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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘diaspora’

Over 1,000,000 Jews in New York and God Weeps!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

A couple of days ago, The Jewish Press reported that there are over a million Jews living in New York. Nearly half of them are “Orthodox.” What’s the celebration? Hashem gazes down from the Heavens at His children in New York City and weeps. That’s right. That’s what our Sages teach in the Talmud. During the night, the Holy One Blessed Be He sits and roars like a lion, saying, “Woe to the children who I have exiled among the nations of the world” (Berachot 3A). It’s like a King who builds a beautiful palace for his children, but they don’t want to live there. They prefer to hang out with the harlots. If we feel proud that there are a million Jews living in New York (when they could very easily be living in Israel), then something is very wrong with our Jewish Identity. On the contrary, we should all hang our heads down in disgrace.

But why listen to me? Let a real Rabbi explain it to you. Rabbi Meir Kahane was a true Jewish leader. For example, he could have gone into politics in America but he chose to go into politics in Israel instead, because he wanted to teach the Jews of America that they belong in the country of the Jews, and not in the countries of the gentiles. He wanted to teach them that Jerusalem was their capital, and not Washington D.C. Rabbi Kahane wanted to show by his personal example that what was really important for a Jew was what was happening in the Eretz Yisrael, and not when a new kosher pizza shop was opened in Boston or Beverly Hills. Yes, the pastrami and corned beef may be better in Brooklyn, but, personally, I’m happier eating a felafel on rye in Jerusalem, knowing I’m in the place where Hashem wants me to be.

Here’s part two of Rabbi Kahane’s chapter on the Mitzvah of Living in Israel, condensed from his book, The Jewish Idea:

Eretz Yisrael is acquired through suffering and devotion. The deterioration in our values, and the blunting of Israel’s emotional attachment to Eretz Yisrael, emerged because we distorted the halachah, due to the wretched exile which conquered our minds and souls. We are also tempted to flee the difficult challenge and duty of isolating ourselves from the nations, and the hardships of earning a living in rebuilding our homeland. It all goes back to our Sages’ comment in Berachot 5a: “God gave Israel three fine gifts and all come only through suffering: Torah, Eretz Yisrael and the World-to-Come.”

A person’s whole life is a test to see whether he will accept the yoke of Heaven and of mitzvot. There is nothing precious that does not exact a heavy price. Eretz Yisrael, a precious gift, requires self-sacrifice, as befits a treasure of the Chosen People.

Wherever we go, we are obligated to prove our faith and trust in G-d, and certainly so in Eretz Yisrael, the Chosen Land, symbol of Israel’s isolation and their belief that “The Lord alone guides them” (Deut. 32:12). Yet time after time we have failed in this. Our Sages learned (Tanchuma, Tazria, 6):

“A kohen who used to observe plague-spots (see Lev. 13) became poor and wished to leave the Land. He summoned his wife, saying… “Let me teach you how to observe plague spots. If you see that the well-spring of a person’s hair has dried up, know that he is smitten, for God created a well-spring for every single hair to drink from”… His wife replied, “If God created for every hair a well-spring of its own, how much more so will He provide a livelihood for you, who are a human being, with much hair, and have children whom you support!” Therefore, she did not let him leave the Land.

Lack of trust in God’s ability to support and defend us was, from time immemorial, the plague that severed us from the great mitzvah of living in the Land, causing us to distort the mitzvah and contrive all sorts of warped excuses to exempt ourselves from it.

How could we as a nation have failed regarding this mitzvah, fleeing the suffering entailed in the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, when ultimately it is the greatest gift God gave us? As it says (Jer. 3:19), “I gave you a Desirable Land.” So terribly has the cursed exile warped our nation, that many see no personal duty to leave the exile, and they do not at all consider it a punishment! What a perversion this is! This is a distortion of the Torah — through love of the Exile.

Diaspora Youth – It’s Time to Come Home!

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Continuing our Israel Book Week survey of top Torah classics, here’s a chapter from the perennial bestseller, Torat Eretz Yisrael.

The teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement in Israel and longtime Rosh Yeshiva at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. The chapter is based on a class he gave to Diaspora youth during their visit to Israel. Since the sin of the Spies was in despising the pleasant Land and not wanting to live here, the only way we can rectify their great sin is by doing the very opposite – loving the Land of Israel and making it our home. Instead of building Jewish life in the exile, the tragic mistake of the Spies, each and every one of us needs to do what he or she can in building true Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Kook stressed again and again that this is what the Torah is all about, as it says, “For from Zion the Torah shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” From Zion, and not from Brooklyn or Boca Raton.

Diaspora educators – stop deceiving your students! Jewish mothers and fathers – stop leading your children astray! Tell them the truth that their futures are in Israel. But you don’t have to listen to a simple blogger like me – here’s what one of the greatest and most influential Torah leaders of our times told a group of young Diaspora Jews just like your sons and daughters:

From the book, Torat Eretz Yisrael:

Our connection to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) is not solely based on the fact that it is our homeland. There is a reason that it is our homeland. The Almighty created it especially suited to us.

Eretz Yisrael is the land of Clal Yisrael, the land of the nation and community of Israel.

To properly understand our connection to Eretz Yisrael, we first have to know who we are.

We are the nation created by Hashem to proclaim His Name in the world. And just as all other nations belong to a particular land, we belong to a particular land. This is part of the order of Creation that this air, these mountains and hills, these stones and plants in this portion of the globe are uniquely connected to us. Just as Hashem chose us from all of the nations, He chose our land from all other lands, “For the Lord has chosen Zion” (Tehillim, 132:13). The Divinely chosen nature of our nation and of our Land is integral to understanding who we are.

Herein lies the difference between Am Yisrael and the nations of the world. We are a nation brought into existence by the Creator of heaven and earth. Our whole nation is holy. All of our meaning and value is as a holy nation, a holy Clal. And the specifically designated place on this planet for this segment of mankind is here in the Land of Israel.

When Jews meet they customarily exchange “shaloms” and ask, “Where do you come from?” The usual response is, “I come from Belgium, I come from Brazil, I come from Colorado. The Rebbe of Obstrovtza said, “Every Jew is obliged to answer – I come from Eretz Yisrael.” This is a very deep insight telling us that every Jew in his innermost essence belongs to Eretz Yisrael.

Because of our long exile amidst the impurity of the gentile nations, we have become accustomed to think that our life in the Diaspora is normal, and we forget that Eretz Yisrael is our natural, healthy, Divinely-intended place.

Hashem said to Avraham, “Lech Lecha, Get yourself forth…” commanding him to journey to a specific place, “To the land that I will show you.” Even without knowing where he was going, Avraham picked up his family and went to find the place where he was to serve Hashem. There is an expression in Latin – ex orient lux – the light comes from the east. So too, spiritual light comes from the East, from our Middle East. From this spot on earth, Hashem educates mankind. To do this, Hashem wants us here in Israel. We don’t belong in other places. Haven’t we already sufficiently tasted the life in Europe and Auschwitz?

To the Leaders of Diaspora Jewry – Come on Aliyah!

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Since the Sin of the Spies was perpetrated by the leaders of the generation, in order to rectify their sin, today’s Diaspora leaders must rally their congregations and constituents to come on Aliyah. All Rabbis, teachers in Jewish schools, presidents of synagogues, chairmen of Jewish organizations, leaders of the RCAs, OUs, NCSYs, AIPACs, ADLs, Bnei Briths, Hadassah Chapters, Emunah Women, Jewish writers, pop stars, movie directors, and Jewish comedians must all speak out in a clear voice that the time has come to bid farewell to gentile lands and lovers, and come home to the Land of Israel.

For leaders of Diaspora Jewry who try to refute the truth of this call by saying, “Who is a mere blog writer to tell us what we should do?” we answer with the words of the Torah giant, Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal. He was one of the respected leaders of Orthodox European Jewry before World War Two, the head of the Beit Din in Budapest. Witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, he discarded his fierce anti-Zionist ideology, and wrote a brilliant scholarly treatise on the vital necessity for Aliyah. To continue our celebration of “Book Week” in Israel, we will take a peek at his revolutionary classic, “Eim HaBanim Semeichah,” with the recommendation that it be studied by every Jew who cherishes the truth and who truly longs to serve God.

Rabbi Teichtal writes:

“Furthermore, my brother, know that in order to rectify our ancestors’ sin, everything must be exactly as it was then. At that time, the leaders of the congregation spread evil propaganda against Eretz Yisrael. Therefore today, as well, the leaders of the congregation must propagandize for the sake of Eretz Yisrael in order to pay off their ‘bad debt.’ They must be the first ones to open the nation’s eyes. They must explain that there is no reason for us to remain in the foreign, impure, and polluted atmosphere of the Diaspora, nor to expend our energies in vain while the gentiles rob the fruits of our labor from before our very eyes. The leaders must speak to the people in this fashion and arouse within them a fire and a spark of love for our desirable Land. This alone will make of worthy of Redemption.

“This follows the words of our mentor, the Or HaChaim. He writes that Israel’s leaders throughout the generations will be held responsible for the fact that we are still in exile, because they should have inspired the Jews to love Eretz Yisrael. The leaders of the generation must inspire the Jewish People to help bring the Redemption closer by using the natural means that God has prepared for us. We are not worthy enough for it to occur with manifest miracles, rather only with miracles disguised in seemingly natural events, as in the days of Cyrus.

“I know that the humble ones who separate themselves from the building effort do so for the sake of Heaven. They fear that they and their children may be harmed by joining people whose ways have strayed from the path of the Torah. Behold, we can say about such people that although their intentions are acceptable, their actions are not, for many reasons. First of all, the prophet Yeshayahu said to King Chizkiyah, ‘Do as you are commanded! Why do you involve yourself with the Merciful One’s hidden matters?’ The same applies here. All Jews must be united in order to fulfill the positive commandment of the Torah of building and settling the Land. This cannot be accomplished individually. Therefore, do as you are commanded! Further, no harm will come to a Jew who participates in this great and exceedingly lofty mitzvah. On the contrary, if a large number of Orthodox Jews join in, they will enhance the sanctity of the Land, as I previously cited in the name of the holy Rebbe of Gur and the Ramban. Since we are commanded to build the Land and raise it from the dust, it is forbidden to be overly pious and undermine this endeavor, God forbid. Rather, we must build with whomever it may be and concentrate on enhancing the sanctity of the Land. Then Hashem will assist us.

WARNING! Living in Israel is a Commandment of the Torah

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

No one refutes the Torah greatness of the Ramban. He established that the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is commandment of the Torah. An Orthodox Jew who doesn’t live in the Land of Israel is like an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t put on tefillin, or an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t keep Shabbat, or like a Frum Jew who doesn’t keep kosher or study Torah. True, if a person wants to fulfill a positive commandment of the Torah, but is prevented against his will, his inability to perform the mitzvah is not considered a transgression. For example, if a man travels to some faraway island where his tefillin are stolen, and there is no other set of tefillin around, then his not putting on tefillin is not held against him. Likewise, if a person wants to live in Israel but is unable to because of circumstances beyond his control, then he or she is freed from the obligation as long as that preventing circumstance lasts. But if he or she could make aliyah and doesn’t, then that person is transgressing a positive commandment of the Torah.

Which bring us to another must book which belongs in every home library: The Jewish Idea, the opus, two-volume work of Rabbi Meir Kahane, in which he clarifies the foundations of Torah.

In addition to his path-breaking struggle on behalf of Soviet Jewry, his unparalleled and fearless activism and total self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish Nation and Eretz Yisrael, and his bringing myriads of Jews to Torah Judaism and a new spirit of Jewish pride, Rabbi Kahane was a Torah scholar par excellence, whose banner was TRUTH, the whole TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH.

For any reader who may be confused about the obligation to live in the Land of Israel, this sweeping halachic and Talmudic overview of Rabbi Kahane will surely put all uncertainty to rest. Because of its vital importance to each and every Jew, we will be presenting it in two installments.

From The Jewish Idea, Volume 2

LIVING IN ERETZ YISRAEL is a mitzvah de’oraita – a mitzvah commanded by the Torah itself. Not only that, but it carries equal weight to all the other mitzvot combined. In fact, it supersedes them in importance, because all of them are dependent upon it, since we are commanded to perform all the commandments there, in the Land of Israel.

The Torah says, “When the Lord your God cuts off the nations whom you are approaching to inherit, you shall expel them and live in their land” (Deut. 12:29). This verse explicitly states the two mitzvot tied to Eretz Yisrael. The first is expelling the non-Jews. The Hebrew corresponding to, “whom you are approaching to inherit,” is rendered by Onkelos as, “Whom you are approaching to banish.” The second is “You shall live in their land.” It is a mitzvah to live in their land, in Eretz Yisrael.

Regarding this verse our Sages said (Sifri, Re’ei, 80):

“You shall expel them”: R. Yehudah ben Beterah and R. Matia ben Cheresh and R. Chanina ben Achi and R. Yehoshua and R. Yonatan were leaving the Land, and they arrived at Paltum and they remembered Eretz Yisrael. Their eyes brimmed over and their tears poured forth, and they tore their garments and they recited this verse: “You shall inherit it [the Land] and dwell therein, and you shall carefully keep all the laws” (Deut. 11:31-32). They returned to their place and they said, “Living in Eretz Yisrael equals the combined weight of all the mitzvot in the Torah.”

Here our Sages state explicitly that living in Eretz Yisrael is not just a mitzvah but such a great mitzvah that it equals all the others in their combined value. Likewise, it emerges clearly from here that the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael does not depend on the existence of the Temple. After all, the anecdote above occurred after the Destruction. All the same, the scholars of the Mishnah established that living in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah from the Torah, and so is the prohibition against leaving Eretz Yisrael.

Our Sages said further (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 5:2):

“A person should live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and not outside the Land, even in a city that is entirely Jewish. This teaches that living in Eretz Yisrael is of equal weight to all the mitzvot of the Torah combined. If someone is buried in Eretz Yisrael, it is as though he is buried under the altar. One should not leave Eretz Yisrael unless the cost of wheat rises to two se’ah for a sela. Rabbi Shimon said, “This refers to where one lacks the wherewithal to buy it, but if he has the wherewithal, then even if it is one se’ah for a sela, he should not leave.”

“Hebrew Book Week” Interview with Tzvi Fishman

Monday, June 4th, 2012

The “People of the Book” are the People of the Torah. But Jews don’t only love the Torah – they love all kinds of books. “Book Week” is beginning in Israel, when book buying reaches a crescendo. In just about every city of the country, you’ll find crowds of book lovers flocking to outdoor book fairs, lured by the discounted prices on the season’s new book, as well as on classics from the past. To put our Jewish Press website fans in the mood for a little book reading as well, we’ve decided to interview our new blogger, Tzvi Fishman, who is also a popular and prize-winning novelist, about some of his books and the role of literature in Jewish life.

Yishai Fleisher: Let’s start out with your popular novel, Tevye in the Promised Land. In Israel, it’s been a longtime bestseller. Especially in the national religious community, everyone’s read it, adults and young readers alike. For Jewish Press readers who may not be familiar with the story, the novel begins where “Fiddler on the Roof” left off, with Tevye the milkman and the Jews of Anatevka being expelled from their beloved village. Your action-filled adventure brings Tevye and his family to the Holy Land where he becomes a pioneer builder of the Land. What motivated you to write the story?

Tzvi Fishman: When I became a baal tshuva and left Hollywood, I felt bad about leaving Tevye behind in galut. Like millions of other Jews, I loved Sholom’s Aleichem’s famous character, as if he were a part of my own family. When I saw the film of “Fiddler” as a totally assimilated teenager, it blew me away. Outside of the movie “The Ten Commandments,” it was the first time I had ever seen something “Jewish” on the big screen. I fell in love with the character. His lively relationship with God gave my soul a poke that awakened something Jewish inside. I didn’t become a baal tshuva on the spot, but the movie planted the seeds. When I finally made aliyah, I wanted to bring Tevye along with me, to share in the incomparable blessing. So I repainted the character and set him in the middle of the amazing pioneer saga of how Israel was reborn.

YF: You hear a lot of people claim that aliyah is difficult, but no one has ever encountered more challenges than Tevye. He faces highway robbers, storms at sea, mosquito-infested swamps, plagues of malaria, Turkish thieves, marauding Arabs, locusts, secular Zionist suitors who sweep his daughters off their feet… yet he always clings to his incredible faith in God.

TF: Just like the Jewish People. He’s a symbol for all of us. The trials he faces are a miniature version of the trials we have had to face as a People throughout Jewish and in rebuilding our homeland.

YF: Your book of humorous and satirical short stories about Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora, Days of Mashiach, was recently published in France. How did that come about?

TF: Among the avid lovers of Tevye in the Promised Land was a person who worked as French translator. She took it upon herself to translate the novel, which was subsequently published in France. When the book sold a lot of copies, she translated my book of short stories and some non-Jewish publisher grabbed it, which is sort of a miracle because the book is super right-wing, religious, pro-settlement Israeli. But the publisher insists that the stories have a universal message and compares my writing to Kafka and Voltaire, whatever that means.

YF: It means he thinks you’re a good writer. In your novel, The Discman and the Guru, you have your young Holden Caulfield-like protagonist, Sam Singer, set off from LA on a quest to find God which takes him to London, Paris, Rome, India, Mecca, and finally Jerusalem, where he nearly sets off World War III for trying to pray on the Temple Mount. Is his journey autobiographical?

You Can be a Giant!

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I don’t know why some readers get angry at me. I only remind them what it says in the Torah. If you don’t believe me, here’s another remarkable essay by Rabbi Kook, whose vision of the rebirth of the Nation of Israel was light years ahead of everyone else. Once again, we are presenting an encapsulation of a chapter from his classic, Orot. Readers are encouraged to read the full commentary in our book, Lights on Orot – Eretz Yisrael.  It may be the most important ten bucks you ever shelled out in your lives.

If we could dissect a soul, what would we discover inside? What would a microscopic examination reveal? What are a soul’s components? Its atoms? When we probe as deeply as we can into the anatomy of the soul, suddenly under our high-powered lens, an Alef comes into focus. Then we see a Mem, and a Taf. If a soul had a genetic make-up, we would discover that its DNA helix is made up of Hebrew letters.

The Hebrew letters are the atoms and basic building blocks of the Jewish soul. The letters which Rabbi Kook describes are not only the outer, graphic shape of the letters, which have meaning in themselves, but the inner essence and content of the letters. In another work, “Rosh Millin,” Rabbi Kook writes in depth on the meaning of each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Unlike the letters of the English alphabet which are mere symbols of sounds with no inner meaning of their own, the letters of the Holy Tongue have an independent existence, and spiritual roots in the celestial worlds above.

In the wisdom of the Kabbalah, letters are understood to be powerful, life-giving forces. The Gemara teaches that the Hebrew letters were used to create heaven and earth. Bezalel knew how to combine the letters which were used in Creation. It was this secret wisdom which enabled him to build the Mishkan.

The Torah itself is made up of letters. Each letter is said to represent one of the basic 600,000 Jewish souls in the world. In addition to their alphabetical form, each letter has a deeper, living nature. Every letter contains a concept, a direction, a will which finds expression in the soul. Beyond a person’s individual ego is the deeper, general will of existence. There is a force of life which is Divinely inspired, and this is what inspires each individual ego and psyche. The inner components of this deeper life-force are the Hebrew letters. Just as the letters are the building blocks of Torah, and of the world, they combine to form the molecular blueprint of the soul. What atoms are to the physical world, Hebrew letters are to the spiritual. Thus, Rabbi Kook writes: “The soul is filled with letters which are infused with the light of life, full of knowledge and will, full of spiritual seeking, and full existence.”

The soul is filled with letters which contain the Divine life-force which grants us existence. They themselves have knowledge and will and a quest for spiritual inspiration. All of a Jew’s primary activities, whether his thought, will, deed, and imagination, stem from the letters of his soul. Different combinations of letters make for different types of souls. There are high-powered combinations, and there are souls of lesser might. According to the brilliance of these life-giving letters, a man’s soul radiates with more and more energy.

“From the rays of these living letters, all of the other levels of life’s building are filled with the light of life – all of the aspects of the will, of knowledge, and of deed, of the spirit, and of the soul, in all of their values.”

Like atoms, these letters exist in a constant, dynamic flow. They are active, full of knowledge, motivation, inspiration, and will, constantly affecting the life of the soul. They are full of vision and imaginative flight. They are filled with full existence, not bounded in nature, containing a blueprint for all of Creation within them; in the same way that a molecule contains a solar system of atoms within it, and a cell contains the genetic structure of the body as a whole. Every soul contains a blueprint for all of the world. Letters activate letters in a constant chain reaction which is the motivating force of all life.

The Biggest and Holiest Adventure in the World

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Now that we have reminded readers what everyone already knows – that the Jewish People are to observe the Torah in Israel, and that Eretz Yisrael is where Hashem wants us to be – everyone is faced with a choice: Either people can play a part in the Redemption of Am Yisrael, by taking a role in the rebuilding of the Jewish Nation in its Land, or they can fall by the wayside and become irrelevant to Jewish destiny and the glorious goal of Jewish History.

Yes, aliyah is a difficult challenge. Yes, there are many well-meaning people, lovers of Eretz Yisrael, who would like to live in The Holy Land but simply can’t, for a variety of sincere reasons. There are many others who could come, but simply have not been taught that this great and holy mitzvah should be their number one priority as Jews, to actually set Jerusalem above their highest joy by doing everything they can on its behalf. This is especially true of our young people, who have their whole lives before them, and don’t yet have all of the cumbersome commitments that hold many people back. Certainly every parent, every rabbi, every Jewish organization leader, they should all be teaching these young people that their futures lie in Israel.

Those of you who can come, and there are millions out there, we are waiting to welcome you. And those of you who would like to come, but just can’t seem to put the right pieces together, then you can get involved, in every way that you are able, by encouraging others to come, by coming on frequent visits, by donating money, and by volunteering your time at organizations that have Israel at the top of their programs and agenda. In this way you will have a share in the ingathering of the exiles and in the continued up-building of the Land. If Torah is your thing, then, by all means, set aside a bigger cut of your charity donations and maaser money to supporting Torah institutions in Israel. And start learning the many books that deal with the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael. Of course, all of this isn’t on the same level as aliyah itself, but at least you’ll be “disk-on-keyed” into the world’s greatest “hard drive,” and if you have a yearning to reach the World to Come, in our time of Redemption, this is the path.

Sometimes, beyond all of the known dangers of the Internet, I wish that Facebook and The Jewish Press.com had never been invented. After all, a Jew can sit in his comfortable living room in New York or LA, munching on popcorn and sipping on beer, and see everything that’s going on “b’Aretz” without having to call a taxi and get on a plane. With a click of the finger, he can send pro-Israel links and Youtube clips to all of his friends and have the feeling that he’s really here, making things happen. When I wrote a blog for Arutz 7, I called these people “couch potatoes” and “Monday morning quarterbacks,” and got a lot of readers angry, so I won’t use those terms here, but you know what I mean. It’s a sort of vicarious “virtual aliyah.” But on second thought, it’s better than not being involved at all, and, in fact, it’s a real blessing in that it gives people a way to connect to Eretz Yisrael, and that is certainly one of the greatest blessings of all.

Rabbi Kook has a wonderful observation on the order of the fruits which we eat during our festive Tu B’Shvat meal. Our Sages teach that we are to give preference to the fruits which appear closest to the word “Land” in the verse, “A Land of wheat and barley and grapevines, and fig trees and pomegranates; a Land of olive oil and date honey….” (Devarim, 8:8). Rabbi Kook writes that this also teaches us that the person who is most connected to Eretz Yisrael, and who strives hardest in its settlement and building, he is closest to perfection and Divine favor and blessing.

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