Friday, April 28, 2017

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

By Michael Fuah

Holocaust Day, commemorated this past week, is the day that we memorialize what happened when G-d turned His face from us and allowed the Holocaust to happen – a major desecration of His Name in the world. “And they desecrated My Holy Name when it was said about them, ‘These are G -d’s nation and they have gone out of His Land.'” The exile itself is a desecration of G-d’s Name, says the prophet in Ezekiel 36:20. 

But Ezekiel continues his prophecy: “And I will say, ‘It is not for your sake that I do this, House of Israel, but for the sake of My Holy Name that you have desecrated among the nations. And I will sanctify My great Name that is desecrated among the nations, and the nations will know that I am G-d, says Hashem Elokim. And I will take you from the nations and I will gather you from all the lands and I will bring you to your Land.” 

Israel’s Independence Day, coming up this week, represents just the opposite of the Holocaust: a sanctification of G-d’s Name. On the ground, however, things seem to have gone awry. Since the establishment of the State of Israel and particularly when most of our Land was liberated in the Six Day War, we did not officially acknowledge and thank G-d for His miracles. The “My might and power of my hand” syndrome has not yet been dispelled. As a nation, Israel has yet to recognize that it was G-d behind the momentous and miraculous events that gave birth to the State of Israel. 

G-d’s directing hand, though, does not allow us to deceive ourselves for long. Our attempts to solve the “Jewish problem,” to “normalize” the Jewish Nation and to transform it into a nation like all other nations is shattering before our eyes. The more that we try to be normal and the more that we lose our connection to our Jewish identity – the more that we lose our national legitimacy.

This year we will celebrate Independence Day with thanks to G-d for the wonderful opportunity that He has given us. In addition, we must promise ourselves to work hard to establish Jewish leadership that will give credit where credit is due: to the Holy One, Blessed Be He. We need real Jewish leadership that will help us to be ourselves: the Jewish Nation, the children of the Creator, who are working to perfect the world. Our independence and freedom depend on it.

Shabbat Shalom.

How to Win the Six Day War

By Moshe Feiglin

At the end of last week, I was part of a televised panel called, “How many days has the Six Day War lasted?” One of the first speakers opined that Israel’s Six Day War miraculous triumph was a Pyrrhic victory. I answered as follows:

“Perhaps Israel’s victory in the War of Independence was pyrrhic, as well? Perhaps the declaration of the State of Israel was a crazy gamble that turned out to be a mistake? After all, we are still fighting wars until this very day. Why should we only count the days since the Six Day War? Why not count since the War of Independence? And why should we only go back to the War of Independence? Perhaps it was utter foolishness to build the State of Israel?

Obviously, all the above are vacuous ideas of people who have no idea what they are doing here. One thing, however, is true. The Six Day War has not finished. It cannot finish if we do not want to win, even though the victory was served to us on a silver platter – thanks to the heroism of the IDF soldiers and the blessing of Heaven. The Six Day War was a miraculous war. If you decide that you do not want to win and you do not want to apply sovereignty to the redeemed territories and if you declare from the start that you can’t wait to return all the territory that you won in the war, clearly the war will never end.”

The interviewer asked me if I mean to say that the way to end the Six Day War is to annex all the territory that we won then.

“Absolutely,” I answered. “For years we have been brainwashed that this is an impossible solution. But it is possible. There really is no demographic problem and there is no problem with international relations. The entire problem is in our heads. The problem is with our consciousness that tries to escape our identity and thus attempts to flee the Land of Israel. The problem is with our consciousness that can’t wait to be rid of that Cave of Machpelah and that Temple Mount and that entire ‘Vatican’, in the words of Moshe Dayan, who gave the Temple Mount to the Muslim wakf. The problem is not the Arabs. The problem is the Jews – it is between us. We are afraid of those “cursed territories” because those territories carry with them the kernel of our identity, and it is that very identity that many wish to escape.”

Seventy Years and Forgotten

By Shmuel Sackett 

Last Friday I traveled north to spend a relaxing and spiritual Shabbat in my favorite city in Israel; Tzfat. Maybe I’m crazy but I literally feel the holiness as I walk around the old city. I love the quiet and serenity. I love the stone floor and narrow alleys. I must admit that as I get older, it gets harder to climb the thousand stairs that are all over the place, but I still manage and enjoy every moment I’m there. To me, Tzfat is simply about living Jewish history and I feel it in my bones as I enter the city.

A very common thing to do when visiting Tzfat (before Shabbat), is to pray at the holy graves of the amazing Tzaddikim who are resting there. Who doesn’t visit the grave of the Ari HaKadosh or Rabbi Yosef Karo? Who hasn’t sung “L’cha Dodi” next to the grave of Rav Shlomo Alcabetz – who wrote that incredible poem? There are so many holy men and women resting in the cemetery of Tzfat that this entire article can be filled with their names. The problem, however, is that in addition to the holy Tzaddikim whose names you easily recognize; there are many others whom – sadly – you probably never heard about. Those are the graves I go to.

Last Shabbat – the 26th of Nissan - was the 70th yahrzeit of 4 holy Jews who were hanged by the British in Acco prison back in 1947. They are buried in the Tzfat cemetery. When driving down to the cemetery, I noticed hundreds of Jews davening all over the cemetery but these four graves were all alone. Nobody went there and when I spoke to a few people who walked past, they had no idea what I was talking about. Let me tell you about these 4 Jewish heroes who were killed “Al Kiddush Hashem” and why – the next time you are in Tzfat – you should go and pray to Hashem at this holy spot.

The first name you might have heard of; Dov Gruner. Born in 1912 in Hungary, Dov was part of a Rabbinic and Chassidishe family. He made Aliyah in 1940 by organizing a ship of people escaping Europe, something considered illegal by the British who were running Israel during those dark days. On one hand, the mission was a success as the ship made it safely to Israel but Dov was arrested and spent 6 months in the Atlit prison, near Afula. Immediately after WWII, Dov joined the underground Etzel movement, under the leadership of Menachem Begin. In 1946 he was part of a team that attacked the Ramat Gan police station, which was run by the British. While the operation was a success, as Etzel fighters managed to take large amounts of weapons from this police station and use them in defense of Jews all across Israel, it did have its failures. One fighter, Yisrael Feinerman, was killed in the battle and one was seriously injured, and captured. His name was Dov Gruner. He was shot in the jaw.

Dov’s trial was front page news as he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the British judges in Israel. He spoke only one time, in Hebrew – on the first day of his trial. Here is a quick translation and summary of what he said; “You (the British) were given a mandate by the world to correct the horrific wrong that was done to the Jewish nation. You accepted the responsibility to help set up a Jewish state in Palestine but very quickly veered off course in a cruel and brutal way. You closed the door to immigration, causing the deaths of millions of Jews who would have left Europe, had they been allowed to enter Palestine. You enacted laws that benefitted yourselves and put Jews in grave danger and you became an occupying army in our G-d given land. Therefore, it became our obligation to rise up and fight against you to drive you out of our land. It is the Jewish nation – as mandated by G-d Himself – who will be the only ones running this country and anyone who attempts to sever that bond will pay the ultimate price.” Dov then concluded with the words; “I will not speak any more at this illegal trial. I understand that I face a possible death sentence but I will not defend myself before those who have no right to judge me.” He then sat down and did not utter another word, even after the death sentence was handed down.

48 hours before he was hanged, Dov Gruner wrote a letter to Menachem Begin thanking him for his leadership and guidance and saying how proud he was to be a fighter in his army. He concluded with these words, which send chills down my spine every time I read them; “I write these words just 48 hours before I will be hanged and at a time like this, a man does not lie. I swear to you that if I had the chance to start all over, I would have picked the exact same path…”

The other 3 men who were hanged were younger than Dov. Yechiel Dresner, originally from Poland, was 25. Eliezer Kashani, born in Israel to parents who made Aliyah from Persia, was 24 and Mordechai Alkachi, born in Israel to parents who made Aliyah from Turkey, was just 22. These 3 men were caught in an operation called “The night of the flogging” when Etzel members caught and flogged British officers after they had done the same to Jews. These 3 fighters followed the lead of Dov Gruner and also did not participate in their trial.

At the end of the trial, before their death sentence was announced, Yechiel Dresner, who was known as a Talmudic genius in Poland, spoke briefly; “Neither my friends, nor I, recognize your authority to judge us. You are an occupying army and we are prisoners of war. Since when are prisoners of war put on trial? Allow me to say just one thing about what we did. When British officers flogged Jewish men all across Israel, you did it to shame and humiliate our nation, but we are not like the Jews of the exile. We do not allow these things to happen. We do not enjoy flogging the British but felt the need to do it so that you understand we are a nation that demands respect and honor. We will not allow ourselves to be humiliated any longer! If you want to flog people, do it in your own country and to your sons, not ours! Take yourselves and your whips and leave our country at once. Only then will there be peace for you and us.”

These 4 Etzel fighters were held in the infamous Acco prison and on the night of the 26th of Nissan, at 4am, they were taken out of their cells and hanged, one at a time. As they walked to the gallows they sang “Ha’Tikva”. Gruner was first, yet before the hanging, he blessed the other 3 men. I am not sure who was next but by 5:30am it was all over. The four had been hanged.

They are buried next to each other in the same section as 20 Jews who were brutally murdered during the 1929 riots. Most Jews have heard of the 1929 massacre in Hebron but did you know about the 20 who were murdered, and 80 who were seriously wounded, in Tzfat also in 1929? These 4 holy Etzel fighters, plus 3 more who were hanged just 4 months later, are all resting in one section in the old Tzfat cemetery, just a short walk from the Arizal!!!

What pained me greatly is that on the day I visited the graves – 70 years exactly to the day of their hanging – there should have been thousands of people there. Yet, sadly, it was just my wife, my daughter and I who went to this holy place. While there, a Haredi fellow saw us davening and asked which Tzaddik was buried there? I told him their names but he never heard of them before. I then told him their story and he admitted that they were true Tzaddikim. He went to their graves, said some Tehillim and put a stone on each one.

Next week is Yom Ha’Zikaron – Memorial Day in Israel. As the siren sounds throughout the country, let’s all remember Dov Gruner, Yechiel Dresner, Eliezer Kashani and Mordechai Alkachi. May their memories be a blessing for our Nation. Amen.

Why Blame the German Foreign Minister?

By Moshe Feiglin

Under no circumstances can Israel accept the meeting of the visiting German Foreign Minister with a radical leftist organization whose entire purpose is to portray Israel as an immoral, occupying state. Clearly, Netanyahu was right in refusing to meet with him.

The problem is that Netanyahu himself frequently explains that we are occupiers in our Land and if we only had a suitable ‘partner’, we will ‘return’ the land to the ‘nation’ to which it belongs.

This is not merely lip service. Just a few weeks ago, the Netanyahu government destroyed an entire settlement after adopting the claim that it was built on occupied land.

So how can we blame the German Foreign Minister, if all that he is doing is echoing the implicit statement of the Israeli government?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Feeling Kinship

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

As the Torah continues its discussion of spiritual “leprosy,” we learn that this strange malady can affect not only one’s person, but also their clothing and their home. Though the laws in the Torah are taught in that order – person – clothing – home, rabbinic tradition teaches that the outbreak would take place in inverse order: First the home would be afflicted, then the clothing, and finally the person him- or herself. The sequence is significant; it progresses from impersonal to personal, giving the sufferer various opportunities to discern the spiritual message and resolve to make amends.

Regarding the affliction of a house, the Torah prefaces the law with the qualification that it will apply “when you come to the land of Canaan.” (14:34) Recognizing, as we do, that the malady in question is a physical manifestation of a spiritual ailment, we are not surprised that the law will apply only in the Land of Israel, where the nation will be expected to live a more exalted moral and spiritual existence. What is surprising is that in this particular context, the Promised Land is referred to as “the land of Canaan.” There is certainly no dearth of possibilities when referring to the Land of Israel; the Israelites’ ultimate destination is variously referred to as the land promised to the patriarchs, or the land flowing with milk and honey, or even the land presently controlled by various other tribes. Why, specifically regarding the affliction of a home with tzara’at, does the Torah single out Canaan?

Rabbinic tradition addressed the laws regarding “leprosy” through the prism of spirituality, noting the connection between tzara’at and tzarut ‘ayin (stinginess or miserliness of spirit). In particular, we are taught that a person who turns down a neighbor’s request to borrow a tool or utensil, claiming that he does not own the item in question simply because he does not wish to share, will be struck with tzara’at. The prescribed treatment for tzara’at that afflicts a house, outlined in Parashat Metzora, is to cast the contents of the leprous home out of doors, effectively placing all the miser’s possessions on public display for and friends to see.

And yet, the question remains: How does this relate to Canaan?

After the flood, Noah, ostensibly suffering from post-traumatic stress and perhaps some guilt for having survived while saving nary a soul, becomes intoxicated. His son Ham finds him lying naked and drunk on the floor, and seizes the opportunity to abuse his father. Noah’s two remaining sons see this and respectfully cover their father while averting their eyes from his embarrassment.

When Noah awakens from his alcohol-induced slumber and realizes what his son has done, his response is strange. Rather than responding to the outrage or disciplining Ham, Noah makes a very harsh pronouncement regarding Ham’s son, Canaan. Apparently, this is not as much a curse as a statement of cause and effect: The son who showed no respect for his father will in turn know disrespect from his own son.

Honoring one’s parents is the most basic and logical of interpersonal laws, and its “spill-over” effects are far-reaching: The son who respects his parents will, by extension, be kind to his siblings and their children as well. It is not difficult to see how this affects the dynamics of the entire Jewish People: We are one family, one fraternity; we are all brothers and sisters, hence our homes should be open to our neighbors, and our good fortune shared with a glad heart and spirit. This is what sets us apart from the descendants of Ham and his son Canaan, and it is this understanding of our familial responsibilities that causes the land occupied by Canaan to be given to the children of Shem through the line of Avraham: Only when we create a charitable and kind society, a society based on mutual responsibility, a society based on our sense of family, will we merit this inheritance. To behave like Ham or like Canaan, to turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, to be motivated by tzarut ‘ayin rather than the hesed that is the hallmark of Avraham and Sarah’s descendants, is an affront to the values of our forebears and to God Himself, as well as to the Land of Israel.


By Rav Uri Cherki
Rav, Machon Meir
Rav, Kehilat Beit Yehuda, Yerushalayim

Aristotle (in his essay “Politics”) defines mankind as a political animal (see the Kuzari, by Yehuda Halevi, 1:35). The need to live in a community is so essential to man that no serious philosopher ever proposed returning to the primordial state where man was completely alone without any links to some kind of society and therefore to its highest form of expression, the state.

However, it is still difficult to define a state. The attempt by Jean-Jacques Rousseau to describe a “social contract” where every individual surrenders a measure of his personal freedom in return for the desires of the community is not very clear. When was a referendum held where the people agreed to take part in this contract? It must be that political life is based on creating an imaginary entity which has no real existence in the worlds of feeling or the intellect, which can be called “the state.” The Rambam writes that political life is founded on imagination: “If [Divine] abundance would only appear to one who has an imagination, this would be relevant to those who lead the states.” [Moreh Nevuchim 2:37].

The state also has a utilitarian meaning: “If not for fear of authority, every man would swallow up his colleague alive” (see Avot 3:2).

However, the very fact that an entity exists which controls the lives of human beings creates a degree of discomfort for the Jew of faith. After all, G-d is the King, and any attempt to establish an alternative authority in the form of the state can be interpreted as a revolt against the Kingdom of G-d! The fear of such a phenomenon is the internal kernel of the approach of the Rebbe of Satmar, who viewed the establishment of the State of Israel, even if it would be religious, as a revolt against G-d.

It is true that this opinion has been rejected by the halacha, since establishing this state is a positive mitzva from the Torah (Ramban’s comments on the Sefer Hamtizvot, Positive Mitzva No. 4). But the wariness of transforming the sovereign power into a replacement for divinity is worthy of deeper study. In the same blessing of the Amidah where we ask G-d to give us back our kingdom, “Return our judges and our advisors to us as in the beginning,” we also ask at the same time, “And reign over us, G-d, all alone.” Thus, the earthly kingdom must be organized in such a way that the Divine Kingdom is reflected from within it. And for this reason government authority is not vested in a single power but is shared by the four basic ruling entities: the king, the judges, the priests, and the prophets. (in Hebrew, this is – Melech, shofet, kohen, navi – which forms an acrostic of the word “Mishkan” – the Tabernacle.)

Among the other nations, the purpose of the separation of powers is to prevent one branch of the government from taking complete control, but for the nation of Yisrael the purpose of the separation of powers is to declare that the sovereign power belongs to G-d alone, and He is the only source of merciful leadership for our nation.

The task of the State of Israel is to be “the basis for the Throne of G-d in the world” [Rav Kook, Orot, page 160], and to serve as an inspiration for the entire world.

Zionist Chassidism: Treasures in the Walls

By Rafi Ostroff
Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion

“Houses full of Every Good Thing”

The Rebbe of Husiatyn discussed the unique remarkable phenomenon of nega’im – physical blemishes – that appeared in the homes of Eretz Yisrael. There are two kinds of homes: physical homes and spiritual homes. When the people entered Eretz Yisrael, they found houses where the Canaanites lived and also houses of idol worship. They were commanded to destroy the houses of idol worship, but the physical homes of the previous inhabitants were a blessing, as is written: “And it will be, when your G-d brings you to the land which he promised to give to your fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov, to give you great and good cities which you did not build, and houses full of good things which you did not fill.” [Devarim 6:10-11].

The simple interpretation of this passage is that G-d gave us gifts when we entered the land – the houses of the Canaanites.

The Zohar writes that the houses of the Canaanites were built on impure foundations, and in order for them to be destroyed they were struck with nega’im (Tazriya, page 50). But this is contrary to what is written in the Midrash as quoted by Rashi (14:34) – that the blemishes were good news for Yisrael in that they would find treasures in the walls, hidden there by the Canaanites.

The Jewish Foundation of Moderation

Here is how the Rebbe explains the words of the Zohar:

“The main reference of the Zohar is to the cultural buildings of the other nations. The culture of the nation includes almost every facet of life in general: Faith and beliefs, education, economic behavior, structure of the society, art, literature, and special behavior traits. The cultural edifice of the Canaanites was founded on wrong opinions and evil faith, on impurity and abomination. And nega’im were sometimes sent into physical homes in order to wake the people up with respect to these matters. The blemishes were a symbol of the moral blemishes within the cultural edifices of the Gentiles... to show that a person from Yisrael is not allowed to build his home on foundations of the other nations and in their spirit. A home of Yisrael must be built only on a foundation of holiness and purity, justice and righteousness.”

At times we are so caught up in viewing ourselves as part of the world of culture that we forget that we have our own unique traits. The only proper way to adopt the culture of other nations, if we do this at all, is after a strict process of filtering and criticism. The treasure that the Jews found in the Canaanite houses is their ability to build their new spiritual homes on a strong basis of Judaism, without mixing in any waste of the culture of the other nations.

This treasure is a unique trait of Eretz Yisrael, as is noted by the Ramban, that nega’im will appear in houses only in the land, even though at first glance there does not seem to be any connection to the land, because the land is a heritage of G-d, and “the holy G-d dwells within it.” (Vayikra 13:47). The Rebbe explains:

“The entire issue of blemishes of the houses was meant to wake up Yisrael and to have them look at the goal of building in the land. They were meant to recognize their obligation to base the construction on the foundations of Judaism. And therefore, the laws of blemishes in the home did not apply until they had carefully considered the situation so that each and every one could identify his own needs. It was necessary for everybody to be familiar with what was his – that is, that he should be aware of the essence of Judaism and how this is most relevant for him.”

From 1939 to 2017

The Rebbe wrote the above material in the year 5699 (1939), a long time before one could say about his generation what can be said about our own – that we live in relative comfort and we have the time to worry about our cultural possessions. With G-d’s blessing, as the 69th anniversary of Yom Ha’astma’ut of the State of Israel approaches, we live in a generation which can find a moment to pause and to look around at the foundations of the edifice which we built from the cultural point of view. What achievements have we accomplished in literature and art? What style of art is most prominent in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art or among the students of Betzalel? Does this express the unique essence of the nation of Yisrael, or have we adopted Canaanite or European culture in our midst? What spiritual houses are we building for the next generations of the Jewish nation? As far as I am concerned, it is remarkable to see how the Rebbe found the time to think about a topic that is still relevant today, decades after his time. The Rebbe ended his essay as follows:

“All of this can teach us an important lesson for today. The physical buildings in Eretz Yisrael, no matter how important they are for settlement efforts, are important and desirable,no matter who does the building... However, the spiritual construction must be done as directed by men of Torah and faith in order that it will stand on holy foundations. We must struggle as hard as we can [using spiritual and moral weapons] (this comment appears in the original article) to make sure that the foundations of the spiritual edifice in Eretz Yisrael will be our Torah and our faith [for they are our life and our source of long lives]."

Be Happy – And Fix What is Wrong!

By Zevulun Orlev

Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the day of our joy, gives us an opportunity before the seventieth year of the existence of the State of Israel to crystallize and clarify the national aspirations which we have yet to fulfill.

The issue of national security is of primary importance, we are dedicated to it with all our souls and we expend all our efforts to support it, both as a nation and as individuals. There is no doubt that we will continue with our efforts to increase our strength so that our enemies will never get the best of us. On the other hand, the desire to maintain the Jewish character of the country in its sovereign mechanisms is unfortunately a broad consensus only within our own ranks. There is always room for a greater effort, especially to try to embed our yearning in the education and the culture of the entire nation, by pleasant methods based on internal peace in the land.

Stability and Guarding Life

I would like to list four challenges which we have not been successful in meeting, and which can help us guarantee our future as individuals and as a community.

(1) Governmental Stability – The government in Israel is characterized today by elements of instability and constant change. Our ability to rule is defective because of a governmental culture that is based too much on improvisation and gut reactions, a lack of proper planning, uncertainty, an inability to see beyond the horizon, frequent changes in the law, frequent reforms, and a lack of confidence that the government will keep its word.

Enough is enough! We have reached maturity. The stage of “startup” and the techniques of “trial and error” and “trust me” that were necessary when we established the state and settled in must come to an end. We have had enough of improvising and “see if you can get away with it” in running the country. The time has come for the citizens to feel security and operational stability, such that businessmen and investors will be taxed on a stable basis. The citizens want the law to be treated as law, without any mockery.

(2) Maintaining the Principle of Protecting Lives – “You shall live through them” [Vayikra 18:5]. We are shocked, and rightly so, about every soldier who is killed and about every victim of terrorism. On the other hand, we are willing to accept some 370 deaths a year from traffic accidents. We are apathetic about thousands of deaths from infections in hospitals. However, we regularly dedicate our efforts to campaigns for contributions to save a single sick person by sending him or her abroad for a very expensive operation. And does anybody pay attention to dozens of fatalities a year in construction accidents and to more than a hundred children a year who die in home accidents, drowning, or heat exposure when left in locked cars by their parents? And what about the thousands of people who remain handicapped as a result of all of these accidents?

Enforcement and Social Justice

(3) A Need for a Revolutionary Improvement in Enforcement – We have an exemplary system of law in terms of international standards. The government and the Knesset throughout their generations have created a legal system that provides a good basis in all walks of life. However, the weak link in all of this is the disgraceful governmental contempt for enforcing the law. In many areas there is almost no enforcement. Examples are transportation (when is the last time you saw a police car patrolling the roads?) and urban planning and construction (when have illegal buildings been destroyed as an appropriate reaction to the “jungle” of unregulated construction, except of course at such high-profile sites as Migron and the Ulpana Hill in Beit El?). Anybody who believes that a complaint to the police about theft, burglary, neighborhood disputes, and the like will receive prompt attention is not living in this country.

(4) Social Justice and Reduction of Poverty and the Social Economic Gap – The time has come for us to relinquish our world records in these subjects among the developing nations. The evils are not moral, and they are a danger to our national robustness. Can we really expect somebody who because of his address and/or the fact that he is from a poor family is fated to be part of yet another generation of poverty and lack of resources to serve the country as a citizen who contributes to the general good?

The root of our evil is the relatively low number of public servants in all walks of life (police, judges, physicians, and more) as compared to the OECD developed countries. We have become a “free nation.” Everybody is free to make up his own mind, and the government is free not to enforce the need for individual responsibility among its citizens. Is that what we mean by the line “to be a free nation in our land” in the national anthem, Hatikva?

The Community and the Individual

The time has come to strengthen the values which have brought us to the stage where we are. We must “recalculate our route” in terms of life and culture, which as of now puts great emphasis on personal achievements, and move on to providing support for the sovereign and nationalistic objectives and to strengthen mutual social responsibility.

I do not have any intention of ruining the joy of the coming holiday. Rather, I have come to awaken our souls so that we will live in a more perfect and a more pleasant land. The joy of Yom Ha’atzma’ut should include our aspiration to mend the faults, the evil, and the failures. Let the joy and thanksgiving lead us to a great hope that we will be able to accomplish our goals. Let us rise up to a higher level than before.

“On the Eighth Day his Flesh will be Circumcised”

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In his book “Mo’adei Har’iyah” Rabbi Moshe Tziv Neriya writes about some ideas which he received from the linguist Meir Medan (page 319), who quotes what Rav Kook said during the Pesach Seder when the “Cup of Eliyahu” was filled.

In the special “Harachaman” prayers added to the Grace after Meals on the occasion of a brit, we first ask the Holy One, Blessed be He, to send to us “His anointed one, who goes in perfection.” This refers to Machiach, the son of David. We then ask Him to send us “A righteous priest who is concealed.” This is a reference to Eliyahu. However, as we know, Eliyahu comes before the Mashiach. Why then do we reverse the sequence in our request from G-d?

After discussing the matter, Rav Kook said that the proper sequence is indeed for Eliyahu to come first as the harbinger of the arrival of Mashiach Ben David, but that the footsteps of Machiach will appear first. And they are felt before the footsteps of Eliyahu. In other words: the early physical stages of redemption – ingathering of the exiles, rebuilding of the land, high production of fruits – will be visible before the full redemption comes and before the spiritual awakening and the process of repentance which will be part of the arrival of the Mashiach.

Rav Kook added that this is what appears in the verse, “Help Your people... and shepherd them and lift them up forever” [Tehillim 28:9]. First “shepherd them” with good pasture from a physical point of view, and only afterwards “lift them up” in a spiritual sense.

From other sources in the writings of Rav Kook we see that this idea appears in other places in the Torah, and it is also repeated in the Prophets. It is written in the Torah portion of Nitzavim, “And G-d will bring back your captives and show you mercy, and He will return and gather you from among all the nations where your G-d has scattered you. If your outcasts have been driven to the ends of the heavens, G-d will gather you from there and from there He will fetch you. And G-d will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed...” [Devarim 30:3-5]. Only after the physical return to the land is it written, “And your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring...” [30:6]. And even though this passage begins with the statement, “You will return to your G-d and listen to His voice...” [30:2], Rav Kook explained that the very fact that we return to the land is in the spirit of repentance: “The general awakening of the people to return to its land, its essence, its spirit, and its traits contains within it a spark of repentance.” [Orot Hateshuva, Chapter 17].

“And this is even clearer in the words of Yechezkel (Chapter 36). The passage begins with a declaration that the fact that Yisrael is in exile is a desecration of G-d’s name. This is because the other nations see it as support of their position that G-d has rescinded His covenant with Yisrael and has made a covenant with another nation. But this cannot be tolerated, and therefore it is written, ‘I do not act for you, O House of Yisrael, but rather for My holy name... And the other nations will know that I am G-d... And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your land.’ [36:22-24]. Only after Yisrael returns to their land will a process of repentance begin. ‘I will sprinkle holy water over you and you will be cleansed from all your impurities, and I will purify you from all your idols.’ [36:25].”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rav Kook on Parashat Tazria/Metzora: Purifying Time and Soul

The Torah discusses various types of tum'ah (ritual impurity), the most prominent being tzara’at, a skin affliction similar to leprosy. Purification from these forms of impurity includes immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath) or natural spring. Immersion alone, however, is not sufficient; even after immersing, the individual remains impure until the start of the evening.

“The sun sets and then he is ritually clean. He may then eat the sacred offerings that are his portion.” (Lev. 22:7)

Waiting until the Day is ‘Clean'

Curiously, the Talmud (Berachot 2a) interprets this verse in a forced fashion: “The sun sets and then it” — the day — “is clean” (i.e., finished). The Sages explained that the day must be completely over before the individual may partake of his offering.

Why not understand the verse literally: when the sun sets, the person is ritually clean? Why emphasize that the day must be ‘clean’?

According to Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed (III: 47), different forms of tum'ahcorrespond to various flawed character traits, erroneous beliefs, and impure acts. The Sages wrote that tzara’at, for example, is the result of slander and haughtiness. It is logical, then, that the various stages of purification — immersion in a spring or mikveh, waiting until nighttime, and bringing an offering — will be connected to the correction of these faults.

Two Aspects to Repair

The Talmud refers to two levels of purification: purifying the day ("tehar yoma"), and purifying the individual ("tehar gavra"). What is the difference between the two?

Our goal in life should be to grow spiritually and become closer to our Creator. When we sin, we stray from our overall objective. We have also misused time that could have been utilized for spiritual growth. A full life is one in which all of the days have been employed towards one’s principal objective. Abraham, the Torah tells us, was ba bayamim, “well advanced in days” (Gen. 24:1). His days and years were full and complete, wholly occupied with spiritual pursuits.

When we stray from our spiritual aspirations, we need to make two distinct efforts in order to return to our original path. If I were to upset a friend, I would first need to correct my hurtful behavior. However, that alone would be insufficient to restore the friendship to its former state. The relationship will remain fragile until I have made an additional effort to rebuild the ties of friendship and affection.

The first stage — correcting the faulty behavior or flawed character trait – is analogous to the cleansing action of immersion in water. We immerse ourselves in the mikveh, leaving behind negative traits and flawed deeds. As we immerse ourselves in spiritual repair, we restore to the dimension of time its original purity. The day has not been lost to sin. With the setting of the sun, we begin a new day and a new start. This is the first level of purification, what the Sages called tehar yoma. The day has been purified; we have rectified the dimension of time.

Yet, we have not completely regained our previous state of purity. We still need to restore our former closeness to God. This is achieved through the final stage of purification: “he may then eat the sacred offerings.” With renewed desire to be close to God, we bring an offering. The offering (in Hebrew, korban, from the root karav, to draw near) enables us to draw closer to our Maker with awe and love. At this point, we repair our relationship with God. Not only has the element of time been rectified, we too have become cleansed and renewed. This is the level of tehar gavra, when the individual is fully purified, and his errors are transformed into merits.

(Gold from the Land of Israel. pp. 195-197. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, pp. 2-3.)

Spiritual Contamination and Yom HaShoah

Parashat Tazria Metzora 5777
By HaRav Nachman Kahana


Tsara’at is a pale area on one’s body in which the hair has lost its color by turning white. The inflicted person becomes tamai (impure) and is prohibited from entering a walled city in Eretz Yisrael, thereby being excluded from being a part of normal Jewish society. This is the punishment for the sin of lashon hara – derogatory and defaming speech.

In contrast to the spiritual world(s), our material universe consists of vast numbers of distinct entities.

The average human body consists of 37.2 trillion cells and the number of microbial cells is estimated at 100 trillion. One teaspoon of a neutron star would weigh six billion tons on earth. It takes 225 million years for our sun to travel around our galaxy. Space expands faster than the speed of light at 300,000 kilometers per second.

In the non-physical spiritual world the numbers decrease dramatically.

Multiple numbers fulfill a critical role in the details of the Torah and its mitzvot. There were six days of creation, ten generations from Adam to Noach and ten from Noach to Avraham, 210 years of slavery and 40 years in the desert. It takes ten adult men for a minyan, two witnesses and seven days of Pesach and Succot. The list is endless.

Notwithstanding the multiple numbers which are critical in the details of the Torah, the keystone that supports the 248 organs and 365 tendons of the Torah is limited numerically to only one, as expressed in the words –

אתה בחרתנו מכל העמים
Ata ba’char’tanu mi’kal ha’amim

You have chosen us above all other nations

This is the lifeblood of Judaism.

Judaism emanates from HaShem’s revelation on Mount Sinai. There He separated the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov from all other nations, just as a man chooses a particular woman to be his wife while rejecting all others.

When the Shechina (Divine Presence of Hashem) appeared on the scene, it created a chain reaction that instantaneously produced 613 mitzvot. They continue to increase exponentially engulfing the Jewish nation to this day.

If a Jew rejects this most fundamental principle of our faith – “Ata bachartanu – You have chosen us above all other nations” – there is no rationale for keeping the Torah or to be Jewish for that matter. If we are just another one in the family of nations, and even if we are more moral, it is suicidal to remain Jewish and suffer the indignities, degradation, and genocidal hatred of the goyim (non-Jewish nations).

If a Jew rejects “Ata bachartanu,” then he has no legal or moral claim to the land east of the Mediterranean Sea after being away from it for 2000 years.

If a Jew rejects “Ata bachartanu,” how can he explain our phenomenal “luck” of having survived the long and tortuous galut (dispersion) and the Holocaust to find ourselves back in Eretz Yisrael? And how can the thin green line of IDF soldiers hold back the hordes of hundreds of millions of Arab enemies whose hatred for us is boundless?

If a Jew rejects “Ata bachartanu,” how can he recite the bracha (blessing) over the Torah “Asher bachar tanu mekol ha’amim – You who has chosen us from all the nations”?

In the galut, the unaffiliated, Reform and Conservatives leaders and laymen, who reject the concept of a “chosen nation,” are Jews by accident of birth but are “outsiders” to our past and to the Jewish nation’s future.

Observant Jews in the galut reject the idea that they are part of God’s chosen nation by the mere fact that they continue to live among those nations whom HaShem rejected from his spiritual domain. If you believe that you have been chosen by the Creator, why would you be content to live in the slums of humanity when the gates of HaShem’s holy land are open?

“Ata bachartanu” is the fulcrum that creates the great divide between the authentic Jew and the hangers on. It is told that the Baal Shem Tov revealed that he was placed in this world to teach the Jews to discern between the primary and the petty non-essential factors in life.

“Ata bachartanu” serves to distinguish the sincere authentic Jew from those whose visible deeds do not portray their insincere and inconsistent inner feelings.

Jews who deny that the Creator has chosen the Jewish nation are guilty of speaking lashon hara about the God of Israel. They are akin to the pale blemish of one who is afflicted with tzara’at, having lost their particular Jewish belief of “Ata bachartanu”. We are living witnesses to the spiritual contamination that they create in their surroundings.


The inevitable question. How did it come about in HaShem’s world that six million Jews (the actual number is closer to seven and a half million Jews), including one-and-a-half million children, were sent to Olam Haba (the next world) through the chimneys of Aisav’s death camps?

It would be irreverent to answer that the Shoah was punishment for our sins, because all Jews are mutual guarantors (kol Yisrael arayvim ze la’ze – all of Israel are responsible for one another) and only the Jews of Europe and parts of North Africa suffered that fate. The Jews of the U.S. and Eretz Yisrael were not only spared but also prospered.

My personal understanding of these events consoles me in some small way when facing the unspeakable horrors of the Shoah.

The Gemara (Bava Kama 60a) explains the underlying meaning of the verse in Shemot 22,5:

כי תצא אש ומצאה קצים ונאכל גדיש או הקמה או השדה שלם ישלם המבער את-הבערה
If a fire spreads to weeds (in another’s field) and devours bales of wheat or uncut wheat or the entire field, the negligent perpetrator must make payment.

In addition to the explicit judicial responsibility of a man for his actions, the Gemara explains that “weeds” are the evildoers of the world and “the bales of wheat and uncut wheat” are the righteous of Am Yisrael. When HaShem decrees that the “weeds” be destroyed, the free hand of the Angel of Death begins with the coveted “bales of wheat” – the first and most to suffer are the righteous who happen to be present among the evildoers.

I reject any allegation that my fellow Jewish brothers and sisters sinned to a degree which justified the horrors of the Shoah. Some “experts” at counting other peoples’ sins place the blame on assimilation. But never has Jewish history encountered the numbers and rate of assimilation and intermarriage found today among the Jews of the United States, yet they continue to thrive. Other sin counters put the blame on Zionism, while others on the lack of Zionism.

The Shoah was HaShem’s decree, beginning with the First World War, that the evil descendants of Aisav should put an end to one another and that Aisav should devour Aisav. In other words, Russians should kill Germans, and Germans should slaughter Englishmen, the Ukrainians should kill the Americans, and Americans should kill the Turks. It is common knowledge that the Second World War was a continuation of the First World War, after an extended ceasefire.

The Jews were turned into smoke and soap because the leash on insanity was released, and the Jews were caught up in it BECAUSE WE WERE THERE! We were there because we did not understand that when Aisav kills Aisav, it is no place for Ya’akov to be.

When the inhibitions of hatred are released, then the ever-present hatred of Jews rises to the fore and Aisav seeks to put an end to Ya’akov.

If you reject the proposition that the two world wars were death sentences decreed on the goyim, and we were swept into it just because we were there, you are left with two very bad options. Either the Jews of Europe sinned to the extent that 1,500,000 little children had to die, or the whole matter is beyond our comprehension. So let’s just continue building bigger and more expensive Holocaust museums and go back to living.

Conclusion: If you live in a depraved or a potentially depraved gentile society, then no matter how frum or how erudite in Torah, you can suddenly find yourself swept up in the tsunamis and 9/11’s of that nation.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5777/2017 Nachman Kahana

The Most Dangerous Form of Holocaust Denial

By Moshe Feiglin

I once gave a lift to a young woman who was a guide at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. “Na’ama,” I asked her, “What do you answer when your groups ask you about the meaning of the Holocaust?”

“That everyone has a small Nazi inside them,” she answered automatically. “Anybody can be a Nazi.”

I almost lost control of the car.

“Listen,” I said to her. “I do not have any little Nazi inside me. I am the good guy in this story. And the Germans were the bad guys. Forget about the ridiculous blather that all those involved in the Holocaust were victims. That both the murderers and the slaughtered were hapless wretches. There were good people there, and those were the Jews. And there were bad people – and those were the Germans.”

‘”If what you told me now is the message of Yad Vashem”, I continued, “then Yad Vashem is the most sophisticated institution in the world for Holocaust denial. Why? Because it denies the meaning of the Holocaust. It is a very important institution for recording and passing down the memory of the Holocaust. But its message is completely wrong.”

Any person can become an animal – including a Jew. But saying that it could happen to anyone is essentially Holocaust denial. It could happen to anyone. Coincidentally, it happened to the Germans. Coincidentally, the Jews just happened to be passing through the wrong place at the wrong time. This application of “coincidence” and the falsity that everyone is essentially a victim is the most sophisticated and dangerous Holocaust denial that exists.

From there, it is only a short distance to the claim that the Jews are the new Nazis. Today, in London, Paris and the world’s intellectual hubs, the Jews are the new Nazis. This is the axis: First, it can happen to anyone. Seventy years ago it happened to the Germans, now it is happening to the Jews. Beware of this false narrative.

The Shamrak Report: Allies Knew about the Slaughter of Jews

The Western Allies were aware as early as 1942 that Adolf Hitler’s systematic extermination of European Jewry was already well underway.
Never-before-seen UN documents prove that the most senior British officials were privy to the fact that Hitler had embarked upon a liquidation program that had already claimed the lives of 2 million Jews and that a further five million faced mortal danger.
Despite their foreknowledge, practically nothing was done by the Allies to rescue the Jews from their peril, reflecting a conscious policy decision as indicated in the freshly declassified documents.
A minister in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s war cabinet had stated that Jews could not be considered to be a special case in the overall priorities of the British war effort and that the British Empire was already too saturated with refugees to grant sanctuary to Europe’s Jews.
Moreover, the documents, which have not been seen for 70 years, also show that the Allies had already begun drawing up war crimes charges based on witness testimony smuggled from the camps and from the resistance movements in various countries occupied by the Nazis. (The world restricted the escape of Jews from the Nazi anti-Semitic slaughter in Europe even before WW2 started, perfectly knowing the intention of the Nazi regime. It was not just ignorance, but deliberately orchestrated international effort and direct participation in the facilitation of the Holocaust! Not a single bomb was dropped to interrupt the murderous Nazi ‘enterprise’ neither by the Western, nor by the Soviet allies!)
Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Memorial day
Israel and Jews around the world just had annual commemoration of Yom Hashoah. We remember the 6 million who perished during the Shoah, marked and hunted down for extermination simply because they were Jewish. We remember the 1.5 million children, cruelly slaughtered. We remember those who fought bravely against the Nazi war machine. We remember the partisans, the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and more. We remember the righteous among the nations who saved lives. We remember the liberators. We remember that Auschwitz, Matthausen et al were built on words and a racist ideology. We remember that unto every person there is a name and that the victims too, had names, had fears, had dreams, had hopes, had families, had lives. Lives mercilessly snuffed out in the blink of an eye. 
One day in the not too distant future, all living Holocaust survivors will be gone and it will be up to us to battle the deniers. It's our job to expose and discredit the distortions and disinformation made by propagandists and puppets of hate. We remember. NEVER AGAIN!
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
I am not against Arabs, Christians, and Muslims. I am just pro-Jewish and support Zionism – the Jewish national independence movement! Israel can easily stop terror and create a better future for the Jewish people. It is time to recognise mistakes of the past and resolve them by ending Arab occupation of Jewish land!
Via PayPal $10,  $18,  $36,  $72,  $100,  $180,  $260
Pope Francis had described some of Europe’s refugee centers as “concentration camps” when he paid tribute to an unknown Christian woman slain for her faith in front of her Muslim husband. “The conditions in which migrants are currently living in some European countries may well be difficult, and deserve still greater international attention, but concentration camps they certainly are not,” American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said in a statement. “The Nazis and their allies erected and used concentration camps for slave labor and the extermination of millions of people during World War II. There is no comparison to the magnitude of that tragedy.” (Nothing is done by accident – he said this during the Yom Hashoah commemoration! The Vatican co-operated with Nazi Germany during WW2 and helped Nazi criminals escape justice after the war. Not long ago, Pope Francis declared that Islam is a religion of peace!)
Roughly 100 of the 1,000 or so convicted terrorists that are hunger striking in Israeli jails have already quit their hunger strike. In addition, sugar and salt have been found in some of the prisoner cells indicating they’ve been secretly noshing. The government has made it clear they won’t negotiate with the convicted terrorists. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said they can hunger strike as long as they want.
Two sisters tried to smuggle explosives into Israel from Gaza using tubes labeled for medication. Shin Bet says that the pair was arrested at a crossing – they took advantage of a permit for medical treatment to try to aid in planned terror attacks.
Following all the exposure of incitement and anti-Semitism in the UNRWA schools, there was pressure on UNWRA to clean up the books and the curriculum they’re teaching from all the anti-Semitism. Khaled Abu Toameh reports that it won’t be happening, “UNRWA says it has no intention to change textbooks and will continue to teach according to Palestinian Authority curriculum.” (As usual – it was expected! It was just another fake show!)
If not for Israel They Would Kill Each Other
A senior Hamas official claims threats by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not succeed in forcing the terrorist group to cede control in the Gaza Strip; “Gaza can't be threatened or terrified, and Hamas doesn't accept threats.” The Islamic terrorist group seized Gaza from Abbas' Palestinian Authority in 2007, leaving the Palestinians divided between rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.
The Israeli military said on Friday that it had hit targets in Syria in response to three projectiles that landed in the Israeli Golan Heights earlier, in what the army said was likely stray fire from Syria’s civil war. (Zero tolerance to 'mistakes'!)
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri asked the United Nations to help Lebanon and Israel move towards a permanent ceasefire and end what he called Israel’s “continuous violations” of Lebanese territory. (Ceasefire is not peace - Lebanon must disarm and disband Hezbollah first!)
In video broadcast by Egyptian opposition TV, men in uniform interrogate suspects, then shoot them dead at point-blank range. Uniformed soldiers can be seen pulling two detainees out of military vehicles, briefly questioning them, and then shooting them. Several other dead bodies can be seen in the area where the two are shot. (No international ‘outrage’! No investigation and no conviction. Who cares – it is not done by Jews!)
Quote of the Week:
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” - Albert Einstein 
Islam – Reality Check
Voice of Internet
They hate women, gays, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and moderate Muslims. They had a "bad childhood". They are "mentally unstable". It is "workplace violence". They are "frustrated victims of discrimination" etc.
They have never had "anything to do with Islam" despite always shouting "Allahu Akbar" when they massacre innocent people in Orlando, the New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Jerusalem, Stockholm, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Mumbai or Buenos Aires. (It had all begun in Israel!)
Their Muslim families are always "shocked" and their “angelic” kids were often seen helping elderly ladies cross the street outside the local mosque.
While most Muslims are not terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims and many millions of radical Islamists support them. Neither New York Times nor German leader Merkel or anyone else can whitewash this reality.
In many Muslim countries terrorists are glorified. Their families get cash rewards, respect, streets and schools are named after them, and they're treated as role models in schools and homes.
There is also a link between the general tolerance for those who tolerate violence in Mosques and Islamic terror; there is a link between those who talk about violence and those who do it - challenging Western notions of freedom of speech; and there is a link in Muslim communities in European societies between criminal violence and Jihadi violence.
At best, the Saudis and others condemn terrorism against themselves but not against others, especially Jews and non-Muslims.
While frustrations and grievances are universal, you never hear about Tibetan monks turning Chinese people into chop suey or Greek Cypriots turning Turks into tzatziki. The reason is simple: only Islamists have imperial and global Jihad ambitions.
President Abraham Lincoln’s words still ring true:
“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
If someone talked trash about you, said they hated and wanted to kill you, pointed a gun or other weapon at you, you take them at their word and don't make excuses for them or call them friend. Common sense!!!

Shtetls, Ghettos to the Jewish State. Nothing has changed

Nothing has changed in attitudes against the Jews in the last 100 years.

By Barry Shaw

From the programs of a hundred years ago to the strain inflicted on Israel today there is an eerie similarity.

Jews confined to their Russian shtetls suffered the murders and horrors of Jew haters. Polish Jews were herded into ghettoes, ghettoes where their presence was harshly tolerated as a temporary measure by their Nazi masters.

History shows us that these shtetls and ghettoes were gradually reduced in size and denuded of their Jewish population by the ethnic cleansing of their haters. There, Jewish exclusivity did nothing to make them feel safe. On the contrary, a sense of vulnerability and foreboding hovered in the streets and in the homes of the enclosed and entrapped population.

In a real sense, we see this being played out in the Middle East today. Muslim countries expelled their Jews, and Israel was the beneficiary. The Jewish State did not feel like a ghetto then. It welcomed its brethren with open arms. It was a positive development. But the Arab nations that banished their Jews did not see it that way. They detested the growing Jewish presence in their region and took violent steps to do away with it. In this, they were in kinship with the Russian and German anti-Semites.

On a promise of a reduced homeland the Jews were deprived of the vast majority of the land for the benefit of the complaining Arabs. This territory became known as Transjordan.

Then, after Arab armies failed to destroy the nascent Jewish State, Israel was persuaded to relinquish further land for peace in the name of a non-existent “harmonious and peace-loving” Palestinian nationhood.

Having lost five wars to eliminate the Jewish presence in the Middle East, the Arabs encouraged and promoted a Palestinian anti-Israel narrative and action campaign. The aim was shudderingly familiar – to pressure the world to force Jews to relinquish territory and property.

Despite an incessant terrorist campaign that left thousands of Israelis dead and more injured, the Arabs, now called “Palestinians”, were projected as victims.

In the delusional spirit of goodwill, Israel signed accords with a determined enemy, withdrew from developed land in Gaza with beautiful homes, rich agricultural infrastructure, and the beginnings of a tourist industry, traumatically removing its population, only to discover they had been tricked and trapped by international forums determined to reduce the Jewish ghetto in the Middle East further into areas of indefensible lines.

Israeli objections are met with diplomatic threats, boycotts, and the threat of violence.

As with the shtetl and the ghetto, nobody can assure the Jews of Israel that any withdrawal into vulnerable and over-crowded areas will put an end to the persistent threat of a Final Solution to the Jewish Problem in the Middle East. To any Israeli Jew with grave concerns comes a glib dismissal that Jews now have a strong army, so they can cope with the repercussions.

The international collusion with the Arabs is little different to the collusion of British officials exactly one hundred years ago in Jerusalem, Cairo and Whitehall who, instead of carrying out both British policy and the terms of the League of Nations Mandate to establish the Jewish national homeland, deserted their responsibilities by turning their backs on the Jews they were instructed to assist and, instead, duplicitously encouraged the Arabs to protest the Jewish presence.

What is going on with the false charges of “illegal occupation” and “illegal settlements” if not this?

Today, the effort is to reduce and diminish the Land of Israel further in favor of advancing a Greater Palestine that has failed to contribute any scientific, agricultural or social advancement within its society. Instead, they continue to nurture the age-old anti-Jewish attitude and the perpetuation of anti-Jewish hatred and violence. A Greater Palestine is divided within itself and united only in their determination to inflict further ethnic cleansing on the Jews of Israel.

From the shtetl to the ghetto to the Jewish State, little has changed in attitudes against the Jews in the last century.

Barry Shaw is the author of the best-selling book ‘1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel.’ He is also the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

Parashat Tazria-Metzora: "Unpleasant" Laws lead to Ultimate Oneness

By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

Rabbi Shmuel Bar Yitchak once noted that certain laws of the Torah, even though they seem to be disgusting and therefore inappropriate to discuss in public, are "sweet to God." Some examples of this area of law: halachot governing impure emissions from the body, the menstrual impurity of a woman, etc. According to the prophet Malachi, "the offerings of Judea and Jerusalem will be sweet to Hashem as in former days..." is a reference to the Torah portions of the male and female who each have impure bodily emissions; they could have been written in one unit, but they were not. They were to be discussed, "savored" separately by God.

The laws of ritual purity and impurity, though they seem unpleasant, are a direct function of the greatness of the people of Israel. Only Israel, a nation mandated to continually rise to higher spiritual levels, is required to distance itself from impurity to such a great extent. Today, these Torah portions don’t speak to us so much. We cannot truly imagine what it must have been like to live in such a reality, with complex laws of purity and impurity governing our lives, what it must have involved to sacrifice the Pesach offering in purity. We lack a sense of Kedusha, or holiness. We do not have the Beit Hamikdash, the Torah-mandated holiness of the Teruma offering, etc. Thus, no laws of impurity are practically applicable. In the meantime, when we discuss matters of ritual purity and impurity, we "darshen" try to get a peek into the internal mechanisms of purity and impurity.

Tza'raat is the leprosy-like illness mentioned in our portion. Our sages explain that "Metzora," the Hebrew term for the person stricken with this illness, is an acronym for "Motzi Shem Ra" - someone who is a purveyor of slander against others. When we deal with Tz’araat, we discuss the mitzvah of guarding one’s tongue and the like. In other words, as opposed to studying the illness itself, we examine the factors that bring it about. All of the various types of impurity mentioned in this week’s Torah portion are impurities that emanate from, and become evident on, the surface of the human body. Only after a sore manifests itself in the case of Metzora - or blood in the case of a Zav or Zava, does the impurity appear - on the skin, clothing, vessels... Once the respective impurities appear the process of healing can begin. When the impurity manifests itself, it "escapes," and the person is freed from the turmoil that was brewing inside of him...

Speech also helps bring out that which was bound up inside the person. If talk is positive and productive, it brings in its wake all sorts of positive results. But, if God forbid, one speaks slanderously of another, one thereby emits all sorts of unhealthy forces that spread and impact on him as a person: on his skin, hair, clothing and home.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook of blessed Memory discusses three different levels on which man expresses his connection to money and material possessions: in reference to Tz’araat sores, in reference to our father Ya’akov and regarding the great sage, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai.

In reference to Tz’araat sores, our Torah portion says: "When you arrive in the Land of Cana’an that I will give you as an inheritance, and I will provide the blemish of Tz’araat in the homes of the Land of your inheritance." To this, the Tosefta responds: "There never was and never will be a home smitten with Tz’ara’at. If so why was it written? To teach you that it is a value to elucidate the law and thereby receive merit." All of the laws and sundry details were given so that we learn these mitzvot and thereby receive merit.

Rabbi Meir notes that in reference to the illness of Tzaraat, the Torah commands the Cohen, the Priest, to remove even minor clay vessels from the smitten home, lest they become defiled. He adds that the people generally smitten by the illness are those of a low moral stature, people who have been guilty of speaking slanderously and improperly. Therefore, concludes R. Meir, the Torah is concerned with even the most minor vessels of wicked people!

A similar theme is evident in the life of our forefather, Ya'akov. "And Ya’akov remained alone." Said R. Elazar: he remained back in order to collect small clay pottery. After Ya’akov had guided his family across the river, and even though only minor possessions were left back at the camp, he went back to get them. He would not even forfeit the smallest clay vessels...

This midrash is quite perplexing. Ya’akov Avinu, we are taught, remained alone because he went back to retrieve tiny clay jars? He seems to be a real miser! This aloneness, however, that characterized Ya’akov gives our forefather a quality otherwise reserved for God - Who is also "alone".

When Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai fell ill, his students came to visit him. At the moment of his death, he said: Take the vessels out of this room due to the impurity [of my body once I am dead.] Prepare the throne for King Hezekiah the King of Judea..." Even if one can explain the eventual arrival of Hezekiah as preoccupying R. Yochanan before he dies, why should this great sage be worried about clay pottery and be worried that they be taken out of the building lest they be disposed of due to impurity?

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook offers an explanation as to the linkage between the above elements. We live in a world of separation, between light and darkness, Israel and the other nations, between the Shabbat day and the other days of the week. When the world was initially created, however, light and darkness were unified, and only thereafter are we told that God separated between light and darkness. In the future, the prophet Yeshaya tells us, the distinction between the light of the sun and the moon will disappear. In other words, at the foundation of all existence - all levels of the world are united. Only when they emanate into physical reality do they become divided; we thus experience darkness vs. light as well as various gradations of darkness vs. light. But in the future, these phenomenon will all unite. So, too, the distinction between Israel and the nations will become blurred, as the prophet Zephaniah teaches us: "Then, [says God], I will provide all of the nations with one mouth, to call in the name of God and to worship Him jointly".

In the future, all days of the week will be melded into one grand day that is completely Shabbat. The mundane will unite with the holy, forging one united reality of holiness. The distinction between the holy and profane is not an intrinsic, absolute division; it came to the world as a result of the sin of the Garden of Eden, which resulted in a split between the physical and spiritual worlds. But when the world is ultimately rectified and perfected, when all creatures call out in the name of God, then these divisions will dissolve. In the meantime, the light must impact on the darkness, the holy on the mundane, Israel on the gentile nations, etc.

This unity is characteristic of our forefather Ya'akov. Ya'akov, like God, remained "alone." In the end of days, as well, God will be "alone," in that no other gods will be worshipped aside from Him. The clay jugs were important to Ya'akov not because he was miserly, God forbid, spending his time on trite matters, but because he saw the jugs as part of an entirety of existence, a reality that encompasses all things big and small. Clay jugs also have their purpose!

Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai - before his encounter with the World to Come, mentioned the throne of King Hezekiah and called for the removal of vessels so that they would not be contaminated with the ritual impurity his dead body would create. At that moment, like Ya'akov our father, R. Yochanan understood the unity of all existence and the function of the most seemingly insignificant of objects:

Our sages teach that Hezekiah could have been the Mashiach, the Messiah; why then was he not allowed to be? Because he did not recite the Hallel on the great miracle that benefited him, when God killed in one night the entirety of the Ashur army. It was not Hezekiah, but the land, that then opened its mouth, so to speak, and sang. Rav Kook explains that although in Hezekiah’s day, Jews found themselves on a high level relative to both Torah study and spirituality in general, Hezekiah failed to translate that strength into an earthly holiness. It was not he who sang, but the earth itself that had to sing! Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai thus called for the preparation of a place for Hezekiah the King of Judea, as well as calling for the removal of vessels lest they become impure. These two approaches, though they represent opposite relationships and sensitivities to the fusion of physical and spiritual realities, are part of the same process. And R. Yochanan ben Zakkai understood that the process of redemption must engage and apply all matters, however contradictory...