Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shavuot: Connecting to Torah Study



For Rav Kook, it is axiomatic that the Jewish soul and the Torah are a match made in heaven. In his book analyzing the essential value of Torah study, "Orot HaTorah," Rav Kook wrote categorically that "The Torah is bound with the spirit of Israel" [12:1]. This is true not only on the national level, but also for each individual:

"Just as the national soul of Israel can only fulfill its potential in the Land of Israel, so too, each individual Jew can only fulfill his spiritual potential through the Torah" [12:7].


While this is nice in theory, in practice we know that things are not so simple. Not everyone takes to Torah study like a fish in water. If Torah study is indeed so natural to the Jewish soul, why do Jewish educators need to work so hard?

Rav Kook was of course aware of this problem. There are several reasons why the words of Torah may not find a place in one's heart. Some are practical, while others are spiritual/ideological. With regard to the spiritual causes for a lack of connection to Torah, Rav Kook addressed several aspects.

1. The Essence of Torah

To appreciate Torah study properly, we must recognize the essential nature of the Torah. The Torah is a revelation of "ratzon Hashem," God's divine will in the world. Because of our limiting physical nature, however, we are unable to truly recognize the Torah's greatness and loftiness.
Similarly, we need to have a proper appreciation for our divine soul and its innate sense of morality. Occasionally we err, but overall, we should have faith in our ethical sensitivities. Sweetness in Torah study is a function of refinement of character; the greater our moral sensitivity, the more we will identify with the Torah and its teachings. The Kabbalists expressed this special correlation between the soul and the Torah with the statement that each Jewish soul corresponds to a letter in the Torah.

This fundamental viewpoint is vital. When the Torah is studied in holiness, one may sense the expanse of the entire Torah, and how it extends from the very source of holiness.

2. Elevating the Details

One may recognize the divine nature of the Torah, but have no patience for its myriad details and laws. Sometimes a soul will aspire to contemplate lofty matters, and will be saddened when occupied by detailed minutiae. The soul will feel restricted and frustrated by these details.
The cure for this feeling of spiritual restriction is not to avoid Halachic studies, but "to elevate the value of each detail of the practical matters to the richness of its spiritual source." Elevating the details may occur through some sudden insight, or through a profound inner feeling that is the result of divine enlightenment. The degree of success in this elevation depends on the soul's refinement from steady inquiry into the heights of boundless spirituality.

In fact, an infinite sublime light shines in every word of Torah. This light is the absolute divine morality of Torah. One who is accustomed to revealing this light will perceive the inner spiritual content of each detail.

3. Find Your Portion in the Torah

Not all areas of the Torah study appeal to all people equally. In general, we should occupy ourselves in those pursuits to which we are predisposed. This is especially true regarding study, as the Sages taught [Avodah Zarah 19a], "One only learns that which the heart desires."
Some individuals have strayed and even abandoned the Jewish people because they betrayed their personal inclinations when choosing what to study. They may have been predisposed to philosophical matters, but lacking appreciation for their own special talents, they dedicated themselves to standard legal studies. Unsurprisingly, they felt an inner resistance to such learning, since concentrated study of this field was incompatible to the makeup of their soul. Had they focused on learning suitable topics, they would have realized that their inner opposition to Halachic studies was not due to some flaw in this sacred and needed area of knowledge, but because their soul demanded a different field of Torah study.

Lacking understanding of the cause for their inner conflict with Torah study, they attempted to override their natural tendencies. But as soon as an alternative path became available, they immediately rejected the Torah and the faith of Israel. Some of these individuals tried to promote ideals lacking practical foundations, and misled the world with their false visions.
Similarly, some people are naturally drawn towards the sciences or other secular studies. They should follow their natural inclinations, while setting aside set hours for Torah study. Then they will succeed in both areas: "Good is the study of Torah together with worldly endeavors" [Avot 2:2].

[adapted from Orot HaTorah sec. 2:1; 4:4,5; 6:2; 7:1,4; 9:1,6,8; 11:2; 12:1,7]

Parshat Naso


(from "Sanctifying G-d's Name", Or HaRa'ayon, HaRav Meir Kahane, ZT"L HY"D)

"And the L-rd spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, the L-rd bless thee and keep thee; The L-rd make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; The L-rd lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them." (Bamidbar 6:22-27)

"One time [R. Yishmael ben Elisha] entered the Holy of Holies to bring the incense, and there I saw Akatriel Y-H, the L-rd of Hosts, sitting on a high and lofty throne. He said to me, 'Yishmael, My son, bless me!' and I said to Him, 'May it be Your will that Your mercy should conquer and override Your anger, and You should treat Your children with mercy, going beyond the letter of the law,' and He nodded His head to me." (Berachot 7a)


These words are hard to understand. First of all, why did R. Yishmael choose precisely these labels for G-d: "Akatriel", "Y-H", "the L-rd of Hosts" (Hashem Tzeva-ot)? More puzzling still is G-d's request for a blessing. Does G-d need a blessing from mortal man on Yom Kippur, when He judges and rules over the whole world? Even stranger is R. Yishmael's blessing. How did he know that G-d would find it favorable?

Here is my explanation: R. Yishmael ben Elisha was the last Kohen Gadol before the destruction of the Second Temple. (He was among the ten martyrs killed by wicked Hadrian approximately sixty-five years after the Destruction.) It was clear to R. Yishmael in his holiness and divine inspiration that G-d was about to pour out His wrath on His nation, His land and His Temple.
When G-d "asked for a blessing", R. Yishmael understood immediately what this meant. When the Jewish People are in their land and the Temple stands in place, G-d's name is sanctified, because He is King. R. Yishmael entered the Holy of Holies and saw G-d sitting like a king on His throne, high and lofty, crowned specifically with labels of sovereignty and might. "Akatriel" represents G-d crowned as King. "Y-H" is likewise a label for strength, power and might. As King David said (Ps. 68:5), "Sing unto G-d, sing praises to His name. Extol Him Who rides upon the skies [aravot], Whose name is Y-H." He who rides upon "aravot", the Seventh Heaven (Chagiga 12b) is called Y-H.

Likewise we find (Ps. 89:9), "O L-rd, G-d of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Y-H?" Once more might and power are linked to Y-H. And "G-d of hosts" is a known label for power and might.
R. Yishmael knew that G-d was about to destroy His Temple and exile His children, which would lead to terrible Chilul Hashem. The nations' derisive question, "Where is their G-d?" would deprive G-d of His sovereignty, and He, too, would be in exile and servitude, so to speak. R. Yishmael understood that in this "zero hour", G-d desired a solution that would spare His having to profane His name through the exile of His children and destruction of His Temple.
He, therefore, knew precisely how to bless G-d; namely, that despite G-d's children deserving exile and destruction of the Temple in terms of strict justice, G-d should go beyond the letter of the law, exercising mercy to spare their being exiled. Then G-d would remain King without Chilul Hashem. G-d nodded His head "as if He were approving the blessing and answering 'Amen'" (Rashi).

This idea, that G-d "seeks help" so that He will not have to profane His name, is also found in Shabbat 89a:

"When Moses ascended on high... G-d said to him, 'Are there no greetings where you live?' [i.e., why did you not greet me?] Moses replied, 'Do slaves greet their masters?' G-d then said, 'You should have assisted Me', and Moses immediately invoked [Num. 14:17], 'Now, I pray, let the power of the L-rd be great.'"


G-d, applying Strict Justice, decreed that He would blot out Israel, and He asked Moses to provide Him with a pretext to save them by asking Him not to profane His name. Yet, Moses stood in fear before G-d, not daring to speak. G-d, therefore, provided him with an opening, telling Moses that although he was a servant, he must open the conversation because this would help Him. Moses understood the hint and immediately invoked a verse alluding to Kiddush Hashem, which is linked to G-d's power (while Chilul Hashem is expressed through G-d's weakness, so to speak).

Moses used that same verse in the spy episode, and the verse signifies: Let G-d's power be great and let Him not profane His power through the destruction of Israel. I believe this is Isaiah's intent (Isaiah 59:16) when he talks about the redemption that G-d is bringing, and he says, "He saw that there was no man; he was astonished that there was no intercessor, hence His own arm brought Him salvation." In other words, Israel can speed the redemption through acts of Kiddush Hashem, yet they do not do so, and "there is no man". This being so, the redemption will come only "in its time" (Isaiah 60:22), when G-d redeems them Himself, albeit with the suffering of the Messianic era, a point I shall later address.

This is also Rashi's intent regarding Numbers 6:26, "May the L-rd lift up His countenance unto you and give you peace", which he interprets to mean, "conquer His anger". This is difficult to understand, for when a person angers someone and is then chastised, who lowers their visage in shame, if not the offending party? It is he who is embarrassed and lowers his visage in shame. Thus, when the kohen blesses the people and says, "May He lift up His countenance unto you", asking of G-d that He "conquer His anger", as Rashi wrote, how can it be that G-d will lift up His countenance? He, after all, is the wronged party, the one who was angered, and it was Israel who angered Him. Does not logic dictate that the one who was chastised, the one who angered the other, Israel, should have to raise their countenance after G-d forgives them?

Certainly, however, here as well, the Torah has in mind the concept that G-d "is with us in trouble" (Ps. 91:15), that the Divine Presence is in exile, that the humiliation of Israel is a Chilul Hashem. It is the kohen's blessing that even if Israel are unworthy of redemption, G-d will redeem them for the sake of His name. After all, the rebuke Israel receive is, so to speak, rebuke to G-d, as well, and G-d's countenance, as well, is "lowered in shame" because of the derision and Chilul Hashem that He has suffered. It follows that G-d must first of all lift up His countenance and "Save Himself". Then He can save Israel, as well, such that they, too, will lift up their countenance.

From all the points raised above, we can understand clearly the true definition of Kiddush and Chilul Hashem within the true Jewish Torah perspective, and mainly, how important is Israel's duty to blot out, at all cost, national Chilul Hashem.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Parshat Bamidbar




WHO IS COUNTED - AND WHO IS NOT? (2000)

Written by Rav Binyamin Kahane z"tl h"yd,

Translated by Lenny Goldberg


The supreme importance that G-d places on the censuses of the population of the Children of Israel is clear: "He counts them constantly out of His love for them" (Rashi).

From the words of the rabbis, we learn a very stark lesson in the difference between Israel and the nations. We will bring one example of many in the Midrash: "This is comparable to a king who had many granaries, all of which were filthy and full of chaff, and he never bothered counting how many there were. He also had one particular granary which was kept clean and tidy. He told his son: Keep a careful reckoning of how much grain there is in this granary, how many sacks, how many scales for weighing the grain." The lesson is clear: most of the kings granaries were dilapidated, full of rubbish and filth - therefore, he saw no importance in them. A king does not waste his time with trivia. But in the midst of all his neglected granaries, he found - at last! - one that was clean and well-cared for. Precisely there, he commanded a careful and precise count to be made of the stock.

And what is the moral? "G-d told Moshe, The nations are the trivia, as it is said, "and the nations shall be as the burnings of lime; thorns cut down that are set on fire" (Isaiah 33:12) - therefore, don't bother counting them. But the Jews are righteous, as it is said, "And Your Nation shall all be righteous"; and similarly it is said, " 'You are beautiful my beloved, you have no flaws' - therefore, a counting of Israel is scrupulously taken"

6 Billion? Not Important...

The prophets and the rabbis teach us that in God's eyes, the nations are like thorns which have been uprooted; they have no great significance. This sort of thing does not have to be counted. Four billion, five billion, maybe six billion by now - so what?! How many Jews are there? - that is of paramount importance - important enough for God to want to know precisely.

In this same spirit, the Ramhal (Moshe Chaiim Luzzatto) writes in Derech Hashem (The Way of God) that God watches over every single Jew individually, while he watches over the other nations collectively. The prophet Amos (3:2) alludes to this in his statement: "You (Israel) alone I have singled out of all the families of the earth".

The Logic in the Choice of Am Yisrael

Many may say, "But this is unfair..." We quote here the explanation given by the author of Sefer HaChinuch in the introduction to his book. He explains that the very fact of there being one leading, important nation in the world, to which the other nations are subordinate, should come as no surprise. Indeed, the entire world is build thus. In every sphere imaginable, there is more refuse than substance. For instance, only a small minority of the world's land is arable, the majority being wasteland. If we look around at our surroundings with a discerning eye, we would understand this well, and it would come as no surprise that in the creation of the human species as well, God created a minority portion of greater consequence, surrounded by an overwhelming majority portion of refuse. Thus the author of the Sefer HaChinuch explains: "Not for your large numbers did God want you and choose you, but rather because you were the few among the nations". That is, the fact that we are small proves that we are chosen, for it is the way of world that the choice parts comprise a small portion of the whole.

Democracy For The Goyim

At this point we must ask: If this is so natural and obvious, why is it so difficult for people to grasp this idea? The answer is tied to the era in which we live in today. The idea of democracy began to govern the world about two hundred years ago. Its basic axiom is that "everyone is equal". True, this contradicts the natural way of the world, but most of mankind preferred adopting this system as a way to correct the cruelty and degradation that existed towards the lower economic and social classes. In this respect, democracy is fine. Though it may not jibe with the natural order of the world, it may be, post facto, a "tikun" for the nations of the world.

The Chosen People Must Reject the Goyish Ideas

But none of this is appropriate for the Nation of God. Democracy is simply the best of the worst systems which have been devised. For the gentiles, whose importance is trivial, it may be proper. But for Am Yisrael?! After all, the concept of absolute equality which democracy is built upon contradicts the very essence of "choseness" and the differing levels in the creation. Though democracy was established as a "first aid" to cure the world of its ills, all this is irrelevant to us. The real sickness is that this foreign concept has been embedded firmly into our psyches, causing us to worship at its altar. Let us free ourselves of these goyish concepts, and embrace the Godly idea of Israel as the Divine selection - "the few among the nations".

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Message from the Past for us to Remember on Jerusalem Day...



Jerusalem Day: The Two Messengers

The prophet Isaiah spoke of two messengers proclaiming the imminent redemption of Israel:

"Herald of Zion, ascend a lofty mountain! Herald of Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, do not be afraid!" [Is. 40:9]

Who are these two metaphorical messengers? Why was one commanded to scale the mountain, while the second was told to call out more loudly?

Zion and Jerusalem

Rav Kook explained that 'Zion' represents our aspirations for Jewish independence, while 'Jerusalem' is a symbol of our lofty visions for holiness and spiritual greatness. The 'herald of Zion' is none other than the Zionist movement, demanding the restoration of sovereignty for the Jewish people in their own land. This call is heard clearly around the world; there is no need to further raise its voice.

However, secular Zionism is only concerned with our legitimate rights to self-rule like all peoples. Its aspirations are no more elevated than those of any other nation.
The 'herald of Jerusalem,' on the other hand, speaks of our return to holiness, so that we may fulfill our national mission as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." She calls for the restoration of Jerusalem, our holy city, and the holy Temple. Unlike the herald of Zion, she stands on "a high mountain," i.e., her appeal is made from a holy, elevated standpoint. But her voice is faint and her demand is not heard. The 'herald of Jerusalem' seems to fear raising her voice too loudly.

The prophet found fault with both messengers. To the herald of Zion, he said: why are you standing down below, together with all the other nations? Why do you only speak of the commonplace goals of the gentile nations? "Ascend a lofty mountain!" Speak in the name of God, in the name of the Torah's mission for the Jewish people, in the name of the prophetic visions of redemption for Israel and all of humanity!

The prophet then turned to the herald of Jerusalem, and told her: you who call for the return to the city of holiness, you are speaking from the right place, demanding our lofty ideals. But your voice is not heard! You need to learn from the herald of Zion, and "lift up your voice in strength, be not afraid."

[adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah pp. 482-483]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Join the Protest!


For those of you who have not already heard, there will be a demonstration held tomorrow, Tuesday 22nd May, at 12:00 noon in Washington DC to coincide with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to the US.

It is every able-bodied Jew's duty to make it there and show Olmert that the faithful oppose him entirely, and as a show of force to warn President Bush against backing Olmert and Kadima's suicidal "convergeance" policy of expulsion and capitulation to terror. We must not allow this violation of Halacha and threat to Jewish life to go on unopposed! Show your support and be there!

See more details at:

http://www.revava.org/forum/index.php/topic,1865.0.html

and

http://bnaielim.org/

More information about the rally may be obtained from Jonathan Silverman (jonsilverman2002@yahoo.com), telephone: 718-304-3193.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Refua Shelema...

Please pray for a full recovery and Refua Shelema for Elchonon ben Chasha Miriam - the founder of this blog - who is undergoing surgery today to remove a brain tumour.

Send your wishes of Refua Shelema to him on his blog: http://www.stateofjudea.com/?p=117

The Last Message (A Plan for Jewish Sovereignty in all of the Land of Israel)


Last Message...

Take Your Own Destiny In Your Own Hands...

Binyamin Kahane's parting message was for the settlers to take matters into their own hands. The daily murder of Jews coupled with the futility of the IDF caused Binyamin to come to the conclusion that the settlers will inevitably have to fend for themselves - and that's a good thing.

Binyamin had already met with key people in the Samarian area ("Gav HaHar" - which includes the settlements Tapuach, Yizhar, Ittemar, Har HaBracha, Elon More) to help implement his plan - he felt that these settlements were more apt to agree with his approach, more willing to cut the IDF umbilical cord. He had just begun a "speaking tour" at various settlements to bring this idea over. The fact that he started going "public" after so many years of spreading ideas "quietly" is proof of how much he believed in this idea. In his last "shiurim", in his parasha sheets and during his speaking tour in the States, he also emphasized this message, tying it in with Hanukah: "The miracle of Hanukah was that Jews were ready to fight".

Below is the letter he planned to circulate among the settlers. It was read at his funeral by Rabbi Yehuda Richter:


"To my dear brothers and friends living in the mountains of Judaea and Samaria:

The situation currently facing us demands that we courageously re-assess all that we have believed until now. The issue before us is no longer just the fundamental problem of Chillul HaShem and Jewish humiliation; more, it is now a simple issue of straightforward security that involves each and every one of us.

Living in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, we are truly fortunate in that we comprise a community that, for the overwhelming majority, fears its God, loves its nation unstintingly, and is prepared for self-sacrifice. At this time of unrelenting strife, violence and an all but declared war, this faith grants us an insuperable advantage over those who live in ostensibly safer areas.

The capitulation of Joseph's Tomb - on Shabbat T'shuva, the Sabbath of Penitence (!) - shocked us all to the very depths of our souls. But, truth to tell, few if any of us were really surprised, particularly after the IDF gave the broadest possible hints of their intentions just a few days earlier.

The situation today is difficult and complex. On the one hand, we are fully prepared - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - to retain Jewish control over the Jewish homeland, maybe more prepared than any other sector in Israeli society. On the other hand, the IDF is being exposed - with all the good-will - as a confused body, lacking direction and ideology and, above all, with no faith in God.

Additionally, we daily witness Jews throughout the land rising spontaneously, the plain meaning of which is that they are sick of the current government and the situation that it has wrought, and that they yearn for a determined leader who will steer the state along a truly Jewish path. Together with this, simple actions of individual Jews from all the settlements (such as blocking roads to Arab vehicles) are more successful in casting fear over the Arabs than the IDF with all its APC's, jeeps, bullet-proof vests, inconsequential patrols, and bewildered commanders. And in the light of all these facts and their implications, we the inhabitants are determined to remain; we refuse to surrender our hold over our land, even as we refuse to acquiesce in the continuing humiliation of the Nation of Israel and the desecration of the Name of God.

My suggestion is as follows: Based upon the facts that I have outlined above, all the settlements on the mountain-ridge running north-south along the length of Judea and Samaria must conjoin with each other, forming a united leadership. This will immediately broadcast an unequivocal message to the IDF: "Just as you abandoned the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem - so, too, please abandon us. Abandon the entire mountain range whereon we live". This must be stated politely, calmly and rationally. "Clearly, you do not want to be here. You obviously do not understand what you are doing here. You have no overall aims whatsoever, beyond the idiotic aim of 'enforcing order'. There is no purpose at all, under these circumstances, in forcing you to remain here. We who live here are ready and willing to take full responsibility for this area upon ourselves. Just allow us this responsibility. As we all know, the government fully intended in any event to abandon virtually all this region to the Arabs, if only Arafat would have deigned to agree to their designs. So please, hand over this land to us. By the grace of God, here in these mountains we have wonderful youth and highly-trained military personnel whose morale is high; they will gladly accept this responsibility upon themselves. Ultimately they will take to their duties enthusiastically and, what is more important, with the faith in the God Who gave us this land. Just leave us the arms (and even if not, we will nevertheless succeed...), and HaShem will be our strength".

Without the slightest doubt, the Arab denizens will be terrified merely at hearing this news: authority here will no longer rest with the shackled Army which has for so long been the punching-bag of Arab hooligans. Rather, those "monstrous settlers" (and, thank God, the Arab media portray us as the devil incarnate, if not worse) will now take charge.

Without the slightest shadow of doubt, such a step would clear the air here. There will be a complete about-face: this news will, for the first time in too many years, attract youths in their hundreds - at least! - who would come here to help. At long last there will be genuine yishuv ha-aretz (settling of the Land of Israel) and the beginning of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel. This will put an end to the confused stammering and steadfast search for ways of handing over the land to the enemies of God, which have been the greatest obstacles to the Mitzvah which we are fulfilling here with our very being. Can we even begin to imagine the inspiration that this earth-shaking news would give to so many Jews, both 'secular' and 'religious', in Israel and abroad? It has been far too long since we experienced that deep and stirring feeling of Jewish national pride.

This is truly revolutionary! But it is far less revolutionary than the changes that have been wrought in the reality of Israel in the past few weeks, and we have nothing to lose. Even if the IDF does not accept this proposal - as can be expected, at least in the initial stage - then, at the very least, the military command and the government will realize that there is an additional and serious force on the ground, a force which they ignore at their peril.

Furthermore, for reasons of its own security, the IDF will want to prove that it can protect civilians; consequently, it will act more determinedly - at least, so far as it is capable within the limitations imposed by fear of the gentiles and of the Left which shackles it.

None of this entails separating ourselves from society. To the contrary, we will remain part of Israeli society, willing at a moment's notice to re-join, by agreement, that state which has, until now, refused for 33 years to annex us. We speak here not of separation, but of additional Jewish sovereignty over a part of the Land of Israel which has been too long abandoned. We act for the good of the Nation of Israel, for the good of the State of Israel, for the sake of our families' safety. Above all, we act for the sake of Kiddush HaShem, the sanctification of the Name of God, and eradicating its desecration until the hour of Final Redemption comes."

With grave concern and Ahavat Yisrael,

Binyamin Kahane

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Should One Say Hallel on Yom Yerushalyim?


by Rav Binyamin Zev Kahane

Translated by Lenny Goldberg

The Shulchan Aruch in chapter 697 brings down the halacha that if a miracle occurs, even for a specific individual only, he must make a celebration every year on the date that the miracle occurred, saying "Hallel" and praising G-d. From here stems the practice of saying the "Hallel" prayer on the anniversary of the Six-Day War victory, when all the Arab nations ganged up as one against Israel with the intention to obliterate the Jewish State. During those times there was no doubt in any rationally thinking person's mind that it was only a matter of days before Israel went under. By any normal standards of logic, there was no way that the Arab nations wouldn't be rolling into Tel-Aviv in a very short period of time to carry out their plans of slaughtering all the Jews.

But it did not happen. Within six days, we pushed back those very same armies (and if we only wanted to, we could have conquered their capitals), recapturing after 2,000 years the cities of Schem, Hebron, Jericho, and Gaza, as well as the Sinai (remember?), the Golan Heights, and most important of all - Jerusalem! During those days, only the blind could not sense G-d's Divine Presence and the Messiah knocking on the door, crying, pleading, and perhaps even threatening, "Return to me, and bring the Complete Redemption". After such an introduction, it would appear incomprehensible why so many Jews from various circles do not say "Hallel" on this day, and others are in great doubt regarding this matter.

And our answer to these people is: Just one "Hallel" should be said?! A thousand Hallels need to be said!! Hallel on the saving of Tel-Aviv, Hallel for Haifa, Hallel for the South and Hallel for the North; Hallel for the redeeming of Shchem, Hallel for the conquering of Jericho, and another Hallel for the stupidity of that dwarf king across the Jordan for entering the war despite the desperate pleas by the Israeli Government that he stay out - thereby granting us the opportunity for conquering Jerusalem and the rest of the territories.

But what do we do when despite these victories, we find ourselves floundering in this miserable reality of an Israeli government who do everything in their power to do away with the glorious miracles of 1967? How can we celebrate when they are ready to turn over to our enemies all the territories we gained? It is our obligation to honestly ask ourselves: Why say "Hallel" when the territory we conquered in 1967 are dissolving away, and we are about to return to a situation a lot worse than it was before the 1967 War?

Our answer to this question is the following: For the miracles that G-d granted us, we must thank Him no matter what, in the same way that we thank him for the miracles He performed for us in the days of the Macabees against the Greeks 2,500 years ago, despite the fact that the Temple was eventually destroyed. And we still thank Him for taking us out of Egypt despite the fact that we messed up pretty bad since then. But, But, But; if we want to be honest with ourselves, it is our obligation to combine our "Hallel" prayer with an all out war against all those who aspire to cast away the miracle we are saying "Hallel" for. We must act with great self - sacrifice against all those who are quite comfortable without G-d and without His miracles, and whose entire purpose in life is to rub elbows with the enemy and decide with them how to sell out the Jewish State.

On the other hand, all those who are not ready to gird their loins in the war against those who want to do away with the miracles and the country - for what are they thanking G-d? For the miracles that are about to be thrown away, which they do nothing to prevent?

Like anything else, the sincerity of our prayers can only be measured by how much we are willing to do to back our prayers up. Let us pay attention to these words.

What's with all the Exiles?


As of late - often due to the terrible events that are being played out in these dark days - I have found myself wondering: why did HaShem give us so many Exiles? Why not just one really long one and be done with it? And don't say "because we'd never manage without a miracle," because a miracle is precisely the only thing that has kept us going these past 2000 years or so!

It was actually really bothering me - but there was another observation that made me think and that was: compare the first exile to ours. In the first (Egypt) we kept our National Identity - our language, clothing and general dress. However, we were on the "49th level of tuma," and served idols. In essence, we had the "national aspect" but none of the "religion." In this exile it is precisely the opposite. We share no common language (although slowly this is changing with the beginning of the Geulah thank G-D); we share no common dress - we dont even share a common skin colour!

Then I realised that the message was clear - and it is ironic that this should occur to me in this period, between Pesach and Shavuot (for as Rabbi Kahane z"tl h"yd wrote in Ohr Hara'ayon; the Omer is the counting down of the period between us being stam a nation, and the moment we became a Chosen Nation of G-D).

On Pesach we became a nation, and on Shavuot we inherited the Torah, or - for lack of a better word - the "Religion."

Rabbi Kahane once put it like this: those who only have "nationalism" without "religion", and those who only have "religion" without "nationalism" are both standing on one leg, and will never go anywhere far.

Perhaps (and this is just my theory) one of the aims of Galut was to see if we could serve G-D even in the harshest of circumstances. It's easy when "each man sits under his fig tree" like in the times of Shlomo HaMelech - but what about when He's not feeding us everything on a plate? What about when G-D seems not to be "watching" or involved? Do we abandon ship, or remain loyal?

But more than that: like someone trying to test the sturdiness of his house, he will hit or tug at or push each individual supporting beam, to make sure that it is strong enough in and of itself.

Had the disaster of Galut hit all of our "pillars" or "supporting beams" at once, it could have destroyed us both as a nation and a "religion", and there would have been no "leg" or - better put - no "niche" for us to use to climb back up to perfection. We'd slip down to the "50th level" of "no return" G-D forbid, and with no way of getting back up!

So in the first Galut, we lost our "religion," and yet we managed to prove that there was something inherently special about us, because through it all we did not forget G-D and our heritage entirely, but rather kept some small sparks of kedusha alive (and remember, there WERE those Jews - e.g. Shevet Levi - who DID keep the spark of what "Torah" we had then alive as well, but they were very few in number and not really incorporated into the "Am", as they did no hard labour and did not partake in most of the hardships of the rest of the community).

But now we have to make sure that the Torah (given to us post Galut Mitzrayim) stays within us and that we remain staunch and loyal in our service of G-D - EVEN WITHOUT a nationhood as such,

(And just as a side point, in Galut Mitzrayim, we didn't have a Land to attach to any status of "nationhood," so our being a nation could still exist in another land. It is interesting to note that we were actually refered to specifically as a "nation within a nation!" Perhaps to show us this point... But before the 2nd Churban we did have a Land, and by losing it we lost out "national identity" so to speak, because it had become attached to a land which we had now lost!)

Well, I think that considering the harsh realities of Galut, there is a hard-core who managed to step up to the challenge and retain the Torah (just like only a hard-core managed to get through Galut Mitzrayim). So as a result we were given a "one-legged brother" (e.g. the early "Zionists,") who emerged in an abnormal fashion for a nation so long estranged from nationhood and national identity I think you'll agree...


Perhaps, it would seem, we hadn't actually "lost" the leg of nationhood at all - just neglected it - because since the founding of the state of Israel we have learned (or a few of us have at least) to "walk again" with two legs - but perhaps with a slight limp in one... or both... (depending on who/which "camp" you look at r"l)

It is time we stopped using the seculars as our crutch, and learned to be the perfect Jewish Nation that we should be, simply by following the Torah - and specifically those parts to do with the Land and Nationhood - because that is the "leg" that needs "excercising" the most!

It's time we walked on our own two feet strongly, sturdily and with pride. It is only then that we will stride proudly and straight into Ge'ulah - having thrown away the decadent one-legged establishment and secular leadership - who anyway become lamer and lamer each day even in that one leg of "nationalism" that they once had...

If, as a movement of the faithful, we do that, then we will merit Mashiach in a proud and glorious way. But if we continue to insist on using them as our "crutch" - unable to disassociate ourselves with the corrupt ones - then when that crutch snaps it could G-D forbid take us down with it, and it will take the Hand of G-D Alone to lift us back up - but the interim will not be pleasant as we lie bleeding on the floor (so to speak) chas vechalila...

May we merit to walk, proud and straight, on our own two feet soon, with our only crutch being HaKadosh Baruch Hu! And may we merit to see the Mashiach NOW!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rav Binyamin on Lag Ba'Omer



Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yochai: the Scholar Warrior (1993)

Weekly Parsha Commentary by Binyamin Zev Kahane
Translated by Lenny Goldberg



As Log B'Omer rolls around, one is reminded of the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi). The multitudes of Jews from all sects of Israeli life who flock to his grave site in Meron is testimony to the deep admiration that that the Jewish People have for this very special Jewish figure. The question may be asked: What makes Rashbi so special?

Rashbi was the prized student of Rabbi Akiva who was one of the Ten Martyrs of the Jewish Kingdom. Not for nothing did the Romans punish Rabbi Akiva with the death penalty and torture, for he played a central role in the organization of BarKochba's rebellion. The Rambam, at the end of Hilchot Milachim even says that Rabbi Akiva was Bar Kochba's "armsbearer". The 24,000 students who went in Rabbi Akiva's footsteps and fell in the war against the Romans, died during the "Sfirat HaOmer" period, and the traditional restrictions we practice today are an expression of the struggle of the Jewish nation for spiritual independence. Rabbi Akiva himself sat in prison for several years for denying the Roman decrees by holding public Torah rallys. For this he was eventually tortured and executed.

These were the two sides of the leadership of Rabbi Akiva: The willingness to go out and sacrifice for national sovereignty as well as the ultimate self-sacrifice for Torah. The fierce combination of nationalism and Torah that burned in his bones was passed on to his students, and the greatest of them all was the scholar-warrior Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who was ordained by his Rav after the rest of the students were killed in the revolution.

Rashbi established the basic Torah foundations of the Oral Law as we know them today. His Yeshiva put out the likes of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi who arranged the Mishnah. But just like his "Rav", Rabbi Akiva, Rashbi went beyond the learning and teaching of Torah. He never stopped trying to bring back Jewish sovereignty to Eretz Yisrael, and abhorred with all his soul the Roman occupation. His belligerent attitude towards the Romans he made no secret of, even when it meant putting himself in danger for just expressing such opinions. We are told in Trachtate Shabbot, 33: "Once Rabbi Yehuda said, 'How fine are the works of this nation (Rome). They have made streets, they have built bridges, they have erected baths'. Rabbi Yossi remained silent (from fear). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai answered and said, 'All that they have made they have made for themselves; they built market places to put harlots in them; baths to rejuvenate themselves; bridges to levy toils for themselves'." When these words got to the Roman authorities, a price was put on his head and he was forced to go underground for 13 years. During this time, he and his son Elazar were miraculously kept alive, and to them were revealed the wonders of the hidden Torah (which was collected in the "Zohar"). These difficult times did not break him, but only reinforced his hatred for this evil empire and he continued his struggle against the Romans to liberate the Jewish People.

Though Log B'Omer falls during the "sfira" where we mourn the death of Rabbi Akiva's students, it is a day of rejoicing. For when all the other students of Rabbi Akiva were killed in war, Rashbi managed to survive. He symbolizes the vitality of those who fought the Romans. He represents the continuation of the scholar-warrior. He is the eternal flame that cannot be extinguished, and will remain enkindled until the final victory of complete redemption, may it come speedily in our days.