Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

אין כעמך ישראל

A Simple Jew shared this beautiful quote from Rav Zusia with us:

The inner core of every Jew is essentially good, and in the depth of his being every Jew yearns to do mitzvos. It is his thick shell of materialism and the darkness of his yetzer hara, his evil inclination, that obscure the Divine Light within him. This inner light cannot overpower the massive darkness and the evil of the outer shell.

There are people who respond to an admonition by a tzaddik. His reproach will crack their crust of corporeality and cause them to repent. But there are others whose outer layer of materialism is so thick that no rebuke can penetrate it. The only way to reach these people is to approach them with love and kindness, appealing to their inner core of goodness. This will kindle the spark of morality within them.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tzadik KaTamar Yifrach

Here is an article about a 2,000 year old seed that was planted last year in EY and is beginning to grow. The poetic among us might even see this as being symbolic of another "replanting" in the land.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

More Arab moderation

After all of the self-deluding nonsense I have read on the blogosphere and the mainstream Israeli and international media regarding the Hamas victory. Finally, one of the Hamas leaders clarifies what led to the victory here.

Here are the highlights of what he said:

"These results which the Hamas movement has achieved are a victory of its strategy, which is founded upon [the idea that] resistance [that is blowing up women and children -ed] is a strategic option of this movement - especially after our Palestinian nation, with all of its forces, managed to realize that which negotiations were not capable of - the expulsion of the Zionist occupation from the Gaza strip."

"My brothers, the brothers from the PLO and the PA say that negotiations are the way to end the occupation - but we say that the Jews are not at all convinced through negotiations. Did Sharon, Rabin, or Barak become convinced through negotiations with the Palestinian nation and with the PA? What results did we achieve after negotiation? ... But our Palestinian nation, when it rose up and resisted, achieved results."

Ziad abu Ain of the Fattah said in the same broadcast:
"If Hamas has a plan of resistance [that is blowing up women and children -ed], the Fattah are ready like soldiers for this plan. And if the Hamas has a different plan - they are also ready."

Don't you just smell the moderation in the air?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Moderation" of the Arabs

So, to the whole "expulution of Jews will lead to the moderation of the Arabs" crowd. How do you explain the victory of the Hamas in the elections? (and yes, Neftuli, I mean you)

Monday, January 23, 2006

The blind man and the King

The Gemara (Berachot 58a) lists several blessings one recites upon seeing various people or groups of people. One of the blessings listed is said upon seeing a king. The Gemara teaches that Rav Sheshet, who was blind, said the blessing when the king passed by. The obvious question is how can a blind man say a blessing that one says upon seeing something. The halacha is that for all such blessings a blind man is exempt. Why then is the blessing said upon seeing a king an exception to this rule?

The Maharsha and the Magen Avraham (O"H 224:6) explain that for this blessing, even a blind person is obligated as long as he somehow senses the king is there. The question then is, why not apply the same reasoning to the other blessings that depend on sight. Should a blind man not, according to this logic, make a blessing upon hearing the sound of the ocean?

I believe that the answer is that the very presence of a king has an impact on the individual. The awareness that we are in the presence of an individual who has in his hands the power over life and death has a tremendous effect on our consciousness. We become aware of our own powerlessness in the world and thus we react in the only Jewish way possible - we verbally and mentally recognize that the king's power is nothing but a reflection of that which is given to him by the King of kings. We recognize that our sense of awe must be constantly directed towards the true Master of the universe who is the only One Who truly has power over life and death. The emotion we feel in the presence of the king must make us more aware of the presence of the true King - this is something that a blind man can appreciate as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

HaRav Yisrael Zeev Gustman Zt"l

Rav Yisrael Zeev Gustman Zt"l became a dayan in the beis din of Rav Chaim Ozer Zt"l when he was only 21 years old - an unheard of honor in the city of Vilna which was filed with the greatest scholars and elders of Europe. After surviving the Holocaust (the story of this deserves its own post), he moved the USA and in the 70s made Aliya to Eretz Yisrael.

I would like to relate two stories regarding how this giant of Torah related to the situation in Israel today:

Rav Hadari, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKotel, relates that 30 years ago, there used to be a annual parade in honor of Yerushalaim in the beginning of Nissan. During the parade, Rav Hadari ran into Rav Gustman and his wife observing the parade from the sidelines. After the parade, Rav Hadari offered Rav Gustman and his wife a ride home. During the ride Rav Hadari asked Rav Gustman why he came to see the parade (which was not known for a high degree of modest behavior and dress). Rav Gustman answered: "One who lost children in the Holocaust, goes to see Jewish kids in the streets of Yerushalaim".

A student of Rav Gustman related the following story to Rav Eliezer Melamed. One time Rav Gustman needed a ride to a section of Yerushalaim and the student offered him a ride. During the ride, they passed by Ben-Yehuda street. The student felt uncomfortable due to all the women dressed in less than modest attire and contemplated whether or not to comment on the situation. While the student was considering whether or not to say anything, Rav Gustman, looking at the building on the street, commented: "Look at Yerushalaim in its building (ירושלים בבניינה), How much we have merited ..."

Such is life through the eyes of an Adam Gadol.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Well, at least we have a security fence

Well, after spending $1,000,000,000 on a security fence, we get another attack in Tel Aviv. Next week, instead of actually fighting the bad guys, Israel will release the latest plan, a bomb-proof box on wheels that will be given to every Israeli. No one should leave his house outside of this box. The cost is high, but the state of Israel is willing to pay it because it "values human life".

On another front, the Israeli police are violently rampaging through the Jewish section of Hebron:

Rabbi Menashe Naki of Ramat Beit Shemesh gave the following testimony:

"I saw Tzippy Slissel standing in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, praying, and when she finished, she saw my guest from Malta, and began coming over to see him. Suddenly, four policemen jumped on her, threw her to the ground, grabbed her hands and legs and beat her as she lay on the ground."

Rabbi Naki did not note that she was carrying her months-old baby at the time.

Well, at least there is one problem we do not have anymore. It is now easier than ever to tell the difference between the Jew and the Erev-Rav.

Sigh ... now I understand better than ever the statement of the Amoraim regarding the coming of mashiach: "Yeittei VeLo Achiminei" - "Let him come but let me not see his coming"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

10,000 Hits!

10,000 isn't bad for four months. Thank you all for reading!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Atchalta DeGeula

Many chareidim find it hard to understand how people can conceive of a secular state that has perpetuated many anti-religious acts can possibly be the beginning of our redemption. I would like to give an overview of the way several giants of the past conceived of the redemption process:

I will not get into all the gemaras that describe the days preceding the final redemption geula, you can look into them yourself in Sanhedrin 97-98 and in Sotah 49.

Let start with the Maharal (גבורות השם, פרק י"ח):

כי מלכות ישראל הקדושה שיש לה מדרגה אלוהית פנימית היא צומחת מתוך מלכות בלתי קדושה וכו'.וכן תמצא שהפרי כאשר הוא בלתי נשלם הוא בתוך הקליפה

Because the holy kingdom of Israel that has an inner G-dly level sprouts from within a kingdom without holiness ... Thus you will find that the fruit, when it is incomplete is within the husk.

הארכנו בזה מאד כי הוא דבר גדול מאד, להבין הסיבה למה נתגדל משה רבנו בבית פרעה

We wrote about this at length since this is a very great matter, to understand the reason why Moshe Rabbeinu was raised in the house of Pharaoh.

Also (נצח ישראל, פרק ל"ה - for a similar idea see חידושי אגדות ח"ג עמ' ר"ו-ר"ח):
שקודם שיבוא המשיח ראוי שיהיה נמצא הפסד גמור, כיון שיהיה הויה חדשה כמו עולם חדש. שקודם זה הגיעו ישראל עד עפר, ועתה ירום קרנם עד שמי שמים

Before mashiach comes, it is proper that there will be total loss, since there will be a new existence like a new world. That before this, Israel will descend to [the level of] dust, and now [when mashich comes], they will be raised to the highest heavens.

The Ramchal writes (דעת תבונות, פסקא קע):
שבזמן תקף עקבות משיחא לא יקשה עלינו אם הצדיקים נשפלים השפלה גדולה, ואם בני אדם צועקים ואינם נענים, וכל שאר הדברים שאמרו רז"ל 'בעקבות משיחא חוצפא יסגא' (סוטה מ"ט:). כי כל זה נולד לפי שאין הצדיקים יכולים אפילו בזכותם לתקן הקלקולים ההם, כי השעה גורמת לכך...

In the time of the footsteps of mashiach, it should not be perplexing for us if the righteous are greatly disgraced or if people cry out [in prayer] and are not answered, and all the other things that our sages said 'In the [time of] the footsteps of mashiach, audacity increases' (sotah 49). Because all this is born since even the merit of the righteous is not enough to mend these deficiencies, because the time period causes this.

The Gr"A writes (ביאור הגר"א למגילת אסתר, ע"ד הרמז, פרק א, פסוק ה):
דכל דוחקין דעבדין לישראל בגלותא מקרב פורקנא וכו' ולכן כל הקללות הן לטובתן לקרב הגאולה. ... והענין של החוצפא ההיא כי מעמידין דיין ופרנס שאינו הגון. אבל 'זקנים יעמדו מפני נערים'. מי הכריחן לכך? אלא שגברה החנופה והוא אף בזקנים, ובכולם, גם בגדולי הדור. ואמרו (סוטה מ"א ע"ב) בשעה שהחניפו לאגריפס המלך נתחייבו וכו' כליה

All sufferings that happen to Israel in the exile bring the redemption closer. Thus all the curses are for their benefit to bring the redemption closer. ... And the idea of this audacity [that increases in the days preceding mashiach] is that they establish a judge and ruler that is not just. But that the 'elders stand for the youth'. Who forces them to do this? Rather the sin of flattery increases and this is even for the elders, and in all of them, even the gedolim of the generation. And they said 'the moment they flattered Agripas the king, they became deserving of destruction.'

And (אסתר א' פסוק א'):
כי בכל בריה שבעולם הקליפה קדמה לפרי, כמו יעקב ועשו, ועשו יצא הראשון וכו'. וידו [של יעקב] אוחזת בעקב עשו, כי אף בעוה"ז יטול יעקב [שררה רק] בסופו והוא לימות המשיח, ולכן נקרא 'בעקבות משיחא' עכ"ל.

In every creation in the world, the husk precedes the fruit, like Yaakov and Esav - Esav came out first. And the hand of Yaakov is grasping the heel of Esav, since even in the this world, Yaakov will gain political power only in his end which is for the days of Mashiach, and this is why it is called 'In the footsteps (עקבות) of mashiach'.

There is much more about this in other books. If one is interested you can look up Kol HaTor. Of course Rav Kook wrote extensively on this topic but his hashkafa is outside of the scope of this post. My main point is that the various sins of the state should not get in the way of us seeing it as the beginning of our redemption.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pshat and Drash

In his masterpiece Peshat and Derash, David Weiss HaLivni writes (pg. 8):

The modern state of mind demands a greater faithfulness to the simple, literal meaning (to the pshat), and a greater obligation to preserve it. Only in the face of virtually insurmountable problems is this approach abandoned. The presence of an extra word, letter, or even an entire phrase can be easily seen as a stylistic peculiarity. Peshat, from this point of view is synonymous with exegetical truth, and one does not abandon truth lightly. But to the rabbis of the Talmud, deviation from peshat was not repugnant. Their interpretive state of mind saw no fault with an occasional reading in. It was not against their exegetical conscience, even though it may be against ours.

The argument professor HaLivni basically makes is that it is wrong to judge the midrashim of chazal by our current societal sensitivities and standards that have a preference for simple readings of texts. This is nothing less then an imposition of our own sensitivities onto Holy texts that very well might have been primarily written with drash in mind. In other words what the modern mind of the skeptic often sees as the brutalization of the text and a deviancy from its true meaning might actually be a more accurate reading of scripture to which chazal had more proper sensitivities.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Chassidic story

Rav Aryeh Handler has a beautiful take on a chassidic story:

Rabbi Issachar of Welboraz was visited by the soul of a dead man whom he ad known before as an honorable man. When the soul came, it asked Rav Issachar for help - his wife has died and he needs money in order to remarry. The Tzaddik asked him: "Do you not know that you are no longer alive - rather you are wandering in the world of Tohu [עולם התוהו]?" When the should did not believe the Rebbe, he lived the coat of the dead man and showed him that he is wearing burial shrouds. When the soul went away, Rav Issachar's son asked: "If this is so, perhaps I am also in the world of Tohu?" His father answered: "If one is aware that there is a world of Tohu, then they can never be wondering in it."

This story has two levels. The first is the surface level. We have a man who has died but thinks he is still alive. He is looking for financial help so he can wed a wife. The desire to marry is really the strongest expression of our desire to be bound. The bond of marriage with a woman, flesh and blood, can give purpose to the connection of the dead to the world of the living. The dead man is trying to anchor himself to a world to which he really has no connection.

The Tzaddik tries to place the dead man in his proper place. He explains to him that he is no longer living. The sense of life that he has is counterfeit. As proof, he exposes to the dead man the shrouds he is wearing. The dead man sees, and as it seems, understands and departs.

Here, however, starts the second level of the story. The Rebbe explains to the dead man not only that he is dead but that he is wondering in the "world of Tohu." In this second layer of the story, this "world of Tohu" becomes a topic that disturbs the Rebbe's son.

The dead man is convinced that he is alive, but in reality he is wondering in the world of the abyss, תוהו:

בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ והארץ היתה תוהו ובוהו

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void

The commentators explain the two terms of Tohu and Bohu in the following manner: The world before creation was in a state of Tohu, nothingness. It was empty of anything. It had no point to which one could relate - no good content. The whole essence of the "world of Tohu" is the emptiness. After this stage, came the turn of the built world. Into the emptiness of the world came the content of all existence. Thus its name, Bohu - that is to say Bo Hu. Bo - in it - exists all of reality. The story takes this term which is applicable to the creation of the world and applies it to the state of man's soul. There are people who live in the world of Tohu. They have no ability to connect to reality. They have no ambition in any direction. Inner emptiness encompasses them.

The dead man who comes to Rav Issachar is not necessarily actually dead. He is a character from the world of Tohu. His inner world has become empty. He lost his anchor in reality. This individual is asking for help in clinging to reality - to marry a woman. In truth, however, marriage will accomplish a thing if the person himself is empty inside. His life has no meaning. He has no ambitions and is disconnected.

Rav Issachar explains to this "dead man" that his real problem is the inner emptiness. That he is empty to the point that he is not even aware of his emptiness. He thinks he is still alive but has no critical tools with which to relate to his self. He must be shown his shrouds in order to prove to him his disconnect from reality.

When Rav Issachar's son sees the "dead man" and his condition, he begins to fear that he might also be in the same place but is not aware just as the dead man was not aware. His father's answer is what bring him back his confidence: someone who knows that emptiness exists does not become empty. The whole structure of the world is based on the contradiction between Tohu and Bohu. Only through sensing the emptiness and the lacking can we appreciate the significance of existence and reality.

A person who is aware of the "existence" of Tohu. Who understands the significance of Tohu. He knows that the Tohu might be in his soul - but through his fear of the Tohu, he becomes motivated to productive living. His ability to sense destruction and inaction is what gives him the ability to get satisfaction out of building and creating. Someone who is aware of the world of Tohu - can not live in it.


I just became aware of a post DovBear put up a while back. Basically he challenges me to retract what I said in a previous post about the lack of sources in the MO Jblogs.

I wrote that post back in the begining of my blog days and was unaware of such blogs as onthemainline, lamedzayin, maven yavin, AddeRabbi, krum and many others (don't be offended if I didn't list you).

I therefore retract what I said in that post. While some MO blogs are not heavy on sources, there are plenty that are.

[UPDATE: I am, however, wondering now why all the MO blogs are bent towards the rationalistic and not the mystical aspects of Judaism. But that is for a different post.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Why I will still raise my family in Israel

D.B. make a very powerful point in one of his comments:

A few questions for you, following your ideolgogies here:

Why was the destruction of Sefardic and Yemenite youth in the '50s not over the line? This active destruction of their religious values seems even worse than not allowing open adherence to Orthodoxy. There is no question that part of the establishment of the State of Israel was as a means to promote secular ideals in replacement of Torah values.

Or the Gaza disengagement (destruction of idealism of Religious Zionism and mistreatement of fellow Jews unparalleled since way back in history, and in direct contrast to any good that may come out of it in terms of Jewish sovereignty over Israel) not over the line? Wouldn't it have been better to have no state at all than to have a state which willingly relinquishes parts of its own territory, essentially making a statement in the name of the Jewish people that that land does not belong to us? [This was a major concern in accepting the '47 partition plan]. What greater blow to Jewish sovereignty over Israel can there be than a Jewish government handing parts of its land over to the enemy? And it looks like we're not done yet either.

If Oslo has proven a failure, and it certainly seems that the majority, if not great majority, of Israelis, want to continue down that path of 'appeasement', hasn't the State of Israel served its 'purpose' of Kibbutz Galuyos and now proceeding to make the place practically untenable for its Jews, due to its citizens' willingness to whet the appetite of Hamas and Fatah, Feisal Hussieni and their ilk? Isn't its continued existence only an exacerbation of endangerment of Jewish lives, considering the fact that more Jews have been killed there since its establishment than in all other places in the world combined?

If we may use Rav Schachter's analysis of applicability of a Milchemes Mitzvah, where there is no obligation to fight it when it is losing cause, isn't it obvious to you that this is a Milchemes Mitzvah which the government, in your analysis, seems hell-bent on losing?

Why should anyone fight in an IDF that places its soldiers' life in second place behind those of the terrorists' families, or for a govt. which places the welfare of East Jerusalem and Galilee Arabs at a higher priority than that of the settlers?

You hope that one day the Israeli govt. will 'wake up' and adopt Kahane-esque views on the issues. Newsflash - realistically, that ain't happening. The people have lost all interest in this confrontation.

The only reason you see hope in this State for advancing further positive goals is not on any basis of natural unfolding of events, (unless such a major catastrophe that will finally wake the Jews up to the fact that all the Arabs want us murdered, in which case I'll sit that out in the USA, thank you very much), but based on pure unadulterated faith in "Atchalta DeGeula" Messianism, which you cannot expect others to share.

Here is my response:

What can I say. The events you bring up are a travesty and a chilul Hashem. I for one will not try and justify them. However, you did leave out many of the good things that came with the state. The unprecedented level of Torah study. The fact that without the Torah in EY, the whole Torah world would have probably been wiped out C"V, after the destruction of Europe. You write about the stripping of values from the sephardi Olim, another evil travesty. You leave out, however, that those sepahardim who went to America or France faired much worse with intermarriage rates approaching 80% in some instances. In EY, they are one of the most traditional communities in the country and have not drifted nearly as far as those that went to chutz laaretz. The theft of Yemenite babies was also a crime but one that you can not really claim was sponsored by the state. It was more the work of greedy individuals as several studies have shown.

You also leave out the tremendous kidush Hashem that the state has accomplished at various points in its history. The war of independence, the 6 day war and Entebbe come to mind. There are many other examples. As far as Jews dying for the state, I am afraid that this is the price you have to pay for a national life. More Jews were killed in Yehoshua's wars than in the desert, that did not make them stay in the desert. Nobody said yeshuv haAretz would be easy and misirut nefesh is required. You can choose to live your life in Chu”l, but you will be doing so against Hashem’s will and against your own best interests. When my grandmother made Aliya with her parents in the 1920’s, they took a trip back to Poland. In Poland, they were begged to stay and not go back to EY where there are riotous Arabs and deadly disease. The Yeshuv of 40,000 Jews seemed an unrealistic and irrational place to build a life. They went back to EY and never saw their families again. Every argument you make today could have been made 85 years ago, the clarity of hindsight shows us who was right, those who chose the path of Hashem, the path of life, the path to EY.

As far as the future is concerned. I am much more optimistic than you. Today 35% of Israelis are shomer Shabbat (can you say the same for your precious America?). 55% of kids in the 1st grade are enrolled in religious schools of one form or another. The baal teshuva movement is growing and there is a general move to more careful observance of the mitzvoth. Every Jew can afford to give their kids a religious education (can you say the same for America) and the sound of Torah is heard in almost every corner. It’s only a matter of time before the religious become the majority and the nation begins its restoration to spiritual health. Don’t make the same mistakes that some chareidi gedolim made in Europe. Don’t cut out of the Torah all aspects of national life. You will not be doing yourself a favor.

I am painfully aware of the deficiencies of medinat Yisrael. In its current form, I, like you can not feel close to a government that behaves so cruelly towards my brothers. That is how I feel emotionally. My mind, however, tells me that the story of medinat Yisrael has so far been a success. And as I said above, I am optimistic that the situation will improve over the next 20 years. I can only pray that my brother and sisters in America will join me in building their lives in the Land Hashem gave us. In the long term, looking through the eyes of the Torah, it is the only correct decision to make. (and anyway, how is anyone going to afford tuition in the US?)

I still do not understand how anyone can look at the past 150 years and not see the beginning of the redemption process. It is the eitzat haYetzer to ignore the hand of Hashem in the unfolding of events. We have seen prophesies fulfilled, The restoration of language, Ingathering of exiles, the awakening of the land. We have seen open miracles in war and the restoration of Jewish strength. I can not believe that it was all a joke. That it is all a set up for another churban klali. Therefore I will continue to try and be the best Jew I can be on a personal level while doing all that I can to help in the building of a healthy Torah society in EY, where we all belong.

BeAhavat Torat Yisrael, Am Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Arab moderates

Bluke posted a while back on the goals of the Arabs in EY. One of his quotes was from the late Arab moderate Faisal Huseini Yimach Shmo, who is so admired by leftists everywhere for his support of Oslo and general moderate stances on the issues.

Here is what he says (full interview translated here):

"Following the signing of the Oslo Accords… I said three things:

First, following a long period of "pregnancy" we brought a child into the world [the Oslo Accords] who is smaller, weaker, and uglier than what we had hoped for. However, despite it all, this is still our child, and we must nurture, strengthen and develop it

so that he is able to stand on his own two feet." "Second, we are the Jews of the 21st Century. Meaning, we the Palestinians will be the Jews of the early [previous] century. They infiltrated our country using various methods; using all kinds of passports, and they suffered greatly in the process. They even had to face humiliation but they did it all for one goal: To enter our country and root themselves in it prior to our expulsion out of it. We must act in the same way they did. [We must] return [to the land], settle it, and develop new roots in our land from where we were expelled; whatever the price may be."

"Third, the [ancient] Greek Army was unable to break into Troy due to [internal] disputes and disagreements [among themselves]. The Greek forces started retreating one after the other, and the Greek king ended up facing the walls of Troy all by himself, and he too suffered from illnesses and [internal] disputes, and ended up leading a failed assault on Troy's walls."

"[Following these events] the people of Troy climbed on top of the walls of their city and could not find any traces of the Greek army, except for a giant wooden horse. They cheered and celebrated thinking that the Greek troops were routed, and while retreating, they left a harmless wooden horse as spoils of war. So they opened the gates of the city and brought in the wooden horse. We all know what happened next."

later he says:

"In short, we are exactly like they are. We distinguish the strategic, long-term goals from the political phased goals, which we are compelled to temporarily accept due to international pressure. If you are asking me as a Pan-Arab nationalist what are the Palestinian borders according to the higher strategy, I will immediately reply: "From the river to the sea." Palestine in its entirety is an Arab land, the land of the Arab nation, a land no one can sell or buy, and it is impossible to remain silent while someone is stealing it, even if this requires time and even [if it means paying] a high price."

"If you are asking me, as a man who belongs to the Islamic faith, my answer is also "From the river to the sea," the entire land is an Islamic Waqf which can not be bought or sold, and it is impossible to remain silent while someone is stealing it …"

"If you are asking me as an ordinary Palestinian, from the "inside" or from the Diaspora, you will get the same answer and without any hesitations. However, what I am able to achieve and live on right now, due to [constraints of] the international system, is not, of course, Palestine "From the river to the sea." In order for us to fulfill all of our dreams regarding Palestine, we must, first of all, wake up and realize where we are standing. On the other hand, if we will continue to behave as if we are still dreaming, we will not find a place to put our feet on..."

"As I once said in the past: our eyes must continue to focus on the higher goal. The real danger is that I might forget [it], and while advancing towards my short-term goal I might turn my back on my long-term goal, which is the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea…"

Kol HaDar BeChutz LaAretz

mevaseretzion makes a very interesting point:

I find it fascinating that you can almost see the world turn by the tone of comments on this post. Day in LA...Chicago...NY...we get (in large part) american Jews crying "humanism!"...and when we get to Day in Israel...it takes on a different tone. Does it bother anyone that living in the US seems to really frustrate the attachment of torah values to one's mind? You can really see the "avira d'eretz yisrael machkim..." and that "kol hadar bechutz laaretz dome lemi shein lo eloak..." I hope dovbear and the rest don't mind my quoting a gemara.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Western morality

The Israeli army chief of staff just confirmed something that Torah Jews have known for a while.

Basically he said that the only thing keeping us from effectively dealing with the missile attack on our cities is a western moral code that the seculars (and DovBear) have adopted. You see, we have the military capacity to stop these attacks but the foreign morality says harming enemy civilians should not be done even at the expense of the lives of our own soldiers and citizens.

As anyone who has learned these sugyas from a Halachic/Torah perspective knows, this view is the opposite of what the Torah advocates. May Hashem free us from the bondage of western values and send Jewish leadership that is true to Hashem and His Word.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The religious experience

A common part of our religious life can only be described as the "religious/mystical experience. It is hard to define what a mystical experience is but we can agree that all mystical experiences have something in common: The experiencing of the divine in one way or another.

These experiences might occur often or rarely but most people at one point in their lives experience something that is sublime to a point of being indescribable through language. These experiences often serve to strengthen our faith and give us direction and peace of mind. The question is whether the active pursuit of such experiences should be a goal in our service of Hashem.

There is another, more passive and subconscious, part of our religious life that I believe is connected to the active mystical experience. A religious person often feels the need to express the inner nature of their soul. They have a vague feeling that they have much to say to the world but lack the tools and words to express the fullness of their soul's message. It is the desire to share the divine as understood only by the individual with the rest of the world. Our inability to express our spiritual selves can often lead to great frustration to religious man. Often this frustration increases in proportion to the size and depth of the divine idea as it is revealed in each individual soul.

I believe that this second, passive, and less defined mystical experience is what Rav Kook is describing in the following passage from Arpalei Tohar (p. 40):

We feel this "spiritual muteness," alas, how much we have to say, how great is the light of justice and wisdom illuminating us in the depth of our souls, but how shall we discover it, how shall we clarify it, how will we utter and bring forth even the tiniest edge of that sublime brightness, for that, the gates are shut before us. In prayer we approach them, with supplication we knock, in joy and praise we raise our voices, offering allegory and thoughts, keeping watch by the doors, perhaps they will open a crack, only a needle's breadth before us, and words will stream from our mouths, and our tongues will be as flowing streams, rivers of honey and butter.

I believe that Rav Kook in the above passage advocates the pursuit of increasing our desire to communicate the divine ideas in our soul. We recognize that Hashem put us in this world to reveal part of His light in a manner that is unique to our soul. We are aware in the background of our spiritual life of the nature of this message but can not articulate our message. What we must do then, more than pursue active mystical experience, is to pray and request from Hashem to give us the tools to help us articulate the message of our souls. This prayer and request is itself a type of mystical experience that we can and should experience at all moments of our life.

May it be so.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Gedolim Redux, part II

One of the main revisions of history attempted by the chareidi world is to write Rav Kook out of the history books. Where this is impossible, they would like to portray him as a daat yachid who went against the vast majority of gedolim of the age. This can be proven as false in many ways and their are letters from both Rav Zvi Pesach Frank and the Gerrer Rebbe testifying to the fact that the majority of chareidi rabbis in the Land of Israel supported Rav Kook and his positions. I would like to point out one form of a more subtle form of revision that might not be noticed at first glance.

R. Aharon Sorsky wrote an extensive biography called "Pe'er Yisrael" on the 4th Gerrer Rebbe, the Beis Yisrael, the son and successor of the Imrei Emet. In page 317 he writes:

בראשית ימי הנהגתו נהג הרבי להסתגר שעות שלמות בכל יום ששי ללמוד סתרי תורה ביחידות עם הגרי"מ חרל"פ זצ"ל. ... הגרי"מ חרל"פ קיבל את תורת הקבלה מפי רבו, הגאון הצדיק רבי הירש מיכל שפירא זצ"ל מירושלים

In the beginning of his leadership, the Rebbe would isolate himself for hours every Friday in order to learn secrets of the Torah privately with HaGaon, Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap Zt"l. ... HaGaon, Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap Zt"l received the Torah of the Kabbalah from his Rav, HaGaon HaTzaddik Rav Hirsh Michel Shapiro Zt"l of Yerushalaim.

Rav Charlap was the talmid muvhak of Rav Kook. It is true that he was a student of Rav Shapiro in his youth but after he met Rav Kook, he became completely attached to Maran HaRav and saw him as the greatest of his generation. When the Beis Yisrael became Rebbe (apparently through the encouragement of Rav Charlap, see pg. 270-71), Rav Charlap was the Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav and was considered the successor of Maran HaRav's whole derech in Torah. It is fair to say that since Rav Charlap's whole approach to Kabbalah was based on Rav Kook's teachings that much of what came up in their chavrusa was based on the Torah of Rav Kook.

What we have here is horribly misleading and is basically an attempt to revise the history of one of the greatest leaders of Aggudat Yisrael by removing him ideologically from Rav Kook. To call Rav Charlap a talmid muvhak of Rav Shapiro akin to calling Rav Chaim Volozhiner a talmid muvhak of the Shaagas Aryeh, technically not a lie but serves to hide the truth.