Saturday, December 26, 2009

Parashat Vayechi – Accursed is their rage – Rav Meir Kahane

[Simeon and Levi are comrades, their weaponry is a stolen craft. Into their conspiracy, may my soul not enter! With their congregation, do not join, O my honor! For in their rage they murdered people and at their whim they hamstrung an ox. Accursed is their rage for it is intense, and their wrath for it is harsh; I will separate them within Jacob and I will disperse them in Israel. (Gen. 49:5-7)]

Simeon and Levi avenged Dinah, which constituted avenging Israel. Whoever says that their deed against Shechem was a sin, is mistaken, for G-d commanded (Num. 2:2), “The children of Israel shall camp with each person near the banner having his paternal family's insignia,” and our sages comment (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7):

Every prince had an insignia. Each had a banner bearing the color of a precious gem on Aharon's heart...The prince of every tribe had a banner of the same color as his precious gem... Simeon's gem was emerald and his banner was green, bearing a picture of [the city of] Shechem.

If Simeon's deed in Shechem were a sin, how could G-d command that it be publicized on his banner?
Moreover, Maharzo explains the Midrash: “Shechem: For their valor and self-sacrifice at Shechem. Although Levi was with him, Simeon was older and the main character. This is his praise for having zealously dealt with sexual sin.”...What occurred at Shechem surely did not constitute sin but self-sacrifice in pursuit of revenge in the right time and place. Whoever examines Scripture well will see that Jacob did not reprimand Simeon and Levi as if the deed were unethical. He only feared the outcome, the danger that might result (Gen. 34:40) “You have gotten me in trouble, giving me a bad reputation among the Canaanites and Perizites who live in the land. I have only a small number of men. They can band together and attack me and my family and I will be wiped out.”
By their response, “Shall he treat our sister like a harlot?” (Gen. 34.31) they meant:”Surely no sin was committed here. We have avenged our sister, the victim of a heinous crime. As for your fear of the nations, to avoid profanation of G-d's name one must surely sacrifice one's life.” R. Yehuda bar Simon said (Bereshit Rabbah 80:12): [They said]:The water was muddy and we made it clear.

...If so, however, the question arises why Jacob cursed them (Gen. 49:5-7, current Parasha, see above). The answer is this: Certainly, after Simeon and Levi gave Jacob their answer - “Shall he treat our sister like a harlot?” - he silently accepted their argument, for all the aforesaid reasons. And there was certainly no sin in their killing the people of Shechem. Quite the contrary, they were fulfilling a great mitzvah of revenge and self-sacrifice. It was for this reason that G-d engraved for all time the image of the city of Shechem on Simeon's banner. Later, however, Simeon and Levi tried to scheme against Joseph and even thought to kill him. As our sages say (Lekach Tov on Gen. 49:23):
“People made his life bitter and attacked him”: These are his brothers. “Masters of strife made him their target”: These are Simeon and Levi, as it says, “They are plotting to kill him” (Gen. 37:18).
We also find (Tanchuma Yashan, VaYeshev 13), “They said to each other, 'Here comes the dreamer! Let us kill him!' (Gen. 37:19): Who spoke to each other? Simeon and Levi.”
Bereshit Rabbah (84:16) teaches: “'They took him and threw him into the pit' (Gen. 37:24). The written form is vayikachayhu, meaning 'he took him'. Who was this? Simeon. When was he punished? Later on when it says (Gen. 42:24), '[Joseph] took Simeon from them.'” Ultimately, it was Simeon and Levi who made Joseph's sale a fact. As our sages said (Midrash HaGadol on Gen. 49:5), “'Instruments of crime are their wares': This refers to the sale of Joseph.”
When Jacob heard all this, he was shocked, and he understood that although their deed at Shechem was an act of revenge, a mitzvah and a duty, they were motivated by wicked anger. Anger is so unseemly that our sages said (Nedarim 22a-22b): “Whoever becomes angry, falls prey to all sorts of Hellish forces...Even the Divine presence becomes unimportant to him...It even makes him forget his Torah learning and makes him foolish.”Jacob now understood that Simeon's and Levi's deeds stemmed from anger. True, at Shechem they performed a good deed, yet motivated by anger, they ultimately went so far as to try to kill a saint like Joseph.
...To conclude, Jacob did not, G-d forbid, curse Simeon and Levi, but their rage, the evil cause of their sin. ...Zealotry and vengefulness are crucial attributes, but only if exercised for the sake of Heaven, as done by Pinchas, Elijah and others like them. ...Certainly, revenge, violence and murder are all grave acts, and when perpetrated solely for the sake of a king's or a nation's glory, or for personal revenge, they constitute an odious sin. Yet, whoever follows G-d's orders and duly clings to His mitzvot and values, applying mercy, kindness and peace in the right time and place, and cruelty, revenge and war in the right time and place, is serving G-d.
Revenge is rooted in Israel and in their great leaders. We find this with Samson. After he “smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter” (Jud. 15:8), the base men of Yehuda came to hand him over to the Philistines, claiming fearfully (Jud. 15:11), “ Are you unaware that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?" Samson replied (Ibid.), “As they did to me, so did I to them”.
Samson was crowned with the title of tzaddik, “righteous one”.
...So great was he that Jacob thought Samson would be the Messiah (Bereshit Rabbah 98:14):”Jacob saw Samson and thought he was the Messiah. After he died, Jacob said, 'This one is dead too! I waited for your salvation, Oh L-rd!' (Gen. 49:18)
Rabbi Meir Kahane's son Rav Binyamin Ze'ev explains this in The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY”D:
When Jacob blesses Dan, the sages tell us that through “Ruach HaKodesh”, Jacob saw Samson wreaking havoc upon the Philistines, and thought that he was the Messiah. Only after seeing Samson die did a disappointed Jacob realize that Samson was not the Messiah, and thus he uttered the words in our Parasha, “I waited for your salvation, Oh L-rd”.

There is no more disgraceful or wicked trait than cruelty at the wrong time and place. Possessing this trait can even lead to one's Jewishness being suspect, as in the ruling of Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer, Piriah Ve-riviah 2:2:”Whoever is insolent, cruel, hates his fellow man or lacks kindness, is suspected of being a Gibeonite.”
The word “rachamim”[mercy] comes from “rechem”, [womb]. There is no mercy like that of a mother for the child of her womb. There is an inseparable bond between them because the child is part of her body, “flesh of her flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Just so must be a Jew's mercy for his fellow Jew (if that fellow is worthy). It should resemble a mother's mercy for her child.

[Joseph's brothers perceived that their father was dead, and they said, “Perhaps Joseph will nurse hatred against us and then he will surely repay us all the evil that we did him.” So they instructed that Joseph be told, “Your father gave orders before his death, saying:'Thus shall you say to Joseph:”O please, kindly forgive the spiteful deed of your brothers and their sin, for they have done you evil'”; so now, please forgive the spiteful deed of the servant of your father's G-d.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also went and flung themselves before him and said, “We are ready to be your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, Fear not, for am I instead of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good: in order to accomplish – it is as clear as this day- that a vast people be kept alive. So now, fear not – I will sustain you and your young ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke to their heart. (Gen.50:15-21)]

[But, as Rabbi Kahane puts it in Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot, Chapter 1]:
To burn evil out of our midst – this is the greatest compassion for the world, for all who are compassionate to the cruel will eventually be cruel to the compassionate (Tanhuma, Metzora 1); because this convoluted compassion allows the wicked to continue to commit evil.
In The Jewish Idea, the chapter on revenge explains this further]:
Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge. The Torah dons sackcloth over the distortion of the concept of revenge, which has become a target for the arrows of all Jewish Hellenists and worshipers of the alien culture, as if revenge were negative and evil by nature. The very opposite is true! No trait is more justified than revenge in the right time and place. G-d, Himself, is called Nokem, Avenger:The L-rd is a zealous and avenging G-d. The L-rd avenges and is full of wrath. He takes revenge on His adversaries and reserves wrath for His enemies.”(Nachum 1:2).
Our sages also said (Berachot 33a), “Shall we say that even revenge is great, because it appears between two names of G-d?” 'A G-d of vengeance is the L-rd' (Ps. 94:1). R. Elazar responded, 'Indeed. Where revenge is necessary, it is a great thing'” [see Rashi].
“It is a great thing!” It is a great mitzvah to take the revenge of the righteous and humble from the evildoer. Whoever forgoes such an opportunity is cruel, and he denies belief in G-d.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rav Binyamin Kahane's last letter

In memory of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev and his wife Taliya Kahane, HY"D
whose 9th yahrzeit was this week

Take Your Own Destiny In Your Own Hands...

Binyamin Kahane's parting message was for the settlers to take matters into their own hands. The daily murder of Jews coupled with the futility of the IDF caused Binyamin to come to the conclusion that the settlers will inevitably have to fend for themselves - and that's a good thing.

Binyamin had already met with key people in the Samarian area ("Gav HaHar" - which includes the settlements Tapuach, Yizhar, Ittemar, Har HaBracha, Elon More) to help implement his plan - he felt that these settlements were more apt to agree with his approach, more willing to cut the IDF umbilical cord. He had just begun a "speaking tour" at various settlements to bring this idea over. The fact that he started going "public" after so many years of spreading ideas "quietly" is proof of how much he believed in this idea. In his last "shiurim", in his parasha sheets and during his speaking tour in the States, he also emphasized this message, tying it in with Hanukah: "The miracle of Hanukah was that Jews were ready to fight".

Below is the letter he planned to circulate among the settlers. It was read at his funeral by Rabbi Yehuda Richter:

"To my dear brothers and friends living in the mountains of Judaea and Samaria:

The situation currently facing us demands that we courageously re-assess all that we have believed until now. The issue before us is no longer just the fundamental problem of Chillul HaShem and Jewish humiliation; more, it is now a simple issue of straightforward security that involves each and every one of us.

Living in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, we are truly fortunate in that we comprise a community that, for the overwhelming majority, fears its God, loves its nation unstintingly, and is prepared for self-sacrifice. At this time of unrelenting strife, violence and an all but declared war, this faith grants us an insuperable advantage over those who live in ostensibly safer areas.

The capitulation of Joseph's Tomb - on Shabbat T'shuva, the Sabbath of Penitence (!) - shocked us all to the very depths of our souls. But, truth to tell, few if any of us were really surprised, particularly after the IDF gave the broadest possible hints of their intentions just a few days earlier.

The situation today is difficult and complex. On the one hand, we are fully prepared - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - to retain Jewish control over the Jewish homeland, maybe more prepared than any other sector in Israeli society. On the other hand, the IDF is being exposed - with all the good-will - as a confused body, lacking direction and ideology and, above all, with no faith in God.

Additionally, we daily witness Jews throughout the land rising spontaneously, the plain meaning of which is that they are sick of the current government and the situation that it has wrought, and that they yearn for a determined leader who will steer the state along a truly Jewish path. Together with this, simple actions of individual Jews from all the settlements (such as blocking roads to Arab vehicles) are more successful in casting fear over the Arabs than the IDF with all its APC's, jeeps, bullet-proof vests, inconsequential patrols, and bewildered commanders. And in the light of all these facts and their implications, we the inhabitants are determined to remain; we refuse to surrender our hold over our land, even as we refuse to acquiesce in the continuing humiliation of the Nation of Israel and the desecration of the Name of God.

My suggestion is as follows: Based upon the facts that I have outlined above, all the settlements on the mountain-ridge running north-south along the length of Judea and Samaria must conjoin with each other, forming a united leadership. This will immediately broadcast an unequivocal message to the IDF: "Just as you abandoned the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem - so, too, please abandon us. Abandon the entire mountain range whereon we live". This must be stated politely, calmly and rationally. "Clearly, you do not want to be here. You obviously do not understand what you are doing here. You have no overall aims whatsoever, beyond the idiotic aim of 'enforcing order'. There is no purpose at all, under these circumstances, in forcing you to remain here. We who live here are ready and willing to take full responsibility for this area upon ourselves. Just allow us this responsibility. As we all know, the government fully intended in any event to abandon virtually all this region to the Arabs, if only Arafat would have deigned to agree to their designs. So please, hand over this land to us. By the grace of God, here in these mountains we have wonderful youth and highly-trained military personnel whose morale is high; they will gladly accept this responsibility upon themselves. Ultimately they will take to their duties enthusiastically and, what is more important, with the faith in the God Who gave us this land. Just leave us the arms (and even if not, we will nevertheless succeed...), and HaShem will be our strength".

Without the slightest doubt, the Arab denizens will be terrified merely at hearing this news: authority here will no longer rest with the shackled Army which has for so long been the punching-bag of Arab hooligans. Rather, those "monstrous settlers" (and, thank God, the Arab media portray us as the devil incarnate, if not worse) will now take charge.

Without the slightest shadow of doubt, such a step would clear the air here. There will be a complete about-face: this news will, for the first time in too many years, attract youths in their hundreds - at least! - who would come here to help. At long last there will be genuine yishuv ha-aretz (settling of the Land of Israel) and the beginning of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel. This will put an end to the confused stammering and steadfast search for ways of handing over the land to the enemies of God, which have been the greatest obstacles to the Mitzvah which we are fulfilling here with our very being. Can we even begin to imagine the inspiration that this earth-shaking news would give to so many Jews, both 'secular' and 'religious', in Israel and abroad? It has been far too long since we experienced that deep and stirring feeling of Jewish national pride.

This is truly revolutionary! But it is far less revolutionary than the changes that have been wrought in the reality of Israel in the past few weeks, and we have nothing to lose. Even if the IDF does not accept this proposal - as can be expected, at least in the initial stage - then, at the very least, the military command and the government will realize that there is an additional and serious force on the ground, a force which they ignore at their peril.

Furthermore, for reasons of its own security, the IDF will want to prove that it can protect civilians; consequently, it will act more determinedly - at least, so far as it is capable within the limitations imposed by fear of the gentiles and of the Left which shackles it.

None of this entails separating ourselves from society. To the contrary, we will remain part of Israeli society, willing at a moment's notice to re-join, by agreement, that state which has, until now, refused for 33 years to annex us. We speak here not of separation, but of additional Jewish sovereignty over a part of the Land of Israel which has been too long abandoned. We act for the good of the Nation of Israel, for the good of the State of Israel, for the sake of our families' safety. Above all, we act for the sake of Kiddush HaShem, the sanctification of the Name of God, and eradicating its desecration until the hour of Final Redemption comes."

With grave concern and Ahavat Yisrael,

Binyamin Kahane

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Parashat Vayigash – Reluctant to leave – Rav Meir Kahane

-Shavua tov-
From Peirush HaMaccabee Shemot, Chapter 1 [English translation by Daniel Pinner]

Jacob left Israel only after being given a direct order
by G-d.
Even then he was reluctant to leave, since G-d had foretold to Abraham that He would take his descendants down to Egypt.
The Ohr ha-Hayyim comments:
Presumably, Abraham would have told his offspring [of this prophecy], as Hazal said; so when Jacob saw that food was available in Egypt…he feared that the exile would begin with him (Genesis 46:3).
So when Jacob saw all those events unfolding, he understood that the inevitable Egyptian exile was about to begin. Therefore he was reluctant to leave, until G-d told him:
Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there [i.e., My intention is to transform you from a small family into a great nation which will be My emissary to the world]. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will also surely bring you up (Genesis 46:3-4).
That is to say, Jacob was permitted to leave Israel solely because G-d Himself commanded him to do so for a specific and defined purpose. And even then, G-d told him that when the mission would be accomplished, his descendants would return to Israel, since their descent to Egypt was solely for the purpose of their subsequent ascent to the land of Israel.

As we already said, Jacob feared to leave Israel, and the author of the Pesah Haggadah portrayed him as having been compelled by the [Divine] decree. Hazal said: When Jacob heard that Joseph was alive, he thought to himself: How can I leave the land of my fathers, the land of my birth, the land wherein G-d’s Shekhinah is, and go to an impure land? (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 39). G-d had to reassure him: Do not fear to go down to Egypt – fear neither the descent from the Land of Israel, nor the descent to impurity – for I will make you into a great nation there – for My intention is to make you a great and exalted nation, which can happen only there. I will go down with you to Egypt – I am going down with you, to guarantee that this descent will be directed as I want it to be – and I will assuredly bring you up from there I guarantee that there will be two ascents: a physical ascent in returning to the Land of Israel, and a spiritual ascent, as I have already planned. It must again be emphasized that Jacob’s descent to Egypt was an exceptional event, specifically according to G-d’s decree, in order that the nation would be born in Kiddush HASHEM. Therefore, the Midrash says: It was appropriate for our father Jacob to go down to Egypt even in manacles (Genesis Rabbah 86:2) – he had to go down there, even against his will.
Therefore, the Torah describes Jacob’s family as coming to Egypt, rather than as going down to Egypt, which would have been expected. The prophet, for example, says that they would go down to Egypt for help (Isaiah 31:1). Sa’adya Gaon explains that, as a rule, anyone who leaves the Land of Israel descends spiritually into impurity; but in this specific instance, there was a unique aim of forging a nation in the iron furnace. Therefore, this particular journey to Egypt did not constitute a descent, and G-d therefore permitted the Children of Israel to leave the Land of Israel. [...]

The central principle here is that leaving the Land of Israel was justified only as an intrinsic part of the crucial process of creating a nation which would return to Israel afterwards as a chosen nation living in a chosen land, building a holy society in a holy state.

The descent was solely for the purpose of the subsequent ascent, for the purpose of returning to Israel. [...] when they came to Egypt they were few in number, and by the grace of G-d they multiplied greatly, until they became a large nation. The Rashbam comments: When they reached Egypt, they were no more than seventy, and after the death of that generation, they were fruitful and swarmed.
He [Jacob] went down to Egypt according to the divine plan and command, which G-d had already explained to Abraham in the Covenant between the Parts:Know for a surety that your seed will be strangers in a land not theirs, and they will serve them, and they will oppress them for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13).
So the Torah enumerates them all, showing that at that time, all were equal to Jacob, all came to Egypt to dwell temporarily, not in order to settle down there. The Midrash expresses this by saying, They were all comparable to Jacob, for all were tzaddikim (Exodus Rabbah 1:1).
This is also what Rashi means by commenting:
Even though they were enumerated by name during their lifetimes [in Genesis 46:8], they were enumerated once again after their deaths to show [G-d’s] love for them. They were likened to the stars, which G-d leads and enumerates by name, as it says, 'He brings forth their legions by number, He calls each one by name' (Isaiah 40:26).
This follows the Midrashic statement that Israel are equivalent to the heavenly legions (Exodus Rabbah 1:3). G-d told Abraham: Look now to the heavens and count the stars … thus shall your seed be (Genesis 15:5) – that is to say, your seed will be like the stars, like the heavenly legions. I have chosen you to be My emissaries, to bring knowledge of HASHEM to the world and to sanctify My Name, to make known that I am omnipotent, the true LORD. Indeed, G-d is sanctified with the appellation G-d of Legions, in the verse Holy, holy, holy, in HASHEM, LORD of Legions (Isaiah 6:3). Moreover, the two words Legions
and holy are interconnected: our Redeemer, HASHEM, LORD of Legions is His Name, the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 47:4). For when it becomes clear that the greatest and mightiest legions in heaven and on earth, including the stars which are infinite in their extent and number, are all the works of G-d, that he controls them and supervises them individually – then He is indeed aggrandized and sanctified.
So these heavenly legions indeed “tell of G-d’s glory”– their very existence testifies to His glory. And in just the same way, the nation of Israel was chosen for the same task, and are therefore compared to the stars. Clearly, when they fulfill their role, when they are righteous like Jacob, G-d bestows His love upon them, deriving satisfaction from them and enumerating them all singly, like a father who continuously counts his children and ensures that none are missing.
The moral here is that the Torah teaches G-d’s intention in bringing the Children of Israel down to Egypt, and simultaneously makes it clear that they were all tzaddikim, and went down there solely for G-d’s purpose, with no thoughts of abandoning the Land of Israel permanently. [...]

But in any event, the Israelites’ regression that would begin after the death of Jacob and his sons was already hinted at in the Book of Genesis: And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they seized it, and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly (Genesis 47:27).
The Kli Yakar comments: This entire verse levels an accusation at the Children of Israel. For G-d decreed that “your seed will be a stranger” (Genesis 15:13), but they sought to be permanent residents.…So firmly entrenched did they become there that they did not want to leave Egypt, to the extent that G-d had to bring them out with a mighty hand; and those who did not want to leave, died in the three days of the darkness.
Know that the first exile and redemption are the paradigm for the final exile and redemption.
Just as in that first redemption, G-d put an end to the exile against the Jews’ will, and those who stubbornly persisted in remaining there perished, so too will be – G-d forbid! – in this final redemption of our era, whose first stages we are living through now. For G-d will not suffer the contempt for His treasured Land and the continuation of the exile, which epitomizes chillul HASHEM and impurity, simultaneously with the rise of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, which epitomizes Kiddush HASHEM and purity. [...] G-d does not want us to dwell exile, and will not allow us to. Even if generations may have passed and Jews have lived comfortably in any given country, the day of reckoning will yet come. And the Jew must therefore understand that exile, with all its implications, begins the moment that he finds himself on foreign soil, in a land not his own, regardless of how good his conditions may be at that particular moment. In his Introduction to the Book of Exodus, the Ramban writes: Their descent [to Egypt] was the start of the exile, for then it began. And the exile was completed only on the day when they returned to their place … and when they left Egypt, even though they had left the House of Slavery, they were still exiles, for they were still not in their own land, wandering through the wilderness. The lesson is clear: even had they been emancipated but remained in Egypt, they would still have been in exile.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Parashat Mikeitz – Joseph recognized his brothers – Rav Meir Kahane

From Peirush ha-Maccabee Shemot, Chapter 2:
Pharaoh [the epitome of a non-Jewish leader] wanted to control the river himself and be a god. My father and teacher of blessed memory [Rabbi Meir Kahane's father, RavYechezkel Shraga Kahane ztz”l] explained this beautifully: in Joseph’s day, Pharaoh dreamed [literally “is dreaming”] that he was standing by [literally “on”] the river (Genesis 41:1). But when he related his dream to Joseph, he said, And behold I was standing on the bank of the river (ibid. v. 17). Why did he change the wording? Furthermore, how could Pharaoh know that Joseph’s interpretation was true? After all, he had rejected the interpretations of all his soothsayers: the Midrash explains the verse, and none could interpret [the dreams] for Pharaoh (ibid. v.8) to mean, They would interpret, but their voice did not enter Pharaoh’s ear [i.e. he did not accept what they said] (Genesis Rabbah 89:6). But if this were the case, then why would Pharaoh accept the interpretation of a slave – and a Hebrew slave at that!?
By way of answer, my father quoted a Talmudic passage which deals with dreams: A person is only shown what his heart already imagines (Berakhot 55b). What could Pharaoh possibly imagine, what did he not already have? One thing only he lacked, one thing only he desired that was beyond his control – the River Nile, the god of Egypt. This is why he is dreaming in the present tense – eternally dreaming of being the god of Egypt, in control of the river, on the river – above the river. But he did not want to reveal this, so he told Joseph, I was standing on the bank of the river. But Joseph understood, and interpreted the dreams to mean that the day would yet come when the river would betray those who worshiped it, and would cause a famine. Only if Pharaoh would heed Joseph’s words would he be able to supply his people with bread, and thus become their god.
This was certainly what Pharaoh wanted to hear, and this was the interpretation that he accepted.

[See on the other hand Joseph, as an allusion to the qualities of a Jewish leader; Peirush ha-Maccabee Shemot, Chapter 1]

Joseph was sold as a slave. They afflicted his leg with shackles, his soul came in irons (Psalms 105: 18); and now, Joseph was the ruler of the land (Genesis 42:6).
– Genesis Rabbah 30:8.

In other words: come and see the providence of the
all-powerful G-d.
Yesterday, Joseph was brought to Egypt as a slave, iron chains shackling his soul – who could have foreseen that overnight, G-d would overturn his world, and renew his life, and transform this slave into a ruler?! Every “soul” of Israel must learn from this that just as Joseph, whose soul came in irons, became the viceroy of Egypt – so too, will they ascend from Egypt as a great and powerful nation.

A Jewish leader’s greatness lies in his being on the one hand strong and uncompromising, able to control his own nature and overcome all obstacles, and, as G-d said to Joshua four times, be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18); while on the other hand, being humble in his private life and personal relationships, because G-d will never infuse His spirit into a conceited and arrogant person.

And this is how Hazal describe Joseph: Even though Joseph achieved royal dominion, he never became arrogant towards his brothers or his father’s house. Just as he was insignificant in their eyes at the beginning, when he was a slave in Egypt, so he remained insignificant in his own eyes after he became king (Exodus Rabbah 1:7).
True, the Talmud says: Why did Joseph die before his brothers? – Because he acted condescendingly (Berakhot 55a, Sotah 13b). But this was only in one specific instance, when his brothers referred to Jacob ten times as your servant, our father, and he did not stop them; and, as Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer (39) says, his life was shortened by ten years for this reason. But apart from this, he always acted with humility. See how strict G-d is with the tzaddikim! In fact, the trait of humility was immensely strong in Joseph. In the words of the Ohr ha-Hayyim: When [Joseph] was in Egypt, it would have been natural for him to change…in light of what they did to him – they sold him, and were cruel to him; how could he not have changed, however slightly, towards them all?… And yet, the Torah teaches that he remained equal to them.
[Even more so:]
“Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him”.According got the simple understanding, the commentators explain that the brothers did not recognize Joseph because at the time when they sold him, he was young and without a beard, and now he had a beard. On the other hand, Joseph recognized his brothers because at the time he was sold, they already had beards.
Rashi digs deeper, explaining that the difference between the two sides was not merely recognition of external appearances. When Joseph encountered his brothers on the fateful day in Shechem, they did not “recognize” him; that is, they did not act brotherly towards him and sold him to the Ishmaelites. But when the brothers were at Joseph's mercy, he “recognized” them; he acted brotherly towards them and did not take revenge for all the pain that they caused him. [The Writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane HY”D, commentary on Parashat Vayigash]

[From this, there is a link to redemption: at the very end of his life, Joseph's last words ever to his brothers were]
“G-d is sure to visit you [pakod yifkod] (Midrash HaGadol, Bereshit 50:24) He informed them of two visits. The first [pakod] referred to the time of Moses, the second [yifkod] to that of the Messianic king.
This also serves as a paradigm of the final redemption, since the complete redemption will parallel the Exodus from Egypt.

The Midrash there links every name mentioned with the redemption, and concludes:
Joseph [Yosef] is thus called because in the future, G-d will yosif (“continue”) to redeem Israel from the wicked kingdom, just as He redeemed them from Egypt, as it says, And it will be on that day, the Lord will yosif (“continue”) to show His hand, to acquire the remnant of His nation (Isaiah 11:11).
[Peirush ha-Maccabee, Chapter 1]

Kol HaTor says [regarding the allusion to the “Mashiach ben Joseph” and the complete redemption] (Ch. 2, Part 1:39):
“Joseph recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him” (Gen. 42:8): This is one of Joseph's attributes. Not just in his generation, but in every generation, Mashiach ben Joseph recognizes his brothers and they do not recognize him. It is an act of Satan which conceals Mashiach ben Joseph's attributes, such that the Jews unfortunately do not recognize his footsteps, and in fact scoff at them... If not for this, our troubles would already be over. If Israel “recognized Joseph”, Mashiach ben Joseph's footsteps comprising the ingathering of the exiles, etc., we would already be completely redeemed.”
[...] [The Jewish Idea, Chapter 32]
Even before we examine our sages' words regarding Mashiach ben Joseph, we already have in hand several basic principles from the holy lips of the Gra:
1.There are two Messiahs, Mashiach ben Joseph and Meshiach ben David. The first is called “the Inaugural Messiah”. He is involved in the whole physical side of redemption, the actual return to Zion, and he fights G-d's wars. The second completes the spiritual redemption.
2.These two Messiahs exist among us in every generation, and if Israel only understood what they must do to bring redemption “in haste”, it would come speedily via these two Messiahs.
3.Mashiach ben Joseph not only goes unrecognized, but Israel ridicules those who herald the truth of redemption and are fit to be Mashiach ben Joseph. If Israel only recognized him and his era, he would immediately begin complete redemption “in haste.”

Rabbi Meir Kahane's son, Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY”D, refers to this in his commentary on Haggadat Pesach [The Haggadah of the Jewish Idea]:
Who is Mashiach ben Joseph? In every generation, there is a “candidate for the post” of Mashiach ben Joseph, as well as one who could be Mashiach ben David. It is the actions of the generation, and the subsequent judgement of G-d, that determine whether or not they be revealed. In any event, he who bears the soul of Mashiach ben Joseph strives, in every generation, to bring the physical redemption nearer; but it is only in our era that the generation has merited to see its implementation [the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles].

The [above mentioned, see Kol haTor] refusal to recognize Mashiach ben Joseph is actually refusal to take measures involving faith and trust in G-d, without fear of the nations, as the most important part of the general return to G-d and His Torah. And since Mashiach ben Joseph is ready to come every single moment, as we said above, it follows that due to Israel's refusal to repent, the messiah becomes like a prisoner, so to speak. [...] [The Jewish Idea, Chapter 32]
The impoverished [meaning, not Torah observant] regime, whose conception and birth occurred in the alien culture of the nations, and who denies the Torah of Moses, has refused to apply the authority and sovereignty of the people and G-d of Israel upon all parts of Eretz Israel for fear of the nations. This constitutes a Chilul HaShem. A rebellion against and degradation of the holiness of Eretz Israel, large parts of which have remained under the authority of the nations. A condition for complete redemption through Kiddush HaShem is control and sovereignty of the G-d and people of Israel. [The Jewish Idea, Chapter 39].

Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane ends his Haggadat Pessach commentary with:
We can but pray that all we have learnt about the Redemption will be actualized soon, swiftly and painlessly, that we may merit a hastened Redemption, that our merits may bring Mashiach ben David, who will complete the process of Redemption, Amen.

[A remark from the compiler: The last shiur that Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D, held at the Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea before he was murdered by an Al Quaeda member in New York, dealt with Mashiach ben Joseph. More than 10 years later, when his son Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and his wife Taliyah, HY”D, were murdered in a roadside ambush by Arab terrorists north of Jerusalem, besides their car were found bloodstained sheets with the last Parashat haShavua commentary Rav Binyamin had worked on: A commentary on Parashat Vayigash, focussed on Israel's refusal to recognize Mashiach ben Joseph and his willingness to endure this out of love for his people.]

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Parashat Vayeshev – Forgetting vs. Remembering - Rav Meir Kahane

When a Jew is away from Israel, he must constantly acknowledge that he is a stranger in a foreign land, living among a foreign nation, like one who is with a woman whom he does not know. As Solomon expressed it: And why should you stray, my son, with an alien woman, and hug the bosom of a foreign woman (Proverbs 5:20). [...] Human nature is to forget suffering after some time has passed and one finds refuge and starts to live in peace; then the נֵכָר, nekhar (“unknown”) and the נָכְרִי, nokhri (“foreigner, stranger”) become נִכָּר, nikkar (“recognized”) and מֻכָּר, mukkar (“known”), and the alien land becomes homeland.
And indeed, this happened even to Joseph himself:

Joseph thought: When I was in my father’s house…my brothers envied me; now that I am here [in Egypt], I thank You that I live in wealth. G-d said to him: It is so good for you here that you are rebelling. By your life! I will incite the bears against you (Genesis Rabbah 87:4). The Tanhuma says something similar: When Joseph saw himself such [so great, in Potiphar’s service], he began to eat and drink, he curled his hair, and said: Blessed be the Omnipresent Who has caused me to forget my father’s house. G-d said to him: Your father is mourning for you in sackcloth and ashes, and you eat and drink and curl your hair?! For this, your mistress [Potiphar’s wife] will seduce you and cause you grief (Tanhuma, Vayeshev 8).

This teaches that it is not enough for the tzaddik to recognize G-d’s kindness; he must also understand that the purpose of His kindness is solely in order to help him to fulfil his obligation and his destiny. Joseph was indeed obligated to thank G-d for having been saved, and for having found a good life – but he should not have celebrated and rejoiced as long as his father was mourning and suffering. We further see that even though his personal situation in Israel with his family was far worse than his current situation in exile, this feeling was considered a sin, for a Jew is forbidden to forget his true home – and far more so, is forbidden to erase the memory of his true home. And Joseph was punished for this twice over: the first time, when he was thrown into prison; and the second time, when he forgot all [the Torah knowledge] that he had learned, as the Midrash says:

And Jacob arrived unblemished (Genesis 33:18) – Rabbi Yohanan said: unblemished in his learning. But Joseph had forgotten, as he said, G-d has caused me to forget my hardship; and subsequently it is said, The toiling spirit toils for itself (Proverbs 16:26)
[in the verse which speaks of toiling in the Torah].

While he was in prison, Joseph failed in his trust in G-d when he asked the chief steward to save him. As our sages said (Shemot Rabbah 7:1),
“Joseph really only deserved ten years in prison...yet because he asked the chief steward, 'Remember that I was with you...Say something about me to Pharaoh' (Gen. 40:14), two years were added.”
A Jew who seeks help from a non-Jew out of despair and fear, lest G-d not help him, commits a grave sin. Had Joseph approached the steward with a demand because the steward owed him a favor , that would not have been considered a sin. Yet by petitioning him with a request, indicating that we need a favor from a non-Jew, he profaned G-d's name, showing that he did not trust in G-d but only in flesh and blood. From here we derive a major principle regarding aid from a non-Jew: If the non-Jew gives it as part of mutual aid, or payment for what he owes the Jew, that is allowed. If, however, we approach a non-Jew or a country with a request, like a pauper standing at the door, there is no more severe Chilul HaShem and lack of trust in G-d than this.
It is an unatonable sin for a Jew to despair. It constitutes national denial of G-d for Israel to turn to human strength, to non-Jewish allies, and to lean on them while scorning G-d's ability to help.
On the national level, this means : [...] whoever relies on the non-Jew and his aid, and fears that without such aid the Jews and their land will be unable to survive, has been caught by lack of complete trust in G-d, bordering on denial of His existence. The individual Jew and the Jewish people as a whole will not be forgiven if they abandon their faith in G-d, the Supreme, Omnipotent King Who rules over the world and over the nations. He alone is our salvation.
Even totally righteous, G-d fearing people fall prey to the terrible sin of lack of trust in G-d. As our sages said (Sotah 48b), “What is meant by 'Who has despised [baz] the day of small things?'(Zechariah 4:10)? What causes the future heavenly reward of the righteous to be squandered [yitbazbez]? Their smallness in not believing in G-d.”
Had our sages not said this, we would not dare to put this thought to words.
Yet our sages established a great and frightening principle: that it is possible to be a righteous person, i.e. one who observes Torah and mitzvot, who keeps all of Torah ritual, and still be small of faith.It is appropriate to cry over this, for the signs of this terrible sin can be seen openly in this orphan generation.King David said, “He will bless them that fear the L-rd, both children and adults [lit., 'great and small']” (Ps. 115:14). This hints that some among the G-d fearing have little fear of G-d and little faith. King Solomon warned against the terrible sin of fearing mortal man when he said, “The fear of man brings a snare; but whoever puts his trust in the L-rd shall be set up on high. Many seek the ruler's favor, but a man's judgment comes from the L-rd” (Prov. 29:25-26).

This week's Parasha ends accordingly with “Yet the [non-Jewish] chief steward [whom Joseph had asked to remember him] did not remember Joseph, but he forgot him.” (Gen. 40:32)

Interestingly, at the beginning of the redemption from Egypt G-d told Moses to address the Jewish people with a reference to remembrance (although a different word for remembering is used):

“I have assuredly remembered you - פָּקֹד פָּקַדְתִּי, pakod pakad’ti:”
G-d commanded Moses to use specifically these words because the elders had a tradition that the redeemer would use these words when he would come, and they would thereby know that this was no false messiah:
He [G-d] said to him [Moses]: They have a tradition from Joseph that I will redeem them with this word [פָּקֹד, pakod (“remember”)]. Go, address them with this sign. (Exodus Rabbah 3:18.)

This also applies to the future redemption of Israel:
פָּקֹד פָּקַדְתִּי, pakod pakad’ti: I have remembered you, and not forgotten you. I have remembered My promise and not forgotten it; I have not redeemed you until now – not because I have forgotten, but because the appointed time has not yet come, the number of years needed to redeem you has not yet passed.