Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parashat Masei - Thorns in our sides - Rav Meir Kahane

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the Land before you, those of them whom you leave shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will harass you upon the Land in which you dwell. And it shall be that what I had meant to do to them, I shall do to you. (Num. 33:55-56)

Regarding Eretz Yisrael [...], non-Jews are divided up into only two groups. The first is non-Jewish nations who were in the Land when Israel arrived there to conquer and occupy it. The second is all the rest of the non-Jewish nations, including idolaters, descendants of Noah, and foreigners and alien residents. The Torah saw a twofold danger in the nations who dwelt in the Land before Israel arrived to conquer it, namely the seven Canaanite nations. On the one hand, like all the nations, the Canaanites constituted a spiritual danger to Israel, who had been commanded to establish a Divine, Torah-oriented state in Eretz Yisrael, isolated and set apart from the abominations of alien cultures. Moreover, the Canaanites posed a unique danger in that they viewed Israel as conquerors who had taken their land. They would hate Israel forever and would forever dream of revenge and seek opportunities for reconquest. Following is the great commentator Abarbanel (on Ex. 34:11-12): Verses 11-12 inform us that since G-d is driving out the Amorites and the other nations, it is improper for Israel to forge a covenant with them. If a nobleman helps someone by fighting his battles and banishing his enemies, it is morally inappropriate for that person to make peace with them without that nobleman's permission. So, too, with G-d driving out Israel's enemies, it is inappropriate for Israel to forge a covenant with them, for that would profane G-d's glory.
This is especially so considering that this friendship and this covenant will not succeed. With Israel having taken their land, there is no doubt that they will constantly seek Israel's downfall. This is why it is said, “[the land] where you are coming.” Since Israel came to the land and took it from its inhabitants, and they feel that is has been stolen from them, how will they make a covenant of friendship with you? Rather the opposite will occur. “They will be a fatal trap for you.” When war strikes you, they will join your enemies and fight you.

How exalted and true are Abarbanel's words! This is the real reason for the approach taken by Halachah to the seven nations. G-d understood the mentality of these nations. He knew that they would view Israel as conquerors and thieves and would forever relate to them with resentment and hatred.
The Torah explicitly commanded, at least regarding driving out the Land's inhabitants, because if they remain via a peace treaty, they will become “barbs in your eyes... causing you troubles in the Land.” (Num. 33:55). Not in vain are the words “yerushah” - inheritance, and “horashah”- driving out, so similar in Hebrew. G-d knew that without driving out the nations of the Land, the Land would not be an inheritance for them. Rashi explained the same way: (on Num, 33:52-53):
“Vehorashtem”: Drive them out. “Vehorashtem et ha'aretz”: If you first “clear out the Land of its inhabitants”, then - “viyeshavtem bah” - you will be able to survive in it.

Otherwise, you will be unable to survive in it.
And Or HaChaim writes (Ibid., v. 55):
“They shall cause you troubles in the land” (Num. 33:55): Not only will they hold on to the part of the land that you have not taken, but the part which you have taken and settled as well. “They shall cause you trouble” regarding the part that you live in, saying, “Get up and leave it.”
It follows that those same laws that applied to the seven nations apply to all the nations that live in Eretz Yisrael in every age. This includes those of our day, who view Eretz Yisrael as their own land and soil, and who view the Jewish People as a nation of conquerors, robbers and thieves. That same danger looms over the Jewish People and its control over Eretz Yisrael in our time as then.

After all, what difference is there as far as G-d's warning that “those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the Land” (Num. 33:55), between the seven nations and between any nation that dwells in the Land, views it as its own, and then Israel come and conquer it from them? Surely, it will feel that same hatred and that same fierce will for revenge as did the seven nations, as explained by Abarbanel (quoted above).
This logic appears already in Or HaChaim (on Num. 33:52):
“You must drive out”: Although the verse said of the seven nations, “You shall not allow any people to remain alive” (Deut. 20:16), here, the Torah is talking about other nations found there besides the seven. It therefore was careful to say, “all the Land's inhabitants,” meaning, even those not of the seven.

What does that mean for us and for today's situation in Israel?

As Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane points out in his commentary on the Parashah:
While it is true that the national religious movement in Israel has put forth great efforts in the fulfilling of the mitzvah «Yishuv Ha'Aretz» (the settling of the Land), it is important to point out that they are familiar with only half of the mitzvah. For the mitzvah of «Yishuv Ha'Aretz» has two sides to it. Well known to us all is the first side — the establishing of settlements. That's the «nice» part of the mitzvah. But it is the other side that has been totally ignored by those who proudly wave the banner of «Yishuv Ha'Aretz». Obviously, we are speaking of the mitzvah of expelling the gentile from the Land. [...]Settling the Land and expelling the gentiles in it are not only two sides of the same mitzvah, but each side is actually dependent on the other. The Torah constantly warns us about the impossibility of fulfilling just half of the mitzvah: «If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the Land from before you, those who remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, causing you troubles in the Land you settle» (Num. 33:55) Another settlement is not the answer to the Arab terror, but rather the Arab terror is the result of our being content with making settlements and not completing the entire mitzvah — which is the expulsion of the Arabs. The solution to the terror is the fulfillment of the entire mitzvah of «Yishuv Ha'Aretz».
[As Rav Meir Kahane points out in an early article from 1973, asides from all-out war and forced expulsion, there is an additional, maybe intermediate, way to fulfill the mitzvah of expelling the gentiles – offering them the option of voluntary transfer with financial incentives]:
The majority of Arabs will not agree to leave Israel under any circumstances, but sizable numbers — more than we think — will, IF THEY ARE GIVEN SUFFICIENT INCENTIVE. It is up to those who wish to save Israel from a disastrous crisis that will lead to who-knows-what, to furnish that incentive and to ignore the false protests of ignorant and equally false «liberalism». [...] So let us ignore those who are «overly righteous» and speak of the need for a PRIVATE body of wealthy and influential Jews to set up the machinery for an ongoing emigration fund with an initial capitalization of at least 20 million dollars. I emphasize that this is only the initial funding, for the emigration fund will, hopefully, require much more than this. These same people should also begin the task of contacting governments of states that are underpopulated of in need of manpower for their own self-interest as well as for the purpose of defusing the time bomb that is the Arab population of the Land of Israel. Governments should also be discreetly asked how much they would be willing to contribute to this fund, which would do more to solve the Middle East problem than all the United Nations plans yet created. A careful table should be drawn up — based on living conditions in different countries and the size of families — so as to ascertain how much should be allotted to individuals and families who would wish to emigrate.
With a fund of money, with visas, with exact charts, the Arabs — and here I stress that this plan would be offered to both the Arabs of pre-1967 Israel and those of the liberated lands — would then be approached and offered a sizable sum (more than enough to begin a fresh life) to emigrate to the county of their choice (within the list of states that has agrees to take them in). Most people prefer not to discuss unpleasant subjects such as Arab emigration or time bombs. The problem of ignoring a bomb arises from the fact that it simply does not lie there. Eventually it explodes.

[The latter proposal is not so far-fetched: In December 12 2008, the left-wing Haaretz newspaper website published an article stating that «A Palestinian poll released on Thursday showed that 40 percent of the residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip wish to emigrate, compared to 25 percent in the West Bank.» Check out the link:]

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” and “Beyond Words, Vol. 1, 'Defusing the Bomb'” of Rav Meir Kahane HY”D and from “The Writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY”D”

Parashat Mattot – G-d's vengeance. We deliver! – Rav Meir Kahane

Hashem spoke to Moses, saying, “Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites; afterwards, you will be gathered unto your people." (Num. 31:1)
Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among yourselves for the legion that they may be against Midian to inflict Hashem's vengeance against Midian." (Num. 31:3)

Great is revenge for it resurrects G-d, proves His existence, and humbles the arrogant sinner so that the righteous and the world joyfully declares (Ps. 58:12), “Verily there is a reward for the righteous. Verily there is a G-d Who judges on earth.” In this regard our sages said (Tanchuma, Matot 4), “Moses yearned to see G-d's revenge on the Midianites before his death, and he would ask G-d to let him see it with his own eyes. Of Moses it says (Ps. 58:11), 'The righteous man shall rejoice when he sees vengeance.'” It says here, “Moses yearned.” He did not merely wish or hope, but he yearned.
The righteous yearn to see revenge against the evil, for it proves that “there is a G-d Who judges on earth.”
By contrast, whoever relents from revenge against Israel's enemies is actually giving up on avenging G-d, for whoever attacks the people of Israel is actually attacking the G-d of Israel by showing that he does not fear Divine retribution.
Our sages said (Sifri, Matot 157):
“The L-rd spoke to Moses saying, 'Take revenge for the Children of Israel against the Midianites'... Moses spoke to the people saying, 'Detach men for armed service against Midian, so that the L-rd's revenge can be taken against the Midianites'” (Num. 31:1-3): This is in praise of the righteous. They do not depart from the world until they take revenge on behalf of Israel, which is the revenge of Him Who brought the world into being."
G-d told Moses to take revenge “for the Children of Israel", and Moses called it “G-d's revenge,” to inform us that the two are the same. Our sages also said (Sifri, Beha'alot'cha, 84):
“Arise, O L-rd, and scatter Your enemies! Let Your foes flee before You” (Num. 10:35): Can He Who created the world be said to have “enemies”? Rather, the verse informs us that if someone hates the Jewish People, it is as though he hates G-d.
Elsewhere Sifri teaches (Matot 157):
Moses told them, “You are not taking the revenge of flesh and blood, but of Him Who brought the world into being, as it says, 'The L-rd is a zealous and avenging G-d' (Nachum 1:2)”.
To forgo such revenge is wrong, indeed, abominable! The issue here is not personal revenge, which is not only permissible to forgo, but forbidden to carry out (Lev. 19:18): “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people”. Our sages said (Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim, 4), “You may take revenge and bear a grudge against others [i.e., non-Jews],” and Yalkut Shimoni (Vayikra 19:613) states, “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you may do so against non-Jews.”
As Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane points out in his commentary on the Parasha:
[...] when Pinchas and the Israeli army return from battling Midian, Moses angrily questions Pinchas: “Have you saved all the women alive?!” Concerning this, the Ramban quotes the “Sifri”: “Pinchas answered Moses: As you commanded us, so we did!”
Pinchas assumed that this war was the same as any other obligatory war (milchemet mitzvah) or permissible war (milchemet reshut), whose laws are outlined in Deuteronomy 20:10. In most of these wars, only males are to be killed (with the exception of obligatory wars against Amalek or against the nations who dwelled in the land previously, where all are to be killed, including women and children). We can now understand what Pinchas meant when he said, “as you commanded, so we did.” He meant, as you commanded us in the Torah.
And so when Moses saw that Israel left the females alive, he explains, “Behold, these (specifically the females) caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Bileam, to revolt against the L-rd in the matter of Pe'or, and there was a plague among the congregation of the L-rd.” Moses is teaching us a vital lesson here: There is another category of war – a war of vengeance. As opposed to the regular wars, where the laws are pre-set regarding who is to be killed or spared (see Rambam, Hilchot Melachim, Ch. 6), the wars of vengeance are a direct response to what was done to Israel. It takes into consideration specific actions of the enemy in the past. Therefore, the way in which the enemy is treated varies from one war to another, depending on the specific circumstances. In the case of the war against Midian, which was fought to avenge what the women of Midian did, it would have been proper for the Jewish army to make the women of Midian the very first victims. And so, we have learned a principle regarding a war of vengeance – that the type of vengeance which is exacted, depends on what or who is being avenged.
[As Rav Meir Kahane continues in The Jewish Idea]: The Torah dons sackcloth over the distortion of the concept of revenge, which has become a a target for the arrows of all Jewish Hellenists and worshippers of the [Western] alien culture, as if revenge were negative and evil by nature.
The very opposite is true! No trait is more justified than revenge in the right time and place.
G-d, Himself, is called “Nokem”, Avenger: “The L-rd is a zealous and avenging G-d. The L-rd avenges and is full of wrath. He takes revenge on His adversaries and reserves wrath for His enemies” (Nachum 1:2). Our sages also said (Berachot 33a), “Shall we say that even revenge is great because it appears between two names of G-d? 'A G-d of vengeance is the L-rd' (Ps. 94:1). R. Elazar responded, 'Indeed. Where revenge is necessary, it is a great thing'” [see Rashi].
“It is a great thing!” It is a great mitzvah to take the revenge of the righteous and humble from the evildoer. Whoever forgoes or rejects such an opportunity is cruel, and he denies belief in G-d.
The evildoers' presence in the world and their taking control of it constitute a challenge and threat to G-d's exclusive sovereignty. It is thus imperative to rid the world of them.
Therefore, regarding Israel's war against its enemies, also enemies of G-d, our sages said (Tanchuma, Shoftim 15):
“When you go forth to battle against your enemies” (Deut. 20:1): What do the words, “against your enemies” add? G-d said, “Go forth against them as enemies. Show them no mercy, just as they show you none.”

Our sages said, “Go forth against them as enemies,” not as friends. These evildoers will never care about your welfare, so you should not care about theirs. This is the ethical, philosophically based law of G-d. Regarding one's enemy, there is no room for love and forgiveness. On the one hand, he will not show loving pity for Israel if he has the opportunity to dominate it. As our sages said (Yalkut Shimoni, Devarim 20:923, quoting Eileh HaDevarim Zuta):
“When you go forth to battle against your enemies”: If you take pity on them, they will go forth to battle against you. It is like the shepherd who used to watch his sheep in the forest. He found a wolf cub and took pity on it, letting it suckle from the goats. His employer saw this and said to him, “Kill it! Take no pity on it or misfortune will strike the flock.” The shepherd did not heed him. When the wolf was grown, it would see a lamb or kid and kill it. His employer then said, “Did I not tell you to show no pity?” Moses said the same to Israel: “If you take pity on them, then 'Those that you let remain shall be as thorns in your eyes' (Num. 33:55).”

A curse upon those who falsify G-d's attributes! Hillel clearly gave us a great principle when he said, “That which is hateful to you do not do to your fellow man – this is the whole Torah.” Yet he concluded, “The rest is commentary. Go learn it!” (Shabbat 31a). The principle has a commentary and only an ignoramus, fool or charlatan would ignore it and intentionally conceal the end of Hillel's utterance. Does this great principle apply to the way we must approach a non-Jew who is an enemy of the Jewish People? Must a Jew put himself on equal terms with a cursed, wicked non-Jew who thirsts for his blood? Anyone with the least bit of Talmud under his belt, anyone who has studied even a small measure of Shas [Mishnah] and Poskim [halachic authorities], will understand how ridiculous this is.
Love thine enemy? Is he our “neighbor”, our “re'a”? Read not “re'a” but “ra”, evil! He is an evildoer, an enemy. There is no obligation to be friendly to him. Quite the contrary, our sages declared (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:4): “'Harass the Midianites' (Num. 25:17): Why? 'For they harass you' (Ibid.). Our sages accordingly accordingly said, 'If someone comes to kill you, kill him first.'” We must kill him, not love him.
At the same time, we must not relate lovingly and forgivingly to those who rise up against G-d, and the law is that any enemy who rises up against Israel is considered to have risen up against G-d.
The rule is this: Whoever conquers his evil impulse and his false thinking, will go on to uproot evil and take revenge on evildoers because of G-d's command, clinging to G-d's traits and without any personal interest. Then he will be called merciful and saintly for having eradicated evil.
To our sorrow, and once more due to the terrible exile in which we were blinded by the alien culture, G-d's attributes have been corrupted and distorted, deliberately so by those who cast off G-d's yoke and with depressing ignorance by a large portion of the holy camp. It has reached the point in which war and revenge against the nations and the sanctification of G-d's name through Jewish victory have entirely disappeared from our agenda. Yet, in the original Jewish idea, precisely as we received from Sinai laws of the Sabbath and of separating meat and milk, so were we given laws of war and revenge, which are practical laws during this pre-Messianic era in which we live.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'The Jewish Idea' of Rav Meir Kahane, HY"D, and from 'The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY"D'.