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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Hashem’

The Maccabees’ Response To ‘World Opinion’

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

“Israel has bad public relations.”

This is the perennial cry. “Israel must improve its image to convince the world of the justness of its cause.”

As I write, a cease-fire is holding around Gaza, but let’s consider the whole story. In the past few weeks, hundreds of rockets rained down on millions of Israelis. I was there. My wife and I heard the sirens in Yerushalayim. We entered the shelter and waited for the explosions. Lives of millions in Israel became torture and a nightmare.

Israel reacted with surgical strikes against known terrorist leaders. The air force dropped thousands of leaflets and even took over Arab television, warning Gazans to keep away from military sites that, as we know, are planted intentionally in the middle of heavily populated civilian areas. Israel also mounted an expensive, brilliant defensive system called Iron Dome that knocked out hundreds of incoming missiles.

What was the result?

Granted, Israel received support from some Western governments. At the same time, the secular media lamented the pathos of the “tragic deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza.” In midtown Manhattan, a man with a yarmulke was called “dirty Jew” as he walked past an anti-Israel demonstration.

It is a very old story. Consider (Rashi on Bereishis 21:9 and Bereishis Rabbah 53:11 with ArtScroll commentary):

“Sarah saw [Yishmael], the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Avraham, mocking,” on which Rashi says, “[mocking] connotes…murder…. [Yishmael is associated with murder] because he would contend with Yitzchak over the inheritance and say, ‘I am [my father’s] firstborn son, and [am entitled to] take a double share [of the inheritance].’ They would go out into the field, and [Yishmael] would take his bow and shoot arrows at [Yitzchak]…like one who tires himself shooting fireballs and says ‘Am I not merely jesting….’ ”

Yishmael is still playing the game some 3,700 years later, sending “fireballs” and “arrows” at Yitzchak, this time from Gaza, and the game is still murder. Rocks and firebombs are also thrown at drivers near other Arab areas. Deadly missiles fall like poison rain. And those who shoot these fireballs and throw these rocks are termed “innocent civilians.”

“Why,” they ask, “is Israel massing war equipment on the border of Gaza? Why is Yitzchak so upset? Are we not brothers? Yitzchak always overreacts to our little games. Why is he so sensitive?”

And the world sheds tears for the “innocent civilians” in Gaza who are being subjected to such “suffering.”

* * * * *

Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, legendary mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, stated (as quoted in the book Redemption Unfolding): “In the final war before the coming of Mashiach, all the Jews who fear Hashem will survive. Hashem will say to them: ‘All those who are removed from the secular, worldly culture, you are Mine….’ ”

It is easy to be carried along by the powerful societal currents that have enveloped us since the beginning of our Exile almost two thousand years ago. I too am a victim of this weakness. I too worry about what “world opinion” says about Israel. It is in fact difficult to imagine how Israel would survive without support from the rest of the world. We tell ourselves, “We need all the friends we can get.”

But are we correct?

No, we most certainly are not.

“Return, O Israel, to Hashem your God, for you have stumbled through your iniquity. Take words with you and return to Hashem. Say to Him, ‘Forgive every sin and accept goodness and let our lips substitute for bulls. Assyria cannot help us; we will not ride the horse nor will we ever again call our handiwork our god. Only in You will the orphan find compassion’ ” (Hoshea 14:2-4; haftara Parshas Vayeitzei). Or hear the words of King David: “It is better to take refuge in Hashem than to rely on man. It is better to take refuge in Hashem than to rely on nobles…” (Tehillim 118) We lean on a broken reed when we rely on the other nations, even when billions of people are on the “other side.”

Avraham Avinu’s name comes from the word “ivri” because he stood on one “eiver,” one bank of the river, with the entire rest of the world on the other side. This has characterized his children to this day. We are a nation apart – “a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations” (Bamidbar 23:9).

Easing The Trauma Of Divorce: A Reaction

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am writing to you in regards to your article, “Easing The Trauma Of Divorce” (Dear Dr. Yael, 11-16).

Now in my 30s, I am the product of a divorced home in which my parents made me, an only child, a pawn. Throughout my life the trauma and hatred I witnessed between my parents was unbearable. As a result, I am terrified to get married, despite the desire to do so in a normal and happy setting. I have gone for therapy, but this great fear is hard to overcome. I wonder if this feeling will ever leave me.

I still speak to both of my parents (neither of them remarried), who, to this day, hate each other so much that they cannot even be in the same room. Thus, how can I even have a wedding? I believe that had my parents divorced peacefully, my childhood would have been normal.

I work hard on my middos, am well educated and have a fabulous career. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I am confident that there are women who would be interested in me. Unfortunately, I am convinced that it is my deep fear of turmoil and unhappiness that is stopping me from getting married.

Dr. Yael, I strongly urge divorced parents to heed your sage advice to not turn their poor children into pawns during their divorce. If parents are getting divorced, they must try their hardest to make it as peaceful as possible, working together for the benefit of their children. I have happily married friends with divorced parents, but those parents did everything they could to keep things peaceful.

These friends seem to have come from homes similar to what you termed “the best possible divorce situation,” whereby their parents remarried and had an amicable relationship. Like you wrote in your column, my happily married friends from divorced homes felt the love and devotion from both parents as well as from their stepparents. I, on the other hand, think that my parents are emotionally not well – with that probably being the core issue in my situation. Having never remarried, they are extremely angry and negative people. I am sure that their emotional problems have also affected my view on marriage, as I do not want to end up like them.

I hope this letter inspires parents who are getting divorced to think carefully about their behavior as it pertains to the emotional wellbeing of the children they love. Only responsible behavior will spare their children the emotional destruction I’ve been forced to experience.

Thank you, Dr. Yael, for your helpful and informative column.

A Fan

Dear Fan:

My heart breaks for the predicament in which you find yourself. Even though you had a difficult childhood, Hashem obviously gave you other tools which you have used to create a life for yourself. All of these talents and your evident ambition should certainly make you very attractive to women.

As you seem very bright, please try to overcome your deep fear and get married. I would hate to see you live alone for the rest of your life. Learn from your parents’ mistakes and build a different life for yourself. If you feel that therapy has so far not worked for you, find another therapist who can help you. It is important to click with a therapist to the degree that you feel comfortable enough with him or her to share your insecurities. This will permit the two of you to begin the process of changing your views on marriage.

It is extremely difficult to want to get married and know how to make the marriage work, if you never saw a healthy marital relationship. But you can learn how to have a successful marriage through therapy. And once you feel equipped to enter into marriage, the concept will not be as frightening as it now seems.

You may also have to revisit some of your painful childhood memories and work through your anger toward your parents. When you succeed at doing these things, you may feel more comfortable with the idea of getting married. There are many children of divorced parents who are successful at overcoming their fears and insecurities, and are then able to build beautiful and happy families.

The Secret To Defeating Our Enemies

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Events have been unfolding so rapidly. First it was Hurricane Sandy, which attacked with merciless fury and left multitudes homeless, their cars and belongings swept away. Power failed, not for a day, or for a week, but in some cases for several weeks.

When I was told I could safely return to my house, the power was back on and the poisonous water mixed with sewage that invaded the lower level of my home had been removed. When I reached my community it was evening and before I even arrived to my destination the lights went out again. You couldn’t see anything.

I’d had experience with power failures in the past but this darkness that now enveloped us was totally different. Imagine driving on a street where the streetlights are off and you cannot even see little bright lights flickering from windows.

“Where am I?” you ask yourself. “Is there a car coming toward me? Am I backing into something? Where is my street? Where is my house?”

My regular readers know I connected Sandy, as I have several other unusual occurrences, to the ten plagues that befell Egypt. Our Sages taught us that the manner in which we departed from Egypt would be replayed in the pre-Messianic period. As I was trying to make my way home it occurred to me that this dense darkness was reminiscent of the darkness that enveloped Egypt in the ninth plague. The Torah teaches us that the darkness was so thick it was almost tangible – you could actually feel it and didn’t even know who or what was standing before you.

As I was contemplating all that was going on around me, the news from Eretz Yisrael reached us of deadly rockets and missiles raining down on our brethren. While in the United States many lost their homes, in Israel – may Hashem have mercy – not only were homes destroyed but the very lives of our people were on the line. And then we heard the so-called good news of a cease-fire.

But isn’t that really good news, you ask? I invite you to consider why a people bent on annihilating Israel would desire a “cease-fire.” And why would Prime Minister Netanyahu agree to it? Surely we Jews know that in no time at all the savage murderers will resume their attacks.

The answers are simple. Hamas needed a small break to replenish its deadly arsenal. On the other hand, Netanyahu, like so many of Israel’s past prime ministers, felt he had no choice but to succumb to the pressure exerted by other nations. Some of you are no doubt asking what else Israel could have done – one nation versus the world. Logically speaking the objection makes sense, but there is nothing logical about Jewish survival. From the very genesis of our history we have been attacked by virtually every nation, every great empire, of the world. We were and are “one little lamb” lost among seventy ferocious wolves. What chance did we have for survival?

Was it not just yesterday that Hitler proclaimed his “final solution”? He harnessed 20th century know-how to build gas chambers and crematoria. But as always, we, the Jewish people, defied the odds. Hitler is long gone but we are here and shall always be here, for that is the will of our G-d.

What is our secret weapon? I’ve written about it frequently but it bears repeating – for we simply don’t get it. It is all found in one easy word: “Torah.”

The voice of Jacob, of Israel, is the voice of Torah and the voice of prayer. Yes, the power of our people is in our voice and in our supplications. It is found in our Torah studies, in our observance of mitzvos and in our commitment to Hashem.

Sadly, we have forfeited these precious gems. We no longer know how to sing to our G-d and have allowed Yishmael to seize our weapons. Yishmael prays five times a day. How many times do we pray? The answer should be at least three – but to our shame we pray zero.

I imagine many readers are asking, “Rebbetzin, how can you say that?” Just look around and be honest. Ask yourselves, how many Jews really pray three times a day? How many Jews go to minyan? Yes, the Orthodox do, but how many are they? The Orthodox are just a very small minority. If we are to survive the seventy ferocious wolves we – all of us – must take our weapons into our hands.

Don’t Feel Bad! We Didn’t Lose the War!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Albeit all the angry, bitter, and downright nasty articles and blogs which have been written on how Israel was defeated in its latest skirmish with the Hamas – that isn’t the case at all. We’re really the winner! Let me explain:

Firstly, on the simplest level, thanks to the grace of G-d, our casualties were far less than the Other Side’s. Regarding physical damage as well, the devastation on their side was far greater. So, just in terms of the way the military scorecard is usually figured, we were the victors by far.

In reply to the claim that the Hamas received a great boost in their morale in bringing mighty Israel to a cease fire, giving them added incentive for the next round – maybe. But their celebrations of victory are based on fantasy and lies, and their joy won’t last when we hit them ten times as hard the next time.

As far as the truce being a crushing blow to the morale of our own troops – my son and his friends in the army don’t seem any less gung ho about destroying the Hamas the next chance they get, so I think that claim has also been over-exaggerated. Our son was happy to be home for Shabbat, and we were happy too. Along with 30,000 other soldiers and their families.

Don’t accuse me of being a pacifist. Any reader who has been following my blog during the recent Israeli Air-Force exercise in Gaza knows that I would not have had any qualms at all if we had waited for a day when a stiff wind was blowing toward Cairo and dropped a small A-Bomb on Gaza City. But the time hasn’t yet come. Savlenut, my friends. Patience.

I am reminded of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s reaction when the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition the Palestine of the British Mandate which sliced Eretz Yisrael into pieces and awarded a truncated area to the Jews. When the news came over the radio that a Jewish State would be formed, a spontaneous joy swept over the country. People rushed out from their homes to dance in the streets. But Rav Tzvi Yehuda was crushed. The Land of Israel has been divided! Large portions of the country had been placed in foreign hands! Half of Jerusalem, Hevron, Shilo, Yericho, Shechem, and the other side of the Jordan River! Multitudes of Israelis were dancing through the streets, but in his staggering sorrow, Rav Tzvi Yehuda remained in his home. The Land of Israel had been divided! It was impossible for him to feel glad. He felt as if he himself had been cut into pieces.

The following day, Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Harlop, a close student and friend of Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, came to visit him in the old house on Yafo Street in Jerusalem. They sat in the room which Rabbi Kook had used as his study and huddled together, distraught over what had occurred. Then, finding encouragement in each other, and raising themselves up to Rabbi Kook’s famous all-encompassing vision, they quoted the verse of Psalms, “This is the Lord’s doing. It is wondrous in our eyes.” Finally, Rav Tzvi Yehuda mustered the strength to go out to the Nation, realizing, with faith in Hashem, that is was God’s doing, and that with the passing of time, the newborn Nation would overcome the great difficulties and gradually return to all of its Land – to Hevron, to the Temple Mount, to Shechem, to Gaza, and to the other side of the Jordan.

During the recent operation in Gaza, we wrote that the Redemption of Israel was a process which develops gradually over time, little by little, like the emerging of dawn, stage after stage, in the wars which Israel must fight against its enemies who strive to block out its light, in what is known as “the Footsteps of Mashiach.” While we would like to see our salvation and victory occur all at once, Presto, with one wave of Mashiach’s wand, the Master of the World, who is also the Master of War, has decided otherwise. After the trauma of our national disintegration in our exile in foreign lands, Hashem rebuilds our Nation gradually, war after war, development after development, slowly bringing us back to our true selves, the proud lions of Judah, completely devoted to Hashem and His Torah, not only as individuals, but as a proud Torah Nation in Israel.

Letter to Our Son in Gaza

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Our 22-year old son has been re-stationed with his Golani brigade to a makeshift base at the outskirts of Gaza. I am very proud that he has the chance to uphold the honor of Hashem and Israel, and I know he is proud too. In my mind, there is no greater, holier, and transcendental mitzvah than fighting in the Israel Defense Forces, in defense of the Nation of Israel, to wipe out the enemies of Hashem.

The soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line for Am Yisrael are the true heroes of holiness, just like our holy heroes of our past, Avraham in his war to save Lot; Moshe Rabainu in his wars against kings who rose up against us on our way to the Promised Land; Yehoshua Ben Nun in his conquest of the Eretz Yisrael; and others like King David and the Maccabees, all of whom will be fighting alongside our soldiers when the order comes to enter Gaza and annihilate Hamas. When the occasion demanded, these holy heroes all closed their Gemaras and strode off to war, just as the Torah commands, for the honor of Hashem and Israel.

What do you say to your son as he waits on the outskirts of Gaza? This is the SMS message that I sent him:

Dear Precious Son,

Your mother and I, as well as your brothers and sister, are all very proud of you, and proud of all your friends who are with you, and proud of all the IDF soldiers who are prepared to fight and destroy the enemies of Hashem. Just as our hearts are with you, the whole country is with you. You are acting on our behalf. I wish I could be there with you.

I know you probably didn’t have time to pack any books to take with you when orders came to head south, so I am sending you a little something from the Rambam, which I am certain you know, but which is always good to read over again. May these words of Torah protect you and your comrades, and lead the forces of Israel to a swift and decisive victory over our enemies, with the hope that you will have the green light to finish the job until the very last terrorist in Gaza is destroyed. And if you receive orders that don’t seem right to you, orders that endanger you and your fellow soldiers, lest “innocent” civilians be hurt – don’t listen to them, but do whatever you have to do to protect yourself and your friends over every other consideration, for there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, and the laws of the Torah, and the laws of guarding Jewish life, override the “what will the goyim say?” considerations of man.

In the Laws of Milchemah, The Rambam writes:

“A man should not think at the time of war his wife, nor of his children, nor of his possessions, but he must free his heart of everything and set himself to the battle. And more – he should think that the entire existence of Israel depends on him… For everyone who fights with all of his heart, and with the intention to sanctify the Name of Hashem, is promised that he will not be harmed… and he will merit the Life of the World to Come.”

Therefore, my precious son – be not afraid. Put your trust in Hashem, for you are bringing honor to Him and His Nation. We love you and will see you soon at home, when the enemies of Israel have been crushed.

Who Is Sandy?!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

“Sandy gives New York a real thrashing!” screamed the headlines. “Hmmm, who exactly is Sandy and why is she thrashing New York,” I wonder. How about this one: (an exact quote) “For all those left homeless, for all those left scared and frightened, there is an enormous lesson from this hurricane – mother nature will do what she wants, when she wants, and our modern world can only bow before it.” Now I am really confused – who is this mother and why is she acting so mean – aren’t mothers supposed to be nice? And more so – what exactly is this “enormous” lesson? Why should I bow to her?

Baruch Hashem, we Torah abiding Jews know the truth. Even though the meteorologists have explained what brought about Hurricane Sandy and the post-tropical superstorm that resulted, we know the cause of all those factors. Hashem, the “Cause of all Causes,” orchestrated this great showing of His Power, and there was a reason for it. We do not have prophets who can tell us which one of the many sins of our world was the basis for the great punishment Hashem inflicted – nor is it our job to point fingers. We must share in the pain and suffering of those who experienced bodily harm or damage to their property, and offer whatever help possible. The outpouring of chesed seen in our communities created a great Kiddush Hashem and is definitely a great zechus for Klal Yisroel. On the other hand, the Gemara in Yevomos (63a) tells us that when punishment comes to the world it is to teach us a lesson. Let us suggest one possible lesson that Hashem was teaching us when He sent Sandy to the East Coast.

The Downside Of Modern Technology

Rav Aryeh Leib Kahn (Rosh Kollel Yad Halevi Kiryat Sefer) once pointed out that with the rapid advancement of modern technology we are in danger of becoming distanced from Hashem. For example, before the advent of cell phones, if you traveled out of town, and suddenly started to worry that perhaps you forgot to turn off the fire under a pot, there was nothing to do other than daven to Hashem that everything will be okay. But now, all you need to do is whip out your cell, call the neighbor and ask them to make sure the fire is out!

The more technology we have, the more we can chas v’sholom, forget Hashem. With our heated and (supposedly) waterproof homes, fitted with gas, electricity, and running water, we feel prepared. This mindset is the antithesis to the reason for our existence, as Hashem created us to become close to Him. The more trust we put in our own actions, the further we become from Hashem. To save us from this serious error and its dreadful results, once in a while Hashem sends us a reminder that He is the one in charge. Sometimes the wakeup call is on a small scale, to an individual in his own private life – and sometimes, like now, it is an extremely painful one to a larger community.

What Can We Put Our Trust In?

In the “olden days,” when night fell, the day ended. But in the modern day, that has changed. Everywhere we go, bright lights make it seem like daytime – we feel that we have conquered the darkness. When we are suddenly thrown into pitch-blackness, we realize that Hashem is the one who is lighting up our nights. When we cannot use all our electric powered appliances and devices, we realize how vulnerable we really are. When a tree comes crashing down on two pedestrians the day after the storm, we remember that we only make it home safely because Hashem is protecting us. And when ferocious winds, which sound like a freight train rattling through the empty streets, hurl objects through the air, we realize what it would be like if Hashem were not usually holding back those winds. When the temperatures begin to drop and the heat does not work, we see that we have no control over the cold. And taking cold showers certainly is not pleasant.

But the lessons don’t stop there. Hashem wanted to show us that He is always “ahead of the game.” Many people weren’t scared of power outages because they had generators to produce their own electricity. But even that doesn’t always help. In some places, the generator was flooded and stopped working. In others, due to the gasoline shortage, there isn’t fuel to power the generator! Many felt secure with their cell phones – they would be affecting by down phone lines – and then the cell phone services were disrupted because cell towers were down.

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-age-of-disrespect/2012/11/14/

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