Monday, September 24, 2012

Parashat Ha'azinu – Torah of Life – Rav Meir Kahane

May my teaching drop like the rain, may my utterance flow like the dew; like storm winds upon vegetation and like raindrops upon blades of grass (Deut. 32:2)

G-d gave His people Israel a true, trustworthy, pure and perfect Torah. Thus we find, “The word of the L-rd is pure” (Psalms 18:31); “The words of the L-rd are pure words, as silver tried in a crucible on the earth, refined seven times” (Ibid., 12:7); “Your word is refined to the uttermost” (Ibid., 119:140) “The law of the L-rd is perfect, restoring the soul”(Ibid., 19:8).
This perfect Torah is formed from two elements – first, from concepts, ideas, Divine values and attributes, and second, from those practical commandments constituting Jewish observance.
The first group constitutes the Torah's very core. They serve as a lamp to our feet, elucidating and defining the ways of G-d; the path we must follow. It is to these the Torah refers each time it uses the word “derech”, way, as in “to walk in G-d's ways” (Deut. 26:17), interpreted by Ramban as meaning “to do what is right and good and to perform kind acts.”
It is G-d's ways which show us how to emulate Him. Man's task, after all, is to learn these ways and emulate G-d. As our sages said (Sifri, Ekev 49), “If it be your wish to know the One Whose word brought the world into existence, study Midrash, for through it you will come to know G-d and cling to His ways. If you fulfill your duty, I shall fulfill mine.”
Sifri (Ibid.) also comments:
“To walk in all G-d's ways” (Deut. 11:22): These are the ways of G-d, as it says, “The L-rd, the L-rd, G-d, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth...(Ex. 34:6). It also says, “It shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the L-rd shall be delivered” (Yoel 3:5). How can a man “call on the name of the L-rd”? Rather, just as G-d is called “merciful and gracious”, so, too, must we be merciful and gracious... Just as G-d is called “righteous”, so, too, must we be righteous...
The essence of Torah is to learn, to know, to become familiar with Divine attributes, concepts and ideas and to walk in G-d's ways – to cling to Him. Ritual observance is only the external expression of the internal idea. It is the conceptual framework which stands at the heart of Torah, determining the path one must follow.
How important it is to note here the role played by one revolutionary perversion, the awful removal of Bible study from the yeshivot. Who can fathom ignoring our sages' words (Avot 5:25), “At age five Bible study begins,” or their devoted instruction regarding real Torah education, or their directive that we must teach the child all of Scripture before he delves into Mishnah and Talmud? Our sages understood that the Bible is the source and foundation of the Torah structure, and that without it a flimsy, unfinished edifice will arise. They understood that only in Scripture can we find the natural model of the Jewish leader who lived and grew up in the Land of Israel in a holistic setting, and the Divine ways and ideas we must emulate.
The Torah is like a forest; the mitzvot are its trees. If someone is unfamiliar with the shape and general appearance of the forest, and the path through it, he will never know what role each tree serves or where and how to plant trees to suit the shape of the forest. The nature of G-d and the tenets of our faith are the shape of the forest. Only through them can we understand the role of the practical mitzvot and laws, thereby planting the forest as the Planner intended. Those tenets which teach us the shape of the Torah come from study of Aggad'ta and Midrash. They teach the thought and nature of G-d. Only by studying these, the larger picture, can we understand the place and essence of the practical mitzvot, the details. It is a pity we have abandoned and neglected Midrash and Aggad'ta. We are much impoverished as a result.
G-d regrets having created four things, and the main one is the exile, which perverted the original idea of Jewishness. A complete, speedy and glorious redemption is impossible until we restore the Torah to its former glory. We must destroy the dross and cut from the Torah – the Tree of Life – the branches of distortion. Once more we must embrace devotion, accepting G-d's yoke in complete submission, until we restore to ourselves an accurate grasp of G-d's nature and the Torah's concepts and values, these constituting the Torah's very heart. Then we will once more be able to establish the true, complete Torah edifice, devoid of every forbidden combination, of all foreign cultural influence. We will be able to know G-d's true ways and we will have a complete understanding of our Jewishness. We will set a straight course, veering neither right nor left from G-d's truth.
Moreover, we will then be at one with G-d. With love and joy we will accept the yoke of His kingdom, His mitzvot, His attributes, without the stain of conceit, but with devotion, with cries of “Cling to Him!” (Deut. 10:20).
When a person does not understand a mitzvah and the idea behind it, or worse, he has internalized alien, distorted concepts and attributes; then when he fulfills the mitzvah, the external form of devotion, he is only emphasizing an idea that is fallacious, or, G-d forbid, that contradicts G-d's eternal truth.
Clinging to G-d, accepting the yoke of Heaven, demands full submission and readiness on a Jew's part to accept upon himself all the details of the mitzvot, especially the Divine concepts, values and attributes, precisely as G-d commanded; although some of them may conflict with his world view or his innate feelings. G-d, and not man, establishes religious concepts, ideas and commandments. He defines exactly what is kindness, justice, uprightness, and mercy.
It is entirely possible that a person will disdain some command of Divine value, or that one of them will conflict with “kindness and mercy” as he sees them. In his false perception, G-d's ways may border on “cruelty”. Yet if someone rejects Divine attributes and concepts as our Father in Heaven determined them to be, then despite his continuing to fulfill the rituals, he is not a “mitzvah observer”. He cannot be labeled 'one who fulfills G-d's commands.” Such a person does as he sees fit. He is a slave to himself, pronouncing that he is G-d. He denies Hashem's existence.
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. It most certainly follows that his action is worthless. His blessings are not blessings and his mitzvot are bot mitzvot – but blasphemy.
True, our sages taught (Pesachim 50b) that one should fulfill G-d's commandments even without sincerity, since insincere performance will lead to sincere performance; but that has nothing to do with the case at hand. Here, the person in question has no belief whatsoever in the concept of a “commandment”; hence his actions do not even constitute insincere fulfillment. I believe that the Pesachim source refers to one who does a mitzvah chiefly because he finds it agreeable. Our sages might agree that a mitzvah performed “insincerely” borders on not being a mitzvah at all; yet, they would say, it is still better for him to perform it. That way, there is hope that he will reach a state of sincere fulfillment, performing mitzvot as commandments in the literal sense.
It emerges that the cornerstone of the Torah edifice upon which all the mitzvot stand, and without which they would all collapse, is the yoke of Heaven and absolute devotion to G-d and His commands. With this the world has a reason to exist. Without it, Hashem rises up to His role of E-l Shadd-ai, “Almighty G-d,” and threatens to destroy it (Shabbat 88a): “G-d set a proviso before the universe:'If Israel accept the Torah, you will survive. Otherwise, I shall reinstate chaos.” It also says, “The world endures only for the sake of the Torah given to Israel” (Esther Rabbati 7:13); and “Just as it is impossible for the world to be without winds, so is it impossible for the world to be without the Jewish People” (Ta'anit 3b).
Were there no nation ready to receive the Torah and fulfill it, there would be no reason for the world or man to exist.

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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parashat Nitzavim/Vayelech – Free Will – Rav Meir Kahane

(* This is a compilation on Nitzavim/Vayelech, however, this year Parashat Nitzavim is read separately*)     ------    See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil, that which I command you today. To love Hashem, your G-d, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments, His decrees, and His ordinances; then you will live and you will multiply, and Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in the Land to which you come to possess it... I call heaven and earth as witnesses! Before you I have placed life and death, the blessing and the curse. You must choose life, so that you and your descendants will live. (Deut. 30:15,16).

This warning was issued when the Jewish People were about to enter their land, to live there isolated from the nations' detestable practices. Unfortunately, even in Eretz Yisrael, we sinned greatly and exile was decreed, such that instead of being a “nation that dwells alone” (Num. 23:9), we ended up among the nations, and most of the Jewish People became like them. As a result, large parts of our people, in effect, lost the ability to choose. The free choice that was their lot in Eretz Yisrael, their land and birthplace, became a farce among the nations where they were conquered by foreign culture; and countless Jews became spiritual captives.
How can we expect Israel to repent as a people when they do not even have any questions? Why should G-d continue punishing His people for so long when not only is the punishment not beneficial, but, as we saw following the dreadful Holocaust, tens of thousands of believing Jews even became heretics? How can G-d draw near to Him a people that has lost its understanding to choose between good and evil, between life and death? Regarding the verse, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may you also do good, that are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer. 13:23), Redak comments, “You have so accustomed yourselves to evil that it cannot leave you, as though it were a second nature to you.”
In this age of great scientific and technological advancement, when materialistic, cosmopolitan “realism” makes assimilation seem acceptable, it is clear that the Jewish captive to foreign culture will not improve his ways. Quite the contrary, he marches along proudly, far from the camp, far from the idea of repenting, almost cut off from every link to his origins. He has lost, so to speak, the power of free choice. He who was earmarked to be like the stars of the heavens, wallows in the mire.
The Torah's very defining good and evil in real, absolute terms constitutes a declaration of war against the culture of the nations and the Hellenists [westernized, secular 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. Clearly, tolerance and psychological flexibility regarding (almost) all views and lifestyles are their philosophical darling. For them, almost absolute liberty and freedom transcend all else. Included in this is a person's freedom and right to do whatever he pleases with his life so long as it does not “harm his fellow man”.
Clearly, this approach is a disgusting philosophical abomination to G-d and Israel. G-d, the Creator, fashioned a world that rests on truth, an exact, defined truth, determined by Him. The world was created to put G-d's clear, precise ideas and attributes into practice, and whoever seeks to differ with them imperils his soul. It is not man who determines his path on this earth. He is not free to choose whatever lifestyle he pleases without facing the consequences – bitter punishment from His father in Heaven.
The Torah treats with contempt the idea of man having freedom over his body and his life. Our sages comment on the verse, “The tablets were the tablets of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d, graven [charut] on the tablets.” (Ex. 32:16): “Read not charut, 'graven', but cherut, 'freedom'. The only free man is the one who studies Torah” (Avot 6:2).
A person is not free, he is not at liberty to act however he pleases. He is bound by the yoke of Heaven, the fetters of our holy Torah. Only by agreeing to serve G-d and accept His yoke does he become free. This alone liberates him from the empty bestiality which enslaves him to his own needs, to his own selfish ego, to abominable lust.
G-d does not recognize man's right to do as he pleases as long as he does not harm his fellow man. G-d established that man's life does not belong to him. Man was commanded to live and given a path to follow. Not only is he forbidden to harm his fellow man. But he is forbidden to harm himself. As long as a person opposes his Maker, he harms himself. He takes his own soul, committing spiritual suicide, and he is not free to act this way.
Life itself is not man's personal property. G-d blew into man the breath of life only so he would lead a well-defined life of goodness. As our sages said (Avot 4:29), “Perforce you were born and perforce you live.” If a person says, “Since I was created against my will, if I do not wish to live I have a right to commit suicide,” G-d declares that man is not free either to live as he wishes or to die however he likes. Regarding one who commits suicide, our sages said (Semachot – Avel Rabbati 2:1):
We do not eulogize him, but we stand in line for him and say the blessing for mourners, to show respect for the living. As a rule, whatever shows respect for the living we do, but nothing beyond that.

Rambam (Hilchot Avel 1:11) and Tur (Yoreh Deah 345) ruled the same way. Thus we learn that even a man's life is not in his own hands, let alone his lifestyle.
A person is granted free will, and he has the right and duty to choose goodness and life and to loath evil, defilement and death. If, of his own free will, he chooses evil and defiles himself, G-d will not help him to avoid evil by closing the door to evil. Rather, G-d opens the way for him to do what he wants.
It says in Yoma 39a:
If a person defiles himself a little bit, Heaven will defile him a lot. If he does so on earth, he will be defiled from Heaven. If he does so in this world, he will be defiled in the World-to-Come. The Rabbis learned, “Make yourselves holy and remain sanctified” (Lev. 11:44): If a person sanctifies himself a little bit, Heaven will sanctify him a lot. If he does so on earth...

That is what is meant by “Heaven gives him an opening”. The more he defiles himself and sins, the more his defilement and sin become habit, and ultimately second nature. All this applies to the Jew, and all the more so to the non-Jew. Moreover, if a non-Jew profanes G-d's name by reviling and humiliating a Jew, and he refuses to desist, then when the time of redemption and revenge arrives, G-d will not only open the way for him to continue, but will even entice him to do so, for his fate has already been sealed.
Certainly, if Gog announces that he is accepting the yoke of Heaven and submitting to G-d, and he subjugates himself to G-d and Israel, thereby bringing the world the great and final Kiddush Hashem, G-d will certainly let him repent in this way. Yet, as long as he does not do this, as long as he and the world continue in arrogant chilul Hashem, G-d will set the time for His revenge and, then, will entice him into receiving his punishment.
Rambam explains in Hilchot Teshuva 6:3: [...] Why then did G-d address him [Pharaoh] through Moses, saying “Send out Israel and repent,” when He had already made it clear that He knew Pharaoh would not send them out, as it says, “I realize that you and your subjects still do not fear G-d” (Ex. 9:30); and, “The only reason I let you survive was to show you My strength” (Ex. 9:16)? It was to inform mankind that when G-d prevents the sinner from repenting, the sinner cannot repent, but must die for the wicked deeds he performed previously of his own free will. It was so with Sichon. In accordance with his sins, he was denied repentance: “The L-rd your G-d hardened his spirit and made his heart firm (Deut. 2:30). The same applies to the Canaanites. In accordance with their abominations, G-d denied them repentance until they waged war against Israel: “It was the L-rd's doing to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might destroy them utterly” (Joshua 11:20).
Here we learn a major principle of free choice regarding a wicked non-Jew who profanes G-d's name. An evildoer can submit to G-d in one of two ways.
First, he can repent and crown G-d King, accept G-d's sovereignty and subjugate himself to G-d and mitzvot. Clearly, such repentance is appropriate and desirable, and G-d will not prevent his submitting in this way.
The second way is for him to submit, not out of repentance and acceptance of G-d's yoke, but only out of fear and weakness. Certainly, this does not constitute sufficient repentance from his wickedness and Chilul Hashem, for until he rises and proclaims openly that Hashem is G-d and King, bending his knee before Him, G-d's name is not sanctified in the world. Therefore, if his whole submission is out of weakness and fear, he will still deserve punishment and revenge.
G-d will, therefore, harden his heart so that he does not submit out of fear.

Thus, G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart, because Pharaoh never accepted the yoke of G-d's kingdom. By the same token, G-d did not let him escape his sin and punishment through mere fear, but hardened his heart, so that G-d's name would be sanctified. It will be similar with Gog, who will stand firm in his chilul Hashem, and the time of Kiddush Hashem will arrive. It thus says, “I will bring you against My land, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezek. 38:16).
[The ensuing punishment and revenge we find described in this week's Haftarah]: “I alone have trodden a wine press, not a man from the nations was with Me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in My wrath, and their lifeblood spurted out on My garments, so I soiled all my garments. For a day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redemption has come...” (Isaiah 63:3,4)
This is the greatest, most terrifying Kiddush Hashem there can be, and it is this which will make all the nations accept G-d's sovereignty.

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

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Parashat Ki Tavo – Rebuke, With All My Love – Rav Meir Kahane

And Hashem has distinguished you today to be for Him a treasured people, as He spoke to you, and to observe all of His commandments, and to make you supreme over all the nations that He made, for praise, for renown and for splendor, and so that you will be a holy people to Hashem, your G-d, as He spoke. (Deut. 26:18-19)

But it will be that if you do not hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe, to perform all His commandments and all His decrees that I command you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you... (Deut. 28:15)

There is only one logical, rational reason for a person to be proud of his being a Jew: the Torah. As our sages said (Torat Kohanim, Bechukotai, 8:11): “What remains to them that has not become vile and loathsome? Were not all the fine gifts that were given to them taken away? If not for the Torah that remained with them, they would be no different from the nations at all.” This is the secret of Israel's uniqueness and exclusiveness. Only this Torah hallows, exalts and sets Israel apart from all the nations. All the rest, nationalism and national pride, are nothing but a meaningless farce. Yet, since G-d chose Israel to be His holy people and to fulfill His Torah, they were granted extraordinary love and a special status, and they became the mate and partner, so to speak, of Him Whose word brought the world into being.
The partnership between G-d and Israel is an unparalleled partnership of love. Since the greatest, most exalted partnership that we know is that of lovers, man and woman, King Solomon compared the partnership of G-d and Israel to that of a man and woman. This is the meaning of the words, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Songs 2:16): two lovers, one in partnership with the other. I am his and he is mine – this is the most lofty partnership there can be, for each gives to the other rather than each taking from the other.
Our sages said (Shir HaShirim Rabbah, Ibid.): “My beloved is mine and I am his”: He is for me a G-d, and I am for Him a nation. He is for me a G-d, as it says, “I am the L-rd your G-d” (Ex. 20:2), and I am for Him a nation, as it says, “Listen to Me, O My people,; give ear unto Me, O My nation” (Isaiah 51:4). He is for me a Father and I am for Him a son. He is for me a Father, as it says, “For You are our Father” (Ibid. 63:16); and, “For I became a Father of Israel” (Jer. 31:8), and I am for Him a son, as it says, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Ex. 4:22); and, “You are children of the L-rd your G-d” (Deut. 14:1).
Israel are called G-d's children; the rest of the nations are not. The Jew is an actual son of G-d, his Father in Heaven, whereas all the rest are not G-d's children, but only His handiwork. As R. Akiva said (Avot 3:18), “ Beloved are Israel, for they were called G-d's children. Special Divine love was earmarked for them as a result.” Israel are the children of Him Whose word brought the world into existence, whereas all the rest are just G-d's handiwork. Special Divine love beyond that reserved for all the nations is earmarked for Israel.
Love, respect and reverence for our fellow Jew, created in G-d's image and sanctified at Sinai as G-d's elect, is the duty of every single Jew, because he is a part of that chosen people. Every Jew must grow spiritually by showing love and respect for his fellow Jew.
In that way, he expresses his esteem for someone holy and select, created in G-d's image and chosen at Sinai to be G-d's special treasure. In effect, he gains self- esteem as well.
Every Jew is a guarantor for the rest of the Jewish People, for all are bound together in one nation, holy and virtuous. Sotah 37b teaches, “For every single mitzvah in the Torah, forty-eight covenants were forged with each of the 603,550 [Jews in the desert]. Rashi comments, “Everyone of them became a guarantor for all his brethren.” Our sages also said (Shavuot 39a), “ All of Israel are guarantors for one another.” Later, G-d willing, we will view the other side of love and mutual responsibility, namely the mitzvah of rebuking our fellow Jew to restore him to the proper path. By such rebuke, we perform a great mitzvah and do our fellow Jew a great turn. Moreover, the mitzvah of arevut (mutual responsibility) which makes rebuke an obligation, is also the basis for G-d's collectively rewarding and punishing the Jewish People, since they are all one nation. Rebuke is a mitzvah of central importance for every Jew.
Ezekiel said (33:2-3,6): “When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man from among them and set him for their watchman; if when he sees the sword come upon the land and he blows the horn and warns the people... But if he sees the sword come and blows not the horn and the people be not warned, and the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."
This is the mitzvah of tochachah, rebuke, standing before the nation and blowing the horn of truth. The mitzvah of imploring and rebuking the people is one aspect of accepting the yoke of Heaven.
A person unwilling to rebuke others and speak the truth, whether out of fear, desire to flatter, genuine love or an inability to oppose the mainstream, and certainly out of refusal to accept the “harsh” truth of Halachah, as we shall see, rebels against G-d and rejects His yoke.
Over and over, people try to justify their refusal with the argument that they “love their fellow Jew”, but such love is perverse. No love is more genuine than rebuke. It says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him.” (Lev. 19:17). Whoever does not rebuke, bears a grudge of hatred for the sinner, even if subconscious. This hatred grows, precisely because deep in his heart he recognizes his duty to rebuke the sinner and recognizes, as well, his own weakness, reflected in his refusal to do it.
Whoever refuses to rebuke the sinner, leaves him vulnerable to the worst punishments of the afterlife [and may bring about collective punishment of Israel in this world, as well] Precisely he who rebukes the sinner and tries to bring him back on course, loves him and loves himself, as well.
In our own times, the alien culture has managed to make G-d into something inconsequential. Thus, on the one hand, heresy has proliferated, and on the other hand, many wicked people have devised a hypocritical approach whereby although they pay lip service to the existence of a higher power, they create it in their own image, as they wish to imagine it. The G-d of their making is indulgent. He neither demands exclusive allegiance nor takes revenge. He is tolerant and equates great and small, good and evil, light and darkness, bitter and sweet. Concepts of sin and punishment almost do not exist. After all, the idea of “sin” is exceedingly controversial, since such persons fly the flag of freedom of expression and deed – almost any deed. “Divine punishment”, in the eyes of worshipers of this culture, is a fanatical, extremist, even an eccentric and cruel concept. Therefore, whenever tragedy strikes such persons, they have not the least inclination to meditate, to examine and search their deeds.
For this heresy, the Divine punishment, which advocates of this approach deny, comes closer and closer. G-d's thoughts are not their own. The flood of fire will come, the anger and revenge of G-d.
Moreover, when an entire generation casts off its yoke
, and chaos and anarchy come to the world, and the kingdom of G-d is the object of contempt, the destroying angel is given free reign... then the saintly are taken from the world, both as an atonement for the world and because they did not protest enough, and also – if the world's decree has already been sealed – so that they will not see the punishment.
[The very last sentence of this week's Haftarah links this to our time, which is the beginning of the redemption:] I am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it. (Is. 60:22)
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 birthpangs 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.

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