answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Q: If I see someone violating
traffic laws, such as illegal passing, crossing a solid white line, or running
a red light, is it permissible or obligatory to report him?
A: It is an obligation on
account of saving lives (Pikuach Nefesh)."Do not standing idly over your fellow's blood".Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 388:12 (See
the book "Netivot Chaim" by Ha-Rav Asher Zelig Morsky regarding the
severe obligation to follow traffic laws).
Q: I daven and daven to
Hashem to heal me from my illness but He does not.Why?
A: We do not know.But the question should be the opposite: Why
when we commit our first transgression does Hashem punish us by paralyzing our
limbs, as the Ramak writes in Tomer Devorah on "Mi El Kamocha"?
Rising for the Elderly
Q: If an elderly person gets
on to a bus knowing that all of the seats are taken, am I obligated to give him
A: He did not act properly in
bothering others, but you are nonetheless obligated to give up your place
(Aleinu Le-Shabeach – Shemot, pp. 689-690.And Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said that one should give up his seat
as an act of loving-kindness.Vayishma
Moshe, vol. 2 pp. 210-211).
Coffee made by a Non-Jew
Q: Is it permissible to drink
coffee made by a non-Jew on an airplane?
A: Yes.There is no fear of him mixing in something
forbidden and there is no issue of Bishul Akum (the prohibition of eating food
cooked by a non-Jew), since it is mostly water.Shut Yechaveh Daat 4:14.
Pregnant Woman's Desire for
Q: Is it true that if a pregnant
woman desires a certain food, one should give it to her, even it is not Kosher?
A: Incorrect. Only if one
knows that if she does not receive the food then she and the fetus will be
endangered, or this can be discerned on her face.Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 617.
Laws of a Doula on Shabbat
Q: Is it permissible to call
a doula on Shabbat to tell her that labor has begun?
Q: In what ways can a doula
get to the hospital?
A: She may not drive and no
additional activity may be done to pick her up.She can therefore walk, be driven by a non-Jew, or travel together with
the pregnant woman from her house (This is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Yosef
Shalom Elyashiv.Kav Ve-Naki #107).
Q: Is it permissible for her
to bring items with her?
A: Yes, those that are
Q: Is it permissible for her
to go home afterwards?
A: Yes, with a non-Jewish
driver (see Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilchata 36:11).
Leftover Food from a Wedding
Q: Is it permissible for a
guest to take food which remains on the table after a wedding, since it will be
thrown out anyway?
A: No.It still belongs to the person who is having
the Simcha.One needs permission (Kav
Ve-Naki #60 in the name of Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv).
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayetze
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
What is a
friend? A friend is someone you can always rely on, under any circumstances.
He's always there with you when you need him, when you get married and when you
get divorced, whether you are healthy or sick, when you are leading an upright life,
but also when you are in jail. He may not agree with what you have done, but he
will still be with you, and when you get out, he will be waiting for you there
with a garland of flowers.
is a covenant. It is something very precious in the world that makes G-d very
happy. I’m not really thinking about friends who we have for our own personal
benefit, although that too can be good: Watch over me and I will watch over
you; mine is yours, but in exchange, yours is mine. The best however, is
friendship without keeping score. Eternal friendship.
isn't easy. Pirke Avot (1:6) therefore says, "Acquire a friend for
yourself". Not, “Choose a friend for yourself", but "Acquire a
friend for yourself", because with friendship, you've got to invest.
his commentary on the Mishnah, quotes from Aristotle’s “Virtues and Vices”: “A
friend is an extension of oneself. You and your friend are soul mates”, and he distinguishes
three types of friendships:
Friendships of utility. I am your friend because I benefit from our friendship
- like business partners. Those are not really friendships, because when a
person begins to lose out he announces that the friendship is over.
Friendships of pleasure. These, themselves, can be divided into two groups:
to have fun with. This can be like males and females who go together to have
fun. It goes without saying that marriage is something different. Obviously,
people have fun in marriage as well, but “having fun” is not the beginning and
end of the relationship. Quite the contrary, one can wed only after he
completes “friendship school”. Only then is one entitled to register in the
Higher Friendship Academy, as the Prophet Malachi said (2:14): “She is your
partner and covenanted spouse.” Obviously, one need not be perfect at
friendship before marrying - otherwise, we would never wed. Rather, we should
be reasonably capable, and then we can set out on a shared journey. It’s like
when the army commander calls out, “Troops, we’re going into battle
immediately! We’ll organize ourselves as we move.”
Security friendships. This refers to someone I can trust. I don’t have to be
careful about everything I do or every word I say, lest he use it against me.
He knows everything I do, without my having to fear that he will give me away.
Friendships of the good. This refers to friendships based on the great ideal of
goodness. This is what we were commanded to acquire: “Acquire for yourself a
friend.” It is a friendship that includes morality. Aristotle was right when he
said that this last type is the true friendship that everyone is looking for
(Nichomachean Ethics Chapter 8).
based on utility, fun or security are liable to have a selfish aspect. The friendship
may be based on self-love that is nourished by the mutual relationship. What is
the test of true friendship? Conceding in order to be good to the other person.
For example, if one friend is convicted of a crime, even though I am totally
opposed to what he did, I remain his friend. A more pleasant example is the
camaraderie of fellow-soldiers, which is built upon loyalty, trust,
and mutual responsibility. A soldier is ready to forego his own welfare for the
sake of his buddy, even if it means endangering his own life.
certainly, it is thanks to friendship that people are cured of exaggerated
philosopher Sartre said, “Hell is other people”. We can respond, “Heaven is a
friend”. I said that friendship means being saved from one’s exaggerated ego.
Therefore, friendship constitutes the entire Torah on one foot (Shabbat 31a).
The letters of the Hebrew word “Ahavah” [love] have a numerical value of 13.
Mutual love, the word “love” doubled, equals 26, the numerical value of G-d’s
name in Hebrew. Thus the Torah said, “Love your fellow as yourself. I am
Hashem” (Vayikra 19:18), as is explained in the Sefer Derech Moshe (Day
remains a friend, under any circumstances. If you are someone’s friend, then you
will stay with him in his time of trouble, ready always to assist him. Even if
he hurts you, you will remain with him. True, such a friend is no angel. He’s
just human, with falls and failures. If a person is using scissors with is
right hand and he accidentally cuts his left hand, will the left hand then cut
the right hand in revenge?! (see the Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). If your
teeth bite your tongue, will you bang your teeth?! (Derech Moshe, ibid.).
Now one might
say, “To be that loyal in one’s friendships is blind folly!” So be it. I’d be
happy to be blind and foolish in that way. The philosopher Erasmus in his work
“The Praise of Folly” wrote: “Is it not folly to close one’s eyes to one’s
friends’ shortcomings? Indeed it is a threefold or even a fourfold folly, yet
that folly is the glue that holds friends together. Why is this? Because we are
not dealing with angels, but with simple human beings, each of whom possesses
shortcomings. Friendship between people who are almost perfect, almost divine,
is boring, gray… and rare. And even that same stolid, somber friendship is
fragile and unstable, because with their sharp, penetrating gaze, each friend
will immediately discern that the other does possess shortcomings. Obviously,
as far as their own shortcomings, they will remain blind. They will not see the
can of worms hanging from their neck. Thus, since we are not angels, and there
is no human being without faults of greater or lesser severity, and taking into
account differences of age and education, misunderstandings, mistakes and all
the normal mishaps of life, how can a friendship endure for even a short time,
if we are not a bit crazy or at least naïve? Laugh all you want, but those very
close friends who stick it out, despite everything, those mildly naïve people,
are the ones who build true friendships and make their lives pleasant.”
(Erasmus, ibid., Chapter 9).
dear reader, should accept the truth from him that recorded it. After all, you too
are no angel. You too make mistakes, so be patient and easygoing with all your
help us! People are so egotistical that a true friend represents a real
miracle.It is a miracle! If you are a
friend only when you enjoy your fellow’s company, then you are not a true
friend. You are only a friend of yourself.
But if you
have a friend, give him what he asks for, when he asks for it. His use of the word
“please” should be a magic spell for you. And even when he does not say it, you
should know what he needs.
friendship is rare, but it exists. It exists within the family, between husband
and wife, or just between any two people. It’s a real source of joy. Its
existence proves that it is possible.
I owe a
great debt of gratitude to my teachers and mentors, David and Yonatan, for being
our teachers in the School of Friendship, and to you, O G-d, for creating
this week’s Haftarah we discover that the concept "The Decline of the West"
did not originate with the German philosopher, Oswald Spengler, but with the
prophet Ovadiah.The prophet obviously
does not use the expression "the West," but employs a parallel term
from the Hebrew tradition: "Edom."Esav is Edom, i.e. the father of the West.As Rashi explains (on Bereshit 36:43), one of
Esav’s princes, "Magdi'el," is Rome.
on the Tanachic-historical analysis of Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, it may be that
the early Christians were descendants of Edom, who were more-or-less forcibly
converted to Judaism by King Herod, whose memory should be besmirched. But even if the genealogical relationship is
questionable, it is the spiritual relationship that is important for this
discussion, and our Sages clearly identify Edom with Western Culture.
to our Sages, Ovadiah himself was a righteous convert, a descendant of Edom
(Rashi to Ovadiah 1:1).He knew exactly
what he was talking about. In the single chapter he bequeathed to us, he relates
the ultimate collapse of Edom: "A vision of Ovadiah: Thus said Hashem, G-d,
about Edom…Arise, and let us rise up against her in battle.I have made you small among the nations.You are greatly despised.The pride of your heart has deceived you, you
who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high, who says in his
heart: who can bring me down to earth?...For on that day, says Hashem, I will cause
the wise men of Edom to be lost, and understanding from the mountain of Esav…Because
of your violence against your (i.e., Edom’s) brother Yaakov, shame will cover
you, and you will be cut off forever…You should not have looked on the day of
your brother's misfortune, and you should not have rejoiced over the children
of Yehudah on the day of their destruction" (Ovadiah 1:1, 2, 3, 8, 10,
we return to the philosopher Oswald Spengler, we see that he was pessimistic,
and rejected the idea of humanity’s advancement.He arrogantlyclaimed
that the Jewish Nation had completed its historical role and was in the process
of disappearing from the earth's stage.He emphasized that there is an essential contrast between the Nation of
Israel and the German nation – the latter being the point of Edom’s sword.According to his opinion, there would be an
unavoidable collision between the young German culture, rooted in its land, and
the senile, cosmopolitan, homeless Jewish culture.But amazingly, as revealed each day before
the nations of the world, the three-thousand year old Nation, despite its
suffering and Exile, has the youthfulness which allows it to be reborn in its
Land, while Europe is in a process of dissolving and being consumed by despair.
Decline of the West will occur not because human history will stumble, but on
the contrary, because it will succeed.
answers hundreds of text message questions a day! Here's a sample:
Guarding One's Eyes
Q: Is guarding one's eyes
(deriving pleasure from the opposite gender (aside from one's spouse) or
looking at immodest images) a halachah or stricture?
A: It is certainly a Torah
Mitzvah.We recite three times a day:
"And do not be led astray after your heart and eyes" (Bemidbar
Q: Where can I find sources
from a spiritual perspective on guarding one's eyes?
A: Sefer Reishit Chochmah,
Sha'ar Ha-Kedushah, chap. 5.
Q: Is it also forbidden to
look at single women?
A: Certainly."I made a covenant with my
eyes, how then can I look at a young woman?"Iyov 31:1.Rambam, Hilchot Isurei Biah, chap. 21.
Facing the Door
According to the Torah, should one refrain from sleeping with his feet facing
It is a superstition taken from Feng Shui.
Why was Yaakov Avinu punished because he didn't want to give Dinah to Esav for
marriage – Esav was wicked?
The Alter of Slobodka explained that he was punished because he was not pained enough
over his brother's state.
Food to Someone who will Not Make a Blessing
Is it permissible to sell prepared food, such as a drink or cookies, to someone
who will not make a blessing?
It is forbidden to give such items as a gift to someone who will not recite a
blessing.Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim
163:2.But it is permissible to sell it
to him.Torat Chesed of Ha-Gaon
Mi-Lublin, Orach Chaim #5 (It is asked in Shut Divrei Chachamim, p. 281:
Regarding the law of "Do not place a stumbling block before the
blind," is it permissible for someone who owns a restaurant to serve food
to a secular Jew who he knows will not recite a blessing?Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and the Steipler
Gaon answered that the world relies of Ha-Gaon Mi-Lublin to permit it).
I feel like I live in two worlds.I
learn Torah and perform Mitzvot, but I also sin a lot.Perhaps I should stop with the Torah and
Mitzvot so I can be complete with myself?
You should certainly not give up but rather add as much Torah and Mitzvot as
you can.See Igeret Kiddush Hashem of
the Rambam."Just because someone
ate garlic and his breath stinks, should he eat more garlic and make it
worse?!" (Berachot 51b and Ain Aya of Maran Ha-Rav Kook ibid.).
of the Tree of Knowledge
Why do so many people think that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was an
Christian art (see Berachot 40a and Bereshit Rabbah 77:7 that it was either a
date, wheat, grapes or Etrog).
Were the Ten Commandments rounded or square on the top?
Square.Baba Batra 14a.The idea that that they rounded is from Christian
art (The Lubavichter Rebbe was strongly opposed to using the round design.Shaarei Halachah U-Minhag, vol. 1 p.
199.And the same is true of the
Steipler Gaon.Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot
2:535.Ha-Rav Moshe Sternbuch writes, however,
that while it is preferable to use the square design, it is permissible to use
the round design since it is not an exact depiction but rather merely a
Sick Person Who Hates Him
Is it permissible for one to visit a sick person who hates him, or is there a
concern that he will be offended that he came to see him in his time of suffering?
He should clarify the situation through a third party to see if the sick person
would want to see him or not.See
Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335 with commentators (Shach ibid. #2 and Hagahot
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Toldot
5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
certainly a believer in G-d. After all, he'd dared to argue with Him! He also
believed in G-d's might, andthought
that it was possible to bend the will of G-d to match his own will, to force
G-d's hand, and to dictate to Him. Thus, he was no prophet, but a sorcerer and
a magician - a spiritual technician who held that by way of certain mystical
measures it would be possible to transform G-d's will to be like his own. G-d
could be tempted, G-d could be deceived. G-d could be manipulated as a means
towards achieving his own ends.
it was as clear as day that G-d did not want him to curse the Jewish people."Do not curse the nation, because it is
blessed" (Bemidbar 22:12). Even so, he sought out one trick after another
to carry out his scheme and curse us. Bilaam thought that not everything is
always revealed to G-d; that G-d is not always in the same state of awareness.
It was therefore possible, he thought, to take advantage of moments of
inattentiveness in order to curse the Jewish people (Rashi 22:9). Likewise, if
G-d did not wish him to go with Balak’s princes to curse Israel, perhaps he
could curse them from his present location (Rashi 22:12).
Or, if he
couldn't curse them, then he could bless them (ibid.) and conceal veiled curses
within these blessings. It was entirely clear to Bilaam that G-d opposed his
plans and was angry. Even so he went, thinking, "Perhaps I will be able to
induce G-d to accept my plan" (Rashi ibid. 20). All the same, because he
had a great desire to curse, and that was the overriding factor (Rashi 22), he sought
every possible avenue. He told the angel, "If you consider it wrong, I
will go back home" (ibid. 34), by which he meant, "True, you are obstructing
my path, but G-d gave me permission" (Rashi ibid. 34). Obviously that
wasn't true. G-d had not given him permission, but He had given Bilaam free
will (Rashi 22:9). "A person is led along the path of his own
choosing" (Rashi ibid.).
told the angel: "G-d gave me permission and you are nullifying His words.That's common with G-d - He says one thing
and an angel nullifies it, as when he told Avraham to sacrifice his son on
Mount Moriah, and then he had an angel nullify it. Here as well, you have the
final say" (Rashi ibid. 34). The bottom line, according to Bilaam, is that
G-d did not have the final word. The angel did, and it would suffice to come to
an arrangement with him.
the miracle of the talking donkey and the angel blocking his path, Bilaam still
thought he would succeed in finding an escape hatch to bribe G-d. All along the
way, Bilaam was hoping that perhaps G-d would agree with him. "Perhaps G-d
would come to meet him as he wished" (Rashi 24:1). After all, Bilaam saw
as his life's goal bending G-d's will to his own will. Yet since all of his
previous attempts had failed, he had an alternative strategy: "I will
mention their sins, and that will give my curse a foothold" (ibid.). In
the end, after all his efforts failed, he used a doomsday weapon, literally
inciting them to sin. "I will tell you what to do: their G-d hates sexual
sin... my advice is that you make them sin" (Rashi 24:14), and this was
carried out with Moabite women (ibid. 25:1).
doubt, the man was very wise. Indeed, he was a great genius equipped with
lofty, mystical talents. Yet he used those talents to oppose G-d's will and to try
to bend G-d's will to his own: “You might ask: Why did G-d cause his divine
presence to rest upon a wicked non- Jew? It was to prevent the nations from
being able to say: ‘If we just had prophets we would repent.’ G-d thus sent
them prophets, and the nations rebelled. At first they were sexually chaste,
but Bilaam advised them to abandon themselves to promiscuity" (Rashi
dead, but his disciples and his disciples’ disciples continue to contaminate the
world among each of the nations. For some of them, the most important thing is
their own will. For them, the world is a means to their satisfying their wishes.
They want to bend G-d's will to their own; to nullify it before their own.
however, Avraham’s disciples, say "Treat G-d's will as your own so that
your own will becomes like his (G-d will so love your wishes that they will
become like His own). Nullify your own
will before His (the fear of G-d), so that the will of others will be nullified
before your will" (Avot 2:4). The ideal for us is to increase G-d’s glory
Raphael Hirsch distinguishes between Avraham, who when he went to sacrifice
Yitzchak said (Bereshit 22:5), “We will bow down”, i.e., we will humble
ourselves, and Bilaam, who told Balak, “Stand by your burnt offerings” (Bemidbar
23:3). i.e., stand erect.
Bilaam, his disciples think that the purpose of sacrifices is to make G-d
capitulate to our will. Therefore, since the Patriarchs built seven altars in
all, Bilaam also built seven altars. (Rashi 23:4). We, the disciples of Avraham,
do not involve ourselves with magic and sorcery, but with serving G-d, and we do
not force Him to do our will. Actually, we would wish to sacrifice ourselves as
Avraham did when he brought Yitzchak, and we long to do all we can for the sake
of his name.
disciples look for every possible way to make the commandments fit into their
world, nullifying, erasing or minimizing. They scratch away at the edges of
Jewish law, neutralizing halachot by all sorts of pseudo-halachic arguments.
After all, their whole world consists of I, what I want, what I feel. "I
have set myself before me always." What determines whether a Mitzvah will
be relevant and in force, is whether or not I emotionally take a liking to
support their utterances with nonsensical comments, claiming that our Sages
nullified Mitzvot that they found inconvenient, such as Shofar when Rosh
Hashanah falls out on Shabbat, Lulav on Shabbat, Prozbul, and Heter Iska. In
their opinion, these enactments provide a flexible model suited to the needs of
forbid! It's just the opposite! These laws were enacted in order to do G-d's
will. They constitute holy reverence for G-d's will, and a fear of the Sabbath
being profaned, or a fear that people will refuse to make free loans to the
Reform and Conservative Jews at first did not wish to differ openly, so they
invented all sorts of Prozbuls and Heterei Iska and Shabbat timers to change
the Torah, to make life easy for themselves. In the end however, the cat came
out of the bag, and their true face was revealed. The idea of moving to the
Land of Israel was not so easy for the Reform Jews either, so they blotted it
out of their prayer books and dispensed with their longing for it. Indeed, in
our Holy Land, they constitute a marginal minority. Still other examples of self-deception,
as though in the name of the Torah, can be found in Mesillat Yesharim, Sha’ar Ha-Nekiyut.
“Bilaamic” foundation for preferring man’s will over G-d's likewise finds expression
in Torah learning. There are two approaches to Torah learning: the traditional Torah
approach and the academic approach. The traditional approach of our Sages and
of their disciples and their disciples’ disciples says the following: Moshe is
true and his Torah is truth. The words of the Medieval Sages are truth and the
words of the later Sages are truth, and we stand before this heavenly truth
with holy reverence. We do not understand everything, but we know that this is
the truth. We therefore break our heads trying to understand this truth, and
when we do not understand it, we lower our heads in humility and we say:
"This requires further study.” Who requires the further study? We do. When
the eminent genius Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes regarding Tosafot, “this requires
further study,” he does not mean that he recommends to the author, the Tosafot,
to examine their own words more carefully. Rather, he is addressing himself,
saying that he must examine the text more and more until he understands it.
our predecessors were angels, then we are human beings. If our predecessors
were human beings, then we are like donkeys” (Shabbat 112b). It is therefore
not surprising that we do not always understand what Rashi says. Quite the
contrary, what is puzzling is that we sometimes do understand it. We strive to
adapt and exult our intellect to Rashi's level.
Bilaam's modern disciples say, "I decide what is right and what is not,
what the verse means and what it does not, and if Rashi or our sages did not
say what I say, then that is a question on them. It shows that they did not
understand the topic so well and we understand it better."
of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere G-d and observe all His
commandments, for that is man’s whole essence” (Kohelet 12:13). Man’s whole
essence – the fear of G-d! If you dictate to G-d what to do, that's not reverence.
ask: True, Avraham’s disciples have things good in the World-to-Come, but the
disciples of Bilaam have things good in this world because they do what they
like. If G-d robs us of this world, then we have to be honest with ourselves
and admit that the disciples of Bilaam have the better deal.
not true, however. Bilaam's disciples descend to Gehinom whereas Avraham's
disciples enjoyed this world and inherit the next, as it says, “Endowing My
friends with wealth, I fill their treasures” (Mishlei 8:21. See Avot 5:23).
be our goal: to draw near to G-d, and not to draw G-d near to us. After all, we
know what G-d’s will is, so let’s not try to be overly smart. Rather, let us be
the living fulfillment of, “Relate to G-d with perfect faith” (Devarim 18:13).
Haftarah presents us with two types of repentance: repentance unto
Hashem and repentance to Hashem.
his rebuke of the Nation of Israel, who was deeply entrenched in sin, the
prophet Hoshea proclaimed: "Israel, return unto Hashem your G-d for
you have stumbled in your iniquity.Take
words with you and return to Hashem" (Hoshea 14:2-3).This linguistic pair “unto/to” is repeated
numerous times, showing us that it has special significance (and in general,
there is nothing fortuitous in the Tanach).We see this doubling in other places: "Yet even now, says Hashem,
return unto me…and return to Hashem your G-d" (Yoel
2:12-13).And we read about the prophet
Yirmiyahu: "Let us search and examine our ways, and return unto
Hashem, Let us lift up our heart with our hands to G-d in heaven"
(Eichah 3:40-41).When we turn to the
Oral Torah, we find a statement from our Sages that proper behavior which is
not for its own sake reaches unto the heavens, while proper behavior for
its own sake reaches to the heavens (Pesachim 50b).In order to complete the list, we turn to the
Torah itself: "And you will return unto Hashem your G-d…when you
will return to Hashem" (Devarim 30:2-11).
is quite clear that there is a distinction being made here, and we must try to
figure out what these words mean with regards to repentance.For this purpose, we permit ourselves to use
the language of mathematicians.The word
"unto" ("ad" in Hebrew) means that the borders are
not included and "to" ("el" in Hebrew) means that
the borders are included.Therefore,
repentance unto Hashem does not include Hashem Himself.But is repentance without Hashem possible?
on the theory of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, this type of repentance is seen in the
Zionist movement, which has shaken the Nation of Israel over the last one
hundred and twenty years.He wrote at
the end of his book "Orot Ha-Teshuvah" that the awakening of the
Nation to return to its Land, its identity, its spirit and its character truly
contains the light of repentance in it.And this phenomenon is fully clarified by the Torah's expression:
"And you will return unto Hashem your G-d…when you will return to
Hashem" (Orot Ha-Teshuvah 17, 2).
it possible to find a rational explanation for a movement that causes the
return of the Nation of Israel to its Land?At the time of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, this movement was at its modest
beginnings.In our time, we have a
state, an army, an economy, a living language and many of the fundamentals
which contribute towards our national revival.There are those who will protest: Zionism is a completely secular
movement!But do they know what is
hidden in the recesses of the soul of Israel?Have they penetrated our national sub-consciousness?
Ha-Rav Kook (ibid.) concluded that this is inner repentance that is “covered
over”, but there is absolutely no impediment which can prevent the supreme
light from appearing upon us.
Israelis envisioned for themselves a Holy Land without holiness, a holy
language free of holiness, a Kingdom of Hashem on earth without Hashem, an army
of Hashem without a King on High, even a Tanach free of Torah.But we are not led astray by this.We see the immeasurable self-sacrifice which
allowed the national revival of the Nation of Israel.We know with full confidence that the Jewish
soul – including the pioneers before the establishment of the State and the
soldiers after the establishment of the State until this very day – yearns for
this return to, this inner repentance.
are therefore optimistic.We are
confident that the Jews who repented unto Hashem will eventually repent to
Hashem and everyone will be transformed into lovers of Torah.And then all of the lovers of Zion will also
become lovers of the G-d of Zion.
[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Chayei
Sarah 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]
the chief mistake of the disciples of Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, and
of Religious Zionism in general? Obviously we are only human and we make many mistakes,
but it is good to know the main point from which all of the problems derive - such
that if we rectify that main point, all the details will be rectified as well.
error is that their longing for the fear of G-d was shunted far aside by
their overwhelming longing to love G-d, rejoice in G-d, find strength
and fortitude in G-d, and find pleasantness and tranquility, faith and belief
All of these
things are fine and important, and essential in our generation, which is a
generation of redemption, as Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote in his famous letter,
Letter #378, in which he notes the need to explain the repentance suitable to
the generation: “Before all else we must clarify the confidence, tranquility,
strength and joy with which the individual must be enveloped when the light of
repentance illuminates his soul…” (page 36).
for this need is that “if someone seeks to achieve a lofty understanding of repentance
in these times without taking into account the redemption unfolding before us, and
the light of salvation, he will not arrive at the truth” (ibid., 37).
Now we can
understand Rav Kook’s testimony about himself: “What a harsh inner struggle I
wage, and what a powerful spirit induces me to talk about repentance. All my thoughts
are concentrated on this” (Introduction to Orot Ha-Teshuvah).
therefore wonder: if this letter was written in 5671, why did Rav Kook delay publishing
Orot Ha-Teshuvah? As of 5685 he had written only three chapters and then stopped?
In fact the book was only published when his son, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, compiled
that work from his father’s various manuscripts.
well-known that Maran Ha-Rav Kook was blessed with divine intuition. That being
the case, what caused the delay? Rav Kook answers this himself: “The greater
the matter, the more the hindrances” (Igeret #378). The reason for this is that
the person must also “seek ways to ensure that this true joy and holy bliss do
not impinge on one’s fear of G-d, and do not in the least lessen the spiritual
arousal acquired through all sorts of aspects of earthly fear. Quite the
contrary, that joy and bliss should be increasing the force of one’s spiritual
caution and alacrity” (ibid.). In other words, Rav Kook was afraid that sublime
repentance would harm our conventional fear of G-d, as well as jeopardize the caution
and alacrity elucidated at the start of Mesillat Yesharim, i.e., caution to
avoid all sin and alacrity to perform every mitzvah.
difficult for me was achieving a precise clarification” (ibid.). That is, Rav Kook
expressed his difficulty in striking a precise balance between how much we must
address joy and how much we must avoid this. This is the hard work of finding a
balance (and see Orot Ha-Teshuvah at the end of Chapter 14).
is this: joy does not erase the fear of G-d. Rather, it constitutes a stage
above it, and quite the contrary, it strengthens it. Rav Kook likewise writes
in Chapter 1 of Orot Ha-Teshuvah, that supreme repentance will appear after the
lower stages of repentance, they, themselves, having developed into the higher
the same in the Zohar, which notes the contradiction between “Serve G-d in
fear” (Tehillim 2:11), and “Serve G-d in joy” (Tehillim 100:2), and resolves it
by stating that
should serve G-d in fear and afterwards in joy (Zohar Vayikra 56:1).
his article “Ha-Dor,” about his generation, Rav Kook wrote, “They are incapable
of repenting out of fear, but very fit to repent out of love” (Ikvei Ha-Tzon
111). Yet that involves a non-ideal situation in which the edifice is
constructed starting with the upper stories. All the same, when we have to
rescue someone, we do it however we can.
however, afterwards the fear of G-d has to be filled in, for the Torah includes
a mitzvah of fearing G-d, and that mitzvah has not been nullified.
fear of G-d is the foundation of all else. “The beginning of wisdom is the fear
of G-d” (Tehillim 111:10); “What does G-d ask of you other than to fear Him?”
L-rd your G-d and serve Him” (ibid., 10:20); “Any person who has Torah in him
but not the fear of G-d is like a thief who has been given the inner keys, but
not the outer keys” (Shabbat 31a); “The sum of the matter, when all is said and
done: Revere G-d and observe all His commandments, for this applies to all
mankind” (Kohelet 12:13).
if there is no fear of G-d, the love of G-d will collapse as well, as the Jerusalem
Talmud explains: “One verse states, ‘Hashem your G-d’ (Devarim 6:5), while
another states, ‘Fear Hashem your G-d and serve Him’ (ibid., 6:13). Exercise
both love and reverence.
love, so that should you be prone to hate Him, your love will already be there,
and one you love you cannot hate. Exercise reverence, such that should you be
prone to show G-d disrespect, your reverence would stop you from doing so.”
(Jerusalem Talmud Sotah 5:5).
loves cannot hate, but he can show disrespect. There are all sorts of disrespect.
There is harsh disrespect, such as rebellion, trespass, willful sin and casting
off one’s yoke. There is subtle disrespect, coated in a false coating of love.
Examples include, “I can’t connect to Torah”; “It doesn’t speak to me”; “I have
to be true to myself”; “I have to heed my inner voice”; “I listen to the G-d within
me”; “Accept me as I am”. All these comments represent New Age thinking, which
was adopted by “Neo-Chassidism”, which is actually Neo-Paganism.
it is possible to find such expressions amongst the great figures of Chassidism,
or in the writings of Rav Kook, they are only in very small doses. When,
however, such an approach occupies a much larger place, when a marginal point
becomes the be-all-and-end-all, it turns into idolatry. This subtle disrespect
creates all sorts of sins, under the veil of serving G-d joyfully.
reverence can save one from such disrespect, because fearing G-d means seeing yourself
as a servant of G-d who created us and brought us out of the House of Bondage.
As it states in the “Sefer Ha-Gan” by Rabbi Yitzchak ben Rav Elazar, a disciple
of Moshe Ha-Darshan: one who fears G-d constantly thinks: “I was created only
to wholeheartedly be G-d’s servant, as it says, ‘Serve G-d with all your heart’
(Devarim 11:13)… This means sincerely… Every individual must undertake to
submit himself totally to G-d, to fear Him at all times, and to serve Him as a
servant who must serve his master. He mustn’t behave like a person who
sometimes obeys and at other times does not. Rather, one must perform G-d’s commandments
with constancy… Neither should one pass up the least commandment of His Maker”
(Sefer Ha-Gan Le-Yom Rishon).
say, “But surely we attach ourselves to G-d better as G-d’s children than as G-d’s
servants.” The answer to that appears already in the Zohar: Even a son cannot escape
being his father’s servant, albeit that he has permission to glimpse into the
king’s treasure house. (Zohar Vayikra, Behar, 111:2:272).
this: “The sum of the matter, when all is said and done: Revere G-d and observe
all His commandments, for this applies to all mankind.”
our Haftarah, the prophet Malachi bitterly laments the catastrophic state of
the priesthood during the period of the Second Temple: the cohanim had turned
into the lowest level of technocrats offering sacrifices.Following the behavior of the cohanim,
Malachi warns with anger: "Hashem of Hosts says to you: O Cohanim, you who
despise My name.And you respond: In
what way have we despised Your name?You
offer disgusting bread on My altar and you say: In what way have we polluted
You?" (Malachi 1:6-7).The prophet
emphasizes that the religion has changed radially from what it is supposed to
be, service and closeness to Hashem, into something mechanical, a ruse close to
idol worship, a device designed to attain favors from Heaven.If service of Hashem could sink to the level
of business for profit, why shouldn't the cohanim limit their expenses?They simply decided: we have spoiled food
which cannot be used, so why don’t we save money by offering it on the altar?
After all, either way it will be burned in the fire, and G-d Himself will not
cohanim were unaware of the seriousness of their behavior, and their attempts
at justification made their transgression even worse."In that you say: The table of Hashem is
contemptible" (7).You are
profaning Hashem's Name and turning the religion into a business of fraud."And if you offer the blind for a
sacrifice, is it not evil?And if you
offer lame and sick animals, is it not evil?Please offer it to your governor; will he be pleased with you or will he
show you favor? – says Hashem of Hosts" (8)."You have brought stolen, lame and sick
animals as a sacrifice.Should I accept
this from your hand? – says Hashem" (13).We must not forget that a worker in the Temple, whether a cohain or a levi,
is before all else an educator.Before
his death, Moshe Rabbenu described the role of the Tribe of Levi in this way:
"They shall teach Your statutes to Yaakov and Your Torah to Israel.They shall place incense before Your presence
and burnt offerings on Your altar" (Devarim 33:10).
were obviously involved in the holy service in the Temple, but they also had
great influence over Torah learning throughout the entire Land.Their role in the Temple only occupied them
for a few weeks each year.During the
remaining time, they would travel from place to place to teach, educate and
build spirituality. This was all in order to come closer to G-d, since they
themselves were capable of getting ensnared in the monotonous routine of daily
life and forgetting about the light (Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Orot, Orot Ha-Techiya
prophets returned to this topic with a special emphasis."And you should know that I have sent
this commandment to you, so that My covenant will be with Levi, says Hashem of
Hosts.My covenant was with him for life
and peace, and I gave them fear with which he feared Me and was afraid of My
Name" (Malachi 2:4-5).The cohain –
and in our time, the educator - needs to actualize in his own life the great
ideals which he will teach to others: awe of Hashem and humility.The Divine service he performed in the Temple
was not merely the focus of his activities -it had to be his way of life as well.His service was built upon an inner sense of nullifying one's ego before
the Creator, a merging of one's character with the Divine light."The Torah of truth was in his mouth,
and iniquity was not found on his lips" (6).The character became united with the Torah in
all of its truth.Intellect and emotion
are Torah, the body and the spirit are Torah.And unjust words never departed his lips.
behavior was to be without stain, and his societal relations were to be the
climax of his purity: "He walked with me in peace and uprightness"
(6).Closeness to Hashem must reveal
itself not only in the highest spheres of his character but also in his
interpersonal relations.When people
would meet a person such as this, they would have to be influenced.Before they would judge the cohain on his
actions or his worship, they would judge him on his behavior towards other
people.They thus would see that the
Kingdom of Hashem is not only in Heaven, but is also on earth; that the awe of
Hashem which fills and directs the cohain is expressed through behavior of
peace and love.Therefore, "many
turned away from iniquity" (6).In
order to return others to the straight path, one must first be an example of
the cohain's lips should keep knowledge and they should seek Torah from his
mouth" (7): The cohain is a man of knowledge, a Torah scholar, but the
essence is "for he is an angel of Hashem of Hosts" (ibid.).He is an angel on earth!This expression says it all!Our Sages rule that one should only learn
Torah from a rabbi without blemish."If the rabbi is similar to an angel of Hashem, seek Torah from his
mouth, and if not, do not seek Torah from his mouth" (Moed Katan 17a).
Torah is not only a theoretical science, it is instruction for life.It is told that a professor of Jewish thought
was asked by a student: "Why doesn't his honor perform what he
teaches?"He responded: "Does
a math professor have to be a triangle?"The comparison obviously lacks reason.
Sages tell us that in a large city in Babylonia, with many wise people, there
was once a great rabbi who allowed himself to be involved in extra-marital
relations – and this caused major gossip.The Sages were extremely distressed by this desecration of Hashem's
Name.After a difficult discussion, they
decided to excommunicate him (Moed Katan ibid.).One needs great courage for a decision such
as this, but it was necessary since their rabbi, despite his wisdom, was far
from being an angel of Hashem.
To Enrich the spiritual life of the English-speaking World through the Torah of Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. By offering English translations of Rav Aviner’s written and oral Torah, this division of the yeshiva aims to expose English speakers to a powerful, sensitive and poetic voice unparalleled in our time. His unfailing optimism, his tolerance and love all Jews, his guidance for harmony within the Jewish family and his dedication to Eretz Yisrael, the State of Israel and Tzahal will inspire and enrich the lives of all who may now have access to his words.