Questions and Answers

Question: Is it true that you changed your position in the meeting of the heads of the Union of Hesder Yeshiva’s, as was reported in some of the media?

Answer: In general, I did not change my position, however, in one small issue, I did.

Two months ago I wrote that I “recommend not protesting while in the framework of the army,” and now, I join the vast majority of rabbi’s who expressed the position of “opposition to protesting while in the framework of the army.” The reason for this change is due to the fact that, in the meantime, I am still a member of the Union, and it is only fitting that I take into consideration and accept the majority decision, on the condition that the adjustment is not of a fundamental character. For example, if they had decided to criticize the protester’s, I would not have agreed (I will explain this at another opportunity). However, since the change is not fundamental, consideration of the majority opinion is appropriate.

Of course, regarding coercion to transgress prohibitions of the Sabbath, the expulsion of Jews from their homes, or similar issues, I have not changed my opinion, whatsoever. The other rabbi’s also agree fundamentally with this point.

My position not to sign any document under pressure from the authorities has also not changed. At the demand of Minister Barak or the Commander of Human Resources of the I.D.F., I will not agree to voice my opinion. However, I most certainly take into consideration my fellow colleagues and rabbi’s.

As far as meetings with minister’s and I.D.F. officers are concerned, if the meetings are organized in a respectful manner, I am more than happy to meet, as I did with Vice Minister Matan Vilna’i. However, if the meetings are improperly organized, under the heading of ‘summons’ or ‘hearing,’ or with the goal of applying governmental pressure to change a Torah position – I am not willing to meet.

Certainly, I will try my best to continue to fulfill my obligation to publically express my positions with integrity and honesty. This position – that every rabbi is obligated to express his opinions without fear – is also supported by many of the deans of the yeshiva’s. Even so, it must be pointed out that a few of them, including some who serve as directors of the Union, disagreed with certain things I wrote in my column ‘Revivim’. As I see things, it’s fine that there are different opinions and debates, as long as the discussion is businesslike and respectable.

Question: Why didn’t you make your acceptance of the position of the majority of rabbi’s rejecting protests in the army, conditional to having Yeshiva Har Bracha returned to the Hesder agreement?

Answer: On the contrary, I prefer things the way they are, even if the price we have to pay is the discontinuation of the Hesder agreement. It’s not proper to change one’s position in order to receive something from the Minister of Defense; however, it is proper to honor the position of the majority of rabbi’s with whom I share a common framework.

Question: The speaker of the Union of Hesder Yeshiva’s, Rabbi David Stav, said in his statement that it would have been proper for you to have appeared at Minister Barak’s ‘hearing’. Was this part of the decision of the rabbi’s?

Answer: There were those who believed so, however, many rabbi’s supported my position – it seems they were the majority. In any case, there was no decision on this issue, and therefore, the statement of Rabbi Stav was his own words, and not the opinion of the gathering. Either way, even if the majority had decided that I should have gone to the ‘hearing’, I would not have been able to accept their opinion.

Does Money Talk?

Question: Some people are claiming that because of the money your Yeshiva would lose, you submitted to the position of the Union of Hesder rabbi’s, while others say that you feared losing your personal salary.

Answer: The governmental allowance which a Hesder Yeshiva receives is indeed higher than that of a regular Yeshiva, however, the differences are manageable. It is relatively easy to operate a regular, non-Hesder Yeshiva, as can be seen by all the other Yeshivot.

Concerning myself personally, it is totally meaningless, for since its establishment until this day, I have not received a salary from the Yeshiva.

At another opportunity, I will write, b’ezrat Hashem, a few pieces of advice on family budgeting and the importance of giving charity. It seems that one who has a reasonable job and follows the advice of the Sages concerning the giving of charity and living modestly – if he does not encounter unusual troubles – his main problem will be what to do with all his extra money.

Stand Bravely for the Truth of the Torah

The Libel against the Torah and Rabbi’s

Claims have been made against us that “a soldier must have a commander, and it isn’t a rabbi.” The Minister of Defense accuses us of “destabilizing the foundations of Israeli democracy, inciting towards insubordination, damaging the sprit of the I.D.F., and there is no room for such things in a civilized state.”

There are deep controversies within Israeli society, however, now we are talking about a libel, against us and our holy Torah, whose words are good and correct. They are inciting the public to think that the rabbi’s are endangering the existence of the army, in order to arouse hate and confrontation towards the rabbi’s and their positions. Who would not be worried about those who endanger the existence of the army that is meant to protect us all? However, the truth is that there is absolutely no contradiction between the commander and the rabbi on issues of security, for Jewish law obligates one to listen to the commander, whether it is during military exercises, or in war. This is similar to the fact that there is no contradiction between Jewish law and doctors, for ‘pikuach nefesh’ (life-threatening situations) overrides even the Sabbath.

All the disagreements with the Minister of Defense are over issues that are in no way connected to security operations, but deal with the use of soldiers against their fellow Jews. Or, when a commander doesn’t allow soldiers to pray or wear ‘tzitzit’, without any connection whatsoever to security or operational issues. For this purpose, many commands of the General Staff were instituted in order to prevent a situation where arbitrary orders which contradict Jewish law, the collective conscience of all of us, would be imposed.

Second Lebanon War

In order to illustrate just how correct this is, and how much of a libel we are talking about, I will relate what I encountered during the Second Lebanon War. At that time, a large sector of the public was suffering the destruction of Gush Katif and the expulsion of the Jews from it. The Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Olmert, made a miserable statement that victory over the Hizbullah would enable the ‘hitkonsut’ (convergence) in Judea and Samaria. Some very upset people termed it “the War of Peace and Convergence.” A question arose from reserve-duty soldiers who received a call-up before the ground-forces were about to enter Lebanon: should they go to war?

I wrote in my column ‘Revivim’ that it was a mitzvah to go to war, for even when the heads of the army are problematic, and there are errors and obstacles in their commands, it is still a mitzvah to serve in the army. For when we did not have an army, our situation was far worse. Some women called, asking me: perhaps it’s better not to serve in the army, claiming that if we win in Lebanon, we will be causing a future loss in Judea and Samaria, and the danger will be even greater. I answered what I was obligated to answer according to my understanding of the halacha – that it is a mitzvah to be recruited. There were some women who pleaded to get a ‘heter’ (permission) for their husbands, fearing that perhaps because the army took part in the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, it hadn’t prepared properly for war, and the danger to the lives of their husbands would be increased. I answered that, of course, the decision was theirs, but if the question is what must be done according to the halacha, the answer is their husbands must be recruited. Since the women understood that it was a mitzvah, they calmed down a little, and were able to sleep at night. I, however, could not sleep.

I was sure that such a military command, who, for nearly two years dealt with the preparations for, and the expulsion of Jews, would not be able to defeat the enemy, because its basic outlook was distorted. Nevertheless, we are obligated to face the enemy together.

Therefore, on the one hand I wrote in ‘Revivim’ that it was preferable not to send in ground-forces for they wouldn’t know what to do once they were in. On the other hand I wrote that if it was decided to go to war – all those recruited were obligated. I prayed that everyone would return peacefully (all of these articles appear in my book ‘Revivim’ – ‘Nation, Land, Army’ pgs. 340-370). We had 150 students, regular soldiers, and reserve soldiers in Lebanon, and with the kindness of God, they all returned peacefully, with only one soldier moderately injured. And not only that, officers from the students of Yeshiva Har Bracha succeeded in killing numerous terrorists, and returned all their soldiers home peacefully.

The Defense Minister is Endangering Military Unity

The I.D.F. is the army of the people, and the boundaries of its use must be clear: to protect against the enemy. When the heads of the security system breach this basic rule, and use soldiers against their fellow countrymen, in the expulsion of Jews from their homes in the land of Israel – they are breaching the military unity. And here, indeed, contradiction is also created, between the halacha and the military command, for according to the decisions of the great Torah scholars of the previous generation – it is forbidden to expel Jews.

Instead of the Defense Minister distancing the army from any public dispute, and all the more so, not to impose orders which contradict Jewish law, he incites the public at large against the rabbi’s who supposedly are endangering military discipline.

The horrible results are double: first, the distancing of traditional and non-religious Jews from the holy Torah which was given to all of Israel. Secondly, the distancing of God-fearing Jews from the army, for they will say to themselves, if the heads of the army blatantly declare that it is forbidden for a religious soldier to accept the words of halacha from the rabbi’s, in other words, there is a conflict between guarding the Torah and serving in the army. Afterwards, the head of the Human Resources Division will complain that there aren’t enough soldiers, and why don’t the yeshiva students enlist.

The Paths of the Torah

This severe libel against the Torah and its bearers, as if there is a conflict between the existence of the state and following the ways of Torah, helped the non-religious parties rule the country, therefore, it’s not by accident that Minister Barak once again uses these arguments. However, the damage caused by it is severe. Many Jews were distanced from their heritage because of such arguments, to the point where the future of their families within the framework of the Jewish nation hangs in doubt. We, the bearers of Torah, also have a share in this. We closed ourselves up with individual questions dealing with the kitchen and our small communities, and neglected issues concerning ‘klal Yisrael’ and the society, and therefore the public at large is enticed to accept such arguments. The truth, though, is that the more we cleave to the Torah and draw from its treasures, the more blessing we will merit, both in our national and individual lives.

The Legacy of Rabbi Goren זצ"ל

Many readers have recently heard in the media threats from various army officers and the Minister of Defense to annul the ‘hesder’ agreement (where students combine army service and Torah studies) with Yeshiva Har Bracha. This is a good opportunity to talk about the first head of the Yeshiva from its inception. In the beginning, we wanted to establish on Har Bracha a ‘hesder’ yeshiva, whose students would combine three important mitzvoth: Torah study, army service, and settling the land. Since we were faced with difficulties in establishing the yeshiva, we approached the gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who served as the Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F. for approximately twenty years, as the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, and afterwards as the Chief Rabbi of Israel from the Jewish year 5733 till 5743 (1972-1982). Rabbi Goren received us happily, and agreed to sponsor our yeshiva – acting as the ‘nasi’ (president), under the auspices of his own ‘Yeshiva HaIdra’.

Rabbi Goren, ‘Nasi’ Yeshiva Har Bracha

In order to establish the status of the young State of Israel and its army from a Torah perspective, there was a need for a great ‘talmid chacham’, a genius in all fields of the Torah, sharp and proficient, courageous and decisive, and devoted to ‘clal Yisrael’ with all his heart and soul. This was Rabbi Goren. He established the Chief Rabbinate of the army, and formulated most of the directives of the General Staff which dealt with designing the character of the I.D.F. as a Jewish army. Rabbi Goren was not satisfied with just theoretical discussions; he possessed a great love for the army and its soldiers, participated in various courses, learned to be a gunner in the artillery corps, completed a course in parachuting, studied military strategy in the Officers Training School, and even took part in deliberations of the General Staff. In wartime, he would travel to the battlefront without any fear from enemy fire or shelling, arriving at the frontlines in order to strengthen the soldiers in the just and sanctified war. The soldiers loved Rabbi Goren and received a lot of strength from him.

The foundation of his teachings was absorbed from the learning hall and books of Rabbi Kook זצ”ל and his students, including his father-in-law, Rabbi David Cohen ‘The Nazir” זצ”ל and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook זצ”ל.

With the Students on Har Bracha

For the duration of two years until his final illness, Rabbi Goren would come every week to Har Bracha to give a class to the students, to strengthen their spirits and teach them Torah. Numerous classes were dedicated to the Torah status of the State of Israel and the army. After the class, the students would gather around him and ask questions about pressing issues, the Rabbinate, notable events which occurred during the establishment of the State and its wars. Rabbi Goren would answer them – at times briefly, and other times, at great length. Although the roads to Har Bracha were a bit dangerous, and the majority of the residents of Judea and Samaria already travelled in cars protected with rock-proof windows, Rabbi Goren and his driver would come to Har Bracha in his own, un-protected car, without worries. He would be meticulous to say at the beginning of the trip the verse: “They began their journey. The terror of God was felt in all the cities around them, and they did not pursue Jacob’s sons” (Genesis 35:5). He said that this was a proven ‘segulah’ (supernatural cure) which helped guard him in all the wars and dangerous places he passed through.

Two semesters of yeshiva students heard classes from Rabbi Goren before their induction into the army. In the first class, he spoke about the value of the mitzvah to serve in the army, and in the second class, about the case of a soldier who receives an order that contradicts a mitzvah – he must refuse to fulfill the order. In the third and fourth class he spoke about the Sabbath in the army.

Rabbi Goren vs. Chief of Staff: Ben Gurion’s Decision

On a number of occasions Rabbi Goren told the story about the time he published an article in the I.D.F. Rabbinate magazine, saying that a soldier must refuse an order involving ‘chilul Shabbat’ (desecration of the Sabbath). Afterwards, the Chief of Staff, Chaim Laskov, became infuriated, claiming that this constituted an undermining of the foundations of army discipline. As a punishment, he ordered the discontinuation of the magazine. However, Rabbi Goren did not compromise, and summoned the Chief of Staff for a clarification before the Minister of Defense and Prime Minister at the time, David Ben Gurion. Rabbi Goren would vividly and colorfully describe how the Chief of Staff Laskov entered the office, giving Ben Gurion an official army salute, befitting an officer instructed in the British army.

At first, Ben Gurion asked to hear what the Chief of Staff had to say. Laskov claimed that violation of discipline would destroy the army, therefore, a religious soldier must obey an order even if it involves ‘chilul Shabbat’, and if he has a objection, he could submit a complaint on ‘motzei Shabbat’ (after Shabbat) to his commander. Rabbi Goren responded that ‘chilul Shabbat’ is similar to murder, and just as a soldier who receives an improper command to murder someone cannot first fulfill it and afterwards submit a complaint, so too, it is impossible to desecrate the Sabbath and afterwards submit a complaint. Ben Gurion, who was familiar with the framework of ‘halacha’, understood what Rabbi Goren meant, and accepted his position. Rabbi Goren continued, claiming that the Chief of Staff had stopped the publication of the I.D.F. Rabbinate magazine. Ben Gurion ordered that the magazine be doubled – instead of 8 pages, it was to be published with 16 pages.

Halachic Decision

During those two years, I merited becoming very close to Rabbi Goren and learned a lot from his positions on national issues. Often, we spoke a number of times daily on the phone, and I occasionally visited him in his house for discussions which lasted hours. As the result of the Oslo agreements, Rabbi Goren זצ”ל wrote a ‘psak halacha’ (halachic decision), that it is forbidden for a soldier to participate in the evacuation of a settlement or army base from the land of Israel, and if he receives such an order, he must refuse. The pain and agony over the Oslo agreements affected his health. He saw these agreements as a serious blow to the purpose of the State of Israel, and was sure that they would weaken the State and expose its citizens to awful terrorist attacks. When the plan to evacuate the Jewish residents of Hevron arose, Rabbi Goren announced that we must fight it with ‘mesirut nefesh’ (total devotion), and added that he, personally, was willing to be killed in order to prevent the evacuation of Hevron. His statement was publicized and made waves. For an entire day, he gave interviews to local and foreign television and radio stations. At the end of the day, he told me on the telephone that it had been an important day, and that with the help of God, he succeeded in making his opinion widely heard, and he hoped that it had the desired effect. Later, when asked if he was not afraid of being disciplined for sedition, he declared that he was willing to be shot, but would never give in to pressure. Rabbi Goren also shared his feelings and opinions with the yeshiva students, saying that he was indeed ready to sacrifice his life for this, wholeheartedly.

A Halachic Answer He Wrote Me

All the answers and letters he chose to write concerning national issues during those times, he would send to me for publication. With the help of God, I succeeded in having them published, first in short, in the weekly newsletter “Rabbi’s of Judea and Samaria,” and afterwards at length in my book “Pninei Halacha – Issues of the Nation and the Land” (pg. 221-295) which has already been printed in over tens of thousands of copies. I feel a personal obligation to fulfill the spiritual last will of this generation’s instructor on issues of army and state.

Rabbi Goren’s independent personality, his genius, courage, bravery, and unending love for the nation, accompany and illuminate our path till this day. This candle of spiritual bravery, which stems from the Torah, is the foundation of the military bravery of the Hasmoneans and of all Israel till our times.

I Will Give You and Your Descendants the Land

What Should God Have Said to Jacob?

One of God’s most significant revelations to man was His revelation to Jacob our forefather upon his arrival to Bet El.  “And he lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said: I am the Lord of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:11-13). At this point we would expect to hear what this important, significant, and essential message God has to say to Jacob is.

If we were to stop for a second and ask various, present-day groups what they think God should say to Jacob, apparently we would get differing answers. The Jews of Lithuanian descent would say: “Study the Talmud in depth until you become a ‘ben Torah’.” The Hassidim would say: “Strengthen yourself in ‘emunah’ (faith) and serving God in happiness.” Members of the Shas party would say: “Learn practical ‘halacha’ according to the technique of Maran (Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef).” Those who grew-up in Bnei Akiva would say: “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” The modern Orthodox would say: “Derech eretz (good manners) precedes Torah.” People from the world of academia would say: “Insist on being a pluralist, and cast doubt on every undisputable position.” The feminists would say: “Empower femininity, and stop oppressing women.”

What God Said to Jacob

However, God said: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south.” And consequently, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” This is God’s revelation. Indeed, through this revelation, Jacob our forefather realized the magnitude of the holiness of the land, as he said: “God is truly in this place, but I did not know it. He was frightened. How awe-inspiring this place is! He exclaimed. It must be God’s temple. It is the gate to heaven!” (Genesis 28:13-17).

Perhaps, the members of the various groups would claim that, indeed, in this instance, God did speak about the land of Israel; however there are other revelations and other verses. Well, here’s another example: in God’s revelation to Jacob after his return to Israel, which also was in Bet El, it was said to Jacob: “Be fruitful and increase. A nation and community of nations will come into existence from you. Kings will be born from your loins. I will grant you the land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac. I will also give the land to your descendants who will follow you.” (Genesis 35:11-12). Thus it was with all the revelations to Jacob – God always spoke about the land of Israel – in Haran (Genesis 31:3), and when Jacob was about to go down to Egypt (Genesis 46:2-4).

What Would They Say Today?

What would reporters from the newspapers “Yeted Ne’eman” (Lithuanian/Haredi) and “Yom l’ Yom” (Shas) have to say about this? If it weren’t written explicitly, they would simply report that God said to learn Talmud in depth, or to learn practical ‘halacha’. However, the verses are explicitly written, therefore they say that the most important thing is to listen to the ‘gedolim’ (Torah giants) who say that left is right. For the reporters from the Hassidic newspaper “Hamodia” this does not present a problem: they explain that the word ‘eretz’ (land) in a sense means ‘ratzon’ (desire), and ‘Yisrael’ in a sense means ‘d’vaykut’ (cleaving), and consequently, there’s no need for the land of Israel. Then there are ‘important’ political wheeler-dealers who feel there is a significant hint hidden here, that God gave the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in order that their ‘holy’ descendants could relinquish and sell it for coalition agreements, receiving in its stead, money for Talmud Torah institutes and mikva’s.

Graduates of B’nei Akiva would be in doubt, thinking that maybe for the sake of unity we should concede to the leftists. The modern Orthodox say that it is impossible to stand against the entire world. The members of academia say that today, it is doubtful whether or not there is a mitzvah to settle the land; there are differing opinions and versions – and in any case, there are seventy faces to the Torah. The feminists would also agree.

However, the honest people – religious, Haredi, and traditional, realize the enormity of the holiness and value of the Land of Israel, and make efforts of total devotion and self-sacrifice to settle it.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

In contradiction to the weakness of the government, who decreed to freeze building in Judea and Samaria, we must draw strength from the true words of the Torah, and pay attention to the profound advice which God said to Jacob: “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south.” And it is written (Genesis 35:11): “Be fruitful and increase…I will grant you the land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac. I will also give the land to your descendants who will follow you.” In other words, by having large families, blessed with many sons and daughters, grandsons and grand-daughters, like the dust of the earth, will we inherit the land, spreading out to the west, east, north, and south. This is similar to what is written in the prophecy of Ezekiel to the barren mountains of Israel, which the non-Jews made fun of their destruction and desolateness, by saying that days would come “and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places rebuilt: and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times…and I will cause men to walk upon you, my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and you  shall be their inheritance, and you shall no longer bereave them of children” (Ezekiel 36:10-12).

Like the Dust of the Earth

In order to merit the blessing of multiplicity, we must be ready to act humbly – like dust of the earth; to crowd together in order to raise more children, to give up on luxuries, all in order to raise large families. We must be ready to accept new families with open arms. Small apartments should be created within lager houses for the next generation to live in. If we were willing to live in the settlements as crowded together as people live in middle-class cities and neighborhoods, we could house 600,000 people in Judea and Samaria instead of 300,000. If we were willing to crowd together like they do in Mea She’arim, we could house 900,000 people.

The main thing is to be ready to hold tight to the land like dust of the earth, in a way that even if we are trampled upon, we will continue to be fruitful and multiply. Then, those who cruelly trampled on the settlement movement, which was established in the word of God through His servants the prophets, all of them will fall and be ashamed, and we will merit to multiply and spread out to the west, east, north, and south.

Prepare the Next Stage Now

Now is the time to wake-up in repentance and prepare detailed building programs for large and cheap housing, so that every young couple can purchase a house, under reasonable conditions, and raise a large family. Also, so that when, God willing, the building freeze is removed, construction can be started immediately. Thank God, this is how we have acted here on Har Bracha.

Therefore, in spite of the fact that the community is located on the front-line and in the depths of the Shomron, it has grown in eight years from 100 families to over 240 families, and presently, there are another 70 apartments being built.

Who is Damaging the Morale of the Soldiers?

Release of Our Captive for Hundreds of Terrorists, God Forbid

I have written a number of times in the past that it is forbidden to release several terrorists for one of our captives, or as the Sages have said (Tractate Gittin 45a): “We do not redeem captives for more than their worth because of ‘tikun olam’”. I added that it is forbidden for the troubles of the individual to override the interests of the general populace, for if, God forbid, hundreds of terrorists are released in order to redeem him, hundreds of others will enter the cycle of bereavement and pain in his place. I wrote that this was the prayer of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies, asking that God not hear the cries of the individual at a time when the general populace is in despair.

However, some people countered that, indeed, this is the case in a regular situation, but when dealing with a soldier, not redeeming him would likely cause severe damage to the morale of other soldiers, for if they knew that not ‘everything’ would be done to redeem them if they fell captive, they would not be ready to enlist and go out to battle.

However, the truth is exactly the opposite. The majority of those who claim that it would damage the morale of the soldiers are those who in any case do not enlist into combat units and therefore the left-wing media supports them. On the other hand, the majority of combat soldiers think that the release of hundreds of terrorists is what will damage the morale.

Can Army Generals be Trusted?

I was further asked: Don’t we have army generals who are experts in the field of defense who know what is best for the security of Israel, and what is damaging to the morale? Why do rabbis have to express their opinion on this issue?

There are two answers to this: First, there is no area upon which the Torah does not have a position, however, in many areas the position of the Torah establishes the principle of an issue, whereas the implementation is handed over to the experts – in military matters, to the senior officers. However, in our present situation, the generals themselves have proved that their judgment cannot be trusted. They did not properly warn before the retreat from Lebanon or Gush Katif, or before the Oslo agreements. Almost all of the disasters which occurred were surprises for them. In actuality, their evaluations depend upon what is written in the non-religious, leftist newspapers. In other words, they are experts at reading newspapers of a certain type, and they also excel in flattering certain reporters. Only a few outstanding senior officers succeeded in climbing the ladder of success without completely destroying their judgment. Those few officers really did warn of impending danger, but they were not listened to, as is evident from the important book written by the former Chief of Staff, Minister Moshe Ya’alon – which, not by accident, has been ignored by the media.

In such a situation, rabbis are obligated to get into the thick of things and to caution about the imminent danger Israel faces from the release of hundreds of terrorists for our one captive.

Once Again, the Falsifiers

Once again, it has been proven to me, and this time, personally, that the non-religious, leftist media (‘tikshoret’ in Hebrew) is indeed ‘tishkoret’ (falsifiers), at least in matters concerning the national-religious public. I “merited” having an article written about me in the newspaper ‘Yediot Achronot’, and not even one thing was reported correctly. Everything was maliciously distorted. An allegory can be made of a merchant who makes mistakes in his calculations. If he sometimes errors in his favor, and other times in the favor of his clients, one can claim that he occasionally gets mixed up. However, someone who always errors in his own favor – when he calculates how much others owe him, he always mistakenly asks for more, but when he figures how much he owes others, he always shortchanges them – he is a liar.

For the benefit which can be gained, I will present one topic that was written about me in ‘Yediot’ compared with the actual truth.

As Reported in ‘Yediot Achronot’

In ‘Yediot Achranot’, 3rd of Kislev, 5770 (Friday, Nov. 20, 2009), three reporters, Tzvi Zinger, Yehudah Shochat, and Tzvika Brot, joined forces and wrote: “In contrast to other leading rabbis in Yehudah and Shomron, Rabbi Melamed served only four months in the I.D.F., at a later age, and he is not embarrassed by this. The reason for his shortened service was a lowering of his physical profile as a result of an injury following a clash with I.D.F. forces when he was a youth. ‘When I was about 17 years old, I participated in the ascent to Huwara’, Rabbi Melamed is used to telling. ‘During the evacuation, a number of soldiers dragged me in different directions, while another one stepped on my arm. Apparently, I screamed, went wild, and kicked, and then the soldiers left me alone. The army lowered my profile to 45 and automatically cancelled my enlistment. This was very humiliating; however, the struggle over the settlements is no less important than high standard army service.’”

The Real McCoy

An innocent reader could think that these reporters were diligent and reached one of the students who could testify that I am “used to” telling this incident, as if it were a miracle story. The truth, however, is that I am not used to speaking about this – it’s not a pleasant story to tell – but rather, I wrote about it in my newspaper column “Revivim”, on the 20th of Av, 5768, in order to comfort the youth, as I will explain further on. The reporters copied what they chose to copy without citing the source, something that a respectable reporter would never do. This is what I wrote:

“This is perhaps the time to tell the reason why I never merited being a combat soldier. When I was about 17 years old, I participated in the ascent to Huwara. During the evacuation, a number of soldiers dragged me in different directions, while another one stepped on my arm. The pain was terrible; the bone in my upper arm became dislocated. Apparently, I screamed, went wild, and kicked, and then the soldiers left me alone. After a few minutes, with the help of a paramedic, the bone was replaced. After a few days the pain was gone, but my arm didn’t feel like it should have. Occasionally I would experience dislocations. A few years later when I was in my fifth year at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, I planned on going into the army for 6 months in either the artillery corps or as a combat engineer. A day before induction, during a medical check-up, they discovered that I suffer from recurring dislocations and lowered my profile to 45, immediately cancelling my enlistment. This was very humiliating. Until then I thought I was fit to be a combat soldier, perhaps even an officer. All of a sudden it became clear that I wasn’t… In any case, in the framework of recruiting Yeshiva students at that time, one could only be enlisted into a combat unit. Had I insisted on enlisting, I would have had to been recruited for three years in a non-combat unit. It was clear to me that for the benefit of ‘clal Yisrael’, it was more important to continue studying Torah in the Yeshiva and postpone being recruited to ‘shlav bet’ (a later and shorter enlistment). Thus, I merited studying continuously for a few more years.

“In actuality, even the security of Israel was not damaged by this, for in the merit of my additional years of study without interruption, I was prepared to become a community Rabbi and establish a Yeshiva, which has already turned out hundreds of students who have served, and are presently serving, in combat positions in the army. Indeed, I suppose that even had I enlisted for 6 months, I would have followed in the same path, but apparently the additional months of study strengthened my devotion to my task.”

How They Deceive

I don’t expect the reporters to copy everything, however, a selective copying of certain segments, which creates a maliciously deceptive picture, is a lie. Since I knew this was their custom, I refused to be interviewed by them. It will be interesting to see what they write about me in the future.

The Value of the Settlements

Having already repeated this story, I will mention the connection to its publication. At the time, a number of students turned to me for advice. As a result of their actions on behalf of settlement in Gush Katif and Amona, the army was ‘threatening’ not to enlist them. In order to encourage and comfort them, I revealed my personal story, and concluded with these words: “If I could go back in time, I would once again participate in the settlement activity, refusing to be evacuated, willing to be injured – in spite of the pain and the certain disability. The struggle over the settlements is no less important than high standard army service. I say this not because I belittle the mitzvah to enlist in the army, but rather, because of the important value of the struggle over settlement in Judea and Samaria, which is no less important than serving in the army.

Good News

Nevertheless, there is good news: The status of ‘Yediot Achronot’, the non-religious, leftist media giant, is weakening. From the days when the majority of Israeli citizens read ‘Yediot’, and was considered by many to be a monopoly, it is now rapidly deteriorating. According to the renowned media survey TGI, four years ago, 59.5% of the public read ‘Yediot’ on the weekend, while today, only 45.9% read it. Four years ago, 43.7% read the daily paper, while today, only 34.2% read it. In other words, a downfall of approximately 22% in four years. According to this promising rate, in another ten years it will fall to less than 10%. We can even hope that in the future the speed its downfall will be even faster, sinking in public opinion till we are rid of its punishment. Or, in the meantime, some repentant buys the newspaper out, and then his reporters and investigators begin to “suck up” to their new master.

Prayers of the General Public Take Precedence

Gilad Shalit

With extreme irresponsibility, various people are exerting public pressure “to free Gilad at any cost,” or in other words, at the cost of releasing numerous terrorists with blood on their hands. I don’t want to blame Gilad’s family, for “one is not to be made responsible for his words at a time when he is afflicted.” However, concerning all the other people – they definitely can be blamed.

If, God forbid, terrorists are released, and consequently, as can be expected, many Jews are killed, all those people who exerted pressure, together with the members of government who decide on the issue, will not be able to say “our hands have not spilled this blood.”  They will be part of it. The media is especially to be blamed, for in a terribly irresponsible way, they support the release of terrorists, without informing the public about the awesome danger it entails. And when the disasters happen, God forbid, they will claim that the “public wanted” the release of Gilad at any cost.

Demands can be made for harsher jail conditions for the terrorists, or that the government initiates a military operation for his release – such as the one in Entebbe. However, the demand to release terrorists is totally irresponsible. It will lead to bloodshed, strengthen the terrorist organizations, and severely harm the status of the State of Israel – which also leads to bloodshed.

The release of Gild from his captivity does not insure his safety until the age of 120. A person can be killed in an accident or die from an illness. For example, there was once a young woman who planned to be a counselor in a camp in one of the communities in the Shomron. At the last minute, her parents, who were worried about the dangers of a terrorist attack on the roads to the Shomron, vetoed her plans. Two days later she was killed in a car accident.

Individual Prayers vs. Public Needs

On Yom Kippur, when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, he would utter a short prayer, asking for rain and livelihood, that pregnant woman give birth safely, and on the agriculture. He would implore God, saying: “Do not pay attention to the prayers of the travelers on the roads concerning rain when the world needs it.” This aroused amazement: at such a holy moment, this is what the High Priest has to say? But, indeed, it is a great danger when the distress of the individual overcomes the needs of the general public. When a person is in distress, he cries out to God from the depths of his heart. However, when the nation needs rain, people pray weakly, and in the end comes a drought followed by famine and harsh deaths. Therefore, the High Priest needed to pray that God hear the prayers of the general public, in spite of its weakness, and not hear the prayers of the individual traveler who cried from his heart over something inappropriate.

Distancing Ishmael for His Own Good

Good Intention

At first, the intention was very good. Seeing that God had prevented her from giving birth, Sarah our foremother decided graciously to give her fine maid servant to Abraham. This was both an act of kindness towards Abraham, who would merit having a son after so many years, and even more so towards Hagar her maid servant, providing her the opportunity to come close to the righteous and honored Abraham, and Hagar’s children, the prospect of joining the great vision which Sarah and Abraham had established in the world. It was clear to Sarah that Hagar, who, up until now, had accepted her leadership submissively and with love, would continue to recognize her seniority, and the child born to her would be educated by Sarah. She hoped that in the merit of her generosity, God would speed her salvation by giving her a son, who, along with the son of Hagar, would fulfill the great vision which they had established in the world – while at the same time, recognizing of the seniority of Sarah’s son.

However, the moment after Hagar became pregnant, “she looked at her mistress with contempt.” She stopped serving Sarah as she had in the past, and in her heart she also ceased honoring her, saying: “The hidden sides of this woman Sarah are not compatible with what she reveals: she shows off as if she is righteous, when she really isn’t; for she hasn’t merited becoming pregnant all these years, while I became pregnant immediately” (Rashi, Genesis 16:4).

Sarah our foremother tormented and punished Hagar in order to put her in her place. In the opinion of the Ramban and Radak, Sarah did not behave properly. However, Sarah our righteous foremother hoped that if Hagar the maid servant was tormented, she would recognize her place, and everything would return to normal. Hagar, however, did not agree to accept Sarah’s authority, and she fled from the house. Only after the angel of God told her “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her” (Genesis 16:9) did Hagar return humbly, accepting the authority of Sarah. She gave birth to Ishmael, raising him on the knees of her masters – Abraham and Sarah.

Even after the birth of Isaac, it seemed as if Hagar accepted the seniority of the son of her mistress. However, as Isaac grew up, Ishmael began to “play” with him. If Isaac attempts to be righteous, then he, Ishmael, will pave a different path. Some say that he began to follow after idol worship and promiscuity; others say that he played games with Isaac that endangered his life, thereby revealing his inner desire to murder him for taking his place. People would say: Take a look at Abraham the Ivri – all his life he’s been preaching to us to be careful about stealing, having forbidden sexual relations, and murder, and here his son Ishmael is a wild ass of a man.

The Decision to Expel

Consequently, Sarah our foremother realized that there was no chance Hagar and Ishmael would follow in the path of their masters. Hagar’s return was insincere, and in truth, she did not accept Sarah’s leadership, forgetting the kindness she had done by giving her her husband. In the meantime, Ishmael leaves the fold and falls into delinquency. If they remain in their house, Abraham and Sarah’s great vision of building a family and nation that will perfect the world, is liable to be destroyed. “She said to Abraham, “Drive away this slave together with her son. The son of this slave will not share the inheritance with my son Isaac!”

This was very difficult for Abraham our forefather. Abraham, who for all his life had drawn people closer out of love, was now required to expel his loved son. “But God said to Abraham, “Do not be troubled because of the boy and your slave. Do everything Sarah tells you. It is through Isaac that you will gain posterity.”

Expulsion Hurts

Had Hagar and Ishmael parted, accepting wholeheartedly that, indeed, it would be better for them to build their future in another place, the expulsion would have been easy, and the pangs of conscience would have been allayed to some extent. Seemingly, however, in the final days Ishmael destroyed things by going wild and sinning, until Abraham couldn’t remove him honorably with presents, as he had wished, but rather expelled him and Hagar shamefully (see Shmot Rabbah 1:1). And as if that wasn’t enough, although Abraham guided them on their way, they got lost; Ishmael became sick and almost died of thirst, and he and Hagar were saved only by a miracle.

The Expulsion was Justified

For all this, there is no denunciation of Sarah our foremother and Abraham our forefather. The proof is that on Rosh HaShana, the day where we are careful not to mention anything bad about Israel, the Sages decreed to read the story about the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael. In other words, God’s decree to expel the slave and her son applies even when it is not pleasant. For the law is the law — Hagar, who denied Sarah’s kindness, and Ishmael, who, while still in the house of Abraham, dared to worship idols, steal, and threaten to murder, must receive their punishment. And precisely when Israel recognizes its uniqueness and specialness amongst all the nations, they merit, justifiably, a good year.

Repentance

Specifically after they were expelled and made to suffer, Hagar and Ishmael realized their sin and repented. The promise God made to Abraham, “And you will be buried at a good old age” was fulfilled, for he merited to see his son Ishmael repent (Bereishit Rabbah 30:4). This is what the verse states (Genesis 25:8): “His sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in Makhpelah Cave”, meaning that both of them were his sons, and Ishmael agreed that Isaac was the main successor of Abraham, and therefore he walked after Isaac (Tractate Baba Batra 16b).

Nevertheless, as long as Sarah was alive, she did not agree to have them return to their house, so that it would be absolutely and finally clear that Isaac was the successor of Abraham, and only he possessed the Heavenly designation to tell the praises of God in this world, and to reveal the Holy Presence in the Land of Israel. As time went by the matters became clearer, until they reached the pinnacle at the binding of Isaac. Immediately after Isaac reached this supreme level, Sarah passed away.

Like in the Past – So Today

Like in the past – so today; we thought that if we are nice to our Arab neighbors, the sons of Ishmael, if we make the land, which was desolate under their hands, blossom; if we develop the economy and their standard of living rises; if we award them rights that no Arab has in any Arab country – they would be appreciative. However, the more we contributed to their prosperity – the more their war against us grew. Even if we attempt to torment them, to beat them in war, we will be blamed (just as the Ramban and Radak denounced Sarah our foremother). The only option is to strengthen the Jewish character of the State, to make clear to all that this land is ours, and no other nation has a part or inheritance in it. Anyone who accepts this lovingly – can live here with us as a ‘ger toshav’ (resident alien). However, towards anyone who does not accept this, we must act with all the means at our disposal in order to expel him. Only then, when they are sitting in another location, will the sons of Ishmael be able to reflect on the good we brought them and the world, and recognize our virtue — that we are the sons of Israel, the receivers of the Torah and inheritors of the land that was promised to Abraham, and they too will join us in perfecting the world in the kingdom of God.

Who Is Bringing Politics into the Army?

The Protest at the Army Induction

Once again it has become clear that the non-religious, leftist media should be called ‘tishkoret’, or falsifiers, rather than ‘tikshoret’, or media. When the media reports on an isolated story, one assumes that probably they are reporting the facts as they actually occurred. However, when one is familiar with the story close-up, it becomes clear that there isn’t one case where the media does not purposely distort the basic facts.

The story of the protest by soldiers at their induction ceremony began with the vigorous actions of the Shimshon Brigade in expelling Jews from Homesh, sometimes while desecrating the Sabbath. As a result of this, the recruits from the Shimshon Brigade felt terribly uncomfortable; here they are, about to be sworn-in to the I.D.F., and their brigade conducts such evil actions. During their induction at the Kotel, two recruits held-up a sign saying: “The Shimshon Brigade Does Not Evacuate Homesh”. In the newspaper “Yediot Achranot” and on Chanel 10 News, it was prominently reported that I encouraged and instructed the recruits to protest. In actuality, I knew nothing about it.

Furthermore, had they asked my advice, I probably would have recommended not to do it, for only when a soldier is forced to assist in an expulsion must he disobey orders; however, he is not obligated to protest specifically at his induction ceremony. One who wants to excel in the mitzvah of protesting must act on his own, and if he needs to ask – it’s a sign that he’s not the one to do it. In addition, I probably would have dissuaded them because I could have imagined that such a protest would cause great anguish to their direct officers, amongst them, the platoon officer who is a God-fearing, Yeshiva student with lofty character traits, whose grandfather is an important rabbi. However, after they acted out of dedication for their nation and homeland, I honor their actions and recognize the benefit that results from such public protests. These are very highly motivated soldiers; the more we have of them in Israel and in the army, the better our situation will be.

Falsifiers

Let’s return to the media (falsifiers). The reporters were clearly told that I was not aware of the protest, but, in an attempt to minimize its affect, they tried to create a false pretense, claiming that it was the rabbi’s who were inciting the soldiers, who, if left alone, are more than willing to expel Jews. In general, the media (falsifiers) love to portray the religious as being people who cannot think for themselves, and all their actions go according to the instructions of the rabbi’s. This is a sufficient reason to ignore the claims of the religious, and fight the rabbi’s who suppress them.

Not So Bad This Time

Nevertheless, it is important to point out that in this case, these media reports didn’t affect me personally, for in the opinion of many religious and right-wing people, this is an important and honorable protest – and it is an honor to be counted amongst those who support such soldiers. And in any case, amongst the non-religious, leftist public, they don’t differentiate between Yeshiva Har Etzion and Yeshiva Har Bracha, or between Rabbi Plony or Rabbi Almony. Anyone who supports the settling of Judea and Samaria is suspicious in the eyes of the Left of harboring extreme positions. Therefore, any time a Rabbi presents a view that is similar in one way or another to a leftist, non-religious position, people are surprised that “even though he’s a Rabbi, his views are enlightened.” In any case, they will still be suspicious that he is hiding his true opinions.

The Response of I.D.F. Officers

The responses of the I.D.F. officers excelled in hypocrisy. The Head of the Central Command asserted that “the I.D.F. should not be dragged into a political discussion, thereby creating factionalism in the midst of the army, which is the army of the entire nation.” This is how the person who, in fact, sends his soldiers to beat the settlers and destroy Jewish settlements, and carries out the most severe actions of factionalism, speaks?! The Chief of Staff also viewed the soldiers protest with severity, saying “not to use I.D.F. soldiers for ulterior motives.” Who is using I.D.F. soldiers for ulterior motives? This is exactly what the soldiers protested about, demanding not to be used for ulterior motives, but solely for the defense of the nation and land against its enemies.

Be Careful of Such Officers

When I.D.F. officers express themselves in such a manner, we must be watchful that they do not abandon our soldiers. In “Operation Cast Lead”, for the first time in a number of years, the I.D.F. took greater care for the security of its soldiers. In this way, together with good leadership, we might even win a war. However, our enemies, along with their friends from the extreme left, figured this out, and consequently, they are currently attempting to condemn the I.D.F. as being an army that carries out “war crimes.” When I.D.F. officers do not understand who the enemy is, the enemy which the soldiers enlisted in the army to fight against, there is a fear that such officers will prefer foreign interests over victory in battle. They will prefer receiving permission from “enlightened” countries to vacation in their hotels and exclusive shops over guarding the life of simple soldiers.

Between Israel and the Nations

The Children of Noah

We often ponder what our relationship to the non-Jewish world should be. Should we criticize their evil tendencies, namely, that they preferred to follow after all kinds of pagan religions instead of receiving the Torah which was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai — as our Sages have said, it was called ‘Sinai’ (the word ‘Sinai’, stems from the Hebrew root ‘hate’ in Hebrew), for “hate fell upon it to the nations of the world”, and it was also called Mt. Horeb because upon it “destruction fell to the nations” (Tractate Shabbat 89b). Or should we love the non-Jewish nations, for one should love all of creation, especially the most complex and wonderful of creation – human beings, who were created in the image of God.
Our teacher Rabbi Kook זצ”ל wrote: “Love of creation must be alive in the heart and the soul; love for all of man, specifically, and love of all of the worlds”. Consequently, a Jew should desire “their spiritual and materialistic elevation and revival”. “Hate should only be felt over the evil and filth in the world”. However, the basic position is one of love. This is the mission of the Jewish nation, to be a light unto the nations in order to perfect the world, together, in the word of God. “It is absolutely impossible to reach the spiritual heights of “Give thanks to God, proclaim His name; make His deeds known among the nations” without an inner-love, from the depths of one’s heart and soul, to benefit all the nations, to improve their possessions, to make their lives happy.” This is the hope of the Redemption, and this ambition brings it closer. “This quality makes possible the ‘spirit of the King Messiah’ to rest on
Israel .”
“In every place where we find hints of hatred, we clearly know that the intention is only concerning the evil, which powerfully restricts the union of many nations… but we must know that the point of life, light and holiness, never left the image of God which He endowed on man in general, and on every nation and language, each one according to its level, and this holy nucleus will elevate everything…” (Midot Ra’ayah ‘Ahavah’ 5).

In Spite of Differences of Opinion and Religions

We, however, are acquainted with reality. There is a difference between saying that the Jewish nation is the heart of the nations whose job it is to perfect the world together with them, and our actual relations with them. For in fact, the deep differences are liable to create a wide gap, especially when justified claims against the non-Jewish nations — that aggressiveness and physical desires are their main motivations – exist. Therefore, Rabbi Kook זצ”ל goes on to clarify: “Love of creation requires great care, despite the differences of opinions, religions, and faiths; despite all the divisions of race and climate.” It’s not enough to just express a fundamental position concerning a positive attitude towards all of creation; rather, the love must be realized through a true interest and a desire to assist. “It is appropriate to fully understand the different nations, to attempt to learn their characteristics and traits, in order to
understand how to establish the fundamentals of human love in a more practical way.”
This is the special virtue of the Jewish nation, who truly strives to perfect the world. Therefore, only a Jew who is partner to this great vision can truly love the Jewish nation – the heart of the nations. Conversely, the fostering of general hatred towards all of the non-Jewish nations destroys the foundations of Judaism.

True Love Increases Hate of Evil

Precisely because of this true love for mankind and a deep care for their well-being, hatred towards wicked people who damage and destroy the world is increased. If they can be corrected, it is preferable. However, if they continue their evil ways, they must be fought till their destruction. This is similar to King David, who called all the nations to “shout to God with the voice of triumph” (Psalms 47:2), but concerning the wicked he prayed: “I have pursued my enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them’ (Second Book of Samuel 22:38).

How Can One Love an Idol Worshipper?

Seemingly, one might ask: How can Rabbi Kook write that despite the differences in religions and faiths, we must study the characteristics and traits of the nations in order to understand how to love them, when Jewish law states that a “ben Noach” who worships idols must be killed?
However, only a “ben Noach” who worshipped idols willfully must be put to death (Rambam, Book of Kings 10:1). In order to sin willfully in this issue, one must be familiar with Jewish faith, for Judaism is the only abstract faith without any trace of idolatry. Therefore, nations who have not been properly exposed to Jewish faith are not judged severely for their mistake. Especially, when the Jewish nation was expelled from its land, it was very difficult for the nations to be familiarized with the greatness of the Jewish faith.
In general, it must be known that the litmus test for the nations concerning their level of faith and morality is their relation towards Israel – the bearers of the word of God in this world. Therefore, those Christians who, from the time the Jews returned to their land, began to recognize the attributes of Israel, and strive with all their hearts to fulfill the words of the Prophets who spoke well about Israel, they are the good and righteous non-Jews. And all those who fight against Israel , or attempt to proselytize them, are evil.
The more we merit sanctifying the name of God, the more the nations will call out in the name of God the Lord of Israel.

Sermon for Shabbat T'shuva

Why the Cry for Repentance is Not Answered

In the Torah portion ‘VaYelekh’, God reveals to Moshe Rabbeinu that
after his death the nation would stray after alien gods, violating the
covenant with God. “I will then display anger against them… and
abandon them. I will hide My face from them… and many evils and
troubles shall befall them.” Then, Israel will be aroused to repent,
realizing that all of the troubles were caused due to their leaving
God. “They will say, ‘It is because my God is no longer with me that
these evils have befallen us’. Seemingly, it would be expected that
after Israel is aroused to repent, God, who is merciful and
compassionate, would forgive their sins. However, God says to Moshe
that although Israel understood that all the troubles stemmed from Him
not being with them, nevertheless, He would not forgive them – on the
contrary – He would continue to severely punish them. “On that day I
will utterly hide My face because of all the evil that they have done
in turning to alien gods.” The question which arises is awesome: Is
this the appropriate response to Israel’s recognition of sin?! Indeed,
on numerous occasions Jews in the Diaspora questioned ‘why is God
hiding His face from us’? Why doesn’t He hear our cries?
Even more difficult is that in the Torah portion ‘Nitzavim’ we see
that after “there shall come a time when you shall experience all the
words of blessing and curse that I have presented to you. Here, among
the nations where God will have banished you, you will reflect on the
situation. You will then return to God your Lord, and you will obey
Him, doing everything that I am commanding you today. You and your
children [will repent] with all your heart and with all your soul
(D’varim 30:1-2). Now, from the following verses (6-8), it is
certainly clear that we are not talking about a complete repentance,
for only afterwards is it mentioned that Israel would return to
fulfill all the commandments. Nevertheless, in the merit of this minor
repentance, Israel is rewarded with the beginning of the Redemption:
“God will then bring back your remnants and have mercy on you. God
your Lord will once again gather you from among all the nations where
He scattered you. Even if your diaspora is at the ends of the heavens,
God your Lord will gather you up from there and He will take you back.
God your Lord will then bring you to the land that your ancestors
occupied, and you too will occupy it. God will be good to you and make
you flourish even more than your ancestors (D’varim 30:3-5).

Words Alone are not Enough

The answer is almost as awesome as the question. When we plead to God
to save us from the troubles of the Diaspora without making an effort
to ascend to the Land of Israel and settle it, the troubles increase.
However, when Jews begin to return to the Land – this is the true
beginning of repentance. Then, God answers and assists our actions by
gathering us from the four corners of the world to settle the Land and
merit its goodness and blessing.
For the most important thing is the honor of Heaven and the honor of
Israel, and when we ask that God be with us — without ascending to
the Land of Israel and settling it – all of our petitions to God are
solely for individual needs, (even if they be spiritual), while
disregarding the main goal of the Jewish nation – to sanctify the name
of God in the eyes of the nations, and to rectify the world in the
kingdom of God. This is what is written further on (D’varim 31:19):
“Now write for yourselves this song… make them memorize it, so that
this song will be a witness for the Israelites.” What do we learn from
the song of ‘HaAzinu’? That the most important thing is the honor of
Heaven and the honor of His nation, Israel; that the sin which causes
all the troubles is the desecration of God by forgetting His Heavenly
mission and following after alien gods. Also, the Redemption is
dependent upon honor of Heaven, so the nations do not say that they
are the mighty and that God cannot save His nation (D’varim 32:26-27).
Therefore, even if Israel does not repent properly, in the end the
Redemption will come, in order to reveal the word of God to the world.

Repentance through Settling the Land

When, however, Israel is awakened to ascend to the Land of Israel and
settle it, as is described in the Torah portion ‘Nitzavim’, God begins
to shower them with blessings and they merit the highest level of
repentance. Thus we find that the major punishment and reward revolves
around the issue of the Land of Israel. Before the section concerning
repentance in the portion of ‘Nitzavim’, the Torah describes the
punishment of destruction and wilderness of the Land of Israel; in
amazement, all the nations say: “Why did God do this to the land? What
was the reason for this great display of anger? They shall answer, “It
is because they abandoned the covenant that God, Lord of their
fathers, made with them when He brought them out of Egypt. They went
and served foreign gods, bowing down to them. These were gods alien to
them, something that was not their portion. God displayed anger
against this nation, bringing upon it the entire curse written in this
book. God drove them from their land with anger, rage and great fury,
and He exiled them to another land, where they remain even
today” (D’varim 29:21-27). It is clear then, that afterwards, the
repentance that Israel makes is by returning to the Land, settling it,
and making the wilderness blossom – thereby achieving great blessing.
Afterwards it is written: “God will remove the barriers from your
hearts and from the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love
God your Lord with all your heart and soul… You will repent and obey
God, keeping all His commandments, as I prescribe them to you
today” (D’varim 30:6-8). This is also what our mentor Rav Kook זצ”ל
has explained (Orot HaTeshuva 17:2).

Thus Says the Prophet

Additionally, we have learned from the Prophet Ezekiel (Chap. 36) that
there is no greater desecration of God than Israel being in the
Diaspora. “They profaned my holy name, in that men said of them, These
are the people of the Lord, and they are gone out of his land.” And
this is the main reason for the Redemption – “But I had concern for my
holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations,
into which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says
the Lord God; I do not do this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but
for my holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations.”
How is the desecration of God ended? – “For I will take you from among
the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you
into your own land.” First, the in-gathering of the exiles, and only
afterwards, when the settlement of the Land is strong, “Then I will
sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your
impurity” (Ezekiel 36:20-26). Therefore it is clear that the effort to
settle the Land of Israel and end the desecration of God is the key to
true repentance and the closening of the Redemption.

Negligence of Settling the Land – Source of Divine Punishment

Even during the times of the Rishonim, when it was very difficult to
ascend to the Land of Israel and settle it, according to the opinion
of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevy, one had to make an effort to move to Israel.
Thus he wrote in his pure and holy book “The Kuzari” (Chap. 2:24-25),
that the king of Kuzar asked the Rabbi: if the Land of Israel is so
holy and praiseworthy, and it’s a great mitzvah to live there, how
come the Jews remain in the Diaspora and don’t ascend to the Land? The
Rabbi responds: “Indeed, you have found my disgrace, king of Kuzar!
For surely it is because of this sin that God’s mission was not
fulfilled in the Second Temple.” Had all Israel answered the call and
ascended to Israel, we would have merited the complete Redemption. But
since only a few Jews made aliyah, with the majority of the important
and respected Jews remaining in the Diaspora, the Heavenly promises
concerning the redemption were only partly fulfilled (see Tractate
Yoma 9:b), until the Second Temple was destroyed and we descended to
an even harsher Diaspora.

The Conclusion of “The Kuzari”

Therefore, in the end of the book “The Kuzari,” the Rabbi parts from
the king in order to ascend to the Land of Israel. Since the parting
is difficult for the king, he attempts to persuade the Rabbi to stay
with him, claiming that he can also get close to God outside of the
Land of Israel, and besides, it is dangerous to move to there. The
Rabbi responds that the Land of Israel is the place of Divine
revelation, it is the God of Israel’s holy place, and only there is
the fulfillment of the commandments complete. As far as dangers of
travel are concerned, one shouldn’t worry so much, for even merchants
sail-off to such places to make money. Once again the king claims: but
God knows your good intentions to come closer to Him, why must you
make such a great effort to ascend to the Land of Israel? The Rabbi
responds that only when one does not have the capability to fulfill
the mitzvah is there value in arousing passion concerning the building
of the Land. But when the mitzvah can be actually fulfilled, it is
forbidden to be satisfied with just intentions. Indeed, this is
exactly what Rabbi Yehudah HaLevy did – he left all his honor and
status in Spain and with great self-sacrifice ascended to the Land of
Israel.

In Our Times

Today, when we hear many of the world’s leaders deny our rights over
Judea and Samaria, while on the other hand, righteous Gentiles
strongly believe that God gave the Holy Land to His Chosen People, and
that everything stands and is dependent on the foundation of faith in
the God of Israel, we must be very strong in the holy mitzvah of
expanding Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. It’s not by chance
that the question of Judea and Samaria stands at the top of the worlds
agenda, because the foundation of Israel’s redemption, and the
redemption of the entire world, is dependent upon this great mitzvah
of settling the Land of Israel, which the Sages said is equal to all
the mitzvoth (Sifrei, Re’eh 53), and is the main foundation of
sanctification of God in the world.

The Sin of the Nations who Attempt to Steal Israel’s Inheritance

Everything is dependent upon the settling of the Land and the
sanctification of God in the eyes of the nations, as it is written
(Joel 4:1): “For behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall
bring back the captivity of Yehuda and Yerushalayim, I will also
gather all nations, and will bring them down to the valley of
Yehoshafat, and will enter into judgment with them there for my people
and for my heritage Yisrael, whom they have scattered among the
nations, and have divided up my land.” It’s a shame these verses
aren’t mentioned to the President of America and the rest of the
leaders of the world who demand we divide the Land. The Prophet
continues to describe the sin of the nations and the punishment that
will come upon them, their sons, and their lands. Unlike their demands
to freeze building in Judea and Jerusalem, “But Yehuda shall remain
for ever, and Yerushalayim from generation to generation. And though I
have acquitted them, those who shed their blood I have not acquitted;
and the Lord will dwell in Zion.”

Those who Scorn the Mitzvah of Settling the Land

There are those who mistakenly think that the most important thing is
to feel bitter about “Because our God is not among us,” therefore,
“are not these evils come upon us,” while ignoring the honor of Heaven
and Israel. They don’t care about the settlements, nor does their
heart ache over the terrible desecration of God when the nations of
the world claim: “you are robbers and have conquered the land of the
Palestinians”. They don’t care about the words of our Sages which
Rashi brings down in the beginning of the Bible, that the reason the
Torah begins with story of the creation of the world is to teach us
“the power of His actions,” that the entire world belongs to God, and
He inherited the Holy Land of Israel to our fathers and us. If,
however, the government were to hinder the fulfillment of the mitzvah
of keeping kosher or family purity, then all the so-called “righteous”
would rise-up and fight till the end, but over the greatest
desecration of God, which is being perpetrated in front of the entire
world, they completely ignore.

An Awakening for the Settlers

This is the time the righteous settlers must arise. If there is a
decree not to build more houses, then we must build second floors and
turn them into apartments. According to the over-all plans, private
houses are permitted to build for themselves a storeroom measuring 60
meters, and a parking space measuring 50 meters. One can add to it a
bathroom and a kitchen, and house in his ‘storeroom’ and ‘parking
space’ newly-married couples. Then there are some people who merited
building large houses, and with the grace of God, their children grew-
up and got married. They can make-do with less and build in their
houses an additional apartment or two for young couples. In this way,
thousands of apartments can be added to the community settlements.
This will be our test: just how truly important is the mitzvah of
settling the Land to us.