Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shabbat Hagadol - Before Redemption - Rav Meir Kahane

(From the Haftarah)... For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw... (Malachi 3:19)

Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome Day of Hashem. And he will turn back [to G-d] the hearts of fathers with [their] sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction. (Malachi 3: 23,24)

Then you will return and see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves G-d and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:18)

Before us, then, there is a fundamental principle regarding the future of the Jewish People:
Redemption can come by one of two ways. If we merit it, through repentance and deeds worthy of it – especially faith and trust in G-d, without fear of the non-Jew – it can come through G-d hastening it, quickly, immediately, “today, if we hearken to His voice”. Not only will it come quickly, but with glory and majesty, without the suffering or Messianic birth pangs of which both Ula and Rabbah said (Sanhedrin 98b), “Let it come without my seeing it”. If we do not merit this, however, then the Messiah will certainly come and the Redemption with him, but only later on, “in its time”. This redemption will be accompanied, G-d forbid, by the terrible suffering of Chevlei Mashiach, Messianic birthpangs.
We seem to have two contradictory redemption processes before us; [...] but there is no contradiction. Rather, both are possibilities. That is, either can happen, but not both. As for which it will be, that depends on the Jewish People and their deeds. If they prove worthy, they will merit redemption “in haste”, glorious and majestic, without Messianic birth pangs.
Otherwise, a different process will occur, a process that does not have to be – complete redemption through unparalleled suffering, and all because of our sins and our stubbornness. Only the blind and those who refuse to see will fail to understand that today we are right at the very heart of the Ikveta DeMeshicha, “the footsteps of the Messiah”, the beginning of the redemption.
This State of Israel is the beginning of G-d's wrath against the nations who do not know Him and who have profaned His name with scorn and derision.

Yet, it is clear that a redemption whose beginning is based exclusively on redemption “in its time”, on, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel” (Ezek. 36:22), on, “Not for your sake do I do this, says the L-rd G-d. Be it known unto you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel (Ezek. 36:32) has concealed within it tragedies and Messianic suffering from the Supreme King of Kings; and whoever says that G-d concedes shall concede his life (Bava Kamma 50a).
There will be no “hasty” redemption (Isaiah 60:22), glorious and majestic, devoid of dreadful suffering, unless the Jewish people return to their Father in Heaven, accept His yoke, and chiefly, unless they trust in Him completely and are ready to sanctify His name through self-sacrifice. The redemption which began despite our sins in order to sanctify G-d's name before the nations in might and splendor, has, in the hands of an “ungrateful, unwise nation” (Deut. 32:6), turned into a profanation and a blasphemy carried out precisely by those whom G-d sought to redeem. If the beginning of the redemption and the state served to sanctify G-d's name, then the only way to move on to “hasty” redemption is to continue reinforcing the Kiddush Hashem which the state's very establishment constituted. The Divine imperative is continued Kiddush Hashem through trusting in G-d, and liquidating the Chilul Hashem without fear of the non-Jew, without fear of flesh and blood. Every retreat, every submission, every concession to the non-Jew, every hand raised against the Jew, every attack, let alone murder, of a Jew in the Land, every taunt and curse by a non-Jew in the Land is a Chilul Hashem. Now, instead of continuing to reinforce the Kiddush Hashem process, the Jewish people retreat and profane G-d's name.
Whoever does not allow Jews to live everywhere in the Land, whoever ties their hands and prevents their taking the revenge of G-d and Israel against the nations who curse and revile G-d, profanes G-d's name and profanes the great miracle and the powerful dream realized by G-d at the start of the redemption.
A time will come when G-d sees that to the nations and most of Israel, it seems that “His power is gone” - He is impotent. He will see that for many Jews and non-Jews, He is “nothing”, non-existent, Heaven forbid. For many others who pay lip service to His existence, He will appear “hindered”, powerless to act, a king “caught in tresses” (Song of Songs, 7:7), without connection or relevance to the world. He will see that there are masses of Jews who keep rituals, who keep the practical mitzvot by rote, yet who in times of danger, at the moment of truth, abandon their faith and trust in G-d. For them, G-d will become like one “abandoned”, and no Chilul Hashem could be greater. G-d will then wish to sanctify His great name, transformed by faithless heretics to “nothing, hindered, and abandoned.”
Listen well, my friend, to a great axiom of redemption. Ostensibly, those who ridiculed the mourners of Zion, who mocked those who believed in redemption, were the nations. Clearly this is so, yet also countless Jews do not believe, and they ridicule those who look forward to redemption, and, in general, the whole concept of redemption and the Messiah.
Do not let your brother, friend or the rabbi to whom you feel closest lead you astray by saying that redemption will come without suffering or tragedy, for that is impossible without repentance and trust in G-d through bold deeds without fear of the nations.
Redak's quotation from Isaiah is part of the following (Isaiah 26:20-21):
Come, My people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the wrath is past. For the L-rd shall leave His abode to punish the earth's inhabitants for their sin. With this, G-d informs Israel that before redemption comes, before G-d leaves His abode to punish the nations for their sin, there will be a moment of wrath; that is, a period of wrath and suffering. This clearly is referring to the war of Gog and Magog.
Although it says, “Hide yourself for a brief moment”, and Redak commented that they would “suffer briefly”, woe to us for that brief moment, for it will include Jerusalem's conquest and accompanying atrocities, [...] and the nations' conquest of Eretz Israel for nine months, and in G-d's eyes, that, too will constitute just a “brief moment”. Who can measure the suffering and anguish which that moment will generate, if it comes through redemption “in its time”? All the same G-d, Who has control over time and place, has the power to transform that “moment” into a very short time, if redemption comes “in haste”. This is a major principle regarding the Messianic birthpangs, and we must not forget it.
If Israel heed G-d's voice and follow in His ways, He will subdue Gog and Israel's enemies “kim'at”, like the kim'at rega, the “brief moment” of Isaiah 26:20. Then, redemption will come quickly and “forever”.

Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, says Hashem, Master of Legions… (Malachi 3:7)

And this is a repetition of the same promise that is given in Zechariah 1:3, in a tremendous oath! The redemption will come to the extent that we long for it and demand it.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Parashat Vayikra - Burn your pride! - Rav Meir Kahane

When you offer a meal offering that is baked in an oven, it shall be of fine flour: unleavened loaves [matzot] mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers [matzot] smeared with oil. If your offering is a meal offering on the pan, it shall be of fine flour mixed with oil, it shall be unleavened [matza]. (Parashat Vayikra, Lev. 2:4-5).
Chametz and other forms of leaven symbolize the evil impulse and arrogance, for yeast inflates dough and turns it into chametz. Se'or [a type of leaven or yeast] derives from sa'ar, storm, for it agitates dough and makes it rise.
Just so, the evil impulse and arrogance inflate humble man to visions of grandeur, power and pride: “May the L-rd cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks proud things!... 'For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise,' says the L-rd; I will save them from him who inflates himself” (Psalms 12:4,6. The haughty person who talks grandly, “inflates himself”.
Theft and wickedness, conceived in arrogance, are called chometz, which means vinegar: “Seek justice, support the victim of theft [chamotz]” (Isaiah 1:17); and “Rescue me out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the unrighteous and ruthless [chometz] man” (Psalms 71:4. Clearly, chomes/chamsan [robber, oppressor] derives from chometz, as well. This is because chometz connotes that which is spoiled, just as wine vinegar is made from spoiled wine. In the same way, our sages called the evildoer whose father was righteous, “vinegar [chometz], son of wine.”
It must be added that while chametz is a symbol of haughtiness, chametz's opposite, matza [unleavened bread], is called in Scripture “lechem oni” - bread of hardship (Deut. 16:3). On the one hand, Rashi explains “oni” as being related to aniyut (poverty) and inui (affliction): “Bread reminiscent of the poverty suffered in Egypt.” This jibes with the verses, “I have indeed seen the suffering of My people” (Ex. 3:7) and “You saw the affliction of our ancestors in Egypt” (Nehemia 9:9), and surely “oni” and “inui” derive from the same root.
Together with this, however, there is another meaning. Matza comes in opposition to chametz. Chametz symbolizes the bread of the wealthy man with his haughty dream of attaining wealth and honor, whereas matza symbolizes the bread of the lowly, modest man. Thus “lechem oni”, rendered above as the “bread of hardship”, can mean “the bread of the humble man” (anav).
Another mitzvah was given to Israel as an everlasting reminder against arrogance and conceit, namely, the prohibition against consuming non-kosher fat:
“All the fat is the L-rd's. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that you shall eat neither fat nor blood.” (Parashat Vayikra, Lev. 3:16-17).
The fact that “all the fat is the L-rd's” is a clear hint that wealth and honor are befitting only for G-d, fat symbolizing these. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I will give you the good of the land of Egypt and you shall eat the fat of the land.” (Gen. 45:18).
Moreover, Ibn Ezra comments that in “all the chelev of the oil and all the chelev of the wine and the corn” (Num. 18:12), chelev connotes “the choicest and the best”. Fatness symbolizes health and strength, as in Pharaoh's dream [of the seven fat and seven gaunt cows].
Thus, the wealth, honor, beauty and splendor symbolized by chelev belong only to G-d. They are becoming only to Him, because all these traits are His.
Even beyond this, however, chelev, fatness here on earth, is nothing but a symbol of conceit and the pursuit of pleasure, wealth and honor: “Their obese hearts have they shut tight, their mouths speak proudly” (Psalms 17:10); “Their eyes protrude from obesity , they are gone beyond the imaginations of their heart” (Ibid., 73:7); and “Their heart is gross like fat, but I delight in Your law” (Ibid., 119:70).
[See also] Rambam (Issurei HaMizbeach 7:11):
Whoever wishes merit should suppress his evil impulse and show generosity by bringing his offering from the choicest of the species in question. The Torah says, “And Abel also offered some of the firstborn of his flock, from the fattest ones [chelbehen]. And the L-rd paid heed to Abel and his offering”(Gen. 4:4).
Chelev connotes the choicest, plumpest, richest animal specimen. It thus symbolizes the human pride which compels man toward wealth, honor and the cravings of this world. Hence, we are not only obligated to sacrifice the choicest animal specimen but to take its fat, the symbol of pride and what is best and most desirable, and give it to G-d.
Through our readiness to donate to G-d the most important part, we rid ourselves of pride,
proclaiming, “All the fat is the L-rd's!”

It follows that both chametz and chelev are symbols of pride.
Still, there is a difference between them.
Chametz symbolizes the egotism which entices a person toward the haughty pursuit of wealth and honor. Since it symbolizes the root and source of evil, it has no place on G-d's altar, the symbol of holiness, free of all arrogance.
By contrast, chelev symbolizes wealth and honor that a person has already attained and through which he is liable to become haughty. Therefore, a man is obligated to demonstrate the suppression of his evil impulse through his willingness to donate this symbol of pride and burn it.

It is true that G-d does not reject wealth. Like everything else G-d made, man can use it for good or evil, and it is certainly possible to direct wealth toward good ends. Certainly wealth is not evil per se, despite those false religions that wax pious in their condemnation of it. Money is neither good nor bad. If we use it to build the Temple and to do mitzvot, it is good.
If, however, it is put in service of arrogance and lust, nothing could be worse. Not only does man's egotism drive him to pursue wealth, but that wealth turns him into an even more conceited evildoer. It is a vicious cycle.
One of our most important principles is: “To the L-rd belongs the earth and everything in it.” (Ps. 24:1). Everything belongs to G-d, and nothing that ostensibly belongs to man is really his. Rather, it is only given to him to use. The concept of holiness provides a concrete example to help us understand the essence of property here on earth – that it belongs exclusively to G-d, and not to man.

What does Scripture say of him who makes unwarranted use of Temple property?
He shall bring as his guilt-offering to the L-rd, a [two-year-old] unblemished ram with a prescribed value of [at least] two silver shekels, according to the sanctuary standard. He must make restitution for taking something that was holy and shall add a fifth. (Parashat Vayikra, Lev. 5:15-16).
The reason he must add precisely a fifth is that it fits the crime.
This person was obligated to give up to a fifth of “his” property, as it were, to charity: “In giving charity, one should lavish no more than a fifth of his wealth” (Ketuvot 67b). In doing so, he would have demonstrated G-d's ownership over his property.
Instead, he stole Temple property. Hence, he must pay a fifth as he should have done of his “own” property, so to speak.

Among the nations and the alien culture, all sorts of outlooks have been formed regarding property, and despite the superficial differences between them, all are based on the perception that the world and property belong to man.
In this regard, there is no difference between what the non-Jews call “Capitalism”, “Socialism” or “Communism”. Whether a non-Jew argues that property is a private possession or argues that it belongs to society, he means that it is the property of man.
Not so G-d, Whose Torah states that everything belongs to Him, and that property and possessions were given to mankind only for use. Thus, when G-d decrees that we must give tzedakah, it is our duty to do so. Tzedakah does not at all come from the property of the wealthy man. He has no ownership whatsoever over what is given him by Heaven. Such is our sages' intent in Avot 3:7 :
“Give to G-d of His own, for you and yours are His”.

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

Monday, March 12, 2012

Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei — In the Twilight of Shabbat and Redemption — Rav Meir Kahane

On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem... (Ex. 35:2)

In Yoma 81b, our sages said regarding Yom Kippur:
«You must afflict your souls on the ninth of the month» (Lev. 23:32): I might think one should start fasting on the ninth day. It therefore says «in the evening» (Ibid.). If «in the evening», I might think he should start after it gets dark. It therefore, says, «on the ninth». How does this work? We start fasting while it is yet day. From here we learn that we add from the non-holy [the day before] onto the holy... I only know that this applies regarding Yom Kippur. How do I know it applies also regarding the Sabbath? The verse adds, «You must celebrate Sabbath [תשבתו]» (Ibid.)

We, likewise, find in Mechilta (Yitro, Mesechta DeBachodesh, 7):
The Torah says «Remember the Sabbath day to make it holy» (Ex. 20:8) and then, «Keep the Sabbath day to make it holy» (Deut. 5:12). We must remember it from before [its onset] and we must keep it until after [its completion]. From here they learned that we add from the non-holy onto the holy.

All the Rishonim ruled this way (except for Rambam), and R. Yosef Caro ruled this way as well (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 261:2).
I believe a profound principle can be derived here. Consider that G-d, rather than letting day move to night suddenly, created twilight [בין השמשות — ben hashemashot], a time of questionable status, and included this in the Sabbath. By His very doing so, He already established a sort of addition to the Sabbath besides the Rabbinic one mentioned above.

The Poskim argue over when twilight occurs. According to Rambam and Rif, the Gaonim and Gra, it begins immediatley after sunset and continues the time it takes towalk three fourths of a mil [approximately 960 meters], after which begins night.

Yet Rabbenu Tam has another view, which Ramban and Rashba, Rosh and Ran agree to, that from sunset until nightfall lasts the time it takes to walk four mil 9Pesachim 94a), and that there are two sunsets: The first lasts the time it takes to walk three and a quarter mil, and then it is still daytime. The second sunset begins then and lasts the time it talkes to walk three quarters of a mil, and that span is twilight.

Actually, according to either view, one is obligated to add some amount of time even before twilight, such that before what is for sure Sabbath, there is not only twilight, the questionable time, but a period of unquestionable weekday added on. R. Yosef Caro (who ruled like Rabbenu Tam and his group), wrote (Ibid.), «If someone wishes to make an absolute addition to the Sabbath, he may do so... He need only add some amount of unquestionable daytime, thereby adding from the non-holy to the Holy.» Rema commented: «And if he wishes to accept upon himself teh onset of the Shabbat as early as plag haminchah [one and a quarter halachic hours before nightfall], he may do so» (yet, whoever starts before then has done nothing).

Previously [in other places], I have explained that G-d can bring redemption early on various pretexts, even when Israel have not merited redemption «in haste». I believe that the two additions, namely (1) G-d's creation of a twilight period between day and night and its natural inclusion in the Sabbath that follows; and, (2) the mitzvah of adding weekday time onto the Sabbath, serve to reward Israel in the Messianic era if we are otherwise undeserving. G-d is hinting at this. The week is composed of six weekdays followed by a Sabbath, and we are obligated to add from the sixth day to bring the Sabbath earlier. In the same way, the world's entire existence is six thousand years, followed by a seventh, called «a day that is all Sabbath».
Hence, as part of our cries to hasten redemption, it is a great mitzvah for us to bring the Sabbath as early as we can. That way, we can merit early redemption as just recompense. How many blessings will befall the Jew who steadfastly brings the Sabbath early each week! By this merit, he will hasten also the coming of the eternal Sabbath to the world.
This may be why R. Yochanan said in the name of R. Shimon bar Yochai (Shabbat 118b): «If Israel kept only two Sabbaths accroding to their laws [כהלכתן — kehilchatan], we would immediately be redeemed.» In other words, if we fulfill all the laws of the Sabbath, including adding from the non-holy to the holy, corresponding to the Messianic era, then G-d Himself will add from the non-holy and hasten the eternal Sabbath.

[No compilation - this is Rav Meir Kahane's «The Jewish Idea», Chapter 37 «Twilight» directly from the book.]

Monday, March 5, 2012

Purim - Drinking for clarity - Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 695:2) brings down as law the words of our sages in Megillah 7b: “A man is required to mellow himself (with wine) on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordechai'”. Many fine Jews have pondered this somewhat bizarre utterance, and have given different explanations.

Is the phrase teaching us that we should get absolutely “plastered” on Purim, to the point where our minds cannot distinguish properly? It seems odd that the sages would encourage such a thing. After all, Purim, like any other holiday, is intended to convey to the Jew certain ideas. Since one of the central ideas of Purim is the struggle between good and evil; between Mordechai and Haman – why would the sages want to muddle and obscure these concepts? Furthermore, the expression, “to mellow oneself” does not connote that one should be “rip-roaring drunk”, and certainly it is not likely the sages would endorse such a state of mind.

Our teacher, Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D, offers a powerful explanation to this question. The point is not that one should drink until he becomes confused and says, “cursed be Mordechai”, G-d forbid. Rather he should understand that there is no difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman, between blessing the righteous man and cursing the evil one. Both are mitzvot.
It is a mitzvah to fight and curse the evildoer precisely the way it is a mitzvah to bless the righteous man. The two are equal, completing one another.
Let us develop this idea. It would not be a shocking revelation if we said that Jews in our generation, as well as in past generations, have a serious problem with the concept of cursing and hating evil. Despite the fact that this subject is a central part of Judaism, permeating the Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud, and Halacha, for all kinds of reasons it is difficult for Jews to internalize the need for the burning out of evil, and the hating of the evildoer. It is a hang-up we are familiar with from the days of King Saul (who in his misguided mercy spared Agag the Amalekite, which eventually brought upon us the episode of Haman!) - until this very day, where mercy on enemies and murderers has brought us to the brink of tragedy.
For the record, Queen Esther did not fail in this area. After the first day of Jewish vengeance against their enemies, Achashverosh asked her if she had another request. She answered: “If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews who are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according to this day's decrees, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.” In other words, Esther did not have the galut complex of taking pity on a fallen enemy. On the contrary – she requested that the Jew-haters be killed one more day.
When the sages tell us that we should not distinguish “between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai”, they are coming to tell us: You are required to mellow yourselves with wine, so that you will not hesitate to come to the full understanding that the concept of “blessed is Mordechai” is equal to the concept “cursed is Haman”. That is, hatred of evil is no less important or fundamental than love of good, and there is no one without the other.
Purim is the time to elevate ourselves in our thinking. Precisely by getting a little tipsy on wine, we can remove the usual inhibitions and hesitations, which commonly prevent us from cursing and hating evil!
The Rav has taught us something tremendous. Purim is not a holiday of drunken confusion and chaos, or for casting off our heavenly yoke. On the contrary. Purim is the day to cast off the hypocrisy of our everyday lives, and to sever ourselves from the phony self-righteousness which causes us not to want to condemn the wicked. Getting mellow or tipsy on wine straightens us out. If foreign, un-Jewish concepts permeate our thoughts all year round, on Purim we reveal our authentic, uninhibited selves. Without apologies, without “the mercy of fools” (as termed by the Ramban); without being “more righteous than our Creator” (as the Midrash depicts Saul when he refuses to kill Agag).

At this juncture, let us mention that Purim is the annual yohrzeit for the holy Dr. Baruch Goldstein, HY”D. In all his deeds, we remember Dr. Goldstein as a man, who in his life and his death, was a symbol of “not knowing the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai”. On one hand, he was the epitome of good. His dedication as a doctor to heal his patients was incredible. “Ahavat Israel” conquered his heart. From this aspect, he was “blessed is Mordechai”. On the other hand, this love was not “out of control”. He knew that just as it is an obligation to love the good, it is also a “mitzvah” to hate the wicked. This is the “cursed is Haman” aspect.

May we merit to be whole in our attributes, and to internalize our understanding that the war against evil is part and parcel to the goal of bringing good to the world.

From " The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY"D "