Sunday, January 31, 2010

Parashat Yitro – Holiness and Mitzvot – Rav Meir Kahane

“You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
“Everything that Hashem has spoken, we shall do!”
(Ex. 19:6, 19:8)

G-d is holy. He is the climax of kedusha, the well from which kedusha flows to the world. In the world He created, He fixed the extent of kedusha and separateness. He gave kedusha to Israel, as it says, “be holy people to Me “ (Ex. 22:30), “You must be holy” (Lev. 19:2), and, “Your camp must be holy” (Deut. 23:15). S'forno comments on this last verse, “From impurity and loathsomeness”.
G-d decreed that Israel must sanctify themselves. He, therefore, further decreed separation from the nations and from the profane, because without it, kedusha is impossible, as it states explicitly, “You shall be holy to Me, for I, the L-rd, am holy, and I have separated you out from among the nations to be Mine” (Lev. 20:26).
We also learn (Torat Kohanim, Shemini, 12), “Just as I am holy, so are you holy. Just as I am set apart, so must you be set apart.” Here we find kedusha defined: It means separating oneself from the abominations, impurity and bestiality of the world, and instead clinging to purity and spiritual loftiness, goodness and the yoke of Heaven, intent on ascending and becoming holier.
Kedusha is the foundation of the world, because kedusha is perfection and purity, without a trace of abomination, spiritual baseness, selfishness, or bestial lust. Kedusha involves preparation, readying oneself to become holy, to fill one's soul with kedusha, as was said, as was said at Sinai, “Go to the people and sanctify them” (Ex.19:10), and Rashi comments, “Ready them, so that they can prepare themselves”. Kedusha means being ready for holiness and purity to enter the heart and soul.
Our sages said (Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim, 1):
If you sanctify yourselves, I will credit you as having sanctified Me. If you do not sanctify yourselves, I will treat you as not having sanctified Me... Abba Shaul says, “Israel are the King's retinue, and they are required to emulate the King.
In other words, Israel, as G-d's retinue, have the task of imitating Him, of being as similar to Him as it is possible for a man to be similar to G-d, and of coming close to Him. If they do so, then, so to speak, G-d as well, ascends spiritually and becomes holier. G-d decreed this upon Israel: "Remember and keep all My commandments and be holy to your G-d” (Num. 15:40). The Sifri comments (Shelach, 115), “This is the kedusha of all the mitzvot.”
In other words, through all the mitzvot, Israel become holier; and this is their task, because it was for the sake of this that G-d took them out of Egypt.
Mitzvot open up for man the way to holiness. They refine his senses and his soul so that he differentiates between a sin and a mitzvah, between good and evil, between holiness and impurity. The more holy and pure he becomes, the more refined his senses become; and he begins to distinguish, naturally, between truth and falsehood.
G-d imbued Israel with natural holiness that all other nations lack. Every mitzvah a Jew performs adds to his holiness, whereas every sin blunts and defiles the soul. Our sages said (Mechilta, Mishpatim, 20). “Every added mitzvah increases Israel's holiness.” Every mitzvah purifies and refines the soul, sanctifying and elevating man.
The Torah's goal is to create a person who diminishes himself, who bridles his arrogance, breaking down and negating his ego, who suppresses his evil impulse and liberates himself from covetousness and haughtiness, which are the root of evil and impurity.
Breaking down one's passions is Israel's task. That is why kedusha was commanded so many times in the realms of life fraught with lust and desire; namely food and conjugal relations.
G-d brought us out of Egypt only in order to be our G-d, so that we would accept His sovereignty, attributes and mitzvot, for these make us holy. Our sages further said (Torat Kohanim, Shemini, 12)
“I am the L-rd, and I brought you out of Egypt”: I brought you out of Egypt on condition that you accept the yoke of mitzvot, for whoever acknowledges the yoke of mitzvot acknowledges the Exodus from Egypt, and whoever denies the former, denies the latter.
We learn a profound lesson here. There are two types of yoke.
The first is the yoke of Heaven; the second is the yoke of mitzvot.
Many claim that they accept the yoke of G-d's sovereignty, proclaiming faith in the existence of a Higher Power and in His greatness and kindness, but that they reject the yoke of mitzvot. They claim that the Torah of Moses is not the word of G-d, and they, thus, cast doubt on the mitzvot. Here, out sages teach that these are nothing but hypocrites, for whoever rejects the yoke of mitzvot, as recorded in the Torah of Moses, written and oral, shows that he does not really believe in the Exodus from Egypt, G-d's existence, or His ability to have saved Israel from there.
For a person fulfilling the mitzvot to achieve the goal of negating his ego, thereby achieving spiritual ascent and growth, he must be observing them because G-d commanded them. If he is fulfilling them only or chiefly because he “agrees” with them, then he is not at all fulfilling G-d's command, but only submitting to his own whims. Not only does he fail to negate his ego, but quite the contrary, he strengthens it.
Suppose then, that someone who denies that the Torah's commandments originated with G-d performs a mitzvah, such as honoring one's parents or giving charity, doing so not because it is a decree of the King, a Divine edict from Sinai, but because he finds it morally agreeable. His blessings are not blessings and his mitzvot are not mitzvot – but blasphemy.
Thus, before a person accepts upon himself the yoke of the mitzvot, he has to know that they are commandments. That is, he should perform them by dint of G-d's being Supreme King of kings, not because of his own intellect of feelings.
Such was our sages' intent when they said (Kiddushin 31a), “One who is commanded to act and does so is greater than one who is exempt yet does so.” Seemingly the opposite is the case. Should not the highest praise go to the person who, although exempt from doing a mitzvah still does so voluntarily?
Once again, our sages are teaching us that one who volunteers to do a mitzvah is not doing so because it is a mitzvah, or because of any Heavenly yoke. After all, he is exempt! Rather, it is his own decision to perform it, freely arrived at, hence he fulfills no mitzvah (see Tosafot on Kiddushin 31a).
The rule is this: a mitzvah is conceived with a man's accepting the yoke of Heaven and born when he fulfills it because he was commanded to.
Therefore, man's first undertaking must be, “Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is one” (Deut. 6:4). This constitutes a declaration of unconditional submission to and acceptance of G-d's sovereignty. Then and only then can a Jew accept upon himself the yoke of mitzvot found in the second paragraph of the Shema, having the clear knowledge that the mitzvot he fulfills are based on an acceptance of the yoke of Heaven.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” of Rav Meir Kahane HY”D

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Parashat Beshallach – Mercy for the cruel? - Rav Meir Kahane

*Shavua tov!*
The water came back and covered the chariots and the horsemen of the entire army of Pharaoh, who were coming behind them in the sea – there remained not a one of them. (Ex. 14:28)
“The ministering angels sought to sing G-d's praises [when the Egyptians drowned at sea]. G-d responded, 'My handiwork is drowning at sea and you would sing?'” (Megillah 10b)
Who can retell the distortions of G-d's valor perpetrated in recent generations! The deliberate distortion of “My handiwork is drowning in the sea”, as if we must glumly avoid gladness when our enemy falls, has become the steady fare of those who consume the alien culture [of the secular Western world].
G-d, Merciful Father and Creator of all life – righteous and evil – certainly does not sing or rejoice when His evil children die. Despite their wickedness, they are still His, and what father will rejoice at his son's death, even if that son be the most evil on earth? All the same, G-d does not hesitate to kill His handiwork, as when He drowned the Egyptians. He does not sing; He does not rejoice; but he drowns His handiwork at sea. True, He, Himself, neither rejoices nor allows rejoicing or song in Heaven, but others, the Jewish people, He does cause to rejoice. In fact, He requires them to sing. Our sages said (Mechilta, Beshallach, Mesechta Devayehi, Ch.2):
“The L-rd will fight for you” (Ex. 14:14): That is, “Will G-d perform mighty wonders for you while you just stand in silence?” Israel asked Moses, “What should we do?” and he responded, “Extol and exalt! Sing the praises, glory and majesty of the Master of all warfare, as it says, 'Let the high praises of G-d be in their mouth' (Psalms 149:6)”... Israel then opened their mouths and sang G-d's praises.
Because of their arrogance and wickedness, G-d drowned His handiwork in the sea and commanded Israel to sing praise and thanks to G-d, so as to inform the world that “The L-rd will reign forever and ever!” (Ex. 15:18).
Forgiveness and love for an enemy? Mercy and sorrow over his death? Here is Midrash Avchir, quoted in Torah Shlema, Ex. 14:31, letter 210:
“Israel saw the great work” (Ex. 14:31): When G-d wished to drown Egypt, Uza, Egypt's angelic prince stood before G-d and said:”Master of the Universe! You have been called righteous and upright...Why do you wish to drown the Egyptians?” ... Just then Gabriel rose up, took a mud brick and stood before G-d saying, “Master of the Universe! Shall You have mercy on these who so harshly enslaved Your children with mud bricks?” G-d immediately retracted, judging them strictly and drowning them in the sea.
Sorrow over the death of the evil? Over Israel's enemies?
The Torah's very defining good and evil in real, absolute terms constitutes a declaration of war
against the [contemporary secular Western] culture of the nations and of the Hellenists [secularized Jews] who adopted it. That culture preaches that no one absolute good or evil can be determined, since all ideas and concepts, including those defining good and evil, are the product of human thought. Both those who deny the existence of a Supreme, Omniscient, Omnipotent G-d Who is the source of wisdom and truth, and those who admit the existence of a Supreme Being yet deny Torah from Sinai, i.e., that G-d set forth a blueprint in the Torah, hold that we cannot attach special status to one “good” over another. Tolerance and pluralism are the ultimate principles of that alien culture. Since followers of that culture cannot determine with certainty what evil is, they cannot eradicate it from the world.
Mercy toward the cruel is not a good trait. Quite the opposite, one is duty-bound to separate oneself from the evildoer even if this is a difficult step, and even if it appears cruel. The cruel, wicked person will influence goodness and corrupt it. There can be no coexistence between evil and upright people – only separation.
The mitzvah of eradicating evil from our midst requires us to hate it, as in Psalms 97:10, “Those that love the L-rd hate evil.” It is the duty of him who loves G-d to hate evil and evildoers, for they are G-d's enemies. Nonetheless, in the alien [contemporary secular] Hellenist culture, the themes of love and hatred have been so entirely distorted that it is a terrible crime to speak of hatred as a halachic duty in the right time and place. False love finds a hundred different ways to overlook evil. Advocates of that culture have transformed all such traits as cruelty and revenge into an evil that must be shunned. Such is not the Torah's way...
G-d, Creator of the universe and all that it contains, also created attributes, ethics and values. He created and defined them, assigning every single trait its time, place and purpose. As King Solomon said (Eccles. 3:1-8):
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to dance; a time to cast stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.
Everything has a season. There is a time for every attribute and value. G-d created them all and assigned each a purpose, place and time. There is a time to love – but also a time to hate. Anyone incapable of hating those who G-d commanded us to hate is a sinner and heretic and he brings destruction to the world.
In the final analysis, if someone does not know how to hate properly, he cannot love properly. Whoever is unready for war in the right time and place, mandated by G-d, is a sinner and heretic precisely like someone unready for peace. G-d, Who created the world, understands “the minds of His beasts” (Prov. 12:10) in all their detail. He, Who understands and listens, examining man's inner recesses, knows that there is a place for mercy, peace, love, kindness and forgiveness, but simultaneously a place and a need for “cruelty”, so to speak, for war, hatred, killing, uprooting wickedness from the land and destroying evil from the world.
What would one not do to save and defend one's household, family and friends from their enemies, to rid their world of danger, to frustrate the evildoers' designs? What would one not be ready to do to the evildoers themselves? Precisely with this in mind, G-d, Merciful Father of the universe, gazed down and saw the danger posed by evil and wickedness threatening His righteous dear ones, innocent of all wrong. He understood that it is an unpardonable sin to take pity on those of whom it says, “Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness” (I. Samuel 24:13), thereby facilitating their cruel treatment of the righteous and innocent. Whoever takes pity on an evildoer, leaving him free to treat the righteous with cruelty and abuse, is not merciful but cruel.
Anyone incapable of hating evil and evildoers can never love the righteous.
The death of the wicked is infinitely preferable to the death of the righteous, and eradicating evil is infinitely superior to eradicating good.
Quite the contrary, when G-d destroys evil and evildoers, He is not showing kindness just to the righteous and innocent but to the evildoer as well. He does a kindness to the evildoers when He removes them from the world, for He thereby prevents their doing evil and increasing their sins. This represents a great gift from G-d which lightens their punishment in the Afterlife.
We find this regarding Enoch, of whom it says, “Enoch walked with G-d, and he was not, for G-d took him” (Gen. 5:24). The Midrash comments (Bereshit Rabbah 25:1): “Enoch was a hypocrite – sometimes righteous and sometimes evil. G-d said, 'Let Me remove him while he is still righteous.'”
This is the true, definite meaning of our sages' utterance above, “The death of the evildoers is beneficial to them and beneficial to the world.” It is beneficial to the world because the evildoers stop oppressing it.
It is beneficial to the evildoers because G-d is saving them from themselves.

G-d established a time and place for love and for hate, and in the right time and place, each is a duty and a commandment.
The Torah never contained, and never will contain, a concept of “groundless love”, just as the Torah absolutely rejects the concept of “groundless hate”.
In G-d's attributes, nothing is “groundless”. Rather, there is a clear reason for all required behavior – with love and hatred warranted in their time and place. It is our duty to carry them out lawfully and as commanded, without, G-d forbid, confusing them.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” of Rav Meir Kahane Hy”d, Chapter 6 “Good and Evil”.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Parashat Bo – No concessions! - Rav Meir Kahane

G-d's name cannot be sanctified through concession or compromise.
The essence of Kiddush Hashem is complete trust in G-d, without the least fear of mortal man.

The moment a person is ready to concede, when crowning G-d Supreme King would require total submission by the non-Jew [in this case, Pharaoh], his concession robs G-d of complete sovereignty.
And if his concession stems from any kind of fear, his sin is sevenfold.
After nine Plagues which brought wicked Pharaoh and his land to the brink of collapse, that evildoer finally broke down: “Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, 'Go – serve the L-rd, only your flocks and herds stay behind. Let your little ones also go with you'”(Ex. 10:24)
Should this not have been a source of great joy? Could Moses not agree? Israel had been slaves and foreigners for 210 years. Now the violent despot had capitulated, opening the prison gates. With the light of freedom shining on them, could it be that due to this one minor condition, “only your flocks and herds stay behind”, Moses would remain stubborn?
Must freedom and tranquility be postponed for the sake of flocks and cattle? If this small concession is the price for going out from servitude to redemption, why not pay it?
Yet Moses responded: “You yourself must give us sacrifices and burnt-offerings that we may sacrifice unto the L-rd our G-d. Our cattle also shall go with us. There shall not be a hoof be left behind.” (Ex. 10:25-26). G-d's main purpose in redeeming Israel from Egypt was much more profound than just to redeem them from slavery. G-d wished to prove to Pharaoh, his kingdom and his world, all of whom arrogantly proclaim, “I do not know the L-rd” (Ex. 5:2), that there indeed exists a G-d in Israel, Whose kingdom rules over all, that indeed , all life is in His hands. The point of the Exodus was for G-d's name to be magnified and exalted. Kiddush Hashem! The Torah teaches us that when Kiddush Hashem is at stake, there are no concessions or compromises. In our own modest times, who is wise enough to grasp this?
Another halachic principle applying to Kiddush and Chilul Hashem is this:
Kiddush Hashem must be performed triumphantly and shamelessly. Kiddush Hashem on a national level cannot possibly take place in secret. The very idea of sanctifying G-d's name is something that must be done before nations. When it is performed in secret out of fear, it turns into Chilul Hashem and is better off not being done at all.
After Moses rejected Pharaoh's compromise, Egypt was struck by the terrible tenth Plague, the smiting of the firstborn. “There was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” (Ex. 12:30). In panic, in the middle of the night, Pharaoh totally capitulated and called to Moses, “Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both you and the Children of Israel...Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said” (Ibid., 31-32).
Pharaoh wished Moses to leave right then, in the middle of the night! It was now clear that the oppressive foe had totally capitulated. This was unconditional victory. The men, women, children, sheep and cattle – all would leave.
Ostensibly, Moses should have agreed and right then and there marched the myriads of Israel to freedom. Yet G-d's thinking is different from our own: “G-d said to Moses, 'Shall you take My children
out at night? You shall not! Take them out openly, at midday!”
(Shemot Rabbah, 18:10).
Moses said to Pharaoh, “Are we thieves that we should leave by night? We shall leave triumphantly, for all of Egypt to see!” (Tanchuma, Bo, 7). Similarly, we find in Mechilta (Bo, Mesechta DePischa, 13): Moses said to him,'We have been warned to leave only publicly:”None of you shall exit the door of his house until morning”'(Ex. 12:22).
This principle is so important that R. Akiva rules (Pesachim 120b) that the Korban Pesach, the offering brought the day before Pesach – symbol of the redemption – may be eaten until morning, when Israel “made haste” (Ex. 12:11), to recall that the true redemption was precisely then, out in the open. This goes without saying, because Kiddush Hashem demands “openness”, without slyness or stealth. Compromise, secrecy and stealth are the complete opposite of Kiddush Hashem, whose whole purpose is to demonstrate to the world that “There is no wisdom nor counsel nor understanding against the L-rd” (Prov. 21:30).
Our sages said (Sifri, Ha'azinu, 337):
Because the Egyptians were saying ...”If we see them, we will not let them go”, G-d said, “ I shall take them out at midday, and let whoever has the power to protest it do so!”It also says, “on the day after the Pesach sacrifice, the Israelites left triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians” (Num. 33:3, Onkelos)
Should your evil impulse whisper that by virtue of Torah study and mitzvah performance we will be able to ignore the Chilul Hashem that daily visits the G-d of Israel and His land, be aware that it is not so.
Our times constitute the beginning of the redemption and the footsteps of the Messiah. G-d, in His kindness, in preparation for speedy redemption, presently demands of us Kiddush Hashem of the sort based in faith and trust in Him. Yet we, our children and our elders have sunk in the mire of exile, and have raised up on a miserable banner the fear and degradation of “It is forbidden to provoke the nations”. This theme, whose sorrowful conception and birth are in the exile, constitute a humiliating affront to our people, and worse, a profanation of the great name of the Supreme King.Israel's defeat is, so to speak, G-d's defeat as well. Israel's fear of the non-Jew proves G-d's “weakness” and inability to vanquish His people's enemies. Thus, lack of bitachon [trust in G-d] on the part of the nation [of Israel] is a sin that cannot be atoned for.
As Rashi wrote (Ezek. 39:7), “Israel's lowliness is a Chilul Hashem, for men say that Israel are the L-rd's people, yet He cannot save them” (see Ezek. 36:20)
Whenever a Jew is harmed, let alone murdered, whenever the Jewish people and the Land of Israel are cursed and reviled [...] this constitutes a terrible, unatonable Chilul Hashem.
Every attempt, and certainly every act of abandoning parts of the Land of Israel to the nations is likewise a shocking Chilul Hashem.
Yet since the issue is open, caustic and deliberate Chilul Hashem [...] and there is no government and no army and no governmental body – these being obligated by the Torah to go out and protest the profanation- or that such bodies do exist but they are unwilling to fulfill their obligation, then it is certainly the individual's duty [...] to blot out, devotedly and with protest, the Chilul Hashem.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from "The Jewish Idea" of Rav Meir Kahane HY"D

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Parashat Va'eira – Does Redemption have to be violent? - Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

Throughout the episode of the Plagues and the Exodus, the concept of yad chazakah (“mighty hand”) recurs consistently. The explanation is that without proof of G-d's power, there is no way in which the Gentiles will understand the reality of His existence in the world.
Nowhere in all the prophetic writings does G-d ever suggest that He will prove His existence to the nations in any way other than through His and His nation's strength. And since the purpose of the Exodus was that “Egypt shall know that I am Hashem”, He had to demonstrate His power.
[However], if the purpose of the plagues was to force Pharaoh, and Egypt, to know Hashem, then why did G-d “harden Pharaoh's heart”?
Had He not done so, then perhaps Pharaoh would already have freed the Israelites after the Plague of blood. Certainly, after the Plague of hail when he already confessed, “Hashem is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones” (Exodus 9:27), Pharaoh would have released the Israelites, had G-d not hardened (i.e. strengthened) his heart – as the Torah testifies.
The Sforno (on Exodus 7:3) provides a clear answer to this. He explains that Pharaoh probably would have released the Israelites far sooner – but this would have been done out of fear of the Plagues, rather than unconditional acceptance of G-d and His might.
That is to say, he would have attributed the Plagues to Moses' unique witchcraft, or a thousand and one other factors – and would have released the Israelites purely in order to spare himself the terror of these dreaded Plagues. Had this happened, the entire purpose of the Plagues would have been lost.
G-d therefore strengthened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not release the Israelites merely out of fear of the Plagues. The Plagues' progression forced Pharaoh into ever-deepening realization that there could be no cause for these Plagues other than Hashem, the G-d of Israel – as Moses had said right from the start.

Rav Binyamin Ze'ev's father, Rabbi Meir Kahane, writes similarly on this in “The Jewish Idea”:
Likewise, regarding the hail, it says (Ex. 9:14) “This time I am prepared to send all My plagues against your very heart. They will strike your officials and your people, so that you will know that there is none like Me in all the world.” [...] That is, they were to bring their livestock inside because of the hail. Indeed, “those of Pharaoh's subjects who feared G-d's word made their slaves and livestock flee indoors”(Ex.9:20)
This was the first time G-d gave the Egyptians the chance to save themselves from a Plague.
Why did He do so? Were they to heed G-d, it would constitute acknowledgment that indeed the L-rd is G-d and that He, alone, controls the laws of nature. This, in turn, would be the beginning of the collapse of his nation's abominable idolatry.
The purpose of the plagues in Egypt was to sanctify G-d's name and to prove to the world that indeed Hashem is G-d, Omnipotent Creator of all.
Pharaoh had shown G-d contempt by saying (Ex. 5:12), “Who is Hashem that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go? I know not Hashem.” Through the degradation and punishment of the idolatry of Egypt, Pharaoh was humiliated. Therefore, G-d warned the Egyptians that He was bringing the hail and that the princes and deities of Egypt would be unable to prevent it. The Egyptians would be saved only if they abandoned their faith in their abominations and subjected themselves to G-d through belief in Him, expressed by making their servants and flocks flee into the houses. Through this, their faith in idolatry would be destroyed and G-d's name sanctified, the whole purpose of the Plagues.

“With a mighty hand”. G-d had to direct His strength against the Jews, too in order to bring them out, for they did not want to leave. As Chazal[our sages of blessed memory] say, four-fifths of the Israelites died in the Plague of darkness. But even those who did eventually leave, did so unwillingly: G-d said, “For with a mighty hand shall he [Pharaoh] send them away, and with a mighty hand shall he expel them from his land.” Chazal's commentary on the verse, “They did not listen to Moses, due to anguish of spirit and hard labor” (Ex. 6:9), is truly astounding:
Is there any man who receives good tidings and does not rejoice?...But they found it hard to abandon idol worship. (Mechilta, Pis'cha 5, end of first paragraph)
That is, they were willing to remain in the dungeon of slavery and oppression, in order not to accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven – that yoke which liberates man from the shackles of animalism, freeing him from bondage to those passions that dominate him. And when the children of Israel complained in the wilderness: ”We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free” (Num. 11:5), Rashi says there: “Free from the commandments”.
The truth is that the Jews were never ready to leave exile of their own free will, and when they were able to assimilate, they did.
But all these attempts were to no avail. On the contrary – precisely when the Jews tried to be accepted by Gentile society by blurring their unique, separate identity, the hatred towards them only increased. Such was the case in Egypt, as the Psalmist said: ”He turned their [the Egyptians'] hearts to hate His people, to conspire against His servants. (Psalms 105:25). So too has it been throughout the generations. And even those who do eventually leave, do so only out of necessity. Slavery, pogroms and holocausts force some of them to realize, albeit grudgingly, that there is nothing for them there – and then they ascend to the Land of Israel, as witnessed in our generation. Chazal identified this mind-set in the following words: “Among the nations you will not know peace and you will not find rest for your feet” (Deut. 28:65) – had Israel found peace, they would not have returned. (Genesis Rabbah 33:6)
That is to say, if the Jews will not return to the Land of Israel willingly, then G-d will inflict such troubles on them, that they will be forced to return. And in our days, in spite of all that has happened, most Jews have not learned the lesson.
“And Hashem our G-d brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (Deut 6:21).
Since G-d secretly weeps over the lost pride of Israel, He therefore yearns to redeem them both from the actual place, as well as from the mentality of exile. Had Pharaoh given them better economic conditions, eased their enslavement slightly, flashed an occasional smile at them or the merest nod of encouragement – then they would have felt a debt of gratitude to him. Out of respect for him, they would willfully have submitted themselves to slavery, and all future generations would have effaced themselves at the mere mention of Pharaoh's name. The physical and spiritual enslavement would have been worse – our forefathers would never had left the exile of their own free will, and the exile mentality would never have left them.” (Mishna Yeshara of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane's grandfather, Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Kahane).

Israel's redemption is not merely the story of one more people's national liberation. Israel's Exodus from Egypt ushered in a new era – a divine nation was established, as well as a purpose for the world. The mission of this liberated nation is Kiddush Hashem, and the erasing of the heresy of chillul Hashem, of [Pharaoh's words] I do not know Hashem.
Therefore, had Hashem Himself not brought our forefathers out of Egypt with this intention, then even had a good king freed them, it would have been meaningless, because it would not have led to the establishment of that divine nation, and the fulfillment of its glorious destiny.

The Exodus had to be implemented, directly and unequivocally, by G-d and not through any agent, because the battle here is a paradigm of all subsequent history, the basis for Israel's faith throughout their generations – the knowledge of Hashem, versus “I do not know Hashem”. It is concerning this struggle that G-d promises, “I will execute judgement against all the gods of Egypt.”
This is a religious war: the G-d of Israel versus the gods of the nations [and, one has to add, against Israel's trust in the nations!]
Just as Israel was redeemed from Egypt without having to turn to any outside party or human ally (which was precisely what the Egyptians originally feared : “If war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country”[Ex. 1:10]), so must we understand that in our generation, too, G-d is Israel's sole Redeemer – not Lord Arthur Balfour, not the United Nations, not the U.S.A.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Parashat Shemot – Jeopardizing all our accomplishments – Rav Meir Kahane and Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

By killing the Egyptian, Moses bound himself inexorably to his nation and to his destiny. He jeopardized all his property, his glittering life-style, even his very life, if his deed would be discovered – but nevertheless, he did not hesitate. As the Mekhilta says:
[Moses] gave his soul for Israel, and they were called by his name… And where do we find that Moses gave his soul for them? – It is said…“and he went out to his brothers…and he smote the Egyptian”. So, because he gave his soul for Israel, they were called by his name
(Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Shirata 1, s.v. “et hashira hazot”).

Now, Moses could have thought this through carefully, and run away from the problem. He could have reasoned: Is it really worth while to endanger myself by killing this Egyptian?
Would it not be better for me to ignore this one incident, to remain the king’s son, and thereby be able to help the Israelites in the future? More than this: perhaps it is not worth killing this Egyptian, for in any case, he has already killed the Jew, so what good will killing this Egyptian do? Will that bring the Jew back to life? And in any case, maybe it is forbidden for me to endanger myself, since this is not a case of saving a Jewish life, since this Jew is already dead? And more than this: perhaps I am not allowed to kill this Egyptian, for I am not a duly constituted court, and perhaps the verse Neither is it good for the tzaddik to punish (Proverbs 17:26) applies to me. (See Berakhot 7a: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi wanted to harness G-d’s “moment of fury,” which occurs once every day, to curse a heretic and kill him, but when the time came, he dozed off. His response was that presumably this happened because Neither is it good for the tzaddik to punish.)
Moses, however, understood that this accounting is false. He understood that in a situation of hillul HaShem, all these arguments together carry no weight – even pikuah nefesh (saving of lives), which usually takes precedence over all other commandments, does not justify hillul HaShem (even for an individual in private, unless there is definite danger to life; in public, even if there is an absolute certainty of being killed).
Neither can one make a finely-balanced accounting, to the effect that “perhaps I can do better another way, in another time and another place”.
In the commentary that Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane wrote on Parashat Shemot, we find a similar concept that he also links to our present situation:

At the end of “Parashat Shemot” we find a confrontation between Moses and Aaron on the one hand and the officers of the children of Israel on the other: On the one side stood Moses and Aaron who had been assigned by HaShem to carry out a seemingly suicidal mission: to enter uninvited into the house of the king, of the imperial, menacing kingdom of Egypt, and to request that he let the Jewish slaves go free. In spite of the odds, Moses and Aaron, with faith in HaShem, went and fulfilled their mission completely. (According to our sages, all the elders that accompanied them dropped out along the way because of tremendous fear, until Moses and Aaron alone remained to face Pharaoh). And certainly Pharaoh rejected their request out of hand.
[The officers then accused them:]
“May HaShem look upon you and judge, for you have brought us into foul odor in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to place a sword into their hands to kill us!”.(Shemot 5:21).
And truthfully, reality proves the officers were correct.
Seemingly, just after Moses and Aaron leave Pharaoh's presence, a harsh decree is put upon the nation.
And with all this...the officers were not right! The reason (and also the lesson from this) is that there is almost never a revolution or change where the first stages do not involve a loss of accomplishment!
...And sometimes, even in the case of true accomplishments, we must know that in order to bring change, there is no choice but to lose real accomplishments, at least temporarily. Because there will always be one Pharaoh or another who will threaten that if we don't sit quietly he will nullify our achievements, “and you will lose out because of this.” But if we give in to his threats, we will remain captives in the hand of Pharaoh, we, our children and our children's children ... until the end of the generations.
...Whoever wants change needs to warmly thank the “existing officers”for their accomplishments, but say to them: now we are going further, we are going to progress.
It is possible that part of your accomplishments of some of your accomplishments will be lost, either temporarily or permanently. But this is the price to pay for reaching the greater and ultimate goal.
We were not born in order to be slaves with improved conditions in Egypt; we were born to be redeemed. We were not born to live in villas in settlements surrounded by fences, like ghettos [...], we were born to conquer and rule all of the land of Israel. [...] And if the price, more or less temporarily, is the loss of status...due to lack of participation on the part of the existing regime, or the necessity to gather our own straw to make bricks for a while, the price is worth it.
For we were not born to live with the status quo, after the fact.
We were born to establish and ideal world, as it was at the beginning!

Rabbi Meir Kahane continues in Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot:
And he smote the Egyptian, measure for measure. He killed the Hebrew, and Moses killed him. Samson expressed this same sentiment to the Jews who were afraid when they came to hand him over to the Philistines after he smote them:
And they said to Samson: Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What have you done to us?!
And he said to them: As they did to me, so I did to them
(Judges 15:11).

This is a Jewish response – not to let the Gentile smite with impunity, for every single blow desecrates the Children of Israel and is blasphemy against G-d’s Name.
Anyone who smites a Jew must be smitten in return.
More than this: Moses’ smiting the Egyptian was the Children of Israel’s first response ever to the blows they had received,
and foreshadowed all the blows, all the plagues, that G-d would yet inflict upon Egypt.

And buried him in the sand. This symbolizes the humiliation of the arrogant Gentile who, in his self-pride, thinks that he can reach the very heavens. The prophet said, Take up a lament for Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and say to him: You likened yourself to a young lion among the nations, but you are like a crocodile of the seas… With the swords of the mighty I will bring down your multitudes…and they will despoil the glory of Egypt (Ezekiel 32:2, 12).
But now, instead of ascending to heaven, the Egyptian whom Moses killed was buried in the sand, in the ground – as low as possible – foreshadowing the humiliation of the whole of Egypt.And such will be in the future, too, when G-d will destroy the nations’ pride and show the glory of His might. Enter the rock, and bury yourself in the dust because of the fear of HaShem and the glory of His greatness. Man’s arrogant eyes will be humiliated, and people’s haughtiness will be humbled, and HaShem alone will be exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:10-11).

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from Rabbi Meir Kahane's “Peirush HaMaccabee” on Shemot (translation into English by Daniel Pinner) and “The Writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY”D " – commentary on Parashat Shemot