Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"The Kohen Gadol [High Priest] Among His Brothers" (Leviticus 21:10)

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir


The Kohen Gadol's job was to atone for the entire Jewish People and bestow of his benevolent spirit on the entire nation, lovingly. As the kohanim say each day, blessing G-d "who sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love." Indeed, there were two ornaments on his outfit, and they contained the names of all the tribes of Israel. There was the breastplate [choshen], on which were embossed twelve precious jems, each different from the rest, and engraved on them were the names of the tribes. As it says: "The stones shall contain the names of the twelve sons of Israel, one for each of the twelve [stones]. Each one's name shall be engraved as on a signet ring, to represent the twelve tribes" (Exodus 28:21). The breastplate lay on the Kohen Gadol's heart, as it says, "Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel's sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God" (verse 29).

The second ornament, the sardonyx stones were on the Kohen Gadol's shoulders, over his apron [ephod]. On them as well were the twelve names of the tribes engraved, as it says, "Take two sardonyx stones, and engrave on them the names of Israel's sons. There shall be six names on one stone, and the remaining six names on the second stone [inscribed] in the order of their birth…. Place the two stones on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones" (28:9-12).

The entire Jewish People, in all their tribes and variations, down to the very last Jew, are engraved on the heart and weigh on the shoulders of the Kohen Gadol as a constant remembrance before G-d. The heart hints at the Kohen Gadol's great love and the shoulders hint at the responsibility resting on the Kohen Gadol.

Already with the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish People had two leaders: Moses, our political leader who led us through the desert, gave us the Torah and judged all Israel. Along with him was his brother, Aaron the Kohen, who bestowed of his benevolent spirit on the people. Aaron "loved peace and would pursue it. He loved his fellowman and would bring him closer to Torah" (Avot 1). During the First and Second Temple periods as well we had high priests some of whom bestowed of their benevolent spirits on the political leadership, i.e., on the kings and on the entire nation.

In our own generation, the generation of national rebirth and the ingathering of the exiles, the further we move along the ascending path towards complete redemption, the more we encounter difficulties and complications from within and from without. Precisely at this time we need responsible, strong and wise political leadership that will know how to lead the nation to the goals and destinations for which purpose it was created. And alongside that political leadership we need moral and spiritual leadership, like the air we breath, which can bestow of its spirit on the nation and its leaders, just as the Kohen Gadol did.

Our generation has been privileged in that G-d, who plants in our midst the souls that each generation needs, planted the magnificent, benevolent soul of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhcak HaKohen Kook, zt"l. He was like the Kohen Gadol of our generation and of the generations to follow. Rav Kook bore the nation upon his heart and his shoulders. He loved our nation infinitely Just as G-d loves Israel, and just as we bless G-d who "chooses His people Israel with love." Rav Kook bequeathed to us the light that illuminates our pathways and our souls, as well as the souls of the generations to come, until the advent of a righteous redeemer, speedily in our day.

The day is not far off when the light of Rav Kook will illuminate the path of the Jewish People, in all their streams and all their variety, and will be revealed for all to see. Then we will be the living fulfillment of, "A new light shall shine over Zion, May we all speedily merit that light."

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Moshe and Aharon - The Menorah and the Ark

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh


"You shall command Bnei Yisrael that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil." (Shemot 27:20) The placement of this topic here is strange; it should have been written earlier in Parshat Teruma, adjacent to the instruction of the Menorah!

Furthermore, what is the connection to Moshe of this specific mitzvah: "You shall command," "they shall take for you"?

The Netziv explains this based on the Midrash Rabbah on the Parsha:

"Bring near to yourself." (28:1) This is what it says, "Had your Torah not been my preoccupation, then I would have perished in my affliction." (Tehillim 119:92) When G-d said to Moshe, "Bring near to yourself Aharon, your brother," he was upset. [G-d] said to him, "I gave you the Torah. Without it I would not have created my world."

In many places in his commentary to the Torah, the Netziv addresses two styles of learning towards the correct Halacha. One is the method of comparing one case to another, and the other if called "pilpul" of Torah," which means clarifying the Halacha based on the methodologies through which the Torah is expounded. The Netziv generally writes against the method of learning through pilpul, and he degrades it, because the commonplace manner of differentiations and pilpul not for the sake of Torah do not bring to clarifying the truth. However, here we are dealing with "the laws that are the rules of the Torah," and this is leads to the climax of learning which is called "Torah lishma." [He calls this "pilpul of Torah," to exclude the disrespect of the maskilim who objected to involvement in theoretical issues.]

These two styles of learning have legitimate place in Am Yisrael, and they have paradigms, Moshe and Aharon.

In Nedarim (38a) it says: "The Torah was given only to Moshe and his descendents." The conclusion of the Gemara is that this refers to "pilpul." According to the Netziv, this was Moshe's strength, to reach a conclusion based on the rules through which the Torah is expounded. In contrast, it says about Aharon, "to instruct Bnei Yisrael," i.e., Aharon's strength was through comparing cases through logic. In one instance, he outreasoned Moshe on the issue of the goat sin-offering. There it says, "Moshe heard, and he approved." (Vayikra 10:20)

With this, he explains a fascinating point in the matter of the mekoshesh at the end of Parshat Shelach. After he desecrated the Shabbat, and "it had not been clarified what should be done to him," they "brought him to Moshe and Aharon, and to the entire assembly." (Bamidbar 15:33-34) However, Moshe and Aharon were relatives, so how could the two sit together on a case? Rather, the two of them were heads of different Sanhedrim, each one in his own way. When they were uncertain of the law of the mekoshesh, they brought the case before Moshe, perhaps he would rule through investigating the methods by which the Torah is expounded, and also to Aharon, perhaps he would clarify it through logic.

This is what it says, "If a matter of judgment is hidden from you ... you shall come to the Kohanim, the Levites, and to the judge who will be in those days." (Devarim 17:8-9) The kohen rules though the method of logic, whereas the judge through the method of "pilpul."

There are two vessels that indicate this in the Mikdash, the Ark and the Menorah. The Ark contains the two Tablets, which are the written Torah and represent comparing one to another. However, the Menorah is the "pilpul" of Torah. This is indicated by the seven candles, which correspond to the seven wisdoms, which are the kaphtorim and flowers of the Menorah. Therefore, when a talmid chacham would say something nice his colleagues would say "kaphtor vaferach." Therefore, in the times of the second Temple, when there were many Yeshivot and many students, they merited the miracle of the Menorah. One who sees olive oil in his dream, should expect the light of Torah.

Thus, we understand the placement of the portion here, and not in Parshat Teruma. Immediately after the commandment to Moshe, it says, "Bring near to yourself Aharon your brother," and the Midrash says that Moshe was upset. Therefore, G-d prefaced by saying to Moshe that his share in Torah in chiddush and pilpul is greater than Aharon's share. Thus, the making of oil applies especially to Moshe, and the Torah says, "You shall command," "they shall take for you" - for yourself. Therefore, the Midrash says, "Had your Torah not been my preoccupation" - by delving in deeply and analyzing it, and this is the joy of learning in a manner of pilpul!

Islamic Anti-Semitism in France: Toward Ethnic Cleansing

by Guy Millière

  • Graffiti on Jewish-owned homes warn the owners to "flee immediately" if they want to live. Anonymous letters with live bullets are dropped into mailboxes of Jews.
  • Laws meant to punish anti-Semitic threats are now used to punish those who denounce the threats. A new edition of a public school history textbook for the eighth grade states that in France it is forbidden to criticize Islam.
  • Those French Jews who can leave the country, leave. Most departures are hasty; many Jewish families sell their homes well below the market price. Jewish districts that once were thriving are now on the verge of extinction.
  • "The problem is that anti-Semitism today in France comes less from the far right than from individuals of Muslim faith or culture". — Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
Pictured: French soldiers guard a Jewish school in Paris. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Friday, January 12, 2018. Sarcelles. A city in the northern suburbs of Paris. A 15-year-old girl returns from high school. She wears a necklace with a star of David and a Jewish school uniform. A man attacks her with a knife, slashes her face, and runs away. She will be disfigured the rest of her life.
January 29, again in Sarcelles, an 8-year-old boy wearing a Jewish skullcap is kicked and punched by two teenagers.
A year earlier, in February, 2017, in Bondy, two young Jews wearing Jewish skullcaps were severely beaten with sticks and metal poles. One of the Jews had his fingers cut with a hacksaw.
Before that, in Marseilles, a Jewish teacher was attacked with a machete by a high school student who said he wanted to "decapitate a Jew". The teacher used the Torah he was carrying to protect himself. He survived but was seriously injured.
In France, anti-Semitic attacks have been multiplying.

For Now and for Generations

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l
In the context of the oil used for the Mishkan, the Torah writes, "tzav (command)." Chazal tell us that this implies a commandment that was to be carried out immediately but was also to apply for generations to come and that it is also a term that is used when there is a need to deal with an outlay of money (Sifrei, Bamidbar 1).

The connection between Hashem and His Torah and Bnei Yisrael is a natural one. "I will never forget Your instructions, for through them You have given me life" (Tehillim 119:93). They are natural for us. As the Mahari Mintz says on the pasuk, "For it is not an empty matter for you," it is not something that can be emptied out of you. 

This is the idea behind the commandment for now and for future generations. This is a sign that it is not something external, but something that flows from our essence. The nations of the world complained to Hashem over the fact that He did not hold Mt. Sinai over their head and force them to accept the Torah, as he did for Bnei Yisrael (Avoda Zara 2b). The Yalkut (Bamidbar 684) adds to the midrashic account that Hashem responded that they should show Him their genealogical records. How does that respond to their complaint? Hashem was telling them that based on their predecessors, it would have not helped to hold the mountain over their heads because they were not linked to the Torah in a natural way.

This also explains the statement of Chazal (Sifrei, ibid.) that tzav implies rallying the people to be diligent, which is effective specifically for those who are naturally diligent. In order for it to work, people need to have a natural proclivity to get the job done. That is why the commandment will be fulfilled even when it requires a loss of money. 

"Now, command Bnei Yisrael" (Shemot 27:20). Even though they are Bnei Yisrael, their completeness will express itself only if you command them. If they just do a good deed because their emotional feelings bring them to it, then there will be a lack of longevity and consistency to the good deeds. We know and see how Jews who do not conform to the obligation to follow the Torah often display "a Jewish good heart." This is because they come from a chain of generations of people who kept the Torah. However, only when there is a commandment for now and for generations can we be sure that mitzvot will be kept consistently and not just when the mood or ‘the weather’ points in that direction. By being something that starts immediately and continues forever, a connection is created between the distant past and the distant future.

These ideas are also engendered in the pasuk, "You are they who cling to Hashem, your G-d, you are all living today" (Devarim 4:4). Just like the day brings light to the world, which is a natural thing, so too the clinging of Bnei Yisrael to Hashem is natural and brings light to the world.

The Garments of The Kohanim - Honor and Glory

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The garments of the kohanim - the priests of Israel - occupy a great deal of space in this week’s parsha. These garments were meant to bring "honor and glory" to those who donned them. But they were also meant to be "honor and glory" to all of Israel. For when our religious leaders are objects of "honor and glory" we, their followers and public supporters also share and bask in that "honor and glory." The garments of the kohanim represent their sense of devotion and service to the God and people of Israel. This sense of devotion and holiness was supposed to cover the kohein at all times and to become part of his personality and worldview. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that this was the message of the rabbis that stated that nothing was to be between the actual body of the kohein and the clothing that he wore. The garments of "honor and glory" were to become the very being, the skin if you will, of the kohein himself. Only if he constantly operated on the lofty plane of service and honor to God and Israel could he meet the challenge of being a kohein. Clothes may or may not make the man but the sense of honor, duty and loyalty that the garments of the kohanim represented certainly defined the sense of greatness that was expected from him. Once having had the privilege of wearing those holy vestments, the kohein was bound forever after to the concept of "honor and glory" that those garments represented and demanded.

Clothing plays a great role in current Jewish society. Certain sectors of our society identify their closeness to God and tradition in terms of the clothing that they wear. There is no doubt that clothing makes an impression upon those who see us and upon those who wear it. Research has shown that schools that have a school uniform have an ability to deal with problems of student discipline more easily than the free and open schools of casual, whatever you like type of dress. But there is a responsibility that comes with wearing special clothing. And that responsibility is to be people of "honor and glory." The Talmud states almost ironically that he who wishes to sin should travel to a place where he is unknown and to wear "black clothing" so that his behavior will not reflect on the whole of Israel. There are differing interpretations of what "black clothing" means in this context. But it is clear that it means a type of anonymous and casual clothing that will not reflect upon the Torah community and Judaism generally. One cannot wear the garments of "honor and glory" and behave in a fashion that contradicts those values of "honor and glory." Wearing garments is something that should never be taken lightly. For with the garments come the responsibilities and challenges as well. In the Second Temple when the anointing oil crafted by Moshe no longer existed, the rabbis stated that donning the garments of the priesthood was the installation ceremony itself of the kohanim. I think that this is true in our world and time as well.

Wipe out Amalek

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El


"Remember what the Amalekites did to you on the way, when you left Egypt. They met you along the way and attacked the weak members of the nation at the back of the pack, and you were exhausted. They did not fear God... And it will be, when God gives you rest from your enemies round about, in the Land that God has given to you as an inheritance, you are mandated to wipe out the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens - Do not forget!" (Devarim 25:17-18)

The mitzvah to remember the evil deeds of Amalek is not an obligation to merely remember that nation's actions, but to recall that we have an obligation to blot out the memory of Amalek. There are those for whom this mitzvah is difficult to accept; their humanistic leanings have a hard time grappling with such a commandment...

We have witnessed this kind of attitude in the past, as the sages say in Tractate Yomah (22b) "When God say to King Saul: 'Go and wipe out Amalek,' Saul said: 'For the murder of one soul, the Torah required the [intricate ceremony of] neck-breaking of a heifer, ['Eglah Arufah']. For all of these souls [that you have instructed me to kill] how much moreso would [such atonement be required!]' And even if human members of that nation sinned, in what way did the animals sin [that I should be obligated to kill them?

And if the adults sinned, what did the children do to deserve death? A Heavenly Voice descended from on High and said: 'Don't be too much of a Tzaddik (Righteous person)"'.

It was because of this attitude that Saul lost his position as King of Israel, because he acted compassionately to Agag, King of Amalek and did not kill him. Compassion towards the wicked is really wickedness. Because of Saul's misplaced compassion, our sages tell us, the evil Haman- a direct descendant of Agag - was nearly able to exterminate us.

It is along these lines that Rabbi Levi opened his speech in honor of Purim: (Talmud, Megillah, 11a): "If you do not uproot the inhabitants of the Land, and allow them to remain - they will become thorns in your sides, and will cause trouble for you in the Land in which you dwell." (Bamidbar 33:55) This verse is speaking of King Saul, and of his error in sparing Agag.

The mitzvah, then of wiping out Amalek, actually stems from the value of compassion and kindness - compassion on all those whom Amalek threatens to exterminate. This mitzvah is an ongoing one, and valid even today. The cursed Nazis were the spiritual heirs of Amalek. They did not just want to exterminate us; they succeeded in actually murdering many millions of our people, a full-one third of the world's Jews! Today, too, there are those - driven by a deep-seeded anti-Semitism - who desperately wish to kill us. These are the people whom the Torah commanded us to obliterate, to leave no memory of them...

European Officials: Apologists for Arab-Islamic Repression, Terrorism

by Giulio Meotti

  • European officials have been not only mute about the Iranian regime's attacks on its own people. They have also been missing "a robust defense of Western values", now under attack in Iran: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, separation of religion and state, judicial due process.
  • The European Union these days is alarmed about political reforms in Poland, but totally quiet about Erdogan's "coup against civilians" in Turkey.
  • How is it possible that Pope Francis, the world's highest Catholic authority, does not feel any urgency to denounce the avalanche of anti-Semitism and hate coming from the Islamic authorities, but pleased them by sending a letter of support?
  • As these last few years of terror attacks should have proven to them, they delude themselves if they think that this deadly ideology will be kept confined to Tehran, Ramallah or Ankara.
How is it possible that Pope Francis, the world's highest Catholic authority, does not feel any urgency to denounce the avalanche of anti-Semitism and hate coming from the Islamic authorities, but pleased them by sending a letter of support? Pictured: Pope Francis with Ahmed el-Tayyib, Grand Imam of Cairo's Al Azhar, at the Vatican on May 23, 2016. (Image source: RT video screenshot)
Federica Mogherini has been busy in recent weeks, appeasing one repressive regime after another. Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, began with Iran. "Mogherini was mute on the popular uprising in Iran," wrote Eli Lake at Bloomberg.
"She waited six days to say anything about the demonstrations there. When she finally did, it was a mix of ingratiation and neutrality. 'In the spirit of openness and respect that is at the root of our relationship,' she said, 'we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and to guarantee freedom of expression'".

How the IDF Is Preparing for Multi-Front War

by Yaakov Lappin

Photo courtesy of IDF
BESA Center Perspectives Paper

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The IDF is implementing a plan to improve its ability to operate on multiple battle fronts simultaneously. While there is no indication that any one of Israel’s enemies is interested in initiating a full-scale war in the near future, the growing explosiveness of the region means that any tactical incident can snowball and turn into an unintended armed conflict very quickly – and one front can ignite others.

Continue to full article ->

Literature

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
The Jewish Press (February 16, 2018) asked a number of rabbis to address this interesting but rarely-discussed question: “Some of the most famous and important works of literature contain passages and themes that are immodest in nature. May a G-d-fearing Jew read these works for the good they contain, or must he forego reading them entirely?”

This is the link to the entire feature: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/on-the-bookshelf-23/2018/02/16/

These were my thoughts on the matter:

I don’t believe there is a definitive answer to this question, although it is certainly easier just to say “no.” Much depends on motivation, purpose, context, source, and especially the precise nature of the immorality, of which, of course, there are gradations. Perhaps the most important determinant is the message that is being delivered. Ancient and medieval works generally frowned on immorality and as such reinforce a Torah message while more modern and contemporary works often celebrate immorality. Usually, no good comes from the latter and prolonged exposure to values that are antithetical to Torah will eventually dilute the reader’s moral perspective and later his or her practice and commitment as well.

It’s important to note that Chazal (recorded in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307:16) banned the reading of “divrei cheshek” - loosely, books of romance - as a waste of time that could be spent on more godly pursuits and as a tool that could only increase illicit temptation. Books that might fall under that genre must therefore have some redeeming value. Its prurient aspects must be incidental to its primary message for it to be considered appropriate and worthwhile. Fiction generally, Rav Kook wrote, affords us the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of another person’s experiences and thus can broaden our horizons. But not every lifestyle or experience deserves to be investigated, studied or fantasized about and certainly not emulated. So caution must be applied.

That being said, there is one Book that exposes the vices and venality that can permeate human nature and is unsparing in its accounts of our failings. It is superior to any work of fiction. That Book is the Tanach. And we can rest assured that its moral guidance is always spot on. Anyone who wants to learn about our potential for degradation as well great virtue is urged to study the relevant passages and not just skip over them. They provide a solid grounding in moral instruction and, nevertheless, occasionally put human dysfunction on display. One who is drawn to indulge in problematic works of literature would be well advised to study the works of Tanach instead, especially the chronicles of the early prophets. “Turn in it and turn in it, for everything is in it”( Avot 5:22).

There will be no Palestinian Arab State

Israel is not the problem, the Arabs themselves do not want a state.

By Prof. Paul Eidelberg, INN

When the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO, was formed in 1964 – three years before Israel repossessed Judea, Samaria, and Gaza – it was not the goal of the PLO’s sponsor, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, to establish a Palestinian state in Eretz Israel.

Not only was there no such thing as a Palestinian – unless that term described both Jews and Arabs living under British authority during the period of the mandate – but Nasser had pan-Arab ambitions which entailed the liquidation of the “Zionist” state and its incorporation into Egypt.

If further proof is wanted that a Palestinian state was never really on the agenda of the PLO, only recall how Yasser Arafat rejected Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of 95% of Judea and Samaria, including eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Barak even agreed to an initial return of 100,000 Arab refugees!

No, there will be no Palestinian state. Hamas, which is supplanting the PLO-Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, is not interested in statehood, and neither is al-Qaeda, now establishing itself among the self-styled Palestinians.


This clearly indicates that the idea of a Palestinian state – which never really took hold in the Arab-Islamic world – is passé. Hamas, like al-Qaeda, is a spearhead of Islam’s global ambitions, in which the very concept of the nation state is anathema.

It follows that the only rational policy for Israel’s government is to destroy the entire terrorist network in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. This done, the government must immediately incorporate Judea and Samaria into the State of Israel.

Moreover, and as I have elsewhere elaborated, the government must institute a Homestead Act for extensive Jewish settlement of these areas. As for the Arabs living therein, they should receive financial and other incentives to emigrate, as tens of thousands have already done.

Anything short of such measures will only lead Israel back to the Oslo quagmire and deathtrap.

We need a leader in Israel who has the wisdom and courage to pursue, steadfastly and courageously, the positive national strategy outlined in the previous paragraph.

All talk about resuming the so-called peace process via renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority promises only more of the folly and timidity that have dominated Israel since the miracle of the Six-Day War.

Prof. Paul Eidelberg (Ph.D. University of Chicago), former officer U.S. Air Force, is the founder and president of the Israel-America Renaissance Institute (I-ARI), www.i-ari.org, with offices in Jerusalem and Philadelphia. He has written several books on American and on Jewish Statesmanship. His magnum opus The Judeo-Scientific Foundations of American Exceptionalism: Today’s Choice for the “Almost Chosen People” is in process of publication. Prof. Eidelberg lives in Jerusalem.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Temple: The Flavor of Life

by Moshe Feiglin

“And they shall make Me a sanctuary so that I will dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its vessels, and so you shall do. (From this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, Exodus 25:8-9)

“The Temple somehow connects to my soul in an unbelievable way. It is something that I do not understand, but it is my Jewish essence that is connected to it. I don’t know, I don’t think about it. I simply want and anticipate and hope that I will also participate, with G-d’s help, in the building of the Temple.” (Manhigut Yehudit supporter, Emmanuel Gertel, in the film “Awakenings“. Gertel is not an “Orthodox” Jew.)

“Yes, it has to be budgeted and it must be done. What is the problem? When I go to the Kotel with my son, I explain to him that it is like being outside, in the parking lot.” (Manhigut Yehudit supporter Uri Noi, answering the question: Do you support the building of the Third Temple now? In an interview (Hebrew) on Israeli television. Noi is not an “Orthodox” Jew.) What is the pull of the Temple? What are they connecting to? It is not only the ‘crazy’ seculars of Manhigut Yehudit who are connected to the Temple. Herzl also spoke about the Temple, as did Yair Stern, who insisted on making the building of the Temple part of his 13 principles, despite the fact that he knew that it would distance many of his fighters. Why do we need such a primitive and bizarre thing in our modern times?

For Emmanuel, the Temple Mount plucks on heartstrings so deep that he cannot even describe them. Uri the intellectual reaches the same point through the dimension of national pride; we also need a Buckingham Palace we can call our own; the Prime Minister’s residence simply does not fit the bill.

Both of them are right. But as someone who for years has been going up to the Temple Mount and trying to understand why it mesmerizes the world, I would like to add another dimension.

From the day that the Temple was destroyed, our Sages explain, the taste of life was taken from us and given to the idol worshippers. In other words, since the Temple was destroyed, we really don’t have much of a life. We are like zombies, walking shadows, not people who are really alive. We can choose between living a life of recluse, sequestering ourselves from the world and its temptations; the Christian method, or we can choose the Moslem, animal method of living a life of physical lust. But to synthesize between the physical and spiritual, between body and soul; to create a life of harmony between the two, is not possible without the Temple. The flavor of life has been lost.

How is the Temple connected to all of this?

The Temple on the Temple Mount is a physical point that can be located on a map. It is the place chosen by the Creator to manifest His Divine Presence and from which to spread it across the entire earth. In other words, the Temple is the connection point between the physical and the meta-physical. It is like the human brain that while it has grey matter, it is also the seat of thoughts and emotions. The Temple is the brain of the universe. It is the place where the physical and meta-physical meet and create life. When the Temple was destroyed, it was as if our brain was taken and replaced by a robot; not really life at all. A robot cannot enjoy life; its flavor is irrelevant to it.

Longing for the Temple is longing for life, for the renewed connection between body and soul in both the individual and universal dimensions. Humanity, in its entirety, anticipates the fountain of life that will burst forth from Jerusalem. Ultimately, it will force it upon us. In the meantime, the world is angry at us for not supplying the merchandise; and rightfully so.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Winter of our Content

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

The great baseball player Rogers Hornsby, still holder of the single-season record batting of .424, once said: “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

He is not the only one, and this has nothing to do with baseball. It has been an unusually cold winter in much of the United States with temperatures even in New Jersey hovering for weeks near zero degrees. Let the scientists debate the global ramifications; each side offers definitive proof to its proponents of the correctness of its views and the errors of their dissidents. All I know is that it is cold outside, and then it gets colder. I am not even warmed by the realization that our ancestors in Eastern Europe – in Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere – lived through much colder winters although I am certain that added to the general melancholy of life in the Pale of Settlement and places further east.

There are some people who enjoy the winter, with its beautiful vistas and the opportunity to ski some exotic mountain ranges. All I see is snow that has to be shoveled and ice that has to be avoided lest one encounter some unexpected peril. There are cities in the world that suffer during the winter with only seven hours of daylight, something which can only add to the desolation. Those who enjoy warm weather endure the winter and wait for spring, and those who spend the winter in temperate climes and complain when their thermometer hits sixty degrees find little sympathy in these parts.

Adding to the gloominess is that we have no Biblical holidays in the winter. The holidays that are recorded in the Torah all occur during the spring and fall when the climate is temperate and the verdant beauties of nature are alive. In essence, the three regalim (Pesach, Shavuot and Succot) are all agricultural holidays, notwithstanding their historical connotations as well. The winter, therefore, should be the time of our discontent.

And yet, that is the way G-d re-created His world when mankind was redeemed after the Great Flood. G-d promised never again to destroy the world and afforded our ancestors the variety of climatic conditions experienced today by much of the globe: “As long as the earth exists, there will be seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night; it will never cease” (Breishis 8:22). As there is a cycle to life, so too there are rhythms to the year, and in each new setting, we are challenged to be productive, serve our Creator and spread kindness among His creations.

The winter, its chill and precipitation are all opportunities to praise G-d and marvel at His creation. “Praise Hashem from the earth…fire and hail, snow and vapor, the stormy winds fulfill His word” (Tehillim 148:7-8). Life is not all “mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars” (ibid 148:9). G-d is the Master of nature in all its forms – and the Master of nations as well, “kings of the earth and all nations, princes and all judges on earth” (ibid 148:11).

The earth lies dormant during winter. It conserves its strength, marshals its energies and finds renewal in the spring. Winter is the time for the earth to regroup. Indeed, the same could be said of the Jewish people. One reason that there are no Biblical holidays in winter is that it is a time for us to regroup as well. We survive the winter, both physically and spiritually. The holidays that we do celebrate during the cold season are Rabbinic holidays that commemorate our survival – Chanuka (our spiritual survival in exile) and Purim (our physical survival). As we marvel at the earth and its capacity to replenish itself and come back to life as the temperature warms, so too we should be astonished (and grateful) for our survival as a nation throughout the bitter harshness of exile. Against all odds, and only with the grace of G-d, have we been able to endure what no other nation has, and both survive and thrive, outlasting great empires that tried to eradicate us.

During winter, we recoup, carry on, and reflect on our durability and eternity, but we are a people of the spring. We are duly commanded to “observe the month of spring, and bring the Pesach offering to the Lord, your G-d, because it was in the month of spring that the Lord, Your G-d, took you out of Egypt” (Devarim 14:1). The Jewish calendar is built around several propositions, the most important of which is that Pesach must always fall in the spring.

The Jewish people have been given up for dead many times by our enemies, almost disappearing into the wintry frost of the ghettos and the Gulag. Yet, our national existence parallels that of the spring. The nations of the world have their moment in the sun of summer and then they disappear. We are eternally young, a people of spring. Even during the darkest and bleakest moments of winter, we still dream and remember. If the winter is the time when creativity and growth are stifled, it can nevertheless also be the springboard to even greater growth when it passes.

Rav Kook wrote that the Exodus from Egypt will always be spring, not just for us, but the world’s spring as well. We are responsible for the blossoming of the national idea and charged with ensuring that the nations use their political formations for good and not evil. Like the seed of winter that disintegrates before it achieves new life, we must always have before our mind’s eye that the darkest times are only preludes to the fulfillment of our national destiny in the spring.

As King Shlomo wrote: “Behold the winter has passed, the rains have come and gone, the blossoms have appeared on the land and the time of your song has arrived” (Shir Hashirim 2:11-12). May we soon merit the full blossoming of our redemption.

Moshe Feiglin: "This is an Attempted Putsch Against Netanyahu"

The following is a compilation of translated excerpts from Moshe Feiglin’s interviews on Wednesday on Radio Tel Aviv, Radio Moreshet and Arutz 7.

Do you think that Netanyahu will be able to survive this politically?

I think it strengthens him. This is a leftist political putsch. Many people recognize that. Until the police recommendations, I had thought that we would be going to elections this year. Now, I think that elections will not take place any time soon.

You are not among those who are calling on Netanyahu to go home.

No. I think that Netanyahu should go home, but for the right reasons. Netanyahu should go home because he is a strategic danger to the State of Israel. He should not go home because of a political putsch. If I didn’t think that he should go home for strategic reasons, this leftist political agenda hounding him - and there is no doubt that that is what is happening here – it would have pushed me into his arms, as it is pushing many on the Right.

The stories of the cigars and the champagne reflect improper conduct of a prime minister. Problematic conduct can be found against almost everyone in the public service. But when you compare Netanyahu’s conduct to Shimon Peres, for example, or Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak or Ariel Sharon after he announced his plans for the Disengagement – Netanyahu looks like an innocent baby.

More than corruption bothers me – and I paid a steep price for my battle against corruption when I was in the Knesset – I am deeply concerned about the ability of people who were not elected to overthrow the government. And that is what is happening here. That is why I support the French law, which limits a prime minister to two terms, but does not allow investigations to be opened against an incumbent prime minister until he has completed his term.

Why should Netanyahu go home in your opinion?

Netanyahu has never had a strategy. His strategy can be defined as “Let’s progress politically and we’ll see what happens tomorrow”. Netanyahu is a very weak leader. You surely remember the iconic photograph of Gilad Shalit exiting the plane that brought him home. For that populist photograph, Netanyahu exchanged one bereaved mother for one hundred bereaved mothers, and the account is still open. Even Olmert said last week that he did not accept the Shalit deal, even with more favorable conditions for Israel.

But Israel’s foreign relations position is excellent right now.

In my eyes, Netanyahu is a prime minister who, over the last decade, has critically weakened Israel’s strategic position. Haven’t you noticed that Netanyahu is not capable of putting metal detectors on the Temple Mount? Haven’t you noticed that Iran and its destructive arsenal is now on our border fence? Our children and grandchildren will live here in the shadow of a nuclear Middle East because of Netanyahu. Because he transferred the responsibility to deal with the greatest existential threat that Israel faces from our own means - to the Obama administration. And found himself outside the conference room on Israel’s future, which is reminiscent of the Czechs at the Munich Accords. That is why he has to go home.

But under Netanyahu’s administration we have improved relations with Russia.

Russia? Russia has provided the umbrella for Iran to advance to our border. Every time that Netanyahu has run to Putin over the last half a year has turned Israel into a more pitiful floor rag. It is absurd. The skies of Syria have been open for Israeli fighter jets for decades. Suddenly there are new rules in the neighborhood and our fighter jets cannot even cross our border.

What would you do if you were prime minister? After all, the Middle East is a dangerous neighborhood and not everything is dependent upon us.
You can have the strongest army, the most advanced weapons and a booming economy. But when you don’t have a strategy and you are facing off against a country like Iran that has a clear strategy, ultimately it will reach from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea and your planes can no longer cross your border. What we need to do, as detailed in the Zehut platform, is to nullify the Oslo Accords and to embark upon a completely different diplomatic process. Declare Israeli sovereignty from the Sea to the Jordan River, as detailed in the platform. What Israel needs is strategy. No Israeli leader – including the Right and including Begin – has ever had that.

What is the alternative? Would it be better for the leftist Labor party to rule Israel?

The alternative is to start building the alternative. The problem is both Right and Left. The Left brought Oslo upon us, but almost all the retreats and settlement destructions were perpetrated by the Right. The alternative is not Right or Left. The alternative is the Zehut party, with its platform that includes everyone and proposes solid, out-of-the-box solutions for the entire gamut of issues that Israel faces.

Never Surrender Strategic Assets

by Moshe Feiglin

The lesson from the downing of Israel’s F-16 fighter jet by an old Syrian anti-aircraft missile is that we must never, never, never allow small-minded politicians to surrender strategic assets acquired with the blood of our soldiers over the decades – while hiding behind the technological fig leaf, and the trite: “The IDF will know how to deal with every threat”…

When a small-minded politician named Ehud Barak surrendered to leftist broadcaster Shelli Yechimovitz and the leftist “Four Mothers” group, we got the Hezbollah in Metulah and our entire state within range of Iran’s precision missiles. When the small-minded politician Netanyahu gave in to the campaign to release Gilad Shalit, we got the Protective Edge Campaign and 100 bereaved mothers instead of one.

When Netanyahu gave Obama the responsibility to deal with Iran’s threats to destroy Israel, we got Iran on our border fence and international approval for Iran to build a bomb in the future.

When Israel’s leadership – instead of reacting ethically to the slaughter that Assad is perpetrating, and cementing Israel’s status as a regional superpower – buried its head in the sand, a strategic vacuum was created. It was filled by the Russian bear. Today, Iran is already crossing our border, but Israel’s fighter planes are shooting back from within Israeli territory. Netanyahu’s “speech strategy” in the UN and in the Congress ensured a bomb for Iran.

His “meetings with Putin strategy” ensured Syria and Lebanon for Iran. In this way, small-minded politicians melted away Israel’s long-term strategic status, acquired with the blood of our soldiers over the decades – in exchange for short-term political gain.

The price of safeguarding strategic assets will always be immeasurably lower than the price that our soldiers will be required to pay for their vital re-capture.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Yishai Fleisher Show: Pesky Persians Persist



As we enter the new month of Adar - the happiest month on the Jewish calendar - we prepare to read the Scroll of Esther and confront the pesky Persian Haman who, like Hitler, wanted to annihilate the Jewish people. However, the challenge of Persia is once again immanent!

Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai to fight back Iranian drones, to push back on unbridled media and money which effects Israel's democracy, and to learn about the holy vessels of the Tabernacle including the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Menorah.

Rabbi Ari Kahn: A Dialog with the Divine (video)

Jerusalem, Israel’s Capital, Is a Peaceful City

by Prof. Hillel Frisch

Jerusalem Mount of Olives, photo via iha.com

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 740

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Mention the word “Jerusalem,” which is derived from the word “peace,” and anything but peace comes to mind. Yet the city of Jerusalem is safer by far than San Francisco, thanks to good policing and traditional life among both the Jewish and Arab populations.

Continue to full article ->

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Israel bombing Syria enhanced US national security

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Israel’s unique contribution to US’ national security and US defense industries was reaffirmed on February 10, 2018, by Israel’s effective military operation against Syrian-based Iranian-Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries, early-warning radar stations, a launching-base of unmanned aerial vehicles and a command-control bunker.

While Israel lost one F-16 combat plane, its air force demonstrated exceptional capabilities in the areas of intelligence, electronic warfare – especially radar jamming – firepower capabilities, precision, maneuverability, penetration of missile batteries, early-identification and destruction of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles and their mobile controller, etc.

Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) are analyzing the lessons of this recent operation, most of which will be shared, promptly, with the US – the manufacturer and provider of most of the systems operated by the IDF – as has been the case with a multitude of Israel’s military operations and wars. For example, much of the battle-tactics formulation in the US Army Headquarters in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas has been based on the Israeli battlefield experience.

The February 10, 2018 Israeli Air Force operation against Syrian-Iranian military targets has reinforced the legacy of the late Senator Daniel Inouye, who was the Chairman of the full Appropriations Committee and its Defense Subcommittee. Senator Inouye considered Israel a moral ally of the US, as well as the most effective battle-tested laboratory of the US military and defense industries – a primary outpost, in a critical region, sparing the US billions of dollars, which would be required to deploy additional US military forces to the area.

Senator Daniel Inouye, who was also the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, contended that the flow of Israeli intelligence to the US exceeded – quantitatively and qualitatively - the flow of intelligence from all NATO members combined.

Chairman Inouye maintained that Israel’s battle experience – shared with the US - enhanced US national security, yielding billions of dollars to the US treasury.

For instance, the shared-lessons of the June 1982 Israeli destruction of 19 Syrian-operated advanced Soviet surface-to-air missile batteries and 97 Soviet combat planes, saved the US’ defense industries 10-20 years of research and development, enhanced the competitiveness of US military systems in the global market, increased US exports and expanded US employment. Moreover, the lessons of the Israeli military operation upgraded the capabilities of the US Air Force and the US’ posture of deterrence, exposed the vulnerabilities of advanced Soviet military systems – which were deemed impregnable until then - undermined the regional and global Soviet strategic stature, tilted the global balance of power in favor of the US and prevented the loss of many American lives.

When visiting the General Dynamics plant (currently, Lockheed-Martin) in Ft. Worth, Texas, which manufactures the F-16 and F-35, I was told by the plant manager that the US manufacturer was privy to an almost daily flow of operational, maintenance and repair lessons drawn by Israel’s Air Force, which generated over 600 upgrades, “worth mega-billion of dollars.” Common sense suggests that similar mega-benefits are afforded to McDonnell-Douglas, in St. Louis, Missouri, the manufacturer of the F-15, which is also operated by the Israeli Air Force.

In Dallas, Texas, a retired US combat pilot suggested to me that “a most productive time for US combat pilots are joint-exercises with Israeli pilots.” Responding to my doubts – since Israeli pilots fly US-made planes and are not smarter than US pilots – the US combat pilot elaborated: “Israeli pilots fly, routinely, within range of the enemies’ radar and missiles, and therefore always fly under a do-or-die state of mind, which results in more daring and creative maneuvers, stretching the capabilities of the US plane much more than done by US pilots.”

The February 10, 2018 Israeli Air Force operation highlighted the US-Israel mutually-beneficial, two-way-street, featuring Israel’s unique contributions to US national security and defense industries. It provided additional evidence of the exceptionally high rate-of-return on the annual US investment in Israel, which is erroneously defined as “foreign aid.” Israel is neither foreign to the US, nor is it a supplicant; it has been an unconditional, productive junior partner of the US in the liberty-driven battle against rogue regimes.

The Eulogy for Rabbi Itamar ben-Gal, HY”D

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha


It is hard to believe, but recently Rabbi Itamar and his wife Miriam spoke about the possibility that one of them would be killed for the sanctification of God’s name, and agreed that they were prepared to courageously rise to this challenge. They did not speak this way because they were extremists who did not value life, but as Jews who loved life so much that they were willing to sacrifice everything to realize God’s vision for the Jewish people, to bring faith, blessing, and life to the world. All over the world, people die for all sorts of reasons. Happy is the one who merits dying for the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel

Suddenly, in the middle of the day, we were assaulted by the news; gray clouds of tears thickened the sky, and a dreadful voice spread throughout the world, and announced: Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal from Har Bracha was murdered. Suddenly, his wife Miriam is a widow; Avital, Daniel, Roni, and Avraham are orphans.

Our rabbis teach us that every Jew who is killed because he is Jewish is referred to as kadosh (holy), and is guaranteed a place in the World to Come. When someone dies because he is Jewish, he strips himself of his status as an individual, and wraps himself in the sanctity of Israel. If this is said about every Jew, how much truer is it when it comes to a Jew who chose to value the soil of our holy Land, living on the frontline of Jewish settlement. All the more so, when he is a talmid chacham (a Torah scholar), who studied and taught, who upheld and fulfilled the Torah. All his mitzvot and good deeds become transcendent and consecrated, absorbed into the sanctity of Klal Yisrael, while he ascends to on high as a korban tamim (an unblemished sacrifice) on the altar of the nation.

Dear and beloved Rabbi Itamar, we always knew that you were devoted to Torah, to the Jewish people, and to the Land of Israel. It has now become clear to us that you too, with all your good ways and deeds, have ascended to the holy and pure level of those who sacrifice their lives to sanctify God’s name.

For two thousand years, Jews were killed for the sanctification of God’s name while praying for the day when the Jewish people would return to its Land. There they would observe the Torah, perfect the world under the sovereignty of God, and bring blessing to all the nations of the world. To achieve this, they were willing to bear all the terrible torments. For they knew that the Torah, the Land of Israel and the World to Come are acquired through trials and tribulations, and that by means of their acquisition, this world is perfected and transformed into The World to Come.

The nations of the world tried to break us; they did not believe we would return to the Land, that the desolate Land would once again produce fruit, and that the biblical prophecy would be fulfilled: “God will then bring back your remnants and have mercy on you. God your Lord will once again gather you from among all the nations where He scattered you … bring you to the land that your ancestors occupied, and you too will occupy it. God will be good to you and make you flourish even more than your ancestors”(Devarim 30: 3-5). All the holy Jews in exile who died sanctifying God’s Name believed in this, but you, Rabbi Itamar, merited living it. Through you, the words of the prophet Ezekiel are being realized: “Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God: Thus, says the Lord God to the mountains and the hills, the watercourses and the valleys, the desolate wastes and the deserted towns, which have become a source of plunder and an object of derision to the rest of the nations all around… But you, mountains of Israel, will extend your branches and bear your fruit for my people Israel, because they will come home very soon. Look, I’m here for you, and I will turn toward you, and you will be farmed and sown. I will populate you with human beings, the whole house of Israel, all of them. The cities will be inhabited, the ruins rebuilt. When I make people and animals increase on you, they will multiply and be fruitful. I will cause you to be inhabited as you were before. I will do more good for you than in the beginning, and you will know that I am the Lord”(Ezekiel 36).

You had not even reached the age of thirty, but you already dreamed big, and had begun to realize those dreams. In the few years you served as a rabbi and spiritual guide, you succeeded in getting young men excited about the Torah’s vision, which joins heaven and earth, and illuminates both the sphere of the intellect and the world of the workplace.

With love, determination, and authority, you demanded that your young students study, and they did. In the summer camps you ran, you insisted that Torah study be incorporated along with the hikes and fun and games. The campers were astonished to see just how challenging and enjoyable Torah study with you could be. It went so well, that they and their parents requested that you follow the same program the next year. And you agreed, because you were always willing to volunteer for sacred matters – and did it all responsibly and with appropriate seriousness.

You loved your new students in the yeshiva high school in Givat Shmuel. You praised the students and their parents for their attitudes towards their studies both religious and secular, which they approached seriously and worked on diligently.

We expected you to continue to grow in Torah – to study and teach. We were sure that as a natural leader, the day would come when you would be the Rosh Yeshiva at a yeshiva high school; now, all these dreams are lost. There is no one to fill your place; no one able to grasp the vision as you did, and be as diligent in its realization.

It is rare to see someone who appreciates and respects his parents as much as you did. At the brit
milah (circumcision) of your son Avraham, your father, Rabbi Daniel, spoke with great kindness about his father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham. You whispered in my ear: “If only I could be like my father — deeply understanding people, and being righteous and good to all.” You also told me a number of times about the constant kindness your mother showed to the entire family.

Once, on our way to a wedding with Itamar’s father-in-law Rabbi Shlomi, we were discussing whether a son-in-law should call his father-in-law, “father.” Itamar said it depends on their relationship – if the relationship is good and close, then certainly a son-in-law should refer to his father-in-law as ‘father.’ His father-in-law, Rabbi Shlomi, beamed with pleasure.

Itamar came to his wedding with a beautiful and unusual tie. I complimented him on his appearance, and on the tie which his father, with his good taste, had chosen for him. About two weeks later, he left a surprise gift at my house – an identical tie. With God’s help, I will wear it at the weddings of your children, Avital, Daniel, Roni, and Avraham.

“And I said to you through your blood you shall live, and I said to you through your blood you shall live.” You were killed on your way to a brit milah. The fate of the Jewish people is to carry the banner of justice and morality in this world. Consequently, in every generation, the greatest of the wicked fight against us, and especially against the righteous among us. These wicked people are the ones who currently are responsible for spreading terror throughout the world and polluting its waters, while we bring good to the world. Similar to our holy ancestors who dug wells, we also lead in the desalination of seawater, and the recycling of waste water.

If our enemies were asked what they would prefer – that we kill 1,000 of them, or build a new neighborhood, they would prefer to sacrifice thousands of people – so long as we don’t continue settling the Land. Therefore, the best revenge is to keep building, to build another neighborhood and another neighborhood, and to turn Har Bracha into a city.

We have not returned to the Land in order to deprive decent Arabs of their property. However, since they have risen to destroy us, logic dictates that whoever wants to kill be killed, and whoever wants to expel, be expelled. How fortunate we are that we have a state and an army. With God’s help, everything that needs to be done, will be done.

Sometimes we are asked, “Why do you continue to hitchhike?” The simple answer is – we have no choice; there is no other way to live here. This is the risk that we, on the frontlines of the settlements, assume in order to fulfill the commandment to settle the Land of Israel which our Sages tell us is equivalent to all of the commandments. And when one of us attains holiness by sacrificing his life to sanctify God’s name, in his merit, we – all the settlers who travel all the roads, become holy.

Dear brothers and sisters, beloved settlers, who can tell you how great your small deeds are? How great you are as you continue your daily lives, as you continue travelling on the roads, and stand guard over our nation and our country. With your very bodies, you are realizing the vision of the prophets.

It is hard to believe, but recently Rabbi Itamar and his wife Miriam spoke about the possibility that one of them would be killed for the sanctification of God’s name, and agreed that they were prepared to courageously rise to the challenge. They did not speak this way because they were extremists who did not value life, but as Jews who loved life so much that they were willing to sacrifice everything to realize God’s vision for the Jewish people, to bring faith, blessing, and life to the world. All over the world, people die for all sorts of reasons. Happy is the one who merits dying for the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel

Not long ago, when Rabbi Itamar saw a mother crying and grieving too much for her son who had been killed, it occurred to him that perhaps one day he might also be killed, and that his mother would do the same. He told his wife Miriam that should this happen, she should tell his mother not to cry too much, but rather to be strong for the honor of the Torah, the nation, and the Land. He did not get a chance though to speak with his mother directly about this.

May it be Your will, He who hears the voice of crying – to collect our tears together with all the tears of the holy Jews who were murdered, slaughtered, and killed for the sanctification of your Holy Name; let the tears water the Land leading it to bring forth grains, wine, and oil, and console the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Transform the tears into life-giving dew. Let them remind us of the forgotten, lead to the flowering of ideas, and add blessing and life to all the nations of the world.

Master of the Universe, grant strength to the widowed Miriam to enable her to raise the orphans to Torah and mitzvot; grant health and strength to the grandparents to enable them to offer their grandchildren support, to nurture them, and to guide them to their wedding canopies.

Master of the Universe, grant honor to Your nation, glory to those who revere You, hope to those who seek You; grant joy to Your Land of Israel, and gladness to Your holy city, Jerusalem; and You will reign, You alone, over all humanity through Mount Zion, the place of Your glorious shrine of old, and through Jerusalem, Your holy city. Gather our exiles from the four corners of the earth, and in the merit of this young rabbi, Itamar Ben Gal, murdered sanctifying Your Name, help us settle all the Land You promised to our forefathers and to us, and let us fulfill the words of the prophet: “I will rebuild your nation, O virgin of Israel. You will again be happy and dance merrily with the timbrels. Again, you will plant your vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria and eat from your own gardens there… For the Lord says: ‘Sing with joy for all that I will do for Israel, the greatest of the nations! Shout out with praise and joy: The Lord has saved his nation, the remnant of Israel… For I will bring them from the north and from earth’s farthest ends, not forgetting their blind and lame, young mothers with their little ones, those ready to give birth. It will be a great company who comes. Tears of joy shall stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They shall walk beside the quiet streams and not stumble… They shall come home and sing songs of joy upon the hills of Zion and shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord… and all their sorrows shall be gone… and all their sorrows shall be gone'” (Jeremiah 31).

***

I returned from the cemetery, and on the sidewalk near my home were a throng of children walking home from the new school in the community. Soon they would eat lunch, and begin their many afternoon activities – studying Torah, and participating in extracurricular activities of almost every possible type. I said to myself: Who gave birth to all these children? We are bereaved and abandoned. We’ve been left alone. How can it be that suddenly, in each of the younger classes in Har Bracha there are nearly a hundred children who continue to do their own thing, laughing as if nothing had happened? All they know is that more Torah needs to be studied and more building needs to be done, because Rabbi Itamar was killed. “And I said to you through your blood you shall live, and I said to you through your blood you shall live.”

Replace Netanyahu in Voting Booth, Not by Political Investigations

by Moshe Feiglin

Even if PM Netanyahu’s conduct was scandalous, it is dwarfed by the open corruption of many leftist former prime ministers. There is no doubt that behind the investigations against Netanyahu there is a clear political agenda that pollutes the entire process.

Netanyahu should be replaced in the voting booth, for real, strategic reasons.

These types of investigations against an incumbent prime minister smell like a putsch. Israel should adopt the French law that prohibits investigations against a sitting prime minister, and investigate only after he has completed his term.

The Price of Laziness

by Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

A lazy person, whatever the talents with which he set out, will have condemned himself to second-hand thoughts and to second-rate friends. -Cyril Connolly

Moses calls upon the nation of Israel to donate material for the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert, the structure that will house the Tablets of the Law which they received on Mount Sinai. This portable Temple would accompany the Jewish people throughout their desert journey until they entered the land of Israel. Within Israel, the Tabernacle would have a semi-permanent structure and location, until the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon, hundreds of years later.

What is particularly impressive about Moses’ call for donations was the speed with which the Jewish nation responded. The donations came so quickly and so plentifully, that the artisans actually had to tell Moses to announce to the people to stop bringing anything more. They had more than they needed.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 25 (Trumah) learns a lesson as to the vital importance of such alacrity and the converse hazards of laziness. Laziness is a negative trait, but it is particularly damaging when it comes to bear on the performance of commandments.

Rabbeinu Bechaye gives a number of examples, the first being prayer. It is not hard to pray. What is challenging during prayer is to remain focused on the words you’re saying, on connecting and actually communicating with God, and not letting your mind wander to ruminations about work, money, possessions and other mundane thoughts. Not only is such prayer not effective – it is an affront to God, and may provoke His ire more than His pleasure. (This doesn’t mean you’re better off not praying – it means focus!).

Laziness can affect all aspects of our lives, primary our work lives. Rabbeinu Bechaye expands, based on King Solomon’s phrase that “as smoke is to the eyes, so too is the lazy person to his senders.” When you want to warm yourself by lighting a fire, if the fire produces a lot of smoke which then goes into your eyes, you may not remain so pleased with the fire. Likewise, a lazy person who is assigned a task or an errand will somehow manage to spoil the undertaking by their lack of energy, drive or motivation.

Quoting the Sages of the Talmud, “If someone said: “I didn’t try and I accomplished, don’t believe them. I tried but I didn’t accomplish, don’t believe them. I tried and I accomplished, believe them.” For that reason, King Solomon in Proverbs constantly attacks laziness and asks us to look at the industrious ants as positive models who work hard in the summer to provide for themselves in the winter. For those who stir themselves and are quick to work hard, especially in Torah, in the commandments and in character development, they will see gains, they will see accomplishment, they will elevate themselves from level to level, and will always make progress in their lives. The lazy ones will always fall back.

May we get our acts together, get out of bed, and conquer ourselves and our world.

Shabbat Shalom.

Is it Your Dream?

By Shmuel Sackett

Life is very complicated and extremely busy. Even with all the modern gadgets that are supposed to save us time, adults today have less free time than their primitive, non-Facebook, rotary-telephone-using parents. On the positive side, we have Tablets (though not the ones that Moses had…) and Apples (though not the ones that Adam and Eve ate…). We get to our destination very quickly thanks to a GPS and find things super quickly thanks to Google. We type reports amazingly fast on laptops and cook dinners in minutes with the latest microwave ovens. Yet with all these “positives” there are many “negatives” because despite these time-saving devices, we spend less time with our spouse and kids and find it very difficult to focus our energy on Torah study. We are grossing nice salaries yet we’re broke and our vacations become pressure-cooking situations because we spend money we don’t have to go to places we don’t enjoy!

Why do we do all this? What’s the motivating factor for running around chasing our tail? People have told me that it’s the famous syndrome of “Keeping up with the Joneses’” (or in the Jewish world: “Keeping up with the Cohens!”) but I refuse to believe that. Another opinion is that experts tell us how we are stuck in a routine which we simply can’t get out of. I once heard that the word “routine” has the word “rut” inside it. Therefore, it’s the rut of being in the routine. While this sounds nice (I give an extra 2 points to the clever guy who thought of it), I disagree with this conclusion as well.

Dearest friends, I urge you to get to the root of the problem. Don’t blame it on the Cohens and don’t play the rut/routine word game. That’s not the reason why you are running around in circles all day/week/year long. Allow me to tell you what I think it is. You are not dreaming correctly. Get your dreams in order and a different life will quickly follow.

This problem of dreams was made famous about 100 years ago by the great Chassidic master, Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. He was one of the leaders of Chassidut in Poland and he raised a serious question. One of the main reasons for existence is because of the Chessed (kindness) we do for one another. The verse in Tehillim (89:3) states; “Olam Chessed Yi’Baneh” (“The world is built on kindness”). But the Rebbe Reb Bunim asked a simple, yet very perplexing question: If it’s true – which it is – that the world needs kindness in order to exist, what acts of Chessed were done in the 40 years the Jews spent in the desert? We have learned that those 40 years were a perfect life; the food was perfect, the clothing grew by itself and people didn’t even need to go to the bathroom! There was nothing lacking… so the Rebbe asked; “If nothing was lacking, if nobody needed help, where was the chessed? And if there was no chessed… the world could not exist… and yet it did. How was that possible?” His conclusion was that there was chessed and his explanation of what that chessed was, will change your life forever!

The Rebbe explained that when our fathers and mothers left Egypt and spent 40 years in the desert, they ate the magical food called “Mahn”. The mahn tasted like anything you were thinking about and was sugar free, fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free and cost free! All you needed to do was pick up a specific amount in the morning and finish it by the evening. Before eating, you would simply “think”. Want a rib steak? Think about one! How about some sushi? No problem – put your thinking cap on. Pizza with extra toppings and stuffed crust? Yummy… just think.

While we learned this back in the 3rd grade, the Rebbe Reb Bunim pointed out something incredible. The overwhelming majority of Jews who left Egypt simply could not enjoy their mahn and do you know why? Because even though they were free, they were still thinking – and dreaming – like slaves. A slave does not dream about rib steaks, sushi or fancy pizza. He dreams of crackers, toast and potatoes. Therefore, Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa said that the chessed we did in the desert was to help each other dream properly! Those who were able to shed the yoke of slavery from their minds helped those who were free physically – but still enslaved mentally. In short, millions of Jews were dreaming incorrectly.

Fast forward 3,300 years: Slavery is long gone, the Jews are out of the shtetlt and things have never been better… yet look to your right and left – do you see happy Jews around you? Trust me that it’s not because of “The Cohen’s” or “Rut/Routine”… it’s because all those holy Yidden are simply not dreaming properly.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this one simple question: Do you dream about living your life in Israel? I understand why you don’t live there now, but do you at least dream about it? You should! Every Jew for 2,000 years dreamt about living in Israel. They may not have made it there, but not a day went by when they didn’t dream about it, pray for it to happen and cry as each day ended without the dream being fulfilled.

I’m not asking why you’re not already packed and driving to the airport. I’m not even asking why you haven’t opened a file with Nefesh b’Nefesh. I’m asking far more basic: Are you even dreaming about it?

Don’t make the same mistake the generation did in the desert. Don’t dream about bread and jam when you can be dreaming about roast duck… and don’t dream about raising your children in America when you can be dreaming about raising them in Yerushalayim!

In conclusion, don’t just live as a Jew… dream as a Jew… and make sure those dreams are the same ones that millions of Jews before you dreamt about; living, breathing and working in the Land promised to us by Hashem Himself and given to us as our eternal inheritance. May all those dreams come true!

Rav Kook on Parashat Terumah: "Take for Me an Offering"

In preparation for building the Tabernacle, God commanded Moses to collect the necessary materials:

“Speak to the Israelites and have them take for Me an offering. From every person whose heart inspires him to donate, you shall take My offering.” (Ex. 25:2)

Why did God command Moses to take the donations? The verse should read that they must give an offering!

The language of “taking” might lead one to conclude that the materials could have been taken from the people by force. But this was not the case, for the Torah stresses that the offerings were donated freely - “from every person whose heart inspires him to donate.”

Why, in fact, did this collection need to be voluntary? The Talmud in Baba Batra 8b teaches that a community may force members of the community to support the poor and the needy. Using our money to help others is a trait that needs to be trained and developed. So why did God command that these gifts for the Tabernacle, the first act of tzedakah (charity) on a national level, be donated solely out of sincere generosity?

Two Goals of Tzedakah

The mitzvah of tzedakah is meant to accomplish two objectives. The first concerns the person receiving the charity. Through this mitzvah, the poor are provided with what they lack. The second objective concerns the one giving. By donating our time and money, we express our inner qualities of chessed and kindness in a concrete and tangible manner. The act of tzedakah actualizes our traits of generosity and contributes toward our own spiritual growth.

We can distinguish between these two objectives within the act itself. The first goal stresses the aspect of giving to the needy. The important factor here is that the poor person receives the assistance he needs. The second goal, on the other hand, stresses the aspect of taking from the benefactor. This is a special benefit of the mitzvah of tzedakah: by relinquishing our material possessions for the sake of others, we refine our character traits and elevate the soul.

Which of these two goals is the principal objective of tzedakah?

The Gimmel’s Chase
The Sages in Shabbat 104a noted that the Hebrew letter Gimmel appears to be facing the next letter in the alphabet, the Dalet, with its left ‘leg’ stretched out toward the Dalet. Why is the Gimmel running toward the Dalet?

ג ד

The Sages explained that the Gimmel is the benefactor (from the word gommeil, meaning one who gives or supports). The Gimmel is chasing after the impoverished Dalet (from the word dal, meaning ‘poor’ or ‘needy’) in order to help him.

Why is the benefactor running after the poor? Should it not be the other way around?

The Sages wanted to teach us that the principal aim of tzedakah is connected to the very foundations of the universe. The true goal of tzedakah is to elevate the soul of the giver. After all, if the purpose was to help the poor, God could have provided other means for their support without having to rely on the generosity of society. The shapes of the Hebrew letters - letters which God used to create the universe - hint at this fundamental truth. The Gimmels, the benefactors, need to pursue the Dalets, the poor, in order to grow and develop spiritually.

Thus the Jewish people’s very first philanthropic project emphasized that the central aspect of tzedakah is not giving to the needy, but taking from the donor. “Have them take for Me an offering.” God commanded that the contributions to the Tabernacle be given freely - “every person whose heart inspires him to donate” - since the soul and its traits are only refined when one donates willingly.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Otzarot HaRe’iyah vol. II, pp. 189-190)