrillation, artificial pacemaker, etc., but the Angel of Death’s patience has its limits.

The manifold parts of a whole human organism cease to function very soon after death sets in; however, individual organs can cease to function even before death (e.g., a limb can be gangrenous and amputated and internal organs removed with the patient continuing to live).

There are also maladies classified as autoimmune diseases, where the body produces antibodies that are meant to attack and destroy foreign entities (e.g., germs, viruses, etc.), but for some reason they begin to destroy the body’s own healthy tissues, often leading to death.

Terminal Illness of the Galut
The galut can be viewed as a living, breathing organism composed of many individual organs called Jewish communities. Each community can function independently, but when one is diseased it can compromise the existence of all the others.

We are witnessing a slow but progressive spread of spiritual gangrene overtaking the galut organism, deeming the general galut as “terminally ill” and the unaffiliated Jew and Reform as gosasim (death throes). The spiritual gangrene is deadly and very contagious, with the official diagnosis being the distancing of Jews from their holy tasks as God’s chosen people. This disease, when not treated spreads very quickly, as it dismembers limbs from the nation’s body by intermarriage.

Jewish presence in the galut always was and is still “a terminal illness”, with no chance of survival. Its life signs are being extended by the artificial intervention of spiritual leaders who provide their communities with a feeding tube of distorted pseudo-Torah, like “sit tight until the Mashiach sends a limousine to whisk you off to your private plantation in the holy land”.

The new, vibrant Jewish communities dotting the gentile landscapes across the good old USA, with their affordable homes, day schools, mikvaot, and kollelim in places too difficult to spell, are shots of adrenaline or morphine which can extend the end for a while, but the writing is on the wall. The galut has served its purpose – to punish the Jewish nation after we were exiled from our land for leaving the Torah. And as all things in nature, when its purpose has been exhausted it withers, shrivels, and dies. So too, our long sojourn in the lands of Aisav and Yishmael has finished its historic purpose and now will go the way of all things.

The galut organism is presently also under attack by a reprehensible autoimmune disease, in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. It manifests when Satmars and other break-away “lovers of Zion” demonstrate against the Medina, and by association, against the holy land of Eretz Yisrael. The end result will be that they themselves will wither away as they break off from the mainstream of Judaism.

Ritually Impure
Over 2000 years ago, two great rabbis Rabbis, Yosi ben Yo’ezer and Yosi ben Yochanan, with the agreement of the Sanhedrin, declared all the lands outside of Eretz Yisrael to be tomai’im (ritually impure) to the extent of the tuma exuded by a corpse. Several parallel reasons have been suggested for this broad based, global decree. Tosefot in tractate Nazir (54b) states that a major reason was that Jews should remain in the holy land.

The decree has special significance for Kohanim, who as stated in our parsha must refrain from the tuma of a corpse.

One need not be on the high spiritual level of Rabbis Yosi ben Yo’ezer and Yosi ben Yochanan to see how correct they and the Sanhedrin were. The dying communities of the galut exude tuma, and the faster our brothers and sisters escape the better they and all the nation of Yisrael will be.

Shabbat Shalom and prayers for refuah shelaima when the disbursed of our people come home.

JLMM Jewish Lives Mean More
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5781/2021 Nachman Kahana

Biden’s Team of Israel-Haters

Would a supporter of Israel really fill his foreign policy staff with those who hate the Jewish State?

Just days after Joe Biden was inaugurated, pro-Erdogan Turkish journalist Hakkı Öcal, according to Ahval News, “highlighted a report on the strong presence of Jews in the cabinet of U.S. President Joe Biden.” The report claimed that there was an “over 50 percent Jewish presence in the new U.S. cabinet,” and pointed Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA Deputy Director David Cohen, among others. But Öcal was off base: among Biden’s handlers, Jewish and non-Jewish, there are few, if any, staunch friends of Israel. After just a few months in office, it was clear that Joe Biden’s handlers’ administration was shaping up to be the most anti-Israel presidency since the founding of the modern State of Israel.

Robert Malley, Special Envoy to Iran, has become notorious over the years for his support for Iran’s Islamic regime and pronounced distaste for Israel. The Washington Times revealed in February 2021 that back in July 2019, “Iran’s smooth, English-speaking foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with Robert Malley, who was President Obama’s Middle East adviser, in an apparent bid to undermine the Trump team and lay the groundwork for post-Trump relations.”

Malley (pictured above left) was a good choice for such an assignment. An Israeli security official noted in February 2008 that Malley “has expressed sympathy to Hamas and Hizbullah and offered accounts of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that don’t jibe with the facts.” Obama dropped Malley in May 2008 after it came to light that he had met with representatives of Hamas, but six months later sent him as an envoy to Egypt and Syria.

Meanwhile, Reema Dodin is a deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. According to the Jerusalem Post, “during the Second Intifada, in 2002, Dodin spoke about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with residents of Lodi, California, saying that ‘suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people.’” Also, “in 2001, Dodin took part in a demonstration at UC Berkeley calling for the university to divest from Israel….The demonstrators compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.”

In a similar vein, Biden’s handlers appointed Maher Bitar the Senior Director for Intelligence on the National Security Council. In 2006, while a student at Georgetown University, Bitar was a member of the executive board of the viciously pro-jihad, anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine, and was seen dancing in front of a banner that said “Divest from Israel Apartheid.”

The Deputy Secretary of State is Wendy Sherman, who was the lead negotiator of Barack Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran. The State Department’s undersecretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights is Uzra Zeya. According to the Jewish News Service, Zeya “worked for the magazine Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and its publishing group, American Educational Trust. The Washington Report has questioned the loyalty American Jews have to the United States; published accusations against the ‘Jewish lobby’; claimed American Jews control the media; and accused the Mossad of perpetrating the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel-Palestine is Hady Amr. In an unhinged 2002 rant, Amr repeated Palestinian jihad propaganda, declaring: “I have news for every Israeli: a very large proportion of the more than 150 million children and youth in the Arab World now have televisions, and they will never, never forget what the Israeli people, the Israeli military and Israeli democracy have done to Palestinian children.”

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy is Colin Kahl. According to Israel Hayom, “Kahl has quite the anti-Israel record. He thinks the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Iraq was 1981 was a mistake. In 2012, he acted to remove recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from the Democratic party’s platform. In 2015, he was among those to formulate the Iran nuclear deal. In 2016, at the end of his term, then-US President Barack Obama tasked him with enlisting support for the anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that determined Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria were a violation of international law.”

Have Biden’s handlers appointed a balancing group of strong supporters of Israel, who will move to prevent this unsavory group (which is larger than just those named here) from disrupting America’s relationship with its strongest, most reliable ally in the West? Is there any brake to the ability of the anti-Israel group in Biden’s administration to force Israel to make potentially life-threatening concessions to the Palestinian jihad force. The answer to both questions is no.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Is America Still Behind Us? Ask our Enemies

by Victor Rosenthal

Today Israel is living in “interesting times,” as the saying goes. The northern border is tense, as Iran continues its efforts to transfer more dangerous accurate missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to build up its bases in Syria, while Israel continues to intercept them. Recently an ground-to-air missile fired at an Israeli aircraft missed its target and continued on until it eventually exploded several hundred kilometers to the south, near Dimona (speculations that this was actually an attempt to attack the nuclear research center nearby are most likely incorrect).

Meanwhile, the nuclear negotiations with Iran are moving rapidly in the direction of a return to the original, worthless, deal, and probably an end to sanctions – including sanctions for non-nuclear terrorism that are not related to the deal.

You have probably also heard about civil disturbances in Jerusalem. Western media have (of course) focused on a demonstration in which anti-Arab Jews chanted “death to Arabs,” but left out or minimized the fact that it was prompted by social media videos showing Arabs slapping and kicking Haredi Jews on the light rail system in Jerusalem. Arabs have rioted in the area around the old city for several days, throwing rocks, fireworks, and firebombs at police, and attacking Jewish passers-by. I’ve seen horrendous videos showing groups of young Arabs surrounding Orthodox Jews, beating and kicking them mercilessly. As far as I know, no one has been murdered yet, but if the riots continue it is certain to happen. Demonstrations in sympathy with Jerusalem Arabs have started to take place in other Arab towns.

If that isn’t enough, Hamas or other factions in Gaza attacked southern Israel with a barrage of at least 36 rockets and mortar shells yesterday. They were either intercepted by Iron Dome or fell in open areas, with only some minor damage to buildings and agricultural equipment. But the potential for serious escalation remains.

It’s Ramadan, so some of this is inspired by the usual religious indignation that Jews have the chutzpah to exist in places that Muslim Arabs believe they shouldn’t. But all of these phenomena have a common contributing factor: the growing feeling on the part of Israel’s enemies that America is behind them, or at least that America will not stand behind Israel.

The Biden Administration’s series of appointments of people with clear anti-Israel attitudes to numerous positions related to security and foreign policy – the worst being the choice of Rob Malley as head envoy to the Iranian nuclear talks – sends a strong message, as does resuming aid to the Palestinian Authority and to the poisonous “refugee” agency UNRWA, and rejoining the UN’s ludicrously anti-Israel “Human Rights” Commission.

Meanwhile, the increasingly powerful left wing of the Democratic Party has been flexing its muscles: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as other Democratic officials, spoke to the convention of the phony “pro-Israel pro-peace” J Street organization, calling for the ouster of PM Netanyahu and the restriction of military aid to Israel, and falsely saying that Israel was obligated by international law to provide Covid vaccinations to Palestinians in the PA and Gaza. They also excoriated former president Trump for his pro-Israel actions. Warren’s speech was particularly harsh.

In the US Congress, Rep. Betty McCollum (D, MN) introduced a bill that

Prohibits Israel from using US taxpayer dollars in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem for the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention; to support the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes in violation of international humanitarian law; or, to extend any assistance or support for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory in violation of international humanitarian law.

The chance of such a bill passing are minuscule, and the Congress responded with a letter signed by some 330 members opposing the placing of conditions on the use of US military aid by Israel. But regardless of that, the bitterly anti-Israel and even antisemitic tone of McCollum’s bill, along with the list of cosponsors, indicates the depth of opposition to Israel by a growing faction of US lawmakers.

One can understand how all of these signals are received and decoded in Tehran, Ramallah, and Gaza, and as presented to the Palestinian street by Arab media. President Biden himself has said little, and has so far avoided the open conflict with Israel’s PM that characterized former president Obama. But the actions of his administration and much of his party speak loudly enough, and are amplified by those in the region that want to create problems for Israel.

Israelis are worried about the rioting in Jerusalem developing into another “stabbing intifada” like the period between 2015 and 2018 in which Palestinian terrorists murdered dozens of Jews. They are concerned that the rocket fire from Gaza will escalate into yet another war, in which hundreds of rockets a day will fall on Israeli towns and cities as far north as Tel Aviv. They can imagine the northern border erupting into a war with Hezbollah like the one in the summer of 2006; only this time, Hezbollah has 130,000 rockets that can hit every point in Israel. And of course, they can see Iran obtaining nuclear bombs under the protection of an international agreement that will criminalize Israel’s actions to prevent it.

They also know that Western media will cover all of these occurrences by following the now-standard procedure of “it all started when Israel hit back.” The disturbances in Jerusalem, in particular, have been presented as state-supported Jewish extremism, rather than what they were, primarily an outbreak of vicious Arab violence against soft targets which triggered a (rare and universally condemned) Jewish response. I can only imagine how another war with Hamas or Hezbollah would play in the NY Times and on CNN and NPR.

You probably remember those T-shirts bearing a picture of Israeli fighter jets and the legend “Don’t worry, America, Israel is behind you.” The joke, of course, was that the reality was the reverse. Unfortunately, that may no longer be the case.

Count for Yourselves

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

It says regarding the mitzvah of sefirat ha'omer (Vayikra 23:15-16):

You shall count for yourselves – from the morrow of the rest day, from the day when you bring the omer of the waving ... and you shall offer a new meal-offering to Hashem. From your dwelling places you shall bring bread that shall be waved, two loaves...

There are a number of unique elements here that are not found in other offerings: "the omer of the waving," "a new meal offering," "two loaves," and the command, "you shall count for yourselves." What is the message of the omer?

On the pasuk in the beginning of Shemot, "They did not heed Moshe, because of shortness of breath and hard work" (Shemot 6:9), Chazal say: "They did not heed Moshe" – to abandon their idolatrous practices. This is what Yechezkel said: "No man of them cast away the detestable [idols] of their eyes, and they did not forsake the idols of Egypt." (20:8) This interpretation is difficult, since the Torah says that they did not heed Moshe because of shortness of breath, whereas Chazal teach that it was because they were immersed in idolatry!

The sefer Gelilei Zahav explains that social nature and a national bond is something natural to every human society, in contrast to animals, where each individual cares only for itself and is willing to kill another to fulfill its personal needs. In human society, though, each person has a strong feeling to associate with his nation, and many times is even willing to give up his life for the nation's rights.

When Am Yisrael were in their land, this feeling was strong, and they would give their lives for the good of the nation and its land, more so than other nations, because this feeling among Jews, at its source, is spiritual and Divine. Chazal say that regarding Esav it says, "the souls (nafshot – pl.) of his household," whereas about Israel it says, "seventy soul (nefesh – sing.)." Israel, who serve one G-d, is one soul; the other nations, since they worship many gods, are many souls. However, from the time we were exiled from our land, the nationalistic feeling has been weakened, and everyone concerns himself only with himself and his family. Therefore, Chazal say on the pasuk, "Curse Meroz ... for they failed to come to aid [the nation of] Hashem" (Shoftim 5:23), that one who helps Israel is like one who helps Hashem. In contrast, one who is affected with the trait of self-centeredness, even if he is involved in the service of Hashem, but his intention is only for himself – it is like he is worshiping idols.

Chazal say: "Whoever lives outside of Israel is like one who does not have a G-d." Outside of Israel a person does not have nationalistic feelings, and the concern only for oneself is like idolatry.

This is what was lacking in the exile in Egypt. Each person was steeped in his own self-interests. They did not know what nationalistic feelings were, and therefore, they did not want to leave. It therefore says, "With a strong hand [Pharaoh] will send them out," because they did not want to leave by themselves. This was Moshe's concern, that they would prefer the conveniences of exile to life in Israel.

This is Chazal's intention that they did not heed Moshe to abandon their idolatry; they were steeped in the trait of self-centeredness, and did not want to throw away the idol of self-centeredness. This is what Yechezkel complained about, that, to this day, "No man of them cast away the detestable [idols] of their eyes, and they did not forsake the idols of Egypt." They repeated the sin that they did in Egypt, and did not succeed in understanding the importance of the community. Chazal say: "The son of David (i.e., Mashiach) will not come until the prutah (lit., penny) is gone from the pocket" – until the pratiut (individualism) is gone from the pocket of the heart.

The idea of sefirat ha'omer is to correct his fault. Therefore it says, "Count for yourselves," i.e., for that negative trait which is "for yourselves," your self-centeredness. You should take the barley, animal food, which cares only about itself, and wave it and rise from this low trait. Then bring a new meal-offering, which comes from wheat, human food, which has social feeling, and is concerned not only for himself. Therefore, two breads are brought, one for him and one for his friend, after correcting the seven traits, when each trait blends with the others, forty-nine in all. In this way, man rises from low depths to great heights, from the trait of an individual animal to the trait of a social person, and brings a new meal-offering, since he is made a new person.