"The Golden Calf Replayed" (Part 1)

Gilad Shalit

Once again, the left-wing with assistance from the media is organizing
dances around their golden calf. This time it’s the demand to do
everything possible to return Gilad Shalit home. They compose songs,
light candles, etc, all to intensify the dancing around the new golden
calf. Professional demagogues compete with each other spreading
seemingly moral claims. One declares that the State of Israel made a
covenant with every soldier to return him home [if he is captured],
and it is forbidden to breach this covenant. The choir, in its
foolishness, follows along by saying that everything must be done to
return Gilad home.
The level of stupidity they have reached is unbelievable. The State of
Israel sends soldiers to be killed for the sake of the security of
Israel. She also sends soldiers to endanger their lives to capture
terrorists. All of a sudden, when a soldier falls captive, we have to
do ‘everything’ to return him?! Some even have the chutzpa to claim
that they are speaking in the name of the soldiers! It’s the soldiers
themselves who will be the first to pay the price if, G-d forbid,
‘everything’ is given to return the captive home.

The Hidden Motive

All of this has a motive. The left-wingers are interested in releasing
terrorists even without Gilad Shalit. The fact is that before every
Muslim holiday some type of ceremony is held freeing terrorists. In
deed, they are usually small fish, but never the less they are
released before their scheduled time. In the opinion of these left-
wingers, the war against terrorists is meaningless, for only Israel’s
surrender to their demands, including awarding the Arabs sovereignty
over Judea and Samaria and the right to settle anywhere in the land,
will lead to peace and quiet. Joining the left-wingers are myriads of
foolish, short-sighted people, whose intentions, to help the captive,
are good, but their vision is short-sighted.
If those left-wingers were asked to give up 2,000 shekels from their
salaries for a number of years for the sake of Gilad Shalit, suddenly
it would become clear that not ‘everything’ must be done for him. The
meaning of ‘everything’ is surrendering on the integrity of the State
of Israel and on the security of its citizens.

Idol Worship

This is the way of idol worship – to elevate one specific value,
thereby cancelling other values. It sounds good, and the idea is short
and catchy. “Peace Now” and all the problems will be solved. Or in the
new style: “Two states for two nations” and all the problems will be
solved. This is what’s presently happening with Gilad Shalit.
Even before we discuss the sin of idol worship and stupidity, we are
talking about people whose value system is sparse. These are people
who do not understand the purpose of the Jewish nation and the value
of the land of Israel. Therefore they are willing to surrender in the
name of the promised quiet. This is similar to when the people wanted
the Golden Calf, and didn’t have the patience to wait for Moshe
Rabbeinu for even a couple of days. Seemingly, they really didn’t want
him to return, therefore they were willing to accept the substitute of
the Golden Calf, whose religious demands were more moderate, and whose
preparation was quick and simple.

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel (Part 1)
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel

The commandment, or mitzvah, to settle the Land of Israel is
obligatory upon both the individual Jew and the Jewish nation as a
whole. The mitzvah requires that the nation conquer and settle all of
the Land of Israel and that each individual Jew dwell in the Land.
Regarding the nation’s responsibility to take control of Israel and
settle it, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman, the Ramban, writes (in his
commentary on Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvoth): “We are commanded to
inherit the land that the almighty God gave to our forefathers
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not to leave it in the hands of other
nations or in desolation, as it says, ‘Inherit the land and live in
it, since it is to you that I am giving the land to
occupy…'” (Numbers 33:53).

If we examine the Ramban’s words carefully we will discover that there
are two parts to the mitzvah of settling the Land. The first part
involves the Jewish people ruling exclusively over the Land of Israel,
or Eretz Yisrael, thus leaving no room for foreign governing in the
Land. Even when this is accomplished, however, the mitzvah is still
not considered complete. The second part of the mitzvah requires the
settling of every part of the Land, including the most desolate areas.
The mitzvah obligates us not only to dwell in developed cities or
towns, but to make the wasteland bloom as well. Only when the Land is
under Jewish rule and every part of it is settled, cultivated and
flourishing, will the commandment have been completely fulfilled.

The Ramban emphasizes that this commandment is applicable not only to
the period of time during which the Jews made their exodus from Egypt
and subsequently conquered Israel, but for all generations. In all
generations we are obligated to rule over the Land and to settle it.
Unfortunately, for much of our long history we have been incapable of
fulfilling this commandment, for we, the Jewish People, have been
confined to exile in both body and soul. Yet in recent times, through
the goodness of God, the end of the exile has begun to reveal itself –
our situation has changed and we are now once again able to fulfill
this mitzvah.

The Individual’s Part in the Complete Mitzvah

There are many levels involved in the individual’s part of the mitzvah
of settling the Land of Israel. Those who dwell in Israel are partners
in this mitzvah, for their presence strengthens the Jewish control of
the Land. Those who live in areas that are more desolate, such as the
desert, or in Judea and Samaria, fulfill the mitzvah on an even higher
level. Their presence in these parts of the Land contributes doubly to
the mitzvah, for they are not only strengthening the rule over the
areas in which other nations are attempting to wrest away from the
Jews, but they are also helping to ensure that all of the Land is
cultivated and settled. Those who live in other places in Israel that
are more isolated from Jewish presence and are surrounded by enemies,
are fulfilling the mitzvah to an even greater extent. The wise Sages
have said that the Land of Israel is only acquired through pain and
suffering; the greater the suffering, the greater the reward.

The commandment to settle the Land of Israel is unique in that, unlike
most other mitzvot, its fulfillment doesn’t involve the performance of
any specific act, such as laying tefillin, giving tzeddakah or
praying. Each Jew who lives in Israel is performing the mitzvah of
settling the Land just by his dwelling in it. It follows, that for
those who merit residing in the towns of Judea and Samaria, mundane
daily acts, such as breathing, eating and sleeping, become mitzvot in

For those who live outside of Israel but financially support its
settlement, their partnership is limited as they are not fulfilling
the commandment with their physical presence. And those who do live in
Israel and also help to support its settlement towns are partners in
the settling of the Land’s holy places, which of course, raises the
level of greatness for this mitzvah.

Blessings Over Joy

Blessings Over Joy
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Thanking God for Both the Good and the Bad

The objective of pronouncing blessings is to cause us to always
remember the Creator, Who watches over all of His creatures at every
moment. By blessing we are repeatedly reminded that God does not
reside in some detached and lofty abode, but rather that every thing
which exists in our world does so by virtue of a divine inner spark.
Every single event which takes place in the world has spiritual
significance and a divine objective which beckons to be understood.
Hence, when a person experiences a certain joyous incident, he must
praise and thank the Creator, and pronounce the blessing
“Shehecheyanu.” On the other hand, if, Heaven forbid, one experiences
a tragedy, one must realize that this too is the result of God’s
providence, and though we do not always understand what sort of logic
lies behind such an event, we must all the same have faith and know
that God is a fair judge and that all of his decisions are just. In
such circumstances one therefore blesses, “Barukh Dayan
HaEment” (Blessed is the fair judge).
The knowledge that God runs the world, and that whatever occurs
happens as a result of His providence, gives meaning to every event in
life. When a person merits a joyous occasion, his joy is deepened by
his awareness of the fact that this was not the result of coincidence,
but of the hidden hand of God. And even if, Heaven forbid, a person
experiences a tragedy, he is better equipped to accept it when he
knows that it has meaning. The conviction that God watches over
creation adds light to the world even during difficult hours, for the
believer knows that even if at present he is not aware of what good
can possibly come out of this tragedy, he at any rate knows that
whatever God does in the world is, when all is said and done, for the
best. One, though, who does not possess faith, is faced with nothing
more that hardships, and the pain penetrates his heart, providing no
remedy or meaning.

“Shehecheyanu” and “HaTov VeHaMetiv”

The Sages introduced two blessings for the purchase of new and
gladdening items: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the
Universe, who has granted us life and sustenance and permitted us to
reach this festive occasion,” and “Blessed are You…the beneficent
One, Who bestows good.” The difference between them is that so long as
the joy belongs exclusively to one individual, he must bless
“Sheyecheyanu.” Yet, when the joy is shared by two or more
individuals, it is collective, and they therefore bless, “the
beneficent One, Who bestows good.” Hence, if a couple buys, for
example, a heating furnace, cooking stove, table, chairs, beds, or
anything else connected to the needs of the home, because the joy is
shared by the two of them, they must bless, “the beneficent One, Who
bestows good.” But a single individual who buys the same items for
himself will bless, “Shehecheyanu.” The same goes for a new garment: a
dress, pants, skirt, or any other item which makes a person happy.
Over such things, one blesses “Shehecheyanu.” And even if the husband
is happy because his wife has a new garment, all the same, the real
and actual joy belongs to the woman, and therefore she alone
pronounces the blessing.

Winning the Lottery and Receiving an Inheritance

A person who wins the lottery must, of course, thank God and pronounce
a blessing. This is true not only for large amounts, but for small
amounts as well. Even a person who wins a few hundred shekels, and is
happy about this, must pronounce a blessing. The question is, though,
should he bless “Shehecheyanu or “the beneficent One…” If the winner
is single, or married yet each of the spouses has his or her own bank
account, since the money is really the winner’s alone, he or she must
pronounce the blessing. If, though, the money enters their joint
account, because it brings happiness to both of them, “the beneficent
One” must be pronounced.
The same is true regarding one who inherits money or property – he
must pronounce a blessing. And even though he would prefer to forgo
the inheritance and have his relative remain alive, all the same, the
blessing is pronounced for the benefit derived from the inheritance
which, nevertheless, causes happiness in its own right. Therefore,
when a close relative dies, one blesses: “Blessed be the True Judge”.
Afterwards, when the bereaved inheritor receives his inheritance, he
must thank God and pronounce the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. Here, too,
if he is a sole inheritor, he blesses, “Shehecheyanu,” but if a number
of individuals divide the inheritance between them, they must bless
“the beneficent One…” And if there is one inheritor, yet he is
married and a father of children, it would appear that if the money
enters into his and his wife’s joint account, they must bless “the
beneficient One…” for she too shares in the joy. If, though, the
inheritance goes into the benefactor’s own personal account, and is
not divided with the spouse, even though she will no doubt derive
indirect benefit from the inheritance, all the same, he pronounces the
“Shehecheyanu” blessing. This is because in principal the money
belongs to him, and theoretically she may end up deriving absolutely
no benefit from it whatsoever (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 223:2;
Mishnah Berurah 9; Biyur Halakhah, Dibbur Hamatchil: “Ein”).

A Gift

We have already mentioned the difference between the “Shehecheyanu”
and “the beneficent One…” blessings. i.e., so long as the joy is
shared by two or more individuals “the beneficent One” is pronounced;
when the joy is the sole possession of a single individual
“Shehecheyanu” is pronounced. For example, if a woman buys a new dress
for herself, she blesses “Shehecheyanu.” And despite the fact that it
also makes her husband happy, the actual tangible enjoyment is the
woman’s. Interestingly, though, when a husband buys his wife a dress
as a gift, even though the woman is the one who wears the dress, the
Shulchan Arukh says (Orach Chaim 223:5) that she blesses “the
beneficent One…” The reason for this is that by giving the gift to
his wife the husband became an active participant in the joy. The same
is true regarding any gift that a person gives to his fellow. The one
who receives the gift must bless “the beneficient One…”
There are, though, authorities who disagree and hold that because the
one who gives the gift receives no actual tangible pleasure, he is not
to a true partner in the pleasure, and therefore the one who receives
must pronounce the “Shehecheyanu” blessing (Mishnah Beruruah 223, 21).
In such a situation, then, the one who receives the gift may chose how
to bless, for either of the two blessings is acceptable.

"The Month of Adar"

The Month of Adar

The Sages of the Talmud teach that when the month of Av begins, we
lessen our joy; when, though, the month of Adar begins we increase our
joy. They, in fact, are subtly telling us that there is no coincidence
in the world, and that each season has a unique character and nature
of its own. The fact that the destruction of the First and Second
Temples occurred on the ninth of Av is an indication that the
beginning of the month of Av, by its very nature, is a time of
retribution; the fact that the Purim festival took place in the middle
of the month of Adar is a sign that the month of Adar possesses a
unique capacity to transform the bad into good.

Rav Papa adds that if a Jew has a court case or business transaction
with a stranger in the month of Av he should do his best to avoid it,
for this month is a time of misfortune for him. He should try to
arrange such undertakings in the month of Adar. In Adar, a Jew enjoys
good fortune. Now, if this is true concerning an individual Jew, how
much more so regarding the People of Israel as a whole. It follows
that there is no better time of year for dialogue between Israel and
the nations than the month of Adar. As in the days of Purim when evil
decrees were transformed to good, so too in our days all the evil
thoughts of the nations will be transformed to blessings and success.

The Four Parshiot

In addition to the fixed arrangement of weekly Torah-readings, the
sages instituted the reading of four special Torah portions, or
Parshiot, in the month of Adar.
The first is Parshat-Shekalim (Numbers 28:9-15). This reading was
instituted in order to remind the entire People of Israel to donate
the yearly half-shekel contribution – a contribution used to purchase
the communal sacrifices which were to be offered up in the Holy
Temple. Concerning this sum there was no difference between rich and
poor; each was commanded to give a half-shekel, no less and no more.
This contribution can be seen as an indication that concerning the
most fundamental act carried out in the Temple – the offering of
sacrifices – every Jew is equal. Even if money was left over from the
previous year, the sacrifices for the coming year would not be bought
with it; the Torah demands that each year’s sacrifices be purchased
from the donations of the new year. The year, as far as sacrifices are
concerned, begins on the first of the month of Nisan. Therefore, each
year on the first of Adar (the month preceding Nisan), the courts
would make an announcement reminding people of the half-shekel
offering so that during the month of Adar everybody would bring their
contribution. With the beginning of Nisan, the communal sacrifices
would be bought from the new contributions. In order to strengthen the
court announcement, it was instituted that Parshat-Shekalim be read on
the Sabbath before the first of Adar. And if the first of Adar falls
on Sabbath, Parashat Shekalim is read therein. With the destruction of
the Temple, the sages enacted the continued reading Parshat-Shekalim,
in remembrance of the Temple and the mitzvah of the half-shekel.

Following Parshat-Shekalim is Parshat-Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19). In
reading this portion of the Torah we fulfill the Mitzvah to remember
what the nation of Amalek did to us. The sages instituted its reading
just before Purim in order to link this mitzvah to the Purim holiday
on which we celebrate the blotting out of Haman who was of Amalekite
The third Parasha is Parshat-Parah (Numbers 19:1-22). In this portion
we learn about the practice of ritual purification in order that we
are able to go to the Holy Temple and offer up sacrifices. The Sages
instituted its reading just before the month of Nisan in order that we
prepare and purify ourselves for the offering of the Passover
The fourth and final Parasha is Parshat-HaChodesh (Exodus 12:1-20),
and it was instituted to be read on the Sabbath before the first of
Nisan. If the first of Nisan happens to fall on the Sabbath, Parshat-
HaChodesh is read therein. Its reading was instituted in order to
remind us that the month (Chodesh) of Nisan is the first month of the
Jewish calendar. In addition, Parshat-HaChodesh makes mention of
Passover preparations.

"Saving Another's Life"

“Thou shall not stand aside when mischief befalls your neighbor”

The Torah commands one to save someone who is in danger. As the Torah
also obligates one to return lost items to a neighbor “and you shall
return it to him” (Dvarim 22:2), even more so is it a mitzvah to save
another persons life. The Talmud in Sanhedrim (73a) asks a question
“From where do we know that if your neighbor is drowning, or some wild
beast is about to devour him, or he is about to be murdered by bandits
that one is obligated to save him? The Torah says “Neither shall you
stand aside when mischief befalls your neighbor” (Vayikra 19:16).

The mitzvah of “Loving your neighbor as you love yourself” was
considered by Rabbi Akiva to be a fundamental principle in the Torah
because it is the basis for good relations between one another and
promotes a healthy society. In addition to this mitzvah the Torah
delineates two other mitzvoth pertaining to human relations: 1)”and
you shall return it to him” and 2)”Thou shall not stand aside when
mischief befalls your neighbor.” It is not enough for one to smile at
his neighbor and declare one’s good feelings toward him, the Torah
demands that one take this relationship a step further and assume a
concrete responsibility for his neighbor’s welfare.

Therefore, if a Jew is in mortal danger it is forbidden to stand aside
and be apathetic, rather one needs to take every possible action
necessary in order to save his life. If each Jew would act in this way
and all of the Jewish nation would feel a mutual dependence on and
responsibility for one another, the nation would subsequently be
better able to deal with the dangers it encounters from its enemies.
The goal of a united Jewish state would then be more easily
established which would provide the basis for a more perfect world, as
the prophets envisioned, and for the ultimate redemption.

Does The Rescuer Need To Endanger His Life?

An important question concerning “Thou shall not stand aside when
mischief befalls your neighbor” is: To what extent does one need to
carry out this obligation in order to fulfill the mitzvah? In other
words, what is the halacha (Jewish law) in regards to putting oneself
in danger in order to save the life of another person? Does the
mitzvah only apply when there is no danger to one’s own life? If, for
example, a person should see his friend drowning in the river and it
is clear to him that by trying to save his friend he will probably
drown himself, is he obligated to try to save him anyway?

There are two approaches to this question. The first approach includes
those who feel that the mitzvah “Thou shall not stand aside when
mischief befalls your neighbor” is the same as all the rest of the
mitzvoth in the Torah in that a Jew is meant to live by the Torah and
its mitzvoth and not to die by them. It, therefore, follows that just
as one need not endanger himself in order to fulfill other mitzvoth,
one is also not obligated to risk his life in order to save another
person’s life. However, it is clear that one should not be overly
cautious with this mitzvah at a time when someone else is in a life
threatening situation. Just as one is often willing to take calculated
risks for the sake of one’s profession or in order to make a living,
one should take some risk to save a fellow Jew. Some jobs require one
to climb to great heights, while others need to sail to the far seas
or handle dangerous substances. Still others will take small risks to
save their possessions from a fire. Even more so is it required to
take such risks with one’s life when attempting to save another from a
life threatening situation. The tractate in Sanhedrin (73a) confirms
that one should be willing to endanger himself to some extent in order
to save another’s life, by doing such acts as jumping in a river to
save someone who is drowning, or warding off wild predators or
bandits, even though all of these acts involve some form of danger.
The idea of not being too cautious with this mitzvah is carried even
further as it is stated in the Petchei Tshuva (Chosen Mishpat 426,
Mishne Brura 329:19) that one who is overly cautious will eventually
find himself in a similar dangerous and life threatening situation
(‘mida kneged mida’) with nobody willing to take even a small risk to
save him. A person is not obligated, however, to save his fellow Jew
if it puts him in great and possibly even mortal danger, for the
mitzvoth of the Torah are for the Jewish nation to “live by them.” A
great danger is defined as a situation where a normal person would not
be willing to risk his life, even to save all his possessions (Rabbinu
Yonah, Schulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 329:8).

The second approach to this question regarding “Thou shall not stand
aside when mischief befalls your neighbor” regards this mitzvah to be
different from the rest of the mitzvoth because it involves saving a
human life. It therefore obligates taking great risks and entering
into great danger in order to rescue another person from sure death.
This obligation would apply regardless of whether or not a normal
person would take great risks upon himself or enter into great danger
in order to save all of his possessions. For, in any case, if it is
necessary to put one’s life in danger to save a fellow Jew, one must
do so. However, the conditions for endangering one’s life for the sake
of saving another depends on if the chances are good that the rescue
will be successful and both will live. If, however, there is only a
fifty percent chance that both will live then one is not obligated to
save a fellow Jew’s life (Beit Yosef Choshen Mishpat 426).
According to the halacha that was determined for this mitzvah, one is
only required to risk his life in as much as any normal person would
do so in order to rescue his possessions. However, according to the
attributes in the performance of acts of kindness one should risk his
life to rescue another Jew if there is more than a fifty percent
chance he will succeed.

These opinions and laws relate to saving an individual’s life.
However, if the community is in great peril, one should not make these
considerations. In order to be victorious over the enemy one may need
to sacrifice one’s life regardless of the chance of success or failure
that is involved. At times, the individual is required to put his life
in great danger for the sake of the greater public’s well being. This
mitzvah is performed in times of war when each individual of the
Jewish nation is obligated to risk his or her life in order to save
the land of Israel from its enemies. (see “Btzava Kihalcha”, chap. 15,
Tzizt Eliezer 13:100).

Let us conclude by thanking God that we are witnessing the revealed
end of days in which the land of Israel brings forth its holy fruits,
the process of the ingathering of the exiles is being realized and the
land is being settled. All the trials and tribulations that the Jewish
nation is facing are just the pain that accompanies the process of
acquiring the land of Israel. Such troubles and pains help purify the
nation in reaching its ultimate goal of establishing a complete Jewish
existence in the holy land. Therefore, we need to learn and delve into
matters concerning the land of Israel and the different roles these
matters play in the world. The Jewish nation needs to use all its
capabilities to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel as
well as to continue to pray to God for a hastening of the redemption.
The prophecy will then be fulfilled: “For, lo, days are coming, says
the Lord, when I will bring back the captivity of my people Yisrael
and Yehuda, says the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the Land
that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (Jeremiah
30:3). “Therefore fear thou not, Oh my servant Yaakov says the Lord;
neither be dismayed , Oh Yisrael: for lo I will save thee from afar
and thy seed from the land of their captivity and Yaakov shall return,
and shall be quiet and be at ease, and none shall make him afraid
(Jeremiah 30,10). Thus, the Jewish nation’s true hidden nature will be
revealed, as it says: “Thy people shall be all righteous: they shall
inherit the land for ever.” (Isaiah 60:21).

"Planting Trees in Israel"

The Commandment to Settle the Land of Israel

Settling the Land: Planting Trees and Economic Development

We have learned that the commandment of settling the land of Israel
does not involve only conquering it, but also requires the settling
and developing of every part of it. The Ramban stresses this point
saying “We should not leave the land under foreign rule or desolate,
as it says: You should inherit the land and settle it.”
Planting fruit trees in the land of Israel fulfills one’s aspect of
this mitzvah, which obligates the Jewish nation to cultivate every
part of the land and not to leave it desolate. There is no commandment
to plant fruit trees outside of Israel, and usually one only does so
for the purpose of providing a livelihood. Those living in the land of
Israel, however, have the commandment of planting fruit trees
regardless of their profession.

The wise Sages expanded on this concept in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba
25:3): “It is said that one should go after God. Is it possible for
flesh and blood to go after God? It is also said that one should
cleave to God. Is it possible for flesh and blood to cleave to God?
Rather one should go in His ways, and cleave to His character traits.
And just as God, at the beginning of creation, first planted and
tended to the Garden of Eden, so too should the Jewish nation upon
entering the land, as it is written: ‘You should come to the land and
plant.'” We learn from this that one who plants a tree in the land of
Israel is cleaving to God’s character trait.
There are two advantages to planting trees, one being a future
investment. Sometimes people invest their efforts in transient
matters, but the Torah guides us to invest our efforts in planting
trees in order to root ourselves in the land through permanent means.
The second advantage is that with the abundance of trees the land
bears fruit that has intrinsic holiness, and when the Jewish nation
eats these fruits many other commandments are performed, such as
‘trumah’, ‘maasorot’ and ‘orlah’.

The Chatam Sofer writes (in his commentary on Tractate Sukkah 36) that
working the land of Israel in order to harvest its holy fruit fulfills
the commandment of settling the land and the mitzvah commanding the
Jewish nation to harvest the grains of the land. Boaz, who was
considered a great man of his generation, did not deem it a ‘bitul
Torah’ (a waste of time) to spend the night working and harvesting the
land. Just as one who is busy learning Torah still needs to stop in
order to perform the mitzvah of laying tefillin, one should stop his
Torah learning for the sake of harvesting the crops. The Chatam Sofer
adds another important comment on this subject: It is possible that
all the work and skills that enable us to settle the land are in
themselves mitzvot. According to this idea, one who assists in the
economic development of Israel may be considered a partner in the
mitzvah of settling the land. The land of Israel is holy in both its
physical and spiritual attributes and those who assist in its
development are partners in its holy building.

"The Twilight of Rabbi Kook" (Part 2)

The Suffering of Rabbi Kook

Rabbi Kook was completely taken up by his responsibilities. He did not
flee from the demands of the Rabbinate, demands which called for
answering thousands of questions from all corners of the world,
sitting in judgment of Torah-court cases, writing requests and
recommendations for the needy, and caring for numerous other public
needs. In addition, he would give many Torah classes, would
participate in numerous assemblies and conferences, and would warmly
receive his many friends who eagerly frequented the rabbi to hear his
words of Torah. The more the years passed, the greater his burden

Despite the fact that he loved every single Jew, and was able to see
the good in both the old and new settlements in Israel, Rabbi Kook
suffered greatly from fierce disputes. Members of “Neturei Karta”
hated the rabbi because of his friendliness towards the Jewish
pioneers, while the pioneers caused the rabbi anguish through their
insistence on profaning the Sabbath, and eating non-Kosher food. In
his later years, when he took a stand in defending Abraham Stavsky
against an accusation that he was guilty of murdering Chaim Arlazarof,
the laborers were extremely critical of the rabbi. Rabbi Kook was very
sensitive, and was deeply hurt by the words spoken against him. Once,
when he was shown an article attacking him that was written by one of
the malicious members of Neturei Karta, the rabbi did not leave his
room for almost three days. Yet, all the same, he forgave everybody
and carried his burden quietly.

Once, when one of the slanderers who had caused the rabbi great pain
was forced to turn to the rabbi for help, Rabbi Kook forgot everything
and came to his aid. In Israel, his enemies were powerless, but their
malign spread to parts of the Jewish communities in Europe. There were
some who were influenced by these evil reports, and, as a result,
stayed in Europe in stead of coming to Israel; and were eventually
murdered by the Nazis. On the other hand, there were many who, due to
Rabbi Kook’s influence, immigrated to Israel.
If he had wanted, he could have taken revenge upon his adversaries. He
had the majority of the leading Torah scholars and the majority of the
public on his side, not to mention the British authorities (because of
his role as an important leader of the Jewish population in Israel).
But he was pious, and though he heard himself being disgraced, he did
not respond. He could have changed his positions somewhat, not
expressing his views on matters that might not be properly understood,
but Rabbi Kook was a man of truth who stood up for justice with great
self-sacrifice and without changing a single letter of it. He could
have wrapped himself in pride, displaying indifference and disgust
toward his opponents, but he had a soft heart. He therefore bore his
pain in all these matters until finally his body could no longer stand
it and his health deteriorated. Once, his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah,
said that the zealots of Agudat Yisrael and the laborers shortened the
life of his father.

He who was ready to help any destitute or needy person, the Chief
Rabbi of Israel, respected by the masses of the Jewish people, rabbis,
the secular “enlightened,” leaders, and the rich who constantly
visited him; he who donated millions for the good of Torah
institutions in Israel and Eastern Europe, the poor, and the
settlement in Israel, lived in shameful poverty. It would even happen
that sometimes not a cent was left in Rabbi Kook’s home for buying
food. An older Jew who immigrated to Israel from the United States
took notice of the rabbi’s state and made a practice of giving the
rabbi’s wife a “lira” coin which would suffice the family for the
week. Only in his final days of sickness was a benefactor found that
took upon himself putting Rabbi Kook in a kosher nursing home. It was
in this home that Rabbi Kook’s soul departed in sanctity and purity.

Once, Rabbi Kook expressed regret that he could not dedicate all of
his time to recording his ideas; his lack of time caused him to jot
down his ideas quickly and in an unorganized manner. He had hoped to
bring the Hebrew writers of his age back to Torah, and was even
somewhat successful with a number of them: Azar, Bialik, and Agnon.
Yet, even they, much less their contemporaries, were not able to fully
understand the depth of Rabbi Kook’s ideas. There were very few Torah
scholars who actually grasped the profundity of Rabbi Kook’s
teachings. And though everybody was captivated by the rabbi’s
personality, his lessons, and his unique ideas, only a handful
actually understood the true depth of his wisdom. And they were the
ones who were destined to carry on Rabbi Kook’s philosophy in Yeshivat
Mercaz HaRav. They understood that his teachings contained the
solution to the difficulties of our times, and that by learning these
teachings the Jewish people will be redeemed.

"The Twilight of Rabbi Kook" (Part 1)

His Personality

There have been scores of Torah giants in recent generations, but the
stature of none compares to that of Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook,
may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing. His genius was
astounding – there was no field of Torah study that he had not
mastered. His recall was astonishing – great scholars related that no
matter what Torah subject they discussed with him it would appear as
if he had just recently learned the issue in depth. Not only was he
versed, sharp, and innovative in the arenas of Talmud and Halakha, he
was at home in all areas of Jewish thought: Bible, Midrash,
philosophy, and mysticism. On top of all this, he was unmatched in
piety and righteousness, and his entire existence was dedicated to the
service of the Creator. Rabbi Kook was a mighty figure who fought for
truth and was willing to put himself on the line for the sake of Torah
It is not uncommon for extreme brilliance to result in strange
character traits, but Rabbi Kook was friendly and pleasant, so much so
that all who knew him were captivated by his warm character. He was
both intellectual and emotional, sharp and poetic. He possessed a rich
inner life, while at the same time was very active spiritually and
publicly on behalf of the Torah, the nation, and the land. That all of
these talents could reside together harmoniously in one soul is itself

The Respect of His Contemporaries

The descriptions brought thus far were not expressed by Rabbi Kook’s
disciples alone. The great Torah leaders of his time also attested to
these facts. Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer once said to the famed Rabbi
Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky from Vilna, “The two of us are considered Torah
giants until we reach the door of Rabbi Kook’s office.” When he
participated in rabbinic envoys within Israel and abroad, other great
rabbis joined him: Rabbi Epstein, Dean of the Slobodka Yeshiva and the
Rabbi MiKubna, author of “Dvar Avraham”, yet it was clear that Rabbi
Kook was the most prominent among them.
The Gerer Rebbe admitted that Rabbi Kook remembered the writings of
his father, the “Sefat Emet” even better than he himself. The renowned
and learned Kabbalist, author of “Leshem Shvo VeAchlama,” said of
Rabbi Kook that there was no Torah secret that he was not aware of.
It is told of a certain rabbi who was immersed in the study of
Kabbalah and was having trouble finding the source of certain writings
in his possession, that he turned to the leading mystics in Jerusalem
but they could not help him. He was surprised when they suggested that
he speak with Rabbi Kook, for he could not believe that Rabbi Kook,
who as Chief Rabbi was so busy with public issues and Halakhic
inquiries from morning until night, would be able to identify the
material at hand; but the rabbi did.

Once, a youngster who was studying at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva High
School was having doubts about his future direction of study and he
turned to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach for advice. The student said
that perhaps because the majority of Torah leaders do not agree with
the path taken by Rabbi Kook, it would be more appropriate for him to
follow the path of the majority. Rabbi Aurbach responded, saying,
“What are you talking about? In the time of Rabbi Kook, the majority
of Torah giants were all as if nothing compared to him.”
Rabbi Kook conducted the marriages of both Rabbi Shlomo Zalman
Aurbach, zt”l, and Rabbi Elyashiv, shlita. He was their rabbi. Rabbi
A.I. Kerlitz, the “Chazon Ish,” addressed Rabbi Kook as “our royal and
respected Rabbi.”

His Unique Path – Torah and Redemption

Going far beyond matters connected to the Rabbinate, Rabbi Kook
addressed the difficulties of the day. He was very familiar with the
philosophical and cultural winds of his generation and examined them
from the perspective of the Torah. With astounding depth and
comprehension, he knew how to size up the various philosophies
collectively, find the positive points in each one of them, and
uncover their holy roots. Rabbi Kook possessed a unified, all-
inclusive vision of things: he found harmony among the many sides of
the Torah, the many factions within the Jewish people, and the many
periods in history. Only a genius and righteous individual of his
stature, bound to the One God could truly see the unity in all, and,
as a result, pave wonderful paths and clarifications toward the
rectification of existence.
Many were aware of Rabbi Kook’s greatness and righteousness, but few
understood that his teachings contained a comprehensive solution for
contemporary crises. He understood the very sources of those forces
which were bursting forth and exploding in the modern age – the Jewish
Haskala (“Enlightenment”), nationalism, freedom, and creativity, and
he was able to discern the good and bad in them, forging a path for
correcting them.

The Torah on "Unilateral Disengagement" (Part 2)

“No land shall be sold permanently”

The Torah also warns us, “No land shall be sold
permanently” (Leviticus 25:23), and the Ramban, basing himself upon
the teachings of the sages, learns from here that it is forbidden to
sell to a gentile any land which belongs to a Jew. The reason that
this is forbidden is that such an act results in the land’s not
returning to its original Jewish owner in the Jubilee year (Ramban,
Mitzvoth Lo Ta’aseh 227). It follows that it is forbidden for the
state of Israel to give portions of our ancestral inheritance to non-

No ruler or government in the word has the right to displace even a
single Jew from his home in the land of Israel. The Almighty God has
given this land to the nation of Israel and every Jew has a portion in
it. No government in the world wields the authority to steal the lot
of even a single Jew, uprooting him from a home which he bought or
built in accordance with the law. It follows that any agreement which
calls for the eviction of Jews from their homes is prohibited.

Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that according to the Ran (see
Nedarim 28a) the rule “Dina D’Malkhuta Dina” (Lit., “the law of the
kingdom is the law”; a Halakhic principle which says that Jews must
obey the laws of the state in which they live) applies in the lands of
the exile alone. The reason for this is that in these countries the
land is the property of the kingdom, and one is hence obligated to
abide by the laws and ordinances of the country in which he resides.
But, says the Ran, in the land of Israel, which belongs to the entire
nation of Israel, there is no halakhically-based obligation to comply
with the laws of the government. Only under a Jewish state in the land
of Israel, because it has the status of a “King of Israel,” is there a
requirement to conform to the laws.

Most authorities, however, hold that “Dina D’Malkhuta Dina” applies
even in the land of Israel, for public consensus is what gives the
government its authority to rule and promulgate laws. This is the
opinion of both Rambam and Shulchan Arukh. Nevertheless, all agree
with the basic assertion of the Ran, that the land of Israel belongs
to the entire nation of Israel, and, hence, that no government
possesses the authority to uproot Jews from their ancestral

Life-Threatening Danger

According to the sages of the Talmud (Eruvin 45a) and the eventual
ruling of the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 329:6), any concession to an
enemy, even a slight one, constitutes an endangerment to life. The
sages therefore taught that in a situation where enemies attempt to
steal even “straw and stubble from a boarder settlement,” Jews must go
out and attack them. The reason for this course of action is that if
adversaries are allowed to get away with straw and stubble, our power
of deterrence will be weakened, and, in the end, neighboring peoples
will undertake to capture settlements and murder people. And even if
they come to steal on the Sabbath, the life-threatening danger
involved makes it necessary to desecrate the Sabbath and carry out an
armed response.
If, then, for mere straw and stubble the sages forbade making
concessions because of the eventual life-threatening danger involved,
it goes without saying that handing over entire settlements is out of
the question. Such behavior will greatly kindle the motivation of the
terrorists to murder. Indeed, the aftermath of the infamous Oslo
accords have unfortunately already proven the correctness of the logic
which underlies this ruling. The Oslo navigators promised peace for a
hundred years, and instead caused us more than a thousand deaths and
intensified worldwide anti-Semitism.

Desecration of God’s Name

Because the cession of territory which our enemies demand is backed by
strong international pressure, submitting to these forces and
relinquishing the land which God Himself bequeathed our ancestors and
ourselves will render us guilty of desecrating God’s name. We are
therefore enjoined to oppose all such anti-religious coercion.

Levels of Sanctification and Desecration

Any commandment which is carried out publicly has the effect of
sanctifying God’s Name. Such an act hence possesses great value, for
the entire purpose of creation is to reveal God’s majesty in this
world. On the other hand, transgressions carried out in public
constitute a desecration of God’s name and their severity is therefore
much greater than those carried out in private. There exist varying
degrees of sanctification and desecration of God’s name. The greater
publicity an act receives the greater the amount of sanctification or
desecration God’s Name receives.
The most famous Torah commandment in the world is the commandment to
settle the land of Israel. The nations have only a vague concept about
what is implied by kosher food or Sabbath observation, but they all
know that the Almighty has promised the land of Israel to the Jewish
people. It is written numerous time in the Bible, and the Bible is the
most important and popular book in the world. The entire world knows
that God promised the land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and
their offspring. All are aware that God, through His prophets, has
declared that the Jews will eventually return to their land.
Therefore, when, thanks to God’s abundant kindness, the state of
Israel was established, God’s Name was sanctified greatly in the eyes
of the nations, for the words of the Prophets were fulfilled. When,
again, we merited liberating Jerusalem, as well as Judea, Samaria, and
Gaza, God’s name was once again sanctified; it was as if the entire
world heard the blast of the “shofar” (ram’s horn).
There could be almost no greater desecration of God’s Name than our
now relinquishing portions of our sacred homeland. All of the news
programs would focus in on it. The entire world would be made aware
that God’s children agreed to give away portions of the holy soil
which God Himself had given them as an eternal possession. Therefore
we must exert ourselves to the utmost so that the words of the
prophets be fulfilled and this terrible desecration of God’s Name be

May It Be God’s Will

May God bless all of the dedicated activists working to protect the
settlements in Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, and may it be
God’s will that we all merit seeing the fulfillment of the words of
the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 65:18-24): “Be glad and rejoice forever in
that which I create, for, behold, I create for Jerusalem a rejoicing
and for her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in
My people and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor
the voice of crying…and they shall build houses and inhabit them;
and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall
not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat:
for as the days of a tree shall the days of My people be, and the
chosen ones shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not
labor in vain, nor bring forth for confusion, for they are the seed of
the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall
come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are
yet speaking, I will hear.”

The Torah on "Unilateral Disengagement" (Part 1)

The Commandment to Settle the Land

The commandment to settle the land of Israel requires that we conquer
the land. It is thus written, “Possess the land and settle it, for I
have given you the land in order that you take possession of
it” (Numbers 33:53), and our Sages explain the expression “possess” to
imply the conquest and establishment of Israeli sovereignty in the
land. Moreover, this commandment remains binding upon us in all
generations (Ramban, Hosefot LeMitzvat Aseh 4). Shulchan Arukh concurs
with this position (Even HaEzer 75), and Pitchei Teshuva (ad locum, 6)
adds that all authorities are in agreement upon this law.
It is true that for many generations we have not merited the privilege
of fulfilling this precept because we have lacked the military
capacity needed to conquer and defend the land. Yet, as soon as such a
capacity is achieved we are obliged to occupy the land. Hence, it goes
without saying that it is prohibited to relinquish any part of the
land to another people.
It is clear that the commandment to settle the land overrides the
possibility of any life-threatening danger to individual lives, for we
are enjoined by the Torah to conquer the land – and war, by its very
nature, involves loss of life. It follows that regarding the
obligation to settle the land of Israel any posed threat to individual
Jewish lives is not considered a deterrent (Minchat Chinnukh, 425).

“Do not allow them to reside in your land”

In addition to the more general Torah commandment to take possession
of the land of Israel, the Torah warns: “Do not allow them to reside
in your land” (Exodus 23:33). The Rambam (Hilkhot Avoda Zara 10:6)
explains that when we have the power it is forbidden to allow any non-
Jew to reside in our land (with the exception of a “Ger Toshav” – a
resident alien who has accepted some of the laws of Judaism).
Torah authorities, though, are divided over the question: To whom does
this prohibition apply? Some hold that only a non-Jew who, before a
court, professes faith in the God of Israel and takes upon himself to
observe the seven commandments of Noah’s descendants, is considered a
Ger Toshav who is permitted to live in Israel. Others are of the
opinion that even if one does not accept these responsibilities before
a court, so long as he does not worship idols and upholds the seven
Noahide laws, he is not prohibited from living in Israel.
According to the latter opinion, good and amiable Muslims are
permitted to live in Israel, because Islam does not embrace idolatry.
Arabs, though, who are hostile towards us clearly do not fulfill the
seven Noahide laws, for they fail to recognize the God of Israel who
has given us the land of Israel. In addition, such Arabs support
terrorists, thereby violating the Noahide prohibition against murder;
and they also refrain from establishing courts of law which will try
these terrorists, which is also one of the seven Noahide commandments.
While it is true that some early authorities are of the opinion that
the biblical injunction, “Do not allow them to reside in your land”
applies exclusively to the “seven nations” (Hittites, Girgashites,
Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, and Yebusites), the majority
take it to apply to any gentile who fails to uphold the seven laws of
Noah’s descendants. This being the case, according to the two main
opinions brought above, it is forbidden for a ruling Jewish government
to allow Arabs who refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty to live in
Israel, and it goes without saying that it is forbidden to present
them with land where they will be able to increase the number of non-
Jews who do not uphold the Noahide laws.

“No Consideration”

The Torah also exhorts: “…do not give them any
consideration” (Deuteronomy 7:2), and the Sages interpret this to mean
that it is forbidden to provide non-Jews with any sort of foothold
upon the soil of the land of Israel (Avodah Zara 20a). This
prohibition compliments the previously dealt-with proscription against
allowing them “to reside in your land”: it is the obligation of the
entire Jewish people to uphold the “residence“ prohibition; the
“foothold” prohibition, on the other hand, warns each and every
individual Jew not to sell a house or lot of land to any non-Jew who
is not a Ger Toshav. It follows that it is forbidden to give any
portion whatsoever to Arabs who do not uphold the seven Noahide laws.
Regarding this interdiction there is consensus among authorities that
it applies to all non-Jews and not just to the “seven nations,” and if
it is forbidden to sell them a single house, how much more so to give
them large portions of the land of Israel.