Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
If there will be among you a man who will not be clean because of a nocturnal occurrence, he shall go outside the camp ... For Hashem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camp so as to save you and grant you victory over your enemy. Your camp must, therefore, be holy, so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you. (Deut. 23: 10, 11, 15)
The milchemet mitzvah of the Jewish People is not like the wars of the gentiles. Rather, its conception and birth are in holiness. Following is Rambam (Hilchot Melachim 7:1):
In both compulsory and noncompulsory war, a Kohen is appointed to address the nation during the war and he is anointed with the anointing oil. He is the one called the mashuach milchamah, the “anointed for war”.
Israel goes into battle behind the anointed of war. He defines and determines the nature of the war, sanctifies it through his words to the people and makes certain that Israel go to war in holiness and with trust in G-d.
Such is Jewish warfare! It is based on holiness, on faith and trust in G-d that if someone fights the wars of G-d, evil will not befall him since he is fighting for the sanctification of G-d's name.
The phrase “to save you and grant you victory over your enemies” means as follows:
First G-d will save you from yourselves, by warning you about everything evil so that you will be holy. Only then will He grant you victory, saving you from them. Sifri (258) comments, “If you do everything stated regarding this matter, G-d will ultimately save you and grant you victory over your enemies.”
The Jewish war camp must be holy, as is fitting for a war over the sanctification of G-d's name. Nothing inflames the passions more than war, when acts generally forbidden become permissible. Given such license, the evil impulse attempts to take control of a person, and no temptation is more powerful than the sexual impulse. If women were allowed to be part of a military camp during wartime, the sins incurred would outweigh the merit earned for a milchemet mitzvah.
There would be no avoiding licentiousness and promiscuity (as in the modern Israeli army camp, Heaven help us, when the Jewish state has not adopted Jewish laws of warfare).
The army camp would, thus, be transformed from a holy camp, free of impurity and abomination (see Sforno, Ibid.) to a licentious camp. If it became so, a war meant to sanctify G-d's name would become a stage for sexual sin, the height of profanation of G-d's name.
Therefore, a woman should not go to war with men.
Scripture warns against sin where sin is most prevalent. It is known that soldiers going to war customarily consume every abomination, rob and steal, and are unashamed to commit adultery and every other outrage. The most upright person, by nature, becomes cruel and vicious when the camp goes forth against the enemy. Scripture therefore warned, “You must avoid everything evil” (Deut. 23:10).
Sifri (Ibid.) comments, “This teaches that sexual sin causes the Divine Presence to withdraw.”
Thus, sexual sin endangers the troops, for without the Divine Presence there will be no victory. The Torah, therefore, forbade women going to war with men, even in a milchemet mitzvah, so as not to turn the mitzvah into a sin.
A Talmid Chacham does not go off to war either, even for a milchemet mitzvah. R. Elazar said (Nedarim 32a): Why was Abraham punished such that his descendants were enslaved to the Egyptians for 210 years? It is because he conscripted Talmidei Chachamim; “Abraham called his students [to battle].” (Gen. 14:14).
We must be aware that “Talmid Chacham” refers only to someone whose Torah study is his sole occupation, someone totally absorbed in Torah study day and night, who never leaves it for anything in the world, a person who together with his study is crucial to his generation.
There are two types of Talmidei Chachamim.
The first is the one whose Torah study is his sole occupation. This individual is totally immersed in constant Torah study. Such a Talmid Chacham does not cease Torah study even to fulfill time-bound positive precepts incumbent on him personally,, if they are of Rabbinic origin, for example, the Shemoneh Esreh according to most opinions. He ceases only for precepts of Torah origin, such as the Shema.
The other Talmid Chacham, the one whose Torah study is not his sole occupation, must cease study for every time-bound positive precept incumbent on him personally, even those Rabbinic in origin. Likewise, he must cease study even to do a mitzvah not specifically incumbent on him personally, i.e., a mitzvah of the community.
Milchemet mitzvah is a communal mitzvah upon which the future of the Jewish People depends. It follows that any Talmid Chacham whose Torah study is not his sole occupation, who does not sit day and night studying Torah without earning any living or taking any vacation, will be obligated to stop studying so as to involve himself in milchemet mitzvah. Obviously, he should do this specifically in the “holy camp” framework, lest he fall prey to sin and abomination. Only the true Talmid Chacham, whose Torah study is his sole occupation, will be exempt from taking part in this mitzvah, because it can be performed by others. Yet listen to this, dear friends, and remember it: Not everyone who wishes to claim such a title may do so. If someone cloaks himself in the mantle of a Talmid Chacham whose Torah study is his sole occupation when he is unworthy of this, only to shirk the mitzvah of going to war, sanctifying G-d's name, taking G-d's revenge and assisting Israel against the attacking foe, he is a shedder of blood and his sin is unbearable. As Rambam said regarding the person commanded to fight (Hilchot Melachim 7:15); “If he does not strive to be victorious and does not fight with all his heart and soul, it is as though he has shed everyone's blood.” What shall we say about him who was obligated to fight and did not fight at all?
When it comes to the enemies of Israel who attack and beleaguer us and desire to destroy us, we are certainly required to smite them until they are consumed. It is a mitzvah – a milchemet mitzvah.
The law states clearly that “assisting Israel against the attacking foe”, which constitutes a milchemet mitzvah, refers not just to an enemy who attacks with intent to annihilate Jews, but to every attempt to hurt or plunder as well, even just theft. Obviously, it includes a situation where non-Jews demand a portion of the Land of Israel, for there is an outright prohibition against giving part of the Land to a non-Jew, as we shall see.
Eruvin 45 teaches: “In a border town, even where the non-Jews are not attacking to kill Jews but just demanding hay and straw, we go forth armed to attack them, even violating the Sabbath to do so”. Rashi comments: “Lest they capture it, making the rest of the Land easier for them to capture.” Rashi's point is that for this reason we go forth even on the Sabbath. Yet, regarding the actual law of assisting against an attacking foe, surely, the very fact that non-Jews are demanding even just hay and straw or money and taxes is enough reason to attack them, and that is a milchemet mitzvah.
Likewise, it is clearly forbidden by a grave Torah prohibition to let a non-Jew steal even the smallest part of the Land of Israel. After all, there is a prohibition forbidding us even to diminish the spiritually pure area of the Land of Israel (Moed Kattan 5b): “We do not put a marker marking a spiritually impure area far from that area, so as not to lose part of the Land of Israel.”
Due to our sins, the reason we were exiled from our land, the laws of war have been so corrupted and confused by so many fine students that ignorance on this matter has surpassed all limits. Some have no understanding whatsoever of what a milchemet mitzvah is, and in their blindness ask whether the war between us and the Arabs today is such a war. Woe to the ears that hear this!
It is a great mitzvah to hate evil and evildoers, and even to wage war against them, it is an even greater mitzvah to love goodness and the righteous, i.e., those whom G-d has defined as good and righteous. The mitzvah to love one's fellow Jew, one of the Torah's foundations, dictates that a Jew must save the life of every other Jew who is in danger. This is a mitzvah incumbent on an individual, and how much more so regarding the community. It is part of “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), yet it also stands independently (Ibid., v. 16): “Do not stand still when your neighbor's life is in danger.”
Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'The Jewish Idea' of Rav Meir Kahane, HY"D
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The fear of G-d! The thoughtful, contemplative person who sees G-d's wonders is astonished by the greatness of Him Whose word brought the world into being and embarrassed by his own insignificance. Fear takes hold of him – the fear of G-d.
[King] Solomon said, “The fear of the L-rd is the beginning of knowledge”(Prov. 1:7).
The beginning, the first essential element in a person's wisdom and knowledge, if he is to understand what his task is and where he is going, is the fear of G-d, vanquishing his ego and accepting G-d's yoke. If one merits this, the whole world is his. Otherwise, better he was never born. Without fear of G-d, wisdom is nothing but conceit and a tool to self-advancement. Even one's Torah lacks holiness, modesty and purity, and without these it is not Torah. Does G-d desire mere wisdom and brilliance in Torah? Does He need vain argumentation and polished, sophisticated explanations? Is not all wisdom His? Just as He has no need of candle light, so has He no need of the Torah scholar's wisdom. As our sages said (Shemot Rabbah 36:2), “It is not that I need you. Rather, shower light upon Me the way I showered light upon you.” In just the same way, G-d does not need the Torah, yet He gave it to mortal men for their own good so they would subdue their egos and cling to Him. Hence, if there is no fear of G-d, the Torah becomes mere wisdom, and better that man should not study it.
It is impossible to lead a sinless life without the fear of G-d. It therefore says (Lev. 19:14), “Fear your G-d. I am the L-rd.” Fear is the purest element there is and it naturally guarantees the absence of sin. Such is the intent of Psalms 19:10: “The fear of the L-rd is pure; it stands firm forever.” Fear, dread and reverence bind a person so he does not sin.
How difficult it is to acquire the fear of G-d! Man's arrogance and evil impulse incite him to distance himself from that trait. For this reason, before R. Yochanan ben Zackai passed away, he blessed his students as follows (Berachot 28b), “May it be G-d's will that as much fear of Heaven be upon you as fear of mortal man.” His students then asked, “Is that all?” and he responded, “You should be so fortunate as to achieve just this! Consider that when people sin they say, 'I hope no one sees me' [i.e., they do not fear G-d, Who sees all.]”
Our sages had the same intent when they said (Sotah 3a), “No person sins without suffering first a flash of insanity.” After all, any sane person will recoil from committing any sin, for G-d can see him! Would anyone sane steal, smite or murder while a policeman is standing by? Thus, if someone who believes in G-d still sins, it can only be that at that moment his thinking processes were so clouded and his selfishness and lust so overwhelmed him that he dared to sin under G-d's gaze.
It is, thus, quite important that a person always set G-d or one of the commandments before him. This is fundamental to fearing G-d. If someone envisions a commandment before him, it is as though he sees the One Who commanded it. How can he not tremble with fear?
“I set the L-rd ever before me” (Ps. 16:8): This verse [...] Rama saw as appropriate to insert at the very beginning of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:1):
“Setting G-d ever before you” is an exceedingly important principle of the Torah and of those saintly individuals who walk before G-d. The way a person sits and moves and behaves at home alone is not the way he sits and moves and behaves before a great king... And when he notices that G-d, the Supreme King, Whose glory fills the earth, stands over him and sees his deeds... how much more so will he be filled with reverence and humility out of his fear and constant shame before G-d.
Envisioning G-d constantly in one's presence serves to magnify one's fear of Him. Without such fear, man has no hope, and that is why G-d requires it. (Berachot 33b): “Everything is in G-d's hands but the fear of G-d: 'And now, Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d require of you but to fear Him' (Deut. 10:12).” Whoever examines the entire verse will see that it continues, “To walk in all His ways, to love Him, and to serve the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and all your soul.” In other words, these last achievements are fulfilled through the fear of G-d. Without such fear, one cannot possibly achieve holiness, for one's ego will always take control.
That same faith in G-d which leads us to fear Him, and subsequently to modesty, lowliness and self-effacement, ultimately leads man to recognize G-d's greatness, omnipotence and omniscience. It creates in us the desire and longing to serve G-d wholeheartedly, to emulate Him and to be with Him always. Such longing is called Ahavat Hashem, the love of G-d.
Fearing G-d, without which man cannot merit holiness of purity, is itself a prerequisite to loving Him, the second stage of man's spiritual growth as he proceeds to accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven. Loving G-d is a more exalted stage, as our sages said (Sotah 31a), “One motivated by love for G-d is greater than one motivated by fear.”
Fear ensures man's separating himself from evil, making it infinitely easier for him later on to attain reward. As King David said, “Turn away from evil and do good” (Ps. 34:15). Fear of G-d distances man from evil, whereas love of G-d ensures that he will do good, out of desire and craving for G-d and His commandments. The more a person ponders G-d's wonders and examines the truth of His attributes and moral code, the more he will understand how much wisdom and truth are contained in them and the more there will grow within him a love for the Master, Who is all goodness, kindness and mercy.
This is Israel's task, in love and joy, longing and desire, to bring the world to recognize G-d's majesty and sovereignty, the Divine greatness of His attributes and moral code, His laws and statutes.
Even so, just as the Torah spoke in human terms, so did G-d create human love. While such love cannot be compared to love for G-d, still, as far as man is concerned, such love is so fierce that it contains within it a slight hint of what we are commanded to feel toward G-d.
As the Rambam said (Hilchot Teshuvah 10:3):
What is befitting love for G-d? It must be so enormous and fierce that it bends man's soul to G-d. A man can be so lovesick for a woman that he is never free of his infatuation for her, whether he is at home, going out, getting up in the morning or eating. Our love for G-d must be greater even than that. We must be ravished with this love constantly, as G-d commanded us, with all our heart and soul. As King Solomon said (Song of Songs 2:5), “I am lovesick.” All of Song of Songs was a metaphor for man's love of G-d.
Rabbi Akiva likewise said, “The whole universe never had as much justification to exist as the day Song of Songs was given to Israel. While all the Writings are holy, Song of Songs is holy of holies” (Yadayim 3:5). The reason for this is both profound and clear: The greatest love that man can fathom is that between man and woman, in which the man is ravished and lovesick on her account.
Ultimately, that love will be so fierce and profound that it will capture his spirit and soul. It will be a love of true devotion, as it says, “To love the L-rd your G-d, to hearken to His voice and to cling to Him” (Deut. 30:20).
[As Rav Kahane put it in “Why be Jewish?” p. 179]:
This is how a Jew who knows G-d prays:
“Thou art the Flame and I the straw – and who should have mercy upon the straw if not the Flame?
Thou art Pure, and I am sinful – and who should have mercy upon the sinful if not the Pure?
Thou art the Supporter and I the falling one – and who should have mercy upon the falling one if not the Supporter? Thou art the Shepherd and I the flock...”
The words of the Jew who looks to the real G-d and who daily whispers: I believe, I believe, I believe ... I know!”
We certainly cannot achieve the infiniteness of the love with which we were commanded, over and over, to love G-d: “Love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, all your soul and all your might” (Deut. 6:5). We must actually love Him “with all our soul.” As our sages said (Sifri, Va'etchanan 32), “Even if He takes your soul.”
[How far this ultimate love goes we can learn from] Berachot 61b: When Rabbi Akiva was taken out to be executed [for teaching Torah in public, against a Roman decree], it was time to recite the Shema, and as they raked his flesh with iron rakes, he recited it. His students asked him, “Master! Does one's duty extend that far?” and he responded, “All my life I agonized over the verse, 'Love the L-rd your G-d... with all your soul' (Deut. 6:5), which means we must love G-d even if He takes our soul. I said, 'When will I have the opportunity to fulfill this?' Now that the opportunity has arisen, shall I not fulfill it?”
To bend the knee and bow the head and accept the Divine yoke, as one does “good” unto humanity in the way that the Almighty commanded – and then appreciate and hold Him in awe and love Him in a totality of body and soul. That is the purpose of man. [Rav Kahane in “Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews”].
Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'The Jewish Idea' of Rav Meir Kahane, HY"D, with brief excerpts from "Why be Jewish" and "Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews".
Monday, July 28, 2014
Faith and trust (emunah ve'bitachon) in G-d are the foundation of the Torah.
Our sages said (Makot 23b-24a): Six hundred thirteen mitzvot were given to Moses... David emphasized eleven of them... Isaiah emphasized six... Micah emphasized three... Isaiah returned and emphasized two... Habakuk emphasized one, as it says (Habakuk 2:4), “The righteous man shall live by his faith.”
Emunah, faith, means accepting and knowing clearly that G-d truly exists, that He created everything, and that He performed great miracles for Israel's sake. In other words, it is decisive knowledge regarding something in the past, i.e., that G-d indeed created the world and performed miracles for our ancestors in Egypt and at the Sea of Reeds, and everywhere else described in Scripture.
Bitachon, on the other hand, is the direct result of emunah, and points to the future. It is the conviction that just as in the past G-d performed miracles and wonders, He will do so for us in the future, as well, as shall be discussed below.
[...] Faith, emunah, relates to the creation of the world and everything in it ; the other aspect of faith is the belief that G-d performed great signs and wonders for our ancestors. Neither aspect is based on blind or theoretical faith, but on seeing, on real testimony. In Egypt and the desert, the Jewish People were direct witnesses, because G-d's miracles were performed before the eyes of all Israel. The Torah instructs us that throughout the Exodus, the plagues that broke Egypt were performed openly, so that Israel would see the reality of G-d, would believe in Him, revere Him and cling to His attributes and commandments.
The connection between the signs Israel saw and faith in G-d as Creator of the universe is alluded to in the Torah's starting out with Creation - “In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth” - and ending with the phrase, “all the mighty acts and great signs that Moses displayed before the eyes of all Israel” (Deut. 34:12). The mighty acts and the miracles and wonders performed before the eyes of Israel imbued them with the belief that G-d created heaven and earth, and that He is the One Supreme Power. The Torah's conclusion attests to its beginning. Such is faith.
Bitachon, trust, on the other hand, is the result of emunah. Since we believe that in the past G-d performed the things I have enumerated, we are certain that He is capable of doing so in the future as well, and that He will fulfill what He promised us. Whoever does not trust in G-d shows that he does not believe in G-d's power and ability, a sign that he does not really believe in G-d's existence. Bitachon, trust, includes also the idea that G-d is all-powerful and in charge of everything, as well as the central idea that we, lowly, weak and finite, are incapable of dealing alone with our adversaries and our troubles. Trusting in G-d means admitting that we are few and weak, that we need to raise our eyes to G-d for help. “Keep my soul and deliver me. Let me not be ashamed, for I have taken refuge in You” (Ps. 25:20); “Place your hope in the L-rd. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yeah, place your hope in the L-rd” (27:14); and, “Be strong, and take courage, all ye that place your hope in the L-rd” (31:25). From the last two verses, we learn the secret of true bitachon: it is exceedingly hard to withstand crushing misfortune, to stand on the brink of despair, and to trust in G-d all the same. This requires enormous strengthening, and it was for this reason that King David said “Place your hope in the L-rd.” Beset by misfortune, place your hope in the L-rd and trust in Him. If you try and it is hard, then “Be strong and take courage.” Fortify yourself and you will find the strength to trust in Him, and then your trust will strengthen you on its own.
The rule is this: Bitachon means a Jew's recognizing and acknowledging that he is a worm and not a man, dirt and dust, like a broken potsherd, weak and finite, and that only G-d can help him in times of trouble, because G-d is omnipotent and infinite, and none can stand against Him. The worse the situation looks, the greater the despair, the more one must strengthen himself with bitachon: “Many are the ills of the righteous man, but the L-rd delivers him from them all” (Ps. 34:20).
Rabbenu Bechaye says (Kad haKemach, entry: Bitachon), “Bitachon must not be tinged with doubt. Even if many evils befall a righteous man, he should serve G-d valiantly and truly trust in Him.”
Rabbenu Bechaye adds (Ibid.):
If someone has bitachon, then we know that he has emunah as well. Bitachon is like the fruit of a tree, and emunah is like the tree. Just as the fruit's existence signifies the existence of a tree or plant on which it grew, but a tree' s existence does not signify the existence of fruit, as some trees, such as shade trees, produce no fruit, so too does the presence of bitachon guarantee the presence of emunah, but not vice versa.
We should reflect well on this holy man's ostensibly puzzling comment that “emunah is no guarantee of bitachon.” Surely, someone who believes that G-d performed miracles for our ancestors, created the world and everything in it, and controls, manages and directs everything, will be certain that G-d will fulfill what He promised us if we follow His path and keep His mitzvot. Surely such a person will act accordingly, despite all the difficulties.
What then is the meaning of Rabbenu Bechaye's comment that emunah is no guarantee of bitachon? Is not bitachon a logical, necessary result of emunah? To our chagrin, it is not. Many fine Jews cry out heartfelt declarations of faith in G-d and in His omnipotence, yet few trust in Him and endanger themselves for the sake of His commandments and for the sake of sanctifying His name.
How easy and pleasant is it to declare one's faith, to make loud speeches about G-d's power and might in the days of old! Who among the Torah-observant does not declare his faith that G-d performed miracles and wonders in Egypt, or that He appeared from Mount Paran to give Israel the Torah? Who does not recite in synagogue the psalms in morning prayers, which state (Ps. 146:3,5), “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, through whom there is no salvation... Happy is he whose help is the G-d of Jacob.” Yet how many of all those who are proud of their daily recitation immediately before the morning Shemoneh Esreh, that “G-d redeemed us from Egypt... delivered us from the house of slavery, slayed all their firstborn... divided the Sea of Reeds, drowned the arrogant but took His beloved ones across,” carry through on their faith in the past with trust in the future?
The prime blight of our day is lack of bitachon, hesitating to trust in G-d, whether due to uncertainty over His true ability to help, fear of mortal man, or fear of “reality” which destroys fear of G-d and our trust in Him. This is so both regarding the individual Jew and the whole Jewish People. It applies both as far as our fears and worries regarding our personal future and private troubles and our fear of enemies threatening the Jewish People.
The same Jew who mumbles in his prayers, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we call upon the name of the L-rd our G-d” (Ps. 20:8), cannot understand how the Jewish People and their state will be able to hold out without chariots and horses. The banner of emunah, faith, which is so easy to wave and answer Amen to, demands nothing of a person.
Not so, however, bitachon, trust in G-d. Bitachon demands of a person that he act, accomplish, give, sacrifice, risk his life, he, himself, right now, all the while trusting that ultimately things will turn out well. Not every believer has bitachon. A person's lack of trust in G-d ultimately proves the weakness of his faith, or , G-d forbid, its falsehood.
[Tracing this back to our Parasha, we know that] both Joshua and Caleb demonstrated [...] trust in G-d. Even so, when G-d swore that Israel would not enter the Land, it says, “The only exception will be My servant Caleb, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly. I will bring him to the land that he explored.” Why was Joshua's name not mentioned here, when he, too, stood firm in his bitachon? It also says, “only Caleb son of Yefuneh will see the land... since he followed the L-rd wholeheartedly” (Deut. 1:36). Why, again, was Joshua omitted?
The answer is inherent in G-d's comment, in both Num. 14:24 and Deut. 1:36, that Caleb “followed him wholeheartedly.” Here we learn once more the need to have full bitachon. Our bitachon must express itself in readiness to sacrifice our lives to sanctify G-d's name, and this was evinced by Caleb but not Joshua. After the ten spies issued their bad report about Eretz Yisrael and incited the people, it says, “Caleb quieted the people for Moses and said, 'We shall surely go up and inherit it'” (Num. 13:30). He silenced them and began to express ideas which ultimately opposed those of the majority. He did not hesitate, although he knew the people's mentality and was aware of their stubbornness and what they had done to Chur [who had been killed]. He – not Joshua – was the first to rise up and try to blot out the chilul Hashem, and in doing so, he took a risk and was ready to sacrifice his life. Caleb “followed G-d wholeheartedly", thereby surpassing Joshua and meriting to be mentioned alone by G-d.
Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'The Jewish Idea' of Rav Meir Kahane, HY"D
Thursday, July 17, 2014
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'.
Given the present sensitive situation in Israel, I feel compelled to add the following legal disclaimer: This article relates to the weekly Parasha and is posted for purposes of study. This week's Parasha (Mattot) deals with the concept of national vengeance in the framework of a war (against the Midianites) and the article explores the opinion of Rabbi Meir Kahane and Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane on the matter. The article is absolutely NOT meant to encourage any readers to resort to individual acts of "vengeance" or vigilantism or any activity that is against the law.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
[It is] G-d's decree that the Jewish People must remain apart, separate from the nations, so as to be cut off from their abominations, and their alien culture.
Toward that end, G-d established for the Jewish People a special land of their own, the Land of Israel. There and there alone they would live lives of G-dliness and build a perfect state and society based on Torah and holiness.
The concept of a Jewish People alone is tied to the concept that G-d is alone.
G-d is alone and cannot be compared or equated to anything else.
He is One and Unique, as it says (Deut. 4:35), “You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that the L-rd is G-d and there is none besides Him”; and, “To Him Who alone does great wonders” (Ps. 136:4).
Just so, the Jewish People are alone, set apart from all the nations, as it says (Lev. 20:26), “I have separated you from the nations,” and, “It is a people that shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9).
Just as G-d stands apart from every concept in the world, so must Israel remain separate from all the other nations of the world. This is the intent of Ps. 148:13-14: “Let them praise the name of the L-rd, for His name alone is exalted... He has raised the honor of His People, the glory of His faithful followers, the Children of Israel, the nation close to Him. Praise the L-rd!”
Although G-d is alone, and Israel are obligated to remain alone, they are still “the nation close to Him”. Between G-d and Israel there exists intimacy amidst total isolation.
G-d is close to the nation set apart; ready to help them against every trouble and foe. As it says (Deut. 32:12), “G-d alone guided them. There was no alien power with Him”; and,“Israel shall thus dwell securely, alone” (Ibid., 33:28).
He [G-d], alone, determines the fate of individuals, nations and kings, and we need not fear mortal man and his armies or being alone.
[As we find in Peirush HaMaccabee,] the Gentile sees physical greatness and might, and measures his chances of success accordingly. Balak, for example, told Balaam, Now, come and curse for me this nation, for it is mightier than me (Numbers 22:6). The Jew, however, knows that he is the fewest of all the nations (Deuteronomy 7:7) – yet he is exalted above all those nations if he is faithful to G-d’s covenant: Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand (Leviticus 26:8).
Nonetheless, for those of no faith, or even of little faith, isolation is a frightening concept. Even observant and G-d fearing Jews are fearful of this concept.
The person of weak faith longs for friends and allies, for help from strong nations against the surrounding dangers. Yet whoever relies on the non-Jew and his aid, and fears that without such aid the Jews and their land will be unable to survive, has been caught by lack of complete trust in G-d, bordering on denial of His existence. The individual Jew and the Jewish People as a whole will not be forgiven if they abandon their faith in G-d, the Supreme, Omnipotent King, Who rules over the world and over the nations. He, alone, is our salvation.
Precisely this proves one's true faith and trust, for it is impossible that one who fears mortal man really believes in G-d. Real trust in G-d requires the Jew both to trust in Him and cast off all fear of mortal man and reliance on human aid.
When one scorns the non-Jew's aid, this necessarily makes him trust in G-d. Conversely, as long as a Jew lifts his eyes in hope to the non-Jew and his aid, it is impossible that he will completely believe in the existence of G-d as a Supreme Power.
In conclusion, true bitachon (faith) means believing that G-d is all-powerful and is not impeded from saving the many or the few. It also means that if we obey G-d and His most difficult, ostensibly dangerous commands and mitzvot, no mortal power on earth can defeat us as a nation. Not only do we need not fear flesh and blood, but we are forbidden to lift our eyes to the nations and ask them for help.
Whoever accepts this principle of bitachon unreservedly, truly believes that G-d is the One Supreme Power, G-d of heaven and earth.
Whoever hesitates, whoever fears the non-Jew, shows that he questions G-d's ability to help His people. It is doubtful whether he completely believes in G-d as an Omnipotent Supreme Power.
“It is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 32:9)
The nations have no say regarding Israel's future. The non-Jew is only a tool in G-d's hands, as it says, “O Assyria, rod of My anger” (Isa. 10:5). That is, Assyria and the other nations are nothing but a tool in G-d's hand, a rod and a staff with which to smite anyone targeted by G-d's anger. Neither Assyria nor any kingdom or monarch can rule by themselves over others, or even over themselves, for indeed, “Like watercourses, the king's heart is in G-d's hand. He turns it whenever he desires” (Prov. 21:1). It thus says, “He shall drive the enemy before you and shall proclaim, 'Destroy!' Israel shall thus dwell securely, alone” (Deut. 33:27-28). Following is Or HaChaim (Ibid.):
“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”.
To our sorrow, those who try to pervert the separatist faith and trust of “a nation that shall dwell alone” (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. The Jew who believes and trusts in G-d, will arrive at truth and faith and tranquility, whereas he who trusts in man, in human strength, will arrive at falsehood and tragedy. This is because someone who trusts in G-d will attain the spiritual level of, “Israel shall thus dwell securely, alone” (Deut. 33:28); whereas someone who relies on his own arrogance or on the nations will arrive, G-d forbid, at, “How does the city sit alone” (Lam. 1:1).
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.
We must never forget the following great principle:
Whoever relies on the non-Jew and seeks his aid, repels the Messiah, pushes off the redemption and brings upon us G-d's wrath and ire. Redemption will come only when Israel are alone, without any outside protection or help. Only when the nations see, with wonderment and mouth agape, how mighty and strong G-d is without help, will G-d's name be magnified and sanctified on earth. Then shall the vision be realized before the eyes of the nations that “The L-rd alone shall be exalted in that day”(Isa. 2:17).
Moreover, Israel , stubborn and insolent, will never believe that G-d is their Redeemer, so long as they have even one gentile nation standing at their side. Only when “the L-rd alone is exalted on that day,” only when Israel sees that “G-d, alone, will direct them” (Deut. 32:12), will Israel believe in G-d and in the Torah of Moses His servant.
Indeed, this is how it will be: a nation alone with G-d alone, and both of them alone facing the whole world. Only in that manner will Israel's redemption come, and so to speak, of G-d, via, “Thus will I be magnified, sanctified and become known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the L-rd” (Ezek. 38:23).
Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea" and "Peirush HaMaccabee- Shemot" of Rav Meir Kahane, HY”D