The I.D.F. Rabbinate Hits a New Low

Why the Left Attacks the Religious and Settlers

Many people are amazed at the aggressive mobilization of the media, the judicial system, and the government against the religious and Haredi public and the settlers. Of course, everyone always points out that “not all of the settlers and religious are to blame”, but in reality, the accusing finger is always waved at the entire religious and settler population, either because of their ‘atrocious’ actions, or because they fail to condemn and denounce the ‘criminals’ morning, noon and night, in the harshest language possible.

How can it be that a mild disturbance in the Ephraim army base, where no one was injured, is termed ‘severe violence’ and is condemned as if it was a wild pogrom? After all, scores of more serious demonstrations occur throughout the country every year. In Paris, London, and New York, there are also demonstrations over various issues, such as price hikes, retirement age, taxes, and globalization. Sometimes the demonstrations become quite violent, including the burning stores and cars, and the injuring of police officers, but has anybody ever heard of all the top government officials in those countries unanimously condemning the protesters, as if they posed a threat to the foundations of the government and the country?! The police handle the demonstration; anyone who is caught breaking the law is simply put on trial.

Here in Israel, on the other hand, Ministers, Members of Knesset, members of the justice, and the media decided that the demonstration at the Ephraim army base is an incident which endangers the future of the State of Israel! Even the Prime Minister, who claims that settlements are dear to his heart – and only because of his numerous duties has he not found the time to visit even one settlement in the Shomron – saw fit to visit the Ephraim army base and proclaim: “We must use all of the authority that exists in the State of Israel, a State of law, a democracy built on law, and use this authority against the rioters, and we will do this with greater strength.” The real meaning of his words is that, at this point, the organizers of the demonstration are being accused of treason! Only in totalitarian regimes is a small demonstration ballooned into an incident that endangers the country and the government.

Thousands of times a day, regrettably, men make offensive comments to women, and the law authorities don’t take notice. A group of religious Jews tried to veer the media’s flames in another direction by raising the issue of the difficulties of hundreds of Jewish women who are raped and held captive in Arab villages. But the media treated it with relative indifference, the same way they relate to honor murders and other violence in these villages. On the other hand, when soldiers wish to leave a performance by a female singer, they blast the entire country about ‘the exclusion of women’; while the heads of the army declare that such a grave act will never take place in the I.D.F. And when a Haredi man calls a woman soldier a ‘slut’, he is immediately imprisoned, accused of ‘sexual harassment’, a woman judge decides not to release him until he deposits a guarantee of 30,000 shekels, and, until the conclusion of his trial, is not allowed to travel on public transportation! And in the meantime, the ruling elite cheer and applaud.

Inadvertently or a Trend of Hatred

Some people believe this is just a passing, dark cloud, resulting from a combination of unpleasant incidences, combined with the media’s penchant of arousing storms. But the fact is that these types of storms always tend to erupt against the religious, Haredim, or the settlers, and hence, they indicate a deeper feeling.

Many people believe the onslaught stems from the secular-leftists hatred towards religion and the settlers. Indeed, amongst certain parts of the left, hatred does exist. But it seems to me that most of the people who recently came out sharply against the Haredim and the settlers did not do so out of conscious hatred. They honestly maintain that the only point that interests them is law and justice. Nevertheless, they still cannot explain why such relatively insignificant incidents receive such critical coverage on their part.

Dispute over Worldview

The dispute is over two worldviews: Judaism, or post-modern assimilation. There are some Jews who find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that they belong to a small nation, with a special vision of ‘tikkun olam’ (perfecting the world) according to morals of the Torah; instead, they attempt to embrace the prevailing universal culture. At one point in time they chased after Communism; today, they pursue the post-modernism approach, according to which there are no Heavenly standards obligating one to act according to a set of values, but rather, each individual is an autonomous entity unto himself, entitled to choose his path according to his own personal discretion – provided, of course, that he does not harm anyone else. To this end, the public domain must be free of both religion and any signs of nationalism. Consequently, it is forbidden to speak about making the Galilee and Shomron Jewish; it is forbidden to call for, on behalf of traditional family values, modesty in the public areas; and it is also forbidden to denounce sexual permissiveness. The job of protecting this worldview is entrusted to the judicial system, and anyone who objects to its authority is considered a ‘heretic’ – in other words, he threatens the ‘rule of law’.

Thousands of hooligans insulting and harming women does not threaten this worldview. But soldiers exiting while a female singer performs, or a Haredi man who calls a woman standing next to him ‘slut’, or a university lecturer who condemns sexual promiscuity, definitely threatens it. Therefore, they declare war against them, and all possible tools are used to make sure that the public domain remains free of any binding, Jewish values.

Thousands of demonstrations over wages and taxes don’t threaten their worldview; they only cause inconvenience and a waste of money. But when demonstrators interfere with the destruction of an outpost, the protesters, then, are refuting their basic worldview, according to which, the right of the Jewish nation over its land is an insignificant value which is condemned to be cancelled if it interferes with the ‘vision’ of ‘universal brotherhood’.

The grand vision of the Israeli left currently drains down to one objective: the destruction of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. Thus, as far as they are concerned, the disturbances in the Ephraim army base are similar to the elimination of the country and the rule of law.

Consequently, they demand that rabbis, teachers, and public figures condemn the demonstrations, for, of course, they undermine the foundations of the government and law. This, in order to make crystal clear that Jewish values must be limited solely to the private sector, while the public value system must be ruled by the views of the post-modern secularists. Via the condemnation and declaration of allegiance of various people in the religious and national camp, the leftists fortify their control of society.

Netanyahu and His Ministers

The Prime Minister and the majority of Knesset members and ministers – like the most of the public – are torn between the two positions, but in the moment of trial, they usually join the assimilationist position. From their perspective, the Gentile culture is the mistress and Judaism is the concubine; when the mistress arrives, the concubine must hide.

Dealing with the Dark Cloud

Since we are not ready to give up our values, we must absolutely deny the fundamental assumptions of the perpetrators of this muddy wave, and work positively towards a deeply rooted Jewish alternative for the nation and the State of Israel. And also, those who honestly want to criticize the disturbances that exist amongst certain circles of Haredi and religious society must first announce that the mitzvoth of the Torah precede and are superior to all human laws.

The I.D.F. Rabbinate

A difficult example of the wrong behavior was given this week by the I.D.F. Rabbinate. According to an I.D.F. spokesman, at the instruction of the Chief of Staff, the Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F. convened the leadership of the Military Rabbinate in order to discuss the serious phenomena of the ‘exclusion of women’ on religious grounds in the army. The demand calling for a meeting in and of itself is humiliating – did someone in the army harm women in the name of religion?! Is this the most important religious and moral issue that the military rabbinate needs to deal with?! Instead of putting the Chief of Staff in his place, the rabbis convened like a choir, answering ‘amen’ after the secular position that hurls false accusations at Judaism and the religious. But the aim of the Chief of Staff’s instructions is even more severe: Demanding that the rabbis publicly acknowledge the superiority of secular law over the commandments of the Torah.

Thus wrote the I.D.F. Chief Rabbi in a letter to the military rabbis: “In the I.D.F., military orders – they, and only they – dictate the nature of the army and the atmosphere that prevails in it, and determine what must be done in various circumstances…”

One participant summed up the conference to a reporter from Ynet: “Military orders are above all, and when there is a dilemma or rift between Jewish law and an officers command, we explain to the soldier that the command comes first, whether in an exercise or in combat, or if it’s a ceremony or event where women appear”…Another rabbi said: “As the soldiers occasionally consult me with questions and answers, so too, the officers are always trying to reach common ground. In any case, an officer’s command is always above my recommendations to a soldier.”

It seems we have never reached such a low point. One can say that maybe the media is lying, but in such a serious issue, a public denial is required, and when there is none – then silence is as an admission.

The Advocate General and the Rabbinate

Can anyone imagine the Chief of Staff daring to demand that members of the Military Advocate General convene to discuss the ‘shackles’ that the military lawyers place on the hands of soldiers in their war against terrorists – ‘shackles’ that cause the death of numerous soldiers, and interfere with their ability to defeat the enemy?

The Military Advocate General represents the secular judicial system which stands above the army, and therefore will not accept any dictates from the Chief of Staff. But unfortunately, the I.D.F. rabbinate apparently does not see itself as representing Jewish law, and therefore it bows down to the Chief of Staff, and humiliates the status of the Torah by submitting to the very meeting and its content.

When rabbis convene, they should discuss matters at issue, according to the opinion of the Torah with pure fear of Heaven, intended solely for the clarification of Jewish law and morality, and by no means, as per the dictates of the Chief of Staff or anyone else.

Cat Out of the Bag

The preceding words were written on Sunday night. On Monday evening it was reported in the news that members of the forum of the General Staff, headed by the Chief of Staff, conducted a discussion about the integration of men and women in the I.D.F. It was decided that at official events, such as the memorial services for fallen soldiers, the Holocaust memorial ceremony, the memorial ceremony for the murder of Yitzchak Rabin, as well as graduation ceremonies and ceremonies for the training of outstanding soldiers – all soldiers will be required to attend, even if women sing, and this “without room left to the discretion of their commanders”. The Chief of Staff further ruled that: “Female soldiers will continue to sing in all I.D.F. events” (Arutz 7). However, in other recreational and cultural events incorporating women singing, the commanders will be allowed to permit soldiers not to attend. In other words, if the commanders do not give permission – if a soldier left the event, he will be punished for violating an order.

By now it is obvious why the Chief of Staff ordered the military rabbis to convene urgently on Sunday – so that, in advance, they give their blessing to the decisions of the General Staff, and to declare to the entire world that Jewish law is subject to military orders. Now it also becomes apparent what the phenomenon of ‘exclusion of women’ in the army was – that religious soldiers have to exit with their heads bowed-down while women sing.

Jewish Law Precedes the Decisions of the Chief of Staff

In any case, despite the media assault on ‘the exclusion of women’ because of not hearing live female singers, and despite the decision of the General Staff, and although there are military rabbis who say that military orders transcend all – Jewish law remains firmly in place, and obligates as always. A soldier who is ordered to hear a female singer in a live performance in a ceremony, should leave. And now that the issue has become public, it is right to do so publicly, and with his head held high.

State of the Military Rabbinate

I hate to say, but the Military Rabbinate has never sunken to such a low point. The Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F. is personally responsible for this. We must wait and see if the Council of the Chief Rabbinate will fulfill its role, since, in principle, it is in charge of the I.D.F. Chief Rabbi. If not, the responsibility will be passed on to the heads of the yeshivas and municipal rabbis. And, if God forbid, they bow their heads in meekness, each soldier will have to stand alone for the honor of the Torah, and refuse to obey the secular order. This will be difficult, entailing imprisonment, dismissal from courses, and humiliation, but ultimately, they will restore the dignity of Israel’s heritage to its true place.

Gender Segregated Buses Are Not Jewish Law

Question
According to Jewish law, must there be separate public transportation and streets for men and women, or is it a ‘hiddur mitzvah’ (enhancement or meticulous observance beyond the formal demands of the law)?

Answer
Clearly, there is no obligation, and not one eminent Rabbi who dealt with halachic questions rising from traveling on buses, claimed that it was an obligation (see ‘Igrot Moshe’, Yoreh Deah 2:14; Darchei Tahara 5:50). Therefore, the entire question is whether or not it is considered a ‘hiddur mitzvah’.

The Difference between Requirement and ‘Hiddur’

The difference between a mitzvah which one is required to fulfill and a ‘hiddur mitzvah’, is that a required mitzvah must be fulfilled even under difficult circumstances, and even when, seemingly, the results of its fulfillment will be problematic. The famous example of this is what our Sages said concerning King Hizkiyahu, who refrained from fulfilling the mitzvah of ‘puru u’rvu’ (being fruitful and multiplying) because he saw in ‘ruach ha’kodesh’ (Divine inspiration) that he would beget evil children. The prophet Isaiah came to inform him that as a result of this sin, Hizkiyahu would die in this world, and not live in the World to Come. Hizkiyahu repented, and was awarded an additional fifteen years of life, in which he had a son, Menashe, who indeed was the most evil of all Israel’s kings (Tractate Berachot 10a). Seemingly, Hizkiyahu’s first thought was correct; however, from the seed of the evil King Menashe, the ancestry of King David was continued, including many eminent leaders of Israel, until our righteous Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days.

On the other hand, when it comes to a ‘hiddur mitzvah’, the reward incurred by its observance must be weighed against the loss likely to be suffered by its performance. At first glance, the ‘hiddur’ might seem beneficial, but in the future, damaging things can stem from it. This is what is known as the ‘weighing of saintliness’.

The ‘Weighing of Saintliness’

In his book “Misilat Yisharim” (chapter 20), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (also known as the Ramchal) wrote that weighing of saintliness is “an extremely fundamental process”. The episode of Gedaliah ben Achikam (Jeremiah 40:13) provides a clear illustration of this fact. Because of his abundant saintliness, which would not permit him to judge Yishmael adversely, or which would not permit him to receive slander, he said to Yochanan ben Kareach, “You are speaking falsely of Yishmael.” In the end, Yishmael murdered Gedaliah, and all the people with him, and Israel’s last hope was extinguished. The Talmud (Tractate Nidah 61a) attributes the death of those men who were killed to the sin of Gedaliah’s abundant saintliness. It was also such incorrectly weighed saintliness in the incident of Bar Kamtza that was responsible for the destruction of the Temple. The Talmud (Tractate Gittin 56a) relates the story of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulos, who, even in a situation of national ‘pikuach nefesh’, refused to sacrifice an imperfect animal of the Caesar, and thus began the war which lead to the destruction of the Second Temple. It was to this that Rabbi Yochanan was referring when he said, “The humility of Rabbi Zechariah destroyed our Temple, consumed our Sanctuary and exiled us among the nations.” Rabbi Luzzato adds that if a certain custom of saintliness provokes laughter or ridicule, it should not be performed.

Segregated Buses and Streets is not Saintliness

Seemingly, from the aspect of modesty, segregated buses and streets are advantageous. However, for a number of reasons, its damages are far greater:

First, all issues of ‘hiddur mitzvah’ should be individual acts, for in halacha there are clear definitions concerning what is required, and what is optional, and when customs of ‘hiddur’ are turned into obligatory public decrees, such policies destroy the foundations of the Torah and halacha.

Secondly, when some people are negatively affected by the ‘hiddur’, the damage caused is immeasurably greater than any reward received. However, if a certain group of people want to organize private buses, operated according to novel laws they have invented, this does not negatively affect anyone who is not a member of the group, for no one is forced to travel specifically on their buses.

Thirdly, this type of policy harms the proper family order. According to these rules, a man cannot sit next to his wife, a father cannot sit next to his daughter, and a mother cannot sit next to her son. True, at public events, it is the custom of religious Jews to have separate seating for men and women. However, traveling on a bus is not considered a public act, but rather an individual act that each person does for himself.

Fourthly, when dealing with the laws of modesty, specific care must be taken, for occasionally additional laws are liable to arouse additional forbidden thoughts. This being the case, one could claim that all the customs of modesty which the Sages decreed are liable to cause forbidden thoughts. However, there is a significant difference between the regulations of the Sages and what various personalities from Haredi circles invent. With their regulations, the Sages were able to create a modest society with respectable distances between men and women, but they did not attempt to prevent informal encounters and glancing — whereas the new inventions try to prevent them. Seeing as it is impossible to prevent this, any informal encounter or glimpse may only give rise to unwanted urges.

How Should Soldiers React

Question
How should a soldier react at an official event in which women sing, and his officers threaten that if he leaves, he will be punished with imprisonment and discharged from his unit?

Answer
Since the vast majority of ‘poskim’ (Jewish law arbiters) agree that it is forbidden for a man to hear a woman sing at a live concert or event — this being an absolute halacha, and not just a custom of saintliness — it is proper for him to leave the event, no matter what punishment he is given. As Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal) wrote in his book “Misilat Yisharim” (chap. 20): “A man must observe all of the mitzvoth with all of their fine points without fear or shame, no matter in whose presence he finds himself, as it is stated (Psalms 119:46), “And I will speak of Your testimonies before kings and I will not be ashamed” and (Avoth 5.23), “Be strong as a leopard….. In general, what is essential in respect to mitzvoth must be performed in the face of all mockery.” (This is a complex issue which requires further investigation. God willing, I will relate to it in a future column).

Permission in Times of Distress

True, in individual circumstances, where a man finds himself at an event or memorial ceremony, and suddenly a woman get’s up to sing, in the past it was customary to instruct that in order not to cause humiliation, if he so chose, a man could rely on the rabbinical opinions who hold that as long as he does not have intention to gain pleasure from the singing, does not look at the singer, and thinks about other things – it is not prohibited. This is how certain rabbi’s behaved, not leaving Memorial Day ceremonies when a female singer performed; for since the majority of people were not familiar with this halacha, if the rabbi’s would have left in the middle of the ceremony, the bereaved families would have been insulted.

Times Have Changed

However, since it appears that after the recent media assault the halacha forbidding a man to hear a woman sing at a live performance has become widely known, leaving a ceremony in which a female sings is not considered insulting, because now, everyone realizes that it is a matter of halacha, and, of course, it is appropriate for any decent person to respect another’s lifestyle – all the more so, should a Jewish person respect others who follow the Jewish tradition. And, if nevertheless, somebody participating in the event chooses to be offended – even a bereaved family member – he is to blame for his own anger. He is not offended by us, but by the heritage of his forefathers.

Other Exemptions

Professional soldiers, however, whose commanding officers act tyrannically, not agreeing to free them from hearing women singers, and fear that if they refuse orders they will loose their jobs, are permitted to rely on the lenient opinions, as long as they don’t intend to gain pleasure from her singing and don’t look at her. Also, officers who must to be present with their soldiers at a military display and have no one to replace them are permitted to rely on the lenient opinions, under the specified conditions.

The Responsibility of Rabbi’s and Politicians

Unfortunately, after the religious cadets who refused to hear women singing were discharged from the Officers Course, the I.D.F. Rabbinate was silent, and to this day, remains speechless. Consequently, having removed all responsibility from itself, the Chief Rabbinate should have gotten involved, convening the Rabbinical Council in order to determine an unequivocal position, stating that the soldiers acted properly, they should continue behaving in the same way at all times, and demanding the removal of the Colonel and the Brigade Commander who discharged the cadets. True, today’s Rabbinical Council is not an independent halachic body as it used to be. Nevertheless, its duty remains to voice the position of halacha to the general public. As long as they refrain from doing so, the prohibition of hearing women singing is perceived by the secular society as an excessive stringency, whose only purpose is to annoy them and insult women. The truth is that the majority of secular society respects religious people, and if they were to hear a clear position from the Chief Rabbinate, they would understand that it is wrong to force soldiers to hear women singers. All the same, even if the Chief Rabbinate believed that it was possible to settle the issue quietly and in a pleasant way, as was publicized in their name, seeing as the issue made the headlines, and the Chief of Staff repeatedly states that all soldiers are obligated to participate in ceremonies in which female singers appear – this being a holy secular principle – it is the Chief Rabbinate’s duty to officially publicize the position of halacha.

In any case, reality will no longer allow rabbi’s to be lenient. At every public event they participate in where a woman singer performs, all of the cameras will be focused on them; for if they wish to be lenient, they will have to erase what is written in the Shulchan Aruch (the authoritative Code of Jewish law) (Even HaEzer 21:1).

Regarding the Chief Rabbinate

Something strange was printed in the supplement of the Haredi newspaper ‘Ba’Kehilla’ on the 27th of Kislev, on page 31. This is what was written: “It is no secret that today, more than any other time in the history of the Rabbinate, the present Chief Rabbi’s represent the opinion of the ‘Shulchan Aruch’, and impose, with whatever means they possess, the rule of halacha. The Rishon l’Tzion, the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo Amar, shlita, whose is at home amongst the greatest religious authorities, would never modify, under government pressure, a section from the ‘Beit Shmuel’ or ‘Pitchei Teshuva’. The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, the Gaon Rabbi Yona Metzger, shlita, who was raised in the house, and was the senior student of my teacher, the Gaon, Rabbi Chaim Goldvicht, ztz”l, casts all of his prestige and influence on every halachic accuracy.”

It should be pointed out that in the history of the Rabbinate, illustrious Torah sages served as Chief Rabbi, first and foremost, our teacher Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, ztz”l.

Shouldn’t the paper on which this was written, be spared the shame of having to bear such nonsense?!

In any case, these testimonials truly obligate the Chief Rabbi’s, for if they don’t live up to them, such extravagant praises will turn into a terrible accusation. May the Chief Rabbi’s merit standing by the side of the halacha-observant soldiers, and precisely by doing so, increase unity amongst Israel.

A Drill for the Secular in Hostile Media

Q: I read in detail your article last week about the credibility of the media and the I.D.F. spokesmen. In principle, I agree with most of what you wrote, Rabbi, but is this all you had to say after such serious violence? Is this the way a Rabbi should behave, ignoring such dangerous criminal acts, and instead, dealing with the credibility of the media and the I.D.F. spokesmen?

A: Yes, this is the case. In my opinion, the actions of the high-ranking commanders and the media, who spread harsh lies and false accusations against the settlers, are immeasurably more serious than the unruliness of the youth. The media’s exaggeration, which was meant to malign the settlers, is as serious as an outright lie. After the overstated description of the “pogrom”, of the “settler’s horrible violence against the soldiers” and all the talk about the commanding officers “who were nearly killed by blocks thrown at their heads”, unexpectedly, a great miracle occurred: not one soldier was injured, and even the officer who was hit in the head with the block escaped without a scratch!

Besides spreading false accusations being more severe, the fact that it was done by adults and responsible people, such as the General Commanding Officer, I.D.F. spokesmen, and the media, who get paid from our taxes, and are required to fulfill their duties honestly, makes the sin even graver. Those youth, the majority of whom are not ‘hilltop youth’, but rather normal kids from surrounding communities, are Israel’s cream of the crop. In the future, they will serve in the army as outstanding soldiers, and raise exemplary families.

In such a situation, when libels are being spread, the only thing that needs to be done is to reject them outright. And if someone thinks that now is the time to educate the youth via the media, at the very least, let him do it by means of media channels that the youth themselves find trustworthy, such as Arutz 7, Basheva newspaper, the Shabbat pamphlets, and not in the media who fan the fires of libel.

The Connection between the Media and Reality

Q: In last week’s article, you criticized the media. True, their coverage is slanted, but in general, they report events accurately, and we should pay attention to their criticism.

A: Anyone who believes that the media reports events accurately has fallen into their trap. Reality is complex and multi-faceted; the decision which event is important and which is not, determines what the media presents to the public, and it is very far from describing the situation accurately.

If the Media was Controlled by the Haredim

Let’s assume, for example, that the media was controlled by the Haredim, and its’ journalistic magnifying glass was directed towards the stories about the drunk youth in the pubs of Tel Aviv and the surrounding neighborhoods, since at the end of every night there are drunken brawls. Occasionally the drunks hit each other with their bare hands; sometimes with sticks or metal chains; other times, they break bottles over each other’s heads; and every now and then, they even knife each other. And when the police arrive – every so often they even beat-up the cops. Every year, a number of people are killed in these drunken brawls, and the number of people killed in car accidents due to drunk driving is much greater.

Let’s assume that each radio and television station and newspaper had a special journalist to cover this story, similar to today’s media who have a special correspondents for “matters in the territories”, and the journalists, of course, would compete amongst themselves, who could bring the juiciest story of violence to their readers, listeners, or viewers. Every now and then, one of the drunks turned out to be the son of a Knesset member, minister, C.E.O., professor, or author. The journalists would hint about who it was, eventually the person’s name would be publicized, the flames of public outcry would reach the skies, and the entire media would break out into a wild, self-righteous dance. Of course, the reporters would always ask the secular Jews to respond and apologize for the “wild thorns” growing in their flowerbeds, which have already become forests, and the Haredi announcers would rebuke every secular interviewee who was not willing to admit that significant failures exist within the secular education system.

Correspondent for Secular Family Disintegration

Every media outlet would also maintain a correspondent for family matters, whose job is to cover all the unfaithfulness and divorces amongst the famous, members of Knesset, business executives, professors, doctors, poets, and authors. His job would include interviewing the betraying wives and their abandoned husbands, to listen to their allegations, and to sigh over the bitter results of the secular education system. He would follow, with deep concern, the pain of the children whose parents got divorced, how they divide-up their time between their father and mother, how they get along with their father’s new girlfriend, who, due to her tender age, could be one of their friends. Secular moralists would complain about the media, claiming it harms the rights of the individual, but the Haredi journalists would counter-claim that the public’s right to know is greater, because it is extremely important to investigate the failures of secular education; and, unfortunately, there’s no choice – when a person is a candidate for a senior position, his level of morality must be made public. In time, a secular ‘Takana’ forum would be established, dealing with inner-soul searching, and attempting to get rid of individuals who are liable to give the overall secular public a bad name in the media, due to family problems.

And of course, all the Haredi journalists and announcers would make comparisons between the lofty speech of secular public figures about ‘honoring women’, and the way they behave in their own lives. For example, if the President of Israel spoke about the ‘exclusion of women’ from the public scene, the entire media would delve into his shaky relationship with his wife – so shaky that she refused to live with him in the Presidential residence. And if one of the ministers, or the Prime Minister himself, were to rebuke the Haredi public about their disrespect for women, the Haredi media would investigate the degree of their loyalty to their wives, and the results would be pretty appalling. Of course, a number of righteous individuals would rise-up, claiming that this is slander and it is forbidden to humiliate heads of State, but the Haredi media would answer them saying that the public has the right to know who their leaders are.

Journalists covering the field of health would eagerly report, in depth, the sad cases of 16 year-old girls who perform abortions – but in this case, without mentioning names, as a result of the girls being underage. Nevertheless, due to the wild competition between the journalists, their parents’ names would be leaked periodically.

Some secular people would complain about the media, asking why they refuse to report about all the wonderful endeavors in which the secular public plays a major role, such as scientific achievements, advanced industry, the philharmonic orchestra, and works of culture. And not one person would listen to them. On the contrary, the radio and T.V. announcers would continue to preach to them, and at every opportunity, they would find children of the secular personalities who had become religious, and, for a smidgen of dubious publicity, were willing to come on air and publicly condemn all the ugly phenomena in the secular educational system.

Wave of Repentance – Despite the Media

And you know what? A lot of Haredim would then become secular, because, if the sicknesses of the immoral secularism are criticized to such an extent, and yet, it still survives – there must be something to it!
Currently, however, the situation is exactly the opposite: The journalists are secular leftists, and therefore they report about the settler ‘rampages’, fights amongst the Haredim, and about the ‘exclusion of women’. And despite all this, a huge wave of people returning to traditional Judaism is sweeping the country, the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria continues to grow, and the majority of the Israeli public admires them.
Consequently, I am not concerned about the media’s criticism, and I don’t consider it as truly reflecting public opinion. At the very most, they manage to create a certain transparent, shallow awareness amongst the public.

Media Influence

True, the media does have short-term influence, and we must learn how to minimize its damages. Occasionally, it can even be used. However, this can be done only after realizing the media’s low level and its’ negative orientation towards the settlers and the Haredim, and to understand that when we are dealing with libels against us – the only thing that needs to be done is, to counter attack. And since quite a few spokesmen from Judea and Samaria do not understand this, instead of condemning the libels, they try to rationalize and publicly confess, and every time they are interviewed, a media attack occurs.

Don't Believe Their Lies

Question: Rabbi, what is your reaction to the violent incidents which took place Monday night in the Shomron against the Brigadier Commander, Deputy Brigadier Commander, and soldiers?

Answer: I don’t know exactly what happened, but one thing I am sure: Whatever the media reports is extremely exaggerated. The media and the I.D.F.’s dubious reputation have been acquired over many years. Till this day, there hasn’t been one story which I was familiar with that was reported correctly. And I’m not talking about a slight inaccuracy due to human error, or even bias owing to a reporter’s leftwing viewpoint making it difficult for him to identify events accurately. Rather, we’re speaking about scandalous and intentional bias.

The I.D.F. spokesmen operate in this method because this is the nature of an army. The army uses all the means in its possession to defeat the enemy – including manipulation, fraud, diversion, etc. Woe unto us if the army did not prepare itself in such a way against the enemy, and woe unto us that in recent years the government and the Minister of Defense use the army and its methods against the settlers – the loyal representatives of the Jewish nation throughout history.

The erroneous reporting in the media stems from an obvious concerted attempt to malign the settlers by all possible means, in order to destroy the settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Now as well, the motivation to defame the settlers and to spread division amongst their ranks by inciting a wave of condemnations within the camp is clear – to open the way for the destruction of the outposts. And behold, the scheme has succeeded. According to reports, the Prime Minister, from the Likud Party no less, has assembled the security forces, directing them to deal with an ‘iron fist’ against so-called “Jewish terror” – in other words, to plan a wild destruction of houses in the outposts.

This position of mine is based on long, personal experience. Many of you remember the defamation spoken against me when the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, decided to remove Yeshiva Har Bracha from the Hesder program. But now, let me recount one example out of many others.

The “Broken Leg” of Guy Hazut, Battalion Commander of the Paratroopers

On the eve of the last day of Pesach 2006 while staying at Kfar HaRo’eh, I heard the news on the radio that a serious confrontation had occurred between settlers in Har Bracha and soldiers, and that settlers had closed the settlement’s gate on the commander’s leg, and broke his leg. I was hurt and angry. How could people from our community dare do such a thing! I was realized that the media does not like us, but never in my mind did I imagine they would make-up a story that didn’t actually happen. Familiar with the heavy iron gate of the community, I thought that a group of people had confronted the battalion commander, and as he tried to enter the settlement, they forcefully closed the gate on his foot.

The true story was quite different. The gate in question is a small, flimsy, three foot-high goats’ pen fence, located on a hilltop two kilometers from the community. The Battalion Commander was chasing after a boy, who he suspected of previously throwing stones at an Arab vehicle, some four kilometers away from the community. During the chase, the Battalion Commander ran into a small post of the gate, hitting his foot. The supposedly injured Battalion Commander managed to wander around the area for another half an hour, cursing the settlers, and ordering his troops to close the two roads leading to the settlement, which at the time numbered a hundred and fifty families. And all this on the eve of the holiday! What’s more, a number of residents with health problems returning from medical check-ups were not allowed to go home for quite a long time. Along with all this, in three different incidents, Battalion Commander Hazut’s soldiers threatened settlers with their cocked weapons.

It should be noted (as the Jews in exile would point out when they attempted to persuade the authorities to treat them leniently) that amongst the community and Yeshiva, there were more over two hundred and fifty soldiers serving in both regular and reserve duty at the time. They and their families were threatened by the soldiers with cocked weapons.

Guy Hazut’s Media Expertise

When it comes to the media, Guy Hazut is quite proficient. Every event that he participated in reached the media in ‘real time’, according to his perspective, of course. After concluding his altercation with the residents, he went to the hospital to have his leg examined, while, simultaneously spreading lies to the media that the settlers had broke his leg. At the hospital, the Battalion Commander’s leg was found to be fine, and he was released immediately. Residents from the community contacted various reporters to deny the story, but the media continued to broadcast the lie, as if the settlers had beaten and injured the commander.

The bad name that Guy Hazut gave the settlement and the residents was difficult to cleanse. There was no point in arguing — no one would listen. All that can be said is – do not believe the media and the army spokesmen. No matter how much you think they’re lying, you’ll still be wrong – they lie even more.

Lies in Hebron

I give this example because, thus far, Guy Hazut has not yet apologized. Incidentally, he is presently the Hebron Brigade commander, and in the area under his command, one of his soldiers accidentally killed Rabbi Dan Marzbach ztz”l. But as is customary in the army and with Guy Hazut, on that very morning, a smoke screen of lies, falsification, and defamation against Rabbi Marzbach were spread in the media, as if he was guilty of his own killing.

Two months earlier, also in Hebron, I.D.F. spokesmen brazenly lied about the murder of Asher Palmer and his infant son Jonathan, saying they died in a car accident in which the father was guilty, having allegedly fallen asleep at the wheel. Only after a hard struggle by family, friends and public figures was the truth proven that they were killed due to Arab stone throwing – while this truth had already been known from the start. Even the I.D.F. was aware of it – the fact is that towards that very Shabbat, the army canceled the vacations of the soldiers in Judea and Samaria for fear of settler response.

“Injured” Policemen

While we’re on the subject, in every demonstration in which civilians are injured, immediately, one of the police commanders orders some of the policemen to lie on stretchers and claim they are injured, to be photographed for television, and sent to the hospital. Later on, you hear on the news: “In the demonstration, thirteen policemen were injured, as well as seven protesters.” Doctors have told me that most of the cops who come to hospitals after the demonstrations were pretenders; nothing actually happened to them, they apparently have to carry out orders to act like they’re injured and be hospitalized.

Names with Roots

Naming a Child after a Grandparent

The primary aspect of the mitzvah to honor one’s parents is, as expected, directed towards one’s father and mother. An off-shoot of this commandment is the mitzvah to also honor one’s grandparents, this being for two reasons: first, because a grandchild is also considered as being one’s child, and secondly, included within the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is to honor their parents. Nevertheless, it is clear that the obligation of honoring parents is greater than the requirement to honor one’s grandparents.

Included in the mitzvah of honoring parents is naming a newborn baby after the grandparents or great-grandparents. In the last generation, however, many people find it difficult to fulfill this mitzvah. It seems to them that naming their children after their grandparents harms their independence, depriving them the freedom to choose a name which they like. Nevertheless, they should overcome this hurdle, fulfill the mitzvah of honoring their parents and grandparents, and as a result, they too will be honored when they get old, and their memory will be safeguarded after 120 years.

Some people choose a name for the baby, and in order to do the minimum required of them, give the baby a second name after a grandparent, or settle for a hint to their grandparents’ real name. If, for example, the grandfather’s name was ‘Yosef’, they’ll call the grandson ‘Yossi’ or ‘Asaf’. By doing so, however, they are not fulfilling the mitzvah properly. Many times, the names in question are amongst the holiest and most beautiful names, resembling the names of our forefathers and mothers, prophets and prophetesses – and only because of a fleeting desire to give the child a trendy name, they pushed-off the grandparents name, using it only as a second name.

In the future, they probably will regret having not merited fulfilling the mitzvah of honoring their parents appropriately. Who knows – perhaps that name was passed down for generations in the family, and now, because of them, the chain has been broken.

A True Story

Over a decade ago, I was invited to be the ‘sandak’ (person who holds the baby at the circumcision ceremony) at a ‘brit milah’ (circumcision). Since I knew that the mother’s father had recently passed away, I asked the father if they were planning to name the baby after him. He replied that it was problematic and thus wanted to give the baby a different name (more trendy), but they were willing to use the grandfather’s name as a second name. Out of friendliness, I said that I was willing to be the ‘sandak’ only on the condition that the baby was given the exact name of the grandfather, and not as a second name. After discussing it, they decided to overcome the emotional difficulty, and accept my condition. They named the baby after the grandfather, and the widowed grandmother was moved to tears, thanking them from the depth of her soul.

About a year later, I asked them if they were happy with the name. They said they were very happy, and keep wondering why it was so difficult for them to name the baby after the grandfather. I have merited encouraging many couples to name their children after their grandparents, and I have never heard of anyone who has regretted it. As the years go by the couples grow happier, knowing that they have merited fulfilling the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents by naming their children after their grandparents.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have problems fulfilling this mitzvah – to be a link in the chain of generations. The parents prepare themselves beforehand, knowing that their children will give a different name to their child. And when they hear that they named the baby after the grandparent – and not as a second name, or a nickname, but the exact same name – their eyes fill with tears, and are so moved they lack words to express their feelings. At the end of the ‘brit’, I suggest to them to say ‘kaddish’ in memory of their parent, and they recite it with such great emotion and tears – similar to the ‘kaddish’ said at the closing ‘ne’ila’ prayer on Yom Kippur. There is no greater honoring of one’s parents than this.

Unusual Names

Nonetheless, in regards to an unusual name which will cause grief to the child when he gets older, it is best to use it as a second name. The grandparents, whose name has presently become uncommon, would probably agree to this, seeing that they also wish the best for their grandchild.

Naming a Child after a Living Grandparent

Certainly, in communities where it is customary to name the baby after the grandparents while they are still alive, there is an even greater mitzvah to continue the ‘minhag’ (custom). This is a wonderful and continuous honoring of one’s parents, meriting them to see, in their lifetime, their grandchild named after them.

However, a ‘halachic’ question arises: When a friend’s name is the same as the father or mother’s name, according to the majority of ‘poskim’ (law arbiters), it is forbidden to call their friends by name in the presence of their parents. If so, how should they call their children in the presence of the grandparents? If the issue hasn’t been discussed, they should be careful not to call their children by their full name in front of the grandparents, rather, they should call their child by a pet name. If the grandparents explicitly agree to have their grandchildren called by their name in their presence, it is permissible to call them by their regular name, and there is no need to use a nickname. However, in the presence of strangers who would not understand this, and might think that the son is insulting the honor of his father, the grandchild should be addressed by his nickname, even though the father forgoes his honor.

Marrying a Cousin

The Sages of blessed memory said (Talmud Yerushalmi, Kiddushin 4:4): “A man should cling to his tribe and family”, because by marrying a woman from a member of his family, the love and faithfulness between them will be greater. Also, the Sages praised someone who marries his niece (Tractate Yevamot 62b). They also said in the Midrash (Bereshit Rabba 18:4), someone who marries a relative, the verse “Now this is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh” (Genesis 2:23) can be said of him.

And this is exactly what our forefathers did: Avraham was Sarah’s uncle; Rivka was the daughter of Bethuel, who was Yitzchak’s cousin; and Rachel and Leah were the cousins of Yaacov.

Seemingly, this is very hard to understand, for it is well-known that in marriages between relatives, children with various defects are liable to be born, and the closer the relation is, the greater is the danger. Indeed, we see that already in the times of the Rishonim (medieval Bible commentators), Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid wrote in his last will and testament that no one should marry his niece. He most probably understood the dangers involved, and therefore ordered not to follow the advice of the Sages.

Some of the illustrious Achronim (later commentators) explained that in times when marriages were ‘l’shem shamayim’ (for the sake of Heaven), there was no need for worry, because the merit of the mitzvah assisted them. But when marriages are not ‘l’shem shamayim’, there is room for concern. And when Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid saw that many people were not marrying ‘l’shem shamayim’, he ordered not to marry relatives (see Tzitz Eliezer 15:44, Nishmat Avraham, Even Ha’Ezer 2:1).

It seems to me that a further explanation can be given. In the past, when living conditions were difficult, and people were more exposed to the dangers of starvation, illnesses, wars, and pogroms, there was an immense significance to the consolidation of the extended family, for by means of it, people could handle more successfully the various dangers, and organize living conditions in such a way that would allow continuity and stability. Therefore, the benefits of marrying relatives exceeded the dangers of having children with birth defects. However, when living conditions improved, there was no longer a need to worry about family consolidation and survival, and the only thing left was the genetic danger of marrying relatives. As a result, today it is recommended that relatives not marry each other, in order to prevent hereditary diseases.

Another possible explanation is that in past generations, for various reasons, at least half of the babies born would die within their first years of life, and amongst them, in all probability, most of the babies with defects. Thus, it wasn’t clear whether they died because of their defects, or some other weakness.

The Rabbi's Journey

The Journey of the Rabbi’s to the Moshavot

A few months ago, a new book called “Eleh Massey” (“This is the Journey”) was published, describing the journey of the Rabbi’s to the new farming settlements in the Shomron and Galilee in the winter of 5674 (1913) in order to strengthen religious matters there. At the head of the delegation stood our teacher, Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook ztz”l, who was about 49 years old at the time, serving as Rabbi of Yaffo and the ‘moshavot’ (new farming settlements). Together with him were a number of important Rabbi’s, most notably, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld (who was 16 years older than Rabbi Kook).

The more established settlements were started by religious and traditional people, while the newer settlements were started by secular individuals. However, the spirit of the times, and the influence of the younger teachers, ruined the traditional atmosphere in the older settlements as well. The Rabbi’s departed on their journey in order to strengthen Shabbat observance, Torah education, and all other religious matters, focusing on the giving of ‘terumot and ma’asrot’ (agricultural tithes).

The account of the journey was written by Rabbi Horowitz, who was one of the participants and organizers, however, it was written from his perspective, without describing the general situation of the settlements, and the impact left on them, by the Rabbi’s visit. Rav Amihud Levine, shlita, head of the Netanya kollel, and head of the “Oraita Institute”, who is knowledgeable in Talmud and an eminent expert in the history of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, took upon himself to publish the book anew. The new edition is accompanied by an introduction, notes, photographs, and further details that provide a complete historical picture of the settlements’ situation in those times, and the impact the Rabbi’s journey had on them. Few are the books which incorporate Torah knowledge, historical, and geographical accuracy on such a high level.

I am honored to note that Rav Amihud Levine is a relative of mine. His father, the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Levine ztz”l, the former Rabbi of Netanya, is my father’s uncle. When Rav Levine’s grandfather – who is my great grandfather – Rabbi Eliyahu Epstein ztz”l, made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and travelled to Rabbi Kook, he offered him two positions in the Rabbinate: either to be the Rabbi of Ramat Gan, or Rabbi of Balforia in the Yizrael Valley. Wishing to participate in the building of the Land, his grandfather chose to go to Balforia. The roots of this wonderful book’s publication apparently stemmed from there.

The Purpose of the Journey

As cited in the book, the introduction to the booklet describing the journey, or at least the majority of it, was written by Rabbi Kook. He wrote: “When we behold the flourishing ‘moshavot’, the expanding cities, the ever-more sophisticated suburbs in the Land of Israel, and we read the words of the Prophet (Yehezkel 36): ‘Thus says the Lord…I will also cause the cities to be inhabited, and the wastes shall be rebuilt, and the desolate land shall be tilled…’, we were like dreamers…and ask ourselves: Is it possible? Could it be that we are already the generation that sees the beginning of his prophecy? … and when we contemplate such thoughts, we feel a sense of profound greatness, and wonderful pleasure…” “But on the other hand, when you look at all the shortcomings, at the remoteness from the light of the Torah and mitzvoth, it almost seems to us that all of the spectacular vision of [Israel’s] revival, has vanished and evaporated like smoke before our eyes, God forbid…Surely, we are confident in the grace of the Rock of Israel, who tells Zion “be built!”, that these illnesses are temporary, and the inner life-force within the soul of Israel…will overcome all these deficiencies… but we are called to assist as best we can, to go and help the heroes, to visit the ‘moshavot’, to encourage the spirit, to insert holiness into the bones of the settlements…to elevate traditional Judaism, to cry out loudly the exclamation of peace and unity between the old and new settlements…”

In every place they visited, Rabbi Kook, and other rabbi’s, addressed the pioneers. Their words made an impact on their audience, awakening a desire to become stronger in Torah, mitzvoth, and Shabbat observance. Practical arrangements for the taking of agricultural tithes were fixed, and other religious matters were worked out. But the problem of education – which required intensive treatment – was not resolved.

Past and Present

Although 98 years have passed, it seems that these two main points still remain. From one year to another, the astonishment of the settling of Eretz Yisrael increases. At the time of the Rabbi’s journey, in 1913, Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel numbered approximately 85,000 Jews (only 12% of the total population). The vast majority lived in cities, mostly in Jerusalem, with nearly 12,000 Jews living in 47 new settlements established over 30 years – since the First Aliyah, in the year 1882. Today, there are more than 60 times as many Jews living in Israel – approximately 6 million. After about 30 years of settlement, the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria numbers close to 350,000. The largest settlement back then was Zikron Yaacov, which, after 30 years of settlement, numbered about 870 people (in order to clarify, today, in the settlement of Har Bracha located in the Shomron, there are approximately 1,500 people).

On the other hand, the piercing sorrow over the drifting apart from Torah and mitzvoth breaks the heart. Yet, just as in the past, it turns out that a large part of the estrangement is due to a lack of getting together. In most cases, when both sides meet, they demonstrate a deep desire for rapprochement, and the secular are interested in more of a connection to Torah and mitzvoth.

The Journey’s Conclusion: Education is Problematic

In almost every place the Rabbi’s visited, the veteran residents complained about the teachers steering their children from the path of Torah and mitzvoth. Those teachers were financed at first by the clerks of Baron Rothschild, and afterwards, by the Jewish Colonization Association, and coordinated by “The Teachers Center”. All of these organizations were of a national-secular orientation. The difficulty in making a living did not allow the farmers to hire teachers suitable to their liking. Rabbi Kook hoped that by means of the ‘Agudat Yisrael’ movement, which was established a year before, resources would be found to hire religious teachers in all the ‘moshavot’. This was one of the reasons for his trip to the ‘Agudat Yisrael’ convention in Frankfurt in the end of 1913. However, the First World War broke out and interrupted all the plans. Nevertheless, Rabbi Horowitz, the representative of the committee from Amsterdam, was previously able to obtain a temporary budget for six teachers who were sent to the ‘moshavot’. The story is told of one of them, Rabbi Porush, who was sent to Yavniel and was so successful, that almost none of the children remained in the secular school.

Rabbi Kook and the other rabbi’s gave sermons in all of the settlements, and their words left their mark; however, the educational system, which was governed by secular authorities, was difficult to correct, being that it was dependent on large budgets.

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that in actuality, a lot of financial aide came to Israel from religious donators, but the vast majority of it went to maintaining the Old Yishuv, to the point where there was no money left to support religious teachers for the Shomron and the Galilee.

Hadera

In the ‘moshava’ of Hadera, there were about 450 Jews at the time. In the northern section of the area, lived a group of immigrants from Yemen. This was the impression of the Rabbi’s, as summarized by Rabbi Horowitz: “The children learn in mixed groups. The religious studies and education is completely inadequate… we met a 12 year old boy from the school, and we were astonished…the ‘Chumash’ (Five Books of Moses) is totally foreign to him – he’s never seen one in his life. True, he learns Isaiah and Ezekiel from the Book of Prophets, and you can already guess the perception of a child who has never seen a ‘Chumash’…they are taught absolutely nothing about the obligation of prayer…the situation of the youth is unruly…”

“A Yeminite man, who is a member of the Yeminite Committee, passed a note to the Rabbi’s, complaining that there is no Torah, no prayer, and no knowledgeable or understanding teacher.”

As a result of the visit, Rabbi Kook wrote them a letter including criticism about matters requiring improvement (Igrot Ra’aya, part 2, 621). In consequence of the letter, the committee assembled and at the conclusion of the meeting, complaints were voiced at those who spoke negatively to Rabbi Kook. On the other hand, it was agreed that the giving of agricultural tithes should be reinforced, and opposition to public desecration of the Sabbath was also voiced. It was agreed to advance the building of a ‘mikvah’ for the remote Yeminite neighborhood. Concerning the hiring of a teacher, they decided that it was dependant on obtaining a budget. In the meeting, there were some members of the committee who agreed to immediately guarantee certain payments, but in the end, it was decided to establish a committee to see if a budgetary solution could be found.

Zichron Yaacov

Zichron Yaacov was the largest ‘moshava’, and there the Rabbi’s discovered that the school was mixed gender, the teachers were secular, and foreign influences caused a drifting apart from religion. This was expressed in the fact that even in the synagogue, the clerks of Baron Rothschild had placed the platform for Torah reading next to the ‘aron kodesh’ (alter), similar to the custom of Reform Jews.

In a meeting with the committee, Rabbi Kook said that “a considerable ‘tikun’ (improvement) must be made in the school; the classes must be separated – the boys and the girls should learn alone …” There were some teachers who argued over this, and in the end, the committee accepted the requirement fundamentally, however, decided to transfer the arrangement of the matter to the school conference.

Rabbi Kook also handed down the Rabbi’s decision that obligated the positioning of the platform in the center of the synagogue. Some members argued about this too, claiming that it is only a custom. Rabbi Kook, however, replied that there was no room to distinguish between law and custom, and in any case, this change expresses an “assimilation and uprooting of Judaism.” In the end, the committee agreed to transfer the question to a general meeting, while supporting the Rabbi’s requirement.

The Platform’s End

One of the main virtues of Rav Levine’s edition is that he goes into detail, giving a full picture of the events, as well as their conclusion. On the Shabbat that the Rabbi’s were in Zichron Yaacov, the platform was temporarily moved to the center of the synagogue, for the Rabbi’s agreed to come only on the condition that it was moved. Later, however, the platform was returned to its original place. Seeing that the meeting in which the final decision was to be made concerning the platform’s location was delayed, two members courageously broke the base of the platform, and moved it to the center of the synagogue. When it became known, the ‘moshava’s’ committee decided to impose a heavy fine on them, because “this action is against all of the ordinances of the committee…and can cause demoralization and ruin the efforts and operations of the committee.” However, many members protested the punishment, saying that the actions of the two members represented the feelings of many others who encouraged them to do it. One member even claimed that the Rabbi’s had said “it was an obligation to break the platform, and therefore it was as if the ‘gabai’ (manager of the synagogue) was certified to do it.” In the end, it was decided – by a majority vote – to exempt them from paying the fine, and the platform remained in the center of the synagogue, as the Rabbi’s requested.

The Hullabaloo in Yavniel

Rabbi Ben Tzion Yadler, one of the participants on the journey, relates the following story in his book “B’tuv Yerushalayim”: “I recall that in one ‘moshava’ there was a “modern” man who, in the middle of Rabbi Kook’s sermon, began objecting to the taking of agricultural tithes, screaming: ‘In our place there will not be such a thing!’ Rabbi Kook got very angry and reproved the man harshly, until Rabbi Zonnenfeld calmed Rabbi Kook down by saying: ‘Rabbi, you will yet see this man repent, and give of his own fruits to be tithed.” (Rabbi Yadler writes that this is exactly what happened. Eventually, that same man personally assisted in the tithing of produce). A simple Jew who also participated in that meeting, got up and said: ‘If we are ready to sacrifice our lives for the Communist red flag, when it hasn’t yielded anything, all the more so should we be ready to sacrifice our lives for the agricultural tithes, which is an ancient custom from the times of Yehoshua bin Nun, who conquered the Land, and also for the observance of Shabbat from the days of Moshe Rabbeinu, for that matter!’ These words pleased Rabbi Kook.

Visit to Poriah

Living in the ‘moshava’ of Poriah at the time were approximately 60 young, secular pioneers who desecrated the Sabbath and ate non-kosher food. In spite of this, when they heard that the Rabbi’s were spending Shabbat in Yavniel, they sent two members there to invite the Rabbi’s to visit their community. However, since Poriah was beyond the Sabbath limits, Rabbi Kook did not want to give them an answer on Shabbat (so they wouldn’t return to their community, thus desecrating the Sabbath), and told them that if they waited until Shabbat was over, he would respond. When Shabbat was over, the Rabbi’s agreed to visit the following evening.

In the book, a number of testimonies are mentioned about the visit to Poriah, which left a strong impression on the pioneers who, up until then, felt an extreme remoteness from rabbi’s, Torah and mitzvoth. Rabbi Kook spoke to them about Torah and settling the Land, and about the need to make a spiritual and emotional connection between the elderly Rabbi from Jerusalem, Rabbi Zonnenfeld, and even the youngest laborer. To this the pioneers responded with cries of ‘hooray’ and applause. Out of enthusiasm, they began to dance together, while in between breaks, Rabbi Kook spoke to them about matters of ‘teshuva’ (repentance), Shabbat observance, eating kosher, etc.

Years later, Zev Horowitz, a member of Kibbutz Geva, related: “I will never in my life forget that picture. Rabbi Kook, a tall, handsome man with a tall hat… he saw a security guard wearing a scarf on his head and said to him ‘let’s exchange – I’ll take your ‘rabbinical cloak’, and you take mine’. Everyone was enjoying themselves. At the end, the Rav said: ‘Just as we externally wore each other’s clothing, our hearts should also be shared.’

Another woman spoke of a feeling of spiritual elevation, emphasizing that “only the men danced there. The girls didn’t dare.” At the conclusion of the meeting, the pioneers pledged to kosher the kitchen, and not to publically desecrate the Sabbath any more.

Encourage Good Intentions

לעברית – לעודד את הכוונות הטובות

Arrogance of the Stringent

In response to what I wrote last week, some readers claimed that many girls who act stringently in the laws of modesty transgress the sin of arrogance. While they seemingly dress modestly, they really are proclaiming to their friends: “Look how much better and more religious we are than you!” Perhaps that teacher who taught that there is no obligation to wear socks or stockings saw the arrogance in their behavior and wanted to teach the class that, in fact, it is not obligatory, and in consequence, there is no room for the ‘modest’ girls to boast about their excessive strictness of halacha.

Don’t Condemn Those Who Excel

Answer: Indeed, one must always be concerned about egotism, nevertheless, there are some teachers who are careful to specifically admonish the youth who try to follow halacha precisely, while speaking positively about all the other students. This is heroism on the weak. Such teachers know that ‘righteous’ youth won’t brazenly answer back, therefore, they allow themselves to degrade them, and not treat them with due respect. But towards the students who gloat over their fancy clothes, wasting their parent’s money on expensive designer brands – those teachers would not dare to open their mouths. At the very most, they’ll speak in general terms about the importance of being modest, alluding to their displeasure of the culture of ‘brand-name product’ consumerism. And if, God forbid, one of the rich kids gets insulted, they’ll explain that they weren’t speaking of him. On the contrary, he behaves modestly – buying brand-name items only when it comes to pants, shirts, computers, i-phones, and shoes; but socks and tzitzit, for example, he buys the regular brands. And he even bought his tefillin inexpensively!

If youth who volunteer for Magen David Adom, visiting the sick, or to help organize class parties were to rise up and chastise their classmates for not volunteering like they do, the teachers wouldn’t dare rebuke them for their arrogance. Quite the opposite, they would view their statements as an expression of admirable idealism. At most, they would gently explain that not everyone can volunteer as they do, and therefore, they should tone-down their criticism. Only towards the ‘righteous’ kids who meticulously guard the laws of modesty, mitzvoth between man and God, and study Torah diligently, do the teachers dare to criticize and check their tzizit – questioning their level of sociability. Our Sages, however, instructed us to praise the righteous, in order to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

In general, it is important to know that youth are inclined to extremism. Someone who criticizes them for fulfilling mitzvoth in an exemplary way affects their ability to ascend to higher levels of Torah and mitzvoth.

In summation, there is no doubt that youth must be educated towards humility and modesty, but without harming, God forbid, the good aspirations to fulfill the mitzvoth in an exemplary way.

The Story of the Showbread

The story is told of a Rabbi who gave a sermon to his congregation about the mitzvah of the showbread offering: how the flour was sifted eleven times, the baking of the twelve loaves, how every Shabbat they would be brought to the Holy Temple, and the great pleasure it brought to Heaven. And how, due to our sins, since the Temple was destroyed, the showbread offering has not been brought, and how much sadness this has caused the world.

A simple Jew, one of the Marrano’s from Portugal who made aliyah to Tzfat, heard the sermon. He returned home excited and eager, and told his wife that since the Holy Temple was destroyed, no one was found to prepare the showbread for God. He suggested that, from then on, they themselves would prepare fine challot, and every Erev Shabbat, he would bring them to the synagogue so that God could take them. And this is exactly what they did. They prepared fine challot, the husband brought them to the synagogue, placed them before the ‘aron HaKodesh’ (the holy ark), and implored God, begging that although they were simple Jews, He would accept their offering with desire, for their only intention was to cause Him pleasure.

Before Shabbat, the ‘gabai’ (manager of the synagogue) arrived to the synagogue, and to his surprise, saw fine challot lying in front of the ‘aron’. He attempted to find out to whom they belonged, and when he couldn’t, he took them, and ate them with delight on Shabbat. When the simple Jew got to the synagogue and saw that the challot had disappeared, he understood that his offering had found pleasure in God’s eyes. Immediately at the conclusion of the prayers, he ran home to inform his wife that their offering was successful, and that God had accepted it. Seeing that their challot were pleasurable to Him, they must now hasten to make Him even finer challot. This went on for several Sabbaths.

On one of those Sabbath eves that same Rabbi sat in the synagogue, studying. Suddenly, he saw the simple Jew enter the synagogue, place his challot before the ‘aron’, and implore God that He receive his offering this Shabbat, also. The Rabbi called the Jew and rebuked him sternly: “What is this strange custom? How could you even think of bringing an offering that is not written in the Torah? Do you think that God needs to eat?!” The simple Jew replied: “But from your sermon, honorable Rabbi, I understood that it is a mitzvah to make bread for God.” The Rabbi rebuffed him, and said: “Don’t you know that it permitted to bring the showbread offering only in the Holy Temple?!” The simple Jew replied: “But God indeed has accepted our offering for a number of Sabbaths. How can the honorable Rabbi say that there is absolutely no mitzvah in my actions?” The Rabbi answered: “Do you really believe that God has a body and needs your challot? Surely the ‘gabai’ took your challot. Here, wait with me until the ‘gabai’ comes, and see for yourself that he takes your challot.” The simple Jew waited and saw the ‘gabai’ take the challot. And with tremendous sorrow, he burst into tears and returned home in despair.

At that same time, the holy Arizal sent word to that Rabbi: I heard behind closed doors that you better hurry and go home to say goodbye to your family, because tomorrow, when you are supposed to give your sermon before your congregation – you are going to die. Because, from the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, God has not found pleasure similar to what that simple Jew had done, innocently bringing Him his two challot. Therefore, it has been decreed that the person who prevented him from doing so will die, without the possibility of cancelling the decree (Mishnat Chasidim, paragraph 220).

What Should the Rabbi Have Done?

Ostensibly, the Rabbi was right. Could he have possibly agreed to the development of a new custom, contrary to halacha, according to which showbread is placed before the ‘aron Ha’Kodesh’, having people believe that God sends a hidden hand to take it, while in truth, the ‘gabai’ took it and ate it at home?! Rather, the Rabbi should have honored the good intentions of the simple Jew, saying to him: You and your wife have merited being tremendously righteous people. How fortunate that you were stirred to cause pleasure before Hashem, our God. However, we must realize that only in the Holy Temple are we allowed to bring the showbread offering, but today, because of our sins, our Holy Temple is destroyed, and we are not permitted to bring it. Indeed, you were motivated to fulfill this great mitzvah, and in the merit of this holy awakening, you definitely caused pleasure before God and helped bring the Redemption closer; but from now on, we do not have permission to continue in this way. Instead, you can give fine challot to poor people, invite guests to your house, engage in Torah study, and make your wife happy.

In this way, the Rabbi would not have hurt his good intentions, but directed them to more appropriate channels. This is the general rule: The ‘tikkun’ (improvement) should be done by incorporating enrichment and advancement, which includes both halachic accuracy and character improvement, and not by harming good intentions or deeds.

The Importance of Modesty

ערכה של צניעות – למקור העברי

Perplexed

“I am 14 years old and learn in Ulpana… Concerning the issue of wearing stockings, Rabbi, I would like to know what the halacha says in connection to my situation, and also, is it advisable to be more stringent than the halacha in order to become stronger religiously?

  • 1. My mother and her family wear stockings (they are ‘Yekkim’).
  • 2. In my Ulpana generally, and in my grade specifically, only a few girls wear stockings. Until now I have worn stockings without a problem, because my good friends also wore stockings.
  • 3. Many teachers in the Ulpana don’t wear stockings, but do wear long skirts, saying that this is accordance with halacha.
  • 4. Recently, one teacher said in class that according to practical halacha, it is permitted to wear a long skirt without stockings. Since then, all my good friends stopped wearing stockings. It is very difficult for me to be the only one, alone and different from everyone else, continuing wearing stockings.
  • 5. Lately, the whole issue of wearing stockings has turned me off, and moreover, I also suffer more than usual from heat in the spring and summer.
  • 6. Can I wear sandals without stockings, but wear a long skirt instead?
  • 7. If so, does the skirt have to reach only to the bottom of my legs (and not cover my feet), or does the skirt have to reach the floor, thereby covering my feet? (I am willing to do this).
  • 8. If, according to halacha, it is permissible to wear a long skirt without stockings – given my situation, from the aspect of honoring one’s parents, and “Do not forsake the Torah of your mother”, am I obligated to wear stockings?
  • 9. If in practice it is permissible, according to halacha, to wear a long skirt without stockings, is there a further desirable reason to wear stockings – because, spiritually, it will add to my piety, training me to be more modest, or leading me to other good traits?

I would be very appreciative, Rabbi, to receive a written answer with sources, so that I can show it to my friends, and help them out in this issue.

Halacha Concerning Stockings

The Sages said (Talmud Berachot 24a): “The ‘shok’ (thigh) of a woman is considered ‘erva’ (nudity).” In other words, the thigh is one of the intimate parts of the body, and revealing it in front of strangers is considered promiscuity. Accordingly, it is forbidden to speak words of ‘kedusha’ (holiness) while facing it.

In the opinion of most ‘poskim’ (Jewish law arbiters), the ‘shok’ is the part of the leg from the knee to the ankle. Yet, there is a difference in stringency between the ‘shok’ and the thigh – the thigh must be covered in a way that its shape not be evident – either by a skirt or dress – while the ‘shok’ can be covered by tights or stockings. The covering of the feet depends upon the ‘minhag ha’makom’ (custom of the place) – in a place where the custom is to cover the foot, one must cover it, and in a place where it is not customary to cover the feet, there is no need to.

On the other hand, in the opinion of ‘Pri Migadim’ and ‘Mishna Berura’ (75:2), although in general, the part of the body below the knee is called ‘shok’, there are cases, including this law, where the ‘shok’ is considered the thigh, and it alone must be completely covered. But, in regards to the part of the leg below the knee, the halacha depends on the custom of the place: if it is the custom to cover it, it must be covered. If not, it need not be covered. In practice, since the majority of ‘poskim’ are stringent, it is preferable to act in this way. A woman who chooses to be lenient is permitted, for she has reputable sources to rely on. This is exactly how our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of “Merkaz HaRav” instructed – that it is proper to cover the ‘shok’, however, one should not castigate a woman who is lenient in this matter, for she has reputable sources to rely on. On a number of occasions, Rabbi Kook expressed remorse that the author of the ‘Mishna Berura’ was lenient on this issue.

According to the stringent custom, a long skirt cannot replace stockings, for it does not always cover the ‘shok’, and because the readiness to always wear long skirts that reach the ground does not meet the test of time. Additionally, in many places in Ashkenaz, the custom was to also cover the feet, and the stringent authorities simply continued their ‘minhag’, to the point where today in Eretz Yisrael, there are places, communities, and families for whom this is almost obligatory as the ‘minhag ha’makom’.

The Teacher was Mistaken

Therefore, the teacher who caused some of the girls to stop wearing stockings did not act properly, for she should have encouraged all of them to follow the majority of the ‘poskim’, or at the very least, to praise and encourage the girls who did. Instead, she emphasized the minority opinion, causing girls who performed the mitzvah in an exemplary way to feel uncomfortable and eventually stop. The teacher apparently also caused grief to the parents of the girls who educated them in this path, and now, with the encouragement of the teacher, they’ve changed their ‘minhag’. It is advisable for the teacher to change her mind, clarify her statements, and encourage the girls to continue in their positive ‘minhag’.

Generally speaking, the responsibility of the Ulpana is to strengthen the status of the girls who fulfill the mitzvoth in an exemplary way, and encourage the rest of the girls to follow in their path, and certainly, not to create a situation where those who do perform the mitzvoth ideally, according to the opinion of the majority of ‘poskim’ and the ‘minhag’ of their families, feel uncomfortable amongst their friends.

In Practice

In practice, a girl who lives with her parents, and their outlook is to wear stockings, must act strictly in this matter. Beyond this being the opinion of the majority of ‘poskim’, there are two additional reasons: 1) Included in the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is treating them with respect and listening to them – at the very least while still living in their house. True, when parents tell their children to act against the halacha, it is forbidden to listen to them (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 240:15). But when the parents ask their children to act according to the majority of ‘poskim’, one is obligated to listen to them. 2) We have already mentioned that even according to the lenient opinion, in a place where the custom is to cover the ‘shok’ and feet – it is obligatory to do so. And it can be said that a girl who lives in a family where the daughters are strict in covering their legs with stockings, is considered as one who lives in a place where the custom is to cover, and therefore, she must do so. And although it is appropriate for a girl to continue her ‘minhag’ after she marries as well, nevertheless, if she wishes to be lenient, she is permitted, for she has reputable sources to rely upon.

The Custom of the ‘Yekkim’

With the development of the Enlightenment and modernity, traditional Judaism faced a difficult test. The majority of the Jews who pursued the positive sides of the Enlightenment movement abandoned Torah Judaism, and assimilated. In order to prevent this, there were those who erected a towering wall of alienation in opposition to the positive and valuable sides of science and modernity. This, however, only helped partially, for many of the youth felt that traditional Judaism deprived them of the positive aspects of secular knowledge.

The method of ‘Torah and derech eretz’ (Torah and work) designed by the great Rabbi’s of Ashkenaz, attempted to acquire the good within secular knowledge, without being dragged into its negative sides. They were stringent concerning matters that strengthened Jewish identity, and precisely because of this, were able to engage in secular topics, while protecting themselves from foreign influences. Incidentally, my great grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Yehudah Weil, may God avenge his blood, was educated and taught in this way.

The more successful we are in guarding characteristics which express complete loyalty to halacha, the more room there is to freely choose professions and diverse work places. The compromise on being strict about one’s attire is liable, on the one hand, to cause the danger of distancing from traditional Judaism, and on the other hand, a reaction of excessive isolation, preventing religious Jews from expressing their full capabilities.

The Purpose of Modesty

Many people think, superficially, that the goal of dressing modestly is to prevent men from having passing thoughts; however, the matter is more complex and profound. For to prevent all passing thoughts is impossible, as the Sages have already stated (Talmud Ketubot 13b): “There is no guardian for incest”. In other words, no one is guaranteed of complete protection in this area. If the goal was to prevent passing thoughts, much stricter rules would have had to been set – prohibiting wearing nicely-cut clothes or clothing with special color combinations, or decreeing that it is forbidden for women who are considered especially pretty to leave their houses, and in fact, to obligate all women to dress like the Taliban. But we have not found in halacha any requirement for a woman to make herself look ugly. On the contrary, we have found in the Tanach (Bible) and Chazal, praises for good-looking women.

Rather, the main requirement of modest dress is intended to give expression to the significance of the soul and spirit, and therefore, outer beauty must appear with restraint and concealment. For if not, due to man’s nature, the outer beauty will become the most important thing.

This purpose also obligates men; however, since women are considered better-looking, the rules of modesty are a slightly more stringent for them. And thus, the proper distance between men and women is created, with modesty distancing man from the sin of illicit sexual relations.

Do Not Follow the Customs of the Nations

In summary, the most important foundation in wearing modest clothing is the statement of principle that we are loyal to traditional Judaism which fixes a respectable separation between men and single women, thereby establishing the appropriate relation between the soul and the body. This is not merely an educational line of reasoning, but it is a mitzvah from the Torah, as it is written: “Do not follow [any] of their customs” (Vayikra 18:3). The meaning of this mitzvah is not to copy the non-Jews’ immodest clothing and customs connected to superstitions.

There are some girls who, on the one hand, wish to be precise about the details of halacha, but on the other hand, don’t want to appear too religious. The best thing is for them to want to express their Jewish identity through their clothes, and as a result, strengthen themselves in Torah and ‘yirat Shamayim’ (fear of Heaven), and not to be embarrassed at all by those who make fun of them. In this way, they will merit great reward in both this world, and the World to Come, and thus, greatly improve their chances of finding a good match and establishing a splendid family.

Sodom – Kingdom of Materialism

Sin of the Sodomites

The sin of the Sodomites was their belief that materialism was a person’s life-goal; they adored it, offered sacrifices to it, and all their laws were built around it. In their eyes, the life of a rich person had value; thus, he deserved to continue to profit and get rich. On the other hand, the life of a poor person was worthless to them, and consequently, they made sure the poor would die – or at the very least, disappear from their city. Anyone who gave food to the poor would be severely punished because they considered him a heretic, defying their gods of money and gold.

In contrast to our forefather Avraham, who searched for guests, the people of Sodom said, ‘Who needs wayfarers? They come here only to take our money.’ They declared that no one would host any guests. If a rich person visited Sodom, the inhabitants would find a valid excuse to kill him and take his money – as they planned to do to the angels who visited Lot (see Sanhedrin 109a, b).

And Yet the Appetite is Not Filled

However, no matter how much money one makes, or how much clothing, furniture, houses, or cars he owns – his life will not be any better. His inner yearning is for a life rich in spirit and values. On the contrary – running after an erroneous challenge, which does not bring real satisfaction, will just make his life hollower. The destruction that befell Sodom expressed the true reality of people whose entire lives center around materialism – in actuality, they have no life, and are ruined. Even the earth they leave behind remains barren.

Remnants of Sodom in Our Times

In this day and age, after the values of the Tanach (Bible) have spread throughout the world, there are no longer wicked people who dare to enact such cruel decrees like those of Sodom, but a number of traces still remain. Many people believe that a person’s worth is measured by his wealth, by the house he lives in, by the car he owns, or by the brand name clothing he wears. Crowds of flatterers and admirers circle the rich; the media covers the dazzling events they assemble, as if to say – this is the real life. Most politicians also worship them.

When the tycoons damage natural resources, harm the public interest, oppress their workers – few dare to stand-up to them. Thus, they acquire companies from the State for a quarter of their actual value, create cartels, prevent fair competition, raise prices, and continue to get rich at the expense of the citizens. This is the price the public pays for stupidly worshipping the tycoons.

Living in Debt

Many people will claim ‘we don’t revere the wealthy, and don’t judge people according to their income’. Nevertheless, they are enslaved to the materialistic culture. The fact is that there are so many people in debt at the end of the month. They feel they have to buy more and more, and no matter how much they earn – they’ll always find reasons to spend all the money they have. When they earned 7,000 shekels a month, they thought that if they only had 8,000, everything would be okay. Afterwards, when their salaries are raised to 10,000, they claim they need another 2,000 per month. And when their salary jumped to 15,000 a month, it turns out they need even more.

They always feel they’re lacking something, and always deceive themselves, thinking that if they earned just a little bit more, they’ll no longer feel something is missing.

The Solution: Spiritual Life

The solution to this problem is realizing that man’s true goal in life is spiritual. Money and possessions are important tools in assisting spiritual life, but they are not the goal. When a person is constantly occupied with his money and possessions, he switches everything around – for him, the tools become his goal, and as a result, his life looses meaning.

If he is fortunate to honestly examine his life, he will see that he spent the majority of his money on luxuries, while neglecting the important things. He didn’t spend sufficiently on improving his family conditions or providing his children with a good, quality education, and didn’t leave himself time to learn and do good deeds.

Society

The problem is that even someone who successfully fills his life with spiritual content – enjoys studying, loves helping his friends, contributing to society, and settling the Land – against his will, he is affected by the materialistic society surrounding him which dictates the standard of living that anybody who does not attain feels worthless.

The standard of housing that society determines is too high, and even in the field of education – the cost’s society imposes are exorbitant. Only a society which sets for itself ethical ideals can create a solution to this problem. One of the guiding principles of such a society is that a person who earns the minimum wage should be able to manage reasonably, without receiving charity and assistance.

It doesn’t make sense that in a generation like ours, where the standard of living has increased dramatically, and where even a person who earns the minimum wage can live the same standard of living as the rich did fifty years ago – there are so many people who feel they can’t afford to buy a house, raise children, and provide them with quality education.

I will continue to deal with this topic, God willing, in the future.

Make His Deeds Known Among the Nations

Israel and the Nations: The Vision

The Jewish nation’s grand vision is to add ’emunah v’bracha’ (faith and blessing) to all of mankind: “Make His deeds known among the nations, make mention that His name is exalted” (Isaiah 12:4). This is what God said to our forefather Avraham: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3); “Here is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a horde of nations. No longer shall you be called Avram. Your name shall be Avraham, for I have set you up as the father of a horde of nations” (Genesis 17:4).

There is great importance in sanctifying God in the eyes of the nations, as it is written (Deuteronomy 4:6-7): “Safeguard and keep [these rules], since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, ‘This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people.’ What nation is so great that they have God close to it, as God our Lord is, whenever we call Him?” And so it was in the days of King Solomon: “And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (Kings I, 5:14). And when Solomon built the Holy Temple, in his prayer he requested from God: “Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of Your people Israel, but comes out of a far country for Your name’s sake…when he comes and prays towards this house…and do according to all that the stranger calls to You for; that all people of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do your people Israel…” (Kings I, 8:41-43). And so will it be in the future: “And it will come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall decide among many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Our Relations with Non-Jews

In reality, however, Israel’s relationships with the nations are highly charged; we find several harsh expressions concerning non-Jews in the words of the Prophets and our earlier and later Sages – to the point where it seems that the basic attitude towards non-Jews according to the Torah is one of hate, or at the very least, extreme detachment.

Two factors led to this: First, evilness, which was the main motive for the actions of most rulers who murdered, betrayed, pilfered, provoked wars, and tried with all their might to suppress countries and peoples in order to take their money and enslave them. This evilness was exposed most severely against the Jews – from the time of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, until the terrible Holocaust. This wickedness could not have happened without the full cooperation of numerous people, and partial cooperation by the majority of them.

The second factor: due to our spiritual weakness, especially while we were in exile, a huge concern arose that in order to escape the fate of the Jews, many chose to assimilate and merge with the stronger nations amongst whom we resided. Consequently, even when positive aspects existed, there was a need to stress the bad side of the non-Jew’s actions, with the goal of guarding our own identity, so that when the day came, we would be able to return to the Promised Land, and build our country there – to be a light unto the nations.

In spite of everything, our basic attitude is one of love for all creation – in particular, humanity. True, evil must be denounced, but love remains the essential foundation. Even the denunciation of evil stems from a love and faith in the nations of the world, who are also intended to be righteous and servants of God.

Rabbi Kook on Love of Non-Jews

Thus wrote Rabbi Kook: “Love of humanity must be alive in the heart and in the soul…to benefit all the nations…this character trait prepares Israel for the spirit of Moshiach. In all references where we find hints of hatred (towards the non-Jews), it is clear that the intention is only on the evil, which seizes the alliance of many nations today, and especially in the past, when the immorality of the world was far more repulsive. However, we must know that the aim of life – light and holiness – never moved from the Divine Image endowed to all of mankind, nation, and language…” (Midot HaRaya, Ahava, paragraph 5).

Christians Who Support Israel

About two months ago, I dealt with a question that has recently arisen, concerning the proper way to relate to Christians who support Israel. In the past, except for a small minority of righteous Gentiles, the attitude of Christians towards Jews was negative. They based their beliefs on the humiliation of the Jews, which served proof that the Christians were intended to replace Israel as the Chosen People. However, in the last few generations, changes took place among some of the Christians. There are those amongst them who no longer believe they must humiliate the Jews, and some even believe that Israel remains the Chosen People, whose purpose is to bring the Redemption.

However, they still embrace idolatry, believing that ‘oto ha’ish’ [Jesus] is god and the messiah, who will be resurrected to redeem the world. At the same time, they point out that he is Jewish.

The question arises: Should this position cause a complete rift between us? Every time we meet Christian supporters of Israel, must we denounce their belief in ‘oto ha’ish’?

Rabbi Kook on Christianity and Islam

Concerning the attitude towards various religions, our teacher, Rabbi Kook, wrote (Igrot HaRaya, Part 1, pg.142): “Our goal is not to uproot or destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destruction of the world and all its nations, but rather their correction and elevation, the removal of their dross, and of themselves they will join the source of Israel, [where] dewdrops of light will flow over them: ‘And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he, too, shall remain for our God’ (Zechariah 9:7). This applies even to idolatry, and therefore, even more so to religions whose foundations are partly based on the light of Israel’s Torah.” If in regards to absolute idol worshippers the goal is to remove the dross while retaining the general character of their faith and attitude towards good and virtue – all the more so concerning Christianity and Islam.

Don’t Degrade their Holy Personalities

Rabbi Kook also wrote a letter of congratulation (Igrot, Part 2, pg.198) to a Torah scholar who compiled a booklet called ‘Israel’s Faith’ in order to explain the Jewish religion in Japanese, however, he pointed out that the author had erred by expressing disrespect for ‘oto ha’ish’ and Muhammad. “It is impossible to offer supreme, religious content to this nation with insulting expressions concerning the founders of [other] religions, whoever they are. We must only speak about the holy and supreme advantage of God’s Torah, and negation will come by itself.”

What about the Messiah?

Question: Many of the Christians who declare support for Israel believe that ‘oto ha’ish’ is the messiah and he will be resurrected to redeem the world. It seems that most of their support is intended to bring about his resurrection. Shouldn’t we distance ourselves from anyone who believes this?

Answer: True, this is indeed a false belief; nonetheless, discussion about the mashiach and the Redemption to come has a positive side, for it prepares people’s hearts to ‘tikun olam’ (perfection of the world) and the coming of our Righteous Mashiach. As we learned from the words of the Rambam (Laws of Kings 11:4): “Even Jesus the Christian, who thought he was the Messiah… was the subject of a prophesy in the Book of Daniel (11:14): “…also the renegades of your people will exalt themselves to fulfill the vision – but they will stumble.” Could there be a greater stumbling block than this [Jesus]? For all the prophets spoke of the Messiah who will redeem and save Israel, who will ingather all its exiles, and who will strengthen them in the fulfillment of the Torah’s commandments – while he [Jesus] caused Israel to be killed by the sword, their remnants to be dispersed and humiliated, the Torah to be switched for something else, and most of the world to worship a god other than the God of Israel! But – the thoughts of God cannot be fathomed by human minds. ‘For our ways are not like His, and our thoughts are not like His’. All these activities of Jesus the Christian, and the Ishmaelite who came after him, are all for the purpose of paving the way for the true King Messiah, and preparing the entire world to worship God together, as is written (Zephaniah 3:9): “For then I will convert the nations to a pure language, that they may all call in the name of God and serve Him together.”

“How will this work? For by then, the world will already be filled with the idea of Messiah, and Torah, and commandments, even in far-off islands and in closed-hearted nations, where they engage in discussions on the Torah’s commandments: some say that the Torah’s commandments are true but are no longer binding in these times, while others say that there are hidden, deep meanings to them, and that the Messiah has come and revealed their hidden secrets. But when the true King Messiah arrives, and will succeed and will raise them up, all the peoples will immediately realize that they had been taught lies by their forefathers, and that their ancestors and prophets had misled them.”

If so, according to the approach I previously mentioned – that our goal is not to uproot and destroy, but rather to correct and elevate the non-Jews by removal of their dross – we should relate positively to their anticipations for the messiah. For we have learned from the Prophets that when our Righteous Moshiach begins to be revealed, there will be non-Jews who will arise to fight against God and His Moshiach, and there will be others who will accept him. Very likely, it will then become clear to those who accept him, that actually, it was this Moshiach that they hoped for all the time, and they will be the first to receive him and his message, willingly.

The Order of Moshiach’s Revelation

I will conclude the words of the Rambam (ibid): “”If a King will arise from the House of David who is learned in Torah and occupied in the observance of commandments as prescribed by the Written and Oral law, and he will compel all of Israel to walk in the way of the Torah and reinforce the breaches in its observance, and he will fight the wars of God, we may then presume him to be the Moshiach. If he does this and is successful and is victorious over the nations around him, and builds the Temple in its place and gathers the dispersed, then he is definitely Moshiach.”

The Order of the Spiritual Revolution

Precisely by means of strengthening our unique identity in our Land, will we be able to fulfill our mission to be a light unto the nations. As we find that specifically at the time when God commanded our forefather Avraham to go to the Land of Israel, to the place designated for only the Jewish nation, He said to him: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). And specifically when he was commanded about circumcision, God said to him: “You shall be the father of a horde of nations. No longer shall you be called Avram. Your name shall become Avraham, for I have set you up as the father of a horde of nations” (Genesis 17:4).

How extraordinary it is that precisely these Christians have gone back on the foundations of traditional Christianity, by emphasizing that the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel are the Chosen ones, and anticipating the Jewish nation’s return to fulfill all the commandments in the Torah. Therefore, precisely upon returning to the Land of Israel – the land of our life – we can begin speaking about our global mission.