Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Hidden Moon

A well known Torah teacher in Israel, Rav Eliezer Kashtiel, asks a familiar question. We generally celebrate our holidays at the full moon, in the middle of the month. Succot, Pesach, and Purim are all full moon holidays. Not only is Rosh Hashana different, but we highlight that difference: “Sound the shofar in the concealment of our festival day.” Which festival occurs when the moon is concealed? That would be Rosh Hashana (Masechet Rosh Hashana 34a). But why must the festival coincide with the moon hidden from sight? And why is our attention called to it?

There is a famous dispute between the Gaon of Vilna and the holy ARI on a sensitive question: is it permissible to cry on Rosh Hashana? The Gaon ruled that one is not allowed to cry, for at the beginning of the second Temple era, Nechemia admonished the people who had come to the Temple for the first time on Rosh Hashana to “go home, eat, drink, for this day is holy to G-d, and don’t be sad, for delight in G-d is your strength” (Nechemia 8:10). Thus, the GRA said, the prohibition against sadness precludes crying.

The ARI disagreed, as recorded by R. Chaim Vital and the Ba’er Heiteiv (Orach Chaim 584:3). The ARI would cry on Rosh Hashana and even said that whoever didn’t cry, it is a sign that his soul is not healthy. That’s the paradox of Rosh Hashana: on the one hand, it’s a happy and joyous day; while on the other hand, it’s a day of solemnity and judgment. Which is primary?

There are several answers that synchronize the opinions of the GRA and the ARI, but here is one. There are different types of crying. There are tears of sadness and there are tears of joy. Sometimes they are commingled, and sometimes they are distinct. And we all know the difference. Rosh Hashana is the only holiday that is celebrated at the New Moon, the beginning of the month, because, like the new moon every month, it symbolizes a fresh start, a rebirth. On Rosh Hashana, we are all children again. We are reborn. We still hear the cantor of our youth that shapes the way we absorb and understand the davening throughout our lives. We still see the sights and inhale the aromas of the homes in which we were raised. We are children again, full of hope and excitement.

What is the sound of the shofar? The whole year we talk to G-d, with words. On Rosh Hashana, we employ the wordless sounds of the shofar, the cry of the infant who can’t say anything or do anything. He just cries. It’s not a cry of sadness or of pain; it’s not the cry of longing for or regret for the past; that will come. It is the cry of the child who yearns for mother and father, for the security and comfort of home; it is our cry to our Father in Heaven that we have returned after being abroad for too long. Please let us in. We cry in joy over the future – like at all beginnings, births and weddings – not over the past. We cry over the journey that took us to distant places, but now we have come home.

There is no moon. The past is the past. We are born again. We just need to be delivered into the new world of the New Year.

The Torah tells us that the two great women, midwives, who ushered in the redemption from Egypt and the founding of our nation, were named Shifra and Pu’ah. In the understanding of our Sages, these noble women were Yocheved and Miriam, respectively the mother and sister of Moshe. So why were they called Shifra and Pu’ah? The Gemara (Sota 11b) says that one was called Shifra because her role was to straighten out (meshaperet) the limbs of the newborn, and the other was called Pu’ah because she cried out (po’ah) to the child to bring her forth into the world.

Shifra and Pu’ah. Those names should ring a phonetic bell in our minds. Pu’ah - crying, cooing. The hundred sounds of the shofar that we blow correspond to the hundred cries (pe’ayot) of Sisera’s mother. And Pu’ah’s mother was Shifra, a word like the shofar itself. The Baal Hatanya wrote that the sounds of the shofar accompany our rebirth. It calls out to us plaintively and seeks our improvement; it urges us to straighten ourselves out. It asks us to renew ourselves, that we cry not tears of sadness - “do not be sad because the delight in G-d is our strength” – but tears of joy (even if that too recollects what is missing), tears of hope and anticipation, tears of the newborn, of a reborn soul.

The Slonimer quotes the Toldot Yaakov Yosef who reinterpreted the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 16b) that discusses the three books that are open on Rosh Hashana – the books of the righteous, the wicked and the intermediates. The books are open, but we get to inscribe ourselves. We get to choose the book in which we want to be written. What are our true aspirations? Those who crown G-d as King over themselves – every limb, every deed, and every thought – have chosen the book of life. Those who cannot make that commitment are choosing a different book.

If the moon is concealed on Rosh Hashana, it is only to remind us that a new beginning awaits us, if only we want it, if only we are ready for it. May we embark on that new beginning wisely and choose the book of life thoughtfully, and may G-d show us favor and seal us in that book for a year of meaningful life and good health, of prosperity and happiness, and grace our people with renewal as well – to an end to fear and trepidation, and to the beginning of complete redemption.

Shana Tova to all!

Yom Kippur 5778: Photos on my wall

Yom Kippur 5778
By HaRav Nachman Kahana

On the wall in front of my desk there are several photos.

One of my father Z”L pondering over a Gemara. Another of my beautiful Mother at the age of 16 in the city of Dvinsk Latvia where her father was a renowned Torah scholar. A photo of our youngest son who is today a general in the IDF, receiving a citation for successfully completing a daring mission behind enemy lines by the general of the northern command.

A picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe giving me two dollars in return for two books I had authored and presented to the Rebbe.

And two more photos. One of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, with three Israeli F-16 war planes flying above. There is a big story behind that flight. It was about 10-15 years ago that Israel and Poland agreed that planes could fly over the camps. The pilots who were chosen were sons of parents who survived those death camps. As they were approaching, the planes swooped down over the camps in a symbolic sign of reverence. The Polish authorities immediately called our Ministry of Defense and complained that the deal was that the planes would not fly under 30,000 feet. Our ministry made contact with the commander of the flight. He replied that the last time Jews took orders from the Poles was 60 years ago.

The other is a frame with two pictures. One is the well-known photo of the little boy in Warsaw with his hands up and German soldiers aiming their rifles at him. Next to it is a photo of Israeli soldiers with talit and tefilin sitting atop a tank.

The caption under the picture of the little boy reads “Good Jewish boy”; the caption under the picture of the soldier reads: “Bad Jewish boy”.

When Jews are pursued, persecuted, and murdered, gentiles called us “good Jewish boys and girls”, but when we survived them, established our own independent state and defended our right to live, we became in their eyes “bad Jewish boys and girls”.

What distinguishes the three pilots and the tank soldier from the little Jewish boy in Warsaw are two words – Jewish Pride.

For 2000 years the gentles deprived us of our innate pride at being God’s chosen people. This lack of pride has resulted in the present-day assimilation of millions of our people who are unable to see or feel their elite status as sons of God’s chosen people.

Lack of Jewish pride fuels the disastrous assimilation among the Jews in the galut. In the U.S., in seven out of every 10 weddings involving a non-orthodox Jew, the spouse is gentile!

But that should not surprise anyone, because the absence of Jewish education and mitzvot arouses the question, why remain a Jew? After which the path to assimilation is smooth and comfortable.

Genuine, sincere pride is needed

At the most dramatic moment in the “Unetana tokef” liturgy (prayer chanted prior to the Kedushah prayer on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur declaring that we shall ascribe holiness to this day), we declare:
ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה מעבירין את רוע הגזירה
Repentance, Prayer and Charity have within their power to negate a negative decree.

Teshuva (repentance) refers to the sinner’s relationship with himself, as he experiences deep remorse through — introspection in order to escape the torment of his conscience.

Tefila (prayer) refers to the sinner’s relationship with HaShem.

Tzedaka (charity) is his relationship with his fellow man.

Despite the differences, they are all predicated on one single quality – genuine, sincere pride in being Jewish.

There is no pride in being Jewish in the galut where the Jew is a tolerated minority. Only in Eretz Yisrael where we are a majority, is a Jew free to feel his essence, his elitist status, as one of God’s chosen people. Here his desire for teshuva and to draw close to the Creator can find expression. A Jew who divides his allegiance between HaShem and citizenship in a gentile society cannot feel what it means to be a member of the chosen people.

Disgracing the Holy Name

A Jew on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur in the galut can be compared to one who is in a cesspool up to his neck while holding a bar of soap; or as in the words of Chazal טובל ושרץ בידו one who is immersed in a mikvah while holding a dead tamei (impure) rodent.

Rambam, based on the Gemara Yoma, explains that not all sins are of the same severity. Some are resolved by a mere desire or statement of teshuva, while others require the passing of Yom Kippur day, and the more severe sins require Yom Kippur day in addition to having to face great difficulties in life.

However, any sin, severe or light, that also creates a “chilul HaShem” (disgracing the holy name of HaShem) can be atoned for only by the death of the sinner.

Prayers recited by Jews in the galut for teshuva and forgiveness are less than meaningless; they are a derogation of the holy name. It makes no difference if the prayers are held in a modern Orthodox synagogue (where the rabbi is orthodox and the congregation is modern), or in the packed batei midrashim of the Grand Rabbis or leading yeshivot; one cannot entertain the ideas of teshuva in the galut.

The reader would be justified in challenging my words in the face of so many spiritual giants in the galut, were it not for the words of the Prophet Yechezkel in chapter 36:
ויהי דבר ה’ אלי לאמר:
בן אדם בית ישראל ישבים על אדמתם ויטמאו אותה בדרכם ובעלילותם כטמאת הנדה היתה דרכם לפני:
ואשפך חמתי עליהם על הדם אשר שפכו על הארץ ובגלוליהם טמאוה:
ואפיץ אתם בגוים ויזרו בארצות כדרכם וכעלילותם שפטתים:
ויבוא אל הגוים אשר באו שם ויחללו את שם קדשי באמר להם עם ה’ אלה ומארצו יצאו:
ואחמל על שם קדשי אשר חללוהו בית ישראל בגוים אשר באו שמה:
לכן אמר לבית ישראל כה אמר א-דני ה’ לא למענכם אני עשה בית ישראל כי אם לשם קדשי אשר חללתם בגוים אשר באתם שם:
וקדשתי את שמי הגדול המחלל בגוים אשר חללתם בתוכם וידעו הגוים כי אני ה’ נאם א-דני ה’ בהקדשי בכם לעיניהם:

“Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions….
So, I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols.
I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions.
And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’
I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.
Therefore, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.
I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes’.”

In verse 20 the prophet says:
And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’

The very presence of a Jew in chutz la’aretz (outside the land of Israel) is per se a chillul HaShem.
Every shul, yeshiva and shtiebel there cries out “chillul HaShem.”

What can we do with the millions of Jews yet in the galut?

My answer is: do nothing!

For like a precious work of art, Eretz Yisrael is a matter of love. Just as a person cannot be persuaded to love a painting or a piece of music if it does not speak to one’s soul, so too, one who is attached to the galut cannot be convinced to leave and continue his life in HaShem’s holy land if love of authentic historic Judaism does not pulsate strongly in his soul.

We today in the holy land are living the words of Yechezkel:

אמר א-דני ה’ ביום טהרי אתכם מכל עונותיכם והושבתי את הערים ונבנו החרבות:
והארץ הנשמה תעבד תחת אשר היתה שממה לעיני כל עובר:
ואמרו הארץ הלזו הנשמה היתה כגן עדן והערים החרבות והנשמות והנהרסות בצורות ישבו:
וידעו הגוים אשר ישארו סביבותיכם כי אני ה’ בניתי הנהרסות נטעתי הנשמה אני ה’ דברתי ועשיתי:
כה אמר אדני ה’ עוד זאת אדרש לבית ישראל לעשות להם ארבה אתם כצאן אדם:
כצאן קדשים כצאן ירושלם במועדיה כן תהיינה הערים החרבות מלאות צאן אדם וידעו כי אני ה’:

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.
The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it.’
They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.”
Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.”

Gemar chatima tova,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5778/2017 Nachman Kahana

Monday, September 25, 2017

Yom Kippur - A Day of Liberty

By HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshivat Har Bracha

Teshuva Liberates One from the Shackles of the Yetzer
Through the process of teshuva (repentance) a person is liberated from the shackles entangling him, and his soul is able to reveal itself freely, for teshuva is the desire for Divine freedom, devoid of the least bit of enslavement (Orot HaTeshuva 5:5; 7:4).

Customarily, a person is drawn after his ‘yetzer’av ha’ra’im’ (evil inclinations), such as greed and pride, anger, envy, laziness and conceit – because they offer him quick gratification; once drawn to them, however, one becomes enslaved. And although a person’s inner self still longs for truth and goodness, he finds it exceedingly difficult to realize his good intentions because he has become addicted to having his urges satisfied, and his soul remains confined and tormented in its shackles.

By means of teshuva, man is liberated, and is able to reveal his true will. His soul is released from the bonds of his ‘yetzer‘, begins to illuminate his path, and empowers the life-force within him. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: "For man is never more free than when he occupies himself with the study of Torah" (Avot 6:2), because the Torah instructs a person in the path of truth and goodness, through which one can fulfill all of his good aspirations.

Yom Kippur is a Day of Liberty; Yovel and Yom Kippur
We can learn a similar lesson from the mitzvah of Yovel (Jubilee). Customarily, as a result of laziness, greed or other troubles, from time to time people were forced to sell their fields, and sometimes, even had to sell themselves into slavery. In His great mercy for them – and in particular, their families – God determined the mitzvah ofYovel, that on the Yom Kippur of the fiftieth year, all slaves are freed and all fields return to their original owners, as it is written, "Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, on Yom-Kippur, you are to sound a blast on the shofar; you are to sound the shofar all through your land; and you are to consecrate the fiftieth year, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a yovel for you; you will return everyone to the land he owns, and everyone is to return to his family" (Leviticus, 25:9-10).

The Order of Liberation in the Yovel Year
The day set by the Torah in which slaves are freed and fields return to their original owners is Yom Kippur. As the Rambam wrote: "FromRosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur, servants would not be released to their homes, nor would they be subjugated to their masters, nor would the fields return to their original owners. Instead, the servants would eat, drink, and rejoice, with crowns on their heads. When Yom Kippur arrives and the shofar is sounded in the court, the servants are released to their homes and the fields are returned to their owners" (Laws of Shmitta and Yovel 10:14).

Blowing the Shofar at the Close of Yom Kippur to Remind Us of Yovel
Rav Hai Gaon wrote that the custom of blowing the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur comes to remind us of the blowing of theshofar for Yovel. And though the basis of this shofar blowing is merely a minhag (custom), it symbolizes the culmination of Yom Kippur, for on Yom Kippur the Jewish nation merits release from enslavement to freedom, resembling the Yovel.

Freedom from enslavement to evil inclinations is analogous to the emancipation of slaves to freedom, and the return of the body to the soul parallels the field returning to its owner. For when a person is drawn after his physical inclinations, his body disconnects from his soul and becomes enslaved to foreign desires, thus handing over his powers sinfully to foreign forces. But by means of teshuva on Yom Kippur, the body returns to the soul, rejoicing together with it in the joy of a mitzvah, and reveals God’s intention in the world. In this manner, a person merits a good life, filled with blessing.

The Main Service is in the Holy of Holies
The basis of teshuva is rooted in the most exalted reality, and consequently, the main service of Yom Kippur is performed in theKodesh HaKodeshim (Holy of Holies). The Holy Temple is the place where all Divine values are revealed, and from it, they flow to the entire world. In the ‘heichal‘ (sanctuary) termed ‘Kodesh‘, rests the ‘menorah‘ symbolizing all categories of wisdom; the ‘shulchan‘ (the Golden Table) signifies parnasah (livelihood); and the Mizbayach Haketoret (incense altar) denoting prayer and the longing for closeness to God. On a higher level in the Kodesh HaKodeshim, the foundations of Israel’s beliefs and teachings were revealed. Therefore, in the Kodesh HaKodeshim rested the Ark containing the Tablets and the Torah, and above it, two Cherubim which symbolized the bond of ‘brit‘ (covenant) and love between God and Israel. Out from the Kodesh HaKodeshim flowed life to the entire world, hence its’ supreme importance, to the point where anyone who entered it is deserving of death by Heaven, and only the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) entered it on Yom Kippur on behalf of all Israel, so as to connect the entire world to its source, and draw atonement, forgiveness, and life to the whole world.

Since the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile, the sanctity of the Kodesh HaKodeshim is revealed in the world through the Jewish nation’s desires and yearnings that "God’s name be sanctified on His people Israel, and on Jerusalem His city, and on Mt. Zion the abode of His majesty, and on the kingdom of David His chosen one, on His site and sanctuary, and that God reigns alone over all His works." This is the essence of our prayers on Yom Kippur.

Awakening to the Study of Torah
As a continuation of the service in the Kodesh HaKodeshim on Yom Kippur, it would be appropriate for every man and woman, elderly and young, to accept upon themselves on Yom Kippur in preparation for the New Year, to increase and deepen their study of Torah. This is especially worthy for people engaged in yishuv’o shel olam(settlement of the world), and the fitting time for additional study is on Shabbat. Thereby, we will merit drawing insight from the Kodesh HaKodeshim into our daily lives. And this should not be taken this lightly, for the perfection of the world (tikun olam) and its redemption depends on it.

Establishing Blessed Jewish Families
When the Beit HaMikdash existed, at the conclusion of the service of the Kohen HaGadol in the Temple, the daughters of Jerusalem would dance in the orchards, in this way, find their future husbands. Seemingly, one could ask: how, on the sacred and awesome Day of Atonement, could they engage in matters of finding their spouse? However, the creation of Jewish families is connected to the Holy of Holies, as our Sages said about a husband and wife who are worthy of being faithful to one another, that the Divine Presence abides among them (Sotah 17a). And by means of such a relationship, divine unity is revealed in the world; consequently God commanded his name be erased in order that peace is made between husband and wife (Nedarim 66b). Similarly, the Ari HaKadosh said that the mitzvahto "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18), concerning which Rabbi Akiva said "it is a great rule in the Torah" (Safra, ibid.), is fulfilled in its entirety between spouses.

Moreover, the connection and union between a couple is symbolic to the higher bond between God and Israel, as it is written, "and God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom with his bride" (Isaiah 62:5). Therefore, ‘Shir HaShirim‘ (the Song of Songs) is considered kodesh kodeshim (holy of holies) (Tanhuma Tetzaveh 5). We also find that the form of the Cherubs placed on the Ark in the Holy of Holies was in the shape of a man and woman fulfilling the mitzvah of conjugal relations. This teaches us that holiness does not diminish life, but rather, empowers it. And when Israel ceased to do the will of God, the Cherubs separated from each other, turning their faces outwards (Bava Batra 99 a).

Think and Pray about Matchmaking
Today, indeed, we do not engage in matchmaking on Yom Kippur. Perhaps the reason is that currently we are not worthy of doing so when the Temple is destroyed. In any case, seeing as the sanctity ofYom Kippur is connected to that of the Jewish family, it is appropriate for all single men and women to think and pray about finding their partner. Often, the negative character traits of pride and greed prevent a person from finding a suitable match. On Yom Kippur when one’s pure soul is revealed, one can consider more accurately the aspirations in his life and about a truly suitable match, someone with whom he can fulfill the Torah and mitzvoth, and together, increase joy and life.

Teshuva and Prayers of Married Couples
Married couples should also do teshuva on Yom Kippur over not having properly loved and made each other happy, and pray they merit reuniting with love and joy, that the shechina (holy Presence) dwell among them, and that they merit raising sons and daughters engaged in Torah and mitzvoth.

Palestinian 'Reconciliation': Jihad is Calling!

By Bassam Tawil

  • Leaders of Hamas maintain that under no circumstances will they agree to lay down their weapons. Hamas is, in fact, continuing full-speed-ahead digging tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Hamas is planning to use the tunnels to smuggle armed terrorists into Israel.
  • The accord with Hamas requires Mahmoud Abbas to lift the sanctions he recently imposed on the Gaza Strip, such as refusing to pay Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza. It also requires Abbas to resume payment of salaries to thousands of Palestinians who served time in Israeli prison for terror-related offenses.
  • Above all, Hamas wants to use the agreement to be removed from the U.S. State Department List of Foreign Terror Organizations.
  • The Russians are closing their ears to what Hamas itself declares day after day: that its true goal is to eliminate Israel and that it has no intention of abandoning its murderous, genocidal agenda.
Pictured: On October 17, 2013, then U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro visited a tunnel penetrating Israel from Gaza, which had been discovered by the Israeli army. Shapiro said: "I was shocked from what I saw in the tunnel. It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers." (Image source: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
The Palestinian terror group Hamas has once again made clear that its true intention is to pursue the fight against Israel until the "liberation of Palestine, from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea." Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, says that despite the latest "reconciliation" agreement reached with the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the auspices of the Egyptian government, it will continue to prepare for war with Israel.
While some Western analysts have misinterpreted the agreement as a sign that Hamas is moving towards moderation and pragmatism, leaders of the Islamist movement maintain that under no circumstances will they agree to lay down their weapons. Hamas is, in fact, continuing full-speed-ahead digging tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Hamas is planning to use the tunnels to smuggle armed terrorists into Israel.

The Merit of Yom Kippur

By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Yom Kippur is the most uniquely Jewish day of the calendar year. By this I mean that all of our other wonderful holidays have been copied, adapted and sometimes just plain co-opted by other faiths. New Year, freedom festivals, Pentecost, Easter, Mardi Gras, etc. are all well known in other faiths and celebrated in secular society as well. But a day of holiness, of abstinence, of spirituality, of communion with one’s self and one’s Creator, wholly devoted to lofty ideas and the realm of the spirit is to my knowledge unknown outside of Judaism. Even though the Torah calls the prohibitions imposed upon us by the day of Yom Kippur, such as fasting, not washing, etc., as being "afflictions," Rambam changes the whole tone of the matter in his wondrous work "Mishneh Torah." There he entitles the section on Yom Kippur as being "Shevitat Assor" - the great day of rest that occurs on the tenth day of Tishrei. It is not so much that we are "afflicted" on the day of Yom Kippur as that we are at rest for a day from all worldly needs such as eating, washing, etc. Yom Kippur is not a day of pain and sadness, which are the hallmarks of Tisha B’av, but rather a day of serenity and inner yearning for the better part of us to assert itself. One of the great lessons of Yom Kippur is that inner serenity is achievable only by a degree of separation from the worldly pursuits that press constantly upon us. To truly live well in this world, one must always distance one’s self, no matter how slightly, from that very same world.

Another powerful but really very obvious lesson of Yom Kippur is the blessed consequences of the ability to repent and forgive. All of this is easier said than done. Personal hurts done to us by others leave deep and painful scars. So forgiveness, in the truest sense of the word, becomes painful and emotionally wrenching. Nevertheless, forgiving others is really the chief means at our disposal of cleansing our souls and our inner selves. It removes the corroding bitterness that changes for the worse our personalities and nature. Brooding over past hurts only intensifies the pain that those hurts originally caused. Forgiveness allows one to move on in life and not dwell on past events and constantly relive pain and embarrassment. We are not "a turn the other cheek" people and there are certainly circumstances that do not warrant forgiveness. But in the main, forgiveness is a positive step in helping build our spiritual self and in ennobling our character. Repentance is also a difficult concept to actualize. To say that "I was wrong" or that "I am truly sorry" are difficult words to get out of our mouths. And paradoxically enough these words are far easier to say to God, so to speak, than they are to a fellow human being. In fact, the closer we are to the person - a relative, a friend, partner, business associate, employer, employee - who was wronged by our words or deeds, the more difficult the apology becomes. Yet, God’s forgiveness of us, so to speak, hinges upon our ability to forgive others as well. A person who is unforgiving and overly exacting in interpersonal relationships will be treated by Heaven in the same fashion. So Yom Kippur demands of us contriteness, a lowering of ego and a serenity of spirit that can encompass all around us as well.

"Bring us back to You"

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Dedicated in honor of R' Meir b"r Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

Repentance: Failure's Complete Course
Hosea the Prophet reveals an underlying motive of repentance: "Return...for you have stumbled in your iniquity" (Hosea 14:2). Superficial thinking causes one to imagine that sin brings in its wake liberation and freedom. The truth is, though, that the sin itself serves to awaken the sinner to repentance.

"There you will serve gods that men have made out of wood and stone... Then you will begin to seek God your Lord, and if you seek him with your heart and soul, you will eventually find him" (Deuteronomy 4:28,29). It is precisely via the contemptible act of worshipping gods of wood and stone that one manages to return to God. This can be compared to the drawing of a straight line from a point on the face of a ball. The line seems to distance itself from the original point. Yet, once the halfway point has been passed the line once again approaches its starting point.

"Wood and stone." These are two types of idolatry that continue to exist even today. Wood grows and expands; it represents the modern idolatry of labor-worship. Stone represents an idolatry whose aim it is to remove from the human heart all semblance of lovingkindness and benevolence. Our own Jewish brethren have, in this era, practiced these two forms of idolatry. That of wood, here in the Land of Israel; that of stone, in Soviet Russia. So much energy has been invested towards these false-god ideals; their followers have invested, and continue to invest, the best of the capacities of their youth. Today, though, an awakening is making itself felt even in Israel. This can be seen in those who lead the call for repentance, and in those who are returning from "foreign camps." It can be seen in Russia as well. After twenty years of attempting to erase all trace of the name of Israel, to destroy Jewish unity, and to dispose of all holy books, the wall has fallen. We can hear our fellow Jews crying out to us, and they cry out in the tongue of the Prophets: "I will not die but live." From where does their great vigor spring forth? Have not larger and stronger peoples been destroyed? And from where their adamant faith that justice is bound to triumph, if not from Judaism? Religious awakening, self-examination, "O Israel," "Return" - "for you have stumbled." The old ideologies proved to be misleading, and it therefore becomes necessary to abandon these precarious values.

Yet, to where does one return? All agree that there is a need to return, but where to? The failure, then, has not run its complete course.

More Dangerous than No Faith at All
And what about our own camp? We stand on a firm foundation of faith. Because we recognize the need for repentance, there is no question about where to return to. Yet, for us, the concept of repentance itself is not clear enough. One, unfortunately, does not find the sort of awakening among us that one ought to.

We possess a sickness that is particular to us alone. And this sickness, when it takes hold, can be even more dangerous than no faith at all. Isaiah the Prophet long ago cried out about this phenomena, saying: "And God said: Since this people draw near and honor me with their mouth and with their lips but have greatly distanced their heart from me, and their fear toward me is a commandment of men learned by rote, therefore, behold, I will proceed to do marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isaiah 29:13-14). It was not toward the irreligious that Isaiah aimed all his bitter reprimand. We are not dealing here with people who have thrown off the yoke of Torah, but with those who stand in the House of God and offer up lengthy prayers. This is really unbelievable. Furthermore, we find here punishment that the Sages termed more "difficult than the ninety-eight curses" that appear in chapter twenty-seven of Deuteronomy. Yet what is so bad about a commandment "learned by rote?" Is it not necessary to learn to fear God? Is man born with a built-in fear of Heaven? Certainly one must learn. If so, what is wrong with learning "by rote?"

True, one finds in the Torah an obligation to learn to fear God: "In order that you learn to fear" (Deuteronomy 14:23); "... who will learn to fear" (Ibid. 4:10); even regarding the king: "In order that you learn to fear" (Ibid. 17:19). The difference is in the fact that the proper way to learn fear of God is: "This scroll must always be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life" (Ibid.), i.e., a course lasting an entire lifetime. "Learned by rote," though, implies completion and perfection. No longer "learning," but "learned." Fear of God becomes something that no longer evolves, which can not be added to - clear and known. It follows that there is no need to dedicate time to this pursuit, there is no need for further discussion or further study. In stead of study "all the days of his life," one suffices with a childish fear that was learned in grammar school. While a person continued to develop in all other areas of life, his religious world remained childish. What's more, this sort of person believes that this is all there is to it. The words, "for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish..." become that much more understandable. For, one who already knows all, will not be ready to receive any new knowledge. This sort of person will no longer be willing to receive criticism or guidance. This is a terrible situation because even repentance itself is not seen as an option. It, too, has been learned by rote. It is possible to pound away at the heart of such an individual all day and night without results. "Tear your hearts, not your clothing," says Joel the Prophet.

The Days of Repentance confront us with the challenge to "renew your actions in the first month" (VaYikra Rabba 29). Renewal, self-examination, and reestablishment of values. Sowing the seeds and sorting the grain anew. This is part of repentance. This is a necessary introduction to repentance. To shake of the "rote." To make a fresh start. To understand what one is reciting in prayer, to feel the words.

"No, it's yours"
In the Midrash, we find an interesting and difficult-to-understand argument between the People of Israel and the Almighty: "Bring us back to You, God, and we shall return, renew our days as of old" (Lamentations 5:25). The Assembly of Israel said to the Almighty: "Bring us back" is Yours (i.e., our repentance depends upon You). He said to them: No, its yours, for it is written: "Thus says God, Return to Me and I will return to you" (Zechariah 3:7). They replied: No, its Yours, for it is written: "Bring us back to You, God of our salvation" (Psalm 85:5). Therefore it is written, 'Bring us back to You, God, and we shall return."

The whole argument is truly puzzling. All the same, when we search for the factor that impedes us on the road to repentance, we find it in the Sages' explanation of the command, "There shall be no foreign god inside of you." What sort of foreign god, ask the Sages, is inside of man's body? The Evil Impulse. Take a look at a person in whom anger, pride, and other undesirable traits dwell. A "foreign god" has taken control of him to the point where he believes that it is he himself. What we are dealing with here is repentance from undesirable character traits. Rambam says that such repentance is much more important than repentance from corrupt deeds because it is more difficult; it is a war against a foreign god inside of man. Seeing all of man's ugliness, all of his corrupt thoughts all day long, one says: "Bring us back to You, God." We are not capable on our own. We are full of evil ambitions. We are base and degraded. Our repentance is in God's hands alone. God, though, reveals to us that in this we are mistaken. For not only is it in our hands, it is not in His hands at all - as the Sages of the Talmud teach: "All is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven." This is what is meant by man's being created in God's image. Man is completely free to do as he pleases. After all that befalls an individual, after all rewards and punishments have been bestowed by the Almighty, the ultimate choice still rests in man's hand. "Evil people refuse to repent even at the gates of Hell." Therefore, God says: "Return to me." Yet even after hearing these words from God, even when man feels that everything is in his hands, we are all the same lacking some force to push - if not to force us to act. This, then is the request: "Return us, O God of our salvation." Yes, we will return, but we want the salvation of God, Heavenly assistance. We desire an "awakening from above" to rouse us down below. This is what we pray for, and this is what we request. "Bring us back" - "And we shall return." Bring us back to You so that we may return. Assist us.

For this reason, God gave us the Ten Days of Repentance.

The Shamrak Report: Be a Proud Sovereign Nation and more.......

By Steven Shamrak
Israel must stop looking for approval from international anti-Semites and so-called friends. It will never get it! Since 1948 they have been undermining Israel’s independence and even its existence. Only by exercising self-respect and determination to remove enemy terror threats and reunite Jewish ancestral land will the Jewish people be able to live peacefully in Eretz-Israel!
Why is Israel constantly seeking approval and searching for unattainable high moral ground? No matter how hard Jews have been trying it - this is futile exercise; we have never received any respect, understanding and appreciation of our aspirations and humane efforts in dealing with enemies from international anti-Semites. 
Contraire, Israel is denigrated by the endless successive resolutions eagerly adopted by the vicious attacks from numerous anti-Israel organisations, as well as by Arab appeasing states - like the EU and BDS supporters, Oxfam, Amnesty International, the Red Cross and innumerable others!
Why does Israel have to prove its "right to exist"? No other country has this pathological need – this is a strategy for losers!
Always on the defence, Israel behaves as if it's done something wrong, by allowing others to accuse it of crimes it has never committed. Israel’s leadership is persistently unable to make a psychological transition from the historic scars of anti-Semitic persecution. It needs to shake off the shtetl mentality and start acting as a proud nation!
The Jewish leadership is unwilling and incapable of recognizing that Israel is a modern, highly developed sovereign state with a powerful and capable military. Does Israel have an overriding sense of a viable political and military strategy or clearly defined direction for deal with its adversaries? This absence of clearly articulated and identified national goals and lack of self-respect has robbed Israel of decisive victory in its last five conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza.
While engaging in endless military conflicts, Israel proudly announced that it trucks supplies to the enemy during the conflicts – adding and abetting the enemy! Israeli military gave advance notice to enemies in Gaza of its next military action, and even provides details about immanent targets. It is irrational behaviour – no army in the world acts like this during a military conflict!
Israel provides medical treatment to enemy population, including the extended families of Abbas, and Khalid Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, all of whom have openly declared genocidal intent towards Israel and Jews. This behaviour also deifies any rational logic and comprehension!
Wars are not won by winning the high moral ground, which international anti-Semites will not allow Israel to attain anyway - they are won on the ground, by decisively defeating enemies and not having to replicate the same conflict over and over, and over! It is well known that Israel’s enemies, Arab and Muslim states, respect only strength and have contempt for display of weakness – that how they perceive Israel’s behaviour! 
The most insane of all, was bringing the exiled PLO terrorists into our backyard, legitimizing them and laying the foundation for yet another Arab State on Jewish ancestral land. 
By giving up Sinai, three times, ceding the Temple Mount, unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, and most catastrophically signing the Oslo Accords for a delusion of peace, and many more so-called confidence building jesters Israel validates Albert Einstein famous quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 
By these bizarre displays of weakness, Israel only gives its enemies the hope and expectations that they will eventually be triumphant in destroying the Jewish state. This behaviour only encourages their perpetuating aggressions against Israel.
Jews are considered, even by their enemies, as smart people – this is not intelligent behaviour that one expects of an advanced military and industrial state! Jews need to change our shtetl mentality and stand as a proud nation and get rid of this incessant need for approval from others!

Leshana Tovah Tikatev V’tichatem!
Wish you a Happy and Sweet New Year!
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
The Israeli justice system is traditionally heavily infested by leftist - anti-Zionist personnel. It has systematically been harassing Zionist activists, religious and secular, and has been ‘blackmailing’ politicians and members of their families by legal investigations and threats of persecution, which usually run endlessly for many years!
Chabad Rabbi on Trial for Incitement - Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, who has been indicted for inciting soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements in the Land of Israel. His trial has been going on for more than three years. Rabbi Wolpo was active in the protest movement of 2005 that fought the “disengagement” from Gaza. Following the failure of that campaign he organized a rabbinical conference entitled “We shall never forget and we shall never forgive.” 
A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, revealed large numbers of Palestinian Arab girls forced into child marriages, rampant beatings of children, and forced labor. According to the UNICEF report, "2% of all Palestinian women aged 15 to 49 years married before the age of 15." In addition, the report noted that nearly one quarter of Palestinian Arab women "marry" before the age of 18. "In the State of Palestine, 70 per cent of students are exposed to violence at school. A staggering 92 per cent of children aged 1 to 14 years experienced violent disciplining at home..." (Society built on lies is the ugly one!)
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has begun his term as Vice President of the UN General Assembly. The Israeli ambassador was elected to the position as a representative of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group. (Israel is still not in Asia!)
After the High Court slaps 60-day limit on detention of illegal migrants, justice minister and interior minister convene a meeting to promote legal measures, including altering existing law and agreements with other African countries, to facilitate deportations without consent; ‘minor adjustments are required to the agreements... for the deportations to be carried out,' says Shaked.
Netanyahu expressed his outrage at how the high population of African infiltrators has impacted the lives of the residents of south Tel Aviv. Israel was the first country in the world to physically block the entry of infiltrators and at the time when 20,000 were entering the country per year. Netanyahu said he is creating a ministerial team to advance solutions to the problem. African nations are willing to absorb Infiltrators from Israel. Some 20,000 infiltrators have already been removed.
Israel at War with the PA Terrorism
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised Israel's Shin Bet, internal security service, reporting that the service had foiled 70 terror attacks in the months of July and August alone against Israeli civilians and servicemen and women. (There is no chance for the peace with the enemies – the fake negotiation process only encourages more terror attacks and loss of Jewish lives!)
Jews in the Swedish city of Gothenburg were bracing for a neo-Nazi march scheduled to pass near the city’s main synagogue on Yom Kippur. Swedish Jews face anti-Semitism both from the nationalist far right as well as the far left, whose strong criticism of Israel sometimes veers into anti-Semitism.
Quote of the Week:
“Most people feel comfortable to express opinions which are in line with media reports. It is socially safe - that is all that is important! Stories are selected carefully; many truly horrendous events have never seen the light of day. Right now, glorifying all things Muslim has become a new PC, so they can do no wrong! They are always portrayed as victims in need of sympathy and help, regardless of what they have done. The terrible pattern of sexual abuse carried out by Muslims worldwide and disproportional crime rate committed by them is always hidden.” – Ruth Cohen Harif, a Facebook posting.
Pre-emptive Self-Defence!
- via Chris Moore (FaceBook posting)
Many people are asking the questions: Why must Israel take out Hezbollah and Iran's nuclear facilities and why the US must take out the North Korean threat?
I have never understood why a country has to wait till it is attacked before it can retaliate. YOUR ENEMIES DON'T HAVE TO WAIT! Your enemies aren't bound by such rules of engagement. Why should we be? (They are patiently have been looking for most advantageous time to strike)
A threat from a hostile enemy is enough reason to take action. 
Take North Korean military buildup for example or Iran's numerous threats to destroy Israel. 

These two countries haven't yet attacked, but they would have if and they will, when they become stronger. The question for me is a simple one:
Why wait until your enemy builds enough weapons to attack your country?
We all know what would happen if Israel or America was the weaker side. Both Iran and North Korea would have already attacked. That would be the end of both Israel and millions would have died in the United States.
If you have someone actively trying to plan a war against you, it is beyond stupid to allow that enemy to build up its strength to the point that you have to build up more deterrence and more weapons in order to keep up-to-date.
There are other risks involved with playing a waiting game, too many to list here. Let me give you a few great examples:
The threat from Hezbollah and Iran is one glaring example. Look at what has transpired since the last war in 2006. Had Israel taken them out completely, or taken action around 2007 when reports at that time indicated they were rearming, and then Israel wouldn’t be facing 150,000 missiles from Lebanon today. And now Iran has troops in Syria. 
You see, it's self-defeating to delay and procrastinate. Iran has continued it program and Israel is now in a situation that should Iran complete their program, it could face a nuclear armed Iran. Imagine that nightmare. (Iran has already installed Russian supplied S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system, and has developed its own version!)
Think also what would have happened had Israel not taken a pre-emptive attack against Iraq's nuclear program and Syria's? 
In 1967, Israel had to act or face a total and resounding defeat. And look what took place in 1973, when Israel did not take a pre-emptive action against Syria and Egypt? They lost a lot of men unnecessarily and almost lost the war! That would have meant the end of the country and the slaughter of nearly every Jew living there.
You see, Israel cannot gamble or second guess what your enemy is planning or thinking. When they make such threats, eliminate that threat and do not procrastinate or delay. Delay only strengthens your opponent and only puts you at a disadvantage. Delay could very well imperil your very existence!

Islamic terrorism – extrinsic or intrinsic?

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Have Islamic terrorism and violence – in Muslim and non-Muslim countries - been extrinsic or intrinsic elements of Islam?

Since September 11, 2001, there have been 31,722 Islamic terrorist attacks, mostly hitting Muslims. In August, 2017, there were 180 Islamic terrorist attacks in 32 countries, resulting in 1,014 murdered and 1,090 injured.

Christianity is on the verge of extinction in the Middle East. In the past century, over 50% of Middle East Christians emigrated or were killed. According to the May 13, 2015 US House Foreign Affairs Committee testimony, “Christianity could be eradicated from large swaths of the Middle East in the next five years…. In the last decade, the Christian community in Iraq has plummeted from 1.5 million to under 300,000, half of whom are displaced…. [In Muslim countries], there is also real persecution of [Muslim] Yazidis, Turkomen, Shia and Sunni….”

The New York Times reported: “Nearly every day seems to bring a new horror to the streets of Western Europe…. Death and injury have been dealt out by truck, ax, handgun, kebab knife and bomb….”

11 million Muslims have been killed since 1948, of which 35,000 (0.3%) were killed during Arab-Israeli wars. Over 90% were killed by fellow Muslims.

This background – which is consistent with inter-Muslim relations since the rise of Islam in the seventh century - begs the following questions:

1. Is it logical to assume that dramatic concessions to rogue Muslim regimes would convince them to accord “the infidel” that which they have denied their fellow-“believers” for 1,400 years: peaceful-coexistence and tolerance?

2. What are the roots of Muslim aggression against “believers” and “infidels”?

3. Is Muslim contempt toward Western culture extrinsic or intrinsic to Islam?

4. Has the absence of democracy and civil liberties, in all Arab countries, been consistent or at variance with Islam?

5. Why is Muslim violence intensifying in Europe – as Muslim immigration to Europe is expanding - despite the goodwill showered upon the Muslim world and Muslim immigrants by most European governments and societies?

6. Why has there been an expansion of no-go zones in European cities - forbidden to Christian “infidels” – simultaneously with the proliferation of Muslim organizations, in Europe, calling for Jihad (holy war against the “infidel”)?

7. Is the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood – the largest Islamic transnational terror organization – consistent or at variance with Islam: “Allah is our objective, Muhammad is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, Jihad (holy war) is our venue and Shuhada (martyrdom) on behalf of Allah is our wish”?

8. Why has the US – which has never ruled Muslim societies – been targeted by Islamic violence/terrorism, while the USSR/Russia – which has aggressively ruled over millions of Muslims - enjoyed preferential Arab/Muslim treatment?

9. Why has Arab/Muslim violence/terrorism targeted the US, despite the US regional arms embargo during the 1948-9 Israel’s War of Independence (while arms supplied by Soviet-satellite Czechoslovakia saved Israel); or the brutal US pressure on Israel during, and following, the 1948-49 War; the US non-recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem (since 1948); US pressure, which yielded the complete Israeli evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula (3 times larger than Israel) following the 1956 Egypt-Israel War; the US embargo on Israel following the 1981 Israeli bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor; US punishment of Israel during Israel’s hot-pursuit of the PLO in Lebanon in 1982/83; the US recognition of the PLO, support of the establishment of a Palestinian state, and sustained pressure to freeze construction in Jewish settlements?

10. Why has the US been targeted by Islamic violence/terrorism (e.g., 52 American hostages held by the Ayatollahs for 444 days), despite President Carter’s stabbing in the back of the Shah of Iran, which provided a tailwind to the rise of the Ayatollahs?

Is the current hate-education and anti-“infidel” incitement in Muslim kindergartens, schools and mosques at variance or consistent with Islam?

According to Prof. Bernard Lewis (The roots of Muslim Rage), the luminary of Middle East and Islamic studies: “The struggle between [Islam and Christendom/Europe] has now lasted for some fourteen centuries. It began with the advent of Islam, in the 7th century, and has continued virtually to the present day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, Jihads and crusades, conquests and re-conquests…. Since the US is the legitimate heir of European civilization and the recognized and unchallenged leader of the West, the US has inherited the resulting grievances and become the focus for the pent-up hate and anger….”

In Islam and Other Religions, Prof. Bernard Lewis states: “The difference [between contemporary and original Islam] was probably less radical in Islam than in either Judaism or Christianity….

“There has always been incessant and unavoidable discrimination embedded in the Islamic system…. While women and slaves have no choice but to remain inferior [to men and masters], while infidels are inferior by choice…. Jews and Christians were offered divine truth, in its perfect form [Islam], but [according to Islam] rejected it maliciously, spitefully and foolishly….

”The history of the relations between the Muslim state and its non-Muslim subjects and, later, neighbors, begins with the career of the Prophet…. For Jews and Christians [the choice was] Islam, death or submission…. [Quran, Surah 5:60 – “Who will suffer the wrath of God? Those whom God cursed and transformed into monkeys (Jews) and pigs (Christians)]….

“In Muslim law and practice, the relationship between the Muslim state and the subject non-Muslim communities was regulated by a pact called Dhimma, and those benefiting from this pact were known as Dhimmis…. provided that they unequivocally recognized the primacy of Islam and the supremacy of the Muslims….

“Lands where Muslims rule are known as the Dar al–Islam, the House of Islam; the outside world, inhabited and governed by infidels, constitutes the Dar al-Harb, the House of War…. Between the realm of Islam and the realms of unbelief there is a canonically obligatory perpetual state of war, which will continue until the whole world either accepts the message of Islam or submits to the rule of those who bring it. The name of this [worldwide] war is Jihad… struggle in the cause of God….”

Following in the footsteps of Muhammad, non-democratic Muslim regimes have sustained the tools of Islamic violence, in order to advance the permanent, overriding goal of Islam: domination of the Abode of the “Infidel.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

5777 Wrap-up: 35 Points for Contemplation

Rosh Hashana 5778
By HaRav Nachman Kahana

5777 Wrap-up

The following is a synopsis of many of this year’s (5777) weekly messages.

The messages were variations on one sole theme – the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to everything Jewish, and its corollary that the galut is dying and every Jew must return home.

Eretz Yisrael is not one more item in the ‘tool shed” of a Torah true Jew; it is the shed itself. The Holy Land determines the quantity and quality of our mitzvot. There are quantitatively more mitzvot to be fulfilled here than in the galut, and the quality of a mitzva observed in the galut compared to its observance in Eretz Yisrael is like a weed to a rose.

Our land is the border crossing between this world and the next. And when we sinned, HaShem exiled us to the brutal galut where our books and bodies were burned and our thoughts perverted.

Eretz Yisrael is the focal point of Judaism; the holy precinct which is directly under the kisei hakavod – the holy throne.

35 Points for Contemplation

1) Chareidi ideology professes to represent authentic halachic Judaism, when in reality its position regarding military service exposes a profound theological flaw.

In theory, the Chareidi way of life is dedicated to upholding Halacha to its minutia. However, the most basic factor is blatantly omitted in their lives – HaShem!

In the Chareidi way of life HaShem exists in the siddur, in the Biblical and Talmudic texts, and in the material objects necessary for performing mitzvot. But where HaShem is not to be seen or felt in the miraculous historical movements and changes that surround our people in Eretz Yisrael. For them HaShem is missing from the reality of life. Yom Ha’atz’maut is a day of semi-mourning in many of their circles. They cannot see that the miraculous military victories of Tzahal are on a par and even more impressive than many of the great miraculous victories recorded in the TaNach.

2) There is an immutable connection between every Jew to the collective Am YIsrael, even one who is far from Torah observance. A Jew can never cease being a Jew no matter what he does, because one cannot erase his essence.

3) We are members of the small, elite group of people whom the Creator selected to be His “Chosen Nation”. We are the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov, the nation that crossed the Red Sea and stood at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah from the Creator Himself. Children of a nation 3500 years old whose blessings to humanity have no equal. It is the pride of being a Jew that echoes in one’s soul proclaiming, “I am a prince, a son of HaShem, and as such how can I betray the 150 generations of my family, beginning with the revelation at Mount Sinai, who sacrificed so much that I could be born a Jew today?

4) The Mashiach will be a military person or a rabbi who is knowledgeable in military strategy and tactics. He will lead the nation to victory in the wars of Gog King of Magog. He will be a charismatic individual who will return the Jews to the Torah, and rebuild the Bet HaMikdash.

5) The Zohar, at the end of parashat Beshalach states that the descendants of Yishmael are destined to cause three major world wars; one on the sea, another on land, and the last close to Yerushalayim.

6) Were it not for Ya’akov and his children, the concept of God would have long been forgotten. Christianity would have diluted into atheism and Islam into avoda zara (idolatry).

7) Our father Ya’akov experienced two dreams. In the first, which occurred on the Temple Mount, Ya’akov saw HaShem’s angels ascending to heaven and descending to this world. In the second dream, he sees how he can increase the number of animals in his herd. The first one with angels occurred when Ya’akov was in Eretz Yisrael; while in chutz la’aretz, even the great Ya’akov dreamt of animals and wealth.

8) The holy people of this land – dati and not – are living the words of our prophets that HaShem would restore us to this land. They are more “Jewish” than the most observant person in Lakewood, New Jersey, USA. We are the followers of Yehoshua Bin Nun who liberated the Holy land, but those in the galut are followers of the other 10 spies.

9) The Jews in galut are oblivious to the dangers they will be facing very soon. My heart goes out to them, but there is nothing we can do to move them as long as they follow the false messages of their leaders.

10) The Medina is the natural platform for HaShem to exhibit His love for the chosen people via the ingathering of Jews from 100 lands, the unprecedented military victories, the ongoing return to the Torah in all segments of our people, and the unprecedented economic growth. Do not take lightly the fact that we are the only country in the Middle East that has a water surplus. Medinat Yisrael, through our holy army of Tzahal, is the ‘extended arm’ of HaShem aiming to implement the annihilation of evil in the world.

11) A Jew who remains in galut when the gates of the Holy Land are open, is testifying that he does not trust that HaShem will provide for his sustenance. It is a tacit admission that he doubts if HaShem will protect His people in the face of so many enemies. It is an acknowledgment of doubt in the legitimacy of the word of our prophets that HaShem will return us to the Holy Land. Where is the one eminent rabbi in the galut who will call out to his people to TRUST HaShem and leave the galut and return home?

12) The term Avoda Zara does not refer exclusively to nature or idol worship. It is a generic term for all beliefs that run counter to the will of HaShem. One can be an observant halachic Jew, yet be guilty of the most severe Avoda Zara, if he or she functions or adopts ideals and ideologies that clash with the will of HaShem.

13) A wise and sensitive rabbinic leader should be able to feel the direction of the winds of history, and coordinate his leadership according to its flow. To fight HaShem’s dictates in a changing world is tantamount to Avoda Zara. To use the Torah as a tool to refute HaShem’s initiatives is the Jewish version of an autoimmune disease.

14) There are spiritual leaders who act as an autoimmune disease within the nation by using the Torah to destroy the Torah and the fabric of Jewish unity and our return to Eretz Yisrael. Their false interpretation of Torah verses and Talmudic ideas, and the use of their material wealth to control the consciences of otherwise God-fearing people, are indeed a disease that must be eradicated or sidelined for the sake of our nation’s future.

15) The yeshiva world in Israel must stop criticizing and belittling the Medina. Their rabbis and students must acknowledge that their entire existence and growth is dependent on the Medina.

16) Am Yisrael is not first among equals of the nations. We are the only nation with whom HaShem has an intimate relationship, and it is only through us, and because of us, that the Creator deals with what is known as “humanity”.

17) In 1936, the Rabbi of Munkatz, Hungary published a book called Tikun Olam, in which he called for the Jews to refrain from going to Eretz Yisrael. The book opens with the names and letters of 150 leading Chassidic rabbis who endorsed the book’s imperative that Jews were prohibited from returning to Eretz Yisrael until the arrival of the Mashiach. He and those who endorsed his position, opposed the creation of new settlements, even religious ones, and even attempted to convince Jews who were in the Land to return to Europe.

The murder of 6 million plus Jews in Europe, and the miraculous establishment of the Medina are it seems, insufficient to disprove the Munkatcher rabbi and his colleagues. For today, we hear in many Chassidic and yeshiva circles in the galut the very same voices repeating the same blind dangerous ideologies of yesteryear.

18) The organized mistreatment of Jews on the U.S. campuses will spread to your workplaces, to your streets, to your shuls, to your supermarkets and to your summer homes, until you will have no choice but to come home. So why wait when you can come here now with pride, rather than as refugees? It sounds audacious, insolent and quite impossible that this could happen in these “good old United States”. But what is — happening now around the U.S. sounded audacious, insolent and quite impossible just two years ago.

19) The Reform and Conservative movements, after having “successfully” completed their “scorched earth” crusade of destroying holy Jewish souls in the United States through the Shoah of intermarriage, are now attempting to repeat their “successes” in the Holy Land. These two breakaway destructive movements are attempting to infiltrate into the religious life here in a manner similar to an HIV virus that infiltrates into the nucleus of a healthy cell and then takes control of the cell from within.

20) I am opposed to recruiting anyone into the military who is not motivated, whether it be a Chareidi yeshiva or kollel student, a secular person, a pacifist or just an ordinary batlan (idler). To serve in the army of Israel is an immense privilege and a mainline mitzva. To protect, defend and preserve our ancient-new homeland after 2000 years of being trampled upon, crushed, oppressed and subjugated at the whim of any goy in the galut is a miracle of biblical proportions. We have a small but technologically advanced army able to defeat any and all enemies, with the help of HaShem, of course. From my own experience, I can say that whoever does not experience serving in Tzahal will have lost the opportunity to acquire or develop those attributes that contribute so much to the making of a ben-Torah: determination, endurance, firmness, resoluteness, and tenacity.

21) The war erupted in the early hours of Monday morning, the 25th of Iyar (June 5th) when Israel made a preemptive attack, destroying the air forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and Saudia. The ground war commenced. In 6 days we liberated Yehuda, Shomron, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and Azza. On Wednesday, the holy soldiers of Tzahal liberated the Old City and for the first time in 2,000 years the Temple Mount was in our possession. Tzahal, with the aid of HaShem, did more in six days than what Yehoshua Bin Nun had accomplished in seven years!

22) The State of Israel is the first sign of the redemption of our people. Only a fool can imagine that HaShem will send the Mashiach to a desert land empty of Jews. The Medina is performing what it was set about to do – to bring willing sons and daughters back to Eretz Yisrael.

23) There will be no overt Divine intervention at the early stages of the Mashiach’s appearance. It will be up to the Jews in Eretz Yisrael to initiate actions against our enemies. The Jewish-Arab conflict will be resolved when the anger and rage of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael will reach a boiling point, as the Arabs grow in numbers and — audacity, impertinence and hatred, which will peak because of the rabid, fanatical religious incitement they are fed in their mass media, mosques and schools.

24) To illustrate the perversity of the situation in the galut, I put forward a simple question: Torah-observing people condemn a Jew (man or woman) who commits his/her future to a gentile rather than to a Jewish spouse. Why is this different from the more than one million observant Jews who refuse to cast their lot with their brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael; preferring to commit their future with the 330 million gentiles in the galut of the United States?

25) We are 6,377,000 Jews spread across 1255 cities, towns and villages.

In 2015, 195,000 Jewish children were born here. 3.2 million olim have arrived here in the last 68 years, including 30,000 last year. There are over 10 thousand batei knesset in Yisrael with a million and a half regular daveners, not to mention the thousands of mikvaot.

We have over 130,000 young men studying in the various yeshiva systems. Yearly, over 10,000 men and women come from the galut to learn in our yeshivot and seminaries.

2,187,296 children went to schools in the various educational systems here last year.

Annually, we produce thousands of new volumes in the many areas of Torah, an unprecedented production of Torah material.

And all this within the shadow of war, which drains human and material resources that could be put to productive use.

26) There are observant Jews in Israel (our brothers and sisters in the galut are a non-factor in the future history of the Jewish nation) who refuse to acknowledge and appreciate the miraculous nature of the Medina because it is not a Torah led State. How could it be when the major rabbis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries opposed Zionism, so that only a minority of the religious came here.

27) I am certain regarding the spiritual leaders in the galut and their great grandchildren. I am certain that the spiritual leaders will complete their years as observant Torah Jews, and I am equally certain that their great grandchildren will be married to gentiles. I am not certain if the communicable disease of assimilation will impact on their children and grandchildren.

28) My premise is that the rabbinic leaders of 120 years ago opposed the creation of a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael because of the halachic challenges inherent in a religious State. Had they been here to see our lives today in the Medina, they would have surely joined hands with the secular Zionist organization. With the help of HaShem, the great poskim of today’s Medina are proving that the halachic challenges have advanced and developed the Halacha in a way that has prepared the Medina for the advent of the Mashiach.

29) The “unique singularity” of a Jew cannot express itself in the galut. We in Eretz Yisrael are not family to the Jews in the galut. A family unit has shared experiences and emotions of gladness and sorrow, celebrations and disappointments. When a mortar shell falls in the western Negev, all Israel recoils; but it is not felt by a Jew in Kansas or in Johannesburg. A nation is defined by shared borders and common language. The western border of Israel lies somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. It does not extend to Providence, Rhode Island or to the Jericho Turnpike.

The basic bond that joins a nation together is its language. The mother tongues of the galut Jews are the languages of their birthplace; our children speak Ivrit.

We don’t even share the same religion. The mitzvot which are in effect here are not to be found in the galut. Not only are the agricultural laws of Shemita, Teruma and Maaser not in effect in the galut, but even the determination of the fundamental laws of Shabbat and kashrut are different. The illustrious Ramban stated that HaShem gave the Torah to be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael with the mitzvot in the galut – in effect in a preparatory capacity – so that one should not forget how the mitzvot are kept upon returning to the Holy Land.

30) In the book of Midrashim [expository explanations] called Yalkut Re’uvaini, it is brought that in the future, HaShem will gather in the Jews from the various exiles and provide them with fabulous wealth. And for those Jews who will have resided in Eretz Yisrael, in addition to great wealth, HaShem will open before them the gates of the earthly Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) and reveal the esoteric secrets of the Torah.

31) Our beautiful and holy children who serve here in defense of this holy land and its holy people, do not think of careers, shiny cars, or skiing weekends at Aspen; they are too busy cleaning their rifles and tank cannons in preparation for the next challenge.

32) RaMBaM (hilchot Melachim) states that the Mashiach will lead us in our final wars. That is to say the Mashiach will have a military background, which puts an entirely new perspective on who to expect will be HaShem’s messenger to redeem His people.

33) Discernment, insight and conscious awareness are the adhesives that bind the building blocks of Judaism.

34) Coincidence is HaShem’s way of controlling the world while remaining anonymous.

35) Two questions every Jew should ask himself: Is there a grading system to know what HaShem thinks of us? If one hundred years ago, all Jews in the world were on my present level of observance, would there be any Jews in the world today?

Blessings to all Am Yisrael that just as we have seen the beginning of our final redemption, may we merit to see in this coming year the total fulfillment of the prophets’ words.

Shana Tova
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5777/2017 Nachman Kahana

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Earth – Where Time is Measured

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

(Based on Siach Shaul for Yamim Noraim, p. 101-2)

We place points and lines on the endless procession of time, thus breaking it up into pieces, such as days, weeks, months, and years. However, in the greater world, in an existence that seems eternal, time passes in a manner that seems to not have borders. Yesterday was 5777; today is 5778. If you look at the natural world, you do not see a difference. The sun rises and sets, and there is nothing new or different.

However for man, whose life is fleeting like a shadow, time plays a major role. The passing of a year is significant, and for man a new year and the Rosh Hashana that begins it are important concepts. The midrash (Devarim Rabba 2:14) relates that when the angels enter to ask Hashem when Rosh Hashana will be, He answers: "You and I will go down to the court on Earth …" In addition to the simple meaning, there is also an explanation along the lines we have set forth. Only for man is it possible to really talk about a new year, whereas in Heaven, which is above time, there is no such distinction.

The simple meaning of the midrash as well, that the Heavenly Court has to follow the human court in this matter, is also based on man’s connection to time. The greatness of our world and of mankind is an offshoot specifically of the fact that we have the weakness of being slaves to time.

"The earth and all that is in it is Hashem’s" (Tehillim 24:1), as we announce in the Rosh Hashana tefilla. This message is antithetical to what the idolatrous nations of the world teach. Those nations try to go up to the heavens and have earthly elements rule there. They proclaim that earthliness is everything in the universe. Judaism tries to have the heavenly rule throughout the world. This is a major theme in the giving of the Torah, as the midrash tells us that Hashem lay the heavens over the land (Mechilta, Yitro 9).

What was the first thing the Russian cosmonauts did when they reached the moon? They put their flag with its symbol of the sickle and the hammer, representing the workers and the peasants, on the moon to claim it for themselves. These symbols represent their idea that only that which is used for physical sustenance is important. We, so to speak, place Hashem’s flag of spirituality on Earth.

Our approach is based on our understanding of our transience. When we view the meeting between our fleeting nature and Hashem’s eternity, we become committed to connect ourselves to the eternal. Other nations do not want to recognize eternity. They want to deal with it with "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die." There is nothing of value to live for, so just enjoy, and claim as much as you can for physicality.

Hashem told the angels to set Rosh Hashana based on man’s decision. We are the ones who are able to do teshuva and thereby go up to the Heavens. That is why we can draw inspiration to go up to the Heavens and bring back Torah.