Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Parashat Ki Tisa - For My Name's sake - Rav Meir Kahane

Moses pleaded before Hashem, his G-d, and said, “Why, Hashem, should Your anger flare up against Your people, whom You have taken out of the land of Egypt, with great power and a strong hand? Why should Egypt say the following: 'With evil intent did He take them out, to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from the face of the earth' ? Relent from Your flaring anger and reconsider regarding the evil against Your people. (Ex. 32:11,12)

Hashem reconsidered regarding the evil that He declared He would do to His people. (Ex. 32:14)

[similarly, we find in Ezekiel 20:5, 21-22]:
But the children rebelled against Me. They walked not in My statutes nor kept My ordinances which if a man do, he shall live by them. [...] I said I would pour out My wrath on them, to spend My anger on them in the wilderness. Yet I withdrew My hand and acted for My Name's sake, lest it be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I brought them forth.
This last quotation, regarding Israel's sins in the wilderness and G-d's decision not to destroy them lest His Name be profaned, relates to the sins of the golden calf and of the spies.
The golden calf was an unbearably grave sin, and part of its punishment attaches itself to every single punishment brought upon the Jewish People, as our sages said (Sanhedrin 102a):
There is no punishment that comes to the world which does not contain a minuscule portion of the [punishment for the] golden calf, as it says (Ex. 32:34), “On the day I visit, I will take this sin of theirs into account.”G-d was furious at a nation which, less than forty days after He revealed Himself at Sinai and they said they would first fulfill the Torah and only then seek explanations, exchanged their glory “for the likeness of an ox that eats grass” (Ps. 106:20). G-d decided to destroy this sinful nation, as it says (Ex. 32:10 ), “Now do not try to stop Me when I unleash My wrath against them to destroy them” and (Deut. 9:14), “Leave Me alone and I will destroy them, obliterating their name from under the heavens.” Moses, in his infinite love for the Jewish People, prostrated himself in prayer and entreaty for forty days and forty nights to tear up the evil decree, and none of his arguments had any effect – except for one!
It says (Deut. 9:25-29):
Because the L-rd said He would destroy you, I threw myself down before Him for forty days and forty nights. My prayer to the L-rd was, “L-rd G-d! Do not destroy Your nation and heritage, which You liberated with Your greatness and which You brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Pay not attention to the stubbornness of this nation or to their wickedness and sin. Do not let the land from which You took them say, 'The L-rd brought them out to kill them in the desert, because He hated them and was powerless to bring them to the land He promised them.' After all, they are Your people and Your heritage. You brought them out with Your great power and Your outstretched arm.”
“Powerless!” Moses, the faithful shepherd who sacrificed himself for his love of Israel, entreated G-d on behalf of his people and cried out his last argument: “What will the nations say, in ridicule and mockery? Surely they will curse and blaspheme G-d , scornfully claiming that He is 'powerless'”.
Israel were the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, chosen to be G-d's holy treasure, His special nation. Their destruction would have constituted G-d's reneging on His covenant due to inability to fulfill it.
For this reason alone, “G-d refrained from doing the evil that He planned for His people” (Ex. 32:14).
[About 1400 years later,] R. Yishmael ben Elisha was the last Kohen Gadol before the destruction of the Second Temple. It was clear to R. Yishmael in his holiness and divine inspiration that G-d was about to pour out His wrath on His nation, His land and His Temple.
[See] Berachot 7 a:
One time I entered the Holy of Holies to bring the incense, and there I saw Akatriel Y-H, the L-rd of Hosts, sitting on a high and lofty throne. He said to me, “Yishmael, My son, bless me!” and I said to Him, “May it be Your will that Your mercy should conquer and override Your anger, and You should treat Your children with mercy, going beyond the letter of the law,” and He nodded His head to me.
These words are hard to understand [...]. Does G-d need a blessing from mortal man on Yom Kippur, when He judges and rules over the whole world? Even stranger is R. Ishmael's blessing. How did he know that G-d would find it favorable?
R. Yishmael knew that G-d was about to destroy His Temple and exile His children, which would lead to terrible Chilul Hashem. The nations' derisive question, “Where is their G-d?” would deprive G-d of His sovereignty, and He, too, would be in exile and servitude, so to speak.
R. Yishmael understood that in this “zero hour”, G-d desired a solution that would spare His having to profane His name through the exile of His children and destruction of His Temple.

[We learn from this that for the sanctification of His Name G-d is even willing to forgo strict justice.
But if so to speak, G-d can overcome himself and bridle His anger for His Name's sake, this must be reciprocated by us overcoming ourselves, even our love for others and our personal values, for His Name's sake and His eternal values]

When Moses saw the terrible Chilul Hashem of the golden calf episode, in which “they exchanged their glory for the likeness of an ox that consumes grass” (Ps. 106:20), he immediately understood that only self-sacrifice and Kiddush Hashem would save Israel from G-d's ire.
It therefore says (Ex. 32:26-27, 29):
[Moses] announced, “Whoever is for the L-rd, join me!” All the Leviim gathered around him. He said to them, “This is what the L-rd G-d of Israel says: Let each man put on his sword ... Let each one kill [all those involved in the idolatry], even his own brother, close friend or relative”... Moses said, “Today you shall be spiritually completed as a tribe dedicated to th L-rd, with a special blessing. Men have been willing to kill even their own sons and brothers [at G-d's command].”
Because of the self-sacrifice and Kiddush Hashem of the Leviim, which demonstrated their complete trust in G-d, G-d replaced the firstborn, chosen originally to be G-d's priests, with Leviim: “I have now taken the Leviim in place of all the firstborn Israelites” (Num. 8:18) G-d did this only because they had reached the pinnacle of self-sacrifice and Kiddush Hashem, when they were ready to kill their relatives and parents. This act demonstrated that their love of G-d superseded even their love for their most cherished relative.
Following is Ramban (Ibid., v. 26):
Seeing that the people were an object of ridicule in their neighbor's eyes, this being a Chilul Hashem, he stood at the gates of the camp and cried out, “Whoever is for the L-rd, join me!” (Ex. 332:26). He publicly killed all those who worshiped the calf, so that Israel's enemies should hear and the Name of Heaven should be sanctified through them, instead of the Chilul Hashem they had perpetrated.
Or HaChaim (Ex. 32:29) relates to the killing of Israelites:
We might think that someone who did such a thing was spiritually flawed, possessing cruelty associated with wickedness. Moses therefore said, “Today you shall be spiritually completed” (Ex. 32:29). This is not a command, but an announcement that this day their spiritual powers would be made complete. Their deed was not a sign of any spiritual flaw. Quite the contrary, their “willingness to kill even their own sons” (Ibid) signified their approaching spiritual perfection.
The pinnacle of bitachon, sacrificing oneself for Kiddush Hashem, involves being ready to elevate one's love of G-d above one's love of people.
[Similarly] G-d commanded us regarding the apostate city. If we hear of a city led astray by evildoers, such that its inhabitants went and worshiped idols, we must destroy that city and all its inhabitants with their property, until it remains an eternal ruin.
Kill all the inhabitants of the city by the sword... Burn the city along with all its goods, entirely, to the L-rd your G-d... The L-rd will then have mercy on you, and in His mercy he will make you flourish... (Deut. 13, 16-18)
No mitzvah in the Torah is harder for the Jew than to destroy an entire Jewish city, and his whole nature rebels against this command. [If this goes even for a Jewish city, please understand its implications regarding non-Jewish entities in the Land of Israel!] If, all the same, he overcomes his selfishness and suppresses his evil impulse via this mitzvah, how great shall be his reward! How fully has he brought G-d, the Supreme King, to reign over him and accepted G-d's yoke. It is truly as if he has fulfilled all the mitzvot.
Imagine how hard it is, how cruel it is for a person to obey G-d with such self-sacrifice as this!
Yet, only in this way will G-d sanctify His Name and bring the redemption.
Our sages, likewise, said (Pesikta Rabbati, 31):
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning” (Ps. 137:5): R. Elazar HaKapar envisioned G-d saying: “My Torah is in your hands and the end of days is in My hands, and we both need each other. Just as you need Me to bring the end, I need you to keep My Torah, to hasten the rebuilding of My house and of Jerusalem. Just as I cannot possibly forget the end, as it says, 'Let My right hand lose its cunning,' so have you no right to forget the Torah, which stated, 'From His right hand went out a fiery law for them' (Deut. 33:2).”
Listen well, O Israel! G-d, Himself, decrees His dependency upon Israel, so to speak, our “both needing each other.” Had our sages not said this, who could have dared express it? Yet, once they did say it, how can we continue our rebellion against G-d, a rebellion rendered foolish and inane in light of these words? After all, G-d admits, so to speak, that in order to hasten the building of Jerusalem and the Temple, in order to return once more as King, thereby sanctifying His Name and eliminating the terrible Chilul Hashem, He needs Israel. That is, it is enough if Israel resume Torah observance, and then, for His own sake, to sanctify His Name, He will return to Eretz Israel and bring the redemption. Thus, G-d is “dependent” on us, and why should we not understand this?
One might ask: Why does G-d enable flesh and blood to dictate decrees to Him?
The answer is simple:
G-d fiercely longs to sanctify His Name, profaned daily by the nations, but He demands that Israel sanctify His Name first through complete and perfect faith and trust in G-d. They must take hold of the dangerous, frightening mitzvot which leave them isolated and alone with the nations opposing them, for only this can prove their real trust in Him.

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

Sunday, February 24, 2013

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 "

Monday, February 18, 2013

Parashat Tetzaveh – A Hebrew lesson from linen and wood – Rav Meir Kahane

You shall make a linen ['שש'] Tunic of a box-like knit. You shall make a linen ['שש'] Turban and you shall make a Sash of embroiderer's work. For the sons of Aharon you shall make Tunics and make them Sashes; and you shall make them Headdresses for glory and splendor. (Ex. 28: 39-40)

You shall make for it two gold rings under its crown on its two corners, you shall make on its two sides; and it shall be housings for the poles [לבדים] with which to carry it. You shall make the poles [הבדים] of acacia wood and cover them with gold. (Ex. 30:4-5)

In the Temple, שש and בד ['Shesh' and 'Bad'] were eternal symbols of our duty to trust in G-d, Who created the universe and directs it, Who 'brings low and raises up' (I Sam. 2:7).
שש and בד evoke the shesh [שש also meaning six] from the six days of creation, through which G-d, alone [לבד] and set apart [בדד], created the world.
The purpose of Creation was the Exodus from Egypt. That is, G-d created the world so mankind would know His greatness and might, praise and extol Him, and seek to emulate Him in thought and conduct. The Exodus concretely showed the world G-d's greatness and might, when He withdrew His nation from servitude to a nation from which until then not one slave had managed to escape, and established Israel as the Chosen People who would make known G-d's might to the world.

There is great significance to G-d's having called the ark poles [and, accordingly, the staves of the altar in our Parasha] a בד, ['Bad'] and not a מוט, ['Mot', also meaning stave or pole], because while 'Mot' can mean something that carries, it also connotes falling and collapse, as in, 'The earth trembles and totters ['mot hit'motet']' (Isaiah 24:19); and, 'All the foundations of the earth totter ['yimotu']' (Ps. 82:5). Thus, 'Mot' can mean both ascent and lifting up, as well as falling down. This is the connection between 'Mot' and 'Matah' [מטה]— meaning 'down'. Moreover, the person without strength collapses in bed ['mitah',מיטה]. 'Mavet' [מות]— 'death' — is also tied to 'Mot', for death is permanent collapse.
Thus, every rod fashioned by man to strengthen and support, carry and lift, can ultimately break and collapse. Yet, the rod G-d commanded to be made to carry the ark cannot collapse and break, because it symbolizes the power of G-d, Creator of the Universe, of Whom it says, 'G-d established the earth upon its foundations that it should never ever collapse' (Ps. 104:5); and, 'The world is established. It cannot collapse' (Ps. 93:1).
The ark pole is not a 'Mot' — it cannot collapse. Whoever trusts in what the ark pole represents, G-d's infinite power, will never falter. As it says, 'He will never let the righteous collapse' (Ps. 55:23), and, 'The righteous shall never collapse' (Prov. 10:30). The 'Bad' is not a 'Mot', but the symbol of Divine mastery and monarchy, of the yoke of His kingdom which will never collapse. The 'Mot', on the other hand, symbolizes the yoke of the nations which G-d broke during the first redemption: 'I am the L-rd your G-d Who brought you out from Egypt where you were slaves. I broke the bands of your yoke and led you forth with your heads held high' (Lev. 26:13).
So will G-d break the yoke of the nations in the future, as it says, 'They shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from those who enslaved them' (Ezek. 34:27).
On the one hand, G-d called the pole a בד 'Bad'. On the other hand, He established for the kohanim, the holiest segment of the holy nation, linen [בד as well as שש also means linen] garments: 'The kohen shall put on his linen [בד] garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh' (Lev. 6:3). Likewise, on Yom Kippur we find, 'He shall put on the holy linen [בד] tunic, and have linen pants on his body. He must also gird himself with a linen sash and bind his head with a linen turban. They are holy garments'(Lev. 16:4).
We find the same thing when David dances before the ark: 'David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the levi'im who bore the ark, and the singers... And David had upon him an ephod of linen'(I Chron. 15:27). Metzudat David comments, 'The linen ephod was akin to the ephod of the Kohen Gadol, and was reserved for those who isolate themselves in the service of G-d.'
Precisely when the Kohen Gadol is dressed in linen, and precisely when he stands between the ark poles [Badim], the poles of faith and trust in G-d, does the Kohen Gadol perform the Yom Kippur service. The holiest man is Israel on the holiest day in Israel performs the service dressed in linen, as stated above, and standing between the poles [בדים].
Indeed, linen garments were reserved for those isolating themselves in Divine service in the Temple, for they were the symbol of the Master of the Sanctuary Who created His world in six ['Shesh'] days. G-d therefore decreed that His kohanim must serve Him in linen garb, called 'shesh' [שש].

Following is Or HaChaim: “Israel shall thus dwell securely”: When? When they are alone. “They shall dwell” naturally follows “He shall proclaim, 'Destroy!'” G-d commanded Israel to annihilate every soul of the inhabitants of the land. By doing so, “Israel shall dwell securely, alone[בדד].”
The Jew who believes and trusts in G-d, in בדים, will arrive at truth and faith and tranquility, whereas he who trusts in man, in human strength, will arrive, G-d forbid, at, 'How does the city sit alone' [בדד](Lam. 1:1).
To our sorrow, those who try to pervert the separatist faith and trust of 'a nation that shall dwell alone [לבדד]' (Num. 23:9) by claiming that it is forbidden to rile up the nations, and that the Jewish People, even when powerful, still depend on the nations, have no faith and distort the whole concept of trust in G-d.
Yet faith and trust in G-d are no small matter. The Jewish People must prove their trust in G-d by difficult, frightening, and sometimes ostensibly dangerous acts, acts that demand of Israel courage, acts which by their very nature show disdain for the non-Jew, anger him and threaten to bring a confrontation between him and Israel, and all must be performed with complete faith and trust that if Israel do what is decreed upon them, then G-d, too, will fulfill what He promised His treasured nation.
We must know and grasp this great principle, which is the key to speedy, magnificent redemption, without suffering or tragedy. A brilliant redemption, in which G-d's promise of “haste” (Isa. 60:22) is fulfilled, will come only when the Jewish People are alone, set apart, in isolation, and trusting fully in G-d to defeat our enemies.

[Dear readers, I'm aware that this Parasha commentary is difficult to follow, especially for those who don't know Hebrew. The commentary is excerpted and compiled from the Chapter 'Faith and Trust' of Rav Meir Kahane's book 'The Jewish Idea' and I tried to condense the explanation that the Rav ztz”l gives in this chapter. While working at it, it became clear to me that the translation into English itself is part of the problem: it is not really possible to transmit what in Hebrew is an elegant and powerful interpretation based on Hebrew word roots, into English and leave it intact, despite the great, good job that Raphael Blumberg did. And doubtlessly, my 'condensation' obfuscated it further. Someone famous, I forgot who, once said 'A translation is like a kiss through a handkerchief' – probably, a condensed translation is like a folded handkerchief - so, good luck in trying to get the best out of it... Tzipora]

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parashat Terumah - The holiest object on earth - Rav Meir Kahane

“They shall make an Ark of acacia wood” (Ex. 25:10)

G-d established the whole framework of a holy Temple, holy objects and holy people (Kohanim and Levi'im) to create a miniature world, perfect and complete, holy and pure.
It was meant to symbolize the larger world and to guide us in how our world is supposed to look. 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.

The ark is the essence of the Tabernacle and the Temple, both of which were established for its sake. As Rashbam wrote (Ex 25:10), “For the sake of the ark, which is the essence of “they shall make Me a sanctuary”(Ex. 25:8), it was necessary to make a Tabernacle.” This accords with Shemot Rabbah, 34:2:
First it says, “Have them bring Me and offering” (Ex. 25:2), and then, “Make an ark of acacia wood” (v. 10). Just as the Torah preceded everything, so too, in the fashioning of the Tabernacle, the ark preceded all the other vessels. The reason that the ark came first was that the two tablets and the Torah scroll were inside it. The ark was the only object standing inside the Holy of Holies behind the partition [parochet]. G-d made it the holiest object on earth, when He confined, so to speak, His Divine Presence, and spoke to Moses from between the two cherubs: “I will commune with you there, speaking to you from above the ark cover, from between the two cherubs that are on the Ark of Testimony”(Ex. 25:22); and, "Moses would hear the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubs on the ark cover over the Ark of Testimony. The L-rd thus spoke to him”(Num. 7:89).
G-d made the Ark “His place”, so to speak, in this world, thereby making it a symbol of His omnipotence, isolation and aloneness, a symbol that we must trust in Him alone, as Hezekiah said when he prayed to G-d to save the city from Sennacherib (II Kings 19:15): “O L-rd, G-d of Israel, Who sits upon the cherubs. You are G-d, alone, of all the kingdoms on the earth. You made heaven and earth.”
Indeed, the ark was the earthly seat of G-d, “Who sits upon the cherubs”, and it became a symbol of G-d's omnipotence and Israel's obligation to trust in Him. R. Shmuel bar Nachmani said (Pesikta DeRav Kahana 123a):
Wherever Scripture uses the term “Master” [adon], it alludes to G-d's uprooting one group and bringing in another. The prototype is, “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Master of all the earth” (Josh. 3:11). There G-d uprooted the Canaanites and brought in Israel.
Thus the Ark is the symbol of the L-rd of all the earth, its Creator and Master, Who removes nations from lands – the Canaanites and Ishmaelites – and brings in other nations – Israel – and none can protest.
Yet the ark symbolizes more than that, for it also symbolizes G-d's ability to control and alter all the laws of nature, laws He established. Following is Bereshit Rabbah, 5:7:
“Joshua said to the Children of Israel, 'Come hither'” (Josh 3:9): R. Huna said, “He made [the Children of Israel] stand between the two poles of the ark.” R. Acha bar R. Chanina said, “He made them lean between the two poles of the ark.” The Rabbis said, “He made them fit precisely between the two poles of the ark.” Joshua said to them, “From the fact that you all fit between the two ark poles, you know that the Divine Presence is among you.”
G-d transformed the ark into the symbol of His control over the laws of nature, for here, the smaller contained the larger. Where was this? “Between the poles”, the poles with which the Levi'im carried the ark.
Our sages likewise said (Sotah 35a):
As soon as the last Israelite ascended from the Jordan, the water returned to its place: “As the Kohanim who bore the ark of the covenant of the L-rd came up out of the Jordan, as soon as the soles of their feet were drawn up onto dry ground, the water returned to its place” (Josh. 4:18) [...] It turns out that the ark and its carriers and the Kohanim were on one side, and the rest of Israel were on the other. The ark carried its carriers, and it crossed...
For this Uzza was punished, as it says, “When they came to the threshing-floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark”
(I Chron. 13:9). G-d said to him, “Uzza, if the ark carries its carriers, surely it can carry itself!” And the L-rd's anger was kindled against Uzza, and He smote him there for his error” (II Sam. 6:7).
Thus, here, too, the ark took control of the laws of nature when it carried its carriers, demonstrating to Israel the Law of Faith and Trust: G-d's ark does not need carriers. Rather, it carries itself as well as all those who ostensibly carry it. For this reason, it was forbidden to carry the ark in a wagon. Being able to carry itself, it needed no help. Yet, G-d decreed that the ark must be carried on shoulders to emphasize that if Israel “carried it on their shoulders” (i.e. accepted the yoke and burden of the ark), then the ark would carry them always.
Whoever forgets this law and tries to “help” G-d is punished, all the more so that someone who thinks the ark and its Master lack the power to help, and instead trusts in the nations, commits an unbearable sin.
The ark is the symbol of G-d's place int the world, and the poles that carry it are the concrete symbol of G-d's unlimited power, His omnipotence, greatness and majesty.
G-d desired that these poles – symbolizing G-d's greatness and our duty to trust in Him infinitely – would be before the eyes of Israel always. He therefore decreed a wondrous decree:
The Kohanim brought the ark of the covenant of the L-rd to its place, into the Temple sanctuary, into the Holy of Holies, even under the wings of the cherubs... The ark poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place, even before the Sanctuary, but they could not be seen outside. (I Kings 8:6, 8)
Our sages comment (Menachot 98 a):
“The ark poles were long”: I might think they did not touch the partition. It therefore says, “They were seen.” If they could be “seen”, I might think they tore through the partition to the other side. It therefore says, “They could not be seen without.” How can this be? They pushed and protruded against the partition like a woman's two breasts, as it says, “My beloved is unto me as a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts” (Song of Songs 1:13)
The Talmud's point is that G-d wished every Jew who came to the Sanctuary to always see the poles and remember what they symbolized: that we are obligated to have perfect, complete faith in G-d's omnipotence. Yet since the partition separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple, G-d established that the poles should stretch so far that they abut the partition, protruding like a woman's breasts. Thus, whoever passed by saw the protrusion and drew the lesson.
[...] Woman is the symbol of man's love and desire, for there is no love in man's nature greater than his love for woman. Precisely for this reason G-d created man and woman, so they would be bound together with fierce love and desire, ready to sacrifice for each other and to give of themselves to an extent unheard of in any other relationship. They would be willing even to sacrifice their lives for each other, so strong is that love. Being so fiercely bound to another human being is the apex of man's breaking down his selfishness, arrogance and evil impulse. G-d created this bond so that man would understand from it – at least in part – how powerful must be his love for G-d. Thus, if a husband is ever unfaithful to his wife, it constitutes betrayal of the true concept of love and a dreadful lie looming over the marital relationship. G-d decreed that this must be an exclusive relationship founded on mutual trust, a symbol of the prohibition against the dreadful sin of polytheism, worshiping idols as well as G-d (Ex.20:3).
Observe the fierce love between Israel and G-d, which is always compared to the love between a man and woman, the fiercest love man can imagine. G-d compared the ark poles to a woman's breasts. This would seem to be the reason that one of G-d's names is Shad-dai [Hebr. shad = breast].
Likewise, as we have written, the cherubs hug each other, like the love between man and woman. How fortunate one would be to reach this level of love for G-d!

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

Parashat Mishpatim - Slave of G-d or slave of man? - Rav Meir Kahane

“But if the bondsman shall say, “I love my master, my wife and my children- I shall not go free;” then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever.” (Ex. 21:5-6)

The Jew is commanded to ascend via humility and lowliness and to break down his own egotism. He is obligated to liberate himself from his enslavement to himself and to be a free man vis-a-vis everyone but G-d. To be a slave to mortal man or to oneself is a profound sin. If the slave of a Jew does not wish to go free [after six years], his ear is pierced with an awl, and our sages explain (Kiddushin 22b):
How is the ear different from all other parts of the body? G-d said, “If one's ear heard Me say on Mount Sinai (Lev. 25:55), 'The Children of Israel are slaves to Me', slaves to Me, not slaves to slaves, and he still went and acquired a master for himself, that ear must be pierced.”
R. Shimon ben Rebbe's exposition on this verse was like a gem: How are the door and the doorpost different from all other parts of the house? G-d said, “They were witnesses in Egypt when I passed over the lintel and the two doorposts, saying, 'The children of Israel are my slaves', and not slaves to slaves, and I took them out of bondage. And this person went and acquired a master for himself? Let his ear be pierced in their presence.

A man of flesh and blood should not take another human being as his master, neither should he be a slave to himself. He is G-d's slave.
The Torah commanded us to keep laws and statutes which conceptually serve as a constant reminder of how abominable is conceit and how essential humility. In actual fact, the first commandment given to Israel when they ceased their bondage to mortal man was one intended to imbue them with humility; namely, the commandment to burn one's chametz [bread and other forms of leaven] before Pesach (Ex. 12:19; 13:7). Chametz, with its yeast which causes dough to expand, is a symbol of conceit which inflates a person's ego, enslaving and destroying him. The person enslaved by his pride and lust, the arrogant man who rebels against his task here on earth, rebels against the purpose of his and the world's having been created. He rebels against his Creator.
By contrast, someone who suppresses his evil impulse, overcoming his pride and lust, fulfills his task in the world.
This is man's whole purpose, the reason for his having been formed: to know G-d, cling to His attributes and fulfill His commandments. Within this very process, itself, comes self-effacement, subjugation of the evil impulse and a declaration: “The L-rd is G-d and there is no other – surely not myself – besides Him.”
Therefore, precisely during our season of freedom and national pride, when we celebrate liberation from the arrogant Egyptians and when exaltation would have been befitting and proper, G-d commanded base humility so Israel would remember that vis-a-vis G-d, they would always remain slaves, serving Him forever. As our sages said (Sifri, Shelach 115):
When G-d redeemed the seed of His beloved Abraham, He redeemed them not as sons but as slaves. Whenever He made a decree and they rejected it, He would say, “You are My slaves”. When they wnet out to the desert, He began to decree a few severe commandments and a few lighter ones... and Israel began to rebel. He said to them, “You are My slaves. I redeemed you on condition that I be able to decree and have you obey.”
Now, instead of being slaves of G-d, a title which is no disgrace, but the greatest praise a person can receive, we have become slaves of slaves.
Observe what our sages said (Sifri, Vezot HaBerachah, 357): “Slave of the L-rd” (Deut. 34:5): The Torah is not defaming Moses but praising him. We find that the first prophets were called slaves, as it says, “For the L-rd G-d does nothing without revealing His counsel unto His slaves the prophets (Amos 3:7)

[Similarly we find in Rabbi Kahane's “Peirush haMaccabee” on Shemot, Chapter 2, regarding the Kohen:]
The Kohen is the one who serves and obeys, like a slave before his master. The Torah says: And Malchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; and he was a Kohen of G-d, the Most High [which the Targum Onkelos renders: “and he served before G-d Most High”]. And he [Malchizedek] blessed him [Abram] saying: Blessed be Abram to G-d, the Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth (Genesis 14:18-19). Here we see that a Kohen of G-d is the person who begins with the understanding that Hashem is indeed the Possessor of heaven and earth – space, time, everything. And what exactly does the word koneh (“possessor”) really mean? – He is the Owner and the Master, because He has acquired everything by having created everything (as Rashi puts it: By having made them, He acquired them as His own). And this Kohen is a slave of G-d, and he is called by His Master’s Name because what the slave acquires his master acquires, because the slave is no more than his master’s hand. The Kohen in Israel is the one who has been sanctified to serve G-d in His Holy Temple, and only someone like that is worthy of placing Hashem’s Name on the nation, as the Torah says: And they [the Kohanim] will place My Name on the Children of Israel, and I will bless them (Numbers 6:27). The Torah also says: And you [Moses], draw close to yourself Aaron your brother and his sons with him, from among the Children of Israel, to minister to Me (Exodus 28:1).
...Aaron and the Kohanim were chosen to minister to Me, to be the slaves who would serve and obey Hashem in ministering to Him. They have been acquired as slaves to G-d the Most High, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth, and every day they testify to His omnipotence, and that He is Hashem, L-rd of Legions.

A slave of G-d is obligated to accept the yoke of his Master in heaven. He is lowly and belittles himself out of fear and reverence for his Master, the L-rd, and he esteems and praises Him as much as he can, as great, mighty and awesome. Precisely of all these reasons, precisely due to his fear of G-d, his fear of flesh and blood falls away. Any slave of G-d will never be a slave to a slave, i.e., to flesh and blood. Whoever truly stands in fear and trembling before the exclusive power and might of G-d will never fear mortal man, who comes from dust and returns to dust.
Such is the fear of G-d: Whoever stands in fear and trembling before G-d's majesty, astonished at His power and might, greatness and omnipotence, is at once seized with fear and reverence for his Maker and King; yet at the same time, all fear of flesh and blood leaves him, for of what importance is man?
Woe to us that, due to the curse of the exile, we have violated G-d's terrible prohibition which states, “The children of Israel are My slaves. They are My slaves because I brought them out of Egypt. I am the L-rd your G-d” (Lev. 25:55).
Due to our fear of the nations, we have become slaves to them of our own doing. We, thus, deserve the punishment of the slave whose ear is pierced: “He shall then serve his master forever” (Ex. 21:6).
Whoever takes a flesh-and-blood master because he fears him and relies on him and leans on his strength and kindness, denies the existence of G-d, the Supreme Master. Not only does he do this, but he profanes G-d's name (Torat Kohanim, Behar, 9): “The children of Israel are My slaves... I am the L-rd your G-d” This teaches that whenever Israel go into slavery here on earth, Scripture treats it as if G-d is going into slavery as well.” The simple meaning of this is that G-d took Israel out of Egyptian bondage to sanctify His name by showing the nations His power and might. Hence, when Israel once more become enslaved, where is G-d's power and where is His might? There is no greater Chilul Hashem than this. It is as though G-d is being enslaved by the nations, so to speak.
Now if it is so when a nation attacks Israel and enslaves them, what can we possibly say when a Jew fearfully enslaves himself to the non-Jew? Could any Chilul Hashem be greater? We must don sackcloth and ashes!
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 on 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, constitutes a humiliating affront to our people, and worse, a profanation of the great name of the Supreme King. If it suited the lowliness of the exile, when we were unwilling slaves to the nations, powerless to raise ourselves up to defend ourselves, how dare we bring that same disgraceful concept into the holy land, the land of G-d. While G-d has afforded us the greatest, most powerful miracles since the Hasmonean victories, we have remained that same exilic product, that same slave to the nations and slaves to slaves, with that same base spirit which led G-d to decree what He decreed against our ancestors in the desert.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” and “Peirush haMaccabee – Shemot” of Rav Meir Kahane HY”D