Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Election results

Kadima won, the right lost.

I, for one, am not surprised.

While the left had a consistent message of surrender and capitulation to our enemies, the right had nothing:

NRP - NU: No ideology at all. Their only platform was to try stop Kadima. Boy, that will inspire everyone!
Shas: Give us money - we will join. We care about those parts of the Torah that didn't apply in chu"l - but not enough to give up on the money.
UTJ: Give us money - we will join. We really don't care about those parts of the Torah that didn't apply in the shtetl.
Lieberman: Give me power - I will join. I really don't have much of a plan for the future, though.
Likud: Vote for us, we will surrender in a slower fashion than Kadima

So is anyone surprised? The Torah gives us the solutions to our problems, we just don't have any real leadership that will present those solutions to the public.

So, in the end, on Whom do we rely? Only on our Father in Heaven. May he restore our leaders as in the days of old.


Here are what seem to be the final results:

Kadima 28
Avoda 20
Lieberman 12
Shas 13
Likud 11
NRP - NU 9
Gimlaim 7
Meretz 4
Arabs 10

This means that if Kadima, Avoda, and the Gimlaim go together, they will have only 55 votes. If they bring meretz in, that will bring them to 59. They will probably not want meretz, so they will probably buy Lieberman to create a coalition of 67. In the unlikely case where Lieberman shows some backbone, they will be in a pickle, they can then only create a coalition with Likud, UTJ, Shas or the Arabs. Likud will probably not join and they will anyways not sit together with Labor. that leaves UTJ, Shas, and the Arabs. I wish I could say that I trust the chareidim to do what is right instead of taking money for their institutions - but I don't. So, it looks like we are on the road towards expultion 2006. It will be like the last one only worse. Hashem Yerachem.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

...מי כעמך ישראל

Jameel has a great post which will warm your heart.


...מי כעמך ישראל

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The manipulation of Gedolim

Harry has posted regarding the new banning of "Making of a Godol." He describes the total manipulation of Rav Elyashiv by the unscrupulous people that surround him. This sort of thing is not new. Part of the problem is that certain people believe that gedolim are impervious to manipulation. This is not true! It is unfortunate but with the advent of modern forms of media, such manipulation has become more common than other times in Jewish history. This is to the point where you can often not trust letters that you see in the newspapers signed by gedolim.

In a remarkable letter, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank Zt"l writes to his mechutan Rav Chaim Hirschensohn Zt"l about what was happening in Yerushalaim in the 1920s. I believe it teaches us a lot about what is happening in today's day and age (hat tip Rael):

“Published in R. Hayyim Hirschensohn, Malki Ba-Kodesh IV (St. Louis: Moinester Printing Co., 5679 – 5682), Letter 10 (dated 18 Adar Sheni, 5681, 1921), p43-44 [See Porush, pp236-237.]

Because of the tremendous halachik stature of the Gaon R Zevi Pesah Frank (later Rav of Jerusalem), it would be worthwhile to cite the passage in its entirety, to serve as a corrective to much of the revisionist history concerning the Kook-Sonnenfeld dispute, which unfortunately passes in Orthodox circles today as authoritative:

'As I wind up my letter, I should let his honor know a bit of the affairs of the town [Jerusalem], though it is not my way to write such things, for we could not write enough. However ... directed us to inform his Honor. According to ... his Honor has the ability to correct things. Having heard that it will of benefit, I find myself obligated to uncover the mystery enveloping the conduct of our city.

The Gaon, our Master RAY Hakohen Kook (may he live) was accepted here at Rav by the majority of the Holy Community here. It is well known that the members of Kollel Ungarin are envious of our Russian and Polish brethren. Especially, so that the proceeds earmarked to the Hungarians should increase, it is not good for them that the Chief Rabbi of the Holy City be other than Hungarian. So what did the members of Kollel Ungarin do? A few of them gathered together ... At their head the old lad ... He propagandized to found Vaad Ashkenazi (Ashkenazic Council). Now this old lad is a great expert in arranging elections from all, revealed only to him. The entire electrocal process is invisible. It is difficult to describe in writing his diligence in this matter. He puts together a list of a large committee, also a steering committee. On the surface, all is lovely. On the inside, all is rotten, for from the ranks of the Hungarians and Galicians he picks ... youngsters and from the other kollelim, when he sees an old man or imbecile who won't understand his tricks, he brings him into the Vaad. So the result of the invisible election is that he is the Secretary and young fellow... the Chairman. They write and sign tens of thousands of letters to America and the entire world in the name of all the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem ... that Rav Hayyim Sonnenfeld is the Rav here, when all see and know that R. Hayyim Sonnenfeld was never, and will not be, the Rav, for he is an old, frail man for whom it is not possible to get involved in the affairs of the town. But this old lad uses him and his name as a pawn to destroy an entire city. He and his gang of empty fellows publicly, brazenly insult the Gaon Kook (may he live). The old lad got together with young writers who frequent the home of the ancient Rav Yishak Yeruham Diskin (may his light shine), for this old man is undre the influence of young secretaries... They manipulate him whether way they please and obtain his signature for all their antics. In my estimation, he is not guilt at all for he cannot see writing, and signing is also difficult for him The secretaries made for him a stamp of his signature which is an exact replica and they write and sign whatever they please. Woe to a generation whose leaders are such lads, little foxes.

About six weeks ago, I spoke with Rav Hayyim Sonnenfeld, and at one point, I asked him if it right that he signs himself as the Rav of the Ashkenazim in our Holy City?... He answered me that the truth is, he himself does not sign so, but they made for him a stamp and wrote this on it.

The Gaon, Our Master RAY Kook (may he live) is the Rav here. All the largest institutions are under his presidency. He is the Rav of the city and carries the burden of the community. They placed new, inexperienced people to carry the load of the community ... These sycophants and insolent fellows stroke these old men to their advantage.

I wrote these things hurriedly, without order, as it does not fit my temperament to take care of such things. The upshot is, if his Honor can publicize the truth that the aforementioned elder sages – without disparaging them – are not communal leaders and one cannot pay attention to their signature. The affairs of the Jerusalem community, general and specific, temporal and spiritual are neither the domain of the elder sages nor their followers, who as a rule are simple folks who have put on a cloack of hypocrisy, announcing that they are zealots of the Lord. They use the names of the elders sages to blind peoples eyes, while anyone discerning sees that their aim is not truth, They employ smut sheets to stir up controversy in Israel.

His honor should let me know if any benefit may come of my words, which are but a drop of the sea of what should be known... '

Love of gemara learning

Here is a shameless effort to get comments (and learn something in the process):

Which sugya was the one that made you fall in love with gemara learning? Why?

For me, it was the chapter of keitzad mevarchin in brachot.

Because it showed me the ability of a Jew to sanctify the most mundane of human actions. More importantly, it showed me how the mind and halachic precision can be a tool for such sanctification.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Megila Meme

I have been tagged by DovBear for my first Meme. Here Goes:

Things I think about during megila reading

* Man, I wish I knew how to lain - Last time I lained anything was my bar-mitzvah. Since I became religious in my early twenties, I missed out of most of the natural training frum people might get in this area. Also, I am generally tone-deaf and can not carry a tune for the life of me.

* I wonder if feminists have turned Vashti into some sort of hero - Every time I hear this part of the story, I think to myself that Vashti seems to represent the ideal feminist in many respects. I wonder if turned her into a symbol yet. Hey, if Israelis can turn the name Nimrod into something that is actually used, then anything is possible.

* Why do we have to make so much noise with EVERY mention of Haman - Every year I remind myself to make sure I go to a Chabbad reading the next year (Chabbad only makes noise during those mentions of Haman's name where the name is modified (eg. Haman HaAgagi). I appreciate the custom and all but it tends to drag out too long.

* What does DovBear think of how the Jews gave it good to their neighbors? - I actually think that war is always a tragedy at some level, at the same time, it is also an opportunity to clarify moral positions. Is this a contradiction? I don't think so. The achronim discuss why we do not make a bracha over an obligatory war. Some answer that the reason is that it is not a "happy" mitzvah. In other words, the halacha has a place for things that are obligatory but at the same time not joyous. I actually understand the aversion that leftists have for war, I just sometimes wish that they would have a similar understanding for my side and why I feel it is sometimes the only moral choice.

I tag S, Jameel, and Rael

The chareidim of old, Part IV

Before the establishment of Petach Tikvah, there were several attempts to purchase lands for agriculture. In the vicinity of Ramle, the lands of the village of Duran became available for sale but the Pasha preferred to sell them to the Christian merchant Tiyan (from whom lands in the vicinity of the Yarkon were later bought). A few years later, these lands were indeed bought and on them was established the settlement of Rehovot.

The Sephardic Rabbi of Hebron, Rabbi Eliyahu Manni, initiated the purchase of land from the village of Sanabra near Hebron. The Rabbis of Yerushalaim, Rabbi Shmuel Salant and Rabbi Meir Auerbach, also supported this purchase. The purchase was also supported by the elder sage, Rabbi Yehuda Alkelai. This attempt, however, did not succeed.

In this purchase there was another important figure who was involved – Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, one the talmidei chachamim who made aliya from Hungary. Rabbi Schlesinger (like his father-in-law – Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein of Kolomia, one of the biggest zealots of his generation) was a great zealot who opposed vehemently any trace of the haskalah movement. The same zealotry with which he acted against the religious reformers in Europe aided him in his activity settling the land. As a student of the students of the Chatam Sofer, who saw agricultural labor in the land of Israel a mitzvah in every aspect, he related to the settlement of the land in a holy and reverent manner.

When he joined the purchase of the second phase of Petach Tikvah (where he also bought land for his father-in-law), he proposed that on the day they cast the lots for the division of the stakes they should declare a public fast. Then after they purify themselves in the water of the Yarkon (it was much cleaner then), they should pray the morning prayers as if it was Hoshana Rabba. After the morning prayers, they should recite the entire book of Psalms. The entire day should pass in fasting, praying, and service of Hashem until evening at which point they will establish a great feast.

His entire life, Rabbi Schlesinger ran from any rabbinic appointment which were offered to him. In spite of this fierce opposition to the haskalah – he supported and worked towards the open study of crafts and skills – especially the study of agriculture. Many years before Eliezer ben Yehudah – Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger preached the common use of the Hebrew language as well as advocating the teaching of spoken Hebrew to both boys and girls.

To be continued …

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The chareidim of old, Part III

Along with his public service, which caused him to travel often to Germany in order to raise funds for the ‘Bikkur Cholim’ hospital in Yerushalaim, Rabbi Yoel Moshe continued to work for the honor of the Torah. He was the gabbai of the central synagogue ‘Beit Yaakov’ (the Churba) which his predecessors labored to build and he gave over a daily shiur in gemara there.

The success in the establishment of new neighborhoods motivated the residents of Yerushalaim to proceed to the next stage of development. Rabbi Yoel Moshe understood that the pasuk in Isaiah (65:21) “they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them” as speaks first of the building of houses – that is new neighborhoods – and then the development of agriculture. Thus, he established the ‘company of the settlement of the land of Israel’ (חברת יישוב ארץ ישראל) in 1874.

Before Petach Tikva was established, there were several attempts at purchasing land that failed. First, there was an attempt to buy government land next to Yericho. Rabbi Meir Auerbach (author of Imrei Bina), the Rabbi of Yerushalaim, joined in this endeavor and half of the stocks of the project were entrusted to his safekeeping. Already at this early point, it was decided to call the new settlement ‘Petach Tikva,’ from the verse in Hosea which described the transformation of a murky valley (עמק עכור) into a new hope (פתח תקווה). Emek Akur, where Achan ben Karmi was put to death is located in the vicinity of Yericho, and thus the name was particularly fitting.

It is interesting to note that in the book Kol HaTor, the name ‘Petach Tikva’ appears as one of the 155 traits of Mashiach ben Yosef, who according to the Gr”a, has the function of establishing agricultural settlements in the Holy land. There is no clear source testifying that the members of the group had such hidden intentions in their choice of this name. But it is a safe assumption that a connection exists.

The attempt at purchacing land in the Jordan valley failed after the Turkish sultan began to worry about the sale of land to foreign citizens (Rav Yoel Moshe was a citizen of Germany and his colleagues were citizens of other European states). The sultan bought the lands himself and turned them into lands of the monarchy.

One of those involved in the Yericho affair was Rabbi David Meir Guttman, a wealthy Jew who had recently made aliya from Hungary and was enthusiastic to establish Jewish settlements in the land. He spent much of his personal funds on such endeavors. What motivated Guttman to make aliya was the religious situation in Chutz LaAretz. In Hungary, from which Guttman made aliya, the Haskala and reform movements made major inroads and the status of Judaism continued to decline. Guttman hoped that it would be possible to create in the land of Israel a new Jewish population center, true to the Torah, and which does not suffer from the religious problems of the Diaspora.

It is interesting to note that decades later, the question that bothered many potential olim was how they would get along from a religious perspective in the ‘secular’ Land of Israel. In Guttman’s days, those settling the land were all ‘chareidi,’ so there was much logic in Guttman’s vision.

To be continued …

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The chareidim of old, Part II

Rabbi Yoel Moshe Solomon, the son of Rabbi Mordechai, represented the third generation of public activity for the settlement of the land of Israel – all in the spirit of the father of the yeshuv – the Vilna gaon. Rabbi Yoel Moshe was born in Yerushalaim in 1838. He was an Ilui in Torah and learned at the feet of the Torah giants Rabbi Moshe Leib of Kutna (author of the book Zayit Raanan) and the Rabbi of Yerushalaim, Rabbi Shmuel Salant.

Already in his youth he was known as the treasured son of the holy city. When he was sent, after his wedding, to complete his Torah education in the yeshivas of Lithuania, everyone predicted that he would become the Rabbi of the city of his birth. It quickly became apparent that this was not the direction of young Solomon. Rabbi Yoel Moshe rejected offers to become a Rabbi in Russia insisting that he would rather benefit from the work of his own hands in Eretz Yisrael. Together with his travel companion, Rabbi Michal HaKohen of Yerushalaim, Rabbi Yoel Moshe traveled to the city of Königsberg in Germany where he learned (in record time) the craft of lithography. He also published a book in Hebrew whose purpose was to teach this craft to other Jews.

When they returned to Yerushalaim, Rabbi Solomon and HaKohen joined with Rabbi Yechiel Brill and together opened a printing house. In 1863 they began to publish the first Hebrew newspaper in Yerushalim, ‘HaLevanon.’ ‘HaLevanon’ acted as the mouthpiece of the old yeshuv – especially of the Ashkenazi-Perushi community which was not quiet regarding its dependence on charity from chutz laaretz but rather searched helpful ways to improve the condition of the yeshuv. ‘HaLevanon’ also pushed towards the settlement of the Land – especially in the section dedicated to Torah ‘Kavod HaLevanon’ where it often brought essays by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher and the Rabbis of Yerushalim on this subject. ‘HaLevanon’ also saw great importance in communicating information regarding the land of Israel and its condition to the Diaspora.

The paper was closed following someone informing false information on it to the authorities. Rabbi Yechiel Brill continued to publish it – first in Paris and later in Mintz as a supplement of ‘Israelit’ – the mouthpiece of orthodoxy in Germany. Rabbi Yoel Moshe took a 15 year break from journalism, although he continued to send information to the ‘Levanon’ in its new format.

The cholera epidemic that broke out in Yerushalim (which took the lives of Rabbi Mordechai Solomon and his wife), aroused the youth of the community to initiate the building of new neighborhoods outside of the walls of the congested old city. Together with six friends, Rabbi Yoel Moshe established the neighborhood of ‘Nahalat Shivaa.’ The establishers of this neighborhood included no less than Rabbi Beinish Salant – the son of the Rabbi of Yerushalaim, and Rabbi Yosef Rivlin – the secretary of the community.

The fascinating personality of Rabbi Yosef Rivlin is sufficient to dispel many of the stereotypes that exist regarding the old yeshuv. Rabbi Yosef was a secretary and administrator – and actually practically established the general committee which acted as an umbrella organization to most of the Ashkenazi communities (Prushim and Chassidim). Contrary to popular opinion, it was specifically Rabbi Rivlin (who was in charge of the Haluka funds that the yeshuv depended on) who spared no effort in establishing new neighborhoods outside the city walls. He eventually became known as Rabbi Yoshe Shtetlemacher – Rabbi Yosef builder of neighborhoods.

Since the residents of the new neighborhood worried about living outside of the secure walls of the city, Rabbi Yosef left the city in 1865 to live outside by himself. He acted the same way with the many other neighborhoods he established. He would buy a house in the new location, move into it by himself, and then continue on to the next neighborhood. Rabbi Yosef, who was a scion of the students of the Gra, Rabbi Binyamin and Rabbi Hillel Rivlin of Shklov, acted upon the Redemptive Torah of the Gra (Rabbi Yosef’s son, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Rivlin, published these teachings in the book ‘Kol HaTor’)

In his poems, which were published in the newspapers at the time, there burns the flame of faith in the beginning of the redemption (Atchalta deGeula), whose source is in the wisdom of the Kabbalah from the beit midrash of the Gra. In the years to follow, Rabbi Yosef joined his friend Rabbi Yoel Moshe to establish the agricultural settlements of Petach Tikva and Yehud and bought himself a stake there.

To be continued …

The chareidim of old, Part I

I am loosely translating an article I read in a newspaper. It is quite long so I will do it in installments:

Our story beings in the year 1811. Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman, a young rabbinic student from the Lithuanian town of Kiddan decides to answer the call of the students of the Gr”a. This group of students were organizing a large aliyah to Eretz Yisrael on the command of their Rabbi (who was no longer living). The purpose of the aliyah was clear: the closening of the redemption through earthly effort – the awakening of the Jewish people from below, which will in turn bring an awakening above – Devine aide that will complete the redemption.

Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman took his wife Chana and their three children and departed on to a long journey which would last a year. On the road, he learned the craft of gold-crafting so that he will be able to earn a living from it in the land of the fathers and not need to benefit from charity.

In Hoshana Rabba of the year 1812, the family arrived in Acco. From there, they moved to Tzefat and joined the local students of the Gra (the prushim). After an epidemic broke out in the Galil, Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref decided to ascend to Yerushalaim.

The Ashkenazi settlement in Yerushalim at the time was poor, and in fact barely sustained itself. After the failure of the aliya of Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid from Poland in the year 1700, every Ashkenazi Jew was required to return the debts that the group of Rabbi Yehuda compiled with interest. The interest had accumulated over the years to massive amounts. The students of the Gra persisted and succeeded in establishing an Ashkenazi Perushi settlement in Yerushalaim.

Rav Avraham Shlomo Zalman occupied himself with Torah study and his craft. He learned Arabic from his neighbors. His greatness in Torah, his charisma, and his talents turned him into one of the leaders of the community of perushim in the city. The members of the community, which had begun to grow, needed their own synagogue. Naturally, they set their eyes upon the courtyard of the churba of Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid. The Arab owners, however, did not let the perushim take hold of the property. Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman dedicated body and soul to the redemption of the Churba. In the end his struggle bore fruit, and the Egyptian ruler, Muhammad Ali – and later the Turkish sultan – permitted the returning of the courtyard to Jewish hands. The personal animosity of the Arabs towards Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman grew as a result of his success and twice they made attempts at his life. The second time, on the 19th of Elul, 1851, they succeeded. Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref Hy”d became the first victim of Arab terror in the new Jewish settlement.

The son of Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman, Rabbi Mordechai who took the surname Solomon (based on his father), continued in his father’s path and contributed much to the building of the synagogue ‘HaChurba,’ which was dedicated a year after his father’s murder, in Elul 1852. Rabbi Mordechai also became the first Hebrew farmer when he founded a farm in Elmansura (today known as Akron). He also authored a memorandum to Moses Montifiore containing a plan for the agricultural development of the land.

In this memorandum he wrote: “I shall trust in Hashem, Who shall grant me the bravery and strength to bring this task to success and wellbeing, since I am also from among those who learn Torah, nonetheless my soul hopes that God shall guide me to eat the fruit of my labor … I shall choose to sleep on the threshing floor in a village, since I know that all my hard work is good in the eyes of God – to put the spirit of life in the dry bones – the land of our fathers.”

Even during the life of his father, Rabbi Mordechai migrated to Chutz LaAretz where he learned the craft of weaving. Later, he purchased a vineyard in the Arab town of Beit Chanina. In the epidemic that broke out in Yerushalaim in 1865, a third of the Jewish population died – among them was Rabbi Mordechai.

To be continued …

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The real reading of the gemara in Megilla

There is an often misread gemara in tractate Megilla 7b that people enjoy to quote. The traditional reading is as follows:

אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

Rabba said: A person has to drink wine on Purim until he does not know the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai"

This reading actualy only became popular during the prohibition era. The true reading of this gemara is as follows:

Rabba said:

A person has to drink wine.

On Purim, [he has to do so] until he does not know the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai"

VeHamavin Yavin.

Choshen Mishpat

Rav Yosef Carmel points out an intersting Kli Yakar. The Choshen or breastplate that the high priest used to wear is said by the gemara (Archin 16a) to atone for the sin of incorrect judgment. The Kli Yakar says on this (Shemot 28:15):

וחושן הבא לכפר על קלקול הדינין, כי הדינין הם דברים המסורים אל לב הדיין. כי אין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות ובידו לומר על ימין שהוא שמאל ועל שמאל שהוא ימין…ואם אמר יאמר הדיין כך היה נראה בעיני מי יוכל להכחישו בלתי ד' לבדו הבוחן לבות בני האדם

The choshen comes to atone for incorrect judgments, [this is] because judgment is something that is given over to the heart of the judge. For the judge only has what his eyes see and it is in his hands to say that right is left and left is right ... And if the judge would say 'this is how it seems to me', no one would be able to dispute him except for Hashem alone Who inspects the heart of man.

This is an important lesson - not just regarding judgment but also for proper ahavat Yisrael. Often times when we argue for what we feel is the Truth of the Torah - we get emotionally invested in our own position - this is a good thing for one SHOULD be passionate about the Torah of Hashem. However, we should never forget that there is a subjective component to any learning and judgment that we display. We are all human and thus understand what we learn based on our experiences and our general knowledge base. The person on the other side of the debate often has eyes that see things differently and thus may come to very different conclusions. We must always be careful to separate our fight for Truth from any hint of personal pride. An idea argued by another Jew, for the sake of Heaven, based on their best understanding of the Torah has intrinsic worth even if we feel that the opponent’s particular position is totally against the will of Hashem.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The non-Eulogy of Herzl

Rav Bezalel Naor in his book When God becomes History translates a beautiful letter Rav Kook Zt"l wrote to his Father-in-law the Aderet Zt"l. The background to the letter is a “eulogy” Rav Kook gave for Herzl in 1904. I put eulogy in quotes since Rav Kook never mentioned Herzl's name in the entire speech and only praised actions that better the physical and spiritual well-being of the Jewish people. He also warned of the great dangers of tending to the physicality of the Jewish people at the expense of their spirituality. This was the general approach of Rav Kook when dealing with the irreligious. Always accept the opportunity to speak and use that opportunity to advance the cause of Torah and make heard ideas and messages that are rarely if ever heard in irreligious circles. Rav Kook drew a lot of fire for speaking at such an occasion and in this letter explains his position to the Aderet:

With the help of God
Jaffa, 29 Tammuz, 5664

From between the straits lights shall shine.

To my beloved teacher, my father-in-law, the Gaon, the glory of Israel, Rabbi Elijah David, may he live lengthy, good days, and all the dear members of his household, may they live, and my daughter Batya, may she live lengthy, good days.

Because of my burden leading the people of God, God bless them, I am not always able to satiate my thirst to write long, frequent letters to his honor, may he live, the joy of my heart and the treasure of my soul. In addition, these days I have been fatigues by events that have reinforced that which I knew beforehand: How difficult it is to go in the good and straight way of God purely for His name’s sake and His love, especially in a place where there is a history of quarrels and various controversies that kindle anger, which is the case (due to our many sins) in the Hoy Land in general, and in the holy city of Jerusalem specifically. Though I am aware of the severity of the situation, heaven forefend that I deviate from the way paved for us by our sages of blessed memory, the way of Torah: “Be of the disciples of Aaron, a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace, a lover of humanity and one who brings them closer to Torah.” This is the path I have chosen since youth, and thank God, through it I still see blessed results. May God grant me the merit to increase strength in days to come for good. I already expressed in Ha-Peless my opinion concerning the way to relate to the demands of the hour. The honor of the divine name and the honor of Torah will be upheld not by shouts and quarrels, nor by banishment of whoever is found in the least blemished, but rather through words of pleasantness that appeal to reason, drawing them with ropes of love and cords of humanity.

Now there came to me two gentlemen … and requested me … since they were planning to gather in the bank building here to honor the memory of Doctor Herzl and it was their finding that even those opposed to Zionism would not deny that there were in his heart thoughts concerning the betterment of Israel. Though unfortunately he did not find the straight path, nevertheless, “The Holy One does not withhold credit for even good talk.” It would be poor manners not to arrange a memorial in his honor in a public meeting place such as the Anglo-Palestine Bank here. Therefore I promised them I would attend.

Understandably, once I agreed to come, I did not want to refuse to speak there some words. I assessed that God willing, benefit would derive from my words, inasmuch as the other speakers would not have the audacity to belittle God, His Torah, and the sages of Israel. Thank God, this assessment proved correct. Of course, I spoke pleasantly and politely, but I did reveal the fundamental failure of their [the Zionists’] entire enterprise, namely the fact that they do not place at the top of their list of priorities the sanctity of God and His great name, which is the power that enables Israel to survive. The sages employed the parable of a key and a long chain. On the other hand, it is incumbent on the God-fearing to relate lovingly and peaceable to all who wish to do good for Israel, be it only in a material sense. One must draw such an individual to the good way of God, not by some vague remark intended to hinder him from his deed, but rather through some directed remark that demands coming closer to the name of God and His holy Torah. Then it is possible that all the powers presently being utilized for evil will be channeled for good. I humbly submit that this is one of the great mysteries alluded to in the Zohar, Bereshit, that the head of the academy in the palace of Messiah announced, “Whoever does not transform darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness, has no place here.” In other words, the redemption will be brought about only by attempting to transform the evil powers into good. We must not push the bad away. It is conceivable they are evil because of extenuating circumstances. They have been influenced negatively and are not totally to blame. How can we push a stone down after one who is falling?

Thank God, I see tangible results. When I came to Rehovot, due to our many sins, I found the youth there corrupted as far as their opinions, and one may assume the same goes for their deeds. I did not reject them but rather drew them close. I spoke before them words of wisdom and good reason from which they understood at least in a general way how the light of Torah dispels all the shadows of darkness and wickedness of evil opinions that in our many sins have proliferated in this day and age. The talk had a great effect on them in drawing them closer to the love of Torah. It was reported that the Sabbath following my stay they did not shave, though my talk contained not the slightest hint of practical reproach, but rather remained on a general level. I am confident that once the divine spark of love of God and His true awe has entered the heart, it will effect through a divine power much more than would be accomplished if we forced it in, using duress. Even more than is visible on the tangible level, there is a tikkun (fixing) of the emotion of the heart, which is the main thing.

Now if I would have turned my back on them [the residents of Jaffa who requested Rav Kook’s presence at the memorial assembly for Dr. Herzl – Translator], God forbid this would have brought about a situation in which the rabbinate would have absolutely no influence on the townspeople, the majority of whom are followers of Zionism. This is especially true of the inhabitants of the moshavot [colonies, such as nearby Rehovot]. How could I possibly desert many souls, the holy people in the Holy Land? Our eyes are turned to them to settle our holy soil. If I were to do so, the result would be, God forbid, that afterward admonishment or guidance would be of no avail. The main thing about guidance is that it hinges on the love-relationship between the guide and his protégés. And all of this I should do purely for imagined honor, so that persons unacquainted with my good thoughts for God and His Torah will not belittle me! Heaven forfend that I should entertain such an invalid option. I trust in God’s loving-kindness. He knows my heart and my entire striving, and how bitter it is for me to befriend even for a moment empty people far from Torah and fear [of God]. But all of this and a lot more than this, we must bear and endure for the sake of the sanctity of His blessed name and for the love and glory of Israel – though it may mean inestimable spiritual torture.

God forbid that we conclude through “common sense” that any person whose deeds or opinions are tarnished is already outside the bounds of “brotherhood,” and that therefore we are no longer responsible for his soul, or even more extreme, that we might turn on him as an enemy and attack him. This approach is absolutely wrong. We are not permitted to accept such reasoning from any man. In the case of something so exaggerated that it is beyond the realm of Halakha, our sages remarked, “Were Joshua son of Nun to tell it to me with his own mouth, I would not accept it.”

In this generation which is so confused and divided, if those Torah scholars who, thank God, have acquired fame, will not recognize their own impact, but rather will allow themselves to be deterred from seeking the welfare and improvement of Israel, by any hothead, God only knows where this will lead. Verily, one must deliberate how to lead on each occasion, but heaven forefend that one stand on one’s own honor. Our only purpose should be the increase of heaven’s honor (kevod shamayim), with and eye to Israel’s return (teshuvah), which can be brought about only by the goodly ways of Torah scholars, by the “string of love” extended to them in the merit of the Torah. Let not the slightest tikkun (fixing) be small in our eyes. A small beginning can end in great things. If we will do that which we are able, God will finish for us.

In summation, I could not have acted otherwise. All who truly fear God must give me the benefit of the doubt. If one has decided to transgress the positive commandment, :Judge justly your companion,” we have no responsibility to pay heed to his words and dreams, being as he desires to block the way to peace in Israel and Torah outreach. Given that, I could not prevent a eulogy being held in the Talmud Torah. This too would have produced great controversy and eternal enmity.

In my remarks, I offered no homage to Dr. Herzl per se. What I did say was that such a thought of improving the situation of Israel in Eretz Israel would be worthwhile if we would rise to the occasion. It would require return to God by observing and honoring the Torah, and a consensus that the foundation of all must be the power of Torah. Repenting of baseless hatred, and wholehearted peace-seeking as obligated [by Torah] would result in success because it would be close to God’s will. We must make amends toward the future that the power of the sanctity of Torah be at the top of our list of priorities, that “the son of Jesse be at the lead.” If the will to improve materially will rest on Torah – then the Lord will shine His face upon us and crown our every deed with success. At first, the salvation will be gradual, as our holy rabbis remarked upon witnessing daybreak over the valley of Arbel, but after it will gain momentum, appearing as a great and wondrous light, as in the days of our exodus from Egypt.

After [the address], others came to me and reported that some read into my words ideas I never intended … By using good reason and character traits, we will accomplish more than with shouting and curses, God forbid. What am I to do if there are some who consider such proper remarks as, God forbid, “justification of the wicked”? I trust in the Lord that all God fearing people will recognize that the way of peace is the true way of God. It is in this way we will succeed. Especially at this time, we need to strengthen the way of peace. The Lord will show us salvation. His salvation is close to those who fear Him.

His son-in-law who loves him as his son,

Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Return and Redemption II

During Shabbat, I had a chance to delve further into the sugya I have been debating with Jak Black.

Just a few more points for my side:

1. Jak has so far claimed that I am not learning Rashi properly (implying several times that my learning skills are severely lacking). Well, sorry Jak, but the Maharsha, your main source of support says that Rashi learns the sugya as I suggest. I guess the maharsha should have learned with you first so that he would know what a "hava amina" is.

2. I have re-learned the Yad-Rama and am convinced that he learns that sugya as I suggest. The sugya he has is the same as in the Vilna edition but the way he explains the drash of the psukim leaves little room for doubt.

3. So far I have only quoted the Turei Even in order to show how the seeming contradictions in the Rambam can be explained. I failed to mention that after he explains that the Rambam in hilchot teshuva probably learns like the Maharsha (this does not take into account the Rabmam in hilchot melachim), he then goes on to explain that he rejects this position out of hand and basically says there is no way that the teshuva of klal Israel can in any way hold up the geula.

4. The Margalios HaYam explicitly changes the girsa of the bavli to be in accordance with the Yerushalmi and the Tanchuma (this is also in accordance with several manuscripts of the Bavli that we have). All reason point to the fact that the girsa in the Bavli is mistaken. Since the whole structure Jak has build on top of the maharsha depends on the probably incorrect girsa in the Bavli - the leg he is standing on is getting thinner by the moment.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Return and Redemption

I have been having an ongoing debate with Jak Black about whether geula can or can not begin without the teshuva of the Jewish people. You can see the previous threads here, here, and here. Jak basically tries to claim that the opinion that the geula is not contingent on teshuva is a daat yachid that can be attributed only to the Radak and the Gra. I contend that it is THE mainstream opinion in the rishonim and the achronim (and as we shall see, in chazal as well).

I wanted to post an entire essay dedicated just to this issue and this is that attempt. One of the primary sources that the debate revolves around is a recording of a tannaic disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. The Primary place that this disagreement is recorded is in the Talmud Bavli, masechet Sanhedrin 97b. Here is Jak’s translation:

“Rav says: All of the dates have passed, and the matter [of redemption] depends solely on repentance and good deeds. Shmuel says: It is enough for the mourner to stand in his mourning [Rashi: the Jewish people have suffered enough in exile; they will be redeemed without teshuva.]. This argument is the same as an argument of Tanai'im: Rebbi Eliezer says: If the Jews repent, they will be redeemed, and if not, they will not be redeemed. Rebbi Yehoshua said to him: If they do not repent, they won't be redeemed? Rather, G-d will establish a king for them whose decrees are as harsh as Haman, and the Jews will repent, and return to good”

This is not the only place in chazal where this dispute is brought down. In Talmud Yerushalmi, masechet taanit 3a the dispute is brought down in the following manner:
רבי ליעזר אומר אם אין ישראל עושין תשובה אין נגאלין לעולם שנאמר (ישעיהו ל) בשובה ונחת תושעון אמר לו רבי יהושע וכי אם יעמדו ישראל ולא יעשו תשובה אינן נגאלין לעולם אמר לו ר"א הקב"ה מעמיד עליהן מלך קשה כהמן ומיד הן עושין תשובה והן נגאלין.

Rabbi Eliezer says: If Israel does not do teshuva, they will never be redeemed as it says ‘In return and rest you will be redeemed’ Rabbi Yehoshua replied: Is it true that if Israel does not stand and do teshuva, they will never be redeemed? Rabbi Eliezer answered him: Hashem will establish a king for them who is as harsh as Haman and they will immediately do teshuva and be redeemed.

The gemara goes on with several proof texts and Rabbi Yehoshua emerges victorious as he does in the Bavli. A similar form of the debate is also brought down in midrash tanchuma (Bechukotai 3) where Rabbi Eliezer again takes the position that if the Jewish people do not repent, Hashem will establish for them a harsh king who will force their repentance but his position in the tanchuma is rejected by Rabbi Shimon who says: “Whether they do teshuva or not, when the appointed time arrives, they will be redeemed.”

Although we would normally read the gemara in Sanhedrin in the following way:
Rebbi Yehoshua said to him: If they do not repent, they won't be redeemed? Rather, G-d will establish a king for them whose decrees are as harsh as Haman, and the Jews will repent, and return to good”

In light of the other sources, perhaps the correct reading of the gemara is the following:
“Rebbi Yehoshua said to him: If they do not repent, they won't be redeemed? Rather [Rabbi Eliezer replied], G-d will establish a king for them whose decrees are as harsh as Haman, and the Jews will repent, and return to good”

This is actually supported by girsas in the gemara that don’t have the word אלא but instead have א"ל. That is, in some versions of the Bavli, the statement that ‘G-d will establish a king for them whose decrees are as harsh as Haman’ is explicitly said by Rabbi Eliezer whose whole approach is then rejected by the gemara. If this is the case, then the only source that a king will at some point force the Jewish people to do teshuva is in one girsa of the Bavli while the other girsa of the Bavli along with the Yerushalmi and the tanchuma must be the version that several rishonim had in front of them.

It seems like Rashi had such a girsa in the gemara since he continuously portrays Rabbi Yehoshua’s position as the geula beginning without teshuva of any sort. Rashi says nothing to hint that Rabbi Yehoshua is really saying that a king will force the Jewish people to do teshuva. Jak maintains that Rashi is simply giving a hava Amina – which is best translated into english as “you would have thought that …” This is simply not supported by the text. Rashi in four different places in the sugya explains that Rabbi Yehoshua’s position is that the geula can come without teshuva. Rabbi Yehoshua never changes that possition and wins the argument in the end. Rashi is saying that the gemara’s conclusion is that the geula can come without teshuva.

The Ramban in Sefer HaGeula (הוצאת שעוועל, דף רעז) also maintains this pshat for the gemara: ‘[There is among our sages] who asserted that even though they do not do teshuva, they are still redeemed. This [is the opinion of] Rabbi Yehoshua, and he was victorious over Rabbi Eliezer.’ See Ramban in his commentary to deuteronomy 32:26 where he explains that the final geula will be, not because of the merit of the Jewish people but rather because of the disgrace to the name of Hashem that the exile causes. Thus, the trigger for the geula is the descecration of Hashem’s name and not the merit or teshuva of the Jewish people.

This is also what was written by the great student of the Ramban, Rabbeinu David Bonofil (brought in chidushei haRan on Sandehrin 110b): “Rabbi Yehoshua disagreed with [Rabbi Eliezer] to say that the future geula has no conditions and it is an edict [that Hashem] has sworn … and to this Rabbi Eliezer was silent.

This is also the shita of the Zohar (Acharei, pg. 132):
“At all times when Israel is in exile, if they merit, then Hashem will have mercy upon them and take them out of exile and if they do not merit, then Hashem will leave them in exile until the preappointed time and when that time arrives and they still have no merit, then Hashem becomes concerned for the Honor of His Name and does not leave them in exile”

The Radak (Yeshaya 59:16) as well states that chazal disagree as to whether kibbutz galuyot can precede teshuva or not. Although he does not say so explicitly, he must be refering to the machloket between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua and sees Rabbi Yehoshua’s opinion as allowing for the redemption without repentance. He then goes on to suggest a possible scenario that can reconcile the different prophesies but it is clear from his words that he allows for the possibility of the geula occuring without any teshuva:
“We can reconcile the verses [by saying] that the majority of Israel will repent [only] after they see the signs of redemption. This explains the verse ‘He [G-d] saw that there was no man [… so His arm brought salvation to him] – [that is, G-d saw] that they would not repent until they see the beginning of salvation.”

The Metzudat David on the same verse also interprets the prophesy in the same way:
“The arm of Hashem will save him [Israel] to bring the geula without merit …”

The Malbim adoptes the same interpertation as well:
“… and thus Hashem will find it nessecary to enact the salvation from His own strength. Not based on any deed done below [by men].”

Again, it is clear that the geula can begin without teshuva. Now, just to be clear, Jak confuses the reader with several midrashim that discuss the inevitable teshuva of klal Israel. It must be understood that the kind of geula that is not triggered by teshuva will not end until the Jewish people have returned to Hashem. Many midrashim discuss at what point the Jewish people will return. The Yalkut Shimoni (Malachi 595) brings a variant reading of the Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer (End of chapter 43). the midrash discusses whether or not Eliyahu will come before the teshuva of klal Israel. There are also various other midrashim that discuss whether or not Mashiach will come before the teshuva. These sources are irrelevant to the discution at hand. Everyone agrees that at some point during the geula, klal Israel will do teshuva or be forced to act in accordance with the ways of Hashem. There is discusion in the midrashim regarding whether or not a certain stage will be preceded by teshuva but none of these midrashim are discussing the beginning of the geula. The question at hand is simply: can the geula BEGIN without the teshuva of klal Israel. Everyone agrees that the geula will not end without such teshuva.

Now, there are a few sources for BOTH Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua saying that the Jewish people must do teshuva before the geula can occur. One of these is Rav Saadia gaon (though there are conflicting versions of the text of Emunot VeDeot, I have accepted the version the supports Jak’s stance since that is the one Rav Kapach zt”l prefered and I defer to his expertese). The other is the Maharsha which understands the stance that Hashem will establish a harsh king as being the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua. As we established before, this is most probably based on a mistaken reading of the gemara. But the opinion does exist.

There is one rishon that is a source of great confusion on this topic. The Rambam seems to contradict himself in two different places. In hilchot teshuva 7:5, the Rambam says: “The Jewish people are not redeemed except through teshuva.” Then, in hilchot melachim 11:4, the Rambam lists as one of the functions of mashiach that he “will force all of Israel to follow the path of the Torah and strengthen the observance of its particulars.” If the Jewish people have done teshuva, why does mashiach have to force them? Jak brings several achronim that try to explain that the Rambam holds like the Maharsha. This explanation seems far-fetched since the Maharsha still does not account for the passage in melachim. This is pointed out by none other than the Satmar Rav (!). The Satmar rav basically writes in VaYoel Moshe, pg. 41 that the solution to the problem is that the beginning of the redemption can take place before the nation repents but that teshuva must be achieved before the redemption is complete. Now of course, the Satmar rav has a totally different definition of what the beginning of the geula is, but that is a different topic beyond the scope of this post. The main point is that even the Satmar Rav agrees that the geula can begin before the teshuva of klal Israel based on the Rambam!

The Turei Even (Rabbi Elazar Rokeach) also attempts to reconsile the two passages in the Rambam. He points out the the kesef mishna quotes as the source for the Rambam’s passage in hilchot teshuva the gemara from Yoma 87b: “repentance is great, for it brings the redemption closer.” Now, there are two modes of redemption, “achishena” which depends on teshuva and “beItta” which does not. The turei even contends that the Rambam in hilchot teshuva is only talking about geula “achishena” while in hilchot melachim, he is discussing “beItta”. Furthermore, the Turei Even gives a second pshat and says that the Rambam intentionaly contradicted himself since he did not want to decide between the authorities in the Gemara and thus included both opposing views in his code of law assuming that when mashiach comes, we will see which one was correct.

In the achronim, we also find the idea that the final geula will not be dependant on teshuva and can come to a generation that has no merit. The most explicit of these sources is the Gra in his commentary on Song of Songs:
“But the final time for redemption does not depend on repentance, only on [devine] kindness …”

The Ohr HaChaim says a similar idea (VaYikra 25:25. see a similar sentiment in Shmot 21:11):
“The end of exile will come about even if the Jewish people are completely wicked, G-d forbid”

Now Jak claims that this ohr hachaim does not claim that geula can start without teshuva. I ask the reader, how can the exile end with the Jewish people completely wicked and still allow for the shita that the exile can not end without teshuva? If they even did a little teshuva, they would NOT BE COMPLETELY WICKED!

These idea also appear in other writings of the achronim. The Ramchal in Daat Tevonot (p. 21) says something similar as does the Chafetz Chaim in Shem Olam (Sha’ar HaHitchazkut, chapter 13):
“In any event, there is a set time for our redemption. That is the period of ‘in its time,’ which will come about even if [the Jews] are completely unworthy

Now I am sure that Jak will contend that this does not contradict his position since they could have done teshuva and still been completely unworthy. This is true, but if you define teshuva down to such an extent that even the smallest bit of return is enough to trigger the geula, then the whole debate becomes somewhat meaningless. If teshuva does not mean the complete fixing of those very sins which led to the exile in the first place, then the whole structure that was built upon the maharsha falls apart and there becomes no theological need to interpret Rabbi Yehoshua as being of the opinion that teshuva must precede the geula.

I would like at this juncture to point out the tremendous difficulty with the approach of the maharsha. If any kind of geula is dependant on teshuva, then it is impossible to have any set time when the geula MUST occur. Even if Hashem establishes a wicked king, there is no garauntee that the response of the Jewish people to this king will be one of teshuva – rather, as long as their free will is kept intact, it is fully possible that they will remain in their sin. This removes the whole possibility of an established time for the final redemption without Hashem tampering with the free will of the Jewish people. And if Hashem does tamper with our free will and we do return to the correct path – could that really be called teshuva?

I just wanted to give everyone a taste of the sources at hand. There are many more great sages that believed that the geula can begin without teshuva – chief among them Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher and Rav Zvi Hirsh Kalisher, the great talmidim of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. Rav Kalisher testifies in Drishat Zion that he discussed his plan to bring the geula closer by the settlement of the land of Israel and both Rabbi A. Eiger and the Chattam Sofer agreed to his plan. MaRan HaRav Kook, of course agreed to this approach as well and no less than Rav Eliyahu Dessler admited the possibility that the light of mashiach will shine before the repentance of the Jewish people. I might follow up with another post which analyzes the unique approach of the Maharal but since it requires a log of introduction to the thought of the Maharal, I decided not to include it in this post.

I believe that the honest reader will see that the belief that the geula can begin before the teshuva of klal Israel is very mainstream and is supported by some of the greatest sages the Jewish people have ever had. It is by no means a daat yachid and has been advanced by some of the greatest gedolim of the past 200 years. I will not deny that it is not the only approach. There is definitly another approach that is also pretty mainstream. My main desire is that people who hold like the RZ do not feel like they are marginalized or that their opinion is only loosely based in Torah – it is actually far better established than the other side.