On Timings and Kotel Tunnel

The attacks by the left for the opening of the “tunnel of the Kotel” are known to all. More interesting, though, is what the so-called right had to say about it. The minister Moshe Katzav for example, a man of myopic proportions, publicly stated that it was a mistake. But what is more interesting was the reaction of those who are considered to be more ideologically motivated. Following the riots, we were not surprised to see a general support for the act. But that’s only generally speaking, because everyone spoke about the bad “timing” of the act. Thus wrote the “hawk” Yoske Shapira: “And in any case, one must say the truth in the open, that any sensitive subject needs the proper timing – and all the more so when dealing with a state which is in need of every drop of good will it can get (from the goy). They don’t understand a thing. He who speaks of “timing” in this generation does not grasp the essence of the struggle taking place. The whole struggle in this generation is one of sanctifying G-d’s Name, and the main thing G-d demands of us is to participate in the sanctification of His Name, and notto desecrate It. Sanctification of His Name can only be IN THE OPEN, infront of the television cameras, like in the exodus of Egypt which was “inthe self-same day” and not in the fog of the night like Pharo wanted. ForMoshe knew to tell him: “Like thieves we are going to leave at night? Wewill only leave in the light of day before the eyes of all of Egypt!” That’sright. Not like thieves in the night! You don’t open the tunnel in the nighthoping that the Arabs won’t pay attention. You don’t look for the propertiming “from an international point of view”. On the contrary. You invitethe world media and you open up the tunnel before their eyes, and informthem that it is our country and our Jerusalem, and it’s too bad. Yes, Yoske Shapira, Kiddush Hashem! Much of the tragedy that is befalling us has been caused by the “national camp” since the days of Begin, and it is because of this perverted conceptof “the right timing.” And between me and you – has there ever been in the last hundred years one “appropriate” time? But we are here. Sanctify G-d’s Name. Kiddush Hashem. This is the secret of our generation. This is the key to a true Jewish state.

Nitzavim/Vayelech: Free Will

See – I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil, that which I command you today. To love Hashem, your G-d, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments, His decrees, and His ordinances; then you will live and you will multiply, and Hashem, your G-d, willbless you in the Land to which you come to possess it…

I call heaven and earth as witnesses! Before you I have placed life and death, the blessing and the curse. You must choose life, so that you and your descendants will live. (Deut. 30:15,16).

 This warning was issued when the Jewish People were about to enter their land, to live there isolated from the nations’ detestable practices. Unfortunately, even in Eretz Yisrael, we sinned greatly and exile was decreed, such that instead of being a “nation that dwells alone” (Num. 23:9), we ended up among the nations, and most of the Jewish People became like them. As a result, large parts of our people, in effect, lost the ability to choose. The free choice that was their lot in Eretz Yisrael, their land and birthplace, became a farce among the nations where they were conquered by foreign culture; and countless Jews became spiritual captives.How can we expect Israel to repent as a people when they do not even have any questions? Why should G-d continue punishing His people for so long when not only is the punishment not beneficial, but, as we saw following the dreadful Holocaust, tens of thousands of believing Jews even became heretics? How can G-d draw near to Him a people that has lost its understanding to choose between good and evil, between life and death? Regarding the verse, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may you also do good, that are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer. 13:23), Redak comments, “You have so accustomed yourselves to evil that it cannot leave you, as though it were a second nature to you.”In this age of  great scientific and technological advancement, when materialistic, cosmopolitan “realism” makes assimilation seem acceptable, it is clear that the Jewish captive to foreign culture will not improve his ways. Quite the contrary, he marches along proudly, far from the camp, far from the idea of repenting, almost cut off from every link to his origins. He has lost, so to speak, the power of free choice. He who was earmarked to be like the stars of the heavens, wallows in the mire.

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Rosh Hashanah: What Kind of “Tsh’uva” Do We Need?

Every schoolboy knows that Rosh Hashana is the time for us to do “Tshuva”. Yeshiva halls are bursting with such talk, and in the month of “Elul”, all religious newspapers have the concept of “Tshuva” plastered all over their pages. Every rabbi knows that “Elul” is the time to tell his congregation to do serious soul searching and find their way to G-d. Generally speaking, the concept of “Tshuva” is one of the few things that everyone agrees upon. And so, “Baal Tshuva” Yeshivas are in abundance, and the concept of “bringing someone to Tshuva” is accepted by all.

The question that arises is the following: If the Jewish nation is so involved in “Tshuva”, why is the Jewish State in the worst situation it has ever been in spiritually, socially and from the point of view of security? The answer is the following: Obviously the “Tshuva” we see today is a positive thing that must be encouraged, but it is far from adequate. We must strive for a different KIND of “tshuva” – one that is much more comprehensive and far reaching.

The time has arrived for us to be outraged at the cheapening of Jewish blood in the Jewish State. The time has come for us to open our eyes to the national disaster that hovers over the Jewish State and World Jewry as well, and to escape from the apathy of our tiny lives and the mud we are mired in. Anyone who has read the words of Rabbi Kahane, HY”D, concerning the period we live in today, cannot possibly remain indifferent. He stressed, especially before his death, the vicious hate and the awesome tragedies which will be unleashed against the Jewish People before the final redemption in the form of what the sages call “Bi-Eta” – the redemption that comes slowly at its fixed time.

This entire nightmare will befall us if we don’t wake up and “DO TSHUVA”!! We’re not talking here just about a “tshuva” of “Shabbos” and “tefilin”, but rather one of deeds that express genuine “Bitachon” in Hashem – acts of Kiddush Hashem that will change the slow, painful redemption to a speedy and glorious one. We must have enough faith in G-d to do those “painful” and “difficult” tasks that Jews of old considered “normal”. It is time for us to realize how terrible it is when Jews are murdered, and how much worse it is when the ones lucky enough to still be alive are too apathetic or fearful of the gentile or leftist reaction to do something about it. We must realize what “Tshuva” is in a broader sense. It is expressed in the belief that the Jewish G-d is stronger and more powerful than anything imaginable (even Bill Clinton!). It means not abandoning Jonathan Pollard and the rest of the Jewish political prisoners even though that is what the “boss” in the White House wants. Yes, a sweeping and global “tshuva” that transcends the personal “Mitzvot”, and expresses genuine belief in G-d’s Omnipotence.

G-d gives us a length of time to avoid catastrophe but this period has also come to an end. The time for “Tshuva” has arrived. May we merit to understand the type of “Tshuva” that is required of us, and to bring the redemption swiftly and gloriously without needless suffering.

Ki Tissa: When do We Care What the Goyim Think?

After the sin of the golden calf, God decides upon a most severe punishment: the annihilation of the Jewish People. At that point, Moshe Rabeinu steeps himself in prayer in an effort to abolish the decree.

What was the argument Moshe used in order to remove the terrifying decree? “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying: For evil did He bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”. In Parashat Eikev as well (Dvarim, 9:28), Moshe retells the episode: “Lest they say…because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land (of) which He promised unto them…” In other words, when Moshe understood that the sin was so great and ran out of statements of defense, the “clincher argument” he called upon to prevent the annihilation of Israel was, in essence, “what will the goyim say”.

In the sin of the spies episode, as well, God decides to wipe out Israel. There, too, interestingly enough, Moshe uses the same argument to nullify the decree: “And the Egyptians will hear…and the nations which have heard of the fame of Thee will say: because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore He has slain them in the wilderness” (BaMidbar, 14:13-16)

And so the question that begs asking is: That’s the reason Israel was not wiped out? Only because, “what will the goyim say”?? And without this, it’s OK to wipe them out?

In Denial
From here we learn a basic tenet of Judaism regarding Am Yisrael which must be repeated a thousand times over: The Name of God and of Am Yisrael is connected to one another in a direct way. It is a connection that cannot be severed. This is why the degradation of the Jewish People is a degradation of His Holy Name, and the elevation of the Jewish People is a sanctification of His Name.

Deep in the recesses of their consciousness, the goyim have always sensed since the beginning of history, that the Jewish People are tied to the true God. But it is difficult for them to come to terms with this. They have always tried to deny this, but it is precisely their hysterical denials which bear out this point. Their obsessive hate for Jews, and their attempts to replace the Jews as the chosen ones – from Esau to Pharo to Nebuchadnezer to Christianity, until the Germans and Arabs of today – all this is proof that their conscious gives them no rest. This is the deeper understanding of the saying: “Esau hates Yaakov”, which is manifested today in a phenomenon coined “anti-Semitism.”

This is why whenever the Jews were weak and oppressed, the goyim felt like winners. Pharo saw it that way when he oppressed “bnei Yisrael”; the Romans saw the destruction of the Temple as a victory of their god over the God of Israel; and in the same fashion the Christians explained from a theological standpoint why the Jews suffered in the long exile.

This historical pattern is no coincidence. It is a law of nature which God set down at the very core of the creation: it is part of the eternal and uncompromising struggle of mankind – will man acknowledge the Lord of Israel or won’t he.

The Eternal Connection
For this reason, when God informed Moshe of his intention to wipe out Israel, Moshe “reminded” Him that even if Israel’s deeds justify such a punishment, and even if the merit of the fathers is not enough to atone for such a severe sin – Hashem “cannot” go through with it! For the moment Hashem, God forbid, erases Israel from the map, He simultaneously, so to speak, erases His own Name, since it is directly connected to that of Israel’s.

This is the meaning of, “why should the Egyptians say”. In this case, what they have to say is critical. For their perception that the god of Egypt is strong and the God of Israel hasn’t the strength to sustain His people is proof that He, himself, doesn’t exist. We are talking about a “Hillul Hashem” (desecration of His Name) in the deepest sense.

When Does God “Live”?
In Parashat Shlach, following the sin of the spies, God says something to Moshe which is simply amazing. Immediately after God tells Moshe, “I have pardoned, according to thy word”, (that is, I forgive them for the reason you mentioned) the verse continues, “but truly, as I live…”

The Gemorah in Tractate Brachot says: “Which teaches us that the Almighty told him: Moshe, you have made Me live with your words”. If the Gemorah didn’t say it, we would never dare say such a thing. Hashem is saying to Moshe: By “preventing” Me from wiping out Israel, you have made Me come to life! Why? Because if I had destroyed Israel, then I, too, so to speak, would not have existed. This is Hillul Hashem in the literal sense of the word – Hillul (desecration) being derived from the hebrew word “halal”, which means vacuum or empty. Hashem would have been “emptied” from the world!

This lesson should be with us when we try to understand the events taking place in this generation. God promised that even if we are not worthy, we will still be redeemed. Why? The prophet Ezekhiel says (36): “Not for your sakes shall I do this, but for My Holy Name’s sake which you have profaned among the nations”. This is precisely the idea Moshe told Hashem in Parashat Ki-Tisa and Parashat Shlach. God’s Name is tied to our name, and thus, He cannot destroy us. For the same reason he must redeem us from the depths, and raise us high.

Bo: Pasqual Lamb and Kiddush Hashem

In Parshat Bo we are introduced to the mitzvah of the Paschal Lamb. Unfortunately, like most mitzvot in the Torah, many Jews do not grasp the concept that stands behind this mitzvah. We must always remember that generally speaking, the mitzvah is a manifestation of a particular idea that G-d wants us to internalize. So let us examine this very special mitzvah so that next Passover when we partake in the eating of the “Afikoman” which commemorates the Paschal Lamb, we will hopefully be doing more than just practicing sterile ritual.

First of all, we must comprehend that the entire purpose of the plagues was to bring the nonbelieving Pharo, who upon Moses’ arrival arrogantly proclaimed, “I do not know Hashem”, to the recognition that Hashem, is indeed, the Almighty. When the gentile states that the Jewish God does not exist and that he does not know Him, and thus he can enslave and torture the people of this seemingly non-existent G-d, this creates the greatest “Hillul Hashem” (desecration of God’s Name) that can possibly be. The devastation of Egypt via the plagues was to show the awesome power of Hashem – to prove that the God of Israel indeed exists. The plagues were, in effect, the process by which the desecration of God’s Name, which was reflected through the weakness of His People, was turned into a sanctification of G-d’s Name. After the heavy pounding the Egyptians suffered, it was impossible to deny the omnipotence of the Hebrew God. This is Kiddush Hashem.

But for the sanctification to be complete, something else must be done – the offering of the Paschal Lamb. This was the nail in the coffin. In Parshat Bo, chapter 12, we see that each Jewish house was commanded to take a lamb, bring it home for four days, and then slaughter it. The lamb, which was the deity of the Egyptians is taken, prepared and slaughtered before the horrified eyes of the Egyptians, who were helplessly forced to watch all this. As if this wasn’t enough, the lamb had to be roasted whole – “eat not of it raw, nor broiled in water, but roast with fire; its head with its legs and with its entrails”. The humiliation was now complete. The Hebrews, slaves for 210 years, had degraded their Egyptian masters, making a mockery out of their “religion”. For the sanctification of God’s Name to be complete, there is no room for “tolerance” of other deities. If Hashem is One, there can be no other! This is the Jewish idea of the Paschal Lamb.

The pity of the Jew today (including the religious practitioner of ritual) is his inability to perceive the Middle East crisis as a religious war — a battle between Judaism versus Islam. While the Arab has always understood this and thus is ready to go to great lengths in the name of his religion (and for this reason they have the upper hand today), the Jew perceives events only through secular and pragmatic considerations. He does not realize that a stone thrown at a Jew is a stone thrown at the Jewish God, and a concession of any part of the Land of Israel is a declaration to the Muslims that our God is weak, God forbid. He cannot grasp that the lack of Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount and the presence of Arab mosques is a “Hillul Hashem” of outrageous proportions. It is only when the Jewish People comprehend that the “humiliation of Israel is a desecration of His Name” (Ezekiel 39:7 – Rashi) and that we are in a religious struggle with the Arabs, will we begin to get real help from Hashem, since only then will He have a reason to take action to defend his Holy Name.

News and Commentary

We watch in horror as the government of Israel puts into effect the plans which only the cruelest of enemies could ever contemplate. The heart of Israel is already cut into ribbons, and time bombs in the form of sovereign Arab rule are already ticking. The best of activists stand bewildered, without an alternative or clear direction. Therefore, we must understand: There is no way that the State of Israel can on one hand decide to abandon the territories, yet at the same time continue to rule over the Jews who live there, issuing them restriction orders, trying them for retaliating against Arabs, arresting Jews on administrative detention, etc. If they want to pull out, let them – but they should at least get off our backs!

There are so many Jews who are still naive enough to think that the government has good intentions since it continues to worry, so to speak, about the security of the stopped judging evil people so favorably, which incidentally, is against the “halacha”. We must begin to understand that it is only political considerations which prevent them from completely pulling out of Judea, Samaria, and Azza. If they at all felt that the political climate was ripe enough, they would abandon the settlers tomorrow. Therefore it is imperative upon the settlers to immediately declare: We are not interested in your solutions!! Let the settlers worry about their future and their long term needs. Let them take their destiny in their own hands, and in God’s hands.

Obviously we would prefer united Jewish sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel, but if that is not possible at the moment, then let there rise another sovereign Jewish body in the territories – one composed of Jews who have faith in God and the Jewish destiny, and deal with problems, including the Arab one, in a responsible way and in a Jewish way. Only then, will something sweet come out of all the bitterness.

Vayechi: What Makes Samson Such a Hero?

When Yaakov Avenu blesses Dan, the sages tell us that through “Ruach HaKodesh”, Yaakov saw Samson wreaking havoc upon the Philistines, and thought that he was the Messiah. Only after seeing Samson die did a disappointed Yaakov realize that Samson was not the Messiah, and thus he uttered the words in our parsha, “I waited for your salvation, Oh Lord”.

Even for those not so well-versed in the Bible, Samson has become a household name. He is the stereotype of the ‘mighty hero”. Is this characterization a correct one, or a misconception of the masses? What gives Samson his superstar status, making him easily the most popular and widely know Judge? If it is for his brute physical strength, the sages surprise us by telling us that Samson was lame! Why would they say such a thing if not to remove from our minds the image of a macho-muscle-man.

Perhaps one might want to say that Samson fulfilled the definition of “hero” (gibor, in Hebrew) according to “Pirke Avot”: “Who is a ‘gibor’? He who conquers his evil inclination”. Without delving too deep into Samson’s deeds and motives with women, one can safely say that he was not exactly a symbol of the “Tzadeek” who overcame his “Yaizer” (evil inclination). The sages tell us clearly: “Samson went after his eyes, and thus his eyes were gouged out by the Philistines.”

Must we then conclude that the popularity surrounding the figure of Samson today is due to the fact that somehow, his persona “caught on” more than other heroic figures in the Bible? Is Samson’s popularity amongst the masses simply a product of media-hype? After all, Devora, Yiftach, Gideon and every other Judge certainly killed a lot more of the enemy than Samson did. Killing a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass is quite an accomplishment, but it hardly rates with the electrifying and decisive victories of the other Judges that ruled before him. In fact, when the Bible tells us that the “dead that he slew in his death were more than he slew in his life” – it is not meant as a compliment, but rather as a commentary that Samson did not put up the “big numbers” like the other Judges did.

And so again, is Samson, the darling of the masses, somehow overrated? Let us not jump to hasty conclusions! After all, we opened this article by saying that Yaakov Avenu himself saw Samson’s potential to be the Messiah. In addition, in comparison to all the other Judges mentioned in the Book of Judges, Samson has by far the most space allotted to him. This brings us to another difficult question. During his lifetime, Samson was scorned by his own people to such an extent that we find no parallel to it with any other Judge. At one point, fellow Jews even turn him over to the Philistines. Since his support among the people is virtually non-existent, he is reduced to carrying out partisan-style attacks against the enemy instead of leading an army against them. Why should the Bible dedicate so many chapters and stories to a Judge who had absolutely no supporting cast? Why is HE a candidate for Messiah?

Despite all the above questions and doubts, it is clear that Samson isindeed someone very special. Even before his birth, an angel of G-d came to his parents and spoke of the birth of this extraordinary son, “for a Nazarite to G-d shall the boy be…and he will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

The answer to the riddle of Samson’s greatness lies in the supposed weakness of his not enjoying the support of his people. Even though he was betrayed by his own people, he continued to love them and fight on their behalf. His internal strength and his willingness to stand alone and fight “Chillul Hashem” (the desecration of G-d’s Name) are why he is described as “beginning to save Israel”. In the same way that Moses never turned his back on the Jewish People, despite their endless accusations against him, Samson remained firm in his faith and “Ahavat Yisrael”. At the same time, the people disparaged him as irresponsible and violent, a hot-blooded lunatic who “makes things worse” by fermenting hatred against the Jews on the part of the Philistines. Samson paid no heed to them. For this he would eventually be recognized as the great leader he was.

And while it is true that he sinned, Samson physically sacrificed himself for the Jewish People. Even in his last moments where he stood weakened, blinded, and bound – what grieved him was not his personal suffering, but rather the tremendous desecration of G-d’s Name that this was causing. When Yaakov saw all this; placing G-d’s Honor over his own, putting his people’s pain before his own – he understood that such a man is worthy of being the Messiah.

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