Reason for My Absence
About two and a half months ago, I explained to my readers why I missed writing my column for two consecutive weeks. This was a result of surgery I had for a slipped-disc. At first, I tried different methods, but when the pain continued, I finally accepted medical advice to have an operation. Indeed, there were doubts, but I thought to myself, after having tried alternative medicine, and consulting with good and reliable doctors, the rational thinking indicated that surgery was needed in order to return and get back to work. Incidentally, this is always the advice I give to those who ask – choose a good doctor and rely on him, as our Sages said, God gave authority to doctors to heal (Berachot 60a). After the operation I was happy, as the pain disappeared. True, I still had to recover from the surgery itself, but that was fast and tolerable. I thought to myself: Here, I’ve acted accordingly, rationally considering the various sides of the matter, made a logical decision, underwent surgery successfully – now I can return to serve God vigorously. I even thought that spiritually, I had come to the proper conclusion – the meaning of back pains is the need for additional support, etc. Even my writing went well for a month. Then slowly, the pains returned, until, suddenly, they became unbearable – even stronger than the previous ones. No medicines helped. I could barely walk or sit. And along with the pain, came despair and depression.
The thought of having to return to the doctor and tell him what happened, to disappoint him with my misery, was not pleasant, but there was no choice. Once again, they did an MRI, and found that the disc had erupted – but this time, more severely. Approximately ten percent of people who have regular surgery experience a new slipped-disc within a year; in my case, it took only two months. Either way, in such a situation the medical recommendation is to undergo an additional, larger surgery – to remove the disc, have an implant, and fuse the vertebrae. Such a procedure entails a three or four day stay in the hospital. Thus, I missed another two weeks.
My Long-Standing Readers
For new readers, my personal story might seem a bit strange. Why should he write his private life? I do this, however, for my long-standing readers. I am not fortunate enough to know and meet them all. Only, from time-to-time, I meet people who feel a connection to me, and with an open heart, tell me about themselves. It turns out that we really are very close; they know almost everything about me. Together we cried over the destruction of communities, the expulsion of settlers, soldiers who fell in battle, and the victims of terror. Together we rejoiced over the building of our land. With a tear and a chuckle, we described the happiness of weddings, having children, the difficulties of match-making, and the despair of single-people. Together, we recalled the deeds of the rabbi’s, the Torah giants throughout the generations, who sacrificed themselves for the sake of the Jewish nation in the Diaspora, and the actions of the pioneers and warriors, both men and women, in the revival of the nation in the last generations. Together, we expressed appreciation to the I.D.F. and the soldiers guarding the nation and the land, while at the same time, setting clear principles and borders, with the intention of guarding the holiness of our Jewish army. Together, we dealt with questions of education, and the difficult and complex handling of connecting the spiritual with the physical, Torah and science, idealism and the concerns of making a livelihood. Together we dealt with Torah and halacha, emunah and Midrash, with a glance into our present-day lives. All this we transversed together, and even when we disagreed, we continued to honor, and perhaps, even to love one and other, and waited to read the various responses. Thus, for nearly nine years, I was fortunate not to miss even one week of writing the column ‘Revivim’, but now that I’ve missed a few, I feel the need to share with my long-standing readers the reason for my absence.
Measure for Measure
For years, I learned and taught that ‘everything is in the hands of Heaven’, ‘everything is for the good’, and ‘many thoughts are in the heart of man, but [only] God’s counsel will endure’. Most likely, I said these things accurately, but now, I can say that I understand them better. A person can make sound decisions, but still, everything is in the hands of Heaven, and we must be open to receive His leadership – even in sadness. As our Sages of blessed memory said in the Mishna (Berachot 9:5): “A person is obligated to bless Hashem over the bad [that occurs to him], just as he blesses Him over the good, as it is written: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, etc…and with all your possessions (in Hebrew ‘me’odecha’) – in every measure (‘mida’) that He measures you, thank Him very, very much.” We must strengthen our knowledge that our Father, our King, loves us, has mercy on us, and cares to benefit us in ways which we cannot even imagine. We must be open to this, in order to rise to the highest heights.
The Ways of God’s Supervision
At first glance, the land of Egypt seems superior and more praiseworthy than the Land of Israel. In Egypt, the Nile River flows, and from it, all the fields can be irrigated. In Israel, however, it isn’t possible to draw water channels to every area. But in the Land of Israel, God’s guidance is prominent, and if we listen to His voice, He will give the rain for our land in its proper time, the early (autumn) rain and the late (spring) rain; a person goes to bed at night, and the rains water his fields without effort or work. Indeed, it is true that if we don’t listen, the rains are halted, and trials and tribulations abound. This is precisely the virtue of the Land of Israel, which is seven times superior to the land of Egypt; where the eyes of God and His supervision are upon it from the beginning of the year till the end, and even the sufferings therein, come straight from heaven to purify and improve.
Just this past month, I was fortunate to receive two good tidings that should have caused me great pleasure. First, the number of students learning my books “Pininei Halacha” in various educational institutions throughout the country has grown. Second, Yeshiva Har Bracha has strengthened significantly. However, the joy didn’t seep into my heart – the pain prevented it. Nevertheless, I utilized my time in the hospital for additional proof-reading of “Pininei Halacha”, and omitting in-depth footnotes that aren’t suitable for high-school students. Who knows, maybe that’s the way to receive good tidings, at least for me. How happy I was to see the joy of the nurses upon receiving a gift of thanks from me – one of my books, as a souvenir.
We Are Thankful to You
I thought about all the people suffering in the hospitals, and if, God forbid, I need another operation, how would I cope. But there are truly sick people, who have to deal with dangerous illnesses, undergoing difficult and numerous operations, and long hospitalization. It’s unbelievable how much suffering one can cope with. And then there are other types of suffering: mourning, bereavement, divorce, dismissal from work, unfaithfulness, loss of honor, and all the terrible tragedies that befell our nation, in the Holocaust, and all the other attacks. We must believe that everything is for the good. And even when the pain is great, one must still make an effort to stand in prayer three times a day, and together with private and communal prayers for assistance, bow down and say “We are thankful to You, that You are our God… for our lives which are committed into Your hands.”
It is so difficult to be happy when a person is hospitalized. No matter hard the doctors, nurses, and family members try with all their hearts to heal, alleviate, have mercy and encourage – the situation is depressing. How fortunate to have to attempt standing in prayer, so as to bow down and give thanks. This type of bowing straightens-out ones stature yet again, lifting-up, and imbuing ideals and hope.
Who knows, perhaps if we merited truly appreciating all the good in our lives, we would be redeemed from all our suffering. For after a person suffers, he merits understanding what is really important, and knows how to enjoy things that previously seemed routine and boring. For example, returning home from the hospital, the trip is difficult and painful, but, from afar, the settlement of Har Bracha stands, as always, on the top of the tall mountain. The houses under construction are starting to take shape and look nice. The trees planted just a few years ago are turning green. My children are quietly joyful, and upon every thing I see, hidden tears fill my eyes. One could not be happier. The pains and the nausea trouble, but hope and relief grow. Suddenly, to read a verse from the Torah is wonderful, and how good it feels to return to the synagogue and pray in a minyan. Each blessing is so exciting – I close my eyes so that others can’t see my tears. And in spite of the difficulty of going-up the two steps leading to the ‘aron Hakodesh’, I grab the lectern and wait a couple of seconds till the dizziness stops, give a ‘d’var Torah’, and shake the hands of all the beloved people, and bless them with a ‘Shabbat Shalom’.
Expulsion and Abandonment
Moving on from personal issues to public matters. Once again, it has become clear that the ‘disengagement’ was not only a crime against our people, our emissaries, those Jews from Gush Katif and northern Shomron who turned the desolate areas of our land into blossoming fields, but also a security foolishness of the highest level. In order to solve a small problem, they created a state of terror.
As it turns out, the agreement with Egypt was also foolish. We have no true peace with Egypt; it’s a cease-fire which is no better than the one we have with Syria. In the meantime, the Egyptians received generous aid from America, with which they haven’t stopped equipping their army with staggering amounts of weapons, and we are their potential enemy. In practice, they continued their war against us by means of malicious, international propaganda, causing us to establish the Palestinian Authority, which, by its very nature, is developing into a state of terror.
What would have been so bad had we remained in Sinai, with all the vast territory, the communities, the airport and oil fields, the wide-open buffer areas, and all the other mineral quarries – all of which are within the boundaries of the Land (Genesis 15:18). At present, Sinai has become a nesting-site for global networks of Muslim terrorist cells.
Instead of dreaming about friendly and open peace, it would be better to engage in limited and undisclosed negotiations, without high ambitions, but with more significant achievements to our daily lives. In this way, step by step, with caution and respect for our enemies, it is possible to form a stable and productive relationship between our countries.
It is forbidden to rely on miracles. However, it is also impossible to ignore the assistance and guiding that accompanies us in the building of the Land of Israel, from the days of the first immigrants over two hundred years ago till today. In spite of all the mistakes we made, the situation progresses in such a way that it forces us to continue the process of the ingathering of the exiles, building the land, and understanding our task. We didn’t want to ascend to the Land following the call of the Vilna Gaon and the rest of the rabbi’s, and the tragedies constantly grew until there was no choice but to escape to the Land of Israel.
Many of us were mistaken, thinking that by escaping from Sinai, the Temple Mount, and the Gaza Strip, we’d get some peace and quiet. However, all this escaping is really only an escape from the Jewish identity of our State. Everything that happens comes to teach us that only if we remain faithful to our calling, will we merit being blessed. Let’s hope that the lesson comes with kindness and mercy.
Closing the Border
The State of Israel should have closed its southern border with Egypt long ago, preventing the infiltration of tens of thousands of refugees who threaten the Jewish character of the State and the jobs of blue-collar workers, while at the same time, restraining the mounting crime amongst the Bedouin in the south. However, the government has been negligent. Now, after the ruthless and brash attack near Eilat, we can only hope that the government will fulfill its role of protecting the Jewish identity of the State. Let’s hope it doesn’t take more terrorist attacks for them to do so.