Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Parashat Shelach – Fatal Error - Rav Meir Kahane

All the Children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the entire assembly said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this Wilderness! Why is Hashem bringing us to this Land to die by the sword? Our wives and young children will be taken captive! Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?” (Num. 14:2-3)

It is a mitzvah, a Divine decree, that we must live in Eretz Yisrael under G-d's dominion, sanctifying His name, in order to create a holy state and society which clings to mitzvot completely and properly, uninfluenced by the alien, false culture of the nations.
At the same time, it is an unforgivable, loathsome sin to refuse to live in Eretz Yisrael, and to prefer the depravity of the exile and foreign rule. It is a chilul Hashem, and Israel are, thus, exposed to the influence of the nations and their abominations.
G-d, therefore, was angry at our ancestors in the desert when they refused to go up to Eretz Yisrael and called out, “Let us appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:4). Surely the spies Moses sent out were prominent and righteous, as our sages said (Tanchuma, Shelach, 4):
“Send out men” (Num. 13:2): This is in line with, “He that sends a message by the hand of a fool, severs his own feet and imbibes damage” (Prov. 26:6). Were the spies fools? Surely the Torah said, “Send out men (“anashim”),” and “anashim” always refers to righteous persons... Rather, they were called fools only because they slandered the Land... All the same, they were great men who made themselves into fools.
[As Rabbi Meir Kahane puts it in Peirush HaMaccabee – Shemot, Ch. 3]:
Incidentally, this also teaches the bitter lesson that even the greatest of men can become a “fool” in the Torah sense of the word, if he lacks faith. As the Talmud says: What can cause the tzaddikim to have less than their full share in the World to Come? – Their lack of faith (Sotah 48b). Here, their lack of faith caused the spies to put out an evil report of the Land of Israel, and G-d therefore said: For how long will this nation fight against Me and for how long will they refuse to believe in Me? (Numbers 14:11). The leader of the generation has to be perpetually on guard, to ensure that his fear of heaven is greater than his wisdom, because without fear of heaven, his wisdom will not endure. He has to work to ensure that his faith is securely anchored in his fear of heaven. And we all have to be aware that even a leader of the generation can err – especially in matters of faith.
Likewise, Num. 13:3, “All the men were leaders of the children of Israel,” was rendered by Targum Yonatan as, “All were wise men who had been appointed heads of the children of Israel.”
Thus, they were great and righteous men, yet they sinned in turning their backs on Eretz Yisrael and wishing to settle down in the exile, in Egypt. As King David said, “They scorned the Desirable Land, they believed not His word” (Ps. 106:24).
Ostensibly, they had a good argument, pikuach nefesh, i.e., they wished to prevent loss of life. The spies said of the Canaanites, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight” (Num. 13:33). They were certain that the war against the Canaanites would be severe, and it would be hard to defeat the giants. Moreover, even if they defeated them, a few Israelites would fall. After all, we do not rely on miracles.
For that reason, these great and righteous men rendered a halachic ruling that pikuach nefesh overrides all areas of Eretz Yisrael; it overrides Eretz Yisrael in its entirety. They certainly did not intend to abandon G-d's Torah, but rather to return to Egypt and keep it there. This, however, was their sin, because G-d had decreed that it was forbidden for them to dwell outside the Land, and that only in Eretz Yisrael could they sanctify His name and live in the isolation of Torah. For that reason, no danger to the nation overrode Eretz Yisrael, the only place the Jewish People could keep the Torah completely and properly.
A war over the mitzvah of living in and conquering Eretz Yisrael is a milchemet mitzvah, which no danger to life overrides.
Quite the contrary, this mitzvah overrides such danger, as Ramban wrote in Sefer HaMitzvot, Ibid., Mitzvah 4):
This is what our sages call milchemet mitzvah. In the Talmud (Sotah 44b) Rava said, “ Joshua's war of conquest was an obligatory duty according to all opinions.” One should not make the mistake of saying that this mitzvah only applies to the seven nations we were commanded to destroy... That is not so. We were commanded to destroy those nations when they fought against us, and had they wished to make peace we could have done so under specific conditions. Yet, we cannot leave the Land in their control or in the control of any other nations in any generation.
Fear of the nations is just one dismal reason the Jewish People treat the Desirable Land with contempt (longing for the good life is another). Precisely because of this delusion that the exile is safe but Eretz Yisrael is dangerous, G-d became angry and decreed death in the desert for the generation that left Egypt, adding, “You said your children will be taken captive, but they will be the ones I will bring there, so that they will know the land that you rejected” (Num. 14:31). Those who feared that they and their children would die in Eretz Yisrael died precisely in the desert, whereas their children entered the Land and lived. This teaches that the only security for the Jewish People is in Eretz Yisrael, whereas the exile is their burial place. Our sages said (Torat Kohanim, Bechukotai, Ch. 1): “'You will live securely in your land' (Lev. 26:5): In your land you will live securely, but not outside it.” Likewise, Obadiah said (v. 17), “Upon Mount Zion there shall be deliverance.” In other words, in Zion but not in the exile.
G-d, Who knows His people's mind, knew, as well, that Israel would always prefer the non-Jewish life of the exile, whose abominable depravity is so sweet to the sinner among us. As King Solomon said, “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Prov. 9:17). G-d, therefore, decreed that Israel would never find safety and security in the exile. Bereshit Rabbah 33:6 teaches:
“He sent out the dove... I t could find no place to rest its feet” (Gen. 8:8-9): “Had it found a place to rest, it would not have returned. Just so, it says, 'She dwells among the nations; she finds no rest' (Lam. 1:3); and; 'Among the nations you shall have no repose; there shall be no rest for the soles of your foot' (Deut. 28:65). If Israel found rest in the exile, they would not return.”
Thus, G-d decreed that Israel would never find permanent rest (“manoach”) in the exile, and whoever says that they really can find it is an “ignoramus” [in Berachot 61a, R. Nachman calls Samson's father Manoach an “ignoramus”].
Not in vain did our sages (Mechilta, Bo, 1) compare the exile to a cemetery, for if Israel refuse to dwell in Eretz Yisrael, if they spurn it for the depravity of the exile, they have no future, but suffering, tragedy and annihilation.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Parashat Beha'alotcha – Jews refusing orders – Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

In Parashat Beha'alotcha, we are witness to a unique event: the choosing of leaders. The Torah even “lets us in” on which factors played part in how these Jewish leaders were chosen.
In chapter 11 of our Parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu reaches his breaking point - “I can't carry the burden of this people alone, for it is too heavy for me”, and asks G-d to find people who can share the burden of leadership with him. How does G-d pick these leaders? After all, there was no shortage of righteous and talented Jews around.
G-d immediately singles out a specific group from which the next Jewish leadership will be chosen:
“Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them.” Rashi explains: “Those whom you recognize, who were appointed over them as officers in Egypt during the rigorous labor, and they (the officers) had pity on them (the Israelites) and were smitten because of them.” Though this may appear a rather surprising choice, a deeper probe into the matter will reveal to us a tremendous lesson, so pertinent for today. Who in the world were these Jewish police officers? In Shemot Chapter 5, Pharaoh lays down a rather heavy if not impossible edict on his Jewish slaves. They must produce a specific quota of bricks without even being given straw. The Jewish officers were ordered by the Egyptian taskmasters to oversee that this quota was met. If not, the officers would be blamed for it and beaten. Thus, they were in a dilemma. Either they can turn over their brothers and by doing so save their own skin, or they can refuse orders and be severely punished for it. In short, these “officers” were supposed to be Jewish “kapos”. But these policemen, unlike others who have been placed in similar situations in our sad history, refused to bear down on their already suffering brethren, and did not hand over the names of Jews who could not meet the quota. The result? The Egyptian taskmasters thrashed the “refusenik” policemen instead of the Jewish slaves: “And the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten...” (Shemot 5:14)
If we think of this seriously, and not relate to it like to some “fairy tale” we heard in kindergarten, we would get goose bumps all over contemplating such heroism. What can be a more inspiring description of Ahavat Yisrael and caring for a fellow Jew by someone in a position of authority. Not only didn't they exploit their power, but these officers understood that sometimes they must bear the suffering of their brothers. This is what G-d saw. And He did not forget. The minute there was a need for leadership, He knew whom to turn to. G-d did not seek out people with charisma, nor did he pick talented organizers or even Torah scholars. One thing: Ahavat Yisrael.
The centrality of this attribute cannot be disputed. The two greatest leaders in Jewish history, Moshe Rabbeinu and King David, were former shepherds. The sages teach us that G-d tested them via their ability to care for their flock and show mercy on those they are responsible over.
Here we must stress a key point. Today, everyone speaks of “Ahavat” Yisrael. But too often it is merely a slogan. When selecting the leaders, G-d did not choose those who make nice speeches about “Ahavat Yisrael”. G-d wanted people with a “previous record”: a record of suffering for one's brothers; a record of placing one's personal welfare secondary to that of one's people.
How sweet it is to read again and again this Midrash about the Jewish policemen. After all, we are so familiar with the claims of the soldiers and policemen in Israel today: “I'm just a small cog in a big machine. I'm just following orders.” But that is not what the Jewish policemen did to their brothers in Egypt. The policemen saw the illegality and immorality in the cruel Egyptian decree, and refused the order! It is important to note that mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the Jewish People is not necessarily the readiness to die for them. Sometimes it may mean the readiness to be hated for your actions; the willingness to sit in jail for your people; or to be ostracized by the establishment.
Such leadership stands in stark contrast to the self-indulgent politicians of today. But know that only when such alternative leadership sprouts, Am Yisrael will be redeemed.

From ' The Writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY”D ', commentary on Parashat Beha'alotcha

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Parashat Bamidbar - Dear Jew, you are precious to G-d! - Rav Meir Kahane

Hashem spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai ..., saying: Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel according to their families, according to their fathers' household, by numbers of the names, every male according to their head count. (Num. 1:1-2).

Tanchuma, Bamidbar, 20, teaches:
A man had glass vessels, and he would take them to the market, set them out and gather them back up without ever counting them. Because they were of glass, he did not keep track of them.
He had other merchandise, fine pearls, which he would count before taking to the market, before setting them out, and before gathering them back up. Because they were pearls, he loved them. In the same way, so to speak, G-d said, “I did not count the nations, since they have no importance for Me, as it says, 'all the nations are as nothing before Him, they are accounted before Him as things of naught and vanity' (Isaiah 40:17). Yet, you, Israel, 'are borne by Me from birth, carried by Me from the womb' (Isaiah 46:3). Therefore, I count you constantly.”
Thus it says, “Make a tally of the male firstborn among the children of Israel” (Num. 3:40)

Israel are G-d's “reshit”, first and foremost among all the nations, and superior to them all. Israel are also G-d's firstborn, as it says, “You must say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the L-rd says: Israel is My son, My firstborn'” (Ex. 4:22). The word for firstborn, bechor, is close to the terms bachur and nivchar, connoting selection, because the firstborn is the one G-d selects, and then “the birthright – bechora – is legally his” (Deut. 21:17), the bechira, i.e. selection.
It is probable that the word bechira, selection, which includes examination and thought about what and whom to choose, is close to the word bakar, a root meaning to examine, clarify and choose, as in the verse, “No distinction must be made – lo yivaker – between better and worse” (Lev. 27:33).
Israel are G-d's chosen people, His treasure, His children, majestic and royal. As R. Shimon said (Shabbat 128a), “All of Israel are the children of kings.”
And R. Ashi said in Zevachim 19a:
Huna bar Natan told me, “I was once standing before[the non-Jewish]King Izgadar, and my sash was too high and he lowered it, saying: 'The Torah calls you "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"' (Ex. 19:6).
My father and teacher [Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Kahane ztz”l] once pointed out to me that, unfortunately, a large segment of the nation, and perhaps a majority, acknowledge their Jewishness only because of the hatred of the non-Jews who do not allow them to assimilate and disappear. For this, a Jew who keeps Torah and mitzvot is obligated to recite the blessing “She lo assani goy” (“Who didn't make me a non-Jew”) which [also] can be translated “That not the non-Jew made me [be a Jew]”. Rather, I myself, chose to be part of the Jewish People because of G-d's Torah.
Israel endures forever! And why? What do they have that the nations of the world lack? Is their skin different? Is there no wisdom among the nations? Surely, our sages explicitly said (Echa Rabbah, 2:13), “If a person says, 'There is wisdom among the nations', believe him.” Rather, there is only one difference between Israel and the nations. 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 Jew called up to the Torah blesses loudly and with joyous devotion, the One “Who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah.” Regarding our sages' utterance (Bava Metzia 85b) that the Second Temple was destroyed because Israel “did not recite the blessing over the Torah before studying Torah,” a great rabbi once commented that they did not make sure to say “Who chose us from all the nations,” which is the content of the blessing recited before reading from the Torah. So great is Israel's selection from among all the nations!
How great is our duty to be happy and thank G-d every single moment for pour having been born as part of the chosen people, supreme and holy! Our sages established that each day before morning prayers we must say, “Happy are we! How good is our destiny, how pleasant is our lot, how beautiful our heritage!” How disgraceful it is that a Jew is ashamed of taking pride in his role and in his exalted spiritual level, fearful of what the nations will say, trying to belittle the importance and definition of Israel as a chosen, supreme people! Consider the blight of exile and servitude. Observe how it has made the alien culture rule over us and harmed our healthy spirits. What healthy nation would not want to be chosen, treasured and unique? It was in response to this that King David said, “In You did our fathers trust; they trusted, and You did deliver them. Unto You did they trust, and were not ashamed” (Ps. 22:5-6). Faith and trust in G-d must be without shame. What times these are, when belief and trust have turned into something “illogical” that a Jew is ashamed to talk about openly. Likewise, the concept of chosenness has become a source of mockery and scorn. Under the sway of the alien culture, it has become a negative, racist concept and many good people have been ashamed to take pride in it; hence the separation between Israel and the nations has been blurred. Listen, my friend, and cast off all your shame regarding the superior status given you. Rejoice in your exalted inheritance!
The way the Hellenists and assimilationists fear the nations' reaction is just part of what compels them to deny Israel's selection. Infinitely worse is the influence of the alien culture which has so penetrated their bones that the idea that there really is a nation chosen from all the rest and spiritually superior appears to them an abomination. Surely they are hostages of the nonsensical concept of equality, which brings everything – goodness and evil, wisdom and folly, the genius and the simpleton – to one standing. Nothing brings greater ruin than this foolishness, and regarding this alien culture it says, “Do not bring any offensive idol into you house, since then you may become just like it. Shun it totally and consider it absolutely offensive, since it is taboo” (Deut. 7:26); and, “Let nothing that has been declared taboo there remain in your hands” (Ibid., 13:18). A thick wall divides Israel from the nations, a Divine partition which separates between the sacred and the profane, between Israel and the nations. Indeed, holiness and separateness descended upon us from Heaven as a beloved pair, bound to one another by Divine decree.
Our sages said (Tanchuma, Kedoshim 5): G-d said to Israel, “I am not like mortal man. With mortal man, non-royalty are forbidden to have the same name as the king.” As proof, when a person wishes to get his fellow man into trouble, he can call him by the emperor's name, and that man's life will be forfeit. Israel, however, were called by G-d's name. Every lovely name G-d had, He called Israel by it. He called Himself Elokim and He called Israel Elokim, as it says, “I said that you are elohim [G-d-like beings]” (Ps. 82:6). G-d was called chacham, wise, as it says, “He is wise of heart and mighty in strength” (Job 9:4), and He called Israel chacham, as in, “This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people” (Deut. 4:6). He was called dodi, “my beloved”, as it says, “My beloved is white and ruddy” (Song of Songs 5:10), and He called Israel His beloved, as it says, “Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” (Ibid., v. 1). G-d was called bachur, “select”, as it says, “select as the cedars” (Ibid., v. 15), and He called Israel select, as it says, “The L-rd your G-d selected you” (Deut. 7:6). He was called chassid, “saintly”, as it says, “I am saintly, says the L-rd” (Jer. 3:12) and He called Israel saints, as it says, “Gather My saints together unto Me” (Ps. 50:5). He was called holy, as it says, “Holy, holy, holy is the L-rd of hosts.!” (Isaiah 6:3); and, “For the L-rd our G-d is holy” (Ps. 99:9), and He called Israel holy, as it says, “You must be holy” (Lev. 19:2).
Consider what our sages said about the greatness, holiness, supremacy and belovedness of Israel – that even though G-d is the G-d of all living creatures, He still associated His name exclusively with Israel. As Shemot Rabbah, 29:4, teaches: “G-d said to Israel, 'I am the G-d of all creatures on earth, but I did not associate My name with any but you. I am not called the G-d of the nations but the G-d of Israel.”
Pesikta Rabbati (10) teaches, “G-d said to Moses, 'Moses, exalt this nation as much as you possibly can, for it is as though you exalt Me.'”

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