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Posts Tagged ‘sukkot’

Homeward Bound

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Before continuing with Rabbi Kook’s writings on T’shuva, I want to share an email which I received before Yom Kippur. It’s always nice to receive a kind word, even for an old alligator-skinned blogger like me:

Shalom, Reb Tzvi,

I am a semicha student at Yeshiva University, and I just read your sefer on teshuvah in Rav Kook’s thought and I wanted to thank you for it.  I was very much inspired by your book.  I do not study that much of Rav Kook’s writings (unfortunately), but I was preparing to give a shiur on Orot Hateshuvah when I came across your commentary, ‘The Art of T’shuva.’

What began as an intellectual exercise in preparing a shiur soon changed into a deeply spiritual experience as I began to understand some of what Rav Kook is trying to teach us.  I really feel that your book has made a big difference in my emotional experience of the yamim noraim and aseret yemei teshuvah this year.  Thanks again for the wonderful sefer.

And now, leading up to the holiday of Sukkot, we’ll wrap up our condensed look at Rabbi Kook’s teachings on t’shuva with a few blogs on two of the holidays most important themes – Eretz Yisrael and Torah.

We have learned that t’shuva encompasses far more than personal repentance. Its ever-streaming waves affect the world in its entirety, lifting it toward perfection. Furthermore, we have learned that it is the Nation of Israel who will lead the world to Redemption, marching in front of the parade of nations with its shofars blaring away.

This is all well and good. But what will bring the Jewish People to t’shuva? What will awaken the Divine voice in its soul? What causes the scattered, exiled Jewish Nation to return, as we beseech God in our prayers, to the glorious days of our past?

Rabbi Kook writes that the rebirth of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for the ultimate t’shuva, both for the nation of Israel, and for the whole world.

To understand this concept fully, one must understand the incomparable holiness of Eretz Yisrael and its importance to the Nation of Israel. While it is beyond the scope of this blog to explore this subject in depth, we will mention a few of the things which point to the unique connection between the Jewish People and their Land.

The Jewish People possess true national vitality only in the Land of Israel. Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; there can be great Torah scholars, but the light of God cannot appear in a national format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION. The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a Nation only inIsrael, and not outside of it, where we are compared to dry and scattered bones21-22). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israeland the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish People’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in theLandofIsrael. The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the full revelation of God’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Yisheyahu, 2:3).

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of the moral baseness, which continues to darken the world, stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of theLandofIsrael. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to the world (Letters, Vol.1, pgs 112-113).

While Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the t’shuva of the Jewish People and a return to the Torah go hand-in-hand, he indicates that a preliminary stage of national revival will bring this spiritual awakening to pass. First, the Jewish people must return toZionto rebuild their homeland. Once the physical body that houses the Nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well, and our people will flock back to the Torah. This may take several generations, but this national t’shuva is destined to come to pass.

Q & A: Selichot Restrictions (Part III)

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Question: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch states that an individual praying selichot without a minyan is not allowed to recite the Thirteen Midot or the Aramaic prayers. What is the rationale behind this halacha?

Moshe Jakobowitz
Brooklyn, NY

Answer: The Beit Yosef on the Tur (Orach Chayim 565) explains that the Shelosh Esreh Midot represent a communal prayer and thus a davar she’b’kedushah. A mishnah in Tractate Megillah (23b) enumerates the situations that incorporate a davar she’b’kedusha and require a minyan. Among them is communal prayer.

Last week we discussed whether it is permitted to pray for sick people in Aramaic, since, according to R. Yochanan (Shabbos 12b), ministering angels do not understand Aramaic. R. Yochanan’s statement is at odds with the opinion that these angels know the innermost thoughts of man (see Tosafot ad loc.). We concluded that praying for sick people is different since, as the Talmud (loc. cit.) states, the Divine Presence comes to help sick people in their suffering. Thus, there is no need for the aid of angels.

We asked, though, why the intercession of angels is ever necessary since we address our prayers directly to G-d. We also pointed out that there is a difference between individual prayer (tefillat yachid) and congregational prayer (tefillat hatzibur); we are assured that the latter one will be accepted.

* * * * *

The Shiltei HaGibborim to the Rif (Berachot, beginning of Ch. 2, “Ha’ya korei baTorah”) says a person may pray in a language other than Hebrew if he doesn’t know Hebrew as he needs to be able to pray in a language he knows (even if it is Aramaic). This is in accordance with Tractate Berachot 3a: “Whenever Israelites convene in synagogues and houses of study and respond, ‘Yehe shmei [shemo according to the Maharsha] hagadol mevorach – May His great name be blessed,’ the Almighty nods and says, ‘Happy is the king who is thus praised in his house.’ ” Tosafot remark that this Hebrew response is the equivalent of the Aramaic sentence in Kaddish: “Yehei shemei rabbah mevorach.”

Tosafot dispute those who maintain that this beautiful prayer of praise was instituted in Aramaic so that the angels would not fathom it and thus not cast a jealous eye upon us. Tosafot note that there are many other beautiful liturgical passages in Hebrew. Rather, Tosafot explain, Kaddish (in the Talmudic period) used to be recited at the conclusion of lectures given for the populace at large, amongst whom were many uneducated people who did not understand Hebrew. Kaddish was therefore composed in Aramaic, the language spoken by everybody.

Why, then, are individuals not generally supposed to pray in Aramaic? The Tur (Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 101) quotes his father’s statement that an individual may pray in any language – except Aramaic. The Beit Yosef (ad loc.) explains that angels have an aversion to Aramaic, which is not the case regarding any other language. The Chochmat Shlomo, commenting on the Mechaber’s ruling in the Shulchan Aruch that prayers can be recited in any language, notes that the angel of each of the 70 nations intercedes for that nation in its own language, and therefore an individual should not pray in a language that his nation’s angel does not speak. Michael, the angel of Israel, uses Hebrew, so Israelites should pray only in Hebrew, the Chochmat Shlomo writes.

This statement runs counter to the rulings of the Tur and Mechaber. The Chochmat Shlomo, in fact, goes further and cautions against people who have instituted prayers in any language other than Hebrew. (He is referring to “formally structured communal prayers” recited to fulfill our daily obligations of tefillah, not personal supplications.)

To explain the aversion angels are said to have for the Aramaic language in particular, we turn to the statement of Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rav in Sanhedrin 38b. He says that the first man, Adam, spoke in Aramaic, for it is written (Psalms 139:17), “Ve’li mah yakru re’echa, Kel – How valued (or weighty) are your thoughts of me, G-d.”

To explain this statement, the Maharsha quotes Rabbi Yochanan’s statement in Bava Batra (75b) that in the time to come, the righteous will be called by the name of G-d, for it is written (Isaiah 43:7), “Every one that is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory – I have created them and fashioned them.” The Maharsha asks: Where in that pasuk are the “righteous” and the “time to come” mentioned? He explains that honor is attained only through the Torah. Indeed, the Gemara (Sanhedrin loc. cit.) continues its comments about Adam, stating that G-d showed him every generation to come and its scholars and sages. When it came to the generation of Rabbi Akiva, Adam rejoiced at his learning but was grieved at his martyr’s death at the hands of the Romans That is when Adam exclaimed, “Ve’li mah yakru re’echa, Kel.”

The Origins Of Discontent

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

It is difficult to remember the last time the United States was wracked with such dissension, discontent, protests, and economic hardship.

From my vantage point, “Occupy Wall Street” has been primarily a source of comic relief – the participants, their complaints, their solutions, and their antics – except for the sporadic violence, and the loss of job and business in lower Manhattan caused by the unwillingness of sane people to traverse that area under siege.

There are many different forces at play in these nationwide protests, most without any clue as to how to improve their personal financial situations or the national economy. Having occupied Wall Street, the occupiers do not seem to know what they want to do with it.

But there is discontent among the wealthy as well, who are being demonized for the most crass political purposes and who have lost much of their wealth in the last few years (from 2007 to 2009, there was a 40 percent drop in the number of millionaires filing federal tax returns, from 392,000 to 233,000), and among the middle class, who have seen their assets diminished and found near-insurmountable obstacles to their pursuit of the American dream. Everyone is unhappy.

And the more government meddles in our lives, the worse and less free our lives become. All this discontent is the fruit of the poisonous tree of big, intrusive government trying to run every aspect of our lives – and failing at all of it: telling us what we can eat, what we can drive, what types of bulbs we can use, how much water the shower nozzle can dispense, how high our fences can be, how many miles per gallon our cars should provide, what types of medical procedures we should or should not have, etc.

There are many who expect and want government to satisfy their every desire and care for their every need – to be given a job, a home, health care, retirement pay, and a host of other entitlements. I want none of that. I just want to be left alone.

America was founded on the premise of the right of the individual to pursue happiness as he sees fit – as long as his pursuit does not encroach on the rights of others. So a federal government should provide for the common defense against external enemies, enforce contracts so the commercial system remains viable, and build interstate roads and highways. Beyond that, I struggle to find where a federal government is useful or effective, and I resent that the fruit of my labor is confiscated to pay for useless, frivolous, unneeded and unwarranted boondoggles.

Consider how far we have traveled. In 1887, Texas was stricken by a drought (just like this past year). Congress appropriated $10,000 to purchase seed grain for the suffering farmers there. President Grover Cleveland vetoed the bill, saying: “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit….

“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

Cleveland added: “The lessons of paternalism ought to be unlearned and the better lesson taught that while the people should patriotically and cheerfully support their Government its functions do not include the support of the people.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-origins-of-discontent/2011/11/12/

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