Friday, June 30, 2017

Please Daven

His name was changed from Yechezkel Simcha ben Rochel to RAFAEL SIMCHA BEN ROCHEL

Please forward immediately this email and the whatsapp link to as many doveners as you know.

Our 20 year old son, Simcha, came back to Pittsburgh on Thurs June 15, fell asleep Fri at 5 pm until Sunday 9 am when we called the Ambulance. Tues He started seizures and then constant jaw and full body tremors. UPMC Pgh has done everything medically possible so far. He is in ICU for 10 days and in induced coma since Shabbas. 

They think it is a rare autoimmune encephalitis, where his own immune system is attacking his brain. It is pikuach nefesh and timely, we believe. They may have to put him into a full body coma for 24 hours, shutting off every organ except for his heart, if this med they are trying does not stop the seizures and tremors. Usually, it reboots the bodies immune system anew...assuming the person wakes up from this "atom bomb" induced coma/sedation.

May Hashem bring bracha, nechama, yeshua, refuah to gants klal yisrael and may Mashiach come today. Hazak V'ametz. Hakol biday Shomayim. Haba l'taher m'sayin oso.


Rabbi Berel Wein

One of the interesting societal phenomena of our time, both in Jewish and general society, is the elevation of political beliefs and ideas to the level of faith and religion itself. For most of American Jewry, values of the progressive Left have become an ersatz Judaism, treasured and followed and reflected in the pronouncements and stance of much of what passes today as Reform and Conservative mainstream Jewish thought. All sorts of social issues that are not likely to aid in the survival of the Jewish population as Jews, have become the new rituals in these circles.

Political issues such as healthcare, economic growth, gender equality and the like dominate the Jewish discussion. Jewish education, traditional observance of Jewish life in the home and the family, even support for the State of Israel are no longer dominant themes in Jewish social media and even in synagogue circles.

The elevation of political issues and opinions to the status of religious beliefs is almost complete in American Jewish society. The platform of the liberal Left has pretty much become the new Bible of much of American Jewry. There may be great merit to many of these social programs but they are all political in nature, subject to change and revision and certainly not matters of fast held religious beliefs, such as monotheism and the preservation of Jewish tradition. Political ideas change with time and circumstance whereas basic religious beliefs remain constant and eternal.

Within the Jewish religious world this tendency also exists, to elevate beliefs, which are basically political in nature. The struggle of parts of the Orthodox world against the Zionist movement, in the century that has passed, has proven to be unsuccessful. And, in the opinion of many, it is both unwise and very costly. Yet that opposition, and it is bitter and continuing, is very much alive in our time and in the religious Jewish community, especially in pockets of Jewish life in the United States.

The recent gathering of thousands of religious Jews in Brooklyn at the Barclay Center illustrates how difficult it is for this anti-Israel attitude, which is against all Jewish self interest and human logic, to disappear. It has been raised to a matter of religious belief and no longer just political opinion and policy.

It is quite easy in religious circles to raise any issue or opinion to the level of being religious belief and even Jewish law. However, this is a very dangerous and misleading tendency, to obscure true Jewish law and basic Jewish values with an overlay of political beliefs and shifting values.

Enlisting in the IDF is a political issue. There is much to be said in favor of exempting portions of the yeshiva population from this duty. Elevating it into one of religious belief only serves to further divide the Jewish people and becomes counterproductive to the very population that raised and leads the struggle regarding this issue.

Expanding and building new settlements in Judea and Samaria is, in my opinion, basically an apolitical and diplomatic issue. For many it has been raised to the level of being a matter of faith. There have been negative consequences both in the past and present for such a misjudgment and misrepresentation of the issue.

Once something becomes a matter of religious faith the sense of reality and logic dealing with the issue begins to wane. There is no argument, no matter how cogent and logical, that can overcome belief and faith. The world has been witness to this for thousands of years and perhaps no nation, as much as the Jewish people, is able to bear testimony to the accuracy of this statement.

The dangers, both short and long term, of treating this matter as a religious issue should be obvious to all. Yet faith based views of this issue persists throughout Israeli society. It is very hard to undo matters that are viewed by portions of the population as religious beliefs.

To repeat, there is no telling argument that can win the day against belief and faith. Nevertheless, leaders from all sections of the Jewish religious world would do well to carefully assess whether the struggles that we mount regarding certain issues are truly matters of religion or are really political in nature. That caution would go a long way in minimizing disputes and divisions within our community.

Shabbat shalom


I disagree with the second half of the article. Serving or not serving in Tzahal has many religious ramifications. Some hold that it is a מצוה מדאורייתא. Others hold that it is an איסור דאורייתא. Yet others say that it is both.... 

Expanding settlements is a very religious issue. The Ramban writes that there is a מצוה מדאורייתא that לא נעזבנו ביד זולתנו מן האומות. We allow אמירה לעכו"ם on Shabbos in order to purchase property in Eretz Yisrael. 

There is much to say but I will let you think about it....

But I STRONGLY AGREE with the sentiment that we should have a Shabbat Shalom:-). 

A Chazan Who Watches TV Or Movies

[Note: The author of this article is affiliated with the "Dati Leumi" world as is Rav Dov Lior quoted therein].

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Death Of A Tzadik

As the Israelites neared the end of their forty-year trek in the wilderness, they lost two great leaders, Miriam and Aaron. While a tremendous loss for the nation, their passing had a hidden spiritual benefit.

The Torah informs us of Miriam’s death immediately after enumerating the laws of the ParahAdumah, the red heifer whose ashes were used for purification. The Talmudic sages already wondered what connection there might be between Miriam’s death and the Parah Adumah :

“Why is the death of Miriam juxtaposed to the laws of the Parah Adumah? This teaches that just as the Parah Adumah brings atonement, so too, the death of the righteous brings atonement.” (Mo'ed Katan 28a)

While this connection between Miriam and the Parah Adumah is well-known, the continuation of the same Talmudic statement, concerning the death of Aaron, is less so.

“And why is the death of Aaron juxtaposed to [the mention of] the priestly clothes? This teaches that just as the priestly clothes bring atonement, so too, the death of the righteous brings atonement.”

In what way does the death of tzaddikim atone for the people? And why does the Talmud infer this lesson from both the Parah Adumah and the priestly clothes?

Larger Than Life

The principal benefit that comes from the death of tzaddikim is the spiritual and moral awakening that takes place after they pass away. When a tzaddik is alive, his acts of kindness and generosity are not always public knowledge. True tzaddikim do not promote themselves. On the contrary, they often take great pains to conceal their virtues and charitable deeds. It is not uncommon that we become aware of their true greatness and nobility of spirit only after they are no longer with us. Only then do we hear reports of their selfless deeds and extraordinary sensitivity, and we are inspired to emulate their ways. In this way, the positive impact of the righteous as inspiring role models increases after their death.

While stories of their fine traits and good deeds stir us to follow in their path, certain aspects of great tzaddikim — extraordinary erudition and scholarship, for example — are beyond the capabilities of most people to emulate. In such matters, the best we can do is to take upon ourselves to promote these qualities in our spiritual leadership, such as supporting the Torah study of young, promising scholars.

Two Forms of Emulation

In short, the death of tzaddikim inspires us to imitate their personal conduct — if possible, in our own actions, and if not, by ensuring that there will be others who will fill this spiritual void.

These two methods of emulation parallel the different forms of atonement through the Parah Adumah and the priestly clothes. Ritual purification using Parah Adumah ashes was only effective when they were sprinkled on the body of the impure person; no one else could be purified in his place. This is comparable to those aspects of the tzaddik that are accessible to, and incumbent upon, all to emulate.

The priestly garments, on the other hand, were only worn by the kohanim. It was through the service of these holy emissaries that the entire nation was forgiven. This is like those extraordinary traits of the tzaddik that are beyond the capabilities of most people. These qualities can be carried on only by a select few, with the support of the entire nation.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 263-265; adapted from Midbar Shur pp. 346-347)

..... י"ל ב' מיני כפרות, שמצינו מיתת צדיקים מכפרת כפרה אדומה, שדרשו מדנסמכה מיתת מרים לפרה אדומה לומר לך "מה פרה אדומה מכפרת אף מיתתן של צדיקים מכפרת", גם למדו מדנסמכה מיתת אהרון לבגדי כהונה, מה בגדי כהונה מכפרין אף מיתתן של צדיקים מכפרת"קא. ודאי עיקר הכפרה בא ע"י ההתעוררות להחזיק בדרכים הטובים שלהם. והנה בצדיקים ות"ח גדולים ישנם דברים שאפשר לכ"א מישראל ללכת בעקבותיהם כמו לענין מדות טובות וגמ"ח וכיו"ב, ויש דברים שהם פעלו בגודל נפשם כמו גדולת התורה וכיו"ב שאין באפשר לכ"א לעשות כמותם, והעצה לזה שיקבל עליו עול ההשתדלות להקים עדות דת ותורה. 

והחילוק שבין פרה אדומה לבגדי כהונה מובן, כי פרה אדומה בטהרתה, ע"מ שנפלה עליו הזי' מטהרת, ונקראת ע"ש כך "חטאת", ומי שלא נפלה הזי' עליו אינו טהור ע"י נפילת הזי' על אחר, אבל בגדי כהונה הלובש הוא הכהן, והקהל כולו מתכפרים. ע"כ בענין המדות הטובות שהוא דבר השוה לכל נפש, נדמית מיתת צדיקים לכפרת פרה אדומה, ולענין התורה שא"א רק ע"י השתדלות ע"י אחרים למאן דלא אפשר לו ע"י עצמו, הענין דומה לכפרת בגדי כהונה ע"י אחרים, למען יחזקו בתורת ד'. וזהו "יש שכר לפעלתך" בעצמך, "ויש תקוה לאחריתך" מה שתגרום שאחרים יעשו ע"י פעולת הגרם שלך, זכות הרבים תלוי' בך.

All Of Creation Listens

What is the meaning of God’s instruction to Moses to speak to the rock? Can rocks hear us?

The short answer is — yes! Nature and all of its laws are listening. They listen for the call of redemption. They yearn for the redemptive light that preceded the creation of the universe. When this unifying light is revealed, the world’s divided factions become linked and bound to their underlying foundation.

As Moses approached to speak to the rock, all of creation was listening. Tragically, instead of speaking, Moses hit the rock. The waters, meant to revive and nourish the people, instead became Mei Merivah — ‘Waters of Dispute,’ bringing conflict and discor into the world. With his impatience and anger, Moses introduced a framework of coercion and force into the world, thus debasing the universe. The world was no longer ready to listen in attentive quietude to the inner voice of the Infinite.

The paradigm shifted from speaking to striking, from receptive listening to coercive force.

A World That Listens

This tragic discord will be healed through the Divine spirit that flows within the wisdom of Israel. The flowing waters of Israel’s wellspring — the Torah — will heal the discord of Mei Merivah. Every Jewish soul has a part in revealing this wisdom. It will arise powerfully, enabling the living word of God to penetrate all hearts. The return to patient communication will awaken the world’s latent state of listening in all its splendor.

“You have opened my ears... Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come, with a scroll of a book written for me.'” (Ps. 40:7-8)

We yearn for a world that listens with open ears, ears that are able to hear the inner call. We aspire for a world where our inner truth, the light of the Life of the worlds, is expressed, not through force and coercion, but through words and literature. “Behold, I have come, with a scroll of a book written for me.”

The Tikunei Zohar identifies the staff which Moses used to redeem the Jewish people as a pen. “'The staff of God’ — that is the pen.” Moses’ staff, used to strike the rock, will be transformed into a tool of communication and dialogue. And the art of literature will flourish, redeemed from its waywardness.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Shemonah Kevatzim, book VII, section 28)
התגלות תפארת ישראל, אומה שכולה היא בסיס ונר למאור העליון של ההתגלות האלהית העליונה הטהורה המאירה ממעל לכל עולמים, ומחיה כל עולמים, באור עולם, המביאה ע"י הויתה, מציאותה, תכונתה, אצילותה, המתגלם בכל סעיפי פרטיותיה, אישיה, מאורעותיה, עליותיה, ירידותיה, כשרונותיה, מגרעותיה, כינוסה, פיזורה, הארתה וחשכתה, בכל מכל כל, כל אשר בפנימיותה וכל אשר מחוצה לה, הכל מסונף עמה, והכל מוביל ומחיה מנהיג ומרכז, מאיר ומתמם על ידה את החזיון העליוני, את אור חי העולמים תאות כל נפש, חמדת כל עולמי עולמים, תשוקת כל בריה, ותקות כל מעשה וכל מפעל, אומה שכל התולדה העולמית אשר לעמים כולם, ושכל יצירת עולמים מראש ועד סוף ברוחה הם ספונים, שעדנת עדני עדנים אשר ברוח כל יציר וענוגי חיי עולם אשר בכל נחלי עדנים, והמערכות הולכות בהוה כמו בעבר ובעתיד ברוח אחד ומיוחד, ובקרב כל נשמה מבניה הכל פועם, הכל מתרכז בגלוי ובסתר, התגלות אור ישועתה ישועת עולמים, ישועת חיי עולמים ויפעת בהירת אור כל נשמת היקום. 

פדיית גוי ואלהיו המתגלה בצפיית ישועתה, מחיה היא כל מקום אשר שמה תגיע, כשהיא מאחזת את הטבע, את ההגיון, את החריצות המועצית את משטרי עם ועם ואת חוקי החברה האנושית, המיוסדים גם הם בחוקים אחוזים ביסודות עולם אשר ממעל ומתחת להם. הרי היא מחיה ומעודדת מטהרת ומקדשת את כל שורש עיוות החיים הולך ומתישר, המציאות מתאחדת ומתכוננת לעתידה העולמי, והעולם הולך ונגאל. הרצון הפנימי של כל חי וכל אדם, של כל עולם וכל יצור, מתאזר בכל גבורתו בחופש עליוניות אשר לממשלת עולמים. וההקשבה אמיצה היא, וריכוז נפלא, בתנועה אחת, ברעיון אחד, בציור אחד, במילול חי, ובסידור טמיר, הכל עולה וכולל. בתוך המון רבה של פועלים רודפים ונרדפים נחפזים והומים, כואבים וצוהלים, בהירות אור חיים נוצצת מנשמת כל החיים, ובהתבלטה הכל שב וחי. יצירת אורו של משיח מראש מקדם, והתגלותו מתוך כל פלגות המסיבות הטמירות והגלויות, מאגד ומקשר את העולם למכונו, וכל תבואת הדורות בעבר צצים ופורחים בשדה אשר ברכו ד', הטבע וחוקותיה מקשיבים, שומעים קול הקורא, בפנימיות רוחו חי אור פנימי של ראשית המחשבה, וברוח אמונה מתקדש כל המרחב, שמאמין בחי עולמים וזורע. בדיבור אל הסלע שיתן מים להשקות עמו בחירו, הכל קושב רב קשב, ובהכאתו התסיסה מתהוה, הציורים סותרים זה את זה, ומערכת המלחמה מתיצבת. ויקציפו על מי מריבה וירע למשה בעבורם כי המרו את רוחו. 

אמנם באר ישראל שוטף ונוזל, והפלגים השוטפים יביאו כל הרפואות, על גוי ועל אדם, על גויות ועל נשמות גם יחד, ורוח אלהים חיים המפעם בחכמת ישראל, אשר כל נפש ישראלית היא חלק בהתגלותו, יקום ויפוח ברוח אדיר וחזק, ודבר ד' החי, יחדור ויתעודד, וההקשבה הכללית של כל היקום תקום ביפעתה. אזנים כרית לי עולה וחטאה לא שאלת, אז אמרתי הנא באתי במגילת ספר כתוב עלי, במטה אלהים דא קולמוסא, וחכמת סופרים תפרח ותגאל מסרחונה, מריח מים תפריח, לריח שמניך טובים שמן תורק שמך על כן עלמות אהבוך. ‎

Beyond Human Logic

Even King Solomon, renowned for his profound wisdom, failed to grasp its meaning. “I thought I would attain wisdom,” he admitted, “but it is distant from me” (Ecc. 7:23).

What was it that eluded Solomon’s powerful intellect? The Talmud in Niddah 9a explains that he was referring to the Parah Adumah, the red heifer whose ashes were used for ritual purification. The true meaning of this ritual is uniquely profound, beyond the grasp of the human intellect.

Why is this mitzvah so difficult to understand?

Repairing the Sin of the Golden Calf

According to the Sages, the Parah Adumah comes to atone for the Sin of the Golden Calf. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:8) explains this by way of a parable: when the maidservant’s son sullied the king’s palace, it was his mother who needed to come and clean up the mess.

What exactly is the connection between the ritual of the Red Heifer and the Sin of the Golden Calf? After all, the golden calf was formed out of gold jewelry donated by the people; it was not born to a cow.

What was the essence of the Sin of the Golden Calf? Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi (Kuzari 1:97) and other medieval commentators explained that only when taking into account the unique spiritual level of the Jewish people at that time does their action count as a grievous offense. For other peoples, not only would it not have been deemed a sin, it might have even been considered a meritorious deed.

The people’s motivations were sincere. They did not wish to abandon God. On the contrary, they sought to remain close to Him. They created an image — the prevalent form of worship at that time, like a house of prayer nowadays - in order to have a tangible focal point toward which they could direct their offerings and prayers. Even those who erred by praying directly to the golden image did not reject God. They announced, “O Israel! This is your God, Who brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 32:8).

If so, what was their mistake? They erred in their attempt to gain closeness to God through actions dictated by their own logic and reasoning. God specifically forbade this form of worship. The image they created — despite their good intentions - contradicted God’s command, and it became a stumbling block for those who worshipped the Golden Calf as an actual idol.

Understanding God’s Rule

Why did God forbid us from using our powers of reason to establish new mitzvot and modify existing ones, using methods that, according to our understanding, would allow us to become closer to God?

If we want to know what God wants, we need to examine His actions and the ways through which He governs the world. Theoretically, the percipient individual should be able to discern wonderful aspects of God’s rule of the universe, and thereby understand His ways and Divine Will. This would work had God organized creation in such a way that all paths leading to the final goal reflect Divine perfection. Then all aspects of the universe would provide an accurate understanding of God and His Will, allowing us to recognize the proper way to serve Him.

God, however, in His lofty wisdom, organized the universe differently. He decreed that purity might be the end result of impure paths. Even those means which contravene God’s Will will lead toward the final goal. Thus it is impossible to deduce what God truly wants simply by observing the ways of the world. Our service of God can only be guided by those directives which God explicitly transmitted through His Torah.

Acknowledging Our Limitations

How is this connected to the purifying ashes of the Red Heifer? Purity and impurity are a function of closeness or distance from God. True purity is the ability to draw near to God and fulfill His will. Death, on the other hand, is avi avot ha-tum'ah, the primary source of impurity. Death is an example of a phenomenon in the world that is diametrically opposed to the genuine intention of God, Who desires life. A person noting the phenomenon of death could deduce the exact opposite of God’s true intention in the world, concluding that God does not wish that His creations live.

How do we purify ourselves from the impurity of death? To correct the misleading impression of death, we need to recognize the limits of the human intellect in understanding God’s rule in the world. By performing the ritual of Parah Adumah, a mitzvah that by definition transcends logic, we acknowledge the limitations of our intellect, and avoid the pitfall of inferring God’s will from the phenomenon of death.

We can also understand why those who prepare the purifying ashes of the Red Heifer become defiled in the process. God’s Will cannot be deduced from the ways of the world, only from the final goal; so too, the process of the Parah Adumah generates impurity, and only the end result provides purification.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 317-320)

במד"ר פ' בא: "ד"א 'יהי לבי תמים בחוקיך' זה חקת הפסח וחקת פרה אדומה, למה, ששניהן דומין זה לזה, בזה נאמר 'זאת חקת הפסח' ובזה נאמר 'זאת חקת התורה', ואי אתה יודע איזו חקה גדולה מזו. משל לשתי מטרונות דומות שהיו מהלכות שתיהן כאחת, נראות שוות, מי גדולה מזו אותה שחברתה מלוה אותה עד ביתה והולכת אחריה. כך בפסח נאמר בו חקה ובפרה נאמר בה חקה, ומי גדולה? הפרה, שאוכלי פסח צריכין לה שנאמר 'ולקחו לטמא מעפר שרפת החטאת". 

ראוי לתן איזה ציור להיחש המקשר את הפסח עם פרה אדומה, עד שראוי להתיחש שתיהן יחד בשם חקה. גם באיזה ענין יהי' דרוש לנו משקל זה איזו היא גדולה, ואיזה חכמה ולימוד יוצא לנו מזה כשנדע שהפרה היא גדולה. ונקדים מה שנודע מדברי חז"ל מגדולת עומק טעם פרה אדומה, שנפלאת היא מכל המצות שבתורה שיוכלו חכמי לב להשיג טעמם העיקרי, מה שאין כן בפרה, כדחז"ל שאפי' שלמה המע"ה אמר ע"ז "אמרתי אחכמה והיא רחוקה ממני", וראוי לחפש ע"ז טעם וסיבה. 

אך יובן ע"פ דחז"ל שהפרה באה לכפר עון העגל, כמשלם ז"ל מפני מה היא נקבה משל לבן שפחה שטינף פלטין של מלך אמרו תבא אמו ותקנח צואת בנה. והמשל עודנו צריך ביאור רב, וכי מפני שהי' החטא בעגל תיוחס לו פרה בעלמא שהיא אמו, והוא לא נולד כלל מפרה כ"א מהאש יצא, מהזהב אשר השליכו וע"י מעשה כשפים של הרעים שנתערבו בישראל, וכדחז"ל במדרש וביחוד בזוה"ק. 

אמנם כשנחקור על תוכן מרי העגל הלא נודע לנו מה שכתבו הראשונים, וביאר יותר הדברים בס' הכוזרי, כי עון חטא העגל הי' רק חטא בערך מעלתן של ישראל, ולשאר כל עם לא הי' נחשב כלל לחטא, ואולי עוד הי' נחשב להם לצדקה. כי המה ג"כ קרבת אלהים חפצו, אך חשבו להתקרב אל ד' במעשה כזה שחקרוהו ע"פ מושכלם, ומצות השי"ת היא למעלה מרום ונשא מסוג השכל האנושי, ע"כ נהפך לרועץ ויצא מזה ג"כ תקלה שהיו מי שנכשלו ג"כ בו לשם ע"ז. והכל מפני שהשי"ת בחר בישראל להודיעם רצונו בדרך החכמה העליונה שהיא למעלה מכל מושכל אנושי, ע"כ ההתחכמות להוסיף קרבת אלהים ע"י תחבולה אנושית, תועבה היא כשמוסיף בה במצוה של תורה וכיו"ב. 

אך מפני מה עשה ד' ככה ונעל השער בפני השכל האנושי, ומה הי' חסר אם כל אחד ע"פ חכמתו הי' מוסיף מצוה או מצות או בעצם המצוה כשהי' משנה אותה ע"פ הדרך שבעין שכלו יחזה לו שבזה יתקרב יותר אל השי"ת. פתרון הדבר לדעתי הוא, כי רצונו של השי"ת א"א שיכיר אפי' החכם שבחכמים, כ"א ע"פ החקר במעשיו ית' והנהגתו. והחכם הגדול המעמיק הרבה בסוד ההנהגה וענינה יתגלו לו דברים נפלאים, ועל פיהן, אם יותן לו הרשיון, יעמיד כונים לעבוד את השי"ת, בראותו מדרך ההנהגה שע"פ זה הדרך רצונו ית' נוטה ע"פ הנהגתו. אמנם כ"ז הי' נכון אם הי' השי"ת מנהיג את עולמו בדרך מפולש, דהיינו שכמו שרצונו ית' הוא תכלית השלמות והאושר האמתי, כן עשה הוא ית' שיהיו גם כל האמצעיים המובילים אל דרך הכונה השלמה ג"כ אמצעיים שלמים ומעולי' והנהגה מפוארת. שאז מכל חלק מחלקי ההנהגה, יצוק בתוכו דבר לימוד להחכם הראוי להיות מכלל לימודי ד', ליסד דרך עבודה ע"פ דרכו ית' בהנהגתו. אבל השי"ת בחכמתו הנפלאה לא כן יעץ, רק הוא ית' נותן טהור מטמא, ובחכמתו גזר שיהיו האמצעיים בהנהגה נעשים הרבה פעמים בסיבות כאלה שבעצמן הן נגד השלמות, כשליטת הרשעים וכיו"ב הרבה, רק שהכל יוליך ישר אל מרכז התכלית לסוף הימים. א"כ האדם שהוא קצר השכל וכל מעשה האלהים מראש ועד סוף ודאי לא ימצא, כשתנתן לו רשות להתלמד בעצמו לחוקק חקים ומשפטים ע"פ התלמוד בעיון ההנהגה, יבור לו לפעמים דרך רע ומר ע"י הסתכלותו בחלקי ההנהגה שהם בעצמם נגד רצונו ית' התכליתי אלא שהם מתהפכים בהתקשרם אל התכלית המכוונת להם מראש, והוא בקצר שכלו מחזה שוא ותפל יחזה לו לחוקק חקים שאינם שלמים כלל. ע"כ זה הדרך נסגר בפני השכל האנושי, ודרך המעשים הקצובים א"א שינתנו כ"א מאת ד' צבאות, ד' שהוא ראשון והוא אחרון ומגיד מראשית אחרית. והדרך שהוא ית' נותן ע"פ הנהגתו האמיתית, זו היא דרך השלמות, ולא יוכל האדם לדעת את אשר עם המלך מלכו של עולם ב"ה במלאכת חכמת הנהגתו המופלאה מאד. 

והנה ברור הדבר כי יסוד הטומאות והטהרות, הוא הקירוב והריחוק בערך אור פני השי"ת, כי קרבתו ית' והשגת רצונו היא הטהרה האמיתית והריחוק מאור פניו היא הטומאה. והנה ענין המיתה באדם הוא ג"כ אחת מהנהגות השי"ת בעולמו, אשר באמת תכליתה הנראית לעין היא היפך כונתו ית' האמיתית, כי הוא ב"ה הוא מלך חפץ בחיים, רק שע"פ עומק חכמתו א"א להגיע אל התכלית המכוונת הבלתי מושגת כ"א באמצעות המתה. ע"כ המת מטמא, פי' העומד על ענין המת ומבחין ענינו כמו שהוא, בלא ביטול אל האמונה שאנחנו בהמות עמו ונבערים ולא נדע עומק חכמתו, יוכל להשיג ההיפוך מאמיתת כונתו בהנהגה. ע"כ נקראו ע"ז מתים, וזבחיהם זבחי מתיםי, כי המיתה היא ההיפוך ממש מרצון השי"ת ותכליתו בעולמו שהוא מלך חיים וחפץ בחיים. ומטומאת המת החמורה אנו למדים יפה איך אסור לנו להתחכם על רצון השי"ת ולחדש עבודות שלא כדעת התורה ח"ו. כי מקור ההסתכלות אינו כ"א במעשיו שע"י נמצא רצונו, והרי המיתה לנו למופת כי ההנהגה לפעמים כשהיא בגילויה היא ממש ההיפוך מאמתת רצונו, והלמד ממנה ללכת ע"פ הדרך שיתגלה רק בחלק הגלוי ממנה, ילך בדרך הפוך מכונתו ית', דרך חושך ולא אור. ע"כ במה זה תטהר טומאת המת כ"א ע"י מה שיבטל האדם השקפתו בתכלית, וידע שאין עמנו יודע עד מה לערך רוממות הנהגתו ית'. ובעשותו מצוה כזאת שא"א כלל להשיג בטעמה, והיא אחוזה בתשלום ההנהגה שנראה היפוך הכונה העליונה בענין המיתה, היא ערוכה בסוד התיקון שיצמח ע"י המיתה, אבל דבר זה אינו מושג כלל. אך בעסק המצוה בגמר תכליתה ימצא התכלית המכוונת מן המיתה, ולא יהי' ענין המיתה עוד למכשול. 

ולהורות נתן, שרק בבא הגמר האמיתי אל התכלית, אז תראה אמתת הרצון העליון שהיא הטהרה האמיתית, אבל כ"ז שלא בא הגמר האמיתי, הכל נראה נגד רצונו ית' ונגד השלמות האמיתית. ע"כ כל העוסקים בפרה מטמאים, שהרי עוד לא נגמרה התכלית עד עצם המצוה כתיקונה, שהיא מכוונת כנגד גמר התכלית, וכ"ז שלא בא גמר התכלית הכל נראה נגד התכלית והרצון האמיתי. אמנם לא כל ההנהגות שוות, ולפעמים מצינו הנהגה כזו שאע"פ שלא באה תכליתה הגמורה, מ"מ הגלוי ממנה הוא ג"כ מכוון ע"פ עומק רצון העליון והתכלית האמיתית. וכאשר נחפש בענין הנהגה שנעשתה קודם גמר תכליתה ומ"מ חלק גדול של שלמות נתגלה בה, נמצא ענין מצרים, שבכלל נודע שהיתה הגאולה שלא בזמנה, והקב"ה כביכול הי' מדלג על הקיצים, והנה לא באה התכלית לגמרי ונעשה הדבר באמצע. ע"כ בא ענין הפסח, לשון פסיחה ודילוג, שבזה היתה סגולה להשלימם שלא ע"פ דרך ההדרגה המביאה אל גמר התכלית, כ"א נתגלתה השלמות הראוי' בסוף ג"כ באמצע. ואם היו כל ההנהגות כולן עפ"ז הדרך, שהמתגלה קודם גמר התכלית הי' נראה מחלק השלמות המכוון לרצונו ית', אז הי' מקום לבעל הדין לומר שיוסיף מצות ע"פ הנהגתו והשכלתו. ע"כ חתמה התורה הדרך וכתבה ג"כ בפסח חקה כמו בפרה, לדעת כי בכ"ז מעשי ד' ית' עמוקים הם, ואי אפשר לדון ממראיתם שע"פ ההשקפה האנושית היותר שלמה לכוון ע"י מעשים, כי לא לרצון יהיו. 

והנה דעת האדם קרובה תמיד להכשל בזה שע"י עצתו בהתחכמותו יוסיף שלמות, ע"כ הוצרכה פ' פרה להסתם, למען ידע כל איש משל גלוי כי א"א להוסיף בשכלו מאומה. אמנם משרע"ה שעליו נאמר "בכל ביתי נאמן הוא", היינו שהי' נאמן שאע"פ שנגלו לו רזי תורה מ"מ לא יוסיף מאומה מדעת עצמו במצוה של דורות, זולת מ"ש בהוראת שעה בג' דברים שהסכימה דעתו לדעת המקום, ע"כ נאמר: "לך אני מגלה טעם פרה אבל לאחרים חוקה". נמצא שענין התמימות יושלם לגמרי ע"י הפרה והפסח, כי באמת אם שאסור לנו לחדש מעשים, אבל לחקור בהנהגתו ית' למען דעת השלמות המדעית לצרף אל המעשים האמורים בתורה, יפה לנו. ואם היתה ההערה רק מצד פרה וענינה, הייתי אומר כי לא ימצא האדם כלל הנאות לרצונו ית' גלוי בהנהגה, א"כ מה יחקור, והי' ח"ו דבר זה לבושה בפני רבים שהיו אומרים שננעלו דלתי הדעת ע"פ התורה. ואם מצד ההערה של פסח לבדו, הי' הירוס ג"כ במעשים, כי יאמר כי גם מהגלוי נראה שלמות, א"כ נעשה ג"כ מעשים ע"פ ההשכלה המסתעפת מזה. אבל בהקבץ שתיהן יחדיו אמר דוד: "יהי לבי תמים בחוקיך למען לא אבוש", זו חוקת הפסח וחוקת הפרה, וידע שחוקת הפרה גדולה שמורה על עומק התכלית האלהית, ע"כ גם עושי פסח צריכין לה כי עיקר הכונה תראה בסוף מעשה.

Religious Rage

Moses made a terrible mistake. Near the end of their forty-year journey in the desert, the Israelites had arrived at Kadesh. There was no water to drink, and the people complained bitterly. God commanded Moses to take his staff before the entire people and speak to the cliff-rock, to provide water for the nation. Moses took the staff and assembled the people. But he shouted,

“Listen now, you rebels! Shall we produce water for you from this cliff?” (Num. 20:10)

Moses then struck the cliff twice with the staff, and a huge flow of water gushed out.

The commentators scratched their heads trying to understand what exactly was Moses’ mistake — an error so serious that God did not allow him to enter into the Land of Israel. Was it a case of uncontrolled anger, as Maimonides explained? Was he punished for disobeying God by hitting the rock (Rashi)? Was it because he initially fled from the people (Ibn Ezra)? Was it for saying ‘Shall we produce,’ instead of ‘Shall God produce’ (Rabbeinu Chananel)?

Let us consider Maimonides’ explanation. Clearly, Moses was judged strictly, according to his lofty spiritual state. But was this fit of anger truly so terrible that it constituted a chilul Hashem, a public desecration of God’s Name? Did Moses deserve to die outside of the Land of Israel merely for losing his temper?

Religious Rage

According to Rav Kook, all religious rage, all intolerance for moral failings, is rooted in this display of anger. Instead of words of reconciliation, Moses shouted, “Listen now, you rebels.” Instead of speaking to the heart, he hit the rock. While righteous indignation stems from sincere and pure intentions, the highest goals of holiness will only be achieved through calm spirits and mutual respect.

In our generation, the instruction of Torah and its details involves a pedantic form of debate. Father and son, teacher and student, struggle and battle over Torah study. In the end, their mutual love returns; but the residual feelings of enmity are never completely erased.

The restoration of the peaceful ways of Torah will come through the prophet Elijah, who will reconcile that different paths of the generations, “turning the hearts of fathers back to the children, and the hearts of the children back to their fathers” (Malachi 3:24).

This will be accomplished with the revelation of the esoteric side of Torah, a wonderful Torah of kindness. The same profundity and dedication which in the past was acquired through the zeal of ritcha d'oraita will be attained in the future through the spiritual fortitude of gentleness and equanimity. Then the light of the sukkah of peace will envelop the Jewish people, and also the peoples of the world who gather from afar to the holy city of Jerusalem, the city of peace.

A Letter of Loving Rebuke

As chief rabbi of Jaffa, Rav Kook was responsible for religious affairs in the surrounding communities. It is instructive to see how he took to task individuals and groups for infractions of Jewish law. The quote below, from a letter Rav Kook wrote in 1912, illustrates his method of loving reproach. The letter was written in response to public Sabbath desecration in Ness Ziona (then known as Wadi Hanin).

My dear brothers,

I find in the depths of my heart a powerful, sacred duty to call out to you with affection, from my sincere love for you as pioneers in the rebirth of our nation in the land of our yearnings. I am confident in your honesty and your trust in me - which I have witnessed from when I first began serving you in a rabbinical capacity — that my words, the words of a faithful and respectful friend, will be well received.

For some time I have heard that the level of sanctity of the Sabbath has greatly deteriorated in your beloved community. This decline, according to the rumors, is great and terrible to all who live Jewish life in the depths of their soul, to all who feel and recognize what the Sabbath means to us, to all who are aware of its holiness in our religious tradition together with its national, historical value.

My dear brothers! I am unable to express in writing even a small measure of my soul’s anguish whenever such reports reach my ears. Especially as it concerns your precious and holy settlement and its pioneers, who bring redemption to the Jewish people. May my words find favor in your eyes, so that you will search and discover a way to remove this terrible embarrassment from your beloved community, this profound shame for the entire Jewish people, who proudly look upon our new settlement as a resting place for their very essence, for all that we have held sacred and revered throughout the generations. (Igrot HaRe’iyah, vol. II, 88)

(Adapted from Orot HaKodesh vol. IV, p. 500 from

Here is the lashon HaRav ztz"l which is TRULY הפלא ופלא!!!

The Book Of G-d's Wars

The Torah reading concludes with an obscure reference to the “Book of God’s Wars,” describing the Arnon canyon near the border between the Land of Israel and Moab. The verses are cryptic, and the Talmud (Berachot 54a-b) fills in the details with the following story:

Just before the Israelites were to enter the Land of Israel, the Amorites (one of the Canaanite nations) laid a trap for them. They chipped away at the rock, creating hiding places along a narrow pass in the Arnon canyon. There the Amorite soldiers hid, waiting for the Israelites to pass through, when they could attack them with great advantage.

What the Amorites didn’t know was that the Holy Ark would smooth the way for the Jewish people in their travels through the desert. When the Ark arrived at the Arnon Pass, the mountains on each side crushed together, killing the Amorite soldiers. The Israelites traveled through the pass, blissfully unaware of their deliverance. But at the end of the Jewish camp were two lepers, named Et and Vehav. The last ones to cross through, it was they who noticed the riverbed turned crimson from the crushed enemy soldiers. They realized that a miracle had taken place, and reported it to the rest of the Israelites. The entire nation sang a song of thanks, namely, the poetic verses that the Torah quotes from the “Book of God’s Wars.”

Challenges to the Torah

The Talmud clearly understands that this was a historical event, and even prescribes a blessing to be recited upon seeing the Arnon Pass. Rav Kook, however, interpreted the story in an allegorical fashion. What are “God’s Wars"? These are the ideological battles of the Torah against paganism and other nefarious views. Sometimes the battle is out in the open, a clear conflict between opposing cultures and lifestyles. And sometimes the danger lurks in crevices, waiting for the opportune moment to emerge and attack the foundations of the Torah.

Often it is precisely those who are on the fringes, like the lepers at the edge of the camp, who are most aware of the philosophical and ideological battles that the Torah wages. These two lepers represent two types of conflict between the Torah and foreign cultures. And the Holy Ark, containing the two stone tablets from Sinai, is a metaphor for the Torah itself.

The names of the two lepers were Et and Vahav. What do these peculiar names mean?

The word Et in Hebrew is an auxiliary word, with no meaning of its own. However, it contains the first and last letters of the word emet, ‘truth.’ Et represents those challenges that stem from new ideas in science and knowledge. Et is related to absolute truth; but without the middle letter, it is only auxiliary to the truth, lacking its substance.

The word Vahav comes from the work ahava, meaning ‘love’ (its Hebrew letters have the same numerical value). The mixing up of the letters indicates that this an uncontrolled form of love and passion. Vahav represents the struggle between the Torah and wild, unbridled living, the contest between instant gratification and eternal values.

When these two adversaries — new scientific viewpoints (Et) and unrestrained hedonism (Vahav) — come together, we find ourselves trapped with no escape, like the Israelites in the Arnon Pass. Only the light of the Torah (as represented by the Ark) can illuminate the way, crushing the mountains together and defeating the hidden foes. These enemies may be unnoticed by those immersed in the inner sanctum of Torah. But those at the edge, whose connection to Torah and the Jewish people is tenuous and superficial, are acutely aware of these struggles, and more likely to witness the victory of the Torah.

The crushing of the hidden adversaries by the Ark, as the Israelites entered into the Land of Israel in the time of Moses, is a sign for the future victory of the Torah over its ideological and cultural adversaries in the time of the return to Zion in our days.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 266-267; adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, p. 101)

"אלא מעברות נחלי ארנון מנ"ל, דכתיב ע"כ יאמר בספר מלחמות ד' את והב כסופה וגו', תנא את והב כסופה, שני מצורעין היו והיו מהלכין במוף מחנה ישראל כי הוו חלפי ישראל אתו אמוראי עכדי להו נקירותא כו' אמרי כי חלפי ישראל וקטלינון להו ולא הוו ידעי דארון קא מסגי קמייהו דישראל והוה קאמאכי טורי מקיימהו, כיון דאתא ארון אדכיקו טורי בהדי הדדי וקטלינון ונחת דמייהו לנחלי ארנון כי אתו את והב חזו דמא דקא נפיק מביני טורי, אתו אמרו להו לישראל ואמרו שירה, והיינו דכתיב ואשד הנחלים וגו'".

כל המאורעות שאירעו את אבותינו הם סימן לבנים, ביחוד דור המדבר הי' הנושא שקיפל בתקופה קצרה את כל המאורעות שיהיו סימן וזכר עולם לדורות שיהיו באין דוגמתם במצבן הכללי של ישראל ותורתו. וכאשר תכלית הדברים מכל פעולתן של ישראל ומציאותן בא מכח-התורה, ע"כ בא זכרון מלחמות ד' מצורף אל התורה בכניסתם לארץ, מחובר ברמז נצחי אל כל מה שיבא לכלל ישראל בכח תורת ד' אשר עמנו. ע"כ יחסו חז"ל מלחמות ד' דפסוק זה גם על מלחמתה של תורה, ועל גבול כניסת הארץ שהוא נחל ארנון, שמה יתגלה כל הכח של הדברים המתנשאים להלחם בישראל ותורתו בכל דור. והנה הצרים הגלויים הלא נפלו לפני ד' ולפני מחניהו, וכשם שנפלו הצרים הגשמיים העמים עובדי האלילים, כן נפלו ג"כ דיעותיהם הרעות, וכהמס דונג מפני אש נמוגו מפני אדון כל הארץ, עד שנכרתה ממלכת האליל מחסנה, ועומדת היא להכרת כליל מפני אור ישראל וקדושו שמסיני בא. אמנם במטמוניות נטמנו מוקשים דדיעות רעות שלא יצאו עוד אל הפועל בדורות ההם, ועתידין הם לצאת בהמשך הזמן, להתנשא להפר תורה ולבטל מעוזם של ישראל, והמה עומדים כדמות הרים המעכבים כניסת הארץ, כלומר תכלית ביאת ישראל לארץ להיות לאור עולם ע"י תוה"ק. ובתוך ההרים העיכובים הגדולים כיצה"ר שנדמה להר יצפנו מוקשים, כדי שכשישראל יהיו צריכים לעבור גם אלה התקופות שאלו הדיעות והרוחות החדשות יצאו ממחבואיהן, יתנשאו הנה חלילה לקעקע ביצתן של ישראל. 

אמנם ארון האלקים תוה"ק הסגורה, שבאוצר חכמתה כבר הוכנו כלי קרב גם לכל הדיעות היותר מסוכנות וכל הרוחות הסוערות האפשריות לצאת אל הפועל גם בדור אחרון שבאחרונים, כארון הברית דהוי ממיך טורי מקמייהו דישראל, להיות העקב למשור. ובהישרת ההרים ע"פ הדרכת התורה, ממילא העמים המתנשאים ברוחם כי עז להתנגד לקדושתן של ישראל ותעודת התורה ולימודיה יתבטלו וימחו. ועל הגבול כבר נראה שנמחו מן העולם, כי אנו נמצא הכל ישר לפנינו אין שטן ואין פגע רע, וכל הדיעות הרעות שעמים רבים ילכו על ידם בחשיכה, המה מחויים לגמרי מפני הוד קדושת הלימודים הנשגבים והמוסרים הקדושים שהרגילתנו אליהם התוה"ק, המתחברת עם קדושתם של ישראל. 

והנה כלל ישראל היודע בידיעה ברורה וקבלה אמתית את האמת הברורה שבתוה"ק, הלא לא ירגיש כלל בכל הנשגבות שעשתה תוה"ק ע"י כחה האלהי, למחות בשטף עוזה על גבולה את כל שוטני' המסתתרים. כי הלא לא ירגישו כלל כי ישנם דברים מתנגדים שיכולים להזיק לתוה"ק וכל מגמתינו בכלל. אמנם הלא נמצאו מצורעים, הנדחים מחוץ למחנה ובסוף מחנה ישראל ילכו, והמה יסתכלו בכל דרכי העמים ויכירו את רוחם. והנה ההתנגדות תבא מצד החדשות השכליות בחקירה הכללית, שהיא נטפלת אל האמת כערך א"ת מאמ"ת, ש"את" היא הוראת נטפל אל הטפל לבשרו והאמת היא עצמית וקיימת והעוסק בדברים הנטפלים הוא מחוץ למחנה ישראל, אבל מצב צרעתו יחייבהו להיות מחוץ למחנה, כן נמצאים אותם שאבדו סגולת התמימות ונדחו מחוץ למחנה, והכירו את הכוחות המתנגדים הנצפנים. 

והכח השני בא מרוח התאוה ואהבת החיים שהתחדש בציורים חדשים כאילו יחפוץ לבלוע את נחלת ד'. וזהו "והב" מגזרת אהבה, כדדרשו חז"לג"כ והב בסופה אהבה בסופה. והמספר הוא ג"כ כאהב"ה, אלא שאהבה מסודרת לא תקדים את הראוי לאחר וכל דבר יבא בעתו. אבל האהבה המבוהלת תקדים סוף האהבה בתחילתה ותאכל פגה, ותחת אהבה תקדים סוף האהבה אל ראשה לאחד ויהי' וה"ב, והוא משל נמרץ אל מציאות חופש החיים של פריקות עול וחפץ חיי שעה שיתגבר באחרית הימים, באין פנות לחיי עולם ומושגים רמים ותכלית נצחי ונשגב. וגם המצורע הזה הנדחה מתוך המחנה רק הוא יכול להכיר את צד הסכנה שנמצא ברוח זה לתוה"ק ולכלל ישראל, וע"י אותם ההולכים בסוף המחנה, יתודע לישראל הסכנה שהיתה צפונה על הגבול, לולא שהארון בסגולתו העליונה השוה טוריא ונמסו כל המכשילים מאור ד', "למען תמחץ רגלך בדם לשון כלביך מאויבים מנהו, ראו הליכותיך אלהים הליכות אלי מלכי בקדש" . ובאמת החקירה הכוללת והמקפת שהיא מכוונת להוראת א"ת שהיא טפילה, וכוללת הראשית והאחרית בסקירתה, אמנם יחסר לה התוך המבריח את הכל "תתן אמת ליעקב" . ובמ"ם סתומה ופתוחה, מאמר פתוח וסתום [הרב רומז לגמ' שבת ק"ד "מ"ם פתוחה מ"ם סתומה מאמר פתוח מאמר סתום" וכותב בעין איה שם: גדולתה של תורה היא, שהיא כוללת הכל, כל המושגים, בקדושת אחדותה. ואם כי כל המדעים מתחלקים לענינים פתוחים ומפורשים ולענינים סתומים ונעלמים, אבל האחדות הבהירה שבתוך כל מאמר ומאמר יהיה נמצא גם האופי הפתוח וגם האופי הסתום, גם הענינים הגלויים ומושגים לכל וגם הענינים הנעלמים העומדים ברום חביון רזי עולם. זאת היא סגולתה של תורה, שהיא מובלטת ברמז המ"ם, שבביטויו אנו מוצאים את המ"ם הפתוחה ואת המ"ם הסתומה בחטיבה אחת, במלול אחד, להורות על ההתאחדות של המאמר הפתוח עם המאמר הסתום . מ"ם פתוחה מ"ם סתומה, מאמר פתוח מאמר סתום] , תודע כללות התורה שנקראת דרך להוביל אל התכלית מראשית עד אחרית, ושקר אין לו רגלים ללכת בדרך הארוכה, ורק בעיניו יסקור והנה רבו ההגיונות מראשית ועד אחרית. אבל "דליו שוקים מפסח" , וכשיתחברו שאיפת הדרישות והמחקרים עם אהבת החיים הבלתי מסודרת, אז תמצא האנושות עצמה נדחקת באין דרך לפנות, ורק ע"י אור ד' שבתורה תמצא מנוס ומפלט, כח התורה ידביק אלה ההרים יחדיו, והשונאים הצפונים ימסו ודמיהם שיזלו בנחל ארנון העומד על הגבול. כי בהיות הרוח כבר נכנסת לפני ולפנים בעומק התורה והעבודה לא תרגיש בכל אלה הרעות שיש להם מציאות, רק על הגבול יתראו ע"י המצורעים שהם בסוף מחנה ישראל, ותראה ע"י גבורתה של תורה ועזוזה, כאמור בנסע הארון "קומה ד' ויפוצו אויביך וינוסו משנאיך" הנסתרים והגלויים. ע"כ יאמרו ישראל שירה על הבאר, שכולל ג"כ באר החכמה והתורה, שמתגלגלת עם ישראל ממסע למסע להראות להם צפונותי'. וכאשר הדבר נוגע לנצחיות כלל עם ד' ופעולתם בעולם לכלל האנושיות ולעצמם, ע"כ מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, והשונאים הצפונים נטמנו בין ההרים שעל הגבול, ונמוחו ע"י ארון ד'. וע"י המצורעים שהכירו יד ד' בהיותם בסוף מחנה ישראל, אמרו ישראל שירה. ובודאי המצורעין הללו שעל ידם נתגלגלה זכות השירה כדאים הם שירפאו ע"י הנחל היוצא מבית קה"ק, שיהי' לחטאת ולנדה. וכבר נרמז ענין הצרעת, בעת הבוסר שלא נגמרו הדיעות להבין ערכם הנשגב של ישראל, באדון הנביאים ב"הבא נא ידך אל חיקיך", שאמר "והן לא יאמינו", ואצל מרים הנביאה בעת דברה על אחיה לאמר "הרק אך במשה". ומצורעים כאלה הנפגעים מדיעות דומות לאלו, המה בסוף מחנה ישראל ישכנו, ומשם ירגישו את כל הרעות הצפונות שע"י רוח הזמן הי' מוכן לבא להשחית ולאבד. אמנם ארון ד' השוה ההרים, וכל הרשעה כעשן כלתה, ונמקו הרים מדמם. קול רינה וישועה באהלי צדיקים ימין ד' עושה חיל.

The Healing Snake

לרפואת מרים בת דוד בתוך שח"י

There is a tradition amongst Gerrer Chasidim that learning the following Sfas Emes on this weeks parsha is a Segulah for refuah [heard from the Tolna Rebbe Shlita] - besides it being a gevaldike shtikel. So here it is:

בפסוק עשה לך שרף כו'. במשנה וכי נחש ממית כו' מחי' אלא בזמן שמסתכלין כלפי מעלה ומשעבדין לבם לאביהם שבשמים מתרפאין. וקשה הי' צריך להיות הסתכלות לשמים בלבד למה נחש נחושת. 

אכן באמת הי' הנחש מסוגל לרפואה זו ששם הקב"ה בו רפואה זו וכמ"ש רמב"ן ז"ל שדרכו של הקב"ה למתוק מר במר לכן אף שדרך הטבע מי שנשוך מכלב ורואה אותו מזיק לו יותר שם הקב"ה כאן להיפוך שע"י הראי' יתרפאו ע"ש. אעפ"כ זה הרצון שבהיותו עוסק ברפואה הגשמיי יסתכל ויהי' לבו לשמים ע"י שמיישב עצמו וכי נחש מחי' וזה שאמר מסתכלין ומשעבדין לבם. פי' אף שהם רחוקים מעולם העליון ועוסקים בטבע אעפ"כ ישעבדו לבם פי' להסתכל לשמים ולהראות שחפצים לצאת ממאסר עוה"ז והטבע ולהתדבק בו ית'. וזהו עשה לך שרף הוא התלהבות האדם לדבוק בו ית' כנ"ל:


Torah on Chukas .

The Challenges Of The Baalabos

Regarding the previous post, some thoughts:

1] If it is possible, one can move to Israel!!:-) A person can save tens of thousands of dollars a year on tuition [not to mention sleepaway summer camp which doesn't exist here]. Besides, it's a mitzva:):)!! Chazal say that living in Israel is like you have a G-d while living outside the land is like you don't have a G-d. Chazal say that the value of living in Israel equals all the mitzvos. And much, much more! 

But not everyone can come. 

2] When one chooses a field of work, it is very important to choose an area in which one is interested and will get satisfaction. One can make a lot of money in almost every field. 

3] There is really plenty of time for a frum Jew to learn: Like to and from work. The train [at least the LIRR] is very comfortable and one can learn in relative comfort. Then there are Friday nights, Shabbosos, Motzei Shabbosos, Sundays, national holidays, Jewish holidays and those in between times at work that many people have. I have a chavrusa who works in a Manhattan office who takes out an hour from his busy day to learn [in addition to learning before and after work]. People go to weddings and instead of engaging in idle chatter before the chuppah they can go to the side and learn a daf gemara. At the Chuppah they can learn instead of watching all of the Kallah's friend's walking down the aisle. They are loads of times to learn. My experience is that many balabatim [not all] are not terribly interested in learning so much. They do their daf yomi or whatever [if that] and the buck stops there. Halevai that all people should be so frustrated that they can't learn more.  

4] Hashem doesn't require that one do more than he can. If one feels guilty because he is not learning enough then that is his own issue. Hashem is not going to punish someone who wasn't able to learn so much because he needed to feed his family and pay his children's tuitions. 

5] One should be thankful he has a job that pays the bills. I often bring the example of highly talented mechanchim in Eretz Yisrael who make less that the checkout lady in Fairway [my local supermarket when I am in the City]. They get paid enough to either pay the rent [or at least most of it] or to feed one's family, but not both. 

6] If you are at a shiur and the teacher says something that you don't understand - then ASK. Don't sit there for an hour all annoyed that you don't know what he is talking about.  

7] Life is frustrating. We all have unrequited dreams, hopes and aspirations. Life is also filled with disappointments. One needs a close friend or three with whom to share his burdens [a strong marriage is especially helpful], a close relationship with Hashem and a firm belief that he has a purpose and whatever happens is part of his purpose in life. The Rambam writes that Simcha is an עבודה גדולה. Big work. We all have to work out it. If others aren't giving you chizzuk - give it to yourself. There is an old line that you shouldn't tell people your problems because 80 percent don't care and 20 percent are happy you have them. People are very immersed in their own problems and rare is the person whose heart is open enough to hear about the pain and angst of someone else. And when they are willing to listen they take hundreds of dollars for their time and "expertise". So there are caring feeling people out there but don't count on them. One should find internal reservoirs of strength. The very fact that a person cares so much should be a great boost when he realizes where his true desires lie. 

There is much more but not for now...:-)         

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What About Me ?

I saw this piece and really felt this man's pain which really expresses the pain of many, many people. [It is slightly edited]. I will respond and try to offer some solutions and insight in a future post אי"ה.


“The slave lives in silence, if such a meaningless existence may be called life. He has no message to deliver. In contrast with the slave, the free man bears a message, has a good deal to tell, and is eager to convey his life story to anyone who cares to listen.” (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Redemption, Prayer, Talmud Torah”)

For the past few decades, we have all examined, explored, debated, and [some have tried] to adjust the women’s role in Torah observant Judaism to work with contemporary attitudes. However, as a man I often say to myself, as did the simple attendant to the demanding Shakespearean stage actor in the 1983 film The Dresser, “What about me?”

I have met with varying degrees of success in presenting this question to people. I said it once in so many words to a well-known rabbi who passionately promotes what some would call a feminist agenda in Orthodox Judaism. I told him that we need to start examining the man’s role in contemporary Orthodoxy for it needs some adjustment. All is not rosy. He told me that he didn’t know what I was talking about and he walked away.

As for other people, some whom I have approached seemed to feel that I had nothing to complain about since the halakha allowed me to be called up for the Torah reading. That this happens every four months or so and lasts all of 60 seconds didn’t seem to change their outlook.

However, the baal habatim I meet on the commuter train understand quite well. We all know what it’s like to spend 10 hours a day sitting in an office cubical. Men are assigned mitzvot that women are not. The world judges us negatively as those who enjoy privileges, but ignores the obligation we have to support our families. They tend to forget about this one. This overwhelming obligation, assigned by the male rabbis, defines most of our existence. It is incumbent on the male and not on the female.

We all know about the insane expenses involved in maintaining an Orthodox Jewish household in the 21st century. Some part of this is a result of our excessively high living standards as a group. For example, do you think that the average American high school graduate expects to study for a year abroad after graduation and to have his parents pay for it? Between the unavoidable costs like private school tuition for all and the frivolous ones that have become community norms, a typical frum family needs to land itself in the top 10% income bracket just to survive in the US. Question: How much income does one need to be categorized in the top 10%? Answer: $118,000 per year. It is a man’s task to get his family there. The great majority of us haven’t arrived. But we try. How we try.

This is particularly difficult in the corporate era. Gone are the days when a man could support his family with a simple hardware store. Home Depot and Lowes ended that. Gone are the days when a man could support his family with a simple clothing store, as my great uncle did, or a general store. Walmart and the like ended that. So it goes for restaurants, stationery stores, and even funeral homes. Corporate chains dominate. Thus, the man must go to work for someone else, where he tends to become something less than a man.

Corporations don’t set their wages with Orthodox Jews in mind. They set them at a level such that the typical gentile family can send their 1.9 kids to public school and barely get by living in their town far from an eruv. This means that the Orthodox Jewish male can’t just be a regular employee. He must battle his way up the corporate ladder. And it is not pleasant up the ladder. Jewish values decline with every rung to the top. However, the work load and pace increase as one nears it. (It seems to ease considerably for the few that get there.) All of this has worsened considerably since the financial crash. Terror about whether one will be employed at all is an hourly concern.

Furthermore, a man will not land himself in the top 10% with a creative writing or Judaica crafts career. Some, likely with significant family help, manage to pull it off, but this is not the normal case. Meanwhile, I recall how in my “single” days many of my dates were doing things like getting PhDs in history or studying art or journalism or social work. It was my dream to be a social worker. I would listen jealously while driving my date back to campus knowing how the next day I was going back to my cubical in the New York financial firm. On more than one occasion I told my dates of my interest in their field, how I have had a desire to be a college professor, social worker, or writer – are those not the kinds of fields to which our secular education points us? Each one stated in blunt terms that such professions would leave me unable to support my family. How privileged I was to be a man.

Now, I don’t mean to complain against the Torah and the role it has given me. My sarcasm wasn’t directed so much towards heaven as it was to the people who keep insisting that we men have it made, have it easy, to the people who don’t understand that men too need understanding and support and some tweaking of our situation.

Yes, many women work too. Some more, some less. But Jewish law does not require this technically. The pressure is not on them. (They have other pressures obviously.) Jewish law also does not require them to study Torah. This allows them more flexibility to come and go, to take hard work or not so hard work, to enter careers that they can enjoy and to prepare for them. Even the kollel wives rarely take jobs in the trenches of corporate America.

Recently I sat at a Shabbat table with some young modern Orthodox people. The young men talked desperately about how rapidly to score money to extend their Torah studies while the young women talked about fulfilling careers. Interestingly, the young men did not talk about earning a living in order to start a family. I considered the incredible irony to the tenor of the discussion. In the end, the young men would spend the rest of their lives working in jobs for which they are not prepared (if they could find jobs) while the women likely would abandon their careers to raise families. There was something incredibly wrong with the expectations and preparation for life that we are giving our young people.

I have been sitting in cubicles for 25 years. Like many of the men on the commuter train, I expect to continue until I die because these corporations do not offer pensions, and 401k savings amounts to just a few thousand dollars a year. The work is painfully dull even as it is high-pressure and thankless. Frequently, I and my commuter comrades endure abuse at the hands of bosses, colleagues, and customers. Each day is a battle in the long war to put kosher food on the table.

We are expected to log in at night. We get emails on the weekend. Our jobs take from us some 60 hours per week.

The commute from my town to Manhattan is an hour plus each way, if one makes the train. On the trip home I often miss the train due to the difficulties of extricating myself from the office. I try to read on the train, to study Torah, but it’s not easy. People push and shove. They come and go. Half-dressed women sit next to me. I’m not allowed to look at them, of course - another decree of Torah that falls on men. The world actually blames us for this one, as if I asked to be born with male urges and strict rules about their usage. Again, I’m not complaining against the Torah  but am trying to show a little bit of what we men endure and how the rabbis by no means gave us the easy life as compared to our sisters.

Trees fly by my eyes, distracting me. I tried listening to recordings of shiurim, but the train noise makes it very difficult to hear. Mostly, I wait for the time to go, all the while feeling guilty that I’m not studying Torah. This plus work is half of a 24 hour day – 12 hours.

What do we baal habatim do for the rest of the day. Well, there’s sleep of about 7 hours. The Rambam suggests 8 and we likely need it, in part to recover from the stress of the day. We catch some sleep on the train. Running total: 19 hours.

Davening takes close to 2 hours if you count travel to and from shul and waiting for minyanim to begin and end. Some days more, some days less. Running total: 21 hours.

We each spend 1.5 hours each day taking care of the lowly creature, the body: preparing food, eating, dressing, taking care of hygiene. Note that I only allocated 1 hour for the eating of three meals and bentching. Only in America. A French-Lebanese man once told me a joke as follows: What two species of animals eat and walk at the same time? Answer: donkeys and Americans. I generally eat while working. For those who cannot afford takeout for lunch or who don’t work near kosher food joints, this may include food preparation as well. I gave a half hour to all personal grooming, dressing, and taking care of clothes. Americans expect one another to smell like a rose at all times. Gone are the days when a person could bathe once a week or once a year or get away with a stain on his shirt. Running total: 22.5 hours.

That leaves 1.5 hours a day for errands. I won’t bore you with the details as you certainly know all about your own errands. 

Many of us have to go to night school because we spent our formative years in yeshiva totally ignoring the concept of parnassah – not that colleges are actually geared towards parnassah, but that’s another story. Oh yes, then there’s all the Torah study we are expected to do. All of the examination into women and Torah study fails to mention what comes with men and Torah study: lots and lots of guilt and pressure. This has the effect of taking an already pressurized American day where there’s barely a minute to spare and raising the pressure up a few notches.

In addition to all that Torah study are the shalom bayit classes where we hear that women are wonderful and men are terrible. I do not count this as Torah study because I do not think that the Torah presents such a view.

I once approached a rabbi with the following inquiry: why do we daven so much if Torah study is greater than davening and our schedules don’t allow for much Torah study. He told me that my question wasn’t really why do we daven so much but why don’t I study Torah more. (Evidently, I don’t even understand my own questions.) He told me that I should study Torah 4 hours a day. Then he stood up and walked away.

I concluded that either he couldn’t do simple math or he just didn’t understand the life of the baal habayit.

The latter conclusion is more probable. I was quite moved by the depiction of a Sephardic rav who while walking home stopped by each fruit stand to buy a piece of fruit from different Jewish peddlers. His goal, he explained, was to let the baal habatim know that the local rabbi is involved with their lives and understands their day to day existence.

Some community leaders appear to understand baal habatim only through the wealthy ones that host parlor meetings. I sometimes go to parlor meetings and am shocked to see how well some people live. One can get a warped view of baal habatim from these parlor meetings. They think we all live like that, have money to burn, and plenty of time on our hands. We are all big-time lawyers, doctors or diamond dealers who are lavished with cash and cavod.

A recent frum newspaper article on bar mitzvah expenses contained the following interesting quotation from a rabbi in Lakewood, “The fact that some people live simpler lives, while others maintain a more baalebatish standard, used to be an accepted reality in Lakewood.” I know wealthy baal habatim, and I know ones who struggle. I know rabbis who live in big houses and I know ones who struggle. From where did this gentleman get his rather simplistic notion of the “baalebatish standard”? Perhaps it is a throwback to the days of pensions, rising wages, and housing booms. However, since 1980 real wages for the typical male worker have fallen even as the GNP has grown 69%. (Source: IRS statistics and Money Magazine) Some in our community have prospered (somebody is grabbing that 69%) and perhaps this gentleman has benefited from their largess in his visits to their stately homes. However, the typical person is worse off since expenses for education, healthcare, and housing, particularly housing in frum communities, have gone off the charts. Remember also that baalei batim are much more likely to pay full tuition which at $10,000 a child or more easily can amount to the majority of their earnings.

I was at a fund raising presentation for a hesed organization recently where the organization’s rabbi set $500 as the amount of money we each should donate as a minimum to his organization. I was thinking, does he think I have $500 to spare, just like that? I’d be bouncing checks all over town if I drained my account with a $500 check to him. Frankly, I found it irresponsible of him to use his authority to pressure us into it.

As for cavod, the average baal habayit enjoys very little cavod. After all, we are but lowly baal habatim. Tell me, when you hear the term “baal habayit” do you hear “not a rav,” i.e. second class citizen? When was the last time that you as a baal habyit got any real honor or hizuk to help you deal with your life? I’m not talking about guilt and pressure to study more Torah. Every time I go to an evening of hizuk for men it amounts to the call for more Torah study and donations to the speaker’s organization. That’s not hizuk; it’s pressure. When I say hizuk I’m talking about appreciation for all that you do and all that you endure. I’m talking about praise. Can you imagine somebody actually praising the baal habayit? Well, I did once read something by Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt’l where he did exactly that. As usual, this unique gadol hador led the way, but how many followed? What his essay got me thinking was how rarely this happens. I have seen shul dinners honor individuals, but that’s for their contributions to the shul, not for being a plain old baal habayit. Moreover, the fund raising aspect to it undermines the message somewhat. You wonder, what’s the real motive here? Perhaps, you hear it stam from time to time even though I don’t. I believe that you should hear it all the time because you need it and you deserve it. I have heard recordings of women’s evening of hizuk and I heard real hizuk.

I have laid out a bevy of gripes here and lest you deem me a miserable grumbler, let me say that I’m not speaking necessarily for myself with every point here. Moreover, I have my happiness. As Rav Avigdor Miller zt’l might say, just having eyeballs that function is a happiness. Complaining is a poor substitute for living and there’s no end to it. However, I have set aside a little time here for some concentrated complaining in order to highlight a particular set of issues. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik said the following:

Judaism, in contradistinction to mystical quietism, which recommended toleration of pain, wants man to cry out aloud against any kind of pain, to react indignantly to all kinds of injustice or unfairness. For Judaism held that the individual who displays indifference to pain and suffering, who meekly reconciles himself to the ugly, disproportionate and unjust in life, is not capable of appreciating beauty and goodness. Whoever permits his legitimate needs to go unsatisfied will never be sympathetic to the crying needs of others. (“Redemption, Prayer, Talmud Torah”)

Society does not allow men to protest on their own behalf. We must be silent. We must take it. As one sees from the words of Rabbi Soloveitchik, this posture is problematic not just for the men themselves. I’ll repeat the last line: “Whoever permits his legitimate needs to go unsatisfied will never be sympathetic to the crying needs of others.” Now that I have your attention, I am writing to let you know that all is not rosy with the male role in contemporary Judaism, particularly for baal habatim. I realize that we get the occasional opportunity to be called up for the Torah reading. But there’s a whole world of other things to look at: pressures, pressures, and more pressures. Many of them are imposed not by Torah but by society, by community, and even unnecessarily by family. We need to see what we can do about that. (Of course, this does not apply to all families, for example, not mine.)

I’ll say for the third time, I’m not coming to complain about the tasks imposed by the Torah. Having duties is a major part of our task as Jews, perhaps the major part of our accomplishment and happiness. I understand that. I think I do. But it is important for all to know that these alone are all consuming and frequently at odds with modern life. We need everyone to know this because we need your appreciation and your assistance.

I have seen gallons of ink spilled on the topic of women and tefillah, whether they can be called up for aliyot or have their own prayer groups. (I wonder what percentage of women really desires these.) I understand the frustration with the rules. I don’t want to shut down conversation there. But I would like to see some conversation on men and tefillah. After all, we all are required to spend nearly two hours a day doing it. Can it be made shorter? Can I skip some pieces if I am utterly exhausted? For all the halakhic gymnastics that go on around agunah, pre-nuptial agreements, and women’s prayer, there is no attempt to help make davening a bit more manageable for men. Yet, adjustments even slight ones to davening, I have never heard mentioned, considered, or discussed ever.

I feel bad complaining about davening because theoretically it is an opportunity to speak to the Almighty. However, the whole thing starts to unravel when the volume and frequency bumps up against the American materialistic rat race. As one sympathetic rabbi said to me, you spend the days counting milliseconds on your computer. How can you be expected to just stop and daven a 10 minute Shemoneh Esrei? The sheer quantity of prayers forces one to rush and all the feeling goes out the window.

Two hours a day, three appointments a day. This is a big issue. I don’t see it discussed. Moreover, I really can’t think of a time that I read an article in an Orthodox publication about the plight of the male baal habayit in general, or went to a topical presentation on the subject. I don’t hear anybody getting outraged or looking for solutions. I don’t see people gathering in protest outside the houses of the people who make life very difficult for baal habatim.

Since I have mentioned Rabbi Miller, let me say that he excelled in gearing his talks for baal habatim. He offered practical tips and outlooks that would make life better for them. He took pains to explain how we can grow from our struggle to make a living. He didn’t present it as an unfortunate distraction to Torah study. You can’t look at the great majority of your life as a distraction. Although a matmid par excellence, he understood the limited time for study available to the typical baal habayit and he presented goals such as emunah, awareness of Hashem, and character development as being equally important as Torah study. He said for example, “Our job is to learn that even when you are in the subway; you are jammed in the crowd; you are hanging from a strap; you close your eyes – but watch your pockets – and you think of Hashem.” Although fluent in Yiddish, he gave classes nearly completely in English so that people who are not sitting in yeshiva all day could understand them. I go to lots of classes that I cannot follow because of all the Hebrew and Aramaic. I was at a class recently at a local shul in a suburban town where the speaker quoted a Gemara in Aramaic and then gave a whole class on it without ever translating the quotation. Listen to Rabbi Miller’s recordings sometime. They have a refreshing flavor to them. They are precious material for the baal habayit. Rabbi Soloveitchik when speaking to the public was careful to speak nearly entirely in English and to translate any Hebrew.

And while I’m alluding to the topic of agunah, let me make mention of my numerous friends, some of them genuinely nice people, whose wives decided to take their children and their homes. These men obediently gave gittin; although it is not clear to me that the Torah truly requires that of them or even advises it. Maybe the Torah rule requiring the man’s willingness to give a get was created for the purpose of preventing rash destruction of marriage for reasons like, “I’m not into him anymore” or “He’s not wealthy.” I know cases like this. Granted, some women are in intolerable situations and have to get out. I have heard about that and I do sympathize. I am glad that people write about it and assist these women. However, I have seen lots of unjustified divorces where nice men lose everything. I have seen it, but I haven’t seen it written about.

Surely, divorce, gittin, and agunah are complicated topics with perspectives on both sides. Isn’t that usually the case in life? I have not heard perspectives on both sides. What I hear is endless wrangling over technicalities all for one purpose and that purpose is not to help unfortunate men. I don’t hear consideration of the big picture. I don’t hear sympathy for men for why would men deserve sympathy? Men have it all. It’s their world, all 16 square feet of it, from cubical wall to cubical wall.

Through it all, I believe in the Torah life and its distinctions in gender roles, including its imposition on men alone of numerous responsibilities. Obviously, I’m presenting some of the problems here and I hesitate in doing so lest people misunderstand. Life is a battle, but a meaningful one. The Torah helps me to see that and live that. And many of the challenges that are assigned to men and men alone are partly due to how life was set up and partly due to the folly of humankind as a whole. My gripe is that we should be working a little as a community to help men deal with their struggles just as we work a lot to help women deal with theirs. In my view, we fail terribly at this task. We hardly take it on at all. And the baal habayit, the typical Orthodox Jewish man, is left asking, “What about me?”

The Goal Is Subordination

Sfas Emes blog 

The Midrash relates the argument Bil’am used to try to convince God to side with the nations of the world against the nation of Israel. Bil’am’s point was simple. Would it not be better to be worshiped by seventy nations than one nation? At first glance, Bil’am’s argument to God was a good one. Does it not indeed make more sense to include the nations of the world?

God answered, the Midrash[1] tells us, with a pasuk from Mishlei, “טוֹב פַּת חֲרֵבָה וְשַׁלְוָה־בָהּ מִבַּיִת מָלֵא זִבְחֵי־רִיב/Better dry bread and peace than a house full of contentious celebrations.” (Mishlei 17:1) The Midrash explains the metaphor. The dry bread represents the nation of Israel.The house full of contentious celebrations represents the nations of the world. God would rather be worshiped by the nation of Israel than the nations of the world if their purpose is to insert a wedge of discord between Him and Israel.

This answer seems to beg the question though for if each nation truly submits to God, why would God prefer Israel? The answer, the Chiddushei HaRim says, is that the nations of the world are disingenuous regarding their submission to God. While the nations of the world certainly accomplish great things, Chazal teach us that they are far from altruistic.[2] Rather, their own interests motivate them. They may perform acts of kindness, but it is only to lord it over others. Bil'am himself subordinated himself to God, "... אִם־יִתֶּן־לִי בָלָק מְלֹא בֵיתוֹ כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא אוּכַל לַעֲבֹר אֶת־פִּי ה׳ אֱ־לֹהָי .../.. Were Balak to give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot transgress the word of God, my Lord …” (Bemidbar 22:18) Yet Chazal learn from this very pasuk that Balak really wanted all that money.

Sincerity, then, differentiates us from the nations of the world. God prefers our worship to theirs since it is sincere. The nations of the world use their submission to God as a springboard for self aggrandizement. The nation of Israel also submits. However, for our righteous, the submission is an end in and of itself. Even when we ask God to help us reach higher levels, it is to come closer to Him, to be able to submit even more.

Conventionally, a lowly soul – נֶפֶשׁ שְׁפֵלָה – one of the good character traits that Avraham Avinu teaches his students, is one who spurns the base desires and temptations of the physical world. Bil’am, Chazal[3] tell us, had an expansive soul – נֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה. He surrendered to his physical desires and used his stature to do so.

The Sfas Emes, however, gives us a deeper understanding of a lowly soul. Unlike Bil’am, it is one who does not use his work to come close to God in a self serving way. Of course, he will not use his service to God as a way of satisfying base desires. He also will not use his service to God as a means for reaching higher spiritual levels and gaining more spiritual power. Unquestionably, as a byproduct of his work, he will reach higher spiritual levels. But these achievements are not his goal. Instead, he uses those levels to further subordinate himself to the infinite God.

[1] Bemidbar R. 20:18

[2] Bava Basra 10b

[3] Avos 5:19

אא"ז מורי ז"ל הגיד על המדרש שאמר בלעם טוב להיות נעבד מע' אומות והשיב הקב"ה טוב פת חריבה כו'. אף שכל אומה תתן כחה להכניע להקב"ה. מ"מ אינה באמת כמ"ש חז"ל מה דעבדין לגרמייהו כו'. הרי במה שהכניע עצמו בלעם הרשע לפנים ואמר אם יתן לי כו' לא אוכל לעבור כו' ומזה עצמו נלמד רוח גבוהה שלו. והחילוק הוא נקודה האמיתיות שסט"א מכניע כדי לגנוב ולעלות. ואנחנו בני ישראל גם העליות שמבקשין מהשי"ת שנוכל להתקרב אליו כדי להכניע ולשוב ליראתו באמת. וזהו סוף הרצון שבישראל לבוא לההכנעה [וזהו נפש שפלה שרוצה להישאר כך]:

Our Souls Are Connected To The Land

Sfas Emes blog 

“... וַתֹּאמֶר לְבִלְעָם מֶה־עָשִׂיתִי לְךָ כִּי הִכִּיתַנִי זֶה שָׁלֹש רְגָלִים/(The donkey) said to Bil’am, ‘What did I do to you that you hit me three times?” (Bamidbar 22:28) The word “time” is found many times in the Torah as “פַּעַם.” This is the only place in Tanach where the word regel is used to mean “time.” Why? The Midrash answers that the Torah is alluding to the shalosh regalim, Pesach, Shavuos and Succos, the three holidays that we celebrate each year.[1] God is berating Bil’am for wanting to destroy a nation that celebrates these three holidays.

The nation keeps many mitzvos. Why did God hint specifically at the shalosh regalim? The allusion to the three holidays specifically, is a response to Balak’s complaint. Balak’s stated purpose was to prevent the nation from entering the land of Israel, “... אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה־בּוֹ וַאֲגֳרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן־הָאָרֶץ .../… Perhaps I will be able to strike them and banish them from the land …” (Bamidbar 22:6) The Sfas Emes explains that from the three holidays we learn of the special connection between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel. By alluding to the shalosh regalim God is telling Bil’am that there is a special relationship between the nation of Israel and this particular land. No other land will do.

How do the shalosh regalim indicate a special relationship between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel? A primary element of the shalosh regalimcelebrations is the aliya laregel, the requirement for every male to go up to the Beis HaMikdash on the holiday. The Sfas Emes explains that aliya laregel is a testimony that the land of Israel was set aside specifically for the nation of Israel as David HaMelech wrote in Tehillim (122:4), “שֶׁשָּׁם עָלוּ שְׁבָטִים ... עֵדוּת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל .../For there the tribes ascended … a testimony for Israel …” Bil’am himself prophesied this, “כִּי־מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ וּמִגְּבָעוֹת אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ .../For I will see him (the nation) from the top of mountain peaks and will view him from hills.” (Bamidbar 23:9) The plain meaning of this prophecy is that every mountain peak and hilltop was designated for the nation of Israel. He saw the nation filling the entire land. 

Chazal also mention this relationship.[2] Chazal teach us that God acquired, as it were, five things in this world. Three of the five are the heavens and the earth, the nation of Israel and the Beis HaMikdash. That these are mentioned together in this mishna indicates that there is a strong relationship between them. 

What is the nature of this relationship? The Sfas Emes explains that the children of Israel have qualities which exactly match the qualities inherent in the land of Israel. Just as the Zohar[3] teaches that the land of Israel and the Beis Hamikdash are the foundation from which the entire Creation sprung, so too, the Sfas Emes teaches, the children of Israel are the foundation for all the souls in the Creation.[4]

The land of Israel needs the nation for its tikun/rectification. Chazal teach us that Bil’am’s blessing, “מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב .../Who can count the dirt of Ya’akov …” (Bamidbar 23:10) is referring to the many mitzvos which are fulfilled only in the dirt of the land of Israel. The mitzvos of tithing, shmitta and many other mitzvos can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel. These mitzvos are needed to rectify the land and only the children of Israel are able to perform these mitzvos. This is why God blessed Ya’akov by comparing his descendents to the dirt of the land, “וְהָיָה זַרְעֲךָ כַּעֲפַר הָאָרֶץ .../Your progeny shall be like the dirt of the land.” (Breishis 28:14) The Creator prepared the dirt of the land of Israel specifically for the descendents of Ya’akov. Only we can rectify it. 

Just as He measured the land, “מִי־מָדַד ... וְכָל בַּשָּׁלִשׁ עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ .../Who measured with a measure the dirt of the land …,” (Yeshaya 40:12) He also measured the dirt of Ya’akov, “מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב .../Who can count the dirt of Ya’akov …” The Sfas Emes teaches us that that each grain of dirt in the land of Israel is associated with a Jewish soul. May we merit appreciating the integral connection between us and our land and to fulfilling the mitzvos needed to rectify it!

[1] Bamidbar R. 20:14
[2] Avos 6:10
[3] Zohar 2:222a-b
[4] The Creation is structured as a hierarchy leading from most to least spiritual. Life giving energy flows from the Creator through the spiritual realms and finally to the physical world, giving existence to all. The souls of the nation of Israel are an integral part of this hierarchy. (see Nefesh HaChaim 1:17 and 2:17)

במדרש ג' רגלים רמז לו שביקש לעקור אומה החוגגת ג' רגלים. ולמה דוקא מצוה זו. אך דהג' רגלים שעלו בנ"י לרגל הי' עדות שהמה מיוחדים לירושת הארץ וביהמ"ק כדכ' יראה כל זכורך כו' במקום אשר יבחר. וכ' ששם עלו שבטים כו' עדות לישראל. וכן אמר אותו רשע כי מראש צורים אראנו ומגבעות אשורנו. לפי פשוטו שראה בנבואה כי כל צור וגבעה בא"י מיוחד לבנ"י. וארץ ישראל אשר הנחיל השי"ת לאבותינו ולנו אינו במקרה רק כשברא העולם והי' יסוד העולם ארץ ישראל וביהמ"ק. כמו כן בנ"י יסוד הנפשות וכל הציור של א"י וביהמ"ק הוא מכוון לציור של בנ"י דאיתא ישראל קנין אחד כו' שמים וארץ כו' ביהמ"ק כו' וכל אלה הקנינים שייכים זה לזה. ולאשר אמר ואגרשנו מן הארץ הראה לו הקב"ה כי הארץ מיוחד להם. וכ' מי מנה עפר יעקב מצות שעושין בעפר. פי' מצות שהם חובת קרקע ונוהגין בארץ כי הם תקונים השייכים לא"י ואין מי שיתקן זאת רק בנ"י. וכ' והי' זרעך כעפר הארץ ומי שאמר והי' העולם הכין עפר הארץ לזרע יעקב. וכמו שנתן מדה ומנין לעפר הארץ כדכ' מי מדד כו' וכל בשליש עפר הארץ כן מי מנה עפר יעקב ולכל גרגורי עפר מארץ ישראל מיוחדים נפשות פרטיות מישראל:

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